Photos and Words

A personal blog about thoughts | moods | photos by Arnaldo Pellini

Posts from the ‘family’ category

Shoun and His Mother

Pyhäjärvi, Tampere 2022

A wonderful Zen story that I re-discovered this week thanks to a friend and which gave me confort. It is from an old little book I bought in 1989 in Cremona (Italy) which was published by the Italian publisher Adelphi: 101 Storie Zen (101 Zen Stories) by Nyogen Senzaki and Paul Reps.

Shoun and His Mother

Shoun became a teacher of Soto Zen. When he was still a student his father passed away, leaving him to care for his old mother.

Whenever Shoun went to a meditation hall he always took his mother with him. Since she accompanied him, when he visited monasteries he could not live with the monks. So he would build a little house and care for her there. He would copy sutras, Buddhist verses and in this manner receive a few coins for food.

When Shoun bought fish for his mother, the people would scoff at him, for a monk is not supposed to eat fish. But Shoun did not mind. His mother, however, was hurt to see others laugh at her son. Finally she told Shoun: “I think I will become a nun. I can be a vegetarian too.”

She did and they studied together. Shoun was fond of music and was a master of the harp, which his mother also played. On full-moon nights they used to play together.

One night a young lady passed by their house and heard music. Deeply touched, she invited Shoun to visit her the next evening and play. He accepted the invitation. A few days later he met the young lady on the street and thanked her for her hospitality. Others laughed at him. He had visited the home of a woman of the streets.

One day Shoun left a distant temple to deliver a lecture. A few months afterwards he returned home to find his mother dead. Friends had not known where to reach him, so the funeral was then in progress.

Shoun walked up and hit the coffin with his staff. “Mother, your son has returned,” he said. “I am glad to see you have returned son,” he answered for his mother.

“I”m glad too,” Shoun responded. Then he announced to the people about him: The funeral ceremony is over. You may bury the body.”

When Shoun was old he knew his end was approaching. He asked his disciples to gather around him in the morning telling them he was going to pass on at noon. Burning incense before the picture of his mother and his old teacher, he wrote a poem:

For sixty years I lived as best I could,
Making my way in this world.
Now the rain has ended, the clouds are clearing,
The blue sky has a full moon.

His disciples gathered about him, reciting a sutra, and Shoun passed on during the invocation.

Winter cottage

It has been snowing a lot during the last few days. The snow has brought silence in the forest. The wind has stopped blowing. There is an incredible peace if one stops for a moment to listen to the silence.

Caffe’ Tjikini in Jakarta

32 snapshots from a trip by train across Europe

Today is my birthday and I wanted to make a present to myself by publishing 32 snapshots I took during the Inter Rail tip I did last July with my family. It is not true that Inter Rail can be done only when you are in your twenties Travelling by train again after a long time spent in Southeast Asia  has been a bit like going back in time and re-discover how diverse, interesting, and full of surprises Europe is. Catching trains, booking youth hostels, packing the rucksack has been a great and fun way to travel with my family. I am now back in Jakarta ready for another interesting year living and working in Indonesia.

Love of light

Lights in the night

One evening, last year, we went out into the garden in our house in Dumaguete City (Philippines). I tried out writing into the night together with my daughters. It worked!

Venla swimming with Whale Sharks

Venla swims with Whale Sharks between Cebu and Sumilon island

Venla swims with Whale Sharks between Cebu and Sumilon island

Katja went with the girls and her brother Jussi for a snorkelling morning not far from Dumaguete, between Cebu island and Sumilon island (Philippines), where every morning a group of 6-7 Whale Sharks gathers to get food from local fishermen.

Weekly picture for my team – My favourite place on the island of Negros

My favourite place on the island of Negros (Philippines): the Kookoos' Nest

My favourite place on the island of Negros (Philippines): the Kookoos’ Nest

My favourite place on the island of Negros (Philippines): the Kookoos' Nest

My favourite place on the island of Negros (Philippines): the Kookoos’ Nest

Was trying to choose the weekly picture for my team in London. Could not choose between these tow. So for this week I post two photos. A couple of weekends ago I went back together with my family to the Kookoos’ Nest, 10km from Zamboanguita on almost the southern tip of the island of Negros where we live. The Kookoos’ nest is my favourite place in Negros.




Venla’s Valentine Day

It is Valentine Day here in the Philippines. It is a big day for the people in this country. It is afternoon. My daughter Venla is at home from school. Teachers spending time in their families as this is very much a family day. They are probably getting ready to go out to eat tonight. The busiest day of the year for the restaurants in Dumaguete, a restaurant owner told me once. We are in the garden. Sun is setting. Still autumn light in the late afternoon during this time of the year. The dry season is now with us. The monsoon has left us. Light is beautiful one hour before the sun will set.  Happy Valentine, to all.

Guesthouses and ipads

I am in Bali with Katja, Olga and Venla. More exactly we are in Kuta, south of the provincial capital Denpasar. This is a backpacking trip. We travel with out rucksacks, stay and hostels and guesthouses. The first one is The Island Bay guesthouse. Nice open restaurant/cafè. Great pizzas. A small pool in the yard where the rooms are. There are dorms. There are single room with a large bunker bed that can easily accomodate four people.  At the restaurant in the evening, young travellers chill out accompained with lounge music. What surprised me is that today gap year or around-the-world backpackers are travelling with ipads, iphone, MacBook Air, MacBook Pros. All of them while they share sit at the lounge tables and share information about countries, hostels, and experiences, they keep an eye on their devices. The music that floats around the restaurant is interrupted by the Samsung Galaxy ping of an incoming text message, the ping of an iPhone chat message.  Several conversation going on at the same time, between people in different countries and continents. A new way of traveling? Maybe.

Season Greetings from the Philippines


At times it is possible to find little gems in the little-screen-inflight-movie-world. The other day, while flying to Sydney, I watched Another Earth. It tells the story of an approaching planet which is the exact copy of our Earth. The planet is like a second moon and can be seen up in the sky. Since it is a copy of our planet, it is lived by copies of us (other us) whom we could eventually meet since the distance is not too great. I am writing this in a Starbuck in Manila and imagine sitting here with another myself: looking as I look but having different thoughts than I have. What would I say to him?

Maybe I would start by showing some pictures as the ones at the top of this page and I would speak about Olga, Venla and Katja and what has happened this year. The same I want to do with you now keeping up with the tradition of a common end of the year message. The last few days have been worrying days due to the floods that have hit the Southern part of the Philippines.

The typhoon that hit Mindanao touched also the island of Negros and Dumaguete, the city where we live. Areas of the city nearby the two rivers that crisscross the town have been affected, houses flooded, some people have lost their lives.  An Italian friend who is running a shelter home for kids who are temporarily separated from their families due to poverty or domestic problems has been damaged and the twenty kids they host had to be evacuated. Home of other people we know have been flooded now having to deal with the mud that was brought down from the mountain areas.  The news paper say that people had been warned in the South of the Philippines, but we are not living in the typhoon-belt part of the country and they may have not followed instructions to evacuate while the floods hit during the night.It is a bit scary to think how fragile our way of living is when confronted to nature and its indifference. Yet, thinking about this I feel really close to people of Dumaguete and the town that has been now our home for two and half years. A town where I like to live, where Olga and Venla have many Filipino friends from school and our neighborhood.  The town where they go to ballet school twice a week.

The island of Negros where they have learned to swim and discover, with a mask and a snorkel, the colors and the hundreds of fish species of the coral reefs. We continue living with our three languages at home. I speak English with Katja. She speaks Finnish to the girls. I talk Italian to them. I get replies in English but it does not matter as long as the replies are correct and I think that, though Olga and Venla not always understand what I say they are now more open than they used to be to tell me to repeat or translate. This has helped to start reading to them novels in Italian and using books with few images and a lot of words. I really enjoyed sitting with them in the evenings and reading them Pinocchio written in an old Italian style with words that at times I did not understand myself. Reviewing and making sure that before starting a new chapter where al knew what had happened to Pinocchio up to that point.Reading Pinocchio has been part of getting closer to Italy during this year. Maybe the time has come to miss my country more than I used to. Maybe it is because I now cannot run without listening to a radio podcast such as Caterpillar of Farenheit, maybe is because I have been away since 1996, or maybe is because I want my daughters to have a feeling and appreciation of the history of my country and what it means to walk in the Piazza of Cremona surrounded by buildings built centuries ago, of maybe … who knows.

The fact is that from afar I feel closer to my country.  I did not write much about work, I notice now. Well, it is still very interesting. I did a presentation few days ago where I quoted to the participants something I read in the International Herald Tribune few days earlier: ‘politicians do not have to be intellectuals, but they should live intellectual lives.’ I found this an interesting idea which made me reflect about my current work researching the link between knowledge and policy making in developing countries. It made me also think about my previous work in Cambodia and Vietnam. How can we help to develop greater demand by policy makers and decision makers to use knowledge from research and development programme to inform the policies of a country? I do not have an answer, but this question can lead to various areas of research next year. For the time being I just wanted to let you know that I am fine we are all fine. We look forward for travelling to Finland this evening and spend the Christmas there.  I hope we meet soon somewhere and do come to visit us in Dumaguete. It is far, but not too far.

Wish all of you a Merry Christmas and all the best for the New Year. Buon Natale e Buon Anno.

Arnaldo, Olga, Venla and Katja

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