At the end of March, I left my two-year assignment in Haiti. Amazingly, two months have passed since I flew out. I’ve been back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean and the North American continent twice each, since then. This whole post-mission period, however long it will last, all began with a day on which I flew from tropical, hot, dusty and green Port au Prince, to what you are seeing in this post. Since my US base is coastal California, I very rarely bump up against snow and ice. Which made those days in Canada especially interesting and hard to adapt to! I was in both Toronto and Ottawa, for work meetings and some public speaking – you’ll find links to a few of the interviews I did (all in French) in the post just below this, or in the “about Paul and smw, slt” page. For now, just some of the sights of wintry-spring in Toronto, Ottawa, and on the plane between the two — including some shots taken while our plane was being de-iced before takeoff when I left Ottawa, and airplane views of a still-frozen countryside. I hope you’ll enjoy some of these shots despite the gray skies!
So the Haiti chapter of my life and career has reached a conclusion, two weeks ago in fact on the day I flew out and had a small farewell gathering with my colleagues in the coordination office — cake to thank them for all their hard and continuing work, also to sweeten my own sense of parting. Indeed it’s bittersweet to leave an assignment where I worked with such great people on ambitions which feel productive and purposeful. That said – it’s also nice then to have some down time with family and friends, and a chance to gain a bit of perspective after what were certainly 23 full and busy months!
These are the last of my photos from Haiti: colleagues and friends at that farewell gathering; some kids and their parents (teachers?) at a neighborhood daytime pre-carnaval parade in early February (eek! time flies!), some of my favorite views and panoramas from PaP. Plus a little gallery of the flowers I focused on in these recent months, when events in the world and my work life sometimes got just a bit too heavy. In the end it’s all good – I trust we’ll manage to remain optimistic and hope for a bit more peace and friendship in this fractured world, eh? Over and out, for now…
Also, if you’re interested and understand some French, here are links to two interviews I did on the radio, in Canada just after departing PaP. To hear my part of the first link, click ahead to 8:19 in the program which starts at 6:00.
The bay area, which I call home and return to between assignments or even on vacations during an assignment when possible, has its icons. There the golden gate bridge, which I cross every time I go to my own physical home after flying into SFO. There’s the corner of Castro & Market, with its massive rainbow flag as a statement to the world that the city’s LGBTQI (did I forget any of the currently-accepted letters?) population is proud and not about to creep back into some box just because some people don’t much like us. There’s Mt Diablo, forming a triangle across the bay as the highest peak in the immediate bay area — visible behind that rainbow flag, down below. There are vineyards…and this year, there’s rain in the vineyards! And snow in the mountains, though I’ve not yet been to see it myself. Perhaps I’ll make it to the mountains after this assignment, before it all melts. Something to keep in mind.
In any case, I was recently back amongst these icons for a final vacation during the current assignment. When the weather was sufficiently clear, I walked or biked around and appreciated the greenest vistas I’ve seen in years, since California’s been in a drought that’s grown more severe year by year for a decade or so. As it rained on my way back to the airport for the flight back to PaP, I photographed one of Sonoma County’s lovely hillside vineyards through the bus’s rainy window. On the way up, I photographed the GGB through the bus’s reasonably clear window. And I took as many photos of flowers as I could: so much was in bloom! I’ll admit I’ve been overworked at work, depressed in real life at home about what’s become of government and “civil” discourse in my native land, and generally rather tired. So I’ve not taken out my camera much. But I do usually have a phone with me and I’m now on instagram (paulbsrca) so every now and then I remember I can snap something with that, then pop it up on instagram. But I remain more of a long-form guy, so here I’m assembling stuff from both camera & phone, to share some of what I’ve seen and thought lately. It’s always lovely when I know folks read and appreciate what I share. Thanks…and let’s all try to add a wee bit more beauty and pleasure into the days and lives of those around us…if that’s not too bold a suggestion. Peace. 🙂
So it’s 2017, and I’m approaching two years working here in Port au Prince. One of the things I’ve always loved about this city is the views from the mountains out over the plain which is the core of the city; also, the views of the mountains, from when you’re on a rooftop in the city. This post is lots of individual shots I’ve taken over the past couple months – walking to work on a weekend morning, hanging out on the terrace of the Olofson Hotel, which is the grand old victorian-style institution in the heart of old town where it’s fun to have a relaxed breakfast every now and then. The earthquake affected the city itself — heart of town, where Olofson is — more than most of the other parts of town, and afterwards many businesses, NGO’s and other offices moved higher up into Petion-Ville and surrounding areas. Slowly the old city is rebuilding, and that’s great because more of the beautiful old houses are there, and that’s where the city’s historic core is — see some of my earlier posts , such as the about numbers in Haiti, with a few photos of the monuments to the first constitution and some of the early heroes of Haitian independence. (For example, https://somuchworldsolittletime.com/2016/10/09/41-26-23-and-other-numbers-from-haitis-history/)
Every so often I scan through my own blog and remember beautiful things I’ve seen. Last year for the first time, I did my own personal “greatest hits” selection of photos from the ten+ years I’d been blogging at that point. This year, I find myself thinking about ice, even though I’m a few hundred miles at least, I suspect, from the nearest naturally-occuring ice. Perhaps because of that: listening to seasonal tunes about winter wonderlands and white holidays has reminded me of the ice and snow I’ve seen.
I also realize I didn’t photograph things I wish I had, such as snow piling up on the streets of Beijing in the winter of 2005…although I do feature skaters on Beijing’s Qianhai, and cracking ice on a pond outside Beijing during a winter hike, taken the same winter. Above & in the collage below are photos from winter in Yosemite & summer in New Zealand (icy grass on the Keppler Track in Fiordland; and also a shot of the glacier on South Island’s west coast). There are also frosted grass & icicles from a winter trip to the Great Falls in Paterson, New Jersey: yes, such beauty can be found right off Interstate 80, if you know how and where to look :-). Plus some frosted grass in the early-morning shade at Hood Mountain in Sonoma County, two winters ago. If you’re already experiencing ice and snow, maybe these won’t do much for you…let me know, either way. May your year be warm, safe and dry in 2017.
I was home for a short holiday in November, after a remarkably wet October. Those early generous rains brought stronger autumn color in the trees than I have yet seen in Sonoma County. The rivers were a bit more robust than usual for early November, the hills of my favorite parks a bit greener…and some of the bike paths already muddy. I delighted in the freedom to hop on my bike & find all the red-leaved trees and beautiful views I could find. I also took time to enjoy the contrast of white lichen with brown, fallen leaf. Here are some photos from those outings. I’m taking pleasure in beauty these days- the slant of a ray of light through a window, the curve of a kid’s smile as he bikes through downtown Port au Prince (yes, I saw this the other day!). It seems a good time to remember and appreciate the blessings in my life, which certainly include all my wonderful friends and readers, known and unknown, around the world. Have a lovely end of year holiday season :-).
I’m no architect so I’m probably using those terms wrong, but call it poetic license. I think of the uprights on the Golden Gate Bridge as columns through which I pass, each time I head home from an extended absence. And any time I’m home, I make sure to spend at least a fews enjoying the city of SF and its lovely architecture, hills, bays, vistas, people, restaurants, etc. Over lunch at work here in Port au Prince this week, a few of us from different parts of the world talked about what makes a city beautiful to us. The French person among us spoke strictly of architectural beauty; the Canadian and I favored a mix of architecture with what maps call “relief” — hills and valleys, rivers and bays. Thus, for me, SF is pretty much the top among US cities I’ve known: from ocean to bay, with valleys and hills between; girdled by bridge, mountain and water…and blessed with a progressive citizenry who, for example, voted early to tax themselves in order to ensure all residents of the city had access to basic health care — well it’s really a pretty cool city and one I’m currently far prouder to claim than that deeply-purple state in which I was born. At times like this, when an unpredictable and mean-spirited individual will soon inhabit the white house…well, I need to remind myself what’s enduring and promising about my homeland…
Occasionally I manage to spend a few days with old family friend in northern Germany, before or after visits to our office in Amsterdam. When the weather permits, we always try to get out on our bikes. I love urban planning that leaves room for agriculture in between towns and villages. This region I visit, in Schlewig-Holstein, is similar to my own home in Sonoma County, in that the towns are reasonably contained, and the farms begin just outside town. (None of that classic southern-California or Florida sprawl for us.) I love bicycling through both for very similar reasons. Main difference: it’s really flat and far more green in northern Germany. Also: more cows, no grape vines in site :-). Enjoy the pastoral pleasures and the German-flagged cattle…
…and these last two are just to confuse you a bit: above, the Dutch city of Deventer as seen from the train; and below, a shot of an Autobahn underpass on our bicycle tour, which somehow went very artistic without my consciously doing anything. Serendipity, or ugliness?
Amsterdam Central train station is an ornate confection right in the heart of town. It’s so very in the heart of town that the fastest, modern trains can’t really navigate the curves and tracks to reach it, so the fastest trains connect through stations on the south side of town, and the airport, instead of coming into central station. Still, its proximity and lovliness make it my train station of choice even when I’m traveling to Belgium, Germany or France. Including on my most recent visit which, yes, was back in September. I’ve only got one more set of photos to post from that September Europe sojourn!
Since I’ve now posted many a time from Amsterdam over the years, I tried to focus this a bit more on specific architecture that I love…plus a few of the usual canal views which I simply can’t resist. All that brick, all those ornate ornamentations and well-maintained buildings…a pleasure to look at. Enjoy :-).
So smw, slt is wrapping up another lovely little vacation at home in northern California, preparing to head back to work in Haiti. Having just retrieved my computer from the repair shop, I’m able to use this rainy Saturday to post some shots I took during a day off I gave myself at The Hague, back in September. You’ll understand that – what with a hurricane response and annual planning to absorb my time – I didn’t get a chance to post any of these closer to the date when I actually took them, about two months ago. I stayed at a hotel near a palace, and when I told a friend to meet me at my hotel “near the palace,” he said “which palace,” hence the name of this post and the shots of the three different palace-like buildings easily walkable from my hotel itself. I’ve not yet done a full inventory; maybe next visit :-).
Fun facts about The Hague:
- Second largest city in the Netherlands.
- Home of the Peace Palace, which was built built after World War I by Andrew Carnegie (and still owned by the Carnegie Foundation).
- The Peace Palace houses the UN’s International Court of Justice, though not the Int’l Criminal Court, which is elsewhere in the Hague, so I’m told…
- The Hague is also home to both the Dutch parliament and the royal family, but it’s NOT the capital of the Netherlands (go figure).
- Quite a lovely little city to visit, similar to Amsterdam what with canals, good tram lines, and lovely old buildings – but closer to a nice beach, just next to Delft, and with much less expensive hotels!