Remembering in December
My wandering field life passed the ten-year mark earlier this year. That’s ten years of finding my way into a new work environment and getting to know new colleagues once a year or so. In a more mundane way, it’s ten years worth of photo files to keep up-to-date and to try to remember to share on my blog. A cousin (thanks, Juliette!) noticed that the entries from my earliest days had lost their photos: mine was a rather early blog, and the ways of uploading photos have changed since then. (Many of those earliest posts appear frankly so embarrassingly shallow to me now that I’m tempted to simply wave my editorial wand and have done with them…but thus far my sense for historical accuracy is controlling that temptation…) If my continued research succeeds, many of those photos will be directly restored onto the blog as I find their originals in backup hard drives and other obscure locations: ah, new year’s resolutions before the old year has even wrapped up!
In the meantime, I’m uncovering little treasures that never made it up here, while fondly remembering where I’ve been and what I’ve done. I was recently saddened to learn that Nancy Schrom Dye, former president of Oberlin College, had passed this year. During my years of active alumni-association work I greatly appreciated her contributions to my alma mater – so I was proud to join some other colleagues in taking her for an end-of-year meal which, the digital date stamp tells me, occurred in Beijing on December 31, in 2005. Up above are also a few rediscovered December 2005 Beijing-area shots which somehow didn’t get posted at the time. (Posting photos was more challenging in those early days…)
Just below are some previously-unposted 2015 shots: early-morning moonset at my home here in Haiti; me with my brother and a colleague when I gave a talk at Carnegie Mellon University earlier this year; and some shots from the lovely Frick House & museum in Pittsburgh, from the same visit. And since this put me in the mood, I’ve wandered through the many countries & continents, family meals & trips & assignments on four continents that have filled the years between these two sets of photos so very fully. Assembling them’s been fun for me so I hope viewing them is fun for you too :-).
This time last year? In December 2014, I returned from Sierra Leone & later went with great friends to enjoy the Ai WeiWei exhibit on Alcatraz Island (more photos from that one in the original post….though that particular set of great friends – you know who you are! – are remarkably camera-resistant):
Where’d I spend 2013? Living in PNG, participating in meetings in Amsterdam & dive trips in Australia, then celebrating the holidays with Steve & Mom in New Zealand:
I began 2012 in the US (where I visited Washington, DC in cherry-blossom season), turned 50 in the company of Howard & Gene at Kakadu National Park in Australia, and finished the year in PNG:
2011 was mostly Mweso, a little Lamu, a little London and a year-end back home seeing Frank Lloyd Wright homes of Pennsylvania with family:
2010…wow, what a year. Just seeing all the continents and countries where I spent time (actually meaningful time, with friends and family and work) makes my head spin even now. The photos evoked so much for me that I just couldn’t narrow it down to three or four…so I’m giving you a lot from 2010, a mix of Manipur (start of year) and Mweso (end of year), with a sprinkling of Sweden, Berlin, Paris & California in between:
I entered 2009 in Tahiti, yes it’s true: during the year I took off from work to help Mom with her house, I dedicated two months to exploring Australia (and watching the Australian Open!) and New Zealand, flying in via Tahiti with a few nights in Papeete, just because I could. The year ended, of course, in Manipur and included a great trip to see excellent sites of Rajasthan with Howard & Gene:
2008 started in Nigeria, and ended in Tahiti…with a lot of good work in Nigeria, a short assignment for the earthquake in China, visits in Germany with my exchange family friends there….and a good deal of time in and around NYC (Mom, aunt Judy & I enjoyed a harbor trip past Ellis Island where our own immigrant ancestors entered the country, and also a trip to our favorite sculpture park up th Husdon)…with a side trip for some hiking in Sequoia and other California adventures:
2007…I began the year based in Colombo but spend the new year’s period with Mom & Steve at Angkor Wat, returned to Colombo to finish out an assignment, headed on for training in Paris where I also got celebrate Mom’s 71st birthday…back to the US to reorganize my life after my first two years in the field, and then off for a new assignment in Nigeria. At the time it felt big. Now it’s all fond memories:
…which will bring us back to year two of this current phase of life’s great adventure, the lovely year 2006. From Beijing & Yunnan in China, to Polonnaruwa & Sigiriya in Sri Lanka (where I was based at year’s end), with family time on Cumberland Island (Mom’s 70th birthday dinner!) and in Germany in between. With a special souvenir from Seoul, where I had the opportunity to work a bit with the young ladies pictured with their daffodils. In a small-world twist, I had dinner with one of those two young ladies just a few nights ago in Port au Prince, which she visits sometimes in her current work with the CDC. So much small world, so little time for it all. Happy end of 2015, and many good hopes for a 2016 of more peace and health to everyone, everywhere.
Under the Waves – Outtakes Edition
So obviously I went shutter-happy under the waters of the Coral Sea a few weeks ago, and enough of my loyal friends and readers looked at and said nice things about the photos to make me think maybe at least some of you would like to see a few more, perhaps the ones I edited out only with some pain. In my most recent post I invited opinion about the outtakes edition, a director’s cut so to speak, of Paul’s excellent underwater adventure. All three votes cast were in favor of posting a few more, which I choose to call a landslide in favor. Go ahead, twist my arm. So here you are…. a few more shots illustrating how at peace I felt 20m below the waves swimming with the fishies. Hope you enjoy. Peace.
Back Above Sea Level
And now smw, slt has has enough relaxing days in Sydney to sort through the trove of aerial shots of the Great Barrier Reef and of the flora and vistas of LIzard Island and share with you some views of what life looks like above sea level out there in far northern Queensland. Naturally I’ve learned more about the GBR, which extends hundreds of miles both north and south even of the rather extended area covered on our cruise and in these aerial shots. There are dozens of what they call “Ribbon Reefs” scattered from the level of Cairns up to Lizard Island, and there are also other little reefs here and there. Then the whole thing continues a good chunk further south, and I believe even further north. Many of the shots from underwater which I posted earlier this week were taken at Osprey Reef, which is an overnight boat trip to the north and east of Lizard Island, out in the true Coral Sea and apparently not officially considered part of the GBR. Live and learn. Hope you enjoy these shots. Cheers.
Below, the mandatory shot of our wonderful crew, and below that a shot of the 17 passengers on the leg that I joined. The ship does a weekly circuit and 7 of the folks this time stayed for the full out-and-back from Cairns, seven nights & six days; ten of us were on the four-night, three-day outward leg; and then more flew into Lizard Island on the planes that took us back. They + the seven who stayed will have worked their way back south toward Cairns, with dives along the ribbon reefs on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week and then docked at Cairns again Thursday AM, to board a whole new group again Thursday. This experience was quite wonderful and I really do recommend it for anyone who loves to dive. Do either the 7-night or the 4-night option though – Osprey Reef was amazing and isn’t part of the return leg.
Look closely at the photo below, and you will see the airstrip from which we departed Lizard Island for our one hour+ low-altitude flight back along the ribbon reefs to Cairns. Along the way we saw two different groups of minke whales from the air- a wonderful sight because you see both the whales breaching, and the shadow of their bodies under the water in a clearer way than you can from the air. Both of those occasions passed too quickly for a photo…plus they were on the left side of the plane each time, while I was seated on the right. Ah well…memories. And above is the last shot of the boat which provided such a comfy and well-fed home for a few days.
Our charter flight ended up at a different side of the airport (literally across the runway from the commercial terminals), so I got to see this wonderful hangar and sign… 🙂
Immediately below, you see the coast of Trinity Beach where I stayed in January, during the trip from which came the shots in this blog post: https://somuchworldsolittletime.wordpress.com/2013/01/12/flora-fauna-waves-northern-queensland-beaches/
It was fun to fly right past this at the end of this current trip; the building in which I stayed is quite visible, as are the headlands and bays that gave me such pleasure on my long walks and runs back then. Cairns and its region begin to feel like an almost home-away-from-home-away-from-home for me, though deeper inside I still long to be biking along LA’s bike paths. 🙂
Neutrally Buoyant – Underwater in the Coral Sea & GBR
smw, slt has learned how very much more there is to just this one little world than we’d even previously realized: though I’ve dived before, somehow this 4-night, 3-day, 11-dive live-aboard is an experience that’s likely to resonate for some time to come. It’s reminded me how multi-dimensional our world can be, and my mind is still wrapping itself around all I’ve experienced and how big a change it is from my daily life in Port Moresby. It’s roughly 36 hours since I landed at Lizard Island and left my waterborne home of the prior four days behind. Still my body has the feeling that the earth is moving, and I woke in my snuggly bed chez Trudi here in Sydney, feeling the roll of the waves. So we’ve learned Paul’s inner ear adapts well to the waterborne world but takes time to readapt; and we’ve learned seasickness doesn’t seem a worry. We’ve also learned that definitely the best way to see the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea beyond it is to do a live-aboard: what you can reach from Cairns by dayboat is simply too limited and too over-dived. I will add only captions after this and beg your forgiveness for putting so darn many photos up: I’ve never been under water with a camera before, and I wanted to let those of you who’ve wondered why I do it to get an idea of what you can see down there. These are pretty crappy photos but they’re best I can do to give you an idea; trust me, the reality is much more vibrant.
…most of the shark photos you’ll see are from an event Mike Ball does which feels a bit hype-ish to me, but is nonetheless quite educational in the sense that it gives a more visceral meaning to feeding frenzy and law of the sea. We all dive to a certain depth in the water where there’s some dead coral and rock which makes a virtual amphitheater, and they lower a bucket (locked, at first, then released once it’s down and we’re all seated around the amphitheater (of sorts) – the bucket has tuna heads in it. There’s a scrum of sharks down below, and both that and all the other shark pics are from that event. They are magnificent creatures. These are just white tipped and grey-tipped reef sharks, nothing terribly threatening to us. By and large the dangerous wildlife doesn’t seem to know what to make of divers, but that doesn’t make the experience any less real when you’re in it.
And since I was curious, I searched my memory and determined the only other time I’ve lived aboard a boat was 3.5 yeas ago when I spent two nights on houseboat on the backwaters of Kerala — a very different but equally rich experience documented here, should you be curious: https://somuchworldsolittletime.wordpress.com/2010/03/01/cruising-keralas-backwaters/
That’s me – all the shots of someone diving and taking pics etc. are me, taken by dive-buddy Scott. We were both learning how to work with cameras underwater. Just in case anyone wants to know what I look lke down there – yeah, that’s the camera in my hands, taking one of these shots, perhaps…
One thing it’s very hard to do is get photos that capture some of the lively color of the underwater world, without strobe flashes and high-tech gear that’s beyond my price and capacity at this point. I love the clams because they are amazingly beautiful and sensitive, shifting and closing down significantly when they sense you near them; watching them move to close creates a shimmering array of colors on top of the colors already in their shells and bodies. Below is that feeding-frenzy scrum I mentioned.
That’s the boat, and a pic I took of my dive-buddy Scott entering the way most of us did it – it’s direct and quick, though there’s always that flutter in my stomach as I prep to dive in….
That’s not me doing the upside-down thing; it’s dive-buddy Reto but I liked how it seems he’s headstanding on the coral (he’s not, just looking at it close up). The multi-colored bit is just algae clinging to the mooring rope…actually on the way up from the shark dive, which was a heavy-current day so I clung to it so as not to have to fight too hard back to the boat…
This Morning in Cairns
This morning in Cairns smw, slt went for a dawn run & a stroll along the esplanade and the boardwalk, watching the strollers stroll, seagulls wheel, and joggers jog. It’s about to be our birthday again, and we try hard not to be at work on our birthday. Since where we live & work tend, these days, to be places where a day off just means hanging around in a gated compound and not having much fun, this usually means we leave our home-of-the-year and go somewhere far away. So yesterday I boarded the morning flight across the Coral Sea, from POM down to Cairns. I dined last night on the nicely-decorated terrace of a lovely restaurant where I ordered vegetarian laksa. Anywhere in the world, finding vegetarian laksa is a challenge. After four months in POM, that plus the late-night star-gazing stroll around the chilly quiet streets of Cairns felt like a tastes of what, for me, = paradise: freedom to roam and good food. What more could a boy (or an ageing geezer, depending on one’s p of v) ask for, around his bday?
Well, thanks for asking. Since the ol’ bday arrives (again!!) at midnight (here in my time zone it’s already Thursday morning the 8th), and since I’ve spent the past 17 months living surrounded by some of the world’s greatest scuba diving while only getting myself below sea level ons single time (documented, you may recall, a few entries right here on this very blog), … well, I’m finally doing that live-aboard drive trip I’ve dreamed of for the past decade+. (This is true. Both that I’m doing it, and that I’ve dreamed of it.) Shortly after finishing this post, I shall re-pack my gear, drop it off at the dive office, then enjoy a free day in Cairns. At 6pm today, I shall board the boat that’ll be my home for the next four nights, out on the Great Barrier Reef. I’ll wake up tomorrow rocking on baord a ship somewhere out over those coral formations they say you can see from outer space, and do five dives – one of them a night dive. The following day, I’ll do the same thing. In between dives, I’ll be chilling and watching the sunshine glimmer on the water. On Sunday evening we’ll wind up near Lizard Island (you can google it ), roughly halfway between Cairns and Cape York. Monday morning, we will do a low-altitude flight back along the reef, from Lizard Island to Cairns. Now, does that not sound a mighty fine way to spend one’s birthday? I thought so, too. That’s why I’m doing it, and that’s why I thought I should post these now, since I hope they will soon be eclipsed by more unusual shots: I’ve no clue if theres internet on the boat (sorta doubt it)…if there is, maybe I’ll post daily pics of all the fishies and corals I’ve been viewing! If not…well, once I get to Sydney next week, I’ll bring you all up to speed.
In the meantime, feel free to imagine the lovely flight I’ll be taking on Monday by re-visiting my Coral Sea from-the-air shots from this January – I didn’t bother taking new ones yesterday since I knew I would soon have even better views from the low-altitude flight on Monday! But here’s the last time so you have a wee sense of what your’s truly’s about to be viewing: https://somuchworldsolittletime.wordpress.com/2013/01/06/coast-highlands-coral-sea-by-land-and-by-air/