Changes & Adventures

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:

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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:

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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:

House, Valley, Hills on Hike - Pre-Monsoon Season

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:

Ngauruhoe Summit View of Lakes & Clouds

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:
Rivers-Abia Border Boats & River

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.KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

And We’re Off!

Visa came this morning, and with a little nagging I managed to get the departures office here at MSF HQ to arrange my ticket Paris-Hong Kong for 23:15 tonight. So I should arrive Hong Kong late afternoon tomorrow, in order to connect onward to Nanning from there. No idea whether or how I’ll be able to maintain the blog from there, and if there are challenges it may take a while to work out a solution…so thanks for your support, take care, wish me luck, and keep in touch!

And the PHOTOS Are Here!

Today’s big activity was my downright determination (spurred in part by my cousin Pat’s supportive comments on the blog about how she hopes to see some photos some time soon and how she’ll help me get the USB cable if I can’t find one in China) to exhaust all possible avenues for finding the right USB connection here in Paris. And now, a few hours, twenty-plus Euros (i.e., nearly 30 dollars) and more than eight stores later, I am back in the library at MSF headquarters in Paris with my newest electronic gadget, a portable card reader, hooked up. If this entry goes where I want it to (things sometimes appear in odd places in the blog, witness the two train photos below…), then what you will see immediately below are the photos I have taken so far. I am sorry it’s not more — I took some nice scenery and archtitecture shots, and there was one of me in Bordeaux…but, funny thing, turns out my camera has a video function that I didn’t know about, and most of those were videos. Oh well. There’ll be more from China — though, fair warning, a new poster on the blog here (see comments from last Thursday’s post) has warned me I may not be able to access this blog from China; seems the government there does still try to control access to some forms of information perhaps, even in this digital age…

OK, suggestions for my friends: if you buy a digital camera, don’t lose the USB cable. It also helps to read the manual before you start using the thing.

Logging off now. Love y’all and thanks. Send me good wishes for a VISA so I can go to CHINA soon. Pretty please?!

Musée d’Orsay on Easter Sunday

Musee d' Orsay Easter Sunday 2005Yes, I finally motivated myself to take advantage of some of Paris’s
fabulous museums this past weekend, and am extremely glad I did since
I spent nearly two hours in the special exhibition about “Neo
Impressionists, From Seurat to Klee.” This was a FANTASTIC exhibit
with some truly gorgeous paintings that I’d never seen or heard of
before, often by painters I’d never heard of before but whose works I
hope to see again. My only comment is if you go hoping to see lots of
Klee, you will be disappointed — lots and lots of Seurat, but only
one Klee at the very end, unless I missed some — which I doubt, since
I loved the exhibit so much I went through once then turned around and
went back through backwards and then forwards again. 🙂

Anyway, for those of you who’ve not yet had the chance to visit this
fantastic museum situated in an old and beautiful railway station on
the left bank of Paris, here is the mandatory shot of the great hall
taken from the viewing platform high up on one end. It’s a wonderful
museum, truly.

My Class on the Train (w/o me)

PPDA Class on  Train 2Speeding through the French countryside between Bordeaux and Paris, I
found time to snap this shot of, from left to right, Séverine (who
flew to Guinea to start her mission on Sunday), Diane (who’s now tying
up loose ends in Montréal before starting her mission), Xavier (who,
despite seeming asleep here, will leave for the Democratic Republic of
Congo tomorrow), and Aggripine (who is home in Burundi now).

The Church Anne Frank Looked At

Paul in A'damMy friend Bart took this picture during our stroll through a Saturday
afternoon in Amsterdam on March 19. In her diary (so Bart tells me; I
can’t claim to remember it so well), Anne Frank wrote about looking
out at a church tower and hearing the bells ring, and how that lifted
her spirits sometimes. This is the church immediately next to the Anne
Frank house in Amsterdam.

East Frisia/Ost Friesland

Paul at NordmoleAfter Jens (exchange brother, who spent 1978-79 school year with us in
New Jersey, and with whose family I then spent school year 1980-81 in
Schleswig-Hostein, but whom I had not seen since my last visit to
Germany in 1990) met me at the train station in Emden, we went for a
beautiful and windy walk along the dike by the north sea near where
they live. They are in a flat and green area right by the border
between Germany and Holland, with sky and clean air for miles and

My Class on the Train (without Diane)

PPDA Class on Train 1…or Delphine, who had left the day before for vacation with her
boyfriend (now fiancé, congrats to you both). Left to right it’s
Séverine, me, Xavier, and Aggripine. The TGV trains cover the 570 some
kilometers between Bordeaux and Paris in three hours, with only three
stops. Wow. And they’re comfortable, too!

Arriving in Paris

Seine & SunOn a late afternoon in the late winter, one can still be blessed with
some real beauty. Here’s more or less my first view of the Seine
during my perambulations around the capital upon my arrival, February
27. (Eek! It’s been more than a month!)

21 Days, 21 Years, and Visa Delays

It’s Thursday afternoon in Paris, the magnolias and all the beautiful bulbs are in bloom — from the jardin des plantes (botanical gardens, where I ran yesterday morning) to jardins de Luxembourg (where the senate meets and I sat and read on Monday) to Pere Lachaise cemetery (not far from where I’m staying, and yes, where I paid homage to Oscar Wilde’s tomb yesterday). But first, some updates:

–I won’t leave for China until next week: my passport is currently back in NYC, since the Chinese won’t issue expedited visas for American citizens here.

–This means I’m all ready to go, finished with my briefings, finished with the last rabies and encephalitis shots, and furnished with an ice pack and a meningitis vaccination to take with me on the plane (can’t get that one at the same time as the others)…and now I get to spend easter week in Paris. 🙂

Yes, there are worse fates. True MSF’s idea of a per diem (23 euros a day) does not cover the real costs of food and basic life here in Paris..but let’s face it, with them footing the hotel bill and kicking in that much, this is a great opportunity to improve my French and get to know this gorgeous city very well, much more cheaply than I’d otherwise get to!

Let me also admit the problem with the whole photo thing: I lost the darn USB cable for my camera. Somewhere between packing and repacking and traveling, it’s been lost or seriously misplaced, and despite long walks and visits to several computer super centers today, I’ve not found the right USB connection for my camera. So, sorry — even though I’ve now go some real nice photos of myself in Bordeaux, Amsterdam, etc., along with just some decent scenic shots…it’ll have to wait until I can find the right cable or get to China and order it from there. I truly apologize!

21 days: when I returned to Paris on Sunday, it was exactly 21 days after I’d first arrived here for the training course, and it was a great chance to observe what a difference 21 days can make! Paris itself had gone from snowy and wet to vibrant, sunny and full of flowers and people: kids kicking soccer balls in every free space they could find, families and couples and singles promenading along the Seine and through the parks…it was gorgeous! Then on the personal front, so much had changed in a way to let me enjoy it all the much more. From knowing no one in this city earlier, coming back now felt almost like coming home. I had plans for dinner with one of the friends from the course (Xavier, the guy from Paris, who should be off to Democratic Congo in a week); I knew I had work to do at the MSF office the following morning…and so on. It’s a cool feeling to come back to a city this special and new to me, and to have a job to do here.

21 years: the only time I was ever in China proper – or the mainland, as we referred to it when I was in Taiwan – was just about exactly 21 years ago this month. Without access to my journals (in storage in LA) I can’t verify the exact dates, but it was the spring of 1984. I spent time in Hong Kong, Canton/Guangzhou, and Macao…at the time only one of those cities was governed from Beijing, and now all three are. I look forward to returning soon, and seeing what’s changed and what’s new and how my Chinese has held up in the intervening 21 years. Interestingly, I will enter China at Guangzhou this time as well: the flight is Paris to Guangzhou with an internal connection to Nanning from there.

OK, I think that’ll be it for now. I have reading to do about the China projects, and more to digest from my briefings this week, but mostly I’m trying to relax, sleep, go to movies and plays to improve my French (saw one new release last night, and have another in 40 minutes next to Centre Pompidou), and do all the reading in French I can manage. So great to be using my languages again!

Love to you all…thanks for your messages on the blog (Mike Wong – I’ll try to write you personally soon, but hope you love that book as much as I do; and if you do, consider checking ou Garth Nix’s Abhorsen trilogy…which I’m also trying to locate in translation here)…hope I’ll get pictures and word about the visa soon. 🙂 Happy Spring!!!