French Polynesia

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

Greeting the New Year in Tahiti

Hello my friends. smw, slt is in Perth, Western Australia at the moment. In a few short hours we’ll hop in our rental car and head south to explore what’s reputed to be a gorgeous area of coastline, mountains and wineries in the southwestern portion of this vast and varied state. More about WA in some future post, but for now I’ve managed to get caught up on some photos from the tail end of 08 and the first day of 09, which doesn’t seem like too much of a lag until you realize I’ve already been in yet another country, and three new cities, since then. Oh well: with any luck, you’ll see more of Sydney, Melbourne and Western Australia in coming weeks. The news from the home front seems good; the house project moves ahead and my wonderful brother has taken the baton from me for the time being; thanks, Steve. I’ll send postcards, fear not. 🙂 Happy new year to you all, and let’s hope we don’t weigh our new president down with so many expectations that he’s bound to fail. Here’s to a much better 2009 than 2008. (Oh, and one small note: I’m on a hotel internet computer that is neither the best nor the worst I’ve been on, but tending to the bottom half; either this fact or some change in blogspot means I don’t have access to the usual formatting choices I’ve gotten used to…so there are likely some errors of formatting and things that won’t look as good as I’d hope. Oh well. Let the pics, if you can see them, speak for themselsves…

OK, so my January-February vacation this year was supposed to be Australia and New Zealand. But, as I figured out during my short stay there, this is not high season in French Polynesia, and the airlines and hotels still want to bring in business. Wherease in Oz and NZ, it’s definitely peak season. Result: far cheaper airfares if I flew via Tahiti than direct to the two main destinations. Tough choice, but like our soon-to-be-ex ‘president’ used to say, I’m the decider. Thus I spent about 50 hours on land, smack in the middle of the Pacific, in Tahiti.

As I’ve learned, Tahiti is the capital and largest island of the absolutely enormous territory of French Polynesia. French Polynesia includes something like 170 main islands in five different archipelagos, spread across an area the size of Europe (literally) in the middle of the Pacific Ocean (going east to west), somewhat south of the equator. They’re literally in the middle of nowhere, quite remote from anywhere else. (This seems to be a theme of this trip; I write this from a hotel lobby in what’s often described as the most remote major city in the world.) And they are, from what little I could see of them – plus all those stories and photos we’ve all seen over the years – truly beautiful.

Having only a short time – December 31 and January 1, to be precise – I had just time to take a quaint little bus into the capital, Papeete to explore a bit, then hop a 4wd vehicle for a trip up the principal river valley on this volcanic island with two main portions, formed – like Maui, I presume – by two different volcanoes over the millenia. All of the lovely waterfall and moutnain valley shots are from that half-day trip; the others are from my walks around town, except the sunset beach shots looking out at Moorea (next-door island) and the high-up shot of turquiose water, which came from a walk in the hills above my hotel on new year’s day, where I found myself walking past the University of French Polynesia.

Above, a few shots taken around town in Papeete, the capital of French Polynesia and the main town on Tahiti. You can also see Moorea, a next-door island, in these shots as you could from the beach at my hotel, which is several miles back east or counter-clockwise around the island. Below are several shots of Papeete’s Town Hall, all decked out for Christmas — I took these shots on December 31st in Tahiti. Nice way to truly see out the old year, huh? 🙂 Tough life, but someone’s gotta do it…