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.
…Udaipur, among those familiar with Indian history, is probably best known as the last holdout of the Rajputs against both the Mughals and the British. After losing their original home fort at Chittor a few too many times to invading Mughals, Udai heard a voice in the desert – well, some sort of prophetic voice – that told him he and his people would be safe if he built them a fort and a palace here. So he did, and as best I can read the history, this holdout of Rajput strength never fell to the Mughals. (Surprisingly difficult to track one’s way through the various historical summaries in different travel guides, and I admit I’ve not gone back and read an Indian history book since, well, since Reagan was president.
…what DID we do for dinner plans before they littered the landscape with mobile phone towers?
…two MSFers talking about generator schedules, even on their vacation. Sad but true.
They call Udaipur the most romantic city in India, I think; I can’t comment on that, but it’s certainly got interesting twisty streets and lovely buildings aplenty, wound around the lakes and hills. The alleyway and house-painting below were jokingly referred to by Howard as the most-photographed alley in Udaipur, since I was far from the only tourist taking a photo.
We stayed in the ‘Royal Retreat’ at Shikarbadi (one of the few dozen above-mentioned former palaces plus a hunting lodge, aka Shikarbadi Hotel, or two) for the glorious four days in Udaipur. H&G took great pleasure in getting out and about for more temples and sites; I took great pleasure in the hills, wetlands, deer and birds while being a vegetable in the hotel room and grounds. Having been influenced by a Frank Zappa fan in my youth (that’s you, Jens), I couldn’t help thinking of it as the Sheikh Yerbouti hotel. Hehe.
…since Shikarbadi is well south of the city, tucked into the hills below the lake, they seem to do special breakfasts for tour groups to give tourists an idea of the royal lifestyle with hunting lodges in the hills, and…well, literally, the red-carpet treatment. The low-slung building by the slough, above, contained our room and had a deer park on the other side from the slough.
In the fort at Kumbalh Garh, I heard again the soft swish of a camel’s feet across the ground, and got to share it with Howard to whom I’d been describing it as we saw wild or feral camels wandering the desert from our car as we traversed the desert from Jodhpur to Osian to Jaisalmer and back again, then down to Kumbalgarh en route to Udaipur. Accustomed to the sharp clippety-clop of horses’ hooves — or, in India, of the myriad cows around whom we’ve wended our way through the streets of all those towns — this sound brought me up short the first time I heard it, several years ago in a very different place. Here by the Great Thar Desert, near where the tides of history and colonialism sliced a tense and bloody new international border back in 1947, it’s more than just the camel’s swish that takes me back to those days at the edge of another great desert far to the north.
Friendly architecture students whom we met at the Patwon ki Haveli, one of many simply stunning merchants’ houses built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the city the developed around the base of the fort.
Jaisalmer’s fort, unique for being the only still-inhabited and active fort in India, is quite the popular destination for domestic tourism.
…above: camel at rest in a random courtyard up in the fort at Jaisalmer; below: waterspout in fantastic shape within Jain temple; further below: the white statue is one of the 24 Jain prophets, about whom you can read more in the Osian section down below.
Oh well: take it as stated that the interior of the fort & palace is as impressive and beautiful as the exterior. And enjoy the shots that I took on an afternoon return trip, post-Jaisalmer, of the battlements and gardens at Mehrengarh. Though they already had the spectacular Fort, this particular royal family decided to build themselves an even more opulent and sumptuous palace called Umaid Bhavan – no military fort, this confection built in the 1930s as a ‘public works program’ for the waning days of British colonial rule in India. This is the palace I mentioned in my comments up above about the tension in my own mind between the beauty of these buildings and their history, and the enormous social inequality and maldistribution of resources that they represent. It’s good for Americans to be reminded that, in this epoch on the global scale, we’re the modern equivalent of these Rajahs building themselves pleasure palaces while the poor are starving. Not a sustainable system, my friends.
…that’s the above-mentioned, offending but opulently gorgeous Umaid Bhavan Palace; and yeah, the aim of the cannon below rather represents my feelings about such spending, beautfiul as it is, when I know there were folks starving and dying needlessly of disease. Further down (and some above as well, flora and fauna – the hanuman langur, a black-faced and playful primate whose relatives I first met in bouncing around on the roof of my hotel in Sri Lanka years ago – of the gardens & pleasure palace, a delightful oasis down below Mehrengarh, from which many of the looking-up-with-flowers-in-the-frame pictures were shot.
…every now and then my Ohio-boy roots show up despite the many voyages I’ve undertaken since those days on the banks of seven-mile creek — and any time I see these particular, beautifuly fragrant flowers, I’m always reminded of my first exposure to them in Key West on my very first adult semi-tropical-type vacation. And I just can’t help thinking how cool it all is, and how very far from the banks of seven-mile creek.