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

Loafing Around Lamu

So we’ve come to the last morning of this relaxing nine-day visit to the island of Lamu. I figure I should throw these pics up on the blog right away because otherwise it would wait until October when I’m back in European/American space again with reliable internet, before I’d have a hope of uploading so many photos. Apologies in advance for just how many photos there are – believe me, I edited out quite a lot but it’s been such a joy to have so many interesting people, things & vistas to photograph that my little shutterbug eye has gone a bit crazy. My routine has mostly been early-morning and late afternoon walks around town or the dunes by Shela in order to see people and places in the cooler, more interesting light then instead of the heat of mid-day sun, which here so close to the equator is mighty ferocious, even though actual air temperatures are quite pleasant since we’re surrounded by ocean with good trade winds.

And it is trade that made Lamu what it is – a lovely historical town (on an island of the same name) with a mix of cultural influences from India, Arabia, and various parts of Africa. Lamu and the whole Swahili coast have been on the trade routes since humans took to boats and started trading, one assumes.  There are clusters of islands off the Swahili coasts of both Tanzania and Kenya; the most famous of these is Zanzibar in modern-day Tanzania, but Kenya has a few islands jewels of its own and I’ve now enjoyed one of them for a week or so. I’m going to put anything else in captions and hope you’ll enjoy the photos as much as I enjoyed wandering around and taking them.

A coastal fort near the village of Shela, which the southern tip of Manda island across the straight and open ocean to the right. Shela has old history but is nowadays influenced by a strong presence of expats with vacation and year-round houses there, so it’s a bit wealthier and quieter than the more traditional and hopping town of Lamu a short bit away. If you’re curious at all after reading the last entry I posted: Manda is a very big island with a deep channel nearly cutting it in two so it looks like two islands from here, but in fact there’s a narrow isthmus on the other side and the airstrip is on the northern half. Below is contemporary Shela seen from the water.

Look really closely and you’ll see that’s a bit of a rainbow forming above Manda island.

Many of the boats here fly various interesting flags, including this one which also played some nice music as it plied along the channel between Lamu & Manda. Below: no bridge to the island, so no cars except an ambulance and a tractor or two; so donkeys haul the sand and bricks for building, the coconuts and bananas and so on. They wander the streets and they make their barking cries that sound like someone is being tortured all the time too.

I took a few nice long walks along the beach and in the dunes. The freedom to do this so safely has been wonderful; in yesterday’s walk which was the longest I worried I’d gotten lost and even had some nice paranoid fantasies of snakes and so on, but all ended well with a smoothie in Shela and a sunset walk back to Lamu town.

The Friday mosque, in Shela, is one of very few here to have a high minaret. It was built around the turn of the last century. BTW for those curious and who didn’t guess, all the portraits of the friendly & open inhabitants of this lovely island were taken with their agreement. Trying to tackle my perennial shyness about adults, youll see I did approach a few adults as well as many kids. Sadly no adult women or older girls agreed, so you’re seeing more of the male inhabitants of the island. Oh well.

These guys are in one of the mosques and assured me it was quite alright to take their photo; the guy on the right greeted me and started a conversation as I walked past. Folks here are very friendly and welcoming. I suspect the white spot in his hair is flaking whitewash from where he brushed his head on a wall; this has happened to some of my clothes.

Ah yes, the first of many doors and alleys that you will see. Wood carving is important here, for the dhows and doors and for other decorations. I’ve really enjoyed wandering and seeing the lovely alleys and doorways and thought I’d share a selection (really! I didn’t photograph every alley and every door in Lamu town, though you may feel that way!) with you.

Very many of the houses have these lovely out-front porch seating areas. It’s very social.

Ramadan began on my second full day here  so I’ve been careful not to eat or drink in public as a matter of respect Everyone breaks their fast in little groups – of neighbors, of friends, not sure what – and then they go for the evening service (I’m assuming; that seems to be the timing though I’ve not paid great attention). On one of my walks this group, which I’d wished a lovely breaking of  the fast, invited me to join them. Ginger coffee and dates, yum. And I was told one should never have just one of something – one should have three or five. That was the host who told me. I did mention the people here are very friendly and open? 🙂 PS these photos are grainy because the flash chose not to go off even though it was, of course, a bit after sunset…

This is the main shopping and tourist street in town, which I generally avoided in favor of the smaller alleys and more residential quarters I’ve been showing you. However it does have a lot of interesting stuff also. The other main thoroughfare is of course along the harborfront, whch I truly avoided because it’s the one place where a foreigner can’t walk without being asked more than once whether one would like to take a boat somewhere.

This set of shots  is all from Shela – you can tell because it’s a bit newer looking, more spacious, etc. Above is sunset from the balcony of my room in Shela (I split my time – first five nights there, then four in Lamu town), and below are two shots looking out from the lovely little cafe which became my home-away-from-hotel in Shela; that’s where I wrote and posted the last entry which some few of you may have already viewed.