Scenes of Seasons in Amsterdam

Work takes me to or through Amsterdam once or twice a year, and has for a decade now. This year it was the usual 10 days for annual meetings in early September — when the days were still just a bit longer than the nights — and then again for a few nights just before flying out here to Bangladesh. Here you see photos from both trips. You’ll notice two photos that I’ve named “sudden heron.”  I’ve always loved (and photographed often) the waterbirds that show up on and in Amsterdam’s canals, lakes and parks. This time I was just walking from the meeting-venue back to the hotel along a canal in the heart of the city, quite an urban area really, minding my own business and watching the sunset…when suddenly I found myself next to this great blue heron!When I was growing up, in southern Ohio during the post-DDT days, I dreamed of seeing great blue herons and other big birds. So many had their numbers decimated by the effects of DDT on their eggs that it was really quite rare to see such large high-on-the-food-chain birds. I still am delighted when I get to see one stalking its prey, whatever the continent. Glad I’m not a fish or a frog, about to be skewered by that beak, though!

Just below is the excellent City Museum of Amsterdam, old and new buildings skillfully blended. Further down, the cruise ship at dock was flagged the Bahamas, and I took that photo in September while the Bahamas were being so battered by a hurricane: felt poignant, and I wasn’t sure if the ship was taking refuge or on a pre-planned trip in northern Europe. The beer was photographed while my laundry spun in the washer and drier at the laundromat next door: that September trip came immediately after the family & meditations outings I’ve already shown you in & — so I desperately needed to get some clean clothes before sitting in a week of meetings with peers and colleagues… 🙂

Ij, Eye, Amsterdam

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(I need to apologize that this isn’t laid out as I’d wish – the great minds at wordpress have forced us all into a new “improved” editor which makes it impossible, as far as I can tell, to set fixed widths for photos other than an automatic +/- size with very limited options. Stupid, but unavoidable for the moment until either they get smarter or I find a new host. Ideas welcome.)

Clue for you non-Dutch-speakers out there: Ij & Eye are pronounced the same way. 🙂 Also: Ij is the name of a body of water that sits just north of the central train station in Amsterdam. It connects to Ijmeer (Ij bay?) to the east, and the town of Ijmuiden (mouths of the Ij?) to the west, and basically makes Noord-Holland (you guess, North-Holland) a peninsula. What I don’t know is what the natural state of these various bodies of water were before the industrious Dutch traders and engineers started managing the bodies of water within the territory we now know as the Kingdom of Netherlands, back whenever past generations of Dutch people decided they could makes canals and diversions, fill in land, and make it possible for one of the most densely-populated nations on earth to exist and be wealthy with about 1/3 of its territory actually sitting below sea level. (Netherlands tourism’s website tells me the lowest point is 22ft below sea level; highest a mere 1000 feet above.) My point: the Dutch have even engineered the Rhine River. I’m sure much of this was naturally-existing in the river-delta-region that links the Rhine, the Meuse and Scheldt rivers. (I mean, even the un-engineered Niger River becomes a highly complex delta without a clear main “Niger River” channel south of Port Harcourt – just check out some of past entries from the Niger Delta and you’ll see a bit of that.) But what I’m certain of, having now worked with a Dutch headquarters and many Dutch colleagues and bosses for the past decade or so, is that Dutch engineers very tidily and meticuloulsy did what they could to enhance these delta channels, acknowledging that water will flow, but doing their best to channel that flow for minimum disruption to towns, cities, trading canals, etc. The water carried by the Rhine divides not long after entering Netherlands territory, most of its water then flowing west to reach the ocean north of Rotterdam in a few different channels which — so Wikipedia tells me — can be called “distributaries.”  The same source tells me that 1/9 of the water volume contained in the Rhine upon its entry into Netherlands territory ends up flowing via the IJssel branch of this distributary network into the above-mentioned IJsselmeer.
My nerdly point is this: the water in the photo above is called the Ij. It sits between the Amsterdam you may know and love (to the left) and the Amsterdam you may not know exist, North Amsterdam (to the right). North Amsterdam is accessible via completely free ferries which run regularly just off the north side of Amsterdam Centraal station. It’s got a big lovely park. Amsterdam is a very cool city b/c they’ve done such an amazing job of packing it all in and allowing below-sea-level areas to absorb water, recharge aquifers, and hopefully protect the commercial and residential parts of the city from being flooded — all of which means you can see great blue herons and other fascinating birds bumping up against high-rises and train tracks. All very cool. Anyhoo: I did a day trip going out by ferry, back by bus, to this North-Amsterdam part of the city, which in more than nine years of being there before and after each assignment I hadn’t yet visited. The park in particular is well worth a trip. These are mostly from my September trip; some from my June trip, post-CAR. (Such as me in front of my favorite European concert hall.) Enjoy 🙂



Selections from the Air

You probably know I fly a fair bit, and I’m one of those people who stare out the window of the airplane if there’s daylight. I don’t suppose I’m truly claustrophobic in the classic sense, and I do just fine even in a middle seat if I need to (then I do escape into headphones and the in-set tv screen or i-pad), but I certainly enjoy flying much more when I can look out the window and enjoy the magic of seeing the earth from a different angle. Here’s a selection of photos from three flights I took over the past year – each photo has a name that explains what it is, more or less. Hope you find the aerial views as intriguing or enlightening as I do. And happy thanksgiving weekend, if you’re in the US. 🙂

Dallying in Delft

Usually, my flights back across the Atlantic leave Amsterdam Schiphol in the morning. Usually as well, I like to visit a friend or two in other parts of Europe, after debriefing but before taking those morning flights back to the US. That means I usually come back to Amsterdam a day or two prior to the flight. Which means I need to find my own hotel. I can’t afford a hotel in Amsterdam, really, unless my employer is paying for it on their negotiated group rate. (A’dam is a fantastic town but hotels are freaking expensive.)

So I’ve taken to staying in other towns a bit further out – The Hague or Den Haag, the last few years. After debriefing from my short assignment to Sierra Leone, last September, I stayed there & spent a day exploring Delft, a lovely town just next door. These photos are mostly from Delft with just a few from The Hague. Usually when I leave a field assignment, one of my great joys is simply to walk the reasonably ordered, clean and secure streets of cities in the US or Europe, by day or night, without having to think in advance about potential risks or having to constantly jump out of the way of motorbikes or loud cars, etc.

In my Oberlin classmate Tracy Chevalier’s book about Vermeer’s painting “Girl With A Pearl Earring,” a lovely climactic scene near the end of the book involves a large compass laid down in the cobblestones of the city square — so basically, I went in search of said compass, since I know Tracy does her research well. I was saddened to find that the actual huge compass, about which she writes in the book, must have been located somewhere out of sight, beneath the carnival attractions you see in the photo above. Oh well: next visit! It’s still a gorgeous little town full of history and charm, so I’m sure to be back some day. My consolation prize was the smaller compass you’ll find photographed below – but I’m told there’s definitely a bigger one hiding under one of those rides in the main square. 🙂

Tulips & Canals – Spring Jaunts in Amsterdam

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Sorry for the lag between posts, folks. I went offline for June and July, and hung out on the bike trails and tennis courts at home. I’m back on a short assignment again now (Sierra Leone until early September), and this means bike trails and tennis courts aren’t as readily available, so I’m using my evening & weekend free time to dig through all the photos I’ve taken since leaving Haiti & Canada (see my last posts)…and I’ll be slowly popping them up here for your enjoyment. This one’s Amsterdam: I’m usually there once or twice a year, before or after an assignment, for meetings and briefings and so on. I got lucky with an unusually sunny weekend in the middle of this particular stay, so I walked and took trams around new parts of town I’d not previously visited. The spring tulips, flowering magnolia trees, and other signs of the season were lovely and everywhere, and I found Amsterdam’s range of architectural styles and details from classic big brick churches to modern apartment complexes, university classroom buildings, and even small historical plaques embedded in walls around town quite enjoyable. It’s really a city that rewards rambling down side streets with your eyes open and curiosity alive. And I finally found a way to try to show you how small some of the restaurant and hotel sinks can be in Amsterdam – I think this was in a new (for me) and excellent restaurant, and I found it unusually small even by Amsterdam standards…

Over The Fields & Through The Woods

across-the-fieldsOccasionally I manage to spend a few days with old family friend in northern Germany, before or after visits to our office in Amsterdam. When the weather permits, we always try to get out on our bikes. I love urban planning that leaves room for agriculture in between towns and villages. This region I visit, in Schlewig-Holstein, is similar to my own home in Sonoma County, in that the towns are reasonably contained, and the farms begin just outside town. (None of that classic southern-California or Florida sprawl for us.) I love bicycling through both for very similar reasons. Main difference: it’s really flat and far more green in northern Germany. Also: more cows, no grape vines in site :-). Enjoy the pastoral pleasures and the German-flagged cattle…

deventer-fom-train …and these last two are just to confuse you a bit: above, the Dutch city of Deventer as seen from the train; and below, a shot of an Autobahn underpass on our bicycle tour, which somehow went very artistic without my consciously doing anything. Serendipity, or ugliness?autobahn-underpass

Central Amsterdam Architecture…and Canals

amsterdam-centraal-2Amsterdam Central train station is an ornate confection right in the heart of town. It’s so very in the heart of town that the fastest, modern trains can’t really navigate the curves and tracks to reach it, so the fastest trains connect through stations on the south side of town, and the airport, instead of coming into central station. Still, its proximity and lovliness make it my train station of choice even when I’m traveling to Belgium, Germany or France. Including on my most recent visit which, yes, was back in September. I’ve only got one more set of photos to post from that September Europe sojourn!

Since I’ve now posted many a time from Amsterdam over the years, I tried to focus this a bit more on specific architecture that I love…plus a few of the usual canal views which I simply can’t resist. All that brick, all those ornate ornamentations and well-maintained buildings…a pleasure to look at. Enjoy :-).

The Hague – One City, Many Palaces


So smw, slt is wrapping up another lovely little vacation at home in northern California, preparing to head back to work in Haiti. Having just retrieved my computer from the repair shop, I’m able to use this rainy Saturday to post some shots I took during a day off I gave myself at The Hague, back in September. You’ll understand that – what with a hurricane response and annual planning to absorb my time – I didn’t get a chance to post any of these closer to the date when I actually took them, about two months ago. I stayed at a hotel near a palace, and when I told a friend to meet me at my hotel “near the palace,”  he said “which palace,”  hence the name of this post and the shots of the three different palace-like buildings easily walkable from my hotel itself. I’ve not yet done a full inventory; maybe next visit :-).

Fun facts about The Hague:

  • Second largest city in the Netherlands.
  • Home of the Peace Palace, which was built built after World War I by Andrew Carnegie (and still owned by the Carnegie Foundation).
  • The Peace Palace houses the UN’s International Court of Justice, though not the Int’l Criminal  Court, which is elsewhere in the Hague, so I’m told…
  • The Hague is also home to both the Dutch parliament and the royal family, but it’s NOT the capital of the Netherlands (go figure).
  • Quite a lovely little city to visit, similar to Amsterdam what with canals, good tram lines, and lovely old buildings – but closer to a nice beach, just next to Delft, and with much less expensive hotels!


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Love Songs of the Golden-Cheeked Gibbon

artis-golden-cheeked-gibbons artis-old-building-entranceOn quiet mornings in Amsterdam I sometimes go for a run or walk around the perimeter of Artis, the zoo. I’ve come to long for the morning serenade of an animal that sings in long, soaring, other-worldly tones that feel half-bird, half human. Indeed, I’ve wondered if they’re apes on some of my runs – but the only loud primates I’ve heard of (aside from monkeys of the classic ooh-ooh ahh-ahh style, and humans) are howler monkeys, and these calls are far more ethereal than any howl I can imagine. Until this last trip, I’d never found time to go inside the zoo and find out directly. I’ve never been sure, and always wondered.

artis-water-lilyLast year and this, some of our sessions for the “coordination days”  (in which heads of mission and medical coordinators debate and discuss issues of the day with our HQ management and support) have been held in beautifully renovated meeting rooms at the zoo, which is across the street from our hotel and down the block from our office. One afternoon during lunch, they offered a guided tour with the theme of “leadership and communication.”  (Cute theme, for mission managers, eh?)

artis-visiting-heronIt was thus that I learned of the golden-cheeked gibbon, from southeast Asia – born golden, turning black after a few years, with females returning golden at sexual maturity. When a gibbon pair develops a beautiful harmony, so the docent told us, it signifies to others in the troop that they’ve bonded. I found the story nearly as lovely as the morning serenades themselves.
So herewith, in honor of the gibbons which sing for their mates, the lions whose children remind me of human teenagers I’ve known (the older two sleeping are parents; the younger two looking bored are the lion equivalent of bored teenage daughters, I gather), and of the baby monkey daughter with her high-ranking mother from the matriarchal-led society, I offer you a few photos from Artis, Amsterdam’s surprisingly central, larger-than-expected, and quite lovely zoo. (I indeed saw older monkeys scamper out of the way of this baby – they treated her like a princess!) Though I still have problems with the whole zoo concept, it was certainly a learning experience for me. Enjoy!

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

Angles on Amsterdam

Museumplein & RijksmuseumStreet LampOne thing I’ve loved in my current work is the chance to pass through Amsterdam once or twice a year, depending on length of assignment and timing of planning meetings, etc. Seeing a city regularly over several years, for visits ranging from one or two days to longer than a week, gives a sense of familiarity that also causes me to dig down and try to find details and nuances in buildings, streets, canals, that I might not have noticed before. On my most recent visit, in mid September, I sadly didn’t take my camera out with me on the two or three sunniest days, and many of the others I was just too tired after a long working day to capture much. Still, I did get out and note a new element or two in obscure corners and famous landmarks that might interest my loyal friends and readers here at smw, slt… It’s an endlessly wonderful walking city when the weather’s at least reasonable, and rewards careful slow enjoyment in the quiet side streets and unusual corners.House Detail Boat-Filled Canal Brick BuildingsCanal View
Rijksmusum FacadeCanalside House

Postcards from The Hague

Paleis Tuin Pond SwanDuring the briefings in NYC and Amsterdam for my new assignment, I had an extra weekend day in the Netherlands, and it being a holiday weekend there, Amsterdam’s hotels were even more than usually full and overpriced. After a quick online comparison, I concluded I could get twice the room for half the price in The Hague, a city I’d always been interested in – historic, reputed to be quite lovely, less than an hour’s train ride away. So I spent the extra night and day in The Hague, taking in museums and walking the old streets of this lovely city which has long been home to the royal family of the Netherlands. Hope you enjoy some of these views.

Today I’ll fly off to the new assignment, from which I’ll try to report a bit more whenever I get time and ability to take some photos, sort them, and share them with you. If you’re curious about where it is and what kind of work we’re doing, check out this link to a recent article covering one aspect of the mission’s work, including some quotes from the colleague whose role I’ll soon be trying to fill:
DH Bldgs 4

Den Haag Street 3

Hofvijver & BinnenhofOld & New

A Morning Walk in Amsterdam

DSC04106This is definitely one of my gnarlier re-entries from resource-poor work setting back into developed-world life. Not surprising, that fact, since it was a full intense two years in Papua New Guinea, a place which remains unique to me in its vast and complex history and sociocultural variety. Plus the fact it was my longest assignment so far. But the fact it’s not surprising doesn’t make the re-entry any less personally … well, gnarly, which is basically a nice way to say challenging as all get out. I sit in darkened auditoriums – mostly Walt Disney Concert Hall in LA, where I’m spending five weeks just now – and when the orchestra goes through its organized tuning-up ritual, tears come to my eyes that humans can organize themselves for the creation and appreciation of beauty and magnificence, not just death and destruction. I sit, finally, at the Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Santa Monica and find myself racked by sobs when we sing some of the hopeful, compassion-and-acceptance-filled hymns that are standard UU fare: again, reminded that the world can be full of hope and collective human effort towards generosity, warmth and creation rather than in-group fighting against in-group. It’s also me letting myself, finally, feel some of the pain and grief our patients experience in PNG and which I’ve not let myself feel since it would have impeded my work while I was still on the job…

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I know this is all a bit raw, and I apologize – but I do need to move through this process. Remembering beautiful times and places, like the daffodils above which I saw during my too-short two-day sojourn in Amsterdam, helps. As do all the bike rides I’m taking up to Topanga Canyon or down to Hermosa Beach, here in LA. You’ll see those in due course. But I still have a lot of basic sorting and catching up to do, and my basic apartment setup is lacking in many basics such as printer and even reliable steady internet… So I’m still color-correcting and sorting – and yes, I really do delete most of the photos I take and try to put only the ones I think will you give you some window to where I’ve been. My soul and body are still landing back on this side of the world; in some ways these photos help me trail myself back to where I am now. Maybe they’ll give you either a glimpse of places you’ve loved or would like to be, or lacking that maybe a sense, if you know me, of why I seem to confused a lot of the time lately! :-/



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Ahhhh, Springtime in Northern Europe




So at this moment, smw slt has actually been in one region (the NYC area) for eight nights! That means, as I sat in a lovely NY Philhmarmonic Ensembles chamber recital yesterday and let the music soothe out the kinks of my scattered psyche, that I could count back the Sundays and realized I’d actually gone to bed the prior Sunday in the same rough location as where I’d be going to bed last night. And that’s a big deal since I’d woken up each of the prior several Sundays in at least different countries and more often than not on different continents. And that, my friends, does get old fast. 🙂DSC04118 That said, there are clearly joys to travel and they include both seeing old friends and meeting new ones, as well of course as having one’s sense of the possible expanded. After two years in the tropics of PNG, I found myself utterly captivated by northern Europe in spring. I also found myself captivated by the grand buildings, the flat fields, the old brickwork and lovely  metal and stonework adorning so many buildings. And I was delighted by the freedom and safety to walk or bike at will, at sunrise or sunset and all hours of the day, through the fields and along the streets. In this entry you’re seeing a bunch of shots from the fields and streets around where I was visiting friends in East Frisia & Schlewsig-Holstein in Germany, plus a few urban scenes from Hamburg where I also spent a wee period. It does all look rather different from, say, Port Moresby or the highlands around Tari? Hard to really believe that phase of my life is now wrapped up… :-/DSC04127DSC04189
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DSC04116DSC04122Reflections in a Moat DSC04123 DSC04124 DSC04125
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Hamburg Church…Petrikirche perhaps??


Hamburg Public Library


Hamburg Canal and Buildings


Hamburg Rathaus


Intersections in Amsterdam

Morning in Flevopark

smw, slt has been back in Europe for a bit more than a week, first for a week+ of intensive, big-idea, stimluating meetings with colleagues from around the world – the kinds of meetings that renew one’s pride in the organization one works for, and one’s respect for the colleagues pursuing that work all over everywhere. Mornings I went running a few times, evenings I enjoyed the longer evening daylight to take in some concerts and enjoy the freedom to roam the streets at will. Amsterdam: a city I’ve come to know better each time I’ve visited it since starting to work with the operational centre based there, back in 2009. I’ve shown some views of it before, but this time I’m caputirng a few new areas I don’t think I’ve shown you before. Hope you enjoy. 🙂Museum Plein PanoramaRijksmuseum & Museum PleinAt the very top is a morning-run shot from Flevopark on the eastern edge of the main city part of Amsterdam; the others above here are of the newly-reopened (after major renovation; haven’t yet been inside…) Rijksmuseum and museum plein park of which it and the Van Gogh Museum are cornerstones.

Nieuwe Keizersgracht & Hermitage AmsterdamRijksmuseum & Sunflowers

Amsterdam Street CornerAmsterdam Canal & Street Corner

This sequence of shots is trying to illustrate the range of different kinds of intersections one encounters, constantly, in Amsterdam – canal with canal, canal with street, street with strangely angled (due to canal) street, canal with street with buliding with canal…it’s quite amazing, really.Amsterdam Canal-Corner

Museum Plein…this is the southern edge of Museum Plein, across from which is the Royal Concertgebouw about which more below.
On Niuewe Keizersgracht Public Art Amsterdam…Amsterdam can be a quirky city, from its interesting street art and sculputre scattered here and there to bikes, which its inhabitants take v e r y seriously: the bike is king in Amsterdam as the car is king in LA.
Dutch Bike
Rose-Hedge-House Flevopark WestergasfabrikAbove and below, more examples of gorgeous Dutch brick building works. (The one above is the first central prodessing facility for pressurized natural gas pipelines, if I understood correctly – i.e. the first time gas came into homes not in bottles but the way most developed-worlders know it now.) 
Brick Decorations in Westerpark Bridges by the Amstel Canal Boat Hiden by PlantsIf you look closely you will note that there’s a house boat hidden behind those plants. It was hard to capture in the shot but I decided to show it anyway – I assume the plantings all around it mean it’s pretty much never moved any more but I could be dead wrong. And below, my ode to the nature that crops up surprisingly around Amsterdam.

Heron in Flevopark

Concert HallCgebouw Interior & Organ Cgebouw InteriorAbout the Concertgebouw: after college I lived in NYC and felt very grown up listening to classical music on WNYC, back when they had more music programming. For the life of me I can’t remember the lady’s name b/c Sarah Vowell of more-contemporary public-radio fame has drowned her out, but I do think it was a Sarah someone or other and she’d often play things recorded by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. Hearing it on the radio and not knowing anything about Dutch I didn’t understand it just means royal concert hall…but I loved my monring radio, and had never been inside the building until this visit where I went wild with three concerts including one by the eponymous orchestra itself. It’s a lovely building so I got carried away with the shots in different weather conditions hehe.
Concertgebouw Capital w Clouds Concertgebouw Capital



Summer Evenings in Northern Europe

smw, slt had the opportunity to spend 36 hours in transit one way, and 34 hours in transit on the return — to spend five days in meetings in Amsterdam at the end of May and the start of June. This was all worth it a) because the meetings were great and important, b) because being in northern Europe around the summer solstice ROCKS and makes long walks at 22:00 with full daylight possible, c) because I managed to slip away for a short & fast weekend with four generations of my wonderful exchange family + regular-brother Steve, d) because during that lovely weekend I got to enjoy long walks through the beautiful summertime fields of northern Germany, or e) all of the above. After viewing these photos, feel free to comment which of the five multiple choices you believe is correct.

…everyone knows Amsterdam as a city of canals and houseboats; not quite as many know it’s also and VERY importantly a city of BIKES…and roses 🙂

…the magere brug is one of the oldest bridges in Amsterdam (I think?) and my favorite route from MSF office and hotel over to the center of town. The walk on this particular summer evening was interrupted when I walked past a church into which evening-dressed people were streaming…and ended up enjoying a lovely concert as part of the Holland Festival.

…exchange-nephew Fabian and brother Steve on a walk through the fields below…

…exchange mother with one of the new next generation, great-grandson Luca. Wow.

…ok, so I know that these fields may not look all that special to many people. But as I first learned when I returned to Europe after two years in China & Sri Lanka (back in 2007), there is a part of my soul that deeply responds to the pastoral scenes of grass, trees, wheat and corn which are closer the landscapes in which I (and my ancestors, I suppose) were raised. Compare these shots to the photos from bushwalks around Port Moresby (some, below; others, when I get them uploaded in the coming week or so), and you’ll see how different these are from the landscapes surrounding me now. Plus – this photo was shot around 21:30, at which time POM’s sky has been fully dark for three hours.

…exchange-niece Bea, as it were, with the other next-generation member, Valentina 🙂

Loving London in the Springtime

As they are annoyingly prone to do, these days of concerts & plays, strolls in the park and vege Vietnamese food on Wardour Street have raced past as though determined to rub my nose in my own impermanence. Yeah, yeah, I get it – I want to say…but can’t I just slow time down a bit, pretty-please? I mean, what person that knows London – as I flatter myself I do, somewhat – would even dream of SEVEN days in a row where the sun shone either most or all of the day?? 🙂 It has been spectacular – and I feel as though I’ve grown to know every blossom and every blade of grass in certain corners of Hyde Park, so much time have I spent there relishing the freedom and peace to amble anonymously among the daffodils and cherry blossoms. Friends have been seen, concerts have been enjoyed, dance and opera have thrilled, and … well, I think I haven’t slept quite enough, which is rather a problem when you consider I’m supposed to be resting. Oh well – que sera sera, and it’ll start sera-ing once I complete the prolonged return journey to Mweso, which begins tomorrow. The good news, the silver lining to the cloud of KLM’s canceled overnight flight to Kigali: I get to spend Wednesday in Amsterdam, and I’ll get to stay & catch up with a friend there as well…then have the daytime view of all that desert in northern Africa as our plane races over southern Europe, the Mediterranean & just about all of Egypt & Sudan on its way to the green hills and mountains of Central Africa. Then, duffel stuffed with legumes (at Waitrose yesterday: Paul bought out the shelf full of Native American loose tobacco – for a colleague, not me; the lady behind the counter rightly guessed that I was going to, as she put it, ‘another country’  – and put a major dent in their yellow split peas, red and green lentils, and mixed-bean soup packets, as well as their vege bouillon cubes…can you tell I’m missing pulses/legumes in Mweso?) and toiletries, I’ll begin that beautiful but painful overland bump-fest back up to Mweso. Wish me well.

Oh, right, about the photos: mostly taken on the South Bank and some in Hyde Park; as you may know I pride myself on not taking the tourist-standard shots of the most famous landmarks (think how James Bond films always tell us we’re in London with a closeup on ol’ Big Ben; I attempt, feebly I know, to distinguish myself at times by my off-center approach), but felt that, after all these years of visiting London, perhaps it’s time for me to take my first photo of such classics as Big Ben and St Paul’s, or such new classics as the Eye. These are mostly South Bank shots, and my love affair with the fish-shape lamp poles on the South Bank, with a few views from Hyde Park. How unusual that I don’t have any flower photos. If you see any in this posting after all, it will mean one thing: that after drafting this and loading all the photos I had, i decided on one more pot of tea at the Serpentine Bar & Kitchen, and on the way finally got a few flower shots to add some color here…think of me, sipping my pot of tea and looking out at the lovely serprentine as shown in one of those lower photos here. That’s the image for this trip…that and, of course, many a concert and play…


…and yes, just to confuse you all and see how much you’re paying attention, I decided to throw in a few of the shots I took while ambling through Amsterdam during the eight-hour layover there on the Saturday of my inbound flight. Hehe.

Autumn in Amsterdam & Noord Holland

The first two weeks of November were spent mostly in a small town in Noord Holland – a little bump of land that juts up into the North Sea above Amsterdam – with an extraordinary (I don’t say that lightly) group of colleagues getting some more training for my ongoing career with this pretty darn amazing organzation. During the middle weekend, I escaped into the city so I could have lots of Chinese & Thai & Indonesian food and walk the streets & canals of this lovely city, grey rainy weather notwithstanding. These are mostly photos taken from the window seat of my room at the very top of a gorgeous little hotel right by a canal on the west of the city: the afternoon I checked in was one of the extremely (depressingly) few days of the entire past month where there were periods of blue sky and actual sun. The ocean shot is from the outrageously windy morning of 12 November, when most of us decided to bike over to the coast before starting the final day’s classes. Talk about sandstorms: I now know how dunes are really formed, firsthand. We were all sandblasted, but it was very worth it.

…this is the only photo of me during this visit in Europe. Oh well.

Ambling in Amsterdam

For anyone curious about the sequence of flights and stays that brought me where I am now, it was: boat from Star Island to mainland NH, bus to Boston, plane to Cleveland with connection to LA, some time in LA, plane to JFK, a day in NYC, plane to Paris with connection to Amsterdam, several days of meetings and such in Amsterdam, plane to London with connection to Delhi. Whew, I get tired even saying it, and we’re not quite done yet with the whole plane thing. I cannot wait for that happen.

Still, one major plus to all these flights was a chance to enjoy the lovely canalscapes and streetscapes of Amsterdam, a city which combines in a compact little package so very much history, art, archtiecture, cuisine, culture, contemporary western adult life in all its various manifestations, and just plain general-audience fun. It being high summer, with Amsterdam so far north, I enjoyed gloriously long evenings after work to wander the streets and canals of the cities enjoying the sites; I spent my final evening before flying out relishing fine food and live jazz in a cozy canalside cafe, then found the westernmost sky still tinged with deep blue from the sun’s last light, at nearly 23:00. Though my first long evening was blessed with tremendous sunny warm weather, I was too lazy to take along my camera. These photos were taken on subsequent days, when the weather had reverted to more typically mixed North Sea standard weather.

That’s right out the window in my hotel room: is that cool, or what?!

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.