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.
For those who’ve not yet read the long text entry I wrote a few days (which appears further down on the blog), I’ve just (on Saturday the 15th) returned from a week in Bangkok, which was mostly for a seminar with MSF, but I tacked a weekend and another free day to see the city. On my last day, after the class, I was able (thanks to Tony’s car and driver — yay, Tony!) to tour a bit of the city with the teacher from our class, a very interesting French woman of Tunisian ancestry who’s worked with MSF for a while now, currently on this project and previously on Tsunami relief in eastern Sri Lanka among other things. To get a view of an older Bangkok, we rented a small motorboat for an hour’s tour through some of the smaller canals that have not (yet?) been paved over. This shot shows the skyline from the main river, which is a very busy shipping and commercial channel.
This man was clearly at work on his boat — I’m not sure what his work is, but it’s tied to the river. Please note that he’s in the middle of a metropolis of 8 million people that’s really quite modern and very polluted…but as you’ll see in some of the next shots, the Bangkok of canals and rivers still seems to run at a slightly different pace than the one of the streets and shopping centers.
It seems every (Buddhist, at least) home in Thailand has a spirit house just outside. These are to attract good spirits, and keep the unfriendly ones at bay. Of course the stilt houses in the canals are no exception — it’s the mini-temple looking thing in the upper right side of the shot.
I liked the details on this little boathouse; you can also see the spray from our boat’s wake in the photo, telling you a bit about why the photos’s
Along the canals you see grand and glorious houses, small shacks, and everything in between. They all have in common the laundry hung out to dry. None of that anglo-saxon discomfort with laundry here, nor the waste of energy when the sun dries the clothes much more ecologically!
In the water, you will see many things that are NOT pollution. This was a festival — religious, and Chinese focused, I think. The boats with white-clad people in them were all taking off from a nearby temple — not the Church in the background here, but another Buddhist temple slightly upriver. It appeared they were throwing things in the water, and then many young men in small boats were swimming over to retrieve whatever was being thrown in. I believe this was tied to the same festival that brought the dragon dancers out to the river, which you’ll see in the next shot. To my knowledge, dragon dancing is very much a Chinese thing, and not indigenously Thai. Thailand, of course, has a very substantial and influential community that is ethnically Chinese with very long roots in the Kindom of Thailand.
More about this stunning waterfront complex in the next few shots.
In the heart of Bangkok, and also at the heart of Thai Buddhism, is the Temple of the Emerald Buddha/Grand Palace complex. Thai people are largely recognized as very warm and welcoming, and usually playful and fun-loving, people. There are two things they take very seriously and do not joke about: the King, and their religion. The emerald Buddha is a rather small but beautiful statue of unknown antiquity, which resides high up in the main temple here. He resides high up in the temple to emphasize his importance in the religious life of the nation. The king himself changes his seasonal attire: there are different robes for the rainy season, the summer and the winter. In later shots at Ayuthaya, you’ll see that robing statues of the Buddha is a common practice in Thailand, one that I found really quite appealing and — sorry if I offend — almost cute.
If you look at the top left here, you’ll see little wind-chime bells hanging from the roof. They create a steady and constant music as you walk the grounds. They no doubt have a spiritual significance (scare away bad spirits?), but they’re also aurally enjoyable. On the bottom left you’ll see some lions guarding the entrance; a few shots later you’ll see the main temple guardian, a big scary monster kind of guy.
Strange as it sounds, the Jim Thompson house is a main tourist site within Bangkok. An American stationed in Bangkok during WWII, he stayed after the war and became well known for virtually saving the Thai silk industry, by introducing it to fashion houses in the West. He also collected many lovely works of art, and toured the provinces buying threatened old traditional Thai homes, deconstructing them and then rebuilding them on his grounds in Bangkok. After his death, the grounds have become a great place to learn more about traditional all-wood Thai architecture, and see beautiful art and
Notice the very steep and deep overhanging roof here — no doubt a very useful architectural detail during the monsoon rains, some of which I experienced while in Bangkok. Reminded me of the rainiest days in Nanning.
Sunday, my second day in Bangkok, my friend Tony had booked a wonderful full-day tour for us to Ayuthaya. (Thanks again, Tony, for everything — if you’re reading this!) Ayuthaya was the capital from 1350 to 1767 or something like that — so at least by Chinese standards, it’s not so much ancient as old. But it’s definitely very impressive and beautiful, and one learns a great deal about Thailand by reading this. (The city was attacked and sacked by the Burmese, for example.) The Emerald Buddha Temple/Grand Palace complex you saw earlier is modeled after one of the temple/palace complexes here in Ayuthaya, since Ayuthaya represented a political and cultural high point in Thai history.
This statue is inside one of the stupas (I think that’s what it’s called…not really sure whether the different architectural styles have different names) shown in the various shots — up the steps you’ll see shortly.