Each time I return from an assignment to the kind of country where such things as paved roads, existence of & respect for traffic lights, and public water supply that’s free from unwelcome microbes are taken for granted, it’s an interesting shift in my own perceptions and expectations. The question friends most often ask about each new assignment is “what’s the food like there?” I remember asking a similar question, before I started working in resource-poor settings, of a friend who’d gone with Peace Corps to Togo a few decades ago. He answered with a basic truth I’ve come to understand viscerally – that food in the sense of a cuisine that you’d want to talk about, write home about, or visit a country for, is the preserve of nations with a history of sufficient social stratification & wealth concentration to allow at least some people to consider food as pleasure, not simply hard-won necessity for survival. Two hundred years ago (heck, probably one hundred), most residents of Europe and the US very rarely had the chance to take pleasure in food, more than just ensuring enough to survive. Although extreme hunger is globally reduced, still hundreds of millions of humans devote a lot of their days to just finding enough food for their kids and themselves – many concentrated in places where we work. (Here’s a quote from the WHO’s page covering malnutrition: Around 45% of deaths among children under 5 years of age are linked to undernutrition. These mostly occur in low- and middle-income countries. At the same time, in these same countries, rates of childhood overweight and obesity are rising.)
The same applies at national scale to investment in public architecture and parks, bridges that are beautiful as well as functional, streets which are clean and free of potholes or, in the case of many countries I’ve visited, even paved at all.So my senses greatly enjoyed a training visit I was able to make to Norway shortly after the end of my assignment in Central African Republic. Oslo is a gem of a city situated among gentle hills at the top of a long fiord, with abundant public sculpture and lovely architecture such as the parliament building (above) and the opera house as centerpiece of an ambitious waterfront urban-redesign effort (below). Since I enjoy art and architecture, I appreciate when governments and societies are able to invest in making them available to the public, not just hidden away in private residences and collections. The training was only three days – but since daylight was very nearly 24 hours each day, there was lots of evening time to explore along with some travel-day time before and after. Photos of specific buildings and such will usually have a title that says what it is. Enjoy these photos!
The city not only has abundant public sculpture and art but also some great museums. I think I’m allowed to post the photos above with I took at the National Gallery — Norway’smost famous artist’s most famous painting, though I’ll admit I actually found the other paintings I photographed more emotionally and visually engaging, if less dramatic. And I learned about a new artist, Gerhard Munthe, through the special exhibit of his work. Despite being a fairly populous capital city with a long history as port and harbor, Oslo still has a lovely little river that cascades down through the heart of it, and many public fountains as well. I walked along the river or enjoyed the fountains on the long evenings as much as I could :-).
This photo of clouds against a darkening blue sky was taken just after 21:00 (9pm) on June 20th, while the next shot of a dark-ish sky over buildings was taken just past midnight. Fun 🙂
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…
smw, slt has now returned to Port Moresby, from 4.5 lovely, wonderful and restful weeks in LA. With fond thanks to the family members and friends who spent time with me in LA, many of whom flew great distances to be there, I present herewith my usual too-big selection of photos. It’s late Monday, already more than 24 hours after I landed back in POM, and I know that if I don’t post these fast then it’s likely to be weeks and weeks before I get to it. I’ll have a full couple weeks of settling back in here. So I’ll keep the text short and focus on the photos. Folks who live in LA are usually happy when outsiders think of it as little more than a knot of crazy freeways overloaded with traffic, but in fact there are many wonderful things about the region, and these photos may give you glimpses of why I always find it one of the most relaxing places to spend my down time, especially when I can stick to my bike and the streets of Venice – which I did quite well until the final week on this trip. The final week took me out a bit more into town and yielded some of the – too many – photos of Disney Hall that you’ll be seeing, both above & below. Hope you enjoy. 🙂
I’ve become addicted to physical therapy: this time for tennis elbow to allow me my regular tennis outings once I got back here; last time to fix my shoulder after tearing it up on the roads of N Kivu. Above and below are shots of the birds, flowers, bikers, walkers and waters of Ballona Creek which forms part of the route to my physical therapy appointments. Yes, the bike ride to and from PT is half of the reason for my addiction. 🙂
When my mother and brother came to visit, Trisha Brown Dance Company was doing a big retrospective in collaboration with UCLA, including a fantastic site performance at the Getty Center – as you see, these 10 dancers spread around the center doing a 40-minute performance were just a magnificent blend of movement, architecture and natural environment. And above, by contrast, a street-side view of Disney Concert Hall, yet another of LA’s architectural (and acoustic!) gems.
At left, Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood has expanded since my last visit; and WeHo park has gotten a radical face-lift and a big new parking lot complete with graffiti art since my last visit. 🙂 Below, some shots of me at Disney Hall’s garden, taken by Mom, the only visual proof that I was actually in LA these last weeks…
Below, if this lays out as hoped, if you look closely you’ll see a bit of a rattlesnake’s tale sticking out of that brush. This hike in Topanga Canyon was rather exciting for my friend Steve and me, since we nearly stepped on not one but two rattlesnakes, and nearly walked into a buzzing swarm of wasps or some other flying insect that generated a certain sense of menace in our brainstems… Further down, again if this works as I hope, a junction sign on the hike; we tried to avoid heading toward Cheney for obvious reasons. Above & below are my photographic ode to the streets, houses and beaches of Venice. It’s so much more than the drug-addled beach walk full of tacky t-shirts, which is just the face it shows tourists. 🙂
Above, my photographic ode to Walt Disney Concert Hall, an acoustic and architectural masterpiece in the heart of LA. Below…a shot to confuse you: from last August, standing in line for our boat trip at Margaret River in Northern Territory, Australia. Since there’s so little of me in this post, figured I’d remind you what I look like…