Sunday, December 21, 2008

On the First Day of Winter

Winter is officially upon us. I have no doubt in my mind that it is true, all I have to do is step outside of my house to experience the 16 inches that have fallen in the last two days and the minus 30 degrees Farenheit wind chill. In spite of the cold, I find the winterscapes beautiful. The photos in this post were taken yesterday in Milwaukee, Wisconsin just before our storm of last night, the one that marked the official start of winter. Those in Wisconsin who celebrate it will, indeed, have a "white Christmas".

At the beginning of the winter in the northern hemisphere and the end of the year (for those who follow the western calendar), I wish all of you the best wherever you may be. Peace.

Thank you for visiting. Please feel free to leave a comment, they are always welcome. As always, enjoy your own travels. Dare to venture beyond your present horizon and experience what is there.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Tuscan Visions: Landscapes

Tuscany is one of the regions of the world that I want to revisit. I recently went through the folders on my hard drive and discovered a Tuscan photos folder that I'd totally forgotten. The photos in this post were taken in either Lucca or Florence. I thought that I'd focus on landscapes this time, but I also have photos that I like of people (Yes, I actually took some photos of people!), buildings, urban life, and religious icons for later posts. I truly enjoyed my short week in Tuscany-I met some very good people and had many enjoyable experiences even with my minimal knowledge of Italian. In the future, I hope to make an extended stay in Tuscany in order to explore it more in depth. In the meantime,I hope that you enjoy the photos.

Thank you for visiting. Please feel free to leave a comment, they are always welcome. As always, enjoy your own travels. Dare to venture beyond your present horizon and experience what is there.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Windows (of Europe)

The photos in this post were taken in Italy and France at various times in my travels. I have done some digital photo editing so that they fit the “windows” theme. For some reason, windows are one of the many aspects of a place that draws my camera like a magnet. Perhaps it is because windows are the eye’s doorway to the world, a way that the person can observe the outside without actually experiencing it. The window images that you have in front of you were taken in Lucca (Italy), Paris, and southern France. Two of them were simply windows that I found pleasing to the eye. Another was included because I felt compelled to include a window of at least one cathedral if I was taking my material from European settings. One, with its trompe d’oil side view from a little town in southern France was a bit of the unusual. Last is the view of Parisian causal that I took while traveling along the Seine by B’ATO Bus on an unseasonably warm October day.

What makes something photogenic when you travel? You’ve probably spent a lot of money to arrive at your new destination and now you are faced with, “What images will capture the essence of the place that I’m in now?” There doesn’t seem to be a straightforward answer to the question. When you think about it, places are composites and highly complex, whether they are metropolitan areas or rural villages. The essence of a place is first of all the land, itself. Add people with their adaptations to the land, interpersonal relationships, cultures, and their histories and we have more ingredients to consider. Sorting out those ingredients that define a particular place for you is a challenge. For me, it involves a process of reflection after I have put some time and distance from the place I have tried to capture on camera. I'd be really interested in some of the "ingredients" that you have felt essential to capturing the essence of places that you have been. Our diverse perspectives are part of what makes us interesting as fellow humans.

Thank you for visiting. Please feel free to leave a comment, they are always welcome. As always, enjoy your own travels. Dare to venture beyond your present horizon and experience what is there.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Wisconsin Winter Wonderland?

Perhaps you're not ready for these images and are hoping that winter will never arrive. Perhaps you'll have yet to experience a snow-filled winter, or maybe never will. In any case, these are images of my experience this morning as I stepped outside of my house. I thought that I'd share them with you.

Are you a "winter person"? I am, at least to a degree. When I have lived in other countries (equatorial Kenya and Mediterranean Morocco) I missed winter and its snowfall. When there is no subzero wind chill (wind speed can lower the outside temperature from 32 degrees F (freezing) to 10 degrees F...uncomfortable) I enjoy the winter outdoors. On a clear sunny day I will walk or snowshoe with camera in hand and enjoy nature. On a day in which the roads are clear of ice, I'll even ride my bicycle. I've never considered becoming a "snow bird", one who lives in a northern climate during the summer and a southern climate during the winter. On the other hand, gray, sunless days depress me and make me lethargic. Long stretches of subzero (F) days make me housebound and very restless. Upon reflection, I'm a winter person with some reservations towards the whole state of being.

Today's snowfall is expected to melt and disappear, as will snows that fall in the next few weeks. January will bring a a more permanent winter scene. At least after this forewarning I will be mentally prepared for winter's onset, I think.

May your travels be safe and interesting. Thank you for visiting.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Taking the Long View

The photos in this post are similar in perspective, 'taking the long view'. They are also a reflection on the approach that I see for dealing with our present global economy and the political situation in my own country. (This is as close to a political commentary as I will have in this blog; I will keep my original promise.)

The scenes that you have in front of you are of

1. somewhere in northern Spain in the Pyrenees (I wish I'd kept a better journal)
2. Paris, France (I had wondered where all of the cars were parked)
3. La Rochelle, France (on a gray day and a later rainy night)
4. Lucca, Italy (the old city).

I enjoyed rummaging through my photo collection to put this post together. The process forced me to 'take the long view' as well, something I'm not always good at. Patience is a virtue, but is hard to come by at times. In any case, I hope that the end result was worth viewing.

As always, thank you for visiting. May your life travels be interesting.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Fall Dreams of Escapism

It is late Fall in Wisconsin. The tree branches are losing their brilliantly colored leaves and becoming bare. There is a definite chill in the air that foretells of winter. We are also in an economic Fall, one which I hope does not turn into an economic winter. As I face both of these realities, my thoughts turn towards a time and place of beauty and tranquility.

Brittany is on my mind. If only the matter transporters found in science fiction stories existed, I'd return there in a flash. In any case, I'll use these photos to remember that Fall is not permanent, and dream of times yet to come.

I hope that your travels are safe, and that you too have a place that you can dream of and find peace of mind in these times.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Turkana (Kenya) 1970


Turkana is not the typical Kenyan landscape of savanna, forest, or tropical coast. The Turkana of 1970 was a dry, rocky, and desolate-a place where “roads” were rocks as place markers on plains areas or dry river beds accessible by Land Rover , foot, or imported camel. It was a land of ten foot high termite hills and Lake Rudolph with its gigantic Nile Perch and Nile Crocodiles. Turkana was a land of nomadic peoples who lived with the bare necessities at best, making those who lived there hardy and independent. It was a land so isolated that Kenyan independence leader Jomo Kenyatta was imprisoned there in the town of Lodwar, far from his supporters with nowhere to go even if he had escaped.

I traveled in Turkana along the western shores of Lake Rudolph for a couple of weeks as part of a World Health Organization group. Our goal was to inoculate the people of Turkana against smallpox. Turkana was one of the last places in the world to receive the smallpox vaccine. As a twenty-two year old Peace Corps volunteer, traveling through this area in a government convoy of Land Rovers with this mission was the ultimate way to spend part of the month-long break from teaching. Toto, I definitely wasn’t in Maine anymore.

In spite of the fact that it was almost forty years ago, certain memories are still quite vivid- holding my silvery bifurcated needle as I watched lines of silent, patient herdsmen and waited for the next person to come forward; rolling up my sleeping bag to find a scorpion crushed underneath; riding along the river bed looking backwards for dark rain clouds that would turn the “road” into a raging river; wading in cool waters of Lake Rudolph in the evening and feeling both terrified and incredibly stupid the next morning after being told about a Peace Corps volunteer who had been killed and eaten by a Nile crocodile along the shore of the lake. It was a time of wonder and purpose in which the lack of creature comforts were outweighed by an experience, so different than any that I had imagined.

I think that the black and white photos capture a sense of the time and place, I hope that you enjoy them. This will be the last series of the Kenyan photos that I have scanned and edited. Thank you for listening to my ramblings and reminisces. May your travels be interesting.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Paris by Water

These photos were taken while traveling on the BateauBus system along the Seine in the Fall. It was an excellent way to explore the city-a multiple day pass with the option of disembarking, exploring, then catching another BateauBus. The last photo is of houseboats that use the quays of Paris as their home base and occasionally venture along the canal system for a change of pace.

In my mind the combination of the city of Paris and its waterways is close to perfection in terms of travel experience. If anyone has another place in mind that I might want to explore, I'd be interested in your suggestion(s). Remember-while I have been in desert areas, I am most drawn to places that have water.

Thank you for stopping and letting me share parts of my travels with you.
As always, enjoy your own travels. Dare to venture beyond your present horizon and experience what is there.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Israel 1972-Part 2

These are the last of the photos in the series. During the month that I was in Israel, I only took a single roll of photos. What a difference in photography today-instant visual feedback with the option to either delete or edit. Of course there is also the advantage of having a 1GB memory stick instead of a roll of film with 24 photo capacity. Times have certainly changed for the better in the lives of the amateur photographer.

A couple of comments related to the photos, themselves. First of all, there are no people at all in this second part of the series. At this stage of my life, after three years in Kenya during which I tried not to look like a tourist, I was extremely cautious about even including people in the background. My attitude was, and still is to a great degree, that while I am a guest in someone’s country I intend to treat them with respect. This is how I wish to be treated in my own country. In any case, I hope that the photos present a flavor of the land of Israel. Secondly, I find it a bit ironic that the metal sea gull sculpture in the last photo is similar to those that now grace the harbor in Sheboygan, Wisconsin USA. From Tel Aviv to Sheboygan……Sheboygan has a recent tradition of “sampling” the works of other cities and adopting them as its own. My kids call it “sampling” and it sounds so much better than copying or ripping off the idea; it must be a generational thing.

I hope that you have enjoyed these scanned and edited 35 mm photos. One of my next projects will be to try to scan some of the photos taken in Morocco. The Moroccan photos will be in color, but may not appear for a few posts as I haven’t tried scanning slides before. Until next time, enjoy your travels-in whatever form they may be.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Vermont Scenes

It is always a pleasure for me to find a scenic area that is unspoiled. I was fortunate to spend time in Middlebury, Vermont (USA) last September and would like to return there to explore further. These photos evoke a sense of peace and tranquility that I especially appreciated at the time, as I was on my way to visit my mother in her last stages of Alzheimer's Disease. If you can, visit Vermont in late September to early October-the changing fall colors are astounding.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Israel, Early 1972

These photos were taken in Israel during January of 1972 with a second-hand 35 mm camera. I have recently scanned and edited them for this blog entry. The following comments reflect aspects of my memories and thoughts related to my stay.

We were originally supposed to have left Addis Ababa, Ethiopia early in the morning, but there had been a bomb threat related to the El Al flight to Tel Aviv I was on. After checking in, we were kept at the airport in Addis Ababa for the scheduled duration of the flight without being told why. We later figured out that it was to see if the plane would explode. When it didn’t, we took off. (The technology of security measures was minimal in Ethiopia those days.) I have to admit that it was nerve-wracking to discover the reason for the delay while we were in flight. I vividly remember wondering if there had simply been a delay in the explosion or perhaps a miscalculation on the part of the supposed bomber. While nothing dangerous actually happened, my imagination ran wild until we landed. In any event, I arrived at Lod airport in Tel Aviv very much behind schedule but in one piece much to our collective relief.

The flight delay meant that we arrived in Israel on the Sabbath. The bus from the airport to the town was operating, but I seem to remember that little else that was. It was an interesting introduction to a new country, one of the many surprises that I would experience. Homeward bound after three years of teaching in Kenya, I eventually spent a month exploring a small part of Israel on what I now consider to be a superficial level in terms of gaining an understanding of the land and its peoples. .

In retrospect, I have to admit that I went into the experience with certain biases. As someone who had been raised as a Christian (although I claimed no religion in 1972), I had knowledge of Israel from a Biblical perspective. I had also read Leon Uris’s Exodus and other fictional works related to the establishment of the state of Israel. I had knowledge of the Holocaust. As a result of these biases, I went to spend time in Israel rather than Beirut, Lebanon where my Muslim Pakistani-Kenyan friend Peji suggested that I go so that I could develop what he suggested would be a more balanced view of the Middle East. In my youthful naïveté I saw the settlement of Israel from one point of view, one in which Israel could commit no wrong. (Today, I have a more balanced viewpoint and understand that all sides have legitimate claims and blame for what has happened to date.)

A good deal of my stay was spent in cosmopolitan Tel Aviv, a city that was in some ways disturbed me. One of the first images that I had was armed men and women in uniform everywhere. While I had read about “Israel under attack”, to take a bus ride standing next to armed soldiers was both novel and threatening. Little did I realize that in a few months I would have a similar experience with armed soldiers in my own country on the streets of Madison, Wisconsin during the height of the anti-war protests of the Vietnam era. Those soldiers would seem even more threatening to me because I thought that it never happen in my own country.

Another impression that set me off kilter was one I had acquired while walking along the beach. I felt a strong sense of resentment from some of the older couples who sat bundled on the park benches. At first I thought that it might have been because I was a younger traveler and they had had to wait until they were older. Later, I thought that it might be my beard and longer hair, or even that I was young and healthy but not in uniform. Whatever the reason was, I told myself that I would take every chance to travel that I could and not wait until I could no longer comfortably appreciate travel.

Jerusalem- I had never been in a city quite like it before, but I felt much more comfortable there. My base was in a hostel in the old city and I wound my way through Jewish and Arab areas. I visited traditional historic sites and also had my first, but far from last, taste of falafel there. Under tight security, a visit to the site of the Wailing Wall resulted in the search of my travel bag-a normal occurrence in today’s post 9/11 world, but really bothered me at that time and place even though I understood the reason for it. More than anything else, that search experience later put the inconveniences of post-9/11 air travel in perspective for me. People in Israel have had to deal with more intrusive security measures for decades on a much greater scale than we have yet experienced, and hopefully never will.

Upon reflection, I enjoyed my visit to Israel, but felt that after a month I still only had a surface understanding of it. Today, I am amazed at the audacity of outsiders who have plans to “solve the problems of the Middle East”. To paraphrase Gandhi, any change is going to have to come from within.

Would I return? In some ways I feel that the changes in Israel have become more complex and dangerous and that they would prevent me from doing so. I respect what the survivors of the Holocaust have gone through. I also have a better understanding of the plight of the Arabs who call Palestine their home. I personally think that the cycle of reprisals serves as a barrier to the search for a solution that will equitable to both groups. It is a hope that I have that sometime in my lifetime there will be a peaceful resolution to the issues and that I will be able to return to learn further appreciation of the area.
As for my friend Peji and his request that I visit an Arab country to gain a different perspective-I did. Just three years later I went to live and teach in Morocco for a year. I will describe that experience another time.