Recent Getaway Weekend

And by recent I mean 3 months ago.....

Brooke, Marcia and I waited for airline prices to go down and chose early December to visit Charleston. Marcia had been there before but Brooke had not. We arrived in Charleston at 10:00pm Friday night. Lynda picked us up and took us to my parents' condo in downtown Charleston. Lynda and I regaled Brooke and Marcia with family folklore while enjoying Bijou cocktails until we were ready to crash.

The next morning Lynda went off to paddle and Brooke, Marcia and I headed to the Saturday market at Marion Square. After Lynda rejoined us we headed to see some of the other sites. We strolled through the city market where the big item of interest was baked okra. We headed towards the Battery after stopping at a tourist place to pick up a map and almost get talked into listening to a timeshare spiel so we could get $100 off our dinner at Slightly North of Broad (SNOB) later that night.


Brooke has a friend who had a relative that owned a little restaurant/grocery store called the Queen Street Grocery and we thought we would try to find it on our walkabout. What we thought would be a couple of blocks away turned out to be a lot further but we had a very nice walk down streets I had never been on. The guy at the tourist place indicated that the area in which the restaurant was located was outside the tourist area and therefore was unsafe. He was, of course, very wrong and we let the guys running the store know what was being spread to gullible tourists (we counted ourselves in that group since we almost fell for the spiel). It turned out that Brooke's friend's relative had sold the business but we still stayed and had a lovely inexpensive lunch. Their specialty is crepes!

From there we headed back to the condo to take in one more Charleston site - Angel Oak - a 65 foot tall live oak providing 17,000 square feet of shade. Amazing!. We hung out for about half hour and then headed back to the condo to change for dinner and meet up with the rents.


Dinner at SNOB was great. The decor was nice. The waiter, food and wines were good. The activities in the open kitchen were fun to watch. After dinner we went back to the condo and went up to the rooftop which had recently been opened. Lovely sites of the city. We then said good bye to Lynda and headed to Edisto with Mom and Dad.

The next morning we went to the beach and Botany Bay Plantation and drove around the island. We saw dolphins and wild turkeys. On the beach we saw a one legged sandpiper that seemed kinda sad. And when we got too close and he hopped away one from us into the surf his ONE LEG we almost cried from sympathy and guilt. But moments later he nonchalantly pulled his other leg out from where he was hiding it and started looking for food in the sand. Once again we felt like gullible tourists!

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Mom made us a nice shrimp pasta dish before we headed to the airport for our 6:00 flight.

Take a look at the pictures!

Last weekend in July 2011

This zinnia on my Mom's back porch seemed to have no problem with the Edisto heat

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Friend from the Augusta hood Steve Tomlin and his brother-in-law Mark docked their boat behind the house. We were telling them stories of famous local fisherman friend Jim Rooney and guess who appears out of nowhere. Rooney even divulged the location of some of his favorite fishing spots

Sunday we headed to Savannah where Sandy and T fed us some fantastic shrimp, salad and blueberry-peach crisp. Sandy bought extra shrimp so we sat around the table afterwards and helped her peel just like an old fashioned quilting bee. Unfortunately Little T did not join us as his sleeping cycle was not in tune with ours, except maybe Dad's.


Mr Pin gave us a tour of the several varieties of grapes in his grape cage.


The Pinholster's back yard is a magical place.

Temples of Cold

We spent the last day in Mongolia visiting two Buddhist monasteries, the Natural History Museum and having a final meal at our favorite Korean restaurant. Our first stop was Gandan Monastery, the oldest monastery in Mongolia built in the 1800s. Most temples were destroyed or shut down during Soviet times but they left one alone apparently as a showcase to westerners of their religious tolerance. The Gandan monastery is actually a working monastery so we saw monks praying, chanting and just hanging out. There were also many people there praying and spinning the various prayer wheels. Inside one of the temples Connie and I started spinning the prayer wheels that lined the inside walls building but were immediately warned that we were going the wrong way. We corrected our direction but did not make it all the way around because the wheel were very cold and our hands soon got numb even with gloves on.

We did a bit of shopping at the monastery store. I bought beads, some small bells and a couple of gifts.

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We then headed to the Choijin Lama Temple Museum, a monastery built in the early 1900s. There were about 6 or 7 temple buildings. We went into two of them and saw many intense statues of gods and demons and some interesting artworks - including two representations of hell - one with fire and the other with ice. I chose not to pay for taking pictures which was twice the price of the admission but I really regret that decision. There really was some amazing things. The temperature outside was less that 10 degrees and it was even colder in the temples so we did not visit all the buildings. I hope this temple complex remains intact. High rising housing construction was circling it like wagons in the old west.

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The Natural History museum was interesting for its amazing fossilized dinosaur bones and eggs. My favorite items were a fully intact pelvis the size of a flattened VM bug and a claw as big as me. Unfortunately photos were not allowed.

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A final shot at Happiness Land next to the Korean restaurant and a history lesson at the Ulaanbaatar airport

The highlight of the trip home was 12 hours in Beijing but otherwise it was long and uncomfortable. We arrived in Beijing (the airport is beautiful), checked into a crappy hotel very near the airport and then arranged for two taxis to pick us up at 12:30am and drive us around for a couple of hours. We then slept for 3 hours and headed back to the airport at 7:00am. Needless to say there were no tourists at Tiananmen Square so it was us, the many surveillance cameras and the military guards. We walked around the square and outside the wall of the Forbidden City, which was closed. We encountered two guards in an underpass, one seemed thrilled to talk to anyone and practice his English, the other did not say a word but did not seem to mind Connie posing with him for a picture.

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Beijing airport

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Tianeman Square and the underpass where we talked to the guard. Note the cameras.

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Near the Forbidden City

We flew through Tokyo but felt no real sense of trauma from the earthquake disaster in the short layover. It was just another busy airport. Miyako had been worried the whole time we were in Mongolia and was able to talk to her family a couple times there and at the airport before we headed to the US

Take a look at my entire Gallery of Mongolia pictures

Day to Day

So for most days it was up 7 or 8, eat a fairly leisurely breakfast of made-to-order omelets, sausage, yogurt, almost decent coffee. There was a lot of dinner food served like pasta carbonara but i just could not get behind that for breakfast.

A embassy van would pick us up and we would be dropped at the various locations for teaching, choreographing, lecturing, observing. We went to universities, grade schools, the School for the hearing impaired, three different dance groups' studios and a place called The American Corner where young adults gather to learn and practice English. These organizations were all chosen by the embassy and we were welcomed everywhere.

I mostly took photos and videos but Sarah and I talked at the American Corner one afternoon. This was not a dance audience and I got the feeling they were not necessarily interested in Dana's group but they did seem interested in how we felt about Mongolian folk dancing, contortionists," Dancing with the Stars" type programs and Lady GaGa. Mostly I think we provided real English speaking people to talk and listen to.

In the evenings we went to the hotel bar and worked on the Chronicle for Higher Education blog. Dana wrote, I made editorial suggestions and then we went through photos that fit with the text and/or were interesting. We then emailed everything and in the morning at breakfast we were able to see the final blog entries at the Chronicle site.

We usually drank Chinggis beer at the bar and one night we sampled the local wheat beer.

On Thursday early evening we were finally able to do a bit of shopping. We went to the huge State Department store which sounds like it kept its name from Soviet times. The souvenirs were on the 8th floor so we spent time there. I also ventured down to the cashmere floor to find a sweater for my aunt Zita and was successful. (Cashmere is an important Mongolian export) We were some of the last people in the store.

Friday (last full day in Ulaanbaatar) was spent at the theater preparing for the evening performance. The uneven wood plank floor delayed warmup and rehearsal. The 4 dancers and I walked around a bit and ate at the Grand Khan Irish Pub which was pretty good. The floor was eventually covered with felt and the a marley (vinyl) dance floor. The dancers said that dancing on it was other-worldly but they did fine.


The performance was by embassy invitation only (not sure why) and was about 3/4 filled. US Ambassador Addleton (who grew up in Macon, GA) and his wife attended and stuck around for the little reception afterwards. We took a group picture of embassy staff and translators, Tumen Ek dancers and other guests before heading back to the hotel to eat and blog at the bar.



Out and About in Ulaanbaatar

Ulaanbaatar is the largest city with a population of over a million. It was founded in 1639 as a Buddhist center but moved around as a nomadic society tends to do for about 100 years until it settled on the current location. It is an interesting city but not necessarily pretty. There is a large river bank that runs through it but the amount of water that runs is more of a creek. There are large fenced areas of gers (yurts) mixed with houses that house migrants that have come from rural jobless areas to find work in the mostly jobless city. The country will see a rise in jobs when they increase mining (coal, gold, copper) activities over the next couple of years. Large high rise housing is going up in anticipation but there seems to be no urban planning. Garbage on the streets is common.


Sukhbaatar Square - the centerpiece of Ulaanbaatar. The statue on the left is of Sukhbaatar, who helped free Mongolia from the Chinese but in the center of the building is a huge impressive statue of Chinggis Kahn, the hero of Mongolia and the namesake of some excellent beer.

Some traditional outfits worn by mostly older Mongolians, I suspect the fellow in red is a monk but I like the Burberry scarf (I think dancer Connie - whose photos are mixed with mine -took that shot)

Ger district in town and spreading up the distant hillside and new high rises. You can see the river bed with water flow that never fills the bed even in springtime.



The folk dance company we worked with were called Tumen Ekh and we spent a lot of time at their studio/theater space.

The top pic is the entrance with dancers Sarah, Kelly and Dana and one of the many translators we worked with. The red door inside (with Dana) is just inside the building and through the door and upstairs is an art gallery with this giant traditional musical instrument called the horse head fiddle. Later in the week we bought some of the calligraphy works you see on the walls from the fellow next to the fiddle.

To the right of the red door is the studio where Dana, Sarah and Kelly taught and choreographed. Dana choreographed a duet and a group piece in an amazing short period of time. The duet was with two very talented (and nice) male dancers (with Dana in one of the pics). One was the only dancer who spoke a small amount of english. Dana did not have a translator for most of his choreography sections so he was was a real help, but demonstration was the language mostly used. There are other pics of the dancers on the DTSB&Co blog

Near the studio is a Korean restaurant that actually served great coffee and lots of different Asian cuisine - the best Chinese food I had in a long time. On the way to the restaurant was this building with the English name "Happiness Land". This building was photographed by the group more than any other.


The first night we were there we were able to see a performance of the Tumen Ekh dancers, singers and musicians - very impressive. The female singing was a similar to Chinese singing (like in the movie Raise the Red Lantern). The males did some throat singing. The dances were very energetic. The costumes were gorgeous. The contortionists were a bit odd. The bottom pic is of the Tumen Ekh dancers, directors, the embassy cultural attache (Marissa) and DTSB&Co group. The two males in the fur hats are the males in the duet.

Mongolia - the trek to UlaanBaatar

Austin picked up me, Dana, and dancers Sarah and Connie at 3:00am and drove us out to Dulles airport. Kona coffee was served in the car - nothing but the best. Top notch service, highly recommended.

This was the start of a 30 hour plus trip to mongolia. We flew 6 hours to San Francisco and then flew 12 hours to Seoul, South Korea, The Seoul airport was the first highlight of the trip. We had a 4 hour layover so we snooped around and found a "Rest and Relax" lounge that served Korean Air customers. For a fee we could sit, eat and drink with free wifi for as long as we wanted. We could also pay a reasonable fee to take a shower, and get a manicure and or a massage. Sarah, Connie, Miyako, and Dana took a shower and got a foot massage. Kelly got a full body massage. It was such a nice break.

These are not linked to larger images.

Seoul Airport - cultural center with performances and crafts. Treats at the Rest and Relax center

Fun bathroom sign. We could not resist the shower
Dana and Sara getting a foot massage

When we arrived in Ulaanbaatar we were met by the embassy Cultural Specialist Otgon (I thought she might be Klingon but I was wrong). Otgon organized all the activities and performance venues and she really packed our schedule. She gave us a packet of information and included a box of official embassy chocolates.

These ARE linked to larger images:


This is where we eat breakfast. Omelettes made-to-order, so-so coffee and great yogurt.


The outside of the hotel looks like a typical soviet era building but the inside is quite lovely. Dancer Sarah Halzack and I are on the 3rd floor probably the second window from the left looking into the sign. The pic on the left is the bar where Dana and I have been blogging every night. (He's getting paid to blog for the Chronicles of Higher Learning) We have enjoyed local beer and wheat vodka

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We are driven around in official State Dept vans

Some food pictures - cappucino with a lovely spoon, mutton dumplings and tongue, a local dark beer (Otgon is in the background)


A week in July Part 1

I set off on a Saturday to spend a week in the South. My first stop was Columbia, SC to visit Karen, a friend from high-school who I had not been in contact with in 30 years (thank you, facebook). She had invited me to spend the night whenever I was heading down that way and I happily took her up on her offer. Karen and her husband Zach both teach at University of SC and live in a lovely renovated old house near the campus. They have a wonderful little urban farm with a garden and hens, quail, ducks and a rabbit (who sadly passed away this week).

It was a wonderful visit. Karen and Zach are wonderful hosts. We talked about then and now and everything in between. Karen and I looked through year books. When you have not seen somebody for 30 years most of the details go away but the defining memories remain. I remember Karen's smile, I remember that she drove her dad's old mercedes. I confessed to her that I thought I wasn't as cool as she was in high school and she said the same thing about me. Ahh, teenagers.

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We had a nice mexican dinner at Tios near the campus where the waiter was from Mongolia

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Where the ducks and hens hang

Karen with fresh eggs and their cat Smoke

Sunday morning Zach and Karen fixed me fresh eggs from their hens and ducks and sent me on my way. i headed down I-95 to Savannah to visit Tommy, Sandy and Little T in their newly renovated place. My parents, Lynda and Graeme were also there. We all agreed that rhe changes made their place remarkably more spacious and filled with light. We ate warm chicken salad, bean casserole and Sandy's famous pound cake and watched a live video feed of the robots trying to plug the leak 1 mile below the surface in the Gulf on Mr. Pin's computer. We headed to Edisto early evening and got there in time to watch the sun set.

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Welcome to Savannah
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A great gathering!

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Cloud spotting

Burning Christmas trees

I drove to Todd on Martin Luther King Memorial weekend to spend time with Susan and Susan and David and Lane and Andrea and Hunter in the mountains of NC. Lane drove with me which was great since I get sleepy after about 30 minutes of driving. It did not snow but there was plenty of snow on the ground. There was a fair amount of mist which was cold and raw but enjoyable as well. Susan's living room stove keeps her place quite cozy. The highlight of the weekend was the bonfire we made that took a long time to get going but we found that if you throw enough stuff on it (including gasoline) you can not only get it going but it will burn in the pouring rain. We also enjoyed two special cocktails from David's travelling bar, homemade pancakes and Thai food at a restaurant down the mountain in Boone.

There are more pictures here.




Chicago Lights

I recently made a sunset landing at Chicago O'Hare to visit Lenore and Paula in East Dundee, IL. Lenore had just had her surgery that removed a tumor and 8 inches of her intestine. I was supposed to be there to help out but Lenore was already doing well after her week of excellent post-surgery care from the nurses, doctors and Lyla . And Paula and their favorite neighborhood cafe - The Measuring Cup - did most of the cooking.

Lenore was well enough to take walks so we did just that. We walked to The Measuring Cup to eat a breakfast pizza and pick up chicken dumpling soup, ginger cookies, and apple and chocolate pie. We walked the nice trail behind the library and the deer posed for us. We walked with Paula around the neighborhood to take pictures of Christmas lights. And I heard the cackle of and saw a flock of cranes for the first time.

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Lima - this is a long one

Tuesday, June 9 - Sunday, June 14:

After our trip to the theater after our arrival we took cabs to the Pacific ocean which was about 20 blocks away. We walked through a nice park on a cliff above the ocean. We saw the huge statue of Christ in the distance and the surfers in wet suits just ~200 ft below us. We walked to a nice shopping mall where we ate dinner. I had tiradito, a less fussy ceviche dish that one of the embassy employees had told us about. It was quite good.


From Cusco to Lima we flew over the Andes Mountains and then as we were landing in Lima at sea level we passed some fishing boats - maybe catching the fish for my tiradito. Here's the group that went for the walk along the coast. The bright blob in the background is the statue of Christ.

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Here is our hotel, which was adequate but not nearly as nice as the one in Cusco- outside, inside and the lovely view

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Some scenes around our hotel. We stayed in the Miraflores area of Lima which is a nice residential area. It was safe to walk alone in the day but not at night.


After out first night in Lima when I got almost a full 8 hours of sleep bedtime became later and later. After opening night we went to a Chinese Restaurant with Embassy folks and the director of the dance festival and as we were leaving we passed a Casino so we played slots for about an hour. Susan, who you see playing here, actually made some money. Everyone else lost everything although I don't think anyone played more than $5.00. Then we met up with Dana and went to a gay bar called BoBo Bar and danced for a while.


After the Friday night performance we went to the Embassy Public Affairs Officer beautiful house for a nice dinner party. Dana has some wonderful friends in Peru and they were invited as well. After this party many of us went to a lesbian bar called Twin Life. In this picture you see fashion designer Miragolas, lighting designer Qui Que, his girlfriend Desiree, then Mecho, who helped me navigate the huge computer mall and has a great sense of humor (Miragolas is his girlfriend), Richard from MIT and dancer Shu Chen. Dana's love interest, a Japanese Peruvian guy named Johan who is also very nice, is in the back behind Desiree.

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Saturday we went on a city tour with a guide. We went to a museum of ancient artifacts, the main square and then to the catacombs under the Church of San Francisco used for burials and a hiding space from pirates, Unfortunately we could not take any pictures in the church (last picture).


I think it was Saturday that the techies - Sara, Susan, Richard and I - performed a dance we choreographed mostly using dance movements that we liked from Dana's choreography. We used the laundrymat song from Dr. Horrible's Video Blog and it lasted two minutes. The company thoroughly enjoyed it and hopefully I can get a video of it from one of the dancers. This picture is from Miyako's collection.

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Saturday night was the final performance and afterwards we went to a really nice restaurant near the hotel where I ate ravioli and a cappuccino parfait (ice cream). Then the whole company went back to Twin Life bar. That night it was packed and very loud so we mostly sat on the sofas outside what I would call a dance cavern and people watched while drinking our favorite Cusquena beer.

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Sunday was the day for shopping, which I had done none of in Lima, and leaving. The best shopping we were told was at the Inca Market about 7 blocks from the hotel. And it was. The goods ranged from cheap trinkets and silly tshirts to beads to textiles to religious art to fine silver jewelry. You had to do a little bit of bargaining but not too much. I found prices were pretty consistent for the same goods in the various stores. Sara was good at finding the unusual stuff in Cusco and she did the same in Lima. I bought some nice things from the guy in the rust colored scarf. I like the way he sort of blends in with his wares. From the market we went and at falafel at an Arab-Peruvian restaurant.

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Before heading to the airport we piled into 4 taxis and had a scary crazy ride to Tati's parents beautiful home for snacks and dessert. Tati's mother served all sorts of unusual fruit desserts and wonderful cakes and pisco rum, straight up. For some reason my favorite was the relatively bland but delicious artichoke salad tea sandwich.

Tourist police

So it was a great trip. Dana's dancers are all great to travel with - fun and no drama. There were a couple of illnesses and mishaps. Sarah the dancer had a stomach flu after the Cusco performance but was well agin by the first Lima performance. Richard the MIT student had some stomach pains the first morning in Lima and as a precaution Dana sent him to the Anglo-Peruvian Hospital where they discovered he had appendicitis. He was operated on that night and two days later was back to normal. The Embassy staff was very helpful in getting him the best care possible. Sara from MIT had her purse stolen in a restaurant. We were all sitting in a group of tables around hers and saw nothing. They were good. Her passport and iPhone were stolen and she and Dana stayed a extra day in Lima to get everything settled. The police were very responsive and helpful but alas the thief was long gone. I had a cold and lost a red alpaca scarf that I had bought in Machu Picchu. But luckily Dana found it at the BoBo bar the last night we were there. He had become friends with the doorman. He was also a good friend of the owner of Twin Life by the time we left.

I would definitely go to Peru again in a heartbeat. I need to see more of Lima and some of the more ancient archeological sites in Peru. I would also love spending more time with Dana's amazing friends from Lima.


After our trip to the embassy we all visited the theater to meet with the technical crew and set up some equipment. The theater was in a heavily guarded school (most homes and buildings are heavily guarded in Lima) that specializes in English language learning - The Instituto Cultural Peruano Norteamericano. Dana did some interviews with local press. I believe it was during this time that Susan and Sara and I discovered the local cafeteria that sold empanadas and Dunkin Donuts. We visited there a lot over the next couple of days.

Here are some press sites:
more pictures

Some shots around the school and theater:

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Dana being interviewed for a local dance blog


Ceasar and Fernando were part of the theater crew. These guys were great.

Diplomatic Affairs

Lima is a huge city!

We arrived Tuesday morning and after settling into the hotel (which is sparse but has the most important amenity - wireless) Dana, Sara, Connie and I were whisked away by a cultural attache named Jose Carlos to the US embassy to meet the ambassador. Security was very tight but once inside it was just like any other office building, except that there were certain elevators we were not allowed to use. There was an official photographer waiting with the ambassador to take our picture as soon as we walked in which was fun. He sent me the picture which was great. It is so much better than anything I could do.

We talked to the ambassador for about 20 minutes about dance, movies, arts funding, real estate in Washington and the unrest in the north of Peru. He said he was planning to attend the performance Thursday, which he did. I stood next to one of the secret service men during the performance. There was one situated on either side of the audience and then several outside the entrance to the theater.


Here's the impressive embassy building from the outside:

Last days in Cusco

Sunday, June 7 & Monday, June 9

The performance in Cusco went really well. There were about 150 in the audience which was better than we expected. I hung out in the tech booth most of the day with the theater lighting and sound guys who were all fun as well as professional.



Again on the way to the theater there was all sorts of stuff going on. There have been protests due to the unrest in the amazon area so there was a strong police presence and then there was some sort of typical Sunday morning parade.

I had a very good trout ceviche for lunch.


After the performance we had Pisco sours and food at a children's themed restaurant. We had fun with hats. After that we went to a bar and danced the night away.


On Monday several of us went to the church of Santa Domingo, a Spanish church built on top of an Incan temple. There was a interesting museum of large religious oil painting which were used to teach the Incas the ways of Christianity. The gardens were also lovely and the inside of the church - where photography was not involved - was filled with wonderful paintings and statues. On the way to the church we paid to take pictures with two women with farm animals.


After leaving the church we walked down another typical Incan stone wall street and came across a small. This is where I made my first purchase of beads. The saleswoman's little girl was cute but a bit shy.


Lunch was a ham and cheese sandwich with fries and a beer with coco leaf flavoring. I would never have it again but I am glad I tried it. Note the funny color of the ketchup.

We spent our last night in Cusco at a big handicraft market. We saw a lot of the same stuff we had seen at other markets but I did buy some gifts. Dana helped me get the best price. After the market we ate some pretty decent Mexican food

Machu Picchu

Early Saturday morning we took a van to a train station and a 4 hour train ride down to a town called Agua Calientes (Hot Springs) 8000ft above sea level. From there we took a 30 minute trip up to Machu Picchu where we will had a two hour guided tour of the Inca ruins. We stayed until around 5:00 and got home about 9:00. It was a amazing trip.

The Incas built the site around 1400 AD and abandoned it about 100 years later. Walking around the site we really had a sense of what it had been like living in this isolated small area surrounded by huge mountains. Our guide was good. I had read most of the information in the travel book but she provided that information and more. It was a beautiful sunny day, around 70 degrees. Everyone who went was glad they did. It was not cheap but it was worth it.

We had to take a train and a van home. On the train there was entertainment which was scary and cheesy. One of the conductors dressed up and wore a mask that was a little clown and a lot scary (I had a nightmare about him that night and cringe when I see the mask in the markets) Then there was a fashion show featuring alpaca wool garments. You were of course encouraged to buy the garments. The van ride was nice because we drove through small villages and saw some of the night life. There was a parade on the highway that seemed a bit dangerous. The stars were bright which was unusual because the moon was almost as bright as the sun. If the moon had not been up the stars would have been absolutely amazing. The moon made it possible to see the snow on the mountain peaks.

Some sites on the way to Machu Picchu. I took the picture of the outside of the train from the bathroom. Shu-Chen, Ricardo and I posed for Ricardo's camera at a train stop.

The cute but touristy town of Agua Caliente (we actually had a nice meal there before returning). The man sitting next to me on the train was a Spaniard who works for the cell phone company - Telefonica. He was very nice and gave us some good places to visit in Lima. I took his picture next to a Telefonica ad.


Looking down at Machu Picchu at the start of our tour. Katie and Sarah had been encouraged to pose this way when they visited the pyramids in Egypt. We insisted that the do the same here.
Tati and I posed as we did in a similar setting in India. Sarah and Susan from MIT. Susan had bought a new SLR camera cheap the day before and was very excited to use it. Tati and Miyako both protected from the sun.
Florain, Miyako and Shu-Chen strike some dance poses.
Fun with Llamas.

The train ride home. Tell me that guy isn't scary! I took the last picture while waiting for the van at the last train stop.


Friday, June 6

Good news: my altitude sickness is gone and we are all in the same hotel - the good one.

We went to the theater Saturday morning to continue the technical setup for the show (which is Sunday). The technical crew at the theater Josse, Fidel, Luco, William - are all lots of fun even with the language barrier. Two of the MIT group speak spanish fairly well so we are managing. After the tech setup we all went out for pizza and beer.

In the afternoon we all went to a travel agency and paid for our tickets to Machu Picchu, did a little shopping, went to the market that is very near the theater to buy baskets (we could not transport the props for one of the dance pieces so bought substitutes here).

Later in the hotel lobby we worked on the music for the new piece with the various audio/video software we had. We needed to incorporate some poem readings by one of the dancers Shu-Chen into the music, timing it with video and adjusting the levels of the music so she could be heard. While working we ate our dinner - beef and chicken jerky, nuts and fruit, Twix bars, starbursts, beer and coco tea..



On Sesame Street there was a cool little cartoon and song about finding your way back home by noting the landmarks. I have thought about that a lot as I go back and forth from hotel to theater. The above pictures are sight on the way to the theater up the hill, through the Santa Clara arch, past the sewing shop to the Kusikay Theater. On the way there are many people who approach me with flyers for restaurants, entertainment, etc. We have started collecting ones for massages.

In the last picture in front of the theater you see Dana, dancers Kelly, Miyako, Florian, Ricardo, then Sara and Richard from MIT, Enrique the lighting designer from Lima, Susan from MIT, Luco the sound guy from Cusco

Dana buying baskets at the market and the group working on sound and eating junk food

Tomorrow, Machu Picchu!

Cusco - first day

Happy Birthday, Mom!!

The Washington contingent left around 8:15pm June 3 (almost 2 hours late due to storms) and now four planes later we're finally here. We almost did not make the last flight due to some customs issues involving a $10,000 projector (bought at a discount for $5000) but we did make it with Dana being the last person on just before the doors were shut. There are 16 of us total - 5 technical people (that includes me, a lighting designer from Lima and 3 video and sound experts from MIT, Boston), 10 dancers and one girlfriend. When we arrived in Cusco there was a band of Andean musicians playing for us and lots of people trying to sell us something.

Cusco, (11,000ft above sea level) is a beautiful town nestled in the Andes mountains. There are narrow steep stone streets, big plazas, and again lots of locals trying to sell us something. We are split into two hotels and the techies and one of the dancers, Ricardo, are the lucky ones. We are in Casa Andina, a modern hotel with hot water, internet access, free breakfast and a good location. The other hotel has only occasional hot water.

I am suffering from altitude sickness - head ache and a little nausea. It probably did not help that we ate some absolutely delicious but rich food and drank local beer at a place called the Inca Grill and then walked up to the theatre 10 blocks away and then made the round to trip again to get DVDs and other equipment for a tech run through. I went to sleep at 9:00pm and missed a nice meal at a tea shop. I have been drinking coco leaf tea which is supposed to help but although it is differently delicious I am not sure it is having any effect.

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The Cusco airport and the tech crew - Richard, me, Sara, Susan, Enrique (AKA Batman)

Our hotel room/internet cafe (Sara and Susan)

The views from our hotel room. The main plaza is to the right where the churches are.
The stone foundations you see here and which are all over the city are from the Incan era.
The Spaniards built on top of them.

The main plaza and my Andean trout/potato dinner - our hotel is off to the right of this church

Incas, Dragons and Finches

Happy Birthday, Lenore!!

I am off to Peru next Wednesday with Dana and his dancers and am very excited. We will visit 2 cities - Cusco and Lima. From Cusco we will take a ay trip to the Inca ruins at Machu Picchu, 8000 ft above sea level. I am looking forward to seeing architecture from both the Inca civilization and Spanish invasion, good Peruvian food, Pisco sours (too bad we wont be there for National Pisco Sour Day). My only concerns are altitude sickness, pickpockets and my spanish speaking skills, which are probably at a pre-school level. I will try to blog but I don't know how easy it will be to find internet access.

Recent activities:

Lyla, Tracy and I headed down to the Potomac River to watch the Washington Dragon Boat Festival. We met up with Golden but we were not able to stay to see him race.

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The dragon boats launched in front of the Watergate and Kennedy Center.

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Here are boats racing heading to the right and returning to the launch are going left. Lyla, Tracy and Golden hanging out.

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Web-footed and non habit-wearing spectators (I think they are nuns).

I usually would have planted flowers on my balcony by now but the weather has not been that pleasant. I do have some rosemary and marjoram that Zita gave me when Lyla, Tracy and I spent last Saturday working in her garden so that's a great start. But the upside of a late planting is that the birds have been stopping by to grab some of my dead twigs from last year's garden to build there nests. One day last week purple finch couple foraged through one of the planters:

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My car passed DC inspection this past week!


Todd, NC

I took a quick trip to Todd, NC just outside of Boone over the MLK weekend to visit with Susan, Hunter, Andrea from Todd and David and Susan from Atlanta and Lane and James from DC. We stayed in Susan’s old house heated mostly by a big wood-powered stove in the living room. We were very comfortable - all those bodies probably helped. We took a nice long walk around Susan’s house, watched some movies but mostly ate, drank and talked. Since I missed this summer’s beach trip it was nice to be all together again.

And you bet I took some pictures:


Whirlwind Trip to NYC

It was a while ago but I've been busy. Austin had emergency quadruple bypass surgery and I spent a fair amount of time with him in the hospital. He's doing well and I hope he continues to do so. He did get an iPhone for Christmas so that should help.

So New York was a whirlwind trip - first an Amtrak train to Secaucus, NJ on Friday Dec. 12 to stay the night in Ben and Dennis' art-filled place which overlooks the NJ Meadowlands with the skyline of NYC in the distance. Some friends of theirs came over and Den served paella for dinner and it was marvelous.

Saturday morning I caught the NJ transit train to NY Penn Station and then caught the Long Island Railroad train out to Stony Brook to visit Tree. We walked on the beach (very cold), did a little shopping and then had dinner at her place with her neighbor Caroline and her cutey-pie 3 year old son George.

Sunday morning I took the LIRR train back into Penn Station and walked up to where my friend Diane and her husband Gary were staying near the Museum of Modern Art. We spent the afternoon in MOMA and I caught the 6:00pm train back to DC. It was hectic but I am so glad I did it.

I loved:
  • Ben and Dennis' place and finally seeing the meadowlands (marsh) that I have heard about on it the Sopranos and after discovering The Wrens, a band from that area. Word from Dennis is that Jimmy Hoffa is most likely buried in the Meadowlands.
  • Watching the world go by on the train - forests, streams, junkyards, small towns, big cities, art parks, graffiti - I love it all.
  • Seeing Tree's completed renovation. The last time I was there her second floor addition was just getting started.
  • Tree's butternut squash crockpot curry
  • Walking 20 blocks up 6th Ave from Penn Station to Diane's hotel. I stopped in Bryant Park to pay homage to Project Runway. I'll have to stop in all the bead stores I passed next time.
  • Seeing the Marlene Dumas: Measuring Your Own Grave exhibit at the MoMA. Some of Dumas' art I found fascinating, beautiful and meaningful, some I found trite and shocking for shock's sake but I am so glad I was able to see it.
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The Meadowlands (click to see more pictures)

An Afternoon in Snickersville

This week I was taking antibiotics for an infection and I thought I was going to die. Since Tuesday I have had a headache, nausea, backaches - no fun. I was not supposed to drink caffiene or alcohol - the coffee withdrawal was the worst. This morning I finally felt better after sleeping 11 hours. I had my appetite back so we had veggie rueben sandwiches this evening and I treated myself to a Rob Roy for happy hour. I drank it while enjoying the wonderful sunset Hurricane Hanna left in its less than spectacular wake.

So here are the last set of pictures from Latvia. The last day we spent at Maris' place, which was owned by grandfather and inherited by my mother and Aunt Zita and sold to Maris. He is renovating the house and has several renters. He has made a great office for his home computer business. He has kept the wonderful old shacks that he uses for storage and for aging the wonderful wines he makes from the fruit he grows. He has even kept the out houses and says that one of his tenants prefers them to the indoor version.

His rotweiler nicknamed Rosa is a bit scary looking but is very sweet. We were fast friends when I played her favorite game which involved turning on a high-powered garden faucet so she could try to bite the water.

Elma who was my mother's childhood friend still lives across the street. It was good to see her again.

We had a great feast cooked by Maris. His red currant wine is wonderful and somehow Paula managed to score a bottle as she and Lenore were video chatting in the kitchen.

Click for some pictures:

The street Maris lives on is hard to pronounce. It is Sniķeres Iela and is pronounced something like snitcheras ee-el-a. We just dubbed it Snickersville.

Saturday at the Ethnographic Museum

Saturday we took the tram and a bus to the Ethnographic museum - a large park where historical homes, churches, windmills and other structures have been transported to from all regions of Latvia. It provides a good sense of what life was like in the olden days. Some buildings date back to the 17th century. On this day there were many groups from all over Latvia singing, dancing, etc. It took a lot of walking to see it all but I think we did.

There was one great moment when my dad was resting on a bench and a lady tried to get her friend to sit in the small space next to him. My dad was a bit confused so he got up which made the woman ordering her friend to sit down feel guilty. In the midst of the guilt and confusion my mother came by and said "That's my husband" which just made everybody laugh. It was an exchange that was both uncomfortable and friendly. One thing I did notice in the stores and elsewhere is that the clerks were stern but helpful - a strange mixture.

We attended the final choral concert that night. It started at 10:00pm so we had time to go to the Pancake House for dinner where the best pancakes in Riga are served. We had been promising Lenore we would go there all week. We had been there at least 3 times when we were in Riga in 2005 and it is still good and cheap

The concert was lovely. We managed to find Ilze among the 10,000+ singers on stage. Her bright red roses helped.

Click image to see from out day at the outdoor museum and choral concert:
interior of an old home

TGIF in Riga

Friday Graeme went with Sandra, Gustavs, and Gunta to the Water Park in Jurmala where Maris's son Ansis works as a lifegaurd. Apparently they had tons of fun. I hung out at Maris's place (the house which my grandfather owned and was inhereted by my mother and aunt Zita and then sold to Maris ). He has done a lot of renovating and runs his own computer business with 3 employees from one of the renovated rooms. I talked shop with his web designer. He showed me what he was doing with Maris's business website and I showed him the NASA sites I work on and Dana's site.

After returning to the hotel I found Gunta and Graeme up on the roof, which they found through an open emergency door. I had to go up too. The sights were not as spectacular as they were from St. Peter's but they were still cool. And Miss Safety Lenore joined us too. It was a "if you can't beat them join them" situation. Our hotel Hotel Centra was very nice, friendly and clean but there were safety violations every 10 steps.

Later Gunta, Lenore, Graeme and I went to a restaurant called Dada where you fit as many veggie, meat, seafood bits in a bowl as you can and then hand it over for stir frying with your choice of sauce. It was good but probably the least amount of food/Lat that we had in any restaurant. Not complaining. It was a nice outdoor cafe and a nice little break from the heavier Latvian food.

By the way there is a TGIFriday's in VecRiga and Lenore checked the menu. It is exactly the same menu as in the US.

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More Singing and Dancing

Thursday we took the claustrophobic elevator up to the top of St. Peter's church to see the bird's eye view of the city. What a beautiful site!
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On the left you can see the four zeppelin hangers that now house the central market. On the right is Dome Cathedral and that wonderful bridge over the Daugava River.
That's our hotel - the light colored building with the red roof.

Before we went up to the steeple I picked out a birthday present at Galerija Tornis. Thanks, guys. I love it.

In the afternoon we took the bus to Sandra's house where we were greeted by Gunta who travelled from Stockholm where she is getting her masters degree. It was great to see her. Sandra and Ilze put on a great spread which has been documented in pictures over at Paula's blog. My favorite dish was the wonderfully named "herring in a fur coat". We also drank Maris' red currant wine, another special treat. We even had singing as entertainment. Graeme sang They Might Be Giants' "Little Birdhouse In Your Soul" and Sandra, Gunta and Ilze sang Latvian Folk songs.

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We left Sandra's and headed to the arena for the Folk Dance performance. Because it stays light so late it started at 10:00pm so it would be dark for the big finale. The performance was so amazing - 16,000 dancers moving in and off the field so seamlessly.
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Here's Graeme and Ilze on the way. We were greeting by these dancing cell phones at the arena. He was doing this little dance just for me.

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Into the Latvian Woods

I had told my mother that I would like to get out of Riga and experience the Latvian forests, maybe something mystical or at the least one with mushrooms. My mother mentioned it to Sandra and Maris and they decided on a historical manor and forest near the sea in the Vidzeme Region. Sandra, Maris, Gustavs, Ilze, Graeme, Lenore, my parents and I visited the manor and then walked over an hour mostly along a nice wooden plank path to the Bay of Riga and back. The wildflowers and ferns were amazing and the sea was refreshing and calm. After our long walk we rewarded ourselves at a nearby tavern. It was a great and beautiful day.

Here are a boatload of pictures:


Monday and Tuesday in Riga

Monday Ilze offered to show us around and we were happy to take her up on it. We went to the Central Market housed in 4 old zeppelin hangers - one for milk products, one for vegetables, one for meat and one for fish. It seems a little less busy and varied as in previous years but it was still fun to visit. The flower market outside is still hoppin'. We also visited that jewelry shop that I like. They really have the most unique jewelry that I have seen in Riga - Galerija Tornis.

In the evening we took a long walk to Staburags, a traditional Latvian restaurant where Dad ordered a beer bigger than his head. I had two small beers, one flavored with honey. I had beet soup again and sausages. On the way home we saw a large sign with the latvian word apdrošināšana which means insurance, a word we have always found funny - it has almost a thousand syllables.

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(first 3 photos from Lenore)

Tuesday we went back to the crafts market to visit any booths we missed and then met Ilze and Sandra at the University of Latvia to listen to Janis, Ilze's father, sing in a competition. The singers were in traditional costume, of course. We then went to Melnais Kaķis (Black Cat) for a late lunch - more potato pancakes for me!

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Arts and Crafts fair

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Singers in the hall and arriving

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On the steps of the university. We also met Janina, Janis' wife, who is also a singer and dancer. Sandra and Lenore sat across from me at the Black Cat - I think Lenore was eyeing my pancakes.

Graeme and Ilze under Sandra's watchful eye.

Later my mother and Graeme went to a symphony concert with Ilze and Sandra that they said was excellent. My father, Lenore and I went to Dome Square just missing the Seniors Dance Performance. We then went for soup, salad and beer. We caught Lenore with beer foam on her lips. Sandra and Ilze dropped off the best strawberries and sweet cherries that I have ever eaten. They have a garden at Janis' mothers place just outside of Riga.

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Markets, Parades, and Choirs: Could We Be Any Busier?

Sunday July 6 after our breakfast we went to Festival Arts and Crafts market where vendors from all over Latvia and some from Lithuania set up shop. It was amber, jewelry, books, toys, pottery, textiles, etc. There was also some singing and dancing. I bought a couple of souvenirs. Over the next couple of days I found these items in other stores, some for more money some for less so I guess it evened out. My favorite jewelry store had a booth and the best part was that their goods at the market were discounted. Score!



We then walked a couple of blocks to the parade, where ALL the singers and dancers walked, skipped, danced, waved flowers, yelped, sang. The parade had started at 11:00 but we knew the people we wanted to see would not be walking past until at least 1:00. We got their at 12:30 and left tired, sunburnt and hungry after 5:00. We saw my godfather from Chicago but Ilze, who was walking with her choir from Riga, we never saw her. When we saw her later that night at the choral concert, where she sang, said they started walking about 5:30.

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After the parade I had potato pancakes and beer at Ciao, Rasma!, a traditional Latvian restaurant. We then took the tram to the choral concert where we met up with Sandra, Ilze, Ansis, my godfather and 30,000 others who were there to sing or spectate. The tram was filled with singing teenagers on the way home. We got to bed at around 2:00am.

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Riga Bound

I thought that after the 15 hour flight to India this 7 hour flight to Amsterdam would be a piece of cake. Not so. I got no sleep and although I could drown out the screaming babies with music I could not drown out the unpleasantness of several screaming babies with unchanged diapers. But I have had no complaints since then (well, except for the internet service in the hotel room). I got a bit of sleep on the plane from Amsterdam to Riga. And while I was asleep Graeme tore his pants on a seat and I woke up to the KLM stewardess telling us we would be getting a goodie bag of small liquor bottles, champagne and juices as reparation. Score!

Our Latvian friends Maris, Ilze, Aina and Gustavs picked us up at the airport welcoming us with flowers from Maris' and Ilze's garden.



The first thing we did was head to the bank and grocery store. At the store I took some picture of the beer section and a young security guard sipping on a can of coke with a straw told me that no photographs were allowed. It was hard to take him seriously but I did. After Lenore arrived we headed out to walk around VecRiga (old Riga) and find a place to eat. We ended up eating a half block from the hotel under the clock tower of St Peter's church. The meal was great.

Icelandic pop singer dreams

So Bjork is going to be in Riga two days after we leave which is too bad. It would have been great to see her there. I had a dream about her a number of months ago and then I dreamt about her two nights ago. It was a similar dream where I talked to her about music and art only this time my family was there - we were traveling - and I asked Lyla to take a picture of us. As Lyla was taking the picture I told Bjork about my previous dream about her and made sure her hair was not in her face. I woke up as Lyla was taking the picture.

We've had some intense weather over the last couple weeks. The bad part is that my after-work lap swimming has not been as consistent as I would like but the good part is that we've seen some beautiful black cloud activity, thick mist ion the trees and some rainbows.


It's official

I am going to India January 7 - 16 with Dana and his dancers. It better be official or I went through a lot of trauma for nothing at the doctor's office last week.


My Trip to New York City

I took a quick trip to NYC with Dana and his company this past Tuesday through Thursday for their performance at NYU. It was a great trip. I had been to NYC with the company a couple of years ago and we stayed in Upper Manhattan. This time we stayed further south in West Village.

After a nice train ride Dana, three of his dancers and I checked in to the hotel and walked to the NYU theater near Washington Square and then to Soho to go to the Apple Store. I had forgotten the power adapter to my Powerbook (not the first time) and had to buy a new one. We stopped by a Tibetan store where I bought a cool jacket. Later Dana, Kelly and I ate huge hamburgers and tons of french fries at a restaurant called Rare. Eventually all the dancers arrived at our spare but certainly adequate hotel which was actually the first floor of a NYU residence hall.

Here's a fuzzy little movie of our digs:

The next morning we all walked to the Skirball Center for Performing Arts and spent most of the day waiting for something to happen. The technical setup took a very long time. The dancers usually have a technical run through to set lights and then a dress rehearsal but this day they only had a short technical walk through with costume changes. But the performance went well and my projections looked great with the state-of-the-art projection equipment.

During the day I took a walk to the East Village to make a pilgrimage to the Giant Robot store and art gallery. The art exhibit that is currently up is nice but there really wasn't much going on there but I had to go. I would have bought a T-shirt but nothing really spoke to me. Their on-line selection is much more expansive. But I got some fresh air and was able to see what the East Village was like.


Ben came by at around 6:30 and we ate at a great Chinese restaurant before the performance. I suspected it would be good when I saw the tech crew there on their dinner break. As always it was great to spend time with Ben.

After the performance we had drinks at a nice cozy hotel bar and then I had "second dinner" at a 24 hour diner with the dancers who were starving. I got to bed about 2:30AM. It's been a long time since I've stayed up that late.


The next morning I went with Dana and Kelly to Greenwich Village where we shopped and stopped at a coffee/pastry shop.


I then left them and walked 25 blocks uptown with my suitcase to the train station. I treated myself to a ride on the Acela train which is about an hour quicker and more modern. I have to say it was not worth the extra money. I missed the clickety-clack of the older trains and it was hard to find a seat and a place for my suitcase. The overhead compartments were like those in an airplane not open like the older trains. And the light came more from the indoor florescent lighting rather that natural light. I will probably never take the Acela again but I had to try it out.

When I got to Union Station I checked out the Latvian costume exhibit in the West Hall. Mom had read about it last week in the Latvian paper. I talked to two Latvian women there, one of which was the curator. I was too tired to conjure up any of my Latvian language skills but was able to tell the curator in Latvian that the costumes were pretty.


Here is a full slideshow of my trip. If you put your cursor on the images you should see captions.


It was definitely a vintage wool bike jersey morning. 12 miles in 58 degree coolness.

Yesterday was a beautiful day in Annapolis. Lyla, Zita and I met up with Lynda at the Wye Island Regatta. Lynda and her teammates - Edie, Tara, Patty, Louise and Joy, raced their 6 man outrigger canoe to victory. We hung out after the race next to the kayak, eating hamburgers on bagels made by firemen and drinking champagne. Some ate watermelon. There are pictures, of course.

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Hindi Talky

When we first started watching Bollywood movies there weren't a lot of places to buy movies and CDs. Amazon certainly did not have them. I wanted to buy a CD for Joe from the movie "Sarfarosh" so I stopped by an Indian grocery store near work recommended by the Indian women I work with. I managed to find the CD and when I indicated that I wanted to buy it the older Indian gentleman shook his head in the way older Indian gentlemen do and warned me "Hindi talky". I assured him that I knew what I was doing.

Since there is a small chance that I may go to India at the end of the year I decided I might want to learn some Hindi. I have learned a handful of words from Bollywood movies

dil - heart
diwana - crazy
tum - you
zindagi - life
sunam - sweetheart

So I decided to make a conscious effort to translate movie and song names. That was somewhat effective. I retained another handful of Hindi words. I sort of gave up on that method but did not have anything to replace it. That is until I took an internet trip to the iTunes store to subscribe to This American Life. I did some sort of search to find the podcast and among the search results was a spanish language education podcast. I wondered if there was any sort of Hindi podcast and sure enough I found two -- Namaste Dosti - The Learn Hindi Podcast and Learn Hindi from Bollywood Movies. India style.

Namaste Dosti - The Learn Hindi Podcast is a good basic learning tool and I will learn the most from it. Learn Hindi from Bollywood Movies. India style. is less a series of lessons and more a series of stand-up comic routines about life lessons and maybe some grammar that can be learned from mostly old (70s, 80s) Bollywood films. I find them to be quite humorous. The podcaster is a writer who lives in NYC. Here a less than 3 minute taste:


Edisto Beach 2007


  • Kayaking in the marsh - this year we rented a double and a single
  • Our walk to Jeremy's Inlet to find adventure and fossils
  • Big boiled shrimp
  • Not losing at Scrabble
  • Hearing that Andrea made it to Instanbul
  • Updating the Lust List over Buck's pizza- Lynda joined the club this year
  • Our annual film festival, which included Susan and Lane's dance works
  • Seeing Diane for the first time in 8 years

Here are the pictures

Driving Miss Laura

Graeme is 15 and learning to drive. I think after about three more learning/practice sessions I will hire him as a driver. I see drivers every morning usually in large black sedans picking up the diplomats that live in our building or driving rich children to school. Rich people can have many things but I mostly envy them for their drivers.

Lyla was our driver yesterday on the way down to SC. It was a great drive - no traffic, relatively speedy. I worked on jewelry, re-knotting a necklace for Lyla and making some bracelets. South of the Border is tacky but it is usually welcome site. It means that there are less than 3 hours remaining and the landscape turns from huge billboards and drab fields to tall pine forests and bridges over large bodies of water.


Hospital Life

I was in Charleston this past weekend to help Lynda recover from surgery after her ovarian cancer crept back after 3 years of remission. I spent a lot of time sitting in the hospital room meeting the parade of doctors and nurses and watching them poke and prod Lynda. I kept hoping it would be more like an episode of Grey's Anatomy, you know pretty doctors saving patients while engaging in outrageous activities like flirting, affairs, drunken confessions, getting pregnant and spreading syphilis. Well all the caretakers were professional and there was one pretty doctor and a couple of pretty nurses but we did not get to see any behind-the-scenes shenanigans.

When I was not at the hospital I was putting in some work hours at Lynda's house. It was actually pleasant sitting looking out her back door at the birds and turtles. Willow the cat kept me entertained by trying to be the lion of her backyard although she mostly chased bugs. Graeme and I watched TV together but he was working on a school project so we did not have time to do much else. Here are some pictures from my trip.

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I got my haircut a couple of blocks from the hospital and a nice house with moon flowers in its garden was along the way. Lynda's back yard
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A heron and turtles on the lake. Willow through the screen door

Bittersweet Reunion

My dear aunt Mary Anne passed away on February 1, 2006. Mary Anne helped me so much when I was setting up the McDonald family web site. She sent me tons of old pictures and typed up pages of family history. Mary Anne had such a great sense of humor. I was amazed at her interest in all new things and her mastery of the internet. She was one of my most faithful blog readers. My dad and brother Tommy saw her the weekend before she died and Lynda, Austin, Lenore, Paula and I attended her memorial service the following weekend. It was so sad but we still managed to have a nice time reconnecting with Mary Anne's daughter Dianne's family and meeting Mary Anne's friends. We also had fun romping around East and West Dundee where Paula and Lenore live and we spent a day with my second cousin once removed Susie and enjoyed meeting her fun husband Jeff.


  • Seeing Dianne, Brian, Kaitlin and Anna again and meeting cute little Emma Skye.
  • Meeting all of Mary Anne's friends
  • Meeting the family of Dale, Mary Anne's late husband
  • Minor celebrity elbow rubbings. Mary Anne's good friend Len is the brother of Cal who is the father of Michael Madsen (Kill Bill, Reservior Dogs) and Virginia Madsen (Sideways). We met Len and Cal, who are both very funny. Brian's friend John considered us celebrities because we went to school with his guitar hero Steve Morse.
  • Snow!
  • Friday night after dinner we passed a knitting store where some sort of after hours meeting/knitting circle was taking place. Austin had to meet the ladies and talk fabrics and quilts.
  • Having Hoops, the Wake-Up cat, visit me in my bedroom at Paula's
  • Good beer tastings at Emmett's and at Lenore's
  • Great breakfast at Benedict's in East Dundee with Susie and Jeff. Great potato pancakes!
  • Paula's mom's tour of her needlepoint. Amazing!
  • Shopping in Geneva - beads, housewares, chocolate.

Two little movies:

memorial flowers second cousins
Memorial Events
Quicktime, 2.6MB, 3 min
Romping Around East and West Dundee
Quicktime, 1.8MB, 1-1/2 min

New Mexico

So I traveled with Dana and his company to Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico. They performed at the University of New Mexico as part of a alumni reunion weekend. The performances went really well. At the after performance discussion several people asked questions about the images I created. That was cool. I stayed with Dana's parents in Santa Fe 2 nights and 1 night in the home of a local Albuquerque patron of the arts. Needless to say the accommodations were wonderful. I learned from my visit to Florence, Italy that you really cannot imagine how beautiful or interesting certain places are by just reading about them. Santa Fe is also one those places. The architecture, the weather, the landscape, the American Indian art were all so interesting. I traveled a lot between Albuquerque and Santa Fe and saw exit signs for various pueblos. It was neat to see jewelry and pottery from those pueblos at the stores and museums. I also learned that the word camino is the spanish word path or way. Some memories:
  • The mountains and mesas on the highway between Albuquerque and Santa Fe
  • Bright shiny colorful lowriders on the highway between Albuquerque and Santa Fe
  • Talking to and buying jewelry from the Navajo and Pueblo Indians in Santa Fe. Learning about Pueblo pottery at the Penfield Gallery in Old Town Albuquerque.
  • Discovering sopaipillas and eating a frito pie for the first time
  • Spending Lyla's money on turquoise jewelry
  • The bunny family in Anna and Joe's yard
  • A 5 minute rain, hail, wind storm followed by an afternoon of beautiful sunshine
  • The exhibits on sleep (pillows, beds, quilts, sleep rugs through the ages) and dichos on trucks at the Museum for International Folk Art.
  • Watching lightning across the prairie while sipping beer with Dana in his parents' back yard
  • The mariachi band playing in Old Town Albuquerque
  • Here are some pictures  statue part