DSCN8455Back to School.  A kind of  Mystery School.  I love school and so I am going to Blogger U for the month of November.  And I am not at all sure what will be be learned from this practice.  I am not panicking because this is November 4 and I am blogging for the first time this month.  I am breathing.  I am taking this in stride.  So I don’t get an A.  So I don’t get an A?  Are you kidding me?

Taking this challenge:  a blog a day for 30 days, in the vein of NaNoWriMo.  Even if it is the same month that we pick up and move countries.  That’s OK.  You all like traveling with me.  So, November is a good month to go to Blogger U and take a little trip both educationally and physically.  Blogosphere and Alamos, Sonora, Mexico

For ten years we have been living in San Miguel de Allende during the Pacific Northwest dark months.  There is nothing dark about San Miguel in the fall and winter.  It is bright with activity and holiday ritual: jazz in November, posadas at Christmas, the plaza filled with families, music and fireworks on New Year’s Eve, the parque filled with flowers and plants in February.  Semana Santa.  Art walks and gallery openings.  The biggest problem for most part-time residents to San Miguel is getting enough rest while doing everything that there is to do.  Workshops.  Classes.  Concerts.  Restaurants.  The Tenth Annual San Miguel Writer’s Conference.

This winter we are going to be living in the quiet pueblo of Alamos.  And my winter, instead of being packed with known activities and friends, will be a mystery, an exploration.  It will start with the mundane:  what clothes do I need to take.  The elevation in Alamos is much lower than San Miguel and only a few miles from the Sea of Cortes.  So fewer sweaters and more shorts.  I can handle that.  There will be new Spanish tutors, new neighbors, new markets and I am sure new customs.  I still look forward to posadas at Christmas and tamales at Candelaria.

Traveling to a new home.  Traveling a new road of blogging commitment.  I am a good Gemini.  Why do one thing at a time when you can do two.

I love artists.

February 20, 2014

“San Miguel de Allende is not Mexico.”  That is what a Mexican friend told me many years ago when he first moved here from Mexico City and started a natural food store, Natura, across the street from our house.  Since the time of Stirling Dickinson, San Miguel has been a place where artists, foreign and national,  have lived and worked, sometimes for decades and sometimes for vacation.  Some of us love the gringo community here and some of us are eternally frustrated by it.  I believe that if we focus on the art and the artists, our frustrations will melt away.

A couple of weeks ago, before I became consumed in the San Miguel Writers Conference’s 9th offering, we cruised Colonia Guadalupe Art Walk.  I had not been out to Guadalupe in too long, evidently, because I had not seen the mural project.  The Mexican Mural movement started with Rivera, Orozco and Siquerios in the 1920’s and continues here in San Miguel and in areas in the US, too.  I found this group, UGLARworks, lighting up the streets and billboards of L.A.  In the US, my oh so controlled country, the muralists have to deal with laws and regulations and neighborhood coalitions to share their beautiful art.  I was not part of the Guadalupe project, and I am suspecting that it was much easier.

Calling myself artist has not come easy.  I am sister, daughter, wife, grammy, boss, employee.  As my contribution to the world of art, for today, here are some photos from the Guadalupe Mural Project and a poem that I wrote while sitting in my friend’s studio, a beautiful painter, Gwen Dirks while she started a new piece.

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Co-creation

Her blank canvas, my empty sheet of paper. Her first pencil marks, my tentative sentences. Begin with an image drawn or described, boundaries for broad strokes of color.

She strokes long and short, terre verte, cobalt and white, naples yellow, cadmium pale, fill the room with pungent scent, stronger than the odor of ink on paper. I hear Machado and write the sweetness of those orange blossoms.

Silent, my loops of letters cross a pale line like the calico cat moves across the patio toward the sparrow. Her scratches of brush on canvas echo the mice building nests inside the kitchen wall.

Her white canvas gives way to green as hummingbirds fight for space on a mutilated elm tree. The sparrow faster than the cat, rises into the branches of a leafless shrub.

She places a wall between blue sky and green earth, yellow off into the distance as my half eaten apple browns, core and seeds exposed.

The painting deepens with layers of color as my words wander closer to what wants to be said. She hums along with earphone music, forgetting me outside her window.

Her blue sky, yellow wall, green grass, a color wheel. Rhythm my wheel: short words sweet sharp quick run down the page.
More elaborate vocabulary meanders darkening alleyways.

She has dozens of brushes, soft and coarse, wide and narrow that wait in old glass jars and plastic racks. Punctuation textures my lines. Exclamation points! Question paradox?

There she goes, steps back, moves from arm’s length to across the room: perspective. Later I step back, when words move from paper to computer screen, notebook page to printout. Those line

breaks. Fiddling with the final details until the work is done.

KEKinser
February 2012

Don’t forget Myanmar

January 31, 2014

I am fortunate to end our incredible SE Asia trip in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, our winter home.  I don’t believe that I would so easily reconstruct the magic of Myanmar from the US.  My dear country is far separated from incense smoke and the soft smile of the Buddha, from subsistence farming and small houses made of natural materials, from small wooden fishing boats gathering crew in the morning and returning with what could be gathered in nets thrown out by hand and hauled in by muscle.

We spent two nights in Yangon, met with our travel agent to pick up plane tickets that could not be purchased on line.  Our boarding passes were hand written.  Our airline identified us by a small sticker that differed from the small sticker that the other airlines used.  Nora, our travel agent, had a copy of “The Glass Palace” on her desk.  Her boss had recommended that she read it.  I found a copy at a book seller on the tiny street where we followed Lonely Planet for a cup of tea, Myanmar style, with interesting fried goodies and sticky rice.  The first chapter of that book dropped me into Burma as England was removing the last King and Queen to exile in India.

We were walking distance to the Swedagon Pagoda.  In the morning, my camera decided not to work by some cosmic intervention, so that I could just walk and look and kneel and pray.  I met a Myanmarese who spoke English and would have probably liked a donation for answering my question:  What is the Sunday Corner was all about?  He pulled out a reference book from his hip pack and verified that I was indeed a Sunday Child and, surprisingly, so is my husband.  We needed to take the flowers that I was carrying to the Sunday Corner and poor water over the Buddhas.  Only later did I discover why it took so long to get a cup to accomplish the homage:  I was supposed to scoop a cup of water over the Buddha’s head for each year since my birth!  I had only dipped 3 times, the Trinity is deep in my consciousness, even surrounded by Buddhas.

The Sunday Corner.

The Sunday Corner.

We returned at night and the temples were still full of families, praying and meditating.  The moon was half full over the pagoda.

Swedagon Pagoda

Swedagon Pagoda

We flew to Bagan and spent two days on E bikes, the latest rage from China, exploring the seemingly infinite pagodas and shrines.  The weather was comfortable compared to Accuweather’s predictions, which was a blessing.  The Kumudara Hotel, which I enjoyed immensely, had a fixed Myanmar menu so I had an opportunity to explore local tastes of curries, stews, and crispy appetizers.  The flavors reminded me more of Indian food than anything we had eaten on the trip.  “The Glass Palace” explained why.

The last night in Bagan we ventured into the landscape around the hotel: dirt roads, bamboo houses, welcoming residents.  Chris saw a ruin that looked tall enough for a scenic sunset photo.  When we got there we found a ruined monastery occupied by two monks and their cook, living in a bamboo house within the jumble of 11th century construction. When we approached, we were welcomed, escorted to the highest point of the monastery, ruined in a 1975 earthquake and served tea as the sun set over Bagan.  We Were Served Tea!  The young man who cooked for the monks spoke surprisingly good English, enough to tell me that his very petite mother had died giving birth to him.  He toured us through the monastery, showing us what was new and what was old.  Our donation earned us rich prayers and blessings of luck and health for all of our family from one of the monks.   Every time I look at this photos, my heart sings.

Our host at Bagan's sunset.

Our host at Bagan’s sunset.

Buy a little gold leaf and stick it on the Buddha, for luck, for health.

Buy a little gold leaf and stick it on the Buddha, for luck, for health.

The face clay is worn by many in Myanmar, sun protection.  I was not buying what this girl was selling, so she took one of my Ankgor temple bracelets as a toll.

The face clay is worn by many in Myanmar, sun protection. I was not buying what this girl was selling, so she took one of my Ankgor temple bracelets as a toll.

Imagining the detail of these temples 1000 years ago.

Imagining the detail of these temples 1000 years ago.

Our trip was ending and our final destination was rest and relaxation in Thanwe on Ngapali Beach.  Again Chris found spectacular accommodations, Yoma Cherry Lodge:  unspoiled, rich with local life and we even found a boat to go out to snorkel with the fishes.

Ngapali Beach.

Ngapali Beach.

Some Trip Advisor remarks mentioned the smell of fish in the comments for the Yoma Cherry.  There is a reason for this.  Each evening the men gathered to wade into the sea, climb onto the boats and spend the night out on the sea.  In the morning, sometimes before dawn, women were waiting around small fires, keeping warm, for the boats to return.  I am imaging that cell phones helped coordinate the rendezvous.   Everyone has them.  Baskets of fish were unloaded and carried, hanging from long sticks, two by two, to the blue mesh tarps where they will dry on the beach.  Some were taken away to the dry rice fields inland.  Small boys, 5 or 6 years old had the job of picking up left over fish on the beach.  Some of these were recipients of leftover Mekong River coconut candy.  In the afternoon as the men gathered for the next night’s fishing, women gathered the dried fish.  Yes, it smelled like fish.  It was marvelous.

Headed out.

Headed out.

tarps of fish

tarps of fish

All the guys want to see the photo.

All the guys want to see the photo.

Myanmar remains on our Bucket List.

A prayer for Cambodia

January 3, 2014

Garment workers are dying in Phnom Penh so it makes it a little hard for me to give a tourist account of Siem Reap and Angkor Wat.  Our stay here was peaceful, accented by our lovely tuk tuk driver, Hoan.  In the three days that we spent together touring the extensive ruins, we talked a little politics.  He would like to see reform.  He has left his village to work in Siem Reap.  He is making a living for his wife and daughter by being an excellent driver for our guesthouse managers.  And he understands that $80 a month, the minimum wage for garment workers in Cambodia, would not be enough for him to support his family.

I will post a few pictures of the beauty of Angkor Wat and say a prayer for the workers of Cambodia.

Apsara, the dancing Goddess.  The temples of Angkor Wat are  wonderful mix of hindu and buddhist figures.

Apsara, the dancing Goddess. The temples of Angkor Wat are wonderful mix of hindu and buddhist figures.

We visited temples on New Years day.  I was blessed by 4 nuns in 4 temples and have the 4 yarn bracelets in red green, and yellow to prove it.

We visited temples on New Years day. I was blessed by 4 nuns in 4 temples and have the 4 yarn bracelets in red green, and yellow to prove it.

Ta Prohm.  The powers that be decided to leave renovate this temple around the trees that have grown around the rocks since 1186 when it was built.  We were there just after sunrise and I enjoyed the relative silence of stone, gods, trees and parrots calling from the treetops.  Remarkable.

Ta Prohm. The powers that be decided to leave renovate this temple around the trees that have grown around the rocks since 1186 when it was built. We were there just after sunrise and I enjoyed the relative silence of stone, gods, trees and parrots calling from the treetops. Remarkable.

Meet Borramey, my new Facebook friend.  When she is not studying language or computer she is at the temple that her grandfather cared for telling tourists about what they are seeing.  It was delightful to spend some time with her and help her along her way to her goal.  She is planning on being in the States in 5 years and I can be tour guide then.  The object in her hand is a Cambodian mouth harp that she makes from bamboo.  I have a few years to try to figure out how she made that sound.

Meet Borramey, my new Facebook friend. When she is not studying language or computer she is at the temple that her grandfather cared for telling tourists about what they are seeing. It was delightful to spend some time with her and help her along her way to her goal. She is planning on being in the States in 5 years and I can be tour guide then. The object in her hand is a Cambodian mouth harp that she makes from bamboo. I have a few years to try to figure out how she made that sound.

Banyon.  Wish I had been there at sunrise to sit with these faces.  It was crowded and still worth the time.

Banyon. Wish I had been there at sunrise to sit with these faces. It was crowded and still worth the time.

Ankgor Wat proper has 800 meters  of these fabulous bas relief carvings.

Ankgor Wat proper has 800 meters of these fabulous bas relief carvings.

My Khymer language teacher.  He was selling postcards "10 for one dolla."  Instead of buying those, I bought a Khymer lesson.  What's this in Khymer, I said pointing to my nose, my ear, my eye and the most laughs came when I stuck out my tongue.  Maybe he will remember the crazy lady who said, "Teachers can make more than postcard salesman" and maybe he won't

My Khymer language teacher. He was selling postcards “10 for one dolla.” Instead of buying those, I bought a Khymer lesson. What’s this in Khymer, I said pointing to my nose, my ear, my eye and the most laughs came when I stuck out my tongue. Maybe he will remember the crazy lady who said, “Teachers can make more than postcard salesman” and maybe he won’t

We spent two nights on a sampan on the Mekong.  We stopped at one village market and another in a small city.  The markets were bustling with conversation and commerce, like we are used to in Mexico.  We have gotten so far from our food in the US, I am even more grateful for Way Out farmstead, Tristan and Aubyn, our local Coyle market. 

There was a battered copy of “After Sorrow – An American Among the Vietnamese” by Lady Borton.  Reading just a few chapters of that book added to my understanding of the culture of the Mekong.  As I walked the markets filled the unusual fruits that I have been growing accustomed to, I considered what the people ate in the twelve years that it took this land to recover from Agent Orange.

These photos were taken by Chris McLane.

Rice weighs heavy on the boats

Rice weighs heavy on the boats

Rice chaff is light, used for fuel, especially for making bricks.

Rice chaff is light, used for fuel, especially for making bricks.

Rambutans, a new fruit for me.  Open the spiny exterior for a sweet milky fruit with a pit that reminds me of loquat.

Rambutans, a new fruit for me. Open the spiny exterior for a sweet milky fruit with a pit that reminds me of loquat.

The markets were rich in fresh vegetables and fruits, fish and rice.

The markets were rich in fresh vegetables and fruits, fish and rice.

"Ha Low!"  Kids, adults, everyone tries a little English and cracks up when we respond.  I felt like the Rose Queen, waving and greeting.  It was so much fun.

“Ha Low!” Kids, adults, everyone tries a little English and cracks up when we respond. I felt like the Rose Queen, waving and greeting. It was so much fun.

Taking the boat into Cambodia, we noticed how populated the river was in Viet Nam and not so much in Cambodia.

Taking the boat into Cambodia, we noticed how populated the river was in Viet Nam and not so much in Cambodia.

Sitting room at the bow of the sampan with Mark and me.

Sitting room at the bow of the sampan with Mark and me.

Downtown is decorated.

Downtown is decorated.

And there are mobs of people in the downtown, kids dressed up in Santa suits and having photos taken with the decorations.

And there are mobs of people in the downtown, kids dressed up in Santa suits and having photos taken with the decorations.

and then the city lights up and the people flock in.  It is crazy packed.

and then the city lights up and the people flock in. It is crazy packed.

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The best thing about Hoi An

December 23, 2013

Bicycles!

Cycling the countryside of Kim Bong

Cycling the countryside of Kim Bong

We borrowed bikes from our fabulous hotel, Villa Hoa Su and took the ferry to the village of Kim Bong.

"One dolla" for the tourists.  10 cents for the locals.  I negotiated a half price return which was great fun.

“One dolla” for the tourists. 10 cents for the locals. I negotiated a half price return which was great fun.

Kim Bong has wood carvers that make furniture and carve buddhas and other objects for tourists. But mostly they make and repair boats. These boat yards were on a smaller scale than our local Port Townsend yard.

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And my favorite part was peddling through the rice fields and vegetable gardens. The roads are built for scooters, motorcycles and bicycles. No cars could maneuver the streets and byways.

If the Wizard of Oz had been written by Vietnamese, the Scarecrow would have dressed like this.

If the Wizard of Oz had been written by Vietnamese, the Scarecrow would have dressed like this.

The cows were tied along the river and looked much fatter than Mexican cows.

The cows were tied along the river and looked much fatter than Mexican cows.

These women were riding with over 100 pounds of marigolds on their bikes.  One tipped over and Chris was there to assist.

These women were riding with over 100 pounds of marigolds on their bikes. One tipped over and Chris was there to assist.

The village was a grid of streets for two-wheeled traffic only.

The village was a grid of streets for two-wheeled traffic only.

And after a fine day of exploring the Vietnamese countryside, chatting with residents that actually were not used to seeing tourists and were eager to practice their English, we enjoyed a delicious meal at, of course, The Morning Glory Restaurant

Sea bass with spinach and "red risotto."  Scrumptious.

Sea bass with spinach and “red risotto.” Scrumptious.