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.

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War and Peace in Hue

December 20, 2013

Where was I in January 1968?  8th grade, Curran Junior High School, Bakersfield California, hanging out with Maureen and Laura and singing the sound track to “Oliver” in Mrs. Lee’s classroom at lunchtime.  So why do I feel sad here?  It is visceral experience, for me, of how the Vietnam war affected my generation, even if I was just a kid when it was going on.   Tet Offensive and Walter Cronkite somehow got through my adolescent haze.  Today, as we were taking a boat down the Perfume River to see a pagoda I realized that this country, Vietnam, has moved on.  Forty-five year later there are still reminders in the war museums of “American Imperialism” being pushed back and on the streets it is business as usual.  In fact, quite a great deal of capitalism in this communist country.

I believe that I will be processing this experience for a bit longer.  And I had a thought.  Before we go to war again, wouldn’t it be a great idea to send a group of students and mothers and teachers and clergy to the country that we are preparing to attack.  And bring to our country their same representatives.  And let these representatives spend a couple of months together, just people, no governments.  And if this group feels that bombs and guns are the answer, then carry on.  Somehow I believe that a different solution might become apparent.

The bonsai at the pagoda and Citadel were amazing.

The bonsai at the pagoda and Citadel were amazing.

Young women at the DMZ bar, very happy to pose with their beer bottle tree.

Young women at the DMZ bar, very happy to pose with their beer bottle tree.

Adornment at the Citadel in Hue.

Adornment at the Citadel in Hue.

Captured planes of the "American Imperialist" forces

Captured planes of the “American Imperialist” forces

Non OSHA approved equipment.

Non OSHA approved equipment.

9 royal bronze urns for the emperor.

9 royal bronze urns for the emperor.

Laughing Buddha at the Perfume Pagoda.

Laughing Buddha at the Perfume Pagoda.

My memorial for the fallen.

My memorial for the fallen.

Rain

December 14, 2013

We took the overnight train from Hanoi to Sapa, a small town in the mountains of North Vietnam.  From here tourists walk to villages, have home stays, experience the beauty of the area.  We had plans to visit a village close by and a large market where many village people come together for trade.  If I were home, either San Miguel or Coyle, I would don my rain gear and go out exploring, it is only a constant and mild rain, after all, and it is in the mid-50’s.  Instead, I am taking this opportunity to rest in our Sapa Garden Bed and Breakfast, read and write and enjoy the sound of the rain and the sound of the birds and the hum of this family home turned bed and breakfast.

We walked into town yesterday.  It was so foggy that we could not see across the small town square.  There are Hmong saleswomen on the streets wearing traditional clothing selling mostly small purses made from local textiles.  The girl who attached herself to me for the day was 16 years old.  She was a beautiful young girl, the same age as my oldest granddaughter.  I have experienced hard sell in Mexico, Turkey, Egypt and how many small purses did I need to buy to make a difference in her life?  Maybe I am not just hiding from the rain.

I "like" a page on Facebook called Grow Food Not Lawns.  No lawns in Sapa.

I “like” a page on Facebook called Grow Food Not Lawns. No lawns in Sapa.

During French colonization, Sapa was the place to own a home to get out of the Hanoi heat.

During French colonization, Sapa was the place to own a home to get out of the Hanoi heat.

Down there, somewhere, are some beautiful terraced gardens.

Down there, somewhere, are some beautiful terraced gardens.

Rated ‘G’ in Vientiane

December 6, 2013

A neighbor in San Miguel, when I told him I was going to be blogging this trip, admonished “Don’t be boring.”  We are in Vientiane and nothing particularly is happening except of course, that we are in Vientiane, Laos and this day included:

– the best steak I have eaten in years at a Belgian Beer Bar, Chokdee, filled with happy conversation in a multitude of languages.

– a tuk tuk to Wat That Luang and had a conversation with a monk about the #5 lesson.  It was written in Lau and I picked up in the temple after I played a kind of  “pick up sticks” like I watched the young girl before me. The monk had a hard time translating because his English was not that sophisticated but said it was something like “you will work on a problem and it will turn out fine.”  Fine Buddhist dharma.

– Stopped in a shop to buy a carved elephant, a Lao memento of a Thai elephant ride, and three year old daughter of the shop owner picked up my hat while I was paying and then posed for a picture before putting the hat on the ground, putting her foot in it and sweeps the floor with it too quickly to be intercepted.

– Ate freshly prepared noodles soup with pork and crispy garnish of mung bean sprouts, string beans, basil, mint and lime for 12000 kip, roughly $ 1.50 USD.

Life is good.

The pose just before sweeping.

The pose just before sweeping.

Reclining Buddha at Wat That Phung

Reclining Buddha at Wat That Phung

Sticky rice baskets in a temple.

Sticky rice baskets in a temple.

Noodle soup and garnish

Noodle soup and garnish

Interesting creature holding up a temple at Wat That Luang

Interesting creature holding up a temple at Wat That Luang

Full day in Bangkok

November 24, 2013

And that included just two accomplishments:  surviving the Grand Palace and surviving a Thai massage.

one of hundreds of doorways, mostly closed to the public.

one of hundreds of doorways, mostly closed to the public.

the detail, the detail

the detail, the detail

the color, the texture, the detail

the color, the texture, the detail

Survive: “to remain alive or in existence, to continue to thrive and prosper.” Heat, crowds, innumerable objects call for my attention, this was the Grand Palace. Beauty of ceramic and color and detail. A cool mango juice after a sit with the Emerald Buddha.

After two hours we left the site, skipping the textile museum, and walked to the Wat Pho home of the largest reclining Buddha and death of my camera battery.  The crowds were gathered to remove their shoes and circle the Buddha and the rest of the grounds were empty and tranquil by comparison.

Largest reclining buddha

Largest reclining buddha

too large for one photo

too large for one photo

At the back of the grounds is the Wat Pho Thai Massage School where I went and took a number for my 1 hour Thai massage. The wait was 40 minutes which left me time to cool off in the air conditioned lobby and imagine the system that would process the customers from number 38 to my number 52.  I never did figure it out.  There seemed to me be many more masseuses than spaces for massage.  I have had a Thai massage in Port Townsend. It was a restful experience, somewhat like being taken through a passive yoga class. This experience was a bit more like a good strong Rolfing session given to me by a young man in a room of some 24 large hard mattressed surfaces about the size of a full bed. They gave me a pair of pants that tied on and I did not change tops. This Bangkok experience will serve as the basis of my Southeast Asia multinational massage survey. More will be revealed.

Off we go.

November 22, 2013

I could just imagine the panic of leaving the hotel near the airport by van after a lousy night’s sleep and instead of entering the highway, moving along a deeply, very deeply potholed unlit dirt road into the dark morning. If we had not lived in Mexico, I could imagine that cold dread of “this is it… this is the kidnapping everyone is worried about…”

But we have lived in Mexico for half our lives over the last 9 years and I was just a little surprised when the hotel lost power. CFE, national electric company, restored power to the corner of businesses that had been blacked out by a car hitting a pole in less than the 30 minutes anticipated by the smiling hotel staff. I was only a little surprised when the disco music came pounding in from somewhere. I had my earplugs ready. The gods thrilled us with a lightening storm that flashed through the night sky.

So when we pulled onto the dirt road we knew that it was simply the most efficient way to get to the airport. Better than getting on the freeway and driving away from our destination to some distant retorno. It was a private frontage road. Our only concern: some of those potholes were pretty darn deep!

At least for the Mexico to LA leg.

At least for the Mexico to LA leg.

From our breast balcony

From our breakfast balcony

On the breakfast balcony

On the breakfast balcony

Day of the Dead leftovers

November 8, 2013

We (my husband, Chris and our big yellow dog, Rosie) arrived in San Miguel de Allende, our winter home since 2004, on November 6, 4 days after Dia de los Muertos.   Because we love fall on the Hood Canal, we have not been here to put up our alter, wander the market for sugar skulls, fill the house with the pungent smell of marigolds and celebrate the ancestors in many years.  Last year was the first Calaca Festival and these photos show remnants of the new grassroots art celebration in Parque Benito Juarez.

We love our VW beetles here.

We love our VW beetles here.

The children told me that is "una águila" an eagle not just a bird.

The children told me that is “una águila” an eagle not just a bird.

A friend walking his dog told me that this sculpture included a fountain filled will marigolds during the festival.

A friend walking his dog told me that this sculpture included a fountain filled will marigolds during the festival.