Sunday, May 26: Ailsa’s Travel Theme this week is Pathways. I’ve seen many beautiful pathways in my travels around the world.
Wednesday, July 25: FrizzText (FrizzText: 7 Super Shots) nominated me to take part in HostelBookers 7 Super Shots. It’s been 10 days since he nominated me, and I’m just now getting around to taking part in the challenge, 8 days before I leave Oman to return to the USA for one month! (But who’s counting?)
The challenge is to choose 7 of your own photos, one for each of the following categories:
- A photo that…takes my breath away
- A photo that…makes me laugh or smile
- A photo that…makes me dream
- A photo that…makes me think
- A photo that…makes my mouth water
- A photo that…tells a story
- A photo that…I am most proud of (aka my worthy of National Geographic shot)
Here is a photo that takes my breath away. In Cappadocia, Turkey, we wake up at dawn for an hour-long hot air balloon ride. As 40 balloons lift off simultaneously, everyone is silent. The experience of rising, feeling the land pull away, seeing the multitudes of other balloons in the sky, all at different heights, of different colors – it takes my breath away. It takes everyone’s breath away. We are awed into silence. The only sound is the blast of the fire overhead, the rustle of people moving around in the basket to search out the best view.
As we relax into the ride, we make noises, exclamations of wonder. We love the other balloons floating in the sky with us; they’re our companions. Seeing them is the only way we can see ourselves. Below are the white pinnacles of Cappadocia, the fairy chimneys, the pointed volcanic rocks, tufts of greenery.
Here is a photo that makes me laugh or smile. This is a picture of one of my closest friends while I lived in Korea, Anna S. We all went to the Trick Art Exhibit in Daegu, South Korea. Here is Anna, hanging on for dear life.
Here is a photo that makes me dream. This is a photo of Houhai Lake in Beijing, China. This was such a peaceful and beautiful place; it made me feel all dreamy when I was there. After a rickshaw tour, our guide Grace walks us over to the lovely Houhai Lake. This is my favorite place in Beijing…the Summer Palace being a close second. Houhai isn’t necessarily a tourist place, although it draws plenty of tourists. It’s a thriving commercial area with funky and cool shops, restaurants with outdoor cafes and live music, weeping willow trees, paddle boats, bicycles galore, and a cool breeze blowing off the small finger-shaped lake.
My friend Suzanne and I wander around the lake. It is so lovely, with a cool breeze sweeping the weeping willows on the lake’s edge, like soft woolen fringe on a Nordic sweater. The lake is filled with dancing points of light, effervescent.
Here is a photo that makes me think. Before I went to Cambodia, I read a number of gruesome books about the Khmer Rouge. It really made me think about how, during the time millions of people were suffering under a cruel and murderous regime in Cambodia, I was living a carefree life as a teenager in America. Visiting Tuol Sleng Prison in Phnom Penh, as well as the Killing Fields, really made me think about how oblivious we can be sometimes to other people’s sufferings.
At the Killing Fields, I face the entrance gate and a giant commemorative stupa. I discover later that the stupa is filled with the skulls of 8,000 victims who were murdered here. I go directly to the tiny museum where a film is in progress about the history of Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge regime and of this place. The film is brutally honest and doesn’t try to gloss over the barbarity of this horrible regime. I find often in my travels that museums try to downplay the despicable actions of their country or to gloss over history. For example, in Musée de l’Armée in Paris, there is hardly any mention made of the Americans liberating Paris after WWII. You would think when visiting there that the French single-handedly defeated the Germans. Revisionist history.
The film here at Choeung Ek is truly sickening and brings me, and many other tourists, to tears. After the film, I collect myself, and walk around the grounds where I see some of the mass graves that were unearthed. There’s a grave where only naked women and children were found. Another grave contained headless corpses. Yet another only miscellaneous bone fragments. There is a tree where the regime would hold babies by the feet and bash their heads against the trunk. Their rationale for killing babies was so that the children of victims wouldn’t seek revenge on the regime when they grew up. One sign says that this particular tree held a loudspeaker to drown out the screams of those being bludgeoned, so as not to disturb the neighbors.
Here is a photo that makes my mouth water. This is warm goat cheese wrapped in pastry and smothered in cranberries at the Left Bank in Muscat, Oman.
Here is a photo that tells a story. Here is a picture of the view out of the auto-rickshaw that pulled our broken-down car nearly 10km somewhere between Chandigarh and Rishikesh, India. India was such an incredible hardship, especially on this day, which took the cake. I love this picture because it tells the story of a grueling 14-hour day on what should have been a 3 hour drive from Chandigarh to Rishikesh, India. To read more about this crazy day, check out: chandigarh >> to delhi (???) >> to rishikesh….14 grueling hours.
Honestly, I have a hard time coming up with a photo I am most proud of (aka my worthy of National Geographic shot). I love many of my photos because they bring happy memories to me, but as far as being National Geographic-worthy, well, I’m just not that great a photographer! I really can’t say I have a favorite, but I have some that I really like, similar to ones I’ve seen in National Geographic. This one was taken when my son Alex came to visit me in South Korea and we went to Suncheon Bay. This was one of my favorite places in Korea and when we went together, it was my second time there. There are so many beautiful shots, but I think this one is interesting.
Suncheon Bay is a coastal wetland with a large tidal flat, reed beds and salt marshes nestled between mountains and ribboned with rivers. Further inland are glowing chartreuse rice fields. I walk through the grasses along the wooden walkway and see fiddler crabs in the mud and some beautiful cranes. It’s warm but a breeze is whipping the sea grasses around. I love these grasses against the backdrop of the mountains and the rivers.
Here’s my post about my trip to Suncheon Bay: digging deep: edgy korean bus culture, tea bushes & wetlands, & the surrendered.
Now, I’m supposed to nominate 5 other bloggers to come up with their 7 Super Shots. Here’s who I nominate:
Apple juice, orange juice or prune juice?
Since my choices are limited here, I’ll say orange juice. But only if it’s watered down with some soda water!! My true favorite isn’t listed here: mango juice!
What is your favorite animal?
I love horses. Especially sleek black thoroughbreds. I love to ride them, even though I’m not an experienced rider, and I love how beautiful they are. When I was a kid, I relentlessly begged my parents for a horse, but they never gave in. Someday, I would love to learn to really ride and jump and have horses of my own.
What are two things in nature do you find most beautiful?
Waterfalls and unusual rock formations, especially with castles or monasteries built on top of them, or cave churches or subterranean cities dug out of them.
Are you awake before dawn? Or are you awake before noon?
I’m almost always awake before dawn. Usually around the time shown on this clock!
Here are Cee’s life questions for week #15. This is a great way for bloggers to get to know each other; it also encourages us as bloggers to share stuff about ourselves with our readers that we might not otherwise write about. Thanks again to Cee for Share Your World – Week 15!!
If you had to move to a state or country besides the one you currently live in, where would you move and why?
I would move to Turkey, preferably Istanbul. I love the rolling hills and the colorful houses of Istanbul, and how the city straddles two continents across the Sea of Marmara and the Bosphorus. It’s breathtaking, the way the city sits on the water, with the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia on the hill. I also love the coast along the Aegean Sea and the inland area of Cappadocia. Turkey is romantic and rich with history and the people are amazingly friendly. Hands down, this would be my choice.
If you were a car or truck, what make, model, year and color would you be?
I would be a hunter green 1974 Jaguar XKE Convertible. I had a friend in high school who owned one and we were able to cruise around in it looking and feeling oh-so-cool. Honestly, I’ve never really cared much about cars; my only care is that the car be dependable and get me where I want to go without breaking down. But, if I had to choose, this would be the one. Oh yes.
What one thing have you not done that you really want to do?
There are hundreds of things I really want to do (see my recent blog post: things to do before i die ~ otherwise known as my “before-i-kick-the-bucket list”), but since I can only do one thing at a time, the thing I want to do next is to take a yacht or ferry around the Greek islands and explore mainland Greece. My plan is to do that this summer.
As far as personal accomplishment goals, I’ve written the first draft of a novel, but for some reason I can’t seem to make myself revise it. No one has ever seen it except me. So, I guess the thing I really want to do is revise it and get it published.
Where do you eat breakfast?
I usually eat breakfast in front of my computer in the morning, while catching up on emails and reading my favorite blogs and reading any comments on my own blog. When I’m traveling, my favorite place to eat breakfast is on a rooftop overlooking some beautiful landscape.
Tuesday, February 28: I just discovered Cee’s Life Photography Blog! She has created a fun little challenge for bloggers. She posts questions each week so all the bloggers out there can get to know each other. I think I’m getting addicted to these challenges, such as the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge and Karma’s Photo Hunt. I try to focus most of my blog posts on Oman, but sometimes it’s fun to venture into far-flung territories. To spread my wings, to expand my mind and open my heart. I am a dreamer, after all. Here are this week’s questions with my answers.
- What songs are included on the soundtrack to your life? I have a lot of love-related songs in the soundtrack to my life, despite the fact that right now, I am bereft of love… 😦 Still, there is always hope: “I & Love & You” by the Avett Brothers, “I Think I’m in Love” by Beck, “Falling Slowly” by Glen Hansard, “Fragile Heart” by Jewel, “Dance Me to the End of Love” and “In My Secret Life,” both by Leonard Cohen, and “If You Want Me” by Marketa Irglova. All these songs signify a readiness to find that special someone out there. Maybe he is out there, somewhere. “Silver Lining” by Rilo Kiley is the story of one of my truest loves, or so I thought at the time. “My Slumbering Heart” by Rilo Kiley describes the state I’m in right now in my love life.
“The Gates of Istanbul” by Loreena McKennit holds a memory for me of lovely Turkey (both Istanbul and Göreme in Cappadocia). “We May Never Pass this Way” by Seals & Croft is from the soundtrack of my high school years at York High School and the “fabulous foursome” who are still my dear friends to this day. “Dreams on Fire” from the movie Slumdog Millionaire and “Photographs & Memories” by Jim Croce are about the inner me, the dreamer and the diarist and blogger. I see myself, always, as a “Cinnamon Girl” by Neil Young & Crazy Horse. “Hail to Whatever You Found in the Sunlight that Surrounds You” by Rilo Kiley is a mystery, that great unsolvable and breathtaking mystery that is my unfolding life and the lives of those who touch my life, especially my children and my family.
- What is your favorite time of day? The morning. I love to get up early, sit in my pajamas with a cup of coffee and write. Outside my window I have a tree full of feathered friends that greet me with birdsong. And, since my maiden name is actually Birdsong, that is fitting. 🙂
- What is your favorite part of the town/city you live in? And what City and Country do you live?
I live in Nizwa, Oman. I am only temporarily here, as an English teacher at the university here. My favorite part of Nizwa is probably the hotel, the Falaj Daris, where if ever I get lonely I can go and likely meet up with other Westerners. Otherwise, it can get pretty darn lonely here sometimes.
- If happiness was the national currency, what kind of work would make you rich?
Traveling and writing, together. Traveling, and writing about it. Writing in general: my blog, short stories, my novel, poems. I’m trying ~ a wanna-be writer in the making. 🙂
If you’d like to read about my travels in Turkey, please visit catbird in turkey… 🙂
Saturday, January 28:
For me, hope is about reaching for the sky, believing that nothing is impossible. Hope is dreaming big, and sending these dreams, with faith, into a universe with no limits or boundaries.
I took this picture in July 2010 in Cappadocia, Turkey. At sunrise, forty balloons lifted off and dotted the sky with Technicolor dreams. I was in one of them! This was the first time in my entire life that I traveled alone, and though I was really nervous about going solo, this trip ended up being the most amazing adventure I’d ever had. This picture symbolizes my hope to be self-confident, to venture forth into the world whether I have anyone else with me or not. To be a fearless adventurer, always.
I wrote a short story once that embodies this theme: The Red Star Sky. Reach for the stars!! Hope! And keep the faith even when everything seems hopeless… 🙂