Category Archives: Thoughts

Dreaming of Jerusalem

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Jerusalem

Jerusalem’s Old Town (Photo: Where Is My Suitcase)

During these special days of Easter and Passover the thoughts, yearnings, and devotions of millions of faithful around the world converge on one of the oldest and holiest of cities: Jerusalem. Special for the world’s three major religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Jerusalem’s walled Old City – or Al-Quds, or the Holy City in Arabic, stretches over less than one square mile and yet is a universe in itself.

No, I haven’t been to Jerusalem. Yet. It definitely is on my to-do list. But this weekend I ventured to connect with Jerusalem somehow, even if just remotely. A good place to start? If you want to transport yourself to a place you’re dreaming about, use the help of a fellow blogger who has already been there. In my case that blogger is a friend at Where Is My Suitcase. I love the photos and this description of roaming around in the Old City: Read the rest of this entry

Award time!

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This acknowledgment has been long overdue: many thanks to campervan adventurer Vicky and travel-loving Sunshine for nominating me to receive the Versatile Blogger Award, and to Sheila from Cape Cod for nominating me for the Awesome Blog Content (ABC) Award! It’s a very gratifying feeling to know that when you post something on your blog somebody out there is actually reading – and enjoying – what you write =)

About the Versatile Blogger’s Award
The Versatile Blogger’s Award is a way for bloggers to support each other and recognize interesting and inspiring blogs. There rules to accept this award are:

  • Nominate 15 fellow bloggers who are relatively new to blogging
  • Let the nominated bloggers know that they have been nominated for this award
  • Share 7 random facts about yourself
  • Thank the blogger who has nominated you
  • Add the Versatile Award picture to your post

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Russia you’ve never seen before

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A boy at the Tillia-Kari mosque in Samarkand, present-day Uzbekistan, ca. 1910

I recently came across some amazing photos from a century ago in Russia that I just have to share! Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii was an early pioneer of color photography, a skill he honed in his studio and laboratory in Saint Petersburg established in 1901. His most famous photo is the only color portrait of Leo Tolstoy but he’s also known for amazing images of early 20th century Russian Empire. Impressed with his work, Tsar Nicholas II sent Prokudin-Gorsky on a mission to document in color the country’s expanse and its inhabitants. He went on to create a rich collection photos – a real treasure chest of history. He emigrated in 1918 following the October Revolution and settled in Paris, where he lived until his death in 1944.

His technique involved a camera that took a series of three monochrome (black and white) pictures in quick succession, each through a different-colored filter: red, green, and blue. He then projected all three images together to obtain near true color. Read the rest of this entry

Streetcars of yore and of tomorrow

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New DC streetcar (image source: http://dc.gov)

As a European I have a special fondness for streetcars. Yes, they can be noisy and a bit slow but they get you where you need to go and all that Old World charm makes me love them! But they are not as easy to find on this side of the Atlantic. American cities used to have streetcars aplenty but due to a variety of factors – not the least of them being the determination of Big Oil and Big Auto to put everybody behind the wheel of a car – few survived various so-called urban redevelopment plans and suburban sprawl. For one, January 28, 1962 marked the end of the century of streetcars in Washington, DC (literally: the first line started operating in 1862). It makes this year a round 50th anniversary of a streetcar-less city. Read the rest of this entry

Out of the mountain of despair: MLK Memorial

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MLK Memorial

This has been on my to-do list for a while, so it only seemed fitting to finally visit Martin Luther King Jr’s Memorial on this sunny but chilly Monday (off). I’ve seen the Memorial from a distance before while driving by but never up close. It opened to the public last August but the official dedication ceremony was delayed until October due to Hurricane Irene. Many visitors have already been there since then. Obviously today it was an especially popular destination with whole families out and about despite the frigid temperature. The visitors span the demographic gamut: kids in colorful hats, couples strolling hand in hand, even a grandma with a walker. Everybody – including me – snapping lots of pictures.

The Memorial sits on the westen edge of the Tidal Basin along the axis linking the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials. It consists of the three main elements. First, symbolic Mountain of Despair, a massive boulder with a passageway carved right through it, forms the main gate to the Memorial. The centerpiece of the Memorial, a Stone of Hope, rises a few feet beyond that gate, with a monumental relief of Martin Luther King carved as emerging from the far side of the granite mass. On both sides, a two-winged inscription wall shows excerpts from King’s sermons and speeches. Read the rest of this entry

Lessons from 2011

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The road ahead may be long…

Sonora desert, Arizona (January)

…and winding

Road to Park City, Utah (January)

but make sure to stop and smell the blossoms

Cherry blossoms, Washington DC (March)

take time out

Big Island, Hawaii (April)

think deep thoughts

Nairobi, Kenya (May)

follow the rainbow

Sopot, Poland (June)

find new perspective

Yerevan, Armenia (June)

find new direction

Manila, Philippines (July)

look at the bright side

Muir Woods, California (August)

and don’t forget to feed the squirrels

Home (December)

Noodkamp diary

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South African shantytown (photo: http://www.concierge.com)

In another unexpected unearthing of an old travel piece, I found this diary entry I wrote ten years ago during a trip to South Africa that changed my life. It was my first time outside Europe and the U.S., a trip that was delightful, shocking, and inspiring at the same time. And it made me want more – see more, experience more, understand more… Here is one special evening from that trip.

June 4, 2001
Noodkamp, shantytown outside of Wellington, Western Cape, South Africa

As I watch the sun slowly bow its head behind the rugged roofs, another gust of penetrating breeze makes me shiver. Who thought it would be so chilly in Africa of all places?! I still didn’t quite become used to June being the middle of winter. There was not enough time, though, to think about the weather. I was there to record an oral history interview with someone who lived though the painful past of this colorful nation, so deeply torn apart and now awaiting brighter future. Read the rest of this entry

Global marketplace of institutions

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Sarojini Nagar (Image:thebetterindia.com)

I just dug out an old essay I wrote in 2002 after a trip to India. To quote John Irving from his great book A Son of the Circus, this blog “isn’t about India. I don’t know India. I was there only once, for less than a month.” Rather, New Delhi gave me some food for thought on broader issues. Still seems pretty fresh (I hope) even a decade later. Sorry, no original images – it was before I had a digital camera. One day I’ll get around to scanning those old films…

New Delhi, India
March 14, 2002

The road ahead is so packed that I – a curious shopper – barely make my way through the kaleidoscope of rainbow fabrics stacked to the roof of every street stand, beads sparkling in henna-embellished hands of merchants, and pots constantly spouting ginger- and cardamom-spiced clouds that tantalize passers-by to stop for a snack. Once in a while, an enormous purple blossom drops heavily from a nearby tree right in the middle of this fantastic scene, quickly crushed by a rushing foot, rickshaw, or hoof into what seems like a crimson vein nourishing the place. Typical spring day at the Sarojini Nagar market… Read the rest of this entry