Sunday, May 29, 2011

Peshawar, Pakistan

When I was little I would go over to my next door neighbors house to visit. She was an older lady who been a doctor at a time there were very few women doctors. I would sit on the floor and play with her little Scottish Terrier Alec, as she told me of her travels. She had traveled all over the world on steamer ships and across oceans to "exotic" places. At least it all sounded very exotic to me and that's probably when I got the bug. I dreamed of traveling the world too (and the more "exotic" the better!)

There is something about being in a place that is completely different than your own world, that is so exciting. The sounds, the smells, the sites ... all of your senses wake up to something new. In Peshawar , I woke up to hear the Islamic call to prayer, then the squeaking wheels of wooden cards and sounds of hooves on the road below in the early morning.

We stayed in an amazing little hotel called the Kahn Club. My sister and my room was on the top floor, up six flights on a steep winding and somewhat treacherous staircase. Our room had very high ceilings with those brass pendant lamps with tiny holes that, when you'd turn them on at night, the whole room turns into a beautiful kaleidoscope! The bedspreads were hand block-printed textiles when we were there. After searching all over google I found this photo of what must have been our room because of the high ceiling on the top floor. Click HERE to see it! Every room had a "jewel theme" ... the garnet room, the topaz room etc.

It was what I always dreamed of ... a far off land ... the smells of cumin and coriander in the markets and beautiful music coming through doorways out into the streets. It was amazing. I loved it!

Peshawar, Pakistan 1997
Scanned from prints from my old manual 35mm Minolta

Looking down from our hotel room at the Kahn Club ...

I love this photo below. It's out on the street but it reminds me of the fresh pomegranate and apple juices at the hotel. The restaurant had no chairs, but all floor cushions with low tables and served beautiful Afghan food including the most aMAZing sauteed eggplant with a yogurt coriander sauce. Heavenly. The restaurant was dimly lit, with high wood beamed ceilings and dark red brick walls with those same amazing brass fixtures that created beautiful patterns of light on the ceiling and walls.

I have old super VHSc tapes of the hotel and of Peshawar that I need to figure out how to put on the computer! Anyway ... more Pakistan to come!

I am off to finish my paper on the Italian Baroque in Rome and to study for my Italian Final on Thursday! Hope you are all having a wonderful weekend!

Blessings and light to you all!

Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming,
we lose the excitement of possibilities.
Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.

~Gloria Steinem

Monday, May 23, 2011

Pakistan ...

Well, I promised more Pakistan photos, so here goes! The only problem is that I am scanning prints and that is not working very well. The prints of these actually came out beautifully and they are pretty vivid with blues and turquoise but the saturation here is all blending together. Anyway, they were taken with my favorite camera, an old manual 1970s 35mm Minolta. The other Pakistan photos are all taken with the same camera as well.

These were taken after leaving Islamabad, heading Northeast to Kaghan (in the previous post.) I will ask my Dad if he knows exactly where. This kid was adorable and happy to be photographed, as I recall. We saw this place and had to pull off the road. (That happened a lot.)

Pakistan 1997

The earth has disappeared beneath my feet,
Illusion fled from all my ecstasy.

Now like a radiant sky creature
God keeps opening.

God keeps opening
Inside of Me.


Stay close to any sounds that make you glad you are alive.

I found this (below) on Youtube.
One of the voices is Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn, the world renowned Pakistani Musician,
who mostly sang Sufi devotional music. He had a six octave range and was
considered one of the greatest singers ever recorded.
He is also on one of my all time favorite soundtracks,
He passed away in 1997.

Have a fabulous week!! I will be studying for my Italian oral exam, writing a paper on the film Malena and of course catching up on my art history. We are now in the "Enlightenment" (though it doesn't feel like it!)

Blessings and light!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Pastels and Pakistan

The semester is winding down and finals are coming up in a couple of weeks. (Actually the Italian oral final is a week from today!) But, in the midst of that, I was determined to make it to my pastel workshop last Saturday, and the little stone house below is the result. I kept it really loose and though I used a photo as reference, it looks more how Northern Pakistan looks in my memory. (click to enlarge)

pastel and watercolor underpainting on Wallace paper

My parents moved to Islamabad on business at the end of 1995 and my sister and I were able to go over in the fall of '97. With all the talk of Pakistan lately it brings up a lot of memories, although the Pakistan on television is familiar at times, it isn't like the experience I had of this fascinating and often incredibly beautiful country.

One weekend we headed northwest toward the Kaghan Pass at the foot of the Himalayas and the Karakorams. If you can see the narrowness of the road below, try to imagine when trucks and Land Rovers are passing each other. It seems impossible but they do it and it is terrifying! There were times when the drop off was 1,000 to 2,000 feet down to the river bed below. You'd look out the window and the tires would be just inches from the edge. Oy.

Beautiful Pakistan, fall 1997

We stopped at a shed in one of these little villages we passed through for tea. I am not so sure it was a great idea considering that the next day I had some ... stomach issues and had to stay in the room most of the day.

I'll have to print up some slides from the place where we stayed. I remember ordering a chicken dish in the restaurant and seeing someone walk by outside with a live chicken a couple minutes later.

I also remember my sister and I stuffing towels at the base of the hotel room door that went to the outside. There was a two inch space at the base, where the door should meet the ground, and where the coming of winter was blowing off the mountains and right into our room. It was freezing. However, we did have a very old, dangerous looking, electric space heater that we prayed wouldn't catch our sleeping bags on fire. I just kept thinking of the crazy climbers that sleep on K2!

Anyway, it was awesome. I love an adventure!

Our guide was so sweet and had the greatest smile. (He has my extra shirt and my sister's extra sweater tied around him.) I think his name was Bashir which was also the name of my Mom's driver. As a foreigner you have to have a driver.

The following year in 1998 my Dad got a call from the U.S. ambassador saying my parents needed to get on a plane and get out of Pakistan. As they took off, President Clinton was dropping bombs on an Al Qaeda camp across the border in Afghanistan. My parents never went back.

I am going to scan more pictures to show you of our adventures in Pakistan. I was there for three amazing weeks and when I got on the airplane to leave, I started crying. Somehow I knew I would probably never make it back to that amazing country and I would never again see the face of the sweet Razak, who cooked for my parents and who would stand on the front stoop and begin to cry whenever my Mom would leave town. I guess he knew that someday it would be for good. I knew I would never again see any of them and sometimes it sucks to be right.

I am just so glad I got to experience it and I can't wait to show you more!

Hope you are all doing great and I will be around to see you soon!

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.
To keep our faces toward change
and behave like free spirits
in the presence of fate
is strength undefeatable.

~Helen Keller

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Revlon Run/Walk for Women ... Fight like a Girl

When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision,
then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.

~Audre Lorde

The EIF Revlon Revlon Run/Walk for Women's Cancers was yesterday. I am not even quite sure what to say about it. It was an intense experience! At the start you could feel all of this energy ... it was very "charged." It's hard to explain but I'll try!

There was a beautiful, supportive atmosphere and a very emotional component as well. People held up signs of lost loved ones and at times there were survivors giving speeches ... but there was also this very joyful music and a powerful sense of excitement amongst the crowd.

Before the start, Halle Berry spoke and then, as the walkers got to the starting line she would shout out the team names (a lot of people walked in teams and some had rather funny names like, "Walkers for Knockers.") Halle was on a walkway over the top of the starting line. As Caroline (one of my oldest friends and my walking buddy) and I got close to her, something struck Halle and she could barely keep it together. She was trying not to completely burst into tears, at which point Caroline and I almost did!

The starting line ...

Beautiful Halle right before she almost "lost it." You can tell she is an emotional, sweet soul!

Nothing is so strong as gentleness.
Nothing is so gentle as real strength.

~Frances de Sale

Best moment? ... Walking through the tunnel onto the field of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum!!! I was there for the '84 Olympic Games and had seen my High School Football team make the championship there! It was so exciting to be there!

With Caroline just before the finish line ... My t-shirt says "Fight light a Girl!" and is for ovarian cancer awareness.

The more you care,
the stronger you can be.

~Jim Rohn

There were sweet volunteers giving out metals to the runners and walkers, and a beautiful rose to each of the survivors. I took my rose and almost burst into tears again. I have a strange relationship with the label "survivor" but as one of Caroline's friends pointed out, "people just getting diagnosed or going through treatment can see you and have hope." Good point, but I think I will only be wearing the survivor hat (literally, that hat says "survivor"on it) when I "walk the walk."

Survivor Roses ...

I am very happy I did it.
It was a growing experience and thanks to my generous friends and family
(some of you here!)

Thanks to everyone for their support!
Make sure that you do what you can to take care of yourselves.
Women, do your breast exams, yearly checkups, ask questions and be familiar with the symptoms of ovarian cancer!

Men, talk to your doctors about what tests you should have and if you feel like somethings not quite right, don't give up until until you figure out what it is! Actually, that goes for everyone!

Happy Mother's Day
to all the amazing Moms out there
including MINE!!! :)

Blessings and light everybody!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Calendimaggio ... beam me up!!!

I can't believe it's been a whole year! If I could pull a Star Trek and get beamed anywhere this weekend, it would be to Assisi, for the Calendimaggio festival! Those Italians sure know how to put on a festival!

During Calendimaggio, upper and lower Assisi battle it out to see who can put on the most amazing medieval festival, with grand processions, music, costume dramas, archery and other medieval games. It's incredible! If you were were on my blog last year you might remember my enthusiasm for this unbelievable event that goes on for three days!

Calendimaggio 2010

If you are able to travel and can ever find a way to get there ... GET THERE! Steal your family member's airline miles and go! Seriously!

It is one of those experiences you should have in your life, if you are a traveler, love history, Italy or all of the above. It's the first weekend of May every year. Well... the first Thursday, Friday and Saturday so it depends on how it hits on the calendar.

When these banners (below) shot across, over the piazza, it was like magic. I wanted to burst into tears. There was no more enchanting and wonderful place to be than Assisi.

It was beautiful!

This is just a mini sampling of last years festivities but if you want to check out some aMAZing costumes and incredible moments from their productions last year, click right HERE.

I am rooting for the Parte de Sopra (upper Assisi) again this year. They have lost three years in a row! Think good thoughts for them this weekend. They work on this festival the entire year!

A thing of beauty is a joy forever.

~John Keats

Have a great weekend!


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Butterflies, Memories and Mariposa ...

You never know when you're making a memory.

~Rickie Lee Jones

My grandparents moved up to Mariposa, California from Anaheim in the 1970s. My dad told me my grandfather had worked up there in the 1930s during the depression, building roads through a government work program. He said my grandfather had been nostalgic for the place and had decided to retire up there.

As a kid, the drive took forever and my dad would have to pull our '66 GTO over to the side of the road because I would always get carsick. It seems like it would always hit at about the half way point of the trip. It took around six hours to get there from Ventura, after stopping for pancakes and egg McMuffins at the crack of dawn.

It was blazing hot up there in the summer but we'd walk to little man-made lake, go fishing, play pinball with our cousins at the arcade and walk to little market to buy bubblegum and sodas. On occasion we'd ride in my grandpa's old jeep and sometimes make the drive to Yosemite which was only about 40 minutes away.

I hadn't been back to Mariposa since my grandmother passed in the fall of 2001 shortly after 9/11. My Aunt and Uncle moved up there about 15 years ago, sometime after my grandfather passed away. After my grandmother passed, they moved into the house my grandfather built.

My aunt hasn't been feeling well so my parents and I finally made the trip up last weekend. (We do see my aunt. She drives through Ojai pretty often on her way South to visit her grandkids in Orange County and San Diego.)

Oh, and on this trip I took a half a Dramamine. I was drugged out and drowsy but I didn't throw up!

The road to Aunt Darlene's ...

The edge of town ... not sure what those buildings are, but I love the red.

Mariposa means Butterfly and it just happened to be Mariposa's annual Butterfly Festival, with chalk paintings along the creek and booths with homemade jam, crafts and various crocheted items. There was also entertainment and even a hometown parade!

They release hundreds of butterflies after letting each of the kids hold one. Who knew butterflies like oranges so much!?

This is where my grandma Mabel had her huge garden. I remember helping pick berries for her delicious jam (half would end up in the basket and the other half in my mouth) ... I also remember my grandmother running outside in her slippers to yell at the deer and chase them out of her garden.

This is Scooter, my aunts Jack Russell/Poodle who barks like crazy at humans
(us especially)
but not at the deer that now have their babies under the deck of the house.

The deer love my aunt. They think she's Snow White.
They come when she calls them
and some even let her pet them!


I got another picture with about six deer but after taking the photo my dad laughed and told me I'd caught a couple of the deer ... well let's just say they were being "romantic." So, in the interest of protecting their modesty, I posted these two girls.

Being up there brought back so many memories and made me so nostalgic!

Our way home ...

In memory everything seems to happen to music.

~Tennessee Williams

Life is all memory except for the one present moment
that goes by so quick you can hardly catch it going.

~Tennessee Williams

We all have our time machines.
Some take us back,
they're called memories.

Some take us forward, they're called dreams.

~Jeremy Irons

Hope you are all enjoying a lovely week!

Blessings and light!