Friday, November 29, 2013

"Packing for the Road"

From Journal of American Medical Association Nov 27, 2013: Volume 310, #20

Packing for the Road
by Corey Fogelmanm MD

Packing for the road is a way
Of lightening the load. So much
That crowds the mind can at
Last be left behind. Yet if we
Leave what gimbals the keel, how
Off-center the chest can feel.
Perhaps we are nomads at our
Core, connected to what's
Essential and nothing more.

     My husband and I are seasoned travelers as you can tell from the many travel blogs on this site. Over the years of our peripatetic activities we have slowly learned how to pack very very light.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Masai: National Geographic Info

     The new National Geographic Magazine arrived in the mail yesterday. My mother subscribes to the magazine for me and I usually read through the entire magazine. I love the reports about strange places and strange nature that my husband and I have often seen in our travels. There was a little page blurb in the December magazine showing a Masai junior warrior doing the famous Masai jump. (See my post from 11/7/2013 on this blog.) But this photo is accompanied by a very interesting story about the Masai and their worldwide fame.
     Surprising to me was the fact that worldwide there are 80 products which include even expensive items such as cars, clothing and jewelry that carry the name of this tribe. I have not seen advertisements for these products but I would guess that images of these famous warriors are used to sell these items. If no images, for sure the worldwide known stature of this Kenyan and Tanzanian tribe are used. But as indicated by Isaac Ole Tialolo, speaking for the Masai Intellectual Property Initiative, no one has asked the Masai's permission to so use their name, reputation, and indeed their branding to sell these products.
     This Initiative organization is now reaching out to all the clans of the 3 million strong Masai nation, to elect an authorizing council to review requests to use this Masai branding and to review those products that already use the name. The plan would be similar to what our southwestern Navajo have done. Any merchandise that has been approved by the Council would bear a certificate that it is either manufactured and produced by Masai themselves, or their design and name has been officially approved by this Initiative. "As the cultural owners, we want respect," says Tialolo. "We want to protect our heritage, our name, our image."
     Article by Johanna Rizzo.

Here you can see the beadwork that the warriors
wear, around the neck, the wrist, and the waist. These
two guides are serving us the morning coffee break.
They are also wearing the olive green fleece sweaters
 of the Kenyan National Guide Service

Here is the rustic Masai beadwork store at Porini Amboselli Camp.
The beadwork inside the Masai store.

     When we were in Kenya and Tanzania, we purchased a few things that were definitely of Masai origin. At Porini Amboselli Camp there was a small rustic store which was selling particularly beadwork done by the women of the local Masai village. I actually purchased a beautiful orange multistranded necklace which I like very much for just the equivalent of $11.00, and my husband got a beaded collar. As you can see from the accompanying photos the Masai warriors all wear many forms of beaded work, but mostly around the neck and around the waist. These items could easily be branded Masai just as the Navajo silver jewelry is branded.

     Also the Masai make walking sticks and shields. Of course they also make their famous spears but I didn't see any of those for sale in the Masai store at Porini. There were some shields for sale. And in other souvenir shops along the way there were shields, and drums which might have come from some of the Masai tribes.

More beadwork.

African shields, maybe of Masai design.

Drum set.

This is the necklace I purchased at the Porini store. It is just
made of glass beads and brass couplings, but it certainly
involved a lot of hours of labor to string all of these beads.
I found it quite attractive and am wearing it often.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Winter Holidays

 I always try to be ecumenical. This is certainly a time of year which demands that when writing a public blog. In the United States we have three big holidays at this time of year during which three large and very different communities celebrate.

     Of course, we all know about Christmas in this country. But, of course, for you readers in other parts of the world, it might be that your exposure does not make Christmas an ubiquitous almost annoying, overwhelming holiday. For you I include some words about past Christmas traditions that I recall from my childhood. Please regard these comments as a Christmas greeting that will recall the warmth of Christmases past for you.

   Many Americans think that the real meaning of Christmas, that is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem, has disappeared in the materialistic culture in which we live. The Christmas story is told in the New Testament in the 4 Gospels. It includes the child being born in a manger, because there was no room at local inns.  Local shepherds learned of the birth from angels and come to worship the child. A star supposedly led wise men from afar to pay their tributes to the child. In the present, the Christmas holiday is one for family and friends to gather together and recall the family traditions, to feast, to give gifts, and to attend religious services. Most of what we all feel around this time of year has its origins in the traditions that we have grown up with. Every family has its own traditions that recall for them the warm feelings of family and community. Many of our American traditions have their origin in the Victorian Era in England. When Queen Victoria married her first cousin Prince Albert from Coburg, Germany, he brought the ideas of putting up a Christmas tree, the hanging of greens in the home, and the use of mistletoe to prompt shows of affection, as well as a transformation of holiday celebrations centered in  the family. Since that time decorating the home has become a large part of the holiday traditions as well. The decorations all around, inside and out, even on the streetlamps all remind us of this festive season. And now foremost in every one's plans are the festive gatherings. In many cases these gatherings take place in order to help the less fortunate. Sending gifts to the Armed Services or to areas of greatest need have become a larger part of the Christmas season. Whatever the traditions, they become a very important part of the household and family and are carried forward through  future generations.

Advent December 2-23. Christmas Eve December 24. Christmas Day December 25

     The Jews in the United States often celebrate Hanukkah and sometimes quite dramatically. This is because the Jewish religion needs to supply a holiday that can somehow withstand the overwhelming nature of Christmas in the United States. Hanukkah can provide some of that balance. It has nightly gifts for the children, and it is the Festival of Lights. The warm glow of 8 candles burning in the Menorah can make a home atmosphere that can compete with a lighted Christmas tree. The holiday has its special foods -- latkes, and it has its special games and songs -- dreidel game. The Hanukkah menorah and the dreidel provide nice symbols for representing the holiday. But what does Hanukkah really mean? Since my husband is an Israeli I know that in Israel which is a Jewish state, and where there is little celebration of Christmas, -- just some Christmas Eve religious rituals by the various Christian churches in Bethlehem and Nazareth, Hanukkah is a relatively minor holiday. It stands for freedom. It celebrates the victory of  the Judah Maccabees in retaking the Great Temple from the Seleucid rulers. Because the Temple had been filled with Greek gods, there was no holy oil to fill the lamps to light the Sabbath lights. A very small amount of oil was found and it lasted a full 8 nights until new oil could be produced. The 8 nights of candles represent that miracle. This year Hanukkah is quite unique in that the first day of the 8 day holiday is on Thanksgiving.

Hanukkah November 28 to December 5th.

Photo from
   I would venture to say that most of the Caucasian world doesn't know what Kwanzaa is. I didn't know. So come along and learn with me. Our African American neighbors may celebrate this holiday and we need to know about it. Like the other two holidays of this season, it celebrates various values that are universal and responsible for happiness and success in a people. Kwanzaa was created in 1966 at the University of California, Long Beach, by Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor of African Studies. He felt that the black American community needed a holiday of its own at this season so that people of the African diaspora would not be forced into celebrations of Christmas or Hanukkah which originally had no meaning to these peoples from Africa. The word means "first fruits of the harvest," in Swahili. Symbols are colorful African  kente cloth, fruits, a cup to share libations, and the kinara, a seven candle candelabra providing the lighting. The seven principles of Kwanzaa are: Unity, Self-determination, Collective Work and Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity, and Faith. This holiday was certainly created in response and to further Black Pride and Black Power. A postage stamp was first made for Kwanzaa in 1997. In recent years, the celebration of the holiday may have dwindled somewhat but most holiday communities still include it at this time of year. To some degree the holiday has become recognized in other parts of the world as well.

Kwanzaa  December 26 to Jan 1.

     Whatever your tradition at this time of year, whatever your religion, whatever your beliefs -- all of these holidays have a similar meaning which is to be with friends and families and to provide some sort of spiritual expression that recalls these shared moments from year to year. Giving of gifts and of your time have become deeply involved in the celebrations as well. Sometimes this gift giving has been carried to extreme. It may be more meaningful to give self made gifts or to give of your time instead of the large things or objects which require a lot of money expenditure.

     And of course before we even begin any of these three holidays, we have one we all celebrate: Thanksgiving. Just remember to call to attention everything we are grateful for while at the Feast Day table.  My best wishes at this time of year to all my readers from all over the world. I know that some of you celebrate none of these holidays and have very spiritual occasions at other times of the year. Allow me to extend Best Wishes to you all and to hope that our diversity however maintained provides a message of unity that can bring peace and happiness to a world widely troubled right now.

     Happy Holidays to you all as we draw near the end of 2013. And a very Happy New Year!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Mystery Photo #24 First name the city.

     This photo has several related questions depending on your astuteness in identifying this place. First name the city, country. Then try to name the monument, which is really very impressive just as this photo suggests. Then try to name the white building in the distance to the left. This distant building probably provides an important clue as well. When I post the answers I will include some other nearby tourist sites.


Friday, November 15, 2013

Mystery Photo #23: Assisi, Italy and Mount Tabor by our connection.

       The Mystery Photo #23 depicts the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi  An aerial view of the Basilica appeared on this 1920 travel poster in the photo below to the right. But this town of 25,000 people with 3700 residents within the surviving medieval walls of Old Town contains many other churches and landmark sites. Below on the right is the Roman facade of the Temple of Minerva converted in the first centuries of the Common Era to a Christian church. The bell tower on the right is called the Municipal Tower.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Ground Zero Now and downtown in New York City!

The High Line
       After our niece's wedding in May we spent a couple days in New York City. We stayed at the Hilton Hotel on 8th Ave and 48th Street so we would be near our shows around Broadway. But on the second day, a cousin who is native to the city picked us up and decided to show us a few sights we had never seen. We headed downtown by car.
     . We parked the car and walked up onto the High Line walkway that was once the elevated train down there, a portion of the old West Side line of the New York Central Line spur. Briefly the history of this line began in 1929, but with the shift to transcontinental trucking in the 1950s, this line slowly lost one of its chief commercial supports. The southern end of the line was demolished in 1960. Though trains operated on parts of the line until 1980, it was closed from that point until 2009. Instead of tearing down these elevated platforms on which trains used to run, it cost less to develop these old track platforms into gardens and walkways. The planting beds are the old track lines many with the rails still in place. The plantings are mostly native often showcasing the plants that had colonized the old right of way. The hardscape in addition to walkways and plazas includes built in benches, chaise lounges and in one place chaises that roll on the rails to take advantage of the sun at different times of the day. Many people utilize these irregular green spaces for lunch, for reading, for sunning, or just for walking from one place to the other. Food vendors and other vending kiosks have begun to occupy spaces along these walks and there is an atmosphere of serenity and healthy activity. And the green walkways are actually safer than the street below. Although originally no one could explain this, it appears it is because these walkways are visible from the buildings that adjoin them. Therefore when you walk these spaces, you are never alone as you might be on the street below. It is along one of these green areas that the Whitney Museum of Art is building an annex, instead of adding on to its museum in Midtown. Real estate prices near the High Line have risen and much high end living space and commercial space has moved in nearby. The High Line now stretches from 3 blocks south of 14th Street (Gansevoort Street) to 30th Street. There is a Stage 3 currently under construction at the north end which will extend in a sharp turn west and then north to 34th Street.  Here are some photos of these spaces.

The Standard Hotel is a new property built over the walkway.
The IAC Building (at left) by Frank Gehry, located at 18th Street.

The Chelsea Market Building, once the National Biscuit Co. factory.

Looking east toward Lower Manhattan.

Looking west across the Hudson from the High Line.
The plantings among the remaining rails of the old West Side Line.

     Near this green space is the famous Chelsea Market of Lower Manhattan. In fact the High Line actually passes through the 2nd floor of the Chelsea Market building. What a colorful place the food concourse is. If I lived and cooked in New York city I would definitely make this at least a weekly stop. There are multiple shops and boutiques in addition to all the food markets. Restaurants located on the food concourse cooperate with the food markets so that the freshest produce, meats and sea food are readily available for both retail and food preparation. And all spaces and corridors take advantage of the character of the building itself with the visible infrastructure. The main building pictured below was once the National Biscuit Company factory, the makers of Oreo Cookies.  Many of the original brick walls and arches of the building add the charm of this venue. Across 10th Avenue, accessed by a pedestrian bridge, office space is available which has offered space to several media titans: Oxygen Network, Food network, a local cable TV station, recently Google and other media companies.

Between 14th and 15th Street, the tracks of the High Line run through the
second floor of the Chelsea Market Building.

Inside Chelsea Market building.

A few photos from the sea food market.

Another long corridor inside Chelsea Market building.
     I was prompted to include these photos from our May New York visit now, because just a few days ago, the lighted spire was placed atop the Freedom Tower, the tallest building in the United States counting the spire as was decided by a so called "Tall Building Council" just today in Chicago. It has been 12 years since crazy militant individuals in the name of Islam, having hijacked that religion, flew hijacked planes into the World Trade Center in New York city.  I was so refreshed by the remarkable changes that have taken place in Lower Manhattan. The area is booming. There are all sorts of new buildings down there which have sprung up to fill in the void left after that devastating disaster of 2001. Our photos show the beauty of this building and of this area of the southern tip of Manhattan. There is a wide boulevard with a lot of green space between the lanes of the boulevard. It stretches from east to west across the island down there with Freedom Tower serving as its axis.
The spire being placed atop the Freedom Tower.

Freedom Tower

The base of Freedom Tower

All new buildings around Freedom Tower

Freedom Tower in May; it is now complete.

     One of the great characteristics of the Big Apple is its neighborhoods. Our cousins then drove us to their apartment in Forest Hills, Queens. Near their apartment building is an area of brick homes dating to the 1910s which has a flavor unlike what you would expect in any of the boroughs of New York, but instead seemingly would be more at home out on Long Island. This area is entered at Station Square just off Queens Boulevard and is called Forest Hills Gardens. This lovely area was a planned community started in 1909 to provide homes to upper middle class people who wished to commute to Manhattan. The Tudor and Colonial homes that characterize this area have been lovingly maintained and now sell for anywhere from 1.5 million to as much as 4 million. Surrounding the Forest Hills Garden area is Forest Hills itself, now the most exclusive area in Queens for apartments and condominiums and some single family homes as well. Forest Hills was once the home of the US Open Tennis Championship at the West Side Tennis Club, until in 1977 the tournament moved to Flushing Meadows. Here are some photos of the single family home areas of Forest Hills  Gardens.

Station Square entrance to Forest Hills Gardens

       Our cousin lives in one of the apartment buildings of Forest Hills. Below he is showing us his building and inviting us in for lunch. We ended the day with a very enjoyable social visit at their apartment. They love their city and we were glad they took the time to show us some of these little visited areas of the Big Apple.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Mystery Photo #23

     I have not posted a Mystery Photo for a long time. In looking through all of my husband's photos from our various trips, I have already posted a lot of the easier ones. Are you up for a more difficult one? I will show this international landmark and religious site with several views to try to guide you in the correct direction. Name the city in which this famous Basilica resides. Hint: the Basilica contains the name of a Saint and the name of the city. This Basilica is probably one of the most religious sites in the world for many.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Masai -- Tribal Traditions Continue!

     In a previous posting, I described how various Masai tribes have held onto their traditions, but have also entered into cooperative agreements to allow several wildlife Conservancies to be created in Kenya along the Masai Mara National Reserve, and along Amboselli National Park and in a few other locations in Kenya.  These conservancies have been created in the last 10 to 12 years and have expanded the percentage of Kenyan land that is protected in some way for wildlife from just 8% to 15%. There is no doubt that this has had a huge benefit on tourism and numbers of wild animals in the country of Kenya. It is quite interesting that as you drive from Masai land that is being grazed extensively and cross the border onto a Conservancy, the visible effect is almost instantaneous. In the distance of a tenth of a mile, you move from seeing the huge herds of cattle and goats with their Masai herdsmen, to seeing a breeding herd of Grant's gazelles, then giraffes, then impala, and so on. The change is indeed instantaneous.
      After our stays at Porini Lion Camp, and Porini Mara Camp, and after one night staying near Lake Nakuru National Park, in a lodge, we then moved on to Porini Amboselli Camp, further south in Kenya. We were still in Masai territory and at this camp, all employees including the director and the chef were Masai. In addition to traveling into Amboselli National Park known for its huge numbers of elephants, we were able to visit a traditional Masai village. One of the employees of the Porini camp acted as our guide. I have some gorgeous photos of this visit. And the visit allows me to narrate what we learned about the Masai traditions.

Much of the village has turned out to welcome us, all dressed in their finest.

Friday, November 1, 2013

A Book Review: Tramp Royale by Robert A. Heinlein

     You know me as a world traveler from reading many of these posts. I am, of course, in the process of writing about our most recent trip to Kenya and Tanzania (there will be more posts about that trip). But this post is about a book written about world travel.

     I have a fetish that I can't go anywhere without carrying some reading material with me. There just might be some down time and I would lack for something to occupy my mind so I would need a book or a magazine. I have been known to take ridicule for carrying a paperback novel to a baseball game. Though of course some non baseball fans might actually understand such a plan. Last week we went to a movie and I carried a hard cover novel that I had checked out of the library. We ran into some friends on the way out of the theatre and the gentleman said to me, "Ah, Robert Heinlein. You're reading science fiction." Then I had to explain. Yes, I was reading Robert Heinlein but no I was not reading science fiction, not in the case of this book.
    I don't recall how I found this book as its cover and its author just caught my eye. The book is entitled Tramp Royale and it was written by the famous and prolific sci fi writer that most people even those who are not sci fi fans recognize, Robert A. Heinlein. But this book is his candid tale of a trip around the world with his wife Ticky (Virginia Heinlein) taken in 1953-54. They travel by ship much of the way, but also by train and by plane. They chose the Southern Hemisphere because no war was interrupting that route, whereas difficulties with the Communists would prevent a Northern Hemisphere circumnavigation of the globe, although Heinlein says in the book that he plans to do that route once "the Communist thing calms down, if it ever does." The book was published posthumously in 1992 and unfortunately is now out of print.  It was interesting to read because we have been in many of the places he traveled, just about 50 to 60 years later. Some of the things he found true of various Latin American countries, and of Australia still apply, I think. He was very critical of society in New Zealand. I certainly agree that it is a beautiful place, but I also agree with him that the food and cooking there is absolutely awful. But I didn't pick up on the rudeness or the regimentation and rigidity. Maybe things have changed in there in the last 60 years.
     Robert Anson Heinlein was born in 1907, in Missouri, grew up in Kansas City when the family moved there. He had an early interest in astronomy and read all the science fiction he could get his hands on. He entered the Naval Academy at Annapolis, MD when he was 18 and after graduating 20th in his class, 5th academically, he served on the USS Lexington and later the USS Roper. He left the Armed Services due to pulmonary tuberculosis in 1933 and received disability payments from the Services. He attended UCLA for a time but then left and tried his hand at politics without much success. During WW II he served in the Aeronautics division where he met his second wife Virginia. the two were married in 1948, and were inseparable after that time. Ginny, as she liked to be called, helped him in his writing career, traveled the world with him, took care of him through health and illness, and probably served as a role model for the strong and independent females who starred in his fiction writing. Initially Heinlein wrote adolescent science fiction, then what is called space opera, and at times science fiction short stories. In later years of his writing he was one of the first to write social science fiction and considered such topics as racism, and feminism and was responsible for turning science fiction into a more literary genre. He won the coveted Hugo Award four times for his novels, and received 3 Retro Hugos awarded 50 years after a book's publication. He was awarded the Science Fiction Writers' Grand Master Award in 1974, later to be followed by Arthur C. Clark and Isaac Asimov. All three wrote during the so-called Golden Age of science fiction writing. He died in 1988. Heinlein published 32 novels, 59 short stories, and 16 collections during his life. Two non fiction books, one novel, 4 collections and two poems have been published posthumously. 
       There is still a Heinlein Society at the following link with all kinds of information, a concordance for his many books, a newsletter and events listed. I think this is still active, but the last newsletter and event listed were in 2012. But keep an eye on this site if you like to read about Heinlein. There is also a very thorough biography of both Robert and Virginia Heinlein.
     Getting back to Tramp Royale, Heinlein says he was influenced by Rudyard Kipling. He includes a poem at the end of Tramp Royale, written by Rudyard Kipling which I think definitely accent with which it is written. There is also a link to a gentleman reciting it with the accent.  There is no doubt that from this poem came the title of RAH's book.

Sestina of the Tramp-Royal
By Rudyard Kipling 1865–1936 Rudyard Kipling
Speakin’ in general, I ’ave tried ’em all—
The ’appy roads that take you o’er the world.   
Speakin’ in general, I ’ave found them good   
For such as cannot use one bed too long,   
But must get ’ence, the same as I ’ave done,   
An’ go observin’ matters till they die.

What do it matter where or ’ow we die,
So long as we’ve our ’ealth to watch it all—
The different ways that different things are done,   
An’ men an’ women lovin’ in this world;   
Takin’ our chances as they come along,   
An’ when they ain’t, pretendin’ they are good?

In cash or credit—no, it aren’t no good;   
You ’ave to ’ave the ’abit or you’d die,
Unless you lived your life but one day long,   
Nor didn’t prophesy nor fret at all,
But drew your tucker some’ow from the world,   
An’ never bothered what you might ha’ done.

But, Gawd, what things are they I ’aven’t done?   
I’ve turned my ’and to most, an’ turned it good,   
In various situations round the world—
For ’im that doth not work must surely die;   
But that's no reason man should labour all   
’Is life on one same shift—life’s none so long.

Therefore, from job to job I’ve moved along.   
Pay couldn’t ’old me when my time was done,   
For something in my ’ead upset it all,
Till I ’ad dropped whatever ’twas for good,   
An’, out at sea, be’eld the dock-lights die,
An’ met my mate—the wind that tramps the world!

It’s like a book, I think, this bloomin’ world,   
Which you can read and care for just so long,   
But presently you feel that you will die   
Unless you get the page you’re readin’ done,   
An’ turn another—likely not so good;   
But what you’re after is to turn ’em all.

Gawd bless this world! Whatever she ’ath done—
Excep’ when awful long I’ve found it good.   
So write, before I die, ‘’E liked it all!’
Source: A Choice of Kipling's Verse (1943)

     One of my goals in my blog has been to offer information and links to go further, to expand the exploration of some topic, to dig further and learn more, indeed even to travel further and see more in your travel of the Internet. So here is a link that delves into Rudyard Kipling's philosophy of life expressed in this poem and his goal for his life, as expressed by this Cockney narrator. Read and learn even more on travel.