visiting museums: prolonging a journey | south asian galleries – philadelphia museum of art |

“Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.” ~ Pat Conroy

When an invitation to relive or extend a journey offers itself, I will always take it, no matter in what form.  Often, after visiting a foreign country, I will bask in a book set in that locale, extending my experience of that place.  When I come across buildings or gardens with particular architectural styles, those commonly found in exotic locales — European Gothic cathedrals, Chinese dragons or gates, Japanese gardens, Islamic mosques — my heart skips a beat; I ease back in time to my wanderings through those magical places.  Whenever I take urban hikes through cities or natural landscapes, I feel that same sense of adventure I had when immersing myself in an exotic place; I remember the anticipation as I set off to explore China’s Longji Rice Terraces or Nepal’s village to village trails.

I felt a sense of exhilaration, as well as nostalgia and longing, on visiting the new South Asian Galleries at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  I was taken back to a not-so-long-ago time when I lived and traveled extensively in South Asia. I loved meandering through the happy reminders found in this place.

We had already visited the “Paint the Revolution” special exhibition and, rather than exhausting ourselves trying to see the rest of this great and sprawling museum, we picked one part of the permanent collection to visit.  We walked up to the second floor via the Great Stair Hall Balcony and headed for the reopened South Asian Galleries.

an archer at the top of the stairs
an archer at the top of the stairs

We passed through the European Art Gallery from 1100-1500 on our way to the South Asian Galleries.

First we came upon some mosaic tiles from Iran.  As these are Islamic, they reminded me of so many beautiful tiles I found in Oman, UAE, Egypt, and even in southern Spain, originating from the Moorish conquest.  These Tile Mosaic Panels from Iran (Isfahan) are from the Safavid dynasty, 1501-1736.

I visited what seemed like infinite numbers of Buddhist temples in Korea, Japan, China, Myanmar, Vietnam, Singapore, and Thailand, and, to this day, I always feel a sense of peace when I see Buddhist figures anywhere in the world.  Here, we found a gilded bronze White Tara, Buddhist Goddess of Compassion (1700s-1800s) from Inner Mongolia, Autonomous Region (Dolon Nor, Chahar province, China).  The compassionate Buddhist goddess Tara is a bodhisattva (Buddhist savior).  The eyes on her palms and forehead show that she sees and helps all living beings.

White Tara, Buddhist Goddess of Compassion
White Tara, Buddhist Goddess of Compassion

This Chinese cabinet is covered with symbols from ancient China: cranes as symbols of longevity and immortality; two deer, a stag and a doe, symbolic of domestic harmony between husband and wife; pot-shaped vase designs, painted in blue and green, suggestive of endless wealth; and lotuses representing purity.

Chinese cabinet
Chinese cabinet

The man in the detail of one panel is a successful merchant and the bolt of cloth next to him likely refers to his source of wealth.

Successful merchant on Chinese cabinet
Successful merchant on Chinese cabinet

In Tibetan Buddhism and Hinduism, a mandala helps seekers of enlightenment along their spiritual path.  It represents both god’s palace and the entire cosmos in a geometric-circular format.  It may be two-dimensional (a drawing or painting) or three-dimensional (a sculpture or architectural space).

By meditating on a mandala, a person undertakes a mental journey, beginning in the outermost circle – which can hold human patrons, teachers and lesser deities – and progresses inward to become one with the god or divine couple at the mandala’s center (according to a sign at the museum).

This Satchakravarti Samvara Mandala from Tibet is made up of six smaller mandalas.  Each holds a different Buddha in sexual union with his female counterpart.

Mandalas are also found throughout Nepal; I bought a couple in Kathmandu to bring home.  I still need to find a place in my house to hang them.

Tibetan mandala
Tibetan mandala

A thangka is the Tibetan term for a painting made on cloth that can be rolled up for travel or storage and unrolled and hung for use.  Thangkas most often depict Buddhist deities, renowned religious teachers, or a mandala (a god’s cosmic palace).  In Nepal, these types of paintings are often called paubhas.  I bought one of these in Nepal, as a memento of my journey.

I cherish the mementos I have of my Asian travels, and of all my travels.  They preserve and extend my travel experience.  Collecting these items turns my travel into a collective experience of my repeated immersions into different cultures.  Displaying them in my house surrounds me with happy recollections of travel moments and what I gleaned from them – a sense of independence, resilience, adventurousness and camaraderie with fellow travelers. These mementos spark a yearning to return to places I’ve been, to explore them again with fresh eyes and a new depth of appreciation.

Tibetan thangka
Tibetan thangka

In a traditional residence of a Chinese nobleman, a reception hall was the most formal building, where official activities were conducted.  This Reception Hall from the Palace of Duke Zhou, displayed in its entirety here, was originally part of a Beijing palace built in the early 1640s.  The hall has a thirty-foot ceiling and brilliantly painted floral and animal motifs on its beams and brackets that convey auspicious wishes.  This hall is presently furnished with works of art dating between the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, the period during which the hall was in use.

It was dark in the room where this reception hall was exhibited, so it was difficult to get a photo of anything but one of the painted roof beams.  Beams such as these in China delighted me every time I encountered them and remembered to turn my eyes to the ceiling.

I love the grand vision of the museum’s Director Fiske Kimball (1888-1955), who envisioned architectural elements providing historical context to objects on display.  This whole reopened South Asian Gallery has architecture displayed in a grand way; I felt as if I were walking through ancient Asian cultures.

Painted bean in Reception Hall from the Palace of Duke Zhou
Painted bean in Reception Hall from the Palace of Duke Zhou

The hall in one large room is constructed as part of the Madana Gopala Swamy temple complex, dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu and his avatar Krishna. Apparently a woman, Adeline Pepper Gibson, purchased sixty granite carvings she found piled in the temple compound from local authorities in 1912.  Most of the complex still stands in the famous temple-city of Madurai in southern India.

Madana Gopala Swamy temple complex from Madurai in southern India
Madana Gopala Swamy temple complex from Madurai in southern India

A visit to South Asian galleries wouldn’t be complete without something from Japan. Some Japanese tea houses were set up here, but it was hard to get decent pictures in the strong light.

Japanese tea house
Japanese tea house
Japanese tea house
Japanese tea house

Surihaku theatrical robes are used exclusively in Noh drama to symbolize the uncontrolled passions of certain female roles.  This Noh Costume from 1700s Japan is a silk satin weave decorated with patinated metallic leaf applied to a stenciled paste base (surihaku), representing the reptilian skin of the character, who has been transformed into a serpent or demon by the corrosive power of jealousy and hatred.

Noh Costume
Noh Costume

A modern piece from 2008, Kotodama (the soul of language), is embellished with word-filled fragments from antique books and accounting ledgers and layered scraps of red silk from kimono undergarments.  For the artist, Maio Motoko, words had spiritual power.  Here, the assembled fragments create a visual world of words.

Kotodama
Kotodama
Detail - Kotodama
Detail – Kotodama

Finally as we exited the South Asian galleries and made our way back out through the European galleries, we stopped to admire the French Gothic Chapel.  I am always enamored by decorative doors, and these doors I find particularly beautiful.  This one reminds me of doors I found during the two years I lived in Oman.

doors from French Gothic Chapel
doors from French Gothic Chapel
Detail - doors from French Gothic Chapel
Detail – doors from French Gothic Chapel

The chapel was composed of elements from two buildings that were part of a large religious community at Aumonieres near Dijon in central France that was administered by the Knights of Saint Anthony.  This nursing order, founded in the 11th century, established many hospices.

Stained glass window from French Gothic Chapel
Stained glass window from French Gothic Chapel

We finally walked out of the Philadelphia Museum of Art by 3:20, only an hour and a half after we entered.  It was a good visit and not too tiresome, and we were able to enjoy the special exhibition and one part of the permanent collection.  We used a number of suggestions from the compact but interesting book, How to Visit a Museum.  I hope to take to heart more of David Finn’s ideas for exploring museums during these winter months, when it’s too cold and generally miserable to explore outdoors.

View of Benjamin Franklin Parkway from the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art
View of Benjamin Franklin Parkway from the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art
View of Benjamin Franklin Parkway from the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art
View of Benjamin Franklin Parkway from the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art

 ~ Thursday, December 29, 2016

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weekly photo challenge: jubilant

Saturday, May 21:  Jubilant is an adjective: showing great joy, satisfaction, or triumph; rejoicing; exultant.  So says the Weekly Photo Challenge: Jubilant, challenging us to “end this week on a high note, with images that say jubilant.”

Here are some jubilant moments from my life:

In Hanok Village, Jeonju, South Korea, some jubilant musicians inspired all the English teachers to join in with the festivities.

jubilant Korean dancers in Hanok Village, Jeonju, South Korea
jubilant Korean dancers in Hanok Village, Jeonju, South Korea

As we took a day-long drive down the King’s Highway in Jordan, my Japanese fellow traveler Minako and I felt jubilant at different spots along the drive.  Me at the Wadi Mujib Nature Reserve and Minako at Karak Castle in Jordan.

The traditional dancers in Siem Reap, Cambodia showed a more subdued kind of jubilation.

Traditional dancers in Siem Reap, Cambodia
Traditional dancers in Siem Reap, Cambodia

I celebrated my 57th birthday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia at Yod Abyssinia Restaurant, probably the most jubilant celebration I’ve ever had.

Traditional Ethiopian dancers
Traditional Ethiopian dancers

And finally, on my month-long trip through Spain and Portugal, I was inspired by the jubilant flamenco dancers at Jardines de Zoraya in Granada, Spain.

flamenco dancers at Jardines de Zoraya in Granada
flamenco dancers at Jardines de Zoraya in Granada

the first half of twenty-fourteen: can a person really change?

Monday, June 30: At the beginning of every year, I’m always hopeful and enthusiastic about the chance to change myself, to become a better person, a more caring person, a more successful person.  I make goals for myself. I want to succeed, I really do.  But I wonder if I can ever really change.  Can I change my true nature or am I doomed to continue to fall back into my old habits, into the person I really am deep inside?

I resolved to be FOCUSED this year.  Granted, the year isn’t over yet, but as of the halfway point, I’ll recap where I am.  Not very focused, I admit.

One of the things I didn’t make a resolution about was my photography.  However, I had some nice things happen with my photography this year.  First, I joined the Vienna Photographic Society.  This is a group of hobbyists, most of whom are excellent photographers. I was inspired to push myself to excel, but ultimately, I realize I don’t have the technical expertise to be in their league.  I’m not even sure I want to have that much technical expertise. Neither do I have Photoshop, nor do I do much in the way of post-processing.  I understand now that many professional photographers do extensive post-processing. Maybe one day I’ll get into this, but at this point I don’t have the drive to attain such a level of accomplishment.

Each month the club has novice and advanced intra-club competitions in general photography and in themed contests using trained and experienced local photographers as judges.  I’m always in the novice category.

In my first competition, I won third place in the novice category for this picture.

Blue boats in Pokhara
Blue boats in Pokhara

In another competition, I won first place in the novice category for this picture “Our Soul is a Spray Can,” taken in Cascais, Portugal.  At the end of the year, when the club gave awards to everyone who entered competitions during the year, I also won Honorable Mention for this picture.

My Soul is a Spray Can
Our Soul is a Spray Can

In a PSA (Photographic Society of America) National competition for Nature, Round 2, I got 10 points for this picture of Acacia Trees in Lake Langano, Ethiopia. This meant it went on to the next round of judging, but I ultimately didn’t win anything.

Acacia trees at Lake Langano
Acacia trees at Lake Langano

One of the things I enjoyed doing was a 20-minute presentation to the club on Oman.  I put together a slide show about Oman and told stories about my life there.  I got a lot of compliments on this presentation and I loved doing it. 🙂

One of over 80 photos I showed in a 20 minute presentation on Oman
One of over 80 photos I showed in a 20 minute presentation on Oman

I also joined Instagram and have been posting a lot of my pictures on there.  At one point I started tagging my photos #natgeotravelpics.  This hashtag put my photos into National Geographic Travel magazine’s Instagram feed.  One week, they featured this photo and it got well over 20,000 likes and I got a lot of new followers on Instagram. It was a lot of fun for a couple of days.

Hot air balloons in Cappadocia
Hot air balloons in Cappadocia

Finally, I entered a photo competition at the Vienna Community Center, which was open to the public.  I won third prize in Architecture for this photo of the Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.

Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan Mosque
Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan Grand Mosque

It’s clear where I focused most of my energies!  Below are the goals I set on January 1, 2014.  As you can see, I seemed to FOCUS more on my photography than on the goals I actually set for myself. 🙂

1.  Pitch a travel article to at least one publication every week, beginning after January 13.

This is one goal I haven’t taken any steps toward achieving.  I started with an idea for the Washington Post Travel Section about a crazy trip I took from the chaotic spiritual city of Varanasi to the chill yoga capital of India, Rishikesh.  The story, already written in my blog, was about 12,000 words.  The Washington Post Travel Section seemed the perfect place for this story because they often publish personal experience stories. However, they do not take unsolicited pitches.  You can send a full story and they’ll decide if they like it and are interested in buying it.  But the word count on their stories must be from 1,500 to 2,500 words.  Mine required a LOT of cutting.  Besides, they generally don’t want to look at a story over a year old, and my story was from 2011.  I thought they might consider a story if it was  timeless, as mine was, so I worked on it for a while, cutting and cutting, until I got down to 5,000 words.  Still way too long.  Then I just abandoned it, slowly at first, as I continued to mull it over, and then all at once, as I dropped it altogether.  That was the only article I even attempted to write.

Why am I so easily waylaid?

Probably because I’m not sure I really want to be a travel writer.  I’m not interested in having to work on my holidays!  I want to enjoy, soak up the culture and the sights.  I want to enjoy the food and wine and the experience.  Travel writing is a job.  I’m not sure I want to make a job out of something I love doing for its own sake.

2.  Finish revising my novel by the end of February.  Spend March figuring out what steps to take to get it published and take those steps.  Begin a new book after I get that process underway.

I didn’t quite make my February deadline.  I did however finish my novel in May. Finally!  A dear friend of mine read it and gave me some great feedback.  I even came up with a title, The Scattering Dreams of Stars.  So most of the work is done.

The next step is to send out query letters to agents.  I wrote numerous drafts of a query letter and I posted a draft on a forum where fellow writers critique query letters.  Mine got ripped to shreds.  After many efforts to capture the essence of my story in a short two paragraphs, and to write a captivating hook, I let it sit.  And sit.  And sit some more. I have two friends who have offered to edit the letter, and I’ve made another attempt, but I’m still not happy with it.

I’ve decided it’s harder to write two paragraphs than to write a 350 page novel.  Some people say they write the hook and the summarizing paragraph before they write their novel.  Maybe I should have done that; it would have helped me to be more focused.

My goal is to finish that query letter and send it to agents in the next two months.  Oh dear.  Again, why am I so easily thrown off track, and sometimes by the simplest of setbacks?

As far as being a full-time writer, I now remember what I don’t enjoy about it.  During the last 6 months, while I took off the semester to write, I felt isolated and antsy.  It hit me that I function better with a schedule.  I need to get up in the morning and go to a job.  I need to interact with people.  I do better getting out and about, being around people, being accountable to someone.  I’m the kind of person who needs to squeeze in writing during the down times of a busy life.

3. Apply for at least 3 jobs a week in international development until I get one (Painful).

Yes, it was as painful as I thought it would be.  I applied for 40 jobs in the U.S. and after getting no response from any of them, I started putting feelers out abroad.  Even though I matched job descriptions exactly, I didn’t even get an acknowledgement on most of my applications.

As it’s very time-consuming to apply for jobs these days, I got disheartened very quickly.  It used to be you could send a resume and a cover letter, but these days, applicants must often fill out online applications, completing every detail of your job history on each company’s website.  It’s so ridiculous.  What’s LinkedIn for, anyway? I think there should be one central place where you post your resume and you can download from that central place to a company’s website.  You go through this cumbersome process and then you never hear ANYTHING back!  It’s so frustrating.

Finally, I got sick of never getting any acknowledgement and spending so much time spinning my wheels for nothing.  I don’t know the reason I don’t get short-listed.  Some people have told me I’m overqualified.  Others have told me I’m not qualified enough.  Or I don’t match every single qualification.  I have transferable skills, but employers seem to want you to have worked in that particular job, and they seem to want you to have no ambition to move from that job.  Also, there are so many young people with Master’s degrees in International Relations coming from the big schools in the area: George Washington University, Georgetown University, American University, Johns Hopkins.  Why would they hire an older person when they can hire a young person fresh out of college?

While I was in Oman, a woman contacted me through my Nizwa blog because she was considering working for the University of Nizwa. She ended up taking a job in China.  I wrote to ask about possible jobs at her university and she told me they had just instituted a mandatory retirement age of 60.  As I started looking at jobs in China, I saw many jobs with an age limit of 60. I figured since I only have one more year to work in China, I would focus my job search there.  I’ve always wanted to teach in China for a couple of reasons: 1) Asian students in general are hard-working and 2) there are a lot of amazing things to see in China.  I focused my job search there and in one week I had four interviews and I got three offers.  I accepted an offer to teach at SCIC (Sino-Canadian International Colleges), Guangxi University in Nanning, the capital city of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.  It’s not far from Vietnam and about a 3 1/2 hour bus ride from Guilin, where the movie The Painted Veil was filmed.

In all, I applied for 70 jobs, beginning my job search when I returned from California at the end of January and ending on June 13, when I got the offer from GXU.  That was 21 weeks at over 3 jobs a week. I believe my days of trying to find a job in the U.S. are over.  It just doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.

Since I can’t get a job in my country, I’m thankful that someone will hire me from foreign lands.  Looks like I’m going to China!  Nǐ hǎo!!

4. Post no more than two posts a week to my blog. (This will be one of the hardest to keep!)

I actually did this.  I’ve posted 52 posts in 26 weeks, about two a week. I have neglected my fellow bloggers though, and for this I feel bad. 😦

5. Continue my explorations of the East Coast over the next year, after my trip to California in early January.  Venture to Pennsylvania, North Carolina, West Virginia, Delaware, Tennessee (Ann Patchett territory!).  Take a road trip.  And if I can get a job, or make some money freelancing, go to Costa Rica or one of the Caribbean islands. Pitch local travel articles to publications further afield.

I haven’t been to any of these places.  However, I am planning a trip to New Hampshire this week. 🙂

6. Read a lot: short stories, novels, the craft of writing, travel writing.

I love to read, so this has been easy.  I’ve read 22 books, mostly books on writing and novels.

7. Walk at least 5 times a week and eat healthier and smaller quantities of food.

I’ve been really good about the walking, but not so good about the eating smaller quantities of food.  I managed to lose 6 pounds, but then I gained back 4, so I’m only two pounds down from where I started.  Here’s a chart of my weight, which seems a kind of metaphor for my life.  I always end up right back where I started from!

My weight as a metaphor for my life
My weight as a metaphor for my life

In a way, I feel relieved to be going abroad again.  Taking a job here in the U.S. probably wouldn’t have allowed me to travel.  Besides, starting a new job in a corporation or a non-profit at this point would mean starting with only 2-3 weeks of vacation per year.  Teaching abroad allows me to have both the cultural immersion I crave and to have extensive time off to travel in the region where I’m based.  Overall, it’s a great solution to all my problems.  As I only have about 9 more years to work before I retire, and I still have my health, I may as well take advantage of teaching abroad.  Besides, my kids are nowhere close to settling down, getting married or having kids; by the time they are, I should be back in the U.S., ready to settle down and enjoy the extended family.  And best of all, they’re supportive of me having my adventures while I’m still young enough to have them!

The other thing I miss about being abroad are the expats and foreigners one meets when thrown into a foreign country.  Everyone is an adventurer of some sort.  Being in the U.S., I’m tired of having people’s eyes glaze over when I share my experiences living abroad.  I love the fellow nomads that tend to gravitate to each other in foreign lands. In addition, you meet wonderful natives of the country where you are a guest.  Two of my closest friends in Korea, Julie and Kim, were Koreans.  And I miss dearly friends I’ve made abroad, friends the likes of which I don’t have here in America.  I miss Mario, Sandy, Tahira, Kathy, Anna, Mona Lisa, Seth & Anna, Myrna… and the list goes on.  We share a common experience no one else will ever understand.

a winter walk at meadowlark gardens

Tuesday, December 17:  I walk past the oversize toy soldier sentries and into Meadowlark Gardens Visitor’s Center to find the place deserted.  The front desk has a metal grate pulled over it and a sign that says someone will be back shortly.  Usually there is a fee of $5 for those over 55 or $10 for those younger, but happily no one is here to take my money. 🙂

toy soldier sentries
toy soldier sentries

I walk through the doors and out into the gardens, wondering if I’m even allowed to be here. I figure the doors are open, so I’m going.  Someone can find me later and tell me to leave, or pin me down for the fee.  Just glancing around, I can see I have almost the entire sweep of the gardens all to myself. 🙂

pavilion on a hill
pavilion on a hill

On my walk, I encounter an easy-going Ramblin Robbie, a sculpture valued at $20,000.

Ramblin Robbie, a sculpture valued at $20,000
Ramblin Robbie, a sculpture valued at $20,000

While walking, I chat by phone with my friend Jayne in San Francisco, so I have some company for a while.  She tells me she’s crossing over the new San Francisco Bay bridge and there’s fog hanging low over the bay, but the weather there is a balmy 65.  Here it’s about 36 degrees.  I’m looking forward to my trip to L.A. and San Francisco on January 2.

another sculpture at the garden
another sculpture at the garden
fuzzy winter plants
fuzzy winter plants

I walk through the fabulous Korean Bell Garden, which I wrote about in a previous post (meadowlark botanical gardens & the new korean bell garden).  That walk I took through the gardens in August was much different from today’s walk; flowers were all abloom, green was the color of the day, and it was hot, sticky and miserable.  It’s a different kind of pretty today, with the golden grasses and the crisp, cold air.  I actually prefer this kind of day for a walk.

Click on any of the images below for a full-sized slide show.

The Jeju Dolhareubang, the last picture in the gallery above, are stone-carved statues that stood on the volcanic island of Jeju.  Historically, Dolhareubang were erected at the entrances of the areas most characteristic of Jeju Island; they were meant to protect the public spaces and the surrounding villages like a guardian deity.  The Dolhareubang wards off danger and harm, while exhibiting the humorous and smiling appearance of a friendly neighborhood grandfather.

I can see the signs for the Meadowlark’s Winter Walk of Lights, which officially opened at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 16. The winter wonderland of sparkling lights runs daily until Sunday, Jan. 6, 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. each night. The park, off Beulah Road at 9750 Meadowlark Garden Court, is owned and managed by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority.

viewing chairs for the winter light show
viewing chairs for the winter light show
Sharing Stories sculpture, valued at $46,000
Sharing Stories sculpture, valued at $46,000
berries
berries
berries
berries
pavilion
pavilion
pavilion
pavilion
winter trees
winter trees
a little bit of color is still to be found
a bit of color is still to be found
dried flowers
dried flowers
more dried flowers
more dried flowers
dry, dry, dry
dry, dry, dry
ponds and reflections
ponds and reflections

I want a walk for exercise and pictures on this cold winter day, and although the gardens don’t have much blooming at this time of year, it’s still lovely to walk through the myriad trails and enjoy the brisk winter air.  I love the golden colors of the grasses and the reflections of the bare winter trees in the ponds.

reflections
reflections
ponds
ponds
Let it Snow
Let it Snow
children's twig house
children’s twig house
ponds and grasses
ponds and grasses
pond and grasses
pond and grasses
Korean totems in the Experimental Meadow
Korean totems in the Experimental Meadow
Fountain
Fountain
twig viewing pavilion
twig viewing pavilion
Green gems
Green gems
pretty in pink
pretty in pink
yellow reminders of summer
yellow reminders of summer

When I return to the Visitor’s Center, there is finally someone manning the front desk.  I take out my money to pay.  After all, I don’t want to be considered a criminal interloper.  Happily, the friendly man tells me there is no charge for the gardens during the winter months.  The charges will apply again after March 1.  I ask him about the light show, and he tells me there ARE charges for that, as outlined below.  I might have to come back one evening for that walk. 🙂

**************************

Weekdays—Monday through Thursday—online admission fees are $12 per adult, $7 for children aged 3 to 12, and children under 3 are free.

Weekends—Friday, Saturday and Sunday—and holiday online admission fees are $13 per adult, $8 each for children 3 to 12, and children under 3 are free. Holidays include Nov. 22, Dec. 24, 25, 31, and Jan. 1. Use coupon code WINTERWALK when purchasing tickets and receive $1 off per ticket.

A limited number of walk-in tickets may be available at $14 per adult, $9 per child aged 3 to 12, and free for children under 3.

Light refreshments, from hot chocolate to sweets, will be sold throughout the illuminations season from a tent on the grounds. A firepit burns for warming and for roasting marshmallows.

For details, see www.winterwalkoflights.com or phone 703-255-3631. (The Connection: Walk of Lights at Meadowlark)

 

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the korean war veterans memorial {travel theme: still}

Tuesday, December 17: Ailsa’s travel theme (Where’s my backpack?) for this week, Still, brought to mind the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.  The Korean War is considered to have ended when the Armistice was signed on July 27, 1953, but there has never been a peace treaty.  South Korean and American troops still face off against North Korean troops today at the 38th parallel, commonly called the DMZ.

The Korean War Veterans Memorial sits in Washington, D.C.’s West Potomac Park, just south of the Reflecting Pool on the National Mall. It commemorates those who served in the Korean War.

The main memorial is in the form of a triangle intersecting a circle. More than 2,500 photographic, archival images representing the land, sea and air troops who supported those who fought in the war are sandblasted on the 100 ton wall of highly polished “Academy Black” granite from California.

the main memorial of the Korean Veterans War Memorial
the main memorial of the Korean Veterans War Memorial

Within the walled triangle are 19 stainless steel statues, each larger than life-size, between 7 feet 3 inches and 7 feet 6 inches tall; each weighs nearly 1,000 pounds. The figures represent a squad on patrol, drawn from each branch of the armed forces; fourteen of the figures are from the U.S. Army, three are from the Marine Corps, one is a Navy corpsman, and one is an Air Force Forward Air Observer. They are dressed in full combat gear, dispersed among strips of granite and juniper bushes which represent the rugged terrain of Korea (Wikipedia: Korean War Veteran’s Memorial).

17 stainless steel larger-than-life statues represent a patrol squad
17 stainless steel larger-than-life statues represent a patrol squad
patrol squad in Korea
patrol squad in Korea

According to History.com, on June 25, 1950, the Korean War began when some 75,000 soldiers from the North Korean People’s Army poured across the 38th parallel, the boundary between the Soviet-backed Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the north and the pro-Western Republic of Korea to the south. This invasion was the first military action of the Cold War. By July, American troops had entered the war on South Korea’s behalf. As far as American officials were concerned, it was a war against the forces of international communism itself. After some early back-and-forth across the 38th parallel, the fighting stalled and casualties mounted with nothing to show for them. Meanwhile, American officials worked anxiously to fashion some sort of armistice with the North Koreans. The alternative, they feared, would be a wider war with Russia and China–or even, as some warned, World War III. Finally, in July 1953, the Korean War came to an end. In all, some 5 million soldiers and civilians lost their lives during the war. The Korean peninsula is still divided today.

patrol squad in Korea
patrol squad in Korea

The United Nations Command, supported by the United States, the North Korean People’s Army, and the Chinese People’s Volunteers, signed the Armistice Agreement on 27 July 1953 to end the fighting. The Armistice also called upon the governments of South Korea, North Korea, China and the United States to participate in continued peace talks. The war is considered to have ended at this point, even though there was no peace treaty.  North Korea nevertheless claims that it won the Korean War (Wikipedia: Korean War).

patrol squad
patrol squad

Since the armistice, there have been numerous incursions and acts of aggression by North Korea. In 1976, the axe murder incident was widely publicized. This involved the killing of two United States Army officers by North Korean soldiers on August 18, 1976, in the Joint Security Area (JSA) within the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). The U.S. officers had been part of a work party cutting down a tree in the JSA. Since 1974, four incursion tunnels leading to Seoul have been uncovered.

In 2010, a North Korean submarine torpedoed and sank the South Korean ROKS Cheonan, resulting in the deaths of 46 sailors.  Again in 2010, North Korea fired artillery shells on Yeonpyeong island, killing two military personnel and two civilians (Wikipedia: Korean War).

Korean War Veterans Memorial
Korean War Veterans Memorial

I was living and working in Korea during both of the 2010 incidents, which made for some very unsettling moments: north korea sinks the south korean navy ship cheonan and North Korea attacks the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong.

Korean War Veterans Memorial
Korean War Veterans Memorial
Korean War Veterans Memorial
Korean War Veterans Memorial
the main memorial
the main memorial

It’s a shame that North Korea still to this day bullies South Korea, one of the world’s economic success stories.  Having lived and worked in South Korea, and having taught many South Korean students, I feel a kinship with the South.  I hope that the still-tense situation at the 38th parallel will, one day soon, be resolved peacefully.

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weekly photo challenge: unexpected

Tuesday, November 26:  The WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge is Unexpected. Says Cheri Lucas: The world is an interesting place: we stumble upon unexpected things each day, like signs that are unintentionally amusing, bizarre sculptures, or even strange evidence of a miniature world on the side of a building.

So, your photo challenge this week is to capture something unexpected. You can also interpret the theme in other ways: a street scene or landscape that just doesn’t look quite right, an impromptu portrait of a loved one, or any other image that reveals a sense of surprise.

In my travels over the last three years, I’ve run across too many unexpected things to count, but I thought I’d show some of the surprising people I encountered along my journey.

I found this white-haired monk at Donghae Yonggung-Sa, a temple in Busan, South Korea.  I thought it was funny that we both had the same color of hair (an april jaunt to busan), especially in Korea, land of the black-haired people. 🙂

a white haired monk at  Donghae Yonggung-Sa in Busan, South Korea
a white-haired monk at Donghae Yonggung-Sa in Busan, South Korea

I unexpectedly met this famous Nepali actor shooting a movie scene in Pokhara, Nepal (pokhaha: a stroll around phewa tal & seeking shelter (& warmth) at moondance).  He says he plays a fighter in the movie, Kale, that should be released in January 2014. His name is Sagar Ansari and he has been in other movies, including Kalapani, which he tells me I can buy in a DVD shop.  He asks me if I think he’s handsome and I just laugh, thinking to myself that this is one scary-looking guy. 🙂

Nepali actor Sagar Ansari
Nepali actor Sagar Ansari

I also had an unexpected encounter at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Muscat, Oman with Joanna Lumley, who plays Patsy Stone on Absolutely Fabulous (absolutely fabulous: a surprise encounter with patsy stone 🙂).

Neziha, Joanna Lumley and me in Muscat, Oman
Neziha, Joanna Lumley and me in Muscat, Oman

And finally, one day when I was walking through Nizwa Souq, not far from my house in Oman, I came upon this unexpected group of old Omani men and their guns.

Omani men and their guns at Nizwa souq
Omani men and their guns at Nizwa souq

And I bet this vendor at Nizwa souq didn’t expect me to catch him napping on the job.

a sleeping Omani vendor at Nizwa souq
a sleeping Omani vendor at Nizwa souq

I certainly never expected to encounter this group of fishermen on the beach at Al Musaanah in Oman.

sardine fishermen at Al Musaanah Beach in Oman
sardine fishermen at Al Musaanah Beach in Oman
Fisherman at Al Musaanah
Fisherman at Al Musaanah

“If you do not expect the unexpected you will not find it, for it is not to be reached by search or trail.”   ~ Heraclitus

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a foggy sunday in highland county

Sunday, October 13:  I start my first morning in Highland County with unease.  I am a person who rarely dreams, or at least I never remember my dreams, so to have two quite disturbing ones in two nights tells me something is really upsetting me.  This time, in my dream, I went to my class with all the cheating Saudis and there were a lot of strangers in the class, along with my regular students.  I kept telling them to please leave my class.  These interlopers left at my request, but as soon as I turned my back, other strangers mysteriously appeared.  I couldn’t get rid of them; they kept multiplying like mosquitoes on a summer day.  Finally, I asked, what are you doing in here?  I saw they each had a small pad of paper, and were questioning my students about every complaint they had about me and taking notes.  It was like a sting operation in my classroom.

starting out on a foggy day
starting out on a foggy day
rustic building in Highland County
rustic building in Highland County
cows in the pastures on a foggy day
cows in the pastures on a foggy day
farmland
farmland

It’s so strange.  I’ve never had any students complain about me as a teacher.  Granted, I’ve only been teaching since I went to Korea in March 2010, so it hasn’t been a long career for me.  I taught English at Bethel High School in Hampton, Virginia right after graduating from the College of William and Mary in December 1978, but I only lasted one semester.  I had huge discipline problems; I even had one fat black girl knock me down!  I hated teaching so much, especially because of the amount of work involved for the pay I received, and because of the classroom management and discipline issues, that I finished that semester and swore I would never teach again.

an old barn
an old barn
fall foliage
fall foliage
another barn
another barn
farmhouse
farmhouse

I kept my word all these years, until 2010.  But after getting my Master’s in International Commerce and Policy in May of 2008 (another useless degree to add to my already useless B.A. in English), I applied for 250 jobs; I only got 5 interviews and no job. I believe to this day my inability to get a job in the low-paying field of international development is because of my age, and because I was a stay-at-home mom for 15 years. When no one in the U.S. would hire me, at least Korea did, and then Oman followed.  I resorted to teaching again, though I still had a bad taste in my mouth even 32 years after my high school teaching experience.

Beulah Presbyterian Church
Beulah Presbyterian Church
Church services only every other Sunday!
Church services only every other Sunday!
a creek by the church
a creek by the church
friendly horses
friendly horses

In Korea, I taught little children, and though they were rowdy, they weren’t rude; neither did they have a sense of entitlement.  In Oman, the girls I taught were problematic, because they were immature and not serious students.  They were always talking in class, and cheating was an issue.  However, even though I called them on these issues many times, they never complained about me to the administration.  It often happened at the University that students would go in mass to complain about a teacher, and that teacher often didn’t get his or her contract renewed.  In the Gulf, students have great clout, and teachers are not respected.  The administration does not back up the teachers.

another barn
another barn
farmland in Highland County
farmland in Highland County
ponds and pastures
ponds and pastures
ponds and pastures
ponds and pastures

So here these Saudis are in America, and acting in the same irresponsible and entitled way, and thinking they can get away with what they do in their own country.  Frankly, it makes me sick.  I have come to realize I genuinely dislike these students, and thus it is time for me to get out of teaching.  At least as long as the makeup of my classes is mostly Saudi Arabians,  I just can’t do it any more.  An abysmal paycheck doesn’t compensate me for putting up with these students or for the amount of work I have to do outside of class in preparation, marking and administrative tasks.

bales of hay in green pastures
bales of hay in green pastures
bales of hay in green
bales of hay in green
farmland in Highland County
farmland in Highland County
farmland and fall foliage
farmland and fall foliage

I’ve decided that I will cut back to maybe one class next semester; I’ll spend the rest of my time looking for another job, finishing my novel, and writing travel essays.  I’m not sure what else I will do, but I must get out of teaching for so little pay.  Because of the demands of my job, I barely have a moment to myself to do the things I love.  Whatever job I have, I want to leave it behind when I go home, so I can devote my free time to my passions.

rolling hills and colorful trees
rolling hills and colorful trees
fences
fences
farmland
farmland
cute little cows
cute little cows

The things I love are these: photography, writing and traveling.  I need to find a way to live my passion.  It’s taken me a long time to even find my passion, and now that I’ve found it, I want to live it.

farms
farms
fog
fog
foliage
foliage
farmhouse
farmhouse
farmhouse
farmhouse

So here, in Highland County, I start off the day having coffee and breakfast with Annette and Dan in their home.  Annette doesn’t feel like going out on a photography excursion because of the dreary day; I’m not thrilled about the weather either, but I’m only here for a day, so it’s either now or at some distant future date.  So, I take a drive all over Highland County, following a map Annette has drawn for me, and explore the mountains and the farmland.

I drive along Bluegrass Valley Road and through the town of Bluegrass.

fall foliage along Bluegrass Mountain Road
fall foliage along Bluegrass Valley Road
an old building in Bluegrass
an old building in Bluegrass

I stop at the Ginseng Mountain Store, where the owner gives me sample of grass-fed lamb and shows me the little apartment they rent for $99 for two people.  It has a full kitchen, nice bathroom and screened-in porch.

Ginseng Mountain Store
Ginseng Mountain Store
Ginseng Mountain Store
Ginseng Mountain Store

I stop in Monterey for lunch at Mountain Hideaway Restaurant and Tavern, where I eat a huge plate of nachos.  The place doesn’t have much in the way of atmosphere, but I am starving, and the food serves its purpose. 🙂

nachos
nachos

In Monterey, I find some houses are already decked out for Halloween.

decked out for Halloween in Monterey
decked out for Halloween in Monterey
monsters and ghouls
monsters and ghouls, pumpkins & spiders
the church at the main intersection in Monterey
the church at the main intersection in Monterey

I make multiple stops along the road to take pictures.  Often there is no place to pull over along the two-lane roads, so I look in both directions as far as I can see, and if I can’t see any cars, I hop out of the car to take pictures, leaving my car running in the middle of the road. The fall colors are beautiful, and I think the fog makes the photos atmospheric.  Not quite what I wished for, but here’s my day, in all its foggy glory.

a barn being a barn
a barn being a barn
greener pastures
green pastures
barn and silo
barn and silo
a friendly dog along the road
a friendly dog along the road
another barn being a barn
another barn being a barn
fall foliage and farmland
fall foliage and farmland
farmhouse
farmhouse
green pastures
green pastures
another farmhouse
another farmhouse

After all this driving, I head south to the Homestead at Hot Springs.  More to follow…