Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Meanwhile, Back In Tibet: Our Guide, Tenzin Choedak

Before we stop doing Asia pictures on the blog, there are a couple of special things I wanted to feature. This is our superb Tibetan guide, Tenzin Choedak. He's a native of Lhasa but familiar with the whole territory. He's done mountaineering and rescue missions. Choedak seems to know everybody who matters. He works awfully hard and keeps everything under control with unflappable charm.

The guy is good. He can arrange custom travel programs throughout Tibet - he is certainly the person we'd go to if we return and Phil Colley of The Oriental Caravan, our tour leader, wasn't planning something. I'm reluctant to publish Choedak's email address here because that would generate lots of spam but if you are interested, contact me and I'll send it to you. Phil, by the way, does a terrific job on small group travel in Asia. We've been to Japan with him and came back for more.

The picture above was taken in the middle of nowhere with a child from a family of herders. The one below is at Everest base camp.

A bunch of new pictures have been added to the Nepal and Tibet set on Flickr here.

TOMORROW: Return of the Thursday Arch series!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Dancing In The Street: Jolly Green Something

Not all the action at last weekend's Dancing In The Street festival was on stage. Some of it roamed Grand Boulevard. I'm not sure what this guy was all about - Green Man, Tree Man, Eco Man or something. He wore these big springy things on his feel, allowing him to bound down the street at high speed, scaring little children.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Dancing In The Streets: Le Corps de Ballet

There was a lot of modern dance at Dancing In The Streets, and Latin dance, African dance, folk dance, Indian dance and tap dance. However, one group took a delicate, classical approach. Perhaps my tastes in this art form are not well developed but I particularly enjoyed this. It was pure grace, performed to Mendelssohn's delightful Incidental Music to A Midsummer Night's Dream. Aaah.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Dancing In The Streets, Part 1

Okay, firmly back in St. Louis and out shooting some local material. Saturday brought the annual Dancing In The Streets festival in and around the Grand Center arts and entertainment district. Each year there are a couple of featured acts and this man was special. Bill Shannon has limited use of his legs. He can walk a little but not far. Mostly dependant on crutches, he has developed an act incorporating break dancing and slateboarding moves. He is an acrobat on aluminum tubes. Maybe more about him later. Lots more dance action in the coming days.

A sad but fond farewell to Social Security Judge Edward Pitts and his weekly blog essay, St. Louis Sojourn. Judge Pitts received a transfer back home to Syracuse, New York, and will be gone by the end of the year. His writing about his briefly adopted city has, without exception, been interesting and insightful. And what lawyer with any intellectual pretensions at all wouldn't like a judge who taught philosophy before he went to law school? My staff told my that I am counsel on the last hearing he will hold in St. Louis. We'll miss him and his online journal.

STL DPB will be mostly back to local material but there are two things about our recent trip I still want to feature here. First, a post about Tenzin Choedak, our superb guide in Tibet, and then one our visit to the Mitrata Nepal children's home, you know, that last thing in the left sidebar. Soon. Still boodles of trip pix to edit. There are a bunch of new Nepal photos on Flickr here.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

STL DPB On The Road: Game Time In Nepal

The steep road from the parking lot to Changu Narayan temple, outside of Kathmandu, is lined with little stores selling things to tourists. There were few visitors on the day we were there and business was slow. These two men passed the time playing a game I saw many times in Nepal - never did figure out the point.

I said I was going to get back to leaving comments on my friends blogs last night. Yeah, right. I fell asleep around 7 o'clock and proceeded stay conked out for the next 12 hours. I got to be over the jet lag now. Back to my duties today. And there's local material to shoot: the annual Dancing In The Streets festival is today. Got some good stuff at last year's event.

More Nepal and Tibet pix gradually being posted here.

Friday, September 25, 2009

STL DPB On The Road: Labor In Nepal

A woman carries a large sack along a muddy road in the outskirts of Bhaktipur. We saw this kind of labor often in Nepal and Tibet. I can't speculate what this does to the cervical spine.

I apologize for not getting back to leaving comments on my friend's blogs. Eleven time zones of jet lag has been tough to overcome. I've stumbled around work my first two days back and fallen asleep after dinner. Back to that this evening, I hope. Got to get out and shoot some new St. Louis material this weekend.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

STL DPB On The Road: Tibetan Temple Offerings

The opulence of Tibetan Buddhist temples is a sight to see. They are often more ornate than the most Baroque European cathedral. The faithful leave offerings in Chinese yuan but we also saw U.S. dollars, Euros and once Argentine pesos.

This picture reminds me a bit of a 17th or 18th Century still life.
I'm knocked out with jet lag, sort of staggering through yesterday at the office. People at work are telling me to get back to reality. But which one is or was my reality, Tibet or St. Louis?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

STL DPB On The Road: Samye Monastery, Tibet

Back at home, I went to the supermarket last night to stock up on general supplies. The breakfast cereal display contained an overwhelming number of choices. It made me me think of the tiny hole-in-the-wall shops we saw everywhere in Tibet and Nepal. No choices there. This little girl we met near Samye Monastery clutches a stick of gum given her by one of our group. It looks like her only possession.

We just heard that China is closing Tibet to foreign visitors again on October 1, the time of celebrations of 60 years of Communist rule. Made it just in time.

More new Nepal and Tibet photos have been added to the set on Flickr here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

STL DPB On The Road: Crossing the Brahmaputra River

Hello again from beautiful O'Hare International Airport in Chicago. Nice to be back in the US. I edited a bunch of pix on the flight from Delhi and posted them on Flickr here. Lots more to come. Since I don't have any current St. Louis material I'll keep posting images from Nepal and Tibet for a bit.

Our group took a small local ferry to cross the Brahmaputra River and visit Samye Monastery, the oldest in Tibet. The boat was full of kids going from from an area boarding school for a holiday. The children were delightful and fascinated with my camera and iPhone. More of these images in the set on Flickr.

Monday, September 21, 2009

STL DPB On The Road: Food Shopping in Gyantse. Tibet

Gyantse is a modest town southwest of Lhasa, more Chinese than Tibetan. Someone observed that the old town had a Tolkienesque appearance. Now the visitor sees dull, repetitive state architecture. The fruit and vegetable, market, however, is an eyeful. The offerings were gorgeous and very fresh. This stall sells spices, sauces and chili powder.

Leaving Kathmandu in a few hours. Possibly more later during our layover in Delhi.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

STL DPB On The Road: Plateaus of Tibet

Not a very sharp picture but, I think, a poignant one. Taken from a moving car, this little girl from a small family of yak herders makes human contact with the white faces rolling past. Note the adult, smaller child and tent in the background. They spend much of their lives in isolation, grazing their animals on what you see in the foreground. I couldn't see any water in the landscape.

Time to go home. It's been an intense journey. We'll be back in St. Louis in just over 48 hours, winds, aircraft and Delhi airport bureaucrats willing. Hope to get some picture editing done on the long flight from there to Chicago.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

STL DPB On The Road: Mt. Everest

McKinley - a big pile of rubble. Fujiyama - elegant but actually rather small. Mont Blanc - it has some elan but fails to reach the sky. This is Number One, Mt. Everest, shot from base camp on the Chinese side, about 5,200 meters or 17,200 feet above sea level.

So, live from Kathmandu, it's Saturday night. Just back in town with uncensored Internet after eleven enchanting, exhausting, bittersweet days in Tibet. It's bedtime here and we're worn out. More as time permits.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Going Up

lakes and rivers

The Crowes are really getting into the wilds of Tibet, and it's pictures like this which really pique my jealousy. Bob says of this:
A lot of our drive Sunday was through river valleys, one of which was dammed to make an eerie teal-colored lake.

We stopped at passes of 15,000 and 15,800 feet. We're sleeping to ight at 12,800. Doing pretty well with the altitude - fair amount of trouble sleeping but lungs and energy are okay.

PASSES of 15K feet! I've never been above 14-something (aside from in a plane) and that's standing on top of a peak. Anyway, here is the menu at a restaurant where the butter nun was skipped in favor of a yakburger and fries:


Saturday, September 12, 2009

Dream Land of Tibet

dream land

Bob sent a bunch of pix from a colorful market, this one I thought was best. Here is his description:
The Barkhor is the old Tibetan quarter in Lhasa, which is otherwise a modern Chinese city. Our guide said that most of the vendors are Chinese or Muslims from the northwest of China.

And for the below:
The Jokhan is the holiest temple in Tibetan Buddhism. It is located in the center of the Barkhor. What's inside is much grander than what you can see here. Large numbers of pilgrims from all over Tibet come here, circling the temple clockwise and chanting prayers.


Friday, September 11, 2009

More from Lhasa

buddhist college

Got another couple of photos iPhone'd to me from Tibet. Of the above, Bob says:
This is the Mongolian Budhist "college" at a big monastery complex just outside of Lhasa. Once it held 5,000 monks. Today, 750.

You may not be able to read the name of the place below in red neon without clicking for a larger version. It's the Cool Yak Hotel, where only the coolest of yaks stay. It's apparently all about the yaks there. Saw a facebook status from my dad (yes, we're facebook friends) about nan with yak butter being delicious. Another wacky sign spotting, sadly undocumented, was the Lovely Cowboy Happy Restaurant. I'll leave you with one more piece of Lhasa flair, seen on the wall of a restaurant:

24 hours in a day.
24 beers in a case.
I think not.

cool yak hotel

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Tibetan Dispatch

Potala Palace

Hey there all you STLDP followers. This is Son O Strangetastes, dutifully following this order from the proprieter:

Hey if any of the iPhone pix are clear enough post them to the blog for me with a little explanation. No blogger here.

Ah the magic of technology crossed with politics and geography! This is the Potala Palace in Lhasa, apparently taken from mom and dad's view of it from their lunch table. Jealous! Looking forward to more.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

An old man at Chengu Narayam, a bit up the valley from Kathmandu. There is a great complex of Hindu temples there with few tourists. His earrings signify that he is at least 77 years and 77 days old.

We're about to board the plane for Lhasa. I won't be able to post again until we are back in Kathmandu on September 19. There will be loads of pictures. See ya later.

Monday, September 7, 2009

STL DPB On The Road: Kathmandu


Sunday was a fascinating and exhausting day of touring major sites around the city. The frightening relief above is Seto Bhairab, a terrifying manifestation of Shiva in the central Durbar Square. It is kept closed off most of the year except for a festival now getting underway. Unfortunately, we will miss the main event Tuesday night, when potent rice wine flows out of the pipe and young men jockey for position to slup it up.

The man at the left is a sadhu, a wandering Hindu ascetic. In theory, they renounce earthly pleasures, except that some of them consume staggering amounts of marijuana. To enhance the spiritual process, of course. That always was the point, wasn't it?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

STL DPB On The Road: Kathmandu

There are many responsible people in Kathmandu. Too many.

It's been nine years since I was last here. It's different; everything changes. More fancy, Western-looking stores on Durbar Marg, a main shopping street. Crumbling streets and sidewalks, an infrastructure broken down during the years of the Maoist civil war. Now they are in charge, democratically elected, the monarchy abolished. Far more trash in the streets. Same throngs of the desperately poor, but now the occasional middle class family in their own car. Well, at least in this part of town. The restaurant our group dined at last night had Nepali dishes on the menu, but it also has penne arriabatta and sachertorte.

Tourist stuff tomorrow.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Why Is This Man Smilimg?

Another scene from the Festival of Nations.

Today we fly from Delhi to Kathmandu. The real adventure begins.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Airports and Airplanes

Sorry, this is sort of filler, but greetings from O'Hare International Airport in Chicago. In an hour we board our flight to Delhi. By the time this post goes up Friday morning in the US we'll be over Russia or the Middle East or Something-astan or I don't know what. I've loved airports since I was a child.

When I was growing up in Queens, my friends and I would ride our bikes to La Guardia and JFK (Idlewild back them). There were observation decks on the terminal roofs. The international airport was my favorite. In the background of this picture you can see the livery of United, Swiss, Aer Lingus, Turkish, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic. American, our regular airline, is up front.

AND A BIG HOWDY FROM DELHI! We just got to our hotel. Smooth flight, good service. So far, so good but my brain isn't completely screwed into the socket at the moment.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

We're Outta Here

Guest photo by Mrs. C., taken in Kathmandu a year and a half ago. A young Buddhist monk walks past Boudnath Stupa in the sunset. You can see more of her Nepal pictures here.

We leave today on a 19 day trip, going through Chicago and then on to Delhi, a 14 hour flight. One night there and then Kathmandu Saturday. Tibet on Tuesday. I may post a few days ahead if I get some editing done on the plane - no problem with Internet service in India. With luck I'll post something from from Nepal, as long as there is a place to hook up my laptop. No uploads from Tibet - the altitude is too high to run a laptop without damaging the hard drive. The Chinese government blocks Blogger, anyway.

Team member ShadowyOne will cover St. Louis as much as possible while I'm away. Expect a big tub-o-photos from Asia starting about September 22. Hasta la vista, y'all.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Blues

From the St. Louis Festival of Nations. American blues certainly counts as part of the spectrum of international musical art. This picture is one of the early shots in my hands project. Those arched fingers cover a harmonica, a blues harp. So simple an instrument, yet so capable of the sound of human melancholy.

TOMORROW: K KK KK KK Kat... (guest photo). Time to head way, way east. No Arch picture this week.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

CDPB Monthly Theme Day: Big

Hommage à Ronald: the biggest things in town. Sort of a nice repetitive pattern going, too. Big doin's today throughout the CDP world. Click here to view thumbnails for all participants

Two days until the big plane ride...