And then.....

Friday, April 28, 2006


This is how Cezar looks when he is not washing dishes!

Cezar and Sandra are moving to Barcelona. He promises to return to Palm Desert next year for more Latin Fusion. I certainly hope so. I am not ready to lose my friend OR Latin Fusion!

In the past couple of months Cezar- who is from Columbia and is here to study English and be with Sandra- and I have been meeting before class, he to converse in English and I in Spanish.
Here is a story told me in one of our pre class conversations.

Once there was a sheperd who wanted nothing more than to find a treasure. In a dream he was told to go Egypt in order to find a treasure under the great pyramid. Off the sheprd went, crossing many borders, meeting many people, learning many languages and having many experiences. When he finally came to the great pyramid he dug and dug and dug and dug and dug until finally he came upon a small metal box. Eagerly he prized the box open and found a note saying: the treasure is under a rock back where you were once tending sheep.
The tresor, says Cezar, is the journey. He tells me:I wanted nothing so badly as I wanted all of my life to go to New York City. I had posters of New York on all of the walls of my room. Now, I have discovered that everything is the treasure.
Cezar and Sandra will pass through New York on the way to Barcelona.

La Vida Matrimonial

A break in the South East Asia reporting to show you a picture of mi amigo, Cezar, and Sandra, Cezar's wife of less than a week. The picture was taken by Cezar's now mother in law. Can baby clothes be far behind?!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Vientienne Market

This man is grilling whole fish and considering coffee.

Vientienne Market

Meeting place, selling place, eating place. Vientienne's market is all of these.
The above picture is of rice wrappers being made. The tiniest bit of rice flour mixed with water is spread on the hot plate on the right. At just the proper time, the woman will flip the batter and lift it from the plate with two long sticks as shown above. Within seconds the superthin pancake is ready to be wrapped around a mix of meat and or fresh vegetables. The womans deftness at this do-not-try-this-at-home feat was amazing.
As to the top picture, note the bits of paper under the table. I couldnt figure out the game they were playing but scoring, going on here, definitely was serious and open to debate.
The stall in the middle picture is a typical one for that part of the market, however, the jewelry, clothes, eletronics etc were in two story buildings and that had showroom type racks and lighted cases. It took us well over an hour to wander through those building and we got lost and lost each other numerous times. I cant remember why- "nothing to worry about now"- but there had been some sort of terrorist's bomb at that market last year.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Vientienne, Laos

Jolie and Owain are either in Laos now or on their way there. As they are visiting the country at my biding, - although I never said go in the hottest month of the year - it seems a good time for me to sort through my Laos photos and memories.
I have said it before but will say it again. We loved Laos.
Vientienne is the larger of the two towns in Laos and is where the airport is sufficiently sized to support big planes from Cambodia and Vietnam. Nevertheless, Vientienne is not exactly a tourist spot but rather the way to get to Luang Prabang. It is a quiet town, colonial in appearance, whose chief claim to fame after the most impressive and very golden bhuddist temple and Carol Cassidy*, is the market.
The Vientienne market is hands down the most memorable market we saw in our all of travels in SE Asia. In addition to the typical stalls seen here, there were huge buildings devoted to gold
( ish ) and silver jewelery and ornamentation, clothing of all kinds, shoes, fabric and eletronics. Again the air was full of cooking smells and the place appeared to be the daily meeting place for a lot of people. More pictures from Laos will follow tomorrow.
*Carol Cassidy is a reknown weaver- had an exhibit as Asia Society in NYC recently - situated in Vientienne.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Hanoi Market

Markets full of fresh greens, fish, flowers, steaming pots of soup, roasted and grilled meats, dried fish, spices, trinkets and clothes, pots and pans and dishes can be found in every city and most towns throughout Vietnam. The woman in the center picture is not selling candy as the colors might suggest but dried fish, an important in SE Asia.

All of the markets are crowded, the walkways narrow and at any given moment one could collide with a bicycle or motorbike. At the same time you can see people playing cards in a carved out little corner or just sitting on the ground or small plastic stools hanging out.

Hanoi"s market was, while not being the largest one we visited, the most mouth-watering. Everywhere, it seemed, there was someone having a bowl of wonderful looking noodle soup. Hanoi is well known for it's soup called Pho but there is another chicken based soup called Famous Hanoi Soup. We did have some Pho but the famous soup that we never tasted has to remain, as my imagination dictates, what the people were eating in the market that looked so good.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Hanoi Sales

Vietnam seems to be all about sales. Seems everyone is buying or selling or taking something to market. Our guide said: we are communists on the ourside and capitalists on the inside.

You will notice the conical hat in the picture above. We only saw these hats in the North and, as you see, there they were not worn only in rice fields or villages but were very prevailent in Hanoi as well.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Hanoi Nails

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Hanoi Traffic is .....

...well, significant! I am sorry to say that the pictures just dont do it justice.
Jolie writes in an e mail today from Hanoi: back from Halong Bay where we hired our own boat and went kayaking for four days...We drove back today, survived the perilous road journey ( see post: Halong Bay). However in four days in Halong Bay, I have forgotten how to cross a street in Hanoi. Owain crosses and I stand in fear on the other side for 10 - 15 minutes.

Tom says that is genetic but really I remember when we were there, Steve, one of the friends that we were traveling with, returning from a morning walk and proclaiming proudly, I even crossed the street!

You will notice some of the faces covered with a bandana. As with the workers at the farm in Coachella ( see Prime Time in archives ), the mouth and nose is covered to protect lungs. There are even designer face covers that button in the back that one can purchase. In Hanoi there is a cloud of motorbike and auto pollution visible much of the time. Or, at least, that was the case when we were there.

Another thing you will see in the pictures is a bit of how bikes are loaded with cargo. Live cargo is not remarkable there although we were definitely compelled to remark when we saw live hogs tied to the bike frames.

And you will see that the mad,mad,mad,mad,mad driving can result in a spill but, on the occassions that we saw this, the riders and passengers just remounted,reloaded and plowed right back into the mobile insanity.

Our symptom of mental instability may have been taking an hour long cyclo ride in that ocean of wheels but, you know, ya gotta do it. It was all very slow mo and turned out to be a huge sensory overload but not scary. We even took another cyclo ride in Saigon but more about that later!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

More Tet


The most important holiday in Vietnam is Tet, the celebration of the coming year. The Vietnamese believe that the spirits of their ancestors are linked to the living and the unborn like a chain. During the two days of Tet the past, present and future are celebrated.
We were in Vietnam the week before Tet and the significance of the coming celebration was everywhere. Above you see all sorts of Tet items being sold on a block that was solely about selling those items.
( In Hanoi, you find what you are looking for on one specific block. For example if you are looking for a cooking pot you go to one street block where every store on that street sells cooking pots. We saw blocks exclusively for tin, auto parts, wedding gowns, shoes and on and on.)
During Tet Vietnam roars with fireworks and intense celebration. We were told that no real cooking goes on then. People eat food they have made or purchased earlier and they eat more or less when and where they want. The big dinner occurs the day after Tet and the special holiday foods are made.
Vietnamese food is light and can be wonderfully artistic. We will long remember one of our last meals in Saigon where we wanted to take pictures of every dish.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Hanoi, Vietnam

Jolie and Owain are somewhere in Vietnam now having arrived Saturday in Hanoi with a mind to shaping their stay once there. Their journey is the nudge I needed to catch up a bit with some photos taken while we were there in January.

Eye Exam

How many big horn sheep do you see? Photo courtesy of Tom!

Monday, April 17, 2006

Christy's Kids

Christy Porter, heart, soul and engine of Hidden Harvest, is also my good friend. Christy, who daily makes the world a better place, is the person who is responsible for my being able to find photo work in and about Mecca. The following is what Christy wrote about the children that she calls "my kids" ( see Easter Egg Day).

"I'm prejudiced in the direction of "my kids"but I attribute a lot of the smoothness of the day *, the lack of crying and whining, to their presence. The family could not be more troubled or poorer, yet they are the most loving to and of each other that I have ever seen. That is what has drawn me to them year after year - being part of that big old lovin' team of theirs. Their spirit of helpfulness and cooperarion seems to permeate all the scenarios in which they find themselves."

I witnessed exactly that. Perhaps you can see some of it on their faces.
* The Easter Egg Hunt at Hidden Harvest

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Easter Egg Day

Christy Porter invited me down to Hidden Harvest in Coachella for an Easter Egg Hunt for the families of her staff and for some children that she holds very dear, children that she calls " my kids". How can it be that in close to four hours there was never a crying baby or whining child?
Everyone, including the adult "bunnies" who hid the eggs, had such a good time!
Creativity ran high at egg decorating time. After careful pondering, the little boy above decided to have a dragon on his egg.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Last Shangri La

I hope to go back to Luang Prabang. In four days of an excellently guided tour of Luang Prbang,"the last Shangri La", I learned, more than anything, that there was much more to learn.
Here is a young monk. There are many monastaries filled with young men like this one. They may or may not become actual monks but are guaranteed their free education and board by joining the monastary for a few years. These monks are allowed, of course, no sex or alcohol but surprisingly can smoke and have tatoos. It is not unusual to see them swimming in the Mekong River, leaping and shrieking just like any boys in any rivers would be doing.

Luang Prabang, Laos

In Luang Prabang on certain days very early in the morning over 200 monks walk through town to receive the offerings by the faithful of sticky rice. It is a spectaular thing to see these orange clad men and boys appear soundlessly out of the morning mist.

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Jolie and Owain leave for a vacation in Vietnam and Laos tomorrow. will, no doubt, have some super pictures posted on their return. Here is some of what they will see.
Halong Bay, above, is a three hour insane drive north of Hanoi where, if you are fortunate enough to survive the drive, you will see not only the rice workers in the rice fields - about $14 a month for their labor - you will see motor scooters with as many as 3 hogs on the way to market, the driver and a passenger aboard. You will see dogs that may or may not be someone's dinner. We were told that tiny dogs were kept for pets but pity the poor mid sized to large dogs that stand very good chances in the rural areas of Vietnam of being stir fried with rice. You will see one town whose main street seemed to be nothing but dentist offices. You will see military cars or cars with special licences speeding straight towards you on a 2 lane road. Your driver will move over with the calm of experience and you will breath again in about 100 yards.

When you arrive at Halong Bay you will see a far prettier site than the picture above because you will not arrive on an overcast day as we did. Our day cleared eventually too. You will, though, see many, many boats like the above where people live and make their livelihood by fishing. We went out on a boat for hire that took us to some magnificent caves and then made a slow and dreamy return to the boat dock. Halong Bay is a beautiful place with calm waters and those magnificent and odd rock formations and islands.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Party Time

On Saturday I went to this beguiling little girl's 6th birthday party. Her father, who works where we live and is a friend, had invited me. I had never met the family - gracious and attractive mom, a three year old little boy who was pretty overwhelmed by the activity, cousins, aunts and uncles and the star of the day, Stephanie Maria Isabelle. The latter was practically levitating with delight the whole time I was there. She had brief moments of stillness, mostly posing adriotly for snapshots, and then off she went spinning and leaping and skipping. It was a delight for me to witness Pure Joy.

There were lots of kids of all ages there and a good number of moms, dads, grands. These are not parties where the kids are dropped off.

There were balloons, Tinkerbells ( the theme), two oversized pinatas, a huge cake provided by her grandparents( the bakers mentioned below), many bowls of different kinds of chips on the tables that were set up in the garage, lots of sodas and juices and water, a taco stand brought in by caterers who drive a van pulling a trailer with the stand et al ( this is not catering as you might think of it and something like it has been present at every latin party I have been to here) and most visible of all, one of those trampaline-ish jumping tents for kids. Stephanie's dad said: when everyone is eating I always sneak off and jump around in there. Sounded good to me but, sadly or fortunately, I had to leave for home before the opportunity to be a fool arrived.

There was also, at this party, a teenage boy who was representing his kind in typical misery. See above.

Friday, April 07, 2006


What is in a tamale? First there is the tortilla, next comes a mix of meat and vegetables and finally a large scoop of lard. All of this is placed on the corn husk.

I have been researching a photo project for most of this week and one of my outings took me to a highly successful Mexican bakery. Watching the couple that run the bakery do their work was like watching a well rehearsed ballet. There was effortless efficieny as one scooped out and spread the meat, the other spooned on the lard. The cleaning up - as this was the end of the bakers day - was wordless and seamless.

After their work was done they invited me to their house where we chatted for a while about this and that. They do not speak English despite living here for over 15 years. As hospitable as they were and as interesting as the conversation was, I couldnt ignore the husband's yawns and soon learned that gets up at 2 am 6 days a week.
He told me that the most meaningful thing about living in this country is that he has the chance to work and earn enough money for his work to support his family. Over and over I am told that making a good living in Mexico is, for many, impossible.

I spoke with another very successful business man this week. He told me that he came over illegally as a young man with no education but intent upon making enough money to help his widowed mother who had 8 kids to fed and raise. When he came he was sleeping in garbage cans. He said: no one can achieve your goals but you, yourself. " I taught myself everything ... english, computers, whatever I needed." Now he has an important managerial position and large staff working for him. He has a daughter in college and says: I dont care if I refinance the house 4 times! I am so proud of her!

Jolie says that my blog is taking on a - I cant remember how she says it - a cause. The truth is I am deeply moved by lives that act on a dream. I know, I know that immigration reform is needed. It is needed for the immigrants as much as anyone else. I dont dispute that at all. But for myself, who grew up in this country where the even the sky turned out to be limitless, who, later in life, had the luxury of Joseph Campbell's imperative to " follow your bliss", for me ,who was told by a 13 yr old Mexican boy, my country is dream crushing, I find it very hard to ignore the bravery that it takes to migrate toward a dream.

So. Yeah. I do get a bit worked up!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

More Forty Baby Baptism

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