More WILDFLOWERS

Most of these flowers are from Table Mountain, an old volcanic “neck,” near Chico in northern California. The landscape is stunning in the spring (4 slides below).

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My companions, husband and golden retriever. (Geologists will recognize the basaltic rocks.)

 

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(4 slides above/5 below)

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…wait for the close up!

 

White meadow foam (Limnanthes douglasii) was abundant next to the streams (click to enlarge).

 

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Butterflies were having a field day (5 slides).  These are Pipevine butterflies, but the pipevines flowers were not out yet, so they pollinated brodiaeas. (Maybe the pipevines are just where they lay their eggs – I have seen the plants full of black and red caterpillars.)

Wildflower season is almost over now – unless I head for the mountains, but after growing up in the tropics I can appreciate what the seasons bring.  Have you walked in a field of wildflowers in spring?  If not put it on your bucket list!

 

Off the Coast of Africa… Expat File # 18

I’m delighted to welcome my guest today, Julz Ma Poon who has lived in eight different countries – but who’s counting? A lifestyle not for the faint-hearted. Here is a buoyant account of an adventurous woman.
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I have been what one would call an expat my whole life – well not completely true… I was born in 1976 in a small town close to Copenhagen, and my first ever resident/visa stamp in a passport is from February 8th 1982. I moved to south of France in March that year. My parents and bigger sister had already moved and I stayed with my maternal grandparents at that time. I missed my sister dearly. I remember the winter of ’81-’82 I was waiting for them to arrive from France one night. There were no mobile phones back then, so we never knew when they would arrive. Of course I fell asleep on the couch waiting. I woke up in the middle of the night and my sister had gone to sleep in the same bed as me. We went to my GrandMa’s kitchen and had a cup of chocolate. I still remember the happiness of seeing her again. Fun memories.

Little Julz with her father in France

If you ask me where I am from (and many people do) – well I say Denmark. I am proud to be Danish. I speak it fluently (if a little old fashioned, my friends would say), I love the Danish traditions and I do my best to keep them with my own children today.

I have never thought of myself as being a Third Culture Kid – Denmark, France – there isn’t that big of a difference – at least there never was for me. I used to live in one and moved to another. That was that. I grew up in France and had a pretty normal life – except we drove to Denmark twice a year and I used to love all the places I would see from the car, the hotels and the restaurants on the motorway. The chocolates we would buy.

After studies in Switzerland and a few moves across the Atlantic – I finally settled down with my husband in the UK. In the early 2000’s nobody spoke about ‘expats’ the way we do today. I always considered myself an immigrant, until our first big move for my husband’s work. I suppose then we became expats.

Citadel in Amman, Jordan (the Roman temple of Hercules is on the far right)

That move took us to Amman, Jordan. We moved (as with all our moves) without having visited . We landed in the middle of the desert on a cold January evening, with a 5 month old baby. There were holes in the road and no lights on the highway – but people were friendly, very friendly. We spend 2 and a half years in that amazing country. Jordan has culturally, religiously and historically so many things to offer: the baptismal site of Jesus, Mount Nebo (where Moses looked out over the promised land); Petra, the famous Nabataean site (known from the Indiana Jones movies), and the largest Roman ruins outside of Italy in Jerash – just to name a few examples. We left Jordan with a soon-to-be 3 year-old and a little baby boy – grateful for all the things Jordan gave us, but leaving great friendships behind.

Temple of Mengwi, Bali, Indonesia

Then came a couple of years in Indonesia, with a move to Bali. The Island of the Gods – and it truly is. Never have I been in a place where Spiritualism is so widely present. If one doesn’t believe in spiritual matters, all that is needed is a bit of time with the Balinese – and everyone changes their minds. How can I say this? Everyone believes so strongly that things happen…

Julz with her children in the Maldives

Another move, another country. This time, life took us to the Maldives – the small island country in the northern part of the Indian Ocean. Beautiful islands, nature and amazing underwater wildlife. But a hard life: one small island, one hotel – and that’s it: no shops, no schools, no friends.  Thus when we stayed longer than planned, I decided to take our 2 children to Mauritius, my husband’s home country.  I had to leave my husband behind until he could join us and we could be together again as a family. That is where we are today, reunited and happy.

Although I never thought of myself as a Third Culture Kid, my children are exactly that: they have been exposed to more cultures than most people will ever be. I often wonder if I did (do?) the right thing as parent, with this very nomadic lifestyle. My daughter is now 7 and has lived in five countries, my son in 4. But then I look at my children and see what this has brought them. They have lived in Christian, Muslim, Hindu and multi-religious countries. People  have cared for them on (more than) four continents. They never refer to anybody per the colour of the skin (except the one time when my daughter tried to wash her Balinese nanny’s arm!), the financial situation, the religion or even the nationality – for them it simply does not matter – it’s the girl in the white dress or the boy with the red shorts, it’s our friends from Singapore or London, Melbourne or Doha. They have a thirst for adventure, a true will to protect nature, a need to learn about their environment or new culture and so much to give, to share. And for all that I hope I am doing the right thing.

The Ma Poon kids on beach in Mauritius

 I always wanted to see what was beyond the next mountain, across the river, over the ocean. I guess that what I wanted as a kid is what I have created for my own children. That’s actually very selfish and I hope they will not be too hard on their mother for the lifestyle I have imposed on them as children.

The world I grew up in, was already a world in movement. The world we live in today, as no real borders. It becomes harder to keep traditions, it becomes harder to say I am from Denmark or Mauritius, but I knew where I was from; for my children it is a little harder than that.

I (CCM) confess that I had to look at a map to confirm exactly where Mauritius lies.  I learned that it has retained some of its French heritage but was also settled by the Dutch and British – among others.  Leave questions and comments for Julz below. To learn more about Julz and Mauritius visit: https://wanderingexpatfamily.wordpress.com/

There’s Gold in them Hills: Wildflower Season

It’s wildflower season again and after years of drought the blooms are making up for lost time.  I choose the Gold Country (California foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mts.) this year as a hot spot.  We started near Yosemite and made our way north on HW 49 – and various floriferous side roads. 

California poppies (Eschscholzia californica)  and gold fields (Lasthenia californica)

The discovery of gold in 1848 sparked the largest mass migration in U.S. history.  Prospectors moved from one strike to the next along rivers and streams .  Today there are remnants of diggings, rusting machinery, stamp mills and old camps. There are historic towns and wonderful plant diversity.  The California golden poppy has replaced the “gold in dem der hills.”

Gold fields a common sight in spring.

The small flowers above,aptly named “gold fields,”  are in the daisy family.

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Shooting stars- Dodecatheon hendersonii

I found a field of shooting stars too.

Numerous creeks flow out of the foothills of the Sierras and into rivers that eventually join the San Joaquin River, one of California’s largest. 

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Below is the Stanislaus River.Stanislaus_pse1230

Old bridge over the Stanislaus. A sign says it was covered to make it last longer.  In the foreground are the remains of an old stamp mill, which crushed rock for extraction of gold ore.covrd bridge Stanislaus_pse1232

Many wildflowers have evolved to root in serpentine soil and gravels – which are toxic to most other plant life.  This is Bitter root – Lewisia rediviva (named after explorer M. Lewis of Lewis and Clarke fame).Lewisia r_pse1185

I was hunting for one particular wildflower I’d never seen: a fawn lily,  Erythronium tuolumnensii – and was excited to find it….  The thrill of the chase.

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Fawn lily –  Erythronium tuolumnensii

 

Below: wait for it – it’s a brief  slide show ( or click if feeling impatient 😉 )

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Lupins and goldfields in front of snickering horse.

Is that horse sticking his tongue out at me?

    

horse grin_pse1224Yeah pretty funny trying to ruin my shot. (I did not photo-shop this horse – he really was mocking me.  So disrespectful!)

The one(s) that got away 😉 :  I had some fabulous photos of a place famous (with botanists anyway) for wildflowers near Yosemite Park.  That night I downloaded over one hundred photos to my laptop and was going through them, deleting those that were out of focus etc. and taking pleasure in the ones that were sharp.  Long story short, my laptop died and I’d deleted the photos in the camera card to make room for the next day’s findings.  I paid a computer guy to retrieve them and he found everything else – that I had already backed up, except those photos I had driven many hours to take.  Ah well another year, and excuse for another trip!

“Untranslatable” Words from other Cultures

The relationship between words and their meaning is a fascinating one, and linguists have spent countless years deconstructing it,  trying to figure out why there are so many feelings and ideas that we cannot even put words to, and that our languages cannot identify. This post is from Ella Frances Sanders, writer and illustrator.

Somehow narrowing it down to just a handful, we’ve illustrated some of these wonderful, elusive, words, which have no single word within the English language that could be considered a direct translation. We hope that you enjoy recognizing a feeling or two of your own among them.

1. German: Waldeinsamkeit

A feeling of solitude, being alone in the woods and a connection to nature. Ralph Waldo Emerson even wrote a whole poem about it.

2. Italian: Culaccino

The mark left on a table by a cold glass. Who knew condensation could sound so poetic.

3. Inuit: Iktsuarpok

The feeling of anticipation that leads you to go outside and check if anyone is coming, and probably also indicates an element of impatience.

4.Japanese: Komorebi

This is the word the Japanese have for when sunlight filters through the trees – the interplay between the light and the leaves.

5. Russian: Pochemuchka

                    Someone who asks a lot of questions. In fact, probably too many questions. We all know a few of these.

6. Spanish: Sobremesa

Spaniards tend to be a sociable bunch, and this word describes the period of time after a meal when you have food-induced conversations with the people you have shared the meal with.

9.French: Dépaysement

The feeling that comes from not being in one’s home country – of being a foreigner, or an immigrant, of being somewhat displaced from your origin.

10. Urdu: Goya

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The suspension of disbelief that can comes when reading a good tale.

The idea that words cannot always express everything has been written about extensively. As Friedrich Nietzsche said, “Words are but symbols for the relations of things to one another and to us; nowhere do they touch upon the absolute truth.”

‘Through The Language Glass’ by Guy Deutscher, goes a long way to explaining and understanding these loopholes; the gaps which mean there are leftover words without translations, and concepts that cannot be properly explained across cultures. But wait! Ella Frances Sanders,  author of Lost in Translation (a New York Times bestseller)  has now published a charming illustrated collection of more than fifty expressions from around the globe that explore the nuances of language: The Illustrated Book of Sayings For more see: http://ellafrancessanders.com/the-illustrated-book-of-sayings

I love words don’t you?  One of my favorites is “callipygous” as in a callipygous young lady; Aphrodite was callipygian i.e. “had beautiful buttocks.”   😉  Do you have any to share?

Thursday Doors…and Arches

Perusing Dan Antion’s blog No Facilities reminded me of Norm Frampton‘s photo “challenge” to share your favorite door photos from around the world. As it happens I have a number of photos of doors and archways, so here are few from the Melk Abbey in Austria.

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The very Baroque Melk Abbey overlooks the Danube River.

The doors on the left are from the tea room … OK the one on the right is an archway more than a door, but similar passage.

Indulge me further because I want to add the fabulous spiral staircase that leads to the library (yep that’s a faux paint job)…

and further still because I had to photoshop the colours just for fun.  Thanks!

A Cherished Object (my contribution to the Cherished Blogfest )

My most prized possession is a painting. When I was a baby we lived in Thessaloniki, Greece and my mother bought a lovely watercolour depicting the harbour. That painting hung in my parents’ bedroom all the years I was growing up and well beyond. I used to stare at it and imagine being there – it seemed like a magical place. ct_Image

One day our parents showed us some old black and white photos of our time there. Standard family pictures of the day: my parents so young, me  in my first year (unrecognizable to myself) and then as a toddler playing at the beach with my older sister.   Mother commented,  “That water was so blue.”

Then another old photo of the waterfront, “Look!” I said, “It’s the same harbour with that round tower!”
“It is a famous building,” she told me, “Called The White Tower.”

It was built, probably in the early 1500’s by the Ottomans and was once part of the old city walls. When Greece regained control of the town it was restored and became a symbol of the city.  I vowed to go there someday. As a young adult I asked if I could have that little 2 x 3-inch photograph.  I framed it and set it on my piano. 

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The ancient White Tower and promenade

After my father passed away, Mother wanted one of us to go on a cruise of the Mediterranean with her and I jumped at the chance because one of the ports of calls was Thessaloniki. She was approaching eighty and I was middle aged and I ‘d never been on a cruise. We started in Athens and saw the Acropolis, we went to Rhodes, Ephesus and Istanbul. All marvelous and memorable places I will never forget. The highlight for us, however as you might imagine, was Thessaloniki. We sailed into the harbour and there was the White Tower on the left; to my great delight the scene looked just like the artist’s depiction decades earlier. The painting I knew and loved so well. We toured the city and visited the wonderful Archaeological Museum, but the magical moment for me was just the two of us walking around the tower, touching the stones.

The White Tower, Thesalonika harbor

The White Tower, Thessalonika harbor

Visiting my mother ten years later, I noticed the watercolour on the floor, the glass cracked and the frame broken.  “Would you like me to fix it for you?”  “No,” she said, “You take it, to remember our trip.” She was about to move into assisted living and had to down-size. I had the frame matted in blue to pick up the blue water. The painting now hangs over my piano next to the little black and white photograph where I can look at it everyday. It has become a family heirloom and when my little granddaughter is old enough I will tell her its story and someday she can hang it in her own home.

Thanks to (very popular blogger and talented writer) Damyanti for the invitation to share this memory.  How about you  – do you have a cherished object?

Thailand Dairies, Expat File#15

James King was born in Bristol, England; he lived in South Africa for 15 years and then semi-retired to Thailand in 2008. He lives in Chiang Mai having built a house (two actually) I think he is there to stay.  4-james-king-1424318595-medium

He began his blog, Jamoroki,  and also pursues his love of art and photography. James has written three witty and informative volumes on Thailand that I have excerpted from below. He is currently working on a novel.

from Volume 1 – 15 Weeks 

Between Jun and Sep 2008 I stayed for fifteen weeks on the tropical island of Phuket and it was while based there that I formed my first impressions of Thailand. I made the hour long hop by plane on the occasional business trip to Bangkok and worked remotely on my business in Cape Town, in daily Skype contact. During this period I began to learn a little of what it would be like to live in Thailand permanently. I diarised my activities, observations and some of the more amusing incidents which took place during my 15 week sojourn.

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The flight time to Kuala Lumpur via Johannesburg is approximately twelve hours and we landed on cue at six am local time. My body clock was telling me ‘It is one am.’ but my head was telling me, ‘I know, but I must ignore you and move straight into our new time zone.’ ‘Why?’ ‘Look, it will be tough for a few days but we have to do it.’ ‘OK, if you say so Boss.’ ……… Kuala Lumpur is the best airport I have ever seen. Now hear this – I’m through immigration and customs in five minutes! Throw in a smiling customs official. ‘Enjoy your stay in Malaysia sir.’ Is this real? A trifling wait for baggage because of a technical problem which was announced believe it or not.

Phuket

Kata Beach, Phuket (JK)

I planned to make a base in the south of Phuket in Kata Beach.  Kata is a medium sized and very beautiful sandy crescent bay lined with palms and a backdrop of forested hills.  Fortunately it was low season; I don’t know why because apart from more rain in June, July and August it’s great holiday weather, so it’s very quiet and I could easily work and play without any hassle.I rented a one bedroom semi-detached villa. There are 28 in the complex which is set in a delightful tropical garden with a very pleasant landscaped swimming pool right outside my door. The facilities are good, not five star, but more than adequate for my purposes. WIFI internet connection; a little kitchenette, TV, desktop and I was, well, fine and dandy.

Kata Lucky Villas

Kata Lucky Villas

I took a few hours out of the day and drove on my rented scooter bike over the hills through the little villages and tropical forest where elephants were stripping vegetation on the roadside. I found a quiet little restaurant under the coconut palms on the beach at Naiharn and tucked into a delicious lunch of Papaya salad (Som Tum), Fried noodles with chicken (Pad Thai) and a plate of fresh fruit plus a bottle of water (Nam). It was far more than I could eat so a friendly stray dog invited himself to help me out. The bin (bill) came to 120 baht, paradise was free but the dog buggered off without paying!

 

from Volume 2 – Driving Thailand               

“It is very difficult to know people and I don’t think one can ever really know any but one’s own countrymen. For men and women are not only themselves; they are also the region in which they are born….”   W. Somerset Maugham, (1874 – 1965)

Thailand is split into four distinct regions; North (bordering Myanmar and Laos), North-East (bordering Laos and Cambodia), Central and South (bordering Malaysia). Then you have the myriad islands in the Gulf of Thailand and off the West coast in the Andaman Sea. I have attempted to illuminate differences in the history, environment, dialect, attitude and culture in the regions I have lived in or visited.

In order to get the best aspects and feel for Thailand you must drive and walk. I suppose the same could be said about most countries. Unless you are in a hurry, avoid flying as you won’t learn anything cramped up in a plane for two hours. Drive the long distances and walk round the villages and towns. I have driven pretty well through every region, from the borders of Cambodia to Laos and Myanmar, except the deep South. Join me on my road journey through Thailand and I will do my best to give you a glimpse of my beautiful adopted home.

The Rice Nursery

Pulling seedlings and preparing for transplanting

A very good friend of mine; English actor and entertainer Martin Palmer, who has lived in Thailand for 25 years, once told me to stop trying to understand Thai people. When I asked why? He said “Because you never will. I gave up 20 years ago, realised I had to change my thinking radically and have been happy ever since”.

Mello Yello

Misty morning and a yellow hue pervades the valley north of Chiang Mai

Thailand is unfathomable, baffling, inexplicable, magical, perplexing, puzzling, veiled, enigmatic and secretive; in a word ‘mysterious’. If you stay for any length of time in Thailand there will be many times when temptation hooks you up to the internet in search of the cheapest air ticket to anywhere. You will feel like you are banging your head against a brick wall and then fall into the trap of making incomparable comparisons with your country of origin as you become bewildered by the aesthetic discord, pretence and hypocrisy. Everything seems to be broken or is about to break and whenever a workman fixes something it ends up worse than before. You will hear that people are electrocuted in showers ….because most electrical installations are not earthed and the ‘electrician’ (I use that word loosely) is perfectly content to connect several old bits of wire with tape to make up the required length. You wonder why and then you find out that he has saved the customer twenty baht in materials and charged him an extra fifty baht in labour! You are desperately trying to understand a new culture, new customs and a new ‘sign’ language.

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Thanks to James for his beautiful photos and letting us glimpse his Thailand Dairies. To read more visit his blog, Jamoroki. He will let you download Volumes I and II free!  (Volume 3– “Thailand in Perspective” explores the Thai culture, “de-bunks a few myths,” and delves into a “myriad of contradictions…and ancient traditions.”) I’ve never been to Thailand, but it is on my bucket-list.  Please leave your comments or questions below.