Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Cross Culture at the Y: Hawaiian Heart

For a year now, I have taken this class next to Leilani, who stands just a little shallower in the pool than I. Today, as we were warming up, one topic led to another. We were talking about getting rid of “things” and she told me a niece had asked for her lighthouse collection, and how was she going to mail them all to her, some of them were almost two feet high?

lrgDL004

“Easy-peasy,” I said, “You know those storage tubs people buy at Target? You can use bubble wrap and ship them in those containers. They give fragile items a lot of protection.”

Leilani laughed and said how funny it was she didn’t know that because her husband had been a postman after his retirement from the military.

“Nice!” I said. “Two pensions!”

“Not really,” she said, “The day he retired he came home and handed me divorce papers. He’d been planning this for a long time. ”

“Another girl?” I asked.

“No,” she laughed sadly, “He was greedy. He said ‘You’ll never see a penny of my money.”

“I hope you got a good lawyer” I said.

“I did.” She didn’t look happy. “I had raised the four children, so I got parts of both pensions AND alimony. I don’t need a lot. I was happy.”

I asked if he had been the kind of man who had planned to walk out on her and leave her with nothing, if he had also been mean and stingy during their marriage, and if a part of her found peace when he left. She said because of the four children she would never have left him, but that yes, her life was better when he was no longer there.

“Money doesn’t make a person happy,” she said. “Things don’t make a person happy. You know he went and got a beautiful luxury apartment, and died just a few years later. He had emphysema from smoking all the time. No one to help him. So I went there every day, took him a meal because he couldn’t do for himself. I sat with him at night. I was there when he took his final breath.”

“And you know what he would do while I was out of the room? He would take out his money and count it. It never brought him any happiness.”

My pool friend is one of the sweetest hearted women I have ever met. In all this time, she has never said a bad word about her husband, and she was there by his side as he died. There is no bitterness in her, no anger; she didn’t resent him, she let all those feelings go and did the kind thing for a dying man.

I call this cross-cultural, because she is Hawaiian, and I have seen this kind of serenity in my Hawaiian friends and acquaintances. They are willing to let go of grudges, they are willing to move on. They have generous hearts. I feel like I learned something from her today.

June 30, 2016 Posted by | Aging, Character, Charity, Circle of Life and Death, Civility, Cross Cultural, Faith, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Marriage, Quality of Life Issues | , | Leave a comment

Cross Culture at the Y: “It’s OK to Feel Sad”

My first encounter this morning was in the locker room, with the young water aerobics instructor I really like. I was glad to have a moment with her. I needed to thank her for helping me out the week before, when I started swimming classes with my little “I’m two, almost three” adorable granddaughter.

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(This is a photo from the Prescott YMCA, this is not me and my granddaughter )

These are those classes where the parent/grandparent/foster parent is in the pool with the little one, helping them to be slithery fishes, or to safely enter and exit the pool, and we were having a great time until, in her two year old way, she suddenly looked at me and wished I were her mother.

Her face got all screwed up, and I was afraid she was going to cry, so I tried distracting her and it just made things worse.

“I want Mommy!” she cried, little tears streaming down her face. “I want Mommy!”

So I’m trying to explain that Mommy has to work, and that Mommy is not at home, I’m being all rational and my friend, who is also instructing that class, comes up and looks her in the eye and says “It’s OK to be sad! It’s OK to want your Mommy.”

It is?

I am so embarrassed to tell you this, but this was news to me. I grew up with a Dad who said “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.” It wasn’t just my Dad, it was a generational thing. Crying was unacceptable. I think maybe being sad was unacceptable.

Little grand-daughter stopped crying. Her face showed such yearning. My friend, the instructor told her it’s OK to miss her Mommy and that for today, maybe she could have fun with her Grandmama, me, and little grand-daughter agreed.

From then on, everything was fine.

So I said “thank you for helping me out. We had a great class together Thursday. I’ve been thinking about how you handled her crisis, and how we never said things like that to our kids, but what a difference it made!”

My friend, the instructor also has a two year old, and just grinned. She explained to me about the effects of validation, and that we all need to express our feelings, and to have our feelings acknowledged, and then we can move on. It’s not something I know how to do very well, but I have seen it how effectively it works and I think I am going to learn how to do it myself.

Really, this was more a cross-generational difference, but generational differences are also a sort of cultural difference, are they not?

June 30, 2016 Posted by | Aging, Communication, Cross Cultural, Family Issues, Generational, Parenting, Relationships, Stranger in a Strange Land | , , | 7 Comments

Cross Culture at the Y

It’s a day I like in Pensacola; it may be summer and still hot and humid, but a little cooler today, with a cloud cover. I woke up refreshed, relaxed, having slept well, and actually, I sort of hoped for thunder so I could skip going to the YMCA for Water Aerobics, and stay home and finish up some quilting.

No such luck – no thunder. The skies were threatening, and leaky, but without the drama of thunder and lightning. No matter. The truth is, I don’t just go because I want to stay fit and strong, I also go because I feel better and more energetic after I’m done.

In retrospect, I would have missed a lot if I had missed today. In the fifteen or twenty minutes before the class, I heard some powerful messages, and I knew I was meant to be there. So my next three posts are about my cross-generational, cross-cultural experiences at my water aerobics class this morning.

June 30, 2016 Posted by | Aging, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Exercise, ExPat Life, Faith, Friends & Friendship, Parenting, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Social Issues, Stranger in a Strange Land, Values | , | 1 Comment

It’s a First World Problem . . .

I grew up stockpiling.

“Winter is coming” is nothing new when you grow up in Alaska. As soon as the catalogs came in, we ordered snowsuits so they would arrive before winter. Being a child, I don’t understand exactly why everything had to be in place before winter struck, but I think it had something to do with shipping channels being unpassable.

It was good preparation for my years of life overseas. Even living in Germany in the 1960’s, there were things we brought with us – shoes, madras, chocolate chips – things we could only get in the USA. As the years went by, and we hauled huge suitcases back and forth from Germany to university and back (the airlines were so much more generous in their luggage policies then), and then, as a young wife, back and forth to our postings in Germany and the Middle East.

 

Built-in_pantry

I remember one Ramadan in Tunisia, where suddenly, there was no heavy cream. There were no eggs! I learned to buy ahead, to stockpile; it’s been a lifetime habit.

Where is this going, you are asking?

Maybe I’ve been in one place too long. Maybe I am starting to lose my fine edge, my compulsion to be prepared.

I had a group in last week, a group I entertain two or three times a year. It’s not a big deal, I write out my plans, make sure I have what I need, I execute the plan.

Part of the plan, this time, was a large tray full of lunch meats and cheeses, and little buns to make sandwiches. As I was putting out all the food, I found the perfect small crystal bowl for the mayonnaise.

But there was no mayonnaise. Not in my refrigerator. Not in my (well-stocked) pantry. No matter how much I looked, there was no mayonnaise.

I didn’t even have time to be horrified; I had people arriving. I put out mustards, and pickle relish, and butter, and a bowl of sour cream and no one asked about mayonnaise.

Later, I was telling AdventureMan how I’d been caught short. I have a pantry full of  sixteen different little jars of mustard, many jars of peanut butter and cans of tuna and tomato sauce. If there’s a remote chance I will need something, it is in my pantry. There are times I find myself shopping and thinking “Oh! I always need coffee! (or tea, or chili powder, or chutney or . . . ) and when I get it home, I discover I already have a goodly supply. I don’t NEED more.

But how could I run short of mayonnaise?

AdventureMan just grinned. “It’s a first world problem,” he said.

June 15, 2016 Posted by | Alaska, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Shopping | 4 Comments

The Best of Humanity Came Fighting Back . . .

I don’t know which were straight, which were gay, which were black, or which were hispanic. What I do know is that they came to us in wave upon wave of suffering, screaming, and death. And somehow, in that chaos, doctors, nurses, technicians, police, paramedics, and others, performed super human feats of compassion and care.

 

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These are my work shoes from Saturday night. They are brand new, not even a week old. I came to work this morning and saw these in the corner my call room, next to the pile of dirty scrubs. 
I had forgotten about them until now. On these shoes, soaked between its fibers, is the blood of 54 innocent human beings. I don’t know which were straight, which were gay, which were black, or which were hispanic. What I do know is that they came to us in wave upon wave of suffering, screaming, and death. And somehow, in that chaos, doctors, nurses, technicians, police, paramedics, and others, performed super human feats of compassion and care.
This blood, which poured out of those patients and soaked through my scrubs and shoes, will stain me forever. In these Rorschach patterns of red I will forever see their faces and the faces of those that gave everything they had in those dark hours.
There is still an enormous amount of work to be done. Some of that work will never end. And while I work I will continue to wear these shoes. And when the last patient leaves our hospital, I will take them off, and I will keep them in my office. I want to see them in front of me every time I go to work. For on June 12, after the worst of humanity reared its evil head, I saw the best of humanity come fighting right back. I never want to forget that night.

Dr. Joshua Corsa M.D, EMT-P
Orlando Regional Medical Center
Senior Resident, Department of Surgery

Orlando Health Pulse Orlando

June 15, 2016 Posted by | Circle of Life and Death, Counter-terrorism, Crime, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Customer Service, Values | , , | 2 Comments

Shady Rest Restaurant in Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island

It was lunch time in Qualicum Beach. We knew we wanted a view of the water, and we wanted some choices.

The Shady Rest appeared to have the view situation all locked up, but what about choice? We took a look at the menu posted outside, and we knew we were going to be fine. There was a wide variety.

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We had a lovely table outside, with a view from north to south of the beach, the sea and the mountains. The weather was warm, barely a cloud in the sky.

QualicumBeach

AdventureMan ordered the Salmon Chowder and a Spinach Salad, I ordered a pretzel crusted cod because I have never heard of such a thing before. One bite, and I was glad I did. It was a WOW. In fact, I was enjoying my bites so much I almost forgot to take a photo.

CodPretzleCrust

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A group of Chinese tourists came in. We always have a lot of sympathy for people who are traveling in lands where they are not fluent in the language. This group had done some really smart things. They had photos on their smart phones of food they have tried and liked. They already had some idea of things they did not like, like they did not like salmon. Even with the language problem, they ended up with food they liked, because they had gone to some trouble to be able to know how to tell the waitress what they wanted. (Fish (Halibut) and chips, Clam Chowder, salad, oyster po’boy and I couldn’t see what else.)

ShadyRestView

 

After lunch, we stopped to pick up some stuff for dinner. We are staying in a cabin tonight, with a kitchen, right on the beach, and we don’t want to be bothered having to go out looking for dinner. AdventureMan spotted Qualicum Foods, and it is just like Whole Foods. We found everything we needed – and more. It’s nicer than any supermarket in Pensacola.

QualicumFoods

May 12, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, iPhone, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

York Street in Duncan, on Vancouver Island

We are here! We are on Vancouver Island, en route to Campbell River! We are happy, we have exited customs, we are on the right road and everything goes smoothly. We get to the road that will take us up to Campbell River, and realize we are hungry. In Duncan, we spot the York Street Diner, and we know it is right for us. I don’t know how we know, I only know that we know.  Maybe because it doesn’t look like all the chains.

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Inside, the owner has decorated with Kenyan giraffes, carved African masks and assorted items collected from travels. We feel right at home 🙂

 

I order a Reuben and a side Ceasar. I have to take half the sandwich with me, it is so huge, so much food.

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We know we are in Canada

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AdventureMan has a turkey cranberry salad with onion rings.

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Everything is delicious.

We are not entirely comfortable. One reason is a big reason, our phones aren’t working. There is no Verizon service available. We never even considered the possibility. Second, we haven’t seen a bank or a place to change our money to Canadian dollars, so we enter the modern world and use our credit cards. We never use credit cards in restaurants, we always pay cash, but until we find a bank – open – we will have to make do as modern people do.

Our waitress is most kind, and helpful; she even draws a map to show us how to get to the nearest bank.

May 11, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Community, Cross Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, iPhone, Quality of Life Issues | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Badass Librarians of Timbuktu

I saw this today on the NPR Books section, and as one great admirer of librarians, I wanted to share it with you. These librarians are my kind of badass! They are providing a service to humanity.

Timbuktu’s ‘Badass Librarians’: Checking Out Books Under Al-Qaida’s Nose

 
Handout picture dated 1997 and released in 2012 by the UN shows ancient manuscripts displayed at the library in the city of Timbuktu. Al-Qaeda has destroyed ancient texts it considers idolatrous.

Handout picture dated 1997 and released in 2012 by the UN shows ancient manuscripts displayed at the library in the city of Timbuktu. Al-Qaeda has destroyed ancient texts it considers idolatrous.

Evan Schneider/AFP/Getty Images

For hundreds of years, Timbuktu has had a place in the world’s imagination. Located on the southern edge of the Sahara desert, the city flourished as a center of Islamic culture and scholarship in the 13th through 16th centuries. It was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1988, recognized for the University of Sankore, which had as many as 25,000 students who studied the Quran, as well as the historic Djingareyber and Sidi Yahia mosques.

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu
The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu

And Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts

by Joshua Hammer

Timbuktu was a center of the manuscript trade, with traders bringing Islamic texts from all over the Muslim world. Despite occupations and invasions of all kinds since then, scholars managed to preserve and even restore hundreds of thousands of manuscripts dating from the 13th century.

But that changed when militant Islamists backed by al-Qaida arrived in 2012. The hardline Islamists didn’t see these texts as part of their Islamic heritage, but as idolatry, contradicting their interpretation of Islam. They set about destroying important cultural icons, including 15th-century mausoleums of Sufi Muslim saints. Librarians feared the city’s prized medieval collections of manuscripts would be next.

Librarian Abdel Kader Haidara organized and oversaw a secret plot to smuggle 350,000 medieval manuscripts out of Timbuktu. Joshua Hammer chronicled Haidara’s story in the book The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu. Hammer spoke with NPR’s Michel Martin about how a librarian became an “operator.”

 


Interview Highlights

Why these manuscripts were so important

These volumes — and we’re talking hundreds of thousands of them — at the point at which al-Qaida invaded Timbuktu, there were something like 370,000 manuscripts amassed in libraries in Timbuktu. And they portrayed Islam as practiced in this corner of the world as a blend of the secular and the religious — or they showed that the two could coexist beautifully. And they did in this city.

So it was tremendously important for Haidara and those who supported him to protect and preserve these manuscripts as evidence of both Mali’s former greatness and the tolerance that that form of Islam encouraged.

On Abdel Kader Haidara’s background

Abdel Kader Haidara was a son of a scholar and he grew up in an intellectual environment in Timbuktu. He was not a wealthy person. After his father’s death in the early 1980s he inherited the family’s centuries-old manuscript collection.

So in 1984 the head of the Ahmed Baba Institute, the government-owned library in Timbuktu, called on Haidara and said, “Hey, we’re having trouble getting off the ground, we need to find manuscripts. We know they’re out there, they’re hidden away in the desert, in river towns. Can you undertake this job of traveling around northern Mali, tracking down these manuscripts that have been lost — buried, disappeared — over generations? Gather them up, we’ll give you money. And we want this library to be splendid. We want this to be something that people from all around the world will come to visit. So go out, do your best, find books for us.”

He was reluctant at first, but the call of duty and the curator’s constant pressure prevailed. And in 1984 he began this what turned into a 12-year really amazing quest to ferret out these manuscripts all across Mali.

How Libya changed Mali

In 2011, the Arab Spring breaks out. Gadhafi’s downfall, the arsenals of Libya — in the chaos of Gadhafi’s murder and the disintegration of the Libyan state — are opened for the taking. Then you’ve got these various rebel groups in Mali. You’ve got Islamic radicals all descending on Libya — on these arsenals. Walking in, loading up their pickup trucks with heavy weaponry, driving through the dust across the desert back to Mali. And so these heavily armed rebels sweep across the desert and in three months have captured two-thirds of the country.

Why he decided to do what he did

The first thing that Abdel Kader was worried about, frankly, was looting. In the first few days after the rebels took over Timbuktu and the army and the police had fled, there was total disorder. That’s when he kind of began to scheme — “Hey, the great treasures of Timbuktu are being held in these very ostentatious libraries.” He said, “These are going to be targets.”

The looting subsided pretty quickly. But as it subsided, you had this growing radicalism, you had Islamic police roaring through the streets, stopping people, throwing them in jail, grabbing cigarettes out of their mouths, whipping them in public. He just foresaw that this was going to get worse, and that the manuscripts, which as we already said expressed values that were anathema to fundamentalist Islam — to Wahhabi Islam — were in danger. That sooner or later, these manuscripts are going to be held hostage. They’re going to become political tools, they could be destroyed in an act of vengeance, caught up in military action. We’ve got to protect them.

So that’s when Abdel Kader and a small group of his supporters, friends, relatives got together and began what ended up being a three-stage effort to protect, and essentially smuggle to safety, all of these manuscripts.

Becoming a ‘badass’

Let’s remember that Abdel Kader was more than a librarian, this guy had spent 12 years as a badass explorer, as an adventurer. He was traveling on camels across the Sahara, on riverboats, going to small villages, finding these manuscripts. So he was an operator. So when the time came, he just knew what to do.

He said, “The first thing we’re going to do is get them out of these big libraries. We’re going to take trunks, we’re going to pack them into trunks at night when the rebels are asleep. And then we’re going to move them in the dead of night by mule cart to these various houses — safe houses, scattered around the city. We’re going to stick them in there and hopefully they’ll be safe for the duration of this occupation.” Which of course, nobody knew when that was going to end.

Why it’s important

One of the things that I think is important to draw from it is to realize that there is this whole strain of Islam that is moderate, that celebrates intellectuality, that celebrates culture, that celebrates diversity, secular ideas, poetry, love, human beauty. I think that is lost in this debate that’s going on. We tend to really kind of turn against Islam because of the actions of this particularly violent group.

But I think in fact that the Islam represented by those in Timbuktu and the badass librarians is in fact more representative of what Islam is. And these people [who] were the real victims of extremism in this part of the world are fellow Muslims. They were the ones who really suffered. They were the ones who had their hands and feet chopped off, who had to live through the horror of daily occupation.

For the most part, we see this from afar, but these people are on the front lines and they are living through the horror of radicalism every day and every minute.

Where the manuscripts are now

He hopes that he’ll be able to return them to Timbuktu. They are in about a dozen climate-controlled storage rooms in Bamako, the capital of Mali. And as far as moving them back, he’s waiting. I mean, these are very hard people to root out. But Timbuktu is a ghost town — tourists aren’t going there, flights aren’t going there. It’s very sad. And I don’t know and he doesn’t know if those glory days can ever be recaptured, given the strength of the Islamists — the terrorists in that area, in that part of the world.

April 28, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Books, Bureaucracy, Character, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Customer Service, Education, ExPat Life, Faith, Free Speech, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Work Related Issues | , , | Leave a comment

“You Shall Love the Alien as Yourself”

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One of the disciplines available to those of the Episcopal faith is the reading of the Lectionary. Every day of the year are short readings from the Psalms, Old Testament, New Testament and Gospels. Every three year the cycle repeats itself. There are also additional readings on the “Saints” or remarkable people who have served God and his church.

Leviticus is not my favorite chapter, but today, I love Leviticus. As if the words were freshly spoken, I read Leviticus 19: 33-34:

33 When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. 34The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

There are many references to the alien in the Bible, one of the earliest being Father Abraham, who is told to leave (what is now the current Iraq) and head for Canaan. When he arrives, peacefully, the local tribes are kind to him. They are good neighbors. Later, when Moses kills an Egyptian and flees to the desert tribes, he describes himself as “a stranger in a strange land.”

It’s who we are. It’s what our book tells us. We are to welcome the stranger. We are to leave wheat in the edges of our fields (yesterday’s reading) that he might not starve. We are not to oppress the alien, nor put up walls to fence them out. We are all aliens on this earth; waiting for the glory of the heavenly kingdom where we belong.

April 28, 2016 Posted by | Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Interconnected, Lectionary Readings, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Social Issues, Work Related Issues | , , | Leave a comment

Doris Duke’s Shangri-La

Months in advance, my friend said “You’ll really want to see Shangri-La,” and I had never heard of it, but I looked online, and it looked beautiful. Doris Duke, one of the richest women ever to live, could buy anything she wanted. She had a good eye for art, good timing, and she bought much of what is in Shangri-La and her other residences at bargain prices after WWII. The value of her art holdings increased dramatically, and she ended up with an even bigger fortune than that with which she started.

How do I know? I am in the middle of my third book, reading about Doris Duke. The books are pretty bad. Each author seems to have an axe to grind, and one author took very little information and used it to speculate endlessly, full of gossip and mean-spirit. Altogether, Duke does not come off as a very kind person, but who can say which version of this very private person is the “real” Doris Duke?

To visit Shangri-La, you must go through the Honolulu Museum of Art. They have an online reservation system – the next two weeks are already fully booked. My friend booked months in advance so that we could attend. We got to the Museum, found a good parking place, entered the museum, receiving a lapel sticker and a wristband which later allowed us to visit the museum for as long as we liked.

We boarded a bus and watched a very romanticized movie about the life of Doris Duke, and then we were there! We were warned we could take no photos inside. What a pity! The interiors are magnificent, all marble, and tiles, gorgeous woodwork, and all kinds of Islamic Art that looks like it would go well in the Qatar Museum of Islamic Art. I couldn’t help but wonder if the newly rich aren’t trying to buy some of their cultural objects back?

 

 

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Our guide ushered us into a beautiful entry, with meshribiyya and tiles and beautiful light fixtures inside. I wish I could show you.

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About half way through the tour, we had a break on a terrace from which we had this spectacular view. I read in one of the books that Duke built this rock harbor without asking permission from the Hawaii government, just did it. It is lovely. The terrace also has gorgeous Persian tiles, the interior tiles are Persian and Iznik.

 

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After visiting the Damascus Room and the Syrian Room and the Mogul Room, we visited Doris Duke’s bedroom, bare but for a couple couches. Then, out to the gardens.

DDGarden

 

We were allowed to take photos in the gardens 🙂

 

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This is a tree at the entry to the house; the tree sends down those shoots that form new roots and new trees. It is magnificent!

 

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After our visit to Shangri-La, we returned to the Honolulu Museum of Art, and had lunch. This is the market salad with salmon – Yumm.

MarketSaladWSalmon

 

As we lunched, a character went around taking selfies. I think this is a performance artist, and I think it may have been a guy.

PerformanceArt

 

Being three very independent kind of folk, we split up to see what we wanted to see at the museum. There was a special temporary exhibit on Japanese street fashion which I found fascinating. I loved some of these street fashions, which strike me as very imaginative. When I got to the Lolita section, however, little girl dresses for grown women, I found it too creepy and strange to photograph.

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There is a section on Islamic Art with beautiful tiles and examples of several genres of art objects.

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Out on one of the patios, I found this screen which reminded me of a very modern sort of tree-of-life.

TreeOfLife

 

Altogether, a grand day. My friend was right – we really enjoyed seeing this.

March 16, 2016 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Books, Character, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Education, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Gardens, Living Conditions, Privacy, Quality of Life Issues | , , | 1 Comment