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Have Fiddle Will Travel

In less than 6 weeks, I'll be off on a big adventure as the Pac Rim Asian Studies trip departs for almost 9 months. My job- health services coordinator- will no doubt keep me on my toes. However, I look forward to experiencing and learning about parts of the world that I've only dreamed about visiting or seen in films. With my travel fiddle in my backpack, I hope to play music every day -spreading my favorite Quebecois and contra dance tunes far and wide. And, hopefully, learning many new tunes to bring back to sessions in Olympia and Tacoma. That's enough for now- there's plenty to do before we go!

Diary Entries

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Location: Mysore, near Bangalore, India

Well, here we are in India. Hot and dusty. Cows walking about everywhere, many with colored horns and yellow and pink splotches on their hides as well. Women in saris. Little kids wanting to practice their English. Men who stare and shout out hello as we walk by. Piercing truck and bus horns, and motorbike horns that sound like bleating goats.
We are staying at a retreat center- vegetarian meals, clean and simple rooms, friendly and helpful staff. It's a bit far from town (7 km), which is probably a good thing, but there is a small commercial center within a 10 minute walk.
Yesterday we went shopping for saris, since many of the students wanted to dress up for an inaugeration party. A few students had already been in to town to buy saris and have the special undershirt made out of part of the fabric. The rest of us went to a shop nearby and made do with regular tee shirts underneath. We will need to find a tailor to make the shirts before we leave. I am hoping to get a salwah kameez, which is a tunic/baggy trousers outfit that many of the women wear with a scarf called a dupatti (my spelling may be way off...).
We are learning about Hindu architecture and mythology. The lectures during the past two days have mostly been stories told by a delightful professor who is a great story teller. We learned about the Ramayana yesterday and the Mahabarata today. Two nights age we saw a dance performance depicting the main stories of the Ramayana- all done by one very expressive dancer. Tonight we are going to hear some classical Indian violon music from this region. So, it's a busy time and we are all learning a lot about India so far!
This is the last country on the Pacrim tour, though we are here until May, in many different parts of the country. It does seem like the final stretch, though, which is a bit sad and a relief at the same time.
I am looking forward to my return to Tacoma- to contra dancing, Irish music sessions, walking the dogs, going to the film festival (yes, I already have my SIFF pass), puttering about in the yard and house, returning to UPS and CHWS, and, perhaps most important, to having breakfast every morning and dinner every night with Ken. But, there's still alot of India to see and experience before that happens!!

Monday, 12 January 2009

Location: Siem Reap, Cambodia

It's hot here in Cambodia, where we are seeing temples in the mornings, taking a few hours off for lunch, and having class from 4-6 in the afternoon. The guest house that we are ll staying at is great- the staff are friendly, the food is fine and inexpensive, and the hot water and AC work. It takes 10 minutes to walk in to town, and is a 10-15 minute bus or tuk-tuk ride to Angkor Wat. If it was a bit cooler, I'd borrow a bicycle and ride there.
I have lots of pictures- it will take a while to sift through them and choose a few to put online. Maybe later this week...

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Location: Hanoi, Vietnam

Christmas in Hanoi. Lots of Pac Rim family and friends celebrated Christmas Eve with us at the Hanoi Hilton last night, and today everyione is off in different directions for the 11 day break. Of course, Ken and I ran in to one of the students and his visiting girlfriend three times today - the last time at a bia hoi bar in the street a few blocks from the hotel we are staying at. "It's the cheapest beer in the world", said another student who is an expert in these matters, "only 3000 dong a glass- that's 15 cents!" So, we had to stop and give it a try. The beer was so-so, the company great, and we stayed until it started to rain.
I've enjoyed exploring the markets in the 2 weeks or so that I've been here- I'm also enjoying showing Ken how to cross a street full of motorbikes- wait for a gap, then start walking and don't turn back or stop. Eye contact with the bikers and drivers helps, too, and stay clear of busses and trucks. Ken's been here for less than 2 days and is doing very well.
People here are friendly- even the postcard hawkers. The food is good and inexpensive. The weather's a bit cool, but we head south in a few days and will have plenty of warmth there. All in all, another great adventure.
Here's to a merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate, and a happy and healthy new year to us all!

Wednesday, 03 December 2008

Location: Fuzhou, China

We are now in Fuzhou, PRC, staying at the Hwa Nan Women's College. That's right- a women's college started just over 100 years ago by Methodist missionaries. The college is in the former embassy district- many old European buildings among the narrow lanes and more traditional buildings, though these are being replaced by high rise apartment buildings. The Pac Rim students are learning about confucianism, imperialism and nationalism in class right now, so this is a great place to be.
There are many schools in this neighborhood. At lunch time, the street vendors appear for an hour or so to feed the middle school kids who are on their lunch break, and then disappear. We have learned to act quickly if we want to get something nice for lunch! After school lets out, the small streets are full of students on foot, bicycle and scooter- it's a challenge to move around then!
More later, I hope. I'll try to get some photos up soon, too!

Friday, 28 November 2008

Location: Fuzhou, China

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!
We had an early Thanksgiving dinner the day after we arrived in Fuzhou with 24 Hwa Nan Women's College students and several faculty and staff. We had turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, corn, green beans, jello and something resembling pumpkin pie. Quite an amazing meal that the folks here had been working on for many days beforehand.
More to come on Fuzhou in a few days!

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Location: Kyoto, Japan

Second week in Kyoto- there is so much to see and do here! We are here at the perfect time- great weather- a bit cool to get the autumn leaves turning, but not too cold or wet. Many festivals, dances, markets and temples and shrines to see. The trees are turning orange, gold and red and there are lots ofpeople here to enjoy the scenery.
Ken has been here for one week. He ventured out on his own to Yokahama today to see where his mother lived when she worked here in 1951.
The students are all well and busy writing papers and studying for final exams. Next week is the free travel week- we will be scattered all over the country. Ken and I plan to go to see the sea on the way to Hiroshima, then go to the mountains in Gifu for a few days.
There are a few photos up- more to come! Including, perhaps, photos of vending machines- one can ger everything by vending machine here! Hot and cold canned drinks, rice, vegetables, batteries...

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Location: Kyoto, Japan

We are now in Japan and getting settled in here in Kyoto. The students met their homestay families yesterday- lots of smiles and laughter after an anxious afternoon wondering who they would be spending the next few weeks with! We are in small apartment in the north of Kyoto. Good thinh that there's a fridge and stove, because food is very expensive here! We will be able to cook many meals here, which will be fun.

Shanghai was wonderful. I did lots of shopping! The highlight was the fabric market- quite overwhelming, but a magnificant display of silks, cashmere, cotton, linen...
I also got to join a morning exercise group doing ballroom dancing on Nanjing Road. A gentleman who was just back from visiting his daughter in East Brunswick New Jersey stopped to chat, then showed me how to do the rhumba! He also played the accordion and told me about Saturday afternoon traditional Cinese music sessions that sounded wonderful. Unfortunately, we were leaving on Friday...

I'm hoping to enjoy some traditional music here in Japan, once I figure out how to get around.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Location: Shanghai, China

Today we arrived in Shanghai, after an overnight train journey from Xi'an. We are nearing the end of our tour of China. It's about time to write a bit about some of the highlights before we move on to the next adventure.
Beijing was wonderful, especially after spending the previous month in Mongolia. The city was very beautiful- plants and flowers everywhere- even though we were there post-Olympics. The highlights of Beijing, for me, were walking around the hutongs (or the old neighborhoods) both during the day and in the evening, visiting the Forbidden City, going to the Ming Tombs on the way back from the Greta Wall, having some amazing food (hotpot, a chicken dish with a spice I've never tasted before, and some wonderful vegetables), and meeting some former Pac Rim alumni. I was still recovering from a wicked cold/cough which put a damper on my exploring...
The next place we visited was Datong- a 4 hour train journey away. We saw the Yungang Gottoes near there many buddhas carved in to caves- small ones to gigantic ones. The air pollution in Datong was dramatic- there are coal mines and power plants, and it seems like many people heat with coal as well. Not very good for my ailing lungs, so I was glad to move on to Wutaishan up in the mountains.
The bus ride to Wutaishan took several hours- we kept going further in to the mountains- higher and higher. On the way we stopped at a temple built in a cliff. We spent a few days in Wutaishan and saw some of the 108 temples/monastaries there. Lots of climbing stairs/walking. Lots of incense. We had a great dinner at a vegetarian restaurant there. Maybe I'll write more about this later...
Then we went to Taiyuan, the capital of the province. I found a nice market, but there was not much else to see ... There were many people hanging out on the streets there- workers in from the countryside mostly, which was kind of depressing.
The next stop was Xi'an, an overnight journey by train. Much more touristy, though the free wi-fi at Starbucks and other coffee shops was appreciated by everyone. The highlights of Xi'an, for me, were the food in the muslim quarter- all sorts of nuts and dried fruits, fried pancakes filled with greens and eggs, fruit filled sweet potato cakes..., visiting a music store and seeing the instruments, and seeing the terracotta warriors and horses.
Everyone seems to be doing well- no major health issue, thank goodness! We are all looking a bit scruffy after being on the road for several days. Some of the students have been assigned the task of finding a place where we can do our laundry before we move on to Japan.

Tuesday, 07 October 2008

Location: Beijing, China

We are now in Beijing!
Went to the Forbidden City today.
Trip to the Great Wall tomorrow.
Will post some photos are write more later.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Location: Mongolia

This is our last week in Ulaan Baatar. It is getting cooler, but no snow yet! Last weekend, we went to the Abbot's retreat about 50 km. outside of UB. Very beautiful spot with granite rock formations strewn about. The stars at night were amazing. It was probably the last time I will sleep in a ger for quite a while.
I hope to take some photos of UB this week. Now that I know my way around, I feel more comfortable going out with my camera.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Location: Gobi Trip, Mongolia

Here we are back in Ulaan Bataar after a 12 day trip in the Gobi. Gobi means desert, I learned, so saying Gobi Desert is redundant. We traveled by bus, on asphalt roads for the first 20 miles or so, and then dirt roads, sand, rocks- very bumpy! Lots of motion sickness and sore bodies after riding for 8-10 hours a day!
The first 3 nights, we stayed in tents. The third night, after we had visited the Flaming Cliffs where many dinosaur fossils were found by Roy Chapman Andrews early in the 19th century. A wind storm came up that night- common for the Gobi, apparently. Several of the tents were damaged, though the one I slept in with 3 students was fine. Quite dramatic. We packed up the campsite in the wind and rain and went to a nearby ger where the kitchen crew prepared breakfast for us. Bread with jam and Nutella, fried bread, tea and coffee. The ger had pieces of goat drying along the walls, and a goat head sat near to the entrance. The next day we drove further in to the Gobi on roads that were visible only to the driver. We stayed in a ger camp that night, quite near to a 150 km long sand dune. There were luxurious hot showers, beds instead of sleeping bags, and a dining room for meals instead of sitting on a rock balancing a plate and cup. The next day we climbed sand dunes and, later in the day, rode camels. The second night at the ger camp, we had an impropmtu square dance- the paleontologist with the group used to be a caller, and 2 students had guitars, and one had a clarinet, and I had my travel fiddle. A fine time was had by all! The Mongolian crew sang us some of their songs afterwards, which was quite magical.
The last days of the trip involved more driving, amazing sights, and we ended up in the mountains- at Urkven National Park. While there, we saw a waterfall, baby yaks a Buddhist monastary on top of a small mountain, and our day there ended with a hail storm!
I'll post some of the photos, though they don't really capture what we saw and experienced.
That's all for now! Hope everyone is well.

Wednesday, 03 September 2008

Location: UB, Mongolia

Yesterday the power went out at the internet Cafe just as I started a new entry! Now, a day later, it is cool and rainy here. It is September, after all...
Am getting used to the city. I can cross the street in busy traffic now with only a momentary hesitation!
I have tried several Mongolian dishes- buuz, or dumplings with meat filling; khuushuur, or fried meat pancakes- more like empanadas, actually; and a noodle/vegetable/mutton dish that is quite filling! I've tried the salty tea a few times, but prefer plain black tea! There are some vegetarian restaurants here, as well as Korean, Chinese and Indian food. Many of us are shopping at the grocery store and making meals at the hostel, too.
I haven't taken many photos yet, but will soon, so that everyone can see what I'm writing about.
Hope everyone is well and that my music friends are learning some cool new tunes and my dancing friends are keeping me in their thoughts as they spin around the floor!

Sunday, 31 August 2008

Location: UB, Mongolia

We have been in Ulaan Baatar for 2 days now. The city has a bustling main street which is a bit scary after dark, a mixture of Soviet era buildings, gers (or yurts), and lots of new construction. It's been sunny and cool- a treat after a day in hot and humid Seoul!
I am still adjusting to the 15 hour time difference from home- the sunshine helps, I am sure, but it is still very disoienting!
Food is a challenge. Lots of meat. Fortunately, there are grocery stores and a small kitchen at the hostel where we are staying.
Yesterday we went to the Natural History Museum and saw dinosaur fossils that were found in the Gobi, where we will be soon! Amazing! Some of the most interesting were dinosaur eggs, including some that were just hatched when something happened to preserve them as fossils for us to see thousands of years later.
I am hoping to see a performance of the Mongolian National Music and Dance Ensemble later this week.
A highlight of the day spent in Korea was seeing a performance of tradional Korean music and dance at one of the palaces. It was also a treat to spend the day with friends that I had not seen in 6 years!
More later, I hope, now that we are settled and have wi-fi access!
Take care, friends.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Location: Tacoma, USA

Tomorrow is departure day! The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity- trip preparations and seeing family and friends before this 8 &1/2 month trip gets underway.
I'll do my best to share tales of my adventures with friends as we journey through Asia. I wonder if Mongolians will like contra dance and quebecois tunes!!!

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Recent Messages

From Deb Collins-Hill
Howdy Lisa!

WE MISS YOU!!! I was looking at your photos today and you are really having a wonderfully memorable trip over there. Hope you are safe and we can't wait until your return. Folks are getting together to start rehearsals for the Mega Band & the Tuesday Session is going smoothly - although not complete with out YOU! :o)

Lots of love from Olympia,

Response: Thanks, Deb!
We are having a great time and staying safe and healthy. I miss playing music with you all and look forward to jumping back in when I return in May. Hope all's well in Olympia and with your family. Greetings to everyone! Lisa