August 31, 2010

Red Bananas

While staying in the charming bed and breakfast in Puerto Princesa a couple of months ago I mentioned in an earlier post, I noticed a fruit basket on the table containing something I had never seen before: red bananas! Twenty years in the Philippines and this was truly the first time I laid my eyes on red bananas. I really shrieked with delight.

The genial B&B hostess made it her personal mission to get me to the market to photograph this fruit before leaving the island. 

Palawan, 2010

I have since then learned that these are locally called Morado bananas, from the Spanish "purple" and they are a distinctly different variety from other yellow and green bananas. What you see here are Morado chico (small size). I had the good fortune last week of seeing a Morado grande (the largest banana ever!), but the bad fortune of not having my camera on me.

The small red banana is shorter, plumper, creamier and sweeter than the usual Cavendish banana most people are familiar with. Here is the fruit basket I first saw the red bananas in. Do you know these other tropical fruits in this basket?

Today's post plays along with Ruby Tuesday, hosted by Mary. As usual, the link takes you to links of other people playing with RED today.

August 30, 2010

Fixing the Fresco

While visiting my brother living near Vienna a few years ago, we explored one of the more important - and in my view impressive, in a city full of impressive - landmarks: the Karlskirche (St. Charles’ Church). This eclectic baroque white church with Trojan column replicas was built by Emperor Karl VI between 1715 and 1737 to honor the patron saint Karl (Charles/Carlo) Borromeo in thanks for deliverance from the plague of 1713.

Vienna, 2006

The grandiose verdigris green cupola is 72 meter (236 ft) high and contains 1,256 square meters (13,520 ft²) of fresco by Johann Michael Rottmayr (pardon the wire).

The interior of the church had a soft and warm inviting glow.

Many cupids in this church.

It just so happened that the fresco in the dome was being restored, a fairly large undertaking, but rather than keep visitors out, they were well accommodated. There were stairs one could climb, but this time we wimped out and took the elevator up.

Had this not been a Sunday, we might have seen the restoration in process. It was a joy to get up close to the magnificent fresco.

We walked down.

This was certainly a very mellow way to spend a few hours and there's much yellow here to enjoy, and so I post this for Mellow Yellow Monday. Click the link for many more links to takes on the YELLOW theme.

August 29, 2010

The Finest Scenery under Heaven

Generations of Chinese poets and painters have called Guilin “the finest scenery under heaven.
Traditional Chinese brush painting

During his visit to the area in 1979, Henry Kissinger, US Secretary of State at the time, commented: "Before l came here l thought the Chinese landscape paintings were but the romantic creation of painters, but now having seen the landscape… l realize they are realistic genuine portrayals.

There isn't much that can surpass the serenity of softly floating down the Yulong (Meeting the Dragon) River on a simple bamboo raft (which you can see here) surrounded by magnificent limestone pinnacles veiled in a gentle mist… “merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.”

Guangxi, 2007

This bridge with a lone bicyclist is posted for Louis la Vache's Sunday Bridges and Aisha's Scenic Sunday. The link will take you to links to other bloggers posting amazing bridges and scenes around the globe.

August 28, 2010

My Kind of Diner

I love The Big Apple. It's one of the most diverse cities in the world and a fabulous place to explore on foot - when you're lucky with the weather.

Consider just eating... With over 18,696 restaurants in the five boroughs (says NYC's Tourism Board), you could live there for 50 years, eat out every night, and never enter the same place twice. Whew!

For me, good food will always trump atmosphere, but I am happiest when I can get both. After a long morning of walking the streets of Manhattan, we stumbled on this funky diner and stopped to rest our tired feet.  My lunch of lox and cream cheese on a big bagel with a cup of dark rich coffee was just perfect.

Manhattan, 2006

There are lots of reflections in this image for Weekend Reflections hosted by James. Click on the link to get to links to many creative reflections.

August 27, 2010

[SkyWatch] Night Falls on Saint Peter's Square

This photo of the sun setting behind Saint Peter's Square is posted for Skywatch Friday. You can follow the link to many more links to see stunning skies around the world.

Vatican, 2007

August 26, 2010

All Things Being Equal

In the current issue of their magazine Newsweek published a list of The Best Countries in the World. You can find the article - and the metrics used - here

Finland, the land I most grew up in, ranks top - yup, #1. The country I pledged allegiance to - Canada - ranks 7th. The Netherlands, the land a good portion of my family hails from - and of which I was a citizen until I became Canadian, dual citizenship not being allowed then - ranks 8th. And the other side of the family calls France their homeland, and it was ranked 16th. Wow, all are enviable places to live, say the numbers.

And yet my home for the past 20 years has been the Philippines. It ranked a pretty low 63 out of 100.  And so it would be a fair question to ask me why, since I have limitless options, I choose to live here over any other place in the world.  

You can read more about my decision to stay here on my "So where exactly is home?" page... but the short answer is something the metrics and the statistics just don't show, and that is heart. The Philippines, despite all its faults, it messiness, its complexities, its complexes even, is a place where the "salt of the earth" people have heart.

So all things being equal, I prefer to live with warm folks who are happy and resilient despite their - sometimes natural, sometimes man-made - disadvantages. 

Or let me put it even simpler, since all things rarely are equal, as the article amply points out, I'm just a sucker for a smile:

Nine smiles in Manila, 2006

The prompt today was EQUAL for Theme Thursday. The link will take you to more creative takes on the theme.

August 25, 2010

F is for Al Fahidi Fort

Dubai does not rank among my favorite cities I have visited. Flashy superlatives (the first, the biggest, the tallest...) and frivolous are words that immediately come to mind.

Yet I did enjoy our stop at the oldest building in the city: Al Fahidi Fort.  Built in the last years of the 1700s (the history I read does not agree on one date),  about the time the settlement was established, it was originally used for sea defense. In later years it served as a jail, an ammunition store, an emir residence and the seat of government. 

Since 1970 the building has been a museum displaying an interesting range of cultural artifacts. I was most interested in the fort itself.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 2005

my Chinese "brother" Tom - then business partner

This beautiful carved door is impressive, and I can only wonder where the wood came from in those days.

The many dioramas were effective in giving me a peek into the locals' past desert life - before oil was discovered. Sorry about the flash glare, but I did think this image showed something uncommon. Lots to look at here, like the gorgeous fabric of the woman's dress. This couple must have had a high social position.

This brief glimpse into the Al Fahidi Fort Museum is posted for ABC Wednesday where the letter F is the prompt. Follow the link for many more links to takes on this letter.

August 24, 2010

Riding a Red Horse

This handsome young man on a red "horse" was dancing to Indian music at a New Delhi trade show I attended in February. His task was to bring to visitors' attention the additional exhibitors housed in tents beside the main venue. He sure got my attention!

New Delhi, 2010

I thought he'd make a splendid offering to Mary's Ruby Tuesday. Don't you? Click the link for more links to REDs.

August 23, 2010

Socialist Mosaic

There is something about the old Soviet style "art" that just rubs me the wrong way. That "something" no doubt is its link with a lack of creative freedom. Under the Soviets, all art - unless it was a dangerous nonconformist or clandestine form of art - was made to serve the dictatorship of the proletariat.... which then of course served no one for its authoritarian means and its absence of authenticity.

But now when I look at some forms of this period art, it takes me back to that time and mood; one that should not be forgotten, if only for its colossal failure. This glorious example of socialist realism - a mosaic depicting the heroic people of Albania - at the entrance of The Natural History Museum in the main Skanderbeg Square in Tirana speaks to that period... when there were still high hopes that communism could forge the path to equality and brotherly love.

Tirana, 2009

This photo of this mainly yellow mosaic is posted for Mellow Yellow Monday and I ask you to forgive me for it not being a very mellow topic. More mellowness will be found when you click the link to find links to yellow.

My photo will enlarge when you click on it.

August 22, 2010

Minority Woman with Baskets

This minority woman crossing the footbridge may have been collecting the day's vegetables in plots across this river from her riverside town, much like many generations of her tribe before her. 

Longshen Town, Guangxi, 2007

Posted for Louis la Vache's Sunday Bridges. Click the link for links to may more interesting bridges around the world.

August 21, 2010

These Geese Are Cooked

Listen to all, plucking a feather from every passing goose, 
but, follow no one absolutely” ~ Chinese proverb

Guangdong, 2010

Joining the fun at Camera Critters and Weekend Reflections. The links will take you to other links of kind folks playing. If you want to see more of the geese, clicking the photo will get you there.

August 20, 2010

[SkyWatch] Whisps of Pink

Salt Spring Island, BC, 2006

If you love how Mother Nature paints her skies - and who doesn't?- go over to SkyWatch Friday and find links to this week's stunning sky captures around our globe.

August 19, 2010

Street sweepers

When I was in New Delhi earlier this year the city was in the throes of a road construction blitz as it was readying itself for the upcoming Commonwealth Games. 

Here I was a bit stunned to see the contrast between the large road building equipment and this group of street sweepers in New Delhi. This quick snapshot I took I find interesting: the palpable class distinction between the working teams is so striking. Just look at their ages and dress; no safety vests for the sweepers. What I also don't grasp is what the sweepers can accomplish with their primitive brushes that the machines cannot.

New Delhi, 2010

Working in this oppressive heat and dust all day, all week, my world would be swirling:

This post is offered for the meme Theme Thursday where the prompt is BRUSH. Click on the link for many creative takes on the theme. Click on a photo to see it enlarged.

August 18, 2010

Naadam #1 - Wrestling

It's normally hard for me to get enthusiastic about watching the sport of wrestling, whether it's the Japanese sumo or the Olympic style. But what I saw in the far west aimag (province) of Hovd (also spelled Khovd), so very far from the increasing crowds of tourists attending the Naadam Festival in Ulaanbaatar, had me fully enthralled.

Naadam, which means game or competition, has been celebrated in one form or another for many centuries, and since 1921 it formally commemorates Mongolia's declaration of independence from China. As I introduced in an earlier post, the festival encompasses the traditional "three manly games" of archery, horse racing and wrestling. I'll do a little series of posts on this festival and today I briefly cover wrestling.

Mongolian wrestling (bökh) is considered the most illustrious of the games and wrestlers enjoy high status among Mongols. This is now the only athletic event that still excludes girls and women.

During tournaments, the wrestlers wear small shoulder vests (zodog), red or blue tight-fitting briefs (shuudag) and ornate traditional boots (gutal). Each wrestler has his own "encourager" (zasuul) - in my photos you'll see them mostly in purple robes.

Before these outdoor games begin (top photo), and even before each match (left 2nd row), the wrestlers perform a ritual dance together; this dance may differ in the various provinces. In the matches, there are no weight categories - I saw small men wrestling very large ones - and no time limits; the game is over when one contestant touches the ground with anything but his hands or feet.

 Hovd, Mongolia, 2007

It's worth it to enlarge the image to see some of the precious facial expressions. Right click on the photo to open it in a new tab, then click again for the full size.

Here is my favorite capture of this event; although not perfectly in focus, it so well portrays the pain of losing this all-important match.

In the coming weeks, I will also cover the Naadam sports of archery and horse racing. If this topic interests you, let me know whether you like the photo-montage presentation or you'd rather see the individual photos.

Today's post joins memes Outdoor Wednesday and Wordful Wednesday. Go visit these sites to find links to many more bloggers playing these fun memes.

August 17, 2010

Red Koi Mural

I've shared with you before that I am partial to mosaics and murals ...or any urban art that serves to beautify our environment. 

This mural of koi I saw in Beijing is no exception.

Beijing, 2007

Koi - a Japanese term - is an ornamental variety of the common carp. These hardy fish are bred in many different colors, patterns and scales. Koi are often seen in Asia in both indoor aquariums and outdoor ponds and are associated with courage and good luck.

This is my post for Ruby Tuesday hosted by Mary. Click on the link for more links to images of RED.

August 16, 2010

Please feed the birds...

I won't swear to it... I've surely been known to be wrong before and, in the face of reasonable evidence, will readily admit it... but I do think this woman I saw sitting on a busy, dusty, dirty, noisy, hot and overwhelmingly stinky street in Old Delhi was selling various kinds of bird seeds. In the minutes that I watched her, I did not see anyone pop anything bought from her into a mouth. My guess is further strengthened by there being a mosque across the street:  feeding the pigeons in sight of Allah is considered a form of repentance.

Whatever she is selling, this woman, so elegant in her simple way, and her wares make a colorful mosaic of mellow yellow, rich red, bright blue and pale purple.

Delhi, 2010

Click on Mellow Yellow Monday for more links to takes on that color and click on Mosaic Monday for links to more creative mosaics.

You can see my mosaic better if you click on the image once, then after it opens in a new tab, click again.

August 15, 2010

Just one of 872

This shall remain a nameless bridge. I can only tell you that it is located in Osaka, Japan,  and stretches across part of the Osaka Port. The road has the sexy name of Hanshin Expressway # 4 Bayshore Route. And it is merely one of 872 bridges in the city.

Osaka, Japan, 2009

However, this two-span cable-stayed bridge (cousin of the suspension bridge) does stand in eminent company: next to Tempozan Ferris Wheel, the second largest in the world at 112.5 meters high, and Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, one of the world's largest.

This nameless bridge is posted for Louis la Vache's Sunday Bridges. Click on the link and find links to many different kinds of bridges around the world. If you click on the photos you'll get more of the bridge and city view.

August 14, 2010

Dressing Up

Every year in July the good people of Mongolia enjoy their biggest national event, the Naadam Festival of Manly Sports: wrestling, horse racing and archery. Whether they come to compete or to cheer, most come decked out in their traditional attire. I captured this woman checking herself out in a possible new jacket in the main market of Ulaanbaatar where days before the event the crowds in the clothing section were elbow-to-elbow.

Mongolia, 2007

This is posted for Weekend Reflections hosted by James where you can find links to many more takes on this fun theme. 

PS. I'll be posting more about this most wonderful festival in the months to come. Should you be curious, be sure to come back.  
[Or, you can sign up to get my posts by email or just "follow" me on Google Friend Connect; both you'll find on the right bar.]

August 13, 2010

[SkyWatch] Over the Himalayas

The flight between New Delhi and Kathmandu gives you an awesome view of the sky with snow-covered peaks of the majestic Himalaya mountain range, the planet's highest.

India to Nepal, 2010

Posted for SkyWatch Friday hosted by Klaus and his SkyWatch team. Click on the link for hundreds more links to stunning sky shots around the globe.

You can see my photo enlarged in a different tab when you click on the image.

August 12, 2010

Fresh Coconuts

If you've never seen how coconuts are picked, you're in for a treat.

This lad is right at the top of the coconut palm with his machete, chopping the young green coconut cluster from the tree. He ties a rope around the top of the cluster...

Mindoro, Philippines, 2007
... but first a longer view...

...then lets it loose while someone on the ground slowly lowers the coconut cluster.

Then the lad deftly climbs down the coconut palm, the same way he went up, in bare feet.

And then the green coconuts, full of sweet healthy water, are cut open and served - garnished with lovely hibiscus - as welcome drinks to the day's newcomers to this resort in a tropical paradise...

PALM is the theme for Theme Thursday and you will find links to many other creative takes on the theme when you click on the link.

August 11, 2010

Barn Charm

Salt Spring Island, BC, 2006

To see what other people have on their minds this Wordless Wednesday photos, click on the link.

August 10, 2010

What Time Do You Want to Meet?

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, 2007

This business-monk captured in the Gandantegchinlen Monastery ("Great Place of Complete Joy") built in 1835 in the capital of Mongolia is posted for Mary's Ruby Tuesday. You'll find many more links to images of RED if you click on the link.

August 9, 2010

Yellow Fields Yield Flak

Controversy appears to be the order of the day. Even fields flowing with bright yellow flowers are not exempt from incessant human bickering. I refer to rapeseed, a pretty flower so maligned.

Terraced fields in northwest China's Gansu province, 2007

Rapeseed is a relative of the mustard and cabbage family. You can cook and eat the leaves of some varieties of the plant like any other green vegetable. In China and Europe, rapeseed oil was traditionally used to light lanterns. Rapeseed "oil cake" is used as a fertilizer in China.

Today, different varieties of rapeseed are grown around the globe, mostly to process into biodiesel, animal feed or edible oil. Rapeseed also produces nectar for honey, and the oil from the seeds is a raw material for paints, glues, toothpaste, and cosmetics like lipstick. Many of these uses are hotly debated by some.

In the 1970s a Canadian used traditional plant breeding techniques to make the oil of rapeseed fit for our consumption.  To rise above its nasty reputation, the new variety was dubbed canola, a contraction of ""CANadian Oil, Low [erucic] Acid".  

So, where is the controversy? Well, this is Mellow Yellow Monday and it just wouldn't do to go on a major rant, now would it? The issue is in any event much more complex than my photo blog can cover. But here's an over-simplified example about canola oil: on one side you have the many who certify that canola oil is one of the most heart-healthy cooking oils, rich in omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids and the good fats, while the other side decries that over half of rapeseed grown today is genetically modified to be resistant to the effects of a dangerous herbicide which then upsets the fields' ecosystem and that the health benefits of canola oil have been exaggerated.

Do you think these farmers have any inkling of what we in the West argue over?

All I will say here now is that it behooves me to make more effort to be a smart consumer. I'm doing my homework.

I leave you with a final image that took me by surprise. Can you identify this plant growing next to the flowering rapeseed?

This blog is posted for meme Mellow Yellow Monday. Click on the link for a lot many more links to yellows.