Monday, August 31, 2015

MONTREAL: A Week During the FIFA Women’s World Cup, Guest Post by Paige Arnold

Soccer Game: France vs Korea
In June 2015, my granddaughter Paige (age 9) and her parents spent a week in Montreal, Canada, during the FIFA Women’s World Cup soccer tournament. Paige attends a bilingual school at her home in California so the trip was an opportunity to practice her French with native speakers as well as to enjoy the sights of the city and see two soccer games. Here is a report of some of her favorite parts of the trip. I thank Paige for her lively report and my son Matt for sharing his pictures.
Rose Garden near Olympic Stadium
Last June I went to Montreal to watch two games of the Women’s World Cup. When we arrived, the taxi was waiting for us at the curb. I had to speak in French to the driver because he didn’t understand English, and my parents don’t know French. I told the taxi driver to take us to “le Hotel Saint-Sulpice.” Once we got to the hotel, I had to speak French to the receptionist because she didn’t know English either. After we unpacked we walked to a Japanese restaurant for dinner.
One of our dishes at the Japanese Restaurant
The next day, we went to the first game. We went on the Metro to the Olympic stadium, but before we saw the game, I did the swim practice of the afternoon in the Olympic pool, which had been built for the 1976 Olympics. The game that I saw was the France versus Korea game. France won 3-0. It was very exciting. Most of the fans in the stadium were rooting for France, including us, but the person next to us was rooting for Korea.
Swimming in the Olympic Pool
Every morning, my dad and I would go and buy fresh croissants for breakfast from the nearest bakery. Once again, I had to speak French. Then we would walk to the park and eat the croissants.
Ju Ming Sculpture in Park
One day, we visited the Insectarium. I got to hold a small scorpion or a large beetle, I don’t know which! It tickled my hand as it walked across my palm.
Scorpion at the Insectarium
During our week in Montreal, we visited Notre-Dame cathedral, the Jean Talon market, and souvenir shops. We went to a different restaurant every night for dinner. The restaurants with barely any sign or no sign at all were the best quality restaurants.
Notre-Dame Cathedral, Montreal
Our second game was the France versus Germany game. It was a night game. It was a very long game. They were tied at the end of the regulation time so they went into overtime, then penalty kicks. Germany won at the final penalty kick because the goalkeeper saved a goal. My face was showed up close on video screen in the stadium because the person in front of me was screaming her head off. I was rooting for Germany but she was rooting for France. At one point, I did the wave because someone had started it. I was pretty tired by the end since it was a night game.

At the Ice Cream Shop
Here’s a tip if you go to Montreal: Speak French to the ice-cream ladies or men! I did and got big scoops of ice cream!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Pakistan: GILGIT PROVINCE, Part 2: Punial and Naltar, From the Memoir of Carolyn T. Arnold

Punial Estate in Chitral Province
My husband’s Aunt Carolyn traveled to Pakistan in the 1970's. The following are excerpts from her memoir of her travels.

Road to Punial
The next morning a jeep was provided for a ride to Punial. We were to have tea with Raja Jam Khan, King of Punial. This was once one of the hereditary kingdoms of Gilgit Province, but, in 1972, the Pakistani government abolished the Kingdom of Punial, although the people of the village still call him Raja. 

The approach to the Raja’s home was unusual. Down to the river again, we crossed a little bridge over a torrent, and we found ourselves in a courtyard surrounded by imposing buildings. We were shown into a private room adorned with many mementos, deep carpets, and comfortable chairs. Family photographs were on the mantlepiece. The Raja came in to greet us. He was a large man with twinkling, blue eyes and an enormous mustache waxed at the pointed ends. With a rakish smile, he beamed at us. We were served tea and a huge bowl of white, sweet cherries.

We returned to Gilgit during the afternoon. The last suspension bridge looked doubtful as I watched a jeep in front of us make the crossing. The bridge floor seemed to be built in several sections, each one swaying alarmingly as the jeep was lowered onto it. The floor of the first section was several inches below the surface of the road so there was quite a gap to span and the weight of our jeep lowered the bridge floor even more, each section swinging in a different rhythm. Soon we were back at the Vershi Ghoom rest house and began to relax from the exhausting ride.

Road to Naltar
Our next objective was a drive to Naltar, a beautiful spot high in the mountains near the northern border. The first part of the journey from Gilgit was fairly easy. Crossing a narrow bridge over the Gilgit river, we began a climb leading into the heart of the mountains. The road rose gently at first, then wound around mountain curves to the river again, only to zigzag up in a succession of turns and twists until we reached the “Spruce Forest.” The pungent pines, the towering mountains topped with snow in the distance, framed by spruce trees, made this a truly magnificent sight, especially in a land largely arid. We turned sharply across a log bridge onto a track that led to a green open area with numerous military buildings in the background. On the lawn was a picnic table where we had our lunch.
Naltar
After lunch we climbed farther up through the forest for a closer view of the snow peaks. On the way back, we met an old man and a young boy with a burro laden with firewood. They seemed pleased to have a picture snapped. How I wished I could speak to them.

We returned to Gilgit to prepare for the flight to Rawalpindi the next morning. There was no airport as such, so we joined the people from Gilgit lounging in the shade of a few trees, all waiting for the plane to arrive on the grass strip. The same flight over the mountains was just as spectacular as our first, with the white jagged peaks all around like some monstrous cake whose icing had been fluffed up into points.
Himalayas
Perhaps the original intrepid tourist was Carolyn T. Arnold, my husband’s aunt.  A single school teacher in Des Moines, Iowa, she began traveling abroad when she was in her forties, beginning with a bicycling trip through Ireland in 1952.  She went on from there to spend a year as a Fulbright Exchange Teacher in Wales, to more trips to Europe and beyond, and eventually became a tour leader, taking all her nieces and nephews (including my husband Art) on her travels.  When she retired from teaching, she wrote of her experiences in a memoir called Up and Down and Around the World with Carrie.  Today, as I read of her travels, I marvel at her spirit of adventure at a time when women did not have the independence they do today.  You can read of some of her other adventures in these posts on this blog:  October 21, 2013; October 7, 2013; July 29, 2013.March 10, 2014, February 9, 16, 23, 2015.


Monday, August 17, 2015

Pakistan, GILGIT PROVINCE, Part 1: Rawalpindi, Murree, Gilgit, From the Memoir of Carolyn T. Arnold

View from the Cockpit, Flight over the Himalayas to Chitral

My husband’s Aunt Carolyn traveled to Pakistan in the 1970's. The following are excerpts from her memoir of her travels.

We departed from the Chitral airport over those same mountains back to Peshawar before departure the next morning for Rawalpindi. This city, a little more than one hundred miles east of Peshawar, has developed considerably since Independence Day in 1947. After partition from India, the people chose a new capital, Islamabad, a planned city twelve miles from Rawalpindi. It is the administrative capital of Pakistan. There are wide boulevards, white modern buildings, and diplomatic headquarters. Many buildings are still unfinished and there were few people about. Rawalpindi is much more lively with the old way of life and its historic monuments. Our girl guide was pleasant and on the way back to Rawalpindi took us to a bazaar for Edna to find some fabric and a tailor to make some Pakistani pants.

Rawalpindi was the starting point for Gilgit, another village over the main range of the Himalayas. The flight is always based on weather conditions. We were optimistic and arrived at the airport in brilliant sunshine at 6:30 am. The waiting room was hot and crowded, largely with Gilgit people returning home. By 7:00 am we were told that the flight was cancelled.
Murree Village
Instead of flying to Gilgit, my friends suggested a trip to Murree, a hill station where they had acquaintances at a mission station. A car and driver were obtained and we set off. We climbed higher and higher on good roads through the trees on large estates, for this was a popular summer colony of British officialdom in the old days. We finally found the home of their friends, the Reeds where we were given a warm welcome and invited to lunch.
Gilgit Valley
Early the next morning, we were back at the airport. This time we were lucky and boarded the Friendship Fokker 27 for the flight to Gilgit. The approach by air is hair raising. First, we flew up the Kaghan Valley and over the Babusar Pass. The pilot invited us into the cockpit when he saw we were trying to take pictures out the side windows. As we drew near Nanga Parbat, the fifth highest peak in the Himalayas, we passed below its crest of twenty-six thousand feet in brilliant sunshine. The pilot said, “I have a wonderful view of the peak. Let me take your camera for a good shot.” At times, we feared we would scrape the snow from the peaks around us. We seemed so close, but the angels were with us, and we passed safely. No less awe-inspiring were the surrounding ranges of the Karakorams, and to the left, the Hindu Kush, the point where the borders of Pakistan, China, and Russia meet. The Indus River below was a mere stream. Then, we dropped into the Gilgit Valley. The brakes were applied sharply, and there, at last, I was in the world of which I had so long dreamed.

Gilgit Village is mainly one long street, bending at the far end toward the river. The hotel, the Vershi Ghoom, was a quadrangle of one story rooms with an interior courtyard. We had anticipated an excursion that day, but since we were a day late, it was cancelled. After lunch, there was not much to do except to sit on the veranda and watch the children of the family play in the courtyard with the chickens.The family tried to please us, but the food was not good. They asked us if we liked chicken and rice. That sounded familiar, so I replied, “Yes, that will be great.” Thereafter, we had chicken and rice and some kind of vegetable at every meal. I wished I had not been so enthusiastic about it. (Part 2, next week.)

Perhaps the original intrepid tourist was Carolyn T. Arnold, my husband’s aunt.  A single school teacher in Des Moines, Iowa, she began traveling abroad when she was in her forties, beginning with a bicycling trip through Ireland in 1952.  She went on from there to spend a year as a Fulbright Exchange Teacher in Wales, to more trips to Europe and beyond, and eventually became a tour leader, taking all her nieces and nephews (including my husband Art) on her travels.  When she retired from teaching, she wrote of her experiences in a memoir called Up and Down and Around the World with Carrie.  Today, as I read of her travels, I marvel at her spirit of adventure at a time when women did not have the independence they do today.  You can read of some of her other adventures in these posts on this blog:  October 21, 2013; October 7, 2013; July 29, 2013.March 10, 2014, February 9 and 16, 2015.

Monday, August 10, 2015

HAWAII: Kauai and Kona, Guest Post by Sara Kras

Island of Kauai, Hawaii
My friend and fellow children’s book writer Sara Kras recently returned from a trip to Hawaii with her husband Joe. She has graciously agreed to share her comments and a few of Joe’s fantastic photos. You can find out more about Sara’s books at http://www.saralouisekras.com/.
Waterfall, Kauai
KAUAI
Even though Joe and I have traveled all over the world, we've never been to Hawaii. If you can, go to Kauai someday. You won't regret it. It's one of the most beautiful places on Earth.
View from our hotel, Hanalei Bay, Kauai
The entire island of Kauai should be a World Heritage Site. The Napali Coast is like the Grand Canyon, but with greenery, waterfalls, and bordered by a beautiful blue ocean. There's lots of hiking trails for those who like a good hike. I was too lazy.
Hanalei Bay, Kauai
The views from our hotel room at the St Regis, Hanalei Bay, Kauai, were stunning and jaw dropping.

THE BIG ISLAND, HAWAII

View from our hotel room at Mauna Lani, Kona, Hawaii
I really liked Kona, but you definitely have to wear water shoes to swim because of the occasional lava rock in the sand. Ouch! Other than that, the beach at the hotel was a calm and blissful place to swim.
Black sand beach, the Big Island
Turtles, turtles were everywhere on the Black Sand Beach at the Big Island, Hawaii. You can't see them in the picture, but there were three large turtles swimming in the water in front of me. Plus there are three just sitting on the beach!

Then there's this somber, stately looking fellow in Kauai.
Green sea turtle, Kauai
We also swam with wild dolphins in the open sea on the Big Island. There were about 50 -60 of them. I could hear them talking to each other. I wonder what they were saying.

Manta rays are the graceful dancers of the dark, deep ocean. Lights (several LED flashlights) were mounted on a pre-made surfboard which had handles for the snorkelers to grab. Our "guide" dragged/swam us through a mass of about 100 other tourists to get the best show.

Swimming with the manta rays on the Big Island in Hawaii. Video link: https://fbstatic-a.akamaihd.net/rsrc.php/v2/y4/r/-PAXP-deijE.gif
Yes, they do really come that close. One almost touched my belly. Thanks for the show!

Note: Joe takes all the pictures. I believe he uses a little Canon Powershot in an underwater casing. Not professional grade like his above water pictures.
Kauai

Monday, August 3, 2015

MONGOLIA’S WILD PRZEWALSKI HORSES: Guest Post by Caroline Hatton



Przewalski horse, Mongolia
My friend and fellow children’s book writer Caroline Hatton visited Mongolia in June of 2015. Caroline has always been fascinated with horses and shares here a memorable experience she had with the rare Przewalski horses in Hustai National Park. To find out more about Caroline and her books, visit her website, www.carolinehatton.com . She took all the photos in this post, except for the one in which she appears, which was taken by her husband Bill.

Freeze. Nathalie’s silent body language was clear. As an eco-volunteer recording observations for the wild horse scientists of Hustai National Park in Mongolia, she knew how to follow the animals without disturbing them. Across the gully, a small horse, who looked like a live prehistoric cave painting, grazed peacefully.
Przewalski horses in the wild
This was no ordinary horse. It is called takhi in Mongolian (pronounced ta-chee with the ch as in the Scottish loch), Przewalski (pronounced prez-vahl-ski or sheh-val-ski) horse in English, and its scientific name is Equus przewalskii. It belongs to the same genus as the domesticated horse, Equus caballus, but it is a different species.The takhi are small horses. Average adult size is 135 cm (more than 13 hands, or 4 feet 5 inches) at the withers (the point between the neck and back).

The takhi once roamed the steppes of Central Asia in large numbers. It became extinct in the wild in the 1960s. But thanks to tremendous international efforts, it was re-introduced in 1992-2000, at sites including Hustai National Park, located roughly 100 km (62 miles) southwest of the Mongolian capital, Ulaanbaatar. 

Although the takhi existed only in captivity for thirteen generations, it has never been domesticated. This makes it the only true living wild horse. In contrast, the American Mustang, a descendant of domesticated ancestors, is technically not wild, but feral.

As we watched the horses, Nathalie wrote down her GPS coordinates, the temperature, wind speed, and main activity of the band: grazing.
Caroline Hatton (left), takhi, and eco-volunteer
The takhi’s social life and behaviors are essentially the same as those of free-roaming Equus caballus such as “wild” Mustangs. Nathalie and I exchanged smiles when a foal took a peek at us, then suckled a few sips.
Mare and foal
The other mares and youngsters in the band grazed as they strolled uphill. The stallion brought up the rear. To drive one of his harem members, he “snaked” her by lowering his head, with his ears laid back.
The mare ran along well before the snaking stallion got near her.
Stallion “snaking" to herd a mare
Nathalie stood up when the takhi moved out of sight, up the gully. She followed them quietly at a distance. Every ten minutes, she filled out one line on her data form.
Mutual grooming between friends
The band of takhi now stood below the top of the mountain, resting. Nathalie’s anemometer whirred as the wind rose. The temperature dropped even in full sun.

At eleven thirty, we ran down the mountain to meet the park minivan on the dirt road for our ride back to camp at noon. My husband and I thanked Nathalie and her boss, Nara, a park biologist, for letting us accompany Nathalie all morning.

While at the park, my husband and I stayed in our own ger [the Mongolian word for a yurt] at the Hustai Tourist Resort (camp) and enjoyed the simple, tasty food at the camp restaurant. We hiked along gullies, up the low mountains, through steppe grasses and birch forest. Of the estimated 40,000 resident marmots, we saw an average of 14 per day.  We also spotted deer, squirrels, a hare, a gray fox, magpies, steppe eagles, and demoiselle cranes. We did not take advantage of the available domesticated-horse rides or visits to local nomads.
Foal nursing
Even when the takhi had gone extinct in the wild, it had remained alive in the hearts of the Mongolian people. Seeing takhi roam free in its homeland again was a moving experience.

For more on Hustai National Park (also spelled Khustain), visit http://www.hustai.mn.
To arrange a car ride from Ulaanbaatar to visit and reserve lodging, e-mail takhi@hustai.mn.

Watch the video, Hustai National Park part 1 of 2 (8 minutes) at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qkkaRe6u4C0.

Watch the video, Hustai National Park part 2 of 2 (9 minutes, including takhi info) at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YgKbZhq5ChY.

Watch the video, Hustai National Park’s ecovolunteer program (5 minutes) at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7AdA-bGHc7c

For information on takhi, visit http://www.treemail.nl/takh.

Monday, July 27, 2015

MILL CITY MUSEUM: Minneapolis, Minnesota

View from deck on top floor of the Mill City Museum
Even though I grew up in Minneapolis, I never appreciated how much the flour milling industry contributed to the growth of the city until my recent visit to the Mill City Museum. Built into the ruins of what was once the world’s largest flour mill, the Mill City Museum is located on the historic Mississippi Riverfront. When I visited a few weeks ago with my family, my grandson proclaimed it to be the best museum he’d ever been to, and when I asked him why, he said it was because of all the interactive exhibits.
A series of graduated screens demonstrates how the finest flour sifts to the bottom
At the entrance to the museum visitors are invited to turn the crank of a small rolling machine that crushes the wheat into flour and then shake a set of sifting screens to see how the finest flour comes out at the end. Other hands-on exhibits include a room with models where visitors (mostly kids) can experiment with dam building and water flow, a kitchen where we sampled some delicious bread made with Gold Medal flour, and exhibits with buttons to push that play videos of historic TV and radio ads for General Mills products such as Bisquick and Malt-O-Meal. In other exhibits we learned about the invention of Wheaties and Bisquick, the history of Betty Crocker, and the early years of the Minneapolis milling industry.
Betty Crocker was invented in 1921 to personalize answers to customer letters
For the Flour Tower tour we sat on bleachers in a room-size elevator which stopped at various floors of the former mill where we saw milling equipment, videos of the mill in action, heard comments by former mill workers, and learned about the mill from the guide. At the top we went out to a balcony with a panoramic view of St. Anthony Falls, the Stone Arch bridge, and the east bank of the Mississippi. We then returned to ground level in an outside glass elevator. We finished our visit (after lunch in the museum café) with the movie Minneapolis in 19 Minutes Flat, a humorous and informative look at the growth and development of the city narrated and acted by Minneapolis radio personality Kevin Kling.
Stone Arch bridge over the Mississippi and St. Anthony Falls, power source for the mills
The Mill City Museum is operated by the Minnesota Historical Society inside what was once the A Mill of the Washburn Crosby Milling Company, which, after merging with 26 other milling companies, became General Mills in 1928. When I was growing up I attended Washburn High School in south Minneapolis. Our sports teams were the Millers. I listened to the WCCO radio and television (owned and named after the Washburn Crosby Company); I watched the Lone Ranger and Rocky and Bullwinkle on television (sponsored by General Mills); I ate Wheaties and Cheerios for breakfast; and I learned to cook with the Betty Crocker cookbook. In more ways than I previously realized, my life was impacted by the flour milling industry in Minneapolis.
Growing up, we always had a (much smaller!) box of Bisquick handy for making biscuits, pancakes and waffles.

Monday, July 20, 2015

THE MALDIVES: Idyll in the Indian Ocean, Guest post by Ann Stalcup

Maldive Islands
My friend and fellow children’s book writer Ann Stalcup and her husband Ed love to travel. In June 2014 they went on a trip to the United Arab Emirates and the Maldives in the Indian Ocean. Here are a few photos and a report from their week at a resort in the Maldives.
The Maldives consist of almost two thousand coral islands, most no larger than a football field. The country’s highest point is under eight feet. With the rising oceans resulting from global warming, predictions say the islands may disappear in a few years.
More than 100 of the Maldive islands are resorts. The Maldive island we chose to visit was idyllic and the food was superb. We had a gorgeous overwater bungalow and spent a lot of time there enjoying the sound of waves lapping under us.
Swimming was disappointing. I’d imagined being in and out of the water all day long but where the waves broke were hundreds of bits of razor-sharp coral. Neither of us had beach shoes, just rubber beach sandals, so a torturous once-a-day beach swim was all we could manage. But it was a lovely week none-the-less. Ed swam from the stairs of our bungalow or we lolled on chaises on our over-water deck.


For more information about visiting the Maldives from the official Maldives Tourist Board go to http://www.visitmaldives.com/en/ .