Monday, October 30, 2017

KYOTO, JAPAN: A Day of Leisure, from the Memoir of Aunt Carolyn

Vegetable stall, Japanese market
My husband's Aunt, Carolyn T. Arnold, traveled to Japan in the 1960's and 70's as the leader of a tour group. Here is her description of a leisure day with her group in Kyoto.
Leisure days in any country call for a good deal of resourcefulness on the part of the tour director to keep everyone satisfied and to plan for something that was not a part of the schedule. Seldom did anyone use those days purely for leisure, so I work harder on those days.

In Kyoto my favorite leisure day activity is a stroll along a pedestrian shopping street. There are hundreds of little shops open to the mall. The fish market man proudly displayed his largest fish. At another stall, vegetables are colorfully and artistically arranged. Most people gasp at the size of the white radishes, two to three feet long. The “home folks” slice and pickle these to make a tasty relish. Once I ventured into a noodle factory where large sheets of pasta were taken out of pots of boiling water and hung up to dry, then on to the girls who measured, cut, and tied them into bundles. The girl at the corner was frying bean paste cookies; I bought a few. They were crisp and tasted a bit like chocolate.

We were amazed at the variety of things for sale. Mechanical toys might be beside mannequins featuring ready-to-wear, mostly Western styles.  One of the many delights of Japan is the food. It’s hard to forget the rice, green tea, sake (rice wine), chop sticks, and even green tea ice cream. Dick, the clown of the group, kept everyone roaring as he attempted to pick up a green pea with his chopstick.
Window display of plastic replicas of dishes on the menu in a Japanese restaurant
We tried various types of dinners. Mongolian barbecue was a favorite. A waitress grilled small pieces of chicken, beef, shrimp, and vegetables over a charcoal grill sunken in the center of the table. Then, she daintily picked up each piece, dipped it into a bowl of soy sauce, and placed it before us. A thimble-size cup of sake completed the meal.

Perhaps the original intrepid tourist was Carolyn Arnold, my husband’s aunt.  A single school teacher in Des Moines, she began traveling abroad when she was in her forties, beginning with a bicycling trip through Ireland in 1950.  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 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 and look at her photos, I marvel at her spirit of adventure at a time when women did not have the independence they do today.

Monday, October 23, 2017

BOWERS MUSEUM, Santa Ana, CA: 100 Years Ago, Ernest Shackleton's Antarctic Expedition and Frank Hurley's Amazing Photos

Bowers Museum of Cultural Art, Santa Ana, California
One hundred years ago, Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic expedition came to an end when he and his crew were rescued after a harrowing two year ordeal trapped in ice and out of touch with the world. Newspapers around the world ran headlines to celebrate, publishing amazing photos by Australian photographer Frank Hurley, who had been hired to document the expedition. Endurance: The Antarctic Legacy of Sir Ernest Shackleton and Frank Hurley is a  fascinating exhibit of Frank Hurley’s photos and other artifacts from the expedition at the Bowers Museum of Cultural Art in Santa Ana, California from September 30, 2017 to January 28, 2018.
Lecture series poster for the exhibit Endurance, the Antarctic Legacy
Two weeks ago we went to see the exhibit and to hear a lecture by Melissa Roth, Pulitzer Prize winning documentary photographer, who is currently working on a book about Frank Hurley. (A number of lectures will be given during the exhibit.) She shared passages from his diary along with critiques of some of his photos, which not only document the journey, but are also stunning works of art. In many, the ship, which was painted black, stands in stark contrast to the surrounding ice and sky. For one of his most famous photos, known as the “ghost ship” or “the long, long night,” he did the opposite. He photographed the ship at night, lighting it with flares to create an eerie contrast with the black sky. Other photos portray the day to day life of the crew, including meals, card games, taking scientific measurements, and even portraits of the dog teams that helped carry equipment on sledges.
Some of the exhibit related items available in the museum gift shop
For the museum exhibit, Hurley’s original glass plates and celluloid negatives, now at the Royal Geographical Society in London, have been scanned at high resolution and printed in large format. The pictures are arranged chronologically. Hurley also had a movie camera and those films are projected on large screens along the wall. One harrowing sequence shows the final collapse of the ship in a storm as it is crushed by the shifting pack ice. Background noises of seals and penguins and the ever present wind enhance the feeling of being there as one follows the sequence of photos around the room. The exhibit prohibits photography. You can see a sample of his photos HERE and read more about Hurley's life of adventure.
One of nine thangka paintings by Shashi Dhoj Tulachan
Before we left, we took a quick look at one of the other current exhibits at the Bowers Museum, Sacred Realms: Temple Murals by Shashi Dhoj Tulachan from the Gayle and Edward P. Roski Collection. These incredibly detailed paintings are huge, unlike typical temple art. They are the work of a 69-year-old Buddhist monk named Shashi Dhoj Tulachan, a second generation thangka artist living in Tuksche, a remote village located in Mustang, Nepal's northernmost district adjacent to Tibet. The practice of thangka painting is centuries old and is an art carried out by highly trained monks to teach about Buddha and the Buddhist religion. The overwhelming amount of detailed imagery in each painting includes deities, mythologies, and the use of repeated and abstracted design. For those seeking enlightenment, thangka paintings exist as objects of meditation.
Video of monks creating a thangka painting
The Bowers Museum also has a number of other exhibits and a variety of permanent collections which we didn't have time to see before the museum closed. We did stop at the gift shop on our way out and purchased a book about the Shackleton expedition and Frank Hurley's incredible photos. The more we look at them, the more we appreciate Hurley's artistic skill and his technical mastery in unbelievably daunting conditions.

Monday, October 16, 2017

ICELAND: Waterfalls, Geysers, and Hot Springs, Guest Post by Tom Scheaffer

Gullfoss Waterfall, Iceland
My brother Tom Scheaffer has just returned from a two week trip to Iceland and the Faroe Islands. Tom’s trip was part of the Sri Chimnoy Oneness-Home Peace Run, a worldwide promotion of peace to “help remind millions of people every day in so many countries that our common goal is peace.” With a group of eleven friends he traveled from Iceland to the Faroe Islands for the Peace Run. While in Iceland they visited a number of tourist destinations. Here is Tom's report.
Western Iceland
Iceland is a land of vast and pristine landscapes. There is much hydroelectric power from the many rushing rivers and waterfalls.Waterfalls are numerous in Iceland and we hiked to Gullfoss Waterfall, located in the canyon of the Olfusa river in southwest Iceland. The name means "Golden Falls" and it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Iceland. (For a sense of scale, look at the tiny people in the photo.)
Great Geysir Geyser
We also visited the Geysir Geyser and watched it erupt. Eruptions at Geysir can hurl boiling water up to 70 meters in the air!
Hot Spring
We saw hot springs and thermal pools. Iceland is a thermal hot spot with many active volcanoes. The abundant hot thermal water is used to heat homes and energy costs are low.
Crater Lake, Western Iceland
We then traveled to Western Iceland and visited a crater lake formed in an ancient volcano. Later we hiked to a smaller waterfall in Western Iceland.

For another view of Iceland and its amazing landscape of fire and ice, take a look at Owen Floody's post about his photo tour of Iceland in May 2013, posted on The Intrepid Tourist on 8/26/13.

Monday, October 9, 2017

FAROE ISLANDS: Land of Fjords and Green Cliffs, Guest Post by Tom Scheaffer

Faroe Islands Peace Run
My brother Tom Scheaffer has just returned from a two week trip to Iceland and the Faroe Islands. Tom’s trip was part of the Sri Chimnoy Oneness-Home Peace Run, a worldwide promotion of peace to “help remind millions of people every day in so many countries that our common goal is peace.”  Tom traveled with eleven friends to six of the islands using ferries or undersea tunnels. They ran with the peace torch and visited 20 schools and saw more than 2000 children. 
The Faroe Islands consist of 18 major islands about 407 miles off the coast of Northern Europe, about halfway between Iceland and Norway. The islands are an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark.
Here is Tom's report.
I am in Faroe Islands and it is spectacular. It is a land of fiords and green cliffs.We have had great weather so far with no rain and lots of sun. The landscape is incredibly green with waterfalls cascading down the mountains and into the sea.
Tom in the Faroe Islands
Schools are very modern and look like art museums.  A teacher told me that 5% must go to art when they build a new school.
School library
They have a high standard of living here in the Faroe Islands, and we were told it is even higher than in Denmark, with which it still has political and economic ties.
Tom with students
The people speak Faroese which is a Nordic language. The Vikings had a large impact on the Faroe Islands and there are many Viking legends. Written Faroese is most similar to Icelandic and to their common ancestor Old Norse, though the spoken language is closer to Norwegian dialects of Western Norway. Although Faroese is the official language on the islands, Danish is taught in schools. Many people also speak English.
Salmon farming is a huge industry here because of the clean cold water of the North Atlantic, which is ideal for raising salmon. You can see the salmon corrals and the fish jumping. Torshavn is the largest city with a population of about 20,000, but many people live in smaller villages on the edge of the sea. Sheep abound on the hillsides, and it is more likely you will encounter a sheep on the road than another car!
Today was the last day we visited schools. Afterward we went to a most beautiful waterfall and ran along the ocean cliffs. 
This is a land of incredible beauty and there is a real sense of peace because one is surrounded by nature wherever you go. In the summer, puffins and other sea birds come to the cliffs to nest. The maritime climate is cool, but not too cold because of the Gulf Stream which tempers the climate. The Faroe Islands are still unspoiled and worth the effort to travel to if you love nature.

Monday, October 2, 2017

MOUNT PINOS, Southern California: On Top of the World

Mount Pinos. View to the northeast, across the San Andreas Fault
Mount Pinos, just 90 miles north of the heart of Los Angeles, is one of Southern California’s best kept secrets. In the Los Padres National Forest, on the border of Kern and Ventura Counties,  it is the perfect place to get away from city life and immerse oneself in the natural world.
Trail to our favorite picnic spot
At 8,848 feet elevation Mount Pinos is the tallest mountain in the Tehachapis. The indigenous Chumash tribe still considers Mount Pinos a sacred site. From the top one looks west toward the coastal range, south across the Tehachapis, and north across the San Andreas fault toward the Central Valley.
Indian paintbrush
On a clear winter day one can see the snow capped peaks of the Sierras fifty miles away. In spring and summer, wildflowers bloom on the open slopes. It is one of our favorite places to hike--summer, fall, winter, spring-- and only an hour and a half drive from Los Angeles. After following the long, winding road up the mountain from Frazier Park, we park in a large lot at the beginning of the trailhead. (The parking lot is a favorite for star gazing because of the clear air and relative lack of light pollution. We have often arrived at the parking lot to find it full of telescopes and stargazers resting as they wait for night to fall.)
The bark of the Jeffrey pines have a characteristic caramel smell.
The path starts out through a forest of tall Jeffrey pines and ends up on the open, rocky slopes of the summit.
Beginning of the trail
The hike to the summit is about two miles from the parking area, or about four miles round trip. The trail gradually ascends. We usually take a picnic lunch and stop at our favorite overlook.
Informational display at the summit
Mount Pinos, "Iwihinmu" in the Chumash language, was considered by the Chumash Native Americans to be the center of the world ("Liyikshup"), the point where everything was in balance. A display at the summit provides information about the Chumash and the animals of the region. Another marker honors Vincent Tumamait, a beloved Chumash story teller.
Memorial to Vincent Tumamait
The trail continues from the summit to Mount Abel, six miles to the west. We have done that hike several times (a fairly strenuous up and down trail) and arranged to be picked up at the other end. But most often, our goal is the top of Mount Pinos, always an inspiration.
For information about hiking and other activities on Mount Pinos, click HERE.