Guatemala: a beautiful spot on this planet.

The flight from Washington, DC to Guatemala City was longer than I anticipated. I could not believe how green everything is from the air. But the most amazing thing were the volcanoes!

I have heard that there are 37 volcanoes in tiny Guatemala. Food is not hot like in Mexico! Go figure, they are so close. At the hotel, 99+% of TV programs were dubbed into Spanish.  There were programs that put the show on hold to provide a special translation to English terms of art.

Coming here made me understand better why the young Guatemalans are flocking to the US.  It is a beautiful country, the people are kind, the food delicious. There are more than 40 indigenous groups, totally marginalized.  It is obvious the Mayans have been dealt an ugly and bad blow.   According to the UN Development Program, “more than 200,000 people died in Guatemala’s 36-year civil war, and over 45,000 “disappeared,” including an estimated 5,000 children.  Ninety three percent of atrocities were carried out by the army.”  In the northern part of the country there is no secondary education.  Malnutrition, in a food producing country, is a problem.

What I saw in Guatemala City was a city that reminded me of certain parts of Madrid, Buenos Aires and even Rome.   PBS has some interesting background on a complex country.  I was sad to leave Guatemala and hope to return soon to explore further.

At Cierro de La Cruz, overlooking Antigua Guatemala.  Photo by BDH

At Cierro de La Cruz, overlooking Antigua Guatemala. Photo by BDH

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View from Cerro de la Cruz of Antigua Guatemala at the foot of “Water Volcano” (Volcano del Agua). Photo by BDH.

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At Cierro de la Cruz, a wonderful exuberance of color.

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Street in Antigua Guatemala.

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Same street – different direction!

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Posada Don Rodrigo. Great restaurant. Used to be a convent. Delightful, with great food and service.

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Details from Posada Don Rodrigo – entry way.

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Courtyard details from wall at Posada Don Rodrigo.

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Tile by room of Posada Don Rodrigo: “Home of the Armada’s Dame”.

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Afghanistan: Of poetry and trucks.

Trucks painted in vivid colors and lettered with poems, which have borrowed the terms of war to describe love, are part of the cultural landscape along the dusty roads of Afghanistan, especially the south and east. The verses are read by passers-by, discussed in homes and shops, and often resonate within the hearts of the Afghan people. They reflect the thinking and perceptions of usually illiterate and largely tribal people, mainly Pashtuns. Themes range from tribal honour, politics and religion to war, love and homesickness.   Read more here.bsas 602

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The power of one: Padre Pietro.

I always start reading The Economist from the back, the obituary page.  It is the one thing I find about the magazine that is truly unique and mesmerizing.  Their obituaries capture the essence of the person.  I wish I knew who the author(s) is.  Because he/she/they have an uncanny gift.  The Economist’s obituaries, through death, bring the person to energetic life.  Somehow, the author(s) celebrate the dead person’s significance, regardless of how good or evil that person was.

I share here the life of Padre Pietro.  I never heard of him, but how I wish I had when I lived in Italy.


Thus starts the obit:

WHEN the young St Francis knelt in prayer in the filthy, derelict church of San Damiano in Assisi, around 1206, the wide-eyed figure of Christ on the cross asked him to restore it. When Padre Pietro Lavini, already a Capuchin friar walking in Francis’s footsteps, came for the first time to the ruined church of San Leonardo high in the Apennines, his experience was almost the same. The stones seemed to say: “Why don’t you rebuild us?” Pushed by some mysterious force, he found himself answering: “Why not?”

For additional information, go to The Telegraph.

Posted in Architecture, Italy, Religion | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Kurdistan: The piercing eyes of suffering children.

From the Kurdistan Regional Government’s August Newsletter:

It was a year ago this month that the people of Kurdistan were once again subjected to the horrors of genocide. When ISIS launched its assault on Sinjar on August 3, 2014, hundreds of thousands of Yezidis were forced to flee. Thousands of Yezidi women and girls were forced into the most reprehensible slavery, and thousands of men and boys were massacred. Read more here.

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Becoming older.

I made a comment a while back at work about “being past my prime” which brought some chuckles, including mine.  Ours is but a fleeting moment… between the ages of 20 and 48, we feel we can do anything, but the reality is that around 48 years those under that age see us as “old”.  Back a while, reflecting on getting old, I pondered:

Aging is like a rose:

A calyx embraced by its sepals

A bud in a vase

An emerging corolla

A blossom

A bursting perianth…

Should it be nipped in the bloom,

A desiccated flower with all its beauty, color, and fragrance suspended in time. 

Come to think of it, some would consider the desiccated blossoms dust collectors… (I have many of those!).

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Happy Birthday, Daddy.

This is the message I wrote my Father on his birthday, last January, but, rather than making it public I just sent it to him via email.  He was gone 4 months later.  The spirit of the message still stands, even though my Dad died in May.

A message to my Father:

Daddy, and you are my “Daddy”, even though I am no longer a spring chicken!!!  87 years arrived a bit too suddenly, because we never expected that time would go by so quickly. Even my little brothers are no longer young, although their sisters will forever see them as the little boys they were when we were tweens and teens.

Think of what a wonderful stage of life you have reached and achieved:

  • 1 great-grand-daughter (and 1 great-grand-son soon to be born):  you HAVE to be proud knowing that your great-grand-daughter is big-headed like you!!!  At 1-year of age, we are all acknowledging that her brachiocephalic head may help us understand her stubbornness…  We anticipate that the little boy will be as big-headed as his cousin and his Great-Grandfather!!!
  • 7 grand-children:  3 young men and 1 young woman, 3 young boys…all looking up to you as the patriarch of a clan who holds the key to the history behind our families and who shares that history with incredible stories of “the old days”…
  • 4 children:  all middle-aged by now, with in-laws, who -together- have given you a reason to laugh and cry (because you were laughing so hard) in earnest, throughout these years…
  • Nephews and nieces galore:  3 special nephews and 1 special niece who have always, always seen you as the guiding star…
  • Brother, sister-in-law, brother-in-law, cousins, cousins-in-law and other relatives:  isn’t it wonderful to have all these family members around to remind all of us of the importance of cherishing a family?

You are blessed with the knowledge that your family is there for you and for all of us… 87 is a serious number!  I hope we (your kids) are lucky to reach 87!!!  Happy Birthday, Daddy!

 

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Diolun Designs: lovely sculpted jewelry.

From my talented sister, more beautiful jewelry:

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One-of-a-kind sculpted jewelry.

My talented sister’s beautiful sculpted jewelry:

Flowers

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Rats.

My sons always told me that rats were very intelligent, but I was not expecting this:  from National Geographic:

Rats’ superpowers are near-mythical: They can swim for three days. They can fit through holes the size of a quarter. They’ve even been said to have no solid bones, just cartilage (definitely false, and I can’t confirm whether they can collapse their ribcages). I looked to science for the truth. But I was surprised by the dearth of studies on the Norway rat—the common city rat, Rattus norvegicus—in the wild (the wild in this case being any city on Earth). Despite our long human history with lab rats, we know very little about the lives of the rats in our homes.

Rat coming up a toilet!

Rat coming up a toilet!

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Afghanistan: “Unknown Fate” and Human Trafficking.

“Unknown Fate” is a documentary by Tolo News that grimly depicts the misery behind the trafficking in persons that occurs on a daily basis in Afghanistan.  To understand the plight of many Afghans, I recommend watching it.

Destination is mostly Iran, although some end up in other countries as well.  The statistics are grim, to say the least.  Seeing the many trucks driving through the desert with so many Afghans in the back risking so much is quite sobering.  Watching the ravages of drug addiction is horrific.  Yet, it is encouraging that these types of stories are being told.  The documentary is a window to the plight of others, as well as a testimony to the realization that Afghans themselves are exposing this plight.

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Afghanistan: “Baad” Marriages.

There is something I find beautiful in this picture, even though it depicts a young Afghan girl being forced to marry in order to settle a feud.   RFE/RL has a fascinating article about the “baad” tradition, which is still practiced in some rural areas of Afghanistan.  What I find comforting is to read that this practice is in decline:

Earlier this year, the nongovernmental organization Civil and Liberal Initiative for Peace (CLIP) sought to map the practice of baad and its social impact in Afghanistan. Focusing on nine districts in Kabul, Parwan, and Panjshir provinces, the survey showed a significant decline in baad cases.

“The Baad tradition is still practiced in some of the areas where literacy rates are low,” said CLIP member Khadija Amiri. She attributed the decrease of baad practice to improved education and literacy programs and an increase in public awareness.

Afghan Wedding Scene, undated

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A special message to those who work in Afghanistan…

I marvel at the fearless stamina that so many expats and Afghan colleagues display, working hard to improve things in Afghanistan, despite the ugly surprises they encounter on a daily basis.  I am awed and humbled by their dedication.

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Frogs.

I have an affinity for frogs.  They are funny creatures, beautifully ugly creatures, who have been memorialized in song by Argentine folk singers.  Here is another tale about frogs:  Stung by a Venomous Frog, and Happy About It.  (Thanks to Althouse).

Sapo cancionero

Sapo cancionero – Photo by me.

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AMAZING human ingenuity…

…and NO ONE is talking about this incredible human feat!!!! Look at the NY Times’ photo exhibit.  It is amazing. It makes me humble to think that humans accomplished such an “oeuvre”. Philae search area on Comet 67P/C-G.

JUNE 14: CONTACT WITH PHILAE The Philae lander, which bounced across comet’s surface and settled in an unknown location last November, finally received enough sunlight to emerge from hibernation and contact the Rosetta spacecraft on June 13.

The lander’s exact location is still unknown, but researchers have narrowed their search to the area near the red ellipse, above, on the head of the duck-shaped comet.

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Music and geography…

Having moved and lived in many countries throughout my life, I have a peculiar way of re-living memories: I associate music with key elements of life lived in different places.  Music brings me pleasure or pain, depending on what thoughts the melody triggers.

So, for example, although I am not your typical Grateful Dead fan, Ripple brings back memories of my 3 sons when they were little boys (between the ages of 3 and 7), while I drove them around Moscow in the late 1980’s.

It is the same with Les Miserables (which had just come out). I kept playing the tapes over and over again (tapes? Yeah!! It was the Jurassic era of sound!!!!).  The songs were poignant, because we were living under a totalitarian communist regime, and -through music- I was trying to tell my little boys that the lure of socialism/communism was the biggest lie ever sold to the world!  Today, my sons are men with wives and children. Yet, my love of music transports me back to a time when they were boys and I was young. I cannot wait to share this with their children: music is the fountain of youth. Memories keep you young, despite what you see in the mirror!!!!


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