Jarai Arap Grave House (Piran Café Post #800)

This is a landmark post for Piran Café, its 800th since its inception early one chilly December morning in 2006. At a loss for how to celebrate or otherwise mark this turning point, I turned to my grandmother for advice. Her suggestion? Symbols of virility, fertility, endurance and strength.

“Pictures of large wooden penises,” she said. “Lots of them.”

I hate disappointing grandma, so I chugged my second generous glass of calvados and got busy searching and eventually found these: eight shots from the Jarai Arap Grave House in Hanoi I snapped back in October 2010. The house sits in a nicely maintained sprawling garden on the grounds of the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology. The day I was there, lots of brides-to-be were on the premises posing for portraits.

There are lots of human figures represented by the carvings, but those depicting couples readying themselves for the act are most prevalent. Symbols of fertility and birth were extremely important in death and, the Jarai (Giarai) believed, in the afterlife as well.

Enjoy!



__________________
If you haven’t guessed,
J is for Jarai Arap Grave House
in the Blogging From A to Z Challenge 2012.
Check out more participants here.

My explanation for this is here.

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These snaps are also this week’s contribution for Travel Photo Thursday (#TPThursday on twitter) hosted by Nancie on her website, Budget Travelers Sandbox. When you have few minutes to browse, check out Nancie’s photos and those of others who take part. You’ll see some great photos and visit some wonderful places. The direct link this week is here.

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Piran Café will be inaugurating a free monthly newsletter in May. It’ll be loaded with travel tips and wine reviews, updates on CC licensed free-to-use photos, musings on my obsessions of the day, plus an exclusive FREE giveaway EACH month available to subscribers ONLY. Giveaway No. 1:  Sign up now and you’ll be automatically entered to win a FREE major publishing house travel guide of your choice. Drawing is on 1 May, so do it now!

***

Hey! Follow me on Twitter.

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Horse Burger – LJ Pic of the Day

Has anyone tried it?

Apparently seeing horse on menus in Ljubljana tends to mess with some people’s sensibilities. But not nearly as much as seeing pictures of boiled dogs.

__________________
My guess is that most of you didn’t see this one coming.
H is indeed for Horse Burger
in the Blogging From A to Z Challenge 2012.
Check out more participants here.

My explanation for this is here.

***

Hey! Follow me on Twitter.

G is for Good ‘ole Fashioned Live Blogging (or, last minute research into France’s Cotentin Peninsula)

I’ll be spending about four days on the Contentin Peninsula in Normandy next week. Besides booking a room in Cherbourg, I’ve done no research into the area whatsoever.

So tonight I’m going back to the roots of why I decided to take on the A-Z blogging challenge this month with a brief exercise into something that I might undertake if I were to become a more serious contributor to the blogosphere: live blogging.

What I’ll be doing here for the next few hours won’t be nearly as interesting as live blogging in the traditional sense –keeping up with a breaking news story or live-blogging from an event, for instance. I’ll just be posting links and bits of info here as I come across it, and eventually organize it into something that might be of use to others who stumble across this post in the future. If not, at least it’ll be useful to me next week.

That’s it. Cheers!

***

Last post 23:51 CET – Concluded that I’d rather go elsewhere, St. Malo in Brittany. May be too late to shift plans; have to check with travel companion in the morning.

First post 21:32 CET -

~ Contentin Peninsula (general info) ~

From Contentin Peninsula wiki:

- Due to its comparative isolation, the peninsula is one of the remaining strongholds of the Norman language, and the local dialect is known as Cotentinais.
- Until the construction of modern roads, the peninsula was almost inaccessible in winter due to the band of marshland cutting off the higher ground of the promontory itself. This explains occasional historical references to the Cotentin as an island.

- Parc Naturel Regional des Marais du Cotentin et du Bessin (The Regional Nature park of the Cotentin and Bessin Marshlands) – 27,000 hectare park, wetland and marsh.

-

~ Cherbourg-Octeville ~

- Official tourism office (French)
- Wiki
-

- Cherbourg was The Titanic’s first stop on 10 April 1912 (four hours after leaving Southampton), where 274 passengers were brought on board.
-
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~ To the Channel Islands ~

- Manch Iles Express: http://www.manche-iles-express.com/ Destinations – Jersey, Sark Guernsey, Alderney
Appears that early April will have very limited options. There are departures from Dielette, Carteret and Granville south of Cherbourg but most variety is available from Saint Malo further south.

***
___ ___ ___ ___ ___
If you haven’t guessed,
G is for Good ‘ole Fashioned Live Blogging
in the Blogging From A to Z Challenge 2012.
Check out more participants here.

My explanation for this is here.

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Sarajevo Siege + 20: Fifteen photos

Time flies. Today marks the 20th Anniversary of the beginning of the siege on Sarajevo. Not a day passes that I don’t think about my visit there last year.

Even then it was difficult to imagine that nearly two decades had passed since the longest siege in modern times had ended. Plenty of buildings were still sitting as shells of ruins or in disrepair. Everywhere you turned bullet holes still marked buildings like violent graffiti tags. After a few hours of walking around and snapping pictures, I asked myself that time-tested question: How many photos of aging shelling and sniper fire damage does one man really need?

Quite a few as it turned out: in keeping with this month’s A-Z blogging challenge, here are fifteen, which will take care of today’s entry which was assigned the letter F. Or, you can go with a less safe-for-work theme: F for fucked up. Either will work and both interpretations are fine with me.

***

Despite the battle scars, there were plenty of signs of moving forward. Cosmetic ones mainly, the kind that arrive on the artificial coattails created by foreign capital-financed construction projects and pedestrian malls lined with boutiques where most of the locals can’t afford to shop. Just as striking were the remnants of a past not too distant, the Yugoslav days and daze where Sarajevo was the country’s cultural and creative capital that hosted the world for nearly two weeks in early 1984. The city’s main train station, where an old rusting sign built for those Winter Olympic Games still greets visitors near the taxi stand, hasn’t changed much in three decades.

Inside one of the station’s logistics offices, a portrait of Tito still hung on the wall. Inside a station cafe, four men, all retirees, sat chatting over their 9:30 am cocktails and grumbled about the lack of vacation options to fit their budgets.”Screw it,” one said, before losing his train of thought. The others burst out in laughter, cajoled him for his apparent senility, and ordered another round.

** **

11,541 red chairs, one for every person killed during the 44-month siege, were arranged in 825 rows today to commemorate the beginning of the siege. Check out my twitter feed at right or online (@pirancafe) for links to photos published and tweeted throughout the day.

Memorial for the children killed during the siege of Sarajevo

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__________________
Indeed.
F is for Fifteen
in the Blogging From A to Z Challenge 2012.
Check out more participants here.

My explanation for this is here.

*** *** ***

Piran Café will be inaugurating a free monthly newsletter in May. It’ll be loaded with travel tips and wine reviews, updates on CC licensed free-to-use photos, musings on my obsessions of the day, plus an exclusive FREE giveaway EACH month available to subscribers ONLY. Giveaway No. 1: Sign up now and you’ll be automatically entered to win a FREE major publishing house travel guide of your choice. Drawing is on 1 May, so do it now!

***
Previously from Sarajevo (Jun/Jul 2011):

- Sarajevo Tunnel Museum (Sarajevo Notebook III)
- Things you’ll find in the basement of Sarajevo’s Academy of Fine Arts
- Michael Jackson meets Christopher Reeve?
- Sarajevo pics, Part deux
- Trebević Mountain Polka (Sarajevo notebook II)
- Sarajevo notebook I – time lapses
- more pics from Sarajevo on my flickr stream

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The Donetsk Dandy Dozen – 12 Pics from Ukraine’s 5th Largest City

I haven’t seen Donetsk, the fifth largest city in Ukraine, on too many ”must-see’ lists. It also wasn’t on my list of places where I expected to wake up on 40th birthday. It was early February and it was cold. That you would expect in eastern Ukraine.

morning view on my 40th birthday

I was there to cover a sporting event and the trip wasn’t very long, just three very cold days. This was early 2005, just a few months after recently-elected President Victor Yushchenko made international headlines when his face started peeling off after he had soup spiced up with TCDD, the most potent dioxin in Agent Orange. A guest of honor at the event I was covering was Viktor Yanukovych, Yuschenko’s chief rival. Donetsk was not Yushchenko country.

I had very little time to explore. Most of these snaps were taken during a brief afternoon birthday stroll. There was plenty of signs of construction so I’m sure the city’s changed quite a bit in the seven years since.

And a few more, these all taken at Donetsk International Airport, some of which has been reconstructed since.

But wait! There’s more – a bonus shot from the airport! Fear not: according to local visitors on my flickr stream, the public restrooms don’t look like this anymore.

** **

__________________
Yes, that’s right.
D is for Donetsk
in the Blogging From A to Z Challenge 2012.
Check out more participants here.

My explanation for this is here.

*** *** ***

Piran Café will be inaugurating a free monthly newsletter in May. It’ll be loaded with travel tips and wine reviews, updates on CC licensed free-to-use photos, musings on my obsessions of the day, plus an exclusive FREE giveaway EACH month available to subscribers ONLY. Giveaway No. 1:  Sign up now and you’ll be automatically entered to win a FREE major publishing house travel guide of your choice. Drawing is on 1 May, so do it now!

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‘I’ve had cholera. You?’

I’ve read Love in the Time of Cholera twice. It’s among my favorite books.

The first time was in the early winter of 1992, when I lived in a small one-room cabin in the woods near Athens, Ohio. At the time I was preparing for a road trip three friends and I were about to take, driving my friend Bob O’s 1975 International Harvester Scout from southern Ohio to Nicaragua. When he bought it for two hundred dollars six months before our late June departure date, it was barely running.

That winter also included research into and writing about a new cholera pandemic that began early the previous year in Peru and which was gradually creeping its way north towards Central America.

By June we were prepared with fully recharged immune systems. We had several booster shots, drank polio juice dispensed from the university clinic, and took our anti-malarials. On the road we were extremely careful with what we ate. We drank and brushed our teeth with only bottled water.

During a seven-hour wait on the border between El Salvador and Honduras, Breyer was the first to get sick. Nausea, some vomiting, diarrhea. I was the first to make fun of her.

It hit me the next afternoon as we were approaching San Marcos de Colon, a Honduran town just eleven kilometers from the Nicaraguan border. We were running late, the border closed at five, so we were forced to spend the night. I could barely walk. Bob O dragged me a few blocks to a small privately operated clinic run by a young Brazilian doctor who, as it happened, was extensively involved in Honduras’ national anti-cholera campaign. And she wasn’t amused. I don’t recall her precise words, but they went something like this:

“I’ve been working my ass off to keep cholera out of this town and you greasy gringos bring it here.”

Cholera causes heavy and quick dehydration. It’s easily cured, but if not treated quickly, it can and does kill. It’s the worst form of diarrhea imaginable, unrelenting. The dizziness is profound, and I’ve never felt that parched or helpless.

We were quarantined for the next thirty-six hours, the first twenty of which where fairly unpleasant. The doctor immediately began treating us as if we had the bacteria swimming inside us, but we still had to provide samples which would be sent to the health institute’s main lab in the capital Tegucigalpa.

We were laying on brand new cholera beds, the kind with precut holes designed to fit virtually any ass size, when she handed us small glass containers. They reminded me of baby food jars. “Here,” she said.

When you’ve lost all control of that bodily function, capturing your own spouting fountain of cholera juice in a recycled baby food jar isn’t easy. It’s also a mess. I really don’t wish it upon anyone. Not even George W. Bush.

We were also advised to not, under any circumstances, tell anyone that we contracted cholera – not in Honduras, not in Nicaragua. The campaigns were effective, the doctor told us, but they’ve also spread considerable fear. People would flood the clinics demanding medicines. Terrified mobs could form to run us out of town. “This has happened,” she said.

Near Teustepe, Nicaragua. What struck me here was that I’d seen very similar scenes in rural Appalachia.

During our unintended stay, we met Mary, a Texan who was born-again a dozen years earlier and who had been coming to San Marcos for the past nine years to help with the clinic.

“I heard there were some sick communists in town,” she said, after storming into our room to introduce herself. I wasn’t feeling particularly talkative.

“Who are you and what the fuck are you doing here?” was all I could manage.

She smiled. “Every American who passes through here is a communist. But that’s okay. Jesus will forgive you.”

I wanted to tell her that Jesus was a communist but I was too distracted with positioning myself just right over the hole in the bed.

Over the next few days she rambled on about lots of things, among them, that a capful of Clorox bleach can cure just about everything. Her anti-communist rants were particularly amusing. “Seventy percent of Mexico is communist,” she said. “Most of Guatemala and El Salvador, half of Honduras.”

For the rest of the summer we called her The Church Lady. We didn’t see eye-to-eye on one thing, but I did grow to like her. We had conversations fun enough to make my vomiting and diarrhea slightly less unbearable. I jotted quite a bit of them into my notebooks. She later inspired a few haiku. Here’s one:

Says she – “I was blessed
Jesus set me up real good
With cheap real estate”

With lots of time to kill, we tracked down the root of our affliction to a small roadside restaurant in the mountains just south of Guatemala City. Breyer and I each had a salad which was obviously washed in contaminated water. Bob O and Jeannine did not.

***
Aside:

Bob O’s car got us there, but it never left Nicaragua. He decided to sell it to a friend, Pedro, a former contra squad leader who would later become mayor of Teustepe, our sister city. One afternoon, Pedro and some friends drove into the countryside for what I think was to be a hunting trip. Along the way a spark ignited and the car, loaded with guns and ammo, exploded. No one was hurt.

I traveled overland on my way back north that summer –the other three chose to fly– selecting slightly different routes. Hoping to at least partly avoid the mass confusion, delays and bribes inherent in each border crossing, I chose a less-traveled one from Nicaragua back into Honduras via Esteli and Ocotal.

I got up early, hopped on a pre-dawn bus, and was first in line when the Nicaraguans opened their side of the border at 8 a.m. Soon after waving good bye, I walked the four hundred or so meters to the Honduran gate, which wouldn’t be open until 9. So I spent an hour, with no shade, sitting on the thick line you see separating countries on maps.

** **

__________________
Yes, that’s right.
C is for Cholera
in the Blogging From A to Z Challenge 2012.
Check out more participants here.

My explanation for this is here.

*** *** ***

Piran Café will be inaugurating a free monthly newsletter in May. It’ll be loaded with travel tips and wine reviews, updates on CC licensed free-to-use photos, musings on my obsessions of the day, plus an exclusive FREE giveaway EACH month available to subscribers ONLY. Giveaway No. 1:  Sign up now and you’ll be automatically entered to win a FREE major publishing house travel guide of your choice. Drawing is on 1 May, so do it now!

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Beggars

It was just as I decided against buying some pens made from large bullet shell casings that I felt a slight tug on my shirt. It came from a gaunt woman with very long straight jet black hair and rotting front teeth. She was holding a young girl by the hand whose complexion was just a shade lighter than her own pale kidney bean brown. I pretended not to understand her first plea, and then ignored the next four.

“Please, please,” she said, “we want to have some of your money.”

Her limited command of English was too direct. Which was likely why she tried Croat, Albanian, Macedonian, Italian and German first.

“I have young daughter. She very sick and we very, very hungry.”

The girl was clean, nicely dressed, appeared healthy and aloof. She was also very quiet.

I politely told her no and continued walking. She followed for a few more steps before turning her attention to a couple who were strolling the opposite way.

I saw them again about 20 minutes later, just as I was waiting for the grounds to settle in what would be my last Turkish coffee of the day. The girl wasn’t quiet this time. Her pestering ruined the calming call to prayer that was pleasantly wailing from one of the nearby minarets.

“I want to go home,” she said in Croat, gently tugging at the women’s loose fitting blouse. The woman tugged back hard and smacked the girl on the back with a plastic bag full of fruit.

“Silence!” she yelled, her raging eyes bulging, commanding respect. “Your mother said she didn’t want you home until 10!”

The girl was quiet again when the woman stopped another couple. It was getting late. This time she muttered in English first.

**
This was in Sarajevo’s Baščaršija, or Turkish Quarter, last summer. You can check out some more Sarajevo-related posts here, or browse through some photos on my flickr stream here. Oh, and I really think you should invest 150 seconds of your day and check out this 17-scene timelapse I shot. Thanks!

***
__________________
If you haven’t guessed,
B is for Beggars
in the Blogging From A to Z Challenge 2012.
Check out more participants here.

My explanation for this is here.

*** *** ***

Piran Café will be inaugurating a free monthly newsletter in May. It’ll be loaded with travel tips and wine reviews, musings on my obsessions of the day, updates on CC licensed free-to-use photos, plus an exclusive FREE giveaway EACH month available to subscribers ONLY. Giveaway No. 1:  Sign up now and you’ll be automatically entered to win a FREE major publishing house travel guide of your choice. Drawing is on 1 May, so do it now!

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