Going By In A Bus

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Jöjullsárlon Glacial Lagoon – Iceland

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Literally “going by in a bus.”

We passed the above on our way to visit the author Thórdarson memorial site in nearby Hali. Our date with the above lagoon was later that afternoon. There were poles quickly and determinedly going by the window as I shot AVCHD video with my Sony Alpha A-6000 using Sony’s e-mount SEL18-55mm zoom lens that has internal stabilization.

This is a screenshot I took while editing the video. The stains on the baby icebergs are volcanic fallout probably from the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption in southern Iceland. The added colour in the ice enhances the photo.

Behind, and just below the Parasitic Jaeger in full flight, is the gloomy-faced glacier whose calving produces the ice in the lagoon. For me the image creates a very special mood. I am grateful to my A-6000 and to the photography djinns for my being on the correct side of the bus as we whisked by between posts on our way to tea and a tour at the Hali Farm.

We had paid days in advance for a large, yellow, amphibious duck boat tour of the lagoon. When we arrived from Hali it was raining and I had to leave my camera in the bus and don rain pants, etc. For someone who has seen the Rockies’ Columbia Ice Field close up, this wasn’t much ice and the hectic decision making and running around caused by the bad weather induced me to tune out. We were treated to what seemed like standard tourist jokes by the young, non-icelandic park guide on the boat.

We dutifully chomped on 1000 year old glacier ice that he used a pick to break off for us from an armful-sized chunk.  To his credit, he held it in his bare hand with long-suffering, smiling patience. The chunk must have been captured earlier and kept in a fridge because we never saw him collect it. I was relieved when it was thrown back. Maybe it was, too.

Pale blue or not, it tasted like… ice. No hint of blueberry. To my undiscerning palette, it didn’t seem to have gone bad during that thousand years. Whatever molecules, if any, it may have absorbed from Eyjafjallajökull in 2010 were invisible and tasteless.

There were many similar craft chugging down into the water at regular intervals. Ours had a bullet hole in it. We learned that they were originally US Navy craft. The afternoon sailings should have been canceled and our $60 pp refunded. I would then have walked around in my rain suit shooting under an umbrella. My camera, always the third person on our holidays, sulked for a day or so. I told it it hadn’t missed much. That didn’t help.

I have only now told “A” that it helped me capture the above surprise that just may be my favourite of the whole trip. Was it my imagination, or did I hear a tiny, high pitched sob of relief?

I may just treat it to its first partial eclipse of the sun on Monday. I’ll protect its face and mine with a piece of #14 welders glass I used to shoot the Venus Transit on June 8, 2004 and the solar eclipse on December 25, 2000.

AVCHD video has been a recent possibility for me. My old movie program on my PC would not accept HD video, so I’ve only been using it for about 18 months – after upgrading to an iMac desktop. AVCHD has made producing decent images of unpredictable moving subjects so much easier.

Iceland on the whole has been wonderful. The people we met (mostly associated with the tourist industry) were generous with their attention and many spoke impeccable English.

Later on our 10 day ring road circuit we had a chance meeting and delightful conversation at breakfast in the Kia Hotel in Akureyri  with two brilliant Icelanders whose names are, I’m sure, household words there. More later on that.

 

Hue Hunger Games – April 18, 2008

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Ngo Mon Gate – where Emperor Bao Dai abdicated to a Ho Chi Minh delegation in 1945

The ancient capital of Viet Nam is a fascinating place. The citadel is actually three nested citadels: imposing grey walls protected by a moat, a second citadel whose entrance is shown above, and a third “citadel” called the Forbidden Purple City, territory that excluded all except the emperor, his family and inner coterie. The top photo is the Ngo Mon, or Noontime, gate to the second citadel, the central door being reserved for the emperor himself.

Inside the To Mieu Temple complex honouring the Nguyen Dynasty there are nine urns dedicated to the nine Nguyen emperors, the largest being dedicated to Nguyen Anh (Emperor Gia Long), founder of the Nguyen Dynasty in 1802 A.D.

The nine dynastic urns; and below the gorgeous  gate to To Mieu complex, its detail and, last, the long, low To Mieu Temple:

 

 

To Mieu Temple

 

 

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Thanks to B52 bombing during the Vietnam War (Vietnamese call it the American War) there was nothing much left of the Forbidden Purple City, but some sort of restoration had begun back in 2008 when we were there. We were instructed by signs not to venture off the approved path for our own safety. Below, the Forbidden Purple City ruin:

 

 

And a few more photos of the Citadel:

 

 

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 We  arrived in Hue in the dark on April 17, after taking an afternoon flight from Saigon to Da Nang and driving a short distance north to Hue. We ate by Hue’s Perfume River in a floating restaurant and Anita was disappointed to learn, on our fourth night in Viet Nam, that “rice fried chicken” is not the same as “chicken fried rice.”

 

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The Hue bridge over the Perfume River captured from our table

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Our April 18 Hunger Games:

Hue is not a large city, but it is complicated enough to be no fun navigating in the dark if you are dropped off by a cyclo driver somewhere other than where you instructed him to take you. Here’s that story:

Anytime we left our hotel (the Thai Binh II on Hung Vuong Street) there were cyclo drivers waiting to take people where they wanted to go in the city. After a very busy April 18 we wanted to try supper at a Japanese Restaurant famous in Lonely Planet for its owner’s wonderful work with hundreds of Vietnamese street children and well-liked for its food and its service. Though it was a fairly short walk away (260 metres) I thought it might be generous to use one of these sad-looking, solicitous fellows to take us there. I wrote down the address in modern Vietnamese characters and showed it to him. We got in the cyclo and off we went. He took ages to find the street (it seemed like 45 minutes) and when he did we got off as soon as we could and started to walk toward the address. Every junction we came to seemed to have 4 or 5 options to continue on the street. So we would pick the most likely one and cross the square to it and then I would brave the motorbikes to cross the street to make sure we had guessed right. Most of the time we hadn’t. Often I had forgotten the name on the street sign by the time I re-crossed the river of motorbikes.

Someone borrowed my pen to draw a map for us and I left it accidentally with her.

Then my flashlight packed it in.

I didn’t have a travel cell phone or a wifi device in 2008, so we were dependent on our Lonely Planet guidebook, instinct, intuition and local maps when not with a local English-speaking driver. Google maps now shows me the walk would have been really short from our hotel. We were getting hungry and Anita feels ill if she goes too long without eating protein. When we eventually found the address (our driver had dropped us off much farther from the restaurant than we would have had to walk) the restaurant had closed!

So now, without flashlight or pen or protein, we tried to figure out how to get back to our hotel and the place where we ate the night before. We didn’t agree and, hungry and tired, we began to argue about which way to go. And, once a minute since we had left our useless cyclo driver, we were were solicited by other cyclo drivers. At this point I was feeling quite murderous…

Finally Anita announced, righteously, that she was going back to the hotel by herself. I know in my bones that she could have done it. So I said:

Fine! You go back to the hotel. I’ll kill something and bring it for you to eat.

Then the gods smiled on us. They sent us two saviours who had witnessed our embarrassing interchange. They were Kim and Sandra from Sydney, Aus. Kim told us exactly how to get back to our hotel and where to eat right near it. It was 5 or 10 minutes walk. We exchanged addresses and agreed to meet in Hoi An – the city we would all be in on the 19th and 20th. We are still good friends and hope to see them in our town in Ontario again this summer.

Other Places We Went on April 18:

Now, here is a summary of where we went in Hue on that fateful April with Sang, our wonderful driver:

  1. Tu Duc’s tomb
  2. Minh Mang’s tomb
  3. Nam Giao Temple
  4. Lunch at Y Thao Garden – Imperial Cuisine
  5. Thien Mu Pagoda
  6. Hue Citadel

Tomb of Tu Duc, the longest reigning Nguyen Dynasty Emperor:

 

 

 

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Tomb of Minh Mang:

 

 

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Nam Giao Temple was once the most sacred in the country. Here the Emperor would offer elaborate, sacrificial homage to Thuong De. Now it is neglected but very peaceful:

 

 

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Imperial cuisine at the Y Thao Garden:

 

 

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Thien Mu Pagoda – the most sacred place, 3 km from Hue – honours 7 buddhas:

 

 

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Small wonder we were tired that evening. Poor decision I made. We had only 260 m to walk. We would have learned quickly that the Jass Man’s Japanese restaurant had closed down and gone to the river for more “rice fried chicken.” But then we would never have met Sandra and Kim from Sydney…

Crocus

 

Crocus Cries, "Spring!"
Crocus

Crocus laconique, saillant

Montre nous, les hommes

Comment passer sans rancoeur

 

Reflecting on this photo this morning (now Tuesday, two days after I posted this photo on Sunday) I realized that the tiny plant that had made me think so carefully since then deserved a poem. I wrote it in French mainly because the French “sans” saved me a syllable and thereby satisfied the rigor of the Haiku, but discovered that I liked the sound, lucidity and subtlety of what I could say in French much better than what I had produced in English. After posting this photo on Sunday, I have reflected long upon the flower’s shockingly short life in bloom and realized that little brother Crocus was rewarding me for my attention by teaching me a surprising lesson. The lessons for me were several (cyclicity, fleetingness, acceptance, grace, opportunity, attention, action, brilliance…) but I will highlight this one:

The beauty of the crocus bloom is made more precious by its very fleetingness.

Still more learning: Writing a poem with strict parameters is a process of discovery in any language. One is forced to forage around for the right word and the searching often reveals better words that don’t quickly come to mind. Continue reading “Crocus”

Solar Eclipse at Wasaga Beach – May 20

A solar eclipse from a beautiful spot

Serendipity, indeed! We were up at Wasaga visiting my son. Can’t think of a better place to have shot this eclipse.

Some photos taken with my old Konica-Minolta Maxxum 5d and a Sigma 70-300 lens:

Respecting Serendipity

Muskoka Loon – 2008
It is so easy to diminish a blessing by hoping too hard that it will happen again. Instead, we should respect and appreciate fully how lucky we were to have experienced that blessed event. To expect it to happen again is to diminish the specialness of the first experience. It can also decrease the potential for ongoing joy that remembering the unique encounter can give us, and replace this joy with disappointment.
This can happen in something we consider to be terribly important, such as romantic love. More often, however, it is with everyday things. Continue reading “Respecting Serendipity”