A Cast of Thousands: Day Two

I remain in serious escapist mode, and in today’s post I continue to take us as far away as I can. I’m describing the magnificent Indian wedding  I attended in Mumbai just a few months ago.

The following night, the newlyweds held an evening reception for 500 guests at the same venue. A magician circulated around the room. The saris were a cross between Cinderella and the Arabian Nights. I saw really, really serious bling. It was a dazzling evening full of gorgeous, kind, friendly people. In the interest of privacy I am posting mostly photos that show the backs of gowns. These were taken with my old cell phone, so the quality’s not great. But these give an idea of how spectacular this celebration was!

The women who had taken my breath away the day of the wedding now wore evening saris. There are no words adequate to describing how gorgeous everyone appeared.

Once the event began the full bar stayed busy. I was served the largest gin and tonic I’ve ever had to drink: it was as big as my head. The drink was also one of the strongest I’ve ever tasted. I drank it and afterwards I immediately switched to white wine. Another g&t and I would have landed under a table.

I chatted with a large chocolatier-pastry chef who had worked in Switzerland. The woman who designed the bride’s clothes and the man who designed her jewelry. A professional jazz singer who had given her voice lessons.

The waiters worked both days and must have been exhausted. They circulated the room with appetizers served on trays of stone. The appetizers were wonderful: smoked salmon-asparagus-horseradish rolls. Lamb bites in tiny crusts. Spicy paneer. Corn fritters with salsa. Tikka chicken bites.

A full diner buffet included both vegetarian and meat dishes.  The buffet included a station carving up one leg of lamb after another, chopped into small strips and served au jus. There were various rice dishes, and breads freshly made on-the-spot (both days). Dahls. Another food station served chat: layers of potato patty with chutneys, chickpeas, cilantro. Another station served a variety of Mexican dishes. Other stations included vats of sautéed veggies. I didn’t even glance at the station with teriyaki dishes; the Indian food was just too good. A separate table held lots of desserts. I tried the chocolate mousse cups and the waffles with Nutella and fresh fruit: kiwi, mango, strawberries.

A waterfall is behind the beaded curtain. The sashes on the chairs were an elegant gray for the evening reception

My sister and I drank Sela, a surprisingly yummy Indian white wine. We were both delirious with how magical the evening felt, all those  beautiful people. When we left shortly before midnight the room had been converted into a dance floor….

… each outfit was even more beautiful …
…really stunning gowns

I will forever be grateful I was invited to attend an Indian wedding. The hosts (busy with the other 499 guests) were incredibly generous and gracious. My thanks to my dear friends in Mumbai and their family for allowing two visiting girls to share their joy.

NOTES: Text © Jadi Campbell 2020. Photos © Jadi Campbell and Pam Campbell.

To see Uwe’s pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

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A Cast of Thousands: Day One

Preparing the dais for the wedding ceremony. The canopy is made from thousands of fresh flowers

I’m in serious escapist mode, and in today’s post I want to take us as far away as I can.

This weekend we’re meeting up with friends, a married couple with a little girl. They will be the first friends we’ve actually seen in person in over two months. I’ll finally climb out of the pair of tights I’ve been wearing since March except for when I go outdoors (and then the go-to fashion item is my surgical mask).

Our friends are from India, and that reminds me of the last really BIG social event I attended: a wedding in Mumbai back in January. I took my sister Pam to visit the bride’s mother’s uncle and his wife, and our visit coincided with the two-day celebration.

In secret I’d always wanted to be invited to an Indian wedding! The spectacle, the days of celebrating! A cast of thousands! I packed a couple dresses and a pair of heels. As you can see from the photographs, the clothes were beyond beautiful. Out of respect for privacy I’m not using any photographs that might identify people’s faces. But really these pictures are about the clothes, the venue, the amazing food, and the generosity of the hosts.

Women in saris with matching hair accessories

The bride is Farsi, the groom Hindu. The first day was the wedding ceremony. It was a small affair for immediate family and friends. All 250 of us….

The outdoor patio where the lunch buffet was served. Curtains of flowers hang over the entryway

Here are my impressions, recorded in my journal: “250 people came and went, waiters circulated with appetizers and drinks (vegetarian and non-alcoholic as it was a religious ceremony). A huge vegetarian lunch buffet was set up outside.

The chairs were all covered in white with purple and saffron yellow sashes tied on the backs. These matched the flower canopy over the dais. The canopy had been made of elaborate long drapes of thousands of fresh flowers.

The Hindu men’s turbans matched the bows on the chairs. Really a wild parade of colors. Gorgeous!

The wedding party sat on a dais and the rituals went on for two hours. Sadly, the professional photographers blocked the view most of that time. What I could glimpse was chanting, reading of sacred texts, the tossing of rice and flower petals, a fire lit towards the end of the religious ceremony. A yellow sash was tied to bind the bride and groom to one another. They then walked (circling) numerous times around the fire. Both sets of parents were seated on either side, the sisters too. All took part in the rituals.”

My next post will describe the second day and the evening portion of the wonderful wedding celebration.

NOTES: The clothes were incredible. Pam and I were seriously underdressed, luckily not shamefully underdressed. Everyone made us feel welcomed! Text © Jadi Campbell 2020. Photos © Jadi Campbell and Pamela Campbell.

To see Uwe’s pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

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More Things Are Different

More Stuff That’s Different

#1 My friends have been known to shake their heads and remark how youthful I seem – “and that’s because half the time Jadi still acts like a kid”. With the corona virus now governing behavior, I have to make myself stop and think before I act like I normally do. Because our world is in a new normal…

We live on the third floor of an apartment building. Without ever noticing that I do it, as I head down the steps at every landing I grab the railing and swing myself around to the next set of stairs. Germs! Germs! Germs! Now I reach the second floor and catch myself doing this, yet again; I consciously remove my hand from where I’ve wrapped it around the railing, and slow myself down. I descend the rest of the stairs like a grown-up.

#2 I’m a list-maker. You know that joke about the first list? Someone made two columns a piece of paper and wrote that the world is divided into two groups: 1. those who makes lists and 2. those who don’t. Ahem. I’m a list-maker or I have a crap memory, take your pick.

A drawer in our kitchen contains an ever-longer grocery list. Our town has two butcher shops, plenty of bakeries, and vegetable and fruit vendors. I can still buy those items spontaneously. Uwe makes a run to a larger supermarket for stuff like toilet paper (hello there, all you other corona virus shut-ins!) and pasta, and rice, and canned tomatoes, etc. Gone are the days where I grab him before he can get out the door and suggest, “Since you’re going to the store anyway….” I guard that shopping list until it contains enough stuff that someone ‘has’ to make a shopping run. Because I’d rather go without spaghetti than have to go without Uwe.

Food shopping has become a high-risk activity. WTF.

#3 I don’t like the phone much, and I hate Skype. Who’s that old hag in the upper corner of the screen? Oh, right, that’s me, ouch, and where did this incarnation come from? Some things I can’t blame on the corona virus. I got old all by myself.

#4 Where was I?

#5 The phone, and Skype, and Zoom. I’m learning to love them. I miss all my friends and loved ones more than I can say. If talking through a stupid computer screen is the closest I can get to the real thing I’ll take it. Even if it’s painful to remove that piece of masking tape from the little camera on the screen.  It’s like ripping a bandage off to reveal reality. *(See #3)

#6 I nominate the sloth as the official animal mascot for my lockdown. Uwe photographed these gorgeous sloths in Panama and Costa Rica less than 3 months ago. It really does feel like Edgar Allan Poe’s words from 1859 :

All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream

Stay safe everyone. Stay healthy.

NOTES: Text © Jadi Campbell 2020. Quotation from The Works of the Late Edgar Allan Poe Volume II. Poems and Tales  A Dream within a Dream. wikisource.org Photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see Uwe’s pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

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My Interview With Shaz’s Book Blog

Hear ye, hear ye, I was interviewed. Read it here. Shaz’s Book Blog. Sharon describes herself as a bookaholic and she asks great questions! This is a very cool blog.

I worked on the answers in Costa Rica and sent them to her as soon as we got home, and I can’t grasp what that sentence even means now.

Stay safe everyone. Stay healthy.

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2020. A To see Uwe’s animal photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

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Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Me and La Corona

I have a strange relationship with this novel corona virus. The virus first broke out in December in a Chinese city. I was in China, visiting my nephew who lives in the New Territories just forty-five minutes outside of Hong Kong. Then my sister and I flew to Mumbai, India for ten days. From there I flew to Germany for a few weeks before climbing back on another plane and heading to Costa Rica and Panama at the end of January. The pandemic and I had been circling one another around the globe for quite some time.

I got home at the start of March, finishing my longest concentrated period of traveling ever. It’s been about three weeks since the lockdown began. I thought I was coming back to my old routines after being on three different continents.

There were things I’d been meditating on while I was away. What did I want to do with my life when I got home again? Where should I focus? Instead, I’ve gone inward. I don’t mean contracting, or shrinking… I’m home, but the world I planned to return to is gone. Is it gone for another month? Longer? Forever? How do I mark the transition? Yeah, I feel myself going inward. This is the planet’s new milestone: before the virus, and after.

How can we honor earlier milestones? April 1st marked 28 years that I’ve been in Europe. A plane left America on March 31st twenty-eight years ago and landed in Frankfurt on April Fool’s Day. I’ve appreciated the joke (the joke on me, that is!) ever since.

This year is different. I’ve pretty much lost all concept of what day it is, much less what day of the month. The lockdown seems like it’s only lasted a few days – or an eternity. Such a long time; such a short time.

The other night I had no idea what the date was, the 3rd of April? The 4th? Maybe the 5th already? I thought it was the 5th, and that meant that for the first time I’d forgotten when our wedding anniversary rolled around. So I asked Uwe, “Isn’t today the 5th? Do you know?”

He had to check. “Sunday’s the 5th,” he answered. Uwe hadn’t seen the date creep up on us either.

After we established what day it was, we watched a film. It was my turn to pick, because we have to be really fair about this whole whose-turn-is-it-to-choose thing, there are so few things we can choose right now! I settled on The Tailor of Panama. It seemed like a good night for an escapist Le Carré thriller, because really his plots and writing are so damned good. I love his books but find him depressing, knowing that he describes a world all too close. Never mind. Geoffrey Rush, Jamie Lee Curtis and Pierce Brosnan are brilliant, you feel the relish they bring to their roles, I mean really they’re fantastic, and so is the film. The characters are all chasing lies, and money, and bodies: it’s pure escapism.

Nothing like the way the virus and I still play tag. I’m not going to be coming out for a while to see if it’s still waiting for me though.

Stay safe everyone. Stay healthy.

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2020. A To see Uwe’s animal photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

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Quetzal

Happy April Fool’s Day! What’s quetzal, anyway? A noun, a verb, a symptom brought on in quarantine for the corona virus?

Glad you asked. The quetzal is a legend, a myth, a member of the trogon family, and one really cool bird. It’s also very, very elusive.

And what the hell is a trogon? Let’s start at the top. Until just now, I didn’t know. The term comes from the Greek and means ‘nibbling’, because quetzals carve through rotting wood to make their nests in tree trunks. The trogon family of birds is an exclusive club: they are the only animal with a heterodactyl toe arrangement. [1] The resplendent quetzal lives only in a narrow range of cloud forests at high elevations in Central America. They don’t migrate, and like altitudes of 4,000–10,000 ft (1,200–3,000 m).

A lot of people think it’s the most beautiful bird in the world. The quetzal was sacred to the Aztecs and Mayans. The Aztecs associated the bird with the snake god, Quetzalcoatl. Kings and nobles wore quetzal feather headdresses for special ceremonies.

And oh my god, those feathers…. The head and back of the bird are a brilliant green, the belly feathers are bright red. The female has more gray on her chest, and black and white in her tail, while the male has incredibly long streaming tail feathers that trail up to three feet (!) behind him. These don’t grow until the bird is at least three years old.

The quetzal’s big, about 36-40 cm or 14-16 inches long. But its brilliant green feathers are iridescent and blend perfectly into the cloud forest foliage. For a large bird, the quetzal is surprisingly hard to spot.

So when we planned our trip to Costa Rica (I write this in March, after two weeks of the virus lockdown, and it feels like a different life time that we took that trip, not just a few weeks ago), we hoped we’d get lucky enough to spot a quetzal. We went to the Monteverde cloud forest region. One day we joined a tour to the smaller and less crowded Curi Cancha Reserve. Amazingly enough we saw a pair of quetzals! Quetzals are monogamous – and there they were, male and female! Thank god for the guides that day, because there’s no way we would have sighted the birds on our own. They’re just too perfectly camouflaged. I only have one photo for you, but hopefully it was worth reading this post to get to it.

We present to you in all its shy glory: THE QUETZAL! This is the female, a brilliant emerald that dazzles the eye. Believe it or not her partner is much, much gaudier

It was magic to see a quetzal pair. We got lucky that day.

NOTES: [1] Dictionary.com explains heterodactyl is “having the first and fourth toes directed backward, and the second and third forward, as in trogons”. Well, what do you know. This is my second new word for the week. Trogon was the first. PS: This post is not an April Fool’s joke! Resplendent quetzal © Jadi Campbell 2020. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s animal photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

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Let it Rain!

What a difference a few weeks or even days makes… Today most of the world is on lockdown. A month ago I was in a cloud forest for the first time. I look at Uwe’s photos and am filled with wonder.

The first of many hummingbirds we saw in Costa Rica

February 2020

Monteverde in northern Costa Rica is one of the few cloud forests left on the planet. We arrived yesterday, using a bus service to travel from the hot, sunny Pacific coast. Now we’re at a higher (and definitely colder) elevation. Winds from the Caribbean smack into currents from the Pacific. The results are a steady light mist all day.

Green crowned brilliant

Or, like this morning, a heavy falling rain. Uwe and I both wear the super-duper, Chinese-made raincoats we bought last year in Borneo for a $1 apiece. We unfold them and discover that these are thin, glorified garbage bags with holes cut out for our arms and heads. I’m glad to have mine – it’s still pouring. Uwe’s bummed. It’s raining so hard that he has to leave his  camera equipment in its special backpack. It’s windy here, too! His camera’s way better protected against the weather than we are….

Magenta-throated woodstar

The park guide tells us about primeval forest, secondary growth, the Quaker settlers who came here and founded this nature preserve. We see almost zero wildlife, and that’s because everything is hunkered down against the shitty weather. He points out an orchid the size of my thumbnail as my sneakered feet and my blue jeans grow damper. It. is. cold.

Violet sabrewing

Uwe’s face is glum. His cellphone camera is a poor substitute for the Nikon. I try hard not to think about how little fun he’s having. Then the guide points to a pale slender green object on a leaf. I peer closer in the rain.

Purple throated mountaingem

It’s a walking stick! I haven’t seen one of these in the wild since I was a kid! I’m suddenly a kid again myself, I’m way beyond excited. “Any biosphere that’s got walking sticks is an intact one for sure!” I exclaim. Oh my god! I stand there and stare at it, wetter by the minute.

Thirty minutes later we’re back at the park entrance’s buildings. The downpour vanishes. Uwe gets out his telefoto lens to capture the 7 varieties of blue, emerald, crimson, orange, purple hummingbirds darting in and out to the feeders on the porch. A white nosed coatimundi scurries under the hummingbird feeders, licking up the sugar water that’s dripped down onto the floorboards.

“A walking stick!” I murmur.

Everybody’s happy.

Green crowned brilliant
Empress brilliant. The feathers overlapped in a way that made me think of snake scales

NOTES: I’m still mad at my spousal unit for not taking a photo of that walking stick with his cell phone! Monteverde orchids and hummingbirds © Jadi Campbell 2020. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s animal photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

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The Animal Kingdom: 33

We’ve reached Installment #33 of my blog thread describing what to call groups of animals … See how many you can guess. Answers listed at the bottom of the page.

  1. How did the farrow fare?
  2. The ballet performed a water ballet.
  3. Oh, no! The piddle piddled again!
  4. The rumpus caused quite a rumpus.
  5. The circus is no circus.
  6. The brace braced itself against the leash’s leash.
Braces and leashes, Montréal, Canada
  1. Farrow of piglets
  2. Ballet of swans
  3. Piddle of puppies
  4. Rumpus of baboons [1]
  5. Circus of puffins
  6. Brace (2), or leash (3) of dogs [2]
Farrow, Sagaing, Burma

NOTES: [1] Hooray! Baboons are listed as “Least threatened”. I am overjoyed when I can list a species as not about to go extinct. African Wildlife Foundation [2] A brace refers to 2 dogs. A leash of dogs is 3 in number.  © Jadi Campbell 2017. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s animal photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de. Fun animal names from en.wiktionary.orgwww.writers-free-reference.com, Mother Nature Network and www.reference.com.

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Hong Kong: Popo and the Frogs, Part 2

The people of Hong Kong are caught in a bind. The stand offs between the government and the young people protesting to keep their freedoms show no signs of ending anytime soon. Tourism is way down, as much as 70% in some parts of the city.

But even as their businesses suffer, signs abound that the inhabitants support the students and what they fight for. The name Popo and a drawing of a pig represent the police. The frog is a symbol of the protestors. After my nephew pointed out their depictions to me, I began spotting them in shops and windows and walls everywhere.

On the back wall of this tiny bottle shop…
… is a rare sign of Popo and protester enjoying holiday cheer together

Their images pop up in unexpected places. We went into an electronics shop and some of the television monitors on sale were decorated with Popo and frogs.

This small cafe had a sign quietly propped against their outside wall. I actually turned around and walked back down the street to take a better look at it.

Frogs adorn metro buildings and elevators.

Graffiti over the graffiti

Just before Christmas, bags and t-shirts with the frog logo suddenly appeared. They vanished a few days later.

Much of the street graffiti is grimmer.

“Wanted for violent deadly crimes”: the police, aka Popo
Inside one of Hong Kongs many walkways above street level
The police demanded that everyone stop wearing the face masks used for bad air days. That way they could more easily identify protesters. The police I saw all wore masks hiding the lower halves of their own faces

A special anger is reserved for Carrie Lam, the Hong Kong politician who since 2017 serves as the 4th and current Chief Executive of Hong Kong. She is seen as serving China, rather than the people of Hong Kong.

Note the mainland China antenna attached to Carrie Lam’s ear

The government has deliberately blocked streets with barricades to hinder protests.

The decision of the police to use tear gas and pepper spray caused more protests.

I flew home with a deep, deep sadness that this incredible, wonderful, vibrant city is in such turmoil. This was my fifth visit to Hong Kong. I don’t want it to be my last.

Click here for a complete list of the December 2019 protests on Wikipedia

NOTES: ©Jadi Campbell 2020. To see Uwe’s pics from our trips go to viewpics.de. To learn more about the reasons for the protests, go here: Hong Kong protests, CNN 

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Hong Kong: Popo and the Frogs, Part 1

Hong Kong at Christmas is exciting. This vibrant city has an added air of glamour to celebrate the holidays. But there are still quiet corners nearby. I enjoyed gorgeous waterfront views where I stayed with my sister and nephew in Sai Kung.

In just 40 minutes we could be in the city. In the days before Christmas we visited the Flower Market where a man bought a bouquet of roses bigger than he was,

and explored a street stocked with every kitchen gadget known to cookdom.

I was amused by the street for home aquariums!

I felt bad for the goldfish though

As always, Hong Kong was filled with billboards advertising food and high-end luxury items.

The metro station underneath this glamorous ad is badly defaced

But when I looked again, the graffiti and damage from last year’s protests were everywhere.  The government under Carrie Lam  allowed the police to commandeer MTR (Mass Transit Railway) train cars or reroute trains so they bypassed stops where protesters planned to gather. Since the young people were being hindered, they decided to prevent the police from moving freely, too. And once this happened, the demonstrations took a turn. Hong Kong’s superb transit system became a casualty of the ongoing unrest.

Ticket machines inside stations were vandalized. Strategic stations have been repeatedly shut down. We passed through the Mong Kok station less than an hour before it was set on fire Christmas Eve. The knots of heavily armed riot police (Popo) we saw ended up in street fights with the Frogs (the protesters).

All these machines have been smashed
Traffic lights are damaged
The bank is open for business with a temporary facade, while the street’s bricks are gone

 

 

The Bank of China and the Construction Bank of China continue to be targeted. Their glass facades are smashed, the sidewalks emptied of the bricks used by protesters. In places bricks are now literally glued into the sidewalk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The protesters have five demands.

  1. For the protests not to be characterised as a “riot”
  2. Amnesty for arrested protesters
  3. An independent inquiry into alleged police brutality
  4. Implementation of complete, universal suffrage
  5. Withdrawal of a bill introduced in April of last year, which triggered the first protests. It would have allowed suspected criminals to be extradited to mainland China under certain circumstances. The bill was finally withdrawn in October 2019. This has not placated the anger of the mostly young students fighting to maintain Hong Kong autonomy. They want all five  demands to be met.

Graffiti and protest signs go up more quickly than the government can remove them. In my next post I have photos of Popo and the Frogs, the police and the protesters, and how they are represented. See you then.

Click here for a complete list of the December 2019 protests on Wikipedia

NOTES: ©Jadi Campbell 2020. To see Uwe’s pics from our trips go to viewpics.de. To learn more about the reasons for the protests, go here: Hong Kong protests, CNN 

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.