Category Archives: Photography

2016 Has Ushered in… Fun and Creativity

Such fun I have been having!  And thus, I have not been good at staying in touch, sorry.

The weeks have simply zoomed by since a lovely Christmas seeing and holding my adorable great (grand?) nephew in sunny California.  Sweet, adorable, with tiny little hands and feet…Koen.

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And I was so excited to give the adventure book I had written for Koen to his parents, my nephew Calvin and his great wife, Abbey.

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Then a huge surprise, I was whisked away to NYC for a fabulous weekend with my sisters and mom – girls camp, as mom called it.  So much fun.

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It was seriously freezing and then the wind!  But we had a ball.  We checked out the Highline (converted, old, elevated rail track into a lovely walking promenade…if it hadn’t been so windy!).  We hit the Chelsea Market, a bit of Greenwich village, uptown, midtown, soho, Ground Zero…The Whitney Museum… We survived the Blue Man Group and ended our wonderful weekend with Kinky Boots – an absolute must see if you’re in NYC – hysterically funny and so clever – Loved! It!

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No idea what we were getting into – PRE – Blue Man Group

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Post Blue Man – see, we survived!

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Chillin’ on the Highline.

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Ground Zero Memorial

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Amazing Kinky Boots!

But don’t think the fun stopped when I left NYC – oh no!  🙂

Just last weekend I headed up into Utah to Canyonlands National Park for a fun, challenging trail run and great hikes.

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IMG_4838 Corona Arch which was really fun to get to; climbing over big rocks, using ladders to get up impassable areas and then arriving and feeling really, really small.  If you look at the photo below, people are standing under the arch.  Its huge.

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IMG_4848I loved the colors – rich oranges, reds, greens and yellows.  It was really beautiful.

IMG_4864In between all this gallivanting I have been practicing my illustration skills and continuing to write the second book in the Treasure Chest Mysteries series.  Writing this second book has proved much more challenging.  I think it is due to wanting to make it better, deeper, more robust.  I am currently working my way through the book “The Plot Whisperer Workbook” by Martha Alderson.  She is helping me understand how to build a character that has more emotion, more rise and fall and more empathy.  I hope you’ll notice the difference in the next book.

I am also exited to say that my friend Ivy Newport, through her wonderful blog, has introduced me to my next exciting online adventure: A Storyteller’s Art.   This class by Robin Laws looks like so much fun.  I can’t wait to get started on March 14th.Storyteller's Art

Oh, and then of course, I have been teaching – the day-to-day job.  It has continued to be fun, super frustrating, challenging, empowering, painful and eye-opening.  My sixth graders are still my wonderful little stars, so eager to learn, curiosity abounds, full of smiles and giggles.  My seventh graders are more moody, more tired, over-the-top fidgety and dead in their seats – Ahh the wonders of puberty!  The eighth graders are a whole other ball of anger, apathy, rolling eyes, shy smiles, loud and aggressive chatter, more touchy or afraid to be even looked at.  Every day these students walk into my classroom and I do not know what I am going to get.  On a good day, it just doesn’t get better than teaching;  Spirits are high, curiosity rules, high-level discussions, students wanting more, which translates into: I am challenged and excited to explore new avenues with them.  On a bad day, its bad.  Grumpy, won’t do anything, talking back, refuse to participate, angry at being forced to sit in a seat and learn…  I rarely get a day that is strictly one or the other.  My days are full of emotion, highs and lows, smiles and angry, teenage stares.  Teaching is amazingly exhausting, but for the most part rewarding.  I only have three months left here in Gallup, NM.  I have learned a lot about what I need in life being here.  It has been very interesting learning a small bit about the Navajo Nation and the life that many lead.  But I am a tree and green person.  I need to see diversity in color, texture and foliage.  I didn’t realize how much I needed that until I came here.  It is very monotone in color.  Beautiful in its own right, but my eye needs color and diversity.

Where to next?  Not sure yet.  I have some irons in the fire that I am pursuing.  I’ll let you know where life plans on taking me next as soon as I know.  Until next time, Happy Spring!!!

Gretchen

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Hanging Out in Gallup

Hi All.  So I promised to write more about Gallup and teaching here and I guess it is about time to do just that.  I am sitting here on a cold, grey day with the threat of snow gathering in the clouds, so here we go.

Gallup, New Mexico is a very unique place.  It is the home to about 20,000 people and is mostly surrounded by the Navajo, Hopi and Zuni reservations.  There are few trees.  Or at least what I consider to be trees.  Sage brush everywhere, big open spaces and rocky outcrops galore.  I have had the opportunity to explore a bit.  There is an area that is national forest about 15 minutes away that has lots of pines and some good hiking trails.  But most of the area is known for its canyons, arroyos and scrub.

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I was surprised that I haven’t seen very many horses or cows.  But maybe that is due to the fact that the open spaces are immense, and the scrub grass is not plentiful.  People here are passionate about hunting and the Navajo are very proud of their heritage and work hard to keep it alive.

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The town itself does not offer much.  It is full of trading shops (retail stores selling Native American arts and crafts) that are really beautiful, but also extremely expensive.  There is one coffee shop, but it isn’t open on Sundays.  Most of the restaurants are connected to gas stations.  There are a couple of bars, a library and two movie theaters.  This is a place for family get-togethers rather than outside entertainment.

At the beginning of school I coached the 8th grade volleyball team.  Challenging and often fun.  Attitudes towards working hard at a sport and respect for your coach are different here, not quite what I was expecting.  But overall a good experience.

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I am teaching 6th – 8th grade Gifted and Talented (GATE) Humanities.  My sixth graders are adorable; little sponges that still really care about learning.  The seventh graders, well, they have an excuse – puberty!  The 8th graders are a tough group, across the board – school-wide.  I think it is just one of those years/groups that aren’t so great: super rude, bad attitudes, superiority etc…  But, there are a few shining nuggets – thank goodness.

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8th graders

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6th graders making their Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe games

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I have also been going on some good hikes…

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Pyramid Peak

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Strawberry Canyon

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Milk Run Loop

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Milk Run Loop

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Purple Haze Trail

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Canyon de Chelly, Arizona

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El Morro

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El Morro

Other than that I am writing a couple new children’s stories and I’ve started teaching myself to illustrate.

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But above all, it has been great to have my two favorite guys with me again.  I so love them.

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Albert

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Oscar

Until next time,

Happy Fall!  Gretchen

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Lower Antelope Canyon

Its been a while, so thought I’d return with some great photos of a fun one day adventure into Arizona.  Yesterday I spent a lot of time driving, but ended up deep inside the earth winding my way through an ever-so-small passage that twisted and turned its way through a gorgeous canyon that you wouldn’t know existed if you looked from ground level.  Apparently it was originally discovered by a young Navajo girl that had lost her sheep and she had gone down searching.  What a discovery!

Can you see the canyon?  None of us could.

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Here is how we descended down into Lower Antelope Canyon, just outside of Page, Arizona:

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From here, our guide Kyndra, of the Navajo Nation and Ken’s Tours, expertly moved us gently along as we oohed and ahhed our way through.  She told us the best way to pick up the amazing colors our eyes were seeing, on digital film, was to shoot in a chrome setting.  My iPhone 6 picked up the colors better than my Canon Power Shot, so that is what most of these photos were taken with.  But I have to tell you, although the colors seem to be unreal – they are what my eyes, without filters, saw.  It was a stunning hour and a half.  As we descended, the colors changed from soft earth tones to more vibrant colors depending on the angle and where the sun hit the calcium in the sandstone.

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IMG_4193The sandstone was full of bits pebbles and sea shells.  The undulating waves of stone had been formed from thousands of years of being below sea level and then the subsequent eons of flash floods – one of which happened just two days before I arrived.

Here is Kyndra showing how high the ground would have been (where we would have been walking) before the flash flood two days before. Glad we weren’t down there:

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This is the “Chief.”

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“Woman in the Wind”

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It was really hard choosing photos to show you.  I took over 200!  I found myself just spinning around as every angle offered another stunning photo opportunity.  I would have loved to go again and just absorb.  I tried to often, to just stand there, but then you just don’t want to miss catching the beauty.

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Walking beneath the “Chief” – you can really see the how the colors change depending on your angle.  Bright orange and red from afar, but below deep purples.

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This is our path – see the sand at the bottom? This path twisted to the left. So fun.

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I took a couple in black and white and they are beautiful too – but the color, I just couldn’t resist.

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Here is how we climbed out (random tourist from Central Europe in photo):

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From there I headed over to Horseshoe Bend – this is the very low Colorado River:

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I would guess I was about 5000 feet up from the river. If you look at the small white spot center left – it is a tour boat docked by the side of the river that would have fit about 20 people.

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After a wonderful 3 hours of exploring this area I headed to Flagstaff and then back to Gallup.  Flagstaff was beautiful – full of trees and looked like a great town.  Leaving Flagstaff for my 3 hour trip home this was my view for most of it:

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Not exactly eye candy for this tree loving person!

A great day over all.  I’ll write soon with an update on Gallup, hiking, coaching volleyball etc.   For now, have a great week!

 

 

 

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Cibola National Forest

Another great week in Gallup.  The students (kids – so young!) have been great.  We are starting to get our groove and its fun.  Volleyball tryouts finished on Wednesday and I now have 13 great gals to work with – starting tomorrow!  Today I went for another hike, this time an easy stroll through the Cibola National Forest.  Lovely and relaxing and met a fun gal mountain biking by that stopped and chatted.  It was perfect for my sore throat and stuffed head (thanks students!) and my out-of-shape lungs.  At the top met Andy, the fire-watcher, super nice and full of great info.  People just continue to seem so nice and helpful here.

Have a great week!

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This Time…NEW Mexico

Hello from down south.  After a crazy summer of finishing my masters of science in geography I’ve moved down to Gallup, New Mexico, to teach gifted and talented middle schoolers, Humanities.

Although the summer was busy, mostly with writing, writing, and re-writing my final paper for the program, my cohort and I had a bit of fun too:

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Mark and Carlos taking water samples in Newport, Oregon

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Mark and I at Heceta Head beach on a very coldy day.

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Amanda and I at Heceta Head beach before taking our water samples for our field studies class.

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Carlos and Adalia trying to figure out why it is cold at the beach in the summer!

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Bryan our fabulous field studies instructor, always able to point the way.

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Being super silly with our polarized glasses at the fish hatchery.

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Doing stream bed grids.

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Within the cave. Cool cave, can’t remember the name, but it went into the depths for a mile!

But now I am done with my masters program and down where canyons are king.  I drove down from Oregon on August 1st and 2nd – with two unhappy cats in my car with me – and arrived in the smallest town I have lived in for a long time; Gallup only has 20,000 residents.  The first week I was mostly involved with the before school paper work, but did take time to go to the Inter-tribal Ceremony parade.  My landlord and next door neighbor is the Deputy Chief of Police so he got me a seat in the Mayor’s bleachers. Photos aren’t great as I only brought my phone – but it was really fun to see all the native attire.

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Today, I spent the morning exploring Pyramid Peak, just ten minutes from Gallup.  So gorgeous.  Took about an hour to get to the top.  It is a great workout for someone who has sat on her rear all summer at sea level and is now at 6500 feet and out of shape.  The climb took me up to 7500 feet.  But despite the lack of oxygen it was a stunning hike, of which my pictures do not do it justice.

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Just getting started.

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I’m headed to the very tip top of that peak.

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Finally at the top taking in the views.

Tonight I went for a short walk to explore my neighborhood.  As I was walking home at dusk an amazing sunset appeared.  Great end to a lovely day.

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I’ve taught one week of school so far.  The administrators are fantastic and the kids are really fun.  I think I am going to enjoy it here.  I will write more once I’ve had more time teaching and exploring.  For now, have a great week.

Gretchen

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A Colorful Spring Break in Mexico

It is already over and I am back in Mexico City.  But the weather is stunning, the sky is cobalt blue and the birds, yes, the birds are tweeting seductively as if flirting with me.

But for the past 8 days I was in the stunningly beautiful towns of Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende.  As a lovely treat, my mom flew down from Oregon to be my co-explorer.  We headed out on Saturday on a great bus (Primera Plus) and five hours later arrived at the hill top, next to the magnificent statue of Pipila (an indigenous Mexican revolutionary) overlooking the vibrant colors of Guanajuato.

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Pipila, or Juan José de los Reyes Martínez Amaro (1782–1863) – Burned down the door where the Spanish were hiding and aided the mining town of Guanajuato in expelling the invading Spaniards in 1810.

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Our great AirBnB owner, Dermot, met us and we walked down the numerous steps to our perch 3/4 up the hill overlooking the city. Our place was sweet and decked out in color.  We spent the early evening getting acquainted with this lively town.  Wandering down our path to the town we found the tunnels that criss-cross underneath us, beautifully lined with intricate rock walls.  These underground roads are kilometers long, twisting and turning.  At one point during our wandering days we walked all the way through one – from one side of the mountain to the other (I say mountain with a bit of chortle).

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On nearly every turn the city produced such enticing prospects.  The curves were sensuous, lively colors, iron balconies, pots over flowing with flowers and lots and lots of rocks work.

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Then there were the churches.  We counted 8, but I think there were two or three more that we didn’t actually see, but we heard them.

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Guanajuato is not a large town.  It has about 170,000 people.  There is a gorgeous theater and the main square which is a garden of manicured ficus trees (or something that looks really similar), is surrounded by fun eateries with lots of wandering bands.

Here is one of the trees in another plaza.IMG_2993 The town is full of fountains.

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And for some reason they love Cervantes and his story about Don Quixote.  They have a festival in October dedicated to Cervantes and there are at least a half dozen sculptures of Don Quixote dotted throughout the downtown and just about every street artist had done something with the story.

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Teatro Juarez

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University of Guanajuato – smack dab in the middle of town.

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Taking the cable car down the mountain.

Guanajuato was full of great restaurants, music every night, twists and turns to delight the eyes and happy, smiling people.  The weather was crispy in the mornings, toasty by afternoon and a couple nights we had midnight deluges.  Perfect.

But on day four we headed off on another bus to San Miguel de Allende and our AirBnB on the outskirts of town.  If you want anything of reasonable price in town, book early.  This place is popular!

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Home to 140,000 residents, with about 10,000 expats calling it home.  It is beautiful.  Full of cobble stone streets, lots of boutiques and artistry, both local and from other parts of Mexico.  Lots of churches and a beautiful central plaza.  And yes, hills.  Thanks to our iPhone apps, we concluded that we averaged 5.5 miles of walking per day – and I must say much of it was uphill.

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La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel is the focal point of the town.  It’s neo-gothic facade was built over the original church (built in the 17oo’s) in the 1880’s.  It is quite stunning.

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Centro Cultural Ignacio Ramiez or Escuela de Bellas Artes was originally a convent. Now it is part of the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes that offers classes in all types of art and the Spanish language.

As it was Holy Week (Semana Santa) there were lots of activities centered around the churches.  We saw many gigantic plaster-of-paris people dancing in the streets and then of course the parades on Good Friday.

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It is no wonder why expats are enjoying San Miguel de Allende in great quantities, it is beautiful.  The architecture, the weather, the art, the classes offered (at the Instituto)… the energy was lively and happy.

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IMG_3034We really didn’t do much but wander the numerous, curvaceous and colorful streets, eat and people watch.  It was a wonderfully relaxing week.  I highly suggest a visit next time you are in Mexico.

Now, back to teaching.  Only ten more weeks of school.  I can’t believe how fast it has gone.

 

 

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A Bit of Fun in Mexico

Hello again.  I know it has been ages.  As with all of us, life has filled up so quickly and time has flown by.  My bucket has been filled with a bit of fun and lots of studying.  I have been taking two, 4 credit graduate classes this winter term (online) along with working full time and I have to say, I do NOT recommend it.  One class ok, not two.  But then again, they are done and spring break is next week!  So enough about that and on to the ‘bit of fun’ part.

I truly haven’t done much for the last three months, besides work and then come home and study.  So last weekend when I finally turned in my final projects I had a glorious, entire day to do, well, anything but be on my computer.  So I left my apartment.  It was big.  I almost felt tentative.  I’m serious.  But by the first step beyond the threshold I was in heaven.  It has been interesting weather here: rain, big thunder, sun, clouds and then start all over again.  But last weekend it was perfect.  Just because I had finished my classes. :-).

Since I hadn’t known I would be done and have a whole day to be frivolous with, I didn’t have any plans. Not that you really need them here, there is so much going on.  So I started walking.  And walking.  After an hour I ended up in the zocalo (Plaza de la Constitucion) – the big, huge plaza in front of a big, huge ornate cathedral.  The zocalo or parque central is found in all Mexican (and I can vouch for Guatemala too) villages on up to metropolises. Most, if not all are anchored by a church and usually government buildings.  Some are stunning with beautiful gardens within.  Mexico City’s zocalo is all stone and it is gigantic.  This is where many of the protests assemble as it fits thousands of people.

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Yes, I know. You are wondering why I didn’t just simply step two feet to the right to get the darn flag pole to the left of the church. Well, I was maneuvering through traffic and decided impromptu to take this and didn’t position well. Sorry.

IMG_3347_2 The flag was huge and the wind was perfect to just keep it flapping gracefully.

The cathedral (Catedral Metropolitana), built in 1573 has had numerous face lifts and is quite impressive to wander through.

ChurchThen after a bite of lunch over looking the square, I wandered down the side streets.  I found the tourists.  Wow.  Packed.  Lots of local music, large costumed, animated characters, vendors etc.  But it was so lovely out and everyone seemed in the stroll mode, so it was actually pleasant.

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This was a church along one of the streets. I like all the tile work.

After an ice cream, I began wandering back towards my part of town.  This took me by the Palacio de Belles Artes building which unfortunately wasn’t open.  But apparently is filled with tributes to famous musicians.  The building itself is gorgeous.

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I made it home about an hour later and I was pooped.  My body is used to sitting in a chair looking at a computer screen.  What a great change.

This last weekend I had another couple mini-outings.  Nothing spectacular, but it has been fun to explore what is within walking distance.

Saturday I walked through a neighborhood that I usually just walk straight through to, to get to the big Chapultepec park.  But this time I turned left.  I wandered the vast neighborhood of San Miguel for two hours.  The streets were small and full of flowers.  The Jacaranda (vibrant, purple trees), Hibiscus, Bougainvillea, in all its array of colors… are in full bloom right now.  The hummingbirds are going crazy!  I see them everywhere.

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IMG_3415A dreamy walk.  I had my headphones one.  I usually do not do that as I like to hear the sounds of the city, the people, the birds.  But I wanted to be in my own world and just see.  Of course I was playing Latin jazz, so I was at least appropriate.

Sunday I jumped on a “free” (you pay $35 for the year) ecobici bike and followed the flow of thousands. Every Sunday since 2007, Mexico City has closed its main arteries and allowed only bicycles (and runners, roller-bladers, strollers).  Its heaven.  Well, the roads are still rough and pot-holed, but there aren’t any cars and you can ride on these small, quaint streets and large boulevards for miles and miles.  There are two loops; 20 miles – open once a month and 14 miles all the other Sundays.  It was great.  Me and my three speed went the distance.  Weaving in and out of children on tricycles, dogs running by their humans, runners, walkers… in the main downtown and then all the way out to where only the serious bikers go (yep, that’s me) and back again.  I saw so much of the city in all its various forms.  Really felt freeing.  I didn’t take any photos – but here is one I took when I first arrived of the bikes and some riders near my apartment:

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So I’ll leave you with these last photos of fun art I have come across in my walks.

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This is an office building. There are offices inside the artwork as well.

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It has been truly lovely here.  I have to say I haven’t felt such a calm for a long time.  Have a great week.

~ Gretchen

PS. All photos taken with my iPhone 6.  Not all great, especially when you zoom in as far as it will let you – but not bad.

 

 

 

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Pulled South of the Border

Hola mis amigos!  Hailing you all from sunny Mexico.  I left chilly China on December 21st and spent a month back in Oregon before heading down to my new job teaching high school humanities in Mexico City.  Mom came down with me for the first ten days and we wandered and explored a bit before I had to check in to my new school.

My apartment is great.  Spacious and bright (I took this photo at 5:30pm with no lights on and its north facing!).IMG_3215

The school is quite nice.  It is 125 years old and I believe the oldest in Mexico.  The name is the American School Foundation of Mexico City.  It is an international school but is at least 70% made up of upper class Mexicans.  All are great kids.  I have to say they are fun to teach.  ASF Collage

I teach 10th grade World History and 12th grade US Government.  I have surprised myself, I thought I would love World History and muddle through US Govt.  But it is the exact opposite.  I’ve turned the US Govt into a focus on power: who has it, who wants, how do you get it and how do you keep it.  Its been fun to re-learn alongside the kids and we are having great discussions.  World History on the other hand, I am finding tedious.  I feel confined by it.  But it may be due to the fact that I am pretty much following someone else’s lessons as she has worked here for a number of years and I came mid-year.  So my creativity is stifled and I realize now how important that is for me to enjoy teaching.  My US Govt class I am the only teacher, so no need to collaborate – freedom!

The teaching schedule is ideal.  I teach 2 World History sections and 3 US Govt sections.  I’ve never had it so easy.  Coming from China where I had 5 different classes to prepare for, this is wonderful.  We teach on a block schedule so classes are 80 minutes long and every other day.  If I stay next year, I’m lobbying to teach TOK (IB Theory of Knowledge), US Govt and World Issues.  They do not offer the IGCSE class Global Perspectives I was teaching in China and I really wish they did.  It was a great class.  Hopefully I will at least get TOK if I stay.

The 10th grade students just finished their personal projects.  Apparently it is a 3 month independent study on whatever interests them.  Then they present to the whole school in booths, kind of like a science fair.  Here are a few of my students:ASF Students Collage

Maria wrote her first novel (she was one of three of my students that wrote books) and she is now trying to get it published.  Diego designed a water recycling and earth friendly building.  Maria (yes, I have many) taught a janitor to read and speak English well enough to pass his English exam and get into a local college.  Another student, not shown, built a solar powered scooter.  Some weren’t so stellar, but for the most part I was quite impressed.

The city itself is much more beautiful than I had expected.  There are 22 million people here in Mexico City – yes, much bigger than my little ‘ole Guangzhou of 14 million!  But the vibe and architecture and people are so completely different.  The buildings are shorter. Not everything is a 15 story high-rise apartment building.  Instead I live in one of the taller buildings (smo0shed together like brownstones) in my neighborhood of Condesa and it is 3 stories high.  I’m on the top floor.  Trees are abundant, streets are narrow, birds are everywhere.  Of course the weather is completely different as well.  Mexico City sits on a high plateau at 7,382 feet (2,250m).  So it is crisp, not humid.  The sun is hot when it hits you, but then stand in the shade and it is cool.  The mornings are 46F (7 C) and by afternoon it is up into the mid 70’s (22 C).  So layering is a must.  And since buildings do not have heaters (unless they are portable), everyone wears coats until late afternoon. But the glorious sunshine is out nearly every day.  I think I have seen only 2, maybe 3 days where it was cloudy most of the day.  So that alone makes me so very happy.

I live in a very nice neighborhood (and more expensive).  It is where many of us teachers live.  There are streets with the center between lanes as a walking park.

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I live 10 blocks from a gigantic park (nearly double Central Park in NYC) called Chapultepec and it is fantastic.  There is a quiet area in the park that has classical music piped in while you sit and read.  Click on the picture and you can see and hear it.

On Sundays many of the streets around my neighborhood and around the park are closed off to cars for four hours so that bikers, roller bladers, runners and walkers can enjoy the streets.  Its wonderful.  Sundays are a day when people are out in the parks and museums.  Although there are parts of the park that are packed, others are nearly empty except for the exercisers.

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The most crowded section of Chapultepec park. This is where all the vendors are, so they draw a crowd.

 

I just joined EcoBici.  You pay approximately USD $35 for the year and you get to use these bikes for 45 minutes at a time.  And there are stations all over the place so when you get to then end of your time, you simply drop one off and get another one.  It is great.  Today I had my first ride and although there are no gears, it was so fun to get further afield and see more of the city and the remote parts of the park.

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EcoBici station. This was taken on a Sunday when the bikers owned the streets.

 

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A little train takes kids and tourists around the park. I think it runs on electricity as there is no noise.

 

Here are some random photos:

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Gluten Free Bakery

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I’ll try to refrain! This was in an Irish bar bathroom. Looks it was made in Asia though!

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Beautiful sculptures are found everywhere, along with fountains.

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This guy hand sweeps (notice the broom) my street every week day.

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Some buildings are definitely in need of some love. Took this on my bus ride home.

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Although worn out, I loved this building.

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One of the beautiful homes, behind a fence, on my walk to the park.

So I think that catches you up.  I’ve been down here a month and it is great.

Until next time, adios amigos!

Gretchen

 

 

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Filed under Adventure, Education, High School, Humanities, Mexico, Photography, Travel

Cambodia Remembered

Ah the final day.  I did not want to leave Cambodia.  Instead I wanted to head into the interior and explore the whole.  But alas, I had to get back to China and work.  On this final day, Mr. Kong and I headed to Roluos Group.  Bakong was our first stop and it was impressive with its largess yet I must say a bit hard to capture in photos.

Bakong Entrance

Bakong Lion

Bakong Carving

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Bakong GirlsThere was a Buddhist temple next to the ruins with a full monastery attached, surrounded by a moat with boats.

Bakong Buddhist Temple

Buddha & Bodhi Tree Painting

 

Bakong Boats

 

We then headed to Lolei – a small temple being refurbished.  The surrounding area was lush with tall Bodhi trees.  There was also a working monastery next to the ruin.

Lolei

Lolei Monk

Before exploring Preah Ko, I wandered through the craft stalls across the streets.  There was a group helping orphans.  The orphans were making art out of buffalo skins and weaving.  It was a bit odd, as the orphans were mostly young kids who should be in school, but instead were laboring at making products for sale.  Didn’t seem as ‘charitable’ as the signs said.

Lolei Orphans Weaving

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Preah Ko Orphans

I also spoke with Dr. Praeung.  He had been painstakingly creating replicas of the temples at Angkor Wat for decades.  He would start out by counting steps and rows and spires… then drawing it all exactly.  Then building molds that ultimately created a miniature of the original temple(s).  Some of his replications took over a year to create.  He was a man that believed in preserving history and sharing it with future generations.

Lolei Mr. Praeung

Lolei Reproductions

Lolei Heads

Preah Ko was my last stop.  It was really petite and pretty.  A tight group of temples that gave a sense of calm and wonder.  It was a nice ending to an amazingly full three days of temple hopping.  Although I was tired, I still very much wanted to learn more about the country and continue my explorations.

Preah Ko

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Lolei Lions

 

We then headed back to Siem Reap.  I said goodbye to my wonderful Mr. Kong and walked into the town center where I had my final diner on the second floor terrace of the wine bar called “Sunshine.”  It was a perfect spot to watch the town come alive as the pink dusk settled into darkness.Mr. Kong Final Meal Siem Reap

I do hope some of the photos have enticed you to visit this wonderful place.  The people were soft and warm and the beauty of the country was never-ending.

Gretchen

 

 

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The Intricacies of Ruins


To continue my Cambodia sojourn…

After my escape from the exercising women atop Bakheng at sunrise and a quick breakfast from a street vendor, Mr. Kong and I started the long journey out to Banteay Srei.  As you will recall, Mr. Kong had a small motor for his Tuk Tuk, so our speed never topped 30 mph.  It was just enough speed to have a light breeze to keep me cool.  And wonderfully slow enough to fall into the mesmerizing scenery of green, green, green rice paddies and palm trees.  Mr. Kong drove for two hours outside in the full sun over bumpy, sometimes jarring roads.  While I on the other hand, relaxed under the shade of the umbrella roof with my feet up.  About 30 minutes before our destination the rains hit hard.  I suggested we pull over and get a drink and wait it out.  The bedraggled looking Mr. Kong gratefully agreed and after I was settled with a cool drink, he proceeded to have the lovely ladies at the nearby street cafe extract his back pain with suction cups.

Once the rains stopped we bounced along again and came upon Banteay Srei – the “woman’s temple.”    This little gem was built by the guru of the future king Jayavarman V. in the 2nd half of the 10th century.  Nearly every inch of the red sandstone is decorated with intricate designs.  Although small in size, I kept circling and re-visiting different sides to breathe in the beauty.

Banteay Srei Buildings CollageI was continually amazed at how well the carvings were preserved after 1,047 years.

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Banteay Srei Cavings4

Banteay Srei Carvings3

Banteay Srei Carvings2

Banteay Srei Carving1After a nice long visit with mostly European visitors viewing quietly alongside me, Mr. Kong and I headed over to Bang Melea, the ruins that are ensconced with rooting trees and tumbling boulders.  I was excited, as I had been told you can climb and explore all you want at this location.  But unfortunately I found three large tourist buses had just arrived shortly before me, so it was over-run with picture-posing frenzy.  Needless to say, I didn’t stay long.

Bang Melea Entrance

Bang Melea

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The roots and their determination to break through wherever they wanted to, was impressive.
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Bang Melea Tree Roots4

Bang Melea Tree Roots2

 

Can’t you just see a scary movie in the making with this one?
Bang Melea Tree Roots

 

Very few carvings at Bang Melea.Bang Melea Carving

On the way out to Mr. Kong, I had to stop and spread the wealth to the locals.  At every location they were selling mahogany beads.  I’m hopeful that the trees are sustainably grown… they are gorgeous!

Bang Melea Trinkets

 

So then Mr. Kong and I started our long meander back to Siem Reap.  Here are a few of the images I caught, when I remembered to take photos.  It was so lovely to just smile and wave at the curious, happy faces.

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TUK TUK Photos

 

What a great day.

So I will leave you there for now.  Coming up, one more day of gorgeous ruins, orphans, art…  Stay tuned.

Gretchen

 

 

 

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