Monday, June 17, 2013

Ashkenazai Synogague

This synagogue is located in Karakoy, Istanbul. It's well-hidden, but if you look up between the right buildings, you'll see it.

Collaged block print, 2010

Istanbul Protests

Watching the events in Istanbul and around Turkey unfold is worrying, anger-inducing, heartbreaking, inspirational, hopeful and exhausting all at once.

I don't get a lot of news from the mainstream media, (mainly because they aren't covering it much), but from my sister and friends in Istanbul, (both Turkish and foreign) who are doing a fantastic job of keeping the world updated via Facebook and Twitter.

Each one reports on what's going on in their vicinity, and together they paint an accurate and personal picture of the current situation...

My sister lives just a few blocks from Gezi Park and has shared video footage and photos over the last few weeks of everything from police aggression to peaceful congregations. She's abandoned her flat several nights due to teargas and general tension in the area.

Another friend, Kathy, has been keeping her world abreast of all the action from the Asian side. She uses her journalistic skills to provide timely and verified info to the rest of us.

Another friend and her fiancé have been part of the protests since the beginning, her photos and view from the street provide the rest of us with an emotional on-the-ground perspective.

Another Turkish friend regularly posts where the hot-spots are at that moment, what transport is running and what (medical and non-medical) supplies are needed in certain areas.

These are just a few people who provide the world with their stories.

In all, we agree that this is a positive step forward for Turkey, no matter how it may look on TV. For years, I've heard Turks and foreign residents complain that Turkey was inching towards an Islamic state. These protests are a stand against that slow crawl.

But my heart breaks to know that so many people are suffering there, and, as I sit here in the peaceful Okanagan Valley, the peace, the freedom and the clean air do not go unnoticed and unappreciated by me. Not today.

"Peace at home, peace in the world."

Watch Mel's latest video here.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Naramata Peacocks

Naramata has three peacocks. No one knows where they came from, or who brought them, only that they showed up one day in 2008 and have made Naramata their home ever since. 

They didn't arrive without controversy, the village has been divided since their arrival, some people love them and others... well, don't love them. Whatever side of the fence you're on, it has to be agreed that they are beautiful, especially when they display their tail feathers.

One peacock makes the few blocks around our house his territory, so I run into this guy on a daily basis, (in fact just this morning, he was on our front deck and roof) and we have several of his tail feathers that he's left in the back lane or in our yard.

Last week, on the way home from a community breakfast, I took the above three pictures. It's spring, and although there are no peahens around to mate with, our guy was out in full force; prancing and dancing in a back alley for those who came across him. 

When I got down low to take his photo, he strutted towards me in an aggressive manner and shook his tail feathers, it was quite intimidating! 

So I made a lino cut of him, this is actually just a proof and I have yet to make proper prints of him. I printed this on paper I brought back from Thailand.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Blossom Time!

Early Cherry Blossoms
I haven't been in the Okanagan during blossom time for a long time. Blink once and it's gone! Apricots are first followed by apples, pears, plums and cherries. The day after I took the pictures below there was a huge windstorm and these delicate petals were all blown away.
Peach Blossoms

Apple blossoms
I remember when I was in high school riding the bus in the morning, I'd look for the blossoms in the spring, an omen that the school year would soon come to a close. Local kids know how to identify fruit trees in the dead of winter from the the bark, shape of the tree and branches.

These days there are far fewer orchards, most have been replaced by vineyards. Although they have their own beauty, I still love an old orchard. Each year I make sure to photograph a few of the old trees, (the new apple trees look more like vineyards than orchards).

Stay tuned for a blossom linocut!
Plum Blossoms

Monday, May 13, 2013

Vegetable Gardening in the Okanagan

Swiss Chard
My mom has a small garden running along the North side of the house. It isn't huge, but it's manageable and the soil is soft and black and holds moisture beautifully. 

This garden is bliss compared to our old garden at our old house. That pathetic plot was rock-hard clay. Digging a hole took all day and it seemed the only thing we grew were more rocks. In fact, "rock picking" was a dreaded punishment in my childhood. Sassing mom? One hour of rock picking! Home late? Two hours of rock picking! 

Rock picking involved going out to the back yard, picking up rocks and flinging them towards the creek. Tedious. Boring. Never-ending work. Alternately, in winter, we were punished with "wood stacking". 

Anyway, as I said, this garden is bliss! If you plant it, it will (usually) grow!

The herb garden - parsley (flat leaf and curly), dill, oregano, rocket, chives, rosemary, cilantro and mint!
(Basil, tarragon and thyme to come!)
So this month has been a month of planing and anticipation! What should we grow? Did the parsley and rosemary survive the winter? (Parsley - yes, rosemary - no.) Which tomatoes did we like last year? What were those ones the neighbour grew so well? Are the strawberries worth it? 

If you have never tended a garden, let me tell you - it's a hugely rewarding and satisfying thing to do. (As long as you have the soil that supports growing plants and not just rocks and sagebrush.)

Oh yes, I've turned into a garden geek! I've even drawn and redrawn plot maps, moving the zucchini and tomatoes to new locations, debated over planting lettuce, (how much lettuce can 3 people consume before it bolts?) spread compost, had the garden roto-tilled, and watched youtube videos on how to properly prune tomatoes. And yes - I have even picked rocks and surprisingly, rusty nails. (I find dozens of them daily!)

Now our eyes turn to the long-term forecasts. Will we have anymore frosty nights? Probably not. We're pretty sure we won't. But we might. But probably not. 

Normally, folks in this area will wait till after the May long weekend to plant tomatoes and peppers. But with gorgeous summer-like days in the high 20's and low 30's this year, ours are in, we just couldn't wait. We'll cover them if there's a frost danger. Which there won't be. Hopefully.

These little babies came up in a matter of days!

So everything is in except our peppers, and by everything I mean most of the herb garden, nine tomato plants, onions, carrots, scallions, swiss chard, mixed greens, romaine, (our neighbour gave us some), zucchini, squash and sunflowers along the back fence. 

We took our strawberries out this year because they were quite a disappointment last year, (small and watery), the blackberry bush is off to a good start, we planted our squash in a half-barrel to free up some space and the rhubarb is ready to go! 

We have a few small rows left, so space is at a premium, and no doubt we have a few more debates in store before we decide! (Cucumbers? Baby potatoes? Kale?)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Al Ain: Sheikha Salama Bint Betty Mosque

I actually think this is an instance when the real thing surpasses the architect's rendering. This is Sheikha Salama Bint Betty Mosque, named after Sheik Zayed's late mom, newly opened in Al Ain. The old Sheikha  Salama Mosque that was on this site was torn down in 2007, right around the time my sister showed up in the UAE for the very first time. 

Although I can't find any real articles about the mosque, word of mouth says it was designed to put a modern twist on traditional design. The architect obviously took a little bit of old, a little bit of new and mixed it up with a whole lot of green. 
 First the old. The whole mosque is finished in a sand-coloured rock which echoes the colour and texture of nearby Jebel Hafeet and the Hajar Mountains in the area. The minarets  are also a twist on the old wind towers that were built in houses to cool them before the advent of air conditioning. The designs around the top of the towers are very traditional for this area and consist of bands of flowers and geometric shapes plus geometrically patterned screens.

The layout and the plan of the mosque all follow the usual layout, with a Qibla wall facing Mecca and a large courtyard with an ablution fountain in the centre.

 Ablution fountain - the water inside was HOT!

However, there are some features of this mosque that have been added for modernity. Inside, this mosque has no dome, (highly unusual!). The roof slopes upwards towards Mecca and is outfitted with dozens of little windows to take advantage of natural light. Directly under the mosque, there is an underground car park, although it's believed most people will walk to this mosque due to its downtown location.

As I stood and took this picture in the searing heat, I noticed my eyeballs were actually sweating, or maybe the sweat from my forehead was dripping in my eyes. Either way it was disgusting and felt awful. Please think about that while viewing this picture.

Lastly, this mosque has been designed with the environment in mind. Al Ain is a relentlessly hot place in the summer. The wind towers pull the cool winds downwards into the building and the light colour is to deflect heat. The walls are made of thick rock, insulating the inside from the outside heat. Sheikha Salama's doors are closed during the day, keeping the cool air in, and the courtyard is completely covered with a large tarp to keep the courtyard in shade at all times. It's rumored to have solar powered lighting at night. 

I wish I could find more information on this mosque, and even find out if foreigners will be allowed to enter this one as they are at Sheikh Zayed's Mosque in Abu Dhabi. I'd kick off my shoes and don the abaya for this! I'm quite taken with this building.

If the stars align and the cards are right, I may find myself in Al Ain again this summer and it will be my personal mission to learn more (and hopefully gain access if allowed), to this mosque.

Updates to come....

*Update* The stars aligned! I'm in Al Ain till the end of July!

Keepin' the town square shiny in 50 degrees...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Hitchin' a Ride On The Dubai Metro

All the metro stations look exactly like this. Unless, of course, they're underground. 

Recently I found myself on the Dubai Metro. I can't say much about it other than it's your average metro and very much appreciated by people (and by "people" I mean "me"), who don't like to pay expensive taxi fares to sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic. 

I caught the metro at Ibn Battuta Mall and took it to Dubai Mall. Yes, the one under the current tallest building in the world. (For now, Saudi Arabia is constructing a taller one as we speak!)

What? This escalator isn't the longest or tallest or made of gold? 
Are we sure this is Dubai? 

Hmmm.... Is it just me or does this look like the Sky Train in Vancouver?
Also those are not dollar signs on the floor. I checked.

Right up front, 3 guys enjoying the view. By the way, stripes are in this year. 

View from the train. Ah yes, I knew I was in Dubai!

Something you don't see from the road, The Burj Al Arab.

 This is Mall of the Emirates and that appendage on the building is the ski hill. 

View of the golf course in Dubai. 
You can get air conditioned gold carts here, a little tube blows cold air on your neck.  

End of the line! It was cheap, easy and very convenient. Just like a metro should be. But I can't finish this entry without a winge at the system. Why are the service buses only good one way from the metro to Dubai Mall? If it's free with a ticket, and I'm catching the service bus from the mall to the metro, where I'll buy a ticket, what's the difference? 

I never thought the Emirate of Dubai would be so - *gasp* - cheap!