Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Sepia Saturday 286: Inle Lake


One of the most beautiful fishing spots I've ever seen is Lake Inle in Myanmar. There are all kinds of environmental problems occurring at this site, the most important being that the lake is filling in with dirt eroding from the surrounding hills. This problem and others are slowly being addressed.

Meanwhile one-legged rowers still ply their way silently back and forth across the lake tending to nets and aquaculture and carting tourists around. Fortunately, we've always been there off-season and have not seen the serenity ruined by crowds and noise. I have yet to hear a cell phone ringing unless the ring tones mimic the sound of a boat gliding over the water. The photos are from last September. I would return there in a moments notice. 

I'm posting from Oman on the last leg (pardon the pun) of a vacation so I'm keeping this short.

Find more fish stories at www.sepiasaturday.blogspot.com.


"How about a date honey?" he asked, whispering in my ear. A date?? What was he talking about..how was he talking at all? His breath was foul and his heavy lidded eyes put me off. He blinked a couple of times, snorted and turned to the woman next to me. I had my chance and I blew it.
The high humidity and heat are affecting my imagination. The camel wasn't talking to me at all...he's only a photo in an Oman publicity brochure.  Although we haven't seen any camels in the flesh, among the touristy items in the bazaars there are plenty of cheesy camel carvings and statues - I don't like most of them but I do like the little items they fasten to the tiny saddles and bridles. Some camel statuettes are used in jewelry stores to show off diamond rings and earrings, bracelets and other baubles. They look great in the shop windows.

Back to my camel fantasy...the date offer made sense. The reality is that nutritionists agree dates are the best food for breaking fast during Ramadan. And the markets are full of them in buckets, in fancy boxes, stuffed with nuts and dipped in chocolate. It's a long standing tradition..Mohammed started it way back when. 

Here's where we've been eating breakfast every day with a great view of the Bay of Oman and the coast line. The occasional dhow goes floating by. Dates are on the buffet but you have to be careful about how many you eat. 

The outdoor deck is lovely but too hot to use this time of year and during Ramadan you cannot eat or drink outside.

Here's where you can sit all day and drink coffee or look at the coffee table books or just stare straight ahead.

We went to Carrefours today to hunt out some local items and perhaps spot an Omani. Six kinds of mango were available, most from India, one from Pakistan and another from Kenya. We spotted avocados from Kenya, but no Omanis.

The bakery was excellent and the Arabic sweets were piled high.

People are serious about snack food. I've never seen such large bags of Cheetos...they were very popular in Iran as well. We watched people eating Cheetos and dipping them in mayonnaise. Talk about gilding the lily! And they are quick to blame food manufacturers for their extra pounds even though fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts are plentiful and cheap and readily available.

Snake gourd...interesting shape.

Gorgeous tuna - looked very fresh. Everything is incredibly expensive here. One Omani rial is worth approx. $2.75.

We didn't see any Omani Bedouin in this kind of mask...actually we saw mostly Indians who apparently  own and run the shops. The hotels are manned by Philippino workers. 

I lifted this photo from the Internet. Perhaps women still wear these masks in small villages or out in the deserts? The masks are for modesty but also protect them from blowing sand. I've read that Omani fashion designers have their models wear these masks in fashion shows. They are certainly striking. I won't comment further except to say that women probably have adapted them to accommodate their cell phones...just a guess, because everyone almost everywhere we've been has a phone. 

Thinking about camels made me think fondly of one more Nadia lecture on the Caravanserai. They were situated  30 km apart and you can see their ruins all over Iran. A camel could travel exactly that distance without water. The Caravanserai were built to accommodate 200 people and a fleet of camels...the camels carried the merchandise from spot to spot - silks, spices, weapons.They were rolling Walmarts of the desert. People came from miles around to trade as the caravans passed through. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Foul Medammes...so enjoyabubble!

fHow can you have a bad day when you start out with Foul Medammes on the breakfast buffet? Turns out this is a famous fava bean dish known around the world more commonly as Ful. I passed it up and had a couple of fried eggs instead.

We took a quick dunk in the Gulf of Oman. Hardly refreshing, the water was like a warm bath. Because of Ramadan I had to remain almost fully dressed..so I walked into the water only to be able to say I did. The sand was red hot..temperature around 106. Our bathing suit days, at least photos of us in suits, are over so I'll spare you that agony. 

Tomorrow we fly back to Doha, Qatar with a two hour layover in their beautiful new airport, then onto Dubai where we overnight and then fly via British Airways to Heathrow. 

Note that we are sitting almost directly on the Tropic of Cancer. How can you avoid thinking of Henry Miller? Following is from an Amazon review by Michael J. Mazza of his most famous book. 

The back cover of Henry Miller's novel "Tropic of Cancer" notes that the book was first published in Paris in 1934, but banned as obscene in the United States for 27 years until a historic court ruling was made. Thus, "Tropic of Cancer" is significant as a historical artifact in addition to being a literary work of art. The book tells the story of an American writer named Henry Miller who lives in Paris. Henry definitely lives in the seedy underbelly of the city; the book follows him to the bars, cafes, and whorehouses and details his encounters with a number of colorful characters.
"Tropic of Cancer" opens on a grungy note as the narrator discusses the lice infestation of his friend's armpits. Early on the narrator promises that this will not be a polite book: "This is libel, slander, defamation of character [...] a prolonged insult, a gob of spit in the face of Art." Miller largely succeeds to deliver on this promise. The book is full of profanity, and there are frank discussions of sex, sexually transmitted diseases, and other such topics.
The book has a crude charm and energy throughout, even though at times the prose seems wildly self-indulgent. Miller depicts Paris as a magical place, a pilgrimage site for artists and wanderers. The narrator often reflects on writing and literature in general, and on his own artistic goals and theories in particular. There is also reflection on America and American identity. Miller's prose sometimes attains a Whitmanesque revelatory quality.
To me the main question about this book is thus: Is it merely an important historic artifact, or does it still sing as a work of living literature? My own reply to this question: the book does still sing, delivering (to quote the book itself) "bloated pages of ecstasy slimed with excrement." If you like it, also check out the writing of Charles Bukowski.

Dad had a copy in his underwear drawer along with "Lady Chatterley's Lover." The moment a book was banned in those days, sales went through the roof. I don't think I ever read more than the dog-eared pages of the family copy; this might be the right time to read the whole thing. 

In this part of the world there's plenty of banning - before we left, I read that you should not carry anything by Salman Rushdie with you into Iran. I haven't read The Satanic Verses, the book that inspired the Ayatollah to issue a Fatwah on his life but as Rushdie has said so often in so many ways..if you don't like a book, close it up and don't read it. Personally I think Salman is overall eminently enjoyabubble!!

"Before the publication of his acclaimed novel Midnight's Children, Rushdie worked as an advertising copywriter. "I invented this campaign for Aero chocolate bars," he recalled.

"With bubble words: adorabubble, irresistibubble, delectabubble. Bus signs that said transportabubble. Shop signs that said availabubble. Trade ads that said profitabubble. I invented it because the guy I was working with had a stammer. We were sitting in a room trying to think of an idea and said, 'It's fucking impossibubble.' It was my one genuine lightbulb moment." The Gaurdian, October 2002. 

Blogger made salmon out of Salman. Don't blame me.

The Quiet Suq

The Mutrah Suq was quiet this morning. Our purchase of a small jar of frankincense and one Christmas ornament will hardly make a ripple in the economy. Highly dependent on oil, the ministers of this and that are trying to shift the economy more to tourism and manufacturing. Bloody expensive here so I don't see how they'll manage it. The Suq by the way is full of Indian merchants selling trinkets mostly made in India. 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Nadia Lectures

Marriage,divorce and the dowry. Nadia's birthday is #1367. Theoretically her prospective husband would have to give her father 1367 gold coins to be held in a kind of escrow. In case of divorce the money would be hers.
Armenian immigration and exodus to Glendale, California. Note that Iran, according to Nadia, is shaped like a cat.
How to become an Ayatollah.
The Iran/Iraq war for dummies.
Graduation day, from the U of N (University of Nadia). I need training on selfie photos....how to keep my eyes open and how to pose. All I could think of was my coffee ice cream.

Richard - a new occupation?

Out of Iran, into Muscat, Oman for a few days of R & R. Scouring the local papers to get a feel for the place, we found a few chuckles in the pages. 

I understand there is often an unseen motive for changing a person's name. In this newspaper notice, the short and pronounceable name of "Mohit Shankar" is being changed to "Sai Charan Sankarasubramanian". I have to say the longer name would look good if he gets into the film business; when credits roll at the end of a film, this name would fill the screen. It's the only advantage I can see. 

I'm betting they call him Mo.

Canada is taking everyone....no occupation list? 

Richard decided he'd like to sit in the position of Diwan and dispense contracts for the Royal Court. Note the tenders have to be submitted in a small envelope and sealed under wax. Number 5 states that the Municipality is not obliged to accept the lowest or any tender. Leaves plenty of wiggle room for brothers-in-law or friends who may have a stash of fireworks to dump. Wax sealing????

Zigzag Slimmer

Problems with your alterhlat? Anybody want us to bring one of these back? 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Qom and Tehran

"Showing too much hair," the chador-clad woman told Nadia. She pointed to her neck and made a pulling and buttoning motion to indicate that some neck skin was showing. We were in Qom at the Hezrat e'Ma'zumeh, the Westminster Abbey of Iran. Here is where the Mullahs study at the highest level of Shia theology. Here's where the Ayatollah Khomeini studied...nearby is a town called Nauflel le Chato so named to honor the place where the Ayatollah lived while in exile in France. A corruption of Neauphle-le-chateau.

In reply to my questions about the woman's apparent chastisement, Nadia told me the woman was just being a dick-head. Well, she didn't use that specific expression, but that's the meaning she conveyed. Younger Iranians know and use most of our curse words and idioms from watching TV, movies and videos. Many people watch Real Housewives of Tehran - just for laughs...they also watch the Kardashians and can discuss Bruce Jenner's sex re-assignment in detail. Nadia knows all the popular characters from movies...her favorite actor is George Clooney (swoon). Sometimes you can forget for just a moment, where you are.

The big square was busy with chador clad women, mullahs and the devout. Holy be damned, commerce was chugging along. Upholstery salesmen unrolled their bolts in your face as you walked along. Various trinket sellers were demonstrating little toys. Every once in a while an official of some sort would come along and shoo the hawkers out of the main square. 

A beautiful woman selling rose water in Kashan.

In the restored Khaneh Abbasian,with richly decorated walls and plaster ornamentation, this fellow struggled with his embouchure but did fairly well, readjusting his lips every couple of seconds. 
Nadia and her twin sisters aged seven. After three girls, her parents were hoping for a boy when her mother got pregnant; they were unhappy after the ultra-sound and the discovery that there would be no son - in fact, two more girls were on their way. Nadia and her sisters were elated however realizing that a boy in their midst would mean they would all lose familial status. Nadia had the most to lose as the oldest child. Even after the ultra sound, her parents and grandparents hoped there might be a mistake and one of them might be a boy.
The twins are 20 years younger than Nadia - she's like a very close aunt to them. Delighful, happy children, they're like kids all over the world, over scheduled: gymnastics, music, English lessons in addition to school. They don't learn calligraphy in school, but are already very good typists. They watch cartoons, both Iranian and English and they adore Hello Kitty.
Nadia's Mother's rice dessert...delicious.

Cruising with the girls...four in the back seat. They dropped us at our hotel and then got down to business cruising the boulevard, radio blaring, shouting out the windows. Non-stop fun.