The Gull Reef Club

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6/6/2018 · 12:46 am· Michael (Net2007) · My friend, my friend, (s)he’s got a knife
I've often felt this way, it's strange and divisive times in many ways. As far as this goes, I... | Read More

7/12/2017 · 4:22 pm· Trouble · Half of Us Are Wrong or in the Alternative, Half of Us Are Right
I've been following the saga and cataloging links of interest that contain more than mere rhetoric.... | Read More

12/23/2016 · 8:43 am· lordhelmet · Merry Christmas Eve Eve Eve!
Merry Christmas to you and Mike as well as a Happy New Year!... | Read More

11/3/2016 · 1:30 pm· Jaime · See Something, Say Something, A First Hand Account
Sure doesn't, which in no way explains why the Cubs won! Interesting that we all woke up this... | Read More

11/3/2016 · 12:21 pm· LH · See Something, Say Something, A First Hand Account
No good deed goes unpunished. But at least the Cubs won.... | Read More

6/20/2018

Slow TV Summer

Filed under: — Jaime @ 1:57 pm

Regular readers of The Gull Reef Club know that I one of my hobbies is to watch live webcams. I’ve been doing this for quite awhile now, starting, back in the day, with unsecured webcams (usually via Insecam) to watch people’s New Year’s Eve celebrations around the world.

Thanks to things like Periscope, YouTube, and even Twitter and Facebook Live, webcams have become ubiquitous. I no longer have to seek out unauthorized webcams just to peek at other parts of the world. Now, people are voluntarily putting live cams online for all of humanity to view.

Lately, one of my favorite cams to watch is the Geirangerfjord Cruise Port in Geiranger, Norway.

Geiranger is in the Arctic Circle; meaning this time of year, the sun never sets. This is the exact reason I keep tuning in. I have never visited any lands of midnight sun, and I don’t know if I ever will get the chance to go for real. (Plus, I just looked it up – it is 46 degrees in Geiranger right now. I’m not sure I want to be that cold in the summer ever). This is a nice way to experience the uniqueness of our world without breaking the bank.

I highly recommend tuning into this feed at 6p tonight or tomorrow. Today is the last day of spring and tomorrow the first day of summer in the Northern Hemisphere. Norway is six hours ahead of us here on the east coast, so if you tune in at 6p, you will see their bright, day-lit world at midnight. Ha det gøy!

3/28/2018

Adventure Log: Stephen C. Foster State Park, Okefenokee Swamp

Filed under: — Jaime @ 2:12 pm

Destination: Stephen C. Foster State Park, Okefenokee Swamp

Dates: March 13-16, 2018

Monday 12th – We were supposed to leave this day, but nasty weather came in Sunday night and lingered into Monday. Fortunately, I had the whole week off, so we had enough flexibility that we could just leave Tuesday.

Tuesday 13th – On the road by 9:06a.m. 197 miles from our house to SCF. We have started a tradition of stopping at the Dunkin Donuts at the I-95 exit in Kingsland adding just a few extra miles. The coffee is (almost) always worth it. They have, apparently, discontinued coconut donuts, which was a great disappointment to me.

We arrived shortly after 1pm. It was bright, sunny, and in the low 60s – I think. We didn’t bring a thermometer with us (note: put one the list for next time), and we had no way to check the weather. The park is completely without wifi that we could find, nor could we get any cell signal of any sort. We were truly remote. It’s always a refreshing feeling. I feel bad for people who get anxiety if they turn off their electronics, and disdain for people who think they are so important that they can’t.

We got the tent up in short order. Inside, while setting up, I saw the shadow of two butterflies fly over the tent. Burned that image right into my brain. Turns out they were two swallowtails and they hung around most of the day. Welcome to camp!

We had dinner early. Cheese steaks, apple sauce and chips. Yes, somehow we managed to pull cheese steaks off in the middle of nowhere. It was kind of impressive.

Because we had eaten before the sun went down, we had a little time to try to fish the boat basin. We had to stock ourselves with some freshwater fishing tackle because we’re geared up for saltwater at home. Ultimately, it didn’t matter. Those fish in the basin, which we saw plenty of, did not want anything we could throw at it. Not really a surprise. It was a beautiful way to enjoy the sunset. Back at camp, we lingered around the fire until bed.

Wednesday 14th – We planned to let ourselves ‘sleep in’ this day, and were up by 8:30a. The wind was already blowing and gaining strength as the sun warmed things. High winds can make kayaking unfun, however, so we planned to head down to the boat basin and check things out. Indeed, it was windy and felt cooler than Tuesday.

We opted to take a short paddle toward Mixon’s Hammock. We wanted to check it out again, not having been there since our magical Christmas Eve night 2016. Technically, we weren’t allowed to go stop at Mixon’s because we didn’t have permits. It just so happens we met the very people who did for that day/night right there at the basin. Dan, and his son Maximillian, were packing up their canoe getting ready to go out. We got to chatting with them, and they invited us out to see the island. In return, we, ok fine – Mike – carried a load of firewood for them in his kayak. It was going to be a cold night and they were pretty loaded down as it was. Pretty fair exchange, if you ask me.

Mixon’s Hammock was as lovely as ever. The water level was certainly higher than last time making it much easier to get in – especially over that one big log you have to paddle over right before you get there. I hated that log much less than last time. The campsite was pretty much the same, although sans the snazzy improvised log bench Mike made. We suspect someone burned it. It can be difficult to scavenge firewood on that small of an island.

We paddled back, and while we enjoyed it, we were glad it was going to be the only paddle of the day. We had a quick lunch at the boat basin to ensure we were on time for the 2pm tour.

The tour was a perfect way to spend the chilly, windy day. The tour was informative, and I learned and re-learned a number of things about the swamp. For example, I can’t un-see mistletoe growing in its parasitic way on its host tree. (How did I not see that before? It’s everywhere).

Yes, we saw alligators – every day we were there. It was too cold for them to move much. They don’t bother you even when they do move much. I’ll spare you my diatribe about Florida tourism and it’s damage to people’s perception of gators, but remind me. I’d like to rant on that some time.

The highlight of the tour were the white ibis. Thousands of them. Shortly into our tour, masses of them flew over the boat, heading in the direction we were heading. They roosted in the trees ahead of us. We eventually landed near the shore. We watched them some more as some roosted while others waded down low in the grasses away from the shore. The sun was so brilliant, with no clouds, that their white feathers seemed to glow. Seeing them was magnificent and unforgettable.

Back at camp, we had dinner. This night it was chicken gumbo. Mike made it the week before, froze it, and vacuum sealed it. It was the perfect dinner for what was shaping up to be a chilly night. Nothing beats a nice, spicy filé gumbo. We followed that up by a kick ass campfire. Mike really out did himself with that one. We warmed up by the fire with a cup of cocoa (for me) and hot tea (Mike).

Then bed. Remarkably, it wasn’t all that cold that night in our tent. We have pretty warm sleeping bags, and a space heater. It is a little weird wearing a hat to bed, but sort of fun, too. All in all, we both slept well enough.

Thursday, March 15th – Big paddle day. We had hoped to get up and out on the water early to maximize our time. We were up by 8:30a and on the water just before noon. Probably a little later than we wanted, but still plenty of time. Our first destination was east to Billy’s Island. This was a quick, easy paddle – just over two miles. Once at the island, we walked the entire trail. Seeing the remnants of some abandoned logging equipment was pretty cool. Of course, it inspired me to watch numerous, early 20th century logging videos once I got home to try to figure out what I was seeing and how it worked.

There was also a little cemetery on Billy’s Island. I believe it is called the Lee Family Cemetery. It was a bit old, with the few interred there having passed in the later 1800s/early 1900s. It was surrounded with a very tall chain link fence, and there were a few downed branches inside. I had to resist every urge not tear down the fence and clean it up. Chain link fences have no business on a historic island like that, especially surrounding a cemetery. I get that they are trying protect the cemetery, but there has to be a better way. It was garish. Those buried there deserve better. Regardless, our time at Billy’s Island was pleasant and a nice first stop for the day.

We continued our paddle by heading back west on Billy’s Lake, and made the turn north toward Minnie’s Lake. We made it as far as the Minnie’s Lake Day Shelter before turning around to head back to camp. I hold precious memories of the Day Shelter on Minnie’s Lake. During our first trip to the Swamp in November 2014, we made a stop at the Day Shelter. At that time, there were abundant yellow flowers all in bloom. It was so bright and such a visually overwhelming scene. I remember feeling true serenity there. Coming back to a place that I held so dear, and seeing it in a different season, was so grounding. I don’t know about you, but it’s not often that I get to feel a true sense of belonging. In ‘society’ there is always someone or something that makes me feel awkward, annoyed, uncomfortable, or simply an outsider. There, for that late lunch break at the Day Shelter, I was where I belonged, completely comfortable, completely me. I desperately want to return.

Quick question – which one of you graffitied the Day Shelter to say ‘Kayak Naked’ – and…did you???

The paddle back to camp was pleasant until we hit Billy’s Lake again. On the open water we experienced the roughest paddling all trip. The winds were pretty gusty and blowing against us, not to mention the current, what little of it there is, was also against us. Fortunately, we have experience paddling the Skidaway and Wilmington Rivers here in Savannah, which are tidal, and can be rough even on the nicest of days, so this wasn’t too bad. Knowing that it was the last paddle of our trip certainly didn’t make it any easier.

We made it back to camp a little later than we wanted, meaning dinner got started late, which is never good when you’re famished. Adding to the un-fun, we learned our air mattress had sprung a leak. Mike went into his zone and worked to get the fire started, dinner started, and fix the air mattress, all while I showered and then started packing things to leave. Unfortunately, the air mattress was not patchable. Insert a little while of extreme stress and frustration here. This absolutely sucked; It was ugly there for bit. That is all I plan on saying about those hours of stress. It is not really worth dwelling over, because within three or so hours, we were past it. We finally managed to eat some dinner (Dublin coddle), and made up for the rest of the evening with an amazing fire and kick ass smores. No night is ever ruined if it ends with a relaxing fire and smores.

We got to bed pretty late this night. Nearly 2 am, if I recall correctly. Yes, we slept on the ground. Well, technically we had the flattened air mattress, then blankets that we put down, then our sleeping bags. We also had the space heater so, all in all, it wasn’t too bad. I wasn’t even all that sore when we woke up the next day to take down camp.

Friday, March 16th. Packed up. Went home.

If you look at a map of the paddle trails, it doesn’t seem like we covered all that much of the swamp. We calculated that we paddled about 9 miles on the second day. I feel pretty confident that we can make farther trips into the Swamp, and try some more overnighters that are farther away than Mixon’s Hammock. Mike and I have discussed our desire to paddle across or more fully navigate the entire Swamp. Seems like a lofty goal, but one I think we can meet. It will take some planning, but that is part of the fun. I wonder how many people can lay claim to having traversed the entire swamp? I want to be one of them.

Counting the minutes until we can return.

1/1/2018

New Years Eve Around the World

Filed under: — Jaime @ 2:22 pm

For many years now, I have spent New Year’s Eve watching midnight arrive on live, usually unsecured, webcams from around the world. This year was no different. I managed to write down all the cities I viewed and made brief notes about what I saw at each location. Here is the list.

+Tbilisi, Georgia – lots of personal fireworks. One office of some sort was open and the front desk was manned by an older man. Near midnight, three women appeared from behind some of the closed doors and joined him in the lobby and squatted near a Christmas tree. They all took some photos and went back to behind their doors.
+Armenia – fireworks in the distance
+Lithuania – groups of people shooting off fireworks and holding sparklers in parking lot
+Athens, Greece – huge fireworks. Watched this on an NBC live feed and I suspect the fireworks were doctored
+Jerusalem – a small group of Muslim women in a candy shop who prayed, ate some candy, and then closed up shop
+Bucharest, Romania – organized fireworks
+Bangor, N Ireland – a bar, but with lots of unruly, young kids, but no doubt it was a bar. No one really reacted to the arrival of midnight, just a few hugs but mostly everyone kept on doing what they were doing before midnight, which was drinking or dancing or if a kid, throwing crap around.
+Croydon, England – very large Church service, not sure the denomination, but maybe Catholic, lots of iconography in the the church. Seemed pretty formal.
+Bognor Regis Beach, England – fireworks
+Dublin – an Earthcam pub cam. I was embarrassed for this crowd, which was pretty large. At least three people were sporting those oversized, green, leprechaun hats you see at all the St. Pat’s parades in the US. Who does that? So tacky.
+London – also watched this on the NBC live feed and, like Athens, I suspect the fireworks were doctored
+Rio de Janero – third one where I watched on the NBC live feed. Nearly all the fireworks were red. Now I am unsure if it was doctored; who would doctor something that ugly? It was a bit creepy. Like a communist/Chinese rally or something.
+Georgetown, Guyana – a webcam to the New Testament Church of God, and I think this one was my favorite. The church was packed with people wearing vibrant, and tropical colors. They were singing and really seemed to be the happiest people ringing in the new year.
+Ascension, Paraguay – everyone at a restaurant was wearing red, glitter bowlers (got to get one of those!), but at midnight headed outside and I did not see most of them again after that
+Mar del Plata, Argentina – seems like the town started their fireworks about 5 minutes late. Does Argentina run on ‘Southern’ time, too?
+This is where the East coast would fall, but since I was celebrating at that time, I didn’t watch any cams, nor did we turn on the TV. What’s the point? The channels that cover New Year’s eve in the US only cover New York anyway and who wants to see a bunch of diaper-wearing adults freeze their asses off, listening to auto-tuned/lip-synced ‘music’, under the watchful eye of police snipers?
+No fireworks for the following: Tuscaloosa, AL, a marina near Minneapolis, MN, the extremely cold (-21) Brookings, SD, or Brookfield, WI
+Chicago, Navy Pier fireworks. Whoever was operating the cam was an idiot and kept moving off the fireworks to the Ferris wheel which had pretty lights displayed on it. We want to see the fireworks, that is how we know it is midnight. Duh.
+Park City, UT – a surprising amount of fireworks for how cold it was
+Colorado Springs, CO, some fireworks
+Jackson, WY – a Ski Resort had it’s lights on and people using the hill until about 5 minutes to midnight. Then they shut off the lights and sent out three Zamboni-like machines that smoothed all the snow. I assumed they would be having some sort of fireworks or celebration based on the shut-down time, but no show. The snow smoothing machines disappeared and the place closed for the night.
+Boise, ID – nothing that I could see
+Venice, CA – an outdoor restaurant, about half-full of hipsters who were so obviously trying really hard to ignore midnight. Most pulled out their phones at midnight, casually looked at it and put it down and continued eating. Sometimes, California seems more foreign to me than Tbilisi, Georgia.
+Chino Hills, CA – a cam of someone’s garage and alley, some fireworks
+Banff, Alberta – cute little street scene, lots of bundled up people, possible fireworks in distance but couldn’t really tell with the cam I had
+San Diego, CA – a city street scene with a few fireworks
+Palm Springs, CA – a tightly manicured city square, dotted with police vehicles, a few fireworks
+Leavenworth, WA – very bright decorated town square. Very cute, like Banff. Also with a lot of bundled up people. The Christmas lights were so bright it washed out any fireworks that may have happened.
+Hollywood, CA, Hollywood Blvd – ending New Years with a serious whimper in Hollywood. There were a lot people milling about, but none of them appeared to acknowledge midnight whatsoever. It was like a throng of zombies just wandering among each other.

I couldn’t make it any longer to ring in the New Year with Hawaii and the Pacific Islands. I’m sure theirs were far warmer than any of ours.

Well, I hope you all had a safe and peaceful New Year. Here is to hoping for a healthy, prosperous, and joyous 2018!

3/7/2017

Like the Indians

Filed under: — Jaime @ 2:21 pm

I have one more George L. Smith State Park story for you that I forgot in my last post. Really, it’s not GLS-specific, but something that happened there. Truly, I’m sure I could have overheard a conversation like this in a lot of places.

Here’s the scene – Mike and my friend, Kim, walk to the rental station to pick out a paddle for her to rent. I stayed in my kayak on the water and paddled around the launch area while they did this. While paddling and killing time (I was mostly circling and practicing turns), I notice a group of young men approach the boat-rental area. I think there were about 6 or 7 of them and they all appeared to be early 20s in age.

The boat rental area is not very complex, but there is no one on site to explain anything (there is construction going on there so the actual staffed rental area was up a slight hill and around a corner). Of course, there really isn’t much to explain. There is a line of worn-looking jon boats, canoes, and kayaks. After you pay the staff in the rental office, you walk to the boats, pick one out and go. Seems easy enough…unless you are one of these young men.

This is what ensued as they approached the line of available rental boats:
Six to seven Dudes gather around a jon boat and inspect it, many of them scratching their heads and looking confused. They then group-wandered to a canoe and stared at that for a minute. Then I begin overhear things like, “well, which one is the canoe?” “They’re both canoes” and so on and so forth as they tried to determine what they had just rented and which boat to take out.

Eventually, one of them decides to turn the jon boat over – because clearly – that will help them see the difference. After turning it over, the same dude then stands in the jon boat in a sort of Washington Crossing the Delaware pose. His friends seem delighted, and I hear things like “So that’s the canoe?” “Are you sure that’s it?” Washington-Wannabe responds, “Yeah, I can stand in it. Like the Indians. It must be the canoe!” So they piled into the jon boat and paddled off (with a lot of strain & effort because you know, it wasn’t a canoe. Although, I suspect that paddling wasn’t going to be easy for them regardless of the boat).

It was a perfect coda to their story when we spot them later in the day at one of the other boat launches. This time all but one of our intrepid boaters have abandoned their jon boat in lieu of a four (small) person paddle boat. Their numbers and weight was far, far exceeding what the paddle boat could handle. They nearly tipped the thing and drown themselves. Meanwhile, they left one – just one – dude to paddle the jonboat. We have video of him nearly doing the splits just to get in the boat. I will spare him and refrain from posting it. He ended up getting on and not falling in. If he fell in, you’d have seen the video already. I love laughing at fools as much as the rest of you do.

I honestly wonder if they ever made it back home. Good luck fellas, you’re going to need it. Your future does not appear to have smooth paddling ahead.

2/28/2017

George L. Smith State Park

Filed under: — Jaime @ 2:00 pm

Last Friday Mike and I rode out to the George L. Smith State Park for a weekend of camping and kayaking, with my friend Kim joining us for one of the days. This was our first time to this State Park, and I was impressed with how nice it turned out to be. We booked well in advance, which was a wise decision. Apparently this is a pretty popular weekend getaway for a lot of RVers in the middle Georgia area. Even though the entire campground was booked, it was quiet and peaceful. I would have liked it if the RVs were required to ‘go dark’ after 10p or so. The light pollution from them was a bit annoying, but not enough for us to dislike our experience.

The highlight of this campground is the sites are right on the water. We were able to launch our kayaks directly from camp. The water itself was so calm. There was virtually no current, and of course, no tide to contend with. The water is a ~400+ acre pond created by a millhouse. Because the pond was created by damning up a creek, the water is in a cypress forest. Paddling through tight trees gave me a great opportunity to practice navigating my kayak without the added struggle of current/tide. We didn’t get to explore the entire pond, so we will definitely be going back.

Being out that way, you really get a taste of the Georgia countryside in all its forms. For example, we inadvertently crashed a wedding that was either getting started or had just finished at the Park. The bride and groom were being given ‘pamphlets’ to ‘read later’. I think that was something religious, but not really sure. There is also the private RV park next to the State Park that features RVs bearing full sized refrigerators under their front awning as well as washing machines under an open sided, tin-roofed structure. It was…weird. Then down camp, there was the dude with the Molan Labe (μολὼν λαβέ) and ‘Straight Outta Clito’ decals on his truck (I had to look up that last one, too. No, it’s not obscene, so feel free to look it up yourself). I also heard this gem of a conversation from our NASCAR loving RVing camp neighbors, “Hey Ashley! You want a red hot dog or a beer sausage?” So people do eat those weird neon red/pink hotdogs I’ve seen in Kroger! I truly never knew. I also wish I got a nickel for every utterance of ‘might could” that I overheard that weekend as well. Totally would have paid for the entire trip…or to utilize the parlance, “I might could pay for this trip if ya’ll keep saying ‘might could’!”

All in all, our first trip to the George L. Smith State Park was incredible, and we will certainly be going back.

12/27/2016

I Believe!

Filed under: — Jaime @ 2:25 pm

Hope everyone had a very nice Christmas. As I mentioned on the 22nd, we were going to be offline for that time, and we most certainly were.

Christmas 2016 was the most unique one I have ever had. For the first time in my life, we took a Christmas trip – to my favorite escape in the wilderness – the Okefenokee Swamp. Since we got our kayaks this summer, Mike and I have been gearing up to do an overnight camp that would require us to kayak in somewhere. We were supposed to have gone for my 2.0 birthday in October, but Hurricane Matthew had other plans for us. So it was now or never, and we chose now.

The trip was amazing. The highlight was the night of Christmas Eve. We paddled into Mixon’s Hammock, for which we had secured a permit to stay the night – just Mike and me and wildlife on a remote island in the swamp. The weather was ideal – upper 70s in the day and clear at night.

The Okefenokee has the darkest night skies on the entire eastern half of the US. The evening we were on the hammock was absolutely clear and we were able to lay out and stargaze. After we were out there for awhile and our eyes adjusted, I took out my binoculars.

Orion was overhead and clearer than I have ever seen him. It was the first time I have ever seen his full arch. I used that constellation to focus my binoculars since his belt is so easy to locate in the sky. Within a few seconds of my focusing, both Mike and I witnessed a very large meteor shoot across Orion’s belt. He saw it with his naked eye and I through the binoculars.

I immediately described what I saw to Mike, “It was red on the very tip, with a super bright yellowish-white light behind that and it had a blue/green tail.” It didn’t occur to me what I had just described until Mike gave me the classic raised eye-brow, which led me to blurt out “Santa!”

So now I know – Santa’s real. There is no way you can convince me otherwise. I saw it with my own eyes. I believe.

12/22/2016

Merry Christmas Eve Eve Eve!

Filed under: — Jaime @ 2:13 pm

After tonight, I’m going to be very busy and it’s pretty likely I won’t be online much, if at all. So in case I don’t get a chance to say it before then – Have a Very Merry Christmas!

Christmas Island, Jimmy Buffett

11/8/2014

Flying Through Fall

Filed under: — Jaime @ 5:37 pm

October, as usual, proved to be a very busy month, and November is starting out the same. I’m not complaining, but it’s left me with little time to keep up on writing and sharing the minutia of my life.

First, let’s backtrack all the way back to my birthday dinner. This year was one of the best yet, not only for the quality of the food, but because it provided Mike with a whole new level of challenge. I opted for a strip steak (quality ribeyes not being available). The challenge for Mike was that it was to be sous-vide. As expected, he met the challenge, successfully made a sous-vide machine, and we feasted on some of the best, and most accurately cooked, medium rare steaks ever tasted. I should add that after we removed the steaks from their bags, we used our handy blowtorch to fire the sides of the steak, giving it the needed grilled char. Thanks Mike! I have no idea what is in store for next year.

The rest of the month included Mike’s birthday, which he intentionally keeps low key (which continues to befuddle me). Then it was prepping for a camping trip.

Earlier this week, Mike and I returned from said camping trip at the Stephen C. Foster State Park in the Okeefenokee Swamp. It was a short, but wonderful journey. I highly recommend going – if you can find it. It is extremely remote. GPS doesn’t work so well out in the swamplands. Learn to read maps, kids. It may be your only back up.

The wildlife was in abundance, but bugs at a minimum since it was cooler. It struck me at some point on the trip that the last time we camped in a swamp (Big Cypress, Y2K New Years), we returned home and vowed to move south, which we then did. Having been living in the coastal south now for so long, I’m wise enough to know it is the bugs in the summer that would prevent me from running away to live in the swamps. I can say it has inspired me to pick up my mandolin again (it’s been an embarrassingly long time since I’ve bothered with it). The reality is that I can’t bring my bass rig to a campsite. Well, at least not without a ridiculous amount of effort. New strings are on their way.

The highlight of the trip was our self-navigated boat trip into the swamp. Feel free to check out our pics from that boat trip. We journeyed about ten miles in, in one direction. It was pretty intense at times with the waterway being only slighter larger than our low riding john boat and alligators on all sides, who like to plunge into the water at the boat as you near them. I wish we were able to take more photos of the birds, but they were so fast. The large birds were in abundance, though – storks, cranes, herons, hawks. Overall, a fantastic trip, and one I would like to make again, maybe next fall.

Upon my return to civilization, I did what any modern American would do, and checked my email. In the three days I was away, Facebook had emailed me six times to let me know that it had been awhile since I last logged in and there were notifications and messages waiting for me. Twice a day for three days? Really, Facebook? Holy crap, kick it down a notch you needy baby. Of course, I’ve turned this into an experiment and have not logged into FB for over a week. I’m still getting about two messages a day. I assume eventually FB will start threatening to leave me, or suspend me, or whatever is the equivalent of a person-needy social media website break up. I won’t let it get that far. I won’t be able to resist cross-posting this very post to my wall. FB will be pleased it has lured me back. Unfortunately, I now have to go through the bother of figuring out FB’s intentionally confusing preference settings in order to not receive anymore of these notifications. I do refuse to be harassed by a bot.

Next up, Thanksgiving prep. The grandest meal of the year. Planning begins next week.

9/23/2006

Attention Lithuanians

Filed under: — Jaime @ 9:16 pm

Does anyone have any idea what this thing is? It’s lit up at night and dark during the day. I am 99% sure it is in Lithuania, likely Vilnius. I’ve been watching it for almost 24 hours (no not straight) and can’t figure it out, but I find it enchanting.

Addendum: Mike found it. It’s an outdoor pottery display in Vilnius, Lithuania. Neat-o.

7/17/2005

Vacation from Virtual Vacation

Filed under: — Jaime @ 10:32 am

Good morning beachcombers. After 11 straight weeks, I’ve become slightly burned out on postcards. Because it is a feature I really enjoy doing, I thought now would be a healthy time to take a week or two off. So, no postcards today.

Enjoy your time at home. I’ll be making yet another attempt to get to the beach (I have been thwarted from doing so a number of times this year). Wish me luck. Happy Sunday.

7/11/2005

Me in Myanmar

Filed under: — Jaime @ 11:14 pm

yangon

A day late and likely more than a few dollars short, we find ourselves for this week’s Postcard in Myanmar’s capital city, Yangon, aka Rangoon (and Myanmar is aka Burma, fyi – keep up, the names don’t get any easier to remember).

It’s fitting that I’m stuck on where to begin discussing our travels in Yangon. A dilemma of balance seems fitting for a country with a deep Buddhist ancestry. On one hand, Yangon offers up some of the world’s most exquisite architectural sites. On the other it is home to an oppresive military dictatorship. Which path to travel first?

Let’s start down the dark path so we may leave in the light. No travels to Yangon can be made without turing our attention to the plight of Nobel Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi. Her story has fascinated me for years. I hope she has an opportunity to see her homeland free.

While I was at that site, I came across this interesting news article. Scroll to “junta pondering leaving Yangon for somewhere “safer”",

Talk of an “escape city” for the generals has spread throughout Yangon. The plan was apparently reinforced by the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, which heightened the junta’s fears of attack by the United States, analysts say.

Some observers believe the generals think the United States could invade by sea, which would put Yangon — a port on the Andaman Sea — and all the top command on the front line.

I won’t be the one to break it to these folks that they don’t have anything worth offending for.

The dark path of Burma continues as I learned about the travel ban debate surrounding this nation. Land of the Golden Temples provides a good summary of what is at issue. Since we’re only virtually traveling and none of our money is landing in the pockets of the government, I think we’re cool if we continue on.

To the galleries now, beachcombers. The brighter path of Rangoon brings us to some of the world’s most detailed pagodas (payas). Worldsiround and Wit VerHoogt’s Individual Travel in Burma are good places to start.

A number of professional and semi-professional photographers have been enchanted by Yangon. Goto Osami does a magnificent job of capturing Yangon in his three galleries, one, two, three. Mike Rogero provides us with a look at Rangoon’s people, be sure to read his commentary for useful and relevant information. Alfred Molon rounds out the general sightseeing with his extensive overall gallery.

Alfred Molon also does us the favor of photographing some of Burma’s cuisine, Burmese Food. Who’s not hungry after viewing that? Also of miscellaneous interest are the 12 Month’s Festivals celebrated throughout the year.

It’s time to leave Yangon. Before we do, however, we must stop at the Mother Land (2) for some Engrish fun. Now, we are proud to say that after the 5 years in services, we can fulfill our dream of “100% Guest Satisfactory”.

7/3/2005

Down Where the River Meets the Sea

Filed under: — Jaime @ 3:56 pm

savannahpostcard
Postcard courtesty of USGenWeb, Chatham County

Happy holidays, beachcombers! Lots of festivities abound so I’m shorting you guys on a super-groovy postcard, while still providing the illusion I spent a great deal of time on it.

Four years ago this weekend, Mike and I kissed living in Illinois goodbye and we settled here in the Coastal Empire. Since that time, I have declared myself the best unofficial tour guide in Savannah, so please allow me to show you around my adopted hometown. Get your ‘to -go’ cup ready, we have a lot of walking to do.

Much of what I will share with you is an amalgamation of things Mike or I have written at other times about Savannah, so no kvetching about a lack of originality if you’ve seen this before. I really shouldn’t be in front of this computer anyway on a gorgeous day like today.

Savannah, Georgia is on the southeast coast of the United States. The heart of Savannah, the Historic District , is 18 miles west of the Atlantic ocean. We are situated on a 40 foot bluff on the southside of the Savannah River. The best of all galleries is ours, of course, Mike and Jaime’s Photo Gallery.

Savannah was chartered as the first city of the colony of Georgia in 1732. James Oglethorpe established it with the approval of the British crown as a colony for debtors to go to escape prison (much like Australia). It also served as an outpost to protect the larger city to the north, Charleston, from Spanish Florida. We have a number of historic forts in the area including Fort Pulaski, Fort McAllister and Old Fort Jackson. Virtual tours of each are provided by Quantum Tour. These historic forts have battle reenactments and cannon and firearms demonstrations during most of the year.

Savannah is the first “planned” city in the US; Oglethorpe was the designer. We have 24 squares that are placed in a symmetrical grid throughout the city, which is likely the reason I love it so. Chicago is on a grid, too. Cities on grids are just so logical.

Savannah’s squares are a mix of lush tropical gardens and ancient live oak trees covered with Spanish moss (the spooky stuff of haunted movies). Check out this map of downtown Savannah to get an idea of the planning. Also, please check out this link for another photo tour of Savannah.

The city has the largest historic district in the United States. Many of the houses and buildings look very much like they did when they were originally built. Much of the preservation can be accredited to the Historic Savannah Foundation and the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).

After World War II, a number of landmarks were destroyed in the name of “progress.” A group of local ladies joined together, as the Historic Savannah Foundation, in 1955 to work to protect the buildings. They had the foresight to use Savannah’s historical charm as part of tourism promotions. Their efforts worked and little by little, parts of the city have been declared protected by the National Historic Registry and tourism has become our strongest industry.

SCAD came along in the late 1970′s. The school has been responsible for the restoration of a great number of the buildings downtown. Some of the old guard (a/k/a “NOGS” – North of Gaston Street – the really old district) bristled at the idea of an art college, or more specifically, art students and all their eccentricities moving into the “Belle of the South.” Most have come to accept and even respect the hard work (and the LOADS of money) the college has put into this city.

Many new renovation projects are in the works. You can walk around anywhere downtown and will be guaranteed to see a zoning meeting notice regarding the restoration of a building. The city has VERY STRICT zoning requirements because of the historical preservation. Meetings must be had regarding nearly every change. When a live oak tree must be cut down or even trimmed, a notice is hanged on or near the tree regarding a meeting to be held to determine the tree’s future…I kid you not. Savannah also seems to be home of perputual building projects – such as the Bryan Street Bank Building and the Jepson Center for the Arts. I am honestly beginning to wonder if the construction on these two are ever going to end. The scaffolding has been up ever since I have moved here, and are frankly, making this gorgeous city look hideous. I consider both to be embarrassments.

One secret of Savannah that you will never learn on tourism websites or brochures is our penchant for eccentric people. I think this may be characteristic of many warm cities (like Key West and New Orleans), but we seem to have a large number of very harmless but very weird people. We have “Particle Man,” a large balding white man with very long dreadlocks, who walks around moving his fingers about as if he were conducting an orchestra. Word has it, he is “counting his particles.” I have not asked him about it. Lately, Mike and I have seen him with a trollish looking woman. I’m not being mean, she really does look like one of those troll dolls. Everybody loves somebody sometimes.

Another of Savannah’s eccentrics is the “Happy Tooter,” or as I later learned the cops call him “Johnny Two Notes.” This guy plays his saxophone in Johnson Square or on River Street for hours. Problem is, he doesn’t know how to play many songs. His repertoire consists of the National Anthem, Georgia on my Mind, Yankee Doodle, and When the Saints go Marching In. He plays all of those terribly.

Savannah also has a large number of homeless people that live in Chippewa Square. They all look like ex-hippies who don’t know what to do now that Jerry Garcia is gone. They are a very nice bunch and are always sure to greet you in the morning. The only weirdo that may trouble you is “Forty-One Cents Guy” (whom I’ve not seen in quite awhile). This guy goes around asking tourists if they have forty-one cents. He always uses this specific amount because he has found people cough up the money more often than when asked, “got some change?” As soon as he gets the money, he goes to Wet Willie’s on River Street and gets a “to-go” cup. I could fill another page talking about all the people who carry signs and placards around town, too. The most notable of these sign-carrying characters is “stop the lies” guy. I have searched for information on him but I can’t find any. Eh, another day, then, beachcombers.

Savannah has served as the backdrop to a number of movies. Mike put together a list of movies filmed in Savannah: Savannah Movie List – which is really odd considering we rarely watch movies.

Two great spots to visit if you want to venture outside the historic district are the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge and Tybee Island. If you head out to the wildlife refuge, be warned that there are no barriers between you and the wildlife. The refuge is home to thousands of aligators. While this makes for some incredible photography, it also requires you to be very alert. Tybee Island is our local beach. Unlike so many American oceanfronts, Tybee retains a charming, residential atmosphere, rather than the obnoxiously commercialized feel you get in places like Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head.

Sometimes, I am still in awe that I live 15 miles from the ocean. There are times I can stand on my front porch and feel the wind roll in from the east and smell the salt air and marshes, and hear that wind rustle my palm. Seafood is cheaper than beef and you can buy it fresh off trucks. This is home now. Please come visit, I love to show this place off.

6/26/2005

Kiss me in Kosice

Filed under: — Jaime @ 2:10 pm
kosice
Postcard courtesy of Zdenko Liptak

Dobry den, beachcombers. Today’s Postcard finds us in Košice, Košice, Slovakia. Košice is the capital city of the ‘kraj’ (region/district) by the same name. It is the second largest city in the Slovak Republic. The city’s name is pronounced Ko-SHEETS-seh for those of us not up on our Slovak.

This lovely old berg of 250,000 or so inhabitants is nestled in the far eastern part of the Slovak Republic. It lies in the Košice basin, in the valley of the Hornad River. To the north are the the Cierna Hora mountains and to the west of Košice are the the Volovske Vrchy Hills. Košice dates back to the 13th century. Kosice.sk provides a consice history of the region.

Košice is a really tiny place and it shouldn’t take us too long to see most of the sites. Maureen Mikovics Pulignano offers a lovely general gallery of photos. There are also some delightful photos in the Albis Photo-Gallery, although I find it unfortunate none of the photos were labelled. Both Kosicke.d42 and Kosice.sk offer informational tours of Košice’s historical monuments. Far and away, Julius Silver provides the most thorough gallery.

For more a detailed tour, Kosice.sk created this one of St. Elizabeth’s Cathedral. I also found this page dedicated to Urban’s Tower. Yes, the site is entirely in Slovak. Just click a picture and stare. Then say, ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh.’ Move along. Repeat. That’s all you need to do. That’s how these tours work. Plus, it’s easy to do in Košice, because the architecture is stunning.

A number of websites offer authentic Slovakian recipes including George Dolnak’s The Recipes of Slovakia Remembered, Slovakia.org’s Recipe Guide, University of Pittsburgh’s Slovak Recipes, and The Slovac-American Cultural Society of the Midwest’s Food From The Best Cook – Our Mothers. Good heavy eats. Hope you’re up for a little sauerkraut.

Like many cities of the former Soviet republics, Košice is still adjusting to a more free market society. Unemployment is high, around 15%. Yet, the workforce is highly educated and with Slovakia’s admission to the EU, the future looks bright. Oddly enough, US Steel is the largest employer in Košice. They seem to recognize their role as a local corporate giant and give back to the area in the way of organized events and regional development. There is a lot of potential in this city.

This visit to Košice has been short but pleasant. I’ll warn you in advance that next week’s trip may not be all that glamorous. I will be preparing the polls for the America’s Debate Year in Review, 2004-2005, which puts Postcards in the backseat. Anyway, this trip to Košice has been enchanting. Thank you to our kind webhosts.

Dovidenia!

See? I told ya this week’s trip location wouldn’t start with the letter C.

6/19/2005

Shackdwellers and Strandlopers

Filed under: — Jaime @ 7:36 pm

table-mountain
(Postcard courtesy of The Postcard Stalker)

Picking a country of origin from my visitors’ logs seemed to work last week, so I did it again for this postcard. Today we are traveling to the southern most region oAfrica – Cape Town, South Africa.* We’ll explore the city and parts of the outlying West Cape province.

Like the demanding coast that gives rise to the many legends of the Cape of Good Hope, it seems Cape Town itself is a place one should get used to slowly and probably not go into unfamiliar waters. Cape Town is a city of contrast. It is home to great wealth and extreme poverty, soaring mountains and beaches, blacks, whites and coloureds (As an American, I feel weird typing that but apparently this is still common in South Africa).

Let’s start off with some general galleries that capture most of the city-proper and touristy ‘must see’ places. We have Georgia Roessler’s Cape Town Gallery, Emily Delmont’s Cape Town Gallery, and Pat McKune’s Cape Town Galleries – all very good at displaying the popular locales. Cape Town is also home to the lovely Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. Of course, we couldn’t visit Cape Town without a ride down to Cape Point.

As I was exploring, I noticed the touristy galleries were all rather similar. It seemed like very few capturing ‘day in the life’ type pictures. I then stumbled upon this site My Mother Built This House, Lifeonline. More specifically, this bit of information, “Nearly one-third of Cape Town’s population of three million live in slums or squatter settlements.” Oh, I thought meekly as I sat in my comfy leather chair, in my air-conditioned room, typing on my specially purchased ultra-quiet keyboard – at least we have an explanation for the tourist gallery similarities.

This is when the contrasts of Cape Town really began to show themselves. I am not the only person to notice these contrasts. They are manifest themselves more once you begin to look. Manfred Leiter noticed. So did the folks at the Southern Africa Environment Project. Cape Town offers a great deal of luxury to those who can afford it. We see this in Craig Sydney’s Cape Town Buildings and the voluminous websites dedicated to luxury rentals. This isn’t how many Cape Towners live, however.

One third of those who live in Cape Town and the outlying West Cape area do so in extreme poverty. When I mentioned earlier that we may not want to explore unfamiliar waters, it is because of galleries like Marcel Baumann’s Cape Town and Janet Walt’s Trek Earth Gallery and articles like this from the BBC, SA housing protests turn violent. Then there is the ravishing of the poor community by HIV and AIDS. Personal stories of these (mostly) Cape Towners from the Wola Nani Embrace are certain to anger and disgust. Now I understand why so many tourist maps exclude anything on the outer edges of Cape Town. This portion of the trip could get real depressing if I went on, so we’ll just leave it here for now.

There are a few more miscellaneous stops to make before we go. I have no way of putting these in any semblance of order, so random it is. First, a (white) local’s look at his homeland after having been away for awhile brought to us by Dr. Gernot Hassenpflug. I confess I really enjoyed his gallery because he took lots of pictures of his meals. I couldn’t find many Cape Town specific recipes, but this more than covers the food portion of our trip.

Also, while we are in Cape Town, we are going to want to pick up a little slang. The South African Expat’s Slang Page is a good start. Very befok. Check, China?

This trip also proved to be immensely useful in that I learned the Dutch word for beachcomber – strandloper. The term as it is used in reference to Cape Town is detailed by M.L. Wilson of the South African Museum in his (her?) Shell middens and Strandlopers.

We’ll depart by sharing one of Cyber Cape Town’s Myths and Legends of Cape Town:

As the story goes Jan van Hunks, a pirate in the early 18th century, retired from his eventful life at sea to live on the slopes of Devil’s Peak. He spent his days sitting on the mountain smoking weed on his pipe.

One day a stranger approached and asked to borrow some spliff. After a bit of bragging, a smoking contest ensued which lasted for days.

Van Hunks finally defeated the stoned stranger – who unfortunately turned out to be the devil – and they both vanished in a puff of cannabis smoke. Legend has it that the cloud of “tobacco” smoke they left became the “table-cloth” – the famous white cloud that spills over Table Mountain when the south-easter blows in summer.

Thank you for joining me on this trip to Cape Town. It has been a learning experience. See you next week, strandlopers. Sala kahle!

________________________________________
*As an aside, I realized this week that a disproportionate number of my Sunday Postcards are dedicated to cities or counties starting with the letter C. Well, C is for cookie afterall. I must have some underlying holdovers from youth I’ve not fully explored. I really do like cookies. A lot. Mmmm…cookies… In any event, I promise that no matter where we go next week, it won’t start with the letter C.

6/12/2005

Cuckoo for Cocos

Filed under: — Jaime @ 10:33 pm
cocosislands

Happy Sunday, beachcombers. Tonight’s Sunday Postcard is inspired by The Gull Reef Club’s visitors logs. I saw someone visited here from a country called the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Despite fancying myself as a amateur geography buff, I had never heard of this place before. I will use this postcard to return the visit and learn a little something while I am at it.

The Cocos Islands are one of the Indian Ocean’s best kept secrets. 27 tiny islands make up this territory of Australia. These maps will help orient you to the atolls. According to this site Cocos Tourism – the islands didn’t even exist when our last postcard, the Roman Ruins, were at the height of their civilization. In fact, there were no inhabitants until the 1820′s. The people maintain residences on only two of the islands – Home Island and West Island, with a total around 600+ people living there.

In the last week I spent finding resources on the Cocos Islands I think I’ve seen just about all there is to see. This place is so incredibly tiny. The 27 islands make up a total of 14sq kilometers. There are only 15 kilometers worth of roads. There is one landing strip and two planes that arrive in and out of the Cocos Islands every week. There are two schools to educate about 150 students. If you are looking for a paradise in the middle of nowhere, this is it.

There are a few very nice galleries that will help you get an idea of what the area looks like. First we have some photos of the lucky Karen Willshaw, a citizen of The Cocos Islands: Ikan Images. Next, Windsurfing in Western Australia brings us on a nice little tour. CR-Photo, a German website, has a nice gallery also. The Australian government has a mediocre gallery (the pics are a bit small for my liking) featuring the everyday life on the Cocos Islands. The best gallery I found is that of Jonas Lorch. He has the most complete Cocos Islands online photo gallery.

If you visit the Cocos Islands, it seems there are two ‘must do’ activities. One is to go scuba diving in their abundant coral reefs. Cocos Dive hosts a stunning gallery of life under the sea around the atolls. Another activity that shouldn’t be missed while visiting the Cocos Islands is a guided tour of the Pulu Keeling National Park. Home to an abundant ecosystem of rare vegetation and animal species, the park is only accessible by boat (and even then you have to swim in the last few meters). Once you’ve covered these spots, had supper with one of the local supper clubs, and slept on the beach a few days, you’ve done just about everything there is to do on the Cocos Islands. Of course, setting this pattern on repeat for a few weeks could prove to be quite therapeutic.

I reluctantly pack up to leave the Cocos Islands. I had no idea what to expect when I first ran across the name of this wee territory in my visitors logs. This trip has been a delight. Thanks to my anonymous visitor from the Cocos Islands for the inspiration.

Selamat jalan!

6/5/2005

Antiquitas Adventor

Filed under: — Jaime @ 8:08 pm

ancient_rome_postcard

Good day, beachcombers. Welcome to this week’s Sunday postcard. By request of Ms. Flynny, we are travelling to Rome to visit the classical monuments and architecture symbolic of one of the greatest civilizations of the past.

Unlike some of the other places we’ve visited, there is no lack of photo galleries of Roman ruins. A good place to start is Alan Zeleznikar’s Rome Travel Page. Scroll down to the green ‘Rome’ section. Mr. Zeleznikar has done a very thorough job of detailing what a tourist to Rome’s ruins can expect.

A trip to Rome to see the ruins would not be complete without visiting certain, quintessential landmarks, most of which are mapped out in this useful Ruins Map. While we could probably spend weeks on the details and minutia, we’re going to stick to the most popular and well-known spots for this postcard. One of the most-known of the most-known spots, of course, is the Roman Coliseum. Professor Felix Just of Loyola Marymont University offers us a nice gallery of the Roman Coliseum. He also hosts a gallery for one of the other most-known of the most-known spots, the Roman Forum.

Virtual Tours of Architecture provides a great tour of the Pantheon. We start, logically, by seeing the beauty of the Pantheon’s exterior. The Pantheon’s interior is equally spectacular.

Other locations that we can not miss while we are touring ancient Rome are the Mausoleum of Augustus, courtesy of Yong-Ling Ow, the Theater of Marcellus, brought to us by the University at Buffalo, and of course, Circus Maximus, gallery courtesy of Virtual Travels. The University of Buffalo also offers this fabulous gallery featuring the Arch of Titus – a gallery I sought out especially for Titus (who needs to get around to blogging more).

While it is a bit slow to load, Druid’s Den brings us 3-D panoramic tours of the Coliseum, the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps (not ancient, just old), Palazzo della Civilta, Piazza Navona, Piazza Farnese, Trevi Fountain, and Parliament.

Next stop on our ancient Rome tour are the Baths of Caracalla, gallery courtesy of the University of California San Francisco. UCSF not only offers great images of the Baths, they also provide a detailed description of a typical day at the Baths for your average Roman. Do any resorts exist like these today? I would sure love a day at a place like the Baths of Caracalla.

We’re about to wrap this trip up, but not before visiting the Trevi Fountain. Adriolo.com’s nighttime gallery of the Fountain really captures the beauty of this ancient fixture. Legend says that we must face away from the fountain and toss a coin in or we will never return to Rome. So let’s toss our coins in to ensure we come back because I have really loved this tour. Thanks, Ms. Flynny, for suggesting it.

This has been a lovely visit to ancient Rome. Until next week…ciao!

5/29/2005

Nickerie, Suriname

Filed under: — Jaime @ 11:17 pm

nickerie

Today we travel to the sleepy little farming district, Nickerie, on the Atlantic coast of western Suriname. Nickerie is partially bordered on the east by the Nickerie River and on the west by the Corantijn River. The Corantijn River also marks the far western border between Suriname and Guyana.

Suriname is a former colony of the Netherlands. Suriname became independent from the Netherlands in 1975 and like many former colonies, there are some stability problems in its government. Suriname held a general election this week, Surinam election ends in deadlock. The article indicates that no party received a majority of the votes. This may be due to the fact that Suriname is an extremely diverse nation, ethnically and religiously. The election results may merely be reflecting the diversity of this nation, but I won’t pretend to know anything about Surinam’s political scene.

Nieuw Nickerie is the capital of the district of Nickerie and the second biggest city in Suriname. It is a city on the run from the ocean. Nieuw Nickerie currently lies in its third location. The Nickerie River has claimed the first two homes of Nieuw Nickerie. The city was forced to move each time. Nieuw Nickerie is now protected by a sea wall in hopes to reduce the need for further city relocations.

Nickerie’s claim to fame is its abundant rice plantations. There are also a number of banana and tobacco plantations as well. So like most farming areas around the world, there isn’t much going on around here. Marlon Romeo has put together an incredibly comprehensive look at Nickerie on his site, Nickerie on the Web (Click on the image to start your tour). Ok, so the page looks a little 1998. You think Mr. Romeo has broadband access, photoshop, dreamweaver or whatever else he’d need to make a 2005 looking site? Me neither. Mr. Romeo, you have done a fabulous job. If I ever come to your beloved Nickerie, I’m looking you up to be my tour guide.

WunderPhotos has two decent pics of Nickerie, WunderPhotos. I also found this gallery that gives us a nice glimpse of Nieuw Nickerie, J. Willemsen’s Nieuw Nickerie Gallery. There are some striking similarities between Nieuw Nickerie and Savannah. The silty river water, the disheveled greenery, tin roofed shacks on stilts… Nieuw Nickerie seems laid back and sleepy. My kind of place.

I couldn’t help but think, however, that Nieuw Nickerie must be infested with mosquitoes after seeing this pic of their main street:

mainstreetsuriname

Egad. Get that water flowing people. No wonder every site I found about traveling to Suriname says you must get a malaria shot.

No trip is complete without sampling the local fare, Recipes from the Surinam kitchen. Lots of seafood, curries and chilies. This is a diet I could get used to quickly.

As with all of our Sunday Postcards this virtual trip must end. Don’t trade in your Euros yet, however. I received my first request for a virtual trip from Ms. Flynny. Next week, The Gull Reef Club Jet will be heading out to Italy in search of some Roman ruins.

Nickerie, Suriname is a quiet farm district that seems to change as much as the tides. I have enjoyed the pleasant, humid haze of this trip. Vaarwel, Nickerie.

5/22/2005

Flew da Coup Coup Island

Filed under: — Jaime @ 1:57 pm

Comoros

In between Mozambique and Madagascar, where the Mozambique Channel lets out into the Indian Ocean lies today’s destination – the tiny, volcanic islands of Comoros. Depending on who you ask, the Comoros Islands consist of either three or four larger islands and a number of smaller islands. The main island is Grande Comore.

The Comoros were formerly a colony of France. Independence was gained in 1975 for most of the islands, with Mayotte choosing to stay under French control. Comoros considers Mayotte part of the island group – which is where the ‘three or four’ larger islands controversy begins. The islands have experienced decades of political strife as they compete for control. Sources vary, but there have been at least 19 coup attempts since 1975, four of which were led by this man, Bob Denard. Thus, the unfriendly moniker ‘Coup Coup Island’ was born. Within the last few years, however, the factions have come to some semblance of peace, tentative but hopeful. One of the main islands, Anjouan, even hosts a pretty impressive government site, The Anjouan Government. Kansas State University provides a good rundown of facts about these islands in its Comoros Islands’ Home Page.

I felt bad about not putting a lot of effort into last week’s postcard, so I vowed to make up for it with this one. In the process, I have really taken a shine to these mysterious islands. The Comoros played an integral part of the world’s earliest trade routes and are aptly designated as part of the Spice Islands. They come from a grand tradition. Helped then hurt by colonization, the Comoros now hold so much potential as a tourism designation.

This was a tough assignment. Being such a dangerous place, there simply are not a lot of photo galleries out there. One of the best galleries I found is in Czech, from the “Traveler’s Consortium”- if the Czech to English dictionary I found is correct. Still, pictures speak a thousand words, no matter the language. Please enjoy the Traveler’s Consortium’s Momentky z Komorských ostrovů (which I believe translates to Memories of the Comoros Islands, but I could be wrong on that first word). I also found this small, but pretty, gallery Travel in Moroni. For a somewhat depressing look at Comoros, Jeremy Jowell offers this journal entry and this photo gallery. A more recent look at Comoros is offered by world traveler “Erin” in her journal entry from January of this year.

The Comoros Islands are home to some very unique wildlife. It is the only known habitat of the ancient fish, the coelacanth. The Comoros are also home to Livingston’s Flying Foxes. These ‘foxes’ are actually bats – really, really big bats, as in 4 ft. wingspan big. Good thing they eat fruit.

Speaking of eating, here are a few unique Comorian dishes Comorian food link. Bananas and cassava make up a large part of the Comorian diet. Can’t say that I’ve ever had bananas for anything other than a snack or dessert, but any recipe is worth trying once, right?

Well, our bellies are full and we’ve seen just about all there is to see. It’s time to pack up and get ready for next week’s currently unknown destination. May the hope that seems to spring eternal in Comoros actualize itself sooner than later.

Kwa Heri!

5/16/2005

Monday in Monaco

Filed under: — Jaime @ 11:12 pm

Monte Carlo

After a number of cancelled flights and a few hours of sitting on the runway, we have finally arrived in the tiny, Mediterranean principality, Monaco. After last week’s gloomy trip to Badakhshan, I wanted to take us to the extreme opposite in lifestyle. What better place than the legendary home of high-rollers and tax shelters?

Monaco is not all that large geographically so it won’t take us very long to see all the major sites. Here are two galleries that cover the basics: Visit Monaco Photo Gallery and Al Hoguin’s Monaco Gallery. I also found these images from Monaco’s Exotic Garden Jardin Exotique de Monaco.

There is a reason Monaco is considered a playground for millionaires – no one else can afford to hang out there. A nice hotel room will cost you 400€ to 500€ a night. Real Estate is just as costly. It’s funny how we can be rich in the eyes of a Badakhshani and nearly paupers to a Monegasque.

Frankly, I wasn’t all that impressed with Monaco. For all the Travel channel and Robin Leach narrated specials made about this locale, I thought it was sorely lacking in open space and public beaches. Let’s blow our last Euro in the casino and book on outta here.

Until next trip…

5/8/2005

Walking the Wakhan

Filed under: — Jaime @ 8:17 pm

Badakhshan

Happy Sunday, beachcombers. Welcome to this week’s Sunday Postcard. Today we are traveling to the most northeast province of Afghanistan, Badakhshan.

Badakhshan is one of the most unpopulated areas of the world. Estimates I’ve found put the total population at around 50,000. Most of the citizens reside around the province’s capital, Feyzabad a/k/a Faizabad. Despite it’s primitive setting, Feyzabad does have an an airport and internet access.

These next galleries give us a brief perspective of life in Badakhshan in general: Luke Powell’s Badakhshan and the Panjsheer Valley Gallery and Assistance Afghanistan photos.

Portions of Badakhshan encompass the Hindu-Kush valley, known as the Wakhan Corridor. This map of the province gives you an idea of where the valley lies: Badakshan Map. The Wakhan Corridor is truly the middle of nowhere as the following galleries show: UNEP Environmental Assessment Gallery and Eurocorps ISAF VI, Above the Hindu Kush. I especially liked this image showing homage to a saint:

Horns of a Saint

All the infrastructure we often take for granted is completely absent in some portions of Badakhshan province. The lack of decent health care, transportation, and nutrition is discussed by Dr. Robert Simpson with Médecins Sans Frontières in his Mission in Afghanistan.

You probably have noticed the scarcity of women in the photographs that feature people. Apparently, photography of women in this area is prohibited, Women photographed by ISAF troops protest with stones in Afghanistan , Xinhua via Afgha.com. This does not really surprise me however. My initial curiosity regarding this province arose because of this recent Washington Post article: A Killing Commanded by Tradition (registration required). This is a very harsh area of the world and the women have it ten times as hard as the men. This image is particularly compelling, especially in the largest zoom Eurocorps ISAF VI, Traveling Family.

I know I will never get much closer to Badakhshan than I have today. I will miss out on the majestic geography, but I could not cut it there. Some humans are incredibly resilient.

The Gull Reef Club