asakiyume: (birds to watch over you)
We didn't set out with any plan do anything like a boat tour, and when we saw a brochure in a visitors' center somewhere, featuring a puffin wearing a captain's hat and a promise of seeing puffins, we thought it would be fun, but still it wasn't something we were actually planning on doing.

conversation, legends, and bird information under the cut )

My attempts at photographing puffins, razorsbills, bald eagles, black guillmonts ("white wing patches, and sexy red legs" was how Ian taught us to recognize them), and cormorants hanging their wings to drain and dry were hopeless, so I'll post a couple of the Van Schaiks' own photos:



... and share my sketch of some seals instead. The scribbled note says "Mark said, when I said that they have dog faces, that his dad said the males have dog faces and the females have horse faces."

1 I can't find any corroboration for this legend elsewhere, and I may have mangled it--but anyway, it makes a good story. (The closest thing I find is the remarks of John MacGregor, published in 1828, remarking about fishermen on the other side of Cape Breton, that they
are Acadian French, who live by pursuing cod, herring, and seal fisheries, together with wrecking; at which last occupation, in consequence of the frequent shipwrecks about the entrance of the Gulf during the spring and fall, for several years, they are as expert as the Bermudians, or the people of the Bahamas.
asakiyume: (man on wire)
Two posts in one day? Why not!

Wakanomori took me to Holyoke's secret stream, which runs beneath Interstate 91. There's a park there, but these boys preferred the actual stream (so did a chipmunk and an oriole I saw).

Holyoke's secret stream

kids playing in the secret stream

At one end of the present-day park is a closed roadway that leads up into an overgrown, abandoned park. If you climb up and up, you reach this tower that looks like it took its design cues from rude graffiti:

phallic tower

You can climb up a literally falling-apart concrete spiral staircase on the inside of the, uh, shaft, and up top there is a glorious view of the surrounding countryside. Which I didn't take a picture of! I was too busy recovering from the hair-raising ascent. Fortunately, Wakanomori took a picture. He also obliged me by taking pictures of the words of wisdom inscribed there, and of some of the community-created artwork at the base of the tower.

View of Mt. Tom in nearby Easthampton

Mt Tom (Wakanomori's photo)


wisdom (wakanomori's photo)


artwork (wakanomori's shot)
asakiyume: (far horizon)
While we waited on the Bay of Fundy for a ferry to take us to Nova Scotia, we walked around on a little patch of shore. There were lots of sea-smoothened pieces of shale there, perfect for skipping on the waves, or for decorating a piece of driftwood.

shale (and coal) on driftwood

You see the slightly sparkly stone, four from the right end? I have another piece like that. That's not shale. We thought it might be coal, but couldn't be sure.**

Later, we were staying in an old house in the coastal town of Port Hood. The house looked, from the exterior, like it ought to be haunted. We found out it had been built by someone who had made money in coal mining. Among the setbacks (disasters, more like) were that the mines sometimes flooded. Gradually, we realized that the mines had been . . . under the sea. As Wakanomori said: they would have found coal seams in the cliffs and then... worked their way down to under-the-water.

I mean, coal mining is always scary work, but PUTTING IT UNDER THE OCEAN makes it considerably more scary. As the housekeeper at the (potentially) haunted house put it, "I don't know how hungry I'd have to be to go down into that."

A cliff (not at the same place... but representative)

Cliff, St. Croix Cove

Then at one of the northernmost inhabited points on Cape Breton, we went on a little boat out to see puffins (and did see them! I hope I can do a whole post about that trip) and other pelagic birds, and the young captain (third-generation of tour-boat operators) was telling us more about erstwhile undersea mines, and meanwhile there were seals out on the rocks, watching us.... and swimming in the water and regarding us with just their heads peeking out...

More seals at Bird Island, Big Bras d'Or

... and now I think, there is a story out there about the dangers of the mines, and flooded mines, and selkies, and when I have it worked out, I'll share it with you.

**The day after the puffin tour, we found ourselves a town called Sydney Mines, a much-boarded-up town that no longer has any mines, but that does have a fossil museum and a room given over to artifacts from the mining days. There was some coal on display, and I was able to confirm that yes, the item I'd picked up on Nova Scotia's southern coast was indeed coal. Maybe if I sleep with it under my pillow, that selkie mining story will come to me faster.
asakiyume: (feathers on the line)
On Saturday morning, we're heading out to Nova Scotia. We will have very limited Internet, so I will be scarce--but I'll see you all in July. In the words of my roommate, sophomore year of college, hang loose and stay real.
asakiyume: (holy carp)

Behold the powerful falls at the Holyoke dam. Holyoke Gas and Electric generates power here.

This dam is a barrier to fish that need to get upstream to spawn. There have been various means of solving this problem, but at present it's a literal elevator, a huge mechanism powered by giant turbines and with great chains that lift boxes of water, packed with fish, up above the falls. Yesterday Wakanomori and I went to see it--a marvelous experience!

It has very cute signposts:
Enter Fishway

In the informational room, there's a diagram that shows how the elevator works. You can see the giant turbines:

How the elevator works

And a tally of how many fish have been lifted: yesterday was a record for American shad. (In the colonial days, they used to say that when the shad were running, you could walk across the Connecticut river on their backs.)

Fish elevator totals

photos and videos of fish, people watching fish, people fishing, and massive machinery )

asakiyume: (Timor-Leste nia bandiera)
I've lived in the United States, England, and Japan--all countries that are well-off. I've never lived in, or even visited, a so-called developing country before. There are lots of different narratives about developing countries; what stories get told depend on the purposes of the teller--unsurprisingly. The hard facts of life in Timor-Leste didn't escape me--not just (just!) the trauma of recent conflict, but also the high infant mortality and food insecurity. But there was so much that I saw that was cheerful, vigorous, optimistic.

Twice a day there was a rush hour in Ainaro--foot-traffic rush hour, as kids streamed in to school. They were smiling, chatting with friends, looking sharp in their uniforms. Many of the teachers are unpaid local volunteers--now, you could see this as a problem (unqualified teachers), and yes, it would be good to have teachers who've been trained as teachers, but on the other hand, what dedication and sense of service that represents! And it seems to me quite likely that some of those volunteers are very good teachers.

Most people in Timor-Leste are subsistence farmers, but in Ainaro I also saw a carpenter's shop...

They're making a cabinet (frame on the left). The day before, they were making a bed frame.

carpenter's shop

... and next door to where I was staying was an auto repair shop, and up the street was a van out of which Timor Telecom operated--the women there are fluent in English and got me set up with enough pulsa that I could phone home.

And some women earn money weaving tais, traditional textiles whose patterns vary depending on the region. This woman told me she could weave my name into the one she was making (but I was leaving too soon).

a tais weaver

There was also the bakery, a couple of restaurants, and several copy and photo shops (these were popular with kids)--and these are just the things I happened to notice.

Here are some shops selling clothes

shops in Ainaro, Timor-Leste

Everything's just very labor-intensive, though. People were cutting the lawn across from the classroom with hand sickles, for instance.

As for play, I saw girls doing what we called Chinese jump rope when I was a kid, and everywhere little kids, boys and girls both, rolling tires with sticks:

playing with a tire and stick playing with a tire and stick

There are stone-lined water-runoff ditches along the roads, and I saw children playing in these too. One boy had a big palm stem that he was driving like a truck, making truck noises, along the edge of the gutter.

There's a football (soccer) pitch in the center of town, and in the late afternoon, I saw older boys and men playing on it. There's also a pool hall, and every evening someone's having a party--all the students talked about them. Several of the guys played the guitar, and several of the girls sing, and everyone seems to like dancing, including the newly ordained priest. Cockfighting is also popular--it goes on at the Saturday market (I saw the crowds gathered round, but didn't actually get up close to see the fight.)

Overall, people seem hopeful; they have plans, they're doing things. That's my narrative, anyway :-)

asakiyume: (Timor-Leste nia bandiera)
As in much of the world, water access is an issue in Timor-Leste. The town I was in, Ainaro, has a piped water supply, but it’s often not working. About half the time I was there, there was no running water. At the house where I stayed, the volunteers keep four large trash bins filled with water, so that when the water is off, they don’t need to go out to fetch it. Most people fetch it, though.

This water’s not for drinking without boiling or otherwise purifying. 1.5-liter bottles of drinking water sell for 50 cents. I’m not sure, though, whether the local people really rely on the bottled water and on sterilizing the town water, or whether they drink it straight.

During one of the lessons, students were making sentences using the conditional “could.” One student’s sentence was, “I couldn’t do the laundry because there was no water.”

Sometimes, though, people go down to the river to do the washing.

washing clothes


At the house where I stayed, we cooked using propane that is shipped up from Dili—on the bus I rode. Most people, however, gather firewood from the forest and cook with that. There was a contingent from the national army stationed next door to where our classroom was; they cooked over an open fire in the building behind us.

some photos under here )

Rice is the staple, often eaten with water spinach or mustard greens. Ainaro also has two bakers who travel all through the town pushing wooden wheelbarrows filled with personal-sized (roll-sized) loaves of bread. Each one costs five cents. One of my acquaintances said his mother would give him a loaf like that in the morning, plus five cents to take to school to pay for the school lunch.

The buildings in the background are where one of the town's bakers bakes her bread
by the bakery

how to eat avocados in Timor-Leste )


Who was it who told me about snacking on raw packages of ramen noodles? Maybe it was Little Springtime’s boyfriend. Anyway, the kids in Ainaro like to do that. One boy gave me some to try. Kopiko--Indonesian coffee-flavored candies--and mint candies are also popular.


I saw coffee growing all over—it’s a great crop because you can grow it on steep hillsides. Here’s some coffee drying.

coffee drying

And this is the shop it was drying in front of.

the shop where the coffee was drying

(The sign is saying that you can buy minutes for your phone there.)

These are the students outside the shop who let me take their picture. Kids only go to school for half a day in Timor-Leste, either in the morning or the afternoon. I think this is because there are many many children and not many school buildings or teachers.


A bus ride

Aug. 19th, 2013 12:02 am
asakiyume: (Timor-Leste nia bandiera)
The day after I arrived in Timor-Leste, I made the six-hour journey up to the mountain town of Ainaro. I rode on some vehicle which was not quite an anguna (term borrowed from Indonesian: an anguna is a pick-up truck with seats in the back, so people can ride in it) and not quite a bus--it was open-air, like an anguna, but with seats facing forward, like a bus, rather than parallel to the side of the vehicle, like an anguna. There were sacks of rice on the floor, for delivery along the way, and other goods loaded on the roof. We started out from the market in Dili, the capital of Timor-Leste, with people filling all the seats and sitting on the floor (on top of the rice) and hanging on the back, and we picked up more people as we went.

Some of the young people who hung on the back

rest stop on the way to Ainaro

There was music playing--here's a taste of it:

(If the embedding doesn't work for you, you can find the 14-second video here on Flickr)

Here's the sound system:

Early on, we passed the Santa Cruz cemetery, where, in 1991, the Indonesian army killed some 250 people who were demonstrating for independence (more on that here, courtesy of Wikipedia).
Santa Cruz cemetery from the bus

Victor, the man I was sitting next to on the bus, asked me if I knew the story of the cemetery. We communicated with my very rudimentary Tetun and his equally limited English. I think with grave face more than with words I was able to convey that I did.


Victor from the bus

We bounced along, and eventually had a rest stop. This enterprising twelve-year-old (age is one of the questions people in Timor-Leste like to ask and share, at least with foreigners), engaged me in conversation in English and introduced me to her mother.

rest stop on the way to Ainaro

I shared round my big 1.5-liter bottle of drinking water (purchased in Dili for fifty cents). Meanwhile, some of the younger boys were eating what looked like puffed pork rinds, dyed green, probably purchased at the little shop where we'd stopped.

Along the way I saw lots of little roadside stands with 1.5-liter water bottles like mine recycled, filled with... tea? Something pale and golden, and sometimes also something dark dark brown. No, not tea. Can you guess? I realized what it was when I saw someone with a cloth-lined funnel, pouring some into his motor bike. Yes: gasoline (petrol), and also diesel. No gas stations along the road, but lots of these little roadside stands.

More tomorrow or the next day... I have tabs open on so many of your entries, and by now you've probably all posted new ones. With time I'll get back in the groove! And in time there'll be more (I hope, I intend) than just-the-facts-ma'am reportage. Maybe I'll alternate? Some posts that are reflective and some that are pictures? Or take things as they come... Anyway, do feel free to ask questions!

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