17 May 2011

dense igran of Asfalou

After eating lunch in our Asfalou language and cultural madrassa, I often walk through the fields of beans, alfalfa, & wheat to find a spot to sit and draw. This usually involves negotiating the low dirt ridges that channel the irrigation water through groves of olive trees filled with noisy birds, and finding the shade of a tall date palm to sit in, then finding room on the ground between the buzzing ant hills. I'm hoping this place burns into my head.

15 May 2011

between the Atlas and the Sahara

Home for these first months in the Maghreb has been a farming village by a small river draining from the High Atlas Mountains capped with snow in the background. A system of irrigation ditches helps maintain a narrow strip of lush fields growing wheat, alfalfa, olive and almond trees and date palms.
Above these fields about 600 people and their livestock live in low houses made of clay mud blocks or concrete. Surrounding this and other nearby villages is a barren yellow and red landscape of rocky ridges stretching to the high dunes of the Sahara.

Daytime sounds of motorcycles or trucks passing through, donkeys braying, and the lone muezzin calling out prayer times gives way at night to the silence of wind and stars.

07 April 2011

Morocco or bust!

Jma el Fna, Marrakech

A disorienting few days being quickly ushered through piles of policies and paperwork in Marrakech culminated in a long, windy road trip for more orientation and training in Ouarzazate. Going over the High Atlas Mountains was a good match for what was happening in my head. The road increasingly turned back on itself as we climbed ever higher. I had to grit my teeth to distract from the growing nausea, but the sights through the window compelled me to keep looking. The smooth, newly upholstered, gendarme-escorted bus seemed to make the the dizziness worse.

For several days after arrival in North Africa, we were semi-sequestered in calm, non-threatening hotel resorts. Instead of the immediate confrontation usually suffered upon arrival in a foreign country (which somehow leads to quickly getting one's bearings and adjusting to the new smells and sounds there), we were cared for and protected... and I kept failing to feel prepared or properly oriented.

But the excitement over the next two years, and the distant mountains and desert held my focus enough to make it through the dizzy period.

crossing the Tizi-n-Test Pass, High Atlas Mountains

arrival in the dessert

07 March 2011

India Sketches II

A few more outtakes from the journal I kept after my hard drive crashed... It slowed me down and helped me start drawing again.
a Jodhpur market, 27 Jan.
pigeons over Agra, 12 Jan.
Taj Mahal, 13 Jan.
Hanuman shrine, Orchha, 10 Jan.
Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, 31 Jan.

06 March 2011

India Sketches

A few outtakes from the journal I kept after my hard drive crashed...
chai walla, Calcutta, 27 Dec.

taxis, Calcutta, 26 Dec.
the Ganges, Varanasi, 2 Jan.
stray cow, Varanasi, 31 Dec.

05 March 2011

shots of Nepal

In liu of blogging on the go, a few photos...
Bhote Koshi valley entering Nepal, 4 Dec.

Kathmandu kids, 6 Dec.

a Janakpur market, 14 Dec.

pee stop on the highway, 15 Dec.

Nepali roadways are LOUD, 17 Dec.

03 March 2011

Tibet sketches

Some bits from the sketch journal I turned to after my hard drive crashed in China...

yaks being herded through Zoige, 8 Nov.
Langmusi, 5 Nov.
Labrang Monastery, Xiahe, 2 Nov.
central Tibetan Plateau from the Lhasa train,  27 Nov.
prayer chimney, 3 Dec.

02 March 2011

China sketches

Some bits from the sketch journal I turned to when my hard drive crashed in China...
Beijing Bell Tower, 9 Oct.

construction boom, all over China...

Outdoor tea garden, Chungdu, 24 Nov.

01 March 2011

Beijing to Delhi overland

After that last post from China my hard drive crashed and we had to go to sticky internet cafes to log on. While perhaps I should’ve been able to write in those places like Jenifer did (hereim.tumblr.com), over time I diverted that energy to an old fashioned sketch journal (and figured out how water soluble colered-pencils work along the way). We did make it to Delhi via Tibet and Nepal 19 weeks after landing in Beijing. I hadn’t expected we’d be able to stay on the ground the whole way due to the logistics of Tibet, but I’m endlessly thankful for having done so after all.
Also along the way we confirmed and finalized plans long in the works to join the Peace Corps for service in Morocco! So, over the last month we wrapped up lose ends and visited family in the States and arrived in Marrakesh via Casablanca this week. Whew, what a whirlwind!
It's hard to say how much access we'll have here over the next 27 months, but I really do intend to give this blog another try!
In the meantime, I’ll load a few of those sketches from Asia, the memories and dreamlike effects of which I’ll no doubt be digesting for the rest of my life.

29 October 2010

Independent travel in China

Independent travel in China
From a month into China...
Obviously, all of our visas came through without any more problems. Subject as they seem to be to snap changes in regulations, especially in sensitive areas of Western China, I was relieved. But it means we are skipping out on Xinjiang Province, since a required tour group is way out of our budget right now...
That said, the major challenges to traveling independently here have amounted to our massive language barrier, and the way China's tourism infrastructure is oriented to tour groups.
Stop into a tourist information center looking for public transportation out to a major sight in the countryside, and we're only information on signing up with a group tour instead. So we go off to try to figure it out for ourselves, and public transportation information is generally only written in Chinese. Buying an inter-city train ticket can mean standing in long crowd-lines until reaching the ticket agent, trying hard to communicate by phrase book while squeezed in on both shoulders by other impatient travelers, and realizing it's a heavy travel week and the next available ticket is five days from now.
Tickets become available only 3 to 10 days ahead of the travel date (depending on the route and time of year), and travel companies buy in bulk -meaning that sometimes the only way to get a seat is to go through a privately run travel agent and pay their commission charge on top of the ticket price, a source of some frustration among the Chinese.
All in all, it hasn't been too hard now that we've gotten out of Beijing and into smaller cities, figured out how to buy from the train station ticket counter, and most importantly, gotten past the major holiday week called Golden Week, known by some as "Hell Week" now that so many people here go traveling...

The photo is of Beijing Xi Zhan (West Station), the largest rail terminal in Asia