Special Events

Married: Erin and Dan!

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Erin and Dan were married on a chilly December day right in the middle of the holiday season, and what a joyful holiday it was! Erin, who apparently once declared she would never get married, did so at the Bier Baron in Washington, D.C. where she met Dan a year ago. To bring it full-circle, they invited a small group of friends and families to share a beer and watch them say their vows. Afterwards, more guests joined them at Dan’s childhood home in Derwood, Md. outside the Beltway, for a most excellent reception of oysters, Texas beef brisket, smoked salmon, vegan and non-vegan cake, dancing to Gangnam Style (and other songs) in the decked-out garage, and cigars on the back porch.

Since Dan’s mother, Calli, is actually a good friend of mine from work, I’ve witnessed (or heard many details of) the relationship and wedding planning since day one. It’s been super fun leaning over Calli’s shoulder at her computer screen as she picked out tealights, gift bags, flowers and talked about clearing out the garage for a dance floor and the food selection with the caterer. I had a great time being a part of the wedding celebration as photographer. Enjoy!

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Places

A snapshot: Spain!

  A matador faces down the bull in Sevilla.

Apologies for the grand hiatus from updating this photo blog. I’ve been busy transitioning all my photo editing to a new Macintosh and – oh yeah! – had a baby girl in February! During this wonderful vacation they call “maternity leave”, we were able to embark on our first family voyage to Spain. The next several series will be photos from our trip as we traveled through Madrid, Toledo, Segovia, San Sebastian, Bilbao, Seville, Cordoba, Jerez and Cadiz, the Pueblo Blancos, Ronda and finally Granada. I am exhausted, happy and combing through several dozen gigabytes of photos to post here. Stay tuned!

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Places

Anguilla!

Shoal Bay East, Anguilla

The tiny British island of Anguilla, three miles from St. Martin in the Caribbean, is so exclusive that it’s like a country club in many ways. For one thing, anyone familiar with the island clearly has money, or has prioritized their annual budgets to include a trip here because they know it’s worth it. And members of this exclusive club can talk “island talk” to each other, as my doctor did to me today during my visit. “Ah, Anguilla, he sighed. “Uncle Ernie’s is the best,” referring to the little beach-front ribs shack that is so popular and famous on the island for reasons still unbeknownst to me (they’re just $8 chicken and ribs, they are tasty, and I suppose they come with an ocean view). It was once one of the best-kept secrets of the Caribbean, a beautiful strip of tranquility without the cruise ships, the mobs of tacky tourists, the noise of casinos and the drunken stupor of college kids at a strip bar. Anguilla is above all that, and on purpose, too: in the 1980’s, the island government made a deliberate decision to target the high-end customer and never to build a casino. In exchange, it welcomed travelers who would not only respect the island and beautiful azure waters and white sand made of crushed sun-bleached seashells, but to grow to love Anguilla as much as the locals did. Outsiders are “guests” of the island, not tourists, and everyone treats each other equally.

Sure, entrees at the award-winning restaurants start at $40 and it cost us nearly $100 just to get off the island back to St. Martin (taxi to the ferry, ferry ticket, departure tax). But why leave the island at all? Jon and I seriously contemplated never coming home while we were there on our ocean-front studio with kitchen, snorkeling and sunning and getting sand between the pages of our paperbacks. When the tide was fierce outside our studio, we took the rental car to a random trail and ended up at quiet Junks Hole Bay for a morning of swimming and seashell gathering. For a few days, we were island folk, people who lived a simple life out of a single carry-on suitcase and two backpacks. And of course, my ever-growing bulky camera bag, which caught a few Anguillan moments when I wasn’t too lazy on my beach chair.

Junks Hole Bay

Scilly Cay fishing village

Sunset over Shoal Bay East


Church in Island Harbour

Sunset over Shoal Bay Villas

Palm trees, Shoal Bay East

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Places

9/11 Memorial

World Trade Center Memorial

Even though I grew up a half hour outside Manhattan, I (shamefully) didn’t really know where the World Trade Center was. I never ventured below Chinatown. Years later I realized all I had to do was look up and that was the guiding symbol pointing me south, an obvious landmark I used to gather my bearings after emerging from the depths of the underground subway.

My clearest memory of the World Trade Center is the elevator. Particularly the one leading up to Windows on the World, taking me specifically to a bar known as the Greatest Bar on Earth, on the 107th floor. The elevator was the size of my room on the Upper West Side. My friend Marjorie, with whom I always went to Windows, and I would discuss how to arrange bedroom furniture around the elevator.

Other than the elevator size, the company with us on the rides were always was an experience. Many of the passengers donned name tags, usually out-of-towners in for their first Twin Towers experience. They didn’t just stare at the floor numbers lighting up. They gasped as the elevator took off. Riding to the top of the city took a New York minute. And as everyone poured out of the elevators to the top of the building, discussion about the incredible elevator speed always followed, maybe with a comment about someone’s stomach being left down below as the elevator shot upwards. And then they would all ooh and aah at the magnificent view, usually a festive sunset over the harbor. New Yorkers hustling about during rush hour disappeared far below, and the vast maze of Manhattan shone golden from the setting sun, in the same way the immigrants imagined golden streets as their boat approached the Statue of Liberty, also visible from our table. We would sit and sip wine and munch sushi while the city darkened around us from pink to orange to purple to navy, specks of light flicking on the city like a Christmas tree.

The first time I visited Windows on the World was in 1999, with Marjorie, to deliver pamphlets for our law office who was participating in some conference there. As we stepped off the elevator, we were greeted by a vision of white. Tall white walls, tall white glass, white everywhere. Where were the alleged windows as indicated in the name, Windows on the World? Turned out they shielded us from the white puff clouds outside, so thick I was led to believe the windows were sheets of white glass. I felt like I was either in heaven or on a misty soap opera. Even if I saw nothing that day, I remember the strange swirling sensation of the clouds mixing white with white, and how within two minutes I could rise from several levels underground on the subway all the way up to the top of the world.

Today, all that’s left are two dark stone squares that mark the footprints where these magnificent buildings once stood, a memorial to those who died on 9/11/01. You can touch the names of the deceased, who are forever embedded into the ghosts of the towers that once stood there. I found the name of a high school classmate and old friend, Peter Alderman, who died while attending a conference at the top of one tower. His family created the Peter C. Alderman Foundation, dedicated to helping victims of terrorism heal emotionally. Peter was a genuine, kind, light-hearted and jovial individual everyone liked.  I like to think that Peter rode the elevator to the top of the world that day, and stayed there.

Peter’s name on the North Tower memorial

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Kids and Families

A snapshot: Babies!

Where have I been since China? I’ve been surrounded by BABIES, lots of brand-new people blissfully unaware that they’ve just embarked on the exciting adventure of life. I spent some time up in New York photographing two newborns and their siblings, a now 10-month old Tater, and my favoritest little ones splashing away summer in a grand old inflatable swimming pool courtesy of their aunt (me). At the request of the two newborn parents I will not be posting their photos on this blog, but I couldn’t resist this one’s little tiny feet. Congrats to the parents! Stay tuned for more pictures of my summer!

 

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Places

Jiangnan

Boats, West Lake, Hangzhou

The Jiangnan region is a picturesque area outside Shanghai that includes the growing cities of Hangzhou, Wuxi, Suzhou and Nanjing. Hangzhou is famous for its beautiful West Lake, Nanjing for its rockwork, Suzhou for its gardens and canal system, and Wuxi for its fancy new Lingshan Buddhist Temple.

We toured through the region in a quick week, sampling a garden here, museum there, and many factories/ stores since, after all, our tour guide would receive commission for everything we bought. Nonetheless, it was cherry blossom season, and the pink flowers were in full bloom, the tea was fresh, and the weather was picture-perfect.

Sunset, West Lake Park, Hangzhou

Lake through trees, Hangzhou

Boating dock, West Lake, Hangzhou

Guardian dog-lions on a bridge, Hangzhou

Buddhist lanterns, Lingshan Buddhist Temple, Wuxi

Giant Buddha, Lingshan Buddhist Temple, Wuxi

Bells, Lingshan Buddhist Temple, Wuxi

Longjing Tea fields, outside Hangzhou

Sun-Yat Sen Memorial, Purple Mountains, Nanjing

Rock garden, Nanjing

Canal, Suzhou

Window in Liuyuan (Lingering Garden), Suzhou

Student drawing a rock garden in Liuyuan, Suzhou

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Places

Shanghai!

Pearl Tower, Shanghai

Shanghai is China’s most modern, most populous, fastest-growing city. It claims to be the “youngest” city with the least history, although it’s been around since the 1100s. Once the city of opium and sin, the outlet to the Western World, a place where Europeans descended and built their empires on the Bund, the city is now open to all people, and all people have flocked to live, work and visit, including us.

Yu Gardens and Bazaar

Pudong skyline


Walkway, Yu Gardens and Bazaar

Wall of flowers, the Bund

Yu Gardens and Bazaar

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Places

Beijing, part 2

Door, Tian Tan

1,100 photos later, I’ve finally plowed through the first part of our China trip and completed Beijing. A few random shots and the Olympic Village round out the rest of this series. Check back when I start posting Guangzhou, Shanghai and the Jiangnan tour!

Ming Tombs

Climbing a Great Wall Tower

Cherry blossoms at Jing Shan park

Kite flying at Olympic Promenade by the bird’s nest

A relaxed parent on vacation, Tian Tan

Bird’s nest, up close

The Water Cube, Olympic Village

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Places

Beijing, part one

The Great Wall of China – the Greatest Wall in the History of the World

The Middle Kingdom, indeed. You can feel the 1.3 billion people as soon as you descend on the newly rehabbed airport in Beijing (thanks to the 2008 Summer Olympics), and as you pack into the subway like sardines, and as you wander through the streets. Yet you can find such quiet and solace in the parks as people silently move through their t’ai-chi and sword practice, or at the highest point on the Great Wall, where tourists in high heels can’t reach and pushy souvenir vendors don’t want to haul their goods.

The concept of Beijing is difficult to grasp: the sheer size, the amount of people, the hugeness of the buildings (from the Forbidden City to modern day architecture), the length of history (nearly 3,000 years – with a unified “modern” China beginning in the 1200s), the promise of its powerful placement in the world.

The next few series of photographs will all be dedicated to our recent voyage through China, beginning with Beijing, to the southern Cantonese city of Ghangzhou (Canton), up to the European influences of Shanghai and its surrounding cities in the Jiangnan province.

Wall, Tian Tan (Temple of Heaven)

Man writing with water, Jing Shan park

Moat outside the Forbidden City

Dragon kite, Bei Hai park

Wangfujing night market

The Great Wall

Tian’an Men, entrance to the Forbidden City

Lady dancing with ribbon at Tian Tan park

Buddhist Temple at Bei Hai park

Rooftop at Forbidden City

Tomatoes at early morning street market near Fuli cheng

Tian Tan

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Places

Guatapé and Cartagena!

Praying Mary, halfway up El Peñón

We took off on a bus from Medellín to El Peñón de Guatapé, this giant monolith rock which offers a great hike and spectacular views, with a praying statue halfway up to mark just how spiritual the place can be, even for non-religious types. Afterwards we headed into Guatapé to check out the brightly painted streets. It is actually a zoning requirement to paint your house loud colors with pictures of animals or plants.

The next day we jetted off to the seaside UNESCO World Heritage city of Cartagena, where we walked the old cobblestoned streets (often flooded from dumping rain), explored the city wall and ate a lot of ceviche. Olé!


Overlook from El Peñón


Typical street in Guatapé


Church in Guatapé


entrance to old city in Cartagena


Statues playing chess


At the fort

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Places

Medellín, Colombia!

Botero’s work, Palacio Municipal

Here’s a city I never thought I’d visit… Medellín, Colombia. I mean, this is where drug lord Pablo Escobar made his fortune ruling the city and country with cocaine, and created such a horrible reputation for the city that nobody ever really visited. Today, it’s still not flocking with tourists (at least not yet, anyway), but it’s a vibrant city, pushing its residents into the parks, gardens, markets, restaurants, and promenades featuring the bulbous art of Ferdinand Botero and the wonderful public transportation in the form of metro and gondolas. Here are some pics I snapped while in town staying at the excellent residence of Noah and Marcela, at Su Casa Colombia.

Getting around town by gondola

Catedral Metropolitana, made entirely of bricks

Botero’s Bird of Peace, ironically destroyed by a guerilla bomb

Crates of mangos at the fruit market

Noah, Marcela and Jon peer into the stadium at Unidad Deportiva Atanasio Giradot

These avocados were as big as our heads

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Places

Zanzibar!

Zanzibar – the name alone evokes exotic images of old buildings, spice merchants, long stone alleyways and people shuffling by with silky scarves fluttering behind them. A page out of Arabian Nights, which I admit I’ve never read, but I imagined both would be the same. And that’s exactly what Zanzibar was like! Amazing! A step back 100 years, except with cars and cell phones in hand.

Photographing people was quite difficult because they really don’t like it, and will even get angry or throw things at you and I didn’t want to ruin hundreds of dollars in equipment. I tried the “Hey Jon, stand over there” and pointed the camera anywhere except at Jon. They’re not dumb, but they left me alone, since at least I tried to be discreet. However, I didn’t have the luxury of composing grand images of the women in colorful scarves and skirts, or the men in their traditional robes. I did manage to get some guys playing soccer who were happy to show off their skills for the camera. Here are a few select images from this mystical island off of Tanzania.



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Places

Tanzanian Safari!

Cheetah resting on a rock, judging.

I’ve been a *little*busy recently (sigh!) but finally found a chance to post some of my favorites from Tanzania.

Few places could be more exotic than places like the Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Manyara, all which come with some fantastic names as well. We went on a grand camping safari through those places before we flew to Dar es Salaam and then to the magnificent Arabian island of Zanzibar. There was so much to see and too much to photograph, but I did my best. I also can’t remember the specific names of all the animals, so I’m not going to try to label them all here. You can read about how to safari in Tanzania on my other blog, www.MyTravelHats.com. Check back for pictures from Zanzibar next! Enjoy!

Quiet over the Serengeti

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Places

Kenya!

A car appears. Olmaroroi Village, Kenya.

What a long, strange trip it’s been. Jon and I went to Kenya in early August to do some volunteer work with the International Volunteer Headquarters and were assigned to the Olmaroroi Primary School (grades K-8) in the Maasai village of Olmaroroi, about an hour outside of Nairobi. Down the dustiest, bumpy pot-holed red dirt road we traveled precariously to spend a week with a Maasai family of 13 kids, two wives and one head of household, in a village that was seeing a swift transition from very old traditional Maasai way of life to a modern way of thinking in just one generation. They still didn’t have running water or electricity, so we grew fairly dusty and dirty by the end.

Where we stayed was like a step back in time, to a simpler way of life, I suppose. It was an extraordinary experience and a beautiful land barely touched by more than people, animals and an occasional bicycle. Three matatus (public mini-bus) traveled down the road a day to pick up passengers, and a motorbike or a taxi might swing by as well. We saw a lot more goats, cows and even giraffes than vehicles on any given day. Kenyans generally do not appreciate having photos taken of them without permission, but the Maasai are also very curious people who rarely see pictures of themselves, so showing them digital images was a treat they really enjoyed. Here are some of what I captured in Kenya.

The Great Rift Valley

Jon by the family compound

Olmaroroi Primary School

Some of the host family kids

Our host mama, Grace

Watching themselves on a digital camera

Giraffe at the Giraffe Centre (African Fund for Endangered Wildlife) with Nairobi cityscape in background

Medicinal tree outside family compound

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Places

Baltimore: A waterview walk

See, Baltimore’s not so bad. At least I tell myself that every day as I grip my pepper spray into position and hope nobody is trying to steal my lunch bag which looks like an Italian purse on my way to work. We chose this part of town, Fells Point, for its accessibility to the waterfront (sans tourists), length of restaurants serving oysters and entrees made of crab, and its cute skinny& tall townhouses that date back to 1850. There’s a nice little waterfront promenade that I like to run along, when my ankle’s not sprained. On one hot summer evening before sunset, Jon and I went out for a little stroll with my camera while he protected me from any villains, so I could capture a part of Baltimore that explains why people, like us, choose to live here (that and the cheap housing prices). Note: I refuse to watch The Wire if I ever want to leave my house in peace.

The ghost of Baltimore’s past: Voting against prohibition seemed to work well since there are a lot of bars in Fells Point.

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Special Events

Yifty’s and Janice’s wedding!

Whether the weather be mild or whether the weather be not

 It was only 100 degrees outside on the day of Janice’s and Yiftach’s wedding day, but what a wedding! With views of lower Manhattan across the Hudson River, Yifty and Janice were married by cousin Seth, an official rabbi, at the Liberty House in Jersey City. There were lots of tears and smiles, including a very sweet moment when Yifty hugged his dad so hard before leaving his parents back and stepping forward under the chuppah (such symbolism!). I believe the chuppah was hand-painted by his mother, Rebecca, as well.

There was dinner and dancing as the sun set over New York Harbor, the necessary Hava Nagila in which the bride and groom are tossed up and down in chairs while they hold on for dear life. There were many Jewish customs not always seen at other Jewish weddings, including one in which the guests congratulate Yifty’s parents for having finally sent off their last child into marriage and emptied the nest, once and for all. Congrats Yifty and Janice, and to David and Rebecca for marrying off their last!

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Places

Prideful.

There’s nothing quite like spending a morning in Union Square and unknowingly stumbling upon the Gay Pride parade before lunch. There’s a  New York moment for you. Hundreds, if not thousands, marched down Fifth Avenue last weekend on floats, bicycles, and on foot wearing anything from police uniforms to feather boas to stilettos to not much at all. In any case, one can’t help but start cheering on the people who came out to support the people who came out, and also cheering on those bold enough walk proudly for who they were. It was fantastic.  I was blocked by a number of much taller people, but I managed to capture a few photos.

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Special Events

Janice and Yifty at the Auf Ruf

What is an Auf Ruf? Well, according to Wikipedia and the program notes at Janice’s and Yifty’s own auf ruf, the Jewish groom is called upon to a recitation of a blessing over the Torah, then everyone sings a congratulatory song, and then people throw candy at the groom to guarantee a sweet marriage.

In less conservative ceremonies, as was this one, the groom and bride were called up together, and each of the family members read a section of the Torah before it made its way around the congregation seated outside the Old Wharf House in Oceanport, NJ on Saturday evening. Everyone then pelted the couple with saltwater taffy and some kind of wrapped gummy candy before retiring inside for the rehearsal dinner. This, after the fire alarm went off several times, as if calling the local fire department to the Torah as well. Or else a love spark creating a four-alarm fire by Yifty and Janice. Mazel Tov, you two!

  

“Then you came and caused a spark/ That’s a four alarm fire now”

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Kids and Families, Places

Take me out to the ballgame!

The White Sox (my husband Jon’s team) were in town playing the Washington Nationals this past weekend, and I had never seen him make such a thorough and quick turnaround in researching times, seats, prices and secure us five tickets for the game (it would be nice if he *cough* did that with a lot of other stuff around the house *cough*). We went with my sister and her little family out to the ballgame on Saturday. It was 96 degrees and we had seats around right field facing the blazing sun. For that reason I didn’t get to take many pictures of the game itself, although Jon used my zoom lens as binoculars for a while and ended up taking a handful of blinding photos.

Nationals Ballpark, as it’s formally called, is only three years old, as is the team itself. The park is very red, white and blue, more in a Disneyland kind of way than a patriotic way. Here’s a few pictures I snapped that day, including the metro ride to the stadium.

 

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