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Rained all day Monday. Finns weren't happy about it. We actually didn't mind as it was a light, constant rain; the kind you can take a brief walk in without worrying about an umbrella. We went early to the studio to add noses and brows to the papier-mâché heads. Then we gave a coat of white paint to the ones that were dry.
After that we drove to the communal "cottage" outside of town which is open to anyone who wants to go. It is maintained communally and it appears that all respect the privilege. I can't imagine a similar setting working out in the States but then we don't have a heritage of everyman's right. A very different approach to the liberal doctrine of property rights enshrined in the Constitution as a response to feudal landowning.
Christine arranged a meeting with the local theatre company to recruit collaborators for our performance installation. Arriving at the determined time we were treated to a rehearsal of the last few scenes of "Sugar" with dialogue in Finnish and lip-synching to pre-recorded songs in English. It was their last rehearsal before summer break until they resume on 15 August. We look forward to our first rehearsal Tuesday with three male actors who expressed interest in our project.
We did stop in a Video/Candy store on the way there and found several different varieties of licorice (taste videos to follow). Fortunately Christine had recommended that we drive further through a string of islands to where the road ends, the world heritage site at Svedjehamn.
After lunch of a lovely salmon chowder at the cafe at the end of the road we took a short hike on the nature trail, stopping at the brilliantly designed observation tower to enjoy the views and read about the site. The land was compressed by the weight of the glaciers during the Ice Age and has been rising since. In 2,000 years the land raised the height of the tower and in another 2,000 years will do the same. Without the rising seas of global warming Sweden and Finland would become connected by land. Efforts have been made to reconstruct the old buildings historically utilized for salting herring.
We originally set off on a longer loop but the very large mosquitoes made the hike in boggy areas a constant effort at swatting so we decided on the shorter loop.
envisioned paper walls for our installation and also took us to visit the community public cottage outside of town. Inspired by the photos of the deceased factory workers in the Center's chapel we have started building 40 papier-mâché "heads" for the installation.
Two bicycles have been loaned to us. Not the most stable vehicles on the road but we are definitely enjoying them.
Saturday we explored the austere chapel honoring the 40 who died in the 1976 Lapua Ammunition Cartridge Factory explosion then we went to check out the studio spaces available to us at Vanha Paukku. There is a beautiful side storage room upstairs that doesn't meet fire code standards so we can't officially use it. We finished the day with a lovely, very Baltic meal of beet soup, local cheese, pickled herring, and black rye bread.
On Sunday we took advantage of the lovely weather to walk to the Simpsiö Ski Resort and enjoy a lovely hike. As Karri Kokko told us, this area of Finland is known for being flat (and windy) so it is a wonderful surprise to find some decent sized hills. Finland has luscious dandelion flowers, the blossoms are at least 2 inches in diameter. Just as was true when we were in Hämeenkyrö, Paul regrets not being able to harvest them to brew Dandelion/Ginger Trippel Ale. It was great to hike in the trees, rocks and lakes - made us miss backpacking - and we only got a few mosquito bites.
We appreciate the Scandinavian sense of efficiency of design elements - especially in the kitchen - the cupboards above sink have metal grids rather than wood bottoms to allow for draining the dishes. The entire layout of the kitchen workspace is very ergonomically intelligent; Frank and Lillian Gilbreth would be amazed.
At the supermarket we were very happy to find plentiful and cheap root vegetables like beets and potatoes; lovely dark rye breads, local cheeses, and the very rich and creamy Salakis Turkisk Naturell Youghurt that we discovered a few years ago while staying in Hämeenkyrö. Knowing that Finns, while drinking more coffee per capita than any other nationality like their coffee very lightly roasted, we asked Karri for his recommendation and have found a passable brand of French dark roast.
We toured the Cultural Centre Vanha Paukku, on the former site of a cartridge factory that exploded when the gunpowder for the bullets stored on the top floor was accidentally ignited, killing 41 mostly female workers that devastated this small town in 1976. The Centre includes a very lovely and austere chapel to honor the dead, museum, gallery, music and art studios, a theater, restaurant, and a beautiful library.
The initial attempts to locate potential collaborators have begun. Unfortunately the local theatre company is taking a summer break after next week so we may have many potential collaborators off for holiday.
Karri is in the stop motion video Si, I See, in Assisi and his voice is heard on A Simple Thing. We were fortunate to work with him again in 2012 to create and perform Cagevent: Sometimes it Works, Sometimes it Doesn't. We enjoyed dinner with Karri where he helped Jo install a sim card in her IPhone and coffee the next morning We are hoping to meet up in Tampere later this month and visit our environmental installation Birch Loops to see how much is left/how it has changed in five years.
are happy to have it in a state that we can submit it and be rid of it....unless it is accepted and the editors ask for revisions.
On Wednesday we drove up to Licola and the Alpine National Park. Lovely country with low mountains and valleys. We were frustrated in our attempts to get to the gorge hike as the General Store in Licola was closed so we couldn't refuel (turns out that Licola's population is 9 so the store is only open during the tourist season) and the sign on the gravel road telling us to activate 4-wheel drive now disuaded us from driving the additional 60 km to the trailhead.
We did get a hike in, on a trail that was advertised as being not maintained or well marked. An hour and a half up we realized that we weren't going to reach the clearing we thought we could see so we turned around and back to the car, thinking we could stop for lunch in Glenmaggie. But Glenmaggie is only slightly more populous than Licola so there were no services. In Heyfield for gas and a stop at the bakery for pies: tomato and onion and veggie.
On Tuesday we drove back to Sale for shopping and to revisit the wetlands. Unfortunately we underestimated how much time shopping would take so, again, our hike was cut short.
volunteered their time and creativity to engage in a dialogic devising based upon Clive's Wish installation, writing haikus, creating and performing movement. We will need to videotape again for close-ups but there was some wonderful material. That afternoon we shared the bottle of Reserve Shiraz that had been given to us for that purpose. We really like these people.
Sunday Jo & I created and performed a work for video in the small playhouse in the garden that Carolyn's daughters once enjoyed. This morning we wrote an exquisite corpse poem based upon the free associated words I gathered from looking at the tiny house. At the same time we were making final edits to an article we are about to submit.
Several bicyclists came to the Space to enjoy Clive's open studio, lecture-demonstration about how he sculpts in marble. We were able to catch the end of it after shooting our playhouse video.
Meanwhile, Jo continues on her weaving with found objects project and I am collecting sound for my project(s).
miles of uninterrupted sand beach) and trod for 2.5 km. We decided that, while sandy beaches are nice, we much prefer the dramatic coastlines of Oregon and Northern California.
The Entrance is a natural opening that has been fortified by stone and concrete piers into a narrow entrance where the waves crash and churl before being diminished by the current flowing out of the lakes into the ocean. The path back to the pedestrian beach was through vines/shrubs that oftentimes became a tunnel.
The road was very narrow and winding. We had to slow down to avoid hitting a wombat crossing the road. The hike was, again, astounding in its beauty. Ancient Myrtle Beech with long root systems reaching down to the earth were surrounded by tree ferns. We were protected from the misty rain in by the rain forest's canopy. Back to the car, it was clear that the mist was starting to become rain.
We continued down the windy road, almost to where it would widen into pavement where two cars could comfortably pass. But a fallen tree blocked the road and we had to turn around and retrace our steps. When we reached the ridgeline the rain/mist was a vision-obscuring fog. Turning on the defroster in the car only made the windshield fog up more as the wind whipped the trees about. We were very happy to descend out of the cloud and into the valley.
We saw a herd of kangaroo grazing in a field to complete our day.
flew into a tree above. Further down the trail we were serenaded by a stunningly varied 20 second song by an unknown bird (lyre bird?) that almost brought us to tears. Driving back I felt much more confident with this left lane nonsense (though I was quite relieved when the semi that was behind me turned off at the quarry).
We stopped at the Narkoojee Winery for tasting and a lovely conversation. We purchased two bottles and Jo, the vintner's wife, gave us a bottle to share with our hosts at Cowwarr Art Space. The only downside is that tasting those wonderful wines spoiled us for the lesser wines we had purchased earlier in Sale.
windshield wipers on the left of the steering wheel rather than the turn signal on the right, it went smoothly (though I do tend to leave too much clearance on the right and not on the left).
After shopping (the favorable exchange rate reduces the sting of high prices for groceries, wine and beer) we went for a too brief walk on the lovely trail system in the Sale Common Wetland. We wanted to stay longer but heeded the warning to not drive at night when fog obscures the vision and kangaroos tend to roam on the road.
We woke this morning to the monkey-like call of the kookoobura. Now we understand why the old children's tune about the bird in the gum tree says "laugh kookoobura, laugh kookoobura".
Went to a local Aussie rules football team. It is like a mix between rugby and basketball. Not knowing the rules was hard enough but both teams had black jerseys - one with vertical red and white stripes and the other with a diagonal red stripe. There was also a netball game for women going on - basketball with no dribbling and static shooting at baskets with no backboards. Once the shooter squares up the defender can only attempt to block without moving her feet. The tiny town of Cowwarr (between 100-300 depending who you believe) fields three footie teams and five netball teams. It is a big thing here.
Last night we we enjoyed meeting three artists: Paul "Pezaloom" Berry, the director of Latrobe Art Gallery Mark Themann and Richard Tipping.
Meanwhile....some Angus cattle got out of their fields and were roaming the garden outside our window.
Some inclement weather for a few days. Sun, Wind, Rain.
Walked to the neighbors drive to buy some eggs from pasture free chickens. Unfortunately someone has been stealing eggs so the former system of leaving money in the cash box and taking the eggs has had to be be limited to only weekends when they are around to monitor.
The fancy espresso maker in the main gallery is having some issues - walked in to quite a bit of water on the floor. Clive managed to brew a cup each but our coffee intake is threatened in the near future. We have Earl Gray but tea is a poor substitute for our morning fix.
Met with the delightful Michèle Ripper who trained in London but fell in love with a local farmer so she runs a studio in neighboring Heyfield. We will teach a master class and create a collaborative work with her adult students. Carolyn has also arranged for us to meet with two local performance artists to explore potential projects.
Paul drove the U-Haul out of Manhattan, Kansas on Friday, April 29. Kansas managed to send him off with a few tornado sirens that had him hunkering in the utility room of his third floor apartment the week prior to his departure. Other than catching a cold that was promptly given to Joséphine when he returned to Tallahassee, his three day trek to Florida was uneventful.
Four days later, on May 5, we boarded a plane departing at 3:00 PM. The six-hour connecting flight in Charlotte was delayed 25 minutes, then we sat on the tarmac for another forty minutes with electrical issues. Arriving in LAX we were fortunately met by two representatives from Qantas who escorted us very briskly to the bus to the international terminal and then a very long walk to our boarding area. Without this escort there is no way we would have known how to stay inside the secured area and make it to our flight on time.
The 15 hour Qantas flight was more comfortable than the LA flight. We arrived around 7:00 AM May 7 (we crossed the International Dateline) in Melbourne. Unfortunately our checked baggage didn’t. At ten we caught the two and a half hour train to Traralgon and caught the 45 minute bus to Cowwarr ten minutes later.
Last time we walk down past the Freedom Monument into Old Town. Last time we stop in to the little French bakery. Last time we shop at Prisma (Rimi will get some last minute shopping for a banana or other emergency food). Last time we see the students. Last time we watch the really bad TV channels that are in English. Last time…..
We’ve met with several of our colleagues: Ramona and Olga took us to a wine bar for some wine and nosh. Krzyzstof gave us the gift of performing Chopin on the out of tune piano at the Academy of Culture – it was very moving and thoughtful – we were in tears. Valda met us at the Academy of Music with her granddaughter, talked about possible future collaborations and presented us with special Lats coined with representations of important symbols and animals of Latvia.
We accepted the students’ invitation and trekked to the Ala folk music club past our bedtime to sit with them for the last time. Had a lovely get-together with our landlady, Inga. Knowing that memory fades we took pictures of people and places, bought various souvenirs, in the hope that it lasts.
Packing now – striving to just meet that 23kg/50lb limit – to the sound of rain. It has been raining for the past two weeks. The silver lining to that cloud is that it keeps the temperature down – highs in the mid-60s to low 70s. When we arrive in Pocatello it will be to high 80s to mid 90s. No gentle adjustment back to the high desert, just dump us back in.
Sad to leave but it is time.
We’ve taken advantage of the rain to update the website. We have added pictures into blog entries (Got back all the way to 5 May, still a few more to add) and documentation of our creative work here (as well as some we did in Finland). You can scroll down the blog to see the new slide shows. Here are the links for the creative work pages:
· Stories from the Park
· Grass is Green
· Live: Global Corporeality
We arrived at Mežaparks early Saturday afternoon and, as we walked up the main, tree-lined thoroughfare of the park, were a bit concerned that we may have come too early. Finally we arrived at the tangential road/walkway that was designated for the Līgo festivities. Vendors booths were on one side; we saw some that had been in the Square the day before. Not as many food booths. Some wonderful color in the felt, sauna hat booth. Some great photos can be found here.
Intermittent rain created a choreography of umbrellas and ponchos being opened and closed throughout the afternoon. The World Beer Parade was a disappointment. Not only did it not live up to Homer Simpson level fantasies, it only featured two non-Latvian brewers and very few Latvian brewers. There was nothing being offered that can’t be easily found at the local grocery stores.
A large performing area was being prepared for a large (paid admission) performance in the evening. A smaller stage in a field lined with tents offering free activities like flower/leaf wreath weaving featured various folk song and dance groups. We watched Tara Vrancei, a very skilled and well-trained folk dance and music ensemble from Romania. They presented an old agricultural custom connected with the harvest of winter wheat at the Summer Solstice. At the end members of the ensemble shared a round ring loaf of sweet bread with audience members. We had noticed a group of men in suits in ties in the center of the audience who looked like politicians and, sure enough, the two lead dancer/singers made a special trip with offerings of wheat sheaves and a ring of bread to these men who clearly fulfilling an official function and would rather be anywhere else but there.
As we walked out of the park towards the trolley back home, we enjoyed watching a cotton candy vendor making huge balls of air and sugar on paper cones that dwarfed the children who gorged on them. As we watched a young boy came upon the scene and his ecstatic, visceral reaction to the confection was a joyful thing. We decided to go back in to catch a young Latvian music ensemble at the small stage and saw members of Tara Vrancei taking the long walk with their instruments and equipment back to their vehicles which provided us with a recognition of slogging through a festival after a performance from our days with Omulu Capoeira Group.
That was followed by Howl to electronic, pre-recorded music and then a “non-classical night club” in a basement, little theater which featured our favorite music of the night for live cellist and eight tracks of pre-recorded cello that had a definite post-minimalist flair.
We enjoyed the evening and the opportunity to re-visit Cesis but it was good to really come back to Riga for our final three weeks of this Fulbright adventure. We missed the opening concerts of the A Time to Dance contemporary dance festival but attended two performances featuring student-choreographed works mentored by Jo. We also saw Hiroaki Umeda, a young Japanese solo artist performing a hip-hop/technology evening that excited many…..but left us a little cold.
The midsummer Ligo festival is coming up – apparently it is celebrated with zest in Lativia – looking forward to it.
While there are pubs and stores that feature huge varieties, they were the exception. However, it was common for convenience stores to carry ten or more different beers.
Most were classified as blondes or brunes (browns) and were between 4-6% alcohol though it was not difficult to find Abbey style, bigger beers. We only tasted one pils (it was in our gift basket) - it is a fairly popular style but not what we were looking for. Lambic, Oud Brune, Faro, Gueze and other sours were less available, though there was quite a bit of Kriek (most sweet like cherry soda though there were some that were nicely balanced with the sour). We saw some IPAs, a few stouts and porters and one Scottish-style (quite good). We found very few saisons though we did come across saison sold in six-packs of cans. There are a few microbreweries who are exploring new styles. Like the US, some are quite good but the most are rather run of the mill.
Enjoyed some fairly spectacular lightning and thunder as we slept. Jo got up to watch the show.
After charting out routes via Google Maps and Routenet Routeplanner, we decided to walk from our hotel to la Grand Place. We diligently made pdf copies of the various maps and close-up of maps and then hurriedly scrawled the directions onto a sheet of paper.
Aside from the anxiety of trying to navigate without a good map through some less than upscale neighborhoods, we noted the accurate perception shared by nephew-in-law Dunstin that Brussels is a dirty city. There is trash almost everywhere. Can't really tell if this is due to lack of care by the residents or lack of city services to pick up the overflowing trash receptacles.
There are also very clearly defined ethnic neighborhoods. Starting from our hotel we went through the Arab-Islamic, African, and then Chinese areas until we hit the more Euro-American tourist center. With the trash, general disorder in the traffic (which also translates to the way grocery stores are "organized"), make-shift retail kiosks, several (women mostly) in full-blown traditional costumes of various non-European regions, coffee houses that were clearly men's only establishments; some of the neighborhoods we were unclear what country, or even continent, we were in.
The tour, even though self-guided, was wonderful. Unfortunately there wasn't much customer service during the tasting portion so we left with a sour taste, that wasn't attributable to the beer.
When it quieted down we continued on and came across many, many cars parked along the side of the road. Following that "Yellowstone instinct" that, if there are a bunch of cars pulled off the side of the road there must be something worth seeing, we pulled forward and, finding a legitimate parking spot, stopped, pulled out the ponchos and started walking in the direction that everyone else was walking.
House after house featured garage sales that were now completely flooded out. People were drinking beer and wine, having a very festive time. In spite of the rain pretty much ruining much of their merchandise, everyone seemed in good spirits. We kept walking past food booths and more yard sales. Finally we came upon the city centre of Céroux-Mousty, the "best city square" in Belgium filled with flea market type booths struggling to recover from the rain. Again, everyone seemed in good spirits.
Walking through, we stopped for some frites - these were the best we have had yet with andelouse sauce instead of the most popular mayonnaise (now, as far as mayonnaise goes, we are not talking Kraft here, but some very nice, rich, fatty stuff) and enjoyed viewing the few carnival-type rides and games mixed with various booths hawking wares. One booth was selling oysters and wine - very tempted by that one. We sat outside of a restaurant on the edge of the square for a local biere and some people watching. Three men came up on bicycles, ordered and drank their beers and went on their way as we sat. The countryside is filled with bicyclists on the hilly, windy roads - this is, after all, the home country of Eddie Merckx.
We drove on, attempting to find more sights featured on the guide (the square was actually featured but the event clearly was happenstance). We saw a beautiful building in the distance but, following the directions, were unable to actually locate it up close (reminds me of when P and I decided to camp and mountain bike in the forest directly near the Grand Canyon - we could not, despite our best efforts, find the Grand Canyon as we were riding our bikes on the many roads used by the forest service - it's kind of our mantra now "where's the grand canyon?"). Lots of pulling over on the side of the road to consult the maps yet again and try to find road markers that make sense - this country is a good argument for GPS systems.
We did find the Butte du Lion commemorating the Battle of Waterloo (with the Battle of the Bulge in Bastogne and Battle at Waterloo, this small country has two of the most famous battle sites of all times.) Walking up we went past a restaurant named after Joséphine (Napoleon's wife, not mine). To walk up the monument a 7 euro ticket was required - needless to say, we walked back to the car.
On to our next stay near Brussels. Some minor-ly tense navigation but, all in all, fairly easy. Though we are on a busy street, our accommodations are in the back and it is surprisingly insulated. Walked to a nearby shopping center at around 18:00 to pick up some groceries and was surprised to find that everything, except a hamburger joint, was closed. Annoying but, in some way refreshing that the Belgians don't keep everything open 24/7.
We have loosely planned our outings for tomorrow. Of course, P has all the beer pubs we need to visit mapped out. It works pretty well with the whole day: bus/metro to city center; walk around; museums (the ancients, old primitives, moderns and fin de siécle are on our list); parks; square. Still haven't found a fromagerie, but am hopeful for tomorrow as way back when I graduated from high school, I took one of those whirlwind three week tours of Europe: that was one of my most memorable memories...visiting a fromagerie off of the Great Place in Brussels. After familiarizing ourselves with our route (still need to get some maps), we will rent bikes for our return. Easy to do, credit card operated-kind of deals: rent a bike, go to your destination, drop it off at one of the many automated kiosk bike exchanges. Mkay. Projecting too much about what MIGHT happen tomorrow, so best to call it a night. Hugs.