Unidentified Flying Objects

Last year my son Eli and I traveled to Turkey.  One of the highlights was Cappadocia in Eastern Anatolia, a land rich in history and natural wonders, such as ancient underground cities, and fairy chimneys.  And…So. Many. Caves.  Some were natural, but most were carved into the soft stone as houses for the inhabitants, going all the way back to the 6th century B.C.E.  They reminded me of swallows’ nests or anthills, but for people, and they were everywhere.

People are still carving caves into the stone to create habitable space, but most of them are entrepreneurs building hotel rooms for tourists eager for the experience of sleeping in a cave.

Eli and I stayed in just such a hotel, with all its rooms carved into a rocky hillside.
I expected it to be rough, cold, damp and crudely done, but travel is all about the unexpected.  Sometimes we are pleasantly surprised.  The walls had a stone-like pattern beautifully carved into the rock, it was brightly lit and tastefully decorated.  I loved the shelves and nooks carved into the walls.

The interior of this closet is stone, but the wooden frame and doors were fitted to the opening in the rock.

At first Eli and I couldn’t imagine what this nook was for, but then we figured it out.

It must have been a terrific photo op placed there just for us.

Here’s my favorite shot.

Our stay was full of unexpected surprises.  After weeks of washing things out in the sink, we splurged and sent laundry out to be done.  It came back the next day, but all my socks and underwear had gone missing.

Then we had an unexpected opportunity to fly up in a hot air balloon.  I’m uncomfortable with heights and it was expensive, but Eli really wanted to, and both my kids were mostly launched, so I surprised myself and agreed.   But the last place I expected the unexpected was in our spiffy bathroom.

One morning I entertained the notion of a relaxing bath, but quickly changed my mind…

…when I found this in the tub.

I did what anyone would have done.  I took a photo.  Oh, yeah, and then I yelled for Eli to come look.  And then I ran out looking for someone else to come see our scorpion. Terry and Wayne were on the way to breakfast when I accosted them, and dragged them into our bathroom to act as witnesses.

Here’s what we saw.

You know that joke…what’s worse than finding a worm in an apple?  (Finding half a worm.)  Well, worse than finding a scorpion in the cave where you sleep is finding nothing where there was a scorpion just a minute before.  We looked everywhere, but it was gone.  At least I had photo-documentation–stone cold proof we were rooming with a venomous creature.  As for my missing socks and underwear–it all came out in the wash…Terry’s wash, in fact.

But that night you’d better believe I was ready for anything.  I peeked under the bed, and checked my sheets before I got into bed…and I looked up just in time to see something flying through the air straight for me.

Down it came, and…

 All images and words copyright 2013 Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Unexpected

Islands Out of Time

We set out by boat from Puno, Peru.  Our destination, the Floating Islands called the Uros.

The islands are man-made, found on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world, at 12, 507 feet, and 109 miles long.

There are over 40 small islands floating in the lake, each constructed of layer upon layer of totora reeds growing in the shallows.

The Uros were pushed back into the lake when the Incas conquered the region.  They were so poor the Incas found them hardly worth taxing, but some were taken as slaves.  After the fall of the Incan Empire, the Uros traded and intermarried with the Aymara on the mainland, eventually losing their Uru language for that of the Aymara.

We were given a warm welcome by the women of the island…

…who sang us ashore.

Each island supports up to 10 families, depending upon its size.  The islands are anchored with ropes tied to stakes driven into the lake bottom.  When attacked, the Uros cut the the ropes to escape into deeper water.  When cohabitants fought, as a last resort they cut their island in half, to live separately.

Totora reeds rot quickly. New layers must constantly be added. Even so, an island lasts only about thirty years.

When we stepped onto the island, our feet sank several inches into the top layers of reeds.

Marcos, a leader on his island, explained through a translator that the white part of totora is eaten for food, and its flowers provide tea. The same reeds used to build the island are also used to build houses and boats for fishing, hunting, and trading with mainlanders.

A model of the island community shows each component, with its real life counterpart.

Canoes.

Cooking pits.

Houses and watchtowers.

And the people.

The Uros fish, and keep pigs on floating islands nearby.

They domesticated Ibis for meat…

…and eggs.

Marcos welcomed us into his home.

Living in close quarters keeps it warmer at night.  During the rainy season they sometimes use plastic tarps to keep dry.

The islands’ population dropped from 2,000 in 1997 to about 400.  The draw of city comforts is strong, especially for the younger generation. The modern world encroaches.  Solar panels provide music and television to make them more content with island life.

Tourism now provides income to purchase products available only on the mainland.

The Uros sell handicrafts made from reeds…

 

…or from materials bought on the Mainland.

It’s a delicate balance maintaining their traditional culture and making a living,

…between supporting their way of life…

…and keeping the children happy at home.

Flashy non-traditional water taxis, the Uru version of a gondola, transport tourists from island to island for a fee.

We caught a ride with Marcos.

He operates his taxi, sells his family’s handicrafts, and fishes to eke out a living for four generations of family.

A French Canadian I spoke to expressed extreme disappointment in the experience.  She found it too commercial, and felt the Uros had sold out their culture to make a buck.  But I don’t see their world or mine in such black and white terms.

Like her ancestors, that woman lives in Quebec, speaks French, and eats baguettes.  But she also eats sushi, drives a car, and works for a tech company to pay her electric bill.

Such a fine line between preserving cultural traditions while adapting to the changing world around us.  Since the beginning of time, most living things have both adapted and made the choices that put food into the mouths of their young.

The Uros are a unique and hardworking people living in a harsh climate under difficult conditions.   Doing no harm to others or the world around them…

…they have done an amazing job keeping alive a way of life that began centuries ago.

All images and words copyright 2013 Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Travel Theme: Balance.

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Layers.

Science Experiment

Belle Bath Cooper wrote 10 Simple Things You Can Do Today That Will Make You Happier, Backed By Science for the Huffington Post. I highly recommend it.  I intend to apply Ms. Cooper’s advice on a daily basis to cultivate a habit of happiness.  In case you want to try, I’ve compiled visual aids…

#1. Exercise

#2. Sleep

#3. Move closer to work

#4. Spend Time with family and friends

#5.Go outside

#6. Help others

#7.Practice smiling

#8.Plan a trip

#9. Meditate

#10.Practice gratitude

All images and words copyright 2013 Naomi Baltuck
Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Habit.
Thanks to my FB friend, storyteller Carol Connolly, who shared Ms. Cooper’s article.

Off to See the Wizard

The Motor City might be in my DNA, but at heart I’m a Needle Rat, living, working, and playing in the shadow of The Space Needle.

Scottish Australian storyteller Meg Philp and her Kiwi storytelling friend Lesley Dowding came to visit last month.

It had been too long since I’d seen Meg, my dear friend for over twenty-five years.  I’d never met Lesley, but she was a storyteller, an author, and a friend of Meg’s, and that was good enough for me.  The timing was perfect, not only for Meg to tell at the Forest Storytelling Festival in Port Angeles, but to catch the peak of autumn color.

First stop, a visit to the beach down the hill from my house, for walking and talking…and talking…and talking…

…and sharing a huckleberry sundae at Anthony’s Beach Cafe.

Lesley, Meg, and I walked back along the beach, three birds of a feather…

…watching the ferries come and go.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  Aim a camera, ask someone to jump off a cliff, and she might just do it for the sake of the shot.  Meg and Lesley were such good sports!   Again…

…and again!

I presented my city to them.  We began, of course, with The Space Needle.

The view was worth the trip.

Through the protective bars we admired the paint job on the roof below the Needle.

I LOVE Seattle!

The view inside the belly of the beast was almost as good.

Then there was the Needle’s spiffy biffy.

A quick ride on the monorail took us downtown.

The First Nations permanent art collection at the Seattle Art Museum is superb.

“Going for Gold,” featured golden art objects, including ancient brocades, jewelry, even a Faberge cigarette case.

And remember that camera thing I was telling you about?

Next stop, Pike Place Market.

For lunch…

For dessert, we had LOTS of rainbow-colored eye candy.

Then we had our big night on the town.

Yes, we were off to see the Wizard.  I felt like Dorothy with my very own Yellow Brick Roadies, including my husband Thom, and brother Lew.

The Paramount Theater…

…is elegant and historic, and its patrons…

…very high class!

In our days together we also saw this…

…that…

…and the other thing.

Oh, yes…and the OTHER other thing, in an eerie dark alley, well, just spitting distance from the market.

It’s an attraction the way squirrel roadkill or a really big oozy banana slug attracts the eye, even while repulsing other senses you didn’t even know you had.

Yes, I am talking about Seattle’s own Gum Wall, fifty feet high, inches thick.

After years of scraping the wall clean, only to have the gooey gum wads mysteriously reappear that night, it was finally reclassified as a tourist attraction.  It was even voted the second germiest tourist attraction in the world, after The Blarney Stone.  Frankly, I think the Gum Wall should have won, but that’s a sticky wicket, and we won’t go there.  But I will tell you this: it was in the bowels of old Seattle that I realized Lesley and I had formed a friendship that would stick.  You do remember that camera thing I was telling you about?

Wait for it….

Wait for it…

Wait for it….

This one’s for you, Lesley.  I am proud to call you ‘Friend.’

All images and words copyright 2013 Naomi Baltuck.
Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Eerie.