Manialtepec Lagoon, Oaxaca

PE has the usual cast of animal characters, including this tabby cuties. Actually, there are fewer stray dogs than many other places I’ve been and they don’t look at raggedy as some. We’ve seen that some of the shops put out food and water for them, which is great.

Here’s another Mother and Child shrine, this one on a house at the far end of Zicatela Beach.

This beach is really enormous and also wide; unlike places on the east coast of Mexico (Cancun I’m looking at you), it seems that the government does not need to truck in sand here to prevent the beach from disappearing. This is probably because the place is not overdeveloped and doesn’t have massive beach-side hotel developments and piers jutting into the water which alter the ocean currents and cause the sand to wash away.

Here are two ocean goddesses just washed up by the waves:

The Zicatela area has some pretty good street art in the form of colourful graffiti; we see the ones below on our hike to Dan’s for breakfast. Pam and Cec like to get a walk in in the morning and then consume hotcakes before heading back to the poolside ranch. Works for me!

Puerto Escondido is located on the coast in the lime green area of the map below, not too far from the Guatemala border, in Oaxaca state.

Right across the street from Dan’s calle is a wellness centre that offers massage and yoga; I hope to get a healing rubdown here before I leave.

One of the must-dos in PE, if you’re into the environment, is an eco-tour to the Manialtepec Lagoon, about 18 kilometers north of here. The only unfortunate thing about it is thaat, if you want to see any wildlife, you must rise early … we had to be up at 5:45 and out the door at 6:15 for our pickup with Lalo Ecotours. Here’s a view of the beach from the walkway over the highway – the sky is just beginning to lighten. The sun rises and sets extremely quickly in the tropics; one minute it’s dark, and the next – boom – it’s light.

After picking up the other two people on our tour, we rolled on down the highway to the lagoon, along with the other rush-hour travel in PE, arriving about half an hour later lagoon-side.

A very cute little terrier mix pup ran out wiggling to greet us.

After spending a few minute tickling the little guy, we hopped on our fibreglass boat and glided over the calm lagoon as the sun rose – spectacular!

When we first arrived, we were the only boat on the lagoon; as time passed a few canoes with local fishermen appeared.

Our boatman guided us down a narrow mangrove channel while the tour guide explained how parrots lay their eggs in large termite nests, giving the newly hatched birds termites to eat and thus have sustenance when they’re born – smart creatures! The termite nest is the large blackish structure on the left attached to the tree that Eve’s pointing to.

I love mangrove trees – they’re so beautiful and interesting. Eve explained that this lagoon has three species of mangrove and that the trees reproduce in two ways: with long thin seedpods that go down into the water and with the hanging roots that do the same thing – very ingenious.

Everyone on the tour is given a good quality pair of binoculars to spot all the birds that live here.

Close to one hundred different species of bird make this lagoon their home and we saw examples of about two thirds of them.

Many of them, such as these pelicans, frequent the tree tops. Apparently, pelicans find it difficult to roost on branches because of their foot structure but these ones look happy enough.

The bird below is either the Bare Throated Tiger Heron or the Black Crowned Night Heron – lots of Herons in these waters!

The fellow below is the Boat-Billed Heron

Below is a better picture of the bird’s head by Jan Sevik; in it, you can see the bird’s large and unusual beak.

The lagoon was really peaceful at this time of morning.

We also saw lots of Yellow-Corned Night Herons (the black on in the trees below) and both Snowy and Cattle Egrets.

The egrets are beautiful white birds with long graceful necks; we saw lots of them.

The root structure of the mangrove trees is really amazing.

Here’s another Tiger Heron biding its time water-side …

Against the brown background of the tree roots, it was sometimes difficult to see these birds after the sun came out. This type of heron is nocturnal, only seen very early in the morning.

I think the bird below is also a Bare Throated Tiger Heron with its neck stretched out.

Some Great Blue Heron, a species of bird that makes our part of the world home, are snowbirds and migrate south for five months in the winter, just like their human counterparts, as do these white-billed ducks, very familiar to me from False Creek in Vancouver.

We went down some very narrow mangrove channels and had to duck our heads to avoid the roots and branches.

In the rainy season this lagoon opens to the ocean; you can see the strip of beach in the photo below. This makes the water brackish, a combination of fresh water from the Manialtepec River and the ocean salt water: “Manialtepec” means “Place where the waters meet”. Our guide spent quite a bit of time calling to the birds, imitating the sounds of a tiny predatory owl to disturb the other birds who did start to flutter and flock and fly around the boat. The sounds of this predator owl, a pygmy owl, causes the other birds to fly around in a fright; the owl then grabs as many as he can and eats them as they scatter – yikes!

This area is where the egrets mate. Eve told us that the female grows long tail feathers during mating season and then loses them after. Also, there is some kind of poisonous element in the bird guano that eventually kills the trees, hence the numerous stick-like tree skeletons here.

We drove quietly down the river channel towards the ocean, passing, unexpectedly, horses on the lagoon side, grazing on grasses.

The horses belong to a local family who have lived at the lagoon for generations and are used for transport if they need to get supplies.

Our tour concluded with breakfast and beer on a huge deserted beach where the family runs a cantina for incoming tour groups, of which there was one other group besides ours this morning.

I really enjoyed our trip. We left our place at 6:30 and were returned just after noon. The tour with Lalo Ecotours cost 600 pesos, plus a tip. Breakfast at the beach was 65 pesos and beer about 20. Highly recommended! For more info about the tour company, click here.

For more photos, click here and here.

Enjoying the Adoquin in Puerto Escondido

Here’s what you get right off the boat on the beach at PE – these particular beasts don’t look too inviting but I’m sure all the pelicans hanging around would love to get their chops on them.

Since I was here last three years ago this concrete bunker has gone up at one end of the beach, spoiling the view IMHO. We think it’s going to be a hotel but at the moment it’s an ugly grey skeleton.

The Benito Juarez Market is a must when you visit this town. Located about nine blocks from the beach in a big cavernous metal barn-like space, it’s where the locals shop for pretty much everything. The produce is wonderful and about 1/10th the price of fresh fruit and veg in Vancouver, particularly now as the Canadian dollar sinks ever lower.

On our walk to the market we passed a number of guys selling crucifixes, Jesus figures, and Madonnas from little metal trolleys.

Always on the lookout for religious shrines, I found this nice one on the way up to the market.

All of us are amazed at the tight synthetic fabric clothing people seem to be able to wear in hot climates.

Cecil was designated the cart man and did a good job of rolling his metal cart in, out, and around the various sidewalk obstacles.

Some areas of the market are beautifully scented from the lovely flowers for sale.

Others, the meat and fish sections, are not.

Pam likes to check out all the stalls before deciding on where to spend her pesos so we traversed the entire market before settling on a few places to purchase our goodies.

I was particularly taken with the enormous size of the cauliflower heads here, especially considering that in Vancouver we are paying $8 for a measly microscopic head these days.

Just below our house, on the other side of the Costera highway, is the Adoquin, a boulevard of shops, restaurants, and hotels that becomes a pedestrian only street in the evenings.

We had an ok meal at a local restaurant overlooking the Playa Principal in an attempt to hear the singing duo at Pascale’s down below; unfortunately, our restaurant was playing bongo music at such a decibel that we couldn’t really hear the singers.

This area is called the Adoquin and it is quite nice at night, with all the vendors selling the usual assortment of stuff, plus some things unique to this area, such as the black Oaxaca pottery.

Here’s Cec wondering where Pam has wandered off to.

I like the Adoquin area; lots of pretty white buildings and a good, although expensive, coffee shop called Vivace. The morning I was there a very cute little  Schnoodle pup was also there. Mexicans do seem to love their Schnauzers, and por que no!

 

Hola from Puerto Escondido

When the opportunity came up to visit Puerto Escodido, Oaxaca with friends P & C, I leapt at the chance, even though I am currently working on a contract for SFU. I figured that I can just as easily do my course development work here poolside, as in the rain in Vancouver.

Puerto Escondido is what Puerto Vallarta used to be many moons ago, a traditional Mexican fishing village, albeit at 70,000 population, no longer a tiny one.

Our place is just above the coastal highway and the Playa Marinero, the beach where fshermen sell their catch right off the sand, and about four blocks from the Super Che, the gigantic, air-conditioned local equivalent to a Super Store grocery store, although it sells much more than just groceries, including appliances. The casa has a nice peekaboo view of the huge Zicatela Beach, the two mile long surfing playa that attracts boarders from around the world.

Along with the four of us and a small black female cat, two large green parrots are ensconced poolside in a large white metal cage. While they don’t really talk, they are certainly very vocal and make some very funny noises.

Along with the parrots, roosters, and barking dogs, the pelicans make this part of the world their home; they are funny, large beasts with very sentient eyes.

Most mornings see 3 or 4 of us hoofing it down the long stretch of Playa Zicatela, often in search of breakfast at Dan’s Cafe, a local crowd-pleaser, whose hotcakes I can enthusiastically recommend.

Walking back along the road, we sometimes check out the shops selling mostly beach wear, surf boards, and jewelry.

A local guy who works for a finca (coffee plantation) invited us in to look at the coffee beans he was drying and explained to us how the unpredictable climate was causing havoc with coffee production: “It rains when it shouldn’t, and when it should rain, it doesn’t”.

Since I’m not inclined to sunbathe, I sometimes lie poolside a white ghost, wrapped up in my scarf like a mummy.

The other morning as we walked along we heard the sounds of a brass band pumping out latin music, only to find that it was the accompaniment to a funeral procession leaving from the church.

The church is situated in a beautiful small plaza at the top of a stone staircase; inside it, a black Madonna presides.

We’ve also walked along the seaside andador, a stone walkway that travels the base of the rocky cliffs here from the Bahia Principal to Playa Manzanillo.

Slightly disconcerting was the sight of a young, seemingly disconsolate man sharpening a knife in the shade of a big rock.

This route has lots of colourful graffiti on the stones.

After clambering up the staircase at the end of the walk, we chatted a bit to a woman with a very elaborate set of biblical decorations from small plastic toys, including a Nativity scene, in her front yard.

Once ensconced at the beach, we sampled some very tasty shrimp dishes and enjoyed watching the local families frolic in the very warm  water. Since most of the local people can’t swim, they cluster just at the ocean’s edge enjoying the relatively gentle waves in this bay.

Puerto Escondido is very local and I like that about it. See some pics of our earlier visit here in 2012 here.

Selfies vs Self-Portraits: Expanding the Genre at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

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In conjunction with the exhibition The Artist Herself: Self-Portraits by Canadian Historical Women Artists running from Oct 2, 2015 to Jan 3, 2016 at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, the gallery organised a parallel show entitled Selfies vs Self-Portraits: Expanding the Genre. The premise of the selfie exhibition was articulated as follows: “We want you to think about more than just your face representing the self. Taking inspiration from the artists featured in the exhibition, we are looking for images that explore the definition of the self-portrait and representations of identity. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to redefine the genre by looking at the spaces you occupy, the things you create, the objects that surround and/or adorn you; all the things that create the likeness of you as an individual”. 

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I was happy to have two of my Double Self-Portrait in a Burning Room works included. For more info on the Historical Portraiture show, click here. For more on the Selfie exhibit, click here.

See a video about portraiture, with some shots of the works included in the show, below.

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Happy Holidays 2015!

Oh the glory of the lights at the Van Dusen Botanical Gardens! Unbelievably, the evening we had chosen to go and see the lights, it wasn’t raining – glory be! The heavenly hosts must have been gazing down benevolently upon us. And, even better, there was no horrendous line-up to get in.

This year the light display is even more spectacular, with an additional five acres of glowing LED madness. Ty had to fortify himself with a bucket of popcorn for the trek around the grounds and found himself in the line-up with a group of grey-shrouded barefoot Buddhist nuns.

Around every corner is a new photographer’s delight; I especially love the reflections of the trees and bushes in the various lakes and ponds and the tree branches lit up against the night sky and almost-full moon.

New this year, or maybe I had just not noticed them before, are small heating hut areas, with shelters and heaters for the gathered throng to warm up; the only down side of the clear night was the fact that my extremities are always cold and my hands, even with two layers of gloves, were cold.

There are also quite a few interactive displays; this one, for example, in which waving one’s hands over a light panel causes the trees to light up in an array of different glorious colours.

Another interactive display allowed visitors to yell into a tube that generated a snake of coloured light to run through a passage and change the colour of the plastic icebergs, seen below.

Oh Christmas lights, how I love thee!

Merry Christmas All!

See more photos here.

 

 

Christmas Trees and Gingerbread

If it’s December, it must be time for the annual Christmas Tree and Gingerbread House walk through the lobbies of downtown Vancouver hotels.

We started off the trek at the Hotel Vancouver, then walked the block or so down Burrard Street to the Sutton Place to check out their Christmas Tree decorating competition.

They always have a fabulous display of orchids and poinsettias in the lobby.

We were really lucky with the weather, dry and crisp. Next up, the 25th anniversary of the Hyatt’s gingerbread house competition. Local schools and other organisations get into the act, with several categories of house awarded prizes.

Oh the wonder of it all …

Ty met his older doppleganger here – a few more years, and a bit more epic of a beard, and he’s there …

After a brief cruise through the Hotel Georgia, we spent quite a bit of time analysing the competition trees at the Four Seasons.

Barbara had to pose next to the Monopoly tree, since not too long before she had bankrupted both Ty and I in a cutthroat game at the Storm Crow Tavern.

After a nice hot toddie at the Hotel Vancouver lobby bar, we rolled back along Burrard Street to take in the light display at Saint Paul’s Hospital.

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See more pics here.

 

If I Only Had a Heart … Oh, Wait – I Do!

Heart printing

Ty and I got in on the ground floor of the Kickstarter fundraising campaign for a small consumer 3D printer, the M3D. After two years of waiting it’s here and on Ty’s workstation. For its maiden run, we are printing some small anatomical hearts in different colours from biodegradable plastic filament. Here is the first one, a half-size cherry red baby.

Heart printing2

First the printer lays down a “raft” of plastic which serves as a platform for the heart. Then it builds up the object with layers and layers of filament in a criss-crossing matrix. This model was set on fine and the heart produced is about 4 inches around; the details of the veins is quite good, although you can’t really tell from these photos, since the surface is so shiny. The trick to printing anything is to determine how to position the object on the print bed such that the resulting creation is both strong and aesthetically pleasing. Huzzah!

Heart printing3

Heart printing4

Video Screenings!

Update: My film The Fire Ceremony II: Metamorphosis received the award for Best Technical Achievement at the Burnaby Film Forum.

After its debut in Los Angeles and recent screening at Sun Peaks, my video The Fire Ceremony II: Metamorphosis has been selected for screening at the upcoming Burnaby Film Forum. Hope to see you there!

2015 Promo Poster UPDATED

View the video YouTube Preview Image

In addition, my video Fragile has been selected for the Access Code Short Film Festival in Srinagar, India in October 2015.

 

A Day in the Life of Earthwise Farm in Tsawwassen, BC

Earthwise Society is a non-profit, charitable organization cultivating sustainable communities through environmental education and stewardship. The society runs the two acre certified organic farm, one acre garden, and heritage orchard, along with a farm store, out in Tsawwassen/Boundary Bay. In addition, they have an educational program for school-age children to foster their connection with nature and show them where their food comes from, as well as being the lead agency for the Delta Food Coalition, a network of community groups collaborating on food security. Their Harvest Box and Shared Harvest programs bring fresh produce to at-risk local populations. My friends P & C volunteer their time at Earthwise once a week, doing whatever needs done each time.

The Boundary Bay Earthwise Garden is the Lower Mainland’s only comprehensive demonstration garden showcasing ecological landscape practices.The design of the one-acre garden was created to highlight ecological themes and includes a Native Plant Garden, a Habitat Hedgerow, a Dry Garden, a Rain Garden, a Bee Garden, and a Butterfly Garden, all designed to attract beneficial insects and birds and sustain them.

This day was sunny and hot, just like most of the past four months have been, and the garden is an oasis of greenery and beauty.

In addition, the Farm has allotment plots for those who would like to garden but have no access to land.

Dave, another very active volunteer, has created a bee sanctuary at the farm and lots of honey bees can be seen on the flowers.

A retired couple originally from New Zealand come to the farm every day and are single-handedly responsible for two large greenhouses full of heritage tomatoes, all different beautiful colours and exceptionally tasty.

The farm also has mason bee and insect hotels, refuges for native species.

One of the barns is home to barn swallows and nesting barn owls; the latter can be watched on a webcam screen viewable in the farm store.

This day P, C & I were sent out to the fields to pick runner beans, not an easy task since the plants are quite low to the ground in a very sunny and unshaded area. My back wasn’t up to the full task; I had to bail out when it started to complain but P & C carried on until the task was done – I was very impressed!

After a tasty lunch in a shady grove, the three of us picked blackberries from the many wild bushes.

As a reward for our time, we came home with the fruits of our labour, blackberries, beans, pears, and peaches. See more pics here. More info about Earthwise available here.