Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Welcome Signs of Spring

My favourite patch of garden in spring

Buds on the Mulberry tree

spring flowers

Yes, even happy to see the dandelions - but they won't be there for long!

And finally, the SOUNDS of spring

My beloved cardinal

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Diplomatic Blunder

Thanks to a suggestion made by one of my frequent blog visitors. I am going to tell some stories about my time in Romania ('96-'05) over the next few weeks. Since this is a busy week for me, I won't start at the beginning of my stay, but just post a memorable moment this time around:

In July 1997, then US president Bill Clinton visited Romania. This visit was intended to launch a "strategic bilateral partnership between Romania and the US."  Hmmm....

In light of such an exciting event, the Canadian team of which I was a part, thought it would be great to head downtown and join the massive crowds gathered to try and get a glimpse of him. This was, of course, long before the much more famous blunder (if you can call it that) leading to the even more famous statement, "I did not have....with that woman."

It was good that we went early. The ever present politia (police) had set up only one security area through which all these thousands of people had to pass before they were allowed into the square where Bill would be speaking.

It was 40 degrees celcius plus, that day -- a day where, if there had been a couple of inches of space, one could have fried an egg on the sidewalk.

We were jammed together as tight as a tin of sardines -- and the smell all around us like tin of sardines that had been left open out in the sun for weeks

Yes, that is sweat on the man on the right's back. And yes, Bill was to appear way, way, ahead of us, right in front of the building with a dome, that you may scarcely be able to pick out, just to the right of the middle of the photo. (click on it to enlarge)

So we needed to get closer, to make this agony worth while.

After much pushing and shoving - and swearing (not from us), we made it.
About an hour later Bill appeared -you can see him to the left of middle --

 and we almost expired.

At the sight of Bill, the whole crowd immediately surged forward with screaming, shouting, cheers (and a few jeers from the old communists) and we were so crushed we couldn't move.

There were six of us, including a nine-year old, so wisdom dictated that we needed to get out of there -- and quick. That decision was made easier by the tedium of Bill's speech, but not by the people around us. They were not budging to let us through.

 We figured we had a good 50/60 yards to get to the edge of the crowd, but what to do?

I have never been good in crowds -- claustrophobia comes easy to me in tight spaces, so I immediately came up with an idea that was pretty much based in truth.

I had us all hold hands in a line, with me in the lead and the youngest in the middle so she wouldn't get separated from us, and I began to feign violent vomiting, all the while pushing through the people off to the right. This was my greatest acting moment.

I think I felt like Moses round about then -- the mass of bodies parted like the Red Sea, and in no time we were seated on the curb, laughing, shaking off the sweat, breathing sighs of relief, and resting up for a moment before heading home.

Oh, but what about Bill's diplomatic blunder?

Well, after his speech, he was handed a Romanian flag -- not like the ones you can see in the photo above -- but one with a hole cut out in the this one:
(no, that's not me carrying the flag - even tho some may think so!)

So what did Bill say, as he received it?

According to  Associated Press he said,

"Thanks for the Poncho"

Flags with the centres cut out were around a lot in the years after the fall of communism in 1989. The hole was where the hated communist symbol used to be, like the flag below:

Shouldn't the US President have known this?

I am surprised Romania is still on talking terms with the US.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

More Alternative Art

I promised I would post some more of my favourite, unusual artwork.

The first three are items that came home with me from Romania:

I found this in a little corner supermarket in Bucharest.
It is too good to use as a pencil holder really.
It is a clay pot, but covered in an incredibly soft leather that has been dyed in a rich blue, just as you see it above. I have never seen anything like it, before or since. It was the only one in the store, and it cost me all of $2.00!

I LOVE this stylized fish!
I received him as a birthday gift while I was in Romania.
But I had had my eye on him for along time -- I guess my friends knew I was longing for one.

Romania is well-known for its glass artisans, and they are so talented.
 The fish comes in many different colours, but I like the silvery gold brass, and the milky glass.
He was NOT cheap, I know - so I am grateful to have him!

This, too, was a gift - but actually from someone who could ill-afford to purchase a gift for me.
She wanted to give me a parting gift, when I was leaving Romania, but as she had no money, she gave me this, which she said had been in her family for a long time. I treasure it because it was a sacrifice for her to give it to me.

She took me all the way up many, many stone steps to her dark, little attic room, where the doll had been all wrapped up in tissue, in a little box, tucked away under her rickety old bed. She wouldn't allow me to refuse it.

I am not really convinced of this precious doll's age, but she is beautiful, and a far cry from the kind of cheap doll souvenirs that are available there now in every store and that all look alike.

Her Romanian costume is very authentic; her shoes are made of real leather and her clothes appear to be hand-embroidered.

Look at her hair!  I believe it is real, and it's very carefully plaited.
Oh, she brings back great memories for me!

Finally, a dear friend brought me these from Bali, Indonesia:

They are actually fridge magnets, about 4-5 inches long/wide,
carved in wood, painted black and then designed with hundreds of multicoloured
drops of paint. I love them!

I really enjoy unique forms of art and am always on the lookout for them.
I might find some more around the house to show you!

What unique forms of art do you have?