Each year I update in some fashion my blog, a bit like re-painting a wall or re-decorating, a question of refreshing a presentation since time is passing and events of the past take on a different perspective. Per example when I first starting blogging I was in China, I started to put things on a blog to document what I was doing, it was a slow start. Then in Rome the blog took a life of its own because we saw and experienced so many things. We travelled in Europe and our experience were enriching. Now I am retired and though we still travel it is not as frequently and my life activity is different. I am not sitting at home, no not at all, I have many activities and I read a lot and keep busy. But our life now is here in Ottawa and it is not Europe, though we make an effort to live in a European style as much as possible. It is very much part of my life, I have been travelling to Europe since I was 12 years old that was 47 years ago. All this to say that in 2015 I hope my blog will take on a different look and cover different topics.
New Year Puppies enjoying the Festivities. Forefront Nicholas and in the background Nora.
Maybe I will talk more about my Museum experience and what I learn. Maybe more on food and recipes, I always love to read recipes. There will be posts about travel and friends. So keep reading.
Best Wishes to all and thank you for reading and commenting.
Happy New Year 2015!
A recording of 1930, Auld Lang Syne, with Peter Dawson, Australian Bass-Baritone (1882-1961). A spirited rendition.
Has it been 14 years now since the old millennium and the XXth century ended, how time flies so quickly. We saw the turn of the new century in Warsaw, the famous night of Y2K, we can all laugh now at the nonsense of it all. Since then we returned to Canada bought a heritage home, renovated it and then, I went to Beijing on posting and in 2007 to Rome, our old dog Reesie died in Rome on Boxing Day 2008. We had sold the house prior to our departure for Europe. In 2009 in February we met our new puppies Nicky and Nora in Capena. In 2011 we returned with much regret to Canada and I retired at the end of 2012. Since I have been doing volunteer work in our National Museums and built a new life here. But this has not stopped us from traveling to Europe again and again and visiting our friends. We discovered Spain by visiting many wonderful cities, Valencia, Seville, Granada, after seeing Barcelona, Madrid and a stop in Gibraltar.
Among new people we have become friends first through our blogs I believe around 2010 and then in person in 2013, Dr. Spo and DAW from Arizona. We went to Stratford Ontario for the Summer theatre Festival and again this past Summer. Both are delightful people and have become good friends.
So many things have happened in the last 14 years and 2014 was also full of events.
Will continues to work at the Foreign Ministry and I at the Museums. We travelled with our friend Madame J. to Austria and Germany, we visited Salzburg for the Pentecost Music Festival during a heat wave which made going to our concerts unpleasant since most halls are very weakly cooled. I saw two exhibits on Otto Dix in Munich and in Dresden and learned much about his paintings and his life. In Dresden I saw his masterpiece Der Krieg which had jus been cleaned. I wanted to learn more about Dix since I was working on the Exhibit of war paintings entitled Transformations at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. I am now juggling the National Gallery of Canada where I work as a docent and coordinator of Art Lectures and the CWM.
What will 2015 bring, well we will have a National Election for Parliament, the $100,000 dollar question is ”will the evil Mr. Harper win another mandate” The Country is badly divided again. There will be other things during the year, maybe a visit to Ottawa of our friends MCR and DAW, more Museums and trips and who knows what else.
DAW and MCR from AZ at a great restaurant Pazzo in Stratford.
I leave you with this piece of music Dubinuska composed by Nicolai Rimski-Korsakov composed for the first anti-Romanov Student revolt in 1905.
Dubinuska (Russia 1905), l’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Ernest Ansermet, Conductor.
The Christmas Tree in the great Hall of the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. (click to enlarge)
On the theme of understanding which I touched upon on my last post entitled Starting Over, I mentioned the idea of understanding other cultures from Foreign Lands and how important it is to make an effort when you travel or live for an extended period of time in a foreign country to get to know the people. Understanding is a word but it is also a concept which brings you to take a different look at others with a more neutral or detached eye. I will not say that understanding means accepting, no, many things are understood but not accepted.They are however not incorrect no matter what one may think.
One place where I lived and where culture, language, tradition and thinking was vastly different was China and countries I visited in Asia, Cambodia, Vietnam and Japan. Simple concepts of everyday life or the way you express yourself and the manner in which you do it, where vastly different. Language is always the number one barrier and the ability to learn another language is a gift. I made the effort to learn the languages with the exception of Mandarin which defeated me.
In many other countries where I lived there were little things of life that could become an Everest and lead to negative thoughts, an example, no fresh milk, for years I drank UHT milk before most people knew what it was here in Canada. Or suddenly having a shortage of eggs, butter or flour, for no apparent reason. Electric power cuts happening at any moment of the day, again for no reason other than the electrical supply was unreliable. You have to accept the fact that a giant power emergency generator is required, sitting in your home garden and must be kept fuelled up, they are also extremely noisy.
Having to wash in iodine solution all non-peelable vegetable and peeling all the others. This meant that any lettuce or berries were off the menu because of the danger of being contaminated. Having to closely supervise any kitchen staff to ensure they kept strict hygiene norms in handling food. You do understand why you have to do all this it is time consuming but nonetheless it does affect the way you look at the country where you live.
Your life is changed by the health condition of the country and you must adapt to it in order to stay healthy but also to maintain a positive frame of mind. There are also safety risks and concerns and it is important to be aware and not play dumb or uninformed.
I also found it important to try to understand the conditions of the country, social and political without offering opinions or suggestions. People will speak of their country you do not need to agree or disagree with them, just listen. History shapes the way countries evolve, the geography does the rest. It was not for me to express an opinion positive or negative or to offer facile suggestions. It was far more important to listen to what people were saying and try to understand their point of view and how they felt vis a vis the West or other neighbouring countries. In Western Africa, I discovered that the many African ethnic groups had deep rivalry and hatreds, racism was alive and well amongst Africans. Many did not think much of those Americans who came to visit Ghana or other Western African countries in search of their roots. They had little sympathy for them, all they were was rich tourists, like all the others. Inter-racial conflicts and wars have been raging in most African countries for years since the 1960’s and such conflicts are exploited by large multinational business interests from the old colonial masters, Belgium, France, Britain, Portugal to this day and African politicians also play wedge politics to retain power. It was a very different scenario from the usual one presented to us by the Media, far more complex, requiring reading and actually living in the region to grasp the situation.
Another area which is much misunderstood these days and where I lived for 8 years, is the Levant or Middle-East as it is commonly called. Egypt in 1989 was not the country of today and my frequent travels to the Sudan gave me a very good appreciation for this ancient culture and its people. I read quite a few books on the history and the geography of the area and it’s more modern history. Anyone can read about the Pharaohs but that is so far away from us to have little bearing on today’s world. I was more interested in the history from 1750 to today.
Then there was my stay and travel to Jordan, Syria and Iran. All in the newspapers constantly these days with much myth making to make the Official story stick. All this to say that all those countries have fascinating history and people. I met so many interesting people, many were just citizens and others belonged to prominent families but everyone had an interesting point of view which made for good listening and a very different perspective on their countries and the world. I came away far better informed and enlightened.
Why is it then that our Politicians get the analysis wrong most of the time? Many are un-educated and motivated by a political agenda based on their own personal quest for Power and greed. I cannot say that I met many intelligent politicians in my years, there were exceptions like Flora MacDonald who was a great lady or Joe Clark a very intelligent and capable man but too honest. Unfortunately I usually had to meet and escort the idiot politicians and staff, who formulate their ideas based on what they think will be popular with the masses and get them votes. The age of great policy making like that of Miracles is past. I also had Ambassadors I respected and who were good career diplomats and people you could learn from by listening to them explain a situation. I also had idiots in that group who thought too highly themselves.
To come back to my original point, I survived 33 years in the Foreign Service because I was willing to be flexible, look at the adventure or opportunities offered, make the effort to see the positive side of each of my 7 postings and other numerous area trips, read and study the area, learn the language and listen to the people and stay away from the poisonous ex-pat crowd, the locals are far more interesting.
To conclude I have here a bit of Russian Music, something to enjoy, best listened to if it is snowing lightly outside, if not close your eyes.
For some time I have been thinking of moving to WordPress, I was since 2007 at Blogger and had made about 740 posts with well over 134,000 readers so far. But I had done nothing about moving until the 26 December when disaster struck. I forgot my password and am unable to remember it. It will not come to me, so I thought here is my chance to move to WordPress. I am starting a new blog with a familiar name Larry Muffin at Home.
Larry is the English version of my name Laurent. The Muffin part am not sure where that came from, since I do not eat muffins and have no particular affection for them. But it came to me and I like the word. Maybe it is because Muffins are nice and give you a warm feeling, like warm Apple Pie or a good soup in Winter.
At home well home has been a theme in my life, since I have travelled our little planet most of my life. I travelled so much in the last 40 years that some people are envious, but travelling is not what it was and I not only travelled but also lived in exotic places when it was still nice out there and fairly safe. But to do this during a lifetime you have to be very flexible, like a 14-year-old ballerina, you have to be willing to accept pretty much everything that is presented to you no matter how foreign it is to you. So my home has been where I made a home for the time being, be it one year or two or more. Then it is time to move and establish a new home. So I re-invented myself all the time in various cultures and continents and made friends with all manner of people. I learned a lot about people but I also learned that often complete strangers were more interesting than my fellow Canadians.
Oh and if you think that I live alone and have no attachments, not so, I have been in a relationship, I say married for 38 years and have had 4 dogs during that time, all Dachshunds, short hair, long hair, and now wire hair.
So now I have re-invented a new life in Ottawa, the Capital of all the Canada. Retired and working as a volunteer interpreter, docent, guide and presenter in our National Museums.
Which brings me in contact with the public and has open a new field of study and learning. Working in the National Museums is also a charm and it makes me happy just to be there. I can say I have been lucky to land there in retirement and thank Fate who propelled me in that direction. I do believe in Fate.
So 2014 comes to a close and I look to the future and I know that 2015 will be full of new adventures.
As for the photo featured in this entry, I took this photo in June 2014 during our Summer visit to Dresden on the Elbe River. It is the Brühl Terrace facing the river Elbe a magnificent area of a city reborn of its ashes in all its Baroque splendour.
Telling the stories of the history of the port of Charlottetown and the marine heritage of Northumberland Strait on Canada's East Coast. Winner of the Heritage Award from the PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation and a Heritage Preservation Award from the City of Charlottetown