Tag Archives: street scenes

My Kind of Town, Obama Town

A few days before coming to Chicago, I listened to a few of the Obama Foundation Summit live stream broadcasts by young upcoming community activists. As a reminder, Obama began his career here in this city. His legacy is present and inspires a whole new generation of future leaders, not only in Chicago, but throughout the world. He is committed to helping communities lift themselves through positive shared efforts.

One of the great achievements is the community created by sculptor, artist, and entrepreneur Theaster Gates. He purchased a neglected bank building in South Chicago from the city for $1. He raised money and developed the Stony Island Arts Bank, a library, media archive and community center for Rebuild’s archives and collections. He used recycled materials from other sites as well as those in the building. Members of the community come to this center to preserve, access, reimagine, and share their heritage. See photos of the center below.

An early morning visit to the University of Chicago campus enabled us to get a bonus tour of the Robie House on campus. Originally for a wealthy patron, this residence was also used by UIC students. It has finally been restored to its residential charm and glory (see captions).

Sandwiched in between Downtown Chicago and UIC is the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) campus. Designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the strictly Modernist approach for the campus buildings was stiflingly evident.

Little seemed out of place in Crown Hall, the Architectural Building (see the lobby chairs), except for the people and the architectural work underway. The huge open space predates current “collaboration space”. The vacuous interior without walls masked unwanted noise brilliantly. Julianne and I wondered how we would have survived an architectural training in what seemed like such a limiting environment.

The Student Services Center was the counterpoint to the collection of Miesian buildings on the IIT campus. Designed by OMA in Rotterdam, the firm broke all the International-style rules (thanks to recommendations and commentary support from architect/daughter).

And finally, we made it back to the Chicago Cultural Center to see displays of models, drawings, and photographs of numerous architectural projects throughout the world. A few that caught my attention were:

“A Room of One’s Own”–Sketches of Rooms of Famous People

Models of Architectural Houses

And Miscellany:

Whimsical Plays on Skyscrapers by a Belgian Photographer cum Architect

Random shots of Millenium Park, the Bean, and City skyline

I can safely say that I satisfied my architectural curiosity today. I even paid attention to what I saw this time.

Post Cards from Macchu Picchu, Peru and Easter Island, Chile

As many of you know, I have been learning how to extract a latent energy in my brain to draw. Here are a few of the sketches I made during my trip to Macchu Picchu and Easter Island.

I’m including a video I edited for a film editing class project on Peru that will give those of you interested in the life and challenges there:

Join me and fellow architect and daughter next week when we will be visiting Chicago for a long weekend. See you then!!

Day 3-4: Cusco, Peru

Cusco is over 11,000 feet (3,399m) so it literally takes your breath away. It takes a couple of days to get used to the high altitude, so I hope you will excuse my temporary silence. It still took a bit of huffing and puffing to walk just a few steps at a shallow incline. I finally got acclimated enough for a full day of visiting Saqsayhuaman and Tambomachay, two Incan ruins outside Cusco. The first showed the extensive construction of terraced walls of sandstone, and the latter showed how the Inca developed and conserved water through irrigation and waterways. The Inca were very concerned about the predominant dryness of the area, and they developed ingenious ways to combat the forces of nature.

The rest of the afternoon was spent visiting Qorikancha, or the Convent of Santa Domingo in town. The Incan priests that preceded the Spanish Catholics constructed thick limestone-surrounded storehouses to stockpile dried potato, quinoa, and other foodstuffs to combat the warm periods caused by El Nino at this site. The priests and nobles shared the food with the peasants when they were unable to produce food.

Before the rain hit in the afternoon, I took a walk around Cusco in the morning. It turned out to be a good idea. It didn’t rain on my parade! Apparently parades with a cast of thousands are held every Sunday to commemorate a school or celebration. Great for tourists like me, who stumbled into colorful event by accident.



Braided Ladies in town were preparing to sell or selling their wares in the Plaza de Armas:

Glimpses of my delightful hotel in the early morning sun reminded me of similar intimate hotel stays in Cappodoccia, Turkey, and in Essaouira, Morocco:

Treated to a room with a view, I made time to sketch!

Last, but not least, the end to a satisfying day was topped by a delicious and adventurous meal of alpaca brochettes at Pachapapa Restaurant. It was lean, well-prepared, and tasted far less gamey than venison. Unfortunately, Jusannah (my new Brazilian friend in Lima) and I ordered the specialty dish of guinea pig the other night but it was cancelled. This restaurant had the dish on the menu, but it would have taken an hour, to prepare and not worth the wait.

The next couple of days will be heavy traveling to Macchu Picchu, so I probably won’t be posting until after I return to Cusco. Keep sending those comments!

Try to Remember…

When was the last time you were in San Francisco in September with the temperature over 100 degrees?  With the advent of Labor Day and subsequent heat waves, San Francisco experienced record temperatures (over 106 degrees reported downtown??). The freak weather sparked a lot of unusual behavior–like packed parks with… what!?! people in them (See featured sketch above, at noon on 9/5/17 at the 100 First Street roof terrace).

Girls flung their normally conservative city modesty to the winds and were wearing skin-tight and flimsy almost see-through dresses. And surfers surfing at Ocean Beach without wetsuits!?! It must be an indication of the positive effect that weather has on our foggy Bay Area brains–and that we’re actually and finally capable of adaptation!

The Fall Semester has also descended. I finally consolidated my myriad choices for classes. As always, I pick more things from the buffet line than I can eat. San Francisco’s City College is free for residents starting this year, so I can gluttonize myself even more. I decided to forego the German classes this term. Instead, I opted for a purely hedonistic art and music program. I am continuing my figure drawing classes with the fantastic Ms. Diane Olivier. You may remember her from my incredible Moroccan sketching adventure in June. She continues to teach at the Fort Mason site where all the lifelong art students congregate.

As part of our class assignment in Art, we are expected to sketch daily. One of the better ways I accomplish this is joining Meet-ups for Sketchers. We draw in various parts of the city (Nob Hill, office buildings, events in the Park, etc). There seems to be a spontaneous combustion of happenings thanks to the internet. I can join several in one week if I choose to.  There are similar meet-ups worldwide, so I am really excited about these prospects in the future. Sketching outdoors has been great art therapy for me and a memorable way to view and record the city other than with a camera. Click on images below for captions.

Places

I’m making my ginger foray into Music in two directions. First, I toyed with both introductory piano and violin. Yes, I took lessons many years ago and only enough to allow me to play in solitary confinement. The incentive for the piano class was a fleet of brand-new digital Yamaha pianos.

I decided to forego the equipment upgrade and a cast of 20+ students for a beginning violin class of only 15 students (20-15=5x more attention from the instructor). My old violin that had been left unattended for decades was finally in the money again. You can imagine the delight from the poor violin’s standpoint.  It was dripping with sound from its inner belly and oozing through the curly-que slits to the world.  I could barely remember how to tighten the bow and prep it with rosin. Forget tuning and blowing up the rest pad–I had to rely on the instructor’s help for both.

Second, my next musical class is about music awareness.  We will learn more about opera using Elektra, Turandot, and La Traviata from the San Francisco Opera season. We have access to orchestra seats for $35! This is almost as good as being a Goethe Institute student in Berlin. I thought this class would be a pushover until I had to write two papers. I discovered that I had no music theory, background, or ability to explain anything in proper musical terms. Hopefully this class will improve my musical awareness!!

People

Last but not least…Emperor Norton found in the stacks of the Mechanics Library in Downtown San Francisco…during a treasure hunt. You can join the private library for a nominal fee with access to many up and coming books and their authors.

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In a couple of weeks, I plan to travel to Peru and Chile.  I’ll be visiting Macchu Picchu and Easter Island. Please join me for a bit of fun and adventure! As usual, my focus will be on art, architecture, anthropology, and food!  If you want to opt out of email notifications, you can change your settings in WordPress. Until then…

Day 71-72: End of the Rainbow

Alas, I am at the end of my fourth world trip. After 11 flights, 11 train trips, and numerous bus, taxi and private car transfers, I will have successfully completed my world travel goal for this year. We met old friends and made new ones. We gained much deeper understanding and appreciation of our roots. And as mentioned previously, I overcame my fear of drawing!! Like any phobia, it is easy to avoid what you fear most. I grabbed the bull by the horn and grappled with it. It was so easy it wasn’t even a contest. I just simply had to do it!

Granted, the circumstances were perfect, and for that, I must give credit to an incredible teacher and artist extraordinaire, Diane Olivier. Don’t miss my tribute to her in the video posted on Day 58, Moroccan Magic.

Our last day in Hong Kong included a visit to the Man Mo Temple near our Air BNB and a walk along Bowen Path. It is one of the best kept secrets of Hong Kong. It winds for three miles along the Mid-Levels in a horizontal stretch. The torrential rains that day drenched us with plenty of waterfall activity along the route. (See also Day 66, 2014, tagged below.)

We stopped for lunch at Lin Heung, an old Hong Kong mainstay. You rinse your dishes in discarded hot tea that is brewed and poured at the table.

So, until next time, Farewell! Please send me any comments you wish to share about what you liked or didn’t –I heard that there were too many opera posts so cut back (of course only after leaving Germany!!). Do write, and I definitely will write back!

Thanks to all for following travelswithmyselfandothers.  As you know, this is a personal pursuit of my favorite activities and being able to share it with you gives me the greatest pleasure.  I hope to see each and every one of you (whom I can recognize by name) in the next year–let’s make a date!

Auf Wiedersehen, 在见,  وداعا!!

VickieVictoria

P.S. In an effort to sketch every day, here are a few sketches of people eating at breakfast and still lifes of dishes that didn’t get posted.

P.S.S. Last of series of daily sketches:

Addendum: Apologies to the last few comments that didn’t get answered: I have just returned home and am in a state of recovering to bright blue skies and 72 degree weather…will write back soon!!

Days 65-68 Lives of Others in Guangzhou, China

Like in Hong Kong, searching for old remains in Guangzhou has been puzzling. Many of the vestiges of the arcaded colonial city have been erased and replaced by newer, taller buildings. We headed to the area where Gee Kin’s relatives live, and what used to be the West Gate. It has been subsumed by modern development and is now considered part of the inner city.

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Yet activity in the area carries on like it did a hundred years ago or before. You see both men and women pushing or pulling hand carts along the road, scurrying and balancing the goods adeptly and efficiently at a pace more like a gallop than a prance. I watched for awhile in fascination, as social consciousness doesn’t seem to inhibit delivering goods this way and better, faster, cheaper.

The neighborhood shops may seem mundane to tourists, but the local market economy appeared to fully support the array (mixed used at its fullest: nuts and bolts fabricators next door to pastry shops, electrical repair next to fast food–you get the drift) of products and services offered.

Each shop relies on street for light and ventilation. That gave me plenty opportunity to poke my curious and annoying head inside. For some reason this reminded me of  Amsterdam’s red light district. The curtainless windows of the Dutch tidy “shops” openly invited customers to have a peak just like these shops in West Gate (Ximen Kou) did.

Shop assistants check their WeChat accounts frequently in between serving customers. You get a distinct impression that it’s not a bad system for the full employment act, even if the shopkeepers are bored and inattentive at times. The use of cell phones to combat boredom is nothing new throughout the world, but it’s remarkable if you look at the regularity and density of shopkeepers with cell phones staked in this area.

Earlier in the week, we visited one of my star architecture students who now lives and works in his home town of Guangzhou. Lam is a talented designer who is a partner in his own firm. It has been furiously designing shopping malls and theme parks all over China.

Lam’s “industrial chic” office could outdo any firm in the States as a showcase for innovative design. The office contains an experimental kitchen and full pig roaster. Rest and eating areas, conference rooms, and a library are all available to staff. The work areas are divided into manageable rooms or suites and therefore do not follow the pattern of open office design of most architectural firms. Large murals depicting the rebellion against the Qing Dynasty is provided by one of the partners.

As part of continuing research on my family’s history, I asked our friend Susan to accompany us to various institutions throughout the city. The new Guangzhou Book Store is one of the largest in the country. It was filled with floors of books and periodicals scattered between boutiques for Chinese calligraphy brushes and inkstands, tea ware, and books for sale.

Our second stop at the also new Guangzhou Library was another fascinating glimpse into the future of Guangzhou. With such excellent facilities, the hearts and minds of the students and researchers are captured. The north west reference room at the top where we were directed contained scholar’s rosewood furniture and fretwork screens. It was a noble nod to China’s classical examination system and its history and dedication to education.

Everywhere throughout China, you feel that it is a country on the move. There isn’t much time to stop and reflect on the speed and delivery of everything, from data to food to train tickets (they arrived at our hotel as promised). It’s exciting to witness, explore, and engage in the collective spirit.

Day 62-64: Hunkering Down in Hong Kong

Returning to Hong Kong has a romantic flair to it, as this is the city where Gee Kin and I met. I was a young architect starting in the profession, and Gee Kin was reinitiating his career as a structural engineer. There’s no doubt we were impressed with each other, particularly with our mutual sense of humor. While our relationship developed slowly by today’s standards, it gave us sufficient time to think about who we were and whether we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together or not. It must have worked, because we are still together over 35 years later.

Shortly after arrival in Hong Kong we encountered a typhoon. Known as Merbok, it was the first of the year. Everyone scurried to get groceries and head home at the end of the day. It was quiet and the streets were dead empty by early evening. It felt like Chinese New Year’s but without the festive atmosphere where shops are closed and everyone is at home with family celebrating.

After a couple of days of torrential rain, I was able to head outdoors. My first exploration was to the art studio downstairs, where I learned how to copy a Chinese flower pattern and paint with watercolors for the first time ever. It reminded me of second daughter Julianne’s brush painting from her high school days. I felt a bit awkward at painting in water colors, but the instructor was very kind and explained everything very clearly in Cantonese. It gave me a chance to reuse the lively language I learned while living in Hong Kong.

We decided to visit Fulham Garden in Pokfulam, where I lived when I worked for Hong Kong Mass Transit Railway. It wasn’t far from Central, but I had trouble remembering where the bus stop was located. The buildings are taller and there are more of them. Fortunately, there are still pockets that reflect and preserve old Hong Kong. After a quick look, we walked back to Central.

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There are public parks such as Blake Garden tucked into the hillside, as well as many of Hong Kong’s prestigious private and parochial schools. The narrow roads provide relief for old banyan trees that have lived there for centuries. They cling to sides of walls like stubborn old centurions and continue to gasp for air and suck water.

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Many new trendy boutiques and cafes line the pockets above Sai Ying Pun and Sheung Wan. These shops are dotted throughout the area where we are staying and are immersed between many staircases such as Ladder Street and the escalators that ascend from Central to Midlevels. The manual stairs are not as nice as our tiled steps in Golden Gate Heights, but purposeful. Finally, we scaled our Air BNB in the five-level walk-up after plenty of exercise on the hilly side streets.

Day 58: Moroccan Magic

As our last night in Essaouira drew to a close, we didn’t have much time for nostalgia or glee. Between crazy over the top activities immersed with deep dives into the culture and grabbing tips and tools for sketching, each day was exhaustingly satisfying.

Diane, our instructor extraordinaire, exuded penultimate confidence in her craft. We agreed she was, indeed, a wonder woman. I would never admit that soneone knew more than me about traveling, but Diane is over the top savvy and knowledgeable.

She’s the only person I know who can smoke a cigar sitting on the ground in the middle of a major thoroughfare sketching locals who love it, AND manage a herd of cats who continually ask the same question after it’s just been answered.

Here’s the link to the video I made and shared with everyone on the last night of our sketching expedition in Essaouira, Morocco.

And, for Customer Service: a few final quickies before leaving to head back to Marrakesh:

(Note: I’m en route via Geneva, Zurich, Frankfurt, and Beijing to Hong Kong. The internet may be a bit spotty, so don’t be surprised if you don’t hear from me for a few days!)

Day 56-57 Dromedary Dates

I’m not sure whether dromedaries or dates came first, but we had both in the same day. The one-humped camels, by the way, are called dromedaries.  Our group  of a dozen or so artists and students launched the camel ride at the surf shop in Essaouira. After being well-clad in Berber style scarves, we braved the mini-sandstorm and headed south along the beach.

Our guide made sure that the camels stayed in one line. They were amazingly docile and sweet, and only pooped occasional olive-sized pellets that acrobatically cartwheeled in the sand.

After about an hour, we headed to a sheltered area of trees for a grilled sardine and watermelon lunch prepared by our camel guide.

In the evening, we feasted at the home of Diane’s friend and guide, Hassan. During Ramadan, this was a particularly festive and meaningful occasion. The table was laid out with fat juicy dried dates. Next, a huge dune of toasted almond paste flattered by bread, followed by pizza, then chicken tagine with olives and fries, custard dessert, and mint tea. My stomach hurts from the memory of how much delicious food I couldn’t consume.

The next day, we buckled down with a perspective, sighting, and measuring session first thing in the morning. Here are a few before and after sketches:

Day 48-49: …They’re Taking Me to Marrakech…

When we were ferried out in a bus to the flight to Marrakesh at the Frankfurt Airport, I already sensed that the trip was not going to be a run-of-the-mill commuter. Instead, we ended up outside a hangar where planes were being repaired, and the lone plane outside looked as if it had been grounded for bad behavior.  The airport stretched for miles as far as the eye could see, between the Baltic and the Alps. I never realized that an airport could be THAT big, but Frankfurt was, like all German things, serious business.

We took off and landed three hours later to an another immense airport. The new Menara Airport, next to its old one, was so vast and empty that you wondered if they hadn’t put several square miles of the three largest airports in the world together and renamed it Menara. It was indeed a beautiful architectural masterpiece. Hopefully by a local architect. Regardless, it was impressive and ready to compete with Hong Kong, Paris or New York for tourists.

If you are in interesting places, it won’t be surprising to find that you are in a UNESCO world site without knowing it. That’s what happened here. Without trying, I discovered that the Medina of Marrakesh is indeed on the list. The history, the Islamic significant buildings (madrassas, mausoleums and mosques) and souks, or markets, all contribute to its status.

On an initial walk around the neighborhood of the hotel where we stayed, here were a few of the sights and sounds:

The Madrassah Ben Yousef was one of the earliest institutions of higher learning established in Marrakesh, where the doctors, lawyers and mullahs were trained.

The guilds within the market area preserve traditional crafts such as tanning, carpet weaving, metalwork, woodwork, and making argan oil and other pharmaceuticals for remedies.

The doorways are significant entry points through walls and into private spaces. Beautiful courtyards lie beyond reach for the public pedestrian. My guide explained, that after you arrive at someone’s home, you announce your presence. If they do not answer, you are never allowed to enter beyond the doorway, even if the place is accessible. That would be considered a breach of trust.

After a walk around the neighborhood on my own and a guided tour of the souk (market area later in the morning, I participated in a hands-on cooking class at the Clock Restaurant all afternoon. Its famous camel burger was on the menu, but we learned how to make tame versions of traditional dishes that included harisa soup, chicken tagine, eggplant caviar, and biscuits with dates.

And the Chef de Cuisine:

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At the end of a very busy day, I could escape to my suite in the historic Riad Dar Mouassine (also photo featured above)

Tomorrow: On to the Drawing Boards!!!