Saturday, April 11, 2015

Recollection - an unexpected stop in Uzbekistan, Central Asia

Readers who have been following my blog for a while know that I left Paris in the 1960s to travel to the USA and then stayed in San Francisco after I was married there.  I returned to Paris for a visit almost every year until my father passed away in 1974.  Then I journeyed home more often as my mother was stricken with Parkinson's disease.  I would go off-season, in the fall and spring and even, if I had some vacation time, during the winter holidays.  I would sometimes stop on my way to Paris or would go on a tangent to see some other cities, such as London, Amsterdam, or Brussels, etc.  I also took advantage of special French travel promotions for trips from Paris, such as Marrakesh, Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria.  I had a film camera and did not take many pictures - usually I would buy postcards.  Below is a photo I took of an island in Greece (could be Mykonos?) and the small aircraft that took me to another Greek Island, Chios.  The aircraft was so small that the pilot, who had entered through the back stairs, had to step over my knees to enter the cockpit - I was sitting in the first left-side front seat ...

In the fall of 1990 I had bought my ticket on Delta to visit my mother in Paris during the winter holidays.  Then I heard an ad from Delta, advertizing a special with Singapore Airlines as an "add-on" to a regular booked trip.  For about an extra $400 I could go round-trip from Paris to Singapore with two free stops.  I jumped at that, adding some vacation time and deciding that my stops would be Bangkok, Thailand and Jakarta, Indonesia.  From Jakarta I booked an Indonesian airline flight to the island of Bali with a stop in Yogyakarta to visit the Buddhist Borobudur Temple.  (I took film photographs and will have posts on these stops in the future.)  From Singapore I took a one-day excursion to Johore Bahru, Malaysia, visiting a typical food market, an artist studio and the famous Sultan Abu Bakar State Mosque - see my film pictures below.

I had reserved my return trip home for January 14, 1991, as I knew that the Gulf War - Desert Storm - would start on January 15 or thereabout.  My Singapore Airlines flight left late on the 14th so I still had a full day to tour the city.  It was very warm and humid - 95 degrees F or more (35 C.)  I remember that I had packed my coat for my arrival in Atlanta and was just wearing a white tee-shirt, white trousers and sneakers.  This was to be a non-stop 13 1/2 hour flight to Paris.  Then another 10 hours to fly from Paris to Atlanta.  We left on time, were given a snack and then the lights were deemed.  The plane was full - it was a Boeing Jumbo Jet, the 747 double deck aircraft with 500 + passengers.  (Below is a similar aircraft, courtesy Wikipedia Commons.)

After several hours most people were asleep.  The passengers were a mixture of tour groups, Japanese, French retirees, Italians, and other nationalities.  I woke up as the flight attendants were walking up and down the aisles very quickly, and noticed smoke in the air.  Just then a bell was heard and the captain spoke in English on the loudspeaker, saying that we had to get prepared for an emergency landing as there was a fire in the cargo.  He added that we were over mountains with no airport and that he would do his utmost to fly north a bit farther for a safe landing.  The man next to me woke up.  We looked at the map trying to find out where we were.  We figured out by flight time that we were over Afghanistan.  He introduced himself as an engineer from Aerospatiale (at the time a French state-owned aerospace manufacturer.)  The flight attendants were gone, people were getting very agitated, some started praying aloud, children were screaming, and we could see more smoke.  I felt funny really - not wanting to think that we may crash.  I translated for the French retirees around me, telling them what was happening, and then we waited.

The aircraft was going down; people started shouting for some reason.  The engineer next to me advised that I should take my pillow and place it around my head for protection.  He added that if and when we landed oxygen entering the aircraft could provoke an explosion and if so to start running ... but we landed, the engines were turned off.  Everything was black outside but we could see snow and some aircraft, far off in the distance.  Since I had taken some language course I realized that it was Russian.  The word "Аэрофлот" in Russian which means Aeroflot was painted on the parked aircraft.  Where were we?  Somewhere in the Soviet Union we guessed, but where?  After about 1/2 hour or so some vehicles with blue lights sped toward us.  We were told buses would be coming shortly.  They did and everyone deplaned.  Since I was wearing a short sleeve tee-shirt and it was cold I picked up a blanket from the aircraft to wrap around my shoulders.  It turned out that we were at the Tashkent airport in Uzbekistan, Central Asia. (300 miles from Afghanistan.)

We were brought into a large hall and told to wait for the airport manager who had been awaken.  It must have been around 2 or 3 am local time.  The manager arrived and spoke in English.  He told us that our aircraft could not fly out safely anymore and that we had to stay in Tashkent.  Customs Declaration Forms were given to us to fill as temporary visas and we had to give our passports.  I gave my French passport as it is safer to travel as a French citizen than a US one.  (Later we were told no US citizens had been on board ...) Below are pictures I took of us waiting at the airport and the airport itself.

 Buses took us to a huge hotel where I was paired with a young Japanese lady because she spoke Italian (and I do too) and we went to sleep.  Next morning we had breakfast in a large room, similar to an institution hall (dark bread and weak coffee or tea.)  The architecture was pure Soviet.  The staff was very friendly though.

The passengers were told to queue up to make a call home - "the waiting will be long" they said.  Some made arrangements to get away to other cities then on to Paris.  But I was flying to Atlanta.  I decided not to call home since it was still night time in Georgia.  I would try to call later.  Wearing my white outfit with my aircraft lavender blanket I decided to take a walk and look at the city.  It was quite cold.  There was a large park nearby so I walked there.  People passed me then stopped and stared - I certainly was not the type of person to see on a winter day in Tashkent! I found some old photos you can see below and a postcard - photo of hotel front door with some passengers, a large building close by, a postcard of a street near the hotel, and me in the park near a big sculpture.

Most people looked Asians to me, wearing heavy dark coats and fur hats.  I went back into the hotel to see if I could find a hat.  I found one at the gift shop, a nutria fur hat, bought it and went back outdoors.  Now I looked very eccentric with my white outfit, lavender blanket and black fur hat.  I still have the hat but don't wear it often as it is not cold enough in Georgia.  I just took its picture but it is difficult to see.  I checked on eBay and found the exact same hat - they are asking $140 for it! Mine was $40 I recall and thought it was outrageous.

I bought some postcards then but have misplaced them.  But below are some vintage postcards of Tashkent, and a 1980 view of my hotel lobby.  The top picture at the center is a sculpture called "Courage" commemorating the victims of the 1966 earthquake that destroyed 36,000 houses and left 300,000 homeless in Tashkent.  (Click on collage to enlarge.)

In the early evening I called my office (Georgia is 9 hours behind Tashkent.)  At first my boss refused the call when they said "call from the USSR" thinking it was a joke.  I told the operator to give out my name.  That time he answered and asked "what in the h*** are you doing there?"  I finally explained and asked him to call my husband in the evening, at home, to tell him not to worry; I just would arrive a couple of days late.  I was in Uzbekistan in January 1991 and the dissolution of the Soviet Union happened on December 26, 1991.  See map below.

Uzbekistan has a long history.  People have settled there for centuries.  The Great Silk Road that connected Asia and Europe went through the historic cities of Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva and Shash (modern Tashkent.)  This contributed to the development of Central Asia.  When the Soviet power was proclaimed in 1917 Uzbekistan started a guerrilla war to stay independent but in 1924 the Red Army was victorious.  In 1924 the country became the Uzbek SSR, within the Soviet Union.  After the large earthquake of 1966 which destroyed the major part of the old city of Tashkent, the Soviet rebuilt it with USSR architects in the current style of the period.  The Republic of Uzbekistan was proclaimed as an independent state after the collapse of the USSR.  It became a member of the UN in 1992.  The distance from Singapore to Tashkent is 3,491.1 miles or 5618.4 kilometers.  The distance from Tashkent to Moscow, Russia is 1734 miles or 2790.6 km - which is more than Columbus, Ohio to Salt Lake City (1711 miles.)  The Tashkent population in 2012 was 2.3 million people.  Uzbekistan is well known for its craftsmen working with wood, cooper, jewelry, fabric and more. 

The passengers in the hotel were not looking very happy and some had already left on flights to Moscow.  I went to get a hot cup of tea and joined another passenger who was holding a cup.  He was also wearing a white suit and was from Australia.  He said that he had found out that there was a disco at the hotel that served better food than we had been given and asked if I wanted to join him to investigate.  Sure, I was ready for some dancing (I was happy to be alive.)  So we went to the disco, ate some interesting food and danced.  I forgot his name but he was a good dancer.  He took my photo - here it is below - still wearing my white Thai tee-shirt.

The next day an empty Singapore Airlines aircraft had arrived and I flew in it to Paris, then on Delta to Atlanta.  A year later, I told a foreign airport employee who was touring our plant in Georgia about my stop in Tashkent.  She replied that she remembered the incident well since the airline had flown her to Tashkent from her home in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, to be a translator for the passengers stranded at the hotel (small world after all.)  All this happened a long time ago but I thought someday my grandchildren might find interesting to learn how their grandmother came to visit the USSR.  The photo below is the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Tashkent.  It was built in 1902-1905 and survived the 1966 earthquake.  At the top of this post I show this same cathedral after I worked on it with my new cell phone app.






Saturday, March 28, 2015

Six years of blogging ... and daffodils

Six years ago, in late March 2009, when we traveled to Long Beach, California, to celebrate my birthday with our daughter who lived there at the time, I did not know that I would start a blog.  She encouraged me and designed the blog for me as I was not very computer savvy.  Little did I know that I would still be blogging years later and obtaining so much pleasure from it.

Through the blog I have made good friends - some I have met in person.  Some people have commented that my posts must take considerable time to write.  Most often they don't.  I write titles for each future post subject on a document - as I think about them and to avoid forgetting.  With one post title on every other line my document for future posts is now 8 pages long!  I won't run out of posts ideas for years and don't have time for blog memes or blog challenges.  For example I thought about writing the post on love locks in Paris in 2011 when I first noticed them on the Pont des Arts.  Then, as time passed, whenever I read something about love locks I would add it to my document.  When I finally wrote the post last month, I had accumulated 6 pages of notes and photos, so the post was written very quickly.  I remember most of my future post titles and if I find a postcard or a quotation which is appropriate I make a note of it for later use.

I enjoy reading comments and visiting friends' blogs.  I keep track of all the comments I receive and will eventually go on each blogger's blog to read their posts.  After reading all their past posts I'll write a comment on the latest post so as not to input lengthy comments.  There is such a diversity of blogs that I like to look at new ones and comment on some of them.  If after I have visited a new blog three times and left comments, the owner of the blog does not respond on their blog or come to mine at least once, I stop writing comments.  I feel that to be acknowledged by a blogger is like being invited into the community of that blog.  Just like at a party, if that new person you have been introduced to just says "hi" and walks away, it means that person is not interested in talking to you.  So the same applies to a new blog for me.  If that blog is super interesting, I may go back to it from time to time but won't ever comment again.  How do you handle this?

Most of my posts have been about my travels, old and new trips.  Here are 10 titles, taken at random, that are written on my document for future posts (not including posts about growing up in Paris, my youth there and my family in France) - Johann Strauss, Jr. house in Vienna, Jardin des Plantes in Paris, Return to St. Petersburg, Russia, The Port of Dubrovnik, Croatia, The Pink Lake in Senegal, Old Streets in Malta, Victorian Garden in Halifax, Nova Scotia, A German bakery in San Antonio, Texas, Visiting the Shawshank Redemption prison, and The Potemkin Steps in Odessa, Ukraine.  Sooner or later I'll write on each one of these subjects - but it may take me another six years!  For this post I'll write about something springy and fun - a pretty yellow flower announcing the end of winter.  I give you   the daffodil.

The Daffodil

"I wandered lonely as a cloud
  That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
 A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze ...

Where, may you  ask, did I see this crowd of golden daffodils?  I saw them fluttering and dancing in the breeze in a beautiful garden in the foothills of the North Georgia Mountain this past Tuesday, March 24, 2015.  (Click on collage to enlarge.)

This garden is in Ball Ground, Georgia, about 1 hour north of our house.  It is called Gibbs Gardens after its founder and owner, Jim Gibbs, who after majoring in landscape architecture and horticulture became owner of the award-winning Gibbs Landscape Company in Smyrna, Georgia.  This is what Jim Gibbs says: "I started building Gibbs Gardens in 1980 but my dream of creating a world-class garden in the Atlanta area began many years earlier.  That dream took shape as I traveled all over the world visiting unique and amazing gardens.  Inspired by their beauty and the artistry of their designers, I spent more than 30 years designing and developing the Gardens creating 220 acres of landscaped gardens along spring-fed streams, ponds and lakes, surrounded by hillsides covered with mature woodlands.  With this magnificent scenery as my canvas, I've been committed to achieving a balance between natural and man-made elements to create "the harmony of nature" throughout  Gibbs Gardens."  Below is Mr. Gibbs and the entrance to the gardens.

Since 1987 millions of daffodil bulbs have been planted in Gibbs Gardens.  Now more than 20+ millions daffodil blossoms representing 60 varieties are blanketing 50-plus acres of rolling hills, fields and valleys.  For about 6 weeks early, mi and late-season varieties cover the gardens with blooms ranging from white to saffron including primrose-yellow, yellow, gold, orange and pink.  The American Daffodil Society believes that these gardens have the largest display of daffodils in the US.

In addition, Gibbs Gardens offer 16 designed garden venues, including 40 acres of Japanese Gardens, seven flowering terraces covering 150 feet elevation from the Tudor-style mansion, Arbor Crest Manor House, to the valley, and 10 miles of walking and running paths.  A tram took us to "Daffodil Hills" and from there we walked up and down the path to the Manor House.

Below are maps of the Manor House and gardens, and the Valley Gardens (click on collage to see better.)

The weather was warm (73+ F/23 C) and dry with a light wind.  It was hard not to stop every few steps to take pictures of this great panorama of golden daffodils.  We passed by other flowers too - camellias, and flowering bushes.

We stopped and sat on a bench facing the Fish Pool and Waterfall.

Several stone sculptures were placed among the flowers and shrubs.

We arrived at the terraced gardens around the Manor House and were greeted by a spectacular flowering tulip tree.

At the Cabana and Pool more little waterfalls were flowing into the pool.

A multitude of bright pansies brought splashes of colors.

We sat on rocking chairs for a while, watching Mount Oglethorpe facing us.  A hawk was flying in the distance.

Then we walked around the house, getting glimpses of the interior,

and going toward the sculpture of a child and cat.

Walking downhill we passed by more daffodils, flowering trees and sculptures.

I had brought three cameras with me and wish I could show all the photos I took.  Passing the bear statue we kept going down toward the Japanese Gardens.

The formal Japanese Gardens are best viewed during fall colors with all their brilliant maples.  The gardens cover 40 acres and have seven spring-fed ponds as well as 40 handcrafted Japanese lanterns.  Gibbs Gardens gives a calendar that shows what is blooming each month.  They sell daffodil bulbs as well.

Gibbs Gardens are colorful every season with the Fern Dell, the azaleas, rhododendrons, roses, holly and crape myrtles, cherry blossoms, dogwoods and all the wildflowers.  Below are seasonal views of the gardens, courtesy Gibbs Gardens.

The Monet Water Lily Gardens feature 140 varieties of unique lilies.  In summer the Japanese Bridge - an exact replica of Monet's Garden arched teal bridge in Giverny (near Paris) is covered with wisteria - you can see it in the collage above.  In the spring, the Monet Garden is still lovely bordered by daffodils, or "jonquilles" to use the French word.

Passing by Monet's bridge we walked across several little wood bridges.  There were still many daffodils blooming all around us, flowering trees, sculptures, ponds and more.

We were now back to the gardens entrance but saw that a last tram was leaving to ride to the top of the hill offering views of the North Georgia Mountains.  We jumped on it to get a last glimpse of all the daffodil blossoms covering meadows and hills.

Reluctantly walking to our car, we stopped one last time over the entrance bridge to take a final look at the brook, the pansies and more daffodils.

This had been a feast for the eyes and the senses.  I wished I could take loads of daffodils home, but they will have to stay in my memory.


I gazed - and gazed - but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:


For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils."

-William Wordsworth, 1770-1850

Painted by Ludmila Skripchenko, artist from Yalta, Ukraine

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Bulloch Hall 33rd Quilt Show and more ...

Since my posts are written just every few weeks I may include some other items that are not related to the title of the post, which is why I wrote "and more ..."  This month I would like to attach photos of the newest member of our extended family.  The brother and sister in law of our youngest daughter greeted a new baby girl and portraits were taken of her when she was 7 weeks old (shown below.)  The baby's parents were born in the US but the grand-parents (my daughter's father and mother-in-law) came over from the state of Kerala, in India.  The baby looks so angelic in the photos that I wanted to share them.  (Portraits courtesy of Shannon Leigh Studios in Lawrenceville, GA.)

Also this month as I was looking at old pictures, I decided to add some extra photos to an earlier post on an historic house in Georgia.  The post was written on June 10, 2009, entitled "Shoulderbone Plantation."  Click here to read it and look at all the new pictures in the post "Addendum."  Below are some of the new pictures I added.

March 9, 2015 marked the one year anniversary of the petition launched by two women in Paris trying to ban love locks from Paris bridges.  I talked about this in my last post.  The "No Love Locks" petition counts now more than 10,335 signatures and the City of Paris is paying attention, although this administration does not move quickly.  Click here to read the No Love Locks Facebook page, in French or English.  Below is the Pont des Arts as it bears more destruction. (Photo courtesy No Love Locks and Michel Gauret.)

Paris is not alone in suffering from tourists' defacing its historic monuments.  I just read that last Monday, two American tourist women were arrested in Rome after they were caught carving their initials on the Coliseum (built in 70-80 AD.)  The two California women carved an "N" and a "J" with a coin on the monument, then snapped a selfie photograph.  They totally later wondered why all the fuss was about since the Coliseum was not a "new" building ...  The Italian Police quickly arrested them.  The women will have to face a judge and pay a penalty.  But do not think only American tourists vandalize priceless historic monuments as last November a Russian tourist was arrested for the same offense.  He was given a 4-month suspended prison sentence and a 20,000 Euros fine ($21,800) which has not been paid yet for lack of funds.  Here is a vintage postcard of the Coliseum in Rome.

Bulloch Hall, in Roswell, Georgia, was built in 1840 for the Bulloch family.  The house is linked with two presidents of the United States since their daughter, Mittie Bulloch, became the wife of Theodore Roosevelt, Sr., parents of the 26th president.  The younger Bulloch son, Elliot, was the father of Eleanor, the wife of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd President.  We have visited Bulloch Hall several times, twice before for both the quilt shows and at Christmas time.  Click here and here to read a couple of previous posts and more history.  We visited the house for the quilt show on Tuesday, March 10, 2015.  The weather was warm, in the low 70s (21 C) but overcast.  Even without the sun it is always a pleasure to take pictures of this lovely mansion.  As we approached the house, greeted by pretty daffodils, we noticed that this year there was a quilt on the front door.

The theme for the 2015 quilt show is "Celebrations!"  It features 196 antique and contemporary quilts.  They were displayed throughout the 1840 house museum.  Last year I wrote 3 posts, one for each floor and the attic, but this year I'll write one post only, so I won't be able to show all the quilts - I took over 300 photographs!  I'll place as many as possible in collages that can be enlarged by clicking on the collage.  The largest quilts are exhibited in the Front Hall and some of the smallest on doors, and pieces of furniture.

Some very small quilts were displayed on a wall and a pillow on a stool.  Little quilts were made in remembrance of a fellow quilter member "Remembering Margaret Betz" who passed away in June 2014, no. 107.  (Remember to click on collages to enlarge.)

The brillian quilt over the chimney seemed to lighten the whole dining room (No. 13 by Karen Gornall of Suwanee, GA.)

My husband liked quilt no. 30, below, "Butterfly Prayers" by Ann Quandee of Jasper, GA.  It is dedicated to her late friend, Margaret Betz.

In the Informal Parlor was quilt no. 45 "Follow the Color Way."  This was a 2014 summer challenge interpreted by members of the Quilters Transfiguration Catholic Church.  The members designed and quilted their individual blocks and the quilt was finished by Pat McShane Wilson, Marietta, GA.

More quilts on doors and small areas of walls are shown below.

Quilt no. 67 - center top below - has a fitting name "Color Riot Big Orange Back" by Sandra Teepen of Atlanta, GA.

In the Warming Room was another colorful quilt, quilt no. 33 "Split Rail Quilt" by Peggy Delmar, of Atlanta and a group of Intown Quilters.  Quilt no. 26 is named "Row Houses" by Subha Thrivikraman of Tucker, GA.

Quilts are quintessential covering for antique beds, such as the quilt on the master bed, no. 77 "Grandmother's Flower Garden" by Alberta Irwin of Atlanta.  She says "It took a long time to get all the pieces made.  English paper piecing is great for passing the time in airports, emergency rooms and doctors' offices."

Before leaving the Master Bedroom we admired quilt no. 82 "Basket Case" by Jan Antranikian of Alpharetta, GA.  Jan says "I made these open baskets and have filled them with pictures of my crazy girlfriends."

In the Library was one of my favorite quilts draped on a sofa, no. 92 "Texas Braid" by Patsy Eckman of Cumming, GA.

Below, my husband is looking at the computer listing all the quilts.  Behind him is quilt no. 3 "Civil War Melody" by Susan Riser of Atlanta, Ga., a quilt inspired by popular Civil War songs.  Next to him is the entrance to the Parlor where the quilts by Dawn Williams Boyd of Atlanta are exhibited.  She is the 2015 Special Exhibit Artist and her quilts are not to be photographed.

Upstairs more quilts were waiting to be admired.  I especially liked quilt no. 120 "Amazing Boxes" by Laura Tate, Brookhaven, GA., who says "I collected 25 shirts from thrift stores then I made two of these quilts and most of both backs.  I still have fabric let."

Quilts on a Christmas theme were displayed in the Sewing Room.  Quilt no. 143, draped on the table is "Christmas Long Ago" by Nancy French, Dunwoody, GA., and on the door, quilt no. 138 is "Japanese Rose" by Menku Ozumerzifon of Norcross, GA.

More quilts were in bedrooms, including quilts for children and even a doll bed quilt.

I walked up carefully to the attic, as the stairs are uneven and very steep.  There were more lovely quilts to please the eyes.  Some were hanging against the walls; others were hanging free in the middle of the attic.  Quilt no. 182 "Summer Holiday" by Maetha Elliott of Kennesaw, GA., was made with upholstery fabric as a background for the flags.

 Some were draped on furniture and a bed.  Quilt no. 171 "Bursting Star" was hand-quilted for Pat Simone of Dunwoody, GA., by her mother in 1977-78.

Then I walked back down, stopping on the first floor stairs to look closely at quilt no. 97 "Tales of a Thousand Threads" by Elizabeth Frolet of Dunwoody, GA.

It was time to find my husband.  He was sitting on the front porch in a rocking chair watching a hawk way up in a tree.  I tried to take its photograph even though it was a bit far for my lens.

We walked away toward our car, stopping again to look at the perky daffodils.

As we drove away we saw that the house adjacent to Bulloch Hall was for sale.  I stopped and took some photographs (I could still see Bulloch Hall from the front yard.)  Later I checked and found out that the house is called the "Dolvin House" after its late owner, Emily F. Gordy Dolvin (1912-2006) also known as Aunt Sissy.  She was the youngest of nine children and one of her sisters, Lillian Gordy Carter was the mother of Jimmy Carter, the 39th President of the United States.  The two-story house was built in 1900, has 4,160 square feet and a 1.45 acre garden.  The asking price was $1,250.000 but, if any of you would like to purchase it, it is too late as there is a contract on this house and it is no longer on the market. :-)  This house is in front of another historic home "Mimosa Hall" where I went last autumn for an estate sale - click here to see the post on it.

At the end of the road was the Roswell Square where we stopped at a small restaurant called "Spiced Right Rib House Barbecue."  My husband had a sandwich with two sides and I had part of his sandwich and two sides - corn casserole and fried okra.  It felt great to sit down.



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