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Hanoi Oi!

Day at the Polo Club

 
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A lovely Sunday afternoon at the Lahore Polo Club.

Return to Indonesia

More than a decade after spending a semester studying the Indonesian language at the University of Indonesia on the outskirts of the unruly city of Jakarta, it was time to revisit Java, see old friends, taste familiar flavors. And, of course, get some of the sunshine and outdoor air that I sorely lack in my current setup. In an abbreviated, and admittedly more comfortable, version of an epic 2004 backpacking adventure, I spent the first week and a half of January traveling the length of Java, Indonesia’s most developed island and political center, from the capital Jakarta to first island to the East, Bali.

Even after so long, the warmth of the embrace of old friends was astonishing. Visceral memories came flooding back, as did the language, in bits and chunks. Truly one of my favorite places.

This volcano died a long time ago, leaving a magnificent dome.
Central Java is full of amazing caves and rumbling volcanoes.

And why not stop by Bangkok on the way back to work? This was my first time in one of Asia’s most fascinating cities in… well I’m not sure how long! It’s been a while.

Giant golden reclining Buddha

And the food. Oh, the food. A selection from across Java, Bali, and Bangkok

A Good Place to Get Stranded

The minibus from Rize, Turkey got me to Camlihensin, and in that wonderful little mountain town in the Firtina valley I jumped in a van whose driver was apparently accepting money for rides. (The music selection on the radio was all his, I soon discovered)
Finally, I made it to the day’s destination, the Middle Ages era castle Zil Kale, first a defense and lookout post for the Black Sea towns for eastern threats, later an important point along the trade route further west into today’s Turkey.

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The trip from the coast south into the Kackars mountain range of northern Turkey would have been worth it in itself, but the castle was fantastic.
My next destination was the village of Ayder, further to the east in the mountains. This didn’t seem too over ambitious on the map, but doubts arose when there were no buses from the castle back to the main road, 13 kilometers down a cliff side road.
Luckily, two friendly local Turkish fellows found this strange lost American curious enough that they crammed me the back seat along with their fishing gear, a few watermelons from a mountainside farm, and a pile of freshly caught river fish.

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To my surprise the driver broke out in fantastic English, explaining that he lived in southern Georgia, USA for about ten years at some point.

“I didn’t have a green card or anything, I was jus working in some Turkish restaurant there. But no one helped me out,” he trailed off, leaving me to assume he came home before he would have liked. “America is the greatest country on earth,” he concluded.

I made it to Ayder, an admittedly gorgeous valley town, but it has become such a tourist trap as to make it unpleasant, unfortunately.

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The town, with its majestic waterfall and full service hot springs spa, has for some reason become a favorite among tourists from the Middle East, many of the women and girls slowly swaying up the cobblestoned streets of Ayden in full black Burkas. The minibus back to Rize, my own “base camp,” was me and one large Saudi man, his three wives and seven children.

Longmen Grottoes

Journey to Ningxia

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Tianjin’s Fashionable Folks

Tianjin Youngsters

Tianjin Youngsters

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Cleveland Food Finds

Cleveland’s neighborhoods of note are scattered around the city and are separated by expansive chunks of urbanity that do not inspire the visitor to linger. But if you find the right Clevelander (probably the heavily tattooed bartender or barista) with the right directions, there are some wonderfully unexpected culinary delights to be had. Notable, for me, are Momoco in Ohio City, hole in the wall and hip contemporary Mexican that has a line out the door at 4:30 on any Saturday afternoon (adobe roasted wild boar taquitos with goat cheese guacamole?); Tommy’s in Coventry, from greasy comfort food to tempe and veggie burgers, very friendly to food allergy needs and awesome milkshakes; and Noodle Cat in east downtown, celebrity chad having way too much fun with Japanese noodles (manhattan clam chowder miso udon noodle soup?).

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The Meinhover Gluesing Xmas Card

A thirty (or so) year tradition!

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Jakarta – the humanity!

Apparently, one more person can ALWAYS get on the train, despite all conventions concerning safety, or common decency for that matter.

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Thankfully, my es buah at the market outside the train station helped calm my momentary distaste for all of humanity…

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