Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Grote Markt and the Brabo Fountain, Antwerpen

Antwerpen, 19 April 2009, originally uploaded by - di.

The light, the clouds and the 17-40mm lens means I've been seeing the world in a new way. Today I discovered that I could see the Onze Lieve Vrouwe Kathedraal behind the Brabo Fountain if I stood here.

The rain clouds and bright sunlight did the nicest things to the photograph.

Carolus Borromeuskerk, Antwerpen

Antwerpen II, 19 April 2009, originally uploaded by - di.

And this is my favourite church in my favourite square here in the city.

The Canon 5d series 11 shamed me into learning the technicalities of photography finally ... some of them anyway and so when the sun combined with some thundery-looking clouds, I could fiddle with bits and bobs and capture something close to what was in front of me.

I love my Canon EOS 5D Series 11, did you know.

Via Via Reis Cafe, Antwerpen

Antwerpen III, 19 April 2009, originally uploaded by - di.

This is one of my favourite cafes in the city and now that the sun has returned you can see why I think.

Add excellent music, good food, friendly staff and free wifi to the mix and voila ...

Breaded fish sticks for the masses ...

Do you buy breaded fish sticks from fish caught in Canada?

Then this blog post is for you :)

Musician, Flanders Fields

Musician, Flanders Fields, originally uploaded by - di.

A belated update: Seems this might be a Hurdy Gurdy.

Don't even ask how I knew because I didn't know I knew.

Fisherman, Flanders Fields

Fisherman, Flanders Fields, originally uploaded by - di.

Sometimes I wonder ...

whether my new website is waiting for me to completely commit to a life of wandering, photography and story-telling because the latest delay involves a story so surprising and unexpected as to seem like a fiction ... except it's not.

Living many lives is complicated ... at the moment, I'm a photographer, a communications assistant for an NGO (and have another newsletter due out at the start of May), a housewife which equates to quite a lot of housework some days, and a woman addicted to wandering. I'm also preparing material for that new website.

I'm also organising two exhibitions with conceptual plans needing to develop (one of them by Friday, with information about me written up and sent for the June exhibition).

Sometimes I just sit at my desk watching this vivid green Spring arrive, admiring the deep blue sky and quietly wondering how I can do it all.

A little later: thinking that this post should be titled Wishful Thinking ... what kind of adult gets to wander, take photographs and tell stories. I'm smiling as I write this, I was smiling at my cheek as I hung out the washing earlier. Maybe the website problems is giving me time to realise that I'm being a brat and should get sensible in organising this jam-packed life of mine ;)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Spring, Flanders Fields

A small scene from Flanders Fields, originally uploaded by - di.

I think I'm in love with the blue skies captured on Friday 24 April.

We had 33 hours of sun in the month February, clearly posting these photographs is some kind of celebration regarding the return of sunshine and blue skies.

Ferns, Flanders Fields II

Ferns, Flanders Fields II, originally uploaded by - di.

All too often, there's this point during any photography session where I need to commit to the photography and forget about keeping my clothes clean.

These ferns are small ...
I'm so pleased Gert doesn't have a blog of his own as he photographed me grovelling around on the ground in the cemetery trying to capture this fern 'just so' in different lights.

Leslie Beauchamp, Ploegsteert Wood Cemetery, Flanders Fields

Ferns on Flanders Fields

Ferns, Flanders Fields, originally uploaded by - di.

I loved Nature back home in New Zealand and I miss that particular sense of it here in Belgium.

I found these baby fern leaves unfurling in Ploegsteert Wood Cemetery while visiting the grave of Leslie Beauchamp. Leslie was the brother of one of my favourite kiwi writers, Katherine Mansfield.

He died 6 October 1915 while teaching fellow soldiers how to use grenades.

On Flanders Fields ...

We were too early for the poppies but Flanders Fields glowed with spring growth under blue skies. Just walking the empty roads on the day before ANZAC Day was a pleasure.

The wide lens delights me with its altered perspective. I've always been a telephoto girl however ...

This small cemetery will have formed around a field hospital during WW1. They are sad and beautiful places, full of vibrant young men who should never have died here and if you can imagine, it's just one of hundreds, perhaps thousands scattered over old battlefields from places as far afield as Palestine, Turkey and here in the heart of Europe.

An ancient tap, Istanbul

An ancient tap, Istanbul, originally uploaded by - di.

Jonathan Coulton, Singer

Listening to Jessie's music and Jonathan Coulton made me laugh with his song, A Laptop like You so I searched youtube, on a break from intensive photo sorting ...

Found Code Monkey instead. Jessie's favourite is the Zombie song.

Bel Canto Restuarants ... did you know about them?

There are a couple Bel Canto restaurants in Paris (at Neuilly-sur-Seine and on the Quai de l'Hôtel de Ville) and now there is one in the City of London. The brainchild of Jean-Paul Maurel, these glorious conceptions allow diners to be entertained every night by student opera-singers who, rather than working as waiters elsewhere, sing extracts from operas while serving your supper. The singers can practise challenging arias while earning a decent wage (£12.00 per hour), double the normal rate.

Entering the restaurant is like entering a theatre. There are costumes from the Opéra National de Paris and the elevator’s interior has on each of its three walls a mock up of the Gran Teatru La Fenice interior. Once down stairs the dining area is separated from the entrance by a red curtain: all aptly theatrical. This is a performance, not just a dinner!

Carleen mentioned that she performed in the London Bel Canto and I was curious.

You can read more here.

Piers Faccini, an Interview and a Song

I found this singer today, in my beloved online magazine

It takes time to settle back into a settled life. I feel like a cat, or a bird perhaps, smoothing my feathers back into place and repairing the nest, making my mind quiet, resting it to fly again with all that it needs to do in the days and weeks ahead.

Cafebabel is perfect for this.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Carleen Ebbs, Soprano

Carleen Ebbs, Soprano, originally uploaded by - di.

Carleen Ebbs is a young lyric coloratura soprano from New Zealand who has recently completed a Masters of Vocal Studies with Distinction at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London under Professor Ameral Gunson.

Born in Motueka and later a Hawkes Bay resident, she grew up in a family of musicians where she learned piano and dance, and sang with the New Zealand Secondary Students Choir before doing a Masters of Music at Victoria University of Wellington.

In New Zealand she was a member of the NBR New Zealand Opera Chorus and presented solo recitals of German lieder and operatic arias on two separate tours of concert venues and wineries. She also performed the roles of Barbarina, Frasquita and The 1st Lady for Opera Victoria.

More recently she has performed with Opera de Bauge, France, in Mozart's Idomeneo, Glucks' Orfeo et Euridice, and Don Pasquale by Donizetti as well as covering the Queen of the Night for the Guildhall's Opera School production of Die Zauberflöte, and performing excerpts featuring Lady Penelope (Britten's Gloriana), Susanna (le nozze di Figaro), Semiramide, Despina, Blonda, Norina, Frasquita, Pamina and Adina. While at The Guildhall Carleen participated in Masterclasses with Dame Emma Kirkby, Anthony Legge, and Yvonne Kenny and was also fortunate to receive a private coaching session with Dame Kiri Te Kanawa.

On the concert platform she has performed soprano solos in Mendelssohn's Elijah and Lauda Sion, Schubert's Mass in G, the Messiah, Vivaldi's Gloria and Judas Maccabaeus with choirs in New Zealand, England and Wales.

Recent highlights include the role of Aloyisha Weber in a new play about Mozart for Montmirral Productions, and performing as a soloist in the Elizabeth Maconchy Centennary Festival. Carleen regularly gives concerts at St Olave's Church in Central London and has designed and performed in corporate concerts at St George's Hanover Square. She recently performed in a concert of Mozart arias and ensembles for Edenbridge Arts Trust Kent with an ensemble from Garden Opera.

Carleen was the 2006 Victoria University Bank of New Zealand Post Graduate Scholar, the recipient of a 2007 TUMU Merchants Excellence Award and a finalist in the 2008 Thelma King Award. Having completed her recent course of study, she continues to learn privately in London with John Evans. She is a regular Soprano at London's Bel Canto Opera Venue and performs as a soloist and with her opera quartet for private and corporate functions. Carleen is currently working to take up a rare study opportunity with Dennis O’Neill at the Cardiff International Academy of Voice from September 2009.

Carleen Ebbs, Soprano.

Carleen Ebbs, Singer, originally uploaded by - di.

Carleen and I had a photography session on the day following ANZAC Day.

The ANZACS and Turkey

Heroes who shed their blood and lost their lives. You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours. You, the mothers, who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.
A tribute to those ANZACs who died in Gallipoli (1934). Inscribed on the Atatürk Memorial in Turakena Bay, Gallipoli

After the Commonwealth soldiers had attacked and been driven out of Turkey in the First World War, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, first President of the Republic of Turkey and remarkable Turkish leader said the above words.

The first time I went to Gallipoli, following in the footsteps of Dad's stepdad, those words almost made me cry. The Turks had every reason to hate and instead they welcome us back as the children and grandchildren of the enemy, with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission maintaining the graves while people like TJ work at preserving the memories of the victims of another pointless war in a way that is moving and very generous.

Thanks for reminding me, Ms Lizardrinking.
Those who leave their home country are familiar with two kinds of travel. The first are nostalgic trips to your birth region, the other are designed to expand your horizon.
A Moroccan immigrant to Belgium, in De Standaard newspaper.

I was over catching up on the news over on Inge's Shifting Horizons blog and found things I wanted to quote but I'll make do with this one as it speaks most strongly to me.

Thanks Inge.

Carleen Ebbs, soprano.

Our day began at 4.30am on Saturday on Flanders Fields. Martin just phoned to let me know that Carleen Ebbs was out on youtube, performing for her third time on that particular morning.

She had raised goosebumps with her beautiful voice at the 6.30am ANZAC Dawn Service at Buttes New British Cemetery. After breakfast she sang again at the New Zealand Memorial in Messines at 9.30am, again beautifully. Finally, there was this stunning performance under Menen Gate in Ieper (Ypres).

A taste of that particular day ...

John Simpson, Journalist and Author.

Al Jazeera is reporting on a US-Iranian reporter jailed by Tehran for espionage and the fact that she has gone on hunger strike.

I find them an interesting news source if you're looking for something less manipulated than some of our usual sources. They have a top team of journalists and are worth checking out.

I've been making my way through BBC journalist, John Simpson's rather excellent series of books, essentially the behind-the-scenes stuff about events we've been reading about forever. The one bought to replace the one we left on the Turkish Airlines flight (almost finished!) is titled The Wars Against Saddam - Taking the Hard Road to Baghdad and is an eye-opener, if you dare. If feel like I'm playing the game called 'but oh my goodness, I believed what the NY Times (and so many other news sources) wrote about that situation' and etc ...

John's News from No Mans Land is the unfinished excellent read that I lost - must replace it one day soon, and A Mad World, My Masters was the one that completely hooked me on this man's books.

I need a good long flight to get through them though. I increasingly feel guilty about not working in any spare time that I have ... could be the 1000s of photographs awaiting attention. I think I've run out of other 'urgent' must do things now ...

Oh, and about John. If you don't believe me, then surely you can believe Simon Hoggart, who said: 'You can't really argue with much that John Simpson says - there is no foreign correspondent left on TV who has a fraction of his recognition and his credibility, a fact which may be unfair on the others, but happens to be true';

Simon reviewed Simpson's devastating Panorama profile of Saddam Hussein, broadcast in early November 2002. This riveting, important and timely new book is the summation of more than twenty years covering Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

The War Against Saddam offers, in five acts, the full story of his rise to power and the West's relationship with Saddam throughout his dictatorship. The fifth act is yet to be played out on the world stage, but Simpson will be there to cover any war with Iraq and to report on its outcome and its consequences. It will be a major work of serious reportage and essential reading for us all.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

And the weekend ...

Oehoe III, Flanders Fields, originally uploaded by - di.

Well, I've been sitting here all evening trying to organise, downsize, save to external hard-drive and just process all that we did while wandering through Flanders Fields in Belgium this weekend.

We did so much and, once again, the days were long but this time there was no internet. I did check in a couple of times at our 'local' restaurant/pub in Ieper (Ypres, in French) but it wasn't the place to reply or create ... a tall bar stool at a computer in full view of everyone.

I guess that's a dedication test of some kind ... am I internet-addicted or not?

That first evening, Friday night, ended with us falling into bed, a little panicked, knowing that we had a 4.30am start.

We did it, all 5 of us set out for the 6.30am Dawn Ceremony after a coffee and croissant prepared by our stunningly kind landlady.

9am found us organised and ready for the Messines Town Hall walk to the New Zealand Memorial on the ridge taken in the Battle of Messines.

I will write more detail but this is an outline ... a bedtime story for the insomniac because I'm not sure it's interesting.

11am and we were in Menen Gate for the final ANZAC ceremony of the day. I was there taking photographs but was also gifted a lead ANZAC soldier made of shrapnel because ... well, that's a story too. I hope to head back to the Fields soon and talk to some truly interesting people and write them up on that new website I keep muttering about.

Marc, a Belgian friend, Gert and I then headed off to visit some of the sites that might be of interest to this incredible panoramic photographer friend of ours. We toured Tyne Cot cemetery, on into Langemark - the German cemetery and back via the Passchendaele Museum where we met the guy with the owls, the drunk monk and a group of 4 monks wandering the grounds of the castille, chanting incredibly non-religious wicked things in their sing-song voices. It was a re-enactment and they were having a great time there in the grounds.

The night ended late with our landlady opening champagne and inviting us in to chat for a while. We fell into bed and slept the deep sleep of the truly exhausted before waking for more this morning ...

Not champagne but I had a communion photography session with the loveliest little Belgian girl in the world, then I back at the castille for a photography session with Carleen Ebbs, the New Zealand soprano based in London, the woman who had provided stunning song at each of the 3 commemorations the previous day.

We were distracted by the guy catching a big trout in the castille pond, and by the music band using old-time instruments and all kinds of other people and things that will undoubtedly appear in the weeks ahead.

I just need some time to process it all ...
I just need some time to process the Istanbul photographs too ...

Yes, time ... I just need to sit still for a couple of weeks and work quietly here.
Exhausted, need to sleep ... so many mistakes corrected in this post so far, goodness knows what I'll find in the morning!

Oehoe II, Flanders Fields

Oehoe II, Flanders Fields, originally uploaded by - di.

This owl is actually called Eagle Owl in English and I just fell in love ...

Home again ...

Oehoe, Flanders Fields, originally uploaded by - di.

And I'm filled to over-flowing with stories of people and animals and ANZAC commemorations ... sopranos, soldiers and a guy who keeps pet owls.

Exhausted, of course.
I hope your weekend was delicious.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Preparing to leave again ...

I'm preparing for ANZAC Day commemorations on Flanders Fields, cleaning and packing as I move through this bright sunshiny day.

There's something quite poignant stopping to remember the young men who died believing they were fighting to save the world. How disappointed they would be now.

In the beginning, the New Zealanders and Aussies were adventurers I think, much more than they were serious soldiers ... guys who never imagined they might die on a muddy field in this flat land known as Belgium. It was sold to the kiwi boys as signing up to travel to the world and my grandad did. He fought in Turkey, he saw Egypt, he fought and was injured on the Somme in France - his horse died shielding him from the shrapnel that injured him, and then the Otago Mounted Rifles came to Belgium.

In the quiet of past ceremonies on Flanders Fields I've imagined those who died lounging about watching us, still in their khaki uniforms, smoking and smiling perhaps as we remember them. It always brings tears to my eyes because they were everyman... just like us and I'm sure that none imagined they would die out there, so far from home, in that mad mad war.

And maybe I'll stop for another moment while I'm there and remember the 1,487 Palestinian children who been killed since the year 2000 and the 6,348 Palestinian adults.

And a poppy for Bassem Ibrahim Abu Rahme, the Palestine recently murdered during a peaceful protest ... it's all war, isn't it?

Nothing changes.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

No one can make us into bystanders without our consent.

"Every day, people should resist the urge to turn away when scenes of horror unfold across the world and fight the impulse to turn the channel when we see images that disturb us or wrap ourselves in the false comfort that others' sufferings are not our own."

The president also urged people to make a habit of empathy, "to recognize ourselves in each other."

Extracts from a speech by US President Barack Obama.

Dolmabache Palace, Istanbul

A small detail that appealed to me as we strode through Ataturk's beautiful palace on the edge of the Bosphorous.

A curtain tie ...

Nina and her Ornamental Blog.

I link to a few informative blogs as per previous post, check out an Israeli newspaper and an Arabic newspaper but then I need to find a cure to bone-aching sadness this inability to turn away leaves me with ...

Thank goodness for Nina and her Ornamental blog.

She brings me back from the sad places when I can't find my own way.
Thank you for the beauty I find on your blog, Nina.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A favourite Istanbul Place ... Rumelihisarı

Rumelihisarı, Istanbul, originally uploaded by - di.

This fortress, built back in 1451, is one of my favourite Istanbul places.

After catching the sunrise on the Asian-side, Gert, Yakup and I wandered over to Bebek for breakfast. Afterwards , for 3 turkish lire (1.50euro) we had the freedom to roam in this beautiful ruin.

You can see the second Europe to Asia bridge crossing the Bosphorous there in the distance.

The peace and the view make it a truly lovely place to wander.

Home Again ...

Bosphorous Gull, Istanbul, originally uploaded by - di.

We watched the rain roll in as we sat in the boarding lounge at Ataturk Airport. We felt the wind buffeting the plane around in a boisterous manner I didn't enjoy as we took off, and Lisen smsed to let us know we had missed hail and an Istanbul-spring slide into winter.

Belgium where the skies were mostly blue and the air still warm after 7pm ...

I'm sitting here backing-up all my Istanbul photos to another external hard-drive. It is taking forever. Something to do with having 6,790 items to transfer (73.6GB)

As soon as it's done, this tired wanderer is heading for bed.

Tot straks from Belgie.

Istanbul Airport has to be one of the best airports so far ... free wifi connection, a great choice of restaurants, fun duty-free and at least one good bookshop. We're too tired to do more than find a restaurant with cool air and good food; a place to relax while we wait to leave.

Our time in Istanbul has passed by in a mad whirl of photography, photography and some more photography actually.

Coincidence has played a huge role ... with Hayden flying in from Japan just after we arrived, TJ turning up from Australia for the tourist season, Emma - my much-loved niece from New Zealand, flying from her new base in London, Antwerpen-based Mehmet on the same flight from Brussels to here and meeting Shirley, a New Zealander who went to school with my mum and her sisters, in the street. I even ran into Veyser in the street, a lovely Turkish guy interviewed back in those days when I lived here.

The coincidences just kept rolling, keeping me a little off-balance and more in the Land of Wonderland than real-life Istanbul.

We've eaten most kinds of Turkish food, revelling in being back in the land of the very best cuisine, and last night found us as guests of Seniha, Nail and Aylin - parents and sister to our lovely friend Beste. 5 hours of eating and drinking and we could barely roll ourselves back to the European-side of Istanbul.

I'm over-flowing with stories and have at least 4000 photographs to sort through and organise ... after 2 nights working on Flanders Fields starting Friday.

My new website ran into a photo gallery problem and so my web-designer decided to re-programme the whole section. The launch has had to be delayed just a little bit longer ... I'll just keep loading the stories and keep my fingers crossed.

Gule gule, from Istanbul.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

And the winner is ...

I trotted through to the lounge and asked Lisen to make the prize draw. It's 00.56 and we're just in from a beautiful meal with some of my favourite people on the Asian-side of Istanbul.

Beste, your parents and sister are such very good people and we had a lovely evening out with them but ... the prize draw.

The winner is Paola!
Congratulations and see you when I get home, and to everyone else, I hope to have another prize draw soon.

More than 3000 photographs and still going ...

Sunrise on the Bosphorous, Istanbul, originally uploaded by - di.

My much-loved Canon EOS has run hot here in Istanbul.

Most days we have spent 10 hours out taking photographs, returning to the apartment to organise and process them but I have never managed to keep up ... having taken 586 photographs on Saturday alone.

My photo folders are overflowing and after a hectic 48 hours of good people, a beautiful hotel, a niece from New Zealand, 2 kiwis who lives here, a little too much red wine on a warm Istanbul night and amazing photographic opportunities, here I am, processing and trying to put things back in order, having not even had time to view the images taken at 6.30am Saturday out on the Bosphorous.

Istanbul is one of those cities where I can't stop using my camera, it's a passion, a compulsion and a pleasure but my body is protesting.

I fly tomorrow.

Monday, April 20, 2009

I know people who know people who know people ...

And as a result, this Istanbul journey can only be described as truly remarkable.

Last night was a mix of marvellous coincidence and good friends. I introduced Lisen and Yakup to Hayden, the New Zealander of Zen, who has lived here forever. Over dinner and drinks, information was exchanged that will benefit both and I was happy. Maybe it's a kiwi thing but we love making connections, meeting new people, introducing people who can surely help each other while knowing that they will like each other too.

Dinner over, we were sitting outside in oldtown Sultanamet when Hayden's phone rang and another voice from my Istanbul past arrived amongst us.

I had twice travelled to Eceabat, on the Gallipoli Peninsula and taken the WWI tour with TJ. Like the lovely guys on Flanders Fields, there is nothing that TJ doesn't know about the Commonwealth soldiers left behind in the war.

He runs tours there and has some nice places to stay. You can find TJ's website here.

Met some Australians over breakfast ... need to go chat.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Gozleme Filling, Kurtulus, Istanbul

Gozleme Filling, Kurtulus, Istanbul, originally uploaded by - di.

I love gozleme.

Actually I love so many Turkish foods but potato gozleme is an absolute favourite.

Yesterday we returned to the organic market here in the city and were greeted by the lovely ladies who allowed us to photograph them making their gozleme last weekend. I've promised them copies of the photographs, it's just about organising the images and finding a print shop but anyway ...

I'm almost sure their gozleme is so good simply because so much laughter goes into the cooking of it.

Pictured are the bowls of full of gozleme filling ... the front is full of potato, then next is cheese I think and the back one was spinach and cheese. They pour some oil onto a yufka pastry that has been rolled into a big circle, add the filling, fold the pastry in half and cook the gozleme on some kind of warm metal ...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

You cannot imagine what we did today ...

But I can't really tell you the details of how fabulous it was however ... but I was photographed at work in a doner kitchen .... which was something else but excellent too.

Istanbul has not only opened her arms to us, she's also whole-heartedly embracing this yabanci from yeni zelanda who knows some truly excellent people.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Istanbul Ferries

Istanbul Ferry, Princes' Island, originally uploaded by - di.

I love these old ferries, although this one doesn't look too shabby in this shot.

It costs 1 or 2euro for the hour long ride out into the Marmara Sea to the Princes' Islands. No trip to Istanbul is complete without a ferryboat ride, and I'm just as happy with the ride across the Bosphorous - from Europe to Asia.

It was a good day.

Princes' Islands

Istanbul Gull, Marmara Sea, originally uploaded by - di.

Today was one of those glorious Istanbul days - blue sky, sunshine and a trip out to the Princes' Islands on the old ferries ... and as you see, there were seagulls out wandering with us.

We spent a couple of hours exploring the beautiful tree-lined streets of Buyukada, enjoying the lovely old homes and quiet of the big island. Then we hopped back on a ferry and popped over to Heybeliada, where Lisen and Yakup have bought a house on a hill. I do believe I fell in love and once you see photographs of the view ... you surely will too.

I have already made enquiries about them adopting me.
It seems possible.
I would very much like to live in that house on the hill with beautiful view ...

Shoe-Shine, Istanbul, originally uploaded by - di.

Don't forget to add your name to the comments section on this post you would like the chance to win two of my prints.

Meanwhile, this kind man allowed me to take more than a few photographs of him at work here in Istanbul.

Past Lives and Memory ...

I struggled with how to title this post but I knew it had something to do with the nostalgia inspired by smell and a yearning for familiar things...

I woke early here in this Istanbul world and decided to get up. I've been alternatively working on photographs, with an occasional detour out into a new book I'm devouring but don't have much time to read - The Attack by Yasmina Khadra, is worth checking out if you're looking for an interesting fiction about suicide bombers.

It's too early for anyone else and there is the promise of hot fresh borek if I'm patient, so I quietly found a banana to eat while my Turkish tea stewed in the top pot.

The banana was ripe and breaking it open delivered me back, just for a moment, to my childhood of bananas bruised by their trip to the river's edge in our picnic box.

Savouring that scent here in Istanbul, so very far from the world I grew up in made me stop to think about the way that scent has been taking me 'home' lately ... the way that smell has become something akin to an album of memories I carry inside of me.

You see, there is a particular soap I use occasionally, it's one that transports me directly back to a childhood of happy visits to Nana and Grandad's Invercargill house. And a colleague of mine delights me by smoking the same cigarette brand that Nana once smoked, a long time ago. Gidon is less than excited by this fact that he reminds me of Nana sometimes ... he is younger than me.

Shampoos and conditioners pick me up and take me home but they come from so many periods of this strange life of mine ... there were those childhood toiletries, then there is that one I used in America, another was discovered in Istanbul and they too offer a surprisingly powerful journey into memory.

It's like that these days but the house is waking now - this took longer than I expected and my tea-glass needs refilled. Soon there will be piping hot borek in my tummy and here I am, creating a whole new set of memories in this different place.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

You know when ...

Balloons on the Bosphorous, Istanbul, originally uploaded by - di.

You know when you're walking along the edge of the Bosphorous on a blue-sky-sunshiny-day and you discover balloons floating out on the surface of the water...?

I was stunned and may have photographed them extensively, muttering, all but incoherent with pleasure as I worked.

But that's Istanbul ... anything and everything is possible.

I'm sincerely sorry not to be blog reading and commenting during this period but last count there was almost 2000 new Istanbul images filed on my laptop. Another heavy edit is required but this city is just one huge and exciting cascade of beautiful images.

Today, the only fisherman I spoke to on Galata Bridge was from Belgium. This was a purely chance meeting as I was looking to interview one of the fishermen there and chose him because he was there with his son.

Another man spotted me photographing his pigeons in the alleyway next to the Egyptian Bazaar and took out some seriously beautiful birds for me to photograph close-up.

The shoe-shine guys allowed me to photograph them too, just to mention a few. Then there's talk of a more extensive working trip through Turkey in the months ahead but that's a whole other exciting story to be told when life isn't all about taking photographs, editing photographs, processing photographs, getting up the next day and doing it all over again.

I'm absolutely and completely enjoying being back here - wandering all over the city, catching the metro and eating the most stunning food, meeting the same warmhearted generous people I've always found here in this delicious city called Istanbul.

11.34pm and still working.
I hope all is good in your world.

Another Print Give-Away ...

Istanbul Kitty, Ortakoy, originally uploaded by - di.

Cats are a huge part of Istanbul street life and they come in all shapes and sizes, good health and bad but I love seeing them out there, owning the streets and being fed by kind Turkish people. There are dogs too.

This little kitty was comfortably seated on someone's scooter in one of my favourite Istanbul places - Ortakoy, situated almost under the first Europe-to-Asia bridge.

Anyway, if you would like to go into the draw and win two of my prints (your choice but excluding most people shots) then leave your name here in the comments section and we'll have a prize draw Tuesday 21 April.

I'll print the images up to 30x45cm, in glossy or matt and post them to your home, where ever you are in the world.

Off wandering now ... Istanbul city is calling.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Passion for Istanbul

Garlic, Istanbul, originally uploaded by - di.

I guess this is a passion ...

Passion is all about finding some everyday ordinary person stunningly beautiful. And so it is, that this passion I have for Istanbul surely makes something as ordinary as this bunch of garlic seem extraordinarily beautiful.

Istanbul ... one of so many faces

Kebap, Istanbul, originally uploaded by - di.

This man, like so many Istanbul citizens, so very kindly allowed me to take some photographs of him at work.

Catching the Tram, Taksim, Istanbul, originally uploaded by - di.

I never ever did this either ...

Istanbul Ferry (and how not to disembark, perhaps)

Disembarking, Old Ferry Istanbul, originally uploaded by - di.

I only lived in Istanbul for two years but I never ever developed the courage to be first off the ferry ... and never ever ever jumped off like this guy.

I had heard of people being crushed between the wharf and the ferry, I know how it is with me and that kind of thing. If I tried it, I would die a slow and horrible death ... mortified.

Quietly deeply mortified, probably saying 'Sorry' with that last breath.

Ancient Sundial, Istanbul Mosque

Ancient Sundial, Istanbul Mosque, originally uploaded by - di.

I love the way ...

Shoe Repairs, Istanbul, originally uploaded by - di.

Really, I love the way that Istanbul is everything and more ...

It's post-modern and ancient, it's modern and old-fashioned, it's chaos while making perfect sense.

This gentleman was kind enough to allow me to photograph him in his shop.

Today ...

windows in a church, Istanbul, originally uploaded by - di.

Today we have a letter giving us permission to photograph the mosques here in Istanbul.

Sunshine here and an exciting day planned.

Stories to follow ...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Haydarpasa Railway station, Istanbul

Railway station, Istanbul, originally uploaded by - di.

On a grey day, light was like gold ...

I loved this railway station on the Asian-side of Istanbul.

Nurbanu Validei Atik Sultan Camii, Istanbul

Mosque, Istanbul, originally uploaded by - di.

The public space in mosques is often both beautiful and peaceful - this space surely fulfilled my expectations.

Wandering in Asia ...

Blue Boat, Istanbul, originally uploaded by - di.

We're not long in from 12 hours spent exploring the Asian-side of Istanbul.

Yakup drove and we visited all kinds of sites as we travelled all the way to the Black Sea to explore an ancient castle on a hilltop there.

I have 500 images to download, resize, organise and ... on it goes.

We ate ... we ate all day long.
Turkish food is surely the best food in the world. There's a huge range of choices, it's always beautifully prepared, the customer service is stunning and well ... photographs to follow, on the new website ;)

Galata Bridge, Istanbul

Galata Bridge, Istanbul, originally uploaded by - di.

I love this bridge.

It halfway through a route that I love, the fishermen are always there providing the area with a really nice energy, and I'm crossing the Bosphorous when I'm on it.

This was Friday ... back on the bridge.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

This ...

making gozleme II, Istanbul, originally uploaded by - di.

is how you make gozleme.

Or how you begin.

Gozleme, Istanbul

making gozleme, Istanbul, originally uploaded by - di.

I love gozleme, and we had breakfast at the organic market, here in the city of Istanbul, this morning.

This woman was so very kind to this yeni zelanda and the camera she was toting ...

Who wouldn't love this?

Istanbul is being so good to us.

Today Lisen and I interviewed a Roma fashion designer (and I bought little Miss 4 a stunning blue dancing costime.

We started the day eating stunningly excellent gozleme at the organic market, a tasty kofte lunch at Ayvansaray -and, took incredible photographs all day because the people and the sights we saw were simply incredible.

A stunning stunning day, here in the city of Istanbul.

Huge thanks to Lisen and Yakup, the best host and hostess a person could wish for.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The 'Welcome to Istanbul 'cat, Taksim, Istanbul

Istanbul cat, originally uploaded by - di.

Did you know, cats own the streets of Istanbul. I love it of course, and this one was particularly friendly, nudging my wide-angle lens as part of it's 'oh-my-god-you-are-so-yummy-you-must-pat-me-NOW!

First Morning - Istanbul

I'm writing this, 8am on my first morning back in Istanbul. The air is a little chill after the blue-sky warmth of yesterday but I love it. It's fresh, people are walking by and across the road the pharmacist … the eczane, is opening his store.

Istanbul is breaking open. There are new leaves on the trees and yesterday, tulips in full-bloom lined the coastal highway we took back into the city.

Did I mention how good it is to be back here?

Last night, Lisen and Yakup created a Turkish meze kind of meal for us. A cold meal of many plates, to be accompanied by Raki … it was delicious, as is most Turkish food.

The sweet flavour-filled tomatoes were cut into wedges, drizzled with good oil, basil and salt. There was a lovely potato salad with parsley and dill. A cold red lentil and bulgar patty that was so very good. We had a little Passchendaele cheese, brought in from the flatlands, served together with Turkish salami and a stringy Turkish cheese that is a huge favourite of mine. Olives marinated in some lovely concoction of herbs and oil, hummus, a yoghurt and herb dip, bread – with another saucer of herb-enhanced oil for dipping.

This morning, as I write this, Lisen is cooking my most favourite of Turkish foods – borek - layers of thin pastry cooked with cheese and herbs. My cup runneth over and we haven't been here 24 hours yet.

And having written such loving descriptions of the food, you need to know that the food isn't my big Istanbul passion. I love the city even more and today I'm heading into the city that fills another part of my soul ...

We'll be wandering in Taksim, with a visit to Robinson Crusoe – a favourite bookshop, the flower passage, Galata Tower for that 360 degree view over the city with the Bosphorus and the Marmara Sea below. Galata Bridge and the fishermen leaning over the edge, the probably through into Sultanahmet with Haghia Sophia, the Blue Mosque.

Today is a day for full-immesion in this stunningly beautiful crazy-busy city I love.

Photos to follow.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Riding the ragged edge of disaster ...

Who knows what compels me to over-commit myself...

Making my way through the list to be done within the next 24 hours, having taken the slowest train in the world home from work this evening, bringing work with me.

The fast hourly Amsterdam train was cancelled for reasons unknown and I lucked out with a train that took twice as long. We were all struggling to stay awake after the 470th stop.

The bright spot in this self-created chaos?
I'm meeting a Belgian blogger tomorrow ... a Belgian blogger blogging out of New Zealand.

Flat Stanley will be riding with me through my mad chaotic world. Here's to getting on with a little more of his Belgian story before he flies off to Istanbul.

Monday, April 06, 2009


There's an excellent article over on Marianne's blog - Zen and the Art of Peacekeeping. I borrowed the following quote from her:
“Anybody can become angry,” Aristotle wrote, “that is easy; but to be angry with the right person, and to the right degree, and at the right time, and for the right purpose, and in the right way, that is not within everybody’s power, that is not easy.”

Aristotle’s voice is reasoned but difficult to hear. Emerging from the most violent century in human history, we are much quicker to recall examples of anger tied to physical abuse, violence and discrimination. Surely, we think, anger must be removed entirely from our lives. And yet, Saint Thomas Aquinas ... commended an anger which ... can, when governed by reason and will, be called “morally excellent.”
Anger is a neutral and necessary force—for moral excellence, for authentic mercy and justice—pulsing within every human heart which sees and senses that something is not right. To borrow a common metaphor, we are “hard-wired” with anger. Erasing it from our lives would leave us defenseless and voiceless in the face of evil. Anger is a traveling companion of courage on the road to justice and truth.

I try to imagine a world where no anger stirs men and women to dream and to bring about the impossible. ... It is a far crueler and more inhumane world than what we know today, for it is a world without William Wilberforce, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Mother Teresa…"

Packing for Istanbul

Today is the beginning of packing for Istanbul ... packing the camera equipment and associated tangle of card readers, chargers, lenses and other important 'stuff ... but wait, then there's the notes and reminders, website addresses and interviews', voice recorder and all things associated because the plan is that I will load and launch the new website from Turkey.

And then, in the true spirit of climbing Mount Everest-like endeavours, I'm also writing and mailing the NGO's bi-monthly newsletter while over there - my Brussels job travels quite nicely thank you.

And Istanbul ... ?
Well it's all about a series of huge day-long photography missions in that city I love so well. This morning I received news of two exciting new finds to be photographed and also included was the news that permission to photograph details are being carried out in advance of arrival. So much simpler than being harassed about the tripod in Haghia Sophia.

So today is Stage 1, the piles of papers, lenses, wires and oh ... some clothes too.

Tot ziens.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Running with sheep ...

So you can run with the bulls in Spain OR ... you can attend The Running of the Sheep back home in New Zealand, although a word of caution, a woman was knocked unconscious during the event this year when a few sheep ran amok.

You can't begin to imagine how dangerous it was to grow up back there ...

An extract: Safety arrangements at New Zealand's answer to Spain's "Running of the Bulls" - the "Running of the Sheep" - is being reviewed after hundreds of the animals ran amok through Te Kuiti injuring a spectator yesterday.

They leapt over barriers designed to keep them on the main street and protect 7000 spectators who turned up to watch the annual event.

All semblance of order completely broke down, the sheep crossing the main road and the rail track before heading into the hills.

Just playing with fotos from Rome

Rome fresco , originally uploaded by - di.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

The Australians.

Post 4001 ...

I didn't realise but I guess it's more than possible. I started this back in November 2005 and I've done a few things since then.

But today ... today was a good day spent wandering with 2 lovely Australian scientists who are settling into a new life here in the flatlands.

And it turns out that they are great travellers. I learned that I must try and visit Veliko Tarnovo in Bulgaria - a relatively straight-forward train trip from Istanbul and that Mount Chimaera must go onto my to-visit list for one day.

I could write a long post about how much I enjoyed the company of two people who approach life in a way that completely charmed me ... but I won't, not today. It seems like something one asks permission to do.

Maybe next time, if I ask first. I'm hoping to organise one of our parties in May. There might be a couple of weekends when I'm in town ... let's see it.

Friday, April 03, 2009

A busy day

wandering, originally uploaded by - di.

Late afternoon found me sitting at the outdoor cafe in Rivierenhof - a beautiful park here in the city. I was meeting the family I was photographing there.

They were 3 children late but it was fine because I know how it is to try and get 3 children ready to go out after they've had a long day at school.

And it was hot here ... really hot!
Outdoor cafe hot weather.
Quite remarkable and all but forgotten over winter.

I'm reading the second of John Simpson's books and loving it too. News from No Man's Land is another collection of stories John found and experienced out on BBC Road.

The photography session went beautifully chaotically well but for my ripped pants that no one mentioned until I found the tear myself ... One serious paper clip patch-up job later and we were back at work.

I've been working on the photographs tonight and I'm pleased.
Tired though ...

Tot ziens from this kiwi living in Belgie.

Madness and mayhem ... or is that just everyday life?

So Gert had a doctor's appointment this morning. He's had the most agonising shoulder/chest pain and it wasn't going away. Next thing I knew, he was phoning me from the tram on the way to the hospital - an x-ray was needed, just to make sure it was nerve pain and not a popped thingyamejig in his lung.

The diagnosis: a repetitive strain from doing the exercises that were helping his back.
Result: serious painkillers for a few days.

His 12 year old son had arrived last night, with another bout of the vomiting bug.Bloodtests were called for as he had been sick with the same thing a week or two ago.

The diagnosis: low iron and blood sugar. Jessie and I have been nagging for ages, as this 21st century kid only allows certain foods to pass by his lips and they surely lack anything valuable in the field of iron.

Little Miss 4 was complaining that she would vomit before breakfast this morning. I might have been teasing her about 'which bowl?' - the sieve or the plastic one, simply because she's been playing with the notion of vomiting lately.

We're now calling the incident Revenge of Last Night's Easter Eggs here at the apartment. One moment I was laughing about bowls, next horror-filled moment, I was sprinting towards her as she vomited all over the couch and the carpet.

You see, Jessie woke up with a powerful headache and neck, possibly after working hard in our balcony garden last night. She was bed-bound for a few hours, Miss 4 seemed to be playing along with the whole ziekenhuis thing.

But no ...

It's been an interesting and unusual few hours.

Meanwhile I'm preparing my gear for a family photography session at the park soon.

Sunshine and warmth.
It's not a bad kind of day and slowly but surely, everyone is reporting back in from the land of the ill and infirm.

Hands, originally uploaded by - di.

No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.
Nelson Mandela.

Thank you to Yoli, over at Musings.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Home ... in a way that I remember

Imagine if someone described your old world this well ... this heartbreakingly beautifully that you recognised it, without even imagining that might be where she was.

Wouldn't you be homesick too?

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Helen Clark, the new head of the United Nations development programme

Helen Clark, originally uploaded by - di.

Back in January, I was fortunate enough to spend some time wandering Flanders Fields with Helen Clark, the then ex-prime minister of New Zealand.

I was talking to my sister tonight and Sands mentioned that John Campbell had interviewed Helen about her new position head of the United Nations development programme, the most senior position ever held by a New Zealander at the UN.

Apparently she received a standing ovation from political friends and foes alike as they celebrated a politician who was prime minister for nine years, Labour leader for 15 and an MP for almost three decades.

You can view the Campbell Live interview with Helen Clark in Labour's caucus room at Parliament by clicking here, and you will surely see why it was such a pleasure to meet her.

From Loreena McKennitt, The Book of Secrets

Thanks, Barbara.
I loved it.

The secret, originally uploaded by - di.

ANZAC Day, 2009 in Belgium

ANZAC Day commemorations in Belgium will be held on Saturday 25 April 2009 in Mesen (Messines) and Ieper (Ypres) in West Flanders, Belgium.

You can find out more about events over on the New Zealand Embassy website.

The Flanders 1917 website also has information. Martin writes: Carleen Ebbs, a young award-winning New Zealand lyric coloratura soprano, will sing at the ANZAC Day services in Flanders this year.

She will sing at the Dawn Service at Buttes New British Cemetery, Polygon Wood organised by Zonnebeke, the official New Zealand ANZAC Day service at the New Zealand Memorial Messines, and at the combined New Zealand - Australian service at the Menin Gate in Ypres.

Carleen completed a Masters of Vocal Studies with Distinction at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London after obtaining a Masters of Music at Victoria University of Wellington.