Weekly Photo Challenge: Refraction

Rainbow over Balloon Fiesta 2014

Rainbow over Balloon Fiesta 2014

We looked for the flag flying high over Albuquerque’s Balloon Fiesta 2014 even as we left the parking lot for the long trek to the launch field.  It was yellow.  Caution.  A probable go for the October 9th lift-off.  But when the crowd turned in the direction of the refracted light of a rainbow — sometimes single, sometimes double — arching over the vendors hawking everything from corn dogs to souvenir pins, we saw dark skies threatening the night’s Glowdeo event.

Children with light sabers

Children with light sabers play while waiting for balloons to light up the night.

Children, however, continued to play — using their Jedi skills to wield light sabers.  Whoosh-bink, whoosh-bink, sang out the sabers against the dark night.

Dawn Patrol, October 10, 2014

First lift-off, Dawn Patrol, October 10, 2014. Balloon Fiesta 2014

And when the yellow flag yielded to red, curtailing the night’s event, the crowd dispersed only to return before dawn the next day.

Lifting off before dawn .

Breaking dawn — Balloon Fiesta 2014

After all, there’s nothing quite like seeing the first lights of the Dawn Patrol in a dark New Mexico field.

Click here for more entries in the Weekly Photo Challenge: Refraction.

Posted in Photography, Travel, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

A Word a Week Photo Challenge: Fly

Probably any hot air balloonist asks the same question:  Will my balloon fly today or not?  Up ’til now, we’ve had little experience with hot air balloon launches, fiestas, flights, etc.  But Balloon Fiesta 2014: Spirit of the Winds changed all that.

Waiting to fly

Waiting to see which ones will fly: Balloon Fiesta 2014, Albuquerque NM

In an enormous field in Albuquerque, New Mexico, from October 4 to 12, balloonists and watchers asked the same question:  Will it fly?  Here are a couple that did . . . and a couple that did not!

Did Fly!

Humpty Dumpty filled right up, sucking in enough hot air necessary to puff up and fly!  Even upside down, he was ready for lift-off, cheered on by a supporting crowd of students out of school on holiday and their parents who were kids for the day!

Filling Humpty Dumpty

Filling Humpty with hot air: Will he fly?

And up Humpty goes.

Humpty takes off

And Humpty takes off — Balloon Fiesta 2014!

Yes, even cows fly as this entry named Airabelle from Creamland joins the skies — up, up, up and away!

Cows fly, too!

Cows fly, too!

Didn’t Fly

But, alas, not all balloons ascended.  A big, brown sailing ship — one of the largest balloons on the field — struggled just to right itself.

Aiming the heat!

Aiming the heat to fill the sailing ship balloon at Balloon Fiesta 2014

And then it just “hung out” with the crowd while its buddies took to the skies.

Not flying at Balloon Fiesta 2014

Just moving with the wind, but not lifting off. No sailing for this ship today.

Even filled with hot air and in the upright liftoff position, Yoda never made it beyond the field.  Didn’t matter.  He owned that field!

Yoda balloon at Balloon Fiesta 2014

May the Force be with you!

May the Force be with you next year, my friend.

Early morning balloon rise

Early morning balloon rise at Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta 2014

For more information on the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta 2014, click here.

Want to help name Balloon Fiesta 2015?  Click here to submit your idea!

For more entries in A Word a Week Photo Challenge: Fly, check out Sue Llewellyn’s blog A Word in Your Ear.  You’ll be flying high!

Posted in A Word a Week Challenge, Destination, Photography, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Welcome news from Lesotho: Habitat house is complete!

For those of you who read our post A dream deferred:  Political unrest delays Habitat build in Lesotho — you can imagine how excited we were to open an email from Kelle Shultz, Director of Habitat for Humanity Knoxville.  In that email were pictures forwarded from Setoko Hlabathe, the Habitat Host Coordinator in Lesotho — pictures of the now-completed house in a little village near Maseru, Lesotho.

Habitat House Lesotho

The Habitat house in Lesotho is finished! And we’re celebrating halfway around the world!

Many people in Lesotho gave it their all to complete this home, built entirely by hand of concrete block and mud.  The project began with Habitat for Humanity, but was interrupted by an attempted coup to oust the prime minister of Lesotho.

Habitat House Lesotho

The children who will live here — in their newly finished home in Lesotho.

But now, we’ve come full circle.  The house is finished.  The family has a new home. And three deserving children face blue skies and white clouds as they look to the future from their doorstep! It’s a new day!

For more about our travels in Lesotho and South Africa, check out the Page at the top of this blog.  And thanks for stopping by.

Click here for A dream deferred:  Political unrest delays Habitat build in Lesotho.

Posted in Habitat for Humanity, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | 13 Comments

Weekly Photo Challenge: Signs

Seeing Old North Church at 193 Salem Street in the north end of Boston was on our list of sites to see when we cheered on our friend running the Boston Marathon.  Known as the church where Paul Revere issued his now-famous phrase “One if by land, two if by sea,” this house of worship has become not only a religious icon but a historical one as well.

Old North Church, Boston

Interior of Old North Church, Boston, Massachusetts

Pristine white walls and original wooden pews arranged in box formation represent fine early American architecture and a quiet spot for contemplation even as hundreds of tourists and worshipers move through the sanctuary reading the name plates and examining the arched windows, needlepoint kneeling benches, and plaques bearing names of forefathers.

The Third Lantern

The Third Lantern, Old North Church, Boston.

But in 1975, an addition to the church in the form of a lantern became a sign of hope known as the Third Lantern.  The inscription on the plaque nearby reads as follows:

The Third Lantern

On the two-hundredth anniversary of the hanging of the two signal lanterns, April 18th, 1975, President Gerald Ford dedicated the Third Lantern.  Meant to inspire hope as the United States entered its third century, it remains lit today as a symbol for continued peace and prosperity.  

The Third Lantern hangs in the Newman Window at the end of the right aisle. 

For more signs, go to the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Signs.

Posted in Photography, Travel, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

Travel theme: Bountiful

We saw much in abundance during our travels in Lesotho and South Africa, but nothing stood out quite like oranges — big, heavy bags of oranges frequently stacked one on top of the other in roadside stands and vendor stalls.  Enjoyed by young and old, this bountiful fruit was both plentiful and affordable, offering much-needed nutrients and just the right amount of sweet, juicy pleasure! (Tennessee may be the only Big Orange Country!)

Bags of fruit in Soweto

This shot, taken from a moving bus, shows several stalls near the Kliptown Open Air Museum selling oranges.

Lady eating orange in Lesotho

In Lesotho, a lady wearing a colorful blanket pauses to eat her orange.

For more entries in the Ailsa’s Travel theme: Bountiful, head to her blog Where’s My Backpack for this week’s bounty.

And to read more about our travels in Lesotho and South Africa, check out the Page at the top of this blog.  Thanks!

Posted in Photography, Travel Theme | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Searching for blankets in Lesotho

Lesotho women wearing blankets

Two Lesotho women with blankets wrapped around their waists.

Ask any woman who travels this one question:  What one thing do you love to do when you travel?  And what you’ll hear is almost universal:  SHOPPING!  At least that’s how it was among all the women (including me!) on our recent Habitat Global Village build in Lesotho.  And we knew what we were looking for even before we left the States.  After perusing brochures, newsletters, and pictures of Lesotho, we spotted the one must-have of the trip:  a blanket!  You see, whenever we saw women in the Lesotho pictures, we also saw blankets — wrapped around women’s waists, cuddling infants in blanket slings, and warming up shoulders in cool morning hours.  Plaid, paisley, plain — it didn’t matter.  We just wanted to make sure we had some spare shopping time to bring home a Lesotho blanket.

Street scene in Lesotho

People walking along the street in Lesotho – some with blankets wrapped around their waists.

On our second morning in Lesotho, though, we heard the news:  the U. S. Embassy had ordered the evacuation of all Americans from the country.  So, we looked mournfully at our Global Village liaisons, asking if there would be any time to shop.  No sooner had we mentioned a possible excursion before evacuating, our hosts manned a bus, taking us into town while the others (men, mostly) waited for evacuation plans to unfold.  As you can guess, there is no direct route to blankets — but the hunt is just as good as the find, if you know what I mean.

Woman with baby in blanket

Baby swaddled in a blanket on a busy street in Lesotho

We began at Setsoto Design in the village of Teyateyaneng, where ladies sit on the floor (some wrapped in blankets, of course) weaving intricate tapestries.  Following a paper pattern hung almost ceiling height, weavers take the tiny bundles of colored mohair (from angora goats in Maluti Mountains) and move them those bundles in and around and through the vertically positioned strings, replicating the designs on paper.  Nimble fingers.  Fierce concentration.  Long hours of sitting.

Fascinated, we snapped pictures in the open workplace and then headed to the gift shop to purchase lasting memories of true artisans at work in Lesotho. (I told you we love to shop!)

My tapestry from Setsoto Design in Lesotho, woven by Maggie

My tapestry from Setsoto Design in Lesotho, woven by Maggie

Next door, an elementary school had spilled its precious children all dressed in uniform into the playground to do what children do best:  play! We were a bit surprised at how the kids gathered ’round, wanting their pictures taken, and then asking us to reveal the photos as they giggled and pointed at themselves on our cameras.

Kim Kreitner (Baltimore) shares her pictures with schoolkids in Lesotho.

Kim Kreitner (Baltimore) shares her pictures with schoolkids in Lesotho.

And we loved it — later commenting that kids are kids no matter where they live.  Thank goodness for naivete and smiles and unplanned joy.

We passed storefronts selling everything from oranges to pop — kind of like America’s farmers markets or flea markets or newsstands back home.

And saw more women with blankets — this time in real life rather than on the internet.

Colorful blanket serves as sling for baby

Colorful blanket serves as sling for baby

But when our guides led us to the general store, we knew we’d hit the jackpot.  Stacks of colorful fabric lined the shelves.  And neatly folded blankets stood knee-high on the floor. And we struck up conversations with salespeople, folks in the check-out lanes and men carrying heavy loads on their heads.

Carrying a heavy load

Carrying a heavy load at a general store in Lesotho

We came.  We saw.  We bought.

Blue-patterned wedding shawl from Lesotho

Blue-patterned wedding shawl from Lesotho

Now back in Tennessee, Bert and I are spending cool fall evenings wrapped in blankets found halfway ’round the world.  Ah, it’s great to be a shopper in Lesotho!

My very own plaid blanket from Lesotho!

My very own plaid blanket from Lesotho!

(By the way, isn’t this the same blanket the lady in the top picture is wearing?)

For more information:

Habitat for Humanity Lesothohttp://www.habitat.org/where-we-build/lesotho

Setsoto Design Galleryhttp://www.setsotodesign.com/

For more of our travels in Lesotho and South Africa, check out the Page at the top of this blog.  Thanks!

Posted in Retail Shops, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

Travel theme: Inviting

Labyrinth Gardens at UT

Newly opened Labyrinth Gardens at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

UT Gardens beckons travelers along Neyland Drive in Knoxville, Tennessee, to drive onto campus, pause, sit a spell, and reflect.  The never-static gardens reveal colors of the seasons which means the pinks and rosy reds of spring give way to the brighter yellows of summer and then fade to the muted tones of fall grasses, mums, and ornamental cabbages.

Something new and inviting has recently been installed.  It has become a place where those who enter the campus garden can do more than merely sit and reflect.  Labyrinth Gardens, a carefully planned circular area of soft gray pea gravel and smooth stones bordered by irises, summons visitors to walk the walk while considering whatever is on their mind.

Labyrinth Gardens, UT

Walking the labyrinth at the UT Gardens, Knoxville, Tennessee

Labyrinth Gardens — an inviting place of calm amid a busy university campus.

To see more examples of what’s inviting, head to Ailsa’s blog, Where’s My Backpack and see what’s been posted.  After all, you’re invited!

Posted in Photography, Travel Theme | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

A dream deferred: Political unrest delays Habitat build in Lesotho

Three children in Lesotho

Children waiting for a new Habitat house in Lesotho

Don’t ask three children living near Maseru, Lesotho, about an unexpected coup to oust the Prime Minister.  They may not know anything about it.  Or even care.  All they know is that their new house — a sturdy, clean, safe, concrete block and mud house on a pleasant hillside — couldn’t be completed on schedule by a certain 12-member Habitat Global Village team from the U. S. and Canada.  And not only that —  what is a coup anyway?

Boy waiting for house in Lesotho

Waiting for his new house in Lesotho.

It didn’t seem fair, of course.  But then political unrest always seems to hurt those who are innocent and undeserving of upheaval.  On the day our Habitat team arrived in Johannesburg, a military coup was taking shape:  Prime Minister Thomas Thabane fled the country, seeking exile in Ladybrand in Free State, after receiving intelligence that he was the target of a military assassination attempt.  Habitat Global Village coordinators reacted quickly to the news, delaying the border crossing of our team into Lesotho by one day and discussing issues, ramifications, and concerns for the safety of all.  Cautiously, we entered the country, unloaded our packs at Ka Pitseng Guest House, and prepared for the build on the following day.

Hlabathe and Kelle Shultz

Ready to build: Hlabathe from Global Village Lesotho assists Kelle Shultz, Knoxville Director of Habitat for Humanity

Gathering onsite, we listened as Mathabo Makuta, National Director of Habitat for Humanity Lesotho, greeted us and welcomed us to her country, praising our commitment and generosity.  Then she spoke of passion, passion for helping her people, the people of Lesotho.

Mathabo Makuta

Mathabo Makuta, National Director of Habitat for Humanity Lesotho, addresses the work team from U. S. and Canada.

The task seemed fairly simple to those experienced in global village construction:  Stack concrete blocks, add logs of mud for binding and filler, follow the stone masons’ guidance for alignment and balance, and tap/rake/tap the dirt floor to pack a solid foundation. Secondly, build a pit latrine:  dig, dig, and then dig some more until you can just see over the head of a man standing upright. When both tasks are complete, top the house with corrugated tin and rocks (to form a roof) and line the latrine with block to make it last for years to come.

Working hard was the goal.  After all, most on the team had built with Global Village somewhere in the world before — Guatemala, Nepal, Trinidad, Belfast, Viet Nam.  But no one had ever been to Lesotho, a small land-locked country surrounded on all sides by South Africa.  A country of mountainous terrain with a population of just over two million. And one of the poorest countries in the world (The Citizen, September 1, 2014). Lesotho depends heavily on the income it derives from exporting water and hydroelectric power to South Africa. But even with the benefit of good natural resources, Lesotho has a widespread problem to overcome: over 24% of the population is infected with the HIV/Aids, one of the highest rates in the world.

Current home of family in Lesotho.

Current home of family in Lesotho.

And so our thoughts turned to the family, the people we came halfway around the world to serve.  The ones who had high hopes of a completed house the week we were there.

Three children will live there — a girl (16) and two boys (12 and 8) — orphaned since their parents died of Aids years ago.  Caring for them is their faithful grandmother (age 82, blind and unable to walk, thus not pictured) and her brother (age 76) who stayed onsite with us during the build, frequently tearing up as he expressed his gratitude for the work we were doing.

Family in Lesotho

Proud owners of a new Habitat home — soon!

We lined up in front of the family’s current home to meet the grandmother and tell her how grateful we were for the opportunity to build a new home for her family.  Not a one of us could speak afterwards.  Our mouths were dry.  Our hearts were open.  And the resolve was stronger than ever to complete the job.

Children's uncle in Lesotho

The children’s uncle — happy to work with us and grateful for a new home.

One day of work, however, was all we had.  The attempted coup prompted the U. S. Embassy to issue a statement mandating the evacuation of all U. S. citizens from the Kingdom of Lesotho.  We were leaving — even though the important work had just begun and lines of communication among the Lesotho workers and our team had strengthened.

Global Village team in Lesotho

Global Village team with community supporters: Lesotho 2014.

We looked back at the house with a sense of pride, knowing we had given it our best even if for only a day.  And also knowing that the work would be completed by community workers, our co-workers. Almost immediately, the Global Village team found refuge for us in nearby Clarens and planned for our safe evacuation.

But we hated to leave. Hated to disappoint the family.

Hopeful for a new house

Hopeful that her new Habitat house in Lesotho will be completed soon.

Later in our travels, someone shared the poem “I Am an African” by Wayne Visser, reminding us of our time in Lesotho and a short, very short, build with Habitat for Humanity — a dream deferred.

from I Am an African

When Africa weeps for her children

My cheeks are stained with tears.

When Africa honours her elders

My head is bowed in respect.

When Africa mourns for her victims

My hands are joined in prayer.

When Africa celebrates her triumphs

My feet are alive with dancing.

Wayne Visser

Habitat build site, Lesotho

The panoramic view from home to be completed by Habitat for Humanity in Lesotho.


For more information:

Habitat for Humanity Lesotho: http://www.habitat.org/where-we-build/lesotho

Habitat for Humanity Lesotho: Mountain View Newsletterhttp://www.hfhl.org.ls/habitat/sites/default/files/HFHL%20JULY%202013.pdf

The Citizen: http://citizen.co.za


Added on October 7, 2014:  This post has a happy ending!  Check out pictures of the finished house in Lesotho.  Click here for Welcome news from Lesotho: Habitat house is complete!

Posted in Habitat for Humanity, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Weekly Photo Challenge: Nighttime

If there’s a more lively place at nighttime than Las Vegas, we just haven’t been there (although Shanghai’s Bund comes close)!  It’s “lights on” everywhere — from the dancing Bellagio fountains to the uplighted Eiffel Tower at Paris Las Vegas to the brown turned gold Wynn facade.

Las Vegas welcome sign

Welcome to Vegas — any time day or night!

Nighttime draws people to The Strip where people watching and picture taking go hand in hand.

Waterfall -- Wynn Las Vegas

Looking at the just-snapped pictures of the waterfall at Wynn Las Vegas.

You might get your days and night mixed up though — if you hang out in the casinos.  Keep a watch handy.  You just might not be able to tell whether it’s morning, noon or night.  It’s Vegas, baby.

Casino at night

Seems like nighttime when you’re in the depths of a casino!

For more great nighttime shots, check out Weekly Photo Challenge: Nighttime.

Posted in Photography, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tagged , , , , , | 16 Comments

A Word a Week Photo Challenge: Hole

Knoxville millstone

A millstone found in a Knoxville garden becomes a focal point for two criss-cross pathways.

During Knoxville’s Open Gardens day, a Dogwood Arts Festival event, local homeowners voluntarily push open their gates and let those of us in love with flora and fauna roam the grounds freely.

One formal garden held something quite unique — seventeen antique millstones — integrated in various ways throughout the beautifully manicured grounds. According to the homeowner, most of the millstones were discovered onsite as old vines and overgrown shrubbery were cleared to restore the gardens to their original glory.   What a find!

Three old millstones

Three old millstones form a pathway in a lovely, traditional Knoxville garden.

For more interpretations of the Word a Week Photo Challenge: Hole, click here.

Posted in A Word a Week Challenge, Festivals, Photography | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments