“ Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” - Gustav Flaubert
I recently spent 9 nights and 10 days as part of an art immersion tour organized by Jewel Murphy from Eugene, Oregon. The artist who led the art workshops in our mornings was Rogene Manas, a mixed media artist, also from Eugene. This blog post is intended to be somewhat of a testimonial as I think it will take me a very long time to write about everything that we did.
i first met Jewel at the Casa Colonial, a charming “inn” (don’t know the correct name for it. It’s a small 16-room B and B with rooms surrounding garden.). I was there attending a storytelling workshop (more on that in another post). I found out that she was doing these art tours and I thought it sounded like something I would enjoy so seed planted. That seed blossomed this year as I let my intuition lead me to my next adventure.
For artists and artists-in-desire, this workshop was designed not only to be an opportunity for artists to do creative work but also to bring novice artists gently into the art-making fold. Rogene was a masterful teacher and generously shared valuable (invaluable) techniques, skills, ideas, guidance, support. I’d say it was thrilling ! To think that you feel like you accomplished something, that you now know something that you are now able to share with others is no easy task for a teacher. I can’t wait to get her book, Artful Paper Clay. I am posting below my finished projects, but all of us did work that was amazing.
Jewel is an artist in organizing, in creating this opportunity, in choosing the artists and artisans who we visited, in deciding which restaurants we would eat at, and in giving us also a bit of the Oaxaca art and museum scene. You could say it was highly “curated.”
Our schedule was generally that in the mornings we’d make art: sculpture with the paper clay; painting; collage, and assemblage. In the afternoons and one morning, we went on excursions, mainly to visit artists and artisans - sculptors, weavers, carvers, printmakers, assemblage artists. One of my most memorable days was a visit with Marietta Bernstorff, the curator of the current exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Arts. I will write more in detail about that exhibit but it was fascinating to hear the stories about the fascinating exhibit. Somewhere in this mix, we also did shopping, museums, galleries, and eating. The artists and artisans and sites that Jewel curates in the future will not always be the same. But I am sure though that she will put the same thought and care in plannning future tours. That’s just the way she is.
I can not write this piece without mentioning the magic in our group of women who participated in this tour. I was towards the end of making self-introductions and I felt a little intimidated by these women. They included a real artist, an art teacher (also a real artist); a creative writing professor, an acupuncture teacher, an herbalist, a professor of inter-cultural communication, a yoga teacher/physical therapist/ paper-maker/ etc., and me. You know me. Not only were these impressive women on the surface, they were kind and compassionate souls. We were in the zone together. I don’t think this was curated except by the forces of the universe. We also had a wonderful guide, Pablo, who made sure we got to our destinations, provided information and translation, and gave us a interesting and personal explanation if the artist Rodolfo Morales.
You may hesitate as I did when faced with the decision to do this tour. (I was the last seat!) But you will more likely regret not going, than going. In the tours, we were given opportunities far beyond the beaten path. Combine that with the the masterful teaching of Rogene, the setting at Casa Colonial and the many, many extra blessings we experienced, that is a recipe for a beautiful once-in-lifetime experience. But I’ll probably do it again.
We started the day heading for Arashiyama, the bamboo forest. I had read that it was good to go early so that your photos would not be filled with other tourists. Very good tip. So peaceful.
Near the bamboo forest was a zen temple, Tenryu-ji, which had beautiful gardens.
We walked through the town (bought some delicious furikake there), across the Togetsukyo Bridge, and were relaxing next to the river, when Yuki, a Kyoto local, befriended us. 50 years ago, she had been an exchange student in Pennsylvania, where she learned English. We are so grateful for her friendship and helping us to get around using the buses. She taught us how to pay for a one-day pass. And she brought us to more temples than we had planned to see. It was quite an adventure.
This guardian was at the entrance to Ninna-ji, which Yuki said was her favorite temple. It is famous for its five-story pagoda.
We then went to Kinkakuji, the golden temple, one of the more famous landmarks in Kyoto.
Later in the afternoon, Yuki wanted us to see the Heian Shrine, as the admission was free on Monday. It was not so much the shrine itself, but the gardens that she thought we would like. As we got off the bus, she starts running to the entrance, as it was very close to closing time. She tells us we don’t all have to run, she’ll do it for us. Sure enough, she made it just as a guard was closing and he let us in.
As it turned dark, Yuki brought us to see the Gion district. I don’t have many photos but I can tell you that I did see an actual geisha. She shuffled quickly past us as we were walking through a street. Yuki pointed her out to us and assured us that she was authentic.
And then, it was time to part ways. She made sure we got on the right bus, going in the right direction. Though she gave me her email address, I tried to write and it was returned as an error message. Yuki, or as she referred to herself, Noisy Yuki, domo arigato gozaimashita for your wonderful company. You really made our time in Kyoto so special and memorable.
We figured we had a morning and perhaps afternoon to explore Kyoto before the typhoon was to pay a visit. The one a few weeks before had hit Osaka pretty bad but this one was expected to miss Kyoto. Plus, we were in a solid hotel. We went to Kizomizudera first, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
we took a cab to Ginkakuji (Silver Temple) and did not spend much time there. I only have a few photos.
By chance found this cute cafe called Gospel cafe. I thought we were going to be sucked into going to an evangelical church but no, it was just a cafe. Polly had a scone and tea and really enjoyed it. Sherry and I had a meal. I don’t think it was anything special, but it sufficed.
We made our way back to the hotel by taxi. We found a huge department store near us and also a grocery store. We did what good Guam girls do when there’s a typhoon coming, get food supplies! While we waited for the storm to pass, I tried to teach them how to play the hanafuda card game that I bought at the department store. The storm passed in the night without incident. This was the same one that hit Okinawa pretty bad, so we did worry. But grateful that it barely affected our trip.
On our fourth day, the itinerary was to do a short hike to the next village. But because of the weather, and also we really liked this town and did not have enough time here the day before, we decided to not take that last leg. We enjoyed our morning here in Narai, even though it was a bit rainy.
There was an option to take a morning hike to this waterfall before heading to the next segment of the trail. Because I didn't take the planned hike the day before, I felt a need to do this. Though it was rainy the day before, this day was gorgeous and clear, so I decided to take this option. My companions chose not to, which was fine. They spent the day in the town, as we did the day before.
We had a nice breakfast (forgot to take a picture) and then we were off. We walked the forty or so minutes to get to the village of Tsumago but it was too early for any of the stores to be open, so we walked through and enjoyed the feel of this quaint town.
When I decided to not renew my lease on my apartment in Guam, I did not know when I would be back in this area again. Take that literally, I really just don't know, but it may be sooner than later. I wanted to do a trip in Asia though, before going back to Hawaii. A friend had been on these self-guided tours with the Oku Japan company and it sounded like something I wanted to do. The company makes all the arrangements for you in terms of train tickets and accommodations. There are self-guided hikes of various lengths and challenge levels that make up the day. I asked if any of my travel buddies wanted to come with me, and 2 of my friends joined me. Though the Oku company is very helpful, giving us comprehensive directions so that we would be successful in walking the trail, we ended up making it a DIY (Do it yourself) tour, for much of it. That's the great thing about the tour, though, it gives you options. In fact, we could choose to start in Tokyo or Kyoto, so we flew into Osaka, and took a bus to Kyoto. Stayed overnight at a hotel that agreed to store our luggage while we were away for the next 3 nights, Kyoto Tower Hotel Annex.
In my efforts to find an alternative to United, which has a monopoly on direct flights from Guam to Hawaii and to the mainland, I went through Korea. There are several budget airlines flying between Korea and Guam, I took T'way. I left Guam about 1:00 in the morning, arrived in Korea at 4:45. I booked a hotel near the airport, and though I couldn't check in, I was able to keep my luggage in storage. Then I went back to the airport to catch the metro to Seoul.
One of the questions that we get asked a lot, and was actually the most confusing part of planning for our trip to Vietnam, was the visa process. Yes, you do need a visa, and no, you do not have to send your passport away to get it. Here's how we did it:
Banh Mi, the Vietnamese submarine sandwich, is such a delicious meal for sandwich lovers who also love that Asian twist. It is a symbol of multi-culturalism and cultural appropriation. I love extrapolating narratives from tasty food. In this case, French were former colonizers of Vietnam, so the bread used is based on the French baguette. But the Vietnamese made it better - to be able to handle the pickled and fresh vegetables as well as the meats and pate', also from the French. (Not all banh mi include the pate', in case you are pate' resistant.) The quality of the banh mi, in my opinion, is judged by the bread, which varies from place to place.
I have traveled quite a bit, and am using this page to record some memories. Travel is a wonderful education, expanding your view of the world, of other cultures, of the beauty of diversity.