Friday, July 30, 2010

Images of America #8: Maine

If you ever get to the extreme northeast corner of America, you won't forget it. Interesting people, spectacular scenery, an easy-going lifestyle, and of course famous Maine "lobstah." Since we spent the most time in Maine this summer, this set of photos is larger than the others, but I hope you agree that it gives a sense of the place known as "The Way Life Should be."

Sunset in Washington County, the easternmost county in the U.S.

Front page news in the Ellsworth American

Dream-like Atlantic shore scene, McClelland Park south of Milbridge

Lobster traps being checked and baited, off Southwest Harbor, Mt. Desert Island

The proper Downeast method of eating lobster and clams: Just do it!

Quiet morning scene, Southwest Harbor pier

This lovely scene just off U.S. Rt 1 greets us every time we drive to town.

Boats in dry dock near Milbridge, Washington County

Canoes and kayaks on the shores of Alamoosook Lake near East Orland, Hancock County

Rt 1 east of Ellsworth

Typical summer takeout spot, Milbridge

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Living the life of an expatriate has its positive aspects as well as drawbacks. One of the most difficult challenges I face is the annual transition between two very different cultures: that of my temporary adopted home, and that of my native country. No matter which way I travel, whether from Thailand to America, or back, I find myself at an odd point for the first few days after making the trip. Regardless of how well I try to mentally adjust to the move, the change is so relatively abrupt that the 24 hours spent on the plane in transit is but a wink as if opening a door and stepping from one place to the other. And no matter how well I know each place, they both envelop me in an awkward embrace upon arrival, something like the eccentric relative you haven't seen for some time but feel obligated to attempt to hug: it just doesn't feel comfortable at that moment. But it may very well once you've spent some time together.

Part of the discomfort is, I think, the fact that there is always at least a twinge of regret I have in leaving one culture or the other. I love both places, so it isn't a matter of not being so excited about the trip that I can't wait to get there. It's more of a reluctance to let go of wherever I've been for a significant period of time even though I look forward to seeing the other.

So, here I am, Day 2 of my return to Thailand, gradually trying on the Thai culture, and hanging up America, not out of sight, as some of it will never come off, but rather laying it aside for a while. I don't hang it up completely of course; I wear much of it like a piece of jewelry. I can always be completely anonymous in America--it's possible to spend months at a time without an inkling of my other life showing--and equally impossible to do in Thailand: I could never hide my genetics here, even though I can hide my nationality fairly easily. Thais find it as difficult to tell the difference between me and other Euro-types as I do sorting Southeast Asians who live in the U.S. and speak English.

It takes me at least three or four days to take in the new surroundings, as familiar as they may be. I readjust to everything: Modes of transportation, the volume level of speech, currency value, culturally defined behaviors, interactions with others, which way to look first when crossing the street, even my humidity tolerance level is different depending on where I am. In America I sometimes feel as though I am eavesdropping when I suddenly realize that I understand what people around me are saying. In Thailand, it's easier to let conversations become part of the background noise, as my knowledge of Thai language is quite basic. It takes a few days to readjust to using Thai; I struggle to form even the simplest sentence that generally comes quite easily. It amazed me how long the pause was while I was giving directions to the taxi driver from the airport, struggling to determine the difference between the words for "left" and "right." I know it will come back, but not as readily as one might think.

As the days go by, I feel more and more "at home" regardless of which country it is, and I am able to--or perhaps unable to stop--letting go of where I've just been. Gradually I become more a part of the place where I have returned, and I push off from the "transition window" with increased confidence, the place where I've just left becoming a bit fuzzier, yet somewhere I will look forward to transitioning into again and again. That's the life one has when standing with one foot in each of two cultures.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Images of America #7: Upstate NY & Western Mass

A leisurely drive through northern New York and Massachusetts turned up these scenes. The fourth one was a surprise and hopefully a once in a lifetime occurrence!

Classic movie theater in Brockport, NY.

Early cemetery, Clarendon, NY

Erie Canal bridges, Brockport NY

A surprise thrown our way from a not-so-well-covered trailer on I-90 at the NY-Mass state line at 
65 mph! I had to bury my underwear.

Amherst, Massachusetts Art Fair

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Images of America #6: Western Iowa

No photo essay of the American midlands would be complete without an outrageously iconic figure such as "Albert the Bull" in Audubon, Iowa. Twenty-five feet (8 m) in height, Albert has loomed over the western Iowa hills for more than four decades. Truly Americana!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Images of America #5: Nebraska

Nebraska is often thought of as that long boring stretch between the Rockies and the verdant midwest. But despite its length and lack of imposing landscapes, if one leaves I-80, there are many interesting stops that are typical of the Great Plains, and undeniably American images. Traveling west to east, the landscape changes from vast sandy ranches to the lush flatland green of cornfields.

A typical scene in the dry western part of the Cornhusker state.

Along the Lincoln Highway; U.S. Route 30

National Cemetary

The rolling contours of the Sand Hills

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Images of America #4: Utah

Southern Utah hosts an amazing array of geological formations. One could spend weeks exploring their unique nature. Unfortunately, I could spend only half a day as I headed east on my trek to New England. I hadn't been back for 35 years. It is still a magical place.

Mexican Hat. I was hoping I would be the only witness when it finally fell. Not this time.

An odd bit of Americana: A 5,000 square ft. house IN the giant rock!

Arches National Park

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Images of America #3: Northern Arizona

Nowhere else on Earth can one view the spectacular results of geologic and atmospheric forces that eroded and shaped the ancient uplifted volcanoes and vast lakes that covered what is now northern Arizona and southern Utah. Besides the amazing Grand Canyon, there are incredible formations that dazzle the eye and touch the emotions like no other place. Here are a few examples. Next: Utah. Photos by the author, all rights reserved.

Sunrise near Kayenta

Dinosaur tracks in ancient lake bed near Tuba City; Navajo Nation

Rain storm at dawn in Monument Valley, Navajo Tribal Park

Lynx Lake, Yavapai National Forest near Prescott


Volcanic granite, Willow Lake north of Prescott

Anasazi ruin, Wupatki National Monument near Flagstaff ca. 1200 AD.No one knows why these ancient people disappeared.