Photographs from Ishkashim, Afghanistan and Tajikistan

From EurasiaNet.org:

Two towns named Ishkashim stand opposite each other on the Pyanj River, which marks the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan. Against a stark backdrop of daunting peaks and dusty plains, life here, as documented in this photo essay by Diana Markosian, is marked by constant uncertainty.

We’ll be there in a few weeks.

Škaric&#769 / Scarich in Croatia and the United States

The Scarichs are from Bra&#269. The first of our line of Scarichs to come to California was Vincent Gregory Scarich. Not many of us have visited family in Croatia. My (Greg’s) aunt and uncle, Rita and Gerry, visited probably in the late 70s. And Uncle Nick, one of Vincent’s sons visited from time to time. But no one I talked to knew who or where they visited. I was always told I was named after my great-grandfather Vincent Gregory Scarich from the island of Brač. However I’ve never seen anything in writing that confirms that his name was Vincent Gregory. His Certificate of Naturalization from 1905 has Visko Skarich (no accents). Škarić is Scarich in Croatian, so Skarich is yet another spelling.

Visko Skarich Naturalization

Before we went on our trip to Croatia we thought we’d try to visit some Scarichs if we could find any. My dad had some contact about 40 years ago, but never visited any relatives in Croatia. His uncle, Nick, had visited Croatia but neither my dad nor I could find any information on that. I tried one of my cousins since their parents had visited relatives in Croatia, but they didn’t have any information. I Googled and although I found plenty of Škaric&#769s not much contact information or current information. The major of Split in 2000 was a Škaric&#769 and Split is the main port to catch the ferry to Brač. I also tried Facebook and found some Škaric&#769s but not in Split or Brač. Nonetheless I contacted one, but never heard from her and realized that I wasn’t likely to find any of the mostly thirty somethings on Facebook that would be interested in meeting us.

But in family papers I found that some distant cousins (Restovich) were buried in Postira, a town on the island of Brač. I also looked on a couple of genealogy sites but didn’t turn up anything. So we left on our trip with a plan to poke around the graveyard in Postira.

On our first full day in Croatia we were visiting a farmers market in Zagreb. Louisa saw some honey from Brač at a stand and the woman selling the honey said that there were lots of Škaric&#769s on Brač. So we might find some, but I assumed that would be older non-English speaking and we wouldn’t learn much.

Ten days later in Split we decided to reconnoiter the ferry to Brač the day before we were to go. I went to the ticket office and Louisa started talking with a person in line for the ferry that afternoon. He was a Škaric&#769. Skaric at Split Ferry

The next day we caught the 9 am ferry and upon arrival drove to Postira and went for lunch. In talking to the waitress she related that although she wasn’t from Brač she knew there were Škaric&#769s and suggested going about half a kilometer down the shore to a grocery store and ask about the Skaricč neighborhood that was nearby. A whole neighborhood! This is getting interesting. I suggested the village priest and we all agreed that was even a better place to start. She pointed out the steeple and after lunch we wandered up the hill to the church. No one in the church, but we saw a house that looked like it might be the rectory and called into the open front door. The priest came out and although he spoke very little English he got the gist of what we were after and brought out a big ledger book. I had a birthdate of 1859 and Vincent Gregory/Visko for a name. He started thumbing through the book and ran into about ten pages of Škaric&#769s. The book appeared to have been recompiled about 50 years ago with more recent additions (the book was organized and all the old entries had been put in at the same time (we later learned that many of the church records were copied over when the communists took over and the originals hidden away). The priest finally homed in on one page and although the birthdate differed by a year from what I had, and the first name was Vicko not Visko, but seemed like a reasonable variant. No middle name either. He then got kind of a knowing look and he went to make a call. He said two o’clock and I talked to Mila, my (third) cousin would said she would come by in an hour. During the hour Father Ton?i Jelin?i? brought us some homemade wine to drink.

An hour later not one but two cousins showed up and soon their cousin soon showed up. They were all females in their mid-fifties and spoke fluent English. We talked for a while and Mila invited us to her house for happy hour. It turns out their cousin, Ana, is the family genealogist and had a partial copy of the family tree. Up until then we weren’t convinced that we had nailed down the relationship, but her tree had Vinko Juraj, a brother of their great-grandfather. And eventually I remembered when I was about seven I met a relative from Bolivia, Sonja. They had met Sonja and her son, Vincent, who visits Brač every couple of years. With all these connections we agreed we must be cousins.

Photo of Greg and cousins
Greg, Mila, Mirjam and Ana

Mirjam, my other third cousin, met and married an American in college in Zagreb, and has lived in New York ever since. Her daughter, Anya, was there also and in fact visits every summer (except for two years during the war).

The next day, Mila took us for a tour of our neighborhood, called Škaric&#769a Dvori. Dvori we took to mean neighborhood of the Škaric&#769s. She pointed out numerous building, several plaques celebrating famous Škaric&#769s. We met one older couple. He is a Škaric&#769 but spoke no English.

Obviously we learned a lot more about the family than I’ve written about here. The cousins are all generous and interesting. We had a great time and will stay in contact.

We’ve posted photographs from the whole trip to Croatia on our to our website here.

Baja Sea Kayaking


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Mugu Peak Hike

Anita, Bob, Louisa and Greg got out after the recent rains and took a local hike. Weather turned out to be good, a bit windy, but otherwise fine. And much better views than we expected. This posting is in part a test of new to me easier photo posting in WordPress.

 

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Sunset from the Pacific Coast Highway seen on our drive home. Lots of cars were stopped to view and photograph this sunset.

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Cedar Mesa and the Valley of the Gods

Louisa and Greg camped and hiked in this area in the southeast corner of Utah on our way home from the Mountain Film in Telluride as described in the previous post. We just put together a photo book of Greg’s photos of this part of the trip.

Mainly posting this to see how Shutterfly presents the book. The full screen option is good. Edit: the option to view is now only via the link below.

Click here to view this photo book larger

Colorado and Utah Road Trip

We began our trip with the Telluride Mountain Film Festival. Mountain Film is held over Memorial Day weekend and celebrates adventure in the outdoors, nature, the cultures that live closer to nature, the environment and saving it for the future. This year the theme was Awareness Into Action. Also setting the background for discussions was a tribute to Richard Holbrooke—Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. We were delighted to be the guests of locals, Nancy and Alfredo, along with Patrick, Janet, Judy and Paul. Thank you for your kind hospitality Nancy and Alfredo.

We then stopped by Janet and Patrick’s place near Telluride to see the progress on their property.

We all then headed to Fruita, a Colorado a mountain biking mecca. We all camped, some in motor homes, some in vans, and some in tents. Judy and Paul’s friend Wayne, a BLM ranger, had a couple of days off and showed us around. Paul H., another friend of Judy and Paul’s also joined us. When we arrived Wayne took us for a quick evening ride near Loma. The next day we did the Western Rim Trail, a great trail in both Utah and Colorado along the Colorado River canyon rim. Fun riding and incomparable scenery. The next two days with Janet and Patrick joining us, we explored Book Cliffs a few miles north of Fruita. Fun riding. Fast swooping trails, ups and downs, and attention grabbing trails along ridges, such as Zippety Do Da. We weren’t disappointed in Fruita.

Everyone headed off in their own directions and we went nearby to Colorado National Monument with steep red canyons. Camped two nights there and did a hike on the Monument Canyon Trail to Independence Monument.

Headed south via Moab to Cedar Mesa in southern Utah which includes Natural Bridges National Monument. Arrived late and the campground was filled up so we went just outside the monument into BLM land where you can camp anywhere, although they prefer you use existing sites. A mile or so off the main road we found a nice site along a wash. Better than the campground. Very quiet. We saw about one car per day while in our campsite. Plenty of things to see and do, the monument as well as endless Anasazi dwellings and pictographs in the many canyons.

Photos from our trip are posted in the our photo gallery. You may want to use the slideshow option: click on the appropriate icon in the upper right, and after the slideshow comes up you may want to click on the icon in the lower right  to view full screen (Flash needed). Or you can use keyboard arrow keys to go from one slide to the next.

Mysore India

We are now in Mysore, Karnataka. Today we re-arranged our train tickets so we can make it to Hyderabad for Padma’s cousin’s engagement party on March 6 which will be attended by many of the relatives Louisa met in 1997. It will be a great occasion and nice finale to our trip!

Unlike many breakfasts of vadai, paper dosa or idli and tea, this morning’s (western) breakfast was omelet, milk coffee,” butter toast jam” on the rooftop overlooking Gandhi Square. We chatted up a fun young German couple at university studying poli-sci and education. We have hardly met any Americans during the trip.

Wandering thru town after breakfast, we found the most stunningly beautiful Devaraja market with gorgeous produce stacked and displayed in eye catching arrays, hugh piles of flower pedals, jasmine, marigolds being strung and dazzling garlands wrapped with silver thread for weddings as their vendors called out to customers competing for their rupees.

Already our thoughts were turning to food again which is not hard find here. Evenings carts materialize on sidewalks and street corners whipping up delightful dosas (pancakes) plopped in a leaf bowl (biodegradable!) hit with a big dollop of coconut chutney and topped with a vadai (chickpea flour doughnut) or you could have Gobichanchoori as a snack, cauliflower in a dough mixture fried and served with a spicy sauce and sliced cabbage, chillies, onion. Great chased by a cold Kingfisher beer.
We walked on to Mysore Palace, home to the current maharaja, who supposedly still lives somewhere in the back of the palace. Hard to dream up something as opulent as this architectural mash up of Buckingham Palace meets King Tut’s interior decorator. Picture this—peacock blue, pink and gold fluted coumns with floral bases and caps rising up three stories to a stained glass ceiling of peacock feather patterns in the octagonal wedding hall surrounded by a scalloped arch colonnade with 36 murals of the maharaja’s birthday parade incuding marching bands, mounted regiments, caprisonned elephants with golden howdahs, white bullocks drawing silver coaches and a few thousand of his closest friends.

Just to show you how India has changed, we climbed the 1000 steps of Chamundi Hill to the Chamundeswari temple passing the 5 meter high Nandi bull statue on the way. A couple of real cows followed us up the steps looking for a hand out. Being pressed for time on the return, we took a new comfortable city bus with A/C down the hill!

The British influence in Mysore is readily evident with its wide neat boulevards and symetrical street layout. They actually have stoplights and drivers for the most part actually obey them! Unlike Madurai which was built with streets for bullock carts, foot traffic, and bicycles, now has to accommodate SUVs, buses hurtling down the streets, motos weaving in and out, autorickshaws dodging, and bicycles careening and bullock carts plodding along, itinerant cows wandering, dogs laying in the road PLUS pedestrians AND there is no sidewalk. Crossing a major busy street is a death defying adventure. What space would be sidewalk is being used by sidewalk vendors selling sugar cane juice or chat snacks or coconuts. Another notable factor is the unrelenting ear splitting use of car horns, bells, claxons, whining two cycle and roaring truck engines. It is non stop 24-7 off the end of decibel charts. Add to that blasting Tamil movie songs emminating from pirated CD shops.

Fifteen minutes from the Mysore, we found tranquil rice patties being plowed by oxen, sugar cane fields and big shady trees on quiet country lanes yesterday on a day trip to Tipu Sultan’s fortress and summer palace at Srirangapatnam. We rode rental bikes to a 9th C Vishnu temple and were enthralled by the beautiful elegant columns and colonnaded court. Chatted with one of the Brahmin priests to find out he has a colleague at the Indian temple in Malibu!

Leaving tomorrow for Coorg and the mountains! Namaste! Louisa

Peace and quiet at Honey Valley Estates

From Mysore we took buses and a jeep up to a small “resort” named Honey Valley Estate, a working coffee plantation (and former collection of bee hives). We arrived on Saturday to a collection of westerners, but more Indians, particularly from nearby (6 hours) Bangalore. Cool nights and eighties during the day. Today Sunday, we took a half day hike up to a nearby ridge to survey the area.

Good vegetarian food and good hosts.

Today a group of about 20 college students arrived from Seattle. They’re traveling for a week before settling in near Pondicherry to study sustainability, community, and spirituality—an interesting combination.

Mannarsala Nagaraja Temple

Haripad, Kerala, India

A change from Sri Lanka. India is dirtier, noisier, and the streets and sidewalks (when they exist) are in much worse shape; but seems more alive. Maybe because Colombo was more modern and therefore less interesting. But unlike previous experiences getting a train reservation and boarding the train was straightforward. Took maybe 10 minutes to book three train reservations. And the station although busy wasn’t hectic. Had to ask to find our car, but a train employee led us to our car. Even had some air conditioning in the station and cooled down to a decent temperature shortly after we got moving (on time).

We got up before 4 a.m. to catch our flight from Colombo to Trivanduram. Bought our train tickets and unsuccessfully tried to get a SIM card (anti-terrorism security!). Hung out in Anita and Bob’s room waiting for our 5 p.m. train and avoided the heat.

Arrived in Haripad to visit the Manarsalla Nagaraja Temple. Arrived at the Mandaram Guest House expecting a cold water dingy hotel, but found a tiled spacious hotel with hot water. But still basic, simple food, bucket showers, and tiny towels. Up in the morning to visit the temple. A bustling place. Walk in through a 2-inch deep moat to clean your feet. Music and ceremonies going on everywhere. One selects from a list of maybe 15 ceremonies and pays at the ticket office, gets a printed receipt and a temple “priest” performs the ceremony. One ceremony involved putting an infant on one side of a large balance scale while the other side is loaded if and equal weight offering—bananas, rice or other items. Music is played and words spoken. Hundreds of people and many ceremonies being performed. Photography and video recording was not generally allowed, so Louisa asked permission and was told the musicians would be available after the noon time closing. We ended up meeting them in a small room one of them occupied in front of the temple. A short iPhone recording attached.

Food is much cheaper here than Sri Lanka. Last nights basic dinner and two liter bottles of water was 100Rs or about $2.20. A thali plate in Trivanduram was about $1 each.

Yesterday was hot and humid, but it rained last night and today was overcast and cooler.

Kochi and Munnar, Kerala, India

Today is our last day and we’re leaving on a good note. Shopping at Barefoot. A delicious lunch at the Galle Face hotel—in continuous operation since 1864. Situated right on the water and next to a large green and boardwalk.

We then met with Tissa, the head of the Fulbright Program in Sri Lanka. Anita worked for the Fuibright in the nineties and Bob and Anita volunteer for some activities. Tissa and Anita met professionally. Tissa has worked for the program for 22 years and has a great perspective on the program and Sri Lankan and US politics.

Yesterday visited the National Museum which has many of the antiquities from the sites we’ve visited and a recently undated displays. The museum put some of what we’d seen in perspective.

We did some shopping yesterday too and saw the Sri Lankan middle class. Many people at a Macy’s like store busy buying stuff.

We’ve enjoyed our trip. Many interesting things to see, clean, and friendly helpful people.

Anita and Bob did a fantastic job of organizing the trip and have been great to travel with.

Now we’re off on our own for a month in South India.