Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Portuguese Fisherman


I received this card as an official last October... I love it when I get official cards that are this beautiful. :)
The sender writes that you can find traditional boats like this in northern Portugal, and, as in this picture, sometimes they still use animals to transport boats to and from the sea. I am not sure, but I think the boat is called a moliceiro, and can be recognized by its bright colors, flat bottom, and curved prow.

The stamp features Amália Rodrigues, a Portuguese singer and actress famous for popularizing the fado genre of music. Fado is actually listed as an intangible cultural heritage "site" by UNESCO.

This is my first meme post... for Our Wonderful World Tuesday, hosted by Jocelyn.
Our Wonderful World Tuesday

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Polish sunset


An official card from a Natalie in Poland. No info on where the photo was taken, just this quote:

Dłonie są krajobrazem serca.
~Jan Paweł II (Pope John Paul II)

Hands are the landscape of the heart.
~Google translate

Stamps from here.

Bonn, Germany

Poppelsdorfer Castle

Poppelsdorfer Castle was built in the early part of the 18th century in Bonn, Germany, as a summer residence of the duke. In 1818 the castle and surrounding garden was turned over to the newly founded University of Bonn. The garden (which contains 8,000 plant species), is now a popular tourist attraction, which is particularly impressive since it was completely destroyed by bombing in World War II and was subsequently rebuilt. Among the plants cultivated at the park are local endangered species, as well as rare plants from all over the world, including toromiru (Sophora toromiru), a flowering tree endemic to Easter Island.

This card is from one of my vacation RR groups. Thank you Sabine.

Awesome stamps. The tall ship is Passat, a four-masted steel barque of the shipping company F. Laeisz. She was primarily used for transporting cargo from her first voyage in 1911 until being decomissioned in 1957, and is now a museum ship moored in Lübeck. The stamp was issued in 2005. I believe the flower on the left is a definitive. It shows a marigold (Tagetes spp).

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Thailand: Land of Healthy Smile

tom yam ghoong

Trip card #2. I bought this card in the airport in Bangkok. I had an overnight layover in Bangkok on the way from Japan to Cambodia. When I booked the ticket I was kind of annoyed, since it meant I would have to find accomodation in a place I've never been and don't speak the language - which would be made even more challenging by the fact that I was arriving at 10pm local time (11pm in Japan), 3 hours later than I was used to going to sleep at Sogenji... after being awake since 3:30am. Then I had to be at the airport again at 6am for my flight to Siem Reap, and since my friend in Cambodia was taking the day off to pick me up at the airport and spend time with me, I did not want to spend the whole day asleep.

However, I subsequently remembered that I actually do know one person in Bangkok, a friend from high school who I hadn't spoken to in ... well, since high school. But we are Facebook friends, so I sent him a message, and he very kindly offered to let me stay at his place. It was the best overnight layover I could have hoped for: Luk and his girlfriend picked me up at the airport, drove me back to their place, and then he took me to the night market and helped me get some dinner before I crashed. It was really cool to see him again. The only part that didn't go well was the fact that I got to the airport late the next morning and almost missed my flight. But I didn't!

What happened after that is a story for another post.

I picked this card to post since one of the few "actual" things I got to do in Thailand was eat. I didn't eat tom yam ghoong, though. Tom yam ghoong is spicy shrimp soup, which I probably wouldn't eat given the choice (I am not a huge shrimp fan nor am I good with spicy food), but this photo makes it look delicious. :)

Russian Horse

coming from SixthSense

A card from SixthSense for the favorites tag. Actually I received a second copy of this card as an official. I think they were travelling at the same time (post from Russia tends to take a long time). Gorgeous!!

Great stamps too. These are all from the same 2006 set - in fact, it is the entire set of 5. Top row: horse (Equus caballus), raindeer/caribou (Rangifer tarandus). Middle row: Ross's gull (Rhodostethia rosea), Siberian crane (Grus leucogeranus). Bottom: polar bear (Ursus meritimus). These are all animals of the Sakha Republic.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

'S-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands


St. John's Cathedral is a Roman Catholic church in the city of 'S-Hertogenbosch, North Brabant, Netherlands. Construction of the church was completed in 1525, but it was damaged by fires in 1584 and 1830. It has undergone 3 restorations, the most recent being completed in 2010. Sculptor Ton Mooy created 25 new angel statues, the last of which wears jeans and holds a cell phone. The phone has only one button - it dials directly to god, according to Mooy. This "modern angel" was, incredibly, approved by the cathedral's fathers (although they rejected a design for an angel wearing a jet pack).

Thanks Truus for this official card.

The green stamp on the left is from 1989, showing a Boyer type sailing ship, used to carry freight from the Netherlands to the U.K., Germany, and the Baltic in the 16th and 17th centuries. The stamp on the right is from 2010.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Sledding Krtek

I could post a millllllllion cards from my trip all in a row, but I figure it's better to spread out the enjoyment a little. (Besides, I only went to 3 countries, and I am still posting 6 entries between any 2 of the same country.)


So, here is another postcard of Krtek, the little Czech mole, all ready for winter in his pompom hat. It snowed in Seattle while I was gone, several inches apparently, which is rare. Meanwhile, I was in Cambodia, where it was around 80 degrees and I was working on a great sandal tan.

Stamp from a 2009 issue on the aurora borealis.

Okayama, Japan

Takuhatsu, Sogenji Monastery. Resident monks beg for alms at a Zen temple in Okayama, Japan.

The first stop on my trip was Sogenji. Sogenji is a Zen temple and monastery in Okayama, Japan, where the roshi (Zen teacher) carries out his mission to teach Zen to Westerners. As you can see, most of the residents there are non-Japanese, primarily Americans and Europeans. During my time studying abroad in Japan, I had the opportunity to stay at Sogenji for one month during our school spring break. Although I was not allowed to go to individual audiences with the roshi (sanzen, the heart of direct Zen training) at that time, the experience was ... indescribable. I returned to Sogenji to live and train for three months at the end of 2007, and in November of that year I began to receive sanzen. I have since been back a number of times, and try to stay for a couple of weeks every time I visit Japan.

There are no commercially printed cards of Sogenji (it's hard enough to find cards of Okayama). I had these cards printed. The photograph is from one of the Sogenji monks, and the design of the card is mine. (I originally had 100 of these printed, but I have been sending them in postcrossing, and the rest of the ones I had, I left for the people at Sogenji to use. I am going to have more printed, so if you would like one, leave me a comment.)

Takuhatsu is indeed the practice of begging for alms. The monks go out into the community three times per month for the purpose of collecting donations. They wear the robes of ordained Zen monks (even those who are not ordained do so for takuhatsu only), and special sandals and hats, and carry begging bags with the name of Sogenji on the front. At each house or place of business, one of the monks stands in front and chants "hō" three times. Often, someone comes out and places money or rice in the begging bag, and for each donation, the monk chants a special takuhatsu sutra. The head monk collects all the money when they return to the temple, and it is used to buy tofu and other necessary supplies.

I also had the opportunity to go on takuhatsu at Sogenji. I don't have a photo of takuhatsu-me on this computer, so instead, here is a photo of the others going on takuhatsu, on a day I did not go (2007).

This year, I was at Sogenji for winter solstice, Christmas, and New Year's, all of which are celebrated in various ways. Here is a photo from this year's winter solstice feast. Winter solstice comes shortly after two intensive meditation retreats, and they have a huge party. Although for most of the year, meals consist largely of food that is donated or grown at the temple (a lot of potatoes, eggplant, and cabbage, along with a lot of food that is about to turn moldy or already is partly rotten), on solstice, everyone is allowed to make their own favorite dish from their country or culture, and the roshi, as a sort of holiday gift, buys all the necessary ingredients. Since Sogenji is home to people from all over the world, the feast is truly something to behold. The dishes barely all fit on the table.

Tojitoya 2011

New Year's is a big deal in Japan. Families gather on the morning of the 1st to eat traditional New Year's cuisine, featuring mochi (pounded glutinous rice cake). Mochi is also used for New Year's decorations, along with pine branches (the word for pine in Japanese is a homonym for the word for "end" as in "end of the old year"). At Sogenji, they decorate with -- and eat -- a lot of mochi. It took us around six hours to pound it all.

Pounding the cooked rice into mochi

Post-pounded mochi

Forming the pounded mochi into balls.

On New Year's Eve, the bell in the bell tower is rung 108 times, culminating at midnight. Actually we did not ring the bell; instead, we greeted guests from the community who came to ring it, and we chanted the bell sutra each time.

Over the first few days of January, Japanese people make their first shrine or temple visit of the new year, called hatsumōde. At Sogenji, most of the monks rest or watch movies during this time, except during their tea-serving shift, when they wear their nice clothes and serve matcha and sweets to guests of the roshi. I had never served matcha before and had to learn the proper way to mix it, deliver it, and take away the dishes again at the end.

I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to experience this season at Sogenji. As always, it is an incredible gift to be a part of the One Drop sangha, which I hope to never, ever take for granted.

This stamp is #9 in the 10th issue of a series called ふるさと - 心の風景 (hometowns - scenes in my heart). This issue showcases scenes from Nagano, Niigata, and Yamanashi prefectures, and this stamp, from Yamanashi, is entitled "富士を見える町" (town with a view of Mt. Fuji). I bought the whole souvenir sheet just to bring home for me, so I will probably post that at some point.

Happy Holidays

This was a holiday card from the families of one of my two-year-olds. Some of you know that I quit my job in December in order to go on my long trip to Asia (from which I returned on Monday - postcards from the trip coming soon!), so it was particularly meaningful to receive holiday/goodbye cards and gifts from some of the families. In my letter of resignation, which went out to all my coworkers and the families of all my children from the past 3 years, I offered to send postcards from my trip to anyone who gave me their address. Four of the families did, including this family, who wrote their address along with a sweet message on the back of this card. I sent them a card from Japan.

I am not sure where this photo was taken, but my guess is somewhere in the state of Washington, where we live.

Posted with permission from the family.