Collecting – Life Moments

A little girl, red basket in her hand, walks along the beach. Every other step, she bends down and picks up a shell. When the basket is full she dumps its contents with her mother; who sits nearby, and she continues. The sun is going down, its time to go home. When she gets home she will line all the shells on a special shelf. She likes to collect. She has 30 Barbie dolls, all types; they are from different nationalities and life-styles: “exercise Barbie”, “fashion Barbie,” “stewardess Barbie” and more. Each Barbie gets a shell as a present.

As kids we collect toys. I remember my son’s obsession with having all the different Power Rangers and then all the Ninja Turtles. It seems that with each year there was a new interest. It’s hard to let go, so the comic books, the Transformers, the baseball cards and the key chains all found their place in the basement. All of these are mementos of childhood. Each generation has it’s own collective interest.

There is an interesting show at the New Museum called The keeper. The exhibit is dedicated to the act of preserving objects, artworks, and images, but what makes it most interesting is the passion for accumulating Teddy Bear images by artist Ydessa Hendeles. I have seen another show of her work at the Helena Rubinstein Museum in Israel where she collected wooden dolls from the past century.

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Her installation takes most part of the second floor but other artists tell their story through the display of model houses or, for example, a drawing describing the horrors of the holocaust or painting by Hilma of Klint found after her death.

At ICP here

The exhibit is called “Public, Private, Secret” and is about people telling their story. There is a dialogue between and about the diversity of photographic and visual culture in a wholly unique and unexpected way. Each of the artists presented,tells their own story and by that telling we are experience and are drawn to be part of that story.

One photograph is a compilation of photos of people at a fashion show. We see their expressions and imagine what they see, what they think.

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Collecting is not only about art. We all love shopping for cloths and by this act we do collect. The idea of letting go of a favorite sweater or jacket is hard so we are left with a collection of “favorite cloths” that don’t always fit or may be out of the current fashion.

When my family moved to Westport from the city, the movers complained about the number of book boxes we had. We built a library on the second floor; needless to say it was not enough. We tried to categories the books according to our interests, religion, math, art, travel and more. My collection of cookbooks found it’s place in the kitchen and again some books were delegated to the basement.

Life would not be interesting without friends. It could be someone we met on a flight that becomes a friend or someone we see at the gym. Over the years we keep collecting friends. The friendships are the ties that help us go through life. We share happy and sad moments.

What I find fascinating is that as we age, our collective memories make up the building blocks that helps with the challenges of what we call The Third Age. Each experience enriches us. Our mind is like a computer that’s filled with data.

I spend the last week in Israel visiting my Mom. The Biennale of Israeli Ceramics at the Erez Israel Museum is an exhibit not to be missed.

There is also an interesting Picasso show at the Israel Museum. It’s called Drawing Inspiration. What strikes me is that at the age of 86 Picasso painted 365, which is an artistic autobiography, and one can look at as a collection of life-moments.

I started asking my mom to tell me about her life in Tel Aviv. To which school did she go? Who were her friends? Where was she when Ben Gurion declared the birth of Israel? I want to collect these memories, these are her personal stories and through them I get a glimpse of her in a different time and place.

I have seen the performances of an artistic group called Public Movement at the Tel Aviv Museum where they reenacted the declaration of the state and then took a group of ten people through the museum, behind the scenes and through the exhibits. There is a show at the Guggenheim museum called But a storm in Blowing from Paradise: contemporary Art from the Middle East and North Africa. The show presents works by artists from different countries including an interesting video by Uri Gersht walking in Eastern Europe and an installation of sand by Attiya. This exhibit also hosts a performance by the Public Movement Group. I signed up for a one-on-one briefing about art in Palestine before 1948. I did not know but according to their research there is a void and although art was created at that time there is hardly any art to be found by Palestinian artists at any museum in Israel or the West Bank. When I arrived at the museum, it was in the middle of installing a new show. I was met by an agent and was lead through back doors to a room on the 7th floor by the agent who proceeded to tell me the story of the lost art. Here again I found a collection of memories.

In the age of technology when we hardly stop to smell the roses or send a hand written note or read a book in real print, Collecting takes on a different meaning.

 

 

 

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Is it Saigon or Ho-Chi-Minh??

We arrived at the last stop on our vacation. It’s the longest time that we have been away from our family and we miss them all.
The capital of Vietnam has had name changes that reflect the ruling “party” and just like in olden days when a new king came to power the old temple gods were destroyed, so too in modern day Vietnam.. the names of cities change with a change in ruling power. The capital of the South was called Saigon but when the North won the war and the name changed in 1975 to Ho chi Minh to honor the North’s communist leader. (see)
The sheer number of motorcyclists is mindboggling.  They even take to riding (or is it swarming) on the sidewalks during rush hour. It’s like an army attacking the road. You’d think that you’d get used to seeing this mode of transportation but it is endless…

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We walked around central city and took the elevator 49 floors to the top of The Bitex center to get a 360 degree view of the city.

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The architecture is a mix of French colonial with magnificent building mixed with more typical small building.

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We visited the Post Office building which is a working post office, then off to the Notre-Dame Cathedral and to the Presidential palace or as it was renamed The Reunification Palace. Lots of important meetings took place here and there is huge bunker in the basement. It’s an impressive building built in the 1960 architecture style surrounded by palm trees with a helicopter pad on the roof. It is associated with the 1975 fall of Saigon to the North , yet it is as though time stood still.

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The war remnants museum is a reminder of the Vietnam War. There is an exhibit that details the US involvement and an exhibit of war photos among them the famous naked girl running from a napalm bomb. I have been reading the book ” The Girl in the Picture” which gives a detailed description of those days. There are also photos of the victims of Agent Orange the chemical weapon that was used.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_Remnants_Museum

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Vietnamese use herbs to cure almost anything.  We visited the Fito museum which is an old house in the Chinatown neighborhood and learned that the bones of different animals can produce different medicines. Dried herbs are used with water to remedy other stuff. Cinnamon for example mixed with water can cure diarrhea.

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To finish our tour we visited two temples. One is a religion called Caodi which is a monotheistic religion established in 1926.

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Our adventure is almost over. We started in Hong Kong which is reminiscent of New York with the tall buildings and a modern skyline.  Then we flew south to Cambodia to embrace the ancient temples of Ankgor Watt . We then continued to Vietnam; starting in the North and going down south as-if following the communist Viet-Cong on their way to conquer the south. It is a different world. We tasted different foods with different spices. We learned about the religion.  We talked to people who grew up after the war yet carry in their DNA the effects of the war.

Vietnam is a communist-run country with strong capitalistic influences. The government is corrupt but there is no alternative…  yet. There is beauty in that world and I am glad we chose to go there.

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The Power of Water

Halong Bay is three hours from Hanoi. Once we get out of the city see rice fields and Buffalo grazing. We stop at a rest stop which really is a shopping trap for tourists.  You need to spend half an hour there in the hope that you’ll buy an embroidered picture or a semi precious gem. One can define it as “Capitalism” at it’s best..
Halong translates as ‘where the dragon descends into the sea’, and legend claims the islands of Halong Bay were created by a great dragon from the mountains. As the dragon charged towards the coast, its flailing tail gouged out valleys and crevasses. When it finally plunged into the sea, the area filled with water, leaving only the pinnacles visible.

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We boarded a “junk” sailing boat for the overnight exploration.
There is a mystical atmosphere as you look at the islands that pop out from the water at different perspectives. For a close look at the limestone rocks we take a kayak. It was a lesson in coordinating strokes as no one wanted to fall into the bay. We saw a floating fishing village although some boats were stuck on shore..

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The next morning we went back to Hanoi and flew south to Da-Nang. Da-Nang is the third biggest city. We did not stay there but arrived at the most amazing resort – The Nam Hai. There are three infinity pools ending at the beach… breath-taking.

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These are the best beaches in Vietnam by the China sea. Hoi-An is a historical village 15 minutes away which is another shopping mecca.  You can get a suit or shoes made in 24 hours . We took a tour of some old houses. It seems that the architecture of the house did not change there is a long room which is divided between living/bedroom and kitchen in the back.

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Half an hour bike ride took us through palm tree field, rice fields and into a farming village. The farmers grow rice for their own consumption, raise chickens, pigs , banana trees, papaya trees, lemon grass, basically anything they eat they grow.

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We were treated to a home-cooked meal of spring rice rolls and learned how to make rice by separating the husk till the white kernel emerges.
We then continued biking to a vegetable garden village where they grow vegetables to sell at the local market.

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we could see how the Viet-Cong were able to hide in between the palms or rice fields and come out at night.
Most days we woke up to a gray sea but on our last day the sun came out so we indulged in a day of rest, it is a vacation after all.

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New beginnings – 2015

Martin Buber said :
“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.”

I believe that traveling opens our mind and Intrigues or awaken our senses. Life is a journey so in a way we start traveling the minute we are born.

I started the year 2015 with a trip to Hong Kong . We were invited to a chinese wedding on January 1st. I like numbers so somehow I saw the hidden reason to the trip. We are celebrating 33 years of marriage (3+3=6),2015 sums to 8 and 8-6=2 which where we started our family which grew to 8+6=14, 1+4=5..Ok , I am not getting crazy just having fun.

The sun welcomed us in Hong Kong , with no fog in the morning we ventured to Lantau Island to see the Big Buddha.
We got to the Ngong Ping 360 cable car at the hotel which allowed us to skip the line. Getting off the cable car it feels like you stepped into Disney Land, which is only a subway stop before we reached the island.

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There was even a kids talent show but the Giant Budhah is impressive and eating vegeterian lunch at the monastery was a treat, they dont cook meat or fish because they don’t believe in killing living things.

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The sun continues to smile upon us so we took the car to the Victoria Peak ( the peak). As it was clear we took the peak circle walk and got a 360 view of the Harbour, China Sea and Hong Kong city. The building looked like a lego set but very close together.

We took the tram down , the grade is so steep that the buildings outside seem to lean at 45 degree angel.

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I wanted to check the contemporary art galleries and to my delight some familiar names, Gagosian, White cube, Lehman Maupin opened branches in HK, Central Island. Well two were closed Haanart , a chinese gallery opened a show for a HK artist .

To celebrate New Year we chose to eat at Mamason, a mix of chines, thai food with a set menu and moscow mule and champagne. After we walked to see the fireworks. I have never seen the streets so crowded. Police was everywhere, the streets were blocked for car.Everyone was celebrating and going from bar to bar.

The next day I read that 35 people died in a stamped in Shanghai.

The wedding took place in a party hall , it seems that pictures are very important. The bride and Groom and three albums done before the wedding with different dresses and in different locations.
The ceremony was basically signing a document witnessed by a notary.
After the relatives were lined up for photo op and bringing red envelop which has money in it and gold jewlery to the couple who in return were serving tea to the relatives for the gifts.
The meal had 13 courses served family style. No dancing just pictures and food. We learned that the bride and groom were up since 5am with other rituals.

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The next morning we boarded a flight to Cambodia.

What’s inside the sandwich ?

It’s saturday morning , It’s quiet in Tel Aviv, the streets are empty. I am walking in “old “Tel aviv among refurbished buildings. It’s November and I am back in Israel to celebrate my mom’s birthday.

The last two weeks I took care of my two adorable grandkids while their mom went to visit her grandparents. It was an honor to be asked and I said “yes” without hesitation. The idea of spending two weeks with these little munchkins was tantalizing.

I put on hold any my regular schedule and started planning . We planned to spend the weekend in the country so a trip to the farm to enjoy pumpkin picking, hay ride and rolling in a heap of corn kernels was one of the activities.

Weekdays are school days; the boys follow a routine, wake up, eat breakfast, get dressed and out the door by 8:15. Our ride in the stroller is a spaceship, it’s grandpa’s game and it works. I have free time till 2:00 but after exercise , grocery shopping and catching up on emails, it was time to go back to school for pick up. “Safta, did u bring a snack?” Let’s go to the playground and here we go …. play time ,dinner, bath, reading and bed..

Two days into this routine I was struck by the realization that being a full-time mom is a full-time job. When my youngest left to college and there was no one to wait for late at night or prepare breakfast or lunch or dinner for, I kept asking so what’s next.  I also wondered how quickly the years went and what happened to me? When I grew up I did not see myself being a stay-at-home-mom as my mom was but here I am… being a stay-at-home-mom. “Stay at home” grandma was just a reminder of how rewarding it is to be greeted with a hug and a big smile. To witness the joy of reading a new book, build a 3D puzzle or playing hide and seek.

Two weeks went so fast.  The last night I was sad.  Who is going to come wake me up in the morning, pillow and blankly in hand asking to sleep in my bed ..but ..there will be more sleepovers.

I had a day to pack , hop on a plane and here I am…  on to care for my beloved mom. As she gets older and is not able to travel much I find myself on the New York-Tel Aviv route every few months as though to compensate for the years I was busy raising and caring for my own kids . Now my mom needs me by her side. To hold her soft hand, to take walks to the neighborhood coffee house to visit the museum or go to a concert . I listen to her stories from her youth growing up in Tel Aviv. I try to make her forget the pains of growing old. The pictures of her grandkids and great grandkids light up her face and makes her happy.

I am the bridge , I let my grandkids ride on my back and my mom to hold my hand.

So, when I sit on a plane flying East I think of this beautiful combination and how lucky I am to be able to enjoy these precious times… and be the jelly in this wonderful sandwich

May we all have many years to enjoy each other.

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