30 September 2006

Under the Autumn Moon

Chinatown Lamppost
Originally uploaded by Katherine H.
Autumn in the Pacific Northwest has been ushered in with spectacular weather: blue skies, high temperatures, and the glow of amber and crimson leaves.

This weekend is the Autumn Moon Festival in the Chinatown/Old Town section of Portland. It’s a celebration of tradition and history, as well as shaping a path for continued appreciation of culture and diversity.

For the past several years, the city has been busy with a development project in Old Town. They’ve installed more of the uniform red lampposts throughout the district, as well as updated signage, poured new curbs and sidewalks, installed public art and historical markers, and planted over 100 new trees. The festival was a way to reintroduce the public to this revitalized area.

Two different stages for musical entertainment anchored the festival streets along Third and Fourth Avenues. In between, you’ll find an assortment of curios shops, restaurants, and even an herbalist. The Hailin Temple, an unassuming storefront from the street, was conducting a Zambhala Dharma Assembly. A look inside reveals bright colors and ornate decorations lining this inviting space.

The Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association was the hub for youth-oriented activities, including origami. Two large dragons, which no doubt had danced in the streets during the morning parade, remained on display in the hall. One could also watch or join in various games using mahjong tiles.

An indoor warehouse was converted into a global bazaar space for the weekend. One could sip the milk out of a whole coconut, then return to have the vendor split the orb in half to enjoy the tender meat inside. Along with art, pottery, and imported food stuffs, one could also touch the soft and pliant texture of clothing woven from bamboo fiber. Throughout the bazaar, little girls in silk kimonos with baskets wandered around proffering fortune cookies to festival goers.

On the adjacent plaza, the pungent aromas of food vendors mingled with the steady rhythms of the cooking demonstrations and the beats rising from the World Stage. I enjoyed watching several numbers performed by Portland Taiko, a local ensemble that practices and teaches this traditional Japanese drumming performance art.

15 September 2006

Is that the Southern Hemisphere Calling?

Originally uploaded by calinisima.
The trip to Brazil is beginning to feel official. The information packet from the travel group arrived yesterday. My passport stamped with the necessary tourist visa from the Brazilian Consulate in Houston arrived a couple of weeks ago. And I’ve made my flight reservations from Portland to Miami where I will meet up with the rest of the group.

Here’s a glimpse at the itinerary (29 October-11 November 2006):
• Sao Paulo
• Porto Alegre
• IguaƧu Falls
• Rio de Janeiro
• Recife
• Manaus

For me, so much of the fun and anticipation of a trip is in the planning stages. I like to take a small travel notebook with me in which I have written little tidbits of advice culled from internet research and others’ recommendations. Of particular interest to me on this trip will be taking photographs of city and street life, the natural surroundings, and market/grocery items unique to the country.

I imagine some of you have favorite tips, adventurous ideas, or just plain ‘ol advice. So what should I be on the lookout for?

10 September 2006

On a Country Road

Eugene Market
Originally uploaded by Katherine H.
With summer quickly fading, I wanted to take advantage of the warm days and blue skies before the fading daylight and crisp air sweep in the approaching autumn. I had not visited the Eugene Saturday Market yet this season, and I was anxious to follow up on a conversation pointing me in the direction of the Oakhill Pioneer Cemetery. So today I set out for Lane County.

The Saturday Market in Eugene has a unique flavor all its own. Interested in a rune reading? Need the latest in tie-dyed fashions for your little one? Searching for one-of-kind jewelry or perhaps a wind chime for the back porch? Well, a stop at the market will satisfy all of those wishes. Fashion is certainly free-form here, and you’ll encounter a number of merchants and activists who are passionate about what they do.

At the adjacent farmers’ market I stop to pick up some fresh corn on the cob, button squash, and a sweet-smelling summer melon. After consuming a handmade tamale with chunks of potato and a prune nestled in the center, I leave the market to navigate the western reaches of Highway 126.

For the past several months, my dad and I have been on a mission to locate the grave marker of Ellen Hemenway Humphrey. So far, the search has taken me along country roads in Bellfountain, to the Oregon state archives and state library in Salem, and now to the small settlement of Veneta.

Established by John Bailey in 1850, the Oakhill Cemetery covers two sides of a small knoll within sight of the Fern Ridge Reservoir. It has become a resting place for many of the early pioneers who came out west via the Oregon Trail, including my great-great-great-grandfather, Ansel Asa Hemenway. At the crest of the hill bordering the gravel drive sits the marker for part of the Hemenway clan: patriarch Ansel, his wife Abigail, and one of their sons, Urban. After 110 years, signs of age and erosion are particularly evident on the north-facing side of the marker. Still decipherable, however, is a tender inscription:

Tis hard to break the tender cord
When love has bound the heart
Tis hard so hard to speak the words
Must we forever part

After a quiet walk through the cemetery rows, I leave with another piece of the family puzzle in place.