Thursday 26 April 2012

Amsterdam Library, Kitchen Sink, Research, and Art

For research into the slave trade I chugged off to the Amsterdam library near the central station. Some of the design is silly, but overall it's a big and beautiful space with sci-fi tables and lighting - the books glow because they are specially lit - central image above. Here I found great books on the slave trade. The giant kitchen sink (or parked space-ship) under construction (below) is a new Fail of modern architecture. Liesbeth Ten Houten in her apartment, is a semi-retired top agent for some of the best artists in the Netherlands. Liesbeth is also a teacher and world traveller. We met three years ago on a flight to Italy for the Bologna Children's Book Fair. She invited me to the Dutch party held at an inner city palace where I met European publishers which later brought me to Leipzig, Stockholm, and Amsterdam. I met with Liesbeth a couple times in Amsterdam and she is always enthusiastic, optimistic, and inspiring. Liesbeth passed on some wonderful advice regarding the publishing industry, which I will follow up.

Above, a shoe store in Amsterdam fails to properly light the shoes, but looks cool. In the Rembrandt House, I chatted with the artist who demonstrated how Rembrandt ground and mixed his pigments with various oils. It was fascinating. The house was well preserved, and the art, of course, was wonderful. Below are examples of stencils in the Cuyperhause Museum, Roermond. Architect Pierre Cuypers used stencils to create wonderful imagery. Another inspiring exhibit. Children get a taste for using stencils too.  

Wednesday 25 April 2012

Roermond, Venlo, and a Kid's Party

At Nicole's bookstore in Roermond a customer selects a book for his child. Nicole introduced me to a Japanese method of telling stories in a theatre-like format. Nicole, Barbara and I, like many customers hang out for coffee and tell our own stories. 

Gerard, Barbara (my hosts and friends), and I try out a Greek restaurant in Roermond. Gerard's nephews, Baer and Sjraar have a birthday on the same day. Friends come over and we take a group of kids to the park. I have some Ragu and a Dutch hotdog while we watch a soccer game. The photo of the young woman on a bicycle below is just a sample of the many women, professional and otherwise who ride bikes everywhere. Wow! Men do too, but I don't notice them as much. I love Holland for the bikes and lanes. I wish we could have more of Holland in Canada. 

Monday 16 April 2012

Arrival in Europe

Welcome to Europe. After a month in Africa, and entering the airport at Frankfurt one is struck by huge contrasts. It felt like I was entering a film set of a science fiction film - everything was huge, shiny, clean, and cool - but a little antiseptic, as if everything of the natural world had been swept away. (Welcome to Modernism!) When I left the airport by train the beautiful fields and old buildings came into view, I felt better connected and more comfortable. The photos of the "e" symbol and the shop with the big hole (above) I took 3 years ago when in Frankfurt. The Rabobank outside of Roermond looks robotic. The oval building is a clothing store in Eindhoven. Below, the vending machine distributes underwear, not pop. I snapped the downtown picture of Roermond (where I am currently staying with friends, Barbara and Gerard). I met them three years ago at the Bologna Children's Book Fair in Italy. Leaving Dusseldorf, Gerard's brother's son, Sjraar, plays the drums in his home in Venlo. 

Sunday 15 April 2012

Reading and Learning in Accra, Ghana

Here I am recording the text of my book, The Boy from the Sun, for multi-TV in Accra, Ghana. Esi, who showed up for my workshop invited me to do a reading. I supplied the images, which I had on my laptop. Although the reading was something I should get paid for, I was willing to do this one time donation of my work as a philanthropic good cause.
Below, Christine (the owner of the Nabuku Foundations cafe, and Hiroko cook up a storm for us: Dr. Benjamin Sperry (historian at U of G), Dr. Edem Dzregah (English prof. at U of G, who supplied me with great intel about trickster stories), Manu Herbstein (Commonwealth Prize winner for his extensive novel, Ama, and very knowledgeable about the slave trade and culture in Africa) and Manjit Chodha (an artist and auditor directorate who is looking into corruption and policy solutions on campus). I managed to swerve the conversation at the dinner table to topics of interest, primarily the slave trade and its effects on Africa. We covered all sorts of related topics and it was fascinating how people's backgrounds and professional studies inter-related. These types of conversations happened often and was a great learning experience for me. We were all eager and interested in the differing viewpoints. The great food Hiroko prepared was a special delight that kept us at the table for long while.

Friday 6 April 2012

Reading to Kids / Party at the High Commission / Trotro No Go

My second reading at the Kathy Knowles library went better, especially since I got the kids motivated by having them write their own text for the incomplete Tiger Dream. It always a learning experience for me as well, as I get to see a little bit into the minds of kids. Two young tourists dropped, donated some money, and Claire took my picture below. 
 At the Canadian High Commission in Accra, Canadians and their friends are invited to a party the first Thursday of every month. Lots of diplomats show up. Ben and Sulina who stay at the guest house with me are talking with Sulina's nursing students from Edmonton. They are on an exchange program and get hands on experience at the Accra hospital.
At the Canadian High Commission in Accra, Canadians and their friends are invited to a party the first Thursday of every month. Lots of diplomats show up. Ben and Sulina who stay at the guest house with me are talking with Sulina's nursing students from Edmonton. They are on an exchange program and get hands on experience at the Accra hospital.
They ride an emotional roller coaster, delivering babies and having to watch other children die. Brilliant and brave, most of these young women are also planning to travel Africa before they head back to Canada for work. Below, two lane traffic often becomes four lane traffic. One trotro didn't make it. 

Monday 2 April 2012

Hiroko's Amazing Lunch! Hello New Ghanaian Food Choices

Hiroko Yoneyama came to my workshop 2 weeks ago. She invited me to lunch to talk about publishers and books. Using all locally grown foods, Hiroko's new food creations are a much healthier alternative to the typically oily and fattening Ghanaian food choices. Hiroko is a vegetarian. Many of the vegetables in Ghana are expensive and have to be imported. As one professor here said, his A list vegetables are difficult to find in Accra. Lunch consisted of 1. (the soup) Ayayo (Molokheiya) Egyptian soup. 2. Fried plantains with babara been (groundnut) Mexican sauce. 3 Avacado dip with pita bread + spices. 4. Steamed vegetable salad with ponzu (juices pressed from lemon and lime in soy sauce). And the dish below is: 5. Coconut milk with Asian tapioca. It was one of the best lunches I've ever had. A Ghanaian friend who has started a restaurant is testing Hiroko's new creations on the public. I'm organizing a party to visit on Friday night. Should be awesome.

Sunday 1 April 2012

My Best Photo Ever: Beach Shots and Elmina Kids

I can't believe I took this photo. I love the focal point of the girl in the yellow dress. All the intersecting lines work, and the composition is awesome. Of course, it's the subject matter that makes the photo.

 This fisherman is carving his father's name into his boat and a passage from the Bible. He referred to the tree used at its base as a Wawa tree (Triplochiton scleroxylon), which is either a boa bob tree or a kapok.
Elmina kids have a great time with what little they have and they get silly when a camera appears. Often they pose and want to see their images on the display of the camera.