Opera is alive and well, here in the Chesapeake Bay Region. Annapolis Opera kicked off their 2010-2011 season with an impressively well attended gathering, entitled “Celebrate Opera”. Held at Wine Cellars of Annapolis on Forest Drive in Clocktower Place, I could describe the scene as “standing room only” but then again, this was a standing kind of event, which is my only criticism of what was a lovely evening. Designed to raise money for this worthy organization, at $125 a head, guests tasted a variety of wines provided by Wine Cellars and dined on gourmet cheeses, pate, and subsequent courses of poached salmon served with a corn and blueberry relish and tenderloin with whipped sweet potatoes. For dessert there was of course, Opera cake. Everything was delicious, although it was definitely a challenge to balance a plate of food, glass of wine, eat, drink, and chat. The highlight of the evening was the entertainment–arias and a duet song by baritone Jason Stearns and soprano Colleen Daly. Of Metropolitan Opera fame, Jason Stearns makes his home in Annapolis with his lovely wife and soprano Suzanne. On October 23, he will be the featured performer headlining what is billed as “Concert of Stars” at St. John’s College Key Auditorium. Also scheduled this season is a performance “Gifts from Grand Opera” at the First Presbyterian Church in Anapolis on December 5th and in 2011 four more events that include the two day run of one of my favorite operas, “Marriage of FIgaro,” performed at Maryland Hall in March. Visit their website at www,annapolisopera.org and
The start of the month, our dog Grace, a golden retriever, forgot she was a middle-aged dog and got a little too frisky chasing a small creature in our neighborhood. I don’t know whether it was a squirrel, cat, or that enigmatic fox I see lurking about at night in Murray Hill, but whatever it was, she didn’t manage to catch it and instead must have lost her footing, stumbled and sprained her shoulder. She limped slowly back to the house and the next day continued to favor one foot. By the third day I took her to the vet and he put her on an anti-inflamatory and recommended she take it easy for at least a week– no long walks. Suddenly my husband Peter and I were walking downtown in the morning and evening without our companion Grace.
“Where’s Grace?” everyone asked us. “What happened to your dog?” they wanted to know. I had no idea Grace was so popular, or maybe I did know.
At any rate, Grace has recovered and is once again walking all the way downtown. The tradition continues. Our last child, Grace our golden, is still our constant companion.
If you thought chili just consists of groundbeef, tomatoes, onion, beans, and spices; think again. Yesterday afternoon at the Tomato Festival held at Homestead Gardens, I tasted chili made with shredded chicken and chili sweet and spicy with kernals of corn. The choice of beans ranged from kidney, and fava to navy and black beans and then there were several chilis with no beans at all. One tasted to me more like spaghetti sauce. Ever heard of Irish chili? Well Galaway Bay had a tasty version of spicy Irish stew which they called Irish chili. The Latin Quarter served their chili with fresh jalapeno peppers, The Westin bragged about all the poblano chilis and multi spices in their recipe, Plenty of chips, onions, sour cream, and shredded cheese at the various booths made tasting a fun experience, despite the crowds.
By the time I got to the salsa tasting tent, I was pretty tasted out. Besides which, salsa tasting means you’ve got to eat lots of chips and it was too hot a day for that. So I moved on to admire the various booths around the perimeter of the festival displaying spices, salad dressing, wine accessories, and cigars. It looked like everyone was having a good time and raising money for a good cause— the flower baskets the beautify downtown Annapolis.
If you want to know who won the various contests, check in with the Bent Fork blog at the whatsupmag.com website. Kelsey Collins, the What’s Up? Food Editor, was one of the judges and she’ll be sharing her comments.
Monday in Annapolis, Maryland for me is a day full of meetings and a day that focuses on organizing my tasks for the week. Monday in Jakarta, Indonesia (I learned last month), is often a day to take a break, when many of the important museums and monuments in the city are closed.
So while our guide took a very nice photograph of us ( my husband Peter, daughter Alex, and myself) in front of the National Musem, we could not get inside.
The day was hot, over 100 degrees, and after walking around the National Monument we followed our guide’s suggestion to make a visit to the “Indonesia in Miniature Park” aka Taman Mini located to the east of the city.
The park was not on the list that Justin put together for us to visit, while he went into work for the day. His colleagues and friends evidently do not think highly of it as a tourist attraction, but I would highly recommend it to any tourist paying a visit to Jakarta, particularly if you do not have time to visit the five major islands in this nation comprised of over 17000 islands. That’s right…over 17,000 islands with a diverse number of languages and cultures.
The park is so large, you need an entire day (which we did not have by the time we arrived there at noon) and while you can drive around in a car, it is better to walk or rent a bicycle. We rented bicycles.
Each pavillion represents a different province, complete with architectural examples, native, costumes, temples, and even live performances at various times throughout the day. Although Borneo was not on our list, of places to visit this time around, we did get to see examples of thatched roof huts and observe a tribesman in native attire carving wood that would eventually be for sale in their gift shop.
While we did not have time to visit all the pavillions, we were able to enter a few of the buildilngs including various houses that represented the architecture of the different islands and cultures. We climbed the ladders to enter a traditional, or adat-style, Batak houses– the type built in parts of northern Samatra. These homes can be large enough to house as many as a dozen families. They have distinctive saddle-backed, twin-peaked roof made from a special palm fibre and they are commonly anchored by long poles.
In the center of the park is a large lake. The park also has
its own orchid garden in which hundreds of Indonesian orchid varieties are grown along with a bird park with a walk-in aviary, a fauna museum.
Due to the extreme heat and our limited time, we couldn’t see everything but we were happy that Miniature Indonesia is open on Mondays.
It started with raindrops gently kissing my face, early morning rain on a hot summer’s morning. It’s been so hot and sticky here in Maryland, the rain is a welcome relief and as I walked downtown with my husband Peter and dog Grace at 6:30 a.m. today, I thought how much I looked forward to summer rainy days as a child
It started with raindrops gently kissing my face, early morning rain on a hot summer’s morning. It’s been so hot and sticky here in Maryland, the rain is a welcome relief and as I walked downtown with my husband Peter and dog Grace at 6:30 a.m. today, I thought how much I looked forward to summer rainy days as a child because those were the days my mother and I went shopping/adventuring/exploring Up Cape. Our summer home in Provinctown at the tip of Cape Cod in Massachussets had only a radio and record player for entertainment (no CDs, videos, ipods) when it wasn’t a day to spend on the beach so we’d usually start thumbing through the weekly newspapers searching for notices of auctions and estate sales to visit. And if there weren’t any auctions or tag sales we’d go searching out stores and thift shops we’d never visited, hopefully with undiscovered bargains.
This week is “No Sales Tax on Clothing ” week to encourage back-tot-school shopping and as I was thinking of what I might need to buy in the way of clothes, the rain started coming down hard.
“Remember the time we were taking a walk in August when Alex was small,” Peter asks me, “and the rain came down so hard we took shelter at the hospital (when they were still located in Murray Hill).
“Yes,” I rejoin, “And a nurse who felt sorry for us brought out a towel to help us dry off, we were so dripping wet from the downpour?”
I’m starting to regret walking out of the house without a raincoat, hat, or umbrella. I did know the weather forecast was predicting morning rain. Still being damp deels good until I step into the air conditioned coffee shop.
On the walk home I see rivulets of soapy water rushing down the road and pavement and I think of all the pollution that is flowing into the Chesapeake Bay. It’s not advisable to go swimming in the Bay after its rains. All the fertilizer, ground water, and other unsavory items laying on impervious services all are washed into the stormdrains and out into the streams and tributaries.
“Some people will do anything to get a cup of coffee,” a man yells out to us as we pass the Court House on our way back home from downtown. By the this time, I’m starting to feel soaked. The water has collected in my shoes and is sloshing around. My hair, which I had not intended to wash this morning, is wet and clinging to the sides of my face. I start to pick up the pace and wonder how waterproof my watch really is and visualizing how good a hot shower is going to feel. A slash of lightening and crash of thunder causes Grace to whimper and I start to run the rest of the way home. It’s foolish to be out walking in a thunderstorm, I shide myself.
“Doesn’t it feel good to run in the rian?” Peter asks me when we are safely inside the house. “The rain keeps your body cool while you’re burning off energy.”
Indonesia was once a Dutch colony, and Historic Kota neighborhood with its 19th century style Dutch architecture is a major tourist attraction. We walked around the Taman Fatahillah Piaza, meandered into an adjacent museum devoted to arts and crafts (a disappointment) and then took refuge inside the Cafe Batavaia for a much needed break. Located on on side of the square, the Cafe has been kept very much as it must of appeared at the beginning of the 20th century with rich dark wood floor and bara, comfortable seats, drinks with ice….
The time difference between Annapolis, Maryland, USA and Jakarta, Indonesia is eleven hours. That means that while it is currently 10:15 in the morning in my reality, it is 9:15 in the evening on the Indonesian island of Java. And when Americans go back to Eastern Standard Time in late fall, the time difference will be twelve hours. So while I am deciding what to do with my Sunday, after taking my morning walk and doing some shopping at the downtown Farmers’ Market; my son Justin is winding down his evening and getting ready for Monday morning or is it going to be Monday morning? When we traveled from America’s east coast to the other side of the globe, we crossed the international dateline and lost one day. I left the U.S. from Dulles Airport on a Thursday afternoon, the beginning of July and arrived in Jakarta on Friday night.
The next day, I was awakened at 4:30 a.m. to the sound of Moslem prayers being broadcast on loudspeakers throughout the city. The Moslem faith is the primary religion practiced throughout Indonesia. The only exception is the island of Bali which is mostly Hindu. No, you will not see many women in Burqas or even a predominance of head scarves, but you will hear the sounds of praying being broadcast from mosques both in the city, as well as villages and small towns throughout the day. And in many public places such as airports, rest stops, and restaurants there are prayer rooms with an adjacent station to wash your hands before praying.
On our very first day in Indonesia, we headed to a favorite Chinese restaurant of Justin’s for a late breakfast. Chinese Indonesians are a significant minority in Indonesia, owning many prosperous businesses– not at all limited to the restaurant industry but, there are a lot of Chinese restaurants and Chinese food seems to be a mainstay in the Indonesian diet, albeit it is a modified version to suit the availabilty of ingredients and local tastes. One new dish I tasted that morning was a savory rice porridge, congee, a delicious soup made with a base of chcken. The same porridge is available is a sweet brown sugar/molasses version which I do not find as appealing.
Then we were off to Chinatown in Jakarta to visit the open air market where we saw fish, turtles, fresh herbs, vegetables, and even caged songbirds being sold. There are no such thing as sidewalks in the city. The narrow winding sidestreets, with their strong pungent odors– the mixture of the items being sold combined with the smells of uncollected garbage and people quickly woke up my senses. ( I was, after all, suffering from a certain degree of jet lag). But the sidestreets were much easier to walk on the the major roads with their swiftly moving traffic.
Indonesia was once a Dutch colony, and Historic Kota neighborhood with its 19th century style Dutch architecture is a major tourist attraction. We walked around the Taman Fatahillah Piaza, meandered into an adjacent museum devoted to arts and crafts (a disappointment) and then took refuge inside the Cafe Batavaia for a much needed break. Located on on side of the square, the Cafe has been kept very much as it must of appeared at the beginning of the 20th century with rich dark wooden floors and bars, comfortable seats, drinks with ice plus the addition of a more recent invention–air conditioning. The menu is decided continental, and yes expensive by Indonesian standards but very good. the Dining room is upstairs and an extensive bar is downstairs as well as a place to listen to music (Jazz and torch songs seem to be the choice of the day) and sing karaoke. The wall along the staircase is hung with pictures of celebrities from the past.
Our last stop, once back inside a taxi, were the shipping docks. Many of the large vessels departing from the port of Jakarta are made of wood, built by hand, and are strikingly attractive with their bold colors and handsome shapes. Bags and bags of mix for cement were being loaded up wooden gangplanks. On the other side of the porting area, we saw the more modern ships lined up to transport various container loads of goods, but the wooden ships were more appealing. They brought to my mind some of my dad Herman Maril’s earlier paintings depicting the Baltimore docks. The dock area is not on the list of typical tourist destinations. It is a stop worth adding to your itinerary.
So on my second full day of our visit, I learned an important lesson in traveling around Jarkarta…patience. On Sunday July 4th when many Americans were busy making their plans for picnics and watching firework displays, I was in a car with Justin, my husband Peter and daughter Alex on our way to visit Tangkuban Pratu which literally means “Overturned Boat”, a scenic and active volcano located 30 Kilometers from Bandung and 147 kilometers from Jakarta.
Two years ago, my familiarity with Indonesia consisted of seeing the name on various clothing tags when I examined them, looking for laundering instructions. But all this changed in January 2009 when my eldest child Justin took a job as a foreign legal advisor in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia. I quickly learned that Indonesia has the fourth largest population in the world coming in after China, India, and the United States. It’s a vital and important country, one we should be familiar with, possessing a number of natural resources along with a large and rapidly increasing workforce. The city of Jakarta with almost 10 million residents is the 2lst largest city in the world, however if you add the residents of the nearby cities of Boga, Depak, Tangerana, and Bekasi, the population swells to 25 million producing lots and lots of crowded roadways. There is no mass transit. Everyone uses either a car or a motorcycle to get from point A to point B and the roads and during the weekend everyone is trying to go somewhere.
So on my second full day of our visit, I learned an important lesson in traveling around Jarkarta…patience. On Sunday July 4th when many Americans were busy making their plans for picnics and watching firework displays, I was in a car with Justin, my husband Peter and daughter Alex on our way to visit Tangkuban Pratu which literally means “Overturned Boat”, a scenic and active volcano located 30 Kilometers from Bandung and 147 kilometers from Jakarta. Justin had hired both a driver and guide with the intention that after we visited the volcano peering down at its large circular shaped crater and hiked down its rim to view the small craters and hot springs, we would proceed to lunch and a dance performance in the city of Bandung. Due to the multiple languages and dialects spoken throughout the many islands of Indonesia in addition to the official Indonesian language used in the schools, it is a good idea to sightsee accompanied by a guide who speaks English. (If English is not your native language, there are guides who know some of the other more frequently used world languages such as Mandarin Chinese, because being a tour guide is a lucrative profession.) We started out mid morning and stopped off at a Farmer’s Market where we sampled the local fruit: small sweet bananas , snake fruit, thorny fruit, and several other local delicies. We thought we had plenty of time to arrive at the volcano viewing area by late morning.
But then, as we approached Bandung, the traffic started to build. While being stuck in gridlock I listened to our guide tell us the story of how the volcano, a long flat elongated plateau with a huge cauldron of lava within, got its name.
The Legend of Tangkuban Pratu
Once long ago, an estranged prince returned to his kingdom and fell in love with the Queen, not realizing she was his own mother. When the Queen realized who her lover was, she attempted to extricate herself from the relationship by challenging her sweetheart to build a dam and a huge boat in a single night before she would agree to marry him. To her surprise, he was about to complete was she thought was an impossible task. Horrified that she would have to follow through with her promise to be his wife, she asked the gods to intervene and hasten the rising of the sun. The prince was so enraged, he turned over the nearly completed boat in fury and it became a volcano.
I listened to the story about the volcano , read all about Bandung in the guidebook Justin lent me, but we never got to the city itself. We got stuck in traffic just trying to drive up the mountain to look down on the volcano. After a while, we voted to get out of the car and start walking. The guide thought we were being foolish, yes the path was steep, but it certainly beat sitting in the car. Besides it was interesting looking at all the other tourists and marveling at how they could undertake to walk up a mountain in long dresses and scarves, and in some cases flimsy plastic sandals. As this was a weekend, entire families were out for an excursion, and they varied in ages from seventy to seven. Being Caucasian in appearance, we were an oddity, and by the time we reached the top of the mountain 20 minutes later, with its scenic locations for picture taking, many families were asking for us to join them in a photo!
As you can see by the posted photographs, it is a lovely spot, despite the crowds but then it decided to rain just as we had walked down to the area where you can drop an egg attached to a string into the small hot springs and get a hardboiled egg for a snack. Many visitors collect the healing waters in bottles and there are plenty of souvenir stands selling everything from mass produced wood carvings and batik sarongs to straw hats, scarves, and purses. That hardboiled egg ended up being the majority of my lunch. The rain was so hard; we took shelter at a “snack bar/restaurant” as we waited for our local guide to come back with some rain ponchos. When you travel at tourists sites in Indonesia you are often asked to hire a local guide in addition to the tourist guide and translator you might be traveling with. While this might seem like overkill to have two guides, I was happy to have the local guide because he knew the way well and we had to navigate down about a half a mile of very steep muddy steps that were both treacherous and slippery and then back up the same distance to get back to the parking lot and our car.
By the time we left the mountain ,we realized there was no possible way, with the grid lock we would make it to the dance performance so we started our journey home. After hours of driving in the car all of us needed to visit a rest room but there were no restrooms in sight. And then when we stopped at a gas station. While it was easier for the males to use the facilities, for the privilege of 10 cents, Alex and I both decided we really didn’t want to use the restroom after standing in line with about twenty desperate, shoving women who were holding a handkerchief to their nose as they neared the stall of the bathroom door.
Forty five minutes later we reached the turnpike stop with several fast food restaurant and restroom facilities . Looking back on that day, we had to laugh at our excitement on getting a table inside an A& W Root Beer Restaurant. We were so hungry, the greasy burgers and fries tasted pretty good although we were generally grossed out by the massive crowds and less than stellar cleanliness of the tables and chairs we were sitting on as we waited for our meal. Justin valiantly braved the crowded lines as he pushed ahead to place our order. And for the next several weeks during our travels, whenever Peter wanted to illicit a laugh he’d say, “But the meal was nothing like the one at A & W Rootbeer!”.
What did I learn? Well if you are planning to visit Tangkuban Pratu, plan on spending the night in Bandung and starting out in the morning. Do not attempt to travel there in one day from Jakarta. But hey, I still had a wonderful Fourth of July with my family. While we did miss our middle child, son Chris, who visited Justin in Indonesia over the Christmas break, the rest of the nuclear family had a memorable time together. And this was only one day in 25! More adventures to follow.