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Morning Coffee Talk~ 40/365

Good Morning,

We were treated yesterday to a beautiful tradition of Dukhoon where incense was burnt on our arrival and several times throughout the day during our visit and the midkhan or incense burner was passed around to allow us to incense our hair and clothing following the example of our hostess.

Dukhoon has a very long tradition in the Arabic culture of being used in religious ceremonies as well as social events and it’s use is reputed to heal, repel bad spirits, enhance smells and increase creativity and motivation.

There is something quite haunting about witnessing and being part of this tradition and obviously I go back home tomorrow with a variety of oud and incense to burn in my home and keep this tradition alive.

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Morning Coffee Talk~24/365

Good Morning,

It’s cloudy here in North West Germany with clouds threatening to rain, and all feels ready to make a pause. Families are doing their last minute shopping and preparing for dinners at home with cozy lights, Christmas trees and gifts that get opened this evening. You can feel and see the excitement of children in their eyes.

It feels like a very good time to hit a reset button and settle into a contemplative place in oneself. For my daughter, it has always been the highlight (of several highlights) of the year and she counted the days till it finally arrived and the ceremony began.

I wish you all a healthy and peaceful Christmas and a gentle journey inwards if that is your aim.

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contemplations morning coffee talk Netherlands Photography street photography

Morning Coffee Talk~ 21/365

Good Morning,

Today the Winter Solstice takes place at 10:59 local time here in Germany. Our beautiful planet will start to swing her hips back the other way and tilt her axis to begin our journey into longer days. We start the astronomical winter today and changes are expected to happen, well because they actually do.

‘Solstice’ comes from the latin Solstitium mean literally ‘sun stand still’. Between summer time and now we saw the sun’s path in the sky move gradually from north to south. For a few days before and after the solstice, the sun’s path appears to show no change, so it stands still, before starting to change northwards, as our days get longer.

This is all incredibly fascinating to me, and we can never say that the celestial bodies we live on and around are ever boring. So much tradition and folklore exists throughout history about this event, but for us here now, I just want to acknowledge it, light a candle to signal the start of longer days and welcome the winter and what new possibilities my be lying in store for us.

Image taken on a bridge in Maastricht, Netherlands.

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Morning Coffee Talk ~ 6/365

Good Morning!

It is December 6th, and in this part of the world, a very important visitor appears to bring the Christmas spirit to children around Germany.

Nikolaus (who is not Santa), but a  (Sankt Nikolaus or der Heilige Nikolaus), who was probably born around 245 C.E. in the port city of Patara in what we now call Turkey. Very little historical evidence exists for the man who later became the Bishop of Myra and the patron saint of children, sailors, students, teachers, and merchants.

He is credited with several miracles and his feast day is December 6, which is the main reason he is connected with Christmas. In Austria, parts of Germany, and Switzerland, der Heilige Nikolaus (or Pelznickel) brings his gifts for children on Nikolaustag, Dec. 6, not Dec. 25. And yes, ‘ das Christkindl’ still comes with more presents on December 24th! 

Children clean their boots and leave them outside the door for Nikolaus to fill them with goodies, nuts, oranges and small gifts (if the children were good). There is a lot more to do with this tradition that is fascinating including the scary devil looking characters that travel with Nikolaus to frighten the children, but those are mostly skipped in our home.

hThe images were taken last night from home and the quiet neighbourhood, and it seems that Nikolaus upgraded from boots to basket on this occasion.

Happy Nikolaus day to you wherever you are… 

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Morning Coffee Talk~1-365

Good morning to you from Germany. How shall we start this?

I have been planning for a while to restart my 365 project that I did in the past and loved immensely: a picture and a short writing every day for one year, and today felt like the right day to begin.

Its’ the first day our home tradition of exchanging 24 small gifts before Christmas and for this, my daughter has always woken up very early to see what awaits her. There are 24 small boxes that contain 24 small gifts and thoughts of care about her and she has grown to love that.

This year, she gifted me one back, and now I can smile knowing that the tradition will carry on…

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celebrations Germany Photography street photography

Chasing the Christmas spirit~

Europe loves its Christmas Markets, the festive mood, the warm drinks cuddled by cold hands, the delicious smells of roasted almonds and the magical lights that chase away the darkness of winter. From the first advent till the winter solstice, people try to spend as much time as possible out in the markets calling on hope, warmth and light to comfort them through the long hard winters.

In the last 2 weeks I went with my camera and some fellow photographers chasing the Christmas spirit from Valkenburg in the Netherlands to Duesseldorf and then today to magical Cologne.

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CHINA Photography shanghai street photography

Shanghai Moments~

Visiting the city we called home for almost 12 years is nothing short of strange at first. But within a day or two I felt the streets call me back with their charm, unique flair and warmth of the people. So little of the old city is left as the large construction projects drive forward leaving bits and pieces of the beautiful old alleys around the city. As I walk around and find huge empty lots and big buildings on the sites of my favorite alleys, I realize that all my photography over the years in Shanghai has been about recording history and vanishing alleys that are never to come back again…

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art Germany Photography

The cloud maker~

During this weekend in Germany and other north European countries, bonfires are lit in celebration of the easter weekend. I have been asking locals about the origins of this tradition as well as Mr Google and it seems to be a pre-Christian ritual that welcomes the spring by burning away the lurking darker spirits of winter. It is amazing how much of what we believe in and do has lost it’s original significance and is relegated to a “feel good” thing to do. Imagine how life would be if all our beliefs and traditions were alive!

Day 87 of 365~

Images taken today at the edge of a nearby forest somewhere in Germany.

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cambodia Photography

Saffron dedication~

All over Asia where Buddhism abounds, the saffron color pops up worn by monks to symbolize their simplicity and detachment from materialism. They always look amazing in photographs and they are so kind to humor tourists and photographers.

Day 78 of 365~

Images taken at Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia

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Misplaced~

the art of urban camouflage

In Hongkou, part of the old city of Shanghai, was a set of grey narrow alleys that were a maze of tiny streets containing 2 or 3 story homes stacked side by side in a most claustrophobic manner. Hundreds of tangled electric wires dangled between walls that were decorated with phone numbers advertising services for those who needed them. Water flowed down the streets and bikes and colorful laundry colored the otherwise shabby surroundings. In those sad alleys I met some very happy people. Their smiles instantly appeared when we met and stories were told that I only understood partly because of my poor grasp of Shanghainese but laughter was the largest part of the conversation. I just loved that place and I kept going back again and again to photograph until one day the residents announced that their neighborhood is condemned to demolition like so many other old Shanghai alleys. The last time I visited there were metal foundations of giant about to rise from the stories of these lovely people. I had to fight back tears seeing the ghosts of what used to be there and is no longer…

Day 67 of 365~ 

Image taken in the old alleys of Hongkou, 2014