Saturday, February 14, 2009

Western Sichuan 1: The road to Danba

All photos©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

This is a continuation of my series of postings on Western Sichuan (see Feb 4, 2009)

During the summer of 2007 (late July) we made a week long trip to Tagong via Danba, visiting the incredibly beautiful Qiang and Tibetan villages in the area before heading up over onto the Tibetan Plateau to Tagong via Hongshi (Red Stones). Large quantities of rain had recently fallen on the area leading up to Danba and both roads and bridges had washed away or been damaged by falling rocks. We rented a van in Chengdu and headed NW via Dujiangyan and Wolong and onward through the tight, deeply shaded, slightly ominous, misty valleys that make up the border area between the Chinese world and the Tibetan in western Sichuan. 

This is panda, golden monkey, red panda and in the not so distant past tiger country. Lush bamboo forests and dense evergreens. The road skirts roaring rivers and small roadside habitations, hardly large enough to be called villages, many of them existing solely to maintain the road or serve food to passersby. At this time of year corn was drying from the eaves and large, meaty fuschia-coloured dahlias and brilliant nasturtiums were in profusion, giving me a hint of the maybe merry nature of the people who spent their lives here. I often marvel at the resilience of those who can exist all their days in dark, wet valleys, waiting for a ray of sunlight to pierce the gloom and lighten their hearts (or dry the wash hanging everywhere). If this were Scandinavian my mind would turn to tales of loneliness, depression and suicide, and maybe that same sad story is true here too.

The road over the Balangshan was horrendously bumpy, full of potholes and slithery, gooey mud. We made it over the pass (4523 m) at sunset just in time to catch the last rays of daylight illuminate the Four Sisters Mountain (Siguniangshan, 6250 m) before it was sucked into the night. Beneath us we could see the valley of Rilongguan. After about 14 hours of almost straight driving we pulled into the town of Danba: five adults (including the driver) and two children tumbled out with sore joints and headaches. We had hoped to make it all the way to Jiaju but the driver was exhausted, it was pitch black outside and simply too dangerous to continue. A clean, little guesthouse near the big bridge swallowed us up for the night, all of us falling asleep to the sounds of the roaring river below. The next day we awoke to glorious sunshine and entered the magical world of Danba, a microcosm of sun, flowers, stone houses, high skies and singing villages.  

Figge, digital cameras and cover shots

©Ingrid Booz Morejohn and Gleerups Publishing, Sweden

Sometimes I feel like that radio guy on the Swedish TV program HippHipp! that gives the daily crossword clue: my mind starts in one place and winds up 5,000 miles away. I am conscious of this and do try and keep my conversations and writing slightly on track, in the end circling around to where I began and hopefully tying up all the loose ends in the process. That's why I am showing you three book covers that I photographed for a fantastic series of fact books for children, Figges kunskapsklubb, for Gleerups Publishing. What got me thinking, of course, is the picture of candy that I posted below on Today's Picture 090215. Although that exact image was used inside the book, its sister is on the cover above. I'd asked two mischievous little girls - Anna and Frida Rönn - to be the "hand models" (and face models for a shot inside the book). They more than willingly accepted when I said they'd be allowed to eat heaps of gummy candies in the process.  I bought a huge pile of candy to create the effect of "plenty" and let them have it. That was one of the best shoots I've had and they were over the moon giggly all the time. Afterwards we ate up all the "props".  

I worked on Figge as a picture researcher and filled in as photographer whenever I couldn't find a stock image to fit the book text. Often my two children had to act as models: playing with Legos, making a puzzle, eating a lemon, posting a letter, scraping their knees, reading a newspaper and so on. It was a real joy to work with the series editor Ulrica Lejbro, a fantastic person and very capable editor, now with a child of her own. I was always amazed that she could understand how kids think without having any herself. (I hadn't a clue to the workings of a child's brain until I had two myself, now I remember that my mind worked just as deviously.) Ulrica and I had lot's of fun and made around 20 books in this series (withthe help of several authors of course!) You can still buy them today via web bookstores and used book sites etc. 

Footnote: All of the cover images were taken with small compact digital cameras, nothing fancy at all. The one of Emy posting a letter is a cheap little Konica. These were my first digital cameras, only about 3-4 million megapixel each. When I took my first image I was amazed how "easy" it was, I could take the picture and send it high res to the client in just a few minutes, amazing! Nowadays I have other more complex and advanced digital cameras, but just want you to know that it isn't the typewriter that writes the book, or the camera that takes the picture, it's you. And if you understand the limitations of a camera you can still create good shots with them. Even a pinhole camera can produce a wondrous image in the right hands...

China Daily: Player's face paralyzed after mahjong marathon

Street mahjong, Beijing Houhai area ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

Listen up fellow Chengdoodlians! The perils of playing too much mahjong are ever present and perilous!

(China Daily)
Updated: 2009-02-13 09:21

A 50-year-old mahjong fan suffered facial paralysis after he played the game all night in Shenzhen special economic zone.

The man, surnamed Yang, rushed to Shenzhen hospital of traditional Chinese medicines for help after his face started to swell and he had convulsions.

He said the symptoms began when he walked out of the house and into the wind following an entire night playing mahjong in the Bao'an district.

Tao Jiaping, a senior doctor from the hospital, said Yang will need acupuncture treatment for at least three weeks.

(Southern Metropolis Daily)

Happy Valentine's Day blog readers!

Sega godisar är gott! ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

This is an appropriate day to thank everyone (You the Reader) who visits and reads this blog. I have to admit, it's a kick to log-in and see if anyone has checked in and read something, getting a comment is a real high! (Please comment more ;-) From my blog feed I can see when friends I know check-in, recognizing their geographic location but of course not knowing 100% if it's them or someone in the same city. I've had people visit from all over the globe: Australia, Mexico, Venezuela, Thailand, Indonesia, Israel, Korea, Philippines etc and several islands in the Caribbean (looking mostly for postings about my boatbuilder/artist brother Chris). If Duluth, Georgia doesn't check in every day I begin to worry that either I've lost their interest (who are you?) or they're away or sick or something. I personally know most of my "Followers", good friends from way back. One though is someone I've never met, hello Qin! 

35% of the visitors come from Sweden (of course), 35% from the US, and a good portion from China. Besides those who visit regularly and read basically everything I post, favorite topics are Chinese festivals, anything Tibetan, my brother-in-law Miche Booz (!) and anything to do with photography. The more I post, of course, the wider the topic choice will be. As you can see my minds wanders considerably. Blogging is both very rewarding and exhausting, it takes a lot of time but I enjoy it immensely. We'll see if I can keep up the pace though, 127 postings in just about as many days. Thank-you all so much for looking in, feel free to take a candy! Välkommen åter.

# 18 Today's picture 090214

Tibetan monk, Tagong, Sichuan 2007 ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn