September 2010 Margaret and I visited five of the “Stans”. From Bukhara, Uzbekistan we were driven to the border crossing for Turkmenistan at Farap. This has to be the worst border crossing I have ever encountered. Departing Uzbekistan was simple and the way it should have been. “No man’s land” the neutral space between the two counties was 1 km of hot desert. We were told that there was a van for hire that would transport us to the Turkmenistan customs building. We waited and waited but the van was nowhere to be found. So we started walking along a rocky dirt path. The customs building was over a rise so we could not even see it when we started walking. Walking a little less than a mile is not so bad in cool weather but when it is hot and you are pulling your luggage it is not so easy. Margaret complained every step of the way about the heat and the very rough terrain that severely marred her shoes and impeded the usefulness of the small wheels on her luggage. She had to keep switching hands to pull her luggage. All she could think about was going home. Indeed this was a real test of our many years of marriage.
Once inside the customs house things ground to a halt. We presented our documents and were asked for more papers, then told to wait. Communication was poor so we did not understand what was required. After sitting for some time I sensed that something was wrong. I had the telephone number of the local travel company that had handled all of our arrangements in Turkmenistan. I asked someone at customs to give them a call. The travel company owner said that the border formality required a letter of invitation and an entry travel pass. The man who was sent to the border to pick us up had the necessary papers but he was not allowed to enter the customs area. So he had been sitting in his car outside in the parking lot. How stupid is that? After much discussion the man was finally allowed to enter and present the proper documents. At last, after almost two hours at customs we were allowed to enter the country.
I have travelled to a lot of countries and this is the only country that I would not go to again. I never felt welcome, only tolerated. The government was in complete control of the country and reminded me of the former Soviet Union times. I was never clear what could be photographed and what was prohibited. I even had my camera taken away by the authorities. They thought that I had photographed something that was prohibited. Thankfully the camera was digital and when I showed what I had taken pictures of they were satisfied and returned the camera but offered no apology.
The former super-powerful President Saparmurat Niyazov had his statues and pictures placed all over the capital city of Ashgabat. I remember one statue in gold, about 45 feet in height that rotated to face the sun. After four days Margaret and I were more than happy to depart this country.
Gordon Kilgore is a Free-Lance Photographer who travels the world turning the simple things into works of beauty. Gordon has decided to share some of his work with us on a weekly basis starting in January of 2016.
I have elected to post his weekly work on this site for your enjoyment. To see more of his work go to www.gordonkilgore.com Enjoy!!!
There are times when all the stars line up. On the morning of March 19, 2018 in the Himalayan country of Bhutan a chestnut-tailed starling flew into a nearby red silk-cotton tree, Bombax ceiba. I was initially attracted to the beautiful flower and had placed my camera on a tripod in order to photograph the flower. I had also attached a cable release so that I could make the sharpest picture possible. Before I could click the shutter a chestnut-tailed starling flew up and landed near the flower. I immediately recomposed and grabbed a few shots. The bird was most accommodating and presented a variety of poses so I kept shooting. It was not until I had downloaded the files to the computer that I noticed the bees flying around the flower. Some of the bees were in front of the flower, some were below, and some were behind the flower. A few bees such as the one seen here were perfectly positioned above the flower. The bird chose a perch near a single flower without the clutter of other limbs and without flowers in the background. The tree was large, probably about 75 feet tall and full of flowers which appear in the spring before the leaves arrive.
Now look at the bird. It looks as if it is looking directly at the bee and giving it the "evil eye". Based on the bird's actions I believe that it was actually looking at something in the distance beyond the bee and flower. The time was 9:01 AM with beautiful light coming from behind and to my upper right. You can see inside the flower and see the blue and yellow on the bird's bill. The sky was a wonderful shade of blue and there was no wind. The bird stayed for just over three minutes while I shot 99 frames, each a little different from the other.
Chichicastenango is a small town about 87 miles north-west of Guatemala City. It is at an altitude of 6446 feet above sea level and is surrounded by mountain peaks and valleys. This town comes alive each market day which is Thursday and Sunday, with Sunday being the big event. While the Sunday market attracts its share of tourist, it is mainly for locals selling anything and everything from chickens and pigs to vegetables, grains, cloth, and home supplies.
On the other side of town from the market is a much different world. Entering through a white gate and a very sterile environment to the Cementerio General I was not prepared for the vibrant scene covering the hill. The cemetery in Chichicastenango is where I found the most colorful and beautiful cemetery that I have seen in the entire world. The brightly painted gravestones and crosses provide a rainbow of color to an otherwise somber place.
While Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion in Guatemala, it remains infused with Maya ritual. Many Masheños (citizens of Chichicastenango) continue to hold pre-Christian beliefs and choose to celebrate life and death the same way that their Maya ancestors did. Graves and tombstones are painted in the deceased’s favorite color, and shamans (spiritual and ceremonial leaders) can be seen burning incense, candles, and in special cases offering chickens to the gods. If a body isn’t properly buried, some people believe the soul becomes trapped between the realm of the living and the dead severing lines of communication.
According to indigenous Maya tradition, honoring the dead encourages the living to make peace with the inevitability of death. The colors themselves are steeped in symbolism. Did you know that Guatemala’s tombs are leased? If a family fails to pay the rent, grave-cleaners can exhume the bodies, package the remains in plastic bags, and transfer the remains to mass graves.
Charleston, SC is certainly one of the most historical cities in the United States. It was founded and settled in 1670 by colonists from England. From its humble beginnings as a colonial seaport it grew mainly from the cultivation of cotton, rice, and indigo to a very wealthy city by the mid-eighteenth century. It was slow to recover from the devastation of the Civil War. However mainly due to the construction of a Navy Yard in 1904 it has regained its significance.
Charleston has a reputation unlike any other town that I know of in the United States. A lot of importance is placed on one's ancestors. Family names are of the upmost importance. Who was your grandfather? Who was your great-great grandfather? It has been said that anyone can move to Charleston and may be welcomed but they will NEVER become a true Charlestonian unless they have family roots there. It is the blue-blood family tree that makes a person a true Charlestonian. Money cannot buy entry into this exclusive club.
A. East Battery is famous for its stately and mainly antebellum homes
facing the Charleston harbor.
B. Typical house at 45 Meeting Street in the historic district of
C. Dock Street Theater at 135 Church Street was built as the Planters
Hotel in 1809 and converted to a theater in 1935. The original Dock Street
Theater opened in 1736 and was the first building in America to be built
exclusively for theatrical performances. It was destroyed by the Great Fire
D. The Fireproof Building, also known as the County Records Building,
is located at 100 Meeting Street, at the northwest corner of Washington
Square and Meeting Street. The building is believed to be the oldest
building of fireproof construction in the United States. It was the work of
Robert Mills, the first native-born American to be trained as an architect,
and a Charleston native. The building was renovated in 2016-2017 and now
houses the Carolina Historical Society.
E. Shrimp boats along Shem Creek. Only a few boats remain tied along
the piers where once about a hundred were tied up. The captains and their
boats are getting old with fewer younger shrimpers taking over. The decline
is due mainly to higher cost and wholesale prices that have not kept up
with a very difficult trade.