Travel Logs...

November 16, 2005 1:57 am


I am so happy.  I love Vietnam.  Am slowly heading north from Saigon which
was hot hot hot with daily thundershowers at 2 pm.  I'm currently in Dalat,
a city in the central hill region. I knew it was a good sign when I saw
miles of coffee beans being  raked & dried in the sun by the side of the
road.  Great coffee and great food here-- fresh vegetables and fruits.  The
main food I can always afford in Vietnam is a delicious noodle soup called
"Pho" and you can get it anywhere.  Pho Bo is with beef and Pho Chay is vegetarian.

The weather here in Dalat is perfect-- cool, but not cold-- and the
afternoon showers come at 3pm. The people are very friendly.  I have an
$8.00 room (includes breakfast) at the "Pink Hotel"  My room has high
ceilings and great windows and a balcony and hot water shower and they also
gave me an extra table to work on.  And yes the whole place is pink-- not a
tacky pink but a quite lovely shade of pale pale pink.

I was so hungry to work again and inspired by this country and have already
made new 3 pieces-- Titles: "Pink Pink Pink", "Xe Gan Mai (motorcycle) Future", and "Oriental Pearl".

Today I took a break and went around to various waterfalls on a motorcycle
with one of Dalat's 'easy riders' as they call themselves. Tomorrow I'll go
to Nha Trang on the coast then work my way north towards Hanoi and also to
an island in Halong bay called Cat Ba-- where there is a National Park.

More soon-- Love, Margi

p.s.-- Interesting note: here they call the Vietnam War the American War.

November 16, 2005 6:34 am



November 28, 2005 9:41 pm

Having some cyber-difficulties-- pardon the repetition if you already got
this message... Love, M.
Latest update from Vietnam:

Misc: cost of internet usage at the post office in Hue-- 2000 dong per hour.

Central region-- the skinny part.

now in Hue-- had my morning coffee on the banks of the Perfume River while
watching the dragon boats float by.  The boats are all sizes-- some double
dragons-- pontoon boats with covered rooms and dining tables etc. My room is
on the 4th floor of the Binh Duong II Hotel.  I have a huge balcony (6ft by
12 ft) overlooking the city.  They wasted no time in bringing me an extra
table (besides the one on the balcony) to work on-- and I have windows on 2
sides--- great studio.  I am watching the construction workers building
across the street-- while they watch me making road collage.  Bathroom has a
tub with super hot water! Cost $8.00-- not including breakfast..

Now trying to get a visa extension since mine runs out in 4 days...

Weather report in Hue-- first it was cold and rainy-- now hot and super

Nha Trang-- took a splash in the South China Sea!  Wonderful warm blue green
water-- until you try to get out -- then the undertoe drags you back so the
surf can smash you down onto the sand just to remind you who's boss.

My Hotel Dong Phuong is a giant whistle-- really, it's a 12 story building
that vibrates and hums with the wind. Costs $6. including breakfast to sleep
in a giant whistle.  Tonight  I'll take the dreaded night bus to Hoi An.

Hoi An--  lovely French influenced (balconies & terracotta roof tiles,
baguettes and all sorts of delicious food...) city on a river, of about
75,000, in central coast area (the really skinny part) of Vietnam.  It has a
long history dating back centuries as a trading post and so there is also
Japanese and Chinese and Cham influence in the architecture around town.

The small river is currently flooded so that a few inches of water covers
parts of the riverfront road and sometimes up to the steps of the buildings.
  Apparently this is a normal thing and people continue to ride their motos
and bicycles right on through-- leaving a rooster tail spray of water behind
them...  The younger kids of course delight in riding through as fast as
possible to make a bigger spray-- they do this by peddling really hard on
the dry section and then coasting through the water with their feet up on
the handle bars.

Cost of things:(15,900 dong to $1US)

My room at ThienTrang Hotel $8. (pale peach walls, high ceiling with relief
decoration around ceiling fan, tall doors and windows, gold curtains, lacquer
furniture, bathroom has a tub and water hot enough to cook noodles and a
sliding lacquered door with thick glass panes that have embossed fish blowing
bubbles, mosquito net that folds up into a long thin lacquered box above the
bed....) cost includes breakfast and coffee.

1 local Larue beer $6000 dong

cao lau 5000 -10000 dong

Weather report in Hoi An: not too hot and even a little cool during the
afternoon rains.  Mosquitoes-- yes, but not too many.

Food report: So far my favorite Hoi An local food specialty is-- cao lau
(thick rice noodles made with water from the local Ba Be well) stir fried
with thin slices of pork and wontons and fresh herbs--cilantro, mint,
tarragon, bean sprouts and a few other unidentified greens)--

Rules of the road: None

What to wear on a moto: flip flops, spiked high heels, barefoot okay too...

Things to carry on a moto: pots and pans, lumber (carry lengthwise), flowers
(no limit), a family of 5 (2 adults, 2 kids, and 1 baby), chickens (no
limit), a bundle of 20 foot long pipes (carry lengthwise-- no turns please),
a 3ft by 5ft plate of glass (carry upright sandwiched between driver and
holder-- press face against glass), a full sized tank of acetylene (carry
sideways-- perpendicular to bike length), mattresses (just pile them on however
you can), a bail of hay, an umbrella, more to come...

note: Some of these these can also be carried on a bicycle.

note: Smoke a cigarette while driving a moto or a bicycle.

Raw material road finds: 'War Horse' cigarette packs and lots of lottery

Food I haven't eaten yet: frog simmered in citronella, Pork-dog soup... more
to come

Moto in Hanoi

photo by Jane Marshall, traveler from Canada


January 31, 2006 12:55 am

So much going on-- Hardly know where to start so I'll just have to throw out
some snippets from the daily journal...

India Time-- My 2 day quick stop in Varanasi has already turned into 2 weeks
plus....?Now officially on 'India time' which has a special elastic quality
to it. The word for today is 'aj' . The word for both, tomorrow and
yesterday, is 'kal'. From here on I think it's all aj.

"Have a Happy Journey"-- that's what it says in bold letters on the top
right hand corner of the train tickets in India? I arrived Varanasi after an
easy 15 hour night train from Calcutta. Slept like a babe to the rocking of
the train and woke up to the magic words of the coffee/chai wallah-- who
sang his sales mantra up and down the aisles.? A slight nod yes and in
minutes I have a cup of fresh India coffee.? Never mind the ever-so-thin
plastic cups that you must remember to hold with the precise amount of
feather-light pressure-- not to squeeze or the liquid comes flying out into
your face...

Varanasi is a 2000 (at least) year old city on the Ganges River and is the
holiest place in India? Religious pilgrims come here from all over India and
the world. Theoretically--no liquor & no meat in the city (though I did see
an empty 'Kingfisher Beer bottle in a recycling pile and I also saw a flyer
for a restaurant boasting 'real meat'...)?Then there are 'special' or
'bhang' lassis for those desiring a special sort of intoxication.

The ghats-- The river's edge is lined with stone steps (the ghats) for the
entire length-- maybe 2 or 3 mile-- of the old city.?The steps vary in size
and direction with uniquely shaped platforms and landings where all sorts of
public activities take place.?It's as is if the individual ghats (all of
which have names) were built separately over the ages and later woven
seamlessly together so that one can walk the entire length of the
riverfront? These stone steps are host to religious ceremonies, puja
(blessings), laundry washing & drying, cricket games, chai shops, kite
flying, dogs, goats (some wearing T-shirts or little girl's dresses), cows &
water buffalos, snake charmers (and they are charming), musicians (tabla,
harmonium, sitar, flutes...), people just walking about-- and that's just
the view from my balcony? At both ends of the ghats are the 'burning ghats'
where cremations take place at all hours. Then there is the other side of
the river...

Full circle-- I visited Varanasi in 2001. This was the place where the India
road collages really started to blossom. One of the first pieces I felt
strong about was one with a bull's head (from a matchbox) and the word
'PUSH' (from a candy box) under the bull... Today I'm sitting at the
internet shop in a narrow lane in the old city and in the corner of my eye I
see a bull standing right by the door. This is really no big deal and so I
don't even bother to turn my head to look at it-- until it lets out this
huge roar that demands attention. And so I turn to look through the glass
door and there is the bull looking right back at me with the big word "PUSH"
(a label on the glass) right under the bull's head. Oh India. Welcome back
she says to me.

My room-- a rooftop room with a balcony that overlooks the steps of the
ghats (at Panday Ghat) and the Ganges River. It's a corner room with pale
mint-green stucco walls (built in shelves), high ceiling and marine-blue
trimmed windows on 2 sides. I have a 4 foot long built-in table under the
window that faces the balcony. They gave me an extra table as well. The
light is perfect. I have an attached bathroom (squat style, bucket-flush
toilet) with hot water (sort of)... The price for this palace of a studio is
330 rupees (46 rupees to $1USD). This includes the monkeys who try to steal
my laundry when I hang it out to dry--?I also share the room with 2 geckos
who inhabit opposite ends of the bracket holding the non-functioning
fluorescent light? Each night they walk sideways across the top of the wall
looking for dinner, their heads & tails tilting downward, so that they look
like a pair of paisleys with legs....

The kites-- The Varanasi sky is full of of kites. A kite festival was
(supposedly) just ending when I arrived but the kites keep flying and
crashing and they're all over the steps of the ghats and hanging, in various
states of disrepair, on the power lines and in the trees and floating on the
Ganges and even crashing right on to my balcony. The kites are small and
uniform in size (12-14 inches square) and made mostly of strong & thin
tissue paper. They come in every color and have contrasting patches at
strategic points? I couldn't resist collecting them and I now have so much
raw material-- but it keeps coming. Everyday I harvest the abandoned kites
and after only 10 minutes I return with more than I can put together in a
day's time? To make things worse-- or better-- not sure yet-- the local
folks begin pitching in after they ask why I'm picking up broken kites from
the steps of the ghats...?Due to this unexpected abundance of material I had
no choice but to begin a kite scrap piece using glue spiked with water from
the Holy Ganga? It's growing bigger even though I promised myself I would
only make small works I could continue to carry along on the journey...?At
least it's light weight... I don't see an end to it just yet but eventually
I'll run out of glue.

Time of day-- The day is marked by activities on the ghats? At 4:30am the
chanting starts from a temple 2 buildings downriver? At 6ish bells ring from
various directions and boats filled with religious pilgrims and foreign
tourists cruise the river. At 6:30 the laundry men begin their
swinging-over-the-shoulder and slapping-of-wet-laundry onto the stone
tablets at the water's edge. The sun rises between 6:30 and 7am depending on
it's mood? Around the same time-- the morning cricket game (played with a
tennis ball) begins and with this comes the laughter and good natured cries
of "AAAaaachachachaaa!"? The chai stall opens and people sit on a long cloth
on the steps sipping chai and reading the paper and watching the game and
the river and the boats and the laundry...?At 8ish the kites start flying
and the cricket game begins to wind down. The lady who sweeps the steps
usually begins after the game is over around 8:30. By this time the sun
has warmed the stone steps and the washed laundry is laid out flat on the
landings and steps? (This is truly a sight to see-- sarees of all colors
laid edge to edge? Clothes sorted and draped over steps in the most perfect
arrangements, sheets laid out filling entire sections of the ghats. It's
worth a trip to Varanasi just to see the daily laundry show.? At 9am the
power goes off at Vishnu Resthouse resuming again at 2:30pm.?Around 3pm the
kite flying crescendos and continues until twilight. The afternoon cricket
game starts between 3:30-4:30pm-- this is the serious game and can last
until sunset. The afternoon shift of chai drinkers fill the steps, sip, chat
and watch the game and the river and the kites and the boats till
sunset...?4:30pm is the time when the sunlight over the sand on the other
side of the river turns golden. (Each day at this time I think to myself-- I
must go to the other side of the river one day soon...) Sometimes the
various ghat activities crisscross and a kite flyer gets mixed up in the
cricket game or the laundry...?Everyone roots for the most exciting thing--
as in the cricket players turning their attention (while groaning in unison
'whoah! whooahhh!! whoooaahhh!!!') to the kite flyer who was reeling his
kite in furiously as it came dangerously close to landing in the river...
Goats and dogs and cows and water buffalos cruise up and down the steps any
time all day and night... At 6pm bells ring up and down the ghats and the
hour long 'Ganga Sheva' ceremony/performance to the river goddess
begins--?sun sets around this time. Twilight lasts as long as there are
kites in the sky? Nighttime varies more-- sometimes the dogs of the ghats
have a wild barking and howling party? It's a linear, thing like a relay, up
and down the ghats. Sometimes the boat people sit in a 'C' shape and
sing...?More bells ring up and down the ghats if it's a 'special'
night? Small floating candles (from the nightly Ganga ceremony) drift the
river looking like stars while forming their own ever changing

Weather report-- early morning fog, clear warm days, cool nights and light
to heavily scattered kites. Abundant smoke and ash (from the burning ghats
and from the Ganga Seva ceremony which involves a generous amount of
incense, fire and smoke...). My allergies are loving this.

So much more-- but this is already way too long for an email and I must get
back to the harvest...

Wish you were here! Love, Margi.

March 26, 2006 3:24 am

"Side trip through Cancertown"... 

 Hi Kiet and Ed!  I'm out and about-- not dead yet-- and in the mountains
of the the Dharamsala are of Northern India.  I've been out of touch email
wise only because I was literally overwhelmed by the avalanche of
wonderful people who responded to the NPR piece a few weeks ago.  I have
so many people to thank but it's going to take some time.  Currently I am
joined by 2 friends from L.A. (S.E. Barnet is an artist who I think has
spoken to you about helping me-- if necessary with our October show) and
my niece, Jennifer, from Memphis-- so I'm not alone and they are also
helping me to deal with the emails as well.

I've so far had 2 chemotherapy treatments-- and it is a truly wicked
approach to medicine but does seem to be my only option for possible
survival at this time.  The 2 poisons of choice are Taxol and Paraplatin
and they are administered by IV injection over a 4 hour
period--theoretically that is-- the last session went for a hellish 6-plus
hours due to an incompetent nurse.  The IV will be done once every 3 weeks
for up to 6 months then they will likely want to do surgery but I'm not
ready to think about that at this time.  I'm doing the chemo at
Dharamshila Cancer Hospital in Delhi and so there's a bit of a commute but
it's worth it to be in the mountains and out of Delhi.  My next chemo
party is scheduled for the 6th of April-- still taking it one step at a
time.  My biggest concern about the chemo-- is the neurotoxicity factor
which affects the nerve endings in the extremities.  Some people lose all
the feelings in their hands and feet.  I find this unacceptable and so if
that becomes too severe-- I will likely discontinue treatments..  In the
meantime I'm feeling much better-the worst part is the 1st 3 days after
the chemo--- then (so far) things slowly improve.

I guess you know by now that Elizabeta Betinsky at Overtones is doing a
fundraiser in April to help me pay for the chemo etc. and I told her you
had a box of road collage that she could access... Not to worry that there
won't be enough for the October show-- plenty in the workings and I'm very
excited the new works!  I'm really looking forward to our show even though
I won't likely be making it to Mongolia!

Thanks so much for your concern-- and all your help. I feel so lucky to
have hooked up with you and Elizabeta-- You are amazing!

>>More soon-- Love, Margi

July 9, 2006 10:47 pm

Weather report-must be monsoon for real-have been sitting in the clouds for
the last 2 days- alternately raining, then not- all opaque air and sky--
lovely  and mysterious

updated weather report (2 days later-big rains-no sunrise-sunset for 2 or 3
days - I've lost track of the passage of days!!!

Following update from McLeodganj in Upper Dharamsala...

Monsoon clouds in Mcleodganj-- on the rooftop of the Him Queen Annex.

I'm sitting in the middle of a cloud, completely surrounded by opaque air,
and the sky beyond is a mystery.  The rains fall intermittently. 
Occasionally the cloud gathers itself in varying degrees of density and
brightness-until the mood shifts and the veil becomes completely uniform.  A
blank slate, soft and fluffy, with no clues of what lies beyond.

Tonight I head back down to Delhi for my blood test and check-up 4 weeks
after chemo#6.  Brian will accompany me on the train and help me cope with
the jitters that come with the hospital visits.  Hopefully, it will be a
short visit-no more chemo is scheduled and this thrills me to the core. 
Also, according to the Delhi weather report- the temperature has been
hovering just above 100 degrees with humidity in the high 80's. The monsoon
has not yet graced Delhi.  So I hope to zip in and back out in just a few
days time.  As long as my CA-125 level remains low, I won't need another
check-up for another month or so-- when I'll return for a fresh look inside
my body with a CT scan.

Here in Mcleodganj, I have started seeing a Tibetan doctor, Yeshi Dhonden,
former doctor of the Dalai Lama, in preparation for the end of chemotherapy-
to ward off the return of any cancer demons. He has worked with cancer
patients around the world and particularly in San Francisco in affiliation
with a Cal State University program that focuses on breast cancer. (You can
google him for further info.)  He has given me a course of pills that look
like polished balls of dirt and also taste like dirt.  His translator tells
me the pills will keep the cancer from returning.  A week's supply costs 60
rupees.  There is no charge for the consultation.

My most immediate concern is to drive away a creeping sinus and lung
infection-would be a shame to succumb to a cold after surviving all that
chemo.  It's the same bug, I believe, that hit me in Delhi just before
chemo#6- that Dr Rajan gave me antibiotics for-- which I had to quit too
soon because of the rollercoaster-sledgehammer effects of chemo#6. (Just
couldn't keep things down).  So now, I am coming at it from all angles: back
on the antibiotic from Rajan as well as some Tibetan medicine (more dirt
pills) from Yeshi Dhonden and some effervescent Airborne tablets from
Penelope and Deane and colloidal silver sinus spray from Susan and QX from
Carolyn and of course, ginger tea from the Hakeem brothers at Him Queen.
That should do the job.

In the meantime, I'm here in the cool monsoon clouds of the Indian Himalaya,
alternately working and resting.  My monsoon cloud has thinned a bit and I
think I can make out some shapes of things I already know are out there.  A
first time looker would never know about the expansive valley below or the
high mountain peaks above.  Time seems suspended in this no-sunrise-sunset
and so-very-still atmosphere. For the moment, there is no hurry


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