Travels To Asia; Paintings of Souvenirs

Connection To Asia.

I have traveled to the continent of Asia twice, once to Japan and once to Saudi Arabia.  In this blog post, I’d like to tell you about my travels and share some souvenirs.

Asia - Japanese Souvenirs
“Taka Geta” – wooden clogs and “Netsuki” replica (rabbit)

Converging Events.

You might think this an odd subject for the middle of December, but two events converged in my life.  Next week is my oldest sister’s birthday and I needed to create a birthday card for her.  My sister was a high school exchange student to Japan back in the early 1970s, so I usually create a birthday card using souvenirs she sent me.  This is my way of honoring her gift and sharing a connection.  I am including two “cards” that I’ve painted.

The second event in this convergence is a blog post by Candace Rose Rardon titled “The Geography of Connection: A Second Call Out for Your Stories”.  My brain saw “call out” in the title and it caught my attention.   Ms. Rardon talks about travel, connection, and stories.   In this call-out, readers are asked to share stories and connections if they have to the continent of Asia.

Oh, and, she creates cool, artistic maps!

Asia in 1990.

Well, in 1990 I traveled to two different countries in Asia: Japan and Saudi Arabia.  At the time, I was an officer in the United States Army and my travels were duty related.

Sendai, Japan.

I made my trip to Sendai, Japan in early 1990 with a team from the 6th Infantry Division (Light) out of Alaska.  We were to participate as part of IX US Corps in an exercise called “Yamasakura XVIII” with the Japanese Northeastern Army.  It was fun and enlightening.  During the day, we participated in the exercise.  During the evening and time off we participated in social events or explored Japan.  The intention was to foster good will between the two Army’s.

Regarding connections, I met many Japanese people.  We exchanged gifts, shared meals, drank Japanese beer and enjoyed each others company.  I didn’t speak Japanese and they didn’t confess to speaking English…though I’m betting they did.  When traveling, I have found that it is best to be polite and on my best behavior and Japan is no exception.  I would believe that most adults understand some English but are reluctant to speak it.

We did have translators, but during social time, they were over-committed.  Instead, all of us, Japanese and Americans alike, shared our smiles, photos of families and gifts.

Asia: Japanese Souvenirs
Asia: Japanese Hat Dancer Souvenir

No Photos, Just Souvenirs.

All of the photos I took while in Japan were destroyed.  I’m not a good photographer and the 1990s  was a time before digital cameras and smart phones were readily available.  OK, like the amateur I am, I accidentally exposed ALL of my film.

However, I did bring back souvenirs, most of which are in storage.  But I have left a few on display around my home.  Periodically, I like to get them out to use as subjects for a still life set-up. I am including a study I did of a “Japanese Hat Dancer” that given to me.

Such gifts were typical and I treasure them.  I was taken by the kindness of people who did not know me.  For the brief period of time we shared a wonderful camaraderie…and lots of good Japanese beer and Sake.

I was saddened when I heard about the Japanese earthquake close to Sendai in 2011.  The Sendai I visited was such a fascinating, cosmopolitan city.  After scanning the recent news on line, I understand the people have rebuilt their city.  It wasn’t the first and I imagine not the last earthquake or tsunami.

In the Desert, Saudi Arabia.

Later in 1990, I travelled to Saudi Arabia as part of a transportation unit out of Kentucky. We were part of the XVIII Corps (US Army) deployment to Desert Shield and Desert Storm.  During the deployment, I was a transportation officer and worked in transportation operations.  Our unit worked primarily in the northeastern part of Saudi Arabia.

Because of my work, I did not make a personal connection with the people of Saudi Arabia.  Were the situation different, I would enjoy connecting with the people of Saudi Arabia, particularly the women.

I did see a fair amount of the desert.  I grew up in the desert Southwest of the US.  Our desert is vastly different from the Saudi Arabian deserts.  Granted, I only experienced the  Saudi desert from October to June.  However, the vegetation seemed sparse in compared to the deserts of SW New Mexico, my childhood home.

Still, beauty can be found anywhere.  The colors of the desert have there moments.  And, oddly enough, I did notice the birds, particularly the shore birds.  I don’t know how prevalent they were, but there were some puddles and salt lakes – or at least I think that is what they were.  Stilts, avocets, and I think flamingoes were among the birds I saw, though the flamingoes were from a distance.  I did see camels wandering the desert.  That’s something I don’t see every day!

No Photos, Just Memories.

Oh, I did take photos.  You might have guessed, they’re all in storage.  And, they’re mostly about trucks and soldiers.  Come to think of it, another wonderful experience with camaraderie of fellow soldiers.  Lots of personal connections and memories, but not so many photos.

I did some drawings and, guess what, they’re in storage too.  My favorite was of an Army truck… perhaps you can imagine one.

Asia: Japanese Souvenirs
Wooden Dolls and Clogs

Travel to Asia – Excellent Experience.

Whenever I travel, I feel my life experience is so much richer for having seen and encountered people who live differently.  Realizing that I have only visited two countries in Asia, isn’t it fascinating that they bracket the continent?  One to the east and one to the west – or near east and far east.

What about you?  Have you traveled to Asia?  Please feel free to share your story in a comment.  I would also like to invite you to go to Ms. Candance Rose Rardon’s blog and read other stories about travels to Asia.