Wednesday, February 13, 2008

B-days, Inna's Legacy, and Long Weekend in Bilbao

I know there are several of you with February birthdays, including Jeremy, Nikki, Jerome, Aldrin, Jay, Leah, & Nemy. Happy Birthday to you all!!! If I have missed someone, please forgive me, and do let me know. I used to have a rough idea of everyone’s birth date, in my head; nowadays, my long term memory capability is not as sharp. I guess I will never come close to Inna’s long term memory capacity. She always seemed to have the birth dates remembered, not only family members, but a host of other friends and acquaintances from the Philippines. Inna was a good archivist of people and dates.

Speaking of our beloved Inna, also this month is her birthday. She would have been 86 the 16th of February. I wrote on my previous blog on the challenge of remembering the kids’ faces, especially the younger ones, since I now do not see them as often; and my worries of them forgetting mine. I will never forget Inna’s face. She remains in many of my dreams. In most of these dreams, Inna is still alive. I will leave it to dream analysts to explain. Yet, it is comforting to know that somewhere in my own thoughts/dreams, Inna lives on.

Even more importantly, Inna's spirit continues to live on through everyone in the family. Inna was a compassionate, kind, and loving person. The material things -- they did not matter to Inna. She was more concerned about what she can provide to others. Inna was always proud that the family was together and close to each other. This is what mattered to her the most and this is what gave her the most satisfaction. These altruistic characteristics -- the selflessness, kindness, benevolent -- I have continually witnessed from everyone. I believe that this is truly a legacy from Inna. The examples she had set continue to be carried out. I have no doubt that Inna's exemplary acts provide a lesson and a message that the younger generation have discovered or will discover, and will continue to be carried out. I offer a most heartfelt birthday greetings to Inna.

As I reported on my last blog, I did manage to clean up my apartment and organize a little bit. I still need another good day to finish. But it will not be this weekend. This is a 3-day weekend, but I will stretch it to a 4-day period. A group of folks from the engineering section is planning on visiting Bilbao, Spain. I will be to joining them. We depart Wiesbaden early Friday morning, and return Monday afternoon. We were able to find cheap airfare.

Bilbao is one of the larger cities of Spain, a bit smaller than Seattle. It is located on the northern coast of Spain. It is part of the Basque region. It is known for its Guggenheim Museum of Modern Art that was designed by Frank Gehry – the same Frank Gehry who designed the colorful, geometrically curvy, and “corner challenged” EMP of Seattle. I will provide a full report on my trip on my next blog.

I will end this posting with a few more random pictures from my travels. The first picture is a former water tower located in Vukovar, Croatia. It is amazing that this tower is still standing. This view does not show the extent of the damage on the top and the other side. There are dangling pieces of bricks, concrete, and rebars. The damage was as a result of the fighting between the Croats and Serbs during the siege of the town, in the early 1990's. Although the town has been rebuilt for the most part, there are still areas and facilities that remain "as is" to remind people of the devastation that the war placed on the city and its people. It is just one of the sites that I saw depicting the horror and destruction that occurred in Vukovar.

As an aside, I visited Vukovar in Feb '07 with a host of Swedish soldiers deployed at Eagle Base, Bosnia. They were allowed to venture outside their area of responsibility to do local cultural-related activities -- in this to case learn more about the early years of the Balkans War. They invited me to join them, and I obliged gladly. Little did I know that there was an ulterior motive to this trip from Tuzla, Bosnia to Vukovar, Croatia. There is a town nearby Vukovar called Osijek. And in Osijek, there is a McDonald's restaurant, the nearest one from Eagle Base. From the way these soldiers ordered and enjoyed their meal (I am talking 3-4 burgers, fries, milk shake, McNuggets, etc. for each), I can tell that this was a welcome change from the Eagle Base dining facility food. At this point, I had been in Bosnia for 13 months. I guess I will have to include myself in that bunch because that was probably the most satisfying MickeyD's meal I have ever had.

The next picture is taken from inside the glass pyramid, main entrance of Paris' Louvre Museum, in late June 2002. The cylinder within the spiral staircase is a lift that transports people from the main level to the upper level and vice versa. The curves of the spiral stairway contrast with the sharp lines of the metal supports for the glass panels of the pyramid. It works well as a black and white picture, especially the assortment of black and gray shades.

This group picture was taken in front of my Resident Office in Camp Taji, Iraq after I hosted a VIP visit by the Corps of Engineers Gulf Region Division Commander, a General, and the Corps of Engineers Gulf Region Central District Commander, a Colonel. No special effects were done to the picture. The sepia-like tonal quality of the picture is due to a sand storm in the region. Photos that were taken later that day show more of an orangy-tint to them. Visibility became an issue later that afternoon as the sand storm got closer to the area. A few of the visitors were not able to make it back that day and stayed with us overnight at my Resident Office.

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