Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Tribal architecture in Ethiopia's remote Omo region.

A contrast in tribal and contemporary architecture: my little old-fashion backpacking tent amongst traditional houses in a Suri (Surma) tribe village, Omo region, Ethiopia, Africa. Architects tell me that the cylinder of these houses is the strongest shape for a building.

Numbering approximately 28,000, the Dorze tribe was once known as fierce warriors. Now they are most famous for weaving cotton  cloths and these beehive-shaped huts.

It just happened that the day I arrived at the Aerbore (also spelled Arbore and Erbore) tribe, an elder of the village was getting married. There was a serious men-only "bachelor party" inside this traditional family house, located in the southwest region of Ethiopia's Omo Valley.

Nyangatom, also known as Bumi or Bume (which I believe translates as "stinking or the smelly ones"), are agro-pastoralists, growing sorghum by the Omo and Kibish Rivers. Besides fishing and raising cattle, they also hunt in nearby Omo National Park. Every time I was in the region, I would constantly hear how they were at war with the Karo, Hamer (Hamar) and Suri (Surma).

The Galeb (Geleb or sometmes I've heard them called Daasanech) tribe are agro-pastoralists, who live in Ethiopia's Omo region just north of Kenya's Lake Turkana.

The Hamar (also spelled Hamer) is a large tribe living in a number villages in Ethiopia's Omo region. They construct their homes and storage cylindrical buildings out of wood.

The Karo tribe, numbering somewhere between 1000 to 3000—depending who supplies the population figures—farm using flood irrigation on the Omo River. The smaller structures in the photograph are for storage, raised to keep rodents out of the harvested sorghum, maize and beans. In the background are homes. Although I didn't see this, I'm told very Karo family owns two houses: the Ono, the principal living room of the family, and the Gappa (not sure about spelling), which is the center of several house hold activities. Omo Valley, Ethiopia.

Many Konso villages are fortified by a stone walls as a defensive measure.  This is Busso village, located on the edge of a hill.  In order to enter Busso, you must pass through a gate and a series of stone-lined alleys.  These paths are part of it's security system, keeping the village difficult to access. Konso tribe, Omo region, Ethiopia.

This is a view from my favorite Konso village, Busso, showing the steep hillside location with agricultural terraces on the opposite mountain. Busso village, Konso tribe, Omo region, Ethiopia.

The lip-plate (dhebi a tugoin) has become the chief visible distinguishing characteristic of the Mursi and made them a prime attraction for tourists. - See more at:
The lip-plate (dhebi a tugoin) has become the chief visible distinguishing characteristic of the Mursi and made them a prime attraction for tourists. - See more at:
These storage buildings belong to the Mursi tribe, probably best known for the women wearing clay lip plates. Belle Village, Mursi tribe, Mago National Park, Omo region, Ethiopia.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

On our journey, must we carry our own beauty to find it?

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

I found this sunrise rainbow view of Napa Valley from Cain Vineyard and Winery, located in the Spring Mountain District above sleepy St. Helena.

If I might be so presumptuous, I concur with Emerson. We must carry our own beauty everyday. My deepest hope is to find the chance to share it.

These Konso tribe children came out to greet the camera-toting visitor to their village. But they wondered why I as an adult only spoke a few dozen words of Konso. I could only laugh with them at my ignorance and we got along anyway.  Busso Village, Omo region of Ethiopia, Africa.  
Kunina holds a photo of his deceased father Kuyta Lamita, I took on an earlier trip. It was the only thing that he had to remember his father. That makes photograph beautiful for me.  Konso tribe in Busso village, Ethiopia.

How China's largest winery markets to the nouveau middle class in Ningxia.

China's largest winery, Changyu, uses a one-two-three punch to market their wine.

First, reel in the camera-toting Chinese nouveau middle class visitors by building Disneyland-like photogenic chateaux. 

Their collection includes four and a half European-style chateaux scattered all over China:
Chateau Changyu AFIP Global about one hour out of Beijing;   
Chateau Changyu Moser XV, in Yinchuan city, Ningxia Province; 
• Chateau Changyu Baron Balboa in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region;   
• Chateau Changyu Reina in Shanxi province;   
• and finally, the not-quite so Disneyesque Chateau Changyu-Castel near Yantai, Shandong province.

These photos are from my recent visit to Chateau Changyu Moser XV, which sits like an oasis among industrial complexes.

Every night a light show flashes across Chateau Changyu Moser XV in Yinchuan, Ningxia, China.

Not only do tourists use the Chateau Changyu Moser XV as a Disneyland-like background for their personal happy snaps, but professional wedding  photographers, like those seen in black T-shirts in the above photograph, also flock to the site posing bride and groom between the tourists. Please remember this chateau sits like an oasis out in the Ningxia desert.

Second, trying to capitalize on the middle class thirst for wine knowledge, Changyu teaches visitors the ways of the alcoholic beverage made from fermented grapes

After all, an educated population will more likely buy wine and then show off their knowledge to family, friends and coworkers. All of these newly educated will in turn buy more wine—hopefully Changyu's wine. 

Wine education at Chateau Changyu Moser XV begins in a 180 degree surround theater where visitors are fully immersed in an overhead multi-projector cartoon-character video of the wine making process. A bearded European character guides the audience from harvest to bottle. Chateau Changyu Moser XV, Yinchuan, Ningxia province, China.

The visitor then winds through a labyrinth of diplays and environments at Chateau Changyu Moser XV, Yinchuan, Ningxia province, China.
Two visitors in the background are using hand movements to control an interactive display. Under the mushroom-like overhead wine aroma wheel are tubes where visitors can smell various scents associated with wine. Chateau Changyu Moser XV, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, China.
Vineyard manager at Chateau Changyu Moser XV, who also doubled as my photography assistant, touches the "bitter" sensory area of the large tongue display. Sorry Changyu, although still widely taught, scientists have disproven the belief that specific areas of the tongue are sensitive to various tastes like bitter, sour, salty, sweet. Chateau Changyu Moser XV, Yinchuan, Ningxia province, China.

Here we see the overhead aroma wheel, the sniff tubes, two hand motion interactive displays and the story of the bottle at Chateau Changyu Moser XV, Yinchuan, Ningxia province, China.

Of course, no wine education program would be complete without guards dressed in iron. Chateau Changyu Moser XV, Yinchuan, Ningxia province, China.

This scluptured display has the traditionally dressed worker pressing whole cluster, including the leaves, grapes in a wooden hand crank press at Chateau Changyu Moser XV, Yinchuan, Ningxia province, China.

Naturally, photo opportunities abound while learning about wine at Chateau Changyu Moser XV, Yinchuan, Ningxia province, China.

Even a foreign photographer (actually the only foreigner that entire day) makes for a curious  subject at Chateau Changyu Moser XV, Yinchuan, Ningxia province, China.

No wine eduaction would be complete without a Happy Nose. Chateau Changyu Moser XV, Yinchuan, Ningxia province, China.
Chateau Changyu Moser XV, Yinchuan city, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region is a partnership between state-owned China wine giant Changyu wine company and Austria's "GrĂ¼ner Man" Laurenz (Lenz) Moser, 15th generation (XV) member of famous Austrian wine family.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Is that Yosemite Falls in Ningxia China wine country?

While winding through the labyrinth of educational displays inside Chateau Changyu Moser XV, suddenly, there was Yosemite Falls. The U.S. National Park icon was projected on a wall-sized screen in a room with taller-than-the-visitor bottles of Changyu wine. (They were empty, I checked.)

Wait a minute, what does Yosemite have to do with wine making here at the Chateau in the Ningxia desert?

That's Yosemite Falls in the background of a wine education display  at Chateau Changyu Moser XV, Yinchuan city, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, China.

Is this a subtile Chinese marketing technique that was lost on this visitor?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Why working dozens of Willamette Valley vintages taught this Oregon Wine Pioneer to be optimistic.

Vineyard Light interview with Dick Ponzi, Oregon Wine Pioneer, whose first Willamette Valley vintages were in the early 1970s.

This is Ponzi's Mountain Home Road vineyard in the Chehalem Mountains with dramatic views of the Willamette Valley, located between Scholls and Sherwood, Oregon.

"It makes me feel good to walk through the vineyard. It’s like a hike in the mountains. Refreshing. After I take a 20-minute hike through the vineyards around our home, I come back refreshed, reinvigorated.

Fall colors on Ponzi's Mountain Home Road vineyard in the Chehalem Mountains, Willamette Valley, Oregon.

"The vineyard has also made me optimistic, rather than being a pessimist. There is the rebirth that happens every year. 

"After experiencing the variation of many vintages, I’ve learned that if things don’t go well this year, they will go better next year. I guess too that if there is a series of good years, there will be a bad year."

Dick Ponzi,  Oregon Wine Pioneer,  Ponzi Vineyards, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Winter in Ponzi's Mountain Home Road vineyard in the Chehalem Mountains, Willamette Valley, Oregon. The tall white building in the background is an old walnut drying barn.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

After my heart attack I heed Helen Keller's advice

Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.
Helen Keller

Especially, after my heart attack, I'm blessed and ready to face new dragons.
Janis Miglavs

Janis with chief of small village, Himba tribe near Epupa Falls, Namibia.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Are you too pulled by an inner sacred restlessness?

Entrance to ancient Roman Catholic Church in the tiny village of Cizhong, Yunnan province, China.

When people ask what draws me to places like remote African villages, tiny towns perched on Himalayan ledges or vineyards in dusty corners of China, I think of Siddhartha Gautama.

Siddhartha grew up sheltered behind walls of wealth and power. As a prince, he was shielded from any knowledge of  human suffering and religion.

But something happened at age 29. The Prince peeked over the garden walls of his compound to see the poor, the sick, the dying, all the human suffering outside of his walls; and he saw monks. He left to seek.

What was that restlessness that pulled Siddhartha away from a luxury life at home?   

Something about Tibetan Buddhism elicits a strong familiar attraction for me. Like a magnet, the Feilai Buddhist Temple, about 10 km from Deqen, pulled me in. Deqin County, Yunnan province, China.
A woman with her traditional apron spins the prayer wheels at the Feilai Tibetan Buddhist Temple near Deqen, Deqin County Yunnan province, China.

Likewise, I'm restless. Something seems hidden. I need to go out to find it.  My journeys too are born of an inner sacred restlessness.

The ancient Catholic church stands out in the tiny village of Cizhong, Yunnan province, China. And yes, those are Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards in the foreground.

Here I am searching for spiritual threads among the Mursi tribe in the Omo region of Ethiopia. Honestly, I don't see the big picture of why I'm there. I just trust, knowing prayer and meditation led me there.

On this journey, I look in every corner without prejudice or preconceptions. Sometimes when I tell Christian friends the kind of things I experience, they worry. Don't worry, Christ is still my guiding light. This is the most powerful Himba shaman (witch doctor) in the Epupa Falls area going into a trance in Namibia, Africa. He told me that I would find a secret.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Vineyard Light: What a Slovenian winemaker taught writer Eric Asimov about life.

As part of my Vineyard Light Project, at a Napa Wine Writer's Symposium I asked New York Times wine and food writer Eric Asimov what the vineyard taught him about life.

"I think of Alesh Kristantochiev, a wonderful producer in Slovenia, just across the border from Italy. I’ve walked in his vineyard with him. It’s almost as if he knows each one of his vines, as if they all had their own individual personalities. Then he tailors his care for them to their individual needs. 

"I was very amazed by how much effort goes into being out there to observe and know those plants, and how that contributes to making great wine. It's a product of love and passion.

"In a very broad sense we can all learn lessons – life lessons – from that. Whatever you do in life, do it with love, do it with passion, do it with effort, do it with commitment."

Eric Asimov, Wine and Food Writer, New York Times, New York, New York.

On the other side of the world from Solvenia, winemaker Emma Gao (in yellow top) of Silver Heights, checks Cabernet Sauvignon grapes in one of her contract vineyards with a worker. Like Asimov's Alesh Kristantochiev, Emma is full of passion for both life and for growing the best grapes and wine. The vineyard is near Yinchuan, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, China

During harvest, Emma Gao of Silver Heights often put her face into the crated grapes just to smell them. Then, if the grapes were good, she would straighten up with a big grin.  Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, China.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Did I walk out of this Ethiopian village 60,000 years ago?

Sunrise on Busso village, Konso tribe, Omo region, Ethiopia.
On my first trip to the Omo region in Ethiopia, my guide, driver and I spent several days interviewing the Konso tribal elders for the First Stories Project. 

On the first morning in the area, I took an exploratory walk just before dawn. A couple of miles out, I saw the village of Busso.  Something made my heart sing. It was like a full-production Sound of Music moment.

Morning walks in the Konso area were pure magic.

I couldn't explain it. There were strong inklings like I've been here before. Was it in some ancient past life?
But there was something more. Was it the surrounding steep mountains that reminded me of the Himalayas I loved? Was it the wonderful sunrise light? Or did it just look like the picture-perfect African village I was hoping to see? 

A walking stick awaits the traveler at sunrise near Busso Village, Konso tribe, Omo region, Ethiopia.
Or, was I actually hearing some DNA-deep feeling that this was near the spot where we as modern man left to populate our planet? DNA tells us that some of us stayed, some of us walked out from Africa. Had I lived here some 60,000 years ago? 

Did I walk out to explore the world or stay?

Now 12 years later, I still can't really explain why my heart sang when I first saw Busso village in the Konso area. And it happens every time I revisit.
Even after many trips to Busso over the years, I still love wandering through the village.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Are you a human making a spiritual journey or spiritual being making a human journey?

“We had thought that we were human beings making a spiritual journey; it may be truer to say that we are spiritual beings making a human journey.” So wrote the French philosopher, Jesuit priest, geologist, paleontologist and one of the discoverers of Peking Man, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

In January of this year I journeyed to the Mursi tribe in Ethiopia's remote Omo region to learn about their view of the spiritual world. Looking at this photograph is like looking into a mirror at my own life. It reminds me that the Mursi in Belle village spent their days as I do most of mine, a mere human existing in the day to day.

"That's god. That's Mursi god," was what the oldest Mursi elder in Belle village said when I showed him an image I had drawn from descriptions given by other Mursi elders on previous trips. His reaction was immediate. No hesitation.

So which are you, a human or spiritual being on an earthly journey?

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Vineyard Llight: What gave him the chutzpa to plant the first modern-era wine grapes in Oregon?

From  Oregon The Taste of Wine by Janis Miglavs, Roseburg, Oregon

During a two-day interview for my Oregon The Taste of Wine book, Richard Sommer talked of his dream during the 1950s, to grow wine grapes in a place where others said “impossible.” He recalled UC Davis viticultural professors chuckling when he said he was starting a vineyard in Oregon. Too cold, too rainy, was the consensus. It hadn’t been done before.

While working on my Oregon wine book, I took Richard Sommer to visit Hillcrest, the winery he founded.

But Richard had faith, enough faith to plant Oregon’s first modern-era vinifera grapes, including Pinot noir, in 1961. He actually had wine before the well-known Boys up North in the now-famous Willamette Valley planted their first Pinot vines in the ground. And he had enough faith to begin a winery, Hillcrest, which is still in existence today.

Now, nearly 500 Oregon wineries later, we know Richard was obviously right. But what gave Richard the chutzpa to take on the world? 
Janis Miglavs, Oregon The Taste of Wine, Roseburg, Oregon

Old vine Cabernet Sauvignon at Hillcrest Winery vineyard, originally established by Richard Sommer in 1961 near Roseburg, in the Umpqua wine region, Oregon.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Why are there so many bare-breasted European women at Chinese wineries?

In reviewing some of the thousands of photographs from my last few China wine country trips, I noticed lots of bare- breasted European women standing around at many of the chateaux. Do they look somewhat out of place in China?

This bare-breasted beauty greets the tourist at Dynasty Winery's Tianjin Chateau in Tianjin municipality, China. Also note that the Chinese love to lift ideas from other cultures, like the Louvre glass Pyramid in the Chateau courtyard. Perhaps it is a nod to French partner, Remy-Martin as Dynasty Winery is a Sino-French joint venture.

OK, she isn't topless as promised. This lovely lady with a semi-Mona Lisa smile and skin-hugging dress is part of an all female crew which has been stomping grapes for years in the Grape Maiden Plaza at Chateau Changyu-Castel.          The Chateau is a Sino-French joint venture between China's oldest, largest and most famous winery, Changyu, and Groupe Castel of France, one of the top three wine companies in the world.             To meet this woman yourself, just head to Beiyujia Village just out of Yantai in Shandong Province.

This bare-breasted beauty holds her basket of grapes in the garden at Dynasty Winery's Tianjin Chateau in Tianjin municipality and province, China. Dynasty Winery is a Sino-French joint venture with the French producer, Remy-Martin.

These woman holding empty ceramic pots must be waiting for their wine allotment in the courtyard at Chateau Changyu Moser XV at the edge of Yinchuan, Ningxia, China.

The statues are right out there for all visitors to see. But I wonder why these wineries show so many provocative females in a country where censoring pornography is a government priority?  

And why just western women? Why not Chinese? Don't the Chinese appreciate Chinese women?

This nearly-naked European beauty lies at Dynasty Winery's Tianjin Chateau in Tianjin municipality and province, China. Dynasty Winery is a Sino-French joint venture with the French producer, Remy-Martin.
Behind the squirting water, lightly-clad women watch wedding photographers work with a newly hitched couple behind the fountain at Chateau Changyu Moser XV on the outskirts of Yinchuan, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, China,

This curvy maiden somehow lost her hand while showing off her shapely leg at the local government-owned estate Chateau Lanny (Lanyi), near Yinchuan in the Ningxia Hui autonomous region, China. The grape vine springing from her head seems to be a local phenomenon.

The 630 million yuan (US$103 million) Changyu Chateau Baron Balboa, with its 6,000-square-meter cellar and production facilities, would not be complete with out some scantly- clad maidens. Obviously, the desciplined workers are focused on their tasks. This is the fifth chateau for China's largest wine producer, Changyu. Shihezi, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, China.

Perhaps you the reader could help me solve the mystery.  Could it be that almost all Chinese wineries are CEOed by Chinese men? (Grace is an exception.)

Are there so many bare-breasted women at wineries in other countries?

Definnitely alive, this dancer was performing at joint-venture Chateau Changyu-Castel winery as part of the Yantai International Wine Festival, Yantai, Shandong Province, China.  Just as a side note, all of the Changyu executives I know are male.