I was incredibly lucky to be able to observe the California Condor for a small duration of time during my recent visit to the Grand Canyon South Rim in September. The condor is the largest North American land bird with a wing span of nearly 3 metres. It went extinct in the 1980s but thanks to conservation programs- it has been re-introduced into the wild including in the Grand Canyon area- where the birds are marked by their unique number tags on both wings. The one we observed was Number 87.
I had been so obsessed with getting a good spot for capturing the sunset that I first did not even notice the condor sitting at a distance from the rim. As with all birds the condor was just sitting out of the reach of my 300mm lens and so I managed only to get distant shots.
The bird observed the tourists, took its time preening itself and then set off on it’s dinner date looking all proud and majestic. I made a few video clips that I’ve put together so you can get an idea of what I’m talking about. The video quality is quite poor- this is because youtube for some mysterious reason wouldn’t upload my original quicktime format movies correctly and so I had to convert the format using windows movie maker.
One of things I really loved about Dubai (apart from the super futuristic skyline) was the uber huge Kinokuniya bookstore at the Dubai Mall. The book store is by far the largest and the best book store I’ve ever been to (unfortunately photography is not allowed inside the store) and has a vast collection of books in not just English but a variety of other languages. Of course Kinokuniya is a Japanese chain so I wasn’t surprised to find a mega section of books in Japanese (both for native speakers as well as for those pathetic souls such as myself trying to learn the language).
One of the books I picked up was this one
The editor of the book (who very interestingly describes the learning of a language as a train journey except one where we don’t know the destination- and the journey to learning tougher languages as one where the landscape changes slowly- I agree with this) curated 6 modern REAL Japanese short stories (not ones put together for text books but actual short stories read by actual people for reading by people learning Japanese.
What is really cool about the book is that it feels like a real Japanese book- one that goes from the back to the front and from right to the left and vertically! Woohoo! On the right hand side you have the actual text (with the furigana for the kanji) and on the left you have the author’s translation aide. So as long as you know your Hiragana and Katakana (which as the editor says can be learnt over a long weekend- over optimistic especially as katakana always tends to melt away from your memory) and a basic mastery of your vocab- you can start chugging along reading real Japanese literature.
There is also a quite detailed customised dictionary and grammar explanation section at the end of the book where you can check individual words and sentence patterns if you so wish to. I think the editor has put in a lot of effort to almost explain every sentence.
I bought this book in early 2013 but only now got around to reading the first story in this book. This is my usual habit and the Japanese have a word for it
A charming story called “Kamisama” roughly translated into “God” or more contextually “God Bless You” or “God of the Bears” (these translated versions exist!). The story features a warm and fuzzy theme (although surreal) and makes you realise that the important thing when you tell a story is not always the plotline but how you tell it.
At about 100 Dirhams (25 dollars/ 1400 rupees) the book is quite an expensive buy but totally worth it if you are a Japanese language learner as it makes you feel good about reading a real story. You can buy it here
For about three weekends now I keep wanting to post an inspiring and happy photo just as the weekend is about to begin but I seem to be getting to it only at the time when it’s almost Monday morning. At least this time I got around to it on the Saturday- have a great weekend everyone!
One of the remarkable features you notice when you are at the Grand Canyon is how a lot of the trees are twisted and contorted into different shapes. It’s how the tree is shaped when it is growing. Weather-beaten, wind-ravaged- it is not an easy environment to survive- yet this Ponderosa pine finds a way to stand tall.
It’s that time of the year everyone! When entire cities in the country feel like warzones with explosives going off without a break and the air is heavy with the smell of smoke.
So enjoy the free fumigation- at least the mosquitoes won’t bite you for a while. Happy Diwali!