Monday, July 16, 2007

Wales on another cloudy day

The sun came out at 8:13 this morning (and then left, again, for the rest of the day) just as I started my bowl of porridge, organic I might add. Hot and steaming, delivered to the table by my unsmiling aunt with an "all right?", the welsh 'hello'. I am staying at my aunt and uncle's house, the house they have lived in for over 40 years and raised 4 children in. My work this week is to meet all the relatives, a near impossible task considering that the Fletcher/Griffiths clan has been in the area since Celt became a feared word, and a daunting task considering that my father had 11 siblings and many of them since have also had many children. Ten of the original 12 have already left this earth leaving stories and legends in their wake. Take for example Gil & Jeryl, my uncle and aunt, and my hosts, they have spawned 4 who in turn have spawned 19 and they in turn are now delivering more fresh faced Fletcher's on a regular basis. Complicating matters further are divorces, adoptions, and so on. Many have just simply disappeared. It is an almost impossible task. One cousin, Denise, who matches me in age, and was my playmate during childhood visits, has been working on the family history for most of her life. She has now traced the Griffiths side back to the 1700's. Wouldn't you know it that some of the departed have been politicians and activists. One, James Griffiths, became a very famous British politician. His brother a well known poet. Another, Thomas Fletcher, was a local councillor. How life repeats itself!

Rhydaman, or Ammanford in Welsh, is a small town of 20,000, not unlike Cowichan in many ways. It is set in a beautiful valley surrounded by farm and pasture patchwork hills (they call them mountains here) and dotted with remnants of the coal mining past. My grandfather worked the mines here and likely most of the males before him did likewise.

Unfortunately, much of the beer here is warm and lacking in any pizazz. One brand is called Brains, go figure eh! I buy my beer in the bottle out of the little fridge that most pub's have for the itinerant traveller. I am often viewed with disdain when I ask "what's cold" and with even greater disdain when I ask for the German beer. This all passes quickly when I am asked where I am from, and I announce, Canada. Not surprisingly, I have been asked if I know so and so from Toronto. I lie and say I do, to the great merriment from those that know better. The welsh are fun loving, tough people that love a good joke. Their humour is most refreshing and easy to participate in much like our First Nation neighbours in Cowichan.

I leave Wales for Pakistan this Thursday. I am excited about visiting Pakistan again and have been asked to do a slide show for the Islamabad Camera Club a day or so after my arrival. I am looking forward to this and especially to Monday when I travel back to Mansehra to be reunited with my friends from last year. So far visits have been arranged for 9 of the 12 Cowichan sponsored children and I am hoping that I will meet all 12. I will be staying at the Plan guest house just outside of Mansehra. My hopes of travelling up the Karakoram Highway may not materialize as my Pakistan contact has not returned my emails for the last few weeks. It will be difficult to justify 6 weeks in Mansehra considering that most sponsors visit their children just for one day and then they are gone. It will be interesting what the results of this potential change in plan might result in. Also the 'troubles' are resulting in a lot of areas being closed to travellers and the embassy staff are sure to give me dire warnings about even venturing from the safety of their compound where I will be staying for a few days with my friend, the Canadian Trade Commissioner to Pakistan.

I will try to keep the blog up to date and post photos if I can find a way to do it but computers are slow here and caterpillar-like in Pakistan. I will do my best. If I do disappear for a while, it is simply due to lack of access.

Well, enough for today. Off for a latte, Welsh style (translation- awful!)