An oasis in the desert

Duunnn dunnn… duuuunnnn duun… duuunnnnnnnn dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dunnnnnnnnnn…

These are a few of the residents at the shark aquarium at Mandalay Bay Hotel.  I love sharks!  Teddy ate local basking shark with Vietnamese sauce at our wedding lunch in Wales.  Before I set off for the Grand Canyon, I had an afternoon to visit this aquarium.  It was good, not the best I have been to, but gave some respite to the chaos of Vegas.

Lion Fish – Rawrrrr!

I had my new camera with me and I am so impatient that I didn’t read the instructions.  It took me a while to figure out how to turn the flash off.  Once I did, the photographs were great quality through glass.  Wouldn’t this lioness’ costume inspire a lovely dress?

Fashionable rays

These rays had the most beautiful outfits on.  The black one looked like velvet.

Handsome Whiskers

Catfish are my favorite type of fish, probably because of their whiskers.  They taste quite nice too, especially blackened.

Starfish

Starfish just make me feel happy – they look like little hands waving at you.  I loved the delicate brocade on her seams.

Rays in flight

Until this moment, I have never seen rays flapping their fins.  So graceful and elegant.

Wings up!

A perfect predator

The last photograph of jelly fish is my favorite – it looks like some alien world.  Beautifully different and somehow alluring.

My long hot walk along the Strip to get to the Mandalay Bay Hotel was worth it just to see these wonderful creatures and I didn’t gamble a cent.

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Iglesia de la Santa Cruz, PV

iglesia-de-la-santa-cruz

It wouldn’t be a travel blog from Kerry without a church – ‘Nana, I hope you are proud of me!’ The church was celebrating mass when we took this shot but were able to go into the side chapel at anytime to pray. One of the local street vendors showed us where to go. I said my usual prayers but there were no candles to light. My favorite part of this shot was the parking stances with the crosses on them. Who would DARE park there?? I can see the lightning bolt now…

skewers

The church was not far from the beach and I loved this shot of the vendors on the beach. Those skewers looked really tasty.

dune-buggies

This was a typical view of the streets of Zona Romantica – wealthy tourists in a real town. You could see that local people really benefited from the tourist money and many traveled down in local buses from the hills to come to work.

Autoshop and Taco Stand

Autoshop and Taco Stand

I love everything about this shot, close to the river. There is your local family car autoshop and next door a taco stand that has rainbow flags to indicate it is gay friendly. What a fantastic place!

The Slave Market

The Slave Market Museum in Charleston, SC

The Slave Market Museum in Charleston, SC

I considered writing about the beautiful aspects of Charleston, South Carolina but thought I would reveal its darker side first. This innocuous building might lead you to think that they sold anything other than humans. Charleston was somewhat of a hub for slave auctions which used to be on street corners. Despite owning slaves the residents didn’t want to see children and elderly people in shackles, so the auctions went indoors. This was one of 40 slave marts in historic Charleston at the height of slavery. When I paid for my ticket, I asked one of the docents if Native Americans were also enslaved. Apparently they were, but they were too good at running away. When they discovered the soil was great for growing rice, they really wanted slaves who were farmers.

It was a very moving exhibit, as you can imagine, and appalling to read about humans traded like cattle. I was not surprised but some visitors were deeply moved and the whole museum had a reverential feel, as well it should. Charleston was and still is a very wealthy city, reflected in the buildings and residents but I think it is important to remember why that is. No-one is without blame – some northern states had a horrible history of indentured workers including children and they may as well have been slaves. My own husband was born to an indentured servant at a farm in Scotland in 1958. It was well known that some farmers felt it was their right to have sex with the women. Teddy was the third sibling born to this 33 year old woman and given up for adoption. Glasgow, the city where I grew up, became rich on the back of shipping and tobacco from the Americas. It is no coincidence that many African American people have Scottish names.

Before I left, I spoke to the docents at the desk. I admired their museum and said we have not learned from our mistakes since the port of Houston is the hub of human smuggling into North America. They both looked at me blankly and I sensed that they felt I was taking something away from their story, which I was not. The ethnicity of today’s slaves may have changed and it is illegal but some of their stories are even more horrific than those in the museum. One of my friends, living a couple of miles from me, couldn’t get into her own street one day because of police vehicles. Her south-east Asian neighbor was trafficking young girls into prostitution but was living a regular middle-class life in an affluent area.

The next post will reveal a sunny and optimistic modern Charleston.

A typical cobbled alleyway in historic Charleston

A typical cobbled alleyway in historic Charleston