Tag

photography

Africa, Culture

6 Awesome-Sauce Pictures of Morocco (or, Why you Should Follow Me on Instagram)

 

I haven’t been writing much the last couple weeks. I think sometimes, when it comes to writing about our experiences, there have to be periods of writing—and then periods of experiencing. So, let’s just say it’s been the latter, and I’ll get to the writing part again soon.

In the meantime, did you know I’m on Instagram these days? I share snippets of writing or travelogue with nearly every post. Here are five reasons to follow me:

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Adventure, Europe, Nature, Nomadism

The Camino de Santiago in 100 words and 27 Untouched Pictures

When I set out for the San Sebastian (my starting point for the Camino del Norte) at the start of June, I decided not to take my camera with me.
Too heavy. Too much of a burden. Too unnecessary.
Then came the bright idea to take only one to two (smartphone) photos per day throughout my thirty-day walk. To capture what captured my heart, without being a slave to documenting the journey—that was the idea.
And I think it worked pretty well. On average, I took two pictures a day—sometimes none, sometimes three—and while the result is not comprehensive, I believe it is in some way representative of those days.
I have selected twenty-seven of those sixty photos and paired them with lines from a brief stream of consciousness I wrote one day to summarize the experience of walking the Camino. The collection below is not chronological, and it isn’t complete, but I think it is more true than a complete, chronological photo diary could ever be.

***
Walking. 
Walking in mud, in rain, 
in grass; 
on gravel, asphalt, 
bridges stone, wood, paved; 
at first light, 
at last light, 
under clear skies 
and into fading sunsets.
Waking beneath stars in freezing meadows, 
waking in a village whose name already evades recollection.
Glossy maps,  
cafe chairs, 
Spanish words that somehow make sense.
Bare feet,
dirty feet, 
tired and sore feet.
The same hat every day, always a different flower in it.
Yellow arrows, yellow arrows, yellow arrows.
The path ahead. 
Sleep that comes without invitation. 
Absence of thought.
Peace of 
single-minded activity. 
Never boring. 
Seashells. 
The way forward. 
Yellow arrows.

***

The Camino in Short: 

Walking. Walking in mud, in rain, in grass; on gravel, asphalt, bridges stone, wood, paved; at first light, at last light, under clear skies and into fading sunsets. Waking beneath stars in freezing meadows, waking in a village whose name already evades recollection. Glossy maps, plastic cafe chairs, Spanish words that somehow make sense. Bare feet, dirty feet, tired and sore feet. The same hat every day, always a different flower in it. Yellow arrows, yellow arrows, yellow arrows. The path ahead. Sleep that comes without invitation. Absence of thought. Peace. Single-minded activity. Never boring. Seashells. The way forward. Yellow arrows.

***

About

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Africa, Culture

Cape Town Snapshots

Street art near Assembly, Cape Town.

Are these snapshots I share so often an exercise in lassitude or creativity?

I’ll admit I write them when I can’t think of a full article I want to lay out. At the same time, I think they might capture more of life in fewer words than any other format. I hope they serve to inspire your imaginations and whet your appetite to form your own snapshot memories of these places.

Cape Town Snapshots:

***

Two long-legged, long-necked birds cross the road near the Civic Center. One, then the other. Each looks both ways, takes a few steps, stops, looks, and steps again. Traffic flows around them. Their mother must have taught them about looking both ways.

***

The wet sand along Long Beach, Kommetjie reflects the mountains in the early morning light. My friend’s golden retriever, a streak of ocher against shads of blue, plays in the surf.

***

Saucer-eyed children materialize around the outdoor table off Long Street where my friend and I have just begun to eat our vegan lasagna and salad. Plant, the restaurant is called. The danger of sitting outside to eat in Cape Town: the reality of the city is on the same side of the window as you.

***

The white-haired sales clerk at the Simon’s Town boutique is more interested in conversation than sales. “Nobody really needs any of this,” she confesses, “but sometimes you just have to buy something nice for yourself!” She laughs. When she hears my friend speaking in Afrikaans on the phone she says excitedly in her high, soft voice, “You have an Afrikaans friend! She’ll be your friend for life.” We all smile.

***

Heaps of fresh fruit in every supermarket. Most (or all) of it grown here. Mangos, avocados and pomegranates, oranges, peaches and nectarines, papaya, apples, plums and grapes. I am spoiled for choice, wish I could buy some of everything, but know I couldn’t possibly eat it all fast enough. Choose just one or two each time I buy my groceries.

***
We teach the students, all in their last years of high school, how to copy and paste, type in urls on a browser and do basic formatting in Word. I am helping my friend with the class he volunteer teaches on Monday afternoons in Masiphumelele, a township near Kommetjie. I never thought I had any computer skills to speak of—I realize I was wrong.
***

The train to the coastal area south of Cape Town emits a banshee screech each time it heaves to a stop. Pick a compartment with lots of people, and don’t carry valuables, I was advised. The train is full of everyday commuters and seems mundane and secure, but I’ve heard the stories and I know looks can be deceiving.

***

A cross between a motorcycle bar and a hipster cafe (my friend’s words, not mine) of my favorite cafes in Cape Town serves the best coffee and a morning’s worth of decorations to occupy the unhurried observer. No mirrors. In the bathroom, only a bare, framed cement square with black painted letters spelling, “You Are Fucking Amazing.”

***
Thick fog rolls down over Table Mountain as the sun drops and the air chills. The “tablecloth,” this misty white blanket is called. It covers and reveals, slowly, silently. The city hides and reveals, slowly, silently. Every day a new facet. Every day a new mystery.

View of False Bay from the southbound train.
[Penguins and beaches—lots of pictures on the way, just as soon as I get them onto my computer!]
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Africa

One Reason I Am in Love with Cape Town

South Africa—Cape Town included—is a complicated place. 

It is complex, fraught with tension and not particularly safe. It is fascinating, for this half-anthropologist, half-writer (and 100% curious human being), and it is sad. Cape Town, specifically, is diverse, vibrant, disjointed, anachronistic, cosmopolitan, wild, chilled, cohesive and embattled, all at once.
It is the kind of city you fall in love with.
But you could take all that away, and I would still love Cape Town for the simple fact that this natural beauty
is everywhere.

Mountains. Lakes. Oceans. Rivers.
Sparkling cobalt water,
An ecosystem like nowhere else in the world, and more hikes than I could possibly cover in 3 months of weekends,
All literally within the city.
No adjectives could do these mountains justice, but they are enough to steal your heart.
***

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Europe

Helsinki Snapshots


Monday, 11 January 2016
It is 2:30 pm, and the sky already seems to be getting dark as I make my way to the Helsinki airport… in a taxi (gasp! I know! But my tennis shoes and single layer of pants just aren’t going to make it to the bus stop in this -20º C weather). 
Somehow I have managed to visit this city three times over the past several months, for a total of six or seven weeks, and it’s about time I shared some snapshots of life here. What I lack in photos (I’ve taken very few) I’ll try to make up for with riveting description…
The in-between bingo sets show… it’s pretty much what it looks like.
Sunday nights find me at Mascot cafe with my friend Ella (and her friends) for bingo. A young, rambunctious crowd plays for free drink vouchers and the satisfaction of winning. They sing along with the flamboyant host (an out-of-costume drag queen who hardly looks his 40 years) for certain numbers—“I am 16 going on 17…” “when I’m 64…”—and cheer loudly whenever a player gets Bingo! I begin to get a solid grasp on Finnish numbers just in time to leave.
Two locals sitting outside the fray stop me this week on my way to the door to ask what’s happening. But isn’t bingo just for old people? They say. Sometimes not, apparently! It is always when I can tell a local something they didn’t know about their own city that I begin to feel I have really settled in.
Mascot, a down-to-earth bar with a lobby plastered with graffiti-letter posters advertising underground events, also plays host to Helsinki’s first spoken word festival, among other things.

German Sparkle Party capture (not mine).
My friend’s house in Käpylä, where I am very kindly welcomed as a long-term guest (maybe there is no Finnish saying about houseguests and fish…) is green. Snow covers the front lawn; when I first arrived it was autumn leaves and apples instead. Seven unique individuals coexist there with surprising harmony, and instantly make me feel at home. We practice jiujitsu on the tatami mats in the attic (later we will move the mats to make room for a massive “German Sparkle Party” (warning, click at your own risk) complete with mojito bar and black light dance floor.) and we play pinball on a vintage machine in the living room while sipping Salmiakki (licorice liqueur). In proper Finnish fashion, I become thoroughly addicted to the sauna in the basement. I learn that if you add a splash of beer to the ladle of water before tossing said water onto the hot stones, it makes a delightful smell (really). 
Elephant journal HQ, Helsinki—my coworker, Sara and I working at the kitchen table.
From the small kitchen table where I work, I can watch the light changing outside, fat snowflakes drifting lazily past the window or bunnies appearing from behind trees.
The bouldering gym where I go to climb a couple times a week is small, but intense. Typically crowded and obscured by a haze of chalk, its routes challenge me and always hold my interest. In an open loft workout area, I observe people displaying more varied exercise routines than I have ever seen in my life. I become noticeably stronger over the weeks that I train here.
At my favorite supermarket, I learn to distinguish between smoked and raw salmon, free-range and organic eggs, full fat and lactose-free milk, and more kinds of berries than I can name even now. My Finnish vocabulary seems to consist of equal halves food words and profanities.

The hill.
Finally, a quick walk from the house I briefly call home brings me to the top a small hill (the highest in Helsinki) topped with crumbling bunkers and criss-crossed with paths. When I don’t want to go anywhere else, I step outside, turn right and then right, and make my way there.

***

Welcome to (what was) my world for a short while, I hope you enjoyed the tour! As of yesterday, I am now in Cape Town, South Africa—currently settling in, but lots more on this new place to come!
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Culture, Europe

Tallinn Snapshots

Greetings from Tallinn!

On Monday, my friend and I took the 2-hour ferry from Helsinki, Finland to Tallinn, Estonia.

Our mission? Like nearly every other passenger on board, buying alcohol. Tallinn, evidently, is the everyman’s solution to avoiding Finland’s high taxes and stocking up on liquor for parties and general consumption.

With a house party coming up this weekend, we had an important task to complete, and an extra seven hours to explore Tallinn… Here’s just a taste:

The ferry itself is six stories tall, boasting its own liquor store, luxury “trends” store and nightclub—where drinking habits go to breed and a night out consists of a round trip to Tallinn without ever leaving the boat.

The breakfast buffet offers Karelian tarts (hailing from the Finnish region of Karelia, pastries full of rice, topped with a special “egg butter”), smoked salmon and cold cuts, mysterious meatballs and an assortment of very particular cured fish. We spend the entire trip to Tallinn slowly working our way through it all.

My favorite poster from the day.

Tallinn’s Old Town winds away from the harbor, a pleasant mix of cobblestones I’m still feeling in my sore legs, kitsch tourist restaurants loosely modeled after medieval times, posters that seem stuck in another century, souvenir shops and folk art galleries.

My friend, travel sister and current host, posing with an eye-catching door.

Outside one of those restaurants, bored waiters crouch down to scatter crumbs to a few pigeons. Next door, a woman in full-on (presumably) traditional Estonian garb acts as a human signboard—brightly colored embroidery, tightly braided pigtails and elaborate headdress demanding the passerby’s attention. We try to covertly get a picture of her… and fail:

I think she saw us…

But, we are photo-bombed brilliantly by a passing stranger, which makes up for it:

Never seen this guy before in my life.

I spot Captain Jack Sparrow walking down one of the main streets, swagger and all. I get a little bit too excited, fumbling with my camera and missing the photo op. I still wonder what restaurant he was promoting.

As Jack Sparrow disappears down the street, we follow the sound of a Steel HandPan to a busker, and I meet my soulmate in puppy form:

More puppy pictures to come.

As is the case in dedicated tourist towns the world over, we are met with considerable indifference by a considerable portion of Tallinn’s population, with some friendly exceptions. As dusk falls (around 4p.m. in this part of the world), exhausted from some combination of cobblestones and cloudy skies, we settle in for a dinner of Modern Estonian Cuisine before making our way back to the ferry.

Tallinn at dusk—beautiful.

It’s a good day.

***
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Europe

Stockholm Snapshots

Believe it or not, this is right in Stockholm!

I’ve fallen behind. There are several cities I have seen and enjoyed without writing a single word… And so now I’m revisiting not only in person, but also in spirit as I backtrack to bring you these snapshots.

Stockholm first.

(Evidently I have almost no pictures, so these will mostly be word snapshots.)

I arrive in Stockholm in mid-September to visit my oldest friend (for all intents and purposes my big sister) in her new Swedish life. She and her boyfriend graciously share their one-bedroom apartment with me for a week, and I get in what sightseeing I can between work and catching up.

We bake miniature apple pies for fika, Sweden’s infamous coffee and cake time, and cook kugel (noodle casserole) and brisket (Jewish soul food) for a belated Rosh Hashanah celebration.

Based on the tradition of fika alone, I should probably move to Sweden.

I also discover morotsmuffins (the most delicious carrot cake muffins in existence, with cardamom and cream cheese frosting), of which I unfortunately have no photographic evidence. (Ben & Jerry’s, on the other hand, I find myself morally obligated to document—the VT brand has officially gone global.)

Ben & Jerry’s in Stockholm? Oh yeah!
(No, I didn’t buy any. Morotsmuffins, remember?)

I dip my toes into my friend’s life here, meeting friends and learning a few useful Swedish phrases: “tak” (thanks), “hey” (you guessed it, hey) and “var festin mit fulla killor?” (where’s the party with the drunk guys?) I think I should be all set, no?

We also discuss politics and the refugee crisis (with Sweden poised to take in 200,000, it’s a particularly salient topic), but that is a far more serious discussion for another time.

Entrance to Haga Park.

Haga Park, just minutes from my friend’s Solna apartment, is a sprawling oasis sprinkled with a few architectural oddities. “Am I really in Stockholm?” I write as I watch the shadows grow over a massive lake. Difficult to believe.

Haga park—attempted dusk capture.

And lastly, wandering through Gamla Stan (Old Town) on my rainy day off, I stumble upon a marching band playing Abba’s “Dancing Queen” as a motley group of protesters waits to march through the square—one of many wonderfully incongruous details I observe over the course of the week.

I might as well stop there, as nothing could be better…

***

(Stay posted for Helsinki and Amsterdam/Haarlem snapshots!)

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numundo, minimalism
Adventure, Nomadism, Travel Advice

Traveling Light: “Only What I Can Carry” Photo Project

Saturday, October 3rd, 2015. Helsinki, Finland.

[This is only an excerpt from a longer piece about this project written for elephant journal. For the full story please click here.]

The afternoon sun is kissing the tops of the pines surrounding my friend’s house, and I am packing.

I’ve had an idea in my head for months now, and seeing as I’m in no hurry for once, this seems like the perfect opportunity to realize it.

I’ve been living out of my purple, 60-liter Osprey backpack for just under a year now. This is the second time I’ve done so, and I can pack in 10 minutes—15 tops—when needed.

Today, though, I take my time to fold my clothing into neat piles and gather every last small belonging into a compact square in the center of the floor.

I’m not exactly sure why, but taking stock seems important…

The more I travel and the longer I wander, the better I understand how much I need, and how much I am able to carry. (And still, always, it is too much.)

More and more, too, I recognize the difference between need and desire—the meaning of priorities. I don’t need even half of what I choose to carry with me. I do in fact need my laptop for work, and maybe a few changes of clothing and some warm layers.

But my practice poi? Small bag of jewelry? Pretty shirts, oversized headphones and red lipstick? Indulgences and whimsy—and I know it…

What I keep—I recognize I keep out of attachment, not out of necessity…

This is only what I can carry.

Some of it I need; some of it I want, but if it’s too much weight or doesn’t all fit, something has to go.

This isn’t for everyone; hell, it may not always be for me. Nevertheless, this is a viable way to live, and—I believe—a powerful exercise in living simply.

I hope these images might inspire you to try the same—even if it’s only for a walk around the block! 😀

[This is only an excerpt from a longer piece about this project written for elephant journal. For the full story please click here.]

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Culture, Europe

An Incomplete Guide to Sicily in Quotes & Pictures

Valle dei Templi (Valley of the Temples), Agrigento, Sicily

“The climate’s delicate; the air most sweet.
Fertile the isle, the temple much surpassing
The common praise it bears.”
— Shakespeare

I could write—and, indeed, have written—many pages about Sicily. However, I’m hardly the first person to be taken with the island’s complex history, natural beauty and unique charms, so for a change I would like to share the words of other writers, whose perspectives, combined with pictures from my recent visit, make for a woefully incomplete (but very poetic) look at the place. I hope it may whet your appetite for more, as I never tire of convincing people to visit!

Scala dei Turchi (Stair of the Turks), Realmonte, Sicily.  
“Ho capito che la Sicilia è molto più complessa di quello che si può pensare: la paragonerei ad una cipolla dai molti strati.” — Paco Ignacio Taibo II
(“I have understood that Sicily is much more complex than one might think: I would compare it to an onion of many layers.”)
Cattedrale di San Givanni Battista, Ragusa.
“Sicily has suffered 13 foreign dominations from which she has taken both the best and the worst. The sequence of different cultures has made Sicily a fascinating place, quite unlike any other.” — Andrea Camilleri
Valle dei Templi.

“This is the homeland of the Gods of Greek mythology. Near these places, Pluto abducted Persephone from her mother. In this wood we just walked through, Ceres ceased her swift running and tired of her fruitless search, sat on a rock, and despite being a goddess, she wept, the Greeks say, since she was a mother. In these valleys, Apollo pastured his flocks; these groves, stretching down to the seashore, have echoed with Pan’s flute; the nymphs got lost under their shade and breathed their scent. Galatea fled from Polyphemus and Acis, close to succumbing to the blows of his rival, enthralled these shores leaving his name here … In the distance you can see the lake of Hercules and the rocks of the Cyclops. Land of gods and heroes!” — Alexis De Tocqueville

Valle dei Templi.

“Sicily is more beautiful than any woman.”
Truman Capote

Valle dei Templi.
“Il siciliano è il prodotto di un territorio che non è un pezzo staccato d’Italia, che non ha mai fatto parte di alcuna parte del mondo in epoca storica, che è stato occupato da nord, sud, est, ma mai è stato assimilato, l’isola in cui niente è stabile se non il movimento, il non-stabile, dove un giorno distrugge quanto l’altro giorno ha costruito, dove vulcanismo e nettunismo sono continuamente all’opera, dove un giorno trasforma la storia di secoli.” — Paul Yorck von Wartenburg

(“The Sicilian is the product of a territory that is separate from Italy, that has never been part of any part of the world in any period of history, that has been occupied by the North, South, East, but never assimilated, the island in which nothing is stable except movement, non-stability, where one day destroys that which another the other day built, where volcanic and marine forces are always at work, where one day transforms the history of centuries.”)

“Sicilians build things like they will live forever and eat like they will die tomorrow.” — Plato

Valle dei Templi.

“For over twenty-five centuries we’ve been bearing the weight of superb and heterogeneous civilizations, all from outside, none made by ourselves, none that we could call our own.”

This violence of landscape, this cruelty of climate, this continual tension in everything, and even these monuments of the past, magnificent yet incomprehensible because not built by us and yet standing round us like lovely mute ghosts; all those rulers who landed by main force from every direction who were at once obeyed, soon detested, and always misunderstood, their only expressions works of art we couldn’t understand and taxes which we understood only too well and which they spent elsewhere: all these things have formed our character, which is thus conditioned by events outside our control as well as by a terrifying insularity of mind.”

― Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

Sunset from a lighthouse.
“I was enchanted… the limpidity of the sky, the restless splendor of the sun, the beauty of the countryside, a certain excitement of the fantasy…which brought to mind the time when in the fields one encountered the divine.” — Jean Houel

Ragusa Ibla, Sicily

“In Sicilia abbiamo tutto. Ci manca il resto.” — Pino Caruso
(“In Sicily we have everything. We’re just missing the rest.”)


Valle dei Templi.
“Noi fummo i Gattopardi, i Leoni; quelli che ci sostituiranno saranno gli sciacalletti, le iene; e tutti quanti gattopardi, sciacalli e pecore, continueremo a crederci il sale della terra.”

(“We were the Leopards, the Lions; those who will replace us will be little jackals, hyenas; and all of us Leopards, jackals and sheep, we’ll go on thinking ourselves the salt of the earth.”)
― Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

Macalube, Aragona, Sicily.

“Per me la Sicilia ha una luce particolare, qualcosa di primordiale. Io non sono nato in Sicilia anche se mia madre è di Palermo. È come se con questa terra ci fosse un richiamo anche più lontano della mia esistenza, che appartenga alla mia memoria. Scrivo volentieri qui, c’è un’aria speciale, istintiva. Non mi va neanche di dargli un nome sennò darei dei confini che non ha.” — Emanuele Crialese

(“For me, Sicily has a particular light, something of the primordial. I wasn’t born in Sicily even though my mother is from Palermo. It’s as if with this land were a recollection even further back in my existence, which belongs to my memory. I write often here, there’s a special atmosphere, instinctive. I do not even give it a name, as to do so would give it boundaries which it does not have.”)
Scala dei Turchi.

“There it was again: the sweeping verbal gesture magnified in the prism of Sicily, the pronouncement so poetic it nullified any arguments before they could take their first breath. The vines, the amphorae, the thousands of years of history, the palmenti, the volcano, the beauty, the power of it all. In Italy, of course, beauty is next to holiness. Sicily was long the most treasured daughter of the Mediterranean. So who can teach Sicily anything about beauty?” — Robert Camuto

Fountain, Ragusa, Sicily.

“All of Sicily is a dimension of the imagination.” — Leonardo Sciascia

“Raccontano, infatti, che secondo il mito la Sicilia è sacra a Core poiché qui avvenne il suo rapimento e perché l’isola fu offerta alla dea come dono di nozze.” — Plutarco
(“They say, in fact, that according to legend Sicily is sacred to Persephone since her abduction took place here and because the island was offered to the goddess as a wedding gift.”)

Train tracks at the edge of the Valle dei Templi.

“And anyone who has once known this land can never be quite free from the nostalgia for it.” — D. H. Lawrence

*** 
[All translations mine. :)]
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Africa

Cows on the Beach (Photos)

There is something delightful about seeing herds of cows wandering along the beach.

Sure, when I stop to think about how much manure is probably swept up during high tide, it’s suddenly much less delightful. But still, they’re adorable and particularly photogenic, so I’ve found myself taking a (uselessly) large quantity of pictures of cows on the beach.

Lest they be wasted, I am sharing the best ones here.

Don’t worry—more are surely on the way. I will update this post with more cows on the beach as I see them!
***
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