Tag

photography

Africa, Culture

Sometimes We Don’t Take Pictures: Camping on the Beach and Other Undocumented Adventures

Greetings from Tanzania!

In the week since I returned from the U.S., I have not taken a single photograph.
In that time, we have spent five days camping on the deserted Tiwi Beach south of Mombasa, two days exploring Mombasa—one of them very soggy–and one day on a very long bus ride to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.
At low tide in Tiwi, a treacherous trail through sea urchin mines and slippery pathways of rock led to two wide, deep tidal pools, called Africa Pool and Australia Pool respectively. Africa Pool had a shape remarkably reminiscent of the African continent… Australia Pool less so.
The pools receded into the overhanging cliffs, and in these dimly lit recesses I could float on my back staring up at a small patch of blue sky revealed by a hole in the stone ceiling. Roots and vines and glimpses of the greenery overhead trailed from the opening, and bright sun, too, at the right time of day.
One of these caves echoed with the calls of kingfishers and the steady sound of water dripping from pockets collected at high tide. Magic. With goggles, I could explore the meter-high seaweed at the edges of the pools and try to follow the paths of schools of fish—yellow and black striped, iridescent gray with a black line along the top—and observe the forbidding stillness of sea urchins.
The journey, though only 10 or 15 minutes from camp, felt like an enormous expedition due to the various perils along the way. The sandy beach by our tents (we had joined two friends already there) felt like home when I returned.
As I floated in the tidal pools watching the clouds pass and the water ripple, I couldn’t help but wish I had brought my camera with me—though how I would have managed it in the pools (water well above my head in places) is beyond me. What lovely pictures I could have taken and shared with all of you.
Mombasa, gray and narrow upon our rain-soaked arrival, looked far more appealing the following day in the sun. Old Town proffered windows into other eras: curio shops, mosques, cafes and old architecture nestled into every alleyway, a sea view always just minutes away by foot.
Again, I left my camera at the guest house—and perhaps even had I brought it could not have taken pictures for fear of theft or unwanted attention—and found myself observing picturesque doors and street-fronts longingly. If only I could capture this fascinating swirl of urban culture and take it home with me.
Finally, the 12-hour bus ride to Tanzania… I was probably awake for half of it. I alternately dozed and gazed out the window, watching the landscape change. As I daydreamt, the earth grew redder; the trees thicker, and the sea more distant and, finally, out of sight altogether. The women I watched on the side of the road when we stopped wore different styles of clothing—some shoulders bare, more and brighter colored fabrics, and somehow more “African” to my eyes.
Snacks available at rest stops—offered in baskets held up to the high bus windows—shifted too. Plantain chips appeared, mishkaki (skewers of barbecued meat) became more seasoned, and exchange rates grew by a factor of 20.
As we rocked and bounced and sped along the road to Dar Es Salaam, I felt the old, familiar feeling of excitement return to my gut. 
New country. New city. New adventure.
I would have loved to document this leg of our journey. The doorway to a new chapter. The doorway to Dar Es Salaam, House of Peace.
I did not, however, photograph any of it.
Typically, I take pictures on designated days during a long trip, opting to leave my camera at home the rest of the time. This choice results in some odd collections of photos—a hundred pictures of Angkor Wat, and none of Phnom Penh; fifty photos of Kilifi Beach, and none of Tiwi—but I prefer it to constantly watching the world through a viewfinder, which I find hugely alters my experience.
Sometimes, I don’t take pictures. 
Sometimes, I just travel. For a travel writer, that’s a hard choice to make. It limits how I can record and share my experiences with others. It limits how I can record my travels for myself, restricting me to journal writing, or worse, the incomplete caprice of memory.
Still, I think most who travel reach a certain point—once or twice, or on a regular basis—where a camera becomes an unwelcome companion.
We then can choose to bring it along anyways and bear the burden, or we can leave it behind for a day, a week or a month. We might regret the choice later on, when left with no means for capturing the most amazing view, most engaging face, most extraordinary sunset, or we might thank ourselves for creating this space to simply enjoy, imbibe, and, quite possibly, forget.
Sometimes we don’t take pictures, and we have “nothing” to show for our journey. No evidence. No documentation. No justification.
And you know what? It’s okay.
It’s okay if we forget the view from an epic bus ride, the sunset on a remote island, or the face of the old woman we bought vegetables from every day for a week. It’s okay, and it’s even natural, I’d argue. We don’t have to remember every detail, carefully wrapped and preserved in slideshow form.
I think experiences are most valuable not for the memories they bestow us, but for the subtle changes they initiate within our minds. These we cannot photograph, anyways.
And so sometimes I don’t take pictures, and all I have to offer are these words.
***
Continue reading
Related posts
What is Transformational Travel, Really?
October 23, 2018
The Floating Pirate Community you always wanted to Join is Real… & it has a Name
September 23, 2018
Don’t Ask me where I’m From, Ask me where Home Is
September 6, 2018
Asia, Culture

Shanghai Snippets

In Shanghai, everything is new. Or it wants to be new. Or it will be new just as soon as the old is knocked down and rebuilt. Retirees participate in state-sponsored activities in the park: old men manipulate Chinese yo-yo’s with surprising prowess, women join enthusiastically in chaotic dance fitness classes, and a single lane fills with the discordant cacophony of 20 different sound systems. I like it. More than I had expected. I take a stupid number of pictures of funny signs and storefronts, animal parts that no one wants to see, and gates and doors. My aunts take charge of photographing the family, and other things people will want to look at. Nonetheless, I want to share a few of those photos I took. These are the snippets and bits that caught my eye. I hope you will enjoy…
Dancing in the park with maracas, what else?

Fish heads– for sale or to discard? I’m not certain.

Fresh pomegranate juice just outside the metro station.

The Bund at night.

Street food (pre cooking). For all of the street food fun, check out
http://twohungryvagabonds.com/2014/10/25/cheap-eats-in-shanghai/

“Open Lock. Make Key. Fix Lock.”
An apt description of services offered.

“Alley Curd,” purveyor of (the apparently
very trendy) juice served in IV drips.
Gates and doors.

 ~
Continue reading
Related posts
What is Transformational Travel, Really?
October 23, 2018
Choose Power: A Dream-Inspired Thought Experiment
June 12, 2018
Microadventure in Costa Rica: 3 Snippets of Daily Life
December 20, 2017
Asia, Culture

Suzhou Snippets

In it’s 2500-year history, the city of Suzhou has developed and refined many times over. It is known for its light, elegant, delicate cuisine and women. Marco Polo, when he visited in the late 13th century, declared it the “Venice of China.” Admittedly, every water town in China seems to bear this moniker, but I think Suzhou is the original.

Suzhou strikes me as particularly ugly upon arrival. Massive, congested highways and bland, expressionless buildings. Never judge a city by its facades, of course. Tucked into pockets, Suzhou’s gardens and old walking streets are magical.

At this time of the year, people come from all over China to eat hairy crab, a prized delicacy harvested from the lake nearby.

If 1 billion people like something, I figure, it can’t be bad…

You have to pull away the organs– heart, liver, etc.– in order to get to the edible parts. “No, that is not good to eat,” the woman helping us said, seemingly each time I pointed at a segment of my remaining crab.

I am lucky to have a lot of “roe” (which I think is actually liver) in my crab. This is the best part… Finally, the crab is tasty, but very scarce, and a whole lot of work to get to. Something to try that I probably wouldn’t choose to order a second time, not least because of the cost– one 200 gram crab costs about 30 dollars!

On our tour of Old Suzhou, our “guider,” Billy, leads us through gardens where rocks, trees and water have been arranged in perfect harmony. Everything symbolizes long life, prosperity and abundance.

The sky darkens as our boat steers down one of the main canals. Red lanterns come to life, and streams of tourists pour along the cobblestone banks.

While on the boat, “fighting noisily and playing on board are forbidden.”

The laborious process of silk making emerged from this bastion of Chinese culture. Silk, you may be interested to know, is not vegan. In order to extract the silk fibers, manufacturers must boil the silk worms’ cocoons, killing the aspiring moths in the process.

Beauty

Is neither tradition nor change,
But somewhere in between.

~

Continue reading
Related posts
What is Transformational Travel, Really?
October 23, 2018
Choose Power: A Dream-Inspired Thought Experiment
June 12, 2018
Microadventure in Costa Rica: 3 Snippets of Daily Life
December 20, 2017
Nature

Animals Who Think They Are People

I can’t believe I never got around to posting these. I spent a good chunk of my 2012-2013 travels photographing animals who seemed to really believe they were people. One part photos of animals standing on things in entertaining ways; one part dogs being dogs, goats being goats, etc; these photos never fail to make me chuckle.

Something about this rooster standing on a motorcycle is so delightful. These roosters really want to go for a joy ride, but they can’t find their keys!

“I could have sworn I tucked them in here somewhere.” “Dammit Bob, it’s always something with you!”

Dogs are notorious for thinking they are people.

“Who? Me? I’m not a dog. Nope, no dogs here.”

This dog really wants to go to school, but they won’t let him in.

And this dog is still waiting for his meal to be served.
“Um, excuse me? I think you forgot something.”

This monkey may or may not think he is a person, but he knows he is pulling one over on that silly lion.

“I sit on your head, lion!”
And last but not least, my favorite travel photo, which I have definitely posted before, deserves to join this list: a goat riding a cow.
I hope you enjoy these moments of classic animal behavior as much as I do!
~
Continue reading
Related posts
Remember: This Journey is Just a Walk in the Woods
April 29, 2018
The Wild-Tame Peculiarity of Safari (and 10 Wild Photos)
March 2, 2017
6 Awesome-Sauce Pictures of Morocco (or, Why you Should Follow Me on Instagram)
October 18, 2016
Asia

Paradise in Pictures

A typical day on Koh Rong:

Wake up to this.
Run through the jungle…
To this, the “other side” of the island, also known as Long Beach.
Run back to this and paint these:

 

Spend the night bar-tending or enjoying an open no-mic night.

And a few shots from Angkor Wat…

Continue reading
Related posts
What is Transformational Travel, Really?
October 23, 2018
Choose Power: A Dream-Inspired Thought Experiment
June 12, 2018
Microadventure in Costa Rica: 3 Snippets of Daily Life
December 20, 2017
Asia

Around Kagbeni

Now that I’ve left, I thought I’d share a few pictures from my time in Kagbeni…

View from the old fort, 16th century, across the street from the Red House Lodge where I stayed.

View of Kagbeni from above. Photo credit Tasha Kimmet.

Protector grandfather standing guard at the old gate to the village, now somewhere in the middle of town.

At the top of the Golden Hill– finally made it!!

Baby dzo (yak-cow)- my favorites.

Library at the Kag Chode Monastery.

Yac Donald’s Restaurant. A little bit of America in Mustang… I’m lovin’ it?

Traveling convenience store.

My Nepali didi-ji. You don’t need to share a language to be sisters.

Apple juice-making day!

Making friends with monks. Typical day in Kagbeni.

Apple juice and family time.

That’s all for now. See you on the other side of 40 pages of writing!

~
Continue reading
Related posts
What is Transformational Travel, Really?
October 23, 2018
Choose Power: A Dream-Inspired Thought Experiment
June 12, 2018
Microadventure in Costa Rica: 3 Snippets of Daily Life
December 20, 2017
Asia, Nature

One, Two, Tsum*!


How about an update on my seventeen-day trekking adventure in fast-forward journal mode? Let’s go!
Day 1 (September 26): Kathmandu (elevation 1400 meters) to Arughat (elevation 600 meters). Ten hours by bus, pointy seats, enough said.

Day 2 (September 27): Arughat to Lapu Besi (884m). Approximately four hours walking.
Jesus Travels (our bus, so named for the words painted on its front) takes us from Arughat to Arkhet Bazaar, the starting point of our trek.
I am content. Sore knee, smushed toe, sore thumb, but wholly content.  Rivers and jagged green valleys—my element.  No thoughts today.  First night of camping, last real shower of the excursion.
Day 3 (September 28): Lapu Besi to Korlabesi (970m). Three and a half hours, Sherpa flat.
 A waterfall (bpap chu, Tib.) around every corner.  Trail is ‘Sherpa flat,’ meaning little net gain in elevation, but almost constant up and down. Lungi time (bathing wrapped in cotton fabric to preserve modesty) at the river.
Day 4 (September 29): Korlabesi to Jagat (1340m). About five and a half hours.
Sitting on the ‘front porch’ of my tent, looking out at the sparsely green cliffs that drop into the icy Buddhi Gandaki river below, the taste of Hannah’s sawdust-flavored oat squares in my mouth, I am taking a break from thinking beyond “how beautiful.”  My thoughts today? “When’s dinner?” Should I put on sunblock? Nah.” “Chill out and enjoy the breaks, Toby; they’re good for you.”  It’s good to be moving, waking up to these mountains (and a donkey outside my tent); it is enough for the moment.
Day 5 (September 30): Jagat to Lokpa (2040m).  About six hours.
Walking donkey pace the last two hours—getting stuck behind our donkey train an unfortunate development in the day.  We find out that stealthy leeches abound at this campsite, but I manage to escape leech-free.
Day 6 (October 1): Lokpa to Chumling (2363m). About three hours, all uphill.
Happy October. Woke up to rain throughout the night; all gear soaking wet.  Happy October—orange leaves on the ground today!  The most awkward bucket bath of my life, trying to rinse my hair under the waist-high spigot.  One mitten down, one to go.

Day 7 (October 2): Chumling to Chhekam (3010m).  About three hours, very steep uphill.

It’s cold here! Trying to finish crocheting mitten number two before my fingers fall off.  The winter hat and down jacket have made it out of my backpack.  Landscape shifted to pine forests today.  Rock cairns emerging from the mist along the trail.  Real cowbell music, accompanied by the very talkative wearers.  A horse and rider trot smartly across an iron suspension bridge: hello, Tsum.
Day 8 (October 3): Chhekam to Ngakhu (~3100m). Less than an hour.
The present has become very much a mystery, as well as a gift.  Popo-lak(grandfather, Tib. The lak, pronounced ‘la,’ is honorific) Dawa Doje and Amma-lak (mother, Tib. Used indiscriminately to address village women) Pasang Dolma wander in and out of the kitchen while Traci and I wonder what exactly to do in our new homestay.
Day 8-11 (October 3-6): Homestay at Ngakhu.
Grain threshing, snot-nosed children spinning, bag carrying and other fun and games (and work) at the field behind our house.  The women here are beautiful and ageless; twenty or fifty, they look older than their years and do the same back-breaking work together.  A day long trail ride through the surrounding area in the most uncomfortable saddle I have ever experienced. Still, I can’t think of a better way to see Tsum than cantering along a narrow alley between stone walls, slouched back slightly the way they ride here.  Pancakes for breakfast: inji (foreigner) food, I suspect.  The rhythmic clicking of amma-lak’sloom fills the sun-lightened air for a few minutes one morning.  Strips of blue green turquoise, red pink burgundy, thread onto the empty page and the music fills with pattern.  Little brother Samden sings Justin Bieber’s “Baby” to baby shimi (cat, Tib.): the silliest thing ever.  Pasang Dolma drags a bull three times her size by his nose ring.  She ties the legs of the female tso(yak-cow hybrids) together and the lilt of her humming draws milk into the wood pail between her knees.  Her head scarf tied neatly, mountains framing the picture—no photos of this moment; memories will last longer.  A sick and sleepless night slows me down, and I spend some time recuperating from a sinus infection/cold.
Day 11 (October 6): Move to campsite at Lar (3245m). Colder and windier.

Day 12 (October 7): Camping in Lar.

Hot sun, cold wind, wide expanse of bleached, smooth stones hiding trickling tributaries to the icy blue river beyond.
Day 13 (October 8): Lar to Chumling. A few hours downhill.
Hannah and I do a bit of stretching on the second story of the building by our campsite.  Apparently the most interesting to happen to our riveted audience in weeks.
Day 14 (October 9): Chumling to Jagat.  About ten hours, including a long lunch break.
5:00 am wake-up. 3:45, really, thanks to the porters’ usual habit of regular pot banging as they make breakfast.  Snickers bar turned white and crumbly from two weeks of rough travel. Still tasty.  I have had more candy bars in the last month than in my entire life prior.
Day 15 (October 10): Jagat to Kani Besi (~720m) Ten hours, lunch break included.
Many more trekkers heading up as we hike out.  Glad to miss the crowds.
Day 16 (October 11): Kani Besi to Arughat.  Many hours.
Happy birthday to me! Hot walk in the sun and a long wait for trusty Jesus Travels to deliver us from Arkhet Bazaar.  A rum and coke to celebrate twenty-one years of life, a lovely birthday cake, and a night sleeping under the stars make up for it.
Day 17 (October 12): Arughat to Kathmandu. Ten-ish hours.
Wake-up at some horrible pre-five o’clock hour. Much more comfortable bus. Cappuccino and a slice of chocolate musse cake at Flavors Cafe to celebrate my return to Bodha.

Lest you think classes were absent from this trip, most mornings featured Tibetan language class, and many afternoons we heard lectures from our traveling entourage of teachers and scholars. Unfortunately, these happenings failed to make the final cut for this post.

*Tsum is the name of the valley where we trekked. Sum means three in Tibetan. Chik, Nyi, Sum translates as One, Two, Three!
Continue reading
Related posts
What is Transformational Travel, Really?
October 23, 2018
The Floating Pirate Community you always wanted to Join is Real… & it has a Name
September 23, 2018
No One is Talking about God (Poetry)
August 22, 2018
Asia

The Goats of Nepal

Sometimes, words are inadequate. So without further ado, I bring you the Goats of Nepal…
(This is only the beginning; I will be adding to these photos throughout the semester.)

It’s a goat, standing on a cow!!

They’re not goats, but they’re super cute!

Goat in a door.
Goat in a basket.

Sikkimese goats!

Mustangi goats, coming home from pasture.

 Uploading pictures is proving far more difficult than expected. I am off on excursion/trek to Tsum for 17 days, but I will have lots of new and exciting things to share when I get back!

Continue reading
Related posts
What is Transformational Travel, Really?
October 23, 2018
Choose Power: A Dream-Inspired Thought Experiment
June 12, 2018
Remember: This Journey is Just a Walk in the Woods
April 29, 2018