Tiger Man April 20, 2014
I stumbled across this man while I wandered into a little village somewhere in South Mumbai. He looked so interesting to me – his facial features, the hair everywhere and his eyes. He seemed so gentle and I wondered what his life was like as a young soul. What made this shot even more interesting to me is the art work behind him. The tiger and him look so much alike! I did not speak to him at all until I was done taking several shots of him. Kaushal, who is another street photographer was with me and spoke the local language and explained to him after I was done why I found him and the background so fascinating. He just nodded his head Indian styles, clearly not as impressed as I was with his resemblance to the tiger!
Island Fun April 19, 2014
First time in Turks and Caicos. It definitely is relaxing. Some parts of it remind me of Mombasa, especially late at night when driving around the island. Went to Caicos Cafe for dinner yesterday. All the seafood was great. Totally burnt my face today. Ugh
Getting around is a bit crazy in terms of finding taxis. And then totally expensive when you do find one. I want to rent mopeds tomorrow.Conch is super popular here.
Oh ya on Thursday night we went to a fish fry. Had fried fish and jerk chicken. Good island food.
Champals April 15, 2014
The Best Butt in Mumbai April 13, 2014
So, as I was hanging around the Gate of India, my eyes met with a fantastic behind. I then looked further up from the back up to the head and realized that it was a man’s. I was so fixated on it that I took numerous shots of a scene from behind, which also captured his backside. At one point, I decided to have some fun! See if you notice what is going on in this picture. Enjoy the best butt of Mumbai!
A Time to Reflect April 12, 2014
Street Photography in Mumbai April 10, 2014
I have always had a keen interest in photography, but never really explored it, other then taking travel shots mostly. I decided that since I had some time, I would head to India to learn more about photography, and practice shooting. I was not sure what I really wanted to focus on. I like taking pictures of buildings, food, people…so I was open to any genre almost within this area. Mumbai would be a good place. I always liked Mumbai and had only spent a few days there here and there. My friends Sans and Mike were also there, they live there, so it made sense. I started to look up photographers in Mumbai and came up with a list of about 18. I wanted someone to help me ‘open my eyes’ and see better. In addition to that, learning a bit about my camera would be useful. I had several people write back to me but it was important for me that the type of work they did fit within what I was looking to do. I was not keen on fashion for example. I was thinking more along the lines of travel or portrait but then I came across something called Street Photography. I mean I have taken pictures of people on the streets, but this is much different than that.
What is Street photography? Well, I would have to say that it involves capturing people or animals that are involved in an activity of some sort – capturing elevated moments, without asking people for permission and without them really stopping doing what they are doing. You really do not want posed pictures. It can be challenging and scary at times. I had to take my camera right up to people’s faces to take some of the shots that I did within the 5 days of shooting. What would they say I thought? What if someone hit me or yelled at me in Hindi?! I had 2 people say ‘no’ to me during those 5 days and strangely enough, they were both children! Good for them I say! The rest were quite friendly. Some of them asked what was going on…”Media hai”?
Street is about getting really close to people to tell a story. You have to think about framing and layering and making sure that you do not cut people’s legs or arms off. Sometimes it is fine but it really depends on the story you are trying to tell. One must take multiple shots of the same event and even then, you may not get what you are looking for. I went to about 6 different areas within South Mumbai with my mentor, Kaushal Parikh. It was great fun. In terms of knowing my camera’s functions, we did not really focus on that. I actually used Kaushal’s Olympus on the first day and my Canon on subsequent days. I think it really is about the eye, though I would like to know more about reading graphs and ISOs etc. at some point. Right now though, I rather focus on ‘seeing better’ and just taking pictures. I am not so sure how this would work in North America. I mean I cannot imagine people in NYC being okay with me taking a picture of their child randomly. There are people there that do this though, so I will just have to give it a try!
Some famous street photographers include: Vivian Maier, Eugene Atget and Henri Cartier-Bresson.
Kiatu/Amukat (Shoe) Project February 25, 2014
While I briefly wrote about this project in earlier posts (projects in countries), I realized that I had not written a full account of the activities that had transpired. Thank you to all who supported the shoe drive.
Kiatu/Amukat (Shoe) Project
It’s a matter of food or footwear for thousands of people around the world. A choice must be made between putting food on the table and buying a pair of shoes. This is especially true in many areas of Kenya and Uganda. Living in poverty means having to think about the difference between ‘wants’ and ‘needs’. To most of us, shoes are a basic need to protect oneself from the harsh environment which could lead to foot diseases and other long-term effects on the body, but to others, the need for shoes is not a priority.
My colleague and I drove through the bumpy, dirt roads within the Kinango and Kwale districts, just outside of Mombasa, on a day trip to the field. We were heading to 3 villages that day, in order to learn more about an early grade reading initiative that we were both involved in. Along the way, I witnessed numerous individuals – men, women and children – without any shoes. I had travelled to many remote villages in several countries before but this was the first time that I had noticed a great number of shoeless people. I asked my colleague if there was another reason, other than not having enough money to afford a pair, but in the end, it came down to affordability.
Later that same evening, I wondered how feasible it was to provide people in Kinango and Kwale with a pair of shoes that were good enough to protect them while they walked the several miles that they did each day. Sometimes, as foreigners we think that our ideas make sense and perhaps what we view as simple solutions, may not be really simple at all.
I woke up the next morning, with the same thoughts that I had fallen asleep to the night before. When my colleague picked me up the next day in the company pick-up truck, I buckled myself in and before he could even ask me how my evening was, I was already sharing my most recent idea with him. Growing up and working in Kenya gave him a better sense of the cultural nuances in those areas. The idea was well received by him, and by the end of the day, I had a better sense of what to do. I plugged in my Safaricom modem and sent a message out to friends in different parts of the world. I provided them with a brief background on how the idea came about and informed them that I was prepared to hand deliver the shoes to people in Kinango and Kwale myself. I requested that people give donations so that I could purchase the shoes locally. The response was delightful. Donations continued to flow in over the next 2 weeks. This is how the Kiatu/Amukat (Shoe) Project began.
I was based in Mombasa town while on this particular trip, and through my conversations with my colleague, I had already identified areas in which I could purchase shoes for our shoe drive. There were several independent shoemakers lined up in the narrow alleyways throughout the city centre. Flat shoes seemed the most sensible to distribute, but not all that I tried on, felt comfortable. I bought a few pairs from those vendors during my first afternoon of shoe buying. The following day I ventured to some smaller, independent stores but they had a very limited selection of flat shoes for women, and the shoes for men seemed too dressy. I came across shoes for children that were reasonably priced but they were made with a plastic-type material and so I opted to buy only a few pairs to test them out first. As the days passed, I realized that it was more difficult to find comfortable shoes at a price point which would allow for the purchase of many pairs. And while my intention was to support independent shoemakers, this proved to be somewhat difficult. I had to go into a larger retail store. Here, I was able to find shoes for the whole family. They felt comfortable and looked like they would last a long time. I decided to buy a hundred pairs, in various colours, styles and sizes.
As we drove back through the familiar territory of Kinango the following week, my colleague and I paid attention to people’s feet. We had come up with a strategy the day before. Since my colleague speaks Swahili, he would do most of the talking, as my Swahili would probably scare people off even before they tried the shoes on! This way, people would feel more comfortable and open to speaking in a language more familiar to them.
A young lady wearing a colourful Kitenge, balancing a large sack on her head looked into the pick-up as we slowed down to get her attention. She walked up to the passenger side where my colleague had been seated. After some light conversation, which I could barely understand, my colleague asked her in English where her shoes were. She giggled as she looked down at her feet. She was not the only one who found our questions amusing. This reaction was shared by many people along the journey. Perhaps they felt it was absurd for strangers to be asking them about their shoe whereabouts? Maybe it made them a bit uncomfortable? A few people told us that they had left them at home, finding it easier to work in the fields barefoot. But most of the responses we received were consistent with the fact that they could not afford them. We never indicated ahead of time that we were handing out shoes, so the responses all seemed genuine.
The next question my colleague asked the young lady was ‘would you like a pair?’ She stared at him, wide eyed, but speechless. My colleague repeated the question, ‘would you like a pair of shoes?’ This time she nodded but looked away and giggled softly. I hopped out of the truck, pulled out one of the boxes that we had piled the shoes in, and assessed her foot size as I began to pull out a couple of pairs for her to try on. The first pair that she tried on fit perfectly. She had the most beautiful giggle and seemed truly happy. She thanked us and we said bye to her, without any other explanation, other than my colleague telling her that she should wear them and not worry about them getting dirty. They were there to protect her feet.
Our method of stopping people elicited many different reactions along the way in both Kinango and Kwale. Some people were confused and didn’t know how to respond to my colleague when he asked them about their shoe situation, so they just kept quiet. Others explained how they did not have any money on them to pay us if we were to give them a pair. We even had one elderly man ask us what we wanted in return. But many just smiled and said yes, they wanted some shoes! We came across two young boys that were so excited, they said they were going to run all the way home in their new shoes. The smiles were contagious and the laughter that echoed out of the many joyful people, were priceless. The hugs and high fives that were exchanged gave me a certain sense of happiness. A few days later my colleague and I headed to Uganda. We were able to find suitable shoes in the local market. The reactions were nearly the same as in Kenya when we stopped people. One woman danced and sang in the middle of the road, wishing us well and promising to pray for us. The most interesting run in was with a boy, around the age of 14, selling women’s shoes on the street. He himself, was not wearing any shoes! He was most delighted when we offered him a pair of new sandals and told him that he was not to sell them! Our final pair was left in the middle of one of the narrow but never ending dirt roads. We hoped that someone lucky would walk by and find a small surprise, making his or her day a happier one.
We did learn a few things along the way. It was interesting to note that there were many more women that did not own a pair of shoes, compared to men, especially in Uganda. Women’s feet were bigger than I had anticipated and so during our first drop off in Kenya, we had many small sizes that did not fit and could only offer men’s shoes to a few, which most women were happy with. Two ladies shared their concerns that their husbands would take the shoes away from them once they got home. In some villages, people did not speak the official language and on a couple of occasions, communicating was difficult. But in the end, the conversation was somehow understood.
It is easy to brighten somebody else’s day with something so small, like a pair of shoes – something that we take for granted. Of course, this does not solve the larger issue of poverty, but at least it will provide some protection to the feet and support to the body, as people set forth for their day’s activities, which for many includes walking miles and miles. My colleague continued purchasing and distributing shoes long after I had left Kenya.
Perhaps the next time I am back visiting those same villages, I will see more souls with soles.
NYC Baby June 20, 2013
I have been in this city for a few weeks now. A little manic for me. Yes, perhaps I am getting old and all the commotion is more than even I can handle. There are days where I am so exhausted that I come home, fall flat on my face, and do not even have the energy to change my clothes. But then there are the energetic, blissful, Stargirl days! I have met some really interesting people on my train rides in the evenings – one girl who sat next to me lived so close to me in Geneva. Another 3 boys who were going to a concert and didn’t have train tickets, entertained me. We came up with a plan on how to not get them kicked off the train. Despite my efforts, they did have to leave in the end. One of those boys is friends with this girl who lives in Mombasa and has opened an orphanage. Of course, I found out the name and will have to stop by the next time that I am there.
Speaking of which, I really missed the water yesterday. After living by the water in both Mombasa and Geneva for years, the absence of it caused a feeling of panic in me. Well, perhaps not so much panic, but I needed peace. So, I headed to the waterfront – Hudson – and spent some time gallivanting and laying in the green grass. I saw the most interesting scene – one gay boy in an argument with 4 others. There were a lot of words being thrown around, none malicious or mean though, and definitely no physical violence. Lots of snapping fingers and tossing hands on the hips. The group of 4 than built an alliance which included about 10 teenage girls, whom perhaps most would label as ‘young thugs.’ I was very much intrigued and took a seat at a nearby bench to watch the production. I would have loved to have had a side meeting with the girls, to find out what sort of phase they were going through. How did they perceive this world with their coloured hair, piercings, very low pants and the need to lift up their tank tops every few seconds to show the world their sports bras? Where did they live? Did they sleep like that? After the drama was over, I walked into Chelsea, an area that I like wandering through and of course, came across a cute cupcake place. Well, they are pretty much everywhere in NYC. I do miss the 4 CHF wine after work though. That is probably the only thing that was less expensive in Geneva.
I have been to some of ‘the places to go’. Last weekend a few gal pals from Toronto visited because it was the birthday of the girl that I am staying with. One of them connected with a friend of hers and he was kind enough to take all of us to a few of the hot spots, all in one night. And last Saturday, I sat near Meg Ryan at Mercer Kitchen. I am sure I walk past many ‘stars’ all the time, but I would never know, unless it was Bradley Cooper, whom I would recognize right away. That was an eventful day/evening too and Sunday was automatically declared as a do nothing day. Sometimes one just needs to do absolutely nothing. And sometimes one has no choice but to do nothing because they cannot do anything!
There is a lot to do here no doubt, but I am not really in a tourist mode. I think over the last few years I have had my fair share of travel and there is a world greater out there than NYC. One can definitely not get bored here though. There are a couple of ‘things to still do’ on my list and I will be getting around to them soon. This weekend is a planned weekend.
The weather here is a bit manic though and I never know what to expect from one day to the next. I seem to dress inappropriately each day, and have had to go out and buy a sweater or a short sleeved shirt. Oh well. New wardrobe. Oh yes, many bikes around here, but none like Blue Beauty. She will always have a soft spot in my heart.
“I can sail without wind. I can row without oars, but I cannot part from my friend without tears.”
And now I must go for a walk in Central Park.
Kwaheri Kenya May 12, 2013
I have landed in Cairo airport. Not much of a wait before I catch my flight to Geneva. After flying from Mombasa to Nairobi I had a 6 hour wait time. This is going to be one long journey. Why can I never seem to pack right? Maybe I need a personal packer. I had to ask the two men in front of me to keep their voices down. I’ve never had to do that before. I had requested an empty row during check in so that I could sleep and right before take off another man changed his seat and took the aisle seat in my row. Wonder how I looked sleeping between 2 seats. At least I didn’t wake up with drool sliding down the left side of my chin, as that has happened before.
Mombasa was great as usual. My second home. Major highlights included getting stuck out in the sea in a one woman kayak, current so strong that it was pushing me back. I had to find an alcove, grab a rope and pull myself in near a restaurant right before it started raining. It was a very interesting rescue mission. I had several local mean who were working at the restaurant come down to help pick up the kayak and bring both of us to safety. Feeding the giraffes at Haller Park was great. I’m not sure I like my hands being licked though. At least I’ve figured that one out. One quiet Sunday while I was in the home office with my friend Adrian, I heard a strange noise. I followed him into the kitchen and we realized that it was the water tank. The sound of boiling, sizzling water was coming through it. We began investigating, our faces right in there, when it got louder. Some sense knocked into me and I figured we shouldn’t be standing there. It took me some seconds to convince this guy, as he thought, like many men do, that he knew what the problem was. Literally 5 seconds later, the tank exploded. Massive steam came out and hot water poured out. We literally took cover. Actually he ran out of the apartment and some how I ended up n the side room, sort of like the laundry room, without an escape. We were lucky there was no fire. There’s a temple in a cave on a cliff, overlooking the sea. It was my first time there. I didn’t even realize I was standing under a gazillion sleeping bats. I didn’t venture completely in to see the gods/goddesses because I was wearing what my aunt refers to, as my chadee shorts. Bit disrespectful. I witnessed crocodiles eating piglets. I’ll miss my weekly one hour massages at home that’s for sure! Phoebe was my taxi driver while I was there. We connected instantly and had great chats during our rides to town and Nyali. Her daughter, very bright, received a full scholarship to attend the Aga Khan Academy in Mombasa. A great experience for her and the family.
I think Mombasa is the only place where I want to get out of bed at 6:30 every morning. How can one miss that time of day? The sun rising. Cup of coffee on the terrace. Watching the fishermen start their day on their dhow boats. There was a period of 6 days where it rained non stop, but otherwise the weather was great. I became a lot closer to the people that I met on an earlier trip in October. They were all really great and hospitable during my stay there. It’s nice to have friends that don’t want you to leave, even if you’ve been staying in their place for 6 weeks already! Sophia, my 2 year old friend with the sweetest blonde, curly hair could make me smile just by looking at her. She’s full of energy and can already speak in English, German, Spanish and Kiswahili. And those cheeks!
I was supposed to leave Mombasa on May 3 but extended until May 26. And then left earlier because of a change in plans. I flew Egypt Air and I had to go to the bank and pay the change fee each time. One teller, and real pole pole (slow) styles. I could have bought a ticket and accommodation to Vegas with the amount of change fees I had to pay both times. On the way to Mombasa, even though no one believes me, the airline had a prayer/Quaranic citation playing for 2 hours in the early morning. And I don’t mean via headphones, I mean through the broken speakers of the plane. Isn’t this not allowed these days?
1.30 hours to go. It will be nice to see friends I made in Geneva and spend a day and a half catching up with them. Then I am off to North America. It has been some time since I have lived there and it will be interesting to see how long I stay.
Mentally preparing for the next adventure!