Tuesday, June 28, 2011

camera fundraiser!

dear friends, family and art supporters,
as many of you are aware, my camera recently died. i will not be able to get it fixed until i return to the US in october. i was inconsolable. then i thought, it was with your help i was able to purchase it in the first place. so i decided to reach out again.
i am offering these three prints, signed limited editions (20 each), for $30 (includes s&h). the upside: you help a friend in need and get a memento of my adventure for your wall. downside: you have to wait until november to receive it.
afternoon on the salar, uyuni, bolivia 2011

iceberg, antarctica, 2011

number seven, havana, cuba 2011

go here to purchase: CAMERA FUNDRAISER
going to try to replace my camera at the end of the week...
Thank you!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


paraty, brazil to são paulo, brazil
window at the mercado municipal
our first order of business on arrival in são paulo was going to hear monks do some gregorian chanting.
our overnight bus ride left me feeling a little wobbly, and i wasn't feeling too enthusiastic, but v's energy carried me right into the cathedral. it turned out to be a full mass (with very little chanting) and after about 20 minutes i began to do a mr. bean, so i left the monks and v for the fresh city air. when the service was over we grabbed breakfast and made a circuit around downtown, ticking off all of the buildings v wanted to see.
fruit stand at the mercado
i liked the city very much, it reminded me of nyc in the best way. 
i was especially taken with the architecture, a lot of deco and art nouveau.
rococo and asian influence...

at the top of the banespa building
late deco
i wouldn’t have minded staying there for a few more days, but we had already booked ourselves on the overnight bus to iguazu.
outside the são paulo cathedral

stained glass colors the marble

after we got our fill of skyscrapers we made our way to the botanical gardens. it was heavenly - right up until we got caught in a torrential downpour. we hid out in one of the exhibit buildings for a little while, but started to worry about getting back in time for our bus, so we made a mad dash for the park exit. getting a cab started looking bleak, but just as i was beginning to have pangs of despair, a taxi appeared!
the power had gone out for parts of the city and we were told the metro wasn’t running, so we decided we’d take the cab all the way to the bus station, an expensive ride, but necessary if we were going to catch our bus. the driver told us how much he guessed it would cost and, since we had just a bit more than that, we relaxed. as the ride dragged out, massive traffic caused by the crazy rain, flooding and power outages, the meter ticked higher and higher. i began to worry that we wouldn’t have enough money and kept contemplating jumping out sooner and trying the metro, but if that still wasn’t running we’d be up a creek, as they say.
as it turned out, while a bit more than estimated, we had just enough money to cover the fare and we got to the station with time to change into dry clothes, get cash and grab some food for the bus ride. lucky, lucky, lucky!
rain forest at the botanical garden
i think i'll come back to são paulo again someday...

Monday, June 6, 2011


rio de janeiro, brazil to paraty, brazil
paraty from the bay
we got the bus first thing in the morning and headed south. the ride was beautiful, a landscape of green rolling hills and blue sea.
immediately after we left rio i began to like the country a little better.
green grows everywhere
portugese would prove to be the bane of my brazil existence, but when i was able to communicate a little, i was happy as a clam - a steamed clam. it was hot and very humid. i love the heat, but humidity makes me a whingy wilted mess. v put up with me admirably and i did my best to not act like a rotten 4 yr old throwing a tantrum.

the old mission
colonial quaintness
cake cart
paraty is a nice little tourist trap of a town. old colonial buildings have been restored and converted into stores and restaurants aimed at people passing through. we arrived late in the afternoon, settled into our hostel and went to explore the town. after walking along the water we grabbed a nice dinner, topped it with lovely gelato (too bad that we discovered the ingenious cake carts after dessert),
then headed to an adult themed puppet show that was quite amazing, the teatro espaço. all in all, a great day.

the banzai
the following morning, we bought tickets for a schooner cruise that would go to some secluded beaches and lagoons in the bay. this was one of the most awesome days ever.

i swam here!
it felt like the height of luxurious decadence. lazing on the deck of a beautiful boat, occasionally jumping off the side to swim a bit in
 absolutely glorious water. i could have done this for days. the only down side was any bit of my skin that came in contact with the surface of the water, no matter how much sunscreen was worn, burned to a nice crisp (a handy trick i learned in my early days in los angeles forestalled the unhappiness that usually accompanies sunburns - in the evening, after the burn has finished setting in, apply copious amounts of a dense skin cream, repeat every few minutes until the skin stays moist to the touch...in the morning you have a nice tan instead of an evil burn. this doesn’t do anything to lessen the chances of future melanoma though, so wear your sunscreen!).
they filmed the twilight honeymoon somewhere out here

lethal liquid - caipirinha
v got silly drunk on one caipirinha (these drinks are delightful and go down nice and smooth then, twenty minutes later, sucker punch you),
while i stuck to my addiction, coca cola (i had planned to drink a little, but the only other alcohol they had was tequila, and i just can’t drink something that tastes like an unpleasant shade of brown).

we were treated to an impromptu concert by some fellow guests who brought along a guitar and lovely voices. they sang songs in english that they didn’t know all the words to, so i occasionally piped in and helped them along.

back on land we went and had another nice dinner before going to the hostel to grab our bags and head for the bus station to catch the overnight to sao paulo.

Sunday, May 8, 2011


rio de janeiro, brazil
the second day was a tourists dream, completely packed with brazilian experiences, candelária church, corcovado, sugarloaf, copacabana beach and churrasco (or chupacabra, as v kept accidentally calling it).

the church was our first destination. we'd tried to go the day before but arrived just at closing time. like many catholic spaces, it was lovely.

from the helipad

from there we caught the metro and a bus to get to the base of corcovado. we were told the tram wasn't running and we could take a bus service for just $8 more. since we were in a time crunch, we opted to just believe the lady who may have been hustling us. the mini bus takes you up to a viewing point, you take some pictures from the helipad,  and then you continue up to a place where you wait in line for 30 minutes. finally you get to begin the climb.

christo is lovely. everything i wanted him to be. and by the time you get to the top of the mountain, hot and thirsty, you have a lovely cafe that offers fruity refreshment.

v wanted to go to sugarloaf, and while i wasn’t very enthusiastic, i agreed to at least consider going. we got to the base and i thought the price a bit steep, but i told myself to just be a tourist and pay it. as it turned out it was my favorite part of rio. you take a cable car to the first mountain, wander a little then take another cable car to the second mountain. everything was lush, green and pretty. the views of christo were fabulous. the rest of city looked rather pretty too.
monkey or lemur?
the trails were sort of intimate and crawling with bugs, birds and monkeys (or maybe they were some sort of lemur, i don’t know, but they were cute with creepy eyes, my favorite combination!).

red curtain made of ropes
there was a neat museum about the history of tourism on sugar loaf, and we had fun taking pictures of the red curtain that was more like an art installation.
as we were getting ready to go in search of the churrascaria we were treated to an excellent lightning storm.
we eventually managed to be on the right bus to get to copacabana beach and the restaurant that had come highly recommended. dinner was okay. not great, but not bad, and not too expensive. i wasn’t feeling as churlish as i had been the day before. and while i wasn’t sad about leaving, i was no longer feeling the need to run away screaming either.
we went for a short walk along the beach and watched the moon rise,

then went to the supermarket to get rations for the morning bus ride that would take us to paraty. so long rio.
artful corn, street food

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


flying into rio
the capitol of the island that shall remain nameless to rio de janeiro, brazil
flying over rio, i thought i was going to love the city. the green mountains and valleys surrounding the city are magical.

i grabbed a taxi, too tired to try to figure out what bus i should take to get to my hostel. the driver was clearly a fan of ayrton senna and was practicing for the day when he would get to race formula one. when i wasn’t gripping the seat in panic, i was trying to take in the city. at one point i saw some large heads being created for carnival and i had a moment of love and enchantment, i was going to try to find these again and take photos (never happened and i am still sad).
i survived the trip to the hostel.
it was a dive.
i didn’t want to touch anything.
but i was relieved to find my friend v (who was going to travel with me for a couple of weeks) and we set about making a plan for my first day in rio.
we walked, a lot. i began to feel the first signs of disillusionment. the map was crap, a block on the map could represent one or twelve in the real world. lunch was expensive but mediocre. portugese completely eluded me and my attempts to speak it only baffled the locals. the city was dirty, compact and crowded. any time i took my camera out, well meaning folk would say sternly “cuidado” (careful). i became paranoid about being robbed in some violent manner, as my beloved camera is so securely strapped to my person when i am out and about they'd have to knock me out to get it, so the only way i wasn’t being careful with it was having it out at all. since i am all about my photos, this was really frustrating.
we tried to go to the cemetery, it was locked. who locks the cemetery during the day???
the only graffiti i managed to see was ugly tagging. the litter was extensive, but it was kind of amusing to watch v pick up bits here and there and walk them to trash cans close at hand, muttering about the idiots too lazy to hang on to their rubbish a few steps more.
on this first unhappy day, the one delight was the catedral de sao sebastiao
ceiling of the catedral

a peaceful space, with an interior similar to the lotus temple in delhi. a nice american fella from somewhere in the midwest started a conversation with us. he'd been away from home for a long time and missed the ease of a conversation where you didn't have to edit yourself or try to figure out a way to translate your meaning. i could understand, having been in that place many times myself.
we tried to find a place for dinner around 6pm, but nothing was open. i was hungry, tired and frustrated with this place i had been prepared to fall in love with.
by the end of the day i told v i didn’t like rio and i’d be ready to leave after we went to see Christo. i wanted out.
she had been there for several days before i arrived, so she was fine with moving on.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


capitol of the island that shall remain nameless to rio, brazil
the night before c left, she asked me to go to this fancy coffee place, cafe el escorial, and get a bag of their coffee beans for her. they are part of a collective that grows, processes and roasts the beans then serves the coffee - kind of neat that it all happens under one roof, so to speak. it seemed like a simple enough request, so i said i'd do it.
steam and coffee beans pouring out of the single roaster

i went every day for a week and struck out every time. i'd usually show up around 2pm, and they would just say 'mañana'. on the 5th try, the guy added, 'come early'. okay. so the following day i arrived at 11am -
gah! i got smart with only one more day to succeed at the seemingly simple task - 
'what time do you open tomorrow?' 
'excellent, i'll be here at 9:30!'
i arrived at 9:30 to see a long line already formed outside of the cafe. i used the ultimo trick (see 'ultimo' post) and sat on the front steps for over an hour, watching stilted people prepare to entertain the tourists.
while waiting, anxiety and a fear that despite my early arrival i'd still leave empty handed ate at me right until it was my turn to place my order. i am happy to say i got the coffee (and sent it from brazil - when all was said and done, those beans, not including my time, cost about $60 for a kg! but c assures me they were worth it!).

from there i wandered over to the presidential palace with the idea of going in to see the revolutionary museum that is housed there. i never found it. i still cannot figure out where it was, must have come within a couple blocks of it a dozen times, but according to my map, it wasn't where it was supposed to be and i never got to 'the palace that wasn't there' as i began to call it.

i had to settle for this vintage postcard.

after spending several more hours happily wandering the streets, i headed back to candy's to pack my bags and head to the airport.
my taxi driver told me about how he had a masters degree in computer engineering, but that he makes more money driving a taxi. i had gotten glimpses of the frustration that these highly educated people experienced when they were unable to make a decent living in their area of expertise, but this was the first time i was able to ask questions. it was interesting to see the negative side of unlimited access to higher education. 
fidel has offered the people as much knowledge as they want but has maintained communist limits on how much money can be earned, regardless of education. i was told that the street cleaners make about the same as doctors. there is something disconcerting about this, a job that requires no training and no skill earns the same as one that requires years of learning and skill - it begs the question why bother to try?

i tipped big and entered the airport with a little apprehension. the lines were long - even by cuban standards. i couldn't figure out where to pay my exit tax. i had to wait in several lines twice. but eventually i made it to my plane. i am seriously glad i gave myself 4 hours for the airport because it took over three to get to the gate.
while waiting to take off, i felt a huge lump of sadness. on the one hand i know i'll return - i have to, i liked the island much to much to stay away, and having only seen the capitol, there is still so much left to explore. but i always want to return to places that i've loved, and when there are so many places in the world yet to be seen, i sometimes struggle to make it happen...

after catching a couple of fitful hours of sleep on the long flight, i woke to pretty views of a sunrise over the outlying area of rio!

Friday, April 22, 2011

cha cha heels

capitol of the island that shall remain nameless
i've mentioned how important music is to the islanders, but i think i forgot to talk about the dancing. everyone you meet can salsa with the best of them. it's like if you are born here you are gifted with this incredible ability to shake your ass in time with music and do it effortlessly while attached to another person.
i have always had difficulty finding and keeping the beat. it used to drive my mother, a musician, absolutely crazy that her daughter had no ability to hear what was so obvious to everyone else. someone once told me i hear the down beat. i'm cool with that. anything to explain how i can start off clapping in time with the crowd but be off in mere seconds.
so dancing lessons have always had a level of frustration that made it more work than joy - although when i do manage to get something, like the lindy hop, i am beyond thrilled to do the dance all night long!
gato's wife, yudi, is a semi-retired professional dancer, who offered to give me some salsa lessons. while i knew it might be a fool's errand, i was still hopeful that i could come out of her company with some slinky skills.
my dancing shoes

the first lesson was with c&e, a mistake. c, meaning well, was constantly correcting me, which would only make me more self conscious and frustrated, and eventually a little too defensive to learn anything. my second lesson, yes, i went back for more, was hilarious, mostly because yudi doesn't speak english and i didn't speak spanish, so communication on what i was doing wrong and occasionally what i was doing right, was painful. but she was patient, and in the end, there were a few times she told me my moves were sexy - i'm not sure i agreed with her, there was a full sized mirror in front of me, so i could see what i was doing, but i wasn't going to contradict her, as it was such a great feeling to get some of the moves down. not to mention, i did find the beat every now and then and managed to hold it for an entire song, SUCCESS!
she told me i would have to take samba lessons in rio and tango lessons in buenos aires. i didn't, but i will revisit salsa in cusco...