Daily Click: Journey

Jen Elephant

Amber Fort, Jaipur, Rajasthan

“So we can take a jeep or ride an elephant to the top. Which do you prefer?” he asked  nonchalantly.

“Why wouldn’t we ride an elephant? Is there some cruelty to animals thing I’m missing?” I looked at him bewildered.

“Well, because sometimes it’s hot and the elephant will take twice as long.”

We rode the elephant… because it’s all about the journey….

Daily Prompt : Journey

This Small Thing

Cross walkThis small thing came flying by and my heart stopped. I’m not exactly sure what it was that went whizzing by my face, but it caused me to turn my head quickly and that was when I saw him. I saw him standing in front of a parked black Lexus. His Ray Ban aviator glasses hung from the button of his light blue shirt that was neatly tucked into white loose trousers fitting  his body perfectly. In that moment I realized he was staring at me. Had he been staring at me long? Had we met before?

I wasn’t sure and the more I tried to focus on his face, the more I realized I was staring at him. His dark, wavy hair, the small sharp nose and chiseled feature of his chin. We stood there for what felt like 10 minutes but couldn’t have been more than 30 seconds, just looking at each other in wonder. For a moment I felt frozen in time. As if I couldn’t move or speak and whatever I was thinking about before that moment was gone. All thoughts vanished. The only thing running through my mind was, “Is he going to walk away? Is he going to just leave me here?”

He didn’t walk away and he didn’t leave me there as I started to cross the street. At that moment the light turned green, people started moving quickly, cars stopped at the intersection and I began to move with them. Gracefully putting one foot in front of the other I walked towards the black Lexus. As I gently brushed away the tingling feeling from whatever whizzed by my cheek I saw him smile. He gave me a big, wide, warm smile and I noticed he hadn’t shaved. He had a rough five o’clock shadow and he was grinning from ear to ear. My stomach felt tense, my movements stiff and there was energy, a connection that seemed to be pulling me in his direction. I could feel myself in a current. The green man on the stoplight started blinking and I felt myself relax as I walked closer and noticed his outstretched hand waving and his bright, infectious smile. I stood in front I him and he was laughing nervously as he said, “You must be Jen. I’m Sam. I wasn’t expecting us to meet like this. I thought we’d meet tomorrow when I had some time to recover from travelling.”

And we laughed together. It was the first of many times in our lives we would laugh like that. It has been said an indication of transformation taking place within you is that you encounter more and more meaningful coincidences in your life. More and more synchronicities, which accelerate to the point where you actually experience the miraculous. It took many months of getting to know each other, only to realize, it was all in that initial feeling we had when we ran into each other on the street, the day before we had been set up to meet for the first time. That moment of knowing how sweet it felt the first time he said, “This is the first time I’ve met a woman who is more beautiful than her pictures. You’re more beautiful than your pictures you know; they don’t nearly capture your deep, rich laugh.”

Kumbh Mela 2013, Varanasi, India

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Kumbh Mela is a mass Hindu pilgrimage with over 100 million people visiting the Ganga River to bathe in the sacred waters. It is also one of the most polluted rivers in the world today and I’ve read it’s been deemed unfit to bathe in. This year the Kumbh Mela at Allahabad was for 55 days, with 6 auspicious bathing days. It’s considered one of the worlds largest congregations of religious pilgrims.

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Every third year it is held at one of  four places by rotation: Hardiwar, Allahabad, Nashik and Ujjian. The rivers at these four places are: the Ganges (Ganga) at Haridwar, the confluence (Sangam) of the Ganges and the Yanuma and the mythical Saraswati at Allahabad, the Godwari at Nashik, and the Shipra at Ujjain.

Kumbh means a pitcher and Mela means fair in Hindi. The pilgrimage is held at these four places because it is believed in Hinduism that drops of nectar fell from the Kumbh carried by gods after the sea was churned.

Naked, ash smeared, intoxicated Sadhus camp out along the ghats in Varanasi and tourists (like me) give them a small donation to take their picture. Traditionally Sadhus are renunciates, who have left behind all material attachments and live in caves, forests and temples all over India and Nepal. They are solely dedicated to reaching moksa (liberation) through mediation and contemplation. Today, unfortunately, many of them are addicts dedicated to achieving this through the charas, taking “donations” from tourists and quite charming to talk to.

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Flirting While Flying

Have you heard about Virgin America’s new twist on the mile high club?

Now once the seat belt sign is turned off and you can move about the cabin freely, you can send a drink, snack or meal to someone who caught your eye via their new “seat to seat service.”  You get a little help to grease the wheels for some in flight flirting.

Sir Richard Branson’s latest social service to launch this is a video called, “Sir Richard Branson’s Guide to Getting Lucky.” I remember when a guy I liked once asked me  if I was a member of the “mile high club”. I was so naive I didn’t know what it was so I faked it and said, “No, not yet.” Soon the mile high club will have card-carrying members with Virgin America!

You can read more about this in the Huff Post article, Virgin America’s Seat to Seat Service will Send Drinks to Your Crush, Help You Flirt While Flying.

AJWS Sistahood Trip

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A group of twelve women, all professional, well educated, funny and not all Jewish. Thanks to Jamie’s adventurous spirit we had an honorary member of the tribe. We met in Mumbai and started our seven day whirlwind tour of Mumbai, Lucknow, Agra & Delhi, meeting with AJWS (American Jewish World Service) partner organizations in Mumbai and Lucknow. Just outside of Lucknow we volunteered for a day in a village called Bhikharipur. In India, AJWS support reaches tribal, Dalit and Muslim communities through advocacy campaigns on land and labor rights, and sustainable livelihood training.

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Each day we met innovative and courageous activists working hard towards social change and we were mesmerized listening to their compelling personal stories. Certain groups specifically asked us not to write about them to keep their work confidential.

One visionary who shared his story with us was Shubhranshul Choudhary. He’s Indian and worked for over twenty years as a journalist with the BBC and the Guardian. He left journalism to devote his time to an experiment which creates a model for democratic media. In the process he has created the world’s first community radio using mobile phones. It allows people in remote villages to access local news and events, connecting them to what’s happening in the other remote communities around them.

As we parted in Delhi I felt like it was ending too soon. Two of the talented sisterhood, Jesse and Julia, wrote a song for Bharat, our tour guide, to the tune of the Beatles, “all you need is love.” They titled it, “All You Need is Bharat.” We sang it to him at our last lunch together and I’ve never seen a man so completely shocked, moved and speechless all at once. He was serenaded by a group of beautiful women. That moment reminded me that laughter is one way to digest the difficult issues we became aware of about life in India.

With Bharat

With Bharat

At the end of the trip a few of us admitted we were curious about what it would be like travelling with all women.  It can be a hit or miss experience without the male energy to balance things out. Luckily Bharat sealed the deal, as he was a pro at managing our time, our shopping and our different needs and wants. I was reminded that in the midst of a tight schedule with heavy personal stories and meetings to process, a group of women can always fit in a little power shopping and keep the laughter going with their warm sense of humour.

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Taj J and J

Flashback

With Sukri in the kitchen

With Sukri in the kitchen

Flashback to the beginning of January when I’ve been living at the Ratu Bagus Ashram for a month.  This Ashram is in East Bali and Ratu Bagus teaches an ancient shamanic shaking practice. Everyday we shake for an hour and a half, three times a day to a whole range of music from techno/trance, to pop or chanting. We do this to raise our energetic vibration for health and well being, as a spiritual practice and as a healing practice. With Ratu’s guidance people have healed themselves of Cancer, Hep C, and other fatal and chronic diseases. Some people are on the spiritual path and others are cleansing and healing themselves of drug and alcohol addiction. Initially, I came to write an article but over time I realized I’m on the spiritual path and I’ve stayed because I love the people and I’m learning how to love myself and laugh again. That’s what Ratu actually teaches. He brings out  that deep spontaneous belly laugh that babies do naturally. For so long I had lost my laughter. Life wasn’t funny  any more and I lost my sense of humour about it all.  I realized how much I needed to laugh and how much I wanted to laugh. Laugh at myself, laugh at my ridiculous thoughts and all the wild things I do.

By the beginning of January I found my laughter again, so it felt strange that as my laughter was coming back and I was happy at the Ashram,  I kept getting this powerful feeling that it’s time to go to India & Nepal. At the same time I got an email about an AJWS (American Jewish World Service) trip to India. About six years ago I went on a volunteer trip to a village in Mexico with AJWS and it was a fantastic experience. Their mission is to empower people throughout the world (not only in Jewish communities) to achieve justice and self-sufficiency through the promotion of human rights, education, economic development, healthcare and sustainable agriculture.  This  trip was designed for younger donors and the itinerary consisted of one week of going to three cities in India primarily to meet a few of the partners who were receiving money and support. I knew it would give me access to people and experiences in India that I wouldn’t be able to have on my own. When I arrived at the Ashram in November I wanted to go to Burma and now I was definitely getting the pull to go to India & Nepal.

I can hear you…please stop saying, “This is sounding more and more like Eat, Pray, Love everyday…”

India has not been on my radar and I don’t write like Elizabeth Gilbert! I admit I had moments of serious doubt before I left. No men signed up for the AJWS trip so it was going to be a “sisterhood trip” and that made me hesitate for a moment. Some very cool and very wise women quickly talked me out of that negative self-talk.

Then slowly it started to come together. First Bangkok for a few days to brush up on my photography. Then, Chennai & Pondicherry for a week before I met up with the AJWS group in Mumbai. After that it was just going with the flow to see what unfolded next. That is how and why I came to India. I was shaking at an Ashram in Bali, I got an email about an AJWS trip to India in February just as I was asking the universe for a fun, heartfelt trip anywhere that was filled with love, friendship and romance.

Ratu on his 63rd Birthday

Ratu on his 63rd Birthday

Ratu & his son Gede at a Fire Ceremony

Ratu & his son Gede at a Fire Ceremony

Putu & little Gede on Christmas Day

Putu & little Gede on Christmas Day

The Journey

“People travel to wonder at the height of the mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long course of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars, and yet they pass by themselves without wondering.”

~St. Augustine

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“If you wish to travel far and fast travel light. Take off all your envies, jealousies, unforgiveness, selfishness and fears.”

 ~ Cesare Pavese

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“What does it mean to pre-board?

Do you get on before you get on?”

~ George Carlin

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“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.”

~Martin Buber

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“When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.”

~ Susan Heller

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We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.”

~ Anais Nin

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“Often while traveling with a camera we arrive just as the sun slips over the horizon of a moment, too late to expose film, only time enough to expose our hearts.”

~Minor White

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I don’t believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive.”

~ Joseph Campbell

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Dubrovnik Old Town [Hipstamatic]

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Black and white photos of Dubrovnik Old Town have that Medieval feeling of history and the passing of time.

I thought Orlando’s Statue was a multipurpose monument. It’s a symbol of the freedom of the Dubrovnik Republic. Back in the Middle Ages it was a central meeting point and the center for public events. Just to make the Medieval Knight completely functional, his forearm measures exactly 51.1 cm. People buying textiles used it to measure and make sure they weren’t getting ripped off.

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Family Friends

Looking for a break from the crowds at the Trevi Fountain, I sit at an outside table on the cobblestone road of Via del Lavatore and order a beer. Next to me, two American college guys are talking to each other in low, monotone voices. As I look up, one of them flashes a smile. He has rectangular, thick, black glasses, a light five o’clock shadow and a rash of faint pimples all over his neck. Leaning forward he says to his buddy,

“So any cute girls in Madrid?”

“Yeah, there are cute girls.” his friend replies matter of factly. There’s an awkward pause between them.

“Do you have a girlfriend or something like that?” asks the guy with the glasses.

“I did …at some point…” his friend says. As he leans back in his chair I notice his blue, flannel button down shirt is tucked neatly into his pants. His hair is neatly trimmed and his skin is smooth and shaven. Before he can finish he’s interrupted by, “At some point? Where was she from? Did you split up or something?”

“Nicaragua. Right before summer,” the guy in the flannel shirt responds quietly.

There’s a lingering silence in the conversation. Two more people sit down at a table on the other side of me. The guy in the blue flannel shirt leans forward and rests his arms on the table hugging his beer.

The guy wearing glasses asks, “Yeah… sooo…how do you like the Peroni?”

Looking up from his beer he perks up, “It’s good… remember when we all went out for dinner that night with your father and we were so smashed. Charlie was SO nervous and he was like, the only one who was completely fine. It was me, I think both Joes were there, Connor…”

They laugh together.  Tossing his head to the left, his heavy bangs brush against his thick glasses as he remembers, “Yeah, you guys were SMASHED. It was so funny.”

“I think your Mom knew and like, that’s why she drank back that whole bottle of wine,” the guy in the flannel shirt chuckles.

The kid with the black glasses has an air of cool, collegiate confidence. “She totally knew. Yeah, you can’t fool Carrie, she the master of knocking back bottles of wine.” He laughs at the thought of it, “Yeah good times. A lot of fun.” Sitting up in his chair he looks into his glass before taking another sip. In a slightly louder, sing song voice he says,

“Sooo, tonight we’ll go to Campo de Fiori … 1 Euro shots…then Trastevere. Trastevere’s fun, it’s like where all the study abroad students go. Some cool bars there.”

Both sit back in their chairs as the late afternoon breeze ruffles the red and white checkered table cloths. People walk by looking at maps and pointing towards the Trevi Fountain. A waiter leans against the doorway of the restaurant with his arms folded watching people go by. I glance over at the two guys and smile, remembering a time when I had almost the same conversation in a different setting.

After a moment, the guy with the black glasses breaks the silence, “Well, do you want to pay and keep walkin’?”

“Yeah”, the guy in the flannel shirt says, “Sounds good.”

Connecting at Photokina 2012

I’m building my courage around listening to my inner voice more and more and allowing it to guide me to the next place. This time, when I was in Berlin last week, (I went with the family from Italy to Berlin and we said goodbye there) it kept telling me to go to Cologne. Thinking back, I had never even seen Cologne on a map or thought about going there. As I started to look for a hotel most places I tried were booked. So I asked someone at my hotel in Berlin to call for me and help me book in German.  That was how I found out about Photokina.

Photokina is the biggest photography and digital imaging trade show in Europe. It happens in Cologne every two years and draws thousands of people. It was happening during the dates I was trying to go.

I managed to find a hotel that wasn’t triple the price and quickly booked a train ticket. When people in Berlin asked me  why I was going to Cologne I had to tell them I really didn’t know, I was just following that little voice. When I mentioned Photokina to a few photographers and graphic designers they all knew about it and had been. So I bought a ticket on-line for all 5 days and began to settle into that familiar feeling of, “I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing.”

Arriving in Cologne I started feeling really afraid of this decision. What I read on-line started making me feel tense and silly about going. I worried about everything at the show being German. I read the last one had over 1, 251 exhibitors from over 45 countries in the photography and imaging industries. I began to criticize myself for buying a ticket for all 5 days and paying however much I paid for the hotel. That’s when I decided to pull back on the self- judgment, shame and fear and I made a conscious decision to tell myself, “Ok, I’m here to connect and meet some interesting people. I love this stuff.”

After Mark & Ann left Berlin I went through a week of feeling really alone. In reality I wasn’t alone. I met new people every day and had fun. It was deeper; it was about feeling connected to people, about needing hugs and wanting to be with close friends who could really make me laugh. I was longing for some emotional support and cuddles.

I say this because when I arrived in Cologne the sheer size of the trade show felt overwhelming. I felt small and alone. I had to curb the doubting voices in my head that were telling me this was crazy, I’m not even a real photographer, who am I kidding and why on earth would I spend this money? (I’ve noticed that spending too much money is a theme with this loud, doubting voice I have. At these pivotal moments the fear of wasting my money always comes up)

The first two days I walked around the trade show partly in awe of the size and partly dismissing the doubting voices in my head. It was like Macworld on steroids. There were over 180,000 visitors from 165 countries. The exhibition hall had about 11 different sections with rooms on 2 floors. New camera lines were being introduced, companies had huge rooms filled with camera and graphics equipment to test and play with. They had entertainment set up and areas to photograph. Presenters were giving talks on various stages every hour on everything from building a business to how the new Fuji X-Pro 1 has revolutionized their work. I walked through a gallery of portraits that evoked the feeling of looking into someone’s eyes and seeing their soul. I wandered aimlessly through a maze of camera and video gear, lightening gear and galleries of vibrant, eclectic images from all over the world.

Sony Exhibition Rooms

Sony Exhibition Rooms

Most of the talks and workshops were in German but there were some presenters who spoke English and are “big names in photography” like Michael Grecco.  (Got milk? was one of his) His philosophy and work gave me real perspective and value.

He reminded me that feeling like a photographer is about being a visual storyteller. It’s about connecting with people and the camera and the equipment are just the tools to tell the story. That’s what I love most about photography. For his personal work he takes an assistant, one light, a camera and walks along Venice Beach looking for interesting, unusual people to take portraits of. He wanders the streets from Vegas to LA and captures people in their own environment.  Lords knows on Venice beach you can find plenty of funky people to photograph. You need to be so confident and competent with your technical ability that it’s like second nature, you don’t think about it anymore and the camera is not in the way of connecting with people. The photographs and images that stir us the most are the ones that evoke the essence of a person or situation. The photographer has connected us to something or someone who touches us deeply. I realized instead of asking myself, “how do I take this picture?” I need to ask myself, “what feeling am I trying to evoke with this picture. “

The other message was that you have to be willing to fail. Failure is a key ingredient in the creative process. I need to get better at this. Cultivating a healthy relationship with failure is essential because it’s part of how creativity and innovation is born.

So after two days I started meeting some crazy Germans, as well Belgian, Dutch and Americans.  Vendors were having parties in the exhibition halls after the fair ended and lord knows, Germans love to drink beer. After a few beers it became pretty easy to connect and talk about photography. I met a really talented guy, Tim Kemple who works with The North Face, among other things. He is part of a new company called F-stop that had a booth at the show selling fantastic adventure style camera bags. They were serving sangria one night after the fair and he talked to me for a while. He offered to look at my blog and give me some feedback.

Guys from the F-Stop Team – The Sangria Night

Sangria Night

What shifted for me is that I started to say confidently, “Yes, I’m a photographer. I have a blog.” It’s funny what a few inspirational talks mixed with German beer and sangria will do for your confidence. After the second night of partying (the sangria night) I had the worst hangover I’ve had in years. I also had a lot of business cards in my wallet and I gave out all of mine. So I realized this morning, as I was nursing my cracking head ache and sending out emails with silly party photos to people, that we are really here to connect. When I hear and follow that inner voice I’m connecting with myself. That will always lead me to the experiences where I am wholeheartedly connecting with others. This time I felt myself grow when I started out feeling small and alone and ended up feeling courageous and connected. It was then I remembered that feeling connected is a key to life.

Another Fun German

Learning iPhoto for the iPad

Developing Film

Developing Film

Sony Exhibition Rooms

Flying Camera equipment for aerial shots

Fujifilm XF1 Retro Compact Camera

New Fujifilm Instax Mini 8

Photojournalist talking about his work on the Leica Stage

Foto Community Party

Entrance to Photokina