September 24, 2013
The Chile Connection: Why South America Took So Long...
Chile has long been on my bucket list and for a long time traveler who started hearing tales of this diverse country since childhood, it’s astonishing that it took me so long to get there. Something has always gotten in the way of me spending time in South America.
First, it was because Europe and Africa were on my first ‘must stops.’ Europe, well because my heritage is there and I had to see if the French were really as snobby as everyone said they’d be and the Italians were as gorgeous as I’d imagined. Africa was next because somehow I feel as if I was African in a past life since the beating of the drums calls to me in the same way blueberry picking does in the Adirondacks in this life.
Southeast Asia happened first by chance since an ex-flame dragged me there with a backpack in my early twenties and two years later after countless stops with bouts with dysentery, hepatitis and numerous other third world-like bugs, we returned to call England home. Not getting to South America is an easy excuse when you live in Europe since it’s simply so far away and after returning to the states and set up shop in New England, I had more excuses – there was more of Europe to do, more of Africa to do, more of New England to do. You get the point. And so, there South America was in nearly last place as a continent.Chile, Peru and Argentina have always been my top three destinations. In other words, these were the three countries I always wanted to break my South America virginity, not necessarily in that order. Peru has the views, the mountains, faces with unique features that left me in awe and I imagined the best photo opportunities, Argentina has more mountains, great skiing, and Buenos Aires, where I could eat fabulous steak, tango through the streets and buy fabulous leather bags and boots.
And Chile….well, I had all the stories from my childhood and those photos of sexy looking boys from my host sister’s homeroom class (we were both AFS exchange students - she went to Chile and a year after she returned, I lived with her family in South Africa). It also had Patagonia of course and was the skinniest piece of land I had ever seen on a map, one which stretches for 2,700 miles north to south. Of course, I didn't know that it would have breathtaking glaciers that would have me at "hello."
Having that knowledge didn’t seem to stop me from being far more ignorant about the country than I had hoped before landing on her gracious soil for the first time. Truth be told, I’m an Isabel Allende fan and have read every single one of her novels, save one.
When I heard about the opportunity to join the 4th annual Chile EXPOCOM that would gather some of the top tour operators, vendors and sellers in the world and roughly ten or so travel writers, I realized I had to say yes, even though I didn’t have time to read the fine print about where in Chile it was going to be held or what we were going to do.
After I filled out the form confirming my attendance, I looked over at my visualization mirror which had Chile and Argentina at the tippy top of a list of a dozen or so countries I had to visit in the next 18 months. And alas, I was to be off to Chile in less than a week.
With so little time to plan, the truth is, I didn’t plan….anything. That means, no research, no pre-reading of our trip details until the two days before I left, when I made a few Google searches, which included two hotels, a little history on Puerto Arenas (my first stop) and photos of the region which left me breathless.
Despite the fact that it was nearly 20 hours of flying time and four flights, I realized I had just signed up for pure heaven and couldn’t wait to board the first plane.
Nature once again knocked on my door and I answered.
You see, I’m a true believer that nature calls to us when we’ve abandoned her for too long. In my case, it was abandoned to technology and when I didn’t give her enough time, she decided to take it back and remind me of the important things in life.
In less than two years, I was thrown into polar bear country in Canada’s Churchill Wild, returned to Maine’s seaside in the magical New England Fall, driven through the romantic countryside of Lithuania and Estonia in Spring, escorted out to an ancient graveyard in southern Ireland on a drizzly cold day, drove through the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York where I had my best childhood memories, flew above Greenland’s icy waters, brought out to the cold and windy cliffs of Western Iceland to watch Puffins at 3 am and now, flown to the heart of Chile's Patagonia where I’d be face-to-face with guanacos and black necked swans.
Despite my love of warmer climates and walking along a beach in a saucy colorful mini skirt barefoot on a balmy humid night, the universe seems to think I need to spend time in cold countries at the moment.
Sometimes I wonder whether it’s because California has started to make me ‘soft,’ and my New England roots doesn’t want to wait until I’m too far gone before it reclaims my soul to its rightful place.
Alas, on the night before my trip, my MacBook Pro started misbehaving again for the umpteenth time and I hadn’t yet finished packing. It was late and I was too cranky and fatigued to figure out how I was going to pack light when I had to fit warm sweaters, hats, mittens, boots, hiking boots, long johns and a down parka into the same suitcase I used for most of my longer trips that didn’t call for such bulky items.
Cranky as I was, I wore a smile, because deep down, I knew it was the time for my South American adventures to begin. It was time for me to master Spanish and Salsa, time for me to devour Pisco Sours instead of Cabernet Sauvignon for awhile and time for me to flirt with Latin culture and all that it means. I had no doubt I would be reignited by Chile’s fire, her charm and her spirit.
Security was a breeze. Since I had to clear customs, immigration and pay a whopping $160 entry fee (the U.S. is the highest of the countries which have to still pay one upon entry, although the requirement is supposed to disappear in 2014), the transition from Santiago to the third floor where all national flights departed was long.
That said, once I did reclaim my luggage and head towards the security gates, the guy before me shook his head as I started taking my belt off. “No need,” he said with a thick accent. I then proceeded to take my MacBook Pro out of my bag and he shook his head again. “No need,” he said again. I went for my boots and as I unzipped one of them, I looked up at him and saw his nod. “No need, right?” I said with a smile. It turns out I didn’t have to dump my two water bottles either or take my silver cuff off.
Patricio or rather Dr. Patricio, an orthodontist happened to live in Punta Arenas, which was where I was due to catch my connecting flight to meet the Expo organizers. You know you have ‘arrived’ when you’ve met the local orthodontist and as you’d expect him to, he had a great set of white teeth and a warm smile. In Spanish, he said to me, “slow down, no rush.” He quickly translated into English although I somehow knew that was exactly what he said. “You’re in Chile now,” he added with another warm smile.
He had just returned from Seattle and goes to the states each year for an annual conference and it was just the dose of medicine I needed to hear. Always rushing, even when I travel, I am often reminded that traveling DOES slow me down but if often takes a few days of being on the road for me to get out of my American skin. For the most part, the rest of the world travels at a slower pace than Americans and it’s the thing I crave more than anything else once I leave my hood.
Yes, slow down I thought and took a deep breathe. I had time – quite honestly, there was plenty of time to make it to the gate and it was time to get onto Chilean time and I don’t mean the numbers on a watch.
We chatted at the gate while he asked about my agenda which I scoured for in my black leather bag that happened to house everything a girl might need on the road, from toothpaste and napkins to a video camera, lipstick, a bottle of water and sunglasses. He scanned the document, nodding every now and then like a professor does as he’s looking at the paper he’s about to grade. Sometimes the nod was one of approval and other times ambiguous. Ahhh yes, this is beautiful he said as he pointed to a line on the page and this restaurant, it’s okay, it used to be much better nut has lost some of its lustre. And oh yes, you are going to Torres Del Paine National Park…THIS is the most beautiful and he gave me that warm smile again.
It was the first of many warm smiles I was going to experience in Chile. And as it shone, our flight was called to board. Since I slept through breakfast on the longest of my flights, I was starting to get hungry and so I asked the first LAN Airlines flight crew whether there was food on board. “Yes,” he said with a warm smile. “Good,” I replied, “because I’m hungry.” Soon, as I sat there quivering from the cold air blowing through the vents, Pablo showed up with a blanket three times the thickness of the ones we get on airlines in the states.
Less than thirty minutes later, there was Pablo again pouring me tea with his beaming and addictive warm smile. Then, after handing my neighbors a box each which housed our morning crackers and a cranberry chocolate cookie, he handed me two boxes, gave me a smile and then finished off with a wink. Oh, those dark eyes. Oh, that warm smile.
We hadn’t even landed in Punta Arenas yet and I knew Chile was going to steal my heart. It already had!
All photo credits: Renee Blodgett.
December 25, 2011
Christmas in Every Language & Customs Around the World
Language is one of the most powerful things we have and when we can't communicate with someone because we don't know their language, we rely on hand gestures, hugs, expressions and the most universal ones: smiles when we're happy, tears when we're not.
I've spend the holidays in several countries over the years including India, Thailand, Australia, Mexico, South Africa, England, the Netherlands, Israel, France and a few places I'm sure I'm forgetting. Celebrations obviously differ even when you're celebrating within the same culture or religion. Jewish friends in New York buy a Hannukah bush, others don't honor it at all. If you've grown up in New England or northern Europe, snow often comes with Christmas and it becomes an association for you. If you live in Australia or Africa, chances are you've never had a white christmas.
Brazilians have a tradition of creating a nativity scene or Presepio, whose origins come from the Hebrew word "presepium" which means the bed of straw upon which Jesus first slept in Bethlehem. The Presepio is common in northeastern Brazil (Bahi, Sergipe, Rio Grande do Norte, Paraiba, Maranhao, Ceara, Pernambuco, Piaui and Alagoas).
In Denmark, a christmas feast was traditionally celebrated at midnight, where a special rice pudding is served. In the pudding, a single almond is hidden and whoever finds it will have good luck for the coming year. The bringer of gifts is known as Julemanden and arrives in a sleigh drawn by reindeer, a sack over his back. Sound famliar? He is asissted by Yuletide chores by elves called Juul Nisse, who are said to live in attics.
In Iraq, Christian families light candles, light a bonfire of thorn bushes and sing. If the thorns burn to ashes, good luck will be granted. When the fire dies, each person jumps over the ashes three times and make a wish.
Like in many Latin American countries, Nicaragua retains many of the customs of old Spain. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, people stroll the streets where there are many things to buy: candles, Nativity pictures, toys and foods. Children carry fragrant bouquets to the alter of the Virgin and sing carols. On Christmas Eve, church bells beckon the people to Midnight Mass.
In South America, Venezuelans attend a daily early morning church service between December 16th and 24th called Misa de Aguinaldo ("Early Morning Mass.") In Caracas, the capital city, it is customary to roller-skate to this service and many neighborhoods close the streets to cars until 8 a.m. Before bedtime children tie one end of a piece of string to their big toe and hang the other out the window. The next morning, rollerskaters give a tug to any string they see hanging.
In Japan, Christmas was apparently brought over by Christian missionaries but today, it has become very commercialized largely because gift giving is something that appeals to the culture. This is an interesting and funny story if its true, but in the scene of the Nativity when it first came to Japan, was so foreign for them because Japanese babies don't sleep in cradles. Like the states, they eat turkey on Christmas Day (ham is also common with many families) and in some places, there are community Christmas trees. Houses even have evergreens and mistletoe. They also have a god or priest known as Hoteiosho, who closely resembles Santa Claus, often depicted as an old man carrying a huge pack. He is thought to have eyes in the back of his head.
And, you've gotta love the Scots since they have so many quirky customs considering how close they live to the English. Celebration around the holidays is much bigger for New Years Eve than it is for Christmas, something they refer to as Hogmanay. This word may derive from a kind of oat cake that was traditionally given to children on New Year's Eve. The first person to set foot in a residence in a New Year is thought to profoundly affect the fortunes of the inhabitants. Generally strangers are thought to bring good luck. Depending on the area, it may be better to have a dark-haired or fair-haired stranger set foot in the house. This tradition is widely known as "first footing."
In the Czech Republic (formerly Czechoslovakia and before that known as Bohemia), they bring their traditions from the 10th century home of Good King Wenceslaus, the main character in the familiar English Christmas carol. It is said that English troops, fighting in Bohemia hundreds of years later, brought the song home with them. St. Nicholas is called Svaty Mikalas and is believed to climb to earth down from heaven on a golden rope with his companions, an angel and a whip-carrying devil.
An ancient tradition shared by the Czechs and in Poland involves cutting a branch from a cherry tree and putting it in water indoors to bloom. If the bloom opens in time for Christmas, it is considered good luck and also a sign that the winter may be short.
I'm amazed how many of these traditions involve some superficial physical ritual that somehow tells us whether good luck or bad luck will fall upon us, not unlike snapping a chicken wish bone in two I guess...or flipping a coin.
Below is a fabulous and fun list of Merry Christmas and Happy New Years in many languages from around the world. Obviously, we didn't capture them all but we did include a healthy list to get you started with practicing but you never know when you will come across someone from another culture around the holidays.
Alsatian: E güeti Wïnâchte un e gleckichs Nej Johr
Arabic: أجمل التهاني بمناسبة الميلاد و حلول السنة الجديدة (ajmil at-tihānī bimunāsabah al-mīlād wa ḥilūl as-sanah al-jadīdah)
Armenian: Շնորհաւոր Նոր Տարի եւ Սուրբ Ծնունդ: (Shnorhavor Nor Daree yev Soorp Dzuhnoont) Բարի կաղանդ և ամանոր (Paree gaghant yev amanor)
Bengali: শুভ বড়দিন (shubho bôṛodin)
Cherokee: ᏓᏂᏍᏔᏲᎯᎲ & ᎠᎵᎮᎵᏍᏗ ᎢᏤ ᎤᏕᏘᏴᎠᏌᏗᏒ - (Danistayohihv & Aliheli'sdi Itse Udetiyvasadisv)
Cheyenne: Hoesenestotse & Aa'eEmona'e
Cornish: Nadelik Lowen ha Blydhen Nowydh Da and Nadelik Looan ha Looan Blethen Noweth
Danish: Glædelig jul og godt nytår
English: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Estonian: Rõõmsaid Jõule ja Head Uut Aastat and Häid Jõule ja Head Uut Aastat
Fijian: Me Nomuni na marau ni siga ni sucu kei na tawase ni yabaki vou
Filipino: Maligayang pasko at manigong bagong taon!
Flemish: Zalig Kerstfeest en Gelukkig Nieuwjaar
French: Joyeux Noël et bonne année
German: Frohe/Fröhliche Weihnachten - und ein gutes neues Jahr / ein gutes Neues / und ein gesundes neues Jahr / und einen guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr
German (Swiss): Schöni Fäschttäg / Schöni Wienachte -- und e guets neus Jahr / en guete Rutsch is neue Johr -- Schöni Wiehnachte und es guets Neus -- Schöni Wiänachtä, äs guets Nöis
German (Bavarian): Froue Weihnåcht'n, und a guad's nei's Joah
Haitan Creole: Jwaye Nowèl e Bònn Ane
Hawaiian: Mele Kalikimaka me ka Hauʻoli Makahiki Hou
Hebrew: חג מולד שמח ושנה טובה - Chag Molad Sameach v'Shanah Tovah
Hungarian: Kellemes karácsonyt és boldog új évet
Indonesian: Selamat hari natal dan tahun baru
Irish: Nollaig shona duit/daoibh (Happy Christmas to you). Beannachtaí na Nollag (Christmas Greetings). Beannachtaí an tSéasúir (Season's Greetings) and Athbhliain faoi mhaise duit/daoibh (Prosperous New Year). Also, Bliain úr faoi shéan is faoi mhaise duit/daoibh (Happy New Year to you)
Italian: Buon Natale e felice anno nuovo
Japanese: メリークリスマス (merī kurisumasu) -- New Year greeting - 'Western' style
新年おめでとうございます (shinnen omedetō gozaimasu)
New Year greetings - Japanese style
明けましておめでとうございます (akemashite omedetō gozaimasu)
旧年中大変お世話になりました (kyūnenjū taihen osewa ni narimashita)
本年もよろしくお願いいたします (honnen mo yoroshiku onegai itashimasu)
Klingon: QISmaS DatIvjaj 'ej DIS chu' DatIvjaj (sg) and QISmaS botIvjaj 'ej DIS chu' botIvjaj (pl)
Korean: 즐거운 성탄절 보내시고 새해 복 많이 받으세요 and (jeulgeoun seongtanjeol bonaesigo saehae bok manhi bateusaeyo)
Kurdish: Kirîsmes u ser sala we pîroz be (and) Kirîsmes u salî nwêtan lê pîroz bê
Lithuanian: Linksmų Kalėdų ir laimingų Naujųjų Metų
Maltese: Il-Milied Ħieni u s-Sena t-Tajba - Awguri għas-sena l-ġdida
Maori: Meri Kirihimete me ngā mihi o te tau hou ki a koutou katoa
Mongolian: Танд зул сарын баярын болон шинэ жилийн мэндийг хүргэе and (Tand zul sariin bayriin bolon shine jiliin mendiig hurgey)
Navajo: Ya'at'eeh Keshmish
Nepali: क्रस्मसको शुभकामना तथा नयाँ वर्षको शुभकामना - (krismas ko subhakamana tatha nayabarsha ko subhakamana)
Norweigan: God jul og godt nytt år (Bokmål) and God jol og godt nyttår (Nynorsk)
Old English: Glæd Geol and Gesælig Niw Gear
Punjabi: ਮੈਰੀ ਕ੍ਰਿਸਮਸ। / میری کرِسمس (merī krismas - not used) and ਨਵਾਂ ਸਾਲ/ਵਰਾ ਮੁਬਾਰਕ। / نواں سال، ورہا مبارک (navā̃ sāl/varā mubārak)
Raotongan: Kia orana e kia manuia rava i teia Kiritimeti e te Mataiti Ou
Romanian: Crăciun fericit şi un An Nou Fericit
Samoan: Ia manuia le Kerisimasi ma le Tausaga Fou
Sardinian: Bonu nadale e prosperu annu nou
Slovak: Veselé vianoce a Štastný nový rok
Spanish: ¡Feliz Navidad y próspero año nuevo!
Swahili: Krismasi Njema / Heri ya krismas -- Heri ya mwaka mpya
Swedish: God jul och gott nytt år
Tahitian: Ia orana no te noere and Ia orana i te matahiti api
Thai: สุขสันต์วันคริสต์มาส และสวัสดีปีใหม่ - (sùk săn wan-krít-mâat láe sà-wàt-dee bpee mài)
Tibetan: ༄༅།།ལོ་གསར་ལ་བཀྲ་ཤིས་བདེ་ལེགས་ཞུ། - (Losar La Tashi Delek - Happy New Year)
Tongan: Kilisimasi fiefia mo ha ta'u fo'ou monū'ia
Ukranian: Веселого Різдва і з Новим Роком
(Veseloho Rizdva i z Novym Rokom)
Xhosa: Siniqwenelela Ikrisimesi Emnandi Nonyaka Omtsha Ozele Iintsikelelo
Yiddish: אַ פֿרײליכע ניטל און אַ גוטער נײַער יאָר - (A freylikhe nitl un a guter nayer yor)
The above list was a sample of a longer list from Omniglot, a site dedicated to languages from around the world. Visit their site for more languages including pronunciations. They also made the following note: Christmas is not universally celebrated and there are a number of different dates for Christmas and New Year depending on which calendar is used. Orthodox Christians who use the Julian calendar, for example in Russia and Serbia, celebrate Christmas on January 7. Another collection of phrases for the holidays can be found here. Also check out this link on Christmas Around the World.
December 25, 2011 in America The Free, Belize, Europe, Fiji, Holidays, Israel, New England, New York, On Africa, On Australia, On China, On Costa Rica, On East Africa, On Fiji, On France, On Germany, On Guatemala, On India, On Italy, On Japan, On People & Life, On South Africa, On Spain, Reflections, San Francisco, South America, Travel, United Kingdom, WBTW | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
August 20, 2011
The Connecting Flight, The One Following the Mad Tearing Run…
The flight is delayed and you have to make that connection….or else.
It seems to happen to me more often these days and I’m not sure if that’s the result of airlines having less planes available resulting in fewer connecting flights or the fact that systems are just breaking down.
Certainly, most of the internal systems are antiquated or ridiculously absurd and don’t have a lot of logic.
For example, recently I was on an Air France flight to Paris and had to catch a connection to Budapest. I saw the connection time on the flight itinerary and in “theory” it seemed fine. After all, it was a connecting flight and for some odd reason despite how much I’ve traveled, I thought there’d be one of those “side lanes” where you could transfer to another flight within Europe. You know, arrive at gate C and just walk down a hallway to Gate D and board your plane. Logical right?
The flight was actually on time (ish) however it took awhile to settle at the gate delaying gate arrival by 15’ish minutes. Again, in theory, I didn’t think I’d have a problem making the connection. After all, I was arriving in Gate C and I was departing out of Gate D (Gate D2 that is) from Charles de Gaulle Airport.
Sure, I knew it was massive but as I was scurrying out, the Air France agent assured me it was close, repeating the C and D twice, which certainly seemed logical to me as well.
I started with a brisk walk but not a sprinting one until I realized that D was nowhere close to C since the signs for it kept reappearing after every corner turn and after yet another walking escalator disappeared behind me, there was another one on the horizon with D2 off in the distance.
We’ve all done a short sprint but this one seemed to never end until I finally stopped to ask an Air France staffer who was lingering in a busy hallway with a clipboard pressed up against her. “Budapest D2” I gasped short of breath. “Pardon,” she replied. “BUDAPEST, DAY-EH DEUX” I said, gasping even more dying for my bottle of water which had fallen from my carry-on backpack by this point.
“Tout de doit and sortie,” she motioned. “Sortie,” I thought, NO, I don’t want Sortie, I have a connecting flight. When I heard Sortie and realized she wanted me to exit, I said to her exasperated, “I have a connecting flight, une connection a Budapest. Je ne reste pas ici a Paris.” She pointed straight ahead and repeated Sortie.
So what does a seasoned traveler do with 15 minutes to go, knowing that their flight “in theory” was supposedly already boarding. She sprints of course.
Now, I’m not a marathon runner and nor am I in the best shape of my life, but having grown up as an athlete, the muscle remains. In other words, it re-emerges when it needs to, in cases of emergency or when you know you’ve spent far too much time in front a PC monitor and your body is desperate for a little oxygen.
I was wearing out and not getting a minute of sleep on my 10 hour flight didn’t help matters. When I saw the long line through passport control, I panicked as my heart raced. “Fuck,” I thought, I really don’t want to miss this flight. It’s not that I mind getting stuck in Paris, but getting stuck at an airport waiting for a small plane heading east after a half day of travel across 4 time zones wasn’t my idea of fun. Besides, Hungary was waiting.
In fact, Hungary was calling in a loud voice, saying, “Renee, you’ve been to Paris hundreds of times, I’ve been waiting for your Gypsy spirit to come taste my wine, come eat my beef medallions and my goose pate.”
I firmly but politely grabbed another Air France rep explaining the urgency, flashing my ticket and pointing to my watch which I had just changed five minutes before the plane landed. She took pity on me and ushered me through an empty line, obviously waiting for loud, late, ill-mannered Americans like me. (after all, aren’t we all?)
Passport control man was in no hurry despite seeing me out of breath and sweating and I knew it didn’t help when I hurriedly said in my pathetic French, “Je ne reste pas ici, Je suis en retard pour mon vol de Budapest.”
Quietly I was cursing, thinking, what the hell are they giving me a stamp for when I’m going to be here for 15 minutes? I also knew that the number of pages and blocks which could be stamped was running out and I still had a few years left on this passport. Slowly and smugly, I got my stamp and flew like a bird running from a cat who hadn’t eaten in days.
Sortie was ahead of me but when I re-entered, I noticed that I was somehow standing in the middle of F. Where the hell did D go I thought? It looked like arrivals and I started to move from exasperated to pissed. What kind of connection was this I thought? 45 minutes to get through Immigration’s long line and find your way half way (no, all the way) across what should be one terminal (C to D)?
Here I could speak the language (enough anyway) and was sprinting like a failed marathon runner but one who had a reason to win, and yet boarding had already begun according to my ticket 20 minutes ago and I had not even gone through a NEW security gate.
Security found me amusing no doubt as I whipped off my belt with fury like I was ready to have quick and passionate sex with a 23 year old lover. My boots came flying off as did my jewelry and I was sweating up a storm, as if the sex was already over and it was the best I ever had.
My hair was tossled, my brow was wet, my light cover up was off which showed that I wasn’t wearing a bra.
FINALLY, a sexy polite French security agent who wasn’t 23 came to my rescue. He smiled as he assured me I would make my flight and that I was in D2. but still had to get to D70 WITHIN D2. But, he added, “it’s just around the corner. I’m trying to help.”
Carry me I thought, that’s how you can help. Show up in one of those airport mini-trucks that shuttle the handicapped and seniors and make the damn thing go faster than you think its capable of going. Whisk me away. Call them and tell them to hold the plane for 30 minutes and let’s do a driveby the Air France First Class Lounge for a Parisian cappuccino & some pate for the road and then drop me off in front of my plane.
I imagined him kissing my hand bidding me Au Revoir after he completely turned my nightmare mad dashing run across the entire Charles de Gaulle airport into a nice sweet travel memory.
Cursing under my breath but remaining focused like a good seasoned traveler always does, I made a hard “gauche” after exiting security where they confiscated my mini-bottle of Merlot from my last flight. I looked up and saw the number 58. Of course I was at 58 and of course, the Budapest flight would be 70, at the EEEENNNNNNDDD of the hall. And, so I sprinted.
Nothing about arriving in Paris felt like Paris but thankfully I had so many positive memories of Paris that it would be easy to give this one amiss.
Even if the plane didn’t screw around at the gate for 15-20 minutes, anyone would be hard pressed to make this connection with the long immigration line, the distance they had to travel, and the likelihood that they didn’t speak French if they got lost on the way…easy to do at Charles de Gaulle and easy to do if you’re not a seasoned travel.
Puffing (and huffing) and puffing, I flicked my passport and ticket at the woman standing behind the gate who was about as calm, collected and type Z as you can get.
It was 12:39 and the flight was supposed to take off (up in the air, take off) by 12:45 pm. Obviously the flight was late, so while I was catching my breathe, I asked how late it was. “It’s not late,” the woman behind her said.
Hmmm, I thought. No one was on the plane yet, I was informed they were still cleaning it, yet 6 minutes before take-off and they didn’t classify it as late. Welcome to Hungary I thought, although both agents were clearly French.
I did one of those circular paces that people do when they need to think for a minute. (clearly that is). I circled around 3 or 4 times and then made a slow-paced walk over to the coffee stand where I learned that a bottle of water with the horrific U.S. dollar exchange rate would cost me $8. Had I ever been to Europe when the U.S. dollar was weaker than the Canadian one? At a time, when there are plays, comedians and talk show hosts talking about China as the new super power and America as a third world country?
I didn’t want to think about the exchange rate or the likely $10 beers and $500 shoes that lay ahead which was unlikely to be the case in Hungary since they weren’t on the Euro and I figured I’d lay low and avoid purchases in Paris to and from until Obama fixed SOMETHING, anything, so I could return and buy those $500 shoes for $200 again.
I opted against the $8 water and flopped down on a bright pink “kitch” plastic couch that wrapped around a plant sitting in a bright pink "kitch" plastic pot. It only then occurred to me that I made my flight and as I was looking for napkins at a nearby café to wipe my sweaty body down, a 15 year old Italian girl came down and sat next to me, bumping into me twice when she did so, despite the fact that there was a ton of space on the other side of her.
As we boarded, I stripped down even more since the mad tearing sprint caught up with me and not only was I sweaty but I was baking.
As I got close to the entrance to the plane, I could see the Paris day through the open crack and feel the August sunshine and feel the warm breeze coming through, hitting my face, blowing my hair back just slightly. AHHH yes, Paris in the summer I thought.
There’s nothing like boarding a plane from a place where the weather is fabulous knowing that you’re going to a place you really want to see and knowing that the weather is fabulous there too. The last time I had been to Budapest was in the mid-eighties. Yes, really.
I flopped in my seat, which had no one next to me and the seats were slightly wider than normal with an actual place to sit two drinks to my left. Recline worked. I was in the front. The Hungarian flight attendant handed me a bottle water when she saw the way I looked and I settled in for my 2+ hour flight on Malev, an airline I had never flown before.
Budapest, I reflected as my heart rate started to finally slow down. Gypsies, artists, dreamers, foodies, lovers of wine, musicians, old souls and historians. I remembered an “old world” dining experience I had with an ex-boyfriend so many years ago, where the violin players circled around us and I thought of how young I was. A kid really. What did I know of violin players and good red wine? Or duck, liver, pork, mousse, goulash and cured ham?
And then I smiled when I remembered I was coming to meet technologists not gypsies. From Silicon Valley to Hungary because there’s a wealth of incredible engineers in Budapest I was told and knew I would soon discover. As for my host?
Look for the bald man he had said. I thought, “would there really only be one bald Hungarian at the airport?” “Some say I’m as wide as I am tall,” he had added. A little more data I thought, certainly more than Air France provided me about my connecting flight.
I drifted off curled in an arch, my last visual memory of blue sky and powdery white clouds through my window, knowing that Germany was below us by that point. Hungary is waiting for me I thought as I drifted off into my thirty minute nap. Hungary is waiting for me.
August 20, 2011 in America The Free, Europe, New England, New York, On Africa, On Australia, On China, On Costa Rica, On East Africa, On France, On Geo-Location, On Guatemala, On India, On Italy, On Japan, On People & Life, On South Africa, On Spain, Reflections, South America, Travel, WBTW | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
March 13, 2011
2011 TED Prize Winner: Changing the World One Photograph at a Time - #TED
Being a passionate photographer myself and having lived and traveled to some of the pockets where JR shot hundreds of images for a 'wish' he had for the world, I couldn't help but be a little more than intrigued by his project which just won the TED Prize last week in Long Beach, CA.
So, who's JR? He is a photographer whose career began when he found a camera in the Paris subway. In his first major project, in 2001 and 2002, JR toured and photographed street art around Europe, tracking the people who communicate their messages to the world on walls. His first large-format postings began appearing on walls in Paris and Rome in 2003. His first book, Carnet de rue par JR, about street artists, appeared in 2005.
In 2006, he launched “Portrait of a Generation,” huge-format portraits of suburban “thugs” from Paris’ notorious banlieues, posted on the walls of the bourgeois districts of Paris. This illegal project became official when Paris City Hall wrapped its own building in his photos.
His wish for the world? I wish for you to stand up for what you care about by participating in a global art project, and together we'll turn the world...INSIDE OUT."
Here's the idea: to participate.create a large-scale participatory art project that transforms messages of personal identity into pieces of artistic work. Everyone will be challenged to use black and white photographic portraits to discover, reveal and share the untold stories and images of people around the world. These digitally uploaded images will be made into posters and sent back to the project’s co-creators for them to exhibit in their own communities.
People can participate as an individual or in a group; posters can be placed anywhere, from a solitary image in an office window to a wall of portraits on an abandoned building or a full stadium. These exhibitions will be documented, archived and viewable virtually. Visit www.insideoutproject.net to participate.
Below is an exhibit of some of his work held at a gallery in Long Beach, the weekend after the TED Conference finished.
In the gallery, which was free to all attendees, you could have your photo taken and within minutes, you were given a larger than yourself piece of paper with your mug shot, replicating what he has been doing in developing countries. It's symbollic of his project and the idea is to plaster your image somewhere to expand his idea and he hopes, to change the world.
The TED Prize is designed to leverage the TED community’s exceptional array of talent and resources and is awarded annually to an exceptional individual who receives $100,000 and, much more important, “One Wish to Change the World.”
March 13, 2011 in America The Free, Arts & Creative Stuff, Conference Highlights, Europe, On Africa, On Australia, On China, On East Africa, On Education, On France, On Germany, On Innovation, Photography, South America, United Kingdom, WBTW | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
October 10, 2010
Life Balance: Do Entrepreneurs Care? Not EnoughBelow, Espanola Island in Ecuador's Galapagos last month. Sigh. Blow Hole wild. The air calm. Wildlife spectacular. Common carpetweed everywhere in spectacular colors.
Am heading to Las Vegas this week and thinking about the nature and beauty of this place and thinking and knowing that this is what makes life rich, heading to Vegas despite it's 'fun' factor just seems so wrong!! Why don't we have any (or more in some cases) industry events in places like Montana, Colorado, Washington, Maine, Oregon, North Carolina? Just curious. Really...I'm just curious. Why does business continue to put balance in the background?
Below, not that incredible carpetweed I was talking about (coming in abundance a book soon, but texture-rich lava cactus on Bartolome Island.
September 22, 2010
Waste Land: The Forgotten People (Catadores)
The film follows the journey of artist Vik Muniz to his native Brazil and the world's largest garbage dump, Jardim Gramacho, located on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro where he photographs the forgotten people or "catadores" -- self-designated pickers of recyclable materials.
Through his journey, you will discover beauty and hope amidst hardship, the dignity of the human spirit, along with fading boundaries through visionary art and sacrificial giving.
Lucy Walker (Devil's Playground, Blindsight) has great access to the entire process and, in the end, offers stirring evidence of the transformative power of art and the alchemy of the human spirit.
September 21, 2010
Ecuador Rainforest and Oil Giants: The Battle Continues
Back in 2005, many of Ecuador's indigenous people started fighting to keep the oilmen out of their ancestral homes.
In a recent visit to the Ecuador jungle, I learned that not only is it still a major issue first-hand from people I met from the Shuar tribe among others, but it's becoming harder and harder to keep the giant oil conglomerates at bay.
Over 25,000 square kilometers of the area (referred to as The Oriente) is apparently protected, although increased development and drilling means that you have to move further into the edges of the rainforest to experience untouched prestine forest.
Oil activity has been so prevalent that a town has even been named after Shell, which we drove through on the way to Macas, east of Puyo, a popular kick-off point for Jungle Tours in the south.
On our way into the Jungle to a 'primary rainforest' we were told, we noticed an abundance of telephone lines. I was shocked at how far into the dirt roads and paths they extended. By the time we hit the Shuar village, there were none in sight of course, but you could 'hear' western 'noise' not that far in the distance.
Sadly the noise was of electric saws chopping trees down; we were told it was to build lodges and homes for the indigenous people, not to sell to the outside world. Below is the head of the family in the village where we stayed who returned in the late afternoon with a large cut tree, in this case, it was to be used as firewood for cooking.
Ecuador's income from exports is dominated by oil, sadly, at over 40%. It contributes to the economy so much that the government is giving up parts of the Amazon jungle for oil extraction. Virtually all of the Oriente is apparently now available for oil drilling, including indigenous and protected areas.
As far back as 1999, the government sold exploration rights in two areas, known as Blocks 23 and 24, which are at the heart of Indian reserves - without consulting the tribes involved.
"Oil Remains a Huge
Battle in Ecuador"
This is precisely the area we went to this past August; an area that is dominated by three indigenous peoples: the Achuar, Shuar (we stayed in a village with the Shuars) and the Kichwa. Each has set up political organizations to fight the corporate battle.
The Achuar have legal title to the land but under Ecuador's constitution the state has sole right to anything beneath the soil - in other words all mineral rights.
That said, the threat remains and is only getting worse since the main external pressure comes from Ecuador's foreign debt.
Five years ago, ChevronTexaco was facing a multi-billion-dollar lawsuit there, apparently because of use of outdated technology which contaminated the soil and water systems, causing widespread health problems.
This past week, the plaintiffs suing Chevron Corp. over oil contamination have raised their estimate of damages to a range of $40 billion to $90 billion. According to FoxNews.com, a Chevron spokesman rejected the new estimate Friday as a wildly distorted attempt to discredit the oil company.
The law suit covers operations in Ecuador by Texaco from 1972-1990, when it managed a drilling consortium. They calculated liability for "excess cancer deaths" caused chiefly by groundwater contamination at up to $69.7 billion, while estimating actual soil and groundwater cleanup at between $883 million and $1.9 billion.
Whether it is unnecessary death or unnecessary loss of prestine primary rainforest in the Amazon Jungle, it was very sad but very real to witness ongoing destruction of a unique jungle that can't be replaced.
September 09, 2010
La Basilica: Gargoyles of Paris, Eat Your Heart OutI've explored so many churches in my life that I tend to skip over the majority these days unless there's something uniquely special about it. From turn of the century to turn of the last two centuries, I've meandered through churches in nearly every country in Europe, North America, Southeast Asia, Africa, Latin America and Australia. Little did I know what Quito Ecuador had to offer.
In Ecuador's second largest town that dates from pre-Hispanic times, there are over 40 churches and chapels, 16 convents and monasteries with their respective cloisters, 17 plazas, 12 chapter rooms and refectories, 12 museums and countless courtyards. A more extensive blog post captures some of the visuals in the old town, including La Ronda, a narrow lane lined with picture-book 17th century buildings, with placards along the walls describing some of the street's history and the artists, writers and political figures who once lived there.
La Basilica is a must visit; its tower visit is a mere $2. Be prepared to climb very high, but it's well worth the experience. Gothic and overbearing in a glorious sort of way, it was built in 1926. Not the gargoyles of Paris, but as magnificent of a view and the architecture is incredible -- every step of the way.
Instead of gargoyles, turtles and iguanas protrude from the church's side. The highlight is the climb itself, straight up to the clock tower as well as the stunning views of Quito below. It requires crossing a rickety wooden plank inside the main roof and climbing steep stairs and ladders to the top.....all this after climbing a spiral staircase and three more sets of ladders. Loved every minute of it - below I capture the views and the experience of the climb itself in three separate short videos.