Photohunt: Nautical

Amazon River, near Iquitos, Peru.

Can you image your 10(?) year old daughter navigating a little pica-pica boat, with Peruvian Naval ships and huge cargo shipping vessels (not to mention water taxis that U.S. based public health folk could be riding in) on the vast sea that is the Amazon River?

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Art & Photography

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Photohunt: Bridge

Foot bridge from the end-of-the-line PeruRail train station to the town of Aguas Calientes, a tourist mecca with the distinction of being the closest habitable place to Machu Picchu. This is exactly the kind of place I try to avoid at all costs. So believe me when I say staying here is worth it, in order to wake up in the middle of the night and get to the sanctuary by dawn.

I will finish that travelogue. I will. I will. I will!

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Photohunt: Chipped

The word “chipped” makes me think of three things: ham, china, and attitude.

Chipped ham is what we get in Pittsburgh when visiting my extended family.  No one else does it quite the same, in little pieces so fine that they clump together — little ‘chipped’ pieces of meat.

Everyone’s got some sort of chipped china-ware in their house.  Or if they don’t, they are stressing about where and when it will inevitably come.

Attitude?  It comes from the phrase “chip on the shoulder,” meaning you’ve got some attitude.  Granted, you can’t really have a “chipped” on your shoulder, but I can’t really stop my brain from making word associations, can I?   That is why you must be very careful when talking to me about that round, juicy, sweet produce you picked up at yesterday’s market.

When I thought of attitude, I thought of this picture.

It was taken in the dusty young town of Pachacutec, in the extreme end of the Northern Cone of Lima, Peru.  Lima is a huge city of over 8 million clinging to the strip of desert between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean.  Fresh water is extremely limited; in this community, water is literally trucked in a few times a week, filled by hose into outdoor barrels.  More than half of the city’s population has less water per day than the UNHCR standard allowance of 20 liters.  In this type of environment, “clean” is a relative term: “clean” is when a dirt floor is swept, and the grime on children’s faces is rearranged by a dry, dusty cloth.  Our concept of “hygiene” is not possible, nor can it even be conceptualized, in a place where water is so scarce and poverty so pressing.

There was a big, brightly painted bus outside of one of the health clinics my friend Barbara took the health class to last summer.  The bus was the local government’s response to the paucity of health care facilities in the community (e.g.: 1 pediatrician working 2-3 times a week in for a community of over 200,000).  It boldly sat outside a worn health post, fading into the surrounding buildings in muted grays and browns.  The huge faces of children smiling with toothy grins seemed to make all sorts of unbelievable promises… along side the name of the local mayor.  I took a few pictures of the bus and a makeshift market outside of it, selling decorations for a celebration at one of the schools.  Then, two boys approached me directly and asked to have their pictures taken.  “Por supuesto,” I said.  Then they wiped grins off their faces and posed.  I paused and laughed, “estan seguros?” I wanted to be sure that this was what they wanted.  “SI!”

And I love the picture.  I love it because it’s in front of that damn bus, that although helpful to a few will have no chance of reaching the many.  I love it because the message is to me and all the other immeasurably privileged people that will see it, people with opportunities that they could not dream to have.  I love it because it says to me, ‘what? you want to see how rough it is to live here? well, screw you.  If you want to do something about it, then do it.  But don’t expect me to be all pitiful and thankful to whatever you throw my way.’

Finally, I love it because, underneath it all, they are just kids with senses of humor and pride and love and goodness — savvy enough to understand their perceived place in the world and throw out a little statement about it.

And they are exactly right.

In my view, no one deserves to have more of a chip than these kids.

For more takes on “Chipped” — please check out the rest of the Photohunt at tnchick.

Art & Photography

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On Running

This heaviness is in my heart and head.  These things (past, present, future?) and more…are things I just can’t shake.  Really, they are the kinds of things one shouldn’t shake away: we should put our faces right up to them, shine that mirror onto our natures, and teach each other better ways.  Which is why I am embarrassed that at times like these, my instinct is to grab my family and run.  My worst weaknesses, fear and sorrow.  Sometimes I just can’t find a silver lining.  Sometimes I can’t help but see the worst.

Jaded, cynical, and rational, I cannot believe in a benevolent creator that loves the people of earth, so I need to believe in a world of people who love each other.  It’s all I’ve got.  It’s all I am.

Which is maybe why, tonight, when Will picked this book to read at bedtime, I finished it with great difficulty.  Not the hormonal sensitivities of a younger woman feeling nostalgic over a cheesy movie’s surprise patriotism — but the hitching breath and breaking voice of an adult who doesn’t know how to explain how ugly things happen in a world her children are being taught to love.

From “Is There Really a Human Race?

And why do we do it, this zillion-yard dash?

If we don’t help each other, we’re all going to… crash.

Sometimes it’s better not to go fast.

There are beautiful sights to be seen when you’re last.

Shouldn’t it be that you just try your best?

And that’s more important than beating the rest?

Shouldn’t it be looking back at the end

that you judge your own race by the help that you lend?

So, take what’s inside you and make big, bold choices.

And for those who can’t speak for themselves, use bold voices.

And make friends and love well,

bring art to this place.

And make the world better

for the whole human race.

Family Life in NOLA
Recovery and Rebirth

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Photohunt: Metal

Motorcycles and mototaxis, Iquitos, Peru.  Taken late afternoon in the main square.

Both taken by the 10D with 1/20 shutter speed at f/4.  I wanted to get a slight blur with the taxis in the background, but didn’t have a tripod to risk slower than 1/20 and/or higher than f/4.

Art & Photography

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