LIFE ON THE RUN
A QUARTERLY TRAVEL MAGAZINE
• FALL 2010 •
LIFE ON THE RUN
Nomads is a quarterly Travel magazine.
02. . . . . . . . EDITOR’S LETTER by LAURI LYONS 06. . . . . . . . LIFESTYLE 09. . . . . . . . SAIGON ON WHEELS by ED KASHI 19. . . . . . . . IS THAT YOU CHAMALU? by JOSEPH HUFF HANNON 26. . . . . . . . LANDROVER AFRICA by CHRISTOPH BANGERT 39. . . . . . . . CUBA ESPECIAL by ERNESTO BAZAN 55. . . . . . . . SAM THE MAN by LAURI LYONS 59. . . . . . . . MAPS by YANARA FRIEDLAND 61. . . . . . . . MYSTIC RIVER by JOHN PAUL PIETRUS 71. . . . . . . . TURKISH DELIGHTS by INGETJE TADROS 75. . . . . . . . RULES OF THE ROAD 77. . . . . . . . COSTA RICA by LAURI LYONS ...................................
Cover photo by ED KASHI
FROM THE EDITOR
............................................... I’m a true believer that many of us create the life that we want for ourselves. As a young child I always knew I wanted to have an adventurous life full of magical people and intriguing events. Growing up in a military family I quickly learned how to become a chameleon, always moving and changing. As an adult I discovered art and photography and have repeatedly reinvented myself whenever a new idea takes hold of me. The travel writer Lee Moore, once wrote about childhood friends who chose not to go on a trip: “I remember looking up at the forlorn faces of the people left behind looking on. That’s what started my life of adventure. I knew I never wanted to be the one left on the shore”. Lee’s words are a reflection of my feelings as well. Over the years I have experienced many adventures that have included Louisiana bayous, vanishing suitcases, mystery meat kebabs, Mexican pyramids, a touch of malaria, African cliffs, giant turtles and even a haunted house. Most of my friends have experienced even more adventures, so I’m always amazed by the stories they tell. Unfortunately, as time passes the details of our memories often fade and the people who live to tell the tales are often moving in different directions. With that in mind, I knew I wanted to publish a magazine that would capture the spirit of all the nomads that roam throughout the world, experiencing the beauty and poetry of life. Only a mad woman would decide to produce a magazine in three months, so of course I decided to give it a go! Creating Nomads has been a crazy, joyous and exciting. The best part of the experience is being able to work with a fantastic team who shares my enthusiasm and the brilliant contributors who have given me the honor of sharing their magical stories. Because of all the laughter and love that goes hand in hand with discovering life, Nomads means a lot to me, and I hope it means a lot to you too. Live, Transform, Inspire,
- Lauri Lyons
LIFE ON THE RUN
Nomads is a quarterly Travel magazine.
LAURI LYONS Publisher, Editor-in-Chief
Lauri is a jet setting artist, journalist and consultant. She is the author of Flag: An American Story and Flag International, as well as a contributing writer for The Huffington Post. Her photographs and essays have been featured in Fortune, Stern, Trace, The Fader and The London Observer. Her installations and photographs have been exhibited at The Walker Art Center, Brooklyn Museum of Art, The International Center of Photography. She is a faculty member of the Rhode Island School of Design and the Founder of the Nomads Photography Workshop. - www.laurilyons.com
ANTHONY MARSHALL aka MAD ANTHONY Creative Director
Anthony is a New York based Artist, Creative Director & Brand Builder. He has designed for companies such as Nike, The North Face & HEAD Tennis. He is also the owner of the apparel brand Mad Anthony - www.madanthonynyc.com.
AMANDA M. ADAMS LOUIS Special Agent
Amanda Adams-Louis is an international cultural event photographer and curator. She has exhibited her photographs at Corridor Gallery, Caribbean Cultural Center and Deep Side Center in Paris. She has curated photography exhibitions and installations in the Brooklyn Academy of Music and NYU. Her clients include: The Brooklyn Museum and Levi’s. - www.lafotographeuse.com
MATILDA EGERE-COOPER Special Agent
Matilda Egere-Cooper is a London-based, award winning journalist and photographer who regularly contributes to The Independent, i-D, Pride Magazine, The Mirror, BBC Online and Dazed & Confused. Matilda also developes a wide range of journalism platforms for UK based media companies. She is the publisher of the The Cultural Exposé blog for urban adventurers. - www.theculturalexpose.co.uk
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......................................... ED KASHI is a renowned photojournalist, filmmaker and educator dedicated to documenting the social issues that define our times. Kashi’s images have been published and exhibited extensively. Kashi is the author of Cure of the Black Gold: 50 Years of Oil In the Niger Delta and Aging in America: The Years Ahead and Three. - www.edkashi.com
HANNAH MORRIS is a New York based illustrator and fine artist. She is a recipient of the
Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators Grant and the Sacatar Fellowship. Hannah is also the co-author of Contos de Itaparica, a book of Brazilian folktales. www.morridesign.com
JOSEPH HUFF HANNON is an award-winning journalist, writer and producer with a background in documentary film, book publishing and political campaigns. His work has been published in the New York Times and The Guardian. - www.josephhuffhannon.com
CHRISTOPH BANGERT is a German born photojournalist. Bangert has exhibited his work in major international venues, including the Musee de L’Elysee in Switzerland, where he was selected as one of 50 emerging photographers in the world. He won a POYi Award of Excellence for his multimedia series featured in The New York Times. Christoph is the author of Iraq - The Space Between, Travelnotes and Land Rover Across Africa. - www.christophbangert.com ERNESTO BAZAN is an internationally renowned photographer and educator. His photographs have been collected and exhibited in museums such as: MOMA, ICP, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University and the Biblioteque Nationale in Paris. Bazan has published several books including: Cuba, The Perpetual Past, Passing Through, The First Twenty Years, Island, Molo Nord. - www.bazanphotos.com SAM MIDDLETON is a Holland based painter, printmaker, and mixed media artist. For over 50 years Middleton has exhibited his work in major institutions including the Stedlijk Museum, Whitney Museum, Studio Museum in Harlem.
YANARA FRIEDLAND is a poet, performer and author. Her work focuses on human migration and exile. Friedland has worked extensively in Europe with the Red Cross, the Herald Magazine and for German TV and radio. Yanara is currently pursuing a PhD. in Creative Writing at the University of Denver. JOHN PAUL PIETRUS is a London based fashion photographer regurlarly shoots for China Vogue, Tank, Italian Vanity Fair and L’Oreal. His work has been exhibited internationally at PS1- MOMA in New York and at the Stazione Leopolda in Florence. His work has received recognition in Creative Review, American Photo and LIFE Magazine. Bag, is John Paul’s first book. - www.johnpaulpietrus.com INGETJE TARDOS is an Australian based photographer who freelances for World Portraits.com. She was selected as one of the photographers to publish their work in the People & Planet; Social Justice & Environment Diary. Ingetjet is currently working on a book about the lifestyles of Ethiopian tribes. - www.ingetjetadros.com 04
How does a compulsive nomad resist the pressures of getting a ‘real’ job? The solution is
to turn your lifestyle into a business. In the case of Debbie Hardy, a life-long fashionista, her creative evolution has come full circle. Born and raised in Jamaica, Debbie made her way to New York to study at the Fashion Institute of Technology. After a stint as a model, she became a stylist for the singer Erykah Badu. The Badu tours provided a whirlwind glimpse of the world, but as time passed Hardy began to desire a more intimate travel experience. Instinctively she bought a guide book for India, packed a backpack and headed to Asia, solo. Unknowingly, what she thought would be an interesting vacation became a new chapter in her life. “Initially, I was drawn to the colors of India, but nothing could have prepared me for the country. India is gritty, magical, unapologetic, jarring and intense. One week into my journey, I was irrevocably changed. All of my senses were working at a heightened level. The country has gotten under my skin. It keeps calling me back and I keep answering”. While in India, Debbie began to pick up a few scarves along the way and of course fell in love with the Indian prints that the country is famous for. With her keen eye for style, she quickly realized that she could sell the scarves to a broad clientele. Returning home, the scarves became a hot commodity on the fashion conscious streets of Brooklyn. Investing $10,000 of her own money, the company Martine’s Dream was born. Making use of her fashion education, Debbie soon found herself in India designing and producing a full line of women’s clothing and home furnishings. The ‘global urban’ clothing is graphic, colorful, light-weight and figure forgiving. The home accessories are an extension of the clothing’s versatility, such as bright saris that double as curtains. The manufacturing process abroad has dealt her more than a few challenges, such as receiving a large shipment of clothing with all the labels sewn on the outside and the red dresses that mysteriously arrived in the color green. “I have learned to stick around until all of my orders are finished, not pay the bill until a full quality check has been conducted and most importantly try not to loose my mind in the process”. In order to keep her overhead low, she maintains a home that doubles as a showroom and summer ‘backyard boutique’. Her designs are also available on her website and at major street fairs throughout the United States.
Martine’s Dream has also become a catalyst for Debbie to redesign her lifestyle. She has opted to remove
freezing winters from her calendar. Five months out of the year she travels East and South in search of warmer temperatures, new vistas and inspiration. “My lifestyle has become global, as I search out more dynamic prints and design techniques to bring to my customers. Traveling facilitates my business and as the business grows, it facilitates my travels. It’s all interconnected”. Since her first trip to India, Debbie’s nomadic radar has led her to Tanzania, Brazil, Kenya and Thailand. “My next must see destinations are Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Malaysia”. Although her itinerary may change, her travel gear remains the same; a backpack, guide book and camera. ‘My desire to step out of my comfort zone has taught me a lot about myself. I return from each trip more whole than when I set out. Through traveling I have gained a greater appreciation for the world and my place in it, and for that I am grateful”. - www. martinesdream.com
SAIGON – 2/28/94, 10:38pm
I’m in Saigon, Vietnam, or Ho Chi Minh City, as it’s officially called now. All of a sudden I’m in a place that I grew up with. I’m landing at Ton Son Nhut Airport—which was the main U.S. airbase during the war and a place which is heavy with symbolism and meaning of the America I grew up. I came close to crying. I’m becoming convinced that working in difficult places like the Middle East and Russia really makes Asia an incredibly pleasant place to work and be; but so much for generalizations - I can’t wait to get going tomorrow. It’s almost as if Vietnam is to me, as an American growing up with the war, a place and people that is inextricably tied to me and my country. And living in California, it’s like an immigrant homeland as close to America as Italy, France, Ireland, Germany.
I’m sitting in a small auditorium, watching and listening to the “First Collegian English Music Competition” at Ho Chi Minh University. Lots of lovelorn and somber ballads by innocent but sincere youth. They are obviously influenced by MTV and American music, but still surprisingly original and fresh. It’s tragic what we, under the pressures of Cold War “Real Politik”, did to this country. I’m awed by the kindness and warmth here. The Vietnamese are as friendly and welcoming as any people I’ve ever encountered. I hope to return here many times.
3/7/94, 7:25 pm
I just endured and photographed the worst traffic jam I’ve ever seen...Imagine bumper to bumper—but everyone is outside on their motorbikes breathing in the fumes all around...4 more days of soot encrusted eyelids, a sore bum from sitting on an uncomfortable motorcycle seat and irritated nose and throat. But, I think it’s all worth it. So much of life in this city revolves around the motorbike. Only the photos will determine that.
3/9/94, 4:57pm The Vietnamese love Americans. Such an amazing capacity to forgive and forget... Muslims, Jews and Christians need some Buddhist lessons!
almost midnight when we arrive at Planeta de Luz, a self-described eco-hotel on the outskirts of Cochabamba, a dusty city of a million nestled in between two mountain ranges in central Bolivia. Twenty or so of us are packed in to two vans winding down a dirt road towards the hotel, hot and tired and sweaty and dirty after a fifty-hour bus trek from Buenos Aires that was cut short when the bus broke down an hour shy of the city. After building a fire on the side of the road, we were lucky to find some sympathetic locals to pick us up and drive us the final leg of the journey. When we finally pull up to the hotel entrance, the van headlights illuminate a huge imposing gate, flanked on either side by wooden carvings of two massive heads, neither of which look especially happy to see us. A woman opens the door and signals for us to enter, so we grab our bags, pay the taxi drivers and enter the compound. It’s dark and hard to see anything along the winding pathway that meanders through the property, but upon reaching a cozy reception hall a tall woman with curly hair wearing baggy pants and sandals, greets us with a warm smile. “Welcome to Planeta de Luz,” she says in a chipper Colombian accent, “make yourselves at home in our community.” Tony, the resident Irishman, had heard about the hotel through a friend of a friend, and was also the one responsible for coordinating our hodgepodge of journalists, teachers, scientists and environmental activists from seven different countries, and myself, the token Yankee, all traveling to a major conference on climate change sponsored by
the Bolivian government. In the meantime, the first and foremost things on all our minds after the two-day overland trek is a hot shower and a bed to crash out on. Whimsical and psychedelic paintings dot the walls of the circular receiving area where we mill about, and while waiting to get checked in, my friend and I nose around a bookshelf towards the back of the room. A number of books, including one titled Me Declaro Vivo! (I Declare Myself Alive!), share the same author, a man named Chamalú. The author photo shows a man with an eerily Christ-like visage: intense eyes, olive skin, long black hair and a wispy beard.
bit ... off. On our way out towards the bus that will take us to the conference to register and pick up our press passes, my friend Asli, a Turkish journalist who lives in Argentina, skips along the path, singing “La la lalala lalalalala laaa.” Papa Smurf had to be around here somewhere. Then it gets interesting. Down in the valley near the registration center for the conference, I ask Pablo, a Bogotá native who drove with us in to town, how he’d ended up working at Planeta de Luz. He explains patiently that no, this isn’t a job, it’s a way of life, that six months ago he traveled from Colombia here to central Bolivia be part of “the community”.
When we rouse ourselves early the next morning, the sun is shining bright, helping us to see with a bit more clarity that we’ve just spent the night in a Smurf village surprisingly located in central Bolivia. Mushroom-shaped lodging houses dot the landscape and to get to our breakfast of hard wholewheat bread and jam we ascend a rope ladder to an Ewok village in the trees. A whimsically designed amphitheater that would have made the Catalan architect Gaudí blush sits in the center of the compound. We are told by one of the hotel staff, with a certain amount of pride, that the theater was once hit by lightning.
“I should let you know that you might hear things about us here,” Pablo tells me, conspiratorially. “Chamalú has been offering these teachings for a long time, but nobody wanted to listen. And now many people are jealous because we’ve been living ecologically before it became fashionable.”
The place is quite charming (despite the inedible food), and my colleague and I probably would have considered staying there for the duration, except that it’s a trek to the conference grounds across town, and lacking internet or a phone signal, it wasn’t practical for two working journalists who had to file stories every day. And something about it just seems a
“Interesting!” is about all I manage in response. I imagine a semi-circle of robed Latin American hippies standing around the amphitheater at Planeta de Luz, chanting, and perhaps topping it off with a drum circle. When I ask him how long he plans on staying at Planeta de Luz with Chamalú and company, he gives me a puzzled expression and says, “Why would I ever leave?”
At this my ears perk up and my reporter’s instinct kicks in. So what are Chamalú’s teachings about anyway, I ask. With a beatific look on his face, Pablo spells it out for me. “Every day we unlearn all that we have learned up until now,” he says. “We learn a new way of living, together in community.”
It turns out that Pablo is just one
of a number of young people who live full-time at Planeta de Luz, from Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil and Uruguay. None of them are paid, but they all get free room and board, and on a daily basis they all meet to discuss the teachings of Chamalú. Taína, a young Brazilian woman with frizzy hair and an adorable puppy as a constant companion, tells me that she came to Planeta de Luz for a conference and never left. The leader and founder himself is rarely around, as he spends much of his time on the road giving lectures and speaking at retreats. He has an inspiring story, which we divined later. As a very small child he was once on the verge of death, but was saved by his grandmother, a Quechua Indian, who used the old native methods to bring him back to life and good health. As the self-crafted legend has it, Chamalú has been possessed with a deep spirituality ever since, and has founded a handful of likeminded communities in Bolivia, Mexico, Colombia and Uruguay.
Over the next few days we’d often run into the Planeta de Luz kids, usually manning a table at the conference, selling books, authored by Chamalú of course. They invited us to a party one night but we never made it out there, as their strict rules against alcohol or any other “unnatural” substances don’t gel with our sometimes hard living ways. Yet despite never having met the man himself, the lore of Chamalú and his Edenic community in the hills of Bolivia seep into the daily lingua franca of the somewhat skeptical, sarcastic band of characters we were running around with, a gang of journalists and activists. One night after a long day reporting on the comings and goings of the conference, we stayed out way past our bed times and ended up in a funky bar with great house music in downtown Cochabamba. There we ended the night, a band of drunken Argentines, Chileans, a Turkish journalist and myself, dancing to the beat and huddling in an impromptu circle, rapping about Chamalú in Spanish.
“Everything for you, Chamalú” “Without you I’m nothing, Chamalú” “When I’m feeling blue, Chamalú” “Chamalú, Chamalú, I need you in my life, Chamalú” At the end of a long week, we file our last stories, bid farewells to new friends, and the twenty or so of us who had taken the bus up from Buenos Aires prepare ourselves for another 50+ hour return trip. Our first night we watch hours and hours of episodes of Mad Men on my laptop, which half the bus become addicted to. The following night we stay up late singing songs together, Latin American lefty folk songs and melancholy tangos. Back in Buenos Aires we make plans to reconnect with everybody at a party later that week, and everybody spins off in different directions. My friend Asli and I head back to her place downtown and fall straight to sleep. The next day there’s an email in my inbox, from Chamalú. What? How did he find me? 22
Then it dawns on me that we’d
all given our email addresses when we registered at Planeta de Luz, and in fact we’ve all received the email, which I confirm after calling a few friends. It turns out that Chamalú is in Buenos Aires the following day to give a talk on “ancestral wisdom applied to contemporary times.” We get a few laughs sharing the anecdote, and forget about it just as quick. Two days later while Asli and I are running errands, we cut across Avenida Florida, the massive pedestrian promenade that runs through downtown Buenos Aires, Argentina’s massive capital city. It’s been said that over a million people walk up and down the crowded shopping strip on a daily basis, one of the reasons why I usually avoided it. Asli and I are just about to duck in to a store when something out of the corner of my eye makes me freeze in my tracks, and Asli does the same. Up Avenida Florida a slight man with dark hair and long beard comes walking, dressed in a dark green tunic. He gives the eerie impression of almost floating along the street, being pulled along by gravity to some very important destination. I do a double take before looking look over to Asli, whose mouth gapes wide open in astonishment.
Time slows for a second as I think about the insane set of coincidences that have had to occur for us to run in to the man himself in the middle of the busiest pedestrian thoroughfare in South America. Without thinking, and with giddy grins on both of our faces, momentarily intoxicated by the ridiculous beauty of the moment and exorcised of even the slightest trace of sarcasm or cynicism we both belt out at the top of our lungs: “Chamaluuuuuu!!!” Chamalú stops with a start, and walks over to greet us with a smile on his face and a twinkle in his dark eyes, almost as if he’s been expecting us all along. We give him a bear hug without thinking and breathlessly explain how we’d met his disciples in Bolivia, how charmed we were by Planeta de Luz and what an honor it is to meet him. He asks us if we’re able to make it to his talk that evening, but seeing as we’re so impossibly busy, our greatest apologies sir, but sadly we won’t be able to make it. After we part ways and Chamalú disappears in to the crowd, we run back to the apartment as fast as our feet will carry us, log in to Facebook, and share our mystical moment with the world.
In the summer of 2007 I started
out on a 14 month long overland journey with my Land Rover across Africa. The trip followed several restless years of covering Asia, Africa and the Middle East, but mainly Iraq, as a photojournalist for international print publications. I felt terribly exhausted and thought I was losing focus and the mental strength that I believe is required in order to do my work in a meaningful way. To put it bluntly: I was 29-yearsold and thought I was going insane. During my long journey, that took me to 36 different countries and made me circle the entire African continent by road, I was eventually able, after a long and sometimes painful struggle, to come to terms with the pictures in my head and the ghosts that haunted me. I not only became a superb Land Rover mechanic, visa gatherer and road block negotiator in the many months on the road, I most importantly became a human being again. Two-thirds of the journey I was accompanied by my then girlfriend Chiho and we are now working on a book, a story about a great adventure in its truest sense, and a discovery of balance, life and ultimately, love.
Dispatch: MAURITANIA June 3rd, 2007
I am in Nouadhibou in Mauritania. Iâ€™ve been trying to avoid writing this dispatch. I repacked the Land Rover again and again. I filled some oil into the engine, I made travel plans, pored over maps, read in my guidebook, drove a lot through the desert, cooked some spaghetti, and drove some more through the desert. At night you can see me sitting in my car accurately noting the dayâ€™s traveled kilometers, date and place into this small diary. I am writing about the highlights and low points of the day and about people I met. But mainly I am writing down my thoughts and ideas, as there is a lot of time to think about things when you are driving for days and days all alone through the desert or the mountains.
Dispatch: SENEGAL June 15th, 2007
Outside itâ€™s already dark. The sun was swallowed by the Atlantic Ocean some time ago, ending a hot and humid day. I am in Dakar, Senegal. I completed the first part of my journey from Daun, Germany to Dakar, 8,515 kilometers in about six weeks. I am happy. It was a bloody good idea to do this trip. Am I lonely? Yes, a little bit. I miss my girlfriend. A lot. It makes a huge difference if you are in a relationship or not when you do such a long journey.
Dispatch: MALI August 23rd, 2007
We are in Bamako, Mali. Chiho and I spent about ten days in Dakar, getting sorted out and hunting for visas to Mali, Ghana, Cameroon, Niger and Burkina Faso. Equipped with a variety of colorful little stamps and stickers in our passports, we finally said goodbye to Dakar and headed for Mali. Still in Senegal though, on the road between Kaolack and Tambacounda, we were for the first time confronted with two realities that will pose a continuing challenge on our African journey: Bad roads and rain.
We are in Accra, the capital of Ghana. Yesterday night we slept in a real bed for the first time since we left Dakar about one and a half months ago. I never thought I could enjoy a hot shower so much. Chiho and I both like camping with our vehicle a lot, but we were also reminded that there is an actual reason why people generally live in houses and not in cars. It’s far more comfortable.
Yesterday I became a member of the Bird Watcher’s Club of Limbe, Cameroon. To be quite honest I don’t know anything about bird watching.
Happy New Year from the Congo. The success of our expedition is extremely uncertain. Horrendous roads, an accident, a technical breakdown, an illness or ants eating all our Japanese ramen noodles can end our great journey at any given time.
September 21st, 2007
October 12th, 2007
December 28th, 2007
Dispatch: EGYPT June 27th, 2008
Chiho and I are in Egypt. Yesterday we left the African continent and we are now in a small town called Nuweiba on the Sinai peninsular. Many things have happened in the last few months. In Uganda I was persuaded to shoot down some huge rapids of the Nile River in a rubber boat instead of writing a dispatch. In Kenya I spent all my time underneath my Land Rover
repairing prop shafts, replacing rubber bushes, brake pads, engine oil, gear box oil, filters, etc… In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, I was struggling to find a decent internet connection, which I finally found in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. But I didn’t have time to write a dispatch there either, because I spent my days and nights under my Land Rover once again,
changing wheel bearings, engine oil and fixing tires. All this happened on Sudan’s only camp site at 45 degrees celsius. That’s 113 degrees fahrenheit. In Northern Sudan and Southern Egypt I got sick with a bad cold and fever despite the incredible heat and I barely managed to sit up straight in my driver’s seat.
Final Dispatch Dear All, We made it on time! On July 26, more than 14 months after leaving Germany with our Land Rover, Chiho and I arrived safely back at my parent’s house in Daun. In a ceremony at the local mayor’s office we got married on August 8, 2008. The wedding was also a great way to end our epic journey through Africa, with our trusted Land Rover performing his last duty of the journey as the official wedding car. We were exhausted but happy and a little proud when we finally arrived in Germany. In 444 days of constant traveling, we had driven 59.316 kilometers (36,857 miles), and circled almost the entire African continent overland. The most important thing that remains to be said is that Chiho and I performed this huge undertaking together. Because of my work as a photojournalist we are often separated. I’m never home. To be able to spend almost an entire year together in Africa was a great gift and I am convinced that we will remember our travels as one of the happiest times in our lives.
In the fall of 1992, I made my first trip to
Cuba, on a cheap week-long package tour bought in Merida, Mexico. For many years I had strongly desired Cuba, as if longing for a woman that you meet only once and can’t get out of your mind. I’m almost certain I lived there in another life. - Ernesto Bazan
Havana, November 14th, 1992
I walk, walk all over Havana. I walk for hours; I never
get tired of walking. I gaze at the constantly changing reality that unfolds slowly and incessantly before my eyes. Everything interests me, it all seems new and old at the same time: I’m in Cuba for the first time, but I was born in Sicily with a Spanish last name. Havana is in a state of physical and mental decomposition, in distress and falling apart. Degradation is vast. There are traces of broken dreams and desolation everywhere.
Havana, November 18th, 1995
After traveling for so many years, I finally understand what has fueled my passion for photography. By endlessly walking the streets in search of instances of everyday life, I feel that I’ve found my lost childhood. At first, it was overflowing felicity. My mind couldn’t go beyond that. I loved being in Havana: a powerful sense of belonging seized me, as if I had always been here. Every time I left, my only certainty was that... I wanted to return. Yesterday, walking on the Malecòn, breathing the fresh sea breeze, it dawned upon me that I had found my roots right here, unconsciously sought after for so long. Here, I’ve become aware of what had motivated my globetrotting urge, my obstinate picture-taking among distant cultures in an attempt to capture feelings and instants that would bring me closer to my origins.
With photography, I wanted to return to the happy years of my youth spent wandering the streets of the old Palermo, holding onto my Grandma Ida’s hand as we ran errands in the open-air markets. I wanted to relive those unforgettable moments spent out in the fields, helping the farmers with their daily chores or sharing their lunch. After so many years of wandering, I felt the search was over. Sicily and Cuba seemed to interlock like two pieces of a puzzle. In my daily sauntering along the streets of this island, my soul was finally at peace. Now I knew why.
Havana, December 3rd, 1995 We wake up kind of early every morning, have a hearty breakfast, get our cameras together, a few rolls of good old Tri-X film and hit the street. I adore the idea of getting lost in this city, which is becoming more and more my own. But this time I’m not alone in my wanderings: my friend and printing teacher Mike Levins is with me. I kept my promise and we have finally fulfilled our dream: the two of us, worry free, walking around without a plan, simply taking pictures, our pictures. Like two hunters stalking game, we just let our feet lead the way. The only obstacle between the photographs and us is a myriad of distracting elements that more often than not will f*** up the end results. But we are so happy to be here together at last, that we’re not even bothered. We just want to enjoy these two weeks that destiny has bestowed upon us. I know that I cannot take it for granted, not even for a second. Although we move around together, we keep our distance to let moments come our separate ways, but without losing sight of each other. Sometimes, I nod and smile from a distance, as a way of approving what he’s seeing. Mike does the same.
When the heat becomes unbearable or when our stomachs start clamoring for food, we have a bite to eat. We talk about the moments encountered, the intrinsic beauty of recognizing them, and the daring task of trying to capture some. At times, we even try to speculate whether or not we have a good picture. We love the warmth of the people, the magical mystery of this incredible city. Mike keeps repeating how happy he feels to be here, with me, to have left all his worries behind, even if only for two weeks.
Camagüey, April 3rd, 1998
Sometimes I’m asked when I’ll be finishing my work in Cuba. Usually, I don’t know what to answer, or I simply reply that it is a work in progress. The only thing certain is that I’ll continue to photograph, to roam the island in no specific direction, simply driven by my irrational instinct. All I know is that I want to probe the historical process Cuba is going through. I want to live and document what’s left of the Special Period, although this could turn out to be a very difficult or impossible task. I’m not in a rush. For the last six years, I’ve immersed my whole being into this reality. It doesn’t matter when I come to the surface again. My life is becoming more deeply intertwined with that of the island. My marriage, the baby on the way, will create an even more intimate relationship with Cuba. I feel that my hands and feet are tightly bound. It’s a feeling that provokes in me a sense of both happiness and uncertainty.
Bautista, December 29th, 1996
I break away from Havana’s spell. On a dreary morning, a chauffeur is driving me around the tobacco country. We meander in and out of Pinar del Rio. As we head for San Juan y Martinez, my eyes follow the road. They get lost among the myriad details of life in the campo. I constantly ask the driver to stop. I get out, I say hi. I ask the farmers for permission to take a few photos. With the sweetness of their words they comply. I focus, frame, and try to depict the dignity, humility and wisdom of these men. Like a probe, I’m exploring new regions of this fascinating land. After emerging from a sweeping curve, stretching before us is a landscape of gentle hills, with farmers lifting their hoes into the air, and letting them fall back again rhythmically, plowing the earth, to eradicate the weeds and clear the soil, ready for the tobacco seedlings. I instinctively stay inside the old Chevy (to watch their gestures framed by the car’s window and windshield.) My driver silently waits at the wheel. The penumbra inside the vehicle draws his silhouette. I raise my camera to place him on the left of my composition. His almost black mass works as counterweight to the gentle landscape while the farmers continue to work the soil. I shoot a few frames, trying to capture the lifting and lowering of their implements. I get out of the car as they continue their task with slow well-rehearsed gestures. I found this sentence by chance on my second trip to Cuba. Somehow I related to it and jotted it down on a piece of paper having no idea that it was describing my future end in Cuba: “Just like that, unexpectedly and abruptly, with no warning, no tell-tale sign; nothing that might have suggested that the end was coming. What a sense of futility came over me at such times, a sense of irreparable loss, weakness and helpless frustration!” - Calvert Casey
On January 6th, 2006
I was told that I could no longer teach my photographic workshops in Cuba.
On July 4th, 2006
My family and I left the island.
While traveling through Holland in 2007, I had
the pleasure of being introduced to the painter Sam Middleton. Little did I know that at that moment, I was speaking to one of the most respected abstract painters working in Europe. Sam Middleton is what you might call a man of the world. Born and raised in Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance, he was surrounded by some of the most progressive creators of art, literature and music of the 20th century. Growing up he also realized that he was surrounded by racial segregation policies that would limit his potential as a human being.
So what does one do when confronted with a possibly insurmountable obstacle? You create a clever solution! In Samâ€™s case he obtained the ultimate walking papers by enlisting in the Merchant Marines. As an underage soldier, he set off on a voyage that would lead him to discover many parts of the world. As they say, timing is everything and upon returning to New York during the 1950â€™s, Be-Bop Jazz was the sound of the city and Abstract Expressionism was the defiant splash in the face. All of those ingredients and his new travel experiences inevitably expanded his horizons and inspired him to become an artist.
Ragtime 1981 As a mostly self-taught artist, Sam began creating paintings, collages and lithographs that were noted for their graphic rhythmic quality. Enjoying his artistic success and freedom, he continued to expand his horizons by living in Mexico, Spain, Denmark and Sweden. As an African-American living the expatriate life, he became close friends with a wide variety of cultural icons that included James Baldwin and Nina Simone. Drawn to Holland’s beautiful light, like so many painters before him, Sam finally decided to plant himself some roots in one spot. He has been living in Holland since 1962 and is now one of the country’s most acclaimed painters.
In Holland Sam is truly ‘the man’, so much so that his adopted hometown of Schagen, often painted by Rembrandt, staged a city-wide celebration for his 80th birthday. Showing no signs of slowing down, Sam is still answering phone calls from young ladies asking for interviews and creating new art. His work is widely exhibited and collected by major museums and private collections throughout the world. What is his philosophy about life and art? “Your work is the interpretation of your free spirit, if you have one”.
They spread the rice on the ground barefooted. In squares it stays out to dry. All their affection, sweat and dirt flows from their feet into the rice. They walk over it, sit and breastfeed their children on the rice. Calm days in Bodhnath and walks through Newari villages. New architectures and words: Stupa, Chapati, Budhi, Bhadur Thapa I sit in the center of the largest Stupa in the world and watch masses of people walking round after round, clockwise and pushing the prayer wheels. I sit still and the monks kneel, tourists adjust their lenses, volunteers distribute flyers ‘Help us help the dogs.’ I’m awed by this separated togetherness, the sound of bells while we circle. This country belongs to women. I see them build houses with their hands, babies tied to their back. They smoke and slap clay onto clay in a mechanic. Their bellies exposed and arms as strong as the sun. Monkeys at Ghadar Temple are quicker than my camera. A sage lives here. I walk past the doorless entrance of his house and see him sitting in deep meditation. To my satisfaction he has long gray hair and looks up as I pass. On a bus to Kathmandu, if I remember correctly. Nobody has to stand but the seats are shared with strangers. A beautiful Nepali woman sits opposite me, a baby wrapped up in her purple sari. She is the first woman that I see here that shows a décolleté. Men on her right and on her left, while the baby sleeps in her lap. They both seem endlessly tired; she drops her head occasionally onto the shoulder of the elderly bearded man next to her; he does not seem to mind. Folklore music is blasting from the speakers, the child’s head and feet are resting on her legs. The body is almost touching the floor. While the entire bus stares at her oblivious beauty and the sinking baby, I start to wonder, will the man next to her, on whose shoulder she has been resting with such natural familiarity, start to touch her slyly in places inappropriate. Alternatively, I imagine the baby falling onto the floor and waking in terrible screams. But nothing happens; just her purple sari shines brilliantly. The bus leans into curves but they seem comatose. After another 15 minutes she suddenly wakes, picks up her child and stumbles out of the bus. As my eyes follow her descend and disappear, the bus drives on into the milky evening, and where I was going I could not remember. Mountain amorosity, curvy with the wild and elemental settling on its surfaces. The sun drops and I watch inflamed mountain peaks. I throw useless thoughts and old enemies down its ridges. I develop an addiction for sunrises and sunsets, the quiet has a fissure breath. I walk up the mountain to come down again.
Istanbulâ€™s Grand Bazaar is an especially great experience because I am a very passionate photographer, who loves detail and color. My husband and I own a restaurant, so for us the Grand Bazaar is like stepping into food paradise. It is packed with shops and vendors that call out for you to sample their sweets. The endless displays of colorful candies are an absolute delight to look at and taste. Even if you have not asked to taste something, the vendors will just give it to you anyway. As I was photographing almost every food stand, people became very curious and began to crowd around me because they thought I must be a very famous photographer. Turkish delights and flattery, how sweet it is! 72
PRICELESS TRAVEL TIPS from our contributing ROAD WARRIORS • Check if you need a visa for the country you are traveling to. • Check the country’s immunization requirements. • Carry money in a money belt UNDER your clothes. • Make copies of all your tickets, passport and valuables. Put them in a waterproof bag in your backpack. • I always immediately buy a local phone card, so I can text my family overseas and they know my phone number. It’s good if your guide has your number too, in case you lose each other. • Let people at home know where you are going, especially if you’re going off the beaten track. • If you shoot lots of photos, take a few 16GB memory cards, an Epson Viewer as a backup for full memory cards, extra camera batteries, a good camera bag and an additional plastic bag. by I. Tadros ................................................... • Even if your command of the local language is a disaster, don’t be afraid to make a bit of a fool of yourself by talking to people in their language. More often than not, it’ll be appreciated. I once got a standing ovation at a karaoke bar in Vietnam for singing, horribly no doubt, a Vietnamese love ballad.
• Read as much history and news about the place you’re traveling in as you can. Find out who the best writers are from the region, and read as many of their books beforehand or while you’re there.
a clean hand-towel, a small roll of toilet paper; extra pens and pencils and a small pad of paper.
• Walk or take public transport.
• I try to travel light, without too much gear, so I can move easily through airports and on the ground once on location. I love the Canon 24mm-105mm lens in particular.
• Eat the street food. by J. Huff-Hannon .................................................. • Be smart upfront and pack as lightly, comfortably and efficiently as possible. Imagine yourself sprinting down a street with what you’re bringing. Too heavy? Lighten your load now! • Check the electricity voltage of wherever you’re traveling to. Make sure you bring the adaptors you need for whichever electronics you bring. • Pack clothes that are multifunctional. Accessorize, darlings, accessorize! Support a local artisan and buy some jewelry. • Bring small gifts from your home, they’ll mean a lot to the people you’re giving them to. It’s a nice way to say thank you, solidify a new friendship, and show them a bit of your culture. • Some of the most invaluable things I’ve brought with me traveling are: a headlamp (great for searching through your luggage at night), an extra set of contact lenses,
by H. Morris ..................................................
• Drink bottled water, even though it’s bad for the environment. • If you can, always travel with a Visa / Mastercard AND American Express card. If you’ll be going to a place that doesn’t take credit cards, bring enough cash based on the number of days you’ll be traveling times the amount you expect to spend each day. ATM’s give you the best exchange rates. • Always arrive early at airports to avoid stress and last minute problems with security and your equipment. I never allow my equipment to leave my possession. • Don’t get journalist visas unless it’s absolutely necessary to get official permissions for access to your subjects. by Ed Kashi
For many years I have been hearing that Costa Rica is a great place to go on vacation. I also heard that the country was the leader in eco-tourism. All of that sounded great, but I have to admit that in my urban mind, I expected Costa Rica to be a typical tropical destination. I decided to sign up for an eco-vacation to discover what sustainable tourism is all about.
Upon arriving in the capital San Jose, my guide pulled over to a roadside souvenir shop where our group of tourists could get a view of the beautiful river and surrounding mountains. I saw a lady walking down a pathway leading to the river, so I began to follow her - until I heard our guide yell ‘No, no, no! It’s much better if you come up here on the bridge and look down’. We took his advice, doubled back and went onto the bridge, where I pulled out my video camera to capture the extremely lush vistas. As I was soaking up the fresh air and scenery, I just happened to look down at the river bank, which just happened to be full of fat belly crocodiles catching some sun. After I managed to close my mouth, I watched more than a few crocodiles fight for food and lounge around next to the river. All of a sudden it dawned on me that the path I was previously walking down, lead directly to the crocodile lounge!
At this point you should know
that in Costa Rica you will not be seeing nature, like at the zoo or in Central Park, while visiting you will be a part of nature. In fact, you will be a very small part of nature. Think about all of the house plants and animals you have ever seen in your life, supersized. It has been reported that Costa Rica is .003% of the Earth’s surface, but contains 4% of the Earth’s biodiversity. In practical terms, that means that you will be awestruck by the number of animal species, plants and vegetation that are within arm’s reach. Costa Rica is also topographically abundant. The country has several volcanoes, vast rainforests, and an incredible array of mountains, waterfalls, black sand beaches, and primary forests (thousands of acres of land that has never been cut down by man). I feel that the adjective awesome is usually overused, but in the case of Costa Rica’s biodiversity, the real definition of the word is applicable. Fortunately, the Costa Rican government is aware of the country’s gifts and has taken protective measures.
Twenty five percent of Costa Rica has been designated as national parks throughout the country. The national tourism board has spearheaded eco-tourism and sustainable tourism initiatives for hotels and tour operators. In the grand scheme of things, you will not find outrageously large hotels but instead many small boutique hotels that have implemented sustainable eco-practices that regulate their use of water, chemicals and energy. 79
The hotels are rated on a level
of 1 to 5 ‘leaves’ for their ecopractices and sustainability. Many of the hotel’s architectural designs wrap around the natural environment, such as dinning rooms that have trees rising through the roof. Most of the hotels use natural design materials and cleansers, and sell eco-friendly gifts made by local artisans, in their gift shops. On a personal level, eco-tourism means that you can visit the country and have a good time, but you can’t trash the environment, endanger animals, steal plants or be obnoxious. Costa Rica is not Cancun. What I found most surprising about going on an eco-vacation is that it wasn’t boring. Costa Ricans know how to put the fun in Eco. Each day brought a bounty of new information and physical activities. After I managed to not become an appetizer for the crocodiles, I signed up for a white water rafting activity. To be honest, small boats, rushing water and big rocks is generally not my thing, but I signed up to save face with my group. To my surprise after 15 minutes of very intense instruction, our group willingly climbed into a raft, went down river and lived to tell about it. The next challenge was the canopy zip-line activity. Basically, we walked into the jungle, climbed up towering platforms, were individually harnessed onto an overhead cable, pushed off the platform and glided at top speed above the rainforest. This activity goes on for about three hours. Does that sound like fun to you? Costa Ricans seem to think that’s fun and believe it or not, after a while I did too. 80
After playing Tarzan and Jane, the next day
we ventured into a national park. For the sake of simplicity, you should know that in general Costa Rica is comprised of what most people would consider to be the jungle. So when a tour operator tells you that you are going to a national park, you are going to the jungle. If you are wondering what a real jungle is like, just know that in relationship to whatever may be crawling around, you are completely out numbered and everything growing is much bigger than you are. As a final tip, most brightly colored animals or vegetation in the jungle are toxic, so don’t eat those pretty red berries. While in Costa Rica you will meet the most informative and passionate tour guides, naturalists, and scientists. While touring the Manuel Antonio National Park and mangrove, our guide Yannin, was constantly erupting with both passion and information. Throughout our hike he would command ‘vamanos!’, to keep us moving. While in the park we spotted monkeys, toucans, frogs, snakes and sloths. The mangrove cruise gave us an up close and personal view of the country’s virtually undisturbed wetlands and water ecology. Be forewarned that it is common for nature tours begin at 6am when animals are the most active. Believe me, after a few days of early morning tours one does begin to inquire if the animals do stuff at noon. Once we emerged from the swamp, our next day’s activity was something I always wanted to do, seeing giant turtles. Tortuguero National Park is a 24-mile stretch of beach along the Caribbean Sea in Costa Rica. For centuries, this beach has been one of the largest homes for giant turtles to come onto land and lay their eggs. The Green Back and Leather Back turtles in Costa Rica are the approximate dimensions of a Full Size mattress and weigh at least 300 pounds, which is why they are called giant turtles!
The turtles only come on land to nest during July and August, and they only lay their eggs at night. That night after a serious briefing from our guide, we proceeded to the beach. What we saw on the beach was nothing less than magical. The night sky was completely full of stars and we could clearly see the planet Venus beaming with her halo of light. The sea was crashing and all around us were giant turtles digging holes for nesting and laying eggs. We were able to get so close to the turtles that we could actually see their eggs falling into the sand nests. At this point, Costa Rica’s biodiversity completely blew my mind. Little did I know that the best was yet to come… On the last day of my Costa Rican adventure, I took a charter flight on Nature Air to get from one side of the country to the other. Nature Air is the world’s first certified carbon neutral airline. The planes are small twin engines with fantastic views. From above we saw landscapes comprised of dense forests, winding rivers, opaque white clouds, and mountains with waterfalls cascading on each side. As if that wasn’t enough, the crown jewel was the close up view of Arenal Volcano spewing smoke into the sky. A fellow passenger became so excited that she yelled out ‘Oh my God! The volcano is volcanoing!”, and indeed it was. In Costa Rica I got a real sense of what the planet may have been like before humans destructive behavior. A common Costa Rican expression for anything enjoyable is ‘Pura Vida’, which translates as the purity of life. While visiting Costa Rica I was gifted with a view of the natural world in all its glory, and that world is Pura Vida!
LIFE ON THE RUN
Nomads is a quarterly Travel magazine.
NOMADS Photography Workshop in BRAZIL Picture yourself in Brazil for the holidays. Carnival, Samba, and great photos! This December Lauri Lyons will be leading the Nomads Photography Workshop in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil! The workshop includes hotel, meals, and a fantastic cultural adventure. We have handled all of the logistics, so all you have to do is sign up and shoot!
For detailed information visit: www.nomadsworkshop.com
Published on Sep 16, 2010
NOMADS Magazine is an online travel magazine, featuring stories and images by world renowned artists and journalists, who live life on the r...