Dear Loved Ones,

( a letter written to family and friends back in February)

As some of you may know, my father has been experiencing stiffness in his right leg. The symptoms were similar to something he had around twenty years ago. After falling twice, first while walking the dog, second inside our home, he was confined to bed rest due to painful spasms that overtook his body. The medicine that helped so long ago, was not as effective as we’d hoped. On January 26, my parents decided to admit him to urgent care.

IMG_0684 (2)There, it was discovered that he’d lost half of his blood supply over the course of the last few months. After being transferred to the ER later that day – X rays showed a fracture in his femur. It had occurred more recently than either fall, we were told, perhaps even while he was being treated at urgent care. My dad was given four blood transfusions in those first couple days and since he’s been admitted to the hospital, the number is closer to fifteen. There have also been lots of tests, scans and procedures. At first there was talk of a metal hip replacement, then eventually a possible amputation.

IMG_0695 (2)At the end of last week we were told the biopsy results came positive for angiosarcoma; an aggressive form of cancer resistant to chemotherapy and radiation. After an internet search, I found that there may be a connection between angiosarcoma and the arsenic water + pesticides that my family was exposed to while we lived in Central California.

IMG_0689 (2)My mom has been at father’s bedside every single day. She prays for him, watches out for him and cheers him on all while somehow maintaining her work schedule. She is also thankful, as am I, for your prayers, support and visits during this difficult time.

IMG_0700 (2)At this moment, my dad is undergoing a surgery that is expected to last 6.5 hours. The doctors will be removing the affected area. Amputation is still a possibility depending on what is found. My dad is nervous about the procedure but we are rooting for him and hoping for a swift recovery.

IMG_0686 (2)

Please keep him in your prayers. Thanks!

Sincerely,

JQ

 

UPDATE:

My dad ended up getting a hemipelvectomy, which is an amputation that includes the lower pelvic region. They removed a large tumor and declared him cancer free at the time of the surgery. It was amazing to see how quickly the procedure benefited him. He no longer had high fevers, the pain was manageable and there was no longer a need for blood transfusions. He had twenty two in all!

Recovery took a little longer than expected – mainly in the strength  gaining department. He was initially frustrated in  having to relearn tasks as mundane as walking, however, my family and I are super excited that he is finally able to get around when for months he was confined to a bed.

He came home about two weeks ago and although he is doing remarkably well, several things have come up. The most crucial is that he developed an infection within the incision while he was in rehab. Personally, I feel that not enough was done to get rid of it initially. If it is not gone within two weeks, he will need surgery again.

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A Year or Two After Europe

Exactly two years ago, I was gazing at the Belgian countryside from atop a double decker bus. Right now, I’m probably riding public trans to work, absorbed into the LCD screen resting on the palm of my hand. While the initial shock of returning to the US has warned off, there’s still a part of me that longs for the continent across the pond.

No more French?

Up until last spring, watching French videos was part of my daily routine. There were also a few dates that involved a well traveled French speaker and skype sessions with others who spoke the language. Although the majority of my online accounts are still in French, my ability to actually speak the language has dwindled along with interactions with other French speakers.

Political Correctness

Everyone in the United States seems to get offended by everything. There’s cultural appropriation and then there are people deleting Facebook friends who are voting for opposing political parties. I desperately long for peace of mind; a morning scroll through my feed without rude comments thrown between people whom I thought to be polite.

Weltschmerz

The German word ‘weltschmerz’  means “apathy caused by comparison of the actual state of the world with an ideal state”. That’s similar to how I feel, but it’s more like a lack of inspiration:

For a year I lived surreally, inspired by marvelous adventures that befell my group of friends. There were royalty who lived castles, rainbows made from snowflakes which we chased under the setting sun, and rows upon rows of chocolate a the local grocery stores.  At my current state, I’m often disappointed by the mundane everyday reality. There are no real castles, it doesn’t snow and there isn’t even one row of chocolate at the store. It translates into my art as well. In France, photoshoots were magical; here, they are call portrait sessions.

Plotting

Wonder lust is such a thing that must be incorporated into one’s life as either a lifestyle or a learning experience. Personally, I would like to move abroad within the next five years. It is my goal to eventually move into a position where I can increase cash flow and cross borders for a quick adventure or an extended cultural experience.

adventure

In all honesty, returning to Europe will not be the same. Why? Because in my mind, I remember the experience of living there in a romantic sort of way. When returning, there will be culture shock, but hopefully it will dissipate and a new adventure will commence.

Featured Image Credit: Kaelibeth

Project [abitazione]

“So we are looking at this area, and this guy comes out with a machete and a bowl of cereal.”

“What? I thought it was just a bowl of cereal.”

“Nope – he also had a machete.” And thus goes the story of how we met our first contact.

  • Location of Interest: a property simply known as “Joe Joe’s Camp” on Google maps 
  • Project Goal: create a living room setting outdoors
  • Estimated Duration: three days
  • Anticipated Cost: $300

COUCH ProjectButterfly BreakThree weeks later, I stood under the trees with my guy friends. Armed with yellow gloves and pink for myself, we stared at the tires, shopping carts, candy wrappers and Bratz dolls littering  the ground. Clearly, this had meant home to somebody and the thought of it was disheartening.

The further we got, though- the darker items became. Bio hazardous waste, stolen goods, records of criminal activity and the worst-  a graphic message  written on two halves of paper with the words “Dear visitor, please read”…

CleanUp CrewWe piled as much as we could away from the center; there weren’t enough bags to scoop it up, there wasn’t enough daylight to try. Thankfully, the spot where I wanted to set up was void of rubbish. The rest of it we would just have to deal with… at five forty-five in the morning.

At that time, various living room props were brought and set up at Joe Joe’s camp. They’d been acquired from all sorts of different places. The first was a vintage television collected from a neighbor’s yard. It was this item that I’d centered the vision for Project [abitazione]. The boat, lamp and memory box were borrowed from friends’ storage units. The couch and typewriter came from the local RE:Live Thrift.
Couch (1280x954)

We met up with our model later that morning. She prepared for the shoot on location with a floor length mirror  we’d provided. Originally there would have been a professional hair and makeup person available but do to a miscommunication, the model and I did our best to recreate the look ourselves. There were a couple issues trying to reflect light into the space, but after bit, we kinda figured it out. Lacking the 5 in 1 reflector, we used  the  mirror instead.

IMG_0207bWe tried to portray two story lines within the project, the first being a pensive  writer  and the latter being more of an army wife longing to hear from her loved one. I incorporated the writing theme due to the model being a creative story writer herself. We actually met during a screenwriting class and I felt that adding her personality into the shoot really brought the images to life.

After the shoot, the most important props were gathered. I started putting up crime scene tape around the furniture but was reprimanded by one of the assistants. Ended up stuffing it in the memory box which was hidden next to the TV. My point with the tape was supposed to ward off people from messing up the set. Anyways, we were gone for a few hours and upon returning – the memory box was gone. The rest of the set remained untouched.

There were more people available for the second half of the project. A local business was using the set for an advertisement project. They ran electricity through and having a working living room lamp to challenge the night was the coolest thing ever! The rest of the evening was a blitz of filming for the advertisement and doing doughnuts in the dirt lot.
Butterfly BreakThe final day, furniture was returned to storage units and thrift store. Afterwords, the guys and I stared at the mess as it dared us. We spent several more hours loading bags, tires and broken things onto the truck. These were turned in at a local dump.

In the end, one of the locals came by. He explained that our first contact was no longer in the area. We also found out more information about those who used to live where we’d just cleaned up. It was a relief to find out that there where no children involved despite the toys that had been left behind. Our second contact and his dog moved in that afternoon.

Couch Project (3)

Later that day my dad asked  “was it worth it?”  It took a while before I could say “I’m not sure”. For a long time, I was under the impression that the project had failed. Didn’t even edit the photos until months later when the model asked to use them as Christmas pictures. It’s it’s been over a year now; enough time to reflect on the outcome.

Initially, the project was supposed to kill two or three birds with one stone, so to speak.  Not only was it creative portraiture but also a set for the local business’ advertisement and a community service with the clean up and all. It was not an overzealous goal but I was disappointed that our efforts where not as organized and impactful as desired. The final cost totaled several hundred dollars. The rental of the U-Haul  alone was enough to enduce a mini heart attack. Although the project was mostly sponsored, I’m troubled over the costs involved and whether or not the pictures alone where worth that amount. An investment of some sort would have have been nice but I haven’t figured out how to do that sort of thing yet.

The editing process did bring bit of contentment. The images are not bad at all but they left me wanting more; a series of pictures depicting, a kitchen, a bathroom, a bed room in the great outdoors. They also left me wondering how it could be done again in a more productive and organized matter.

-sigh-

 

Photography by:
JACQUIE ROBINSON
Model:
Victoria Shavlik
Onsite Assistance:
Erwin Ferguson
Paul Marovitch
–Special Thanks to —
PC Place & Re:Live Thrift for the set design.
Onsite Contacts: Keith & Justin
and
Hannah Kahrs, Brisa Ibarra & Leroy Lima for their time spent on this project.

Abstract Love

"Out of all the fish in the sea…" 🐟🐠🐟 #grammasters3

A post shared by Jacquie Robinson👣 (@jqvr) on

Pictures of couples are a tricky thing. Those in them are usually in such a hurry to share with social media that little thought goes towards potential consequences. Think about that awkward Myspace phase in which teenagers kept posting closeup pictures of themselves french kissing. That was embarrassing right? Well so is the moment a Facebook user is caught ‘not in a relationship’ because they and their ex-muse have impulsively untagged all significant pictures between them. It’s the absolute tattle tale sign of the end. The end of couple spam and the beginning of unsolicited private messages requesting the latest gossip. Am I right?

"…I've found someone to share coffee with me!" #justkidding #nocoffee #redcups

A post shared by Jacquie Robinson👣 (@jqvr) on

As a photographer, my distrust for couple pictures developed from a high school neighbor who requested portraits. I underestimated her chronic bad luck boyfriend syndrome. A couple check marks on the calendar and I was introduced to a new guy, another portrait request in hand. The amount of time and effort put into the first set of images was upsetting, especially because it was done at no cost.

This experience lead me to believe that couples, especially the younger ones, often post pictures of themselves for the wrong reasons. They may want to prematurely validate their relationship, make others jealous of their adventures, post private thoughts directed at each other…etc. Of course, if the couple terminates their relationship – the images risk disappearing. Alternatively, they may stay through multiple relationships as timeline of past conquests. Both scenarios risk causing turmoil among respective friend groups.

As photographer, it may sound a bit weird but I crave the privacy of keeping certain memories to myself. With my current boyfriend, I’m always tempted to upload pictures of us on Instagram. However, if something were to go wrong, I don’t want to look through my feed and see painful reminders. Instead I want to look back at memories that I’m proud of did I don’t mind having lived. That’s why when we started dating I started taking pictures of little things that put us as a couple but not in a big extravagant sort of way.

There’s a lot of people who post intimate pictures of themselves and their significant other, but imagine when they break up… would it be best to delete everything or to keep it for the record? What kind of reaction will the images cause amongst oneself, friends and family? Was it worth the instant gratification and the amount of likes that you got for the first 24 hours after posting? That’s definitely something to think about before posting.

Light show 🔦 before the storm ☁ #optoutside

A post shared by Jacquie Robinson👣 (@jqvr) on

Someone is Selling Burgers?

Burgers, music, music videos, Islamic propaganda, galleries, apparel… Just kinda thought provoking, the things one finds on accident.

So, basically a couple days ago, it was discovered that several people have used my pictures for various projects. They didn’t asked for permission and they didn’t give credit.  I’m not upset, not surprised but rather deep in thought.

Going back through my images I realized that there are several incidents in which images were used off the internet for class projects. I asked the professor about it specifically; how does this work? Are you sure I can use this for my project?  We were simply told to Google up the highest resolution possible. It didn’t matter what was used. The rule of thumb was simple; class and none profit projects were ok.

But was that really ok?

One of my pictures, I found, is being used to sell shirts for a clothing company. They blended it quite well with their model and what not. The funny part is that I recognized the backdrop landscape in the image. Of course, anyone can take pictures at that location – but no one can take them identically.

 

Set Fire to the Brain

OriginalTheir comments flow freely through the feeds of many photographers. These being thoughts and critiques from those who believe that photography’s brilliance is limited to it’s original exposure; straight  from the camera if you will. They say that an image is otherwise ruined when it no longer represents the truth of the situation in which the photograph was taken. Essentially that the image is a fib… a misrepresentation of reality, thus defeating the purpose of capturing a moment.

Photography is an art in which everyone has the right to defend their preferences, and within this post, I will defend mine.

This is the thing; I’m an artist. My art is a reflection of me, my feelings, imagination and innovation. It’s a self prescribed therapy, more beneficial to the artist than the viewer. A chance to explore areas that cannot be audibly spoken.

When taking a picture, I don’t just see what’s before me. There’s always potential for mood change; different lighting, maybe even a different time of day. I love manipulating sun flares, dotting the sky with stars, and these are just a few of my favorite things. Sometimes one can also get carried away with butterfly wings and dragon spells. It’s all part of the adventure.

To that individual who claims to appreciate my photographic skill but also spends ample time criticizing technique if they find that the photo of their interest has been post processed – maybe you should look into finding other photographers that suit your visual needs.

I will set my creativity in a roaring fire and it will burn for as long as I desire. Set Fire to the Brain

Blog Signiture

Mountain Selfie Addicts

It’s no secret; social media nurtures an obsession with images of one’s self. It’s contagious and while evidence shows an increase in narcissism and mental disorders, selfies are unlikely to go away for a very long time. If you can’t beat them, join them, right?

Bad Selfie Game

make the most of your Outdoor selfie game
  • -PREPLAN your shots-

If you are familiar with the itinerary, make a quick list of the types of pictures you would like to accomplish throughout. Let others in on your intentions so that they won’t be completely horrified when say, you show up to a hike wearing a wedding dress or an astronaut suit.

  • -Have someone else pull the trigger-

If there are other photographers in your crew, or otherwise decent picture takers, have them take the shot. Yes, selfie is short for ‘self portrait’ but unless you are equipped with a tripod, your buddy might get a better picture in a decent amount of time.

  • -Don’t get carried away posing-

If you are new at something, for example rock climbing, don’t climb up a rock without a rope and stretch your leg way up in the air towards an invisible hold. Those who rock climb on a regular basis will see through the ignorance. This applies to any other sport or hobby.

  • -Put your camera away after a designated period of time-

If you plan to take landscapes, keep your lens out. If you were only interested in getting shots of yourself and your friends in certain compositions, but it away when you are done. Nature is best enjoyed live, without the distraction on a tiny screen featuring an imperfect copy.

Blog Signiture

Cheers to a New Chapter

I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions. Instead I believe in constantly checking on one’s progress in life and making adjustments as necessary. That doesn’t mean that one can’t assign goals, instead it means that goals should be determined on a daily basis rather than just once a year. For this blog there are a couple of things I would like to accomplish. These are listed as such:

Post at least once a week, PREFERABLY Mondays at 7am
GET AN OFFICIAL WEBSITE AND SELL CONTENT ONLINE
20,000 VIEWS AND 10,000 VISITORS FOR 2016
DO ANOTHER INTERNATIONAL PHOTO PROJECT BY 2018
Cater more to readers rather than myself

 

Alright ya’all. That is it. Hope the holidays were amazing! Blog Signiture

Oh to Be a Rebel

“The greatest pleasure in life is doing what others say you cannot do.”
– Walter BagehotTunneling (2)It started with a Facebook post…Untitled

Someone commented that unless I was interested in exploring the sewage system, such an adventure could not go down in my area. Oh yeah? My little cousin  messaged me about a tunnel she’d found near her home. Challenge accepted! We made plans to hang out for the weekend.

Originally my cousin and I were supposed to meet up during Sabbath School to go hiking.  A misunderstanding, however, landed us on a whole different adventure. Somehow we ended up at a birthday party and crashed a wedding all in one afternoon. That evening we climbed up to a perch on a rock face and watched a movie with our guy friends. After that, we all spent the night ‘tied in’ to prevent ourselves from falling over the cliff on which we were sleeping.

The next morning, the guys had to work so they dropped us off just in time for the Sunday service.  My cousin and I got covered in chalk while trying to climb a fence to get to church. The hall monitor questioned our intentions as we searched for the Collegaite class but since it had just let out, I posed as a high schooler for the rest of the morning. Such had been the events of the previous twenty four hours.

The  conventional approach would have been relax on  living room couches after such a crazy weekend. Then again, that wasn’t as exciting as the possibility of exploring underground tunnels. Thus, after a quick lunch and a farewell to the parents, of we were, ready.Tunneling (3)Accompanied by her younger brother, my cousin and I found ourselves walking along a waterway. On the way back from church, I’d skipped barefoot along the sidewalk. Now, even the thought of testing the road with my toes shot a negative response down my spine. Our only comfort from the heat grew in the form of greenery that had replaced the water below. This included the shades of trees that grazed our cheeks momentarily as we walked through.

Finally, the time to explore an underground tunnel arrived. “There it is,” my cousin said, pointing to a structure in the distance.  We climbed over concrete bricks and pushed weeds out of the way in order to get there. Once inside, there was immediate relief from the sun within the concrete walls of the pipe.

“Graffiti Tunneling (4)on the outside says ‘find the dead rat’.” the other girl said as she took out her knife,  “I didn’t find it last time.”  She turned on an LED light on the edge of the knife’s handle. “Maybe we’ll find it today.”

I took out my own knife just in case. The little brother was suddenly not as amused by the newly acquired hideout. “I don’t want to go, I don’t want to go!” he cried, running towards the entrance.

The child wanted to sit outside on the concrete ring but this point, the tunnel was safer than being further exposed to 100 degrees weather.

“Wait, can you stand there?” I asked. The camera clicked. “You have to come see this! It looks really cool.” The little boy came running.

“Can we do another one?”

And thus we spent a good forty five minutes shaping our silhouettes near the entrance of the tunnel. Pretty soon the child wanted to take pictures himself. I secured the camera around his neck, and despite my cousin’s warning, stepped away to give him space.

The result was not bad at all:

Tunneling (5)A ways into the tunnel was a turn that my little cousin was determined to check out. Being the braver of the three of us, she held her knife and ran directly into the darkness. With the separation, everyone became more sensitive to the sounds that vibrated within the walls of the pipe. The siren from a cruiser, for example, seemed like an army of police out to get us.

When the younger girl returned, she handed me the lit tactical knife, saying that the tunnel continued beyond the turn without an end in sight. “Also,” she said, “I didn’t find the dead rat.” Well, that was comforting. I traded her the tactical for my girly Femme Fatal.

Running into the structure reminded me of temple run. There was limited visibility and one had to be ready  for anything. Passed the turn there was nothing and so I returned, much to the joy of the youngest child.

Afterwords, we sat by the entrance reading the vandalizing notes of previous visitors. By now I felt to urge to leave but my little cousin did not agree. She sat transfixed by the words on the wall and wouldn’t budge. It was the part of being a teenager that I felt I’d neglected; rebelling against the rules without caring about potential consequences. I started reading the notes too. A particular scribble stood out from the rest. It had the letters R-A-T scratched out above it. My cousin and I glanced at each other in disbelief.

“I think that’s the dead rat.”

Seriously? We went all the way in when all along this was the dead rat!? Well, if anything, now I can’t complain about not exploring underground structures in my current area of residence.

At last, we stepped into the sun, but it wasn’t without discussing which our guy friends we could lure in. Wouldn’t it be fun to find out where the tunnel could lead?

The First 25 Hours of my 23rd Birthday

I woke up Sunday morning, unable to move with ease. After a quick inventory, I discovered that my left leg was covered in scratches  poignantly stinging at the slightest touch. Among the other discoveries was a swollen right knee highlighted in a shade of purple, mosquito bite on the left arm and soreness creeping across my right shoulder. It took a few hours before I noticed the poison ivy…

ƸӜƷ

“What are you doing on the 19th?” they’d asked, and while I’m the kind of person who favors a walk in the wilderness on the anniversary of my birth, there was nothing specifically planned. “Ok, good. Don’t make any plans, we are going to kidnap you.”

The night before the birthday, my guy friends showed up and off we headed. Upon my request, my little cousin came along as well. I cherished her company as we were the only girls. My parents thought we were headed for Vegas, but I knew better.

Friday – 8:00pm

Originally, the guys planned to go rock climbing. Unfortunately, there was a home invasion in which the suspect fled at 100 mph on the wrong side of the freeway. A helicopter shot down the vehicle and as a result we almost got stuck in an overnight traffic jam.

9:45pm

We dislocated our vehicle’s bumper by venturing into a desolate mountain path in an attempt to reach our destination. A group of drunk men looked up in surprise as we successfully reemerged from the rocky experience.

Saturday – 12:32am

After playing catch with a tennis ball in the living room, it was decided that I needed a few lessons in the art of wrestling. You know, in case I decide to visit Skid Row or something.

3:51am

My little cousin, myself and one of our friends wanted to go for a walk in an orange grove. Our other friend who’d accompanied us did not want to take chances among the trees. Instead, we explored the neighborhood and even climbed up a tree in someone’s front yard.

4:43am

The younger girl and I ran ahead of the boys so they wouldn’t see us venturing into what we thought was an orchard. We returned when they flashed us with a spot light. Next, my cousin and I jumped a fence into a playground. The boys joined us after they noticed the fitness contraptions we’d discovered along the edge of a field.

5:25am

We climbed on top of the monkey bars and drifted off to sleep while searching the sky for shooting stars. Thankfully nobody fell from the bars, the fall would have been devastatingly high.This probably tops the time I fell asleep on a table in the middle of a cow field while photographing stars.

Saturday – 11:59am

After Sabbath School, my cousin and I climbed over a wall into the church’s preschool. We talked about ‘acting mature’ but then proceeded to try out the freestanding teeter totter and raced tricycles down a hill. We somehow managed to sneak out without tearing our dresses.

3:10pm

Group nap during another friend’s goodbye party. We woke up to people taking pictures of us sleeping.

5:00pm

I decided to take a nap on the side of the road while the guys were trying to figure out the directions to a climbing spot in the mountains. My cousin knelt besides me and the next thing we know, a police van full of inmates stopped to ask if we were ok.

6:37pm

We climbed down to the ‘Creek of Misery’ and stopped questioning the name after getting tangled in blackberry vines and attacked by swarms of gnats. The scenery was beautiful though.

We couldn’t find the rock climbing spot so some went bouldering while others climbed trees or learned to whistle on acorn shells.

6:37pm

The driver stopped at place that usually has hammocks. This time, there were none up. Instead, we swung from rope swings and emptied our pockets before turning cartwheels on the grass. When the sky faded into darkness, they turned on the spotlight. Some sat on bleachers while others took turns wrestling.  Then they showed my cousin and I how to jump into a roll. We took Slow-Mo videos of the guys doing tricks. When it was our turn, my cousin was able to jump over someone laying on the grass. I couldn’t do it for the fear of falling while diving for the roll after the jump.

8:30pm

The group drove up to a friend’s house but instead of going in, we hung  out on couches the neighbor was trying to give away. The guys became upset when my little cousin and I placed a couch in the middle of the road as one of them had jokingly suggested. Hey, hey, it was a photo concept I’d like to recreate in the future!

9:05pm

I climbed on the back of a Vespa for a ride around the neighborhood. I was enchanted by the lack of hair blowing in my face as it does when windows are rolled in a car. At some point we tried to race a car up a bridge and almost won.

9:42pm

Upon our return, I was lead into the house. The inside was decorated with pink and green ribbons hanging over the biggest olive and pineapple pizza I’ve ever seen in my life. The boys wished me happy birthday. We laughed at each other as some used casserole dishes, pot lids or paper towels to substitute for the lack of plates.

10:30pm

I walked into the kitchen and my friends started singing happy birthday. They handed me a card and let me cut the first slice of oreo cake. The rest of it had to be meticulously calculated to allow everyone an even slice.

Sunday – 12:15 am

My friend’s mom walked into her son’s room to find us all passed out on the floor. “You guys can spend the night,” she invited, but we got up reluctantly because three of us had already missed curfew.

Exhausted, I fell asleep in the trunk of someone’s car because they’d laid out a blanket.

Sunday – 1:05 am

One by one, everyone got their back-packs from the back as they were dropped off at their homes. My little cousin didn’t get in trouble because her parents weren’t home. One of the guys though, got a call from his dad in China in regards to his whereabouts. I got a text from my mom but didn’t see it because I was stumbling trough the gate into my house.

ƸӜƷ

The next morning, I texted my little cousin:

“I feel like we kidnapped you this weekend, getting you home all late and stuff.”

“It was fun though.” she said.

“I’m so glad you were there! Otherwise it would have been JQ and the five guys O.o”

“I noticed. Those guys must really like you.”

Despite all the minor injuries which could have been prevented, I love my guy friends to death. They are certainly the best and their company was more valuable than a trip to Vegas.  I’m not sure who else would have been down to keep me entertained for more than 25 hours!

Two Years Without a Cellphone

We can be incredibly disconnected in this day and age with computers and cell phones.

– Marcia Gay Harden

For the majority of my college experience, I’ve lived in places with limited cell service. My Napa Valley campus, for example, was notorious for being catered by a single carrier. Students who weren’t connected to the correct phone company had to find other means of communication. Then while living in France, the phone situation was such that those who purchased phones had service plans biased in the neighboring country of Switzerland. What a mess.

My specific lack a of cell phone started the summer before I left for the French countryside. At the time, I was planing a quick trip to Mexico before hopping the Atlantic. Although the trip to Mexico was never made, I canceled my phone service assuming that the phone would be useless overseas. Didn’t carry around a phone for two years after.

How did I make up for the lack of phone? 

I used a Wifi biased text/call app on my IPad to communicate with people. The service was also available through any device connected to the internet.

Good
  • Less Distractions – There was no phone waiting for a side glace while somebody else was talking. Even when I got bored in church, I’d have to resort to drawing in my sketch book. Of course, while asleep, showering, visiting with friends or on a date, it was guaranteed that I wouldn’t be distracted by incoming messages. I otherwise checked for them regularly and got back to people within a fairly reasonable time frame.
  • Free Service Outside the Country – My WiFi based texting/call service allowed me to contact my American friends while I was outside of the country at no extra charge.
  • Lower Risk of Illness? – Research suggests that cellphones contribute to various health hazards including cancer and hearing loss. Not using a cellphone on a regular basis would automatically decrease my chances of developing cellphone related health issues.
  • Most People Didn’t know – Since people were able to call and text me, most didn’t actually realize that I didn’t have a phone.
  • Maps! – I learned how to read old fashioned maps and didn’t have to depend on a GPS to get me from point A to point B.
Bad
  • Harassment – People sometimes saw the lack of cellphone as a negative reflection on my person. Several times, those in superior positions said derogatory statements in regards, even if they weren’t necessarily true.
  • Addictions – I was still addicted certain apps like Instagram… not having constant access caused anxiety. Sometimes, updating meant I needed to borrow somebody else’s device.
  • Wasting Time – Once, a friend and I spent five hours standing in front of the Louvre Museum waiting for another friend. Granted this was because he neglected to answer his phone. Anther time, I took an hour long nap in a tree because I couldn’t find the person I was supposed to be meeting up with.
  • Cerfew – Ugh, who has to be home at 11pm in this day and age!? Contacting my parents in case of tardiness was complicated.

So how did I finally end up with a phone? 

There was a series of work related events that lead to my acquisition of a phone. I am currently borrowing one until I decide which model to purchase later this month. My number ported quite successfully from the texting app, so I am content.

How do I like having the phone so far? 

Went out to dinner with my colleagues and found out how to turn off the restaurant’s TV screens using phones. The place got %30 darker. Oooops! I guess they increase mischievousness.

I have mixed feelings about this new venture. We shall have to see how it goes. Wish me luck!

Memories Of the Sweetest Melodies

Follow the StarsMemories Of the Sweetest Melodies

Smiles and sunshine greet you every day,
All while I’m trying to keep the hurt and pain away.
We live apart, only connected by the memories,
But locked in my heart are the sweetest melodies.
Those we used to sing along, dance along,
Everyone used to say that we just belong.
La, la, la the world turns; life goes on,
Laughing to cover up that “we” is gone.
I ain’t writing to a lost love …
Just remembering those sent from above.

___________________________________________________

Originally, the poem was about a friend who moved away during middle school. Now every time I read it, the lines pretty much relate to any close friend I’ve lost contact with over the years.

Twenty Six Hour Drawing

The drawing instructor gazed at us with a smile spreading across her lips. “Create an imaginary world,” she said, enticing our imaginations. What was not as enticing, however, was the hundred sixty eight hours and  twenty four inch papers we had to complete the assignment.

Given that mermaids would be the easiest subject for me to draw, I settled on an underwater world in watercolor. My friends in the class; Paul, Amanda and Zach also chose their worlds and mediums ranging from acrylic to charcoal. In the evenings, we’d hang out in the art department to work on our projects – at least that’s how I remember it. Since it’s been a few years, well, there’s nothing like Facebook to bring back the memories. According to my roomie, the creative process looked something like this:

The RoomieMy wall elaborates a little more. In summery, I spent a lot of time singing on trees, dancing on tables, chasing and racing people down the art department,  sleeping in class and staying up till past four in the morning. Here it is, just for laughs: 26hourdrawing1

Kinda surprised that it’s not mentioned on there, but there was also an incident in which one of my classmates and I got locked out of the art department. We ended up climbing a ladder to a balcony which allowed us to squeeze through one of the second story windows. To our uttermost surprise, the drawing instructor was just down the hall from our entry point, seemingly staring in our direction. Thankfully, she didn’t see us. Otherwise, our little mission to get to our art projects late at night could have proven costly. In retrospect, my friends and I should have mapped out our schedules more diligently.

The night before the project was due, Amanda and I sat in our dorm hall for hours trying to complete our worlds. By the end of it, we were having incoherent conversations and fell asleep among the decorative furniture. The next morning, my roommate and our friend Jenny helped me color in the mermaid’s hair. I dragged the paper into class with a trail of colored water dripping behind me. Twenty six hours had been logged into completing it… it was nap time!

Underwater World, Age 20

#‎jayaramsmiles‬

“Hello? Can anyone hear me?”

There was no reply, not even in cheerful melodies usually sung by birds. I dropped the sound kit on the forest floor and ran further along the dirt path.

“Hello, Hello!?”

Again, nothing except the eerie buzz of silence. I turned back, but every direction seemed a mirror image of it’s self. The only comfort came in the form of sunbeams piercing through the canopy. Even then, it was awfully dark for a Sunday morning.

“Jacquie?”

Searching for the voice proved unsuccessful until it’s owner emerged from the trees.

“I thought you might have missed the turnout.”

Indeed, we had to walk back quite a ways before finding the hidden route among the branches and leaves.

“I found her!” Zach called when the ground started rising into all sorts of ramps and rails. In the distance, Jayaram snickered. He knew it was hard to find. The bike trails had remained unmarked for years and it was exciting to be let into the secret world they created.

Jayaram showed us around. I remember specifically the rack where bikes were hung and the deck on which he and his friends spent countless afternoons. One couldn’t help but marvel at the structures that had been so carefully built and wonder how long it had taken. Coming out to watch the guys or even reading a book in the morning seemed like a good idea. Jayaram said it was ok as long as we kept the location on the down low. 

That day, there was no time for leisure reading in the woods. Instead, I glanced at an instruction manual as we set up tripods, cameras and sound. It was the second time in less than twenty-four hours. The first had been for Video Yearbook, this time Zach was filming for his ‘Group Production’ project.  I recorded sound on an R-44. Jayaram, an expert at his sport, was not short of tricks to perform. #‎jayaramsmiles‬We interviewed him afterwards and he told us about his childhood and passion for the outdoors. I was especially thrilled because I hadn’t realized how much he cared about nature. He seemed to be a genuine person to be friends with. Unfortunately, despite the various classes I shared with Jayaram, this was the only time that I got to hang out with him.

Two years later, while returning home from Central California, an unsettling post made it to my newsfeed. Fingers were crossed and prayers were sent wishing for a misunderstanding. Too soon, the social network was overflowing with messages confirming the fact. Jayaram was gone as a result of a tragic accident.

In the following days, I searched for the external drive containing the images taken of Jayaram during the shoot. I wanted so badly to post them on his wall, but felt uneasy since I didn’t know him like the others. Regardless, in those couple hours that we worked on the video, Jayaram’s character shown through and left an impression.

ƸӜƷ

The footage we took in the woods was used during Jayaram’s memorial. It starts off in the beginning and again at 06:11. I chose to post it today since it’s graduation weekend and he would have walked with a Bachelors in Communication.

This unfortunate event has left me thinking. Mostly, I realized that when treating with people – strangers especially – it’s wise to uphold a positive attitude. Life is unpredictable; one can never tell when the last memory will be shared or what will be the most lasting impression. Let it be a good one 🙂

Joie de Vivre

Sometimes, the best moments are unplanned. There is no room for being let down and no time to think up better circumstances.  Instead it’s a magical experience that can never be recreated to uttermost perfection. To some, it’s a lifestyle. To others, it becomes an addiction in which they crave the feeling of bliss.

Adventure.

Speed.

Not getting caught.

Of course, it’s not always about frights and increasing heart rates. Gazing up at the stars or watching the sunrise adds to the same effect. Shooting stars and dancing rays of light, they are all part of the adventure. It’s living life for oneself, rather than through characters in movies.

Instagram.

Facebook.

And other social media.

Off Roading (1)It must be because of this that they say “Everybody dies but not everybody LIVES”

So, go on and make everyday  as epic as can be 🙂

South of the Border

There was something exciting about seeing the rays of sun touching on the hillside of a country not my own. It had been a while since I’d crossed an international border on foot. In Europe, it was as easy as an afternoon stroll, but in the states, it’s gotten more complicated than that. Despite the research and fading memories, getting to Tijuana required guidance from a young man who pointed towards the right direction.

Baja (4)The hope of seeing an international border line marked across the road faded the further we walked from the gates. Unlike previous occasions, there were no red light check points or soldiers poising their high caliber weapons. Instead, American tourists and Mexican school children mingled in the street. The sight of it was beautiful and in some ways deceitful of the  issues that have presented themselves in that area.Baja (5)I’d gone south of the border for various reasons. The first was quickly resolved after walking into the immigration office. That would be the first Baja California stamp on my passport. Chihuahua, Zacatecas and Distrito Federal have already been stamped on there.

Of course, I’d been to Tijuana on various occasions, but considering the border zone, I didn’t realize one could get a stamp for visiting.Baja (7)Also, I wanted to get pictures of Tigger in Tijuana. Of all the road trips through Mexico and the year he accidentally stayed behind, Tigger had never been to TJ.

To my delightful surprise, the Mexican soldiers did not poke his shoes as they did in Zacatecas and they did not pretend to cut him open as security at Sainte-Chapelle, Paris  had done. The thing is that since I’d gone to Mexico with a friend, and wrapped Tigger like a baby, many of the locals thought we were newly weds. Definitely had to turn down offers of tequila and fine dinning.

Baja (2)

Instead, I was set on getting a Mexican blanket! The sky was too cloudy to not have one. Research on buying souvenirs was done before hitting the shops. Of course, it was the usual – don’t purchase anything on the bridge because it will be more expensive, avoid this and that.

Honestly, the marketing strategies used in attempt to get sales were quite universal:

The Flirt – 

Individual appearing to be attracted to customer. Often complimenting, smiling and giving discounts biased on physical or linguistic appearances. [Previous encounter – Brussels, Belgium, when a group of Moroccan salesmen thought it was cute that I spoke French.]

The Creeper –

Individual who disrespects customer’s personal space in attempt to get a sale. Often appearing out of  nowhere, intimidating, grabby, pushy and loud.  [Previous encounter – Paris, France, when a group of vendors demanded that I buy Eiffel Tower souvenirs… also encountered in San Francisco… and Los Angeles, but without Eiffel Tower souvenirs.]

The Storyteller –

Individual who shares personal stories during business transaction. Often entertaining, friendly and sometimes distracting. [Previous encounter – San Andres, Colombia, when a hotel owner became friends with my family during our weekend stay.]

The Bored –

Individual appears indifferent to customer. Often looking off in the distance, talking on the phone or watching TV. [Previous encounter – Amsterdam, Holland, particularly in the red light district with the girls doing their nails behind the glass.]

The Genuine –

Individual who attends customers from a neutral standpoint. Often courteous and attentive but basing interactions on customer’s needs. [Previous encounter – Geneva, Switzerland, when a guy friend was shopping for boots. The store employees were helpful but didn’t follow us around or provide unsolicited information. The third visit was very conversational.]

Baja (6)One little souvenir that could not be resisted was this engraved keychain. When first seeing samples of the artisan’s work, I was upset that I hadn’t brought along my fountain pen for the treat. After watching the process, which consisted of sawing out the negative space, perhaps it was best not to have repeated it on the pen. Nevertheless, the finished product looked absolutely amazing, especially since it was done by hand. Couldn’t help but get two of the customized key chains.

As for the blanket, it was suggested that we take a cab to Avenida Revolucion. Not wanting to miss out on the colorful walls and alleys, we made our way on foot. All along, I asked for prices which ranged from $40 to $25 for the same product.

Haggling was the name of the game in Tijuana. That being the case, perhaps the stories behind the marked down prices were falsified. Vendors always appeared to be in a hurry, plummeting  discounts up to 50% off. Some claimed to have prearranged meetings, other had to pick up their kids from school and so on.

When someone quoted $20 as starting price, I just wanted to purchase the blanket immediately. By then, I’d given up on speaking Spanish as a way to disguise tourist status. Strangely enough, the owner – a fluent  English speaker -thought I was Mexican. Got it down to $17 by the help of my friend. Even if we could have gotten the blanket for a lower price, the sales man deserved to get something for it. After all, everyone’s got to make a living.

Baja (3)

As soon as I bought the blanket, a woman came up to me at the store entrance.

“I’ve been waiting for you,” she said, trying to steer me towards her booth.

Frightened by her sudden approach, I answered in French, saying “Désolé, mais je ne comprends pas.”

Her facial expression didn’t change. “You must come with me.” Dang, she was persistent! We walked away and mingled into the crowd. Blanket in hands, it was enough shopping for one day.

Glitter and Rope

I’ve started following Instagram accounts with outdoor photographers. The way they capture foggy mountain cross backs makes them seem to be living a dream. Nostalgia for the alps and especially the little French mountain with the Swiss flag is especially strong at this moment.

IMG_0183a (1024x768)Unlike the previous weeks, this time there were no strolls on LA rooftops, no scouting for hippie garbage cans in Riverside and finally no fancy outfits. Instead, I hung from beams at REI, off roaded at midnight, climbed ladders and clinging to dear life from the tops of boulders. ­­­­ Inspiration. IMG_9140 (1024x683)There was also a significant amount of time spent arguing about the best way to conceal a harness during a rock climbing editorial. Really? It may look more natural if the harness is showing. We shall see. That will be a project for another time when there is enough equipment available… maybe a year from now.

Glitter (396x1024)In the mean time, I’ve been practicing non- portrait shots. It’s all too easy to get used to capturing the beauty of the human body and forgetting to take other techniques into consideration.

This particular set on the left was a bokeh experiment. All four images were taken at the same distance with a 50mm lens.

It’s kind of interesting to see how the change in focus altered the over all color and feel of the image. It would have been cool to add the silhouettes to this sort of environment.

In the future, I’d like to work on merging the subject within the backdrop… making them belong as part of the scenery. Not entirely sure how it will work out as I’d also like to include elements of editorial, fashion and conceptual photography.

Due to our inability to find the correct colors and sizes, Karen and I have also discussed the possibility of designing our own outfits for future projects.

So many ideas and not a lot of time to get it all together. Hopfully, I can present a specific plan in time for summer. Our group has been planning a lot of adventures for then.  Sunset 2 (1024x158)

In Control

Public undress isn’t something I usually encourage. It’s so uncomfortable to see someone in that predicament. Strangely enough, I may or may not have ended up in my underwear, smack in the middle of a brightly lit sidewalk. Thankfully, the incident didn’t result in nightmares. There have flashbacks though, often triggered by the raging fury of European cruisers. I hate panic trickling up my spine but it does bring back the memories. I love the memories.

It was somewhat late in the evening but the sun had only dipped behind the horizon within the hour. Already, city lights gleamed in a rainbow of color.  The lake was the most rewarding.  The moon shimmered on its surface and the fountain lights turned on to showcase the Jet d’Eau in all it’s glory.  This was why we’d done it. This was why we were stood above the city without ropes or any other logical safety measure. We gazed out only in the safety of the metal that kept us from falling. We wanted to be adventurous. We wanted to be epic like the crane climbing rooftop hanging, Mustang Wanted.IMG_0192 (1280x837)

The moments of bliss were interrupted by the loud cries of police sirens. Perhaps our all black ‘voleur’ attire wasn’t enough. Perhaps we’d been caught. Either way, it was time to get down. Our decent was accompanied by the passing of Swiss patrols and injury to our knees as we struggled to get down. Every second, we held our breath in suspense. Every moment, we were in danger of getting caught.

In the end, one by one, we managed to crawl under the fence. We managed to get away. A few minutes later, the three of us stood on a seemingly deserted street. The timing was off. Cars and pedestrians suddenly burst through, finding us in various stages of undress. This was the 3rd outfit change in one day.  We let down our hair and left in dresses. No one would have recognized us then. Girls in dressed couldn’t have been up in the crane just a few moments before.

Looking back on the experience, it’s not the actual crane climbing that was most treasured within the adventure.  We’d talked about it before; the reason why we’d taken a break from school and moved to Europe. Throughout our academic careers, it was easy to follow the advice of our parents. In a way, it was as if we were trying to live their dreams and not our own. Climbing the crane was symbolic because it was something we’d chosen to do for ourselves.

Silly at it sounds; it was the point of realization that I could actually do whatever I truly desired. Not so much about going outa control crazy but rather that I was in control of my destiny. By the same token, it was also understood that my life will be determined by the choices I make whether good or bad.

 On ending thought, it would have sucked to get deported!

Growing Up

It started because of a misunderstanding.  Someone suggested that we do a photoshoot Downtown Los Angeles, near Skid Row. These’s a catch; it had to be around midnight and we could bring tents and ‘camp on the street’.

“Hey girls, just wanted your opinions in regards to something that came up…”  I asked of those who shared my previous record of sleeping in caves and climbing up cranes.

“I would go if there would be other street smart sturdy big people, especially if it was a “safe” neighborhood. I’d be most comfortable going if I had a personal connection to someone in/from the area who would be there,” came the first response. The other agreed with a ten if conditions during the campout matched the stated description. Fair enough.

Unfortunately, due to distance, cave dwelling buddies wouldn’t be able to make it. Never the less, two of my local friends were down. We spent hours plotting the perfect street light campout. Week one would be location scouting before the real deal. Everything was going to be perfect.

Skid Row (5)As weekdays were checked off the calendar, certain flaws became more evident. Most specifically, my fourteen year old cousin’s excitement surpassed the rest of us. Problem was, her parents didn’t know about it. In order for her to come, we would have to say the right combination of words … no lies of course, but definitely nothing about sleeping on the street in the most dangerous part of town.

Because of a prior commitment, my cousin was unable to make it to the location scouting. Instead, I messaged Pallas on the way to LA. She was totally up for it.

“Don’t wear makeup,” I told her “you need to be as under dressed as possible”.

Funny thing is, no matter how badly we’d tried to dress down, it wasn’t enough. Our guy friend, the one who drove us, was much better fitted for the occasion. He lent us t-shirts and beanies to further the effect.

“Do I look bad?” I asked Pallas.

“No, you look like a bank robber.”

“Great.”

We watched boys ride across the street on low riders, women walking dogs and men bouncing basketballs. They all seemed to know their ground and were confident in what they did. The didn’t glare or threaten but instead went about their business. As we opened the doors, the fear that we would get swarmed like the characters in World War Z faded away.

We strolled up, down the streets and among their residents. Eye contact was avoided with the locals but I did smile at a few of the dog walkers. The first smiled back but after a while, I realized that many were weary because of how I was dressed. It was our cheery attitudes that gave our true identity away. Interestingly enough, this was only spotted by those we tried so hard to impersonate. The others didn’t see it because to them, we – the unfortunate, were all the same.

Skid Row (3)The three of us returned after dark out of curiosity, just to see if the ambiance would change. This time, it was the rodents that gave us away. They roamed the sidewalks like cattle on the range. Normally, I’d take a rat over a hamster, but these were no ordinary creatures. I almost tripped in my attempt to stop. Pallas screamed. The furry things seemed unfazed as they continued scampering across the concrete jungle. From then on, we were very aware of where the rodents were.

Skid Row (4)Some exploring and a couple pictures later, we were back on the freeway, facing the red and white streaks. Overall, Pallas and I decided that the streets weren’t as scary as they’d been painted. In fact, the worse thing we’d encountered was a menacing character stenciled into a wall.

 Our friend said that although we’d survived this adventure without incident,  it wasn’t guaranteed that we’d have the same luck the next time around. We concluded that perhaps the rainy weather had contributed to the lack of violence on the streets.

We were indeed lucky. The next day, police shot a man five times near one of the spots we had visited. It was infuriating. Five times is  rather excessive force, especially when a man can be killed through a single bullet. The threat hadn’t been felt the day before. The people had been peaceful then. Now an unrest grew among the crowd. It would not be wise to spend the night.

The day after the shooting, I met up with the person who had suggested Skid Row. He was very concerned that I’d gone in with such a small group.

“You need to take guys, lots of guys with you.”

As it turns out, it wasn’t supposed to be for a photoshoot but rather for filming a humanitarian project in which people could choose to camp out among the homeless.

Ooops. Well, guess that actually makes more sense.Skid Row (1)

The friend who drove us down to LA got in huge trouble as soon as his parents found out. I too was scolded in regards to wanting my fourteen year old cousin to come along.

“You know that she is better suited to stay out there than me,” I protested.

“Yes, but she can’t legally choose for herself,” came the reply “If her parents are ok with it, fine, but you should not be encouraging this behavior.”

I agree, but now that is the problem. My little cousin knows me as a friend, not a mentor. She knows how I respond through the lack of authority and in a concerning way, she looks up to me.

“What are your goals?” I asked her, thinking that maybe I could encourage my cousin in the right direction.

“Break into somewhere, not someone’s house (but) explore an abandoned building, for pictures.”

Her other goal of entering college by the age of sixteen or seventeen was much more appropriate.  She sure knows how to get me, though! Regardless, I hope to be a better influence on her in the future. If anything, I want my little cousin to be better than me 🙂 

Re Evaluating

A couple months ago, under the warmth of the sun shining into my lovely French dorm room, I decided to ‘drop out of school‘. The majority of my reasoning revolved around the ridiculous cost of tuition at my home campus. It was so bad that living in France was half the cost of tuition. Ironically, instead of dropping out, I ended up at an even more expensive university.

At the beginning of Fall Quarter my adviser (who also transferred from the previous school) asked “what do you want to do after college”? Simple as the question may seem, it is not any easy one to answer. My mind went blank, and I, a 22 year old girl of many dreams and passions was unable to answer.

As the sand dribbles through the glass of time, the question becomes more frequent. Everyone wants a truthful answer, everyone wants to know. I prefer not to quench curiosity in detail. Three more quarters; that’s what’s left of my education. Ideally, by then I’ll be able to graduate with a BFA in Film and a minor in French. That’s all they need to know.

There’s a thrill that comes with working on a film project. Excitement flows among crew and cast as production gets underway. Sometimes it’s these little things that are forgotten when my major becomes frustrating. It’s so annoyingly frustrating. How can that damn piece of paper worth $160,000 be inverted into a worthy investment? In the end, will it all be worth it?

A couple weeks ago during the credits of a movie, I stated that if my name would roll up on the big screen once, I would be happy.

“That’s not true; you will always want to do it again. You will never be satisfied with having your name up just once.”

I freaked with the realization that the other person speaking through the dark theater was right. It’s not just getting a credit though, it’s the whole process of seeing a collaborative piece completed. That is what inspires me.

The school advertises us to get internships and work our way up. That’s how one is supposed to make a career in this field. A recent MBA graduate disagreed.

“As an intern, you can be easily replaced.” I hung my head because he may be right.

Now that it is Winter Quarter, my Professional Practices professor would like to know what motivates me to peruse film.  I have mixed feelings about leaving the school with a film degree. I am already a filmmaker, I am already a photographer, school cannot change that.

It’s kind of embarrassing to say but I envision myself living abroad and not persuading film specifically. I just want to enjoy life, create, help others and make a living out of these things. Is that weird?

Straying from the Truth

They say that one should not lie because more lies will be created to cover. I have never understood this as well as last Saturday. Eventually, I will have to explain to my parents. Las Vegas + wedding dress? What a scandal.

It started when Erwin suggested that we drive to Death Valley to check the venue for an upcoming camping trip. He told four others. Anastasia thought it was cute but impossible. Hannah is underage. Gretchen was appalled. Pallas understood, she agreed to go and I just wanted to get away.

Glendale, Ca -4:28am

Parents thought I was at school. Classmates assumed I was going home. Took advantage of the confusion and left before the sun rose. Later, Pallas and I saw rays of cream through charcoal atmosphere.

Inyo, Ca – 10:04am

Wind, Maybe SnowThe sky turned so blue that it made the scenery pop out of a postcard. Pictures were mandatory; I threw on the white dress. The wind wrestled with the fabric, pushed me up on my toes and hassled the others.

Stovepipe Wells, Ca – 11:12am

“Inquiring Minds would like to know if you are going hiking.” Erwin’s Mom texted. She thought he was in LA visiting Lindsay.

“I won’t be able to make it.”

There was a pause, then “I greeted Lindsay, she is at church today…?”

Salt Creek, Ca – 12:09pm

Salt Creek“Jacquie isn’t  here either,” Gretchen texted, “It’s so pretty here, you are missing out…”

Badwaters Rd – 3:40pm

The car drifted off the road. “Why are you stopping?”

I turned around and saw the lights. Pallas looked out and saw the uniform.

“Do you have any weapons?”

“Yes,” but we didn’t list them all.

CA 190, Near Zabriskie Point – 5:30pm

“Did it bother you to invite two girls younger than yourself and tell them to not to tell?”

Erwin laughed, “Sounds so wrong when you put it that way.”  It would have looked worse if he’d told the ranger about the machetes in the trunk.

Las Vegas, Nv – 8:00pm

Las Vegas at Night

“You’ll fit right in,” they said, so I kept the dress. We strolled down the strip but even the lights couldn’t compare to infinite sparkle splattered above the desert.

Somewhere – 11:45pm

“We heard you talking with a guy.”  I scrolled down to see when my mom had called.

“Oh, just went out for a walk.”

La Sierra – 3:01am

Finally made it home after 813 miles in less than 24 hours. Perhaps it was immature for us to go scouting unbeknownst to the other campers. I didn’t necessary lie about what was going on – but I said things that lead people from the truth. Even worse, as a group – we started creating an elaborate cover story in case we got caught. Seriously? It’s easier to be honest.

The campout is in a week. We shall see what happens between now and then. Normally my parents would understand, but me wearing a wedding dress in Vegas?

Ending note: My mom dreamt that I went to Death Valley without her, yikes!

Reckless

It was the second time in one day. I tried to relax in my chair because the choice was not mine; it could not be fought. At least this time it wasn’t in heavy afternoon traffic. At least we weren’t dodging other vehicles at five feet from impact.

The copilot held up a walkie-talkie. “We are up at 95. 95 going to 100, you copy?”

“We are 90.”

“Really? He drives faster, why is he going so slow?”

“95.”

“105, we are at a 105!”

“103”

“Dang, they are catching up.”

The speedometer in our car steadily rose till it reached a new high of 115. “Can we make it to 120? Can we pass 120?” the copilot barked. “Can we -“

“Hey!” a female’s voice cut through the radio, “my mom will never let me hang out with you guys again!”

“Shoot!” The copilot twisted the nob on top of the talkie, “I forgot about them!”

The lights ahead rushed towards us. We started passing cars like the were parked on the side of the road.

“Can we please slow down?” I asked.

The car held steady for a couple seconds. It seemed like more; as if time was flying across our windows while the vehicle held immunity. Then of course, we felt the tug in our seat belts and the other car passed us as we slowed to 80.  We watched it mingle into upcoming traffic along with the blue lights that followed a couple minutes later.

“Hey. Hello, hell-o?”

“They might be too far away, try calling.” Said the driver.

“Hey, there is a cruiser behind you.”

“Ok, thanks.” Came the reply from the other side.

Much later – as the droplets of rain dribbled at the windshield – we arrived at the parking lot. The car drifted through the cones without knocking any of them. We screamed and laughed in delight but the driver didn’t seem surprised.

“We used to do this all the time,” he whispered under the noise. The car came to a stop and the ride was over.

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This is what 120 looks like. The speedometer is glowing and the colors are streaming past the windows.

Freshman year, we were assigned to take a picture and play around with the light. This was my finished product. I was told that taking pictures while driving should be as illegal as texting. I agree.  Anyways I wasn’t the one behind the wheel when this picture was taken 😉

Of course, the image above is actually a composite taken in a Canadian car. It was quite hilarious; all of the sudden, everyone got really quiet. We looked at each other and out the window, but the Napa Valley grapevines weren’t moving any faster than they usually do.

“Why are we going at 120?” I finally asked. Then after a moment of silence, we laughed because the speedometer was in kilometers, not miles.

Scars Behind Grins & Smiles

They ran for their lives and in the mist of the chaos, were silent as they fell. The men walked away with blood on their hands. It got to the point that one could no longer tell the red from mud.Scars (2)Disgusted and unable to stop it, I walked away with the child. We went to an empty cornfield and watched the clouds contort as the last rays of light warmed the earth. And then, as night fell, trucks rolled in and the army arrived.

Scars (3)

Frightened, I picked up the child and left again only to be faced by the presence of high caliber weapons held by those who were meant to protect us.

#animalcruelty #drugwar #bloodeverywhere

A Taste of Europa

They looked like toy soldiers from afar but up close it was no joke. Most people ignored them, but I was terrified. They stood silently at their posts but threatened with their eyes and the AR-15s they carried. Finally the glass slid, allowing me to walk through.  I sighed in relief and scanned the crowed for a familiar face. She walked right by and didn’t seem to recognize when I called her name. Guess it’s been a while.

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Christmas lights and poinsettias still hung across the streets. There was even a Santa sitting at a coffee shop, probably resting from last year’s festivities. Of course, there weren’t teddy bears suspended from windows but never the less it brought back memories of Alsace, France. Even the Christmas markets appeared to have been similar.Zacatecas (1)We walked down the cobblestone chitter chattering away. At every corner, Ari’s Dad kept asking if I was sure I’d been there before.

“Si, pero fue hace mucho tiempo cuando estaba chiquita.”

For some reason he didn’t seem to believe. Maybe he was right, because in my recollections, the city of Zacatecas had indeed looked  different. I remember it as being  smaller, more crowded with lots of little shops. We always used to go shopping with Ari’s family. In one particular  incident, we dragged our parents into a candy store only to be kicked out. The shop owner could not tolerate our toddler selves chasing each other with handfuls of candy from the bins he was selling.

“Te acuerdas de eso?”

But they shake their heads and neither of them seem remember. Ari’s Dad guides us into a theater where they are playing a documentary of Pancho Villa. Every once in a while, Ari leans over to whisper. She wants to make sure I understand everything about the history of her country. The quality of the film is actually very bad in comparison to the elaborate architecture of the building and the show that proceeds it.

We walked out to the Cathedral after. It’s Baroque style reminded me of the many churches my friends and I had visited throughout our European adventures. Unfortunately, we were too late and the doors were closed for the night. A burro accompanied by a group of musicians walked up. I wanted to plug my ears and couldn’t help but feel sorry for the little guy. Ari said that they used the burro to carry beer for anyone who might want to come out and dance to the music.
Zacatecas (6)Finally, Ari’s Dad lead us into a small Café. We sat under the arches across from flower hanging balconies. The waitress just smiled and promptly brought Abuelita’s hot coco along with a slice of carrot cake.

“This is better than Starbucks! Do you know what Starbucks is?”

Of course they knew. And really, Starbucks couldn’t beat the homely environment in that Hacienda styled courtyard.

And thus began my adventures in Mexico.

 

UP

My roommate and I walked into Starbucks on a quiet evening. As we walked up to order, one of the guys studying waved hello. He’d bulled the heck out of me during a previous class and I’d chosen to remain aggravated. Nevertheless, a polite nod was returned in acknowledgement. We ordered, sat down and I started drawing in my sketchbook.

All of the sudden, the young man was standing by my side.

“How dare you come in and not say hi!!?”

My roommate and I stared back up in confusion. Some more loud interactions and a couple expletives later both of them where somehow discussing Pixar’s “UP”.

“I  (insert explicit language here) hate UP!” he said.

“What!? You are a horrible human being!” she retorted.

The rest of Starbucks glanced at the developing drama with a little more than mere annoyance. The young man grabbed my sketchbook .

“What is this? You draw in it like everyday.” He  leafed through it. “You must have so much (insert explicit language here) time.”

“I get bored.”

“See that’s what happens when you (insert explicit language here) study something like film. You have too much (insert explicit language here) time.”

“Common’ don’t you get bored in class or church?

“I don’t really go to church.”

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 A couple weeks, several more interactions insulting my major (and what my Austrian friend called ‘a bold confession of interest’) later – I sat in worship with with fellow students. Topic of discussion was tough; does God answer prayer and if so, why doesn’t he always intervene? Towards the end, we watched a short film involving a car accident and a pastor talking about the matter. The idea of human loss hung in a cloud over my head for the rest of the day.

Church didn’t help much either. Eyes widened as I entered through the double doors. Balloons. So many Balloons!  Enough to question whether the design team had recycled all the red ones from  Carl’s home in UP.  For some reason, probably due to all the references, there was an whelming feeling that death ‘was near’.  Foreshadowing (a film technique), seriously!

In an attempt to comfort, I responded by drawing :Drawing Up

Unfortunately, during the announcements fears were confirmed as we were informed that someone was being treated in ICU after being pulled from an intense car accident.

And then… this … utter shock and disbelief. A young woman from a nearby congregation passed away during the birth of her child a some hours earlier!

To make matters worse, the pastor’s sermon happened to also be themed on death. Normally it would have been funny – but saying something along the lines of:

Which story line would you prefer?… a young couple married, they had kids… then they died. Or a woman liked a man but he got married to a different girl… then they died. (Inset more scenarios in which everyone dies).

Everybody dies! *nerves chuckling*. “

It was not funny. I closed my sketchbook in absolute horror and even considered the possibility of returning to my room for a nap. It was (and I will say this honestly) lust that kept me through the rest of the service. Lust over the hundreds of red little balloons.

True to my expectations, at the end of the service the children ran up to the stage and received balloons in bunches of ones, twos and threes.

“Are you trying to get rid of all of them?”

“Yes, did you want them?”

I explained a sudden revelation for a  photoshoot. Fortunately, they decided not to give me the rest of the balloons. I walked out with about thirty while surely hundreds continued swirl around the interior of the building. Thirty was enough, it was an amusing struggle to get them back into the dorm!

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 Eyes fluttered open. The room was dark. (wanted to insert explicit language here). I stumbled over to check for any new messages but there were none.

Ooops!

At least an hour later my model and I ran outside. She had also fallen asleep. TG for ‘days of rest’ though!

There was not a speck of heavenly light on the horizon. We walked nervously towards the nearest source of light. My tripod has been missing for a few weeks. It was gonna be hand held or nothing. That kinda worked. Those first couple of images exposed some serious shake. Eventually, we leaned the camera on the ground and that did the trick.

UP.And that is how this photoshoot came about. Weird huh? A beautiful result to a spontaneous decision.

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With a heavy heart, I’d like to note that baby Lennon, passed away earlier this week. He’s story is one that has reached many homes in America and across the globe. The Huffington PostBuzzfeed, the UK’s DailyMail (just to name a few) have all featured it. Even though I can’t specifically remember meeting them, the news has deeply touched me. My heart goes out to his family as they go through this rough time.

And One Day We Can Laugh About Those Epic Fails

As a photographer, I’ve learned that things don’t always flow smoothly as planned.

1. Monster in the BushesLight ArtOne time, while doing light art at the lake, my light artist messed up an outline. I laughed so hard at the result that I almost peed! That wasn’t as serious but on a different night while working on astrophotography – I really had to go! 2am in the middle of nowhere and no Portapotties around.

Ben JosseAfter taking advantage of a shadowy area across the street, I told the guys that I’d heard some eerie sounds in that direction. They laughed and claimed to have followed me and ‘seen everything’. A few minutes later, though, the eerie and bizarre sounds reached their ears. Everyone became increasing paranoid and we had to leave very quickly!

2. Shooting Snipes
The Saleve at Night (1280x404)
Speaking of Astrophotography, one of my photo buddies tells a story in which he was interrogated by police because they thought he was a sniper! Wrong kind of shooting >.< always thought it was hilarious until a patrol of French police decided to lecture me on night photography. The fact they’d caught me under a street lamp didn’t help my case at all!

3. Hanging Out With Ninjas

Some friends and I dressed as ninjas to scout out a rooftopping view in Geneva. We decided to leave our perch when the man watching TV in the building across ran into his room to change.

IMG_0192 (1280x837)After a successful decent, the police happened to drive by (sirens screeching into the night sky) which scared us into switching outfits. While the officers didn’t see us, a group of pedestrians sure got a good look at our undressed bodies as we struggled to get different cloths on!

For weeks after the incident, I had some serious flashbacks/issues with European sirens.

4. No, Really, Don’t Get Blown Away

Behind the ScenesOnce, we were shooting on a mountain during a wind storm. The person holding the reflector may or may not have almost gotten blown away. In the end, it took three people to hold down and steady the reflector!

5. When that One Guy Got Attacked by Gypsies

During a photoshoot, we had people dressed as gypsies and clowns carrying equipment to our location which was close to a mile away. Got lots of strange looks and smiles from people.How to carry Things (995x1280)A couple weeks later my friends and went gypsy camping. While our misadventures included getting burned while dancing around the fire, guarding our belongings from a ‘group of men’ and waking up to freezing temperatures in a cave… We got back to school in time to hear that one of the theology students had been confronted by hostile gypsies the previous night.

That’s definitely not how we remember the incident! What a misunderstanding. Anyways everyone knew who the gypsies where because of the photoshoot. Both parties laughed and apologized for scaring each other in the middle of the night.

6. Are We There Yet?

WorstPhotoShoot (2)Pretty much anytime the crew has to hike over a mile just to get to the location! Happens more often than I’d like. Even worse when we have to transport crippled people. It’s gotten creative.

7. Case of the Missing Ringmaster

Piano (3)I’ve been working closely with an acrobatic gymnast in a series of editorial circus photoshoots. While our results are always fabulously awesome, our heads don’t always flow in the same direction. After three months of struggling with our project we’d finally arrived at our final shoot. Unfortunately, the day of – it became apparent that we were missing a ring master!

Tension really picked up when I suggested a name and got “Eww, no!” as a response.

“You hate everyone!” I screamed.

We exchanged quite a look as we stared at each other in absolute horror just hours before the shoot. Didn’t see each other again until it was time to take the pictures. We laughed in the aftermath of the situation. As it turned out, both of us had spent that time feeling bad and trying to find the other. Neither of us even wanted the unnamed person to be involved.

My photo editor agreed to be the ring master and everything went on as planned.

8. Why We Be So Ghetto?

WorstPhotoShoot (1)We’d planned a photoshoot in a specific location during the month of January. Because of a series of complications, said photoshoot didn’t take place till after the time change. No one had revisited the location and when we got there… Well… It looked like a hot mess! Not only did people have to stand on chairs in an attempt to fix lighting – but one of the guys ended up walking around the pond in my high heeled rain boots trying to clear up the debris.

While the people came out great, I have yet to fix the background situation.

9. Wardrobe Malfunctions
Abandoned Houses (2) (1024x662)
During a film shoot, a friend asked for advice on what his model should wear for a photoshoot at an abandoned building. While the original suggestion was ‘elegant long dress’, the model and assistants (including myself) showed up in quite the opposite.

The photographer stared at us in disbelief. “How did we go from elegant to rebel …. to, to this!?”

We couldn’t quite answer… Except for that maybe dressing in that way was rebelling against our somewhat conservative backgrounds.

While knowing that clothing malfunctions and dancing assistants proved to be a distraction through out the shoot, I honestly don’t know how the final images turned out.

Deans and TAs offered questioning looks as the girls and I ran into our separate dorms at midnight.

10. Dreaming of Cow Licks

astrophotographyWhile trying to get pictures of star trails, a friend and I dragged out a picnic table through a gate and into the middle of a field. Given that these sorts of images take forever, we fell asleep.

Worst case scenario – we wake up as a result of moos and cow licks produced by a herd now surrounding the table and blocking every possible escape route. The low hum of a tractor increases followed by angry and threatening explicatives. We make it 15 minutes late to our first class and definitively arrive under questionable circumstances.

The truth: we left soon after realizing that the above situation could have easily happened.

11. Nightmares for Days

IMG_9496We discovered a freshly killed dehorned dead goat during a photoshoot at an abandoned property.

While trying to report the incident, there was a huge misunderstanding which almost got myself and the crew in trouble. Apparently our dean heard that we had trespassed into an abandoned house to take pictures but had suddenly found ourselves surrounded by goat corpses… a whole heard of them!

One misfortune animal is enough, and for the record nobody was prowling about inside an abandoned house!

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So yeah… there are more stories, but you probably get the point. Photography is always an adventure. You never know what you are going to get.

When Modest is Hottest

So… A couple days ago, I was meeting up with some people regarding a film project. They were looking for my photography page so I told them to look it up on Facebook.

Whaaaa? These are your photos!?”

I scooted over to take a peek. The surprise was certainly more enjoyable for them than it ever would be for me. First results page – pictures everywhere… Especially a dramatically enlarged image of my girlfriends and I dressed in either onesies, boxers or swimwear.

“Are these your bikini caroling pictures, Jacquie!?”

The Santa hat on one of the girls’ heads confirmed it. What the heck Facebook!? Did you seriously need to bring up slightly inappropriate images from like two years ago on the front page of a search result? The answer is NO, you most definitely should not be doing that.

Had to go online later on to figure out where and why those images had appeared in such unsolicited manner.

I’d like to believe that fashion is a form of art and self expression, but sometimes one has to plan beyond personal preference. Sometimes modest is hottest. Especially when you don’t want professors, dad, future/present boss, stalkers or otherwise sketch individuals staring at pictures of you in a bikini.

Yes, that is a definite no, no.

The next day, I self consciously covered up from collar bones to the tippy tips of my toes. The air was a bit chill before morning light. Ah, yes – sweater weather and the perfect opportunity for a selfie. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to focus with a 50mm lens. My roommate was asked to take the picture instead.  Guess it can’t be called a self portrait any more!
Modest is HottestFor editing, the image’s original color was replaced with a more blueish purple tone. This adds a more nightly/early morning feeling. The picture was then cropped using the rule of thirds. Justification; truly centered images are rarely more interesting. In addition, the light and door frame needed to be removed. I also tried to remove the sweater’s excessive bagginess but it came out a little unnatural in the final result (Notice how the armpits are lopsided) .

This image was taken from what I believe is a neutral angle. The future calls for experimenting with lower angels. It’s very interesting how different lenses and camera angels modify the subject. You can never see a perfect refection, not even in a bathroom mirror.

Aliens, Lets be Friends!

For being new, there is a surprisingly large amount of familiar faces. A cousin, several church friends and definitively a ton of students who also transferred from the same college in Napa. Regardless, there is still a feeling of emptiness and loneliness in a new environment. Seeing acquaintances isn’t the same as creating epic memories with mes copins. Orientation didn’t do a very good job of introducing new friendships… oh well. Sometimes one has to find other was of making connections.

Last night, I walked out under the full moon to see what images could be captured. Three young men came by and one of them asked if I needed a model. Of course, he must have been kidding – but if someone is going to offer, why not take it? Handed him a flashlight and told him to go draw something. The other two guys started backing away.

“Wait for me!” he pleaded, but the others claimed be on their way to study O-Chem. Who knows, the girls dorm doesn’t quite provide the adequate C2H6O environment, but they promptly headed there anyways. (Wait, was that ethanol? Ok, so maybe… never mind. You can tell I’m no Bio major).

The guy who stayed drew away. He was intrigued by the unedited effect in the images. Cool. We formally introduced ourselves before also had to get caught up on O-Chem.

Hoping to go on a night hike, I followed the dirt path outside the dorm. Unfortunately, after a couple of steps later, I realized that it just lead to more housing. Funny thing, the same thing happened in France when Grace and I accidentally landed in someone’s yard. Guess one can’t trust trails leading away from girls’ dorms. They never quite seem to quite get away from civilization. Gonna have to search for the trails in the morning light, lol!

Missed the Moon (800x103)

Though the view wasn’t quite as anticipated, I set up the tripod and took a panoramic with the 50mm. Unlike Napa –  you can kinda see behind the trees. The view is still one to miss though.
Grapes amongst the evergreen groves.
Endless rows of purple wine.

Fear

Once again I’ve collaborated with the amazingly talented Kae Avine. All year, she wanted to create a routine around the waterfall outside our dorm. Right before leaving France, we had the chance to film it.

This girl’s choreography is just so perfectly timed. You can watch the version that she edited below:

Ugh, there are definitely a lot of issues with the camera work. It’s still very rough from the lack of practice with hand held. Thankfully, my current school has stabilizers. The next time I work on a project – that is going to be a priority.

Anyways, when we were done filming all the parts, there was one shot that wasn’t quite satisfactory. It was that whole ‘ laying over the waterfall’ thing. We tried to recreate it in the middle of the road.

Unfortunately, it was at that particular moment that our dean drove up! It must have looked incredibly bizarre; Kae was stretched out on the ground as I stood over her. Obviously, the dean freaked out. We were quick to assure her that we were just filming. No road accidents there!

Reverse Culture Shock

They prepared us very well – or so we were told – with all the information we needed to lessen the effects of moving to an unfamiliar country. True to their word, I didn’t experience culture shock for moving to France – and as far as my class is concerned – nobody else did either.

To me, France was in many ways a familiar territory. It wasn’t foreign enough. The cobble stone streets, cows, la baisé, cathedrals, market place, even the pastry shop and especially the Kinder eggs… they were all how I remembered Mexico. Jair, the 12 year old that lives next door (to my house in Rio) said that the pure comparison was ludacris. According to his observations, Mexico was broken and ugly. I shock my head and tried not to picture it. Dispite the war, in my heart, the Marachi country will always be remembered as beautiful.

Anyways, we’d all arrived in Europe with open minds, willing to accept the cultures and all it’s differences. For us, it was easy to assimilate and in “Rome”, to do what the Romans do.

What no one warned us was about going home.

 

Climate Change!?

After a rather pleasant flight from Germany to Las Vegas, I waved goodbye to Matte, the adorable three year old Croatian who’d kept my company throughout the trip. Everyone went through customs, through the lines and eventually out into the city. The first and most shocking element that slapped me in the face as soon as I’d stepped out the airport, was the environment. It was hellishly hot. Something like 115 degrees to be modest. Once on the streets, it was also noted to my dismay that nothing green had survived the heat. Grass, flowers, green hills – all in a distant memory.

 

Mono linguistic Society

The next shocking thing was realizing that most people only speak and understand only one language. Even worse, that many cannot differentiate between languages.

On our international campus, I’d gotten used to the chattering of the many Portuguese speaking students. TV was watched in Italian and sometimes German. Classes were in French, chattering in English but most of us could also speak Spanish. We had one girl who spoke Norwegian, a group of Danish students that stayed for a couple of weeks and of course the Romanians who lived upstairs. Everyone hung out and got along surprisingly well.

 

Tips and Taxes

Imagine coming from a place where the prices you see on the tags is exactly how much money you will be paying at the register. Now, the surprise when an item is advertised as  $49.99 but a 50 dollar bill won’t cut it because the total comes up to $54.11 >.< Like really? Also, there’s no math and calculating involved while eating out in France. Tips are always service compris.

 

Other Shopping Observations

Throughout various countries, people buy groceries on the daily from smaller stores which specialize in specific items. Here in the USA, we generally go to super markets and super centers to purchase enough supplies to fill our pantries. Purchasing the product and getting out of there as soon as possible are usually the top priority. It’s inconvenient for the producer and consumer to form a connection.

In addition, the USA is not as environmentally friendly when it comes to shopping bags. In France, it was a bring your own bag sort of deal for all occasions. While the Europeans brought all sorts of assorted contraptions to transport their groceries, it wasn’t uncommon to see American students shopping with their backpacks. Reusable and even one time bags were available at the check out stand but always with additional fees.

 

Political Correctness 

We American students were often gasping at the comments made by Europeans. During my roomate’s  internship in a classroom environment, one of the teachers actually told her second grader that he was fat and that his mom needed to be told! I know, right? RUDE! The child nodded his head. The class carried on – undisturbed.

 

Medical Care

While studying abroad, there was an emergency in which I had no access to medication. Knowing the graveness of it, the French pharmacy provided the necessary antidote without a prescription or money upfront. My dean later went by fixed it. In contrast, soon after my arrival in the US, I took my fully legal French prescription and official medical record/documents to the nearest pharmacy. They were unwilling to provide anything under any circumstances. They required ‘American prescriptions’ only.

“If anything happens to me between now and the date of my appointment, it will be on you.”

They were untouched and unmoved. That’s fine. If there is another emergency between now and then, the boarder isn’t that far of a drive.

School

It’s costs twice as much and isn’t in French. Oh, that start’s today, by the way. Wish me luck! I’m actually excited about this last minute decision.

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After contacting other students, I discovered that reverse culture shock wasn’t uniquely my problem. Honestly, the reason why this is happening is quite simple. Everyone expects changes when they move away, but no one anticipates what coming home actually means. In our minds, the future is seen as the memories we recall. That time is gone, life has moved on.

Goodbye – One Last Time

We were up by 2:45am. Yeah, I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only way we’d be out by 3. Of course, the night sky was a cause for constantly running into things. Oh the stars, so many stars, oh so overwhelmingly marvelous!

We tried to set up the tripod at the base of the mountain but were soon chased away by a pack of unchained dogs. Thankfully a group of men racing down on scooters unknowingly diverted them away from us.

Out of all the times being paranoid, this was probably the worst. There was obviously some creep lurking in the darkness. Maybe human, perhaps a beast… Oh, all the things a wild imagination can come up with! At one point Sarah and I had to crawl under the guard rail to hid from an upcoming car. Ironically, we didn’t trust any weirdos riding up at at four in the morning!

The sky lightened and the glitter faded away as we reached the top. It was such a surreal view with the lights still glowing in the cities below. I stared at it for a good long time because I assumed it would be the last.Snow, Sunrise Over the Alps 628 (1024x683)Deep breath, deep sigh. It was time to move on. We walked for at least another half an hour. It could have been 45. It probably was 45.  Finally, after crossing from one side to the other  it was certain that the sun would rise before our eyes. I set up the tripod and promptly fell asleep by the side of the road. Don’t worry, no one slept through the grad event; we’d given ourselves enough time for a handy dandy nap. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Then all of the sudden, magic filled the air. Sarah told me to get up. It was so exciting! We stood on our tippi toes as the sun peeked over the horizon and spread it’s warmth across the Swiss,French, Italian alps. Words  and pictures cannot express the beauty we witnessed that day. Not even in composite.

Sunrise Over the Swiss Alps (1024x109)

We danced in the morning light, just as we’d danced under the moon.

Sunrise Over (1024x389)But all too soon, the time was up and we had to go back. The hills jingled with the sound of bells. The cows grazed peacefully in a way that no California cow could ever dream of. They were friendly and curious too. Snow, Sunrise Over the Alps 706 (1024x683)One day, I’m going to own a little herd of cows… each one will have a cowbell with a different note down the musical scale. And as they graze, they will make songs… and be moosical cows!

Anyways, we probably ran the rest of the way down. I had to dress up for a program at the chapel. It was crazy that we’d done everything with enough time to participate in it.

So many things happened in a short couple of hours that it seemed like forever since we’d stood on the edge of a mountain to look over the alps. Less than a couple sun ups  and four countries later, I stood in the MontBlanc store in Las Vegas, Nevada. All of the sudden I got the connection between the pens and the mountain. Excitedly, I ran over to the clerk and showed her a picture in my camera.

“Is it the same?” I asked.

She looked at the logo in comparison.

“Yes, it looked like it. Where did you take that?” the woman asked.

“On the mountain behind my school.”

She looked me up and down. “Really?”

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Yeah. That’s where I’d spent the last year of my life. Feels just kinda creeped up. There are very few places in the world when you can have windows as tall as the sky and literally live with the Alps past your backyard.

Bei- Where!?

It was past 1am but there I was, kneeling under a street lamp in a pink summer dress.

“Are you ok?”, The young woman asked.

I nodded and motioned to an upside down jar featuring my praying mantis devouring a cricket. We engaged in conversation, talked about our studies – which are as opposite as could be. She is doing orthopedics while I’m a film major.

“You are pretty, are you mixed?” She asked.

“Very, I’m Caribbean, what about you?”

“Persian.”

At this, I got super excited and quickly shared my plans for fall quarter.

“You need to be careful,” she warned, “There is a lot of war in the Middle East. Espeshly if you are Christian.”

Of course this was not news to me, but for some reason hearing it from this particular Middle Eastern woman in the middle of the night made all the difference. I had flash backs to seeing footage of severed heads and modern crucifixions.

Ok, wait- you are lost. What the heck am I talking about?

TravelDuring winter quarter I started questioning my education and ultimately decided to finish up in Lebanon. What!? Why!? there’s actually several personal reasons that make sense to me.

  • Because Life is ALLAYS a Fragile Thing- According to the doctors, if it wasn’t for my roommate, I would have died last year during finals week. Of course, I don’t believe them because in my three days of hallucinations and alternate reality, I didn’t randomly visit heaven or chat it up with God. But well, since I was burned, had severe unrelated pain, couldn’t eat for four days, lost the ability to walk and the world became blurry all around… Maybe they were right. The three or four severe diagnosis were actually domino linked and supposedly caused by eating unhealthily and not sleeping. It wasn’t just that. Emotional circumstances at the time had forced my body into a deteriorating condition. You don’t have to travel to another country to ‘almost die’.
  • Because Happiness is the Core of Wellbeing – During my stay in the French/Swiss countryside, I realized that happiness is everything. It really is. The simple act of blissful thinking and positive frame of mind changes lives and circumstances. The positive influences in France not only helped me recuperate but also inspired my existence. Not returning to the US, not having to deal with past issues would be a positive thing.
  • Because Nice Aliens Don’t Currently Intervene With Mundane Affairs-  In the middle of living ‘the life’, an unfortunate international incident involving combat boots, tinker bell pajama bottoms and aliens took place. *slow awkward laughter* Ok, so maybe it wasn’t quite like that.
    It had more to do with myself and a friend traveling to Switzerland so I could attend an interview at 10pm the evening before one of our finals. A couple hours later, I laid shaking and sobbing in the comfort of my bed. Grotesque faces terrorized my waking dreams along with the kind aliens that kidnapped their vile owners. I sat the next day on my desk, red eyed and blank minded. The final was a complete failure.
    In short – you should surround yourself with people who encourage you not those who put you down. This is not to say that one shouldn’t strive to reach goal – but seriously, don’t throw yourself in the lion’s den… or in this case attend a meeting with multiple people who have previously looked down on you.
  • Because School in the USA is Overrated and Expensive-  Overseas is cheaper. With 15,000 USD I can go to school and even fly to the States to be the maid of honor at my best friend’s wedding. In Lebanon, not only did I have the possibility of graduating with an American degree but also further developing French and learning Arabic. What about location? The school over looks Beirut and the Mediterranean. It would almost be like how I can see Geneva and the lake from my dorm room window.
    So many good things!

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Many have since heard about my plans, and input has been mixed. It mostly one side or the other, though. There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground.

Friends in France and Americans either living abroad or in Lebanon thought it was a fabulous idea. On various occasions, I was told that Beirut seemed a lot safer than some communities in the United States. “I cannot tell you how many times my premonitions regarding this entire region have been completely shattered… there is no need to be overly-concerned … I have never felt like I was in danger here” an American wrote.

Although I’d convinced my parents of the idea, back in the United States most people were shocked and upset about my decision. Several had already lectured my family on how wrong it was for me to be living in France, never mind Lebanon. A lot of my friends’ parents had somehow decided for mine, that it was just unthinkable and that I could not go under any circumstance. My librarians also decided – and announced quite loudly to the readers- that I could not go.

It was almost funny how clashing opinions would come about. One time, after a friend’s mom had finished lecturing me on safety, her daughter came up to me and simply said “This is your chance, follow your dreams. Don’t be afraid.” Another time, a pastor decided that the reason why I wasn’t afraid of going to Lebanon was because I was planning to die there. What? O.O (Ok, like maybe if I’d passed the average lifespan!) Anyways, a girl who’d been living as a missionary in the Dominican Republic thankfully pointed out that the United States isn’t the safest of places either. “You can loose many things here too,” she stated “Even your religion”

“We prefer you alive.” Was something that everyone agreed on and it was something that was repeated over and over. They didn’t understand, but maybe there were also somethings I didn’t understand.

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In the end, it turns out that I will not be moving to Lebanon. There simply isn’t enough time to finish my degree there. Instead I will be attending another school with higher tuition costs than the last. You know what else is funny? My hospitalization bills from that one time I almost died are higher than the tuition bill.

School starts in a week. I’m so screwed! But you know, apparently that’s ok because in America it is socially acceptable to be in debt over your face to obtain a stupid degree you may never use. You know what else is ok in America? Over charging patients for medical services. My dad was a doctor –  that’s what he told me.

I meant to tie the word “beware” somewhere in here but apperently as a human, one needs to ‘beware’ everything in the universe. Even the universe it’self.

Homeland Revolution

Victoria and I discussed various media projects at the beginning of summer.

Goal: rise awareness about human trafficking and advertise for the Homeland Revolution at the University of Redlands.

As we talked about the cause – one of the things that kept coming up was the realization that anyone could be a victim but no one may ever know. Too many times, people associate trafficking and slavery with the images of girls tied and bound overseas. Unfortunately, human trafficking is a world wide problem and is not always as stereotypical. Yes- that means that it happens in your city too, maybe even to someone you know. Because of this, it was decided that all the models we used for the project would remain anonymous unless they choose otherwise. The point is that we don’t know who the victims are – and it literally could be anyone.

I think our original plans were a little too ambitious. Out of the six media projects we came up with, only two have been completed. It takes time though, and people. People are hard to communicate with over the summer.

This particular photo series was scheduled for one day and funny enough the one I couldn’t make. Taryn Sutherland, a photography major at the U of R, took over for the day.

Unfortunately it was impossible to  complete all five images in one day. Yeah, I know, what were they thinking!? Well, apparently the actual photoshoots for the two images took less than 15 minutes.

Victoria asked me to finish up the project so I went over last Thursday to work on the last three shots.

There was a time limit. We hurried from one location to the other. Pictures were taken in such record time that even I was surprised. The only issue we had was with the image out on the field. It wasn’t late enough in the day to be taking pictures. Even worse, the sprinklers came on!

Oh, it was bad!

In the evening, Taryn came over to meet me and work on pictures. We edited the backgrounds: desaturation, color correction and words. Sometime later, I added chains to all the models by Victoria’s request.

On Friday morning, we put in the rest of the information. Originally, the font was all the same but I decided to use the logo font for the name.

All done! Posters should be printed and up in no time 🙂

How to Scare Off a Cowboy (or Any Guy)

Scaring off cowboys is a backbreaking activity because it requires an enormous amount of time, dedication and insanity to complete the desired effect. Cowgirls or not, many are willing to sacrifice their reputation in order to win the affections of a dashing gentleman. Little do they know what a challenge it is to catch a cowboy’s wink. It is much more entertaining to scare him through strategic manipulation. The cowboy is sure to notice the girl … and keep a distance.

To frighten a cowboy, a girl must begin by appearing at locations that he frequently visits. It is important for him to know who she is. Even better, he must know her by name.  Cowboys are close-knit with their friends and family. For this reason a girl does not have to interact with him directly. Instead she can mingle within his social circle so his closest companions can become comfortable in her presence. Most importantly, the girl must become close enough to the cowboy’s family that she is invited for dinner. This is an excellent place to start. A kick here and a kick there, pretty soon she might have a full-fledged game of footsies under the table cloth.

While attending the many events surrounding a western lifestyle, a girl will find that a pink lasso can be her most amusing companion. Girls not familiar with the art of roping must have the desire to learn the techniques. For best results, she can ask her target cowboy for assistance. He will gladly hold her hand as she twirls the rope. Learning to swing the lasso is frustrating. Being able to rope the cowboy’s feet makes the effort worthwhile.  At first, most cowboys will find this gesture cute. With time, they will grow weary of being tripped. In anger he might question the purpose of her teasing. The girl can simply say that she is practicing what the cowboy himself has thought her. In the future, the young man will disregard her attempts to tighten a rope around his ankles.

During these roping events, the girl must take the opportunity to photograph her cowboy. Cowboys love to have their pictures taken, especially if they are on the job. The girl needs to make sure that the pictures are clear and enjoyable. Another approach is to have a friend photograph the cowboy then upload the pictures. Either way, once the pictures are online, the girl must have her friends comment on them. She must be generous with her own comments as well; often mentioning how handsome the cowboy is. Her posts might become mushy. This will only add to the desired attempt to scare off the young man.

By this stage, if the girl doesn’t already know where the cowboy lives, it is important that she finds out immediately. She might even discover that he lives nearby. If this is the case, she can take advantage and obtain pictures of his house from the comfort of her rooftop*.   For best results, when he asks to see his roping pictures, the girl is obligated to lend him her camera. She might want to have another camera at hand. In this way she can capture his reaction when he recognizes his home among her photography collection. The girl may admit to taking the pictures or she may act surprised that he discovered them. The cowboy will take a good long stare at the girl and he will never think of her in the same way again.

Next, the girl must create a web page directed especially towards the cowboy. She must include pictures of him and even Photoshop herself into some of the shots. The webpage will be all the more appealing if it includes poetry and love quotes. The girl might choose to use the webpage as some sort of diary where she can express feelings towards the cowboy. When page appears to have an adequate amount of mushiness, the girl must make sure the targeted young man (or his friends) ‘accidentally’ get a link. Most likely, the cowboy will be appalled when he discovers the online tribute.

To further the effect, the girl must get her friends involved. On a lovely afternoon she can direct them to create hordes of posters. Each poster must include: the cowboy’s name, hearts, and most of all, glitter. Pictures of him may be included but are not necessary. In the dark hours of the night, the girls must sneak into the young man’s property. The posters can be used to decorate the exterior of the home.  If the home itself is unreachable, then the posters may hang from the fence, gate, trees or shrubs. What a surprise when the cowboy wakes up in the morning!

Most girls may choose to stop at this point. However, it is possible to become friends with the county sheriff and asked for permission to steal the cowboy’s horse. If he grants permission, the girl must also share her intentions with the horse’s legal owner (provided that the legal owner of the horse is not her cowboy). After formulating the perfect plan, the girl is welcome to carry it out. The best time to steal a horse is on the day of a roping event. The girl can remove the horse form its stall and transport it to the event before the cowboy has the chance to notice the horse missing. This of course, is a suggestion that might be carried out by any girl who is desperate to scare off a cowboy.Playing With Color (2)

Another thing a girl can do is to spread rumors. She can say that she is so infatuated with the cowboy that she intends to kidnap him.  For better results, she must include spine chilling details; the use of chloroform, a stolen vehicle, some desolate ranch, etc. Obviously by now the young man will be horrified by her conduct and will go out of his way to keep a distance.Playing With Color (3)

After the girl realizes the extent of her inappropriate behavior, she will be ashamed of her actions. Embarrassment may cause her avoid any contact with the cowboy. The young man will miss the previously unwanted attention. He may only see the girl through nightmares. He will question her absence and become curious enough to look for her.  Needless to say, it’s hard to rope the heart of a cowboy, but with constant pestering, a girl is sure to be on his mind daily!*

*Option only available under certain circumstances.

*All examples taken from real life experiences, thankfully not my own.

*Pictures in collaboration with Juntsu Photography.

  • Models: Caitlin and Johnathan
  • Location Scout: Erwin
  • Horse help: Caitlin’s Dad

Forbidden

A couple days ago during a meeting, I looked up and met the smiling gaze of the instructor.

“Good, I’m glad to see that you are taking notes.”

But I wasn’t taking notes… oh, I am such a horrible person!

In 1st ,2nd, all the way till high school, it was considered wrong. A distraction. Getting caught meant a blood red name up on the board displayed for the entire class to see. A destiny that involved staying in for recess.  Drawing during class was such a rebel thing to do.

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“Did you say you want us to draw on the table?”

I remember how surprised we were the first day of class as college freshmen.

“Yes, they’ve been covered with white paper so you may draw freely in class while listening to the lecture.”

No way. Finally someone understood. Within a matter of days, the tables were covered ink. Nope, they weren’t just doodles, they were professional grade sketches. Fragments of comics, storyboards, self portraits – you name it.

You can imagine the grief experienced by students the day we came in to find that the tables had been replenished with new white paper. It was horrible. Everything , all that brain storming, all those hours in class- gone!

Little by little, the white paper came back to life. Fashion sketches, zentangles, the human anatomy. When class was over and the chairs were up, the students walked out with one last glace. How long would their sketches survive?

Classroom

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Ok fine, I have to admit that back in elementary school we did have an exception to the rule. There was a designated drawing time. Our 1st grade teacher said that we could art during story time because it would help us focus. She was right – I just wish that it would have been enforced during all lessons!

Sophomore year in college, I bought myself a sketchbook. It just kinda goes everywhere. I draw during class, church or just randomly as inspiration hits. In case anyone decides to evaluate the ‘distractivity’ of doodling –  well, wondering thoughts would be worse, don’t you think?

Artistic expression should not be forbidden.

From Afar

There is something enticing about the flickering multicolored lights produced by concentrations of civilization. They are like little galaxies within the planet we call earth. They represent everything that comes with human kind. Life. Happiness. Tragedy.

Many prefer to walk within the comfort of concrete sidewalks and street lamps. They see carefree smiles of strangers and feel warmth in their passing. It’s a comforting feeling to be among one’s own.

But I, sometimes I feel different.

Yes, the dazzling array is magnificent in it’s own way, but to me… only from afar. Even then, it makes me a little sad. All those twinkling little lights represent people. Humans from all walks of life. The rich, the workers, the homeless… and that’s just to mention a few. All these, though different in social standing, come together as one when it comes to other matters.

Sometimes people are so focused on their thoughts, problems and little smart screens that life passes around them and they forget to live it and enjoy it. Even worse, they only see the world through a single lens. They experience life from inside the box and are ever so [lazy, frightened, busy, unadventurous – you fill in the blank!] to venture out.

Don’t be that person. Don’t be one of them. When the moon is full and the city is too busy dancing with egotistical personas and selfies on Instagram, come and experience an adventure.  Get away from civilization.

IMG_1751 (853x1280)Do you dare carry on past the gates and venture through the trees? Do it. Leave your worries and mundane affairs behind. Don’t be afraid; your worst nightmare only exists within the depths of your imagination.

Aren’t the stars beautiful? If it’s dark enough, they’ll sweep across the sky like sand on a Tahitian paradise. They twinkle and sparkle in a scientific formula epically more fantastical than your average light bulb.

Do you hear the bells of domestic cattle? Maybe a pond full of amphibians, crickets in the field or that creepy children’s laughter produced by a clan of coyotes?  Let nature’s tune lull you to dream land as you cuddle with friends (hopefully human ones, lol) under Orion’s Belt and the Milky Way.

 

* City of Geneva as seen from one of our sleepovers on the base of the Saleve. (Although this is pretty much the same view from our dorm rooms.)


How I Almost Died Chasing Peter Pan

“To die would be an awfully big adventure.”
J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

We were supposed to be climbing the mountain, but somehow wondered off trail.  Since Colin and I were planning a photoshoot, location scouting didn’t seem like a bad idea.  The luscious undergrowth scraped at our ankles as we raced across the forest. We jumped up onto stumps and boulders, even considered climbing a few trees. It was like a city kid’s dream but to us – it was almost like reliving childhood memories.  For him it was the Oregon Coast while for me it was walnut orchards in Central California.

Somewhere along the afternoon, we came across a rather large mound/formation within the mountain. Naturally, it needed to be conquered! He got to the top first, with me not far behind.  The  summit was rather interestingly slopped and it took a bit to go from one end to the other, which actually brought us above the tree canopy.

Wow! Definitely almost like a scene from Jurassic Park. Birds flying overhead, almost no sign of civilization, the steady hum of unseen insects…  Being able to rest our hands on the tops of trees as if they were merely bushes. It was as if we were on a little island in the middle of a jungle, the green spreading up the face of the mountain. Fail. I can’t even describe how amazing the view was.

Unfortunately, as the saying goes, what comes up must go down. Colin somehow gracefully managed to slide his way to the bottom. I, however, clung fearfully to a large rock the size of my torso. When almost underneath it, the rock shifted.

“Colin, this feels loose!” I shouted while desperately reaching a nearby branch.

He looked over. “Yeah, that branch won’t do much good. You might want to grab on to the rock right there.”

“I can’t, that’s actually what’s loose. OMG, I’m stuck! How do I get out of here!?”

Colin climbed back up as he carefully instructed how to lift myself up and away from the rock. Once safe, we sat on either side of it and he gave the rock a little shove. It trembled precariously over the edge.

“Oh, that’s really bad.”

“Should we just push it down?” I asked.

“Might be a good idea.”

I truly expected to put some good effort into getting that thing to fall but it gave way so quickly that I screamed in shock. It squashed all the little green buds, tumbling and crackling as it went.

A split second of awe and silence followed the tremendous -BOOM- at the end.

But not for long.

“I could have died” I shouted, “I had all my body weight on that!!!”

“But you didn’t.”

“But -”

“Almost dying would have been if the rock had fallen on you.”

“It could have! I was holding on to it from underneath!”

“It’s getting late, we need to get home for dinner.”

Fine, I couldn’t get him to agree and honestly it wasn’t really worth arguing. The good thing was that I hadn’t fallen down with the rock. No need for search and rescue. No need to alarm and scandalize the situation. No one was hurt, not a scratch. Ok, well maybe one or two…  or five. Fine. Life is good.

A couple days later, Colin dressed up as Peter Pan and once again we ran across the French forest. This time we were more careful. It wouldn’t do to break my camera!

 

 

The Portrayal of Human Beauty Through the Eyes of an Ancient Artist

Throughout the ages, people have concerned themselves with appearances and the illusion of a perfect human form.  Beauty, however, is a fleeting frame of mind. What was once considered attractive is no longer main stream today.  Of course, this seems obvious. Fashion, make-up and hair styles change constantly… but so does the idealistic human form. I hadn’t really thought about this until recently while visiting Musée d’Orsay, The Louvre, Centre Pompidou, Rijksmuseum and other artistic collections. It was very interesting to see the contrast between models used in modern photography and those from ancient master pieces.

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While visiting Musée d’Orsay, it was noted that the women of ancient sculptures seemed to have smaller breasts and larger tummies than those used in modern art. Grace commented that art is often created in search of the ideal human body. Later on, after discussing the matter with several people, we decided that it is possible that the art better represented the women of it’s time.  For example, in previous ages women didn’t really work. In paintings and sculptures, they are often seen reclining. Hence, it is possible that women from ancient times were not concerned about exercising or gaining muscle.  We also discussed how in many cultures, fuller figures are a sign of wealth.  I had to look this up to verify. One website said that 2 “during the Renaissance (the wealthy and high standing) … began flaunting their large size,” and were represented this way in art.  There was another that stated the opposite, but of course, there are always two sides to a story.

Also at the Musée d’Orsay (though we did not visit their masculinity exhibit) it was noted that not much has changed as far as expectations for the perfect man. Statues, paintings, pictures… they all aspire to portray a well build form.  Even a vogue article stated that 3 “a man is “timeless”(but the same cannot be said)of a woman”.  Ifle students discussed this on various occasions. In previous generations, especially in ancient times, men engaged in physical labor. Naturally, they would develop a muscular form in doing so.  Now a day, most men work in offices. If they want to look like their ancient ancestors, they must work out in a gym. And still, this ideal vision of the male body has remained unchanged.IMG_5260 (855x1280)

Art collections around the world display the artist vision throughout time. It must be a great responsibility to capture the fleeting illusion of beauty. Whether sculpture, painting or photograph, generations will gaze up and strive to modify themselves accordingly.

References:

  1. STARR, BENJAMIN. “Classic Beauties Get A Shocking Photoshop Treatment.” Visual News. N.p., 08 Feb. 2012. Web. 03 Nov. 2013.
  2. “Dawn Center.” Dawn Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Nov. 2013.
  3. Sozzani, Franca. “Men’s Aesthetics. Let’s Discuss It.” Web log post. Vouge. Vouge Magazine, 11 Apr. 2011. Web. 20 Nov. 2013.

Images:

  1. Leda 1851 by James Pradier
  2. Grace gazes up at a piece in the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire in Geneva
  3. A vast hallway within Louvre

Note: I apologize for the lack of appropriate imagery to go with the title 😛

Don’t Fall Down the Drain

Yes, that was a blurry yet aesthetically pleasing image featuring a staircase inside the Arch de Triumph.

Of course, most have watched ‘Taken’. Upon deciding to move to France, it was a movie that was often mentioned in conversation. Instead of taking the matter directly to me, someone went as far as accusing my parents of irresponsibility for allowing their only child to go so far on her own.

It is very sad that people focus their attention on places that they know nothing about except for the misconceptions fueled by movies. Aren’t they aware that human trafficking also exists in the United States? That many children, men and women are subject to all sorts of abuse behind close doors?

This poem created by the Homeland Revolution team at the University of Redlands in Southern California really highlights how anyone might be a victim of this awful reality:

Unfortunately,  modern slavery and sex Trafficking is not just a problem for the world abroad.

Find out how you can take steps, big or small, in the fight against it by finding Homeland Revolution on Facebook or emailing them at homelandrevolution@gmail.com.

 

From 12 to 21

In art class, we were asked to paint something. Anything. Hardly any instruction given at all.  Well, painting portraits with Photoshop seemed to be working out. Why not? My roomate, a fine arts major,  sure makes it look so easy. The way she turns color and paper into seemingly effortless master pieces. It couldn’t be too hard.

I dipped  my paintbrush into a mixture of  gouache and water color. Well…in many ways, painting on the computer is certainly much easier than doing so on a canvas. My respect goes out to those who are dedicated in this field.

My art professor came over with a  slightly amused frown on her face. “C’est pour apprendre à faire le maquillage?” I shook  my head. No, it was not to learn how to put on makeup.  Showing her how my digital projects were composed made it worse. She did not believe that they were made from scratch. The computer had obviously evolved them in the same way textbooks say the world evolved without a creator.

There may have been one too many sighs of frustration. The teacher took the paint brush and carefully reoutlined  the features. During the next class, however, I was still trying to fix the shading. It still looked like badly placed foundation. “Oh well,” I thought “better work on that hair, eyes and foliage”.   >.<

Ignoring the badly rendered face, I finished with a satisfying grin. Surly, this new and improved project would show my progress in painting.
Amazon Mermaid, age 12 and 21You can imagine my dismay when I compared it against the Amazonian  toucan and frog I’d created at age 12. Why, the three of them really do seem to go together, don’t they? How fitting. Had a good laugh, then sent them off to Grandma who I’m sure will be delighted. Guess you can say that I’m being pissy because the 21 year old me couldn’t out do the 12 year old. 100_1707

Here is another Amazon themed painting. This one was commissioned when I was 15. Again, there wasn’t much instruction with this one either. It was supposed to represent “munchies”  and had the liberty to be interpreted any way I chose.

For some unexplainable reason, the result involved some tale in which Eve was a mermaid and the serpent was a parrot handing out chocolate covered doughnuts. WEIRD.  Oh, and if you look closely, the frog made another appearance. Well, kind of. They are not the same species.

Anyways… this got me into wondering how  artists often come up with similar compositions. How they can easily be recognized by the styles they develop and the subjects they choose.

Is it’s like  “Oh, let me draw another mermaid in the Amazon rain forest! ” or more “OMG, I randomly drew another person that looks like an Amazon mermaid!”

On further thought, guess it depends on each artist. Style can be inspired by interests, experiences, feelings and just about anything else under the sun.

Even drugs apparently O.o

But that is not something I’m currently interested in investigating.

That One Time Switzerland Invaded France

One hour of determined hiking can get one to the top. The view is absolutely amazing. Makes you realize how small you are and how big the world is in comparison. It’s fun going with friends, but sometimes going alone is the best option. You can loose yourself from pretty much anything. All the troubles and stress … pretty much just let everything drain out.

That’s why I really love the Salève.

But do you see that tiny red dot near the top? What is that?

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Depending on who you ask, you might get a different story. Department flag, Swiss flag, street art… so many things it may or may not be.

Yesterday, we had some visitors from California, specifically from the same city where my parents live. They drove in an Italian car and brought us beans from the US! Oh, it was so, so exciting! This is probably the only time I’ll admit to missing home. Anyways, one of the men stated that his father was a student at our school… and may or may not be responsible for that red dot on top of the mountain.

According to the story told, in the 1960’s there was a group of people who were up to nothing but mischief. Most of them were American students but of of them was a professor at the school. One night, they hiked up the mountain and repelled themselves down on the face of the Salève. Armed with flash lights and cans of red paint, they set to work. Their plan? To paint the Swiss flag on the French mountain!

The next morning, as you can imagine, France was freaking out! The Swiss were invading, possibly planning to take over the mountain! The boarders were closed and both countries glared at each other, preparing for the worst. Meanwhile, an investigator set out to find the culprits of the offending vandalism. The professor’s French girlfriend alerted the authorities that American students were responsible.

When the investigator appeared at the school, the dean of boys could not believe that  he wanted to question them. Never the less, everyone was lined up. Since the Americans had made a pact: to tell the truth if they were caught but not to incriminate each other, the investigator caught all of them except the professor. They never even found out that he was involved.

The tension between France and Switzerland ceased as they charted the Americans up the mountain to clean up after their devious adventure. Strangely enough, no mater how hard they tried, the paint was permanently stained on the mountain. The boys were all expelled from France and sent back to the US. Sometime later, someone repainted the mountain with the regional Savoy flag. Only if you hike up to it can you see the original Swiss flag underneath.

“But wasn’t it worth it?” I asked our visitor. “Oh yes!” he said, and we all laughed in agreement.

Climbing in a Dress (3) (1024x683)Apologies that this is the only close up of the flag. Here I am after climbing the mountain in the rain with my dress and high heeled rain boots. Not smart, I tell you. Not smart. Within the image, you can see three layers of flag. The Swiss one in the deep red, the regional French flag and one 4th of that which was repainted the fall of 2013.

Climbing in a Dress (4) (1024x575)Here is the view as seen from the flag. Directly underneath is France. The village on the lower left of the screen is Collonges-sous-Saleve. Can you spot the freeway splitting  it in two? The Swiss boarder is is not too far from that.

Oh, that reminds me! As we were descending from this hiking trip, a series of bikers rode by. The first one greeted us in an American accent. We got so happy that we started singing out the National Anthem to cheer him on. Unfortunately, the annoyed face and flag on the second biker let us know that at least that one was  definitely Swiss! Oh, how embarrassing! Americans do have a reputation out here, for being loud and obnoxious >.<

* All images (except of mountain from afar) were taken by Grace who also made this video of our hike:

*This blog post was originally written in March.

Night on the Lac Léman

Went camping along the Lake Leman. By camping, I mean staying in cabins not too far from the water’s edge. On our first night there, Grace and I sat on one of the docks along the shore. Being there  reminded us of another lake in a country far, far away.

We talked about life and whatever else flooded our minds at the time. Both being interested in night photography, we turned on our DSLRs and challenged ourselves with the scenery.

IMG_9975a (1280x844)White balancing night shots has become my most recent issue. For this image, I lit up the subject in red and green light during exposure. Ugh! That yellowish tint still showed through!  Still, it looks better than the shots without the green and red light. Those were even yellower, probably caused by a lonely street light up on the road.

Lake Leman, maybe with MatterhornHere is a shot of the city across the lake. It could be anything from Yvoire to Thonon-les- Bains. Given our location, it was probably the latter.

I actually find this image very interesting for several reasons. First of all, do you notice that pink tint in the clouds? Given the time that this image was taken, it’s probably light pollution. That’s actually really sad. Had the night been clear and the moon gone, one probably wouldn’t be able to get good pictures of the stars.

The second thing (noticed as the picture was being up loaded) is the mountains in the background. Do you see that pyramid shaped thing? In the center, almost faded into the sky? Could that be the Matterhorn!?  It might be!

If it was, that would make me incredibly happy! MUSIC Age 15Painted this on commission at age 15.  The mountain was chosen at random but before coming to Europe, I realized that it was the one and only Matterhorn. This whole time I’ve lived less than an three hour drive yet haven’t found a way.  It was really my dream to see it but now that the time is up, even knowing that I’d seen it at a distance would be elating.

Google SnapshotOh, and here is a 2009 google image  of the dock with the boats.  The night we took the images, Grace and I were sitting on the next to the last platform on the right (behind the car).

Night Under the Mountain

There is a group at our school that is often going camping or planning such outdoor activities. Wish I’d been better friends with them, because honestly those are the types of things that I miss from my childhood. The things I hope to continue doing in the future.

I did get to hang out with them a couple weeks ago when they decided to camp out back by the boulder field under the Salève. The weather report was super sketch. It was actually supposed to be raining, but not a drop fell from the sky.  It didn’t matter, we were determined to go camping either way.

We met up at 8pm, girls dorm. After blankets and sleeping bags were arranged, we set out to look for wood. Sometimes, when the laughter would fade into smiles, we’d hear music in the distance. Tried to ignore it, but it was kinda hard not to feel the base booming through our veins.

I led two of the girls into the woods to help collect loose sticks. You will not believe what was hidden amongst the foliage. Two enormous speakers almost as tall as we were! They played loudly into the trees as we stood there, mouths hanging in utter disbelief. A couch, table and among other things had been placed nearby. I ran to the dorm to get my camera but upon my return, one of the guys said that a large group of party people had formed in the woods and we should probably stay away. Bummer.

Wish there were more pictures to depict the evening happenings.  This is just the progression of our campfire. The last two images in the set were taken by Grace after she climbed on top of one of the boulders. Camping Sous Saleve

S’mores were devoured along with an apple pie one of the boys had baked on the campfire. Stories were told, songs may or may not have been sung. We had a darn good time.

After everyone had laid down for the night, Sarah agreed to stay up with me to take pictures of the stars.

The Saleve at Night (1280x404)Doing astrophotography of the European sky has been on my bucket list for quite some time. The predicted rain clouds where nowhere in sight. The moon was shrunk to only a sliver. The conditions where perfect… well perfect except for the camera. The lens to be specific. As I’ve found, a 50mm is not always a best friend. Specially not in this case.

Try as I would, I could not get a good image. We were camping way to close to the mountain. Not only that but the white balance was an issue. After an hour or more of unfruitful attempts, Sarah went back to the dorm. I tried one more thing; panorama shot.

Bedtime! I laid awake long after snuggling into my sleeping bag. Perhaps trying to count the stars, perhaps watching them circle above the mountain. Lid were eventually shut as I slipped away into a dreamy world…

 

Durango Falls

Camping is fun. Experiencing different cultures is fun.  So, when I was invited to go camping at La Concha Durango, how could I say no?

We got there by bus. Everyone unloaded their belongings and got ready to set up camp. But not everyone had come well prepared. There were only two tents to accommodate the group of 30 something. Several families decided to rent hotel rooms instead. Everyone pretty much chose their own thing. Someone may have even stayed in the bus.

Durango Falls (1)A group of boys tried to set up the larger of the two tents. It wasn’t really working out.  Someone tossed out the tent I’d be staying in. To my surprise, it was the exact model (Long story- but it was probably the exact tent) in which I’d camped so many times as a child. In less than 10 minutes, it was set. The boys were shamed and I felt bad.  In the end, my little tent was shared between 8 people. Now I can officially say I have cuddled with strangers!!! Other girls and kids thankfully, lol.

A short walk from the campsite was the reason we’d come. Public baths. A mix between civilization and nature.

Durango Falls (2)In Mexico, these are a little different than your typical public pool. Yes, sometimes people actually shampoo and wash themselves. The pools are usually connected to an outside water source (like a river or stream) and thus the water is always flowing through. Sometimes fish live in the pools to help keep them clean… and also to eat the dead skin off people’s feet.

La Concha Durango has public, private and natural pools. We jumped right in! The water was so warm! It was like a gigantic jacuzzi!

Durango Falls (3)This is Jonathan. His parents weren’t on the trip. I was supposed to keep an eye out for him. He is an awesome  kid. Big eyes with the longest most enviable eyelashes.

Durango Falls (4)Here we are looking over the blue bridge. Seems like an infinity pool. Sometimes people swim along the edge… but it wasn’t very common.Durango Falls (5)On the other side there is a series of waterfalls. It’s not jacuzzi status, but the water is unbelievably warm!

Durango Falls (6)A lot of the girls were afraid of getting sun tanned/burn. Although there was a small shop nearby, I don’t remember it selling sunscreen. Offered mine, but the girls didn’t think it would help if they were already burned. There needs to be more sunscreen available, everywhere! You can never use too much!
Durango Falls (7)Anyway – this is my favorite candid shot. It looks like some guy was walking by and suddenly a bunch of girls peeped out from behind the waterfall, lol. It wasn’t like that. He was with us, but I don’t remember who he was exactly.

Most of the men didn’t go swimming. They hung out together and discussed life and stuff. There conversations and stories were rather amusing.
Durango Falls (8)I guess it is kinda interesting how groups naturally separated by age and gender. Age is understandable, but gender seemed to be more of a cultural thing.

Durango Falls (9)Trying to remember this little kid’s name. He is Jonathan’s little cousin. Took this image because he looks so adorable and cute, right out of the pool.

The men told us that they had gone exploring and wanted to show us what the canyon area looked like. We walked along the river for around an hour… even crossed it a couple times. Well more like seven.

Durango Falls (10)There were several interesting spots along the way. I really enjoyed the hike, but many of the other women got angry and started complaining. Crossing a river seven times can get to you!

Durango Falls (11)Instead of going back, we did a full circle and walked on a dirt path. The clouds were lovely. Just love that cotton candy look.
We spent another lovely afternoon in the pools before returning. It was a lot of fun, I’d love to go back sometime.

Worst Photoshoot Ever :(

 

Guess I’ve gotten too comfortable with my photography skills. Thinking nothing will go wrong is literally a foolish assumption in itself. Guess sometimes that lesson has to be learned the hard way.

After three months of planning, here we are working on photoshoot #2 of our circus themed photo series. It was a drastic difference from the success of our first shoot.

WorstPhotoShoot (1)The main problem was lighting. Now that the time has changed, the sun sets way too late. Normally that wouldn’t be a problem, but since dinner is at a fixed time we had to schedule the phootoshoot  three hours before sunset. The location was visited  in advance. One look and it was obvious that there would be trouble.

Once everyone arrived, the models took turns in front of the camera. The lighting was too harsh. Those around where asked to stand on chairs and hold coats and things to block out the sun. It was an embarrassingly ghetto set up. The rest the time was spent struggling with all sorts of unimaginable complications. The final images may work out alright, but boy am I bummed out!

WorstPhotoShoot (2)After several frustrating hours we hurried back to the school. I snapped a couple images. The sun was finally settling down. It would have been perfect lighting – but the photoshoot was already over.

The images are yet to be edited.

Kind of a Triptych

Just a couple pictures  from a project sophomore year.  I was asked to take three images, one per quarter – each representing an ideal quality of our campus.
Running out of Time (1)Originally, I was very excited about working on it. The first caption, ‘A place to Serve’, was actually the last image I was able to obtain. It had been suggested that I have a group of students helping someone pick up their books. That whole idea didn’t work too well. It wasn’t real.

Weeks went by. The student community carried on with their daily lives, often going out of their way to help one another. I was just never at the right place at the right time.

It wasn’t until halfway through the year that I caught this young man teaching the young woman how to skateboard. They gave me permission to take a couple shots. I was really happy about finally being able to capture an image worthy of carrying it’s title.

Running out of Time (2)This one was actually the first I took, and probably the only semi- staged. We’d been invited to dinner off campus. Right as we were about to leave… I was like “Wait! Get in a circle and hold hands! I need a picture for something!”

Such a wonderful group of people!  We’d spent the night before singing in four different languages… in a mud cave. “C’est dommage” that this group never got together again as a whole. It’s was a coincidence that we hung out that weekend. Hummm… or maybe not. People of similar interests do seem to find each other. I just realised that four of us have lived in the same city in France within the last couple of years.

Running out of Time (4)

 

Days and weekends at school where always adventurous.  I can’t exactly say that my time there was relaxing; we lived life too spontaneously for that. Here, we’d randomly gone out for a day by the lake. I snapped the image and decided it would do. Maybe I should have had them lay down or something. Napping on blankets is a pretty common activity among the students.  Not really as a couple thing but rather something to do with friends.

Anyway, these images were never really turned in or used for their original purpose, so I thought I’d post them here.

Gypsy Me

We’ve been trying to execute our circus photoshoot series for three whole months.  Every time we schedule; it rains, it snows, and it pours! Finally, we decided that rain or shine the first of these circus photoshoots would be done before the end of March.

Of course, the morning of the 30th, I woke up with a groan. The sky was dark and bleak. Piles of homework layed on my desk. Why was this a good idea?

All of our models,  were sitting on the edge of their chairs. They knew that the cooking class had to get out before 4 and the weather must contain itself in order for everything to flow as smoothly as planned. Around midday Kaelibeth, our photoshoot organizer/planner asked if we were still on. Thankfully, she was able to sneak out of class  in order to do makeup for our two clowns and juggler.

Meanwhile, Sarah and I visited the location. It looked a little different and it was a little further than we remembered. Nevertheless our minds were made up to proceed with the project.

IMG_0198a (786x1280)After, I dressed in my gypsy outfit… maybe a little too early. A North American highschool was visiting and my outfit definitely needed an explanation!

Sarah and I tied sheets filled with pillows and scarfs onto a long stick. We also added a chair since one of our clowns has yet to recuperate from a twisted ankle.

Up the road we went, gathering plenty of stares and smiles to go around. Can’t even imagine what everyone thought. A van full of people from our school came by. They were pretty surprised. Maybe Sarah and I were running away from school! Somewhere along the line, as we waved to a group of cyclists, our stick broke and we had to scramble to gather everything.

After about an hour of confusion, trips and setting up, things were finally starting to look up. Sarah had actually built a boho tent for me, the clowns and juggler were styled and in full make up. Maja, our clown with the twisted ankle was carried to the location… we’d gotten permission to borrow a different lens… (mine is broken)

Thus our photoshoot proceeded with great success.

And we all ran off on the account that dinner was served half an hour early…

IMG_0229 (1280x813)We ate in a hurry hoping that no one had stopped to rest in our little tent. The pillows and cushions were deceiving; if anyone had sat on them, they would have gotten their butts nailed.

We stared at our creation. Not wanting to take it down, we played cards and started planning. What about a gypsy campout in the mountains? Wouldn’t that be fun? We shall see, lol. I’m actually really excited!

It was getting dark. We finally loaded all of our stuff on a longer, stronger stick.

How to carry Things (995x1280)This time the three of us, Kaelibeth, Sarah and I, carried the stuff back. It was funny because we entered our dorm right in the middle of a Tahitian party.

People were like “What where you doing?” XD

Light bulb ON.

Back home, I used to take self portraits whenever my roomie was out for the weekend. She’d come back and there’d be all sorts of weird pictures on Facebook.

Here, I don’t really wait for my roomate to leave. She has made it a thing to take a daily picture documenting her outfits… so we’ve gotten pretty comfortable about it.
Running out of Time (3)This image was taken about two weeks ago. Sad day. I was actually supposed to be somewhere else… that place being church.
Throughout the week, I’d felt like ideas were running out and time was not far behind. It’s kinda funny how this image reflects that. What a coincidence. At first, I hadn’t even noticed that there were light bulbs in my head! Good thing for double exposure. It actually looks kinda cool!

Ok, well time to turn them on.

Ice and Sky

We climbed up high hopping to catch a glimpse of the setting sun. The days had been getting warmer, thus we were truly surprised to find a blanket of snow. Live Life (1)

Even more amusing was the team of paragliders standing next to the edge. The sun pierced through their gliders. The colors spread throughout the sky. It was so beautiful.  Hopefully these extreme sports fans weren’t bothered by our presence. We may have gotten a tad bit too close.

It would be an absolutely amazing experience to try it out. Unfortunately, Kaelibeth and I won’t be able to go paragliding anytime soon. We have to wait till the end of the school year. Fingers crossed!

Live Life (2)In the meantime, we should probably hike more often so we can enjoy the view!  It is truly inspiring.

 

Why I’m Trying to Convince Myself to Drop Out of College…

I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place. I feel threatened by the mainstream definition of life; that whole idea of a success. The thought of a college degree and a job Monday – Friday, 9 to 5.

When switching from homeschool to public during high school, my councilor said some very discouraging things. According to her, I wouldn’t graduate, much less attend college. In addition to this, I wasn’t allowed to take French till senior year or finish both semesters of film production in one year. Well, that was aggravating. Especially since I graduated on time (with honors) and am now a film major living in France. Sometimes I feel like sending her a cute little post card.

But now a most peculiar problem has arisen: I’m trying to convince myself to drop out of school. *Gasp* Now, why would I dare do such a thing? Let me explain in detail.

Main Reasons:

  1. College education is overrated. It has been devaluated within the work force and according to my friends “a degree is pretty much the same as high school” now.
  2. A college degree is expensive and it is not necessarily an investment.  Why is it half as much cheaper for me to live in France for a year?
  3. If success is matched by amount you earn, then take into consideration that many of the world’s richest people are school drop outs (Bill Gates, Steve Jobs…).  If success is matched by your popularity and the difference you make in the world then take note of all those who have achieved this without finishing their education (Princess Diana, Walt Disney…)

I’m not saying that education is bad, nor am I suggesting that people should be ignorant. I just belive that traditional schooling is not always the best option. For me personally – here are some reasons why:

Film:

All the books we read Freshman year warned us not to attend school. School is for making connections but a degree is not required for this field.  Creativity, talent and ability are the real keys for filmmaking.

At my college, Film is the second most expensive degree you can obtain. Yearly tuition is around $38,000 and this does not count the $300 lab fees for each individual lab class. That’s insane. There’s no need to explain, the point is pretty clear.

I addition to terrible tuition rates, our core professors are leaving to work on other projects. According to my classmates, replacements are utilizing YouTube and students to teach entire lessons. Honestly, I could save thousands of dollars by learning in the comfort of my home.

Also, is my desire to work in the film industry worth the effort? This is a question that has been left unanswered for three years. Let’s not discuss the details.

Photography:

My ability to capture moments is pretty decent. Unfortunately, photography is an expensive hobby that requires a grasp on business skills. While playing with colors and light is my passion, math is not. I’ve already lost a lot of time and money doing ‘little favors’ for ungrateful people.

French:

If people say that you can’t do anything with an English degree, why would it be any different with French? Sure I could teach- but with my spelling skills as they are in English, how could I expect myself to magically be perfect in French?

Money (1024x681)

I emptied out my wallet and was amused by the random currencies I carry around (even while on the wrong continent, lol).

Anyway, life is too short to be wasted. In the end, happiness is not always measured by the amount in your wallet but by the adventures that you lead. So don’t waste your money, don’t waste your time.

What will I do with myself? There are several possibilities but it’s up in the air right now. I could finish my Photography and French degree at my private university (or) finish film school elsewhere (or) study business (or)  work as an Au Pair (or)  a missionary in a foreign country (or) go to Italy to continue stalling life and add a minor in art… (or) something like that.

I’m so scared. There are so many unanswered questions and money is definitely not a luxury. So wish me luck and send a prayer up to heaven – that all may turn out right.

Can’t belive it… I actually moved to France!

My Room Window

This is my room window in Collonges-sous-Saleve. Can’t belive it… I actually moved to France!
Ok, so the whole trip was actually less stressful than going to Mexico. No joke. The couple sitting next to me on the way to London were really nice, and figuratively adopted me for the length of the trip. They appeared to have a lot of friends in the film business. Directors living in France and what not.

Switzerland

The weather report lied! It is freezing out here! I was stupid to have brought so many summer cloths. Can’t wear any of them. But I’m surprised I fit everything in one suitcase. People brought like two, three and I’ve even seen four.

Geneva

On my birthday, which was a few days after my arrival, a group of us went to Geneva. Strangely enough, the boarder between France and Switzerland is a walking distance from where we live. In less than an hour, we lost people on the bus, on the tram, in the city and within the shops. Here are the girls standing on a bridge after we crossed the border back into France. The freeway  leads to Milan which is 326.0 km away.

IMG_0421a (659x1024)

Oh, and then theres my roommate. Never met before, but…We are both art majors. My Dad and her parents are from the Caribbean. They studied together in Mexico. Isn’t that crazy weird!? O.O

IMG_0471a (1024x682)

Anyway, it’s so gorgeous out here. I just want to stay forever. It’s like Napa but it also reminds California’s central valley… and you know I was never quite fond of SoCal’s lack of agriculture.

Campus Adventiste du Salève

The internet at the school doesn’t work as well as I’d like. It’s been a month and I’m still unable to upload pictures to wordpress. I hope this changes soon!