viernes, 28 de diciembre de 2012

Monstruos Andan Por La Calle

Waking up, groggily, vision still slightly blurry, to an alien invasion... is what I think of when I see this photo.  What isn't really shown is that the being in the corner, while having a human face, has the body of a turtle and the legs of an octopus.

We were walking back to my place, my boyfriend and I, late at night, after having been to a Radaid performance in el centro.  They're always surprising: how many of them will be there (it's a regular gig and there are eight of them), how they will play their instruments... I won't lie, there were even a couple of instruments there that I'd never seen before.  Still on a bit of a high from that (they'd been pretty amazing, intense), I stopped to take some photos, before we started climbing over the monsters.  My boyfriend was proudly seated on one, riding it like a horse,  my camera strap the reins, when a small, dirty man came and asked for money for his diabetes medication.  Jumping down from his mount, we kept on wandering home, despite the man's call to me of, "no te conviene".

I don't know why, but desperation, rudeness and manipulation... I always find them haunting, like their acts echo throughout me, eventually fading down to a whisper, but starting out as a loud call bouncing from one part of me to another.  In their wake they leave a certain hollowness inside until they wane to a vague memory.  I'm hoping that eventually his call will be completely over-written by the image of my boyfriend sitting majestically on his monster in front of the church.

miércoles, 19 de diciembre de 2012

Campanas, Torres y Vistas

I've always had a thing for towers, and especially bell towers.  There's just something so cool and kind of creepy about them; romantic ideas about princesses, Quasimodo and haunted castles.

This one I came across in Trinidad, Cuba.  Once a church, the lower stories now serving as a museum; bearing trucks, flags, guns and maps detailing the revolution.  If you pass upstairs, you can get into the tower, which was all I had really been interested in in going there. 

At the bottom of the tower sat a lady, knitting.  She let me pass and I climbed up to the first level, which lead out onto the red terrace.  Continuing up the creaky, wooden, spiral staircase I came upon these large, circular holes that were cut into the towers walls, giving a snapshot view of two opposing sides.  Turning to continue up the stairs, the steps giving slightly underfoot, I saw a chair deliberately lain across the stairs.  I knew what that meant, I think there was a sign too, written in red capitals, making it more imposing: No se puede pasar.  But to me, the sign, the chair... what they seemed to be saying was something more like: Only the faint of heart shall turn back.  It seemed more like an invitation to adventure ; a challenge.  I couldn't stop before getting to the bells, even if I couldn't make it to the top.  I knew that the chubby lady was still knitting at the bottom, and she couldn't see up there.  So I climbed over the chair and continued, thinking that I could always say that I hadn't understood the sign. 

Around a couple more corners I came across the bells, what I'd been waiting for.  Like the circular holes, there were two bells, facing opposite sides.  Apparently once you had been allowed to climb up to the bells and maybe beyond, as there was a retro-looking sign asking you not to sound the bells. 

Finishing looking out and taking photos, I looked around the next corner.  This time there were two folding chairs laid across the stairs along with a couple of planks, which seemed to be saying something more like:  No seriously, dude, you should stop now.  I don't really know why you couldn't keep climbing, it didn't seem that rickety.  Turning on my heel, I started heading down the stairs, when I heard the lady from the bottom calling up to me: No se puede.  Guiltily I hurried back, she was leaning passed the - No se puede pasar - sign, watching me return, embarrassed yet so pleased with myself.  She muttered disapprovingly under her breath as I threw her a quick - Lo siento - and rushed down the stairs and then out of the building.

jueves, 13 de diciembre de 2012

Still Waters

La Huasteca Potosina... a small area of sprouting jungle in central Mexico; a mixture of natural and man-made wonders...

I had made it there with a bus load of exchange students from school one long weekend.  It was the first (and last) trip that I went on with the school, for good reason.  There was a looooot of time on the bus - it was pretty far away from Guadalajara, and all the sites seemed to be a good distance apart.  There was also the music choices on the bus which, unfortunately, did include a video of an entire Shakira concert.  But the thing that I disliked the most was that by the end I didn't feel like I had ''gotten to know'' la Huasteca - we were shipped around in the bus, I never knew where we were or where we were going.  Having said all that, it was a good trip, and we did see some amazing things, I'm just not really into large group trips or tours.

This one was taken at one of the first stops on the trip: waterfalls and calm pools of turquoise waters nestled into the jungle.  Whilst all of our group headed down to the otherside of the pool, in their bikinis/swimmers and their brightly coloured life jackets, where the water was more still, these two local boys were jumping off the rock face into the water gushing down at them.  There was a notable contrast between their carefree reckless diversion compared to the overly cautious tourists - and I know who looked like they were having more fun.

lunes, 10 de diciembre de 2012

Sweet Dreams

One of the sweetest memories I have is of sitting outside one morning, on the paved step by the back door, utterly sad (I don't remember why).  Pepper, our family dog was there with me, as always.  We had been told by the pound when we got her that she was a Rottweiler x German Shepherd, but she definitely wasn't.  So I was sitting there, head in my hand, possibly crying, when Pepper walks up to me deliberately and rested her head on my shoulder.  I hugged her back.

Over the years Pepper had been one of my best friends, especially for the year and a half of homeschooling.  She was up for everything: a run, a walk in the bush, a swim in the creek, fetch in the backyard or just lying in the grass.  Granted, she did have a naughty side: chasing any animal or vehicle that went passed.  But she was so sweet and excitable with any human she deemed a friend; which was everyone.  So excitable, in fact, that she scared people when she started beating them with her furiously wagging tail or trying to lick them.

With everyone moving away from home as we got older, Mum started at looking into moving into town.  She was scared to take Pepper because of how she didn't play nice with other animals.  And when Pepper wanted to go after something, it could be pretty hard to hold her back: she was a big girl.  So she gave Pepper away to a friend and farmer.  It always made me feel bad, thinking about giving her away like that, like we'd - I'd - abandoned her.  So I stopped talking about her, because it always left me feeling guilty.  Then I got an email from Mum today - the people that had taken Pep in had had to get her put down because she was sick.  Such a sweetie.

domingo, 2 de diciembre de 2012

The Mother's Visit

I was just finishing my semester abroad, and my undergraduate degrees, when my mum threw together a last minute trip over to visit me.  I actually hadn't even finished my exams before she arrived in Mexico.  So she spent a few days in Mexico City before coming over to see me in Guadalajara.

In the last few days that she was over I took her to Guanajuato.  I hadn't spent so much time with her in years, and by the time we arrived in Guanajuato I was beginning to tire of some of her tricks.  She doesn't speak Spanish, and wouldn't even attempt to buy anything for herself if I was there with her.  She was scared to try food when she didn't know what it was.  She would always walk behind me in the street.  She would never suggest a place to eat, but would just say, ''Wherever you want,''... which, given that I myself am terrible at making up my mind, isn't much of a help.  She was, at least, suitably impressed by the quaint beauty of Guanajuato.  We had been up these stairs of the university during the day, and up to the lookout, but I had wanted to see it at night.  So we wandered around and around, with me leading and getting us slightly lost, through the winding, narrow streets, passing the underground tunnels, until we stumbled across it again.

I always hold that while Mexico is pretty during the day, it is stunning at night.  I think it is partly the quality of the light, its yellowness, as well as how the streets seem to come to life.  Guanajuato was no exception.  I particularly like this one for the ring of light which seems to give it a surreal quality, like the photo, or reality, has been twisted slightly.

sábado, 1 de diciembre de 2012

The Wannabe Karate Kid

Growing up, I was often blamed for things that weren't my fault.  I think I must have been any easy target.  Whenever it happened, all I could do would be stare disbelievingly at my accuser, and protest my innocence.  It wasn’t me! It was her.  I imagine that it went something like that.  Looking back on it now, it seems that this method of declaring my innocence was largely responsible for me getting the blame: it made me look guiltier.  There was the incident with the bathroom scales, where my elder sister, Erin, thought it would be funny if we adjusted them so that when Mum stood on them she thought she had gained a lot of weight, and I agreed to help.  I started winding the knob on the scales, but at about 40 kilograms, it wouldn’t go any further.  After pointing this out to Erin, she took over, claiming she could do it.  So the scales were broken; and somehow I ended up with all of the blame.

But the best example would have had to have been this one time when we were at my Nanna’s with my cousin Nathan and his mum.  At this time I was about four or five, and Nathan was a few months younger than me.  I had never liked him, we’d never gotten along.  My brother, Kurt, and Erin always seemed to enjoy playing with him growing up, although they now claim that they don’t like him either.  Us kids were playing in the lounge room, while Mum, Nanna and my auntie were in the kitchen.  I’m not sure how it arrived to this point, but it was a standoff between Nathan and me.  I just remember the episode starting like this:
    “Well, I know karate,” claimed Nathan confidently.  While I knew that he had been training, I guessed he wasn't any good at it.
    “Yeah, well I can pinch,” I stated equally confidently.  I knew that I could take him, my pinches were crippling.

     “Yeah, she can, her pinches really hurt,” added Erin and Kurt, sounding uneasy.

     “But I know karate,” my cousin repeated.

     “She pinches really hard,” they stressed.  Then he attacked.  He let out a call that sounded like he had learnt on TV, “Hee-ya!” as he karate-chopped my arm.  I let him hit me.  Then I stepped aside, grabbed his arm and pinched it, hard.  The matriarchs rushed into the room, responding to his crying.  My auntie rushed straight to her injured son, who was sobbing loudly while nursing his arm, “She pinched me!”

I was horrified at this turn of events.  How hadn’t I seen this coming?  I had won, and then in my moment of glory in swept these women to punish me.  I claimed my innocence, to no avail; I couldn’t deny that I had pinched him, even though I could try to stress how much he had deserved it.  It was only in the car ride home that I was properly able to explain to Mum without any chastising as to what had actually happened.  And then she laughed: she had never liked the kid either.

martes, 27 de noviembre de 2012

Border Business

A few days ago I was in Belize, the sole purpose of the trip being a border run as my tourist visa was about to expire in Mexico.  I had caught a local bus, paying for the Corozal-Chetumal trip.  The bus was old school: brown vinyl seats, air conditioning that looked like someone had installed an old system designed for a house...  And most of the other custom (all, apart from me, as far as I could tell) was local, people visiting friends, but mostly Mexicans that had gone shopping the the Corozal Free Zone - a compound just over the border that only contains stores that are duty free).

I was a bit edgy about going through immigration, particulary on the Mexican side, as I would be getting my third visa in under a year.  I passed through the Belize immigration with the man at the desk barely glancing at me, as he continued with his conversation in what I guessed was Kriol.  Although I was a little disorientated leaving the hall, I found the carpark where a cream bus was parked.  I was cursing myself for having forgotten the colour of the bus (as buses that ran this trip all looked the same apart from their colour), but it turned out to be the only one there.  Crossing over the river, we quickly arrived at the Mexican immigration.  This was a lot busier.  This time there were queues and forms to fill out (as you would expect at immigration).  I passed through with only a couple of questions... however, it seemed that I had taken much longer than everyone else on the bus.  A couple of times I asked where the buses would be, and quickly found the street where they were parked.   As I walked down the street I kept asking myself - what colour was it again?  But I couldn't see any buses that even looked a similar style - they all looked like tour buses.  I wandered back up and down, fixing my attention on the buses, before I let myself believe the inevitable truth - the bus had left me at the border.

Swearing under my breath I headed slowly back to the corner, where the "street of buses" started, trying to work out what I was going to do.  All of the other buses looked like tour buses, a few taxis were lined up closer to the corner... but I wasn't keen on the extra cost of taking one...  Looking across the street I saw this clunky looking, small bus with green windows that was painted in the same way as the taxis: white with a yellow stripe.

It was on that bus that I took this photo.  The woman in the corner was with some friends who had crossed for some duty free shopping, and were merrily gossiping.  I think it is the blandness and the contrast with the green windows that makes this photo interesting, while the woman adds a human element to the rigidity and starkness of the immigration formalities.

lunes, 19 de noviembre de 2012

Graveyard Tunes

We were heading out of the cemetery in Oaxaca a couple of days before Día de Muertos, after having spent a couple of hours surrounded by innumerable candles and listening to choirs and a small orchestra perform.  As we were leaving, we heard the unmistakeable call of a mariachi band.  Following the notes we stumbled across them, and a small gathering clustered around a couple of graves.  We had only been there for a minute before a man came up to us offering mezcal.  My boyfriend, the non-drinker, pretending to be tough, accepted although it was fairly horrid.  He was then taken aside to talk to an old man while I watched the mariachi.  Later he told me that the old man had hired the mariachi to play at the graves of his dead family.

What I liked about this was that we had spent so long listening to the polished musicans hired by the city to perform, but on slipping away we encountered this; something that was felt much more real, more important, more personal and much more Mexican.

domingo, 11 de noviembre de 2012


Guadalupe, Mexico's own Virgin, has a habit of turning up in the most unexpected places: caps, shirts, necklaces, tiles, notebooks, bowls, lighters, fake fingernails.  This one was a recent spotting in Oaxaca.  I like this one because of its sneaky appearance and because it looks kind of like she is bringing light to the darkness.

martes, 6 de noviembre de 2012

Through Someone Else's Eyes

We were in Oaxaca recently, my boyfriend and I.  We were sitting in a cemetery, waiting for a choir to begin their performance for the Día de Muertos celebrations.  Niches lined the outer walls of the pantheon, graves, empty and occupied a like, all 2,400 of them bearing a candle.  As we waited for the performance to begin, my boyfriend trying to nap on my shoulder, I looked around, out across the grave yard, back over the niches.  I was doing this until I realised that I could see the niches through  the glasses of this man seated in front of me.  I like this photo because it is like seeing the world through someone else's eyes: a slightly contorted version of what you see as your own reality.

lunes, 22 de octubre de 2012

New Year, New Start

New Year's Eve 2009, I was in a small Ecuadorian town while doing a stint of volunteering.  It was a purely local affair, being in the country, apart from the six foreign girls.  The locals there have a tradition of making these life size dolls, stuffing them with old clothes.  Normally one doll is made per household.  The dolls represent the old year and are ceremoniously burnt, stacked in a pile at midnight.  Don José, the owner of the local store, pours more petrol over the pile of burning dolls.

sábado, 13 de octubre de 2012

Casa De Los Lagartos

I was staying in the rural town of Remedios, Cuba, on my way to los cayos - the small islands with paradise-like beaches.  In Remedios it really did feel like maybe you had just stepped back in time... the place has a dusty feel to it.  There was no internet in the town, it was only accessible by taxi, colectivo or the local overfull 'buses', which were more commonly old trucks, and people just seemed to hang around or go casually about their business.

In Cuba there are no hostels: there are hotels and then there are casas particulares - family homes in which (normally one or two) rooms are rented.  They are cheaper, and much cooler than hotels, and you never know exactly what you are going to find in one.  This one in Remedios was probably my favourite, having little distinction between the inside and the outside.

The lounge room/dining room, while completely enclosed at the front and sides, at the back opened to a courtyard (filled with a garden, palm trees and a fountain) that lead down to the owners rooms, the kitchen and the guest rooms.  This photo was taken through my bedroom's window - no glass, just bars, the lizard climbing in.  In the background, on the back wall you can see the brightly coloured male.  The courtyard had a number of these fellas wandering around, but they were normally too quick to catch.

martes, 9 de octubre de 2012

River Shanty

The Belén is a district of the Amazonian city Iquítos, Peru; the city being accessible only by boat or plane.  There, everything is built to float.  I visited in the southern hemisphere summer, when the rivers were low.  When the waters run high, the banks extend a few hundred metres up to a market.  The market was undoubtably the worst smelling place I have ever been, which gave me very little confidence to try the food.  But it was strangely fascinating, chickens were cut open in strange ways and left so that you could see eggs forming inside of them.  All kinds of meat were available: fish (also cut strangely), caiman, turtles and some that I either didn't know or couldn't recognise.  My favourite was the natural therapies/magic section .

When the river levels are up, everything is afloat, even the market, all of the Belén is on the river, and the only way to get around for the shanty town's thousands of occupants is in boats.

sábado, 6 de octubre de 2012

Cactus View

Earlier in the year I was visiting the sleepy and colourful city of Guanajuato with a group of fellow exchange students.  I had never travelled with a group before, I mean, I had done a couple of roadtrips with friends, but that doesn't really count.  So, I learnt the hard (the only) way: group travel is not for me.  Two of the girls (Dutch and identical twins) were always rushing everyone along when we paused to look at something, but would then stop in every shoe store we came across... a bit frustrating, along with any attempt at making group decisions...  The worst one had to be when we had just stepped out onto the street after getting our accomodation and everyone started taking pictures of this same view, without realising that a funeral procession was passing in front of them...

Having said that, Guanajuato was a really pretty city: the brightly coloured, old buildings, the underground network of tunnels that disorientates when you see sunlight coming through a hole in the roof, where the stairs lead down to the tunnels, and of course the mummies were the obvious attraction.  The whole centre gives of a calm vibe.

The photo itself was taken on the walk up to a look-out.  To me it summarises the Mexican landscape (and the sterotypes) quite neatly: a cactus in front of a town filled with brightly coloured buildings while dusty hills stand in the background, under the blanket of a bright blue, cloudless sky.

lunes, 1 de octubre de 2012

Sleep Walking The Streets

After having been kindly woken up from having fallen asleep, hugging my backpack on the bus, I was told that I had arrived in Baños, Ecuador.  I hadn't been keen on arriving so late (midnight), but the only other bus that ran that journey would get in a couple hours later still.  Already I had decided where I was going to stay that night, after consulting my guidebook, and a man had also given me directions at the bus station, which seemed easy enough to follow: five blocks straight, two blocks left.  

So, I set off from the bus station, which was really no distance at all from the centre of town, lugging my large backpack and the smaller one on front.  It only took a few minutes for me to realise that I was probably not on path at all, it was hard to count the blocks when all the roads were running at funny angles and their length was really variable.  The streets were deserted; it was eerily quiet. I pulled my guidebook out of the bag hanging on my chest, flicking through to find the town map.  Having worked out where I needed to go, I continued on.  It started to spit lightly.  A car drove past.  I checked the map again.  A drunken shout sounded from a bar.  I turned the corner and stumpled upon this.
I've always been a fan of old cars, and this one, a little worse for wear, looked pretty none-the-less against the brick wall and the old signs.  After snapping this, and checking the map again, I managed to find the hostel, which thankfully had a spare bed.  I passed back this way the next day, but someone had already driven him away.

lunes, 24 de septiembre de 2012

Intercom Arguments

I always found those families strange, the ones where the kids would get along really well, or even be friends.  Growing up, like most of the other families in the valley, we were always fighting.  We would play together, sure, but there was always fighting: hitting, kicking, yelling... the only rule that was always respected no matter what we were doing was no head shots.  We made up our own ways to deal with and judge fights, like if a hit was thought to be unfair, or a headshot was made, the victim would get one free shot at the offender.  This helped to keep the peace, but it isn't always that simple.

One time my brother had been fighting, I don't remember what about, but it was a serious fight, both of us still being in primary school.  Normally most of the fighting happened when we were alone together for long periods of time, ie. when the folks were occupied down the farm.  But this time Mum was home.  She sent us both to our rooms, not listening - not interested - as we both independently screeched at her about our innocence, blaming the other for the fight.  It's actually the only time I remember both being sent to their room, not that it was a regular punishment.

In my room, I threw myself angrily down on my bed and from underneath it pulled out the old intercom that my parents had given me.  I turned it on and pressed down the button, "It's your fault." My accusation was met with the crackling of static for a moment, before I heard the reply, "It is not! It's your fault!"  My brother had been given the partner-intercom.
"It is not! It's yours!"
And so, the argument contined, until we had both calmed down and were granted release.

miércoles, 19 de septiembre de 2012

Doors To Trinidad

Recently I was travelling through Cuba and had heard many recommendations for the small city of Trinidad.  Trinidad is a historic city that has recently been given a new life after becoming a UNESCO site.  It has the old, huge doors and buildings with high roofs like the rest of Cuba, although here they are all brightly, cheerily coloured.

Despite the prettiness of the city, it did not meet my tastes as the jinteros there are tireless, constantly offering some service.  This is because of the levels of tourism it receives.  When I arrived I was followed for several hundred metres by a woman offering me accomodation, who completely ignored me when I was telling her that I would like to look around by myself and that I wasn't interested.  After doing a lap of the town I accidently ran into her again, and she again began to tell me about how cheap her place was and how good a value it was.  Only after I told her flatly and emphatically, stopping in the street, that I wasn't interested did she leave me alone.  The jintero nature really contradicted the quietness that the small city's old buildings seemed to exude.

I loved the tall doors and how you could open segments of them, rarely the whole door.  I particularly like this picture not just because of the doors, but for the woman, barefoot and dressed with the typical head scarf, writing in the doorway.  It hints at how, sometimes in Cuba, it feels like maybe you have gone back a few decades, with horses and carts, 1950s cars and the trusting and casual attitude that the people foster. As one old man told me - Aquí, nadie se mete con nadie.

martes, 18 de septiembre de 2012

Sneaky Squirrel

This was taken on a recent trip to the zoo.  One of the reasons that I like this photo is for the irony: we had gone to the zoo to see some (exotic) animals.  But this turned out to be one of the best photos of the day: a wild squirrel with free-rein on the zoo, perched in a tree nibbling on his acorn.

viernes, 14 de septiembre de 2012

High Flyers

We had just taken a hot air balloon ride over a small town whose main industry was tequila production.  On the flight there had been my boyfriend and I, the pilot and another couple.  Half way through the flight I looked over to much see the girl gushing hysterically.  I turn to my boyfriend, "Oh god, I think he just proposed."  Though at first he didn't believe me, we soon saw a ring - a ridiculously large ring that I didn't understand how she was supposed to wear.  This ring turned out to be a fake, simply for posing for photos.  Then there was the phone call from the balloon to the shocked family - "He gave me a ring!... An engagement ring, Dad..."

On the other side of the basket, we continued to enjoy the flight, with the occasional snicker towards the couple - why wouldn't he have booked a private flight?  What if she had have said 'no'?  That would have been an awkward trip for everyone.  We landed in a field, a little off course and the workers took the balloon back over to the proper landing site, one hanging from the low-flying basket as it went.  We followed the balloon and watched as it was deflated, while being watched by some local kids in the field.

The very large van that had taken us to the take-off point drew up to us, with a few people walking alongside it.  Suddenly people began to pour out of the van, there would have been 20-30 of them.  They were the family, her family, who had come all the way from Baja California to this town near Tequila.  Then there were speeches, tequila (which didn't go down so well before 8am), photos with the oversized fake ring... while we stood kind of awkwardly on the side and commented on the groom-to-be's over-confidence and cheapness.

jueves, 13 de septiembre de 2012

Barbie Bounced

One summer evening after school I had gone out into the backyard to play, still dressed in my navy blue and white checked school-dress. I headed directly for a tree, feeling the grass tickle my bare feet as I tread, and my new Barbie that I had gotten a couple of weeks ago for my sixth birthday clutched around the waist.  I had never been that into Barbie’s, but this one was new, and was pretty spiff in that her hair could be dyed lurid pink.  The tree I headed towards was the most difficult to climb of all the trees we had, in fact I had only recently discovered how to climb it, as its lowest branch was well, well above my head.  

Having reached the tree, I looked up, blue-grey eyes contemplating the helicopter-style seed pods hung down in amongst the still-green foliage; they hadn’t yet begun to fall.  With my fair hair still pulled back from the day at school, I put Barbie’s waist into my mouth to carry her up with me.  This was serious business, and if she was to come with me, this was the only way.  I moved as close as I could to the base of the tree, and reached up, on tippy toes, until I could securely grasp the branch that hovered above my head.  I held on and bent my back, starting to walk up the straight tree trunk.  The roughness of the trunk pressed into my feet, but I kept walking until I was more or less upside down and could swing my legs up over a branch.  The hard part over, I dragged myself properly into the tree, scraping my legs as I went.  Then came the relief: we had made it, and it hadn’t been any harder at all to take Barbie with me.  I moved around into the canopy until I found a comfortable seat and started to play with my new favourite toy.  

I had been perched in the tree for a while, as the sun continued to sink, turning the countryside a warm yellow, when I heard my mum call out that it was time for dinner.  Obediently I shuffled around to the side I had ascended, pulling Barbie along behind me.  I reached the branch that I had clung to on my way up and looked down.  I threw Barbie down into the grass; she would just get in the way this time.  Squatting over the branch, I tried to recall the trick to getting down.  I had only climbed the tree once before and it was a long way down.  Just then Mum called through the window again that it was tea time.  There was no time to think about it, I had to go in to dinner.  I jumped from the tree recklessly.  My feet hit the grass with a numbing pain, but I rapidly overbalanced, falling forward, my arm out to break my fall.  Instead, it turned out that I had broken my arm.  Lying face down in the grass, crying, with Barbie strewn a couple of feet from me I remembered the trick: you were meant to hold on, let yourself fall, then let go of the branch.  In the background Mum’s calls continued to for me to come to tea.  

A couple of minutes later she came out to look for me.  She stood several metres from me, as I lay there in the grass, crying my eyes out, as she repeated, once again, that it was time for tea.  I realise that she thought that I was faking and just sobbed louder as though to prove my point whilst moaning “My arm”.  She started to make her way closer, with many a “Come on”.  Once she had picked me up and looked at the arm in question it was a different story.  This was far from my first broken arm, and Mum was starting to consider herself something of an expert.  They sat me down on Dad’s knee while Mum poked and squeezed at it, to see if it made me cry any louder.  Following the examination and the conclusion that it was broken, I was made to eat dinner before being taken to the hospital, an hour away. 

 It was a long night, because, being a country hospital, they wouldn’t operate the x-ray machine (I think the operator wasn’t working) unless someone with a more serious injury came in (in which case they would call him in).  So that was how Mum and I ended up sitting in the waiting room for about four hours one school night.  All that I remember of that time was: Mum praying for someone to come in with a broken leg or something, eating Smith’s salt and vinagre, crinkle cut chips from the vending machine and getting a Tazo with a hologram of the little blue alien from Space Jam shaking his head, and nodding off while trying to stay awake in the waiting room by watching the tv lodged in the corner.  Eventually we were lucky (as someone else was unlucky), and a broken leg came in.  We didn’t end up getting home until about one in the morning.  I wasn’t even allowed the whole next day off school, only the morning to sleep in.

And that was the incident that my Mum continues to summarise as: Barbie bounced, Clare didn’t.

lunes, 10 de septiembre de 2012

Mariposas Dormidas

The previous day had seen us catching four buses to the small town of Angangueo, Michoacán, Mexico.  There had been debates along the way between my boyfriend and I as to whether we should continue.  Everytime we had to change buses we would ask for directions and get contradictory and impractical answers.  The buses decreased in size as we went along, becoming more and more for local use.  We reached one small, unwelcoming town and sat on the gutter for about half an hour debating our options.  It was mid-to-late afternoon, there was a chance that we would become stranded in one of these small towns and not be able to make it that night to the destintaion. We weren't sure about accomdation availability, and we were starting to get pretty low on money, not having discussed the finances before the trip.  He was starting to get pretty pesimistic - it didn't make much sense why such a famous attraction would be so difficult to reach without a tour.  While I couldn't deny this, I also still wanted to go.  We moved to sit on some steps, and watched a small store that was selling roast chicken, while my boyfriend complained about hunger.  Eventually we decided to continue, it was starting to get late and the chances of getting stuck somewhere were increasing.

Needless to say, we made it, despite my strong stomach pains, after catching a small, old, US-style school bus up to the Santuario El Rosario. We were greeted sleepily after walking the 50 minutes at 3000 metres to the site of the annual Monarch Butterfly migration.  The vast majority of the butterflies were inactive due to the cold weather.  I like how the sleeping ones look like barnacles on the trees, giving it a surreal touch, while the one butterfly who is awake adds a sense of optimism.

domingo, 9 de septiembre de 2012

Huts At Dusk

On a four-day trip into the Peruvian Amazon, I took this picture.  We (the guide, a Colombian guy and myself) were heading back to camp for dinner at dusk in the long, rustic wooden boat.  It was just starting to rain as we were coming up to these huts.  I found the lighting and the reflection striking, but the darkness does hide perhaps the most quirky aspect of the huts visible in the daylight: they had satellite dishes on their roofs.  Technology: it seems you can't escape it.

sábado, 8 de septiembre de 2012

The Girl Without A Heart

One summer day in my first years of primary school, I found myself in the bathroom.  I was washing my hands in the sink, looking at the girl in the mirror.  She was wearing a navy blue and white checked school dress, with her blonde hair falling out of her pony tail around her freckled face.  I felt something caught in my throat.  Grabbing some of the rough, yellow paper towel from the dispensor, I started to try to cough it up.  It didn't take long before I got it and spat it out into the paper towel I was holding.  There it was, a dark, blood-coloured ball sitting in the hollow of the palm of my hand.  I don't know what I had been expecting, but that was definitely not it.  What was it?  What could be that big?  And that colour?  There was only one thing that came to mind: my heart.  I had just coughed up my heart.  But why wasn't I dead?  You can't live without a heart.  Maybe it would just take a while?  That wasn't that important, what was important was that my death was imminent.  I would most likely die that very day.

I was gripped by a nervous fear: I couldn't tell anyone firstly for fear that they would scold me for having been so very foolish as to cough up my own heart, and secondly, in the case that I hadn't actually coughed up my heart, that it was something else, that they would mock me.  The rest of the day and part of the next I spent in quiet anxiety, awaiting the end when death would take me and everyone would realise that I was heartless.  But as the second day stretched into the afternoon it began to cross my mind in waves that maybe I wasn't doomed afterall.  Repeatedly I banished the thought, not wanting to jinx myself, but gradually as the day passed I was immersed in a sense of peace and relief.  I had spent a day heartless and was still alive, this probably wasn't my end, I was probably safe for now, probably...

viernes, 7 de septiembre de 2012

Afternoon Rewards

I remember one afternoon, riding in the back of the family’s old, red station wagon.  Turned to face the window, I watched the landscape as we passed by.  We were driving through town. It was summer and we had been brought along to ‘help’ Mum with her errands in town.  I always thought though that it was more that they just wanted to get us off the farm for a while, especially while Dad would be working down there by himself, he wouldn’t be able to watch us as well.  Always I had hated these trips.  Unless there was the promise of going to the movies or something of the sort, it was a long, boring day in which we spent a lot of the time in the car in over thirty-five degree weather, driving between errands.  It left my blonde strands sticking to my skin and a constant paranoia at the threat of my fair skin being burnt.

I was watching the buildings pass, unenthusiastically.  Then I saw one building that caught my attention.  It was just a small, dusty, box-like store that looked like it wasn’t earning enough, like the other stores to its side.  This one had ‘Trophies’, written in big, triumphant letters across the front window, behind which gold, plastic figures towered.  At first I think I may have laughed, amused and confused at the concept.  But then I understood what it meant: you could buy trophies.  You didn’t have to earn it.  You didn’t have to compete in any event.  You didn’t have to be the best. You could simply buy yourself a trophy.  For a moment I thought that this was a tempting idea.  I didn’t have to compete; I didn’t have to be the best.  But then I realised that if I could buy it, anyone could buy it.  Anyone could have a trophy; and if anyone had a trophy, no one may as well have one because they would not be worth anything.  What was the value in a recognition that you could buy for no cause?