taking love, peace and happiness to nicaragua!

A week or so ago I posted about the upcoming trip to Nicaragua to support Esperanca’s volunteer surgical mission program.  Well the time has come!  Just look at all the loot! I just had to share with you how generous our family, friends and neighbors have been to give us so many donations for the people of Nicaragua.  (In addition…this wouldn’t even be possible to pull off…without generous baggage allowances…thanks to United!)

Not only is Nicaragua the poorest country in Central America, but the second poorest (Haiti being the first) in the Western Hemisphere.  It’ll be so special to actually hand deliver a portion of the collection directly to the people, as we make our way along the Rio Coco into these remote villages looking for patients in need of surgery.

gifts for folks in nicaragua

 a few of the children of Santa Catalina

But what has been so special…and just mind blowing…is how the children of Santa Catalina Drive here in Scottsdale, Arizona have come together and brought over so many clothes to SHARE with those not quite as fortunate.  I just can’t wait to give this adorable dress to a little girl…after surgery she’ll feel like a princess in this outfit!

clothes for the poor in Nicaragua

 The children of Santa Catalina are sending love, peace and happiness…to the children of Nicaragua….

giving to the needy in Nicaragua

Now these will certainly be entertaining!

helping the needy in Nicaragua

And can you only imagine how happy a bunch of little girls are going to be…

when they get one of these colorful, adorable dresses?

Yes, we have clothing for the boys too…but girlie stuff is so much more fun to photograph!

giving to the needy in Nicaragua

And look at all of these brand new backpacks!  Many are filled with a little sleeping bag!

helping the needy in Nicaragua

It just filled my heart when I learned that the parents of the children bring them all together once a week to discuss virtues…yes, virtues. Well there’s no doubt…all of the children of Santa Catalina have demonstrated accountability, compassion, detachment, commitment, diligence, and I’m sure many other virtues that I can’t even think of!  Thank you all so much!

A few more things to toss in the suitcase and then…hasta luego!  The first week there will be no access to internet as this will be the most remote travel experience yet, and I’m not sure how much the second week…but know that I’ll be so eager to share as soon as possible during the trip, as well as when I return on March 9th!

Until then!  gg

 

 

the elephant camp in kalaw, myanmar

Remember when I said that my time in Kalaw, Myanmar was so special?  Besides what you learned here…there’s also the experience at the Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp.

Not only do the folks at the camp protect the local environment and care for aging and disabled elephants, they offer visitors the opportunity to feed and bathe the elephants in their natural habitat.  Do you know that an elephant can eat between 200 and 600 pounds of food a day?  omg…

And since we all know what an elephant looks like…thought I’d take a different approach…with a few macro shots!

Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp in Kalaw, Myanmar

 

Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp in Kalaw, Myanmar

 

elephant skin

I also want to show you the adorable wooden bells the elephants wear (similar to the cow bell)…simple, yet very effective way of keeping up with your elephant.  It’s made of wood…and when the elephant moves around…two clappers strike the middle piece and make the most pleasant sound.

Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp in Kalaw, Myanmar

 

 And yes…I just had to bring one home…to accompany my cow bell from Switzerland!

Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp in Kalaw, Myanmar

 

Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp in Kalaw, Myanmar

 

Unfortunately the time of day for our visit didn’t provide the ideal conditions for photography…but sometimes you just have to put the camera away and enjoy the moment!  The water was cold…but so fun bathing these big guys!

And of course…yours truly with my buddies!

Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp in Kalaw, Myanmar

 

 Another fun and memorable experience…

kudos to the folks at the Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp for sharing their love of the elephants!

♥♥♥

Oh..and I just have to show you my other find…at a temple in Bagan…

a little puppet (minus her strings) just waiting for adoption!

♥ her!

the beginnings of my “storied objects” project…more on that after my return from Nicaragua!

elephant puppet in myanmar

Busy packing!  gg

happy V day!

Valentines Day

It’s true…all we need is love…

but darn…a little chocolate and a nice glass of red wine sure doesn’t hurt either!

♥♥♥

To all my family…

and friends…

I hope you have a wonderful Valentine’s Day weekend!

~~~

Background on the image…in a little Colorado town…it was such a sweet surprise to find this heart in-between these two trees on a street where most of the houses were very run down or in many cases vacant…everything and everybody deserves a little love…

cheers, gg

new york city pedicabs

pedicabs in Central Park

For years I’ve been baffled over the pricing of pedicabs in Central Park.  As you can see from the image above..there’s pricing at $2.49 and another for $3.00, yet they’re both offering the exact same service…a pedicab ride.  Not only does it seem expensive, but how can you have all these different prices?  And that much per minute? What’s the story?

pedicabs in nyc

So I asked.  I was walking through Central Park and came across a bunch of young men just hanging out with their pedicabs.  I thought…now’s the time to ask.  So the story goes something like this…

Me to one of the drivers:  “Can you explain to me why you charge $5.00 a minute and your pedicab brother here is charging $3.00 a minute?  What are you going to give me for that extra $2.00?

Another driver enters the conversation:  “Well it’s like this (with a very serious face)…If you employ the driver that charges $2.49 a minute…well…they can’t speak any English.  If you employ the driver that charges $3….well…they can speak a little English.  If you employ a driver that charges $4.00 a minute…they can speak English, but with a heavy accent.  But…if you employ a driver that charges $5.00 an hour…well honey you got yourself an American!

pedicabs in nyc

So there you have it!  We both had a good laugh over it…and after a little more discussion…it’s basically all up for negotiations…so they say…

pedicabs in nyc

I was still a touch curious about the price…cause in my little mind when you multiply using the average of say $3.00 a minute and take a 60 minute ride…well that’s $180 dollars.. WHAT???  That’s crazy!

pedicabs in nyc

So I dug a little deeper to see if I could find some specific prices. Sure enough on several websites it mentions a ride through Central Park will run you about $45 for an hour for one adult and $30 for a kid.  So I’m assuming that the per minute rate that’s published on their bikes is a worst case scenario? Anyway, it still seems confusing to me. So the bottom line?  Do your research and try to negotiate!

And for those of you wondering about the status of the horse-drawn carriages in Central Park…looks like the legislation says that as of June 1st of 2016…”it shall be unlawful to operate a horse-drawn vehicle in the city of New York or offer rides to the public on a vehicle drawn or pulled by a carriage horse.”  So we’ll see…

later!  gg

not for fame or fortune

Fame & Fortune? How about a Free Portfolio Review?  That’s the headline for the article announcing the opportunity for people in the photography world to “meet, trade ideas, help each other – and have fun.” Sponsored by the New York Times Lens blog and the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism…the article peaked my interest.

What I loved reading most was…it’s FREE.  I really have no desire to pay money to enter photography contests, nor to hire someone to review my images for critiques.  But FREE?  That gets my attention.  So until February 11th,  photographers around the world will be entering up to 20 images that represent a project or two of their work. (There’s still time to apply if you’re interested and if so look here!)  All applications will be screened and 100 participants (age 21 and older) will be chosen.

So yours truly applied.  I know that many experienced, talented photographers will apply.  I know that my chances are slim to none.  But what I do know…the experience of applying was very educational and very beneficial.  The process made me think about my photography bio.  It’s not easy to try to provide a summary of 100 words or less about your photography experience.  It also made me think through what I really love to photograph and what projects I’d like to work on.  Hmm…projects?  Well I don’t have a mission every day to go out and shoot XYZ for a project, however I do know I love to capture faces and I love it even more when those faces are in a farm field or a market or working on a craft.  Yep, that’s my love for people, the culture, and the land.

But the timing of the article could not have been better. I was fresh from the Myanmar trip and was thinking through the epiphany I had while trekking there.   Why don’t I start a project of women in the fields…in the markets…all about women in their rural environments? Even though I’ve never intentionally thought about this type of project, it has been developing on its own now for several years.  It was the second Myanmar trip that sealed the deal.  So let me share some of those images with you…

~~~

I call her Grace…because she was so elegant and refined as she harvested her sesame plants.  A typical case where we didn’t speak each others language (the case for all of these women below) but…she knew as I walked across the field with my camera that I was respectful of the land.  I was careful not to step on her plants…approached slowly with a big smile…then a point to my camera and she was so totally ok with me photographing her.

women of myanmar

 

So put together and filled with confidence…this gal was herding her goats and keeping them in line with her slingshot…so totally comfortable in her own skin…

women of myanmar

 

Making her way to the fields in the morning…with a point to my camera…she was fine with me photographing her as she enjoyed her cheroot…

women of myanmar

 

The elegance of this young nun totally blew me away…she went about about working her tea leaves without any concern of me photographing her…I captured her again later as she was making her way home from work…like an angel appearing out of nowhere…

women of myanmar

 

This woman cooked near the local temple where many locals would come at sunset…she totally had my respect and I’m positive she knew it…

women of myanmar

 

This beautiful woman was walking with her daughter down a dirt road…when I made eye contact and motioned toward my camera…they were gracious and posed for me. I hugged her and thanked her for allowing me to photograph her…her little body felt so thin and fragile…yet strong and self-assured…I will always remember that hug.

women of myanmar

 

A market vendor…enjoying a cheroot before the rush of customers…she was so patient with me as I worked to capture that early morning light on her face.

women of myanmar

 

So these are a few of my submissions and with my library of photographs…I was able to submit 19 images that I felt really good about…and now we wait…not too long though…participants will be informed if they are selected by March 4th.

So there’s no desire for fame or fortune, but I would so enjoy having one-on-one time with some of the best in the industry for input on how I can move forward with my “project.”  So we’ll all stay tuned!

I’m so needing a little of “my” city…so let’s see what I can dig out from the archives!  gg

nicaragua

shoes for nicaragua

So why boots in my photo?  Well I just had to share the two cutest pairs (of many!) that we’ll be taking to women, men and children on our upcoming trip to Nicaragua.  When you have extra baggage allowance…you take advantage!

So let’s start at the beginning.  All during my corporate years there was very little, if any, time for volunteering.  So what does one do when an organization tugs at your heart?  You write a check.  Fast forward to today and with my love of photography…well let’s just say I’ve found an organization that allows me to give back using my passion, as well as writing that check!

Let me tell you a little about Esperancawhose mission is to improve the health for people in the poorest communities.  Just last year, Esperanca sent 14 volunteer surgical teams who performed over 1,000 free surgeries…treating severe burns, cleft palates, injuries, deformities, etc., mainly in rural Nicaragua.  All the medical teams pay their own expenses and donate their time, but the folks at Esperanca make it all happen.

Many of the patients are children, often traveling many miles to where the hospital is located in Jinotega…a small city in north central Nicaragua. Typical surgeries for them include fixing cleft lips and palates as well as burn scars from injuries sustained from falling into cooking fires.  Many of the children have never experienced being away from their village, much less in a city like Jinotega or being in a hospital environment As one can imagine, this can be a very frightening experience for the children and their families. So how do the families know that a doctor is coming to town?  Word gets out by community leaders who will distribute the necessary information to the small villages. Families will use all types of transportation to arrive in Jinotega…and for those who can’t?  Patients will be collected from villages by a “cayuco”, a motorized wooden longboat, stopping at villages along the Coco River, in some of the most remote parts of Central America.

Guess who will be in that “cayuco” on the Coco River? Guess who will be sleeping in hammocks with mosquito netting for a week? Yep, and then after we collect as many patients as possible…the following week will be documenting the families and their surgical needs, as well as the actual surgeries.  As time permits, some excursions will be made to see how Esperanca is making a difference in small villages by building community wells, water systems and latrines. And of course, I so hope to experience a coffee plantation as Jinotega produces 80 percent of the coffee Nicaragua grows.

So as one can imagine…I have a lot of different emotions happening as the departure date of February 19th closes in.  A big thank you to friends that have given shoes, clothes, toys, sports equipment for us to take in that extra baggage allowance.  I know it will be appreciated by the people of the villages we will visit!

And yes, I do know that the Coco River has alligators.
 Have a great weekend!  gg

 

heartwarming experiences in myanmar

village in the kalaw area of myanmar

Just like any place you visit…the children are adorable.  I knew from the first trip that I wanted to dig a little deeper into this country on the next visit…small villages…schools…orphanages…and that’s exactly what we did.

While trekking in the Kalaw area of Myanmar we came across a small village just when school was beginning to start.  As part of their routine,  the children were lining up for their morning assembly.  In chorus, they all spoke some type of daily affirmation or an allegiance.  The teachers emphasized cleanliness by examining the children’s hands and fingernails.  Within no time the students were rushing all around the premises and we were told they had been instructed to collect small pieces of firewood for their teachers.  Teachers are usually coming from other villages and will spend the school week in a nearby house made of bamboo, thus the need for firewood for heat and cooking.  We presented our gifts of paper tablets, pens, etc. that we’d brought from the states and then continued on our trek to the elephant camp.  (Oh…can’t wait to share that soon!)

How cute are their haircuts, sweaters and green school uniforms…and just look at all the fresh thanaka that had been painted on their little faces to protect their skin…

school in the kalaw area of Myanmar

 

children at school in Kalaw, myanmar

 

Interesting, as I scanned the rows of students…

this little child certainly stood out from all the others!

children at school in village in kalaw, myanmar

Which reminded me of the little boy we met in another small village in Kalaw.  We were told that the villagers believed this little one had come about through reincarnation…I didn’t grasp the whole story due to the language barrier…but it was obvious the members of the village thought he was special.

child in village kalaw, myanmar

 Some things are the same regardless of the country…

but rest assured this device is a far from the likes of an Xbox or a iPhone…

school children in kalaw area of Myanmar

 

Moving along to Inle Lake in Myanmar…we rented bikes and cycled to the Mine Thouk Village to visit the local orphanage.  We were given a tour of the building for the girls, including their classrooms…

 

Mine Thouk Youth Orphanage in Inle Lake area of Myanmar

  their meditation room…

Mine Thouk Youth Orphanage in the Inle Lake area of Myanmar

 their dormitories…

Mine Thouk Youth Orphanage in Inle Lake area of Myanmar

 

The Care for Children Foundation, a Netherlands-based supporter of the orphanage, has been instrumental in the continuation of the homes for both the girls and the boys.  Just an overall heart-warming experience…

As we were leaving the building I noticed a sign hanging in the hallway…

~~~

When wealth is lost…Nothing is lost.

When health is lost…Something is lost.

When character is lost…All is lost.

~~~

If you have a couple of minutes…and need a little heartwarming experience…check out this adorable video here…direct from the Foundation’s website!

Coming up…I know…but this time it’s for real!  Nicaragua!  gg

kalaw country

As I mentioned in a previous post, the highlight of my last visit to Myanmar was the rural area of Kalaw.  There were many reasons…the precious time giving polaroid photos to the children of the village of Taung Ni…observing and listening to the monks during their evening chants and meditation..sleeping in the monestary and even sharing the outdoor toilet with them…but the highlight was the trekking through the fields and orchards that just took me straight back to my childhood and the experiences of growing up on our farm in Virginia.

Kalaw, Myanmar

The image below…a perfect example of farming on the hillsides in Kalaw

Kalaw, Myanmar

 

Just like my daddy did here on our farm…

the similarities of the land…amazing…

 

dad in the strawberry patch

my daddy

 

The children running about in the fields…

I can remember being that age as well…trying to keep up…trying to help…

Kalaw, Myanmar

Watching the women grading the fruit was something that was so routine in my day to day life…

My mom, aunt, older sisters and family friends did the same but with tomatoes, apples and peaches.

I grew up with this…it was if I was going back in time…

Kalaw, Myanmar

The chatter…the laughter…

Kalaw, Myanmar

The slat sided wooden crates to hold their fruit…dusty dirt roads…

the end of a long day hoping to get a ride back to their home…muddy shoes…

it all came rushing back as if I was reliving my childhood…

Kalaw, Myanmar

 

So you see…all of this is what made my time in Kalaw so very, very special.

An experience I’ll never forget…

~~~

P.S…Thank you all so much…for taking the time to leave a note…always so appreciated…

~~~

Coming up?  I am so eager to share about Nicaragua…so stay tuned!
So much to share!

colorado firsts

When one thinks of Colorado…it’s usually the beautiful and rugged mountain ranges that come to mind.  But this visit took me to a tiny agricultural town of Rocky Ford where farmers grow and ship amazing cantaloupes and watermelons across the nation.  And I mean amazing…the most delicious…  If you’re ever in the grocery store and you see “Rocky Ford melons” for sale…trust me…it will be the best purchase ever!

Anyway, it’s been years since my last visit to see family and this time there were several “firsts” so to speak…

Starting with the introduction of marijuana dispensaries…while road signs usually advertise melons for sale (in season of course) there’s the new addition of signs along the highway…

marijuana signs along the highway in colorado

 

…or buildings with the big green X to bring attention to medical marijuana dispensaries…

 

medical marijuana dispensary

 

And of course we can’t forget the reggae king of cannabis…Bob Marley…whose presence is on billboards and business signage throughout…like this one at The Spot dispensary in Pueblo

 

the reggae king of cannabis, bob marley

 

So all of that was fun…and then there was the first visit to The Garden of the Gods…or God’s Country as I’ve affectionately named it…a national natural landmark located in Colorado Springs…offering magnificent red rock formations…kinda like our Sedona here in Arizona…but on a much smaller scale.

 

Garden of the Gods in Colorado

 

Garden of the Gods in Colorado

But the icing on the cake for “firsts?”  Meeting a sister in my blogging world that I’ve known for several years…whom I’ve adored and so wanted to connect with…and this trip…it happened!  I mean really…for you bloggers…how many times does this really happen?  This is the third experience for me…once in the Netherlands…and another in NYC when a blogger friend from Germany/Switzerland/France came to visit.  It’s just way cool to finally meet that person after years of reading and appreciating their written word and their art!

Not only did I get to experience another adorable historical spot in Colorado…Manitou Springs

manitou springs, colorado

but to meet and spend time with this amazing soul was just icing on the cake!

the gotham girl with Susan

 

So many firsts!  So fun!  Oh…and I must mention…she has been part of my inspiration to accept the au naturel of going gray!  Such freedom!  Thank you Susan!

So here we are…and I still have so much to share with you…Myanmar…my upcoming trip to Nicaragua in a few weeks…my first submission for a chance at a photography portfolio review in NYC…so much!  So stay tuned!

 

Have a wonderful weekend!  gg

greetings from colorado

colorado road trip

What I love about a road trip is not having to drive and time to just play with my camera!

(if you receive a feed and don’t see an image…just head on over to the site!)

And yes!  I’m really bummed I’m missing the blizzard in my city!
more soon…gg