Slowing Down

December 18, 1930 ~ At sea
A good day to rest, nothing but sea. Played shuffleboard for two hours without either side running up a decent score. Capt. D. was called away so Percy took his place but the score was still poor. Visited the bridge with the Capt. In the chart room we saw the instrument recording the course of the ship showing every deviation to port or starboard by means of a wavy line. There was also a depth finder which does away with heaving the load over the side. The ship was rolling as usual, so was glad to leave the bridge.

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In the afternoon thought it a good idea to do some reading. Percy had pulled my deck chair behind lifeboat three, alongside the rail. It was so nice to just lie back and watch the sea and sky that I just couldn’t read.

 

April 26, 2017 ~ Captain Cook, HI
After a long morning of tending to the crops and farm, I welcome a quick thirty minute window to exhale and relax before finishing out the day’s work. Not having wifi in our cabin on the Big Island is a blessing, it’s broken me of a digital habit and clutch. I’ve turned to books for entertainment, but more often than not, I can’t sit back and enjoy until the sun goes down. Words on a page don’t hold my attention when the scenery is as beautiful as it is. I’ve learned to just sit and be present, admiring the view, a hard task in today’s frenetic world.

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My mind is unusually calm when staring out at the clouds and peekaboo sea from my second-floor patio. I don’t have useless thoughts and worries churning in my head. I’ve slowed down. I notice the air is filled with the aroma of flowers and citrus. I savor the sweet and slightly acidic flavor of my mid-morning pick-me-up, whether it’s a piece of homemade papaya-orange-lime fruit leather or a cup of our farm grown coffee, instead of mindlessly funneling sustenance into my gullet. I close my eyes and listen to the meditative sound of the wind or far off waves. The coqui frogs are singing, joined by birds and our neighbor’s cows. The fronds on the palm shimmer and shake in the breeze. I hear a thump and visualize the avocado falling off the tree. My lizard friend scurries across the deck railing. Gosh, isn’t he beautiful?

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I allow the sun to fall onto my skin, warming me again after the sweat and breeze have cooled me off. I’ve grown fond of the rooster’s squawk, it makes me feel at home. Ironic since my “home” had no animals to speak of. I am in their company and am happy with that. I don’t feel a constant need to busy myself with things and I certainly don’t feel as if I’m wasting time either. Hawaii is a practice in meditation and gratitude, for which I am thankful. It’s nice to just be.

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Beauty In The Chaos

June 24, 1926 ~ Port Antonio, Jamaica
Frequently along the road we passed women breaking rocks into small stones used for road making. Anne tried to snapshot them but they were camera shy or had other reasons for avoiding the camera. One woman fled up the mountainside rather than be snapped. Anne finally gave up the attempt. We were told that stone-breaking is the work of convicts and from another source we learned that this work is one of the natives’ sources of income.

 

January 7, 2009 ~ Delhi, India
We checked out of our hotel in Delhi and headed toward Agra. With a 4-6 hour drive ahead of us, I knew that I would be spending some of those hours photographing out of the window as I observed this unfamiliar territory. Goodness knows I’ve learned to master this skill over the years. The drive was an eye-opening experience for it was all so foreign to me. The traffic is crazier than in New York City and Naples. Drivers seemingly don’t bother to look before they pass. Multiple cars may be coming the other direction, but people gun it and try to squeeze by, honking their horns mercilessly all the while. Individuals hawking goods go right up to your car in the middle of traffic and tap on the glass to gain your attention, or if the windows are open, they’ll shove their hands and merchandise right through the window. One guy even hung on as we drove away trying to make a sale.

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Buildings resembling primitive houses lay in disarray with untraditional coverings for roofs, an assumption on my part, of course, that these are indeed houses. I’ve also seen people laying out on the sidewalk on cots wrapped in blankets so I’m uncertain. I asked one of the women I was traveling with about what we had been seeing, interested to learn more. I wanted to know if people really lived in the streets with little housing, or if they were just squatting there. She seemed to think that the people were living below the poverty level with their straw roofs, fires to keep warm, dung-pattied/clay houses, and mats for beds. This part of India was proving to be the have-nots vs the haves.

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Barbers without storefronts have their chairs and mirrors set up on the side of the roads. Animals are roaming freely, people are urinating freely in the streets littered with trash. Standing out among the grime, however, are the beautiful and brightly colored outfits that the females wear. They are absolutely stunning! The color in India is what I’m finding to be incredible. This part of the world is awash in a haze of smog, yet the fields stand out with their hunter green grass and contrasting yellow mustard flowers, studded with the saffron and purple outfits of the women tending the crops. How they keep the fabric so vibrant and colorful among the dust and grime of the city air is beyond me.

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– – –

It’s been nearly ten years since I’ve been in India. I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on the trip, my emotions and feelings of being there, along with what I saw. I was a novice traveler at this point and I went very much on a whim with a group I volunteered with at school. Most of this particular trip was spent inside a moving vehicle, or that’s how it seemed. In order to try and process what I was seeing through the window I needed to slow it down, to photograph it. That’s generally how I think best anyway. Delhi, for me, was sensory overload embodied. The sheer amount of people, signs, colors, smells, the air that choked me with dirt and incense. It was a lot to process, especially for someone who wasn’t used to exploring other cultures and countries in real life outside of an anthropology textbook.

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As we whizzed through the city, it was hard to tell what was going on. I could make my best educated guess, but without having the time to get out, to talk with the people, to interact in their daily lives, who am I to tell you what’s going on in the photographs? One thing I’ve always been frustrated with, and still don’t understand about art and photography, are the critiques by an audience trying to articulate what the artist is attempting to portray and what they think the thought process was when creating said piece. People make such a big deal about little details they project to be clues, making up stories for the sake of having a good story. Am I the only one that doesn’t have this big emotional outpouring for every photograph I take? Sometimes, as in the case of these photos, I literally can’t tell you what is going on — and I am growing to resent that in this decade since photographing them. They were merely observations out my window. That’s not to say I had my camera shutter depressed the entire time, hoping for a good shot. The beauty in the chaos still registered in my brain before I pointedly snapped away.

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In the era of fake news, I don’t want to project what I’m looking at in order to make a sap story out of these innocent folks. I would have loved to get to know them, learn about their culture through their eyes and not the narrowed scope of a dirty car window. Were these their dwellings, their shops, or bus stops? Are they happy in life, as their passing smiles would lead me to believe? Perhaps a return trip is in order.

 

 

 

 

Ocean Overload

December 11th, 1930 ~ St. Thomas
Was awakened at 6:30 A.M. for my bath instead of the usual 7:30. Saw the actual docking at St. Thomas. Beautiful morning and the country looked nice. We were ready for an early breakfast but couldn’t be served until 7:30. Debarked about 8:30 for a trip into Charlotte Amalie, which is the name of the town near the dock. Took a car which got us into town in about 10 minutes. We were warned that the rate was 25¢ but we had to dicker to get that rate. Nice, clean town. Stopped at the post office to mail our letters and one for Mr. Lumeson, chief engineer. Mr. Haskell, bound for Barbados to manage the Marine Hotel, joined us for a ride to see the sights…The entire country is beautiful and the green of the island is a welcome relief after the intense blue of the sea.

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March 11, 2018 ~ Bermuda
I’ve always been aware of and fascinated by the different variations that make up a single color. I was the kid with the box of 120 crayons when everyone else was using the basic eight. What most people know as “blue” isn’t just blue. Cerulean, aquamarine, cobalt (my favorite), and so on are all rolled under one generalized name. The waters of Bermuda exemplify this perfectly. Shades and hues churn together with each tide.

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It’s quite magical, really. Motoring around the island, the tints of the ocean varied, growing more intense around each curve. Set against the jet black lava cliffs, the contrast was stunning, highlighted by the bright sun. The colors of the island seem to stand out more here than in other places I’ve been. It’s like the saturation has been dialed up 10 notches. You’d think this was the case because I left home the day after a blizzard where my world was blanketed in varying shades of white, but the memories and photographs stand to tell the truth. Bermuda is one of the prettiest places I’ve seen.

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I was naturally drawn to the ocean here. The color alone would have been enough to grab me by the hand and lure me in, but it was also very gentle and calming. The perfect remedy for the storm at home. The water was clear and warm, the sand beneath my feet soft. I could have lazed about in it for hours. There are plenty of beach access points to choose from, none did disappoint. The trip to Bermuda was another particularly short jaunt and I felt I couldn’t let the water out of my gaze for fear of missing it as soon as I stepped foot on that plane. I was mesmerized by her beauty, wishing to paint her likeness onto a canvas to stare at forever.

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Thinking I couldn’t be amazed by this natural wonder anymore, I stepped foot into Tom Moore’s jungle and was bemused again. I now know what Jean was talking about. How the greenery is such a shock to the system after seeing nothing but blue. It’s not a bad shock, but rather it catches you off guard in a good way. You don’t realize you need a visual break from the intensity of only seeing one color. Maybe it’s just the ticket to enjoy the piercing blues that much more. Tom Moore’s was stunning of a different variety, the canopy of fronds a breath of fresh air. Shading me, wrapping me in a hug, and luring me away from the distracting ocean just steps away. I felt at home with the papaya trees and Surinam cherry plants, zigzagging through the emerald paths to no end.

A Whole Different Animal

August 25th, 1929 ~ Mexico City
Went for a walk in the morning in the vicinity of the hotel in Mexico City. Stopped a couple of people to ask directions. We spoke in Spanish. Some answered in kind and we couldn’t understand them but a couple answered in English and we thought it was a good joke on us. 

In the afternoon we went to the bull fight. Started to walk to the Plaza de Torres but we lost our way and had to take a taxi, arriving just in time. We found that Miss Barck and Miss Hayes had seats next to ours in the “Sombra” section. The killing of the first bull affected us considerably and our two friends left soon after. After the second bull it started to rain and it came down so heavily during the third that we had to leave before it was finished. We sought shelter and when it stopped somewhat a corp of men swept the rain puddles away and bags of sawdust and earth were thrown on the wet spots to make the ring fit for further sport. Anne asked for some information about the third bull and Wm. Cabrera (educated in Chicago) kindly volunteered a lot of information. He explained that this particular bullfight was a contest between two toreadors – Garcia and Carmela. Garcia was the neater worker with the banderillas especially and won the contest. It rained intermittently but we stayed through the finish of the fifth bull. He was quite vicious and gored three horses to death. It upset me completely.

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June 5, 2014 ~ Barcelona, Spain
I hadn’t seen A since high school and I was beyond excited for a reunion in Barcelona where she was studying. After stashing my luggage at her flat, we headed across the street to the Chinese-run Spanish tapas bar and dined al fresco in the warm sun. Over lunch, A and I made a list of our must-do’s for my trip in between catching up on the last eight years. I practiced my rusty Spanish and ordered patatas bravas to share and un bocadillo de fuet.

A’s parent’s stopped by for a visit later that afternoon, which was a fun surprise, as they now live a few hours drive away from her in a quaint little mountain town. A’s dad kindly toured me around town a bit while her mom stayed back with A to look over the school project she was working on. It was fun to catch up with him on our walk. The last we spoke was at their house for a pasta dinner the night before a volleyball game when he got roped in to dishing out some of his wife’s famous macaroni to a boisterous group of ravenous teen athletes.

T took me to Plaça d’Espanya and we climbed the steps to Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya to get a beautiful panoramic view of the city as well as our exercise for the day. Climbing those steps was no joke, especially when jet lagged.

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At the top, looking out at the beautiful architecture, T turned my attention to Las Arenas, a circular, auburn building with arched windows decorating the circumference. It was the old bullfighting arena, first used in the year 1900. It was extremely tall, maybe 4 or 5 floors. It was tough to imagine how mammoth it must have felt in its original state, when sitting, dwarfed, at the top in the crowd, looking down at the main event below, considering the “main event” nowadays consists of the damage people do to their credit cards and not the carnage to bulls. Yes, this bullring of yore has been converted into a shopping mall, of all things, nearly a century later. Red flags have been traded in for red and yellow futbol jerseys. The facade is similar to the original structure, preserving some of the history of the city, which I can appreciate, but I’m not sure of the choice of activities that now ensues. While shopping is a dangerous sport to some, I find it an odd dichotomy given the bloody origins.

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Her Too

Dear Aunt Jean,

I’m looking forward to retracing your steps around this beautiful globe of ours. I may not have the exact same experiences as you, but I think it will be fun to see through your eyes for a bit. I wonder, will I have the same excitement about the mountains and vegetation in Newcastle? Or perhaps the same dissatisfaction you found with St. Croix? I’m pretty sure these places are much more built up by now, everything has grown and developed so quickly in the 100 year span between us. Means of travel have certainly changed. Would you have liked to jet off to the Caribbean in a matter of hours instead of spending days of anticipation at sea? I know a plane is my preference, but perhaps the hours with nothing but blue were meditative, something that’s lacking in this fast-paced life?

One thing that hasn’t gotten better, I’m sad to report, is the fact that saying “no” to fend off men is still very much a thing. As a solo female traveler, you were not unfamiliar with this. Understandably, you didn’t go into too much detail in your journals, yet I wonder what emotions you felt when these instances occurred? Were you fearful for your body or life? Did the men anger you? Did it ever get more physical than you let on? I don’t understand their conquest. Are we seemingly easy prey, maybe? Are they hoping we’re loose and willing to submit? Although it doesn’t stop me from traveling by myself, it’s still a frustrating reality.

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Having to clutch my purse to my body in case someone gets too close. Going up a dark stairwell at night and having my heart race, wondering if there is someone lurking, waiting around the bend. Going out for an evening of fun, maybe dancing or to a bar, and constantly watching my back and brushing away hands, negating the carefree feeling I’m after. Luckily this isn’t a frequent occurrence when I travel, hell it happens more at home, but nonetheless, I’ve gotten pretty good at ignoring, giving death stares, and saying “no” in different languages. They don’t call me Monster for nothing.

Explore on, we must,
Monster

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– – –

May 16, 1925
Arrived in Chicago at 5 P.M. Walked about a bit. Couldn’t see the department stores because they were closed, as was Woolworth’s much to Anne’s regret. As our train didn’t leave until midnight, we had a leisurely dinner and then proceeded to the station on foot. After we got there, Anne told me we had been followed by a man for quite a few blocks.

August 16, 1929
Dr. Kent asked me to stop off in his room for some Bacardi, which he assured me would do me good. On Anne’s invitation he came to see our room but he became affectionate with me and my discouragement finally chased him.

August 17, 1929
Can’t seem to shake the doctor. He is making plans to accompany us in Havana and Mexico City.

August 19, 1929
When he got back to the ship, the Dr. tried to persuade me to go back to town with him but I refused saying I was too tired. He went with the young Mexicans and I saw him come back with a bunch of roses. I immediately rushed away but as luck would have it he met me near my room and presented the flowers. I was dreadfully annoyed but had to walk out on deck with them in his company as I was afraid he might follow me if I took them to my room. I couldn’t seem to get rid of him and finally had to tell him I could put the flowers in water. He asked me to come to his room for aspirins to put in the water and after getting them he would have accompanied me except that one of the crew wanted to see him. So I snuck away to get a vase. No steward, so I asked the second steward who was acting slightly stewed (a usual thing I guess when they go ashore) for a vase but he requested me instead to come to his loving arms, suiting the action to the words. The assistant purser suggested that I ask the room steward for one. As ours wasn’t around I got another steward to do the trick and as the assistant purser was by this time knocking at the doctor’s door, I managed to put the flowers and aspirin in water without his undesirable help. I begged Anne to stick with me when I saw the Dr. approaching on deck, which she did, not too gladly. We finally left him at 10 P.M. saying we intended to go to bed. As it was too warm to do that we dodged from place to place to avoid him. As some of our Mexican people were dancing we were persuaded to do likewise for a while. Then the dodging began again. We finally joined Al on the deck below where the passengers rarely visit and stayed with him while we sailed out of Havana harbor, watching Havana all lit up. So far Al has proven to be a good scout.

December 20, 1930
After breakfast indulged in bullboard starting with Cappy, Anne and myself. Cappy was quite playful, pulling open my blouse tie at every opportunity and squeezing my fingers when he picked up and handed me the rings.

July 27, 1933
Capt. B. and I started walking. He got quite friendly, even inviting me to visit the ship after she gets to port.

About 10 o’clock Elinor disappeared below, suspected she was in the purser’s office so stopped to say goodnight. Found Sellar, Dahlgard, Elinor and Miss Lister partaking of Elinor’s liqueur. Mr. Sellar dragged me in, put me into a chair and begged me to stay. Refused to drink bearing in mind the danger of mixing drinks.

July 28, 1933
I wanted to buy some Honduran stamps; D said they didn’t have any at the commissary. We were scheduled to sail at 4 P.M. so I started out for stamps alone. After inquiring at a couple of places (in Spanish) I finally found the place and made my purchase. By this time I was wringing wet and afraid of being late in getting to the ship. Was stopped on my way out of the building by a young fellow who seemed to understand a bit of English. He asked me if I was married, was surprised when I said no, and asked if he might be my companion to the ship. Sounded as if he was a suitor for my hand. Refused his companionship and hurried over railroad tracks, box cars and what not.

Walked the deck with Miss L. that evening and Mr. S., seated in front of the smoke room, got hold of me and wanted to dandle me on his knees, but with all the crew seated on the hatch cover in plain sight I pleaded for my sunburn and got away. Not to be denied, he seized Miss L. who submitted gracefully.

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August 23, 2010
Not sure how I feel about New Orleans yet. It’s a broken, deserted city, even five years after the hurricane, with plenty of kitschiness thrown in. It’s odd… Well this is the impression I got of the French Quarter, anyway, where my hotel was. The rest I have yet to see. Bourbon St. I can skip. It’s just bar after bar after bar with creepy men walking up and down it. Why do they feel the need to spit in your path or say vulgar things? The least of which being something akin to, “Smile, sweetheart. You’re too beautiful not to.” Ugh.

February 16, 2017
After breakfast we walked down to Souq Waqif in the heart of Doha. The souq was rebuilt in the 90s to replicate what it had looked like originally. There were tons of vendors, selling everything from spices to fabric to hardware. It was mainly a touristy area with a few token fair skinned individuals, ourselves included, the rest, I assumed, were from neighboring countries as far as I could tell by their dress. The men were in their thawbs, or robes, and women in abayas, which have full head and face coverings with only a slit for the eyes. Some went a bit further and had a veil covering said slit. Trying to be as respectful as I could, I donned a floor-length black dress, a sweater to cover my arms, and had a shawl concealing my hair. Despite being in black from head to toe, much as the other females around me, I sensed that I was being eyed up and down by some of the men. I could feel their eyes piercing through mine and noted some head turns as I passed, along with deep, guttural moans. J confirmed my suspicion.