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September 23, 2014 / wayfarerwanders

Chasing the Pink Mountains and Urban Lights of Santiago

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Santiago: a new home. I have been in this city for over two months now. It is a city that I have come to embrace. I have found its charm hidden in pockets. Santiago in its urban sprawl is home to a third of Chile’s population. It is gritty, sprinkled with graffiti and murals, wandering street dogs, blaring car alarms, crowded commute metros, and it buzzes with a raw energy. It is a working city, a university student hub, a center where lives collide, families live, and careers are made. Santiago might not show its beauty and charm all at once. It is in little corners, small barrios, and individual nooks that Santiago will welcome those that look a little deeper into this urban heart. There are small alleys, coffee shops, and hilly parks that I have found myself returning to—the places that allow a giant city to suddenly feel intimate. However, one of my favorite moments in Santiago is one that the whole city witnesses at once. It’s when the mountains turn pink. Santiago is nestled in a valley and on a clear day the snow-capped Andes mountains can be seen. Unfortunately these gorgeous mountains also trap the smog and air pollution that the city creates. On a clear day after it rains, the smog lifts, the grey tiresome pollution is swept aside, and the mountains come to life. On days like this at sunset the sky changes colors from orange to lavender and the snowy Andes turn pink. This moment always seems to bring me a great sense of joy, wherever I am in the city the pink mountains bring my attention up away from the urban noise to some feeling of witnessing a magical moment. If you are in Santiago on one of these clear days head to the top of Cerro San Cristobal for the best view of the mountains and the transformation of the gritty city into a pool of urban lights.

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May 20, 2014 / wayfarerwanders

One Saturday in San Diego

 

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I love Balboa Park in San Diego. The architecture, the botanical gardens, the tea gardens, the free outdoor weekly summer films, the museums. It is a wonderful place to spend a day or evening. On my last visit I was surprised to discover the international village. This is a lovely group of buildings each dedicated to a different country and each a community in itself. These centers offer language classes, cultural classes, friendship, support, and ties to roots in other countries. On weekends they open their doors and one is spotlighted on the main stage. I was delighted as my afternoon turned into watching Irish dancing, eating Hungarian cakes, and talking about where my family is from in Sweden. The spotlighted house was Panama. They treated us to traditional dancing, music, and served up a wonderful lunch. I love how places can surprise you and create one of a kind memories. On one Saturday in San Diego I felt as if I were glimpsing far corners of the world and being embraced by people who were connecting their heritage and holding on to family roots to make these cultural ties a living part of their lives.

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Also worth a visit in San Diego is Old Town, pictured below.

 

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May 19, 2014 / wayfarerwanders

A Mosaic Wonderland

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A year after hearing about this mosaic wonderland I am finally here, meeting Philadelphia for the first time. It is with a bit of serendipity and a life long friend that I Leave the capital behind. We  journey on to Philadelphia for a 12 hour adventure. Yes we will see the liberty bell and independence hall but there is also a less know sight that is beckoning. The Magic Garden! The Magic Garden does not contain any living plants, it does however embrace visitors into a land of mosaic wonder. The Garden is a fluid creation of mosaic and recycled pieces that have found a new home as art. Glass bottles reflect light, old bike tires become windows, the ground gives ways to stairs and grottos, and the mosaic walls stretch up nearby buildings. This is the work of Isaia Zagar who began creating works in the Philadelphia South Street neighborhood in the late 1960’s.  Zagar and his wife brought new life to the neighborhood at that time by purchasing and creating works of art out of neglected and deserted buildings. Today the neighborhood is brimming with creative energy and not just by the mosaics that spring up out of homes and down alleyways. There are a variety of restaurants and cafes, boutiques and one of a kind art stores. The community saved the Magic Gardens in 2002 and it is now a permeate art piece and part of a Non-profit organization. It is inspiring to see how one mans vision and action has spiraled into a thriving artistic community. There is no better way to witness these wonders than to visit them yourself, in the mean time I hope these photos will bring a glimpse of the magic that is there.

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May 18, 2014 / wayfarerwanders

Standing in Shadows and Reflections

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There is a white church that stands on the cliffs at the edge of town. It watches over the port, it greets the ships that glide into the bay and bids them Farwell when they leave. It stands tall and silent as the suns light shifts its mood from golden beams to soft blue hues at the edge of days. A glowing white beacon against the dark night, it stands still and looks over the fisher men, their working boats, the wandering tourist, the street cats, the swimmers, the lovers, the loners, the waves that break the sand and kiss the rocks in clear blue waters. It waits out the busy summer and it waits out the quite sleepy winter. Dressed in white the only colors it wears are shadows and reflections. Home to birds and bells, it is the gate keeper between the town and the rugged terraced cliffs. The focus of photographers and the dwelling place of prayers. For a week I became accustom to this church, it was in my first view of day, and last glimpse of night, it watched over my walks and swims, it had greeted me in my arrival and bid me farewell on my voyage home. It introduced me to the unknown path that rambled past its white stone gate and led me to a wonderful rugged adventure. There is character in place, an identity in setting and in the special monuments that spring from a place. I send thanks to this Greek Church on the port of the island of Ios! Thank you for being a visual bookmark to my stay and for remaining faithful in place witnessing the world outside your doors.

 

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August 10, 2013 / wayfarerwanders

Passport, Stamps, Treasures, and Tales

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There are life lines crossing the cover of this worn passport. The wrinkles of a few years, multiple flights, and trekking travels while hiding in a pocket have left their mark on these pages. The Stamps and stickers give clues to time and places traveled the places I have lived and worked in. The places visited for weeks to months to passing moments. Of course these stamps are only clues and reflections of deeper experiences that took place in these destinations. As I look back over the years of travel that are capsulized in these pages I remember the details of moments and the exceptional people that I have met. Somewhere between the invisible lines of these pages I have fallen in love with a city in Spain, snorkeled with Sea Turtles in the Great Barrier Reef, found the rhythm of working in Sydney, Bicycled in Ballyvaughan (Ireland), learned to can and pickle while living on a farm in New Zealand, gotten lost in the streets of Seville, discovers the pulse of Flamenco, heard the sounds of the jungle in Coasta Rica and navigated living in its capital due to the loving Tico family that adopted me for a summer. I have walked the gardens of Brittan’s castles and  climbed the steps of Saint Paul’s Cathedral, walked the mountain trails of the Alpujarras alone and eaten paella with new friends, seen the good and bad of Jet Lag, home sickness, and culture shock, and it has all been worth it. The riches collected are in the moments experienced and most off all in the people I have met, people who inspire me, show me new perspectives, and have made an impact on my life. I am blessed for all these reasons for the breath taking moments and the lonely moments and the moments that challenged me and pushed me beyond my limits of comfort. Today I am booking a flight and in a week I will be connecting with two dear friends—one made while living abroad, and one whose friendship has been strengthened in travels. It seems fitting to give my passport a stamp to a new country never visited before to reunite with people from past travels.

I have spent hours over the course of my life gently looking over the stamp filled travel documents of my Great Grandfather. I never met him but these clues of his life at sea, of being a young sailor who left Sweden, of traveling the globe multiple times before settling in San Francisco, these stamps give a glimpse to his adventures, his work, and the man that he was. Travel is a gift and I have come to realize that a stamp and date is also a treasure. The travels made by myself are a pale reflection of those of my Great Grandfather but he has inspired me. One day I will see his homeland, his hometown, and I hope to embrace his character and strengths not only in travel but in work ethic and family bonds. I send great thanks to those I have travels with, those I have met while traveling, the family that ties me to roots of home, and my ancestors, in this moment my Great Grandfather and the documents he has left behind.

August 4, 2013 / wayfarerwanders

Counting More Than Kilometers, Travels Near Home

Travel is more than a distance of miles or count of Kilometers. This may or may not seem an obvious statement. For all my past writing on Spain, my deep love for cities in Andalusia, and for the great travels that I do dream of and plot towards on distance continents, I do not wish to neglect the travels and wanderings made near the little corner of the world that remains my home. This past month I traveled with a dear friend through a few counties nearby. Driving past the vineyards of home, through nearby forest, camping in the redwoods, swimming in cool bright waters, and driving through small towns that though only a few hours away I had never previously explored. Driving north inland and returning south along the coast it is amazing to see the diversity of land and towns only a few hours apart. So cheers to the local discoveries, the nearby wanderings, and the small adventures made with an old friend!

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Camping under the Redwoods in Humbolt County, California, along the Eel River.

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Stopping in the small Sea Ranch Chapel, near Guallala California.

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A Banana Slug in Mendocino County and the sea cliffs of Sonoma County’s coast line.

July 30, 2013 / wayfarerwanders

Looking Back and Longing for Seville

Perhaps I cannot put Seville in a neat slot on the travel book shelf because I would like to think my journey there is not over… how can you explain or know a house, a household, or a home when you have only walked through the front door. I know only the first glimpses of this city; it has yet to whisper its most intimate secrets to me, to reveal its many lives. Rather Seville dropped clues, unraveling bits of its history as I explored alleys. Constantly it felt like the city was showing me hidden passages and treasured hiding spots, like a child who keeps their treasures in a cookie tin or under the floorboards. These hidden treasure tins of Seville the city showed to me in roof top terraces, and hidden plazas under orange trees. She showed me the grand and crumbling remains of the Expo, the old arches that where once gates to the river that flowed with Columbus to America. Seville had shown me herself in torn pieces of a greater map, but I have yet to be show the key to fully read this map. I have never travel somewhere that made me feel so much like Alice in Wonderland. In the map of my memory of Seville there are many marvelous introductions made over and over again: the sweet orange blossoms, the towering modern mushroom that became my main land mark, the river that was brimming with energy at each sun set, the gorgeous Ferria dresses and large roses that sat up high crowning women’s hair, time slipping by with sun passing on roof top terraces, the taste of wine, the statues of the virgin Marry for Semana Sainta, a statue the had hid all the long dark years under Franco and now seems to have such a connection with the people one could hold their breath not to disturb a prayer in one of these churches, the Geralda, little bats that fill the night sky, flamenco that becomes a beat of my soul. It is not the only beat; there are so many beats so many pulses to the city that I long to know.

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I have been back in California going on a year now, and still I have not tied my month in Seville into a tight little package of memories. Travels rarely can be contained by previous expectations, and I had not filled my mind with any previous knowledge of Seville. I had every intention of visiting Seville the previous year that was before Granada stole away my heart and refused to let me depart it. A year later I returned for a month reunion with my beloved Granada and this time I knew I had to meet Seville. I learned in my first day that Seville is a labyrinth of a city with streets running in every direction. It is not constrained by a grid system. The plans for the city resemble the shapes of Ferris wheels with little plazas that break into allies. At the end of any one ally there may be five more small alleys that come out of hiding. Each offering routs to destinations and roads to more roads. Even while roaming the streets making out my way, and discovering multiple paths that lead to the same destinations, the shifting roads seemed to reveal more of Seville to me rather than lead me astray. Connecting all these paths was an ongoing walking challenge; likewise I came to know Seville from many different views but never fully connecting it as a whole. This is how my memory is left of Seville with many small wonderful pieces and a longing to return and fill in the gaps between them.

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May 3, 2012 / wayfarerwanders

A Rainy Day in Ronda:

The city of Ronda has been calling to me for weeks–whispering to me to visit it before I leave Andalucía. I finally greeted Ronda this last week before my departure but the afternoon is one of mixed memories.  I think if you go to Ronda it would be ideal to rent a car and take in the beautiful countryside while avoiding get car sick on the winding bus ride. Unfortunately my four hours in Ronda corresponded with a rain storm. I left feeling like Ronda deserved a better visit from me and a return in the future. What Ronda gave me even with the cold rain, wet soaks, and turning stomach, was beautiful vistas and the wonder of the changing storm. This storm made the ravine, flowers, and cliffs sparkle in rain drops that left them briliant. All the while the canvas of clouds and pockets of sun constantly moved and expanded sweeping through the sky. Here are a few photos attempting to capture the vibrance and beauty of the storm in Ronda.

                                  

April 4, 2012 / wayfarerwanders

Dreaming Delirious on Streets

I have been sick in bed now for two days. The hour’s one spends lying in a room, alone, drifting out of sleep, and miseries, and boredom, these hours feel like weeks. I think I made a common error. I didn’t hear my aches, I didn’t acknowledge my fatigue. I thought I was tiered from a few late nights out and would power through one more day. In my day of powering through I enjoyed the city of Granada—A city that has become both familiar and foreign. I visited with travel friends; the people I’m blessed to meet and spend a few days with and then to quick in a blink they are gone. There was wine and tapas but my body seemed a step behind me and my mind was wandering the streets while I was sitting still. The next day I ventured out in the city. It is the start of Semana Santa and the streets and sidewalks are overflowing with people. This sea of bodies creates currents on pavement and makes my head feel as if it is under water and I am witnessing a dream. There are teams of people running around in costume cheering and clapping. A group of guys wearing rainbows wigs running with superman and shouting to a window. A group of girls with ninja head bands playing ring around the roses with a flamenco dancer in a bathrobe. I am not imaging this; if I have a fever it is not making me hallucinate these characters. I know Granada is a college town and maybe there is some organized team game going on. But the feeling that I am watching this through a fish tank and the effort it takes to be around the swells of energy makes clear that my other resent symptoms can’t be pond off as allergies. I better head to the pharmacy and then in for a quite night, hasta luego to tapas and flamenco. But it’s too late I am full blown sick in bed the next morning floating in and out of sleep, and dreams, and waiting to feel connected again. It will happen tomorrow, or the next day. Slowly the dream is disappearing and my thoughts are getting clearer. Maybe next time I walk out in the streets I will be one of the active characters and not merely a witness to a passing dream. 

I am feeling better and brighter in two more days. Just in time to get my train ticket. Just in time to bid Granada a farewell as I begin my month long date with Seville. It feels good to get dressed and enter the air and life of the outside world. But in a few blocks it is raining, I’m tiered again, and hot. I stop in to buy an umbrella and continue on to the station to secure tomorrow’s seat. When you’re sick everything seems a little more difficult: I approach the ticket window, I can’t find the extra twenty euros I had in my pocket, I step away from the window, I count my pile of coins and bills, then step back in line, I am doing a confused tourist dance. A nice elderly gentleman gives me a numbered ticket to go speak to the man I just spoke to, and it turns out that umbrella purchase has me twenty-five euro cents short of my ticket. So I search for a cash machine and find one a few blocks away. This whole time from my first steps on the street all that is on my mind is how quickly I can find a tissue and once my train ticket is secured and in my pocket I hurry on my way. I know that relief lies in my current home. As I walk past the park the rain has stopped, the birds are chirping, and I see these great beautiful purple Irises that I neglected to see fifteen minutes ago. I enter the park and for a few moments remind myself that life is beautiful. When I enter my residency, exhausted from my minor task, I am greeted by Maria. She asked how I’m feeling. Is my room warm enough? and reminds me to keep that scarf on all the time as she told me yesterday. Yes life good, I may not have a lasting home or be near any family but people are caring, and upstairs I have a small creaky bumpy bed that is welcoming me. These are blessings.  

         

March 24, 2012 / wayfarerwanders

Granada In Color:

 In January of 2011 I explored Granada for the first time. These are a few color photos I took with my medium format camera. In cool January with snow on the nearby Sierra Nevada Mountains there were a few spots of ripe color in the city. A note on the Orange trees: for weeks I saw Orange trees overflowing with ripe looking fruit around the city and no one picking any of them. It turns out they are terribly sour and apparently planted for shade, color, and I’ve been told are good for marmalade. But if you’re tempted to bite into one be prepared for a face twisting sour taste to take over.