There has been this persistent grey color to the sky, the ground, and the very air we breathe in New York City. The lack of sun and this endless winter has turned this city into a page out of a Dostoevsky novel, cold, snowy, miserable, and grey.
I was lucky enough to escape for a few days in January; we went to San Juan, Puerto Rico. When I felt that warm sun on my skin I completely understood why people used to worship this majestic, celestial body. It is rejuvenating and magnificent in its splendor; it is life.
Old San Juan was particularly inviting, a 500+ year old city surrounded by forts built by the Spanish in the 1500's. The two forts, El Morro and San Cristobal, were high and mighty and must have been quite a sight in the days of colonial trade routes in the Caribbean Sea.
San Juan was fantastic however the best things to do were outside of the city. El Yunque rainforest, a national rainforest about an hour away from the city, had fantastic trails and interesting plants to discover and kayaking at night in the bioluminescent bay was one of the best experiences of my life. I was frightened a bit by the dark and the water however once we reached the lagoon we saw nothing but the green lights of the phytoplankton in the water below us and the bright stars above. I lived the entire trip in that one moment.
I have a job that allows me to travel to some cool places from time to time. Back in October we went up to West Point in the town of HIghland Falls, NY. It was the best time of year to visit, autumn, and the leaves were just beginning to change.
Some of the most impressive and inspiring views of the Hudson River valley are in this area. This picture above really takes my breath away; I could hardly believe it when I was standing there to take the picture. It reminded me of the scene in the Fellowship of the Ring, where the companions are traveling by boat through the river with enormous mountains on either side of them. Just beautiful.
I traveled to Peru with some friends three years ago; It was my first venture into South America and I did not know what to expect. I knew of the Incas from school and the amazing feats of construction and engineering that they were known for but generally, the trip was to be completely and utterly new.
We traveled to Lima, Cusco, and Puno. Upon arriving in Lima and during our taxi ride to the hostel, we passed by several malls, highways, McDonald's and other fast food places. For a minute it seemed as though I had not left New York. Nevertheless we ventured out to eat at a sushi place and explored the city as best we could in the one day that we were there.
The next day, we departed for Cusco and when we landed in that airport, in that rugged valley between mountains, I felt as though I had escaped any reality I had ever known and entered a new dominion. As we roamed through the city streets, I was reminded of Che Guevera's quote from his infamous motorcycle diaries. He wrote about the city of Cusco, "The word that most perfectly describes the city of Cuzco is evocative. Intangible dust of another era settles on its streets, rising like the disturbed sediment of a muddy lake when you touch its bottom."
In Cusco we adjusted to the altitude by drinking plenty of mate de coca, a special tea, and exploring the neighborhood. The city center was populous and geared towards tourists- however we had the pleasure to go up horseback riding in the mountains and to visit some ancient sites away from the touristy places. History in Cusco was everywhere, in the buildings, in gravesites, and even in the people; I watched as a Quechua woman bound her baby in her garments and fastened it to her back with ease, as if it was the most natural thing in the world. The children were exceptionally beautiful. I would be transfixed in watching them with their parents and friends. Family was important to them.
Our journey to Macchu Picchu took roughly 6 hours from Cusco. A train ride through a mesmerizing landscape took us into the village of Aguas Calientes (hot water). The mountains and trees around this place were green and flourishing, completely in contrast with the brown dirt in Cusco. Aguas Calientes probably started off as a small village but soon expanded after Macchu Picchu was discovered. One has to journey there and stay the night (the village is filled with many hotels), with buses leaving in the morning for Macchu Picchu. The bus ride up was scary, it took us to such heights that looking out the window frightened me. Nevertheless, the excitement I felt upon seeing those mountains, upon those clouds that we were going up into, that excitement was boundless. By the time we reached Macchu Picchu I thought nothing could make me happier. And was I wrong.
After roughly a 20 minute hike up some steep stairs, one gets the glimpse of the entire city. It was unbelievable, for lack of a better word. So many questions were going through my mind about this place, it's purpose, it's inhabitants, how it was so precisely created and engineered, that I barely listened to the guide who took us through the city. We sat for a while, surrounded by its stone walls, and I tried to understand the place. I could not and I had to leave it at that. It was beautiful, it had a quiet strength and dignity, and though the questions in my mind remained unanswered, they were pushed back. I let myself sit and enjoy the solitude and peace this city in the mountains brought to my heart and thanked the Lord Almighty that I had been privileged enough to visit this place.
My only hope is that I one day get to see it again. Che Guevera said it best, "How is it possible to feel nostalgia for a world I never knew?"
At an awesome family reunion this weekend in Pennsylvania, I took several pictures of the cabin, surrounding trees and flowers in the grass. I realized, in between my attempts at photography, that building and maintaining relationships is similar to how we maintain and care for plants. They require the same kind of effort.
When handling plants and flowers one must be gentle and nurturing. They must be tended to and cared for regularly otherwise the plants will wither and die. Likewise, relationships must be cared for and tended to, whether it be through meetings or virtual contact. That effort to care must remain otherwise that relationship will not progress, and humans who limit their contact with others find themselves at ease with a loss of social interaction.
I learned a valuable lesson this weekend in the importance of tending to relationships. Meet with your relatives, develop relationships with people, it's an important part of life. it is definitely an important part of mine :)
A restaurant on the ocean, Clifton, Karachi.
Pakistan is in the news again today, yet another bombing in Karachi, targeting the Shi'ite minority. Violence is disgusting, aren't we all Muslim? Why can the Shia not have their own views without being killed for it? May those who were killed find peace and be granted Heaven.
In part two of my Pakistan segment I try to bring forward the beauty of the country in these pictures. I visited Karachi again last summer and had the opportunity to travel north to Islamabad (the capital) and to Muree (a mountainous, tourist town). We took an early flight from Karachi to Islamabad and reached there in about an hour and a half. The weather in Islamabad was miserable, 95 degrees and incredibly humid, much worse than we left behind in Karachi. Karachi is very brown and Islamabad is green, it was like driving through parts of New Jersey or Pennsylvania, very suburban. Upon arriving in Islamabad, we packed up our things and drove to Muree, roughly 2 hours away. It was a long road into and up the mountains but we were more than pleasantly surprised upon arriving there. The temperature was a chilly 60 degrees, there were lights up for Ramadhan and many people were out and about in the town.
We set our bags down in our hotel and got to exploring, staying out on the main road until two in the morning, shopping, eating, and talking with the shop owners. The green tea and coffee was exceptional in Muree. We were practically giddy with excitement, my cousins and I. At night the town was very much alive, the lights looked like spaceships in the distance, each town carrying lights higher and higher in the mountains. The next day we explored some of the sites with a guide (encountered breathtaking views and a Santa Claus) and had some horrid and frightening driving experiences. Driving on those road is definitely not for the faint of heart; I can't remember ever praying so much for my survival. At the end of the day, we drove back to Islamabad. The next segment will feature my findings in Pakistan's capital city. Stay tuned!
I'll be adding pictures and commentary of the things I love. I am an ordinary person in an extraordinary place. There is no special purpose to this blog other than to project what I am thinking of at any given moment.
All the photos are mine (unless stated otherwise). Please do not use without permission. To learn more about me, check out my linked in profile below.