Now that I’m settled with the time difference after 11 days of struggling since I came back, my brain has been buzzing about the things it wants to write about. It’s pretty vast considering I didn’t have anything to record it with or the strength to at the time but here I am. Also has a bit to do with reading Fienuts’ latest feature for Travel Spotlight: Gina Hashim a few minutes ago that pushed me to say something..so yeah, here I am typing away.
We’ll go with the flow, what these fingers would like to talk about. They rule this place, I’m just the medium.
So after climbing a mountain of work the past one week and waiting for clients to respond, I decided to finally go through the memory cards to see what photos I’ve actually taken during my three weeks trip to South America (and a bit of Dubai). Yeah, took me three weeks to get to this point and let’s not even start with unpacking my stuff. THAT bag still sits nicely at the corner of my room, staring at me profusely, “C’mon! Sort me out already!” I hear it scream at me.
Right, excuse the kooky side of me.
Where was I?
I was flipping through photos from Peru and a wave of sentimental emotions came crashing like I knew it would. I didn’t think after so many weeks I’d feel the same or maybe even more so now. It’s a strange feeling, wanting to capture as many photos for keepsake yet there I was in Peru (it all started in Lima) where I stumbled upon a dilemma that carried me through the rest of the journey.
I had imagined the kind of compositions I wanted when I landed at Aeropuerto Internacional Jorge Chávez, so many of them, I psyched myself to a point that when I head to Miraflores, I had the most conflicted feeling I’ve ever experienced during all my traveling days.
See, after going through Chemat’s Street Photography masterclass last year during Obscura Photography Festival in Penang, I constantly ask myself about what I photograph and if it has any story or significance to it. My trigger happy days has since died off and for the better too I guess.
Anyway, while I was looking at Lima from the window glass, this one particular question haunted me for the rest of the week.
“Do I have a need when taking photos of them? A reason that will benefit them or a story on their behalf?”
Each time when I answered no, I will put down my camera and just watch as time passes by. Ironically, I feel at peace with that decision. And you must think I’m out of my mind for letting such moments go so easily without a fight.
If I was you, I’d be like “Are you crazy?! All that beautiful epic moments you missed just because your conscience says otherwise? Geez, what a waste”. Well, I could say such thing I’m sure but when you’re there, seeing how they live, and the hard work they put in, how is your photo doing just to their lives? I feel like if I don’t have a story to tell about them from them, I don’t deserve stealing their moment. I felt like a trespasser. Weird right? I know but unless I got to know them personally, talking to them eye to eye and have some kind of connection, I feel that the least respect I can give them is allow them to continue living the way they’ve been doing it. Without me interfering.
That’s just me. For you, this might not even apply at all. And I can live with this new revelation about photography. I might walk away with (waaaaay) less photos of where I went but in the end, this is what that place is suppose to be. I’ll capture it with words, as best as I can.
These days I’ve dabbed into (something like) videos too. Maybe down the road I’ll pick up this trait again. It’s just that I don’t exactly have that much patience for rendering but we’ll never know until we try it (again).
The one thing I remember taking from my trip to Lima, Cusco and Puno is that it doesn’t matter what your background is. When you make the most of what you have and take on the opportunities you’re given, you can be where you want to be.
Rolf and Gonzalo inspired me to keep pushing to do what is best. The best thing you know in that moment for yourself and for the rest who can benefit from it. Their innate ability to constantly learn anything and everything under the sun makes me feel that there are still good in this world. I feel so humbled standing and sitting next to them, sometimes I feel a little shy too because while I was taking a nap in the train from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu, Gonzalo took out his notebook and studied German over and over again.
Tourism is a big thing here in Peru. It’s the source of income for 65% of the nation and what’s even better to know is that their degree in Tourism includes archeology, history and geology. Of course it makes sense but it makes studying to get that paper so much more worth it. Tourism & Hospitality degree here is just the basic stuff. Not hardcore as the ones offered back in South America and the thing is, we should take a page from them. If we don’t know our history, culture and beliefs at the tip of our fingertips, how can we muster such knowledgable people in the tourism sector?
They take pride in what they do, so much blood, sweat and tears invested for their beloved country and it’s so good to feel their passion oozing out from them without speaking.
It’s these kind of people who empowers me to do what I do. They are the ones who fuels me to push through all the obstacles I could face in the future. Just thinking about how hard they work makes me want to work just as hard or harder. Not because I’m competitive but because that’s what required of us to do good things. We don’t sit and give excuses. If we want something good to happen, we make it happen. The rest, we’ll just have to let Him write the story.
For as long as you’ve done your best, the best you can possibly do, no one can take that away from you.
I was lucky to have a friend like Z who was in Peru a few years back for work and had filled me in about his adventure then. Didn’t think I’d ever go there but when I did, he texted me of the places I should check out. One of it was Cerro San Cristóbal. I asked Rolf, who is a German born, bred and lived in Peru, if this place was far from downtown Lima (where we were heading) and he had this priceless look on his face. The kind who didn’t expect the cows to sing sort of look.
I wasn’t sure what this place is to begin with when I asked Rolf besides seeing a photo Z had taken. Didn’t even do any other read up about this particular trip of mine to South America. And I was warned not to go up on my own and if I do take the cab, make sure to request for the driver to wait at the peak. So as we were maneuvering around downtown Lima, passing by one of the oldest universities in the New World - National University of San Marcos, he pointed to me the cross on a mountain in the horizon.
“That’s San Cristobal. But we’ll have to wait till noon so that the fog clears up a little before we go up there.”
I found out from him that there are only 10 days in a year when Lima will be blessed with clear blue sky due to Lima’s topography which is a desert and surrounded by the Andes mountains (spectacular terrain I might add). So, the fog/haze is really due to the dust and after awhile you’ll get used to this condition, not like the kind I’m used to (still hate it) in Malaysia where haze is mainly made up of smoke.
The drive up is quite a challenge, through slums and narrow roads in between and by the cliff. I wonder if maybe walking up might be a better idea and while you’re going up, try and spot all 12 crosses along the way. It’s also the area you’re best not to explore after dawn, “Not even if you give me a million bucks!” said Rolf.
It’s definitely a stark contrast from the rest of the cities I’ve been too. We’ve been accustomed to think that when you hear the word city, it’s developed, urban and busy but in South America, the cities meant differently. Lima’s down town city is very…unkept. However, this is also due to the history when the military chased the rich families out of the area and turned it into some kind of “public toilet” for many decades after.
Also, if you ever asked someone to take photo of you, be prepared to have some spare coins for tips later. It’s kinda a norm. I mean more often than not that is.
So what’s good to be at the top of Cerro San Cristobal? It being Rolf’s wild card in case the other places he had in mind weren’t good enough, I’d say it’s the view, a 360 degrees of Lima and the Andes at your feet. You can spot the biggest graveyard, a bull fighting stadium, San Francisco Monastery and more! Something similar to Christ the Redeemer at Corcovado in Rio de Janeiro but minus the crowd. Peru is what you see is what you get kinda place. My kinda thing. Everywhere you go, you’re walking on ancient history. There’s always Inca this or Spanish that. Just something else. The people are wonderful. So gracious and sweet even if they don’t speak much English but you can get by with speaking broken Spanish. Until then, I didn’t think my rusty Italian would help me much but it did because it’s very similar in meanings.
I don’t know how or where this affectionate feeling for Peru developed, I just know it all started in Lima and grew on me for the rest of the time and I still have one more story about Lima before I get to Machu Picchu!