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Peru: Lima Ruled by Conscience

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.

Lima Panoramic View

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.

You’re right.

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.

Rolf in Streets of Lima

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.

San Cristobal Panoramic

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!

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A Stubborn Malaysian Wanted

I did this for an entirely different reason and part of me still wants to keep it hidden, unknown and well as private as the online world allows me to be. But alas, as with many things I do, this is one I wouldn’t mind being laughed at or made fun of.

Took me six hours to do a 40 seconds video for my application to Hyper Island which I honestly have no idea what the outcome would look like (all I did was arranging photos and videos I wanted and the rest just naturally took shape on it’s own).

I think in a lot of ways, it’s a nice recap of my entire 28 years into one. Of what I tried so hard to understand, adapt, run and submit but in that process of self discovery and what not, I went into all kinds of emotions – anger, disappointment, joy, sad. You can name any of it and it’s most certainly part of the journey somewhere.

Then there’s that feeling where I’ve made peace with the universe, myself and Him.

When all of these elements are aligned together, you get this sense of belonging without having the need to belong to anywhere. You just are. And so this is me.

I’ve adopted a new philosophy a few months back, one I’m only certain that I’m ready to commit when the time calls for it. If I have to go anywhere, anytime to help a country, a place, a nation or a community, I would pick Malaysia. I know it’s fcked up. That’s all the more reason why I choose Malaysia.

Weird? I think so too.

There’s this epidemic going on here, more so now than before – it’s called brain drain. It’s when all the good brains choose to move out and away from Malaysia and do superb things elsewhere. I understand why they do it, not so much because that’s what they want to do. It’s more about what they need to do and that’s to feed their soul to be better. So of course, it’s no brainer to not accept an offer other people are giving everywhere but Malaysia. Because really, why not?

But then, what will become of Malaysia when all the good people move away?

“So what? Tried and nothing happened”. “It’s not like I didn’t do my part, Malaysia is just not ready.”

True. Although, it’s not Malaysia that’s not ready or does not want to embrace it’s awesomeness, it’s the parasites that’s been occupying her heart. Disabling her to be the potential everyone has been talking about for ions. If anything, she’s pretty much screaming her lung out – my take on landslides, floods and haze.

It is kinda scary to think about it if you have to leave this country to incapable hands. When that happens (or has been happening), it becomes a responsibility for each and everyone to help this country to get rid of the nonsense that has been infesting for donkey years. It is sad to know that so many choose to ignore or be blasé about the future. Seriously, it’s as much as your future as it is mine yet all you think about is only the here and now. Not tomorrow or next month. Just right now.

I know, it takes too much effort. Too much emotions and time to do it. But if you’re not gonna right the wrong for yourself, no one else should be doing it for you.

Understandably, I wouldn’t want to live here anymore, don’t want to waste any more of my brain cells to help yet in the past 3 years, I’ve got to know so many people who make a difference and are constantly finding ways to do so because it’s what they love to do. It’s inbred in them. They feed upon the idea of being able to do something good. That alone shows the kind of spirit you’ll need to have when you live in Malaysia.

You need to have thick skin when facing rejections, cold heart when so many atrocities are thrown at you and be as stubborn as a mule to get your vision across. From what I’ve experienced and seen, people will bring you down until you break and if you have a strong will, you will rise far better than anyone will ever expect you to be.

So that’s Malaysia in a nutshell for those who wants to make a difference. It’s not a joke, those who champion campaigns for the betterment of Malaysia are heroes in their own rights. Even if they did shatter, they’ll comeback even more motivated and determined.

No one likes drastic changes, but it’s only drastic when you leave it to desperate hour.

Am I ready for that kind of thing? I’ll go with the flow.

In the meantime, I hope more people will fight to do the good stuff in Malaysia because God knows, we freaking need it!

And I am truly grateful to be surrounded by incredible spirits to help me be a fraction of who they become.

Switzerland

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.

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twenty one pilots: Holding On To You

If there’s something I’m well known for is to constantly take hold of the direction I’m heading. Often times, it’s not always the way you and I see it but most of the time, it’s always how He wants it.

So what do you do? What do I do?

Take the ride and make it our own.

I think if there’s anything that I can take from all the trips I’ve made – whether on my own or with strangers, it would probably be that just being there, observing, be part of life, His creations, our doings..it’s probably the most alive thing I would ever experience in my existence.

I don’t exactly have a bucket list of places I want to go. I just go. It doesn’t have to be places no one else has been or the number one I have to be. In that moment, where time and space meets, I take it. I make it a part of my chapter, my life..just simply my own thing.

So right after #TSBreakAway ended, I’ve been bombarded with “What’s next?”. Like do I have to know what to answer? I’ve only just started breathing. Ask me next month maybe?

But that’s the thing with me and I don’t know what everyone might think..I don’t plan out in detail but I do somehow know where I should end up in. How I’m getting there, that part I leave it to the Guy Upstairs to write for me. I am after all his character to play with.

I know that if I’m lost, I’ll find my way back. I go back to basic, to where I know best.

This song, twenty one pilot’s Holding On To You best describes how I feel the whole year. Last year, I might struggle finding sanity, this year it’s finding my faith where faith may seem to disappear.

#TSBreakAway is a sum of that, of my miseries, my frustrations, my joy and my passion for the things I do and love, for the wants and needs and for what I want to change. I’m thankful that many share the same vision as I am in making it happen, to an extend, giving me their hand to lift me up when I’m in darkness and for all that has happened, that madness I put myself into, I only have them to thank for.

I don’t know what I can do best. I don’t know if I’ll be doing the next big thing or if I can come up with anything. I do know that when it’s something so dear to me is at the brink of extinction, I become protective..yet powerless at the sight of seeing it dying.

A lot like our earth really. That urge to hurl at the sight of a balding Earth is unbearable.

Still, I do wonder why He created me. I probably annoy more people than I can count but at the end of the day, if you do what you know is best – everyone else can talk about you, of what they know about you and it doesn’t exactly matter. It could be good, it could be bad. Just keep doing what matters to you. What makes you feel better being alive. The rest will be taken care of eventually.

I think I know where this post is heading or why I ended up writing it (my fingers, it’s all their doings really). That I’ve grown up since young being called with all sorts of names, some hurt me more than others but today, knowing why I do what I do, and do it well with the help of others – it doesn’t kill me anymore. It doesn’t kill me to think that “You know what, you can’t please everyone. You can’t make everyone like you”.

That, they can believe whatever version of you and that’s ok.

Sasha gave me possibly the book that changed my life at 25 and this was part of what I’ve been carrying myself with,

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” – Dr. Seuss

So yeah, I’ve accepted that I am weird and it’s no easy task to fit in in a society that thrives in normalcy or whatever it means. I am ok being on my own. Ok that I only have friends I can count with my fingers who knows me. If you’re not part of that, I am fine by it too.

Just that, I’ve had too many complications in the past, where it blinded me too many times so as of late, I’m only invested in what is worth my mind and soul.