Thursday, 16 October 2008

South America Photo Post 2 - Pretty Places & Wonderlands

In order to be granted a UK Working Holiday Visa, in addition to paying an exorbitant “processing fee” (why are processed foods so cheap yet processed paperwork is so much?), you also have to supply biometric data. This isn’t quite as Gattica as it sounds. Firstly, in this instance, your biometric data is just fingerprints and a photo. Secondly, neither Jude Law nor Ethan Hawke are involved in any way shape or form.

You know, Ethan Hawke is one of those movie stars who I always think I’m in love with, and then I see him in a movie and he’s just really greasy and intense and I just want him to back off and shower. Very much an Intense!Boy!In!Drama!Class!Vibe.

Anyway, in Sydney, you have to go to the UK Consulate just behind Customs House to have your data acquired. I went the day after my birthday, and even though that’s the dead of winter, the weather was glorious – crisp and blue, with sun but no burning.

Because the 610 City bus from Castle Hill is a free spirit who refuses to run to anything as conventional as a timetable, I was over an hour early, and took the opportunity to walk along the Quay and around the Opera House. Just like the song, the Manly ferry was making its way to Circular Quay, and it was also EXACTLY like that Bold and the Beautiful special where Ridge and Brooke and Rick and Phoebe came to Sydney only for Brooke to go running back to LA (and Nick) after Ridge (Brooke’s fiancée and Nick’s half brother) punched Rick (Brooke’s son) out when he caught him kissing Phoebe (Ridge’s daughter, who was 16 at the time). Considering Ridge once kissed Bridget (Brooke’s daughter, Rick’s sister and someone who at various times had been considered both Ridge’s half-sister and HIS DAUGHTER!!!), some of us thought that was a tad hypocritical, but I digress…

The Harbour is so beautiful, and its mine. A picture perfect postcard space where I've dressed up as a convict, danced through too many cruises, drunk too much wine... When I had to catch the bus over the Bridge into uni nearly everyday, I used to love that moment when everybody – even the most jaded of commuters, even on the 5.30am bus – would put down their magazines or textbooks or Harry Potter or whatever and turn to look out over the water. You just can’t get complacent about my city’s beautiful centrepiece. To paraphrase and misinterpret New Order, every time I think of it or see it or smell it, I feel shot right through with a bolt of blue.

So, leaving my hometown go look at other beautiful spaces felt a bit redundant, especially with it showing off like it was that gorgeous July morning. I felt a little like silly Scarlett O’Hara, running after Ashley Wilkes (yuck) when she had Rhett Butler (sha-zam!) in love with her.

But I guess I do have a cheating heart, because I fell head over heels with another Harbour City within my first week in South America. Valparaiso, Chile, was like the Missoni scarf city - all colours crammed together in ways that conservatives like me would never predict or imagine. The picture below is from this neighbourhood that was covered in murals - paint-splattered footpaths included.

From adultery to perfectly pure bridal white (covering a hot and fiery volcano, which is probably what most grooms want the bridal veil to be concealing, come to think of it) in Pucon. A lot of people seemed to see this one on Facebook, and a few commented on how happy I look. I was happy. I'm not complex enough to be in the midst of all that dumb, useless beauty and not feel happy.

Funnily enough, as I'm posting this, White Wedding by Billy Idol just came up on iTunes. Golly I love a well-suited soundtrack.

I was drunkenly stumbling home through Oxford the other day, and someone pointed out the pub where C.S. Lewis and Tolkein used to drink together (one day, my beloved girlies, people will pass Bar Broadway or Kuletos and speak of us in the same hushed tones...or step over our age and alcohol-ridden bodies as we beg to be allowed in for just one more round of two-for-one cocktails. It'll be either fame or shame, of this I'm convinced). Anyway, I liked finding out that they knew each other, because it makes it apt that I can't decide whether the landscapes along my trek to Macchu Piccu are more Narnia or Middle Earth.

I threw a most unattractive tantrum just after taking the photo of the rail line - I'd taken great pride in being the fastest "non-professional" on the trek (we grade-junkies will find ways to rank ourselves relative to our peers even in the Peruvian countryside), and the guide had said that I should be able to finish the trek, and walk into Aguas Calientes, in about 3 hours. 3 hours and 5 minutes later I was still walking, an accident of timing I chose to interpret as a PERSONAL FAILURE, and demanded the guide to tell me why I SUCKED SO MUCH.

Poor thing. He totally wasn't getting paid enough to deal with post-Bridget-Jones-control-freak-spinsters, especially those in the throes of Diet Coke withdrawl.

Anyway, it was quite appropriate that I was acting like a beast, because I looked, frankly, like shit, as evidenced below.

Before anyone (ie, my big brother) feels the need to point it out, yes, I know the horse is more attractive than me. I look very...Germanically well-fed, don't I? Or maybe like a Maths teacher at an Athletics Carnival?

I'm not a huge fan of asking the locals to pose for photos, but I became obsessed with the fabulous clothes worn in Lake Titicaca... I tried everywhere (well, 3 shops) to buy a heavy velvet bell skirt like the lady is wearing here with no luck. And what did I see today but Net-A-Porter announce that Peruvian Peasant Couture is in?

I'm alternating between feeling smug that I was right, and bitter that I don't get to drape myself in my right-ness.

No photos of the Iguazu Falls; not because I didn't take any (oh, don't you worry, I did), but because none of my photos get anywhere near to communicating the awesome. You really need sound to get it. Actually, what you really need is a plane ticket to Iguazu Falls.

So finally (because I took two photos in Argentina, and one is of the street where I was staying so I had a chance in hell of recognizing it later that night - the secret to being a recurring drunken floozy is forward planning), I'll leave you with Rio, which, in this single photo, somehow manages to be a metropolis, a slum, an oasis and a church. All whilst being belted by a torrential downpour.

But I've always believed in the gospel according to Kate Bush, and as she tells us (in a tale repeated by Utah Saints), "Every time it rains...I just know that something good is gonna happen".

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

South America Photo Post 1 - Jesus, Mary and Joe

I'd like to be an arty photographer type. I really would. I've tried, several times in fact, each effort accessorized by a slightly more expensive camera, but I have eventually come to accept that I am not one of life's photo takers. I think it all relates to the fact that my camera is usually carried around in one of my fabulous yet difficult to open/close/find handbags, and, frankly, I can't be arsed.

As such, I took less than 100 photos in South America, and none of them are very good. And yet, in the grand tradition of holiday photos everywhere, I'm still going to inflict some on you.

No Kim, I Said a Statue of Baby Jesus!
I love a giant Jesus (or another Member of The Family) looking down over a city. I love them from far away, when I’m walking through the city, and it feels as if Their eyes are on me, like a kind of biblical Jiminy Cricket.

And then up close, They’re so massive and visually arresting, but the feeling of being watched disappears, and They go back to being big, beautiful hunks of white stone.

Basically, I'll always open the camera case for a giant Jesus. Here a selection of my favourites.

Mary was my homegirl in Santiago de Chile. Although I'm glad its Stone Mary, and not fleshy and rapidly-dividing-celly humans that live so close to all the phone antennas.

Arica Jesus was a bit different to all the others, in that he didn't face the town - he looked out over the ocean instead. The locals seemed to feel the snub, and when I climbed up to sit with Him a while, I had Him all to myself. In other words (and yes, I'm going there) He was My Own Personal Jesus.

Cuzco Jesus (that's Him in the middle) faraway..... close!

And finally, the Messiah of Jesus Statues...Rio.

I'll end this post with a photo of another great European import into South America, Joe, and his lovely team (and me, because... I can?).

This photo was taken in a churrascaria, where the waiters constantly bring around different cuts of freshly cooked meat and carve it straight onto your plate. And what plates they are... cow print, you'll notice, in case you suddenly forget you're in the Beef Palace and feel an urge to order some tofu.

More photos and a "Where is She Now?" post coming soon!