Countries

Tapsaff

In my first 12 hours in Scotland, I heard bagpipes, saw 2 men wearing kilts & encountered a herd of ginger-headed boys. Having checked off all the stereotypes, I should have just gotten on the plane to come back home.

Instead, I stayed another 9 days.

Mainly to marvel at the vast Scottish landscape – which at any given turn of the road feels like driving through the Himalayas (my happy place), the plains of Montana, the forests of Vermont / Michigan / northern California or the farmlands of Pennsylvania.

Blue & green – Mother Nature's perfect color palette.

Blue & green – Mother Nature's perfect color palette.

At one point, I ran / skipped / jumped across a bunch of large rocks like I was Luigi from Super Mario Bros circa 1987 all to cross the river to hike to waterfalls that are 120 metres tall. Yes, metres. It's the UK.

Side note
Not really sure if they measure distance in miles or kilometres though. Which means I've either been going the speed limit or driving like I'm a geriatric on her way to the Senior Citizen Center.

Rather than Luigi-ing it back to civilization, I walked a metal tightrope over the ravine across the aforementioned river while holding onto 2 cables for balance. Don't be too impressed. It was only 10 feet – which sounds more impressive than 3 metres cause 10 > 3 – above the water.

It's 8.52 pm & the sun is still not ready to set.

It's 8.52 pm & the sun is still not ready to set.

A roadtrip for an American on foreign soil has a few pitfalls.

Filling up the gas – sorry petrol – is difficult for this Jersey girl who always sat in the comfort of her car while other humans did all the pressing of the buttons & nozzle handling. Although Scottish Shell Siri is a chatty woman in an obvious sort of way with her "You've selected diesel fuel" & almost motherly "Please refuel safely."

Renting an automatic doesn't mean one will be driving an automatic. It actually means driving a manual without the actual manual stick. Translation: the car doesn't pick up speed by simply stepping on the gas – sorry petrol – hard. The car also seemingly turns off when stopped too long to join the fun that is a roundabout. If it was a true manual, it would mean the car stalled. But it's what non-Americans call an automatic, so upon hitting the gas – sorry petrol – the car simply starts up again. Automatically.

Establishments I did not frequent, but should have
Hootananny / Where the Monkey Sleeps / Two Fat Ladies

An establishment I did frequent.

An establishment I did frequent.

Most touristy, yet most British thing possible
Not able to cross the street cause Prince Willie's motorcade had to go by first. Apparently, the future King of England gets right of way over a British-born citizen who defected to America only to return to frolick around the kingdom.

Scottish word of the day
Tapsaff
When the temperature climbs above nippy & the sun comes out longer than an hour, the men take off their shirts. Of course, they haven't encountered the great orange orb in the sky that often so they have no concept of SPF. They all range from a pleasant shade of pink to a painful shade of red. And they do this everywhere. The park / the pub / the front passenger seat of an Uber. It's not a sight one wants to see. Cause in the infamous words of one of our waitresses, "Once you've seen it, you can't unsee it."

An elderly tapsaff & the missus.

An elderly tapsaff & the missus.

Portuguesa

everyone has a sandy story. couch surfing at the homes of people with power. driving an hour just to get gas. not flushing. basically being amish. course my sandy story is it spritzed every day in portugal. not enough to open an umbrella, but just enough to frizz the hair. basically, i felt your pain from the other side of the atlantic.

i’ve spent the week driving around the portuguesa countryside. and it’s full of old people. geriatric old. cause all the youngins escaped to the glamor of the city, leaving behind all these old beautiful abandoned buildings. translation, a photographer’s dream. until i wandered into a decrepit farmhouse to photograph the insides. what’s inside an abandoned, decrepit farmhouse? a skull, of course. no body. just the head. and yes, that was the first & last time i stopped at an abandoned, decrepit farmhouse in the portuguesa countryside.

the most magical night in this country happened in a village of only 90 inhabitants near the spanish border. of those 90 inhabitants, only 4 were kids. again, overpopulation of the geriatric variety. and they were all cousins.
apparently.
supposedly.

they invited us to their village celebration for saint martin. portuguesa village celebrations start at sundown, consisting of massive amounts of pork, roasted chestnuts, a giant bonfire to roast said chestnuts, arroz duce (sweetened wheat pudding), music, folk dancing & the local version of moonshine wine.

we were the stars of the party for the villagers had never met americans before. men who were married for 40+ years said if they knew two new yorker women were going to come to the village, they would never have gotten married. i got no less than 3 marriage proposals with possibilities of other options for some of the available men were not in attendance. too bad they were all geriatric & missing teeth. otherwise, this village could be the solution for all my single girlfriends.

alas, i’m in the twilight of my portuguesa days, sitting in a café right now sipping my chocolate quente (hot chocolate), eating my 26th pastry of the fortnight on a cobblestone street in lisboa before i board a plane back home tomorrow. it has been a lovely adventure, made possible from my days photographing in haiti which turned into a gallery exhibit in lisboa.

speaking of photographs & haiti (smooth segue, huh?), did you all get a chance to donate to the photography workshop i’m holding for 25 kids in haiti? it’s not too late to give, give, give! and if you have already, many many OBRIGADAS to you & don’t forget to tell all your friends to donate as well.

click here to become my new best friend…
www.indiegogo.com/viewfinderworkshop

obrigada

finally decided to jet off to a foreign land where i don’t need to pack bug spray, 100 SPF sunscreen or my malaria pills. what could such a destination be? portugal, of course. but why portugal specifically? glad you asked. because the gallery that wants to be the first to exhibit my photographs of haiti is in lisbon. lisboa to the natives.

coolest moment of the opening reception for my show…a random woman says she loves this & points to a piece on the wall. the gallery owner giggles & says “that’s my favorite photograph too & here’s the artist.” & she gestures to me. M-E. ME.

then of course, the random woman wants a pic of me, her & the photograph. cause after all, i’m now a famous artiste. i respond with “you’re so funny” & strike a pose. at the end of the night, when i say goodbye to said random woman with two cheek kisses (cause after all, i’m european famous), she looks me square in the eye & says “why you say i’m funny?”

crap. crap. crap.
note to self…TRY not to insult the patrons of a gallery with my americanism.
kinda obvious.
but apparently, not totally obvious.

my time in haiti speaking a weird french / creole / english hybrid is screwing with my ability to communicate with all non-native english speakers. i say MERCI (french) to spanish flight attendants. GRACIAS (spanish) to portuguese taxi drivers. THANK YOU (english, duh) to ticket collectors at tourist traps. and occasionally OBRIGADA (portuguese) to a portuguese-but-speaks-fluent-english waiter. which gets me into trouble because then he fires off rapid portuguese menu options. to which i can only offer the ubiquitous, dumbfounded HUH? response. i did say ARIGATO (japanese) to an indian shopkeeper in lisboa.

now you’re wondering why the japanese. esp since i’ve never been to japan & the only other japanese word i know is sushi. apparently, when the portuguese ruled the seas 500 years ago, they were the first westerners to land in japan, who was so welcoming of the foreigners, they adopted obrigado, the portuguese thank you, into their own, arigato.

speaking of haiti & photographs, did you donate to the photography workshop i’m having there with 25 kids? there’s still time. every little bit helps. every big bit helps even more.
just click here for your good deed of the day. http://www.indiegogo.com/viewfinderworkshop

merci / gracias / thank you / obrigada / arigato in advance!