Posts tagged ‘urban’
My fluency in Albanian has now grown to a grand total of 4 words: mire dita (good morning), ju lutëm (please), mirupafshim (good bye), and faleminderit (thank you).
Sean and I have been in Prishtina, the capital city of Kosova for a 2 week stay; an internship opportunity with a local NGO has brought him here (along with yours truly as the tag-along “parental unit”). Before arriving here, we had enjoyed our time in the seaside locale in Albania. Though it was a long 5 hour journey from that country to our destination in Kosova, the rural and mountainous drive provided plenty of scenic diversion. As our car entered Prishtina, we waved to the massive statue of Bill Clinton that stands on one of the city’s main thoroughfares. In the aftermath of its 1999 war, Kosova is a very America-loving country and as holders of U.S. passports, Sean and I have been made to feel very welcomed here. This is our second visit in 2 years and we have felt very taken in by the familiarity and urban energy of this Balkan city.
We have settled into a daily routine. For Sean, there is time spent at the NGO office, as well as summer assignments for school in which to keep up. For me, I have been gathering photos and reading A LOT. The weather has been rather warm. Our hotel is located in the older, traditional part of the city. I love the vibrancy and ethnicity in these parts. During the day, it is busy and loud with all of its commercial activity. This is definitely not quiet Sonoma!! Most days I have been taking morning walks through the nearby open market/flea market. The afternoons are spent in the comfort of the air conditioned hotel room. In the evenings, Sean and I venture out for our evening meal. In the cool of the evenings, we enjoy wandering into the newer, modern part of the city for dinner. Near the city center, the university, and many of the government buildings, the area is known as Mother Theresa Square. It is a lively combustion of cafés and people strolling around.
A few general observations: I am fascinated by the architecture of the centuries’ old mosques and their minarets. Prishtina is a typical European city in that it has a thriving café culture. In the older part of the city, the cafés are populated by men only — I have not seen one woman sitting around with an endless cup of coffee or glass of tea. In the more modern areas, younger people, both men and women are seen throughout the cafés. Cigarette smoking is widespread here — I don’t even want to think of the amount of second-hand smoke I’ve recently inhaled! I have found it easier to photograph the ethnic men; I have not been able to get any decent shots of the ethnically-clad women. I continue to be impressed by the proficiency of the English language of so many Kosovars.
Kosova is a country that has been in existence for several centuries, from before the Middle Ages and through the Roman and Ottoman Empires. With the exception of the Serbian enclaves in the northern part of the country, today the majority of people in Kosova are ethnic Albanians. In 2008, Kosova declared its sovereignty from what had been the former Yugoslavia. Until then, the Albanian flag was Kosova’s own as well. Nowadays, both the Kosovar and Albanian flag are proudly flown throughout the country. Additionally, the American flag is widely seen here as well. In many ways, this Muslim, ethnically Albanian country could not be more different than the United States. I know that I am a foreigner here. But I have begun to be recognized by many of the outdoor market vendors during my daily walks through. I’m often enthusiastically greeted with the words “hello – photo – American.” It has made me feel a little less different from the people here, and instead, a bit more connected to our common humanity. Faleminderit, and in a few days, mirupafshim.
For more photos of our time here in Prishtina, Kosova, please click here to view my Flickr gallery.
Our winter Sonoma weather has been rather mild thus far. Though it becomes seasonably cold at night, with accompanying below freezing temperatures, the afternoons have been downright spring-like.
Now that my Project 365 is finished, my immediate goal has been to organize, delete and edit through the countless images that I shot last year. I tried to keep up with them during the year, and actually did a fairly decent job. However, an inevitable backlog occurred.
One of the batches of images I just organized through was of last year’s trip that Sean and I took to the East coast. During Spring Break, we traveled to Washington, DC and New York to visit a few universities. Though it was Spring at the time, the weather was far more winter-like — almost like the inverse of what we are experiencing right now. It was fun to pour through the photos I shot while there, and to reminisce of those few cold and damp Spring days spent in one of my most favorite of U.S. cities.
I invite you to click here to view my New York City images.
(Please click on any image to enlarge it.)
The weather has definitely turned to all things Autumn here in Sonoma. Colorful and fallen leaves are everywhere, foggy early mornings greet us, and temperatures have dropped. Sweaters, coats and scarves are a daily presence. Though I love this time of year, I do lament the seasonal passing of the spring and summer outdoor markets.
I love outdoor markets, or farmers markets, as they are known in the United States. The fresh and direct-from-the-farm produce has become my preferred way of buying and eating fruits and vegetables. Here in Sonoma, the Tuesday evening Farmers Market is a major institution in our little neck of the woods. Farmers with their produce, food vendors, live music, and picnics galore take place throughout the Plaza. Beginning in late Spring of this year, I began photographing every time I was at an outdoor market. I discovered that these gatherings were an amazing display: food, people of all ages, the sense of community, the relaxing pace of a picnic, etc. In other words, LOTS of photography fodder. And so the season began, with my camera slung on 1 shoulder, and my produce bag on the other — not a very easy balance! (More about the local scene in Part 2 of this series.)
During the month of June, my son Sean and I traveled through many of the Balkan countries of Eastern Europe. In 2 of the countries in particular, I found myself constantly drawn to their daily outdoor markets.
In Kosovo’s capital city of Prishtina, the daily outdoor market took place near our hotel, on the sidewalks of a nearby street. At many farmers markets in the U.S., streets are normally closed to automobile traffic during market hours; not so here. In addition to the people on foot, the street (and of course, it was a narrow street) was crowded with the traffic of cars, giving this outdoor market a sort of “drive through” feel to it. The cars stopped at the various vendors to make their purchases. The vendors were always very aware of those in cars who wanted to buy. Selections were pointed at by the driver, and the vendor swiftly brought them to the car for the quick transaction. It was congested and often hard to navigate around. But amid all this vehicle cacophany, there was an amazing absence of car horns. The traffic, whether on foot or in a car, co-existed in a wonderful balance with each other. The energy that emanated from this street was exhilarating and I was drawn back day after day to this crowded market street!
To my Western sensibilities, the prices at this outdoor market were extremely inexpensive. But in Kosovo, unemployment is very high and if one is lucky to have a job, less than 150 euros is the average monthly income. For the majority of Kosovars, these market prices were not cheap.
The daily outdoor market in the city of Dubrovnik, Croatia, was a completely different experience than that of Kosovo. This market took place in a large and prominent area situated between the Medieval churches, buildings, store fronts, boutiques and cafés that make up this historic city on the Adriatic Sea. There were no cars in which to compete for walking space. In fact, the only competition for space was provided by the constant flying around of the swallows. They constantly dipped in and out from the large fountain in the center of the Plaza, to their perches on the nearby Medieval churches towers.
Croatia’s economy is one of the most stable of the Balkan countries. Not surprisingly, prices at this market were more or less equal to typical prices of American farmers markets.
The contrast between these 2 outdoor markets could not have been more marked. The Dubrovnik market was beautiful — its historic and scenic location catered to both the locals and the tourists. But it is that crowded street market in Prishtina, Kosovo that is really etched in my memory: the people, the cars, the cow’s milk that was sold in plastic Coca-Cola bottles, the vendors with cigarettes dangling from their mouths (IMAGINE THAT being allowed in America!!). It was where I felt most connected to the Kosovars — faleminderit.
After a couple of days spent in rainy and expensive Geneva, Sean and I arrived late last week to begin our adventure in the Balkans.
Kosova — we have now learned that the name is actually pronounced Ko-soh-va – accent on the second syllable and the letter “a,” not “o,” is the correct ending.
We have been in the capital city of Prishtina for almost 6 days. Tomorrow (June 15) we travel to Prizren, a smaller city located about 90 minutes away. After 2 days there, we then proceed into the neighboring country of Albania for a few days. Our final destination will be 4 days in Dubrovnik, Croatia.
Being in this tiny southeastern European country is such a step out of our normal daily life in Sonoma, California, United States, Western Hemisphere of the World. For now, we are deeply in the “experience” part of our travels. It is not possible for me to meaningfully write about what we have thus far seen and experienced — perhaps that will come later, when we’ve returned home to Sonoma. For now, hopefully my photos can do the talking.
I invite you to click on the following link to view my photos of Prishtina, Kosova:
Every Fall, Fleet Week comes to San Francisco. The week’s events include disaster relief preparedness programs, a Parade of Ships through the San Francisco Bay, and most famously, air shows of the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels.
I must confess that I have never really had a yearning to see a Blue Angels’ air show. I had seen videos or television broadcasts of their acrobatics. Such viewings had always been sufficient for this gal.
The foreign exchange student who is living with us during this school year, has his pilot’s license in his native France. It had always been son rêve (his dream) to see the Blue Angels in person. Clearly, watching videos of the Blue Angels would not suffice this year — only the real thing, live and witnessed by our own eyes would do.
So earlier this month on the Saturday of Fleet Week, atop the hills of Sausalito, Alexis, my brother Tim and I hiked up a rather steep path to a vantage point of incredible beauty. Surrounding this spot was an almost 300 degree view of the city of San Francisco, the Golden Gate bridge, the Marin Headlands, Alcatraz Island, Angel Island and points beyond.
The Blue Angels soared and roared — over and around the Bay and its surroundings. Their dips, dives and turns, all performed in precise formation with one another was truly a visual feast for the eyes. The loud roar of the jets as they flew overhead reverberated throughout my body, simultaneously both scaring and thrilling me. The air show began with 4 jets performing their maneuvers, but increased to 6 by the show’s end.
The words “performance artist” comes to mind as I reflect on the Blue Angels’ air show of that day. The skillful (and brave!) pilots of these jets are indeed performance artists. On that beautiful Saturday afternoon (typical San Francisco fog was thankfully absent), I witnessed their artistry — 4 or 6 singular jets, performing cohesively as though they were 1 entity. It was poetry in motion of a very high degree.
I know, I’ve stolen my title from a Sondheim musical. However, this post has nothing to do with it, or the Seurat painting on which said musical is based. Rather, last Sunday Alexis and I drove into San Francisco for an afternoon in Golden Gate Park.
I love grand parks in large cities — Central Park, Boston Common, Luxembourg Gardens, Parc Monceau. The beauty and energy of these urban parks keep calling me back, time and again for repeat visits full of wandering around on foot, stopping to read a book, people watching. The wonderful French verb flâner (to stroll) comes to mind. I love the thrill of escape that urban parks bring — the feeling of being surrounded by nature, while merely being just a quick walk back into the urban streets of city life.
As we began our wandering that afternoon, I found myself shooting many of the beautiful and eye-catching aspects of the park — monuments, landscapes, etc. However, I realized that trying to capture the essence of an urban park in photos would be incomplete without the most important element — people. With this photographic “epiphany” of sorts, I realized that I had just stumbled upon my first venture into “street” photography.
Being a novice at photography, I am still interested in all genres. Photography relaxes me; it forces me to slow down. Setting up the tripod, experimenting with the camera settings, composing the shot, waiting for the perfect moment when the light is just right, etc. — all of this takes time and patience. Living among the beautiful landscapes of Sonoma, I have certainly had ample opportunities to practice this genre. In addition, this year has been an especially abundant travel year for me and as such, much practice in shooting iconic monuments and scenes from my destinations have been photographed.
Ah, but street photography — the fast paced, non-tripod using, random photographing of people (often without knowing them or without permission) in their natural and unposed lives. This is where the word N-O-V-I-C-E really describes me. There’s no luxury of time to experiment with and figure out the correct shutter speed and aperture settings. The photographer really has to know what he/she is doing. For most seasoned photographers, this is probably not a big challenge, but for this novice, well……….. And so, in the wonderfully populated setting of Golden Gate Park on a Sunday afternoon, I dismounted my Nikon from its tripod, and dove right into the “street.” Indeed, it felt daunting to point my camera at strangers. I tried to remain anonymous and non-intrusive while attempting to capture splendid little “moments” in my fellow park-enjoyers’ afternoon. Some people noticed my camera at work, others did not. Some were comfortable with being photographed, others clearly were not. I tried to ascertain beforehand whether possible subjects (i.e., people) were amenable to having my camera aimed at them — obviously I was not always successful: ”excuse me” and “I’m sorry” were frequently issued.
I shot many photos that afternoon and voila, I present a few that made it onto my short list of those I feel are pas mal (not bad).