Category: Photo Challenge



I’ve long left an 8am to 8pm stressful job to do the things I WANT to do. Not that I didn’t enjoy my banking career. But 27 years is enough, with the last 2 years not as exciting nor enjoyable as the first 25. Besides, I have long planned an early retirement. So I worked like a horse, burned myself out, and decided to quit at 47 years old.

 

 

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“Married Man’s Trail” in Ketchikan, Alaska. Allegedly, the path taken by men seeking “pleasure” after a visit to the town’s brothel.

 

 

Two weeks after my self-imposed retirement, there were offers to tempt me to make a 2nd stab either in the same field or in a career completely different from what I used to do. It wasn’t in the plan. Nor in my destiny. It’s been 13 years now. And I’ve since made journals of my travel adventures, musings and ramblings.

 

 

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Batanes. The northernmost island province of the P hilippines!

 

 

I have travelled. Slept and got off the bed way too late. Enjoyed my breakfasts. Met my friends more leisurely and more frequently. Read more books. And blogged. I like blogging if only so I keep “records” of my adventures. For me, it’s no different from my diaries. Reminders of what I’ve enjoyed and the stuff that rendered me nostalgic. Sentimental, even.

 

 

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Bromance? Mai Khao Beach. Phuket. Thailand.

 

 

You can say blogging allowed me to express myself. Or remind me of the trips I made, the food I ate, the new friends I’ve met. They’d be my reminders when I’ve grown tired of walking mindlessly, seeking adventures or just growing weak on the knees to navigate a few meters. BUT IT IS MORE THAN JUST PRESERVING THE MEMORIES. Cliche that it is, you can say it’s the journey more than the destination.

 

 

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Corregidor. Philippines. The rock fortress island packed with history and war memories.

 

 

Let me explain. I have been writing since I knew how to use a pen. The best childhood gifts for me consisted of diaries, books and fancy stationery. My mother found a penpal for me since I grew tired of playing with my dolls. BUT I NEVER EVER HANDLED A CAMERA, NOR OWNED ONE, TILL I WAS IN MY 40’s. My earlier travels went undocumented. Visually, that is. My family cannot understand how I can visit Europe to spend 6 months there on a borrowed camera. Worse, I scrimped on the shots and only had a few to show. Mostly of landscapes without moí.

 

 

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Victoria Falls, sandwiched between Zambia and Zimbabwe.

 

 

I still don’t take as many shots, especially of myself. Nor do I own any of those humongous DSLRs. But I do enjoy snapping photos now. With pen and camera, I AM NOW MORE APPRECIATIVE OF DETAILS I WOULD HAVE EASILY DISMISSED BEFORE. A rainbow. Children at play. A bubbling brook. An insect. Flower details. I am happy with my amateurish photography skills. Just a bit jealous whenever I find stunning photography especially of places I’ve been to. “Why didn’t i take a shot from that angle?” ….. I ask myself.

 

 

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Don Salvador Benedicto. DSB for short. Negros Occidental.

 

 

I don’t take shots to display any photography skill. My earlier blogs will tell you that. Modesty aside, my more recent blogs have better photos. The “journey” made me pay more attention to details. I enjoy human interest shots best, but I’m too slow to capture many lovely moments. Thank God my iPhone is ever-handy and takes quite decent shots, or I would have missed a lot more. So yeah….. I blog to express myself. To chronicle my “highs”, and to capture those memories too.

 

 

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The Cotton Castle of Pamukkale. Turkey.


 

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I was on my 10th week in Madrid. Yes, the blues getting in the way this early in the morning. Coffee in hand, I’d find myself looking out the window. As I allowed homesickness to creep in, various morning activities are framed behind the glass windows. You could almost hear the beans grinding, smell the coffee brewing, silvers clinking to make those bocadillos (sandwiches), and feel those hurried daddy hugs as toddlers see them off to the door.

 

But this one’s different. In one of those window frames, I find this cat. Across the space between us, we looked at each other. He must have been busy watching others beating the “morning rush” from his window. As I was. It’s interesting how many of them do nearly the same thing at the same time every morn.

 

By the time I boarded the train for another one of those day trips, I was still thinking of the kitty…..when I spotted something unusual on the train floor. Lying asleep was this young man’s best friend. Both buddies in dreamland. They looked tired. They were still doing their REM when I passed them to disembark.

 

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What a sweet life? These animals live without the complications humans have. No budgets to keep. No compulsion to inventory for future needs. They hunt or get only for their daily needs. If they do store for a rainy day, it is for their own consumption. Not for business. Unlike humans who love to enrich themselves. I wonder. Do they feel envy? Is there a rich dog or a poor cat? Or would those adjectives apply only to their masters? And if there is a rich dog, does he flaunt his wealth the way some humans do?

 

In Alcala de Henares, I spent a whole morning munching through a whole bocadillo, nipping on thin manchego shavings, sipping my cafe con leche while watching the storks busily minding their nests. The whole episode gave me a stiff neck, looking up much of the time. But my snooping exposed me to a valuable lesson in life.

 

 

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The storks here in Alcala de Henares, a university town just a few minutes train ride from Madrid, is a whole community. Their nests differ only in location (some high up atop spires, others in lower arched windows, still others in between steel bars of a crane) but never much in terms of size.
Almost uniform in height and width, the nestlings look uncomplaining and comfortable. Mom and Dad storks fly in and out, presumably with something to feed their young. Some simply standing by, looking like they’re waiting for the first nestling to attempt a first flight. As they wait, they don’t seem to mind much else. How can they stay perched on a ledge for hours on end?

 

 

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Patience. Many of us struggle to tame our temper. I am not sure about this. Nor do I have the proper academic background to draw any conclusions. But obviously, humans can pick up a few lessons on temper management here.

This is my entry to the Weekly Photo Challenge: Unique.


I missed submitting a post on the theme “A Picture Is Worth 1,000 Words” but here’s another writing prompt and I intend not to pass up this chance.

 

 

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“WHEN HELLO FEELS LIKE GOODBYE”

 

Oh yes. Ever the optimist, ever the romantic, it’s HELLO in my mind. The kind that feels like “goodbye”. A hug so tight it feels like the last. As when one says goodbye. For now. For sometime. Forever.

 

I hate goodbyes. But hellos can bring forth the same sensation. When a HUG feels so much better, so much more intimate than a KISS. When a HUG lasts far longer than any kiss would and could. Wrapped in each other’s arms, who cares who’s looking? Who cares? When a hug seems to last from hello to goodbye.

 

Family? Friends? Lovers? A hug conveys the message of longing. Of not-too-long-ago or nearly-a-lifetime loneliness. When was the last time you missed someone so terribly? How did it feel meeting them again? As you press closer and feel each other’s heartbeats, the years of absence are wiped away. As each moment of longing is peeled off and exposed, the warmth of each embrace permeates the bodies with an intensity that composes another fond memory.

 

“Takes Your Breath Away”

 

Literally and figuratively. As intense as it gets, the tight hugs take your breath away. The passion burns through the loneliness, worries, anxieties. Neither going nor coming. Neither here nor there. YOU JUST HAVE YOUR MOMENT.

 

Joy. Relief. Acceptance. Forgiveness. All positive thoughts warming through sleepless nights filled with pain, worries and at times anger. Such is the potent force of a simple hug. No, I don’t mean the “social hug” one almost automatically accords another where one is obliged to do slightly more than a handshake. Not that “obligatory hug”. I mean the hug hug — that which is more appropriately termed as an “embrace”. The kind that attaches a powerful emotion to it. The kind that leaves you feeling fulfilled, other times, drained. It’s hard to fake a hug. Ironically, there is no eye contact nor face-to-face encounters to check for those nervous ticks and not-too-honest smiles. More often than not, we close our eyes shut the tighter the embrace goes. We rely simply on our feelings. If we’re not “in harmony”, one would feel awkward and wish to let go. If we don’t “feel it”, we sense the seconds tick by and feel overwhelmed. My theory is the pretense seeps out as the hug lingers. Yet, many honest hugs demand a second and third hugs. Like we can’t have enough of each other.

 

 

When I think of reunions, the images conjured up in my mind include open arms, welcoming hugs, lingering embraces. Especially at a certain age when you feel some may not make it to the next reunion. Morbid thoughts? Maybe. When news reach us of such losses or casualties, we invariably think of that last embrace and simultaneously wish we hugged them tighter or longer. We may not remember the conversation, but yes, we do recall that first hug after a long, long time. And more so, that last hug as we bid each other goodbye. Hello and Goodbye. Packed in a single embrace. Wrapped in thoughts of love, acceptance, relief and forgiveness. J.O.Y. Two hearts beating as one, in an almost monastic rhythm. Broken only by interludes of remembrances punctuated by laughter and nostalgic sorrows. Handshakes just won’t do. Too formal. Too cold. Too businesslike. Too transactional?

 

 

Hugs are in an altogether different league. To this day, I still remember how it felt like hugging the babies in the family. They’re no babies now. Very well into their teens, in fact. But I remember how when they couldn’t express themselves as much as they can now, and would rather express their joy, their thanks, their gratitude, their longing in those unforgettable hugs. Or when they demanded the same whenever they felt insecure, threatened or simply too happy to want to share it. A hug reassures. A hug reaffirms. A hug has no substitute. Ohhhh….. I need a hug NOW! 😉

 

 

As I write this, I had difficulty expressing myself with 1,000 words. But enough said, methinks. It’s a great discipline. And the photo and topic’s such a superb prompt. As you read this, I suggest you check out the writing challenge. See what prompts you. Check out how the simple photo moves you. I’m sure we share something in common, while at the same time learn from each other.

 

 

This is my response to the Weekly Photo Challenge: 1,000 Words, Take 2.

 


LOVE. How best to express it in a single frame?

 

 

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Retiro Park. Madrid.

 

 

Honestly….. I took this shot without noticing the couple by the stairs. Was more concerned with the pond and the clouds, too blinded by the sun to observe the sweet pair caught in the frame.

 

 

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Elephants in Knysna Elephant Park in South Africa.

 

 

Caption this! Elephants express it way better, methinks.

 

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A Man and A Child. Chimi Lakhang. Bhutan.

 

 

I’m a grandmother myself. So I’m drawn to images of grandchildren. When one speaks of true love, a grandparent’s love tops the list 😉


THIS IS MY RESPONSE TO THE WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE: LOVE.


WHAT’S BEYOND?

 

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Beyond the Walkway. Beyond the Sea. I’ve decided to join the Weekly Photo Challenge and eagerly await each week’s theme. This amateur has resisted in the past, thinking this is for pros. But then, this challenge is so inspiring and potentially a good system to update one’s blog.

 

 

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Beyond Sunset is Twilight. Sunsets are awesome. Twilights are magical.

 

 

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Landscapes. Seascapes. Skyscapes?

 

 

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Beyond the savanna. What lurks beyond?

 

 

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This is my response to the Weekly Photo Challenge: Beyond.