Photographing that which is meant to go unphotographed

The weekend before we left Barcelona, the group went on a day-trip to Montserrat, an absolutely stunning mountain an hour away from Catalunya’s capital. It is an incredibly religious and spiritual place (it is, after all, a monastery).

There's something about heights that makes humans "ooh" and "aah"
There’s something about heights that makes humans “ooh” and “aah”

Montserrat features a large basilica that looms over the town, and, well, everything else really. It features sculptures and biblical scenes carved into its entrance and an overall sense of spiritual importance that can be found only in other major religious architectural sites:

Montserrat Basilica
Montserrat Basilica

And if you think that the outside is pretty great, just wait until you see the inside. Or rather, don’t wait, because I won’t show you.

As you walk through the entrance of the basilica, a large sign with a red cross over a photo camera greets the daily visitors. And while I normally hate the prohibition of something as basic as a taking a photograph, in this case (as in most cases regarding religious sites), I completely understand, and abide. Maybe this makes me a bad photographer – after all, how many times will I ever go back to this place? How will my parents know what it looks like, or my friends? How will I share this experience I had, if I have no proof? But, then again, this place isn’t for me. I am a visitor in someone else’s home, and as such, I understand and respect the need to abide by the host’s rules.

Which is why I found it unnerving when other students, who (most likely) did not act out of malice but rather curiosity, started to photograph the sermon being given inside once they were settled into the aged pews. So I took out my trusted little red notebook, and vented my anger onto it. The following is that which I wrote in the moment, so understand if my anger blinded me of understanding their point of view.

Call me stuck up, but I like to respect other people’s beliefs and ideas. Sure, I’ll make fun of some small idiosyncrasies or hypocrisies, especially in religion, but if I’m in a church, temple, mosque, or any other place of worship, I will respect their rules – including not photographing, especially that which is meant to go un-photographed. To me, it’s just like visiting someone’s home and “defacing” it, disrespecting it by putting yourself and your ideas and beliefs before everyone else’s, especially the host’s.

I will openly admit my agnosticism to all – after all, it’s well known (to my friends and family) that I don’t have much faith at all. But I don’t think you need to have faith in order to understand that the beliefs others have are, in fact, important, especially when talking about religion. To many, their belief sets and systems are much or all that they have. It’s what has helped them get over the death of their child, their brother or father or mother; it’s what helped them make sense of their misfortune; it’s what has allowed them to move on from the hardest part or aspect of their life. So I think its pretty clear that religion and faith matter, even if only to an individual level. And religion, just as its been used to justify genocide, has also been used to justify the creation of some of the most important and beautiful pieces of art, architecture, mathematics, engineering, etc. Religion, faith, and this basilica, while they mean nothing to me, mean so much to so many others, especially those visiting not to take in the glory of its architecture or artistry, but to talk to their God, to have a personal moment of gratitude or a moment of begging. Places of worship are not for me – literally. They were not created with me in mind, nor were they created for shutter-crazy tourists who snap every detail they possibly can. They are places of quiet and solitude in the midst of a supportive (sometimes) community, a personal place to find oneself. So imagine doing all of this, whether in the best, the worst, or even an average moment in your life, and to hear click … click … *flash* click.

There are moments in my life I wouldn’t want to be photographed by a group of tourists. In fact, I think there are many moments in many people’s lives that they’d rather not be photographed. As a photojournalist, it is – or rather, will be – my job to photograph those moments (evictions, fires, murders, etc.). But there is something so inherently wrong with crossing the line between photographing the physical and photographing the spiritual. I’m definitely making this a much bigger issue than it is. After all, no one here is complaining. No one is looking at us with a nasty stare, or asking the rule-breakers to stop. I sit here alone, as others look forward to take in the glory of the sermon and the song being sung, making a bigger deal than it all really is. But that click to my right, and the one directly behind me, and the one a bit more front, and that flash, that horrid flash – they make this side of me come forth. And all I want to do right now is go up to them, take their camera, look down and state, “learn to respect, and then, only then, will you have your camera back.”

I’m a pretty horrid person tbh.

I also then wrote a non-sensical side note, which I will only include due to the recent release of a study stating that American millennials are the least religious generation in the U.S.’ history.

As a complete side note, I’m worried we – meaning the latest generation, which is statistically more and more atheist or agnostic – are becoming too intolerant of religion and the deeds done in its name. I’m scared we’ll forget the good parts of it, and that we’ll pigeonhole religion as a whole in the same way we have currently pigeonholed Islam as a religion of violence and hatred. I’m afraid we’ll forget to contextualize, we’ll forget that these are people we’re dealing with, and we’ll end up otherizing each other. As it stands right now, atheists are one of the most discriminated minorities in the US (I hear it’s quite different in Europe though). So many of my fears are probably unfunded. But they still stand. As the world becomes more “logical” and less “spiritual,” we might find a scary trend towards what I pointed at.

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Blast from the Past

So, in an effort to prepare a not too terrible portfolio for the Eddie Adams application, I have been looking for my best ones amongst my old photos – which is where I discovered the film photos I took during last year’s trip that I never ended up doing anything with. So as a #flashbackfriday (or late #tbt), here are the (superbly stunning) pictures. Enjoy!

Bye Bye Barna

I’ve been pretty bad about keeping this blog updated. Granted, I wasn’t the greatest at it last year, but this is pretty impressively bad from me. So this blog post will serve as a catch-up for most readers (read: my family), and hopefully this is me turning a new leaf and actually blogging once a day, or at least every other day.

The past two weeks have been pretty incredible. I’ve always fantasized about going to Barcelona, as it always seemed like a “me” kind of city. By the water, still close to the mountains, the home of some of the best fútbol in the world, with a culture similar to Argentina’s, but with Europe’s economy and standard of living. It lived up to my expectations, but I didn’t fall head over heels in love with it like I did with Madrid. Nothing felt “off” about it, but it just wasn’t love. It was infatuation, desire, lust, but definitely not love.

The streets of Barcelona are brimming with stories and articles waiting to happen. In the two weeks there, the program’s journalists reported on students protesting the new academic requirements, the impressive program helping the homeless by establishing a tour guided by those who know the streets better than anyone around them, and the tourist problem riddling Gaudi’s city (among many more). The photographers (we now have two staffers) focused their creative energy on making brilliant photo essays on the markets, the street art, Barcelona’s obsession with flags, and the work-out culture (most to be published shortly).

On the less published side of things, we also happened to visit Park Guell, the Dali Museum (oh so many not-so-great thoughts about him), the lovely city of Girona, the less-impressive-than-I-imagined-but-still-incredibly-impressive Sagrada Familia, and the absolutely stunning Montserrat.

This trip has been different. It has been calmer, for me, yet still incredibly crazy for everyone else. I’m no longer one of the only translators (between Oscar and Inma’s incredible willingness to help, I was left without too many translations to do). I’m also no longer the sole photographer – a fact which I both love and loathe. I love being able to actually experience the city, to go somewhere and get to know the city in the same way that so many tourists get to know it. But I also love getting to know it through work. Last year, I didn’t get to experience Salamanca or Madrid through the eyes of the tourists, but I did through the eyes of locals. Through translating and photographing and talking to locals and those affected by different policies, new laws and controversial traditions, I got to really know, and fall in love, with two cities so deeply enriched by their own complexities.

This year, I got to experience both sides: the locals and the tourists, the deeply personal one and the one that is beautifully crafted for the visitors’ eyes. I don’t yet know wether I prefer being thrown into the absolute chaos and craziness of last year, or the more appreciative and laid-back, yet still incredibly busy schedule of this year.

We now find ourselves back in Madrid. I wrote last year that Madrid managed to wedge itself in my heart between Boston and Buenos Aires. While it’s definitely not the most beautiful city in the world, there is something about it that just feels like home. I’m beyond happy to be back, and to get a second chance to tell the stories hidden beneath the politics and the social unrest.

Disclaimer: This isn’t to say I have not been working. I have, and quite a bit. But the fact is that, unlike last year,  I don’t crave to smoke a whole pack of cigarettes in a day (not that I ever actually did that), and I do in fact get more than 4 hours of sleep at night – two things my body highly appreciates. 

It’s been 180 hours…

… since I last blogged. Oops. There’s many factors I could blame (and will), amongst them: work, tours, website-making, lack of sleep, work, shooting, editing, nightmares, exhaustion, food (when I remember), work, translation, and finally, sleep (though not restful). This past week has been incredible, and it has also been incredibly hectic (what’s new). So instead of spending an inordinate amount of time writing about what has gone down, I will let y’all figure it out through the following photo gallery. The protest, vineyard, and castellers photos are just a quick glimpse of upcoming stories, soon to be published in the main website.

Spain 2.0

One year and six days ago, I wrote my first blog post hours before leaving to go to the airport, in search for a new adventure. Today, I do the same.

So much has happened since I was last in Spain. Just within the past six months, I have began freelancing for several colleges, got a good clientele, and did damn good work; I brainstormed, drafted, researched, read a book or two, scrapped, then drafted again, then read six more books, then re-scrapped and re-drafted, and crammed my senior thesis on photojournalism and war and the Gulf and American censorship; I saw, and photographed, my closest friends (and platonic soulmate) walk the aisle during the 2015 commencement; and finally, I took the (monumental, for me) decision to take time off school and work to get surgery on my ankle(s). And while I really can’t believe a year has already gone by, I also find it weird that only one year has passed.

I’d stated before that I didn’t know what to write because I didn’t know what to expect. I published my insecurities, from the quality of my photos to the experiences I’d have. You’d think that after having experienced it once, I’d be more aware of what to expect. After all, I’ve already experienced the photographing and translating and organizing. But this round is different. There’s a new group of students, we’re going to a different city (replacing Salamanca with Barcelona), and I have a new role (teaching assistant, helping mostly with photo and translation). And as nerve-wracking as this all is, I’m beyond excited for this new trip and the new challenge.

Gracias, España; Hola, Istanbul

I’ve officially started working on my homework for my second dialogue in Turkey, so I figured I might as well finish off the blog and write the final reflective post I’ve been pushing off. So, my good gents, here it is.

It’s been two weeks since we’ve been back in Boston, and yet I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that the dialogue is over. Actually, scratch that. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that the dialogue even happened. It’s such a blur of memories, I often wonder if I just dreamed all of it, and it’s actually May 5th right now.

Boy do I wish it was May 5th right now.

Seven weeks ago, on that fateful Monday morning, I sat nervously on my best friend’s couch, writing my first blog post. I had put off doing that post, both because of work and because I had no idea what to say. What was I to expect from Spain? The only things I knew about the trip was that Dylan and Julia, two people I’d previously had class with, were coming with. Other than that, my expectations were all over the place, primarily because I had no idea what to anticipate. The qualms ranged from work to culture to work to the group to more work. What stories would people cover? Would I like my colleagues? Which out of all the stories would I photograph? Would I get to do my own photoessays? How different is Spanish culture from my own – could I adapt? And my sense of direction, it would work… right? Would I finally get over my fear of street photography? Was I going to need my flashes? And what if I had to shoot portraits – who would help me then?

Sitting there at 9:30 a.m. was torture. I’m a pretty patient person. Really, I am. But waiting five hours until 1:30 p.m., when I was set to pass by Dylan to go to the airport, was giving me an unhealthy dose of anxiety. I was excited. I couldn’t wait to go on my next adventure. My standards for my work were set – at an inexplicably high level. I wanted to get to Salamanca, set down my luggage, and go out looking for a story that same afternoon. Who cares about travel exhaustion or hunger when there’s a brand new world to explore.

I look back to that Monday and wonder how seven weeks have passed by so quickly. I didn’t experience five week worth of Spain. I experienced many more.

At the end of that first post of this blog, I quoted LIFE Magazine’s founder, Henry Luce. This specific quote, recently made famous by Ben Stiller’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, explains every reason why I want to be a foreign correspondent.

To see life; to see the world; to eyewitness great events; to watch the faces of the poor and the gestures of the proud; to see strange things – machines, armies, multitudes, shadows in the jungle and on the moon; to see man’s work – his paintings, towers, and discoveries; to see things thousands of miles away, things hidden behind walls and within rooms, things dangerous to come; the women that men love and many children; to see and to take pleasure in seeing; to see and be amazed; to see and be instructed; Thus to see, and be shown, is now the will and new expectancy of half of humankind. To see, and to show is the mission now undertaken by a new kind of publication.

I like to think that I did that, and more, with my time in Spain. I, along with the entire group, saw, lived, and reported through great and groundbreaking events – Europe’s biggest fútbol championship (the UEFA Champions final), the goring of three matadors, which happened to coincide with our extensive coverage of the blood sport, and the King’s abdication and the people’s reactions. I met the ones who feel cheated by their government, the ones who are acting against it and the ones who are not. I spoke, and was instructed and influenced, by a generation with no future. I saw the faces of the proud – the ones unwilling to let the government fuck ups change their lives. I saw strange things, multitudes of angry men and women gathered at Sol, protesting the monarchy and demanding a republic, and, among them, a small girl playing with her Minnie Mouse balloon. I explored the illustrious Prado, I met a Spanish count – I stood a foot away from original Goya prints and paintings. I explored the city in a way most tourists would never have thought of. I met children, men, women, grandparents, elders, in love, in pain, alone but accompanied by love, or surrounded by everyone yet completely lost. I met the people who make a city and a country unique, and, often, I got to tell their stories – via articles, photos, interviews, or simple tales retold to friends and family.

I saw, and was shown, the real Spain. And I miss the hell out of it.

I thank you, Spain, for opening up your doors to a group of student journalists. I thank you for every challenge you posed and every adventure you sent us on. I thank you for every siesta, every tapas, every vineyard tour or bullfight, and every run I enjoyed through your cities of mysteries and love and stories, soon-to-be articles.

And now here I am. One week and one day before heading on to my next adventure, this time to Istanbul and Bodrum, Turkey. As I sit reading my assigned books (currently on Esra Özyürek’s Nostalgia for the Modern), I think about both the future and the past. Spain was a blur. Work often overwhelmed me. Most of my memories, though fond in my heart, are centered around work. This upcoming adventure will be different. The assignments and lectures and tours will take their time. But no amount of work will prevent me from enjoying every last second of it, or missing out on anything.

Istanbul, you, with your protests and your new generation of young Turks, seem quite ready for me. Allow me this week to prepare for you. And then, I swear – more to me than to you – I’ll take you by storm.

After an incredibly insane week….

…I’m finally done with my culture project!

Check it out here: http://spanishyouth2014.tumblr.com/ (WARNING: Terrible article ahead. There’s a reason I’m not a writer).

Also! I wrote my own cute headline: As government policies stay the same, Spanish youth’s fight-or-flight response kicks in.  (I’m pretty proud of how cute it is. Also, look at that CSS right there – ignoring the fact that it’s 100 percent a template. Don’t read the article though. Really. Please. Ignore it.)

And why, you ask, was this past week so insane?

Well, it has to do with the fact that 1) I lost my I-20 and faced possible deportation (half wished that had happened, if only for the story), 2) I basically lived at the Globe for two days trying to get back my lost files, and 3) my computer decided that, hey, since I’m no longer in Spain, there’s no harm in shutting down completely and not letting me access my files right?

Well, with my computer now working again (sort of), my I-20 being processed, the lost files all retrieved, and the culture project done, it’s time to enjoy my time back home!

… after I’m done writing that 3-5 page essay that I thought I didn’t have to do – but it turns out I do. Oops!

Forgotten Post(s) III: Like a Ticking Crocodile

MADRID, Spain. 8 June 2014.

The story of Peter Pan is one of my absolute favorite ones. No, not Disney’s Peter Pan, though that was and should remain being an integral part of anyone’s childhood. I, instead, talk about J.M. Barrie’s novella, Peter and Wendy, which is filled with the most wondrous and colorful quotes, ones that are remembered months and years after they are originally read. One, specifically, came to mind today, as Dylan, Jess, and I found ourselves alone (almost) in the middle of the Campo de Cebada, a deserted pool originally meant for the Olympics, but now taken over by the locals.

We first heard about the campo during one of our lectures. The campo, as it was explained, became a place of the community, closed off by the municipality but opened by an independent organization. The lecturer explained the set up, with a basketball/futbol court in one corner, a make-shift movie theater in another, a constantly growing mural, and an organic garden, all surrounding several hand-built structures, offering much needed shade and seats for the hot summer days.

I, along with Dylan and Jess, were intrigued and wanted to explore it. It’s situated right outside the La Latina metro stop, and you wouldn’t necessarily notice it if you were not looking (Jess and I were there weeks before, and never realized until now). The pool, usually open during the weekend, was blocked to the public, with the only entrance we could see being the closed off gate. So, of course, we got a bit creative:

The inside surpassed any expectations I had. It was magnificent in every way, from the physical structures and the art that decorated it, to the political meanings behind it. Though there were two other locals there, doing their own thing, it really felt like we were completely isolated from the rest of the world. Like Jess said, it was our own little secret.

Two hours passed by, ticking away with long, uneventful seconds, while also rushing by. Sitting on the hanging bench thing-y with Jess and Dylan (I know, I have a way with words), I felt like I was back in a kayak surrounded by nothing but water and wind and friends, with time stopped still and nothing mattering. I was in absolute peace, and it felt never-ending.

But I guess that’s the thing about time; it passes, no matter what.

Or, as J.M. Barrie said, “I suppose it’s like the ticking crocodile, isn’t it? Time is chasing after all of us.”

***

Photos of the Campo de Cebada:

Bonus great J.M. Barrie quotes from Peter Pan:

“…and thus it will go on, so long as children are gay and innocent and heartless.” 

“I’ll teach you how to jump on the wind’s back, and then away we go.” 

“To die would be an awfully big adventure!”

Forgotten Post(s) II: On Being a Pedophile (and Other Issues Associated with Photographing Children)

MADRID, Spain. 9 June 2014.

I hate posed shots. Newspapers hate posed shots. Unless it’s an event or a profile of someone (source or otherwise), I can’t remember a time when the Globe ever used a posed shot.

I do, however, love spontaneity. I love when people aren’t aware of the camera, and don’t change their actions because of it. And you know who are the masters of not caring about anything or anyone? Children. They’re great, adventurous and just don’t give a damn. They’re so fantastic with the camera that one of the Globe photographers even said he thinks photographing children is cheating, because they always look great.

The issues with children is that parents exist. Actually, scratch that. The issue is that pedophiles exist, and make my job of photographing children on a park that much more difficult (this is where Julia would say “phrasing!”).

Let me explain myself. Geoff, Carlene’s husband and Globe lifestyle writer, has done an article about the “awesomeness of the river bike system and the playgrounds” (his words, not mine). The park has a running and cycling path, huge green areas for sports and chilling, and children parks. Many, many children parks. They are absolutely incredible, and make me undeniably jealous that I didn’t have that growing up.

So when Geoff offered up the job of photographing it and getting yet another credit up in the Globe, I said yes without a second thought.

We went over to the park nearest Carlene’s yesterday, and it definitely was quite cool. Huge areas for recreation and a large ropes jungle gym. However, the moment I took out my camera, I became hyper-aware of my surroundings. Parents everywhere, looking after their children mainly, but also, in the back of their minds, weary of pedophiles. And suddenly I appear, a random foreigner with two large cameras and no identification as a newspaper photographer. Talk about sketchy.

I don’t know if any of them thought of me as a pedophile. Being a woman probably helped a lot, but not having my Globe ID with me, I felt incredibly uncomfortable. Most parents said no when I asked if I could shoot their children (though not in those words, of course.) Makes sense. Someone who claims to be photographing for a foreign newspaper yet doesn’t have any accreditation? I’d be weary too.

Today I headed over to a different section of the river. A couple of miles down from where we were yesterday, this place is absolutely magnificent. A stunning modern bridge contrasts its older, more European brother that lies less than 500 meters next to it. Parks abound, and even on a cloudy Monday afternoon, they’re filled with children playing, teenagers hanging out, youth and mid-aged people working out, and elders looking after their grandchildren.

It was a spectacular sight, and yet again, when the camera came out, the hyper-awareness came back. Only that I think this time it was unfunded, since not one person said no to being photographed or having their children photographed. While my fear of seeming like a pedophile remained the entire time I was there, the more yes-es I got, the more comfortable and less creepy I felt.

I left the park rushing to get back to the final dinner on time, and feeling confused by the conflicting responses from yesterday and today. As creepy as it may have been to shoot photograph stranger’s children, the complete openness that I got in the parks today surprised me, even if they did refuse to provide names. Yesterday, instead, I was met with more closed doors, but the few open ones were ones that were willing to be named. It has, undoubtedly, been an interesting couple of days.

Posts update

After having to deal with my computer not working for the past day and a half, and Apple’s genius bar being unavailable, I’m finally set to have it fixed/get a new one, if it has to come down to that.
Expect to see more forgotten posts showing up, once my computer decided to stop acting up.

Forgotten Post(s) I: On Dunkin’ Those Donuts

Over the course of the month abroad, I wrote several blog posts on my phone’s note-taking app. However, due to lack of time or over-exhaustion, I never got around to posting them. So now that we’re back in Boston, I’m going to take some time to post them all before my final reflection post, in their original present-tense voice.

MADRID, Spain. 23 May 2014.

I can count the times I’ve been to a Dunkin Donuts with one hand.

The first was before freshman year, in 2010. My mom and I were touring Boston universities, and it was raining. I can’t truly remember my first impression upon rushing into the DD, other than “god that looks like so much sugar.” I had a hot chocolate, as did my mom (I think), and we shared a donut, which, surprise surprise, was filled with sugar.

The second time was during my first semester of university, on a break during my 4 hour long cinema class. The only thing close was Dunkin, and I was starving. I went a whooping one time during the entire semester (though their breakfast sandwiches were the greatest treat to my starving stomach).

The third was with a friend who wanted coffee during our second year, but didn’t want to give money to the “apartheid-supporting corporation” otherwise known as Starbucks (my friend loves boycotting things for moral reasons; that’s the only explanation I can give.)

The fourth was when a Globe photographer, the wonderful Jess Rinaldi, bought me hot chocolate during a particularly cold morning as I shadowed her on one of the many Saturdays during my co-op days, after we finished a shoot with a Fulbright Scholar in Harvard.

And the most recent time? Well, number five actually happened today. Yes, I went to a Dunkin Donuts in Spain. Not because I love the brand or anything – if anything, it’s pretty clear I don’t care much for it. I went, in all honesty, because nature called, and when you have to be somewhere 10 minutes from then, you don’t have too much time to be picky. And yes, I did have to buy something to be able to use it.

I think I might have beaten Nicole on how long it took someone to go to a Dunkin donuts. I don’t know how to feel about this.

“Che, Boludo!”

Warning: Overuse of the word “accent” ahead; possible echoes (sorry Carlene). Also, a complete change of topic mid-way. Oops.

I mentioned before how much Madrid reminds me of Buenos Aires. The similarities are eerie, in everything from the sidewalk tiles to the people walking on them. And I think this was a big part of why the distinctive porteño accent (unique to the center of Buenos Aires) that I never use anywhere has come out to play in Madrid.

Salamanca was a small and typical European town. The differences between Buenos Aires and Salamanca are staggering, much like the differences between Boston and Buenos Aires. In Salamanca, like in Mexico, Chile, Brazil, or even the States, I spoke a neutral Spanish. In most of these places, my real accent would put me out of place immediately. So I adapted. I used “tu,” pronounced the “ll” as “ie,” and never, ever mentioned any of the staple Buenos Aires-ean (?) words like “guita” (slang for money). That’s the norm for me, since the porteño accent is usually quite aggressive and weirdly unwelcoming – at least to foreigners.

My parents and brothers often joke that I’m not actually Argentine, since my accent and the words I use can range anywhere from Mexican to Dominican to even Spanish (as in, Spain’s spanish). Never have I used the porteño accent anywhere but Argentina.

After not speaking to her for a while, one of the first things my mom asked was "did your Spanish improve at all?" Thanks mom.
After not speaking to her for a while, one of the first things my mom asked was “did your Spanish improve at all?” … Thanks mom.

I guess Madrid’s resemblance to Buenos Aires has tricked my mind. Though few around me share my accent, I can’t seem to stop using it. “Y” is back to being pronounced like “sh”, as is “ll”. Coger and concha are back to being dirty words, worthy of a small snicker when said so casually in conversation. And “che”, an Argentine expression known best due to “Che” Guevara (the Cubans nicknamed him Che because of his overuse of the word), has come out more in these past three weeks than it has in the past two years.

I think I’m going to miss this. Not only because I’ll miss the city, the people and the experience, which I most definitely will, but because never have I felt so at home in a completely different place. I don’t necessarily feel comfortable walking down the streets, nor do I think I know Madrid – at least not like I got to know Boston, Jerusalem or Florence, all cities I’ve easily and possibly superficially fallen in love with. But I think I got to know, or at least meet the real Madrid. The Madrid that students are weary off, that homeowners feel forgotten in, that LGTB elders feel underrepresented in, and that everyone, whether unemployed youth, short-time tourists, or elders who’ve lived through a dictatorship and a new democracy, are completely enamored by.

Madrid, with all its troubles and protests and politics, has managed to squeeze itself into my heart, planting itself right next to Buenos Aires.

It’s Finally Happened

You know those warnings that you get all the time, but you never really think about or act upon them until it happens to you?

Yeah. Take them seriously.

While working at the Globe last fall, I heard from Cecille/Jim/Leanne/Kim/Bill/every single photographer and editor to always import your images the moment you had access to your computer. You never know what would happen to your SD/CF card, so it’s always better to be safe than sorry. I’m usually very good about doing this.

Except this one time, I wasn’t.

The last time I imported my images was Tuesday morning. Today is Saturday afternoon. I haven’t done too much shooting since, but the little shooting I have done has been of incredible importance. As in, I-photographed-a-freaking-Count kind of important. And also several individuals for my culture project. And also a protest (although that was a bit of a dud, I think I got some good shots from that).

Well, all those shots are gone. Poof. Like magic. But dark magic. Awful magic. Magic that makes me want to curl up in a ball with an endless bottle of wine and an endless pack of cigarettes and just die from either alcohol poisoning or cancer, whichever comes first.

Losing my own photos is annoying and upsetting. Losing the photographs for someone else’s article is even worse. But losing the photographs that are to be used for a big Globe story that Geoff has been working incredibly hard in, and has allowed me, a complete amateur, to shoot and get published? That’s downright embarrassing, shameful, irresponsible and completely unprofessional. As someone who has such high standards for everything I do in relation to work, I am completely mortified by this, and I can only hope that the Count will understand and allow me to photograph him again.

Sitting around is not an option. I’m leaving soon to go photograph another protest (using another memory card, not going anywhere near that CF card again). I’ll call, apologize, and re-set up the portraits for my culture project for tomorrow. And I only hope that I can go photograph the Count again. As much as I would love to hold a self-pity party, that solves absolutely nothing. And if I want anything good to come from these last three days in Madrid, I’m not going to allow myself to wallow in redundant self-hatred.

Where my thought’s escaping

I’ve never felt homesick in my life. I’ve traveled around the world, visited countless big cities, adapted to new cultures, tried and failed learning new languages, and have been living abroad for almost four years now. And yet, I’ve never known what homesickness feels like, until now.

Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever really been able to feel homesick. While I might’ve lived my entire life in Buenos Aires, I spent most of my formative years in an international school. I learned and adapted to the predominantly “estadounidense” (American) culture and lifestyle that so many of my friends came from. Between hanging out with friends (and their families), and watching movies and reading books that base themselves around North-American culture (whether it was Mean Girls or Kerouac’s On the Road), I accepted the American lifestyle as part of my own. So when I went to Boston to live independent of my family, I really didn’t have a hard time adapting. I didn’t experience culture shock, and I didn’t hate everything about Boston. In any case, I fell deeply in love with the city and the people that populate it.

But Madrid is a different case entirely. In Boston, I live an American lifestyle with both American and international friends. It’s so absurdly different to Argentine culture that I don’t even have a chance to miss it. Sure, I get an appetite for a good asado every once in a while. But I don’t miss my city or the people all that much.

Madrid is a city that Buenos Aires bases itself from. The buildings are the same style, height, and color. The streets share the same shadows from the same kinds of trees that line the same kind of streets. Parks abound, and often share the name (such as Retiro.) Young people have the same long and skinny face, with predominantly dark hair, and are always impeccably dressed. Old men share the same complaints about the same kinds of governments while puffing from their cigarettes. Old ladies share the same wrinkled expression and use the same dark red lipstick like the one I’ve only previously seen old women in Buenos Aires use. Students shuffle away in their campus-that’s-not-really-a-campus, and drink the same drinks from the same kind of bars. I’ve even seen children reading Quino’s Mafalda, the staple Argentine comic that almost every Argentine child grew up with.

I think I’m finally realizing the true meaning, or at least my meaning, of Simon & Garfunkel’s song.

Every day’s an endless stream
Of cigarettes and magazines.
And each town looks the same to me, the movies and the factories
And ev’ry stranger’s face I see reminds me that I long to be,
Homeward bound

I don’t know if Simon wrote it in the same way that I’m thinking of it. He probably meant that the cities he toured and the strangers he met reminded him only of how much he missed from “home.” But it’s interestingly fitting, that though it was originally meant to be the opposite of my situation, I now find myself identifying with these lyrics.

Madrid, which shares so much with my home, has made me homesick. And for the first time in my life, I really do wish I was homeward bound.