Let me tell you about. . .

. . .my roommate, Al.

Alphonso Meldelsohn is the other member of the "media" on the Samaritan's Feet trip and shares room 606 with me here at the Raddison here in Lima, Peru. I'm the still photo guy, he's the video guy. I often click (no pun) with other members of the photo profession, but Al is one of those rare individuals with whom I share commonalities that can have us yacking away until it's 1AM and we both wonder where the hell the time went.

So, sorry Ron, there's a new man in my life. Fortunately monogamy is not a big consideration in the realm of "photo buddies."

Al operates his Canon XL1S video camera like a finely-tuned violin. And he has the same old-school operating methods I have with my still cameras. Manual exposure, manual white balance and manual focus all the way, baby.

With a passport nearly full of stamps from all over Europe and China, Al rightfully calls himself a "seasoned" traveler. Me? I'm just a little tenderized.

Several days into the trip, I was still learning when Al was being straight up and when he was blowing me a line of bull. Good to be kept on my toes from time to time.

An emotional man, he can't help but be moved by the conditions in which we see Peruvians living, as are we all. All of us on this trip can feel good about having brought a ray of sun into the gloomy existence of these impoverished people, but at the end of the day, one can't help but feel those efforts were but a drop in the ocean. Observes Al, "Probably, somewhere in these slums is the greatest photographer the world has ever known. But living in these conditions he or she will never have the chance to show it."

Maybe there needs to be a program called "Samaritan's Camera."


El ir a los perros

This won't come as any surprise to anybody who really knows me, and certainly not to my dogs Amos and Sadie, but I am a huge dog lover. And just as Lima, Peru is a whole new world for visiting people, it is also a completely different lifestyle for dogs, especially in the very poor areas.

I have only seen a very few instances of what we Americans typically think of as the human/canine experience. Which is to say I've only seen a handful of dogs walking with their owners on leashes. My observations indicate that most of the dogs in Lima don't have owners, but live from day to day on handouts and throwaways from people (surprisingly few of them appeared to be underfed). And just because there does not seem to me to be a tendency on the part of people here to form the normal "pet" relationship with dogs, that does not mean the dogs do not exhibit protective tendencies.

I photographed a rather large tan colored dog who seemed to take a protective posture in front of children lined up to receive shoes from the Samaritan's Feet group. This dog had an unnaturally short tail which I suspect was probably bobbed by a truck tire rather than a trained veterinarian. Dog experts warn us not to ascribe human emotions and motives to dogs, but the way this dog interposed himself between the children and bystanders and scanned his head from side to side seemed unmistakably protective.

Another dog I saw walking with a family outside a church prior to a service was doing a perfect "heel" with one of the children, despite not being on leash, and seemed to be looking ahead side to side.

And while there seems to be this protective tendency, there is also a wariness of unknown people and also of soccer balls traveling at high velocity.

I saw a very cute, friendly-looking charcoal and white stubby-legged scruffmutt at the town of Pachacutec on Sunday that I had to fight the urge to bring home with me. But who was I to say he was not happy where he was?


Photos from the front.

The Samaritan's Feet group visited the village of  Pachacutec on Saturday, July 26. Hundreds of thousands of people exist (it's hard to call it "living") on what resembles a mountain of poverty. 300 pairs of shoes were distributed by Samaritan's Feet Mission staff, IUPUI Men's Basketball Coach Ron Hunter, and members of his coaching staff and team.

Photos in the slide show below show the living conditions and the activities of the Samaritan's Feet team. (Click inside the image to see the next photo.)


No matter where you go. . . man's best friend.

"Got anything to eat?"

"You guys go on ahead. I'll watch the bus."

Signs of the times, 7-26-2008

I've got one thing to say: "Quit yer bitchin' America!"

To be fair, I have yet to determine if this is the price per gallon, imperial gallon, or liters. Also, one must factor in that one US dollar is worth 2.5 of the unit of the currency here in Lima, Peru.

Is this a glimpse into the future for the US?


But I digress. . .

So, here I am thousands of miles away from home on a trip that could not really have a more Christian theme. What did I bring along for some light reading on the flight?

"Damnation Alley" a 1969 post-apocalyptic science fiction novel by Roger Zelazny. It was made into an  extremely high-quality movie in 1977, as can be seen from this cerebral quote spoken by George "I love it when a plan comes together" Peppard:

"Tanner, this is Denton! This whole town is infested with killer cockroaches. I repeat: KILLER COCKROACHES!!"

I'm sure my wife, Diane, would swell with pride at my choice of literature in much the same way as when I was checking into the hospital two or three years ago and gave my "preferred religion" as "heathen/savage."


Not the land down under, but under enough.

OK. I'm just going to come out and say it. Air travel sucks. You're not a passenger. You're cargo. I had naively thought that a flight to Peru would have some empty seats on it so I could spread out a bit and get a little sleep on this overnight flight.

Bull. Packed to the gills. It was even overbooked, so there was some bumping going on. Just to make it more fun, there was some kind of warning light on the dash of the plane whining about some kind of hydraulic problem. By the time all that was sorted out, the plane was taking off two and a half hours late.

But we're here in Lima, Peru. And a few scant hours later, those hours in that flying sewer pipe are fading from memory.

The bus ride from the airport to the hotel was an exercise in controlled chaos. Driving in Indianapolis, we are accustomed to allowing a certain minimum number of feet between oneself and the other vehicles on the street. In Lima, they think about six inches is plenty. The eight year old son of one of the Samaritan's Feet Staffers actually reached out the window at one point and touched the glass of a neighboring bus.

Danica Patrick would no doubt wish to have words with these drivers, but she would find herself badly outnumbered.


Feelin' my way around.

Here's the obligatory, "I'm new to blogging and this is my first post" post.

Men of great wisdom and coarse social graces have opined, "An opinion is like an @$$hole. Everybody's got one." The same might be said of blogs. Seems like, these days, everybody's got one, whether they have anything of substance to say or not.

I've resisted blogging because I try to keep myself disabused of any notion that the world at large give a rat's about what I think. Especially about politics, which is the topic of obession for far too many blogs, as far as I'm concerned. I'm on the fence at this time if blogging will become a daily or weekly avocation for me, or just a short term experiment in communication surrounding an upcoming happening in my life. Which brings me to. . .

The reason I've started this blog is to share with family, friends, clients, etc., my experiences on my upcoming trip to Peru (and I'm not talking about Peru, Indiana). I should have other methods of communication at my disposal, but this will be one more backstop so I can stay in touch should other media fail. And I can try this diary/journaling thing of which so many people I respect (including my wife) speak so highly.

The purpose of my trip is to accompany members of the IUPUI (Indiana University/Purdue University at Indianapolis) Men's Basketball team on a trip to distribute shoes collected for charity in association with the Samaritan's Feet organization. IUPUI coach Ron Hunter gained national notoriety when he coached a game in bare feet to call attention to the fact that many children in poor countries go shoeless, something most of us can hardly even imagine outside of a short walk off the front porch to pick up the morning paper.

Here following will be a chronicle of the happenings on the trip and my impressions of a country which will no doubt be in many ways alien to my existence thus far. This will be my first foray outside the United States. At the time I began my career as a photojournalist in the late 80's, I assumed world travel would be a logical outcome of that profession in fairly short order, so I find myself a bit dismayed it has taken until the age of 43 for this to finally happen. It took a while, but the photography profession has finally led me to take wing to foreign shores.

The trip runs from July 24 thru August 4, and this will be the space to watch for those who wish to peruse my humble musings.