Travel

Éireann

Ireland, my 43rd country. Or I mean, Northern Ireland, my 42nd country and the Republic of Ireland, my 43rd country.

This summer was a bit stressful, so I was really looking forward to this getaway. But I wasn’t expecting anything. I just wanted to be one with the crowds and remain as a stranger. I didn’t really see anything crazy in the way I had… marvelled at the the temples of Bagan. Nothing really shook my tastebuds like… the spices in Moroccan lamb tagine, either.

Perhaps I’m saying this because of how I journaled the entire time - I used the BVOY Travel Journal as a gift from Tate. Because of the prompts, I did a lot of reflecting in Ireland vs my day to day in Toronto. I’ve never journaled so concisely before, nor have I been so constructively critical of myself either. If anything, I had fun writing anything that came to mind in an open notebook, but having some specific direction made me see my trip in a whole different light.

Don’t get me wrong, I still went around and explored Belfast, Galway and Dublin. The nature was incredible by the coast - The Giant’s Causeway, Cliffs of Moher, all breathtaking to see with my very own eyes (oh yes, maybe I am downplaying it as well because I don’t watch Game of Thrones). I had experienced yet again, a healthy dose of kindness and hospitality from the Couchsurfing and BJJ community. In Belfast, my CS host Colin shared some of his brother’s vegetable curry with me. In Galway, I left my mouthguard (GUM! SHIELD!) at Point Blank Submissions but realized it hours before I was departing for Dublin. Oisin left work and dropped it off in the city center for me. In Dublin, I was hosted by Denis from Matsurfing and we trained at JSBJJ. I visited my friend Moritz and we trained at ECJJA and day tripped to Howth. I finally tried the freshest pint of Guinness one could possibly try at the Guinness Storehouse (and my goodness it was so delicious).

But the one thing that stuck with me was the high number of immigrants in the city who made the move for a better paying job, or the chance to learn English. The fact they’re willing to share rooms (not an apartment, I mean the room themselves) with multiple other people to save on rent. The fact that there’s a housing crisis in Dublin but unlike Toronto, not enough actual geographical land mass to expand. I met a couple of immigrants from Brazil, Turkey, Croatia, etc. and everyone’s working hard to build a better life for themselves and/or their families back home. But also smiling through it because for a lot of them, it’s better than what they had back home. My conversations with some of these people were more memorable than some of the tourist sights. I think just being in the environment and listening to the stories made it even more eye-opening. I mean, the immigrant story isn’t something new - my parents went through it, and so have many others. But for some reason, I don’t think I really clued into the reality of it all until recently. It was a weird realization to come to because I’m a product of immigration, yet I only understood the textbook definitions of the immigrant struggles until now.

I’m curious to see what Brexit will hold, because if the UK does part ways with the EU, then the ??? between Northern Ireland and the R.O.I will be ???!!?!!! and the R.O.I will be the only official English speaking country left in the EU. What would that mean for housing prices, population density, the job market, etc… the list goes on and on.

Türkiye | Kedi Adventures

05/09/2019 - 05/20/2019

Here’s a photo essay of the Istanbul and Cappadocia I explored in roughly 10 days. I went during Ramadan, thinking it would affect my trip in some way, shape or form (but it didn’t). It couldn’t have been more relaxed. I couldn’t have blended in more (I believe I could’ve been mistaken for Kazakh…). I learned a lot about Turkey’s recent political & economic scene and felt the anxiety from locals about their re-election at the end of June.

Egzi, a tattoo artist in Kadiköy, told me about the Gezi Park riots in 2013 (which I had no idea about) & the shift of bringing life from Taksim Square over to the Kadiköy area - now that’s a conversation I’ll never forget.

I will never forget the importance of the soccer (football) game on May 19, 2019, where the underdog neighborhood team won against the team funded by the government. The happiness Ekin’s boyfriend and all the new friends he made on our ferry back from Burgazada was beyond a sports fan-type happiness. This was the type one would think they’d only experience if they were watching the game in person. It was also a big screw you to the government, and the fact it happened on their Independence Day (Commemoration of Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day) was a double whammy. (Though Ekin’s boyfriend did bet on the game so he was incredibly elated to have won his bets as well). The city was on fire all night, horns honking and people cheering throughout the streets.

Istanbul

Cappadocia

Friendly Faces

It’s not a trip for me unless I meet up with old friends and make new ones! I had such great conversations with the people I interacted with on this trip. For me, even if we only have the opportunity to hang out for X amount of days, I cherish those specific memories/they remain very vivid in my mind for a longer period of time.

Kedi Adventures

Only when you set foot in Turkey and see it for yourself will you finally understand the fascination around cats in this country. I didn’t watch Kedi before going to Turkey and honestly, I think it was actually more beneficial for me to watch it after. I was able to pinpoint some locations and imagine myself back in the city, absorbing all the sights, sounds and smells it has to offer. But true to the documentary, I did see so, so, SO many cats. And even better, witnessing the kindness of people in the neighborhoods taking care of the returning cats made my heart swell ten sizes. I saw fearless cats watching people pass by, accepting any and all the stomach rubs and head scratches. I heard them meow for food and succeed in getting fed. I saw them laze on the couches in a hammam and befriend tourists in a hostel, being passed around from person to person. As I was walking on the streets of Istanbul with another traveler, she told me the best way to find friends is to carry cat food. She taught me how to feed cats without scaring them (although I don’t think cats in Turkey are scared of anything, if you were to ask me) and by the end of my run, I had grown used to seeing little heads pop up from every nook and cranny. That’s something I’ll miss seeing in Toronto.

Educational Jaunt in New York City

WestJet had an airfare sale, so I managed to snag a flight for 50% off the usual round trip YYZ->LGA price! Coincidentally, it happened to be on the same weekend as last year - just a day less. And this was by far one of the more educational trips I’ve taken to New York City.

A Cash for Visa Contribution   …which I had no idea about. I was just overly excited to see the new development in this area, as I vaguely remembered how cool I thought it was that they created this highly visited community outdoor space in a historically industrial area. It reminded me of the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, especially the exit area looking out towards the Vessel and the waters. Mehul and I explored the area and even saw an art exhibit at the Shed (photos below). But thanks to this article on City Lab explaining where some of the funding came from, it’s really just another nasty example of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. EB-5 visa funds were ultimately used to finance an area for those who can afford it, rather than provide support to those who actually need it. This entire revelation leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

Hudson’s Yards… aka A Cash for Visa Contribution

…which I had no idea about. I was just overly excited to see the new development in this area, as I vaguely remembered how cool I thought it was that they created this highly visited community outdoor space in a historically industrial area. It reminded me of the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, especially the exit area looking out towards the Vessel and the waters. Mehul and I explored the area and even saw an art exhibit at the Shed (photos below). But thanks to this article on City Lab explaining where some of the funding came from, it’s really just another nasty example of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. EB-5 visa funds were ultimately used to finance an area for those who can afford it, rather than provide support to those who actually need it. This entire revelation leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

Blowin’ Up

Jen and I went to see Blowin’ Up at Quad Cinemas on Sunday. It’s a documentary about a group of women who work in the criminal justice system changing the way women arrested for prostitution in New York are prosecuted. They provide alternative solutions for them, so it’s not just ending up behind bars. They understand that even though it might be a choice for some of them, for others (e.g., the illegal immigrants from China who don’t speak English and are forced to work in massage parlors), it’s not. The audience merely observes the day to day play out - there are barely any interviews, none of your usual lower thirds / medium close-up against a white wall sort of thing. We were also treated to a panel after the film, “Fosta-Sesta, One Year Later: How Has The Closing Of Backpage Affected Sex Workers? Conversation W/ Jillian Modzeleski (Brooklyn Defender Services), Melissa Broudo (SOAR), Giselle Marie (NYC Stripper Strike).” They were speaking on behalf of how this bill, FOSTA-SESTA, is making it more unsafe for sex workers today. I had never heard of FOSTA-SESTA, and I’m sure there’s both sides to the story (on top of curbing online sex work, including human trafficking/child sex trafficking, etc.). But the one in focus was about how giving sex workers a way to advertise and interact with clients online is much safer than if they were to do it on the streets. The panelists were saying how the numbers in regards to violence against sex workers have been on the rise since the bill was passed. Anyways, after this panel, Jen told me to check out the documentary “I am Jane Doe” to hear another perspective.

Bonus: The Service at Blue Note Jazz Club!

This was my first time at a jazz club in the city. They run like a well oiled machine, it’s thoroughly impressive. Mehul, Jiji and I got tickets to go see Phony Ppl play at their residency at Blue Note Jazz Club but due to the line outside at 12:15AM, we weren’t counting on getting inside. I nearly lost all hope, as the show was slated to start at 12:30AM. However, in the span of a couple minutes, they somehow ushered the entire line inside the club, seated us (even though we bought table tickets, the amount of people in front of us really felt like we were going to have to stand for the entire show) AND brought us drinks + our bills in a timely manner. It was incredible. No mess, no fuss. I really commend the service provided.

I Was On The Hunt For Cevapi

IWOTHFC

This is my second photo book from my adventures in Eastern Europe. Because I didn't go away for an extended period of time, 'I was on the hunt for ćevapi' morphed into a more visual heavy project. I only brought my Fujica STX-1N and Sears 35rf 35mm analog cameras. I shot on Kodak 200 Gold, Kodak 400 Gold and Ilford 400 XP2. During my first print, I forgot to check that my photos were set as full bleed with no white edges. My full page spreads ended up having crooked white spaces all around the top of the photographs. Luckily, I also noticed some inconsistencies in trimming on the cover page, so I was eligible for a free re-print. I also learned the importance of paper quality- for my first print, I had chosen 'Economy Magazines' with a semi-gloss cover and gloss text for the pages. Because it's a very light weight paper (lo-fi in quality), it is a cheaper option. However, seeing what that actually meant in person made me realize that wasn't the right option for me. With the re-print, I was able to choose 'Premium Magazine', which according to Blurb's website, has a higher-end finish with a heavier semi-gloss cover. The paper is also matte text, a texture I've come to appreciate a lot more while running my fingers through the pages. Here's the e-book on issuu's site if you can't access the embedded book. Also, if you are interested in purchasing a physical copy of my book, please click on the link above! You will be redirected to Blurb.