Monthly Archives: February 2013

The “Mosquito” Problem

Have you ever noticed this about mosquitoes – when you search for them you can never ever ever find them, but when you don’t pay attention and think everything’s cool and you are mosquito free they come up and bite you! Or even worse, they buzz in your ear so you know they are there but you still can’t catch them!

While the mosquitoes in Argentina piss me off because I hate to be itchy, (and this sucker just bit my toe…my TOE! Come on!) the mosquitoes in Paraguay also terrify me because they carry Dengue. And while people think Dengue is no big deal, (especially if you ask a Paraguayan because they have most likely had it and survived it – TWICE,) I’m pretty sure you can actually die from it, or at least feel very much like you might die.

So with all my happy triumph for being in summer when the northern hemisphere is still suffering in a sad, lonely, gray, I am suffering due to inconsiderate insects. And I must admit, while I’m very much a “live and let live” kind of person, the exception to this rule for me is mosquitoes. They are fine living until they threaten to bite, and then they are done for. If I can catch them!

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Pool With a View

Coming from a city that is relatively sunny no matter what time of year, (the wonders of New York!) and being a person who generally craves sunlight 23 hours a day, surviving a winter in Berlin is a challenge. Long, endless days of gray spread into weeks and months without so much as a hint of sunshine.

So when I was searching for an apartment in Buenos Aires, I strategically chose to stay a little out of my ideal neighborhood to have a pool. With sunlight. And a view of Buenos Aires. Yes, my friends, my 16th floor rooftop pool is gorgeous, and refreshing, and has a view to kill for. (So does the gym, but let’s not even get into how I packed my running shoes and sports bras with no intention of actually bringing them out in the next few days/weeks!)

Now, that's a view!

Now, that’s a view!

So on Sunday, for the first day since I was last in South America about 4 months ago, (holy crap – did not realize it was only 4 months ago until I just counted!) I saw the sun. And I took advantage of it! I spend 3 glorious hours basking in it’s sunny warmth. Of course, being unused to pale skin for any extended period of time, I may or may not have overdone it on my first day of exposure, and may or may not be bright red as a result, but regardless of what may or may not have happened, it was worth every second of it’s happiness-inducing power.

Thank you sun, for I have come to life again!

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Reality Check in Alto Palermo

So one of the things I was most excited about in coming Buenos Aires, aside from the summer warmth and delicious food, was the shopping. I always remember the stores having such cool clothes, and gorgeous leather, and beautiful shoes and accessories, etc. So I’ve spent a good part of the last two days wandering from shop to shop to see if I can find any bargains.

Meanwhile, I’ve been hearing all this hype about this “Blue” Dollar for the US Dollar in Argentina. The real exchange rate is about 4 Dollars to the Peso, but for some reason the sale of dollars has been hyper-inflated causing a “blue market” in which the dollar’s value has been raised to about 7.5 USD to 1 ARS (Argentine Peso). That means, in Argentina, the Dollar = the Euro. Which is insane given that really the Euro is significantly stronger than the dollar. So basically having come from Europe, I am getting screwed on the currency exchange

What does this also mean? That the Argentine economy must be completely in the tank. If the dollar is superficially inflated at such a high rate (and you get more discounts in stores if you pay with the dollar since they can create whatever exchange rate they want and still make a profit,) that means that locals probably cannot afford to buy things they need, much less any items they used to import from the U.S.

So today I had my first real reality check from my endless desire to consume when traveling (or just in general.) I’ve been on the hunt for a nice dress, a nice pair of shoes, and maybe a new purse, (because what girl doesn’t need 23 bags?) so needless to say I was thrilled when I found a beautiful dress, (and reluctantly paid the over-inflation rate, plus the extra charge for paying with a credit card – didn’t anyone teach me anything?!) Then I sat down in the food court famished and exhausted from such a long day of sun bathing and shopping, and had a mediocre pizza.

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After finishing what I wanted, as I naturally almost always do, I kept picking a bit more and more. Then decided to not even waste time on the crust since I’d rather bite into some cheese or tomatoes. Then I texted with my dad and a friend for a while until I finally got the energy to stand up, hail a taxi, and come back to my apartment.

When I went to stand, I noticed this old man, (he looked about 80,) who had sat down at a table across from me some time before, maybe 20 minutes earlier. He didn’t have any shopping bags, didn’t appear to be eating, and seemed to be alone. I had thought I heard him try to say hello to a little girl that danced past some time before, and smiled to myself because it was so sweet and also a little sad. He stood up at the same time as me and I thought he was going to approach to ask me a question, or was somehow being polite by standing when I stood, since it was too much of a coincidence otherwise. And before I could life my tray to clear it he asked me if I was done. Upon saying yes, he took my seat and sat down to finish the last of the pizza I left behind.

My. Heart. Broke.

Not only was I totally embarrassed for having eaten more than I wanted to anyway, and picking at the remains so that no one would want to touch it after me, I was also embarrassed to be taking good food to the trash, and for not realizing or understanding why the man had been sitting across the way for so long with nothing to do. I felt so awful in that moment and didn’t know if I should go and buy him some fresh food of his own or just leave him in peace as he seemed happy to have some pizza to consume, and didn’t seem bothered at all to be eating it after me. I decided to walk away, mostly out of my embarrassment for not understanding the situation sooner.

This was a good reality check to remind me how lucky I am to be able to afford the life I live and to appreciate the difficulties others face. It’s also a good lesson that all of the material stuff really doesn’t matter at all and that if my biggest problem of the day is whether or not to pay for a dress in cash or credit, I really don’t have any problems worth complaining about. And also, the next time I see that man, or someone looking at me in that same way, I will ask if they are hungry and would like to share some pizza. No harm in asking.

When’s the last time you stepped outside yourself and took a look around for a reality check?

Mi Buenos Aires Querido

Since I last posted, not only have I taken beautiful photos of Berlin, but I meandered my way down to South America, where I am currently taking photos of the beautiful people in Buenos Aires.

One of the greatest perks of my job is that we tend to work in beautiful places, and as a by-product of this, we get to visit beautiful places! My work takes place about 90% in Paraguay, and as such I travel down to South America about 2-3 times a year to check on the project’s progress, to see old friends, and always try to add in a couple of extra days at the beginning or end for some personal travel.

You may remember last October my fiancé joined me for my last trip down south, and we took a few days to explore the gorgeous Ilha Grande off the coast of Rio, de Janeiro, Brazil. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to take the time off to join me on this trip, but I decided to come back to another familiar stomping ground, Buenos Aires, where I lived about 7 years ago.

Ilha Grand - truly one of the most amazing Islands I've ever seen - covered in pristine forest and long stretches of white sand.

Ilha Grand – truly one of the most amazing Islands I’ve ever seen – covered in pristine forest and long stretches of white sand.

So, as they say, I am in Mi Buenos Aires Querido, and exploring the shops, cafes, and wide sweeping avenues I’ve come to associate with this amazing city. It’s been a few years since I’ve been back, the last time was when I was volunteering in Paraguay in 2010 and A and I took a 3 week trip around Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and, of course, Paraguay. But not much has changed in the city since then – at least not in the 1 day I’ve had to walk around so far!

Will keep you posted on my eating (and shopping) adventures!

Large sweeping avenues lined with trees make up this capital city

Large sweeping avenues lined with trees make up this capital city

Protect Your Sunset

Sunset on Pappelallee

One of my favorite things to do with images I’ve shot, is to upload them for the world to see. I’ve always felt a little strange about this, (especially given how Instragram and Facebook have tried hard to put in the fine print that they really own all those great shots you’ve loaded of you and your friends.) Despite my attempts at coming up with a clever way to stamp my name on my work, thus protecting it from the photo thieves, my teacher finally gave me the simplest solution – create a paintbrush with my name on it! Who knew?

So in class last week we experimented with different forms of (c) Amanda Parker Photography and such, and finally found a classy, yet simple enough, modification of it. This is still a work in progress, as is everything, but I’m still excited I finally know how to do it the right way, without ruining the original image.

I also learned that when I upload photos into Bridge –> Photoshop (straight from my camera) that I can upload all the copyright information straight away in the metadata of each image. So regardless of whether or not I stamp my name on the outside no one else can legally take and re-print my image without having the true photographer’s (that’d be me) info loaded in every shot!

That being said, I give you sunset from my balcony, overlooking Berlin to the slightly south and west. It was a perfect night for my beginner’s eye as I happened to walk out onto my balcony at just the right moment to see the breathtaking hues of pinks, purples, oranges, and reds scattering the sky. I had my camera on hand, as I always do these days, and snagged about 100 different shots from different angles, trying to determine what the best shot would truly be to capture such a beautiful sunset.

Even though I know photographers don’t generally admit this, or maybe don’t like to, I took the images I made and combined 3 different ones within photoshop to give me the chance to enhance the colors of the sky, and brighten the buildings below to really make the shot pop.

Another Dose of Amanda’s Photography

 

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Here’s a nice shot along the River Spree in Berlin. It was a cold and gray day last Saturday as I walked with my friend and her dog, but the water was calm, aside from the ducks who were brave enough to dive in looking for food. The image is still a work in progress, but the fluffy clouds balanced out the harsh contours of wires and trees, and the strangely dark water. A perfect example of a Berlin winter day.

 

Nesting

I’ve always been a bit of a nester. Sometimes it can be hard when moving from home to home, but I always try to make my space feel like my own, even if that means sticking a few photos of family on the wall to complete the illusion.

When moving to Berlin I brought all my furniture from the U.S. More specifically, all my furniture from my NY studio apartment, (which was hand picked by me over the course of a few months to find the perfect blend of dark woods that complemented each other against the backdrop of a purple wall.) Fast forward about 5 years to my beautiful Berlin home, complete with its very own purple wall, and a couple of additions along the way (thank you, IKEA, for inventing the Billy bookshelf!)

With my new roommate just moving in, we are struggling to find the perfect balance of storage and space, without everything looking so cluttered and chaotic. While we haven’t quite hit our stride yet, we have begun a certain type of nesting of our own, and I don’t just mean the photos and paintings I’ve created tons of holes in the wall for, but growing our family…green!

I am pleased to present Carlos!

The newest addition to our family!

The newest addition to our family!

Carlos is a beautiful 3.5-4 foot tall ficus tree who likes to be sprayed daily, watered bi-weekly, and kept in the sunshine, but away from the wind. While trying to be good plant parents, we do our best to meet all his needs and he seems to have stopped shedding leaves  in response. Carlos is just the beginning of our hopefully growing plant family, as we plan to invite many of his brothers, sisters, and cousins to join us in due time.