The Curse of the Empty Pockets

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The Curse of the Empty Pockets

Unfortunately, my pockets were empty. In retrospect I should have known better. I should have packed some cookies from breakfast just in case. While travelling in a new country, it’s always good to have little odds and ends to give to the swarms of kids that come up to say hello. Or in some cases, a swarm of toque macaques.

I couldn’t resist those big brown eyes so I passed this fine fellow a stick, thinking he might enjoy playing with it. He quickly went about fashioning a pair of chopsticks and then looked back at me as if to say “So where’s the sushi?”

Lesson learned.

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Suspended in Sunlight

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Suspended in Sunlight

It was nearing the end of the day when we climbed back into the Landcruiser. We had been driving for hours through the open plains of the Serengeti National Park. We had seen cheetahs sprinting and playing in tall grass, giraffes picking the choicest leaves off the tallest trees, and elephants bathing in fresh springs.

I got in the truck and climbed onto my seat to poke my head out through the open roof. As our driver threw the engine into life, we shot off down the baked dirt road. There I was. In the middle of the Serengeti, surrounded by some of the most exotic animals here on Earth. The wind rushed through my hair and dust burrowed into the crevices of my skin. I looked around in every direction as golden light fell, cascaded across the tall water starved grass.

In my mind, I zoomed out on where I was. I floated high up into the sky, looking down at myself as I became a speck upon a great continent. We all became specks. Specks, all connected through the same flowing energy of our home planet.

I came to, just as a truck further ahead shot dust into the still air, leaving it to hang suspended in the setting sun. Best day ever.

The Bodily Testament

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The Bodily Testament

“He’s in his seventies” was the sentence I nearly choked on.

Our host in the small town of Tissamaharama was giving us a guided tour of his neighbourhood when we were introduced to this gentleman. Despite a pretty severe language barrier, we were soon being introduced to three generations of a Sri Lankan family. Camera in hand, I asked if I could snap some pictures and the family graciously accepted.

As I approached the stoic patriarch, I couldn’t help but be impressed by his overwhelming virility. Forged from a life of hard physical work, in the rice field across from his home, and a healthy diet, his seven decade old frame stood in testament to his lifestyle.

As our connection with technology grows, the connection we have with our bodies deteriorates. The same is true for our food. We rarely, if ever, eat food produced from our own hands. So is the body just a container for the brain? Or the squandered product of billions of years of selective evolution?

A Portrait Of A Man

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Bare Feet and Tasty Treats

Two of my favourites things in the abundantly awesome Sri Lanka, were the food and the people. Kindness was the currency of choice.

As I walked along the beach of Tangalle, I peered into a few restaurants. The food in Sri Lanka is unbelievable and I didn’t want to risk finding a place that would tarnish the reputation. I went in to inspect a menu at close quarters and before I had a chance to make up my mind, this gentleman welcomed me in. His bare feet dug into the sand as his crease-filled face broke into a smile. I couldn’t refuse and he led me to a seat.

As I sat down to anticipate another delicious Sri Lankan meal, my new friend returned to sitting by the shore, waiting for the next hungry visitor to walk on by.

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On Sri Lankan Streets

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On Sri Lankan Streets

It cost about 25 cents to ride the bus from Tissamaharama to Tangalle. I took my ticket and sat down towards the back of the bus by an open window. It was late afternoon and the heat was just starting to abate but the humidity was still stifling and I was dying for a breeze.

The bus roared to life, literally and figuratively, all at once. As the key twisted in the ignition, loud, joyful music came pouring out of giant speakers tied to the baggage racks and the journey began. Weaving through dense jungle roads and crowded city streets, the crisp breeze washed over me. For the next 3 hours, I was in sensory overloaded heaven.

The Smiling Faces of Wadi Rum

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The Smiling Faces of Wadi Rum

It was an adventure day. Having just descended over 9000 feet in a hot air balloon to set foot back on solid ground, I was ready for more. It wasn’t long until I was loaded into a big SUV and driven off in the direction of Wadi Rum village, the entrance into the Wadi Rum desert, the battlefield of T.S. Lawrence.

As we pulled in to the village, dotted with the shells of homes, kids came running from every direction. I hopped out of the truck and went to a local shop to get some falafel. On my way, I ran into this foursome of smiling bubbly little girls. It didn’t take long to make friends and eventually the gatekeepers let me pass.

The Wedding Procession

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The Wedding Procession

A week of camping and exploring Tanzania’s national parks left us caked in dirt and counting memories. But as many times as you see a lion or an elephant, they basically behave how you would expect. They don’t have the intricacies of a rich and vibrant culture dictating their traditions. The people of Tanzania on the other hand, seem to have lots.

One such tradition is the Tanzanian wedding procession. A convoy of pickup trucks filled with celebrating family and friends rolled down the highway playing the trumpet, trombone and drums. It was a welcome return to civilization.

The Key To Cairo

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The Key To Cairo

The first time I met Hossam, I was outside the Saladin Citadel in Cairo. I was just leaving the Cairene landmark when he called out to me. Leaning on the hood of his dented hunter-green Fiat, he wore mirrored aviators and red high-top Chuck Taylors. He looked like pure cool and I immediately liked him. He asked me if I’d like to see the city through his eyes, and as they twinkled back at me from their heavily creased sockets, I couldn’t refuse. I hopped in the passenger side of his small rickety car and swerved off through the terrifying Cairo traffic. From then on, he showed me the heart of the city, the revolution’s forgotten poor, and the struggle of being a tour guide in a touristless town.

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Above The Clouds Before The Sun

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Above The Clouds Before The Sun

Four hours later and I was standing on top of Adam’s Peak in southern Sri Lanka. I had woken up just before 2 AM to get ready for the climb to the top. My belly was still adjusting to the curry diet and the first few kilometres were a challenge. As I picked up the pace and powered ahead of my friends, the curry induced cramping subsided and my legs sprang forth on autopilot. Before long, I was reunited with my friends, standing immobilized in a lineup of thousands of pilgrims, all eager to make the peak before the sun. We waded through the crowds towards an overhanging ledge that we were able to hoist ourselves onto, a perfect viewing platform. We sat in huddled silence, snacking on shortbread and listening to the rhythmic banging of drums by Buddhist monks. The heavy clouds clung to the valleys as the sun prepared to break the blackness.

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A Market For Me

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A Market For Me

The city of Luxor is one of Egypt’s largest tourist hubs and destinations. In recent years, the political turmoil has hit this part of the country particularly hard. The markets, once packed with tourists from around the world, are filled with locals capitalizing on the sales. Shopkeepers, who speak what seems like every language, call out greetings. I was the only foreigner that I saw as I walked through the back streets and spoke with the friendly locals.