Wednesday, January 30, 2008

And we have liftoff!

A mere 11 hours ago my Air France jet took off from Seattle dumping me at the Paris airport. I'll depart at 1:35 p.m. (local time) and arrive in Cairo at 7 p.m.

In a surprising but welcome development, my friend Rasha, whose empty Cairo apartment I'll be using until I find my own place, called to tell me that her father is flying to Cairo for the weekend and will arrive a half hour before I do. So he'll help me get to the apartment and get the key and all that. Pretty cool! It'll be nice to see a friendly face when I walk off the plane. Rasha's parents live and work in Saudi Arabia, but her father Monir is an Egyptian national and has a vast network of friends and family in Egypt.

I can't believe I am actually finally on my way to Cairo! I am really excited to be starting this adventure.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The little Tercel that could

As if vacating my apartment weren't enough, I also sold my car Friday. My little 1996 Toyota Tercel found a good new home, as the 16th birthday present and girl's first car for a Spokanite.

As it happens, the Tercel was also my first car, purchased by my father (I paid him back--well, almost all of it anyway) in 2000 so that I could use it for my first photography internship at the Athens Banner Herald in Athens, Ga. At that time, the car had logged 80,000 miles.

Ah, the memories. The Tercel (a.k.a. the "Terkel" or the "Turd-cell") and I traversed the continental U.S. twice, explored Georgia, Tennessee, Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Washington, and met people from all walks of life, who more often than not, inquired about the two lobsters that graced the dash.

What is it about the first car? It could be that I gained new-found independence with the Tercel. Or maybe it was just that, as a photojournalist, my car became something of a second home. In any case, I developed a connection with my car that gives me a little twinge when I think about it.

Oh yes. P.S. I put almost 120,000 miles on the Tercel. Good car.


Well, it's official. I know longer live at 1128 W. 9th, Apt. C. I handed over the keys on Friday after several hours of hectic last-minute packing. It feels pretty strange, but I guess it's all part of the process.

I didn't have time to clean the floors, thus I didn't get my full security deposit back. But it was worth it!

Bye, bye Apt. C. You were good to me.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

My Council of Advisors

On my way back to Spokane Thursday, I stopped in Missoula to have lunch with my brother Matt, pictured above. He was only the latest in a long line of supporters, cheerleaders and advisors to give me his words of wisdom during this time of change.

His advice: Spend as much time selling pictures as I do producing them. (He's got 10+ years of business experience.) And he's right. It's going to be challenging to shepherd my work into publications. I won't have a regular paycheck to depend on, so I'm going to have to sell, sell, sell.

Isn't my brother smart?

Here are some other words of wisdom (not direct quotes):

Sol (a photojournalist whom I respect): Don't be afraid.

Namrata (my Amazing Race co-conspirator): Don't forget to breathe.

Liz (my photo buddy): Enjoy every moment.

Colin (good multimedia guru buddy): If you need anything, just call. I'm here for you.

Larry Reisnouer (My former Photo Editor at the Spokesman-Review): You won't fail.

Tom (family friend): You have to insure your equipment--it's your livelihood.

Steve (Tom's brother): The COBRA health insurance plan is expensive, but it's your best bet.

Tom: Liability insurance would be smart.

Steve: You really need some life insurance.

Bridget (my good creative buddy): Believe in yourself.

Ben: Be safe.

Mom: Don't go to Iraq. Oh yeah, and learn how to bellydance.

Dad: Have fun!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

One week and counting

I am happy inside, really I am. Just not in this picture, taken just before I drove my packed car to Butte yesterday for one last visit with my parents before I leave.

So things are pretty hectic, but it is all somehow getting done. My apartment is mostly empty, just a few things left to throw out/pack/give away. I'll have photos in a future post.

Winter travel is always an experience, but as I hit the highway, I heard on NPR that Butte was the second coldest place in the continental U.S. on Sunday, with a temperature of minus 32 F. On the road, I encountered ice, snow, and a rollover accident near Lookout Pass in Idaho. As I neared Butte, the freezing air prevented my windshield from completely defrosting. According to Google, the temperature in Cairo right now is 52 F. I am looking forward to the warmer weather, but I will probably eat my words when it is 110 in August.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Spokane is a refuge

William Akon, a refugee from Sudan, sits in his partially-furnished Spokane apartment.

While working at the Spokesman-Review, my favorite stories involved (surprise, surprise) people from distant lands, many of whom had been displaced by conflict or persecuted for their religious or political beliefs. I was drawn to refugees' will to survive and the complexities of building a new life far from home.

World Relief is a refugee resettlement organization here in Spokane that has helped thousands of people from, among other places, Liberia, Cuba, Iraq, Kosovo, Sudan, Burma, Burundi, Russia, Somalia and Ukraine to make Spokane home. I was really happy to donate most of my furniture to this organization. It feels good knowing that my stuff will go directly to someone who needs it.

On Friday, a great guy from World Relief named John and two volunteers (who were refugees from Burma) filled a small U-Haul with dressers, lamps, a desk, chairs and other odds and ends.

Here are a few of my favorite photos from stories I worked on about Spokane's refugee community:

Eliow, a 12-year-old refugee from Sudan, plays hide-and-seek.

The Juviel sisters, refugees from Cuba, listen to their supervisor at the Davenport Hotel before beginning their housekeeping duties.

Nadezhda, Tatiana and Pavel Slisenko pray at Light of the Gospel Slavic Baptist Church. The Slisenkos came to Spokane from Kyrgyzstan.

Liberian refugee Lucky Sawyer, 2, naps while his mother Teta prepares lunch.

Liberian refugee Meme Besseh and her daughters dance in their Spokane living room to African gospel music.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Pulling up anchor

OMDLGIH (Oh my dear Lord God in Heaven)

Understatement of my life, while purchasing my piano 3.5 years ago:
PIANO SALESMAN: "I hope you're not thinking of moving anytime soon."

I don't know if you all had noticed, but I had been really REALLY stressing about the fact that I am leaving the country in roughly two weeks and still had not found a solution to the fact that I own a giant yet delicate piece of furniture, which I adore but need to sell.

So of course I was relieved Monday to find a family who wanted to borrow a piano for a year while they host a foreign exchange student.

Let me just say: moving a piano is a hidden art. I am so thankful professional piano movers exist.

Today at around 11 a.m., Jerah (that's Hebrew for "the moon"), Raleigh and Steve showed up to coax my piano around the tight corners of the entryway and down a winding staircase to an icy sidewalk. Two out of three were burly men, so I lied before when I said this was a story of three burly men and a piano.

Raleigh and Jerah get ready to tip the piano on one end to fit it through the front door.

Jerah working his magic.

I almost couldn't look as Jerah, right, who I have to say was the skinniest piano mover I have ever seen, positioned himself on the descending side of the piano at the top of the stairs.

Why do they make staircases that curve, anyway? There's burly man #2, Steve, on the right.

Steve between a piano and a bannister.

Bye, bye piano.

Raleigh takes the weight of the piano as he eases it down the front steps.

"At least I didn't wear my cowboy boots," Steve joked, shortly after slipping on the frozen sidewalk.

Almost done.


Now that the piano is moved, my impending departure is real, which is a little scary. But I also feel liberated, as if one more weight keeping me in Spokane has been lifted.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Does it snow like this in Cairo?


Guess I'm headed for a major transition.

I will fly to Cairo, Egypt, Jan. 29--that's in two and a half weeks! I am enrolled in an intensive Arabic class for the first month. I hope to eventually be able to work as a freelance photojournalist using Cairo as a base.

I picked Cairo because I've been interested for many years in the Middle East and Africa, and I actually know a couple of people there. Cairo is the largest city in the region, and Egypt is called the "heart of the Arab World", making it an ideal place to learn Arabic. And here's my idealism (which scares the crap out of my mom) coming out: the Middle East and the West don't understand each other and I hope to help bridge that somehow, even if it's only learning about the places and people of the Arab World.

So there you have it.

My life is a little chaotic right now, as you may imagine.

Anybody out there need a piano? Anyone??? I know where you can find a nice one at a good price.