On Those Don Quixote Days…

Some days the world can be an angry place to live. Some days people are neither reasonable nor rational. The last 24 hours has been one of those days. Perhaps it is when others treat you like an insignificant insect that you truly show your mettle; grace is a lost art, I fear. Last night I found out that the building I live in is trying to make me pay for getting stuck in their elevator for two hours. Few things are less impressive than others trying to not only ignore their own incompetence, but make others responsible for it. I also made the mistake of turning the wrong way down a one way street this morning. I was very apologetic to the Starbuck’s drinking, cellphone using, Mercedes-driving woman who was yelling at me for being an idiot while I attempted to apologize for what was clearly my error.

Tonight had to be about letting go of the negativity and finding that space we all need for ourselves when the world goes mad. I decided to take a nap, drink a glass of champagne and rescan some photos from my 35mm film days. Since I might be revisiting India before Nepal if I end up being able to supervise the international service trip, I began with two images from the Fatehpur Sikri area just outside Agra. I would not be traveling there this time round, but it was a place I found to be fascinating. Both of these shots were taken with Kodak 160VC film and a Pentax Spotmatic from 1975. The lens was out of a bin and cost me $25. In hindsight I must have been crazy to think that I could be a great photographer with worn-out, broken camera gear that weighed a tonne. At the same time, I did capture a few images that still stand up to anything else I have shot.

Buland Darwaza [featured below] was an imposing Islamic site. I did not feel comfortable on its steps – it was partly because 9/11 had created tension for all travellers, it was partly because the men on the steps acted aggressive and angry as I approached with my little camera. I should note that I had never even heard of Fatehpur Skiri, but the guide insisted that it was better than staying in Agra for a whole day.

India was a place that made me into a much stronger traveler. No matter what happened anywhere else I could confidently say: not as bad as India. Why go back; why consider taking my holidays to possibly supervise a school trip? Firstly, it is a place that haunts you. I did not enjoy my time there, but it is still one of those places where I feel like I got my ass kicked and I want a rematch now that I am more experienced. Secondly, I want to be able to share some time there with Vishalla before it becomes a place that overwhelms me due to my aging body. India is a hard place and I am not getting any better at dealing with extreme heat, dirt or disease. Finally, I think this is a really great community service opportunity, and despite all of the crazies out there I still believe in the human race and the need to help others in whatever tiny way I can.

New Orleans is coming up more quickly that any other international destinations, and I am thinking about what V. and I might do there. We made some beignets last week – the first photo in this blog entry – and I am sure that there will be tonnes of research into day tours to get to the Bayou and the plantations. Over the next few weeks I will have to make some decisions on which camera(s) I will take for that one, but that is half the fun.

The real question is whether I came to any conclusions about the world and how to deal with it on our worst days. My thought is this: sometimes the giants are windmills and sometimes the windmills are giants, but a real hero deals with them in the exact same way.


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