Hiking Dai-Ma

They maybe loud, maybe bad taste, but surely fierce. These gang of mamas just hiked to this Icy Lake on 4100m, next to one of the most remote village Yubeng, in China, without a gasp.IMG_4660

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Tear of a homeless New Yorker

IMG_9339I met Keith in the New York South Ferry Terminal, the 45 years old man who came from Staten Island told me there’s nothing in Staten Island, including opportunity, that’s why he came to Manhattan for jobs. He pointed to the construction site next to the ferry terminal, which used to be an awesome fish market, he sighed about how Manhattan is losing its originality.

Many jobs he tried over the years, including go go dancer, and he’s still proud of his muscular figure.

Recently he became homeless cause his woman kicked him out, but the day I met him came a good news, that he just got a job that sells city tour to tourists on the street. March of 2015 was still very cold and windy in New York, that makes working outdoor pretty tough, I said “nothing comes easy, you gotta work for it hey.” Keith looking at the cold and cloudy Manhattan outside, nodding his head in agreement, replied “yes Sir yes Sir.”

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Roger the Cuban boat maker

Roger built this “pirate boat” entirely by himself, this is his third after the previous two were sold. Cubans are famous for their engineering talent in building something out of waste, Roger being an engineer and electrician, so he knows all the bolts and nuts. In 1999, he built a speed boat for bolseros (illegal immigrates from Cuba) out of oil tanks, the sealed air within made the boat shall never sank.

Two years ago his older daughter, together with other bolseros took a two days journey on a fishing boat to Miami, she succeed in landing USA and got a residency, she’s now working as an unlicensed dentist within the Cuban community in Miami meanwhile studying English, that gave Roger a great comfort.IMG_9548

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Texolo Duo

IMG_5577The path going down the cliff to view Texolo Falls, at the entrance says please pay 5 pesos each formaintenance of the path, but there was no one collecting money. Later I saw these father and son couple fixing some steps with wood, then I handed them 5 pesos.

The whole path was securely constructed with wood and bamboo, no frills but blend in well with the nature. 5 pesos entrance is definitely cheap, same as using a public toilet in Mexico. Señor told me next year they are going to extend the path to the other side of the valley for different angle of the falls.

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For such hard work with little income from the entrance, so I asked if the government subsidizes the construction. They said no, it’s actually their own land, and he thinks turning it into an official touristy spot doesn’t benefit visitor nor them, cause ticket will be much higher but much money will goes to administration and paper work, besides corruption.

Sometimes people comes from low income family or has difficulty to pay they will waive their entrance, on the other hand some visitors will put down more than they should, señor thinks it’s better stay that way, it’s all about trust, about humanity.

Texolo Falls is more beautiful than what your eyes can see.

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Faces painted for ghosts

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IMG_6475Very few chances you get to watch Chinese opera for free, in fact, very few places in China you can watch it at all, but when it comes to each Hungry Ghost Festival in Hong Kong, numerous sports grounds set up make shift stages, and Chinese Opera will be performed, not really for human, but for the ghosts, or their ancestors.

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The festival originated from Chiu Chow (Guang Dong province), they believe the seventh month of the Lunar calender is the month that ghosts roam the human world, one of the many rituals is the Opera for the ghosts. Usually plays that start late and finish in the wee hours of the morning, but in Hong Kong, where lots of Chiu Chow people lives, they start early cause everything has to finish before 11pm, due to the noise restriction.

Nowadays all troops came from Chiu Chow area, each year they tour around Hong Kong, bring along their instruments, boxes of costumes, stage settings and everything you imagine a Chinese Opera needs, but you probably don’t expect tents and cooking utensils.IMG_5921

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“We only live like this while performing in Hong Kong” Wang told me, a male artist who has been in this art form for 25 years. Right behind boxes of clothes and ornaments in the backstage, are tents with electric fans attached, outside the stage are plastic stools, folding tables, wok and food. Just when you think maybe only a handful of them sleep on the stage for security reason, then you find out the rest of them are underneath the elevated platform, “accommodation is just too expensive in Hong Kong!” Wang added,”and this industry is getting tougher, young people are not interested.”

 

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Seventh month of the Lunar calender always falls on the hottest time of a year, Hong Kong has particularly hot evenings from too much concrete high rises. During my visits, artists started applying make up before sunset, many seated outside for it was less hot and better illuminated; while standing by during the play, they would seat in front of an electric fan and dress as little as possible; then after the play, immediately left the stage to do their chores like clothes hand-washing, munching and shower taking.

Chinese opera attracts people because on the stage the singing is superb, movements are graceful, all those embroidered costumes and heavily ornamented head-pieces are just too beautiful and glamorous, but this slumming right behind the stage, just doesn’t make any sense to me. Who cares? probably only ghosts would.

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The Sacred Falls

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Yubeng is the new Tiger Leaping Gorge in Northern Yunnan, China, many trekkers come here to get a closer look at Kawa Karpo, at 6740m, the highest peak of the mountain range that separate Tibet and Yunnan. For Tibetans, they don’t come here for the scenery, nor they are keen on mountain climbing, but they are here for the Sacred Falls, which its water comes from the ice below Kawa Karpo and it’s considered holy for them.

I ran into this Tibetan family of three generations on the way to the falls, they just walked 5 hours across the mountain to Yubeng (which I spent 7.5 hours the previous day), then immediately came to the Sacred Falls. The 80 years old grandma, who initiated this trip, perhaps a bit tired, was quiet and bland, until her prayer was made under the falls, she smiled so big that showed her dentures.

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Flip-flop family

Flip-flop may spell home or beach to a lot of online readers, but in developing countries it is slippers, sneakers, cleats and hiking boots all in one. Here in Philippines, a father with two sons, one sat on his lap, were sitting tightly on a jeepney, from their worn out flip-flop I see practicality, adaptability, humbleness, and intimacy of a family.

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A wrong moment seems so right

A wrong moment seems so right

A bunch of amateur photographers were chasing after this maiko, while she was walking back after a tea ceremony at a shrine. When she arrive her house, before entering, she politely and gracefully turned around and posed for us.

In one of my many snaps, I got this one while she was blinking, normally a picture to discard, but it seems so right here as if she closed her eyes deliberately, maybe praying, maybe thinking, maybe imagining something, it’s up to your interpretation, anyway it’s definitely more interesting.

 

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Blown Away Sumo

IMG_1880   It was Sumo wrestling season in Japan, and I knew that Sumo players will pray at Iseshingu, one of the three most important shrine in Japan, before the match.  But I thought I missed them since I couldn’t get there as early as 7am. At almost midday, while I was leaving the shrine in rain along crazy gust, suddenly a path was cleared and Sumo players rushing down the bridge and get on taxis, their appearance surprised every shrine visitors.

 

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Ume and Sakura

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There’s something about Japanese that you can distinguish them from other Asians easily, even if you’re a Westerner. The way they open their eyes wide with anticipation when they listen, the way they walk quietly but swiftly through a crowd, though very subtle, every little thing tells you he/she comes from this world’s third largest economy.

This characteristic gets even stronger in elders, in my observation, no other elders in the world dress so tastefully well fitted, to their body as well as their age, like Japanese. This is not superficial, if you understand in Japanese culture a well presented oneself is vital in order to respected an occasion, colleagues, friends and family, and people they don’t even know.

This country is aging fast, with a quarter of their population above the age of 65, they are facing a lot in the next few decades, but like their ume (plum) and sakura (cherry blossom), Japanese will age gracefully and with dignity.

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