Posts Tagged ‘I love L.A.’

I started an internship, about a month ago, with a pretty major news outlet here in California. I am working as a reporter/multimedia journalist for a community news blog that focuses on South Los Angeles (or South Central). The experience thus far has been many things: interesting, challenging, surprising, enlightening and, most of all, eye-opening.

I grew up in a small community on the western edge of South LA, called View Park. For that reason, I felt as if this internship would be a little easier on me, having come from the area. However, my experience has been such that the more time I spend in the community, the more I realize that I knew, and know, next to nothing about the area I grew up in, or the city of Los Angeles as a whole. It’s an interesting feeling to live in a city your entire life and suddenly realize how little you know of it. I’ve given so much effort to getting to know other countries and other cultures, not that that’s a bad thing, that I have completely overlooked the community that shaped me.

Perhaps the most startling realization I have come to, since I started working in the South LA community, is how deeply and subtly media messages and values are embedded in my thoughts and beliefs about this community. I have always prided myself on having a critical and analytical mind. Being an english major previously and a journalism major currently, I naively thought that media messages had less of an impact on my psyche. However, when it came time for me to walk around South Central, on my own, with my camera in hand, I became acutely aware of my discomfort, paranoia, and fear.  I am not normally a person who is afraid to go out into the world, to talk to people, to photograph, etc. but as I stepped out of my car onto Central Ave., I experienced an internal shift from confident to fearful. This startled me. I was shocked to find that all of my media training – all of my critical thinking skills – didn’t offer me any more of a defense than the average media consumer. The stereotypes of the community and its people and the stigma attached to the area, were very much in the front of my mind.

Over the past month, my experiences in South LA have shown me a community that is entirely different from the one I was taught to see. It is a community with a vibrant history and culture, of which only shreds remain. South LA was decimated in the riots of both 1965 and 1992 and the community has never completely recovered from those traumas. However, if you can look beyond the problems, which are deeply embedded in the everyday life there, you will find people who are hard working, genuine, warm, and welcoming – at least that has been my experience.

I’m not sure where I am going with this post. I suppose I wanted to introduce a new topic to write about and most importantly, I wanted to start a new and different conversation about this community – a community that seems to have been abandoned; left to be ravaged by the problems which plague it. While the rest of LA grows, progresses and enjoys the many fruits of its labors, South LA  is scraping to get by, one day at a time.

When I walk the streets in South LA, I see a vital population of people who want the same things as everyone else – happiness, health, success and a chance for their children to grow up to have the same or better. The people there get up everyday, pull themselves up by their bootstraps, and work to build their lives despite of the odds against them. At the same time, underneath the welcoming smiles and warm conversations, there is a sense of sadness and defeat that can only be felt in a community that has been isolated; left to its own devices, without support.

I find South LA to be many things, most of them contradictory to each other: complicated yet simple, saddening yet joyful, lively yet dreary, lacking yet rich in many ways. Most of all, I find it to be inspiring. My curiosity is peaked.

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Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Downtown Los Angeles on October 15, 2011 for what they dubbed the “Global Change March”. The protestors started in Pershing Square where they rallied first and then proceeded to march through the downtown financial district. There were approximately 2,000 in attendance for the march. The march ended back at City Hall, where occupants have been camping for the last 3 weeks in protest of Big Banks’ corruption and profit hoarding, the staggering unemployment rate, and the prevalence of corporate greed. The rest of the day boasted several events from speakers known in the financial and activism worlds to bands showing their solidarity and support by performing.

As the name “Global Change March” might imply, similar marches took place in more than 1,000 cities in over 92 countries across the globe. There are a lot of fed up people in the world right now. Turn outs all over the world averaged in the tens of thousands. The most notable turn out, in my opinion, had to be Madrid, Spain where an unfathomable 500,000 people flooded in to the streets and packed into the city’s center. What’s even more remarkable to me is that the Madrid protest was peaceful!!!

I was at the OccupyLA rally and march and I must say that as nice as it was to see people actively protesting, standing up for what they think is right, and really trying to make their voices heard, I was disappointed by the small scale of the LA march. A couple thousand people, in a city that claims approximately 10,000,000, is unfortunate. Don’t get me wrong, the protest was filled with passion and energy, and I really enjoyed being there and being a part of it, but at the same time I found myself wondering “where is everybody?”

Since I was there as a press photographer, I had the job of documenting the march. I decided to do things a little differently this time. I shot photos, as usual, and some video too, but I also decided to record sound. Later listening to what I had recorded, it occurred to me that I had a new project to work on. Here is the final result. Enjoy!

Goodbyes have never been my forte. I’m a crier plain and simple. Goodbyes for me are often punctuated with tears, sniffles and the occasional snot bubble. Saying goodbye to Istanbul and the people I have come to care for there was no exception. I never expected it to be so hard to leave. Perhaps because I never expected to love Istanbul as deeply as I do. Istanbul has changed me, taught me, and helped me to grow. Saying goodbye left my heart aching and my eyes puffy and red. I will be forever grateful for the experiences I had and the people I met and loved.

Returning to Los Angeles has been difficult. It really hit me for the first time as I was standing on the curb at LAX, waiting for my friend to pick me up, that I am not in Istanbul anymore. It hurts my heart. The pain of leaving the city that I have come to love so dearly to return to a city that I have never liked leaves me feeling a deep sadness. I can’t tell you how many times I have looked at a clock and expected to here a Call ring out across the city or the Ramazan drums booming up and down the streets. I miss Istanbul something fierce.

I take comfort in the fact that I know in my heart that this is not the end for Istanbul and I. I will return and when I do, it will be to stay. And I remind myself that returning to Los Angeles gives me the opportunity prepare for that reunion. Goals have been set, actions are being taken and inquiries have been made, all in the name of going home to Istanbul. It will happen. My heart tells me so.

The Blue Mosque. One of the most heavily touristed mosques in Istanbul that is still used as a place of prayer.

Istikal. The major shopping promenade located in the neighborhood of Taksim. This was taken around 2am so it was unusually quiet. At anytime during the day there are thousands of people walking up and down this street.

This is a hot air balloon located in Kadaköy on the asian side of Istanbul. It takes you 200m into the air for a panoramic view of the city. Unfortunately it was too windy to operate during my time in Istanbul.

One of the things  I love about Istanbul is that the city is filled with music. This guy was performing on the street in Ankara.

One of things I don’t like about Istanbul is the disregard shown towards the disabled. Often disabled people are used as “props” on the streets (frequently by friends or family members) in order to beg for money.  This blind man was sitting alone, outside of a bar off of Istikal, drinking an muttering to himself. Nobody seemed to even notice that he was there.

I saw this little girl as I was sitting in a sidewalk cafe drinking tea. Unfortunately I wasn’t fast enough to catch a shot of her face. She was adorable. This was taken without me even looking through my camera. My camera was sitting on the table in front of me when I clicked the shutter.  I know it’s not sharp, but I still like it.

View of Sultanahmet taken from a ferry crossing the Bosphorus.

Another shot taken from my perch in the window of my hostel room.

The Bosphorus.

The Boy and I on our last day together. Tearful goodbyes followed.

Museum of Ethnography in Ankara. Playing with Depth of Field. Also might want to note that this pocketwatch was behind glass.

Ataturk’s Mausoleum in Ankara.

My classmate and friend Liv.

The cistern in Sultanahmet.

A playful little girl. She got a little freaked out when she noticed I was taking her picture.

More fun with depth of field at the Museum of Ethnography in Ankara.

View from Galata.

The AyaSofya. Once a mosque. Now a museum.

Museum of Ethnography in Ankara.

Heart Balloons.

AyaSofya

The Galata Tower

I shot this around 2am on a side street off of Istikal. Not sure what this little boy was roasting. He is one of thousands of children seen working the streets in Istanbul at all hours of the day or night.

I just liked the color of this boat.

The changing of the guards at Ataturk’s tomb. This is the only time you will see the guards move. Once they are in their stationed spot, they remain perfectly still. I was told that they even inject some sort of drug in order to stay so still…

Along the coast of Asia.

Take from it what you will…

A couple of Muslim women enjoying the breeze on the Bosphorus.

My heart belongs to Istanbul.

Peace and Love.

A few more sneak attack images. I will be adding to this as I shoot more.

I sat in my window for 20 minutes waiting for this woman to turn her head…

… and then I got caught.

I see this man everyday and I am dying to take a portrait of him…

More to come…

Peace and Love.

Looks like she caught me again trying to snag a photo of her. I swear I am not in the habit of stalking lil old ladies. I have just been dying to get a good picture or two of her.

I have seen this woman a few times sitting in her window and have never been quick enough to grab my camera and snap a pic of her… until now.

Peace and Love

I am staying in a hostel in Taksim for my last few days here. I have taken to sitting in my window with my camera and snapping candid snapshots of the people in my new hood. I am so loving this city. Below are some of the images I have shot during my last week. Some are from my window, some are not. All are little tastes of the things I love about this city.

There is an enormous stray cat population in Istanbul. This little guy was sitting in the doorway of the underground mosque in Karaköy.

Shot from the window of my hostel. This woman was basically doing what I was doing – watching the neighborhood go by from her window.

A couple of days ago, I took a boat ride up the Bosphorus. It was the first touristy thing I had done since my first week here. It was nice to be on the water, to see the landscapes and to watch the people relaxing.

This mother was showing her son how to feed pigeons. Feeding flocks of pigeons seems to be something that is common in every city I travel too.

One of the things that I love the most about this city are the community areas. All throughout the city are parks, squares and waterfronts where people gather, sit, drink. eat, and socialize together. Cheap outdoor entertainment that promotes community wellbeing. Love it.

Another shot from my boat ride. I love the reddish brown building.

I see this woman sitting on her balcony and watching the people below almost everyday. Her balcony is just across from my window.

There was something about this grandfather and granddaughter that I loved. I think it was the older generation caring for and guiding the younger one.

Being a predominantly Muslim country, women in head scarves are not an unusual sight. I just finally snapped a picture of one.

I find this city to be so enticing. Not just visually but in every sense. The sights, the smells, the sounds, the feel… I am deeply, madly in love with Istanbul. I can’t wait to live here.

Peace and Love.

We all know the story… Traveling woman meets local boy and, despite the language barrier, sparks fly. Typical travel romance ensues. I have been debating whether or not to write this entry for the last week or two. I am not one to air my dirty laundry to the entire world. Some things are best kept among those you are closest to. But seeing as I have started writing it now, I may as well finish it and see where it goes.

As much as I like to consider myself to not be the typical traveler, I guess in some ways I am. Abroad romance is not a foreign territory for me. And this trip is, although completely unexpected, no exception. Although I will say that this has not been my typical experience as far as abroad romances go.

It started typically enough. Girl sees boy, eyes meet, smiles are exchanged. Boy cleverly fashions a flower from an unsmoked cigarette and presents it to girl (not so typical I guess), girl thinks boy is adorable. Boy palms girl his number as she is leaving. And the story unfolds from there.

Despite our obvious communication barrier, I speak next to no Turkish and he speaks very little English, we seem to manage to communicate well enough and we definitely enjoy spending time together and have a good time when we do.  But recently I can’t help but wonder about abroad romances in general. Does what happens in Turkey stay in Turkey? And what if you don’t want it to?

Now let’s be realistic here. There are the obvious language and cultural barriers, not to mention half a planet between us. Besides, how well can you really know someone when you can’t really delve below the surface in conversation? Is someone’s behavior and body language enough? I have found myself pondering these questions more and more as I spend more time with my Turkish beau.

If you think about it, abroad romances are kind of silly. Eventually they have to come to an end right? One person in the couple is destined to leave. And what if you manage to find someone you could really see yourself with (not saying that that is the case here) and then you have to leave? Is that it? Or does someone uproot his/her life to be with the the other?

I met a girl here who is also from California, and she has been living here for the past 5 months. For the past month she has had a Turkish boyfriend. And now, as her time in Istanbul is coming to an end, he is trying to figure out how he can move to the states to be with her.   That then leaves me wondering… What happens if it doesn’t work out? or if he hates living in the states? or what if they’re relationship doesn’t fit as well in the states as it does in Turkey? (Can relationships be confined or attached to a geographical location?) Is it really worth it?

I am thinking that I am not going to find the answers to these questions in my own blog post. Perhaps it would make an interesting feature piece to work on when I get home?

In the meantime. I have 8 days left in this city and I plan to enjoy them and to try not to think of the goodbyes that lie in my immediate future. It is going to hurt to say goodbye to this city, the culture, the home I have found here, the people, and the boy. I am not ready to do so, but in 8 days I am going to have to; ready or not.

Peace and Love.

Yesterday I moved from my beloved neighborhood of Beşiktaş into a hostel in, my less than favorite area, Taksim. The hostel is adequate, but slightly terrible but at least I have my own room. Regardless, it’s home for the next 10 days.

I am in Istanbul alone now; all the girls from my school program have left to either travel elsewhere or go home.  The city has changed for me since their departure. I still love this place deeply and feel like it is home, but I find myself hesitant to explore much on my own. I guess I just need to adjust to being on my own here. I have done so much traveling on my own and it has always been positive. Sometimes it just takes me a minute to switch into solo mode.

One thing that I am doing while I am still here is trying to write an article on Children of Hope, the organization that I have been working with since I got here. Bürde, my friend and  interpreter, and I paid the organization a visit yesterday for yet another interview with Ferat Şahin, the organization’s director.

Much to my surprise, the afternoon found me sitting across from Ferat and taking one of the worst beatings at Tavla (Backgammon) I have ever received. He crushed me 5 games in a row (and I am not that terrible a player), but it was all in good fun. He is possibly the best Tavla player I have ever encountered and as a result, I find myself in debt to the organization’s kids for a hefty helping of Baklava. Ferat said I don’t have to pay my “debt” but I will and I want to.

So we sat down for another long talk. I had a million questions to ask him and he had a million answers for me. All in all the interview went well and I no longer felt like Ferat was sick of my thousands of questions; I think the Tavla games helped. My goal for this interview was different than the previous ones. Since I have extra time here, I am trying to write an article on the organization in order to submit it to the Hurriyet Daily News here in Istanbul in the hopes of getting it published and of raising some awareness and possibly even some help for them. At the same time I am attempting to put together a package on the organization in order to submit it to some other, international organizations with the hope of drumming up some resources for CHA.

It’s not everyday that I have the opportunity to work with an organization like this or that I get to try to help an organization like this. As a journalist I am sure that I will encounter several more organizations during my career, and I probably won’t be able to help them all, but I have the time and the resources to do it here and so I have decided to give it a go. CHA has earned a special place in my heart.

Peace and Love.