Reed boats in Huanchaco, Peru

Reed boats in Huanchaco, Peru

HUANCHACO, Peru — A culture shift is occurring amid the reed-boat fishing culture of northern Peru.

The handmade reed boats, called “caballitos de tortora,” had been in use for an estimated 3,500 years, according to a New York Times video titled “In Peru, Trading Boats for Boards.”

“When the fisherman refers to a ‘caballito de tortora,’ he talks as (if) he was talking about his wife or his daughter,” Peruvian archaeologist Gabriel Prieto says. “He tells us it’s not only a fishing device but is also something that is part of the culture of the fisherman.”

But an increasingly mobile global population — which has inspired such adventures as mountain biking Peru’s Cordillera Huayhuash — has also affected the younger residents of Huanchaco, who say in the video that they plan on pursuing academic paths rather than following in the traditional footsteps of their forebears, whose culture predates that of the Incas.

In my most recent trip to my family’s homeland of Peru, I experienced a bit of day-to-day life in far-flung places where my relatives lived — from the tiny fishing village of Pucusana to the dusty mountain streets of San Bartolomé. Already, they had changed significantly from my previous visit 16 years earlier, and change has remained the only constant.

A sign in Kolkata's Victoria Maidan states,

A sign in Kolkata’s Victoria Maidan states, “Shooting (movie) not allowed.”

KOLKATA, India — It was the word “shooting” that drew my eye to a handmade wooden sign posted in the Victoria Maidan.

The white-on-black sign appeared to be written in Hindi and English, and the half I could read said, “Shooting (movie) not allowed.”

Traveling from the United States, a society riddled with guns and the interconnected violence, I was glad for the distinction.

India, a nation of 1.2 billion people, ranks 110 out of 178 countries in its rate of private gun ownership, according to It ranks fourth in number of privately owned guns.

By comparison, the United States ranks at the top of both measures with a population of 318 million.

What few instances of elaborate Bollywood costuming and choreography I’ve encountered, I have thought to be absolutely delightful, which is why I could not imagine why its production would not be welcome here. But I took note, obliged and moved along.

An empty silver carriage in Kolkata.

Parked along a street bisecting Kolkata’s Victoria Maidan, a silver chariot awaits passengers.

KOLKATA, India — Wandering up Shakespeare Sarani on my way to the elegant Victoria Memorial, an open carriage caught my eye.

It was decorated in what appeared to be tin foil and resembled a child’s toy tractor, with oversized, almost comically large wheels in back and slightly smaller ones in front.

I stood there, watching to see if it was part of a wedding procession or perhaps whether it offered rides around the Victoria Maidan the way that horse-drawn carriages lead tourists through New York’s Central Park.

But no one appeared.

It sat beside a lonely food stand that offered chow mein, chicken roll and chai. I wasn’t hungry, anyway, so I moved on.

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — In the early 1980s, photographer Meryl Meisler stepped off the subway in Bushwick on her way to interview for a teaching position and found herself in what looked like a war-torn landscape.

“Honestly, the first thought I had was, ‘The other art teacher has been killed.’ Why was there an opening the week before Christmas? And this place, it looked like a combination of Beirut at the time and Hiroshima,” she said in a presentation at B&H Photo.

Getting to know the area amid Bushwick’s descent into its darkest days, Meisler documented the neighborhood over the next 14 years. In her talk, she shares some of the photography from the era that in some ways hardly resembles today’s rapidly gentrifying neighborhood I’ve called home since 2007.

“I photographed things that were positive to me. I did not photograph the crack vials and the heroin and the junkies,” she said. “I was there for the long term, so these are my memories.”

Read more:

Furniture on a sidewalk with elevated subway tracks in the background.

A view of Bushwick’s Myrtle-Wyckoff subway stop. (Photo by Meryl Meisler)

Maybe it’s my Andean lineage that somehow, subconsciously nudged me toward mountain biking, first leading me to become an enthusiast in the pine forests of New Jersey and later in the Southern Rockies of New Mexico.

Once, while living in Santa Fe, New Mexico, I traveled to Peru for a cousin’s wedding, and on a side trip to Cuzco, I understood why I might have been drawn to the blue skies and high-altitude living of the Southwestern United States: It just felt right.

While I might have daydreamed of mountain biking along the Inca Trail and even mused about setting up a mountain bike tour business, the idea of putting knobby tires to the ground where the Incas once trod felt utterly daunting.

Enter Joey Schusler.

The filmmaker and mountain biker embarked on just such an adventure in Peru’s Cordillera Huayhuash.

The mountain range is home to the country’s second-tallest mountain, Yerupajá, at 6,617 meters (21,709 feet). Its 6,344-meter-tall (20,813 foot) Siula Grande — and a failed ascent — was the subject of the 1988 book, “Touching the Void,” and the eponymous 2003 documentary film.

The film,”Huayhuash,” captures some harrowing moments and beautiful scenery.

And again, thanks to my fellow cycling enthusiast friend Josh in Jakarta for passing along a link to the video.

Biker amid a foggy mountain.

Three friends attempt to tackle Peru’s Cordillera Huayhuash. A film by Joey Schusler.

A statue in a Bali forest.

Entrepreneurs are finding Bali an attractive place to do business. (Photo by Bruno J. Navarro)

Bali, one of the most beautiful and culturally rich areas I had visited so far, appears to be attracting entrepreneurs, too.

“Bali has all the core ingredients to build a business, but most people would never think that, especially when it comes to technology,” Andrea Loubier of the U.S. said in a BBC story, noting that internet speeds here rival many developed nations.

Buddha statue with religious offerings in Ubud.

Offerings are placed at the foot of a Buddha statue in Ubud, Bali. (Photo by Bruno J. Navarro)

Mailbird co-founder Loubier was drawn to the tropical paradise for its low cost of living and inspirational scenery, she said in the article, titled “Forget Silicon Valley, meet Silicon Bali.”

Along the same lines, Peter Wall co-founded Hubud (“Hub-in-Ubud”) as a high-tech shared work space.

“When you think about Bali, you think about vacation, but I think as more and more of our lives change from, ‘This is my working life,’ to, ‘This is my home life or this is my working life or this is my travelling life,’ it’s all getting mashed together now,” he told the BBC.

The trend feels true to life, having seen my friend Revi’s start-up business, Kids Organic, take off since I visited her at her home amid the paddies just outside of Ubud’s center.

Of course, the article also includes a section about Bali’s monkey troubles.

“Once in a while we get a monkey that comes by,” Wall said. “That doesn’t happen in a lot of other places.”


NEW YORK — Leaping off the 1 World Trade Center building seems like something of a holy grail for enthusiasts of BASE jumper, and last September a small group of enthusiasts managed to pull off the incredible feat, while capturing the exhilirating descent on video.

“BASE,” of course, is shorthand for the four types of fixed structures from which parachuted daredevils seek out: Buildings, antennae, spans (bridges) and earth (cliffs).

While the Freedom Tower at 1,368 feet tall isn’t quite as tall as the 452.02 meters (1,482 feet) of Kuala Lumpur’s Petronas Twin Towers, the height is nonetheless dizzying.

Gothamist reported that the BASE jumping team, comprising James Brady, 32; Andrew Rossig, 33; Marko Markovich, 26; and Kyle Hartwell, 29, turned themselves into the New York Police Department to face charges of reckless endangerment, burglary and BASE jumping for the September 30, 2013, incident.

Streets of downtown Manhattan from the view of a BASE jumper.

A view of Manhattan from the point of view a BASE jumper who leaped from the Freedom Tower.

Update: “The First Kiss” by Tatia Pilieva was commissioned by a fashion label, according to The New York Times.

“Melissa Coker, 35, the founder and creative director of the clothing company Wren, commissioned the video to showcase her clothing line’s fall collection for’s Video Fashion Week. had created the video series for brands that might lack the financial wherewithal to put on a runway show during Fashion Week,” the newspaper notes.

But it doesn’t make a difference to me. The video, highlighting that tiny journey together for several pairs of people, remains as moving, sweet and human, regardless of how it was funded.

Magic is all around us. Sometimes you have to know where to look. Other times, it unfolds right in front of us.

This film by Liberty Smith and Sophie Windsor Clive falls in the latter category.


Food carts, a dog and a basket in Kolkata, India.

Curious signs — to me, at least — appeared almost everywhere.

KOLKATA, India — My interest piqued by signs nearly everywhere I looked, I often resorted to taking photographs in order to reflect on their meanings later.

It wasn’t just the street signs, such as the one for Shakespeare Sarani, that caught my eye.

“Roll Chow Sanks Bar — Handicapped” was a curious one amid a row of what may have been food carts. I think it might have been a snack bar of some sort.

“Momo Club” was anyone’s guess.

One of the city’s wily dogs stopped for a look, though I think she was more interested in scraps than in explaining.


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