While we get outraged about Russian interference, we should consider our own history too

Last week, the redacted version of the Robert Mueller investigation into possible Trump collusion with Russia to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential elections was released, and seemingly all of the U.S. — particularly its media — took the opportunity to find new ways to be aghast, disgusted, horrified by the idea that a foreign government could be involved in dictating our leadership, our way of life.

It’s disturbing, certainly. I’ve been among those enamored with fury, too.

But lately, I’ve instead been thinking back to a conversation I had a few months ago in a bar in Belize.

My Belize City friend, Ian, chuckled then as we shared a glass of wine, talking politics in a small bar in Placencia. At some point the Mueller investigation came up.

“Americans are outraged that Russia helped choose your president,” he mused, “even though it’s what your country has done with leaders of countries all over Central America for decades.”

Despite knowing the history, foggily, the statement hit like a 2×4 block of concrete to the face.

Because, well, let’s face it: as U.S. natives, we don’t like to think of ourselves that way.

My pop-up shop is back!

Thanks to a wild first round of photo sales in December and January — my first foray into this madness — my pop-up shop is officially back for round two, kicking off …right now.

This time around,  I have some new notecard sets up for grabs as well as a bunch of new prints in 8x10s and 12x18s. And a lot of the best sellers from the previous round, such as the Beetle and Old Man and the Sea prints and the street dog notecards are still available as well!

Most excitingly for me, after bumbling through the first round of sales manually, I have a fancy new landing page for my shop, where you can browse the available goods and order them directly. You can find it here. As it is still new, please alert me to any problems or concern! And if there’s something you’d like to see but you don’t, I’m all ears (but no promises).

An important note! Being that this is a pop-up, there is a DEADLINE FOR ORDERING if you want to make this round of shipments, which will go out in late May.

So make sure you place all orders before midnight on May 12 to make the cut.

Here’s the link again. Now ready, set, SHOP!

Live Inspired: In the “land of the free,” our toilets flush all

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

These days, I spend a lot of time trying to remember where to put my toilet paper.

Since I got back to the States a week ago, I’ve found myself lingering in a lot of bathrooms, awkwardly holding that little used swath and trying to figure out why the trash can is so far away.

When I realize, anew, that I’m back in the ol’ U.S. of A. and I can indeed flush the stuff, my new reaction is less relieved than it is confused — mystified by the fact that the toilets can actually handle it here. I’ve stared into a lot of toilets, unconvinced it will all make its way down.

Perhaps this is the biggest analogy of it all: life in the States, down to the way we dispose of our excrement, is different. Almost every moment back is a reminder of that.

How are Hondurans reacting to Trump’s aid cuts? A perspective from San Pedro Sula

Thanks to a long, complicated and overwhelming negative history of U.S. influence in Honduras, the reactions on the ground aren’t as straight-forward as one might expect.

At the top of Rotulo Coca Cola, where the heat of the city weakens with altitude and the pavement edges up against the jungle, a plateau rises from the mass of banana trees.

From here, all of San Pedro Sula, Honduras looks small — a city of almost a million stretched beneath the humid haze, its raucous soundtrack replaced by the drone of crickets.

“It looks so peaceful from here,” Eduardo Hermida said, overlooking his home town. “That’s why I like it.

“From here, it looks like everything down there is going well.”

Live Inspired: A Tegucigalpa welcoming

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

I had taken a wrong turn.

In search of Castillo Belluci, a crumbling Italian-built castle in the hills of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, I had stumbled past a great iron gate. It seemed to be the right area of the Leona neighborhood. It seemed a gate worthy of such an attraction. So I walked right in.

…And abruptly found myself in someone’s front yard. Beyond the plant-lined stairway where I stood, a man and two women sat at a long, al fresco table, slowly savoring a bottle of wine. Seeing a gringa suddenly appear in their garden, they raised their arms.

“Venga,” come on down, the man called. “Esta es su casa.”

Realizing my mistake and, assuming the sentiment about it being my house to be sarcasm, I covered my face with my hands. “Ay perdon, perdon,” I shouted. But as I spun to leave, they called again, dramatically gesturing with their arms that I join them.

I wondered, for a moment, whether they were expecting someone else and had confused me for their guest.

Soon, I saw there wasn’t any misunderstanding at all: by crashing into their lives, rather, I had become their guest. They had watched a confused, white tourist barge into their garden, and they simply chose to respond with such graciousness that I felt I had been bound there, all along.

Live Inspired: a necessary education (cat calling and the machismo culture in Honduras)

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

Perhaps it really started to sink in with the boy, appearing to be all of 11 or 12 years old.

As I approached him on the street in Gracias, Honduras, he made a show of eyeing me. He pursed his lips together as I walked past and made the exaggerated kissing noises I had become so accustomed to hearing.

“Mami,” he called, sneering and looking to his young friend for reaction.

It was my 17th such incident that day — hearing “pssts” and “wows” as I walked to the bank; absorbing “I love yous” as I searched for a place to eat lunch; receiving the hard stares and persistent chatter of professional predators as I walked around, taking photos.

But it was this preteen, years from sprouting his first chin hairs, that really drove home the point.

Here in Honduras, there is no Me Too movement. Feminism is not trendy nor visible. And the piropos (cat calling)? It’s systemic. It’s so engrained in the culture that the habit is picked up by kids who haven’t even learned what it really means.

What to do in Corozal, Belize

Occupying a long stretch of coastline on the country’s northern tip, this unheralded gem of Belize is modest but beautiful, with a contagious pull.

Even if you’re making plans to travel to Belize, there is a good chance Corozal, a quiet, seaside town on the northern coast, isn’t on your radar.

It should be.

Besides boasting great food at affordable prices and a long stretch of coastline that — though bereft of any classic beaches — is laden with dozens of hidden coves, swimming nooks and elegant sea grape trees, Corozal is worth a trip simply to meet the people that walk its streets.

Why?

Because this little Belizean community just might be one of the friendliest, warmest places you’ll ever go.

Be aware that unlike many of the country’s other destinations that boast snorkeling/diving trips, sunset sails, water sports, tours and more, there isn’t much in the way of conventional “activities” in Corozal outside a pair of worthy Mayan ruin sites nearby.

But if you’re keen on the idea of taking quiet walks by the undeveloped shore, savoring an array of skillful, transition-rich cuisines and falling, seamlessly, into the charming community routine, well, perhaps you’ll be enchanted as I. 

Live Inspired: What I think about before I take a photo

Behind every snap, cultural, social and historical context needs to be considered.

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

I think about photography — and now videography — all the time.

I think about it when women in colorful skirts walk past colorful buildings. I think about it when old men in cowboy hats lean up against a building while devouring ice cream cones. I think about it every time I go into a market and the worn, leathery hands of the vendors contrast with the youthful ripeness of the produce.

Sometimes beautiful angles just occur, when the world so naturally aligns and a portrait emerges, so defined. Sometimes beautiful moments just happen, girls in flowing dresses dancing around a cotton tree, the sun’s golden light igniting pieces of their hair.

I think about taking these photos all the time.

But often, I don’t.

Why I refrain has nothing to do with the laws of whatever place I’m in, as someone on Instagram suggested to me recently, and everything to do with the complex cultural, social and historical considerations surrounding every snap.

Live Inspired: In Gracias, change

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

Shortly after I arrived in Gracias, Honduras last week and enthusiastically began posting photos of this beautiful colonial town brimming with red-tiled roofs and pristine, cafe-filled parks, someone on Instagram messaged me to ask a simple question:

Why was everything in Gracias so clean and well-kept and, well, so very different than where I had previously stayed, in Puerto Cortes?

My instinct was to say that like most places in this world, Honduras possesses range and dimension.

“Why are places in the US different from each other?” I countered. “Every place has variance.”