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"Vaga-Bonding" by Carlo Zande

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"Vaga-Bonding" by Carlo Zande - Page Text Content

S: Vaga-bonding by Carlo Zande

BC: www.art4aid.org info@art4aid.org

FC: Vaga-bonding - a journey of self discovery - by Carlo Zande

1: I was employed as a 911 dispatcher, a job that is a wild roller coaster ride through the lives of others. You can easily become mired in their misery and tragedy or soar with them through their triumphs and blessings. There is no greater immediate gratification than hearing a child cry for the first time with your help, or knowing a heart is beating once more because of your instructions. Gratifying as this work is, I was compelled to seek a more, one on one, personal experience. After one of my trips I shared my photos and stories, and they seemed to move and enthrall those around me. Upon my next planned voyage, friends and coworkers gave of themselves with gifts and money for children they did not know and had never seen. The gratification at delivering these gifts personally, knowing exactly where these gifts went, the joy they brought their recipients and the ability to document this to share upon my return, moved me in a whole new direction. It was this bonding that set me upon a quest for personal growth from which I could not turn back. I never set out to become a photographer or a philanthropist, but I did want to record my experiences and share them with others. I also wanted to leave some small token of my gratitude behind for the people who so graciously shared their homeland and lives with me for a short time, and children seemed the best place to start. Children are possessed of an innocence and openness, coupled with wonder and joy that launches an easy flow of positive exchange. They are also a great deal of fun, in any language. The exchange of positive energy that occurs between the giver and receiver of any kindness exists, even if this exchange occurs through a third party. This give and take makes us aware that beyond all of our differences, we are intrinsically the same inside. This ebb and flow does not require a common language, religion, background or skin tone. I lack the words to describe the fulfillment and gratification I experienced at seeing the joy in the eyes of these children. Those that made donations enjoyed that same exchange of positive energy, thousands of miles away, and with no immediate knowledge of what gifts were given or who the recipients were. It was enough just to know that deed was being done and they were a catalyst in the act. Vaga-Bonding is a compilation of photos, stories, and anecdotes of and about the people and places I have been fortunate enough to encounter on my journeys. It is a chronicle of, what started as an endeavor to see the world, and transformed into a bonding, a connecting with the people I encountered on these treks, people in their own element, living their everyday lives. It contains photographs of the children I encountered and the bonding that ensued. There are also artistic photographs that have been altered to stress a prevalent color that best represents the emotion of the image. These are the experiences that led me to form ART4AID, a non profit organization whose quest is to redefine the relationship between artistic expression and philanthropy. I hope it inspires you to support our cause through purchases and donations and motivates you to start your own journey.

2: Lhasa, Tibet - The Potala Palace It was a voyage of trepidation, my second attempt to reach Tibet. My first attempt was thwarted the week before my scheduled departure because of a ban on tourism by the Chinese government. I can still feel the sway of the train from China to Tibet, the highest elevation in the world, bottled oxygen ever on hand should the altitude become an issue. Scenic mile after mile sped by, making the journey as exciting as my ultimate destination, fatigue and intrigue battling for attention. It was difficult to communicate verbally with my fellow travelers, even obtaining food was a struggle, but my 24 hour cabin mates were amiable enough and we were able to get our needs across to one another through a combination of facial expressions and what I hoped were acceptable hand gestures. Arriving at my destination, I stepped out into an alternate world. The sounds and colors overwhelmed me. The smell of yak milk permeated the every corner of the atmosphere. It was eye opening to find an entire culture dedicated to the pursuit of higher meaning, not just the desire to make more money or obtain more power. Prayer flags, prayer wheels and temples lined the streets. Young couples, the elderly and small children flocked to these religious centers, smiling and nodding at us, the odd strangers, they passed on their way to worship. This contrasted sharply with the stern faces of the heavily armed, very young Chinese soldiers that lined the streets on the pretext of protecting the devotees. We remained in Lhasa for three days in an attempt to adjust to the altitude before continuing on our journey. I spent my days visiting temples and snapping photos of all the strange and wonderful things and people I encountered. My guide and I shared a variety of different, and at times, odd foods. I always try to sample local fare, some I would try again, some I would not. Yak butter tea falls into the latter category. " Field of Greatness" - Tibet Potala Palace is depicted in lavender tones to represent its duality. Purple; the combination of red and blue, hot and cold, it is the yin and yang of color. Long known as the color of royalty, the plum hues express the spiritually regal nature of this structure to the followers of the Dalai Lama and believers around the world. In the photograph, the temple appears to be rising from a field of flowers; man-made emerging from nature, an illusion because the field of flowers is really a group of potted plants in the foreground.

5: Arriving in Tibet, I met up with my local guide, my Tibetan driver and the beat up, travel worn, and shop weary jeep that passed as a rental car. The guide was 18 years old, and over the next two weeks I learned that he had left home in his early teens with a friend and traveled, on foot, across the Himalayas and into India where he could study English with the monks. It was an extraordinary feat, but not as rare as we would expect it to be. Many of the young boys in his country make the same journey in pursuit of a better life. With my guide's assistance, we made our way to a local market only to learn that their concept of selling in bulk was about as good as my ability to haggle. We used money donated by friends and family and settled on school supplies as the best option for our purposes. We finally found a churlish merchant that was reluctantly willing to make a deal, and we left the market with six enormous boxes of pencils, pencil cases and some note pads. We filled our jeep with the supplies and, armed with the ever present canister of oxygen, set off on our journey. The Tibetan plateau was vast and barren. You could travel hours without seeing anything more than prayer flags and the occasional yak. Snow capped peaks lined roadways that were usually empty save the occasional animal drawn cart or ramshackle motorized conveyance. In spite of the solitude of this area, the people we did meet were open and friendly. They were curious about us and laughed easily, welcoming us into their enclave without trepidation. I took in the vistas, snapping as many pictures as I could, and I even rode a yak. As exciting as this voyage was to me, my guide dozed often, having made that journey several times. I kept an equal eye on the road and the driver, fearing he would give in to ennui and doze off as well, but he was a true professional, getting us from point A to point B with relative ease. As interesting as these new sights were to me, I was often relieved to get to point B, wash the road off of me and rest my bones.

6: There was seldom a house in sight and yet, whenever we stopped, children would flock around us from seemingly nowhere. They surrounded us, smiling and joking, excited and pleased with the meager gifts I brought them. I began to use my first words in the local language, t’oo-je-che; thank you. The honest joy and gratitude expressed for such a small token, was heartwarming. It brought home to me, once again, how different this reality was to the one I was accustomed to. They marched off comparing treasures, laughing and joking in their mismatched, well worn school uniforms. Several stops later, and many miles across the rugged terrain, the boxes in the back of the jeep were in tatters. Hundreds of pencils littered the back of the jeep and obscured my meager luggage. My companions, the driver who spoke no English, and the guide who could not understand my purpose, were initially reluctant to participate in my "crazy" plan. When we stopped, they held back and looked on uncomfortably, but soon, they were not only participating, but initiating stops. The driver would laugh and joke with the children, organizing orderly queues while the guide and I pulled pencils from the jumble of schools supplies in the back of the jeep. We had car trouble traversing one particularly treacherous stretch of road and my driver, ever resourceful, used the sacred white scarves ever present in Buddhism to tie the broken axle. We continued our journey, and he spoke more than he ever did before, but the only word I understood, over and over again was Buddha. There were other words, many, many of them until they became one long word, accentuated by “Buddha" periodically. His prayers must have worked because we drove much farther on a scarf than I could have ever believed possible. When the scarves failed, he replaced them with a coat hanger. No one blinked an eye at his repair methods, not even the "mechanic" we found, to make a more permanent repair, in the next town.

8: Mt. Everest Mount Everest is the world’s tallest mountain with a peak over 29,000 feet above sea level, and it grows each year. She is known to the Chinese as Jomolungma, or Holy Mother. In Tibet, she is known as Sagarmatha or Goddess of the Sky. In Nepal, she is Chomolungma: Goddess of the Universe. The eminence of this promontory surpassed any expectations I may have had before my arrival there. From a distance, she was grandiose. As I started out on the five mile trek from my lodging to the base camp, I was expecting to be impressed. As I approach her, my breath was taken away, literally and figuratively. There was no way to be in the presence of the mountain and remain engrossed in the petty concerns of daily life. Indeed, with every step, I felt freer and lighter. Facing the mountain head on, I came into a true "feeling of being", not thinking, not planning, just being. I had come as a tourist, a visitor in search of new vistas. There were those who made that same sojourn, and traveled even further, in search of enlightenment and spiritual fulfillment. Indeed, while traveling to base camp, I encountered a tiny, rudimentary monastery. It could have been a relic from an earlier time and yet it was occupied. A monk had been living there, alone, for over three months. He occupied an underground space in the primitive monastery. He welcomed us, cheerfully, and we communicated through my guide. He told of how and why he had ended up there and was genuinely not just satisfied, but pleased with his choices. I wanted to leave a token of my gratitude for his hospitality and yet he said he needed nothing. Reluctantly, he accepted my flashlight, and there it was ; the reciprocal joy of giving and receiving. A part of me remained with him, a part of him returned with me. We had formed a bond that would be a part of our essential beings for the remainder of time, real and unreal all at once. " Resistance" - Mt. Everest No other coloration could do justice to the majesty and grace of Mt Everest. Purple, long chosen to represent royalty, would have to be the pigment of this regal elevation. It embodies the balance of stimulation and calm. It imbues a sense of the mystic and eccentric which defines Chomolungma: Goddess of the Universe. I chose to capture the mountain from a distance. We see the peaceful flowing river in the foreground and the mountain rising like an imposing force in the rear. Often, it is easy to forget that there was an immense amount of climbing done just to get to that point. It is also easy to forget that, as in life, after that long and tiring climb, there so much more to scale.

10: " Scarlet Challenge" - Tibet Red is the color of the monk. Aside from the color of his garb, it is the color of intensity, a hot color. It reflects the burning desire to learn and grow. It is the willingness to put all other things aside in pursuit of the inner knowledge that can only be attained by eschewing outer trappings and struggling to find the person within. Stripped of color, you can appreciate the austerity of their surroundings, the only blaze of passion, and the garments that enfold them, the robe of the monk. " Crimson Compassion" - Tibet The monk surrounded by the beauty of the blooming flowers and the small pet he cuddles. He had seen the small child of a tourist and was overjoyed at the thought of sharing the small animal with the fussy child. The joy found in the simplicity of his life is apparent on his face. He is content with his meager possessions, and even willing to share them unselfishly, yet he still yearns to grow. How many of us, with all our modern trappings, can say the same? I chose red because it is the color of passion; the passion for growth, knowledge and enlightenment that is the lives of these men. In Asia, red denotes joy, purity and celebration.

12: Kathmandu, Nepal The journey from Tibet to Nepal was breathtaking, dotted with ancient temples and monasteries occupied by solitary monks dedicating their lives to prayer, meditation and learning. The roads ran the gamut from newly paved multi-lane roadways to little more than a dirt street carved out of the mountainside. We braved a rockslide just outside the Nepalese border which, after the attention of road engineers, a few sticks of dynamite and a swarm of Chinese soldiers, we crossed on foot. | Once in Nepal, after a much needed rest and armed with school supplies and toiletries, I visited an orphanage in Kathmandu. The children there were neat, polite, happy and well cared for and every name began with "S", no one knew why. I was impressed by the balancing act of the facility which attempted to provide for the needs of the children while preserving their integrity.

13: We received thanks from the staff and from the children, but the true balm of the soul came from the joy of seeing those kids, laughing, joking and playing around with us. It had very little to do with the gifts they had received. It did not matter that we did not speak the same language and seemingly had very little in common. What mattered is that I was there, that I had taken time to visit them and they had taken time to receive me. We found our common "human" bond that united us despite our differences. http://buddhistchildhome.org.np

15: Angkor Wat, Cambodia Angkor is a region of Cambodia that served as the seat of the Khmer Empire, which flourished from approximately the 9th to 15th centuries. The ruins of Angkor are located amid forests and farmland to the north of the Great Lake, Tonlé and south of the Kulen, near modern-day Siem, and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After establishing myself at my lodging, I visited Angkor Wat, a temple complex built for the king Suryavarman in the early 12th century as his state temple and capital city. As the best-preserved temple at the site, it is the only one to have remained a significant religious center since its foundation; first Hindu, dedicated to the god Vishnu, then Buddhist. It is the world's largest religious building. The buildings were magnificent and impressive, but just a few miles away temples lay crumbing, enormous trees growing in, through and over the man-made structures. It brought home the realization that all we have and all we do is temporary at best. What matters most is who we are inside, the growth and wisdom we acquire and how we share that with those we encounter on the road through life. It is the bond formed through real human interaction that stays with us, even if we never encounter that person again. Miles of wonder and a few hundred photos later, I sought the advice of my tour guide and so, I was able to find a local market. I sought out a vendor that carried child sized shoes, the local version of flip flops. After much negotiation, with the assistance of a translator, I purchased that vendor's entire stock of children’s shoes, then moved on to the next stall and repeated the task. Three hours later, I was armed with bags of shoes and en route to a local school. More than 80 percent of the children in the school had no shoes. They were elated to receive the footwear. There was a buzz of activity while they sat and measured, trying to find shoes with the right fit. I noticed that though most were shoeless, the activity was equally divided between finding a pair of shoes that fit, and helping younger children also find the right sized shoe. The task complete, there was a general sense of happiness and well being in the yard. The kids ran and danced and played, together and with me. It was more than just the joy of the gift. They were happy to know me, and I them.

16: " Reincarnation" - Namibia Sossusvlei is a salt and clay pan surrounded by high orange dunes in the southern end of the Namib Desert. It is an arid, inhospitable land that bakes under the African sun, but the trees, long dead, appear reborn as artwork on the barren landscape. Tangerine is the color of healing and rebirth.

17: "Endeavor" - Namibia This is the quiver tree, the national tree of Namibia. It is rare and slow growing, in decline though it struggles to thrive in the difficult terrain in which it is indigenous. Cerulean: the color of quiet grace and restrained strength.

19: Northern Namibia, Himba Tribe Africa is a land of mystery and wonder. I visited, from the modern port city of Capetown to the arid plains of Fish River Canyon in Namibia. It was in northern Namibia that we encountered the Himba people. The Himba are often the face of Africa on travel brochures and pamphlets because of the women’s distinctive hairstyles, dress and the use of butter fat and ochre which renders the skin an earthy, reddish hue. They are a nomadic, pastoral people and we visited them in their tiny encampment of rounded primitive huts that encircled an “okuruwo” or ancestral fire. Behind the circle of huts was an enclosure for the cattle and goats they bred. The villagers welcomed us around their fire; especially the children. They engaged us in play, running and playing, teasing us in a friendly manner and laughing with one another. South Africa was hosting the World Cup when my trip started so it seemed appropriate to break out in an impromptu soccer game (winner keeps the ball) between the tribesmen and tourists. Even our driver and tour guide joined in the game. It was another time when language and tradition were not barriers. It was surreal to share this game I love with native Africans, in their village, with wild animals mewling and roaring in the background. They kept the ball. I hope they enjoy it still. The chief’s daughter (the one with the winning smile) seemed to love the necklace I was wearing, so I gave it to her. I wondered what future visitors would make of a Himba child wearing a necklace with an Incan emblem in the middle of the African wilderness. I hope that she will remember us with fondness, this strange group of foreigners playing soccer with her fellow tribesmen as the sun set on the horizon, each time she looks at that gift.

20: " Sur-reality" - Okavango Delta, Botswana Blue is the color of sea and sky. It emanates a sense of tranquility and calm. It was chosen for our traverse across delta because it depicts the peaceful crossing and the strength and efficiency of the guide.

21: "Identity" - Botswana Verdant fields open up before us, a journey of possibility. We see the vastness ahead, fields of fertility and life with an elusive object in the distance, perhaps home, perhaps fulfillment. Green is the color of balance and life, it is also the color of hope.

22: Khayalisha Township, Capetown - South Africa In the township of Khayelitsha, near Cape Town, South Africa, we found Mama Rosie. She lived, she explained, a modest, quiet life there until someone left a child at her door one night. There was an abundance of need and poverty all around her. To leave a child in the hope that someone else would care for it she perceived as an act of faith, desperation and self sacrifice. Mama Rosie could do no less than live up to that trust, and raise that child to the best of her ability. Mama Rosie jokes that, much like when the public learns you will take in stray cats, they begin to leave cats at your doorstep, people began leaving children in need where they knew that child would be cared for. Over time, Mama Rosie found it necessary to expand her home to accommodate her growing brood. With austerity and the beneficence of strangers, she has been able to aid more than 5000 children in need in the past 11 years. I used the monetary donations I had received to help purchase toiletries and clothing for the children of Mama Rosie’s home. The joy and gratitude was heartwarming, but what moved me most was the concern the children had for one another. They tried to help out others before seeing to their own needs. This was the case with all age groups. We took time to play with the children, allowing smiles and tickles to be our mutual language. I discovered that children learn and mimic the love and compassion they encounter in the adults around them and they share that love with one another. The less they have, the more willing they are to give and share. It was a humbling experience. www.baphumelele.org.za

24: Trinidad, Cuba | Trinidad, Cuba is touted as a museum in itself. Established by the Spaniards in 1514, the 500 year old town, only a few blocks wide, is dominated by Spanish colonial architecture, cobbled streets and pastel colors. What does not fall into that category belongs to the late 1950’s when the country succumbed to communism and time appeared to stop. I had consulted friends and coworkers in Miami and found that vitamins, aspirin and toiletries would be what was most needed in Cuba. I carried them with me from the States and we visited local schools, leaving the medicines with the teachers and distributing school supplies and other small gifts to the children. The classrooms were sparse but neat and the children well behaved.

25: " Powerful Decadence" - Cuba Classic cars travel the cobbled roads; they are not just decorative museum pieces. They are kept alive in spite of the dearth of tools and parts. Lack does not seem to hold back this people but rather, it has enhanced their resourcefulness and creativity. Red: the color of heat and passion, it describes the land and the people.

26: I am grateful that you chose to share my travels with me. I invite you to do your own Vaga-bonding, travel the world, see its sights, but remember that it is more than just a conglomeration of mountains, rivers and ancient buildings. Try to make a connection with the people that you visit. Try to make of difference in the lives of these people. It does not matter how insignificant you believe your gifts may be, they could make a world of difference in the lives of the recipients. These have been just a few of my journeys. It has been such a pleasure recounting and revisiting these places, and remembering the people that I met and befriended, if for just a short time. I hope that you enjoyed it as much as I did. I hope to continue on my quest to see the world, meet its people and leave them a little better off than when I arrived. Thank you for traveling with me today and I hope that you can be a part of ART4AID. " Still " - Patagonia My companions did not understand my fascination with an old boat on a tiny lake. They did not see what I saw because they were distracted by the majestic promise of the icebergs just ahead. What I saw, or rather what I felt, was the tranquility and peace of that shore, the security of the boat. Rust: the passing of time, the erosion that is taking place daily all around. Front Cover - " Pristine Path " - Okavango Delta, Botswana Indigo reeds line the tranquil path over the dangers beneath, on a journey across the delta. The reeds obscure the destination and the journey is fraught with unknown peril and unimaginable possibility, the promise of which motivates us to move forward. Blue: the color of inspiration, sincerity and spirituality. Back Cover - " Hope " - Khayelitsha Township - Capetown, South Africa A woman launders clothing in front of the ramshackle wood and corrugated steel lean-tos that compose this township. Yellow is the color of hope. Yellow: long used to denote the wait for the safe return of a loved one, at war or in prison, here represents the hope for a better tomorrow.

28: "Moon Flow"- Namibia Aquamarine: from the latin words for water and sea, it is the stone and color of self-awareness and comprehension. The meaning of aquamarine is to imbibe positive energies into one's life and open the newly found doors of creativity.

29: "Pre-historic" - Galapagos Birds fly high in the sky above the islands which are, seemingly, trapped in a time warp. Endemic creatures inhabit the sky, hills, shore and waters of the pristine islands. Cerise: a softer form of red represents the soft warmth of the island sun and sky, the freedom to soar.

30: “ Rain Swept Sanctuary” – Shanghai, China The pagoda rises playfully from the branches that surround it, heedless of rain. Decorative tassels catch the wind and dance playfully, defying the weather. Red: in Asia, the color of joy, happiness and good fortune.

31: " Beam of Revelation"- Machu Picchu Ancient center of cosmic spirituality bathed in bluish green, otherworldly light. It has been a center for spiritual gathering across the centuries, calling pilgrims from around the world to scale its heights, eager to uncover mystic treasures. Turquoise: the gem revered since ancient times, it is the color of strength and connection to the spirit world.

32: " Enduring Enigma" - Patagonia The heat of the burgundy growth in the foreground, contrasts sharply with the stark, barren coldness of the ice floes behind. It is an unexpected gift of life and warmth where one expects little of either. Burgundy: the color of strength of character and endurance

33: " Chromatic Standpoint" - Utah The foreground (the present) is in focus, a tree with roots well established, growing and thriving. The background (the future) is a blur. You see the heights yet to be scaled, yet you must let go of what you have to pursue it. You have to release that which is clear and real in pursuit of something unsure but with the potential to take you to great heights. Burnt orange: the color of the peak in the distance, provides the flavor of earth.

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  • By: carlo z.
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  • Title: "Vaga-Bonding" by Carlo Zande
  • A compilation of photographs and stories of my journeys around the world and the people i encountered along the way
  • Tags: travel, philanthropy, children, photography
  • Published: about 8 years ago