So you want to go to Brazil…

Hello comrades,humans, collections of star dust and other assorted material!

I could finally afford to visit Logan this year in Brazil (it’s all that Millennial avocado toast spending I do, I tell ya!). I was lucky enough to travel around the interior of the state of SP, the coast, as well as a bit of the southern part of Minas Gerais (see map below). To be fair, this is like if I went to the USA and traveled just to New York City, part of the New Jersey, and went to Maine for a bit. I’m not an expert, but I did learn a lot and wanted to share what I know!

Before I start, my biggest single recommendation is to have a Brazilian friend or family member there to meet and travel with. It’s a really hard country to get around if you don’t know what’s going on.

1. BRAZIL IS HUGE

  • Brazil is an enormous state with a ton of historical diversity and bio-diversity. Southern Brazil, like in Rio Grande do Sul and Parana, is arid and where a lot of ranching happens. It’s also where a lot of beer is brewed, and a lot of German and Dutch people settled there so there are fun touristy towns that do German-esque celebrations.
  • Northern Brazil is usually seen as poorer and lesser. A lot of Southern Brazilians see Northerners kind of like how Americans have stereotypes about Mexicans (just to clarify, fuck that). It’s not good. Northern Brazil is typically seen as poor, super rural, and there’s not a lot of opportunities there so many people head south to the bigger cities to try and start over. However, there are also a lot of beach resorts and vacation spots in the North (around Recife, Salvador, etc.), because that’s where the most famous beaches are, so a wealth divide is pretty apparent in a lot of places.
  • Where Brazil meets Paraguay is pretty much as sketch as you can get, perhaps minus the Venezuelan-Brazilian border right now.
  • The states themselves are massive. Minas Gerais is like the Texas of Brazil. Each state has a unique history and culture.

2. If you’re American, you NEED a visa.

  • If this makes you want to sigh, I’m going to tell you that it is incredibly difficult for Brazilians to get visas to come to the United States and they’re SUPER expensive, and also require two in-person appointments at the US Embassy in São Paulo, along with HOURS of waiting. In comparison what we have to do is nothing.
  • Americans pay like $45 for our visa, and you apply online. (They changed the restrictions last year and made it way cheaper and easier.) It’s a breeze. Brazil needs tourism so instead of being spiteful about Americans forcing Brazilians to go through a hellish process they’ve decided to make it easier for us.

3. Brazil has a complicated history. Know it, use The Google Machine, because it’s important.  

  • Brazil was “settled” (lol, the Portuguese showed up uninvited) in the early 1500s, but there were already hundreds of thousands of indigenous people called the Jiquabu who lived in dozens of different nations all over the country.
  • The Portuguese quickly killed a lot of indigenous people through disease introduction and labor, so started importing slaves. This did not end until 1888 (yeah, that’s late). As a result, Brazil has a huge population of Afro-Brazilians. Much of the food and culture of Brazil comes from the descendants of slaves. Anthony Bourdain (RIP) has a GREAT episode where he goes to Minas Gerais and learns about the history of Brazilian food and it’s African roots, and I highly recommend it.
  • Today, Brazil is a hugely diverse place. There are a large number of Japanese immigrants in the cities, and Nigeria’s second biggest population lives in Brazil. Lots of people from Angola come over as well. 43% of Brazilians self-identify as mulatto , which is mixed-race, and 8% identify as Black, which means it’s a majority non-white country.

4. Do NOT count on people speaking English everywhere. Also, Portuguese is really hard to understand even if you already know other Romantic languages. 

  • If you’re limiting yourself to traveling in large cities like Rio or São Paulo, or going to a beach resort in Bahia as many Europeans do in the winter, then you’ll probably be okay. Because the Olympics were hosted recently, many of the subway systems in Rio and SP have announcements and signs in both Portuguese and English. A lot of restaurants have English menus too.
  • However, if you are traveling in the interior, learn some Portuguese. Once you’re outside of the city, the odds that you’ll encounter English are fair, but not great.
  • Very few Americans bother to try to learn Portuguese before they arrive, but just learning how to say “hello” (bom dia/boa tarde/boa noite), “nice to meet you” (prazer), “thank you” (obrigado/a), “please” (por favor) and “goodbye” (tchau) will be much appreciated.

5. Brazil is not SUPER safe, don’t be an idiot, but you’ll probably be okay.

  • Keep an eye on your shit. Don’t wear flashy clothes, nice bags, or look like you’re worthy of theft. Be smart about how you get around- if you’re traveling alone as a woman, take taxis or Ubers at night rather than walking or using the subway.
  • Travel with a purpose. If you’re walking around the city, move. Don’t linger, don’t be on your phone, pay attention.
  • Street harassment is common for women. I was with my boyfriend the entire time which really cut down on that stuff, but there is a lot of that bullshit present. Being grabbed in bars, clubs, etc. is also really common.
  • If you’re traveling in a group, loudly speaking English makes you very obviously foreign and more of a target. Be smart and have common sense about where you are, how you appear, etc.

6. Brazil has a lot of racism, just like the USA. 

  • There is still a lot of racism in education and governmental systems and a lot of other barriers to keep people in place. It’s real and it’s endemic, and with Bolsonaro in power, it’s unlikely to get better (#EleNão).

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Now, more fun/practical things to know!

  • If you want to save money, go in May/June/July. 
    • This is Brazil’s winter. Prices for things are highest in December, January, and February, because this is when Brazil’s summer break is, so lots of families are traveling and vacationing. Brazil’s winters are also A LOT more manageable temperature wise (I nearly died being there in January and February!).
  • WEAR A TINY BIKINI AT THE BEACH!!
    • Brazilians give NO fucks about body types at the beach. Rock whatever you fancy. I myself have never felt comfortable rocking a tiny bikini before but went for it and it was AWESOME. 60 year old grannies were rocking smaller bikinis than me! And nobody cares!
  • Cold beer is like a goddamn religion. Take part. 
    • You typically buy 600 ml bottles that are put in protective “beer condoms” (that’s what they’re called I swear) and you sit around plastic tables and drink out of ideally cold little glasses.
      • If you’re beer is not cold, you can refuse it. Cold beer is taken that seriously. Most fridges/freezers have little temperature monitors on the front so you can see that your beer is ideally at about -1 or -2 C when it leaves the freezer.
  • Being called a gringo or a gringa is not an insult!!!! 
    • It’s not. I promise. Get over it.
  • You typically do not tip after meals. 
    • A 10% gratuity is automatically included, unless otherwise noted. You also don’t tip after things like manicures or pedicures (which are DIRT CHEAP so get one!)
  • If you go to a party or a gathering, it is common to greet EVERY SINGLE PERSON THERE. (It’s rude not to!) 
    • A kiss on the cheek and a “tudo bem?” (everything good/how are you?) is common. If you’re meeting somebody, a kiss on the cheek and a “Prazer!” is perfect. (Prazer means “pleasure”.)
    • You do this again when you leave a party. It’s exhausting and not ideal for introverts or those who like to slip away. It’s seen as rude if you do slip away. DO NOT BE RUDE. If I, an extreme introvert, can do this, you can too!
  • Abortion is illegal in Brazil. 
    • People *can* get pills and stuff but it’s usually through back channels, so be extra safe with your sex. Condoms are super easy to get there, and birth control is also pretty readily available, so be smart!!
  • Marijuana is notoriously poor quality and also just really ethically dirty there, (also illegal), so just avoid in general.  
    • If you’re an American and you’ve been in Colorado or Washington and taken part in our green goodness, I would suggest you not do so in Brazil. It is widely known that the quality of any weed in Brazil is going to be bad. It’s also illegal. Also, much like buying cocaine in the USA, by the time a lot of marijuana reaches you there’s probably been a fair amount of violence and really bad shit done so that you could partake, which is selfish and shitty on your part. Be ethical about your drug use people! 

I have SO much more to talk about but I’m going to break down my time there in a bunch of posts, so please STAY TUNED!!! (There will be at least one solely devoted to food and beverages!)

In the meantime, I recommend looking at Shannon Sim’s Twitter if you want to learn a bit more about being an American in Brazil: https://twitter.com/shannongsims

Here’s a neat video that I-D did with Grace Neutral about feminism and women’s movements in Brazil: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cja_ND2iIWI

Tchau until next time!

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Strange Women Go Hot Springing

I took the day off work, crossing my fingers that snow wouldn’t ruin the day. Chelsea was insistent, saying that regardless, we’d be going. The night before, we were marveling at just how good Blackfoot Single Malt IPA beer is (while drinking it) and getting excited. The weather looked clear, shockingly, and I was excited.

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We piled into Chelsea’s car and headed West. I told Logan about our plans, and from deep in South America came the reply, “you strange women have a blast”. We really were a rather strange, rag-tag group, the three of us, thrown together through proximity but choosing to also care about one another, in that strange way that fate and chance have.

The drive was spectacular. Passing burned out woods, tall evergreens, beautiful cottonwoods guarding little meandering creeks, and isolated homes and winding roads that went off to unknown places, Chelsea told us about the place. We got there, with only one truck with a camper on it in the parking lot. Success! Hot springs get notoriously overcrowded and we were thrilled to have some decent odds of having a good time.

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Upon reaching the hot spring after a half mile or so of hiking, we encountered four souls who had been sleeping in the camper. One was unfortunately very naked, and another had brought a waterproof speaker and was playing dubstep. Luckily, they shut the speaker off within about five minutes, because I was going to either punt it like a football or ask them to turn it off, whichever would have offered a quicker solution.

(Pro tip: do NOT be the person who brings a fucking speaker to the hot spring, you are a rude jerk if you do so. Enjoy the fucking tranquility of nature goddammit!)  

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Anyway…

It was beautiful. It was tranquil. Our current hot spring partners seemed a bit…not sober, not stoned, but off. A bit meth-y, perhaps, which is actually not unlikely in rural Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, or lots of other places. Luckily, they left fairly quickly, and we had the hot springs to ourselves for a good while before a dozen or so people came in a big group, complete with a tiny dog.

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That time in the hot spring was amazing. We quietly chatted, took pictures, breathed in the steam, and reveled in the marvelousness of the misty, quiet woods. I felt quietly settled, content in a way I hadn’t in some time. After dropping Colette off Chelsea and I went to Kettlehouse and chatted more, sipping a delicious New England style IPA. It was a damn fine day, with damn fine souls. I couldn’t ask for a better one.

First Yellowstone trip of the year!

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April in Yellowstone is kind of a crapshoot. You never know if you’re going to have a blizzard roll in, a bunch of hail, or a perfectly clear, beautiful evening. You could literally encounter anything- elk in your campsite, bears, unruly humans- and you have to be prepared for all those options.

We drove through Paradise Valley, past the fast-moving, brown Yellowstone River, admiring the cloud-covered peaks of the Absaroka range. We got to the Mammoth Hot Springs campground. A park ranger let us know we got the last campsite in the area (yes!!!) and we proceeded to pitch our tent on the raised platform. This was the first time we would be sleeping in our new-ish tent that we had gotten for a ridiculous steal at an REI garage sale.

After pitching our tent we drove to the terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs, and walked on the creaky boardwalks all over. The smell of sulfur belched from the ground, and there were dozens of cow elk scattered nearby, many of them pregnant. I wondered when they would be surrounded by their small, awkward calves and hoped I’d get to see some soon!

I ran into an old classmate from my Swiss college on the boardwalk as we were coming down. I hadn’t seen Heather in over seven years, and here she was! We hugged, and I shook my head in bewilderment. After attending Franklin College in Lugano, I feel so lucky to have my world be so small that I get to have experiences like that.

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Logan and I bemoaned the stupidity we already saw visitors exhibiting. We saw women try and pet the pregnant cow elk, and behind my gritted teeth I let out a vile hope that the elk would charge or kick somebody who dared to disrespect their personal space. Red dogs, or baby bison, cavorted outside our campground, and people got way…too…close…to photograph and marvel at the tiny little devils, who were dwarfed by their much larger, scarier mothers and fathers.

Yellowstone is best before Memorial Day weekend and after Labor Day, but it was still so awful to see so many people stressing out wildlife and putting themselves in danger. I usually refuse to visit after June starts because it just gets to be too much- I tend to become enraged so often seeing the ridiculous amounts of idiocy being exhibited by humans, so I just stay away.

Regardless, it was a beautiful, sunny day. Logan and I tried to go to the Boiling River, but the river was moving so swiftly, full of run off, and there were so many people crowded in the hot spots that we decided to try again tomorrow morning before too many people were awake. This plan was ultimately foiled.

We went back to our campsite and started a fire with dry grass, newspapers, and matches. We made some hot water for tea and cooked kielbasa, and then a hard wind came down, accompanied by fat, unapologetic drops of rain. We got into the car (the tent was being blown almost vertically by the rain) and waited it out. Soon, hail pelted the car. We looked at each other and wondered if we would need to get a cheap motel in Gardiner, because if the weather kept up this way there would be no way we could sleep in our tent, even with the rain fly on and it being sturdily staked in the ground. The wind was just too much!

Luckily after about 40 minutes it all subsided, leaving us with a beautiful full moon and some fluffy, nonthreatening clouds. We spent the evening eating and sitting by the fire, having a beer or two and just chatting in the way that a fire encourages people to talk. Eventually it was time to retire, and we crept into our little green tent and nestled into our sleeping bags. I slept like a rock, not waking until about 5 am, when the birds began to serenade us and the sun began to slowly make itself known. Logan stirred, and I rolled over, wanting to sleep in but also wanting to get up and get to the Boiling River.

Finally around 7 am we got up, put on bathing suits, and headed down the road. It looked like there were no cars in the lot! Yes! Upon driving closer, we saw why: the park rangers had locked the gate, which was a sure sign that the Gardner River had been deemed too fast and dangerous to stay open for visitors. We barely missed it!
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We went back to our campsite and made coffee and cooked the rest of our kielbasa for breakfast. We then decided to drive through the whole park to see what it looked like. Once we got outside Mammoth the temperature dropped rapidly, and we saw layers of snow that had been plowed off the road piled high. Mated pairs of sandhill cranes stalked in shallow streams, and we saw bison partially hidden behind curtains of billowing steam from the volcanically-heated waterways and geysers. There weren’t many people out and about, and we marveled at the sun glinting from mountain tops and how green everything was already.

On our way home, we stopped at Norris Hot Springs to soak for a bit, because we were at the bare minimum going to get to soak in at least one hot spot! Red-winged blackbirds and yellow-headed blackbirds and mountain bluebirds trilled and called from the marshland around the hot spring, and we let ourselves relax. We shouldn’t have- as I drove over the mountain pass that lies before Butte, a freak snowstorm swept over us. Massive amounts of snow were falling, and the road was quickly getting full of slow-moving, careful cars. The heat in our car gave out, and I had to ask Logan to wipe the inside windshield so that it wouldn’t freeze up and block my vision. It was late April, and we were in the middle of a fucking blizzard?! I cursed my way over the pass, knowing that as long as we went slowly and carefully we could make it to the other side.

Eventually we did! It was quite a journey. We got home after 10 hours in the car in one day and collapsed in our beds. It’s always an adventure going to Yellowstone, no matter what you expect will happen.

The Oregon Coast

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It’s pouring rain outside and the lights flickered a little bit. I thought, “thank goodness for a full computer battery and the weird little LED lantern we bought for camping”, if the power did indeed go out.

I finally these pictures scanned, and they make me feel things. We stayed in Seaside, Oregon for one night, thinking it would be the sort of resort town that idealizes life, and instead it brought out all the ugly things one pushes to the edge. We stayed at a B&B that was beautiful, but it was so windy that going outside was nearly impossible. Tried to find a good place for a martini or something strong and nice, but instead found only dive bars and tourist-y places that had the veneer coming off of them far too quickly. We did our best and found sushi, seafood, and bad mixed drinks. We saw people who go on dates to gamble, each taking a twenty dollar bill, and one bar had a garish plastic rat stuck in the wall. It was a strange town, vaguely sinister, and we were quite happy to pack up and leave. Perhaps in the summer it’s a slightly better place to be? People seem to think so!

Driving the Oregon coast was strange and beautiful. Lots of little towns strung together by a highway, some barely held together by the bookends of a church and a bar, others flourishing with multi-story buildings. Woods, rolling hills, the sea and tributaries flowing into the sea, which we followed as we drove. We got out periodically to eat, take pictures, breathe in the salty air, and relish the warmth of the already-present spring. I want to go back, very badly, but with one exception: I think Seaside, for whatever charm has made it a destination, will remain a place in my past.

A brief interlude in Portland.

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After 13 hours on a train, we got out at Union Station and took an Uber to the house we’d rented. The driver bemoaned the uptick in rent, the crazy amount of people moving into the city every day, but eagerly told us about the cherry blossoms, spring, and the local music scene.

Portland was a lot of what I had assumed- full of young people with eclectic ideas of fashion, lots of niche coffee shops (one catered entirely to basketballers and sneakerheads), and so many restaurants I wondered what the failure rate of eateries in Portland was.

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It was also a city full of theater, art, parks, and beautiful buildings tucked away in quiet places. It bridges the beautiful, deep Columbia River, and we walked over one of the bridges that link the city together, and looked at the large ships anchored on the edges of the river. We tucked ourselves away out of the expected rain in a pub dedicated to British soccer that was wonderfully grimy and character-filled. We tried to get tickets to see the Portland Trailblazers play, to no avail. I ate a lot, walked a lot, and the humidity did things to my hair. I admired Childe Hassam paintings and saw Toulouse-Lautrec lithographs and made fun of statues with historically questionable quotations attached. It was a much needed, humid, warm (er) respite from the unyielding grip of Montana winter. 27745408978_43926b02b6_c40903606394_2ea45b0872_c40903610514_a88c989bce_c

A much needed respite.

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We flew home yesterday, coming back to a strangely green Montana. It has been so, so long since I saw more than a few bits here and there of living, chlorophyll-consuming flora!

Oregon had an excess of it. Vines tangled everywhere with roots, trees growing on top of trees, forest groves so dark that it was shadowy hours before the sun set within them. We felt the mist of waterfalls upon our faces, gazed at drop-offs where thousands of gallons of water flowed down. We saw flowers of all sorts, wild and cultivated. All over the farmlands of Oregon, fruit trees were blossoming, showing off neat rows of perfect blooms on perfect branches. Tendrils of mist ran down from the heavy clouds and the fog seemed so thick at times that we could have reached out and cupped it.

We slept in a yurt one night, with the rain coming down so hard that I couldn’t hear Logan speak if he was more than a foot or two away from me. INtermittent bouts of hail made the dim even louder, so that we could hear nothing but the water coming down in it’s various forms. At one point with the lights off it was so dark I couldn’t tell if my eyes were open or closed, and combined with the sound of the rain it was quite discombobulating, but absolutely new and in this way wonderful.

We didn’t see many creatures, but rather saw or heard traces of them. Deer footprints sunken deep in mud and debris covered forest floors, the echoing call of a fussy bald eagle early in the morning, signs on the road that merely said ELK, black against yellow. We tried to find hawks that called dramatically from tree tops with binoculars but never saw them, secretive creatures. I got to see a lovely, fat slug on a trail outside Portland, and I hadn’t seen a slug so green and large since I had been on the Juan de Fuca trail with Morgan some years back!

Oregon was lush in a Dionysian sense, with vineyards everywhere and wine tasting rooms by the dozen. We ate salads with chopped roasted hazelnuts and the waitress at one restaurant proudly gave us a litany of facts about hazelnut production in Oregon, which apparently is one of the biggest producers in the world. My father, who has been living there for almost a year, boasted about the crops of cherries, apples, marionberries, salmon, crab, and other natural foods that are plentiful in the waters and hills of the state.

Overall, I ate too much. I slept too little. My eyes drank in sights I needed to see, that my soul craved. Steep cliffs shrouded in fog, enormous waves crashing against rocks, not knowing their own power to awe me. Waterfalls coming out of nowhere, with the wind whipping the water into clouds of mist. Shades of deep green I want to have a dress in, and craggy, moody mountains. Delightfully sleepy riverside towns, big historical breweries that serve hearty clam chowder. Clothes made for layering and nestling in. It has been almost a year since I moved out of Victoria and my heart needed to fill the space that Victoria left with some moody, ocean-side things. Oregon filled it up a little bit, which is almost worst than not at all. Now my urge to move back is stronger than ever. I ache for the quiet mornings by the ocean, hearing the rhythm of the waves and simply being, not thriving or acting or doing or making, but being in the wonderful body I have by another, more primordial or essential body that is omnipotent, terrifying, and soothing simultaneously. Ah, the sea.

I have rolls of film I need to pick up tomorrow and get scanned in, and I cannot wait to show you more of Oregon. I hope for now that my words will do.

2017, you can rot in hell, but I’ll remember you fondly.

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Wow, 2017, what a simultaneous adrenaline rush of a year. I felt like I was always battling a dumpster fire outside my house but also consistently smiling while doing it.

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Biggest accomplishments: Writing a really, really solid thesis I was super proud of, defending it, and getting my Master of the Arts degree from University of Victoria. I got to write about an incredible, strong, funny, complex, and real woman named Evelyn Cameron, who settled in Terry, Montana in 1891 and died there in 1928.

Also, having a military professor at a school in British Columbia tell me he was grossed out by my conference presentation in Qualicum regarding blood transfusion techniques in World War I.

Getting to move in with Logan in our little yellow house. We dated long distance while I was in graduate school and have only ever gotten to spend a few months at a time with each other. Moving in with somebody, which I’ve never done, was terrifying and a fucking blast. We managed to get our shit together and put everything we owned (very little) and donated furniture (a lot) into a U-Haul and a truck and unpack it all, without injuries. However, at the end of it, Logan did say “you’re about 70% weaker than I thought”. Oops!

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Biggest setback: Spending four months unemployed in Missoula, feeling like a garbage person and having really really bad mental health days. Being unemployed as somebody with an advanced degree, a good work ethic, and an able body was humiliating and uncomfortable. Sorry to anybody I vented to a bit too much during that time- I felt paralyzed with frustration, anger, and fear.

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Places I went to: We went to Glacier National Park in July, and did some hiking and photographing up at Logan Pass! I made Logan take a picture in front of the Logan Pass sign, which he did but only begrudgingly.

Logan surprised me with tickets to see Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds in San Francisco, so we went and stayed with my friend Adrienne. We got to soak in an Edvard Munch show at the SFMOMA, which was absolutely a joy, eat some really good Malaysian food, pho, and see the famous/infamous San Francisco Bay fog creep up all around us. At the Nick Cave concert I openly wept a few times.  It was amazing.

In March I surprised Logan as he flew back to the States from Brazil and we got to see Patti Smith with our friend Mary, who has been busy kicking ass in law school. We also go to see the Guillermo del Toro show at the Minneapolis Museum of Art! It was so wicked to see the props and the art that influenced his films, which I love so much.

In May I went to Cape Cod with my family to see my dad’s side of our family, and I got to spend time by the Atlantic, bought a really lovely dress, ate a lot of amazing food in Provincetown with my aunts, and saw Exa, my amazing friend from Boston. 35305006476_a766fbd820_c

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Goals I set in 2017:

To photograph myself more, and not hide behind the lens as much. I did this quietly, in the morning, on my long walks before most people were out. I still get too nervous to ask people to take my picture!

To get my MA done this year on time! Somehow, with a really intense writing schedule from my thesis supervisor (Thanks Dr. Cleves!) it happened. It not only happened, but I got to write something I would call compelling, and I seriously enjoyed putting my thesis together and molding it from a pile of documents and a lot of muddled thoughts.

To roll with the punches more. I am a bit controlling and introverted at times, as I have spent much of my adult life living in places without a lot of friends or people to check in with, and as such I have become independent to the point that to this day it’s difficult for me to let others drive me around or trust that when Logan goes to the store he’ll get everything we need.

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For 2018 I want to: 

Learn Portuguese really, really well so that when I go to Brazil this year I can speak and understand what people are saying, or at least some of it.

Save more money so that the things I need (a visa to Brazil, plane tickets, student loan money) are taken care of and there’s a little left over.

To photograph more medium format film- I haven’t shot more than ten rolls of 120 film in my life, but I always love it, and I love scanning it in. The perfect square is also a very satisfying thing to look at, and the negatives are SO BIG and BEAUTIFUL!

To watch more film noir and crochet more. In 2015, while I worked a really awful job with the worst boss(es) you could possibly imagine, the only thing that saved my sanity was coming home, watching an old movie, and making something with my hands.

Make photographs I am proud of and get more creative with my photographs. Maybe even make a little money off of them this year!

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The Big Island on Film

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How do I even begin to sum up 6 days on Hawai’i’s biggest island? It was, in short, too brief of a time to even begin to scratch the surface of everything to do.

We snorkeled in the cool, clear ocean, seeing fish and eels and anemones. We ate shaved ice all over the place, our hands getting sticky and the sugary goodness making us smile after a long day hiking or exploring. We hiked at Pololu Beach outside Hawi, and fell in love with large, complicated trees that looked like they had some stories to tell. We walked around tide pools and saw sea slugs and other invertebrates, and walked around four hundred year old walls made with free masonry by the Hawaiians at a sacred place by the sea. I fed tiny, tiny bits of papaya to a bright green gecky outside Hilo, and found out that those geckos do not like little bits of tomato. We slept a lot, and slept well. We got sunburned at the beach and I got to see a pod of dolphins playing in the distance. The island felt wild most of the time, and uninhabited or scarcely so. We drove way up high in between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa and saw little shrubs begin to tenaciously take root in the hardened lava rocks, making way for grasses, trees, and other flora to make their stand. I felt happiness and nostalgia and a love for the sea so intense that at one point I wanted to just sit and become part of the rocks I was sitting on and just listen to the waves crash again and again.

But don’t listen to my hastily formed words that are now almost three weeks old. My images are much more comprehensive.

Reclaiming autumn and my memories.

9986656434_0654f90358_c9986642245_3c0ec8a16a_c9986759853_f440ec7b78_c9986633724_eab5e76e2a_c9986763283_394f786f74_c11593871204_85eedcc006_c9986611765_8618141283_c9986629464_711396d618_cI took some really beautiful photographs of autumn in 2013 when I was living in Bozeman. The problem was, I was dating somebody, one of those I-want-to-forget-you-forever somebodies who inflicted traumas and wasn’t necessarily a great somebody. They still quietly haunt the edges of my memories of these photographs, and that pisses me off to no end. So, I’m reclaiming them, because they’re damn fine photographs of beautiful places I am so glad I saw.

A few of them were taken on a beautiful, bare peak high up in the Gallatin National Forest. I remember how a lightning storm came in quickly over the mountains, and it made the air feel strange, and how the rain came down in fat, shameless drops, dribbling down the steep hillside while I ran to the car to escape. I remember being scared and excited by the fast-changing mountain weather, and how with the sunset the temperature dropped quickly. I remember getting my film back and being so pleased with the colors, with the memories they would bring me in the future.

Some others are taken on another part of that massive national forest, up behind Chico Hot Springs. There was a burn area, full of skeleton-like trees, with a creek running through this sterile-seeming landscape, in colors muted by the clouds. My hair was wet and my skin was parched from soaking in the hot springs, and I wanted to lay down and take a nap surrounded by the silence of the place. It was beautiful and so eerie.

I also visited my sister while she was working in Yellowstone breaking up bear jams, ticketing tourists, sharing a cabin with a wicked roommate, and spending time with wolf biologists, who are a consistently strange people.  Some of the dudes offered to share moonshine they made in their bathtubs, and I heard tales of moving dead bison, meeting the oddest visitors, and talking to the wolf photographers who spend their lives following wolf packs in the Lamar Valley. On my way home, I stopped in Livingston to drop off some library books for her (Livingston was the nearest town to Yellowstone with a library), and walked around town for the day, having the most amazing honey peach pie in a little bakery while reading an old issue of National Geographic and buying the second book in the Dune series from a secondhand bookshop. It was a weirdly warm day and the town wasn’t its usual, windy self. I drove around the quiet neighborhoods of the tiny town and marveled at the mountains, taking my time getting home to my apartment driving over the mountain pass. Fat, fluffy clouds abounded that day. It was a textbook perfect day in my mind.

I also spent time in Hyalite Canyon by myself for the first time that fall. I went hiking and found footprints and encountered dogs and hikers and smelled the fresh air as much as possible. Bozeman, while being a money-soaked place that I have come to loathe, has access to some of the best wilderness close by, where moose and bear roam on the National Forest, and where your access to Yellowstone is literally two hours away. It was a joy to be able to hike in the morning with the sun streaming in in the most loving, welcoming way. I remember feeling like I was at peace with the world on those brief hikes.

That’s the tricky thing about memory. As a historian, I have learned that memories change quickly and easily, and are heavily susceptible to fast re-writing and shifting. It doesn’t help that our minds are wired to remember the negative things the best as a survival tool. It’s very difficult to recover from negative memories and to not think about those dark corners of your mind where you’ve stashed all the shit, the sticky, messy tarpit of awful. For me to be able to look at these pictures and not think about somebody is a victory in more ways than one. I did not make these photographs for anybody but myself, and they are mine to reclaim, recover, and enjoy. I’m sharing them with y’all so that perhaps you can, too.

Cloudscapes and thoughtscapes

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Cornbread muffins are cooling on the counter and the smell feels like a blanket. It’s early for a Saturday night but I feel exhausted in more ways than one.

We made pizzas last night and I have finessed two more cover letters to a point where I feel like they communicate what I want: That I’m capable and kind. At this point, it feels like a task that will never end. When will I wake up at 7am to get ready to go to work again? When will I have coworkers? When will that quiet assurance of a paycheck coming into my hands happen?

On Monday I worked for a day for a temp agency, filling in an admin position in an office for the day. It felt good to pack a lunch and spend a day at a desk pretending I knew what I was doing. Poor pay but damn, it felt right to be working again. I’ve been working since I was fifteen, after all.

Life is not just that limbo of unemployment, though it can feel like it. We finally had rain, steady rain that gently soaked everything around it. It was cold and we turned on the heat in our home for the first time since we moved here almost four months ago. I have found a place near our house full of locals who tell each other great stories in the booths there. I have heard men discuss the abstract art market, how to properly care for cattle, the benefits of tea over coffee, and other conversational snippets that are lovely to hear. This week I devoured The Picture of Dorian Gray finally, after having a copy in the house for a month or two now. It was brilliant and sassy and everything Wilde means to me. I have always loved the audacity that Wilde writes with, the sheer wit and breakneck pace of conversation about seemingly useless things driving you to turn each page faster and faster. The ending was brilliant, the book was horrifying, and the dense description was fantastic.

Anyway, here are some clouds I photographed on film from the plane that took me to Victoria about a month ago. The sunset was the most incredible I’ve ever seen, and the clouds and sky were beyond words.

My favorite food & coffee places in Victoria.

Hey y’all. I’m in mourning already for Victoria’s food and drink options, so I’ve decided to compile a list of my favorite places to grab a bite or a coffee! I want to do another for my favorite bars/nightlife places, so stay tuned! If you’re in Victoria, check these places out. I mostly lived on a really tight budget so the places noted below are mostly for those who can’t afford a fancy meal. Enjoy the pictures too! I don’t have pictures of every place but almost.

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PHO VY on Fort

This pho place, nestled in between a bunch of small shops on Fort Street, serves up amazing pho, bun, and other Vietnamese goods in a no-frills manner that I love. It’s a cash only place that has great windows for people watching and TVs that regularly show weird game shows and maybe an old X-Men movie or two. Fancy? No. Cheap? Yes. Delicious? Oh my god. This is my favorite place to come when I feel off, need a pick-me-up, or want to take visitors. Everybody who has visited me has been taken here, without exception. My loyalty and love for Pho Vy will never die. As a Montanan who comes from a pho-free land, being able to have cheap pho whenever I wanted was my definition of being spoiled.

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CRUST BAKERY on Fort

Literally down the street from Pho Vy, this bakery is tiny, with almost no seating, but has some of the most delectable pastries and other gluten filled goods I’ve ever had. Their sour cherry pastries are incredible, the ham tomato basil croissant a fucking work of art, and even just their regular croissants are a messy, buttery, legit ode to what butter and flour do together. I love going here after an early morning walk and grabbing something on my final trek home, or getting a croissant to eat later when I’m too lazy to eat real meals.

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DISCOVERY COFFEE on Blanshard

There are multiple branches of Discovery Coffee, a Victoria BC staple, but I was lucky enough to live near the newest branch on Blanshard St. I went there 3-4 days of the week, usually around 7am, and sat in the same seat every day. The baristas got to know me, and they were super friendly. I love their cortado, and they have great cornbread and doughnuts brought in daily from local bakeries. The atmosphere is awesome- lots of locals stopping in every day, people reading, business meetings, etc. and the vibe was excellent. I can say I got about 65-75% of my best writing done at that little place early in the morning before most people are up and busy.

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HABIT COFFEE on Pandora

Habit Coffee has no Wifi, as they’ll sometimes tell you with a little more sass than necessary. That being said, they have good coffee and the downtown Pandora branch has great art, lighting, and atmosphere. I loved going in and perusing their awesome selection of magazines to read, and spent many a rainy gloomy morning tucked in there writing in my diary, writing postcards, or devouring books.

 

FERRIS OYSTER BAR on Yates

This place serves up amazing oysters in multiple varieties, makes a wicked sidecar and Negroni, and they know what they’re doing with seafood and pasta. I recommend making a reservation. The prices are steeper (think $20-30 per entree) but the food is always excellent. I’ve been there exactly three times and it has always been such a great place to take family or friends when we’re feeling fancy.

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BEAVERTAIL STAND on Broughton

Is this a chain? Yes. Is it legitimately Canadian? Up for debate (my Calgarian friend noted that the first time she had a Beavertail it was at Epcot in Florida…) but damn, fried dough with delicious toppings and wicked gelato on the cheap will always be on my menu. The guy who runs the Beavertail stand in Victoria is also one of the nicest guys- he is always down for a joke or a small chat, and he will gladly cut a Beavertail in half for anybody who can’t handle a whole one (seriously though why would you not eat a whole one, they’re amazing!). My favorite is the Beavertail with Nutella or the Skor toppings.

SUSHI FIELD off Fairfield

Sushi Field is my little secret place in Victoria that is entirely underrated because it’s a bare bones sushi place in a strip mall near the ocean. But, dude, I can tell you that the best sushi I’ve had has consistently come from places like this- where it’s not fancy, dark, or sleek, but where the food speaks more than the setting. I love their sashimi (oh my god the salmon!) and the maki rolls are amazing. The food is all made in house, even the salad dressing, and you can tell that the quality is high as soon as you taste it. The sushi is also dirt cheap and it’s off the downtown/tourist track so it’s rarely full. Also, if you’re looking for a cheap date idea, get some sushi to go, walk through the graveyard (I find them romantic), and settle down by the nearby beach for a lovely picnic!

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LITTLE JUMBO on Fort

This little tucked back restaurant on Fort offers super cozy dining with wicked food options. I ate there with Ella when she visited and I was so, so happy. Eating is my favorite hobby after taking naps, and Little Jumbo has amazing dishes (hello duck!) that hit the spot. At about the same price point as Ferris, this is a place you’d take a date or a family for a celebration, but super worth it.

LA TANA BAKERY at Fan Tan Alley

This tiny little bakery, tucked underground right near the entrance to Fan Tan Alley on Pandora, is run by a Milanese man, Claudio. Claudio can be found regularly speaking Italian in the kitchen while churning out delicious pastries and bread goods (one of his staff noted, “I don’t understand what he’s saying about 90% of the time”). The farinatas are amazing, the fagottini is delicious, and the bread stares at you from the walls with beautiful color and smells. After living in southern Switzerland, only an hour from where Claudio hails, I can tell you that this place is as Italian as they come- and it felt so good to find a little place that felt so familiar to where I was living in college. There’s also coffee! On top of this, I love La Tana because they compost and recycle and make sure that they have almost no carbon footprint. Woo!

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CAFFE FANTASTICO on Humboldt (In the Parkside Hotel)

This little cafe serves local wine, beer, coffee, and little dishes. I love it for the location and the cozy corners- it was so close to my apartment, and a great place to settle in and peruse a book and sip a good latte. Located inside the posh Parkside Hotel, the bathrooms there are also A+ (yes I take this into consideration!) because they’re in the hotel lobby. They have good little breakfast bites, like egg sandwiches and bagels, and the prices are super fair. Caffe Fantastico has three branches around Victoria, each with their own vibe/specialty, and this one is the sort of cafe branch. The others are larger, with more lighting and food options, but this one had the exact sort of vibe for a rainy morning where I could escape my apartment and take a stroll and smell the outside world without having to trek.

Before the defense

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Last week I went to an interview for a job I thought was going to be awesome but it ended up being not at all what I thought. Halfway through the interview, I was asked, “what is your biggest accomplishment?” and I paused. My thesis. My beautiful, eloquent, hard worked thesis. I knew then that this interview was a waste of my time and my interviewer’s. I called later to have them take my name off of a list. I cried when I got home to Logan, knowing that I wanted more. That aching compulsion to be pushing myself made my stomach feel queasy and I sobbed, harder than I should have.

I defended that beautiful thesis last Friday and I did well. I did better than well. I managed to answer every question, even the odd ones, and I left feeling a mix of elation and exhaustion. Hibernation sounded amazing- wake up three months later, as winter comes, and shake the cobwebs off my eyes and start over. But here I am, and it is Monday, and life continues. Except, now I am a Master of the Arts. I can put an obnoxious, little “M.A.” next to my name in email signatures if I choose (I think I will not do this).

Anyway, here are some film photographs from the last two weeks. A quick day trip to Kalispell for ice cream, used books, and terrible sushi. A fiery sunset that my film failed to capture in all it’s glory (but can a camera ever really properly do a great sunset justice?). A few moments lingering on the side of the road with Logan, surrounded by smoke and fire, watching the end of another day. Sunflowers all abloom in my parent’s yard, quietly exuding beauty without knowing it. I am trying, almost desperately, to make moments that will create the idea of a summer that has not, thus far, been fraught with a cocktail of stress, tears, and anxiety that has been almost uncontrollable. If that leaks out into this blog a lot, I cannot help it. But damn, y’all, it’s also been such a good summer. We moved into a house, had some irises bloom that were heartbreakingly beautiful and fleeting, we traveled to San Francisco, I’ve gotten to see friends I haven’t seen in months and years, and life is mostly good. There’s money for food, a roof over our head, and I’m lucky enough to be on Medicaid while I look for work.

What do you guys do to deal with stress and do self care? I’ve always been really good about it but not being able to be outside due to the smoke has made that harder.

Hike to Hidden Lake

35964873586_855a03e704_c35964872496_f265bba2df_c35195516913_c0ddae99fc_c35195513933_0bc71ddbd7_cI brought two canisters of bear spray with us and put them in an easily-reachable outside pocket on my pack. A few weeks back we had met up with some friends and one of them recalled being charged by a grizzly bear on their first day backpacking in Glacier, and how they hadn’t grabbed the bear spray fast enough. Luckily, the grizzly had merely done a bluff charge and veered off into the woods, away from them.

Not my idea of a good time, I thought, so I brought more than one canister. We also packed water, sunscreen, and snacks. As we got to the Logan Pass Visitor Center I checked that we had everything and got out. The parking lot was full, and the Center was swarmed with tourists, many in flip-flops, learning about this incredible part of the world.

As we walked on a trail behind the Center, somebody noted a mother grizzly bear with two cubs in the distance. I pulled out my binoculars and peered out, seeing her calmly making her away across a grassy knoll with her two cubs in tow. It was beautiful to see them from a safe distance, where we weren’t bothering her and she wasn’t making us nervous. What I do like about bears and most other wild creatures is that they, honestly, don’t want to hang out with us either. They want to mind their own business and go about surviving, something that in many parts of the world is harder due to human encroachment and climate change.

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We began hiking to Hidden Lake, but part of the trail was closed due to bear activity. There were enough people on the trail that my fears of encountering bears were mostly gone. Bears have an incredible sense of smell and the number of warm human bodies out and about would waft to any living animal like a red flag, because I bet you humans stink. 

As we hiked further, we encountered snow. Slushy, wet, slick snow! Logan marveled at the snow in July, and we trekked through it, trying not to slip or slide. As we hiked about a mile in, we saw our first mountain goat! We saw several more as we kept hiking. There were several on one of the boardwalks, determined to get to somewhere else, and so I moved off the boardwalk into the brush. While mountain goats aren’t massive, they’re still wild animals, and several of them had their kids with them, and I didn’t want to get in the way and cause them stress or make them nervous. It was incredible to see them so close, though, while they’re shedding their thick winter coats and looking shaggy. Their expressive faces and slow pace made it easy to stare. We get to share the world with so many natural things and as a human that makes me feel all the feels. We’re so destructive and polluting and unnatural in some ways and it’s amazing to be around things that are very different and humbling.

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The views at the end of the trail were amazing. Lush green valleys dotted with snow laid before us, while healthy looking, proud trees stood in thick groves. The bare rock of the mountains reached towards the sky and we all looked, silently, absorbing the beauty of everything. The air was cool and fresh and it felt good to inhale and smell the natural smells. Small, delicate flowers laid by the trail, showing off purple and yellow hues. Red slate rocks added blush to the landscape.

As we headed back, my mind buzzed with questions and my heart felt full. I bounded down through the snow quickly and as we got back to the car I felt absolutely exhausted and invigorated simultaneously.

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Beargrass & Coffee

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Beargrass and coffee might seem an odd combination but the two go hand in hand as part of a great day.

Beargrass is a funny looking flower that often thrives in burn areas here in northern Montana and it’s one of the signature sights in Glacier. We found a thriving patch and I went right ahead and stuck my nose in the blooms (they smell heavy, musky, and wonderful). Beargrass is one of those things that in my mind define Montana in the summer. It rewards hikers deep in many of our National Forests and it always looks a bit odd in a Tim Burton-esque way. Nature really is the world’s greatest designer, and if you don’t agree we need to have a good chat.

We started off the morning having coffee and breakfast at the Swiftcreek Cafe in Whitefish. Chelsea helped me make the coffee images by pouring the cream while I photographed and we devoured our food to prepare for a full day in the park. Logan didn’t like Whitefish, as it felt too “utopic” to him, and as I looked at the sleek, new, buildings built in “rustic” styles to attract out of state wealth, I agreed. We would later fully cement that idea as we stumbled into a nightclub with strobe lights sure to trigger seizures, nestled in this ski resort town. Montana, you’re full of the strangest surprises.