13 August 2008

Mexico or bust…..

I was finally on my way home. I had a quick flight to Madrid, cleared customs and hopped aboard an Air Europa flight bound for none other than Cancun, Mexico. Ok, so maybe I wasn't on my way 'home' per say, but I would be back on North American soil and meeting up with friends for the last 2+ weeks of my journey. However, I must confess, I was a bit nervous for my Mexican holiday. Not because I was fearful of Mexicans or because I had to figure out how many Peso's to the USD, but because of the reason I was heading to Cancun in the first place…..to shoot a friend's wedding. This is something that I've never wanted to do, but for some reason when they asked me about it I agreed to it almost immediately. I'm not sure why, but some where deep down I guess I wanted the challenge. I wanted to push my own limits. Could I be the sole person responsible for capturing their day, their moment of love and commitment? What if I screwed things up? How could I ever look at them again? Sure I've received compliments here and there on my photography, but this was huge. So at the end of the day I said 'yes'. And there I was landing in Cancun……nervous…..wondering what was waiting around the corner, and wondering how I was going to pull it off. I had 2 days in Cancun to talk myself down from the ledge before heading a few hours south to Tulum to shoot the wedding. But the journey begins……… in Cancun….

Now is when I would post some pictures so you can see what Cancun looks like, but instead I'll just tell you to walk into any travel agency and there are countless brochures for you to gawk over and awe the huge resorts and the pristine beaches. Or maybe you remember from your college days a few months before Spring Break hit and magically fliers promoting all inclusive travel packages from the chilly north east down to tropical Cancun appeared so you and your fellow Spring Breakers could cram 4 college students in a room, binge drink and have irresponsible sexual encounters with practical strangers (i.e. other US college students from other universities looking for the same blissful week in the sun as you), and you can do all of this to your hearts content, for that week anyway. This was Cancun. To put it mildly, and you can quote me on this, "Cancun exudes everything that I've never wanted in a vacation destination." I can not tell you how true that is. I spent 2 days there and that was 2 days too many. If I never go back it will be too soon. So no, there will be no pictures of Cancun to post……and I'm not sorry about that either. If Cancun holds a special place in your heart from those college years with memories of old friends and random hook ups….some a little less blurry than others, then I feel sorry for you. And would tell you that if you want to travel and experience other cultures, you need to get off of this continent to do it.

Now that I have gotten my fill of Cancun bashing out of the way, I returned to the airport to meet up with Jeff, Nancy and Kelly to hop in the smallest rental car we could find and head south to Tulum. We were bound for Brian and Gina's wedding on the beach, where bare feet and white attire were required. They chose to have a traditional Mayan ceremony where all of the wedding guests gathered in a circle on the beach, the bride circumnavigates her ring of friends and family and enters the circle to join her husband to be. With the Mayan ceremony complete we all retired to the beach front restaurant for refreshments and the awaiting mariachi band. Of course prior to all of these festivities there were a few days for all of the guests to jump aboard the catamaran and venture out into the ocean for some snorkeling. This was followed up by a casual stroll through the local Mayan ruins that sit perched on the ocean front with magnificent grandeur. This is the way to do a destination wedding, friends, family, relaxation by the water and on the water, getting in some exploration of local ruins and to cap it off, circle up on the sand with all of your loved ones for your exchange of vows. Congrats Brian and Gina! I wish you all the best!

In an attempt to not post all of the wedding shots here, I've selected a choice few for your viewing pleasure. I would also like to note, once I was knee deep into shooting my first wedding, it really wasn't all that bad. The stress went away almost immediately and the familiarity of the camera gear and conditions took over and I adjusted as necessary. Would I do it again…..sure thing! In a heart beat. Will I start shooting weddings for work? Not a chance….I value my weekends but would be happy to indulge some close friends to help them remember their special day. Never say never….

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Following the wedding, the Sevich Clan and I filled the tiny rental car yet again and raced inland on the Yucatan Peninsula through multiple police check points and towards one of the great Mayan ruins, Chichen Itza. The huge temple, El Castillo is the center piece of this site standing far above the tree line and still in remarkably good shape. It is an impressive sight to see and well worth the journey. As we were exploring the grounds, we also stumbled upon the Great Ball Court. This was the largest known Ball Court of the Mesoamerican times stretching almost 550 feet long and over 230 wide while the walls towered almost 40 feet up. The single ring on each side were the goals for the teams of the time. Maybe this is where basketball was born, but the stakes were a bit different for sure. While we were at the ruins, we were going from shady area to shady area as it was sweltering. So on the way back we decided to stop off at one of the local cenotes. These are all over the region and all vary in size and depth. They are essentially large sink holes with a swimming hole in the bottom. Very impressive indeed!

It was great to be able to explore and see sights such as these while being at a wedding. I think destination weddings are a perfect cross for a holiday and wedding in one. You don't end up with a huge guest list just because it takes so much time and effort to actually get there and then you end up with just those that are closest to you to celebrate your union on your own grounds. Very nice indeed!!!!

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From the Yucatan Peninsula I caught a flight out of Cozumel and over to Mexico City. I was excited for this journey as I was going to get to connect with an old friend of mine Azul. Some call him Azul, some call him Blu and some call him Sergio. He's a skydiver friend I met long ago and could immediately tell he was a good soul. He's not only a skydiver, but a singer, an artist an entrepreneur, and a hell of a tour guide. I never got to know him very well before now, but like most of the friends I've reconnected with over this journey, he opened his home to me and showed me all that Mexico City had to offer as he invited me into his world.

People often ask me what surprised me most on my journey. I usually say Israel. I was blown away by how amazingly nice it is as are the people. It by far was one of the biggest and best surprises I came across. Well, Mexico City is a close second. I had no idea that it was as hip of a city as it is. Mexico City is just as cosmopolitan as the rest of the major cities of the world. With over 22 million people in and around, it offers all of the modern luxuries, all of the transportation and all of the fantastic restaurants that the rest of them do. The people are generally nice and welcoming and it honestly, seemed like it would be a great place to live for a while. My first venture out I caught a glimpse of a guy riding his Segway, in traffic and talking on his cell phone. Yes, Mexico City. The love of art is evident here as there were public sculptures on display all over the city and even more evident when Azul took me on a tour of artist and activist Diego and Frida's house and showed me some of the true history in Mexico City.

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We were also able to view a world famous photographer that was holding an exhibition right in the main square of Mexico City, Plaza de la Constitucion. It's a massive square right in the heart of the city and one of the entire sides is the National Palace. I was quite pleased when I said we should see if we could get into the Palace and Azul replied that he had never been inside. Finally, I was able to share a new exploration with one of my hosts. It's always nice for everyone involved to be treading on new territory. After we passed the metal detectors and ID checks, we explored the grounds to find several huge murals painted by none other than Diego himself. A very cool experience indeed!

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My last hurrah in Mexico City would be a trip on the back of Azul's BMW motorcycle out to the Mayan Temple known as Teotihuacan. This was a truly massive site and dwarfed the temples back near Tulum. We scaled the Pyramid of the Sun, strolled down the Avenue of the Dead and ended up at the Pyramid of the Moon. This enormous complex gave tourists virtually unlimited access to run up and down these pyramids and get views that I'm sure in a few year's times tourists won't be able to get!

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As I'm sure by now you can tell, I had a blast in Mexico! So much thanks to Brian and Gina for letting me be a part of their day and a million thanks to Azul for being such a gracious host. Mi Casa es Su Casa……that is of course once I get a Casa ;) I can't thank you all enough for everything. It was great to get to see Mexico through the eyes of a local and to have my eyes opened during the process.

At the end of April I flew to San Diego and on to my brother's place in northern Idaho. My summer seemed to turn into a repeat of last summer, driving from one event to the next, from Team Mandrin training camp to the next camp. Some how my summer filled up before I knew what was happening. I find myself spending most of my time between Chicago with the team and Toronto with friends.

I'm currently in search of a new career but also trying to figure out what I want to do when I grow up. The interesting thing is that as I say this to more and more people, it become more and more evident that even people towards the ends of their working careers in their 50's & 60's are still trying to figure out what THEY want to do when they grow up as well. The realization that you do what makes you happy is settling in and I'm just trying to figure out a balance of doing what makes me happy while also providing the independence to travel the world and visit friends. You'd be amazed at what you can accomplish with a laptop, cell phone and a good internet connection. So with that said, the search is on. In the mean time, I'm going to plant my feet some where in North America. I've been toying with places like Salt Lake, Chicago, Denver, San Diego and Atlanta…..but currently in the lead is Toronto. I'm excited to see how it all pans out.

In the mean time, I'm going to be working on putting together a coffee table style book of some of my travels. The goal is for Spring '09, but we shall see. In the mean time the travels are far from over. While the winter will most likely lead to work and actually earning some money instead of spending it, mid October is going to take me back and fourth from the Arizona desert to the islands of the Galapagos off the coast of Ecuador. The Sevich Tsunami is back in action for another tour to be immediately followed by the US Skydiving Nationals in Eloy. Both should be great experiences and I can't wait to see how they turn out.

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