Tuesday, August 1, 2006


Silvia is a little town about 3 hours away from Cali in the departamento (state) of Cauca. Silvia is home to an indigenous people (Indians) called Guambianos. There are many communities of indigenous folk throughout Colombia with different customs and traditions.

Pull Over!

I got pulled over today for the 1st time ever in Colombia. We were on our way back from the town of Silvia. It was a little scary being searched by soldiers with machine guns, after all, it’s something we’re not used to in the US. We had to wait while they searched us and the car thoroughly and then ran our IDs to make sure they were legit. The soldiers were really cool and let me take pictures of them while we waited. I asked them how often they caught someone with something illegal and they said, “All the time. Mostly people with an illegal firearm or false IDs.” In the recent past, Rebels often kidnapped people on roads like these and many Colombians stopped traveling. Current president Alvaro Uribe helped change that by taking a hard line on Rebels and Paramilitary groups, making it safer to travel. There are still incursions by Rebels from time to time but mostly way up in the mountains or in other remote parts of Colombia.

Monday, July 31, 2006


One of the most interesting things I’ve seen in Colombia was yesterday’s cockfight. Believe it or not they are legal here and have a fanatical following, mostly by hard core gamblers. These guys were playing dominoes and shooting dice between fights! Watching the cockfight was both intriguing and repulsive at the same time. I was sickened by the brutality of it but at the same time fascinated by how ingrained it is in the culture. Lots of people even brought their kids. It made me think about what we expose our kids to. I mean, what is worse, watching animals fight or people being decapitated on TV? What do you think?

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Last Day with Students

Today will be the last day I see most of my students for a while. They gave me a surprise “despedida”, kind of a going away party, at my student Diana’s house. It was great to spend the day together since I won't be seeing them for a year. We also decided as a group that we like working together, so . . . Since I’m going to begin teaching in at DeBurgos Elementary School in Philly again in September, I thought it would be great to start a distance learning program between these guys and some of my DeBurgos kids. We talked a lot about the things they would like to learn about people from another culture like the US and figured out how they were going to get Internet access. For now, we are going to try to work out a deal with a business in the neighborhood that offers Internet access and try to get a discount. Eventually, I hope to get a computer for them as well as Internet service to make things easier. I still have to develop a curriculum involving this project, as well as get the whole idea approved by my principal, but I think it would be a great experience for everyone, including myself. Above are some picts of of the students taken by my star pupil (and Jesus look-alike) Yesid.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

El Paraiso

If you are going to visit Philadelphia they say you have to see Betsy Ross’ House. Why? Because it is an important part of our city’s history and culture. I’ve been told that a visit to Cali is not complete without visiting the famous Hacienda de Efraín y Maria, also called El Paraiso (Paridise). It is the scene of an incredibly tragic love story. Efraín and Maria were cousins who fell in love. This relationship was frowned upon by Efraín’s father who sent him away to England to study (and to keep him away from Maria). Anyway, he promised Maria he would come back to her and they wrote countless letters back and forth professing their love. Maria gets very sick and sends for Efraín, but it is a 3 month trip from England to Colombia (at least in the 1800s), and Maria dies 3 days before Efrain gets back. Talk about a tear jerker. This story was made famous by a Colombian writer named Jorge Isaac

Festival de Buga

I’d been to the town of Buga many times, but they were celebrating their yearly festival so I took the bus there with my uncle and his wife. There were lots of arts and crafts, food, and the usual festival stuff. What I really enjoyed was my first Colombian rodeo. It was actually my first rodeo ever, there not being many cowboys in Philly. I was really impressed with how many Colombian cowboys there are and how they make sure to pass on these traditions to the next generation. I love this image of a boy racing his father. Colombian cowboys are called bacceros.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Show Time!

The students finally got to show their stuff. It was an awesome opening where all the students and their guests were bussed from their neighborhood so they could attend. There was ice cream, wine, aguardiente, and empanadas. Check out some of their pics. Everyone had a great time and the students took a great deal of pride in their work. Also above is a photo of me with employees of Foto Ackermann, who donated the processing and printing of the student’s work, along with Gonzalo Gonzalez from El Centro Cultural de Cali.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Catching a Soccer Game

Soccer is big in Colombia, like it is pretty much anywhere else (except in the US). Cali has two professional teams, Deportivo Cali and América. Just like folks from New York (with the Mets and Yankees), you are either a Cali fan or an América fan, NOT both. I am an incha (fan) of AMERICA! Only a couple of times a year do the two Cali-based teams play each other. These Clasicos are a heated rivalry with one side of the stadium wearing red for América and the other green for Cali. Unfortunately, América lost today 2-1.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Picking Out Images for Show

Today I went back to Agua Blanca where I met with the students and they critiqued each other’s work and picked out their favorites for their show next Wed. They were asked to write out a description of each image and why they chose it. Also, the students interviewed each other on video about their experiences with the program. I’m going to edit the video and have it ready to show at their opening. I’ll also post a clip here on the site somewhere for people to see. Above is Diana showing off her work to some of the kids in the neighborhood.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Photography 101

I only have a few hours to instruct my students before setting them loose to start taking pictures, so I take them to a couple of photo exhibits in downtown Cali so they can see some good photos. This gives me the opportunity to talk about some of the images I like as examples of good composition and other photographic concepts. After this, we break up into groups and set out to take some picts in the downtown area where these kids hardly ever get to go. Later, they’ll be given another camera to take home with them and photograph their neighborhoods. Above is a group shot of my students. As you can see some of the parents are participating in the project with their kids which I think is awesome.

Friday, July 7, 2006

Meeting My Students

Today I met my students near their homes in the very poor neighborhood of Agua Blanca, which reminds me in many ways of North Philadelphia where I teach. Both neighborhoods are considered by outsiders to be extremely dangerous and a breeding ground for drugs and violence. But once you are there you see that most of the people are warm and friendly, trying to make the most of their situations. When I took the above photograph in Agua Blanca I could imagine some of my students riding three on a bike down Lehigh Avenue in North Philly.

I gave the students their disposable cameras and we talked for about an hour about the project and what kinds of photographs they wanted to take. I was impressed by how seriously they are taking this project. They were really excited, most of them had never taken pictures before. I can’t wait to see them again on Monday.

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

My First Show in Colombia

Today is the opening of my 1st exhibition outside of the US here in Cali, Colombia. It is such a thrill for me to have my work in front of the people depicted in so many of my photographs. The exhibition is being held in El Centro Cultural de Cali (Cultural Center of Cali).