Jul 4, 2014

Photos of Football Fields around South America: Colombia, Brazil and Ecuador

>> crossposted on the '30 Home Games' blog

I've been compiling photos of hoops found in my travels for my @30HomeGames Instagram under hashtags like #hoopsoftheworld and #basketballeverywhere. In my time in South America I rarely saw them used, especially not for Basketball.

The truth is every sporting ground in the continent really doubles as a Football Field (cancha). This made my mission to find a basketball experience quite the scavenger hunt. Football is 'THE' sport of the region, everything else falls a distant second. There were no shortage of "canchas" to be found in every Corner of South America, from isolated villages in the Amazon to the iconic beaches of Rio. With all eyes on Brazil for World Cup 2014, people are seeing the display of passion South Americans are known for. Not only towards their Football but also their pride of Country and zest for life.
Bogota, Colombia (Dec 2013)
In South America the dual Basketball/Football canchas
are only ever used for Football
My most memorable Football experience was an organised match in Córdoba, Argentina which pitted the French against the Argentinians. I was acquainted with most of the players the day previous at a University mixer with expats and French exchange students. I played as an honorary Frenchman, the only outsider of the group. I was of little help as we were outclassed by the South Americans, though we did make it respectable by the end with the help of an extra man. There were no photos of the day which only heighten the surrealness of the dusty match at dusk on the stretch of fields at 'La Gran 7'.

I never did watch a live game, many might consider this blasphemous considering the ample 6 months I spent in the Football mad continent. I did have the pleasure of joining in the festivities in Medellin, as Atlético Nacional won the domestic League after besting their rivals in Cali. The streets were awash with people and celebration paraphernalia, from fireworks and foam to more illicit fare. I was also invited to a Corporate Watch party in Caracas hosted by a Whisky maker to watch Venezuela battle a formidable Chile team for a World Cup berth. Venezuela put on a gutsy display but were clearly outmatched.

Medellín, Colombia (Dec 2013)
Liga Postobón Final: Atlético Nacional vs Deportivo Cali
I've also seen small towns celebrate a Football Championship. Football in rural areas can command an entire Village's attention, it's entire population huddled around one sporting event. Vilcabamba won the Championship for it's league, interestingly it was sponsored by the German's-run resort I was staying at. That night the Town Square usually occupied by Expat hippies was replaced by Jubilant local football heroes salsaing in celebration.
Vilcabamba, Ecuador (Nov 2013)
The whole town in attendance
I've compiled some photos which illustrate the spectrum of Canchas you'll find around South America:
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Oct 2013)
Santa Marta, Colombia (Dec 2013)
Montañita, Ecuador (Nov 2013)

Malacatos, Ecuador (Nov 2013)
Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve, Ecuador (Nov 2013)
Salento, Colombia (Dec 2013)
My best reference for the madness that must be happening on the streets of Brazil was my time in Medellin as they celebrated Atlético Nacional taking the Championship. Colombians know how to celebrate. I've tipped them to make the Finals which means I see them upsetting host Nation Brazil. If World Cup attendees have concerns that this means an end to the revelry. Rest assured, Colombians are the best equipped to keep the party going should Brazil exit. The Colombians have been exciting on and off the field in this World Cup.
Atlético Nacional Campeon 2013
Felicidades Medellin!

Jun 24, 2014

World Cup inspired Photo Triggers: Europe 2011 and South America 2013

It's a fortnight into the World Cup and half of the Group stages have already been decided. Admittedly I'm not a big Football fan (the Basketball World Cup will be my International Sporting highlight for 2014) but no other event brings as much International festivity as the FIFA World Cup every 4 years.

During the last World Cup in 2010, Sydney erected a large TV Screen that emerged from the Darling Harbour wharf. After nightshift finished, I'd brave the cold and watch a 5am Football match flanked by International supporters. After my first Live site match I remember thinking "I didn't know we had that many Mexicans and French in Sydney". This wouldn't be the last time I'd be impressed by the foreign representation in Sydney as International students, expats and travelers emerged to support their National Teams. I watched the World Cup Final between Holland and Spain after reuniting with a Dutch friend I made in Adelaide at her hostel. This predated my first international backpacking adventure and the German connections I made that night kicked off the type of networks that would serve me well in my 2011 EuroTrip. Those friendships also made my 2010 memorable as I developed a solid running mates for my 'Yes Man' year in Sydney.

July 12, 2010. World Cup Final at the Darling Harbour Fan Fest
via Dutch running mate MK
Since that last World Cup I traveled Europe for 13 months and South America for 6. During this Month of Football, the sight of flags and languages that remind me of those awesome experiences is heartening. A lot of my favorites for the World Cup are due to the positive associations with certain Countries. Of course I also got some tips during my recent South America trip about the best bets for the Mundial de Futbol.

Below are a selection of Trigger photos of the memorable times and friends made at Countries represented in the 2014 FIFA World Cup:
Portugal (May 2011)
Portugal: eat, pray, LOVE - Portugal sure is warm!
England (August 2011)
Trigger: Egotripping II - England, on the road again
Netherlands (August 2011)
Trigger: Crazy Times in Holland, Day 185 - Day 195
Argentina (August 2013)
Spotted: Photos from Buenos Aries - The first 48
Ecuador (November 2013)
Pro Wrestling and Mixed Martial Arts in South America
Spain (April 2011)
Spotted: Photos from Sevilla and Córdoba - The first 48
Colombia (December 2013)
The streets of Bogotá, Colombia in pictures
Australia (October 2012)
Being a kid again: Cave Clanning in La Perouse, Sydney
Germany (December 2011)
Limerence: Snowboarding, Skating, Surfing, Christmas and Love
Brazil (December 2013)
Hells Angels Motorcycle Club Open House, Porto Alegre
In case you're wondering here are my World Cup Tips:
- I always bet for Team USA and against England. It's worked a treat the last 3 World Cups.
- Chilombuay! I had Uruguay beating Brazil whenever they faced. As it shakes out I feel Chile might have the honors. Colombia has been the most fun whilst Uruguay has been gutsy, Colombia should move on.
- Netherlands and Germany are the obvious European representatives to go deep.
- Colombia, Netherlands at the end on the  wish of a goalfest Final 

May 23, 2014

Finding Parkour in Sydney and around the World: Colombia, Venezuela and Germany

Parkour is the art of navigating from Point A to Point B in as efficient a manner as possible using one's body and surroundings to propel themselves safely. I first started Parkour in 2010 when a colleague at work explained there were Sunday workshops just up the road (Parkour NSW). On my first day I coincidentally reconnected with an old friend from Design school I hadn't seen in years. The group struck me with its inclusiveness, boys and girls, ages ranging from 15 to 35. You'd see Parents with strollers supporting their kids as they gave it a go.

I have a short attention span and as such have never trained or persisted with a craft. My friend remains a Parkour regular [obsessive] to this day. Advancing with the discipline, making lifelong friends and traveling interstate with the community. I've watched the scene develop as new spaces and initiatives have popped up around Sydney.

I explained to him that my best joys are moments when things are synchronous, when the improbable occurs because things fortuitously connect. Like hitting a game-winner when you've barely played basketball. Its the magic appeal I find in travel. My friend remarked "In Parkour, once is never". For them its not about conquering the moment, its perfecting one's movements. An interesting and different outlook to mine.

I've found Parkour in several corners of the world, you can spot them from a distance once you develop an eye for it. Usually groups of young boys, on a makeshift obstacle or sizing one up. Wearing tracksuits and moving in a trail. I stumbled onto Parkour classes at Olympiapark München (Parkour München) on the way to the BMW museum. Though I joined them impromptu, the teacher was gracious enough to repeat his instructions in English. I quizzed some kids (DesplazArte) I spotted training at the ridiculously active Parque del Este in Caracas. I had just dislocated my finger earlier that day and acrobatics was the furthest thing from my mind. I also happened upon a National meet by the Humilladero Bridge in Popayán (Ville Blanche). Like all the encounters mentioned, language proved a barrier. As I hadn't developed my craft I couldn't prove my worth through physical demonstration. It was a chaotic day with many participants traveling from around the Country. I didn't press them too much with my limited Spanish, all I wanted was a souvenir T-shirt. No suerte.

Aji'sie Popayán 2013
(4th National Parkour meet in Colombia)
Dog down
Down Dog
Saltar
Out-of-Towners
Correr
Watch the Somersault in motion
Yellow leader
Find more Colombia (2013) photos here
I'm not completely inept at Parkour however. I trained for several sessions in indoor and outdoor spaces around Sydney. Whilst I never mastered the cat pass or rolls, I'm confident with wall climbs. It has practical uses especially for Urban exploration. Its come in handy Caveclanning the bunkers of Sydney, tracking down a Spanish lookout and scaling walls to find sleeping quarters in Portugal.

For anyone interested in Parkour, Sydneysiders will soon have a new destination to practice their craft. Based in Tempe it was founded by and for members of the community. The AAPES (Australian Academy of Parkour, Exercise and Self Defence) will be opening its doors June 7, 2014. Make sure you head down and check it out.
AAPES Opening! Sydney's Indoor Parkour and Self Defence location
Saturday the 7th of June is your opportunity to come hang out, grab a bbq at 1pm, listen to some music, meet members of the Parkour community from all around Australia, get some sweet givaways, sign up for classes, purchase your iconic Reach Escape shirt, and partake of possibly one the best icecreams you'll ever have (Pat and Sticks that is!)

Mar 28, 2014

'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty': Ben Stiller on hyperreality and losing yourself in the moment

<< crossposted on the 'Lets Get Real podcast' blog

Australia's Movie Guy, Marc Fennell dubbed 'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty' as "the best 2 hour Travel Agent ad you've ever seen". So its only fitting that I found this Ben Stiller feature on the Delta Airlines inflight magazine 'Sky'.

Delta Airlines' Magazine 'Sky' (December 2013): The Ben Stiller Magic
The profile written by a forgivably gushy Steve Marsh, injects some psychoanalysis of Ben Stiller
The Ben Stiller Magic
Stiller, at least in the movies he directs, has always seemed obsessed with reality --specifically with how reality is shaped (or warped) by the stuff we watch when we’re on the couch... 
"So why are you so interested in this notion of reality? It seems like your entire career has been obsessed with this idea."
"Wow," Stiller says. "I never really analyzed it. That’s interesting you say that, because I’ve never thought about it that way." He pauses.
As someone drawn to Dreams and Reality this was right up my alley.
I ask him if he ever daydreams. "No, not really," he says. "When you're making a movie like this, or any movie really, you're so in the moment, you’re not really daydreaming. But I do try to take time to appreciate the experience of doing things you wouldn't normally get to do."

He remembers one moment on the set of Mitty: "This wasn't really a daydream, but it was just kind of a moment of realization. I was in the water and we had to do a shot where the Zodiac boat is approaching me to pull me out of the water, and the only way we could get the shot was to put the camera in the boat, because it's like a POV of the boat coming at me. We were a mile or half a mile out to sea in the ocean off Iceland, and the swells were pretty big, so they dropped me in the water and just drove away. It was just a funny, surreal moment. Cause I'm really in the ocean here by myself. I couldn't see anything; the boat went far enough away that it was gone, the swells were at four feet. And I was like, This is crazy, this is actually... this is happening. I'm really in the ocean. If that boat doesn't come back... I mean, I know they know I'm here but... It's like the funny crossover of reality and movies, where you do real things but somehow you think because you're doing it for a movie that everything is OK. And, actually, the weird thing that you're doing is as dangerous or weird as it would be if there was no camera there; you're still really doing it." 
Whether its an Astronaut going about his routine or a backpacker off to his next destination there is an element of being outside yourself that is necessary to accomplish "extraordinary" things.

'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty' (2013)
Whilst walking around Cartagena I spotted this perch by the water. Not being scared of heights and with my fondness for climbing things I decided to scale it. I could be like a Pirate of the Caribbean.
Only at the top did I realise how precarious and foolish the endeavour was. What was I thinking?
From Below: Crow's Nest in Cartagena, Colombia
From above: Probably not the best idea 
We "get into the zone" or are under so much pressure we forget to appreciate the moment. When you're caught up in the moment or swept by momentum, things you never thought possible can be mundanely achieved.
We just have to remember not to appreciate them mundanely.

Mar 17, 2014

The pursuit of happiness: A collection of "Happy triggers" during travel

Happiness is a recurring theme you come across during long term travel. As you enjoy a combination of "living the dream", ample free time and are surrounded by like minds its an irresistible subject.
When the love ends and you come back to earth it can be difficult readjusting to the daily grind, inevitably you end up revisiting and reassessing how you value happiness.

1) Pharrell Williams: Happy - Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan
2) Time Magazine (July 8, 2013): The Pursuit of Happiness
3) Zen Pencils: #128 Bill Watterson - A cartoonist’s advice
You can find happiness projected everywhere when you have good thoughts. Interestingly my mood at the moment isn't great but Happiness is in the Zeitgeist and its hard to avoid these days. In one day a video of Typhoon Haiyan victims dancing to Pharrell's Chart Topper 'Happy' became viral. I also came across a 'Time Magazine' cover on the Pursuit of Happiness in the library, a Bill Waterson quote on defining happiness was referenced on my favorite podcast.

Factor in the pervasive Billion Dollar Self-Help industry and the barrage of motivational quotes on Social media, you'd be forgiven for being cynical to the sugar rush. When you're in a down mood however its a welcome antidote checking in to happier times to uplift yourself

In the spirit of good vibes I've compiled a collection of Happy Triggers in my travels:
Jacques Henri Lartigue: Why I'm getting a camera
I traveled several months without a camera around Europe. Reading a passage about "trapping" happiness" in an exhibition for French Photographer Henri Lartigue is what convinced me to finally get another one. His dynamic photos capturing people in moments of joy are full of whimsy and magic.

Cave clanning
Being a kid again: Cave Clanning in La Perouse, Sydney
This happy adventure is notable because it happened in Sydney, confirming my bias that good times are a state of mind. You don't need to be in a far off land or look to another time (past or future) to let the good times roll. Its about tapping into a spirit of wonder and finding the awe we once had as kids.

I collected songs that reminded me of moments and feelings which I dubbed as "Songs to be happy to". The triggers ranged from sports and language, to artists I met and anthems amongst friends.

Limerence: Snowboarding, Skating, Surfing, Christmas and Love
Its funny how you come across random concepts that inform your experience moving forward. Watching TV in Portugal, I heard David Brooks mention "Limerence" on Charlie Rose. Months later spending time with people lost in their passion for sport and art we bonded over those shared loves.

Let's Get Real - Episode 2 preview: Pursuit of Happiness
The documentary 'Happy' (2011) first appeared on my radar when it was referenced in the second podcast I recorded. It was a topic dear to my guest as he had been exploring its nature after the passing of his beloved mother.

VIDEO: 'Happy' (2011) trailer

The documentary has been referenced several times on the 'You Made it Weird' podcast with Pete Holmes. I will finally make the effort to watch it and plan to host a screening to watch it alongside others. As they say "Happiness is only real when shared".

Mar 9, 2014

The streets of Bogotá, Colombia in pictures (December 2013)

Bogotá, Colombia was the last destination for my 6 month South America jaunt. I spent 5 nights in the Capital during the Christmas period, hooping in the courts of La Candelaria on Christmas Day. Most of my days were spent walking the long streets, watching the locals at leisure as they rode on wheels and walked their dogs. The season brought the streets to life at night as vendors traded wares and treats like Canelazo (Cinnamon Hot Drink).
Colombian Paratrooper
Work in progress
Tiny Dancer
Reservoir Nuns
Sled Dogs
Fashion shoot wardrobe change
Purple Reign
Ride. Sleep. Dance.
The hood
Christmas Elf
Ribbons, Mirror balls, juggling, Slackline. Cielo!
General Awesomeness
Casey Jones
"Ancient spirits of evil..."
We rollin'
Street life
More Photo related posts:
- Full Ecuador album (November 2013) via Facebook
 - Jacques Henri Lartigue: Why I'm getting a camera
Street life photos in Buenos Aries and Porto Alegre
- Spotted: Photos from Buenos Aries - The first 48.
- Find all posts featuring photos here