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Unfilled Meaning

“The idea that people from one culture are barred from understanding people in another culture stems from ignoring the role that unfilled meanings play in much of human learning, especially human learning about cultural practices. If I cannot understand that your words and gestures carry some meaning without already knowing what the meaning is, then I can never come to learn what it is you mean. But if I can realize that you are doing something meaningful, then I can put myself in the position of a child and encourage you to promote both my action and my understanding.” – Edward Reed

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Travel

“‘Place’ is something we carry with us — a summation of our inner memories mapped onto the present landscape as we traverse it.” — Martin Venezky

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Cuba

聽說水氣今天漸漸從南方移來. 大樓頂端的警示燈, 那個唯一暗示時間流逝的訊號都無法劃破陰沉的天空. 於是想起那個同樣是海島但是在記憶裡光影分明已經超過 500 年的 Trinadad. 橘紅, 陶坏黃,青瓷綠, 舊蕾絲白, 和從極深到極淺的藍, 明明白白地被光線切割出幾何的圖形, 全影裡抽著雪茄的老人, 只聞香味, 看不見臉.

這裡許多人家都有自己的天台, 樓高三層便可以平視附近高矮不齊的紅磚瓦屋頂. 屋頂除了有 Vive Fidel 塗鴉的水塔外, 最普遍的用途便是曬衣服毛巾棉被. 簡單的白色鐵桌椅隨意散落, 等著人們在傍晚的時候帶一壺冰茶, 眺望漸層的藍色天空下像一條深藍緞帶的海. 海邊的沙灘上有德國來的遊客, 加拿大來的遊客,南美洲來的遊客, 少有美國人. 那時美國還沒有開放一般人來古巴, Fidel 還有兩年才死.

mercato 裡面常是空蕩蕩的, 但牌子上有米有糖有鹽有蛋有奶粉有果醬. 落單的小孩躲在有保護色的牆下, 心裡想著等一下是不是可以從這個陌生人手上拿到點銅板.

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Bubbles

Why do kids like making/blowing bubbles? Do I still remember the sensation as a small kid blowing my first bubble with just a straw and some soapy water and seeing it being carried away by a summer breeze? No, but I do remember the taste of soap and potentially this has something to do with the bubble-blowing activity. So I asked my 4-year-old and as expected she didn’t have enough vocabulary to describe much of her feeling, but she did sketch on a piece of paper the motion of her hands waving the magical bubble wand in the air. That drawing contains the little secret path to her brain, just like any artwork to its creator.

To her that wand must possess true magic power (yes like Elsa’s); To me watching her grow up, however fast, is no less magical.

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La Frontera

At the boundary of Bolivia and Argentina at La Quiaca I watched Bolivians* crossing the border by walking down the dirt path, hopping across the river, then climbing up a concrete debris slope into the shadow of some building, while the official border control sits atop on the southern end of the stone bridge. Many of them are locals who carry their goods to trade in the neighboring country – this reminds me of the trade that used to happen in the middle of the Taiwan Strait.

As I walked, at an altitude of 3.4km, under scorching sun, and taking in 30% less oxygen compared to sea level, pass a sign pointing to ‘La Frontera’ with a long line of weary travelers under it, I couldn’t help but think our true frontier shouldn’t be any wall built for the sake of separating people but the one 30km above us in the ozone layer – ultimately this is what keeps us all alive.

* During the 19th and 20th centuries Argentina was the country with the second biggest immigration wave in the world. Nowadays Bolivians still consist of roughly one tenth of Argentina’s population, and they (along with immigrants from neighboring countries) had faced xenophobic campaigns (sounds familiar?) from national/local governments. See https://nacla.org/article/hard-road-argentinas-bolivians

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Roaming

“Here, by the riverbank… I could keep myself busy for months without shifting my position, inclining sometimes more to the right, sometimes more to the left.” Paul Cézanne. 1906.

Cuernos del Paine, Chile

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The heart of a sunken city

In ancient times people built peculiar street pattern like a labyrinth to confuse the invaders. Venezia’s maze of narrow streets has the same effect to deter the modern day tourists, but only to a certain degree. Global warming and the growing tourism are both sinking the islands on different levels. It’s only during the wee hours that one can start to feel the heartbeat of the old city when it resurfaces from a cloud of perfume.

And to me, this bridge represents the heart of the city. No one seems to know which backstreets connect to either end of it. No gondola glides beneath it. The bridge seems so exposed yet private, so close yet so far. I don’t know how many true Venetians still inhabit the city, but I imagine there’s one of them guarding this bridge like the oldest and fondest memory.

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A historic theater

Through movies we relive someone’s live, but at the same time also a part of ours. Sometimes it hurts but eventually it finds way to untie the knots deep in our hearts, not unlike a massage therapy.

This historic Jones Theater in Westcliffe, Colorado was a saloon in the 1880s where miners spent their money from mining silver in the nearby towns. It has been more than 90 years since a Westcliffe man purchased the building and showed the first movie here. On this particular night they were showing a 2015 film “Ricky and the Flash” starring Meryl Streep, but to me the atmosphere felt more like “Out of Africa” from the 80s.

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Silver Linings

The summer of 2015 marked one of the most destructive wildfire seasons in memory for the entire west coast of the US.  Countless people/animals were affected with millions of acres land scorched, homes destroyed, and memory gone. The smoke travelled as far west as Colorado, 1000 miles away, causing hazy sky and polluted air. This was shot on top of Mount Evans when the setting sun was veiled by all the miniscule particles across all the four states (California, Nevada, Utah, and Colorado) allowing me to direct a telephoto lens toward the sun, and with silver linings around the mountain goats.

Ice bean

What made you move to Montana?

One of my favorite photographers, Jesse Speer, after living in Colorado for years, moved to Montana. A Senior VP in my company has a one-man office in Bozeman. To me Montana has always been a state that has a lot of space, both physically and spiritually. It can be extremely cold which I suffered painfully when I was stuck on a lift chair waiting to be evacuated. The locals are tough enough to take the harsh weather like a piece of cake, but they also have a soft spot toward the nature.

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