personal work

Spring or Summer?

I can't decide if it's spring or summer yet.  It feels like if summer is about to happen, but it is too hot for spring.  It is that awkward time where everybody pretends like it's summer.  I leave my sweaters at home and brave the ride home on my bicycle at night because I don't want to have to wear the heavier clothes.  I go swimming even if the water is cold.  But I am not quite ready to commit to the intensity of summer,  popsicles hurt my teeth and I don't really like the heat if it's above 85.  I'm giving myself until the official day in June when summer hits and will live in limbo until then, continuing to claim it's spring.  (Can we also discuss my friend's great view from her apartment's pool?  Don't worry, I don't live there.. I just have great friends who are that cool.)

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Life in the Cave [an instructional post]

Many of you have been asking about Jordan.  My daily life, my living conditions.  So, I decided to do a post about it.. a "behind the scenes" if you will.  Living in a cave in the Middle East.  No electricity, no running water.  2 months.  Sounds hard, but mainly it was dreamy.  So, in photo format, here is a story and images so you can see what I have been up to.  

This was the home.  The set up of the caves.   There were three, a fourth in a totally different location was being built about a mile away on private land.  These caves were from 400 B.C., on government land, they are open for anyone to live in.  Private lands have caves too, but you have to own the land to sleep there.  On government land you can take anything that no one is currently living in.  Locked up by a door you (or previous tenants have installed), it is safe.  Your belongings are safe.  It's like a home.  It is a home.

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The kitchen.  A built cave.. more like stone hut with a bamboo roof and tarps over the top to prevent rain from creeping in.  Yes, it rained   And when it rained, flash floods happened, making every road and valley extremely dangerous.  Slot canyons death traps.

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Inside the kitchen cave at night.  Candlelight, editing some photos.  There is a light at the top of the photo that can be plugged into a generator.  I think in two months we used it 3 times, only when we had a lot of company.  I'm sitting by the fire where you could cook slow dinners or just be warm.  There was a gas stove for quicker meals.  Also, the kitchen doubled as a bedroom for Ghassab (the cave owner) and many of the local Bedouins who would come at night to hang out and often sleep over.

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This was my cave.. a sign outside carved in Arabic saying "Christine's Cave" to prove it.

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This is inside.  Simple, kept my things, I slept here.  Notice the rug---it's of The Treasury.  One of the main monuments in Petra.  Which I find to be humorous.

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The landscape was amazing where I was at.  These are some of the rocks outside of my cave at night.

cave life

To light fire, we had to find firewood.  In a desert, this is hard.  Bedouins have found a trick to this problem: digging up ancient roots.  There are plenty of them anywhere you dig.  Vineyards and forests used to be everywhere.  Now, you just have to dig and you have firewood for the night.

living in a cave

One of the other cooking methods was this stove Ghassab made from an old can of olive oil.  Bent pipe inside, you build a little fire in the opening and put your pot on top.  It's just like a stove.

middle eastern caves

Wildlife in Petra was not as abundant as I thought.  There were no creepy-crawly things lingering in my cave.  No snakes to watch out for.  I was there in winter though, I hear summer can be worse.  However, we did have a handful of pets.  A donkey at one point (who ran away during a thunderstorm and never came back), twelve cats (4 were pregnant , two rabbits (one pregnant), and my dog which only lasted a few days before his owner came and found him.  I was hiking one day when he came around and followed me home.  He slept outside my cave, blocking the door when I got up and would follow me to the kitchen where he would stay all day until I went to bed again at night.  I would like to say it was because he was protecting me, but in reality it was probably all my leftover chicken I was feeding him..

middle eastern homes
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The rabbits!  Always together, always in love.

The wild pet cats.  They created havoc all day and slept in the car at night.  If you were sleeping outside though, or in the kitchen, often you would wake up, having collected cats all night, with three or seven on top of you.

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When I was not hiking, photographing, working, or going on tours, I was helping with a new cave.  The one on private land.  I was a demolition queen, tearing down a wall and then helping to carry stones to make terraces.  One day it will have a big outdoor kitchen, place of tents, and a selection of fruit trees.

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Steps to the new cave.  It has 56 aloe plants!  Collected from the mountains and planted to use for medicine.  Aloe plants were Ghassab's specialty, one of the main things he used to treat a variety of illnesses.  Notice that beautiful red door in the background?  That was my project.  I painted it then smothered it with sand while it was wet in hopes of making it blend into the rocks a bit.

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Me with Ghassab's famous pink car.  Older than I am, that car got me through mountains, sand dunes, and floods.  It was how I got water and food from the village.

Last Day in Petra

I thought I would spend my last day in Petra either smiling or crying.  But it was neither.  Much like Bedouin life, my last day was just like any other day.  There was breakfast to be made, blankets to put out in the sun, and supplies needed in the village. The only difference was that I had my bag with me, and I needed to go one village further to get on a bus.  Bedouin life is interesting.  It moves and flows from day to day, yet stays static at the same time.  There are no new restaurants opening up to look forward to, no TV programs to be excited for the next episode... just each day and the work to be done.  Collecting firewood, finding food for the animals, cleaning up the endless sand from the caves.  Each day rolling into the next, never seeming to change.  And life there will continue.  It will roll onto the next day and the next week.  So similar and so removed that perhaps it has been a few days or a few months since I was there.  No use of asking what has been going on since I was gone.. perhaps a birth of an animal or a flood, but the same news that is always the news.  When I go back, things will be exactly as they were before.  Maybe a new cave will be cleaned out and moved into, or maybe everything will just be as before.  As it has been for centuries.  But that is the magic of the Bedouins.

My images of Jordan are not over.. I have handfuls I would like to edit and post.  So I will continue to show images of my Middle East travels and of my upcoming adventures.  As Jack Kerouac said..

“What is that feeling when you're driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? - it's the too-huge world vaulting us, and it's good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”

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[image taken in Petra, Jordan on my drive to the bus to leave the country and return to America]

Left Pants

While sitting in someone's home a child went into this side room and left the door open.  I really enjoyed the way that the pants just laid on the floor.  I can't really explain why I was so attracted to this image.  It remind me a lot of this quote by G.K. Chesterton:

“The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.”

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Touching One Another

I am trying to get better at photographing my daily life.  I have so many moments of people I will never see again, yet those closest to me and events I partake in, I have no photographs of.  I am attempting to remedy this.  While in Lincoln, Nebraska [the heartland] for Thanksgiving, I have made an attempt to photograph my daily life more.  In which I am realizing that this particular group of friends is extremely touchy.  We are constantly putting legs on laps, snuggling up against, or playing with one another's hair.  Perhaps this is what years of knowing and living with one another does to you.  Or perhaps we are just extremely touchy.

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