I’m slowly getting used to Bogotá, my apartment, the weather, the Transmilenio (which I try to stay away from as much as possible, especially during peak hours. Colombians are really, really nice people, just not while trying to get on or off the Transmilenio…), the university and to speaking Spanish (almost) all the time. I’ve now spent a month in Colombia and felt it was about time for my first clown shoot (but it definitely wont be my last here in Colombia), so I painted up Felipe in an old café in the old town (while sipping hot chocolate with cheese, the way the Rolos – people from Bogotá – do it), before we ventured into the rain and befriended the doves of Plaza de Bolívar!
Earlier this autumn I went to Amsterdam to visit a dutch travel friend I met in Chile. I must admit, I wasn’t too trigger happy during the stay – though I found Amsterdam to be a beautiful city, and I absolutely loved the place (I’ll add it to the list of cities I’d like to live in for a while) – but what mainly did catch my photographic interest was all the bikes, especially the massive bike parks. Everyone one in Amsterdam has at least one bike, most probably two, and they use them, ALL the time. I mean, the city has bicycle traffic congestion during peak hours! If only Oslo had been such a cycle friendly city…
I haven’t taken any clown pictures in ages. More than a year has passed since I last took out my make-up kit and painted red, fake smiles on someone’s face, turning them into solemn clowns. Then I was in the metro of the busy, bustling city of Buenos Aires, but these clown pictures aren’t from a faraway or remote place. They are taken almost “in my own backyard”. The beach where we would go for family outings when the weather permitted it when I was a kid. Wading in the shallows, splashing around with floaters thinking I knew how to swim, later biking there with friends, feeling all grown up, sunbathing on the rocks. This is the place where I destroyed my first cellphone by dropping it in the water, and the place where I first defied my fears and jumped from 10 meters.
And now this is the place where I returned to my clowns.
I lift my leg, move it forward and thrust it into the icy ground, letting the spiky crampon get a good grip on the hard snow. Then the other, lift, move forward, thrust. Repeat. Over and over again. I’m gripping the top of my ice ax tightly with my left hand, almost using it as a walking stick, and even though I’m wearing a thick mutton I can feel my fingers going numb with the cold. My heart beats quickly, I’m out of breath, my head is hurting, I really need a break so I stop for a second and soon feel the rope connecting me to the other hiker and our guide in front of us tighten, tugging me on. You can do this, you can do this a voice in my head keeps telling me over and over again so I start walking again. The night is dark, I can’t see how much we’ve been walking, or how much left there is to walk, but yes, I can do this, yes I’m going to do this. One step at a time.
“Straight or right?”, we are wandering aimlessy around in the souks of the old town of Marrakech; a giant labyrinth of narrow streets with shops selling you everything from spices, herbs, make-up and leather bags to live hens and the sweetest of sweets. The streets twist and turn and split and there’s no point even trying to keep track of what direction you are going because at some point you’ll end up getting lost anyway. As the receptionist at our hostel said to a guy who had wandered around lost for two hours when he asked for a map: “With a map you’d be lost for four”.
Walking around at random, getting lost, is part of the charm of the old town, the medina of Marrakech. Thinking you know where you are when you don’t, and then to suddenly stop at a small square thinking “I’ve been here before” when you thought you were more lost than ever. Walking in circles (how fun it would have been with a GPS tracking our wanderings), and then when you finally give up, realizing you can’t find your way back to the hostel or whatever place you were looking for on your own, you start to search for the big square, Jemaa-el-Fna the one and only place you can orient yourself from. Luckily there are signs here and there pointing you in the right direction, and if all is lost, there’s always a young boy lurking around willing to take you there for a few dirhams.