The show must go on…

Tanzanian women in the village of Kibosho-Umbwe

It’s been a while. I am in the middle of working on a multimedia slideshow while learning Final Cut Pro (a video editing program). Thanks for hanging in there, many of you have asked to see pictures.
A lot has happened. Our world has just been turned upside down by Hurricane Sandy. I’ve been extremely lucky to live in Harlem which is up on high grounds and far away from any water. Others haven’t been. Lower Manhattan just got power back as of last night but many others are still in the dark in Staten Island, New Jersey, the Rockaways and so on. As terrible as Sandy’s impact is, I believe it brought out the best in the people of the Tri-State-Area. Everybody is volunteering, donating and comforting each other. New Yorker’s are tough and although it will take a long time to pick up the pieces, I know we can get through this.
Long before the announcement of Sandy, Artists for World Peace had planned their second annual Broadway event and fundraiser on November 4th. “In an intimate evening of song and dance, some of Broadway’s best and brightest,the ‘cream of the crop … the top of the heap’, pool their talents to support the ongoing work of Artists for World Peace.” In addition we will screen a short video about our trip to Tanzania and we will auction of  2 beautiful 24×36 prints of yours truly (including the image you see in this post). At this point I’d like to thank Jeffrey Kane of LTI Lightside for pulling off the impossible. Jeff not only made the gorgeous prints on fairly short notice, he also donated them to us. Then Sandy happened and Jeff’s company lost power on Monday. The prints were to be mounted this week, which can’t be done without electricity. So Jeff came downtown on his bike yesterday to meet me at LTI, headlamp and flashlight in hand, so I could take the unmounted prints for Sunday’s event.
I think we can all use an evening to take our minds off of Sandy, so please join us tomorrow, Sunday, November 4th. Wendy, all of  AFWP, and myself would love to see you at St. Luke’s Theater.
You can get more information and buy tickets here: http://artistsforworldpeace.org

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Homecoming

Witness is learning how to use my DSLR camera while Dorcas and I are posing and Bahati is taking our picture with my little point-and-shoot…The kids just loved to learn all about cameras…

Hello everybody. Sorry for the long silence. It’s been a crazy few weeks. We made it back safe and sound from Tanzania – our team worked hard there, I met so many incredible people, made friends for life and shifted my perspective big time. It’s hard to put in words, but spending time in Africa impacted me to the core.
Coming back I got struck down by a wicked summer flu and was forced to just rest for a week. Thankfully I got sick when I was back home and not in Tanzania. When I felt better I started organizing all the images and video files – a big project ! I just had a great photo editing session with Wendy yesterday and our friend Lisa will start working on sound and video this week as well. I will keep you posted on the progress. Bear with us, it’s a lot of footage and images to go through.
Lastly I will of course start working on the Indiegogo “ThankYou” perks for all of you who have been so generous. I am forever grateful that you made this trip possible.
Assante Sana !!

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Into the wild

Only 2 1/2 days left in this beautiful country…I can’t believe how the time just flew by. We spent a few nights at the orphanage in Kibosho where the air is wonderfully moist and clean – a nice change from driving back and forth from our hotel in Moshi which left us all with some nasty coughs from all the dust that we are constantly inhaling. Life at the orphanage means that you never know when the electricity will go out, which is a photographer’s nightmare – not to mention the tough daily decision: african bucket wash with boiled hot water or just a quick cold shower ? It’s winter here in Tanzania and Kibosho is at 1200 meters so it gets pretty chilly at night…
So much happened since I was online last – we took the kids and Josephine on a two-day safari which was just a delight to experience. I probably got as excited about all the animals as the children, but it really made us all feel great that these kids finally got to see the wildlife of their own country.
Here are some quick pictures from our adventure…

The kids are so psyched to look at all the animals…

Wildebeests at the Ngorongoro crater with saltlake in the background.

Baboon baby – we all wanted to take that one home with us…

One of the many Massai that we encountered in the area.

Tomorrow we will spend some time in Moshi to get a few things to bring home with us and then I’ll tackle the last few points on my photo and video agenda…plus we are all looking forward to just take it easy and hang out with the kids for a while without doing too much work. It’s been quite a ride for all of us, especially for Wendy, who has been attending endless meetings about the may projects that are going on in Kibosho.
With that said I will enjoy a good night’s sleep and hopefully report back again soon – most likely after my return since we will be staying the last night at the orphanage.
Usiku mwema !

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Hello, my name is…

Some of the happy and healthy peace piglets at the orphanage center.

Meet some of the people and animals around the Good Hope Center…it’s late here in Tanzania once again so excuse me for not writing too much…I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves…

Martha and Pudensiana – our angels in the kitchen.

Ugali, greens and avocado (parachichi) fresh from the vegetable garden.

Martha and Pudensiana have been amazing to all of us here at the orphanage center. We are in love with Martha’s cooking – in the picture you see a typical Tanzanian dish – ugali is made from maize meal and usually served with vegetables and sometimes meat.

Mama Wendy, Mama Josephine and Miles shopping for fabric in Moshi.

On our first day, Wendy, Josephine, Miles and I ran errands and shopped for fabric in Moshi. Wendy is giving the local women work to sew beautiful skirts and aprons to take back to America and sell for fundraising.

The whole Lukundane Cooperative in front of the building that is housing their new grinding and pulping machine financed by a micro loan.

We also checked on the installation of a grinding machine that will be run by the Lukundane Cooperative. They are beyond excited to generate new income and work on making everybody’s lives easier.

Colin and his painting crew working hard to finish the health center.

Colin came with us to help with finishing up the painting of the community health center and just started work on a second chicken coop for Josephine. Despite the language barrier and lack of certain quality tools they’ve made great progress.

Josephine’s son Deo-gratias Mushi – a chairman of the Opposition Party in Dar-Es-Salam.

Today we had the honor to meet and spend time with one of Josephine’s sons. Deo-gratias Mushi works as a chairman for the Opposition Party called Chadema. He filled us in on a lot of what’s going on in this country and I am very excited that he is working hard to bring real change to Tanzania. We went to buy scarves and hats to show our support for Chadema and spread the word about their mission to give power to the people.

Baltazar, the kindergarten teacher at Good Hope and Upendo, the youngest orphan.

And last but not least – another good soul of the Good Hope Center – Baltazar, who teaches kindergarten at Good Hope. He’s always greeting us with a smile and ready to teach us some Swahili or show us around the village. Josephine and Baltazar know each other since childhood and are a great team working hard to give these kids a better life.

Kwaheri ya kuonana – until we meet again…

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Reality check

Day 5 – we made it back to the hotel early tonight so I have a little time to blog after my usual routine of backing up photo and video files. Having been here for a few days now I am starting to realize what village life in Tanzania really is like.
I don’t think I fully understood humanitarian work until seeing “Mama Wendy” and “Mama Josephine” in action. The two “dada’s” are a powerhouse – they are true soul sisters and share an amazing vision of empowering not only the orphans they are taking care of, but the whole village. For every project that gets completed, there is another one waiting, for every family rising up, there is another one in need. “How can I say no to them” said Wendy to me today…and if you were here with us, you would see why.
Balthazar – the teacher at the Good Hope Center took me on a walk around the village today to visit some of his relatives, but also some families that have literally nothing. They sleep in wooden shacks, no beds, no animals to provide them with food. That’s where the micro loans come in. Artists for World Peace has been hugely successful providing the members of Lukundane, a local cooperative with several micro loans to generate long term income for them. The peace pig club is flourishing, providing every proud pig owner with a source of money and food. Next up is a similar project with chickens – the cluck-cluck-club. It’s all about empowering the villagers and making them self sufficient in the long run. I know Wendy won’t stop until this whole village is in a better place. And if you could see all the love and appreciation from the locals, you would understand why. What amazes me is that even with all the hardship, there is still so much happiness and joy out there. I definitely have a whole new appreciation for being able to sleep in a big comfortable bed tonight. With that said – it’s time to catch some zzz’s…there is lots more for us to do.

One of the homes I visited today.

Fanta, Fanta

It is Sunday night around 10 PM in Tanzania and I can’t believe we’ve been here since Thursday evening. After a relatively smooth trip from Boston via Amsterdam to Kilimanjaro we got picked up by Josephine who runs the Good Hope Orphanage Center. Somehow I had forgotten that they drive lefty here, so that made for a somewhat tense drive in the dark when you constantly feel like you are on the wrong side on the road…very confusing.
I spent my first night at the hotel in Moshi dreaming about Coyotes – who knows what kinds of animals were really out there. Friday we went grocery shopping, bought fabric and had our first awesome coffee in town. Although I normally don’t drink Soda, Miles got me totally hooked on Passionfruit-Fanta…

We were able to do a quick pit stop at the orphanage in the evening – which is higher up in the village – about 45 minutes on dirt roads…just to unload all the supplies, donations, etc. It gets dark around 6.30 PM here – and boy does it get dark fast…not a lot of street lights and no traffic rules either, LOL.
That brings us to Saturday. Since the older kids are still in school we are using the time to get a lot of meetings done, overseeing construction, looking at progress, etc. We drove back up to the village to talk to the builders in charge of the corn grinding machine and also went to visit some of the children’s former homes. I’ll be able to show all those pictures once I am back home at the editing desk…for now here’s a little taste of village life for you…

It’s great to see how much impact Artists for World Peace already had at the orphanage and in the village, but there is so much more to do. I realized today that for every project that gets completed, there are ten new ones that need to be done. But the people here are such hard workers and they appreciate every little help they get. We are getting hugs and smiles on every corner and even though communication is sometimes tough, we seem to understand each other.
Sunday is a big church day around here but we were presented with a very special treat today…an invitation to an African wedding in a village about an hour away. It was already amazing to be invited to be part of the ceremony – but everybody treated us like royalty. According to the pastor we were the first “Mzungu” in his church – a great honor for all of us. We tried to dress the part, but were still a bit underdressed with our filthy sneakers and flip-flops :-)

With that said I need to finish up here…there is still work to do…backing up images, recharging batteries and so on…
I will try to post as often as I can but be patient, we have busy days ahead of us…

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Hello, Beautiful

Taking the Vertex 300 AW for a test drive in Central Park…

I’m a big fan of quality, design and versatility. That’s why I’ve been using Lowepro photo bags since I first decided that carrying around a camera every day could be a pretty cool job. Years later I find it even cooler that Lowepro gave me an amazing (and giant) photo backback for my trip to Tanzania. Big shout out to David Schonauer and Jeffrey Roberts over at AIAP for sharing their contact at Lowepro.
Yvonne Petro (worldwide photographer relations coordinator) was nothing but amazing to deal with and really stands behind the brand. She helped me pick the perfect bag for my needs – the Vertex 300 AW. I can’t wait to put this beauty to the test during my travels. I’m going to carry a pretty heavy load but the backpack is fully adjustable and has a comfortable hip belt so the weight can be distributed evenly. It carries a ton of gear including a laptop and tripod, has a built-in rain cover and lots more. It’s all you could wish for in a travel companion – if only I could teach it how to make me a cup of coffee…I am working on that one.

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David’s been here

10 days to our departure – how exciting. When I had a close look at our flight itinerary, I finally had to face a minor detail: It’s going to be a long trip. 7 hours to Amsterdam – a few hours stop-over and then 8.5 hours to Kilimanjaro. It won’t be fun but I know a guy who will make the trip a little less exhausting: meet David Hoffmann ! I came across David’s company “David’s Been Here” when I searched for travel pillows online that don’t suck.
I love his company’s concept. David is a passionate traveler so he sells smart products that come in handy when you are on the road. When I first contacted him via his facebook page, he replied only a few days later from the middle of Malawi…he loved hearing about Artists for World Peace and my involvement so he sent me a fabulous goodie bag with some of his most popular products.
Can’t wait to try out his travel pillow so I can get to Tanzania with lots of energy…

Ready to get some restful sleep on my trip.

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CSI rocks my world

Today’s post is dedicated to CSI Rentals in New York – and I have a good reason for it. Or two. New York can be a pretty anonymous city where personal connections are not always valued. This is not the case at CSI. From the first time I set foot into the place years ago to today, George Hertz and his team have been amazing. They are professional, knowledgeable and their prices are very competitive. But what I love the most is that they treat all of their customers the same way. I am a very small fish in the pond compared to some of the giant productions they deal with – yet they are always happy to help. And you know where I will be getting my equipment from when that huge job comes along for me :-)

Back to Tanzania: Since I will be shooting stills and video there – I need a second body that serves as a backup and the main video camera. So when I told George about the non-profit work that I am planning to do – he agreed to sponsor the rental of a Canon 7D. And I have to point out that he did not ask for anything in return – he simply wanted to help because he believes in the work we do.
THANK YOU George, thanks Amy, Beth, Carrie and the rest of the crew. Looking forward to many years of working with you guys.

Always love to stop by at CSI.

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Tanzania-Visas are in

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I have a problem with the US postal service. Besides standing in line for a minimum of 30 minutes every time I go to the post office and having to deal with everybody moving in slow motion, they have also managed to lose several valuable letters and packages over the years. Needless to say we aren’t friends. That’s why I was horrified at the thought of having to mail our passports to the Tanzanian Consulate in Washington, D.C. for our visa applications. Thanks to the WWW I found a very small office with a very big name on 42nd Street in NY: The Permanent Mission of the United Republic of Tanzania to the United Nations. Two short trips and some friendly Tanzanians later Wendy, Miles and I are the proud owners of brand new mug shots in our passports. Another item off the to-do list.
Speaking of Wendy: Inspired by my successful Indiegogo-Campaign, Artists for World Peace has also launched a campaign to raise enough funds to pay for private school for 8 of the older orphans.
If you haven’t gotten a chance to donate yet or you want to do it again because it was so much fun – please visit the campaign website:  http://www.indiegogo.com/afwp
Let’s give these kids a real chance in life by keeping them in school. Thank you so much !

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