A Voluminous Vision of Venice

On a recent trip overseas I was able to stop over in Italy on my way home. I had the incredible blessing of returning to what is perhaps my favorite city on earth, Venice. The scenes of this enchanting city of water provide a limitless potential for photography, with an abundance of light, atmosphere, and water as the backdrop for waterborne vessels, classic architecture, weathered doors, and untold mysteries waiting to be discovered around every corner. These are a few of my favorite photos from the visit.

Ecclesia with Breaking Bread Journeys: Nablus

Our first official day on the tour itinerary was a very full one. After leaving Tel Aviv-Yafo, we drove to Nablus in the Palestinian Territories. We started out the day with a visit to the Greek Orthodox Church that houses the biblical site of Jacob’s Well. Since we’re traveling with the CEO of Living Water International and several of the organization’s board members, it was an especially meaningful visit to such an historic well.

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We then made our way through the old city of Nablus, toured the spice markets and were treated to various samples of delicious street foods and sweets. At every turn in Nablus there was an initial confusion triggered by our presence, yet once they realized we were tourists (very rare for Nablus), we were greeted with smiles and enthusiastic welcomes by very warm people.

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Then we met up with a Sufi imam who invited us to tour his mosque. You’ll remember that part of Breaking Bread Journeys’ purpose is to build bridges of peace through dialog with real people on both sides of the issue of the Palestinian/Israeli tensions. From what I understood today, the local Sufis are moderates who are against the use of violence and want to see two states living peaceably side by side.

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Next we made our way to an Islamic women’s empowerment cooperative known as the “House of Dignity” which aims to show the community how women can make a positive impact in the local society. Women in the program learn to make traditional meals from scratch using only locally sourced ingredients. This style of cooking is known as “slow food.” They are also working to improve conditions for the children of the community— we were saddened to learn that there are no playgrounds in the old city of Nablus. The organization is currently working on converting an old garage space into a garden and playground for neighborhood children. The Sufi imam from our mosque tour also joined us and we discussed several viewpoints involving the challenges of his community at large. We were immensely blessed to be the recipients of their hospitality— we were served a delicious home-cooked meal of traditional Palestinian cuisine, prepared lovingly by the women of the organization.

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Next we visited The Samaritan Museum where were heard about this distinct religion from a Samaritan priest. We learned that the Samaritans have lived in the holy land for over 3,000 years consecutively. At their peak, there were more 3 million Samaritans, yet today there are only 875, mostly living on Mount Gerizim. To underscore the diversity of this region, a Muslim woman introduced us to the museum, teaching a Christian tour group about the Samaritan religion.

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After this we visited a nearby Israeli settlement which is home to the award-winning Har Bracha Winery. The owner of the winery allowed us to sample many of his best wines and shared with us some of his vision behind his business as we snacked on fresh olives and apples. The settlements are at the crux of the deepest tensions between Israelis and Palestinians. Yet the Israelis of these settlements firmly believe they have a right to be there, and their beliefs are fueled by deep-seated religious convictions of which he briefly shared a few of his. Again, remember that the tour is designed to help build bridges through dialog and sharing of meals with real people from both sides of the issue. Pastor Chris shared with us on the bus, “We love Palestinians, we love Israelis, we love Samaritans and we love peace.”

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Bonus section: for those who share my obsession with doors, here are some of the fascinating doors of Nablus.

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Ecclesia with Breaking Bread Journeys: Sunrise on the Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem

Because day 6 of our tour was so jam packed, I’m breaking it into two, maybe three blog posts. I will keep this one simple and let the photos do most of the talking. Suffice it to say that that we made it to the Damascus Gate before sunrise to begin our journey on the Via Dolorosa, ending at The Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Jerusalem’s old city is sublimely empty and serene at that hour of the day.

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Ecclesia with Breaking Bread Journeys: Arrival Day, Tel Aviv, Jaffa

August 1, 2015. Today was our arrival day, it was mostly a free day so I took a walk in Jaffa before meeting up with the rest of the group. Then we all met up at the hotel and were introduced to the founders of Breaking Bread Journeys, which is the first joint Israeli-Palestinian tour company. After sunset, we then took a walk to Jaffa Port for dinner.

We started out on the rooftop of our hotel where Pastor Chris Seay welcomed everyone…

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We had the afternoon off so I met a local friend and fellow photographer Arnon Orbach who showed me around Jaffa. Here’s a little of what we found…

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Next we had our cocktail reception where we met the founders of Breaking Bread Journeys, Lisa and Christina…

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We then took a walk to Jaffa Port for dinner, managed to get a few night shots here and there along the way…

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Doors of Italy: Power Portals

I’ve long held a fascination with doors as a photography subject. On my Instagram account I started a collection under the hashtag “#ktrap_doors” with over 500 doors I’ve captured from all over the world. Among my favorite locales in the world for “door hunting” are Uganda, Nepal and, of course, Italy. So I’m very happy to bring you this collection of doors from Venice and parts of the region of Italy known as Isernia. From the Venetian Lagoon to the Apennine Mountains, let’s turn the knob and step into the world of Italy’s classic portals…

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Moving south to the province of Isernia, region of Molise…

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Rural Uganda: Mairinya Primary School, Local Village Life

In a remote part of southeastern Uganda in a town called Mairinya, Peace Gospel International’s local team operates a K-7 primary school serving about 200 children in the area. These children have no other access to education within a reasonable walking distance.

The school provides a warm porridge breakfast and a fresh-cooked lunch for the children each school day. The facility consists of 3 buildings and 4 pit latrines. The two main school buildings are seen in the first photo. Our first building is the temporary wooden one with dirt floors seen to the left, and the newer, permanent one is seen at right. The other nearby building across the road serves as office, storage and kitchen space.

I was deeply impressed with the children’s understanding of the material they were studying and their command of the English language. The staff are warm and very fun-loving toward the children, led by the gregarious example of Mr. Moses, their dedicated and hard-working headmaster who takes the bus two hours each way to reach the village. Dedication! Four other women work as support staff, preparing and serving meals and providing other assistive duties on campus. Their joy is contagious as you’ll see in the photos.

In the second portion of this post I’ll introduce you to the villagers and village scenes around the school, to give you a better idea of the local lifestyle and dwellings.

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Breakfast is served! Fresh-cooked porridge, which they either drink straight from the cup or with a leaf spoon like this little guy has here.

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After breakfast classes begin!

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We were able to purchase some new uniforms last week, and the children were excited to try them on. But we still have several we need to purchase. At about $10 per child and 200 children, it’s not a small expense. Don’t they look great?!

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The rest of the children were measured for uniforms. While they were waiting in line for their measurements, I took a few photos (surprising, I know).

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Then it was back to class, with me making plenty of interruptions, of course.

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By then we were hungry again and broke for lunch which consisted of rice and beans. During harvest times we are able to prepare the meals using organically grown ingredients from our farmland and garden project.

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The water source in Mairinya is not very safe and many of the children are complaining of common water-borne illnesses. We are in the process of getting funding together for a new safe water bore well which will be located on campus and made available to the entire village. You can see in this photo the water being served to the children is quite murky.

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The ever-jovial support staff…

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After lunch I spent more time around the classrooms and got a few more shots of these beautiful children who are all so happy to be in school. The girls of the K-4th classes send you their love…

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And for my Canadian friends…

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Now to take you around two or three of the local villages in this area… the people are so welcoming and the children always excited to see a foreign face. I’m sure they must think I’m a bit crazy, taking interest in what they see as simple everyday life. You’ll see the ubiquitous yellow jerry-cans which the children will carry for miles to reach local wells, some safe, some not very safe, to fill up with the day’s water needs.

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