Portraits from Nepal

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Photos by Maria Bitarello.
Canon AE-1 / Kodak Portra 400
Kathmandu, Bandipur, Gurung Lodge,
Gurka Training Camp / Nepal 2014.

Postcards from the roof of the world

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Boudhanath Stupa, Kathmandu, Nepal

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Morning chat @ Boudhanath Stupa, Kathmandu, Nepal

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Monks @ Boudhanath Stupa, Kathmandu, Nepal

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Koras and wheels @ Boudhanath Stupa, Kathmandu, Nepal

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Candles and wheels @ Boudhanath Stupa, Kathmandu, Nepal

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Koras @ Boudhanath Stupa, Kathmandu, Nepal

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Koras and wheels @ Boudhanath Stupa, Kathmandu, Nepal

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Monks @ Boudhanath Stupa, Kathmandu, Nepal

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Monasteries and temples @ Boudhanath Stupa, Kathmandu, Nepal

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Candles and prayers @ Boudhanath Stupa, Kathmandu, Nepal

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Happiness Guest House @ Boudhanath Stupa, Kathmandu, Nepal

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Faith and prostrations @ Boudhanath Stupa, Kathmandu, Nepal

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Morning paper, friends and Buddha @ Boudhanath Stupa, Kathmandu, Nepal

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Monks @ Boudhanath Stupa, Kathmandu, Nepal

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Market life @ Boudhanath Stupa, Kathmandu, Nepal

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Writing refuge @ Boudhanath Stupa, Kathmandu, Nepal

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Writing on rooftops @ Boudhanath Stupa, Kathmandu, Nepal

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Real life outside Boudhanath Stupa, Kathmandu, Nepal

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Real life outside Boudhanath Stupa, Kathmandu, Nepal

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Cremations @ Pashupatinath, Kathmandu, Nepal

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Prayer for Kali @ Pashupatinath, Kathmandu, Nepal

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Market @ Pashupatinath, Kathmandu, Nepal

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Bodhi Tree @ Pashupatinath, Kathmandu, Nepal

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Across the river from Pashupatinath, Kathmandu, Nepal

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Librarian and business man in Bandipur, Nepal

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Business man in wallpaper in Bandipur, Nepal

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Warm hands in Bandipur, Nepal

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Laundry @ Fewa Lake, in Pokhara, Nepal

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Laundry @ Fewa Lake, in Pokhara, Nepal

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Row boats @ Fewa Lake, in Pokhara, Nepal

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Boat and oar @ Fewa Lake, in Pokhara, Nepal

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Rowing across Fewa Lake, in Pokhara, Nepal

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Rowing across Fewa Lake, in Pokhara, Nepal

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The Peace Stupa @ Fewa Lake, in Pokhara, Nepal

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The Peace Stupa @ Fewa Lake, in Pokhara, Nepal

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Parahawking @ Sarangkot, in Pokhara, Nepal

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Paragaliding @ Sarangkot, in Pokhara, Nepal

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Prem @ Sampada Inn, in Pokhara, Nepal

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Women weaving in Pokhara, Nepal

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Women weaving in Pokhara, Nepal

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My taylor in Pokhara, Nepal

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Chess @ Sidewalk, in Pokhara, Nepal

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Karma Cuts in Pokhara, Nepal

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Sadhu @ Riverside, in Pokhara, Nepal

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Holy cows outside Pokhara, Nepal

 

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Gurkha warriors @ Recruitment Center, in Pokhara, Nepal

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Gurkha training @ Recruitment Center, in Pokhara, Nepal

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NG, the sherpa guide to Gurung Lodge, Nepal

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Trek to Gurung Lodge, Nepal

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Millet drying @ mountain village around Gurung Lodge, Nepal

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Hindu temple and Himalayas around Gurung Lodge, Nepal

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Himalayas around Gurung Lodge, Nepal

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Hindu temple and Himalayas around Gurung Lodge, Nepal

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View from Gurung Lodge, Nepal

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Half-print of mountain view from Gurung Lodge, Nepal

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Sunrise, Himalayas and Bandipur, view from Panorama, Lodge, Nepal

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Sunrise, Himalayas and Bandipur, view from Panorama, Lodge, Nepal

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The cook and the fog @ Panorama Lodge, Nepal

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Orange pickers on the mountain villages around Panorama Lodge, Nepal

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Orange pickers on the mountain villages around Panorama Lodge, Nepal

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Orange baskets on the backs of women @ the mountain villages around Panorama Lodge, Nepal

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Chris and orange crates @ mountain villages around Panorama Lodge, Nepal

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Divine light on trek to Panorama Lodge, Nepal

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Drying corn @ mountain village around Panorama Lodge, Nepal

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Seti River @ Seti River Camp, Nepal

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Seti River bed and stones @ Seti River Camp, Nepal

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Seti River @ Seti River Camp, Nepal

All photos taken by Maria Bitarello in December 2014, in Nepal.
Films used were Kodak Portra 400s, in 35mm and 120mm.

Por acaso, o passado…

Se pensarmos a velhice como a constante presença do passado, e a infância como a estrita projeção do futuro, a vida deve ser o que acontece no meio, entre estas duas esperas; uma perda dos sonhos e um acúmulo sempre progressivo de memórias. O poeta mineiro, Murilo Mendes, tem uma frase em que diz que “a memória é uma construção do futuro, mais que do passado”, e a considero bastante pertinente se aplicada à leitura da peça de André Resende, Maçã caramelada, publicada pela Editora Cubzac (em uma edição digna de ser adquirida).

No texto – curto e pontual –, Eusébio, Greta e Adílio fazem de um encontro, ao acaso, em uma antiga emissora de TV, uma reconstrução do passado e uma recriação para o futuro. A partir do acervo da emissora, que está prestes a se perder, estes três personagens paradigmáticos pensam, conversam a respeito e nos fazem pensar – nós, os leitores – sobre a persistência da memória, o legado a que damos continuidade e que seguirá quando já não mais aqui estivermos, o mal-estar provocado por nossas escolhas e consequentes renúncias que implicam e o papel que o acaso, que a coincidência, tem em nossos encontros e trombadas entre a infância e a velhice, inclusive (e sobretudo) este que ocorre entre os três e que conduz Maçã caramelada.

Adílio, em busca das projeções da infância, nos obriga a repensar a construção da memória e se em nossas estórias existiu algum dia – ou existirá – a História, ou se não passam todas de interpretações, passíveis de cair nas peças em que nos prega a memória, tão esquecida e tão passível de criatividade espontânea, recriando-se. Seria por isso menos válida?

Greta personifica nosso mal-estar contemporâneo, nossa vertigem de possibilidades, a eterna indagação inútil sobre o caminho que não seguimos, as escolhas que não fizemos e a ansiedade que emerge de sua irrealização material, porém acompanhada de sua existência vívida em nossas projeções do que seriam memórias de um fato irrealizado. Reflexo e modelo do que passamos todos nós, homens e mulheres pós-modernos.

Eusébio amarra os dois extremos, o arrependimento e a insaciedade, a projeção e a nostalgia, em um personagem ciente de que “sem registrar os momentos da vida, o passado fica mais difícil de lembrar”, mas tampouco caindo na tentação de acreditar que “porque existe não quer dizer que é eterno”. E, acima de tudo, prezando e pregando o poder da coincidência, “a única coisa em que [conseguiu] acreditar e entender como possível”, “algo revelador das oportunidades que estão em nossa volta”, pois, justamente por “parecer acasos […], revelam um mundo desconhecido que, no entanto, não estava perdido, muito menos era inexistente”.

A chave

Tenho para mim que a chave está em Zaldok. O personagem que nunca sabemos ao certo se existiu, e muito menos quem foi, é uma pessoa distinta na memória de cada um, às vezes mais que um para uma mesma pessoa. Zaldok, personagem associado a valores mágicos de nossa infância, não envelheceu, não morreu, e tem acesso ao lugar onde nossa entrada não é permitida: o futuro.

Se para Eusébio “depois daquela maçã caramelada, tudo foi sorte na vida”, o autor nos diz também que, sim, ele, como nós, entende e sente a angústia da escolha, o medo do esquecimento, a preocupação com a memória no futuro, mas, acima disso tudo, está nos dizendo, nas palavras de Eusébio, que “[aceitemos] as coincidências”, que façamos do passado uma criação dinâmica no presente e uma reatualização no futuro, que deixemos as recordações museológicas de lado, pois não existe nossa História oficial. Seu (meu) passado está tão em transformação quanto o futuro, e aprisioná-lo no arquivo é privá-lo de vida, é assassiná-lo. A maçã caramelada é o presente de Eusébio a Adílio e Greta, é o presente de André Resende a nós.

 

* Esta resenha foi publicada no Le Monde Diplomathique Brasil de 13/03/2009.

10 years of solitude

Back when I didn’t know who Gabriel García Márquez was, I met Richard M. Morse, who channeled one of his characters. Like the Buendía family patriarch in “One Hundred Years of Solitude”, he did not care much for childhood or children, thinking it to be a less interesting phase in one’s lifespan. Despite his dislike for infants, Morse had even babysat my sister and me a few times, and countless hours of our first year in Washington DC were spent in his home: four levels of a lonely house, filled with books and dust, shelving the stairs up to the attic and down to the basement. Rarely did we go outside and play in the yard. It was cold and weedy. Out of entertaining options, I thus took pleasure in cleaning and reorganizing his messy office. He would come in every once in a while and make sure I wasn’t trashing his library skills and establishing some color pattern based on book covers. I wasn’t. I would also run down to the basement and discover new-ancient junk, which I still love doing. I found pots, garden tools, books, chessboards, and canned food. There was very little for a little girl to do at Morse’s place. When our uneasiness became unbearable to everyone, we’d drive down in his small baby-blue Honda to the deli and get some sandwiches. I didn’t really like them, they were full of celery and mayonnaise, both of which I dislike until this day, but they helped time go by. When I had finally fully explored the familiar four levels of his Foxhall home, I’d sit at the table where he and my mother discussed books and ideas for what felt like unending hours. And, hopeless, turned to writing.

Morse was a very tall man. Tall and somewhat lanky. He was already an old guy by the time our paths crossed, and yet he gracefully moved about the four levels, going up and down stairs, just to find that one quote or book or chapter he wanted to share with friends, and he knew exactly where to find it. He wore prescription glasses, fake teeth that he could pull out, had very large hands and feet and also this long string of hair coming down by his right ear, which he’d fashionably throw over his forehead and rest behind his left ear. It camouflaged his baldhead, and would fall down every so often. My favorite Morse task was, certainly, replacing that bit of hair back where it belonged, restoring his dignity. I then stroked his baldhead, gave it a kiss and thus had some intimacy with this man who was such an unequivocal presence in my childhood and whom I didn’t know, then, thought very little of the infant class I represented. “It’s for the girls”, he’d say while I adjusted his hair, “I let it grow for the girls. They love it!” I giggled, every time, charmed.

Eight years later, Morse died abroad. I hadn’t seen him in years when it happened, and I wasn’t much up-to-date with his health. It was difficult for my mother. A mentor he was to her. I remember the tip of her nose, red from tears and loss. We flew out to DC, my sister and I, to join my mother for memorial services held some 5 months after his passing. Lots of suited men were speaking at the ceremony that took place at a local university, shaking hands, making compliments and congratulating the family for his work. Shortly thereafter, a reception was held at the old place, home to my first cleaning adventures and writing attempts. In truth, it was only when all other options had been explored that I turned to writing, sitting by the two of them, Morse and my mother. There are no copies of what was produced back then. I remember, however, showing it to Morse, not realizing it was when I was most bored that he’d find me the most interesting. I was quieter and, well, I was doing something intellectual, both of which pleased him.

Morse’s place was the same yet different to me. The smell was different. The staircase was book-free, the pile in the bathroom was gone, the boxes in the basement were closed and shelved, the windows were open, the couch linen had been removed, chandeliers and crystals had been made visible, there was a TV set – which, to my surprise, had always been there, and gone by unnoticed -, a tended garden welcomed guests, the fridge was loaded. Something about his four-story home now made it seem so out of place, like ancient architecture turned modern, like a library turned into a franchise restaurant. The sacred element of his intellectual intimacy; his lack of care for how things actually looked like to possible visitors, a certain drive that demanded, in return, that he overlook the pantry, fashion and even his children; it wasn’t there. His smell was gone. His charisma. His drink and cigarette. His sense of humor. His wit. Morse wasn’t there. His home was taken by guests, yet stripped of what gave it life. So strange. How he had managed to populate all of these rooms on his own.

The party was a lively gathering, which would’ve pleased him. There were drinks and Caribbean food. His family was present and loving. We didn’t stay long, but it meant something to us. Four days later, we went silent in front of our also dusty TV set while September 11th 2001 took place. That year was one of closure and beginnings. I was then a freshman journalism major in college, the seeds of the woman I was becoming flourishing not only in my body, but also in my personality – both of which would have appealed to Morse’s aesthetic, or so I like to think. I was in love, truly in love, for the first time. I had forgiven my dad. I read extensively, discovered new authors, new sounds in music, film directors, changes in myself and in the world around me. I had read “One Hundred Years of Solitude” and I knew the Buendía family tree by heart. “This”, I thought to myself with satisfaction, “would’ve been a great time to talk to Morse.” I would appreciate his running up stairs to find that one quote. There’s no sadness or nostalgia in the statement, but rather a sense of accomplishment. I finally dug Morse, and I suspected he would dig me too.

He was the first person I saw when I arrived in the States for the very first time. He picked me, my sister and my mother up at Washington National Airport in his Honda, a messy little corner of the earth, literally no more than means to end, something he couldn’t go around, and that he would, so, accept and practice in his own terms. In it, he drove us back to Foxhall where we were housed for a few days on the top floor of his home at Volta Place. I remember it being very cold up there, it was January and on our first morning, there was snow covering the front lawn. Magical it was, to my sister and me. Morse came slowly up the stairs to wake us up. This happened just a few days before Clinton took office as US president and I was sent to John Eaton Elementary School, in DC, and taught to pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. A couple of months later, I was scribbling my first English poems at Morse’s dining table-turned-into-desk. English was becoming natural faster than I could take it in.

It was only recently, ten years after Morse’s passing, that I was given the delightful task of translating his correspondence with British scholar Leslie Bethell into Portuguese for a book chapter in a compilation my mother and a friend put together to honor his work through the work of other authors. And boy, did I laugh. I had the feeling that I was at last able to understand his word choice and grasp his intelligence, his playful use of words, his graceful and refreshing lack of morals, his self-irony. It was most gratifying. And I am now working on a full compilation of all of his articles not yet translated into Portuguese, a language he rejoiced in and that he so dearly embraced in his many trips and his stay in Brazil.

Morse gave me a book as a child that has been sitting in my old bedroom, at my mother’s place. When I first showed it to her, she admitted to never knowing Morse had given me that present, and that it meant a lot to have been given a book from his private collection. Not only that, but the first book ever given to him by his father, in the 1920s, who, alongside his mother, a strict woman, pushed little Dickie Morse to skip grades at age 7 so no time was wasted with lower minds. “A Children’s History of the World”, by V. M. Hiller (headmaster of Calvert School, 1924) still sits in my old bedroom’s bookshelf, close to Gabriel García Márquez and “Morse Code”, with my translation of his correspondence in it.

Almost twenty-years earlier, he had been the first to tell me about Morse code, bragging about his name, and leading me to believe his games. I have a picture of that day, at our place, where Morse seldom came. Between fixing his hair, sharing my scraps of childish poems, buying celery sandwiches, organizing his books and, above all, having been given that book as a present, Morse and I overcame a large age and cultural gap and, in our own respectful manner, became friends. Almost two decades later, I still discover fragments of memories I have from those early years, and new ways through which Morse has influenced, inspired and affected my family and me. In my dreams, I like to think his perspective on children came out transformed by this encounter. In my fantasies, I was the child that made him tick.

In loving memory of Richard M. Morse (June 26th 1922 – April 17th 2001)

Otto

Predictability. It’s the greatest asset an individual may have. I can’t stress enough how much I appreciate predictability. It leads to punctuality. To boring. I like punctuality. It makes me feel safe. Although I appreciate a surprise once in while, I prefer playing with routine. And it’s only within a strict and rather boring routine that we’re able to recognize and appreciate a surprising event. And thus I’m back to predictability. It is the key to everything.

The Man and the Lady are predictable. I live with them. I’m thrilled about our rituals. At 6am, I wake up and start scratching the bedroom door. It’s not really shut, so I throw my weight over it and the handle clicks. They’re not yet awake, but that’s about to end. I jump on the bed, on her side. She sleeps next to the wooden box with all the small nice smelling candles and that pile of books. He’s next to the window, on the other side of their gigantic bed, and I’m less thrilled to crawl over him since he doesn’t grace my arrival with the same respect it deserves and because he’s to blame for everything that’s been happening between her and me. She usually makes me feel like the king I am. Or prince, I should say, since I’m still 1. She normally smiles and runs her fingers around my ears before doing the same to him, which I don’t appreciate at all, and whispering “It’s ok, I’ll go, you sleep on”. Yeah, you sleep on, we don’t need you. Today, however, this doesn’t happen. No royal treatment, no smiles and definitely no cuddling.

I can take a hint, ya know. I race to the kitchen and wait for her by the bowl, where she pours my favorite breakfast treats, the only ones I ever eat. Today, shockingly, she serves me that nasty pale looking grub that Oliver next door gets from the macrobiotic woman that feeds him. I should’ve seen it coming… The pouring lingers, each beige flake bouncing against the bowl, in slow and torturing motion. I’m disgusted. It’s true that I like it when she watches me do whatever it is I’m doing, especially eating. It’s in my animal nature to be needy. But now I don’t mind that she leaves me alone for a minute to go brush her teeth and get changed. I’m busy drooling over the bowl – not eating its contents – and bringing the grub to waste. I won’t eat it and no one else should. Before she gets back, I trot across the living room to pee on the plant next to the TV set and proudly state my point. This has been known to work in the past and for park buddies as well.

I’m ignored for most of the day. He walks around the house in PJs, scribbling notes and sometimes talking to himself, while she’s gone. I enjoy this moment of solitude and chase birds in the yard, roll on the grass to scratch my back, bark at strangers walking by our front door and nap on the couch while no one’s there to see. The afternoon goes by in a flash as is normally the case and she punctually slides the key in the keyhole early in the evening, bringing peace to my inner sense of time. She’s back. We take our evening walk before sitting down to watch TV shows together, me on the floor, leaning my chin against her knees and thighs. During commercial breaks, she gets up and I either linger on or chew on a shoelace I’ve hidden under the couch. When the TV is clicked off, she goes back to the bedroom, closing the door on me, and just before I’m shut out from their evening, I get a glance of the Man, in bed, still scribbling, welcoming her in his arms. It’s more than I can bare.

The tyranny of the Man lasts too long now. Why does he get all the warmth and affection these days? I am the loyal one, every single day licking her toes when she comes dripping out of the shower. I’m the one pushing my nose into her hands when she’s lost in thoughts or chasing my own tail when I sense she’s bored. Why am I to blame? He’s the fat one. I’m as slim as race dog, although I’m more of a tramp, myself. Of course he’s the one stealing cake from the fridge, not me. How would I even open the fridge door? I know I’m ingenious and clever, I’m flattered by the compliment in form of reprimand that the Lady has been giving me in daily doses, but I must refuse authorship for the midnight snack-attacks. Believe me, I know it’s him. I sleep closer to the kitchen, I see him come by at night and I also see the reflection of the fridge light on his prescription glasses. This twilight ritual always repeats itself at the same time, every night, when the clock bell rings, striking some dead hour no one’s supposed to acknowledge. A dead hour the Lady ignores in her sleep and which I would normally do too if it weren’t for the fat one or an occasional ambulance siren storming up the road, blasting through the walls and stirring herding instincts in my gut. It feels like I’m being called by my clan, back to the wild. It’s ephemeral, though, and I go back to my normal domestic self. I truly don’t know what takes over me… it must be something very primitive.

When the Man flicks on the kitchen light switch, I, in canine alertness, raise a stiff neck and shake a threatening black-spotted tail, playfully hitting it against the wooden floor. He shooshes me down and I acquiesce, awaiting his departure. He leaves crumbs behind, which I instinctively eat, unwillingly covering up his tracks. Over and over we repeat this ritual of ours. The following morning, there are never any traces to be found on the floor, thanks to your dumb narrator. What comes next anyone can foresee. My prints are all over the place. You don’t need forensics to figure that one out. Can you blame her? I can’t. I blame him.

I decide to react. I take pride in my half-Dalmatian intelligence and stamina. It takes all of the strength in me to look away from that yellow brick road where chunks of chocolate chip cookie dough pave the way from kitchen to bedroom, my own stairway to heaven. Don’t do it! Don’t do it! I shiver and moan, I feel excruciating pain, I drool while mechanically getting up, laying down, getting up, laying down, before finally rushing down the hall, desperately licking the floor in search for bits of crumbs, wagging my tail in every direction and filling myself with satisfaction, no guilt. I head back to my cushion by the counter, I circle around it once or twice before embracing absolute comfort, and go back to sleep. A satisfied sleep. Predictable; I am, that is.

6am. I jump up, walk around in a circle, silently walk to the bedroom and jump up on the bed. I sniff her hair, and she greets me with honest satisfaction. And him… well, he’s still asleep. We get up together and are happily heading towards the bowl when she freezes by the kitchen door. I’m still here, I’m still here, lets be happy!, I’m screaming in doggy stare. I follow her stare now and there it is. The fridge door is open. I duck and wait my punishment, unfair but certain punishment. Cake glaze is spread over the floor and the plate in which it once stood is empty. Ears down, tale still, I await severe reprimand, yet hear none. Instead, she leaves my side and walks back to the bedroom. She stops at the door and slightly pushes it door open, just enough to see him asleep. A mountain of flesh and hair, he sleeps heavily, breathing loudly. She looks at him, both sad and worried, not moving a muscle. When her right hand drops next to her hips, I already know my lines for the next act. I humbly walk up to her, lean against her leg, and await a friendly pat on my head. Surely enough, I get what I want. Predictably. Everything is in its right place.

Today will be a great day. It will be like any other day in Otto’s life.

Svannah, my roommate in LA, an inspiration to this tale...

Hitching a gang-ride in Benin

Alice Traoré, Maria Bitarello & Camille Barrat

Cars in Benin, Africa, are communal means of transportation. Motorcycles, we see thousands of those: taxis, delivery and pick up, three family members crowded in one of them, the whole lot. But not cars. There aren’t any in the streets, only in the fringes of town, improvised bus stations where car owners and ride seekers unite under a tree and await. There’s no departure time, no destination established, no precise number of passengers determined. So we wait. For more people, for the right people, headed in similar directions. Payment is like gambling. There’s always and understanding in the end, and no matter how much of a bargain you think you’ve come across, the house always wins. Finally, there are 12 of us. In one car. Four up front, five in the back and three in the trunk, including myself. I see kids, bags, chickens. On top of us, strapped around the hood, bags of crops, seeds and a couch. The wheels give in and we’re running inches above the ground. Nothing works on the control panel. All lights are off, no windows, doors barely shut, only a non-stop horn blows away for the four hours it takes us to drive 100km south, from Kétou to Cotonou, over a red dusty road. As we arrive at the economic capital, I look for a place to change into my outfit before heading into the airport, for what I was wearing in the car is now beyond public exposure. I look like I survived a mine explosion and have just walked out alive. Dressed in better attire, I board the airplane to leave.