Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Around the Tree and Around the World - 3 more years!

"Around the Tree and Around the World"  was originally created and shared for Christmas 2010, and has been one of my most popular posts. Now that I've had 3 more years of travels, I've collected many more ornaments and decided it's time to update with my newest additions from more recent travels.

I've been featuring my newest additions on instagram this week, so for this week's #igtravelthursday blog post, I am thrilled to present the second installment of my collection of Christmas tree ornaments from around the world. My rule is that each ornament must be hand-made of natural materials and aquired in the country I travelled to. No plastic, no factory or mass-produced pieces. While some are specifically designed to be ornaments, others are pieces I've modified with a hook in order to hang on the tree - but all have been crafted in the country of origin.  The newest aquisitions are from: Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Ecuador, India, Kenya, Morocco, Namibia, Peru, South Africa, St. Lucia, Nicaragua, and UAE. You can click on the title of each slideshow to take you to the full gallery of each region. Enjoy, and happy holidays!


Asia Christmas Ornaments - Images by Kymri Wilt


Africa Christmas Ornaments - Images by Kymri Wilt


South America Christmas Ornaments - Images by Kymri Wilt


Europe Christmas Ornaments - Images by Kymri Wilt


Mexico/Central America/Caribbean Christmas Ornaments - Images by Kymri Wilt


North American Christmas Ornaments - Images by Kymri Wilt

Join us for Instagram Travel Thursday! Instagram Travel Thursday is a weekly blog post collection with a purpose to promote the great travel experts on Instagram and Instagram as a source for travel inspiration. Add your Instagram Travel-related post to the Linky.

Here are the Linky rules:
Link to a new Instagram travel post and use the permalink of your post, not the homepage URL.
Only new posts from the week of the linky and no giveaways, other linkys or sales pitches.
No links to your Instagram profile, only links to your blog.
Link back to one of the Instagram Travel Thursday Linky hosts.
Visit a few other posts in the linky and show them some love (comment, tweet, Pin etc.).
Links that do not follow the guidelines will be removed.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Geometric Patterns in Art and Architecture

Geometry is a fascinating subject - it can be as simple as a line drawn on paper, or as complex as string theory physics. It's like the "gateway math" for appreciating countless forms of art and architecture.

For this week's #Frifotos on twitter, the theme is #geometric. Oh the possiblities are endless! But for this post, I will keep it simple and showcase two forms of geometry: Plane geometry - flat shapes on a one dimensional surface (Art), and Solid Geometry - three-dimensional shapes (Architecture). Yes, I'm using mathematics as a basis for eye-candy. How better to cultivate inspiration for my 6th-grader to appreciate geometry and math? Enjoy!

Plane Geometry in Art:

Beaded Art of Southern Africa
Geometric patterns in Egyptian Box

Geometric patterns in textiles of Guatemala

Celtic Art of Ireland

Geometric Art in Mexican Tiles

Geometric patterns in textiles of India

Geometric Patterns in Moroccan Tiles

Geometric designs in pottery of Kenya

Geometric patterns in Greek Ceramics

Solid Geometry in Architecture:

Denver Art Museum, USA
Dali Museum, Spain

Step Pyramid of Sakkara, Egypt

Arches of Meknes, Morocco

Spokes of the London Eye, UK

Geometric living spaces in Lille, France

Guggenheim Museum, Spain

Nyatapola Temple, Nepal

And finally, there's that irresistably photogenic place where geometric art adorns geometric architecture (because this post would be lacking without these images):

Islamic detail of mosque in St. Petersburg, Russia

Window of Notre Dame Cathedral, France

Zelij Woodwork Ceiling, Morroco

Geometric Stained Glass Facade of Lille Cathedral, France

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Berlin, Germany

Bhutanese Painted Architecture

Mosaic Arch in St. Petersburg, Russia

Geometric Mosaic Dome of Mosque in St. Petersburg,  Russia

I would be remiss in the subject of geometric architecture if I didn't mention the works of Oscar Niemeyer, whom I've blogged about previously. So I'll finish with a link to my Photographic Tribute to Oscar Niemeyer.

If you're on twitter, be sure to follow me @kymri to see more #geometric images (not included in this post!)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Cuba Cubed: Instagram Travel Thursday Feature

Oddly enough, Cuba was the first destination from which I created and shared instagram photos with the world (having only started using instagram in January 2013). I expected not to have access to wi-fi or internet, and while there were days and hotels without, the Melia Cohiba in Havana provided it just as you'd expect in any other country. So while I didn't have roaming (a blessing really), I could still take pictures with my phone and share them later from my hotel in Havana.

In a new destination, I always start with the obligatory selfie and introduction:

"Cuba, you had me at "Dos gardenias para ti" (Ibrahim Ferrar) years before I ever laid eyes on you. At last we meet and I taste your smooth rum, smell your smoky sweet breath of cigar, and awaken to the best cup of coffee anywhere in the world. As if I could possibly fall any deeper, you throw in a shiny mint classic convertible car and the Caribbean sea. Done. Head over heels. In love."

"I have to admit, it is so tempting to use a retro or sepia filter on instagram for my posts from Cuba, but the fact is this country is so colorful that not even kodachrome can do it justice. The closest thing to authentic is #nofilter, and I want to share Cuba as I see it now. Remedios, Cuba."

"Quiet afternoon in the #UNESCO World Heritage city of Trinidad, #Cuba."

Well, no sooner had I declared that I wasn't going to use any IG filters, this happened:

"I almost never use filters on IG, but the road to Cuban tobacco farm Finca Robaina just begged for sepia."

That was an exception. Back to color:

"Tobacco leaves are hung to dry from poles in a barn at Finca Robaina, eventually to become fine Cuban cigars. #travel #Cuba #patterns"

Then came this moment:

"Don Alejandro's grandson, Hiroshi Robaina, lights for me a cigar which was rolled by his grandfather 9 years ago (he passed away in 2011). I cannot begin to describe how enjoyable it is to taste this fine aged Cuban cigar...."

Now, I'm not a smoker. I "tasted" a Cuban cigar in Cuba because I would not be opportuned with tasting one at home, and it seemed my experience of Cuba would be incomplete without this moment. It was more about honoring a host and his family than it was about the cigar. And as it turned out, this was my favorite instagram image and story of the entire trip.

My gradeschool daughter and several of her friends also follow me on Instagram. So a lasting impression of me smoking a cigar in Cuba was not going to sit well with me or my daughter. Later that day, I met a young girl on a nearby farm, and found out something very special which made the perfect story to cross cultures and identify with my daughter's peer group:

"Meet Lorelia, a 10-year-old girl living on a farm near Vinales, Cuba. She proudly shows off her nails she painted herself. Since I had showed her pictures of my daughter who does the same, this one is for my daughter and her friends on Instagram who share pics of nail art."

Eventually, I found the perfect souvenir of my Cuba journey.

"My Cuban camera, appropriately made of recycled green beer cans."

And because I quickly learned that everyone on instagram loves a good sunset....

"A local Cuban fishes in the waters along the Malecon as the sun sets in Havana, Cuba. #travel #sunset"

More on Cuba: Cuba From the Heart

To explore more travel blogs featuring instagram, check out the set of links hosted by ToDestinationUnknown, and follow the hashtag #igtravelthursday on instagram!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Back on Track off my Back after a Hack

Dear Readers,

I'm back. The inspirational travel post of photos and stories from my recent travels to Bhutan can wait. What I am writing now is far more important and I hope that you will read through to the end.

Had you come to visit this blog between October 3rd and 23rd, you'd have found a giant "ERROR - page not found" message. Had you sent me an e-mail between those dates, they'd have bounced back and I would not have received them nor been able to respond. And, if you are a facebook friend, you would have seen some abnormal posts and links on October 3rd which were completely out of character for me.  My closest friends were quick to alert me by text that my account had been breached. I am grateful to those friends who knew right off that those posts and links were not my tone and not from me, and I am sorry for any others who watched in judgement and did not know what to think,  perhaps assessing my character negatively.   I limit my private, personal facebook page to actual friends and colleagues I know in person and those whom I know well enough that I am comfortable sharing family photos with (usually of my dogs).  I also maintain a public facebook page for Mira Terra Images on which I share images and articles and have followers (fans) comprised of both familiar friends and complete strangers. Thankfully, this page was not breached, so publicly, no one would have seen the odd links and posts that continued to stream on my private page throughout October 3rd. Again, I appreciate those friends who texted and called to alert me. Unfortunately, I would not know for another 2 days.

Meanwhile, I had been on assignment leading a tour in Bhutan and had fallen ill to (what I later learned was) acute gastroenteritis coupled with a rare viral strain of flu, the symptoms for which I would pass off as being something else - i.e. sore throat from talking, mild headaches from altitude, and well, I was dropping weight so fast I could not keep my pants on.  Yet each day I would drift from perfect functionality to sudden onset of symptoms and back again, so each time I would contribute it to altitude, road sickness (long mountainous drives), or a mild cold that would eventually run it's course.

The tour finished with a flight back to Delhi, India, and that day I was functioning under par, feeling under slept, and thinking I was just downright exhausted. But it was almost over and I managed to get through our farewell dinner, packing, and prepping for what was to be my next assignment in Africa.  I ran the water in the tub, as I always do to finish out a busy day and help send me to sleep.

Next thing I knew I was waking up in ICU in a hospital in Delhi.  I asked for and was handed my phone - I saw the many texts from friends about my facebook hack, and posted:

"Dear friends, I don't know what was going on with my facebook page with those link statuses, but I'm in a hospital in Delhi right now and will be back soon."

Many suspected this was still a hacker, but my closest of closest contacted my husband and confirmed that I was, in fact, hospitalized in Delhi.  And I learned, sadly, that I was too sick to go on to Africa for my next assignment and would instead be sent home once I was well and stable enough for the long flights (we're talking over 20 hours total).

I had stopped getting e-mails to my phone and assumed it was an iphone/e-mail server issue related to the facebook breach.  I did not have the strength to deal with calls to servers and Apple, and my apps still functioned, so I resorted to texting, facetime, phone calls and skype (with my closest), and using my social media apps to share posts with everyone else. I learned that the apparent breach had come from inside India, and thus my server would not verify me as ME while in India anyway, which makes sense on a security level. I was frustrated at first but then relief set in as I realized I could just focus on my health and recovery without having to answer to any e-mails. My health was more important than anything.  E-mails could wait.

So I passed the days and weeks in hospital ALWAYS keeping a positive attitude, and I continued to share photos and posts from Bhutan and India to my facebook phone app (both private and public pages) in my usual manner.  I wanted people at home not to worry, to know that I was alive and well and recovering, and besides, sharing my travel experiences is something that brings me great joy.  I believe that being in a joyful state of mind is essential to good health. I wanted nothing more than to heal as quickly as possible to relieve family and friends of worry and fear. When I had moments of doubt, I reached out and my personal facebook community was quick to answer with prayer, positive vibes, and well wishes, and this had a tremendous impact on my attitude. I so rarely reach out and ask for anything, but when fear set in and I needed forces to go to battle for me, there they were.  I was, and am, truly blessed with loving and caring friends and family.  So I was further motivated to get well in order to thank each and every one of them in person.

I was able to facetime or skype almost daily with my husband, daughter and the dogs (despite the 12 hour time difference), and I received calls from friends near and far which brightened my day (or 3:00AM mornings, rather) more than you might imagine. I had several guide colleagues and friends in India, Bhutan and Nepal who offered to come if I needed anything. My local ground partner agents stopped by daily, after hours on their own time, with picnic baskets and smiles and reassurances. I was checked in upon regularly by text from fellow Travel Director friends on their assignments all over the world - Bali, Tokyo, Dubai. Finally, I was incredibly blessed with a visit from a fellow Travel Director colleague (whom I now consider family) who came straight from the airport to see me in hospital (several times), bearing chocolates, a book to read, and most importantly, warm loving hugs as if she were my own mother. Honestly, I believe those hugs did the trick. Within 2 days of her visits I was walking out the door on my own two feet and getting on a plane headed home.

As I stepped into my Doctor's office on the way out, I hugged him and thanked him for saving my life. His reply was "You saved your own life.  We learned a lot from you as a patient. "

I thought about this during my flight. I thought about how every step of the way, I had a choice to make: to fear or to trust; to complain about the bad or to appreciate the good; to live in the moment, or to fret over the past and worry about the future; to be anxiety-ridden, or to stay calm. Above anything else, I chose to count my blessings for every moment of the here and now and strove to maintain a positive outlook and attitude.

Beyond that, details are unimportant. The fact is, I'm home now, fully recovered, have hugged my family tight and given the dogs their belly rubs, have dealt with website and hacker issues and obviously have my blog back up and running, am receiving e-mails again, and am slowly getting around to personally thanking everyone along the way.  But great and valuable lessons were learned (sometimes the hard way) which I will share with you here in closing. These are as much a reminder for myself as they are anything else, so perhaps you can learn from my experience:

* DRINK WATER, and KEEP DRINKING WATER. DRINK EVEN MORE WATER when traveling in high altitudes. Listen to your body - if your lips start to chap, then you are dehydrated.

*REPLENISH ELECTROLYTES including SALT so that your body actually retains the water.

*BE PRO-ACTIVE for your health. If you are suffering odd symptoms, treat yourself the same as you would if it were your mother or child with the same symptoms. If you would tuck them in bed to rest, then do so for yourself.  If you would take them to a doctor, then do the same for yourself.

* If it is your job or duty to look after others, regardless of their needs and demands, be sure to LOOK AFTER YOURSELF FIRST. (The airlines have it right when the oxygen masks drop - "secure your own mask first before helping others").

*BE KIND, even, and especially, to someone who is being unkind.

*KINDNESS GOES A LOT FARTHER THAN COMPLAINING. I've known and I practice this as a Travel Director, but it bears repeating and reminding (myself and) others, especially when dealing with airlines, hotels, and those in a business position to make a difference.  It IS possible to be KIND and FIRM. Speak softly and carry a big stick - sound familiar? Save the song and dance theatrics for theatre and simply get the job done.

*A Travel Director's job is more about DIPLOMACY than anything else. Leading Americans abroad and balancing cultural and language differences with expectations and comfort, not to mention political and safety considerations.....there's much more to the job, and more to me, than meets the eye. Those who have never travelled with me think I lead a glamorous life; while those who have seen me in action, handling a crisis, have said "I wouldn't want your job if it was the last paying job on earth!"  Travel Directors are known to "move mountains" and I won't admit or deny it, but it's especially hard work when mountains arise unexpectedly.  Still, I love what I do and I learn something from each destination, each guide, and each and every person who travels with me.

*STAND FIRM in the TRUTH.  Sometimes that means walking away from discussion and letting the other person be right; sometimes it means speaking into ears that only want to hear good news; and other times it means simply letting rumors run their course - people love gossip so let them gossip. Truth always prevails in the long run, and you'll sleep in good conscience if you have truth on your side.

*HONOR every person who serves you, whether it be a waiter, a doctor,  or a janitor, with respect and appreciation.  Nobody is perfect, and they may fall short of your expectations, but they are doing their job and their day is likely a lot longer and harder than yours. Gratitude goes a long way.

And finally...

*BE COMPASSIONATE to others who are suffering, scared,  or ill - for some day, you may be in their shoes and need a hand to hold, a shoulder to cry on, or simply, a hug. What comes around goes around.

Thank you for reading my thoughts and I hope that by sharing my experience I've helped or inspired you in some way.  Namaste.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The NEW LAX Tom Bradley International Terminal

I felt something was different as I made my way through the TSA Security checkpoint and was directed into a clean empty hallway. "To all Gates" read the sign above an elevator. Escalators were a bit further down and not so obvious, but I  stepped on and watched my surroundings change into a place I had never been before.

A  few employees wearing id tags and black t-shirts that said "Welcome" were coming right for me and checking doors. I was clearly unsure where to go, but only their shirts bothered to greet me. Suddenly an unmarked door opens behind me and a head pops out. The group turns. "Hey is that the break room? I need a smoke." They file right through me and into the door, it shuts, and again I'm alone at the end of a hallway. There was no way to go but to my right. 

"Just keep going up to your right" I hear a voice from the Security checkpoint hollering to a couple arriving at the top of the escalator. So I kept going to my right, around an atrium filled with natural light, with a moving mural wall at the far end. Breathtaking. I stop to take it in.

This was definitely not the same terminal I'd transited so many times. I was certain I had turned the corner into an art gallery.   More people with "Welcome" shirts scurried about ignoring me. I figured if I had inadvertently stumbled upon a private gallery opening, I was going to play it cool as if I was totally meant to be there. There was still only one direction to head, and I proceeded confidently.

As the hallway poured out into a main foyer, I spied signs "Micheal Kors", "Tumi" and "Duty Free" and almost wept to realize this was, in fact, the newly renovated Tom Bradley International Terminal I'd only ever seen in construction phases from the outside. I checked my watch - I had a good 2.5 hours to explore and take it all in before my flight was to depart. How excited was I?!

Where to start? The place was empty. I spotted another small cluster of "Welcome"-clad people at a table with signs. I read the sign behind them.

Grand opening September 18... that's today! And it's here! And now! I asked the woman who was eyeing me as I took pictures "So is this really the first day this terminal is open? Today?"
"Yes," she replied to the obvious, offering no further information. Again, her black t-shirt screamed "Welcome" as she proceeded to silently wait for me to finish so she could finish whatever nothingness she was meant to be doing there. 

I looked around and spotted flight crews and yes, other travelers, gathering across the floor, so I headed over to see what the draw was.

Ah, welcome freebies! Water & Wi-fi! I took a water for good measure as it seemed to be the most forthcoming "welcome" on offer, and settled on a place to sit, pull out the real camera, and continue exploring as if I were now on a press assignment. I wasn't, it was sheer coincidence that had me here for the Grand Opening of the terminal, but work habits die hard and besides, it was clean, uncrowded, and architecturally stunning. 

The moving murals would evolve from cascading waterfalls to suitcases piled sky high....


....from cloudy skies to a Japanese painting... subtle retail imagery inspiring you to shop in the not-yet-open boutiques...

...all with gentle sounds elements wrapping you in the experience as you pass by. 

I managed to post a couple of quick Instagrams featuring a few of the airport "Pups" - pets unstressing passengers - what a brilliant addition, well-played LAX!

Then the time came to hang out at my gate for my Emirates flight.

The seats in the gate area were all lovingly accented with plug outlets, another quietly unassuming welcome detail in the new terminal.

Alas, time came to board and I took one last look back down the row of empty retail space and wondered how different it will all look when I come back through here next month. One thing I will know for sure is that I definitely will have been here before. 

This post is shared with Instagram Travel Thursday, where you'll find more bloggers using Instagram to share their travels. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Sharing Instagrams, Videos & Watershots from Nicaragua

Ready to head out at Playa Remanso (GoPro Hero II)
Recently I had the immense pleasure of traveling to Nicaragua to experience the Chicabrava Surf Camp in San Juan del Sur. These instagrams highlight some of the super fun activities we managed in just a few short days - lots of incredible girl-powered surfing, some yoga, some sailing, and more:

It was nothing short of a fantastic adventure, most of which was spent in or on the water. Because of that fact, I wanted options for capturing the experience without ruining my iphone or packing my DSLR water housing, which would take up too much space in the carry-on. Besides, I wanted to surf more than I wanted to worry about taking pictures. So I grabbed my GoPro Hero II,  which I've had for awhile, and picked up another new goodie, which I'll get to further on. First, the Go Pro saga.

Before leaving home, I plugged in the Go Pro to charge it up overnight, and when I got to Nicaragua and pulled it out, I realized I'd left the charging cord at home, and the camera was only charged to about 25%.  So basically, this meant one and only one surfboard-mounted video of my first wave on Day 1 at Playa Remanso:

But as you can see, I was able to get plenty out of the footage! Paddling, riding, some cool slo-mo clips, and a couple of stills. We'd been asked by Chicabrava to come up with a personal theme song for the week, and clearly,  the song "I Love It" by Icona Pop was meant for me. This video was edited quickly on mac with imovie, forgive the audio tracking mishap - just needed to get it posted for this blog. Anyhoo, that was it, that's all the GoPro footage I got before the battery went dead. So with no charging cord, I packed the GoPro away and, to be honest, felt a bit of relief as it freed me up to simply enjoy the rest of the day surfing. Which I did. Totally.

The next day, we headed to Playa Hermosa, a gorgeous sprawling beach where they dropped the competitors for the "Survivor Nicaragua" season.  In a smart move, Chicabrava actually purchased the two vehicles from Survivior after filming, added board racks and a paint makeover, and now they serve perfectly to transport a bunch of chicas heading out on a Nicaragua surf safari. Here's the wide open endless beach of Playa Hermosa:

For this session, Chicabrava provided a land-based surf photographer, Nicaraguan local Jerson Barboza. He provided me (and the other chicas) with a CD of some awesome stills he captured:

I was having such a great time surfing, I hadn't bothered to break out my new toy tool just yet - the Watershot Pro housing kit for iphone5, from a cool company making them right here in my home city, San Diego. This is the unassuming packaging it wears....

And this is a better look at what's inside: the case, a leash, and TWO interchangable lenses! Only the PRO version comes with both lenses, and it's definately worth the splurge to have them.

I have to admit, I was so smitten the moment I viewed a shot through the super-wide conversion lens (shown), that I never actually tried the other lens - a flat port which sees what your iphone normally sees.

I took a few trial shots at the beach, then took it on the afternoon's sailing adventure, and was pretty stoked with the wide-angle shots!(see instagram shots above)

Then I swam to the beach, iphone (in housing) safely strapped to my wrist, and took these:

From the water:

And from the beach:

Yep, I was in love with my watershot, and bravely decided to start sharing the shots straight to social media right there from the beach! How? Watershot comes with it's own Watershot App, (free download from itunes).  It's real easy to learn the simple menu functions (I taught myself on the plane with phone out of the case). One of those functions allows you to share your shot to facebook or twitter, directly from within the app! Here's what that looks like:

The only drawback of this function is that you can't add any text of your own, but hey, that's for later when you're out of the water, all surfed out, and happily reviewing your shots and videos. Did I say VIDEOS? Yes! That too is a simple one push menu function to toggle from still to video! Oh and that's not all, the app gives you various other customizable features:

* Camera Type: allows you to toggle from back to front camera - you know, for selfies in the water.

* Photo Options: allows you to choose single shot, or burst mode to freeze the action.

* Orientation: allows you to toggle from landscape to portrait, which comes in handy when composing your instagram videos.

Other great features in the app include a floating compass, and a self-timer release programmable up to 60 seconds. There's so much already that the Watershot app and housing can do, and it's only going to get better with updates and developing features including bluetooth enabling, a dive module, and a pistol grip....sigh,  I can't wait for Christmas....

Meanwhile, back in Nicaragua, on Day 3, I forsook a surf session to wander out in the waves and put my Watershot skills to the test. Using the 110 wide angle,  here's a tightly edited sampling of stills and video I managed:

Well, if nothing else, I learned I'm a better surfer than a surf photographer! I've only just begun, and will continue to experiment and master skills with my Watershot. But back on the beach, I did get my favorite footage of the morning shoot, so I"ll finish with this little #instavid....

"Dawn Patrol with the Surf Dawgz at Playa Maderas"

This post is part of Instagram Travel Thursday, where this week I've added my link to the collection hosted by Elena Sonnino of Live, Do, Grow. You can find more travel pictures on Instagram with a search of hashtag #IGTravelThursday.

Disclaimer: My Surf Camp trip to Nicaragua was hosted by Chicabrava, and the cool folks at Watershot provided me with the Watershot Pro housing kit. Opinions are my own, and if I didn't love it, I'd let you know it. I promise.