Sunday, May 13, 2007

Passports and Nostalgia

Yesterday I mailed my passport to Philadelphia in order to get it renewed. This was my first passport and I feel sad to part ways with it. I remember looking through my Grandmother's passport when I was a kid, looking at all of the places that she had traveled. That was back in the good ol' days when you used to get a stamp for each country, back before the EU. As I was getting ready to send it off, I started to look through all of my stamps and felt a real sense of nostalgia for my own travels over these past ten years.

Growing up, my family never traveled abroad. We would vacation in Maine or Massachusetts, mini golf and yogi bear as opposed to The Eiffel Tower and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. During my last semester of college, I was offered a job teaching photography at a youth program in Guatemala City for the following year. I had to get vaccinated, started listening to "Learn Spanish in Twenty Days" cassettes on my drive to work and most excitingly, I had to get my first passport! Here we have a photograph of young git, ready to conquer the world, naive as can be. I had never been in a place where the primary language wasn't English, had never taught before, wasn't sure where I would be living once I got there, and got bored listening to the language tapes and figured that I would figure Spanish out once I got there. It wasn't until the week before my departure that it hit me how scary the transition was going to be.

These were the first stamps that I ever received. I departed for Guatemala on the morning of August 27, 1997. I cried on the plane, I was terrified.

When I landed I was met by my soon to be co-worker/friend Daniel who took me in a taxi up to the town where I would be living for the next eight months. The house that I lived in was supposed to be for language students but in reality, it was a boarding house for travelers of all walks of life. The house became the center of my life in Guatemala, it was full of wonderful people who became some of my best friends and consisted of an open walled kitchen and a concrete courtyard that was lined with six bedrooms.

In order to work and live in Guatemala, I had to leave the country every three months for a few days in order to renew my visa. How often in life are you required by work to go on a paid vacation? The stamp on this page is from a visa trip that Daniel and I made to El Salvador towards the end of my stay in Central America. We stayed our first night in San Salvador, which was a pretty dangerous city at the time. We stayed in a cheap hotel next to the bus station and didn't leave our room all night. The amazing thing about this hotel room (besides the cockroaches) was that the toilet was in the shower:

The next morning we departed for the beach town of Zunsal where we stayed for the next two nights. The town consisted of one restaurant/bar and the view from our balcony was amazing:

Another Visa renewal stamp was the trip that I made to Belize with Daniel and my friend Laura (my best friend from college, she was down visiting). We stayed in a tiny village named Placencia that consisted of a small concrete walkway, some huts and two restaurants/bars (I've heard that it has been very developed since). We spent three days drinking beer, laying around and swimming. This is the only photograph that I have from our trip to Belize, Laura and Daniel and I lounging on the beach:

Oddly enough, my best friends in Guatemala were all Europeans. As soon as I returned to The States in March of 1998, I immediately began to plan a trip to Europe so that I could see them again. I had been a literature major in college (specifically 20th century European fiction) and had been dreaming of visiting Europe for a long time. On 4/29/00, I finally boarded a flight to Europe and I was ecstatic (the small black stamp on passport page 13). Before September 11th, it was a lot easier to travel as a photographer. This footage was actually shot on a super 8 camera during my first flight to Europe:

I landed at 6am in Frankfurt where my friend Ute came to pick me up. We then took a train through Switzerland to get to Milan where we met up with our friends Carlo, Henk and Eliana. A few days in Milan and a few days in San Remo. Italy is my favorite place on the planet.

From San Remo, Ute and I rode a train to Paris where we hung out for the next week:

For the final stretch of our trip, Ute and I took the train to Brussels to visit our friend Lucy. My favorite part of Brussels was hanging out on the rooftops. The angles of all of the buildings really appealed to the classical photographer in me and on our last day, I made this home movie of some laundry blowing on the clothesline:

The last stamp on page thirteen of my passport is from my trip to St. Martin in 2001. My friend Ben has a beach house there and we spent a week laying around, smoking cigars and drinking lots of rum and tonics. This was my first time seeing "Blue" water and the snorkeling was out of this world!

Last summer I married Robin and the two of us took our honeymoon in Portugal. We flew into Lisbon where we spent a few days walking and eating. Our hotel was in the old part of town and at night we would eat luxurious dinners. One of the most amazing memories from our trip to Lisbon was the spontaneous music that would occur in the restaurants and bars:

From Lisbon, we rented a car and drove to the Algarve (Portugal's southern tip). The beaches and fish were incredible and the asses . . .

The last stamp in my passport was from a trip to Montreal in February 2006. I had a show at Dazibao (my first show outside of the US) and flew out with Robin and was met there by my parents. This was a really amazing trip because it was my parent's first exposure to hearing a language other than English spoken as the predominant language.

I've since been to Toronto but mysteriously I never received a stamp. The other day I went to CVS to get a photo taken for my new passport:

I hope my new passport brings as many great adventures as my old one did. The first stamp will be from the trip that Robin and I are taking to Barcelona this July.


tom said...

cool post, i;m applying for a new US passport myself, it will be #1 for me.


Cable Griffith said...

you are my idol.

caitlin arnold said...

i've had two passports in my life and nothing as interesting has come out of them. the only funny stories i have are about getting my photo taken, both of which were terrible. it's interesting when you travel abroad as a child vs going for the first time as an adult.

tim nurczyk said...

man, those super 8 movies are beautiful. makes me really want one. and makes me want to travel, but that's not happening anytime soon.

ben huff said...

wonderful post jonathan. here's to future travels.

be well.

Cable Griffith said...

you are my american idol. next time, take me with you.

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