bringing in 2015 by Maranie Staab

as we all get ready to bring in the new year tonight i know that many of us have spent some time reflecting on the past year as well as looking forward to the one to come. i was doing a bit of this myself when i came upon this quote that i thought was appropriate for bringing in a new year with the best possible frame of mind. 

we will have expectations, plans and hopes for 2015 and while some of these will come to fruition many may not. but this is life and we are all so incredibly blessed -- more than we may even realize. so, at the risk of being too emphatic, i challenge each of us to make 2015 our best year yet -- do good for yourself, do good for others and in spite of it all, do not lose perspective and forget that the gift is life itself. 

“Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is beauty, admire it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is a tragedy, confront it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is luck, make it.
Life is too precious, do not destroy it.
Life is life, fight for it.” 
― Mother Teresa

mzungu(!) by Maranie Staab

while in uganda, this is the look i received from countless very young children. as it was later explained to me, for some, it was their first time seeing a white person. (only once did my appearance make a small child -- less than 1 year old -- simply burst into tears)

most other children (older than say 2 or 3) would yell "muzungu! muzungu" without fail any time i came into view (which was often as i walked and ran the same road for many days at a time). 

fun fact: "muzungu" is a word meaning ‘white person’ in many bantu languages of east, central and southern africa. the word stems from a contraction of words meaning 'one who moves around' and was originally coined to describe european traders who traveled through east african countries in the 18th century. the word became synonymous with 'white person' because of the traders' complexion. (in other words, it is a well-intentioned term directed at most every white person where i traveled; if you plan to travel to certain parts of africa you can except to hear it often!)

fried sweet potatoes: uganda style by Maranie Staab

i met this young woman while exploring the city of soroti. i was trying to get a look at what she and the other women were doing and upon approaching her she warmly explained that they were making friend sweet potatoes. who knew? not only are sweet potatoes a different color in uganda (more white or pale yellow like a regular potato), but they are also just as if not more delicious. i bought four huge pieces for less than $1USD.

(one of the) men of uganda. by Maranie Staab

while my primary focus was capturing the faces of the women and children i met while in uganda i would be remiss if i did not include some of the men as well; they have their own version of beauty and intensity that the women so clearly possess. 

this gentleman was one of the attendees of the wedding we attended in a small village called opucet located outside of the city of soroti.

until next time, uganda. by Maranie Staab

uganda, my time here has been nothing short of extraordinary. you are a beautiful country full of beautiful, strong and resilient people. in the span of a short three weeks i have managed to learn more about a country, a culture, humanity … and myself then i ever thought possible. i am sure that i will return sooner than later, but until then this girl is looking forward to christmas and new years with family and friends in pittsburgh 

entebbe —> amsterdam —> detroit —> pittsburgh (23 hours later ...)

women of the world: united we stand. by Maranie Staab

it is said that girls compete with each other and women empower one another. i could not agree more and can't understate the importance of (all) women making the choice to build each other up instead of tearing one another down - whether in the US, uganda, or any other place in this world. it is (only) together that we can make the difference. 

here's to the innumerable strong, beautiful and inspirational women that i have met and gotten to know over the past few weeks -- many more photos to come

note: images are cropped so as to fit within the grid. please click on the individual photo to view the entire image. 

doing what i love. by Maranie Staab

i am thankful to the women that i was with at this moment as they were able to capture the first image. the next 3 of are the young child being photographed.

note: the images are cropped so as to fit within the grid. please click on each photo to see the entire image. 

uganda: our first few days by Maranie Staab

today, december 5th 2014, we traveled by van from our accommodations in entebbe to the town of soroti located some 325 km northeast of our origin. (it is going on 1AM now and we are here for a wedding that is to take place tomorrow) a distance that normally takes under 5 hours to cover took us upwards of 9 hours due to christmas traffic (as explained to us by our driver, vincent, most people were out and about due to the holiday season) and unforeseen road construction (one town had decided to tear up all of their "roads" for repair at the same time resulting in nothing short of a chaotic, if not exciting traffic mess. there is simply no way to properly explain ugandan driving as there seems to be very little method to the madness. to start, driving takes place on the opposite side of the road and the driver of the vehicle is also on the opposite side (opposite to us at least), but the real chaos is in the lack of street lines, laws, the pedestrians walking between, among and in front of the cars, the mopeds competing for space with the giant trucks and the potholes and “speed bumps” that split the real estate of the dirt/clay roads. I believe we were on one stretch of paved road over the course of the entire day; aside from that short stint it was traffic at a near standstill pace mixed with racing throughout small villages and towns before hitting another stoppage.

packed into a van driven by vincent (our trusted, ugandan driver) myself, Mary, Susan, Alice and a wonderful couple (documentary filmmakers) that joined us this morning spent much of the day staring out the van windows taking in the sights, sounds and beauty that surrounded us. 
even though we did little more than sit in a van it's impossible to articulate all that was seen and experienced; for me, the time in uganda so far has been sensory overload in the best of ways as each sight, sound and person is new and interesting. 

a few highlights from today include crossing the nile river, stopping for lunch in Mbale at a small but very enjoyable Indian restaurant and meeting our new friends Mwita and Monica. all of that said, my favorite moments were during the few times that we got out of the van to stretch or eat and i was able to talk to some of the street children and take their photos. unlike some places i have been the children wanted their photos taken and were thrilled to be able to see the images after they had been taken. for some, i imagine, it was the first time that they had ever seen a photo of themselves. 

below are a few images from today. most were taken from either the moving van or during the few moment when we stepped outside en route from entebbe to soroti. more to come.


note: all images below are cropped to fit within the grid. please click on the individual image in order to view entire photo. 

touch down in entebbe, uganda by Maranie Staab

well, we made it. 3 flights, 23 hours, 1 book and several glasses of complimentary (red) wine later i/we have made it safely to entebbe, uganda. en route from the airport to where we will be sleeping until heading to soroti tomorrow AM(!)

pittsburgh --> new york ---> amsterdam --> entebbe, uganda

"travel has a way of stretching the mind. the stretch comes not from travels immediate rewards - the inevitable myriad new sights, smells and sounds - but with experiencing firsthand how others do differently what we believed to be the right and only way." (ralph crawshaw)

i am looking forward to experiencing what will very likely be quite a bit of "different." as someone more famous than i once said, "life is a daring adventure ... or nothing at all." 
here is to this adventure and many, many more.


vagabonding by Maranie Staab

spending my kind of a sunday night camped out at a bookstore. i recently listened to a podcast done by rolf potts and was so intrigued that i had to pick up his book (titled vagabonding). as i prepare to leave for a few weeks in africa this wednesday it seems as good of a read as any to help me get into the right frame of mind. 

Vagabonding - n. (1) The act of leaving behind the orderly world to travel independently for an extended period of time. (2) A privately meaningful manner of travel that emphasizes creativity, adventure, awareness, simplicity, discovery, independence, realism, self-reliance, and the growth of the spirit. (3) A deliberate way of living that makes freedom to travel possible.

"For some reason, [Americans] see long-term travel to faraway lands as a recurring dream or an exotic temptation, but not something that applies to the here and now. Instead - out of our insane duty to fear, fashion, and monthly payments on things we don't really need - we quarantine our travels to short, frenzied bursts. In this way, as we throw our wealth at an abstract notion called "lifestyle", travel becomes just another accessory - a smooth-edged, encapsulated experience that we purchase the same way we buy clothing and furniture."

"The more we associate experience with cash value, the more we think that money is what we need to live. And the more we associate money with life, the more we convince ourselves that we're too poor to buy our freedom."

it's a bluegrass kind of saturday by Maranie Staab

the power of music never ceases to amaze me. it's ability to change ones mood in an instant, to turn an average day into a memorable one and perhaps, more than anything, it's ability to bring people together in a way that few other things can is without comparison. 

i took this image of my father saturday night as he and a handful of his musician friends (folks that i have had the pleasure of knowing since i was a small girl) sat around and played into the early morning hours. 

while not the norm in many ways, i will forever be grateful to have grown up in an environment where the weekends were spent jamming around a campfire, the summer at (music) festivals and where a generally simpler way of life made each day magical in its own way.

the face(s) of the homeless in pittsburgh by Maranie Staab

last night marked the first night that temperatures and conditions dipped low enough to open the pittsburgh severe weather and emergency shelter (SWES). for those who may not be familiar, the SWES program provides shelter, food, clothing, counseling and warmth to homeless individuals in pittsburgh during periods of excessively severe weather conditions (sub 25 degrees and/or sleet and snow)

after having worked there several nights a week during last years winter "polar vortex" i was looking forward to going back and seeing some familiar faces and friends that i had made ... while at the same time hoping that there wasn't a single familiar face and that they had all, somehow, managed to find permanent housing (an unrealistic thought, i know).

when it is so cold that it takes you ten minutes to work up the nerve to walk to your car can you even begin to imagine having to sleep outside? every single year people freeze to death in this city and across our nation; so, i ask you, what are you/we all doing to help prevent this from happening this winter?

as part of my effort to bring awareness (because, isn't this where it starts?) to the issue(s) of homelessness in my hometown i will be featuring (candid) portraits of some of those who i meet and get to know.

my hope? by putting a face and a name to the statistics maybe, just maybe, we can create change.

meet tiger: when i asked him his name he simply responded, "i go by tiger."