Around the World in Street Art: My 7 Super Shots

Last week the Kit from the lovely Seek New Travel blog tagged me to participate in HostelBookers 7 Super Shots.

So here are mine. I’ve chosen a bit of a street-art/graffiti theme and stuck to the suggested titles in only the very loosest of ways.

1. A photo that…takes my breath away

This shot was taken in early 2005, a few months after George Bush had defeated John Kerry in the US Presidential race. It was my first time in the USA and I had hired a monster of a car to drive down Highway 1 from San Francisco to LA. I’d never driven on the right hand side of the road before, or driven an automatic, so large portions of this trip were spent with me trying to navigate roads while not veering into the wrong lane while pumping the Chemical Brothers on full blast. Driving through the university town of San Luis Obispo I came across this stop sign and had to pull over the car to take a photo. As someone who thought Bush was a total imbecile, it was great to come to the USA and see that a whole heap of Americans thought so too.

2. A photo that…makes me laugh or smile

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I found these patterns and paintings down several of the laneways in Jerusalem’s Arab quarter. They instantly made me smile – they seemed so fun and colourful. I asked one of the guys selling coffee next door to this one what they meant, and he told me they were there to commemorate that someone from that house had embarked on the Hajj – the pilgrimage to Mecca which all Muslims are required to make once in their lifetime. I loved that this was an example of ‘graffiti’ being used to celebrate a religious tradition.

3. A photo that…makes me dream

What you can’t see in this shot is that I’m staring at the London Olympic Stadium directly in front of me. I had honestly thought that at this point – July 2011 and a year before the Games – that the stadium would still be long off completion. But it wasn’t. It looked sorted. I was impressed and happy. Meanwhile, behind me is one of Stik’s biggest projects; a huge huge stick man painted on the floor of what was a bit of no man’s land in Hackney Wick. I was there with my friend Heather dancing the night away at a local art and music festival – I don’t think it’s on this year because of the Games.

4. A photo that…makes me think

I was working on a UN event called ‘Cartooning for Peace’ in 2006 when I first heard of Palestinian cartoonist Naji al-Ali, whose work regularly featured the image of Handala, a barefoot child with his back to us, silently watching what’s going on in his homeland. In 1987 al-Ali was gunned down in London; Ismail Sowan was arrested for his murder although it was never clear whether he was acting for the PLO or Mossad – both of whom he admitted working for as a double agent. The image lives on however – it’s painted here on the Palestinian side of the Separation barrier near Bethlehem.

5. A photo that…makes my mouth water

Slightly tenuous, but I was starving when I took this photo. I had just climbed to the top of Lycabettus Hill in Athens – everyone had told me there was a cafe at the top, but no one mentioned how expensive it was. By this point my stomach was really grumbling, but I liked that someone had bothered to draw the words ‘Antifa Hooligans’ on the stone slab – I remembered someone telling me once that this was an anti-fascist football song of some kind. The view was gorgeous, and here I was thinking of anti-fascist football songs. With a rumbling stomach.

6. A photo that…tells a story

This mural is right around the corner from my house and was painted way back in 1985 based on the Hackney Peace Carnival two years earlier. I love it because it has loads of energy – something which the area still has in bucket-loads. Here, Ray Walker’s mural show the community coming together against the bomb and the threat of nuclear war. There are a lot of things Hackney residents come together on here in 2012, but CND isn’t usually one of them.

7. A photo that…I am most proud of (aka my worthy of National Geographic shot)

I’m not sure it’s so much this particular photo I’m proud of – it’s not like the composition or even the subject matter are particularly unique now. I do however like it for personal reasons. While at uni in Bristol we saw Banksy stencils and artwork pop up all over the city, so it was great to see how, ten years later, similar images of resistance and satire were finding themselves on the Separation Barrier between Israel and the West Bank. Quite a long way from the rat stencils he printed outside our local Somerfield.

And now it’s your turn…

Over to you:

>;;;;;;;;;;; Mums Do Travel

>;;;;;;;;;;; LIVE SIMPLY, TRAVEL LIGHTLY, LOVE PASSIONATELY & DON’T FORGET TO BREATHE

>;;;;;;;;;;; Taste of Slow

>;;;;;;;;;;; Hectic Travels

>;;;;;;;;;;; Kendall in Paris

How the world changed in 2009

Perhaps it’s the end of a decade that gets you thinking about how things have changed, and are changing. This post just pulls together some of the articles and sites that I’ve enjoyed for giving a useful insight into the shifts happening in global economics and international relations, which you might find interesting too.

In global politics, Copenhagen cemented a seismic shift and global power and interplay, with Mark Lynas’ article in the Guardian; How do I know China wrecked the Copenhagen deal? I was in the room as essential reading.

Copenhagen was much worse than just another bad deal, because it illustrated a profound shift in global geopolitics. This is fast becoming China’s century, yet its leadership has displayed that multilateral environmental governance is not only not a priority, but is viewed as a hindrance to the new superpower’s freedom of action.

Meanwhile, whatever you might think about Gordon Brown, his TED talk on the web and our growing interconnectedness is, I think, a fantastic 15 mins on showing how the growing power of technology is strengthening global humanity to fight poverty and injustice.  At the same time, Evgeny Morozov‘s RSA talk warning of how the internet is being manipulated to, at best, influence popular opinion and, at worst, to find, target and destroy dissenting voices is both compelling and terrifying.

The economic crisis has caused many to question whether a debt-fuelled money system is really the best way for the future, reinvigorating economic thinking in the effort to try, test and prove what might make things better. The New Economics Foundation, among others, are doing a lot of research in this area, and argue:

Money and credit have become disconnected from the real economy, from productive investment and sustainable growth. New, more democratic forms of money are required in the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Amidst all the economic turmoil, some have looked at the paltry sums of money dedicated to development assistance and aid in the developing world and asked themselves what exactly is the point? Given no one any longer has much of a clue how to sustain growth in an unpredictable global economy, can development aid really make a difference? Yes, says development specialist and blogger Owen Barder in his excellent article on Open Democracy and on his blog:

Although the effect of aid on economic growth is uncertain, there can be no doubt that aid makes a huge difference to people’s lives.  Aid provides food, health care, education, clean water, financial services, and modest incomes which transform the lives of the people who receive them.

Finally, I loved the AP new’s picture of the decade. A picture is worth a thousand words.

Got any other interesting links, sites, pictures or articles that show us how the world is changing? Post them here.

Your Wonderful World

Ever since I saw on twitter that Chi-chi Ekweozor is mustering Herculean levels of endurance to visit all 7 wonders of the world in just 7 days, all for charity, it’s really got me thinking about some of the incredible journeys we make and how much we’re prepared to do for the promise of experiencing something amazing. It’s also made me wonder what it is that makes something wondrous to us; the sight itself, or something more.

The ‘7 wonders’ accolade is after all a deliberately bold statement. It’s basically saying that, on the whole of our pretty huge planet, these 7 sights are the greatest things you’re ever going to see. They’re incomparable. You can believe the hype. They’re guaranteed to take your breathe away.

The very fact that there are places out there that are capable of inspiring such awe among so many people is in itself pretty incredible. After all, 100 million votes were cast back in 2007 to create the official list.  But I can’t help but think that it takes more than the simple vision of a place to leave an imprint on our minds for years to come.

A couple of years ago I went on a road trip across Australia with two of my oldest and best friends. On this one particularly beautiful day we were driving down the Great Ocean Road towards the Twelve Apostles which, we had been told repeatedly, were ‘a must see’ .

They were gorgeous. I have about 50 photographs to prove it. But the wondrous moment for me that day wasn’t seeing those stone structures jutting out of the sea. It was later that night in Port Campbell, sat with our legs dangling over a deserted pier, cracking open a bottle of champagne we’d bought in the Yarra, drinking out of plastic cups and giggling about our efforts to persuade the waiters at dinner that it was my birthday (it wasn’t), in an attempt to get some free dessert (in which we succeeded). The sun was setting and there we were; three best friends sat on the edge of Australia with a feeling that we were surrounded by magic.

It’s wonderful to know that there are places out there that most would agree are awe-inspiring; and I hope I’m lucky enough to see all the official 7 wonders too someday.  But it’s also good to know that amazing moments are just as likely to happen when you least expect it, perhaps with some good friends at the end of a long day. I’m pretty sure that if I asked you to name 7 places that mean the most to you, your list would include places unknown to most of us – special only you. So, give yourself a treat and try to think of a few of them – 7 of them if you can.

You can track the 7 Wonders in 7 Days adventure at @7wondersin7days, and hwww.7wondersin7days.com/