Observations in Lima:

Peru’s capital is a teeming megalopolis of street vendors, exhaust fumes, cathedrals and bright lights. Following my most recent assignment with Heifer, I spent four days photographing some of Lima’s 8 million residents. I’ve divvied up the following photographs into what became four dominate themes: work, devotion, transit and leisure. From the wealthy suburbs of Miraflores to the up-and-coming pueblo joven of Villa Maria, Lima enjoys a stronger economy than the rest of this developing country. For this reason, many leave their homes elsewhere to make new lives in this boomtown on the Pacific. Work… Devotion… Transit… Leisure… All photos Copyright 2008 Jake Lyell Photography

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My Grandmother the Obama Fan

So I am back from Peru now. I have a lot of great photographs from Lima, but before I get to those, many people ask what I do when I’m at home. Here’s a little bit of insight into my life in Virginia… I don’t put my camera down when I’m back home, though I’m not as good at toting it around as I am when I’m on assignment. I’m still trying to get into the mentality that I am always on assignment, even when I’m not in a foreign country. On Wednesday I went down to Chesapeake, a 90 minute drive, to hang out with my grandmother. Above, our lunch outing at her favorite restaurant, the Pirate’s Cove. At 85, my grandmother still gets out and does her own shopping and errand running, though at a slightly slower pace than she’s perhaps used to. Her shopping destination of choice:[…]

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High and Dry – out in the sticks of Northern Peru

I can’t be sure what comes into mind when you think of Peru but I imagine your thoughts are similar to thoughts of Egypt: ancient ruins and exotic kingdoms. Lately when I mention I’ve been in Peru the next question is usually a bright and inquisitive “Did you visit Machu Pichu?” Unfortunately I did not, though it’s not a total loss as I much prefer the company of the locals to 50 or so backpacking gringos. While some might have to do a Google search to match the country of my latest destination to its continent, Peru’s ruins, its mountains, culture, customs and even cuisine have put it squarely on most westerners’ mental gazetteer. This is my second journey into Peru. My first was exactly one year, and maybe 12 or so blog entries, ago. Back then I found some very dire living conditions in the Amazonian city of Iquitos,[…]

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Flights, Frontiers and the Fleas in the Andes

From the moment I walked off the plane to get my baggage in Quito, I was out of breath and a little light headed. At 9000 feet, Quito does funny things to a guy used to living at sea level. It wasn’t long before we came back to a more familiar altitude. After sleeping just four hours at the hotel, we hopped an early morning flight down south to Ecuador’s Loja (low-ha) region. On this most recent assignment with Heifer, Loja’s airport was the starting point for Christian and me on our journey west toward the Peruvian border. In just an hour’s flight from Quito we landed in a beautiful valley in the Andes Mountains. After taking some breakfast in Catamayo, we set out for an 8 hour drive to the border – five of which hurdled us through bumpy, unpaved backroads that gradually spiraled down the mountains into dry[…]

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a Change of Scenery – my week in Ireland

Not exactly an assignment, but still mostly a working week, I’ve recently been in Ireland. The occasion: my friends Ryan and Aoife gathered the closest of their friends and family from throughout the world for a week-long convergence in County Wicklow, just south of Dublin. At the end of the week the two bonded in holy matrimony on a hillside near the town of Blessington. Though we’ve known each other for about 15 years, Ryan and I became good friends when he returned to Richmond a couple years ago after living in Chicago, Italy and Ireland, respectively. A talented web and graphic designer, we’ve collaborated on a few projects as well. He is the architect of this blog and my forthcoming website. Both of us well traveled, we share a love of other cultures and ways of life. Shown above on the windy moors, Ryan holds on for dear life.[…]

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Kilimanjaro to Victoria Falls – Documenting Heifer’s work in the African interior.

Traveling in the developing world can wear on one’s conscience. Although the simplicity of lifestyle and overwhelming hospitality found there can be extraordinary, more often than not, essential needs are not being met, and daily life is a struggle. As my friend, writer Christian DeVries put it while remarking how fortunate we were to be born in America, we (Westerners) hit the jackpot in the global lottery. Lucky we are indeed. It is my observation that those in the States, regardless of background, who truly work hard and make good decisions can provide for their own needs and those of their family and possibly even save a bit on the side. This is not the case in many places in the world. Work ethic is certainly an essential ingredient in success; but drive, determination and hard work mean nothing when the pillars of society are not in place to reward[…]

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Saving Lives – Africa, PEPFAR and the Bush Legacy

The President is just back from a whirlwind tour of Africa. He swept across the continent in 6 days, leapfrogging to friendly and peaceful countries while dispatching Secretary Rice to areas that need a little work (see my Kenya post). While much of the headlines these days deal with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Bush administration has been waging a more silent war against AIDS in the developing world. I’ve spent the last month in Northern Tanzania, observing the work of an NGO called Light in Africa. Light in Africa, or LIA, began as a children’s home on the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro. Since work began in 2000, founder Lynn Elliot (aka Mama Lynn) has gradually expanded its ministries to include food, nutrition and medical programs to the surrounding areas. The operation has since moved off the mountain to be mainly concentrated in the village of Boma N’gombe. LIA[…]

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Turning Blue: Virginia’s Democratic Fever

Momentum can be a dangerous force. Just ask former Senator George Allen, whose political career as a darling of the Republican Party was brought down by the momentum of the Macaca incident in 2006. Were it not for such a slip (and the hoopla that followed), Barack Obama could well be riding his current wave of momentum to a race in November against Allen, who was a very early GOP front-runner for the nomination. While Virginia won’t be selecting a nominee from its native sons or daughters this time around, it will certainly play a more crucial role in the nomination process than in the past. Obama swept Democratic primaries and caucuses held across the country Saturday and Sunday, and poles have suggested that he will continue to fair well on Tuesday’s primaries in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC. That Obama momentum was felt by thousands of people inside and[…]

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“No Raila, No Peace.” Kenya’s Bloody Tribal Unrest.

No one predicted what has come over Kenya in the last month since its disputed presidential elections. But since then, the country has fallen from the grace of being one of the most-stable countries on the African Continent to being the host of machete wielding street mobs of young, angry, disenfranchised men. Tourists and ex-patriots have largely left the country as security and the economy have plunged amid the unrest. In all likelihood, Orange-Democratic Movement leader, Raila Odinga, won Kenya’s presidential election against incumbent Mwai Kibaki on December 27th. Raila, an ethnic Luo, widely led in opinion polls up until the election, accusing Kibaki, a Kikuyu, that he had not done enough to tackle corruption. Kenya’s other various minority tribes have long been hungry for a more prominent role in government. With the slow and non-transparent way the votes were counted in the days following the election, many were convinced[…]

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Haiti: Taking the Pulse

Heavy, loud, and concentrated. These are words I use to describe Haiti’s assault on the American senses. But its more than the intense atmosphere and lack of polish that keeps westerners away. People from developed countries are a rare sight in Haiti due to its poor security and lack of infrastructure. Those that come remain sealed off in walled compounds and are sped away in the relative safety of a tinted-window, 4-wheel-drive rent-a-car. The warnings of violent crime issued from behind the desks of those at the US embassy in Port-au-Prince are not unwarranted; kidnappings, robberies and murders of the wealthy do occur. But the situation here is one that requires vigilance and common sense, not paranoia and seclusion. For those of us who step beyond the boundaries of our comfort zone, the rewards seem endless. Investing in a good insurance policy is also recommended. 700 miles to the South-East[…]

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