April 4, 2017

going for the gold, day 4 and done

Filed under: greece — Tags: — cohn17 @ 4:30 pm

it was time to return to aliki, to drop off the bicycle and go to the airport. i gave myself plenty of time, and set out to explore along the coast, randomly choosing the church of saint irini as a target destination.

the first church i came to turned out to not be saint irini, but it was picturesque. the only “problem,” such as it was, was the careless development around the site.

drama in three directions.

the next church i found also was not agia irini, but it was picturesque as well.

finally, the third church i came to was agia irini. there are a lot of little churches in greece … as with the others, the front door was locked, so i couldn’t check out the altar screen.

and with that, i was done. figuring i’d need the next two hours to get back to aliki. the road was surprisingly flat, however, so i got back two hours earlier than i expected.

naturally, after lunch, i figured, “heck, the airport is only 4.5 km away, i can walk that!” and i did, with my 20-pound backpack. up to the end, i was a glutton for punishment, but i got what i wanted:

April 2, 2017

going for the gold day 3, including live at the apollo (part 5)

Filed under: general, greece — Tags: — cohn17 @ 5:12 pm

i woke up in parikia, had an entirely adequate breakfast, and set off on the bike again to look for a local church and some caves. the church was easy to find – it was visible from the main town – but since the road didn’t actually go along the coast, i had an early dose of hill riding/pushing to do. again, the area was pretty empty because tourist season hasn’t started yet.

possibly rental cars that are sitting in a field awaiting delivery. these will figure into the story later.

my first stop was agios fokas, a small church located 6 km from town. the church itself isn’t particularly notable – it’s a typical chapel – but nearby is what appears to be an abandoned naval station of some kind, and a memorial marker for the passenger ferry ms express samina, which struck a reef on september 26, 2000, killing 81 passengers. the story (which you can read by clicking on the link) is pretty awful.

from there, it was off to find the archilochus caves, located (according to the guidebook) only 10 minutes away. there were no signs, but i followed the road back, figuring they were just over the hill. you can guess how that turned out.

after far too much time searching for the caves, i decided to move onto the temple of delian apollo, which was up a different series of hills.

remember the cars? they’re down there.

the temple of delian apollo was built in the 5th century bc. “delian” refers to delos, the island birthplace of the god apollo. the site location was well marked, but you can tell how important a site is by the amount of security around it, and there was nothing more to protect the temple ruins than a rusty open gate. with little exception, it appeared that any stone that had any type of carving on it had been taken down to the archaeological museum.

i returned to parikia to begin my exploration of the town. one of the main attractions is the ekatontapiliani church, built in the 4th century, possibly by constantine the great, the roman emperor for whom constantinople was named. it’s very impressive inside, and perhaps as a result, the building comes with a sinister legend:

according to the popular legend, during the reign of justinian, ekatontapiliani was build by the former assistant of the chief craftsman of agia sofia, ignace. when the pupil finished the temple, he invited the master to admire his work. the chief craftsman felt envy and was afraid that his pupil would overshadow his reputation. pretending that he wanted to show him an architectural fault, he took his pupil on the roof of the church. from there, the chief craftsman pushed his pupil with intent to kill him. the pupil however held on to the teacher and finally they both fell and were killed in front of the church.

for the rest of the day, i strolled the narrow backstreets of parikia, admiring the shapes i found in various doorways, alleys and staircases. and cats.

next: day 4, which comes after day 3.

March 27, 2017

going for the gold day 2 – an interstitial post

Filed under: greece — Tags: — cohn17 @ 8:42 am

i got up the next morning, had breakfast, and mounted the bike for my next leg of the journey, a 15 km trip to a popular seaside town called naoussa.  boy, was my butt sore.

i figured that if i took smaller roads closer to the shore, i’d avoid the hills inland. i was wrong on two counts: first, that there actually were roads, and second, that i’d avoid hills.

the asphalt ended about 500 meters outside of town.

after about 30 minutes of pushing my bike across rough terrain, i came to a paved road, but first took a detour onto a peninsula to see what i could find:

he answer was “not much.” another “not much” were the villages between piso libadi and naoussa. maybe a lot of the houses are just occupied for the summer, but outside the village centers themselves, there seemed to be a lot of desolation. i frequently saw something i saw in india: a walled lot with nothing built on it. i got the sense that a lot of people started selling land for construction when times were good, and then the money dried up.

this sense of emptiness extended to naoussa itself, but only because it was shut up for the winter. some local-serving businesses were open, but the atm sign said it pretty well.

there was no reason to stay in naoussa for the night, and no place to stay anyway; so, after lunch, i gingerly got back onto the bike and rode (a.k.a. pushed it uphill and coasted downhill) another 11 km to parikia, the main town of paros, where i easily found a room and a meal, and i made my plan for days 3 and 4.

next: day 3.

March 26, 2017

going for the gold

Filed under: greece — Tags: — cohn17 @ 3:36 pm

i was two domestic flights away from achieving gold status on star alliance, so i decided to book the cheapest round-trip ticket i could, to tick that box and also see an island i hadn’t visited yet. i chose paros, in the cyclades, with the idea of doing some photography; and, because it’s annoying to stop and start the car every time i want to take a photo, i decided i’d rent a bike instead. i haven’t been on a bicycle for 2½ years, but given that i’m recovering from shin splints and so cannot run, i figured i’d get the added benefit of three days of low-impact aerobic exercise as well. win-win all around.

i had an easy half-hour flight and a quick taxi ride to the lovely seaside town of aliki to pick up my bike.

typical greek harbor village amazingness.

suitably provisioned with helmet, water and snacks (and about 20 pounds of clothes and camera equipment on my back), all was good for three minutes, and then i came to the base of the first of a series of hills where the road turned inland. i assessed the state of my quads and realized that this was one of the stupidest ideas i’d ever come up with.

the first of many reality checks; and things i saw along the way, including a pretty sweet house in the hills; two proskinitaria,memorials to the victims of a road accident (i’ve just released a book of photographs of proskinitaria – check out for more information); and cows.

my destination was 21 km away, a hotel i’d booked that morning to be assured of having some place to stay. because it’s still march, most hotels are still closed for the season, but a few stay open longer into the fall and open earlier in the spring. despite having a booking confirmation from, however, it turns out my hotel is not one of those. after some discussion, they opened a room for me anyhow. it’s just one night, but i don’t think they’re so keen on the extra money that they’re glad to have me.

the view from my hotel room. i earned this today.

after a rest and a large meal, i decided to follow up my 21 km bike ride with a hike up a hill to visit the church of saint anthony, about 170 m above sea level. because honestly, at that hour, there wasn’t much else to do with the day. on the way up, i came across the ruins of a venetian castle, carefully protected from the main road by a single rusted strand of barbed wire.

windmills in the village of marpissa on the way to saint anthony; ruins of the castle.

the hike was long, but not overly difficult, and the view from the top was fantastic. the church grounds themselves were empty – not a person to be seen.

the church, from the base of the hill; the view from up top; the church lends itself to abstractions. 

next: day 2

February 1, 2017


Filed under: social and economic development — Tags: , , — cohn17 @ 10:44 pm

the foundation operates a number of schools in the neighborhoods of las golondrinas. during my visits, many of the students wanted their portraits taken.

i got to see a variety of activities: sports day (which included dance lessons), geography lessons, art lessons, computer classes … overall, the kids seemed engaged and happy. watching them rush into the school after their lunch break was pretty amazing – they were excited to be back. there also was a team of students from a private school who came by to distribute donations of rice to the neighborhood. (unfortunately, my spanish wasn’t good enough to get the full story on this.)

the schools offer free dental care for students, courtesy of the local dental school.

Momenta's Project Colombia 2016

the school’s rooftop playing field needed rehabilitation. the staff had the idea redo the field with rubberized material and sell advertising space on it to whomever would sponsor the work, since passengers on medellín’s cable cars would see it every time they passed over.

school construction, managed by foundation architects.

next: little kids

January 21, 2017

medellín, colombia

Filed under: travel outside greece — cohn17 @ 1:07 am

after leaving chengdu, i flew straight to medellín, with an eight-hour stop in athens to pack a suitcase (to replace the one that was still in beijing, but that’s another story). i went to medellín to attend a workshop on photographing with nonprofit organizations; my “client” was la fundación las golondrinas, a social services organization that provided child development services, education support, small business technical assistance, and other programs in the low-income communities of medellín.

like rio de janiero, the low-income areas of medellín are located in the hills above the city. the view is spectacular, but the conditions in the street are rough.

the city and the foundation have sponsored a lot of community improvements, but not everyone has been able to take full advantage of them.

Momenta's Project Colombia 2016 Momenta's Project Colombia 2016

staff from the foundation told me that in these neighborhoods, there can be 8-12 members of a family living in one small apartment or shack. as a result, family members often suffer from abuse – physical abuse, substance abuse, sexual abuse. one way that the foundation tries to counter these problems is through its animal therapy program: social workers introduce children who have suffered abuse or trauma to therapy dogs, and the children learn first to confide in the dogs, and then to social workers. the dogs also work with children with mobility impairments, by leading the children through simple obstacle courses. (there is a video about the program here.)

each week, the program staff bring a dog to one of the local schools where they introduce him to the children, and then engage in a few skits and demonstrations. in one of the demonstrations, the program staff show the children a picture of two children fighting over a toy, and two children sharing it, and ask them to pick which situation is better. the dog then selects the “nice” picture. during one of the demonstrations i saw, the dog had to choose between a fighting family and a loving family, and instead of choosing the picture of the loving family that the children called for, he picked the fighting family; the staff were surprised, but i covered by calling out “he’s taking the bad picture away!”

the children meet the dog. the dog plays mailman during a skit (and gets a lot of snacks for his work!). with the help of a laser pointer, the dog picks the right picture. a child reads a simple illustrated description of the program.

next: schools

January 19, 2017

new websites

Filed under: general — cohn17 @ 6:33 pm

I’ve started a website for my non-profit-oriented work,, and redesigned

December 4, 2016

truck furniture maker

Filed under: street photography, travel outside greece — Tags: , — cohn17 @ 1:43 pm

as in many countries i’ve visited, having an english-language t-shirt is a status symbol; it doesn’t matter what the t-shirt actually says. i passed a woman on the down escalator while i was going up whose t-shirt read “TRUCK FURNITURE MAKER.”  (there actually is someone called “truck furniture maker” on Facebook, so maybe she is also a truck furniture maker; but she probably isn’t.)

other notables included the woman with the “VENICE BTACH” t-shirt; the sweet-faced, adorable young couple on qingsheng mountain wearing t-shirts reading “WE LOVE TO DO THE WILD THING” and “YOU FUCK’N ASSHOLE” – and my favorite:

if anyone knows what this is supposed to mean, let me know.

December 3, 2016

le shan and the giant buddha

Filed under: travel outside greece — Tags: , , — cohn17 @ 4:03 pm

on of the weekend of the mid-autumn festival, i took the train to le shan, home of the giant buddha. the le shan buddha is more than 1,200 years old and was carved into the cliff facing the confluence of the three rivers flanking le shan. the statue is 71 meters tall, the largest stone buddha statue in the world. each ear alone is 7 meters tall.

first, some street photography, including a photo of what appears to be the largest cucumber i have ever seen:

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i went to the buddha park on the sunday of the weekend, and it was a cold, rainy day. also, because there had been some days off for the mid-autumn festival, the government had decreed that sunday to be a workday. as a result, when i arrived at 7:30 am, i was the only person there. imagine taking the ferry to the statue of liberty and being the only person there except for the maintenance crew: it was like that. instead of having to wait the typical two hours to get down the stairs to the base of the statue (and then wait for the selfie-taking tourists to move on so you can take your own selfie with the statue), i had the whole place to myself.

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beyond the buddha is wuyou temple, founded during the tang dynasty (a.d. 618-907). the most interesting part of the temple is its hall of 1000 arhats (buddhist saints). the hall is filled with terra-cotta statues, each individually molded and painted. the temple doesn’t allow photography inside – and they have cctv to monitor it – but i couldn’t leave without getting at least a few shots.

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next: t-shirts.

November 21, 2016

street photography in chengdu, sort of

Filed under: general — cohn17 @ 9:41 pm

as i was running around the streets, taking photos, i was struck forcefully by how many people were using their phones to take photos. more generally, i noticed how many younger people in particular had their eyes fixed on their screens, even when they were in groups. at the risk of sounding like an old fogey (and a hypocrite), this struck me as a serious problem. if steve jobs had wanted to enslave the population by turning them into appendages of technological devices, he succeeded.

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as something refreshingly not telephonic, here is a photo of two girls and their dad playing with a parakeet at the song xian qiao antique market:

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