One of the great things about living in the Washington, DC area is that you get to experience world cultures without having to leave the city. Of course, this is mainly because of the great Smithsonian Institution, which sits royally in the heart of the city and acts as beacon of culture that is second to none in the world. On this particular weekend it is Peru that has their attention, with a celebration of Peruvian culture and traditions at the Folklife Festival smack in the middle of the Washington Mall. In fact, after visiting several of these festivals in the past, it is my impression that this one is one of the best festivals I have ever seen at the Mall, and I’m not just saying that because of the copious amounts of Peruvian food I came in contact with. Really, they even have Alpacas there, which you can go check out after trying your dance skills at the sound of some rhythmic Andean tunes.
But what was most impressive for me was the sight of weavers and boat-makers who could turn simple threads and straw into incredible works of art. In a city where the first thing that comes to mind when talking about “ancient skills” is having to type on a manual typewriter, actually seeing people who can build something with their hands is a quite a big deal. And after several hours observing them at work, I never saw a single one of them using a cell phone. Amazing that people can survive without them. Gracias amigos.
I was headed to a museum today to photograph old, Oriental relics for a change. But as it happens in far too many occasions on my way to a photographic interest, something catches my eye that turns out to be a little bit more interesting (from a photographic perspective) than what I had originally intended to photograph. It is the proverbial “seeing of a photograph before you actually get to take it.” So here I was today, standing in the middle of the street while cars maneuvered around me, waiting for this gentleman to fill a little more of my 50mm lens frame. A quick three-frame burst later I was done and the subject of my photographic inspiration simply continued on his merry way. Maybe this city is not as hostile to photographers as I once thought, or maybe it was because I was using a Leica instead of a bulky, in-your-face DSLR. Who knows. I guess only this “international man of mystery” would know.
So how do you get Washingtonians to relax? Combine the National Cherry Blossom Festival with an all-out kite festival at the National Mall, and suddenly like magic the city becomes one great, big party. Picnics, laughter, and games do have a way of softening this city’s rougher edges. And if there’s a time when you actually feel that our national parks do belong to the people, it is at times like these that we all feel that the ground we all walk on is part of the great heritage of America. This feeling is always made a lot more special by the yearly blooming of our National cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin, which mark the unmistakable arrival of spring. Granted that the blossoms had not fully bloomed yet (next weekend is the projected peak bloom), but for the sun-starved Washingtonians, the start of the yearly festival is good enough transition from the cold, dark nights of winter. What’s more, it was reported that someone at the festival even saw a politician smiling this weekend, and that my dear friend, is a very good sign.