Conrad Louis Charles, In Memoriam

As photographers, we attempt to freeze moments in time…to try to hold on and connect with the people, the places and the feelings forever. We fight hard against the inevitable fate of endings and goodbyes. We constantly seek the light and examine the way it kisses everything on earth. I am writing this today with tears in my eyes and such sadness in my heart because I wasn’t able to stop time for a great friend and photographer and the light has dimmed. Conrad Louis Charles died suddenly last night due to complications from a surgical procedure.

Conrad and I met after I saw his work featured on Tewfic El-Sawy’s blog The Travel Photographer. I was so impressed and knowing we were both from the same area, I contacted him and we quickly became fast friends, living only minutes from each other. Conrad was the gentle giant. He had quite the presence in stature but was quiet by nature. He was deeply introspective which led to his unique and profound vision. This master photographer was always thinking about interactions and
interplays of life and Conrad could tell me every spec on the cameras and what would work for what. We would spend hours lusting over the latest gear and the places we could travel to with it. I would see the big picture while he could see the small details. We worked so well together. Conrad was moving into film making. That was his dream and everything he did was to learn more and to be more. We talked about the projects that took hold of his heart. He hoped to travel to Brazil for a few months, live with the local people and travel with them on their pilgrimages, documenting their faith and rituals which would add another component to his beautiful and sacred still images. I always was in awe of how he was able to take his 6 foot plus self and get so close to people to capture with intense intimacy their deepest moments in prayer without in anyway being an intrusion. I will never be able to do what he did even though he kept trying to teach me! I remember telling him how I was trying so hard to emulate him by photographing a couple at a restaurant but all I got was a hand signal recognizable around the world and it wasn’t good! Conrad truly just had a way and a style that was uniquely his. Hours would go by and we would consistently close our favorite restaurant as he shared his vision of documenting the events at the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Both places were home. With ancient roots stirring the rhythms of connectedness there, he felt a deep calling to tell the stories of the people and the politics. Dreams are those intangible life/light giving graces. Conrad may not have seen the completion but he put the spirit of his dreams into the universe for another to hold it close and carry it on.

Conrad was such a compassionate, gifted and sensitive visionary. He first touched my life with his images and then grew to profoundly impact me with his supportive friendship and mentoring. The space between us had been blessed. I will forever miss that wonderful deep voice calling me “Frances” rather than Francie. When he spoke, he honored. His curiosity and adventurous spirit led him to travel the world and come home with fascinating stories of other cultures that I could sit and listen to forever. He would do anything for the photograph. In Antarctica, the seas were thrashing and crashing. Many on board were sick. Conrad was just not happy that he didn’t get the type of shot he wanted so he asked to stay on the ship and go back again despite the horrible conditions. The second time was a charm.

He regretted not being a doctor at times, but he healed with his presence. Conrad deeply loved his family and I will hold close the rosary that he brought back for me from Fatima recently. He was so excited to take his mother there for her birthday with his sisters.

Pilgrim holding photographs of Francisco and Jacinta, children of Fatima, Juazeiro do Norte, Brazil

Pilgrimages always fascinated him…what was it that drew people to leave home and go on a journey with such deep faith… to enter into the unknown in search of mysteries and miracles that lie beyond us.

Pilgrim Praying. Juazeiro do Norte, Brazil

Conrad, may the pilgrimage you are now on bring you to a place where there is no more mystery. May you feel the welcome of perfect peace, light and love.
I am not able to stop time for you, but you will forever live in my heart. With the words we always spoke when parting, “Go gently my friend! I love you!”

To see more of Conrad’s work and legacy: Conrad Louis Charles Photography

Indian Independence Day Celebration

Sapna,The Cultural Leader
India Independence Day Celebration

The word “friend” is only one syllable and often times used so casually without reflection on its true power. I am certainly guilty of that! Today though, I was very appreciative of my friendship with Sapna Prasad. She seems to have at least 35 hours in her day for all that she accomplishes and of course, nothing is ever too much. Sapna has been inviting me to the most beautiful Indian celebrations: Holi, Diwali and today, The Festival of India. It was a celebration commemorating the 72nd anniversary of the day India became free from British rule. PECO sponsors this celebration as part of its Multicultural Series at Penn’s Landing located in Philadelphia. Sapna is the cultural leader for the Council of Indian Organizations. She got there early, checked everyone in and served as the very capable MC for the program.

The view of the waterfront was a spectacular backdrop to the beauty of the dancers. The energy of the music combined with the grace of movement brought huge cheers from the audience and I couldn’t click the shutter fast enough to capture all of the colorful vibrancy that I found myself in the midst of. This friendship has opened incredible doors and I thank all those whose hands I shook, who reached out to hug me and who allowed me the honor of photographing them today as so many came together to celebrate India’s strength and culture. Namaste!

Indian independence Festival

Dancers at the PECO Multicultural celebration

Dancer at the PECO Multicultural Celebration of India

Dancer for India Independence Celebration

One aside – Kerala, India has been hit with the worst monsoon in 100 years. As of today, thousands are still waiting to be rescued. More than 325 people have died over the past two weeks. There was a special part in the program today asking for collective help for the people of Kerala. Amazon and Flipkart have teamed up with NGOs engaged in relief efforts. If you wanted to help and connect with those suffering right now, here’s one way –
Log in to either of the apps and the flood relief banner will show up on the app’s home page. On Amazon, you will be led to a page with the registries of three NGOs — Goonj, Habitat for Humanity and WorldVision — from which you can choose the products you want to buy, which will then be donated to these NGOs. Thank you for the gift of your time in reading this and your consideration.

The Photographer Meets The Artist

Ink Drawing By Laszlo

I have been given a gift in my mid-life: discovering new family members I never knew existed. They have been so incredibly welcoming to me as we spend hours trying to catch up on years. We first met in May at a local “Open Studio Weekend”. My 2nd cousin Betty married Laszlo Bagi, a Hungarian born local artist and as I came to find out, an artist extraordinaire. As soon as I saw his pen and ink drawings, etchings and silkscreen prints, I was in awe of his talents and had to know more. Laszlo’s subjects ranged from his memories on a farm, a simple life with many siblings in a Hungary that no longer exists, a piece capturing his grandparents home with the path he had to walk each day to get water. There was a silkscreen of a large black and purple crucifix standing by a small road into his town which was a gift for his mother many years ago. Forests he explored and Philadelphia historical buildings all found new life through his touch. Back stories were pouring forth and I knew I needed to capture them on film. These were such precious memories that should not end up as fleeting ones.

Laszlo was most gracious as I became his shadow with a camera. The excitement I knew when I would watch images emerge slowly in the confines of a darkroom was the same as seeing the magic created in his studio. “I love to see the colors reach out, hold hands and marry each other”, he told me. I held the very first pen set that he ever owned and this oh so gifted man made sure I had a new sketchbook and a set of his watercolors to always have with me when I travel!

So many moments impacted me during out time together, but when I started to film the responses to my innately curious questions, it was then that I had a very profound appreciation for all this man had gone through and all he has given. As a teenager, he saw his beloved country destroyed and taken over. Leaving family and friends, he walked for 7 days to Austria to escape a fate of hanging only to walk into the fate of being a refugee and housed in a camp. Here I was interviewing one of the few remaining people who knew first hand of the atrocities of the Hungarian Revolution. Laszlo came to this country though the compassion of Eleanor Roosevelt. He went into the United States Army (101st Airborne) and was stationed in Germany where he met and married my cousin Betty who was working in Special Services for the US government. An immigrant to this country who has spent his life in the service of others and who each day feels compelled to bring forth something beautiful.

Today at times, we hear the word “immigrant” used in a decisively pejorative context. Hundreds of thousands of people are given that one word descriptor without deference to their own individual stories of life, love and hardship. Many are herded, judged and separated. Years ago, our former president’s wife interceded to bring those in the refugee camp to America heeding the words, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” I feel so fortunate to now know a man named Laszlo, my cousin! The name in Hungarian means “glorious ruler”, a name of honor and dignity. When we move past the word “immigrant”, we may be fortunate enough to come to deeply know a person by name and for me, it was truly glorious!

With special thanks to Betty for opening her beautiful home and generous heart to me day after day! Much love!
More of Laszlo’s work can be seen at his website: Laszlo Bagi.com

Laszlo Bagi: An Artist's Story from Frances Schwabenland on Vimeo.

Dionysus Is Alive and Well in Alsace, France

The most famous Wine Route in France proudly reveals its medieval châteaux, colorful half timbered and Renaissance houses. Cobblestone paths lead to flowery lanes in charming villages. Alsace, France is a land of tradition and wine, offering a very unique and memorable experience for the visitor. This route was established as a tourist route in 1952. It winds through sloping valleys along the foothills of the Vosges Range which is home to traditional gastronomy and travelers along the way are invited to sample the excellent cooking in the region’s many farm inns. Meandering through 70 wine growing villages and fortified towns such as Eguisheim, Kaysersberg Ribeauville and Riquewihr this is definitely a unique, “put it on the list” trip. The vintners organize wine and harvest festivals featuring folklore entertainment, processions and wine-tastings from April to October.

Wine Route

Cheese and Local Products

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” On my recent trip to the Alsace region at the end of March, the gray clouds and rain were constant companions but I felt privileged to be where a subtle mystical alchemy beneath the earth was taking place. Filling our senses was an exhilarating petrichor and the site of rich colors evenly lit by clouds acting as a natural diffuser. The entire wine route was on the verge of spring transformation yet one could only see rows and rows of thousands of dormant brown stalks and arched vines. Each appeared to have arms spread wide to receive the gifts nature bestows. I was in total awe when I learned that each and every branch along this vast route is pruned by hand. From December through March, there are several pruning systems employed. Two of the training systems I saw used were: Simple and Double Guyot depending on the type of grape and the variety of wine desired. The preferred method seemed to be the Double Guyot method which means that branches are pruned leaving only two n shaped branches with 8 – 12 “eyes” which are tied to horizontal steel wires in order to carry the fruit bearing shoots. There is a true wisdom and art involved with pruning. Done correctly, it will increase light distribution where the ratio of leaves to fruit bunches is maintained. It also serves to provide the control needed for the production of the highest quality of grapes. According to the Wine Doctor, “The vine’s vigor is not wasted on superfluous growth.”

Chapel on the Hill

Wine Route, Alsace, France

Heavens Reaching To Earth

Pruning

There are over 1000 wine producers offering tastings and tours. The French word frère comes from the Latin word frater which also means “brother”. Walking into the Bott Frères, we immediately felt like family with their warm welcome and hospitality. We shared stories, culinary interests and tasted the many different delicious pairings. Of course, all in the name of in depth research! The Bott Frères Alsace wines are imbued with knowledge acquired over nearly two centuries, an exceptional terroir, high quality grape varieties, and the Ribeauvillé microclimate. Generation after generation carries on the dedication to producing the finest of wines and after meeting several of the family members, it is easy to see why so many recommended this experience to us. Throughout the year, Bott Frères organizes events in harmony with the seasons. At 2:30 every day (except Sunday) visitors can take the tour to experience the magic of its cellars and hear a presentation relating how winemaking has changed over the years.

Bott Family Winery

Wine Label, Bott Winery

While I would love to see this famous wine route in the summer and fall, in early April I was able to understand the deep dedication and care that goes into wine growing in this region. I could clearly see the row after row of thousands of stalks and vines left to carry on an important legacy, all tended to by hand. When the grapes burst forth in the fall, they too will all be plucked off their vines by hand… hands strong and weathered but definitely the tools of the artist. As Ernest Hemingway said, “Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing.”

route des vins d'Alsace from Frances Schwabenland on Vimeo.

How to Get There
If you would like to add this to your itinerary of explorations, flights go into Strasbourg, France. Rent a car right outside the station and take in all the quaint villages along the Wine Route. Cycling or walking tours also provide another interesting way to see these beautiful sites. Untours Travel specializes in trips to this area. Stay with locals and travel at your own pace.

Gallery and Sales
http://francesschwabenland.zenfolio.com/

Travel Like I Have Never Experienced Before

A fairy tale village

One may never know the many people touched by a life well lived. The rippling effects can be far reaching into the future. In 1973, Hal Taussig gave his car to a hitchhiker and from that time on, he rode his bike to work. He was a giant of a man focused on living simply and forging connections across continents. He received a doctorate in education from the University of Penn. During the last phase of his teaching career, he traveled with his wife and youngest daughter to Europe for a sabbatical. He was able to stretch the family’s extremely tight budget by renting apartments in small villages in Switzerland, Germany, and France. At home in rural mountainside communities, he became an avid hiker, learned German, and made lifelong friendships that altered his worldview. By traveling close to the ground, taking local trains, shopping in the markets and getting to know a series of friendly hosts, he found what he considered a more meaningful and enlightening mode of travel. This cross-cultural connection prompted him to write his book “Shoestring Sabbatical” hoping to inspire others to travel this way. Before the “one click find it on the internet” and Air B&B, Hal being a true visionary, started “Untours” with his wife Norma in the 70″s. A company to offer a mode of travel that Hal pioneered: apartment stays in local communities in Europe that give travelers a more genuine experience and understanding of a place, its people, and its culture. This man from Media, Pa who died in 2016 and who I never have had the privilege to meet has opened new worlds for me.

I have been traveling since I was 18. Seems like only yesterday! I have traveled with groups and I have jaunted out into the world alone. There is very little thinking and leg work involved when with a group. All is set in place – times of arrival and return are given, sights to see or not see. When alone, it can be at times somewhat nerve wracking maneuvering through new worlds with much time spent researching and making reservations. Happily, now I have found the perfect blend of the two with Untours. This was my first time traveling with them and I am so excited to share my experience with those who may have that wanderlust spirit but like to be grounded securely.

Lunch with Vivianne

Alsace Dessert

My recent trip was to Alsace, France. Dodge Amaral, (dodge.amaral@untours.com ) was wonderful in setting the stage, sharing his vast experience and knowledge of the area, putting all the logistics in place and I went off with all tickets in hand. I received such a valuable guide book to the area covering everything from cultural etiquette, suggestions for things to do, how to handle tips etc. that we referred to many days. Untours provides that best of both worlds travel package. A representative in France is ready to meet the arriving traveler, “hold their hands” while obtaining the rental car and driving to the apartment “home away from home”. Rather than staying in a hotel, with hundreds of people, here in the beautiful town of Ribeauvillé, we had our own spacious apartment within a local villa all to ourselves. Marie Lauth and Dominique were our hosts. They greeted us with their own homemade apple cider, a bottle of wine and much kindness. There was so much attention to beautiful detail for us. Dominique was an architect and Marie Lauth is a talented artist with her work hanging on the walls. Beautiful drapes and table linens came from the very famous Beauville Linens (so much more on that to follow). Travel books were there for us to read each evening in our lovely living room. The kitchen had all the amenities we needed when we would return home each day with fresh baked bread, cheese, local wines and fresh fruit from the market. Towel warmers and huge down comforters easily took away the chill of the day and each morning we looked out to their lovely garden and vineyard awaiting the birthing of spring. They were there for us if we had any questions and we felt so comfortable coming and going at our own pace. We shared lives, countries, photographs in frames and photographs on the phone with this wonderful couple who fast became our friends. Vivianne Beller was the UnTours representative in France. We met with her over lunch and thank heaven the French take two hours for this meal because she was a fascinating companion. She was an American living in France after marrying her husband and she related and conversed so easily, guiding us along with suggestions to make the most out of our trip. She is there for all Untours travelers and will plan a lunch meet up to help everyone in that same way. I loved the freedom of planning where we would go each day and doing it our own time. If we got lost on a country road or took several hours to totally enjoy the French cuisine, no one was waiting on a bus for us. We set our itinerary. We meandered through the beautiful and quaint towns in the Alsace region in our own way and knew wonderful locals were just a phone call away if needed.

One of the oldest family run vineyards in Ribeauville, France

At the time of Hal’s death, he was an accomplished businessman, a fervent booster of Fair Trade, an activist for socially responsible business, and an early micro-enterprise investor before micro loans were really even thought of. His Untours Foundation, created with the profits of his successful tour company, has lent over 7 million dollars to small startups and businesses around the world to create jobs and economic opportunities for those most in need. In 1999, Paul Newman and John F. Kennedy Jr. awarded Untours with the title “Most Generous Company in America.” He was given the Spirit of Philadelphia Award in 2007 and at the following year’s Philadelphia Sustainability Awards, Hal was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award for his ongoing commitment to social justice. I never met Hal Taussig but this man’s vision, ideas and ideals have very much touched my life and now the way I travel. Thank you so much Hal!

Home in Colmar, France

Invited into the Light of Diwali

“When everything is lost, and all seems darkness, then comes the new life and all that is needed.” (Joseph Campbell)

Sharing the Light

It all began with the strike of a match in the midst of total darkness. People were waiting anxiously and the excitement was building for that one moment…that moment of “ahhhhhhhhh” when one could breathe out the stress of the past and open to the sheer wonder of the present…the freeing that comes with a new year.

Standing In The Glow

I was thrilled to be asked to photograph Diwali, the Hindu festival of Lights this past Thursday night. It is celebrated every year here in the northern hemisphere between late October and early November, depending upon when the 15th day of the Hindu month, Kartik falls. The festivities go on for typically 4 or 5 days with each day rooted in its own legends and myths and serving to illuminate one’s spirit with the brilliance of joy. At the center of each legend is the victory of good over evil, wisdom over ignorance, light over darkness and hope over despair.

Living With Light Through The Years

Holding Onto The Light

Aartis or devotional hymns are sung eulogizing Goddess Lakshmi with sweets and fruits offered to her. Homes and businesses are illuminated and new clothes are worn as a sign of respect and thanks to the heavens for the attainment of health, wealth, knowledge, peace and prosperity.

Passing the Torch from Parent to Child

Families, young and old all gathered around outside the Bharatiya Temple At 7:30, the night sky was totally lit up with brilliant colors surging high into the air, released from their pent up containers. Fireworks ignite that spirit of wonder no matter how many times we see them! According to one belief, the loud explosive sound is the way to let the gods know of the people’s thanks and joy from the earth.

Diwali Festival of Light

While the fireworks were going off overhead, people were passing around sparklers, sharing that dancing, popping light from family to family. It was all such a spirited celebration. Everyone was smiling, hugging and sending along well wishes. This was the first time I had the privilege of attending a Diwali festival and the brilliant joy that each spark gave off was totally enveloping. I loved photographing on this night, even though the exposure and color were challenging, it led to interesting blur, lighting so blown out and brilliant that I just went with it to capture the mood and the essence.

Light and Movement

As Joseph Campbell said,”…then comes the new life and all that is needed.” It is believed that, “Diwali is an opportunity to cultivate and connect with eternal bliss.” On Thursday night, I did!

A Simple Glimpse into the Kayaw and Kayan Tribes of Myanmar (video)

We were able to spend a brief time with these fascinating people and I had the video camera rolling! The traditions and cultures are fading as the modern world is encroaching upon these indigenous people. It would be our hope to raise enough funds to be able to go and live among the people and create a documentary which would capture how daily life is interwoven with tradition before the elders pass on.

A Glimpse: A Day Spent With The Kayaw and Kayan Tribes of Myanmar from Frances Schwabenland on Vimeo.

The Kayah Tribe and My Journey of Ascension

It was another day I seriously thought about taking stock out in dramamine while I regretted the fact that I didn’t at least bring more. Again, we went in search of tribes hidden away high up in the mountains of Myanmar. Over the past two years with the military rule giving way to democracy, the government has been trying to build roads to connect all of it’s people. The one road in and out was very narrow as it snaked along the side of the mountain. Rather than a very long drop, it remained a scenic vista thanks to the skill of our driver.

Village View

When we were about 20 minutes away from our destination, we stopped at a small village for a man to jump in the van with us. He was our “Wayfinder”. He was going to accompany us and introduce us to the tribe at our final destination. As far as we knew from Clement our guide, no Westerners had ever journeyed here before and we had the distinct honor of being the first. Be still my heart!

Our first sign of village life was looking up to see three beautiful girls high up in the hills working with the planted crops. As we approached, they didn’t stop but continued putting hand to the earth. They were in the moment and so were we!

Women In The Mountains

Hand To The Earth

When we arrived at the village of Daw Ri Dar, without asking, we were again taken to the elders. Imagine 4 total strangers, unlike anyone you have ever seen coming right into your home with cameras all around their necks…this is exactly what we did. A shaky wooden ladder led up into what many would consider to be an impoverished hut but I found the criss-cross design of the reeds on the walls expressive of a wonderful artistry and attention to detail. The hut was basically open. There were no doors to lock or windows to close. There was no reason to keep anyone out, all were and are welcomed in. The first women we met was a huddled over 98 year old woman. She was sitting looking out on her world. When she saw us, she folded her hands in the prayer of welcome. I was the only woman in the group and the first Western woman she had seen. We did not know each other’s language, but she tenderly stroked my face while I held her hands in mine. She was very animated with us and her family all gathered around enhancing the sincere hospitality we felt. Presence was their true gift. It was difficult for me to take our leave because I just wanted to stay with her, to somehow keep her with me longer knowing that we may never see each other again. Dr. Elizabeth Lindsey, an Hawaiian anthropologist and the first female National Geographic fellow eloquently said that, “Every time an elder dies, a library burns down”.

The Blessing of Welcome

Moment of Laughter

Engaged

Family Portrait

We then were introduced to a centenarian whose eyes were very tired and red. One of the other photographers I was with had eye drops to ease the soreness. It was quite something to watch her totally trust him as he put the drops into her eyes. She had never been through this experience before and yet she was totally open as she was blinking away. Her granddaughter wanted them also! She suffered from a goiter but had been unable to get any kind of medical attention.

In many cultures and religions, one goes to the elder before a journey, in illness or a special occasion to receive their blessing. We were then told that one by one, each of us would receive her blessing. We walked up to this our elder with our wrist extended. She then said a blessing of protection and good health over us and tied a cotton thread around our wrist. The white thread serves as protection from misfortune and evil and to ensure the blessing stays with the person. In a small wooden hut, a profound moment of grace and a bit of healing.

Looking Into The Face of Wisdom

Look Into My Eyes

Grandmother and Granddaughter

Traditional Dress

Throughout the day, there were several other older women wearing the black and blue dress adorned with shells, beads, coins and ear lobes elongated from the weight of the traditional silver earrings. This may be the last generation to carry on this tradition of beauty and identity. While they all wore the head wrap, it seems that T-shirts are making their appearance on the younger woman. These elders we met are the true wisdom keepers of ancient ways.

Traditional Ways

On The Path from Tradition to New Ways

Modern Day Mother With Child

The ascension metaphor became my touchstone. For me, it is so much easier staying at sea level. My knees don’t take to climbing very well but yet, in the rising, I saw sights few others have seen. I learned about the magic of presence, an openness to new experiences, meeting someone who looks differently with curiosity, interest and welcome rather than fear. I learned that somehow a common language can be found even it it is just in touch or a blessing. I saw what trust truly looks like and when I looked deeply into an elders’ eyes I saw an acceptance of life with all its joys and sorrows. I saw the knowing of the bonds with tradition from generations passed. This day and its people who crossed my path truly elevated my body, mind and spirit. My hope is that my photographs in some small way serve to provide a testament to these female elders of the Kayah tribe.

Chants, Lamentations and Veneration

From darkness into light…from monochrome into vibrant color… from winter into spring, an emerging opening and flow rather than a fighting. There is a gentle stirring of one’s spirit with words like hope, light and resurrection because they emerge from a dying. Intertwined within this are rituals and traditions which ground us, give meaning and create bonds of friendships and identity.

Good Friday Service

In the Greek Orthodox religion, the Easter season is one of the most profound and holiest times of the year so I decided to experience and get a glimpse into the rituals and symbolism of the Good Friday service. First, when I walked into the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Elkins Park, PA, the 6th oldest Greek Orthodox community in the US, established in 1901, I was struck by the hospitality and warmth of the women who welcomed me. I was a stranger and they wanted to make sure I felt comfortable, giving up a front row seat for me, explaining what would be happening. This hospitality was as beautiful as the gold Byzantine icons surrounding me. There was a sacred richness mixed with that Greek love for life and I was totally caught up in it! A key for me was when I couldn’t tell which child belonged to which mother…all the women there were their mothers, hugging, kissing and tugging on clothes and fixing hair. I need more Greek friends!

A Mother and Her Son

In the front of the church was a richly decorated and elaborately carved canopy called a Kouvouklion which represents the tomb of Jesus. The women had spent over 3 hours that morning decorating it with spring flowers of white, red and purple. The ceremony began with readings from the bible, ethereal chanting from the cantors and incense flowing freely to remind everyone that their prayers flow freely to God. Then, gathering around the image of Christ on the cross, the men reached up to take away the nails while young girls (representing the women at the feet of the cross) held the white cloth waiting to receive the wooden representation of Jesus in death. It was then taken behind one of the three doors separating the nave from the sanctuary and referred to as the Iconostosis. An elaborately decorated tapestry with the image of Christ prepared for burial, referred to as the Epitafio, was then brought out and carried around the church as all present bow in veneration.

It Is Done

Venerating the Body of Christ

Woman bowed in prayer

Prayer by the Kouvouklion

After it was placed on the Kouvouklion, people young and old then began to line up with gestures symbolizing a deep and abiding faith. The sign of the cross was made followed by bowing to kiss either the feet or hands of the icon. The priest stated the generally, one does not kiss the face of the icon. Once again, the sign of the cross was made and then many people got down on their hands and knees and crawled through the bottom of the Kouvouklion to symbolize their willingness to enter unto death with Christ.

Man approaching the Kouvouklion

Entering into the death of Christ

Man Joining With Christ

Someone is Always There

Light in Darkness

These rituals become the pathway to enter into a mystery of God and visibly show a faith and belief. Even though there are many paths, an abiding commonality is that there is hope in the face of fear, that there is life in the face of death and that love holds us, heals us and carries us forth to ignite the world with kindness. I am so glad that I stepped into this new experience and am so grateful to all the women who so graciously gathered around me and made me feel at home and to Fontina Moller who first taught me the meaning of Opa, I held you in my heart as I walked through your church. Now on to Easter!

A Day of Bridges and Connections

Yesterday, I received a message from Facebook reminding me that on this day last year, I was walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. March 25th seems to be a day of bridging and making connections because yesterday I attended the Philadelphia Travel and Adventure Show and was able to cross worlds and cultures… Tibetan prayer flags, trains and planes, new friends from Morocco and becoming more acquainted with all that exists so close to home.

Russell Hannon

The celebrity travel speakers were Adam Richman, Rick Steves and Peter Greenberg, Russell Hannon and Angel Castellanos. “99 Ways to Cut Your Travel Costs – Without Skimping” was where I started off of course! Russell Hannon of breakthetravelbarrier.com suggested using the following on line resources: airfarewatchdog.com, farecompare.com, yapta.com to find less expensive fares. Airlines have started to set up bidding for upgrades now. Air Canada and Virgin Atlantic hold a bidding session at the gate using cell phones. Things are a changing!
Tingo.com for hotels and autoslash.com for car rentals will constantly search for better fares after you book and alert you when they find lower fares for the identical itinerary with an option to cancel your existing reservation and rebook at the lower fare at no extra charge. Hopper crunches historical data specific to a flight you want and show you the best price you can get now, whether it is likely to drop, when and by how much. One should try to avoid ATM fees and the Charles Schwab Investor Plus checking account is a no-fee account with a minimum 1 penny balance. The account includes unlimited free ATM cash withdrawls and reimburses you any ATM charges by third part backs. Gasbuddy.com is a GPS integrated app that shows all the nearby gas stations with prices by fuel grade and directions. I walked away from this talk with Russell’s book and started downloading new and helpful apps right then and there.

Johnny Jet spoke about how to travel like a movie star without movie star money. His website holds so many tips and tricks and he was so informative. He suggested taking bags of Hershey Kisses and giving them to those who check you in as well as the flight attendants. Don’t we all love getting surprises!? He suggested signing up for the following newsletters (besides his ): Pointsguy, Scott’s Cheap Flights.

Tour Gettysburg

After armed with so much useful information to feed my obsession for travel, I was off to travel the aisles of the convention center. Three local areas I must get to are the Hudson Valley Region of New York, Gettysburg and Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands

Exotic and Distant Lands


I have new best friends, Sharon and her husband, Ishmael who I spoke with at length for a possible photo tour through the exotic and amazing land of Morocco. (If interested, let me know!).

Travel for Impact is a unique and powerful new enterprise which arranges trips to Botswana that provide opportunities for the visitor to work side by side with locals on community initiatives and the women sell their art and crafts to further these initiatives. I am now the proud owner of a beautiful black and white beaded bracelet!

Botswana Travel

Going off to new lands to experience new adventures may sometimes be overwhelming. Tours By Locals.com has 1977 hand vetted guides in over 158 countries to help you customize your experience with 24/7 customer support.

As a plug for an excellent travel agent who can also set up the experience you are looking for, may I suggest to those who live in and around Philadelphia, Debbie Ryan of Springhouse Travel. She can provide a full service travel and leisure experience and is totally dedicated to providing excellent customer service!

If you are looking for a very unique experience in Europe may I also suggest, Untours.com .Untours pioneered apartment-based independent travel and has provided unique cultural vacation packages since 1975. They support the work and mission of the Untours Foundation, which funds green projects that fight poverty around the world.Use their vast knowledge base to design your own trip or allow one of their expert Culturists to give you a hand.

Throughout the day, there were presentations on classical Indian Dance, South Pacific Island dance, Bahamas and Botswana movement and music. From information, to new discoveries and immersion into global beats, the Philadelphia Travel and Adventure Show had it all.

South Pacific Beauty

Manimekalai Thiyagarajan

Now I am off to see Rick Steves at the Keswick Theatre. The Montgomery County Libraries are the sponsors and Rick’s topic is: “Broadening Your Global Perspective Through Travel” … a topic I totally embrace!

A Montage of Myanmar

A Montage Through Myanmar from Frances Schwabenland on Vimeo.

While walking through fields, traveling the streets and boating down lakes and rivers, I fell into the easy harmony of the day. Myanmar is a feast for the senses. I was alive to all that was around me. The light and the beauty became a part of me while photographing and in Myanmar, both are exquisite. Temples, markets, traditional crafts passed down from generation to generation are the sites to become immersed in. Everywhere I wandered, I was welcomed into homes and hearts. There is nothing better than laughing right out loud with a person who was a total stranger the day before. Shared memories gratefully tucked away that continually stoke that flame of wanderlust!

The New York Times Travel Show 2017

People started to line up a bit after 9. When the New York Times Travel Show opened to the public at 10am last Saturday, a very long, snaking line entered through the gates and the world opened up. Adventure, solo, family, LBGTQ, river or Caribbean cruises, seaplane adventures, learn a language and charge your devices with a solar panel…so many aisles to explore with insights galore. The New York Times Travel Show brings together those who are definitely in the know and those who want to know everything about travel. It is the largest consumer travel and trade show in North America with over 500 exhibitors representing 150 countries and over 23 focused conferences covering the latest products, services, destination information and trends from travel industry experts and I covet my press pass!

Taste of the World

Let me begin with one of the most experienced travel professionals I know, Pauline Frommer. According to Frommer, the best websites for airfares are: Momondo.com and SkyScanner.net. The cheapest days of the week to fly are Saturday, Tuesday and Wednesday. In order to receive savings, timing can be everything! Pauline gave the following advice: book on a weekend, book 57 days before travel for domestic tickets, 176 days before going off to Europe, 77 days before traveling to the Caribbean, 160 days before travel to Asia/The Pacific, book 144 days before travel to the Middle East and Asia and 90 days before travel to Central and South America. All will provide varying savings. She urged the audience to rethink loyalty and look into other airlines which are now offering discount fares such as Norwegian, WOW, XL, Thomas Cook, Eurowings and AirAsia. If you are a solo traveler, connecting with “Women Welcome Women” and Global Greeters Network which are sites where one can connect to someone who loves their city so much they have volunteered to provide a free tour will provide a “safety net” for those alone. It is a wonderful way to connect with locals. As far as cruises go, excursion savings can be found at Cruising Excursions.com, Shore Trips.com and Viator. Frommer also suggested that if one wanted to view the Northern Lights, this would be the year to do it since the lights are caused by storms on the sun and they go in 10 year cycles and this is the last year in this go round. Book now, they are breathtaking!

Indonesian Art

See Europe Virtually

In Seminar Room 3, there was not one available seat or space. People stood on both sides of the room and sat on the floor all to hear Matt Kepnes, the author of “How to Travel the World on $50. a Day.” His talk was entitled, “Easy Ways to Save Big Money When You Travel” and I have to say he did not disappoint! He cautioned people about using random ATM’s and not exchanging money at the airport and to buy in the local currency since the US dollar is surging. The sites Matt uses to search for cheap flights are: Secret Flying,, The Flight Deal, Holiday Pirates, Momondo, Skyscanner . Hostels now offer private rooms and private baths and if he isn’t staying in one, Matt will often stop by one to ask for recommendations of cheap but delicious local restaurants. Travel Massive, Bla Bla Car, are all ways to connect with the locals and get insights and recommendations off the beaten path that may be just as fun but a bit less expensive.

Indonesian Coffee Tour

Iskra Ukranian Dance Ensemble

There was a “Get Fit Zone”, a “Wellness Travel Pavilion” and “The Best of Life Stage.” You could meditate, learn bodybuilding, and hear an introduction to Ayurveda: Ancient solutions for increased energy and vitality.

Henna Painting

Being out on the road photographing for hours on end, I was thrilled with my purchase of two solar charges by Dawan Global. The Element is water resistant, shockproof, and dustproof. It is designed to take a beating in any terrain or environment. With its lightweight design the Element can be taken anywhere with ease, clipped onto a backpack, belt, or purse, and is just 7 oz. It stores enough solar energy to completely charge a cell phone 2 times. Because one is good but two is better, I also bought the Solis which can completely power a cell phone 4x, an IPad 2x, or even a small laptop on a full charge. It can completely charge a phone in just 90 minutes using the high speed output… and as I was walking away from the booth with my new finds, Bob Marley’s lyrics came to mind, “No worries, be happy!” Mark your calendars for January 2018! I am off to make my vision board!!!

Travel List

Women’s March On Washington

On Friday, we heard the words, “American carnage ends now”. I am not sure if that means that our new president has decided to pay the bill for the environmental cleanup for an abandoned 6 acre warehouse/factory in South Carolina that he owns but yesterday, all I saw everywhere I looked was truly what I think makes “America Great”! Around the world, from Antarctica to Greece, there were 673 Women’s Marches. As ABC news reported: “The marches spanned all 50 U.S. states, several U.S. territories and at least 60 countries across all seven continents”. One woman in Hawaii, being so upset after the election, decided to do something to make a positive difference and send another message to the world. Teresa Shook made mention of a hypothetical march on FB and by morning had some 10,000 responses. “When they go low, we go high!” The power of social media! In Washington alone, it was estimated that a half million people were in attendance. They just kept coming and coming!

The bus we took from Philadelphia had only 2 empty seats. We then went to the metro where a stop along the line had to be closed due to the great number of people, and this was only 8 in the morning. The energy of birthing something positive and unifying was palpable. There was a very calm, respectful excitement as people moved to their destination. When we left the Metro, we were greeted by an 90 year old woman in a wheel chair who was cheering us on! (I want what she is having!). Then as we walked into the march area, there was a teenage boy sitting up on a hill, silently holding a sign, letting us know he loved us. Some signs people held up were definitely negative, but I have to say that they were in the minority. Most signs were uplifting and inspirational…signs with the words: peace, dignity, respect, human rights. Ideas calling forth actions. “Keep building walls and we will keep building bridges.” Signs with quotes by Dr. Martin Luther King: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Women and men, children of every race and creed walking together in the strength of peace and unity. There were so many heartfelt moments I carried home with me…watching members of the National Guard high fiving everyone and thanking all who walked by them. At the end of the march, we began the two mile walk back to the bus, people came out of their homes to offer total strangers walking by water and food. A Christian church had just let out and the pastor was standing in the street inviting people in to use the bathroom and have something to drink. We started the day off being greeted with kindness and ended the day, embraced by generosity and caring.

Mean words, calling people names, disrespecting women’s bodies, putting up walls to separate from the world, these to me seem like the divisive paths to carnage. It is amazing the difference a day can make!

Early Morning, Ready to Begin

Women and Men Beginning The March

Silent but Powerful Message

Messages with Meaning

Justice for All

One Word Says So Much.

High Five and Thanks

Respect and Dignity

Young Girls and Women Alike

The Masses

A Few In The Crowd!

South Carolina Is In The House

The Message Summed Up

A Half A Million Strong

Partnerships of Possibilities: Kitchen Harvest & Untours Foundation

https://vimeo.com/175121932

Kitchen Harvest, Inc from Frances Schwabenland on Vimeo.

If you are lucky enough to spend time with Chris, you will be in the midst of poetry in motion! An artist of nature!

It was just after sunrise when I was introduced to the Kitchen Harvest garden. I am not a morning person but the thought of missing that golden light awakening those tender baby strawberries and shining on the newly formed dew drops that dotted the lettuce and broccoli caused me to shake off my stupor, run to set up my camera a not miss this moment of glory. Nature was putting on a show and I was lucky enough to capture it! Our conversation was casual but as Chris started harvesting the fresh vegetables he was going to deliver to his residential customers later that day, his words were poetic and profound. I now had to run to get my tape recorder to not miss a word of wisdom generated when one works closely with the earth! I was with a man whose spirit and livelihood is so intimately connected to the movements of nature. He spoke about the excitement of unearthing things growing below the ground. He used the words, “Magic” ,”Surprise”, “Nurture”. He spoke about patience and allowing everything its own time and pace.

Photographing the dynamic light and vibrancy of the garden, I couldn’t help but realize the contrast all around us. We were in the middle of a cemetery. Chris saw an empty, overgrown area and thought growth! Listening to him explain how the garden came to be, I understood and admired his deep appreciation and respect for the interplay of life and death. It has been a guiding vision for him.

On Wednesday, July 13, 2016, the Guardian reported, “Americans throw away almost as much food as they eat because of a cult of perfection, deepening hunger and poverty, and inflicting a heavy toll on the environment.” About 1/3 of all food scraps, about 60 tons, worth 160 billion, is wasted by retailers and consumers every year. According to the EPA, “Discarded food is the biggest single component of landfills and incinerators today.” When I first met Chris and asked him how Kitchen Harvest started, he replied that it has been a bit of a love story and after standing on the side lines photographing all that he does, I couldn’t have said it better. He and his wife, Timi, want/wanted to live differently, not being one of the statistics above. They wanted to give their new child, the freshest food possible while honoring the earth…respecting and not pillaging, renewing and not leaving barren. Thus, their son wasn’t their only birthing…Kitchen Harvest, Inc was started in 2010, the same year Cassidy was born!

The food waste from many residential customers, schools and institutions like Villanova University, restaurants such as The Sterling Pig Brewery and now the DNC all are working with Chris and Kitchen Harvest. The left over food, grains and lawn cuttings are all collected and taken to Linvilla Orchards where in 6 to 9 months, it is transformed into a beautiful, dark, healthy compost, not sitting somewhere in a landfill. The compost is then shared back with the community. The gardens and vegetables grown in this compost can be summed up in one word, “Abundant”! Not only does Chris transform waste products, he transformed me! He and his wife invited me to their home for a meal. I know this sounds corny, but I never saw lettuce so full and healthy. I never tasted anything like it. Who needed salad dressing? The anemic greens, so long a staple of my diet are a thing of the past! Together Chris and Timi created such a delicious alchemy of colors, textures and tastes. Cassidy, their son, told me that when he helps his dad weed, he takes them and pots them up because you never know what it could become! He was raised knowing that waste can be turned into magic!
I wish we all could realize that.

The Untours Foundation , under the leadership of Elizabeth Killough, works to alleviate poverty by providing low-interest loans or equity to individuals and organizations who create employment, housing and valuable goods and services in economically challenged communities. Untours fuels projects that are environmentally and economically pioneering, setting new models for which all businesses can strive. Their low-interest loan to Kitchen Harvest has helped Chris run his successful business. Working with Elizabeth, I am so honored to know such caring individuals who go above and beyond to make such a positive and lasting difference.

Partnerships of Respect, Resources and Renewal

“Life happens” or in this case, “Synchronicity is magic.” Events unfolded that brought together a freelance photographer and the very gifted director of the Untours Foundation, Elizabeth Killough. As a photographer, I love a great story and Elizabeth has so many of them. Under her leadership and enthusiasm, walking in the footsteps of founder Hal Taussig, the Untours Foundation works to alleviate poverty by providing low interest loans to those creating employment, housing, valuable goods and services in economically challenged communities. Untours also fuels projects that are environmentally and economically pioneering thereby creating business models to emulate.

I feel honored to have her introduction into these worlds of creativity, insight and problem solving.

My Reflections While Photographing:
“I have about 900 pounds to do today.”
“I have to be here.” Mildred was fighting a cold but she didn’t let that stop her. Her sense of responsibility and dedication have made her the first Employee of the Month for Wash Cycle Laundry. That morning, 39 bags filled with clothes, linens, sheets and towels had to be weighed, checked in on the computer, washed, dried, folded and put back into a clean bag to be returned within the 24 hour turn around time. The music was playing and Mildred started to dance as she went about this well organized process even though she didn’t feel up to par.
“Give me my music and I am good to go!”
There was an open Bible on a side shelf that I noticed. When I inquired about it, Mildred told me that some days she gets to read it and some days she never gets to it but she hopes that having it there and open will give everyone a “Blessed day!”

Tracey creates the same positive energy at the location on 1611 South Street. Being the manager means that she arrives a little after 6 each morning and could work for up to 12 hours. She wants to make sure that all laundry is done and delivered correctly on her watch. Tracey is part of the sandwich generation, taking care of her mother and daughters before and after lifting those heavy bags and taking them from soiled to clean and fresh, all with eco-friendly detergent. Nicole and Vicki were the staff that day. Nicole’s son is teething at the moment and she lights up talking about him and Vicki also works in health care but has a love and appreciation for art. The conversation and movements between the three women pointed to the connection forged by working together. In a small area, the process was like a dance. Tracey told me that “Gabriel sees the best in everyone and he has taught her to do the same.”

Wash Cycle Laundry is proving that bikes are commercially-scalable alternatives to trucks for intra-metropolitan freight. Over 3 million pounds of cargo are hauled across Philadelphia and Washington DC since the company began in 2010. Jason, Steve, Nivan are just a few of those who could haul up to 300 pounds of laundry by bike…in all kinds of weather! These guys are in great shape!!! Their work day starts in the wee hours of the morning. They come in and check the computer and their app listing the names, addresses, number of bags etc. so they are always tracking all laundry from beginning to end.
Jason has been working for WCL for two years with no thoughts of leaving. “Where else could I get paid for riding my bike?”

Gabriel Mandujano created Wash Cycle Laundry to merge his experience and passions with job creation, economic development, and sustainable transport. He believes in not stigmatizing people and does look for that spark, that desire to begin again and establish a life of success. Approximately 50 jobs have been created and over half filled by driven adults re-entering the workforce after overcoming a period of incarceration, drug addiction, homelessness, or welfare dependence.
WCL is a triple-bottom line company with a mission and commitment to serve the critical needs of individuals, the community and the environment.This is definitely a growing social enterprise both locally and nationally…with a slightly improbable delivery method!

Eco Friendly Delivery

Eco Friendly Delivery