travel

The Peruvian adventure begins...

COUNTDOWN: 5 hours until I jump on a plane southbound and begin my Photographers Without Borders adventure in Peru! 

First off, thank you to everyone who supported me, financially and spiritually, for this project to document domestic workers in Lima and the agency representing them. I'm truly shocked, immensely appreciative, and pleased to announce the additional funds beyond getting me down there will all go to Casa de Panchita and their programs. My assignment officially starts next week, and I'll provide more information and updates once I'm there and the project is under way. Really looking forward to it, and can't wait to meet the women involved in this! 

In the meantime, I'll be acclimatizing myself a week before, in attempts to shed work stress from the previous month (and also to familiarize myself with the Peruvian accent + not look like a complete dork when I arrive for work). On recommendation by a friend who once lived in Peru, I will be off to Iquitos, a northern city that functions as a superb launching point for all adventures related to the Amazon. So as I open my door here this crisp Toronto morning and get walloped by a breeze that is surely around the -20 mark, I can't fathom that I will be gallivanting in cheerful tank tops in less than one day. All I can say is: GOOD RIDDANCE, MISERY-MAKING TORONTO WINTER OF 2014!  

Also... I have an airport pick-up! I never used to care about airport pick-ups, but after many years of walking through the arrivals area, usually minus fanfare, I'm glad someone will be there waving a sign with my name on it this time around. It's like the movies! 

The strange thing is, despite this, despite my accommodation being sorted out, and despite having, I'd say, above-average experience travelling as a single female for the last 15 years, I've noticed a generous uptick in barf-y nerves this time around -- something I thought I'd never feel; my 20-something self would be floored. Is this the same cosmic body that's stopped me from going to concerts 3-4 times a week and being interested in every new release on the cinema marquee? Is this a result of... gasp: EXPERIENCE AND AGING?

Or maybe it's just that I'm thinking of everyone who got me here, how you all supported me so well, and that I feel the pressure to deliver and prove that your hard-earned money and emotional energy will not go to waste? (It won't. I swear, it won't!)

So as I pack my final tank top into my suitcase, I bid you adieu, Toronto. Watch for updates here. And thank you SO MUCH. 

XOX, Connie

Lost in Mexico City's La Merced

La Merced, Mexico City (Photo: Connie Tsang)

La Merced, Mexico City (Photo: Connie Tsang)

When I mentioned my upcoming visit to Mexico City's La Merced, a friend responded disapprovingly. "You'll get lost if you go by yourself."

I crossed my arms against my chest. Oh, really? Challenge accepted.

I love local markets. They offer everything I need in a tourist stop: the ability to explore, check out the goods for sale, and be surrounded by locals doing their everyday, local market thing. La Merced provides all that... and the adrenalin that comes with the unknown: as the largest market in the D.F., it's a micro-city within one of the world's largest cities, full of claustrophia-inducing turns, barking vendors, and at the time of my visit, eager shoppers hunting for deals on dia de los muertos food and decorative offerings. 

I spent nearly 6 hours over two days at La Merced, which seems like an excessive time to ogle produce and piñatas, but given its size and labyrinthine paths, I barely scraped the surface. I'm sure I passed the same shoe vendor a few times in the 15 minutes it took to locate the subway. I was rendered nearly blind and directionless by its endless rows of sparkling aluminum kitchen supplies. I spent time recovering in a church I found en route to the bee-infested rows of calabaza en tacha (candied pumpkin). I was blockaded in the butcher section, where almost every man felt compelled to stop, point out that I was Chinese, and attempt to get my life story. But this was the beauty of it all: along the way, I was constantly meeting new people who just wanted to chat and actually asked for their photo to be taken without needing to pose the question myself, which, as a photographer, is a pretty sweet dream

So yes, I got lost in La Merced. But I'm happy about that; considering I'm one of those people who yawns after 30 minutes in a gallery, getting lost in the market's visual and aural chaos certainly shakes things up. Travel complacency? Completely obliterated.

Look forward to getting lost again. 

La Merced, Mexico City (Photo: Connie Tsang)

La Merced, Mexico City (Photo: Connie Tsang)

La Merced, Mexico City (Photo: Connie Tsang)

La Merced, Mexico City (Photo: Connie Tsang)

La Merced, Mexico City (Photo: Connie Tsang)

La Merced, Mexico City (Photo: Connie Tsang)

La Merced, Mexico City (Photo: Connie Tsang)

La Merced, Mexico City (Photo: Connie Tsang)

La Merced, Mexico City (Photo: Connie Tsang)

La Merced, Mexico City (Photo: Connie Tsang)

Just outside La Merced, Mexico City (Photo: Connie Tsang)

Just outside La Merced, Mexico City (Photo: Connie Tsang)

La Merced, Mexico City (Photo: Connie Tsang)

La Merced, Mexico City (Photo: Connie Tsang)