I've worked with Fabretto Children's Foundation for some time and this time we travelled really deep into Nicaragua’s most isolated region: the Southern Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region (RAAS). The whole goal of this journey was to document the effort and commitment of both kids, and teachers who travel long, dangerous distances to learn and share their knowledge.
To get there, we first drove six hours from Managua to Nueva Guinea, and hitchhiked in the back of a truck along a dirt road for four hours. When the road ended, we made the switch to horseback riding for another five hours on a long ridge traversing across valleys and rivers. There were moments I felt as though I was back in the XIX century, traveling with a group of cowboys, somewhere in the wild west. Nicaragua can be as treacherous as beautiful. One of our guides fell off the horse and got injured while trying to climb a knoll. He had to walk the rest of the way, which slowed us down.
The heat and harsh sun got us – we arrived at our destination really exhausted. Luckily, we were very well received with a "sopa de gallina" (chicken soup). It's quite delicious and helps to get your energy back. I had brought my own hammock to spend the night, but when the host –a local teacher–offered her bed, I could not refuse it. Little did I know that the 'bed' was basically a wooden board covered with a sheet.
“I can get use to it,” I thought to myself. Let’s just say - it wasn’t the best night of my life. OUCH! Such is life in the tropics :) In places like this, without electricity and running water, it's the sun that determines the rhythm of the day. You go to sleep shortly after the sunset, and wake up with the first rays - around Five o'clock in the morning.
Kids are not exempt from this rule. Jarelis, a nine-year-old girl, wakes up when it’s still dark outside to help her mother at home. Everyday, she collects wood for the stove, feeds the animals, takes a bath in the nearby river, and washes her own clothes.Once she’s done with household chores, Jarelis walks for over an hour across the jungle – crossing rivers and mountains – to reach school. During the rainy season, her journey to school cannot be completed. Due to the strong currents, crossing the river is too great of a risk, forcing her to turn around. I had the opportunity to witness her dangerous trip to school. We've accompanied her on that journey.
Z Fundacją Fabretto współpracuje od jakiegoś juz czasu. Tym razem podróżowaliśmy daleko w głąb Nikaragui. Do osady położonej w jednym z najtrudniej dostępnych regionów - Południowo Karaibski Autonomiczny Region Nikaragui (RAAS). Celem wyprawy było udokumentowanie wysiłku i poświecenia uczniòw i nauczycieli - tych pierwszych w zdobywaniu wiedzy, tych drugich, w dzieleniu się nią.
By dotrzeć do RAAS wpierw musieliśmy przebyć drogę z Managui do Nowej Gwinei, co zajęło nam około sześć godzin. Potem cztery godziny na pace 'pick-upa' wyboistą drogą (a raczej zlepkiem dziur i mulu). Gdy owa ‘droga’ się skończyła , przesiedliśmy się na konie i dodatkowe pięć godzin spędziłem na grzbiecie pokonując wzgórza, doliny i rzeki. Podróżując w grupie jeźdzców poprzez dziewicze, dzikie, tereny czułem się niczym kowboj przeniesiony w czasie. Ale Nikaragua potrafi byc zarówno piękna jak i zdradziecka i jeden z naszych przewodnikòw spadł z konia w trakcie pokonywanie jednego ze wzgórzy. Spowolniło to nieco nasza podròż, gdyż nie był juz w stanie wspiąć się na grzbiet i zmuszony był kontynuować resztę drogi pieszą.
Upał i palące słońce nas dało nam się we znaki i na miejsce dojechaliśmy wykończeni. Ja miałem zostać w domu z nauczycielem, jego synami i przewodnikiem, podczas gdy moja towarzyszka z Fabretto, Elena, zostala oddelegowana do domu o zenskiej przewadze domownikòw. By ugościć przybysza w Nikaragui w zwyczaju jest by ubić kurę i zrobić rosół. (nieco inny w smaku niz ten polski ze wzgledu na bardziej egzotyczny dobòr warzyw). Wyborna i ożywiająca strawa dla strudzonego wędrowca. Nasz gospodarz zaoferował mi swòj pokòj i łoże, a ja ja nie potrafiąc odmowić, zaakceptowałem (pomimo iż zabrałem ze sobą hamak). Jak się okazało, łòżko to zwykła deska z nałożonym cienkim prześcieradłem. Nie żebym byl wielkim mieszczuchem, ale poobijałem się przez te kilka nieprzespanych nocy. ;)
W miejscach jak to, bez elektrycznosci i bierzącej wody to słońce wyznacza rytm dnia i ludzie kładą się spać zaraz po jego zachodzie, a wstają wraz z pierwszymi jego promieniami - o piatej rano. Dotyczy to wszystkich, także dzieci. Jarelis, dziewięcioletnia uczennica i jedna z bohaterek naszego reportażu, wstaje kazdego dnia o tej porze. Przed pòjściem do szkoły musi zdażyć pomòc mamie; nazbierać drewno na opał, nakarmić zwierzęta, wykąpać się w pobliskiej rzece także uprać tam ubrania. Zaraz po tym czeka ją ponad godzinna wyprawa do szkoly przez dzunglę, rzeki i wzgorza. W czasie pory deszczowej bywa to niemozliwe. Ja towarzyszyłem jej w tej podróży - tam i z powrotem.
It might look fun but that's actually the least pleasing part, packed on the back of the truck through the bumpy dirt roads.
Across the Nicaraguan rivers.
The house I stayed in.
Good night RAAS. 'La profesora' (the school teacher and my host) lighting the candle on the little Altar before going to bed.
To get to school you need to break through the jungle first. Jarelis - first on the left.
Then there is a river. It may look beautiful during the dry season, but becomes dangerous during the rainy season - really deep with strong current.
And as you can see above it's not that easy to cross it even during the nicaraguan summer. One bad step, and you end up soaked.
Jarelis, a nine-year-old girl, gets up for school at 5AM. She helps her mother prepare breakfast by bringing the wood for the stove. After, she will feed the animals. She must cross two rivers and go up and down various hills to get to her school. You can fin out more here
Map of Nicaragua.
Walking back from school - Up the mountain with umbrellas to hide from burning Nicaraguan sun.
Crossing the jungle on the way home.
Everyday you learn something new - it' not an orange. It's 'lemon dulce' (sweet lemon)
Little ducklings. During the night, while sleeping, they we attacked constantly by ants. The ants bite duckling causing paralysis. Then they it it alive. Most of the homes are of dirt floors and wooden boards for walls, and people live with their animals.
I had the opportunity to visit Barcelona a few times recently. For a guy like me, that loves urban art, and enjoys urban culture in general, It's quite a pleasure. You can find Graffiti everywhere, streets are teeming with life, people are friendly, and the sandy beach is nearby. On my second day I bought myself a fish board to cruise down the streets in a more efficient way. Barcelona night-life reminds me of Cracow a bit - you just walk from bar to bar, have a shot/beer/wine and move on to another spot, every place is located relatively near to each other.
Ostatnimi czasy miałem okazję odwiedzić w Barcelonę kilka razy. Dla gościa jak ja, ktory uwielbia sztukę ulicy i generalnie lubi miejska kulturę, to nie lada przyjemnosc. Graffiti można znaleźć wszędzie, ulice są niezwykle żywe i kolorowe, ludzie przyjaźni, a plaża blisko. Już drugiego dnia zakupiłem deskę "fiszkę", tak by szybciej pokonywać odleglości i nie marnować czasu. Do tego nocne życie w Barcelonie przypomina mi nieco te z Krakowa, od baru do baru, szot/piwo/wino i zmiana miejsca, a wszystko jest polożone jest relatywnie blisko od siebie.
Dana & Christian | Destination Wedding Photography - NicaraguaGorgeous Wedding in a Truly Epic Venue in San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua.
Classy, gorgeous, filled with love - these few words I could use to describe the destination wedding of Dana and Christian - an amazing couple that has traveled from Miami to Nicaragua for their ceremony.
The wedding venue was a marine house established on the top of a cliff that crowns over the San Juan Bay. The location provided a truly epic setting for the couple to get ready with their closest friends and family. It offered a venue bursting with color that had an unbelievable view of the Pacific Coast. A relaxed atmosphere, tropical greenery, ocean backdrop, sounds of waves crashing onto surrounding rock formations and this beautiful couple all comprised one of the most beautiful weddings I had the pleasure of photographing.
The Wedding Location: San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua The Wedding Photographer: Kuba Okon
A quick walkthrough on 4 types of cities I came across on my journey through Mexico - photography
Fusion of Color, music, art, flavors, - it would be hard to describe Mexico in a short review. It’s huge (it feels huge), it’s complex. It covers nearly two million square kilometers and is a kaleidoscope of landscapes. Here you can find exotic beaches, tropical rainforests, rugged mountains, deserts, sprawling metropolises, and colorful colonial towns. I would be lying if I said I know it all after a few weeks of traveling. It left me unsatisfied with a weighty feeling of missing something - there is so much more to discover. Starting with its rich history and cultural heritage spanning more than 10,000 years, Mexico’s territory was home to significant pre-colonial civilizations: Olmecs, Teotihuacáns, and the most known - Aztec and Mayan. Then the conquest by the Spanish and a 300-year period of colonization, the struggle for independence, and the country’s rebuilding in the 20th century. All this left a significant mark on today's Mexico and is reflected in its culture, architecture, and cuisine. A quick guide on different types of cities I came across during my trip through Mexico could be an interesting way of showing its complexity and multi-layered structure.
Pastel Stucco Colonial Town - Valladolid
Located in the middle of the Yucatan Penisula, just two hours from Tulum via straight-line road through the jungle, this tiny colonial town is unbelievably vibrant and tranquil. It was established in 1543 by Spanish colonizers atop a Mayan town called Zaci, whose buildings were dismantled to reuse the stones to build the Spanish town. The town has an authentic vibe to it. Some of the Mayans, who make up most of the population, wear the traditional Huipil which is a white cotton blouse or dress adorned with bright, floral embroidery. The Yukatek Maya, Mayan dialect, can be still heard on the streets. On the other hand, Valladolid low-level buildings, colorful walls, colonnades, and paving-stone streets maintain an Iberian feel. The great thing about this city is that Valladolid is off the beaten path so you won’t get crushed by the crowd of tourists.
Share, wherever you are, especially chips ;)
Beautiful hand-painted Typography -’Helados’ means Icecreams
Pop. Beach Town - Playa Del Carmen
This is a popular coastal resort town in eastern Mexico. It features a wide array of tourist activities due to its geographical location. Big chains of hotels, shopping centers, palm-lined beaches, Coral Reef right off the coast, souvenirs, tours, restaurants: these are some of the main attractions highly desired by tourists. Playa del Carmen is a bit smaller and less packed than the bigger and more party oriented Cancun. Coco Bongo Nightclub and Party Vegas shoe-? are a few somewhat cheesy, names that can help you imagine what type of attractions are waiting for party animals.
Bohemian Beach Town - Tulum
Tulum is basically known for two things - its impressively situated Maya ruins and spectacular coastline with trendy and pricy (Pinterest-like) restaurants, boutiques and hotels onshore. The beach is located 20 minutes from the town by bike - one of the most popular modes of transportation. The town center, that has grown rapidly for the last few years sits right on the highway and the trough is not really pretty. What I liked the most about it were the fruit stands and the amusement park - where I could watch the entertainment of the local community and discover new types of games. The town offers lodgings and restaurants to fit every budget and is a great base for trips like cave and cenote or surrounding Mayan Ruins. The Tulum ruins are incredible, established on rock formations, looking majestically towards the Ocean. The omnipresent Iguana reptiles slowly crawling among the rock or sunbathing give you an impression that they are majestic guardians, left to watch over this ancient place. But beware - 9 am sharp the tours that come from all the regions are rapidly take over. In the pursuit of the perfect Instagram shot, selfie sticks are block the walkways and views.
The Mayan ruins in Tulum
Mango - that’s how juicy are local fruits
Tourist walking around the Tulum ruins
Yucatan Peninsula is known to have the world’s most widespread range of underwater caves and sinkholes called cenotes. Here: ‘The Gran Cenote’ near Tulum.
Pinterest alike Restaurants and Boutiques. Tulum beach.
Megapolis - Mexico City (also known as DF - the Distrito Federal)
The story behind Mexico City is really interesting. During the Aztec period, Mexico City (Tenochtitlán) was initially built on the artificial island over a lake, the Lago de Texcoco. The development of Tenochtitlán has fulfilled one of the Aztec ancient prophecies. When Spanish explorer and conqueror Hernán Cortés arrived in the area, he first gained the support of local tribes tired of Aztec rule (Aztecs were fierce warriors who dominated other indigenous tribes throughout the region). Montezuma II, the king of Aztecs, believed that Cortez was their white god Quetzalcóatl, whose return had been prophesied and welcomed Spaniards with every courtesy. After enjoying the king’s hospitality for several weeks, Cortés suddenly captured the emperor and using the help of local tribes he conquered the Teotihuacán. The Spanish then built Mexico City on the ruins of the once great Aztec city.
Now Mexico City is a Megapolis, huge, diverse and polarized, filled with contradictions and yawning inequality. It has a population greater than that of London, Beijing and New York and is divided into uncountable neighborhoods, or 'colonias' - each with a distinct identity. The infamous smog that shrouds the city has decreased significantly over the few last years. Sky-scrapers are growing like bamboo. The city is unbelievably rich in culture - with world-class museums, a vibrant art scene and bustling markets. The food is incredibly delicious and has gained fame around the world. Mexico City produces world-class chefs, artists, and movie directors. To top it all off The Mexican Muralism Movement of Diego Rivera seemed to find its continuation in omnipresent modern-day Street Art.
Two volcanoes nearby the Mexico City - Iztaccíhuatl and Popocatépetl (or just Popo and Izta) - According to Aztec mythology, those two volcanoes which are located near Mexico City were once living humans – a man and woman who were deeply in love. They later transformed into the volcanoes, which are now seen as symbols of their love.
The Rain Season, also known as the Green Season, is simply stunning - this is not an exaggeration. It is a time when nature wakes up after half a year of harsh sun and literally not a single drop of rain. The tropical summer in Central America - especially at the lowlands like the Nicoya Peninsula, Guanacaste Province and Rivas can get really hot - it leaves the land dry and in a pastel palette. Then, in June everything changes. After the first rainfall, Nature starts to flourish, the greenery becomes lush, tropical forests come alive, colors are rich and vivid with thousands of shades of green.
Aram and Abril have chosen this period of the year for their wedding. The Wedding Venue was Hacienda Ecolodge surrounded by dense tropical forest. The Ceremony took place at a magical beach, just a 3 minute walk across the suspension bridge.
We've been friends with Abril and Aram for quite some time now. Actually, Abril was one of the first people I met when I came to Central America 8 years ago. She is an insanely talented designer and has a great eye for details - she had made her wedding dress all by herself! Together with Aram, they make this gorgeous modern handmade furniture - Masaya & CO - it is worth checking out.
My favorite cities in Croatia - Photography This summer we spent our time in Europe. I thought about doing a little Euro-trip so in order to travel freely, I decided to buy a car. The plan was to start in Poland, go through Slovakia and Hungary, cross Croatia and finish the trip traveling through northern Italy. Little did I know...Zagreb
After spending more than a week we in Hungary we entered Croatia from the East. On our way was its capital - Zagreb. My first impression when we reached it was just as if I went back in time to Poland at the turn of the centuries, where Post-Soviet housing projects, modernist architecture, and 19th-century tenement houses were still covered in graffiti. The urban landscape changed when we reached Zagreb’s upper town. Combined by two hills, Kaptol and Gradec, the city center is charming. Colorful low architecture, numerous narrow streets, plazas, parks, and a variety of restaurants and coffee shops, creates a friendly and relaxed atmosphere.
But deep within, we were feeling the rush to finally get to the Adriatic Sea. After a short stop in Zagreb, we moved on to the Croatian port city of Rijeka. It was already night when we got there. In order to reach the city, you have to drive down a winding road going downhill. Rijeka streets are narrow, inclined and challenging to drive. We went to sleep quickly after a few glasses of Croatian wine at the main plaza with hopes of seeing more next morning. I woke up before the sunrise and climbed the streets up to the upper part of the city. The view from the top was breathtaking. Beneath me, the city was dividing into two parts, on the left, industrial surrounding of the port, on the right, a warm palette of red roof tiles, creamy walls and cobblestone streets. The background was formed by a blue sea and tiny white boats.
Looking for something to eat we came across Rijeka's Main Market – Placa. Positioned just by the seashore in the very center was a quick and easy option for morning grocery runs. It turned out that city markets are one of my favorite places in Croatia. Stalls piled high with fresh local produce and the cheery banter of traders was catching my attention. Familiar Slavic faces. I felt like in my hometown Ełk where I lived as a young kid. Every Sunday, before the church routine, with my childhood friend Lukasz we would go to the city market - our main Sunday attraction. We would wander around and look for adventures. Here, I felt the same eastern atmosphere, familiar faces. Just the surroundings changed to more exotic, Mediterranean, and warm. Since then I visited every market I came across.
That’s when this idea occurred - what if we travel through southern Croatia instead of going straight to Italy? - I asked Solieth. “why not” - she responded without hesitation. After seeing the map it appeared we had two options - using a quick, toll highway far from the coast, or the curvy road next to it. We chose the second option. I didn’t want to miss all those views on the way.
rocky beach photography croatia
Obligatory morning press routine for most men.
Inside Plaka - Rijeka main market.
The curvy road appeared to be really curvy, situated high, between rocky slopes and steep cliffs to the right. Driving that road was really exhausting and stressful - but in the end, it was worth it. The views on the way were just stunning.
The next stop on our way was Zadar - the gateway to Dalmatia. Set on a small peninsula Zadar is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in Europe. A historic old town of Roman ruins, medieval churches, museums, trendy cafes and quality restaurants make it a popular destination. The City colors are a mix of smooth pastel tones. The streets are made of burnished marble, so smooth that you could almost ice skate across the cobblestones. Among tourists, it is known for its rich nightlife and attractions like Sea Organ and Solar powered Dancefloor.
The good thing about driving a car is that you can stop anywhere you like…and I was stopping a lot. The one hour drive was taking me four hours. That’s how I was discovering all the little things on the way - inaccessible beaches between the rocks, little villages with the best bakeries and stunning viewpoints. And that’s how I discovered Sibenik.
Man Jumping to the water from The Sea Organs - an experimental installation, which plays music generated by the motion of sea waves through a series of 35 organ pipes built under a set of large marble steps. Zadar.
Cruise ship passengers
Šibenik wasn’t in my plans. It was supposed to be just a quick stop on our way to Split - get something to eat, refuel the car, catch our breaths- that’s it. But after getting there we decided to explore the old town. Locals were cheerfully drinking their coffee, men with the obligatory morning press in hand - sometimes vigorously debating - kids happily going to school. People were living their daily life. It was pleasing to watch and from my perspective as a photographer - authenticity of the moment is something I am attracted to. Later on, I was told the city center is mostly inhabited by locals and city authorities are trying to maintain it this way. A labyrinth of steep back streets and alleys leads to medieval St. Michael's Fortress which crowns the pyramidal hill above Šibenik’s Old Town. The fort offers a spectacular view of the city and the Šibenik channel. During the summer months, it becomes an impressive open-air stage for cultural events. We decided to stay for a few days.
View over Sibenik and its cemetery from St. Michael’s Fortress.
Recently I have traveled with Fabretto Children’s Foundation to the northern Nicaraguan frontier to document different life stories of families from that region. Some places I visited where quite remote, hidden in the mountains and valleys, without an easy access route. And this time I took with me some of my ‘big guns’. What I mean by this is studio lighting was travelling with me, more specifically, on my back (soft boxes, studio lamps, tripods, batteries and all that necessary heavy stuff).
I tried to portray stories of hardworking and proud people that move their life forward to better future, regardless of the circumstances. Children, youth, parents, teachers, the entire comunities take this effort, despite difficult conditions.
The 19-year-old Ever has always had a connection and passion for bees. Trough education he developed entrepreneurial skills, which prompted him to organize a honey cooperative with other young people.
Ever says that the bees have taught him a lot on how to work together for the good of the whole community.
How old does Maria look?
Due to severe pneumonia during early childhood and sustained poor nutrition María has suffered a serious delay in her physical and educational development. At 14 years old, she is currently in 5th grade. When asked how she imagines her life when she grows up, María responded: “when I grow older, I want to travel the world and become a great teacher.”
Maria with her mother and her siblings on the bank of a river near her house, the place where she likes to read and learn.
27-years old Yolanda, surrounded by her students, is the local preschool teacher. Due to a lack of space and resources, the Ministry of Education has not yet opened a formal preschool teaching position in Apanaje community. Instead, educators like Yolanda are asked to step up to the plate as volunteers, earning a stipend equivalent to only a fraction of the minimum wage.
Come rain or shine, the preschoolers and their brave teacher can be found in the school hallway or yard.
"Starting with something as simple as teaching children to hold a pencil, I know that I am helping them start their education off on the right foot.” claims Yolanda.
Doña Petrona and Don Jacobo are a farming couple that lives at the foothills of the San Cristóbal volcano. The couple makes a living out of producing basic grains. “Women in my community are not used to working alongside men… that’s why they call me crazy, but I’ve gotten something good out of this madness,” In the most of Latin American countries machismo is a great challenge.
The couple has had to face the catastrophic effects of climate change, such as drought, pests, La Niña weather conditions, among other drawbacks.
On our way to Maria's house. After all, travelling with a lot of equipment is not a big deal if you are accompanied with right people.
5 am. The wind appeared to be brutal that day. My friends from Fabretto Marketing Team struggling against heavy gusts of wind while helping me to sustain the lights. Thanks girls!!
My Photography illustrate Fabretto 2017 Annual Report. You can see the entire document below:
Nicaragua coast Wedding Photography | Robert & Grace
The Tola Region is one of my favorites areas in Nicaragua. Gorgeous beaches, tranquility, and salt in the air. Robert and Grace fell in love with this place, like I once had, and had chosen this spectacular scenery to be their wedding venue. They also told me they wanted to share its beauty with their loved ones. The ceremony took place right on the Popoyo beach next to an impressive rock formation called the ‘Magnific Rock’. The reception dinner and party were held in the hotel above accompanied by live music. A beautiful, intimate and relaxed ceremony filled with love.