My Photography

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Our turtle collection

Othman and I got back last night from a short trip to the north of Morocco. We needed a small vacation and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves staying in small but beautiful Assilah and visiting Tangier. It was my first time in both places and only my second time in the north, and it was lovely. I will be posting about the trip in the days/weeks to come but for now wanted to share two of the souvenirs we bought:

We both love turtles and tortoises and a while back I was gifted the figurine of a turtle. Othman's mom gave me a few more and said I should start a collection. Other than a rock collection I loved as a kid (and still have in a box at my parent's house!) I've never collected anything on purpose, but I decidedwhy not! (It also serves the purpose of being an easy gift for anyone to get me, haha.)

These turtles come from all sorts of places other than Tangier. One is from the Brookings Art Museum, another from its antique shop, then there's one from a keychain from India my dad gave me years ago, the tall one in the back is from the streets of Santa Fe via my mom, one is from a Christmas market in Toulouse, and the list goes on! About half were gifts and the other half we bought ourselves. I just need one from Brazil to complete my four continents! I love the stories behind them and their provenance, and their variety of shapes, sizes and colors—plus they make my bookshelf look cute.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Happy birthday B!

This post is to wish the happiest of birthdays to my dear, dear sister Maria today! The philosopher and writer of the family is turning 16 today and I just can’t believe it. 

She has turned into the most wonderful of people as well as the best of sisters! We had all sorts of fun being antisocial introverts together over my Christmas visit to the US: as the non-or-less introverted family members ventured to various parties we usually stayed home and watched movies or did art. It was fabulous to spend quality time with her and get to know her almost-adult self even more. I learned all sorts of things from her too, like that when you take a selfie and it's kind of wonky, just put it into black and white and BOOMgreat photo.


Bia was able to have a lovely birthday party a couple of weeks ago since she and her busy, busy friends wouldn’t have coinciding free weekends for a long time after today. You can read about it here on her blog. Now I'm just wondering how long it'll take her to get that driver's license—on the same day like me or months later like Isa?

Darling sisterly I hope that not only this day is as wonderful as you are, but also that this year brings all sorts of happiness and joy to your life! I love you!!

Friday, March 27, 2015

My lil sis singing Swift

Remember how in my first post I reserved the right to brag about my sisters whenever and wherever? I know it's not an uncommon occurence on the blog, and here I am doing it again.

My sister Isabel is part of an acappella group at her college, the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota's Twin Cities. Recently the group, Cadenza, recorded their very first music video!

Isa's solo is the shortest of the featured ones, but very unbiasedly I'm certain you'll agree it's the best. Just in case you have a hard time recognizing her (though why would you, given how often she appears here??) she's the gorgeous one in the scarf.

Here is our first ever music video!! We are so honored to have worked with Jack Hiniker and Michael Gaytko, as well as BAARD audio productions on this awesome project! We hope you like it :)
Posted by Cadenza on Thursday, March 26, 2015

Monday, March 23, 2015

Art, photography and friends!

A few weeks ago Othman and I had plans to join up with some friends of ours, another mixed-nationality couple, and have a picnic in a forest close to Casablanca. When I got sick the day beforeand thus had to cancel I became quite frustrated, as I was really looking forward to hanging out with them. Once I got better we started planning again, but due to the daily rain we've been getting here in Casa we had to come up with a different outing. I asked how they'd feel about heading to the new Mohammed VI Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rabat that was inaugurated a few months ago, and they agreed on making a day of it! So yesterday the four of us piled into our car and headed to Morocco's capital city.

We met Gioia and Driss at the first Pages event we went to, at which she told the story of how she ended up here, and then he played music with his fantastic band. (They're mentioned in my first post about Pages here!) 

A very cool picture of Gioia from the next Pages event- when I spoke!
Photo cred

Since then we've kept in touch and seen each other a couple times, and really enjoy spending time together. With our busy lives it's difficult to make time to help friendships grow, but it really is so important, and is something I've been pushing Othman and me to do recently. Gone are those university days when you become friends with people easily and almost by default, spending most of your time with them. As busy, working adults we have to make time and reasons to get together, and while it's a bit of a pain it's so rewarding!

Photo cred

Both Gioia and Driss and Othman and I had been talking separately of going to the museum for a while, as its opening caused quite a sensation and it has gotten lots of media attention. Museums are few and far between in Morocco and it's great to see more being built! It made a lot of sense, however, to go as a foursome because of our different approaches to art. Driss and Othman are Moroccan and didn't grow up in "museum cultures" as Gioia, an Italian, and I did. As a result she and I enjoyed discussing what we saw together as the boys had fun giggling at the pieces they didn't like as they lagged behind. The four of us had some very interesting conversations within the galleries talking about different ways of considering art and delving into why they had a harder time with some of it than we did. The talk ended up being educational for us all as we learned the others' perspectives!

Photo cred

While the new museum is supposed to be focused on modern art, its new exhibition (which was created in collaboration with the Louvre and will travel there afterwards) actually displays medieval Moroccan art from the 8th to 13th centuries. This is an interesting choice and is a testament to how museums are needed here—there really isn't another establishment able to house such an exhibit. I thought the juxtaposition was apt, however. Starting with the traditional and classic works of architectural, literary and functional art downstairs and then moving to the 20th century upstairs for the second half of our visit gave us perspective on how the second grew from the first. Tradition is of paramount importance in Moroccan society and while modern and contemporary artists are almost by definition moving away from tradition, in many ways its motifs and themes creep into their works. It was also good because the boys were more interested in that first part while Gioia and I appreciated the contemporary exhibit much more, which meant that there was a little something for everyone. We all left impressed with the museum's quality, despite a few missing labels and many explanations in the first exhibit being only in Arabicbut hey we're still in Morocco after all. I thought its size and scope were perfect: meaty enough not to be disappointing but very managable at the same time. And the entrance price means it's accessible to many!

One of the modern pieces we all loved.

Having arrived in Rabat quite a bit later than we meant to, for various reasons, we stayed until the museum closed and may well have been the last visitors to leave. We then headed to the coast not far away to enjoy the sunset and have some dinner. I whipped out my camera and went to town taking pictures. I’m not often in Rabat, and enjoyed seeing different views from what’s typical in Casablanca. We admired the sea and the architecture and found some cute snails to photograph too!

Not only am I not often in Rabat, but I’m also not often ready with my camera during twilight and at night, so I made the most of the opportunity to play with the settings and experiment a bit. I took advantage of the light of the setting sun behind the clouds and later on got some fabulous night shots.

As we headed down towards a bar-restaurant right on the beach I turned around and snapped this funny photo.

Inside we ordered a bunch of appetizers to share, as we talked and laughed all together. We took a few nice pictures as we waited, then tucked into some delicious seafood.

After eating we walked back up to the car and they laughed as I stopped every 20 meters or so to take pictures, but in the end I don’t think anyone minded too much, and I was happy with the results!

The drive down wasn’t short in time but felt so, as Driss and Othman laughed and joked in the front Gioia and I shared we’re-married-to-Moroccans stories in the back. Othman and I dropped them off at home with promises to get together for dinner soon, especially as we realized we all have the same tastes in dining out, down to a favorite restaurant in common! Thanks for a lovely day, Gioia and Driss, and see you both soon!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

A beautiful baby boy

Our lovely friends Jessica and Ahmed (previously featured here) welcomed their beautiful son, Noor, into the world yesterday morning! 

As soon as my Saturday classes were done we headed to the clinic where we found two tired but happy parents and a healthy, calm, and beautiful baby boy. It had been years and years since I was able to hold a newborn, so when Jessica asked me if I'd like to hold him I was over the moon. Othman and I joined the two new parents in fawning over him for a long time as we chatted with them.

As we sat around Jessica's bed I shared with them the old Braga-Henebry family saying: there are three things in the world you can never get tired of staring at. The ocean, a fire, and a baby. We all agreed at how absolutely true that is as we just looked and looked and this beautiful gift of life.

Can you get any sweeter than newborn smiles?
Welcome to the world little Noor!!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Money problems

So my mom posts on Facebook... a lot. I joke when I go home that my life in the USA is very exciting and full while in Morocco it remains empty and mysterious, simply because so much of what my family does gets recorded and posted online in real time if my mom is around! 

Despite their large number I do love my mom's posts, as they let me keep updated with family life back in the US. But every once in a while there's a post that just beats them all, that captures my family to a tee, and stays with me long after I read it. 

Today one appeared, and I just can't help sharing it.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

My big brother goes to...

For those of you who know my family this news is a bit old, but it's something that I feel I have to blog about, and better late than never!

My big bro Patrick is something of a world traveller, which is a bit ironic since of the two of us he's more of the homebody, and I'm more of the adventurer. Being the oldest two siblings we are the two who remember all of our family's moves growing up, and we would often discuss how they affected us in opposite ways. For me, that endless uprooting and replanting seemed so normal that I couldn't envision anything else, and I've always had a yearning to move somewhere new after a few years in one place.

I don't have all my pics on this new computer yet so I asked lil sister Tessie
to find a photo of her two biggest sibs. She sure knows how to choose, hah!

 Patrick, on the other hand, seems like he would be happy to spend the rest of his life without moving again. And yet since graduating college he's certainly done much more travelling than I have! Working for a Dutch firm as a software engineer he's lived in Amsterdam, Sydney, Hong Kong and Chicago, with company vacations all over the place as well. With those three international additions, and his having visited us here in Morocco twice now, it means he had been to six of the world's seven continents. Well in February, he completed his world tour, and went here:

First he flew to the end of the world in Argentina....

And then got on a boat... not the big one.

And as they sailed the Drake passage...

he got to see some pretty spectacular views.


Then they arrived in Antarctica! The boat landed them on shore a few times... 

so Patrick made some friends!

He also made some non-avian friends. In one of his rarely loquacious moments he sent a family email describing the people he met.

The cruise consisted entirely of people without kids at home.  So either retired people or people my age before kids.  I interacted mostly with the people from Harvey Mudd College... very impressed with that college in general, especially after the cruise.  
Many of the people there my age were either in software development or trading.  There were also attorneys and people involved in theatre and media businesses.  Lots of cool people overall.  Most of the retired HMC people also had technical backgrounds: some had started companies, some had worked at government labs... cool people all around.

That glut of information was in response to an email I sent to the family with a paragraph I had typed up about him to use with my adult Elementary students while studying personality adjectives. 

For the sake of fitting in all the adjectives I had to make a few claims (i.e. the new friends part) that I wasn't totally sure were true, but in the end I was proved to have guessed correctly! Of course the group email spiraled into a discussion on the proper title for Patrick's job (computer programmer or software engineer, NOT computer engineer apparently), on Othman's new family nickname "Oat" (not sure where that one came from), and Tessie giving us a wildlife narration of the Braga-Henebry family in their natural on-line habitat. Just another typical family email exchange.

To get back to Patrick's trip, he rounded it off with a visit to IguaƧu Falls on the border of Argentina and Brazil (which is the part that made me the most jealous, let's be honest). 

He even took a helicopter tour! Whhaaaat?

To end this post on the classiest note possible, here's Patrick's proclaimed best video of the entire trip:

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Photographing a baby bump

Exactly a week ago today I had the exquisite pleasure of photographing my friend Jessica and her baby bump! Jessica, like myself, is a Westerner married to a Moroccan and living here in Casablanca, and she’s nine months pregnant with their first child. We met sometime last year through a mutual friend, and though we haven’t seen much of each other we kept in touch. (Plus apparently she counts among the mysterious readers of this blog. I always wonder who reads this other than my immediate family!)

Talk about a glowing mama!

When she and her hubby Ahmed talked about getting some pregnancy pictures taken, somehow I came to mind, and she asked me a few weeks ago if I’d be interested. To be totally honest I was a bit nervous—the nice camera lens my mom had lent me over the fall is now back with her in the US, and though I had photographed events before and helped out with many photoshoots, I’d never done a proper photoshoot of my own. Nevertheless I was excited by the opportunity to extend my repertoire and help out a friend!

The photoshoot was fantastic—the light coming in through their living room window couldn’t have been better, and the pale yellow walls and big window were perfect backdrops. Jessica was relaxed and happy, and Ahmed enjoyed himself too! Given that they were in their own home, they were able to act very naturally, which was exactly what I wanted to capture. I truly couldn’t have asked for better or more pleasant models. Now I can’t wait till baby comes—that’ll be a new challenge!

Jessica and Ahmed had just recently moved, and when she gave me directions to their new place the night before the shoot we realized it was just down the road from us! I didn’t walk there, but easily could have in 15 or 20 minutes! I’ve recently realized how important it is to have friends who are in similar life situations to you, and Othman and I don’t really have married friends—especially mixed culture couples like us—so I was really happy to learn they are now just down the street. And that’s not to mention the fact that they’ll soon have a beautiful newborn to photograph and cuddle with!

I spent the week selecting and editing the pictures, and last night Othman and I went over to Jessica’s and Ahmed’s for dinner. We ate well, talked endlessly about all sorts of fascinating subjects, had a photoshoot slideshow (thank goodness they were pleased!), and generally had a wonderful time! It was the first time Othman and Ahmed met, and they seemed to hit it off. Hopefully we’ll have many more such dinners in the future!

Wishing you all the best, Jessica, Ahmed and Little One, and can’t wait to see your family grow and blossom!