Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Letter Home, Part III: Cultural Differences

     In my continuing series of Letters Home, I am happy to answer my friend, Nora's, inquiry about cultural differences.  Of course, we all know there are bound to be cultural differences, but what are they?  She asked, specifically, for those that really struck me when we first moved here.  There are no shortage of those.  I'll describe a couple here (with brief guest appearance by my husband). I find that my ability to adapt to these cultural gaps is startlingly simple and simultaneously a total pain in the ass.

     First, as I mentioned in my initial blog back in December: the smells in Rwanda are unique and extraordinarily different than anything I have ever smelled in North America or Europe.  Much of the scents here are dust, dirt, flora, fauna; but, there's that one element that screams of a huge cultural divide between Rwanda and the U.S.: the un-deodorized bodies.  Though we see deodorant for sale in all the major supermarkets, I don't think I've, yet, met anyone who uses it.  The human body, here in Rwanda, has a spicy scent that is, to my olfactory senses, slightly offensive, and there are certainly flavors.  
     The other day, two men came to fix our alarm, and as I whisked past them in my hallway, I suddenly had vivid images of Uganda in my mind.  Theirs was not the typical Rwandan body odor.  I have NO explanation for why this is.  But, I know the different scents.  The Ugandan scent is a bit lighter, more spicy.  The body odor of Rwanda has been, typically, more sickly sweet with an underlying, thick sense of earthiness that hits you, hard, at the back of your throat.

     And, my body is not immune to this scent.  After working hard in the house or after going for a long walk in the hot sun, I smell of Rwanda, not Uganda.  Perhaps it's a combination of foods, body chemistry, biology and locale.  Perhaps it's just my imagination.  Either way, this cultural difference struck me the instant we landed and has yet to subside.  But, I'm getting used to it.

     That observation of a cultural difference may seem a little harsh to some of you.  I felt it was essential to share because I want so many of you to understand that some of the biggest cultural differences here (and everywhere I have lived) seem to be the smallest things.  I always rack my brain, trying to come up with the big, the bold, the wacky differences, and then I realize it's the small stuff.  It always is.
     On that note, and with a much more pleasurable cultural difference, are motos.  In Uganda, they are, so delightfully, named boda bodas.  I wish they called them that here, too, but, alas, they do not.  What are they, you ask?  Ahh, a very good question.  
     Let me tell you, first, that after I lived in Uganda in 2008 for a mere 3 and a half months, I pined, shrilly, for boda bodas when I returned to DC.  My life was so much easier in Kampala, so cheap, so reliable, so quick.  In D.C. I, instead, had to take Metro, or a bus, or my bike or a taxi.  
     Motos are, of course, motorcycles.  Taxi motorcycles.  And, the bonus in Rwanda, is that they are all registered with the government and each driver carries a helmet for his passenger.  The other bonus is that they only allow one passenger per bike (in Uganda, they pack 'em on there till someone falls off--then they know it's time to go).

A Ugandan Pile Up (photo courtesy of Google)

Ridin' in Rwanda (photo courtesy of Google)
    Yes, this is dangerous, but I wear the helmet every time.  And it is SO MUCH FUN!  I have been advised to get my own helmet that fits my head snuggly.  The best are made in the US with kevlar (by the Army, presumably?).  Regardless, I am careful and tell the driver to slow down when things feel like they are getting out of hand (drivers are usually very good with me).  In addition, I can walk to most of the places I need to get to (post office, grocery story, cafe, etc.).  But I defy any of you to try to reject this cultural difference when you get here.  Gosh, they're fun!   
     Finally, when I spoke to Mark to find out what cultural differences struck him, I found my husband slightly more reticent on the subject.  He was, however, succinct in his reply to my query: "I like how dignified and proud Rwandans often are. I very seldom hear a self-deprecating comment."  He went on to say that he doesn't often find he can even figure out what the cultural differences are in a country until he has been there for a very long time.  So, stay tuned: he'll probably have more to share in a year or two.  My two cents on his observation: people here are very proud and there is not a lot of irony.  I'm curious to see how that plays out with my slightly sarcastic sensibilities, in the long run.  I know this: I will likely never stop wearing deodorant, I will always pine for motos when we leave this country and I will adapt to this curious lack of irony--I promise.  Really.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Letter Home, Part II

Today's Question: Why Do You Have to Have Security?

Today's Answer:  In my post, Trailing Spouse, I mentioned security quite a bit, but I did not explain why we felt we had to have security, in any form.  

     Here's some background from my experience.  When I lived in Kampala, Uganda, I lived in a small compound of 2-room apartments.  We had a gate and a guard.  Granted, the guard was about 18 years old, but he was always there and had one of the 2-room apartments to sleep in during the day.  At night, he manned the gate and let any late comers in after carousing in the pubs or working late.  I did not see him as security (at least, he wasn't likely to jump in front of a bullet for me), but I did see him as convenient.

     That seems to be what guards are in Rwanda, too.  Sure, they can provide an element of security in that they are (supposed) to always be awake and alert for intruders but there are two problems with that scenario: security guards are notorious for falling asleep and intruders are very, very rare.  In fact, according to anecdotal evidence from my many muzungu friends, the only times they have ever been robbed have been by guards or house staff, via inside jobs.  

     In response to this information, as well as some detailed advice we got from the RSO (Regional Security Officer) at the U.S. Embassy, we decided, instead, to get an alarm installed in our home with motion sensors in every room.  While we waited for the installation process (as noted in my previous blog, it took them 2 weeks to do a 2-day job), we agreed to have guards, 24/7.  

     Mark and I discovered, rapidly, how much we hate having guards.  They are just always there.  They can see in our house, they can hear us, they have almost nothing to do and, in the case of our day guard, he persistently hounded me.   However, it turns out that they can be handy doormen.  When someone comes to our locked gate, either by foot or wheeled transport, the guard can tend to it.  If we have to have someone home to open the gate to give our trash to the garbage collectors, the guard can do it (Rwandan law prohibits us from leaving any trash on the curb).  If we have a visitor or friend, the guard can step out of our driveway and stop traffic as that friend backs out of our driveway.  

     But, on balance, we don't want a guard.  It's awkward.  There is a huge language barrier (future posts will talk about taking Kinyarwanda classes).  For the moment, I have scarified my Monday and Wednesday mornings to sit home and wait for the garbage collectors (but, like so much here, they frequently don't show up and I've waited in vain).  However, it's better than having someone just sitting there.  Waiting.  Staring.  

    Once the alarm installation was complete, we were free from the burden of guards.  Weeee!  But wait ;)  Mark and I had a few days and nights of private bliss with our new alarm system.  We would engage it every night, it would not go off, and we would feel safe from any foul play.  But then something annoying started happening.  The alarm just started going off, by itself, in the middle of the night.  The first time this happened, Mark "armed" himself with a badminton racket and skulked through the house, seeking out the nasty intruder.  But, there was no one in the house.  No breach of any barriers.  On top of that, when the alarm goes off, an armed response team is supposed to arrive within 10 minutes.  That first alarm did not bring anyone at all.  After about 40  minutes, we had finally settled ourselves down and re-armed the alarm, snuggled back into bed and then, WHAM!, the alarm went off again, alerting us that the same region of the house (the main hallway) was being breached.  Mark whipped the door open and no one was there--still.  No lizards.  No mice.  No cockroaches the size of my fist.  Nothing.  Only 25 minutes later did the response team show up.  

     As of today, after having one more incident like that (and a few nights with no armed alarm so we could get a full night's sleep--sssshhh, don't tell anyone), we had the alarm company come and replace the seemingly faulty motion detector.  However, they didn't test it and then they just left with the old one.  They are going to test the old one at their office.  If it works at the office, the problem is deeper.  They will then have to come back and climb back into our ceilings to get access to the main computer installed somewhere in the attic and fix that.  Which means I will have to stay at home, all day, forever, until they are done.

     I sort of wish we had a guard.


Monday, February 13, 2012

A Letter Home, Part I

     In response to my most recent blog posts, my Aunt Ev wrote to me to ask about the nitty-gritty of life here. She made some good points--when I write, I often take for granted the knowledge I have already gained either from living here or from having lived in Kampala, Uganda.  I often don't explain the "why" for many of the things I talk about.  In response to her good questions, I'll post a series of blogs on the day-to-day demands on my time and why we do what we do here.  

     Today's Question: What’s it like living in that climate?

     Today's Answer:  Here's the official answer, per this website here, "Rwanda has a temperate climate with temperatures of 25-30°C during the day; 15° at night throughout the year. Nights can be chilly in Nyungwe and the Virungas. Most parts of the Country receive in excess of 1, 000 mm of rainfall.  Rwanda experiences two rainy seasons- the long rains between February to June and the short rains between mid-September to mid-December. Dry months are January, July, and August to mid-September. The country can be visited throughout the year."

     But, that's not very illustrative, is it?

Sun drenches Lake Kivu
     It's warm here.  Not exactly hot.  I just came from 7.5 years in Washington DC, where summers feel like they average around 90% humidity and 95 degrees Fahrenheit. I hate humidity, but, I've come to tolerate it.   So, being here is really quite pleasant.  I feel lucky to be at such a high elevation (Kigali is at approximate 1,567 meters or 5,141 feet).  If we were at this particular equatorial location and at sea level, I'd be singing a different tune.  It would be HEWWWW-MID.

     Kigali, and Rwanda in general, is lovely.  When we arrived at the end of November, Rwanda was in one of its two rainy seasons.  It was glorious!  Every single day, there would be a deluge for about 15 to 20 minutes.  We were living in the Hotel Serena at the time, still looking for houses, so I had a view of the swimming pool and the rain would just dance as the drops fell on its surface!  So loud, so soothing, so calming.  Also, a great excuse to stay curled up inside and read a good book or watch some episodes of "The Big Bang Theory."

     As we entered January, it just stopped raining.  Totally.  Nary a cloud in the sky, nary a moment of threat.  No rolling thunder in the distance, no reprieve from the heat.  And it got hot; 85 - 90 degrees Fahrenheit, every day.  Fortunately, the mornings and nights here are very cool, and temperatures can plummet to as low as 55 F.  

The sun bakes our back yard in Kiyovu, Kigali, Rwanda
Chilly nighttime scene on Lake Kivu, Gisenyi, Rwanda
   With this heat comes sun.  Equatorial sun.  Mark is fair-skinned, genetically hailing from the highlands of Scotland.  I'm a bit more rugged with a teeny tiny bit of Iroquois blood, but I'm pretty burnable, too.  Sunscreen has become a must.  Staying indoors or in the shade between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. is almost required.  

Hiding from the sun, by the pool
     And that leads me to some of the more key changes that are occurring to us as a result of living in such a different place.  I have to change my habits.  As I just said, it's best not to sit, walk, workout, dance, etc. out in the sun.  So, we have to adjust.  We either purchase big-brimmed hats, slather on sunscreen every hour or just don't go outside.  It's frustrating.  This change, though seemingly small, is fundamental.  Add this to all of the other changes you'll soon learn about, and you'll realize just how much culture shock I am going through.  

Cool waters soothe in the afternoon sun
     So, the weather is, by and large, fine.  But it is a big change.  It affects us every day.  I find myself pining for snow, wishing I could curl up by the fire, kittens in my lap, blanket around my shoulders.  But, that ain't gonna happen.  So, we work with what we've got.  And the sun beats down for another day.

Friday, February 10, 2012


     For every visitor to Rwanda, it is compulsory to visit one of the genocide memorials here---either in Kigali or outside of town.  Mark and I decided to visit Kigali’s Genocide Memorial early in January.  It is dappled with beautiful, thoughtful, life-affirming gardens.  

One of many roses in the Rose Garden, "a fragrant and peaceful memorial to Rwanda's lost loved ones"
More roses
Memorial gardens--these planters/sculptures represent something along the lines of "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil"
But here, we have a monkey on his cell phone, calling the rest of the world to inform them of the tragedy of the genocide and that something must be done.

     The crypts are lined with trellises and vines; though it is harrowing to know that over 250,000 bodies lay under our feet, it did not immediately sink in for me.  

The top tier of crypts.  These descend down a hill and there are still more being dug as bodies are being discovered across the countryside.

My husband, Mark, absorbs the surroundings at the Genocide Memorial, Kigali, Rwanda.

     In hind sight, it was a two step process.  First, when we made our way through the museum portion of the memorial, I found myself, mouth agape, just staring at the various exhibits in disbelief.  I had seen “Hotel Rwanda" (haven’t we all?).  Sigh.   Mark and I spent over 2 hours inside this dimly lit building, absorbing more and more darkness with only slight tinges of hope.  

One of the Windows of Hope

Part of the Memorial Sculpture 
Clothing of the Dead

Clothing of the Dead

Identity Cards; Muhutu  e.g. Hutu, Mututsi e.g Tutsi

     When we left, emerging into the sun, Mark made this point: imagine, please, your favorite sports team (or musical show on Broadway, or opera in Paris, or just any large event with many people gathering).  For me, it is the Red Sox.  Fenway Park holds 37,493 people during night games.  Okay, now, recall my earlier statistic of 250,000 people, buried in the Kigali Genocide Memorial.  Double that.  Double that again.  The math makes that one million people; the number of people who perished in the genocide in 1994.  Now, back to our Fenway statistic: 37,493.  That goes into 1 million 26.67 times.  That’s right.  With 162 games per season, that is over 16% of the entire season’s games, or 27 games, all attendants dead.  
     Think about that for a moment.
     After Mark and I got back to our hotel that afternoon, I (stupidly) popped in a documentary  called “Keepers of Memory” directed by the founder of the Kwetu Film Institute, Eric Kabera.  I barely made it through the first hour and started bawling.  And bawling.  And bawling.  The pain was incredible, and I never ever lived through the actual events.  
     I think about the genocide pretty much every day.  I look at my new friends’ faces and think, “What are they dealing with, every day, at the back of their minds?  At the front of their minds?”  A few of my Muzungu (foreigners) friends, e.g. Americans, have told me that once you get to know your Rwandan friends, they’ll be very willing to talk about the genocide.  I can’t say I look forward to that, but as I look toward our world’s future, I want to learn more.  So I’ll ask them when the time is right. Reading about what’s happening in Myanmar/Burma is making me want to stay on top of this kind of thing a lot more.  Am I passionate about it?  I'm not sure.  But, life is just too precious to remain dispassionate, don't you think?  

Post Script:  I've kept this blog brief because of my lack of expertise.  I highly recommend visiting Rwanda to learn more but, barring that possibility, please feel free to read up on it.  Books can't give you all the truth, but they can certainly help give you a better rounded point of view.  Books and films I recommend:  The Media and the Rwanda Genocide, Keepers of Memory, We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda, and from a classmate at AU, As We Forgive.

Trailing Spouse

     I came to Rwanda to be with my husband, for the adventure and for the life experiences that would turn into great stories.  Because he is busy every day with work, my husband is “distracted” and does not feel the same swings of emotion I do as a result of being unemployed (well, that, and he does not have my unique body chemistry).  Since we first came here on November 27, 2011, I’ve done a lot.  Mark has done a lot.  A lot of what we have done has been together but a lot of what we have done has been separate.  He has his job and all that that entails.  I have a new house to get us settled in. I sat at home, waiting for the phone company, MTN, to come and install the internet.  It took them 5 days to complete the whole process, involving me having to run to three separate stores to get the equipment they would be installing!  When the internet was finally installed, it worked for 3 whole days and has never worked since.  I then had to sit at home for hours and days waiting, first, for the technicians from our alarm company to even show up (what a waste of over 48 hours!) and then, when they finally came, their projection of a 2-day job turned into two weeks.  I also have to stay home every Monday and Wednesday mornings till noon because that’s when our trash pick up comes.  

While the alarm technicians were working, we agreed to have day and night guards, just until the alarm was complete.  The day guard, Jean Marie, a sweet 20-year-old from west of Kigali, was well-intentioned but pushy.  He spoke minimal english, pretty good french and perfect kinyarwanda.  He always came to me to try to speak more english.  

Jean Marie, Our temporary guard

    Mark and I invested in a Kinyarwanda to English dictionary for him.  He expressed real gratitude and that made us both happy.  He was endearing but he sapped me of my energy.  Because it took the technicians so long to install the alarm, Jean Marie ended up coming every day for 2 weeks.  By the time his last days had arrived, he had implored both me and Mark to hire him as our gardner, guard, housekeeper, etc. every single day.  He told me, countless times, that he was going to quit his steady (yes, poorly paying, but paying, all the same) job to work for us!  We had made him no promises!  I made it abundantly clear, in both french and english, that we were NOT hiring him.  He should, under no conditions, quit his job in relation to us.  I even advised him that quitting a job with no other job waiting was rather ridiculous.  I explained that here, in Europe in the USA--all across the world--unemployment was high and voluntarily ending your job on the outside chance that some Muzungu (that means foreigner in East Africa) may hire you for a part time job was just not smart.  He finally understood and, in the end, took it graciously.  I can’t say that I wasn’t glad to see him go when the alarm installation was finally complete.

As a trailing spouse, it is my job (well, one of my jobs) to figure out what my passion is--what I want to be when I grow up.  Kwetu Film Institute never responded my offer to teach script writing and cinematography.  Normally, when I do not hear back from a place--a potential job--I give them about 5 days and then pester them periodically until I do hear back (or until I’m just way past the statute of limitations).  Well, when I got no reply after one week, then two, then three, I realized, more and more, that I had no interest in teaching filmmaking.  I’d rather be telling stories, not telling other people how to tell stories, and I have the luxury to do just that.
So, here were are, at the beginning of many tales.  In the coming days, weeks, months and years, I’ll be posting those stories here.  This trailing spouse aims to drop that moniker and do more than just sit at home waiting for people to show up.  This woman will be a spouse who does many things and tells many stories in this unique country that is Rwanda.  

Monday, December 12, 2011

For My Best Friend's Film

Above, you see a beautiful short preview of a documentary my best film school friend, Kimberley Rose Williams, created.  She is currently raising finishing funds to be able to finalize the last edit and then submit the film to festivals all over the world.  I use this platform to promote her amazing work and ask that you consider helping to fund the movie (you can give whatever you want--from $.01 to infinity).  You may contribute on, an incredibly innovative site that helps artists realize their dreams.  Here is the link:  Broken Hearts & Butterflies.  If you do decide to help fund the project, please leave her a comment letting her know where you learned about it!  Thanks, everyone, for allowing me to use this platform for my dearest friend.

Friday, December 9, 2011

What's Old is New is Old

The unfamiliar and the familiar

Emerging from the plane in Kigali, Rwanda, on that dark, warm, Friday evening in late November, I breathed in deeply, struck by the earthy, musty aromas; I felt like I was back home again. Having lived for a few months in Kampala, Uganda in 2008 and worked one month in Ethiopia the year before that, I fancied myself an expert on the scent of Africa. I exclaimed to my husband, “It smells like Africa! Ahh, how I've missed that smell.” I'd never been to Rwanda before, but the sensation somehow comforted me. Mixed in the all-encompassing odor of earth, flaura, and fauna was, most jarringly, the spices of a thousand undeodorized bodies; I was suddenly reminded of my inherent foreignness. This adventure in Rwanda, after a whirlwind engagement and marriage, had begun.

Making the unfamiliar familiar

Last July, Mark's soon-to-be-boss, Ginger, sent him a link to an LA Times article about Rwanda's burgeoning film community. Ginger had sent it to Mark in an effort to entice yours truly.  The article talked about how the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS or "The Oscars" to you lay folk) had sent a troupe of creative people to Kigali to partner with Rwandan filmmakers and with a newly formed film program called The Kwetu Film Institute.  Alfre Woodard, Jon Turtletaub and Phil Alden Robinson descended on this hilly hub--Rwandans have coined it "Hillywood" for its thousands of hills, or "mille collines"--and taught eager young filmmakers the finer points of production, from soup to nuts.  

Ginger was smart; it was this article that sold me on moving to Rwanda with Mark (though, truth be told, I was already sold since he was going to be there).  I immediately contacted the head of the Kwetu Film Institute, Eric Kabera, and offered my services to his school.  He and his staff wrote back and asked me to join them as a mentor when I arrived in Rwanda.

That's pretty cool in and of itself.  And there's more.


Upon our arrival,  I wrote to Eric and we made a date to meet and discuss what we could do for one another.  After our meeting and seeing his brand new film school/bed and breakfast (a fail-safe that will house visiting filmmakers throughout the year and others when times are tough), I offered to teach courses on script and cinematography.  

Simultaneously, Mark and I were both networking like fiends--he with his new colleagues and me with, well, anyone--as we had left all of our friends and family (e.g. YOU) thousands of miles away. We joined a highly-recommended Yahoo Group called "Kigalilife," wherein we got daily emails with various postings for jobs, houses, cars, events, pets, club activities and assorted other sundries of life. 

I took the initiative to write a mass email to the group, introducing myself as a filmmaker and storyteller  and seeking any and all advice-givers. The response was instant and overwhelming.  Dozens of folks, from Rwandans to expats, offered to meet up with me throughout my first week in Kigali.  Among many others who shall receive full mention in future blogs, a kind, energetic, American journalist from the Agence France Presse (AFP) immediately offered to meet me at the see-and-be-seen watering hole, The Bourbon Cafe.  I met Steve there and we immediately hit it off.  A shared passion for Apple, Nikon and storytelling propelled us through our first meeting.  As we sat and chatted, a steady stream of locals and expats greeted my new friend as their old friend.  I instantly acquired even more phone numbers and connections; this man was a networking genius.  

File this Under "Disney, It's a..." 

We agreed to have dinner later in the week so Steve could meet Mark and I could meet more of his friends.  We had a grand time at a local Indian restaurant and promised to meet up again, soon.  The following Monday, VISA had a press conference to announce its new partnership with the Rwandan government.  My new friend attended the conference in his capacity as a journalist and to support Mark's new venture.  He hunted my husband down and offered to save two seats, that evening, at the local Quiz Night at Sole Luna (arguably the best Italian restaurant in town).  Mark was unable to attend, but asked Steve to promise to save me a seat.

That night, I sat with Steve and some new friends from Kampala, in town to visit family.  As we prepared for the night's questions--all hoping like mad that we would emerge triumphant--yet another friend of Steve's strolled by.  "Heyyyy," crooned Steve.  His friend paused to say, "I'll join you in a moment, I'm just going to say hi to some people."  At this point, Steve let me know that this man, Daniel, was a german filmmaker.  (Actually, he told me he was Werner Herzog.  But, I've met Werner Herzog.  So, I knew he was lyi--er, kidding.)  

When Daniel returned, we got right down to brass tacks and started answering the quiz night questions in earnest.  Only during a break did I mention that I, too, am a filmmaker and had just met with the head of the Kwetu Film Institute.  It was at this stage that Daniel casually told me he had actually started the Kwetu Film Institute with Eric and was just about to leave Rwanda for some work in Palestine.  He told me he'd known Eric for years and that I should, absolutely, teach some classes there.  He then gestured toward Steve and said, "Oh, I even had Steve do some teaching at the school."  Steve grinned and said, "Oh, I loved it.  Lots of fun.  Maybe you even saw my write up about the whole thing in the LA Times."

Wait, what?

"Seriously, Steve?  You're the reason I came to this country?!" (Clearly, I didn't pay attention to who wrote the article.)  Steve was delighted.  "If I had a journal," he said, "I'd totally write in it, 'Tonight, a girl told me that she read my article in the LA Times about the Rwandan film community, and that's what made her decide to move to Rwanda. Now she's here, having quiz night with me in Kigali.'"  

We were all glowing when we found out that we had tied for first in quiz night.  

The familiar and the unfamiliar

Now, it is December 10th, 2011 and we've been here for exactly 2 weeks. Mark and I are just really hitting our groove.  We're close to securing a new home to move into in January.  We've made lots of new beginnings with some amazing people.  We've grown closer together due to the stress of ALL OF THIS NEW STUFF!  And, now that we're comfortable, we're headed back to the states for Christmas.  What was once familiar will be unfamiliar, again.  I am bright pink from the equatorial fireball that is the sun, I am just finally adjusting to seeing Christmas Trees next to palm trees and I have become accustomed to all scents, sweet and, um, savory.  

Once we're back in the warm arms of our families, though, I'm sure the scent of pine, Christmas raisin bread and Mexican food (lo', how we miss it) will easily trump my new acceptance of the scent of Africa, but the familiarity dance shall continue....

Post Script--I am aware that there is a jarring lack of photography here.  It is, in part, due to the fact that Rwandans are very averse to having "Muzungu" (foreigners) take their pictures, randomly.  I'm aware that I could have taken more pictures of the landscape and had planned to, but time has been full and busy and got away from me.  Trust me, though, when I tell you the next blog will be all about photography.