Finding Our Latitude

The past few years have been very transformational for both of us; Mike lost his Father (but ended up finding himself), my parents ended their marriage (but got back together), my brother found light and love, I finally left Corporate America to take my photography business full-time and Mike gave up a well paying banker job to help people in a more fulfilling financial advising career.  While I have always been encouraged to follow my heart and dreams, to say we’ve been inspired to begin doing those things as a unit (husband & wife, heart & soul) would be an understatement.  We’ve both had experiences that have seriously hit hard enough to knock us down and keep us down, but we’ve been able to stand back up, forgive, and move forward together with full hearts.

So, all of that said, we decided that want to make the most of the short lives we have and we had the ability to make choices to just just that.  We want our minutes spent on earth doing something good for the well-being of others, the world and ourselves.  We wanted to find our latitude and we want to do something that mattered.  We started this by celebrating our first year together as husband and wife.  Instead of lounging at an all-inclusive resort with pina colada in hand, we decided to rough it, put others before ourselves, take an adventure in Central America and make some memories that would, to some people, be quite different.

Our adventure started at 4am on 10/1/13.  We flew from BWI-MIA and MIA-MGA.  This was the first time that Mike was really culturally immersed and it was evident by the blank/distressed/vacant look on his face as he drove our rental car around the cows that shared the road with us from Managua to Masaya.  Yep, cows were just grazing the grass in the medians of the roads and wandering around the streets.  When we finally got to Masaya, it looked like a storm had just passed.  I was looking down at a map while we tried to find our hostel and I was startled when Mike yelled, “HOLY SHIT!!!”.  I looked up and what appeared to be Class 4 rapids were raging down the street we were about to turn down.  This is no exaggeration.  There was literally white water coming down this street.  Apparently drainage is an issue when these rains come so heavy and fast.  After watching a few Geo Metros successfully ford the rivers, we decided to head in since we had a SUV, after all.  Our adventure began and it began in Masaya, Nicaragua.

We never did find our hostel. After driving and asking around for about an hour, we ended up finding a clean little place for $35/night, which is actually expensive for Nica standards.  We had the luxury of A/C and spotty wifi, which was pretty nice, especially since Mike was still getting acclimated to his new environment.   We wandered the town of Masaya for two days and some highlights were having some authentic Nicaraguan food called “Baho” (yucca, beef, plantains and a vinegary slaw wrapped and cooked in banana leaves), some of the worst and the best Chinese food we’ve EVER had (who knew we’d find it in Nicaragua??), Independence Day celebrations in the streets, driving the volcanic rock base of Volcan Masaya, and the old, drunk, toothless man playing guitar, laughing and singing at the Chinese restaurant, the artisan market and our discovery of gallo pinto, which we’ve been making ever since we got back.  The next stop on our adventure was what we were really excited about;  volunteering and working with kids at the bottom of a crater lake…….

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Donor: Vision Workshops!!

Vision Workshops is a non-profit from Annapolis, Maryland.  Their mission is to provide innovative, dynamic, educational and life changing experiences for youth, using the tools of photojournalism.  They not only work with youth and refugees in the Annapolis,Baltimore and DC areas, but they also hold workshops world-wide in association with National Geographic Photo Camps and Crossing Boarders.  They give the kids a chance to explore their world through their cameras, to express their feelings and they help them find their voice through art.

When we decided to go to Nicaragua to work with the kids, I called upon Vision Workshop’s executive director, Kirsten Elstner, for some advice about teaching photo workshops to youth.  I teach adult learners at the local community college, but this was going to be a completely different ball game.  I was going to be dealing with young kids, language barriers, short attention spans, and all kinds of social issues.  Kirsten was a wealth of knowledge, extremely helpful and got me really excited to get to work and expose the Peace Project kids to the art of photography.  As if that wasn’t enough, she even donated a bunch of point and shoot cameras for me to use for the workshop.  The best part was that I didn’t have to bring the cameras back and the Peace Project would get to keep them!!  Thank you Kirsten and Vision Workshops!!photo

Donor: National Geographic!

The Peace Project is constantly trying to keep the materials in their library updated and fresh.  You would get bored reading the same book over and over, too, wouldn’t you?  When we heard they were looking for some new books, we contacted our friend who works in international editions at National Geographic.  Thanks to her, we were able to pack our bags with multiple copies of National Geographic Kids (in Spanish).  We couldn’t wait to pass them out!  The kids LOVED having something new to read.  Thank you National Geographic!!IMG_0561

Bourdain Said It Best

“If I’m an advocate for anything, it’s to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. The extent to which you can walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food, it’s a plus for everybody.Open your mind, get up off the couch, move.” -Anthony Bourdain

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Latitude = Choose Freely

When we decided to start something that matters, one of the hardest decisions we made was picking a name for our evolving idea.  After multiple brainstorming sessions, discussing during long road trips, emails back and forth, and lots of nixing of each others ideas, we finally decided on the right word.  I’m really happy Mike thought of it because it really encompasses everything we’ve been feeling and it fits our little endeavor perfectly.

The word “latitude” means freedom of action, choice or thought.  We all have the latitude to make a choice, to think freely and to act on those thoughts and ideas.  Too often, though, doubt can get in the way of believing we’re capable of this.  My Dad (and Fivel Mousekewitz), however, always told me “never say never” and my Mom always told me “you can do anything you set your mind to”.  I’m a firm believer in both of those ideals and we are striving to push through and make positive things happen.  Our goal is to help others, the world and hopefully inspire others to believe anything is possible and to find their latitude.

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