In 1986 , at the age of 21 years I have been , I backpacked first time by bus and trains from Guatemala to Peru on my own. In Guatemala I stayed with a family in the former capital of Antigua to supplement my Spanish for some days before I started traveling.
Antigua is surrounded by formerly active, impressive large and small volcanoes. For the most part gone, because of the volcanic origin of Guatemala however there is still an active volcano scene. On my last Sunday before my onward journey I was on photographic mission, and kept looking for a good location to photograph the "Volcan de Agua" in the evening light. For the ideal place I had to walk up a very steep, sandy small mountain. At each step, I felt sliding back two steps instead. It was boiling hot and very tiring - even for me as a 21, fit athlete ( by that time :-)
I had just screwed the camera on the tripod and set the exposure (then as now, by hand, but still on Kodak Ektachrome slide film in my Nikon), when a small and cheerful voice in the background called on me:
"Hola Senor, me hace el favor y saque una foto de mi, por favor?"
"Hello sir, would you please so nice and take a picture of me?"
Amazed and surprised I stopped looking through the viewfinder, I turned around and looked into THAT big, warm and open smile.
It was the laughter of a 10 year old boy with the features of a nearly adult man. Pre aged. This boy suffered at a bone metabolic disease; and this could not be affected in the poverty-stricken Guatemala. Life expectancy may be to legal age, if at all. He dragged the same hill as I did. Barefoot and with crutches; without he could not walk. He knew about his illness and that he would not get old. He also he knew that he probably never get an education, a wife, a family or children and never would have a life without pain. He never could play soccer with his friends which he never had because of his illness.
I shot as many pictures as I could. I never tool the pictures of the volcano like I had planned. I talked until sunset to him and about his life. Why does he drags himself up the mountain under pain every weekend to beg money from some tourists. Some money for himself and some for his family. He did not wanted them to be a burden even more, and at least do what he could. I have fought all the time with tears as I this brave little guy told his story without any complaint.
One of the encounters that come towards you from travellin´the world.
I gave him all my $ 70 of my money which I had with me. When we parted he gave me the address of his family and said to me: "Me hicistes 16 photos". "You've taken 16 pictures of me"
He had not asked me a single time for money.
It was a good day for Joel. For me, that day changed my life.
That next day I had to travel on to Costa Rica and Panama, and due to that could not see him again. Back in Germany I developed the film. There were exactly 16 pictures of Joel on it.
I made the fairest prints from all images in multiple sizes and sent the pictures to his family via airmail . Along with money for his medical drugs. The pictures arrived, his pleasure was huge. The included money disappeared regularly within corrupt border officials by that time.
Eventually, the mail came back unopened. I could not find Joel anymore.
Today, from a medical point of view, Joel's presumably dead for many years by now .
His body died for the poverty of this people, his country, his family.
Joel simply had to die for destiny. His brave little heart and his smile never did.
His laughter lives and stayed alive since that day. Deep down inside of me. In the hearts of children and people I meet in this world.
And in my task to bring back at least some of the justiice and equal oppurtunities to children like Joel and their families. Thus ist the Ride-of-Smiles therefore also dedicateted the countless, here unnamed volunteers of our fundraising partners. Who often struggle at the risk of their own lives and their health in their daily commitment, just to bring that smile back into the world, that the little Joel left to me as his heritage.
Thats what the Ride-of-Smiles is all about.
For Joels smile he would give to all of us as a present from his heart.
This trip is dedicated to you, little man from Guatemala.
Thank you. For your wonderful, unique warmhearted smile .
For your courage and the braveheart in you.
Maybe you are looking from above or somewhere else....and smile on us :-)
total numbers of entries : 16
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As expected flying myself into New York was not a big issue. Once after I celebrated a warm and wonderful Goodbye with my family and friends back home in Heidelberg and my as wonderful friends Hatt and Hombre delivered me at Frankfurt Airport- the Singapore Airlines did all the flying and luggage transport easy going. Maybe too easy for the start..
Am Ende meiner kleinen Abschiedsfeier mit Familie und Freunden in Heidelberg in der Nacht von Freitag auf Samstag standen nicht nur wenig Schlaf und 450 km von Pfronten nach FfM. Ein letzter Abschied von meinen Freunden Hatt und Hombre am Airport und der Flug nach New York City mit der Singapore Airlines waren ein entspannter Auftakt nach sehr anstrengenden Monaten der Vorbereitung auf allen Ebenen. Dachte ich zumindest....
Wenn der Tag 48 h , die Woche 14 Tage und der Monat 60 tage brauchen - dann ist es kurz vor dem Abflug....
When days length should double, weeks are not long enough and you wish for another month - thats when departure gets close ...
Versprochen und gehalten : Als unser Freund Uwe Schlote beim Ride-of-Smiles_Fest auf der Ostlerhütte im Oktober 2013 versprochen hat, dem Projekt eine eigene App zu schenken, konnte ich das erstmal garnicht glauben...
Schnell ist manchmal nicht schnell genug ...
auch wenn die app fast pünktlich fertig ist , braucht es bitte noch etwas Geduld mit dem Apple-Store und Google Playstore...
Am. 6. März wird es endlich wahr...die kostenlose Ride-of-Smiles-App started im Apple-Store und bei Google Play ...mehr dazu könnt ihr bald unter dem App-Reiter auf der Homepage lesen. Spannend und informativ wird das kleine Tool für Smartphones und Tablets in jedem Fall.Einige Highlights der App möchten wir Euch aber jetzt schon verraten....
„Jetzt dreht er ganz am Rad , der BABA ...“ werden manche denken. Was hat Mr. Spock um Himmelswillen mit dem Ride-of-Smiles zu tun? Gute Frage . Und doch am Ende viel einfacher zu beantworten, als es scheinen mag.
total numbers of entries : 16
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