10 Years of M’s Adventures

Can a blog make your dreams come true? For me, this blog has lead to book publishing. So when my father suggested that I start a blog, he fulfilled my childhood dream to be a published author. Amazing, right? Thanks, Dad.

When I reflect on ten years of writing blog articles and ten years of adventures in food and travel, I feel emotion. I realize all the stories I have heard of people’s lives, the dignity in ordinary lives of hard-working people, and all those other cheesy American ideals. To write a blog is to exercise the very core of the American ideals: freedom of speech, pursuit of happiness, liberty, and the American dream.

The reality of blogging has been many hours writing, editing, taking photos, and thought. It has also included waiting over 3,000 hours for bad food in restaurants, lots of money (my own) traveling, taking photos incessantly, hours uploading, editing, hashtagging, and posting on social media.

Ah, but yes, people want to know one thing. How do I afford it? Please read my “Who Am I?” page.

Many times people (and companies) try to get me to monetize my blog. I laugh at this idea. To monetize a blog requires a certain readership/following (for example on YouTube, one must have at least 1,000 subscribers — I have 12) which I do not have. Also, it would take the fun out of it. Instead, my blog costs me money. Which is really not necessary because a phone camera is all one really needs. One can even blog from a smartphone.

I don’t. I write at a computer. An old fashioned desktop (well, it’s not but the set up is) with a mechanical keyboard because I like hearing the clickety clack of the keys as I type (slowly). I use a Mac and iPhones simply because that’s what I went with and so that’s what I’m sticking with. My keyboard is not from Apple. It’s a “Das Keyboard” that I bought in a kiosk in Vancouver. I use WordPress to publish my blog. I started blogging 15 years ago using Blogspot because it was user friendly. But, I moved to WordPress because that seemed the platform used by professional bloggers. It took 24 hours of hate but eventually I learned to use WordPress. I also find it interesting that almost all social media platforms have begun to resemble WordPress. I guess they got it right.

It was once that a “blog” or weblog was said with some disdain. But, it’s really just a website. It’s an online journal. Like an online book. In South America and Europe, people seem to be less disdainful about blogging. Embarrassingly, some restaurants have given me free food assuming that I was a powerful food blogger. I prefer not to receive anything for free. I like having a normal customer’s experience when I go out to eat.

From my blog, because I have to release my inner marketing demon at times, I have produced mousepads, pens, stickers, postcards, magnets, mugs, t-shirts, and of course, over ten books. I don’t do as much marketing anymore, but I try to keep my blog pages up to date and I work on my books. In looking at the pages of my blog, I am surprised (although not sure why) at how often people read the “about” page which I call “who am I?” — while it’s not a secret who I am, I just don’t think it’s so interesting.

I encourage anyone, anyone, to write the stories you want to tell. Self-publish the books. Everyone has stories to tell and if you can’t tell them as a book, then use social media. It seems like everyone wants to be heard. I have written quite a few books but don’t expect them to be widely read or bought. Some may have a publishing run of ten or 20 copies. But, to me, it’s the joy of writing them that has been the most fun. The production is the journey.

Some of the unintended things that have happened because of my blog is:

My friends wait to eat until I’ve got my photos. Thanks!

My friends often will go with me to places that they say, “is this for the blog?” Yes. Thanks.

And once, I was recognized while waiting for the elevator (through colleague’s photos).

Some unpleasant stuff has happened too but I don’t want to deign to give those unpleasant things the time of day. Trolls and bullies get no play here.

I try to keep the focus of my blog on travel and food. This is a view in Emilia Romagna, near Modena.

What have I learned from a decade of blogging:

  1. Americans (gringos) are obsessed with TexMex food. This is possibly the most common question I get.

2. It’s easy to publish a book. Don’t be held back. Write and publish your words!

3. Don’t write about massage. It brings too many porn hits. Which is too bad because I like massage.

I used to carry my DSLR camera everywhere (where it’s easier to get photos like this one), but I do so less and less.

Almost every day, I check the statistics page on my blog to see which articles are popular and what topics people like. The top searches are to do with Bangladesh. This makes sense. At the time that I was writing from Dhaka, I was one of four expat bloggers writing in English. Even years later, I still receive questions about Dhaka. For a while, I was interested in what countries my blog was being read. I’ve been read by people from almost every country. I think I’m missing a few, but only two or three.

For many years, my article about the Bangladeshi lungi was the most popular. From the search terms that lead people to my article on the lungi, I’m afraid that my article on national dress, with only ankles on display is not what they hoped for (I don’t think I mentioned anything lewd in my article…). I am not tagging this subject for this article because I don’t want to start re-start the mislead hits by those looking for men in lungis.

So, other than that, the most popular article in the past ten years is:

Dhaka-townian’s 100 Eats and the Top Ten Restaurants in Dhaka. Over 22,000 reads of that article/post. When I wrote that article, my blog was the only comprehensive list of restaurants in Dhaka. I even had people write me and ask/tell me that they would use my articles and photos to write their own guide. Imitation is the best form of?

In the past year, the most popular article was an article from several years ago in Bogota about fruit.

Does anyone blog anymore? It was such a thing ten years ago. Now, it has been overtaken by moving words and pictures by way of YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and other video formats.

I have noticed that many bloggers have quit and often leave their blogs as a website. I can see why. It’s sad to see the decrease of readership. My readership peaked in 2014 and has gone down since then. As I mentioned above, Dhaka was a popular topic. No one seemed to care about Bogota (at least not in English) or Lima. But, some of the articles from Bogota are picking up traction, which is strange because I thought the google bots took six months to trawl but perhaps it takes a few years now that there is so much content out there in the vast pacific of the Internet.

For my readers, other than those who know me personally, why should they stick with me when I keep moving. Those who are interested in Dhaka are not interested in Bogota. Of course, my blog has evolved. When I started, there was little content and not much linking. Now, I have accounts on Instagram, Youtube, Facebook, and a podcast. I am not as diligent about keeping all these forms of social media up to date but I try. Yet, I still write a blog article about every week. I try to post on Instagram and Facebook every day. Like any relationship, consistent care is required. But, my readership keeps dropping on my blog while conversely, my followers increase on Instagram. Heck, I even joined Patreon so people can support me in my blogging endeavor… maybe I would do this full time if I could making a living… no, no, no, that way leads to dependency!

When my readership goes down to zero, I may stop. Maybe. Then, it may simply become an online diary. A weblog. Like on the Starship Enterprise.

From Star Trek:

These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise
Its five year mission
To explore strange new worlds
To seek out new life
And new civilizations

…. my blog is twice the age of those space voyages!

So, let’s see where we go. I have plans to sort of “reverse engineer” my blog and write books that are only available as books! Then I can write about massages and other topics that get bowdlerized on the web. But, mainly, I’ll just slip into my comfy shoes and continue to be mad for food and adventure!

The Honey Shot and Food Lust

The honey shot — a riff on the money shot. I was scrolling through old photos from back when I “lugged” around my DSLR camera and this got me thinking about name calling. While I understand where it comes from… I think it’s sad that the hobby of food photography is called, “food porn.” Maybe we could call it “foodlust” so that it’s more about the passion and less about bodily fluids. Equally so is the term, “money shot” which derives from the same business (and it is a business), so I posit the term, “honey shot” instead to denote something sweet and in keeping with the food field.

In that vein, I present to you, one of my favorite honey shots. It’s a photo of home made cabbage salad and egg pie from a picnic in New Zealand. Hark, how regal (purple is a royal color) and how glorious (gold like honey) it is!

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M’s Adventures Love Letter to Peru Movie Trailer

As I mentioned in a previous blog posting, we are all content creators now. I started the M’s Adventures blog/website when I moved to Bangladesh in 2011 (you can read one of my early blog postings here), and since then, I’ve created a book for each country I’ve lived in. As I will soon depart Peru, I was looking through photos to put together my book. The previous books have been published on Lulu.

But, this time, as I’m learning how to make movies on iMovie, I thought I’d make a “videobook” or moving picture book, a love letter to Peru. I may also make a paper book, but I’ll see how I feel when I’ve edited 8,000 photos and taught myself more iMovie. For now, here’s a film trailer so you can see what how it’s going. Don’t worry, the content of the body of the show will be less dramatic (film production really teaches one how much music changes the mood of a piece).

Here is the video trailer for “M’s Adventures in Peru: A Love Letter”

Or if you prefer to watch it on my YouTube channel, here is the link.

 

Becoming My Own Film Crew

I have become my own film crew, my own makeup artist, director, script writer, sound crew, caterer, gaffer (okay, not yet), lighting director, film editor… you get the idea. Recently, I needed some new headshots. What, I have to put on real clothes?! So I took out my makeup and put on “outdoor” clothes, set up my studio, and did a photo shoot. I even did two wardrobe changes.

The photo is from an art exhibition at the Ministry of Culture in Lima called, “Peruvian Beauty” by Yayo Lopez, and it included people from Peru of all ages and types, but the beauty on the poster shows a good example of a headshot.

What I learned from doing the photo shoot was that I’m glad that I bought a remote control for my phone, use good lighting (nothing beats sunlight), use plain backgrounds, have the camera at eye level, and take many photos. A trick I used to get a smile to reach my eyes was to do some silly photos as these would make me laugh thus causing some of the jollity to reach my eyes for the more normal headshots.

Staying indoors is giving me time to look through old photos and try to organize them. But mostly, I’ve been teaching myself how to use iMovie, GarageBand, and other tech tools for my blog.

A friend suggested that I name my studio space (my dining room table). Clearly it has to be Madventures Studios.

Five Years of M’s Adventures

It’s M’s Adventures (madventures to many) fifth anniversary. This map shows just one random day of visitors to my blog…

screen-shot-2016-10-26-at-6-55-14-amAs seen on the map, the readership of my blog seems very dependent on subject. That subject is Bangladesh. Despite the facet that Bangladesh has a small landmass, it has a large population, and in the social media universe, an interesting statistic. If one looked solely at who is reading M’s Adventures and what topics they like, then it would seem that Bangladesh was the center of the world. But, I’m sure that Google could tell you that that Bangladesh is not the most searched term in their engine. I think that the spike in numbers on M’s Adventures is because there simply aren’t that many blogs written in English about Bangladesh.

As I watch my readership numbers dip, I wonder if I should stop writing this blog. Or when it’s just me and my friend’s cat reading the blog.

But, I’m still amazed each day to see how many hundreds have read my little blog. So for now, I keep blogging! After all, if I didn’t blog about it, did it happen?

Zooming In – I Love It!

Zooming in at maximum capacity.
Zooming in to capture color intensity.

The parrot with a standard lens.
The parrot with a standard lens.

I got a new lens. For the geeks, it’s a 75-300mm. All I know is that it allows me to zoom in from across the plaza. Right in tight on people’s faces. Or bird faces.

Close up portrait.
Close up portrait.

These photos were taken in Peru, in Iquitos, on the Amazon. All the subjects agreed to be photographed (the humans put on their tribal wear during the day to participate in the educational tours given to tourists).

A boy getting ready for the show.
A boy getting ready for the show.

People have fascinating faces and this zoom provides another tool for portraiture.The real personality shows up when the camera isn’t right in their faces.

A beautiful woman of the Amazon.
A beautiful woman of the Amazon.

As I kept saying when taking these photos: “me encanta” or “I love it.”

Independence Publishing – Publishing Your Own Book

The thing I like most about blogging is that it’s such an easy way to write. To tell a story. I can only think of a few people whom I’ve met who didn’t want to tell me their stories, and even then, they certainly had a story to tell. The skill of storytelling is a form of art. I support everyone’s right (ha! write!) to tell their story.

M's Adventures in Bangladesh, the book.
M’s Adventures in Bangladesh, the book.

After I published my photo book, M’s Adventures in Bangladesh, I got many, almost desperate (so great is this desire to share a story and to be published), questions about where to publish for yourself. In the past, this form of publishing was sometimes called “vanity press” but I like CreateSpace’s term better: independently publish. The printing process keeps getting more and more democratic. Most online sites have free options and publishing costs keep getting lower and lower. They even offer e-book publishing for those who want to publish in that format.

Blurb.com: on all the bloggers’ lips, apparently, it’s easy peasy and they will take your entire blog and convert it to a book for you.

Lulu.com:  less known, but I chose it because supposedly it would be easy to get my book on Amazon… but it’s not as easy as one might think. You can get an ISBN for your book if you want to sell your book in a brick and mortar book store.

CreateSpace: Amazon (yup, the magic word) owns this publishing house.

Also, there are many online printing companies to choose from (Snapfish, Vistaprint, etc.). My first attempt was going directly through my iPhoto program, but there were too many aggravating glitches in the program for it to be worth my while, plus they did not offer bulk discounts. I found Lulu easy. Perhaps for my next book, perhaps on Colombia or on food, I will try one of the other options. In many parts of the world, printing on the local economy is a very viable option, but for an ever-moving expat, online is the way to go.

Of course, you don’t have to sell your book. So, all you writers, bloggers, storytellers, raconteurs, tell your story. Even if, you end up doing a limited print run, of one.

Hidden Museum in the City of Free Museums

A non-stereotypical photo of a gaucho.
A non-stereotypical photo of a gaucho.

One of the things I enjoy about Washington, DC, is that almost all the museums are free. Most of the big museums are part of the Smithsonian but there are lots of smaller unknown museums like the one at the Organization of American States. Located near where Virginia Avenue meets Constitution Avenue, this small building has a great garden and some pretty tiles, plus a rotating exhibit. I went to see the photo exhibit about identity. Although the exhibit was Argentinian, a discussion of stereotypes is relevant to all nationalities, including Bangladesh and Colombia. My mental image of Bangladesh before I lived there was one of cyclones and floods. Colombia suffers from other stereotypes.

Every little girl and boy has their own knife for the barbecue.
Every little girl and boy has their own knife for the barbecue.

My photos are taken from the photo catalog because I did not have my camera with me. But, flash photography is allowed in the temporary exhibit. I was just amazed that they were giving away the color catalog for free. Not all the photos in the photo exhibit were of people but I thought they were the best. I’ll write more about art and photography in a later post. Certainly once I have been to the famous gold museum in Bogota. For now, these photographs allowed for a little armchair travel.

The cover shows a typical delivery "truck" in Argentina.
The cover shows a typical delivery “truck” in Argentina.

 

Feel Like A Celebrity in Dhaka – Paparazzi

One camera per 160 million cell phones.
One camera per 160 million cell phones.

If you want to know how the celebrities feel, come to Bangladesh. As a foreigner, you will have your photo taken almost all the time. At any wedding, any meeting, any corner of the street. If the big city types in Dhaka are not interested in taking your photo, you can go a few kilometers away from Gulshan and get ready for your “kodak moment.”

This crowd followed us around like fans.
This crowd followed us around like fans.

My experience with photography in Bangladesh has been non-aggressive. But, there will be many photos. I also take many photos of them, so I guess it’s only fair. In a country of 160 million people, there seem to be 160 million cell phone cameras. The photos on this blog posting are from the Gabtoli cattle market where our group of foreigners almost pulled a greater crowd than the cattle.

Personal paparazzi.
Personal paparazzi. This guy took several photos as he followed us around.

Rickshaw in Monsoon Photo

In the long hot rasping breath before the monsoon, my mind turns once more to images of Bangladesh. Decades ago, the only impression I had of Bangladesh was monsoon rain and flooding. Now, I have met the man who took the rickshaw photo of my imaginings.

The photographer, Zahid "Badol", with his photo of boys playing in the mud.
The photographer, Zahid “Badol”, with his photo of boys playing in the mud.

Obviously, to my vivacious and educated Bangladeshi friends, this image is so passe. “Why must you foreigners have only such images in your heads?” To which I reply, “This is not a bad image.” I see the rickshaw puller in the monsoon flood and find it an image of tenacity and perseverance. Not a bad thing to be known for, wherever you are.

A rickshaw puller in the monsoon.
A rickshaw puller in the monsoon.