Captured: A Working Photo Series {3}

Captured: A Working Photo Series {3}

Puerto Rico's natural beauty through my eyes.
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Puerto Rico's nickname is the Island of Enchantment. Surrounded by natural beauty, it is a tropical paradise. Of course I have a little bit (a lot) of bias being that my family is from the island, but let me ensure you that it is one of the most incredibly natural places I have ever seen. The island has a plethora of small, unique, and hidden gems that draw in the attention of travelers. Here is my glimpse of Puerto Rico:


Just one of the many beautiful flowers that can be found in Cidra.


Some of the world's most incredible beaches can be found in Puerto Rico. This is one of the many beaches of Vieques, a small island off of the mainland's coast.



One of my favorite spots on the island, El Mar Chiquita is a hidden gem in Manatí. On one side is a small, quiet beach with peaceful waves. On the other side, is the roaring Atlantic Ocean. In between the encompassing rocks, there are small pools with hundreds of tiny snails.


In Arecibo, you can find the Cueva de Los Indios (the cave of the Indians). If you're up for a good view, adventure, and a tiny bit of danger, this is a great place to find all of that.

Cover Image Credit: Hadassah Rivera

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I Visited The "Shameless" Houses And Here's Why You Shouldn't

Glamorizing a less-than-ideal way to live.
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After five hours of driving, hearing the GPS say "Turn right onto South Homan Avenue" was a blessing. My eyes peeled to the side of the road, viciously looking for what I have been driving so long for, when finally, I see it: the house from Shameless.

Shameless is a hit TV show produced by Showtime. It takes place in modern-day Southside, Chicago. The plot, while straying at times, largely revolves around the Gallagher family and their continual struggle with (extreme) poverty. While a majority of the show is filmed offsite in a studio in Los Angeles, many outside scenes are filmed in Southside and the houses of the Gallagher's and side-characters are very much based on real houses.

We walked down the street, stopped in front of the two houses, took pictures and admired seeing the house in real life. It was a surreal experience and I felt out-of-place like I didn't belong there. As we prepared to leave (and see other spots from the show), a man came strolling down on his bicycle and asked how we were doing.

"Great! How are you?"

It fell silent as the man stopped in front of the Gallagher house, opened the gate, parked his bike and entered his home. We left a donation on his front porch, got back to the car and took off.

As we took the drive to downtown Chicago, something didn't sit right with me. While it was exciting to have this experience, I began to feel a sense of guilt or wrongdoing. After discussing it with my friends, I came to a sudden realization: No one should visit the "Gallagher" house.

The plot largely revolves the Gallagher family and their continual struggle with (extreme) poverty. It represents what Southside is like for so many residents. While TV shows always dramatize reality, I realized coming to this house was an exploitation of their conditions. It's entertaining to see Frank's shenanigans on TV, the emotional roller coasters characters endure and the outlandish things they have to do to survive. I didn't come here to help better their conditions, immerse myself in what their reality is or even for the donation I left: I came here for my entertainment.

Southside, Chicago is notoriously dangerous. The thefts, murders and other crimes committed on the show are not a far-fetched fantasy for many of the residents, it's a brutal reality. It's a scary way to live. Besides the Milkovich home, all the houses typically seen by tourists are occupied by homeowners. It's not a corporation or a small museum -- it's their actual property. I don't know how many visitors these homes get per day, week, month or year. Still, these homeowners have to see frequent visitors at any hour of the day, interfering with their lives. In my view, coming to their homes and taking pictures of them is a silent way of glamorizing the cycle of poverty. It's a silent way of saying we find joy in their almost unlivable conditions.

The conceit of the show is not the issue. TV shows have a way of romanticizing very negative things all the time. The issue at hand is that several visitors are privileged enough to live in a higher quality of life.

I myself experienced the desire and excitement to see the houses. I came for the experience but left with a lesson. I understand that tourism will continue to the homes of these individuals and I am aware that my grievances may not be shared with everyone -- however, I think it's important to take a step back and think about if this were your life. Would you want hundreds, potentially thousands, of people coming to your house? Would you want people to find entertainment in your lifestyle, good and bad?

I understand the experience, excitement, and fun the trip can be. While I recommend skipping the houses altogether and just head downtown, it's most important to remember to be respectful to those very individuals whose lives have been affected so deeply by Shameless.

Cover Image Credit: itsfilmedthere.com

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I Was Thrown Into Dragon Boat Racing And I Loved It

I tried dragon boat racing for the first time not knowing I was going to be doing it and loved it.

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I recently was invited by my boyfriend to paddle a dragon boat. Little did I know this was going to be a race. Neither of us expected it to turn out as intense as it did. I thought it was going to be a semi-leisurely paddle around a lake. There were twelve teams that raced in two heat races then were seeded in a final race. Our team ended up taking 5th place out of the 12 teams which was pretty good for a team who's never raced a dragon boat.

The teams were made up of 21 people each and a coach. There were 20 rowers and one drummer. The drummer's job was to keep the beat of our pace so that we all knew what speed to paddle at. As rowers, we had to paddle in sync. I didn't think it was going to be as difficult as it was. The coach steered the boat and somewhat directing our moves.

The tricky part of paddling is that you had to keep your top arm straight. To propel the boat forward you lean forward and pull your core back to pull water to the back of the boat. There was very little arm movement involved in paddling. The bigger people with more muscles were seated in the middle of the boat as "the engine" while smaller and weaker individuals were towards the front and back. I sat in the very back of the boat next to a female about the same size as me.

The boat was the shape of a canoe but was much longer. There were 10 rows of benches and a seat in the front that faced the rowers. The front and the back were much narrower than the middle. The front and the back of the boat had a dragon head and tail on them, respectively. The coach stood in the back with a large paddle that hooked to the back to steer.

Rowing the boat was therapeutic. It was a great way to focus frustration from my week into something productive. It also made me feel strong and powerful. Additionally, it fostered a sense of team between the people rowing the boat. We all were enthusiastic and went out there to have fun but also try to win. Many of the people on the boat were my boyfriend's family who I have never met. I think this was an interesting way to meet the family and I would definitely do it again.

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