Prior to my trip to Europe last February and March, one of my RakasaFit participants suggested I would surely not want to miss the opportunity to get photos in a belly dance costume on the beach while at Canary Islands! In my flurry of preparations focused on the workshops I was to deliver in Budapest, I probably wouldn't have thought about this, so I was glad she mentioned it. But here's the catch -- I'd have to find someone to take these photos, as I was traveling solo. My former sister-in-law whom I was visiting and who'd lived there for decades would be a good possibility. But it turns out she was busy with work and family and suggested it was a simple matter of going to the beach and asking someone to take a photo.
Anxiety crept in as I visualized this. How would I bypass my lifelong shyness and social inhibitions to approach a complete stranger with this request while wearing a belly dance costume? Or what if I made an unlucky choice and the stranger runs away with my phone? After delaying about as much as I could, a couple days before my flight departure I shove myself out the door in my costume and shimmy down to the beach. It's just a question of showing up, I tell myself, and not thinking ahead. The rest will find a way, one step at a time. I begin to enjoy the feeling of unthinking, listening to the distant voice, and watching my own movie.
A few steps go by and my eyes settle on the man running the outdoor jetski rental. Hmmm, prepared to meet the public and a safe choice moreover. And so I ask, "I wonder if you could take a few photos of me in front of the sea?"
"Clothes on, or clothes off?" he responds.
The self watching my own movie howls with laughter! All at once I realize I'm just one of many with this idea to approach him with such a photo request! And clearly these requests have fallen in two categories! I pause for a moment, as the self watching my own movie is tempted to choose the "clothes off" option in order to find out his response. I also pause at the notion that numerous others before me must have requested this, in order for my question to require such clarification.
"Clothes on," I smile, and explain that the special costume I'm wearing is my purpose. He agrees, hurriedly secures his shop, and we take a few steps down to the shore and take some shots. Less than a minute later, he hands me my phone and hurries back to his shop. His disinterest amuses me, further underscoring the narrative of the many requests that came before me.
And then that's it? I think. All this preparation for a few shots in less than 60 seconds ? I decide to proceed further down the beach and repeat the process. I expect it to feel easier now that I've tried it, but it becomes hard again as I consider the awkwardness of approaching an unsuspecting tourist minding his own business. It occurs to me that I'd feel much better about asking a woman, and that's what I do. The woman I approach is with her male partner. She turns out to be Italian and barely understands my request in English, which would have been in Spanish, if only I knew how.
Contrary to the previous "photographer" she is effervescent with interest in the whole idea. She suggests new angles and poses as her artistic discovery unfolds. Many photos later, we agree to finish and I express my heartfelt thanks. In her eyes I see an unmistakably bright soul, glowing with a million stars. Arriving back in Budapest for a few more days before my return to the US, I immediately learn of an emergency outbreak of coronavirus in Italy, one of the first dominoes to fall in what was to quickly become a massive global health crisis. Casualties were piling high in Italy as the rest of the world scrambled to understand how to minimize the spread of this novel virus, in a panic to avoid the same fate. I think of this Italian woman, imagining the shock of her return from Canary Islands to face this nightmare, a destiny we would soon share.
Ⓒ 2020 - All rights reserved.
Thank you for reading! With the pandemic, my usual work as a presenter, teacher, and event organizer has been nearly eliminated. I'm nonetheless making good use of my time, and community building through writing, photos, and video is one of them. If you wish to support this, please send a contribution of any amount through PayPal or CashApp and connect on the various social channels. --With gratitude, Suzanna.