I am Ethan Folk, and this is my web content.
I am a Seattlite, photographer, filmmaker, engineer, and traveller.
This blog documents my travels from April 2010 – June 2011 in Southeast Asia, as well as July 2013 – ?? in Europe (click for maps).
My current mission is to couchsurf, hitchhike, and photograph my way through as much of Europe as I can.
In addition to this blog I photograph and document all my HITCHHIKEES and HOSTS.
Past posts can be perused by month or country on the right side of the page ->.
And if you are interested in the rest of my photography, it lives on Flickr.
Frankfurt? More like BANKfurt. Ok. So. Frankfurt is a financial center. Anyways.
Upon arrival in Frankfurt I emerged into a large square where some youth were providing minimal (in style, not volume) techno for everyone in a 1 mile radius by way of a bicycle mounted DJ setup and sound system. This was the first of four instances of mobile music delivery I witnessed on my first evening in town. I saw another techno bike and several techno rollerbladers. Most memorable was the scantily clad (neon spandex lined with LED tubing) and widely grinning rollerblade-boombox couple that were zipping and ooonks-ooonksing up and down the riverfront area at night.
Marc and Jojo have a radical (in both senses of the word) outlook on couchsurfing: 100% acceptance. If you request, they receive. Never mind your experience, references, or if they are already hosting 4 others, any traveller is welcome in their home. This was the case during my visit to their home, the expansive second floor of a building resembling an aquarium prop in a small suburb south of Luxembourg City.
A chord, accordingly.
Marc is a bass player who works in a bank by day and Jojo is an internationally competitive pole dancer/healthcare worker. Also under their roof during my stay were Sajin – a photographer from India who educated me about technology’s role in Indian politics (tl;dr: holograms), Tania and Natalie – two young teachers from Belarus, and Titi – a translator from China who was on a (successful!) job quest.
Alan lives with Popo the cat and three rabbits in a small hamlet South of Brussels called Verrewinkel. Alan is (among many, many other things) a scientist, a pilot, a motorcycle enthusiast, a scholar, and a sportsman. I was going to post an excerpt from Alan’s couchsurfing profile here, but it is impossible to abridge, and as a whole the roiling, colorful mass of self-description perfectly captures his roiling, colorful manner.
Alan on Alan’s hog in front of Alan’s home.
My couchrequest was accepted on short notice because of our shared connection to The Great Walrus of Seattle football. I am speaking of course, about good old 3rd-and-18-fullback-handoff Mike Holmgren himself. Alan was the place kicker on the Holmgren-quarterbacked high school team which reached the state championship in 1965. Alan was the first kicker to implement the “soccer style” kick in lieu of the less accurate toe punt.
Leona was my first Belgian acquaintance.
Upon arrival in Antwerp, I had time to kill before my couchsurfing host was available, so I parked on a bench in a placid park near his his house. I had been writing for a while when I was approached by a slight, silvery, bespectacled senior citizen who pointed at my backpack (beside me on the bench) and addressed me in Dutch. I explained that I didn’t speak Dutch, but that did not deter her from Dutching away. The backpack seemed of interest so I tried explaining that I was a tourist. That word landed, but she still kept pointing at the pack. What became obvious is that Leona wasn’t being inquisitive, she was trying to get me to move my bag so she could have a seat on her bench. I got the impression that that bench belonged to her and having a sit is an integral part of her daily routine. She sat. We exchanged some words and pantomimes which resulted in smiles and chuckles, until she asked where I was from (I think the question was posed as “England?”). When I replied that I was American, her expression dropped. Her head shunked forward, her ears shifted down a few centimeters and her eyebrows flattened into a glare that conveyed that Leona was not necessarily Mad, but Leona was certainly Disappointed. After a beat she began a slow, swinging shake of her head, and clucked at me, before turning away to consider this revelation.
Our relationship never fully recovered.
Fristie was my second Belgian acquaintance.
Rotterdam was my first proper couchsurfing experience in Europe, and I could not have found a better pair of hosts. Daniel and Oliver live with their veterate and talkative cat Boris in a gorgeous apartment near the city center. Their home is filled with objects from their travels. And wine. They really, really like wine. I felt immediately at home with these two – they introduced me to the work of Dutch photographer Erwin Olaf (NSFW) whose work hasn’t left my brain since, they provided me with all the insider info on the city (including the location of the fabled 1€ breakfast), recounted seeing “the Queen of the Middle East” live in concert, and fed me very, very well (including a Lebanese shawarma prepared by Oli).
Bike travel is dominant as in the rest of the country and I was able to use Oli’s bike to navigate the city. On select mornings, Daniel and I accompanied the neighbors and their children on their commute, facilitated by a front-mounted bicycle baby trough:
My pre-existing knowledge of Rotterdam was limited to Ender’s Shadow – an excellent sequel to the well known novel written by Orson Scott Card (does the boycott apply to blog entries?). In the 22rd century, a genetically engineered and hyper intelligent street urchin ascends through the hellish streets of futuristic Rotterdam to become a commander of humanities space fleets against a hive-like alien threat. I am disappointed to report that I met no starship commanders and failed to encounter even a single gang of street urchins. I did, however, get to experience the likely reason that OSC chose Rotterdam to become a massively sprawling and bubbling post-industrial slum – its port.
From Amsterdam it was only a brief hop to Shira’s home, in Utrecht. Shira is a Physicist from Amsterdam whom I met in Thailand in 2010, where we were lucky enough to camp overnight in a tiny cove of an uninhabited island in the Andaman Sea. Cove camping forms an unbreakable bond for life and Shira was kind enough to host me in Utrecht, despite being out of town for most of my stay. Luckily, her two cats Chickie and Hups were there to keep me company and amuse with their cat yoga. I in turn, put food in their bowls and photographed them ceaselessly.
My hosts: Shira, Chickie, and Hups
Utrecht had some fine churches and generally pleasant old architecture. The network of canals had a leg up on Amsterdams, as each was lined with a low, shady “bank” which housed cafes and restaurants and provided lucky flats with canal-front yards. I explored on Shira’s bike, met up with a few couchsurfing people who showed me around and turned me on to a free walking tour. I wandered into a strange pop-up carnival with an abundance of large scale air-brushed panels (Vin Diesel?) which I suppose were meant to advertise the go-karts and cotton candy. It also had slot machines. Yes actual slot machines – the guy pictured is collecting a jackpot of ~ 400 €. Throughout the carnival every available surface had been airbrushed with slightly-off beach babes and hunks.
AND SO IT BEGINS.
My former roommate Matt is a flight attendant for Delta, and he was kind enough to supply me with a “Buddy Pass” for my flight to Amsterdam. Not only does this mean that I paid only taxes for the flight, but I also was permitted to sit up front with the bourgeoisie and do my best 1%er impression. I simply can’t imagine how I’ll fly again without being topped off and then instructed to “chug your champagne – we’re about to take off, Mr. Folk.” Thanks Matt!
My first host was Charlie, an artist and design student at the prestigious Reitveld Academy. Of Sardinian origins, Charlie now resides in the southern fringe of Amsterdam, in rows of military bunkers which were later squatted and then co-opted into a living space for artists. Charlie’s home is an open, multi-tiered accumulation of books, objets d’art, and means of art production which remain from previous inhabitants (who, for example, may still drop in to do a little screen printing). I was fortunate to arrive just as a term had concluded at the Academy, and I got to take part in all the festivities which accompany the last day of school.
Potluck at Charlie’s
During the days I rode a loaner bike through the city, meandering through side streets, into street markets, and along canals. Charlie loaned me his museum pass so I was able to visit the Rijksmuseum (fine art – best known for its Rembrandt and Vermeer collections) and the Steidlijk (modern art). ..
Writing from a sunny suburb of Brussels. First two weeks of Europe have been a furious rampage of food and photographs and hitchhiking and couchsurfing and amazing amazing people.
Taking a moment here to share some of the video work I have been focused on since I left my day job in May.
First is a short film which I made with the super talented Devin McDermott. It came from some wonderful movement Devin had been developing, as well as research we had done about funerary customs and ancestor veneration.
***BEYOND THIS POINT, videos may not be safe for children or conservative folks or epileptics or people that don’t like to see suggestive handling of raw meat or insect sex.***
Next we have a music video I made for a wonderful Seattle band called Smokey Brights. I worked with Neil Ferron who is a celebrated local playwright, as well as actor John Leith (starring as Steve Tapperlad). As mentioned above this gets dark and might not be suitable for all audiences.
Lastly, this title sequence was a component a performance called “Slugs do it real slow and pretty”, a “theater/dance/performance/experimental/multi-sensorial experience” which debuted at the 2013 Northwest New Works festival at On The Boards in Seattle and was also performed as part of the 2013 Risk/Reward festival in Portland, OR.
This is an exercise in unease and discomfort so please project it on your wall, turn off the lights, and turn up the volume. And again, probably don’t watch if you are epileptic or easily shocked.
Thanks for watching, and stay tuned for a return to regularly scheduled travel content!
Well hello there then.
It’s been 2.25 years since my last post. Further adventures and ramblings are impending, so I figured I’d get this thing back up to date in the interest of continuity and coverage. Thoroughness will be sacrificed in the interest of brevity. For more detail, most of the linked photography is captioned.
After my last post in December 2010, I contracted and recovered from malaria (!), wrapped things up on the island, spent Christmas in Atebai with Helio’s family, bid Timor a fond and bittersweet farewell, and took off for New Year’s in Singapore with Acholy & crew.
A quick stop in KL to see Adida and then back to Bangkok to stay with Jekky. After a week of catching up I flew into Yangon, Myanmar (Burma). Of all the locations I’ll have to gloss in this recap, I feel I do the biggest disservice by skimming this country. Burma was magical. I spent just under a month there during which I: Found a great travel partner (Sam, from California). Saw a comedian whose act is so subversive it’s landed him a 6 year prison term. Explored ruins that put Angkor Wat to shame. Was inducted into a dance troupe. Went trekking with a former armed-insurgent-turned-videographer responsible for smuggling footage of regional conflict out to the BBC in the 90s. And took in Inle lake, which absolutely defies description.
Shan state cheroot enjoyer.
There are a few more photos from Atauro that I need to put somewhere, and that place is here.
Makili is a small fishing community tucked in under the hills on the Southeast coast of Atauro, which we visited in November to do a post-training evaluation. It is possible to walk to Makili from Vila in an hour and a half when the tide is low, but otherwise its a much trickier scramble along a cliffside, so we took an outrigger back, and on the way met a horde of young spear fishers swimming along the shore who wanted to have their picture taken while we negotiated boat fare. Their spear guns consisted of an enormous rubberband, wodden stock, and 1 meter long barbed steel spear. Apparently the technique is to sink to the bottom and sit on the sea floor for a couple minutes, waiting for a fish to get near enough. Their goggles were made out of wood, glass, scrap rubber, and sometimes carved bone.