Circus of the World, Chile

From the Road: Circus of the World – Santiago, Chile

During college, Jeff and I decided we wanted to travel and push ourselves and try working on documentary journalism abroad. Our college, Brooks Institute of Photography, had an annual documentary trip and that year it was going to Chile. Growing up with a hispanic family, I had been to Mexico too many times to count, but had never really traveled outside of the US on my own. This would be my first big international trip and while I was there I would be responsible for visually capturing a story, my first real assignment as a young photographer. For the first time I would be responsible for not just for myself, but for the group I was apart of. I was thrilled and excited that my best friend, Jeff, would be joining me. Early on Jeff and I knew we wanted to work together. With one documentary under our belts as a team, we were eager to start the next and we were two of 16 students who made up the 2010 Brooks Institute International Documentary Trip to Chile.

Chile was a whole new place filled with color, expression, and for me, some of my most intense life memories were formed there. I instantly fell in love with this country. Everything here was so colorful and rich with passion. We spent several days in Valpariso before Jeff and I headed up to Santiago to start shooting our story.

Before we left California, we had decided that we wanted to do a story on a Circus school in Santiago. Personal expression and street art is very common in Chile and stood out to us. We found a circus school (college) called Circo Del Mundo (Circus of the World) but had had little contact with them prior to arriving. Jeff had emailed them and tried to explain that we were American students who wanted to come and photograph their school. Through broken English and Spanish translations, we were unsure if they understood that we would be coming soon and before we knew it we were there.

With our camera batteries fully charged, our memory cards empty and ready to be filled up, we set out of our studio apartment in Santiago and waved down the first cab we saw. We handed the cab driver a piece of paper with the address we stole from the Circo Del Mundo website scribbled on it and my first real international adventure begun.

I was enjoying the long ride through the city. We were staying in the Bella Artes district which is clean and modern. Chile’s climate is very similar to California, and Santiago reminded me of Los Angeles, but with more culture and hospitality. My eyes were glued out the window as we ventured out of our metropolitan bubble and headed for the poor side of the tracks. When we gave the cab driver the address he looked unsure and tried to ask if we were sure this was where we wanted to go. We insisted that the address was correct and pushed him to take us. Soon we were on the outer limits of the city and the cab driver stopped next to what looked like an overgrown empty field. He gave us the paper with the address on it back to us and pointed to a gate. We paid our fare and got out feeling lost and unsure about our next move.

Through the old gate there was a dirt path. Everything in my bones was telling me that we were going to get robbed. Every travel book tells you to be weary of unseen paths and that if something feels wrong it typically is, but Jeff and I decided to keep going. We had come over 5,000 miles to get here and couldn’t give up without a fight.

Timidly walking down this overgrown dirt path, Jeff and I were joking and trying to lighten the mood and talk about anything other than the possibility of someone jumping out of the bushes and stealing all our camera gear or walking into some kind of drug cartel and getting locked up abroad. The path was long and seemed to be through an abandoned theme park. Thank goodness it was day time and not night or the faded faces of clowns heads on the ground would have set me over the edge. There were old amusement park rides and rusted metal throughout the field.

After walking for what seemed like an eternity we came up over the hill and spotted a flag. As we kept walking the top of a circus tent started to reveal itself on the other side of the hill and before too long we stood tall while feasting our eyes on a giant blue circus tent with another small tent behind it. We had finally found Circo Del Mundo and made it in once piece.

Now that we had found the school we still had to awkwardly walk in and see if we could shoot there. The school looked deserted but as we got closer we saw students walking in and out of the circus tent and two guys on an outdoor trapeze. We had made it. After finding the main office, a trailer, and trying to talk to a women who we assumed was in charge, it seemed like they were happy to have us there. They introduced us to Manuel, a former student, who now runs an after school program to teach little kids circus routines to keep them off the streets.

Circus of the World, Chile

(Jeff teaching a little girl how to use a shotgun mic.)

Manuel was a great guy. He was young and loved kids and the circus. We spent several days getting to know him and shooting around the school before he offered to take us to San Bernardo, a small town just outside Santiago, to meet the kids and shoot one of his classes. The journey to the school was full of circus tricks and laughter. Although we didn’t speak much Spanish and Manuel didn’t speak English, I remember having full conversations will him through body language and we never had issues communicating. When we were on the metro, Manuel walked on his hands onto the train and kept doing headstands inside the moving metro car keeping the mood fun and light. After the metro, we had to take a city bus and walk to the school. Once in the neighborhood, Manual became much more serious and demanded that we were never to come here without him. He was worried we would be robbed and didn’t want Jeff or I out of his sight.

The second we stepped into the elementary school we were surrounded by the cutest little kids holding our hands and waving hello. They were so happy that we had come all the way from America to see them. It was the greatest feeling in the world. It took some time to actually be able to shoot because they all just wanted to talk to us and we need them to forget we were there. Jeff and I went back to the school several times and watched and took photos of the kids learning how to juggle, jump, and even swing on the trapeze.


Circus of the World, Chile

(Marina showing the kids her photos.)

Our last night shooting would be the kids big performance. All school year, Manuel would teach the kids after school and at the end of the school year they had a performance at Circo Del Mundo in front of all their friends and family. The kids spent hours playing dress up and painting their faces for the event and couldn’t have been happier. Their performance was amazing and went off without a hitch. Jeff and I couldn’t believe how much they could do and how great they performed.

Chile is a county that will always hold a piece of my heart. It felt like home away from home. During my time in Chile, I did a lot of growing up personally. I’ll never forget our time at Circo Del Mundo and with the kids. It felt like Jeff and I had ran away and joined the circus and didn’t want to go home to our lives and responsibilities. If not for our urge to travel we would never have met Manual or the kids at the circus. Walking down that scary abandoned dirty road was difficult to do, but as in life, anything worth doing typically is.

For more on the 2010 Brooks Institute International Documentary Project visit the “Revelar los Enlaces” webpage. The collective project, “Revelar los Enlaces”, is copyright of Brooks Institute, 2010 and all the contributing photographers.

WATCH THE VIDEO! Here is the “Circo Del Mundo” video segment from “Revelar los Enlaces” feature length documentary – take a look!


Marina Dominguez Latitude 34Marina is the co-founder of Latitude 34 – Travel Blog as well as a photographer and documentary film maker. 

As a maturing women, Marina has dedicated her life to travel and new experiences. After working a 9-5 cubical lifestyle, Marina sold everything she owned, left her job and begun a new life with her boyfriend and travel companion, Jeff Johns. Together they relocated to Phuket, Thailand and founded Latitude 34 in which they seek to share their alternative lifestyle with the world. 

Marina is a Visual Journalism graduate of Brooks Institute of Photography where she studied photography, videography and ultimately caught the travel bug. Through creating several international documentaries, Marina realized there was more to the world than work and wanted something more.


My Name Is Lucky - Adventures in Africa. Lucky gives leprosy treatment in Kwazulu Natal, South Africa

From the Road: A Man Named Lucky; Adventures In Africa

It was an unusually warm Wednesday afternoon, and while I knew I was being picked up by a man named Lucky, I was unsure of his car, or where exactly we would meet. Awkwardly standing on the street corner close to the beach in Durbin, South Africa, I peered into the oncoming traffic hoping to see a familiar face, while knowing all along I wouldn’t know his face.

My knees jammed uncomfortably against the dashboard, I made the little conversation I knew how. “World Cup start tomorrow huh?” I said sheepishly. I knew the South African team was named ‘Bafana Bafana’ but it still sounded too funny in my head to say out loud to a local. As we made our way through the early morning traffic and slowly climbed out of the city and away from the coast, we talked more about the day and how we had ended up together.

One week earlier, while killing time in a small hotel room in Cape Town, I had half heartedly googled “leprosy in Africa” and was shocked at the loads of results. It turns out, to my surprise, that behind India and Brazil, South Africa had one of the highest rates of leprosy on Earth. I had always been fascinated by the disease and after spending a couple days shooting a story about the disease in India years earlier, I had always wanted to continue the story, and what better time to do it than during my adventures in Africa?

Three days after my impromptu googling, two cheap plane rides, an overpriced hotel and some finger foods later, here I was, in a car with Lucky for the day, to see the life of a field doctor – the only doctor in the province with leprosy medication, and over 30 people to care for. Pulling into Prince Mshiyeni Memorial Hospital I was unsure as to what we would find inside. Lucky had been sparse about the days itinerary, possibly to keep me guessing, but most likely to let the day unfold and let me take it in as it happened.

Inside the hospital we entered a dark room which was used as a full time storage unit and only part time as Lucky’s office. He would stop by a couple times a month to file reports and pick up more medication but his real office was his little beat up Toyota Carolla and his place of work the open, winding roads of Kwazula Natal.

Pulling into our first stop, a small township on the outskirts of Durbin, Lucky informed me we would be visiting an elderly woman whom had not only contracted leprosy but was also suffering from diabetes and tuberculoses. As her tuberculoses was more of a threat to her health, and the various medications off set each other, she had chosen to cut out the leprosy medications and only treat her tuberculoses, and to be honest, who could blame her.

My Name Is Lucky - Adventures in Africa. Lucky gives leprosy treatment in Kwazulu Natal, South Africa

Her house was surprisingly clean and while thickly decorated with delicate porcelain figurines, brightly colored paintings and dust covered family photos, it was very comfortable and while 10,000 miles from anything I knew, strangely felt a little like my own grandmothers home I had spent so many summers in growing up as a child.

“Does this hurt?” I could faintly make make out him saying over the blaring commercials on the small static covered TV in the corner. “Yes, every day, like always.” the woman responded. Trying my best to be sensitive, communicate to her with my eyes, and gain insight into her plight, I sat in quiet and felt as a fly on the wall in this sweet woman’s home, unable to stop feeling sorry for her and the pain she had to suffer daily.

And so the day went. One by one we stopped by the houses, apartments and huts of those affected by this disease. A small child crying in a clay plastered home unable to blink because his optic nerves were slowly loosing their ability to shut his own eyelids. A young woman living in a crowded apartment with her friends, unable to feel her fingers, constantly burning herself while preparing daily meals. And the old man living in a thatch hut, far from any paved road or cell phone tower, unable to walk from the deep ulcers in his foot – made worse by months of neglect at the advice of the village shaman, who shunned the advances of modern medicine.

My Name Is Lucky - Adventures in Africa. Lucky gives leprosy treatment in Kwazulu Natal, South Africa

Sweat slowly fell off the tip of my nose as we reached the paved road from the path we had been walking on since before the sun set. Lucky’s beat up car now felt like a chariot and I was thrilled to put my camera bag in the back seat and enjoy the ride back to town. “It’s a hard job” Lucky said, “but I wouldn’t want to do anything else, these people need my help and I am the only one to help them.” Only hours after meeting earlier in the morning, after the long day of visits across the region I now felt like we were best friends.

Our conversation, lively at first, slowly dissolved into silence as the hours passed, and by the time we entered the city limits, we had both been lost in reflection for the majority of the ride. Thoughts and feelings filled my head as we neared the street corner he had picked me up at. So much to say – yet no words escaped my mouth. Filled with gratitude that Lucky had taken me on this journey, I hugged him goodbye and, camera bag flung over my shoulder, quickly ran to the curb as Lucky continued on home to greet his wife and child for dinner.

I quickly ran to my room and immediately downloaded my memory cards from the days adventure. Pictures, videos, interview clips were organized and hastily thrown into order and his story, if only from today, was placed to music; his quotes and thoughts organized for others to read. This was how I knew to process the day, to organize what I had captured into a story, a visual poem to share with the world, it was the only way I was able to experience in full, what I had witnessed that day.

And for Lucky, it was just another Wednesday. Thursday would be no different, nor would next week or next month. He quietly criss crossed the region with his briefcase of medicines, his kindness and attentiveness, notebooks and knowledge, as he kept track of those affected from Leprosy each and every day. He was the only doctor who did this, the only one with the medicine, the only one who cared. He carried the weight, wellbeing and comfort of dozens upon his shoulders but to him it was a gift and meant to be “because my name is Lucky.” I remembered him saying – because to him, he was.

Safe travels, Jeff

The front of the Hotel de Glace, Quebec, Canada

From the Road: Staying in an Ice Hotel, Quebec, Canada


In the past few years many ice hotels have popped up all over the place. In the world of themed hotels, staying in an entire hotel made of ice and snow ranks right up there with the best of them. In January, 2009 I was in Quebec and decided to go and check out an ice hotel, appropriately named “Hotel de Glace

Front desk of the Hotel de Glace, Quebec, CanadaEntering the hotel I felt like I was either entering Narnia or a Disney movie and had an unexpected amount of excitement. The doors open wide like that of an ancient castle and you immediately feel like you are in a different world. Everything, from the roof to the front desk to the chairs and the walls are made of snow and ice. The entire feel is mystical and the way the place is lit and presented is truly magical.

Adding to the charm are warm fur blankets and rugs and warm coats for the guests. Each room is themed slightly different, some with bears and wolves and some with eskimos and trees. All carved into the snow walls of course. The beds are made of ice and snow and are covered in layers of warm fur blankets to make your stay comfortable and enjoyable. Some rooms even have wood burning stoves to keep the room extra toasty.

The real fun is found in the hotel bar where guests congregate to drink warm concoctions and even take a turn on the slide, all made of ice, which spits you out right at the bar. Guests wear big oversized fur coats, sip their drinks out of ice glasses and take part in a variety of activities the hotel staff put together each year.The "fire" room, inside the Hotel de Glace, Quebec, Canada


The ice hotel is built each and every year and is open for only about 10 weeks total before it gets too warm to exist and melts away into a puddle when the spring comes. Each year the designers work hard to chose a theme and design an equally enchanting and amazing hotel as the last year. Rooms start around $175US for a night and for that price it is definitely worth it for the experience and the memories. And, if you are feeling exceptionally unique, book your wedding at the Hotel de Glace, it would be a fantastic way to remember your special day.

TIPS: This one might seem fairly obvious but bring extra socks and a warm hat. Yes the hotel is made of ice and so are the beds, but the blankets do a good job of keeping you warm, however, you won’t regret having a hat and extra socks handy if you get a bit cold. Even better yet, bring a close friend, husband, mistress or your dog to cuddle up with and keep warm, after all you are sleeping in a glorified igloo.

Other famous ice hotels around the world include:

1. Alta Igloo Hotel, Alta, Norway –

2. Kemi SnowCastle, Finland –

3. The Aurora Ice Hotel, Fairbanks, Alaska, USA –


cuzco per new years eve by latitude 34 travel blog

From the Road: New Years In Cusco, Peru

Cusco, Peru is a quaint little town located near the Urubamba Valley of the Andes mountain range and is also a major gateway to Machu Picchu. After Christmas 2012, Jeff had invited me to come down to Ecuador and spend new years with his family. As soon as I arrived in Ecuador, the Johns family had decided to make an impromptu trip to Cusco, Peru. Jeff’s dad, Todd, had lived in Cusco over 40 earlier as a Mormon Missionary and had always wanted to bring his family to Cusco and share his memories. I was excited and honored to come along on the trip.

Once we arrived in Cusco, I was inspired by the traditional feel of the town. The center of the town is the Plaza de Armas with two huge Cathedrals on two sides. The city was made of all cobblestone streets which made it feel ancient; you could feel the Inca heritage. In 1983, Cusco was declared a World Heritage Site because it was the capital of the Inca Empire.

cuzco per new years eve by latitude 34 travel blog

This little ancient town had a hidden New Years surprise in store for us. We just happened to be there on New Years Eve. We did some reading and learned that the Cusco isn’t just a sleepy town when it comes to the celebration of a new year and ringing in 2013 wouldn’t be any different. For new years, the town gathers in the Plaza de Armas where everyone drinks and dances all night. Everyone wears yellow which represents change and rebirth. Some people even carry suitcases with them symbolizing success and travel in the new year. At the strike of midnight, everyone runs around the Plaza de Armas for good luck.

Once we got to the Plaza de Armas everything hit us at once. There were so many people and fireworks going off everywhere. The whole square was shut down and people were drinking and celebrating in the square. There was a large stage set up in front of one of the Cathedrals and a band playing. Before we know it the countdown had begun. Three… Two… One… then chaos. Jeff grabbed my hand, and we all ran around the Plaza de Armas. Sometimes we were running as fast as we could and other times we were stopped in a mass crowd of people who were all pushing forward to continue their journey around the square. There was broken glass on the ground from people throwing bottles and fireworks going off at our feet, but the experience was unbelievable. It was chaotic, crazy, but beautiful all at the same time. No matter if you were a Cusco local or tourist, everyone became united. It didn’t matter who you were or where you were from, everyone had a fresh start to a new year.

In my opinion, the New Years celebration in Cusco, Peru is one for the bucket list. There is so much culture and inspiration in this little ancient town. Cheap flights from Lima make this a very easy stop once in the area and LAN Airlines has flights daily.

Watch us run around the Plaza de Armes like crazy people!


Marina Dominguez Latitude 34Marina is the co-founder of Latitude 34 – Travel Blog as well as a photographer and documentary film maker. 

As a maturing women, Marina has dedicated her life to travel and new experiences. After working a 9-5 cubical lifestyle, Marina sold everything she owned, left her job and begun a new life with her boyfriend and travel companion, Jeff Johns. Together they relocated to Phuket, Thailand and founded Latitude 34 in which they seek to share their alternative lifestyle with the world. 

Marina is a Visual Journalism graduate of Brooks Institute of Photography where she studied photography, videography and ultimately caught the travel bug. Through creating several international documentaries, Marina realized there was more to the world than work and wanted something more.