It was 9 o’clock in the morning, and everything in sight was bathed in the brilliant, blazing light of an Arabian Peninsula sun. I had my sunglasses on and still felt the need to hold up a hand to shield my eyes from the glare. Around me stood men buying fresh produce, men selling khat for camel feed, men chatting amiably in long white dishdashas with colorful kumas perched atop their heads. I was standing in a souk in Ibra, Oman—the lone female and the lone foreigner—surrounded by Omani men going about their morning business in a market scene so customary to them it surely felt banal. Little here seemed ordinary to me, though, and I was savoring every second. I was the Other, the outsider, the ferenji, and my senses were heightened in anticipation of the unfamiliar, my eyes wide open to novelty. Situated somewhere between the dunes of the Wahiba Sands desert and the mountains of the al Hajar range, Ibra is an old city in a very old part of the world. Not for the first time, nor surely the last, I found myself wondering how did I get here?
Since this website’s inception earlier in the year, I have been repeatedly asked: “Why nuanaarpuq?” and “What does it mean?” and “How do I pronounce it?” and “Couldn’t you have picked an easier domain name?”
To which I reply: It’s my favorite word; it means “take extravagant pleasure in the joy of living”; nu-an-are-puk; and no. Here’s why:
I have always believed in the power of the written word. Combined with photography, I find these two mediums to be unequaled in their capacity to educate and inspire. I began this website because I wanted to share insight into places I have traveled, outdoor adventures I have experienced, and people I have met in hopes that it might spark a curiosity in readers to embark on similar journeys of their own making. What to call this website was never in question. Since first hearing this word and learning of its meaning when I was a teenager, nuanaarpuq has shaped the course of my life. Even when employed in a 9-5 office job, even while living far from Colorado and the mountains of my youth, “take extravagant pleasure in the joy of living” has been my life ethos.
I am not the only one.
Peru is a country of color. There are the terraced hillsides of carefully tended crops whose greens range from basil to emerald to pistachio. There is the Andean sky built like a layer cake of ever-varying blues stacked high into the atmosphere. There are the 3,800 potato varieties plucked out of Peruvian soil whose outer skins range from canary yellow to beige to aubergine. There are the fish markets of Lima with their dark red tuna steaks, mottled brown squids, blush pink whitefish fillets, and mounds of mossy seaweed. And, of course, there are the densely crowded markets from which goods and foods explode out of tiny stalls—white alpaca ponchos and multicolored tablecloths with an orange-pink-green-blue pattern best resembling neon Sour Skittles draped along the walls; vibrant red wool blankets and hand-knit rainbow belts heaped atop chartreuse skirts and cobalt scarves; and bouquets of cilantro sitting alongside spicy scarlet and orange peppers next to mounds of purple potatoes all spilling out onto the sidewalk.
The eyes feast in Peru.
When thinking back on my various travels, an inanimate object usually comes to mind to summarize the place—Florence’s Duomo, Cambodia’s Temples of Angkor, the fjords of Western Norway. Not so Morocco. I returned from that colorful country last week filled with slivers of stories of the lives of people with whom I intersected for only a moment or two as I passed through their world. The varied fabrics of their personalities left me with a fondness for the country that no dazzling riad or crumbling kasbah could similarly impart.
As the sun rises in Luang Prabang, Laos, hundreds of Buddhist monks depart their various temples and walk in a single file procession down city streets collecting alms. This daily ritual, dating back to the 14th century, plays out today largely in the same way it has for 800 years—as a silent and spiritual river of orange moving through the still, heavy air of an early morning along the Mekong River.