Meet the Correspondent: Omar Jaramillo > Berlin$show=/search/label/Omar%20Jaramillo

"I was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador, where I studied architecture. I moved to Kassel (Germany) in 1999 to accomplish a master degree. Although I have always drawn and paint, it was not until I started studying in the Uni-Kassel, that I started keeping a travel sketchbook. I had a teacher there who used to do a lot of sketches when he travelled on university excursions. When he retired, I helped to organize an exhibition of his sketches. He brought a huge box full of sketchbooks he had filled since he was an architecture student. I spent a whole day selecting the most interesting drawings. It was a wonderful experience that opened my eyes to a new world. In the last 10 years I have the feeling of being in a long journey. I like to discover the cities where I live, to understand why a place is the way it is and what makes it different and unique from others. Drawing is for me a way to learn to love a place, to become part of it. I like to draw architecture but I am more attracted to urban scenery, portraying how people live in the city. Since I’m a foreigner, everything that locals find normal and taken-for-granted, for me is exotic. I always carry a small watercolor travel set from Windsor and Newton and my sketchbook in my bag. I always thought that drawing was a solitary experience until I found Urban Sketchers. It was amazing to find so many people doing the same thing. It is a great place to share!" • Omar's blog. • Omar's art on flickr. • Omar's website.

Meet the Correspondent: Luis Ruiz > Malaga, Spain$show=/search/label/Luis%20Ruiz

Animal House

It's never peaceful when you live right next door to six young, boisterous neighbors who are prone to mischief. It's probably worse when they are squatters in a crumbling abandoned space. But that's what my family dealt with last summer in a small city in Italy. Night time was when they did the most fooling around.

When we moved in, an odd looking woman was delivering food to the clowder, on their steps. (Clowder is the official term used for a group of cats or kittens—like a pride is a group of lions, and gaggle is bunch of geese.) Did I mention that it was stray cats living next door? Cute, huh? Not so much. It was a family, actually—I think a single-parent family—a mother and her six kittens.

They weren't friendly neighbors. They never engaged with us, no matter how hard my wife and sons tried. The cats would spend their long days sunning themselves on our front stairs, and lounging in our window planter, newly stocked with basil plants. It would all seem charming, I guess, except that every time we came and went, they scurried in the most dangerous ways. Worst of all was what happened every night. We lived in an ancient home—one of a row of stone buildings from the middle ages, all connected. Every night, as I lay in bed, the kittens would chase each other in our ceiling. Somehow, they could get between the floors in our house, and because the ceiling was so low, medieval style, it felt like the kitties were scampering, scratching, skidding and screaming on my skull. 

One time, when my wife and one of the kittens surprised each other at the top of our steep, ten-step staircase, the little cat leaped to a most ugly fall on the stone ground below. We watched as the pained kitten scrambled and limped through the broken slice of the door next door. We thought for sure, that kitten was a goner, but it recovered quickly apparently. Our neighbor on the other side tried to comfort us soon after we witnessed the fall, "Ah! Don't worry! She is a cat! We have a saying here in Italy. Cats, they have seven lives!" Note to all you Italian cats out there: you might want to move to America, as here we say that cats have nine lives.



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