From there to here

The concept for this website and venture (Artrophy) began when I was still in prison. (That’s right, prison…if this is news to you and comes as a surprise, then keep following along as there are many more surprises in store) During our visits, Kupu and I would talk about LAP (life after prison) and how we could move forward. We didn’t know when that would be or what it would look like but the idea of taking some time to dream about a future driven by our passions served as a great escape, no pun intended. It also helped us get through some long dismal days when the situation seemed hopeless.

One of our great passions was traveling to parts unknown and immersing ourselves in new cultures. Ironically, this is sort of how we ended up in the situation where I (Bhuddi) ended up ‘locked up abroad’. Despite the craziness, we didn’t want one horrible situation to ruin all the fun we had up until that point.

During our previous travels, we took a lot of photos and thought it might be fun to share some of our experiences through images we captured. We also wanted to look back at all the positive experiences we were fortunate enough to have had and show gratitude for them. So we decided to set up an Instagram account. Kupu would put images on an SD card and smuggle them into the prison. I would style and edit the images while Kupu wrote a poetic description for each image. It was a collective creation done in separate spaces. If you want to know how I was able to post something from prison, well that is another story for another time.

So that is how it all started. It gave us great pleasure to relive some of our past travels evoking feelings of joy and freedom. A time when we were free to do what we wanted, when we wanted, within the bounds of a full-time job of course. We knew we would get back to this way of life someday, as I wasn’t going to be in jail forever. We weren’t exactly sure when it would end, but it would, so we took the time to plan for an uncertain future.  The plan when I was set free was to take time to heal, surround ourselves with family and friends, and reconnect after all the time away. We wanted to travel, buy a Sprinter van, throw our camping gear and camera in the back and explore our home country with the aim to try our hand at travel writing. We had to stick to Canada because when you have been convicted of the crimes I had been convicted of, no matter how obvious it was that I was innocent, there are issues with international travel. The fact remains that you still have a criminal record and travel restrictions must be taken into consideration. For the time being, we were okay with it, Canada is a big place and we had a lot of places we wanted to explore. We were free to roam just like the buffalo!

We set off in early September 2019 on our road trip. We didn’t have the cash for a Sprinter van so we settled for an extra-long SUV that we could sleep inside (if completely necessary). When we went to test drive the SUV I hopped in the back to lie down, the salesperson looked at us curiously. I told him I needed to see if I could lie out in the back which is a feat for someone well over 6 feet tall.

We hit the road the day after we picked up the vehicle. We bought roof and bike racks, packed up, and headed….west! Some of you may be thinking “you are going the wrong way” that is true but we wanted to spend our first night in the mountains before we headed across the prairies. So we headed west on the TransCanada, destination Banff. We spent a glorious evening checking out one of our favourite areas, Cascade Pond, Two Jack Lake, and Lake Minnewanka which were all busy with families enjoying a spectacular late summer evening. We met up with friends who run a B&B in Banff, stayed the night, and caught up. It was a great first day, with not too much driving and beautiful weather.

We woke up the next morning and the lovely weather from the previous day had disappeared. Here is the first lesson we re-learned, weather in Canada is unpredictable and can turn on a dime. By the time we made it to Moose Jaw, we had to give up our campsite for a hotel room in order to dry out our gear. The second lesson noted; sleeping in the car is only an option when there is nothing else inside the car. When you are traveling across the country that typically isn’t the case. So a Super 8 along the TransCanada was our choice. It was ideally located right next to the statue of a massive Moose.

When I was younger and could drive I wanted to road trip across Canada to photograph statues of large things. If you are from Canada you may know what I mean, there is the previously mentioned Moose, a Canadian goose in Kenora, a nickel in Sudbury, an Easter Egg in Vegreville, a giant dump truck in Sparwood. You get the idea. I wanted to title the book Big Things Small Places. If you have any other examples please leave a comment so I can add to this by no means exhaustive list.
Have I mentioned yet that I can’t see well enough to drive so all the driving was up to Kupu? I was in charge of music and balanced coffee consumption. It was a new car to us, and we didn’t want to get it all messy with crunchy snacks so we opted for cereal snacks. We did try to choose some childhood favourites keeping in mind the sugar content. So Corn Pops, Golden Grahams, and Oat Squares were on the menu. Third lesson; Fruit Loops and Captain Crunch have way too much sugar. I know you only live once and prison didn’t kill me so what’s a little extra sugar? However, being on a sugar high while traveling across the Prairies quickly gives one the shakes. So balancing sugar intake with strong coffee was key. Even though there are 4286 Tim Horton’s in Canada – the distance between them varies greatly! So sometimes we were more concerned about our next coffee stop than gassing up the SUV.

If you haven’t done it before, just note that driving across the Prairies can be somewhat tedious, it can be quietly beautiful but due to howling winds and driving rain, it was not on this occasion. We kept the forecast in check to see if we were heading towards warmer weather but we just seemed to be keeping pace with the same miserable weather pattern that we woke up with on our second day.
We aren’t going to bore you with a day-by-day account of our travels so we will gloss over some of the long hours of driving some very straight roads and move on with the story and how we arrived at this point, the website.

This may be a good jumping-off point to come back to. You probably already know by now how the website was born and what we would like to accomplish from it. This blog could go in many different directions. It could be studio notes, it could be travel stories, or perhaps tidbits of information about the case. We will just have to see how things go. One thing we do know is there are plenty of stories to share. We hope you will follow along.

User Comments ( 21 )

  • Annie Ho

    Bhuddi & Kupu!

    On your way to Fernie, B.C., you will pass the town of Sparwood.

    The town of Sparwood is home to the world’s largest tandem axie dump truck, the TEREX TITAN!

    Your book sales will sky rocket from featuring this/ ie. I get a percentage of your profits.

    Love you guys!

    • Bhuddi and Kupu

      We have seen that truck many times and have a friend from Sparwood that use to drive them. Will definitely include that one in the book. Lots of love back to you Annie❤

  • Terry D

    Bhuddhi & Kupo, you have begun an amazing story of courage, patience and creativity that is full of unimaginable twists and turns. It will be interesting to hear it unfold in context to the here and now – where you guys are today, not just physically, but also mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

    I have always been fascinated by your photos – the vibrant saturated colors, the blurring of details to bring out the spirit of the image. And now your paintings are taking me one level deeper. I am wondering how close your photos and paintings come to what Bhuddi actually sees. How close are these images?

    I love you guys, love your art, and love hearing your story in your own words. Perhaps you will inspire resilience in a world where people demand immediate gratification.

    Onward and upward! 🙂

    • Bhuddi and Kupu

      I love the ‘blurring of details to bring out the spirit of the image’, that is definitely how it feels to me. I will let you try on my glasses some day so you get an idea of how blurry things get in all the different realms. You certainly know a great deal of the story yourself as you lived it alongside us. Perhaps we need to collaborate on a few stories. Love you guys and look forward to some future adventures together. Maju❤

      • Terry D

        Would love to collaborate on the narrative if you ever need it. But don’t give me your glasses and a paintbrush 🙂 Hahaha!

        • Bhuddi and Kupu

          We will definitely collaborate on some writing, your travel stuff rocks!

  • Ellen Marie Flø

    Fun to read 😉

  • Susan Larson

    I was an international teacher, now retired, and know many people who knew you personally. I followed your horrific journey from the start to finish and I am so happy to come with you on your new journey. All of the very best.

    • Bhuddi and Kupu

      It is so nice to have you along for the journey, thank you for the good wishes

  • Lindy Buckley

    Wonderful to hear that you are enjoying the wide open spaces that Canada has loads of! (I took the train from Vancouver to Toronto 2 years ago so I have experienced some of them!) All the very best of luck with your travels and your Art. XX

    • Bhuddi and Kupu

      So fantastic to have a message from you, Lindy! The train ride from Vancouver to Toronto is quite an epic journey – one we have wondered about… Next time you come through Calgary stop for a visit:) We certainly hope to travel more for artistic inspiration in the coming years, being travel artists sounds like the perfect match for us.

  • Nicole McDaid

    So glad to see your wonderful new adventure as a way to continue to heal and reconnect as a part of LAP! If you plan to come to Vancouver Island please let me know as my home is open to you and better than a Super 8, and your friends would love to catch up. Duncan, BC has the biggest hockey stick. All the best and I look forward to seeing more of your beautiful artwork. 🙂

    • Bhuddi and Kupu

      So nice to hear from you Nicole, it has been a long time. We are planning a trip out to the island late September with my cousin from Denmark – send us an e-mail – would love to be able to connect while we are out there. I have seen the hockey stick but will definitely add it to the book!

  • Glenn and Deanna

    What a fantastic email to receive, alerting us to the launch of this amazing project! We have indeed thought of you often since your return to Canada. We remain so proud of you both…your zest for life was infectious when we knew and worked directly with you, your courage and hope was humbling when you were enduring unimaginable trials and tribulations, and your continued commitment to being a source of joy to others now that you are in the LAP phase is nothing short of inspirational. Your photographs are truly breath-taking and your paintings equally gorgeous. And even more so because of how they have been created.

    We consider it such a privilege to be your friends, and can’t wait to follow along on this phase of your life journey. Hopefully it won’t be too long before we can visit with you in person…and when you next find yourselves in Ontario…there will be a batch of freshly made Mango Sticky Rice awaiting you in Grand Bend. 🙂

    Much love to you both, from us both,
    Glenn and Deanna

    • Bhuddi and Kupu

      Oh Mango Sticky Rice, we remember it well and look forward to enjoying it with you next we are in Ontario. Your uplifting comments are very much appreciated, especially coming from two people we hold in such high regard. We feel encouraged by friends around the world and the support they continue to provide. Thanks for giving us that initial opportunity so many years ago in Singapore – we miss being overseas and hope to get back to an international life…but in a different way perhaps. Lots of love and we are so happy to know you are following along.

  • Fiona Williams

    Love this! I’m a graduate of JIS (’96) from Canada and was heartbroken by your experience there. So glad you have found this passion.

    I live in New Brunswick, and when you get to travel to the East Coast be sure to visit the Big Lobster in Shediac, NB!

    • Bhuddi and Kupu

      Wow, so nice to hear from a JIS grad who followed our story. We actually made it to New Brunswick (The Bay of Fundy) but did not know about the Big Lobster. It is definitely on the list for the next trip and we must meet when we make it East again! Thank you so much for taking the time to write.

  • The Chalifoux's

    We have and always will consider you to be one of the strongest couples we know. Having you home and safe after the many years of injustice and exploitation you had to endure is our greatest comfort. Many memories and emotions are hidden in your art work and we are so thrilled, but not surprised that you have found such a wonderful outlet to express all you have endured. Only you two can turn such a negative life experience into a positive and yet hold steadfast to your love for all, cultures and places regardless of what atrocities invaded you lives. It is an honour to call you friends/family and another honour to share as you embark on another wonderful adventure with Artophy.

    • Bhuddi and Kupu

      You two are the best, always there for us with positivity, big hugs, and support throughout the years. This new adventure is all about turning a negative into a positive. You are definitely a part of our family and you know us well;) We are happy to be back close to you and sharing the journey. Thanks for taking the time to write such kind and uplifting words.

  • Janis

    Bhuddi and Kupu -You are both an inspiration and I hope our paths will cross soon. The next time you are in the mountains, I now live in Canmore and my door is always open.Thank you for sharing this journey and the hope of new ones to come. Sending you love as you heal and travel and enjoy!

    • Bhuddi and Kupu

      So nice to know you are close – we will definitely make a plan to stop by next we are in Canmore, obviously it is a place we love to go – the mountains being inspirations for our art. So happy to be in touch again.

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