Philippines Finale.

     The finale to our 9-month international practicum was in Manila, Philippines where we primarily processed through everything we just encountered in the previous months. However we did have to fortune of visiting a large private expat school, the U.S. WWII memorial grounds, part of the city where the people sorted through enormous piles of garbage, listen to a national millionaire, and eat the less than appetizing fertilized duck egg, balut. Each of these fostered unique emotions and gave us more thoughts to continue working through. I’m not sure if I want to write about those in particular or just conclude on a joyful note with a summary of what the 9 months really taught me. This being said, I’m not sure if I have a perspective that is removed enough from the experience to analyze what I learned or how the entirety of the trip affected me. Maybe in a few months I’ll write a new post on “How 9-months of Living Abroad Will Change Your Life,” but for now I’ll explain a few of the emotions felt when visiting the dump in contrast to the pristine WWII memorial grounds.

      Throughout our travels we witnessed every spectrum of poverty imaginable. From the unemployed people of Southern Spain, mud huts in Rwanda, beggars in the streets of Cairo, the shepherds in the Caucasus, hungry orphans in Myanmar, or even many of the taxi drivers we hired all have unique stories of economic struggle. I’m not sure if it was the odor or visually, violating view but the garbage community in the Philippines was what I perceived to be the lowest form of poverty. Not only did many of the people work sorting the garbage but also their homes were consumed by it. The thought of waking up to the daily influx of garbage is unimaginable. I feel overwhelmed when my room is a mess and here these people wake up to the mess of millions of affluent people. Standing at a lookout point observing the garbage mound was painfully humbling. Each of you reading this is likely wealthier beyond what these people could ever imagine.

     After taking this all in we listened to a local millionaire talk to us about all the incredible things he’s doing for the communities there, which was extremely encouraging. Also we visited the largest WWII memorial outside the U.S. and without a doubt it was the most pristine location in Manila! The grass was greener than I’ve ever seen and it was as though we were transported to America! The thousands, if not millions of dollars spent to create that and maintain it is respectable, since all the people and families who were affected by the war, but I couldn’t help think how far that money would go if it were spent on the poorest people around the world. Touchy subject for some but I couldn’t help but ponder the thought.

     This summer I might do another post about the Philippines or start talking about how crazy this summer has been so far! I’ll likely take a bit of a break in August since I’ll be occupied with the wedding, honeymoon, moving back to college, and then trying to work during all of that as well. Thanks for reading and please like, comment, or share! 

What’s Lurking in the Dark Cave?.

     Our time in Malaysia was intended to be one of rest and recovery but the adventurers’ in the group said ‘screw it’ and sought out another experience! Originally we set out to see the tallest towers in Asia but it just so happened they are closed to visitors on Mondays. The next day we had our sights on the Batu Caves. Part of the Batu Caves is a place of worship for Hindu’s and the other main part is an ecological national heritage site, called Dark Cave (yes like the one in Poke'mon with all the Zubats' haha). Late in the morning we climbed on a train with shattered windows and began our ambitious journey.

     Upon arriving we saw people selling small idols and various sculptures that I assumed were for worship or offerings but what struck me was how impoverished and destitute the people appeared. We walked along a path passing multiple shrines and small temples that were awaiting devotes’ to give offerings. From a distance we could see a gigantic, golden, gaudy, garish statue emerge its head over the trees. As we approached the hundreds of steps leading to the caves it was emotionally overwhelming to see such a mass of resources poured into false hope for people who are already so poor. The extravagancies didn’t stop when we entered into the cave of worship. Three other shines were inside the massive cave with people giving or collecting offerings. In the moment I couldn’t help but desperately wish they hadn’t desecrated such a stunning piece of nature with their religious artifacts and idols.

     On our way down we saw the sign for the Dark Cave and took a gander. To our delight they offer tours through the biologically rich and most extensively studied cave system in the world. Even though it was pitch black throughout most of the excursion I did manage to get some images that depict how eerie it was even with our torchlights on. We saw multiple spiders, other alien-like insects and millions of bats! I guess that would answer the title question, along with guano: lots and lots of guano.

What are your thoughts on natural wonders being altered into places of worship? Comment below and feel free to share! 

5 Tips to Conquering The Great Wall of China!.

     This was my third trip to China and my second time visiting part of The Great Wall. Luckily the section we went to was different than before and much less crowded. Below are 5  useful tips on how to make the most of your experience when visiting! 

1. Good Footwear.

     Really I shouldn’t need to add this tip but the illogical process people must go through when choosing footwear always flabbergasts me! When is comes to traveling, in general, a good pair of shoes can make or break the experience. You don’t want flip-flops, or loose shoes, or really anything that you cant climb thousands of stairs with. On both my visits the stairs were abundant and pretty treacherous at some parts so sturdy based shoes are your optimal choice if you want to endure the less polished portions.

2. Bring Water.

     I’m not sure if there is a location on The Great Wall that is not exhausting but for the most part it is built on mountainous land. Sure there might be a gondola at some locations but I suggest going by foot for the full experience! This being said, just getting to the wall can be tiring so be sure to bring lots of water to stay hydrated!

3. Physically Condition.

     Fortunately, I’m in adequate shape but walking or climbing the thousands of steps is exhausting! At both experiences of The Great Wall there were times I could have fallen over in exhaustion, which would have been extremely dangerous due to the nearly straight up, not to grade, stone, stair ways. If you’re out of shape and still want to see the wall maybe just look at it online because not being able to walk the entire section you’re visiting makes the trip way less worth it.

4. Take all the Photos.

     On average I’m pretty conservative when taking photos. Even to the extent where I’ll jokingly tell people, "I don’t want to waste film," when they tell me to take a picture of something. However, for many of you it might be your only time seeing this wonder so embrace the inner tourist and take a lot photos! Likely most of them will suck, but who knows. Maybe there will be some gems in there and you can make a small book of the awesome adventure to look back on!

5.    Bring Friends.

     The Great Wall was built to keep people out so if you’re going to conquer it you need to bring friends! Once in a lifetime opportunities are better with people to share it with so ensure you have amazing friends around you for the excursion! There are multiple benefits to this: they encourage you to keep climbing, they can carry your water, possibly catch you when you faint from exhaustion, take your photo, and even reminisce with you about the experience! Those of you who I conquered The Great Wall with, thank you for making it a tremendous trek!

     I hope you enjoyed reading about How to Conquer The Great Wall of China. Be sure to check out the images below (some are also near The Forbidden Palace), share this with friends, or maybe even plan your own trip to China!  

Tourists' Killing Tourism.

     At first glance, tourists’ killing tourism may sound like an oxymoron. I do admit that tourists are the ones who fund the tourism industry but what is the expense of that symbiotic relationship? I’ll be direct; the aesthetic cost of tourism is that it funds idiotic ‘improvements’ to tourist locations on a global basis. I’ll elaborate on that point a bit more but I want to preface with saying our overall time in Cambodia was enjoyable and, as you saw in my last post, absolutely gorgeous!

     During second part of our day visiting temples we ventured to Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm. Angkor Thom was quite impressive and surprisingly only from the 13th century, even though it looked far more ancient. I don’t know what I would expect from any structure that old but we saw the Egyptian pyramids and they seemed to be holding up much better. Anyways, from Angkor Thom we drove to Ta Prohm where the iconic trees ooze over the old, decrepit architecture. It was a gorgeous day to be walking underneath the towering trees to go observe one of the many magnificent scenes our world has to offer. Right before reaching what we thought to be the end of the self guided tour we noticed a crowd of people walking towards the back of a temple. Like a dog chasing its tail, we followed them to check if the famous view we all came for was nested behind the next corner.

     As we slowly sauntered through the crowd and around the temple corner the towering tree revealed itself like a classic Polaroid photo! Almost instantly my admiration subsided and turned into dreadful dismay. There was a giant platform. Infested by tourists. Taking selfies. Covering the majestic scene behind it. It was honestly depressing because previous to actually arriving there I had only seen images from when the repulsive stage didn’t exist. You might think I’m being petty but think of the skywalk in Jasper. As convenient as the modern modifications might be, we are destroying the allure of untouched, naked, wild, elements that draws millions to travel. These modern eyesores kill the natural ambiance to many locations worldwide and butcher any possibility of creating a clean image of the place again. I won’t drag out my disgust at the attempt to make travel more accessible for those people who need to take that selfie to show their 50 Instagram followers; but it has caused a pandemic of obtrusive monstrosities that make the virgin landscapes look molested.

     I would love to hear what you think about the modern development of tourist attractions: is it positive or negative from your perspective? I realize there is an attempt to preserve the locations but rather than immersing people directly into the point of interest, taking a step back is a more appropriate movement to incorporate.

Angkor Wat, What?.

     From Myanmar we flew to Cambodia where our contact wasn’t able to meet with us last minute so we had to improvise as a team. Fortunately we didn’t let it faze us too much and planned an amazing morning trip to the world famous Angkor Wat! Skimming through all the popular photography websites you’re bound to see the iconic reflection photos with the temple in the background. It has been a while since I’ve browsed the various sites so many of the images had faded from my memory but I still had the iconic scene in my head. The problem I have with going to many of these gorgeous locations is that millions of people before me have stood in the exact same spot and have likely made every single kind of image imaginable! Regardless of this bleak reality, I try to think creatively and push either my post processing or composition in a dynamic way so that my work might stand out. It’s not often that I feel as though I’ve made a unique image but I know that I’ve attempted to push my creativity to he next level. It is this process that I push myself into and often find it pretty uncomfortable to delve into.

     Much like my creative process I want to push myself out of my comfort zone to try to excel in whatever I’m doing at the subsection section of time in my life. Currently I’m unemployed and back home, which leave my mind often infiltrated by ideas of how to afford a wedding and paying off the past 9 months of travel. One of these wild ideas is about to commence this week and hopefully it will succeed so that I can embark on other entrepreneurial pursuits. This being said, I am always open to working a regular job but trying to make it as a photographer, videographer, designer, or micro business owner is far more exhilarating! Some people get a thrill from sky diving, motor sports, or a multitude of other adrenaline injecting activities but selling something I’m passionate about to people who care, is my ecstasy.

     I truly appreciate you taking the time to read this blog and I hope you find enough value in it to simply share it with other people who might also see it’s value. Lastly, keep an eye out to see what sort of products I’ve been making over the past week!