Blog.

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! 

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! 

Sustainable Life.

     Sustainable living is one of the few practices that humans have failed at for as long as we have populated our resilient Earth. Not only do natural disasters (Fort McMurry Fire) set us back in the pursuit of advancing our species but also our own creations (Nuclear Bombs) can devastate large demographics. While visiting Myanmar we went to a countryside orphanage after teaching English for the day. As we crossed a flimsy bamboo bridge it creaked and cracked under my weight, when all of a sudden my foot dropped and I broke through a thin top layer. Once I pulled my heart back up out of my stomach, I proceeded and became acutely aware of where I stepped; along with the reality that the kids had to cross this every day. 

     We arrived on the orphanage property that consisted of a humble two-room building, a dorm like structure, a dirt volleyball court, and surrounding it were two fish farms. The fish farms were one of the sustainable living projects that the orphanage started in order to feed the 20-30 children who lived there. In addition to this they had various gardens, pigs, and two chicken farms on stilts above the fish farms. After singing some songs and telling the kids a story we had enough daylight left to play for a while. As I walked outside, I saw a few of the older boys in the knee-deep fishpond slamming bamboo sticks into the water. At first I wasn’t sure what the reason for this was but then I saw fish jumping! Assuming it was to draw them into a net or ensure they weren’t dormant, I quickly went to get some photos of this event. After simply smiling at me they continued vigorously smashing their sticks into the water as though it was a competition to see who could make the most obnoxious splash! Alone on the shore, I felt like I was witnessing a powerful performance that had to be photographed. I managed to make some impactful images that depicted the child-like playfulness as well as the maturity of having to farm and maintain their own food. The luxury of going to a store, or even a restaurant, wasn’t a reality they knew.

     Even when natural disaster strikes or we face hardships there are certain things we still take for granted. This orphanage had a daily prayer list above the door and the one that struck me was, “Pray for protein to keep all the children healthy.” They are praying for simple nutrients in order to maintain basic health, while here in North America we all have 10, 20, heck maybe even 50 pounds to lose! If our society doesn’t change from abusing our planet just to fulfill our vain extravagances we will eventually crash just like the other great empires throughout history. This isn’t only a challenge for you but also for myself to develop a way of living that is sustainable, renewable, and economical.

I would love to hear your ideas on how we could attain this in our life time? 

Children Calling.

Calling for attention.  Calling for affection.  Calling for affirmation.  Calling for affiliation.  Calling for acceptance.  Calling for advice.  Calling for amusement.

Calling for parents to love and teach them.

     The list above could be extended indefinitely but it consists of only a few needs that children require as they progress through life. When thinking back to when we visited an orphanage in Myanmar to teach English and spend time witnessing the reality these orphans were subject to; I unashamedly, ached for them. As you might already know, I have an agonizing hole in my heart for kids who aren’t fortunate enough to start with all the opportunities many of us in the western world have. Not only are they orphans; they are orphans in an impoverished country. Every day the self-sacrificial people who live with them have to simply pray for protein to feed and sufficiently nourish the 50 plus children. Dwell on that for a minute….  They are praying that their sustainable living projects will provide enough food for the kids. Can you imagine what that must feel like to be at the will of the weather, natural elements, and God’s provision to have enough sustenance to merely consume food? This life giving substance that these kids require to physically as well as mentally develop properly is the same gluttonous substance we gorge ourselves on regularly. The entire time with them I was on the verge of breaking into tears because I wanted nothing more than to help them and be there to assist each child in growing up into people who feel empowered to live rather than survive.

 

 “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style” ― Maya Angelou

 

     You may be wondering what I’m doing right now to fulfill this internal yearning and the answer is honestly nothing. Pathetic right? Other than dearly loving the kids I’ve interacted with I see it as almost useless to invest short amounts of time towards this problem since it will only increase that feeling of abandonment they have. You might be thinking I could sponsor a child. Sure that would make a difference and I might do exactly that this summer but I think what my fiancée and I have concluded is that it’s not a matter of if we will adopt, it’s a matter of how many will we be able to provide for. God willing, we will be able to give our love generously to as many kids as possible. I’m aware that it’s a bold proclamation but out of all the atrocities I’ve witnessed throughout my travels it’s this one where I feel my soul is called to be part of the change.

     Some of the images below are quite contrary to the stark writing I’ve presented but after being with them you feel more than what you see in their smiles. Even with their heavy past they worshiped God with a passion that brought me to tears. I envied their ability to unapologetically worship their omnipresent Father.  

5 Awkward Aspects of Travel!

     This list contains only a few major things that happened to me while traveling and living abroad over the past 8 months. I’ve come to the realization that every item listed is invaluable. They all taught me something about the world and how to survive in various cultures or scenarios. I hope you enjoy the list!

 

1.    Receiving Visa’s Late.

     Not receiving my visa on time was the first hiccup that occurred prior to even embarking on this trip. Due to a local holiday, the government in my 6-month nation wasn’t working; therefore processing my documents took forever. Unfortunately, this caused me to miss a week in Spain but through staying back I was able to reconnect with friends at the college. I know there was a reason for me missing out on the first week, whether it was to simply strengthen friendships or something part of the bigger picture. Needless to say, it made me realize the importance of applying for visa’s at the right time.

2.    Bathrooms.

     Without a doubt, one of the most dreadful parts of travel are the bathrooms. From foreboding holes in the ground with feces' surrounding the pit, to hacked together toilets where the bidet soaks you after flushing, it’s almost never a pleasant experience. By the way, both of those examples are just a few I’ve endured. Finding a nice bathroom is nearly impossible in most countries so I highly recommend relieving yourself in any decent restroom you stumble upon.

3.    Failing at Unspoken Customs.

     Every nation you travel to there will be customs and specific ways of doing things that only the locals know. Just a few examples that I’ve encountered are not eating or doing things with your left hand, greeting each person every time you enter a room, not shaking hands, wearing specific clothing, and even simple gestures like waving all have underlying meanings in some nations. In addition to these common ones, when I was in a mountain village an old grandma instructed me to eat the bread we were eating for breakfast specifically with butter, then jam, then home made cheese to top it off. It was a fascinating interaction but made me realize everyone, everywhere have unique customs only insiders know. Be sure to ask locals what some of these things are so you aren’t a walking insult.

4.    Language Barriers.

     This is one of those things that can either help you or cause a lot of trouble if you don’t use it properly. Photographically speaking I like not being able to communicate with a subject through language but rather body language. I’ve found that my success rate of getting an image with only body language far outweighs the results of verbal communication. The downside of this is when you have a local roommate or need directions and they don’t speak English make it almost impossible to be informed. I suggest learning a few simple local phrases just to be safe.

5.    Dying ….almost!

     Whether it’s from the commute, food, disease, national conflict or natural disasters there is always a risk of dying. Now take a second to evaluate if you thought I was referring to travel or being at home. The reality is that all these things are possible wherever we are, but when we go abroad, being aware of the foreign forms is necessary. In one of the African countries we visited there was an expat who spent an hour fear mongering the possibility of rabies and seemingly, guaranteeing our doom. This was over the top and not helpful at all, but a more realistic near death experience was the ‘taxi’ ride I had in Egypt. Overseas there are definitely risks but they can be adverted if you accurately educate yourself of what each country’s dangers are.

     Now take these odd and uncomfortable experiences I’ve shared and explore our remarkable planet. Embrace that awkward moment to grow from it! I would love to hear some of the abnormalities you’ve experienced throughout your travels!

The photos below are from my last trip in the Caucasus, located in a small mountain village. Even after six months, I still had to be aware of how to act within the context of that sub culture.

Ponder, Comment, Share , Travel!