Striving to use photography to connect the humanity of people around the world and bring about a more just society.

Beirut vs. Amman

 

 

 

In September I got the chance to visit Lebanon for my first time. It was nothing like I expected. I was expecting something like Jordan. It was much more like Europe than I had ever imagined. Not just the streets, but the people too. There were events and parties every night, green trees, clothes that bared the shoulders, knees and sometimes even midriffs… I was definitely not expecting such culture shock when I took a 2-hour plane ride from Amman. I also didn’t pack any shorts – apparently I don’t own any anymore!.

My experience of comparing it to Amman sparked an interesting self-reflection on my life here in Jordan. A lot of folks were surprised to hear that I live in Jordan. “Isn’t it really conservative?” “Isn’t it really boring?” Well….. if you look at it in that way, perhaps. But I still love Amman and what I finally concluded is that Amman is where people’s personalities really come out. Without the hustle and bustle of Beirut or some other western city, people in Amman are forced to be more creative and to get to know each other better.

At the same time, I’ll probably have to break out of this quiet shell of Jordan someday and Beirut is definitely on my list of places I’ll look at next. Here are some shots from my week in Beirut.

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Outdoors Around Jordan

As it often happens when one works a full-time job (which is not photography) photos get swept to the side and put on other hard-drives and forgotten about. This weekend the weather reached freezing though and I was reminded that I have a list of things to do. It was good timing though- just as I’m mourning the loss of good weather, I opened up my computer to see these images which remind me that come March or April we’ll be back outdoors wearing tank-tops again.

The first seven photos here were taken on the Jordan Trail which is a hiking trip that stretches over 600km from the north of Jordan to the very south. Some friends and I volunteered painting trail markings for it and later got to go to Aqaba to see the first people finish the entire hike which took them around 32 days.

The later photos are from one of our climbing spots near Irbid, in the north of Jordan. As you can see, rocks were climbed and pancakes were eaten.

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7 More Months in Jordan

Around seven months have passed since my last past. It keeps shocking me how fast the time has past here. Before I know it I will have been here for a year! I still haven’t been taking a lot of photos, but here are some from my day-trips out of Amman. They are from Madaba – Little Petra – Ajloun – Jerash. Try to count how many times you see Albi, the Palestinian pup!

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Thailand-Burma Border Flashback

One thing I’ve really missed photographing is couples. I love finding creating ways to depict relationships and the emotions that come with them. About a year ago now, I convinced two of my English students to let me shoot them and I was so excited with how the pictures turned out.  They’re both from ethnic minorities in Myanmar and they’re studying law and human rights to make Myanmar a better place. The two were married about two months after these photos were taken. I dearly miss all of my students from Myanmar and I’m still thinking ahead to when I’ll get the chance to visit them again.

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A Wadi Weekend || Jordan

It feels so good to have new photos of good friends and good adventures after such a long break! These pictures were taken at a nameless wadi (valley) outside of Madaba, Jordan. Fall is here and winter is coming quick so we made it a priority to head out and get a good hike in before the weather gets too bad. I can easily say that this was one of my favorite days in Jordan so far. I hope they inspire you to come visit :]

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Ammani life and giving my camera a rest

If you’ve been following my travels, I’ll give you a little update on where I’ve been. Last March I returned to the Chicago area after exactly 1 year and 2 weeks abroad. The travel bug wasn’t out of my system yet but I didn’t have the money to continue, and plus, I needed just a small visit home. I stayed home for almost exactly 6 months working at a restaurant and counting my money until I could get out again. I don’t mean to a be a drag, but to put it bluntly,  I wasn’t happy and I didn’t feel like I could connect with anyone in my town. (When I next have to move back to the States I’m going to make absolutely sure that it will be to a city.) So, I volunteered my time tutoring in English, I got crazy into yoga, I took an arabic course at the community college and I counted my tip money and carefully budgeted for my next move. Ever since I had visited it for 4 days, I knew that Amman, Jordan was where I needed to return for a longer time. Additionally, I had enjoyed the culture and the beginning arabic that I had learned in Palestine, so it made sense that I would go back to that region.

I’ve now been living in Amman for 10 weeks. I teach English part-time and study Arabic part-time and I don’t know if I could be any happier. I’ve met incredible locals and internationals and I have my own little gang of friends. My apartment is amazing: 2 cats and lovely roommates and hanging plants and a stocked kitchen. New clothes are expensive but I’ve discovered the Friday Market which is basically like an enormous thrift store. [And all the clothes are imported used from western countries so it really is exactly like a thrift store (x1000).] I walk, take buses or taxis everywhere and I know where to buy cheap falafel sandwiches in all of the neighborhoods that I frequent. I even worked at a pub/restaurant for a month while I was building up my teaching schedule. I’m still figuring some things out though. I know that searching for an NGO internship is one of the reasons that I moved here, but I’m not sure how to fit it in my schedule. I also haven’t found a yoga studio that I like or fits into my schedule. But these are minor things. The most important part is how surprisingly happy I’ve found myself to be here.

Something else that has changed is the number of times I take my camera out of the apartment. During my RTW trip, I almost never went anywhere without it. Even when I was teaching classes to the Myanmar students I would take it with. Here, I’ve taken it out of my closet exactly once. During that one time that I took it out, I never actually took it out of my backpack because the sun was too bright that day! Surprisingly, I don’t feel like I’m missing something. I feel like I should feel guilty for neglecting it, but I also feel like I just need a break. I have no doubt that I’ll come back to it later. I foresee more writing in my future and I also envision that including photo stories. For the time-being I’m focusing my energy on learning arabic and my own happiness.

I’m posting this blog to let you know that I’m still alive, I’m still adventuring, I haven’t become boring and I’m still living out stories– I’m just taking a break from constantly sharing them. I also haven’t become a recluse either! If you’re friends with me on facebook I’d love to catch up and I’ll be sure to tell you some stories there. Insha’allah something beautiful will happen and I will bring you a photo story soon.

QQ Section Children’s Committee

While I was in Cape Town, South Africa I spent a month hanging out with an organization called CHOSA (Children of South Africa). One of my projects with them was this photo story which they’ve been able to use for their fundraising.

The Children’s Committee was started by community members who saw a pressing need for low-­cost, quality childcare. Since its founding, the residents of QQ Section, have continued to devote their time and energy to create a better life for their community’s youngest members. CHOSA supports the committee with ongoing grants and capacity-building services. Learn more about CHOSA’s work here. The following photos tell the story of the Educare program and the children, families, and caregivers with whom CHOSA is proud to work.

Children in South Africa spend long days at the Educare. They arrive between five and six in the morning and the last children are picked up between five and six in the evening. These four are the last children from Grade R (Kindergarten) waiting to go home on a recent Friday afternoon.

Children in South Africa spend long days at the Educare. They arrive between five and six in the morning and the last children are picked up between five and six in the evening. These four are the last children from Grade R (Kindergarten) waiting to go home on a recent Friday afternoon.

Just like other children around the world, the kids at QQ Community Educare are always delighted to see their parents at the end of the day.

Just like other children around the world, the kids at QQ Community Educare are always delighted to see their parents at the end of the day.

Nokakuthwani is the mother of Kaiser who just began attending the educare in January 2014. She loves the educare because she can tell how sincerely dedicated and loving the teachers are.

Nokakuthwani is the mother of Kaiser who just began attending the educare in January 2014. She loves the educare because she can tell how sincerely dedicated and loving the teachers are.

Visiting the Fihlani family confirmed the community-oriented mindset that much of QQ Section shack settlement is known for. The father in this family stopped working on his neighbor's house for only a few minutes to pose for this photo before he went back to work. Four year-old Ivile also had to be tracked down as she was busy playing with the neighbors' children. This family exhibited a contentment that would surprise many.

Visiting the Fihlani family confirmed the community-oriented mindset that much of QQ Section shack settlement is known for. The father in this family stopped working on his neighbor’s house for only a few minutes to pose for this photo before he went back to work. Four year-old Ivile also had to be tracked down as she was busy playing with the neighbors’ children. This family exhibited a contentment that would surprise many.

 

Jobs are scarce for many people living in the township. “Mama kaMbali”, mother of Mbali, has been in and out of different jobs for most of her life. QQ Section Community Educare's low monthly tuition takes some of the stress away from of her joblessness. Monthly, most educares cost between R250 (~25USD) and R500 (~$50USD), QQ Section's tuition is only R90 (~$9USD) for children aged 3-6 and R120 (~$120USD) for children aged 0-2.

Jobs are scarce for many people living in the township. “Mama kaMbali”, mother of Mbali, has been in and out of different jobs for most of her life. QQ Section Community Educare’s low monthly tuition takes some of the stress away from of her joblessness. Monthly, most educares cost between R250 (~25USD) and R500 (~$50USD), QQ Section’s tuition is only R90 (~$9USD) for children aged 3-6 and R120 (~$120USD) for children aged 0-2.

Nomalizo has worked at QQ Section Community Educare since 2012 and she also serves as an elected committee member for the community. She says that her love for the kids makes the hard work completely worth it.

Nomalizo has worked at QQ Section Community Educare since 2012 and she also serves as an elected committee member for the community. She says that her love for the kids makes the hard work completely worth it.

One of the ways that QQ Section Community Educare is different from other educares is that all children receive cooked breakfasts and lunches. Most educares require parents to either pack a lunch for their kids or to pay extra for meals. Providing the children with the same meals means that they are all equally equipped to learn and play during the day.

One of the ways that QQ Section Community Educare is different from other educares is that all children receive cooked breakfasts and lunches. Most educares require parents to either pack a lunch for their kids or to pay extra for meals. Providing the children with the same meals means that they are all equally equipped to learn and play during the day.

Nomalizo's son Yama was in the first class to graduate from QQ Section Community Educare in 2009. He is now in the 5th grade.

Nomalizo’s son Yama was in the first class to graduate from QQ Section Community Educare in 2009. He is now in the 5th grade.

Here, Nokwandisa is standing in the doorway to the pre-school where the 60 students arrive and leave the educare everyday. She has four children of her own and this is her first job ever at the age of 42.

Here, Nokwandisa is standing in the doorway to the pre-school where the 60 students arrive and leave the educare everyday. She has four children of her own and this is her first job ever at the age of 42.

Andile serves on the Children's Committee as a talented manager of finances. He is studying accounting at a nearby college. Even though he does not have any children at the educare, Andile plans to stay involved with the QQ Section community for a long time.

Andile serves on the Children’s Committee as a talented manager of finances. He is studying accounting at a nearby college. Even though he does not have any children at the educare, Andile plans to stay involved with the QQ Section community for a long time.

Andile and Nokwandisa review the educare's finances as they prepare for a committee meeting. The children's committee meets together every Wednesday to make decisions as a group.

Andile and Nokwandisa review the educare’s finances as they prepare for a committee meeting. The children’s committee meets together every Wednesday to make decisions as a group.

All QQ Section parents are invited to a meeting each quarter to review finances and elect new committee members. Salaries, tuition and food costs are just some components of the budget. Four new committee members were elected at this meeting for the positions of Organizer, Vice-Chairperson, Secretary and Vice-Secretary.

All QQ Section parents are invited to a meeting each quarter to review finances and elect new committee members. Salaries, tuition and food costs are just some components of the budget. Four new committee members were elected at this meeting for the positions of Organizer, Vice-Chairperson, Secretary and Vice-Secretary.

 

Goodtime Donuts || Lifestyle Session

Vietnam || Where Rivers are Roads

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Every destination of mine has been different. Vietnam was my classic tourism destination. I also got to bring my parents with! Vietnam was my chance to show off all my travel skills and plan the best trip ever for my Mom and Dad and I. We went from north to south, hitting up Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, Phong Nha, Hoi An, Ho Chi Minh City and Can Tho- all in just 2 weeks!

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Photo Essay || My Myanmar Mee-Ye-Hta Migration

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December and January were certainly my most movement-filled months of this year. The 2,280 photos in my computer’s ‘Myanmar’ folder can attest to that. Where can I start to tell you about these 57 days? Over these days I made about 12 different stops in 12 places that were all vastly different from each other. What was it that really bound all* of my destinations together? Ah… well… the train is one place to begin…

The following photos were all taken from a mee-ye-hta (train) at some point on my trip. Experienced travelers will tell you that taking public transportation is one of the best ways to experience a culture. Hopefully these photos can further convince you of this!

seen from the Yangon Circle Line

seen from the Yangon Circle Line

seen on the Yangon Circle Line

seen from the Yangon Circle Line

seen from the Yangon Circle Line

seen on the train from Myitkyina to Mandalay

seen on the train from Lashio to Mandalay

the tunnel before the Gokteik Viaduct

 

the world-famous Gokteik Viaduct on the Mandalay-Lashio route

The world-famous Gokteik Viaduct on the Mandalay-Lashio route

seen from the Gokteik Viaduct

looking over the Gokteik Viaduct

looking over the Gokteik Viaduct

The world-famous Gokteik Viaduct on the Mandalay-Lashio route, and my new grandmother-grandson friends

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sunset on the Mandalay-Yangon line

Originally posted at Hope RTW