Bear Family Does Yangon

the bear family

Planning my trip Myanmar, I’ll admit that I didn’t have any set expectations. I shouldn’t even be allowed to use the word “planning”, perhaps convincing four other people to embark on one of my crazy unforgettable dreams would be more appropriate. I can assure you that more energy and sweat was spent obtaining visas and making sure passport photos were printed and cut correctly. In fact so little planning aside from purchasing plane tickets (ahem except for David someone ahem) went into our initial itinerary, as in we may or may not have wandered around aimlessly begging hostels and in one desperate instance a monastery to allow us just two centimeters of floor space for a night.

back streets with monks and a vendor

Did we realize that it was peak season in one of the most sought after mysterious time warps of countries? Meh-beh yes. Did we realize how crazy imbalanced the person to bed ratio would be? Meh-beh no. It seems that those approving visas in tourism affairs have yet to send a kind memo informing those in the hotel industry. Through luck and charm, we unfortunately never got the chance to take shifts in the hammock that I’d brought over nor did we have to sleep in any monasteries or on the streets (though it would’ve been fun to write those posts: “The Bear Family Swings…in Hammocks…Yeah, Hammocks!” or “The Bear Family Goes Homeless Buddhist”).

crossing the street, waving men

more apartments

Boarding a hotel shuttle bus whose glory days must have surpassed sixty years, some of us were given free tourism magazines. When I wasn’t busy daydreaming out the window and inhaling the local aromas unpleasantly belched from the many old vehicles that still operate on clunky noise/fresh air contaminating carburetors, I was busy memorizing Burmese phrases out of the tourism magazine with Elaine, sometimes adding a Texan twang (a successful method that once helped me to remember difficult Indonesian phrases during training). Hey Elaine… what’s “hello”? JaY-ZHoo-BaY… noooo, my dear… the other oneeee…MINGAH-LAH-BAH!!!! YESSS! Girl, you so SMART… Jay-ZHoo-BaY (thank you).

Weaving between the back alleys of a market, we crossed a discreet set of train tracks

Weaving between the back alleys of a market, we crossed a discreet set of train tracks

Each set of balconies seemed to have a wire dangling from it attached to a pulley down below... perhaps their carrier pigeons got lazy.

Each set of balconies seemed to have a wire dangling from it attached to a pulley above and a small clip for letters down below… perhaps their carrier pigeons got lazy.

I swear I spent that hour memorizing many more things, but those phrases failed to reappear when we wandered hungrily into a small food stall. I felt like the biggest tourist sitting there among the locals, not knowing how to order because there was no visible menu. Between lots of pointing, nodding, and smiling, they brought something out that resembled nothing but delicious bowls of noodles that left us quite pleased…until dinner blew our minds (and not our wallets).First taste of Yangon

first dinner

Until only a few years ago, before the government adopted Naypyidaw as its new capital, Yangon (aka Rangoon), a quaint southern port city tucked along the Irrawaddy delta, had been flexing its political muscle for nearly 120 years. Over the more recent decades as power has slowly transitioned from militaristic rule to something that currently resembles bits and pieces of an aspiring democracy, Yangon has unintentionally been able to preserve the unique and alluring colonial quality that is rarely found anywhere anymore (except for Cuba and popular Victorian-era lit).

peering into an alley

old colonial style apartments

Some young men cutting and polishing precious gems in the back of a shop

Some young men cutting and polishing precious gems in the back of a shop

An attempt to see the romanticized Bay of Bengal was in actuality met by tall, restrictive barbwire fences, train tracks, and a non-conspicuous looking warehouse with a corrugated facade. Maybe we had made a wrong turn and missed the mock Jersey Shore boardwalk selling Jell-O shooters and all you can eat funnel cakes (that post would’ve been called “Bear Family Receives An Unexpected Visit From Sir Stomachache and A Madame Hangover, Respectively”). We were a little bit disappointed but not enough to stop us from exploring.street cuties

We ended up wandering around, watching our every step to dodge the blood-red betel nut chew-splatters that decoratively stained the sidewalks until we unexpectedly discovered one of a supposed thirty-six (as of only three months ago or so) [discreetly placed] functioning ATM machines in the entire country of over sixty million people. Interesting fact: The kyat’s largest bank note is K10,000 which is about $11. But since ATM machines only dispensed K5,000 notes, it wasn’t hard to make it rain with only $50.

Fashion emergency: Someone should tell this guy that any self-respecting rapper hasn’t swagged around in studded denim button-ups since…NEVER

Fashion emergency: Someone should tell this guy that any self-respecting rapper hasn’t swagged around in studded denim button-ups since…NEVER

Plus! Daniel’s post: Burma Photos: Part I, Temples and Towns.

Up next: Bears Gone ‘dagon

The Bear Family Chronicles

Not too long ago, Daniel and I boarded a plane bound for Bangkok. Besides marveling at all of the modern amenities of a true, functional world-class city that undeniably emanates legitimate, thoughtful urban and social planning (imagine: handicapped accessible sidewalks…a clean, safe mass transit system…the most gruesome cigarette advertisements that I have ever seen…and affordable alcohol…okay, that last one is sort of unrelated but I still wholeheartedly approved). Traveling to Bangkok served as a place of importance to us. Not only would it be the primary meeting hub for us to reunite with our older siblings after what has felt like eons (!!) but it would also be the only convenient place for us to obtain express visas for our real destination: Myanmar.

Myanmar, also known to many as Burma (I can only say Burma if I use a haughty, elite colonialist accent: bUUUUhr-mAHHHH), easily climbed its way up to the top of my travel list upon hearing about the exceptional time that some of my most well traveled friends, Hannah and Ben, had recently had. However, if I had known about the epic journey that Rambo had once experienced, toughing his way through the overgrown jungles of Northern Thailand, likely beheading a couple of wild beasts along the way, perhaps I would’ve tried a lot harder to visit sooner… but really, I couldn’t have…

Myanmar has been living in isolation from the majority of the (especially Western) world, subsisting primarily on an IV of never-ending, blooding-sucking support from China. Until as recently as 2010, foreigners weren’t allowed to freely wander into the country without their movements being strictly controlled or monitored. But the metaphoric sleeping dragon has finally been awakened by the calls of the globalization beast. With recent elections promising larger strides towards a transparent democracy, reforms have been rapidly underway — most notably with the 2010 release of Aung San Suu Kyi, national hero turned international icon of peace and democracy, not to mention 1991 Nobel Peace Prize recipient (among many other international recognitions), who had been in and out of house arrest since the early-90s. With the rest of the world’s investors and extraction companies eyeing the country like hungry, emaciated wolves, yearning to get their piece in this abundantly rich bed of natural resources, the country is transforming… fast, really, really fast, succumbing to both the conveniences and evils of globalization. I wanted to experience Myanmar while it still had its sleepy, humble, post-colonial charm. Is this what I got? To an extent.

***

Before the chronicles continue any further — an introduction to The Bear Family. Why the silly name? I don’t really know. Essentially we were all family. David adopted the name upon our second day together and it stuck throughout our travels. As time went on, it grew to become more endearing, especially once we realized how isolated we felt from the actual cozy holiday events with our families happening thousands of miles away, without us.

mama bear

The matriarch, Mama Bear: Elaine (my older sister). She is the resilient, undeniably pretty, energizer bunny of all things. Eats like a truck driver and still stays so slim. I have never seen anyone carry around hot sauce and chili flakes in their purse with as much pride as she does. Do I have a bomb-diggity sister? Uh, duh. Did I also mention that she’s an incredibly talented jeweler? Shameless advertising? Meh-beh.

papa bear

The patriarch, Papa Bear: David (Daniel’s older brother). The aficionado of fun, ice cream, and making friends, the gung-ho-let’s-go, will persuade you to follow him anywhere if you get caught in those charming baby blues. May forget to purchase plane tickets and bring his credit card to places of importance.
auntie bearThe voice of logic, Auntie Bear: Erin (Elaine’s childhood friend). The professional, the calm voice of all reason and promoter of equilibrium. Need hand-sanitizer? Bandaids? This girl’s got your back. Wanna know the current exchange rate of Thai Baht or Malay Ringgit to the US Dollar? Psssh, who needs Google when you’ve got Er? PLUS: Recipient of Honorary Sister Award.

brother bearThe Bear family bookkeeper, Brother Bear: Daniel. The impressively organized tabs-keeper, explorer extraordinaire, fellow-wanderer, not to mention quiiite handsome and a kid charmer in the villages. Give him a soccer ball, he’ll bring you some friends that redefine adorable.

baby bear

The wandering ATM, Baby Bear: Me. I may or may not have wandered off a couple of times to capture special shots or maybe just because I enjoy taking the road less traveled. And I may or may not have become a money lender, interest-free (man, I’m a nice person). Sometimes I lend my camera to boogerful children, this photo is a result of that.

Up Next: Bear Family Does Yangon

Patience, Yeah?

I took about ONE THOUSAND ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY FIVE photos in the past two weeks. I just got home. I’d forgotten how stifling the Indonesian humidity actually was. Resettling back into the village, cleaning up the rainy season’s holiday gift that just keeps on giving (mold), and trying to settle a treaty between the laundry lords and the sun lords but so far the uninvited cloud lords seem to be dominating the talks.

Last night I dreamt I was still roaming the back streets of Yangon with some people I’m missing very much. Eager to share what’s been going on, I’ll leave you with a preview.

***

TWO sets of siblings (+ONE honorary sibling) coming together from THREE different countries to visit TWO more…

THOUSANDS of ancient temples, ONE gorgeous dreamlike lake, COUNTLESS adorable trash puppies, TWENTY PLUS hotel rejections, reoccurring confusion between FOUR different currency conversions during ONE big holiday reunion that was too much wonderfulness to actually quantify, REALLY

(and ONE jar of Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter confiscated by the Bangkok airport security, and that’s the closest I’ve come to really crying in a long time)

Stay tuned.

IMG_0194 IMG_0197 IMG_0211 IMG_0258 IMG_1349 IMG_0937

The Power of Disappointment

Let’s jump right in.

I’ll be highlighting some of the recent challenges that have forced me to taste the lovely, tangy concoction of failure, disappointment, and bewilderment with a splash of bitterness. I’m aiming to stay neutral without getting into too many specifics or placing blame. 

Because I’m generally a positive lady, I’m putting those germinating gray hairs back in their place by rightfully sprinkling throughout this post 10 things that make my time here wonderful and sweet.

***

Top 10: Working for and promoting peace, tolerance, and understanding, damn it.

Top 10: Would it be inaccurate to say that this photo sums up my Peace Corps work? Working for and promoting peace, cultural awareness, tolerance, and understanding, damn it.

***

Mid-October: I was going through packets of aspirin at record speeds like I was trying to qualify for an olympic event. By mid-week, I was burning out harrrrd. I could feel the occasional ‘wrinkles of disapproval’ beginning to furrow deeper into my forehead as the gray hairs aggressively began to materialize, rooting themselves in place with no exit plan…was this my idea of aging gracefully? At 24 years-old, let’s say that again, twenty-fourdefinitely not. It felt like the spunky, youthful side of me was drowning in a shallow reservoir somewhere.

I came home from school unusually angry one day. Nothing in particular had triggered the rush of fury, but certain events of daily life had taken an unsettling turn in my mind and ignited something within. I literally felt like I was on fire with restlessness. I texted my sister back in the States out of desperation for some feedback but really I wanted to think everything through before I vented to someone, so I wrote. The all too versatile “F-bomb” made several appearances throughout as I released everything unto an innocent sheet of scratch paper. After writing, I was better. I ate two big mangoes and felt less like a Mentos/Coca-Cola explosion and more like a calm cup of chamomile tea.

***

Top 10: pillow talk, need I say more?

Top 10: pillow talk, need I say more?

***

From Peace Corps itself, I’ve coped with a vast range of interesting experiences, both good and bad, that at this point, I can proudly say have challenged me and aided in a lot of personal growth that wouldn’t have happened any other way and isn’t as self-evident as other shifts in attitude may be. But what I’ve realized in this past month is that dealing with disappointment never gets easier and doesn’t exactly mature over time like its cousin failure does. What it’s done has caused me to think more about the social culture in acceptance of unfortunate behaviors versus what they could or should be, and what prevents positive change from happening at such a mediocre level, weighing the consequences of each.

I still don’t have many answers.

***

Top 10: The endless exploration of the unknown with new and old friends alike whenever the time allows.

Top 10: The endless exploration of the unknown with new and old friends alike whenever the time allows.

***

With second year comes clarity on multiple levels. And with that clarity comes a burgeoning sense of responsibility and accountability that wasn’t as obvious during first year. Everything is less foreign and therefore I feel comfortable enough to navigate through situations while connecting and sharing honest opinions with those I’ve forged intimate trust with, instead of basking in the novelty of certain moments looking helplessly like this (for those with slow internet connections, it’s my favorite confusing pug video!).

For me, second year isn’t about holding back, and with the months racing by, it’s also not about wasting time (sampai jumpa, Facebook) either.

I’ve also learned that working in a school especially at the bottom level, with all of its erratic structures and scheduling on top of the pressures to appease the local governments, is actually a very, very chaotic environment where very little can be controlled, only tamed to an extent by bureaucracy.

With that said, I’m constantly asking myself, “with so much out of my own control, and occasional awkward cultural barriers that I’m unable to surpass, in the end, why should I care? Why don’t others around me seem to be bothered by the same things?” As much as I become frustrated with disruptive students and rare rotten apple teachers, I cared because I am a human being wanting to help another human being. This may not be my real life forever, but it is someone’s real life. Immunity to empathy is impossible for me. It’s that simple. Is it okay to be that simple?  

***

Top 10: My family of ID5's, there's too much love and admiration to fit into one tiny caption.

Top 10: My family of ID5’s, there’s too much love and admiration to fit into one tiny caption. (Natasha, where’d you go??!)

***

Teen pregnancy. This semester alone, four 10th and 11th grade girls had been quietly removed from my school. For one semester at my school, that’s four times as many as usual. I’m not sure if I should look at that number with relief as being relatively low considering there’s essentially zero educational guidance on sexual reproduction or whether I should continue to pout and see that number as daunting because the lives of my own students have taken an unexpected turn for motherhood before they even had the opportunity to explore their potentials as young women with big ideas? Or am I being too much of an idealist when these girls were already destined to be married off after graduating from high school, their potentials already caged and locked away since the moment of birth?

While eating dinner one evening, I was reading one of Indonesia’s leading newspapers, the Jawa Pos, when a gruesome article about an illegal abortion clinic caught my attention. Struggling to follow all of the details, I asked my sister to help me understand some unrecognizable vocabulary, which led to us to talk about the students who’d been kicked out. I wasn’t stunned when she said that the girls at our school had been stupid, stupid for engaging in premarital activities, stupid for not knowing the consequences of having sex [for the first time]. I didn’t feel the same. Mostly I felt pity. I felt pity because while their behavior was risky and seemingly irresponsible, where and how were they supposed to learn about these consequences? If this dialogue isn’t happening at home or at school… whose responsibility is it to provide guidance and resources? What about the dangers that pregnancies pose on girls whose bodies have not yet fully developed? How many more teen parents are needed until we can come to terms with the bigger issue?

***

Top 10: The little ones. Caring for them like they were my own little brothers and sisters.

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Being a teacher isn’t easy. I realize that this problem goes much deeper and that I will come off sounding like the naive novice teacher that I am.

I’ll risk it.

When a student fails to meet the basic competencies required of them, should they still be allowed to proceed to the next grade level where work is supposedly more challenging and builds upon previous knowledge? How about the lazy boys in classes who have doggie paddled and cheated their way throughout their educational careers? The ones who sit in the back and don’t do shit and get away with it. What about me and other teachers? What about the time we spend thinking about our lesson plans and keeping classes of forty hot, hormonal teens entertained and under control?

Who is wasting whose time?

I was in a dilemma: Continuing teaching a class primarily composed of lazy boys (with a few quiet although hardworking girls) who don’t give an absolute damn about much of what happens inside of school (I’d like to believe deep down in my heart that they are passionate about other things, and that’s fine, but come on, work with me here, only 90 minutes), continue to accept them as a challenge and exert the energy it takes to calm them down and keep them interested OR drop them and adopt another class who values my time?

I ended up choosing the latter which made me feel like an utter jerk. Was I letting them down? What about the kids who were good? Was I kicking Peace Corps’ core values in the face?

I gave them opportunities to make up for their terrible behavior, I simplified my lessons, I gave them second chances, my time and foolishly my trust and hopes that they would do better the following week, but they spoiled it.

Coming close to breaking down in front of the class, trying to instill a sense of value in learning (beyond English) and how other students their own ages in their own country would never be given the opportunities to have the same quality of education that they typically sleep through (I seemed to be making a point that was getting through), making them promise they’d try harder next time, and then returning the following week expecting changes only to see bad habits persisting, I felt disappointed in the students, but mostly in myself, for trying my hardest and still failing. I asked myself “what would heroic PCV [name here] do?” but stopped second guessing myself, realizing that only I could help myself. Ultimately my decision was to drop the class and pick up another, and I couldn’t have been happier with that decision.

The worry of personal responsibility and making hard decisions during second year weighs heavily on me this year. How can I still have students who can’t seem to draw contextual clues of when to use “good morning” and “good afternoon” when they’ve been receiving English instruction for the majority of their lives? Is that my failing as a teacher? Or is it the structure and quality of learning they’d been receiving before I stepped foot on Java? I don’t know, but I’m trying to fix what I can. Glacial pace is better than no pace at all, right?

***

Top 10: Relaxing with friends, sarong picnics, being ourselves together. ID’s, each and every one of you are beyond words great.

***

Thirsty for guidance. What do you do when you have a student with obvious parental negligence issues? When this student has an obviously uncomfortable skin problem all over their body that has gone untreated? When this same student is a bully and is bullied in their class?  When all teachers know about this student and their disruptive behavior problems but no one does anything about it? The signs are obvious, but what is my role?

How about the student who wears glasses, sits close enough to the board, and still must rely on his classmates to help him because he can’t see clearly enough? Who’s going to help him?

Or the student who goes around harassing his female classmates? Grabbing them inappropriately and is regularly caught peeking into the bathrooms? How about when you find out the consequences don’t apply to him specifically because of his wealth and his parents’ position on the school board? Will this behavior progress into something worse? Could he end up seriously harming someone in the future? What is my role, what is my school’s role? Aren’t we supposed to provide a safe learning environment for all students?

These are all too common anywhere and I’m not openly trying to absorb the burden but sometimes I wonder how I can live with myself when there’s resources and preventative measures to take and no one willing to take them?

***

Top 10: My sassy, smart, spunky English Club girls. Sure, they may ask a fair share of silly questions and talk about certain things ad nauseam but they’re still fun. Who else can I rely on to ride 20k’s with me just for a glass of es oyen? A rainbow of jilbabs, they’re adorable.

***

I’ll give you crazy. I walked into a typically rowdy class one afternoon to find that they were eerily quiet and tame. I later found out that the teacher in the previous period had given them a pretty nasty piece of her mind.

You’re nothing. You’re a social class. You’re dumb and you’ll never be anything. 

Sure, sometimes the kids can get really crazy and you feel like going Kindergarten Cop – Arnold – I – Can – Swallow – You – Whole – If – You – Provoke – Me – Schwarzenegger on their asses, but they’re teenagers bursting with epinephrine and energy. You make ’em sit still in a classroom for 7 hours, and that’s what happens. Madness.

I can’t imagine anything else worse to say to a classroom full of already insecure and confused students who are expected to study 15 subjects per semester, let’s say that again, fifTEEN (!), 6 days a week, in one overcrowded classroom in the wilting heat all day, all year-round.

As my friends in high school would say to someone who was being a real jerk, “you’re a real grade A [asshole].”

Educators should be like a second set of parents, willing to guide, support, and encourage, nothing less.

***

Top 10: Getting to know teachers on a personal level. How welcoming and hospitable people can be when they haven’t known you for very long and yet treat you as family.

***

Teachers who personally attack students by challenging their intelligence and self-worth.

A student at my school, who excels in less academic ways, but whose forte is in the creative arts, recently represented our school in a region-wide competition. Our principal wouldn’t allow permission for any of our teachers to accompany the student to the competition in the city, so she had to go alone. During the competition, she observed the other participants who were receiving endless showers of support and encouragement by their own schools. Where was hers? That’s a pretty crappy feeling. This student ended up taking 1st place in the competition (booyakasha!), and went on to win 1st place again at a higher tier, which has qualified her to represent our school and our regency in Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, sometime next semester. Cue Journeyjust a small town girl… 

The excitement had backfired in many ways though, with teacher’s interrogating her in class…

You couldn’t have possibly written that by yourself. You must have had lots of help from someone. How could [student] have won? They aren’t good in [xyz class]. [Student] probably only won because [student xyz from xyz school] couldn’t attend the competition. 

***

Top 10: The 10 + mango producing trees in my yard that has made recent breakfasts holy-moley amazing. What's in the bowl? Mangoes, dates, almonds, walnuts, honey, and dried oats. Hale yah!

Top 10: The 10 + mango producing trees in my yard that has made recent breakfasts holy-moley amazing. What’s in the bowl? Mangoes, dates, almonds, walnuts, honey, and dried oats. Hale yah!

***

How can a group of people be so accepting of something they know is morally wrong, irresponsible, self-degrading or just plain inhumane, especially in the workplace where we all *supposedly* view one another as family. I’m talking the big, bad, and the ugly: physical abuse and sexual harassment.

***

Top 10: Hanging out with students outside of school and learning about their other creative talents.

Top 10: Hanging out with students outside of school and learning about their other creative talents.

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I can’t say much else but that it’s hard living here sometimes. I see and feel more than I want to, but I’m learning as much as I can to build resilience to move forward and do good where I can.

Poon Hill Trek: Guest Post by 90 Second Travel

Two of my best childhood friends whom I haven’t seen since we had The Biggest Charlottesville In Vientiane Reunion to date, got together last month for a couple of days of trekking in the mountains of Nepal. If you love the mountains and making fun of cookie cutter package deal tourists, this post will NOT disappoint — if anything you’ll find yourself suddenly opening a new tab and checking out airfare prices to get on the next flight out to Nepal. Maybe.

Both Ben and Hannah are talented beyond words, you’d be a fool not to check out their blogs. For real. Do it.

Somewhere Near Here.

Ben, my Nepal travel partner and fellow blogger, has been documenting his 6 month trip across Asia in quirky 90 second travel snippets.  But while we were in Nepal, I seemed to be the one taking the video, and he was the one making insightful comments, so we decided, this time, to switch…  So here is his account of our 4-day trek to Poon Hill/Ghorepani. My 90 second travel video is coming soon.

Day 1:
I told Hannah to pack light, but she didn’t listen and has spent the evening bearing her very heavy load up some very steep stairs with an expression very reminiscent of a participant in a desert marathon or someone who has spent more than two hours inside of a Walmart.

The only difference between the weight of our packs is Hannah’s new SLR, the kind of machinery that looks like it can take X-rays…

View original post 1,031 more words

When You Give A Kid A Camera

I had my first formal photography lessons when I was nine. While using an old manual Nikon, under the artistic guidance of Jen Fariello, I learned to visualize ordinary settings and situations from alternative perspectives. In short, it was an unforgettable summer, laying down the foundations of a creative platform to abide by and one of the reasons why I love photography and am a very visual learner today. I wish shooting with film was as common today as it was then (there’s nothing like the high from both the exhilaration and the chemicals that you get developing your own rolls) but I haven’t found one place in Java that accepts film — I’ve looked! Alas embracing digital technology is unavoidable and unless one has the right tools to get those creative juices organically flowing, homogeneity ensues, especially in a culture like Java’s. Now that I’ve got quite a following of neighborhood children, just as impressionable and curious as I was at that age, I’ve taken this as an opportunity to get their sticky sugarcane paws on my camera and see what happens…

(throwback: the first time this happened resulted in one of my absolute favorites that without a doubt may define a huge portion of my service and give reason to why I have 4 new cavity fillings):

Let’s be real: teaching photography isn’t easy, especially in a foreign language. Even I’m still learning how to use my camera. I’m not perfect at all. The kids I work with are naturally bold so what I’ve focused on the most is getting the kids to hold the camera properly, reducing camera shake, framing shots, and cleansing all posed ‘peace/punk/cherrybelle-sign-y’ shots of their friends out of their little systems in order to capture something more intuitive. They see things that I don’t. They value beauty in things that I may not. Some naturally possess the eye and some don’t. Either way, giving encouragement and trusting that they won’t shatter one of my most expensive possessions is crucial to their creative learning….

For being elementary school children, I’m impressed. A few of my recent favorites:


That brings me to ask: Does anyone have any ideas how to start a sustainable photography project in the villages?

The Perks of Peaking

I’m going backwards a bit with this post. School is school. Grading is grading. Teenagers are… [hormonal/temperamental/heartbreaking] teenagers. Cute village tots are still cute village tots. And if you forgot, Indonesia is still really, really HOT. Every day has its fair share of bizarre moments, of up’s and down’s, of beauty, but nothing sticks out enough that I feel the urge to share. I’d rather share some photos from a recent hiking trip to Mount Lawu that I took back in August, with a bunch of bomb-diggity friends of mine. I needn’t explain much because two of them have already done that quite well… check it: DP‘s ‘Doing Lawu‘ & JAlf‘s ‘The Sky Is Open‘.

What isn’t depicted in these photos (thanks JAlf):

A group of 7 of us rode up to the trail head, driven by a slightly crazy and more than slightly awesome person, to begin at around 10 at night.  We made our leisurely way up through the posts along the trail, stopping at post 3 (of 5) to eat and sleep a bit.  We sat in the frigid night air consuming trail mix, cookies, and peanuts.  Unfortunately, the stop also lowered our body temperatures to the point that it felt my muscles were doing some sort of sadistic foxtrot under my skin.  We, again, relied on the Cuddle Puddle™ to save us.  We raked ourselves together into a leaf pile of people and attempted to get some fitful rest before going on toward the top.

All I have to say is, thank goodness for Cuddle Puddles™ or I’d have frozen to death.

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(1) The initial ‘we peaked’ jig looked something like like this. note: I have about 25 more of these —


(2) The sarongs kept us warm and cozy and then the bromance kicked in…

(3) After the bromance wore-off [just a little], there was more dancing, pop-tart toasting (minus a real toaster, more like a cheersing), mini-naps in the sun, and overall happiness to have peaked Lawu together. 

(4) Perhaps hiking down wasn’t as smooth as it should have been. There were some wrong turns that led us to rock climb (it wasn’t enjoyable), we were hungry and tired, legs felt like jell-o, thighs were kiiiiiickin’ tight, and we all felt gross. The aftermath was nice though as we slept and were fed liiiiberally.

***

side note: Not a day goes by where I regret that I brought a down vest and wool socks to Indonesia. Even though Indonesia is HOT, mountains are COLD.