Jewel Imaging Blog bio picture
  • Hello. Welcome to my blog!

    Please check out our new fine art photography and graphic design business! www.paulandjewel.com

    This blog is no longer active but it is a great chronicle through my initial first few years as a photographer. The blog started while I was at photography school in Massachusetts, covers my time working in Florida and Georgia, and chronicles our recent 6 month adventure working with orphans in Thailand. Thanks for visiting!

Yearly Archives: 2011

The Half-way Point – Our Thailand Home

I can’t believe we’re almost at our half-way point. Paul and I have been working in Thailand just short of three months! Three more months to go.

Most days we absolutely love our simple life here. Most days we laugh endlessly with the amazing children of the Baan Unrak Home. Some days we’re terribly home-sick and occasionally we’re just plain sick. Every day comes with its own challenges. But we are so happy to be here. We are so happy these children have nestled deep into our hearts.

Now its time to leave the country and renew our Thai visas for another three months. We’re headed to Cambodia by bus and will be taking a couple of weeks to travel, have adventures and refresh ourselves! I have to admit, we’re ready for a break. I look forward to sharing photographs of Cambodia and Baan Unrak when we return to our little Thailand home. Love and Peace! – Jewel Maree

 

Loi Krathong – Our Thailand Home

 

Loi Krathong was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.

The holiday is celebrated each November during the full moon. It is a time to let go of the year’s grudges and start anew. It seemed like each family in the village made or bought their own Krathong, the small lotus shaped boat (Paul and I had one too). Candles, incense, coins and offerings are placed on the Krathongs as a homage to the Goddess of the Water. It is generally believed that floating the Krathongs far out into the lake brings luck and purifies the water. Our photos do not do justice to the beauty of the tradition, but I hope they will transport you for a moment to our small village of Sangkla during the full moon.

 

Boys in Black and White – Our Thailand Home

These kids break my heart, make me smile, and fill me with laughter every day. I took these portraits in and around the newly completed Boy’s House at Baan Unrak. I have written descriptions based on what I have learned from these boys in the past month here. The new house is somewhat bare at the moment and they are collecting funds to fill each new room with beds for the boys. Paul and I are doing well and loving every second getting to know the amazing boys and girls here. I hope you enjoy this post and that it brings a smile to your face. Love and peace!

 

Monkila

You can’t help but laugh when 8-year-old Monkila laughs, or smile when his eyes light up. He is eager to please; he loves high fives and hugs. He has cerebral palsy, so he still attends the nursery school. His body is weak and he struggles with a range of intense emotions that change very quickly, but like all of the children here, he has admirable strength. Monkila bakes delicious cookies at The Bakery once a week with a volunteer.

Krishna

Krishna is a calm, quiet, unstoppable 4-year-old. He is a mixture of a monkey and an athlete on the playground. He rarely cries or fusses. When you look at Krishna, you may focus on his handsome eyes, round cheeks and sweet expression, never even noticing his cleft lip.

Ahong

Ahong is a lively and bright 9-year-old; his English skills are extraordinary. He is so intelligent and mature that he often seems like more of an adult than a child (until you see him wildly running and giggling). Ahong has a soft spot for affection and animals. He will proudly show off the dogs and newest kittens at the Home to anyone interested.

Samuella

Samuella is a ball of untamed 8-year-old energy. Independent and self-sufficient, he’s a real boy’s boy. He is too small for most bicycles but will go on a ride any chance he gets. He is passionate about marbles and scary jungle creatures.

Tenyasoo

This little guy is full of wild energy and easy smiles. With one bat of his eyelashes, he will convince you to spin him ’round and ’round and hug him tight for hours. He is 5-years-old but extremely small for his age. Aside from a protrusion on his chest, you would never guess that he had open-heart surgery when he was 2.

Paul and Tenyasoo

Wat Temple – Our Thailand Home

When we say that our new village is gorgeous, we really mean it. Sangkla is surrounded by the waters of a large lake with lush mountainous jungle in every direction. There are also three temples within walking distance of where we live and work. The temple pictured below is one on the opposite side of the lake from us, across the longest wooden bridge in Thailand. We’ve walked to the temples a few times on our days off from Baan Unrak and the kids bike there every weekend with Paul.

Every day is different here, but now that the children are done with their October break and back in school we’re settling into more of a routine with our various tasks. I miss hanging out with the kiddos all day everyday, though its nice not to be as exhausted. My birthday was on Friday and Paul completely spoiled me. My favorite part was renting a canoe (going back to our roots), exploring a sunken temple, and watching the sun set from the middle of the lake; amazing. We didn’t bring the cameras, but I might post some iphone pictures later on.

 

 

PUPPIES! – Our Thailand Home

There are dogs everywhere in our village of Sangkla’. Dogs crowd the streets in much of Thailand but Sangkla’ is notorious for high populations. There isn’t a village vet so the population is constantly increasing and struggling. Most of the dogs are friendly, some aren’t, many don’t have homes or are treated very poorly. Its really sad to see all of the abuse and neglect, especially coming from a culture where we generally see dogs as best buds.

One of the great projects at Baan Unrak is an Animal Sanctuary, and the Children’s Home itself cares for several (very patient and well loved) dogs. There were a few puppies born at the Home recently and we couldn’t resist stealing some cuddles and photos with Fairy yesterday. It made my day infinitely better. I hope these make you smile!

Portrait Making and Yoga – Our Thailand Home

Hello! Everyday we are learning and adjusting to our simple life in Thailand. Its full of blessings, bugs, heat, and cuteness. Yesterday was wonderful! I took a break from office work and ended up spending all day hanging out with the kids and photographing them. Sharing cuddles and giggles and jokes with these kids fills me with so much happy energy.

When I first imagined doing more formal portraits of the kids here, I pictured one child at a time coming into a quiet room all set up with chairs, a tripod and a reflector to be photographed. What a silly thought! Quiet and organization are completely foreign things here. I ended up just sitting on the ground in a hallway with children running and screaming all around me, some climbing on me, while I created impromptu Portraits of kids with the orange wall as a backdrop (like 2 of the photos from this post). Paul admired my patience, but I wasn’t struggling to be patient. I was loving every second of it. The kids seemed to love it too! Some were shy at first but they all hammed it up and loved to see their pictures on the back of the camera afterward. I would let them do a silly photo and then a slightly more serious one, all the while telling them how beautiful or handsome they are. It makes me so sad to see that many of the kids don’t believe they’re beautiful, inside and out, and I hope to tell them and show them enough that they start to believe me just a little bit. I felt like I was doing what I am meant to do, making kiddos giggle while documenting and reaffirming beauty. I hope to capture at least one beautiful Portrait of each of the 140 children while I’m here. I can’t wait to share them all! For now, here is a photo that Paul took on his phone of the Portrait process.

 

I also watched a Yoga Performance practice yesterday and grabbed a few photos. Some of the kids are really dedicated and have traveled all through Asia doing yoga performances! It was really fun to watch, though I think my presence may have made them a little nervous and extra giggly.

One little girl who is about 10 years old, Ganda, came and sat with me while I watched the practice. I let her (super carefully) borrow my camera and these last two photos are hers! Pretty fantastic, huh!? She looked so tiny with the big camera in her hands. At first she was snapping away like crazy but when I explained to her that a photographer must be patient and wait for the perfect moment, she seemed to get it. It made me so excited for the donated cameras to come in and to get the photo class started! Will post again soon. Love and peace.

Buddhist Holiday etc. – Our Thailand Home

Hello! Earlier this month there was a big Buddhist holiday celebrated in Asia called Boun Bavorana Auk Pansa. The holiday celebrates the end of the monk’s rainy-season-fasting. Here in Sangklaburi, the townspeople dress up in their finest clothing and bring food and offerings to the monks at the temple. The monks zigzag through the crowds, collecting the offerings in their bowls. Periodically they dump their overflowing bowls into huge rice sacks and then continue on.

We were working at the Home when we heard about the holiday and I really wanted to see it, so we took a little break from the kids and walked into town. Thankfully we were able to see the last bit of the processions. With all of the orange robes and goodies, it reminded me a little of Trick-or-Treating. What an interesting experience! There are three temples in town. Two large and ornate temples are located across the wooden bridge on “the Mon Side” (pictures to come). There is also a tiny temple in town across from the Baan Unrak bakery (yum) where these festivities took place. This temple has a reputation for being very slack and unfortunately some of the monks don’t behave in very monkly ways, but the celebration was really cool to see nonetheless. I took the first photograph and Paul did all of the rest!

 

 

There are afternoon yoga classes here twice a week for the volunteers, held in a beautiful open-air space above the Home with jungle and lake views. We’re headed there now for our first class, though we have already taken three awesome Teaching Yoga to Children classes! I’m looking forward to getting back into yoga and tomorrow is our day off (we work at the Home 6 days a week) so I’m in good spirits.

Please don’t forget about the Orphanage Photo Class project if you have any old cameras and supplies around! Love and peace.

Settling into our Thailand home

We arrived in our new home of Sangklaburi, Thailand two and a half weeks ago. The mini-bus ride from Kanchana was cramped and we speedily drove up intensely windy hills that even got Paul feeling a little sick. We were so relieved to finally arrive in the small, beautiful lakeside village right before sunset. After spending the night in town, we walked with our backpacks and gear up to the Baan Unrak Children’s Home. It was surreal to finally be here, a place that we had been imagining for several months.

Since we arrived earlier than originally planned the Volunteer Coordinator and the founding Didi (sister) were both gone which made our first week more challenging. A volunteer showed us to our room and left us to explore the Children’s Home. We found the Home’s clinic and I got treated for the crazy jungle sting I mentioned in the last post. I got started right away meeting with the natural medicine Didi about a project. Even though I don’t have any experience I have been assigned to help her develop some completely natural massage oils and lotions to make here in order to raise money for the Home, its been interesting to learn about.

At the beginning of the dinner our first night, we sat alone. None of the kids would talk with us and would only occasionally give us suspicious glances. By the end of dinner, we moved to a table where a few kids would shyly talk with us just a little. After dinner, some of the kids asked us to go over to the playground and a mob of tiny people began chatting us up and climbing all over us. After a couple of hours it seemed like all of their previous shyness had melted away and we had some adorable new friends whom we quickly became very fond of. We attended their evening meditation then headed to our room for the night.

The room they gave us was a half-basement and the mattress, bedding, concrete walls and floors were full of mold. Spending more than a couple of minutes in the room for the first time, I realized I couldn’t breathe. I’m allergic to mold. It was raining and dark, so we stayed there for the night but I had constant asthma. Clearly, we wouldn’t be able to stay there another night. When you can’t breathe, your body is automatically filled with panic. But I was also filled with another sort of panic and disappointment, “what would we do?!” I worried. “We have come all of this way, made all of these plans, committed to 6 months here and there is no way I can stay. I have to get out out of here.” In the morning, we talked with some volunteers about our problem. We learned that because of the long and intense rainy seasons here, most of the buildings in the area have terrible mold year round. We moved to a cheap hotel for the week and hoped that when the coordinators returned they would help us find somewhere else to go. Unfortunately, they didn’t end up having any answers. One of the perks that drew us to Baan Unrak was that they provide food and lodging to long term volunteers, but no other Baan Unrak rooms were available. After a week at the hotel we decided to spend the money on renting our own place. After quite the search, we found a nice non-moldy little house and moved in. During our first week we were constantly sunburnt, sweaty, exhausted and uncomfortable. We still are to some extent, but after getting settled into our own space and finding some routine I feel so much better about being here. I’m looking forward to the next 6 months!

On our second day here, we got thrown right in and substitute-taught English classes to the 2nd and 3rd grades. We’ve taught a few more since then and its fun but certainly challenging. The kids have been on school holiday the past few weeks but the younger kids still have morning classes to keep a bit of a routine. Since they’re on break we’ve been taking the kids down to the lake almost every afternoon to swim, and Paul has been fixing bikes and taking small groups out on rides. We took some girls to the market one day. When we’re not out on excursions, my tasks so far have been working on the new natural products, photographing weaving center products for sales and doing office work and organizing the photo class. Paul has been doing lots of IT work and is in high demand. We’ve really been enjoying getting to know the children and the other volunteers, exploring, and learning about the Mon, Karen and Thai cultures. Next week the kids will return to school so the days will be much quieter here at the Home. We are experiencing so many new things and learning so much. I’ll stop writing for now but will try and post more frequently.

Below are photos of the Children’s Home area and the children on a strangely quiet afternoon. Paul took the first photos of the Home and I did the portraits. I hope you enjoy this post. Love and peace!

The entrance to the Home area

The main Home building where many of the kids live and where the offices are

The homes for the single mothers