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  • 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    This blog is no longer active but it is a great chronicle through my initial first few years as a photographer.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!

Monthly Archives: October 2011

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

Erawan Waterfalls, Thailand

We fell in love with Erawan Waterfalls, about an hour from Kanchanaburi. We visited the falls on two separate days. The immense jungle surrounding the falls is thick and muggy. Breathing in, your lungs are filled with clean air that smells like a summer rain. The waters are pristine, refreshingly cool and blue. The moss is soft and slippery between your toes and the carp like to gently nibble if you stay still for long. The falls have seven different levels, and you can spend an entire day climbing up to the top and diving into the different pools. Some falls run over big, slick rocks that you can climb and slide down. You can swim all the way beneath the first fall, your head and shoulders receiving a tough massage as you swim through the cascades and into the misty cave. I have always really wanted to be kissed underneath a waterfall, and it was sweet to be kissed by my husband. The Thai people believe that spirits live in the trees, different spirits for different species of trees, and they bring gifts and fine clothing as offerings. Paul took the majority of these photos, I shot wide and he shot detail (if only we had a tripod!). I feel like my words and our photos do not convey the real magic of the place, but maybe they will give you a glimpse.

 

Oh, and here are a few snapshots we took on Paul’s little waterproof camera!

Noisy tourists and insane bugs barely distracted from Erawan’s beauty. On our second trip I (perpetually accident prone) got stung by some sort of jungle insect. Paul had to pull out a massive stinger from my arm! It hurt much worse than any bee or wasp sting I’ve ever had and the swelling crawled several inches down my arm for a few days. Thankfully when we got to the orphanage the home’s doctors gave me a natural remedy with a clay wrap and it healed right up.

This is the last post from our pre-orphanage travels! For the next 6 months our posts will mostly be centered around our time living in Sangklaburi and working at the Baan Unrak Children’s Home. We are looking forward to sharing our experiences here with you. Love and peace!

more Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Hello! This photo set is from from another day in Kanchana. We hired a taxi (a motorbike with a cart attached to the side) to take us to a hillside temple just outside of the city. The driver didn’t speak a word of English but was very sweet. It was a beautiful, sticky hot day. We also visited a hilltop temple where you climbed into a huge molded Dragon’s mouth, but it didn’t translate into photos well. Paul took the 3rd, 5th and 6th images. Love and peace!

 

Orphanage Photo Class

 

Hey wonderful blog readers! This is an e-blast we just sent out. Let me know if you’d like to be added to the photo class mailing list.

 

 

Hello from Paul and Jewel Maree! We have recently started volunteering at an orphanage in Thailand called Baan Unrak. We will be here for 6 months working with the children and helping with various tasks. Since Jewel is a professional photographer we are looking forward to starting a Photography Class. Learning to express themselves and share their experiences in new ways will be theraputic and liberating for the children. Used digital cameras, supplies and funds are being collected. The goal is to collect 10 or more cameras to get the class started. The cameras and supplies will be shipped to Thailand on November 4th and any donations will be greatly appreciated! Please help us get the word out. Thank you very much.

WHAT IS NEEDED
– Used Digital Point and Shoot Cameras in good working condition – if the battery is not AAA or AA please include the battery and battery charger
– SD Memory Cards
– SD Card Readers with USB cords
– Rechargable AAA and AA batteries
– Battery chargers for AAA and AA
– Funds for printing the children’s photos and for extra supplies

HOW TO DONATE
Please give or ship your donations to the Marees or the Andersons who will then ship them to Thailand. If you have any questions please send an email to jewel@jewelimaging.com

The Andersons
835 Timberlake Drive
Ashland, OR 97520

The Marees
6138 Roxbury Ave
Springfield, VA 22152

WHEN TO DONATE
Please make sure the Andersons or Marees have your donation by November 4th for their initial Thailand shipment.

Thank you!


Ko Chang and Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Hello. We arrived safely in Sangklaburi and survived our first very busy week at the orphanage! We are missing home but really enjoying getting to know the children here! Continuing on from Bangkok, here are some more images from our recent travels.

These first few are from a very rainy stay on the island of KO CHANG. The last island image is Paul’s.

 

This next set is from our first day in the city of KANCHANABURI where we stayed for a few days. Half of these images are Paul’s!

In WWII, the Japanese forced POWs and villagers to build a railway (now called the Death Railway) to Burma. It was interesting to visit the museums in the area.

The next three images show the Bridge Over the River Kwai (there is a famous film and book with the same title)

Bangkok, Thailand

Hello! Getting to Bangkok was exhausting. We drove from Ashland to San Francisco (6 hrs), stayed the night, flew from San Francisco to Tokyo (11 hrs) and after a layover (4 hrs) we finally flew from Tokyo to Bangkok (6 hrs). After a good long sleep, we awoke to a blessing of sunshine and spent the day slowly exploring Bangkok zombie-style. The city was massive, but the areas we saw were surprisingly tranquil. These photos are from a boat trip through the canals and a visit to Wat Pho, Temple of the Reclining Buddha. The 2nd, 5th and last are Paul’s photos!

The next posts will be our rainy visit to the island of Koh Chang and our explorations of Kanchanaburi. Since the rainy season is lasting a long time this year and much of the country has severe flooding we decided to travel more later on. We are heading to Sangklaburi and will be starting at the orphanage a little early!