Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Prayers and Photos for Indonesia

These are just three images that came to my mind when I read the news that two earthquakes struck off the coast of Indonesia (specifically the island of Sumatra). Almost three years ago I was in Indonesia and found such beauty in the parts of the country that most people barely see. Tourists typically enjoy traveling to Bali and the beaches of surprisingly vast archipelago nation but places like Jakarta and Sumatra are rarely visited.
These three photos I took on the train from Jakarta down the island of Java. Earthquakes in the Indonesia region are incredibly common, the most famous being the one off the coast of Sumatra which caused the 2004 tsunami that struck also Sri Lanka, India, Malaysia and Thailand.
First photo is of this stunningly statuesque, young Indonesia girl riding the train in front of me. She remained apathetic to much that was happening around her. None of it bothered her; the 100+ degrees Fahrenheit temperature inside the train, the flies swirling around her face, the smoke coming in from the trains engine mixed with the tobacco being smoked in front of her, the glaring sun in her eyes. None of it seemed to annoy or distract her from sitting calmly in her seat looking out the window. Not even my camera lens. I tried to play with her, smiling and making jokes but she didn't flinch. She was one of the most impressively stable things I saw in that country. And I am so fortunate to have captured her elegance in this photo.

This photo made me realize what other parts of the country had to offer. Yes there are the craggy mountaintops and volcanoes and thousands of islands throughout Indonesia. But the vast openness is something I never envisioned before traveling to the country. But with a 14 hour train ride during midday, I was able to enjoy the naturally quieter landscapes like this one.

Lastly, when I think of the people of mainland Indonesia (not Bali, as I already hold an incredibly close place in my heart for that area specifically), I think of the poverty and overpopulation. It holds a nice contrast to this photo above as completely barren lands are only a few hours away from where this photo below was taken, at the train station in Bandung a few hours southeast of Jakarta. Several photos of mine show hundreds upon hundreds of people loading up on the sides and roof of the trains as they were either stealing a train ride or the cars were too full.

12 Elevens Ago

Last year, I discussed the importance of this date in my blog post April 11th has a lot of meaning. The backstory is briefly explained in the post by basically aside from my birthday, it's a date that will forever be engrained in my mind. So this year I wanted to pay tribute to the date with a poem titled "12 Elevens Ago"

12 Elevens ago today
I learned a new language.
The tongue of life and the accent of living.
I stared both dead in the eye
With half of my life staring back at me.
They were mirror images
Of a boy and a man.
The breaking point for all there was to come.
I walked into the unknown
A darkened forest with no exit in sight
Lost, I was guided by the light of the moon
And the protection of the trees.
I look back on those times
And ask how I found my way out
So long ago,
So many forests passed.
By the light of the moon
And the protection of the trees
My life became clearer
More driven and focused
To break through this forest
And discover new boundaries.
12 Elevens ago
I saw what was on the other side of that mirror
The answer to what’s next
And the response to a challenge.
Today, the language still dawns on me
Now and again.
Like nostalgic whispers
Or the smell of autumn winds.
But I am not fluent
Only with each passing year
Will I understand,
The images I saw just 12 years ago,

Sunday, April 8, 2012

An Easter of Epic Proportions

Happy Easter to everyone!
This Easter will be the first that I have not been home since I was abroad, which was not too long ago considering I've only had one Easter back home in New Hampshire since 2008, but this time I will not be celebrating the holiday in Bangkok, or in Guangzhou, China, or at 4140 meters above sea level in the Himalyas. I'll be in Baltimore. Celebrating Easter (and Hanamatsuri the Buddhist holiday/Flower Festival in Japan to honor the birth of The Buddha). Today, I'll be working on my writing and photography. Documenting and reliving all of my past Easters.
Granted I miss my family and having the traditional Easter egg hunt, big dinner, and special moments back home. But this year it's more about reflection. Looking back at the year that was since my Easter 2011 and seeing such a big change in my life. Then being able to extrapolate those memories further back to the following years.
In 2010, my easter morning was spectacular. There were no eggs hidden anywhere, no Easter dinner served. It was the one of the most untraditional holidays I've ever had. And I'll never forget it.
I could barely sleep I was so excited, partially because I was having trouble breathing due to the unbelievable thin air but also because I was so excited to see what I had in store outside my window. I looked out a few time through the frosted glass to see the moonlight shining down onto the pearl-white snow of a hill outside the freezing cold hut we were sleeping in. I was wearing about six layers and still was shivering. The sun couldn't have come up faster for me and my anticipation. Finally it was time to awake and open my door to see just where I was: at the Annapurna Base Camp in the Himalaya's. After four long, grueling days of hiking to the top of this mountain, I finally got to see what it was all about. All the other hikers and myself came for this one day, for this one view. To stare down the tenth tallest mountain in the world and be surrounded by colossal giants for 360 degrees.
(I wrote about the entire Annapurna trip last year at this time, you can see it here...)

The view was incredible, the sky was piercing blue and the contrast of the snow and rock against the sun's beaming light was amazing. Early in the morning, the sky was a deep-sea blue but the sun's rays hit the mountain tops in a pinkish/orange color almost reminiscent of the Easter bunny.