Category Archives: Chiang Mai

We Women!

Over the weekend, I had the privilege of photographing the We Women charity walk. A group of our supporters fund-raised and walked in solidarity to help improve Burma’s education system.

We Women is: “a foundation that strives to achieve equality for various groups of people in the world. The foundation assists women, refugees, ethnic minorities, and disadvantaged groups with their questions, struggles and needs, as they are formulated within their own terms. Academic research is the first step in this process because it helps to gain insight into local beliefs, practices and ambitions. The key areas of We women’s engagement include personal growth, social inclusion, (mental) health, education, and the encouragement of creative initiatives, with the ultimate goal of achieving equality for all.

Hugo

Ursula Cats, super-woman and founder of We Women, is also a new mom. Taking care of Hugo, Skyping via phone with her We Women counterpart in Holland, and organizing the walk are just a few of the tasks she juggled on Saturday!

Walkin'

I feel pretty...
CM red and white curb actionWe left at around 4:30pm, so the sun was slowly setting as we veered around the South gate of the moat. I can never get enough of the red and white striped curbs here.

Signage

Two of my new favourite ladies! ❤

The rest of the pics are here. I love being inspired by people like these doing positive things. I feel really grateful for being around them. Food for the heart.

Smiles

When I showed this photo to Ursula, she mentioned that it was her favourite of the bunch. Meanwhile, I was cringing since the sweet girl is totally out of focus. From the photo course I recently took, I know that one of the areas I need to work on is getting lots of angles and taking lots of shots to get the most honest expression. When I look at this image, I think: Nooooo! The focus is all off, her right hand is cut off, I needed to move back more, get it from a lower angle, give more space around her. It could’ve been a great photo!

But it’s awesome when the person who sees it still likes it because they might not even notice these things; all they might see is the shining smile radiating through. It reminds me of something Scorsese said about film-making in an old interview he did with John Favreau. He was talking about Casino, how he had to choose between two takes of an important emotional scene featuring Sharon Stone. It one take, Stone gave an incredibly emotive performance, but the camera’s focus was a bit off and the camera work was unintentionally shaky. In the other take, the camera work is technically perfect, but Stone’s performance is less vulnerable and raw. Scorsese chose to put the former in the film, because –for him– emotion wins out every time over technical. I’ve always thought that was a really nice lesson.

I’m looking forward to improving my photo work, but in the end it always comes down to the experience I have with the people I’m working with.

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It’s been some time…

I booked an onward out of Thailand, to Vietnam, as of course Ethiopian Airlines was gonna check. I knew it. After asking my Chiang Mai friends, “do you ever book on onward flight when you fly into TH?” and receiving a unanimous chorus of, “No!” I knew that, since I was flying from Africa, it would likely be different. And it was.

Ethiopian Airlines employee, Ugandan, female: “Where is your return ticket from Vietnam to Canada?”

Me: “I don’t have one. I don’t need one. I am required to have an onward/return out of Thailand. Once I’m in another country, my whereabouts is no longer the responsibility of your airline.”

“That’s not true.”

“I’m fairly confident that it is.”

“Let me check the rule book.”

Knowing full well I don’t have the money to afford a return flight from VN to CA, I somehow keep completely calm. It’s probably just that I lack the energy to feel stressed at this point. 4.5 months in Uganda has been enough, even though I’ll miss it fucking fiercely. Damn.

Airline Employee: “See! Look, it says right here. You need a return ticket from VN to your home country.”

I read the fine-print of her rule book that has every visa regulation for every country regarding entering/exiting procedures. The book clearly states exactly what I told her: that anyone flying into Thailand technically can be prevented from boarding a flight if they don’t show proof of an onward/return air ticket.

I realize that I’m dealing with what I suspect is a white person rule. Maybe I’m wrong. But judging by her incredibly rude and aggressive tone toward me, it seemed like she was exercising her all-mighty airline employee power wherever she could.

Thankful I’d randomly given away an expensive extension cord to another male (Ugandan) Ethiopian Airlines employee about 30 minutes prior (based on solely the whim of a voice inside me saying, “you don’t need this, give it away”), I now sought him out as a potential much-needed ally to get me aboard the plane.

Still carrying the extension cord, he said, “ahhhh” when I explained the situation. Apparently this is just how things go. I’m escorted to speak with the head of EA, where I’m grilled for 15 minutes about my plans. I pass all the tests, and he nods. My extension corded escort gives me the signal to stand.

“So….?”

“You’re fine, it’s not a problem.” Huh. I wander back downstairs, where I find out that of course news of this newly granted permission  has not been given to anyone who actually has the power to let me through to check-in.

Another hour goes by. I’m grateful that I always make a point of being at the airport early. Eventually the information is transmitted and the lady who was adamant that I produce a return ticket begrudgingly lets me through, with a glare. I smile politely, even with my eyes, trying to connect with her, trying to have empathy for the fact that I’m sure it’s a tough job, and I have no idea what her personal situation is. And maybe she really did think that the rule was what she said, and maybe she doesn’t read English very well, and maybe she had a bad day. And maybe.

The flight turns out to have open seating. This is a first for me: of all the times I’ve flown, never before have I witnessed a free-for-all in seating inside the airplane. The cause, as far as I can gather is that a group of smartly dressed men from Kigali made an unannounced late arrival at the airport, and no one was organized enough to properly process them all. I could be wrong.

This leads, unsurprisingly, to a miscount of persons on the plane — we supposedly have one extra body. Triggering concerns of security issues, the flight is delayed for over an hour while the airline stewardesses make numerous failed attempts to determine who the extra person is. We try helping them, making suggestions including actually checking everyone’s seat number, instead of asking people to raise their hands when we can’t even hear what the question is.

Many people seated (by choice!) near me grumble as they realize they’ll be missing their connecting flights due to this delay. I shake my head and make enjoyable conversation with my seatmate. I feel absolutely fantastic about the fact that I’m even on the plane. Whatever happens from here on out, no problem.

Eventually, it’s discovered that the miscount is because one lady took it upon herself to use the ‘free seating’ policy as her big chance to seat herself in first class. Somehow this led them to miscalculate, likely because they didn’t actually count those of us in economy.

And that was the end to my Ugandan adventure. Entirely appropriate. Grateful for the experience, the incredible friends I met, and utterly relieved to be back in Chiang Mai, where I can ride my bicycle everywhere, eat fruit smoothies from street stalls, and drink yummy hot lattes at any corner. Oh, and run into awesome people every few minutes when out and about. And…

So much to LOVE!