Posts Tagged ‘events’

Yesterday was my birthday – I am 27.  I figured it would be a good time to ponder a bit both about this past year as well as the one ahead of me.

This past year has been pretty incredible.

Sean and I have done some amazing stuff.


-We went to Hawaii with friends on the vacation of a lifetime – it’s not uncommon for us to turn to each other and say “man, we need to go to Hawaii”. I was always resistant to Hawaii vacations, as I am to anything that seems even vaguely cliche…but man, what a time it was.



-We completed our first Olympic-length triathlon.

It hurt, but was totally worth it.

santa cruz tri


-We went to Ethiopia on a medical missions trip. This trip was my first foray into Africa and way out of my comfort zone. It has brought up a lot of questions about who I am and what I want to do with my life. Questions I’m still wrestling with, and probably will be for many years to come.



-My sister Anya and I traveled to Chicago and St. Louis to visit friends over Thanksgiving – an intense weekend of much needed sister and friend time. My love for the midwest has not waned.

st. louis


-December and January found Sean and I in San Diego for Christmas and Las Vegas for New Years. The Las Vegas strip New Years experience was decidedly more pleasant than I was anticipating.



-Sean and I moved yet again, into an adorable duplex with lots of storage space. We’re still working on home-ifying it, but it’s slowly coming together.


-We visited Denver – a city I’d never been to before. Plus, we got to explore an abandoned mining town, which was a super cool experience.



-Spring marked the start of wedding season – I booked 10 weddings this year. A decent amount for only my second year of being a professional photographer.



-We made another dent in our plan to bike the entire west coast by biking from Monterey to San Luis Obispo. 140 miles over 4 days – best bike trip to date!



-In May Sean and I kicked butt at a sprint tri in Moragn Hill – I beat my previous time by a full half hour!



-Sean and I traveled to Houston to visit Anya and co., and even made a trip to New Orleans. I LOVED NOLA and hope to return there again some day.



-July found us gathering with my whole family in San Diego for my grandpa’s 87th birthday. It just now dawns on me that he’s almost exactly 60 years older than me.




Man, we did a lot of traveling –

I didn’t even realize how much it was until I wrote it out!

…So now what?

Well, here’s a bit of what I’m hoping for / planning on for this next year:

-Another full length tri: I want to beat my time on the Santa Cruz tri!

-Complete a half-marathon

-Visit Tahoe

-Visit Boise

-Book more weddings! (I’d love 20…)

-Bike San Luis Obispo to Mexico! 400 miles of glorious California coast :0)

-Complete a full-size stained glass window

-Start painting again!

-FINALLY visit Russia with my hubby :0)

-I really want to start volunteering in some capacity

….and I guess we’ll just see what lies in store!


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Well, on Sunday it had been decided, rather suddenly, that on Tuesday I should go to Chacha to photograph cows.

Let me back up a minute. I’m not going to get into all of the details, because there isn’t a whole lot that I understand or that has really been figured out, and it stressed me out to think about it. BUT, suffice it to say that somehow it came about that I would be working with another team member on a long-term project: making a photobook about Project Mercy. Or…well, something like that. One of the myriad of off-shoot projects that Project Mercy is working on is a ranch in a town called Chacha. Chacha is a farming community on the other side of Addis Ababa – about a 4-5 hour drive from Project Mercy. There, they are attempting to breed hardy, disease-resistant Ethiopian cows with American cows. American cows (Jersey cows, I think) produce almost 10x as much milk as these Ethiopian cows. The goal here is to produce a hearty cow which is both resistant to Ethiopia diseases and produces more milk.  If successful, this project could help many families improve their nutritional intake.

At any ate, this would be a great thing for me to photograph for any potential book (which may or may not happen…?) so it was decided that I would go with Sean, Bete and David to Chacha on Tuesday. What this meant, then, is that Monday would be my last day to capture the goings-on with our group and Project Mercy. So I spent the first part of the day at the school clinic (in a new location for the new week) and the latter portion driving around with Marta and Deme, taking pictures of what they felt were significant parts of Project Mercy.

It was great to spend some time with Marta and Deme and hear their stories. The end of the day was sad for me as I was thinking about leaving. Leaving this beautiful place, and the new connections I had made – leaving the new way I felt about my place in the world. But all good things must end, and I was (and am) pretty sure that I will come back to Project Mercy.


I’m trying something new with the images – click on the first image to see the gallery.




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Sunday was our only scheduled day off. A large portion of the group wanted to do a highly recommended hike into the mountains to see the countryside. Some wanted to go to church, others to a nearby town to visit with old friends from past trips. The hiking contingent was divided into three groups: The crazy early-risers who wanted to leave for the hike by 6am and be back in time to shower and go to church by 10:30. Others wanted to leave at 7:30 for a shorter route and also go to church. The third and largest group (which I joined) decided to leave at 9, take it easy, stop often for photos and not worry about making it to church. The hike was billed as gorgeous but difficult, with a steep uphill climb for about 2.5 miles, on rocky and somewhat treacherous terrain. The end goal was a small waterfall at the top of the mountain.


I would say it was billed pretty accurately. We started out on the same dirt road we traveled every day – the one by the hospital. We cheated and took a truck to the hospital to cut off a familiar stretch of road and get started with the interesting bits. It meandered past quiet tukhuls and farmers out tending to their animals. Pretty quickly we veered off of the road unto a path which was rocky and slippery and uneven. It’s hard to describe in words what this place is like, so I’ll let the photos do the talking.







These two lovely ladies were among the first of the mountain kids to join our hiking group.


Soon there were a couple of little boys as well. As we huffed and puffed, paused, snacked, drank, took photos, these little kids bounded up the mountain barefoot, often carrying heavy loads of sticks. They sure put us in our place. Once we reached higher ground on one side of a canyon, we could hear yells of “hellohellohello!”, but we couldn’t see the kids across the canyon.

Once we made it to the falls, we just chilled and relaxed for about half an hour, surrounded by a large quantity of local kids. As always, the way back was much quicker and easier.


It was an  exhausting and treacherous  hike, especially at altitude, but it was well worth it.

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Saturday was a special day.

A couple of the docs in our group felt called to teach a course to the local midwives, nurses, and other birth attendants on basic life support for babies and mothers during childbirth. It was an all day course on Saturday, and I had the honor of photographing during it. I spent a lot of time there, listening, photographing and editing. It was a very relaxing and moving day. I would like to tell you more about it, but Sarah, one of the doctors who organized the whole thing, wrote a comprehensive and down-right tear-jerking entry on the class for our group blog. You can read it here.

At the end of the day Marta, our venerable host, told us all a story which expressed how close this issue is to her heart. Many years ago, a woman had been brought to them in a round box carried by thirty men. She had been in labor for 7 days (!). Marta drove her to the nearest town at the time, but they weren’t able to help her. They found a way to get her to the next furthest town, and when they got there – the gynecologist wasn’t there. Needless to say, the woman didn’t make it. Marta’s heart was broken – the hurt felt particularly close as her daughter was in the States, pregnant and about to give birth. She was glad that her daughter would have the best care, but deeply saddened that there was such a lacking of this type of care in Ethiopia. Fast forward to this past Saturday. She was so thrilled that our doctors were teaching this course at Project Mercy. She reached out and contacted the midwives and other birthing helpers in the vicinity and told them about the course. They came in from many miles away, by cart and bus and taxi. Well, actually, I have no idea how they arrived – I think the PM bus came to get some of them. At any rate, the attendees to this class represented 70,000 people in the surrounding region. Those men and women will come back to their respective villages and spread the news. They will teach about how to help mothers and babies during childbirth, and hopefully, the knowledge will sink in. It will spread. Lives will be saved.

What an amazing blessing it was to be associated with the group of people who could play a role in this. Even if all I did was document the process :0)

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-Sorry for the verboseness and lack of photos – uploading pics is a luxury, but I might try to later :0) –


I was expecting our last pre-trip day to be an endless string of chores and errands. Instead, I spent most of the day in a mindless haze, trying desperately to figure out what exactly I was supposed to be doing. There’s nothing worse than the feeling that you *aught* to be very busy doing things, and yet not knowing what those things are, or where to start. Towards late afternoon I finally started organizing and packing – setting out our clothes, toiletries, and camera gear in little obsessive-compulsive piles all over the living room.  Sean came home after a round of errands, and we stayed up late into the night packing, weighing, re-packing and re-weighing. The way the way the luggage for the group was organized, each group member was assigned two large duffel bags. 1.5 of these two duffel bags were pre-packed (at the packing party on Thursday) with various medical supplies. The other .5 duffel bag was left for personal belongings. The main hinderance, however, wasn’t space – it was weight. The weight limit for the duffels was only 50lbs, which left most of them only partially full. Furthermore, we were allowed one carry on and one personal item – but the carry on could not exceed 15 pounds. Which, if you have a laptop, is practically nothing. At any rate, between my camera gear and Sean’s tools, we struggled with the weight limitations a lot. Sean ended up stuffing random bits of technology into his jacket pockets (his jacket ended up weighing in at 11 pounds -but they don’t weigh jackets :0).

Saturday morning was full of hustle and bustle, last minute errands and more re-packing. Having gotten only a few hours of sleep, I was already plenty exhausted by the time we arrived at San Francisco Airport (SFO). There we met with the rest of the group, and there was more weighing and re-packing as folks with extra weight in their bags tried to find folks who had space left. By the time we all checked in, went through security, and got to our gate, two hours had elapsed and our plane was almost ready to board.

I’d like to tell you what I was feeling at this point, but honestly, I have no idea. Trips to new places for me are always filled with anxiety and excitement; but, most of all, there is a sense of *not actually knowing how to feel*. It’s like trying a completely new type of food – sometimes you instantly know you hate it, and occasionally you instantly know you like it. But it’s not uncommon to just not even know what to think about the thing. You search through your food memory bank for something to compare it to, to figure out if you like it or not. For me most new experiences are like this. I wander about, dazed and confused, thinking I should be feeling things but for the most part feeling nothing. Just observing, taking it in, trying to record the moment in my mind. It’s likely that later, as I reflect on this journey, I will feel more about the experience than I did while it was happening.

At any rate, we found ourselves on an enormous Emirates plane, and after some seat shuffling Sean and I even got to sit together.  As with the emotion thing, having never been on a 15 hour plan ride I had no idea what to expect. I suppose it went faster than I thought it would, but it was way more cramped and uncomfortable than I expected. I got little to no sleep, and the trip passed by in a haze. I don’t normally make a habit of reviewing or commenting about service or specific companies online, but I do want to mention that I was quite impressed with Emirates.  The moist hot towels, tasty food and a plethora of free onboard entertainment options almost made up for the absolutely microscopic leg room :0)

We arrived in Dubai, UAE, at about 7pm on Sunday. After a very quick pass through the airport (we didn’t have to pick up our checked luggage, so we only had carry ons to deal with) we took the 10 minute shuttle to the hotel and checked in. A few of us, in spite of sheer exhaustion, decided to take this rare opportunity and go see the city. We booked a 2-hour tour to run from 10pm-12am.

Dubai, as I saw it from the window of a moving vehicle, is not really my thing. It’s like the Vegas of the middle east. I know, I know, don’t judge a city by a 2-hour night time tour. But that was my feeling, at any rate. Opulence for the sake thereof. It’s big and spread out and rich. We visited the man-made island shaped like a palm tree (though, of course, you can’t tell what it is when you’re on it), and took photos of the tallest building in the world. My favorite, I think, was getting our and putting my feet in the Persian Gulf. It was so warm and calm – a moment of realization that I am somewhere I have never been. I love that feeling.

By the time we got back up to our rooms it was almost 1am, and having had nearly no real sleep in many hours, I passed out like a rock….Only to wake up 5 hours later to eat breakfast and continue on to our destination.

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On the very last day of our trip, we decided not to do anything spectacular. We woke up, packed, checked out of the hotel, turned in the underwater camera. Then we went back to the lovely breakfast place we tried the day before. This time we got brunch (fish tacos) and fresh squeezed orange juice and our last fresh Kona coffee.


Last Kona Coffee

We sat outside, and the weather was perfect, and we looked out at the water. There was a guy with a ukelele (no joke) singing peacefully right in front of us, and it was all downright lovely. We reflected on the trip, and decided we’d come back again in a heartbeat. What a wonderful, peaceful place.

We also spent a bit of time reading about the iron man triathlon which happens in Kona every year. For those not in the know, the Iron Man is a triathlon made up of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride, and a 26.2 mile run.  The original iron man triathlon happened there 30ish years ago, and that was the birth of not only the iron man, but the whole triathlon sport. I have to admit, we got a bit of a glint in our eyes as we pondered the possibility of one day tackling that feat.

And after breakfast, there was a rooster in a parking lot


And then we got on a plane :0)



I have to say that all of my negative assumptions about Hawaii were pretty much wrong. I had assumed that all of it was boring and touristy and yuppie. Perhaps that is the case on some of the other islands, but Kona was really quite a treat. There was so much to explore, and do, and yet you didn’t feel guilty just taking a day to relax and sip mai tais and watch the sunset. All in all, a very successful vacation :0)

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Day 6, Friday, started off a bit slow. Everyone but Sean and I were heading back home, and we all had to move out of the condo. We tidied, and packed, and hussled the others over to the airport. After a brief costco lunch, Sean and I decided to visit the highest point on the island – the top of Mauna Kea, at about 13,800 feet.

It was a long, beautiful ride through vast fields of volcanic rock – such an eerie, surreal landscape.


When we got to the visitor’s center, we got out and walked around for a bit to acclimate to the elevation (9,000ish feet) and read some of the info about the observatories at the top. This was our favorite of the many warning signs:


After the visitor’s center, it was mostly off-roading, with nothing but crazy drops and clouds on all sides.

Going Up
13,000 feet!
Keck Observatory

A moment of commentary about being at almost 14,000 feet: you do feel it. There is less oxygen, and your head swims, and you get little stars in your eyes if you exert yourself too much. It is so empty, and vast, and all you see below are clouds.

We wanted to walk along this little path to the tippy top, and even so we had to stop to breathe a couple of times, just to walk the couple hundred feet.

To the Top


But it was worth the walk.


The feeling of being up there is indescribable. It is SO QUIET. Just gusts of icy wind, and this alien landscape and you in the clouds.

We looked at all the observatories and satellites, and then headed back down for the looong drive back into town.



On the way down the mountain, we drove into some of the clouds we saw from above. Instantly, the scenery and the feeling changed. It was like driving into the past – I expected to see shadows of dinosaurs roaming in the fields of volcanic rock.





Out of curiosity, we took a turn off of the main road, and drove for a while into this utterly empty wasteland. We drove for a long time and the landscape didn’t change. Eventually, we had to turn around since we didn’t want to end up on the other side of the island. Or in Narnia, or the Land of the Lost. All of which seemed to be very real possibilities.


Finally, we drove out of the fog and the cool, back into humid Hawaii. Which, for all the world, looked very much like California.


By this point we were starving, in spite of the myriad of snacks we had had with us. Our adventure had taken many hours. We went back to Costco and bought 1 pound of Poke – a special type of seasoned, raw Ahi tuna. Pound of raw fish in tow, we went to check into our hotel which would be our home for the next two nights. Sean got a great priceline deal, so we ended up staying in a nice downtown hotel called King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach hotel.  Lets just say we got a steal.


We ate an inordinate amount of raw fish with chips and beer, and promptly passed out at some absurdly early hour.

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