they made my heart double in size, my perspective on life expand and grow, feel immensely loved, laugh louder than I've ever had, ask questions that challenged my understanding and relentlessly seek out the answers, jump up and sing, realize how much I thought I knew and how little I actually know, and sincerely want to be a better person.
I still can't quite explain it. what Tanzania means to me now. all I am certain of is that things will never be the same.
I will never be the same.
more photos here.
no, really. relax.
beware of pool slides. my flat butt still hasn't fully recovered.
leave electronic devices and video games at home. I did regret this at times and banged my head on the steering wheel on multiple occasions. but there were also moments when I could see delirious joy shining through in my sons' eyes. and we played a mean game of Monopoly.
remember, the preteen attitude probably didn't get the vacation memo.
in the fall of 2011, I started a small workgroup with ten fourth graders from Sean and Will's school to help them engage with the world in new ways and realize that they can make a difference. the kids grew passionately concerned about the global water crisis and soon partnered with Sarswati Peace School in Arupokhari, Nepal, selling handmade greeting cards, organizing a tombola and giving up birthday gifts to raise funds and help provide the students and local community with safe drinking water.
a few weeks later, I developed an idea for a photo collaboration with the students from Sarswati Peace School where children in France and Nepal would capture and share images from their daily lives following six simple prompts: what I eat, animals, my school, where I sleep, where I shop and where I live.
at first, it seemed fairly easy. but it turned out to be much harder than I had expected. and I spent many days sitting on my living-room floor sorting through hundreds of photos wishing I had done things differently. but then I would look at the kids and remember their boundless enthusiasm as they all leaped at the chance to do something for others. and that helped me keep going. the project was sponsored by French non-profit organization Secours Populaire Français and eventually raised more than $6.500, bringing clean water to the 200 students of Sarswati Peace School and to the local community of 300+ people.
the photos were recently on exhibit at École Élémentaire Paris in Boulogne, France.
you can see them here.
always keep the Polaroid camera with you. and shoot like it was the very first time.
wear sun cream all the time no matter the unpredictable, changeable, and sometimes wet weather.
take full advantage of dedicated bike lanes and paths, even if your butt says otherwise.
schedule a do-nothing day (you'll thank me later).
drive to La Tremblade, take a seat at La Bonne Renommée and try éclades de moules.
if you're traveling to a foreign country, learn a few basic words and sentences before you leave (hopefully, there's an app for that).
always educate yourself about the country's history and culture.
invest in good walking shoes.
when in the field, introduce yourself first. forget the camera. connect with people. listen to what they have to say.
put names to faces. write them down if you need to.
recognize your own cultural biases and assumptions. let go of all preconceived ideas.
focus on the story.
be willing and able to push yourself beyond your everyday comfort zone. you'll discover what you're capable of, what you're passionate about and who you truly are.
when in doubt, take in all the information you can gather. and then go with what your heart feels most strongly.
be open. be curious. be kind.
last month I traveled to Haiti with French non-profit organization Secours Populaire Français to document the re-opening of two primary schools in Les Palmes and Delatte and visit two local health facilities that were devastated by the 2010 earthquake.
and though I've had to learn how to navigate daily life without electricity or running water. though I worried my immune system would eventually fail me. though I wish my camera better served and empowered those in front of the lens. and I felt frustrated at times by the arrogance and deficiencies of international aid agencies. I've never been more grateful, inspired, nor had more conviction about what I was doing.
more photos here.
"the best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times... the best moments usually occur when a person's body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile."
- Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow