Nicaragua

  A few weeks ago I hopped on a plane and took off for Nicaragua to photograph the beautiful coffee farms there, and the farmers themselves. I was there with Project Alianza, an organization working to help these farmers keep their farms and earn what they deserve for the hard work that goes into producing the beans. While I was there I met so many great people, drank a lot of coffee, and got really excited about the great people at Alianza and all they're setting out to do.

 

 

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That was fun.

Ever since watching The Lion King as a little girl, I've dreamed of going on a safari in Africa to find Simba. I imagined myself peering out of a van with binoculars seeing Simba and singing Elton John at the top of my lungs. So, needless to say, going to Africa really has been a dream come true. Last week, we got to venture out to the Maasai Mara in Kenya. It wouldn't be Africa if there weren't some glitches, but I must say that I was a bit concerned when the water pump went out in the Land Rover in the middle of a field. Our driver told us we needed to get out and push so he could try starting the car - and all I could think about were the YouTube videos I had watched of people getting mauled by lions by getting out of their cars. We hopped out and pushed the car for a bit and it still didn't start, so we got back in and waited for someone to come and pick us up. Anyway, aside from the car mishap, we got to spend some quality time driving around and looking for giraffes and rhinos and capped the night off with a bonfire. What a treat. massai_mara

A Ugandan whirlwind

Okay, so. I'm sipping Ethiopian coffee right now, in Ethiopia. At this point, too much has happened to begin to write about, but I'm going to start with my time in Uganda. I got to Uganda a little over a week ago and everything since then has seemed like a whirlwind. I touched down with the fine folks at The Thirst Project for a blitz all over the country to visit communities where they have drilled wells and document the impact that access to clean water can make in an area. In the haze of jet-lag, heat, and road-side break-downs -- we managed to visit seven different communities and dance is almost all of them. It was so. much. fun. The thing that I love the most about Ugandans is their seemingly free spirited approach towards life. Every Ugandan I've met has serious dance moves and seems relatively unfazed by small mishaps like cars breaking down. Ugandans are great at chilling out. Sitting. And relaxing. They have mastered the art of porch sitting in a way that I can only aspire to. I'm learning more and more from my Ugandan friends that there are a lot of things in life that simply aren't important; that there are a few things that are -- and it's best to focus on them. With these experiences, I've noticed that my perspective on life continues to shift. In a good way.

What an honor it was to be a part of these celebrations and have a glimpse into the everyday lives of these Ugandans. I already can't wait to go back.

uganda

Your eyes tell a different story.

Preface: So, I've been traveling throughout Bangladesh for the past two weeks visiting and photographing stories in numerous camps packed with Bihari refugees (stranded Pakistanis) alongside of OBAT Helpers, an organization based out of the USA. The situation is complex and for context you can read more about it here.  -----

I can see it in your eyes.

Your joy is contagious and doesn't make sense to me; your resolve is unwavering, and the way you love others is with the type of love that only comes from one place - intense pain and struggle. The conditions of your life tell one story, but your eyes tell a different one. They tell a story of dignity and fierce determination. They tell a story that despite living in hellish conditions, it has not defined you. They tell a story of hope and an unspoken knowledge that there will be a day that things will be better.

Your overwhelming generosity and kindness have caused my heart to burst. I'll never understand how individuals that have so little give so much. And,  in an effort to learn as much about your lives as possible, to create space for you to share your stories, it's you that have taught me infinite lessons and humbled me. I am filled with serious gratitude and inspired by the fight that you have in you.

It's hard to describe the conditions of the camps that we have visited. I heard a story of a man who lived in one of the camps. Someone asked a man if he was concerned about going to hell and he responded by saying, "I'm already living in hell." The camps are overpopulated with around 6-8 and sometimes more people sharing an 8x8 space. There is no privacy. Sanitation is an ongoing issue with hundreds of people sharing toilets and showers, constantly having to wait in lines to use them. Health care is extremely difficult to access and discrimination from the Bangladeshi government is a way of life. Access to education is becoming more readily available and is one of the most effective ways for the Biharis to not just dream about better lives, but to have them.

In the past two weeks, I've snapped hundreds of photos and met numerous people with heartbreaking, yet incredibly courageous and inspirational stories. I listened as one man told me about how a micro finance loan allowed him to open up a small convenience store, which he has steadily grown for the past 10 years and is preparing to move to another, better location. His shop has allowed him to buy a house for his family and he is extremely proud. I listened as one teenager shared her story of her commitment to education and her dreams of going to university so she can earn enough money to move her family out of the camp. There was a young girl who moved from the country to work for an older couple and attend school to pursue her dreams of becoming a doctor so she can help others. We listened to the story of another teenage girl who told us about how gang violence had resulted in her home being torched, along with numerous other homes in the camp - and how the only thing that she took with her during the fire was her report card because she had all A's; when we asked one man about his most prized possession, he told us in tears that it is his mother.

As we listened to story after story, I couldn't help but notice a common theme: dreams for a better future and refusal to accept things the way they are. And that, to me, is one of he most beautiful and inspirational things in the world. Things aren't okay, but steadily (and mostly because of education), they are getting better.

Below are some images from these past few weeks. If you're interested in learning more or directly helping the Bihari refugees, please visit www.obathelpers.com

*The opinions expressed in this post do not reflect those of OBAT Helpers. bangladesh_blog

Revisiting the lovely Juliet.

I think we can all agree that keeping up a blog doesn’t fall under the category of things that I do well. These past few months have been an absolute whirlwind of work and life and travel. Now, I’m riding in the front of a van cascading through the hills of rural Swaziland and finally have a free moment to think a bit about blogging. This fall was chock full of photo sessions, wedding photography, and surprisingly a lot of graphic design. A few days ago I joined up with the lovely folks over at the Thirst Project in Atlanta, Georgia to commence our trip to Swaziland, Africa. The Thirst Project is an organization focused on sustainable clean water initiatives all over the world. They have chosen to audaciously take on the task of working with the Swazi government to provide access to clean drinking water for all of Swaziland in 10 years time. I’ve been working with them from the beginning and have the honor to document their work and spend time with some really incredibly resilient people who continue to teach me about what is valuable in life and demonstrate the joy is found in the most unlikely of places.

After causing the plane to be held yesterday (surprise, we were running late), we landed in the capital of Swaziland, took a few hours break, and per usual hit the ground running. We went for a visit to one of the nearby villages that we’ve spent time in before – a place we visited a few years ago. As I was trying to not fall asleep standing up, I looked over and saw a familiar face, one of my favorite faces ever – the lovely Juliet.

I met Juliet just over two years ago when I first came to Swaziland with the Thirst Project and have a hard time explaining it, but she has this light and love that pour out of her. After listening to her story, knowing that she had lost her husband and two sons to AIDS, she was joyfully raising her grandsons. She showed me around her house and we chatted for a bit.

So, as one could imagine, seeing her yesterday was a little bit like heaven. I walked over to her to say hello and she absolutely burst out in laughter and shock because she could not believe that I remembered her name. We got to chat and catch up and she said that her family was doing well and she had been planting a lot of maize but the cows kept eating it.

When we went to her house, she kept apologizing for the mess (hahaha, why do women from EVERY culture do that?) and showed me her grandsons’ room, and I told her that it looked like they needed to clean it or be grounded.

I was so happy to see her and get to spend a bit of time with her – I snapped a few photos, and even snapped some polaroids for her to keep (GOD BLESS POLAROID CAMERAS.).

Here are a few snapshots from yesterday and getting to see the lovely Juliet.

Chasing Rainbows: Life and work and what it's all about (Warning: This is a sad post.)

Usually, I think it's a good idea to not mix personal life and business, but I received news yesterday that greatly impacts the foundation of my business. I'd be remiss to not address it in a public way. A month ago, I was working on a personal project to tell the stories of Burmese refugees. A friend, John Sharp, came in and helped with the project, volunteered his time, and laughed with us. I didn't know John very well, but he was a very magnetic and energetic guy. A hard worker with a bright smile. I got the news yesterday that he was in an accident and died.

I sat in the coffee shop where I read the news and I deeply wanted it to NOT be reality. I was sad, then frustrated, then angry, then sad again. A young guy, just graduated college, ready to take on the world - and it's over. Just like that.

Unfortunately, it often takes tragic situations to cause me and you to stop. To stop and breathe and take a minute to evaluate. To evaluate what life is about, to evaluate what is important, to refocus and step outside of the whirlwind of life and look at it for what it is. It's fleeting, it's not guaranteed, it's unpredictable. It's life. But what do I, what do we do with that? How does it change the way that I live? How does it change the way that I do business? How does it change and shape my perspective of what I want my entire life to look like? More than that, how does it shape each second that I live?

As I started to think about John, I came back to the sobering reality that the only thing really worth any value in life is relationships and the people you have them with. As a photographer, I have a huge responsibility - to capture and tell the stories of people and human relationship.  That's it. For me, if I die with a Pulitzer photo prize or photo published on the cover Time (though, it would be cool), but don't care about and value people, I would feel like a huge failure.

A few years back, I photographed a wedding in the fall. I always try to capture the joyful guests that attend weddings and think it's great for couples to have photos of their friends and family that attend. When I received an email from that client that her best friend had tragically passed away and the photo that I took of them together was the last, I was truly honored. She said that I captured her late friend's personality and joy so perfectly. It took me days to respond to that email.

Last February I was in Swaziland. I've been there several times and developed some significant friendships there. It's starting to feel like home. One of my good friends that lives there informed me that his mother had been sick with HIV for a number of years and asked that we go and visit her. I'd met her before. She had those eyes that you look into and can only begin to imagine the life that she's seen and taken in. The sort of eyes that are kind and communicate compassion. She didn't even say anything. A few weeks after I saw her, HIV/AIDS took her life. The photos and images that I took of her are something that my friend and I will hold on to. They are the memories, of a relationship so valuable, that it can never have a price tag attached to it. Experiences like that continue to shape me as an artist and change my approach.

Earlier this year, my good friend Nick lost his father to cancer. When I went to the memorial service, the main photos displayed were from a family portrait session I had done before he died. They were invaluable because they were the paper and ink that captured the most important thing to the family - their relationship to each other and the person they loved and will always miss.

I really like old people. The super old people. When I was 12, my mom worked at a nursing home and I used to go to work with her for the entire shift and hang out with the old folks. Not too typical for a 12-year-old girl who probably should have been calling boys and putting on make up. But I remember this old lady named Bessie Reel. She was 104 and the oldest person I knew. I remember sitting for hours and talking to her. Though she was old, she was sharp. I remember one day asking her what she regretted about life. She told me three things: That she didn't love more, that she didn't risk more, and that she didn't soak up every moment. Those things stuck with me. It was then that I promised myself that I refuse to spend an ounce of energy in my life chasing the mirages of what life is 'supposed' to be like and chase what I know is real and fulfilling.

So. I'm going to have to get on a soapbox for a minute. Life is way too precious and too short to chase after things that don't have value. Things that, in the end, won't fulfill the human soul. Marketing and Hollywood have done a great job lying to us and simulating value. Telling us that we have to have this type of house, this type of car, this type of hair, this type of job, go to this school, have ______ to be fulfilled.  Then one's whole life is wasted chasing those things, only to find out it's a mirage - sort of like capturing a rainbow. The rainbow can't be captured. One can chase after it, but not get to it. Some of the saddest people I've ever met are the closest to 'capturing the rainbow'.

We live in a culture that doesn't slow down. That doesn't meditate, that doesn't evaluate, that doesn't create space for us to get to know ourselves and understand the deepest desires of the human heart. Our culture doesn't naturally lend itself to constructing an approach towards life that leads to fulfillment and value rather than compelling us to chase rainbows.

Let's not live lives that we will regret. Let's vow to not chase mirages of things that don't have value. Thank you John for your beautiful life and the beautiful reminder of what's real and what's a vapor that can't be captured.

Why it's good to be friends with your neighbors.

Sometimes things get so crazy that I forget to stop and take photos of everyday life and all the great things that happen between photo sessions. With all the sunshine, there has been a substantial amount of hanging out going down - especially on my street. These dudes live next door to me. They are the bee's knees. They make bad days into good days. They play records and porch sit and generally increase the overall quality of life. This is Jake. Alan calls him "The Real McCoy," but I usually call him "Jake the snake." He has a knack for fixing literally anything imaginable, always has a stash of beer, and has impeccable manners.

That's Ben. He has some awesome stories about traveling through Iceland and all of Europe on a shoestring. He rides his bike everywhere. And often sports stocking caps.

Every once in a while

I was in Swaziland a few weeks ago with The Thirst Project documenting their impact on building wells in various regions of the country. As a photographer, I typically don't focus on landscape. My favorite thing to photograph in the world is faces. Any and every face. I love it. But now and again, I come across a landscape that's so breathtaking that I have to try to capture it. I took this on one of the random times we decided to pull over on the side of the road because the sunset was sooo beautiful that we had to get out and stop to watch it. Man, I miss that place.

I watched 5 movies on the plane.

Yeah. So I took off for Africa a few weeks back (in fact, I'm still here!). The flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg is 16 hours and I love it because I can catch up on movie watching. I absolutely love watching movies but don't really do it at home because I don't have much time to, don't have netflix, a TV, or a life conducive to sitting and watching a picture box - so me and international flights get along quite well. The only problem is that I lose track of time on planes and while traveling. I have this thing that happens to me, especially in Africa, where I forget what day it is, and sometimes what month is it. Thank God for iCal. Anyway. I had the honor of returning to Swaziland with the Thirst Project to document some of the progress they are making in their audacious effort to provide the entire country with access to clean water. It was pretty amazing to see communities literally turned inside out because the Thirst Project put in a well. One gal said to me... "Life is happy happy happy now. I have what I need. I have water."

We also got to visit a community called Malendza. It's one of my all time fav places in Swaziland. I have all sorts of friends there, particularly this extremely elderly lady named Koko. She tried to teach me to cut down a tree with a machete and then told me that I was not a good African because I couldn't manage. When we pulled up to the village she came out and gave me a big hug - she remembered me from more than a year ago and asked me why it had taken me so long to get back into town... I was overwhelmed with joy.

Here are a few photos from our time in Swaziland.

This is Koko. The glasses were my idea - the sass was totally her idea. This photo was from last year!

Meet Pogas. He is a 5 year old pre-schooler in a village called Debeli. His village received a well and it was so amazing to celebrate with everyone. His village is where the chicken incident happened (aka, I was peer pressured into cutting off a chicken's head - and we all ate it directly afterward while I had severe emotional trauma). That's us in Sibu's village. Anyone got like $50k they'd like to donate to Sibu's village? He is our Swazi bro for life and we really would love to get water to his village. My this lady could dance Back in Malendza to check on how things were going.It was a really short, but amazing trip. If you want to find out more about how you can get involved in the global water crisis, go to www.thirstproject.org.

When ideas come to life.

For those of you who don't know, my blog absence can [sort of] be attributed to a new project that myself and a few other brave souls have decided to undertake. We've decided to create the biggest fuss possible about how Burma is a total crap-shoot country right now and needs to change; also, we've decided that we want to tell the stories of a few of the 6,000 Burmese refugees living in Indianapolis. So, it’s been a pretty wild past few months with INDYrefugee (said project). Everything from interviews and trips to Malaysia to seeing the faces of Biak and Suiming (our Indianapolis friends that came to the states 6 months ago after spending more than 3 years as refugees in Malaysia) after giving them gifts from their family (from Malaysia), to administration, to planning a refugee night at the Harrison Center [Dec 2, you should come]. It’s been busy to say the least. But the best part, by far, has been seeing the ideas for telling the stories of Burmese refugees come to life. Seeing the response of the local Burmese community here in Indy that has been overwhelmingly gracious – they are so happy that a small group of artists have decided that everyone in Indy needs to know about what’s happening in Burma and gain a deeper understanding of the lives of Burmese refugees – that has been the most rewarding part of this journey. Anyway, without further ado, here is a favorite image from the project thus far. There are many more to come, but check this lady out. She will be premiering on Dec 2 at the Harrison Center event in all her cuteness.

(photo by Katie, stellar illustration by Joel Rockey)

Her name is Ciang Kok Dob and she is one of the most adorable people ever. I met her at the community centre in Kuala Lumpur. We had waved and said hi in passing quite a lot, but one day I decided that I needed to hang out with her.

As Sang Bawi (one of our translators) and I climbed over rails and the 2 foot wide gap to get to our her building from ours – she laughed at how crazy we were. I was wearing a skirt and had cameras strapped on my back – it was definitely against my better judgement to think I was Tarzan. Next time, we decided, we would take the stairs, go around the building, go back up the stairs, and properly get to the other side of the 6th floor where she lived.

Anyway, as I began talking with her, I quickly realized that she was one of the sassiest women I’d met in Malaysia. I started asking her about her childhood and school, that’s when she told me about beating up boys and getting in trouble for talking. Then, I began to wonder if we were the same person… Anyway, we she allowed me to photograph her and we laughed and laughed. My favorite part was that she wanted to be photographed holding her Bible. Seriously, what a precious lady.

10 Reasons I love Indianapolis.

Two weeks ago I returned from an epic photography related adventure/excursion that took me all over Africa, India, and to Malaysia and Thailand (www.thirstproject.org)  So, needless to say, I really wasn't in all that much of a hurry to get back to Indy where I knew that I had a zillion things to do (the tasks NEVER END!!!!!), people to see and talk to and projects and laundry and bills and what have you. Then I remembered that I was going to be going back to Indy which really is a great city with loads of great things going on and awesome people and shows and parties and camp-fires and s'mores and art shows and coffee and friends and I was reminded that though we may not have the ocean or 70 degree weather year round, that I really love this city - that there are some really amazing and creative and alive people who reside here - then I got super happy and couldn't wait to get off the plane and see everyone and my family and tell stories and get back into life. I was in Fountain Square yesterday waiting to meet up with some clients for a photo session and met these two random traveling musicians and struck up a conversation because a. they had an accordion b. they had really neat suitcases they had spread all over the sidewalk and because I get easily distracted by shiny things I couldn't stop myself from talking with them. They told me that they played a show at Chick-fil-A, which I thought was really weird because, really, who does that? They also told me that they were from PA and were just traveling through and heard that Fountain Square was great so just turned up and I decided to take their picture. >> HERE

It was such a random and great interaction and I just kept looking around and thinking about how much I really do like living in Indianapolis, and here's a few reasons why (in NO particular order).

10. There is this coffee shop in Fountain Square that I call the "Cheers" of coffee shops because everyone that goes there and works there knows each other and not just like, 'Hey how's it going, let me get your coffee' type of deal, but everyone is friends and hangs out and talks about life and high fives each other and cares about each other and holds each other's babies and it's such a great place that me and Courtney often wonder how we ever lived without it. >> you can find them here: www.cfcoffeecompany.com

9. This past Friday I got to chat with an awesome mover and shaker here in Indy named John Clark. He is a dreamer and doer and rallys people and can be found here: www.provocate.org. I got to talk with him about how he is in the process of gathering people here in Indy engage possibilities and plans of reshaping the social consciousness of Indy so that it's known as a place that has strong involvement in the international community and pushes for social change... he is having a summit in December and inviting everyone in Indianapolis that is currently working on international clean water initiatives to gather and connect and discuss ways to engage our community with the water crisis. I like this. A lot.

8. Then there's the Harrison Center for the Arts. It's a collection of artists that reside at 16th and Delaware and it's such a great place. The HCA artists and staff love the community and care about it and care about people and each other and they use art to bring people together and do great socially minded things all over the place. It's such a great place, that though they won't tell you, people come from all over (including other countries) to visit and learn how to use the HCA as a model for non-profit art/community involvement. I have a studio space at the HCA and aside from the fact that they are totally cool with me spray painting the floor hot pink, they genuinely have taken interest in each artist that creates there. And for some reason, that means more than anything to me. www.harrisoncenter.org

7. There is this crazy group of creative people who have banded together and started to convince even the most jaded Indianapolis resident that living here is the best thing there ever was. They are hilarious and brilliant and did I mention hilarious? They have the most amazing logo I've ever seen and have variety shows and basically channel their inner seven-year-old selves and make you think that all of life should just be lived as one big party. Check them out: www.knownostranger.com

6. I have a really awesome neighbor who is really good at having fun and making mixed drinks and telling stories and porch sitting and fixing anything that could ever be broken and has a great DVD collection that he likes to share and always has sidewalk chalk on hand. He also comes up with really great ideas like having water balloon fights and going to the taco truck and listening to great tunes and loves old, good, country-music. He even shared his tomatoes with us all summer. He doesn't have a website or anything, but if you ever come over, you have to meet him. He is the absolute best.

5. There is this amazing Mexican restaurant called La Parada on New York that is one of the best places in the city and has mind blowing guacamole. The couple that owns it are obviously from Mexico and are so happy and friendly that I sort of wish that I worked there. They have a little baby named Alejandro that has the longest eye lashes and is so happy all the time and just hangs out behind (actually under) the front counter in his crib and plays. Now that he's bigger, he just wonders around the restaurant (that has about 9 tables). I remember this one time when he was really little and his dad walked over and handed him to me because he needed to sweep the floor and I loved that Alejandro's dad didn't ask if I wanted to hold the baby, he just gave him to me. I really don't know why more places aren't like that. They don't have a website, but are located at New York and State and you can/should google them.

4. There is an organization called Outreach Inc., and it's ran by a guy named Eric who is a total rock star and loves his family and staff and other people. They work with young homeless youth here in Indy and have been around for a while. What amazes me is that they somehow have managed to find that perfect balance of constantly moving forward and impacting kids while doing gritty, emotionally intense work - without becoming tired, run-down, or jaded. I like them so much. www.outreachinc.org

3. Heartland Film Festival is SO AWESOME. A few months back I sat with the founder (who happens to be my BFF's dad) over hookah and I got to hear the entire back story of how Heartland came to life and it was absolutely mind-blowing. It's so great to know that there is a film festival that has committed itself to seeking out inspiring and positive films and giving out awards for it. They put on a pretty fabulous gala as well. www.trulymovingpictures.org

2. I've become obsessed with refugees from Burma lately and the idea of Burma changing politically and the government not sucking and being douche-bags and committing genocide and other ridiculous human-rights offences on the regular (see www.indyrefugee.com). There is a great org. here in Indy called Exodus Refugee Inc. that works with refugees that move here from places all over the world. They have a big and tough job and I can't imagine all the hurdles they have with cross-cultural transitioning and emotional trauma with refugees. They have been really helpful with the project I've been working on to tell the stories of Burmese refugees. They connected me with a family that had just moved to Indy from Burma (via Malaysia) and even connected me with some of their friends that live in Malaysia and work with refugees so I could go there and do more interviews to further the project. They can be found here: www.exodusrefugee.org

1. This may not qualify for a reason that I love Indianapolis, but may be more like just a bonus of living in the city, but I love that I live exactly 22 minutes from the airport. This means that I don't even have to pre-arrange airport pick-ups and drop-offs. I can just get off the plane and call someone to come and get me. By the time I get my suitcases and get outside, there is no wait. This also works out well as I usually don't pack for trips less than 3 hours before departure.

The other day

The other day I told Natalie "Sometimes in life it's just better to NOT know what I'm getting myself into, because then I probably wouldn't a lot of things." There is a lot of comfort in not knowing the future. I'm certain that if I had one of those 8-ball things and knew what the future held, I'd curl into the fetal position and never leave my house. I think God was smart to not allow us to know the future. After Natalie and I arrived in Kuala Lumpur a little over a week and a half ago (after traveling through east Africa and India) with a list of Burmese Refugee's phone numbers and a suitcase full of cameras, I quickly realized that we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into, and that was really good. It ended up being one of the most challenging weeks I've had in my life, or maybe just in a long, long time. It wasn't the constant heat, severe lack of sleep, or even stress of making sure that the photography job got done well, but it was the people who were overwhelming - in the best way possible.

The first three people we met were named: Sang Hre, Sang Bawi, and Tin Bang Shwe. They are three of the top guys that work at the Centre for Chin Refugees and have such relentless work ethics, a fiery passion to see Burma operate under democracy, strategy and intelligence, organization, determination, and out-of-this-world humor, that our time was split between laughing so hard we were crying, and the other part was actually spent crying. They were so overwhelmingly welcoming, hospitable, and helpful that we simply did not know what to do with ourselves. It's one thing to have the honor of dealing with pleasant co-workers, but it takes it to an entirely new level when you become such good friends that you can't imagine how you actually got this far in life without them. They became some of our absolute best friends. Aside from the fact that they can karaoke like NOBODY'S business, throw a birthday party like a champion, know 6 languages, and never sleep, they kept us laughing until we cried. We really didn't expect to leave Kuala Lumpur having made such great friends. Not to be all dramatic and stuff, but it made it much more difficult to leave knowing we may not see them again.

More than that, the interviews with the refugees. THE INTERVIEWS. Learning about the life is a refugee is not for the faint of heart. Stories of having to flee from the Burmese army at the risk of doing forced labor; bring wrongfully arrested and tortured for two months in the dark re: water boarding, being electrocuted, beaten, and starved; waiting 9 years in limbo to be resettled; and living in the country illegally working all day every day on a farm. In all of the stories that we sat and listened to and all of the faces that we photographed, one couldn't help but notice that the Burmese refugees all stand in solidarity fighting for their country's freedom, all have relentless hope, deep resiliency, and have never once complained about having a crappy life. I almost couldn't handle it.

These past few days off have been great. It's been good to take the time to think things through and realize that the only way to be is filled with gratitude for having met such amazing people and resolve that I will not stop until their stories are told. Here are a few photos from the recent photo INDYrefugee project endeavor.