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Sea Turtles and Sunshine

Sea Turtles and Sunshine

A few incredible days in paradise.

First off, I’d like to apologize for not posting sooner, but I’ll blame it on the wifi. There is only one place on this island where I can get good wifi (two if you count this amazing restaurant but I’m not about to do work there). So I’m writing this from my resort’s bar which in typical resort fashion is made out of wood with a straw roof, adorned with fun signs that say “it’s five o'clock somewhere” and “welcome to paradise.” I can feel the gentle breeze and if I look up from my computer screen, I’m faced with this incredible expanse of ocean that extends past a white sand beach. It truly looks like something out of a postcard. When the water is calm as it is this morning, you can see the bright aquamarine water turn deep purple in patches where the pristine coral reef sits. Beyond that, the water deepens further into a dark blue and continues into the horizon. Yes, I am in a pretty incredible place, but why?

We found out last week that CNF would be taking a trip to the island of Koh Lipe in Southern Thailand on the Andaman sea. Our chairman Miguel has been working to set up a sea turtle hatchery to preserve the few remaining sea turtles in the area. The islands around Koh Lipe are all national parks and no tourists can stay on the islands, or even go to them without an organized and closely monitored trip. We would be scoping out beaches and talking to local fisherman to gather information on the sea turtles. We left Pai last Thursday and spend the night in Chiang Mai where we wandered the amazing night market. Early Friday morning we awoke to catch a flight that landed us at a big island which I cannot remember the name of. We then took a two hour bus to the sea and from there we took a two hour speedboat to Koh Lipe. When we finally arrived I could not believe it. 

I’ve described the incredible view to you already but not that of the resort. Mali Resort is right on the beach and has these incredible tropical trees of every kind stretching into the sky. The bungalows are clean and luxurious. I fell down immediately on the super-soft bed and tried to pinch myself to see if it was all a dream. And yet, it was not a dream. We were really here and we had work to do. 

The first day we settled into our new accommodations and celebrated Casey’s birthday. Casey and Kelsey are the two other interns here with me on the island and they have made the experience even more fun. Friday night we all watched the sunset from this incredible restaurant where everything was so expensive we could only afford the orange juice. We then wandered around the resort town stopping in at various themed bars and being wowed by the fire dancers. 

The next day we went out to explore some of the beaches at a nearby island. These beaches were strictly off limits to tourists, but we had special permission from the navy to search for sea turtle tracks and find a suitable place for a hatchery.  Miguel, Hippo, Kelsey, Casey, and I waded into the sea and hopped aboard a wooden longboat that would take us to the island. I grew up on boats so I was immediately comfortable at sea. However, I was keenly aware that we all had the ability to tip the boat if we so pleased. It was not quite the same as my family’s pontoon boat back home, As we rode to the island I leaned over the side and saw the coral clear as day with all manner of sea creatures swimming in its midst. It was breathtaking.

Spending the day on beaches that didn’t have a single footprint other than our own was an ethereal experience. The sand was different than the sand on Koh Lipe. Our feet sank deep with each step and we heard nothing but the sound of waves crashing and the rustle of the wind through the palm trees. 

The next few days was a combination of fishing, relaxing, and cleaning up beaches. Unfortunately there is so much trash that washes up on the shores of these beaches because of the tides. Every week a group of locals get together with tourists as part of an initiative called Trash Heroes where they take longboats out to nearby islands and pick up trash. In two hours we collected over fifty large bags of trash. We also spent a few mornings fishing and searching for sea turtles. Although we weren’t lucky enough to catch any sea turtles yesterday morning we caught over sixty fish. I caught seventeen myself and the best part was that we took them to a great restaurant for dinner where Miguel knows the owner and he barbecued the fish for us to eat. 

As much as this detour has been exciting, I am just as excited to get back to Pai where there is still so much to explore. 

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A Day in Pai

A Day in Pai

Adventuring through my new hometown. 

Today we found out that we will be leaving in two days for a small island cluster in the far south of Thailand in the Satun province. For an unspecified amount of time (perhaps a few days or a week) CNF will be tasked with building a sea turtle hatchery and protecting the eggs of these critically endangered creatures. We have never done anything like this before. The other interns and I have been searching the internet for how-to guides on building a hatchery as we are trying to prepare for this new journey. I am so excited I can barely contain it. Anyway, while the Chairman Miguel prepares for our trip, we closed down the Elephant tours and Hippo took us on a tour of Pai.

Let me just start by saying that Hippo is the best tour guide ever. We got to go to so many places that were on my list and all in one day! I never felt rushed and we ate SO MUCH great food. The morning started with a trip to the Wednesday market. This is a big affair that happens every week in Pai. It winds around the streets and through a park. Everything you can imagine is sold at the Wednesday market: food, clothing, backpacks, flashlights, batteries, fish-both to eat and to have as pets, oh and we found a rabbit for sale for only 150 baht! Thats around four dollars, folks. It was so much fun to wind through the shops with Hippo as she talked with all the shop owners and negotiated on our behalves. I walked away with a cute traditional wrap that I can’t wait to wear. 

After the market it was so hot we were all sweating like dogs so we stopped for fruit smoothies. Now this place was simply wonderful because they didn’t use any added sugar. It was essentially your fruit of choice plus ice and it was divine in the overbearing heat. After our quick smoothie break we hopped on our bikes again and this time drove out to the Chinese village. Yes, for some reason there is a large Chinese population right outside of Pai and it has been this way for years. They established their own Chinatown, complete with the mandatory giant Chinese arch welcoming you to the town. In the Chinese village we found really great shopping. Jade jewelry and porcelain tea sets greeted us at reasonable prices and every shop offered us some delicious tea while we browsed. It was really fun to walk around and see the well-kept village. 

After our tour of the Chinese village we were back on the road to a well-known waterfall. The road was steep and bumpy but the view was absolutely spectacular. Upon reaching the waterfall, we figured out we had to do a bit of rock climbing to get to the top. I left my bag with Hippo, took my shoes off, slung my camera over my shoulder and started up. It is a wonderful feeling to climb with only your hands and feet, although it was certainly a bit treacherous. At the top it was a gorgeous view as the water cascaded into smaller pools where people of all ages were swimming and relaxing. 

Soon enough we were on the road again to our final destination, the Land Split. A few years ago, an earthquake caused the land on a farm to split apart in a dramatic fashion. The owner was savvy and soon enough it became one of Pai’s favorite tourist destinations. I fell in lovewith the land split. The owners are as kind as can be, offering you an array of products that they produce from the land the moment you walk up. Everything is donation only but I was tempted to empty my wallet for these fellows. After we hiked up and down the impressive land split, they invited us to drink some juice made from hibiscus flowers. I have never tasted such incredible juice in my life. Still full from lunch, I disregarded and gulped down two glasses full. I also tried some of their homemade wine and hibiscus jelly. It was all absolutely amazing. 

Full and happy, we got back on our bikes and drove to another waterfall before heading home sensing an impending storm. It was an incredible day and tomorrow we begin another adventure as we all head for Chiang Mai before our flight to the islands. 

 

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Getting There Pt. 2

Getting There

Pt. II: THe Journey to Pai

 

 

The flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai was easy and relaxing. I slept pretty much the entire time and the weird burrito like thing they gave us on the plane was weirdly good. I consider that a win-win! Once in the Chiang Man airport I quickly located the shuttle bus to Pai and soon enough I was loaded into a van with eight or ten other travelers. All of the other passengers were my age and from around the world. I talked to two german girls who were seated next to me for quite some time as we braced ourselves against the gut-wrenching twist and turns that is the road to Pai. All I can say is thank GOODNESS for motion sickness medication. I popped those pills and soon enough I peacefully fell asleep. 

When we finally arrived in Pai I woke up from my deep medicine-induced slumber and gazed in awe at the world around me. It was small and lively- full of markets and so many coffee shops each adorned with their own logos and colors. The streets were vibrant, full of people from all around the world who were biking and walking around. It honestly looked like a fairy tale southeast-asian style. 

The van stopped and we all got out. My new friends walked to their hostel and I took my bags and sat at the side of the road for someone who was supposedly picking me up from Conserve Natural Forests. I didn’t have a second to worry though because as soon as the van pulled away, a big white truck bearing the logo of CNF pulled up. A lively young Thai was driving. I hopped in and he introduced himself as Bok. We spoke a bit of broken english and he seemed remiss that he couldn’t communicate better. I tried my hand at my poor thai and his eyes lit up. “Koon poot pasa Thai?” (You speak Thai?) “Nit Noy!” I replied, explaining that I speak only a little. After that we had a ball driving down the winding country roads leading away from Pai as we talked back and forth in our broken languages. 

Soon enough we arrived at the homestead. It was a bit different than I had imagined with it being separate from the conservation. A patch of land right off the main road hosted a large bungalow with covered porch where we eat our meals. The porch faced a pond and three little bungalows that lined the dirt road near the water. I was shown to my new home, the last in line. I have a lovely little front porch and inside is one room with a mattress on the floor, a little shelf, a fan (BEST part of the room) and a single lightbulb. The bathroom has a squatty potty (no flushing ladies and gents) which is odd but I’ve accepted it haha. The accommodations are meager but wonderful. It is so easy to get wrapped up in a world full of conveniences. Coming here has made me realize how little we actually need. 

I had just dropped my bags off in my room when Bok asked if I wanted to go to the conservation. I was exhausted but I did not want to sleep, so I jumped in the truck and off we went. Ten minutes down the road we pulled off near another CNF sign. There was a group of young people around a thai man learning how to plant trees. There I met my two fellow interns, also photographers. Soon, the elephants were called over and I could see them walking from a distance and then crossing the muddy river to the edge of the hill we were on. Some of the visitors started feeding the elephants pieces of fruit. The other interns encouraged me to do the same. I picked up a large piece of fruit and the elephants reached their large trunks my way. Maemoon reached the delicious treat first, her course skin brushing up against mine as she lightly tugged the fruit free and brought it to her mouth. 

Elephants are amazing. Their eyes were so bright and you could tell they were so incredibly happy. Mother and daughter, the two elephants were rescued from an elephant-riding tourist camp which is a miserable way for the majestic creatures to live. Now they are free to roam and are taken care of by loving people. I’m falling asleep writing this and will post it in the morning, but I think that I will love it here. 

Peace out from Pai. 

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Getting There

Getting There

 

Pt. 1

I’ve started to figure out that the more you try to plan out life, the more life pushes to be unexpected. Starting off on my grand adventure, I had imagined out exactly how my trip would go. I would sleep on the 13 hour flight from Minneapolis to Tokyo and then have lots of energy to go explore the city- which I’d already bought a fast train ticket for- during my 12 hour layover. Here’s what happened instead. The 13 hour flight was chasing the sun the entire way. It was morning to early afternoon my time so try as I might,  I could not fall asleep. Upon arriving in Tokyo, I was directed back through security only to find out that if I wanted to leave the airport during my layover I should have gone through customs. I had to wait for Japan air officials to approve my change of plans. Luckily the girls I met were so kind! Only twenty-two, they were kind and understanding as they escorted me the back way through security and to customs. That took about an hour and a half. I was sweaty and exhausted but I was determined. I went to the first information center I could find asking where to get on my fast train. She explained to me that the ticket I had bought was for another Tokyo airport. Somehow someway I thought I would be arriving in the Narita airport when really I arrived at Haneda. So that ticket pass was completely useless. 

 

Feeling dejected but nevertheless determined still, I pressed on. This airport was closer to the city anyhow so I would make up for lost time! The next step was to buy a one day subway pass. It was super cheap-but cash only. I went to an ATM only to find that it accepted neither my debit nor my credit. I went to ATM after ATM finding the same conundrum until I finally found one that worked! …Except it would only deploy bills of 10,000 yen or more. I needed about 1,500 for the whole day and I didn’t even have the money in my debit account so it was denied. Fun fact: never try to transfer money to a new account near labor day. It took the entire weekend to clear my money transfer and then informed me that the money would be placed on a four day hold. 

After that it was clear that no matter how much I wanted to, I would not be leaving this airport. I felt sad for a few minutes and definitely shaken up. I’d been awake for well over 24 hours by this point. However, the book I’ve been reading on vagabonding mentions the importance of a good attitude and how plans will always change- you have to be flexible and enjoy the changes! So that’s what I did. I went to the bathroom and spent a glorious amount of time changing, brushing my teeth and hair, and playing with the 500 fancy settings on the Japanese toilets (features included a butt washer and dryer- ooh!). After I emerged I felt so much better and I set about exploring the airport. 

The good news about being on the public side of the airport is that that’s where all the cool stuff was. The terminal was a massive glass and steel enclosure that housed several floors. The top floor was open and had traditional japanese features such as a long curved wooden bridge, paper lanterns, and small temple recreations. Following the path, I found a large observation deck that looked out onto the airplanes and Tokyo beyond. The weather was wonderful so I sat outside for awhile. Then I went down a floor and found myself amidst a market street reconstruction. It looked as if I had stepped into an alleyway in Tokyo as restaurants lined up side by side, each with their own front and lit paper lanterns lining the way. As I walked past these delectable restaurants (not your typical airport food!) I realized I had a bit of a dilemma. Without a way to get yen, how would I eat?  Everything around me was cash only. Good thing my mom sent me away with $20. It got me enough for a modest but delicious meal. I had to get sushi- even though I could only afford three pieces it was SO worth it) and then I got this soup with noodles and beef. It was really filling and for the first time all day I felt calm, satisfied, and relaxed. I wandered into a temple recreation. High wooden columns held a traditionally shaped roof. The center of the room was taken up by a stunning floral display and wooden backless benches lined the edges of the room. I saw one person already laying down on one so I thought what the heck. If I didn’t get some sleeps soon I was bound to pass out. Clutching my valuables, I laid down on the hard wooden bench and fell fast asleep. I slept on that bench for about an hour before moving on and finding a row of airport waiting seats to sleep on. When the time came to check in for my 1am flight, I was feeling like maybe I could do this thing after all. Travel can be scary and confusing and even when you ask all the right people you can still end up in the wrong place. You really do have to go with the flow and trust that everything will be alright.

Now here I am in Thailand, so close to my final destination. One plane ride and a three hour bus ride stands between me and Pai, me and my dream internship. Lets see how this second leg of the journey goes. 

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Parking Garage Montage

Highest Point

Tyler has been one of my best friends since freshman year at Centre College. We've talked about doing a photoshoot for a long time, but when it finally materialized, it was so much better than expected. It is so much fun to work with friends. We laughed and danced to fun music and made some awesome art. Besides his killer style and good looks (ladies, he's single!) Tyler is one of the most dependable people I have ever met. During college I've done my best to surround myself with those who reflect what I aspire to be. I would say I've been pretty successful. My friends constantly challenge me intellectually and creatively, while reminding me of the importance of relaxing and taking some time for myself. 

 

Casually dancing to his favorite song. 

In the end, all the glory goes to God. 

In the end, all the glory goes to God. 

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Rugged Luxury Part I

Keep it real.

Sometimes people enter your life with dreams as big as yours and the passion to obtain those dreams. Johnny and Hari are some of those people. I've always loved fashion, but collaborating with them has taught me to look at the clothes we wear in an entirely new way. Both grew up in Boston and fell in love with fashion but in very different ways. For Hari, the clothes are all about reflecting the person. It doesn't matter if the clothes were hand-me-downs or from goodwill, fashion can be attained by all and it should have no barriers. On the other hand, Johnny sees fashion as art. The wearer is merely the model for the masterpiece. It is clear to see the reflection of their views in the photos from this shoot. Despite their different views of the fashion world, these two guys are best friends and honestly an inspiration for creatives everywhere. I know there will be more collaboration in the future. 

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