Monday, June 29, 2009

Safe in Samoa

I’ve just arrived, and already, it has been a long journey.

Having spent the last two days in flight (with one stopover in Los Angeles), I can feel my body grinding to a halt, slowly adjusting to the ever changing ebb and flow of my internal clock. I’m tired. My mind is telling me that it’s bed time, but as I walked off the plane, the sun permeates through my pores with unrelenting heat.

A bright yellow sign reads “Welcome to Samoa!”

Before coming here, I had no idea where Samoa was on the map. New Zealand and Australia were the closest geographical landmarks that could give me some sort of bearing as to where I am. I’ve been so busy before coming here that I never had the chance to open a map. I still have no idea where Samoa is located. But in a way, I kinda like not knowing.

The hotel that I booked isn't the greatest. No hot water. No internet. No food. No security. No curtains on my windows. Not even a toilet seat on my toilet. I guess I just have to do the “hover maneuver.” My toilet consist of a bowl—a big bowl! My room has three beds, though--and I don’t know why. I just hope I’m not supposed to be sharing with anyone.

Blogspot has crashed three times while I'm typing this--so I'm going to push publish before I lose everything again. I'll write more when I get to an area with better connection.

Be well,

Friday, June 26, 2009

Sleepless Night

At night, just before I close my eyes and put myself to rest, I think of them--the family that fed me in the jungle, the little boy that played peek-a-boo with my camera, or the old man in India that talked to me about the U.S Presidential election by simply saying the only two foreign names he knew: "McCain, Obama." And when I asked him who he would vote for if he could, he simply shook his head. Priceless.

It's strange. Sometimes, in the midst of trying to fall asleep, I'd toss and turn, look for comfort, only to find myself lost in reflection--drowning in a sea of memories--memories that, at the time, seemed more like moments of wasted thought. But in retrospect, those are the moments that mean the most to me.

When I first started traveling extensively, I promised myself that I'd savour every moment of my adventures--every step and every breath had to mean the world to me. But after a while, slowly, either by choice or fate, I forgot about the promise I had made to myself--and ultimately, my mind began to ease; and like an epiphany in the making, I saw more than the destination, more than the excitement that defined the term "traveling," and realized that my purpose for traveling was to understand, to view the world in a different light. And by doing so, I see so much more than the obvious, the normal and the plain. I see things take shape, elements colliding in an ever changing world--creating a symphony of sublime intervention not noticeable to the naked eye.

So as I lay here tonight, trying to fall asleep, I am reminded not of the places I've been or the attractions I've paid to see, but of the people I've met--the people who mean the world to me, those who enter my life for reasons beyond my control. And because of them, I am able to enjoy my travels without having to worry about the destination; because I know that I'm brought there for a reason--no matter where it may be.

And like love, life is blind. You just never know where you'll be, who you'll meet or why you're doing what you do. It's the beauty of living.

Tomorrow morning I depart for another whirlwind trip around the world--on foreign assignment in Samoa, Australia, and Hawaii.

Hmmm, I wonder why I can't fall asleep tonight...

Friday, June 19, 2009

Video Blog Post

For the first time ever, a video blog from yours truly. I'm embarassed! It includes a few out-takes and a commentary. I hope you enjoy, and please, spare the tomatoes.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Mr. and Mrs. Tooth Fairy

Growing up, the tooth fairy never existed. With my tooth tucked under my pillow, I'd wait for days--sometimes months in anticipation. Every morning when I awoke, my little fingers would slowly lurk under my pillow, looking for the shiny quarter that my teacher had taught us to look for. Unfortunately, Mrs. Fields failed to tell my parents of such a trick--and being the immigrant parents that they were, they would've laughed hysterically at anything remotely as weird as a tooth fairy.

It took my parents 10 years to acknowledge that they were supposed to be Mr. and Mrs. Tooth Fairy. I was sixteen by then.

Anyways, fast forward a few years and I here I am, on the eve of extracting two wisdoms out of my mouth. My stomach churns just thinking about it. Please pray for me. I'm scared shitless. (Sorry, God for swearing in this post).

And to make up for all those quarters that never showed up under my pillow, I've asked my parents for $25 (inflation). My dad, however, failed to realize that I was being sarcastic and actually handed over the cash. It's about time,'s about time!!!

Monday, June 1, 2009

In War, I Found Myself

During my training last week, I was disgusted after viewing raw video footage of a student being struck by a bullet in the Middle East. Through the whole ordeal, the cameraman on the scene found it exciting to capture the student falling to the ground. With multiple angles, he cold heartedly shoved his camera into the students face as he laid there dying, screaming in pain. As a shooter who has worked in hostile environments, I was sad to see a fellow photog being blinded by his own lens. It inspired me to write the short journal entry below:


When I was younger, my dream was to one day film in war zones. At night, I'd read extensively about the Vietnam war, about the men and women of Alpha company landing in hot LZ's (landing zones), and how friends and foes would shed their blood, take a life, lose life. But in the midst of it all were the photographers capturing images that gave meaning to life, the living and the dead. It brought the war closer to home--made it real, and forever changed the perception on the price of freedom. So as a child of war, I wanted to become one of them--the men with the lens, the dashingly-cool bunch of guys that pointed glass at the enemy, those who saw the world by frames per second.

In retrospect, my dream has come true. I've lived that dream—stared fear in the face of danger, saw beauty in darkness, solace and grace, and witnessed the world unfolding in an utterly profound, yet definitive state. I've seen horror through a lens, felt the ground beneath me drown in pools of blood and even held the frigid hands of a dying marine I've never met. In war, I found myself. I found the man in me that I dreamt of as a child. In war, I realized that I am more a man not because of my bravery or how I find lust with light, but because in the midst of chaos, I am able to still see eye to eye with those who stare at my lens. I see life, not headlines. I see fear and pain. I hear prayers.

I have hope. Hope in humanity, in dignity, and in all who are stewards of the bounty around us.