In January 2008, I travelled to China for three weeks as a chaperone for high school students from the Tacoma School of the Arts participating in a service and study tour. One creative student, Julie Farrell, had been learning Mandarin and decided to interview elderly Chinese about living through the Cultural Revolution. With a translator’s help, Julie recorded oral histories of elders spending their last years in a well-reputed old folks home. I was the privileged photographer who got to go along. It was an amazing experience.
Animitas. Chile, 2015
Animitas are roadside shrines found everywhere along Chilean roadsides and in smaller cities and towns. The word, animita – used only in Chile - is a diminutive of the Spanish word for soul. The shrines are often created to memorialize people involved in accidents or from violence related to drug or political clashes. Some shrines are not based on tragic events but rather serve as a place of refuge, of rest, or to give thanks and prayers.
We passed many animitas as we drove through the northern Chilean desert. These captured my attention because each was very unique in construction, color, and presentation- serving not only as memorials, but also as intriguing folk art sculptures.
Haitian Men and Boys
During my first trip to Haiti, I went to the Saturday morning English language class given by the Brothers Xaverian of Maison Fortune Orphanage. Entering a large room crowded mostly by men with a few women, I went to offer conversational English practice. I was introduced as a midwife doing photography, and immediately the questions flew. "Is it good to breastfeed a baby right away or are you supposed to wait a few days?" "Is sugarcane bad for pregnant women?" "What are the worse things you have seen?" "Why did you want to be a midwife?" "What good does a midwife do?" "Are breech babies dangerous?" It was such a surprising thing to talk to all these MEN about childbirth. I mean, they really wanted to know! The women remained quiet, perhaps shy and not as confident with speaking.
Later, it was my turn for questions. I asked the more vocal men what they wanted to do for Haiti and for themselves. Each has big, honest, visionary dreams... an architect, several agronomists, lawyers, doctors, a nurse, a policeman, but there is lack of educational and financial opportunity. The intelligence and thoughtfulness of these men was touching. So much human potential! I wonder if any will be able to realize his hopes. One of them ended his statement with "God willing."