The Bartender – Kanchanaburi, Thailand

I’m in Burlington, Vermont. In a couple of days, a very close friend of mine gets married to a lovely girl. I approve, not that it should matter if I didn’t.

Anyway, that’s completely irrelevent to this post. Before landing in New York City, I spent a month back in Thailand, a land previously very close to my heart (7 months, straight out of high school, will do that to a person). There have been other returns to Thailand, and specifically Bangkok, where I was based in 2006. However I found this trip to leave a different impression. Things changed, for the country, sure, but mostly in myself. My values and beliefs no longer seem compatible with the lifestyle found in Bangkok, Thailand. Also relatively irrelevant to this post.

Now, relevantly. I had to get out of Bangkok. Bangkok had always been the one city I always claimed I could move back to in an instant, if I was offered a job there… but this visit proved completely different. I wasn’t enjoying my time there, I felt stagnant, and uninspired in the capital, so I left. I found myself in Kanchanaburi and made some friends. One of whom was Jeejee, the bartender at one of the 10 baht shot bars. 10 baht is roughly 30 cents. We spoke, became friends, and through her and the other friends I made, I broke my 2 weeks of sobriety at that same 10 baht bar. The bargain was too good to refuse. And she and her bar made a nice subject to shoot.

So, this is Jeejee.

 

I’ve had a few beers tonight. It’s a reunion of old friends, deal with it.

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Elephants Can Be Orphans Too

It’s true. Baby elephants get orphaned, just like humans. Mummy elephant could be killed or injured. Hell, maybe she could even disown the baby, leaving it in some sort of jungle dumpster. As a Biology graduate, I have no actual idea if that happens.

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, located on the outskirts of Nairobi, has been established to rescue and raise these orphaned elephant kids. The babies live out in the park, under their carers constant supervision. The carers sleep with the elephants at night, to watch over and feed them, until they are old enough to get out and explore the world. Every day they come into the feeding centre for lunch. The feeding centre is on the edge of the Nairobi National Park. It’s also one of the few real tourist attractions in town. I have been twice, and both times found it overpopulated by people who clearly fit the tourist bill. Think safari-looking clothes, rugged hiking boots, big floppy hats, or for the youngsters, think short shorts and singlet tops to cope with the heat. And of course, more cameras than most camera stores in town, and plenty of sunburnt arms and legs. For me, I went the first time with some little kids, and the second time with some friends just arrived. As a Biology graduate, I do enjoy seeing the little elephants play around, but it gets old quick, and I’d rather see them in the wild, personally…

Coming in for feeding

That said, it IS a good jumpstart into Kenya’s wildlife, for those with an impending safari. The elephant orphanage is part of the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, and every day between 11am and Noon, visitors can come to the centre, pay a measly, or hefty, 500 shilling “donation” (about $5-6… hefty depending on your budget) to watch the rangers feed the baby elephants, and give a speech/lesson about the shelter, what they do, and an introduction to some of the elephants. If you dig baby elephants, get there on time, because the little ones get fed first. Yes, you can touch them if they come close enough. There’s also a solitary white rhino chilling in its cage, and warthogs trotting around the grounds from time to time. Since it’s set inside the Nairobi National Park, there’s the chance, however slim, that a lion could cross your path on the way in, but I definitely think the odds are against us.

Even if you aren’t so keen on elephants, but willing to coff up the mandatory donation, the amusement gathered from listening to the dumb questions some people ask ( Sorry American, no offence to all of you, I know you all aren’t this ridiculous). On my more recent visit, we had an American man, keen to display his immense interest in all things elephant, by asking a series of questions. He started with “how old is the youngest elephant”, a fact stated probably 3 times in the course of the feeding. He followed with more questions, asking for information already told to him.. But the coup de gras was his final question:

“Do all the elephants get released into the wild, or are some trained to become circus elephants?” Come on guy, seriously??

Heading back to the bush

Finished With Istanbul

Enough is enough. It’s been a month since I left Istanbul, and as a result, a month since I landed in Nairobi. While I did fall in love with Istanbul, I can’t let myself keep writing about it. No more. For now..

So this will be a small sample of the photos I still wanted to share, but hadn’t yet. Primarily, was the highly-anticipated, in my eyes at least, roll of 3200ISO black and white film I shot. Unfortunately for me, the man I left in charge of developing this roll, in Nairobi, must have been sleeping, as I lost the first 10 photos, shot in the underground Basilica Cistern. Devastating. The resulting photos came out also worse for wear, but were at least manageable..

All photos featured here were a product of either the aforementioned 3200 film, or a 3 year expired roll.

Light leaks aren't necessarily bad

Here can be witnessed the perils of risking expired film. Don’t get me wrong, it can work out beautifully, or it can end up cloudy, super grainy, soft, or just with messed up colours (which some would still argue is beautiful).

Blue Mosque, with super expired film.

Expired view over the horn

And now, to finish off Istanbul, are the shisha smoking session photos. It’s much easier to type than say out loud. I had high hopes for these shots, but was unfortunately let down a little. To be fair, I haven’t much experience shooting film at high ISO, and there was a LOT of smoke in the cafe. By the way, as a quick sidenote to anyone with little experience, I recommend apple flavour, with a bit of mint. Personal fave so far, feel free to disagree.

3 of my 4 main Istanbul homies.

Experiencing Istanbul Chp 4: Get Inked

During my time in Istanbul, I was lucky enough to join my new mate Vale, as she got inked. Hooked up with a special ‘staff price’ by the tattoo artist next door, she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get a tatt for under 15Eur ($20). And I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to shoot a tattoo session.

It was about this time that I realised I had no access to money beyond that already in my wallet. My internet banking had been locked out since April (guessed the wrong password 3 times in a row, then guessed the wrong answer to my ‘secret question’ while skype calling to get the password reset), and then my “travel money card” (Preloaded, kinda like electronic travellers checks) also ran out of money. With just enough money for my Kenyan visa, accommodation, transport to Istanbul airport, and food and vodka for the 4 remaining days of my time in Istanbul… I could just scrape through until landing in Nairobi and getting spotted some cash from mum.

Unfortunately, I continued browsing camera shops (see my last post for justification of the following event here). While debating whether to blow my money on a lot of Ilford film, I found a pristine copy of the 28mm f2.8 Minolta lens I had wanted. Knowing it was a foolish idea, and frustrated that I had found the ONE storeowner in Istanbul who refused to haggle, I did what any responsible traveller wouldn’t do, and emptied my wallet to buy this lens.

I justified the decision with three simple points:

  1. 1. The lens wasn’t much cheaper on ebay, and it would take time to arrive in Kenya (or be lost in the post).
  2. 2. I could go without the bottles of vodka
  3. 3. I REALLY wanted it to shoot the tattoo session.

So, with 30 minutes before Vale was meant to meet with the tattooist, I handed over most of the contents of my wallet, and walked on back.

As for the tattoo session itself… The setting was beautiful, on an empty rooftop bar, mid afternoon, sun is out, with a view over the bosphorus river. Unfortunately for Vale, she agreed to let both me, and Paul the German, shoot the afternoon with our analog cameras. I can only imagine that she would have been more relaxed without our cameras in her face, waiting for the moment when she winces. Still, she got some mementos… Aside from the tattoo.

All photos were shot with Ilford PAN400 (b&w), developed and scanned in Nairobi. Quality suffered as a result, it seems.

Pre-tatt destress smoke

Paul getting the shot

Half time break

Oh, as for the money issue, I got spotted some cash from mum before I left Istanbul, enough to hold me over AND buy all that film I wanted. But the shops were all closed for Eid, so I didn’t get the film after all. Devastating news, I know.

Istanbul Aside – Vintage Camera Shopping

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Old cameras. Shot with my already owned Minolta SRT101, Ilford PAN400

There are two things I can never help myself with, when it comes to shopping. Normally, I’m somewhat of a rock, uninterested in the task of buying clothes, or shoes, or definitely souvenirs. But there’s still those two weaknesses. Vinyl records, and old cameras. Europe was hell for me to get through, all the markets with the European releases of albums I had never seen on vinyl, and me looking through them with no money, and no space. I finally shook that urge after the disappointment of not acquiring became too much.

Then Eastern Europe came around, and the prevalence of old Zorky’s, Kiev’s, and other Soviet relics rose, while the prices dropped. Finally I caved on the urge and purchased my Minolta SRT101. Then I arrived in Istanbul, and found the camera district. A few days later three girls checked in to my hostel, liked my camera, wanted to get (back) into film, and so off we went, in search of some good old film cameras. Just when we thoguht our options were exhausted, we found this little German speaking man, up some stairs and around a corner, in a shop barely bigger than a kitchen table, but stuffed to the brim with old cameras, lenses, spare parts, and repair tools…

Uninterested by her offer

The girls came out two cameras richer, and, for three girls apparently on a super tight budget, much poorer.. Me, I’m happy with my Minolta. I may have kept a sly eye open for a cheap rangefinder… but didn’t succumb.