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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Cass in Laurelhurst Park

My best girlfriend, Joan, from New York and her daughter,Cass, came to visit Portland last weekend.  My friend Joan asked if I could snap a few senior shots for Cass.  Cass is my favorite type of model....totally loves the camera and having fun, being silly, just being herself.  She's a gorgeous young woman with peaches and cream skin and the most beautiful shade of brunette with auburn highlights. 

The acorn doesn't fall far from the can see Cass get's her good looks from her Mom.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Rich man, poor man

Extreme contrasts, it seems, are the norm for Thailand. A tin and salvaged lumber shack stands next to a three story mansion. A cart selling chicken on a stick for a few bhats is parked outside a 5-star rated restaurant. One end of town sells chinese imports at below bargain prices and the other end of town sells jewels fit for a king.

This ying/yang of life was so keenly demonstrated to me when I met both the richest man, and the poorest man I've ever met in my life....just one day apart.

Our group of Rotarians visiting Northern Thailand, and the home of Count Gerald Van der Straten Ponthoz (on the far right).

Rich man: Count Gerald Van der Straten Ponthoz

While visiting Rotary projects in the Chaing Rai region of Thailand, we were invited for an impromptu visit to Count Gerald's beautiful Thai compound.  Gerald is a Belgian Count, and his family owns Anheuser-Busch/InBev. Gerald spends part of the year living in Thailand, and has developed programs to help young Akha men learn marketable skills. His model is to create a business and then teach the young men the skills needed to run the business, giving them not only a source of income, but valuable education in entrepreneurship.  He built a soccer stadium and a radio station that his students use as real life classrooms. Gerald gives them room to make decisions (and mistakes) but serves as an advisor and mentor as well. I guess you could say his model is, "You can give a man a fish and feed him today, or you can teach a man to fish and he can feed himself for a lifetime".

On this super hot (110 degrees) day, Gerald gave us a tour of his projects and invited us back to his palatial antique teakwood home for ice cold beverages and a rest on the cool veranda. He told us about the fundraisers he holds at his home and his patronage of promising art students (he has a studio and an apartment in the compound for the artists to use). He was reserved and softspoken, but kind, polite, and generous. And in case you're wondering what the favorite beer of the King of Beers's Leffe.

Our gracious host at the Akha village in Northern Thailand.

Poor man: Akha village father

I'm embarrassed to say, I never did get his name....but he made no less of an impression on me than Count Gerald. 

Our group of seven drove way up in the mountains, on roads I thought for sure we would never get through and over "bridges" that were no more than two planks of wood over the stream below, to visit an Akha village of roughly 300 people.  When we arrived at the village we were greeted by some of the elder men of the tribe who were resting in the shade and watching the little children while the rest of the villagers were working in the fields, hunting, or performing other daily tasks.  Our interpreter introduced us to the man, our host.

Slim and standing only about my height, he invited us into his home. His home was simple, a thatched bamboo hut standing on stilts.  After climbing the steep stairs, you arrived to a one room space shared by the family.  The space had a divider running halfway through it.  One side was where the females slept and the other side was where the males slept.  In the other half of the room was the common space used for cooking, eating, gathering and storage.  We were invited to sit on the male sleeping space (only used for special guests). Our host wanted to make us some tea. The "stove" was a hardened mud square in the middle of the room with small a grate for a teapot.  The man made a fire on the square and put the tea kettle on to warm.  Now the weather was, again, about 110, with high humidity. Being in the small hut with the fire going and smoke filling the air was like sitting in an Indian sweat lodge.

The Akha people have been refugees for over 100 years, and not recognized by any government.  They receive no government assistance in terms of education, health care or even protection.  They live off the land...hunting and farming and selling some crops for cash. They lead simple lives. Their people have been ravaged over and over by the local drug lords who raid their villages...steal their children, selling the girls into the sex trade, and using the boys as forced soldiers for their drug wars. And yet, these resilient people survive. They manage to find joy, beauty and laughter in their tenuous world.  And, they are so polite, so kind, and so friendly.

After the water boiled, our host served us a strong, floral/woodsy tea in small glasses. Then he brought out some dried, sugared dates to share with us...a real treat.  After our tea, he went with us to visit the coffee plants the villagers had just planted.  In two years time the the plants would produce beans that could be sold to help support the village.  He was, rightfully, proud.  And, I was humbled by the strength and the graciousness of this man.

Meeting these two men was an experience I'll never forget. Each man, in his own way, was impressive and inspiring. Each had lessons to teach, and I was a grateful student.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Thai school children

While in Thailand, we went to the up north to visit some schools where Rotary has completed projects such as adding libraries, computer labs and bathrooms.  Although the schools are government run, coruption is rampant and requests for basic necessities, go unanswered. Instead, funds are diverted into purchasing unneeded items simply because a relative of a government worker sells them.  Most of the children that attend these schools come from extremely poor families. At school, they receive an education, but they also receive food, a place to wash up, and fresh water for drinking.

School children with their teacher greet us as we arrive.

Poor little sweetie, she was I think a little overwhelmed with the commotion our visit created.

The children put "paint" made with flour and water on their faces to "look pretty" for our visit.

We gave these children some paddle balls to play with.  That cute fella on the left was so funny.  He followed us around and just giggled and giggled.  He gave me a hug when we left, and in his best English said, "Bye Bye"!

This shy little girl wanted to show me her toothbrush and cup that she has at school. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Hmong girls

I fell in love with the sweet children of Thailand.  These girls are from the Hmong tribe and are living in the far northern Chiang Mai region of Thailand.  They knew we were coming, so they dressed in their native costumes for us.  So serious....I couldn't get them to smile for a photo.  Precious girls, especially that little one.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Three faces of Julianna

Aw, Geez, Grammie, not the camera again!

Ok, I'll smile...Cheese!  Aren't I cute?

Ok, I'm done now.