I cannot say enough nice things about this girl right here. She's kind, thoughtful, beautiful and is just overall one of the most genuine people I've ever met. I absolutely LOVE shooting with you, Brooklyn, and I cannot wait for our next shoot! :)
First off, I just want to say what a privilege it was to go on this trip. Not only am I excited to make an impact on the Nepali people, but this trip also changed my life. It made me realize how much I have and how blessed I am to have everything that I do here in America. It made me realize how much I take advantage of this beautiful country and the "normals" of this every day life I call my own. I hope y'all enjoy all this beauty and I hope that it breaks your heart just as it did mine.
*Warning* this is by far my longest blog post but I promise you that it's worth it to scroll until the end :)
This trip was in loving memory of my Grams. My best friend, hero and grandma passed away on March 2nd, 2016 and she was the one who inspired me to go on this trip. One of the very last things she ever told me before she had her stroke was the fact that she loved how I dreamed and planned trips. I would dream of going somewhere and would just do everything I could to make it happen. I told her that it was because of her that I was that way. She was always taking us on vacations and trips. She gave me the wanderlust and I continue to find character traits that she's passed down to me. I will forever hold those so close to my heart. Crazy thing is, I actually found out about this trip at her celebration of life service. I knew that it was her way of telling me that it's okay, she's alright, she loves me and this was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I needed to take advantage of. I was at peace with the trip and felt her presence throughout the entire thing. I love you more than anything and miss you terribly, Grams. All for you.
One of my absolute FAVORITE parts of traveling is meeting new people. I'm so pleased to introduce y'all to Grace. Yes she's just as bubbly, happy and beautiful in person. We managed to grab full rows on our flight from Boston to Istanbul, which was about a 10 hour flight and definitely a lifesaver. (Be on the lookout for my next blog post to see how exactly we scored these awesome seats along with other flying tips!) She was heading back home to Beirut after finishing her semester at college in Boston. Oh my goodness, Grace, you were hilarious. I couldn't stop laughing with you! If you're reading this, I hope you realize how much I hope to see you again sometime soon! Have an amazing month home! :)
After 19 hours of flying, about 6 hours of layovers and 10 different time zones, we FINALLY made it!
When we arrived in Kathmandu, it was 6am so we checked into the hotel early and grabbed some breakfast. I can't remember the last time I added an actual sugar cube to my coffee. Y'all, it's all about the little things :)
After arriving at the hotel, we had some time to kill before meeting with four of the men who would be leading us on our trip so we decided to walk around and sightsee for an hour or so. Above is the view outside the hotel window.
This is quite possibly the most bizarre thing I've ever seen. So glad I'm not an electrician in Nepal.
Pups like this one were scattered all over Nepal. Some just searching for someone to drop something for them to eat and others just laying on the sidewalk. Most we didn't even know if they were dead or alive. The dogs honestly broke my heart just as much as the people.
After meeting with Build Change (an international organization that we are partnering with), we headed back to the hotel and met with the ex-home minister and a member of parliament to propose our ideas and vision with them.
Above is the ex-home minister (the 2nd most powerful person in Nepal at the time he was in elected). Later on our trip once we returned from the villages, he invited us back to the resort where he lives. Kathmandu is very dirty and dusty, but I couldn't believe how beautiful it was! Tigers, deer, monkeys, etc. all roamed freely. It was crazy. He was so hospitable and was constantly showering us with food and gifts.
We left the hotel for Tawal super early in the morning. The villages where we were heading to were part of the district of Ree Gaun, where the most people had been killed in Nepal because of the earthquake. The ride there ended up being a 12 hour commute, 9 of which were all off-road. BY FAR the roughest and bumpiest 9 hours of my life, but so worth it!
Meet Chandra. He's one of the men who lead us on our trip, and he helped translate for us throughout our time in Nepal. There were 8 killed in his village of Dhuseni during the earthquake including his father-in-law. My heart broke for him. He told us that during the quake, he was walking and trying to stay safe from the landslides. They had no source of water because it was cut off and they had no food for days. A helicopter dropped about 8 packs of rice, but that wasn't enough for everyone and many went hungry. He just remembered so much crying and screaming during the aftermath.
Meet Prem. He's also one of the men who lead us on our trip. Prem was hilarious and was just constantly laughing. On our way there, he started singing in the car. I couldn't understand what he was singing since it was in "Tamang" their native village language. I asked Chandra what he was singing about and Chandra answered, "He's singing about how he misses his wife." I melted.
Now it's time for you to meet the other two men. Hanok and Lako. Hanok was one of the most kindhearted and was constantly helping my uncle as we hiked all over the villages. Lako helped with translating and was constantly talking and smiling. I joked that he talked a little too much. He was the jokester of the group. We could not have accomplished everything on this trip without them and we cannot continue to do all the work in Nepal without their help. They are vital to our mission.
This will one day be a church again.
Every village we visited, we were lavished with gifts. Women would climb up trees to harvest flowers simply to tie into a necklace to give to us. They wrapped us in scarves and always made sure they fed us, even with the very little they had. Talk about selfless living. It was amazing and honestly really convicting. How could we have so much, yet give so little while they have so little and give so much?
"Travel isn't always pretty. It isn't always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that's okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully you leave something good behind."
Our first full day in the village of Tawal was spent hiking a total of 8 hours to get to and return from the village of Ri Gaun. It gave uphill both ways a whole new meaning.
These are those beautiful flower necklaces they lavished us with! They gave us so many!
There wasn't any room to store supplies so on top of the church under a tarp just had to do.
When I say they fed us, I mean they really fed us. The amount of sacrifice they conveyed was unreal.
Y'all this is the much loved coffee! They even roasted the beans right there. On a tarp. On the ground. Using the sun. Hey, it works!
Women (and Lako apparently) were constantly carrying stones from the hillside to the villages to help rebuild houses. Each basket could easily weigh over a hundred pounds.
That right there is a school. You can't really see it, but underneath the blue metal roof are tents that act as different "rooms" for the school that used to be there.
Depending on the village, men and women play different roles. In some villages, women would be the laborers and men the basket weavers and vise versa. We found out that it takes anywhere from 4-6 hours to complete a basket and when they sell them, they only make $1. One. Dollar. That means they live on less than $2 a day...
Yet they were happy.
This is one of my favorite pictures from this trip. We were hiking up the mountain to get to the village Ri Gaun and the villagers were patiently awaiting our arrival with gifts in hand and kids awaiting new faces.
There's SO much love in this image it's unreal. Yet, this isn't Prem's daughter. The name "Prem" actually means love. I think it's pretty suiting.
It's heartbreaking to think that where this tent stands, there was once a house.
Both the above and below pictures are of memorials that loved ones have made for those who've passed on.
A french organization donated this school to the village of Ri Gaun. I couldn't believe how nice this building looked compared to all those around it.
This beautiful little thing LOVED the camera. She was constantly trying to get in my shots so I, of course, took advantage of it! I mean come on guys, how adorable is she?! I figured y'all wouldn't want to have to scroll anymore than what you already are so here's a slideshow of some of my favorite shots of her :)
"But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15
Okay, this was seriously so funny to me. Everywhere we went, they served us Fanta and Coca Cola. Yes, even if it takes 9 hours off-road for the villages to get it, they make it happen.
My uncle and I attended a church service while in Tawal and we had the opportunity to speak. It was such an amazing experience. They worship like their lives depended on it. It so was beautiful.
There she is again :)
I thought this was the coolest thing. They don't have "bubbles." Instead, they take a plant, bite a part of it and then blow through. Bubbles started coming out everywhere and I couldn't believe it! It blew my mind. They made nothing into something and found so much joy in it.
After we finished our 13 hour ride back to Kathmandu (we hit a huge traffic jam because the government was checking for smugglers) we had our final meeting with Noll from Build Change. Once we finished that meeting up, the guys took us to some well known places to sightsee before they headed back to their families in Pokhara.
The story behind this picture is hilarious. Prem and I were behind the rest of the pack because you know me, I was snapping pictures left and right. As we approached this guy, Prem says, "No picture, no picture", but I only heard, "Picture, picture." Come to find out, this guy was like those people that stand in the middle of Times Square waiting for tourists to take pictures and then demand money. So this guy came up to me asking for money. I freaked out because I had no idea what he was saying and started walking away. He kept following me and I couldn't understand why. Prem then told me what had happened. Oops.
After spending about a week with me, the guys realized how much I loved coffee. Lako is also a huge coffee fan so he gave us a little detour and took me into his favorite coffee shop here in Kathmandu. The carmel machiatto I had wasn't Wallhouse, but it was amazing!
And that's it! You've made it to the end of this amazing adventure :) I hope to go back to photograph again in the coming months, but until then, be on the lookout for how to donate towards the rebuilding of houses for the people of Ree Gaun.
Going on a missions trip or just a trip in general and are looking for a photographer to capture it all? Contact me for more information! I would LOVE to experience it with you :)
Dakota is a stand-up guy who seems to always be putting others above himself. Once he graduates, he plans on going to school to be a helicopter med flight pilot. Can't wait to watch you grow, Dakota! Keep being your smiley self!
I was seriously SO excited for this shoot! I love the boho style and everything about it so when I mentioned it to Brooklyn, and she got excited, I was thrilled! She immediately was up for it and totally fulfilled my vision for this shoot! Definitely one of my favorites so far!
Alea, you've always had this fearless spirit and I hope that you never lose that. Being able to call you a friend is something I don't take lightly. I can't way to watch as you continue to grow not only as a person but also in your career. You're amazing and you were made for great things! Keep being you :)
"I have been very blessed thus far in my life. Blessed with a wonderful family and equally great friends. I have been blessed with opportunities to travel and see parts of the world that will forever be in my heart. I have been blessed with laughter and heartbreak, fear and success. Life is a beautiful journey if you chose to see it that way. Currently I work two jobs and will be taking college courses to continue to work towards my bachelor's degree in business. Constantly searching for ways to grow ourselves personally and professionally is something we often quit doing at the peak of adolescence. I will never lose my passion for that adventurous spirit. That's how I hope to be remembered, a person with undying passion."