Update: My heartfelt gratitude goes out to all the people who thought of me and prayed for me, and especially to my financial supporters: Sylvia/Matt, Veda/Jake, Kim ‘rents, Debbie, Jimmy, Jinyoung, Christine/Richard, Chung ‘rents, Jane, Anne/James, Ali, Leslie/Austin, Susie, Jane/John, Ambra/Andre, and Esther/Mike. You made this trip possible for me, and for that I’m eternally grateful. :.)
Where do I start? So much happened during my trip to Thailand that I’m still in the midst of processing everything. It feels as though I’ve waken up from a bad dream of seeing real people live in such a way that nobody should. It’s one thing to hear about it, but it’s something else to actually see it firsthand and it just breaks you.
I’ve been having trouble expressing my thoughts and feelings into words and while editing these images, it felt like something was pressing against my lungs, making it hard for me to breathe.
Right when we got to Thailand, our team hit the ground running, er sprinting more like it. Our schedules were filled back-to-back-to-back with visiting businesses, factories, churches, bars, night strips, night markets, a small village and an orphanage all over five different cities in Thailand.
I photographed nine consecutive days and nights. There was some supernatural help right there because I’m usually wiped out after one wedding. Personally, it was a challenge to balance listening, learning, brainstorming, giving input, being in the moment, while also documenting all of it.
Our trip dealt with a lot of heaviness, but was sprinkled with moments of joy and hope. It helped to be surrounded by a group of amazing, passionate, and fun people.
The lowest part of my trip was after walking the streets of Pattaya, Rachel, Rhonna and I were walking down the hallway to our hotel rooms, and a man in his late 60s or older was walking down the same hall into a room with a Thai girl in her teens. Excuse my language, but I just wanted to kick him in the balls! The highlight of my trip was a spontaneous elephant riding adventure in a jungle!
We were asked to bring only a carry-on for our trip so I was forced to streamline my equipment. Coming from a girl who always shoots with two camera bodies and 4-5 different lens, this was not an easy feat. All images were shot with a Canon 5D Mark II and a 16-35mm f/2.8L lens. It was really hard to narrow down but below is just a small sample.
(below) A portrait of the world’s longest reigning current monarch, H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej on Thailand’s currency, baht.
(below) It’s inevitable for a bunch of Seattleites to make Starbucks the first stop in the morning. It was so needed though because the estimated total travel time from departure from SeaTac to arrival at the Bangkok guesthouse was 27 hours.
(below) I can’t confirm this, but I think there are more motorcycles than cars in Thailand. You’ll often see more than one person on one than not. Someone spotted a whole family piled onto one!
(below) We had to use outhouses at Phimai Christian Centre which reminded me of my younger days when I lived in Korea.
(below) Phimai Historical Park in Nakhon Ratchasima. The ruins were from the 11th century AD.
(below) Home group in a remote village of 30 homes.
(below) One of the ladies working at a silk factory. They work very long days in the heat with no air conditioning, doing physical labor. Wage is 170 baht per day, equivalent to $4-$5 US… so, about the cost of a Starbucks drink.
(below) Driving from Khorat back to Bangkok, normally a 4 hour drive, but even longer because of the “red shirt” protests, even involving blood.
(below) Boat ride on the river in Bangkok that one of the James Bond movies was filmed on.
(below) Since Thailand is made up of approximately 95% Buddhists, you see monks in random places.
(below) Obama siting in Thailand.
(below) A beautiful city on the outside, but on the inside, Pattaya is predominantly dependent on sex tourism, which causes the human trafficking. Our translators told us that pretty much anything and everything goes and no one does anything about it.
(below) Young Thai girl waiting while her 70-something year old “boyfriend” gets a feet fish spa. The fish eat the dead skin cells. Ew to all of the above.
(below) A man’s best friend who is sedated in order to make some money.
(below) Walking around, people constantly get in your face with these explicit menus.
(below) Live pole dancing from the window.
(below) Do they look like they want to be there? Imagine if one of them were YOUR daughter or sister or friend. To a lot of people in Thailand, they are.
(below) She’s not really a she. Holding hands down the street with the guy to “her” left.
(below) Girls this age should be sleeping by this time, not working on the streets. :(
(below) A shirt that says it all.
(below) A few of the guys and I went to visit the local orphanage. I’ve always wanted to adopt and seeing these precious children’s faces confirmed my heart even more.
(below) When it was time for us to leave, this girl wouldn’t stop crying when Craig put her down. We all wanted to take them home with us.
(below) Even before the trip, I secretly wanted to ride elephants because I knew it was a big touristy thing to do there, but I didn’t want to detract from our mission so I didn’t mention anything. It wasn’t in our original itinerary, but God totally hooked it up! Our translator Ying thought it would be good for our team to do something to lift our spirits so we got to ride the cute little guys in Chiang Mai!
(below) Just like there were lots and lots of motorcycles, there were lots and lots of dogs just roaming around. Usually, they were either laying helplessly on the ground or walking around like they’re beat from the heat, but this one was the first one I saw there that was semi-perky. Maybe because it was a young’n.
(below) My last Thai meal at the airport was mango and sticky rice. I took a picture of it because they shaped it so cute.
My team is still meeting regularly and preparing future steps and trips and there will be many opportunities to help. If interested, feel free to contact me.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’d rather carry on and not deal with something so hard since it doesn’t directly affect me. But the fact is, human trafficking is everywhere. The issue is huge and overwhelming, but it will only get worse if we sit in our comfortable homes and pretend that it’s not there.