my goals and what lie ahead in the future. Over the holidays I had several conversations with my parents. I keep in touch via the Magic Jack, calling several times a week, and like the commercial says, 'It's the next best thing to being there.' In one conversation with my mother, I told her how Bang had passed away and how his wife Ooy was distraught and basically driving me crazy.
"It's draining," I told her. "I understand she's upset but I just wanted to help Bang a little. I didn't want all the drama."
"Listen, if answering her calls for a couple of weeks helps her and makes her feel better, just do it," she said. "I can't tell you how many times your father took calls from his patients at all hours of the night. Maybe she's lonely, whatever, just talk to her and leave her feeling better than she talked to you."
"Yea, you're right," I said, feeling slightly guilty.
"Pay it forward," she said. "We're fortunate and it doesn't cost you anything to be nice."
Our conversation got me thinking. Although at times I'm a bit harsh, I like to think I help people on YouTube. Yet, it's not exactly what I'd call fulfilling. When I worked as a photojournalist in boxing, I felt I was contributing to the sporting world. When I began managing and training fighters, I was helping boxers earn a living for their families and hopefully, teaching them a thing or two along the way. But YouTube and this blog...I'm sorry to say, isn't enough.
Helping Bang and Ooy has been rewarding, for sure, but I'm trying to think long term and for more than one or two people. Also, I prefer to refrain from getting as emotionally attached to those I'm helping as I did with Bang and Ooy, if it's possible. It's difficult enough riding the roller coaster ride one takes when dealing with a situation like theirs.
For those who would like to know: In my opinion, and remember I am not a doctor, Ooy has some serious issues and I'm unsure of what her future will bring. I'm putting together a short video of my last visit with her. Every day she talks to Bang and his photos and vacillates between coping and stating her lack of will to live. As I told her, I'm here to help you however I can but I am not the answer - your answer.
So like I said, I've been doing some thinking. I've come up with several projects and ways to help others, all of which requires fundraising. Definitely not something I enjoy but...it's not about me. That said, whatever I need has to include photography.
1. Water purification filtering systems in Africa and India.
There are several companies who produce jerrycans and tanks made for small villages or schools. Their distributors will deliver and even better, they'll donate one unit for every unit purchased.
2. Shooting human interest / humanitarian stories from places like the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Turkey, wherever. Piddling around Thailand taking photos is great once in a while but I want more. Photos of Thailand, virtually everywhere in the country, are a dime a dozen. I'm looking for photos that people rarely see and that make a difference, not slick HDR photos of temples.
3. Go back to the US for approximately six months.
The idea is to travel across the country via train to photograph important historical places and US war veterans, then put together a book. Far too many veterans need help in transitioning from active duty to civilian life and I'm hoping to figure out some way to help them. Even in some small way. They deserve it.
4. Dwindling Numbers of African Lions.
Most people know the number of tigers is dangerously low. What they don't know is the number of lions is down from 200,000 thirty years go to only 30,000. Of this, less than 4000 are male lions of breeding age.
Lions are spread out all over Africa in small groups and are near extinction in West Africa; in Nigeria, there are less than 40 lions left. In addition to human encroachment and their decreasing habitat, lions are now being hunted for medicinal purposes. Just like tiger and rhinos. What a waste.
The number of wild Asian lions is only 300-400. I never thought the day would come where my children might not be able to see a lion in the wild but it could happen. More importantly, they are apex predators and their extinction would greatly affect the African ecosystem.
This is a tough project, complex, and as much as I would like, I'm not sure I can do much. Who is more important, people or lions? The population keeps growing and wild animal's habitat keeps getting smaller. It seems to me it's a no win situation for the lion.
I have a ticket to India in April and will be there for a couple of weeks. Then in late May I am supposed to go to Ecuador. Then there's a stop off in Japan and perhaps, time, money and energy permitting, Mongolia or Bhutan. At some point I am going to have hip surgery. 2015 should be an interesting year.
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