FYI - this turned into a long post. You might want to print it out to read at your convenience.
Maybe I'm getting old but there is stress in my paradise. Well, I guess some would call Thailand paradise. Depends on your perspective. The very reason I moved to Thailand was to take a year to unwind and escape stress. But stress, irritability, fatigue, worry, these types of feelings tend to follow you where ever you may be and to think life will always be sans stress is wishful thinking. Writing does help (sometimes) and hopefully by the end of this post I'll feel a little better. So why am I stressed and irritable?
Reason one: lack of sleep. I never seem to sleep enough. I'm type-A all the way and my routine goes something like this: wake up between 4AM and 5AM. Read, check emails, and have a cup of coffee. By this time, my wife and two boys wake and begin preparing for school and work. They leave at 6AM. I'll work on my photographs until around 8AM when I'll have breakfast. I then do whatever it is I need to do; one day it may be working on this blog, another day I'll be shooting photographs, another I might be writing, or I might research flights and hotels in a particular area I want to shoot. Every so often I'll brainstorm for ideas to pitch to magazines. Every so often I'll email a pitch to a magazine or attempt to get in with a photo agency. Lately, for whatever reason, ideas have been scarce.
Around 11:30 or 12 I usually go out and get lunch, buying myself a meal and then buying the kids and I dinner if I don't feel like cooking. I'm not a great cook, nor am I fond of cooking, but I can throw together a meal in a pinch. Sometimes I'll go down the street to one of the wet markets and buy some fruit and vegetables. Ever since being hospitalized a couple of months ago I've tried to watch what I eat. At first I was doing great, then I fell off the wagon, and now I'm of the mindset that I need to eat food that is as fresh as possible. I'm working on only eating fish; no red meat, chicken, or pork, but that conversion might take time.
The kids come home around 5:30PM and I make sure we sit down, eat together, and talk about what happened during the day. Then they do their chores: do the dishes, feed the dogs, take out the garbage, pick up around the house, and of course, do their homework. During this time I'm sitting at the computer uploading, downloading, or doing whatever. Then they take their showers and around 8PM the wife comes home.
It takes her an hour to wind down and around 9PM she'll come in to my office, which is also our family room, and we talk and watch a little TV until she falls asleep where she sits, usually exhausted. Most of the time I'll either continue watching TV or I'll work until I fall into bed. This is normally around anywhere between midnight and 2:00AM. So sleep is something I generally lack. How I wish I could sleep 10-12 hours but I'd be happy sleeping 7.
Reason two: we need to move. The hospital across the street has bought our house and all the other houses on the block so we need to be out by June. My wife's been looking for the past two months for a suitable place for us to move, however, one of my kids is finishing 6th grade in a few weeks and we need to find a new school for him, preferably one more affordable. I figured the cost of my two kids going to school the other day and it works out to about $750 a month for two children in a bilingual school, plus the school bus fee to take them back and forth to school. Not cheap. I want them to have a good education but as I often say, Thailand is no longer cheap (like it was 15-20 years ago). It may be cheaper in some areas but it's more expensive in others. Fortunately, food tends to be priced appropriately, however, prices are rising and the value of the dollar is in the toilet.
Reason three: my oldest son, Alex, needs to change schools. We are uncertain, at this point, what the best option is in terms of his getting the best education we can afford and the location of the school that is most convenient for all of us. Since he's changing schools, this also means our youngest, Nicholas, wants to change schools to be with him.
Reason four: lack of sufficient funds...
You knew this had to be one of the reasons. Insufficient funds is a problem hundreds of millions of people have around the world, I know this. My family has food on the table and a roof over my head, and for that I am extremely grateful. Life could be much worse.
It takes money to make money in most cases though and I recently spent nearly $5000 (that I didn't have to spend) for some much needed camera equipment, repairs, and accessories. And I still need more. I did this because when I began working in boxing I foolishly sold my equipment. I figured the money would be more useful than the equipment. While I was working in boxing, instead of using the money I made to travel around and go on photo shoots, I made the mistake of staying home to rest, lounging around for weeks at a time. In fairness to myself, I needed a couple of weeks off after the camps and fights but not 6-8 weeks.
Anyhow, I spent a lifetime shooting photos, five years to build up my career to where I was just starting to make decent money, and only took a few minutes for me to sell the equipment. I sort of feel now like I was with a good woman who supported me and did no wrong and when I made it, I turned my back on here. Not the brightest move on my part but never again.
A month or so ago I was planning on going to Myanmar to photograph the Rohingya Muslims and document the problems they were having with the Burmese. Almost everything was set up. However, once I calculated the total cost of being in Myanmar for 10-14 days, I opted out. There are no international ATM's in Myanmar and I had just enough for my time there. If anything were to happen, I had absolutely no cash reserve.
I've got enough air miles to travel to Pakistan, a destination that much like India, I think is definitely worth photographing. This is another place I would like to put on film (and digitize) and document what's going on in the region. I figure I need a month there, at least three weeks, half of which I need a fixer. The total cost: approximately $4000-$5000 and that's doing it on the cheap. Don't have it. Need to earn and save this money but at this point, saving $5000 is miles away. Perhaps I should try crowd sharing.
While photographing Thailand isn't the worst thing for a photographer, honestly, taking photos of temples and vegetarian festivals isn't exactly my cup of tea. Maybe I should feel fortunate but...I think there was a reason why I photographed boxing. I liked the uncertainty of not knowing what shot you were going to get. I was fairly good at it and it paid the bills for many years. Things have changed though and Asia isn't exactly a hotbed of world championship fights involving boxers mainstream fans care to follow. The possible exception is in Japan but unless I grow a money tree, moving to Japan remains a pipe dream.
I'm thinking of shooting Asia's beaches but I'm also thinking of shooting areas of conflict and/or with refugee camps. Areas like several countries in Africa, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Pakistan, Syria, Israel, and anywhere else in turmoil. Some of my friends have said I'm crazy, others know that with everything I've done in my life it's not all that far-fetched for me. But switching from boxing and travel photography to conflict photography is a huge move, not to mention expensive. God forbid I tell my mother, I'm fairly certain she would protest vehemently. But you gotta do what you gotta do...My wife and kids aren't too happy about it either but they know that once I put my mind to something it's hard to stop me.
The thing is, what would I call my site? I would no longer be able to call myself An American in Bangkok. Maybe An American in the World? Would have to think about this.
BTW - if anyone has the items listed below and would consider donating them, please let me know. I would be happy to trade current or future prints of my photos if so desired. Also, there are donation and subscribe buttons at the bottom of the page.
List of Current Needs:
Transferable frequent flier miles on Thai Airways or any other airline that travels to the Middle East or Africa from Bangkok.
Nikon F100, or Nikon F4
Just about any Nikon FX long lens
Film: Fuji or Kodak 100-200-400, color or black and white. I need all I can get my hands on.
I know it's wishful thinking...but...magazines and newspapers generally pay on spec so every little bit helps.
As Dillon T stated in his comment about the Thai Making Coffee post,"I'm not sure I agree with the farang harvester web links on your site."
I don't particularly like putting up advertisers on my blog but...
I've made about $40 from this blog in a little less than a year. If this blog and my time are not worth $40, then I might as well not have it. Seriously.
Reason five: I need to renew my marriage visa in a April. I make the minimum required salary to qualify for the visa however, the last time I put in for my visa I was asked to sign a document stating I knew that if I was to have my visa renewed, I would need to deposit 400,000 baht in the bank and keep it there. Now...maybe...maybe I could come up with that much money (it wouldn't be easy) but to keep it there would be difficult. It's always time-consuming to reapply for the visa and depending on the immigration officer, it can also be a huge pain in the ass. While this is a couple of months away and the lowest priority, it is on my mind.
Reason six: Nothing is ever accomplished quickly enough (for me). Some readers may remember me readers may remember that I wrote about taking an around the world trip. My friend the documentary filmmaker has some of the required footage but there's always a little more necessary and as is often the case with making films, what was supposed to take three months takes six and what was supposed to take six months takes a year. So while this is not really an issue, it's another thing that needs to get done. Rarely do we (or at least I) get things exactly when we (I) want them.
Reason seven: My change of diet. In the last week I've been working on eating healthy, raw, natural foods. It hasn't been easy. I know very little about what to eat when no meat is involved and I believe this has affected my body. I know this will pass but having a salad in lieu instead of a big, juicy double cheeseburger may help in the long run but it doesn't take away the craving for a burger!
I'm sure I could come up with a few more reasons for my stress but this post has gone on
long enough, I do feel a little better and it's time for lunch!
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UPDATE - No longer stressed to the point where I want to move to a desert island. It's amazing what a good night of sleep will do for a person. Had a nice meal, took a hot shower, turned off the TV, closed the curtains, and conked out. Eight hours later the negative attitude is gone and things aren't so bad.