displaced destinies

displaced destinies (a child at a migrant school in Shanghai)

displaced destinies (a child at a migrant school in Shanghai)

Today two good friends and I went for an adventure in a remote Shanghai neighborhood where mostly migrant workers from the provinces live and where their children go to special schools. These are the workers responsible for lifting Shanghai from the ground up to soaring levels with its new high rises and luxury hotels that mushroom at an impressive speed around the jewel of China. The residences are extremely modest and the children struggle to learn as best they can under their current circumstances. On this day the teacher said that they would be celebrating children’s day (normally on June 2nd in China) and strangely enough they pointed out a few of the girls who they consider ‘beautiful’ and explained why they were dressed in party clothes and not the usual school uniform. The declaration of their beauty was done openly in front of all the other students, a concept I found incredibly alien and difficult to understand. “She is the most beautiful girl in the class” the teacher announced loudly, ” and this is why she will be presented on stage today”.

My trust is not granted

You must prove yourself worthy of it

You must prove yourself worthy of it

This is what I felt the eyes of this little boy telling me in an old Shanghai alley. He created a shield for himself just in case, hiding behind it half playfully and half in fear of the strange and the unfamiliar. I was with a photographer friend there and we both could feel when it was the right time to stop pushing the limits of innocent trust. It was one of those precious moments that street photography grants you, rare, human, and unforgettable.

The prayer

going inwards to find it~ Jade Buddha Temple~ Shanghai

going inwards to find it~ Jade Buddha Temple~ Shanghai

We might declare our allegiance to a religion or to a non-religion, but either way, there will be moments in our lives when we just feel the need to close our eyes, turn inwards and try desperately to connect to something bigger, greater and more knowing than we are. No matter how amazing and above it all we feel and think we are, the fragility of our very mortality will at some point in our lives humble us to the greatness of what caused us to be in the first place, regardless of what we may call it.

Let me spin you a tale

with every puff of smoke, a story flows

with every puff of smoke, a story flows

I was walking in an old street in Shanghai with my camera taking in all the sights, smells and noises of the crowded narrow lanes when an unusual sight drew me in. I looked inside a smoky large room packed with  rickety tables, chairs, tea pots, and men in hats, so many men in hats. I walked in and after I stopped being looked at as the stranger in the village, I began to be approached by the curious of the gathered men. Each wanted to tell me stories, because this is what we humans do, we carry our his-story with us, in our minds, our hearts, etched on our faces and we long to tell them and to pass them on before we leave, so that parts of us can stay behind and make an indelible mark. I listened and tried my best to comprehend, but the best story this man can tell is written all over his face and I present it to you here in this frozen moment…

Gateways to the soul

Gateways to the soul

Gateways to the soul

So much power can travel from and between human eyes, intensity, excitement, alarm, fear, inspiration, hesitation, suggestion, avoidance, guilt, pride, strength, wisdom, glow, inner beauty, and so many other emotions and radiations, too many to list here. Gateways to the soul? Portals of higher communication? However we see them, once the mouth is masked as it often is in Asia, I find that the eyes intensify as it does in other places around the world where only the eyes are shown.

Day 29~ October 29th~ Yunnan

astonishment~ girl in Honghe

There are still remote places in China where white people are rarely seen and can still cause quite a reaction from the locals. One of my travel companions was blonde (considered very strange and alien in China)  and she was almost certain to draw a shriek from children in each village we set foot in along our journey into the heart of Honghe’s isolated regions. It did not help that she spoke fluent Mandarin, which caused the children to believe that she must be some sort of extra-terrestrial creature of the dangerous sort.

I loved the fact that such innocence still existed and that we were able to meet it first hand before the whole world turns into a cultural mixed soup.

Day 13~ October 13th~ Yunnan

blank pages

Children, no matter what we expect, plan, project and wish for in them, their futures are blank pages as far as we are concerned. We are unable to control what they will become, who they were meant to be and the things they are destined to accomplish. Despite our blindness to the theaters of their future, every action we take can affect them in their vulnerability. One would hope and pray that most of us act wisely.

Day 7~ October 7th~ Yunnan

human proximity~ Yiche people~ Yunnan

When a child is sick or unwell, the only thing it craves is the warm touch of a parent or family member. We are creatures that thrive on warmth and human contact makes us tingle. This fact begs the question: what will be come of us when our lives become more and more digital and virtual and will Siri’s calm cold voice be enough to serenade a child to sleep?

In Yunnan I only saw children attached to family members while they walked, worked, cooked and these children were strong, confident and loved. I will take a hug over a text message any day.