Go West Young Man -- Chapter 3: Mae Sot
The hardest thing to confront is always yourself. And for me, traveling is a mirror that holds me accountable to my humanity-- it is the reminder of my privilege, and the champion of my dreams.
Mae Sot, Thailand. I dig deep for words that justify my connection to this place.
Mae Sot is a completely foreign place that feels oddly like home. It reminds me LA in some ways in the sense that it's a city bustling with immigrants, culture, all sects of religion and faith. Despite the chaos and the craziness here (and mind you, there's SO much craziness here), it works. Situated on the border of Myanmar and Thailand, it's a gateway for trade, immigration, and unfortunately crime/sex-trafficking/drugs. There's this sense of harmonious balance and tolerance that comes with the difference in subcultures, despite it being a 2nd transitioning into 1st world city.
My reason for coming to this city was to reconnect with some old friends from when I visited last year. Outpour Movement, led by the famous Ray, is a full-time missionary and for-profit business owner in Mae Sot. Running a burger shop, a bike shop, refugee homes, art schools, and currently in the process of building an orphanage-- he understands the importance of stewarding a city, and not just preaching a message.
My time was short, but memorable. I rented a scooter and biked EVERYWHERE. And dude, gotta break out of my blog voice for a second, I went to this weird black/grey market on the border and found an old camera lens for $50. I kind-of-not-so-legally crossed the border into Myanmar and had a beer. So much epic. So much awesum. I hope to go back and do a piece on it all when I work for Vice one day.
But really, despite it all. It was all about friends, family, and God. I needed a getaway, something for myself. There's this huge Burmese market in the middle of Mae Sot that comes to life at sunrise. I woke up at 5am and made my way out. I remember walking through the streets and alleys, snapchatting that "I live for moments like this."
The 85mm is amazing for street photography. I can't even imagine what I could grab with a 135mm, but I prefer the 85mm over the 50mm just because of the distance it allows me to have between my subjects and I.
I spent the entire day interacting with the men and women that immigrated here to build lives for themselves. Following subjects that I thought looked interesting, I stumbled on this one lady, or rather she stumbled onto me. I think I waited a solid 4 minutes, waiting for her to turn around...
I still get a bit of that rush I felt when I look at this picture. I remember the adrenaline and the joy that jolted me awake. the moment I clicked the shutter, I knew this was my favorite.
I remember standing there looking down in my viewfinder, smiling my ass off and trying to keep my cool. I zoomed into her face to ensure she was in focus, and for some reason I immediately remembered my mom.
I don't think this woman knows how much she saved me that day.
It occurred to me. Her joy wasn't in pushing a heavy cart of vegetables and fruits early in the morning. She pushed that cart because of family.
One of first things I learned on this trip is the value of self-value. For example, after a lot of reflecting for the first few weeks abroad, I realized how much I've been neglecting my own personal needs and how I failed to stay true to myself. My number one goal had been to build a career. I understand now that building a career isn't as deep a rooted value as building a home, earning a home. Now the goal and vision is shifted, and I can allow the concept of family to motivate me and keep me disciplined.
Complacency is always a foothold for deception. I asked myself, when did I allowed external things to change me and shift my focus? When did I forget that I've always been motivated by the ideal of family? I realized it doesn't matter. What matters now is going forward, and building the strategy to fit the call.
So forward I go, and this gem I stored away... Because this is week 2 out of 8, and I'm still on vacation.
Next stop was Cambodia. And it was mind-blowing.