New blog!

18 Oct

Hello fellow readers,

Thanks for all your loyal readership, comments, and visits. I’ve appreciated every single one of them and hope to continue hearing from you. From now on I will be blogging at http://followingmylede.wordpress.com.

I’ll continue to check anadoptedangle but all writing will now be published through followingmylede.

I look forward to hearing more of your comments, perspectives and reading your works and writings so please, keep me informed!

Peace, Sue

Apologies…for what?

17 Sep

Yesterday, I’m sitting in a cafe/coffee shop in Williamsburg – The House of Small Wonder Cafe – and it must appear as though I’m working. Makes sense – it’s a business day, mid-morning, freelancers run rampant around here like the bed-bugs that have apparently infested the homes and minds of many in NYC. I haven’t seen any – bed-bugs that is. Freelancers? Yes; O’Plenty.

What sparks a necessity for this post is the man and his child who spent approximately 15 minutes in this cafe. During this time I recall the child, a toddler, babbling normal toddler babble twice, maybe three times. My ability to accurately count the number of individual babbles could have been a result of my relaxedness, not actually engaged in work that required a specific type of quiet and a plethora of other reasons ranging from my mind wandering to thoughts of an impending meeting, distractions from the smell of baked croissants, etc. During one of these “babbles” however I did glance up, of which the father/guardian of the child looked at me, smiled and apologetically said, “I’m sorry to bother you.” My response was, “No, it’s not a problem. She’s not bothering me at all.” The father/guardian’s reply was, “Well that makes one of us.”

Now his remark may not have been the most fatherly or representative of a PTA board member, is my conjecture. It could’ve been a result of limited sleep, a lack of caffeine, a disappointment in the UFC season 12 premiere, who knows – but what I do know, or more wonder, is when did everyone suddenly feel the need to apologize for things that are normal, natural and in this case, unnecessarily apologetic?

Since returning from Korea I’ve found an unmeasurable number of people who apologize for the littlest things, actions and behaviors that don’t warrant an apology but perhaps a more thoughtful, accurate response is due. Prior to Korea this phenomenon was not so startling. Living in a country where pushing, shoving, and cutting in line (there) are akin to doling out apologies (here), it’s no wonder this response causes me to do a double-take, glancing back over my shoulder after they’ve “I’m sorry’d” wondering how their apology applies. I’m not complaining, just curious and thankful for the casual communication.

People who are not familiar with urban living or NYC may have heard the misconception that NY’ers are rude. I’d like to clarify and dispel that attitude because contrary to belief, NY’ers are not rude and neither are Americans (and c’mon, we have our days). For that matter, it doesn’t necessarily mean that a culture that shoves and pushes without apology (Korea) falls into that category either, it’s just a matter of cultural differences. We may be too happy with our customer service, tell you our life story within 10 minutes of meeting, but fall short of apologizing we do not. Well, perhaps for matters that require an obvious and immediate apology, yes, but our government is still learning.

Rights: Yours vs. Mine

16 Sep

I took the image above yesterday around 6:30pm. Unassuming, anonymous and stepping out of my apartment building in downtown Brooklyn to a comfortable fall evening.

The question that emerges here is this: should I have asked this man for his permission in shooting him as the subject of my photograph? As a vendor in a public space, albeit his work space, I consciously waited for his head to turn before closing the shutter. I didn’t want his face to appear in the image; I didn’t want to ask his permission for a photograph. I wanted to shoot the image at that moment and in as natural a setting as possible. It was my desire for him to remain unguarded. Some may say I was wrong – I should’ve asked for his permission. Seeing he is the subject, he has the right to express his dis/approval for my actions. In theory, I agree, respect and consideration should and do enter the equation. However, it’s a public space and while I don’t intend on using the image for publication purposes, does exercising my rights as a hobbyist photographer trump his when shooting a casual picture? Is this a matter of intent? On the flip side of the coin, some may argue that by asking for permission you’re losing a quality of the image that can only be captured “in the moment.” Stopping to speak to him renders a studio-like scene for the subject(s) which may have its advantages depending on your objective. If I chose to publish this image in a professional manner or caption the photo with a misleading/debasing statement, I understand that qualifies as a reason to request his permission vs. just innocuous portraiture but where my understanding becomes blurred is in the decision – to ask or not to ask.

I know there is discourse on humanitarian photography concerning how images are used, particularly of those in conflict or crisis situations. The topic is sensitive and one that I’m sure endures unending discussion/debate.  But could you argue that for any image you take of any person in public requires the permission of the subject? Is this reasonable? We could go around in circles about the ethics of photography for hours…

Where though, do we draw the line as photographers?

The common denominator

8 Sep

Eating by yourself is discouraged. Waving good-bye. Having a morning & afternoon tea break. Standing when an elder enters the room. Taking a picture. What do all these things have in common?

On two occasions today was I conscious about my communication – the fact that my native language is English and that I was using it to exchange words. The scenes itself are fairly mundane (some lady left her cell phone in the bathroom and a man requested if a chair was in use at Barnes&Noble) but the mere fact that we speak a common language and communicate so fluidly, so easily…comforts me. America is queen bee of communication between strangers and striking up a 5-minute dialogue out of the blue, about anything from the weather to one’s Aunt that you’ve never met is not uncommon phenomenon. At bus stops, in line at the supermarket, waiting for a business to open. Give us a line, throw some people together and Voila! It’s a like a salad being tossed. Conversation abounds!

Living in a foreign country, like Korea, opened my eyes to the barriers that exist when language between you and the locals is no longer common. It can bridge gaps or create them. In the cultural norms and activities expressed in the first paragraph,  the common denominator is the absence of language. It is not needed to engage in these activities, but it does help. It gives rise to relationships, to levels of comfort and to an overall feeling of community. Despite our differences – our varied economic backgrounds and levels of education – the one thing we do share is language and it exists all around us. We can witness it in isolation or amid a crowd. And, if we use it in the right way, beauty emerges above something seemingly commonplace.

As they say in Ireland…

2 Sep

I am not in denial about the lack of posts since I returned to America. Nor is there any way to argue otherwise. If I were a mathematician or statistician I could present the figures in a convincing enough way that you would feel I should owe you something as a result of this dearth of posts. Perhaps a free mention in a future entry. A printed photograph of your favorite image. A fresh, warm scone. Maybe with currants. Definitely cream. Jam is an option.

Unfortunately, I am not a mathematician or statistician. I don’t even have a warm scone to offer. In fact, I am unemployed. I left Korea on August 18th, exactly 365 days to when I left New York in 2009. I’m still in the midst of processing everything and as my eldest brother offered (not verbatim), “Maybe I’ll realize what the past year meant to me later.” As usual, he’s probably right.

So in the meantime as I settle into home, look for work (writing/humanitarian/culture&anthropology related) and reacquaint myself with Western culture (oh, customer service and falafel how I’ve missed you!), I appreciate your patience and continued loyal readership. Thank you. My posts and perspective will become regular once again. Until then, to sum up my return and leave you with a phrase I learned in Ireland, “It’s a sort of homecoming, like.” I hope these days keep you well and please stay in touch.

“Throw your dreams into space like a kite,

and you do not know what it will bring back,

a new life, a new friend,

a new love, a new country.”

- Anaïs Nin

Hotel blues

17 Aug

Indie Ink is an online publication for writers, artists and you. Maybe you’re one of the aforementioned, maybe you’re two, perhaps 3 or none. Maybe you like to sit back, watch and read. It encourages submissions (strongly encourages might I add), and so after reading a fellow blogger’s well-written and engaging post on New Orleans, I thought why not? Their page said submit, so I did, and this is what follows. My image was posted on August 17th so if you’re not able to view “Hotel blues”, please click the ‘previous entries’ link on the left-hand side at the bottom of the page to see past art work. 

Some background info on this image:

Taken in Dalat, Vietnam in the Central Highlands region of the country, I sat in my hotel room one afternoon exhausted from walking around and taking an unreasonable amount of photographs of the towns doors and windows (I found them fascinatingly beautiful). The television was on, hence the blue hue in the right corner and I remember sitting sluggishly on my bed trying to reflect on the past 18 or so days in the country. A country that ran me ragged from the heat, intrigued me because of the war and their warm reaction to Americans, and left me full of questions about their economy and culture (ethnic minorities, specifically) as tourism has helped spur substantial growth for the country and region. The image reflects an isolation we feel when traveling, when we’re sitting alone in our hotel/hostel room and if we’re fortunate for a television, we turn it on for the mere feeling of another presence.  Traveling solo has its rewards but one can’t help for a companion at times – someone to share those jaw-dropping reactions to beautiful vistas or the woes (or joys!) of getting lost.  Technology, and in this case the television, is white noise and serves as a sort of visor to our thoughts. It allows us to fully reflect on those grand moments travel creates without feeling truly alone if it’s a companion we’re seeking.

(edited: here is the permanent link – thanks, bobster!

Who is learning?

12 Aug

I went to a meditation session at Hwagyesa Temple last weekend. A new area of Seoul I’d yet to see (easily done) and getting there was actually very easy. Directions will follow at the end.

After 30 minutes of sitting meditation, followed by 10 minutes of walking meditation, multiplied by 3, a monk arrived to provide the weekly Dharma talk. He spoke about a few things yet 2 major insights resonated. He asked if anyone had seen a drunken elephant. After looking around the room, one participant said, “Yes, it’s on You Tube!” The buddhist laughed and said, “Yes!” He said time passes like a drunken elephant and the older we get, the quicker our days move. Sounds like a thought we’ve all visited during some birthday, at the dawn of a new year, etc. I concluded that like elephants whose presence is quite apparent, time is too and we can move through our days in a stupor without care or cause for our actions or, in an non-inebriated (or thoughtful) state, and move with passion, grace and purpose. We can be that presence that shakes or settles.

The second thought I walked away with is more of a long-term question: who is learning? A participant and worker at the temple presented this question to the monk and he in turn let us first respond. I sat and thought about this for awhile…or as long as I could while listening to other’s responses. One woman said, “They who are listening, are learning.” The monk’s answer was, “Well, what if there is nothing to listen to?” A younger man said, “Everyone is learning.” He said both were good answers yet I still sat there wondering who really was learning and went away with this answer: the person who wants to learn is learning.

When you look at job vacancies advertising a position, one of the qualities/requirements of the ideal candidate is, “Willingness to learn.” Had they all spoken to this monk prior to posting the advertisement? Sat in during a Dharma talk? It seems not everyone actually is willing to learn and I’m at times among the group. Sometimes settling for what we do know is comforting and reassuring; sometimes though, it closes doors without another one to open.

It is with hope that everyday from here on out, I will go into each day as an elephant with a willingness to learn.

——————————————————-

Directions to Hwagyesa Temple:

- Take line 4 to Suyu Stn.

- Use exit 3

- Walk straight to the first bus stop where you can catch Bus 02

- You will see signs for Hwagyesa and it takes approximately 10-13 minutes to get to Hanshin Daehakkyo.

- If you sit in the front of the bus you’re able to peer out the front window and will eventually see a long uphill road that leads to the temple. From the intersection at Hanshin Daehakkyo, the walk up takes 5 minutes.

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