📸 a love letter to photography
The truth is — photography is my form of gratitude. Every capture is a split second celebration.
“I noticed you take a lot of photos,” his smile reassured me that he made this observation without any judgement as he waited for me, once again, to snap a picture with my phone. The sensation of guilt beaded on my forehead like droplets of sweat — guilt that I had inconvenienced him by forcing him to break pace in his walk for the nth time.
“What do you do with all of them?” his question was genuine and full of undeniable warmth, and I brushed the sweat off my hairline.
My mind scanned my camera roll from memory:
- playful, colorful tiles on the floor at the neighborhood grocery store
- crips cut-outs of delicate foliate freshly imprinted on the concrete sidewalk, casted shadows as directed by harsh direct afternoon sunlight
- a catalog of unidentified plants from nature preserves, local parks, cracks in the sidewalk, etc.
- more selfies that I’d like to admit I’ve taken (but also plenty with friends)
- elaborate meals and simple desserts, both of which I could care less to consume but I still marvel at the visual appeal and delicacy of the culinary arts
- sublime panoramas of views from my travel adventures
- geometric shapes formed by urban architecture structures that made me smile
- more clouds
“Nothing,” I sheepishly laughed and snapped another photo of the storefront we were passing by for good measure.
Maybe a younger version of me would’ve explained my obsession with casual and mundane photography as a way to compensate for my poor memory. Having an inventory of all the places I’ve been, all the people I’ve met, and all the food I’ve eaten is just fun to review from time to time.
But the truth is, more often than not, these photos collect digital dust as they sit in pixel data storage somewhere online. The truth is — photography is my form of gratitude.
Every capture, however silly or uninteresting they may appear to someone else, is a split second celebration — a nano-ceremony of this world, my life, that moment in time, and all the history, physics, biology, chemistry, and fiction that made it possible for me to appreciate whatever it is that I’m celebrating.
So even though it was the first (and potentially last time) I might meet this new friend, I turn to him and ask as we’re saying farewell, “Is it alright if we take a selfie?”
ps. Contents of camera roll can be viewed on my instagram @xinyixan
pps. Yes, I’m the opposite of a foodie.
Voice vlogs entry no. 14:
Today is Monday August 22, 2022, 2 weeks into Colombia and 3 weeks left until I return to Dallas after 4 months out of the country. I think the eminence of the end of this odyssey makes me cherish it even more. I think I’ve mentioned this before but I love having these distinct phases of my life by blocking them as per my stays in different cities and countries. In Colombia thus far, I had my hair professionally dyed for the first time in my life, I’m taking barista classes which has been such a blast, and I’m really digging into playing with fashion again.
Typically, I try to buy a piece of normal clothing that I can wear on the day-to-day per city that I visit. It’s my form of buying a souvenir that is practical because every time I wear it, I’ll be reminded of this place. If I can, I try to buy it second hand because I adore thrifting. I think there’s something truly special about having something that has a history (even if its a history that is unknown to me). However, it’s been quite difficult finding thrift shops in Latin America. I know they exist but they typically exist as instagram stores. And I find that tricky because I can’t try it before buying.
With respect to the barista classes, I’ve wanted to do this for so long but I couldn’t find a program that really fit my schedule. Medellin Barista School is so flexible with the way you schedule classes and even build your own course, I’ve decided to go all in and take 18 hours of this because there’s something so special and relaxing about the process of preparing coffee.
Yesterday, I hosted my Life Vision Guide Workshop and it went so smoothly and we finished early. I confess that I get really anxious about presenting and leading group events when the attention is on me, but I have realized that for the future of Don’t Be Strangers, it’s important that I can lead events and lead them with ease. So I’ve decided that I will try to throw more events. One of those is monthly virtual Conversational Game Night (in fact, we have one this coming Sunday August 28th if you’re interested, I’ll link all that info in the show notes). Another one is just this workshop which I feel delivers a lot of value. I originally wrote this eBook to sell, but I’ve ended up just throwing small workshops with it and giving it away. This was the 4th time I’ve thrown this workshop and I felt so comfortable yesterday, I felt really proud of myself. Granted, it was a small group of only 3 attendees, but it still felt like such a huge milestone for me.
Besides the conversation game night, signs ups are open again for the Pen Pals Club! Become a pen pal for September! Something else super exciting I’d like to announce is that I’m trying to build a team for Don’t Be Strangers! So if you’d like to learn more about volunteer positions I have opened and ways that you can plug in and help grow this little community, I’ll link all that below as well.
Thank you so much as always for listening, please write to me @dontbestrangers on instagram, and I’ll write to you again soon.