Sunday, November 22, 2009

Success in Ethiopia

Success in Ethiopia

A crippled man begs on the side of a dirt road leading to the orthodox church in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
A crippled man begs on the side of a dirt road leading to the orthodox church in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

I'm Home, and struggling with how to summarize the past few days in a blog post. OK... here goes.

Thursday was our Embassy Day. As I understand it, the adoption was already finalized on the Ethiopian side, but they had to appear, with the kids, at the U.S. Embassy to get U.S. Visas for Silas and Titus. Despite dozens of international trips, this was the first time I'd ever been inside a U.S. Embassy. (It actually wasn't all that great...) We had good fellowship with a number of other adopting families in the waiting room. Everything went smoothly for Carl and Angel, but friends of theirs had the heart wrenching experience of not receiving their visas. (I will write up this story another day... it's incredible!)

As we walked out of the Embassy I was sobered to see the hundreds of people sitting patiently awaiting their turn to apply for a Visa to the United States. As a natural-born, Citizen of the United States I am not sure I will ever completely understand what that truly means and how fortunate I am. Every once in a while I encounter a situation that reminds me of the blessing that was mine at birth and the great lengths to which others will go in an attempt to secure what was given to me. It reminds me too of my relationship with God and my own complete inability to obtain Righteousness. I see the pure gift of God, received by faith, that makes me a Citizen of Heaven being worked for by people of all faiths around the world. Unlike U.S. Citizenship, it's not hard to enter the Kingdom of Heaven... the price has already been paid, the process completed for all.

Friday was our last day in Africa, but to be honest, I stopped counting things in days and now count in hours. I've done way too many short trips this summer/fall, and "days" just no longer cut it! We were hoping to hit the market first thing in the morning, but our driver didn't show up. We would have called him, but no, the agency hadn't bothered to pay their phone bill at the guest house, oh, and the people with us didn't have any credit on their phones either. Welcome to Africa. It was OK... I know how to do this... Carl and I headed out and found a phone recharge for our cooks' phone. This didn't get us to the market, as the driver was busy, but we did get to call and tell friends we were supposed to meet that we weren't coming.

Instead, I caught a taxi over to the Care Center to look for some stuff I had left there. On the way I realized that it really wasn't that far and decided to walk back, shooting along the way. Ethiopians are not very camera friendly. They have this nasty little habit of being really friendly and waving and then freaking out when they realize that you really are going to use your camera on them. Amazing. It's a good thing I'm really fast! I do get gun-shy after being yelled at by the 10th person though...

Later in the afternoon Carl, Kelly, and I headed over to the market with Carl's friend Daniel. Historically I haven't been a huge fan of haggling over prices. I just figure that no matter how it goes, someone loses! If the shopkeeper is happy, that means I got ripped off, but if I'm happy, her kids don't eat that night. Lose-lose situation. Today I had fun. Actually... I kinda felt like Kristi Cook! :-) I guess I decided I didn't really care about getting the BEST price, I just wanted something I could live with and the cool stuff that I wanted. I even learned some new tricks. The best one is to give them less cash than the last price they gave you... One lady wanted to sell me a couple necklaces for 160 Birr. I told her 100. She came down to 120, but I just handed her a 100BR bill and she was happy. It helps to have exact change...

Souvenirs and gifts purchased, we headed back to the guest house to pack, eat, and zip off to the airport. It was hard for me to watch the agency workers say goodbye to Silas and Titus and Kelly's daughter. It was just really obvious that they genuinely love these kids. I KNOW that Silas and Titus will be loved, cared for, and have a better life with Carl and Angel than they had the potential for in Ethiopia, but they were still about to be taken far from their homeland and everything they had ever known. I guess few good things in life that come without sacrifice...

Our trip back was long... actually, it was the longest I've ever been on an airplane! The five-hour flight from Addis Ababa to Rome was followed by two hours of sitting on the plane in Rome while we refueled, etc., and 11 more hours to Washington Dulles. 18 hours in the back of a 767. Titus and Silas did amazing... I really can't imagine a better travel experience with two 2-year olds! What's even more amazing is that they speak no English... none! We couldn't even tell them what was going on. Customs and Immigration at IAD were no problem, our bags arrived, we connected to other flights, and were soon winging our way to Minneapolis. I was on different flights, but landed at MSP about the same time as Carl and Angel and met up with them at baggage claim. Some friends had come to meet them, as did the head of their adoption agency. One woman drove all the way from Omaha, NE to welcome them home! Both Carl and Angel were totally spent, so I drove us up to Saint Cloud and said goodbye as I dropped myself off at my parents' house.

Carl, Angel, I love you, and will travel with you anywhere, anytime! Thank you for the honor of being your photographer, travel companion, and friend on this HUGE adventure!

R

Be sure to check out Angel's blog at: http://lovedbeyondallmeasure.blogspot.com/

Herds of goats being shepherded through the streets is a common sight throughout Addis Ababa.

Dirt roads and corrugated metal shacks are a common sight in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Shoppers and merchants line the side of the road in a market area of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia..

Shoppers and merchants line the side of the road in a market area of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia..

A vendor passes the time reading as he waits for his next customer in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia..

A young girl pauses from selling produce for a quick portrait in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

One of the better roads in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

An Ethiopian woman beats the dust out of her rugs during morning cleaning in Addis Ababa.

An Ethiopian woman awaits public transportation by the side of the road in Addis Ababa..

An Ethiopian man checks out the latest bulletins on a public wall in Addis Ababa..

Ethiopian construction workers pause to wave and pose for the camera at a construction site in Addis Ababa..

A woman and her son make their purchases at a small street-side shop in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia..

An Ethiopian man walks down the street through a wealthy part of Addis Ababa..

A woman and her child beg through the window of an American's van in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia..

An Ethiopian woman carries a bundle of wood on her head in Addis Ababa.

Fresh Ethiopian coffee is roasted over a small charcoal brazier.
Yes... we really had coffee, freshly roasted over a charcoal brazier... :-)

Carl and Angel Larsen with their boys.
Carl, Angel, Silas, and Titus

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ethiopia at Last

Ethiopia at Last

I'm here, on the ground, in the country, VISA and entrance stamps to prove it... this is Ethiopia. It took me 64 hours of travel to get here, too many of which were spent arguing with airline personnel. I ended up flying through Kuwait and having to purchase a one-way ticket from Kuwait to Addis Ababa through Dubai. It was crazy, but I don't have much time right now...

Yesterday was great. I woke up with a fever, diarrhea, and nausea, but I've always contended that the difference between a professional and an amateur photographer is that a professional can shoot no matter how he/she feels. Yesterday I had to prove it. As I lay back in bed after not eating breakfast I pondered how hard it had been to get here and how less than 24 hours of being in the country I was pretty sick (which NEVER happens to me...). I prayed, "Lord, I don't know what you have for me here, but I will give it everything. I won't give up... I'm all in!"

It was a LONG day... but we all felt that way. We got to visit three different orphanage facilities and shoot hundreds of photos for adoptive parents all over the United States. It was awesome. The kids were so cute, and to realize the joy what we were doing would bring to so many people made for a pretty awesome experience.

Here are a few pics from yesterday. Pray for us if you think of it... we've got about 36 more hours here in Ethiopia before beginning the trip home.

Carl and Angel are doing awesome! Titus and Silas are amazing... Such cute kids! It's truly an honor to be with them here in Africa as their lives change forever!

R



Wednesday, November 18, 2009

From the Archive: Antwerp, Belgium

From the Archive: Antwerp, Belgium

A man reading in the train station.
Canon 30D | 1/6400s | f/1.4 | 50mm

On April 25, 2009, my siblings and I took the train from Bodegraven, The Netherlands, to Baueax, France. It was a holiday, which meant that the trains were full and running late. That combination wasn't an excellent one for us as we soon found that we had missed a connection. My brother Kennan was fabulous, and talked the powers that be into a reroute that still got us where we needed to go without extra fees.

The delays and rerouting gave us a bit of time at the main station in Antwerp, Belgium. We discovered that Belgian truffles really are excellent, as are their french fries. As we wandered around, passing the time before our next train, I happened to see this man sitting quietly by himself in front of some awesome windows. I made this exposure, and was grateful for our missed train!

R

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Learn more about the Antwerp station: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antwerpen-Centraal_railway_station

Like this image? Order a print at: http://rowangillson.zenfolio.com/archive/e150857ec

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Rowan's going to Africa!

Rowan's going to Africa!

So... I'm not there yet... I'm in Kuwait. Yeah. Kuwait... I wasn't really supposed to be here, but this is what I've got for a story:









R

Learn more about Kuwait: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuwait

Subscribe to my YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/tibungla

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Benj & Gabi's Wedding

Benj & Gabi's Wedding

Benj and Gabi's wedding.

Congratulations Benj and Gabi! It was such a pleasure to be able to photograph your wedding. Gabi, I count myself privileged to have known you for years and see your love the for the Lord. It was awesome to see that matched perfectly in Benj. Benj, I was amazed to see the love and respect in which your family and friends hold you. I pray God blesses your marriage and continues to pour our His blessing upon you together!

Benj and Gabi's wedding.

Benj and Gabi's wedding.

Benj and Gabi's wedding.

Benj and Gabi's wedding.

Benj and Gabi's wedding.

Benj and Gabi's wedding.

Benj and Gabi's wedding.

Benj and Gabi's wedding.

R

View the rest at: http://gabiandben.rowangillson.com

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

From the Archive: Cambodia

From the Archive: Cambodia

A pink and purple scarf imprisoned by barbed wire.
Canon EOS 1D-MkIIn | 1/1250s | f/4.0 | 70-200mm @ 121mm

In September 2007 I had the opportunity to travel to Cambodia for the first time. It was a short trip, just a couple days, but a totally life changing experience. Despite being pretty well traveled, Cambodia was my first Third-World experience. It opened my eyes to first-hand encounters with social issues that before I had only heard about.

This image is symbolic of Cambodia for me. I think of it as a beautiful country full of beautiful people that is struggling to overcome a bitter 20th century filled with hate, death, and destruction.

R

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Learn more about Cambodia at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cambodia

Like this image? Order a print at: http://rowangillson.zenfolio.com/archive/e28eb4337

Monday, November 09, 2009

2010 Calendar

2010 Calendar

The cover page of Rowan Gillson's 2010 Calendar featuring historical and religious images from across Europe.

Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, my 2010 Rowan Gillson calendar is now available for your ordering pleasure! The 2010 calendar features 13 religious and historical images from across Europe. These images was captured during a 5-week backpacking trip I took with three of my siblings in April/May 2009. Each one has been hand picked for both its image quality and the historical significance it represents. The fabulous design is by Mandy Novotny. I think you'll agree that it's a step up from my previous calendars.





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Order early, order often... they make great Christmas gifts! Feel free to spread the word too!

Thanks for your support!

R

View the calendar images and order prints online at: http://rowangillson.zenfolio.com/2010calendar

Read more about our European trip on the 4 Bohemians blog: http://4bohemians.blogspot.com/

Friday, November 06, 2009

What's your V?

Rowan Gillson on the Great Wall of China.
What's your V?

In the year 1942 the United States of America joined in a worldwide campaign for peace and unity. In a time of little hope for the future we as a nation rallied together to promote the cause of freedom. V for Victory with the morse code V (dot, dot, dot, dash ) became a national symbol of hope that unified past generations and promised a brighter future. V for Victory became part of everyday life for our grandparents and every loyal American. Shop windows, postage stamps, and posters displayed the timeless spirit of American patriotism using the symbol V for Victory.

Nearly seventy years later we once again find ourselves in challenging times. Although we live in different circumstances, each of us has the opportunity to make a difference. Just as past generations embraced this symbol of victory, today we too can hold fast victory and hope for the present, as well as the future.

Make a difference for your community by joining our effort to rebuild a spirit of victory and unity. Your support can help create a new future.

It's simple - get your V sticker and stick it in your world. In the U.S. there are three hundred million people, give or take a few. That's three hundred million individual lives with unique personalities and amazing stories. Each one of us makes up the nation we call home. Together we can inspire the courage and hope that every American possesses.

You’re the first wave. V for US doesn’t go public until January, but they’re looking for support. Help launch a movement by using your gift—the camera—to create images that will inspire a spirit of Victory in your world.

Starting today, you can register for the “What’s your V” photo contest. We’ll send your V sticker free of charge and you start shooting. The sky’s the limit. We’re looking for images that show Americans or America; images that inspire courage, honesty, personal growth, and strong community. Use your sticker, use your fingers, shoot whatever V motivates you, and send it our way.

It’s a contest, so of course there are winners: first prize gets $50; two runner-ups claim $25 each. Oh, and don’t forget, you’re launching a movement! You can submit up to 10 images, and there’s no entry fee! Everything needs to be in by December 4th.

Ready to go? Read the Official Rules and register here: http://prizewinningphotography.com/events/contest/V


R


Struggling for creatiVity? Try some of these Victorious words on for size:
actiVe
adVenturous
imaginatiVe
creatiVe
liVe
motiVated
positiVe
Versatile
inventiVe
resolVed
ViVid
Vital
Voice
loVe

Official site: http://vforus.com

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

From the Archive: High Road to Yu Shu

From the Archive: High Road to Yu Shu

Sunshine lights up the Tibetan Plateau
Canon EOS 1D-MkIIn | 1/800s | f/4.0 | 70-200mm lens @ 121mm

In August of 2007 I found myself with 8 other photographers on a bus from the city of Xining to the village of Yu Shu in Southwestern China. Unlike public buses I have traveled in countless other locales, this was a sleeper bus, containing micro-beds instead of seats. They probably work great for 5'4" Chinese people, but were slightly less than ideal for this 6'3" American. 15 hours of smoke-infested, body odored, gravel roads and car sickness were rewarded with spectacular views of one of the remotest areas on earth. I would not trade that bus ride for a first class airline ticket.

I rode up front with the bus driver for much of the time. He chain smoked and chatted to me most amiably. Too bad I didn't speak Tibetan. Smiles and nods were all he needed as he was just pleased that this insane American was so taken by the beauty of his countryside. I soon realized that I was not the insane one as I watched this man careen in-control up and down the sides of mountains on "roads" fit for pack-mules. Perhaps it was the nicotine (or something stronger!) or his magical driving gloves that gave him courage. Whatever it was, we arrived safe and sound and even much earlier than I expected.

Thanks to my insane driver, a myriad of road crews, and an awesome God for this photo of a high plateau in the Tibetan mountains. I don't rightly know where it is, but the plain is approximately 12,000 feet above sea level and the mountains in the 16k to 18k range.

Anyone up for another trip to China?

R

Learn more about Yu Shu, China: http://www.travelchinaguide.com/cityguides/qinghai/yushu/

Check out more of my landscape pictures: http://rowangillson.zenfolio.com/landscapes

Like this image? You can order a print from: http://rowangillson.zenfolio.com/archive/e366c13e9

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