Dear Ashley,

I hope this greeting finds you well! At the time of this writing it’s an early afternoon in L.A. and today has to be the fourth or fifth day in a row of amazing, laid back temperatures. With such cool conditions in the air, I couldn’t help but finally sit down to write to you again. It’s been a fascinating time. Just yesterday, I got to catch up with our ole friend Ms. Cuenca, who had all kinds of things to say about Beijing! I’m so freaking proud of her, and even more inspired by her to soon get back to my own adventures out and abroad! In the meantime, though, there’s some other work here in the city which I feel I have to get to before everything else. Though I got to mention it to you the last time you were here, I didn’t get to elaborate much, but now I can tell you that it’s work in youth and educational development!

Basically, I go out to schools and speak with young people about my journey from high school to college. I tell them the story in hopes of inspiring them to go after their dreams and ambitions, and so far, while I’ve only been at it for a few weeks, I’ve gotten some great feedback from the classrooms I’ve visited. It’s been a lot of fun, and the organization I’m doing the work with has been friendly, transparent, and totally open to ideas about growth and expansion, so I’m more than optimistic about the potential to go far with The PLUS ME Project.

Apart from this, I’ve been going up and down the city with my new camera! As you may have noticed, it’s meant a lot more visual rather than literary storytelling on JT as of late. And much like a new chapter, it’s been a true learning experience. Just the other day, after a stroll through the beach, I attempted to clean my camera for any potential sand residue, and so I took the lens off for a real thorough wipe-down of each part. When I reattached the lens to the body of the camera though, the focus was somehow off, and despite trying again and again to get the focus back to its normal form, it just wouldn’t budge! I figured then that I’d damaged something, and resolved to take it to the repair shop the next day.

Naturally, I dreaded the thought that only after a few weeks with my camera I’d messed things up. Still, I was determined to get the problem checked out so that I could get back to my shots as soon as possible. When I got to the repair shop, I was forthright with the repairman. I told him how I’d just gotten it and didn’t know what happened but if he could please help it’d be so great Seriously though Mister! After curiously listening to my spiel, the repairman took the camera for a moment to have a look, shifted a dial or two, and told me that nothing was wrong, but that I should really read my manual before messing around with it again!

It was silly, but because the repairman was nice about it, I felt relieved rather than embarrassed. And now, I’ll be reading the manual sooner rather than later! I think it goes to show though, just how early it still is with me and this whole photography thing. As with so much else, there’s always more to learn about the basics to humbles one’s sense of “knowing”.

It feels the same way with the family, as I think about the time I’ve spent with them over the last few months since graduating. On paper, a few months might seem like a long time, but really, it’s been just a moment of the grand  journey. One thing’s for sure though: it hasn’t always been easy, and at certain points, I’ve just had to get away! But as I shared with Ms. Cuenca the other day, in getting away from them I miss them more than ever, and in missing them, I’m humbled by everything we’ve been through together, and for everything still lying ahead for us.

After all, there’s still so much to learn from my family: every day, each of us are newer people, each one step removed from our past, but also one step closer towards our future, and to think I get to witness this process of change for a moment is a gift. But the real treat is attempting to reflect this out in the real world with them, either with a smile, a surprise meal or two, or any other tiny little treats which can make all the difference in their day.

Somehow, I trust a similar narrative is true for you? I know you felt great being back in SoCal with some friends and family for a bit, especially since your visit was so brief! And I can tell you that it was great spending some time with you through all of it. But are you still homesick now, or are you perhaps getting back into the mix of things over in Burma?! Either way, definitely stay resilient. When you come back around the way, we’ll take some photos with my camera! But we definitely won’t clean it! Ahem. At least, not until I read the manual! Which I’m going to try to get to now!

Beneath birds through cloudy Skies,


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