LITTLE MISS TWIG
Over the course of my time living in Asia, I wrote about my travels on my blog Little Miss Twig.
Jiro-cho On eating sushi in Japan
Tongui-dong On the Korean "dong"
With Sincere Heart On Tokyo's fiirst impressions
Tourism On being a tourist in Okinawa
Same But Different On losing one's rose-colored glasses
Ten Things I Will Miss On Korea's best bits
What I Talk About When I Talk About Eating On Singapore's vibrant food
Published February 2011
Excerpt from Interview by Calista Chandler, April 2009
How does photography tie into and influence other parts of your life? (for example, your writing on your blog)
Photography helps tell the story. I studied filmmaking, so telling stories has always been about a combination of words and image for me. The two are so entwined, I would have a hard time doing one without the other. Some people -- and some photos -- are so good at telling the whole story with the image alone. I am not that kind of photographer, I am not that kind of writer, and I don't think I'm that kind of audience either.
How does being a photographer change how you see the world? Do you look at things differently when you have your camera with you?
I look at things differently when I don't have my camera with me. I think being a photographer makes me a very annoying dinner guest, a slow travel companion, and a distracted conversationalist. It makes me miss my bus stop because I am too involved with how the light is glittering on the buildings. It makes me late a lot. It gets me in trouble sometimes and yelled at other times. But it also can start a conversation or open a door.
Tell us about some of your travels.
I've driven cross-country in the US so many times I have lost track. But the first time was completely alone in 1997, from Boston to California. I connected the dots between friends addresses over the course of months and crossed the Mississippi River for the very first time. I saw wild ponies in Virginia, lived in an RV park in New Orleans for a month, camped on the beach in Texas, soaked in snowy hot springs in Colorado, hiked canyons in Arizona and explored the coast of California. I was offered so many couches and guest rooms and local brews and favorite taco stands and homemade pie that year, and that really is how you get to know a place, isn't it?
I celebrated my 30th birthday in Central America, where two of my best friends were living. We traveled overland by bus from Honduras to Nicaragua and finally to Costa Rica. But first I spent a month in the countryside of Honduras, where my friend Heidi was in the Peace Corps in a small town called Jesus de Otoro. Days in Otoro were languid and simple. We cooked, we played with the kittens, visited the neighbors, shopped at the market, drew pictures with the kids next door -- a whole day could be spent preparing a soup for dinner or washing the laundry by hand. But it's the kind of place that marks itself deeply in your memory with its midnight roosters cock-a-doodle-doing and coffee beans roasting over open fires.
Seoul, South Korea
I have been living in Seoul for two years now. It is one of the most vibrant, complicated, amazing and soulful places I've ever been. I am often struck by just how much my perspective has shifted in those two years. Everything that was so strange and new when I arrived, and how very ordinary it is to me now. But still, I am constantly astounded at the enormity of this city. Just this past weekend I went to a part of Seoul I'd never been to, and it was as if I'd stumbled into some foreign alter ego. I think that is what is most interesting to me about living in a complex country like this. Just when you think you have it all figured out, it is always right there to surprise you and show you something delightfully new.
I am not really a fan of short trips. I like trips that are like long dinners, prepared carefully all day and served in several courses over the span of a whole night. So far, my time in Japan has been like an appetizer. My opinion is, therefore, underdeveloped. For instance, I believe that Japan is quite possibly perfect. It is a place that is completely its own, unique and captivating . It is very tidy, orderly and well-groomed. It makes amazing food and is extremely friendly. It has the most beautiful packaging and retail displays I have ever seen. I have a big, giant crush on Japan.
When I went to Hong Kong in February, I realized something very important about the way I travel. I need a decompression chamber, of sorts. I can't just jump right in. I need a day or two to breathe and get my bearings. I need some time to cling to the familiarity of my hotel, to dine within spitting distance and observe life quietly, at arm's length. I do this everywhere I go, and it's an unfortunate affliction for weekend trips. But just like people, it takes awhile to get to know a place, to memorize the way it smells and laughs and feels to the touch. I want to get to know places the way I know my dearest friends.