When I started this blog, it was my new project: trying to find order in the chaos of my life and the world by putting together vignettes. I chose a new name for my new project: XingfuMama.
Xingfu means “happy, blessed” in Chinese. I chose that because, in spite of some of the trials and tribulations, both past and on-going it really reflects my life.
Mama not because I have lots of children, I have only one offspring, now an adult; I chose mama because I seem to always fall into the role of care giver. I feel like “mama” to the world sometimes. In Africa they use “Mama” in place of Mrs. and tend to identify you with your children. I was “Mama James” in Mulundi, Kenya. In China also several people called me Mama or James’s Mama.
The name actually came to me by accident. My son lives and works in China so I have visited there several times. The first time was the spring before I started this blog. This post tells how the name came about.
Life is shifting, some of the shifts have shown up in posts. Some of them have silenced me. Over the past couple of years eldercare is dominating more and more of my life, my husband recently retired and we are not as young as we used to be ourselves.
I live in Seattle a few miles from where I was born. With the exception of high school and college I have lived within 25 miles of this spot my whole life. However, I have traveled to places I never dreamed of going when I was growing up. I’ve been to Japan, Africa, and China as well as a few trips to Europe (which I did dream of). I don’t have a “bucket list”: the best experiences have been serendipitous. My philosophy is to be open to what comes and try to be fully present where I am. I even ate a cicada once.
This blog is a little of this and a little of that. I am exploring with words and pictures, and trying to get better at using both as I do. I am not trying to build an empire or earn a living or market things.
I am not exceptionally facile with words so I often use a picture along with a few words. I am trying to get better at expressing myself with words by writing more posts that are just words. I added a category called “Random Reflections” where I plan to try and discuss topics that are in current events.
In photography I am challenging myself to create pictures, in the “a picture is worth a thousand words” sense of the word. Both at home and when traveling I have been trying to capture a sense of place and time. Asking myself questions like: What makes this place where it is? What does it have in common with other places? What is unique and unlike anywhere else? What is timeless here? What is changing? Is it changing fast or slowly evolving? and trying to find compositions to answer those questions.
Photography is probably too grand of a term for my products. But I have been to a few cool places and like some of the pictures I have taken. Since starting this blog I have really grown in my capability. There are many excellent resources for learning about composition and how to master one’s camera on WordPress from the courses offered by WordPress.com to series and individual posts and challenges by many bloggers.
I started on the journey to learn how to take better pictures accidentally. In 2012 on a trip to Kenya, my second “mission trip”, I use the quotes because it wasn’t anything like what I later learned was typical of a mission trip. Anyway I went out a few days before the rest of the group, because I like to have some time to get over jet lag before being bombarded with the fire hose of experiences which was visiting the village we were involved in. I decided to go on a short safari. Five years later I still believe the most amazing 3 days of my life were at Masai Mara National Park in Kenya.
A little over a year after that trip we were planning a trip to Ireland, and I considered getting a new camera, but instead chose to take digital photography classes at South Seattle Community College. This was one of the smartest things I could have done. My camera does have limitations, but by learning about composition and camera settings I am able to take better advantage of the many features it does have. Although it didn’t happen quickly, one reason for this blog was the urging of the instructor to use pictures and not let them just sit on a disc.
Most of the photos on the website during the past couple of years have been with a Nikon P610. I believe the real photographers would call it a “super zoom bridge camera”. It has a 60x zoom, although you need to hold really still to get clear shots with it at full zoom. I still have, and sometimes use, but always take on important trips, because it takes AA batteries and a pretty good picture, my old faithful Nikon L120 described below.
Until spring of 2015 most of the pictures on the website were taken with the L120. A bridge camera chosen for reasons no self respecting photographer would use:
1) It takes AA batteries, which are available pretty much anywhere in the world, unlike electricity.
2) It was not so valuable that I need to be always worrying about it being stolen or being out a bunch of money if I drop it. I can focus on being where I am.
3) I needed a zoom (the L120 has a 21x zoom) for my trip to Kenya.