Only Fifty Photos


Linda Smittle, 128 TCCS

Last week a teacher approached me in the teacher work room: “I am making a report. I need some photos of you in Thailand.”

How many photos do you need?


Only fifty photos? I have more than fifty photos from each day of the three-day scout camp. In one (extra busy) month, I added 4,408 photos to my hard drive. I documented a (relatively uneventful) month with nearly 300 photos – almost 10 photos a day.

Only fifty photos? That’s less than two pictures per month. How would I choose?

I captured the pageantry, excitement and competition of multiple Sports Days with over 100 pictures each day.

I tried to reflect the culture and heritage of Thailand by taking thousands of pictures of parades, religious celebrations, wats, monuments, and special concerts.

I used millions of pixels to document the minutia of daily life (shopping, eating, cooking, playing, teaching, learning).

As I celebrated special family occasions like weddings, funerals, birthdays, and ordinations, I took many candid and posed shots (and, of course, some selfies).

As I taught students, collaborated with and trained teachers, and partnered with other PCVs to provide English camps, other people snapped pictures and sent them to me.

In addition to thousands of static photos, I captured many voices and activities with short videos.

Only fifty photos? Impossible. I have almost 30,000 photos on my hard drive. It took hours to view the pictures as I tried to select photos that best represented my time in Thailand. But I did not meet the only-fifty-photos goal. Perhaps I could consider myself an overachiever; I exceeded the goal by 10x. After I transferred the photos to her thumb drive, I asked the teacher to decide which ones best met her needs.

Reviewing my photos brought back many memories of my many incredible experiences in Thailand – memories that I’ll soon relive with friends and family in America.

When friends ask me some version of “What was living in Thailand like?” I’ll show some pictures and try to condense my experience.

  • I’ll try to remember to ask “What do you want to hear about?”
    Some people may want to learn about everyday life.
    Others may want to understand how Buddhism is practiced.
    Others may want to compare Thai schools to American schools.
  • I’ll try to remember to ask, “How much do you want to hear?”
    Most may want a five-minute Cliff Notes’ highlight version.
    Some may be interested in learning more.

And most of all, I’ll try not to be an overachiever. I’ll reign in my desire to talk for hours and show hundreds of pictures.  And when they politely change the topic after seeing only 50 photos, I’ll change my focus and listen to their stories.

Here are a few pictures showing the progression of me at school – learning how to make sticky rice in bamboo.



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