Archive for March, 2010


Daniel: Acapulco

March 31, 2010

I figured I start in chronological order and with some film that I’ve taken in the past weeks. This was one day at a very secluded beach in La Pie de la Cuesta (foot of the coast) where we ate breakfast on the beach, took a boat to a more remote section of the same beach, ate a lunch of fresh fish tacos under the shelter, and watched the sunset over the horizon after perhaps the most relaxing day of my life. The waves were almost as enormous as the smiles on our faces as we ran across a stretch of very soft, very very hot sand to a deserted shoreline.

I shot part of this roll and one other with my F100 using the 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 I usually use on my D50, creating the ring that appears in each of the pictures. It’s certainly no a fish-eye, but it is significantly wider than using anything 28mm, which is the standard telephoto lens for film cameras. More to come later today or tomorrow.


Daniel: Complications

March 30, 2010
Upon returning from Acapulco about two and a half weeks ago, I entered a week of absolute insanity where I traveled to a different part of Mexico (archeological site, city, volcano, etc.) every other day. I’d be gone at least 11 of hours of each of these days and return exhausted, not to mention I had just started a new Spanish course where I’m reading contemporary literature from Latin America; short stories, articles, philosophy, and oh so much more. Catching up was not easy nor fun. To add to this rather intense schedule, my computer charger decided it was tired of its one and only function leaving me with little to no technology, and therefore no means to maintain my life in photos that I had hoped this blog would be.

I have taken upwards of 1000 digital and 100 film photos in the last 2 weeks, and I’m sure I have about 60 that I see worthy of posting, but I really don’t see myself having time to do all of that. SO. In the next few days, I’m going to be very critical and selective towards the photos I post as I attempt to outline the trips I’ve taken in the past two and a half weeks. Wish it didn’t have to be this way folks, but posting pictures on here is a time consuming process.

The photo above is one that I took last Tuesday when I climbed a section of Popocatépetl, the volcano I have previously posted photos of. It’s a feather caught between a section of vegetation that was part of a controlled burn, and another surviving section. You can actually see where it was lightly scorched on the right side but managed to stay in tact. I feel as though this feather can represent myself as I emerge from the hellishly crazy, fun, and interesting past week back into my normal state of Spanish class, meals with the family, and time to relax. I’ll do my best to begin the daunting process of describing the last two weeks tomorrow, but I’m certainly not making any promises.


Heather: Weekend update

March 29, 2010

My eye is completely healed! No more swelling or nasty looking eyes. I think I told you, but I didn’t go to work on Thursday. Definitely not worth it. I went on Friday, but I had to wear my glasses, which was a really big pain because the heat and sweat made them very uncomfortable. But my supervisor let me work mostly indoors on Friday on account of the sun probably wouldn’t be very good. So I just worked on some snake information that we’re going to post for the visitors.

Yesterday Mia, Rebecca, and I just went downtown for a bit. We sat down by the water by Fort Jesus for awhile and then we grabbed some lunch. Pretty chill day. I bought 3 pairs of kangas too. I just had to make sure they said the right things before I bought them. Kangas are bright, colorful sheets of fabric that everyone wears around here because they’re so lightweight and easy to wear. They have swahili sayings on them, which are fun to figure out. I got ones that said, “When big trees fall, the birds have nowhere to stay,” (bought this one mostly for the design), “I will be with you forever,” and another one that said something along the lines of “tell your enemies the truth, and you shall be rewarded.” Not exactly sure on that one, my host mom didn’t really know.

Helped make chapati for dinner tonight. I don’t think they understand that I like to cook too, because she kept telling me how to knead the dough and how to roll it out, and when I could actually do it, she was like “oh, you do know how.” No, I was just lying to you the whole time. The thing is, though, I’d rather not help them make the dinners. Not because I don’t want to, but because I see how unsanitary it really is. They don’t wash anything, leave stuff laying out on the open counter. There’s these little bugs running around everywhere and they were getting into the chapati dough and I was getting really grossed out. I’d rather not know that I’m eating bugs. Oh well though. Protein I guess.


Emma: Hunter Valley Time

March 28, 2010

Hello Again! The weeks here seem to fly by even faster then at home and I constantly find myself asking where is all the time going. I just wish everything could slow down. But like everyone told me before I even left, “your time abroad literally flashes before your eyes.”

On Tuesday night we randomly heard about a free, yes I said FREE Ke$ha concert at a park a short bus ride away from where I am. So naturally we hopped on the bus got to the park ran to the venue that Ke$ha was apparently performing at. Sweating and tired from running we pushed our way through the crowd of screaming 12 year olds to get a better view of the stage. The whole time I am laughing saying that it is probably not even the real Ke$ha but either way I was excited. Finally she came on stage, yes the real Ke$ha sang about 5 songs (I only cared about Tik Tok) dumped glitter all over herself and then left the stage.

Wednesday was the “Messy” (Med Science) Pub Crawl. We went out for a few drinks with the future doctors of the world. People here seriously love pub crawls. There was another one going on the same night of all exercise science majors. They all had to wear their white lab coats and that eventually turned into a huge graffiti party.

Friday was Beach Day. Oh how I am living the dream. We got up early, went to Bondi Beach, laid out, jumped the waves, got a nice tan, took a nap, listened to Bob Marley. Okay I guess I will stop bragging. But seriously this NEVER gets old.

Saturday was a day filled with wine, cheese, a sausage sizzle, beer, and you guessed it more wine. We boarded the bus with Ronnie as our driver and took off for The Hunter Valley. There are hundreds upon hundreds of wineries and vineyards in The Hunter Valley.

The first stop was Drayton’s Family Wines. Here we sampled different reds and whites, a white chocolate liqueur, and also port. Our first wine tasting experience was a success. During out tasting out driver Ronnie grilled up some bangers for our sausage sizzle and the best part about it was THEY HAD HOT DOG BUNS. The first buns we had seen since being here.

The next winery we went to was called McGuigan Wines. Here we were able to try a wine that has won numerous awards at the Sydney Wine Show and many more red wines. A lot of them tasted very earthy but still good. At this point we were becoming such wine connoisseurs. At this same place we did some cheese tasting; it brought me back to the day of cheese judging at the state fair.

Finally we were off to our last stop, which included basically all liqueurs. Butterscotch, “Love in a Bottle”, a few more and we finished off with a shot of “Dragons Breath.” It is pretty much chili infused schnapps and man was it hot. They gave you chocolate to eat afterwards to calm the spiciness. It wasn’t all that bad and after you got used to the spice it was actually like a really warm feeling inside. Never ever would I buy such a thing, but it was a good experience. We then trekked out to the rose bushes that surrounded the place and took a ton of pictures. There were roses of every color all in a row.


Christina: Near city limits

March 27, 2010

Near Montpellier city limits, there is a white wall that looks out towards the sea. At night street punks ride their skateboards along the wall’s edge, hipster girls lean against the stone and flick delicate ash from their cigarettes, and college students congregate close by while singing American songs with heavy French accents. On the wall it is written in English:

“This is not art.”

Where the wall forms a corner is a man, a dog, and a brown cardboard sign. The man holds out a used paper cup, jingles the coins inside, and says to the people passing by: “Madame, monsieur, s’il vous plait…”

I always wonder how long he can shake that almost-empty cup, how long he can hold out his arm, turn his head to follow the people walking away, how long he can hear “no” before he stops asking. When I crawl into bed hours later I wonder: is he still there, next to that white wall, jingling that cup? It’s the wrong thing to wonder.

Near Montpellier’s train station, there is a garden where fathers and sons play soccer after school, where tired mothers soothe crying babies, where newly arrived travelers stop to take their first views of the city. In the garden, the gypsy boys hold out dirty hands and beg for money. The coins I have to offer aren’t enough, so I ask them about school, about their families, about where they live. It’s the wrong thing to ask, because even with my limited French, I understand more than I want to.

In Montpellier, there are old churches and antique bridges, crumbling avenues and steel monuments prone for worship. We forget the hands that laid the brick a thousand years ago, label this place sacred, and put it on a map. We guard the past while the present withers beneath our feet.

When I fall asleep at the end of the day, the man and his dog are still next to the white wall that is not art. Behind him are the ancient buildings that we will continue to call beautiful long after he stops asking for money.


Heather: 2 a.m. hospital trip

March 26, 2010

I don’t think Mombasa likes me very much. Last night I got home from work and I thought I had some dust or something in my eye so I took my contacts out to clean my eyes. Well, they still hurt so I decided I would just wait it out. Bad idea. I couldn’t sleep because when my eyes were shut it hurt even worse. So I got up at midnight and looked in a mirror, only to find that my eye was the size of an apple and swollen shut. I thought I would wait til morning to go to the hospital, but it was unbearably painful. I woke my host mom at 2am. She took one look at me and told me I had an eye infection.

I got to the hospital and got let right in (2am is a great time to go—no one there!). They didn’t really even look at me that much; they just told me I had an infection. I guess there’s a pretty nasty infection going around that’s really contagious. Guess I got it somehow. So I got some painkillers and eye drops to sort it all out. I hope it doesn’t take too long to fix—gotta go to the beach this weekend! And it didn’t cost too much either. The taxi ride there and back cost more than the visit and medications.

Other than that minor mishap, things have been going well. Just been working this week from 7:30–5. Pretty long days in the sun. Tuesday I had to walk around all morning in my full gear. I like to relate it to a Carhartt outfit because that’s what it feels like. I was drenched in sweat. Yesterday it was cloudy and a little rainy so I definitely embraced that. It gets sort of frustrating when you think you should be doing something at work, but there’s nothing to do. Like yesterday I sat around for about 4 of the 8 hours I was there.

When I do get to do stuff, I am doing some feeding and observing of animals. I feed the giraffes (Henry is my favorite, though he likes to steal the food from the younger giraffes). Before I left last night I helped with the snake feeding too. We went out to the rat house and killed 3 rats and then gave them to different snakes. It was actually really cool to do that. One of the Puff Adders was hissing like crazy. I thought he was going to strike. But luckily, he did not. Had to skip work today because of my eye, and we’ll see how it is tomorrow.


Kathryn: Internship

March 24, 2010

After a wonderful Spring break, which I will post about next, I began my internship Monday at La Escuela de Formación Empresarial del Grupo Social. My commute to work, located in a Sector of Quito called La Floresta, is about a half-hour bus ride then a ten minute walk. Grupo Social Fondo Ecuatoriano Popularum Progressio is the name of the larger non-profit I work for, but within GSFEPP there are many businesses and outreaches. Several headquarters are located in the Quito office and “La Escuela” (EFE) is on the top (fourth) floor. I share an office with two others and have my own desk and a computer. I work Monday to Thursday, 8 a.m.– 5 p.m., and the internship will last six weeks.

The project I am working on now is updating the pages on the EFE website—quite a task. I began by cataloging areas for improvement and noting what information is lacking or out of date. Today I drafted a piece for the “current news” page that highlights the course that EFE created for the students at my University here, Fundación CIMAS. I also began creating promotional content for another section of EFE that supports Estructuras Financieras Locales (EFLs). Another project I will be working on is the organization and utilization of a vast photo archive.

In addition to my personal work, I am being completely integrated into company activities and dynamics. My compañeros consult my opinion about designs on promotional material or photo choices. Today we had a meeting to discuss a new logo; when to use it, how to use it, what it symbolizes etc. One of my coworkers is trying very hard to teach me Kichwa phrases. I take my lunch break with my coworkers and they often bring snacks or treats to share during our morning break. We are all going on a day trip on Sunday to barbecue at someone’s Rio Bamba house. Much of my personal work involves seeking information from other responsible or more-informed coworkers. They are always patient and very willing to help me find what I need. I’m really enjoying the work so far and I look forward to learning more each day.


Kelsey: 九日!!

March 23, 2010

I leave in NINE days!! I have all of my paperwork in, I’ve received my visa, and I (hopefully) have saved enough money so I don’t starve. Right now is just an awkward period where I’m seeing friends, coworkers, and family for the last time and I just don’t know what to think.

Although it has been nearly 18 months since I decided to study abroad in Japan and began the application process, the preparations seemed to drag on. In order to help out future Sophia Bilateral Exchange students, I’ll start from the very beginning.

The way the Bilateral Exchange Program works is you switch places with a student at the school you want to study at for a semester or year. It is the cheapest way to study abroad, as the program fee is simply your regular tuition charge that you pay to your home university. If you are willing to plan all of the details of your trip on your own, you will save a lot of cash.

Because the Bilateral Exchange is so cheap, it is also extremely competitive. An applicant must first be nominated by their home university, then be accepted to the university you will be going to. All of this planning began way back in the Fall of 2008. I decided to try to be nominated to go to Hiroshima University, so I gathered recommendation letters and transcripts, filled out the application, and wrote my personal statement. I submitted my application in December, then began the first of many agonizing waits.

At the end of February I received a phone call that I had been nominated to go to Sophia University in Tokyo. I was a little upset that I didn’t get to go to Hiroshima, but I was happy to be nominated for anything at that point! I scrambled to submit all of my confirmation materials, do an online orientation, and come up with $500 for the deposit, all of which was due less than two weeks from being told I was accepted.

After that I heard nothing until the middle of April, when the orientation for all of the students nominated for exchanges at Japanese universities occurred. This was not very helpful, since it was an entire year before I would be going and I still didn’t know anything for certain. Nevertheless, I got to meet the nominated students (less than 10 total for 3 different schools!) and received some advice about the trip. When I expressed my fear that I wouldn’t get accepted to the school, I was told that they had never nominated a student who didn’t get accepted, but there was always a chance it wouldn’t happen. Read the rest of this entry ?


Heather: A FAN!!!

March 23, 2010

Pretty successful weekend, I might say. I found out I had to work on Saturday morning from 9-11. We did a couple treatments on some oryxs. We trap them in a boma and then we have a chute that we use (sort of like for cattle) to bring them down the line one by one and then we can do the treatments that way. The ones we were working on were treated for some cuts from fighting each other, nothing too big. I got out of there about 11:30 and headed for THE BEACH!

We ended up going to Mombasa beach. It was a little bit of a walk, but not too bad. The water was gorgeous and really warm. We had to wait a bit for the tide to come in so we could actually swim. We were there for a couple hours and then decided it was too much sun. I got home and attempted to hold a swahili conversation with my sisters; it sort of worked. They understood what I was saying at least. Just hung out for the rest of the night. Sunday, I went to the beach again. We got there and there was hardly anyone there. It was really nice! Liana came to join us too. It was fun until some creepy dude flashed Liana and Rebecca. Glad I didn’t see that. I talked to Gladys and she told me she found another family for me to live with, so I was happy about that.

I got home and found out that Gladys had already told my family that I was leaving. So it was a little awkward, but I made it out just fine. My new home is in Bombolulu (great name if you ask me), but it’s a little too far to walk to work so I have to take a matatu every day. But at least I’ll still get my exercise at work. My new family is a mom and dad, and 2 kids. However, the dad works out of country and my siblings are at boarding school. So currently it’s just Mama Beatrice and I. But it’s fine, she’s pretty legit. She’s a cook so maybe I’ll get some good meals! She told me sometimes she’s too tired to make dinner so she just goes out and gets some food. Which is what we did tonight. Not bad!

We have a 2 bedroom home, but with a REAL kitchen. There is a sink! I haven’t seen one of those in awhile! And we have doors, thank God. There is running water, but the pressure was too low tonight, so I took a bucket bath. Don’t even mind that anymore. It saves a lot of water. We still have a squatty potty, but again, it’s ok. I currently have my own room, but I think when my siblings get back I’ll have to share. But, I HAVE A FAN!!! I have never been so happy to see a fan in my entire life. It’s a nice place, and I’m glad I switched. I think Mama Beatrice is going to be good to me. Oh yes, and there’s some pretty sweet old school Backstreet Boys playing outside. I could get used to this.


Emma: Hanging with the kiwis

March 23, 2010

I don’t even know where to begin with my New Zealand Adventures. It all started on Thursday night when I arrived at the airport and entered the Duty Free Shop in the international terminal. HEAVEN on EARTH. After my little bit of excitement over some of the cheapest things I have seen since coming here, my flight took off to Auckland, New Zealand—the City of Sails.

The weekend was off to a great start when we got on the ferry to Waiheke Island right off the coast of Auckland. When we arrived on the island, we hiked around for a few hours and saw some of the beautiful landscapes. We then rented a mini-bus and learned to drive on the “other side of the road.”

We made our way to U-Save Car and Truck rentals to pick up our 10 person mini-bus. The old man who gave us the keys warned us of people getting killed and bad car accidents and you know pretty much everything you ever wanted to hear before driving for the first time in a foreign country. He then ended with “make sure you put the club on the wheel whenever you leave the car.” HA! (One of the those red things you people used to lock their steering wheels with about 15 years ago in the States). We were then off taking “short lefts and wide rights.” For about the next 4 hours.

When we arrived in Turangi, we drove to the campsite, only to find the office closed… So what do we do!? Pitch our tents, stay the night, and head off in the morning without saying a word. Yes that meant free camping for night number 1. After finding out we missed the bus to Mt. Doom that day and also that there were 55 MPH winds at the top of the mountain we had a huge change of plans. We headed into Taupo and went on a hike to Huka Falls.

The next day, we caught a bus to Mount Nguaruhoe, AKA Mt. Doom (from Lord of the Rings) and started out on the most strenuous trek of my life. We hiked for about 5 K and then came upon the bottom of the mountain. Now as the bus driver said “Mount Doom…it’s between you and God,” we started up the mountain with no trail just rocks and sand everywhere. I was literally crawling on all fours up this thing with my limbs flailing in every direction. If this was not a sight for sore eyes I literally do not know what is. There were numerous times I was asking myself what the hell I was thinking but eventually I made it all the way to the summit of the volcano and looked straight into the crater. SO AMAZING and the view was not all that bad either—lakes, hot springs, mountains. Miles of the most beautiful landscape I had ever seen.

Finally after we made it down (we skied on the dirt the whole way) we continued our trek for another 15 K. All in all we hiked a total of 15 miles that day, and man was I tired. Most people train for things like this… New Zealand is gorgeous, and there is so so much more that I would love to see. I guess I will just have to go back some day.

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