Tag Archives: travel

Snapshots: Old San Juan

28 Oct

A fortunate series of events led me to unexpectedly spend last week in Puerto Rico. Much of the time was spent near the beach in Rio Mar. However, an excursion or two was taken to Old San Juan. After being in a city growing drearier by the day with cold, shorter days and an onslaught of dark jackets and mute layers head to toe, the burst of color and warmth Puerto Rico extended was much appreciated.

For today’s photo series we’ve got three things going on:

1. Beautiful landscapes and worn edifices at El Castillo de San Cristóbal

2. Colors in Old San Juan

3. An adorable girl feeding pigeons

A nice tie-in:

“Everyone seems to have a cousin there.”

This from one of the staff members at El Castillo de San Cristóbal  while commenting on the rich history and connection Puerto Ricans have with New York City. Oddly enough upon returning and attempting to catch up on news, right smack in the middle of NPR’s homepage was this article describing a nearby exhibit featuring photos of Puerto Rican life in New York City in the 1970s —something I’ll make a point of visiting this week.

Intermission

29 Jul

Image

As I find myself in a transition, so does this blog. Thank you to everyone who has followed along so far. I plan to continue blogging but the content shall shift and change as I do. Not only do I have a lot of great travel and summer photos to share, thoughts on completing my Peace Corps service and readjustment in the U.S., but I shall also embark on my next adventure in this upcoming month…

Snapshots from Tanjung Puting National Park

19 Apr

I just got back from a short trip I had been fantasizing about for a while. It was essentially the Disneyland Jungle Boat Cruise— but the real life version of it. My friends ElleJohn and I spent a few days voyaging down the Kumai and Sekonyer Rivers in Kalimantan, better known to most as Borneo. This is part of  the Tanjung Puting National Park, a conservation for the jungle and it’s inhabitants which includes orangutans. Through talking to a local guide we got wind that unfortunately bits of this area are still being sold off little by little to make room for more palm plantations. This is especially maddening?  saddening news after having the opportunity to visit a place like this.

Despite that if you’re into ecotourism it’s a worthwhile little adventure.  Here’s a few snippets:

(Mouse over for captions.)

Simultaneously speeding up and winding down

15 Jan

It seems about that time… for an update. A real one.

In the beginning there was so much I wanted to share, but not enough time to be writing blogs all day. I had to experience it!

Likewise, I found it hard to keep up with all the places my overstimulated mind was racing. So I tried for a post once a week.  Then things slowed and starting sinking in a little deeper. The things I wanted to share were more complex, difficult to summarize. Blog posts didn’t seem as appropriate of a format.  So despite a few exceptions I tried to keep you entertained with more pretty photos and short bits and pieces here and there. So now where are we in the life of this blog? I’m trying to keep it alive because if nothing else it forces me to continue documenting this experience. It forces me to continue writing and taking photos. It forces me to continue evaluating what’s interesting and worth sharing here, and what’s going on in my world.

So what’s going on in my world?

Well weather-wise we’re in the midst of rainy season, where nearly everyday we are blessed with a shower that varies both in duration and strength. Being from Arizona, where rain is infrequent, I absolutely love it. It reminds me of the monsoon season but pretty much every day. This also means I feel a bit more “PC” in my day to day life as power outages are much more frequent. This causes me to always be on guard for the next blackout with my headlamp in position and ready-to-go, much to my host family’s amusement.

And because Oscar Wilde once said “Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative.” I’m not going to linger there…

Work-wise

The second semester of school started last Monday after an official two-week break. (Which was basically an unofficial month-long break.) And I have to say, the seven days following it have probably been my most productive in terms of work. Every day I’ve come home with a true sense of accomplishment and also fairly tired. This sort of productivity was not fathomable to me last year. To give you an idea of what an “accomplishment” is at this point:

  • It’s my counterparts taking turns to write down our weekly lesson plans that are being saved, printed and stored in a binder to be used again or adapted next year. (Yes, it took a year and a half for this to happen. Previous documentation of what happened every day in class was spotty.)
  • It’s a counterpart showing up to school with a worksheet she created herself and not some shoddy thing found online.
  • It’s my counterparts writing the daily agenda on the board so students know what they can expect to do that day in class, and there is no confusion over whether or not there was homework.
  • It’s my counterparts more frequently stepping up and out of their comfort zones with methods and activities that both they and the students desire, but that was previously left up to me to implement.

Overall it’s me letting go of the reins and consequentially not feeling as needed. It’s a sort of bittersweet moment in sustainability. It’s not over, but it’s currently leading me to feeling much more fulfilled.  It’s also motivating me to really follow through with this and finish what I’ve started. I’m now a little more freed up to focus more attention to other projects. One of which that I’m extremely excited about, is a girl’s leadership camp to be held in March. It’s dubbed iGlow (Indonesian Girls Leading Our World), and it’s an expansion of what a few volunteers started last year. More on that later.

Teeth!

I think some were slightly concerned after I posted this little bit about some dental issues. After several sporadic, cancelled and re-scheduled appointments it has all been resolved. The grand total of my cavities came to four. It was a hell of a lot better than nearly all of my teeth having cavities. Even better news was that they were relatively small. So small in fact, that the dentist didn’t use any anesthetics. (To tell you the truth I didn’t even know people needed that for fillings. I also didn’t know they actually drilled into your teeth, and I’m glad I didn’t know that beforehand.)

Facebook?

I mentioned earlier last month that I was contemplating going off Facebook. Whether this is unthinkable for you, or you could really care less, I did it. I’m off Facebook, minimally for a month. I figured it’d be a fresh way to start off the new year. I’ve also gone back and forth about the pros and cons of social media for quite some time. (See links below) It really is a love-hate relationship. That’s why for the time being I am OK with our separation, but I know we’ll inevitably be together again.

Bonus:

  • The IRL Fetish by Nathan Jurgenson of The New Inquiry
  • An  interview with the author of a new book on how we expect more from technology and less from each other

Vacations and travel

Due to those dentist appointments, iGlow meetings and other semi-official business I’ve spent a lot of time in Surabaya recently. It sufficed as a home base as I bounced all around East Java between trips, and it was a destination in and of itself for Christmas.

All that bouncing around led me to some familiar places and slightly beyond to some new ones.

For the second year in a row I accompanied teachers and the twelfth grade class on a study tour to Jogja. I spent 35 hours on a bus within a 65 hour period. If that doesn’t deserve some sort of badge or ribbon I don’t know what does. This especially considering five of those hours were spent stationary, on the side of the road, in the wee hours of the morning, holding my bladder and dozing in and out of uncomfortable sleep while a small group of teachers backtracked to retrieve a student who had accidentally been left behind.

Other trips went more smoothly.

I did a rafting trip in Probolinggo, spent Christmas at the Sheraton in Surabaya (a vacation in and of itself), made my way to the isolated Meru Betiri National Park in Banyuwangi to see sea turtles, then ventured on over to Lombok and the infamous Gili islands for New Years.

I had equal parts adventure and luxury. I walked barefoot in the pouring rain for five kilometers through the jungle. (Yes, I now have one of those stories to tell my grandchildren.) We were drenched, my sandals had broken (hence the bare feet), my cell phone died due to the downpour, and we even got snarled at by a wild boar.

The luxury end of that spectrum was just days prior when I indulged to an uncomfortable level at an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet on Christmas Eve at the Sheraton. It was a splurge at $14 U.S. It may have been steep enough to deter others from the group I was staying with not to ikut,  but I couldn’t pass up toast with butter (real butter) and marmalade;  cornflakes with honey and topped with toasted almonds; blueberry yogurt with granola; french toast; mini-waffles with all those golden nooks and crevices; a cheese platter with feta, cheese, cheese, cheesecheesecheese!freshfruitplattersaladbarham and… shall I go on?  That morning I had awoken in the comfiest bed I’ve laid in in nearly two years, complete with a down comforter. The night before I had taken a hot shower. It was preceded by a hot bath. Because I COULD. Luxury indeed.

I realized two things during these travels: 1.) I am now more enthused and baffled by what once was normal (See the paragraph above) than anything that once was exotic when I arrived. 2.) I sometimes forget how lucky I am.

This first point I realized during that buffet and also when I arrived in the Gilis where it was confirmed that variations in cuisine do exist.  One day a burger and fries, the next day Indian food, the next day Italian… I was a very, very happy girl.

I have yet, though, to get some good Mexican food in me.

The second part I realized on my last day as I was riding a boat back to Lombok from the Gilis with several Australians, other Americans and mostly Indonesians. I sometimes forget how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful country with endless travel opportunities and adventure if you’ve got the time and money. Which fortunately I have one of those things. (Guess which one it is based off my comments on the $14 U.S. buffet)

Beyond PC

Ah yes. The question everyone wants to know. “What are you doing after this?” I’ve had this conversation with probably almost every person I’ve been in touch with in the last month. The answer… to be determined. I have several more solid ideas now than I did a few months back. It’s become evident to me that I’m ready for a new challenge, yet what that entails is not entirely clear yet.

Other/Photos

I’ve slacked off in the photo department more recently. I’ve been relying much more frequently on my point-and-shoot and photos from friends, which you can enjoy below. (They’re in no particular order and you can roll over for captions.)

In conclusion of this hodge-podge post…

… as time is running out, things are simultaneously speeding up and winding down. I’ve got about five months left, a lot of work to keep me busy, but also a determination to enjoy it.

Snapshots from the Arab Quarter in Surabaya

4 Aug

 

Last month after returning from a vacation in North Sulawesi, a few friends and I had a day to kill in Surabaya before our mid-service training began. We visited the Arab Quarter in Surabaya. It was a tinge different from the usual East Java scene. The air was filled with the foul smells of the fish market followed by a dozen perfume shops. We went to the traditional market where Arabian music was playing and all kinds of dates and imported treats could be bought. It was fun to take a tiny step outside of the usual city and into a unique corner of it. Here’s a few photos:

 

 

Snapshots from the past six months (And a few things I’m learning about photography)

22 Jun

This post is a bit random but I was looking through pictures from the last six months and here are my favorites: (Mouse over for captions and context. You can also click the photo to see it larger.)

The photos don’t have much to do with each other, other than they give a small glimpse into my life here. But also I noticed a few things in going through my photos.

1. My favorite photos almost always include people. For whatever reason I find them much more engaging.

2. They are always my best, technically-speaking. The above photos have little to no editing. (Part of that is because I finally learned how to set a custom white balance. If you’re learning to use a DSLR like me and you haven’t tried this feature yet, I highly suggest messing with it—it makes such a difference in getting the right colors.)

3. Good photos are few and far between. I’ve taken many more pictures in the last six months than any other period in the past. A few thousand. Many were deleted because they just didn’t turn out, and I fear I’m becoming a bit of a snob when it comes photos. So out of all those, these nine were my favorites (excluding those I’ve posted for other special events or from my travels.)

4. It’s more difficult to photograph every day life than it is to take good photos while traveling. It’s easy to be inspired by new sights and experiences so that you can’t help but start snapping away. It’s much more difficult to see every day life with fresh eyes and a sense of wonder.

“Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder” – E.B. White

More snapshots from Bali

12 Apr

This past trip was too good to just put up one post with photos. Here’s some more sights seen around Ubud.

Coming up next: celebrating a year in country, more updates, thoughts, photos and more! (I know I slacked off for a while but I’m trying to play catch up now)

Nyepi — experiencing the Hindu New Year

11 Apr

Here’s what you need to know about Nyepi:

  • It’s the Hindu New Year.
  • The word Nyepi is derived from the word meaning “quiet” —makes sense considering the day is supposed to be spent in silence and introspection.
  • Going along with that, everything else on the island stops for 24 hours beginning at 6 a.m. The lights go off; people don’t speak, eat, drink or do a whole lot of anything. Even the airport shuts down, and if you are visiting Bali you aren’t permitted to leave hotel grounds. The only exception for activity on the island is reserved for emergency purposes. Though provided no one is doing anything, it would seem the risk for injury and illness is minimal.  There are even “religious police” that patrol the streets to enforce this. (Though it was tempting I didn’t test it.) The purpose of all this is two-fold:
    • It is meant to be cleansing for the body and mind, so you can start off the New Year right: fresh.
    • The second part has to do with the days preceding it. The Balinese Hindu create giant effigies, known as ogoh-ogoh, from wire, wood and foam. The day before Nyepi they carry these creations through town to scare evil spirits off the island.  They believe that once the evil spirits are scared away, they will return. When they come back, the island appears vacant because of the lack of activity and the evil spirits aren’t apparently interested in terrorizing a vacant island. So they go away leaving the island in peace and harmony once more.
  • Hence if you are going to visit Bali for Nyepi the real excitement is in the day before. The parades in Ubud were quite impressive but I hear Denpasar, the capitol, is where the biggest festivities are held.
  • That being said, the day off is a great time to take it easy and well, introspect.

So with all this in mind Continue reading

Snapshots from Nyepi and the Ubud temple celebration

31 Mar

Favorite photos from last week and a teaser for my next post where I’ll explain more about all these fantastical things and my vacation…

Reminder: mouse over for captions

A little more context: These photos are from two different religious events. The first of which was the anniversary of the main temple in Ubud, Bali. Celebrations are held annually to commemorate the consecration of varying temples according to the Hindu calendar which is shorter than the Gregorian calender that most of us go by. The second event was the Hindu New Year celebration, Nyepi. From what I can tell both are celebrated similarly in that families and the community join together to make offerings, pray and celebrate.

Snapshots from Pura Tanah Lot

30 Jan

Though the group I traveled with visited several places while on vacation in Bali last month, we covered the most ground the first day. We took an overnight train on Christmas from Surabaya and arrived in Ketapang, Banguwangi (Java Port) in the wee hours of the morning the next day. Though dreary from the train ride, it was refreshing to wake up with the sunrise over Bali while aboard the ferry from Java. The rest of the day comprised of bus and angkot rides, checking into our hostel/homestay, hitting up the beach followed by an afternoon walking adventure through some villages and it all ended with sunset at Pura Tanah Lot, a hindu sea temple and yet another go-to tourist spot.

A few of my favs from this day: