My little European video…

I’ve had my DSLR camera since August 2011, and I’ve been taking thousands of pictures with it ever since.  My hard drive in my Mac was exploding at the seams until I purchased a new 1 TB external drive last March.  The reason I’ve been taking so many pictures is because not too long after getting my DSLR, I discovered time-lapse photography.  I fell in love with the concept and had been learning how to create time-lapses, from how to take the pictures, to how to edit them, to how to create and edit the videos.  I quickly learned you need a lot patience.  Needless to say, taking pictures of an ice cube melting was one of the first time-lapse clips I created, and much patience was learned.

Fast forward to February 2012.  I took a trip to Europe for the first time, visiting Barcelona, London, and Paris.  I decided it would be a great opportunity to take time-lapse pictures on the trip, so I packed 2 tripods with me and off I went.  It was quite a hassle having to stop every now and then for 10-15 minutes to take pictures, and I know I might have annoyed my friends a bit, but it was well worth it in the end.  Since this is my first video, any feedback and comments are welcome.  I’m hoping that I can continue taking time-lapse photos while I’m abroad in Africa, so the more I can learn now, the better prepared I will be later.  Enjoy!

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Back home…

During the last couple of weeks, I’ve been traveling throughout Europe, specifically London, Barcelona, and Paris.  The motivation for the trip was a culmination of several reasons.  The first and foremost reason was to visit a good friend that moved to London.  Second, I had never been to Europe, and it was the only continent that I had never been to.  I can now say that I’ve been to all 7 continents on this Earth!  Thirdly, it was a test trip for some of my gear that I would be bringing to Africa in the Peace Corps.  And last, but not least, it was a trip to capture as many pictures as possible to create a time-lapse video (my new hobby).

London was my favorite city of the three I visited.  Though cold and gloomy with some rain, I was lucky enough to catch several days of sunshine and crisp weather.  London was a hustle and bustle city much like New York.  There were lots to things to do, places to go, and sites to see.  Navigating the city and their public transportation (e.g. the Tube) was easy.  Many places were within walking distance once you got to the touristy spots.  One of the downsides to London (as an American traveler) is the British Pound and how expensive many things cost.  Since my friend lived in London, we cooked many of our meals.  Shopping in the supermarkets or at your local grocer was surprisingly cheap.  You could also find very good inexpensive restaurants, coffee shops, and corner cafes without much effort.  Another plus was most of the museums were free!  I took advantage of that fact and visited a few of them, including the National Gallery, the British Museum, and the Tate Modern.  A few things in London, however, were closed down or being renovated.  There was lots of construction going on in preparation for the London 2012 Olympics.  Ads abound throughout the city highlighting the upcoming games.  Oh to be in London during the Olympics; all the excitement, all the national pride, and also, not to forget, all the frustration due to the population surge during the 2 weeks of competition.  Nonetheless, I wish I could be there during the Olympics!

Barcelona was another great city.  Staying at the Hotel Arts Barcelona, we were right by the beach and not too far from many of the touristy locales.  Unlike London where I took the Tube almost everywhere, in Barcelona I walked almost everywhere.  La Rambla, La Sagrada Familia, La Catedral de Barcelona, La Pedrera… there were so many great sites to see.  I would describe this leg of my vacation as an architectural exploration: my friends and I basically went to almost every major Gaudi location in the city (Gaudi was famous Spanish Catalan architect, and his work is visible throughout Barcelona).  By the way, Spanish tapas are delicious!

Bonjour!  Paris was a city where I felt transported to the past.  Throughout the major streets and small alleyways, all the buildings were reminiscent of a world long ago.  One would find tiny shops that sold only breads, which so happened to be right next to the cheese shop on the right, the meat shop on the left, and the wine shop a few storefronts down.  However, eating in restaurants in Paris was quite expensive.  Parisians have an exquisite sense of taste, and I’m assuming they have exquisite wallets to match!  Navigating the city’s public transport was also easy to do.  We visited many sites, including Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, the Champ-Elysses, and the Arc de Triomphe.  One of the major downsides to Paris, which was rather annoying, was that so many people smoked.  I even spotted and smelled a person smoking in the subway tunnels, which was clearly prohibited.  As a result, cigarette and cigars littered the streets making them filthy.  Car and truck exhausts also reeked of fuel and smog, and many buildings looked like they were covered in a layer of soot.  I definitely felt I was transported to the past… say, the time of the industrial revolution.

I took many MANY photos when I was in Europe.  Barcelona and London alone have taken up about 45 GB.  I have yet to upload my Paris pictures because my external hard drive is almost full, so I need to get a new one very soon.  Needless to say, I have many time-lapse clips of my trip.  Here’s a small taste of what I hope to complete, once I get more space on my computer.  Click here and use the password “europe2012” (without the quotes) when prompted.  (Note: I selected a random song clip from my MP3 playlist for this short vid, but the final version will probably feature a different song.)

See ya later… adios… au revoir!

Let’s grab some coffee…

During the last couple of weeks, I’ve been slowly making progress on Peace Corps preparations, as well as other stuff such as holiday parties, Christmas shopping, yadda yadda yadda.

Right after I sent my Acceptance email to the Peace Corps Office, I immediately started scouring the Gambia blogs.  Right away, I found a girl who lives in LA that went to The Gambia for Peace Corps.  She got back to the States in 2010, so Peace Corps is still somewhat fresh on her mind.  I met up with her over coffee (she’s totally cool and very friendly!), and she gave me some of the lowdown on The Gambia.  Some interesting things that I learned are:

  • Because I’m going to be doing ICT (Information Communication Technology) education, I might be living near the capital or at least near a major city, if not in the city.  According to her experience, that’s where a lot of the ICT volunteers were stationed.  I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit, and I have mixed feelings.  I want to be in the possible comforts of electricity and urban living, but I also want to live away from the busy cities and more in the rural areas.  When I think Peace Corps, I think “completely remote,” and I want to experience that.  We’ll see how I feel in July.  I might be resenting that comment.
  • I don’t need to buy myself a portable UV water filter.  I was really nervous about the possibility of having no easy access to drinkable water, but the girl calmed my nerves by telling me that drinking and running water will be available, just maybe not in your house, but there is usually a faucet in the area that you get water from.  I guess I’m somewhat comforted.
  • I will be taking bucket showers for the next 2 years of my life.  Yes, I’ll need to relearn how to bathe using 1 bucket of water, or else I’ll have to go back and forth to fetch water in order to take a bath.  Maybe I should bring some bathing salts or oils with me?  Good idea?  No?  No…
  • I should bring myself some toilet paper, just in case.  The bathroom is most likely going to be a hole in the ground somewhere.  Enough said.
  • Some things I should bring with me or have shipped over: bug spray (lots of it and with 35% DEET; not bug lotion because in the heat/humidity, lotions get sticky on your skin and are very annoying); lots of Claritin and anti-itch creams/medications (oh yay!); good quality kitchen pan and knife (the ones you buy in The Gambia aren’t as great quality and ALWAYS break on you); bed sheets and some towels; Clif Bars or Power Bars (sometimes, you just need some instant food that’s familiar to your senses); combination locks (bring several of them).
  • Don’t eat with your host family too often, at least at first.  When you first move in, keep your boundaries high and don’t open up too quickly.  It’s easier to have your boundaries high in the beginning, and then lower them, than the opposite.  They get used to it if you’re too friendly and they start thinking that they can hang out in your room and start borrowing your things, which is a big NO-NO (I guess for safety reasons).
  • It’s fine to bring my camera and a few other small electronics, but don’t make it known publicly or don’t make it easily visible.  Also, bring lots of locks.
  • Don’t be afraid to say NO to people in your community, even if you feel bad about it.
  • Don’t let someone hold your camera to take a picture of you.  Odds are, they’ll break it.  AND, if you take a picture, then the locals will want to look at your camera to see the picture (since they know that cameras have a LCD screen to view the pictures).  And they’ll do it again, and again, and again.  So go back to the previous lesson, and don’t be afraid to say No.

That was some (not all) of the stuff that we chatted about in the hour that we had coffee.  Needless to say, the conversation got me very excited to go to The Gambia and also quelled some of my fears.

The days following that conversation were pretty mundane in terms of Peace Corps stuff.  It started to sink in that I still have a lot to do before my departure.  I have to write an Aspiration State and update my resume (done and done).  I have to apply for a new Peace Corps passport.  I have to do the Visa paperwork.  I want to renew my personal passport since I still want to travel internationally before I head to The Gambia.  I have to get all my finances together.  I have to get a Yellow Fever vaccination.  The list keeps on going.  I’m glad that I have a lot of time to do all this, especially since the Holidays have been more on my mind lately.  On a sad note, one of my good friends left last week to head back to Montreal for the holidays, and he’s not coming back to LA.  He’s moving to London in January.  BUT… that just means I get to visit London now (and maybe a quick hop over to Paris as well) before I depart for The Gambia.  I love having friends that live abroad. 🙂

That’s it for now.  Happy Holidays!  And Hello 2012~!!!