Catch up time…

It’s been quite some time since my last post.  I guess I should start by saying Happy (belated) New Year and Lunar New Year!  Happy (belated) MLK Jr Day, and in light of today… Happy Valentine’s Day!

I’ve been doing quite a lot these last few weeks, but also quite a lot of nothing in between.  The winter holidays were relaxing but eventful.  I spent time at home with family for the Christmas holidays.  New Years was celebrated in Palm Springs with friends where we hiked for 2 days: Jan 1st at Mt San Jacinto and Jan 2nd at Murray Canyon.  What a great way to start off the year with 2 hikes!  A week later, I went hiking again, this time to Sandstone Peak on the Mishe Mokwa Trail in the Santa Monica Mountains.  And then a 4th hike the following Saturday at Caspers Wilderness Trail in Orange County.  Needless to say, I was all pooped out with hiking, and I’ve since taken a break.

Peace Corps-wise, I’ve taken care of a few things that needed to get done quickly.  I mailed my passport forms and Visa forms.  It took some time to figure out and required a call to SATO travel, but once I knew what I had to do, it was quickly completed.  I also took care of my Yellow Fever Vaccination, and sent the paperwork off to Peace Corps.  Despite all this, I still have loads of things to do, such as financial paperwork (loans, insurance, etc), before Staging.  I’ve been putting them off because they don’t seem to be extremely urgent, but they still need to be completed before Staging in June.  I also purchased a book called Our Grandmothers’ Drums by Mark Hudson about a European man’s experience living in The Gambia.  It’s entertaining, but the reading is slow.  It’s been several weeks, and I’m halfway done.  My goal is to finish by the end of the month so that I can start looking at another book that I purchased, the Lonely Planet’s guidebook for The Gambia and Senegal.

In January, I went to 2 different travel shows in the area.  I saw famous Travel Channel celebrities Samantha Brown and Andrew Zimmern talk about their traveling experiences.  I also sat in on a panel discussion about traveling on a budget and what good websites to use.  They gave really good tips and pointers, and listed some awesome websites!  Going to these travel shows, how can you not enter your name into a contest or two to win a free trip?  So I entered myself into at least 20 or 30 different contests!  Now my email inbox is slowly pilling up with travel emails, discounts, and spam.  Le sigh…

A lot of my time has also been spent learning how to use my DSLR camera, watching countless hours of YouTube tutorials about DSLR photography – the basics about aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and light; how to adjust the various settings on my camera; and also some fundamental theory about how to observe and frame your subject.  YouTube is such a great tool to use for self-learning!   Oh, and I’ve also been enthralled by time-lapse photography!  I started making my own short clips of random things.  Taking it simple, I started with ice melting and trees swaying in the wind.  Then I started walking around Santa Monica and took pictures of people along the bike paths and walking paths, of the cars by the beach, and of a beach sunset.  My goal before leaving for the Peace Corps is to be able to make a decent 3-5 minute video of Los Angeles and the beach areas, sort of a tribute to LA and also something that I can show my future friends in Africa about where I’m from.  The more I do this, the better I hope to become.  And I’d like to take time-lapse vids of my future African adventures.

Speaking of adventures, I’ll be leaving this week for a trip to Europe.  I’m hitting London, Barcelona, and hopefully a 3rd city, possibly Paris.  I’m staying with a friend that lives in London, and together we’re meeting up with one of my college buddies that is vacationing in Barcelona.  These past few days, I’ve been highlighting, Post-It-ing, and scribbling notes all over my Lonely Planet guidebooks.  I’m so excited!  Oh, and I’m also learning French (using Rosetta Stone) for the hell of it.

Till next time… Au Revoir!