Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Page From My Journal

Sept 14-15, 2011

Picture this. Staying in a cottage/lodge steps from the jungle and the great canal, being woken up to the sounds of toucans and other birds and the howling of the monkeys. This was my experience in Pachira Lodge in Tortuguero.

We spent 3 days 2 nights in this jungle paradise. Upon arrival, we were immediately handed a cocktail to quench our thirst after an almost 2-hour boat ride to reach this place. That little treat scored big points for me. Before we even finished our drink, our room assignment was being given to us, right there in the pool area, by the bar. Our little group of 7 – the Friendly Planet group – was housed in one lodge/cottage. Each lodge is divided into 4 rooms – with double queen size beds. We were on room 2 and our lodge is closest to the dining area, bar, pool – everything. The monkeys and toucans also hang around the trees around our lodge.

Upon receipt of our room keys, we dragged our luggage to the room and was more interested in checking out what’s around the lodge than resting. The gardens are splendid. Total tropical paradise feel, and just yards away from the actual jungle.

We dumped our luggage, didn’t even bother to unpack. Two nights/3 days wasn’t that long to unload everything from the luggage. I just pulled out the t-shirts and the shorts/pants that I would be using while I was here and pulled out the toiletries, even though there were some provided.

Lunch time was calling. We were given our timetable, and lunch buffet is open for about 1.5-2 hours. Buffet is not the same as what we are used to in the states where there are endless choices of proteins and carbs and desserts. Here they have a spread of tropical fruits, 1 or 2 meat dish, a veggie dish, rice, and another carb choice, and 1 or 2 dessert choices. The juice is free flowing. They have wonderful selections like one day they had blackberry juice, which I never had before.

Plenty of time between lunch and 3 pm which was the time when our jungle walk/hike would commence. We walked around the perimeter of our lodge and I took the time to wash up a bit. I feel the need to always wash up here – sweat, bug spray and sunblock.

At the bar was where the group would meet for the jungle walk. Just off the pool area is a trail that leads to the jungle. Although we didn’t go far enough – ask anyone from the group and they’d tell you we wanted to go deeper into the mysterious forest – I had a good time. Immediately as we arrived at the foot of the trail, we were asked to look up the tree and see what’s there. I didn’t see it at first but suddenly I did, a three-toed sloth – I would trust my guide for I cannot see that far how many toes the sloth had. It was exciting. Julio our guide – with Mariano who handles mostly the Spanish speaking group – was very knowledgeable. Very likeable too and friendly, but keeps a tight rein with following the schedule.

He showed us different flora – some of which are not foreign to my eyes having been raised in a tropical country as well. I learned to be careful of where I step, be vigilant of other creatures that are sharing the space with me. We saw spiders – some scary looking and others cute – and mostly bugs. Learning about the trees and their symbiotic relationship with each other was very fascinating. It was tough to focus on Julio and what he was saying when the whole time all I could think about is how to compose the image that I was about to take. The blogger in me takes over sometimes.

Midway through the tour, my husband and I and another couple were lagging behind because hubby was taking photos when all of a sudden he saw a sloth on the ground. Sloths come down on the ground once every 9 days or so to defecate. Excitedly we alerted the group who were a few yards away from us to come back and see what we found. Julio in all his years of guiding tours has never seen a sloth on the ground before. The slow movement of the sloth should have given me ample time to take great shot, except that under the canopy where light is scarce there was only so much I can do. It was an amazing experience. Everyone was thanking the hubby for his keen eye.

It was dark inside the forest, but still light outside when we emerged from it. We had nothing to do – the time until dinner is ours to do as we please. This is a place where there are no phones, no tv, no internet. Across the canal, via a water taxi is the main village. They have a bar and some shopping and restaurants. But no one went. We all ran up to our room changed into our swimming gears and jumped into the pool. Since the pool is next to the bar, we had a few drinks while engaging in tittle tattle with our fellow travelers. I’ve never been in a pool this much time as I’ve had here in Pachira – there is nothing else to do. Plus, we found out soon enough mosquitoes cannot get us when we’re in the pool. So we spent time in the pool and gotten the cooling off we needed.

The next day our itinerary is full. After breakfast we took a boat ride across the canal to Tortuguero village. Mariano was in charge of the English speaking group this time. We walked around, watched the fire ants collect blades of grass and spotted some very tiny wren. We proceeded to go to the beach, which is a part of the sanctuary for turtles. Limited access to general public here because it’s part of the national park system. They want to preserve the sanctuary for these turtles.

The sun was high and unbearable. We were walking down the beach of the Carribean sea, but the seabreeze offered no relief to the heat. As we were walking along we spotted a baby turtle that died on the nest. When they hatch, they need to be able to leave the nest and get into the water before the sun is high. This one must have been caught in the heat, didn’t have a chance. Apparently the baby turtle has to hurdle many challenges for its survival. Predators like birds and dogs and other animals, people who still didn’t get the memo. Then from its nest it has to make sure it reaches the ocean before the sun gets too hot. Also we were advised not to pick up turtles, especially live ones, as they have sensors in their belly/feet that senses the and memorizes the path they take from the nest to the ocean, which will be very helpful if and when these babies grow up and mature to lay eggs.

While the beach was gorgeous and the tempatation to unlace my walking shoes and dip my heated toesies in the water was strong, I was glad that the beach portion of this tour was over. It was incredibly hot, people.

Finally, it was time to visit the village, which was immediately across the lodge from us. There is a paved path – should I even consider it road even when the only transportation that uses it is a two-wheeler bike – that goes straight parallel to the canal. Facing the village with our backs to the canal, we decided to walk to the right where both sides of the path are lined with stores and eateries and accommodations all housed in structures painted in vivid colors. We entered a few stores and bought turtle earrings for gifts and then continued our walk. My strength was dwindling mainly due to thirst and heat. I was able to finish a bottle of water immediately after we entered the village, but that doesn’t seem enough. I was still thirsty and at the same time worried that I might need a bathroom, which is a problem.

We spotted a cart vendor pushing coconuts – he was in demand – and my hubs and I split one coconut between us, which tide me over. And so I continued to shoot.

We returned to the lodge before lunch. While others jumped into the pool right away to cool down, I didn’t. The pool was under full sun and I was afraid I’d be taking extra sun than I needed (although I do have Vit. D deficiency) and that I’d be burned to a crisp so we just walked around and the perimeter and watched a family of monkeys swing from branches to branches, never gets old after two days 

Since we knew we wanted to see the giant turtle laying eggs that night, we had to buy our tickets at the reception area. After we secured our spots for the trip that night we lingered on the porch outside the reception desk where we could get a great view of the monkeys. I don’t recall whose cellphone it was that my hubs was carrying, mine or his, and why the heck was there a cellphone in his pocket in this out-of-the-way locale anyway, but for the heck of it he checked if there is wifi connection since we spotted a router inside the reception area. We were told this place has no phone, no tv, no internet. But yahoo, our little phone that could was able to connect to Facebook of course. And so he hurried to get the laptop in our room, which is a stone’s throw away from where we were sitting. I have to travel with a laptop because I need to upload my images to a computer – the bane of travelling with a compulsive shooter.

This serendipitious discovery has enabled us to email family and peek at facebook and allowed our newfound friends to shoot emails to their families as well.

Another couple that we spend our time here had shared that they had nowhere to go after we leave here tomorrow. They were under the impression that they were staying in the lodge for 3 nights. On the way back from the village, they chatted with Julio, our guide, about what’s in store for them tomorrow when the rest of us will leave. Julio told them WE all will leave. The lodge offers only either a 2 days 1 night stay or a 3 days 2 nights stay. And tonite is the second night here.

This is when my laptop was helpful. They had to make emergency travel arrangements. He even teased me why I’m carrying a huge laptop in this age when everything techie is going small. It’s a 15 inches laptop – not that huge, but it’s about 2 years old, antiquated to some, but it serves its purpose, cache for my photos and now their way to acquiring lodging for tomorrow night.


3:00 pm was the time the jungle cruise/boat ride began. As usual we were split into Spanish speaking and non-Spanish speaking/English speaking groups. On our boat we had Julio as our guide. Ronnie was our driver.

We sailed quietly, the hushed surroundings lent itself to a little meditative moment but we weren’t here to float aimlessly. We were here to see and hear and experience jungle. Parts of the jungle/national park can be explored by foot, which we did yesterday. Most of it can only be explored through the canals. There is an impressive canal system both natural and man-made that offers the best experience.

Have you been to the Disneyland ride to the jungle? This is a thousand times cooler and better. But having ridden both rides, I must say Disney had it right on target, but nothing beats the real thing.

Our driver had keen eyes. While the other boat passed us by because there was no activity going on, he spotted some curious lizards on the branches, by the bushes. He’s very good.

We continued floating by the canals, went into a smaller canal, which if my memory is correct is one of the man-made ones. These jungles are home to three different monkeys – howler, spider, and white faced. We saw all while staying in Pachira.

What a thrill! I cannot explain the pulchritude of the place or how affected I was of its serenity, beauty, power, and strength. If allowed I would not mind taking this boat trip every single day. So many things to see and hear and experience. Jaguars are said to live here, we didn’t see one that day. I wonder if they would come closer to the water. My guess is that they would stay deep in the forest.

Birdwatching is excellent, although there weren’t many birds. We saw enough to satisfy us.

The trip lasted 2 to 2.5 hours and we disembarked all sweaty and hot and in need of a dip in the pool. It’s an hour or so before dinner bell rings (figuratively) so we had plenty of time to congregate by the pool and enjoy some ice cold beverages.

Because of the propinquity of the jacuzzi/pool area to the entrance to the jungle/national park, we were watching the sloth up in the tree while soaking in the jacuzzi. How cool is that?

We had to take our dinner quickly because we had signed up for a tour to see the turtles lay eggs on the beach that night and it was starting at 8 pm.

I’ve noticed that people/tour guides are very punctual here in Costa Rica – no tour is late, earlier even.

We were transported from our lodge to the village by boat/water taxi and was met by our guide for tonight. It appears that a different license is required to guide tours for turtles laying eggs than regular tours, and Julio didn’t have that license. He was however very firm in saying over and over again to observe the rules set out by the park – without exceptions no recording of any sort, no cameras, no video nothing. When a tourist violates these rules, which apparently are enforced diligently, the guide will lose her license for a period of 1 to 2 years. No one wants to be responsible for a guide losing her job because we can’t follow the rules.

What I thought was going to be a lazy walk on the beach by moonlight was the opposite. The minute we all got out of the boat and the guide introduced herself, we were off like we’re running away from immigration officers . Brisk walking, meet Maria. It was a tough walk to the beach. We passed by the village then onto the dimly lit portion of the beach to a waiting station. The rangers don’t want a mob descending on the beach during this time when the turtles are just coming out of the water. The waiting station which was totally in darkness is a ways off. The beach area is divided into stations and a runner/ranger would be scouring the beach for turtles. When they spot a turtle and find where it goes and begins to dig, the runner would then go to the waiting station and informs the guide where to direct the tourists.

We waited for a long time in the station, which was good because I was able to catch my breath. There were hushed conversations among us, but in general the quiet and the dark were a potent combination for relaxation – if I wasn’t dog tired from that almost running we just did. I was so horrified at how poorly I performed at brisk walking. How could I be so out of shape – nope don’t answer that.

When the runner came, he said something to the guide who then herded us to backtrack because apparently we overshot our target spot, the turtle chose to lay eggs closer to the village.

Another long brisk walk, I was crying (figuratively again!) I drank like a gallon of juice and water over dinner and though I was sweating profusely, my tee-shirt was soaked, I felt the need to pee.

We found the section that we were told to go but nothing was happening. Apparently, we had to wait for another runner to tell us when to approach. While we were waiting on the beach, I was imagining how romantic this scenario would be under different circumstance. All of a sudden, we spotted a turtle coming out of the water to the beach to lay an egg. I thought that was our turtle. I was wrong. Our turtle was already in the beach, digging furiously and was about to lay eggs. This whole tour is 2 hours long. Whether or not the group sees a turtle the tour ends after 2 hours. And so our time was spent mostly waiting and waiting. An hour and 30 minutes into the tour, a runner approached us as we were sprawled on the cool sand and told us where to go to see the turtle.

The long hike on the beach and the seemingly endless wait on the beach dissipated upon the sight of this once-in-a-lifetime experience. The turtle was huge. You know even bigger than a paella pan. She was in the process of laying eggs, they could lay about a hundred eggs if my memory is correct and once they start laying eggs they go on a trance. We were really quiet, but awestruck at how amazing a sight this is. We let the other group – there was another one – to peek, then it was our turn again. This time the turtle was done and she was covering up the eggs with sand. She takes breaks in between; she must have used up most of her energy laying all those eggs.

We didn’t stay to see the turtle eggs get fully covered in sand, because we’re on a time limit and another set of tours is about to commence. They have two tours daily during the laying season from July to September, 8 and 10 pm.

The couple from Baltimore was complaining how vigorous the walk was and they are regular walkers; they walk daily for an hour. The woman even said the tour guide’s plump appearance belied her physical conditioning.

While many chose to stay around the pool/bar area – the full moon was beautiful – to enjoy a few more cold ones, I decided it was time to hit the showers and the sack soon after.

A group of guys decided to see the baby turtles return to the ocean in the morning. They agreed to leave by 5:30 am. A handful signed up, this isn’t a tour sanctioned by the lodge or the tour agency. It was a group of visitors who wanted to see the baby turtles early in the morning. The public is allowed on the beach on certain times and that’s 5 am to 7 am only. This is done to minimize disruption to the turtles routine during the time of laying eggs. Plus the beach is part of the national park.

My husband signed up and so did the Baltimore guy. Both the Baltimore wife and I opted to sleep in, we were tired from last night’s marathon hike . The wives volunteered to pack up for tomorrow’s departure, not that I had plenty to do since we only took out the clothing we needed for the duration of our stay here.

The group had fun exploring the beach and found a baby turtle on his way to the sea.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

I Like Colors


I like colors a lot. In my 4 blogs I rarely post black and white photos, the main reason being I like colors. I like black and white photos too, but not as much as colored ones. My philosophy in photography (yikes!) is I like to show what my lens captured is the image my eyes saw. My eyes always see colored images.

How can I convert these images to black and white when the colors are so vibrant, so alive, so expressive?

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

From Islam to Cosplay in One Night

Last night was a lazy night in our household. A load of laundry was all I could muster to do after a full-day's work. I don't think I was tired, I was just lazy. That's all.

Compounding this situation was the hubby's seemingly deliberate attempt to join my parked butt on the couch the whole night long. I actually have 2 very important things on my calender to complete last night, but well sad to say laziness won.

It wasn't an unproductive night however. While channel surfing I veered to PBS to check out if ANTIQUES ROADSHOW was on. I really enjoy watching this show and each time I watch it I tell myself that I have got to get me to visit antique stores around the area, which I never do because away from the tv screen, I have very little interest to go antique-ing.

There was no Antiques Roadshow last night. Instead, the station was showing part 1 of the documentary LIFE OF MUHAMMAD. Very interesting, very informative. I was glued to the tube, was so fascinating. Part 1 tackled his early life until he started to hear the words of God.

I have always been curious about other religions outside of Christianity and this is a very good way of learning about Islam. I'm thinking about showing this to the congregation one day so they too could learn more about other religion.

The show is a 3-part series and I have to find out when they will show the continuation parts. But I'm really really interested. What a good film.

Later on after the documentary was over, my channel surfing found me on Syfy, which is one of the favorite channels in my household. The hubby is a huge sci-fi fan and we watched so many of these crazy unbelievably outrageous movies on Syfy like the Sharknado, remember this? Well if you don't know what his tv movie is I'll tell you. It's a movie about tornado filled sharks, so once the tornado touches ground the people get eaten by sharks. Stupid and so so bad. But well I believe when it debuted on Syfy, the social media was abuzz with #sharknado.

Anyway, last night there was no movie, but there was a show called Heroes of Cosplay. Okay so I'm not totally clueless about cosplay. I have heard of it online somehow. I know it has something to do with sci-fi characters and that people are fully garbed in costumes and they role play or something.

What I didn't know before I watched this show was that the people participating in cosplay have dreams and aspirations of becoming costume designers, etc. And the road to convention is littered with hopes and excitement, frustrations and hard work, creativity and more hard work. I did not realize that to compete in costume competition one must be able to create his/her own costume and it's not enough that you copy a character's costume. One must be creative in doing so, must use different techniques and the degree of difficulty in creating the costume is judged heavily. In addition one must also play up to the character once on stage. It's a lot of hardwork. I salute those people who do this.

I was really impressed with their creativity. I used to enjoy sewing when I was younger. My mother had a sewing machine. She was a great seamstress. She used to earn money sewing dresses once upon time. Her weakness is in making patterns. She can sew if she has a pattern, but creating a pattern is not her strong suite.

Anyway, when I was younger I also dabbled in sewing, which I thought was really weird of me because none of my friends were into it. But I went ahead and made dresses for my dolls.

Then high school came around and the ugly reality of peer pressure came into fold. I abandoned the sewing machine.

Seeing this show last night I marvelled at how one's husband was not only the designer of her fabulous glowing dress, but he was also the one who tailored it, which I think is really against the rule. If I heard it correctly at most help would be 15% of the entire costume.

I have a few sewing projects in my closet right now. What I don't have aside from time is a sewing machine. I really don't need a fancy machine, just something that can stitch something together. Coincidentally while at Target over the weekend I spied 3 different kinds of sewing machines and none of them were over $300. I think it's high time I save up for a sewing machine and take up sewing again, even if only to alter jeans and such. After all altering can be really expensive outside.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Oh-em-gee!


You can understand my excitement. My photos in Flick'r got over 1,000 views today!!!!

I wonder who would be looking at my photos.

I'm happy and all smiles right now.

That's It. Close the Book

A couple of days ago I received this nofitication from Yahoo. It reads:

As part of our continuing effort to provide you with a wonderful Yahoo! Mail experience, we want to make sure the mail you send gets to the friends, family or other contacts you are trying to reach. In support of this commitment, we have removed Yahoo! email addresses from your address book that are no longer valid. All other information remains part of your address book.

There were only 2 invalid addresses that they list. One is from my h.s. bff who is connected somehow on FB. The other is a friend of mine who died last year in childbirth.

It saddens me when I got the notice that her email is no longer valid. I don't know why I thought that an inactive email would be kept valid for all these months. I just felt that that's the end of it all. I never deleted her emails to me, although there weren't many. Occassionally she would remember me and would poke me with an e-mail or we would find each other online on FB and we would chat.

The last thing I remember before her death was that she was very pregnant and I even inquired about her delivery date. Apparently, against doctor's orders, she went ahead and carried the baby full term. No one was speaking among her friends, who also happens to be my friends. I didn't dig deep enough, maybe I would have found out. But I was trying to be sensitive and let them grieve.

While I was in Mexico two weeks ago undergoing some fertility treatments, I dreamed about her. I cannot remember the exact details of the dream, but I woke up agitated in the middle of the night, thankfully the hubby didn't wake up.

I was afraid that the dream meant I shouldn't be allowed to carry a baby, or face the same fate as my friend. It scared me.

I missed my friend. She looked up to me. Before she was my friend, I was her guidance counselor. She was my favorite student, and she knew it and played it to the hilt.

I missed my friend.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Humidity, meet the Bay Area!


I know I am going to talk about the weather. Again! Just humor me. One of the many reasons why I enjoy living here in the Bay Area is the no-humidity factor. Okay, low, very low, humidity. It's not even a factor.

The past couple or so days however humidity made an appearance around here. And in the first week that I got back from Cancun, where it's not only hot, it was also super humid. It's a big deal around here, because we don't get the muggy feel. It is now. When we have temps rise, it's a dry heat, much like desert heat. Which I prefer. I can endure dry heat. I hate sweating like a pig. I'm a big sweater so when it's humid I don't feel pretty at all. I am not pretty, I only feel pretty all the time. Ha, ha, ha!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Street Photography #18

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I haven't posted a Street Photography series since Sept 2012, nearly a year ago. How did that happen? So to remedy that here's one night shot from a trip to New Orleans in November 2012.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Don't You Just Hate It When Plans Go Pffft?


I do. This is why I seldom make plans and always play things by ear. My latest disappointment and plan that went kaput? I planned on blogging daily while in Mexico this past vacation I took.

What happened? I didn't foresee the following: that internet connection would not be available for free. While I made a great deal with the accommodation, the lack of internet was something I thought could be remedied easily. Sure there was internet connection, but for a fee. A large fee. Like $25/day. Huge, considering I was paying $40/day to stay in a beautiful studio suite by the beach, inside a family-oriented resort.

Still on the first day I thought that I could easily go to any cafe with wifi, like Starbucks for instance, since we rented a car for the duration of our vacation. But there were some days, most days actually, that we preferred to laze about in beach chairs looking at clear turquoise waters of the Caribbean and/or walking the fine white sandy beach.

Anyway, that's that. It's done. Can't cry over that no more.

Let me report that the vacation was wonderful. We flew out of SFO on July 27th at night and arrived midnight in Denver. We had a 10-hour layover, but that was shortened because of the delay in taking off at SFO. We had the presence of mind to reserve a hotel room so we can rest fitfully that night. Early morning of July 28th, we flew out of Denver to Cancun.

This would be my second time in Cancun. The first was in 2010. On that vacation we stayed for 6 days and stayed mostly in Hotel Zone, which is where all the tourists are - the center of tourism so to speak.

We did many things for the first time on this vacation. This time around we stayed in Puerto Juarez area of Cancun, and we drove everywhere. We drove to the cathedral, to the pharmacy, to the grocery store, to Costco, to Walmart, and to eat at roadside eateries, where all the diners were locals and not one of the servers spoke any English.

We spent my birthday with daytrip to a small island immediately across the sea from Puerto Juarez, an island called Isla Mujeres. What a charming little island it is. The shopping and dining is fabulous. We also got to visit the turtle rehabilitation center.

A tip from a local gave way to our discovery of a public beach called Xpuha. We initially planned on a road trip to Playa Del Carmen when the local suggested we check this public beach out. She said it's her favorite beach and only locals know it.

Since we were in Playa Del Carmen in November or was it December, we decided to see something new. And boy oh boy, what a beautiful beach it is. In addition to the beach being a local haunt, it is also popular with the backpacker community.

All in all, I felt like I have gotten to know more about Cancun and my appreciation level is getting up there after this vacation.

Oh, I'm also burned. The skin in arms are now starting to peel. I hate that feeling.