Wednesday, Day 10 – Crazy Crocodiles!

August 2nd, 2007 by arvind

Today the school organized a crocodile tour for the students. We had to be up bright and early (7:30am) to head out to the river. When we got there, our guides took us onto the boat and we were off. Very quickly into the tour the main guide started pointing out crocodiles on the shore or in the water. They were pretty big and we also saw green iguanas and lots of birds.
But then, just when I thought I had some really great shots of some crocs, we came to the bridge where hundreds of them like to hang out. We beached out boat right next to two giant crocs who the guides called George Bush and Fidel Castro. The crocs were huge and the other guide jumped out on the shore and started feeding them. The noise their jaws made when they slam them shut was insane and quite scary. It is hard to describe but it almost sounded like an aluminium bat hitting something hard (don’t ask why I know what that sounds like). Anyway, the guy was insane and nearly got eaten. They told us that they have had a number of tourists lose fingers/hands while trying to get close up photos, but I risked mine to get some shots for you. Enjoy.

p.s. I haven’t blogged about my amazing trip to el volcan Arenal (Arenal Colvano) but the photos are up.

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Friday – Day 5

July 28th, 2007 by arvind

Today was the second time I surfed in my life. My instructor Carlos thought it was time that I move to the more advanced group (along with my schoolmate Neeta) so he told us we’d be paddling out to the same spot all the real surfers start. So basically we were moving from surfing the whitewash (you know, the white fluffy stuff after the wave breaks) to surfing where the waves start.

The most dauting part of the entire experience was getting through the “impact zone,” which is the spot right where the waves break and crash i.e. beat the heck out of you. It would take me about 20 minutes to just paddle past the impact zone as the waves continually land on your head and push you backwards. Anyways, out of the 5 or 6 big attempts I took, I landed two of them. Not bad for the second day. I still can’t believe how insane a workout just getting out to the waves is.
Tomorrow I leave for Volcan Arenal (Arenal volcano). My Spanish lab teacher is taking a group of us there. We will also be stopping in the largest rainforest in Costa Rica for a canopy tour (wires suspended at the tops of trees in the rainforest), riding on the longest zip line in Costa Rica and bathing in hot springs near the volcano. Arenal is one of the largest active volcanoes in the world. You can actually see lava shooting out of it on a clear night. Hopefully I get to test out more of my photo skills this weekend.

To pass the time, here are some shots from today as we were working on color concepts in our photos:

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Thursday – Day 4

July 26th, 2007 by arvind

I can’t believe this is only my fourth day here. It feels like I have been living here for months. I know the neighborhood, I see people I know on the street, and I’m getting a lot more comfortable with my Spanish. The other students here are unreasonably nice and fun, so it makes for a great learning experience.

Today I went surfing for the first time ever. I was nervous for a couple reasons: 1) everyone who started Monday was bruised and battered, 2) the ocean is scary and 3) everyone says you wont stand at all your first day.

Luckily for me, the first day went perfectly. I had a short lesson on the beach, then we got right in the water. Paddling out was insanely tiring, and for the first few runs the instructor helped push into the path of the wave. I wasn’t standing up on the board very well when suddenly I just got it. I could feel when I was supposed to get up and how I was supposed to ride the wave. The main problem I had though was fitness. Paddling out to the waves is grueling. Paddling when you’re trying to catch a wave is even tougher, and then quickly pushing up on your board when you’re already tired is the last straw. I’m so sore today I feel like I was in the gym for 5 hours.

All that being said, I’m fully addicted, and am going to continue on with surf classes. A lot of people say that the second day is a lot harder. Let’s hope that’s not the case.

One of the instructor’s girlfriends is a photgrapher and was there taking pictures of us. I hope she got some good ones of me. As soon as I have them I’ll post them.

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Wednesday – Day 3

July 25th, 2007 by arvind

I am surprised at how quickly I have settled into life down here. Frutesca, the super (supermarket) down the street is where I buy most of my groceries, and la soda also down the street is where I eat many of my meals for 1,000 colones ($2). Spanish classes are two hours a day followed by two hours of Spanish lab (more speaking than learning). It is amazing how much Spanish we have covered in just three days. My teachers Sergio and Diego are excellent and they force you to learn learn learn. They are also very non-traditional from a western classroom sense, and I really appreciate that.

There are only two people (out of about 20) in the school who are not in the surfing classes, and I’m one of them. I want to, but the school only recommends you take two courses at a time (6 hours of class per day). But today I signed up for surfing as well, because I really want to learn. Let’s see how it goes…

Photography was in the lab today, reviewing pictures, so nothing new to show today on that front. Stay tuned.

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Tuesday – Day 2

July 24th, 2007 by arvind

Day 2 was another superb day in Costa Rica. For photography class we took a field trip to the frog and butterfly gardens just outside Jaco. I don’t have a macro lens (for super close ups) so ended up using my new telephoto lens from far away. But, I was rewarded with some cool shots like this one:

I was pretty happy with what I had, but my teacher is amazing and showing you how you could have made the photo even better. Hopefully in the next few weeks I’ll really be able boost my photography skills.

Here are some other fun ones from Tuesday:

As always, my trip photos are all on my Flickr account (well the better ones, anyway).

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Monday – Day 1

July 24th, 2007 by arvind

Monday was my first full day in Costa Rica. I had digital photography class where Marcela gave us two assignments: 1) take a series of panoramic shots which we will stitch together in Photoshop and 2) take a photo with specific focal points. I went a little photo crazy, but I’ll just share some of the highlights. My full set is from Monday is here.

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July 23rd, 2007 by arvind

Orientation went well. They went over basic safety and logistics. The most interesting rule was don’t touch the showerhead when showering or you will be electrocuted. There are literally live wires running into the showerhead. Apparently that is how we get hot water.

Anyway, a basic tour is outlined below. My room (my bed is the one with all the equipment on it), the courtyard (with kitchen) outside my room that has a pool, and the front of the building (note the waterfall!). There is also a common room with another kitchen and more seating.


Overall the school grounds are great, and town is just down the street as is the beach. I bought some basic groceries today, including Costa Rican coffee. I have class soon, so better get some lunch beforehand.

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I’ve Arrvied in Costa Rica

July 23rd, 2007 by arvind

I got in late last night (well late for Easter Standard Time) to San Jose, Costa Rica. When I got out of the airport my ride was waiting with a sign with my name on it which was reassuring. I had already been on two flights to get there, one of which was delayed in Dallas due to lightning. Paolo the drive told me I could call him Paul because it would be easier for me. I told him that I could say Paolo. He then explained that Costa Rica had terrible roads and that it would take us two hours to go 60 miles to Jaco, where I’m staying. I had read about bad roads here, and prep’d myself for what was about to happen.

Even though it was really dark, the roads had those yellow and red reflectors everywhere making me feel a lot better. Then we started winding through the mountains. My oh my, hairpin turn after turn up and down steep hills with only a few guardrails. The views of the central valley were amazing, but Paolo liked to fly through the turns and pass trucks in tight spots, so that made it quite a ride.

I arrive safely in Jaco at the School of the World where I’m staying. I’ll be taking Spanish and digital photography classes, and can’t wait to get started. Today is the first day and I have orientation at 10am, photography at 1, Spanish at 3 and Spanish lab at 5. It’s going to be a full day. I woke my roommate up with my arrival last night, and he was up before 7am today for surfing class. I need to find myself some surfing lessons too while I’m down here. I couldn’t do it through the school because you can only take two classes at a time. Jaco is a big surf town. I haven’t even seen the beach yet, but it’s right down the street.

Off to explore the town and to see if I can find some of that famous Costa Rican coffee. Stay tuned…

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New York City Rocked by Explosion

July 18th, 2007 by arvind

I was on my way to B&H Photo to pick up some new lenses for my Costa Rica trip when my bus got snared in massive traffic near Grand Central Station. There seemed to be people pouring down the street from Grand Central. 10 minutes later my bus made it one block further and I saw what was causing the commotion.


IMG_6892 - Version 2 I got off the bus as soon as it got to the next stop and stood and stared for a while, just like everyone else. Then I realized that I had my camera around my neck, so I started shooting. The images were all to reminiscent of you-know-what, but it turned out to be a steam pipe explosion. See all my photos in my Flickr set.

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travels to morocco

December 29th, 2006 by arvind

12/28/2006: Woke up around 6am to catch the 7:15am train from Granada to Algeciras, Spain. It was a Renfe train, but unfortunately a local one with not-as-nice seats and a freezing compartment. At least the cafeteria was open in the train station so I got some cafe con leche (espresso with foamed milk) and jugo de naranja (fresh-squeezed orange juice); the juice here is so good. I guess that is why Spain is known for its oranges.

Once into Algeciras, we bought tickets on a ferry boat to Tangier, Morocco. In the Rick Steves guidebook, Tangier is described as the Tijuana of Morocco and as the worst way to experience Morocco. We headed straight for the train station to catch a train to Fez, the ancient capital. When we arrived at the station, there were hundred of people lined up just to buy tickets. We had arrived days before the huge holiday of Eid ul Ahda. This meant everyone in Morocco was trying to find a way to their family home where a lamb will be slaughtered, cooked and eaten together. There was no way to get on a train.

A kind stranger who spoke English offered to share a cab with us to Fez. He tried to find enough people to split a cab with, but couldn´t. The cabs were also demaning high prices because of the holiday, 250 € for the 4 hour trip. The guy opted out, and rather than travel with him to a local friends house (a bit sketchy), we found a cabby on our own for about half the price.

Finally arrived in Fez haggard, close to 11pm (12am Spain time). Got to Pension Talla where a room with a private bathroom was reserved. In fact, they had nothing for us but a tiny room on the roof. Looking closely, it was a closet with a cot. Nothing we could do at this hour, we found some food at a tiny kitchen in the old medina. Had great couscous, tagine and Moroccon salad (grilled veggies). Finally, a fulfilling vegetarian meal.

Tried our best to sleep in the closet at Pension Talla, but the freezing weather put a damper on that. First night glimpses of Fez seem amazing, but more to come…

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