July 31, 2010

Goodbye New York!

Saying goodbye is always strange.  How can one little word express all the emotions that are churning inside of me right now.  Instead of having one big bash blowout I have been slowly saying goodbye the last two weeks to everyone in my New York life who I will miss.  Each goodbye has been hard and I have felt very sad, but I was unprepared for the wave of sadness for my comfortable safe life that I leave behind tonight.  It was a perfect last night spent with one of my absolute best friends Kate and my sister, rhys, and of course rheana.  It was low key, just hanging around their house eating Rhy’s amazing chicken meatballs.  I kept it together as my friend Kate left, we’ve fallen into a pattern of seeing each other about once a week so it will be very strange to not see her regularly and know what’s up in her life.  I’ve been away from friends before though, as  I was for 4 months in Paris, but this will be different.

That realization of “this is different” hit me about an hour later as I said goodbye to my sister.  I gave Rheana lots of big hugs and tried fruitlessly to get a nice photo of us together (my best attempt is above).  How do you explain to a dog that I will miss her very much and even though she won’t see me for a long time I love her and promise to come home to her?  I’ve been joking for months that I will have three big break downs about this trip: one saying goodbye to Liz/Rhys/Rheana, one saying goodbye to my parents, and one after I encounter a spider as big as Rheana.  But joking didn’t prepare me for the overwhelming sadness that riddled my body when I had to say goodbye to the ones I love.  I know I will be back in January and get to see them again, but there is a comfort that I feel being in Elizabeth and Rhys’ apartment that I will dearly miss.  It is a feeling of home and family that I really only feel at my parents home and theirs.  As much as I love my apartment and will be sad to leave the nest I have made for myself, leaving their apartment hit me hard.  When I was a freshman at college and my parents left the first thing I did was call my sister and go over to her and Rhys’ place for dinner and it felt like home.  Although they have moved a few times I have always immediately felt that feeling of family in their apartment.  Will I still feel that sense of home in 5 months?

Leaving it tonight hit me like a tidal wave that sucks you under and then keeps pushing you down after each wave crashes above your head, but your under water so you don’t see them coming.  The problem is (for me at least) once I let in the sadness a tiny bit all the worrisome thoughts rush in.  I have always been a traveler, but never before to third world countries where I will experience such major juxtapositions to my own pretty cushy New York City life.  I wonder who I will be when this trip is over because I know it will change me.  Travel always changes me and usually for the better.  It is exciting and terrifying to know that I am embarking on a 5-month journey that will probably chew me up and spit me out a different person than I am now.

As I walked out of my sister’s beautiful West Village apartment I hopped a cab and said for the last time for a very long time my cross streets.  I was sobbing and the cab driver quite obviously thought I was a lunatic.  He started to drive the familiar route back to my apartment, which I take usually 3 or 4 times a week and as I said goodbye in my head to all my favorite stores and restaurants from the window he took a wrong turn and got us stuck in 20 minutes of traffic. (The ride if done correctly at this time of night should be an 8 minute cab drive door to door).  It’s amazing how anger is the perfect antidote to sadness.  I quickly stopped crying and angrily directed the driver back to 7th Avenue.  Then I got stuck in my elevator again for the second time today.  Maybe it’s time to get out of New York after all?

But New York I will miss you.  Watch over all those I love who live in you.

See you all on the other side!
xoxo
Rebecca

July 30, 2010

Cameras and Computers Packing List: Part 4 (Electronics)

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Over the past month I have shared with you all here my packing list for my trip.  For easy viewing I split it up into 4 categories: Medicines, Bug Repellents, Clothes, and Electronics.  I have waited to post electronics because I knew things would change until the last moment they were all tucked away in my bag.  My bag even changed today and I decided to bring a smaller camera bag and add a zippered tote to use on the plane.  I have decided for many reasons I won’t get into here that I will post my gear list after my trip when I return.  But not to disappoint I will give a few pointers here.

Pack AA and AAA batteries in packed luggage and not carry on as they may be confiscated.  Bring at least one portable external hard drive and preferably two if you really care about your data.  I will also be uploading to carbonite, but that can be very slow so I don’t know how much I will be able to do with the third world internet connections I will be dealing with.  Another tip is to have back up copies of every important document, you should have these copies printed out once (or even twice) and also back ups on your computer.  I have multiple copies of my itinerary and then have them saved on my computer and ipad so I am good to go.  I am a big fan of having everything very organized so I printed everything out in duplicates and organized it into 4 folders.  If something goes very wrong like you miss a plane or the hotel has no record of you reservation it is great to be well organized and prepared so you can just pull out the proper document and problem solve.  And my final tip is actually unrelated to electronics, but is something else I dealt with today: currency!  I’m going to so many places it’s hard to keep all the money straight so a great idea is to make currency cheat sheets, which you can get from this website and then print out and stick in your wallet.

That’s it for the packing list series! I will continue to update to let you know if I packed the right stuff and what I wish I had or hadn’t packed!  One day till I leave!  Hope you’re all as excited as I am!

July 27, 2010

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, Queens, New York

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With less than a week before I take off for Nairobi everything becomes a last.  My last Monday, my last episode of True Blood, the last time I will take Rheana to the dog park, and the last photo post on my blog.  I will post later this week the final installment of my packing guide as promised, which will encompass camera equipment and all things electronic.  But before I make that post I wanted to share an awesome New York day trip I did on Sunday (my last Sunday here)!!! It’s amazing how incredibly hot it is now and when I get back in January it will be so terribly cold.  Why do I chose to live in such a crazy city with these horrible weather extremes?  Oh yeah…because it is the best city in the world. PERIOD.  Now I haven’t visited every city in the world, although after the next few months I will be able to cross a lot more off my list, but there is a magic within the city of New York that is unexplainable.  People ask me all the time why I chose New York when my interest is wildlife and nature.  Well first of all my interests are so varied and as I told Rhys on our Sunday adventure I am just as happy up to my knees in goose poop trying to get a good shot as I am photographing in a studio with models and a light kit.   Second, what I love about New York is you can find great fashion in all the boutiques and stores, great culture in the amazing museums and galleries, and as I’ve explored over the last few years great nature right here in the parks.  But if you want a little more nature than the island of Manhattan can provide you can travel just 45 minutes out of the city to the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Queens.

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The trip out there was inspired by the Audubon Society.  As a member I get a newsletter with information about upcoming trips and they had one listed for shorebirds in Jamaica Bay.  So Rhys, our friend Sam, and I all headed out to Queens to go see some birds.  We met up with the group, but it was quite large and many of the people weren’t dressed properly for sludging through mud and poop so we broke off from them and foraged on our own.

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I love birds.  I always have.  When I was a little girl my parents took me to Big Sur and I named every bird I met along the way.  I would wake up at the crack of dawn to feed them (much to my sister’s chagrin as I shared a room with her) and claimed to be able to identify them by name.  And no I do not mean species name, I mean the names I gave them (shout out to tweetie and shelly, great bird names right?).  My interest has now turned from naming and feeding them to photographing them.  I love capturing movement whether it be dancing, jumping, running or the beating of wings.  I especially love particularly fast birds where it becomes a game I play in my head trying to see how fast I can focus and keep up to get the right shot.  But once I get the right shot I get bored quickly and while I love spending time with the birds after a few hours you realize how ripe the marsh smells and how hot the sun is, so I would suggest planning for around two hours of sight seeing in the bay.  If you are a true birder as Rhys and Sam are you may want more time, but if you’re like me and you enjoy them, but aren’t counting or tracking I would say this is a half day activity.  We saw over 30 different species including Canadian Geese, Ibises, Terns, Sand Pipers, Egrets, Herons, Swans, and many more.

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My tips on this trip are to bring good mud boots, the higher the better because you will sink into a few holes while trudging through the mud.  If you don’t have mud boots you can pick up some wellies at a fisherman’s store in Queens that you will pass on the way to the bay if you are coming from Manhattan.  Rhys bought some there that you can see him modeling below.  Also wear lots of sunscreen because you will get burnt.

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If you have two camera bodies bring them so you don’t have to change lenses in the mud.  When photographing a bird in the air try and focus on one at a time and follow it a little with your camera so you get the focus and frame right. 

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You can take public transport almost all the way there, but the train lets you out about a mile away from the visitor center so you have to bike or walk the rest.  If you don’t have a car in the city (like me) the easiest thing to do is rent a zip car.  They aren’t too expensive and it is really nice to be able to get in your own air conditioned car afterward when you smell like shit (literally) and are muddy and tired.  When we got back to the city and returned the car we went to get a taxi on 9th ave right outside of the Maritime Hotel and the Hiro Ballroom and it felt incredibly strange to be hailing a taxi when just under an hour ago we were up to our knees in mud and droppings.  We were worried we wouldn’t be able to get a taxi because we smelled so bad, but we actually didn’t smell any worse than the cab we got into…got to love NYC.  I sure will miss it for the next 5 months!

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