Definitely Not in Kansas Anymore…

When you travel around the world, you are bound to come across situations that are so different from home. Whilst here in Costa Rica, it has definitely been the earthquakes (or quacks according to mum).

The majority have been minor with only a couple seconds of shaking, which before it even registers as an earthquake is already finished. However this week was different. I had spent the whole day by the pool and hot tub, just enjoying the sunshine and spending some much needed down time to read, crochet, and read a book. I was sat in the hot tub when all of a sudden I get a text from mum asking if I was ok…Mum normally messages me but the tone of this message was different. So I instantly responded, seconds later another message pops up, a large earthquake had hit…didn’t I feel it?

Something I learnt was that whilst you’re in the hot tub, you apparently don’t feel earthquakes. This had been a 5.3 and I felt nothing. I knew it was a big deal though as instantly all the staff at the hotel went around checking if everyone was ok and switching off the various alarms going off. This was my first ever experience of a larger quake. Even though I didn’t feel it myself, I was still shaken (pun intended) by the idea of it. The rest of the day I was restless, expecting another one to hit.

So sometimes when you’re traveling, you experience things that you wouldn’t at home. Earthquakes in the UK are so rare and yet here there are around 10-15 a day!!! You don’t really think of these things when you’re traveling until you experience them. Last year whilst we were here, one of the volcanoes was active and so we couldn’t visit it, but the thought was in the back of our minds…what if…luckily nothing happened, and the volcano is dormant again. But you just never know.

Traveling opens up your eyes to not only new cultures but also to new experiences. Whether that is walking over the hanging bridges, whale watching, eating new foods, or feeling an earthquake for the first time. I love it and wouldn’t change it. Yes at the time it can be scary but you know what to do the next time!

What about you? What has been something thats happened to you whilst traveling that you didn’t expect to happen? Let me know in the comments below!

On to the next adventure…

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Whale Watching

I wish I could express with a picture the amazement I felt when we saw the first whales today. A mother and it’s baby. So graceful through the water! Melody said the mum was teaching the young to breath. We saw another 7 at the various spots the boat took us. Amazing!!!

We could get in the water at whale island, so named as the island sometimes spews water. Just as we were about to graciously drop ourselves off the boat another whale passed by! How cool!!!

As I said… I wish I had pictures… am sure Melody will upload a little clip.

In the mean time, here are some snaps from the beach location… a little bit of heaven on earth…

In case you were wondering where? Uvita, Costa Rica… it feels like holiday… I may not come back!!!

R and R

I know that I have been very quiet on here recently and the reason for that was that I took a break. I took time for myself and learnt to listen to my body.

The last couple months haven’t been easy for me and my mental health took a huge hit. Depression had a strong hold on me and I couldn’t find a way out. But after taking this time away from blogging and social media as a whole, I’m happy to report that I am much better now! My mental health is in a better state and I am actually looking forward to the upcoming events in my life.

I’m currently writing this from Costa Rica where I am really taking the time to do the things that I love to do…crochet, reading, photography and just binge watching Netflix. Allowing my brain and body to relax and to just be myself again. I’ve missed enjoying the day to day things and I feel like I can and am now!

So instead of all the doom and gloom that I had been seeing since the beginning of the year, I am now able to find joy in every day life. So I’m back now with lots of blog posts in mind. Be ready!

Hope you’re all having a great week!

Costa Rica 2018

Costa Rica Adventure

Did you know that some hummingbirds are as small as bees? They are the most amazing little creatures, with their ability to fly backwards and flap their wings so fast you can’t see them…

Costa Rica has these beautiful little birds in abundance and this weekend Melody and myself were privileged to be taken out by friends where we saw loads.

It was an early morning start.. breakfast in the hotel had only just started, so I was at least able to get some coffee… the first stop was therefore breakfast in San Jose.. with coffee in a traditional little coffee pot… then on to the national gardens about 2 hours south east. That’s where we saw the hummingbirds… I tried to take pictures, but that’s just not possible with a phone.. they move so fast!

We had a great walk through the forest, where we also saw beautiful woodpeckers.. if you are a bird watcher there was lots there!

After a slightly strenuous walk, we went to a trout farm for lunch.. we gave the fishing a miss.. but ate some very fresh trout freshly caught.

I love seeing and experiencing all these things on my travels. I know I am privileged and blessed that people are willing to show me around.

Below a selection of snaps of the day… minus the hummingbirds… you just have to believe I saw all different kinds!!

To end it all, there were several smaller earthquakes here… the bed shakes. Rather alarming!

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Melody is ready for a new adventure

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The crew
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Coffee is served
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Costa Rica style

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yum!
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Sigh…. how much further?
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Fern…..

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Mels hair blends in
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Ready for the rain

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Applepie!

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Friendship

Friendships come in many different forms… needs are filled in many different ways…

I travel a lot, and am not often anywhere long enough to feel at home. However, I am truly blessed to meet many wonderful people. I know I have blogged on this before… but it truly is worth repeating. Friendship is not just one thing.. it’s lots of things.., and it makes life richer.

These last weeks in Costa Rica I have been privileged and blessed to hang out with colleagues who have become friends too.. they go out of their way to make me feel welcome, each in their own unique way.. whether it’s some fun over the phone, a smile while chatting about nothing, or playing games just because it’s fun… sharing a meal…sharing life.

Below a small selection of photos..

Friendship is not a big thing… it truly is a bunch of little things.

Song

One of my favourite songs is the well known hymn ‘this is my Fathers world’. It tells me that no matter what He is in control!

It does not always feel that way…. the week started out with me being stuck in France for a day due to a cancelled flight. The plane had something wrong with its software and was not cleared to fly. I arrived a day later at my destination Costa Rica. And that while my work is so busy… a day makes a difference!

On Wednesday England lost the semi final football game to Croatia… I am not a football fan by any stretch of the imagination, but I also got swept up in the hype and the ‘catch phrase’: it’s coming home! Instead we get to support either France or Croatia in the finals… and England gets to wait another 4 years..

My back is slowly getting better…

and on Friday it was the 13th… not that I am superstitious, but don’t you sometimes wonder? And avoid black cats?

That’s when that song comes back in my thoughts… the last couple sentences are as follows:

This is my Father’s world:

why should my heart be sad?

The Lord is King; let the heavens ring!

God reigns; let the earth be glad!

And that is exactly what I am doing…. be glad!! Enjoy nature… He is in control!!

My Top 10 Photos and the Stories Behind Them

In preparation for the release of the gallery part of the blog I decided to show my top 10 pictures and the stories behind them. Photography has been a huge part of my life and is one of the main ways in which I can be creative. I have been asked ‘why photography’ a lot and for me it allows me to show the world from my perspective. Something which you could walk past every day, is beautiful to the next person. So I try in my daily life to imagine what would make a good picture.

I have done some interesting things in my life and so I thought about sharing my top 10 pictures and also why I took them. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to some incredible places in the world and have seen and experienced so many different cultures and wildlife that can’t be found anywhere else.

  1. My First Long Exposure Shot – MadagascarIMG_8087

Back in 2012 I went for 10 weeks to Madagascar where I had an unforgettable time! It was genuinely one of the best trips of my life. Everything was super photogenic out there and one evening whilst sat watching the sunset, I just looked down and saw this log being washed ashore and saw the beautiful patterns and decided to try my first attempt at long exposure photography. This was the result. Yes the focus isn’t perfect, nor the composition, but it was my first attempt at something I had been too scared to try. The reason I chose to include this in my top 10 is not only because it was my first attempt, but I love the movement of the water and I love that it tells a story.

2. Ethiopian Man – Ethiopia

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I took this picture whilst I was there for my first time in Ethiopia. During that trip we were taken to a religious festival in the middle of nowhere. Everyone was so happy and the people of Ethiopia are all just so beautiful! Whilst having lunch I looked up from my food and noticed this old man standing in a doorway just watching the celebrations and I just thought that that would make such a beautiful picture and I just couldn’t stop myself from grabbing my camera and taking the shot. This was the outcome…It still remains as one of my favourite pictures from my trip.

3.  Why Did the Bear Cross the Road – Yellowstone National Park, USA12698140_10153445388827613_5201671014563450931_o

A couple years ago, my parents and I decided to do a proper American road trip. Starting from Minnesota and passing through 5 states before coming back to Minnesota. One of the major stops on the road trip would be Yellowstone National Park. On our first morning in Yellowstone, we had breakfast in a diner where we spoke to a couple who had been going there for years and hadn’t seen anything other than bison and elks. Well the morning before we had already seen a baby bear, so we were having a good start. Later that day, whilst driving around we spotted a bear walking in the bushes and quickly decided to drive slowly whilst the other cars were parked. And that gamble paid off…the baby bear decided to walk next to the car and then cross the road right in front of us. What an awesome way to experience the wonderful wildlife of Yellowstone!

4.  Sisterly Love – UK17861959_10154584511697613_2200926202777938493_n

These 2 beauties are the gorgeous daughters of some family friends. They were the perfect models and behaved so well! Bare in mind that I did have a broken finger on my left hand and could barely carry my camera. So just before this moment, I had my back turned to the children whilst talking to the parents. I turned round to see the big sister tenderly touching her little sister and I caught this moment. I love taking pictures of children and babies as they are just so unpredictable. Blink and the moment is gone! Seeing the joy on the parents face when you show the final product, makes all the stress of shooting on the day, worthwhile!

5. Taking a Deep Breath – MadagascarCamera 14MP-9PC

Whilst on the trip in Madagascar, we visited one of the islands nearby to where our camp was and visited the reef there. Whilst snorkelling I suddenly spotted a turtle swimming really close to me and decided to swim alongside it for as long as it would let me (whilst keeping a respectable distance!). This moment was just so special for me as it was the first time I had seen a turtle in the wild, it also allowed me to swim with it for about 20 minutes! It was just amazing!

6. Conquering your fears – Costa Rica

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Those of you who know me, know that I am PETRIFIED of heights! Yet this opportunity in Costa Rica, was one that I could not let slip! I took this picture with my GoPro to give the widest angle of where we were. Yes I was scared, but after one bridge that fear was gone! The nature was just so beautiful that I was distracted! When you are surrounded by the beautiful scenery, you can’t help but take pictures everywhere!

7. Tree With a View – Minnesota, USADSC_0041

Whilst Canoeing down a river in Minnesota, we noticed this beautiful bird sitting in the tree. Now it isn’t crazy to see Bald Eagles in Minnesota, but there were hundreds of people below it and hadn’t spotted it. I’ve spent a lot of time in Minnesota over the last couple years and yet every single time I see them they blow my mind! I was so lucky to see such a beautiful bird so close by with such blue sky as the perfect background! I think I ended up taking about 50 pictures of this single Bald Eagle. It was clearly waiting to spot a fish!

8. Miniature World – Wisconsin, USA14525015_10154011743427613_4904568668393714772_o

A couple years ago, I treated myself to a macro lens, and this opened up a whole new world of photography for me! Whilst taking pictures in a garden in Wisconsin I suddenly spotted this tiny spider and I thought could I take a picture of it with my new lens? It was incredibly jumpy and I knew it had moved just as I took a picture. To my surprise when I looked back at it, it was staring right into the camera! It stays one of my favourite pictures I’ve taken with my macro lens as this spider was smaller than your little finger nail!

9. Curiosity Never Hurt Anyone – Madagascar544481_10150927775222613_1435884139_n

Whilst going on a walk in the forest in Madagascar, we came across this tiny chameleon! At the time it was the smallest known chameleon! This picture was taken whilst it was in my friends hand! And again just as I took the picture, it decided to move its head towards my camera to get a good look! I just loved the curious nature of this chameleon and that it really wasn’t scared!

10. Flashy Chameleon – Madagascar 529121_10150924222632613_1178186907_n

So as my last picture I couldn’t not chose this one! It has always been one of my proudest shots! The story behind this picture is that whilst we were at the camp, this panther chameleon strolled into the camp. My friend picked him up and I suddenly noticed how striking the colours were on the perfect background!! The dark background brought out his colours perfectly! A while back I actually entered this into the National Geographic photo of the year and it got into the top 10. It is one of my biggest achievements in my photography career!

So what about you? What is your favourite shot and why?

~ I love photography because I can show people the world through my lens ~

When Everything is Going Right…​

I woke up today in Costa Rica and just had a feeling that things were going to go well today! It is not often that I have this feeling as I am normally a pessimist, a glass half empty kind of girl. But not today for some reason…Today I woke up with a glass half full feeling.

As some of you are aware, I was still waiting to hear back about my master’s degree as I had handed it in a couple months prior. I had received an email to say that my results would be published from today (6th December 2017). So with this new feeling of positivity, I logged in at 4:45am and to my amazement (not to my mothers though!) I had passed!!!! I’d done it! I had completed a Masters in Science by Research in Zoo Conservation Biology. It had been an extremely tough 2 years with lots of struggles, but I had done it and no one could take that away from me anymore!

Now, not everything has been smooth sailing for me over the last couple weeks…After having broken my finger in Boston whilst whale watching, I managed to get a job, but the first day of officially starting it, I had contracted a nasty chest infection with a high fever. Not an ideal start…Dad luckily was able to cover me whilst I was sick in bed. Finally, after a week and a half of it not getting any better, I finally gave in and started on some antibiotics. It still took another 2 weeks before it finally cleared up enough but by this time I was already able to work.

A month later and I was getting ready to pack my bags and head to Costa Rica to finally see mum again, after almost 2 months of not seeing her! The following morning, the alarm went off just before 4am and dad and I climbed into the car and headed to the airport. I was still early so I was able to have a bit of breakfast with dad before I went through security…Going through security I followed all the rules and took out my large electronics and liquids, but my rucksack was still pulled to the side to be searched. I suddenly started to panic wondering what I had left in my rucksack that would set off alarm bells. Turns out they couldn’t understand the gimble and case that my GoPro was in… So off I went to the gate, the closer I got, however, the louder the commotion and I wasn’t sure what was happening. It took me a couple minutes to find out that the pilot had come out just before I got to the gate to let everyone know that we weren’t taking off at 6:30am but that he wasn’t sure when we would! Amsterdam was apparently covered in frost and fog which meant that no planes were allowed to take off or land…This normally wouldn’t have been an issue, if I didn’t have very short layovers in both Amsterdam and Paris before flying on to Costa Rica. I straight away started panicking and thinking of worst case scenarios.

Long story short, the flight left for Amsterdam 2 hours later than planned and we arrived in Amsterdam the time I was meant to take off for Paris. But during the flight, we were already told that most flights from Amsterdam were also delayed! So slight panic over…Turned out that my delay in Amsterdam was another hour and a half! The fun bit was landing in Paris however, I had 30 minutes to make my connection…Now those of you who have flown through Charles de Gaulle airport know that it is huge!!! I had to go through passport control and take a bus to the right terminal! 30 minutes suddenly didn’t seem long enough at all! Luckily, whilst I was waiting for the bus, I overheard some couples talking who were all going to Costa Rica as well! A group of 30 of us were all trying to get on the same plane! Again we did make it and before I knew it I was in the air on the way…

 

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Almost 11 hours later, we land in Costa Rica and I thought, now I can relax…Sod’s Law struck again…My suitcases didn’t arrive…I was severely overdressed for the weather…hmmm…now what! I was told that hopefully, my suitcases would arrive the following day, and luckily I had packed a clean t-shirt and underwear in my carry-on. So at least I had something!

Fast forward a couple days and one of my suitcases arrived 3 days later and the other one arrived this morning (4 days later). So now I can fully enjoy Costa Rica and relax!!! The first time that I can properly relax in about 5 years…

What is a way that you love to relax? Let me know in the comments and message privately!

 

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~ I asked God “Why are you taking me through troubled water?” He replied “Because your enemies can’t swim!” ~

 

 

Sustainable Living

Do you know where your food comes from? Not something I really think much about when I quickly go and do my grocery shopping. It’s a chore I don’t particularly enjoy,  but as we have to eat it’s one of those things that just needs to be done. I try to eat as organic and fair trade as possible and do my bit for the environment and human kind.

Yet, I have been made aware that I may not actually be doing my bit very much at all. Does organic really mean it’s better? Or does fair trade really mean the farmers get a fair share of the profit for all the hard work they are doing?

We had the awesome privilege to visit a coffee farm. Not one of the commercial tours, but El Toledo, a working farm who like to share the coffee process with those who want to learn. And learning we did! The tour started out with a little syrup like drink made with the fruit of the coffee plant. Who would have thought the fruit can be used for other things than just getting to the coffee beans for coffee! The farmer explained to us the difference between the different types of farming, organic versus the old way (using more chemicals than in the organic tradition), traditional versus monoculture. He said that one cup of coffeee uses 100 litre water in the process! He explained how their farm was now a traditional farm, much how God intended it to be. Not just coffee but also bananas, beans, mangos etc. Not depleting the soil to get as much profit as possible, but farming for the long run. Sustainable. He explained how it had transformed their thinking, and with it, hoped ours would too, they don’t export, but sell all their coffee and produce locally. He explained that that would produce the most profits for the farmer. The farmer does not need to pay for shipping and export costs. 

After sampling the different roasts of coffee, where light has the most caffeine and flavour, and dark the least coffee and more specific flavour, he showed us how the roaster works. Lots of things influence the roasting process. I had no idea coffee has such an art to it. After this tour I now know I like dark roast, and Geert likes light/medium roast. Opposite to what we thought! 

I now know that buying local produce outweighs the fairTrade products I buy to support our local farmers. I will pay a little more attention when I do my weekly grocery shopping tour. It’s no secret I like farm shops. I will visit those more! I also know that no matter what coffee I buy, the one straight from the roaster in Costa Rica is best.

It was not just fun, it was educational!

Coffee roaster (15 kilos)
Light, medium, dark roast
Testing the stages of roasting the beans
Traditional farming
10 months from flower to picking
Square bananas!

Feels like Holiday

There are some of those days that just lift you up and fill you with peace. It does not necessarily need to be associated with church. Fellowship can happen in many different forms and shapes.

Yesterday truly was one of those days. Melody and I got up at 4.45am to leave the hotel at 5am (luckily they served coffee that early in the morning!). We drove to a little place in the mountains where we had a cup of coffee (brewed the Costa Rica way with a sock) before heading out for a day of fun and adventures. The Costa Rica roads are a little different than in the US and a 140km journey will take 3 hours. Our destination was the National park Manuel Antonio. We had heard so much about it and were very eager to go there! Those that know me know I don’t really like driving in either the rain or the dark, so I was very grateful Melissa and Tomasz where coming with us and they drove.

After about an hour we stopped at an alligator bridge… we assumed so called because you could occasionally see alligators there… how wrong we were! Mel counted 31 beasts in the wild.. huge! Quite different from what we saw last year in a park in Florida. These were just hanging out under the bridge….

The next stop: the park. Foreigners pay a lot more than Ticos, but still, we got in and looked forward to it. By now the sun was shining brightly on us, at about 10am in the morning. Hard to breath, but sunblock was quite needed. We decided to not use a guide, but trust Mel’s eyesight. She usually does not disappoint spotting things we struggle to see.

Dozens of howler monkeys and capuchin monkeys playing over our heads. Red colourful crabs below the walkway. 2 sloths in typical sloth position hugging the tree. Deer, raccoon, coati.. we really were blessed to be able to see all that… but it was super hot and we were drenched in sweat!

A quick drive and walk to a secret beach promised a dip in the water to cool off. Unfortunately the water was a little murky, so not quite as refreshing.. but still a pleasant couple hours were spent there, with the thunder rolling in over the sea.

After a lovely meal in a restaurant overlooking the vista we were ready to go back. 
It truly felt like a one day holiday! A super pleasant Sabbath day!