Completing the 30 Day Blogging Challenge: The Overall Impression

Completing the Challenge!
Completing the Challenge!

About four days ago I completed the 30-Day-Blogging-Challenge hosted by Sarkemedia. While it was my second round of the challenge, it was also my first full round of completion (as I gave up the first try after 21 days due to travels and time limits). Read More »

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Recapping the Past 9 Days: Back on Board

7th day

I started the 30-Day-Blogging-Challenge over again and this is my 9th day! I am pretty excited to have followed through and only missed one day so far. I am hoping that the challenge will give me enough opportunity to blog about my most recent trip and hopefully also the West Coast Trip. Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do and this might just be the right opportunity for it…Read More »

Starting Out Fresh: Trying the 30-Day-Blogging-Challenge Again

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve gotten back from a lovely trip to Europe and the motherland. And yes, it’s been about as eye-opening as expensive as time-consuming as great as it sounds. More on it to come in detail!

Last month I had tried to complete the 30-day-blogging challenge but barely made it to its third week. If I am not mistaken, I stopped at a disappointing Day 20 (with a third of the writing project left to go). Read More »

Why Photography Was so Challenging in Mexico

See those speakers in the background...?
See those speakers in the background…?

One of the real challenges during my recent trip was photography itself (well, taken the language barrier aside). I had been prepared to take some awesome shots of traditional Mexican costumes, some exciting snaps of people on the streets, and of course breath-taking pictures of landscapes, beautiful colors of the houses and what not. But after a few days of being there I had re-evaluate my goals: Being a photographer in Mexico would be much more challenging than this!

The first “problem” I encountered was when my camera of choice simply gave up about a week before I was supposed to go on the trip. Yup, that’s right, the Canon T3i wouldn’t work and after bringing it into a repair store the only option was to send it to Canon since it was still under warranty – luckily.
Anyone who has done this before knows that it takes about 2 weeks until they return it so I was quite bummed about not being able to use it. Luckily I had a backup camera in my old but faithful Canon XT, which has around 8 megapixels (a crushing fall from the previous 18 megapixels) but has proven to be quite solid over time. The only problem with it was that the screen was a bit small and didn’t give much feedback on how a picture turned out.

Now, getting used to the new old gear took some time by itself but eventually I had more troubles adjusting to the light conditions than anything.

Guadalajara lies in a dry climate, meaning humidity was not so much of an issue. What did indeed comprise a problem was the glaring sun coming down at almost every time of day except for sunset. That’s right, even when avoiding those all-so-dreaded times between noon and 3 PM, I still had to fight the intense sunlight at 6 o’clock at night. The result? Washed out images, harsh shadows, and an unflattering picture in altogether. Boy, was I disappointed in the first few days!

Great motive but can you see a sky?!
Great motive but can you see a sky?!

After traveling to Guanajuato and San Miguel, I was able to shoot early in the morning or late at night. But another problem followed immediately: How is it possible to enjoy your traveling when you are constantly worrying about getting or missing that one shot? It is not possible!

So I had to set my priorities straight: I would either enjoy a great trip or I had to focus most of my energy on shooting. In both cities I devoted my time to walking around for one hour a day by myself and just seeing life as was in both locations. This also meant that I had to get up earlier than the other girls or miss out on an opportunity of dining with them. It did have advantages. Having to wait on them or them having to wait on me seemed more nerve-wrecking than setting my own pace and shooting as I went along. So in this case it worked out fine. In Guadalajara not so much, as I was always with one of my friends who were my designated tour guides.

Nothing special about this one
Nothing special about this one

A fourth problem was simply the tourist part: How to shoot candid images of Mexico’s everyday life if I am only traveling to tourist sites? This is why most of my images turned out to be from well-known landmarks and parts everyone is familiar with. The approach also goes hand in hand with a sense of comfort and awareness. Mexico is not the safest country in the world. Hence, going to poorer neighborhoods could prove to be dangerous (a risk neither my friends nor I were willing to take).

Severely cropped image of a girl celebrating her 15 years.
Severely cropped image of a girl celebrating her 15 years.

Then of course there was the language barrier and not knowing if I was able to take a picture of this activity or that person without being called out or having my camera destroyed. When getting this shot from a basket weaver in Tlaquepaque, I asked the lady beforehand. She said I was only allowed to if I were to buy one of her items. I ended up purchasing a wooden spoon for 5 pesos and snapped this image of her, not too bad after all.

5 pesos picture
5 pesos picture

Between gauging if this site was too touristy but another site was too dangerous, it also turned out to be pretty hard to enjoy myself with the camera challenges in my head. After noticing how stressed out I became and how this influenced my friend’s attitude as well (no one wants to get crap for showing a tourist around, simply put), I decided to give it a break and just shoot what came in my way.
And some night pictures did indeed turn out quite well. But Mexico also seems to have a short sunset and blue-hour-sky, so be prepared for this if you ever plan on getting cityscapes at night.

Night photography in Guanajuato
Night photography in Guanajuato

Overall, I think I made the best of my trip and I am very grateful for having had two awesome tour guides (as in friends) who were very patient in showing me around.

Luckily I didn’t have the problem my friend fought with in Tulum: His camera fogged up entirely because of the high humidity in the South of Mexico. So, unlike him, I was still able to get quite a few shots while he had to simply give up after his first day. I feel for everyone who has to go through this fail!

Try Something New in 30 Days

I found this great video through Heather Goes to Deutschland‘s blog today and thought I’d share it with you and the rest of the blogosphere!


Matt Cutts: Try something new in 30 days

Isn’t it motivating? Makes me realize that you shall not and simply cannot take life for granted! Now all I have to do is think about which one of those quazillion things on my mind I want to try for the next 30 days…

What about you, fellow bloggers? Anything particular you have in mind? Let’s be adventurous together! And please share what you will be doing!

Post 250: Reflecting on How, Why, and Never

(nicked from authordenisekennedy.wordpress.com)
(nicked from authordenisekennedy.wordpress.com)

It’s been a rocky road up to here but so far I am impressed I am still hanging on. 250 posts – a reason to congratulate myself and all of you, who have continued reading this precious blog of mine. I guess it’s easier said than done – maintaining a presence in the blogosphere on a regular basis. Some of you might have been wondering why it’s become a bit quieter in the past few weeks months (and others might have not). I believe the true challenge is to juggle daily life, stresses, and everything else together with writing. Prioritizing what has to be done and what can wait, until whatever was put on the waiting bench wants to be let out someday.

While I admire those who blog almost every day, it remains a true mystery to me how they are able to do this with a full-time schedule going on. How do you guys manage to post and still have a normal life? Social obligations, hobbies, experiencing life – AND writing on the side?
I currently find myself in a full-time position that does not allow any down time at work (sounds like a reasonable New York job, I’d say). While my old job was more acceptable in terms of whipping up the one or other blog post during office hours, now this has become merely impossible to do (say for at least the past year or so). Therefore, I come home, am basically exhausted, and simply have no drive to sit in front of a laptop and continue with writing. Of course I want to also go to the gym or take some classes (I just successfully completed my first semester of Portuguese studies). Don’t get me started on how distracting New York by itself can be. I’ve already concluded that if I were ever to go back to school, this is just not the right city to be in to pursue a graduate degree. Too much going on, too many parties, too many events one could never possibly attend I just can’t miss out on. And in addition to all of this there remains the challenge of nourishing my second biggest hobby: Photography! So how do you do it, guys? I really want to know!

My priorities seem to also have shifted a bit and now blogging is not quite as important as it used to be. Such is life – you try it out, you immerse in it, and then you let it go. I feel that there are still a few more good posts to come but don’t be too surprised when one day it will all end. Or fall into a trickled drop of nothingness. Then, of course, there is the desire to fulfill what the heart seeks and that burning urge every time I have a pen or a camera in my hand. Perhaps over will never exist.

I’ve had my love-hate relationship with blogging throughout these past 250 posts. Some were really difficult topics, some informative and others easy-going. All in all, I am still writing about New York, and as long as I remain here this will most likely not change. I still find it admirable how people find my blog each and every day. Some google search terms won’t make sense. However, the other day my blog was added to South Slope News, a site that must have just been called into existence. It’s for these little things (being mentioned on other sites and writing for other webpages) that I am thankful I’ve hung on to the ride and not neglected the blogosphere for too long.

Either way, it has been some good posts and it has been some moderate posts but all in all, I am quite thrilled that I am able to meet this fantastic number in 2013. And this deserves an exclamation mark AND the colorful letters. Way to go to number 300!

250th blog post

Photo A Day: Decembeer 28 to the End

It’s a new year and the only remnant I am carrying over from 2012 is the photo challenge created by Liz from Be.Love.Live. Those last 4 pictures from December 28 to 31 are best to express how I must have felt during this past week. Liz has announced that she will not partake in any other challenges come 2013 and has not created another list for January. I myself have no desire to catch up with any other PhotoADay’s again, and therefore, will continue without a picture challenge this month.

[rolemodel]

dec28

What you see here are New Yorkers, some of which have become a true role model after living here for 2 and a half years. “Everyone trynna make it, everyone trynna shake it in a city this big!”

It always fascinates me how resilient New Yorkers are and how nothing can put them down. I wasn’t here during 9/11 but I witnessed how this city was turned upside down during hurricane Sandy. The chaos, the stress, the victims, and the lack of power – we made it through all of it and even more.
I once read a quote that it doesn’t matter if you dropped off the bus or I’ve you been here for years, you are a New Yorker from the moment you first set foot here.

I believe this is very true. You don’t necessarily have to earn your right to be a New Yorker but you do have to earn your weeks and days and hours to become someone people can look up to. I therefore cherish this picture and all the anonymous people in it for the inspiration they bring to me every day and the great memories they have created in the past.

[nature]

dec29

The day it snowed again. Or rather: Finally! I am beginning to fear that those pricy snow boots I bought two months ago will never be utilized when it comes to global warming affecting another New York winter. I am unsure whether or not this should make me sad or happy, for I still have the pictures in mind when we did have one snow day after another during the brutal time of 2010/2011.

However, on this particular day, it was snowing. It didn’t stick but it caused a blurry vision onto the streets of the East Village. The smoke rising from the middle of the road is from one of those multiple man holes that eject steam during pretty much any time of the year. It’s one of those “phenomena” that first make you stop if you are not used to it but then belongs to the city’s landscape like the array of skyscrapers do.

[memories]

dec30

The fond memories of a day spent at Fortt Tilden during late summer. I don’t think I will be returning this summer, as the area was completely devastated by Sandy. But I enjoy looking back at all I have accomplished last year and cannot wait to hit up the beach 5 months from now. The countdown is on!

[me]

dec31 - me

Self-portrait taken on New Year’s Eve. Ready to go to Manhattan and sit with friends having a get-together. It was nothing too fancy but nothing too boring either, just one of those evenings you need to say good-bye to a year and start another one. Lots of prosecco and home-made snacks. And a stunning view onto the disco-lit scene of the Empire State Building.

With this I am finally letting go of the old and welcoming 2013! I Hope you had a happy new year!

Photo A Day: December 21 to 27

A weekly summary of what has been going on with Liz’ photo challenge. I have to admit, I skipped a day! Or two… December 22 was dedicated to the elephant. Although I went to two different holiday markets that day, I just couldn’t find anything even remotely resembling this grey-skinned animal. Forgive me! And then Day 25 was dedicated to the family – of course. Given the fact that my family was not around me that day, I didn’t have much to post. But I do have tons of other pictures to offer!

[cold]

dec21

Another cold, windy day in Midtown. This is the view I have when I look outside of my office window. Rain in the Big Apple. I thought the cloud formation was pretty awesome, though. It’s the small things that can make you feel lucky. More than often I find that this is the weather outside. New York has so many sunshiny days that a rain shower or snow storm is more on the rare side.

[peace]

dec23

A peaceful day hanging out with the boyfriend, decorating the apartment with Christmas lights from last year. The day before the big Christmas Eve, one of the most important events this year. Since we didn’t have a Christmas tree this time we thought this to be a great alternative.

[silent]

dec24

Silent was the night. Deliciously prepared home-made mac and cheese and German Glühwein. It was a feast! And a successful silent night!

[black]

dec26

Another view from my office window. That day was when a snowstorm came around. Also known as the second blizzard this season. Unfortunately it didn’t stick. I believe I almost bought those overpriced snow boots in vain… Hopefully we will have more snow this weekend! I really want to see if the boots are worth their money or not.

[meditation]

dec27

One of my favorite Christmas gifts this year was indeed this necklace. Don’t the moon and stars cry out for meditation? It’s made of oxidized silver, which gives it a vintage look. I fell in love with it instantaneously.

Four more days until this month is over. Four more days until a new year begins. I am remotely excited to see what the future holds…!

Photo A Day: December 12 to 20

The challenge is still going on! With 8 more wonderful topics to cover. I admit it, I’ve been cheating a bit. Not all pictures were taken the day they were supposed to go out. And then of course the terrible news on the Sandy Hook Disaster somewhere in between… Boy, the world is definitely not the same as it was before. My heartfelt thoughts go out to everyone affected by the massacre. As the stories reveal more and more details, it is even harder to grasp the high extent of shock this occurrence has evoked.

I therefore embrace this distraction from everyday life and news. It’s still fun to be part of the BeLoveLive photo challenge and so far I’ve come to make ends meet and get that one good picture every day.

[Lights]

dec12

Went shopping at Union Square that day. And what is going on? The holiday market, of course! You have a really great view when you walk up to what is now the Burlington Coat Factory Flagship store. On the top floor you have one of the best panoramas of this little speck in Manhattan! So of course I had to snap a picture – needless to say. The sparkling lights of those few little cottages grouped together – festive!

[Ordinary]

dec13

Our ordinary Christmas decoration the roomie hung up the other day. I don’t think it’s too ordinary; she made the best with what she had. Sadly, this year we decided against a tree. I guess it’s not really worth it since half the people living in that apartment are out of town for the actual event. It is great to have some nice ornaments and lights hanging in the living room when you walk through the door.

[Celebration] goes hand in hand with [Joy]

dec16

Sneaky! Two days apart from each other but SantaCon fell right in the middle. December 15 was the day, the big “we will get so merry” event. Read more here if you want further details. It certainly was merry, entertaining, and just the right celebration to make me feel joyful shortly before the holidays.

[Gifts]

dec14

Always love to shop for gifts at Macy’s, my favorite department store at this time of year. It’s close to work and has never failed to disappoint me. Except for when I wanted to buy a wok – that was quite misleading. Other than that, their basement section is well equipped with precious household goods, which always make a great gift for all sorts of people, don’t you think?!

[Listening]

dec17

I went to B&H that day and stumbled across these fancy-sounding headphones. Urbanears must be the next hot thing. Perhaps they already are, I wouldn’t know. I still use my iPhone earplugs to listen to music but possibly I will upgrade to a pair of these, as shown in the photo above.

[Old/New]

dec18

Went to Chinatown. The old and familiar district. Discovered this new store called New Kam Man. Was grossed out by their rusty wok selection but other than that the store has interesting stuff to discover. Such as French waffles with Chinese titles. Or this sample of a special kind of candy I was unable to decipher (my Chinese is about as rusty as their kitchen ware). It was fun to stroll around, look through their snack selection, and of course snag a few items. Such as the one and only wasabi peas, which will surely clear your nose!

[Carols]

dec19

Oops, mistake on my end! Instead of reading “carols” I read “cards” (the print is sooo tiny on a cell phone screen!). Luckily I was NOT the only one to make this grand error in context, therefore I didn’t feel too stupid when posting a fancy picture of holiday cards addressed to important people back home. Sometimes I wish for German cards but of course you cannot get these here. So English and Spanish will have to do for the time being. I really hope they make it to their destinations in time but who knows – the postal service is already flooded with last minute mail.

[Simple]

dec20

Bought an Advent Calendar at Aldi at the end of last month. Thought it was cute to share with you the simple chocolate ornaments I find each and every day. Granted, I haven’t touched the calendar in 6 days but that was because of some health issues I’ve been fighting. It’s so much more fun to devour them all at once, anyways. So this is what I do to get into the holiday mood, which is somehow not really showing in 2012. Most likely too much going on in my life at this time to concentrate on the real stuff.

Photo A Day: December 7 to 11

I have been sick. Terribly sick. First the flu and then a stomach bug. Vicious little creatures, those things. So I’ve basically been lying around, feeling like a boxer after the last strike. For 2 weeks straight with only small episodes in between where I felt healthy enough to walk and talk. How I hate when a winter starts off that way. And even more when I cannot write and read what is going on in the world around me.

It’s almost been about a week since the last time I posted on here. Time to catch up with the PhotoADayChallenge. And lots of more things! But those will come soon, in the next few days, promise! Oh, all those wonderful blog post ideas I have… *chuckle*

[Table]

dec7

I saw this one the first time in spring. And it is still there! A fancy set of a table and chair on my way to the Flatiron District. In the storeowners’ opinion, I guess every day is the day to have some good wine made of dark grapes. I am happy to see these pieces of color now at this time of year, when it is getting grayer and darker as the days hurry by.

[Stranger]

dec8

Or rather a lot of strangers on the subway. Two children looking out of the window while crossing the Manhattan Bridge on the Q-train. Their mother sitting right next to them, occupied with her own thoughts of the day. A guy listening to his headphones… Scenes of everyday commuter life making it so special and unique. Just on Monday I rode the train with a mother who had her 2 and a half year old son with her. At first he was crying and throwing toys on the dirty ground. Then he saw other children and wanted to share his firetrucks with them. Some of them smiled back at him, others got freaked out… Guess you gotta love it or hate it!

[Love]

dec9

There are many things I love. A hearty brunch consisting of a huge stack of pancakes, for one. Devouring it in one of the most famous restaurants in Greenpoint, for two. And then of course spending this occasion with my love, the boyfriend. Those rare Saturday mornings that have happened lately. By the way, Five Leaves used to be owned by Heath Ledger (yes, the Australian movie cutie)! More about this location to come soon, though!

[Candles]

dec10

This was not taken the same day it was supposed to be posted. However, I heart this picture because it reminds me of a great time I had when I took it: Around the same time last year, in a church, with many festive occasions going on. Candles can convey such a warm feeling that they can only be lit during very special times, don’t you think?

[Daily News]

dec11

This is an example of what our daily subway newspaper looks like. Well, I actually do not think it is a subway newspaper; however, MetroNews is almost always handed out close to the subway (same with AM, another New York publication). It is free of charge and most of the time the people handing it out look like homeless people (and most likely are). Sometimes I see very young fellows handing them out who look like volunteers so I wonder if this is a means for them to work off their community service or if they stand in any relation to the newspaper… Who knows!

Now, since I actually don’t read it too often (I am mostly absorbed in one of the quazillion books I bring with me), I don’t know what this particular story was about. However, only one week ago, a random passenger was pushed onto the tracks at 49th Street by a panhandler (who was possible slightly insane) and died after a NY Post reporter captured a picture of how he got run over by an approaching train. The morals of this, oh dear, I do not have to go into this. It’s just scary to think how many people choose not to help you when you are in a dangerous situation like this. And the NY Post photographer made a lot of money with his despicable picture!

Photo A Day: December 4 to 6

Three days passed, three lovely motives to choose from! I enjoy scrolling through Instagram and seeing what other participants have come up with. The rock motive from today, for instance, was taken with a literal, figurative, and symbolic meaning attached to it. But let’s go back two days and start with

[Tree]

dec4 - tree

This wasn’t too hard. I guess Liz picked it because trees are pictured all over December. Christmas trees, fir trees, leafless tress… You name it! I thought about going for an old-school fir tree lit with a quazillion candles like you see all over the place. But then I walked past Uniqlo on 34th Street and the red lights matched the stores scheme: Holiday Sales Season. I’m actually not a big fan of their selection and the store in general. Their prices are a bit steep for the quality of clothes they offer. I was thinking about snagging some warm underwear from then because of their heat protection but am unsure if I really want to spend $50 on this… Help me make a decision! Is this a reasonable price?

[Message]

dec5 - message

True, this is not a real message as intended only for me. Instead it gets the message across to a bunch of people: Korean Lunch Special! And it surely attracted me. The Worjip is most likely the least fancy place I’ve been to in Koreatown (which can be quite chique, believe it or not). Lots of students come here to grab a cheap lunch, and since I could still pass as one of those… Anyhow, they offer a really good deal with their $6-Buffet and a good selection of kimbap (similar to Sushi but not really) for only $5. Every time I go to Little Korea, I leave the place a little bit happier.

[Rock]

dec6 - rock

I guess this word can have several meanings. I really couldn’t think what rock to take a picture of (was briefly considering Rockefeller Center), so luckily I remembered that “rocking it out” can also be conveyed in this term. Voila, here we go: A street performer band playing in Herald Square. A subway station I see every day when I go to work. So when I got off work today they were performing in this awesome costume. Funny, huh? I love how it’s the small things like these that can make my day and remind me where I am at. In one of the craziest cities of the universe!