Author Archives: cowbell

How I Picked Up Japanese In 7 Months

The limits of my language are the limits of my world. – Ludwig Wittgenstein Recently, I’d received several questions on tips for learning Japanese. This is a topic I’d covered in a post 6 years ago, but I’ve since had the time to reflect and work on my Japanese more, so I’m adapting a more recent piece I’d written for another platform and republishing it here. I hope it’s helpful! Preamble I know learning Japanese ... Read More »

Diving the Legendary Socorro Islands

The genesis to my Socorro trip was in a question. “Where’s the best diving you’ve ever had, Ali?” It was early evening. We were on the sun deck of the MV Black Manta floating somewhere in the Komodo Islands, Indonesia. Before us, the sun dipped slowly beneath the horizon, casting the last of its golden rays across the land and sea. Ali considered the question. “The Galapagos,” he said after a pause. “Oh! And ... Read More »

Revelations in the Antipodes

In the 3 months that I’ve moved to Auckland, there’s been a scene that has played out many, many times on the streets that I have never quite made sense of – until today. The scene goes something like this: a homeless person in crummy clothes is huddled up on a street corner. Some of them have a dog with them, and those who do tend to also have a ... Read More »

A Fleeting Encounter in Istanbul

There’s a story I want to share from my time in Turkey last year. It was my last day there and I was in Istanbul, standing in the plaza between the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque at dusk. Having set up my camera on the tripod, I stepped away and waited. I guess it must’ve looked rather strange to most passers by; this girl standing mutely a foot away ... Read More »

Love at Last Light

Lisbon, Portugal When Nina and I got to the lookout point in Alfama, I was not prepared for the sight ahead. A full moon right above the horizon. The town alit with the glow of a setting winter sun. And just like that, between one breath and the next, I fell in love with Lisbon. Because how could you not? How could you not be enchanted by this port city, with ... Read More »

The Whirling Dervishes

Istanbul, Turkey While in Turkey last year I was lucky enough to, on two occasions, witness the famed Dervish Dance, a form of active meditation practiced by Sufis (a branch of Islam) as part of a worship ceremony where practitioners abandon nafs (personal desires) to focus their minds on the music and on God. It’s hard to describe the experience, except to say that there is something deeply meditative about the tunes, the dance, ... Read More »

Post-Desert Blues

[They say SpaceX has to first build a rocket before we can go to Mars, but from this vantage it looks like there’s a shortcut there.] And so, inevitably, the withdrawal symptoms begin. Deserts are terribly difficult places to mentally leave behind; it has always been this way for me. Towards the end, I tried to hang on to every image of the Atacama for as long as possible – ... Read More »

Fiji Shark Dive: Trip Report

Sharks. It’s hard to think of a more misunderstood marine creature on the planet than sharks. Mention the idea of being in the water with one to a non-diver and the typical response is a mixture of apprehension and fear. But ask a scuba diver what are his or her favourite creatures to see underwater, and 9 times out of 10 sharks will be among them. Why Dive With Sharks? So why do divers go out of ... Read More »

Dunes of Death Valley

Death Valley, California, USA The glowing dunes of Death Valley as wind passes across the plains Camera Equipment Canon 7D with Canon 24-105mm f/4 IS L Read More »

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