Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Land of Smiles...

Has been much too long since I've reflected on my days here in Thailand. So much has happened! I flew into Bangkok on the 20th of June and stayed in Bangkok for a couple days while I waited for my friend Halli to come and meet me here. As soon as she did we set off to view some temples and sights around the city. It is surprisingly easy to get around here, many locals speak a little English, so if you need directions I've just saying where I want to go and they point. All I know in Thai is "kapon ka"-thank you...which I have been pronouncing "apon ka", with no one correcting me for half the time.
In my 2 weeks in Thailand I am amazed how tourist-y it is here. I was expecting it to be much more like the Philippines which isn't very tourist-y, even in the well traveled areas, but Thailand is packed with locals trying to make extra cash off you, and there are many many ways they try to do this.
After Bangkok we headed down to Koh Samui, Koh Phan-ngan and Koh Tao, where we beached it up, rented a jeep and some motorbikes to explore the island and generally just lived the island lifestyle. Oh yeah, and I saw a shark. Coolest. Thing. Ever. It is sooooo rare for people to see sharks in the water without actually going to a feeding and looking for them-let alone be snorkeling a bay and have one swim right past you. I practically chocked on sea water from my excited, and followed it for a second before it whizzed away. I was in total shock and still cannot believe my good luck!! Scuba Divers go years looking for sharks and never see one...and I just happen to run across one snorkeling in a bay. And it wasn't that small...probably about 5 feet across!
On our way to Koh Phan-ngan we ran into a nice Australian and he ended up tagging along with us for a couple days. An overall awesome guy (in spite my last experience with Australians), and we had a really great time together. He is traveling the world for a couple years, and I am pretty sure he will make a stop in Seattle to visit me and Halli.
This blog is pretty lame, but not really in the mood to type too much...going to head to a market to practice my bargaining skills.
Overall have had a great time in Thailand, and am SO happy that I got to have a friend or two to experience it with along the way. Not sure what is next for me...but I'll try and keep this updated ;)

Saturday, June 20, 2009


Left Singapore with not the best taste of the city. It wasn't bad at all, but it's like the place is confused on whether or not it's a country or a city. Its VERY different from the rest of Asia (country), but it's so small its hard to consider is governing itself...just seems to easy!

The first day in Singapore I was determined to figure out how to use the MRT...Mass Rail Transit. Since we basically don't have anything like it in the US I wanted to get a feel for it. Sweet. Coolest thing ever. So easy to use, I figured my way around half of the country/city using it. How's that for sense of direction Dad! :) I even got a little EZ link card, so I really felt like a Singaporean as I squished myself through the entry gate.

If this isn't already known, Singaporeans main hobby is shopping, so when in Rome do as the Romans do; I headed to Orchard Road and checked out the literal retail madness that insues there. Seriously-its was unbelieavable. There were literally like 12 malls on one side of the street. That is just part of the shopping! You could seriously put your credit card in a coma in this place. Don't worry though, my debit card didn't come out once. I payed with cash.

After that I headed back to Little India where I thought I would save some money and eat on a budget; had some Indian food on a little side street for S$2.50 (about USD$1.75). It was good for about 2 hours untill I had debilitating stomach cramps and headache that wouldn't quit. Not to mention others things; that I won't mention.
I mean c'mon, I was in the Philippines; a developing country for almost 3 months. Ate fish head and blood soaked pig intestine. Ate at every dirty corner hawker station in even the most remote places, hell I even drank the water, and never got sick once. Then I come to Singapore, suppose to be a breath of fresh air (ha!) if you're a western traveling in Asia, and the second day I'm there I'm layed up, literally sleeping alllllll day. Oh the irony.

After I recovered, I had to fill my day a bit and headed over the the Colonial District to do some sight seeing and go the the Asian Civilizations Museum. Very state of the art and pretty fasinating, you could spend half a day looking through the galleries, so that's what I did. It was great. Later I was visited by some ferries who told me to go to Clark Quay for a River Festival, so I did, and some some Cirque De Soile-esqe acts and sat people watching the cultural mix that defines Singapore.

Made it safely to Thailand and am about to start my day, just walking around, seeing some temples and browsing the shops. Super excited to pick up Halli tomorrow night, it will be nice to see someone from home. I am definetly starting to miss the fam.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Final day in the Philippines

Although I had a wonderful time traveling around the islands for the last couple of weeks, I wanted to spend my last day in Ormoc to visit the boys and say good bye to some friends I've made volunteering with. They have been such wonderful people, I know that it is a group that I will remember for the rest of my life, even though I know that there will be new volunteers in and out, and soon I may just be another volunteer that they had some time ago. I plan to keep in touch and not even let them think about forgetting me. Such great people, I have been so lucky to meet and them and become friends, even if only for 10 weeks. I'm off to Singapore tomorrow morning, wish me luck...Some of the boys on my last dayWater fight!Sunset in Bohol
Tricycle ride with one of my favorite people
Beautiful day in Ormoc!
Goodbye Valencia, my home for the last 8 weeks...

Friday, June 5, 2009

Since I've been gone...from Ormoc that is

It hasn't really been that long since I've last posted something, but then again maybe it has...I have no sense of time here. Yesterday I had to ask my dive instructor twice what day it was, opps.

I finished volunteering on Saturday, it was so hard to say good bye to all the boys! I know I am going to stop in at least one more time before I leave the country to say goodbye to them. Vanessa and I put together a little photo album of our time with the boys and gave it to them as a going away present and they loved it. They almost never see pictures of themselves, so it was pretty cool for them to see all the memories we made in the last few months.

So I left Ormoc on Sunday morning and spent a night in Cebu where I did some sight seeing. A huge Taoist temple, Fort San Pedro, and a beautiful old church. In Cebu is where the Spaniards came in to claim the land and brought along Catechism with it. Needless to say, many bloody battles were fought on the land there.

Now since Monday I have been in Bohol, on Panglao Island, Alona Beach which is absolutely stunning, and if you can believe it, I actually get (almost) zero extra attention here for being a foreigner. It's great. There are many Koreans, Germans, Aussies and various other nationalities visiting also. I can walk along the beach and literally hear about 4 different languages being spoken in the span of 10 minutes. Surprisingly though, it isn't at all swamped with tourists and there is plenty of beach space and privacy you can have here. There is also some of the best dive sights in the world.

Yes that is the newest, I am getting Open Water Dive Certified. That means that I am legally allowed to dive 18 meters off a boat in the ocean. The last 2 days I've been taking tests, and today I got to do my first dive off a boat!! It was amazing, and I stayed under for 70 min, which is rare and almost unheard of for a beginning diver. My instructor couldn't believe it, and of course I don't even know the difference. Saw some beautiful fish, amazing corals, very different from what I've ever seen at the surface. I did have a little bit of trouble equalizing, but that comes easier with practice I'm told. I love it so far, it feel so weird to breath underwater. Part of it kinda freaks me out because It's like being somewhere that humans weren't made to be, and seeing things we are not suppose to see. It's pretty exhilarating. I think Sunday I will get to go on my first certified open water dive. But before that I have a final exam to pass....and I thought my schooling was over. Never!

So everything is great here, the Philippines and all its natural beauty really makes me appreciate the spectacular beauty of the northwest, as weird as that sounds. It has just made me realize how incredible 2 places that are literally polar opposites can be. Hopefully I'll be back to experience some wonderful western Washington summer...or hopefully not... :)

Friday, May 29, 2009

Biliran photos

Co-volunteers. I love these girls!
Can you count all the cariboa?

Hable Hable in Biliran

Small rice terraces in Biliran


A very busy couple of weeks at the center. The last 2 weeks or so I have basically been trying to keep the kids engaged and learning at the same time. It still baffles me how difficult that can be! It has made me learn so much about teaching...hard stuff. I've realized that the best part about it is just having the kids around. They have so much energy and are so much fun to hang out with, even when we are not doing technical lessons, there is always a form of teaching involved. I've really fallen in love with these kids, I feel like they are a mix of my children and my best's been really hard telling them that I'm leaving. I'm going to miss them so much! But most of all I just worry about what they will do all day without a volunteer around to keep them entertained. In the last couple of weeks they have brought in a music teacher which is great. Nelbert, Renalto and Raniel have been learning to play and it's really fun to see them progress and work hard at it.

Yesterday (Friday) was technically my last day at the center, even though I am going to stop by and hang out for a couple of hours today. I took 11 of the boys to the movie theater in town to see XMen Wolverine. They had never been to a theater before so it was a very exciting experience! Not only that, but I think most of the boys that came haven't even stepped out of the center for a couple of weeks, so any time they can go out to do an activity is always fun and new. In the theatre they blast the air conditioning, which I love and could live in, but it was hilarious how cold the boys were! As soon as we were in the theatre it was like a different world, freezing cold and pitch black...we walked in all loud and stumbling over each other laughing...way too much fun.

It was too bad that all the boys couldn't come, but 5 of the older ones who I've grown close to got in trouble last weekend for sniffing rugby out back. It's basically like sniffing glue and getting a pretty good high off it...but so bad for you, and It's exactly what we are working to stop. It's also sad because someone from outside the center supplied it for the boys. It puts me in a hard position because they all tell me about it and laugh about how fun it was...and I feel like I'm in the position that we are friends; that's why they confide in me, but I also can't condone them sniffing rugby. So I play a little middle-man and tell them about how it's killing their brain and all that stuff, in all seriousness...I really don't know how much that gets through to them though. I am just SO concerned about them when there is no one there for them to hang out with, there is little to zero adult interaction and no parental example so these kids are literally raising themselves. It makes me feel a little better that they are starting school on Monday, so about half of them will be there during the day to keep them out of the center and distracted doing something else. Hopefully learning...but the public education system here is still questionable to me.

Last weekend I went over to Cebu and took a bus to Moalboal which is pretty nice, not as great as I thought, the one beach there was beautiful...but way crowded with locals, which I wouldn't mind if every single one of them wasn't staring at me every time I stood up and sat down, asking to take my picture or pose in a picture with them, and wanted to know about my family and religious background. When there are literally hundreds of eyes on you it will make you a little insecure. I almost feel like I might know how it feels to be a celebrity...and I am no Paris Hilton.

After that I headed back to Cebu city and went to Ayala Center, which is a HUGE shopping mall where I had...hold your breath...Starbucks. Walking through the mall and drinking real coffee felt a lot like home, not sure if it was a good thing or not. Got to do a little shopping and met a nice guy from Kuwait who joined me for dinner. We had a nice time talking and laughing, did the "good to meet you thing" and I went home early for the night before heading back to Ormoc and the center Monday morning. I can't get over the deals you can get here...for a whole weekend of tourist-ing, traveling, shopping and eating with almost no regard to prices, I spent about 70 USD.

So now I am about to spend my last weekend here in Ormoc before heading back to Cebu City to tour around and then up to Malapascua Island for a few days. I hear its really wonderful there, and there are some great dives to see. Yes, I am 90% sure I am going to get dive certified. The Philippines is suppose to have the best diving in the world, I don't think I can miss out! I excited to see more of the Visayas for the next couple of weeks. Wish me luck!