Sunday, July 5, 2009
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
Friday, June 5, 2009
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
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!
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Anyway...it was awesome. Definetly one of the most fun things I have got to do with the kids. Individually they are pretty goods players, they are just missing basic concenpts (i.e. defense) to really keep up with the other teams we played. One of the kids on the team speaks English better than the rest of them so when I would coach she would translate for me.
We had a game Friday night at 7 o'clock, which actually started at 8 because of the ever popular excuse; "Filipino time" which I don't know if could ever get used to, and our other game was Sunday night. The boys on the were team really were excited to play and wanted to practice with me, so I decided to stay in Ormoc this weeked and went in Saturday and Sunday morning to give them some practice. Even though we ended up losing both games, it was a ton of fun. It was the older group of boys who played (13-17) so many times, they arn't big on hanging out with the volunteers or participating, so it was a great way to hang out with them and they really would listen and respect what I had to say since I was a basketball player for such a long time. It really gave me a way to connect with the kids, and after the game we went down to the plaza (Ormoc city center) and hung out for a couple hours, just talked and laughed and hung out. Turns out that one of the funnest weekend I've had here consisted of hanging out with teenage boys who don't speak English...who woud have thought?
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Saturday we had a thing referred to as saturation. In Ormoc there is a mandatory 10 o'clock curfew for children 17 and under if you are without an adult, and many times this is broke by children who are there for a variety of reasons. Some of them have no where to go, are abandoned and live on the streets, many times doing drugs or stealing to try to keep them self ahead. Others are there to just be out at night to hang out and drink with their friends, some are runaways, and I just found out that about half of the females are picked up for child prostitution. Most of the boys I work with are there because they have been abandoned by their parents, or their parents can't financially take care of them so they live at the center, which literally gives them just enough to survive. As in food, water, shelter and that's it. They do provide them with an education which is about $40 a year.
Other are there because they have committed minor crimes, caught doing rugby which is basically sniffing glue, or they were found on the streets begging. Meeting the kids you wouldn't think that there backgrounds were so unfortunate, because they are generally very good kids, who just want someone to hang out with and give them some attention. That is basically what I've been trying to do is just be there to play and show them a good time. It is also really unfortunate because despite of the unnecessary amount of staff there during the day, (literally like 15 employees) they have little to no interaction with the kids. If it wasn't for all the volunteers from abroad the kids wouldn't only have nothing, they would have no one.
Fortunately it is summer here, so the kids are not in school, and when school starts back up many of the kids will be there during the day, so that will keep them busy somewhat.
Today I did a mini geography lesson which consisted of continents, oceans, and some Southeast Asian countries, then spent the rest of the time playing basketball and dancing. We have a little speaker that we've attached an MP3 into so they love dancing to "Low", "Soulja boy" and "Saby Saby Tayo".
On Friday a few of the older boys are competing in a mini basketball tournament so I am working on teaching them some simple concepts. We'll see how it goes.
Now the rest of my Wednesday will be spent trying to put together mini lessons for the rest of this week and next. Any suggestions feel free to let me know! I need as much help as I can get!
Monday, May 4, 2009
Friday night we got a room at Zenaidas for P800 a night and went to a karaoke bar down the street, drank Red Horse and sang all night. When we're out and about its impossible to keep to yourself, there is always an unnecessary amount of unwanted attention because we're foreigners. I'm all about meeting new people and making friends, sometimes it's just a little awkward. At the bar a table about 5 meters in front of us literally turned their chairs completely around, with their backs to the stage so they could watch us...its funny but pretty uncomfortable after awhile. Every time one of us would go up on stage there would be like a hush over the entire bar, so they could listen to us sing. It's pretty funny because they think we're good because we sing with American (and Swedish) accents. I met a (wo)man named "Shakira", not sure if that was h..er real name or not, since every sing that s...he karaokeed to was Shakira, which was pretty hilarious.
The rest of the weekend was nothing too special. Saw a 44 kilo brought to the house strapped to the back of a motorbike, hang out in the yard, killed, gutted and ate right in front of my face, all the while Mariah Carey's greatest hits blared in the background.
I thought I would watch the killing of the pig...sick I know, but I really just thought that I should, I mean is happens every day in way worse inhumane ways and, and I am the one who benefits from the death of this animal, I should at least suffer a bit by having to watch it die.
So I did-or tried to- from a safe distance, but the 4 men it took to slaughter it insisted that I stand a meter away and take pictures. I tried to decline being that close, I was perfectly uncomfortable enough in my hiding place, but it is literally impossible to say no to an insistent Filipino, so yeah I took some pictures. Pretty sure it was more stressful for me then it was for the babe.
Turns out that wasn't the worst of it.
Not only was it insisted upon that I sit a meter away from the pork chop, they forced glasses and glasses of tuba (Filipino palm wine) down my throat. So when they gutted the pig it wasn't as disgusting watching its guts fall into a bucket as it would of been had I been sober. I don't take responsibility for this.
Surprisingly not only were the grilled liver and small intestine fresh, they were also quite good. Dipped in a little soy sauce, vinegar, calamansie (kind of like a lime) and chili's they tasted like, well pork, only better. Normally I am not too fond of pork, but hey, cut it straight out of freshly killed pig and grill it on an open flame, and-turns out, I'm all in.
Did I mention that Mariah Carey was playing the whole time, while grown Filipino men took turns singing "Hero" and "Day dream"? Made for a very interesting day.
Thought I had to share this story, it gave me a good look at something that is very normal in this culture, and very very foreign to me- from Mimi to pig liver.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
1. Last Thursday/Friday
Took the boys at the center camping at Meridia "Little Hawai'i" about a half hour outside of Ormoc. It was great, the boys had a great time and so did all the staff here. Everything works a lot different here in the Philippines, after the kids went to sleep around 9 or 10 Thursday night, all the staff and volunteers stayed up and sang A LOT of karaoke and drank A LOT of Red Horse beer. It turned into...yes, A LOT of fun. The other two volunteers and I sponsored the whole thing, which included the rental of the whole camp ground and all the food bought for 30 people. It actually only ended up costing us about 40 USD each, so it was well worth it. We are all planning on going out Friday night too.
2. Friday, Saturday, Sunday
Made a trip to Biliran Island, just north of Leyte a short causeway connects the two islands. Biliran was beautiful, incredibly lush, mountainous and awesome. There are a lot of great hikes and the interior has a lot to offer if you are willing to make the effort (and pay the moto driver). On Saturday, Sara (Swedish volunteer) and I rented a kayak and headed over to Dalutan Island, which only took about 20 minutes to kayak over to. We layed on a deserted white sand beach for awhile, and met some medical volunteers from Manila who had worked for the last week at the Biliran hospital. They were incredibly nice and hospitable, and we ended up being invited to the feast that they had brought over as well as a couple San Miguels. Took the kayak around the island and found a cave to kayak into..we could hear the bats inside it...kinda creepy, but awesome. That evening, took a motorbike up into the mountains where there was a fiesta going on, with makeshift roulette and other gambling games, as well as a disco where we did a little dancing. A lot of fun, and met some very nice Filipinas who tried to teach me the cha cha (unsuccessful, but worth a try).
Saturday we rented three motorbike drives and were able to explore the island. Hiked to some gorgeous waterfalls, where I actually climbed part way up one and dove off! It was pretty awesome, and the water was so clear and clean...absolutely awesome. The moto driver befriended us (for a cost of course) and took us on a hike to his grandma's house. where he and another driver proceded to climb up a palm tree with a machete and hacked down a few young buko (coconut) then made an amazing buko desert that consisted of milk, ice and the buko "meat" which is essentially huge chunks of coconut. I didn't think I really liked coconut...but I was definitely wrong, because this stuff was to die for.
On Sunday we finally made it back to Ormoc, with sore legs, arms, back, and butts (from hours on the back of a moto), just in time for dinner at my home stay. A great weekend, I'll post some pictures soon!!
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
It's funny the first negative experience I've had with a person here is a foreigner, and not any locals.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Once we reached the island, there were a group of motorbikes (huble-hubles) waiting for us to take us to our resort (a term used loosely here). Went for the most amazing huble-huble ride around half of the island and saw the most amazing views...roads that are basically cliffs over looking the ocean...through broken down barangays (villages) where children run half naked around the streets and old women walk their caribou to the next town. As you ride through the barangays it is like a constant chorus of little "hi"'s from the children who have never seen a white person in their life.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
And I also made it succesfuly to Ormoc, which took a two hour bus ride, but was fairly easy. It is SO true what people say about the driving in the Philiipines being less of rules and more of "suggestions". People pass on all sides, honking and the gass pedal are the first reaction to anything whether that be people walking in the crosswalk (careful!) or cars driving too slow. Hilariously interesting.
Also got to go to my placement at the Street Educators program. There is so much work to do it is overwhelming. The center is basically a jail, but there are only a few of the kids locked up, the rest are free to roam around the grounds. I'll try and take some pictures. I am trying to think of some kind of program to implement that will really get the kids attention. One of the girls I work with thought of the idea of a community garden there, which I thought was awesome. But there has to be more. I am going to do some research on line.
I came at the best time of the year because it's holy week, and this weekend is Easter. I think a couple of the girls I volunteer with and I may head south to some awesome beaches for the holiday. We'll see how it pans out.
Too tired of typing. I'll try and put some pictures up later this week.
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
And even got the rare opportunity to swim with HUGE manta rays!! It was incredible, they were two of them out in the day time, which is pretty uncommon, and these ones were about 8 feet across, even thoguh some of them can get to be 15 feet. I was probably about 3 feet away from them at one point- took my breath away; there are such intersting creatures in the ocean!!
Les and I drove over to the other side of the island, where we got to see some amazing views, rainforest waterfalls, and other things so native yet spectacular on the big island. I feel like if you were to grow up here you would become so jaded by all the beauty of the islands. Then I come over here with virgin eyes, and am just in awe of it all. I love it here, as I type this there are aray of native birds singing outside, it feels like you're in some tropical jungle. Also, there is so much to explore out here! I love walking along the lava rocks and seeing the tide pools, or just going off the trail a bit to get a little dirty :) It's wonderful.
Overall the last week has been great. It has been really nice because Lesly is working quite a bit, so I've been hanging out with some other CWU kids and her roomates, who are all really fun and have shown me a good time. Ben took me on a motorcycle tour along some road I don't remember (c'mon, there are only 12 letters in the Hawaiian alphabet, all the words sound alike) where we got gorgeous views, and saw some of old town Kona. Very cool. Then last night a few of us went to a Hawaiian luau! Really great food, and some fire dancing and hula-ing also. I really wanted to go on stage and be taught how to hula, but no luck :( It was very entertaining, and had an open bar, so we all had to take advantage of it.
I'm just not ready for this week to end! I'm stoked to head out and start my internship, but everything is so laid back and nice here, I wouldn't mind spending another week. But with 8...10...peope in one house (I've lost count) It'll probably be time for me to leave as Saturday creeps up. Aloha...
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Finally in Kona! The flight over was fine, sat next to Locals who told me all about the great things to do on the big island...all I really remember is a bunch of Hawaiian words that I will never be able to tell the difference from (Makawakalaki!). Oh well. We also watched Madagascar II on the plane...great movie. I didn't rent any headphones so I couldn't actually hear any of the movie, but thats ok because I ended up making up my own words as the characters spoke. Yeah, definitely a great film :)
Also, was able to go out to dinner last night with our cousin Matt who is in town with his wife Jamie. It was so nice to see him, he isn't at family functions much often, so we all got to sit down and have a good chat at dinner. He is a great guy...and looks so much like my Dad! And we've been told that Carly and I look quite a bit like cousin Jenny (Matt's sister) so it all runs in the family. Speaking of running in the family...I got to do some beer tasting today!!
Les and I woke up nice and early to do some snorkeling. It was awesome. I love being in the water and it felt so great to be in nice warm weather for a change! We saw a little baby turtle, and some sweet fish. It was a nice day. I also got to meet some of her friends from the brewery, which I automatically also made my best friends (for my own sake of course). Did a little beer tasting...and now off to do some more beer tasting! No objecting to this...who knows when the next time I'll be able to drink beer!! I have to get my fill ok?! Not that any person I know would object to this type of (ahhem...did I mention Glockner?)behavior.
Just the start of a great week!! Aloha!
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Monday, March 16, 2009
Yesterday I had the delight of hanging out with Laura-friends since 4th grade, and even got to see her mom and dad, which was great. I have been close to them over the years, but we realized we actually hadn't seen each other in over three years! Much too long of a time to go without spending some time together. They were so excited for me and supportive of everything I am planning to do-they are such wonderful people. They also gave me the name of someone who lives in Malaysia who I should look up while I'm over there, he may have some great volunteer opportunities for me.
Stopped by REI yesterday and got a few things for traveling. Some insect repellent, sunscreen, little 3 oz. bottles for soap and such. There is so much more I need, but I'm told some of it is smart to get in the country.
I fly out to Kona in 8 days! I can't believe how soon that is!!! So excited to spend some time with Lesly...oh and the sun! I'm so sick of winter!!
Be in touch soon!
Monday, March 9, 2009
Welcome to my travel blog, which I have appropriately (I think) named "It's All Relative" because I thought about how true those words are in life, and I think it will be an important phrase to remember while I'm traveling around Asia for a bit. I think when you are in a forgein country where you don't speak the language and are a little unsure of yourself, it is important not to judge, and especially important not to compare different cultures, and appreciate each for what it is it.
Well I leave for Hawaii in 15 days from today, and am getting SO excited to start this adventure! I feel like I have been planning on it for over a year now, and I'm so close it's actually going to happen. I hope that I will be able to blog about my daily activities volunteering with the Street Educators Program, and just any fun stuff that happens to me along the way. I hope I can keep this up to date while I'm away. Feel free to comment on any of these blogs, it can be our little way of communicating!