December 27, 2008

Indonesia: Bali for Christmas

I booked a flight from Saigon to Bali for Christmas to meet Abigail, a friend I met in Bangkok while petting a tiger. Back in October Abigail and I talked about our Christmas plans and she mentioned that  she would be spending the holidays in Bali. Without hesitation, I invited myself along. I might be getting use to this backpacking life. Inviting myself on strangers holidays, who have I become?

The morning started off smooth. Two hours before my flight my xe om (motorbike taxi) showed up on time in front of my house. Two honks later I was out the door, strapping my helmet on and off to the airport. I now have a personal xe om driver who arrives when I text him. Ya, that happened. He dropped me outside of the airport (xe oms can't enter the airport) and I walked the rest of the way to the Singapore Air check-in counter. As I checked-in the lady behind the counter let me know that I don't have any visa pages in my passport so I can't go to Indonesia. Wait, what?! So I missed my 10:00 am flight to tropical paradise. I was not giving up on my Christmas vacation. I quickly got another xe om and took off to the US embassy where I got an additional 24 visa pages (hopefully that will last me). I then crossed the street to the Singapore Airlines ticket office (how conveniently located) to book the next flight which left later that afternoon. I went back to my house and confused my roommates who thought I was jet setting to Bali. Pulled a fast one on them, didn't I.

As I landed in Bali with not a care in the world I instantly stopped. What does Abigail look like again?  How will I make sure I don't pass her at baggage claim? I also didn't show up when I originally said I would since I missed my original flight. But, my long lost friend from 12  hours together in Bangkok really pulled through. Turns out instead of leaving the airport after realizing I didn't make my 10:00 am flight from Saigon  (I didn't tell her I was getting on the later flight) she waited and waited and waited. She even asked the airport staff to do an announcement for me over the intercom, however, only Holly was announced since she realized she didn't know my last name.

The first night we spent laughing hysterically over how random our Christmas meet-up was. We were off to a great start.

Christmas Eve was spent lounging by the pool and shopping. In England, Abigail informed me, Christmas Eve was a huge night to go out so to keep up on her cultural traditions we went to all the bars we could find. We also bumped into drunk Santa.

{ we should have reapplied sunscreen more often }
Christmas day was spent at the pool again and meeting our fellow pool-go-ers who had some great stories for us about their midnight tattoos. That evening we headed down to Kuta Beach to catch the sunset. All along the beach there are little pop up bars. It is ideal. After the sun was down we had Christmas dinner at Hard Rock Cafe which was having a Christmas concert. That night we met our fellow pool swimmers out at the bars.

The next day Abigail and I left Kuta and began to explore the island. We took a shuttle to Ubud and rented a taxi to explore the near by rice fields and temples. While driving from one place to the next I seized the moment to ask our taxi driver all about the medicine doctor from Eat, Pray, Love. To my surprise he had no idea what I was talking about. I am still skeptical of that.

We then headed back to Kuta and rented a motorbike. Learning how to drive a motorbike started a little rough but it ended up being a huge success. We wobbled and almost crashed our way out to Nusa Dua which had a gorgeous beach resort. After we had perfected our tan lines we drove out to Uluwatu where there is a temple out on a cliff. We arrived at sunset, the timing couldn't have been more perfect.

{ Nusa Dua }
{ Uluwatu at sunset }

December 21, 2008

Vietnam: Back in Saigon

I am back in Vietnam! Who would have guessed I would have ended up teaching English here?

Phase two of the TESOL course was teaching practice and Vietnamese language lessons (Vietnamese is the hardest language ever. It is tonal). I have now completed the TESOL course and I have a few job interviews lined up.

Last Friday Zach, Kyle, Alex and myself moved into a five bedroom house one block from Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street. Learning to say our street name so our xe om (motorbike taxi) driver knows where to take us is turning out to be very challenging. We will need to keep practicing. Our house is huge with four floors, two bedrooms on each floor and a roof top terrace. Our living room is also the garage. Once we all get motorbikes we will park them next to the tv. The front door is a huge gate that opens all the way up. We have a little pad lock that locks it all up. You have to stick your hand inside a small hole and then try and fit your key into the lock without looking and with one had. I have yet to master this. So far our neighbors are very welcoming and there are lots of banh mi sandwich stalls.

The other day we were walking around downtown Saigon and were asked by a local tv station if we would stop and read some English words for the camera. It was a tv show that teaches country children English. I read "the suitcase is over there." I guess the country children are taking a trip on a plane. So a little local tv fame to start off our year in Vietnam!

(May 2009 update: We are mini celebrities at our schools right now as our English segment aired and all of our students saw us on tv.)

December 3, 2008

Cambodia: LanguageCorps TESOL

The day I left Vietnam (Nov 21) until the day I arrived in Phnom Penh (Nov 22) I had been to three countries: Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia. Lots of traveling and little enjoyment doing so. I am finally in Cambodia were I get to unpack and stay in one place for at least two weeks.

Let me back up though and inform you all about Pattaya, in case you were wondering what the sex capital of Thailand is like. Neon lights, disgusting street dogs, crowds, 60+ year old white men with 15 year old Thai girls, and dancing girls. It's like a Thai version of Vegas. With a ping pong show under my belt I have seen Pattaya.

I arrived in Cambodia over a week ago to begin a four week TESOL training course. I am happy to back in Cambodia. The people are friendly and I love the country. The course is divided in half- two weeks in PP and then two week in your country of choice learning the local language and practicing teaching in front of a class. I went into this thinking I was going to teach in Thailand but I am slowly changing my mind and driving my teacher crazy. I can't choose a country- Cambodia one day and Vietnam the next.

I am living in The Villa which is the name of the five bedroom house that Zach, Kyle, Alex and myself live in (all Americans). It is very comfortable except for the scary barking dogs outside our gate. LanguageCorps also provided us with a tuk tuk driver as we live a good distance from the school. Our tuk tuk driver is the best and it has become a routine to stop for crab sticks on the way home at night.

{ Zach at a food stall in PP, Cambodia }
Last weekend we all took the bus to Siem Reap to visit Angkor Wat and Angkor What bar, second time around and still a great place:

{ Angkor What bar }

{ Angkor Wat- Zach, Kyle, my and Alex }
{ "one dollar, one dollar" }