[Re]wind Part IV: Two Days in Australia, Seven Days in Cambodia, and a Day in Vietnam

In this [Re]wind I will detail my last few days in Australia (the importance of rest days), how to hit the three largest cities in Cambodia in 7 days, a ridiculously embarrassing story, and my short stay in Vietnam.
July 14th

Left Cairns for Coolangatta, and it was an early morning!

Goodbye Cairns!

Goodbye Cairns!

The morning went smoothly, but I flew Jet Star for the first time and it was the only budget airline that actually cared how much my baggage weighed and it cost me. *womp womp*

In Coolangatta it took me quite a while to work out how to get to my hostel (I was walking) and I was hungry. Insert angry emoji here.
After arriving I schemed with the lady at reception how to get to a Starbucks Australia mug. I took my on-a-napkin style map and off I went! I found it pretty easily and ordered my Starbucks drink and Australia cup and was like vamos ala playa!

Gorgeous day on the beach!

Gorgeous day on the beach!

White sand beaches, ya'll.

White sand beaches, ya’ll.

I made the hour journey back to my hostel and went for a 20 minute run, then stretched and did laundry before eating dominoes for dinner. I charged my electronics and remembered that I was lactose intolerant (hi dominoes) and prepped for a good sleep.

July 15
One of the most important things I’ve found with crazy traveling is having rest days! So this was my go with the flow, rest day. I slept until 9, getting a solid 10 hours of sleep. Rolled out of bed and went for a run. Decided I would go to the city for a bit and grab lunch in town. Had the most delectable Mexican tacos and a delicious chai tea.

Are you drooling? I was drooling.

Are you drooling? I was drooling.

Then I went for a stroll.

IMG_5174

Pretty beaches!

IMG_5771

Sights!

That basically concluded my trip to Australia. Later that evening I jumped on a flight and headed to Cambodia.

July 16th
Finally arrived in Phnom Penh. Ran through the airport and got a visa for $30 and got through immigration in maybe 7 minutes total.
Happily reunited with Stacey and we immediately went to where she was living, at the Harpswell Foundation, and dropped off my bags. I met some of the students she mentors then we hopped in a tuk tuk and drove out to the Killing Fields.

The view from the back of our tuk tuk.

The view from the back of our tuk tuk.

The bracelets were a way to remember those who lost their lives in the genocide.

The bracelets were a way to remember those who lost their lives in the genocide.

This is a tree where children were killed in front of their mothers.

This is a tree where children were killed in front of their mothers.

Remnants of bones found during the excavation.

Remnants of bones found during the excavation.

SONY DSC
Pol Pot came to power in the 1970s and instructed the Khmer Rouge to perform mass genocide killing all intellectuals and teachers, women and children suspected of threatening the new regime. If one member of a family was suspected of something an entire family was killed totaling around 3 million.

After doing an audio tour that was very informative and deeply moving I caught a tuk tuk to the other side of town to meet up with a fellow Fulbrighter.

Indian noms.

Indian noms.

Great to meet up with a fellow Fulbright alumni abroad.

Great to meet up with a fellow Fulbright alumni abroad.

We ate at a fabulous Indian place called “Mount Everest” and chatted about the differences and similarities between Taiwan and Cambodia.

Then I went to Tosleng, the prison where the Khmer Rouge tortured unbelievable amounts of people who they claimed were in the CIA or threatening the new regime.

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

I researched this quite a bit in college in a class called War Crimes and Genocide. After studying it I felt a great need to visit. It was a chilling experience. .

 

SONY DSC

After wandering around for an hour or so I went to meet Stacey at Daughters. Daughters is an organization that works to teach girls viable ways to provide for themselves; they teach them to sew, how to waitress, how to make earrings, etc. I got a vanilla latte and we got cookie dough egg rolls which were pretty much the best thing I’ve ever eaten in my life.

LOOK AT THEM!

LOOK AT THEM! COOKIE DOUGH EGG ROLLS!

Then we went to a bar called the Riverhouse  for happy hour and I had a couple ginger mojito for a total of $5. It was glorious. We were looking across the Mekong River chatting and catching up as the sun went down.

View from where we went for drinks.

View from where we went for drinks.

Chilling on the river boat.

Then we decided we would take a ride down the Mekong River. We spent $5 and got a 45 minute ride.

Then we went to Friends, a Khmer-style tapas place, for dinner. Most of their proceeds go to help orphans and orphanages in sustainable ways. We had a green mango salad and some fish in banana leaves with amok sauce which was fabulous. This is when I realized that Khmer style food is maybe my favorite in the entire world.
Then we headed back to the hotel because I was going to go full zombie mode if I didn’t get to sleep.

July 17th
Woke up WIDE AWAKE ANNA-FROM-FROZEN-STYLE at 6 am due to jet lag so I skyped my family then Stacey and I caught our “Giant Ibis” bus to Sihanoukville. Sihanoukville is a beach town about 6 hours away from Phnom Penh. We hit the beach asap and settled in for some quality Vitamin D. There were people hawking bracelets and grilled squid along the boardwalk and after we sat down children and women kept coming to us to see if we would buy a bracelet or if we wanted a pedicure or manicure.
It felt very aggressive.
Anyway after a while we struck up a conversation with the people next to us and it turned out that one of the guys was going to dj at  at a bar later. We added that to our list of things to do. Walking around that day we received 6 flyers for free drinks at various bars.

We got some Mojitos on the beach!

Great view on the beach:)

We figured it would be a long night so we made sure to eat a great dinner. We went to Sandam, Friends’ sister restaurant and had delicious Khmer food. After stuffing our faces with noms we basically danced all night and had the best time.

June 18th
Woke up and struggled to the dock in time to get our “11” o’clock boat ride to Koh Rong. We actually didn’t leave until 12:30. I’ve never been so uncomfortable as watching people get onto that boat. It was a clear case of *OMG these are not safe boating practices* Stacey really wasn’t feeling well and we were kind of losing it b/c there was a storm about to blow through.

Would you want to be out on a boat in this sucker?

Would you want to be out on a boat in this sucker?

We finally set out and the ride there was ridiculous (terrifying) but we finally clambered off the boat and we were on Koh Rong! We found a bungalow for the night and took a nap.

After our little recharge we went on our “bioluminescent plankton” tour. We hopped on a small boat and headed out after the sunset to see this special phenomena. By wiggling around in the water the plankton lit up and it was magical.

Not my photo! But just to give you an idea....

Not my photo! But just to give you an idea….

We played for a while in the plankton then headed back to Koh Rong. We went to a local bar for dinner and I ordered Tom yam soup but ended up getting some really delicious red curry. I’ve never been so excited to get the wrong order. Then we went to a big party in the woods. We chatted with a whole bunch of people we had taken the boat over with and danced for a bit but then there was a huge tropical rainstorm so we went to bed.

July 19th
Woke up and grabbed crepes and smoothies for breakfast. #iloveasia

The view from our breakfast spot

The view from our breakfast spot

Life was pretty slow

Life was pretty charming

Made a friend!

Made a friend!

We hopped on the boat at 10:00 to go back to Sihanoukville and it was a much calmer boat ride than on the way to Koh Rong.

Goodbye Koh Rong!

Good-bye Koh Rong!

We got back and grabbed Khmer food lucnh. I got seafood amok and lime mint tea and died it was so tasty. Then we hopped on the bus!

When we finally made it Phnom Penh we scarfed down some food and we went to a massage place where they employ blind masseuses. For $7 we got a full body massage for an hour. It was heavenly and when it finished we were both so unbelievably out of it.

So we got a tuk tuk and headed to our hostel.  I decided to quickly write down a Khmer-English dictionary b/c I would be leaving Stacey the next day for Angkor Wat.


A Khmer-English Dictionary
Thank you- r kohn
How much- teh lai pawn man
One- moi
Two- bee
Three- bi
Four- boon
Five- prahm
Six- prahm moi
Ten-dahp
Check- kut loyi
Please- soum
Hello- so soum
Where is- (place) now ai Na
Help or police- Jew ay
Water-tuk
No- ah tei
Yes-ja
I don’t know- ak dang
Please- sum toe
Even having this limited vocabulary proved to be so useful!


I needed to pack for the next day and get ready to sleep but I literally couldn’t do anything I was so tired.

Right?

Right?

Finally I was able to get my stuff together, shower, and I was in bed by 11.

July 20th
Hopped on my Giant Ibis bus to head to Siem Riep.

One of the many gorgeous fields on the way to Siem Riep.

One of the many gorgeous fields on the way to Siem Riep.

I sat next to a really cool Australian woman named Julia and we talked for like 3 hours and had lunch together.

This was at our lunch place. I thought it was so stunning.

This was at our lunch place. I thought it was so stunning.

Loved this.

Loved this.

After lunch I ended up passing out for a while and we got to Siem Riep at 3:30.
My hotel was legit 2 minutes from the bus place so I was able to check in, buy a couple pair of elephant pants ,and get to Angkor Wat by 4:45. Ideally, I wanted to get to Phnom Bahkeng to see the sunset so I hustled into Angkor Wat, and then practically ran up a giant hill to the line and I just nervously waited. I barely made the cut for those who got to go in but it was worth it. It was gorgeous.

On top of the wat.

On top of the wat.

Waiting impatiently at the bottom of the temple.

Waiting impatiently at the bottom of the temple.

Gorgeous views with a rain rolling in.

Gorgeous views with a rain rolling in.

So happy to finally have made it to Angkor Wat!

So happy to finally have made it to Angkor Wat!

I stayed up there until 6:30 when they told us there wouldn’t really be a sunset due to the clouds.

Anyway I made it back to my driver, this cool guy named Tola, and headed back to the hotel. He kept asking if I wanted to see a show or go to town but I was like, nah I want to sleep.
I got back and ordered red curry, which was of course delicious, and skyped Tori for like an hour. Then I slowwwwwly got ready for the next day. I swear it has never taken me this long to do something productive.
Anyway, I was in bed reading by 10:30, but def didn’t fall asleep until nearly midnight. Someone was ktv’ing down the way and he was ktv’ing all night like his life depended on it.

July 21
Today was technically my last full day of travel insurance which was good because my tuk tuk driver had offered to take me on a motorcylce instead of a tuk tuk so I could go to a couple extra temples. I said yes. I wasn’t even thinking about risks or danger b/c for 12 usd it seemed like such a good move. So when he picked me up at 4:45 am to see the sunrise at Angkor Wat I hopped on his Moto, half asleep, and away we went. I got to Angkor Wat right before everyone else and scored a seat right on the water.

The people I sat among for the sunrise.

The people I sat among for the sunrise.

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

After taking probably 100 photos I decided to get some different shots and get into the actual temple before everyone else did.

I got to the back of the complex and saw a set of stairs to the area that was only open from 7:304:30, but a guy was trying to get people to go up for $5….This is the place to go in Angkor Wat, because you get the best views. So of course I doled out my dolla bills.

View from the $5 experience.

View for $5.

It was stunning.

It was stunning.

A russian couple ended up taking this photo for me.

A Russian couple ended up taking this photo for me because were the only people at the top!

Then I made my way out of Angkor wat, found my driver and we started the long haul to Bantaey Srei, or the women’s temple. This place was gorgeous. I spent about half an hour picking around taking photos and soaking in the warmth of the sun. At one point I bent down to take a photo and thought I felt a rip, but I will get to that later.

The details at this temple were exquisite.

The details at this temple were exquisite.

Gorgeous.

Gorgeous.

Look at the DETAIL!

Look at the DETAIL!

This may or may not be the exact photo when I thought I heard a rip.

This may or may not be the exact photo when I thought I heard a rip.

I made my way back to my driver and we sped back towards the other temples, the next one I went to was the one in the movie Tomb Raiders. It was really neat.
SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

I walked past a group of Asian tourists and almost immediately recognized their Taiwanese “ness” and accent. I asked where they were from and we chatted and took a group photo. So hilariously random and wonderful.

I exited the tomb raider temple and waded through tuk tuks trying to find my driver.


a funny story…
I noticed as I found Tola that the drivers he was sitting around were watching me. Not in a creepy way, but in a something-is-wrong-with-you way. So Tola came over and got on his bike and then a Khmer man came over a few feet away from us and was looking at me with some serious side-eye. I asked my driver what he was saying about me and I thought Tola said something about me being tan.  So I good-naturedly said “yah, lots of Americans like to be tan.” Tola corrected me and told me something was wrong with my pants. By that time I had gotten on the bike and had a sinking feeling. Low and behold my elephant pants were completely ripped open at the crotch so who knows what kind of show I gave the tuk tuk drivers while boarding Tola’s moto. #whoops So hilarious and so embarrassing. Then I found myself paying $7 for large flowy elephant pants. Ain’t nobody got time for my pants to rip again.


Anyway then I went to Bayon temple, which was the centre of the ancient city, and is known for the well preserved faces throughout the temple.

SONY DSC

Notice the new flowy pants.

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

Last temple:(

I got back to my hotel and showered, checked out, grabbed lunch from the restaurant, and headed to Giant Ibis for my 7 hour drive back.
Later I met up with Stacey and we had a really laid back evening, getting to bed for some good sleep.

July 22
Stacey and I slept until like 9:30 and got up, had free coffee at the hostel, and headed out for the day. We tried to find bubble tea, but failed, and ended up just going to Daughters for brunch. I was starving so I got pumpkin soup and fancy vege feta salad.

After stuffing ourselves we walked down the block to the fanciest spa I have ever been to. I got a Swedish massage with lemongrass oil and Stacey got the same but with eucalyptus oil. It was incredible.

Then we stopped by outside the royal palace and took a few photos.

Royal Palace Selfie!

Royal Palace Selfie!

Afterwards, we went upstairs and got smoothies and cookie dough egg rolls. We spent the rest of the afternoon shopping and then it was time to go. We got a tuk tuk for $7 and dropped Stacey off close to her place. It was so hard to say goodbye but I was so happy to have spent time with her. Then I was at the airport and waiting to head off to Hanoi.

The person who checked me in was so kind and gave me a seat on the exit aisle. I sat next to a really cool guy from Thailand who writes tour guide books for a living. We chatted literally the entire flight. A woman I had seen while Stacey and I were getting pedicures was also on my flight and we decided we would split a cab when we got to Hanoi b/c we were both staying in the same area.

So after getting my $45 visa in Vietnam around 9 pm we hopped in a cab and headed towards old quarter. Then the sketchiest thing happened. I had said “meter” to the taxi man who was driving us and he had nodded his head and turned it on but after we had driven for 5 minutes he slowed WAY down on the highway and tried to say $25 USD for the trip. I had read online that it should be $15 and wasn’t having it.  He literally called an english speaking friend to talk to me. After arguing with him for 5 minutes I was like, whatever, we will pay $25. Then the cab driver had the audacity to stop and get gas in the middle of our ride. I literally could have  hit someone (mostly b/c I was so tired). Anyway, I made it to my hotel and checked in, took a bath and went to bed.

July 23
Woke up at 8 am and snoozed a bit before actually getting out of bed. Grabbed breakfast at my hotel, Amanda Hanoi Hotel, and then headed out to see the things on my to do list. I wanted to see: Hoan Kiem Lake, the Opera House, an old gate, and Starbucks to get a Vietnam Starbucks cup.
Gorgeous red bridge at the lake in the middle of Old Quarter

Gorgeous red bridge at Hoan Kiem Lake in the middle of Old Quarter

I really find this plant to be so gorgeous

I really find this plant to be so gorgeous

The streets in Vietnam are crazy, even to someone who is living in Asia. Always have to have your wits about you!

The streets in Vietnam are crazy, even to someone who is living in Asia. Always have to have your wits about you!

The opera house!

The opera house!

Views around the lake!

Views around the lake!

the entrance to a gorgeous temple

the entrance to a gorgeous temple

It was a lovely morning.  I ended up eating lunch at the hotel- a Vietnamese chicken curry with coconut sauce. It was delicious. Then I went to a spa down the street, got an hour long Vietnamese massage,and got a manicure. The Vietnamese massage was good, and had moments that felt like it was Swedish, and moments like it was Thai.

Then I scurried to my hotel, jumped in my cab and headed to the airport. I got to the airport VERY early, and eventually found out the plane was delayed. I was totally out of it and ended up taking a cat nap on some chairs. Eventually we boarded the plane but I was honestly in a very grumpy mood.


a “first” in language practice

Eventually the guy sitting next to me was trying to communicate something, but I realized he was Vietnamese and spoke no English, but could speak Chinese. He was the first person I spoke Chinese to that didn’t know any English. Super interesting.


We finally made it to Taipei and I flew through the airport, got on the shuttle to the HSR, then got to Taipei around 11:30. I took a cab to Ounce and met my grand little, Mary for drinks. We chatted for an hour and half or so and got back to her place around 2. Then I showered and slept like a baby.
July 24th
We woke up around 10 and I was definitely in a trance. I said goodbye to Mary and struggle bussed to the Fulbright office, but not before getting one last bubble Tea.  I rearranged my bags and got my stuff together to get my cab and get to the aiport. I told the guy I was checking in with that I was claustrophobic (because I basically was after all those flights) and got an exit row seat.

Then I was able to charge my electronics and grab ibuprofen before boarding the plan.

12.5 hours later I landed in L.A., half asleep and ecstatic to be in the U.S., and about 6 hours later I was home!


So ends my 3 week journey across several continents and countries. I’ve never “lived” so much in such a little time. I’ve told my parents, I need to re-work my bucketlist b/c I crossed so many things off in SouthEast Asia. I would highly recommend traveling to these countries. They were so hospitable and accessible even to someone without the language skills. Never be afraid to go somewhere new and get outside your comfort zone. You will surely be rewarded!

So long south east Asia! It's been a pleasure!

So long south east Asia! It’s been a pleasure!

[Re]wind Part III: Australia

Hey ya’ll!
This is a snapshot of 6 days in Cairns and Melbourne of my 3 week vacation through Australia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Cambodia. In this blog you can read about a great place to interact with wildlife outside of Melbourne, some highlights from the city of Melbourne, Great Barrier Reef “do’s and don’ts”, thoughts on hot air ballooning, and photos of some gorgeous waterfalls near Cairns. 


 

July 8th
Woke up on the struggle bus this morning.

Felt like this.

Felt like this.

Laura and I hit the road heading towards the Ballarat Wildlife Park, which is about an hour away from Geelong. We stopped at Pancake Kitchen for a delicious breakfast and then went to the park. We got there super early and there weren’t too many people around. It was cold but bearable and it was about $20 to get in.
First we looked at the crocodiles and alligators, the snakes and then the koala’s.

Look at the sleepy Koala! Fun fact: Koala's sleep most of the day and only spend 4 minutes a day moving!

Look at the sleepy Koala! Fun fact: Koala’s sleep most of the day and only spend 4 minutes a day moving!

Then it’s like we turned a corner and we saw KANGAS. Tons and tons of KANGAS.

SONY DSC

Kangaroo Kisses

Got a new BF :)

Got a new BF 🙂

Mamma Kanga soaking up the sun! Notice the joey!

Mamma Kanga soaking up the sun! Notice the joey!

We got to feed them, sit by them, pet them, sort of cuddle them. It was awesome. I probably took 300 photos that day.

After getting “kanga’ed” out, Laura and I went to the little cafe and I got a chai tea and a meat pie to refuel. Afterwards we went to a reptile show where the trainers talked about snakes and how to interact with them (or how not to), what to do if you get bitten, and expelled some myths. I also yolo’ed and petted a python. Then we went to the koala show and I got to pet a koala!

IMG_4980

Trying to balance petting the Koala while holding a gopro was rough.

Later we went to the “Mississippi Alligators” show and watched the snake trainers feed the alligators.

DANGER DANGER DANGER

DANGER DANGER DANGER

Then we chilled with a few more KANGAS, and headed out.

Just chilling.

Just chilling.

Laura drove us home and I passed out for about 30 minutes.
Then she showed me her work and we grabbed dinner on the way to her volleyball match. During the match I just chatted with  her bf Brenton. Then we headed home, I packed, showered, and painted my toenails, getting ready for my last day in Melbourne.

July 9th
Laura and I took an hour and a half train to Melbourne at 9:30 and happily chatted the whole way. We got off the train, put my luggage in a locker for $14 for the day, and started walking for Chinatown. On the way we saw an H&M. Since I hadn’t been in one in a year we ran in and we were both so overwhelmed it was hilarious.

H & M was super overwhelming, but I loved the architecture and what it looked like on the outside- and the contrast between the buildings!

H & M was super overwhelming, but I loved the  the contrast between the buildings!

I took photos and we bopped around until we ran into a Shanghai style Chinese place. I basically was like: this is where we are eating. I ordered us pork xiaolongbao and crab/pork xiaolongbao, in addition to 3 sesame red bean buns.

Little snapshot of Chinatown:)

Little snapshot of Chinatown:)

After demolishing that, we wondered around Chinatown, hit up a Uniqlo, a T2, which was heaven and then went to Victoria’s Market.

Victoria's Market was gorgeous. I love seeing markets across the world and observing the similarities and differences.

Victoria’s Market was gorgeous. I love seeing markets across the world and observing the similarities and differences.

I was able to get a banana, an orange and a tomato for dinner for 70 cents. I also got an awesome indigenous piece of art for $10.Then the market was closing so we just meandered back through Melbourne. We stopped at a great book shop, and I checked out the Starbucks Australia mug.Then we caught a tram to the train station and I said goodbye to Laura, then jumped on the sky bus ($18) to the airport.

Flying to Cairns was pretty uneventful. I sat next to a really nice local who gave me some advice on things to do/places to see. I got into Cairns and caught the shuttle bus into town for $16, and ended up passing out before midnight.

July 10th
I woke up at 9 to run. It was overcast and raining so that was kind of a bummer.
However, the weather kind of aligned perfectly with my plans because I had booked a Koala cuddling time at Wildlife Zoom, a huge dome on top of a casino that was like a mini zoo. I took a selfie with a wallaby and got a few good bird photos.

This is Nellie, the Koala I got to cuddle:)

This is Nellie, the Koala I got to cuddle:)

This is the wallaby that I snagged a quick photo of before he ESCAPED into another enclosure. This spurred the entire staff looking for the wallaby. You'd think maybe it wouldn't have been a big deal, but there was a 12 foot crocodile not so far away.

This is the wallaby that I snagged a quick photo of before he ESCAPED into another enclosure. This spurred the entire staff looking for the wallaby. You’d think maybe it wouldn’t have been a big deal, but there was a 12 foot crocodile not so far away.

By the time I left Wildlife Zoom and planned to return to the hostel the sun was out and I noticed there was a big festival going on. It turned out to be for the indigenous people of Australia. I picked up a map of Australia and learned a little, wondering around  and then decided I was starving. I grabbed a sandwich then went back to the hostel to nap and then I wondered around the esplanade’s lagoon and read.

The super intagrammable photo of the Esplanade.

The super intagrammable photo of the Esplanade Lagoon.

I napped for a really long time and enjoyed my suit mates goofing around and then eventually went out to a grocery store to grab some fruits and veggies for dinner.
I went back to the hostel and hung out with some people in the hostel who were so kind and gave me some wine. Thennn I decided to go out so I grabbed my roommate Romaine and we headed to Woolshed. I had passes to get In for free, and a pass for 5 free drinks. So I had a jolly good time and paid for nothing.
Around 12:30 I headed back to my hostel and passed out!

Saturday 11th
Woke up at 6:45 am to go to the Great Barrier Reef! Walked to the pier and boarded the ship. I had initially intended to do a scuba dive, as it was included with the $$, but as I filled out the medical form and checked the box  for asthma, I wondered if that would be a problem. It was.
No scuba for me! So I snorkeled instead.

heading out to sea!

heading out to sea!

gorgeous view!

gorgeous view!

The boat headed out and when we got to the reef it looked unimpressive from the boat. But then we got in the water and it was amazing.

Just keep swimming!

Just keep swimming!

Loved the pink coral there

Loved the pink coral there

Not so shabby

Not so shabby

We snorkeled for a few hours and then it was time for us to head to another location. I hadn’t even heard the call to come in for lunch I was so engrossed in the reef. But I hopped aboard and had some tasty chicken and a salad and went up on deck to look around while we waited for our next swim location. I enjoyed the second section particularly, and even shed my bodysuit for my swimsuit halfway through. It was funny going from a place where I was signing paperwork saying I wouldn’t sue them (because of breathing problems) to swimming alone on the Great Barrier Reef in nothing but my red bikini and some flippers.DCIM100GOPRO

DCIM100GOPRO

 


Great Barrier Reef Do’s:
-Do research the company you are going with before hand
-Do check your medical status to see if you are eligible to dive (this could have saved me about $75 usd) and get medical clearance if you need it
-Do wear/reapply sunscreen
-Do know your limits- how long you can swim/how much energy you have. I felt fine while I snorkeled for 6 hours but could hardly move the next day.
-Do pay attention to where your boat is. When lunchtime came I didn’t even hear them call the group for lunch. If I didn’t notice that it seemed like everyone had gone in, I would have been in a precarious situation.
-Do bring the iphone bag protecter/invest in the underwater camera. I got a GoPro for this vacation specifically so I would have it for the Great Barrier Reef and I don’t regret spend that $129 dollars for a second.

Great Barrier Reef Don’ts:
-Don’t touch the freaking coral. You will 1) probably get an infection 2) damage the reef
-Don’t be afraid of sharks- the sharks that are there aren’t even remotely interested in you.
-Don’t have set expectations on what will make the day a success. For example, I love turtles but I told myself even if I didn’t see a turtle that would be okay.


July 12th
Woke up at 3:45 AM to catch my 4:15 AM bus. Was not a real person.

Felt a lot like this little guy.

Felt a lot like this little guy.

We got to where the balloons were getting ready to take off and our driver told us we could get out to take photos if we wanted but we then we would load up and “chase our balloon”. …none of us really knew what that meant.

Watching the balloons get ready to take off!

Watching the balloons get ready to take off!

And off they went!

And off they went!

It was magical. Then we hopped in the van and chased our balloon for 30 minutes, until it was our time.  In order to keep the balloon down, they had to keep the equivalent amount of weight inside of it. So one person that was in the basket would get out, then one from our group would get in. I was the first. 🙂

I was freaking out!

I was freaking out!

I was a little tense as the balloon took off but then it was a little like paragliding. It wasn’t scary and felt very chill. I used to say  I was afraid of heights, but I realize I’m actually just afraid of falling and because the basket was so secure, I wasn’t really concerned. We even rose up to about 4000 feet above sea level and got up to 25 km/hour and I wasn’t scared!.
It was gorgeous.

view from above!

view from above!

we got up to 4000 feet above sea level.

we got up to 4000 feet above sea level.

the other balloon companies!

the other balloon companies!

Then we eventually landed the balloon and helped to roll up the balloon and pack it up.

SONY DSC

Post-air ballooning.

Then we helped get the basket onto a truck, and went back to cairns. I got back to my hostel and slept until 12.

Then I dragged myself out of bed, got a salad with salmon at an Italian place, then some froyo and went to the lagoon to read. I finished a few books I had been reading and grabbed a chai tea with ice cream in it and enjoyed the afternoon at the lagoon.
At 5 I went for a run, then decided I would make some noms and took it easy at the hotel making it an earlyish night getting ready for the next day.

July 13th
Got up at 7 and was out by 7:25 to meet my 7:30 bus for my Barefoot tour. This was probably my favorite tour of my entire 3 weeks of traveling. It focused on spending a good amount of time at each location, not just taking 5 photos and rushing to the next location. Throughout the day we went to a volcanic lake, walked through the rainforest, went to a crater lake and we went to some incredible waterfalls.

The volcanic lake!

The volcanic lake!

My new friend, the scrub python.

My new friend, the scrub python.

The party bus

The party bus

Wildlife is everywhere!

Wildlife is everywhere!

These are the waterfalls I jumped into and thought I was going to freeze to death.

These are the waterfalls I jumped into and thought I was going to freeze to death.

I jumped into the water in the photo just above and damn near thought I was going to die b/c it was so cold. There was a section on the left where you could dive underneath and go into a cave behind the waterfall. I tried like 3 times but just couldn’t make it through. I gave up and laid out a bit. Then we moved on to a beautiful spot for lunch. I literally ate my lunch in my bikini looking at the most beautiful view of Atherton.

Gorgeous views!

Gorgeous views!

Next we hopped in the van and headed to Milla Milla where we could swim behind the waterfall which was amazing.

Milla Milla falls

Milla Milla falls

We saw the place where colonists used to send lumber down to the cities, and then we headed to Jospehine Falls where you can literally slide down waterfalls.

These are the waterfalls you can slide down!

These are the waterfalls you can slide down!

Then we had tea and cookies to warm ourselves back up and went back to town.
Again, I really enjoyed this tour. The tour guide did a great job building rapport with us, and helping to make it feel like you were on a tour with 20 new friends, instead of maybe by yourself. After the tour ended he gave us a meal coupon for a place for dinner and told us about a cheap place to go to meet up later and told us to all go out. Facilitating that made us all want to do it, so later that night..

We all met up for drinks and had a great time.

We all met up for drinks and had a great time.

It was a great way to wrap up my time in Cairns and I don’t think I would have planned it any differently.

Next up in [Re]wind I will chat about the importance of slowing down for a couple days, and talk about all the shenanigans I got into in Cambodia. Stay tuned for great places to eat on Phnom Penh, advice for exploring Angkor Wat, and ridiculous stories about Sihanoukville. 

[Re]wind Part II featuring: Australia, the first four days.

In this [Re]wind you can learn about Australian football, the Great Ocean Road, a little about Australian Aboriginals, Phillip Island, and learn some Australian lingo. 

July 3rd
On the plane to Australia was not feeling great and my throat hurt. Voice was so low it sounded like I was trying to seduce everyone.

July 4th
My flight landed around 7 am in Coolangatta. I slept decently well on the plane and felt relatively human.  I was in a line that looked like it would take 3 years to get through but I was on my phone (dumb) and a security woman told me to stop, then realized I was American and put me in a different line that was much shorter (privileges of being a white blondish woman). I got out of immigration and had a delicious apple cinnamon muffin (!!!) and vanilla latte. I talked to an older couple from Tanzania who were super friendly, and gently corrected my pronunciation of “Cairns” (it should be pronounced like the word cans).

Anyway, went to check in for my flight and they put me in the exit aisle for free …weighed my bag and it was a kilogram over but they said it was fine (shoutout to Tiger Air).
I got some fruit and Gatorade (first time in a year)!!! And eventually boarded my flight which I basically slept through.

Got off the flight in Melbourne and it was frigid.  I thought I was going to die. I happily found Laura and her boyfriend Brenton and we immediately headed to her car (where I put on a million layers). Then we drove into Melbourne to attend a Footy game!

The drive into town was really beautiful and very overcast. Lots of cool buildings and architecture. We headed straight to the section of town with the footy field, and where the tennis open is! Walking into the stadium felt like I was walking into the Royal’s stadium, loud, and the excitement was contagious.

Footy is a game that seems like a mix of soccer, handball, and football. Really really physical and  really engaging. Watch and compare American football to Australian football here.

We watched a quarter (we missed the first quarter b/c of my flight) and then towards the end of halftime Brenton and Laura treated me to an Australian beer and a meat pie.

Meat pie!

My first meat pie!

We stayed until the end and then headed to Laura’s place.
We dropped off my stuff and headed to dinner at a local bar/restaurant. I tried an Australian dish called the Chicken Parmi which was basically chicken baked with ham, cheese and red sauce. It was delicious and it was hilarious b/c the portions were so large. The meal cost me the equivalent of $10 USD.
We stayed and chatted about everything from the weather to why Britain’s queen was on Australia’s money.


A quick Australian English-American English Dictionary:

Sook- crybaby
Bogan- redneck
Struth- it actually happen or “for real”
Jumper- hoodie or overcoat
Eftplus- credit card
Doona- comforter
Stubby- bottle of alcohol
Maccca’s- mc’d
Brekki- breakfast
Tossers- hooligan
Notes-bills
Lemonade- sprite
It was very ironic to me to get to Australia, an English speaking country, and not understand what was going on. Hence, the dictionary.


July 5th
Pulling a move akin to a teenager, I slept until 12.
I jumped in the car to head to Phillips Island with Laura and her boyfriend. It took about 3 hours to get there. It’s famous for the seals and penguins that live in the area. First we stopped at a spot where you can occasionally see seals. We didn’t end up seeing any, but it was gorgeous.

FullSizeRender (2)

Showstopping!

 

While I didn’t see a seal, I did see a wallaby!

But I saw a wallaby!

They are loosely related to the kangaroo.

We ended up seeing several wallabies which apparently doesn’t happen that often.
Then we headed towards the Penguin Parade. Phillip Island is home to thousands of penguins, who are about 1 foot tall. We headed in and bought tickets, bundled up and went out to the beach to wait for the penguins. Apparently the penguins can go out for weeks at a time, and they come back when they are full and return to their nests. They don’t come back until the sun goes down, however, to avoid predators.
So we sat shivering in the seats until sundown and watched as probably 100 penguins came ashore. It was incredible. Then we walked on these gangplanks and watched them get into their burrows. They supposedly make a sound like ducks quacking but actually sounded more like cicadas to me.

FullSizeRender (3)

You technically can’t take photos of them b/c the flash makes them sick. So this is the organization’s photo, not mine. But look how cute they are!

It was beautiful, and freezing. By the time we worked our way to the building I couldn’t feel my toes.
After a quick dinner at subway, we grabbed some Tim Tams and Wagon wheels (incredible Aussie chocolate) and hit the road to get home by 11.

July 6th
Woke up at 8 and had a quick banana/ oatmeal for breakfast and then walked River, Laura’s dog.  We walked along Geelong’s esplanade, which was gorgeous.

After walking for an hour we dropped River off at home and headed back out to see Geelong (pronounced Ja long). We grabbed a quick mexican lunch and then went to an Aboriginal culture center, Narana. It had many exhibits and art. We ended up learning how to make Kanga Bolognase which actually tasted pretty good.
FullSizeRender (4)

You can call me “Chef Banks”

Australian aboriginals primarily live in the north and are generally underprivileged.The 1970s had the “Stolen Generation” where aboriginal children were plucked from their homes and placed in Western Christian homes (akin to what happened in the U.S. and Canada). Crazy. You can learn more about that here and here.
We walked around the gardens at Narana and saw mama and baby emus, which were terrifying but cool.

cute and terrifying

Cute and terrifying.

Also tried my hand at throwing a boomerang (I’m not good).
Then we went to Laura’s university called Deakin. It was a really cool campus and we visited the library and grabbed a cup of coffee. I ALSO GOT TO TRY TO DRIVE HER CAR! Australian’s drive on the opposite side of the road so it was an interesting experience for sure.
We had a relaxing afternoon and then I met up with a friend from middle school for dinner.
July 7th
Big day. Had an early morning b/c Laura and I were driving down the Great Ocean Road.

We got started with a quick drive to the supermarket. I picked up greek yogurt! strawberries! popcorn! and almonds, in addition to a few pieces of fruit in order to have “supplies” for the day. I know, a frivolous detail, but I’ve been living someplace where that doesn’t exist!
The Great Ocean Road is a highway built a long time ago along the edge of a series of cliffs  with some of the most amazing views I have ever seen. On the way we took a million photos, and even drove by some kangaroos jumping through neighborhoods.
so many scenic spots

So many scenic spots!

SONY DSC

At a certain point we were going to turn off onto a special road in order to try and spot some wild koala’s. Before we could get to the koala’s, however, there were a whole bunch of tourists standing around some trees looking at what turned out to be some special parrots. We went to check it out and some Australians gave me sunflower seeds and told me the birds would fly to me if I held out my hands.

FullSizeRender (5)

I did what I was told and IMMEDIATELY a bird flew to my hand. Seconds later, a bird flew and just chilled on my head. I was, to say the least, freaking out.

 Anyway, after having our fill of the birds, we went up this winding road full of eucalyptus trees (what koala’s eat) and looked to see if we could find any wild koalas. Luckily we saw quite a few.
Can you spot the wild Koala?

Can you spot the wild Koala?

Then we kept driving. Eventually we saw the 12 Apostles and the Loch Ard Gorge. All of these were beyond beautiful and I loved it.

12 Apostles

12 Apostles

Lock Art Gorg

Loch Ard Gorg

Not shabby?

Not shabby!

Then Laura drove us back to Geelong where we basically turned in for the night.
So here’s the deal. Great Ocean Road? Breathtaking. Also? Exhausting.
Wild animal count today: 3 koalas, 2 kangaroos, a wallaby, several Australian parrots and something that looked like a mole-rat!
Coming up next: [re]wind on Australia: a wildlife sanctuary, downtown Melbourne, the Great Barrier Reef, hot air ballooning in the Atherton Tablelands, and some traipsing around the jungle. 

[Re]wind Part 1: featuring Taiwan & Malaysia

Throughout my travels in the past couple months I kept a daily journal just recalling what happened/what I learned. Maybe it will help you plan a trip somewhere. Maybe you will learn something from what I learned.
Here is my [re]wind..

July 2nd
Woke up and ran to elephant mountain. After asking questions from many sweet Taiwanese people I finally found the trail. I started off fairly ambitious but ended up walking up most of it because, true to Taiwanese fashion, the entire “hike” was steps. Steps aside, it was so peaceful, no one was on the trail. I got to the top and though perhaps it was a bit anticlimactic it did have a nice view of Taipei and Taipei 101.

FullSizeRender (1)
After snapping some pics and exploring the top of the mountain a bit I scurried back down the mountain and to the hotel where I got my stuff ready to take to the Fulbright office.
I dropped off my luggage and made my way back towards one of my favorite places for lunch. I headed to the MRT confident that I would get there soon (I was starving). However there was a bit of a mix up on the mrt and I ended up going in the wrong direction. Then, in one of the mrt train stations I shouldn’t have been in, the fire alarms went off so ALL the escalators stopped working. This was horrific b/c there were 3 long, steep escalators I needed to climb. Needless to say I was very tired by the end of the day.
Anyway finally got to Burger and Co and collapsed on their table and ordered noms.
After I went to a tea house where I drank delicious green tea and killed time untill I hopped on a bus for the airport. I decided to get there early to eat with Julianna and Chris and to chill out before flying forever. I did a lot of reading, and met an American pilot currently from L.A. and originally from Argentina. I ended up asking him about the budget airlines I was taking and he said that I would be fine.  (Made me feel better about everything lolol..)
Eventually Chris and Julianna got to the airport and we had noms and talked about life and how to fit Chris’s painting onto his intl flight. I asked a man at a neighboring table to take our photo and then I said goodbye to Chris to go check in for my flight and get through security.

It was really simple and although my bag was over a kilogram overweight they let me sail through. I made it nearly to my gate and charged my phone outside a book store, waiting for Julianna to come through.


But then something dramatic happened.
I had planned to say goodbye to Julianna after she got through security but she texted me and said that they weren’t going to let her check in until 10 minutes before I was supposed to leave. Of course I then elected to do my best to get back through security to see her.
I was exhausted and also super sad at the thought of not getting to say goodbye so by the time I got to the first immigration desk I was already crying. Through only slightly dramatic sobs I asked if I could go back through security to say goodbye to a friend.
The very kind man said this wasn’t normally done but he made a few calls and low and behold 5 minutes later I was grasping my phone and backpack crying as I followed this man back through a huge security line.
I had to call her to get her to the right spot and of course by then I was sobbing. We hugged goodbye and then after the most dramatic goodbye of all time I got back in the security line and cried my way back to the man at immigration who gave me my passport and boarding pass and I returned to my charging station.
End dramatic story.


As I was settling in another girl asked if she could also charge her phone there. Turns out we have a friend in common. After walking to the gate together (we were taking the same flight) it turned out that Julianna made it to my gate and we said goodbye again, this time without so many dramatics.
I boarded the plane and slept most of my 4 hour flight to Kuala Lumpur.

July 3rd
De boarded the plane and like a robot I marched through customs and immigration (sort of a joke), changed for the day, reallocated things in my bags, and then stored my backpack in a luggage storage area.
Then I headed out to the KLIA express train and made it to the city before 6 am. I got to KL central right when everyone and their mother was going to work. I was really overwhelmed in a “I‘ve never seen this many different kind of southeast Asians in such a small place before” kind of wayDespite the throngs of people, it was rather efficient and I made it through in good time.
The trains were super cheap and easy to navigate and before I knew it I was standing in front of the towers.

Petronus Towers!

Petronus Towers!

I eventually made my way inside and found where you line up and check in to go to the top of the towers, but it wasn’t even 8:30 am yet, so it wasn’t opened.

Anyway we finally went up and it was actually pretty cool. First there was a skywalk on floor 42 or something like that and it felt pretty damn high. Then we went up to floor 8…80 something and it was a phenomenal view. There was lots of interesting fun facts and great views of the city.

Skywalk!

Skywalk!

Kuala Lumpur was really interesting. It seemed so developed and had such accessible infrastructure.

Kuala Lumpur was really interesting. It seemed so developed and had such accessible infrastructure.

After descending from the towers I mailed a quick post card and started to make my way towards the National Mosque. My friend had suggested it and after a little research I realized I really wanted to go. I made it over there in time to realize it would be closed for the next three hours to non-Muslims.
But it worked out okay because it was right around then (noon) that I realized I was very dehydrated and also starving. So I went to this little canteen 5 minutes from the mosque and had pattayya fried rice with a mango smoothie. It was pretty good but it’s also possible that I was mostly just starving.
Then,  I went to the Islamic Arts museum. There were lots of old relics, swords, and photos.

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

The museum also outlined how Islam spread and where it is today. It was really interesting and I really appreciated learning some new things. Honestly though, I was so tired after a while I couldn’t read anything so I just walked around and appreciated the ambiance.

Eventually I was like, gotta sit, gotta sit. So I ordered a green tea and sipped on that for half an hour until I felt inclined to make moves.


A funny story..
Before leaving the museum I went to the bathroom. I was so tired (running off 3 hours of sleep) I fell asleep on the toilet.


After waking up from my nap on the toilet I decided to start back towards the mosque, but it was only a 3 minute walk and it wasn’t open to non Muslims yet, so I basically went to a pagoda in front of it and slept for 25 minutes. In public.

Anyway, I woke back up and ambled over to where I was  “robed.” I was given a purple robe to wear to be respectful of the religion/mosque.
I stepped into the mosque and took a thousand photos.

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

Me in the robe

After about 40 minutes I decided it was time to head to the airport.
So, I hopped on the subway, then got on the KLIA express train, then grabbed my bag, bought a “Malaysia” Starbucks cup, and then SHOWERED and grabbed dinner.
After lining up to check in I was urgently reminded that I was supposed to apply for a visa to Australia, so I quickly filled out the form online and charged my cc with $20 aud to make it happen. After getting through the gates I struggle bussed through the airport and then prepped for my 9 hour flight to the Gold Coast.
Here’s to sleeping pills, neck pillows, and eye masks.


Thoughts on/learned while in Malaysia:
-On escalators, If you don’t want to walk up you stand on the left not the right.
– Traffic is also opposite switched! Crazy!
– Never seen so many shades of skin tones. It was beautiful and a little overwhelming after Taiwan
– While having many many train lines that took me a hot minute to figure out, I felt it was one of the easiest cities to navigate thus far in Asia
– Sometimes I think I can most easily see the privileges afforded to me as a white pretty American woman when I fly


 

Soon in [Re]wind…my adventures in Australia!

Conversations With Entertaining Europeans/People that Are Not American in Australia & Cambodia

Funny conversations/happenings with mostly Europeans
– In Australia I had a roommate in my hostel who was from Switzerland. He was rad, and we had several really engaging intellectual conversations AND we had lots of fun gallivanting around Cairns but he couldn’t seem to understand that Taiwanese people were/can be ethnically different from Chinese people (or that Taiwan is separate from China). He was like, “Taiwan started existing 59 years ago, how could they be ethnically different?” I tried to explain that there have been various ethnicities inhabiting Taiwan who mixed with the Chinese so it could be argued that they are no longer really Chinese. It was interesting engaging in a conversation with someone who hadn’t necessarily studied Asian studies but was still very intelligent.

-Had an entertaining conversation with my Swiss and British roommates at my hole-in-the-wall hostel about phrases Americans say. Then they were saying it in their accents. For example: *imagine deep British accent* “Oh my goddddd“… “like totallllly.”

-I had another British roommate. He was in Australia on a working holiday. He talked about how in his first few days in Sydney he bought a I 💗Sydney t-shirt. We were laughing at the touristy-nature of it all and then proceeded to show me some British guys that went to LA and bought American shorts, shirts, and sunglasses and wore them out to “engage with the locals” and it was just the hardest I’ve laughed in a long time. Go watch it now. Excuse the language in it though.

-Met some really cool Irish/English people on my Barefoot tour (Which, by the way, was one of my favorite activities throughout my entire trip, I highly recommend it. My featured image is from one of the waterfalls..) and we met up for drinks later. We went to a place called Salt House on a Monday and they had a $4 drink special.
Anyway, we got drinks and headed to an area we could sit down and chat at.

We literally sat at those red seats on the end.

We literally sat at those red seats on the corner.

Notice how the area around the seats looks like clear glass floor? While we were walking one of the guys tried to take a shortcut through that “walkway” but it turned out to be a very still pool. He realized his mistake once he had plunged into the water and we all laughed our heads off. 
Later some Dutch girls we knew from the tour did the same thing and we all damn near died from laughing so hard.

With a combination of those humans we eventually started talking about Ireland. Apparently July 12th is the equivalent of their July 4th, and people have huge bonfires to celebrate. But with the Protestant/Catholic divide, sometimes it’s dangerous. Apparently the Protestants like to burn the stuff on the 12th and the Catholics try to burn the stuff down beforehand.

Lastly with this group of Europeans, we played a game called “odds.” Basically it was like truth or dare but involved a little bit of probability. Someone says something like, “ask xyz to marry you” and you would then play your odds with everyone playing. You may say 1 to 20 and then you pick a # from 1 to 20 and the other person picks a # from 1-20 and then you count to 3 and if you say the same # then you have to ask that person to marry you. This was hilarious. **Since returning to the States I have discovered that I live under a rock and this game is played all over the world, not just by cute Irish pre-med kids. Still, it was fun.**

-In Australia at the hole-in-wall hostel I had a conversation with the man from Switzerland about China. Specifically about how pre-Olympics babies in China would straight up have a hole in the crotch in the pants of their baby clothes so they can do their thing without much hindrance. He didn’t believe me. Let’s just say I had to give him photographic evidence.

babies

It’s a real thing.

-Learned about some hilarious comedians, Hamish and Andy, from my American-turning-Australian friend and her Australian boyfriend. I found it entertaining b/c my friends boyfriend had heard of stinky tofu only b/c Hamish and Andy had tried it on their show.

-During my time at Angkor Wat, I paid $5 to go up to the top of Angkor Wat before 7:40, the official time that the showing starts. It was magical. I was on top of Angkor Wat and I essentially had it all to myself. I did notice a couple walking around and at one point asked them to take my photo on my DSLR. The lady agreed in broken English. After taking my photo, I asked where they were from? Turns out they were from Russia. They asked where I was from and I told them the States. The husband asked which state? I told him Kansas. He immediately lit up and said “BASKETBALL.”

So that’s it for now folks, but I really wanted to share these experiences. Honestly, I’ve never been around so many Europeans before and I feel like I learned a lot even from my casual encounters playing in waterfalls and sipping on $4 drinks at Salt House.

All The Eats

Somewhere along my high school and collegiate traveling adventures I stopped being really adventurous when trying new food. I got very sick several times and decided I had earned the right to picky.

So this year I have played it pretty safe with food; I made a lot of my own meals and was even awarded the superlative “Most likely to be eating Western Food” from my fellow Taichung ETAs.

However I think b/c of the impending move back to the States and because everyone and their mother wants a “goodbye” dinner, I have tried MANY crazy things in the past week.

Last Tuesday I met up with my co workers Brandon and Tim for Japanese food and tried Octopus.

11427726_3080913220461_2645093180862371508_n

Then on Thursday my school had a special treat- an especially good cook came to our school and make chicken soup and grilled two whole chickens for us. Now, you might be thinking, chicken isn’t that exciting, but boy are you wrong!image1

We were given the chicken whole, head, booty, and everything. Navigating through all it’s parts to find meat was adventure, to say the least. I was a bit …unsettled by the look of it but put my big girl pants on and tasted it- it was truly delicious.

Tuesday I took a quick roadtrip to Tainan with my coworker Brandon and we had a plethora of strange but tasty eats.

First, we stopped to have a special delicacy: eel and squid soup. It took some convincing, but it actually wasn’t that bad!

Looked something like this. Once I got over the texture/look it was okay!

That day I also had red bean shaved ice with brown sugar, which was super tasty, and also Sichuan style beef noodles.

It was unbelievably spicy, but also unbelievably delicious. I would take a slurp of soup and have to fight choking on the spice to swallow b/c it was SO GOOD!

It was unbelievably spicy, but also unbelievably delicious. I would take a slurp of soup and have to fight choking on the spice to swallow b/c it was SO GOOD!

As a general rule I’m trying to eat as much Asian food before I leave, b/c when will be back over here? AND it’s SO cheap.

Yesterday I had a retirement celebratory meal I attended and also a farewell dinner.

This is hot pot. I got it at the retirement lunch. Food is boiled in a specific broth to make it extra tasty. I wanted to eat one last hot pot before leaving.

This is hot pot. I got it at the retirement lunch. Food is boiled in a specific broth to make it extra tasty. I wanted to eat one last hot pot before leaving.

And of course the goodbye dinner was at my favorite Indian restaurant: Ganga. Paneer Butter Masala for days.

And of course the goodbye dinner was at my favorite Indian restaurant: Ganga. Paneer Butter Masala for days.

Over the course of the next few days I am meeting up with people to eat Xiaolongbao (soup dumplings), Thai food, and Japanese hibachi. I’m also trying to have tea everyday and mango shaved ice as often as possible.

Trying to live it up while also not contracting some stomach virus. Wish me luck!

Penghu: A Photo Essay

IMG_4557 IMG_4555 IMG_4554 IMG_4556IMG_4558 IMG_4559

1537458_3086105150256_4508837074176384418_o

Fenggui Caves

11233805_3086106030278_5783838407057471882_o

experimenting with the gopro under water

11201140_3086105190257_6314454159021934359_o

Special rocks.

11219648_3085379172107_2485666087289418125_n

We met Moses after crossing from one island to another during low tide.

IMG_4476

Crossing the red sea.

IMG_4536

At the Whale Cave

IMG_4552

Whale Cave

image

After a 6 hour ferry ride, while completely delirious, I thoroughly enjoyed catching this sunrise.

image

Lighthouse on Xiyu

image

Nei An beach. One of the prettiest beaches I’ve been to in the world.

These are a handful of the photos I took while in Penghu this past weekend. I am still reeling from all the sights and experiences, but I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

IMG_4506IMG_4484IMG_4544 (1)IMG_4540IMG_4535IMG_4532IMG_4544 (1)IMG_4551IMG_4553 image image image image image

White Noise

It’s funny living in a country where the main language spoken is something other than your own. When I want to challenge my brain and work on my Chinese it’s always there- in the background.

But on most days I’m exhausted or zoned out and not focusing and because I can’t understand everything, the language around me becomes white noise. It’s constant and comforting.

Being in the States is going to be a major shock in that regard.

But anyway, I am on my way to Kaohsiung and the young lady next to me just called her mom and I understood her whole conversation. I was eaves dropping! That’s not something I normally can do here! I don’t think I’ve ever been so proud of being nosy.

Inception

The last few weeks have been flying. The official count is 12 more days of this grant, 14 days until I start travel shenanigans.

Getting ready to go has been a whirlwind of activity: selling fans, heaters, luggage, clothes and prepping to sell my scooter, packing and watching Orange is the New Black, and lots of goodbye dinners.

There has hardly been a dull moment.

A couple weeks ago we had our last workshop where our advisers and co-teachers came together and we talked about what we learned and got our official Fulbright certificates. This is my adviser, another adviser, myself, and my co-teacher Janice.

A couple weeks ago we had our last workshop where our advisers and co-teachers came together and we talked about what we learned and got our official Fulbright certificates. From left to right this is my adviser, another adviser, myself, and my co-teacher Janice.

I had a (1st of 2) goodbye dinner with Sharon and Daniel, some Taiwanese friends, at a delicious Thai restaurant.

I had a  goodbye dinner with Sharon and Daniel, some Taiwanese friends, at a delicious Thai restaurant.

A few nights ago I had dinner with my co-teacher Brandon and our coworker Tim. We ate at a Japanese restaurant, and it was delicious.

A few nights ago I had dinner with my co-teacher Brandon and our coworker Tim. We ate at a Japanese restaurant, and it was delicious.

Fancy little rolls

Fancy little rolls

shark eggs -.-

shark eggs -.-

salad with octopus and shrimp!

salad with octopus and shrimp!

I also had 6th grade graduation this week. I had to miss Feng Jia's, but at Da Keng's I witnessed them graduate and also sang "For Good" as a part of the ceremony. Afterwards there was a huge feast and lots of chatting. This is me with my coworker Kelly and Brandon.

I also had 6th grade graduation this week. I had to miss Feng Jia’s, but at Da Keng’s I witnessed them graduate and also sang “For Good” as a part of the ceremony. Afterwards there was a huge feast and lots of chatting. This is me with my coworker Kelly and Brandon.

I didn't get to go to Feng Jia's graduation, but I go to go to their banquet after! The 6th graders acted as waiters and served us which was super sweet. We had lasagna and salad. I was in heaven.

I didn’t get to go to Feng Jia’s graduation, but I got to go to their banquet after! The 6th graders acted as waiters and served us which was super sweet. We had lasagna and salad. I was in heaven.

Last night the director of Fulbright, Dr, Vocke, came to Taichung to talk to us and treated us to a delicious drink of our choice at a fancy cafe. I got fruit tea.

Last night the director of Fulbright, Dr, Vocke, came to Taichung to talk to us and treated us to a delicious drink of our choice at a fancy cafe. I got fruit tea.

So it’s been crazy. So much going on and preparing to leave feels like a dream. I am traveling in Taiwan for the last time this weekend and I am going to the famous Penghu. It should be beautiful and hot as hades.

Next week is my last week at Feng Jia, I am traveling to Tainan with my 6th graders from Da keng for 24 hours, and I have a MILLION goodbye dinners. I have a lot of thoughts and feelings and experiences I will want to share from it all but it might be kept relatively short considering how little time I have left.

Safety, Mental Health, and Violence.

Last week was a really hard week. Initially, it looked bleak b/c I had to work 12 days in a row without a break. But then, last Monday, we heard reports that a man had killed an eight year old girl in a school in Taipei.

Apparently he snuck into the girls bathroom, waited until after school, then sliced her throat and waited for her to die before calling the police and telling them he killed someone.

You can’t imagine the uproar. Taiwan is known for being safe, guns aren’t allowed, and people are nice! People don’t slice little girl’s throats in the middle of the day! I had several conversations with co-teachers and other ETA’s and honestly I felt so angry! Working in a school, it’s like you can see it happening, and it makes me nauseas to think of.

Immediately every school in Taiwan was talking about security. Schools here are stationed 24/7 with guards.

One of our guards.

One of our guards.

Both of the schools I work at have dogs (both of them are fairly old and I’m not actually sure what security measures they provide but that’s fine). Are the fences high enough? Where are our weak points? Children can not go to the bathroom alone. The volunteer soldier boys will walk around the premises once every couple hours.

The Taichung City Government is going to provide a $50,000 NTD (around $1700 USD) stipend per school so schools can get watch dogs, and feed them and care for them.

The new dog house we were given for our dog.

The new dog house we were given for our dog.


This event is horrific in every way, but as a waiguoren it is interesting to see how another country responds to tragedy.

Action to beef up security was instantly taken all over the country. Principals were talking about safety at school assemblies.
I would say I don’t know if any action was taken to address mental health issues, which I think is equally important. There were some fingers pointed, and I’m sure there are things I don’t know about because I’m not fluent in Chinese, but it’s just so different from how America reacts to violence in schools. A person with serious mental health issues shoots up Sandy Hook and yet years later there are still shootings in schools and it still isn’t safe? It’s honestly ridiculous.

How are we addressing safety issues in our schools? How are we addressing mental health issues? It’s unfathomable to me that American hasn’t “learned our lesson.” Looks like we could take a few tips from Taiwan.