Wednesday, July 30
There are many ways to volunteer on the farm. One of them is to work at the Mulberry Mojito Bar. I love meeting the people as the start their journeys. The comments "Wow, it's really fast..." or "Maybe we should have gotten the life jackets..." Um, yeah. But my favorite thing is just chatting the people up, see where they've come from, how they ended up in Laos. It's been fun. Except for yesterday when it rained all day and we didn't have any customers. Or today when it's been really humid and slow all morning. But even then, I get to sit and read or work on math, so all in all, I've got a good life here.
Friday, July 25
The town is a bit of a tourist hang out, many, many girls walking around town in bikinis like they were in Panama City or something. I'm becoming an old, modest fuddy-duddy; I just want to yell at them all to put some clothes on! But the farm is about 4 km outside of town and feels very isolated and very Laotian. I arrived around 5 last night and then after a quick shower I immediately went off to the first class of the night. It was full of young children, and we all know how much I love teaching young children. But it was actually fun and then the following class was full of teenagers, much more my speed and the class seemed to fly by.
I walked from one class to the other with one of the Laotian teachers. As we walked by little "restaurants" - open air huts with tables really - I was asking what each served. The first was a noodle soup place, a meal I recognize and love. The second had grills set up and I asked what they made. "Dog," she replied. I thought maybe I misunderstood and she'd really said duck, but no, upon reconfirming it was a dog restaurant. I've tried many, many meats in my life ostrich, deer, elk, reindeer, horse, eel, alligator, raw beef, raw oysters, all without blinking an eye. But confronted with the option to eat dog, this might actually be one restaurant I pass on.
Thursday, July 24
In theory it was easy enough, take a tuk-tuk to the Friendship Bride which crosses the Mekong and takes you into Laos. The first stop you get your passport stamped saying that you left Thailand. Then you catch a bus that actually takes you across the bridge into Laos. There you fill out a form, hand over your passport, photos and money and get your visa. What they don't tell you about is the very long line of foreigners cutting in front of you (especially the older men who are just there on a visa run so they can stay in Thailand with their girlfriends), a problem exacerbated with each new bus arriving, and then there's the fact that there's only one window to go to, but in the end, I got it taken care of and finally got to enter Laos with my new visa filling yet another page in my passport. And then you had to wait for another tuk-tuk to actually bring you into Vientiane, the biggest city in Laos. I shared it with a kiwi girl and two very nice (looking) French guys. I was the last to get dropped off at the bus station and there I caught the public bus to Vang Viang.
First though I had some noodle soup. And it was then I noticed there was something wrong with my left arm. It was shaking, so much that it was hard to use the chopsticks. Was I afraid of being on my own? I didn't think so, but perhaps. Had I pinched a nerve carrying all my bags, getting heavier by the day as I pick up more and more stuff, that seems more likely. So I decide not to worry. I catch the bus and have to laugh each time my window slams shut. Finally the bus "steward" takes pity on me and shoves a piece of paper in the window to help keep it open. And it works and is great, until it starts to pour rain. Overall though, the 4 hour trip was pleasant and the scenery kept getting better and better as we wound further into the hills. Finally we arrive at a teeny bus station and the foreigners exclaiming "this is really it?" I'm so excited that I jump off with my bags... leaving my damned metal water bottle sitting on the seat. Why am I always losing it?
Um, Nate, can you bring me another one when you come out in September?
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Tuesday, July 22
But in the short, I didn't like Ao Nang very much, but that could just be because I'm not much of a beach girl and the weather was shit. We tried going out to the Phi Phi islands but had to turn back because the weather was so bad it was creating 3 meter swells. And of course, in the rain, we wouldn't have been able to see anything snorkeling.
As I left yesterday, it was blue skies and sunny, of course. But I flew to Bangkok and killed time, luggage in tow, by heading to the nice air-conditioned movies. I saw the disturbing Dark Knight - the new batman movie with Heath Ledger as the joker. Creepy. But good.
After the movie it was off to the train station for my over-nighter to Nong Khai, where I'm writing this now. I had heard/read mixed reviews of Nong Khai. But so far I'm enjoying it. A laid back town along the banks of the Mekong River.
Friday I'll head up to Laos where I'm spending 2 weeks volunteering at an organic Mulberry farm. I think they'll have me teaching English rather than pulling weeds, but it'll be nice to be settled.
Saturday, July 19
*I'm also trying to let go of the responsibility for his feelings. I certainly don't want to hurt him intentionally but this is still my blog for my ramblings, right???
**Maybe being in Thailand I'll find the life of a monk most appropriate, except I don't think they let girls be monks.
Friday, July 18
Also, very randomly in Bali I borrowed "Code Noir" from the pension which was a sequel to I don't know what, but it was a bizarre sci-fi. And this is a reminder to try and find the first and subsequent volumes at my school library.
I also read "The Alchamist" on this trip, brought along from my book shelf along with "The Secret Diary" for the reason it was small and light and while not historical fiction, was also really good and a very quick read. It has me on the look out for omens.
Also, I've got "The Omnivores Dilema" with me which is not at all fiction, but also very good and relavent. And always makes me think of the great friends who gave it to me :)
Wednesday, July 16
Saturday, July 12
KL (Kuala Lumpur) in contrast is a huge city, though not nearly as crowded as Moscow. She's full of tourists and immigrants. People of all different colors and languages. Almost everyone we encountered spoke English, same in Bali. We stayed in the fancy pants, Hotel Maya, which was a luxurious treat. Street food was abundant, we ate several meals for 10-20 ringit, that's $3.5 - $7 for two people! No alcohol, but it was too hot to drink. And granted I spent much of the time having stomach cramps, but it was yummy. Even our most expensive Korean restaurant meal was only $20 for 2! KL bills itself as a shopping town, but I'm not convinced the quality and prices are much different from Bangkok, but it was fun.
Thursday, July 10
Originally uploaded by Traveling Em
Well, the first part of my vacation had ended and it was almost a week in paradise. I've left all that behind and headed to a big city. Lots of hustle and bustle here. We ventured out for street food last night and I've been paying for that since 6 this morning, missing out on the hotel's insanely huge buffet breakfast. Hopefully tomorrw I'll be feeling better. But now it's off to China Town for some shopping and then to a piano concert tonight. I'm assuming you can figure out where I am from the photo, yes?
Tuesday, July 8
Monday, July 7
*I ended up with the ring as one day my senior year in HS my mom was bit by a spider. She woke my dad up in the middle of the night and made him cut the ring off as her finger was swelling around it. It was a very thin, simple band of white gold. After it was cut, she upgraded to bigger and shinier, but had the ring fixed and gave it to me when I graduated HS.
Big huge sigh.
Friday, July 4
- A driver picked me up from my pension and drove me to Verona Spa
- 2 girls waxed my legs simultaneously, making for the fastest full leg/bikini wax I've ever had
- A full body oil massage (just 1 masseuse)
- A body salt scrub
- A soak in a tub full of flower petals and essential oils enjoyed with a cup of ginger tea and fresh fruit.
- A facial
- Conditioning treatment with 20 minute scalp massage
- Blow Dry (optional)
Not to fret, as I was in Bali, I continued on my walk to an organic juice cafe where I had a lovely unsweetened lassi and a seared tofu salad. Then I returned to Verona and they didn't have it. The people at Nick's Pension got me a new one and two days later Verona called to say they had the key.
I love it when things work out in the end.
Thursday, July 3
Wednesday, July 2
When I check in I always ask if a flight is over sold. If it is and I can afford to miss the flight, I ask if they are looking for volunteers. An airline would much rather upgrade people than have to give away free flight vouchers and if you're on the volunteer list, they may upgrade you instead as a "thank you" for volunteering. If at all possible, earn status with an airlines frequent flier program. For several years I had "Premier" status with United's Milage Plus program. This meant on two occassions when I flight was over sold, they upgraded me without my asking on over sold flights.
If you can't afford to miss the flight, pay attention to what's happening. This happened to me most recently in Helsinki. I knew economy was over sold, I was told as much when I tried to get out of seat 47J - middle in the back. (I tried the getting on the list trick, but they'd already requested volunteers.) So I sat near the check-in desk and watched. Sure enough, one of the women from behind the desk approached a couple sitting near me. She asked if they were sitting together and then said, "Let me see if I can get you some better seats." She returned with two business class tickets. I then approached the desk and said, "If you're still looking for seats, I'd be happy to give up mine." She brushed me off. So I kept watching and then one of the men (very handsome) came from behind the desk and again approached a couple who also ended up in business class. When he came out again, I approached him and said "Are you only looking for couples? Because I'd really like to move up. I promise to fly Finnair from here on out." And sure enough he took my ticket and after several tense minutes he came back to me and my 47J had turned into 2C. Here I am enjoying my preflight champagne:
I'll tell you, there is nothing better than being able to lay down and sleep on a long flight.
Tuesday, July 1
The title of this post started "What Do I Want?" but as I created the list, I realized it was a list of geography, not my own wants. So here goes:
- Good public radio (I was listening to "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" while writing the list)
- Access to local, organic produce
- Be able to walk out of my house and to my local neighborhood non-chain cafe, yarn store, movie store, ...
- Local access to hiking in hills
- A like minded community
- My own garden, compost pile and worm bin
- Diverse population
- Access to ethnic ingredients including chipotle chilis, rice noodles, green curry paste and rooster sauce
Who do I want to be?
- Department Head
- A masters in math
- phD in mathematics education??
Here I am on my way to many places I've never been and I left all the guide books at home, intentionally. The more I travel the less necessary they seem. Better to just wing it, no? Maybe not, we'll see. I certainly read many chapters out of the guide books before I left and hundreds of Trip Advisor reviews and in the end, as always, I wnet with my instincts. I'm starting with 1 night in Bangkok, a city I liked in 2005. I wrote down how to get from BKK to Suk 11 Hostel, also where I stayed in 2005, via the airport bus and that's it. I'm excited.
A driver picked me up from my 2 bedroom apartment in Moscow. As we sat for an hour in traffic I looked around at a mostly non-descript city. The roads are crowded with dusty trucks who cough out black clouds each time they move. I see skyscrapers and concrete apartment blocks, old and new. There's Ikea, Auchon, I could be anywhere in the world. If that's the case why am I in Moscow? I have a job that I love, students to actually teach, but can't I have this elsewhere?