04 January 2014

Happy New Year!!!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! Looking back at 2013, I have had a fantastic year! And looking in to 2014, it seems to be a pretty great year with some plans being made for upcoming trips and visits!

I wrote this in Feburary of 2010:
"Also, with this time, I have created my five-year plan. Hopefully, after PC I will travel through India and Southeast Asia, go home for a couple of months, and then take a job teaching in an international school or with the Department of Defense School System! Who knows!"

First, I am astonished that I wrote that (almost) 4 years ago, I am even more astonished that what I put in writing is what I am doing and have done (travel, go home, and then go teach abroad).  Four years ago Me was pretty prophetic. Now if current Me could see the next 5 years, that would be helpful! Hehe. Maybe add some Lotto numbers in there too...

The next five years I dont see changing much in terms of jobs or traveling.  I fully expect to keep teaching internationally and traveling on breaks. China for the foreseeable future but after that, its pretty open.  It is comfortable to have a job that affords such opportunity.

Another piece in that post was a bucket list I started.  I mentally started it before I went in to Peace Corps, finally wrote it down in that blog, but decided to revisit this list for this coming year.

Turning 30 this year (eek!) and looking back on the last 30 years, I have been pretty fortunate. Every time I visit a new country, I add more countries to my list so I think including places or countries is too hard.  I will keep what I have already down on there but there are a few other things I want to add to my list now.

So now I have updated the previous list and crossed off things that I have finished.  Some of these look like New Years resolutions but they aren't only for this year.  They are life things to do. They include:
  • Be happy.  This article says that we need to choose to be happy and strive for it through my emotions, activities, and those I surround myself with.
  • Get healthier.  The older I get and the older those around me get, I realize how much more important this is.   
  • Be nice.
  • Learn Mandarin.  Simple to say, harder to do, but worth it.
  • Be better about staying in contact with friends.  Even with social media sites, skype, email, and my blog, it is still hard to keep up with people but when I do, I feel so much better.  So I need to be better with that.
  • Below is the updated list from PC.
    • Get Masters Degree
    • Peace Corps
    • Backpack Europe
    • Spend every birthday in new country (probably not possible every year- but something to strive towards) (almost every year since, a few times have been in the same country but haven't had a birthday in America since 2007 maybe?)
    • Swim in every ocean, yes even the Arctic, I am thinking off the north coast of Alaska?
    • Visit every continent (So far Europe, Asia, and North America are crossed off.  Still need: Australia, South America, Africa, and Antarctica)
    • Visit Hawaii and Alaska
    • Take an Alaskan cruise
    • Get certified in diving
    • Dive the Great Barrier Reef
    • See a World Cup Football Match
    • Go to an Olympic sport
    • Learn Spanish fluently
    • Travel to every country in Central America
    • Write out a life Bird List
    • Take a road trip from Florida to Alaska
    • Macchu Picchu in Peru
    • Ayers Rock
    • Backpack India
    • Teach in another country, not including PC
    • Learn to appreciate wine
    • Run with the bulls in Spain
    • Participate in the tomato fight (Spain?)
    • Go on an African safari
    • Route 66
    • Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, and Mt Rushmore
    • Get more tattoos!
    • Whale watching
    • Spend a month in the United Kingdom
    • Travel around Greece
    • Swim with Sharks off the coast of South Africa
    • See Silverback Gorillas in the wild
    • World Wildlife Fund trip
    • Go to a Super Bowl game
    • Be involved in Girl Scouts
    • Never have regrets!
  • Other things to add:
    • Dive with whale sharks
    • Visit Maldives and go diving
    • Travel around Australia for a month or more

 There are so many more countries or experiences that I would like to add to my list but I dont know if that is necessary.  I might add more later...  Its cool to see your goals/desires written out and crossing them off when you accomplish the task or experience. 

With that, I will end by saying I hope you have a wonderful 2014! Much love!

02 August 2013

My Summer Whirlwind Tour

This took an incredibly long time to post even though I started writing it in summer.

For the first three weeks of my summer vacation I met my parents in MALAYSIA! Thats right, you heard it, Malaysia.  My dad went to Malaysia! He went on a plane, flew across the world, and visited his home country.  It was a pretty amazing experience and I am really happy I was a part of it!

This time around I met, if you can believe it, MORE family! This round I met my Uncle (Dad's brother), Aunt, and cousin for the first time.  It was a LOT of fun and very interesting.  My dad's brother and my dad have so many mannerisms in common, it was so fun to just watch and observe them.  It was a lot of sitting, eating, drinking tea, eating, and catching up/ talking about old times (and eating).

Did I mention eating? We ate and ate and while eating, we would plan our next meal! The food in Malaysia is amazing and some of the best food in the world.  It is the thing to do in Malaysia and if you are a picky eater, there is still delicious food that I am sure you will enjoy.

It was a wonderful trip but, as always, too short of a visit.  Not enough time with everyone,

After that I flew to Florida to spend time with my Florida family.  Then on a road trip to visit family and friends in DC, Virginia, Michigan and Indiana.  It was my mom, me, and the wide open road.  We have gone on a few road trips before and have planned and prepared for a month in advance.  This road trip was kind of just thrown together in a wonderful way! We didnt even make a playlist, we had to listen to old music cds, radio, or static.  Besides the lack of new music, the road trip was fantastic.

It was wonderful to see my friends.  Its hard being so far away from friends and family.  I met up with some college and PC friends in DC that I havent seen in 2 or 4 years. And once again, I didnt have enough time with them. 

I saw family that I havent seen in 5 years or so.  I saw my brother and family for a few nights and that was a great visit.  I also went up to Michigan and met some of the bf's family.  That was fun to be able to meet them and finally put faces and personalities to names and stories. 

It was a fantastic, very fast, and slightly exhausting road trip.  I spent another week and a half home before I was back on a plane to cross the Pacific to go home.  Home is China now and that in itself is weird and comforting. 

29 April 2013

Coming Home


For about a month.  This summer is going to be awesome! I am so excited I can hardly stand it!!!

First, I will fly to beautiful Malaysia where I will meet up with my parents (eek!).  We will meet up with family and friends and have a grand old time.  Im excited to visit with my parents as an adult, it will be a completely different experience!

The main thing we will do is eat. Eat and eat and eat and eat... I cant wait for Malaysian/Indian/Chinese Malay food! And the outdoor food courts... and the breakfast of dosai... and the chutneys... the curries... Grandma's cooking... Auntie Ranjit.... I could go on and on.  Im drooling a little just thinking of it.

Once we have the grand old time with family and friends and food, I will fly home! I arrive home July 2nd and have the trip almost jam packed! Whew. I will need a vacation after my vacation! I am going to take a little road trip with my Mom and Aunt(s)! All of the details arent in stone yet and I havent completely planned everything but it is a work in progress.

I will have about 2 weeks after the road trip of home time where I will bug my dad endlessly about all the stuff I am buying.  And I will cook with my mom and my dad will bug us about that too with our 'arts and croissants" food.  It will be so much fun!

I am so anxious for June 17th and to get this summer started! There is so much to do between now and then, its crazy! We have end of the year events, a family fun day/ school carnival, reports, awards ceremony, staff parties, packing and changing classrooms, orders, all of that school stuff!  So overwhelming but so worth it!  I am so, so, so happy with my choice to come to Dongguan and work at ISD.  Things do seem to happen for a reason!

See you soon!

06 April 2013

3rd Time!!!

A third time is a charm, right? This will be my third time to blog while in China and my third time to the Philippines. 

My life awesome right now (see previous blog post) and its just continuing. I'm debating about my summer plans but the more and more I think about it, I think I will be coming home. I didn't spend enough time last time with friends and family and I miss them.

I am a little stressed/ overwhelmed with everything right now. Lots of stuff coming up school wise; end of the quarter, finishing up material for this year while preparing for next year, planning events for end of school, field trips, and the kids are getting excited so behavior is changing. All of this means a well deserved spring break. Please don't misread. I love my job. The school, coworkers and students are great. I am all just starting to feel the crunch. My mom has always told me the end of the year feels like a marathon and I completely believe her.

So with all of the school pressure going on, I also have decided this would be a good time to be homesick. I know, ridiculous, right? I miss Peace Corps and the life I lived there. I miss the people, the other volunteers, and the life style. Granted living in it and reminiscing about it are completely different. Hehe. I don't miss the muddy snow, the cold, trucking up water, or the daily struggles. But it was a time in my life that I know I won't have again. I miss that.

And thinking of that of course makes me think of my ridiculous friends. I miss traveling by a marshutni for hours to visit a friend and catch up with life (even though we talked every day). I miss people completely understanding me, not just as a friend, but as someone who was going through the same struggles as me. It was a friendship unlike what I have found anywhere else.

Here in China, a lot of the struggles I have are not the ones because of culture. It's because of school stuff, job stuff that I would have anywhere. I don't quite know what I am trying to say because I am truly happy here. I just miss home. In the Peace Corps they told you not to write a blog or an email on the bad days... Now I know why. It sounds depressing.

Because of all that is going on, and we have a week off, we have decided to come back to trusty Philippines!

I am on the plane now. Oh, technology. And I probably won't post this blog until I get back so I will add more after the trip.

I started that post on March 22nd after a long day at work.  I am adding to it now, April 7th. 

Things are still hectic at work but manageable.  Vacation was perfect and just what was needed! We went to Dumaguete and stayed at a fantastic resort! Aqua-Landia! It is a German-owned, quiet, kind of secluded, 14 cabin, right next to the beach resort where from our front door to the pool/restaurant/bar was about 20 steps.  It was quiet and we actually got a lot of work done! No where near the amount needed but enough that I am happy with it.

We also went diving! Yay! I got to see 3 sea turtles and a few sea turtles come up for air while I was on the boat! It was fantastic! I wanted just to stay and stare at them all day.  A little creepy? Meh.  They wouldnt mind, they are too cool to care about anyone stalking them.  We only did one day of diving because as great as it was, it was more work than we wanted to do and we were quite lazy!

I definitely want to go back there and I really love the Philippines! It was the perfect vacation right before this rush of school. 

This week I am starting an After School Activity of cooking.  Another teacher and myself will be teaching a few kid-friendly recipes to some elementary students.  I am excited about it but there is so much going on! Whew, another thing added to the plate!

To finish up- I havent bought my ticket home but I really want to.  One week I looked and it was 1200, the next week 1500, and the next day 1800-2000!!! And now most of them have a 20 hour layover in either Detroit or Atlanta! :(

Well I think that is it for now.  I am excited to see everyone very soon! Just have to push through the end of this year!
Love to all!

19 February 2013


I know it has been forever and a day since I posted last and I apologize but for a while there wasnt really much to post.  The life of a teacher, while dramatic and fulfilling and busy, is interesting in the moment but isnt really that interesting to sit down and write about.  With that being said about the day-to-day teacher stuff, I have had some pretty fun adventures in China and the Philippines.

The nicest thing about international schools is all of the breaks.  Now I know you might think Man, teachers get a lot of breaks! Do they ever work?!  Let me answer that for you simply: Yes. I work and I work a lot.  My weeks are devoted to school and I give myself Saturday to not think about work.  It has been fulfilling and wonderful to have a paycheck and a full time job that I enjoy.  It is stressful and overwhelming and sometimes I feel as though I am failing but I think that is all teachers.  We all feel as though we could be doing more than we are but I am doing what I can and doing it the best I can.

One of the things I have been doing at my school is coordinating events.  It is a lot of fun and I thoroughly enjoy the stress and last-minute changes of it.  We have had a Halloween festival, an International Week full of events, and a Chinese New Year celebration that was fantastic.  There have also been smaller things throughout the year but those were the big ones.  We hope to have a Spring Festival but that wont be until later.  As you can tell, I am having a great time and I think that if I were to change professions, I would try and do some kind of event planning.  Although I dont have a lot of experience, the idea of it is entertaining.

Now, on to the breaks.  The first break  we had was at the end of September and that was to celebrate the Moon Festival.  We had a few days off and I spent it hanging out in Dongguan.  I went to a market that sold household/kitchen items (pots, pans, equipment, etc), drinks, and pets.  It wasnt a market as much as a street with specialty shops.  It was a bazaar combination of shops and incredibly sad to see those pets in confined cages and Im pretty sure most of them were illegal- birds, lizards, fish, etc.

That break there was a small festival that was happening outside of my house at a public square.  It was interesting to walk around and see some of the traditions that were taking place to celebrate the Moon.  However, I didnt really understand what was going on so it was more just looking at things.  It was nice to observe and next year I will know more of what is going on!

The next break we had was a fall break at the beginning of November.  Another teacher and myself who is also very interested in Service Learning flew up to Beijing to hear from Dr. Jane Goodall about the Roots and Shoots project.  She was incredibly interesting to listen to and an inspiration for dedicating your life to something you are so passionate about.  Through this Roots and Shoots project, we were able to meet with so many international schools and teachers!  It was a wonderful week and we came back with so, so, so, many ideas.  Also, because we are a brand new school, getting ideas from an established school was pretty awesome.  The schools I visited had so much tradition and history that it will be exciting to see how my school grows and begins traditions.  It is also thrilling and overwhelming to think that I am playing a part of creating those traditions!

While we were there, we were able to visit Tienanmen Square and the Forbidden City! That was an awesome experience, so rich with history and influence, it was awe-inspiring.  The coworker/ good friend that I traveled with loves to try new foods.  She and I ate at so many different restaurants, it was great! Some of the food highlights were the street food that we had- some red bean pastries, veggie bread (?), and some other bread type stuff.  Another major, major highlight was the Beijing Duck we had! Oh my! It was delicious although A LOT of food! We basically ate a whole duck! Ugh, I felt so sick afterwards but it was so good.  We found this back alley and a restaurant that looked pretty decent and was also serving the duck.  It didnt look that fancy from the outside but inside was very traditional and we went at the perfect time because about 5 minutes after we sat down there was a long line outside.  And I just recently found a restaurant in Dongguan that serves Beijing duck- hopefully it will be as good as it was in Beijing!

The next trip we had was the Winter Break.  Two and a half weeks of freedom from all of the day to day stuff.  It was blissful!  And I got to go DIVING!!!  We traveled to Manila and spent one night in a decent enough hotel.  The next morning we woke up, walked around a bit before heading to the airport.  Apparently we didnt get there in time to get a seat so we got bumped to a flight for the next day.  The airline put us up in a hotel and gave us a free domestic flight (which I will be redeeming in March!).  It was annoying but it worked out fine.  We flew to Busuanga or Coron and spent 2 nights there before heading to paradise, also known as El Nido!  It was a perfect setting, beautiful, small and friendly!  Picture perfect beaches, sunsets and sunrises, and the diving wasnt that bad.

Diving was pretty great! We didnt go at the best time of the year because the visibility wasnt as great as was expected.  Because  my previous diving experience was in Turkey (more than a year before) and not over coral reefs, I was still pretty impressed with everything.  The visibility was about 5 meters and the water was kind of murky.  But I saw lots of beautiful fish and some pretty rare fish.  My dive master, Jeff from Palawan Divers, was AMAZING!  He was very patient and helpful. The other two I traveled with were getting certified, which helped me refresh how to dive.  It isnt hard and is pretty relaxing if you are confident about what is going on but it still takes a bit to get used to especially finding your buoyancy.

I would love to go back to El Nido for every vacation but it sucked to get there.  You have two options from Manila: 1. Fly to Busuanga and then take an 8 hour boat ride to El Nido.  Or 2. Fly to Puerto Princessa and take an 8 hour bus to El Nido.  We chose option 1 because we also wanted to see Coron but that boat ride left a lot to be desired.  I am sure that once Coron and El Nido become overrun with tourists and big hotels or resorts come in the boat ride between the two will be better.  I got sea sick both ways but the way back I was also just sick with a cold so it was not fun at all.  Totally worth it because El Nido is amazing but still not fun.

I had a relaxing and enjoyable time.  I celebrated Christmas on a beautiful beach, walked around to remote beaches, and just relaxed.  New Years I was sick and in bed by 10 but thats ok because I am not a big fan of New Years anyway.  It was a memorable trip and made me excited to go back to the Philippines again!  I was glad to be home and glad to have the routine back but loved the time I had there.

My next trip wasnt long after winter break.  We had a week off for Chinese New Year.  It was very exciting, at school we had a New Years Festival after school one day.  It was a lot of fun, parents brought in food, we had dragon dancers, a face changer- which is really cool to see, and some gymnasts.  It was a lot of fun and the whole school came out to celebrate!  It was the perfect way to celebrate with parents and students before going off on holiday.  (I say holiday instead of vacation now because Im so international. Hehe. That and people dont really understand vacation...)

So off we went again to the Philippines.  Instead of using our free domestic ticket (mainly because you can only redeem/book at the office in Manila) we decided just to go somewhere closer to Manila that had a beach and dive sites.  I am now addicted to diving and not sure of when I will have a vacation that doesnt include it.  We rode in style the whole way and even had a private boat pick us up to take us to the island.  It sounds really fancy and was but for the price and the less hassle it was completely worth it.  Im over backpacking now that I have a job! Ha! Not quite true because we are still staying at cheaper hotels, but paying a little more for an easier transit is something I can now afford to do.  I also dont have the transit time that I had when I was backpacking.  Spending a day getting buses and traveling for a day so I could save 50 dollars would be a day from a week's vacation that I would be lacking.  So to me, it is no longer worth it.

I feel a little like I have "sold out" the backpacking world and have changed from what I was doing a year ago.  But times and people change, I dont have endless months to travel and experience new countries.  I have weeks at a time to do those things.  Its a chapter of my life that has been closed and its sad but at the same time necessary.  I feel the need to have a job and be a "grown up."  I have to get my finances and student loans under control.  I need to start saving in case things happen.   These are things I never thought of before and now know they are important things in my life.  No worries though, I still laugh at farts and think talking about poop is entertaining so I am not a complete 'grown up.'  :)

Back to the Philippines, we went to a place near Puerto Galera and went diving with Scandi Divers.  They were awesome and completely helpful with everything.  I loved how the whole time we just had a 'tab' that we would put our breakfast or snacks on, diving and rental equipment.  It was a small part of an island called Little La Laguna Beach and we explored around.  This was probably the most relaxing vacation I have ever taken.  It was wonderful, we did what we wanted when we wanted, ate at a fancy restaurant while drinking wine one day and the next ate outside our cheap hotel some of the most delicious Filipino food I have had!  We dove a lot and rented a camera and took some awesome pictures!

This was the best diving I have ever experienced! We went to Verde Island, which was an hour away from our beach, and saw some fantastic underwater scenes! We saw an octopus!!! It was amazing, I took a few pictures of it and the next thing I know it disappeared into the rock by changing its coloration.  I still took a picture of that too but it really looks like the rocks.  It was crazy!  Then another time I was trying to take a picture of a lion fish when out of nowhere, a sea snake darted down in front of me.  I wasnt very scared of the snake because they only bite if you bother it but I was trying to get other peoples attention to show them the snake.  You cant talk underwater so it was completely hopeless trying to get someone's attention. But man, oh man, it was exciting!  It also felt like flying because the current was strong enough that it was almost a drift dive and the visibility was so fantastic that you could see for probably 20-30 meters around you!  Probably the best dive I have ever done.  Still havent seen a turtle and I am pretty sure there is a conspiracy hiding them from me....

So that was my last vacation and it has been back to work since then.  I am thoroughly enjoying my work and everyday is a new challenge and a new experience.  I have awesome ideas for the rest of the year and for next year.  This last break really energized me and in month, we get to have another break.  We have planned it out again and it will be smooth and easy travel once again!

My life is pretty awesome and moving to Dongguan was the right decision at the right time.  Everything has worked out and I am happier than ever! I am trying to just enjoy this and not think about "the other shoe dropping." 

I think that is it for now.  I wont let another 5 months go before I write in this again, I promise.  This summer I will have more adventures because I get to go to Malaysia to meet up with my Mom and Dad and the rest of the family!

I hope you all are happy, healthy, and enjoying life! Miss you all!
Lots of love!

02 October 2012

China. Its happening now!

Olympics are awesome. Summer is awesome. My birthday is awesome.  And China, so far, so awesome. :)

That line was written about a month and a half ago and it is still completely true, although the Olympics are over and my birthday is another 10 months away.  Summer is still strong here in beautiful Dongguan, China but that is even starting to fade away with slightly cooler temperatures.

As my last post alluded, I am now living and teaching in China! I know that I kept mentioning DC or New York but this just worked out in so many ways.  I applied to quite a few places, interviewed with some and found my home with International School Dongguan.  Dongguan is a pretty big city (average size in China) and is about an hours drive outside of Hong Kong.  It is a factory-based city with a large immigrant and foreign population so it doesnt always feel authentically China but there are still aspects to my life where I think "oh my, I'm in China" (because I am).

I didnt really have a long chance to digest or ponder or rethink my choice, I was interviewed on July 24th and flew out on August 4th, arrived on the night of the 5th and started working at 7am the morning of the 6th.  So out the window went jet lag, nerves, and even thinking really.  It was just go-go-go and I think that worked out for the best.  When you cant think to be nervous or scared or worried, you arent.

My life so far has been work, work, and more work.  I have joined a team of 15 or so teachers in a brand new international school.  Because it is brand new, we have had to do a lot more work than the average beginning of the school year, i.e. get everything from desks and bookshelves to pencils and paper to curriculum materials and books.  It has been a lot of extra work and a lot of running around but it has been so rewarding and so worth it!  School started on August 16th with a bang and has been non stop ever since! It feels great to throw yourself in to a project and because this school, the people I work with, and the resources are available, I am really only limited by myself.

Enough about school for now, I want to explain more of my time here.  My coworkers are awesome and such a mix of people- families to single people, the ages and backgrounds are very diverse- but we all come together with a focus on the school and work towards that! It is a lot of fun and I know I made the right decision to come to China!  They also celebrated my birthday with me and made me feel special, which is of course the true test of friendship! Hehe. I half kid, half am serious about that!  It was memorable to say the least and this makes the last 6 birthdays out of the country.   Belize-23, Barcelona 24, Armenia- 25, 26 and 27, China 28.  On my long bucket list is "spend my birthday in a new country." It might need to be amended and say "spend my birthday in a country other than America." So far, so great!

I will be honest here and say that it has been a little weird living abroad and not living the Peace Corps life.  I mean the school I work for set up my apartment and it is nice.  Check out pictures: My Apartment.  I am definitely not in Peace Corps anymore and this has kind of given me a complex.  Its like I keep expecting my water to turn off or to have to struggle to get things done.  It hasnt happened yet.  Sure I have had challenges and my water wasnt *as* hot as I wanted it to be, but none of them compare to walking up and down 5 flights of stairs to get enough water to flush your toilet... perspective. But I cant continue to compare my life in Dongguan to my life in Armenia (although it is very hard not to).

My life in China hasnt been the rough and tough life that I kind of thought it would be but instead it is kind of posh and fancy.  There are 3 major supermarkets within a 10 minute walking distance, a Starbucks, 2 McDonalds, a KFC, Pizza Hut, Papa Johns, and quite a few others that I cant think of.  I have found just about everything I need.  There might be brands I would prefer but really cant get picky about that stuff.  The main thing I have been "limited" on are my spices and I couldnt even get all of those in America so it is not a China thing, it is a not-being-in-Malaysia thing.  And then with American products, I can just pay a little extra and I can get Cinnamon Toast Crunch if I wanted (I havent yet, but it is an option).  I try to buy mostly Chinese products but it doesnt always work out like that.

I have had a few adventures in cooking and eating! On my birthday we had a dumpling making cooking lesson! It wasnt specifically for my birthday but I dont let those facts determine my beliefs.  It was a lot of fun and an experience for all of the staff.  I wasnt too bad at folding the dumplings but it took me probably three minutes to make a dumpling look presentable.  In that same time, the person who was showing me how to make them had completed probably 10-12....

Another adventure was at this hotel/banquet place.  The school bosses wanted to give the teachers and staff a thank you because of Teacher Appreciation Day in China.  They took us to a dinner where it was family style eating and they kept bringing food.  It was great and I enjoyed most of the food! The unusual food I tried was fried pig ears, chicken feet, a seafood dish and this tofu dessert thing.  The dessert thing wasnt my favorite but that was mainly texture.  They had the best pork buns though! Oh my goodness, I need to learn how to make those!  I have yet to find the food stalls I imagined China to have and it is surprisingly difficult to find the 'local' cuisine.  I will make it work though.  I also have wanted to take cooking classes but havent found any yet.  I have made a few friends on staff who are locals and we have discussed cooking together so we will see if something comes from that!

I think that is it for now.  There are many other experiences and fun times to write about but for now that will be it.  Im not sure how this blog will play in to my life in Dongguan but for now it will be a forum to share a few of the things I have experienced and a way to keep family and friends updated about my life.

I hope you have enjoyed!