Sunday, December 12, 2010
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Another good sign, we managed to get to Kuala Lumpur without any problems! Nice bus, easy ride, and they even showed “The Gods Must Be Crazy II” on the bus (although I don’t think the Malaysians on the bus really picked up on all of the humor; Irene and I were basically the only ones laughing).
There is, however, an urgent matter to attend to: SHOPPING. Trust me, I hate shopping as much as the next guy (literally, I’m NOT girly in this respect), but there are some essentials I want to pick up here where it’s cheap, specifically rain gear and a new point and shoot camera. Since I’m only in the rainy season a couple of weeks a cheap jacket will suffice, but I will have to drop some coin on my camera, unfortunately. It’s a bit sad; my Sony CyberShot has been an all star these last 5 years or so and I’m sorry to see it go.
Anyway, we’re in KL and settled now and ready to just wander a bit. We hit Petaling Street market (several lanes of stalls where the men call out and try to entice you to buy “designer” purses, sunglasses and watches) to see what we can find. There are big barrels of roasting chestnuts, pirated DVDs, fruit stands selling only a few things I recognize, tiny teahouses with giant copper cisterns, and boatloads of tourists (many seemingly from the Middle East). It’s not really my scene and Irene and I aren’t finding what we need so we decide to head towards the Petronas Towers so Irene can see them again and we’ll try shopping there.
I cannot recommend the towers highly enough. I think they are two of the most beautiful buildings on Earth and it’s absolutely hypnotizing to stand at the bottom and look up. I have no idea how they managed to make the lights at the top so brilliantly, dazzlingly white that it makes the buildings look like cut diamonds. It was a nice chance to experiment with the panorama mode on the new CyberShot I bought in the mall under the Towers (Sony: well done, love my new camera already).
We went back to Petaling Street for a simple dinner and to let Irene try her first batch of roasted chestnuts (the guy who roasted them outside my condo in Singapore did a better job, unfortunately). We also had a nice cuppa at the little tea house we’d seen earlier. We had a few bowls of five flower tea, munched on chestnuts, planned what to do tomorrow, and basically just relaaaaxxxxed. Then we ended our night by watching the sixth Harry Potter movie on Justin’s computer (which only Irene managed to stay awake through, but I promise I meant to).
Even though this is the kind of day where it seems like nothing really happened it was still really enjoyable because I had such good company. I would have been a bit disappointed if it were just me, myself and I, but everything’s better with a friend, right? :)
Sunday, November 28, 2010
TODAY I AM SUPPOSED TO LEAVE SINGAPORE AND SPEND SEVEN MONTHS TRAVELING ASIA. When I say this out loud it means nothing, but as I look around my empty condo and feel the weight of my bag and realize that I can’t call my friends because they’ve all left Singapore already
What I Am Leaving:
--Friends who are more like family: Miriam, Katie, Lauren, Nick, Louise, Keri, Tamsin, Will, Charlene, Yvette, Anne-Marie,
--The good: amazing people. My lovely colleagues at Pioneer: Intan, Diana, Stephen, Madam Santhi, Doreen, Mr. Jamal, Madam Sriwanty, Aida, Pooja, Grace, Kamisah. My sweet, sweet, students: I’ve been teaching sec 3 all year long and I loved laughing with them and showing them amazing things in history and hearing their questions and seeing their personalities shining out.
--The good: diversity. It was wonderful to see such a mix of races, religions, cultures, languages and identities in my classroom. I genuinely loved hearing about the differences in their lives and how they could work these to their advantage, rather than detriment. And of course to open their eyes to places/people/ideas they’d never heard of felt great, too.
--The bad: Everything about my job directly outside of the classroom. This was torture. I am not exaggerating when I saw I wonder how many years I’ve taken off my life due to lack of sleep, stress, and not taking care of myself because of work.
--The bad: Bitterness. Towards my school leaders, the government, my real estate agent, Singapore in general. I will never regret leaving and may never fully appreciate going, unfortunately.
What I Am Moving Towards:
--The good: Beauty. I plan to spend most of my time outdoors during my trip. I cannot wait to see the natural wonders of Southeast Asia. Hiking, mountain climbing, scuba diving, jungle trekking, driving motorbikes, beach bumming, and on and on and on.
--The good: FOOD! Singapore had some seriously crap food which was just a watered down mix of influences from several countries (fusion at its worst, if you ask me). I’m ecstatic to go to the source and try plate after plate after plate of deliciousness.
--The good: amazing people. It’s incredible how quickly travelers form a bond between each other and how rejuvenating it can be to meet someone you can easily talk to and hear say, “I know!” And of course I’ll be seeing Justin and my mom, which is the ultimate reward for making it through this year!!
--The bad: Very rarely seeing familiar faces or spaces. Can I make it seven months without feeling totally relaxed with where I am or who I’m with? I love meeting new people, but there’s already part of me that longs for home—how bad will it get?
--The bad: Stress. This is of a different nature than stress from work because while I’m travelling I will be totally reliant on myself to work it out. I can’t just call a friend and meet up for a beer after school or watch a movie and have some wine at home. I’ll have to really develop deeper patience and optimism and trust in fate.
Oh, man, there’s so much still to do that I’ve been getting anxiety attacks. I’d better sign off here so I can finish everything before Justin gets here. Can’t waiiiiiiiiiitttttttttttttttttt!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
**6 hours later**
Well. This day has been-- Um...well...you see, it’s—it’s just that...oh screw it.
This is NOT how I saw myself starting my trip: delayed a day with way less cash than I had planned on having, fighting off anxiety attacks, and just generally less excited than I had figured I’d be. Justin and Irene were exhausted from their running around before this so we’re leaving tomorrow morning instead, but it will mean almost a day in KL is gone. Then shipping my stuff home nearly depleted my bank account: S$2400 (about US$1800, I think). Thinking about that has made me so nervous because now I know I’ll have to use up my US money and possibly my credit cards to get by until I’m reimbursed and paid in February. And of course add to it all that I’m just exhausted and sick of Singapore. It’s easy to see how this isn’t the grand send-off I’d hoped for.
But now that Justin is here (what a great hug to make up for being apart for two years!), I can hear his voice in my head saying that I need to be less fixated on this and more appreciative of the good parts of this past year and the great experience that is to come. And he’s right; worrying isn’t going to make me feel better or get anything done, so I need to stop.
But there’s one other thing that definitely keeps repeating in my head: JUSTIN IS IN SINGAPORE AND WE’RE GOING TO MALAYSIA TOGETHER! Who would have ever predicted four years ago that life would have brought us here? Although just to prove to you he hasn’t changed all that much since I met him, the very first thing he did after he came into the condo was to climb out of the living room window and onto the ledge that looks down sixteen stories onto the temples across the street. Yeah, that’s the Justin I remember.
Okay, I’m off to sleep and to mentally reset so that when I wake up I’m not thinking about lost days or low money or any of that negative energy that is just going to hold me back from enjoying the trip and growing and experiencing and connecting and all that other hippy stuff. G’night.
Monday, November 15, 2010
Frankly, I think this is going to be incredible. It started in Indonesia when I read “Map of the Invisible World” by Tash Aw. It’s set during the upheaval of the country’s bid for independence from the Dutch and is a really interesting depiction of the views of native Indonesians as well as whites who “feel” Indonesian and actually support independence, too. It gave me a really interesting perspective on what’s led to the current events in Indonesia (which aren’t great, with Merapi exploding, tsunamis smashing into Sumatra, the government being accused of corruption, religious fanaticism, etc. Sorry, Obama, but I don’t think Indonesia is a model for all Muslim countries to follow).
So here’s my reading list for this trip (nearly all of them have been downloaded to my laptop because I have Kindle for PC—hooray for technology!):
Holidays in Hell: In Which Our Intrepid Reporter Travels to the World's Worst Places and asks "What's funny about this?" by PJ O'Rourke (for when I need some humor)
Travel Writing 1700-1830: An Anthology
A Tramp Abroad and Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain (not sure which one I fit into...)
Recommended: Book Lust to Go by Nancy Pearl--the go to lady for what to read, just wish I could download it
All About Coffee by William Ukers
Piracy, Turtles and Flying Foxes by William Dampier
Evening is the Whole Day by Preeta Samarasan
Recommended: Harmony Silk Factory by Tash Aw (enjoyed his book about Indonesia: Map of the Invisible World) **Debating: it's pricey to download
Malaysia and Australia:
A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute
True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey (because in Australia you MUST read Peter Carey and about Ned Kelly)
The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough (I would guess it's given out at the airport, but downloaded it just in case)
English Passengers by Matthew Kneale (for Tasmania)
Australian Legendary Tales by K. Parker
Recommended: Eucalyptus and the Songlines, as well as Death of a River Guide (for Tasmania)
Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad
Max Havelaar by Multatuli (expose from a Dutch East India Co officer)
Krakatoa: Day the World Exploded by Simon Winchester (have to buy it somewhere)
Gold and Fishes by Donna Carrick
The Airmen and the Headhunters by Judith Heimann
Almayer's Folly by Joseph Conrad
King Rat by James Clavell (Rat--the other white meat)
(Was going to read West From Singapore by Louis L'Amour, but Amazon's summary just sounded too ridiculous)
Found in the Philippines: A Woman's Letters by Charles king
Noli Me Tangere (Touch Me Not) by Jose Rizal
Recommended: When the Elephants Dance by Tess Holthe
The Coroner's Lunch by Colin Cotterill (a mystery set in Laos)
The King's Last Song by Geoff Ryman
Jungle Girl by Edgar Burroughs (Cambodia's female Tarzan!)
Recommended: When Broken Glass Floats--Growing up Under the Khmer Rouge
The Quiet American by Graham Greene (you have to read it in Vietnam!!
The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien (already read Going After Cacciato)
Tuk Tuk To the Road by Jo Huxster (2 girls go across the world in a tuk tuk--love it)
The King and I by Anna Leonowens (duh)
Sightseeing by Rattawut Lapcharoensap (short stories)
For the flight home:
American Notes by Charles Dickens
English Writers on America by Washington Irving (he sticks it to the hacks in Britain in the 1800s making America look bad--fitting for today as well?)
Monday, November 1, 2010
Damn, it is TIME CONSUMING to plan something like this! I'm feeling kind of overwhelmed just by figuring out the plan for Australia alone! Of course, with mom always on my back about 'Have we got this? Have you booked that?' it's more pressure than I've ever put on myself, anyway. I don't think mom would be able to stand traveling with me for longer than 2 weeks, especially since our ideas of a "budget hotel" seem to be drastically different, and I rarely book mine in advance.
Some of my preparations:
--Check on visa requirements in each country
--Buy equipment/supplies I don't already have
--Copy travel guides from the library so I don't have to buy them
--Compare rental cars, flights, and cars for sale in Australia
--Book hotel rooms in Tasmania and Sydney
--Find CouchSurfers willing to host mom and me and then just me on my own
--Clean out my room and meet with the agent to do inspections
--Finish preparing resources for next history teacher at school
--Clean school desk
--Write cards for teachers and friends
--Download any movies and music I want, back up my school and home laptop to external hard drive
--Communicate with Vital Co. about receipts and other finance issues
--Ship home things don't need on my trip and submit receipts to MOE
--Write letter to MOE officers about why I'm leaving and why I only know 1 foreign teacher interested in staying
Okay, I'm cutting it off here, but this is a little over half of the items on my to-do list. :(
And just to give you a peek into my bags, here's part of my packing list:
--Chain and padlock, small padlocks for zippers
--PADI diving manual and diving log
--Laptop, point and shoot camera, DSLR camera and chargers and computer cables for all
--Pack of cards, books on my computer
--Various medicine including cold/sinus relief, anti-nausea, anti-diarrhea, Immodium, rehydration salts, allergy tablets, pain killers, etc.
--Water purifying tablets
--Clothing that I don't mind getting wet/dirty/sweaty/ripped/lost/stolen/etc
--Southeast Asia on a Shoestring guide book, notebook and pens
--Rain cover for bags and a poncho
--Sunglasses, bandanas, scarves, shawls, a little bit of jewelry, etc.
--Waterless laundry detergant
--iPod and headphones
--Bikini and beach towel (of course!)
I can't wait to show you all a picture of my pack--it's quite cool looking when it's all put together. I am, however, quite certain that I'm going to get reallllly tired of wearing the same clothes for 7 months straight...
Friday, October 15, 2010
All right, so I have definitely conceded the fact that I am not going to make it to all of the countries on my original itinerary (which is, in turn, an edited version of my original version of going from Singapore across Asia, Australia, and Europe, but that was when I thought I would buy my own ticket home so I would have all of July). I think it will be quite a long time before I return to this part of the world, if ever, so I want to do it right. I’m going to slow down my pace and see a bit more of each country in Southeast Asia rather than push on so hard to get over to Nepal, India, and Sri Lanka. In fact, I’m so confident I won’t make it to those places that I’ve packed my travel guides already.
But whatever, I can see myself finding someone interested in joining me for two months on a trip to India, no matter where I end up living. That will definitely happen so I’m not worried. Bring on more of Borneo!
New and Improved Itinerary:
December: Malaysia and Australia
January: Australia, East Timor, Indonesia
February: Indonesia, Singapore (for a wedding), Borneo
March: Borneo and Philippines
April: Philippines and Vietnam
May: Cambodia and Laos
June: Laos, Thailand, possibly Nepal? I do NOT want to go to Myanmar, I know that.
FLIGHT HOME FROM SINGAPORE=JUNE 30
Thursday, September 30, 2010
All right, the school year is nearly over and exams are coming up soon. This means that it’s time to get down to the real nitty gritty of planning my next big trip! I’ve been thinking about where to go and trying to get advice from people that I’ve met and I think I have a pretty good understanding of what I want to do. So as my first post about “The Big One”, as I’m calling it, is the itinerary. Read it and be very, very jealous.
**Side note: I am aware that some people go backpacking for years and years and so seven months might not seem that impressive. To those people I say, shut the hell up, this is my trip and to me it is MONUMENTAL. Stop judging and go write your own blog.**
December: Malaysia and Australia
January: Australia, East Timor, Indonesia
February: Indonesia, Singapore (for a wedding), Borneo
March: Philippines and Vietnam
April: Cambodia and Laos
May: Thailand and Nepal
June: Southern India and Sri Lanka
FLIGHT HOME FROM SINGAPORE=JUNE 30 (Thank you Ministry of Education!)
Sunday, September 5, 2010
Saturday, September 4, 2010
Okay, call me crazy, but while eating lunch today I realized that I like Jakarta.
Undeterred, however, I set out to see the area of Jakarta that was closest to my hotel and which, like every other city in Indonesia, was hot, loud, smelly, and strewn in garbage. In other words, two large steps up from the cities of India. At least there aren’t cows running all over here leaving little gifts on the street. Anyway, I concentrated on the area around the National Monument, which Lonely Planet claims has the nickname ‘Sokarno’s last erection’. It’s basically just a flame on a tall pillar with some landscaping underneath, so I hope the others are at least a bit more interesting to look at. Wait a minute, those giant fake flowers look like ladies’.... oh that’s why the name. Gotcha.