Saturday, October 20, 2012

Back to Blogging!

I'm not going to even count the months I've been away.... Its been a long time.

I've missed blogging... I've missed reading updates on my blogging friends....I've missed the process of recording my thoughts, and of having a record of what was going on in my life in a certain month, in a certain year... 2012 is completely remiss.

I had such good intentions.... When we returned home, I'd spend a week locked away with my computer editing photos, writing down stories, editing video.... and then life happened.  We got swirled together with projects, applications, reconnecting, and my life recording tumbled off a cliff.

And then GRAD SCHOOL started.  Summer school took over every waking minute.  If I did anything except study in my free time, guilt curled its way around my soul and squeeze the life out.  Economics was especially tough.  I made an "A," but I'm not sure the anxiety was worth it.  Before one of my tests, I started swallowing air.  My throat had restricted.  The internet explained that these were signs of extreme stress...

I'm now in the second semester of my international MBA and its much calmer.  Its not a breeze by any means, but I have a few moments to catch my breath.  Something I didn't feel I had before.

I still feel guilt at not studying in my free time, and using it to blog, but its okay.  Life is going to be okay.  I'm not sure if I will be able to regularly blog again until after I graduate, but I'm gonna try to update more than I have.

Saturday, May 19, 2012


I know its been a while since I've posted. I've been home for at least three weeks, and my original plan was to take a week off, and then start the editing, writing and blogging marathon. What I didn't anticipate was the amount of work that our new house and unpacking required. I never got that week off.  We hit the ground running as soon as we arrived. Unpacking a house is tortuous, and tedious. I'm pretty sure I'd  choose water-boarding over unpacking this amount of stuff. It should be given the same level of respect and accomplishment as a marathon. Its a monster that just can't be beaten with a special shaking of the controller like in mario cart. It takes patience, endurance, and a mind for organization. Basically, I'm failing at this game the house and I are playing. It beats me into submission every single time. I come out looking like a domestically abused woman. I just can't level up and the more I unpack and take more things out that don't have a place, the more I get discouraged. I've begun to slouch so far over that people mistake me for Egor. There's just too much stuff, and the stuff doesn't have a home, and I don't know where to make it fit in. So basically, instead of facing the house head on, in a face to face match off, Kyle and I are going in on a side angle sneak attack, stealth-like; projects. We may not be good at finding stuff a home, but we're good at making certain things look better.

What have we done???  Oh so many, its hard to count....well, I have enough fingers, technically to count them all, but, really, you don't want a number...(read not enough to really brag this much about but I need something to feel good about).
Below are three of our accomplishments.
1) chalkboards for the kitchen
2) pot hanger
3) makeover on an old drawer

These first few pictures are of the chalkboards.  We went to Goodwill and bought some cheap frames.  I sanded the paint to give it a bit of an antique look, painted the glass with chalkboard paint, and turned old spice containers into chalkholders.   We're pretty happy with them so far.

These next few pics are of the pot hanger which doesn't have any pots yet.  Another find from Goodwill, we took it home, painted it black for a primer, painted turquoise blue on top lightly and hung it up.  I'll put up final pictures of the ladder when its complete with the pots hanging decoratively from its posts.

This last project is of a drawer my mother couldn't let go of because it was from her childhood.  There was nothing endearing about this drawer.  It was simply misplaced sentimentality. But against my better judgement, we kept the horror.  But in order for me to keep it in my kitchen where I'd have to look at it daily, it was decided on high, that decoupage was in its future. It was hideous. I really should of taken pictures of this wooden heinous fiend with aging, curling yellow lining previous to its transformation.  But I wasn't thinking that far ahead. I'm pretty pleased with the finished product, although I'm not sure decoupage is the best way to go for kitchen things that occasionally get wet.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Home at last

We've arrived home in San Antonio Texas finally. It's been a long amazing journey and we're ecstatic to be home. I didn't intend to give up my blogging while traveling but thought I'd be remiss to focus on blogging while I was out seeing the world. There was so much to eat, see, smell, touch and experience, and I kept trying to find time blog instead of experiencing all that our travels had to offer.

For the time being, we are living with my mother and grandmother.  The house is not fully moved into, and so we plan to spend much of our days, trying to transform the house into a livable space rather than a box-occupied disaster, but I must say, organizing is not a strong suite of mine, and the whole process is more than a little overwhelming.

Figuring out what to do with all of our junk!!
 June 4th, I will begin classes for an international masters of business at the University of Texas at San Antonio. While Kyle has plans of his own which deserve an entire post onto itself.  Although our traveling has come to a temporary halt, and we have stopped moving from city to city and are actually settling into the same bed for at least a year, our adventure is far from over. In fact this journey is just the beginning and I hope its shaping up to be just as amazing.
My mom's new house

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Laos 3

Jan 17  We’ve chosen Elephant Village for our Elephant riding tour. It’s an Elephant sanctuary for old and dying elephants and the animals are well cared for and not abused like at some of the other places.  We climb onto the Howda (elephant seat) and set off.  Its bumpy and the seat sways under the elephants powerful muscles.  I clasp onto Kyle as we descend down a rather steep hill.  Whats to keep the elephant from tripping and toppling down?  I almost feel as if I’m at a 90 degree angle. I picture myself being trampled under this magnificent beast.  Watching National Geographic is one thing, but to be on top of a creature with so much weight and power is breath-taking and poignant. I fear and respect this animal more than I ever have before now as it holds my life strapped to its back.

The ground levels off and the line of elephants splash into the river, but I don’t truly feel my most at ease until I’ve switched with the mahout (the elephant expert driver) and am riding on the elephants neck.  Her skin is as rough as sandpaper and as wrinkled as a farmer whose worked in the sun 80 years.  Its so thick I wonder how hard I’d have to pinch for her to feel anything.  I like feeling the elephant directly under me. I can ride with her, moving as she moves, and its much more comfortable than the seat on top.  She continues walking as I stroke her leathery skin. (All of the elephants at the sanctuary are girls, the males cause too many issues- as they tend to do across species)

It's amazing.  Truly amazing.  I loved being on on the elephant, and can only wait impatiently for the next elephant riding experience we might get. 

After our elephant excursion, we head to a waterfall.  The water numbs the skin with a single touch.  Lisa, Kyle and Deirdre jump in anyways.  I happily film and take pictures warm on the shore.

Lisa and Deirdre climb into our bed after dinner for our final goodbyes.  We’re parting ways after the evening, they to Vietnam, and us on an off the beaten track tour.  We chat laying comfortably on each others laps across our queen size bed until both Lisa and Kyle are snoring.  Although we are sad, we plan to meet them in Ireland in April so we know it isn’t our final goodbye.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Laos 2

Our bungalows

Jan 14
Vang Vieng is one cool town. Its completely overrun with drunken, partying tourists, but its situated along a river among the mountains and has restaurants of every type galore.  I can’t help myself.  I love this place.

 We’re supposed to go tubing today but we’re off to a slow start..

We share a tuk tuk- a motorcycle with a cage like cart on the back perfectly purposed for carting tourist around- with an Australian couple, and three German girls.  It’s begun to rain.  I can’t help but pout.  I wanted to go tubing today, and the weather is not cooperating.  We’re going down to the river anyways just to see whats the big fuss.

 Bars line the river.  Free shots of Laos whiskey are given at the entrance of each bar.  I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t this.  Its just a drunken party along the river.  Were I warmer, I might enjoy myself more, but all I wanted was to go tubing today, not getting drunk by four in the afternoon in crappy weather.  Why did I not bring warmer clothes?  Its winter for goodness sakes.

We see the Irish bloke we met last night.  He doesn’t remember us.  He’s been drunk for 30 days straight.  He’s a hilarious fellow, with red hair, and calls himself, “the ginger man.”  He plants his legs, bends his knees and does a funny jig when he introduces himself. He says he has a pain his back, we're pretty sure its his liver.

"side effects to our malaria tablets.  We especially like the oe that says 'breast-feeding'"

Jan 15
We’re staying an extra day.  The sky is clear, and the sun has emerged bright and shiny as a newly minted coin..  We’re going tubing today.  A number is written on our hand in permanent ink.  Tourists, especially the drunk, rowdy ones have been known to take others tubes while they’re at the bars and profit on the deposit thats returned to you upon return of the tube unscathed.  These people, the ones who are drunk before noon, give westerners such a good name.
The water is a bit chilled from the rains yesterday, but I’m ecstatic to be tubing again. 
A water bottle slams into my face knocking my sunglasses off.  Two men standing on a platform in the middle of the river are waving happily at me.  A rope is attached to the water bottle so that one can be pulled into the bars.  I tuck in my growl, and say “no thank you” as they balk that I'm not tubing to go the bars.

Groups of children with baskets are collecting the riverweed.  They eat it after its been fried and salted.  Its like seaweed except from the river.  I can’t help thinking, “shouldn’t they be in school?”

We took a cooking class and cooked four dishes.  They were all fantastic: Penang, Laotian sweet and sour, Laotian pad thai, and a coconut curry soup. 

Jan 16
9:00 am is when were supposed to be picked up for our trip North to Luang Prabang.  They’re never been on time.  We choose a minivan over a bus this time.  It might have been the wrong decision.  Half of us don’t have backings; no support for our necks or heads for six hours.  The road is serpentine and twists our stomachs until everyone in the car wants to hurl.

Without a hotel room booked, we wander around a bit looking for rooms.  We run into two of the Aussies in our van.  With six in our group, we’re able to negotiate for better rates.  Score!  And whats more, we’ve made friends, and we’re going to dinner with them.

Lao Lao Garden is amazing!  Its set outside, under the night sky, with a cool breeze drafting through. Water buffalo is a fantastic meat.  Some of their cocktails use coconut milk.  Unconventional- but delicious. We're coming back here for sure!

Saturday, February 25, 2012


Jan 13
We leave Vientiane on whats called a VIP bus. I don’t feel like a “very important person” on this ratty, rusty piece of junk on wheels sitting next to a guy vomiting into a plastic bag.  We spent most of the time in Vientiane sleeping.  We did get malaria medicine from the local hospital for $2 for a months worth. Thank goodness we didn’t buy it in Korea for hundreds of dollars.

Laotians aren't pushy at all, in fact they're quite content hanging in the back of their tuk tuk until you find them! 
If there’s one word I could use to describe Laos at this moment would be dusty.  Everything is covered in dust. The motorcyclists have to wear masks in order to breath, and the leaves along the road look dead from the two inch layer of dust weighing them down.  We saw a man watering the road.  We couldn’t understand what he was doing, but now we understand, he was attempting to keep his home from being completely weighed down and crushed in the dust.

They sell sandwiches along the road; sandwiches with bread, real French loaves.  Are we really in Aisa?

The bus breaks down only once. I’m a little surprised to find that there is a man on the bus almost entirely for the purpose of fixing the bus when it breaks… It’s the suspension, there isn’t any left… we’re back on the road in about 15 minutes..  We’re lucky really.

Our guest house is supposed to be situated on the river, but it’s the end of the river, and has turned into a stagnant cesspool.  A bamboo bridge separates us from our bungalow huts across the “river.” The wooden planked stairs are unevenly spaced out with huge gaps in between.  The bridge shakes as we cross. One heavy handed step, and I think this bridge would collapse.  I grip onto the bamboo handles for dear life hoping that I don’t fall while carrying my pack across.  One of the many stray dog happily crosses with us, turning his head with curiosity as if to say, “I cross this bridge everyday, why are you gripping the bamboo handrails for dear life.

Our huts aren’t much better than the bridge, and are actually completely made from bamboo.
Fantastic and Safe Electric practices in Laos!

Offerings to the ancestors.  Everyone must do this.

Lisa and Dee demonstrating how confusing Laos money is.  Which  number means how much the bill is worth?  I dunno?

portable fruit stand.  What more do you need?

Our room, four beds, four holy mosquito nets, all in a bamboo hut.

Kyle LOVES hammocks. Seriously loves them.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Christmas dinner 2011

It was almost a disaster. Almost.  We had it planned for months.  Call and order Christmas dinner from the military base.  There were so many people working, and it was easier on the Koreans who couldn't cook to save their life, but it didn't work out.  Our plan failed.  It didn't just crash, but face planted and spontaneously combusted into ashes.  The military base, well, they didn't come through, and Christmas Eve, Kyle and I were calling people to figure out a new plan. It was difficult.  I didn't want to have to do a big cook-a-roo right before we were scheduled to pack up and leave, but it didn't look like we had much of a choice if we wanted a Christmas dinner.  And there also was the issue of NO TURKEY.  So we bought chickens.  And we didn't invite the Koreans.  I felt really bad.  I knew my preschool teachers were really looking forward to the dinner, but we couldn't invite them and not the others, and it would just be WAY too much work to cook for 30 people.  So we kept it small, and miraculously it turned into a dinner.

I did burn my finger on scalding water, but other than that it went off without a hitch.