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Delayed Gratification: The Boracay Post

18 Mar

So now you know all the effort put into actually getting to this little island. And as I mentioned in the previous post, once we arrived, we went straight to our hostel, which was like a Filipino Swiss Family Robinson type deal.  The hostel is run by a family, although they all appear to be about the same age, and we couldn’t ever distinguish how they were related to each other.

And this family, including their patriarch, Two-Teeth-Jubi, not only run a hostel in the most laid back manner possible, but they do it all while singing.  I don’t think a single hello or good-bye was exchanged during our 4 days that didn’t include a song and dance number.  And you know how much I appreciate a random jazzhand and a little fanfare.  So we instantly fell in our love with our quirky, oral-hygiene-challenged hosts.

The baby-bed we shared, which ironically provided me with the best sleep I've had in months.

After getting as gussied up as possible after nearly 15 hours of travel, Ms. Betsy and I headed out to the famous White Beach. This is absolutely the best part of Boracay; everything is accessible from the White Beach.  Not only can you lie around on it during the day, you can use it as a road/walkway to get to all the shopping, restaurants, and nightclubs.

After dinner, we started drinking, and promptly harassed our young Filipino waiters into showing us where the good clubs were after they got off work.  So at midnight, we followed our very nice new hosts down the beach.  For like 2 miles.  At this point I became convinced we were walking into our Law & Order SVU-style doom.  We passed countless restaurants and bars.  And a few clubs.

But at last, we arrived at the most crowded, loud, colorful club of them all. It was just what we were looking for. The front part of the clubs opens up to the road, and the back is right on the beach.  So if you need a break from dancing or just want to put your feet in the water, you just take a few steps out the back. It’s perfect.

We danced our little English-teaching hearts out. The drinks were cheap.  The music was loud.  The people were friendly.  Oh, and they was even an extremely talented midget (little person?!) go-go dancer by the DJ.

Blurry club shot

We walked the 2 miles home – beach front of course – and fell into our tiny bed around 5 a.m.

This would set the tone for our short trip: Wake up to the sounds of the birds/sheep/rooster/goats from the family farm next to us.  Make our way lazily to a restaurant to enjoy delicious Western-style (!!!) brunch/lunch.  Walk 10 feet from the restaurant to a lounge chair and spend the day at the beach.

In the afternoons we would walk around the White Beach, doing a little shopping, and even going down to the White Beach Starbucks. (which is remarkably cheaper and has a security guard check your bags before entering) We both enjoyed a $6, hour-long massage on the beach along with some seriously amazing fresh fruit shakes.Granted, for everything we actually did stop and try/buy, we were solicited for 20 more.  No matter where you are on the White Beach, people will approach you to buy just about anything.

Perfect shot of the main walkway on the White Beach via boracay.com

Oh, and one day Ms. Betsy tried scuba diving, but she quit after an hour with this observation: “It’s just unnatural for humans to breathe underwater.”

Word.

We would then take long siestas, before venturing out for dinner and clubbing. Even if we happened to start at different places, we always ended back up at the club from night 1.  So some obvious advice: Always ask the locals where the good places are! This is also the club where we saw half the people from our Manila flight, which was funny and a bit awkward.

The second night of our trip also happened to be the actual Lunar New Year. So while I chatted with a very intoxicated guy who also happened to be a fellow Arizona alum, we watched a traditional LNY performance that included very colorful dragons dancing around and drinking beer. No really, the dragons drank beer –which really boosts the ancient Chinese up a few points in my book.

That night we also decided to make our way back to the club from night 1.  Assuming we could just follow the same path, we set off down the beach, only to reach a large obstacle: the tide.  Apparently the tide was remarkably low the first night, which allowed us to walk on the beach.  But because we are idiots adventurous, we decided to just walk along the cliffs.  While holding onto a chain-link fence.  While waves crashed up on our legs. No offense to my husband James Franco, but this was my 127 hours people.  Not only did my bum ankle and I make it the 20 minutes across the cliffs, but I did it in flip-flops and a minidress, while holding my clutch.

My only motivation was fear, and my inner monologue sounded something like this:

“If you let go of the fence and fall into the water, you will probably re-break your ankle.  And hit your head. And drown.  And die.”

and

“If you let go of your purse, your passport, your ID, your camera, and your phone will wash away forever. You will never get off this island. You’ll probably die here.”

While my actual voice was shouting things like this:

“Betsy WTF is wrong with you?!  What a terrible idea!  I just got out of my cast Betsy, and now we’re McGyvering over a GD fence in the ocean?! Do you want me to die Betsy, do you?!”

Naturally, she made it across much easier than I did.  Further insulting, were the 10 year-old kids who ran past us to get to the other side.  Rude.

But we made it. And then drank heavily after our near-death experience. Oh, and when we left the club (and for the next 2 nights), we went out the front door and took the street home. It doesn’t really provide the scenery or the death-defying adrenaline rush as the cliffs, but it gets the job done.

Overall, it was the perfect short trip to blow off some steam before the long grind of spring/summer teaching.  Boracay has a distinct feel to it, because it’s not too Westernized. And because it’s not too Westernized, everything is insanely cheap. Like sinfully cheap, y’all. It more than makes up for the expensive plane tickets and hellish travel to reach it.

And although this post will never do it justice, please take away this one point: This vacation was just. so. worth. it. Worth the money, the energy, and the time. Worth enduring a Monday workday that started 4 hours after we got home. And worth cleaning out a suitcase that projectile vomited sand all over my apartment.

I miss everything about this. (sidenote: 2 good ankles y'all!)

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Boracay: Getting There

15 Mar

OK, so I’m like *6 weeks late on the Boracay post, and (spoiler alert!) this isn’t even a post about my Boracay vacation. I had to dedicate an entire post to the epic travel experience that was just getting to and from that blessed little island.

So. . on a cold Wednesday morning at around 4:45 a.m., I met Ms. Betsy and caught a cab to the nearest airport bus stop.  The perpetually angry driver picked us up around 5:10 a.m., and we had one hour in the warm, dark airport bus to relax. (except who could relax when they are a mere 12 hours away from the sandy beaches of Boracay? Answer: Me. It was 5:10 a.m. )

The airport was a Lunar New Year nightmare of lines, but in typical Korean fashion, everything was taken care of with the utmost politeness and efficiency. Betsy and I then parted ways, with plans to regroup and catch a flight together in Manila.  My first flight to Hong Kong was uneventful.

Except that we left the runway in Seoul about 45 minutes late, making me dangerously close to missing my connecting flight in HK. As I stepped off the plane, I immediately saw a beautiful flight attendant holding a sign with my name on it – never a good sign.  She nicely informed me that I was really f-ing late, and that we were going to run and pray and then maybe I would get on the flight to Manila.

And run we did. Please keep in mind that at this point I’ve had about 3 hours of sleep, and was just 1 week out of my cast. So I was hobbling and huffing along next to a model-worthy flight attendant through the Hong Kong airport.  And we just. kept. running. We caught a tram. We climbed escalators, and jogged on moving walkways.  We took service elevators, and I even got to sneak through the airport personnel security checkpoint, instead of the invasive laymen one.  (you don’t have to take your shoes off!)

And through some divine miracle (or maybe some repaid karma from having a cast for the last month) we made it. We arrived at the gate, with 5 minutes to spare. I looked at the flight attendant and asked if I would be boarding now. In response, she gestured at my sweaty face and generally disgusting appearance and said:

“No. You have 5 minutes. . . You should go to the restroom.”

Touche.

My flight from HK to Manila was rather uneventful, save for the Sweet Valley High twins next to me, who looked to be about 18, and talked incessantly about how this was their first time flying abroad, while continuing to ask for more wine from the flight attendant. Because (hint!) you won’t ever get carded for ordering drinks on an international flight. Oh, they also read each other excerpts from the latest Cosmopolitan magazine and discussed the finer points, ie “I mean can you ever like really know if your boyfriend is over his ex?”

But luckily I did meet some cool teachers from HK who were also on their way to Boracay.  Please note that I would eventually end up seeing all the people on this flight at the clubs in Boracay, which was really, really strange. (the way people act on a plane is not always how they will act in a club while on vacation – write that down)

I finally made it to Manila and met up with Betsy. I would just like to warn y’all that the Manila airport is one of the most lackadaisical, maddeningly frustrating airports EVER.  They don’t actually tell you anything, but expect you to magically have your customs declaration form, or a fistful of Philippine pesos ready to pay for your entrance fee into the country.  Oh, you didn’t get those already?  Hmmm, well you can probably find them. . . somewhere over there, around the corner or something. Yeah, that is totally not a frustrating conversation to have when you are freaking the eff out because you might miss your plane.

And because I didn’t even realize that we had gone through yet another time zone change, I had all but resigned myself to the fact that I missed my third and final flight of the day to Kalibo. . . until Betsy came up and found me, and I realized I still had an hour to spare. Whew.

Our one-hour flight to Kalibo was fine.  We landed, and walked from the plane to the “airport” – a two-room, very crowded little island building. Which was fine; it was balmy and tropical and dammit,  we were almost there.

After wrestling the crowds to find our luggage, we found 2-teeth-Jubi, the man our hostel sent to help us navigate our way to Boracay. Jubi then found us a large white passenger van that would drive us to the ferry stand – about 2 hours away since it was dark. The vans just wait around the Kalibo airport to take passengers to the ferry, so your van could be crowded with people from anywhere in the world, speaking any number of languages, all trying to get to Boracay. Unfortunately, we arrived at night, so the drive took much longer than it would during daylight hours. And unfortunately it’s nothing but winding, island roads, where we routinely harassed little moped and motorcycle drivers and tempted our fate.  The whole time I just kept thinking “My mom would die if she saw the way this man was driving.”

Two motion-sickness-inducing hours later, and we arrived at the ferry.  Jubi helped us buy our tickets, and he took care of our bags.  We then got onto a crowded, rickety ferry, along with approximately 25 other travel-weary vacationers and about 1,000 pounds of collective luggage, which they put on the roof. (the ferry workers spent the ride climbing all over the boat, fixing and securing things, and generally looking like a bunch of Filipino Spidermen) We had to wear those hideous bright orange life vests that you wear on cruise ships (the universally unflattering color) while we rocked back and forth in the pitch darkness that is the ocean at night.  Oh, and the girl in front of me vomited.

Bitchin’.

10 minutes later, and the ferry dropped us off on Boracay island.  Please immediately go back to the top of this post and reread all the ridiculousness we went through to get to this tropical paradise: taxi, bus, 3 planes (including airport trams), a van, and then a ferry.

To get our luggage to our hostel, we got a little island “taxi” – a motorcycle with a huge, covered sidecar attached.  The 3 of us, and our luggage all managed to fit, and as we got some island air in our lungs we darted along more tiny, unmarked roads, and squeezed through quite a few narrow alleyways.

Courtesy of bwanasurfer @ flickr

We got to our room by 10 p.m.  15 minutes later we were changed and walking along the White Beach, looking for a place to eat dinner. This turned out to be one of the most fun, adventurous nights of our trip, but that will all come later in the next post.

And please realize that a mere 4 days later, completely depressed that the trip was over, I had to reverse all these insane travel methods  to get home to my cold, Korean apartment at 7:30 a.m. On a Monday.

Now that is the 7th circle of hell, y’all.

 

*And I’m pretty sure I’m only inspired to write the Boracay posts this week to spite my family all the people at home who are enjoying spring break right now.

Cram Sesh

15 Feb

Picking up where we left off at the end of January, Ms. Ryan left and life trudged on.

And after battling the pain, humiliation, and overall smell of my cast for 3 weeks, it was at last removed. . . revealing a sickly little leg and deformed ankle in its wake.  I have finally resumed my daily walks to/from work (and we walked a few miles on the beach each day in Boracay), so I have eliminated the dreaded “cast cankle,” that I had for the first week.  It’s still a little sore and motion is limited, but things are really looking up and I even wear 2 matching shoes/socks now. Every. Day.

 

I let my students sign my cast the day before it came off. It mainly says "Don't be sick teacher!" Translation: "Don't hurt yourself again teacher, because we are so-over helping you carry stuff. Mkaythanxbye."

February brought brand new (and better) classes, making the days a little more exciting in the rush to finish lesson plans and learn new textbooks and students’ names. My better class schedule also lead me to believe that my boss doesn’t find me totally incompetent. In fact, 2 days a week I now teach a debate class with my coworker/bestie Ashley.  The kids get a new topic each week, and so far things have gone well.

 

February also (blessedly) brought Lunar New Year, and a truly perfect vacation to Boracay – but that will be a separate post to come soon.  Spoiler alert: it’s amazing, you’re going to be jealous, and you should already be planning your next vacation there.

And last Friday,  a few of the teachers and I headed up to Olympic Stadium in Seoul to see Ms. Taylor Swift in concert. And dammit if she wasn’t the most adorable little American thing I’ve seen in months. The concert was smaller than I thought (they didn’t use the stadium seating) and we actually sat for most of it. It was about 50% Koreans and 50% military families/couples. We sat behind 2 little American girls who were seriously having the same reaction as all those teenaged girls in the 60s when they first saw the Beatles.  But we forgave them and their high-pitched screams because the concert was good: lots of sparkly outfit changes, lots of hair flipping, lots of gracious dialogue, and lots of (live!) singing.  She sounded good and we had a great time – it was strange, because I actually felt like we were in America during parts of the concert.

In semi-hilarious news, I began ballet classes today with 2 of the other teachers. (I affectionately call us the Has-Been class). And while the ankle isn’t exactly at 100%, it felt great to get back into a dance studio – although not that great getting back into a leotard. (pictures to come – eventually) We are taking classes from a studio in our work building, 3 times per week in the mornings – and we lucked out and got a private class. It’s just us and our perfect ballerina instructor, who I’ve taken to calling Korean Princess Grace.  The first day went great, and I’m sure there will be much more to report in the coming weeks.

And although this is totally mundane, I would just like to say that our weather has been offically upgraded from “kill yourself freezing” to just “cold.”  Yongin is rocking temps in the low 40s this week – AND I’M SO HAPPY ABOUT IT!  After an entire month of 5 and 10 degree days, 40 feels downright balmy. And the sun is out. And the ice finally melted off those damn sidewalks.  Decent weather + no cast = practically skipping to work these days.

I’m finally catching up with everything now that my post-vacation hangover has subsided and life has returned to normal. We are now entering the grind: 4 months of normal work and life in South Korea. No more whirlwind vacations to plan or holidays to celebrate. Just some time to relax, explore new parts of Korea, and save some money.

But fret not, I’m positive I’ll be able to sufficiently embarrass myself/entertain you during this downtime.

 

Let There Be Light

12 Jan

Despite the fact that it has been snowing all day at a rather alarming pace, good things are happening.  Oh so slowly, but surely, they are happening.

The first Good Thing?

One of my students did her book report on “The Little Mermaid.” And what came out of the woodwork pray tell?  Why a budding mini feminist. This quite literally made my day. I first laughed so hard I cried. Then I read my student’s spot-on opinion of Little Mermaid to the entire faculty room:

“I think she was very stupid. Because we can write letters and we can give and take reciprocally! I think Mermaid is so poor. Because she wants to get love, so she lost her family, her voice, her friends, and even her life. . . I want to fight with that Prince.”

Preach on little sister, preach on.

 

Down with the patriarchal machine! Down with . . . Hans Christian Andersen?

 

 

 

Oh and the second Good Thing?  I just booked my plane ticket for Lunar New Year.

I’m going here:

 

Note: This is an actual picture of paradise. It was not retouched to make you jealous.

 

Meet Boracay, an island in the Philippines. Famous for its White Beach by day and clubs/bars/restaurants by night. Hi Boracay, my name is Cla Teacha, and I believe we will get along swimmingly.

But until Feb. 2, we shall play the waiting game. . . and hope that creative, opinionated students are encouraged to keep being just that.

Happy snow shoveling, y’all.