Laos

Luang Prabang… say that ten times fast!

Years ago I remember someone telling me to skip Laos if I went to South East Asia. They said there wasn’t any point in going, “it’s looks the same as everywhere else.” That person was so wrong.

Luang Prabang was beautiful. It felt like a small country town. There was plenty of nature and above all else, it was quiet and calm. Just flying in was beautiful as we flew over rivers and mountains.

Sadly, this picture can out super hazy.

The airport we flew into was really neat because the walk ways were outside. All I could think about was “this would never happen in the US. ” Ha ha. Customs and immigration was also a breeze!

Outdoor walk ways

I love the sight of a small customs line!

 

Our first night we settled into our lovely hotel (they brought us afternoon drinks every day and were so helpful) and then wandered around the night market.

The ally way our hotel was on

Court yard of our hotel 

Day two:

Our hotel arranged transport to the waterfalls and even suggested when the best time would be to go. The waterfalls are the main sight seeing things to do and they have a bear rescue as you walk into them.

Relaxing in a Tuk-Tuk

Bear rescue

Waterfall on the sets as we hiked up the hill

Yes, we jumped into to the freezing water!

We we’re glad we went early. It got hot and more people started arriving as we left.

We wondered around town the rest of the day, napped, and then climbed a few hundred steps up Mount Phu Si (not really a mountain, more like a hill in town) to see a view of the whole city. It’s a good place to see the sunset, but it was so much hazy, we decided to go have dinner instead.

Up we go

This bridge is rebuilt after every rainy season.

TV anyone?

Day 3

We walked around and saw a couple of temples of which there are many!

We took an afternoon boat ride to see a cave full of Buddha’s. It’s takes an hour to get there and really it’s about the boat ride and the scenery. The cave wasn’t that impressive. We ran out of gas on the way there which was a bit nerve racking, but thankfully there was a gas station on the river.

Our long boat

Water buffaloes

Gas station
Cave full of Buddahs

On the way back from the caves we stopped at a little village

Last day

The library!

Royal Palace (Museum). We were not allowed to take cameras or phones inside. The USA gave Laos moon rocks on two different occasions. They were in the museum. 

The restaurant we ate at for lunch

The food

There is a restaurant in Luang Prabang called Khaiphaen which is part of the Friends International group. They are an NGO our of Cambodia that trains street kids how to be waiters and cooks and helps spread information about child labor issues. We ate at their restaurants in Cambodia so we were really excited when we found this one! We ate there twice (the next two pictures out from that restaurant)

Super fancy mango sticky rice! I could eat mango sticky rice everyday!

Sweet potatoes laying out on the street to dry

The only downside to the whole trip was the air quality. They were burning off fields so it was so hazy and gross!


BLOGGING IS NOT SOMETHING I’M NECESSARILY GOOD AT AND AUTOCORRECT AND I HAVE A LOVE/HATE RELATIONSHIP, SO PLEASE IGNORE ANY TYPOS, MISSPELLED WORDS, OR ALL TOGETHER WRONG WORDS. 

 

The Next Chapter…

Meet Crystal.

Crystal is a friend of mine who has changed the course of my life three times now. First, she inspires me to teach special education. Second, her husband and her sent me the job posting for my current job in Vietnam. And third, she convinced me, late one night while I was visiting her in Korea, to apply to the school she will be working at next year. And you know what happened…

I got the job…

In BRAZIL!

Yup, Crystal, her husband, and I will be working at a school in Curitiba, Brazil starting in July! Stoked, excited, thrilled sum up how I feel about it!

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(My side of this picture was taken in Australia as I would never be barefoot on a street in Vietnam. Ha ha)

———————————————————————————

I realize I haven’t blogged at all in the last year (A fact that has been pointed out to me by multiple people). Around this time last year I got sick. I started having an excuricating amount of abdominal pain. Several ER visit, way to many tests, a wrong diagnosis,  and a couple of months later (May) I was told I had colitis and it took until November for the pain to completely go away.

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I even went to the doctor in Korea (which was free). He told me it was something in my environment, more then likely the water, causing the colitis. And while I don’t drink the water in Vietnam I became more aware of other was I was being exposed to it. (Ex: washing fruits and vegetables)

I was tired, burnt out, and missed home. I just didn’t have it in me to sit and blog, but I’m going to try and go back and post blogs about all the cool this I did last year because even though I felt awful, I went on some pretty amazing trips. Stay tuned…

When friends come to visit- Chiang Mai, Thailand

Adventures with friends, Chiang Mai addition: Temples and Elephants!

Day Three: (of the whole trip)

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And we’re off….

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Welcome to Thailand, the land of smiles. This portraits of the late King were everywhere

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We stayed at the iRiver and it was fantastic.

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Pool view from out hotel

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First Thai food of the trip!

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Walking to the night market as the sun set. This picture came is so helpful to show our tuk-tuk drivers where out hotel was.

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Night Market

 

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This ice cream is so cool to watch being made. They pour milk on to a cold plate and mix it around. As they do it freezes.

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Tuk- tuk

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First Tuk-tuk experience.

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One of my friends suggested we go the Muay Thai boxing. This is the only picture I took and it was before we went inside. I understand that the sport is a cultural thing, but I had a very hard time watching children as young as 8 years old fight with people betting on them. We didn’t stay long.

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There was a Lady Boy show going on across the street. There are a lot of transgender/drag women in Thailand.

Day Four: Elephant Nature Park

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Our hotel had such a good breakfast. (Not all of this was mine)

 

Elephant Nature Park was my favorite part of the whole trip! They rescue elephants that are being used as work animals or being mistreated. Most of the elephants were old because in Thailand to “rescue” and elephants they actually have to buy it off the owners. Elephants come with ownership papers. The park wants to make sure they are not setting owners up with enough money to get new elephants so the buy old ones who (are mostly) hurt at a low price. The park also educated other elephant parks on kind ways to treat the animals. They whole day was amazing! If you want to learn more are this wonderful place click HERE!

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First sight of the elephants.

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We’re ready to feed them

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Some of the elephants were picky and only wanted the watermelon.

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Most of the elephants we saw were old and had been resuced. The ones we were allowed to get close to were very tame.

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I’m standing so far from this one because she kept swinging that branch around. The flower in her ear was put there by her keeper. They said if she doesn’t like the flower she will purposefully get it muddy.

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We were able to wash one of the elephants.

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The next group of pictures are from when Sarah, Jen, and I went to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. on the way back from the Elephant Nature Park. We were dropped of at a bus stop and had to take a taxi up a mountain.

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This is what a taxi in Chiang Mai looks like

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Inside the taxi

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Road side snacks! I’m not sure why I look so unhappy.

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My friend Sarah took this sneaky photo and I love it.

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Road side stalls outside the temple

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Crickets and grubs anyone?

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I wasn’t aware this photo was being taken and it’s not the most flattering photo of me, but I really like how the traffic out the back of the taxi looks.

Day Five: More Temples

While the other girls took a Thai cooking class, Sarah, Jen and I took a day trip to Doi Inthanon National Park stopping off to see a waterfall and the highest point in Thailand.

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When we walked down from the water fall they were selling souvenir photos from what looked to be a hidden camera. It was kinda creepy.

We stopped off at a local village to see how they made textiles and bought some to take home. The women were lovely.

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Look at how beautiful these fabrics are

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There was a little market on the side of the road that we stopped at to buy dried food and nuts

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Phra Maha Dhatu Naphamethinidon and Naphaphonphumisiri Pagoda. Pagodas for the King and Queen.

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Inside the Kinds pagoda

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Hello wind

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Standing at the top of the Queen’s pagoda looking at the Kings

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The garden

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Queen’s pagoda

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View from the top of the mountain

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Sunset over the river from our hotel

When we got back from our tour we hung out at our hotel for a little while before heading the airport to catch a late flight to Phuket. I really enjoyed Chiang Mai. It has a much slower/calmer feel to it the HCMC.

Next blog post will be about Phuket and Kon Phi Phi Island…. stay tuned. 😉

BLOGGING IS NOT SOMETHING I’M NECESSARILY GOOD AT AND AUTOCORRECT AND I HAVE A LOVE/HATE RELATIONSHIP, SO PLEASE IGNORE ANY TYPOS, MISSPELLED WORDS, OR ALL TOGETHER WRONG WORDS. 😉

 

 

 

 

 

When friends come to visit- Vietnam

Chúc mừng năm mới

(Happy New Year)

I had been looking forward to February since I moved here! Six of my girl friends flew over during my TET holiday break and we had such a wonderful time. Because we did so much I’m going to split up the holiday into several blogs based on where we went.

TET is the Vietnamese Lunar New year which fell during the first part of February this year. We only spent 2 days in Vietnam before heading off to Thailand. These post are going to be more pictures than writing because we took so many photos. (disclaimer I did not take all these photos 😉 )

 

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My TA took my to a local tailor to get an Aoi Di made. She picked out the fabircs and I love it. The lotus flower is the flower of Vietnam. Having the Ao Dai made cost around $40 USD.

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My TA, Linh, and I with the TET decorations at school.

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The pants are so comfortable I may or may not wear them around my apartment!

Traditional TET food made by my TA. I enjoyed all of it!

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TET is the busiest time of year at the airport. This picture does not do justice to the amount of people. I was standing way off on a side waiting for my friends and there were guards standing around keeping a pathway so that people could walk through. Insane!

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Welcome to the madness!

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First stop -Ben Thanh Market

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Ben Thanh Market. I forgot how overwhelming this places is to new people.

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Outside the Reunification Palace. I love how the city put up so many yellow flowers during TET. It was hot, the pollution was high, so instead of walking around we opted to get messages.

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Some of the best places are down dark questionable little ally ways.

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Secret Garden Restaurant

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Up the stairs we went

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This picture looks fake. It was taken from Secret Garden roof top.

Day 2- Mekong Delta

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Banh Mi (traditional Vietnamese sandwhich) for breakfast

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Bus ride to the Mekong Delta.

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We took this boat to several different locations.

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Floating house/ Fish farms

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Location number one

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Rice paper making

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Rice paper

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Location number two. Watching how the make coconut candy! Unfortunately, they put malt in these so I can’t eat them.

 

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Snake liquor

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Sarah and I were the only ones brave enough to try the snake liquor.

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Snake and scorpion liquor

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Lunch was so yummy!

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Our waitress made the spring rolls in front of us.

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Spring rolls and coconut fresh coconut water

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Tradition boat ride

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Location 3. Bees and honey. We were able to taste honey tea.

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A nice snack break of fruit and some traditional singing.

There was also a horse and carriage ride but the horses looked really sad and uncomfortable.

When we got back from the Mekong we walked around the city for a while.

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Strolling down Bui Vien Street in search of some souvenirs.

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In true Asia fashion we crammed too many people into a tiny elevator to get to a roof top bar.

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View from a rooftop bar. Vietnam does roof top places well!

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This place is delicious and I plan on going back!

 

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Ending the night with some Pho

That was pretty much all we did in Vietnam. The next morning we headed off the Thailand. That will be my next blog 😉

BLOGGING IS NOT SOMETHING I’M NECESSARILY GOOD AT AND AUTOCORRECT AND I HAVE A LOVE/HATE RELATIONSHIP, SO PLEASE IGNORE ANY TYPOS, MISSPELLED WORDS, OR ALL TOGETHER WRONG WORDS. 😉

What just happened?

Do you ever have one those moments where you go to do something and then you get distracted and end up doing something else? I sat down almost two hours ago to write a blog about Kuala Lmpur and New Years and some how ended up upgrading my blogs and changing its appearance. “How did that just happen?,” crossed my mind. Well to give you a tiny insight into to the way my brain works, here’s how it happened…

I was trying to find an old post and couldn’t. Then I saw one of my friends has a cool little copyright symbol at the bottom of her blog site. So I started googling. I wanted to change the way my blog looked. It’s not super user-friendly.  Okay…let’s be honest, it’s not super user-friendly for me when I’m tired and trying to find something. Ha ha! And if I can’t find what I’m looking for I doubt anyone else can. I decided I needed to change the “theme” as it’s called. And down the robbit hole I went. Oh man, so many options! So I had to preview almost all of them (Sorry, if you follow me and it spammed or email. Everytime I opened one up it would say “published.” I’m hoping that it didn’t happen!). Finally, I found one I liked. Then my special ed teacher brain started spinning “What if someone has a visual processing issue? I need to make sure the colors aren’t too harsh.” Cue another 20 minutes wasted on color choice. The copyright thing was a bit frustrating but after watching a couple of YouTube videos and reading a blog or two I figured it out! (Hooray!)

Now did I have to upgrade my blog for all of that? Nope. In this process I was reading about the different types of blogs WordPress offers and I found one where I can post videos. On more than one occasion I’ve wanted to post a video to emphasize something about Asia and haven’t been able too. Now I can and I can’t wait!

So in short, that’s how I waisted two hours, wrote a blog I wasn’t planning on, and have now pushed my KL blog to another day.  It’s no wonder it takes me on average two hours to write a blog post!

BLOGGING IS NOT SOMETHING I’M NECESSARILY GOOD AT AND AUTOCORRECT AND I HAVE A LOVE/HATE RELATIONSHIP, SO PLEASE IGNORE ANY TYPOS, MISSPELLED WORDS, OR ALL TOGETHER WRONG WORDS. 😉

 

A “Great” way to spend a layover

I’ve been little behind with my blogging… opps! So sorry I’m about to hit you with two or three in a row.

I flew one from Germnay on Christmas day. Flying on Christmas is cheap, but kinda sucks. No, the airline did not do anything cool because it was Christmas. However, I had 16 hour layover in Beijing and I was definitely going to leave the airport. But how? It’s China. From what I’ve been told not a lot of people speak English and because they don’t use the Roman alphabet their signs are impossible to figure out. So I set out google. It’s the one part of my winter break trip I actually researched. I read various blogs and emailed several different tour companies. The standard visa into China, for Americans, is a 10 year visa and it cost $200, however if you are there under 72 hours and have an ongoing ticket you can apply for a free visa. This seemed like that better option for my bank account. I was able to book a drive and an English-speaking tour guy who would take me to the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, and the Forbidden City.  I was stoked!

When I flew through Beijing on my way to Paris there was a huge line for this visa. I figured it was because it was later in the day (I guy I work with was on that same flight and he said it took him four hours to get through the line). I figured I’d have better luck because my flight would arrive at 4:45 am. My luck ended up being not much better.

I recommend that if you ever decided to try out this 72 hour visa you have patience. Buckets and buckets of patience. It’s a long somewhat chaotic process but don’t worry your tour guy will not leave you! (Something I was stressed about).

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So I arrive at 4:45am and went straight to the line. There are two different forms you have to fill out. One is at the counter next to the line and the second you have to ask the person processing the visas for. Interrupt him/her or they will never give it to you. There were maybe 7 people in front of me, however they were holding 5-6 passports each. I didn’t think anything of this assuming one person was processing a whole family of passports. Time dragged on. An hour passed and we still hadn’t moved much because there was ONE person processing all the requests. There must have been 150 people behind me (no joke). As it started to creep towards two hours things went down hill fast. First they ran out of the appropriate paperwork. People began forming a line next to the actually line just to get the paperwork. This would have been fine, however the people in front of me needed to get their families in line when it was their turn. This started causing a lot of issues. Accusations of cutting began to fly around, cussing happened, and a third line on the other side of the real line formed where other people decided to just start cutting in. What was once a nice orderly line turned in to a mob of people pushing. It was awful! When my paperwork was finally process I had to push and shove people to get out of the line.

I would like to hope that my experience isn’t typical. I have my doubts about that. There was one person processing paperwork and it took a lot of time. People were frustrated. A gentleman told me Shanghai is much better as they have multiple people processing the paperwork. After that line you have to go the actually immigration line to get your passport stamped. This didn’t take long.

It was definitely worth the wait and stress of the whole process. Just prepare your self to be there for a while.

My tour guide, Alice, (along with at least 15 other tour guides) was waiting for me at a Starbucks in the arrival area which was really easy to find. She took be to our car and we were off to the Great Wall. On the way she gave me a brief history of the wall and soon decided I looked too tired let me take a nap instead. (Actually, I was car sick from being over tired but didn’t want to make the driver feel bad). we went to the Mutianyu part of the wall. It was rebuilt in the 80s and you can still see parts of the original wall. We arrive and took a chair lift up to the top. You can take stairs but it was freezing and I was exhausted so I opted for the easier option. When we got to the top there was barely anyone there. It was so nice!

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Gondola ride up

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We walked to four of the tours

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So.many.stairs

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Every now and again I have moments where I’m glad I’m short!

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Toboggan track you take to get down

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You don’t have to take the toboggan down, but it’s the most fun!

After the seeing the Great Wall we headed to Tiananmen Square (“the Square of the Gate of Heavenly Peace’).  Tiananmen square is the largest public square in the world. I was surprise with all the security around the square. Because I was with a tour guide I was able to bypass all the lines!

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Mausoleum of Mae Zedong

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The Great Hall of the People

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The Gate of Heavenly Peace

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National Museum of China

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The Great Hall of the People from farther away

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We then walked under the road via a tunnel and were at the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City was a palace complex for the Chinese Emperors and is now a museum. It’s beautiful and has several palaces with in it which get smaller the farther in you go. The front was repainted for the Olympics so the colors were much brighter. My tour guided pointed out how so much of it was built around the idea of feng shui.

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There were lions everywhere

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About to enter

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The first palace with the Emperors throne.

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The ceilings were amazing

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The complex was so big that you could spend hours just walking around it

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You weren’t allowed to walk on these, but leading up to every palace were different sets of stairs and walk ways. The middle one was reserved for the Emperor. They were amazing! I can’t even imagine how long they took to carve!

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Emperor’s throne

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 This belonged to one of the Emperor concubines. The Emperors wife could not give him a son so when he died the aire to the throne was the concubines son.

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Inside the palace

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A dragon lion

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You weren’t allowed to go up there but that building over looked the gardens.

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The back gate

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A pagoda outside the palace walls

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I know this picture is blurry. These yellow bikes were everywhere. You “rent” them and leave them where ever you want when you’re done. I think my guide said it was 1 YEN an hour. 

 

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This was my guide, Alice. She was fantastic! Great English, very knowledge able, and kept offering to take my picture with out me asking! If your going to China I recommend looking her up!

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Good-bye, China!

This was probably one of the best layovers I’ve ever experienced. I highly recommend booking a driver and tour guide! China seemed like it would be hard to navigate on ones own and the Great Wall is about an hour outside the city. It was a great way to end my trip to Europe and a neat way to spend my Christmas!

 

Blogging is not something I’m necessarily good at and autocorrect and I have a love/hate relationship, so please ignore any typos, misspelled words, or all together wrong words. 😉

And so it begins…

Today was the first day of school. I’m back in Kindergarten (or KG as they call it here) and I couldn’t be happier. I have a TA named Linh, who has been wonderful! After my fantastic aides in San Diego (shout outs to Lydia and Anette) I was a little nervous when I found out I’d be getting an aide. Nervous and happy. Having an extra person in the room is always a blessing but can be hard some times.  I’m pretty lucky Linh has a Kindergarten background and is so willing to work together!

Orientation threw a lot of information at me so I’ve been little nervous about going from the Kindergarten I was used to teaching (very structures) to  a play-based approach.  I’ve also been in Special Ed the last three years so going back to being a classroom teacher had me worry. But, I had nothing to worry.

Today went so well! 

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My students were great! I have a small class, 18 kiddos, and three didn’t start today. I’m digging the amount of “Specials” times I have through-out the week. It allows for the Kinder team to plan together and the students really benefit from having so much, Art, PE, Library, Music, and Host Country Studies!

Below are some pictures of the inside of my classroom and our wonderful outdoor space. The outdoor space is not our playground, we also have one of those!

 

 

The outside space that kids can use through-out the day. It stretches the length of what would be about four classrooms. There are sand and water tables, big plexiglass easels to paint on, a kitchen, blocks, a full stage with seating, costumes, chalk walls, a huge wall xylophone, plants, and a variety of toys. I feel like these pictures don’t do it justice. It’s awesome!

And this is what will be our library. It’s still under constructions and obviously has no books in it yet, but just imagine what it will look like. It was designed for kids to play in. There is a huge square cubby in the middle that kids can go in to read and lots nooks and crannies that allow for an “adventure playground” type of feel.

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I completely forgot to take a picture of the cafeteria. Two words… smoothie bar! my breakfasts are set for the next two years! There is also a sandwhich bar, a variety of hot foods, and a salad bar.

To celebrate a job well done, I finally ordered take-out. Ha ha! I laugh because I feel like I’m the only person who hasn’t. It’s what you do here in Vietnam because it’s so cheap!

So what did this California girl order? Mexican food! Enchiladas with rice and beans. It’s no Roberto’s but it wasn’t too bad. 😉

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Side note/ celebration- part of the dirt road between my apartment and school was paved yesterday! This is exciting because when it rains (almost ever day) this road floods and/or has big muddle puddles. Here’s hoping they pave the rest of it!

Blogging is not something I’m necessarily good at and autocorrect and I have a love/hate relationship, so please ignore any typos, misspelled words, or all together wrong words. 😉
(***because I’ve mentioned the school where I’ll be teaching I should probably mention that everything on this blog will be my thoughts, not those of my employer***)