Few things suck more than the long drive up the 495 to your weekend beach escape except for maybe the route’s less than appealing culinary options. Fortunately, there are a handful of stops – like steaks at Bryant & Cooper or Tuscan food at Stresa – where you’ll find food with just enough flavor to hold you over until the Hamptons. Also worth a stop: Benihanas: ‘”think of it as your chance for local culture,” or just go to raise a glass in honor of the late, great, Rocky Aoki. [BB]
You know me. I’m certainly not an outlet guy.The mere existence of a ’shopping’[...]
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I just want to say thank you to my 'Blog Family' [gah, I sound like Grinch Paltrow] for getting me through these past few months. Thanks to the music I've been sent - which I am listening to now - thanks for the knitting project; thanks for the books; thanks for the poncho; thanks for all the comments that have kept me afloat; thanks for just popping in.
It would have been so hard without this blog.
So really, thank you.
This room will be far from my mind for 7 weeks.
Far from my mind.
And when I come back, there will be no more misery because I will be planning my next big moves.
I am open to anything and everywhere.
Wanna do a m'bike trip? I'll do it.
Sail? I'll do it.
I'll be open to so many adventures.
Just lead the way.
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Beyond the Aussie pub lies the European beer café (as distinguished from the beer garden). Whether you're after boutique Belgians, colonial brews, Bavarian bottles, or Czech imports, Sydney has a variety of beer cafés to suit any connoisseur's palate. Some are homegrown, while others cash in on the reputation of Old World producers. But all offer a good guzzle and a hearty feed.
Laxman Jhula, Rishikesh.[...]
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Gulu is the second largest town by population in Uganda. It houses a sizeable military base, which used primarily for operations against the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). The last 21 years here have been war-ridden, with several attacks by the LRA. During the times of conflict, tens of thousands of children would flee from their neighbouring villages into Gulu each night for safety. Millions of people in the district were displaced by the war -though the LRA is not operating in Uganda today, probably about one million people are still living in displacement camps around Gulu, trying to earn enough to restart their lives.
I have learned a lot about this conflict before coming here, and my heart goes out to these people. I am dying to visit a camp, to talk to the people I've learned so much about. (You can watch a great documentary called Invisible Children: Rough Cut, about the LRA conflict here for free; and in fact, you should.)
Unfortunately, our time in Gulu is actually very short lived and kind of disappointing; we are running behind (ah, Africa time) if we are going to catch our scheduled ferry to Murchison Falls. Instead of making our stop at an IDP camp as we thought, our van pulls up at House of Hope orphanage, a home for children orphaned by either HIV/AIDS, or the war in Northern Uganda. Thirty three children live here, many of whom, we are told, have personally witnessed the deaths of their parents at the hands of the LRA. I can't even imagine.
The orphanage is run by an evangelical grey haired white lady from Texas, and feels a bit like a child brainwashing centre. The children are well taken care of, for sure; they're just also being indoctrinated with the word of Christ from a very, very young age, which is something pretty foreign to me, personally. (And, it's true that I'm disappointed that we're not going to an IDP camp, which is the whole reason I wanted to come to Gulu in the first place, so this is definitely skewing my perception.) Of course, in addition to the Bible, the orphanage staff are teaching the kids other things too: life skills (especially in farming and agriculture), and good values. The children are happy and healthy. They have clothes; they eat well; they go school; they know love. I'm quite sure they get a ton of funding and support from American churches.
We have four hockey bags full of donations we have brought to Gulu, hoping to leave in a camp. Since there is no time, we spread them out on the floor at the orphanage instead, and Dean gives a touching speech that makes the best of what we are all feeling. We show the kids some examples of what is in the bags. They stare, and look almost expressionless. I don't see many even crack much of a smile. Next we hand out toothbrushes, which we realize they probably already have. One of the supervisors says something in Acholi to the kids, and they all smile and clap. We feel a bit uneasy knowing there are others who clearly need this stuff more than these kids, but aren't sure what to do about it.
“Two of Atlantic City’s newest hotels are wagering customers will flock to this seaside resort with gambling all around them and stay for something other than the tumbling dice.” Or in other words, A.C. is looking to channel a bit more Vegas and a bit less Mohegan Sun. The two hotels in question are the not-yet-opened Chelsea and the Borgata’s recently debuted Water Club. Both are banking on celeb chefs and spectacles courtesy of Elton John and The Eagles to jump-start Atlantic City’s non-gambling economy. [AP]
THE ROAD TO HEAVEN
Arriving in Luang Prabang in the early morning was like riding into a dream. The moment I opened my eyes on the bus, I knew I made the right decision to travel on a night bus. It was past 6 AM and the vehicle was making its steady ascent into a zigzag to the heavens. Fluffy clouds hang low, their feathery tufts covering most of the green mountains surrounding us. They were like angels welcoming us.
It was hard not to be moved by such beauty. As the other passengers gradually awoke in the midst of such unfathomable beauty, everyone fell silent. I was wide-eyed, smiling for myself. The only sound that you could hear was the occasional clicking of cameras. It has been more than 36 hours of bus rides from Saigon. My only regret so far is my failure to capture the beauty of the scenery before me ? in all its splendor. Is this the road to heaven? The view before me is probably not for cameras to capture, but solely for the human eye to appreciate.
We reached an almost deserted bus garage. It was drizzling by the time our bus found its parking. There was a small office at the center of the station lot. I retrieved my backpack, took shelter and considered my options. I went to one of the waiting sangthaews (which literally means 2 rows). I asked how much he?s charging for Sisavangvong Road, the main street at the center of the city. Whoever thought of that name is a genius. It has a tongue-twisting playful quality. Sisa-vang-vong! Sisa-vang-vong! Saying it is like summoning the spirits of heaven! Sisa-vang-vong! Can I have a smoke machine?
One of the tourists kept saying, ?Sisa-VONG!? as though he was trying to correct me. The cretin! Go check your crumpled Lonely Planet and relearn your street names! From behind me, a goo goo eyed Danish girl, in her high-pitched nasal voice, kept gushing, ?It?s so beautiful!? I looked around and saw the dusty grounds of the bus station. There were other sangthaews waiting for customers. There was nothing particularly beautiful surroundings us. Unless she was referring to the tall Italian guy she was tightly holding on to. Alright, I?m being a dickhead! LOL
The sangthaew driver I approached was asking for 15,000 kip (almost $2) from each of his 3 passengers, myself included. Cheap. But if you really think about it, it was like a tricycle ride from any of the side streets of Boni Avenue going to Cherry?s Foodarama in Shaw Boulevard, which charges PhP30 ($0.65 ). Buti sana kung airconditioned taxi service ?to, eh motorbike lang naman na may backride. Tapos may mga kasama ka pa! Off we went to Sisavangvong. The driver earned 45,000 kip from us. That?s $5.60 (PhP255) for his non-aircon luxury vehicle.
Looks like a "thumbs up"as the Mekong flows to the North then turns south and eastward. X marks the Chomsy Hill aka Phou Si.
The picturesque Haw Kham (others spell it as Ho Kham) is the former royal palace, This has been turned into the Luang Prabang National Museum, the official name written in front of the complex. Lonely Planet calls it the Royal Palace Museum. It sits on a compound that has a temple to its right, the Phralak Phralam Theatre and a little pond beside it. The museum closes between 11:30AM and 1:30 PM.
This museum houses the Pha Bang, its most prized Buddha ? cast in gold, silver and bronze alloy, weighing 53kg. This was cast in Sri Lanka during the first century and presented to the Luang King. The Buddha sits in the center of a small hall. Visitors can only view it 5 feet from a deck. I couldn?t steal some photographs coz an old man was watching over the visitors, namely ME! LOL. Just across the street from the Museum is the Chomsy Hill (aka Phou Si). My jumbo driver wasn?t aware of it being called Haw Kham.
Dara Market. Also located in the eastern area of the city, Dara Market is a small center divided into stalls. There are some posh cafes, some DVD shops, as well as stalls selling cell phones and accessories. I was looking for Lao movies and I was greeted with perplexed stares everywhere. It turns out, the Lao Movie industry is non-existent. They have a thriving television industry churning out local telenovelas and TV series, but no Lao movies.
Sackarinth Guest House (left) and my $12 room 7 (right)
It is precious.
It only comes around once.
In this life.
You know, the one we've all got now.
You don't get any second chances with it.
And this is why I am where I am today. Nearly free at a relatively young age.
Because, well, because I don't want to have to work until I am 60 years old.
From a young age I used to think,
'What's the point of making your dreams come true towards the end of your life, when your body is on the wane, and you're on the way out, when you can instead make it happen during the peak years of your life?'
Hallso, from a very young age, I thought,
'What's the point of staying in the UK when the world is a big place and I want to see as much of it before I die as possible. Ergo, I'm going to live and work abroad.'
Which I did.
And I did it well.
A lot better than many of my friends did, when they lived abroad; in that I went for the cushy jobs even though I was wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy underqualified. And got them. Confidence can take you far in life sometimes.
I mean, I have friends who, when I've offered them the chance to work for my company up in Tokyo, who place teachers in cushy private school jobs across Japan, well, I've had them say,
'I couldn't teach high school. It would be too difficult.'
'I couldn't work in a real school. It would be too difficult'.
I'd look at them with raised eyebrows and beer breath and say,
'Okay. Stick with the shit language school jobs then. Your choice but I think you are a fool for doing so. I mean, if I can get these jobs, then you, with your TEFL and your real educational quals, can definateillleee get them!'
And yes, a lot of these friends were actually qualified teachers back in their own countries.
And I'm not.
On the other side of the coin, there have been many times when I have found jobs with my company for friends over the years, and they are still there. Cos the jobs are cushy. And not as difficult as they sound. Then again, teaching has never been difficult for me. I just do it and do it well.
Yeah, shoot me for being straight up but fuck this modest shit. If you are good at something, say it outloud.
Things I'm Good At
Marathon shag sessions
Dropping an anchor stern to [Ha! Bet you didn't know that!]
Uh, that's it.
Not much I suppose but in my natural free state, I am a very happy, positive, life-loving, life-appreciating person. Which is enough, quite possibly.
I have tigressed beyond tigression.
The point of this post was:
Thank fcuk I am not a Japanese teacher.
How do they do it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
All this work work work work work.
Today is the last day of classes.
Today is the 18th July.
The next semester begins on the 1st of September.
Wanna know how many days off my co-teachers are getting?
Six! In the middle of August during Japan's longest 'national holiday', Obon.
When every other person is travelling and well, you are gonna be paying big bucks to be going anywhere. Even domestically.
Oh, and some weekends.
And possibly once or twice each week when they don't have to come into school for special classes for the kids; who also don't know what it's like to experience a true summer vacation.
I am sooooooooooooooooooooooooooo glad I wasn't born in Japan.
I would never ever ever ever ever ever ever, if I was a foreigner who got married to a Japanese person, I would never ever ever ever send my child to school in this country.
It is too cruel.
It's like becoming a salaryman at age 7.
Taught to sacrifice your free time for the sake of what????
These poor kids.
I was once asked to give up my summer vacation to come and teach some lame English classes.
My answer was a resounding no.
You will have to fire me before I will ever sell my soul to a job.
They never asked again.
So whose class is more interesting?
That of a person like me who has an anecdote or story for any topic that comes up.
Or somebody who has only ever known the World of Work?
I say ME.
And I'm not being patronising here. It's not that there's this group of people out there saying, 'OMG, I love overwork!'
My co-teachers are suffering.
They are fucking exhausted.
They just don't realise that things can change if the numbers are big enough and the voices are big enough.
I mean, come on, 6 days off in a row out of 7 weeks!!!!!!!!!!!!
That is unhealthy.
And yet they do it.
I have NO idea how they do it.
I feel sorry for all my students if their future is gonna be like the teachers who teach them. And this is why I try to be as personal as possible in class to show them that there's a whole lot of opportunities out there in life.
Like this afternoon, I was giving a special class to the kids going to NZ soon and I was secretly amazed that I was coming up with all these fun stories and I thought to myself,
'Fuck, I love my life. I love all the experiences I have had. I am sooooooooooo lucky'.
And the 8 kids I was teaching?
Well, they were shining by the end of the class.
They'd enjoyed the candidity with which I told my little yarns, they saw the possibilities open to them, they realised that you don't have to go through life being a martyr for your job.
I may have changed the outlook of 8 kids today.
I can only live in hope.
Fuck. I have massively tigressed again.
I wanted to write about all the teachers from my past who have appeared shocked at my blatant get-the-fuck-out-of-school-as-soon-as-classes-finish antics.
I've had some say,
'Why do you travel so much?'
uh, well, not much. They don't quite know how to deal with it cos in one summer, I use up their lifetime of vacation, or so it seems.
So yah, in the past I have had teachers say in response to my, 'Why don't you travel?'
'I'm waiting for retirement'
And guess what, a lot of them, or their spouses, got sick or kicked the bucket before reaching 60.
And most probably because of overwork.
Fuck. What a waste.
Fuck. I've lived a good life. Especially when you consider that all the photos used for this blog post were drawn from a mere two months of my life.
I will never give up on life and living it to the full.
And tomorrow here I come!!!
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