Thank you, Vince, for making this video :)
 
I can't remember the last time my weekend was actually the weekend. I've always worked serving jobs where the busiest work days were Friday & Saturday night. So apart from the occasional Friday-Johnny-V's-$2-drink-nights that I would partake in (I miss you, San Diego!), the "weekends" weren't really anything to look forward to.
So now here I am, working a 9-5 (well technically an 830 - 430, but that just doesn't roll right off the tongue unfortunately) and I have this blessed gift called the weekend where I can do whatever I want and not worry about getting called in to work because somebody took 6-too-many shots at JV's and is too hungover to come into work Saturday morning (granted, this was usually me). So of course every weekend, the boyfriend and I make heaps of plans to go hiking, explore different parts of the city, work out, go out to a nice dinner, go to the movies, etc. And maybe get 1/7 things accomplished. Hey - laying in bed all day watching Homeland is often exactly what you need after a long week of teaching Crasians (that's crazy-Asians, if you didn't know.)
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There's a reason why KFC grew test-tube chickens that didn't grow feet.
Fortunately, this past weekend was somewhat productive. The boy & I went to New Downtown and hung out with some friends after unsuccessfully trying to catch a movie at the cinema. You'd be surprised at how difficult it is to try and find movie times in this country (we did end up finding this site). We also tried chicken feet for the first time, which will definitely be the last time as well (we order by looking at the pictures on menus & pointing. It looked like regular chicken). After forcing myself to take a bite, it wrapped perfectly around my tongue as if a bird were perched on it. I tried to chew a few times but it was pretty much all cartilage and I ended up spitting it out. Oops. I did try another one in hopes that I just got really unlucky with the first attempt (the second attempt wasn't much better, but I was able to chew. Kind of). It didn't even taste bad but the whole concept of an entire chicken foot around my tongue just didn't fly (no pun intended). Sorry Korea.

On Saturday, after streaming the Kings vs. Lakers game (which almost made me cry), we explored a bit of Old Downtown & shopped a bit (I was on the hunt for a fabric store but everything I found was super outdated & expensive. Korea is not the most fashionable when it comes to interior design, I've realized). We stumbled upon a cinema and ended up seeing "Warm Bodies", which I would highly recommend. & then successfully made use of Nate's PS3 and got a "work out" by playing Everybody Dance, Table Tennis, Bocce Ball, Archery & Tekken. I mean, we'd go out for a jog if the air wasn't completely polluted and didn't almost kill me a couple weeks ago (there's this thing called Yellow Dust. Google it.)

For Easter Sunday, Nathaniel and I volunteered at the Ulsan Orphanage. He got to play soccer with a bunch of middle school & high school kids and I played with the littler ones inside. Asian kids are the cutest thing in the world. There's an organization called T-Hope Korea that has a bunch of different volunteer opportunities at orphanages or for autistic children, etc. I always miss my family extra during the holidays but couldn't be more grateful to have them after hanging around the orphanage for a couple hours.
We didn't get to go hiking like we planned, but there's a LOT more weekends to look forward to. & hopefully much better weather as well :)

Some Good Finds:

I have a slight obsession with avocados. We found avos at Costco - 5 for around 11,000 won, which is about $11. Not too bad, but I miss living in Cali where you can get 2 for a dolla.

I got to make my favorite brekkie this weekend with my green obsession:
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*1 slice of wheat toast
*1/4 of an avocado - sliced and spread across toast
*1 teaspoon of olive oil - dripped over avo to taste
*1 teaspoon of balsamic vinaigrette - dripped over avo to taste
*1 egg over medium - (or however you like your eggs)
*Fresh ground pepper & a pinch of salt

x2 (I usually have two because they're so delicious)

+ a cup of green tea &/or orange juice

=

the perfect breakfast

Costco was also a good place to find: 
cheese, bagels, cream cheese, towels (yes, full-sized! FYI - most Koreans use tiny, tiny towels the size of hand towels. No, I have no idea how this works or why they never thought to upgrade. But anyway, most stores only sell the aforementioned towels so finding large ones was an amazing find), & your usual bulk foods. Cheese is another hot commodity in Korea so Costco is pretty much our savior. Not to mention, the pizza is still excellent, which is a reason in itself to make the trip here.
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Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Recently read Gone Girl & would highly recommend it! This is actually the reason I didn't leave the house 2 weekends ago & got zero accomplished (this & Final Fantasy, in my boyfriend's case). But in all honesty, I literally couldn't put it down. It's one of those books that made me want to read more books. Currently working on a book list that I'll post soon :)

For my fellow lazy-watch-a-TV-series-all-day-couch-dwellers:
This is an excellent app to have on your iPhone if you stream/watch movies/shows from your laptop (which is connected to your TV). This app syncs to your laptop so you can use your phone as a mouse. AKA you don't have to get up to pause/rewind/turn up the volume/switch to the next episode. I realize this has absolutely nothing to do with Korea, teaching English or even being a productive human being at all, but it's awesome, so that's all that matters.

Until next weekend :)
 
It has been three weeks and I can safely say that I LOVE my job. I don't think I've ever been able to say that before. Not that serving food and cocktails to needy, rude people didn't just tickle my fancy - but this job is a wee bit better :)

Like I said before, my students are absolutely crazy, often out of control and usually drive me nuts - but there's just something completely fulfilling about teaching. I'm not going to get all "Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul" and say that there have been so many moments where I felt like I have inspired students or that I've made such a huge difference in their lives at all, but teaching is just fun. When the students aren't being disrespectful or rowdy, they actual listen to you and you get to call the shots. It's nice being in charge. But obviously it's more than that - it's just fun talking with the students, learning about their culture and even thinking up lesson plans and games to play is kind of exciting. Yeah, I know it's only been three weeks, but I hear the first month is the hardest anyway. 

Getting settled with things OUTSIDE the job, however, has not been a picnic. Getting a bank account, a cell phone, internet at home & a bus pass all seem like impossible feats when you get here. You have to get this "ARC" card which stands for Alien Registration (Card?) and you have to get this first before you get anything else. But to get your ARC, you first have to get a medical check. So after they finished attaching strange clamps on me and thinking that I was about to wake up in an ice bath with a missing kidney, I was cleared and able to go to the Immigration Office for my ARC. 

You have to have someone Korean go with you everywhere because most people don't speak English so my co-teacher brought me everywhere, thank God. So after sitting in the Immigration Office waiting room (which rivaled DMV wait times), I got a temp card while I wait for my real one to come (which takes 3 weeks. If you ever come here - make sure you get this temp card on the spot because it has your ARC # which is just as good as the card).

After that, I was able to FINALLY open my bank account! Which meant I also got my flight & settlement allowance! (Thank God because I was down to about 30,000 won. & unfortunately, that's only about $30). I also was able to sign up for a cell phone contract the other day. So long are the days of desperately searching for open WiFi hotspots to figure out where the bus has left me stranded because I'll actually be able to use 3G on my iPhone :) Thank you baby Jesus!

So I don't know if I've mentioned, but Nate and I have separate places. His place is ginormous - and when I say ginormous, it's about the smallest one bedroom apartment you'd find in The States, but with a pretty big bedroom. Regardless, it's probably bigger than most places in this country. My flat is tiny but I love it. Minus the finicky heater, old school internet (no wireless interent so I'm using an "ethernet cable" - when is the last time you've ever even said "ethernet cable"?) and questionable closet.

Have I mentioned that Korean heaters are super duper genius inventions that the US needs to adopt immediately? They aren't normal heaters that blow out warm air - they have water pipes that run underneath the floorboards (everyone has hard(wood?) floors) and when you turn your heater on, hot water goes through them so your floor heats up and keeps your toes super toasty. I've never loved sitting/laying on the floors so much. They're super efficient though, and keep your place warm a long time. 

My "closet" is in this little outside area which isn't outside, but it's just 0 degrees for some reason. It's the section of my place that has the washing machine (I think every place here has its own washing machine, which would be more amazing if it was accompanied by a drying machine - but beggars can't be choosers) and there's a door that opens up to my tiny closet. The tenant before said that she wouldn't put clothes out there because they would always stay damp so for now, I have a ghetto clothes rack in my room that I'm soon to Pinterest into something fabulous. I wanted to avoid putting pictures up of my flat because it's super boring, but I will anyway on my next post and then I'll hopefully have some amazing "After (post-Pinteresting) Photos" to add later.

The Asian Ways (the strange and sometimes brilliant ways of Koreans):

  • Everyone wears slippers to school - students AND teachers. Everyone wears their normal shoes but then changes into slippers inside
  • Needless to say, everyone also takes their shoes off inside homes. & even some restaurants as well
  • Everyone brushes their teeth at school after lunch - this may be in part to the mass amounts of kimchi consumed
  • It's not uncommon to sit on the floor in a lot of Korean restaurants
  • Students will often bring the teacher's things (computer, notebook, etc) to and from class for them from the teacher's office
  • Most apartments/flats here are key-less so everyone just has a code to unlock their door
  • Disposing of trash, recycling & "food waste" is absolutely ridiculous (yes, that means you have to separate your food waste from your garbage)  You have to pay for special trash bags and then everyone just piles them up outside and somebody supposedly picks it up every day (I'm not convinced). You also have to purchase special "food waste" containers & then also buy special "chips" (& not like potato chips - like little SD-card-sized chips) at the market to be able to get your food waste picked up. This is not a brilliant method, in my opinion.
  • Kids here are obscenely busy. After 8 hours of normal school, they often go to another school. High school kids aren't home until around 11pm. 
  • [Some of] My kids are GENIUSES. This kid started paying with Rubik's cubes 2 months ago.
I made the mistake of continuing to watch Rubik's Cube videos after posting this and then my kid didn't seem as impressive, but I've definitely never met any other 14 year old who can even solve a Rubik's Cube, let alone in a minute & 10 seconds! I'm on the hunt for a prodigy violinist next ;)
 

Finishing the Grueling Paperwork:

So if you have read any of my previous posts about applying, you know that this hasn't been the easiest process, to say the least. My life has become a constant example of Murphy's Law but against all odds, I have successfully arrived here in Korea and will be starting work on Monday! But I'll get to that later.

After my whole "setback" that I wrote about before (getting put behind 6 weeks because my fingerprints for my FBI criminal background check were "too low of quality") I got my fingerprint done again at the police station (WAY more legit). I sent my prints back to the FBI and included a handwritten letter begging whoever read it to PLEASE try to process them as quickly as possible and that my job and essentially, future, depended on it. So maybe the FBI happened to be in their slow season or something, but I'd like to think that someone had a heart and sped the process up a bit because 3 weeks later, my background check was in the mail! 

So long story short, I emailed my agency, Footprints, telling them that I had all my documents and that I could pretty much start as soon as possible if a position became available - and what do you know, the next day, they emailed me back saying that there was a position in the same group as Nate (by the way, Nate was all set to go & would be leaving mid February to do orientation and then start teaching on March 4th).

Moral of the story? Stay hopeful and positive that things can turn around because it's always possible! Granted, I spent a good amount of time sulking and wallowing because I thought I hit a dead end - but I at least continued with the entire application process and it ended up working out! So thank you to my mystery hero at the FBI who helped me, you're a LIFESAVER!

So here it is future English teachers, EVERYTHING you'll need in order to get your visa and finally board that plane to your next adventure:
    Click HERE to be redirected to my new site - First For Everything - for information on all documents needed, booking a flight and packing. 

A Few Things I Miss AlreadY:

  • Target - mainly the overall concept of going to one, single store and purchasing everything you will EVER need. 
  • Vegetables - I don't know if it's not in season right now or WHAT, but the vegetables here are limited.
  • ANYTHING IN ENGLISH: Imagine going to a completely different city with no car, no map, no internet and essentially, no CLUE, whatsoever. One can use their basic instincts and common sense to navigate the town and find a shopping outlet or bar. Or you know, they can ask a nice-enough looking civilian for directions. Here in my new home, barely anybody speaks a lick of English and there are a lot LESS signs and words overall in my native language than I had hoped for. It has been an adventure in itself trying to figure out public transportation and interpret these crazy hieroglyphics to find a store that sells a curling iron (which has been unsuccessful, by the way). 
  • Internet on the Reg - need I say more?
  • Soft Mattresses - Apparently, Koreans enjoy sleeping on stiff boards (with no fitted sheets).
  • & of course, my Friends & Family. Miss & love you all! 
 
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Didn't someone say the best things in life are free?
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Amazing scenery in Fiji & Australia

For more, visit my new blog :)

 
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Brekkie
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Lunch
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Dinna
3 days of no food and I survived! Well, 3 days of no solid food, anyway. 

I've spent the last couple of months in limbo - AKA this bizarre in-between-traveling-stage in my life where I have resided in my hometown, Sacramento. Most of this time has been spent preparing for the next adventure - South Korea (which is why the only thing I have to blog about is this) - but has unfortunately consisted of ZERO exercising and terrible eating habits (not having a real home = lack of grocery shopping = a lot of eating out, which ALWAYS = unhealthiness). I tried to remember the last time I have worked out and I'm pretty sure it dates back all the way to November, maybe early December if I'm lucky. And after a couple runs on the beach after living in San Diego for a few weeks, the only exercise I have indulged in consist of walking around Disneyland for a day and chasing my nephews around the park. Not okay.

So the family and I had decided to do Dr. Oz's 3 Day Detox Cleanse last week. It seemed easy - 4 smoothies a day for 3 days at only around $20 a day. And I LOVE smoothies. I would happily drink Jamba Juice every day. 
*NOTE: The grocery list above doesn't take into account the extra "snack" drink. So buy extra, according to what you want to repeat. Plus, it doesn't hurt to have extra of any of this in your fridge!

Day 1 was probably the hardest. All of the smoothies are pretty good (the breakfast smoothie is my faves), but after drinking 3, all I could think about was solid food and wanted anything BUT a smoothie. We debated just eating the ingredients, since it seemed the same regardless (& we just wanted to CHEW something), but we googled it and saw that the reason you blend everything is to give your digestive system a break. Everyone was craving meat but I've been eating a vegetarian diet for the entire month of January so I've gotten used to no meat. We all woke up on Day 2 with a headache, which went away after drinking breakfast and a LOT of water. We went on a bike ride this day and felt a bit light headed after but it felt nice to finally get some exercise. Day 3 was the easiest and my main motivation was knowing I could finally eat the next day. The detox baths are an absolute MUST. So incredibly relaxing and put me right to sleep. 

So 3 days later, I am now cleansed and detoxed! I was literally dreaming about pizza while I had to abstain from solid foods, but I'm feeling okay now and actually want to eat healthy so as not to make the last 3 days a waste. This cleanse was the perfect way to push me into eating healthier and getting back in shape! There's so many different healthy snacks to make with all the leftover food that actually sound really yummy too. Celery/apples & almond butter (almond butter is a healthier & yummier version of peanut butter), avocado & toast (or just avocado and anything. or avocado by itself), almond butter & banana sandwiches, pineapple & cottage cheese, the list goes on.

Next goal: get back into shape!

For more, visit my new blog :)

 
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Singapore Skyline
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Marina Bay Sands Hotel
After being in the Philippines for a week and enduring the most wretched airport facilities in Asia, we arrived in the cleanest country in the world (or at least the cleanest in Southeast Asia) - Singapore! I've never been so happy to be in a first world country. Not that Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines weren't amazing, but I was just looking forward to not seeing massive cockroaches on a regular basis. Singapore is a very modern, small city-state south of Malaysia and above Indonesia. It's an incredibly wealthy state with a high GDP and third highest per capita income in the world. Unlike previous countries we were at, it is extremely clean, urbanized and developed.
We arrived at our "cheap" hotel, which was near $100 and considered cheap compared to the other hotels (such as the Marina Bay Sands - pictured above - which would easily be around $400 a night). Oh yeah - no more third world countries means no more $25 [clean] hotels, unfortunately.
Our time in Singapore was short and consisted mainly of walking around the Marina - which is where their main big city area is. It's also where the famous Singapore Flyer is - AKA the biggest/tallest ferris wheel in the world. This actually wasn't a traditional ferris wheel, which was slightly disappointing, but more of a giant room that rotates around the wheel very slowly. You walk through basically a little science museum for a floor or two until you board the giant rotating room and the next 30 minutes are spent looking out the glass walls to the entire country of Singapore (this country is TINY.) It's 165 meters tall and may or may not have been worth the $30 it cost, but we really couldn't go to Singapore without going on it. 
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View from the top
We walked miles around the city and came across a super modern outdoor theater on the water with a live band playing, a ginormous mall with a "Bellagio" type water show next to the bay, the unique Gardens by the Bay and an amazing art museum where we saw a photography exhibit featuring "Magnum Photos", whose mission is to "chronicle the world and interpret its peoples, events, issues and personalities." We spent a few hours here and saw various photographers' collections - ranging from photos of the urban, dark side of Tokyo, to portraits of people in desolate places in Poland. 
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That crazy white building behind us is the Art Science Center
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Gardens by the Bay
At night, the city is beautiful and there are tons of restaurants and bars to go to. We were semi-conned into eating at a seafood restaurant right on the river (one thing that's the same as the other countries in Southeast Asia - people are very pushy) but the two free drinks each made it worth it. We ended up deciding to go to Malaysia early, due to the costliness of Singapore and the lack of money that we had after 4 weeks of traveling. Singapore was just too expensive for us.
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Helix Bridge from one side of the bay to the other
We left Singapore around 11pm and boarded a bus that would take around 5 hours to drive to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. We found this bus online and it cost around $25 - there are tons of different buses online ranging from standard "charter" buses (which we took - seats reclined far back and made it comfortable enough to sleep the entire time) to buses/trains with rooms that people can sleep in beds in. Those ones weren't too much more but we weren't too fussed over a 5-6 hour bus ride. 
After getting woken up twice in the middle of the night to walk through customs with our passports and luggage, we arrived at Berjaya Times Square in Kuala Lumpur at around 5am to take a cab to our lovely 5 star hotel. The Le Meriden cost less than our cheap hotel in Singapore, which by the way, had the SMALLEST room I've ever been in in my life. The only thing that fit in it was a queen bed. No joke. 
Anyway, 6am was too early to check in so we worked out at the gym and enjoyed the ginormous pool, jacuzzi and waterslide outside until our room was ready. We were back in the glorious inexpensive part of Southeast Asia so this meant lots of room service slash food getting delivered to us. Not gonna lie, we were pretty exhausted from traveling and did NOT mind just lounging around our hotel for a couple days doing absolutely nothing :).
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KL probably had the worst weather throughout the trip but we didn't mind watching lightning storms from our room with a view like this. You can see the city through the fog in the back.
We still did attempt to check out the culture and luckily, we were located right outside the city next to the train station. The first mistake I made was my choice of attire. I didn't know that Malaysia had a HUGE Muslim population but I definitely figured that out instantly after boarding the train and having dozens of FULLY clothed women stare at me wearing a summer dress. Whoops. I definitely attempted to be more modest after that experience.
Nate and I went on a walking tour of the city to become a bit more familiar with the culture, which I absolutely would recommend. It's called the "I Love Malaysia Heritage Walk" and we went around the whole city and our guide showed us different landmarks and gave us a brief history for 90 minutes. There are different tour options and we just did the free Heritage Walk (limited spots so reserve beforehand!). 
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(left) Merdeka Square & the Sultan Abdul Saman Building on the left. (right) Kuala Lumpur City Gallery
We walked around their Chinatown and the Central Market and did some good shopping at their street markets and ate delicious local food - stingray and a claypot dish with rice and chicken. We shopped more after eating and in an attempt to buy a cheap DVD to watch at the hotel that night, we literally almost got Taken. Yes, Taken. We were on the main street of Chinatown shopping around and this guy asked if we wanted to buy some DVDs. Nate said yes and so this Asian guy leads us to these shops down an alleyway (not even a secluded alleyway - there were still a bunch of other shops there) and into his "shop". He wanted us to get at least 10 movies and we weren't down so we turn to leave and the entrance where we came in was now a wall. It was one of those little garage places where they can pull down the door and so they locked us in and kept saying that "customs" was outside so they had to close the door (AKA their van was driving up to kidnap us in). Nate argued with them and started trying to unlock the door himself until they finally let us out (where customs was NOT). Sketch.
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Shopping in Chinatown
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Waiting for our stingray & claypot dish to be made!
There were a couple amazing temples we saw as well. One, we accidentally stumbled across while venturing to Chinatown, called the Sri Mahamariamman. This temple was built in 1873 and is the oldest Hindu temple in Malaysia. We also went to the Batu Caves, which were limestone caves that had hindu temples built inside - you just had to climb the ridiculously tall staircase to get inside. Malaysia is extremely hot and humid, just like the rest of Southeast Asia, so this was an incredibly daunting task. It was somewhat worth it when we got inside. This temple is pretty trashed because it's super touristy. Still pretty cool, regardless.
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Temple & entrance to the Batu Caves
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Temple inside the limestone caves
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Staircase
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Sri Mahamariamman

Top Things to do in Singapore & KL, Malaysia:

If you're looking for....
CULTURE:
  • Malaysia Heritage Walks - amazing volunteer guides who love their country & give great walking tours
  • ArtScience Museum in Singapore (they had a crazy lego exhibit that was opening a week after we were there. We were suuuper bummed we missed it and are determined to go back to Singapore specifically for this exhibit)
  • Chinatown in Kuala Lumpur has amazing local food
  • Singapore Marina - great nightlife & tons of bars & restaurants
  • Gardens by the Bay, Singapore
SHOPPING:
  • Pavilion Shopping Centre in Kuala Lumpur if you want most name brand stores. Huge, GORGEOUS shopping mall but the prices are about the same as, if not more, than America.
  • Chinatown & the Central Market in Kuala Lumpur - right next to each other. Tons of cheap shopping along the street markets in China town where you can get ANYTHING. Lots of souvenir & novelty type shops in the Central Market
  • Shops at the Marina Bay Sands - just like a Vegas hotel with a river running through it, every designer store imaginable, live music and a casino
SITE SEEING:
  • Singapore Marina - amazing views of the city on the waterfront, such as the famous Marina Bay Sands hotel. I'm sure this hotel wouldn't have a terrible view either from its infinity pool on the roof. Walking around the entire bay has incredible views as well.
  • Singapore Flyer - panoramic views of the entire city. 
  • Malaysia temples - Sri Mahamariamman & Batu Caves temples
  • Petronas Twin Towers, KL - didn't get the most amazing view of these buildings because it was raining but pictures I've seen look awesome.
Goodbye Asia, until next time:)
 
Our week in the Philippines didn't exactly start out as planned - as in it was COMPLETE disaster. Remember how we talked about our Flying Mishaps - which can be summed up to "you get what you pay for"? Well this is where one of our budget airlines SCREWED us.

Original Plan: Fly into Clark, take an 8ish hour bus ride at 10pm to Banaue where we would arrive at the beautiful rice terraces early morning where we would spend the day. Then take the same bus back that night where we would get back to Clark the next morning and then fly to Boracay - AKA paradise. Well our flight got changed to 3 hours later, causing us to miss that bus so instead, we decided to just take a flight early the next morning from Clark - Boracay. Meaning we would be spending the night at the airport.

We've already had PLENTY of experience sleeping at airports so we weren't too fussed over this. Unfortunately, this was an airport like no other, thus far. Only international flyers were able to be inside the airport (which did NOT include us since we had a layover in Clark) so we were stuck outside. With cockroaches and dozens of other humungous bugs EVERYWHERE. And I'm talking GIANT FLYING cockroaches. We were going to take turns sleeping (we didn't want to get robbed) and as exhausted as I was, there was no way I was sleeping with cockroaches creeping around every corner in the hot humid weather. Yes, it was the middle of the night. No, this didn't mean the humidity wasn't 80%.

So after 8 hours of terrified exhaustion, we finally board the plane to take a 45 minute flight to Kalibo, where we then waited for a bus to take us 2 more hours to a dock where we boarded a "bunka" boat. This 15 minute boat ride finally landed us in Boracay! And the 15+ hours of traveling was worth it to get to paradise.
White Beach, Boracay had THE most BEAUTIFUL white sand and clear (yet incredibly turquoise) perfect-temperatured water I have ever been in, in my LIFE. And this is including Fiji and Thailand. Yes, it was probably the most humid place we had been so far, but that just meant more time spent in the water, which was probably around 80 degrees.

We were halfway through our trip and probably spent the majority of our money, so this was just an excuse to be completely lazy and lay on the beach all day, which we definitely did. I was completely content with going for a morning swim, laying on the beach drinking $1 happy hour cocktails, napping under the sun, going for another swim and then watching the sunset. 
After a few days of this, we did decide to partake in a few activities - with a bit of coercion from the dozens of guys harassing you on the streets. We booked a sailing trip around the islands followed by horseback riding at sunset at about $40 a person. A few Filipinos came on the sailboat with us and we cruised around for a few hours and ended up riding right into a storm. It poured on us for a good 20 minutes and then literally cleared up within 5 right after. We also snorkeled a bit but the rough waters and lack of fins made it a bit difficult.
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Snorkeling with Marlon & Nemo (if you look reeeal hard, you can find them!)
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Our semi-sketch boat with tarp sails
Horseback riding later was a lot different than I expected it to be. I thought we would arrive at some ranch and we would just be riding through big fields. After taking a little "tuk tuk" (their little baby cabs) to the stable, we arrived at a dirty farm with a few kids manning the horses. Without so much as a brief introductory (I've never been horseback riding before), we were jumping on our horses and were on our way. Instead of riding through fields, we actually rode down the street and then into what I guess were the neighborhoods. The streets had sporadic housing which was basically just a small shack with an entire family living inside every half kilometer or so. And I'm talking, 8 by 8 feet HOUSES with families of 5 living in them. Clothes lines were connected from houses to trees and little kids were running around everywhere. People were sleeping in the dirt under trees with babies wrapped in their arms. I felt like an asshole riding around on a horse because all of the kids would come chase after us a few dozen yards when we would ride past them. 

I did notice a lot of families cooking and having big get togethers at the larger houses I saw. There would be heaps of people gathered outside these houses drinking and celebrating birthdays and such. But these were rare. Poverty was the majority of what we saw.
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Tuk-Tuk cabbies
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They were absolutely INSANE drivers
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Leaving the stable!
The rest of our trip was spent wandering through the shops, lazing around on the beach even more, finding authentic Filipino food (most of the food on the touristy island of Boracay was BBQ and seafood kind of food), eating, finding happy hours and playing pool. Which are all some of my favorite past times so I was completely satisfied.

Boracay may not have been the most exciting destination we went to, but it was still an amazing experience. Extremely eye-opening for sure. Maybe I'm a little biased because it's my "homeland" but I just couldn't believe the poverty there. And this is at the most touristy place in the Philippines. I can't even imagine what the REALLY poor places are like. There are about 94 million people in the Philippines and of those, 70% are living in poverty. That's almost 70 million people possibly living in the dirt, not knowing when their next meal is going to be. 
I definitely want to come back to the Philippines and stay a lot longer. Boracay was gorgeous but I'd want to get a more authentic Filipino experience. Although, there really was nothing better than being able to walk 100 feet to the beach, wear nothing but a swim suit, be able to go dive in the ocean at any point in the day or night and choose from the happy hours as cheap as 30 pesos a beer (which is less than a dollar). The people are so nice and hospitable, there are tons of shops, bars and restaurants, and the view didn't suck either :)
 
This is a list of things we needed to get and how much it cost:

Getting things NOTARIZED with an APOSTILLE, TEFL online course & The Application:

For more information, please click HERE to be redirected to my new site, First For Everything.

The Setback:

For some reason, my fingerprints are extremely faint. Apparently it's genetic. That, or I burned them all off after serving in a restaurant for however many years. So I said that it takes the FBI around 6 weeks to get our criminal background checks after we send them our fingerprints. Well about 6 weeks after sending them (& also, the SAME DAY that I got offered a teaching position in Ulsan, Korea), I get an envelope in the mail with the worst possible news: The quality of your fingerprints is too low. Please resubmit new fingerprints.

So I'm sure you can do the math. Mid-November + 6ish weeks = Beginning of January = Just in time to get my background check sorted to start my new job. Mid-January + 6ish weeks = too late to take the job in Korea. All because of my non-existant fingerprints. I called the FBI and they said that my new prints can't be expedited and that they treat every request as a new request. And there's pretty much NO arguing/reasoning with the FBI. I got my prints redone today at a Police Station (I originally got them done at a UPS -- don't EVER get them done at a UPS for 2 reasons. a) This situation. b) They use actual ink, which can smudge, whereas police stations use these computers where you put your fingers on this machine and the computer records them, makes sure that they're legible & then prints them onto the cards as if they're ink). I informed the agency of my setback and they said that I won't be able to go in February but to try for the "last minute positions". 
So what have I learned here? Well there is absolutely no silver lining whatsoever, and the only thing I've learned is to not get fingerprints done at a UPS. Not exactly the fairy tale, love story, lesson-learning, epiphany-reaching kind of story. Sorry. 
Alright, let me try again.... I have learned that you can plan everything out exactly and do everything right but sometimes that's still not enough. But that doesn't mean you should give up trying or cry for a week straight (although crying for a day straight is absolutely acceptable). It's just one of life's hits that you'll look back on later and think, "I can't believe I came from there to where I am now". So now I've just gotta figure out the future "where I am now" part. It's still possible to go, even if I have to wait a few months or even a year. Everything eventually works out.
& on a last note: I hate you, UPS. That's all.
 

Places featured in video:

Australia - The Great Barrier Reef
New Zealand - Milford Sound, Abel Tasman National Park,  Franz Josef Glacier
Bali, Indonesia - Telaga Waja River, Monkey Forest, Tegalalong Rice Terraces, Seminyak, Ubud
Thailand - Phang Nga Bay, Phi Phi Islands, Tiger Temple, Damnern Saduak Floating Market
Boracay, Philippines - White Beach
Singapore - Marina Bay
Kuala Lumpur, Malayasia - Batu Cave Temple