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 ;)
 
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.
 
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*buY a chocolate hair dryer --- that really bothered me too.
I actually didn't end up taking the job at the sports marketing agency. I thought long and hard about it and decided that it was too much of a commitment to be getting paid ZERO dollars to do training for like, 4 weeks. Luckily, I had an interview the following day (after getting offered the 1st job) at this company, World Series Paintball.

So the job posting doesn't say much and so I go in and of course, it's another sales gig. This one however, seemed like a lot less training/commitment and so I thought, what the hell - let's give it a shot. So I had an "observation/job shadow" thing last Friday for World Series. Not what I expected. They go around to industrial areas mainly (sometimes to Unis as well) and try to sell them these "Gold Pass" paintball tickets. Which, you could argue is a scam, but it's actually a pretty good deal. To sum it up, we promote these "$5 tickets" for "everything you need to get you started" (AKA padded suit, gun, mask, entry & 100 paintballs) - which would actually be a good deal if you didn't HAVE to purchase 200 more paintballs when you got there for $40. So no, it's not $5 to go paintballing, it's $45 if you're actually wanting to shoot your gun. And if you were to go there without the "Gold Pass", it's $50 for the same thing (minus the extra hundred paint balls). So it's still kind of a good deal. But not really.

Anyway, I think I've been talking about this "deal" so many times this week that I keep going on about it and can't think about anything else. So yeah, we go around to industrial areas and get rejected dozens and dozens of times. I didn't do terribly for my first week. But to sum it up - I got up at 6am every morning to be at the office by 745, have an hour long meeting, work from 10am-530/6pm and not get home until 7. Every day. Well every week day anyway. I didn't do amazing either. I said I didn't do terrible, but I also didn't do amazing. These girls do a damn good job selling to random old men and what not, but I, on the other hand, ended up making a total of $164 all week. And that's including the commission from the "Ten Pack" Nate & I purchased, so really I only made $129. Did I mention that this job is commission based only? As in NO base wage AT ALL? As in I made one hundred and twenty nine dollars working over 40 hours. That's $3.25 an hour. I think Asian child laborers make more than that.

Surprisingly, the money issue was not the reason my life as a sales rep only lasted 4 days. I could've gotten a lot better at it and I could've made a lot of money. The girls there make a minimum of $800 a week. My boss, who still goes around selling Mon-Fri makes over 150k a year. Granted she gets more commission than we do and also makes commission off our sales as well. 

I personally couldn't do it anymore because I am just not cut out for it. I am a firm believer in the fact that you can only truly be successful at something if you're passionate about it and love it. I didn't love it. I borderline HATED it. I love chatting with people and I spent most of this job making random conversation with people about anything NOT paintball (while also NOT making money). I talked to this guy yesterday for 40 minutes, half the time about what I was going to do about this job I hated. I don't feel comfortable trying to sell something that people don't want, need or will ever even use. I hear myself "pitching my sale" to them and I can hear how fake and insincere I sound. Because I don't care if these people go paintballing or not. Granted in restaurants, I don't really care what people eat, but I at least can give people a good experience while getting food in the restaurant they CHOSE to come eat in.

Bottom line, I don't have the drive to be a good sales rep like those other girls. They did an amazing job and made ridiculous amounts of money, but it's not for me. I hated going into company after company with signs on their doors saying "No Sales Rep/Hawkers/Canvassers" (all synonymous to ME). Most people were nice about it anyway but still, 98% of people I talked to said no to me. And I was even okay with getting all the "no's", I just hated bothering people so much. 

So that is my life as a Sales Rep. Four days total. And now I'm left with a sprained foot (we would walk miiiiles and miiiiiles everyyyy day. I made poor judgement about what shoes to wear), only $129, a week of my life gone, one more job added to my list and another career path I can cross off. I'm okay with it. Yes, I've always been one to jump around jobs, but there's no point being miserable in a job at my age. 
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A reminder for myself.
 
So I've been back in Australia a week now. Spent a glorious weekend doing absolutely nothing but hang out with the boy, watch movies (including the Dark Knight Rises for the 2nd time), sleep and relax. Come Monday, Nate had to go to work and I was left with nothing to do, seeing as how my cafe job would have to wait another week since they had already made the schedule (which didn't include me). I decide to apply for a few jobs since I'm going to have to pay for SE Asia somehow.

I decided to go for the promotions jobs since they're rather easy, flexible and pay decent. I applied for three and the next day, I got a call back asking if I wanted to come in for an interview that day. At the time, I was actually out trying to find Nathaniel his birthday present. His birthday isn't until the 22nd this month but I decided it would be a fabulousss idea to get us some bikes so we can go bike riding! Although this plan doesn't seem super brilliant right now, as I look at the weather forecast and it's supposed to rain the rest of the week. Like it does everyy week.

Anyway, I go on gumtree.com and find tons of bikes around the price that I want. Yes, I'm getting my boyfriend a used bike for his birthday. Sounds pretty lame, but the idea is that we'll go on lots of fun bike rides together - that is, if the rain EVER stops. So my one problem - actually one of my MANY problems, is that I do not have a car. So my idea is that I get a bike within about 10km of my house so I can just ride it back home. The first place I go - and yes, this blog is now ending up being about my bicycle hunt rather than my "big kid job" - I end up really liking the bike and so I buy it. It fits me fine and if the seat is raised, it will fit Nate too, so I figure it's a good bike to start with. So I pay for the bike and was meaning to ask this girl - or any person for that matter - if I'm supposed to be wearing a helmet. I don't know if that's a stupid question, all I know is that in California, you don't need to wear a helmet when you ride your bike. In Hawaii, you don't even need to wear a helmet when you ride a motorcycle (random, I know).

So I text my friend Ash and ask him if I need to wear one. No response. I jump on the bike and see an older guy riding his bike and he's wearing a helmet - granted he's also wearing super short bike shorts with a matching shirt and helmet, so I figure this guy is just super hardcore. A minute later, I see another guy riding his bike without a helmet, so I'm like, wooo I'm in the clear! So I'm cruising down the street, headphones in, jamming to my music, thinking about how much I looove riding bikes and how free I feel and how it's going to be soooo awesome being able to ride my bike everywhere and then of course - I look over my right shoulder and I'm legit getting pulled over by the cops. Of course.

"Do you have some ID on you?" he asks. "Am I doing something wrong?" "Do you think you're doing something wrong?" "Am I supposed to be wearing a helmet?" And at this point, the cops are just laughing at me. Obviously I'm not from around here. I explain that I literally had just gotten the bike 5 minutes ago and that in California you don't need to wear helmets, etc etc. They didn't ticket me or anything (luckily). I just couldn't believe I got pulled over within MINUTES.

Anyway, I got one bike down, one more to go! So actually, as I was about to ride away, right after I texted Ash, is when this sports marketing agency called me about coming in for an interview that day. So I went in a few hours later and things went really well. There were a ton of people in there so I wasn't too hopeful I would get a call back, but a few hours later, they called me asking if I would come in the next day - today. They had explained that it was a sales job and that we represented a lot of major sports clubs in Australia, such as the AFL (Australian Football League), Special Olympics and so on.

Today, I went in and along with a couple interviews, actually went and job shadowed them. Didn't really seem like my kind of thing, unfortunately. Sales has never super interested me. We went back to the office and I spoke with another employee and she explained how the entire company works. Overall, there's a LOT of room for growth and you can do really well if you try hard and are motivated. And I actually think it's something I can do and be good at.

Unfortunately, this isn't the ideal job to get when I only have two months here until I start traveling for a month and then go back to The States. And they actually offered me the job at the end of all my interviews. I had a feeling I might get it because I was getting along with everybody I had met, and in my head, I said if they offered me the job, I would tell them I would have to think about it first. Of course when it actually happened and she excitedly offered me the job, I just said "awesome, sounds great!" which could definitely (and was definitely) interpreted as an acceptance. 

So now here are my issues: Do I take a job where I won't be able to make a lot of money right away (when I'm trying to save money right now for traveling)? That also has reallyyy long hours? But it will definitely pay well in the future. But if I go home, then there won't be a "future" and then 2 months could potentially be wasted. Granted, I'll probably learn a lot, but it's not really fair to me or the company to spend two months here to just quit after not even getting anywhere. And so if I decide NOT to go home, then that means...I won't be going home. And I DO want to go home. I have friends visiting for a month in December that I'm supposed to show around California. And that was just always the plan - to go home for the holidays. But if I stay, it could turn into a really good job because it IS a really good opportunity. But then Nate's visa expires in March and he might not be able to stay in Australia either way. And also, am I really ready to have a big kid job? I still wanted to keep traveling. i wanted to go teach English in Italy or Spain or somewhere in Europe. I don't know if I'm ready for real responsibilities. But I DON'T want to be working at random cafes/restaurant the rest of my life. And working at a million different restaurants doesn't exactly improve my resume. 

Decisions, decisions. Training starts on Monday so I have a few days to figure it out. To grow up or not to grow up...
 
As my month-long holiday is coming to an end, I find it ironic how I take a vacation from my vacation (Australia) at HOME. But more than that, I realize how incredibly LUCKY I am to be able to do so - that my "home" is a vacation.

Granted, Sacramento isn't the biggest tourist destination (ha), but that's my original home and I will always always ALWAYS love it dearly. I got to be in one of my oldest friend's wedding, spend time with my family and play with my nephews that are growing all too fast (reality check, or should I say a slap in the face by reality: when they're around 20 years old, I will be 40!! FORTY!!). Anyway, I got lots of good family time in and got to see some old friends as well, which is always nice. I absolutely LOVE summer days in Sacramento consisting of BBQing, swimming, going to the lake and ending with the most amazing warm summer nights!
I was back and forth from San Diego to Sacramento a total of 3 times. That's three 8-hour drives & one flight. I didn't originally intend on going back and forth so many times, it just kinda happened. When I first arrived back in the States - 

OH and can we first talk about how I was reeeal reluctant to go back, BTW? I may or may not have been a little careless with my passport the week prior to flying home  so I might have an excuse not to have to go back (sorry America, but I looove Australia and I reallyy wasn't ready to go back to reality)

- I had landed in LA and then took a train to San Diego after hanging out with my mom in the horrible city that is Los Angeles (8 hours in the city really solidified my hatred for this place. From the exasperating traffic, to getting lost in the ghetto - thanks mom! haha - to rude employees at the train station.) After spending the 4th of July in not-so-sunny SD, I drove up to Sac for my high school best friend, Rosy's wedding. I drove up with my friend, Miles, and was close to deciding to just stay in Sac the remainder of my time in The States, until he ended up needing a ride back down to SD. 

My first few days back in SD were kind of a bummer. Everybody was pretty busy working & what not and I spent the weekend mostly by myself. The weather was perfect and I went on bike rides to the beach and ate all of my favorite food - alone. I decided to go back up to Sac early and then of course, my last 2 days in San Diego, everybody was around and reminded me why I love this place so much. It's funny because I was seriously questioning whether or not I ever wanted to move back to San Diego and then did a complete 180 and am now excited to move back here when I return from traveling. I guess loneliness will do that to you.

Anyway, I spent my last couple of days in San Diego wishing I wasn't going back to Sac and wanting to stay there. I had a flight from Sac-LA and then my international flight from LA-Melbs and so I decided last minute to change my Sac-LA flight to Sac-SD so I could spend my last few days back in SD. Talk about last minute plans.

So I made the drive back up to SacTown and spent more quality time with the fam. My dad came into town, which is a kind of rare occasion, so it was nice hanging out with him. And then my mom came up for my sister, Mallory's birthday a few days later and so we had a BBQ with each of them (one perk of your parents not being able to be in the same room as each other = more family events because of having to separate them). So here I am back in Sacramento and you can probably guess what I'm thinking by now - I just want to stay here instead of going back down to SD! (Yes, I sometimes wonder if I am clinically bipolar as well).

I literally thought of every possible way to just stay in Sac and worked out a pretty good plan, but decided last minute to just go back down. So now, I'm in San Diego on my last full day of vacation before heading back to Aussieland (and for some reason I'm inside blogging instead of laying on the beach...hmmmm...). And of course, I'm not completely 100% thrilled on going back (I may or may not have delayed getting my visa to enter back into Australia, at the chance that I may not have to go back). 

Not that I'm not incredibly excited to see Nate, but this trip back and pretty much my entire trip to Australia, has made me realize how much I love my home. How much I love California and honestly, America overall. And I've never been one to be super pro-'Merica. But I love this place - this country - and I love living right by the beach (No - Australia is NOT all beaches like how their propaganda leads us to believe!) I love cheap alcohol you can buy everyyywhere. I've missed my friends and my family so much. I'm LOVING watching the Olympics from America. I miss having a working iPhone (damn you AT&T for making it impossible to use iPhones with foreign sim cards!) I miss driving, In-N-Out, California Burritos, having toilet seat covers in public restrooms, Sacramento water (it tastes amazing! Although I may be a little biased since I grew up there), seeing all American sports on TV, driving on the RIGHT side of the street and the rest of the familiarities of home.

So as much as it seems like all I've done is whine and complain about where I am or where I'm going, from all of this, I've come to really appreciate so many things - everything really. Not only am I blessed to be able to travel to all of these places - my homes included - but they're all so amazing that whenever I arrive at each one, I don't want to leave. 
Overall, I had an amazing time catching up with old friends - one of the biggest things I've missed while being away is having a lot of friends. I've made a few good friends in Australia, but most of the friends I made at all have moved back home. I've missed the nights of going out with a big group and then passing out on a friends couch with the pizza guy banging on the door because your drunk friend ordered a pizza and then decided not to wake up when he came to deliver it. I don't miss getting hammered 5 nights a week (well, every so often I might), I just miss making crazy memories with friends. 

I'd love to think that one day I will decide to just live in some exotic city like Nepal or Tuscany or something, but I honestly don't think I could permanently live anywhere but California.
 
Six Days of Fiji.
Definitely not enough time to see all the beauty this country has, but enough to fall in love with it.

Nathaniel and I flew into Nadi, which is on the main island on Monday, June 18, after a looong journey consisting of closed airports (damn you Avalon Airport - always fly Tullamarine in Melbourne, it's not worth paying less to fly Avalon!), waiting for them to open at gas station cafes, sleeping on airport floors, and racing to catch our connecting flights. Our first stop was the Hilton Resort, also on the main island. Our funds limited us to only one night here, but I'm glad we were only on the main island for a night since there are so many islands. The Hilton was GORGEOUS. 7 pools overlooking the ocean and beautiful rooms. We spent the day by the pool reading, drinking and watching the sunset.

After continuously checking the weather in Fiji weeks prior to leaving, only to finally accept the fact that it would rain 5 out of the 6 days we were there - we were welcomed by perfect, sunny, warm weather. It ended up raining a total of 1 morning we were there and the rest of the time we were blessed with the best weather we could ask for.
The second day we went on the South Sea Island Cruise, which wasn't so much a cruise but more of a ride to South Sea Island where we would spend the day. This little island was beautiful and TINY. You could walk around the entire thing in 5 minutes. Day 2 was spent going on a glass-bottom submarine, snorkeling, drinking our unlimited supply of alcohol (included in the cruise package), kayaking, laying out and eating. It was my first time ever snorkeling, which was amazing seeing all the underwater life. They took us on a boat to snorkel the outer reef, which was 10 times more amazing than the reef right on the island. After missing our boat back to the main island and having to catch a separate ride, then getting lost on the way to our second accommodation, we arrived at Tropic of Capricorn, which was....no Hilton. 
We only spent one night at Tropic of Capricorn and then we were off to the Yasawa Islands. Well, we tried, anyway. We arrived at Denarau Port, which is where all the boats depart for all Fiji islands and attempted to get on our boat, only to get rejected because our travel agent failed to let them know we were supposed to depart that day (Fiji only has one boat to go through all of the islands - departs once a day for the far islands like the Yasawas. Make sure you're booked for the exact days you plan on departing/arriving or else the boat might be full!). Luckily, they made room for us and we started our 4 hour cruise to the northern islands. 

We got to pass through all of the other islands, which was awesome for the first half until I started getting sea sick. It was all completely worth it when we arrived at Blue Lagoon Resort on Nacula Island. All white sand, completely clear water, a beautiful resort and a welcome song by the Fijians. We snorkeled, hung around the beach and then had dinner. Everybody at the resort has dinner together and so we sat with a Kiwi family and the Fijian people served us our delicious dinner.
We started the next day off with a snorkeling trip on one of the Yasawa Islands outer reefs. We took a boat out about 20 minutes out and then all jumped out into the middle of the ocean. The reef here was, by far, the most amazing reef we had seen yet. The water was a little bit cooler - so about 77 degrees or so? (Compared to the 80 degrees at the shore... and compared to the 65 degree water in San Diego). After snorkeling for about an hour or so, we rode the boat closer to shore where they did a "fish feeding". They had us all jump out of the boats and then threw this corn bread/cake kind of stuff where hundreds of fish swarmed us to get the food. It was the craziest, scariest experience ever being surrounded by so many fearless fish. They're completely harmless, hungry fishies, but I was still slightly terrified they were going to eat my face.
After the snorkel trip, we went on a hike. The island was much bigger than South Sea Island and was pretty "hilly" so we wanted to hike up the hill to get a good view. From the resort, it didn't look very high and so we decided to go on our own. What I assumed was a brief stroll up a hill (in flip flops - or barefoot in Nate's case) ended up being about a 5 mile, treacherous hike. Okay, not so treacherous in regards to steepness or even general difficulty at all - but we were literally walking up a mountain of reeds taller than me. Granted I'm not very tall, but they were a pain in the ass, to say the least, and made this allegedly leisurely stroll extremely unpleasant. Of course, the view made up for it at the top. You can't complain about a hike (oh wait, I guess I just did..) when you see this from the top.
Our last night on Nacula Island, we had another delicious dinner and then did crab racing with wittle baby hermit crabs! They had us buy a hermit crab (FJD$5 - which would be donated to the schools on the islands. & BTW - their conversion rate is a little over half. So $5 Fiji = about $2.65 USD/AUD) and then all of them were put on the sand where a circle was drawn out. First to make it outside the circle wins. Our hermies made it to the final round (1st 12 to make it out of the ring the first round) and one of ours ended up getting 4th - not too shabby, but unfortunately only 1st-3rd got prizes. 

The next morning, we went on a tour to the Sawa-I-Lau Caves. We took a boat about 30 minutes out and after our janky boat died about 3 times, we finally made it to the caves. We got out of the boat onto shore and then walked a short ways to a man made staircase that lead to the opening of the cave. You climb up and then back down the staircase into the cave. The bottom of the staircase is just water so you have to jump into the water. After our tour group of about 20 debated about who would jump in first (our guides decided to let us endure the entering part on our own while they waited by the boats), a girl around my age ended up going and we followed her in. The ceiling of the limestone caves were super high and we couldn't feel the bottom either. When the entire group was in, half of the group went through the underwater tunnel, which was about a meter under water and 2 meters long, into the other caves. One of our Fijian guides was on the other side with a flash light, and the other guide was on our side to help guide us through. I had a slight panic attack but made it through fine without somehow getting lost in the tunnel and drowning. 

The other side of the caves were completely pitch black. It was also mildly terrifying because images of all of those scary movies where the tourists go on these adventures and then a boulder blocks the entrance and they all die - were involuntarily flashing through my head. 
After buying some souvenirs made by the Fijian people and packing up our stuff, we were off to Island #4: Bounty Island. We decided to stay one night here - it's a smaller island close to the main island and it would be convenient for transportation to the airport the following day. Bounty Island was surprisingly nice. We had low expectations after our maaany hours spent on tripadvisor.com and other Fiji resort review websites. Not that these sites had so many bad things to say, but we were expecting a low budget resort on an island not nearly as amazing as the Yasawas. The resort may not have been as nice as Blue Lagoon or Hilton at all, but the people there were one of the nicest we had met. All Fijian people are super friendly and hospitable - everywhere you go, they all greet you with "Bula!" (which is their normal greeting). The Fijians at Bounty Island were especially friendly and really made you feel comfortable and at home.

We arrived in the late afternoon, so we mainly just lounged around the beach and bar. The dinner wasn't amazing but they sang us songs throughout the entire meal, which more than made up for it. After dinner, most of the people at the resort, including the employees, hung around the common room area and played various games like monopoly or pool ("snooker", as the Aussies say). A lot of people gathered around the shore for a while taking pictures of the little baby sharks that swam right up to the sand.

The next day we left Bounty Island, all too soon, and were back on our way to the main island. We hung around Denarau Port until leaving for the airport where we had to say goodbye to this beautiful country.
FIJI DOs & DON'Ts:
DO pack light (just carry ons) - the weather is usually so warm anyway and you'll be in your bathing suit 80% of the time! (& you'll save $ on not having to check luggage!)
DO visit the outer islands away from the main island - they're more expensive but definitely worth it! The Yasawa Islands were the definition of PARADISE.
DON'T be scared of the crazy humungous bugs - even though I was. The bird-sized bug that resided in the bathroom for almost 24 hours prevented me from being able to use the bathroom without an escort (AKA boyfriend).
DO bring your own alcohol - duty free!! It's cheaper this way and will save you lots of money.
DO bring a waterproof camera/go pro - hence all of my amazing snorkeling pics ;)
DON'T forget to negotiate a cab price before getting into the cab - they sometimes try to rip off tourists. Cabs shouldn't ever be more than about FJD$30.
DON'T stay on the super small islands for more than a night or two. They're small and you'll run out of things to do.
DO island hop as much as possible! Our original thought was that islands are islands, but each of them have different personalities & different things to do!
DO bring bug repellent - I got eaten alive.
 
I should have some sort of symbol or warning or something before each blog entry. Saying that the following isn’t a “travel entry” but more of a “life entry”. I realize that I started this blog to write about my travels, and I feel like I’ve done a decent job covering most of it thus far. However, I said in the beginning that I’ve kept a journal since I was in 3rd grade. And that I also stopped writing about 2 years ago. And so maybe it just feels nice to write again. Even if it’s about nonsense that people actually aren’t interested in reading. So I suppose this is my warning: this is more of a LIFE entry :)

Every now and then, I would go back on old journal entries and read them. I would always claim that I liked to write in a diary/journal because it’s therapeutic and don’t get me wrong, it really is. But I also have this guilty pleasure of going back and reading old entries. I’m not sure what I gain out of it, but it’s just nice to reminisce sometimes. Sometimes I read about old mistakes that I’m still making today. And as terrifying as that is, that I’m still not learning, it’s also amusing in a way.

Like I just said, I stopped writing about 2 years ago after my life got erased (dramatic pause) – via computer crash anyway. Luckily, I still had quite a few blog entries on my “Myspace” account, that I randomly decided to read this morning (& I put “Myspace” in quotes because it really is quite an irrelevant & seemingly juvenile site these days [Sorry Tom]…Although I’m still so reluctant to delete it ha. I’m telling you, I have an issue with letting go of the past). First of all, I can’t believe I actually posted all of those things for the public to read. Secondly, I actually was maybe getting at something. Some of the things I wrote weren’t half bad. I mean, they were awful and embarrassing and I would delete them if I had the balls to, but they were somewhat meaningful.

I read about my high school days and saw how absolutely obnoxious I was. I mean, I already knew how annoying I was back then, but seeing myself write was just way too blatant of evidence. Regardless, it was still rather entertaining. My favorite bits were (& when I say “favorite”, I mean “the worst parts were…”) about how I “hated drama” yet every single blog I wrote was about drama. There were perhaps 20-25 entries, all spaced out between my sophomore year in high school, up until my sophomore year in college. It was funny seeing how I at least matured a little bit but how the boy problems never went away. The last entry was my favorite. A completely inappropriate entry completely calling out a guy I had semi-dated for a year and a half. I think I made that one private after I finally got over him. I never had the heart to delete it because in all honesty, I did a pretty damn good job calling him out on his shit. (We're actually friends now, so it's okay).

I wish I had the passion, or maybe just the balls, to write about the things I wrote about back then. I suppose I’m a little more conscious to the fact that this IS the internet and everybody can read what I’m writing. I think back then I just didn’t give a shit. I envy that girl just a LITTLE.

It’s funny seeing how my life has just been a cycle of the same thing. And not in a bad way at all. I went through high school thinking my biggest problems were these 4 guys I couldn’t decide between. But I’m sure in 10 years from now, I’m going to think back on how stupid my problems were when I was 23. I managed to document the greatest milestones in my life, which I’m so glad I did. Graduating high school and moving away for the first time ever. Dealing with far too many deaths at a young age. Going to college and having the hardest time adjusting and all the while, just drinking my life away (sorry mom). Almost having to drop out and going through horrible “heartbreaks”. And then now here I am, about to graduate college and I feel just as vulnerable and immature as that 16-year-old girl that wrote about how “crazy” sophomore year had been. Everybody is leaving San Diego. I don’t know where to go after this. I’m almost scared to move back home because I don’t know if I have a home anymore. Well, I pretty much know I don’t. My friends are dispersed across the country, from Northern California, to Texas to Georgia. So where do I go from here?

I would love to keep traveling but is it because I want to travel, or is because I don’t want to grow up? Everybody else around me is growing up, it seems. I know I’ll eventually have to do the same. But then there’s still that other side of me that is saying I don’t NEED to grow up yet and I can travel and do what I want because THIS is the ONLY time I’ll be able to do it so carelessly and freely.

As much fun as it all is, I still feel like I don’t know what I’m doing in my life and that I should figure that out. There’s this void in me that I’m not quite sure how to fill. But in all honesty, is a JOB going to fill that void? I highly doubt it. There always seems to be something in me that I’m missing, that I’m always trying to fill. Something I’m searching for. But maybe that void is just what keeps you going. Keeps you looking for more, keeps you hungry for life. Maybe it’s meant to be there forever so you don’t get too comfortable and set in routine. Maybe it’s not a void at all. Maybe it’s just drive to keep you from settling for anything but amazing. 



**I also took the liberty of stealing the title from an old "MySpace" blog entry (which was a quote from Donnie Darko or something). Funny how things from your past can help you figure out the present. Sometimes even the future. It may or may not be such a bad thing to want to hold onto the Past.