Thursday, June 27, 2013

I love old people...

Howdy America!!! 

I have safely arrived in L.A., and it’s good to be back in my country, but it feels so weird to be surrounded by loud, talkative Americans and hear English and some other southern accents, AND have toilet paper (I ain’t complainin’!).  The long flight wasn’t that bad, but there was a “moment” I guess I’ll admit … If you didn’t know already, I NEVER cry in movies unless a dog dies, but as I was watching P.S. I Love You (a tear jerker for most), there was a sad part at the exact time the pilot announced we were about to land in U.S., and I started to have tears come down my face!  Now, were those sad tears from the movie or happy tears that I was almost back to my country?  You can decide, but how embarrassing to be wiping tears from my face with the airplane blanket…  

Anywaysssss, now, I am currently sitting in the EXACT seat I sat in almost FIVE months ago when I was waiting for my flight out of America, and it’s so hard to believe that I was gone for almost five months.  I have experienced more than I probably even realize and even more than words and pictures can describe, but I know a more updated blog would be somewhat helpful…especially since you haven’t heard about my other travels and school stuff since going to Bali!

The old folks home.
Now, this was a good experience for me.  Considering everyone living at the home was younger than 50 and were either suffering from a mental disorder, had no family to take care of them, or just couldn't live independently, it was very special to me to be able to spend some time with them.  Most couldn't speak a lick of English, and not only did my little/only conversational Malay of "Apa khabar?" ("How are you?") go a long way, but just a smile was all I needed to show.  The event started with doing some dancing, and guess who got asked to go on stage... ME, and Meredith, and Denisse.  We had no idea of how to do the moves and probably looked HILARIOUS.  However, one dance was similar to the Electric Slide, so I did know that one! After dancing, we did puzzles and played musical chairs!  The men got pretty intense during musical chairs, and it was so funny to watch as in the last round, one ended up on the floor (SEE VIDEO!).  They laughed and laughed, and I loved seeing elders who were still young at heart. 

After the fun and games, we went to visit those in the rooms... or more like one room with a ton of beds.  We handed out coffee mugs, apples, and goody-bags, and I just smiled while the Malay girls spoke to them.  This was very eye opening to me, as some people couldn't walk or talk, and it made me realize how fortunate my family and I are.  There were some funny moments though.  One lady was SO funny as she opened up her chocolate pie and motioned to her little heiney saying "poo, poo, poo..." and then laughed hysterically.  Another lady showed us her dance moves, while another shot me the peace sign for a picture. 

After visiting the ladies, we went back to the main building where they asked us to do a performance. A PERFORMANCE?!  If you know me, I’m not that fond of getting up in front of people...especially two times in one day!  Knowing I might hurt someone’s ears singing and might hurt someone’s eyes from my own dance moves, I came up with the idea of playing the one and only duet I know on the piano, “Heart and Soul”.  I learned this song about 10 years ago, and I taught Meredith (in about 5 minutes), who has never really played piano before in her life, the simplest version possible of the duet. Denisse, who has never touched a drum, kept the beat on a drum beside us, and we all just winged the heck out of our “performance”! It turned out quite better than I expected, and we laughed and laughed afterwards because we couldn’t believe we had just done that. Here's a video of it... HAH!

The Rafting trip
Well considering our first rafting trip was spent at the hospital (read older blog posts if you don’t know that story…), we actually made it down the river this time!  After camping the night before with my classmates, which consisted of sleeping on a tarp on the ground and using my bag for a pillow/whole body cushion, we woke up the next morning, jumped in the back of the truck, and got our rafts ready.  I have been down the Nantahala River in an individual ducky, but this was my first time going down rapids in a big raft!  It was SO much fun though, and no one had to go to the hospital.  I'm not in this picture, but just to show there were some rapids indeed! 

After the rafting, our teacher took us to a waterfall.  We stood under it, letting it pound on our shoulders, and enjoyed the natural beauty of it all. 

The Telematch
When you hear telematch, what do you think of?  I think of competition and games… and knowing it would involve all the international students at UPSI, I knew whatever it was, it would be quite entertaining... And I was RIGHT.  It started with some “aerobics” which were some dance moves to American club songs, then breaking into teams (I was on the orange team of course), and some games.  They were the typical relay games like passing a rubber band on a straw down the line, potato sack race, dizzy bat, water balloon toss, and then a game where we had to wet our face with water and then dig through plates of flour (with our FACE) to find pieces of candy.  That tasted good… not. I felt like I was at 8th grade field day again, except there was no red rover red rover for me to get clotheslined (only the realllly lucky ones got to see that years ago).  After the games, prizes were given out, and then we all enjoyed ourselves in the nearby river.  

Drum Show
A really good group of drummers (both male and female) came and performed at our school one evening.  They were ALL wearing make up, and I was so confused when the ones I could have sworn were girls came out in their last act with no shirt on. 

Cameron Highlands
This was a little day trip I took with some students and friends from UPSI.  Known for the tea and strawberries, my day was made after walking through the beautiful tea plantation and then eating CHOCOLATE COVERED STRAWBERRIES (FYI guys…that’s the way to win my heart) that were only 2 ringgits (3 ringgit = 1 USD) for a stick of 3!  Opa on the other hand, enjoyed his orange tomato that he tried to tell me was an orange…

With all the pictures and posts about traveling, I’m sure you wonder if I actually went to class!  I did, and spent a lot of time on schoolwork too, which is another reason why my blog updates are so late.

Animal Physiology
Not only did I have a 10-page paper EVERY week for this class, but we also had to design our own experiment.  My group chose to test if weight would affect the length a frog will jump.  Since we got to use real, live, BIG bullfrogs, this was quite entertaining as we “rubber-banded” different amounts of coins to each frog’s back and measured their jump.  While doing this, we lost 2 frogs/2 frogs escaped under the desk and were impossible to get so we left them…which the lab assistant, who was terrified of frogs, found later.  Let’s just say she wasn’t very happy, but I couldn’t help but giggle.  

Even though this was my most time consuming (spent 9 hours in one day on my piece!) and frustrating class, it was worth it to be able to do traditional Malay art that I will probably never have the opportunity to do again.  Using a chanting stick, wax, and dye, I was able to make a really cool flowery art piece.  Of course my colors and design didn’t turn out exactly the way I planned, but it’s ok because I enjoyed it. 

Metal Craft
This was my favorite class and favorite teacher.  After the really cool copper art of the turtle I did, we made jewelry!  This time I didn’t really have a plan and just went with the flow, and came out with a beautiful set of earrings, bracelet, and necklace.

Animal Morphology
This was A LOT less work than my other science class considering our final project, which was the same percentage of our final exam, was to make a greeting card! Knowing our teacher had worked with ostriches in her graduate studies in Australia, we related our card to the ostrich reproductive system. She loved it!  Side note: I would have taken a picture of the card, but considering we didn’t start working on it until 2 AM (Malay procrastination got the best of us) the night before it was due, my brain wasn’t thinking to snap a pic.

Rock Climbing
For our one and only outing, my class went to climb at the Batu Caves.  This time, my second time climbing real rock, I went TWICE as high as the last time.  It was really nerve racking, but I made it to the top with one of my Korean friends as my belayer.

Welp, it's time to board the plane and LAST FLIGHT HOME to North Carolina!!! I will update later about my other travels. :D

Here I come America!

Well hello strangers!  It’s about time for an update isn’t it?

Journey back home.

It started off… GRRRRREAT (sarcasm).  Since the airport was an hour and a half away from my school and you were supposed to arrive to international flights 2 hours early, I asked to be picked up at 5:30 AM to make it in time for my 9:25 AM flight.  Knowing how Malay time works, I wasn’t too worried when it got to be 5:45 and my ride wasn’t there yet.  However, when 6 AM approached, I figured it was time for a phone call.  Since I was leaving, I hadn’t loaded more minutes on my Malaysian cell phone, so I asked the guards if they had a phone, but they didn’t. (With broken English, imagine trying to motion that I needed to make a phone call while holding my own minute-less phone…I’m sure that was confusing.) There was another driver there, waiting for his passengers, and he had a phone and called my driver.  I’m not sure what the conversation consisted of since it was all in Malay, but he hung up and laughed and looked at me saying, “I don’t know.”  That’s not much help now, is it?  I asked him where he was going, and he said the international airport, which is where I needed to go, BUT he said there wasn’t enough room for me and my five bags and his four passengers.  I know some of you probably just read that and said to yourself, “FIVE BAGS?!”  I was flying one bag home for Meredith since she was off to travel more and couldn’t take all her stuff, and then two suitcases with my clothes, a book bag for my laptop, and a backpack for all the stuff that wouldn’t fit in my suitcases. (Ok, I know 4 is still a lot.)  Anyways, once his passengers got there, I was pleasantly surprised to see one was my running buddy, so I asked to use his phone and called the guy in charge of the international students.  Luckily, he was already awake at 6:30 AM (or I woke him up), and he said he would call my driver. 

Finally arriving at 7 AM, my driver sped me to the airport…and when I say sped, I mean sped…by running red lights with just a honk of the car, passing when there were two yellow lines, riding bumpers until they changed lines, etc.  I kept contemplating whether to tell him, “Hey, I would rather get to the airport safely and miss my flight rather than die in a car crash man!”  But instead I just closed my eyes and said some prayers and arrived to the airport safely!  My driver helped me pile all my bags on a cart, and I wheeled on in!  Since this was my first time being in an airport by myself, I was a bit nervous, especially since I was late.  I found my check-in counter and tried to be as smiley as possible because I knew my bags were overweight, and it worked! They didn’t charge me extra and just put a “HEAVY” sticker on my bags. Then I sped-walked to my gate and arrived at 8:49 right before it closed at 8:50!

Once my plane landed in Hong Kong, I had some time so I treated myself to some sushi as a reward for the stressful morning/first flight ever alone, and boy oh boy, it was the best sushi I have had in my life!  Normally, I’m THAT girl that gets the California roll, but I decided to go out on a limb and get lobster and mango salad roll and roasted salmon roll.  Then I headed to my next gate which thankfully I was early to because I walked all the way to Gate 41, got there, and then realized that I was seat 41, and gate 3.  The whole time I kept reading 41 G and wondering, “Geeze, how many Gate 41’s do they have?” (Blonde moment number 1 of the journey).

Now, I’m sitting here about to board my 14 hour flight (Yippeee), but I’m soooo excited to be heading back to the U.S.!! Once I get to Los Angeles, I will have an 8 hour layover before heading back to the good ole Carolina’s and am planning to spend that time updating you on the rest of study abroad experience including going to visit an old folk’s home, a rafting trip with my class, the “Telematch”, going to Borneo, Cambodia, Laos, and last but not least, Thailand.

Talk to ya in America!! :D 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

If I hadn't had lost my flip flop..

Bali, Bali, Bali…ohh, how I love you.

Well, first off, if you didn’t already know me and a few of my fellow Americans went to Bali for our Mid-Semester Break, which back home would be like our Spring Break.  And it was AWESOMEEEEE, and like no other adventure I have taken yet.  It was the perfect break from school and life, and was definitely exactly what I needed.

This is where we got dive certified!  The dive company picked Meredith, Erin, and me up from the airport about midnight and drove us to the resort (quite an interesting ride as I constantly let out mini squeals as we nearly hit SO many dogs).  When we arrived to the resort, it was way better than the place I had imagined we would be staying because it looked like a ritzy honeymoon spot as it was directly on the beach with a run off pool that looked like could have gone straight into the ocean if you looked at it from the right angle.  Probably a little too excited, we looked like little girls who had just entered Barbie Palace (I’m saying that even though I never liked Barbies) as we cheered and soared across the beds.  I could barely fall asleep that night too! 

The next morning, we were greeted with a delicious breakfast of omelets, bacon, sausage, fruit plate, toast and jelly, and fruit juice (which we got EVERY day).   Then we were off to the pool where we learned how to breathe correctly through the regulator and practiced certain skills like equalizing, clearing our mask, hand signals, etc. It was SO much easier than I expected, and I felt so comfortable that I could NOT wait to get to the ocean. 

The next two days, we dove in the ocean!  The deepest we went was about 18 meters over an old shipwreck!  I touched the steering wheel, and then we saw sharks (6 or 7 feet LONG), octopus, banner fish, lionfish, sweet lips, seahorse, barracuda, little Nemo’s and Dori’s, and pretty much everything else possible to see EXCEPT a sea turtle.  Bummer, I know. One scary moment though was when I had to take my mask completely off and put it back on while underwater as part of the skills test.  I was already nervous to do this, and of course, as soon as I take my mask off, what do I do?  I breathe in through my NOSE.  I inhaled what felt like the entire ocean and started to panic a little knowing I couldn’t just swim right up to the top because we were so deep and my lungs could burst.  Somehow, I managed to get my breathing pattern back on track, and my lungs thanked me.   Positive note though… I passed my exam, and I AM OFFICIALLY DIVE CERTIFIED!!  YA!! (had to say that for Courtney and our moms.)

When we weren’t diving, we hung out by the pool, ate delicious Indonesian food (my favorite was crab and corn soup), got FULL body massages (when I say FULL body, I mean FULL body), and chilled on the beach. My first black sand/rock beach that is.  At night, we listened to locals playing acoustic American songs and Balinese songs when we asked them.  I tried so hard to find someone that knew “Collide” by Howie Day, but NO one did.  So… my second choice was Sweet Home Alabama!  Even though Alabama isn’t my home sweet home, it’s my favorite movie and is almost the same thing. :D

Another luxury we had was our own motorbike!  I’m pretty sure they didn’t give it to us for “joy” riding, but we did it anyways.  We took it down and around the streets of Tulamben, which was such a cool town.  One pit stop we made was at a restaurant that served octopus and ONLY octopus.  Those that know me well won’t believe this, but… I ate my ENTIRE serving of grilled octopus, and it was SO good.  (What is happening to me?!)  Or…was I just THAT hungry again.  Hahh.

One thing that happened that wasn’t funny at the time, but is now, occurred just as we were about to leave the dive place.  I spotted a HUGE gecko, and knowing how much Meredith likes lizardy things told her to come look at it.  Not sure where her brain was at the moment, she went to pick up this gecko, and it bit her all the way to the bone on her knuckle and had to be pried off with a knife.  Luckily, the dive people had alcohol and band-aids and the wound healed nicely.  Isn’t he cute??? NOT. 
After a beautiful scenic taxi drive (I could NOT stop taking pictures), we arrived to Ubud where we were supposed to meet Clara and Marlee at the “Secret Garden”, but it stood true to it’s name of being secret because we could not find it to save our lives.  After searching and searching and finding every other secret garden except for the one they were at, Meredith started to not feel well so we just found a homestay to sleep at for the night.  We were pretty desperate to just take what we could find, which ended up being a sweet young man’s OWN room that he offered to us since all of his three person rooms were booked.  It felt a little strange to say the least to be sleeping in his king sized bed on his sheets beside his bedside table with his personal belongings and using his bathroom with his personal hygiene items (I saw bleaching body cream…:O).  There was also no air conditioning, but I learned the hard way (mostly because it was the only choice) that cold showers before bed are the key to staying cool at night.  The next morning, we were given fresh watermelon and French toast for breakfast, which was a nice change from having rice, rice, and more rice in Malaysia. 

After finally finding Clara and Marlee and THE Secret Garden (the bedroom was gorgeous), we explored the town of Ubud.  We shopped, ate some sushi and eggplant, watched the Balinese women do offerings and carry things on their heads, gazed at rice fields, toured the monkey forest, listened to live bands, people watched, and just enjoyed the most relaxing, stress-free, and laid back atmosphere I had ever been in.  The people there seemed so happy, healthy, and naturally beautiful.  Wanna know their secret?? Yoga!!  There was a yoga place on almost every corner of every street, and I have decided if I don’t become a veterinarian, my back up plan is to move to Bali and become a yoga instructor. ;)  We also went to a really cool trance dance where there were really cool costumes, chanting, and dancing.

This was our next destination in Bali where there was supposedly surfing for “beginners”.  As soon as we arrived, we we headed to the beach but were humorly surprised to see that the waves were about 12 feet HIGH, and the beach consisted of maybe 30 yards of beach and then all cliff and rocks.  It wasn’t too hard to decide that that wasn’t the place to learn how to surf, so we just sat on top of the cliff and watched the experienced surfers surf while drinking banana milkshakes.   

While walking in the sand, one of my flip flops broke and while I was fixing it, I looked down and noticed my other flip flop was gone!  I laughed at myself…out loud, not knowing how I managed to do that.  Since there were sharp rocks and glass pieces in the sand, I decided to just wear one flip flop so at least one foot wouldn’t get cut.  However, as I was walking back up the stairs to the top of the cliff, I looked down and found a single black flip flop that I could wear on my other foot!  I’m not sure what looked funnier, walking around with one shoe or walking in one white flip flop and one black flop (didn't get a picture of that!).  

Not too long after, it started to rain so we sat outside one of the shops hoping it would pass by.  As we were sitting, a girl named Jessyca (she was an Eskimo from Canada!) came up to me and looking at my shoes, said, “Hey, did you lose a black flip flop?!  I saw that exact one in the sand!”  I laughed and said, “Well, I actually lost a white one, but I just happened to find this black one on the steps.”  Raining too hard to go back to look for the other black one, and too hard to head back to our place, the flip flop conversation turned into being invited to join Jessyca and some other people (2 Canadians and 1 Aussie) she had met to hang out with until the rain stopped.  However, it continued to rain and rain some more, so we spent the rest of the evening playing cards and singing songs as our new Aussie friend, Sid, played guitar.  What else better is there to do on a rainy day? 

After planning to stay in Uluwatu only for a few nights, Meredith and I were enjoying ourselves and new “fam” (what we called our new group) so much, we stayed there for the rest of the time we were in Bali.  There was a pool party one night at the resort down the street where we met some cool English boys (one told us a story about getting “Bali Belly” and my abs were sore the next day from laughing so much), a guy from Morocco, another guy from Australia, and some German guys (both could have been models) as we all just sat in the pool enjoying meeting new people and listened to a live band. They were also ALL surfers by the way...  Hehee. We also spent some time at Padang Padang Beach where we enjoyed the sun, watched some fishermen, and even paddle boarded a little once the tide went down and the waves got smaller.  One morning I woke up to go watch Sid surf!  He was so good!  We also visited the Monkey temple where they were extremely touchy and I carried a stick to shoo them away.  For our last evening together, we all had a sunset dinner and then danced and listened to another live band, and ended the night gazing at stars by the pool.  I saw TWO shooting stars…we’ll see if my wishes come true.  The next day, the fam and I had our last breakfast of banana pancakes (I ate them EVERY day, they were so good) and headed to Kuta Beach.  

Kuta Beach
This is where the fam had our final lunch together, swam in a pool, and then chilled on the beach until it was time to head to the airport in the evening.  In the end, I’ve never been so happy to have lost something as it lead to meeting some great people that we made some great memories with.