Saturday, November 19, 2011

Thailand


        After the long awaited trip, I finally met Jd at the airport in Thailand arriving to Bangkok a few hours after him. It is hard to imagine that it had been over a year since I had last seen him, a very rare feat considering I usually see him every couple weeks at the least. We gathered our things and took the newly opened train to the city to our hostel. What seemed like a simple task turned into a long ordeal as we ended up getting lost, a very common occurrence I have found when traveling. Walking around with our big Bags in the middle of the blazing heat, we finally found the guesthouse in a hidden alleyway, of. Staying 3 days and three nights in Bangkok, our days were filled with sightseeing and soaking up the culture and most importantly the food. While I thought China was cheap, Thailand is even cheaper making for a good ole time. The people were very friendly and best of all, they spoke English!! One of best experiences from Bangkok was riding around in a tuk tuk with a guy who showed us all the highlights of the city and some of the offbeat things for free, essentially driving us around the city for 4 or so hours. In return we had to go into different shops around the city and act interested in what they were selling. Business owners and tuk tuk driver’s work together by having the tuk tuk drivers bring their passengers to these stores en route to their destination. For their efforts if the people seem to show some interest, the tuk tuk drivers get vouchers for free gas or food. The next day we hopped on a bus and went to Ayutthaya, a small ancient city on the outside of Bangkok. Known for its famous ruins it was quite the sight to see. Unfortunately for us, there was a heavy rainstorm that ended up flooding the streets with water but we were still able to see the sights.

Our next stop was up north to Chaing Mai. We hired a driver for the day who took us up to the tourist areas in Chiang Mai. Located on this long strip of road about 10 minutes drive from the city, it was a death trap for tourist attractions. you name it and they probably had it. from Water falls to go carts and bungee jumping, they had it all.  Our first stop was to Tiger Kingdom, Yes you heard right, Tiger Kingdom, a refuge for about 30 tigers and other animals. This is Chiang Mai's most popular attraction as you get to go next to tigers and pet, lay, hug, Kiss, the tigers. Of course there is a guy who is there to assist in the process but none the less it was unbelievable.  The tigers were distributed into different caged areas based on their size. From full grown tigers to just born babies, you picked which ones you wanted to see. Jd and I both Went into the full grown Tigers and the baby tigers cages and played with them for about 15 minutes in each cage. Its mind blowing to think that we were this close to such a ferocious animal. Our next stop was to the Snake farm where I saw some of the craziest people ever, who were the snake tamers. There were about four of them playing with deadly snakes of all sizes including pythons and rattle snakes. As they jumped around doing tricks with the snakes they had enough balls to kiss the snakes on the head, even though the snakes still had their fangs. It was  great entertainment but the idea that the snakes still hand their fangs blew me away. After the snake farm we moved on to the monkey school, which had about 10 trained monkeys who did performances in what was like a talent show.  Picture monkeys riding tricycles and shooting hoops and  other various tricks. Although PETA would have a fit, i enjoyed my  day filled with dangerous animals. The next day we went on an Elephant Trek/ Bamboo rafting adventure. We took a bus about an hour and a half outside the city  where rode elephants through the forest, throwing bananas left and right to avoid getting slapped with their wet and slimy trunks. It was the first time I had ever ridden an elephant but I think it is safe to say that there are plenty of more comfortable modes of transportation. After riding elephants, we went down the river on long chutes of bamboo, literally tied together with a few piece of rope.  Like every adventurous thing that I have done in Asia thus far, I'm not sure this would fly in America as it would never pass the safety regulations, which makes it that much more enjoyable. 
            Although Chiang
  Jd and I both rented Gas scooters and rode around the city for a day, going all over the place and visiting the National Park outside the city.   I had a blast  getting to drive around the city and seeing things by scooter Although I was safe driving, my only mistake was that I got a "Motorcycle Kiss" as I parked my biked. Walking next to another motorcycle, I barely touched the hot metal muffler and it left a nice big burn on my right leg, right under the one I got earlier this year. I swear I have gotten more burns this past year than I have in my whole life combined.
   
The next leg of the trip was to Phuket, home of the beautiful beaches. Although it was rain season in Thailand, the weather we had was fantastic. This is probably my most favorite part of the trip as we live like compete kings and laid around on the beach.  On our first night we found this restaurant  literally on the beach that served delicious food  and drinks.Jd and I became such a big fan of the place that we ate there at least 1 a day, which usually was dinner because of the ambiance that it provide. Picture sitting 50 meters away for the waves and stuffing your face with  various flavored crab and pad Thai, washing it down with mango smoothies and then watching the sunset as you eat. Sounds nice right?  Well this was a nightly occurrence for us and I love every single minute of. While I never have been to Hawaii, I imagine this what it would be like but only better as it is only the faction of the price. While in Phucket, I picked up a routine of getting at least an hour full body message each day, I splurged a little and got hour massages for a whopping $6-$9 lol. It was ridiculously cheap and felt amazing. Beside the lounging on the beach. We went one day on a boat tour to the Phi Phi islands and all around sightseeing and snorkeling at various locations.This was the first time I had ever snorkeled before and I really enjoyed  swimming next to all the tropical fishes and marine life. It crazy to think of how many different types of fish and other marine life that there are in this world and when I was snorkeling, I was able to put this in to prospective. The nightlife in Phuket was a bit ridiculous there was a street called Bangla road, which could be my all time favorite place for people watching. the Street consisted of bars on top of bars on top of bars next to bars which are next to bars. There were so many bars next to each other it was a bit mind boggling. While I though Vegas had a bit of flare, this puts it to shame as the street is filled with bright lights, street shows and of Course LADYBoys.
     The last and final stop of the trip with Jd was to Kuela Lumpor, Malayasia where we spent 2 days there and it was 2 days too long. While it was nice to see the Petronas Towers, there wasn't much more to see.  I was not a Big fan of Kuela Lumpor as the people were mean and there was not many activities to do and is up there for least favorite places I've visited.
       I had such an amazing time in Thailand and I loved it there and will for sure want to go back in the near future. The place was beautiful, full of history and culture, the people were friendly and they spoke English and it was cheap and not to mention Jill is from there. Unfortunately for me, as I was moving, I lost the CD that had all my pictures of Thailand and Malaysia on them. While I hope to find it, i feel that there is a very slim chance of this happening.

Friday, October 7, 2011

One ballin Weekend


        On my last weekend before my big trip, I was blessed with an overload of American Basketball. In a promotional tour for their newly opened campus in China, Duke University toured China playing exhibition games Vs Chinese Teams. One of their games was held in Shanghai. I met up with my friend Ralph and we were able to scalp tickets to the game. We got great seats that were 3 rows back from the court, but was behind all the press. As we sat down, we were surprised to see another one of our friends Rob,  which made for a good time. Duke played the Chinese National team, which sounds like an exciting match up filled with quality basketball, but in reality it was as sloppy as a 6th grade girls basketball game. The game was fun but the highlight of the night was getting to shake hands with former Duke great and NBA star Grant Hill.
Grant Hill

             After the game, I was reminded why I enjoy China, because you never know what to expect. As people mobbed their way into the subway after the game, one lady thought it was necessary to push and shove on the way out of the metro, which was uncalled for. As  waited for the door to open, she pushed me out of the way to get a better position to exit, rather than waiting her turn. I  clear my throat with a cough, in a excuse me kind of fashion to which she started hissing at me  like a cat with an evil glare on her face. Yes, I said it, a grown up woman hissing at me. As we exited the subway and made our way to the next transfer, she continued to hiss at me until I started  barking like a dog back at her. If only the basketball game was as entertaining as this lady, my night would have been complete.
            Having finished my lease in my apartment, I had to  move out a few days before I took off for my trip. Since I have been homeless, I have been crashing at Mike’s place. I’ve realized that being homeless is one of the most horrible feelings as I slept on the floor and had to work around his schedule to be let into his apartment. For future reference, I hope I never have to do this again for an extended period of time.
            To top off the weekend I had a spur of the moment busy day which included going to breakfast with 3 of  my classmates, Jenny, Paullette and Sherry. From there went to the graffiti wall that has the famous “Shanghai” graffiti, that  has been on our to do lists all year .




          Next stop was the Nike festival at Shanghai Indoor Stadium, which is a sports facility that Nike has taken over and sponsored which features nice basketball courts, soccer fields and a smaller area used for volleyball and other sports. To promote this renovation and gain exposure, Nike created this weekend event that was highlighted with multiple exhibition basketball games and guest appearances by NBA Stars who are sponsored by Nike including Lebron James. On the day I went I was able to see  Chris Bosh, Tyson Chandler, Kyrie Irving ,Portland’s finest, Lamarcus Aldridge and  shook hands with Amare Stoudemire. The marquee match up was the college team Georgetown Hoyas vs.  The Chinese Basketball Association’s Bayi Rockets, but after a brawl during their game in Beijing,  a few days earlier, they played  the Jiangsu Dragons  another CBA team.

Teams Exchanging gifts
Group Photo after the Game
Georgetown Coach John Thompson III


        After watching what felt like a want to be Rucker park match up, I walked the wrong way and was amongst the large entourage of George town players  staff and family who were being escorted out by security as they as they were overwhelmed with the Chinese fans. It was a pretty fun experience as I was able to speak with some of the players and  I felt like a somewhat celebrity as people pushed their way to take photos of us and were asking for autographs. It was amazing to see how persistent and over the top some of these Chinese fans were for autographs and pictures. One of the Georgetown assistant couches was mistaken as a former NBA player and people bombarded him with photos and autographs, blocking his way and causing him to get lose track of the rest of the Georgetown team.
The "famous" Georgetown Assistant Basketball Coach

          To complete the day,  I met up with Jill and her mom, who made a last minute, spur of the moment trip to visit her and travel around china with a  couple of her friends. As expected, Jill’s mom was just as sweet as her.

Life Comes Quick


      Rewind 2 months ago and I was unsure of what my next move in life would be. Set on coming back to the states, I decided to test my luck with jobs in China and applied for jobs in the masses for the satisfaction of knowing I tried. For weeks I applied for jobs without any replies until suddenly, one day I heard back from 3 companies, two of which sounded interesting enough to set up an interview. Having the mind set that I would  return home after my contract was up in August, I sent almost all of my belongings home including all of my dress clothes, keeping only a only a few things I was going to travel with and things I would leave behind.Scambling to find clothes, but not wanting to buy new clothes, I  scrounged up an outfit that would be presentable for an interview. I had one dress shirt that was going to leave behind  that I used and  borrowed a tie from my roommate Mike, and then found a pair of slacks and dress shoes that  my roommate Miles left behind that I was able to squeeze into. I managed to impress one of the people in my mess of an outfit to get a call back for another interview with a senior partner from Austen Morris, a financial firm that work solely with expats. This interview though would require a “formal” business attire so unfortunately I had to buy a new suit. With that being said, it all paid off and I received and accepted the job at Austen Morris as a Business Development Coordinator  for the firm and start on Oct 10.  It is amazing to think that within a 2 week gap my life plans took a complete 180 turn.Although I’m not exactly sure how I will fare at this job, it will provide me with hands on experience that would be hard to receive in the states. So,for time being,  I guess i'll be in China for a little bit longer.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Get me out of here!!!

            Caught in a lie, I have not been very pleased with my work this week. I was told that I would be going back to the school I have been teaching at all year and suddenly I get a schedule change going to a new school. I asked Rosa our head Chinese staff why I am not going back and she said that they do not start a new school year until September  so no teachers will go there.
            As Monday rolls around I found out that Sam, the other teacher who worked there with me is going back to teach there but does not want to teach there . I on the other hand want to go back and told the teachers I would be back. As I tried to switch schedules, I was repeatedly shut down via text by Rosa because she said she told the principal at the new school that I would be teaching there and if I changed schedules she would have lied to the principle and lying of course is bad. But the fact that she lied to me and the fact I told teacher I would be back and now wont be was didn’t matter to her . Furious I called Rosa demanding an explanation of why she lied to me and how it is bad, and asked how many holidays I had left in attempt to boycott Shane. See in an attempt to save money, Shane let 6 teachers out of their contract early as they figured they would not need them, but now the problem is that they do not have enough teachers to teach so, if one of the teachers calls in sick, they are essentially screwed as they are understaffed. I have enough holidays to cover the rest of the days remaining on my contract. In my contract
I am entitled to these days.
            If I were to take these holidays Shane would not have enough teachers to teach the classes and would be loosing money. After being hung up on, I later I received a text that I breached my contract as I have falsely added hours to my timesheet due to an error on their behalf, as I copied and pasted my hours from what they sent me. As a result, I am essentially getting blackmailed to work as they say they will take away all the bonuses that I have earned this year away which is a hefty sum along with the fees for “breaching the contract”, in which I would have to pay the company back money. It is a bit ridiculous at what a corrupt company Shane is and how badly they treat their employees to get them to do things and since I have to fulfill my contract for graduate school I feel hopeless as I cant do anything about it. It will be interesting to see what happens come next Wednesday when I finally am free of this horrible company.
            For the past few weeks my landlord has been very adamant on us moving out. On multiple occasions, I have been surprised to see him either walk in to the apartment on his own with potential renters or had him banging on the door because the door was dead bolted and he cant open it with his key, both of which are with no prior warning. I feel this is a bit of invasion of privacy and also annoying, as it is usually early in the morning, especially on weekends but its China. With that being said, my lease ended on August 19th, yet he kept trying to get us to move out before then.  All of my roommates downstairs moved out early so it was just mike and I upstairs, on the 17th he sent in a cleaning crew to clean out all the downstairs, even though mike and I still were living there and were packing, but made sure to tell us not to make a mess downstairs as it is now cleaned. He also was set on us moving out early Friday the 19th even though I had to work. After begging him multiple times, he finally allowed us to check out at 5 after I got off of work to which at 4:55 he was waiting for us to leave.
            On my schedule, I had Friday morning free but was on cover, which would allow me to pack my things up and move them over to mikes apartment before work, but of course since Shane is ridiculous, they call me up the day before and tell me I need to cover for someone who put in a request awhile back for an interview but they forgot about it until just now. I told them that I cant cover as I had to move out of my apartment and that I would take a holiday if I had because I needed to move at of my apartment. I get a call from my boss telling me send my landlords number to Rosa. She will tell him that I need to move out on Saturday no problem. Little did they know my landlord wouldn’t budge. The landlord was actually in the apartment inspecting things so I handed him the phone and she tried to negotiate with him but he was not having it. As I laugh while Rosa is getting shut down, the landlord hands me the phone to which Rosa says “Ok, John the landlord says that you have to move out tomorrow, but you still can work in the morning. You have all night to pack up your things and you can get up early and finish”.
             Holding my ground I said “No”, I refuse to work in the morning as I need to pack but I will work my normal shift in the afternoon. I told them that if you keep forcing me to work in the morning, I will take a day off you and you will need to find someone to cover both shifts. Finally Rosa says that I will not have to teach in the morning, and another boss confirmed this. I then later receive a text from one of my bosses Robert saying that they do not have enough teachers so I will need to cover in the morning. I told him that both Rosa and Caesar confirmed I do not have to work and he kept trying to insist that I needed to work. Finally at the end of the day, after having my messages ignored, I wanted to confirm that I was not working in the morning. After 4 phone calls Rosa finally picked up and said that Robert told her I was still working. After I repeatedly told her I wont show up she finally got the message. Although this is a little   issue I find it a win in my book as I have held my ground against the evil Shane. How hard is it to understand No means No! Well with that being said, less than a handful of days until I am finally free of Shane and get my soul back!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Lady, Who are you?!?!?!

            For work, I am on a temporary loan, filling in for 2 weeks whilst my school has its 2-week  "Summer Vacation".  Since I am filling in, I have no material to teach them and have been winging my lessons and reviewing basic information since there are a few new students who have joined the classes this week. It down time right now so the classes are half full as people are families are traveling or taking a break from school. With less than 2 weeks of work left before I bask in the sun on the beaches of Thailand with JD, my motivation to teach is at an all time low and the fact that the school refuses to turn on their air condition makes it that much more difficult to teach. Considering these students are not my normal kids, they are unfamiliar of my demands and do not listen and to make things worse and the worst part is one of the teachers a complete ... Think of a word that rhymes with yahtzee. Ill give you a hint, think holocaust. While I understand good teachers are usually a bit eccentric, she’s over the top as she’s always in my business and essentially is trying to teach the class. I wonder from classroom to classroom teaching English to the students and the classes are on all parts of the building. Theoretically, I am supposed to teach her class at 9:25 but considering that the classroom before hers is on the other side of the building and ends at 9:25, I usually arrive at 9:26 or 27.Heaven forbid I am a minute or two late considering I usually stay a few minutes after the scheduled time to compensate. But, she insists that I teach the full 30 minutes of English for her kids as she makes comments like “oh what time is it, yeah your late” or “class starts at 9:25?” as her clock  is running a few minutes early and making me look bad that much worse.
            As I teach her class I can feel her presence creeping behind me to make sure that I am doing everything properly. She sits there analyzing every move I make and ALWAYS has to butt in and interrupt the class if something is out of synch with what she believes is correct. While I must admit, her English is half way decent, there have been times when she has tried to correct me with my pronunciation stating I’ve said the words wrong. Remind me who’s the native speaker and English teacher?!?! That’s right.. me, but that doesn’t stop her from interrupting and trying to tell everyone what to do.
          Making sure that I fill the 30 minutes of teaching, I have used songs to fill the gap. Over the course of the year, I have been able to manipulate how long a song lasts based on the actions I use and the speed I sing the song. Typically, I can sing the “wheels on the bus” or” if your happy and you know it” and it will run about 5 minute which is great for killing time. Over the course of the past few days, as I am singing the song with the kids, the teacher interrupted me by either telling me to stop singing, then blasts the song off the computer or just turn on the music without saying anything. While I’m a big advocate of making things easier and not having to sing, the songs on the computer take roughly half the time it does for me to sing and does not include all the movements that the kids enough, which makes me run out of things to do and since I have to teach the full 30 minutes this causes a problem,
       Having accumulated a collection of songs on the computer, I’ve tried to sing songs that she does not have yet on her computer. Each day he makes me write down the songs ive sang and then goes tries to find it on the Internet, but I’ve switched up the songs each day so she is unprepared for what I am going to sing. It has become sort of a game as I try to sing songs that she has not downloaded so that she can’t interrupt me while I am singing. What really has thrown her off is I have thrown in a few Camp Adventure songs which the kids like but she cant find it anywhere on the internet, to which ive been able to sing multiple times and it makes her flustered.
       In my classroom I have these medals that I give to “good Students” who are paying attention and not talking and listening. In reality, it is a tool just to keep the kids on their best behavior because they really want the candy and sticker that I give them as a reward. While it is my special thing I do for the student, the teacher kept telling me who and who I shouldn’t give the medals to, to the point where I have just given her the medals and told her to pick the students.
       Towards the end of the class, I play games with the students, which vary from day to day. The other day I taught the kids Duck Duck Goose and she butted in telling the kids her interpretation of how to play it. As my 30 minutes were up she continued to organize who was picked and who wasn’t and had yet to give out the good students. After making settle hints to her to give out the good students so I can get my medals back and leave for my next class, she was oblivious and continued on yelling at which kids were to be picked. Finally after a few minutes waiting I took the medals from her and called up 2 kids to which she argued that they didn’t deserve it. I can confidently say she’s on a power trip but Mercy Lady just let me do my job!! On the bright side I only have one more day of teaching at the school and less than 2 weeks of teaching and then I’m free to travel, but lord help me get through this!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Well this is awkward


While my School goes on a whole two-week summer vacation, I have been temporarily relocated to another school to teach. Currently in Shanghai its been in the mid 90’s every day but the heat index puts the weather around 105 degrees making it extra hot because of the humidity. As I sat in the blazing hot computer room with 3 big air condition units surrounding me, I ponder to myself why the Chinese are so cheap and all show.  In an effort to save on  theelectricity bill they have turned off the air-condition units and hid the remotes so that only an elite few can use them. With the rickety  old metal overhead fans going, I sat with beads of sweat dripping down my face as I try to write my thesis. Suddenly, one of the teachers comes in with the precious remotes and turns on the air conditioner and relieving me of this heat; I think to myself how nice she is.
            Little by little teachers start to storm into the room and I begin to realize the air condition was not turned on for me but for them. Figuring there was a meeting about to happen I sat quietly at my computer typing away trying to go unnoticed as long as I am quite. With the room filled with about 30 teachers and staff from the school, some random elderly lady who was not the principle grunts at me pointing to my computer. I closed my computer and gathered my belongings and started to head out of the room and back to the “office”, but on the way she insists that I stay for the meeting. Waving her hands for me to take a seat, the teachers tell her that I am the English teacher, but that did not matter as she was determined for me to stay, grabbing my hand as I tried to exit the room. With all the staff watching and trying not to make a scene I put my things down and take a seat.  I sat there and watched as she rambled on for about 20 minutes continuously without out a peep from anyone. Bored out of my mind, I watched the other teachers look at me and smile, using there facial expressions to try talk with me. Finally the lady takes notice of this and stops talking for a minute to ask what’s so funny. The teachers laugh and tell her that I am the English teacher and don’t speak any Chinese and have no idea what she is talking about and I shouldn’t be in the meeting. Embarrassed and turning red, she insisted that I leave the room since I did not need to be in the meeting, exactly what I was trying to do 20 minutes earlier. I stood up and smiled and nodded good-bye to her and escorted myself out of the room as the teachers all smiled and laughed… whelp that was a bit awkward. Just another day in China.

BEACH PARTY!!


A beach in Shanghai?!?! What?. One of the best things about China is that they are known for producing fake things. If they don’t have it, they will be glad to replicate it. Right off the dirty Nanpu river lies the  “Beach” once a docking area, now filled with imported sand from Sanya.  Some call it the sand pit by the river, other call it paradise. Regardless, it was a nice get away from the concrete jungle of urban Shanghai.  I met up with a couple of my friends to go to this beach party that was produced by the entertainment company “Ice Cream Truck productions” who provided multiple djs on the turn table. With the sun out and at hot, as ever, it was nice to finally soak up some Vitamin D while playing sand volleyball, sipping on some drinks and relaxing and  of course hanging out with friends. You know what they say. The best things in life are free.