07.16.10 – Vacation (backlogged)
Apologies for the delay, but here is my promised post aboutmy vacation!
After a near-disastrous delay from typically unreliable AirAstana in which my flight was cancelled at 4 a.m. the day of due to suspicious“technical problems,” I finally managed to get out of KZ via Urumqi and land inBeijing for all of 12 hours before heading out again to Manila on a re-bookedflight. There I visited my middleschool BFF Jessi, who is on a Fulbright there and has recently completed her amazingdocumentary on child prisoners in the Philippines. Jessi is a journalist, adventurer, and all-around baller andit was amazing to join forces again and explore the place she has called homefor the last year.
First of all, let me just say, I fell in love with thePhilippines immediately, consider it one of the most awesome countries in theworld, and could easily see myself living there for a long period of time. This is primarily due to several crucialshared loves: mangoes, basketball and karaoke. Though I only spent a few short days in Manila, Jessi and Imanaged to fit all of the following in:
- Ridingin plenty of crazy WWII-era “jeepneys,” or American jeeps remodeled into publictransport
- Bringinga donation of personal sanitation supplies to a juvenile detention center wherethe kids were kept in one dirty, barred room
- Takinga famous Carlos Cedran tour of the historic Intramuros district, and learningabout the tragic history of Manila and how it was in turn massacred by theJapanese and bombed by the Americans during WWII
- A refreshing halo-halo stop at the end of our tour, the favorite Filipino dessert (shaved ice, milk, sweet beans and candied fruit)
- Havingdrinks and binbingka (rice flour pudding served with cheese, salty egg and coconut…delicious!) with Carlos and friends, because Jessi ofcourse already knows everybody in Manila
- Goingto an awesome blues band show and going up to sing “Summertime,” ala our daysas middle school jazz band vocalists!
- Visitingthe Qiapo church and voodoo market, where I lit a candle and got my Tarot cardsread (apparently I will win the lottery and live in the Philippines for a verylong time)
- Watchingthe new Twilight movie in English, followed by a delicious Red Mango yogurt andcocktails with one of Jessi’s journalist friends (where are we?!)
- Eatingthe most amazing dish in Manila – pomelo, prawn and coconut salad at the poshPeople’s Palace restaurant/bar at Greenbelt
But the bulk and highlight of our trip was a divingexpedition out to Coron, a site that is known and pursued by divers worldwidedue to its sublime aquamarine waters, interesting WWII Japanese sunkenshipwrecks, pristine islands, and crazy thermal lakes. We stayed at the Seadive Resort, highlyrecommended, and I went on my first ever dives! Diving was an absolutelysurreal and incredible experience – Jessi called it “the closest you can get toflying,” and I agree. I tooknaturally to it somehow (thanks to my magic automatic-pressure-adjusting ears!)and was able to dive to 18m my first time. The sea life we saw was incredible: a huge sea turtle, abeautiful but eerie sting ray, poisonous lion fish, a school of giant batfishthat swam fully around us, hundreds of clown fish guarding their colorfulanemone homes, infinitely intricate types of coral, neon sea slugs, and otherunimaginable things. The wreckswere fascinating while at the same time being overgrown with marine life – Ihad never witnessed anything like it with my own two eyes and it was trulyunforgettable…like entering an alternate universe where everything is 10x morecolorful and exciting. We went ona total of 3 dives and then island hopped the last day (as you are not supposedto dive within 24 hours of getting on a plane). Our last day at Barracuda Lake was also memorable, as it wasincredibly creepy, we were alone without another human in sight, and the lakewas eerily deep and blue with nothing in it but a few weird looking tiny silverfish and spider-like shrimp crawling up the scary eroded rock fissures. The thermal water, in which the hot andcold layers of the lake separated into drastically different temperaturedstrata, created a strange visibility-distorting mirage. If our previous dives were likeSebastian’s “Under the Sea” fiesta, this was Ursula’s lair for sure [cuevillain music!]. Finally, when we had just decided we were creeped out enoughto return to the boat, we saw a giant barracuda swimming right towards us (onlyabout 5 meters below). Luckily itignored us, but we still swam for our lives!!
Other highlights of Coron:
- Joininga random drum circle with a bunch of fire throwers
- Karaokeingand hearing “Misty” come on – our middle school song!!!
- Jessieating balut, a fertilized duck egg with a semi-developed embryo
- Lotsof delicious fruity drinks and seafood
- Soakingin a salty hot spring and getting drenched in cool rain on our way back
- Meetingtwo awesome Danish guys who shared their patriotism and love of AQUA,Kierkegaard and Lars von Trier
- Playingpick-up basketball with some village kids
- Hikingup to the top of the Coron hill and taking in the gorgeous sunset and island view
Thank you Jessi for an amazing time! 🙂
After the Philippines, I got to spend a luxurious andrelaxing 10 days at home with my ENTIRE family. Not much to say here except that of course, I love my familyand I love China. I missed myparents and my sister so much! Wetook family portraits, my mom’s big project for the summer (getting us alltogether in one country is quite a feat!). My sis is of course a true fashionista now and has aforboding collection of sky-high heels and military jackets…at sweet 16, she isalready too awesomely cool and cute for her own good. We toured the 798 art district together, went on epic shopping trips and got cocktails and Mexicanfood. I got to spend quality time with Haibo, who is moving to China for goodsoon (exciting!), and see other wonderful friends in Beijing (Cody, Frankie,Cho, Rich). I also saw mygrandfather and both sets of uncles and corresponding aunts/cousins, includingPengpeng who is playing professional golf now in Australia (he is SO big, hewas still about 4 feet tall when I last saw him!), and my new little cousinToutou (his nickname basically means “big head,” you can see why!!!! SO PRECIOUS!). Home never disappoints – it is alwaysso good to be back and now I have something to curb my homesickness with. Not that it has even hit me again sinceI’ve been back honestly – I’ve been too busy! But that is for the next post. 🙂
[Hanging with Cody and Frankie]
[Pengpeng and Yuanyuan!:):)]
[Haibo and the big buddha face made out of cow hide at 798]