Saturday, September 14, 2013

Don't Be a Noni Juice

Our last morning Danvic and I decided to walk up to see the cross that overlooks Coron. What one guide said was around 200 stairs turned out to be 720 stairs…one way. We were huffing and puffing all the way up, but the end result and the (quite literally) breathtaking views were worth the hike. 

If you ever find yourself in Coron, Palawan [and I HIGHLY recommend this as a future destination!!!) I would take the hike up the stairs, get good and exhausted, then go get a massage on the way to the Maquinit Hot Springs. What better way to spend a day than a bit of exercise, and relaxation to unwind from hiking up (and then down) 720 stairs? My thoughts exactly.
Alas, it was time to say goodbye to Coron. We trekked up to the viewing tower of our hotel (of course it's a beautiful, sunny day when we're leaving) to take a picture.

Streets of Coron and a trike

 We had the same cab driver from the hotel to the airport and this time I got a picture of the mini Jesus near the AC vents. Needless to say, we were in good hands.
We always ride with Jesus
 While we were waiting at the airport to board our flight, we saw advertisements for what looked to be an awesome drink called Noni juice. Thank goodness we only bought one at first for everyone to try. This stuff was definitely an acquired taste...that none of us were able to acquire while trying to down it. Carlo and I decided to opt for different frappachino-esque drinks, while Danvic forced the juice down.
 I also got to meet 2 Filipino celebrities! They star in soap operas. We even talked them into letting me get a picture.
 And as the pattern throughout the week, it wouldn’t be a trip without a nice rainstorm.
Before: Notice you can't see the mountains like you can below...

After the rain let up a bit.

Imagine experiencing this storm on a small boat. Yeah, it’s rather unnerving. 
With another mini-typhoon our flight was delayed, but we finally made it back to Manila. 
Palawan, you did not disappoint.  I hope to see your sparkling waters again in the future!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Lake Kalagawan & Navigating the Abyss

Our last full day we got to take the tour I had been waiting for… Lake Kalagawan! I had seen a picture of this lake months ago on Twitter, and finally we were getting to go see it in person!
The entire tour took us to 5 different stops. Between the marine wildlife sanctuary, the lost lagoon and twin peaks, this tour alone was worth it without the main event—a magical lake.  This trip was also fun because I met 3 Americans, who were teaching English in Korea and got me super excited for moving to Thailand (now Cambodia).

This shirt cracked me up

Danvic and Carlo searching for fishies
On one of our stops, we found out how the toilet on the boat works—as Nader our tour guide put it, “It’s a toilet that’s straight to the point.” Literally the toilet was just over a hole in the boat that went straight into the water. When we were about to get off in the “Lost Lagoon” one of our fellow tourists decided to use the facilities, which is how we found out the toilet was a straight shot… Needless to say we weren’t so excited to jump in the water and snorkel around in poo.

Oddly enough, it was this experience that sparked a conversation between me and the other Americans on our trip. What a better way to bond than making fun of other tourists snorkeling around in somebody’s poop? For that stop, we decided to stay in the boat and have a few drinks instead.
And finally—the stop we’d been waiting for: Lake Kalagawan! The boat parked in a beautiful lagoon...

SO. Many. Stairs.
Then we all climbed out to climb the 100 stairs up and 150 stairs down to the lake. As a break in the mini-hike we stopped for a photo opportunity over the lagoon.

The entire tour group

Our Filipino friends we toured with all week!

  The lake water is brackish and has the coolest rock formations under the water. We even got to swim to a small cave and go cliff diving into the lake! The sights were spectacular and this was by far my favorite part of the trip. Unfortunately, my "life proof" case didn't quite hold up to be life proof... So i did not get any pictures inside the cave or of us jumping from the rock... And I now have an iPhone on the fritz, but that's traveling.

The entrance to the cave is near the end of the dock

A view of the rock we jumped from

the dock and some of the rock formations in the lake
We continued on to boat past the Twin Peaks and then stopped off at an island beach to unwind after our exciting morning. On our way home though, the real experience of the day began. Suddenly the sky got black and you could literally see nothing through the abyss of clouds that covered our path home. The waves grew rough and between the wind and the rain—we were all soaked and it was hard to even see 20 feet in front of the boat. Needless to say, I was terrified. After 30 minutes of pure terror and fear for our lives (only slightly kidding, I was terrified), we finally made it through the abyss.
As soon as we got home, I was ready for bed. Between the jet-lag, hiking, and near-death-experience, I was exhausted

Cashmere in Cambodia

Since yesterday, I have been here for exactly one month.
And what an exciting month it has been!

Sorry it’s been so long since my last post. Between my TESOL class, teaching, a bit of traveling, finding an apartment, and finally securing a job, life has been a mental and emotional whirlwind of an experience. 
View mountains from my balcony

I’ve had so many amazing experiences in my five weeks here in Phnom Penh and I’d like to touch on one through this post: my experiences student teaching.
I had the opportunity to teach 4-11 year olds at a Korean orphanage and also teach 4-8 year old children that lived behind our hotel (formerly called the River Rats, now fondly referred to as the Marady Munchkins). And it was a bumpy start, but I had the time of my life teaching these nuggets English, even if it was only for 2 weeks. 
Most of my Marady Munchkins

Some of my students from the Korean Orphanage

Throughout the two weeks we learned about the weather, musical instruments, and the rooms of the house. My favorite topic was definitely the musical instruments lessons because we had so much fun listening to the musical instruments, playing games matching the sounds to the instrument and also making music and signing in every class. 

My Marady Munchkins were also a joy to teach—they’re so smart and picked up and retained most of what I attempted to teach them. We covered the pronunciation of several letters, the days of the week, colors, some fruits and veggies, and I taught them a few new songs.
I’ve learned just as much from this experience… some things as trivial as cashmere and Cambodia don’t mix too well. I also learned that elementary aged students find it hilarious when their teacher acts silly and does the “go bananas” dance, but that through acting like a lunatic you get closer to the students. One of my favorite memories was when the students from the Korean orphanage finally learned how to say my name—even if they still pronounced it Candy most of the time. I also got one of the youngest, quietest students to smile, and even managed a hug out of her before I left on my last day with the students. 

The past two weeks taught me so much… I can definitely say that I admire my past teachers even more now that I’ve been in front of a class of screaming children. 

I’m really sad to see this experience come to an end, but I hope to continue to volunteer at the Korean orphanage, and there might be a way that you (my readers) could potentially help the students here in Cambodia. (but more on that at a later date!)