|From Jamie's Philippines Pics|
We have also had the opportunity to travel to some amazing places in China, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Bali. We have archived all of our travels and living experiences abroad; and if you wish, you can read about our adventures by finding the archives on the right of this page and by checking our Photo Album.
We appreciate all of our family and friends who have stayed in touch and emailed us with encouraging words throughout the year. We hope you will continue to keep us in your thoughts as we continue our adventure of living abroad teaching at an international school. For those who have stumbled upon our site, check out the "About Eric and Jamie" section on the right for more information.
Thanks for checking us out!
- Mark Twain
- Maya Angelou
Thursday, January 21, 2010
As we were walking off the courts, a Chinese man stopped us. He said "you play 1 tiebreak (pointing at my friend), and you play 2 tiebreak with me." We had no idea what he was talking about, but decided to go along because we were interested. It ended up that he wanted each of us to play him a tie break apiece. He was a very good player and the first tie break was over pretty quickly. I was lucky that he double faulted, and my score with him was tied 4-4 just as the lights went out of us. I wanted to just stop there figuring that would be as close as I could get with the guy, but he wanted to gamble (typical Chinese stuff). Basically, we'd play the rest of the tiebreak and if he won, I had to pay for 30 minutes of light time, and if I won, he would pay. Let me remind you that he was the one stealing our light time to begin with. We politely declined even after he wanted to feed my friend some balls for him to practice. He gave us his business card and it turns out he is a tennis coach basically looking for some extra work and side money. We declined again. Only in China.
I decided to walk home and saw some other co-workers of mine outside their weekly darts game restaurant/bar. I stopped to chat with them for a little while and as we were waiting outside on the side walk, 3 armored Chinese SWAT team trucks pulled up along side of us. Suddenly, about 12 officers complete with shields and batons filed out of the trucks and surrounded one of the sidewalk tables of the restaurant next to us. A group of about 10 people had been eating on the sidewalk tables and they were now surrounded by these SWAT team officers. I was excited... I just knew something cool was going to go down and I would get to see it.
As it turns out, they SWAT team methodically began loading up the plastic chairs and stools of the people eating into the trucks. One of the tables was also removed. Nothing physical, just 12 SWAT guys with shields and batons ready for battle loading chairs into a truck. The people eating got up peacefully, gathered around the other table of food, and kept on eating. It was all over in a matter of 2 minutes. The SWAT guys all loaded back up on the trucks and drove down the street. After the trucks drove away, the restaurant brought out more chairs for the people. Obviously, we have no clue why any of this occurred.
That's what I call job security! Only in China...
Monday, January 11, 2010
Jamie and I had a whirlwind of a week at the International Schools Services Job Fair in Bangkok, Thailand last week. We arrived from Vientiane, Laos, on Monday and decided to see a movie at our favorite theater in Bangkok, the Paragon at Siam Square. This theater is incredible, inexpensive, and we decided to see the new Sherlock Holmes movie. Pretty good!
On Tuesday, the fair began, but it was only check in, so we had another day of relaxing and hanging out. We did some research on some schools, and made sure we were well rested before our big day of interviews on Wednesday.
Wednesday - one of the craziest days of our lives. We woke up early to go in and do additional research on some schools. At 8:00, the doors opened to the banquet hall and we were allowed to go in and sign up for interviews. Before our eyes, our jobs at some of our favorite schools vanished on the posters behind the schools' tables. We went in with 15 schools who had jobs for us and would be decent moves, but only were able to sign up for 7 interviews, still pretty good. The schools were in China, South Korea, Hong Kong, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. We interviewed with all 7 on Wednesday beginning at 11:15 and ending at 8:15 that evening. Crazy day. We felt overall pretty good about the interviews, but you never know.
Thursday - We received a couple of call backs for 2nd interviews and a few "rejection" letters (as we called them). We determined that it is a puzzle for these schools to find the right fit. While Jamie and I look good on paper, we do not know anyone outside QSI at any school, do not have IB training, and might have not fit what they were looking for. No biggie, but it was a emotional roller coaster experience waiting on the schools to get back to us.
At the end of Thursday, we received an offer from a school with great salary, benefits, and available teaching positions with which we felt comfortable. We told them we'd sleep on it and the next morning, we woke up and signed the offer.
Jamie and I will be working for the International Schools Group in Dhahran, SAUDI ARABIA for the 2010 - 2012 school years on a 2 year contract. I will be teaching middle school math and science, and Jamie will be teaching high school social studies. We are feel good about the move, believe it will be in our best interest, and are excited about the opportunity for travel to Europe, more of Asia, and Africa. We figure our first few trips will be to Italy, Cairo, Egypt (pyramids), and Istanbul, Turkey.
Griffey can go with us, but it is a bit trickier. We'll have to take him back to the U.S., get his papers signed again, and then bring him over. Whether all of this can be done over the summer is still up in the air. We'll see more about him later. Dogs in Saudi Arabia or a westerner only thing as Muslims see them as unclean.
We will be living on a compound in the city of Dhahran, which is very near the Persian Gulf, the island nation of Bahrain, and Qatar. We will have to get a vehicle of some sort, and Jamie won't be allowed to drive. She does have to wear an abaya (a long dress like thing you see Arabs wearing) but she does NOT have to cover her head.
We'll of course be blogging about our move in August as well as any preparation. For now, we need to finish our year here in China where we will also be traveling to Vietnam. We have one more trip in April, and since it may be our last in China, we might say in China for touring (perhaps the Yangtze River cruise and Shanghai.
Email me with questions...
Monday, January 4, 2010
We then headed out to our favorite mall in Bangkok, the Paragon, to eat some Mexican food as well as check out the movie selection. This mall serves the elite in Bangkok and even has a Lamborghini and Hummer dealership in the mall itself (although last year I walked into the Lamborghini dealership and the girl didn't even look up at me. And to think I was going to purchase 4 from her), but we like it for the food and theather. I still say this movie theater is the nicest I have ever seen and the prices were about $8 total for us to see the new Sherlock Holmes movie, which I thought was very good.
We then ate some ice cream (which cost more than the movie) and then headed back to our hotel. I walked around and got my bearings on the place and bought a few items we might need for the fair and then decided to catch up on my blogging.
I'll keep everyone posted of breaking news regarding our job search. We are moderately optimistic about our chances of landing a decent job. We'll see...
We woke early, were picked up by a tuk tuk and transported to the bus station. This was an "express" bus that would take 10 hours to reach the capital city of Laos, Vientiane. The bus was in worse shape than a public city school bus in the state of Mississippi, but we at least had decent seats. The bus drivers in China and Laos make some extra money along the way on these long trips by picking up additional passengers on the side of the road and pocketing the money. The new passengers sit in a seat if they have one or on a stool in the aisle that the bus drivers have brought along for such purposes. For the first 6 hours, it seemed as though we were the national highway public transportation bus service of Laos as the loaded and unloaded passengers. It was hot, dusty, and quite miserable, but it was cheap (obviously) and finally dropped us off in our location 12 hours later.
We had already booked the nicest hotel we had stayed in a while, a Novotel, and it was a nice change after 2 straight weeks in hostels.
Jamie and I have spent a total of 55 HOURS on bus rides these last 15 days. Perhaps a bit crazy, but most of that goes with the territory of traveling in Southeast Asia. Unless you have some mad cash to throw around on plane flights, you'll have to take busses and trains. Laos does not have a train system, so busses it is along winding, curvy roads picking up and dropping off passengers along the way.
On to Bangkok in the morning...
|From Jamie Cooking Class|
Jamie got up pretty early to go to her cooking class. She forgot the time zone difference and was 1 hour early, so she came back to the hotel to wake me to see if I wanted to go to breakfast with her. We found this really good little crepe place and I had a banana and honey crepe while Jamie had her staple in southeast Asia - a mango shake.
Jamie was in her cooking class until about 4:30 and I just sat around and fooled around with the pictures for the blog, watched a couple of movies, and did a little bit of job fair preparation. When Jamie returned (she had a great time), we decided to go to this ethnic cultural museum that we had seen earlier. It was very small, but very well laid out and very informative about the main ethnic groups of Laos.
Jamie was still stuffed from her all day snacking in the cooking class, but we walked one more time down the night market purchasing a few items and then I had a quick dinner. We tried some Luo Lao, which is their version of rice wine. It tasted more like straight rubbing alcohol.
We retired early tonight because we had to pack and had an early bus ride in the morning to Vientiane. We really enjoyed the town of Luang Prabang and both see us coming back here again on another trip.
Friday, January 1, 2010
We woke up early and had a quick breakfast down the road before being picked up and taken an hours drive outside the city north to our drop off destination for kayaking the Ou River. It was chilly on the ride up there in the back of the truck and we were hoping the day would warm up and the river would be warm.
We stopped in 2 H'mung villages first to see how they lived. We have seen similar villages of the H'mung people in Thailand and Vietnam, and these were no different other than these were the White H'mung people. Other H'mung ethnic groups include the Red, Black, and Green - all in southeast Asia.
It was warm by the time we set off on our kayaking journey down the river. For 90% of the trip, it was a lazy river we paddled the way through, but there were a few decent rapids (no more than class 2) and we even flipped the kayak one time. No one was hurt and it was quite refreshing. While lasting all day, the entire trip down the river didn't last more than 4 hours including a stop for lunch.
When entering the city, the drivers stopped to unload the boats and equipment and we were able to witness cock fighting. In all our travels, we hadn't see this "sport" yet. It was somewhat disturbing, but I guess goes with the territory. It is still forcing 2 animals to fight and Jamie and I aren't one to support it.
After a much needed shower, we went out to town again to this restaurant we had seen on the main road. We ordered and split some local fruit wine (very sweet and cough syrupy) and the stuffed bamboo with pork as well as a fried pineapple in coconut milk for dessert. Decent meal, but a bit overpriced.
Tomorrow, Jamie is taking a cooking class which will take most of the day. I haven't decided what I am doing yet. We do have our schedule for the rest of our trip as follows...
On Jan. 3rd, we'll take a 10 hour bus ride to Vientiane arriving and 4:00 pm or so. We'll hang out in the capital city of Laos for the evening before boarding a short flight to Bangkok on Jan. 4 for our job fair starting on the 5th. Wish us luck!
Again, we are really liking Laos. The people are very friendly, the food is delicious, and the atmosphere if VERY laid back. Great trip for just about anyone.
Jamie and I didn't really have a plan for today other than going to this local ethnic museum we had heard about. We had thought about going to the Ou Buddhist Caves, but decided that we'd stay in Luang Prabang the entire time until we had to go to Bangkok. Because of this, we'll be able to go kayaking, Jamie can take her cooking class, and we'll have some more time in this amazing city.
Lunch was at a little bakery type place where Jamie's grilled fish was delicious. The spices and sauces they make here are perhaps the tastiest we've encountered in our travels. We walked to the top of the town hill in the main city center and visited the temple at the top as well as the views of the surrounding area. Afterwards, we visited the residence of the King and Queen of Laos when the capital was in Luang Prabang. Nothing incredibly special, but neat nonetheless.
We decided to get some rest instead of heading to the ethnic museum, so we napped and freshened up before enjoying a sunset on the river - a final meal before the New Year. It was tasty enough and we decided to have a drink and dessert at another restaurant on the main street then headed out to see the festivities on the street.
Our intent was actually to go back to the room, drop off our newly purchased sunscreen, and then head out to a great place behind our guesthouse called Utopia. We never made it. We decided to stay in for our big New Year's Eve, didn't watch a ball drop, and watched a movie until just after midnight before falling asleep. We knew we had an early morning and somewhat regret not going out, but we aren't exactly young chickens anymore.
Luang Prabang is great and we are already talking about coming back here someday.
Tomorrow... kayaking down the Ou River.