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!

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness."
- Mark Twain

"Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends."
- Maya Angelou






Skype: "ericandjamie"



Sunday, February 28, 2010

Chinese New Year 2010

From CNY 2010

From CNY 2010

This is the year of the Tiger. The last couple of weeks, the Chinese have been celebrating their largest holiday of the year. Tonight, there have been fireworks all night all over the city. We could see several of them just outside on our balcony. I was able to take some pretty cool shots like the one above. See the rest of them HERE.

Enjoy and Happy New Year!

Friday, February 26, 2010

HCMC Tet Eve

From Kathy

Here is a video taken by Kathy of a short parade and performance on the streets of HCMC on the night of Tet Eve. High energy and a ton of people. Click on the video to see the whole thing. Great stuff and a lot of fun!

Thursday, February 25, 2010


From Kathy

Here is a short video of when Jamie and Kathy put their feet into the pool at Wonderfish. You'll need to click the picture to get the video to play. Wonderfish is a spa where the small fish eat away the dead skin on your body. They have one in Hong Kong now, but Singapore, Turkey, Bangkok, and Japan have had them for some time. Japan apparently has a full body tank. Gary and I wouldn't do it; of course, I don't even like going for a foot massage, much less having a bunch of small fish nibble on my feet. They seemed to enjoy it though. Video is above and a picture of the crowded fish is below. Enjoy!

From Kathy

Chinese New Year - Auld Lang Syne

Prior to our trip to Vietnam, all students participated in the Chinese New Year performance here at QSI Shekou. Jamie was involved this year as her IE students sang the Chinese version of Auld Lang Syne. I don't have a video of it, but here is the audio from which they sang and practiced. Just click on the play button to play. Great new tool I'm using to upload songs onto blogger that is super easy called DivShare.

While it wasn't a solo, Jamie was up on stage and singing along with the students during the performance. Way to go Jamie!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

HCMC to Hong Kong to Shekou - Day 9

We had an early flight, so we were out of the hotel at 4:15 am and at the airport by 4:45. Our flight to HK was only 2 hours, so we landed and got through customs and back to Gary and Kathy’s hotel by 11:00 am.

Jamie and I had been craving some Mexican, so we decided to eat at our favorite Mexican restaurant in the city – Tequila. It was yummy as usual. We went up to the Peak to check out the scenery, and while up there, Jamie and Kathy stopped in at Wonderfish! If you don’t know about Wonderfish!, it is a company which provides its patrons with a unique spa service (see video above).

According to their brochure, the Garra Rufa fish was found in Turkey 1000s of year ago; and since then, people have allowed these little fish to eat the dead skin off of their feet and bodies. Supposedly, Japan had full body tanks. Jamie and Kathy enjoyed it, and it was a unique experience. We had seen these in Bangkok, but I believe this is the only one in HK. I can see them catching on. I’m not sure if the US has one. The lady seemed to think that US law didn’t allow them. I’ll have to research why. Someone do that for me if you have the time (Uncle David???).

After that nibbling experience, we headed back to hotel to transfer some photos before heading out on the mid-level escalators again and settling in to a nice Italian restaurant to order a light dinner.

We said our goodbyes to Gary and Kathy, jumped on ferry back to Shekou, and met a very happy dog waiting for us at the apartment.

We would like to thank Gary and Kathy for coming to see us. We can only hope they enjoyed the trip to Hong Kong and Vietnam (minus the excruciating bus ride experience). We certainly enjoyed their company and always love having visitors.

Back to the grind tomorrow at work. Our next trip will be at the end of April for spring break where we believe we will go to Shanghai and the Yangtze River Cruise.

Hue to HCMCDay - 7 and 8

This was the part of the journey we had been dreading for the past month. Jamie and I woke at 5:00 am to go running near the Perfume River in Hue, packed up our things, met Gary and Kathy down stairs for breakfast, and met the bus at the travel agency in town at 8:30 for the start of our LONG journey south back to HCMC.

The bus took us 3 hours back to Hoi An, where we had 6 hours to kill before leaving at 7:45 on the sleeper bus to Nha Trang. During those 6 hours, we walked the streets of Hoi An some more, did some shopping (Gary and I had 2 shirts made for us), tried to purchase airline tickets (unsuccessfully), and dined in a few restaurants for either drinks, lunch, or dessert. We found an amazing ice cream place along the river called Casa Verda, so if anyone reading this (all 4 people) ever end up in Hoi An, you can check it out.

Our sleeper bus was nice enough. Jamie, Gary, and Kathy were all on the back row of the bus. I was by myself a few rows up. We went to sleep almost immediately and dozed on and off for the duration of the trip. At 6:00 the next morning, we arrived in Nha Trang, where we had to wait about an hour and half before the next leg of our journey to HCMC. This bus wasn’t a sleeper bus, but we napped, read, snacked, and chatted through this LONG 12 hour bus ride back to HCMC where we finally arrived at 7:30 pm, nearly 36 hours after we first left Hue.

Gary and I picked up some linen pants that we had ordered last week, and Jamie and Kathy checked into the same hotel we had before. After getting settled and cleaning up, we headed out to a BBQ restaurant we had read about and noticed the other day. It was delicious and one of the best and most fun meals we had had on the trip. They had a small grill on your table, so we cooked our own meat, shrimp, and veggies.

We were just about spent after this and crashed into bed some around 11:00 pm.

Busy 2 days but definitely memorable. Gary even said that he was glad he got the opportunity to take the sleeper bus. While I’m not sure about that, it was definitely 2 days for the books in our travels.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Hue - Day 6

We had a full day planned today, but we headed out at a reasonable time of 9:00. We rented a car and driver for the day, which took us about 15km outside the city to the three old emperor's tombs we'd see for the day: Khai Dinh, Minh Mang, and Tu Duc. Each were similar in appearance and lay out, but each one had its own unique quality to it. The architecture was both Chinese and Vietnamese, and the overall temple layouts were definitely Buddhist.

Our next stop was the "official" symbol of Hue, the Thien Mu Pagoda, which overlooks the Perfume River to the west of the city. It had beautiful grounds around the pagoda, which would be beautiful in the spring and summer when all flora would be in bloom.

Lunch was at a very Vietnamese restaurant in the center of the city with nice traditional architecture. We ordered 5 dishes, and we have all decided that we enjoy the spring rolls wherever we go in Vietnam.

After lunch, we quickly toured the Imperial Palace, or the Citadel. This rather large palace grounds. The citadel was bombarded by the French and Viet Minh in the 1800's and by the Viet Cong and the Americans in the Vietnam War. Much of it was destroyed, but some buildings are amazingly still intact and others are going through a multi-million dollar renovation.

We went back to the hotel and rested for a couple of hours before taking a taxi to a restaurant that we had intended to go the previous night. It was a bit outside the city and was not what we thought it was, but it turned out to be a very elegant restaurant - Ancient Hue House Cuisine and Gallery. The food was decent, but the presentation of the food was amazing. They made flowers, animals, and designs all from food that they placed on your plate.

We have a long day tomorrow as we hop on a sleeper bus at 9:00 am for a 23 hour bus ride back to Ho Chi Minh City.

Be sure to check out the new albums online, including the new albums of Kathy and Jamie.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Hoi An to Hue - Day 5

Very relaxing day as we woke up, Jamie and I ran our 5k, had breakfast, checked of the hotel, and headed out for one more stroll around Hoi An before departing to Hue in the afternoon. We walked around the old town for a while. The girls bought some silk robes, and we walked through a very interesting central food market. Lunch was sub par at a backpacker joint.

We rested by the pool lounges at the hotel before hopping on a bus to Hue. We were supposed to have a regular bus; but due to a travel agency error, they overbooked our bus, so we had to take a sleeper bus. This was good since Kathy's back is still hurting.

3 hours later, we arrived in a rainy Hue, checked into our hotel, the Holiday Hotel, and went searching for a restaurant we had read about. We couldn't find it, so we settled on a place with more sub par food.

Tomorrow, we'll be touring the old imperial palace of Hue as well as some emperor tombs around the city.

Check back from pictures and updates of tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Hoi An – Day 5

We checked out of the Danang Riverside Hotel in the morning after breakfast and took a cab to Hoi An and checked into our hotel here, the Vinh Hung 2. We walked around the old town before settling on a nice little restaurant called Citronella along the river. We walked around a bit more, but decided to head back to the hotel for some rest. Jamie wasn’t feeling well, so she decided to take a nap, while Gary, Kathy, and I rented some bikes and took off toward the beach. The ride was through the city about 5 km away and we arrived at the beach. It was a great looking beach with a ton of locals and westerners there enjoying the last day of Tet. Afterward, Gary and Kathy went back to the hotel, but I decided to ride around the town more to take some pictures around the river.

We rested up a bit before heading out for our cooking class at, ironically, the Citronella. It was more watching than doing, but it was good as we made spring rolls, fried calamari, chicken soup, and mackerel wrapped in a banana leaf. Afterward, we walked the streets enjoying the festivities before finding some dessert at a coffee shop and heading to bed exhausted.

A great overall relaxing day, and I believe Gary and Kathy’s favorite town so far in Vietnam. It is quaint, touristy, and walking distance to everything. Check out the new photo album online.

Danang - Day 4

We woke up early and headed out for a full day or touring around Danang. We had hired a guy to take us around the city for the day, so we were picked up about 9:00 am and taken to the Cham Museum. The Cham were an empire in Vietnam that built similar style temples like Angkor in Cambodia and Ayutthaya in Thailand. All are of Hindu influence which is evident in the carvings. This museum was built to house the sculptures of My Son, the site of ruins of the Cham Empire. The sculptures were impressive and reminded us of Angkor. They removed the sculptures from the remains of the temples because robbers would take them, and already had.

After the museum, we were taken to an upscale marble store where the girls working hoped we would buy a table, sculpture, or anything. They did have this solid marble decoratively carved table and chairs for only $1400, which included shipping to Atlanta. Pretty impressive and it was beautiful. I guess our driver didn’t think we’d be actually interested in the Marble Mountains, so he was going to skip them. We told him that we’ actually like to see the Mountains, and not just some store ran by his cousin. Such is the way you have to travel in southeast Asia.

Marble Mountain was impressive. We climbed the steps to the temples, pagodas and grottoes that were built into the side of the mountain. There are actually 5 mountains surrounding the areas, each with folklore names representing Air, Water, Earth, Fire, and Metal. The top offered wonderful views of all Danang farmland, the city, the beach, and the numerous resorts which will one day dominate the coastline.

From Marble Mountain, it was an hour drive to My Son to see the ruins of the temples. They were impressive enough, and it was clear that restoration was truly a work in progress. We did get an idea of how the temples once were and stood, but it takes somewhat of an imagination to do so because of the state they were in.

We decided to head back to the hotel where Jamie, Gary, and Kathy enjoyed a head, shoulder, and back massage. Gary didn’t enjoy his, and I’ll let him explain why.

Dinner was an interesting experience because our first choice was closed due to Tet. We settled on and quite enjoyed a grilled fresh fish experience on the beach at night. Several families had strewn up tarps, small grills, plastic table and chairs, and charged enormous prices for you to dine on the beach with fresh fish. It was tasty enough though and we felt good going back to the hotel afterward.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

HCMC to Danang - Day 3

Jamie and I got up and ran our 5k in HCMC this morning, but then went back to bed. We all finally got out of the hotel and on to some destinations by 10:00. Our first stop was to cruise through "flower street," the same site that we were on last night for the Tet New Year's Eve celebrations. This time, we all took some pretty cool pictures in front of tigers and flowers. Our next stop was the famous Ben Thanh Market, although most of the stalls were closed. We'll come back here next Saturday though. We found a refreshing BBQ Garden restaurant that we had drinks only in, and walked our way through the city to the People's Committee Hall, or City Hall, of HCMC. The building is nice and it the dead end of the flower street festivities. We took our picture next to a nice statue of Ho Chi Minh, or Uncle Ho as the Vietnamese call him.

We then went to one of the main pagodas in HCMC. It was very crowded because of the new year holiday, and we got a sense of the importance of the day to many Vietnamese. Our next stop was a restaurant which is actually in the book, 1000 Places to See Before You Die. It is called Pho Hua, or Pho Hoa, and it serves the basic Vietnamese dish of noodles, beef, sprouts, greens, and peppers if you wish. It was quite tasty and we ate with the locals.

This is where I royally screwed up. I had been thinking that we had another night in HCMC and we'd fly to Danang the next day. Actually, our flight was for 3:30 this afternoon. It wasn't until 3:00 that I realized that we had to fly today. Frantically, I called our travel agent and asked if we could get on another flight. She was able to get us on a 7:10 flight tonight. We arrived at our hotel in Danang, the Danang Riverside Hotel, around 9:00 pm after only an hour flight.

We were very lucky to have the flight on the same day. We had already booked the hotel in Danang, so it was fortunate that our travel plans for the week were not blown up right then.

Tomorrow, we are going to see the famous Marble Mountains, My Son Archeological Site, and the Cham Museum.

Be sure to check back for more photos. I have added Kathy's photos into an album. In her album there is also a couple of videos of the Tet parade we witnessed on New Year's Eve. Worth check out.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Tet New Year's Eve

Day 2

After a much needed night's rest, we got up, ate breakfast, and headed out into the city to do the touristy things in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) or Saigon. We first took a cab to the Independence Palace. This was the presidential palace of South Vietnam but is probably best known in the world for the videos and pictures of the tanks crashing through the gates of the palace after the fall of Saigon to the North Vietnamese on April 30, 1975. The palace was somewhat impressive, and supposedly, they had tried to leave it in similar condition to what it was during the time. Nice building with beautiful grounds and architecture.

We had some time to kill before heading over to the War Remnants Museum, so we decided to go ahead and eat at the Hard Rock Cafe HCMC. Food was great as always and we picked up one of the cooler HRC t shirts we have.

A quick stop for pictures at the Vietnamese version of the Notre Dame Cathedral, and it was off to the War Remnants Museum. I would like to have had an opinion of a Vietnam War veteran of this museum, because it mainly showed and explained the American atrocities toward the Vietnamese during the "American War." The effects of some of the massacres and the effects of agent orange were graphically portrayed. Apparently, the museum opened just 5 months after the Fall of Saigon, so it is no wonder why there is such a biased slant on the war and these war time atrocities.

I had planned on purchasing some linen pants while I was back in Vietnam, and we wanted to purchase Gary some too. We shopped around before settling on a place where we bought 5 pair of linen pants at what we thought was a very reasonable price. I am delighted, and we'll pick them up next Saturday when we get back from Hue.

We were all pretty exhausted, so we decided to head back to the hotel for a quick afternoon nap. After resting for a couple of hours, Jamie, Kathy, and I headed back out into the city to check out the festivities for the New Year's Eve. Gary is catching a cold, so he stayed in.

We first ate dinner at a delicious Vietnamese restaurant call Pho Bu Vien Quoc Ky. They only served 2 things: white noodles and yellow noodles with some greens and beef in a broth soup. It was delicious, and we were helped by an Australian/Vietnamese college student who was helping out his family for the holiday.

We then lucked out, because as were walking through the throngs of people celebrating, we happened upon a small parade. This was the type of parade we were looking for last year in Hong Kong with the dragon dancers, big lion heads, and high energy. It lasted for about 10 or 15 minutes before moving on. 1000s of people were in the streets just walking around the loop of the pedestrian only zone. I guess you could call it the Times Square of Veitnam. It was quite a site and one I'm glad we were able to see. We then became too tired to wait for the fireworks and true New Year's Eve countdown, so we decided to head back and get some more rest.

Great day overall. We aren't sure what to do tomorrow because many of the stores and businesses will be closed. I'm sure we'll find something to do.

Be sure to check out the HCMC folder on Picasa for the pictures!

We are going to Vietnam - Its this whole other country

Day 1

Jamie and I awoke at 5:00 to do our 5K run. We are now running all but 3 minutes of the 5k. We are proud of ourselves. We finished packing and took all 6 of our bags to work: 2 backpacks, 1 small carry on for Vietnam, and 3 medium size bags that Jamie's parents are taking back with them after our trip. We went throughout our day at school finishing up our narratives and watching the clock. At 4:00, we hit the door and drug our bags to the ferry terminal. I had gone that morning to purchase the tickets, and I am glad I did. It seemed like everyone in Shekou was leaving on the ferry. Despite being crowded, we left for Hong Kong central only 15 minutes late and arrived right on time at 5:30. We quickly got through immigration and hopped in a cab with all of our luggage and headed for Jamie's parents hotel in HK. They had arrived the previous day and had toured the city. We met them at 6:00, told the cab driver to wait, dropped our luggage off at the hotel, and then loaded up Jamie's parents and their and whisked away to the airport.

At this time, we had plenty of time. However, we had forgot to print our Vietnam visa permission letter, so we had to frantically run around the airport trying to find a printer. At the nice price of 50 HKD, we printed the 5 pages we needed, went through security, was at the gate for 2 minutes before we loaded the plane.

The flight was only 2 hours, which was long enough for us to rest. The border entry into Vietnam was very busy and we waited over an hour trying to get our visa stamped. We finally made it to our hotel, Tan Hai Long 3, around midnight.

Quite a busy day, but Jamie's parent made it OK, we had a whirlwind of a day, and we are now in Viet-nam - "It's this whole other coun-try" - (Forrest Gump)

Check back for more about our first day adventures in Ho Chi Minh City.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Winding Up or Down?

Jamie and I have been in the daily life grind since our return from Bangkok and winter holiday at the beginning of January. We have been working on the middle school Model United Nations conference that our school is hosting. We are responsible for the conference. That was thrown onto our laps last year. So far, there about 5 schools and 11 teams participating in the conference. We consider this a success since there were zero schools last year.

We are trying to learn more information about Saudi Arabia and our new school. We are still very excited about the opportunity and are pretty much counting the days. That is not to say that things here have wound down. A friend of mine just told me that it was only February. With that said, we still have quite a bit to do.

#1 - Teaching the remaining of the year. Some teachers would probably just let their teaching slide the last few months remaining on a contract where they knew they were leaving. Both Jamie and I have too much pride and consideration for that. So, we are planning our lessons just as we did last year and hope our students benefit from our maintained if not increased devotion

#2 - Vietnam for the Tet Holiday - We'll be meeting Jamie's parents at the Hong Kong airport and flying to Ho Chi Minh City for a few days, then Danang, then Hoi An, the Hue. Interestingly, we aren't exactly sure how we'll be getting from Hue back to HCMC. It is about a: 1 hour flight (sold out), a 24 hour train ride (might be sold out), or a "sleeper car" (which we have no idea what it is but apparently might be taking). Nonetheless, we are excited about going back to Vietnam. The people are nice, the food is delicious, and we'll be able to see some sites of the Vietnam War.

#3 - Packing and planning for Saudi Arabia - while it doesn't have our full attention yet, we'll have to start going through our belongings here and planning for our trip to the U.S. this summer and subsequent move to The Kingdom. Planning for Griffey will be a full time job also, but it seems pretty straightforward. As of now, we plan on leaving either the 19th or 20th of June. We aren't sure yet when we'll need to be in Saudi. We have decided to NOT ship anything. We are paying for extra baggage fee on the plane and still hoping to pack as light as possible. Apparently, you can purchase anything you need in Saudi or Bahrain, so we'll do that instead of hauling our stuff 1000s of miles.

#4 - Getting Fit - Jamie and I have started this 5K training program through Personal Running Trainer, an mp3 download training music and program. It is an 8 week training that will get your running a 5K in a safe way. As of today, we are finishing week 3, which involves us running a cycle of 6 minute runs and 1 minute walks 5 times. It hasn't been too bad, but we've both been sick a couple of weeks which has slowed us somewhat. However, we have only missed 1 running day each, so that is not too bad for us. I have also continued to play basketball once per week and have taken up tennis again. Jamie gets our her yoga video some.

#5 - Gearing up for our Spring Break Trip - I think we have decided to go see Shanghai and do the Yangtze River Cruise for our last trip living in China. China visas are expensive, so we figure we'd save some money by staying in the country. More on this later, but something to keep in mind.

#6 - Finishing our Dissertations - I have put this so far down the list it is not even funny. I think we are both over this. The time it takes to complete this is insane. We just hope to finish sometime before we retire. I don't even have the heart to type what all is going on with this subject. I think I'll post again on it when we actually receive word from the school that we'll graduate. By that time, I'm sure that laptops will be obsolete and I'll be able to teleport tell everyone one of you in person.

#7 - Reflecting on China - I have been doing this for some time. People ask what it is like to live here, and I hope through this blog, I have provided people with some sort of glimpse. Unfortunately, it is difficult to write in just a few paragraphs. It is different too for each individual, couple, or family. China isn't the easiest place to live, but certainly isn't the hardest. In many ways, it is much easier than living in the U.S. Jamie and I love walking to just about anywhere or hopping on a bus. However, you sacrifice some comforts of home. If it wasn't for this new job and financial opportunity, we would gladly stay here in Shekou.

#8 - Preparing for MUN conference - As previously stated, Jamie and I are responsible for this. It is not until April, but still something to stay on top of.

That is a decent list. I'm sure I have forgotten something. It just seems like every day is both the same, yet different. The routine is the same, but little things you have do creep in and don't go away.

I'll try and continue to keep posting. I just checked into making a blog book, and it will cost around $75 US to make a 440 page book. Pretty neat. Might considering doing it when we close this chapter of our lives.

Be sure to check back next week when we go to Vietnam. I'll upload all the pictures we'll be taking and posting about what we do each day.

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