Friday, January 23, 2015

oh.....hi there again!

So, it’s been quite awhile since I’ve blogged, obviously.  Too much has changed to really do an update post so I’ll just lay out my current situation, and then we can all move forward.

Hi, I’m Krista, a mother of two boys and two fur babies living on Vancouver Island, BC, Canada.  My husband is amazing and a terrific support for me and a wonderful Daddy to our children “frog” and “lamb.”  (Before you think I’m all weird with my boys ‘secret’ names…those actually are their nicknames and they get called that regularly).  We have all of our family really close by with only one set of Grandparents living just over an hour away so we are very lucky with all of the support we are able to count on.  I’m currently off on maternity leave with Lamb who is three months old.  Frog is 2.5 years old.  I’ll go back to work as a Probation Officer in October 2015.

We are busy, both out of necessity (two border collie mixes, and young children will do that…) and because we apparently thrive on a tight schedule.  Husband loves hiking, hunting and fishing, and has shared these experiences with me as well.  I have always loved adventure (see previous posts…).  We are  working to raise our boys with the same drives for adventure and exploration, and a love of moving, hiking, and being in and respecting nature.

That’s us in a serious nutshell.

What is this blog about now? Before it was “Krista’s life in Asia.”  It was a way for family and friends to keep up with me while I was overseas.  When I moved back home it immediately fell by the wayside, almost as if I felt my life was no longer interesting which, come to think of it, is a pretty sad statement.  Comparatively though, I guess it wasn’t.  I was finding my feet, falling into jobs that were available,  trying to figure out where I fit after three years abroad.  It was a muddled time.  Anyways, point is, I didn’t blog.

But I’m still here.  And going through probably the most difficult time in my life. The most difficult, and the most rewarding.  I know it’s cliché, but motherhood really is a crazy life altering time.  I’ve had more wtf moments being a mom than I think I did in Asia. The situations aren’t really comparable, as they are obviously very different things; however, they are both experiences full of anecdotes, extreme emotions, and moments where you question yourself to your core, when you figure out who you really are, who you are meant to be.  I shared those moments about Asia, and here I’ll share those moments about motherhood, wifehood, and I guess, just life.

….here we go.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

the fastest catch-up EVER

Krista's life since the last post in Malaysia:

I forgot to mention in my blog that BEFORE Malaysia I went to Nepal...and trekked to Everest Base Camp. That was hard, amazing, but hard and fun and I'd do it again in a second.

Now...after Nepal I went to Kuala Lumpur...wrote the last blog post...and THEN

Got PADI Dive ticket in the Perhentian Islands, Malaysia...dove lots there

Went to Singapore for less than 24 hours. It was sufficient.

Went to Greece, met parents for two weeks, sun tanned a lot, dove some more, fell in love with Santorini

Went to London for the weekend, met some awesome girls on exchange from North American Unis to a Uni in Sweden...on vacation in London for the weekend as well. Hung out with them, saw the sights, watched England crush France at Rugby...experienced the party thereafter...had far too much fun in such a short period of time.

Flew into Halifax (October 15, 2007 - yes, i've been back in Canada for a year!!). Met Cousin Shelley Anne who i hadn't seen in FOREVER. Crashed with her, met up with a J-Flo and Lyndsay (from Korea), partied Halifax style. Said goodbye to Lynds (sad).

Met up with Dave and Brooks and drove to Sydney, Nova Scotia. Stayed there. Met Danielle's Mom (awesome!) and Brooks' parents (explained it all).

Went on a roadtrip with Brooks and Jen to NEWFOUNDLAND! Stayed with Jen's family in Grand Falls/Windsor for awhile, drove to St. Johns, met up with Shaun B'y and Dawne!!! Partied a lot. Became an honourary Newfoundlander. Took pictures at the eastern-most point in North America.

Flew for 16 hours...domestic flight. St. Johns - Halifax - Toronto - Winnipeg - Calgary - Comox
GROSS...p.s. also the MOST EXPENSIVE FLIGHT of my trip. just saying.

Tara (bestest friend EVER) picks me up at the airport and drives me home in time to surprise my mom for her birthday (November 5, 2007)

I start working at the KOREAN SCHOOL in Campbell River (whoa random) on November 6. Amazingly...or i guess not so much, it's the same working for a Korean boss in Canada as it is in Korea. Only difference is the rest of the teachers aren't used to being screwed around quite so much and the...shall we say, discipline measures...utilized by Koreans so it makes for much more drama and explanations. It's all good for me though. I teach kids for 4 hours in my own classroom, i have only 7 students, i eat korean food every night and speak korean to the korean staff. BEST PART IS: I still get to go back to my parents and watch Canadian TV, eat Timmy Hoes and shoes that fit. Best of both worlds.

Danielle Hiscock (SE Asia travelling partner!!!) did a cross-canada road trip after traveling wtih me. She hit Tofino (on Vancouver Island) and never left. She comes and visits me for my birthday!! YAY Korea in my life!!

I apply for a position with Victoria Police Department and the Saanich Police Department. This has been the goal all the long. Yay going to be a Police Officer. I'm going to the gym a ridiculous amount. Both police forces express intense interest in me "i am a very competitive applicant." This is great!! Huge-ass application packages show up, i'm stoked, i get doctors checks, eye exams and hearing tests done. Life is good...

until I, for some reason, don't fill out the packages and realize that i don't really want to do my life goal anymore....shite. aren't those realizations fun?

soooooo I also need another job (4 hrs a day teaching not cutting it really) so I start working at White Spot (restaurant) as a server. I'm busy - timewise and you know, trying to figure out that life-goal-wise.

I email a friend who's a Probation Officer to ask her what she thinks of her job, she likes it...and hooks me up with wonderful family friend of hers who is a Probation Officer in Campbell River so I can talk to her and ask her questions.

December 27, 2008. I go to my friend Sal's house for some drinks. Her husband Matt is there as well as 3 other friends of theirs, of whom, Jon, is one of Matt's best friends. Jon and I sort of kind of really very muchly so hit it off. We talk until 7am. We go to dinner and a movie the next night. We go for a walk the day after that. On December 30, 2008 he leaves for Victoria and on the 1st he flies back to Prince George (that's far away from me) to finish up his last semester at UNBC (University of Northern British Columbia). We begin talking at least once everyday (in some form or another - every day until October 11, 2008 when he takes off for 2 weeks hunting with my father and grandfather. we're in the middle of that not-talking period right now...i don't like it He comes home in 5 days).

I'm working Teaching and at White Spot. I meet up with Sandy (the Probation Officer) to chat. I'm interested in the job for sure...there are pre-req courses you must take. I look into them. They're not being offered until June. well then that decides it for the moment anyways.

Jon comes back to Campbell River (his hometown as well!!) for his reading break in February. 10 days. He drives 12 hours both ways with his dog Septima. We spend every possible moment together. He applies for jobs in Campbell River (yay). We are officially a couple (whatever that means).

In March I get hired by Probation (they offer me the job...i don't apply - funny how things are quickly falling into place). I'm not a Probation Officer, i'm an Administrative Support Worker, but i'm learning the ropes and can take my pre-requesite course while working in the office (way better).

Lyndsay Belair had moved to Brazil for a little bit (after I saw her in Halifax), but now she was on her way back to Korea for round two!! She stops and sees me in Campbell RIver. We swing by Tofino for a visit with Dan b'y and I send her on her way!

March 27, 2008 I fly to Prince George to help pack up Jon and move him to CAMPBELL RIVER because he got a job here! We drive back in time for both of us to start our new jobs on April 1, 2008. He's full time, I'm only working part time at Probation since I'm still also teaching. i quit serving...almost 10 years in the service industry and i'm out at last!!

Jon and I are driving to Victoria. I'm going to go to a girls' night and Jon's going to one of his close friends' birthday parties. He's driving my car (because I just got off from teaching and am tired). Just north of Courtenay we meet a suicidal deer. It jumps out, we hit it, swerve, hit the side guard rail which spins us across the road and we collide hard with the centre median. my car is a write-off. We are ok, police, ambulance come. Jon's dad picks us up in Courtenay and drives us back home. We wake up, sore, but ok. Deal with insurance...there's nothing that can be done until Monday. We look at eachother, realize that we're ok and we have two options. We can sit around and sulk, or we can get over ourselves and take jon's truck to Victoria to do the things we were going to do in the first place. We drive (a lot slower) to Victoria, I meet up with my friends and have an amazing time, as does Jon. We drive back....slowly that time as well.

My dealings with insurance are actually GOOD!! I get $7000 for my car, and I get it on the Tuesday after the accident!! I buy a 2008 Honda Civic (it's silver and pretty). I'm given a Honda loaner since my car wont' be in for a few weeks and I still have one week of teaching left (plus that Probation gig)

end of june...the kids go home. It was really sad. I really got attached to them. My class was in grade 4,5, and 6 (mostly grade 4). They had no parents out here so I was kind of like a surrogate mother. I dried tears, helped with Canadian homework, explained slang, disciplined...did it all. It was amazing. I took my boys and girls on separate field trips into Campbell River during our last weeks together. We had such a fun time. I will truly miss teaching.

As SOON as I'm done teaching I'm hired as a PROBATION OFFICER!!! kinda just rolled into the job...again...didn't apply. I'm Auxillary, which means i"m full time, but with no benefits. I'll probably be an Auxillary PO for a year. It'll give me time to get my training under my belt and some good experience before I have to actually APPLY (foreign concept) for a permanent position and panel interview for it. It'll be fine...there's a position waiting for me in Campbell River when I'm ready.

Jon had moved back into his Dad's place with Septima (Teamer) for the time being. He's sold his house in Prince George and is on the look-out for a place in Campbell River. He finds one and moves in. It's down the road from my parents. I pretty much move in with him (not the best idea in the world).

Jon gets another dog!! (with my help) Indy joins the clan. She was from the SPCA and had already been through two homes in her short 7 month life. We take her on...there's nothing "wrong" with her, just a LOT of energy but her and Teamer get on famously and life is grand.

I'm working full time at the Probation Office (as a Probation Officer), Jon's working full time as a GIS Technician at a Forestry Company. we pretty much live together, have two dogs and its' all too soon. We're busy over the summer so it's kind of ok. we meet eachother's friends, (his are awesome) we hang out with them, we have lots of fun. We're still amazingly happy together, he's amazing and I love him, but somethings' up and I don't know what it is.

MARTHA AND AMY from KOREA come and visit me on their BC/Alberta trip before they start real Teacher school in September. It's fabulous!! They meet jon, approve, meet the dogs, love them, fall in love with Campbell River and we also take a trip to Tofino to meet Danielle (for her birthday!!!), climb Lone Cone in Tofino, party and then they header on their trip and I go home!

As fun as the summer has been (camping trips, amazing girls nights with high school friends) something is still off. August passes and I realize...I need my own nesting place where I can put my own things and just be me. I hadn't really "moved in" with Jon. I was just kind of "staying there" except...all the time. My parents kept saying I was living with Jon, and I was. It wasn't working. We didn't want that committment yet. He didn't want me moving all of my stuff in, with good reason, we'd only been "together" a short time. I made the decision to get my own place on Friday August 29. I start looking that to this one lady who says I can view her basement suite that same day, it's avavilable on Monday. I look at it, love it, meet the guy that's moving out of my place and into upstairs and the guy that's moving out altogether, they're all cool. I email my landlady my contacts and say I'd take it if she'd give it to me. On Sunday the 30th she calls and tells me I have it. I move in on Monday, September 1, 2008. Thank God it's a holiday.

Now, things are good. I have my own place, which I love. I have my new car. Jon and I are doing better than ever. I love the dogs, I'm close with my parents. I'm slowly settling into my new Campbell River life. It was quite the transition though. It's taken a year for me to be able to say "yes, i'm comfortable living here in Campbell River."

I love it.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

what happens to you when you've been out of North America too long...

I just wrote this email. I re-read it and realized that i've gone nuts...THIS is what happens when you live in Korea for too long.

so, i'm in Kuala Lumpur and kinda bored cuz really it's just a big city and i'm only here for half a day and coming back later soooo i wasn't gonna do much. i decided to go check out the big-ass towers. so i did...but then i couldn't go up to the sky bridge cuz i was too late, all tix had been sold. that was sad. but THAT'S ok cuz there's a big mall downstairs...i'll go check it out.

holy f***
first thing i see is a Gap. This excites me as i have not been inside a Gap in a VERY long time and it was my favorite store. i go in, i browse and get ideas for when i'm home (not hauling Gap wear around with me right now...that's just silly) and head out.

I pass EVERY STORE you could think of. every expensive kind...way more than in korea. Think of a chain store you's here. most of them don't register tho, i'm just blissfully happy

then it happens...

i'm looking at some necklaces in a kiosk when i turn left and run smack into a....LA SENZA!! Oh.My.God.
It's been 3 years people, 3 years...since i've been able to buy cute underwear and matching bra sets. little 'ol Campbell River does NOT have a La underwear has come from ZELLERS these past years. ZELLERS!!!!!
Oh yes, Korea has the fun little sets, but they don't fit me...i'm a monster.
i figured that here too, i'd be SOL. but NOPE!!!

I now have 2 cute bras and 5 sets of matching underwear :D

oh wait...there's more.

so i leave, i'm f***ing shit-eat grinning. I see a Dunkin Donut's . This also makes me happy because it makes me think of Korea awwww. but i keep going. i'm not hungry right now


i turn the corner and run smack into.....A&W!!!!!!!!

OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!

I order a cheeseburger and medium root beer...and then the kicker. she asks if i'd like to make it into a rootbeer float. I HADN'T EVEN THOUGHT OF THAT...HECK YES I WOULD!!!

I consumed and then immediately asked where a internet cafe was. imagine me. sitting in an A&W giggling uncontrollably to myself. dude, i stick out here anyways, i was a freakin spectacle.

phew...that was a lot of energy put into that email....i feel better now.
where were you guys?? i'm here ALONE left to my own devices??

i blame brooks."

so ya, i've calmed down now. but it WAS exciting.

p.s.....Korea doesn't have Root Beer. We found it a few times in Itaewon - we took pictures.

The rest of Kuala Lumpur isn't too shabby either!! This is what i've noticed and come to love in the past few hours.

1) It doesn't smell like garbage
2) That's because there isn't garbage everywhere
3) Heck, they even have garbage CANS everywhere
4) It looks like an actual city
5) The car drivers...wait for it...don't honk
6) The roads are paved and the cars - taxis included - are good
7) People don't heckle me everywhere. If I want to buy something they wait until I approach the item, they do not shove it in front of my eyes.
8) The people are wonderfully nice and helpful
9) Spitting is at an all time low

that all said though I've noticed one other thing...WOW is it expensive. All that good stuff comes at a price. literally. now, it's nowhere near north american expensive standards but it is way over a leap from what i've been used to. A day of adjustments is what this has been!!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

kathmandu in a different light

I am currently in one of the most interesting places I have ever been in my life. The sights, smells and sounds of Kathmandu intermingle to form this incredible sensory overload at every moment. There are cows, bikes, people, motos, everything, wandering in every direction. The streets are sometimes paved, usually not. I've seen temples, both Buddist and Hindu. Sari'd women are everywhere. I had no idea. I'm in shock. This is amazing.

AND I went shopping for trekking stuff. I spent a whopping $65 US dollars and got...

1 -10C sleeping bag (North Face)
4 pairs of thick hiking socks
1 north face fleece jacket
1 pair of long underwear
1 fleece headband
1 light weight gloves
1 Nalgene water bottle

oh. my. god.

I will probably buy a new winter jacket as well. I've had mine since grade 11...there's nothing wrong with it, but come ON!!! I can get a North Face lined winter jacket for like $50...if that. I'll probably also buy another smaller backpack that'll act as my carry-on from now on.

I'm moving back to Canada and ski mountains...and now it's all justified ;)

darker side...I also bought a Nepal Lonely Planet so I could understand it all a bit better. Under dangers and annoyances:

- Keep an eye on the local press to find out about impending strikes, demonstrations and
- don't ever break curfew - instructions have been given to shoot those who are found breaking
- don't travel during Bandhs (strikes) or blockades. Get very nervous if you notice that you are
the only car on the streets of Kathmandu!

I am VERY glad that I did not read that prior to last night. I've asked a few people...and yesterday was a Bandh.

There are three different kinds of strikes in Nepal:

"A normal procession or demonstration is a julus. If things escalate there may be a chakka jam (jam of wheels), when all vehicles stay off the street, or a bandh, when all shops, schools, and offices are closed as well."

p.s. my taxi was the only car i saw last night, except for the police road blocks...and a cow.

not in kansas first 12 hours in Nepal

You know how sometimes you just know when things aren't going to be good? How, no matter how alright the current situation may seem, you just know that things won't be going your way for much longer? Danielle and I have often joked about "forebode" in the past few months. A word to the wise. Don't joke about forebode...apparently it's like karma and will come and bite you in the ass.

In retrospect my first 12 hours in Nepal weren't as scary as I felt at the time. It was just the variable of the utter unknown mixed with being alone and apparently in the middle of a general strike during which all traffic had ceased and fiery rocks being thrown at cars. Seriously, who lands in the middle of that? Apparently me, stupid Murphy's Law.

I shall explain.

It started when my flight leaving Bangkok was an hour late. As I sat in the waiting room reading my book I kept glancing around for any sign of a friendly face. There were none. Well, that's not true. I was definitely getting attention from 95% of the male passengers also waiting. I've lived in Asia long enough to be able to ignore it, but it in no way helped with my feelings of forebode. Now, since I was still in Bangkok I was wearing shorts and a tank top. Aware that Kathmandu would be colder I reasoned that I would change in a bathroom upon arrival. What I didn't count on was the airplane being a refrigerator. I asked for a blanket, but there were apparently only 20 on board, and all had been previously claimed. Honestly, 20 blankets?

...sense of foreboding getting stronger.

At this point I had plenty of time to look around. It's sad, but I guess seeing that I had just finished a month of travel in SEAsia I had focused primarily on that area, the cultures, what to do, see, etc. Since my time in Nepal would be mostly taken up by my trek I honestly had not thought about the Nepali culture, their dress, attitudes...anything. I was now realizing. From my time living in Abbotsford I became quite aware of Indian culture. I wasn't only flying to Nepal, I was flying into an arm of India. Hmmmm...wasn't prepared for that. The plane ride was loud, despite the fact that the lights had been turned off. The food was amazing, curry, and I had a pick of two meals, fish or pork. I chose pork, realizing even more so that I was heading into a different place than I had ever thought to realize. No beef here! For the rest of the ride I hunkered down and buried myself in my book.

During the flight I had strained to see signs of life in the darkness. My flight had left Bangkok in late twilight so my only hopes were the small dots of life I sometimes saw. The pilot informed us when we were flying over Dhaka. Again, the realization that I'd put no thought into this trip whatsoever struck me. I was currently flying over Bangladesh! All I can say about the capital city of Bangladesh is that it's not very big, or the majority of the outlying structures don't use lights. I'd say it's about the size of Campbell River. How didn't I realize the enormity of the trip I was embarking on?? I think somewhere in my mind, I must of, but that realization was a little scary, so I chose to ignore it. No ignoring it now...shit.

A little while later we arrived in Kathmandu. Upon exiting the plane I was surprised to find it at a perfect 23C with no humidity. Yay no humidity!!! My spirits raised. I'd had time to deal with the fact that I knew nothing about Nepal (or what I was going to do in the day I waited for Ginny and Martha), but reasoned that my company would provide lots of information and I could get a book first thing in the morning. I was ready to begin the adventure. I breezed through security, waited heart-stoppingly long for my bag - feelings of unrest beginning to creep in again - and headed for the exit to meet my trekking company.

I've read a lot of travel books and I've traveled my fair share in places where at every turn someone is ready to part you and your cash. I know the lines "miss, your hotel is not good, you should come with me" "oh no madame, i'm sorry to say that your hotel isn't there anymore. "Oh....THAT company, nono, very bad, you must come with me." I've stepped off of buses in remote places and been bombarded. I know how to say no, i've perfected the hard face. i was prepared. The same thing happened in Kathmandu. I stepped out the main doors and into a sea of "helpful" faces. It's ok though, I was looking for my name of a sign. It would all be over soon. I scanned the crowd. It wasn't that big, seeing as it was almost 10pm, but nowhere was anyone holding a sign with my name, nor even speaking anything close to it. hmmm...not good.

Alright, buddy's held up in traffic. I was comforted a bit by the fact that the entry was also crowded with police, holding big guns. At one point, when I was surrounded by 5 guys telling me different stories and had resorted to not saying anything, just staring blankly past them, the police came up and ushered them away. I was placed in a small roped off area where immediately two stray dogs came over, licked my hands reassuringly and fell asleep on my feet. At this point I had to laugh at the scene. As soon as I'd got off the plane I'd thought "wow, not in Kansas anymore." Now, here I was with my own two Toto's.

However one thing was really worrying me. A lot of the taxi drivers trying to whisk me away to their "good hotels" had all had the same story. Today was a surprise general strike in Kathmandu. Everything was closed, there was no traffic. The only vehicles on the roads were the police and no one was coming to get me. The main reason I had a very difficult time believing this was that THEY were on the road, so obviously it wasn't just the police and the fact that my trekking company had told me not to listen to any drivers, not to go with them and to wait for him. Other options weren't sure to be safe.

I'd heard about the general strikes in Nepal, though. Not good. I'd read the news stories and heard first hand accounts from a friend who was here during one. I'd also met a girl last year who had to flee Nepal during something very similar. It just wasn't safe. The taxi drivers stories were becoming increasingly alarming. Flaming rocks were being thrown at cars, it wasn't safe. THEN the police took it upon themselves to inform me that yes, the taxi drivers were speaking the truth, I'd been waiting almost an hour, it was becoming less and less likely that my group was coming.

Riiiight, the reality of my situation sank in. I knew nothing of Kathmandu. I knew I was booked into a hotel, but didn't know any information about it. I knew the name of my company, but again, no contact information. I was stranded at an airport with a ring of armed police now separating me from the anxious taxi drivers who knew that I had given up and indeed needed a ride into town. I looked frantically at one police officer who'd been particularly kind to me. I had to depend on him, however realized that he too could be just as corrupt. He chose one driver, confirmed that the hotel was safe, that the driver would take me to a safe place, gave me his name, phone number and email and with a pat on the back, sent me on my way.

Tears began to flow. I was now in the hands of some people I was told not to put myself in the hands of. I'm a strong person, I knew I could handle myself, but the mere fact that I was now thinking of ways in which I'd have to handle myself scared me. I was also thinking about my tour company. what if we'd been screwed over?? A friend had just done a trek with the same company and had only good things to say. We'd already paid part of our fees and I'd been certain the company was reputable, but now I wasn't so sure. Another story being thrown at me by the taxi drivers was that my company had taken my money with no intentions of ever coming to see me. The company didn't exist etc. etc. etc. The only straw i had was that Dave had dealt with the same company and been fine. If I didn't have that, I had nothing.

The story dies from here. I was put into a hotel, it was nice and decently cheap. I immediately ran to internet for any word from my travel company. There was none. I sent off an email to them, telling them where I was and went to my room, deadlocking doors.

The sleep was fitful. The room was nice enough, but I still had no idea where I was. Kathmandu, sure, but where? I was awakened at 7:15 by knocks on my door. It was the counter with a telephone call for me. The strike had caused all of my problems. The person who was supposed to pick me up had been outside of Kathmandu when the strike happened without warning. He was stuck out of the city and didn't get back in until 4am. He had no cell phone signal (i knew that because I'd tried to call him once I got to the hotel). He managed to call other people who worked for his company so they could come and get me, but they too had no way due to traffic being shut down. He'd be at the hotel in 15 minutes to come get me and bring me to where I was supposed to be. I most certainly was NOT in the tourist area, he had no idea where the hotel was where I had stayed, no one did. It took 45 minutes for them to find me.

I now sit in a decent internet cafe in the middle of the tourist area of Kathmandu. my hotel is fabulous and my friends will be here tomorrow. I'm pretty tired and hungry, but ok.

See, even when i was writing I was realizing that really, it wasn't that bad. In retrospect things are never as scary. Possibly it just smacked me upside the head because the past month had been so easy. Everywhere I'd been, I'd been before. Nothing new, nothing scary, everything familiar. Apparently adversity gods like to keep everything'd been too easy!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Chiang Mai, Thailand July 2007

Trekking again. However this time, in rainy season. Kyle, Danielle and I headed out from Chiang Mai for a 2 day/1 night trek into the hill tribes surrounding Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand in the end of July. We were joined by a guy, Robbie, from Beligium and his girlfriend, Katja, from Germany. They'd met in Holland. They spoke many languages, we did not. The main difference between this year and last year was the greenery. Marvelous! Last year I traveled in the end of the dry season. As a result everything was...well...dry. Dry translates into brown. This year was gorgeous. Green, everything green and lush and beautiful...and wet. Yes, it rained. Yes, trails turned to mud. Yes, I fell. Three times. It didn't dampen spirits though. It almost made it all the more real. The first tribe we went to see was the long-neck tribe. I'm sure they have a more Thai-like name than that, but that is how they were described to us. I hadn't seen them last time and wished I had, so I was excited. I remember reading about them in National Geographic some years ago and being astounded by what they do to their bodies and how they do it. It was quite interesting to see it in real life. They start putting rings around their necks when they are 7 years old. They stop adding more rings after a certain point, but put more rings on every few years. The result is an apparently elongated neck. That, however, is not the case. What they end up doing is pushing their ribcage down, compressing everything inside. Not the healthiest thing in the world to do, but it does give the impression that their necks are really long, which they consider to be more beautiful.

We stayed with a different tribe for the night, in the middle of the mountains. For the first time in a long time Dan, Kyle and I saw a sky full of stars. It was beautiful and muchly missed. The next day we walked more to an elephant camp. Rode some elephants and then rafted the rest of the way down some river, back to Chiang Mai.

That night we met Robbie and Katja for some dinner around the night market in Chiang Mai. I love that night market, it's marvelous. However, we got side-tracked by a pamphlet for Muay Thai boxing and ended up spending our night watching people (literally) kick the shit out of eachother. At times it was pretty cool. I reminded myself that I had taken Taekwondo and that was practically the same thing, so I couldn't judge. However whenever a person was KO'd I felt bad. Still an experience...kinda like the ping pong show.

The next day Kyle, Dan and I got in our mini-bus to head to the Thai/Laos border. The next day we were to take the slow boat into Laos. It's a decently long drive (5~6 hours) so we were pretty beat by the time we reached our hotel on the river separating the two countries. The hotel had the cutest puppy though, with the grossest skin condition on his feet. We pet him and washed our hands a lot. Still really cute regardless. That day wasn't too exciting, nor was the boat ride. Since the boat ride occured in another country though, it shall be reserved for a different entry!

the differences between travel alone and...not alone

i've realized for some time now that i haven't been keeping up with this blog nearly as much as I was the last time I did this trip. I wasn't quite sure as to why, but figured it had something to do with less things to write about. Since I'd already done most of the things before, maybe I wasn't as excited about them and therefore didn't see the need to blog about them.

I'd figured wrong.

Everything I've done this year as been just as great as last year. Yes, I've done some things that I've already done before, but a lot of things I haven't. I've realized that the lack of my blogging has to do with the fact that I'm not alone in my travels.

Last year I did this trip alone, however, I was rarely alone. I met up with many different people along the way, shared hotel rooms, day-trips and memories. The main difference between that trip and the trip I am currently on is that last year, although I was only alone when I made a conscious effort to be so, at least every few days I was on my own. This trip is now 2 weeks in, and today is the first day that I've had completely to myself (until 6pm that is).

Now, which way do I prefer? That is an almost impossible question to answer. Both ways are fantastic. Both ways are almost the same as well. The only difference is that during all of the things I'm doing there is a constant person, one who never changes, and that is Danielle. Last year was a lot more work. Meeting new people, earning trust, and finding out about personalities takes effort. Yes, it's awesome and meeting new people is great, but it takes work. What I've done in the different countries hasn't changed a great deal, but the social effort has.

Now, what does this have to do with my blog entries? Well, Danielle is a constant. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Today, as I was alone for the first time wandering around the Old Quarter in Hanoi I realized that I was bored. I then thought back to last year, trying to recall if I was bored then too. I remembered that on some days, I was. However most days I occupied my time. I got a lot more massages, I shopped a lot more, I sat in a lot more cafes reading. I also spent a lot more time on the internet. Therein lies the answer. This year there's a constant person to talk to, to wander with. There's no effort involved, we've known eachother for a year. Therefore we spend a lot less time on the internet. Is this an excuse? I don't think so. It's just a reality. Another reality is that last year I spent a lot more money doing all of those things. This years a lot cheaper...woohoo!

That all said, I've enjoyed today. Those who know me know that "Krista Time" is an essential. Today has been relaxing. I've gotten a 1 hour massage, eaten a wonderful meal, eaten icecream at a cafe overlooking Hanoi, done a bit of shopping, and am now doing this. All before 3pm.

Friday, August 03, 2007

China, last week in Korea, mud fest...and Thailand. except i'm in laos...and i suck at keeping up with this.


let's see if i can fit this all in.

I went to China for a long weekend, it was pretty frickin cool. There were 18 of us, all from Youngdo, in our own big-ass tour bus, and our own guide. we all had two seats to ourselves on the bus (wonderful for naps), it was fast-paced, but we saw a lot of Beijing. The pics are all on facebook...and since I'm in Laos right now...I won't be posting them until later...i'll make a slideshow or something. I really liked Beijing, but was told that since the Olympics are there next year it was a lot cleaner and orderly than it has been in the past. Good timing on our part? Went to the Great Wall, climbed it, saw Tiannamen Square and the Forbidden City (FORBODE). All was amazing, took a shiteload of pics. Went shopping in a MARVELOUS market. Bought far too much for far too cheap. I bought SHOES, girls shoes nonetheless...been a long time since i've been able to do that. We rented bikes on the last day and rode around Old Beijing. By far that was the most interesting thing I did. All the cultural stuff was great, but the bike riding really gave us an up close and person look at day-to-day. it was amazing.

so...that's China in a nutshell. loved it, have to go back. people should go!!

THEN i went back to Korea and worked for 3 days. THEN i went to MUD FEST (for the 3rd year in a row - time to leave Korea when that happens). Again it was amazing. Went with 26 people in two big minboks (hotels with no beds, just blankets so you crash on the floor). We got covered in mud, partied, rented quads with people we didnt' really know and rode around on the beach. Did some mud wrestling, some mud sliding...overall...too much fun.

THEN back to school...worked my last monday classes and my last tuesday classes...which equals 5 pizza parties, a lot of pics of kids, and a lot of good-byes.

Wednesday the 25th was my last day in Korea. I jam packed that baby. Got up in my hotel, mailed my last package, went to the bank, closed my account, got my hair professionally straightened, went into Seoul, bought another memory card, went to Itaewon, bought health insurance, a rain cover for the bag, met a friend for dinner and a movie, got on the train, went to another city, met up with Ashley (korean friend) said goodbye, that was sad, got in a cab and went back to my city.

THEN i slept, dan and i got up, ate pancakes with Jen, and were on our way to the airport! arrived in Bangkok after a looooong-ass delay through immigration/customs at the new Bangkok airport. we waited in line for retardedly long. finally got to Khao San, waited a few hours, Kyle showed up, and we were all together!

that night we ate, then went to a pink-pong show. for those who know, it was interesting, for those who don't know...i will not explain. it was....interesting. The song "I will always love you" is forever tained in my mind.

got up the next day. dan and kyle went on a bangkok excursion and i busied myself on Khao San. Bought bags for my parents, mailed them, bought a return ticket for Kathmandu, bought 4 bathing suits....whatever, they were 2 bucks each. and a dress which is very cute for $3. we hung out on Khao San till 6pm then our overnight bus left for Chiang Mai.

12 hours later we arrived in Chiang Mai. We checked into our hotel (with a pool, WONDERFUL since we were sweeeaaty). Took naps, ate and chilled for a few hours. Booked our hill-tribe trek and slow-boat to Luang Prabang and rented bikes. We rode around Chiang Mai and took in a temple. Danielle's brother knows a guy who owns a bar in Chiang Mai. We tracked it down, only to find that he had left for a trip to Toronto a week before! We still met his fiance and had a few beers, headed home to get a good nights sleep before our 2 day 1 night hill-tribe trek the next day.

wow this is long...

i shall write about trekking fingers hurt!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Yay bungee jumping!!!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Last weekend in Anyang

We had to work today (Saturday), because we're getting next Monday off making it a 4-day weekend. After work I walked my way over to E-Mart (similar to Wal-Mart) to pick up some things for my I walked I noted/realized some things.

1. this was my last saturday i'd be spending in Anyang

2. in canada i'd be driving

3. driving would have been a waste of gas, why would i drive? it's a beautiful night!!

4. koreans have MUCH better public parks, with fountains for kids to play in everywhere, and FUN lights to make the water different colours

5. kids in korea, however much more they have to study and how much more pressure is put on them, have a lot more freedom during their free time. kids were running amok in the park, playing games together, kicking balls. Literally hundreds of people running around in the dusk. no one looked worried, no parents were telling kids to be careful. they were kids.

6. i want my kids to run and jump and play and get hurt, and get up and run and jump and play some more. that way you learn that that wasn't a smart idea!

7. i'm going to miss the ease with which my life flows here. i walk places, i take my time, i stop, sit and stare. my iPod is my lifeline and i choose the music to go with my mood and the scenery. I'm going to miss the walking.

8. I'm going to miss the random food. I love having everything at my finger tips. Walking through the park, hey, i'm hungry. walk 5 minutes in any direction and hit any number of restaurants and/or street vendors.

9. I'm going to miss the festival atmosphere that accompanies every weekend day/night during a Korean summer. There are so many people here that any main road or major public gathering place is transformed.

10. I'm going to get out more when i'm home.

11. I'm going to miss being so active with my friends. "Hey, want to go bungee jumping tomorrow?" "ummm, ya, sure" there's no major schedule conflicts or other things that "have" to be done. just...sweet, that sounds like fun....sure.

12. I'll think WAY less about doing things that sound remotely fun when i'm home. everything in life doesn't need planning.

13. I'll miss the accessibility of everything. one of the main reasons we're all so active and do so many things is everything is so compact. This entire year I haven't left an area bigger than the GVRD for the vast majority. There's been no need. Everything is here, from parasailing to ice fishing to Everland (Korea's Disneyland).

14. basically....i'm going to miss korea. I'll miss it for it's awesome lifestyle. I'll miss it for the things that it gives me, and the things it's taken from me. I'll even miss the things that have pissed me off so much I want to scream at the world for it is those things that have probably taught me the most about myself.

15. I'll miss the kids. I'll miss their innocent questions and their crazy dances. (personal favorite of late has to be my little Jason stating..."teacher, you have many periods!!" - he was pointing to the moles on my arms!!)

16. I need to find a box with air holes big enough to put Jason in it...hope his parents won't mind.

17. I'll miss my friends.

Next weekend is China for 4 days. 20 of us have our own tour group. The weekend after is Mud Festival (3rd time's a charm) with ohhhh upwards of 50 people I know. If that's not a send-off then I don't know what is!!

I'm sad, i'm nostalgic, but i'm ready to go. It hurts my heart to think that I'll probably never be back in Korea again. However...who knows ;)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

stuff and north korea

I am currently at school. It's 9:15 and I'm not teaching. I'm supposed to be teaching, just like I was supposed to be teaching at this time on Monday and from 7~10 yesterday.
but I'm not.

right now the kids have their middle school mid-term exams at school. This therefore means that they're stressed beyond anything I experienced until Governments in grade 12. They are studying more at home and are not coming to extra classes as much...hence me sitting on my ass the last three evenings because NONE of my students showed up!!!

This is happy for me, however i can't believe that they go through this. Their scores on their middle school exams determine what high school they will get into. The high school that they go to will directly affect which university they go to. AND the university they go to will determine their job. If you get a crappy score on a middle-school exam...well then forget about those dreams of medical school. that's high stress for my little 12 year old students. It KIND OF makes sense in a country with so many people (encroaching on 50 million) that schools would have to be so competitive, but come ON...really??? middle-school scores??

who am i to say though, I'm just a lowly English teacher who actually can't speak English anymore due to constant deterioration.

Side note...or, more, that was the side note, this is the meat of the blog. I'm officially finished teaching on July 24th. I leave the country on the 26th. Usually a teacher has to move out of their apartment 3~4 days early so the school can get their apartment ready for the new teacher. We're moved into a pretty nice hotel for a few days. It's actually a sweet deal since it forces us to pack and get organized a few days before our actual departure. It's a good thing...usually

I have to move out of my apartment 2 WEEKS before I leave. The new teachers are coming on the 18th. So fine, I'd have to stay in the hotel from the 17~26...still a pretty long time. except, I'm going to China from the 14~17. I obviously can't move while in China, and the new teachers will be coming while I'm gone, so I have to move out on the 13th. I found this out only after asking absentmindedly when I'd be moving. I figured it wouldn't be for a few weeks. they told me it would be next week...i guess it's a good thing i asked.

anyways, how stuff does happen for a reason. Now I'll be organized. I've already thrown a lot of clothes into boxes because I panicked when I realized how soon I'd have to move. I'll be organized before China, then be able to chill for my last weeks.

AND I wasn't going to go to the Mud Festival on the 21/22 because it was 3 days before I was leaving the country...and honestly...i didn't need that stress. but NOW I'll already be organized. I'll now spend my last weekend in Korea partying it up covered in mud on a beach with all of my friends. granted it's the 3rd time I've been to this festival, but it's a pretty killer time.

beyond that i don't really have much to say. I never did blog about North Korea...sure, I'll throw that in (still have 20 minutes left to kill)

North Korea was an .... interesting experience. We drove in a bus all night to get to the border. It took 4 hours, it then took 3 to cross the border. There were non-smiling guards (or mushroom heads as I called them - they had niiiiice hats) EVERYWHERE. We were NOT allowed to take pictures. Every 100m along the road a different one stood, some obscured by bushes, most in plain sight, all with little red flags to raise if they saw anything suspicious like a picture being taken outside of a specified "photograph zone." If a red flag was waved then our whole convoy of around 20 buses would have to be stopped and searched.

glad that didn't happen.

Being in North Korean immigration was a surreal experience. BLASTING over loudspeakers was a oddly cheerful song playing on a loop.

"bang kap sim ni da, bang kap sim ni daaaaaaa" with other choruses thrown in (nice to meet you, nice to meet yooooouuuuu)

The song was in stark contrast to the non-smiling, marching with straight leg, smaller than the average south korean, guards everywhere. They were everywhere. We waited for a long time for our chance to pass through immigration. No smiling, no stamping of the passport (sad), only of a piece of paper that they took away when we went back through immigration to South Korea, then I was in North Korea.

My first image upon entering were more guards walking around and some sad guy dressed up in a bear costume waving. The now eerie song was still playing.

North Korea is strange.

We all piled back into our buses and headed for our "tourist zone" We were not allowed to take any pictures while on the buses. We could only take pictures within the "zone" and on the specified mountains we were to climb. I will therefore describe what I saw.

North Korea looks not-surprisingly like the South Korean country-side. The main difference would have to be the tanks and rocket launchers on top of every third hill. Not even an exaggeration. There were 3~4 of each on every third hill. There were also caves dug out of random hills that housed guns and other weapons.

Another stark difference would be the lack of cars. I saw ONE truck the entire time I was there disregarding military vehicles. It was pumping out so much black smoke I thought it was about ready to explode. The smoke was explained shortly after. Apparently the North Koreans are so short on gas that they run their vehicles on wood. Not quite sure how they do that...kinda crappy that they have to.

A third difference was how many people were working int he fields together. North Korea is a communist dictatorship. This means that everyone works together on Government farms. In South Korea they have just as many farms in the countryside however I was apparently used to seeing one of two people working in them because it was blatantly obvious to me that there were numerous workers in every field.

Finally their houses. They had actual houses, no apartments, and they were all the same. The same small rancher style made out of what looked like bleached concrete. Every village was surrounded by a wall. The villagers have to get permission from the post office (staffed with guards) to leave the village.

North Korea was beautiful. Green and lush, quiet and peaceful. The trucks and rocket-launchers didn't bother me, nor did the guards. I've lived in South Korea long enough and been to the DMZ for this to be normal. I currently live in a country being occupied by the USA. I see soldiers everyday. Military helicopters fly over my apartment in formation at 10:30 every morning.

The mountains that we climbed were really nice, with words carved in the rock faces EVERYWHERE done by the Kims. I'm not entirely sure if these are all over the entire country, or more concentrated in this part due to the visitors. That way we can think they're everywhere ;)

Beyond that there's not all that much to say about North Korea. I was REALLY restricted in what I could experience. It was all picture perfect and i'm sure it was made to be as such.

and...that be all. I go to China in 9 days with 20 friends. that'll be pretty cool.

Thursday, June 28, 2007


I leave for China in 24 days. THEN I leave for Thailand 15 days later.