Friday, January 28, 2011

I am hard at work at my next post. I need to go to my grandma's house to get the rest of my pictures from Japan.
Last blog coming soon!

Thursday, January 27, 2011


Here is my attempt to blog about 3 amazing months of my life.

I COSed on August 13. 2 days later, Amy V. (RPCV from Mali that also transferred to China) and I took a 44 train ride to Lhasa. If you look at a map, you might wonder, why didn't you go straight from Chengdu to Lhasa? And the answer is "because there isn't a direct train". We had to go up to Lanzhou and then down and over to Lhasa ("capital" of Tibet). Amy and I were in separate compartments (6 beds to 1 compartment. Thank God we had beds and didn't sit for 44 hours! Some people couldn't afford a bed or perhaps just wanted to sit. I'm glad we didn't.), but we were able to hang out all day before retiring to our separate areas.

We spent 8 glorious days going around Tibet. The highlight for me was seeing Mt. Everest. It was such a clear day. Our tour guide told us how lucky we were. Some people stay at base camp for days, hoping for a clear day.

Driving around Tibet

Amy V. and me rocking our new hats Mt. Everest (I was hesitant to put this picture up b/c it doesn't do Everest the justice it deserves)

Gorgeous Tibet
Potala Palace (Lhasa)

I went back via train (trying to save money where I can). Amy V. flew back. I befriended a lady and her granddaughter from Nepal. I stayed in Chengdu for a few nights. I went to my favorite restaurant, spent time with friends, and said my goodbyes. For real. From Chengdu, I flew to Manila. I stayed in Manila for a few days (dealing w/my visa). I went up to 100 Islands, hired a private boat, and got sunburned even though it was raining.

Here was my route during my month in The Philippines:

Manila--Alaminos--Manila--Legazpi--Donsol--Pilar--Mesbate--Cawayan--Malpsua--Cebu--Alona Beach--Tagbilaran--Cebu--Boracay--Coron--Manila

I took buses and boats up until Cebu. I flew from Cebu to Boracay and then Boracay to Coron and then back over to Manila. The Philippines is such a wonderful place! I feel so lucky to have the time to scuba dive and explore this fabulous country and meet other travelers.

Island Hopping (with a couple from Israel and a woman from France)

The Philippines
Mayon Volcano

After traveling around the Philippines, I met my parents in Beijing. We were going to meet outside in the baggage claim. In my area, there was a flight coming into Beijing. I waited and waited and waited. And then I panicked. I ended up going out once, and then realizing that they were probably back in where the baggage claim was. I talked my way back in, and no parents. I waited some more and then finally went out and there they were! It was so great seeing them! My mom was pretty jetlagged, but all I wanted was fabulous Chinese food. Beijing is way more expensive than Chengdu. Every where we ate, I felt gypped. We spent 1 week in Beijing and saw so many things! My personal favorite was the Great Wall. One word: WOW! I also found a fabulous Sichuan restaurant and liked it so much, we went back for our last meal in China to the same restaurant!


My Dad and me
My Mom and me
Tienanmen Square
Pollution in Beijing
At the Great Wall
Mutianyu section of The Great Wall

From Beijing, we flew into Seoul. The coolest part of the Korean portion of the trip is seeing my parents and their excitement and awe about how MUCH South Korea has changed. (My parents met in the Peace Corps and it was their first time back.) I kept on imagining if in 35 years, I return to Mali and everybody has cars, electricity, Internet on their cell phones, paved would be incredible, which is exactly how my parents felt. We returned to their sites and we even saw my dad's boarding house. The South Korean government was so hospitable. Our meals were so elaborate and utterly delicious. We also partied at the ambassador's house (She is also a RPCV from S. Korea, just one group before my parents).

South Korea

Fancy toilet in S. Korea (heated seats? Don't mind if I do!)

SunsetBeautiful Korea

My dad's house in far the oldest building still standing in his town

Woman prepping cabbage to make kimchi

My dad's town
Street meat

Parents at new health facility where my dad once volunteered

Traditional Table
RPCVs from S. Korea in the 70s

Dog outfits

Shoes off before entering the restaurant

Glorious Korean food
From Seoul, I continued on to Japan while my parents flew back to S. Carolina (They were SO CLOSE to missing their plane! I was sweating it for them, but they made it!)

I bought a rail pass in Japan. My schedule (but it really wasn't a schedule because I never knew where I was staying until the night before) for my week in Japan looked like:

Narita Airport--Kamakura--Kyoto--Nara--Hiroshima--Fukuoka

The Great Budda of Kamakura (Kamakura Daibutsu)

No cell phones on the bus or subway in Japan...America could learn a thing or two...

Recycling bins everywhere!! Oh Japan, I LOVE you!

Kinkakuji Temple located in Koyto, Japan
Fushimi-Inari Taisha Shrine
Kyoto, JapanKyoto

Tegai Gate
Nara, Japan Todai-ji
Deer Crossing (In Nara, there are deer EVERYWHERE!)
Nara Hiroshima is by far one of the saddest places I have ever been. The tears kept on flowing.

This is the spot where the atomic bomb hit.
View of Miyajima

Spartanburg is now marked in a little restaurant near the Mazda plant in Hiroshima.
Floating Torii Gate

After my week of site seeing on mainland Japan, I flew to Okinawa to visit my college friend, Amy J. I stayed in Okinawa for 2 weeks. We went house hunting (Amy J. just moved there a week before I arrived!), snorkeling, and just caught each other up on the last few years of our lives. She bought a car the day before I arrived, and might I say how impressed I am at her excellent driving abilities on the left hand side of the road?

Beautiful Okinawa

Amy J. and me
Restaurant (we actually didn't end up eating there, but what a cool building!)

Amy and me before a show
After my 2 weeks in Okinawa, I flew into Tokyo for 3 intense siteseeing days. I now can understand why people go to Tokyo for weeks. Tokyo was SO MUCH FUN! Tokyo is by far the cleanest city I have EVER been to. Clean, polite people, delicious food, easy transportation...what's not to love?
Here is the metro of Tokyo.

Isn't this a great sign? (Tokyo)

No smoking while walking
Park in Tokyo
Street in Tokyo

If I'm remembering correctly, this is at the end of the zoo in Tokyo

Hachiko Square in Shibuya, Tokyo
over 1 million people cross this square EVERY DAY!
Tsukiji Fish Market
Statute of Liberty replica in Odaiba
Dog in basket...YESSS!
Just another beautiful day in Tokyo

I accidently stumbled upon a funeral...I thought it was a wedding until all the mourners left and I realized it was definitely NOT a wedding. I wish I would have know b/c I kept on smiling...
I also managed to greet a Prince with a bunch of kids.
Waving Japanese flags with students to greet the Prince
Famous Prince (I forgot his name)

Fabulous crepe! Everybody knows about Japanese sushi, but I am here to tell you that Japanese crepes are INCREDIBLE!
I remained did alot of other foreigners...Left or Right? I thank Japan for helping me out
View from Tokyo Tower

Yay! Van Gough exhibition!
My final sunset in Tokyo

During my COS trip, I was able to travel with a friend, travel solo, with family, and visit a friend. During my month in the Philippines, I had not a plan. Before landing in the Philippines, I had trouble sleeping. I (like most people) enjoy schedules and knowing my destinations. What was I getting myself into? By throwing my itenitary out the window, I met so many wonderful people, went to the baptism of 100 babies and joined a family at their home for the celebration dinner, ate dinner with a nice Flippina, went scuba diving with people from ALL OVER (Brazil, Israel, Spain, France, Philippines, Japan, name a few), and realized how liberating it is to go where the wind blows. (In Japan I had to make plans for the hostel where I would be staying a day in advance simply because of costs). Am I the same person I was 3 years ago? I don't think so. I hope the biggest lesson I take from being abroad is simply how the generosity of strangers and their random acts of kindness can change a life. It changed mine.

Thank you for reading and allowing me to share a part of my life.