I’m Becoming A Professional Panda Cuddler

Just kidding! I haven’t made another career change and left you in the dark!

Just an impending continent change.

As the cat was already let out of the bag, I figured that my return to the Orient and imminent departure from Europe warranted an explanation of sorts (even though I’m sure many aren’t surprised I’m returning to Asia). So, here goes.

While Asia is by far my favorite continent, it wasn’t my initial intention to return so soon to re-set up shop. As you may or may not know, I successfully passed all my exams over the holidays, and the next step was to secure a position in an international school, which took its time to secure, but secure it did! As any plan takes its course while developing, I first had my wallet set on Dubai (then I decided I wanted to keep my rights), then came South America (but alas, I’m too new a teacher to get any interest. Sad face), then I finally circled back to Asia (and HELLO interviews). While I can’t even give you a ballpark of how many schools the world over I applied to, I have happily accepted a position at Kang Chiao International School within their East China Campus’ Bilingual division. This means my third home-away-from-home is going to be set against the backdrop of Shanghai. That’s right – China is receiving me next, and I’d be a big fat liar if I said I wasn’t scared.

For starters, when I think of China, many unpleasantries come to mind, such as: trough toilets, gutter oil, yellow dust, dog festivals, the great firewall, fashion masks for hopeful breathing, and mystery meat.

However, while that pupu platter is scary, I’m trying to instead focus on those fascinating traits that originally caused Asia to flood my heart, and then get back to exploring even more! Even though I spent three years in Korea, the only countries I didn’t make it to in ASIA Asia are anything Chinese. I feel like a giant asshole having never been to the biggest part of the continent, but now is the time! And now is also the time to conquer the Myanmar, the India, the Hong Kong, the Mongolia, the Taiwan, and the Russia of it all.

The travel excitements go without saying, so some other whathaveyous that I’m super excited to have in my life are: Pandas. PANDAS! Cuddling a Panda in Chengdu is definitely going to happen. Then there’s noodles and FLAVORS and hot pot. I can’t wait to be back in a place where flavor is bursting all over the place (sorry Spain and your love of salt). Dumplings because, well, dumplings. In fact, there are already plans to venture to a new Hello Kitty dim sum restaurant in Hong Kong sometime in September with my Korean Kookster in Krime soon to become China Chingu, Chrissy. I’m excited for Chinese temples, stepping foot on The Great Wall, spending a Chinese New Year IN China, and learning so much about a massive world power that I know nearly nothing about.

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The only thing I liked about the Shanghai Pudong Airport during my brief 2012 layover.

Oh, and of course while I’m not exploring and cuddling Pandas, I’ll be tasked with teaching even more cute little elementary hoishis Language Arts, and depending on their level, History, Geography and some other subjects as well. I’m leaving the co-teaching life behind to have my own students, plan all my own lessons, have my own classroom and full control. This will be a couple steps up from Korea, and a giant leap up from my job in Spain. It’ll be an adjustment, but I’m really thrilled for the new experience and responsibilites, and in a school that looks so incredibly beautiful and majestic on their website. The school is massive and there will be around 150 foreign teachers, 3 of which I hope are normal.

This position will also allow me to get experience in the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum, provide many opportunities for professional development, and I’ll have a massive amount of technology at my fingertips.  The whole application process caused me a lot of anxiety once I started getting offers from schools in China, and I’m so happy with the decision I’ve made for the next jump.

Of course, as with when any chapter ends, I’m starting to get the pangs of sadness that go along with leaving a place that has been home. Even though Madrid and I never hit it off (as is demonstrated by this here blog), this country is exquisite and diverse beyond belief. I keep reminding myself to look up at all the beautiful buildings and perfectly crisp blue skies, because in 4 months those will be replaced by grey skies and communist blocks. I’m hugging my kids a little tighter, getting my brain and paperwork in gear for what’s to come, making plans to explore the still unexplored, and hardcore lighting the fire under my Greek Lamb’s ass to get his foot on the gas so we can have many more days of exploring and eating on a new continent together.

And voila! Have you ever visited, lived in, or taught in China? Do you have any tips for me, or any must-sees or abandoned places I must hit up? Do let me know in the comments! 

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Happy Hippie Bali

I really need to spank myself for the tardiness of this, but there seems to be a trend when I go on a honker of a trip. There’s just so much I want to share that I let it sit and linger until I’m like “Danielle, you need to write that NOW!” And then 2 months swoop past and here I am with a draft that’s like, 2 months old and not to my liking anymore, forcing me to start all over again.  So here I sit. Finally gettin to tale telling.

Bali and some of its neighboring islands, Lombok and the Gilis, was my first trip booked as a completely solo venture. It wasn’t solo in the whole sense of the word, but it was solo in that I traveled completely on my own and retired to my own boudoir nightly, and just so happened to be in some of the same places as others at the same time so we got to exploring together.

I loved this trip to death, even though there were a couple moments of sheer pissed-off-ed-ness, but mostly it was beautiful and zen, and I really got my Eat Pray Love hippie dippy on.

I know I should really probably start with the best parts of my trip, but I’m going to start with the things that urked the crapola out of me, because in retrospect they are the funniest and my favorite stories to tell when I reminiscence on my Indonesian gallivant. Win win.

1. When I Got Abandoned Somewhere Between The Gili Islands

I started the day by telling Chrissy about the movie Open Water. Dumb. If you haven’t seen it, go rent it, but not before you go on an organized ocean exploring trip.

While snorkeling somewhere between the Gili Islands, the stupid little Indonesian boy in charge of our boat forgot to do a head count of how many people he had on board his vessel. He decided to drop us off at the sea turtle point, where we got VERY excited to see some ginormous shelled creatures! Well, me, Chrissy and our new man friend that we met on board got excited and decided to swim and follow one. Only they were beating me because I was blessed with a botched snorkel that really cramped my snorkel enjoyment. I couldn’t swim for like, 2 seconds, without gulping in water through a tiny puncture. After a bit of a chase, I looked up to get a handle on where the boat was, and to my horror the boat was zipping off, and appearing to be getting further and further away!!  I of course started panicking because there was a small current and I was gradually wading into the water about 10 feet to my right that was getting a pitch shade of black.

So there I hustle, huffing and puffing through my cursed snorkel, swimming to a stupid boat that keeps getting further and further away.  When finally, another boat speeds past, and I throw my arms up, screaming to him to pick me up because our moronic driver left us stranded.  That man refused, and yelled that our boat was coming back.

Well, after about 5 minutes our boat decided they left some people for shark bait and came back for us. How thoughtful of them!!! I hoisted myself over that ladder and onto the boat where I  ripped a new one for the giggling guy driving the boat, who just stared at me laughing and asked “Are you mad to me?” What do you think BUDDY?!

I was later chatting with a plane buddy on my flight home who told me that she had read reviews about snorkel trips in the Gilis often leaving people in the water or on island hops. SO, for those looking into a venture to the Gilis, get your balls in check before you possibly get left for shark bait.

2. That Time I Fell And Sprained My Other Ankle

My right ankle had just started to finally feel normal again when I happened to find myself in the sleepy beach town of Uluwatu in the southernmost tip of Bali. You see, Uluwatu is gorgeous, but unless you are comfortable with your life in your hands whilst operating a motorbike, or are traveling with a trustworthy somebody of who you don’t mind bestowing your life, you’re kind of screwed for getting around the city that’s built along one long windy road.

I stayed at a nice little guest house called Belong Bunter, operated by a young guy named Hank and his adorable 15 year old side kick.

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I will never forget Hank because he turned into a stalker. He offered to drive me around on the back of his motorbike, which was awesome because it was free.  It was not awesome because I think he thought that my nice open nature meant that I wanted to be his girlfriend. I don’t know.  I’m a weirdo magnet I guess.  Anyways, after his sweet welcoming ways wore off, he followed me around Padang Padang beach, and hung out in front of my room when I wasn’t talking to him which proved to be a bit much when all you want is to be with yourself after a day on the back of this guy’s bike.

So the ankle sprain. We had planned to meet by his bike at 5:30pm to go catch the sunset at Pura Luhur Uluwatu temple up on the cliff overlooking the ocean. After the beach, I retired to my room, took a shower, and then took a naked nap. At around 5pm (30 minutes early, mind you), through my window I heard “Danielle! Danielle!” In my groggy haze, I thought Hank was in my room!  Startled, my naked bodice lept so fast out of bed, tried to run for cover and ate it so hard on the ground, knocking over a plant in my haste, and OF COURSE, my other ankle off its rocker. Ugh.

Another ankle to bite the dust. Night was ruined, and the rest of the evening was spent dying in bed because I could barely walk, listening to the soundtrack of a whimpering Hank outside my window sending me consoling Facebook message after Facebook message.

I probably shouldn’t have let him fondle my foot, and I should probably consider drinking whole milk.

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3. This Creepy Graffiti

Indonesia is a Muslim country, I knew this before going, and everyone is entitled to their own beliefs and opinions. It’s part of the beauty of traveling.  However, this was a little alarming for a lover of the motherland to see while just wandering the back streets of tiny little Gili T. Especially since it was Ramadan, and the constant chanting blaring through the speakers was already urking me a bit.

1151072_10102614572402777_323951986_nGaza will never go down. Fuck Israel.

A few days later. Me, Tu and my new friend Alex stumbled upon this 9/11 McDonald’s creepy graffiti in Ubud. In such a beautiful, peaceful, zen city, this is so out of place.

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Ok, now that we got that out of the way, let me tell you some happs that definitely topped my pops list on this journey through Bali, Lombok and Gili Trawangan. In no particular order, but probably chronologically because that’s how it is in my notes and I like order amidst chaos.

1. Catching Up With KC In Kuta

Casey was my plane buddy on the flight over to Korea, and we both got stranded up in “North Korea” together once we got our school placements. He moved to Taiwan to continue teaching English once our 1st year contracts came to a close.  It just so happened that we had a couple days overlapping on our planned vacations, so we met up in Bali’s version of Mexico, and strolled along the beautiful Legian beach catching up on life and all that jazz. Twas really nice to see him and meet his girlfriend.

I also learned that several of my male friends are all homosexuals.  Oh Kuta!

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2. Prince Ali, Fabulous He

I met up with Chrissy in Lombok, which is the biggest island neighboring Bali to the East. I got there a day later than anticipated because no fast boats were available the day I originally wanted to head out. We had one day on Lombok together, so we opted to trek out to Tiu Kelep waterfall which was a 2 hour drive from where we were staying in Sengiggi.

When we got to the first small waterfall, we acquired our guide, Ali, who was a tiny little Indonesian man with horrendous body odor and a smile filled with brown teeth for days. He didn’t understand a lick of English, except for how to ask for money, but held our bags under his raging smelly arm pits as we less-than-gracefully forded many a river, guided us through a bat-filled water tunnel, and took this fabulous collage of “blurrages”.

Bless Prince Ali and his fabulous shaky little hands.

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3. Saltcheese Chocolatey Nomness

When I finally made it to Lombok after a less than speedy fast boat journey, Chrissy and I hit the ground running to Tiu Kelep so we’d hit it before sunset. Both of us were famished in any sense of the word that we know, so we stopped at a little store at the base before hiking in. We found these sandwich cookiecracker things, and inhaled them way too fast.

America and Korea and everywhere should own these for sale.

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4. This Hammock At The Happiest Place On Earth

Happy House on Gili Trawangan is truly the place to stay, should you stumble into those parts. Do keep in mind though that you may find yourself in a bit of a pickle when trying to find the place. Our sweaty backs and bodices wandered for a good hour  on this tiny island before we finally found it and were greeted by all things HAPPY, and a complimentary welcome breakfast.  I was equally happy when I found this hammock hanging in front of our door.  Turns out I’m a bit of a hammock hog when I’m happy.

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5. Phalluses For Days

I’m clearly ready for any cock-fight you wish to have.

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6. Taking a Vinyasa Flow Yoga Class In A Gazebo At Yoga Barn

Ubud’s claim to recent fame is Eat Pray Love, and is a hippie cultural paradise nestled inland from the east on Bali. I knew before going that I wanted to unwind there with my inner earthly weirdo for at least a day or two of my five.  One of the big attractions of Ubud is it’s mysticism and Yogi lifestyle.  I freakin love yoga, though I don’t do it as much as I tell myself to, so I made sure that I fit in a visit to the highly acclaimed Yoga Barn. I took a class taught by a man named Les, and it was seriously the most intense yoga class I’ve ever taken.  I definitely earned that million bucks feeling when the class ended and he told us we all looked stoned. They offer package deals as well as classes on an individual basis, and if I remember correctly, an individual class is around $20USD.

Yoga Barn is awesome in that they offer way more services than just yoga classes.  They have vegetarian buffet nights, movie screenings and a variety of holistic retreats and colonics if you are into getting your tubes irrigated.  Put this place on your list while visiting Ubud if you know what’s good for your bodice and your noggin.

7. Bintangs With Brother Liangster

Brother Liang and I have only met two times in our lives.  Once during a wild night out in Seoul when he had a less than 24 hour layover, and this time in Ubud, which was so random. Social Media is so amazing sometimes. I post to Facebook that I’m in Bali, Jeanette sees and says her brother is there too, I message him, and turns out we are in the same place at the same time and what do ya know, here we are throwin’ back some Bintangs and missing one Jnet Liangster.

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8. Watching Real Live Monkey Sex

One of the big “to-do’s” in Ubud is the Monkey Forest. My friend Dion told me he was actually quite scared while walking through it, so I was pleased to have Tu as my companion for the day. And boy, was it a doozy of a journey to the forest! You see, the forest is completely open and the monkeys and humans coexist for the day. I’ve always thought monkeys were really cute, but I was kind of creeped out by them while here.

First we were greeted with a mama monkey and her dead baby monkey sprawled at her feet. Then we saw a monkey attack a woman and her bag of food because she didn’t listen and leave her food at the entrance. After walking a bit further we saw two monkeys brawl each other over a Coke bottle, only to lead us down a ways to the trifecta of cray cray.

I may have been stupid and tried to mock a monkey who appeared to be in a deep yoga leg lift. He tried to chase me, I flailed, all was good. Then a girl got bit on the hand, and then came this full mount upon the tree. Tu and I were a couple of highly amused peeping toms before the monkey sexers caught wind of our peeping and unleashed a herd similar to Planet of the Apes.

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9. Seeing Katy Perry Perform Some Indonesian Traditional Dance

Katy Perry wasn’t really there, but for about $8USD, Tu and I spent an evening at Ubud Palace watching her doppelganger  do some pretty intense eyeball and finger dancing in the most stunning and ornate costumes I’ve ever laid eyes on. Truly exquisite, and totally recommend checking out the Legong Of Mahabrata Traditional Dance Show should you find yourself out for an evening in Ubud. Tickets are available just out front of the palace and are sold all the way up until show time.

Pardon the blur, but Katy Perry is in the front, because where else would they put her?

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10. Temple Hopping With Tu & His Wild Leopard Sarong

It was pretty wild.

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Here I am in my peacock sarong, about to enter an extremely moist Elephant shrine on our day of temple hopping.

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11. Watching The Sun Set On Tanah Lot

Tanah Lot temple overlooks the ocean, and at sunset, it provides for quite the exquisite photographic moment. With the people crossing over the rock to the temple, draped against the changing sunset, it’s really really beautiful.

We took too many silhouette photos of other humans and me looking like a teradactyl, and this one in attempts to make straight face with the temple itself.

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12. Rice Terraces For Dayz

On mine and Tu’s day of leopard print sarong temple hopping, we also visited the Tegallalang Rice Terraces, which were stunning and lush. The village itself where the terraces are is quite touristy and there are lots of jacked up priced trinkets, but it was really gorgeous to see the steps of green for days! Ta da!

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13.  One Man’s Cheap Thrill Is Another Man’s Treasure

I wrote a previous post about my time at the Copi Luwak plantation and my time spent there with the lovely man, Oher. A man who lost his wife 2 years ago, has been raising his young daughter on his own, and teaching himself English to better himself and to show his daughter a brighter future, proved to be one of my favorite parts of this trip.

When he described his daughter, he mentioned that she happened to love Hello Kitty, prompting me to obviously show him my supremely Asian iPhone case and the plastic ring I happened to be wearing that I purchased in Koko for a measly 2,000won. I totally felt compelled in that moment to give him my ring for his daughter, to his utter shock. He was so grateful, and It just showed me how different our worlds are, yet small gestures are always the biggest to anyone.

He was so thrilled, I was so in awe after my life talk with him. Win win win!

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14. Getting My Fortune Read By THE Ketut Liyer!

I’m sure many people reading this post are familiar with who Ketut Liyer is.  If you have read Eat Pray Love or have seen the movie, then you will remember that he’s the fortune teller that Elizabeth Gilbert visits on her trip to Bali. I actually probably wouldn’t have thought to go had I not been wandering on my first afternoon and stopped to talk with a local who was trying to hustle me to let him take me around on his motorbike. He was the one to tell me that Ketut is actually hugely famous in the city, but many are skeptical of his authenticity. Maybe that was just his opinion, but I knew what was next on my list!

After a day of zipping around on the back of my new friend Gusti’s bike, we ended our day at Ketut Liyer’s house. However, he was ending early for the day due to a ceremony he was performing.  No worries though, Gusti picked me up bright and early the next day so I could pick a number and get in line to hear tales of my future. You have to pick a number and wait your turn, that’s how famous he is!

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I ended up waiting for about an hour and a half before it was my turn. While I was waiting I got to play with these adorable babes who live at Ketut’s guesthouse, which made the wait more enjoyable.

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And finally my lucky number 7 was up! I was actually quite nervous because I didn’t quite know what to expect. I have always wanted to get my palm read, and even if Ketut is a quack, the novelty of having my fortune read by him made it well worth the $25USD to sit in his presence for 15 minutes.

It was incredibly difficult to understand him through his few dangling teeth and broken English in Indonesian tongue, so my ears were perked up about 50 notches. He basically told me that a lot of beautiful things will happen in my future. I will be very successful and fall into a great lump of money, be married once and it will be for keeps, and we will have 3 children. I may or may not have already met the man I will marry, but he seemed to believe I will meet him before I turn 30. Tick tick tick goes my biological clock!

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As cheesy as this may sound, and no matter how quacktastic he may be, it was actually a huge deal for me.  Even though I’ve always wanted to live abroad, Eat Pay Love really ignited that in me, and then the Florence & The Machine song Dog Days Are Over that played in the movie, was kind of like my anthem for wanting to head off even more. So, this meeting had many special meanings and felt like my time abroad came full circle.

If you head to the gem of Ubud, a trip to meet Ketut will definitely be a highlight.

15. The Cement Art Paved Streets Of Ubud

One thing I absolutely loved about the location of my hotel in Ubud was the street I was staying on, Jalan Kajeng. The whole street is paved for days with special sayings or messages that visitors past have left to remember their time in Ubud. I didn’t know until doing a little research on the street, but I guess you are able to purchase a cement stone and write a personalized message, and this is their novel way of repaving the particular street. I absolutely fell in love with it, and found myself stopping and reading and walking, stopping and reading and walking nearly every time I walked down the street.

I found a little bit of home.

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And even found sista!

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16. Stalking This Lady Having A Smoke Cliff side At Pura Luhur Uluwatu Temple

Pura Luhur Uluwatu is a seaside temple that was built in the 11th century to protect Bali from evil spirits.  The temple itself iwas really beautiful, though my time there was overshadowed by my irritating “friend” Hank. He followed me around everywhere with a stick to hit monkeys if they came close to me. Nice gesture, but beyond annoying when I just wanted to explore on my own.

When I finally managed to ditch him, I stumbled upon this lady sitting in the shrubs having a puff puff, and thought it was so beautiful with the sunset.

Twas a lovely way to wrap up my Balinese adventures!

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