Sunday, March 20, 2011

Egypt I - The Great Pyramid

Walking through the airport was quite eerie  We imagined that the Cairo airport normally is quite bustling at any given hour of the day. After picking up our bags at the baggage claim we met our driver just outside. The other drivers were eagerly waiting for exiting tourists which would never come. There were more drivers than folks needing to be driven. Unfortunately as we would discover the tourism industry would be hit the hardest during this time of transition.
Our driver was a man in his young thirties. He was medium build with short hair. He was of course Egyptian and spoke English well. His name was Khalid. He walked us to his car which was not too far from the exit. We then loaded up and made our way to Giza just outside of Cairo. In order to get there we had to pass through the city though.
We were only stopped a couple of times at a few check points on our drive to the hotel. The Egyptian army had the city on lock down during curfew. It was not too much of an inconvenience however. They would just asked for our passports and Khalid's papers. They were quite intimidating with their guns at their sides with tanks and barricades.
After the long drive we finally made it to our hotel. We were really happy with our accommodation. The hotel was really nice. We asked to arrange a tour for the days we would be there. We walked over to the tour company near the lobby and arranged for the same driver that drove us to the hotel to be our guide for the next four days. We gave him the destinations on our wishlist and we negotiated the price. We were happy to have someone who spoke the language take us around. We told him that we wanted to see the Pyramids of Giza first thing in the morning.
We were pretty tired at this point and headed up to the room and crashed out. But it did take a little while to fall asleep due to the traffic outside. Yes, there was still traffic on the road in front of our hotel. It was quite noisy. We were surprised to see so many cars still on the road. It was a major road though.
The next morning we woke up and took a look out the window of our room and had the most amazing view of the Pyramids of Giza. We took advantage of the breakfast buffet downstairs before we headed out. There were very few guests dinning with us, as to be expected. Our driver met us in the lobby and then we headed to the Pyramids.
Before we entered through the gates we made a stop at an ATM to pick up some Egyptian Pounds. As we drove into the parking lot of the entrance there wasn't a single car parked in the lot. We did not need to wait in line, we went straight to the ticket window. We bought tickets to enter the Pyramids and a separate ticket to go into the Great Pyramid. With tickets in hand we were finally ready and went through the entrance gate and behold, in front of us was the Great Pyramid.
We were instantly blown away. We saw it from a far and again as we drove up. But walking to it and being in front of it was another story. The sheer size of the Pyramids were so mind boggling. We had to pinch ourselves several times.
Leading up to the Pyramids were many camel owners offering rides and tours. We politely turned them down. Our driver offered us to listen to his friend's pitch but we again politely refused. We would rather walk around the area. Our driver said he would wait in a designated area for us when we were ready.
At this point we were ready to climb the Great Pyramid and go inside. Climbing the outside wasn't too difficult. We didn't have to go high up to enter it. Once inside it got really narrow we had to start to descend. Corridors in pyramids were narrow and tight. In order to climb down you had to crunch down. Imagine going down a steep slope with about three feet from floor to ceiling. It was uncomfortable to say the least. Yet for some reason it was also exhilarating
We hit a point where it flattened out  and opened up a bit. So then we climbed back up again where we reached the tomb. There was only one other person in the room with us. We sat in almost complete darkness just taking in the history and the peacefulness of the tomb. It was hard to believe that we practically had this entire Pyramid to ourselves. We must have sat there for at least twenty minutes without a single soul entering. After awhile we made our journey out. Latanya was a trooper. She normally does not do as well as she did in such confined spaces.
Once out we drove with Khalid to the other Pyramids. From there we explored around the Pyramids. We took lots of pictures. We wanted to get at least one on camel. We found a guy who gave us a decent price. We hopped on the camel. It is not as easy as it looks to get on one those things. He was quite bumpy but swayed similarly to an elephant but even more so. We had our picture taken and then dismounted. I thought I was going to face plant on the way down.
From there we made our way back to the Great Pyramid. We were next to the smaller pyramids built for the wives of the pharaoh and we ran into some local Egyptians in their young twenties. We got to talking for a bit. We asked them how they felt about the recent step down of Mubarak and they were just elated with joy. They spoke of freedom, relief, and a better more prosperous future. It was really interesting talking with them. We said our goodbyes and made our way back to our driver.
Honestly, I could have spent all day with those pyramids. It was a truly great morning to say the least. I have seen countless pictures, watched dozens of documentaries, read many articles and texts on the Pyramids of Giza; but to actually see them in front of us was truly an absolutely amazing feeling that cannot be expressed in words.
Our driver took us over to the Sphinx next. We have of course seen hundreds of pictures of the Sphinx before. It was really neat to see it in person as well. The history we continued to see throughout our trip was so great. It is amazing to think how ancient this civilization is.
After the Sphinx we headed to an older stepped pyramid. This one we really did have to ourselves. We got to see some hieroglyphs and just explore. I felt like an archaeologist. For those of you who don't know, I wanted to be Indiana Jones as a kid. Well for today I was.
The weather was quite comfortable. Not hot by any means and not too chilly. We were getting a bit hungry at this point so our driver took us to a restaurant near by. But not before asking if we wanted to go to one of those ridiculously priced tourist traps. He was nice enough to  be up front and say that he would get a commission  He just wanted to offer just in case we were actually interested. We politely refused as usual and went to the restaurant instead.
We had a delicious meal. We had grilled chicken and vegetables with rice and Egyptian flat bread. It was a really great meal. We ate outside and met a few other travelers. They were a family of four and also made the decision like us not to cancel their trip of lifetime regardless of the political unrest.
After dinner we called it a night and were dropped off back at our hotel. We said goodnight to Khalid. Day one in Egypt was epic!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Flight to England and...

Even though we saw and experienced so many wonderful things in India, we were sure ready to leave, Latanya especially. We had an extremely early departure out of Delhi. Once again the hotel owner arranged a cab for us. When we arrived at the airport we were really nervous. You see, our next destination was still a bit undecided.
Our flights from here on out were all on British Airways. So needless to say, checking luggage would not be a problem this time around. Which was good because of that extra Puma bag.
The flight to London Hethrow was just fine and smooth. As we touched down the decision started to weigh pretty heavily on us.
Our family was under the impression that we had canceled our original plans and that we were going to stay in London for five days, but we had an opportunity of a lifetime sitting right in front of us. We sat down in front of the gate at which our decision was to be made. The question was, to get on the plane or not.
The flight attendant started to call out the boarding groups. We were boarding in the third group. We realized that very few people were getting on the plane. There was no way that this plane was going to fill up, it was a 747! We took a deep breathe, emailed our parents and then hopped on. We were doing it. Forget about what you read about in the news, we would be fine. As the cabin doors closed we were stuck. This was it, we were on our way.
The flight was shorter than the one from India to England. Like I had thought before, there was hardly anyone on the plane. We had an entire row to ourselves as well as the one in front of us and behind us. But we were not surprised by this under the circumstances.
By the time we started to make our decent it was nightfall. We looked out the window and said to ourselves, wow! We are here! We had just landed in Egypt and had no idea what adventures/dangers we were about to encounter. Mubarak had just stepped down just two weeks ago. There was still a curfew in Cairo and the military is in charge. What have we gotten ourselves into?

Friday, March 18, 2011

India Part V

At the train station we really felt uncomfortable again. Train stations in general are not the safest places. The Agra station was no exception. We felt uneasy and were ready to get back to our hotel in Delhi. After we waited an hour or so our train finally arrived. We eagerly hopped on and headed back to the big city.
Once back we made our way to our hotel, this time by subway. It was easy enough to navigate by now. When I study a cities subway system for a few minutes I am usually able to make my way around without any problems. We fell right to sleep as soon as we got to the hotel. But before we laid our eyes to rest we noticed that a wedding or some sort of ceremony was held on the street in front of our place. There was a tent set up and it looked quite festive. Too bad we missed it. Oh well the next day we were going to have a great cultural experience.
We only had two more days in India, with one more item on our checklist. We had to take a cooking class. Just like in Thailand we were the only pupils. We took our class with a lovely woman named Jyoti. She runs her own culinary school out of her house called Gourmet Desire (found on TripAdvisor). After talking to her on the phone via Skype (wonderful invention for travelers  we made our way to her home by her instructions via motor rickshaw. She told us the amount we should pay so that prevented us from being ripped off. Awesome!
When we arrived we were greeted by her and her assistant. It was a very intimate experience. We were able to go at our own pace and really ask all the questions we wanted. We made Naan from scratch  We also made Chicken Tika, Masala, Somosas, and a few other dishes. It was wonderful learning about all the spices in her spice tins. We were now familiarized with the subtle differences of them all.
Of course after we made everything the three of us sat down and feasted. We sat and chatted over some Chai Tea in the living room over dessert too. It was great getting that real one-on-one with her. We learned a lot about her family and about Indian cuisine and culture as well.

Once our stomachs were too full we walked it off by going to a local spice market. She was able to get us great prices so we could take lots of spices back with us. After that we said our goodbyes and Latanya and I walked around the rest of the Bazaar. We bought a few other things like a couple of spice tins, a flat Naan pan, and of course a big bag to put all of our purchases in our backpacks were not going to be enough. We picked up a knock off Puma bag for really cheap. I am still convinced that you cannot tell it is a knock off though.
We finally made our way to the hotel. We made sure to pack up all of our stuff to get ready for yet another destination. The next day we really did not do a whole lot. Just puttered around the neighborhood. I think we sure got enough of an Indian experience. The next morning we were on our way home via England or were we?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

India Part IV - The Taj!!!

Let me first start by explaining something. The Taj Mahal is best described as a diamond in the middle of a piece of (pardon the vulgarity) shit. Now that you have a real visual let us tell you about our day in Agra in and around the Taj. 

Rashid our tour guide and our driver took us straight to the Taj from the train station. Just like the streets of Delhi driving through Agra was quite the same, an unorganized jumbled mess we heck of a lot of motor rickshaws, people, and cows. After a few close calls we shortly arrived to the outskirts of the area surrounding the Taj. Our driver found a spot to park and our guide told us to leave any bags that we had in the car. Our scam watch alarm immediately went off. Luckily we did not have any valuables in it: just water and snacks as well as our guide book. Rashid assured us that it would be safe with the driver. He also said that we would not be able to take them in with us when we enter the Taj grounds. So we decided to leave it and hope that we weren't falling for a scam.
We then got out of the car and began to make our way to one of the three entrances. The main reason we went straight from the station was to avoid the big big crowds. This was a grand idea that worked out wonderfully. We had to walk down a long walkway about a half a mile or so. As we walked we were constantly being asked if we wanted a ride to the Taj by elephant or to buy something, you know little trinkets and such. Luckily Rashid kept these touts to a minimum for us. It was great having someone who spoke the language to help us out.
After a ten minute walk or so we finally made it to the entrance. Rashid had to enter a different entrance, he said that he would see us on the other side. The line was really short at this time and we went through security rather quickly. They did the usual pat down and that was that. Once in, we slowly started to take it all in. We knew that we were about to witness something miraculous  We were just outside the main walk through to the main court of the Taj. Surrounding the Taj is a giant brick wall that blocks any view from the majestic scene we were about see. We were waiting just out side the gated entrance into the main courtyard. when Rashid finally arrived. He then provided us with some good historical information that I really appreciated.

So it was time. We slowly walked through the gateway and there it was. The greatest tribute to love, according to our guide. The Taj Mahal took our breath away from the very moment we laid our eyes on it. As we walked into the main courtyard it felt really surreal. The Taj did not seem to be really in front of us. It was almost too perfect to be true. You see such beautiful places in magazines and in pictures or even Google Earth, but this was it. It was truly a Wonder of the World. Every piece of marble perfectly laid created a building that will remain ah-inspiring through time.
As we walked around, Rashid was not only our tour guide he was also our photographer. We just had one little problem. The battery was fairly low and we did not know if it was going to shut off on us. That did not prevent him from getting some really great shots though. Of course we took the typical picture on the Princess Diana bench as most do. The line for this was non-existent at this point in the day. After a few more shots we walked closer to the building so we could go inside.
In order to even go up to the platform we had to wear little booties on our shoes so not to scuff any of the marble up. Rashid took us inside and explained loads of interesting facts about the history of the building. I of course presented him with several questions. It was just one beautiful moment after the other. I kept wanting to pinch myself. It really was a dream come true. But not only that it was a once in a lifetime experience.

After exiting the mausoleum we were able to see the river that runs behind it. From that vantage point we could see the Agra Fort that we would later go to. We then decided just to stroll around the grounds for about an hour or so to really take in every angle. The Taj is perfectly symmetrical. It looks identical from all four sides. Rashid knew the best places to take photos and we trusted him with our camera at this point. He was truly a godsend.
We never grew tired at just staring at the Taj. I can honestly say that it is the most beautiful building I have ever or will ever see. I couldn't get over its perfection. As we exited we took one last look and said goodbye to it from up close. By now the crowds were starting to really roll in. We were elated to avoid them but a little sad to leave.
Driving through Agra and seeing the poverty and chaos was really puzzling. It is amazing that the Taj Mahal is so calming and pristine and just outside its walls is utter madness and filthiness. It really sums up a lot of India for us. A reality check on one side, this world is far different than ours. On the other side seeing these places and experiencing these moments really affect the way I feel about my own way of life and how I live it. As said earlier, in order to really grasp the environment in which we were in you really have to take my analogy to heart, a diamond in the middle of a piece of shit, I am not exaggerating. India has not been easy traveling and is not for the novice.
After visiting the Taj it could only go down, right? Luckily that would not be our last time seeing it however. From there we went to the Agra Fort where the emperor would be put on house arrest by his own son the successor. We were able to see the emperor's quarters. We were also able to see that from his balcony one can see yet another magnificent view of the Taj. How horrible that must have been to stare at your greatest achievement while being in exile, so to speak.

Rashid also took us to the "Baby Taj", I do not recall the actual name but the nickname explains it all. It was built before the Taj Mahal and was just that, a kind of smaller version. The architecture was definitely different but the concept was similar. The gardens were wonderful to walk around. We also had the chance to really get to know Rashid and just chat for a little while. We learned a lot about Agra and local history.
We later went to lunch. We had a couple of curries that were not impressive. It was one of those touristy places. Of course just like any hired car we were more or less required to go to other tourist trap shops. We had no problem going along with it. Rashid was very open and told us that he would get a commission for everything we bought and warned us that the prices are steeper. I have gotten into a good habit of being able to politely say no to just about anything. Latanya on the other hand sometimes has trouble. But we were able to come away without spending a penny. Later Rashid took us to a cheaper souvenir store to pick up some magnets.
Our final stop was at a lack luster garden area. It was nothing special. In fact it was quite sad looking. Apparently there was a foundation laid out but it looked like construction had started and never really took off. According to our guide it was suppose to be a mirror image of the Taj Mahal and it was going to be made of black marble instead of the white marble that was used for the Taj. It was to be the emperor's mausoleum. From this foundation we were able to see the Taj across the river. It was still grand in all its magnificence. We were again able to get some great pictures. This was a great send off for the most beautiful tribute of love. What a wonderful day and experience.

Rashid then took us back to the train station. We said our goodbyes and got his card. He truly made the experience that much better. If you travel to India please let me know. I would gladly recommend him in a heartbeat.
So long Taj, so long Agra, maybe we will meet again in another life.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

India Part III - Journey to the Taj

We woke up the next morning in the wee hours of the day. In order to get to Agra we had to take a three hour train ride. The owner of the hotel arranged a cab for us to take to the train station. He also warned us that as soon as we exited the cab we were going to be bombarded by several touts and to head straight to the entrance and not accept help from anyone.
Latanya and I have obtained really good tunnel vision when it comes to traveling up until this point. Well it paid off for sure here. As we exited, keep in mind it is 5 am, several men immediately bombarded us. They tried to tell us that we needed to go this way and that way and that we needed to get tickets first and that the ones we had were not the boarding passes. It was just like the owner had said, one attempted scam after another. Outside the train station was so lively and hectic that you would have never known it was this early. But I guess the scam game never sleeps.

After pushing our way to the entrance we finally got into the station. It was a little difficult to find our platform so we had to use a little logic. Follow the other foreigners, works most of the time. There weren't that many so we were banking on everyone else going the same direction we were. It worked out because our train finally arrived so we hopped on and took our seats. It turns out we were sitting across from a really nice family from Korea. Go figure. We got to chatting and had a really nice conversation with the father and mother. The dad worked for a University in Delhi and the family was visiting him.

As the train ride grew deeper in to the journey the sun was beginning to rise. It was really wonderful looking out the window to the country side seeing the beautiful landscape while the sun began to shine a new day.
Breakfast was served a little later. Train food in India, as one can imagine is much different than train food anywhere else. It was vegetarian and consisted of a curry or two along with a couple of other Indian sauces. It was served on a cafeteria tray. It was actually not half bad.
By now it was getting closer to eight o'clock and we were nearing Agra, the city known for many things but most famously the Taj Mahal. I had forgotten to mention that during this journey via train we were giddy with excitement knowing that we were going to see the Taj. We did not know what to expect at all. And to come to think of it, how were we going to get there from the train station.
When we arrived, we looked out at the train tracks leading into the station. The sight was pretty poor. There were many people actually living on or near the tracks. People were using the restroom right on them in fact as if it were their toilet. It was quite a reality check. It turns out that there is a lot of poverty that normally surrounds most train stations in India, this was no exception.

The train finally came to a halt and we got off. We now knew exactly what to look for because we borrowed a travel book from our hotel and got to reading it. We needed to find the taxi stand just outside station. Just like any adventure in India up to this point we needed to put our blinders on, avoid scams and walk  briskly. It felt like it was an episode of the Amazing Race. Once at the taxi stand we were constantly being pestered, politely however by a man, a tour guide in fact. He wanted to know whether we would want to rent a driver and tour guide for a whole day instead of just a one way taxi to the Taj. The man was persistent and we knew that we were booking through the taxi stand so it should be legitimate. Also a return trip was good enough for me. I did not want to think of how we were going to get back from our day out and about in Agra. Anyways, we finally decided after a few moments of discussion that it was a fantastic deal and that it cost less than $20 for a private car, tour guide and drop off back at the train station later that night. What a deal!!! Our guide's name was Rashid. Rashid took us on journey through Agra and through time that day. What an experience, let me tell you.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

India - Part II

The next day we headed to New Delhi via metro, the metro is really cheap and easy to use. Aside from the hundreds of uncomfortable stares the metro was quite pleasant. It seems that the Indian men just wanted to eat Latanya for dinner, in this case an early breakfast. We got off the metro, found our bearings, and checked out some government buildings along with the Presidential residence. From there we made our way to The India gate. During our stroll to the India gate an auto rickshaw driver constantly tried to gives us a lift. His prices went lower and lower as we got closer. We repeatedly told him we liked to walk and he wasn’t taking no for an answer. It was quite funny how persistent he was . As planned we arrived to the gate by foot some 10 minutes later. The India gate resembles the Arc de Triumph in Paris.

Near the gate Latanya’s hand was grabbed forcefully by a tiny old Indian woman with henna ink in her hand. She proceeded to apply henna designs on Latanya’s hand. I yelled to Latanya to pull her hand away because once applied she would demand payment. However the price was good and Latanya got one hand done for $1. After the henna application, we hopped in a rickshaw (not with the guy from before) to the Humayun tomb. The tomb was an inspiration for the Taj Mahal. Taking a nice stroll around the tomb we were able to admire its beauty and size. From the tomb we went to the Lodi gardens, saw some more temples and tombs. Then we regrouped on what our next destination would be. Latanya decided to go to the U.S. Embassy area thinking we would be able to find some place to eat and/or stroll around. Little did we know the only thing around the embassies were embassies guarded like small fortresses. During our walk, the henna on Latanya’s hand began to itch, it had been a few hours since the ink was applied. Not knowing how long to keep the ink on her hand, Latanya decided to rub it off. Once it was removed she was quite disappointed that the ink was very faint. At least the itching had stopped (morale of the story henna for a $1 really means henna for $1). So we regrouped again and took a rickshaw to Connaught place. We were expecting a western style mall and got an Indian bootleg version of an outlet mall, a very bad one at that. It was crowded, smelly, dirty, and loud. We stuck around only long enough to buy a shawl for the Taj and some floor cushions. From there we headed back to our hotel and ordered some delicious Indian take out. We called it a night because we had to be up early to catch a train to Agra home of the TAJ MAHAL.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

India - Part I

INDIA!!! We could not believe we are in India, landed in New Delhi and are beyond ecstatic. The first part of our journey home is a six day layover in New Delhi. We went through the airport wondering what great and interesting adventures were to unfold. We had contacted our hotel and arranged for a pickup. When we exited immigration and customs the driver was not there. Our flight had arrived a little early so we waited for about 15 minutes until we became a little antsy. We asked an airport worker to call our driver and then sure enough there he was. He was a nice man, shorter, and quite skinny. He grabbed our kart of bags and we were off. He was power walking so fast. Latanya and I felt like we were working off all the airplane dinner calories. I just knew his walking speed was going to translate into his driving speed, and sure enough it did. Luckily we made it to our hotel safe and sound. It was about 9pm and we were tired, met the owners of our hotel and then crashed. The Tree of Life hotel is fantastic, clean, modern, and it even has a big white fluffy down comforter that makes you melt when you crawl into bed.
The next morning was spent having breakfast downstairs and attempting to arrange our train to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. After a few hours of frustration the manager called a friend to book the tickets for us. We were happy about that yet a little worried because the trip was not finalized yet. After getting ready we decided to hit the streets.
We took a deep breathe and made our way knowing the streets of India were about to be an experience. Though we knew all this, we really knew nothing. We exited our hotel making our way to the subway. The map we were given was easy to follow and the station was about a three minute walk away. Our area seemed a little run down but in reality it was a nice area. The buildings were newer yet the streets we a mess.
Our destination was Old Delhi. The hotel manager told us about a great restaurant in Old Delhi that is a must see. When we arrived in Old Delhi we stepped out side of the station our jaws dropped. Pure chaos on the streets, pure madness, really. Rickshaws were everywhere, cars and motorbikes honking, people lying on the sidewalks, dust in the air from the roads, wires slung from building to building, random smells not for the weak stomached and so much more. We needed to walk about a mile to the restaurant. Luckily I have a natural gift for direction and lead us the right way. The lack of street signs or any landmark made it difficult.
While heading down a crowded and congested road we witnessed a motorbike accident. A man who fell off his bike promptly stood up and approached the driver at fault. He then proceeded to slap the man at fault not one or two times, but five times in the face. All of a sudden a rush of people came to watch the confrontation. The man at fault ended up just taking the slaps and did nothing but argue verbally. It was quite a scene. Actually because of this incident everyone stopped staring at Latanya and I for at least a minute or two. This was a nice moment, though it was short lived.
We spotted a landmark, the Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India. We walked around the extremely crowed streets and found Gate 1. From there we spotted the restaurant, Karim's. Karim's is located down a narrow alley and full of people. The restaurant has been open since 1913 and we know why, it was delicious. We tried the recommendations our hotel manager gave us and we so delighted. We had the Chicken Noorjahani, Seekh Kebabs and two Tandoori Rotis. Everything was just great. Latanya is taking to the take charge persona here in India. She did not hesitate to grab a table even though others were there before us. You kind of have to have an aggressive attitude, otherwise you wouldn't accomplish anything. After lunch we went back to the crazy streets. We walked through what seemed for miles of a street market. People were selling clothes, shoes, toys and so much more. It was a mad house. Latanya began to get claustrophobic. Luckily we made it to the Red Fort and got away from the crowds. From there we walked to a park just southeast of the fort. We saw Ghandi's grave, memorial site, and the Ghandi Museum. From there we grabbed a motor rickshaw back to the subway and made our way back to our hotel. Before we went to our place we grabbed a Kingfisher at a local bar and then cruised around our neighborhood. Overall it was an exciting day. It was packed full of so much. India is definitely a different experience. Well, tomorrow we will check out some more of the city this time more of New Delhi.

Seoul and Malaysia Again

We were so excited to get to the airport we could not wait. But before we left Korea we spent a night at the Sky Love Motel in Seoul. Love Motels are a great way to save money on accommodation in Korea. They are essentially what the name implies, a by the hour place yet very clean, modern, and affordable. Used mostly for young couples to spend quality time away from their parents and extra martial affairs. We shared the elevator with a young couple when we reached our floor they both said, "Have a good time"...LOL. We spent our last day just walking around downtown Seoul. We enjoyed just roaming the streets and taking in the city one last time. In the evening we made our way to Incheon to catch our flight to KL. We were so happy to be at the airport knowing this would be the last time we would ever be going there. On our way to check in a familiar bright neon green sign caught out attention, JAMBA JUICE!!!, the first Jamba Juice in Korea. Of course we had to have a smoothie being that it has been so long. Latanya was dancing around the place all giddy. When we passed through immigration it felt real, real that we were finally leaving. It had been a long two years but finally we were done. Done with Korea. Done with teaching elementary school children. Done with the struggles of being away from friends and family. When the plane took off we both looked at each other and said how proud we were of the other. Our relationship has became so much stronger because of this experience.
Originally we were going to fly home via a layover in Japan. Instead we found a cheaper and much more exciting route. Our first stop was in Malaysia. You may remember we had already been to Malaysia twice before, specifically Kuala Lumpur. When we arrived in the airport we had to make a decision, go into the city or spend 13 hours in the airport waiting for our next flight. We checked to see how much it was going to be to leave our bags in left luggage. It was rather expensive so we decided to wait in the airport. The time actually flew by. We set up shop in a Coffee Bean where we could plug in our laptops. I took a nap and Latanya watched some TV. When I woke up we caught up on our shows the week before. We watched, Survivor, 90210, Gossip Girl, Jersey Shore, Real Housewives, and Modern Family. After our shows Latanya took a nap. It was finally time to check in at this point. Thus far on all our budget airline flights we have never had to check our bags, with the exception of this one, our last one. We have flown Air Asia at least five times thus far and never had to check our bags, even though our carry ons were clearly over the seven kilogram max. Well, they finally caught us and made us check a bag each for a total of $30. Ouch! Oh well, we got away with it plenty of times before. Anyways, it was time to take off. We were definitely ready for a hotel room at this point. The flight was about five hours and went by quickly. When we touched down we pinched each other, wow are we really here?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

End of Another Era

Well our time in Korea is just about finished. We are currently moving out of our apartment. This apartment has been our home away from home. When we just did not have the strength to handle Korea, it was our little getaway, our oasis. This blog has evolved much as most things do in this world. It began as a way to let our family and friends know about our lives in Korea. It has transformed into a blog letting anyone know about our travels in general. I think we blogged more about our time out of Korea than in it. Whatever obstacles we had to overcome these past two years they were all worth it. Korea gave us so much in terms of financial freedom, character building, patience sculpting, and life experience. There are too many things that we will miss about Korea, far too many to express in one post. But we are going home to our loving family and great friends. We can't wait to step off that plane at LAX. Before we step off that plane we do have a little bit more traveling to do. So stay posted, we are not finished yet...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Grr!!! I should be singing school out for the summer but instead I'm singing to the tune of desk warming. Desk warming is where native English teachers have to come to school and sit at their desks for eight hours (YES EIGHT HOURS!!!). At public schools there are around 4-6 weeks vacation in the summer and 6-8 weeks vacation in the winter for the students. During these vacations, teachers have summer and winter camps, but they do not run the entire vacation period. So when there is not a camp we the teachers have to sit at our desks for EIGHT HOURS! There is only so much T.V. and Internet surfing one can do.