Sunday, August 25, 2013

I Believe I Can Fly

Hello All

This weekend I convinced Sara that she was going to go paragliding with me. We signed up for our trip, woke up SUPER early (as we do for all trips....which you probably have realized by now this is my least favorite part) and drove 4 hours to somewhere (mother I'll look it up cuz I know you're always curious)... Anmyeondo(안면도) island in Chungcheongnam-do. It was hot but fortunately it's cooling down a little. It was 88 yesterday, which with the humidity the "feels like" thing on the weather channel says 100 ish (this is much lower than the recent "feels like" 120). Anyways, it was a sunny day, there was a good breeze later on, and we got to fly in the sky! First they taught us what to do, which was really REALLY confusing when it was being translated. We were told something about running forward, the parachute coming over your head, letting go of some but not all of the chords you're holding on to, and then the different arm positions they would shout at you as you're flying. We all got really nervous because that was about the extent of our training. We practiced the motions of "arms up" "right arm should" (not shoulder, should) "right arm chess" (not chest) "hap dow" (which means half down) and "pull dow" (which means full down). That's the easy part. The hard part was when you were strapped in and everyone is shouting different directions at you. You have the two dudes who are helping you with  your chute, the 3 people who are holding it up behind you helping it get in the air, and the dude on the walkie talkie who is directing you. It goes a little something like this:
Two dudes standing next to me: Ready?
Me: Yes?
Two dudes: One Two Three!
people behind me drop the parachute as a start moving forward (let it be noted that there's also another dude who lectures us after EVERY person saying "don't hop, don't walk, RUN when they we all have it in our head to run downhill like awkward skwaking birds with our arms out and heads down but bent over and eyes picture that)
Me: running... cuz that one angry guy told us to
Two dudes: Don't Run
Me: Stop running
Angry dude: RUN
Me: AHHH idk what to do
Two dudes: Let go of the cables let go of the cables let go of the cables run run run run run
Dude on walkie talkie: Hand up hands up!
mind you, all of this is within like 10 seconds, so pretty much imagine a bunch of people shouting different things at you and you just do all of them at the same time until your feet aren't touching the ground anymore
Once you're in the air, it's a breeze (pun intended). You are just floating there like a bird. SO awesome! And so pretty, and you're like whoa I'm gunna blow away and then the dude on the walkie talk is like "leptuh hand chess" and you're like oh whoa I'm not gunna blow away. It was really cool!

So that was the experience. I got to go twice. The second time was even better because you're not as stressed about all the commands, you pretty much understand the general idea and you just go with it. Also the second time the wind was stronger so I flew way higher and for way longer. Although the flight time was still only about...5ish minutes? I don't know, you lose track of time quite easily. I do wish it was longer that I was flying there but it was cool to be flying there at all!

Oh then there's the landing...That part wasn't too bad and I did a really good job the second time. You're coming closer to the ground and the walkie talkie dude is like "hapuh downuh" and so you put your hands about where your belly button is...but then he often gets angry so he's like "HAPUH DOWNUH HAPUH DOWNUHHHHHHH!" and you're like I AM! Then he's like "pull downuh pull downuh!" and then you are supposed to start like running until your parachute kinda falls...well there's two problems with that. One, there are really tall bushes you're landing in pretty much...not the easiest to run in and two, I kinda just forgot the running part last time. So what happened was I did the full down, and then I just landed face first in a cottony type bush and my chute kept flying kinda so it dragged me through the bush a bit. Oh well, I came out just fine. The second time, I was the first to go on this new location so the take off point had not been patted down by other people and parachutes yet, I said to the guy "running, hard, tall grass" he was like "haha its ok" uhhh. ok? And then the guy at the bottom in his SUV was trappling down all the weeds so I had somewhere to kind land. When I landed that time, I was able to kinda run and be successful as opposed to the first time.

Anyways, fun times were had by all. I got SUPER sun burned. I've been loading up with aloe all day. It seems to be helping. Here are some pictures of the crazy events.

This is the second time. They were getting me ready. 

This is when the angry guy would be like RUN RUN and the two dues in front of me are like don't run, let go of these ones. 

This is me being a parachute holder upper. 

Getting out of the van that takes you back up to the top...they fit four people, and their bags and parachutes in that car. Not easy. 

This is our instructor telling us what to do, kinda. 

This is the part when he's like ok RUN

More pulling and running. 


Getting strapped in

I believe I can fly! I believe I can touch the sky! I think about it every night and day spread my wings and fly away!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Don't Feed The Monkeys

I just returned from a fantastic trip to Malaysia. Before I begin telling you of the joyous things we saw and did, let me start by saying that when arrived in Malaysia, we realized we knew NOTHING about the culture. Not one thing. So overall, we learned a lot on this trip and that was awesome.

Saturday: Travel Day

On Saturday we started our journey at 5am (per usual) and arrived in Malaysia at about 4 or 5. 6 hour flight. Not too shabby. We found the bus, found our hostel, found our beds. Then we went to meet up with Ellen's college friends who happen to be living in Malaysia (they JUST moved there from the Philippines) and saw the Petronas Towers. That was pretty cool. They are gorgeous at night. In front of the towers are some colored fountains. That was also pretty cool. We found out very quickly that the weather in Malaysia is in fact HOTTER than Korea but less humid. For some reason, it seems I can handle that much better. We were exhausted from our travel so we went to bed pretty early and we had a big day with the elephants planned for Sunday. YAY!

Sunday: Elephant Day

It has been Ellens dream to go to an elephant sanctuary. She's very big on making sure to support humane treatment of elephants, and I support that as well. So no, we did not ride them, no they didn't really perform for us...these elephants live a half wild life. Anyways. First we went to an animal farm where we saw and fed deer and an ostrich. Ok lemme just say it's weird to feed a deer when I see them around my home all the time. It's even weirder to feed a freaking ostrich. I didn't even wanna stand by it, let alone feed it. But I did, and it was awesome and frightening all at the same time. It really just felt like a strong piece of rubber hitting your hand. But you had to make sure and hold your hand really flat so you it wouldn't pinch your skin when it pecked you. We also held some snakes and saw a hedgehog and a ferret and a mouse deer. That mouse deer was was like a mini deer on chopstick legs. I'm not sure if I've ever held a snake before. If I have, I don't remember it. But when I was holding that yellow python, and I could feel it moving around my neck...what a strange strange sensation to feel all of those muscles just moving around me. Crazy.

This picture is worth a thousand words. 

After the animal farm, we went to the elephant sanctuary. We ate some food, then we watched the video showing how and why they have to move elephants. It looked like a dangerous, sad, and painful process and I don't wanna rehash the details. Moral of the story, they were/are moving elephants to the last natural rainforest in Malaysia because all their land is being taken over by the palm oil plantations.

Then we went and fed the elephants. We brought peanuts for them to eat, but they also like to eat sugar cane and bananas. Then they brought out the big elephants for their river bath. Pretty funny stuff. They just roll around in the river like a dog in grass or a pig in mud. And they stick their little trunk up so they can breathe. So cute. They brought the elephants out and introduced us to them, then we fed them Papaya. After that, we got to go back to the river and wash the baby elephants. It was a curious process where the dude put sand on them, and we scrubbed them down with the sand (I'm sure they liked the scratchy feeling) and then we just splashed the elephant off. Man were they adorable. Then our time in the river was over.

After a quick nap, we went and hung out in china town, bought some shirts that say "same same" on the front and then on the back "but different." It's a very Korea thing since as a teacher, I'm always explaining things as "same same." Too perfect for words. We sat and ate some delicious Chinese food (all the food in Malaysia was SO GOOD) and had some beer (all the alcohol in Malaysia is SO EXPENSIVE...I bought a big meal for 6MYR and then payed around 15 MYR for my beer). We walked through the vendors some more with our new German friend, Luis who was also staying in our hostel. He bought some cool headphones, we bought some pants. It was a good time. THEN we met even more people who were staying in our hostel (honestly, probably had more fun meeting people from around the world than sight seeing) as well as some Belgians with whom  we drank more expensive beer. I also found a guy who was working one of the stalls tell me he was in love with me, so I now have a lovely, hardworking, Malaysian boyfriend (not really for those of you who don't know my sarcasm).

Overall, Sunday was by far the best day. We did SO many new things, and met people from Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, New Zealand, Australia, and the the Philippines. Almost all of which were staying at our hostel.

Monday: The Day of Wandering

Monday we decided to go and do a little sight seeing. It was quite difficult to get to the Mosque, which is where we wanted to start our day. Lemme start by saying Malaysia doesn't really believe in crosswalks. I can't tell you how many times I Froggered across the bustling roads hoping not to get hit by cars.

We found the Mosque finally (with the help of some friendly policemen) and then had to wait around until 3 for the visiting hours. We decided to do this loop where we could see the bird sanctuary and the hibiscus and orchid gardens. Turns out we just really did a lot of walking for no reason because we didn't wanna pay to go in the bird sanctuary and I'm deathly afraid of butterflies so were weren't gunna go in that sanctuary either. Then when we thought we were at the gardens, we had passed them and we didn't want to go back up that hill so we just kept going. This is, however, where we found the frightening monkey signs and Ellen kept calling for them. I'm like dude, don't call them.
Take note, there is a monkey banging some guys head in, and a monkey chasing a child...That's scary. 
Me in my Berka in the Mosque

Inside the Mosque

This picture doesn't do the tealness of the roof justice. Very sad, it was pretty! Oh I also learned that the shape of the building is supposed to represent an opening umbrella...can't remember why. 

We finally got into the Mosque and we put on the purple Berka and walked around taking pictures of the Mosque. We also picked up some informative pamphlets about the Muslim religion. I suppose I can take a moment here to tell you a little bit about the make up of Malaysian people:
30% Chinese
30% Indian (like Hindu Indian)
30% Malay (native to Malaysia)
10% Expats and Refugees
Of these populations, everyone speaks at least 3 languages. English and Malay are the official languages of Malaysia, and then everyone speaks their own language (Mandarin, Cantonese, etc)
The religions here are Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Catholic. And I'm sure others but the first 3 are the main ones.
I had no idea that this country was such a cultural mix, hence the reason you didn't really hear people say "Let's go grab some Malaysian food!" For the most part, you eat Indian or Chinese food or something like that. Ha.

Ok anyways, after the Mosque we wandered around some more and found a mini Buddhist temple (nothing like the ones we see in Korea, props to Korea) and an Hindu temple. That was AWESOME I think partially because we never see that around.

After that, we had another chill night where we took our other new German friend to see the Petronas Towers and then saw the water show...this time it was synced to Titanic music. Pretty cool. Then we hung around a bar for a little while and met some Nigerians. Again, meeting people is the coolest part of travelling.

Tuesday and Wednesday: Port Dickson

We did some research about this place, found the most "hoppin" beach, and booked a resort nearby. Got there and it was no one in sight. So Ellen and I had a nice romantic beach all to ourselves for 2 days. Woot. We'd go get a little sun, eat some food, take a nap, get some more sun, get some more food, go to bed. It was by far the most relaxing part of the trip. And beautiful.

Woulda picked it up...wasn't sure if it would be a genie in a bottle or a Jumangi...I decided to pick it up in order to avoid the chance of it being Jumangi. 

We did three other cool things at our resort besides the laying around and sleeping a lot:
1. It is Ramadan right now so when the sun goes down, our hotel hosts a HUGE feast! We payed a large sum of money to join, and it was totally worth it! We ate food from many different countries. Each dish had a flag by it so you knew where it was from. There was chicken, fish, lamb ("you don't eat meat?? What do you mean you don't eat meat?? It's ok...I make lamb"....high five for whoever knows that movie) and many other traditional foods. We were stuffed and went to bed.
2. Our resort also had a planetarium...What resort has a planetarium? I don't know but I'm ok with it because I saw Saturn. That was pretty cool.
3. Jungle hike...we got bored of just sitting around the beach so we wanted to go see this light house. You can get to it 2 ways, one is the paved road, the other is through the jungle. We opted for jungle but were wearing flip flops...didn't think that one through all the way. It was very pretty. We made it to the light house. And then we saw THE MONKEY. I was quite freaked out. Ellen was quite excited. Then when we got home, I had a dream that the monkey got in our house (my family's house, but in Malaysia) and we didn't know how to get it out of the house. Then that night, dreamed a similar dream about the monkey getting in the house. What the heck! Apparently I'm more afraid of monkeys than I thought. Or just don't like the idea of them being in my house.

I saw this in the giant telescope! It's SATURN!


The monkey that freaked me out!

More jungle...

Thursday: Melaka

Everyone told us we needed to see Melaka. Everyone said "You need to spend multiple days there, it's a great place." All we could fit in our schedule was 1 day, and one day was plenty. We got to Melaka at about 930, stored our bags in the baggage place, and then bought our return ticket home for 7pm (last bus) giving ourselves as much time as possible. We went into town, did some walking around, and wanted to take a boat tour so we did that. Saw many of the places of Melaka, and still had lots of time to go. Again we picked up the wandering habit where we tried to find some more temples and such. We finally got ourselves on track, saw more temples and explored some shops in chinatown (we spent a lot of time in chinatowns in this country). Then we realized we had more time to kill so we hired a pedicab. He took us around to many of the places we had already seen, but it was still fun and he had a lot of information for us, such as the prime minister (I think that's what he meant but he kept saying prime master) can only be Native Malay. And that the Chinese and Indian have been in Malaysia since the 14th century. Then we still had time to kill so we sat ourselves down at a few different happy hours and enjoyed some less expensive drinks and food. Then we made our way to the bus terminal and back to Kuala Lampur we went.
We got in pretty late but HAD to have some more Kebabs because that was SO yummy. Then we went and finally had a drink on the rooftop bar. The people who work at this hostel are quite cool. There's the dude at the front desk, which seems to be grumpy sometimes but for some reason, he liked me and Ellen. Then there's the woman who makes breakfast upstairs on the roof in the morning. She's amazing because her food is delicious AND she's a fun kinda gal. Then there's the dude who runs the bar. He's super cool too! He's from...Belgium? And speaks French, English, and German? Anyways. He has a kickass job because he literally drinks with new people everyday, hears all kinds of worldly stories, and has many of his own to tell! So awesome.
Notice the 3 languages at the bottom.

 These 3 places were literally all neighbors to each other. That's love people!

Chinatwon number 2

Friday: Travel day

We left at 5 am. Got to the airport. All was well. Then we sat on the tarmac for an HOUR because flight traffic was very busy over China. Bummer. Anywho...made it home safe and sound! I have at LEAST 20 bug bites that are driving me crazy! Korea is really HOT...more sticky than hot. I got back here and realized how much better I can handle hotter temp with less humidity (although KL was still quite humid) as opposed to lower temp with higher humidity.

I loved KL, loved the structures there, and the cultural mix was fascinating  beyond reason. I met some VERY cool people and I couldn't be more pleased. Yay!

Oh side note....the "Don't feed the monkeys" thing was very relevant to every aspect of our life whereas if you feed one, or talk to one, or find one, many will follow. I was often telling Ellen not to feed the monkeys in a variety of situations, like when she gave a stray cat some of her chicken, and then 3 more came over and wouldn't stop meowing for the rest of our meal...I was like I told you "Don't feed the monkeys".