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Reflections Of A Year Abroad…Part 2

Here continues my final reflections from my year abroad.. and just in time to start my new adventures coming up…

New Zealand

New Zealand, like Australia, was one of the top contenders for “where I might want to live when I grow up…” While Australia was vast and overwhelming, NZ was stunning and easy to travel in. The people were also downright “nice” as the Aussies put it. Heck I was even wished happy early birthday by an immigration office when they had to double check my info that apparently is similar to a person of interest

I loved NZ and the Kiwis and got to amazing things there. Like dig my own hot tub at Hot Water Beach. Cover myself in thermal mud and take relax in a sulfur spring in Rotorua. Jump off a mountainside and paraglide, screaming all the way, in Queenstown.

Free as a bird

I even ade it to all THREE islands: North (right upto the tippy top), South and Stewart Island (the 3rd) where I did trade work at Bunkers Backpackers, one of the best spots in all of NZ.

A drink with the locals

The Worst Part Of NZ: would have to be the hacking cough I developed for about 3wks, felt so bad for my fellow dorm mates, oh and the price of lamb (so much for my bday roast 😦 )

The Best Part of NZ: friends, paragliding, mud and Stewart Island.

A Reason to Come Back: Everything

Malaysia and Borneo

The plan post NZ was to go volunteer in Sri Lanka at an animal shelter. They had contacted me and asked me to come promising accomodation and no fee. Sounded perfect and I was all set with tickets. Mid Tonga I got a message saying a returning volunteer was staying for 6mths and they were giving her my accomodation, but I could still come I just had to pay to stay… Well that blew that plan out of the water. My ticket on air asia was a ticket to Kuala Lumpur and then to Sri Lanka. I had great friends who I hadn’t seen in years in KL. So I scratched my 2nd ticket and ate the losses, planned a short visit to KL then discovered a converted oil rig in Borneo (a short flight) for scuba diving. Sounds like a perfect recovery plan to me.

I can’t tell you enough about how great it was to see my friend Chauw (first time in 7yrs) and meet his fabulous wife, Viven, and dog Pakkun (who really runs the house). They welcomed me like a long lost relative and put me up, fed me, and showed me around. It felt like home and I can’t thank them enough. I only wish I had had more time to stay.

Great Friends/Family

But Borneo beckoned and since I had to go through immigration it counts as a country on my list. The Seaventures Dive Rig, a converted oil rig, was incredible and with a sealavator that went straight into the ocean a diver couldn’t ask for more. This was my first DIVE VACATION and my first in tropical water, the rig made it truly spectacular in every way.

THE SEAVENTURES RIG!

The Worst Thing in Malaysia/Borneo: Leaving

The Best Thing in Malaysia/Borneo: friends and diving

A Reason To Return: Friends, diving and so much more.

Nepal

Nepal is a country I have always dreamed of going to and never thought I would. Most people go to trek, to get to base camp at the very least. For me, I wanted to buy myself a singing bowl. Since the first time I saw one of this beautiful bowls that “sing” as you pass a wooden stick around the outside, I have promised myself to only get one when I got to Nepal. It took me almost the full 3weeks to find the right one, but she sings just perrtty for me and I love it.

Nepal was fascinating and, unknown to me, would introduce me to someone who would change my life for good in many ways, but bring it crashing down with a terrible betrayal.

But you can’t blame a country for the actions of one person and so I focus on the people like Laksmi and her family who essentially adopted me in Pokhara. I went to dinner at their house, helped my new little brother, Gaurab, with his homework, even moved hotels closer to them (with Laksmi’s husband’s help). I spent many good hours chatting with Laksmi and I will miss my “sister” very much.

The Worst Thing in Nepal: The traffic and pollution

The Best Thing in Nepal: The people and the shopping and the history

A Reason to Return: The people, the shopping and the history

Germany

Cathleen, who I had met in my first country of Peru, and I had joked about me coming to Germany on my way home. Low and behold fate saw to it that I did. While I was super sad to leave Nepal, I was super excited to Cathleen again and well Germany in December means: Gluwein, Bratwurst, Christmas Markets and Christmas Cookies. Woohoo!

Cathleen met me in Hamburg with her amazing friend Hendrik, who put us up for a few days. Then came the whirlwind tour of Hamburg and Berlin with a final stop in Leipzig where Cathleen lived. Fate also allowed me to catch up with Carolin and Nadine, friends from Australia.

The Worst Thing in Germany: My heartsickness at missing a guy and ending a trip (not really Germany’s fault).

The Best Thing in Germany: Gluwein, bratwurst and Christmas markets… and fabulous friends.

A Reason to Go Back: need I repeat the above?? Oh and add the bakeries and the cold meats, mmmmmmm…..

Home

So after 347 days on the road, just shy of a full year, I finally made it home! For those of us who love long term travel, going home is both a blessing and a curse. We get our own bed, we see family, have home cooking, and 3 days later we want to pack our bags and head out again. As someone once explained to me, finally giving me an explanation I could use for non travelers, “traveling is a double edged sword…you live you grow you explore but you never feel settled”.

Starting my job as a vet nurse with a mobile vet barely 3 days after getting home at least helped that trapped feeling from catching a full hold. And being mobile kind of felt like I was still moving.

Ready to Monitor in Surgery

Something I learnt on This Trip: I am stronger than I look, and I love being near a warm ocean.

My Most Memorable Experience: Shaving my head for charity

My Worst Experience: Can’t say that anything was terrible, but let’s just say I learn a lot of lessons about life.

One thing is for sure, I prefer living abroad and plan to find work that gives me that. As much as I loved all the travel, there are times you want to stay put for longer than a month or 2.

So stick around and join me on upcoming adventures including Italy, Korea and Thailand…

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2012 in Germany, RTW, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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Malaysia Finale…

Farewell Seaventures!

All good things come to an end… As much as you wish the good times to last for an eternity, all too soon it is time to say goodbye.
On our 3rd day we said farewell to the insanity that was Urs, it wasn’t the same without him!

Urs - self portrait

That night the staff put on a fabulous concert with great music. Unfortunately all of us were so exhausted from a full day diving that we crashed early, we also all had another 5.30am morning.

Ben - Dive instructor / Drummer

Our final day in Sipidan did not disappoint as usual. Although on my 2nd dive, distracted by a stunning nudibranch, I went a wee bit too deep and my dive computer freaked out and started beeping. Me, having never dove with this type of computer, pretty much ignored it, except for the part about doing a 5 minute safety stop before surfacing instead of a 3 minute. I knew I had done something wrong but wasn’t sure, the nudibranch was awfully pretty. At the lunch break I asked one of the instructors and he told me it should be fine just stay about 15m just in case.

A Sad Truth

During the start of our first dive there were 3 large underwater explosions. The 2nd one being so loud and sounding so close that we felt our teeth rattle. In truth these were many many kilometers away. The locals, especially in the Philippines, use dynamite or homemade explosives to fish. The explosions stun the fish which then float to the surface. Much easier than spending hours with a rod or net, but also extremely destructive to the coral and surrounding animal life, not to mention divers.

On all 3 dives I spotted 2-3 nudibranchs, 1 lobster and was 3 for 3 on some of the biggest moray eels I have ever seen. In one dive we came over a ridge in the coral and discovered a vast valley below us. Due to the strong current we just floated along above it, I could only assume this is what underwater paragliding would feel like. Truly spectacular sensation. Why is it that as soon as you get yourself adjusted to buoyancy (that took me 3 times to spell) and being able to spot the micro life around you, it is time to go.

at one with my buoyancy

Returning for the last time to the rig, we completed our log books and signed each other off. I have now spent 25hrs and 2 seconds of my life underwater with a total of 43 dives. I have never thought of booking a dive holiday as it always seems so much more expensive and usually only allows one location, but that was before I had done any warm water, tropical diving. I think I shall have to rethink that thought…

After a final lunch, sad farewells it was time to take the sea-lavator for the last time… Martin and I were leaving and Dave remained the final of the Fearsome Foursome on the rig. Thank you to all the fantastic staff who made this trip fantastic! Special thanks to Instructor Ricardo and John, to Instructor Midgi for loaning me his mask, to dive buddies Martin, Dave and Urs, to dive friends Matt and Laura and everyone else.

A great group

Return to Semporna

It was a sad, yet stunning boat ride back to Semporna and the mainland of Borneo. When we arrived at our dock we discovered the shuttle driver hadn’t unlocked the gate and appeared to be sleeping in the shuttle. But after a good 10minutes he finally heard us and let us out. The shuttle turned out to be air conditioned so none of us could truly blame him. In town Martin and I parted ways planning to meet in an hour after settling in.

I had planned to stay at the Scuba Junkie backpacker hostel, located closer to the center of town than the last one and with what appeared to be a great vibe. But when I got there, there was a mix up. Before I left for the rig, I had made a tentative booking on a dive and hostel stay but when I decided on the extra night on the rig I called and cancelled. It appeared as if the person I spoke with had not passed on the message. But after some confusion there was no problem and I paid my 10ringit (about $3.30). As I was about to go to the dorm the receptionist said “first check in for your dive”. When I explained I had cancelled it he said that non divers had to pay 15ringit. I was a little annoyed with this as no one had told me, and Martin was paying 27ringit for his own room and bathroom. So I said screw it, cancelled the booking and went to the hotel. A room of my own with bathroom, air conditioning and…wait for it… the movie channel, sounded way better than a crowded 10 bed dorm room.

Martin and I met to run some errands and hunt down postcards and stamps. Both of which were reasonably unsuccessful. Then it was nap time before meeting for dinner. Martin took me to a local place where we ordered some yummy fish and rice and chicken dish like thing and I got to practice my Malay, to the bemusement of the staff. (please note I fear the words I tried to learn stayed in my head for about as long as calculus did after graduation – wish my brain could retain more).

Return to Kuala Lumpur

Martin was leaving in the morning to get his visa to enter Philippine Borneo (think that is how you say it), so we said farewell and hopefully we will meet Urs and Dave in 2 yrs for our reunion dive. I spent all of the following morning wallowing in my air conditioned, comfy bed watching movies. Its a hard life but someone has to do it! Then at checkout I still had 4 hrs before I would leave to the airport, so exploring the town, lunch and chilling in reception was the plan for the day. Luckily I had found a group of 4 also on the same flight and could take a taxi with them, 20ringit each, a saving of 70ringit if I had gone alone and much hassle if I had taken the bus.

With only about 1hr before the flight I decided to forego dinner and go straight through to the gate. We had to go through immigration again, even though I was still in Malaysia. Barely 30min later and I glanced at the departure screen and the lack of my flight on it. Finally in the confusion I looked lost and forlorn at the gate where the flight had previously directed me to go. One of the attendants from a different airline asked if he could help and ended up escorting me out through immigration and right to the Air Asia information counter. As I feared Air Asia lived up to its reputation and the flight had been delayed another hour. Well then I may as well have some dinner. With 20min to go many of us headed down to the gate and were promptly told to go right back up the stairs as the check in point was up there.

Arrival KL!!

Finally after a long day we finally left and arrived in KL late in the evening to find Chauw there to pick me up. Such good friends are hard to find. Heading out for dinner and then home it was great to be back and see Viven and Pakkun again, but it was straight to bed for me.

Final Day!

We spent the final day exploring the KL China Town and market. It was great fun and there were awesome things to choose from.

What can I say...


remarkable fruit

At one section of the “Asian Market” in the India section Viven bought me a pashmina (which has come in very useful during Germany) and we decided to get Henna/Mehindi tattoos.

Henna

Our last adventure had me search out a portable hard drive. I had seen many travelers with these nifty little things but they always seemed so expensive, but rather handy. I had never seen the need, until I started reaching critical on the number of photos I had on my poor little netbook. eventually we found one at a rather decent price and so headed home with my new toy to pack and nap.

My flight to Kathmandu left at the glorious hour of 2.10am, with a 10hr layover in Dhaka airport, Bangladesh. So after the nap we loaded the car, had a late dinner and dropped me off at the airport near midnight… And so the adventure continues…

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Malaysia Bound!

I love travel, I dislike the traveling part

Being stuck in a bus longer than 3hrs or an airplane longer than 8hrs and I start losing my mind. Especially if it is a full bus/flight. Add being a tad hungover, totally my fault and everyone should point and laugh without any sympathy, but still I will whinge about it, and it is not a pretty site.

I got to the airport and through security no problem. Then I sat and wallowed in my misery of feeling like I had been hit by truck, a small one maybe, but still a truck. No major headache but just “thick” all over. Am sure some of you know this feeling. As I sat there mindlessly texting and calling my kiwi friends trying to get the most out of the $20 I had to spend to recharge (only to go to places for 2wks without signal), I realised that my seat number sounded decidedly like a middle seat. With only 10minutes before my Airasia flight was due to board I popped over to the counter (well maybe it was more like plodded) and asked if my hunch was correct. Unfortunately, yes and add to that they said the flight was 11hr 15min….. I would surely go insane or my seat partners would as a flight that long would have me up and down every hour at the very least.

Bless their hearts they were able to change me to an aisle seat, and I could have kissed them, they couldn’t do it electronically as the system had already closed. But they called someone important and got it sorted. Thank my lucky stars.

A final bathroom run, taking 15min as every other women had the same idea, and onto the plane to head to the tropics and scuba diving. Other than a 5 day live aboard in Southern California (still considered cold water) about 7yrs ago I had never done a diving holiday and this was the first time that I would be diving in warm water.

The plane was pretty full and except for those few lucky bastards with a full row, including one girl slightly behind and to the left of me, everyone else was chock-a-block.

I had ordered the entertainment unit, which was a very good idea, and meals, so was all set. I could just lean back, as far as the seat would go, and relax, but maybe if I cross my legs or put my feet on my bag or put one leg under the other or or or……ahhhh I hate trying to get comfy in an airplane seat.

Dispelling a myth

Many people, especially those of the taller persuasion, assume that short people have it easy while traveling as obviously our knees don’t get crammed against the seat in front. Well I wish to dispel that myth as it is not so. True our knees are not trying to crash their way through the person in fronts seat, but many of us of the not quite little person height but pretty damn close, have the opposite problem. Our feet don’t touch the ground. Once again the tall folks would think this a blessing. But in truth it is exceptionally uncomfortable. We are too tall to curl up in a ball or cross our legs in the seat but too short to comfortably have our feet dangle. This puts a lot of pressure on the back and hips and butt.

Solutions:

– Placing bag under feet to elevate them. But this often results in the attendants telling you to put your bag in the overhead compartment forcing you to try and hide it with a blanket.

– If you are in a bulk head seat sometimes you are able to slouch far enough for your feet to press against the front, thus making it more comfortable, often we are too short to reach.

– Trying to put your legs crossed on the food tray, but this too is frowned on by the attendants.

– Squeezing your feet into the space between seats and creating a pretzel effect to balance both feet up.

– Being resigned to being uncomfortable.

Benefit

The one and only benefit to being of the shorter statue is that give us 3 seats and we can literally stretch out and sleep like a baby… So I guess in the long run we have it better.

Wasting a perfectly good seat

After about 8hrs I glanced over at the lucky wench who had a full row and saw her sitting upright in the middle seat. Not even putting her feet up. I mean if you are going to have a whole row the least you can do is use it and not make the rest of us even more jealous than we already are…or maybe that’s just me.

Finally I couldn’t stand it as I was desperate for sleep or at least getting horizontal! I leaned over and asked if she would trade with me for just an hour. She looked at me a bit confused, think she was Malaysian, and then said sure and we traded.

Blissful bliss, my head hit the seat and I was out for almost exactly 1hr. Just enough time to prevent the massive headache from forming and boring a whole all the way through my brain.

Kuala Lumpur

Finally landing around 10.30pm I got through immigration, customs and even picked up a free sim card for the phone. After grabbing my bag, I headed out into the glorious heat and humidity of Malaysia night time. Almost instantly I heard a happy shout calling my name and there was my friend Chauw.

I had met Chauw when I lived in Korea and trained Taekwondo, he is a master in KL and we had communicated about techniques over the taekwondo websites. When I left Korea in 2004 I had made a trip from Singapore to KL and he had met me then as well and showed me round. Now after almost 5yrs lost contact we had re-established communication and he had invited me to stay at his home with him, his wonderful wife and their little dog (who has way to much personality for a little fluffy white thing). It does amaze me how I am lucky enough to have such amazing friends all around the world.

Their house was amazing and I had my own room and bathroom. I was too exhausted to do much so went straight to bed.

Yummy breakfast

At 7am we all went out for breakfast at a local place. I had something I had had 7yrs before, roti (like a pancake type thing) with condensed milk drizzled over it. Chauw also got me something called a Roti Tissue, which is another pancake that has been made super thin and then folded to form a pyramid. It was smothered in sugar and delicious. The perfect compliment to both was a glass of Milo Ice…. mmm I love Malaysia. I was so busy eating that I forgot to get photos.

Recovering

I find these days recovering from flights like the one the day before takes a bit longer. Actually I don’t ever remember just bouncing back into a full day of activities after long flights. Add to that the blistering weather and humidity and I was pretty much motionless for most of the day, it was just as well Chauw and Viven had to go to work. Sleeping, watching TV, reading, writing consisted of most of my day. Making the kimchi ramen and trying to figure out how the tv worked was about the most active thing I managed.

The weather was 30+ decgrees C and the humidity was stifling, luckily the fan made the difference and if I just couldn’t bare it anymore I would move to my room with the air conditioning. You didn’t want to spend the whole time in the room as you needed to get your body aclimatized to tropical conditions. In the early afternoon the sky turned the color of midnight and a torrential downpour started. I love rainstorms and sat staring at it for some time.

An evening out

After everyone finished work we went out for Japanese and then to a bar for drinks. It was almost halloween and the bar was also in the middle of Octoberfest, the contrast in decorations were quite amusing.

Chauw with his Octoberfest beer


Viven and me with cupcakes


Halloween meets Octoberfest

Exploring, ATM’s and Super Plush Movie Theater

Saturday was my only full day in KL before heading to Borneo. Still sounds weird to me to be able to say that…Borneo. We all slept late and then went for dimsum for brunch. The choices were endless and quite overwhelming.

mmmm dimsum

Apparently the thing to do on a saturday afternoon is hang out at the enormous shopping center, its airconditioned and has lots of cool things. We had amazing tea at this tea and cake shop and then went to draw cash from an ATM. Then another ATM and finally lucky strike number 3, the 3rd one gave me money. Nearly gave myself a heart attack. Then onto exploring the market as we waited to go watch a movie.

sunglasses

Viven and I found a place to get our toes painted and relaxed for an hour doing that. I decided to go for the honey scrub as well and much to the amusement of the girls and customers squirmed as usual when they massaged and scrubbed my feet. Being ticklish is hazardous.

Finally it was time to go to the movies. We were going mainly because my fondest memory of KL last time was going to the movies and having hot caramel popcorn and ice cold milo, have no idea what the movie was. This time Chauw had treated us to the deluxe movie theater. The cost is about 3 times as much but you can go and relax in the waiting area with massage chairs and free soda and free internet. It was great. But that was nothing, the theater contained about 20 lazy boy chairs. The aircon was a bit extreme but you could rent blankets and pillows. The waitresses brought you your food and drink and you could recline all the way. So this is what it must be like to fly first class…

ahhh this is how to watch a movie

Borneo here I come

Next morning had an early morning flight and Chauw insisted on taking me. In fact the whole family came. Its crazy to know I have such good friends. The next week would consist of scuba diving, my first tropical water diving. Woohoooooo

Great Friends/Family

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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