Sunday, August 31, 2014

More Travel!

I've been struggling with making vacation plans for my Christmas break.  3 weeks, limited funds and so many options.  I worried that I'd become too jaded.  Nothing seemed to really catch my interest.  At least nothing that I could afford.

Cooking class?  Yeah, swell.  The description "You'll experience exotic ingredients like lemon grass and tamarind..."  Really?  That's everyday stuff when you live in SE Asia.

And the promise of seeing rows of monks?  The novelty of seeing monks wore off about 11 months ago.  Not that I'm not still amused seeing 3 monks on a motorbike or taking tourist photos, but the idea of flying to see more of the same just didn't get me excited.

And pagodas?  I've seen pagodas.  And monasteries.  A lot of them.  In multiple countries.  Not that I won't visit more but again, the idea of paying to fly to visit more?  Not really excited.

I sat down and thought about what I really want from this vacation.  I want culture.  Shopping for local crafts and antiques.  I want options for dining.  I want a nice hotel room with all the amenities and I don't want to pay much for it.

After days on the internet, I've finally booked what I think will be a great vacation.  Plus, I'll be adding two more countries to my list, bring me to 70.

From Mandalay, I'll fly to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with a 2 hour layover in Bangkok (where I plan to eat either a Big Mac or Subway).  After a week enjoying the urban life, I'll fly to Vientiane, Laos for a couple of days and then fly on to Luang Prabang, Laos, where I'll spend a week.  From there, back to Bangkok for a few days and then back to Mandalay.  It should be a good combo of new sites and relaxation, developing world and luxury.

I promise there will be photos.

Catching Up

I can't believe it's been a month since I last posted.  The first weeks of school have been good, but busy.  Lots of changes.  A lot of new teachers in the apartment, a new class of kids who don't know the routine yet and just going about every day stuff has kept me busy and distracted.

I continue to enjoy living in Mandalay.  It is changing so rapidly here.  A new Ocean Superstore opened.  It's a mall with the grocery store (and more) as the largest tenant.  It is modeled after a western style store and is large, clean and wonderful.  The products are pretty much the same but the shopping experience is so much nicer than the old, crowded store.

The new store is in an area that is undergoing a transformation.  Across the street from the new stadium which was built for last year's SEA games, there are new luxury homes and condos going up, along with more stores.  It is totally different in "feel" than the rest of Mandalay.

A week ago a friend and I sat and watched people pour into the store.  It was a nonstop stream of mostly very well dressed, very wealthy people of a variety of ages.  Unlike an American mall, where sweats, flip flops and gym shoes prevail, the new Ocean customers are dressed to impress.  More like they're going to a nightclub than a grocery store.

I reconnected with a local friend I hadn't seen for quite awhile.  That was excellent - he's terrific and lived in the US for ten years and speaks fluent English.  He has the perspectives of both cultures and is able to communicate what's going on so it makes hanging out really interesting.

I promise to try to do a better job of posting.  In the meantime, here are some recent photos:
I taught the kids "Slap It" - a card game to help them learn odd and even numbers.  They love it.

We studied maps all week and on Friday they read a map to find a treasure.  All four teams were successful!

Happy times playing "Slap it"

Sunday morning view from my apartment.  The rainy season has finally begun.

I love the green and the view of all the pagodas.

The water buffalo strolling home after grazing behind my apartment.  There were also goats and cows today.  Water buffalos rule, though.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Orientation - Day One

Today was Day One for a week-long orientation session for new and existing teachers.  I put the first draft of the orientation schedule together so really wanted it to go well.

I did two sessions today, one a tour of the campus and the other on resources (personal and professional) for teachers.  They went ok.

The new group of 24 is eclectic and seem like they'll be a good addition to the school.  I must confess it was a bit disconcerting to have several of them say they'd read every word I'd written in this blog.  They were complementary and expressed thanks for giving them insights into living in Mandalay.  I hope they don't think they were hornswoggled.

I'm struggling with a technical problem this seems my electric cord for charging the battery isn't working properly.  Hopefully, I'll be able to buy a replacement cord as inexpensively here as I did in Malawi.

We were also told a new Ocean Superstore opened yesterday and is much larger and has more variety in products.  The school sent a bus for teachers to experience it but I was too lazy to go.  I'm hoping the reports are that it is as good as first reported.

Have to go.  Internet is out.  Charging my laptop is not working.  I don't seem to have great technology karma.  Admin keeps saying how much better the internet it but I have yet to see it, either in my apartment or classroom.  Arrggh.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

I'm Glad I Don't Live in Bangkok

I spent a very relaxing day, sequestered in my hotel room in Bangkok.  I'd planned to hit Chatuachak  Market and then some grocery shopping.  But it was grey and overcast and I just wanted to stay in, read and relax.  So I did.

But, a woman needs her food.  I had McDonalds deliver.  For about $1.25, they showed up in 15 minutes with my order.  I could also have ordered from KFC or a number of other restaurants, for about the same price.

Why don't we do more delivery in the US?  Why don't restaurants in Mandalay deliver?  They have motorbikes. It would be cheap.  It would also be bad for my diet.

For my last official day of vacation, it was perfect.  I'm playing with my new smart phone and charging my batteries.  I'll be flying home tomorrow to Mandalay.  I'm sorry vacation will be ending but am looking forward to being back home.