Sunday, December 21, 2014

Finally, I'm doing something worth writing about

Sorry it's been so long since I've posted but really, I was doing you a favor.  My life is pretty routine.  Not the same kind of routine I'd be living in the US but Mandalay has become routine for me, in a good way.

I could give you details of teaching first grade.  There are some really funny moments.  Some very frustrating moments (and days).  And some days (to paraphrase a great author) "that pass like junket on the tongue, leaving no taste behind."

Mostly, I'm content and happy.  Especially this time of year when the weather is hot and sunny during the day and cool at night.  If only it were like this year 'round.  But then, it would be crawling with tourists.

Anyway, I'm posting now because I'm doing something worth writing about - at least for me.  I hope people enjoy reading about where I am but I mostly use this as a way to remember cool stuff that I get to experience.

So here it is, the beginning of my journal of my three week vacation in S. E. Asia.

Day One:  Leaving Mandalay.  I was very excited.  Just three weeks off work was going to be great.  The last week was bittersweet.  The kids were over-the-moon excited about vacation and Santa and a bit out of control but also sad that we'd be apart for so long.  I got a lot of hugs and was ambushed on numerous occasions by groups of 6 year olds giving me group hugs.  There were some tears, from just an overload of emotions and that was me, not the kids.

I like to leave things neat and tidy when I go on vacation.  The kids helped clean and organize our classroom.  I cleaned the 'fridge and left everything shipshape in my apartment.  I was packed and ready to go early.  Thanks to mi hijo Matt for carrying my giant (almost empty) suitcase downstairs to the bus.

We were all ready and one teacher didn't show.  She was late the last time we went to the airport, too.  She finally showed up, taking her time to say goodbye to staff who were staying behind.  Once on the bus everyone was pumped as we rolled out toward the airport.  Until we had to turn around and head back to the school because the teacher who was late forgot her passport.  Eye roll.

After we were finally on our way the trip was uneventful, except for the amount of military presence at the Mandalay airport.  No problems but a bit disconcerting.

I spent my 2 1/2 hour layover in Bangkok eating.  I started with a Big Mac, then got a Subway to go.  While I waited at the gate I had the smallest Dairy Queen cone they had.  Delicious.

We landed on time in KL, about 9:15 p.m.  Immigration was a breeze, with no paperwork to complete.  Usually they take electronic fingerprints but the system was down.  I headed to collect my suitcase and was one of the first to arrive.  In the new KLIA2 baggage area it's kind of fun.  You can watch the bags come down what looks like an America's Next Top Model runway before it hits the.circular belt.  I saw a lot of luggage.  None of them was mine.

I went to the lost luggage counter.  They sent me to another office.  It was now 10:15 pm and I was tired and getting cranky.  A nice young man from Air Asia asked if there were any bags that looked like mine.  Hmm.  Big, black suitcase.  Yes.  He suggested that someone took my bag by mistake and I'd have to hope they returned it..  I politely suggested that perhaps between Mandalay, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur, Air Asia had misplaced it. He agreed that was possible, especially since Mandalay doesn't use computer encoded bag tags.  We're old school in Myanmar.

We headed to the luggage belt where the sign flashed "Last bag delivered".   We stood in a sort of Zen trance watching the few unclaimed bags circle the track.  It was soothing, really.   I had resigned myself to 3 weeks of vacation wearing my current clothes.  That's why I always travel in something comfy.

Then, a bag was launched onto the model runway - a bit battered but it was mine.  My young Air Asia friend and I high fived  and I rolled off to Customs.

KLIA2 is new, a bit industrial feeling and very nice.  It was also odd to me that to exchange money you had to walk through a "mall".  Whatever, I got money.  I'd planned to take the train to the city, then get a cab but decided to just treat myself and take a taxi.  It was 74 RYM, about $25.  It would have been nice if the driver knew where my hotel was, but it gave my heart a good aerobic workout as he programmed his GPS while driving in traffic on the freeway. 

I finally spotted my hotel and he let me out.  Check in was easy and I took the elevator to a small, not-luxurious but clean room. It was now almost midnight.  Thank goodness for the Subway I'd been carrying from Bangkok.

I got to sleep around 1:30 a.m., which is midnight, Mandalay time.  I was exhausted but didn't sleep long.  I'm still struggling with a bad cough and finally found I could sleep only if I sat propped up in bed.

It wasn't a great travel day.  It wasn't a bad travel day.  The point was, I was in my 69th country and ready to explore!

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