Thursday, January 26, 2017

Krazy Kool Kids Klimbed Kilimanjaro

I've thought a lot about how to write about this experience and I'm still not sure what exactly to say. It was definitely an experience that I will remember for the rest of my life. Can I say that it was all positive? No. Can I say that I hated it or regret that I did it? Definitely no. Am I willing to do it again? I don't know, ask me again next year! So I have many mixed feelings about it. Overall, it was very challenging for me both physically and mentally and I was not able to keep it together the whole time as much as I liked. Haha. I definitely cried (multiple times) and I definitely laughed. I will definitely remember summit day as one of the hardest things I've ever done. I will also remember that while I was with it, I was definitely loopy. I was also very very cold! I think I will also always regret not trying harder to reach the official highest summit, Uhuru. But then again, I know how hard it was for me to even walk and I couldn't even feel my fingers, so perhaps I made the right decision. I guess I will never know. In the end, I think for me it was the whole journey and the great people with me (both the krazy kids and the porters/guides) that made the experience one worth remembering. I look back on the experience now with fond memories and I am able to laugh at myself but I do know that there were moments where I didn't think I would make it.

On a more positive note, it was really really truly beautiful the whole way up. We chose to do the 6 day Machame trail (38.5 miles from gate to gate) which is known to be one of the most scenic routes (and I just googled it, one of the more difficult routes!!) and it definitely didn't disappoint, even when it was misty and cloudy. There was something new to see every day because you go through 5 diverse climate zones: rainforest, moorsland (no idea what that means), alpine desert, rocky stuff you  have to scramble over, and straight up freezing cold glacier. (In case you can't tell, I made a few of these up).

Also, we had a small village with us the whole time because... wait for it... we had 44 porters/guides with us! I didn't even know that was possible! But honestly, we couldn't have done it without them.

All 54 of us!

All other pictures are posted to facebook!

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Krazy Kids go on a safari in Tanzania

My African adventure began way back in 2016 on Dec 14th (it's been a long time since I've been home!) when a bunch of us arrived at O'hare to start the very long trek to Tanzania. How long was the flight?... I have no idea but I'm sure I lost a day in there somewhere. Anyways, we got picked up at the airport (thank goodness for travel agents) and were taken to Andy's. No that's not the actual name of the lodge, but Andy was the boss and so his lodge shall forever be called that. It was basically a compound. Note: all lodges we stayed at in Tanzania were compounds: 4 high walls with barbed wire or broken glass to deter people coming in. I guess that's the only way to guarantee safety. Either way, Andy's was our unofficial home for our stay in Tanzania because we always came back there between excursions. 

Andy's place

Our safari began 9am the 17th. We got picked up by Duma Explorer in 2 cars (a 4 seater and a 6 seater) by Kisimbo and Kawaga (yes it took me a few days to learn their names, but they're so cool!). 

Duma trucks. Duma in Swahili means cheetah

We drove to Lake Manyara National Park to start us off. It was a very green leafy park (75% of the park is water) and there were moments where I felt like I was in Jurassic Park (if that helps you visualize). We basically got a teaser of all the animals we were going to see and was a great start. There were a ton of Baboons!! (I will later learn in Zambia that baboons are scary and not fun cute furry animals). At one point we were allowed to get out of the car (normally a big no no) and go stand on this bridge to watch water buffalo chillaxing in the swamp/their own poo poo. Let me tell you, I was definitely on high alert to not get eaten by anything! hahah. That night we stayed in another compound ( I mean lodge) just outside the park called Twiga which is giraffe in Swahili. Speaking of giraffes, by the end of the safari us KrazyKids decided we needed safari spirit animals and mine is the giraffe. :D 
Without the safety of our cars

Day 2 of the safari started with a tease drive by the Ngorongoro Crater where we got to catch a glimpse of where we were going to go on Day 5. We did the typical stop and take a million photos from the look point.

The KrazyKoolKids

The crater in all its glory

From there we proceeded on a very long drive to the famous Serengeti National Park. I was really excited about this because it's the park that everyone talks about and is just so hyped up and boy did it not disappoint! It's 12,000 sq miles large and full of all sorts of amazing animals. Day 2 was the day we saw our first cats! The lions are ultra lazy! Hahah, they will sit under the same tree all day long because it's so hot. So we drove around the park all day and our guides were on the radio communicating with all the other guides sharing the locations of what they spotted. That's how we knew where the lions were because they were actually really hard to spot laying under a tree. We also saw a cheetah preparing/thinking about hunting. I was really excited to see a cheetah run, but I think the wind wasn't in her favor and the prey got away unharmed.

Cheetah on the prowl

Compared to the Myanara park, the Serengeti was really dry since it was dry season. The grass looked like yellow straw and it was really hot during the day. Because of that, the animals didn't do much during the day, and were mostly active at night. But we still saw so many cool things. 

That night we checked into what will go down as the coolest tent I've ever stayed at. It was called Kiota camp (look it up on FB!!!) and it's in the actual Serengeti Park (ie there is no fence and all the animals have free access to us and all of our snacks and the only thing blocking them is a piece of canvas). The camp was made up of a few huge tents; one was a welcome lounge with a bar and couches and wifi. The other was a dining tent for up to 20/25 people. There there was a toilet tent and a mini gift shop!!! The first words the hotel staff said to us were "Welcome to the middle of now where!!!" I just about died because it's so true! The camp has 10 tents  for guests to stay in that held the beds, a desk, a 2 sink vanity, a toilet, a shower, two closets, a patio, and enough room for Jayla or Arielle to do cartwheels ( I cannot do a cartwheel anymore!) Like these tents were huge and beautiful! I think I almost cried. It was luxury in the middle of the animal kingdom. Oh and we had to get walked to and from the tents at night by a hotel staff member who we had to call via walkie. Apparently, there are wild animals in the camp and they want us to be safe. Hahahah. Well none of us actually believed this but fast forward to the night of day 3, some of the KrazyKids while walking were told that 14 hyenas hang out by the camp, and they saw two of them on the path by their tents!!! So yes, I slept with hyenas just outside, and a leopard. Really!?!? Is that real life! :D But so cool! Everyone should go to Tanzania just to stay at this camp. I'm in love. Kiota has my heart! hahah PS Kiota in Swahili means nest.

The rooms

The lounge

Nature's television... ie the fire

Day 3 was also spent in the Serengeti (you basically get a 48 hour pass upon entering) On this day we saw a fresh kill!! It was a water buffalo. When we approached it a hyena was chowing down. After every bite, he would look around making sure the lions weren't coming back for round two (the lions were just under a nearby tree feasting on a baby buffalo that they must have killed along with the mom). At one point, a lioness got up and went to the buffalo and the hyena booked it. The lioness then sat down and just started chomping away. We were so close we could hear the ripping of the tendons and meat. It was so cool!! I think it was also this day where we ran into a huge heard of zebras gazelles and wildebeests. At one point the herd was all around us and it was just incredible. I've never been just surrounded by that many zebras. It was stripes everywhere you looked. There a tone of babies too! Some of which were sleeping on the road and were started awake by our car. Honestly, it was so freaking adorable!!

Zebra heaven

Hyena chowing

Day 4 was the Serengeti in the am followed by a long drive back down to the Ngorongoro Crater. On this day we got charged at by a bull elephant that did no like us being that close to his family. It was a bit scary since an elephant his size can flip a safari truck with his trunk. Our guides were ready though and started the car and booked it out of there real quick. We also saw a male lion walking around which was awesome. Previously we had only seen two male lions sleeping. Fun fact, the lions in the Serengeti live about 5 years less than the ones in the Ngorongoro crater because food is harder to come by in the Serengeti and the conditions for living are harsher. So in general I think the lions all looked a bit skinny and bony. We also saw some lionesses try to hunt a gazelle without success. But since some of them moved to go hunt, the others were soon to follow and we got to see 14 lionesses and cubs walk right by/through our trucks! They were so close, if i would have stuck my hand out the window, I could have petted one. :D It's very cool being that close to such beautiful animals.

Just walking through


So fierce

The big elephant behind us was the angry bull

The bull in action

Skinny lion

Day 5 was the long awaited Ngorongoro Crater that we saw on Day 1. It's a nice mix between dry and lush forests all mixed in one. The Crater is the world's largest, inactive, intact, and unfilled caldera which was formed when a large volcano exploded and collapsed on itself 2-3 million years ago. It's 2000 ft deep and the floor you can drive around on is 100 sq miles. We spent the day looking to spot one of the 40 black rhinos in the crater (rhinos are really popular for poachers and their populations are really low if not critical everywhere) and towards the end of the day we succeeded. It was actually pretty funny. We were at a potty stop when our guide heard on the radio about the rhinos, so we jumped in the car and sped off. When we got there, there must have been a line of 20 cars looking at the rhinos! I think everyone in the park heard the radio and booked it over! It turned out to be a mom rhino with a teenager son/daughter. They were pretty far away but it was still cool cuz we can now say that we saw all of the big 5 (lion, water buffalo, rhino, leopard, elephant). They are called the big 5 because they are the hardest 5 animals to hunt on foot (back in the day when hunting was still allowed)
So that concludes my safari. It was pretty darn cool and memorable. I will never be able to go to a zoo ever again after seeing all the beautiful animals in their natural environment.

Leopard taking a stroll to go get her cubs

By far the funniest animal: Pumba!

Also one of my favorites. They are so fun to watch when they run around chasing each other.

Monkey with blue balls. Literally.

Ngorongoro crater views

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

How much can you take?

My Mom once said that her 20's were the hardest (albeit most fun) years of her life. As I rapidly approach my  late 20's, I actually reflect a lot on her statement. We're in our 20's but who of us has actually stopped and thought "how much can I take?" My 20's so far have been full of everything from my car catching on fire, to me traveling the world to exotic places to losing jobs and making new friends. Some of the stuff happened intermittently and other stuff happened all at the same time, sometimes within hours. How much can I take? Well, I've apparently learned that I can take a lot. Granted sometimes there were tears, but here I am still standing, probably stronger than I was yesterday. I've dealt with career chaos, fear, emotional changes, heartbreak, envy, and uncertainty and my 20's aren't even close to being over! I think life gets a kick out of making you struggle, but I'm ready to see how much more it throws my way. Besides, I never told you the second half of what my Mom said... She said her 30's were her most calm and secure years. I guess there is something to look forward too at the end of this emotional 20's gauntlet.

Monday, May 7, 2012

People talk really fast

It’s only been just over  a month since I’ve been home yet so many things have changed already. I am very thankful that I managed to find a decent and reasonably priced apartment as well as a very nice and hopefully stable and fun job. It was pretty stressful, but I am happy it all worked out for me. First off, I want to back track and touch upon how my first week went. I was picked up at the airport by two of my closest friends and immediately driven to go enjoy some sushi.

This is me being ultra lame (hem... awesome!) and running towards Andi. :)

One of the things I remember thinking during that first day back, was omg, everyone around me talks so fast! At that moment, I knew that the transition into normal life was going to take a while. And let me just confirm that it did in fact that a while. It took pretty much until I started my job. Why is that you ask, well it’s because for me to feel normal, I had to get back to not only the same state that I was at before I left for China (i.e. working at CME) but I also had to get on the same schedule as my friends. Now that that is all aligned, I feel not only happier but also more normal. It’s funny how the Chinese don’t value their jobs and don’t use it to define themselves, while here I am being back home using my job as a reference point of how to feel normal again. It doesn’t define me, but it is definitely a big part of my life.

I'm finally normal and I'm ready to start exploring and relearning to love Chicago. This past Sunday was a great start.

Go Cubs Go!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Hat Store

Its amazing how many times in life you start over. After highschool you are given the opportunity to recreate yourself in college. After college you try out the adult hat. At some point you realize that hats fits very nicely. Then eventually, we all in our own ways all of a sudden get sick of the adult hat and throw it away. I did that when I decided to move to China. I'm back now and I realize that I miss that hat I threw away. Unfortunately, that hat is long gone. It's been tossed aside and stomped all over and only one person knows where it is. You can call him God, Buddha, or whatever. So here I am again, starting over not by natural life paths such as college or highschool but essentially because of my own choosing. I stand here at the hat store looking for something similar to what I had, but I don't know if the shop will have it, or if I'll even want the same one. Standing here looking at all these choices before me I get excited yet scared at the same time. All metaphors aside, I have questions and fears running through my head. Will I find a job? Where to live? Am unmoving forward in life or have I taken a step back? Will society accept my atypical decisions or will they shun me and make my life difficult? How can I make this starting over point as least stressful and scary as possible? And most importantly will everything be alright in the end?

Only time will tell at this point since the big Buddha hasn't opted to share my future fate with me. I pick my hat carefully but still unsure of its outcome. Here we go... I pick that one!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The diving culture

I'm alive and well but can't write much due to lack of computers (I'm sooo totally not typing on my iphone!) and lack of solid internet. However, it is 7:45pm and the town we are in has nothing to do AND has actual computers that we can use. So here I sit, sipping on my 1% alcohol content beverage (something called Anglia that is beer and lemonade mixed together, writing a little something something mostly to let you all know that I am alive.

Brandon and I have spent the last two days on the island of Mabul taking part in the diving culture. We found people that were there diving for 3 to 5 days. After our two days we were all worn out so I have no idea how people do so many days of diving! We dove and stayed with a company called Billabong scuba and they definitely left us wanting a bit more from our experience. Let's just say that on our first day of diving, between the two of us, Brandon and I had a problem with every piece of equipment possible. Nothing life threatening, just annoying. Brandon's BCD clip was broken so he couldn't properly fasten is around his waist and his wet suit was jacked. My first tank had a small leak, my depth gauge was broken and on my second dive someone took my fins so I had to use crappy broken ones. All small problems but ultra frustrating. Further, the organization was just nonexistent. We were going on dives but we didn't know what time or where or with who. It was just a huge mess but we figured it out. On the second day we were used to it so we didn't get as frustrated and just went with the flow. Made things a bit more enjoyable just to chill out. The second day we dove at a very popular sight that people from all over the world come to see. We were surrounded by sharks the whole time and got to see giant turtles and barracudas. I actually got attacked by a trigger fish, so that was an enjoyable/funny experience. Overall it was wonderful but I don't think I will ever dive more than two days in a row ever.

Tomorrow we are off to Kuala Lumpur for a long layover and then off to Phuket, Thailand. Can't wait to be lazy on the beach for about 4 days. Then Changmai and Bangkok. We're about halfway done with our trip and are looking forward to the second half. I'll write again next time I see a computer. Miss you all!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

End of Cube Ditching in China

Yesterday we finally left China for the last time. Oddly, there were no tears, no sad moments, and no regrets. I came to China and accomplished all that I had wanted to. Unfortunately, as most of you know, it wasn't the best experience all the time, but I still look back on it positively. I think I've grown and changed. Don't ask me how or in what ways, since I don't really know, but I can feel it. I'm sure my changes will become apparent to me once I'm back in Chicago.

Right now I'm about to start on another type of adventure: three week journey around Southeast Asia. I am excited for this little trip to help me reflect on my experiences in China and to prepare for coming home. I am looking forward to visiting new countries, but I am also really looking to coming home and catching up with my family and friends. I really  missed you guys! I think being away for such an extended time with a huge time difference that made it hard to communicate, really made me value and miss my friendships. I miss you all terribly and CANNOT wait to see all of you. :) PS Ladies, there will be a wine and cheese party at my new apt (which is yet tbd) on April 14th 7pmish! Put it in your planner.

I might have a few more follow up China posts to write when I get home, but for now, expect a bunch of posts on Southeast Asia. I'll try to update as much as I can. So off I go! See you all soon and thanks for reading the China chapter of my life!
Last photo in China. All packed up and ready to go. Brandon, drinking milk from a coke zero bottle. That's how we do it there.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Didn't believe me...?

I'm sure I've mentioned to a few of you that every time we have to get on bus in China, people act as if it's the last bus out of China on Armageddon day. It's crazy how they push and shove just to get on the bus. It literally cannot be explained in words. But maybe a picture will help...

Image taken from China Smack

This really did happen in Beijing earlier in the week! Now hopefully you have a very vivid image of what we have to deal with everyday. Oooooo China!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

My students love me

So I had this girl in class yesterday who, when I passed out a practice SAT test, decided she didn't want to take it and wanted to read instead. She sat there reading her huge book until I approached her and asked if she was finished with her practice exam. She looked at me, said no and that she wasn't interested and went back to reading her book! I didn't say anything to her, but when I got home, I sent an email to the office saying that she was rude and disrespectful in class. Today, she walked into my classroom before the bell rings, handed me a note and walked out. I was like... OOOK?

It's not everyday your students tell you you're a cute girl. HAHAH. Ooo China!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Photoshop much?

The other day Brandon and I got stuck waiting 20 minutes for the bus that didn't want to arrive. (The bus finally arrived packed to the brim... so needless to say we didn't get on it. 30 seconds later another bus pulls up totally empty and we score a seat! That's what I like to call winning! I have to admit that we actually laughed at the other bus as we pulled up to it!) To entertain ourselves, we got to discussing this one billboard.

From first glance, nothing really appears out of the ordinary, however, at second glance you start noticing things. First off, where is the guy's right hand?! It seems to have magically disappeared! Then you look a little closer, and you realize that his right foot is missing too! I wonder if anyone got fired over this botched advertisement.... my Magic-8 ball says "outlook not so good". 

Oooo China! You sure do love your Photoshopping a bit too much!

Also, here's a random toy featured in the window of some store. Do people really buy these or is it in the window just to make more room on the good shelves for stuff people actually buy?

And last but not least... I'm a baller! 

Consecutively numbers bills! Booo yah!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

New Semester

The last day of teaching is slowly approaching yet time is starting to go a bit slower. My schedule for the semester is a lot fuller than last semester so even though I have only nine more days of actual teaching, filling the classes with content is getting hard. I am teaching SAT test prep this semester and the students bore easily. I try my best to keep them entertained, but with my exit date quickly approaching my motivation level is low. Furthermore, the grade I am teaching  (juniors) has a bad rep for being inattentive, rude, nonparticipant, and just overall “the bad class”. No one participates; they come and go as they please, they are on their phones/ipods all the time, and much much more. It’s a hard situation.

To add to it, the school has gotten ultra annoying. They have this new rule where you have to be in the classroom five minutes before class starts. Now that is not a problem by itself but them lurking in the hall way with clipboards practically looking at stopwatches is really demeaning. None of the current teachers have ever had a problem with being late (the one who did, just disappeared one night :o) so it’s just so awkward the immense importance they put on this. I really think that I am at the end of my patience and understanding with the school and the Chinese culture in general that a lot more than normal annoys me immensely. I think it’s best I leave China… and thank goodness that day is so near!

If anyone is curious as to what my part of town looks like, here is a little glimpse. It's dull here, truly!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Guess who's back!

Annnd I’m back. Sorry, I’ve been MIA for a while. Part of it was due to being away and eating and drinking way too much. The other part of it was because once you don’t write for a while, each subsequent day you don’t write, makes it harder and harder to jump back on the blogwagon. But, regardless of my absence, I am back!

So reason one for being away: eating and drinking too much! I was in Moscow with my mom and was actually on top of my blogging. But then I went to Hong Kong and things changed! My time was consumed with 5:30pm happy hours, scrumptious wines, and the deliciousness that is non-chinese food! All I can say about Hong Kong is that I came, I saw, I ate! J Well and we did some sight seeing too. O and I did some kicking ass in Pinochle even though it was my first time playing! Overall I had a great time with Brandon and his parents, Barry and Rhody. :) (Thanks for a wonderful time in Hong Kong!)

Hong Kong is a unique mix of rich and poor. You have fancy shiny skyscrapers, mixed with dull and dreary falling down apartment buildings. You have alley dwellers, and Ritz dwellers. You have 5 star Michelin food, and street food. In other words, you a little bit of everything. I enjoyed my time in Hong Kong and am looking forward to going back there. O except the passport control part. Apparently, my brand new fancy biometric passport is broken. Yup. I have a chip in my passport and Hong Kong officials told me (twice!) that it doesn’t work. My information has to be entered manually and I have to go to the little room with the official and overall it’s just a pain. Look forward to doing it again two more times. :/

Run down old buildings. They stick out sometimes.

Alley dwellers.

The rich skyline (and famous too)

Hong Kong's very own Walk of Stars. It's Jackie Chan!

Junks are adorable.

The old village of Tai O where the houses are on stilts! 

So freaking cool! But I wouldn't want to live here, ever!

Pana of Tai O

Pana of HK at night

Streets of HK

Dog cutely guarding the stall as the owner sets up.

Ladies' market setting up. Boy did we find some great steals here!

The boathouse restaurant right on the water at Stanley's Market. Yummy seafood!

Big Bus Tour around HK Island

Tram on Victoria's Peak!

Construction is everywhere in HK

Literally everywhere!

O and I forgot to mention! We met a wonderful lady, Xana, who lived in Macau for four years and offered us a personal tour around the old Macau. Obviously, we took her up on her offer and had a great experience roaming around Macau and buying Portuguese port/wine! (Macau used to be a Portuguese colony).

Cutest crab I ever ate!

Cute European looking street in Macau

Holiday time = soooo many freaking people!

MGM Casino Macau