Tuesday, June 7, 2011
1) I thought that might grab your attention.. NO I didn't take this but I would have taken something like it or better if I had an under water camera (saw these everywhere!!!)
2 and 3) Nalsaun Island.. where we ate lunch one day (a popular island.. a lot of Korean actors and actresses are photographed here)
4) the beach in front of Ocean Player (our scuba site)
5) we ate mangoes every night by the pool... my Korean managers/co-workers
6) the hotel.. pool side
7) sunny skies... highs in the uppers 80's!
8) Magellan's Cross
9) sad begging children... my co-worker Christine looks rich in her white linen pants.. they knew who to ask..
10) these friendly locals really wanted a picture with me.. so cute
11) Laura, Ryan and I
12) glass...barb wire... crime filled city
13) this is what the taxis look like
Sorry I haven't blogged in a while. I didn't get back from the Philippines until 3 a.m. Wednesday morning. We started a new work schedule that day and we are all working overtime now… I've been exhausted and very, very busy. On top of it all… I got food poisoning this past weekend. Luckily, my sweet, sweet boyfriend took care of me. He has now seen me at my very worst… what a doll he is for being so patient with me. It's times like these… when your sick as a dog, that you hate being in a foreign country. The worst part is, I am not allowed to take any sick days. Sine we are short on teachers and we are all already teaching overtime, we don't have any teachers to cover us if we get sick. The only way I could take a sick day is if I were to die. They would honestly rather me sit in the classroom with a throw up bucket than miss a day.
Thank god we did not have work yesterday (Monday was a national holiday- Memorial day). The only doctor available was the one at the ER so that's where I went.. a bit dramatic it may seem but trust me, it was necessary… only in Korea would I have done this. I needed to get better as soon as possible and the ER was there to make that happen. They gave me some shots, meds and an IV… about $60 and two hours later, I was home and in bed, getting better! If I had done that in America, it probably would have cost between $500 and $$800. Ha… In America I could have taken a damn sick day and just gotten better. The ER was a joke…. because it's so cheap and accessible, everyone uses it. In the two hours that I was in there I saw so much. I was most definitely the sickest person in there and I wasn't even that bad. I saw a little boy brought in by the EMS who had a scraped chin and elbow. One lady came in and took a nap.. they didn't give her anything. She slept whatever she had off and then left 45 minutes later. Several children came in with scratches… I watched the nurse put small bandages on them and send them home. I sat there and laughed… I was embarrassed to be there but not after I saw how dramatic most of the Koreans were. Out of about 35 people in and out… one woman really needed help, she broke her leg.
Ya know, I live in Korea but I rarely hang out with Koreans. Obviously, it's the language barrier and the many cultural differences that keep us distant. With all this being said, I guess I kind of forgot what it was like to be around Koreans on a regular basis… other than at work that is. I spent my fantastic Philippines vacation with 12 Koreans and two of my lovely American co-workers (Laura and Ryan). Being around the Koreans all week made me realize, once again that all the bullshit that happens at work is not really personal… it's cultural. Their illogical ways are prevalent in the way that they do so many every day activities. Some other things I forgot about Korean culture… well, I wouldn't say I forgot, I just haven't been around it in a while. We all share food…even if I order something for myself… people are grabbing at it from every angle of the table. I had just ordered a big glass or water at dinner one night and my boss saw it and waved at me to give it to him. He nearly drank half the glass and then kept it at his end of the table. Wouldn't that irritate you? Somehow… it didn't bother me. I just ordered another drink. Okay, okay, on a lighter note before I go on and on about the Philippines… I had a fabulous time with every single Korean. I roomed with Mabel who is the head secretary at TNE. What a wonderful bonding experience I had with the TN family… just in time. One month left and I will be glad to leave with an open mind and a happy heart. I'll tell ya, it sure doesn't hurt to get hammered with your bosses… it's keeps things exciting. In Korea, they love to get you good and drunk. They were especially happy to see my silly drunken side.
So this trip was beyond wonderful. Money was of no issue on this vacation and my boss really made us all feel like kings… everything from private scuba instruction, delectable food and every day massages… ugh, it was all amazing. Really though, the best part was the atmosphere/culture that surrounded us in this beautiful tropical place.
We flew into Cebu (one of the bigger, more popular islands… best known for scuba). After arriving in Cebu, two large vans picked us up and took us to our hotel. Our hotel was so cute and the locals working there were so friendly. They had juicy, candy like fruit (mangoes… the fruit of the Philippines) eggs and toast made fresh for us every morning before we ventured out for scuba. I loved those hot sunny mornings. I got up early, drank my coffee by the pool and lathered myself in sun screen. Around 10 a.m. the vans were back to pick us up. They took us to Ocean Player, a scuba diving site on the water. The rides there were definitely something I enjoyed most. The area that we were in was called Lapu, Lapu.. a small city in Mactan- Cebu City. This area is definitely third world. I saw tiny run down houses and shops all lined right next to one another, almost on top of each other, people everywhere, children with no shoes, some with no pants on, endless amounts of dogs, goats and roosters. The funny thing about the roosters is that, not only where there hundreds of them running around and crowing but everywhere you looked, people were holding them like babies. Apparently, the popular thing you do with roosters is to hold them in a certain position… a position that hypnotizes them. I was sure everyone was holding a dead roosters until I asked some of the locals what the deal was. Something about this third world country made me feel relaxed and at ease. Most of the people we were with were a little taken back by the atmosphere… it didn't make them feel nearly as comfortable as it made me feel.
We were in the Philippines for five days and we scubaed for the first four. We would have scuba dived on our last day but scuba rules state that you can not fly in a plane at least 12 hours after you have been scuba diving… When you dive, your body absorbs nitrogen into your tissues. When you are on the surface after the dive, those gases slowly leave your tissues. However, if you go in an aircraft (especially an unpressurised one), or otherwise ascend to high altitude, the air pressure is much lower, so that gas wants to leave your tissues more quickly, which can form bubbles that lead to decompression sickness. It was a good thing we waited… I didn't need that! Scuba began with a full day of training: a three hour classroom session which mostly consisted of a video then later, practice in the pool. Our training was so in depth because we were not just practicing to scuba for a few fun days, we were practicing to get a lifetime certification. We had the most wonderful group of master scuba instructors. Two of them were Korean which was perfect for our large group of non-Korean swimmers (can you believe that out of 12 Koreans, only four of them knew how to swim….it blew my mind and, they still got their scuba certification. Apparently, since you wear a jacket that inflates and flippers, you don't need to know how to swim…). Because we don't speak Korean, Laura, Ryan and I had a major disadvantage. A lot of things were translated but not everything. Luckily, the videos we watched were all in English (Korean subtitles) so I really focused in on those. For some odd reason, I thought scuba was somewhat of a simple activity… boy was I wrong. Once we started the pool training I knew I was in trouble. It was hard enough to put together the inflatable jacket, attach it to the cylinder (tank) then hook it up to the regulator and the octopus regulator… find a a weight belt that fits correctly… yada yada yada, you get it, there's a lot of steps. I started catching on slowly in the pool the longer we practiced. Day two came quickly and we were already venturing out to sea. Oh god! All I can say about this day is thank you scuba instructors Denis and Sam. Without you there, I would have drowned! As much as I wanted to give up so badly and lounge on the boat, I stuck with it. I am so incredibly, unbelievably happy that I did because by the end of the third day I perfected scuba. I mastered all the underwater tests such as: fully taking off your mask and clearing it, maintaining natural buoyancy so that you can hover in one place, equalizing every five meters (basically just popping your ears), dropping your regulator (breathing device) and using your octopus then sharing with a buddy, taking off your tank/jacket and mask all at once and putting it back on without looking, using/understanding your SBG (submersible pressure gauge) correctly, understand how to control and use your BCD (buoyancy control device), knowing and understanding the many hand gestures, swimming in the correct position and lastly… most importantly, breathing correctly so that you don't hyperventilate and mess up your ears… thus making yourself sick. So… I've given you a little scuba knowledge. I am happy to tell you that with the scuba knowledge I gained, I passed my scuba exam (underwater and written) with much success. Hands down, scuba is the most amazing experience I've ever had… if you ever get the chance, please try it. Once I got comfortable underwater I swam around in awe. From the surface, the water was a beautiful aqua, down under, the water was perfectly clear and amazing. I saw thousands of different tropical fish that were every imaginable color and every imaginable pattern. I saw polka dots, stripes, zig zags and swirls.. ugh- I was so excited I peed all up in my wet suit! The star fish that were everywhere were bigger than my head and electric blue in color. I saw coral that was neon blue… every time I saw this coral I got really, really close just to see if it was real. An out of body experience is what I had… from fear to fulfillment… it was all worth while. I know one thing, my future spouse better like it because I'm getting him certified so we can scuba on every vacation. Oh, and… next time, I'll be sure to take an underwater camera.
Every exhausting evening ended with a delicious meal, a few cocktails and a Swedish massage. My boss is all about massages so each night before we went to bed, all 15 of us got an hour long massage. I've never had a Swedish massage, they were quite interesting. The Fililipino women massaged me from head to toe. Let me just say, the only part of my body they didn't massage was my vagina… thankfully. I could have done without the boob and butt massage but everything else was lovely.
Our vacation was packed full of fun activities… even the relaxation had to be scheduled. This trip was the first in which I woke up every morning before eight went to bed every night before two a.m. because on exhaustion alone. It was wonderful and I'm still recovering from lack of sleep! We did a little bit of everything. On Monday afternoon, after our dive in Nalsaun island/ marine sanctuary, we went into downtown Cebu for some sight seeing. We saw Magellans Cross (Magellan's Cross, located in Magellanes Street, is Cebu's most important historical landmark and an important shrine.In 1521 the Portuguese navigator, Ferdinand Magellan, erected the original large wooden cross at this location where Cebu's Rajah Humaton, his wife Juana, and 800 followers were baptised on April 14, 1521 and the first Catholic mass in Cebu (in fact, the first Catholic mass in the Philippines) was celebrated. The original cross gradually deteriorated as over the years the faithful took little pieces of the cross as mementos. In 1845 another cross was placed at the spot. The new cross was made of tindalo wood and inside a hollow inside splinters of the original Magellan's Cross were preserved.Today a tiled pavillion shelters the cross and a ceiling mural depicts the scene of the first mass and commemorates the conversion of the first Filipinos to Christianity). We went shopping, not only for souvenirs but for any and everything else you could possibly think of. Even though Mactan is third world.. just 20 minutes east and over a bridge is everything but third world. Believe it or not, Cebu has a mall (SM City Cebu) that is one of the largest malls in the world… top 15! Oddly amazing right!!?? The money that they use in the Philippines is the peso, not to be confused with the Mexican peso (they are very different). Every 44 pesos equals a dollar. There was so much jumping around… while downtown, there were half- dressed, disheveled children begging us for food and money, on the other hand there were five star hotels and classy restaurants all around. I really didn't know what to think. The country gets it's money from tourism, so all those ritzy places are really just there for the first class foreigners. Since South Korea is a rather wealthy country, a good majority of Koreans travel to the Philipines (especially Cebu) for their vacations.
The worst part about the vacation was going home! It was even sad to say good bye to the locals that ran our hotel. They were all so friendly and helpful. I even talked to one of them about coming back to Cebu and teaching. I've looked into it… it could be in my future. Mom… I hope your not expecting me to get married and have children anytime soon. I could easily move to Cebu, teach and scuba dive in my free time.
Philippino Facts/ Randomness:
-The language that people speak in the Philippines is called, Tagalog. The language uses letters, not symbols… phew. It was wonderful to see letters everywhere and not symbols that usually just confuse the hell out of me. The majority of the people who live there speak English and almost every single (97 %) sign, menu, tag, etc. had English on it). When we were in the car, I caught myself reading every single thing that we passed.
-The country is known for its delicious mangoes, papayas, jack fruit (looks like a giant green spiky banana) and kalamansies (a tiny green lime that plays a large role in Philippino cuisine). Often, this lime is squeezed into soy sauce along with some crushed hot, red peppers and used for dipping when enjoying barbecued chicken.
-The world's rarest and most expensive seashell, the "Conus Gloriamaris" is among the 12,000 species of seashells found in the Philippines. And 488 coral species out of the known 500 coral species worldwide are found in the country.
-The Philippine flag is the only flag in the world that is displayed upside-down when the country is in war (red on top and blue at the bottom when in war).
-I love this one… especially since karaoke is so big in Korea… The karaoke is a Filipino invention, not Japanese. Karaoke meaning "singing without accompaniment" in Japanese was invented by Roberto del Rosario. He called his invention "Sing-Along-System", which was later called karaoke.
- In Mactan, crime is huge… especially once the sun goes down. Our scuba instructors told us that almost everyone in Cebu has a gun. Since the majority of stores and restaurants are open, the top of gates are lined with broken glass and barbed wire.
-The airline was the only airline I have ever been on that does not have a complementary drink… it was a four and a half hour flight and you had to pay for water...$3 for warm water!… thanks!?