China 101- Helping Set up a School

Location: Jian’ou, Fujian Province, China

Many expats from Western countries come to China to teach. Once you’re there though, there’s quite a bit of pressure for people to do a side job. Many people like to hustle, to try to get work when it’s technically illegal under their visa requirements.

In our travels, we met average American kids that ended up as voice actors in cartoon movies, the center of a promotional campaign for clothing, or even posing as a businessperson to make a company seem more internationally connected. V and I did some work like that, but we didn’t get paid, so it was okay.

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Raleigh/Durham- City of Oaks

Location: Raleigh, Durham, Carrboro and Chapel Hill, North Carolina

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We had less than 2 days, but our mission was to see as much of our little corner of North Carolina as we could. Our plan was to visit Chapel Hill (since I would be attending UNC), Carrboro (known fondly as Chapel Hill’s hippie cousin), Raleigh (the State’s growing capital), and Durham (an entrepreneurial hub for young professionals). Too many flights made our experience a little haggard, a little tiring, but we managed to pull out all the stops. These areas are conveniently located within 30 minutes of each other, so we rented a car and got to seeing the sights.

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China 101- The Most Important Meal of the Day

Location: Jian’ou, Fujian Province, China

I can say with much sincerity that one of the things we miss the most about China is the food and the food culture. Especially breakfast, which I think most Chinese people would agree is the most important meal of the day. One of the most common responses I get to photos from our journey is: “That’s what you guys ate for breakfast!?”

In Jian’ou, breakfast is the time the city hummed with life. Everyone would venture out to one of the hundreds of local breakfast shops to start their day off right (and maybe catch up on a little gossip and get a glimpse of the resident foreigners). More people would routinely eat out for breakfast than lunch or dinner combined. And seriously, what do Chinese people eat for breakfast? If you’re coming to China expecting a piece of toast, bacon, oatmeal, pancakes, or some cereal in the morning you’re going to be sorely disappointed.

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Pacific Northwest- The Best Return

Location: Seattle, Washington, Blaine, Washington and Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

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Now, although this post doesn’t represent any of our travels around Asia, it was possibly a bigger adventure than any other that we had this summer. It was the first time we had set foot on our home continent in over 14 months, and yet it was completely unlike the North America that we were used to. The one that we had left- flat, unchanging. It was lush and vibrant and filled with all of our favorite things. We were in awe at the amount of greenery we saw when our plane touched the ground.

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The Dancing Ladies

Location: Jian’ou, Fujian Province, China

When we were living in China, one of the greatest things we noticed were the different forms of exercise. Not having widespread affordable healthcare available to the entire population makes keeping one’s body fit (even into old age!) a huge priority. It was so admirable to see how active elderly people in our community were. They would do play ping pong, pool, or badminton. They would also wake up early to perform Tai Chi sequences on their roofs and climb mountains (often times backwards, as is the tradition in China). They would take advantage of the local terrain whenever possible- living in a mountainous region made it easier- and it was oftentimes a community effort. The best part was, they would always find new ways to make it fun.

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Markets and Temples: A Thai Retrospective

Happy holiday season, all! V and I were sick for a week, so we lost the momentum of putting stuff out there. Sorry about that.

Specifically, the reason I haven’t put together a video in a while is because I thought I lost the footage from the second half of the trip. I erased my computer a couple times this year, and was convinced that several things disappeared in the migration. Thankfully, this is not the case!

I managed to put together a quick recap of some of the things we did in Thailand. The first two parts of the video are from a train market, and a floating market. The final section includes some shots from temples around the city. Bangkok is famous primarily because there are hundreds (thousands?) of temples in the municipality, so I showcased a few of those.

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Tokyo- City of the Future

Location: Tokyo, Japan

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Let me just begin by saying: Japan is more than an interesting place. It is like nowhere else in the world, not exclusively because it was at the forefront of technological innovation for several years, but also because it is one of few places to become successful without embracing all of the tenants of Western culture. Japan is extremely insular. Even its largest city, Tokyo, after having been rebuilt after World War II, managed to retain some of these specifically Japanese elements.

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Siem Reap- The Spiritual Place

Location: Siem Reap, Kingdom of Cambodia

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Siem Reap greets you with an assembly line visa service. There’s a line of ten or eleven functionaries. Each of them has a rubber stamp, signature, and necessary paperwork. For just $35, your passport can progress down the line, and you gain entrance to a country that only 20 years ago was life threateningly dangerous to visit. It’s quite the different story today.

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Kampuchea

Location: Angkor Wat, Kingdom of Cambodia

Even though it’s been a few months, our memory of Cambodia has yet to fade. The other young people we met at the hostel were kind, generous with their time, and great to talk to. They were some of the first people we spoke to in English after leaving China, and our eagerness to make friends showed. But our experience there wasn’t just about cheap beer, swimming pools, and markets.

Cambodia is home to the Angkor temple complex, an astounding relic known the world over. One can easily spend a week going from ruin to ruin and seeing the testament to human engineering and spirituality. People make pilgrimages to the place for good reason, especially Angkor Wat.

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Phuket- Life’s A Beach

Location: Patong; Kr’abi; Pranang Island; and Poda Island, Thailand

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As it is the first day of Autumn, I can think of no more perfect a time to reminisce about a place that I can only describe as a kind of perpetual summer paradise. Phuket, Thailand is a location for a specific type of vacation person. In my experience there are at least two different types: those who enjoy a lot of sightseeing and movement and those who just want a little R&R. K and I were skeptical before venturing to the Thai seacoast because we tend to be in the former group. If there aren’t a lot of things to “do” in a place, why go? We were even more skeptical when we heard a lot of people in hostel describe Phuket as the “Cancun of Thailand” (not to knock those who like Cancun). That is to say- Phuket has a bit of a reputation for being the non-authentic Thailand that caters strictly to tourists, has dirty overcrowded beaches, is filled with overpriced resorts, and swarming with scam-artists keen on taking your money.

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