And now for something completely different….

Since zeBlu is solely dedicated to travel documentation, I’ve decided to set up a second site for the randomness of my dull American life. So, to my eight loyal subscribers: please click the below link.

Brit’s fantastically awesome electric walkabout!

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Dreamland according to Josh

Iceland. Hmmm. What do we know about Iceland? Oh, there’s that one singer that wore that swan dress that one time. And just last year, all of Europe’s airplanes were grounded because of that Icelandic volcano erupting. I think it was named something like Asdkfa;oehjaskd, right? There’s so much more to Iceland than that. It is absolutely underrated and always overlooked.

When I met Josh several years ago, one of the first things I learned about him was that he was in love with Iceland. I never really got it, and maybe I still don’t. But after experiencing Iceland firsthand, I feel like I’ve learned something new about Josh.

The best way to describe Iceland might be a cross between Colorado and the moon: lots of breathtaking nature yet bizarrely desolate. It’s definitely something I’ve never dreamed of, but fantastic in it’s own way. Josh finally achieved his dream. Here’s what it looks like:

First Icelandic meal: Smoked salmon sandwich

Some Iceland fun facts for you:

  • The total population of Iceland is about 300,000 which is about half of the population of our “small town” Cheongju, South Korea.
  • The Icelanders strongly believe in elves and trolls. Josh pointed out these little huts similar to dog houses, which were built for the trolls.
  • The Icelandic language has hardly changed since the 13th century, unlike other North Germanic languages. Old Norse literature can be easily read by the modern day Icelanders.
  • Iceland’s water is AWESOME! The tap water is fresh from the natural springs, perfect for drinking. The hot water is heated geothermally, which makes for a funny sulfur smell when you take a shower.
  • Iceland does not have a military, but they do have a police force.
  • Whale and puffin are popular menu choices as well as fermented shark called hákarl (it is NASTY!!!!!). Hot dogs are also very popular
  • Wild sheep and horses roam all over the place.
  • Geyser is one of the few Icelandic words that English has adopted as its own named after the original Geysir.

Downtown Reykjavik

We stayed at the nicest little guesthouse. We were a bit worried when looking for accommodations online because everything seemed so spread out on the map. The reality of it is that Reykjavik is a tiny little town (biggest city) and you can pretty much walk everywhere. It is a bit embarrassing to admit that most of the week we just walked around, ate, and took naps.

Vikingur- our home for the week

Fresh salmon salad. Yum!

Latin America Day?

Icelandic Countryside

We splurged one day and rented a car. That gave us a chance to see what the terrain was like outside of the city. We hit the biggest tourist route called the “Golden Circle.” which includes Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park, the original Geysir, and the waterfall Gullfoss.

The strangest and most memorable picnic ever.

Hard to see but it's a Double Rainbow!!

Glacier!

After seeing the Golden Circle, we had plenty of daylight (it never gets dark in the summer) that we drove around for several more hours and took some sweet pictures.

Still light outside.

Bird’s Eye View

On another lazy day in Reykjavik, we went up inside the tower of Hallgrímskirkja, a Lutheran church which is the highest building in the city.

Best meal of the week: Pasta with lobster

We tried the whale!

 

Classic us: no one to take our picture.

There you have it, Iceland rocks. After going through all those pictures, deciding which to post, I realized how awesome that trip was. Don’t worry, Josh. We’ll go back.

And this concludes Josh and Brit’s world tour on an English teacher’s budget. Time to find a job…………

xoXO

Brit

Posted in Europe, Food, Iceland, Nature, road trip, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Harry Potter and the Silly Bucket List

We’ve been home only two months before it was time for Josh and I to travel again. This trip, however, has been in the making longer than I can remember. This trip was to entail an item on each of our (Josh and my) bucket lists.

I don’t exactly have a long list of things I *must* do before I die. I’ve kind of played it by ear, and when I discover something that sounds cool, or hear about an exciting place to see, I make a mental note to do that thing. When I met Joshua, he introduced me to a whole new (and indie) world of music. One of his favorite bands he enjoys is Sigur Rós. Sigur Rós, in turn, has introduced Josh to the mystical and mysterious world of Iceland. And from then on, Josh’s one dream is: GET TO ICELAND.

Midway through high school, a literary phenomenon was sweeping the nation. My friends and I caught that wave and as a result, I have become a full on Harry Potter nerd. As you know, I share this blog with Jack, who is my bestie. When we were in college, we’d dream of going to England together to travel, embrace culture, and be where all the HP magic happens. Years later, we’re in places we’d never thought we’d be. I’ve just spent a year in a foreign beyond foreign land, discovering that I love teaching English; while Jaclyn had actually made it to the place our dreams came from, getting her Master’s degree and becoming a full fledged London gal.

J.K. Rowling had finished writing the Harry Potter series a few years ago, and the movie industry was quick to make a movie after each installment. The last of the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was such a complex finale, that the final movie was split into two parts. Now, the final movie was coming out on July 15, 2011. It was the last chance for Jack and I to see Harry Potter together in England. So, last Christmas (seeing Harry Potter 7.1) Josh and I came to a decision to take our dream trip. We booked the tickets. We would go to Iceland and we would GO TO ENGLAND AND SEE HARRY POTTER WITH JACK.

Check. Check. Two more off that list. And another check for seeing celebrities in the airport.

Traveling Deitner-style

We were so grateful to my dad for getting up extra early for work to drop us off at the airport on Thursday morning. It was a rough start. Josh was convinced the flight was at 6:30 am but it turned out to be at 6:00. Fortunately, there were no hitches. We made our first flight and all connecting flights with no problems. I’m always happy to report that we’ve never had a real problem with flying whether through security checks, boarding times, or luggage. However, we are the champions at layovers. If you ever wondered how we’ve managed to travel all over the world without tons of money, its because Josh is a sly fox hound who can sniff out a deal on airfare. Anyone can travel the way we do if you don’t have a lot of money, but have a lot of time. The time to sit and wait for flights, that hop you all over the world, little by little. I don’t know if I mentioned it, but our travel time back home from Vietnam was double what a direct flight time is. Our trip to London was no different. From St. Louis to Cincinnati (2 hr layover) to New York (8 hr layover) to Reykjavik, Iceland (2 hr layover) to London, England. I used to complain, but what’s the point? We save money, and it’s not like I have anything better to do anyway, right? I’ve gotten quite good at being prepared; not only do I have hand sanitizer and toilet paper, I now have a complete snack bar in my carry on.

Usually the days of actual travel are unmemorable. In contrast, our layover at JFK Airport in New York was unforgettable. I might be a bit starstruck. J and I were sitting at our terminal that British Airways and Iceland Air share. We still had a few hours before we boarded. Trying to make the time go by faster, we’d take turns walking around, looking at shops, getting a refreshment, and so forth. Josh had gone to the restroom and I was sitting there fiddling with the internet on my Kindle. I turned around, and saw this handsome familiar face with a big smile and bright red hair. I turned around again and thought about what I’d just seen. I turned to look at this guy again and realized that it was Rupert Grint from Harry Potter!!!! No way, I thought, no way no way no way. So, my stomach is full of butterflies at that point. I’m still trying to comprehend what I’d just seen. So a few minutes later, I turn around again to see if the whole Harry Potter entourage is there by chance. This time, I saw a young girl walking with a short Asian lady wearing dark glasses and a white hat. I turn around, then look back at her. I hear a man say to his wife, “That looked like Yoko Ono. It IS Yoko Ono. What in the world? How’s that for random.

Josh came back from the restroom, and I say to him, “You will not believe what I just saw.” I tell him about my celebrity sightings, and then spend the next 15 minutes deciding whether or not it was real. Then I decided to go look for them. I was walking around looking at the shops and sports bars. Then, the alleged Yoko Ono walked straight towards me. As we passed, I gave her another good long look to either confirm or deny what I had thought I’d seen. I sat back down with Josh, telling him of my second encounter. Then later, we had our eyes glued to the British Airways Executive Lounge door. At last, Josh had a sighting of both Grint and Ono! I wasn’t seeing things, it was real! When I went to the restroom later, many women were talking about how Rupert Grint was in the airport today. I call this story, “Brit’s most exciting layover.” Ok, no big deal. People see celebrities all the time. But wasn’t it just a little magical that I got to see my favorite actor/character from Harry Potter right before I flew over to England to see HP 7.2?

London, England

Now, let’s get down to the actual trip. I don’t think I have anything too exciting to write about England other than I had a great time, enjoyed seeing Jack (after 1.5 years apart) and soaking up one last Harry Potter premiere with true fans. I’ll just give it to you in pictures, with a bit of commentary along the way.

The less than legit Platform 9¾ at King's Cross Station (this is how Harry Potter gets to school). Everything was under construction to prepare for the 2012 Olympics.

There is nothing, nothing, NOTHING like seeing Harry Potter on opening day in a theater sold out to die hard HP fans. We laughed, we cried (a lot), we cheered. I’m sorry, it was just so dang magical! It was a perfect start to a great week.

We found Korean food!

This is what a cider pub looks like on a Friday night.

London is rainy. Who knew?

Banoffee Pie: banana and toffee...oh! I get it.

Toad in the hole: sausage and (burnt) biscuits

Um, yeah...we saw it twice.

View from the top of St. Paul's Cathedral

I had my fill of fish and chips.

When I was little, I fantasized about going to England. I guess as a kid, going to the place where English originated is a lot less scary than a place that speaks in a foreign tongue with freaky rituals (i.e. squatter toilets). As an adult, I’ve realized that traveling anywhere isn’t a big deal at all. I mean, I lived in Asia, which is practically the opposite of America, right?

And for the million dollar question: What did I think of England after placing it high on a pedestal all these years?

It was great! I could get around, communicate, eat comfort food, and be as carefree as ever. Going to England is a great starter destination for those who may be a bit apprehensive about traveling (*ahem* Julie) But could it be that I found myself craving weird situations, conversations in pigeon English, and unique ethnic food? Yeah, pretty much.

A week after living as pseudo-Brits, we flew to Reykjavik, Iceland which was exactly what we needed to scratch that itch. More on that tomorrow…..

xoXO

Brit

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Back in the USA

I’m home! I’m home! I’m HOME!

I never thought I’d see the day, and already a month+ has gone by. I finally quenched my thirst for Mexican food, cuddling with Snickers, and baking real deliciously moist cupcakes. Also, I never realized how ginormously huge my parents’ house is. Woweee! After living in one room, everything here just seems so BIG.

Pitchers in America are much much bigger than the ones in Korea.

My little angel!

Now, that's a cupcake!

I didn’t know what it would be like reassimilating. I was a little freaked out to drive a car, since it’s been well over a year since I last drove. But, it was just like riding a bike. It all came back to me, and unlike Josh,  I had no problem adjusting to drivers on the right-hand side of the road.

Back in the land of the blonde: New haircut!

One of the most wonderful things that I’m happy to have again is communication. It is great to be able to ask for directions, know how much the bill is, understand the deejays on the radio, and properly acknowledge the simplest greetings.  The strangest thing that I feel is the expectation that everyone I see in public will approach me. Being in Asia, I’m used to being ignored. Solicitors look the other way when they know they won’t be able to speak to me in Korean. So, naturally, walking amongst these Americans, I feel that everyone is going to come up to me either to sell something,  entice me to step in their store, or beg for money. Maybe I’m just a little paranoid. It’s unbelievable that these people actually mind their own business, and could care less that I’m walking amongst them. It’s so great to not be constantly stared at like a foreigner!!!

Mom was excited to show me the Korean store in O’Fallon. I got a bit sentimental looking at the red pepper paste and ramen varieties. I was super pumped when I sounded out the Korean letters on the window that said “norebang” (!!!!) That’s the private Karaoke rooms, in case you forgot. I’ve already made three batches of ddeokbokki and yeah, I never thought I’d actually say it: I miss Korea!! I see fellow expat friends’ pictures on Facebook and find myself *gasp* getting jealous!

Isn’t the grass just always greener?

Wasn't expecting to see Hangul on a storefront.

Ddeokbokki: not bad for an amateur.

I’m still making a habit of embracing every culinary delight possible, most recently with fried alligator. There’s always weird food to be discovered, even in America. Maybe the next stop will be to Columbia, Mo to try the cicada ice cream. True story.

Gator bites, yum yum.

When finding out I’m from America, a Korean’s next question is always “Are you from California? According to the rest of the world, America only consists of California, New York, and Washington D.C.

When we were in Korea, we spent nearly every weekend traveling, seeing the country. That’s easy to do in a country that’s the size of Illinois. Now that I’m actually back in Illinois, I’m realized that my country alone has yet to be discovered by me. I’m proud to say that I’ve just I’ve discovered the Carolinas. I can’t wait to see what else this fab country holds.


It’s so good to be back in the land of purple mountains, amber waves of grain, and fully stocked bathrooms. I know I sound like a real bathroom enthusiast, but I just appreciate good things. Especially when I’ve been used to showering over the bathroom sink, then later having to sit on a wet toilet seat and use damp toilet paper. I guess that still beats the buckets and butt guns in Cambodia.

In just a few weeks I will be flying off to England to see my co-blogger/bestie Jack. Where is she, by the way?? We’re super pumped because we will go see the final installment of ye ol’ Harry Potter TOGETHER in ENGLAND. Weeeeeeeeee! Josh won’t complain too much hanging around us HP dorks. Because a week later, we’ll hop on over to his dream world: Iceland. Though, I’m not so sure I’m ready to try the rotting shark.

Last weekend, Josh and I went to Ohio. Not only did we see family, we also spend quality time with the B-52s and the Go-Gos! It was such a silly/fun concert. Despite the rain, we had a wonderful time.

The B-52s are still rocking!

Oh Josh, what a good sport.

Cara shares my enthusiasm. Cecily does not 😉

Thanks to Uncle Norm for the great seats!!

The Go-Gos!! Even Belinda is here!!!

Since we’ve got so many travel plans for the next couple months, I’ve held off on “seriously” looking for a job. In the meantime I’ve been keeping myself busy with mad organization of our apartment (a.k.a. my parents’ basement).

Though American food may be bland (sorry, I only like spicy food now), it is the best feeling in the world to be near family. Traveling is so much better when you know you’ve got wonderful family and friends waiting for you at home.

And believe it or not, I got little miss small town country girl, Julie to try sushi. You hear that? Raw fish! Julie! 🙂

I'm so proud of her!

xoXO

Brit

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Good Morning, Vietnam! (Yeah, I’m so clever)

Ho Chi Minh City (formally known as Siagon)

Ho Chi Minh just may have made the list of my favorite cities.  If I could describe the city in one word, I’d simply say “motorbikes.” They’re everywhere!  It is a bit terrifying because the way people drive the motorbikes could be similar to how a school of fish move. Everyone does their own thing and makes sure not to hit anything.  The creepiest thing is slowly making your way across the street as the bikes just swim around you.

Our accommodation was top notch. Fresh off the bus we had a man recruiting us to his hotel, which turned out to be his home with 4 rooms for rent. It was nice though. Fan, a/c, and tv all for just $16 a night. The funniest thing about it was that to get to the house, you had to go through all these back alleys. At first, I was a bit apprehensive as he lead us through a labyrinth of seemingly sketchy alleyways. But, that’s actually just where everyone lives. Adults and children alike just hang in the alleys, whether they’re cooking, sleeping, or chatting. The alleys aren’t dark and scary, they’re homey!

This is nothing. Later we saw a guy with a full size refrigerator on the back of his bike. True story!

We bought a few souvenirs, but the biggest thing we had to do while in Vietnam is eat PHO!! Pho is a tasty noodle soup, that Josh and I are absolutely in love with.

Danang

Finally, after a month and a half, we got another opportunity to take an overnight train from Ho Chi Minh to Danang (18 hours). I was the one who chose to go to Danang. It’s about halfway  to the capital Hanoi, and it is home to China Beach. I had to get one last beach in before we came home! The train ride was great. We had the berth all to ourselves. Josh played ukulele (yes, we bought a second one!) and then we fell asleep laughing to Community. Props to my brother for telling me about that silly show. It really took the edge off when we were feeling stressed out in Cambodia. The only bad thing was that we shared the berth with a tiny little mouse! It kept darting between our bunks. Eww!!

When I read about Danang in the Lonely Planet guidebook, I assumed that it would be a very remote yet touristy place. It was touristy, but definitely not foreigner friendly. The wonderful “Easy Riders” motorcycle taxis took us to a hotel near China Beach.  There was nothing there. A few hotels, and a ton of hole in the wall restaurants (which are very intimidating because they never have an English menu, or speak English for that matter). This was a place for Vietnamese vacationers. We saw loads of families eating out and spending their afternoons at the beach. We only saw westerners once in a blue moon.

China Beach stretches 30 km long, and I’ve heard it’s quite the hot spot for surfing in the wet season. When American soldiers came to Vietnam for the war, they first arrived at China Beach.

I think Josh and I were getting a little tired of taking the camera everywhere, that we failed to capture one of our most memorable meals of this trip. We went to a restaurant called U2 (You too). Really, that’s the name. Their was an English menu, but it turned out to be a cook your own pot, Korean style type restaurant. It actually reminding me of our very first meal in Korea, when we had no idea what to do, when the food would be ready for eating, or the proper manner in which to eat said food.  We got a spicy broth on a burner and a plate of raw seafood including cuttlefish, squid, fish, and still moving shrimp. Eek! Since we found ourselves in an all too familiar situation, we just did what we felt was right. The meal was a delicious success!

Hanoi

And on to our very final stop of the Southeast Asian Tour. We took another overnight train up to Hanoi (14 hours). Unfortunately this train was much fuller than the one we had previously taken. We slept in hard sleepers which are 6 to a room, and the room was  filled to the brim- 6 people and a baby. We lucked out with the baby though. She was so adorable and incredibly happy. She smiled and giggled nearly the whole time, crying only for an extent of about 5 minutes. It’s always so awkward in those rooms, because you have to point and mime to get any idea remotely across. This fellow in our bunk had no concept of what personal space was. First he was sitting cross legged on the table in the middle of the room. I was laying on my bunk reading, and his foot was inches away from my face. Then the next morning, he was sitting on my bed, and I didn’t have room to stretch out my legs. Excuse me, sir!!

That night, another weird thing happened. I was on the very bottom bunk, and I was drifting in and out of sleep around midnight or one. The train was dark and quiet. I felt someone step on the foot of my bed. I assumed it was the lack of personal space guy who was just getting up to go to the bathroom. But then, this person sat on the edge of the bed and touched my leg. I jumped up, “what the!” Then he stood up and tried opening the door. I wasn’t sure what was going on, but I sat and watched at this strange man tried to open the door to get back into the hallway. He pulled and pulled, and then finally started yelling. A train attendant promptly opened the door and let him out. At the time, I was incredibly creeped out. But, after a bit of observation and deduction, I’m pretty sure this guy came into the wrong bunk, tried to go to the top, but saw someone was there, then sat down on the bottom bunk to see if he recognized anyone in the room. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, that he isn’t an intentional bed intruder.

When we arrived in Hanoi, I was happy to be back in the land of tourists. For the first time, we didn’t have anyone recruiting us for their hotel, so we had the taxi driver take us to one that we had researched. It was ideal! For four more dollars we got bumped up to the deluxe room (Total $22). After putting our bags down and taking a much needed shower, I began to realize how close we were to going home. 3 days!!!

Hanoi was a pretty cool city. We basically just walked, ate, and shopped, trying to kill time until we flew home.

Ostrich steak for dinner

Out of nowhere, these ladies handed us their hats and baskets of pineapple. "Picture, picture!" they said. Then they tried to convince us to buy their pineapple for about $5 (it was only worth about 50 cents). Josh tried bartering with this lady, and they finally agreed on a price, 40,000 dong (about $1.50).

As Josh was getting out his money to pay her, she snatched a 200,000 bill and handed it to her friend. She then argued that she had taken only 50,000 from him. Josh is so great. He knew exactly how much he had, and that she took the one 200 in his pocket. After she realized she wasn't getting away so easily, she finally gave us (the wrong amount of change). That was our first and only encounter with a pickpocket. Josh later made her angry by snapping pictures of her, threatening to call the police.

The big market

The time finally came! Last Sunday, we arose very early and taxied to the airport. It was the longest day of my life. We left Hanoi at 6 am. 4 flights, 3 layovers, and 40 hours later, we were in Dayton!!  I can’t even express the happiness I felt when we first landed at LAX for our second layover. Going through customs, the worker was quite impressed with our recent travels. How great it felt to hear “Welcome Home” in perfect English. How amazing it was to use a CLEAN bathroom fully stocked with 3 rolls of toilet paper, a toilet seat, soap, and paper towels.

I’m HOME!!!!!!!!!!

xoXO

Brit

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Cambodia: Kingdom of Wonder?

Now, I briefly mentioned that I was experiencing a new kind of culture shock in Cambodia. To be honest, I was completely shaken. Through Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand we’ve been on a vacation. Each place has been essentially a tropical paradise with a fruity drink at arm’s length.

Cambodia is a terribly poor country. I’d been to China, expecting it to be poor and dirty. It was.  But in China, I saw lots of iPods and cell phones and other modern technologies. In Cambodia, I see lots of huts, probably with no bathroom or running water. I see people cutting grass with machetes. And I see lots of people without shoes. How can a person walk outside on sharp gravel without shoes? In Cambodia, the kids run and play barefoot on the rocks. They swim in the dirty river naked. Half of the population of Cambodia is under the age 15, and they’re hungry.

I knew there would be beggars. But I wasn’t expecting this intensity of begging. Kids come up to you begging in little English for food and/or money. All I can make out is “Lady, hungry, ok. Lady hungry, ok.” They hang on to your arm and walk with you for a few blocks until someone gives.

In a situation like that, what do you do? Here we are, traveling all over Asia because it’s cheap and we’ve got the money. We’re eating what we please, and buying any souvenirs that we fancy. Then we encounter the poorest of the poor. Children, mothers with babies, and mine victims missing limbs are all begging for help.

The advice that the travel guidebooks give is to ignore the beggars because it will only perpetuate the problem if you don‘t. Besides, many parents purposely make their kids beg for money whether it is to support a huge family or to support a habit of smoking and drinking. And, some have found that begging is much easier than working. To many Cambodians, a white person is a big fat dollar sign. It’s like a motion sensor. As soon as you get into their vicinity, they’re immediately pleading for you to give them something.

The first day we arrived in Siem Reap, Josh and I realized that this “epic backpacking adventure” is no longer a relaxing vacation. This might be one of the most stressful and uncomfortable situations I’ve ever found myself in. In our past week in Cambodia, I believe we’ve been consciously spending too much time in the hotel room because we didn’t want to face the reality of the world outside.

As a Christian, I simply cannot ignore a child begging for food. In a deep desperation, I emailed my uncle (who has lots of experience working with missions) for advice on how Josh and I should handle this situation. He offered the best advice that Google didn’t offer. And for the purpose of future google searches for “advice on beggars in Cambodia”  I want to post my uncle Tim’s advice for future conflicted travelers. I pray that it would give them the insight and wisdom that it’s given me. See below:

If one or two children ask you for money, ask them if they would like to go get something to eat instead.  If their intentions are real and they truly would treasure a meal (and you have the time) this could be a huge benefit for them (and you to get to know a little child).  If they refuse and state they only want a couple dollars, then I would be hesitant to give them anything.  In this way you control how you are helping them.

When there is a crowd of kids, this is the hardest situation.  I have had this situation happen and sometimes I just state the obvious with sincerity, “I cannot help all you …I am sorry”.  (That is if they know English).  One idea, I have tried this on occasion:  I pay attention to just one child in the group and ignore the others.  I have prayed in this situation for God to point out which child really needs the help.  I have found on several occasions if you choose the one to pay attention, the others will “move on” to someone else.  In this case once again, you are controlling the situation and at this point when the others leave you can help the one child.  I urge you two to pray in the morning for God’s discernment in this whole endeavor, and for you to make the biggest impact.   I have used this opportunity to pray for the child too.

Lastly, Remember that the money you have is not yours, it belongs to God.  At the same time you want to be wise and responsible, you have to let it go too if you feel you may have been foolish in given to someone.  If you are drawn to helping a child and you give a couple dollars to them with the greatest of innocence to impact them, then let it go and trust that God led you to that child.  I have given a lot away over the years, and I have just breathed under my breathe “OK Lord, this child is yours, I gave because I could…do your work in this little one’s life, despite the situation that I am not apprised of (working for a pimp or parent etc…).

Our second evening in Siem Reap, a woman approached us asking for food. We decided to see what it was she wanted/needed, but accompanying her into the convenience store. She picked out a can of baby formula. Josh went ahead and bought her the can. Another little boy tailed us into the mart, also asking us to buy him a type of formula. He kept picking up the biggest things he could find for us to buy. Finally, we agreed to buy him a bunch of bananas.

It’s a weird situation, that luckily most people will never have to find themselves in. But my heart hurts for the people in Cambodia. With the beggars aside, I think about how truly fortunate most Americans are. Most of us have no true perspective on how good we have it. It makes me think about the glad game from the movie “Pollyanna.” (gosh, I love that movie.) Even if we face terrible situations or a bad day, we can always find something to be glad about.

Now, despite my emotional breakdown/culture shock/ wake up call, I did happen to enjoy our time in Cambodia. We visited Siem Reap. Then, a few days later, we traveled to Phnom Penh, the capital city.

Siem Reap

Siem Reap is probably the biggest tourist attraction in Cambodia. It is the home of the very ancient Angkor Wat Hindu-Buddhist temples.

We got up early to see the sunrise at Angkor Wat

Our tuk-tuk driver, Park

Seriously, the film "Tomb Raider" was filmed here!

The city also had a spectacular night market, but due to a tight budget, we didn’t do much spending there.

Here’s just some photos we took of the area near our hotel…

Phnom Penh

The trip to Phnom Penh was comically painful. We decided to take an earlier bus, hoping to get to Phnom Penh in the early afternoon. So, long story short, here’s how it went down.

The travel time was supposed to be 6 hours. We were picked up at 9:00. We left an hour late after switching buses twice. Then 45 minutes into it, we get a flat tire. They fix the tire. Then the air con goes out. A belt breaks. We stop to repair the belt. They fix a belt but the air’s still out. We drive with the door open. Then they decide to try to fix the air two more times. Then the decide we should have lunch 2 hours late, then the engine overheats… and TEN hours later we finally made it. No worries. What do you expect from a $6 VIP bus? 😉

The most popular sights to see in Phnom Penh are Choeng Ek, (the killing fields) and the Tuol Seng Genocide Museum which is a former prison, and before that a high school.

It was at these sights where torturing and thousands of horrendous murders took place by the Khmer Rouge communist regime in the 1970s. Note: Some of the following pictures are kind of graphic, but I feel that this measly little blog post is the least I can do to share significant historical information that has before gone unnoticed by most Americans.

The Killing Fields

Filled with thousands of skulls

Bones and clothes in the ground

Tuol Seng

The barbed wire was used to prevent the victims from jumping to their own deaths

Many of the children who were killed

The picture shows what happened in this room.

Spots of blood on the floor

Small brick cells in the classrooms

Both places were overwhelmingly depressing. How can a person possibly feel happy looking up at a pagoda filled with thousands of human skulls, or seeing torture devices and blood stains on a high school floor. It was worse than visiting Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was however, very similar visiting the Holocaust museum in D.C. I got chills walking over pieces of bone and clothing sticking out of the dirt. And then, a tree was marked, “This tree was used to smash babies heads.” How can people be so cruel?!

Again, I have to thank Josh for taking me on this field trip. It was horrible, but before we went, I had known nothing about Cambodia or anything about the atrocities that went down there.

Ok, so far this post has been kind of a downer. The trip wasn’t all bad. Time for some happy pictures!

Learning some Cambodian tunes

Surprisingly delicious pizza!

Met up with Luke, our friend from the TEFL course

Dr. Fish, no piranhas

What a romantic tuk-tuk ride ^^

Maybe my favorite picture ever.

Cambodia is an amazing place. I’m still wrapping my head around the whole experience, and the only word I keep coming up with is “unfinished.” I don’t know exactly what I mean by that either. But now Cambodia is in my heart, and it is unfinished. I think we will come back…..

We’re now in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam. We plan to work our way up the country to Hanoi, at which we’ll fly home! We’re both ecstatic that it’s getting so close. Our stomachs are in a constant state of upset, and I know they want nothing more than home cooked American comfort food. It’s been a along time coming. Only TEN DAYS LEFT!!!

xoXO

Brit

Posted in Asian Adventure, Food, Friends, Southeast Asia, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

I’m published!

It’s been a big week for me. A lot has happened, and frankly my mind has bended and warped in so many ways, that I’m exhausted.

First of all, something incredibly exciting has happened. I’m published! New Dynasty, an online magazine in Xi’an, China contacted me asking if they could re-publish my Xi’an visit blog post. Of course I said yes. I’m so flattered, and now inspired to shoot for bigger and better things. One thing I’ve found over the past year, is that I absolutely love writing. I don’t know if travel writing is exactly my calling, but in the meantime, I’m enjoying myself. I’m so blessed to have a great support system back home who constantly encourages me and keeps me going. It’s all for you, guys!

You can visit my published article here at New Dynasty or click on the screen shot below.

Today we left Cambodia and after a 7 hour bus ride, we arrived in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. I’m still processing this past week. It’s been like nothing I’ve ever experienced before, and especially eye-opening in more ways than one.

I hope to have internet access throughout the rest of our travels, so I’ll do my best to promptly update and post lots of pictures.

See you soon!

xoXO

Brit

Posted in Asian Adventure | 2 Comments