After the longest hiatus in the history of, well, this blog because I've never written another one, I am happy to announce that I am writing from my university in Bangkok! For the first time in two months, I have stopped to breathe. The operative word for the past two months is definitely "chaotic," and because of that, I am going to try my damnedest to recap my experiences to the best of my abilities!
I departed Bangkok on October 14th, 2011--when we were informed by TU that the school would be closed for two weeks due to minor concerns of flooding. I truly believed that the waters would be kept under control, just as I'm sure my university and government here in Thailand did, and thus I booked a round-trip ticket to Manila and back. Before I finish the story of how awful round-trip tickets turned out to be these past months, the Philippines most certainly deserves me breaking here to rave about the country!
We stayed with my friend Brian's family in Manila, and spent our days living his Filipino life. That is, we honestly did whatever his parents suggested to get a good feel of the place. Now, you'll see pretty soon that I really really loved the Philippines, but I think that love had a whole lot to do with the people I was with and not 100% because of the city of Manila. You see, Manila is highly Westernized which was such a shock for me to see after living so long on the outskirts of Bangkok. Yes, I do live in a city, but I rarely visit the business district in the center and it in no way is progressing at as fast a pace as Manila! The thing that struck me most about Manila was it's commitment to glamour--malls were everywhere, and considered high class, and the streets were lined with neon lights and rhinestone signs. But the thing that struck me most about Manila was that almost everyone we met understood and spoke English! Man, was that a surprise after the days of playing charades with street vendors in Bangkok to order some lunch.
Because of the intense reverse culture shock of landing in Manila, I have got to say that my favorite moments in the city were when we ventured out to visit the slums. The community we visited lived right at the base of a dump site, but you'd never know it by the smiles on each of their faces. Every mom, child, and neighbor was excited to tell us stories of their families and daily routine, and we could not get enough of it! This experience was especially rich because even in Thailand where poverty is definitely seen, it's rare to hear stories of the people it's affected because of the language barrier.
We only spent the first few days in Manila, and no matter how strange it seemed to see a city of this caliber, I am so happy for the time we had there. The people are extraordinary and, yes, I finally did get my Taco Bell.
Next up was beautiful Boracay, an island of the Philippines. And when I say beautiful, I mean it with every ounce of wonder that has ever been squeezed out of that word. Someone told me that Boracay ranked #2 on the list of most breathtaking beaches in the world right after one in the Dominican Republic, but I'd like to help contest its spot for numero uno. We relaxed, snorkled, bonded like crazy, and had the best island getaway one could imagine! I'll let the photos do all the talking...
Back in Manila for a few days, we visited the Old Spanish quarters and learned tons about the history of the Spanish around those parts, and were off to visit a dormant volcano as well!
It was about this time that we check our email again, greeted with one not-so-lovely update that our cancellations from school were to be extended for two more weeks. That's a story you've got to hear, but because the sun's going down in Bangkok and this Poli Sci library is too A/C-ed out for me to handle anymore, I'll write on how my trip to Vietnam came to be a little later! Get ready for the insanity that will surely follow.