Posts Tagged With: Financials

So you want to volunteer

If you’re interested in volunteering, like Jordan and I, there are lots of options in many countries.

In my research to choose an area to volunteer in, I picked up a lot of information that might help anyone looking into the same work. This list is by no means exhaustive, and needs change quickly and often. But here’s a list of resources to get you started:

General

Balkans

  • Project Hope is a worldwide organization but has its focus in the Balkan states. They accept volunteers
  • Hot Food Idomeni is the only group delivering hot food to the homeless refugees in Belgrade, Serbia
  • Refugee Aid Miksaliste works mostly with the homeless refugees in Belgrade, Serbia by providing charging centers, activity corners, and language workshops run by volunteers
  • Refugee Aid Serbia facilitates information, distributes clothing, and works closely with the homeless refugees in Belgrade, Serbia.
  • Info Park is a hub of information for the refugees on the street and in the asylum centers. They pay for hostels for families, provide language classes, and more.
  • A great list for those interested in helping in Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia and more.

Greece

  • Boat Rescue Foundation is a Dutch organization that not only helps pull life rafts to shore in the Greek islands but also helps work in the camps
  • Hot Food Idomeni also gives out hot food in northern Greece near the Macedonian border (hence the name “Idomeni”)
  • Northern Greece Volunteers is as exactly how the name descries – a coalition of volunteers in northern Greece. They are funded in part by Help Refugees.
  • A great list for those interested in helping in northern Greece.
  • Forgotten in Idomeni helps distribute food and more in Greece.
  • A site for coordinating volunteers and broadcasting needs in Greece.
  • EuroRelief works in camps and on the beach in Lesbos, Greece
  • Intervolve has international volunteers in Thessaloniki, Greece
  • Nurture Project International works with nurses, midwives, and lactation consultants to provide for women and babies in Greece.
  • Lighthouse Relief has volunteers in Lesbos and on mainland Greece.
  • Helping Hands works with families and unaccompanied minors in Athens, Greece.

Middle East

  • Relief and Reconciliation for Syria is a group in a village in Lebanon. They prefer volunteers that come in teams to create workshops or volunteers that can stay 3-6 months at a time.
  • Basmeh and Zeitooneh is a grassroots Lebanese organization, dedicated to serving Syrian refugees and vulnerable communities in Lebanon
  • Nurture Project International works with nurses, midwives, and lactation consultants to provide for women and babies in Iraq.
  • Information for volunteers to Turkey is excellent, though information hasn’t been updated in a few months.
  • Information Point for Turkey Volunteers often has calls for volunteers as well as good information to educate you before the trip.
  • Tarlabasi works with vulnerable ethnic minorities in Istanbul, Turkey. They take volunteers for longer period of time, but volunteer applications are on hold until Feb. 1, 2017.
  • A short list of small NGOs in Jordan that may accept volunteers

Central/Western Europe

  • A great list for those interested in helping in Calais, France (though recent changes in November 2016 may make some information here obsolete)
  • YWAM is taking volunteers in teams throughout Europe and requests that people commit to stay for at least three weeks.
  • Operation Mobalisation is a faith-based organization always taking teams of volunteers throughout Europe.
  • Care4Calais is a British/French organization working with refugees previously living in “the Jungle,” an unofficial refugee camp in Calais, France.
  • Secours Catholique, a branch of Caritas, works to distribute clothing to the refugees in Calais and Paris.
  • CalAid helps distribute clothing, give aid, and more to the refugees in France, UK, and Greece.
  • FranceAndBeyond has some good tips and suggestions if interested in volunteering at camps in France.

Other information

Interested in donating money instead? Go here for a great list. 

Advertisements
Categories: Lost in Translation, Practical Matters | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How you can help

After a few of my Facebook posts, several friends and family have reached out and asked how they can help out. If you’re interested in donating money, I have the info!

If you’re interested in helping out where we are (Belgrade, Serbia):

  • Hot Food Idomeni is the only group handing out hot food to the homeless refugees. They show up in a big white truck with two vats of soup and loaves upon loaves of bread. While they blare music over the truck radio, about five volunteers hand out soup and food to the hundreds of refugees in line. The rest of the volunteers (like Jordan and myself) fan out and make sure no one cuts in line.
  • Refugee Aid Serbia is the only group I know of that still distributes winter clothing and blankets (sometimes). Volunteers often wander down to the barracks at lunchtime. When a few refugees approach them about gloves, shoes, or socks, each volunteer will pick three or four and bring them to a park, where they distribute the clothing. There isn’t enough manpower or donations to give things to everyone–they can only distribute to those that need it the most. On their donations page is an email address to request a list of the most-needed non-food items if you want to send material goods rather than money.
  • Info Park hosts foreign language lessons, supports families by helping them find hostels to live in, and coordinating travel and information.
  • Donate money directly to Jordan and I. It’s completely unofficial (thereby getting around the nonprofit distribution issue with the law). We are buying gloves, hats, and socks, and wearing them when we walk down to work with the refugees. To keep things orderly and calm, we only hand out two pairs of things a day, discreetly, to those we see that need it the most. We’re buying winter clothing from the local market and clothing stores in the area (a much-needed boost to the Serbian economy! A double win!) and taking photos to show you what we’ve purchased. You can do PayPal, though if we have enough interest from people we might ope na YouCaring page.

If you’re interested in the wider crisis/conflict, then here’s a list of organizations that do a lot of good work.

If you want to help the refugees relocating to the United States, you can donate to the nine domestic nonprofit organizations that help resettle refugees alongside the US government:

Many of these organizations also take volunteers to help “host” a refugee family as they’re being settled by showing them around town, teaching English, and anything else you’d do as a friendly neighbor.

If you want to learn more about refugees in the USA, go here.

Categories: Serbia | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Ulaan Bataar: the city of Mongolia

Mongolia technically has three cities, but Ulaan Bataar, their capital, is by far the largest. With a little over a million residents, it houses about 40% of Mongolia’s population.

Ulaanbaatar means “Red Hero” in Mongolian and is the capital city of the country. Created in 1639, it’s not the traditional, historic capital. It was only named Ulaanbaatar in 1924, after Mongolia got it’s independence back from China (in 1911) and embraced Communism from the Soviet Union (in 1921). Very few historic buildings are left in Mongolia—at it’s beginning, it was little more than felt and sheepskin gers, later the Chinese and Soviets destroyed many of the 19th century buildings. Still, UB is a thriving metropolis today, and surprised us by how crowded and energetic the city streets are (even in the beginning of winter!). We bundled up as best we could and hit the streets, ready to see what the capital of Mongolia had to offer.

_mg_1586

Naran Tuul, Monglian for “black market” is a local, outdoor market where one can buy anything, from carpets to snow shovels to wool socks. Jordan and I went to the market as soon as it opened, ready to shed our tennis shoes for real snow boots.

_mg_1620

We had been told that pickpockets and thieves prey on tourists in the market, but I think we went early enough that it wasn’t crowded and distracting. We didn’t have a problem. Although the market officially opens at 9 am, not all stalls were open until about two hours later.

It was -25 degrees C, and we shivered and stuttered through negotiations with the sellers. Our guidebook didn’t say whether we could bargain or haggle, so we didn’t at first. But by the end, we realized that a little bit of bargaining was okay, and I got discounts off the named price. We searched around and found all sorts of winter gear—perfect for what we needed. Although you can buy traditional boots, sellers also have more modern footwear to choose from.

_mg_1595

The curled toe in the traditional boots helps keep heat in during the winter, we learned, and is a good way to keep feet in stirrups when riding over rough terrain. Another added bonus is that the curled toes make footprints faint. When China ruled Mongolia, until 1911, they imposed harsh penalties and imprisoned many innocent people. The traditional boots helped mask the path of escaped prisoners during winter.

Jordan and I bought three pairs of boots—one snow pair for me, one more traditionally-styled snow pair for Jordan, and one sleek, modern leather boots just because they were cheap. We kinda overdid it on the boots, but there were such good deals I kinda couldn’t help myself. We spent 119 USD total on boots.

_mg_1613

For the rest of the winter gear, such as hats, scarves, gloves, and wool socks, we spent a total of 36 USD. I couldn’t believe how cheap it was! Some of it was likely made in China and is of low quality, but I didn’t have to pay importing price that Americans do for the same goods.

20161124_193959The State Department store is UB’s largest and grandest department store, and is practically a tourist attraction in and of itself. Built during the communist days, the government-run department store offered the best UB had for its residents. When the communist government slowly and peacefully transformed into democracy, the store was privatized. Today the 7th story building looks drab and Soviet on the outside, but has the loveliest and brightest Christmas displays in the whole city. It has a grocery story on the bottom floor, which Jordan and I went to for buying food for our Trans-Mongolian train trip, and everything was moderately priced. We even found lots of imported Western items—things we never saw in Korea! Jordan and I salivated over the rows and rows of fresh bread to choose from. We hadn’t seen that much (or that quality) of bread in over a year.

20161124_193548

Sukhbaatar square is the center of the city. In the middle of the square we were surrounded by a giant Chinggis Khaan statue, a Mongol warrior statue, Parliament house, and several state museums. To our south were small skyscrapers and hole-in-the-wall coffee shops. Although Mongolia is now a democracy with presidential elections every five years, a few things are still state-run, like MIAT, the airline we flew into the country on.

_mg_1856

Our last tourist stop in the city was the National History Museum. Tickets were cheap, but the camera fee was more expensive than the cost of admission. Still, Jordan paid it because he wanted an easy way to document the history we’d learn. The first floor was Neolithic and prehistoric, and I don’t really understand those eras. I was still having a hard time piecing together the different dynasties and how the Golden Horde was different than Attila the Hun and who exactly the Manchurians were. In China, they seemed to suggest the Manchu dynasty had strong ties to Mongolia. But in Mongolia I was told they were Chinese. (And who exactly is Chinese? Who decides? Is it based on where the group lived in medieval borders, or present-day borders, or does it have to do with a broad ethnic grouping? And who gets to decide who does and doesn’t fall into the ethnic group?) Anyway, besides these rather existential questions, we had an excellent time on the upper floors.

_mg_1862

Mongolia has around two dozen ethnic groups in the country, though most can all be labeled the umbrella term “Mongols” (not the Kazakhs though, they’re Kazakhs, not Mongols, even though they’ve lived in Mongolia for 200 years). I loved looking at the official and traditional clothing of the ethnic groups over history. Obviously, most don’t wear these today—the Kazakhs we met were wearing fleece pullovers and ski pants with fake North Face boots—but Mongolians do pull the clothing out for special festivals and holidays.

_mg_1880

Look at this amazing clothing that Chenggis Khan’s children would’ve worn! Jordan and I stared at the colorful clothing, realizing how little information we’d known about the Mongol Empire. Most Westerners know the name Ghengis Khan (but not Chenggis Khaan, his real name and title), but only see his as an effective barbarian intent on maiming and killing his way across Asia. In fact, I think the only depiction I’ve seen of Mongols is in the Disney movie Mulan, where they’re the evil bad guys. It makes sense, of course. The only reason Westerners know about Ghengis Khan and the Mongol Empire is because the Chinese told us about him, and they were enemies. Of course they’d paint him in the worst light possible. So looking at the elaborate jewelry and clothing, much that had been transported along the Silk Road, we realized how incredible the Empire really was.

_mg_1755

Elsewhere in the museum we got to see a tradition ger set up, as well as timelines for the Khaans to understand how history played out. The last floors told about Mongolia’s communist days (all broad brushstrokes, mostly highlighting the good things communism brought the people—like a 98% literacy rate) and heralding the smooth transition to democracy (it wasn’t that smooth, but they made it)._mg_1893

UB has other museums and the lovely Gandan Monastery, where Yellow Hat Tibetan Buddhism is practiced, but we didn’t have time to see all of that. We had to catch a train to Russia that afternoon!

Categories: Mongolia | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

The Mongolian Incident

Our arrival to Mongolia was pretty rough. Mongolia is amazing, and we wish we could spend more time getting to know the people, culture, and landscape. We’d definitely come back to learn more. But our first 24 hours was…rough. We are now calling it “The Mongolian Incident.”

To start with, we arrived at 11 pm in Ulaan Bataar, the capital, and looked for our scheduled airport pickup from the hostel we booked with. It never showed up. When Jordan called, the woman on the phone sounded confused and finally suggested we just take a taxi.

So we did, unhappily, at 12:30 in the morning. Once at the hostel we discovered that they’d booked our overnight tour for the wrong days, and we couldn’t take it. I asked the woman to change the tour, to call the tour operator and arrange so we could still go, but she said we’d have to speak to the manager who would come in at 11 am the next day. Well, our tour was suppose to leave at 9:30 am, so I knew that by the time I spoke to her they would just say, “sorry, it’s too late to go today.”

_mg_1656

The woman also didn’t have our beds ready and tried to get us to stay in a more expensive room (and have us cover the cost). Yes, an auspicious start to the trip.

So the next morning we met a German couple who was going to get a bus ride to Terelj National Park and spend the night in a tourist ger, and hike around—basically everything we wanted to do, but not with a tour. Jordan and I had thought it was too difficult to get around Mongolia without a guide (public transportation is confusing or non-existent and many private “guides” just try to rip you off). But they said it was possible. We had to go to Naran Tuul, the local market for winter gear, but decided after that we’d grab a taxi or bus out to Terelj National Park and find a ger on our own.

Well. It was a good idea.

So, all that’s backstory.

_mg_1655

After the market a man saw us looking for a taxi and decided to help us. He was half Korean and didn’t know much English, but between Korean and English we were able to communicate pretty well (Jordan and I couldn’t even say “thank you” in Mongolian at this point yet). He put us in a car hailed from the street and walked away. Then the driver (who wasn’t an official taxi driver, but more on that elsewhere) found out we wanted to go about 60 km out of the city and decided not to take us. It was too far, he said.

So out we got, and the Korean-Mongolian saw us again. “Don’t worry,” he told us. “My brother is a taxi driver. He will take you. And maybe I can go, too!”

He took us to a chicken restaurant to eat while waiting for his brother. All the while, the sun got lower in the sky, it turned 2pm, and we were getting pretty concerned about getting out to the park while it was still light. At this point we decided not to take a friendly stranger’s help again. Even if it is just friendly help, with the language barrier things always get tangled up, and somehow even though you’ve said you want to get somewhere now, fast, immediately, you end up waiting in a restaurant while the local is promising his brother is just a few minutes away.

_mg_1687

When Jordan went to pay for lunch, the Korean decided Jordan needed help sorting the money and peeked into his wallet before Jordan could pull away. We think this is when it turned from overly-friendly local to scam.
We paid and suddenly it was time to go. Apparently we’d been waiting on lunch, not his brother. Language barrier, again, really screws up your schedule. We paid a taxi to take us to another part of town, where we got in his brother-in-law’s car.

“You okay? You like?” The Korean kept asking.

I was anxiously looking at the time (3:30 pm) and said, “We need to hurry. We need to be in park before dark.”

So we hopped in the brother-in-law’s car (and it wasn’t an official taxi either) and then the Korean tells him where we want to go. He’d had like five or six phone calls through lunch, presumably to his brother-in-law, so I’m not sure if his brother really did have second thoughts or if it was the Korean interpreting and embellishing the scam.
The driver hemmed and hawed when he found out we wanted to go to Terelj, and the Korean convinced him we wanted to go, so the price they finally came around to was 150,000 tugrik (that’s about 65 USD). Jordan shook his head. “That’s too expensive.”

“Okay, okay,” the Korean said. “Because he’s my brother, you get 130,000.” (Roughly 53 USD)

We knew it was too expensive still, but not by how much (We found out later it was double a fair price). But we also knew that we had to get out to the park before the sun set, and finding another taxi to take us would possibly take too much time. If we had known how expensive we woul’ve walked away right then. So we agreed.

The Korean was friendly, always pointing out things, always instructing his brother to stop and let us see the people selling nuts and fish on the side of the road. “You like? You want fish?” He pointed to a salted fish hanging off a stick.

Jordan and I looked at each other. “Uhh, no.” What on earth we were going to do with a salted, whole, scaly fish?

So we drove on. The driver stopped for gas. We checked the time.

The landscape was lovely, but the sun kept getting lower. We stopped a couple of times to enjoy certain sights, then hopped back in the car and kept going.

_mg_1673

The Korean kept pressuring us to go see a famous statue and the national park, but tried to bump the price up to 180,000 tugrik. We couldn’t afford that—we barely had enough cash to rent a ger and get back on a public bus the next morning. So Jordan stayed firm, despite the Korean’s disappointment.

“We have to go fast,” I said again. “We need to find a ger.” The sun was setting, it was 4:30, and a lot of places looked closed.

_mg_1699

“It’s okay. I am helping you,” the Korean repeated over and over. We were getting nervous at this pint, but we couldn’t do anything. We were stuck in the middle of nowhere in -25 degree C weather.

We stopped and asked at six ger tourist camps, and all but one were closed. The last one was a small, half-put together place, and didn’t offer breakfast or dinner. For 150,000 tugrik. We gaped. That was about 30% more than a fair price, and if we paid it, we wouldn’t have enough cash for a bus back to UB, let alone food.

“No, too much, too much,” Jordan said.

“What do we do now?” I whispered.

“Go back to Ulaan Bataar, I guess,” he said. So we turned to our two “guides” and said, “Okay, we’ll go back together. So all four of us climbed back in the car.

_mg_1708

“Okay, to get back to UB, 250,000 tugrik total,” the Korean said.

Jordan and I stared, unbelieving. “You’re going back to the city right now anyway!”

“130,000 to park, 120,000 to city,” the Korean insisted.

“We don’t even have that much money!” I protested.

“Okay, for you, special price. 180,000 total.”

“I don’t think that’s fair,” I murmured to Jordan.

“That’s too much,” Jordan replied in Spanish.

(At this point, we switched mostly to Spanish. Although the Korean’s English wasn’t very good and he probably wouldn’t understand low tones, we didn’t want to give him the confidence that he could understand us, especially when we had no idea what he was saying in Mongolian to his taciturn brother-in-law.)

“We can’t get out,” I said.

“We can hitchhike. We’ll get out, find a car, and go back,” Jordan suggested.

“In this weather? What happens if no one comes? None of the gers are open.” I had a horrible image of us freezing to death in Mongolia. I guess now, looking back, if worst came to worst, Jordan could sneak back to the open ger camp, steal some wood, and we’d hike over a hill to a closed tent, break a lock, and sneak inside a ger. But still, we didn’t have matches or flint. So I’m not sure that would’ve worked.

In the end we agreed to the 180,000 price and privately conferred about just handing them the original 130,000 once back in the city and running.

Halfway back, at a fork in the road, the Korean tried to get us to see another sight.

“It’s dark—we won’t see anything,” I told him, getting really frustrated at this point.

“There is light,” he insisted.

“If same price, yes. But more expensive? No. We do not have money,” Jordan said firmly.

So we went on. About halfway back the driver pulled into a gas station.

I frowned, not sure why we were stopping. He had filled up on the way out to the park, and we were driving in a Toyota Prius anyway.

“Okay, we need gas.”

Jordan and I stared at the Korean.

“We need money. To pay. Gas.” Through hand gestures and cobbled Korean and English, we learned that they expected us to pay for their gas.

“No,” Jordan said flatly.

“You have half a tank!” I exclaimed, pointing to the dash. “I can see—you have half a tank.”

“No, no. We have no gas,” the Korean said with a straight face.

“This is fucking it,” I whispered to Jordan.

“I refuse,” Jordan whispered back. “Get your things.”

Thankfully, all our stuff was in our laps, rather than the trunk (they had tried to lock our two bags in the trunk, but we had refused earlier). Jordan hopped out, followed by me.

“What are you doing? The Korean sounded incredulous.

“We will find a different way back to UB,” Jordan said, smiling. “Here is 80,000 tugrik. Fair price for one-way.”

And suddenly the Korean raged, jumping out of the car toward Jordan, waving his hands and shouting.

I went to another car at the station, asking how much to UB, but the man took one look at the drama unfolding behind me, shook his head, and drove off.

“Why? Why?” the Korean demanded. “I am your friend! I help you! I help you! I need money!”

“Dude, take the money I paid you and go away,” Jordan replied forcefully.

I knocked on the window of the gas station, gesturing to ask if I could come in.

The two gas attendants stared at the spectacle but nodded, letting me inside.

“You have your money, go away,” Jordan said, and followed me inside.

The Korean followed, too.

Both gas attendants looked chagrined, worried about the drama going on inside their work. They both gestured, “Go, outside, take this outside.”

I refused to go outside. The Korean was getting more and more angry while his brother loomed in the doorway silently.

“Fine, here.” Jordan handed the Korean another 20,000. “You have 100,000. No go. Just go back to town.”

“I need 130,000! You said! I need money! I told you! I help you! Why? Why?”

“We don’t have that much money!” I said.

The Korean handed the money to his brother-in-law and turned back, waving his arms, looking ready for a fight.

“I can take him,” Jordan told me.

“Don’t you dare,” I whispered back, trying to remain as calm as possible. “You’re not Mongolian. You’ll be the one that goes to prison.”

In the meantime, the male gas attendant went to the back room and pulled out a baton, utility belt with handcuffs, and a bottle of mace. He seemed to be taking the Korean’s side.

“Give me camera,” the Korean demanded.

“Absolutely not,” Jordan replied. We eyed our bags, which I had set on a windowsill. The Korean was closer to them than we were by this point.

“Give me camera!” He jabbed a finger at the camera hanging around my neck.

Jordan stepped in front of me. “Hey, man,” he said in a placating voice. “You got your money, just take it and go. Go back.”

The driver in the doorway seemed to think that was good advice, but the Korean was furious. He grabbed Jordan’s camera bag. “I take home!”

I flew toward him, intercepting the bag as he tried to hand it to his brother-in-law. I got the bag and backed away, behind Jordan again, but the lens cap on the camera fell off and clattered to the floor.

The Korean swooped it up, triumphant. “I take.”

“Man, give me my lens back,” Jordan said.

And for the next five to ten minutes there was more yelling, arm-waving, and the Korean storming toward us.

“Get back, Adrianne,” Jordan warned. “If he comes at us, I don’t want him hitting you.”

The poor gas station attendants watched nervously, the man fingering his mace. I couldn’t tell who he wanted to use it on—the Korean was obviously more irate, but he spoke Mongolian and we didn’t.

Finally Jordan broke into the yelling. “If I give you 30,000, will you give me my lens cap back?”

“Yes,” the Korean agreed.

We only had denominations of 20s, so Jordan pulled out 40. Then they did a little dance, “you give it to me first,” and “No, you give it to me first.” So Jordan handed the money to the attendant as a middleman. He didn’t look happy about it, but obliged and traded the cap for the money and change.

The Korean finally calmed enough to leave, and stormed out to the car, where is brother-in-law was already waiting.

Jordan took the camera from me and stood at the window, waiting to see them leave. But the Korean decided Jordan was taking photos of them and stormed back, yelling and screaming some more.

“You have your money!” Jordan and I said. “Just leave!”

“No, this is my home. You leave. Get out! Get out right now!” He edged around, trying to herd us out the door. I didn’t want to go anywhere out in the cold, away from the gas attendants as witnesses.

Jordan grabbed the extra bag and walked outside.

The Korean grabbed my arm, pushing me toward the door. “Leave!”

“Back off!” I glared up at him. “Don’t you touch me!” I raised my hands and widened my stance, trying to recall self-defense moves.

The Korean maybe realized he looked really bad, trying to force a woman out into the cold, and took a step back. Or maybe the gas attendants told him to chill—I’m not sure which. But Jordan stood in the window, beckoning me outside, so I went.

“Did he touch you?” Jordan hissed.

“I pushed him away,” I said, standing right at the window. “I’m not leaving this window. There’s no telling what this guy might do.”

The Korean came outside behind us, still yelling and pleading. “Why? I need the money!” We ignored him, and eventually he got in his brother-in-law’s car and drove away.

I sighed in relief, my legs shaking from adrenaline.

Someone rapped on the window, and I turned to see the female attendant waving at us. I smiled and hurried back inside the building.

The man turned out the light so no one could see us sitting inside, then got us stools. The woman made us tea and smiled reassuringly.

Jordan and I huddled together, warming from the tea, trying to make sense of what had happened.

“I guess everyone has a scam story,” I said. “We’ve been traveling for almost two years. We’re past due.”

“That was so much money,” Jordan growled.

“I was angry about not seeing anything today, but after this scam, we have a full day’s worth of drama.”

After we had calmed down, the gas attendant showed us how much money would be fair to get back to the city (40,000 tugrik, or 16 USD), then stood outside with us at the road and helped us wave someone down.

Another Prius stopped (Priuses are really popular in UB) and said he’d take us to the center of town for 30,000 total.

Jordan and I thanked the gas station attendants profusely, hopped in the car, and finally got back to UB at 9 pm.

From there, we walked to our hostel and asked for a day tour for the next day. We didn’t have hardly any time in Mongolia, and almost a full day had been eaten by this scam. And I desperately wanted to meet a nomadic family. Eventually, after haggling and getting strange answers, I called another hostel/tour operator and booked a nice full-day trip that had everything we originally wanted (minus spending the night in a ger) for 60 USD per person.

“Tomorrow will be better. The Golden Gobi took our reservation, even though I called at 9:30 at night, for the next morning,” I promised.

“I can’t believe I let him take all that money,” Jordan replied.

“I was just so anxious to get to the park. I should’ve let you say no.” I unwrapped all my winter gear. “Let’s take a shower and go to bed.”

And that is our Mongolian Incident.

Categories: Lost in Translation | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Adrianne can see now!

So I had my eye surgery last Friday. It went well, overall.

Jordan took me to Noon Eye Center in Daegu on Friday morning. I had my surgery at 1:30, the first of about six patients that day.

20160610_134020

Maria, our lovely interpreter/liason, walked us through everything. I had a couple of eye tests again, mainly to check the pressure of my eyes. I signed a waiver, then they took me to a resting suite (complete with a hospital bed) to change into hospital clothes. I was given pills to keep blood pressure low, and then taken to the surgery suite.

Off went my glasses, and I was led by hand to the operating table. From there I followed directions and tried  to keep my breathing even. I have to admit–I was really nervous.

20160610_141839

After putting numbing drops in my eyes, a nurse marked my eyes with a blue marker to show the surgeon where to cut along my cornea. Then they lay me back, covered everything by my right eyes in sterile blankets, and taped my right eye open.

Staring at the bright light was at first, both painful and difficult. Imagine people telling you to stare at the sun for 15 minutes. But I did try.

The surgeon stuck a needle into my eye for more numbing medicine. I felt the pressure of the needle, but no pain. Then he did the same to my left eye.

Jordan time the whole procedure, from when I went back to when I came out, groggy: 24 minutes. I would guess actual surgery was about 10-15 minutes of it. Through the entire process a nurse dripped cold water/saline on my eyes, which kept them from getting too dry. That was definitely a godsend.

I was anxious but kept as still as possible, focusing on the bright light above me. When the surgeon cut into my cornea all I could see was static. Then everything went black. I could see him holding the contact in tweezers, and felt the pressure of it slipping under my cornea. The unfurling of the contact hurt a little, particularly when he had to drag it into place. It was sharp, and I couldn’t move my eye no matter what. I started singing my favorite hymn to myself, “Be Thou My Vision.” Which is ironic, really.

The second eye went exactly the same, except it was incredibly painful when the contact was wiggled into place. I whimpered, and the surgeon knew I was in a lot of pain. He promised it was almost over. Maria stuck her hand under the blanket and let me squeeze. This eye was easily six times more painful than the last. I’ve read otherp eople’s experiences online, and I can only guess that I wasn’t given enough topical pain medication. The dentist always has to give me extra if he’s going to drill on me. My nerves are extra sensitive, or my body cycles the medicine out faster than most people.

By the time the doctor was finished, my entire body was shaking. I was tired and in pain and worried. They had me close my eyes, guided me off  the table and to a wheelchair (I could walk, but I guess this surgery is invasive enough they required a wheelchair). I was wheeled back to the resting suite, where a nurse arrived brandishing another needle.

20160610_144354

“What’s this?”

“Antibiotics,” Maria said. “We’re going to see if you’re allergic. If you haven’t developed any bumps or red marks, we’ll give you the full medicine.”

After giving me the test bit, both the nurse and interpreter left.

20160610_150217

“So how’s it going?” Jordan asked, making some joke about eyesight.

“I’m not sure,” I said, “But I think I’m about to cry.” And then I promptly burst into tears. Which probably wasn’t good for my eyes.

Jordan sat beside me and held me while I bawled. “I’m not sure why I’m crying,” I sobbed, still shaking all over. “I’m not in pain anymore. I’m not scared. I’m not angry. I don’t know why, but I can’t stop crying.” So he smoothed my hair and waited until I calmed down.

I got the real antibiotic shot just after I stopped crying, and they told me to rest for an hour before the post-surgery check up.

An hour later I was shuttled to a different doctor who peered into my eyes and proclaimed me “good” in about five minutes. My eyes were irritated, scratchy, and my vision was still blurry. All I wanted to do was sleep.

20160610_154836

Jordan and I spent the night at the clinic (free of charge!). He walked to pizza hut and brought food back. I took my medicine, ibuprofen, and a benadryl, and went to bed at 8 pm.

Following are the main thoughts I had over the course of the next couple of days:

Day 0: What the hell have I done? What am I getting into? This hurts like hell. This had been be worth it.

Day 1: I swear, if they stick a bright light in my eyes I’m going to snap. I don’t know how I feel about this. My eyes hurt. I just want to sleep.

Day 2: I had better vision with contacts. Where the hell has my peripheral vision gone? When is it coming back?

Day 3: I guess this isn’t so bad. Still want my peripheral vision back, though.

Day 7: Okay, the clear things are really really clear. And seeing clearly right when I wake up is amazing. Still had better peripheral vision with contacts, though. I guess it was worth it. Still holding out for my periphery.

Day 10: I have great, normal peripheral vision in bright sunlight, when my pupils are small. In dim rooms, my pupils dilate (like normal) to the size of he contact behind my cornea. I don’t think it’s quite large enough, which is why my peripheral vision is blurry. We will see if things change.

And that’s pretty much where I am. Jordan says it takes about two weeks to really appreciate the surgery and be glad. I suppose I’m slowly being seduced.

Overall: Went to Noon Eye Center in Daegu. Cost 3,350,000 won. Had to spend the night there, and recovery took about two or three days (longer than LASIK). Everything’s good so far, besides my peripheral vision. I’ll be taking antibiotic and anti-inflammatory drops for several more weeks.

Categories: South Korea | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Adrianne can (almost) see now!

So I also got eye surgery here in Korea, over the weekend at Noon Eye Center. I had originally hoped for LASIK, like Jordan got, but I wasn’t a good candidate. Instead, the surgeon suggested I get intraocular lenses put behind my cornea.

TL;DR at bottom

Evaluation: My evaluation and consultation was the same as Jordan’s, with almost the same tests, so I won’t detail it much here. Because I am extremely nearsighted (I wear -10.50 in contacts) they did numb the nerves behind my eye (with a few stinging eye drops) and have me do some of the vision tests a second time. Apparently people with nearsightedness have nerves that overact, trying to compensate for poor vision. Once the nerves are numbed, however, the doctor can see how bad their vision truly is. And mine was bad: -12.50 in my left, dominant eye and -13.50 in my right. No LASIK for me.

Step One Preparation: Getting IOLs is a bigger hassle than LASIK, unfortunately. Step one requires drilling two holes in each eye to allow fluid to drain. When anything is added to an eye, it can build up intraocular pressure, with can give a patient glaucoma. That’s bad, so a week to a month before actually inserting lenses, they drill two holes in each iris.

At my appointment, I was given the run-through of the surgery again, signed release papers, and had the pressure of my eye checked (yes, the annoying puff machine). Then I was given a series of eye drops, all with a pretty intense sting to them: antibiotics, pupil-constricting, and numbing solution. It took about  an hour for my pupils to constrict to the desired amount. My vision went blurry and dark, because my eyes weren’t getting the light needed to see clearly, and Jordan and our English interpreter (Maria) led me downstairs to the waiting room.

20160604_115239

Physical check up: For some strange reason, I needed a physical done before they’d perform anything on me. So I was taken upstairs to get my heart checked, blood drawn, and X-ray taken. It all seemed like a little overkill to me, and no one warned me that my blood would be drawn (I HATE needles). It cost 28,000 won. I was approved by a doctor of internal medicine, and that was that.

Surgery: I’m not sure I can quite call this surgery, but I was nervous about it. Two nurses, the interpreter, and the surgeon set me in a chair in a dark room. They fitted what looked like a camera lens to my eye with goopy glue. It didn’t feel good. It kept me from blinking and magnified my eye so the surgeon could see what he was doing. I leaned against the table, sticking my chin and forehead on the machine like always. Then the doctor marked my eye. This part was, for me, the most painful.

Bright green, flashing light exploded in my vision. I stared straight ahead, at a light they provided for focus. The piercing green light felt like staring into the sun. It probably took about four minutes per eye. When one eye finished, they popped the camera lens off my eye (yes, it made a popping sound) and stuck it to my other eyeball.

Not gonna lie: this hurt. Imagine staring at the sun, unable to blink. Finally, it finished. They had me stand and shift to another machine on the other end of the table. Same routine: I pressed my forehead and chin against the machine, the thing still stuck to my eye.

20160604_113342

This time they used a real laser to punch holes in my eyes. It wasn’t particularly painful, but it was jarring. It felt a lot like the puff machine where they check eye pressure. I didn’t see anything, but felt the pressure. I “heard” the laser go through my eye. It doesn’t actually make any noise, but the laser goes right by nerves attached to my ears, so it buzzed loudly. The laser lasted for just a couple of seconds at a time.

All this time, of course, Maria is saying, “look at the light. Don’t move, don’t move” over and over. When the laser hit, I flinched. Twice. I really couldn’t help it. But by the time I flinched it was over, so I wasn’t in any danger of interrupting the operation. My second eye went a lot better under the laser. This time, I knew how the laser would feel and could brace myself for it. Also, it had rested between the markings and the laser, and so had more resilience against the pain.

They let me pull back from the machine (one nurse held my hand through the whole thing, bless her heart) and wiped my cheeks dry of the eye drops and goop that dripped down. Then I was released.

“Go eat lunch,” Maria suggested. “Jordan has paid. We’ll see you back next week for the surgery!”

20160604_113228

TL;DR: This was the first step to get my implanted lenses. I had to get holes drilled into my irises to allow pressure/fluids to drain before the actual implanting surgery. The procedure itself to ten, maybe fifteen minutes. The entire appointment was about two and a half hours. I had a physical checkup (an extra 28k won), my vision was checked, and eye drops constricted my pupils and numbed my eyes. Finally, I sat at the machine and had my eyes marked by green light. It was painful and uncomfortable. After my eyes were marked, they moved me to the laser, which felt a lot like the puff air-pressure machine. The laser was uncomfortable, but didn’t really hurt. Then it was over and I was released. My vision stayed dark and blurry for about four hours, and then I could use my glasses again. The entire surgery will cost 3,350,000 won.

Categories: South Korea | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Medical Tourism – LASIK in Korea

By Jordan Karasek

(TL;DR is at the bottom)

On Saturday I got LASIK eye surgery! Without further ado, this is my story….

Background: Adrianne has wanted eye surgery for a long time and this desire was increased greatly thanks to our dear friend Sarah Ann, the one with us in South America. She got LASIK and loves it! Our friend figured that price of eye exams, glasses, and contacts would equal out to be the same as surgery over a few years.

Inspired, while living in Florida Adrianne checked what it would take to fix her eyes. The LASIK would cost $4,200 for her. I though I could get it done in the States for $3,000.

Fast forward to Korea! Medical tourism is indeed a great thing. Mostly everything in Korea is expensive, including food and technology, because it is not about the product but about how much you paid for it. However medical, with and without insurance, is cheap. A lot of people can save a few hundred or even a couple thousand dollars flying to Korea getting an operation and flying home.

Evaluation: Upon learning this fact we went to get our eyes checked in Daegu, the nearest big city. This was about a month ago. Based on reviews online, we went to Noon Eye Center. All their doctors speak some English and they employ an English interpreter for us waygooks.  I got my eyes tested with 12 or 14 different machines and received my results an hour later. I was praying that it would cost about 2 million won, but it turned out to be 1.2 million won, or about a thousand dollars. Our jaws dropped at how affordable it was and we immediately signed me up. My eyes were very sensitive to the dilation and my heard hurt some after the evaluation/consultation was finished. However, it was worth it. I slept well that night and was fine by morning.

20160413_171413

We were both happy that this was happening and that it was going to be so cheap. I, however, kept oscillating on the spectrum of being very excited and being psyched out. (“They are going to cut my eyes open!”) Fortunately, I was blessed with above average thick corneas. Unfortunately this means they can just cut my eye open with a blade instead of a laser. All ranges of hysteria came over me but I tried to maintain a cool calm demeanor. Then finally the day arrived: Saturday the 28th. We caught our street bus into town just in time to take our city bus to Daegu, where we traveled by metro to the eye clinic (It was complicated).

I waited and thought about needles, sandpaper, burning, mostly the possibility of a wrinkle in my eye. They told me that if I rub my eye after they CUT IT OPEN WITH A BLADE, my cornea was prone to wrinkling. Whatever that means. Our house is no short distance away so there must be no wrinkling. Apart from that I was focusing on A Year of Biblical Womanhood. Why? Because Adrianne suggested I read a book about it and because it expired in a couple days. I also was under the impression that I would not be able to read for a few days (I’m writing this post the day after with my x-ray vision so its not a problem).

20160413_155212

We got to eat in the cafeteria before my surgery, a lovely lukewarm Korean lunch with kimchi. Once it was my turn, the interpreter gave me paperwork to sign. She gave me another run down of how things would go and used very good hand gestures that freaked me out again about everything. Adrianne was sitting not to far away I just tried to look strong and confident. I was told something like this:

“Okay, now in just a few minutes we are going in. Again, like I said before you will lay down on the table and there will be a green light. Look at the green light always. Keep looking at the green light no mater what. They will put some drops on your eyes but keep looking at the green light. While looking at the green light they will cut your eye open. It will be like 10 seconds and for this time you cannot see the green light but do not move. It will be dark. Then just keep looking at the GREEN LIGHT and they will continue with the laser….green light, green light, green light….”

20160413_154807

Surgery: Armed and ready for the green light, we put on some gowns and went through a dust cleaning closet (not the type with dust pans and a broom). I sat in a dark room where they gave me 4 different drops. Each drop cleaned or numbed my eyes. Then they cleaned my face and made it all dry and itchy and told me not to touch it at all. Oh yeah, did I mention part of the reason I was freaking out was because I recently developed a n runny nose in combination with Monstro-the-Whale-type sneezing. I was just sure that while I was staring at this green light and they were cutting my eyes open I would have to sneeze, though thankfully I didn’t. I tell you this because I had to scratch my nose with a Q-tip. The doctor gave me some supper strong nasal spray that burned nicely but didn’t make me have to sneeze and kept the runny-ness at bay.

Finally I was up, trying to remember everything I was told and to not think about it at all. I laid down and they covered me with blankets. Put a few layers over my face with a hole in it for one eye. I saw the green light and I knew it was going to be okay. Then they turned on the lights and I knew this was going to feel like forever. I closed my eyes for a bit to give them a rest, which I should have been doing while in the waiting room. Then my eyes were spread open by a metal machine, which didn’t hurt but felt weird. They put more drops in my eyes and poured cool water, or so I thought, all the while I stared at the green light. The green light blinks so that it doesn’t move around but it sometimes had me thinking that I had moved or closed my eyes when I hadn’t really.

After the water, they put the cutting device on my eye. I could still see the green light though it was blurry and all sorts of shapes. Then the cut happened and it scared  me. Nobody told me that the darkness would look like a crazy static-y TV and that I would not only hear vibrations I would feel them all over my face and especially my eye. It only really lasted about 3 or 5 seconds, not 10. That is when I watched God look into my soul as, still looking at the green light now that it had appeared again, I saw them flap a thin section of my cornea away. At this point I started singing to myself “It is well with my soul” to comfort me and to not thing about what was happening. I tried to just look at the green light. By this time 5 minutes in the green light was at the end of a vortex of light. They then washed my eye with some stuff, told me the laser was coming and to stare at the green light repeatedly. The laser lasted like 5 seconds, but I could smell and kind of taste something burnt.

They washed my eye again and put lots of drops. Told me I was doing well. They folded my cornea back over and then put more drops, and I think they like glued it into place with something blue. Either way they were touching my eye lightly and I was done….with the first eye.

It is at this moment that I realized I had to keep my eyes open way longer than just the 10 seconds of blade and 7 seconds of laser but for the entire 10 or 15 minutes it took to do the procedure (that is total for both eyes). They removed my eye clamps, shifted the face covering to my other eye, and hooked my eyelids up. So my lids where tired. They spread my eye lids and it hurt. I thought, “Oh no. I don’t think I can do this again with it hurting,” so I spoke up. They put some numbing drops in, and it still hurt but they continued. The pain disappeared right as they were bringing over the cutting tool.

Aftermath: I made it through the second eye, looking at that green light, and thinking about God making all things well. After finishing, I went to another room and they let me rest. Everything was blurry but I could still see some. They added some more drops and then sent me out. That was it. I was done. I then had to keep telling myself to not touch my eyes. Do not scratch, rub, or touch. Our wonderful translator was able to secure us an overnight room at the clinic. That evening I felt well enough to walk to Burger King and eat. We ended up staying the night because I had a check-up early the next morning.  Adrianne read to me more about Biblical Womanhood and then I slept like a baby ( I woke up every couple of hours). I would get up, put drops in, go to the bathroom, and ever so carefully wipe all the gunk out of my eyes that was sealing them shut. I also get to wear clear goggles with slits for sleeping. Fun. That was how I got LASIK.

TL;DR: Noon Eye Center is phenomenal. Highly recommend. Cost was 1.2 million won total. The evaluations were time consuming and tired my eyes, but not big hassle. The surgery appointment was about 2 hours, but most of that was being inspected by the doctor and signing papers. The surgery wasn’t painful, but keeping my eyes open for 15 minutes was uncomfortable. I didn’t sleep well, but the drop kept my eyes hydrated. The next-morning checkup literally took 5 minutes. By 24 hours my vision was pretty clear. By 48 hours I felt better than ever. My eyes have never felt so good. So worth it.

Categories: South Korea | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Thailand travel tips

Jordan and I were able to spend about a week and a half in Thailand. We enjoyed our time in the country and hope you have a great time in Thailand also. It’s practically where backpacking was invented, back in the 1970s, and it’s a rite of passage to travel through these days.  Thailand has a lot to offer to a wide group of people: 20-year-old partiers, retired culture and history aficionados, and everything in between. We met plenty of travelers that were passing through for their third, fourth, or even fifth time.

So here are little nuggets of advice from us to you.

  1. Book train trips several days ahead of time. It’s difficult to book online (and only possible through third-party companies) but do your best if you have a strict schedule to keep.
  2. Don’t miss the north! I know southern Thailand is calling with its beaches and booze and jaw-dropping island views, but northern Thailand has amazing food, gorgeous mountains, friendly people, and diverse cultures. Chiang Mai was our favorite stop in Thailand and we recommend a visit.
  3. Do your best to research elephant tours, indigenous people tours, and the like before you go on a trip. I absolutely don’t want to guilt trip anyone, but sometimes these tours are good and sometimes these tours are awful. It would be a shame to spend a lot of money on a tour that you end up hating yourself for taking part of, so do your best to know what you’re getting into before you book the tour.
  4. If you’re interested in traveling the entire peninsula, it is possible to start in Chiang Mai and take a train all the through Western Malaysia and arrive in Singapore. It’s not a one-ticket journey, so you will have to book legs at a time, but it’s possible.
  5. The taxi drivers and bus hawkers in southern Thailand can get pretty aggressive. One yelled in Jordan’s face because Jordan said he wasn’t going anywhere yet and didn’t need a taxi. We’ve never had that happen to us before in our travels. Most tuk tuk and taxi drivers are fine, but know that they’re charging an arm and a leg for their services (especially at the ferry for the Phi Phi Islands).

Have fun in Thailand!

Has anyone traveled there before? Got any tips for the rest of us?

Categories: Thailand | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Singapore travel tips

Jordan and I had an absolute blast in Singapore, even though we were only there for two days and two nights! We highly recommend a visit to the city state. Below are our list of suggestions for a smoother time.

20160128_140353_HDR

  1. Taking the subway/metro is the much cheaper transportation option. It can be tricky buying passes, though. The ticket machines don’t take any bills higher than 5 Singapore dollars and the ticket counters have their own rules. The airport is the trickiest. For the smoothest transitions and purchasing possible always have small bills and coins.
  2. Singapore is good for two or three days, probably not much more. It’s an expensive place to visit and somewhat small, so it’s easy to hit all the highlights pretty quickly. In two days Jordan and I saw almost everything we had wanted to see. A third day would’ve been nice to perhaps visit the islands or the Malay Heritage Centre, but we were content with two.
  3. If you’re interested in culture, history, and museums, don’t miss out on the heritage centers around the city! the Chinese Centre, Malay Centre, Indian Centre, and the Peranakhan Museum each show the formation of Singapore as it is today from the perspective of those ethnic groups. It’s pretty cool.
  4. If you’re on a budget, don’t worry about entering the Gardens by the Bay. Yeah, it’s amazing inside, but it’s also really expensive for a garden. There are outdoor exhibits that are free, like the trees, and in many people’s opinions, that’s the highlight of the garden anyway.
  5. If you do the Night Safari (which you should!) save the tram ride for last. We arrived at 8 pm and all the lines were crowded and an hour-long wait. Jordan and I saw the animal show, strolled through the walking parts of the zoo, and saved the  tram for last. At 10:30 there was a five minute wait and we happily got an entire row to ourselves rather than sharing with four other people.
  6. Singapore cabs aren’t terribly expensive considering where they are. But they do charge a 50% surcharge for any rides after midnight. And the subway stops running at midnight.
  7. The sights and the shopping and the clubs are fun, but don’t forget about the gardens. Take your time through Ft. Canning park or one of the other many parks in the country. Singapore is at the world’s cutting edge for incorporating green spaces in urban zones and vice versa, and their leader has declared Singapore to be a “City in a Garden,” which everyone takes seriously. Enjoy the ivy and flowers and trees. It’s beautiful.

20160128_132149_HDR

Categories: Singapore | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Island paradise

About a month ago I got into my head that I needed to see a bio-luminescent beach. We had already planned our trip to Thailand, so I searched online and found an overnight sleep-aboard island tour that included glowing plankton. Well, all that was left was buy tickets and convince Jordan this was a good idea!

We left northern Thailand behind for the sun-drenched islands of the south. It took an overnight train and an all-day train to get to Surat Thani, then a bus from Surat Thani to Krabi Town, and a ferry from Krabi to Phi Phi Don (this was not all done in a 24-hour period–the trains alone took 22 hours).

20160122_171640

For those interested in logistics and prices, here’s an abbreviated version of what we did:

  • After getting off the train in Surat Thani we got on the public orange bus that took us to bus station number 1 for 20 baht apiece
  • The next day we got on a minibus that went to the Krabi bus station for 280 baht apiece (too much, I think)
  • We got a taxi to our hotel for 220 baht (overpriced, definitely)
  • We booked ferry tickets at our hotel for 300 baht apiece, which included a transfer to the Krabi pier
  • We waited until on the island to buy return ferry tickets (a smart decision, I think) for 250 baht apiece on the 10:30 ferry run by Andaman Wave

Phi Phi Don is a breathtakingly beautiful yet highly-touristy island off the western coast of southern Thailand, the largest island in the Ko Phi Phi archipelago. It’s the starting point of tours and party central at night. We arrived on the island a couple of hours before our tour began, and wandered through the streets, seeking a relief from the almost-oppressive feeling of tourists, overpriced flip flops, and beer cans. We hiked to the top of the viewpoint of Phi Phi Don and discovered that it costs 30 baht apiece to actually enter the viewpoint. They really should warn people before they climb the hundreds of stairs (though they would get less customers that way).

_MG_8813 low

After resting in the shade for an hour, watching lobster-red tourists frolic in the waves, we went to meet up with tour, Maya Bay Tours, on their boat. They are the only tour company that spends the night out at Maya Bay (made famous by the 2000 movie The Beach). We slathered on sunscreen and enjoyed the boat trip away from the crowded pier of Phi Phi Don to the jaw-dropping beauty of the island cliffs, emerald waters, and coral reefs.

20160123_152131 low

We snorkeled during the low tide of a full moon, which was a great way to get close to the reef. Unfortunately, it is also a great way to cut your foot on some of the reef (like I did). Our captain took us past the more famous tourist attractions afterward, and our guide explained the cultural significance of the area, as well as the food delicacy of bird’s nest soup. The birds that live in the crags of the cliffs make the famed nests, and during harvesting season Thai move out to the caves in the cliff sides to find the nests. This soup is usually very expensive, but the Chinese love it and will gladly pay whatever price is set.

20160124_073553_HDR

Finally, we reached Phi Phi Lee (or Ley) in the late afternoon and came into the bay. Although it was still crowded with many other tour groups, the beauty of the place was astounding. It really was paradise.

_MG_8845 low

Our tour ate dinner and drank on the beach, enjoying the sunset while everyone else left. Jordan and I strolled through along the small island, gazing at the full moon (we’d never seen a moon so bright–it was almost like daylight) and wading in the ocean. Because Maya Bay is part of a national park, there are rules against sleeping on the island, so we all headed back to the boat to pull out sleeping bags and mats (provided by the tour company). Before going to bed, however, we put our snorkel masks on and jumped back into the water. The bay is so clear and the moon so bright that we could still see far below to the coral beneath us.

20160123_181117_HDR

“Wave your arms! The plankton are motion activated!” our guide yelled to us.

I had envisioned glowing water, a sort of milky brightness that sparkled. I’m not sure if my expectations were too high or this wasn’t a good representation of bioluminescence. I’ll research more and get back to you (but I think it is the latter). Jordan and I kicked and splashed and wriggled in the water as much as we could, and were rewarded with what looked like tiny fireflies floating in the water with us. Beautiful, certainly–though only visible beneath the water, so we have no photos.

Sleeping with 24 other people on the deck of a boat in the wind isn’t a good way to get sleep. But we rested as best we could, because we got up early to sea the sunrise on the beach, where we breakfasted.

_MG_8871

The tour returned to Phi Phi Don at 9:50 am, just in time for us to buy ferry tickets back to Krabi so we could get our next night train from Surat Thani. We both noticed a distinct difference between southern and northern Thailand’s hospitality. In the north, we found, people were more laid back and easy-going with tourists, but in the south there are more scams, hawkers, and what we call “swarming.” So although Jordan and I loved the mountains and seas of southern Thailand, we were relieved to get back to Bangkok. The trouble of getting south and sorting through legitimate deals and scams was absolutely worth seeing everything, it was just a little frustrating. Still, our photos of the Phi Phi islands are my favorite of our trip.

_MG_8839 low

Categories: Thailand | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com.

Morgan S Hazelwood

Writer in Progress

Poetry Without Words

"There is more pleasure in building castles in the air, than in the ground. "

Chesca's Travels

Traveling in South America

Unexpected Wanderlust

Seeking adventure and disorientation while examining the world

Backpack Journalist

TEY-MARIE ASTUDILLO

Grace for my Heart

Dave Orrison's thoughts on grace and more

Korea-The Final Chapter

Working, Living, Exploring in Korea.

Strolling South America

10 countries, 675 days, 38,540km

Le Voyage Extraordinaire No. 55

Sorin and Lisa's Grand Adventure

AtlasxAngela

Building my own map, one trip at a time.

Pinay Flying High

a peek into the realms of my twisted mind

blodger's Blog

This place is great mate

Jeyna Grace ©

Imagination, the perfect form of escapism.

Writing Rhetorically

Classical Rhetoric and thoughts on the world around us

Spiritual Friendship

Musings on God, friendship, relationships

shelburneadventure

Our Adventurous Life