Thursday, February 24, 2011


One of the things that I have a love/hate relationship with in Shanghai is just simply walking around.
It can be hazardous at times with scooters, bikes and even cars sharing the sidewalks.  It can be annoying too -- people here seem to weave back & forth as they walk (even when they're not texting).  And sometimes it can be incredibly gross as people spit, blow snot rockets and relieve themselves, all in a very small space.  BUT ... I still find myself in love with wandering around, exploring new places and seeing new things.  There is almost always something interesting to see on a Shanghai street. 

On Sunday we came past this man ... he's got a mobile puffed rice and popcorn making station using a very antiquated piece of equipment and a fire in a bucket.  I love seeing things like this!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A "special" treat

Jason & I have been fighting nasty coughs for the past week and spent most of our time indoors hacking our lungs out (and feeling super grateful for jobs that allow/require us to stay at home). 

The dormitory ayi (means "maid" and also "auntie" -- not sure on the correlation there) has been really sweet and excitedly shared a special treat with us on Thursday in celebration of the last day of the Chinese Spring Festival which began on Chinese New Year.

Seeing the coloring, we both assumed that these little globules were filled with red bean paste (which is pretty decent tasting).  Jason popped one into his mouth and was completely surprised by what was inside instead!

What was actually inside was a sweet, black, grainy mixture that we had never tasted before.  Having dissected one, I tried a whole one and it wasn't too bad, just really different than we'd expected.  I described this to one of our students who thought it was sesame ... don't be too jealous ;-)

On a more fun note, Olivia (my friend Natalie's baby) turned one month old this week and is already rocking a very cute style!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Island Living

"Our" island as we started referring to Apo was absolutely lovely.  With only 800 people and NO motorized vehicles (except for boats), it was a perfect respite from the noise and chaos of Shanghai, not to mention the cold! 

The village of Apo was really charming and felt incredibly friendly -- many of the houses were made out of bamboo and other natural materials, clothing was hung out to dry on any available surface and prized fighting roosters were everywhere.


The children on Apo were really beautiful and we loved seeing how well they seemed to play together.  On the left below was a Sunday evening impromptu jam session by some of the youths and on the right, we were tickled to see the kids making sand castles together as the sun set. 

The sound of children's laughter was almost a constant during our time on Apo, especially over the weekend when the kids played non-stop in the water - climbing onto any available boat and jumping off the sides.  The sound was so beautiful.

We had gorgeous sunsets nearly every evening with the best saved for our last night --

Saying goodbye on our final morning wasn't easy (I'll admit, I actually cried a little bit), but we had a perfect weather day for our boat ride back.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Jason gets certified!

For a long time now, Jason has wanted to get SCUBA certified.   I completed the course with my Dad when I was 16 and Palau would have been an ideal time for Jason to get his certification had we not been living off our savings for the year.  When we decided to go to Apo, we were excited to find out that it offered some of the best diving in the Philippines and open-water SCUBA courses to boot.  Jason put this on his Christmas wish-list and thanks to his family's generosity enrolled in the 4-day course the day after we arrived.

While Jason was spending his days in class, studying and learning how to breathe underwater ...
This is how I was spending my time...

I caught a bug before we left Shanghai and was incapable of much for the first 3 - 4 days on Apo.  Not fun.  At least when I had the strength to sit up, this was my view:

By the 5th day, I was  feeling A LOT better and we were able to go on our first dive together!  It was amazing!  Apo has some magnificent reefs, with such a variety of coral and fish - it was almost overwhelming trying to take it all in.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

One out of 7,107

Did you know that over 7,000 islands make up the Philippines??  Until we decided to travel to them, I had NO idea!  How Jason found such a perfect ONE out of so many, I'll never know!

When we planned this trip in the fall, we found out that virtually every flight into the Philippines from Shanghai was going to require us to spend a night in Manila, coming & going.  Having been through Manila once before, we were not excited about this.  Taxi drivers in Manila are awful and it's funny how such a small piece of the overall experience can really make you dislike a place.  Out of the six taxis we were in, only one of them was honest.  Not great odds.  We had one guy use his meter, but then drive us in circles ... another tried to require double what was on the meter and yet another said he'd use the meter, then refused to once we were inside with all our bags, etc.  Granted even with all of that, the fare was never more than $10 ... so ultimately not that big of a deal, it just sucks to feel like you're getting ripped off - every.single.time.

This sunrise as we caught our flight to Dumaguete made the Manila hassles almost worth it. 
Can you tell how happy I am to be back in the tropics??!  I love the warm, muggy air and all the greenery!

In Dumaguete, we picked up a few other travellers and made our way to the boat "dock" to catch a boat to Apo Island.  These tricycles were awesome!

When we lived in Palau, we were constantly astonished by just how strong and hard working the Filipinos who lived there were ... I was reminded of this as I watched our boatman hoist this heavy-looking bag and trot effortlessly toward our boat (which was the smallest one on the beach - it looked like a canoe with training wheels!)

Our destination --- that tiny island in the distance. 

After a boat ride that was twice as long as usual due to some very rough water, I was SO SO happy to see dry ground approaching!  We were soaked through and with the wind, feeling pretty chilly in spite of the 75 degree temperature.  The buildings in the center of the photo is where we stayed - Liberty Lodge.