Monday, June 8, 2015

So Much for Making This a Habit

And the prodigal son returns... It's been a while since I've posted anything, but don't worry! I was diligently working to hone my craft. Consider this my second act, following the world's longest most unnecessary intermission. Yes, I have dedicated myself to becoming a better writer to bring you, the reader, the sporadic free blogging quality you've come to expect and most likely deserve. (Let's be honest, we've all done some bad things. Reading this can serve as a form of penance. Check with your local religious leader.) By immersing myself in some of the finest novels written by the masters of literature, I have absorbed their writing skills into myself and will now bestow my new-found  prowess upon you all!

Or not. I actually spent the last 3 months reading all of the Game of Thrones books and, let's be honest, if you wanted to hear someone talk about a made up world filled with backstabbing betrayal, slanderous gossip, and cries for the blood of tyrants you wouldn't have to read my blog. You could just click over to FOX News. Boom! Cutting political jab! Damn this blog is edgy and relevant!

But no, you're here to read about how a person who can barely function in his own culture manages not to die in a foreign country. Some people would say that's pretty deplorable, but you're just a savvy reader who knows what they like, and that's reading about other people in awkward situations and seeing what kind of bathroom picture I post. That's right, I know why you're REALLY here...

Let's begin.

No, you can't do that here, no matter how much you love your dog.


 I've been lucky enough over the past year to go on some pretty crazy adventures, as well as teach an incredible group of kids! There have been Halloween parties,


They're thrilled!

...trips to South Korea,

I prefer to be "That Guy" on vacation.

The other Korea. Sittin' over there plottin' and schemin'.

...a giant duck,

Like its brethren of the bathtub, it guards the lake from the dreaded Drain Monster.

...a Thanksgiving party with the "turkey's" (duck's) head still attached,

They're thrilled!

...visits from family,

Nathan drank a lot of high-grain alcohol on this trip.

...and even a visit from Santa Claus!

It's uh... it's been a rough year for the jolly old elf.

And if you've been keeping track that brings us all the way up to December. A few weeks after I took the flattering photo you see above, I made the decision to sign on and teach in Taiwan for another year. This was a fairly big decision, but I'm not quite ready to end this chapter of my life. Living in another part of the world is incredible. Most people don't get to experience something like this, and I don't feel one year was sufficient enough time to explore all Taiwan has to offer. Also, I need one more year before the statute of limitations runs out back home. You guys know what sticklers the police can be.

In February we got a week off for Chinese New Year, so my girlfriend Kyra and I decided to take the time to do some personal reflection on our lives and really grow as people. We decided we would best be able to do this on the beautiful beaches of the Philippines.

Just getting back in touch with my roots.

It was an awesome trip! After we landed in Manila our hotel sent a shuttle to pick us up and take us to the southern tip of the island. We would then take a boat to a city on another island, Puerto Galera, where our hotel was. Upon getting off the plane you could just tell there was a unique attitude about life in the Philippines. The best way I've been able to describe this attitude is, "eh, whatever." For example, when we merged onto the highway and fell into a traffic jam, our driver just went, "eh, whatever" and proceeded to ride up on the tail end of an ambulance en route to the hospital for the next 10 kilometers. No better way to start your vacation than whispering to your girlfriend, "Do you see the paramedic in the back?! Look at all those tubes!" But it got us out of the traffic jam so, hurray?

When we got to Bantangas on the southern coast of the island we discovered the next installment of our grand adventure.

Our chariot!

Puerto Galera was really cool though. It was a favorite destination of Ernest Hemingway and even has a bistro named after him. It's also world renown for its diverse coral reefs (yet somehow not for its homeless animal population), so there are scuba diving and snorkeling businesses just lining the beach. When we went snorkeling it was beautiful! We saw all sorts of incredible sea life, including a sea turtle, which I followed around for about a half-hour.

Puerto Galera

Near where we snorkeled.

Our favorite restaurant. Seriously, we went back there more times than I'd like to admit.

On another day we went on a tour of the inner parts of the island. Since no one else in our hotel signed up for the tour, it became a private trip (score!). Now the thing you need to know about the Philippines is that, while the Filipino economy is growing, it's still an island nation and it can be difficult to secure larger domestic goods, such as cars. This is especially true on the smaller or less populated islands. This means that Filipinos often rely on their ingenuity to develop other modes of transportation. Motorcycles are popular, as are motorcycles with homemade sidecars, but for our tour of the island we rode in something much more...shiny.

No, the horn doesn't play "La Cucaracha."

And no, there is no backdoor... or seat-belts.

This is a jeepney. A converted US army jeep left behind from WW2. Yes, there are a lot of them. Yes, they are all shiny. Yes, they are awesome! People just hop on the back, hitch a ride for a while, knock on the roof when they get to where they're going, and then hop off. And thus, we made our escape into the jungle!
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Escapes into the jungle are best accompanied by Eminem.

One of the first stops was this really scenic waterfall called Tamaraw Falls. Despite having a name that sounds like a hillbilly trying to tell you about the day after today, it was really beautiful.

You might be a redneck if you enjoyed the previous joke.

Afterwards we rode further into the island and came to an indigenous tribe. Our guide told us the locals prefer to be left alone but wouldn't mind too much if we were respectful. So no pictures. You'll just have to trust that I'm not a big liar who makes things up on the Internet to sound cooler than I really am. I know I'm asking a lot.

Follow me, on this probably safe bridge!

There was also a little campground where the river was diverted into a very cold pool and man-made waterfall. The owners even built little rock tables and chairs in the river. You just want to make sure you get the table furthest upstream. You're already sitting in fish pee, and you know any jerk sitting two tables further up than you is just going to add their pee to that. I prefer to be in the position of control in these situations.

Pictured: Position of Control

Not Pictured: The old man laughing at his wife who was too scared to get under the waterfall.

Once we were done eating came, what I consider to be, the highlight of our tour: lunch!

Add in a monkey butler and 8-year-old Eli would have considered his life fulfilled.

We ended the tour with a stop at a pebble beach. We were there just briefly, but it was incredibly beautiful. When we first got there our tour guide pointed to a tree and said, "Look a monkey!" We got really excited until we saw the monkey was chained to a tree branch. Encountering a wild animal loses its sense of adventure and danger when it's tied up and heavily sedated, isn't that right Russian President Vladimir Putin? However, we did see another monkey in a tree later on.

....it's me. I'm the monkey.

The following days were just as amazing. Relaxing on the beach, being solicited on the beach, checking out the local shops, being solicited on the street, eating delicious food, being solicited in the restaurants, reading by the pool, being solicited while we were snorkeling... Seriously, a boat came up to us in the middle of the ocean to try and sell us a tour. Either he was banking on us finding sunken treasure or he was really trusting about where I put my money when I wear a swimsuit.

But it was a fantastic trip. Here's a view from one of the places where we ate breakfast.

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I don't think she was being sarcastic.

And here's another one of the jeepney, because those are just fun.

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The vacation ended with Kyra and I having to take a 4AM boat ride back to Batangas. It was so dark that the boat had a hard time reaching the dock. So instead we walked on a rickety plank to one boat, went to the back and then walked on another rickety plank to our boat, surprisingly without being thrown into the ocean! It was a bit of an intense, dark ride but we made it back to Taiwan in time to greet my parents as they arrived for their visit. But those pictures are for another day. So for now I'll leave you with the latest installment of BATHROOMS OF TAIWAN!!

This latest entry comes from a week long music festival. The picture was taken the first day of the festival. You don't want to see what it looked like at the end of the week. I present to you, the Taiwanese Port-a-Potty!

Damn, it's great being a guy.

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