Saturday, July 30, 2016

Vietnam: Week 17

I came here to write this week's post. All ready and (almost) on time. But apparently the only picture I took this week was this picture of my favorite terrible mural at one of my schools. So that's what you get.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Vietnam: Week 16 (in which we have another birthday)

So this week has been pretty busy, because we have a new friend from Oregon who moved in with us (well, he's new to me, some of my roommates know him already). So he's been shown all around. And we also had another birthday. So here's some scattered random pictures.

This is Bia Set where we drink beer and eat copious amounts of food.

This is the alley by our house.

My roommate Amber turned 25 this week!

Cake, Indian food, and beer.

The traditional cake destruction.

And drinking games.

And a rousing game of pictionary.

My city.

We're also big fans of cat cafes.

And we found this one with dogs too so that's amazing.

So that's it for this week.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Vietnam: Week 14 and 15

I'm sorry I've been so far behind on this. We came back from Cambodia and I stayed in party, vacation mode for the rest of the week. And then I got sick for a week. And I got a new phone and I didn't want to deal with getting pictures off both of my phones. And I am all around good at making excuses.

So 4th of July came right after we returned from Cambodia, and while we didn't really do much we had burgers and hot dogs, watermelon, pasta salad (with weird Vietnamese mayo but close enough), baked beans (well weird Vietnamese beans, but close enough), and beer.

And all the roommates were together, and it was nice.

Smoothies from the boat cafe on our street.

Drinking coffee with my glam Cambodia nails (There is a beauty salon in our apartment building, and a manicure is like, 2 dollars here. So my nails are generally painted now.)

Kitties snugglin

A got a new phone, and the very first picture we took was this "gay selfie" at the phone store. But now I have a phone that actually works in this country, so that's good.

This is the river we live on, and the boat cafe by our house.

My favorite rip-off brand I've found so far.

Grocery adventures. 

I assume, for some reason, people will be interested in grocery stores.

Preparing my lesson before class.

Oh look it's the boat cafe again, big shock.

And that's about it for now. It's been pretty comfortable lately, I haven't been doing too much. So sorry I don't think there will be a whole lot to write about lately. Stick around for more pictures of cats and coffee I guess.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Cambodia Trip (warning, sad Killing Fields pictures)

So this last week my visa expired, so we had to leave the country (then return, and get a new 3 month visa). 4 of my roommates' visas were also expiring so we made a trip to Phnom Penh, Cambodia for a couple days.

We got up at 5 a.m. to head to our bus.

Our bus was surprisingly comfortable.

Our bus also played movies, and we all watched Kindergarden Cop 2 which was a cultural experience in and of itself. 

My roomies! Tuna, Amber, Dylan, and Meagan.

At the border you have to get off the bus and walk through this crappy hot security place.

Crossing the border into Cambodia!

We had to stop to let all these cows pass. All in all it was around 6 hours on the bus? I think.

Once in Cambodia we ride on this little carriage/motorbike things called a tuktuk to our hotel. They're essentially the cheap cabs of Cambodia.

Tuktuks are ripe for bad puns. 

Views from our hotel.

Meagan and Dylan on the tuktuk.

We met this super nice family while there. There are tons of people here (well and in Vietnam too) on the streets who sell things like lottery tickets, bracelets, fruit, whatever. These kids were selling bracelets on the street with their mom when we met them. The oldest of the kids was the only one in school, because he has a sponsor from another country. The other two kids do not go to school, and their other two siblings live with their grandparents because their mom doesn't make enough to support them all.

But anyway, they spoke really good English (which is common in Cambodia) and they were so sweet and so funny. We ended up running into them over and over during the trip.

We ended up walking with them to a market, where Meagan bought each of them a new outfit. We also ran into them several times while out eating and bought them food or snacks. They were so sweet and so much fun, and I think it's so cool to travel and actually get to know the people who live there and hear about their experiences. 

Also we got lots of Cambodian food and 50 cent beers)

So these next several pictures are from the Killing Fields. They are pretty sad, so fair warning. The best way I can describe the impact of this place is by saying that, on the tuktuk ride there we were all laughing and joking and talking about what other touristy things we were going to do afterwards.

On the way home we were all pretty much silent, crying, and angry. And we went straight back to our hotel and did nothing else for a while.

 The Killing Fields are "a number of sites in Cambodia where collectively more than a million people were killed and buried by the Khmer Rouge regime, during its rule of the country from 1975 to 1979, immediately after the end of the Cambodian Civil War (1970–1975)". From wikipedia. I knew almost nothing about the Cambodian Genocide before I came to Asia.

So we paid to get in, then we got an audio tour thing which was narrated by a survivor of the genocide, and had lots of stories and sound clips from other survivors. Which I think made it much darker than the pictures can capture.

The whole field is essentially a giant grave, but some of the very large grave areas are fenced off. People leave bracelets and money and other little trinkets on the fence.

It was a really sunny, pretty morning. Which I think made it feel even worse.

The field. It's such a small area for all the huge things that happened here.

Rags of victims' clothes. 

Every year during the rainy season, more and more remains wash up from the fields. Hence, there are signs all over warning you "Don't step on bones" which makes me feel sick in a real bad way.

The worst part of the audio tour. 

Many of the bones collected from the fields are in this stupa (the very large building from the first couple pictures).

The bones are all sorted by gender and age, and the cause of death is clearly marked with colorful stickers. This also makes me feel sick in a real bad way.

And at the end there is a small museum, and a video room. We chose to skip those videos.

It was a really difficult visit, but I am so glad we saw it. I think it's important to acknowledge and try to understand things like this. Especially because it was so recent, and it was such a huge, horrible event, and yet you rarely hear about it outside of the country. Also I know it's weird to have a blog post with bad jokes, and cows, and beers along with pictures of skulls and mass graves. But it's a lot weirder to have these vastly different experiences in one day. It was a really intense short trip.

But, good news. I have been in Vietnam for three months now, and I have three more months on my visa to stay and it's so good to be home. My apartment feels like a home now and my roommates feel like my family.