Saturday, May 28, 2011


Click on the picture for a link to the full gallery!

Hello, and yes we have fallen of the face of the earth.....

Not really!!! We have just been going - going - going - lightning speed! We just got back from India yesterday, spent a really nice but way too short time trying to say goodbye to people in Bangkok (mostly failing with lack of time and a ton of loose ends to tie up - to all those we missed seeing, we love you!) and are leaving early tomorrow for the Philippines! Crazy. I am not going to write anything here, other than to say we are doing great, loving our adventures, and also super excited to be back in 10 days! Rather, I will let the myriad of photos in this album speak for us. There are a ton, but some really amazing ones, so hopefully you wont get too bored looking through them. If they are green or watery, they are from northern Vietnam, dry and deserty, from India. Miss you all!! Can't wait to come home!! If you hear of any awesome jobs that pay tons of money, let us know :)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

We thought we were gonna die-but we didn't

Click on this picture to see our whole photo album. The pictures are a bit repetitive, but show the craziness of what we did pretty well:)

Ha! How is that for an exciting title?? Anxious to hear how we nearly (okay, not really at all, but it felt like it!) met our end? We went canyoning! What in the world is canyoning you might ask; well, it it when you follow a river down through a canyon, by hiking, sliding down natural water slides, or abseiling down a cliff or waterfall. With our budget, we haven't done many/any organized tours/adventure outings (save for that exciting trip down the Mekong River in tubes that went 1/4 a mile an hour! haha) and we decided that needed to change when we went to Dalat, a beautiful mountain city in Vietnam. Dalat is famous for its adventure activities, and canyoning was something that neither of us had done and I had wanted to do for years, ever since I went to Interlaken in Switzerland and met a number of people who had done it there. Anyways, we decided on canyoning since it seemed new and exciting. The only problem was that neither of us were warned about how scary it is, what an adrenaline rush it would cause!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Phnom Penh, Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), and Dalat

Standing Next to our Tuk Tuk in Phnom Phen (Links to more pictures)

We are doing really well, and are loving Vietnam so far! We are currently in Dalat, but spent the previous four days in Ho Chi Minh City, and looooooved it! It is really nice and beautiful with lots of parks and wide streets and modern architecture. Much more beautiful than we expected and my (Graham's) favorite Asian city so far. Our time in Vietnam thus far has also been heavy at times, as many of the sites we've seen have to do with the Vietnam war (or as they call it here, the American war). There has been more than one time that Natalie and I have teared up. One especially hard thing to see was an exhibit about Agent Orange, Napalm, and other chemical agents that were dropped out of planes over the county. The War remnants Museum had graphic, honest pictures of people whose bodies were badly burned, and what was perhaps even sadder was an exhibit about the long term effects of all these poisons that resulted in tons of stillbirths, and babies being born horribly deformed. In some areas there is still a much higher rate of that to this day.....

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Phnom Penh and the Killing Fields

Hello Everyone!

I am writing from our red-themed hotel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. We are leaving this great country tomorrow for Vietnam, which I am also really excited about. Phnom Penh is an awesome city, and it has been exciting because it is the Khmer New Year, so everyone is happy and as I am writing, fireworks are going off, and...okay, got a great show from the hotel window :)

On another note, today we went to the killing fields near Phnom Penh, where the horrific Khmer Rouge regime executed and buried over 20,000 Cambodians between 1975 and 1979. During that horrible time somewhere between 1,000,000 and 3,000,000 Cambodians were killed by the Khmer Rouge. According to Wikipedia (I always go straight to the source!) "In terms of the number of people killed as a proportion of the population (est. 7.1 million people, as of 1975[6]), it was the most lethal regime of the 20th century."  It is insane to learn about the history of this country. Poor Cambodia has dealt with more than its fair share of war (in my opinion any war is more than anyone's fair share) in the past, and it is absolutely incredible how far the country has come since the end of the Khmer Rouge rule in 1979, after such a destructive and deadly period of time.

Going to the location where such tragedy occurred was very powerful, especially because I had never heard anything about the genocide that occurred in this country before I came to Thailand. It has been overwhelming learning about the atrocities that happened here. Because so much of the population was killed, there are few people older than 50 years old, and that is immediately obvious when you look for it. Phnom Penh was completely evacuated under the Khmer Rouge and everyone who was not killed were enslaved in labor camps, in the name of a new communist Cambodia.

Today was emotional. Seeing 86 mass graves, and thousands of human skulls, many of them with breaks due to violent deaths and injuries to the head, I mean, how can I put that into words? I guess I just felt a need to write about this, maybe some of our readers know as little about what happened here as I knew a few months ago. I hope that America, and the world in general, is able to move toward more peaceful policies.

On that note, we send our love to you all.

Peace :)


Monday, April 11, 2011

Angkor Wat What?!

Graham and I just got back from the most amazing (/most tiring!) day touring the famous Angkor Wat temple complexes. This is one of the sights that we were most excited about on our trip (right up there with Halong Bay, the Forbidden City and the Taj Mahal) and we have fast internet, so I figured we should do an entire blog post for it! Gasp :) We do love keeping this baby updated, but it's difficult with all of the travel-we are going and seeing so fast it's difficult to stop for the hour or so that a post requires. Well, mine take maybe half and hour and Graham's take two, so we'll average it at one. But that is beside the point. Today we saw the world's largest religious buildings and the remains of one of the largest pre-industrial civilizations ever. Pretty incredible!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Vang Vieng to Vientiane to Thakhek to 4000 Islands to Siem Reap

The cave that we (bravely) swam into. Click picture for a link to some more pictures!
Hello........anyone there? Do we have any readers left?? We have by no means forgotten you, in fact every-time we have internet access we get super excited to update the blog, only to realize that the speed is so slow that even writing "hello, sorry we haven't updated recently....."takes about an hour to upload. Finally in Siem Reap the internet is once again speedy, so we're back!

There is obviously a lot to catch you up on, so I will just focus on the highlights. One new addition which I dreamed up recently will be a section at the end of the post aimed specifically at other travelers following a similar path and wanting recommendations/information about how to do things, or what to expect. We have benefited a lot from reading other travelers blogs and want to give in kind when appropriate. Enough chatting (Natalie must be rubbing off on me!), here's what we've been up to!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Loving Lovely Laos

I know it's been a while, we have so much to catch up on! I guess I will start with a quick recap:

We had a wonderful and very emotional farewell to our school. For all the the struggles we endured we did have an incredible time and created friendships and memories that will last-well for as long as we can remember them (I say this since Graham's memory is starting to go :) ) The school had a nice going-away dinner and big party for us. Saying goodbye to Tagan, James, Dick, Sasi, Katie,  Jessica, and all of our students was sooooo hard. I held it together when the entire first grade class started bawling, I figured they are too young to remember us in a few years anyways. But when my favorite class, a 4th grade class, started sobbing uncontrollably, I totally lost it. There are a couple kids in that class in particular that I really felt close to. I hope that they have wonderful lives, and I hope to see them again, who knows? I can only hope. It did mean a lot to know that we have made a positive impact on so many kids though. I always had fun teaching (except for one infamous class, which ironically enough ended up being one of my favorite classes!) but saying goodbye really made me realize what an experience it had been. I miss those kids already. It is difficult to describe the intense emotion that I felt, but it was very unexpected and heavy. When James and Tagan (Jamen) showed up at our place so we could all bus to Bangkok together, I was crying, wandering around looking for our cat like a madwoman. It was hard to say bye to Angel and Mr. T too. I felt so guilty leaving them and hope they survive and are happy :) Thank goodness Jamen was there when we said our final goodbyes, because just being around them makes me happy, and I had to hold myself together!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Quick Update - More Coming Soon!

We finished teaching two weeks ago, and waved an emotionally mixed goodbye to our cats, the kids, the school, the little town that has harbored us for the last 5 months. Tears were shed, although I won't say by whom.

We haven't had a lot of time on the internet since leaving, but have had some amazing adventures, and discovered two of our top three favorite places in Asia so far. Our next stop is Vang Vieng, Laos, where we should have a lot of down time to catch up on the blog front, so check back soon!

Miss everyone and tons of love to our family and friends!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Scuba Diving on Koh Tao!!!!!!!!!

Last month we spent 9 days on the islands of Southern Thailand and checked another item off of our bucket list, namely, we are now certified scuba divers! Scuba diving is something I have been interested in since high school, when I volunteered at the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory and did some pool training there. I was so excited to get certified (Thailand is one of the best places in the world to do it) and Graham jumped right on board, and ended up loving it! We both dove into (pun intended) a new life-long passion, and cannot wait to live more life under the sea. So, I guess I should start at the beginning...

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Our weekend with Jaman

We had the most amazing last weekend in Dan Chang with our friends James and Tagan. We hung out with them on Friday at the bar (and witnessed a huge fight-drama OMG! lol) and heard about their trip to Burma, and a bit about the politics of the country. It is always a treat to be able to spend time with them, Graham and I both agree they are two of the coolest people we have ever met! (Click on the picture above to see more pictures!)

What We'll Miss

Our last weekend in Dan Chang! I can't believe our time is almost up! Our experience has been amazing, horrible, life-changing, life-affirming, challenging, rewarding and chaotic. As our time in Dan Chang comes to a close, I keep noticing myself feeling more sentimental than I have the last couple of months. Actually, I feel like I am seeing this place in the eyes I had when we first got here, and not when we were in the thick of teaching and all the confusion and frustrations that came along with that. It is interesting to examine my thought processes throughout our time here, and how they have changed, remained the same, or come full circle. It sure has been a trip! And we are going to take away so much with us. I know as time goes by we will continue to remember our time here in a sweeter and sweeter way, and there are a number of things I am going to miss the moment we leave!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Epic Trip

Year of the Rabbit :)
So... one more week of teaching and we are off!!! Natalie and I are so soooo SOOO you-can't-even-describe-how-much excited to finish up here and get started on our travels!!!! The reason we havn't done more posts lately is because there hasn't been much to say. Actually there is one huge juicy story, but we need to wait till we finish teaching to go into detail about it....apetite whetted??? It should be.... :)

I wanted to give you a link to the maps that we are almost finished putting together though so that you can see and hopefully comment on our trip. Anyone who is traveling this area - let us know when our paths are crossing so we can meet up! Anyone who has been to these areas before - please let us know if we are missing something!! Anyone sitting at work with internet access and too much time on their hands - help us plan!! :) Seriously if you have any interest in the above options email me at, and I would love to send you an invite so that you can edit our maps.

Without further ado, here they are. We miss everyone a ton, and cant wait to meet up with our friend here and especially return to family and friends in the states a few months from now. The countdown begins!

South East Asia in 2 Months Map

India in 2 Weeks Map
Sadly we are never going to be able to do all of this, so help us narrow it down! We are thinking about cutting out all the northern stuff....

The Philippines in 2 Weeks Map

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Livin' in a foreign land

So, with just about a month left of teaching before we head off on the next stage of our adventure, I wanted to do a bit of reflection on our experience here. We have experienced some major ups and downs since we have been here. I'm sure we will in the next month as well, but somehow, with only a month left, each day seems sweeter and sweeter.

We left the Bay Area when we were loving it more than ever. We felt so comfotable in our situation, but we both felt unready to committ to grad school or long-term jobs without getting out and seeing the world a bit. I felt a bit restless, uncomfotable with my comfort, wanting the absolute most out of life, etc, etc. The point is, we loved where we were, but we were both so ready for a big change. I knew that the adventure was not a brainless vacation on a beach. I knew it was going to be challenging, but I was so ready to be positive and take the experience for what it was worth, I somehow thought that in my mind I would be able to create a reality that would be as amazing, and relaxing, as a beach vacation. Ha!

Orientation was great, but intense. We were jetlagged after our whirlwind trip around the world and our 23 hours in Beijing, and we were instantly thrown into a room with 80 other people. What do I wear? What jokes are inappropriate? How do I present myself? It felt like college all over again! But we learned a lot and came out of it with a number of lifelong friends.

Our first month in Dan Chang was great. Everything was so new and exciting, and we love the camping house (where we live) and our city was bigger than we thought it would be, with a river and a reservoir close by! The teaching was challenging, but with our fellow teachers Matt and Sel to show us the ropes, we learned a ton very quickly. Standing in front of 45 kids who don't speak your language is intimidating! You have to keep them entertained for an hour, you have no idea what their skill level is, and you don't know when another teacher or parent will step in and give you "the look." I.e. why are all the kids running around? But, again, we adapted quickly and no longer feel overwhelmed stepping in front of a room full of people not knowing what we are supposed to say or do. I feel like I could be the next President! Haha, oh no. I would cry too much and people would think I was a baby. There goes that dream. :) We were so excited about our new place and we got to see a lot of cool places on the weekends, as we learned about Thailand and its people. It was a magical first month or two.

Anyways, around the holidays we really started to miss our friends and families! We were in the thick of teaching, and were unpleasantly surprised by some of the school politics that we unintentionally became a part of. We had a great New Years, but we were tired and ready for the next step, which wasn't going to happen for months. We felt trapped in our town, as going anywhere takes 6+ hours, and unsure in our school situation. A month of difficulties and subsequent growth followed, and we have metamorphosed into worldly butterflies. Seriously though, living in a different country is wonderful, and challenging. We have been shaken up, but we have learned so much about ourselves and our culture in the process it has been very rewarding still, if not a bit painful.

While we have yet to do the extensive traveling part of our trip, since we have been here we have really been able to experience a different culture. And since we emerged from our tunnel, we have really loved it! I am going to miss teaching and the kids sooo much! I am going to miss our beautiful camping house, and sitting alone outside at night, feeding mosquitoes while looking at the crescent moon and having deep thoughts about life. We still have a month of teaching, but now that time is winding down (time flies!) I have become a bit more reflective on our time here.

On another note, this past weekend was a great one, filled with friends! Matt and Sel returned after 2 and a half months of traveling, and they gave us all sorts of tips and insights, and it was great to see them! We hung by the pool one day, had a great night tasting the delicious food at a new restaurant opening in town (Route 333, it was the best meal we have had in a while!) and dancing to music that Graham and I deejayed at our friend Mink's bar, O2. We walked to a carnival on the temple grounds by our house, and went on a big small rollercoaster, and checked out the random scene (oh Thailand!) of the empty carnival. We talked with old expats over whiskey and watched movies. Sometimes it is nice to slow down and just be home! And it was great to hang out with our Dan Chang crew so much!

Lots of exciting things coming up! I can't believe we have already been gone for 4 months! We are really happy over here, but miss everyone a ton!

Graham vs 4th Grade Girl........Fight!

Yesterday was a tough one.  I confiscated a girls phone after she was sitting down playing on it during PE and after she'd flatly told me, no, she would not stand up and do anything. I told her she could have it back after class if she participated but still she refused to. Not only did she refuse, but she got a bunch of her girlfriends to stop playing too and to follow me around with their hands out saying

Anyway, after class she was like, ok, I want it back now, and I told her no, that she hadn't participated, and that she could have it back the following morning. I went back to my office and about twenty minutes later a teacher and throng of 4-5 of these girls came in. The teacher said I needed to give her phone back. I explained the situation to the teacher as best I could (she speaks alright English) and she was like, ok, that makes sense, I will explain it to her, and they left.

About 10 minutes after that they come back with another teacher, and they are like, we understand where you are coming from, but this girl's parents are really rich and she has threatened to have them call the cops on you, so you definitely need to give it back. At first I was like, fine, call the cops, they will see how ridiculous this is! The teachers were like, you don't understand, in Thai culture they are going to do what the rich people want, plus they won't be able to understand you anyway.

 I was so frustrated! I didn't want to let this little brat win! Natalie, thankfully, was like, Graham, why don't you just give it back, who cares, we won't be here much longer anyway. In the end me and the teachers and a guy who I think is like the vice principal made a deal that the home teacher would keep it overnight. They might have just told me that so I would feel better though, because after they sent the girl to talk to the home teacher, and I think to get her phone back right then. I don't know for sure, I didn't understand what anyone was saying!

The attitudes of some of these kids are ridiculous, and stories like this one make it so obvious why- because they get whatever they want! And these were my 4th graders!

It's so funny to be in a position where I am saying - kids these days..... on a common basis :) I think Natalie is hoping that this experience hasn't backfired and  left me scarred and scared away from kids for life. I don't know, but I am definitly looking forward to some detox when we finish in a month! Then its only seventh graders and older if you want to hang out with me :)

Thanks for reading and have have a great day! The subtext is that everything is going well in general, and we had a great weekend with some of our local friends. Natalie is working on a post to that effect which should be hitting a desktop near you soon! Bye!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Final Day of School In Sight - India booked!

Hola faithful readers! Wanted to do a small update because a couple cool/significant things have happened lately.  The big one is that we found round-trip flights to India for $180, booked them, and are going to be able to add another country and world wonder, the Taj Mahal,  to our trip. We're super excited, although it is a bit bittersweet because it means pushing back our return date a couple weeks (which is now a very solid June 15th), and we are missing home and friends and family a ton already. It's a destination we have both dreamed of visiting though, and who knows when we will be on this side of the world again??

Next, and this is more exciting than words can describe, we have an official end date for school!!! Planning is a laughable word in Thailand, at least the rural part of Thailand where we are based, and so from our school coordinator, to the head of the English program, to the Principal's secretary, to the other English teachers, no one knows when the last day of school is. And besides being not far away, their estimates vary across the timespan of a month! We signed a completely Thai contract that supposedly says we finish at the end of March, but everyone said not to pay attention to that, that it is just symbolic.  As the potential dates draw near, we've started to panic a bit about planning and visas, and finally in desperation contacted the program we came through, CIEE. They came back saying that we would be finishing at the end of February - just a few weeks away! We panicked a bit, and after some back and forth, finalized a final day of March 10th (thank you CIEE for you help!). We didn't have a strong preference to end at any specific time, but after so much work that went into figuring it out, we are just super excited to have a date set! That means that in just about a month we can start traveling, which is good for you also because we will have a lot more interesting posts and pictures that will be coming your way - win, win :)

Anyway miss you all and we will post again soon, next time with some new pics....till then, this is Grahamalie signing out

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Welcome to the Jungle/Chatty Cathy was my favorite doll

(This is our first blog where we are experimenting with a new format of both Natalie and I writing parts, rather than just one of us doing the whole thing- let us know in the comments what your preference is!)

(Natalie)Why is it that I always feel inspired to name our blogs some cheesy/bad song title or lyrics? "I will Survive" and "I can't live, with or without you!" have both popped into my mind as potential blog titles that would snag peoples' interest enough to entice them to read about our lives. But in this case, it is rather descriptive of what I did this weekend, which I guess makes sense, and I get to quote a song from a band that I used to think was the coolest of the cool. No, now I think the coolest of the cool are the 3 other girls I got to spend a lot of time with this weekend in Thailand's second largest National Park, Khao Yai.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Have you missed us? (UPDATED with pictures!)

We miss you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Giant "reclining" Buddah. Click Picture for More!
Sorry for the long hiatus on updating our blog. I guess it was for a number of reasons. First off, we have been very busy. We have also been on a roller coaster ride, and we figured that after our last few "honest" blogs, any more info on the tough stuff here would just start getting annoying to read (plus we want to remember and focus on the good stuff!) So, we hit a low point a couple weeks ago, but since then things have just gotten better. Our program talked about the "honeymoon" period being over, and the reality of being kinda stuck in a small town, working a normal Thai job, kicking in. That is exactly what happened to us. We know that this is an experience of a lifetime, and that we will never have another chance like this, and that living in any foreign culture has its good and bad points. We know that we will appreciate things we took for granted more than ever, and we will give big slopping kisses to all our friends in a few shorts months. But I want to give them big sloppy kisses NOW! We love actually teaching the kids, but the politics of the school are mysterious and often uncomfortable for us, and while we have gotten to see a ton, traveling anywhere from our small rural town is difficult. So, in a nutshell, our lemonade was becoming overwhelmingly sour, until we magically wished it sweet. And now it is.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Loi Krathong

I put together this video from some footage I have been meaning to upload since we celebrated Loi Krathong several weeks ago. Hope you like it!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Bitchin' and Braggin'-Updated with pictures

Ah, this is what is always feels like I'm doing! Either I'm writing about how amazing some of our adventures have been, or how challenging life here has become. Well, such is life huh? We are always trying to find an even better balance, and I have to say that I know I will become a better person because of this experience, I really am learning a ton. I guess that is always the most you can ask for, to learn and be transformed into a continually better, smarter, kinder, more articulate person. I MUST BE CLOSE TO BECOMING THE DALAI LAMA. Anyways, what should I start with, bitchin or braggin? (haha that is fun to say, and write!) Well, since we have noticed an interesting trend with our blogs, and the ones that hint at negativity in the title are the most popular ones, I will start with a bit about what has been challenging here.
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