Thursday, December 30, 2010

Your Daily Gem.

We had a little extra time at the end of class today and Andy, Isaac and I decided to play cards.  I was wowing them with my shuffling skills and Isaac told me that my fellow co-teacher Landis, has a hard time shuffling the cards.

Andy responded with, "Well she is a weak lady, Isaac". 

Sorry Landis!

La Casa de la Playa

So the boy and I were blessed with the amazing opportunity to stay a few days at La Casa de la Playa on the mystical island of Siquijor.   The place is amazeballs.  No joke.  Let me just start with the owners of this resort.  Terry and Emily have been business partners for over 16 years.  Terry is a German expat who was traveling the world with her girlfriend, Romy.  They decided to take some time off of work and see all that the world had to offer.  After exploring most of southeast Asia they decided it was time to spend a few weeks in the Philippines.  They spent time in Manila, Cebu and Bohol before stumbling upon Siquijor.  They had some trouble finding a place to stay and decided to walk along the beach to see if they could find some reasonable accommodation.  They eventually found Emily who agreed to let them stay in the only house that she had on the property. 

Emily singing a traditional Visayan Christmas song

Emily has grown up on the island and her family owns a significant amount of beachfront property.  She agreed to let Terry and Romy stay with her in the house thinking that it would only be for a week or two.  Well, after two weeks Terry and Romy were far from ready to leave.  They decided to extend their stay for another two weeks.  Those weeks flew by and they decided to stay just a little bit longer.  Weeks turned into months and months inevitably turned into years.  Sixteen years to be exact. 

They now have 12 bungalows on the property and have had guests stay from all over the globe.   There's a wonderful restaurant and they even provide guided tours around the island.  Double bonus because the restaurant boasts an assortment of both Filipino and German inspired dishes. Nom nom nom. 

I cannot even explain to you just how fabulous this resort is.  Not only is it relatively secluded and private, but the staff is so genuine and friendly and they all remember you by name.  It's like a tropical version of the tv show Cheers.  The staff even had a few performances for us on Christmas Eve.

You best believe that they boy and I videotaped the sheet out of this place.  Once we get everything uploaded I'll be sure to post the final product on here.  Until then, go online and book your stay at La Casa de la Playa.  Who knows?  You might never leave!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Siquijor. Day 2.

Our second day in the Philippines started off with our alarm clock failing to go off.  Thank you sweet Jesus that the boy randomly woke up and decided to look at his watch.  It was 5 minutes past the time that we were supposed to meet our cab driver.  We quickly dressed and made it (with plenty of time) on our flight out to the island of Dumaguete.

As soon as I could see the island from the plane I knew it was going to be awesome.  Dumaguete is drastically different from Manila.  It's way more tropical, less urban and really nostalgic.  It is still very colonial and it reminded me instantly of my time spent in Martinique.  The air is so fragrant and my spirits were immediately lifted.   Once we landed, we hopped on another tricycle and made our way to the ferry terminal and boarded the first boat out to Siquijor.

So first things first, just a little about Siquijor.  Siquijor is an island province located in the Central Visayas region of the Philippines.  It was 4 days before we left for the Philippines that I was skyping with my mother.  As soon as I told her that the boy and I would be visiting the Visayas she said, "Oh!  Did you know that you're Visayan?".   Uh, whaaaaaa?  Yup, turns out that I am in fact a quarter Visayan.  woot woot point for me.  Siquijor is the third smallest island in the country and it was originally called "Isla del Fuego" by the Spaniards because of it's eerie glow.  Turns out that this 'eerie glow' comes from the swarms of fireflies that inhabit the island.

Now if all of that isn't enough to sell you on a vacation to Siquijor, listen to this:  Siquijor has a reputation as a place of both magic and mystery.  Apparently, there are many "witches" that live on the island and they practice both white and black magic.  In fact, there's a festival that happens every spring where many of these witches get together in the center of the town and brew a special potion to last them throughout the year.   It's both a blessing and a curse to the island as many locals are scared of the magic that the island possesses and won't step foot on it.  On the other hand, it also draws curious tourists like us to it's mystical waters.

It was Christmas Eve, and as soon as we landed on the island I knew it was going to be simply amazing.  We immediately hired a tricycle and bumped our way through the winding roads to our accommodation, the Casa de la Playa resort. 

We are so blessed in that Trip Films contacted La Casa de la Playa beforehand and told them that we were coming and that we wanted to shoot a piece on their resort.  In turn, they offered to host us for our stay on the island.  They were almost completely booked so we were originally supposed to get one of their garden villas.  Luckily for us, they had a guest leave a day early, leaving their beachfront property open for a very happy boy and girl. 

We spent the rest of the day relaxing by the beach and exploring the town of Larena.  More on La Casa de la Playa, Larena, and Siquijor in my next post.  My body thinks that I should still be on vacation and refuses to let me stay up past my bedtime.  

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Your Daily Gem.

So I was fortunate enough to have a public school teacher volunteer to cover a few days for me so that we could take our vacation.  From what I hear, Brent was great with the kids and they all seemed to love him.  This was the message that he sent me the day that we returned.  Made me chuckle. 

Hey Tawny,

I hope you had an awesome vacay! So here is what I have learned about you from your kids, (who are all freakin awesome!!! and yes, Jacob cried )

-they all love you to death
-you apparently smell like bananas
-you love eating cheese
-and, from what I gathered, you are from India!!! lol

They were all sweethearts, a few a little crazier than others but all great.

Ahhh... my babies.  I'm glad that they at least listen when I talk to them.  I'm sure everyone already knows about my love affair with cheese.  7 year old Olivia always tells me that I smell like bananas (good bananas, mind you), and none of my students will let me forget that I was a Pocahontas (an "Indian") for our Halloween party.  Kids.  You gotta love 'em. 

Manila. Day 1.

Manila was nothing like I expected it to be.  To be fair, I didn't really have to time to even fantasize about our time in the Philippines since I was so sure that something was going to go wrong and we wouldn't even make it there.  I guess that I kind of expected the Philippines to be a lot like Hawaii.  I expected that it would also be pretty similar to Korea, but maybe even more developed.  I was wrong.  Flying over the landing strip should have been a pretty good indicator over what we were about to experience over the next 20 hours that we had in Manila.  It was hazy and I could clearly see the rundown aluminum houses that were speckaled across the ground.  It was loud, gritty, and pretty chaotic.  I think the boy's face accurately sums up how we felt after touching down in Manila. 

I think we were both pretty shocked and just how undeveloped Manila is.  Don't get me wrong, the people are awesome and the whole place is pretty exotic, it just wasn't what we expected. 

Well, we got to our hotel and we were pleasantly surprised.  I booked our hotel through and I wanted something close to the airport so that our 7 am departure to Dumaguete wouldn't be too rough.  I was especially interested in this hotel since one of the reviews stated this little gem...

"Ummm, I am a female who flew into Manila at 2am. My stupid taxi driver didn't know where the hotel was (in the ghetto, actually...that's probably why) and drover me around a neighboring ghetto for 30 minutes...meter running. :( Save yourself a lot of time and hassle and tell your taxi driver to go through the International Peace Gate or something like that--or--better yet, save yourself a lot of stress and don't stay at this place at all! My other female friend and I both agreed that even if we had arrived together, we would have been scared to death and her dummy taxi driver didn't know where the stupid hotel was, either. And, it's like, 10 minutes from the hotel but no one would ever imagine that there's a huge hotel/apartment complex where Filipinos LIVE on a DAILY basis (creepy?) in the middle of a slum. =/ Expedia SHOULD remove this hotel from their list. I only recommend it to male travelers. Not for families...Anyone from a Western, middle class lifestyle will NOT feel comfortable here."

Because God forbid that you actually have to see real life Filipinos when you're in the Philippines.  I pretty much died when I read this review and it kind of made me want to stay there even more.  To be completely honest and unbiased, the place was great.  It was pretty basic, but it was also clean and there was even air conditioning in the room.  Yeah, you're sharing space where "Filipinos live on a daily basis" but everyone was very friendly and it was super close to the airport.  In fact, we could see the airport from our floor.  It did take our taxi driver a few minutes to radio his buddies and ask where it was, but after that it wasn't a problem.  A few pictures that we took from the hotel...

After taking a quick nap (we were exhausted) we set off to walk around the hotel and explore our surroundings.  We eventually ended up hailing a tricycle (motorcycle with a little cab attached to the side) and heading of towards the Mall of Asia.  And what did we buy at one of the biggest mall in the world?  Mexican food (or something that somewhat resembled Mexican food), skittles, coconut wine, and fruit by the foot.  Yes, all of the things that we miss out on while living in Korea. 

We ended the night relatively early and indulged in the plethora of English speaking tv channels that were available.  I set our alarm for 4:40 am so that we'd be all ready for our 5 am taxi pick up.  We then slept.  And slept.  And slept some more.

 It wasn't until the boy decided to randomly check his watch that he realized we had overslept and it was 5:05.  Oopsies.  We rapidly packed all of our backpacks and made it out to the taxi by 5:15.  Not too bad if I say so myself.  We then hopped on a plane and headed to our next destination:  Dumaguete.

Your Daily Gem.

So it's not the usual funny gem that I normally post, but this one completely melted my heart.  I have a student named Lily and she's probably no older than 5.  She's absolutely adorable and she always rushes to me the moment that she sees me and gives me a big hug.  When I walked into the school today the first thing I did was ask my co-teachers if anything had gone wrong in my absence. Claire told me, "Lily cried... and it was your fault."  My heart sunk.  I figured I had forgotten to tell the substitute something about her class and that she was stressed or upset and couldn't help but cry. 
Apparently, a few minutes into her class Lily started to quietly sob.  No one really knew why and Anna, our Korean co-teacher went in the room to talk to her.  She asked her if she was sick, or if she needed to go to the bathroom, or if she wanted to call her mom.  She would only quietly shake her head no.  After a few minutes Anna asked, "Are you crying because you miss Tawny teacher?" and poor, sweet little Lily nods her head yes. 

What's that sound?  It's me.  Mopping my heart up off the floor. 

Monday, December 27, 2010

We're Back!

So I'm a liar.  I didn't actually do any posts while we were in the Philippines.  It was just too beautiful and our time was way too short that I couldn't bare to spend it by the computer.  That and the fact that there was little to no internet to be had.  

The sun-kissed boy and I returned home at about 1 o'clock this morning.  We're still unpacking and getting situated and heading off to work in a little bit.  I'll be sure to post much more about our tropical holiday later tonight.  Until then, a few pictures...


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Last Christmas

It's currently 4:04 am on Thursday morning.  You can't say that the boy and I don't live ruggedly.  We just got off the most harrowing bus ride that I've experienced in Korea thus far (and that's saying something).  It was about 105 degrees (maybe celsius) and I didn't check, but I'm pretty sure our driver was Sandra Bullock.  The man was driving like there was a bomb strapped to the bus and if he went under 200 miles per hour the bus would expode.  The extremely icy roads made it even more fun.  I was about to tap our driver on the shoulder and in perfect Korean explain, "ahem.  yes.  Um, well.  You see... I'm heading to my "homeland" in a few hours sir and I would um, you know, really like to survive this bus ride so that my frequent flier miles don't go to waste".   But alas,  I didn't.  Instead I stripped off all of my layers, used them as a pillow, and plopped my feet on the boy's lap. 

We're now sitting in the nearly deserted airport at Incheon, waiting for our 8am departure.  Every time that we find ourselves in this situtation, the boy and I just pretend that we're on The Amazing Race.  We've got a little section of benches all to ourselves and we've set up shop. 

It's funny, because as I was on the bus of death (or serious injury), I was reminiscing about last Christmas.  We practically had the exact same time off that we do this year.  December 23rd-27th.  Last Christmas Eve was spent craning our necks at the Burj Kalifa, riding camels, eating shwarmas, sand surfing, getting henna tattoos, and sleeping outside under the stars in the middle of the desert.

You can also check out the video that we made on our desert safari experience. 

We awoke early on Christmas day, said Merry Christmas to all of our sleepover companions, and then the mister and I hopped on a plane and set off for Bahrain where we met our good friend May.  We both fell in love with Bahrain almost instantly.  May took such great care of us and we had the priviledges of watching falcon training on royal property and experiencing Azza for the first time.  We also ate like kings!

May showing Ryan Sheldon and I the best Bahraini shwarmas

Lonely Planet even liked our Azza video so much that it was featured as one of their top picks! 

And after two glorious days spent in Bahrain, we headed back to Dubai for a little skiing and beach time before our departure home. 

Ryan, Sarah, Tawny, Chris

It was a trip of a lifetime and I'm so excited we got to experience it with good food and great friends.  We're even lucky enough to have Ryan Sheldon joining us for a few days of this year's trip!  I'll be sure to check in as soon as we land and are all situated!  Hope everyone has a very merry Christmas eve's eve.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Shillabang Guest House

Here's the video that the boy made of the traditional guest house that he stayed at this weekend.

Watch more Gyeounqju videos at

Your Daily Gem.

Andy: Teacher, give me one more sticker.

Me: What?  Why do you think I should give you another sticker?

Andy: Because teacher... you are beauty.

Me: [with a sigh]... here you go.

Let it be known that it's the nicest thing Andy's ever said to me.   Ever.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Post Script.

"The Last Samurai" is BAMF.  Like, in all senses of the acronym.  I've never watched it before tonight and believe you me, it's fantastical.  It's a little "Dances with Wolves" mixed with a dash of "King Arthur" with the heart pounding adrenaline of "Gladiator" (The end of the movie reminds me of the scene between Hugh Grant and Billy Bob Thorton in "Love Actually") .   I'm still wiping the sopping tears from my eyes.  Ugh.  I hate heartbreaking bittersweet movies. 

I only have one complaint, and it's a small one.  It would have never bothered me if I didn't now possess a katana sword of my own, but the zingy "sch-liiiing" sound that the sword makes when it's unsheathed is soooooo not right.  It's not supposed to make any sounds at all.  I was so into the movie, but every time they sheathed or unsheathed their swords it just made me cringe and took me out of the movie for that brief instant.  I guess it would've made a lot of people confused if they didn't have the "sch-liiiiiing" sound, but hey, whatev. 

On another note, the boy and I have concluded that it would pretty much suck to be a horse in a war film. 

Our Sunday. In Pictures.

My weekend in pictures.

Ahhh yes.  Very exciting, non?  This was the view that I've had for the past two days as I'm trying my hardest to recover from a sickness of death.  It's quite the bummer since we had awesome weekend plans.  It was our good friend Paul's birthday celebration and we had booked rooms at a traditional Korean house for the weekend.  I had been feeling pretty bad all week but thought that I was finally getting better.  I even woke up on Saturday and got dressed in my new Christmas "jumper" (i.e. "sweater" to us Americans).  We got all the way down to the bus station before I realized that it just wasn't going to happen.  I need to rest and recuperate before our Christmas getaway and I would've been the grumpy grape that brought everyone else down.  Bah humbug.

Not wanting to miss out entirely, I had a Polaroid picture taken of myself so that Chris could carry it around with him while he went off without me. 

I pretty much spent the entire weekend plopped on the couch watching reruns of America's Next Top Model, NCIS, and Harry Potter.  woop woop.  The only real upside to my weekend was that Ares kitten was quite the sweetheart.  He stayed by my side all weekend and slept in my pile of tissues.  Bless his little kitten heart. 

Chris was very good about keeping me updated and making sure I was alright.  He was also kind enough to take plenty of pictures and video so I could re-live the adventure with him.

The birthday boy
The crew
A puddle of pups!
Jindo pups!
Korea's traditional dogs, Jindo dogs.

Ducky Boats
The boy got some awesome footage of the house that they stayed in.  He'll hopefully have the video up tonight, but seeing as The Last Samurai just came on TV, it might take a little longer.  Hope everyone else had a wonderful weekend!
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