Sunday, May 16, 2010

Final update

Okay, now that you are all up to date on my travels, I thought I should update you on my latest doings. I mentioned that in Thailand I decided to redo a necklace I left home. Well, that is still on the list, but my current project is actually going to be a beaded spider. It will be black with red accents. I've already got about half the head done and am quite happy with it. True, it won't be perfect but it should be enough to get a second look or two when I bring it into work. Hehehe...
Also, some of you have been wanting to read my stories, or maybe that is people who don't know I have a blog... Anyways, if you want to click on my profile on the side of this blog, I have started another blog. It is completely fake as the setting is barely connected with Earth of any type. The "journal" is a way for me to create a world that has been floating around in my head begging to be heard. So come along for the trip if you want and explore a new world as SC learns her place in it.
Also, if you have any ideas as to places for me to visit while I'm out here in Japan, let me know and I'll see if I can get there.
For now this is Li'l B signing off and wishing you all a lovely day.

Mother Russia

Our last stop was Vladavostok, Russia for Victory Day there. Unfortunately we all had to go out in uniform so that was a pain in itself. The first day out I went with B2 again and her photographer friend. Yeah, apparently she likes pictures of grimy back alleys so I got some interesting pictures of the poorer parts of the small area we were allowed to walk around in but we had fun teasing her about her habit so it evened out. :) We also found a Russian Orthodox church that B2 wanted to go in. I stopped her because I seem to remember that at least females need to have their hair covered in that religion. I’m not positive but she didn’t know either way so she decided to stay outside rather than offend people. She also joked that the only reason she brings me along is to stop her from doing religious/cultural snafus, or at least informing her of them and letting her decide. I love being useful. :) They both decided to buy Russian Bibles and we carried on. We wound up eating at a food court on the top floor of an expensive mall but the food was good. Buffet style but good. We managed to walk our way down to the beach and look at some gorgeous views but then we headed back and she spent at least a half hour trying to barter/trade stuff with a local vendor. It was amusing watching them trying to balance what each person wanted with feeling they themselves got the better deal. I’ve never been good at bartering, I usually just pay the marked price. That is why I bring others along. :)
The next day I went out with J, whom I went out with in Hakata, and another photographers. Unfortunately, since I had been out the day before and they hadn’t been out yet, they expected me to lead. Um, if any of you have been out with me in groups, you know I tend to stay a step or two behind people. That habit quite annoyed them. I don’t really do it consciously, I realized it was my way of having a shield against the crowd in front of me. Why make a path when I have other people ahead of me who can part the crowd for me? Not a bad habit since I’m usually the follower, not so good when they wanted me to lead. (One on one I tend to stay next to the person pretty well, but I also tend to wander…Opps). Anyways, that led to some amusing conversations… We also saw inside a Russian sub. The first part was just gray pictures of the old crew with captions in Russian and a tour in Russian. However, we ditched the tour and continued on our own to see the captain’s stateroom, much smaller than normal staterooms with the bed being little more than a couch with no back. We also saw the engineering room, which was cool. (Their chartroom was a mere desk with locked drawers.) The beds were literally next to and around the cut off warheads. There was absolutely no such thing as privacy. Yeah, I like my job and time slightly more now. Well, due to my amazing job of leading we saw the boardwalk, got to go to a restaurant called Steak that had no steak that night, and tried three bars before we found one that sold a shot of vodka AND a beer. Yeah, the no-steak steak house was amusing. All day on the second day the Russians kept stopping us for photo ops so our key phase all afternoon was, “Okay, photo time, again”. By the time it got dark, the Russians had started drinking and making jokes about us in their language so that annoyed the photographer and he refused to be in any more pictures. By the time we hit the third bar, still without any alcohol in us since the no-steak steak house had no beer either, the now three guys were making sure us two girls were in the middle of the pack thanks to an incident with a possibly drunk Russian trying to talk to me through an interpreter that looked like he wanted more than a photo. Yeah, he went to find the interpreter and me and the other girl ran to get with the rest of the group and stayed there.
All in all, our trip to Russia was fun and definitely a good break from work and memories to remember forever, even if we were only allowed a small area to explore. Well, this is Li’l B signing off and wishing you all a delightful week.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Hakata, Japan

Our next stop was Hakata, Japan. It was a nice city, not much different from other cities here. At least it was where we got dropped off. There were bars and restaurants, shopping centers and the multilevel department stores, as well as at least one club that a lot of people I work with found and brought back some interesting stories from.
My first day we went to a mall called Canal City where I spent way too much at Claire’s and an awesome bead shop. We went back early since honestly, there is only so much time one can spend at a mall before there just is nothing more to see.
The next day we started at the other stop our bus had and found a pair of what I call “training heels” for less than $20. They’re wedge sandals with about a two or three inch heel that are rather comfortable, for the first three hours or so. Seven hours later, I wasn’t so happy. Anyways, after buying the sandals and changing into them, we headed back to Canal City for supper and a show. The supper wound up being in a restaurant that specialized in garlic and I had noodles.
The show turned out to be three shows me and my partner had already seen the day before and two new shows. The first show was a probably famous mime in the area but his makeup annoyed me as did his show. (Maybe it’s just the fact that mime acts last so long…) The first show was a rope swing high above the crowd ( generally swinging about level with the third and fourth floor.) and the mime played while they prepared for the next act. The girl changed quickly to twirl around five feet off the stage on a hula hoop. The next show was a comedic act where two guys held/played with a bouncy balance beam that bounced a girl high in the air. The third act was a trio of Asian guys walking in two hamster wheels connected by an axle in the middle. One guy walked blindfolded, another juggled bowling pins, and the other jump roped. Although the Asians weren’t perfect, the night show was rather impressive. But by then it was late and since neither of us were in the mood to drink the night away we headed back.

Thailand, Day 1

As a note, this trip is in three posts so if the next one doesn't show up, just go back in the archive. They're in order.

Well, it’s my first day out in Thailand and nothing has gone right. My first night here I was planning to head out in Pattaya with someone I was looking forward to getting to know more about. Unfortunately, we never finalized plans so they went with their friends. Oh well, maybe next time. Instead I went through my bead magazines and decided on my next project. I’m gonna remake a piece I left home since it was so delicate but I’ll make it slightly differently. I haven’t decided how yet, maybe a different color scheme or a pendant inside the webbing. I’m not sure but I don’t need two necklaces the same color and design. I haven’t really done any good jewelry since I got out here, even though I continually buy beads and pendants.
Before I start on my delightful day, I should explain that my job requires all of us to go out by twos in each place we go. Well, I basically have two “buddies” at the moment and they never go out together so I can only go out with one at a time. I go out with the one I work with and I wind up going out with too many of her coworkers (which are technically mine too but I’m rarely in that space these days so I don’t really know them and what I do know isn’t very inspiring, not that I’ve looked too hard). Those guys seem to have no friends outside work so my buddy winds up making plans with them and would prefer it if I came along so she’s not the only girl in the group. When I hang out with my other buddy, I leave my coworker alone with them or on the internet at work all day and I feel guilty. I wound up leaving her to them for the whole Hong Kong trip and although I had fun with a friend I’d like to hang out with more, they barely went anywhere except to get food she wasn’t really thrilled with. She never saw any of the attractions because the guys didn’t want to. Needless to say, I hang out with my coworker a lot lately. When I hang out with my other buddy, it’s usually one on one and we go shopping and eating American stuff. I have fun with both of them but was really hoping the outing the first night would work so I could have another person to hang out with, someone kinda different and that my buddies couldn’t really be angry about.
Anyways, I had plans with my coworker to get a suite in a hotel with two of her coworkers for cheap (hotels are cheap here for good stuff but it’s still cheaper to go in groups than to pay full price). I only agreed because it was a twenty dollar a night payment for two bedrooms, a kitchenette, lounge, and bathroom. Sounds like a really good deal and I’d never have to see the guys as me and the girl could do our own stuff and the boys would be in the other closed off bedroom. If they got annoying (and one of them is REALLY annoying) I could go to our room, close the door, and not be bothered by them. That’s how it should have worked.
She decided she didn’t want to come back to where I was staying so I could leave my place with my buddy so I pretended I was buddied up with a bunch of guys I work with that are really funny and we left on the bus to Pattaya. As we passed an over thirty minute ride passing what I think was the worst extended stretch of third world country I’ve seen yet, I realized exactly why they say anything can be had in Thailand for enough money, and I do mean ANYTHING. Anyways, we arrived near the end of their New Year’s celebration (today is the last day) and the way they celebrate is to douse every passerby in water using anything from water guns to Super Soakers to hoses to buckets or pails filled from barrels of water they congrate around or mount on pickup trucks to travel with and they pat paste on faces, especially female faces. Well, my coworker went through that the first day and they soaked her computer and all her clothes so she wasn’t going to meet me. Understandable, I’d just put my stuff in a trash bag inside my backpack and walk the few blocks she showed me on a map from the bus stop. Easy plan, right? Wait and see.
Anyways, the bus stopped at Hard Rock Café so I went with guys for brunch (15 bucks and awesome orange juice. Hmmm…) then they took a taxi to their place and I started walking. The hotel that was supposed to be a few blocks away was nowhere to be found and I was drenched and stuff was coating my cheeks. I was in such a good mood when I finally headed back to the Hard Rock for a taxi. Turns out taxis are rare commodities on holidays when traffic is sporadic. Half hour later I was willing to try again, trying another way to the street. Maybe the hotel could only be reached by one road, not the main road. Another half hour later my fake smile is now a constant conscious effort as streams of water hit me, some cold, some warm, from all directions, including moving vehicles, I’m getting buckets of water poured over my shoulders and head, and strangers are patting me on the face with paste that doesn’t have time to harden before the next person pats me.
It’s now two days later and I’m not as frustrated. My computer died and I never got back to the hotel to finish writing this yesterday so you may see a slight change in mood but I’ll try to keep it detailed.
Where was I? Oh yes, the second walk to the hotel. I walked until the road turned and I saw that it was much longer than it looked on the map. I stood there for a moment before giving up and walking back through the drenched and drenching crowds with my fake smile painfully in place and headed back to the Hard Rock. I got there feeling like something the cat dragged in and told the attendant with a little humor that I would wait for a taxi. Hoping that no one I knew was around, I sat down on the stairs to wait. At least twenty minutes later a taxi finally pulled up but by then there were three groups waiting and we’d all realized that taxis were really rare so although I was next in line, the other two were trying to figure out who got the taxi and how we could all use the one. Too bad we were all going in separate directions. Finally the third group backed down and decided to wait so I would get dropped off at my hotel and the second group would then take the taxi back to our work which in that traffic would be a few hours away. (Normal traffic put it at a little over 45 minutes.) The taxi driver wound up going all the way outside of the town to take roads back to the street I’d walked to. Turns out my hotel was about another half mile beyond where I’d turned around. I finally got there to find out the hotel was a multi-building structure and our room was in the back building on the fourth floor. When I knocked on the door, my coworker greeted me with a smile. I thought she was smiling since she was happy to see me. Nope, it was an I-know-something-you-don’t-and-you-won’t-like-it smile. When I realized why she was smiling, it got bigger. They had decided to wait to check-in in person because they hadn’t wanted to fax a copy of their credit card. Perfectly understandable. However, by the time they got there, all the suites were gone so my coworker was sharing a room with the really annoying guy and the other guy had gotten his own room. The room was actually pretty nice. It had a king sized bed, a twin bed, a window nook that doubled as a bed if needed, a small kitchenette, and a nice bathroom. I got there and she had the twin bed and the guy (who to be fair was paying the most) was sleeping in the king bed with his Thai “girlfriend”. Luckily my coworker had yelled at the guy enough that he didn’t bother us at all on our visit. Needless to say, I was not in the mood to be around people when I got to the room so I changed into my swimsuit immediately (after I arranged what little had gotten wet to dry) and hurried down to the nearly empty pool. A few of the chairs had sunbathers in them but the only people that were actually there for the pool were a business man, his wife, and their quiet five or six year old. While I was in two sisters moved out of the sun to sit on the steps into the pool and talk quietly but all in all the area was quiet. I did maybe a half hour of slow water aerobics and swimming before I just laid my head back on the ledge between the baby area and adult area so my ears were in the water but my face wasn’t, closed my eyes, and just blocked out the world for another half hour or so. The only things that entered my head were those that originated there. Hmm…Heavenly. However, eventually a family with many kids came and put an end to the peace so I went upstairs and took a shower. When I came out my coworker was sleeping and the guy and his girlfriend were gone so I took my laptop out on the small porch (that was strewn with drying clothes from the last few days to which I added my swimsuit) and started this blog. I was out there until after twilight typing in the faint breeze as my hair dried until my computer died and I had trouble finding an open power switch. That out of the question now, I read a few more pages on my Kindle until my buddy woke up and we ordered room service and played on internet until we decided to go to sleep. I also finally called home, I hadn’t done that for over a week so that was cool. The next day should have been better.

Thailand, Day 2

Unfortunately, it started out badly and I didn’t shake the mood. It started out normally. I had slept in the window nook so I hadn’t slept well and basically woke up with the sun. I read some more of my book while I waited for her to wake up. As we prepared to head out, she asked what I wanted to do. I replied that I wanted to hit the markets some (I’d heard that the clothes were cheap but good and I had been feeling my wardrobe was lacking thanks to a few comments so I thought Thailand would be a good place to pick up some stuff.) Her reply was basically: “I’ve been waiting for three days to do these things so we may be able to do the shopping you want to do if we have time.” Yeah, needless to say, I was so happy the rest of the day. Next on the agenda was to go to the guy’s hotel (other guys she works with that I’ve never been inclined to hang out with but apparently we would be spending the next two days with them. Yay) Yeah, an hour later she finally gives up following our crappy map of the city and finds an internet café to tell him to come get us. Another half hour later they ask the hotel attendant about local tours and was told a tour could pick them up in an hour and a half so they paid the money for all four of us and told me the plans. The guys were just going to go back to their computers upstairs but as us girls hadn’t eaten yet we headed to a pub for brunch. (We are in Thailand and we go to an Irish pub for food? We had planned on stopping at a native restaurant.) The pub was good, I had a fried rice dish. (Thankfully they had a local menu so I wasn’t too annoyed.) However, I assumed that at the table for five I would be seated next to the girl and the guys would basically be across from us. Nope. One of the guys pulled out the seat I was planning on while the other guy was already seated. Basically I had to sit next to one of the guys and the empty seat. Yep, I had a delightfully silent supper as I listened to them talk about comics and stuff I never really got into. (I’ll refer to the guy who took my seat as G1 and the other guy as G2) I thought that was just an accident that he took my seat. As became obvious all through that day and the next, he was doing what girls refer to as “cockblocking” only reverse. Usually cockblocking is when a guy is trying to get with a girl who doesn’t want him and her friends stick to her side to help her avoid him. This time G1 was sticking to her side all the time and monopolizing her time so I couldn’t talk to her in hopes of getting lucky. Grrr. She didn’t seem to mind by then (previously she’d said she wasn’t interesting and he was really annoying. My, how minds change.) as she didn’t seem in any hurry to avoid him and talk to me. At all. That left me with G2 for two days, which was fine. He was married so he wasn’t someone I may have to fend off. He just didn’t speak a lot.
Anyways, the day wasn’t bad. We went to a tiger sanctuary and got pictures with doped up tigers, saw an elephant show, saw a girl stand still with more than ten scorpions moving around on her shirt, got pictures with a couple of bored orangutans, saw a pig race followed by a cool tiger show and an alligator show, and got pictures feeding a bottle to a baby tiger. It was cute but very rushed trip as it all happened on schedule in two hours. That’s a lot for two hours and I was not really in the mood to smile.
Anyways, we got back about 6 pm and we didn’t have any plans until 9 or so. Cool we can go back to the hotel, change quickly into night clothes and makeup and get back in time to meet the guys and get supper before going to bars with other people. What? Walk the mile walk to the hotel when what she had on was fine? Nope. Another of the things I had looked forward to and planned was shot down because she was lazy. Instead of me wearing my cute black v-neck and black jewelry and some makeup as I had planned when I learned I might actually get out to bars or clubs, I listened to my ipod while she played with the computer and he slept so I showed up at the night scene with no jewelry, no makeup but old sunscreen, and in a tshirt designed to not burn much skin. Hasn’t she learned that half the fun of going out for a girl is the dress up part? Oh yeah, and they all decided to skip supper because they weren’t hungry. The plan was to drink…a lot… Why the heck did they think skipping food since brunch was a good idea? Finally about 9 I said “You are waiting for people here. Across the street is a bar/ restaurant. I’m going there. We can still see here. You can come if you want but I will eat before I drink.” So I went and got a deli sandwich and fries. They weren’t awesome but it was food and I was hungry. So then the fun on Walking Street began, which is the place in Pattaya with the most bars and clubs in one area. What happens on Walking Street, stays on Walking Street. (I will admit to some gloating priveldges as I was merely happily tipsy while my coworker got wasted and I was the only one the next morning without a hangover. I do love when things work out my way.  )

Thailand, day 3

So, due to the fact that all my companions were hung over, we left the hotel on the last day at 11, checkout time , with our stuff. Luckily by then we’d ordered breakfast and I’d had a good night so I was ready to see what was happening and in a good mood. Yeah, we waited until 2 to get a cab to the Sanctuary of Truth, a new Buddhist temple still being built. We got the full package which meant first was the horse drawn carriage ride, then the elephant ride around the temple. I was surprisingly blasé about riding an elephant. I was surprised by how normal I felt. Next was the horseback riding and I thought that would be normal too. Horseback riding is something that happens daily in the US. However, once I got on the horse, I couldn’t stop grinning. Yes, we were going at a walk and the horse was being led but I WAS ON A HORSE!!!!! I blame my sister’s love of horses. You see, the bookshelf in our room was filled with horse books and I read pretty much every one of them as I child. I always dreamed of getting on a horse’s back and riding like them. This trip was the third time I’d tried to ride a horse and I was finally on one. (The other two had fallen through, kinda at the last minute.  ) Anyways, that kinda made the trip. After that we had a good lunch while we watched some girls do native dances and then headed back to the guy’s hotel to try and get our stuff before getting on the bus to leave. We had supper at the Hard Rock Café and it was soo good to have a good cheeseburger again.
So, in review, I never did get to go shopping, but I ran out of money doing the other stuff and food. However, I got to sleep in an awesome hotel, have room service, swim, and ride a horse as well as getting pictures I will likely never get again. I also learned to pick my buddies better next time, but hey, you live and learn, huh?
Well, this is Li’l B signing off and wishing you all a lovely day. Stay tuned for my trip to Hakata, Japan and Vladavostok, Russia, hopefully up tomorrow. Bye for now.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

KK and Indy

Okay, so that was a rather disrespectful way to name Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia and Jakarta, Indonesia but I thought it was more catchy and it made me smile. (Are you noticing I do a lot of things merely because they make me smile? Good) Anyways, both ports were small so they fit on the same blog.
My first impression of Kota Kinabalu was the dirty water. To my memory I have never seen so much stuff floating in the water as I did entering KK. However, the welcoming party was nice. They danced for us in native regalia and then dragged some of us into the dance(I was carefully in the back of my group).
The day we arrived I really didn't want to go out. It had been a long week and I hadn't gotten much sleep. I told my friend days before that my plan was to relax/sleep in the afternoon and then find someone to go out with for supper and that was it for the first day. She tells me when we were allowed to leave to be ready in a half hour. Wait, What? Basically if I didn't go out with her shopping in the afternoon immediately she'd get stuck all afternoon with Doc (his name, not job) that no one liked because he was taking her/us to Clash of the Titans later. Grumble, grumble, grumble. I was ready 45 minutes later and didn't really perk up until the movie late that night. (Awesome movie and the only time I have ever said anything nice (or willingly) to Doc since he paid the three dollar ticket) Anyways, we went shopping and I got some dvds that had rather bad quality. (I picked up Race to Witch Mountain on Blue Ray and put it in my laptop. It skipped some but was easy enough to follow, until two chapters from the end when it stopped. grr. Oh well, it was cheap.) We also ate supper at an outdoor restaraunt that was pretty good. I ate what looked like Klingon golash (but dead) but tasted rather good and had some watermelon juice. (think the watermelon equivalant of fresh orange juice and you have a heavenly drink I always look for.) Well, that was that day.
The next day was more fun because I had helped plan it and knew it was coming. We got on the bus early in order to hit the markets but for some reason I wasn't in the mood to buy anything. We saw plenty of sparkly jewelry but I don't wear that type of sparkle, I like the subtle stuff that enhances, not out shines. Maybe it was just that stuff or the bright sun that day but I wasn't in the mood for that jewelry. I did buy a small "jade" round pendant I may play with and a sparkly green bracelet I'll likely take apart and use the pieces in a more subtle piece or two. I also picked up two bracelets of magnetized pearls. Yes, you read correctly: magnatized pearls. At that price I rather doubt that they were real and the magnetic clasp made the whole bracelet stick together but I found the idea amusing and decided to pick up two. (It made me smile. :D ) I made a video of the market which I'll try to get online. Basically the market we hit sold everything from religious stuff to bunnies, rats, kittens, puppies, pet birds, and turtles to purses and scarves as well as food and readymade jewelry.
Next up on the agenda was a massage. I like those. I'd gotten a neck and shoulder one the day before as we waited for the bus and liked that so I let my friend talk me into getting a foot massage and full body massage with her. Um, yeah. The foot massage was okay although it was odd as I'm not big on people touching my feet. She later said that the foot massage was rather odd for her as well, who loves that massage, and not to judge by that one. Lovely. Next came the full body massage. Hm, I'm basically naked and I had a man masseuse. Lovely way to start a massage. Anyway, I tried to relax and when he was working on my back he suggested something. I didnt hear him well but I heard something about a candle. um, no. A few minutes later, my friend, who was next to me getting her massage (by a girl grrr) asked me if I wanted it too, said the lady had suggested a lotion that was good for the back. Um, okay, my back could always use help, it's always tense. Nope, turns out we agreed to what is called cupping. basically they light a tiny tiny canble, put it on my skin, and put a glass cup on top of it. the candle quickly burns out, but it creates a suction that pulls the skin under the lip of the cup up. I think it's supposed to releave deep knots but it was uncomfortable, especailly on both shoulder blades where he did it wrong so it pinched. Needless to say, I was unable to wear anything with any type of open back for a week or so. grr. Well, that basically ruined our day but we still wanted to get to some islands nearby that had tropical forests on them and other cool stuff to do. We never figured out how to get there but we walked through the most smelly fresh market I've ever gone through. The smell of meat and possibly not so fresh fruit and vegetables permeated the air we tried hard not to notice in a market by the water I doubt got cleaned much. Yep, we were in such good moods when we decuded to eat at McDonalds and head back for the night.
The next night I went out for supper with a friend. The supper was okay, not quite amazing, the sunse was lovely but not as awesome as they claim to be famous for, and the night market was a disappointment. Oh well, the company was good and I got a few trinkets but have no real desire to go there again unless it's as part of a tour. There were plenty of things for tourists to do, including lovely resorts but not so much for people who want to walk around and do things themselves.
And now for Jakarta. We needed a large group in order to get off the ship so it wound up with me, my work buddy, Doc :( , and a few other people from work. Hm, two girls, three or four guys, and a massive mall of expensive fashionable clothes I doubt I'd ever wear. Sounds like a recipe for a lovely day. Yeah, I rarely speak around Doc because my momma taught me not to say anything if I have nothing nice to say. (Granted, sarcasm is my main language but it's usually said in joke. With Doc it would have been said out of spite and that just isn't right so my mouth stayed shut.) Doc decided he wanted to find a coffee called Kopi Luwak that is the most expensive drink in the world, or should be. An ounce of it in the US is about a hundred dollars, I think. If you remember Bucket List, it's the drink the rich man always drank. It's created by a type of cat eating the seed, then when it comes out the other end changed by their digestive juices, it's picked up, rinsed off, and shipped out to be ground and fed to people. Sounds appetizing, huh? It's said to be the best coffee anywhere and only comes from Indonesia. I had a sip from my friend's cup, it tasted like coffee which I can't stand but I can now say I tried. I ordered a delighful blueberry shake a laughed as they added sugar to their Kopi Luwak. We spent a few hours in that mall, much to my delight, :( and I got a Crispy Kreme, had a kind spicy supper folowed by a mint ice cream from Baskin Robbins, and found and bought a beading magizine in English. All in all, the trip picked up near the end but I was glad it was over.
And now I must go for lunch so this is Li'l B signing off and wishing you all a lovely day.