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but here is what's been up from one lucky grateful girl!
WORK HARD---TRAVEL HARDER!
8 solid weeks off(more if you include prep and dismantling but I don't want to include that!) The beginnings, endings (and middles) are particularly challenging to teachers so as I prepare for my 20th year or so of teaching I reﬂect upon a particularly fabulous summer of travel that I have just completed.
It was 14 plane rides, 2 Continents, 11 Countries, A Ship, 2 Ferry Boats and a Ship as well as more time zones than this insomniac cares to ponder... Deep down, I feel there is no reason for me to leave the amazing comforts of my home here in San Francisco. After all, SF is a vacation unto itself. I LOVE MY HOME...and that is exactly what motivates me to get out-of-the-box in the summer. It would be easy to become complacent, sheltered and numb to the rest of the world as I bask in my creature comforts. But ahhh, to escape all the STUFF, to pack up one bag and just GO...I am super lucky to do this while I have good health and no summer commitments. I always learn SO much and I feel that I take that back not just in personal growth but also to my classroom. It is easy to perceive America as the center of the Earth and I just loved being in Asia where the name California was not always recognized. My trip is better told in pictures so I will enclose some highlights. All who really know me, know that pictures are something I am never short of taking! I started my journey in Singapore and the highlights there were its very clean, pristine streets, parks, etc and most deﬁnitely its food. From watching ladies making homemade udon and I mean HOMEMADE to eating crispy peking duck, I was mesmerized by its food courts which make ours here in US malls look silly. Did I mention any freshly squeezed fruit or veggie you could imagine? On to Ubud in Bali, Indonesia. A town that is inland in the hills set amongst rice paddies, spiritual healers and crafts people, it was one of my favorite stops. Some highlights: 1. a villa accommodation overlooking rice paddies and really the most incredible rainforest shower that was outside
2. taking yoga classes in the coolest yoga studio I will ever see...open-air as the sun goes down, crickets, katydids, a sunset and the smell of fresh ﬂowers overlooking rice-paddies during downward dog. 3. Visiting Christopher and Amana's friend, Ari whose family are mask-makers of the most extraordinary kind. 4.Spending time with Ketut from "Eat, Pray, Love." fame. He is like 94 and pretty much no 100% says positive things about your health and future and had a spirit that was super fun to be around. 5. Luwak Coffee(coffee passed through the stomach of a Luwak!) apparently quite pricey in the US. 6. The smell of the crisp, air there was something I couldn't get enough of. On to Seminyak, Bali, Indonesia for a short splurge at a W hotel which was seriously ridiculous! Yes, their motto was, "WHATEVER, WHENEVER!" It was like someone else was the teacher and I could just have whatever, whenever!!!!! My senses couldn't get enough of the whole "Scene" very stylish, tactile, amazing food, great design and comfort beyond words...and then a lovely afternoon of shopping with my former principal, Ms. Yvonne Chong and my former student, Patrick's mom who happened to be vacationing in nearby Nusa Dua. If you want to go shopping you are in great hands with Yvonne and Faye! Faye also has complete command of what Indonesian delicacies to order. This area was right along the coast and a change from inland Ubud. On to Bangkok, Thailand! PHEW! WOW! Not my favorite place. Crowded. Congested. Major Traffic. Felt Polluted. But wild, anything goes...amongst all this hustle bustle it is Thailand....from Kho Shan rode to outrageous buddhist temples...and neighborhoods representing many different cultures. Bangkok the gateway to the rest of Thailand and I learned not to characterize all of Thailand by my early perception of Bangkok. I liked observing the different Buddhist traditions in different Asian Countries and am quite fascinated by it. Learned bits and pieces about its practice, its tradition, its importance. We even saw a funeral passing by.
On to Inland Chiang Mai. Here I spent one of my favorite days of my life...adopting an elephant at Patara Elephant Farm. Look it up. As you know most elephants are exploited--used for moving lumber or doing stupid painting tricks or being exposed in a circus. I didn't get the feeling at Patara that the elephants were unhappy. The owner, Pat, is an amazing man. I asked him how he inherited such a place and he said he bought it some 12 years ago or so and it was supposed to be an organic farm and after he closed the deal the seller said, "Oh, by the way, there is also an elephant I am leaving here for you!" Pat fell instantly in love with the elephant and soon came to feel that the elephant was lonely so he got her a friend. Well, 30 elephants later...he has Patara Elephant Farm!!! Pat has adopted elephants who are abused all over Thailand. There were 100,000 elephants at the turn of the century and now there are like 2800. Pat taught us how to see if an elephant was healthy. We fed the elephants, we bathed them and we even swam with them, for real! We rode them BAREBACK no helmets for 2 hours in the jungle. I was super lucky that one of the guides gave me the mother and her baby so I got two elephants for the day. OH My GOODNESS, I really can't say enough about the day and my elephants. BoonMe and Bebe. The baby elephant just follows whatever the mom does. After a few minutes of reluctance, I was soon just immersed with the elephants. Fear turned to sheer love and really it was so hard to leave. Pat's idea is that everyone should come for one day to his farm and his/ her money will take care of the elephant and in turn he/she will do his/her part in helping to care for the elephants--win-win situation. I met so many people there, too. There were a lot of Australians traveling throughout Asia since it isn't too far. I don't think I saw one American. Sincerely, it was among the top 10 all-time favorite things I have done in my life. On to Phuket. A lot of people don't like Phuket as much as other Islands but I sort of liked the hustle bustle there around the beachfront and such. The real gems though were the excursions that I took from the island.
A notable one was Ko Phi Phi---and its neighboring islands. The ﬁlm, "The Beach" was ﬁlmed here because it is sheer paradise. GREEN GREEN no really really GREEN waters. Monkeys here and there...It is beautiful but a little sad that tourists have kind of taken away some its magic. But hey, I was a tourist, too and thankful to see it. We snorkeled all about there and enjoyed the neon-looking ﬁsh. Beautiful Krabi was nearby.... Now to Koh Samui, where I stayed at a place that horse-shooed around an inﬁnity pool which looked over the ocean toward Koh Phagnan. Honestly it was hard to move there because it is hard to tire of a view like that. The Thai Hospitality is unmatched. The dollar is good for us and it isn't a joke that a massage on the beach for two hours is less than $10.00 and really they are as good or better than the more expensive places around Thailand. At every turn people are giving you cold towels, cold drinks, smiles and niceties. Don't get me wrong, in touristy places you had to be on guard because there were still people who wanted to scam tourists but they didn't mess with this city girl!!! My favorite aspect of Thailand was how fresh everything was...no frozen canned stuff, the real deal---ﬁsh out of the water, fruit from the vines and monkeys picking coconuts for you. There was no day without a massage and a fresh coconut write out of the shell!!!!! OFF to Japan. I had a layover in Osaka and my dream was to get to Kyoto. I could have extended my vacation and really stayed in Japan to see it because one day was a tease but I kind of made it my mission to see if I could really do it. WHAT AN ADVENTURE. I know I traveled all over but this was where I was even proud of myself! I landed in Osaka after having had no sleep and when I arrived NOTHING, I mean nothing is in English and I can't make things up like I sometimes try to do in other languages. I was like am I really going to take a train for 2 hours to Kyoto and make it back to Osaka in a few hours to get my plane with no YEn and no idea what I was doing? Well, It was just the best day ever. The nicest people EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Honestly a man left his store to escort me to the ATM because I couldn't read a thing and I need Yen and he called his wife and
on and on people acted accordingly. What a classy place. I saw such amazing outﬁts--from ladies in full Kimonos to taxi drivers in suits---with doily-like covers for their seats. Really it was a tease to be there for such a short time but also left the biggest impression of all the places I had been and left me wanting to return. It really is a special place and different. The hardest part was that I knew I wouldn't have time for a meal if I wanted to ﬁnish my agenda and get back for a 2 hour train ride in a place I couldn't navigate or communicate with. I strolled though markets, mouth-watering as fresh ﬁsh was being cut for afternoon sushi...men and women at a bar having cold japanese beer. sweets of the most intricate kind were lined up in the market. i couldn't resist a fresh mochi. really, it was incredible. And there was suspense as I tore the intricate wrapper apart from the mochi. I almost wanted to frame the mochi wrapper since it was so beautiful as were my ticket stubs to landmarks---works of art in themselves. Everyone appeared to take such pride in their land. whether it be in a taxi ride, the grounds of the golden temple, the train conductor who says thank you to each passenger and ensures not a drop garbage litters its pristine trains or the lady at the counter who even wraps something that costs a dollar with such care as if it were from Tiffany's. Was I glad I sacriﬁced sleep and risked missing my plane back to SF? You better believe it! A most memorable day. Home for 17 days and then on to A Cruise of the Baltic--a treat from my mother. I typically meet her for a bit in the summer and we go somewhere special. She lives on the East coast and since I am on the West it is fun to meet. We met in Copenhagen, Denmark....loved it from the minute I got to the airport. Usually airport rides to the center of town are boring and ordinary but this was the coolest ride. It was like a tour in itself to pass by countryside and then landmarks of such color and charm. European structures amaze me. They are built with such fortitude.
Copenhagen is known for bike-riding. I loved that most people were walking or riding a bike. This lent to its charm. Went to a place called Tivoli Gardens. It is like their upscale Coney Island. Really an amazing venue. It is a hub of restaurants, amusement rides, shops and concerts. It is all lit up at night. Nothing like some Weinershnitzel and Beer to settle in to a trip! From there we got onto a ship. We were spoiled rotten. Down Duvets and a Verandah over-looking the sea. 4-course dinners and Cappuccinos in china. My favorite spot was the gym with Treadmills and Precors over-looking the Bow of the ship out to sea...not hard to work out in these digs! Anyone used to watch the Love Boat. It really does become like Gopher, Doc, Julie and Isaac. You get to know people and they you. I was soooooooooooooooo excited to bump into a man named Beni who I had met 5 years earlier in Alaska who was working on the ship. It was a crazy coincidence. We were disappointed that it was so stormy that we couldn't go to Berlin. I had been looking forward to seeing the highlights there as I was ﬁnally ready to go to the Holocaust Memorials and such. I have heard Berlin is an amazing city. Off to the fairy tale land of Estonia with cobblestone roads. I had a friend from Estonia when I was younger so It was fun to see her country. Then to St. Petersburg, Russia. Hard to sum up the two-day whirlwind tour. The buildings were massive, well planned and regal. My favorite building was called Church of the Spill-blood that reminded me of "The Wizard of Oz." I will enclose a picture. The Hermitage museum has enough artwork that if you were to look at each piece for 30 seconds it would take 6 years to see. I treasured the very short time I was there and whizzed through Picasso, Matisse, Gaughin and Monet. It was like giving ice-cream to someone and taking it away to have to go so quickly through the museum. Not only was the art spectacular but also its location. It is set along the River Neva.
On to Finland with its great outdoor Esplanade and fashionable shops and vibrant ﬂower market... Stockholm, Sweden was one of my favorites on this journey. Open and clean comprised of many islands. People sure know there city planning in Europe. Most things are situated along the Lake and the Archipelagos. I saw where members of ABBA lived and saw where the Nobel Peace Prize is announced...Sweden is so environmentally friendly and people are taking advantage of hot beautiful summers as winters are said to be extremely dark, cold and depressing. Next time I go, I would like to go to an Ice Bar. A literal Bar made out of real ice where you put on a parka and have a drink! My favorite part was having a Cappuccino and a Cinnamon Bun. It was the best Cappuccino I have ever drunk. I loved the "White Nights" of Russia and Sweden where it stayed dark until almost 11:00pm and got light again around 2:00pm. Super cool and weird. No Berlin but onto Hamburg. A really nice GREEN place with amazing houses of all sorts, sizes and prices. Some very modern houses as well. But it's the Bratwurst I won't ever forget!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I take back to my classroom and the rest of my life a bit more patience, a lot more tolerance, a heart full of unique memories and a sense of accomplishment that I expanded my ever-growing box. I look forward to staying around locally and enjoying every nook and cranny that people venture out here in San Francisco to see--that is in my back yard and I strive everyday to take none of it for granted.
Drop me a line to let me know how you are doing and know that I look forward to seeing you or corresponding with you once again. Cheers to your good health and sense of adventure. Miss Susie
Singapore Peking Duck!
Susie rubs Buddha for Good luck!
Susie Walking Street on famous Kho Shan Rode, Bangkok
The Swanky W Hotel, Seminyak, Indonesia
Coconuts and coca cola!
Patara Elephant Farm
Ketut! Spiritual Healer, Ubud
Ketut Liyer of Eat Pray Love Ubud
Shopping in Bali with Yvonne and Faye!
Ko PHI PHI Snorkeling
Koh Samui Monkeys getting Coconuts!
My Favorite Picture of my Trip to Asia--the mom and baby I adopted.
MAYA BAY where Beach was Filmed---Koh Phi Phi
What a coincidence! Bumped into Beni who I met 5 years ago traveling in Alaska on a cruise.
I ain't seen Germany til I tasted this Bratwurst!
Beer in Denmark
Youthful looking Mom.
THE best Cappuccino I ever tasted! Stockholm Sweden.
Singapore Airlines Mango Ice-cream!
The"W" overlooking the Ocean.
The beach W hotel seminyak bali
Is a Buddha Ronald McDonald an Oxymoron?
The stunning Koh Samui This is the view from my room.
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