Friday, January 15, 2010

5 Weeks Between China and Uzbekistan and Now the Trip Is Over

So the trip is over, I’m back in Philly now.
Since Korea, I’ve been in Beijing for 5 days. The Great Wall is awesome!! I walked along it for about 4 hours and was extremely sore for a couple of days afterwards. I was hanging out with a guy from Switzerland that I met at the airport and was couchsurfing with a girl from France and guy from Amsterdam (they live in the same apartment). All of them were really cool. After a few days of going around the city and a couple nights of partying I got on a train for 41 hours to cross most of China over to Urumqi. It was a loonng train ride. I had a bed, but it was the top one of 3 beds (bunk beds) so there wasn’t much space up there. One girl in my car could speak just enough English for a conversation, but she got off about 20 hours into the trip. The rest of the time there was very little talking for me but many people kept giving me food and just smiling at me.

There was nothing too special about Urumqi (but it was freezing and I had a bit of a cold so I didn’t really explore much). The main reason that I went there was to catch a flight to Tashkent, Uzbekistan. So Uzbekistan….. I spent about 3 weeks there. It’s a very interesting country. I think Uzbekistan has the most hospitable people out of anywhere I’ve been so far. People are so nice there that even if they don’t like someone they would probably still host and take care of that person. Some important basics for the country: nice people, very good food, too much vodka, and lots of corruption but even with that still an amazing place.

I stayed with 2 of my friends and their families at first. It was really nice and interesting also. In the first couple weeks I hung out a lot in Tashkent (the capital), went to an ancient city called Samarkand, went up to the mountains, went to an Uzbek wedding, played soccer once, went to the sauna multiple times and even swimming a few times at 6am! Also, I made the first bribe of my life. I was late to register myself in the country so they said either I pay 50x the minimum salary (~$945) or get deported. Well both options would suck so in the end I got away with a $250 bribe (which is still a lot but next time I’ll register on time).
The last week there I went to a couple other cities, Gagarin and Andijon, and spent some time also in Tashkent staying at Aybek’s house, another couchsurfer. Andijon is supposed to have the nicest people in Uzbekistan (that’s what some people told me), and I think it’s true. I stayed at someone’s place that Aybek knew. The two days I spent there I was always with many people… some people to drive, some to hang out, one guy came just to translate for the day because many of the guys there didn’t speak English. All the time they were making sure everything was alright.
There’s a lot more things about Uzbekistan that I think are cool or interesting, but can only write so much now..

The last couple days I spent in Tashkent hanging out with couchsurfers (both locals and foreigners). I also received my invitation from the Peace Corps!! I’m going to Honduras on Feb. 22 for 27 months so I’m very excited.

After Uzbekistan I went back to China. First went to Xian where I got to see the Terracotta Warriors. Somehow I ended up on a Chinese tour when I went to see them. So I was with a bunch of Chinese people and a lady with a loudspeaker speaking in Chinese the entire time. Obviously I didn’t understand anything she said but it was still a fun day. Afterwards I spent a day in Shanghai and then had to come back home. I was hoping to spend a couple weeks more in China instead of just a few days but I had to come home early for some paperwork/passport application for the Peace Corps.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

English Teacher

I'm still in Korea. Now I'm teaching English for 2 weeks. It's a way to make a few $$$ (quite a few actually :)) and to stay here longer. My job is very easy but it's alright, relaxing and enjoyable. I'm teaching M/W/F from 230-800 and for half of that time I just read because there are not enough students to teach (at least this is how my first 2 days have been). My main goal in teaching is just to have the kids speak. People study English here starting at 6 or 7 years old and still so many people don't speak a word of English. I think it's because the schools focus too much on grammar and writing but the students never hear the language or speak it.

So I'm still having a great time here. I continue to eat good food, meet great people, and have partied quite a bit recently.
They have a drink here called Soju that I guess can be called 'Korean Vodka'. It's usually not as strong as vodka. And it tastes better than vodka in my opinion, but still it's not good by itself. But that's why they have 'somec'. Somec is a mixture of beer and soju. The Korean beer is pretty weak and taste isn't amazing (either that or I've been spoiled by Matt and Steve's homebrews in Philly), but when you mix the soju and the beer it actually tastes better than either one individually and is pretty strong. Actually it can be a bit dangerous haha. Soju can really surprise you after a couple of bottles. Before you know it you're as drunk as ________. But it does lead to some good fun.

Last week I bought my plane ticket to leave Korea. I don't really want to leave, but I guess I have to at some point. The good thing is I'm going to more awesome places. On Dec 9 I'm going to China for 8 days. And from there I fly to Uzbekistan ohhhhh yeahhhh.

and btw, my first album of pics that I put a while ago on facebook is at:

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Hello, it's been a while but I'm writing again. Let's see... since I wrote last time I've been to Belgium, Amsterdam, London, Milan and in a small city in a valley in the Alps. Then I was back in Philly for less than 2 weeks which consisted of quite a bit of work, more drinking and seeing some of you guys. Now for the past 2 weeks I've been in South Korea!

I love it here! So far I've been to a few cities and have been couchsurfing the entire time until today. I was trying to go to an island today but by the time I got to the place I'm at now the ferries had stopped running. Now I'm in a motel for the night and will go tomorrow. Actually It's good that I got stuck here because I can just sit and relax for a night.

So what's so great about Korea..... first of all, people here are sooo nice. From the second I arrived at the airport everyone has been really helpful. Just about any person on the street will let me use their cellphone, when I wasn't sure where to go some people have walked me to the place I was looking for even if it was 10 minutes out of their way and I've been invited out a few times by random people. One night I was walking home and an older man said hello to me and then took me for some food and drinks. The day after that, 2 ladies in their forties bought me some coffee as we tried communicating with their little bit of English and my non-existent Korean. That evening a younger couple asked me to take their picture and then they took me out for dinner, drove me around the city a bit and we got some ice cream. The next night I went out with some CSers and I know some people were buying me drinks mainly because I had almost all the money I went out with the next morning. And last night... I really don't remember much and neither does anyone else.
Also the food is really good here. I've tried a bunch of new dishes but don't know all of the names. And there's a spa culture here that's really different from anything in the US. It's interesting, a bit strange at first but you get used to it. But I'll explain it another time or you can google it if you really want to know now. There's lots of places to go hiking here, lots of temples and other places to go sightseeing and the Korean girls are really pretty.
Hmmm what else,

Most of the couchsurfers here are English teachers from the US and Canada (I want to come back and do that for a year or two). And for the most part, the teachers here are living it up. Even with no special qualifications, we can get paid more for teaching English than what a Korean would make at a job after university. And on top of that, housing and insurance are provided for the teachers so there's a huge cost that's gone.

Alright, now I'm going to go sleep so see you later

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Last weeks in Israel... Leaving on Monday

So this is my last blog from Israel because I'm leaving here on Monday night. I'll be going to a few cities in Europe in the next 2 weeks so it should be pretty sweet.

Yesterday was the start of Rosh Hashanah which is the Jewish New Year. So that means that from yesterday evening until tomorrow evening there are no buses running. To get around I guess you can either walk, have a car, know someone with a car, hitchhike or take taxis or microbuses (although they only run from major cities). But most people spend the holiday by getting together with their family and eating a really big meal. After our dinner yesterday, I went and met my cousin and some of her friends for a bunch of drinks to celebrate the new year and it was goood fun.

In the last few weeks, I've traveled a bit more. I spent 5 days in Jerusalem where I found some places that sell mate... of course I bought some and have finally been drinking it again, my bombilla has been waiting to get used. Then, I couchsurfed in a kibbutz that's next to the Sea of Galilee (Kinneret). Almost everyone in the kibbutz is from Argentina although I only met a couple of them. oooh, and I got to milk goats, it was so sweet!! Well I didn't milk them directly, we put on these tubes and the suction from them would get the milk out of the goats. Either way it was still awesome.

And our host there took us to 'The Hidden Lake' which has only been around for a few years. It's there because people were digging in a quarry, and they hit one spot where some water came out. Then it kept coming out till there was a mini-lake. So then they had to stop digging and now it's a really nice place to go swimming (although too many people there on Saturdays). I've also wandered a bit more around Tel Aviv and had some amazing Hummus (I argue that this place is the best hummus in Israel, but everyone has their own, it's like arguing who has the best philly cheesesteak). I also ate Sabich. The 'ch' in that is pronounced like the spitting sound from your throat that many people can't do. Sabich is delicious. It was eggplant, egg, salad, tehina, and some other stuff all in a pita, much better than falafel I think.

Another crazy thing about this summer is that I haven't seen a drop of rain since I got here and it's still pretty hot most places here. It's been really nice... well for me, I think this country wouldn't mind if it rained more seeing as how they don't have so much water

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Traveling up North

Been traveling around since I finished working on the farm. Nothing crazy or exciting, just having a really good time. and I put up some more pictures (link is in a previous post).

I went to Nahariya with the other girl that was working on the farm. There we stayed with a girl from couchsurfing and her parents, and like most CSers they were very nice. Nahariya is pretty small so we went to Rosh Hanikra to see some really cool caves and to the old city in Akko which had many things to see and really good hummus. We also got some hummus in a small town after seeing the caves in Rosh Hanikra. Hummus mmmm if only you knew how good it is. And one night in Nahariya there was a free concert. The music wasn't great, but there was some very good people watching there.

From there we went really north to a kibbutz called Kfar Blum. We stayed with a girl, Ayla, that I had met about a month ago when I was hitchhiking. She had given me and another girl a ride and her phone number in case we'd be back up north. It was a nice little kibbutz, and in her backyard was the Jordan River, not bad eh? So we went hiking/being carried by the current down the river. The first day doing it we found some tubes which helped us along. The second time I went by myself and there were no tubes. But both times I had a machete to cut any crap that might be in the way (ok so the first day I didn't really need it, but it's pretty going down the river with a machete. but when I went back it ended up being really useful). Also, at some point there's a hammack hanging in one of the trees that sorta grew across the river instead of up. So we chilled in that for a while. Ayla also took me to a few other kibbutzim that were nearby, each one has its own special little place. One night there was a really good show at a pub by a group called J Viewz.

Next was Haifa. Stayed with a family friend, went into the city a couple of nights with them and also went hiking on my last day there. The hiking was awesome, it's really cool how you have the city then a few miles away quite a few good trails going through the mountains and then not too long in the car and you can be in the desert. ooh and the beach is closeby too.

Just 3 more weeks and I leave Israel and onto adventures in other places

Friday, August 21, 2009

The farm on the Moshav...

So it's been interesting on the farm that I worked on this past week, but I left yesterday because it was enough at this place for me. I got to the farm through WWOOF, a website where you can work on an organic farm in many countries in exchange for a place to sleep and food, etc...

The place I worked at was on a small moshav in the northern negev (desert) right next to Gaza. One lady lives there and runs the place and occasionally has volunteers coming to work. She is trying to make the farm self-sustainable and economically friendly. Another volunteer and I slept outside in a tent (not really a tent, but almost). We showered in an outdoor shower where we would fill up a bucket with water and shower by pouring the water on us (saves even more water then a 'green' showerhead) and went to the bathroom in a transportable composting toilet. Everytime the hole for the toilet fills up she moves it to another spot and grows a tree in the previous one. There was also a solar oven that could be improved, but it was enough to get food or drinks pretty hot. Also, everything in her house gets reused. For example, all of the water coming out of her kitchen sink fell into a big compost pile/tree/garden along with all the vegetable and fruit peels. The water from the washer goes to water a tree... you get the idea, anything that can be reused is reused.

During the week we spent some time weeding the field. There were tons of weeds, I don't think anyone had worked the field for a looonng time. We also made a water catch system so that she can collect the water from the roof when it rains. Pretty much we attached some piping to the gutter and through a filter it falls into a barrel so that it can be used to water the plants when there's no rain. Israel has a problem of not having enough water. And we converted a spot in front of her house from a big pile of weeds into a good-looking and fertile raised garden bed so she can grow some more vegetables. One of the days we also helped another older lady in the moshav with some work that she wasn't able to do herself.

A lot of what we ate during the week was from her yard. Herbs for tea and vegetables and fruit for eating. There was a Passion Fruit vine growing on her house so everyday I was able to eat lots of passion fruit... mmmm it was sooo good. Also, I learned quite a bit about permaculture and plants and lots of other stuff. But for certain reasons I didn't want to stay there any longer. So, in a couple of days I'm going to go travel in the north again, hopefully couchsurfing in small places in the middle of nowhere where it's really nice.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


I've posted many pics. Israel Pics and Pics from Egypt and Jordan.

The past week's been good. I've been to Ein Gedi Reserve, where we hiked around a bit, went swimming in the small pools being fed by waterfalls and saw some animals. Afterwards we went floating in the Dead Sea.... very cool feeling and relaxing also. But careful because any cuts you have will burrnnn, actually it's not that bad.

Also went to a few other places. One night we went to an Irish pub and had a couple Leffe Browns, mmmm it was good. It's funny how all over the world, Irish pubs are almost the same. Not that it's a bad thing, Irish pubs are always good fun! And another cool thing was in Abu Gosh we went to see a church but while we were waiting, so were a bunch of soldiers. But they were waiting to have a tour with one of the monks and they took us in with them. The monk seemed like a really nice and funny guy but I didn't understand most of what he said because it was in Hebrew.

I was supposed to start work yesterday on a farm in the south, but it's been delayed so I'll start Sunday. And a couple more things, the falafel and the schwarma are amazing here. Also have you ever had freshly made hummus? wow... it's insanely delicious. I haven't cooked for so long but I could go for something really spicy. Most food here isn't spicy, I guess Israelis can't handle it.