Monday, January 28, 2008

Saying Goodbye to Warsaw

This a little photo a took by in 2003 when i first arrived. I played around with it and I believe it is perfect for this posting. Back in October around the 11th or so i decided it was time for me to leave my beloved Warsaw. Over the past 5 years I have had some wonderful adventures and made some great friends. I will cherish all of them for the rest of my life. It was not an easy decision to make. Actually it was much harder that leaving the US. I know I will go back to the States at least once a year. I know I will not come back to Poland every year. I will come back but things will change and people will leave and move to other schools or jobs as I have. Right now I am trying not to think too much about leaving but I am now back in the land of cold and ice with some news. I have an announcement to make. I am on my way to teach in Tokyo, Japan next school year. I will be at The American School in Japan I will teach at the Early Childhood Center. Pre Kindergarten is the grade level I will teach. I can't wait for the change. Life will be so different compared to living in Poland, as well as Kansas. I have talked with many people about moving and everyone who has visited or had family living in Tokyo has said it is wonderful and i will love it. I am still living on the high of having a new job. Lots of people keep congratulating me for getting the new position. This school is known in the international teaching world as being one the best and most difficult schools to get into. The teachers that go to this school stay for an average of 10 years. I don't know if I will be there that long but it is good to know that it is a school that people enjoy working at and feel comfortable staying for a while. I met the administrative staff and feel that I fit in well. It will be a lot of work to establish myself as a primary teacher but I am used to that. Still most of my friends out there don't believe I teach what I do but I know it makes me happy.

Take a look at the Tokyo skyline. The Mori Tower in Ropongi Hill building is the tall building on the left. It is right next to my school. This photo on the right is a view from the top of the Mori Tower. It's looking down at my new campus, ASIJ's Early Childhood campus. So you can see i will work in downtown Tokyo!

I had some other schools interested in hiring me at the fair but felt overall that ASIJ was the best professionally for me and it has a pretty good benefits package as well. So that didn't make the decision very hard. Initially when I left for the fair I was looking at South East Asian schools with beaches and a slow pace but as many people told me, "jobs will come up you never thought about". They were right. I looked at Japan of course, Burma, a lot of SE Asian schools and Uganda. Uganda is a great school and I think it is a possibility for me in the future but not right now. I really like the woman I interviewed with but she was the HS principal. If she was the Elm would have been tough to say no.

I am sure you are thinking the same thing as many of my friends here. "I bet you marry a Japanese woman." Here are a couple of the famous icons in the Japanese modeling world. Before you say they look 15 cause i know you are thinking it. This one on the left was born in 1980 and the other in 1983. I have heard that about 20 times so i am giving odds. I would say chances are high. So start placing your bets in the comment section.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Welcome to the jungle

Next thing up for us in Nam was the trip to Cat Tien National ParkThis place is know for it's amazing wildlife including long-tail and short-tailed gibbons, Asiatic Black Bear, which i got to see, There are also hundreds of bird species and especially the Vietnamese Javan Rhino.
I did not get to see the Rhino cause it is one of the most endangered species in the and the world.

Most mornings began before the sunrise and we would head out to the jungle to find animals and do hikes before the heat and humidity set in. It was one of the most amazing times of my life. Walking around the jungle and weaving and ducking through the vines and paths of the rain forest is something everyone should experience once in a life time. While there i could help but think about the young men who were fighting in the Vietnam/American War. Especially since my father was there. He was not on the ground fighting but in the air. If I stopped for a moment to tie my boots up or to take some pictures when i would look up the rest of the group was gone and out of sight. If it weren't for the path I would have been lost. It is such a think growth of trees and plants. Walking through could be difficult at times because of the large vines and fallen trees.

Everyday was something new for us. Either walking through the trees and vines, riding bikes to identify new species of birds or relaxing in the river. Christmas Eve we got to do all of those things. That may have been one of the best days because it was so hot and sitting in the river was perfect. Only thing missing was a cold beer.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Ho Chi Minh Cith

How do I begin to write about one of the best vacations of my life. Hmmm well I guess stepping out of the airport air conditioning and experiencing the Hot 91*F weather with 90% humidity. That truly was a blessing coming from the dark, cold and dry weather of Warsaw. On my trip with me were my close friends the Schwartz family with Ken, Rhonda, Kat, and Cole
as well as our dear friend Dawn. We all were reunited once again after they had left Warsaw for new teaching destinations.

Getting into the taxi and driving to the Saigon Bee Hotel was the first of many amazing experiences to happy to us. There were thousands upon thousands of scooters weaving, dodging and jetting out in front of cars and people. I was told there are about 8 million people in Ho Chi Minh City and about 5 million scooters. Most of which have anywhere between 1 person to 5 people on one scooter. Yes you read right. On December 15th the Vietnam Gov. had passed a law that all people must wear a helmet while riding a scooter. People i met named Denny and Jess from Colorado told me that on the 14th no one was wearing a helmet and the next day they were everywhere. In a city like this with so many cars and lack of respect of traffic rules I would have thought that everyone would wear something on their melons to keep them from cracking on the pavement.

Now we did arrive safely to without an accident but I can't say the same for Dawn. Her taxi hit a couple of people on a scooter and did a little damage to the taxi but no injuries. With my backpack loaded and on my shoulders I make my way across the street to hotel from where the taxi dropped me off. It was a human "Frogger" for those of you who know the 1980's video game. But unlike Frogger, you must move slow and walk at a steady pace otherwise the traffic cant swerve from side to side to miss you. Oh yeah, forgot to mention it is at 11 o'clock in the evening.

We were kindly greeted by an amazing staff at the Bee Saigon Hotel. With my main man Chau as the manager who did so much for us over the 12 days in HCM City. If you are in HCM City and need a great place to stay in the center of the city contact these people. You will not be disappointed. The service, food and overall friendliness is everything the traveler needs.

The next morning we opted to stay in Saigon, as the locals call it, to chill and walk around the city. We first went off the find the Ben Thanh Market. This was going to be one of my first experience with the local foods, flavors and aromas. People everywhere shouting "Joe...Hey You...John" just trying to get my attention. There were more clothes, shoes, knick-knacks and food than you could imagine, not including the people everywhere. When you visit and go to this or any market make sure you negotiate the prices. They are over-inflated for the tourist and it is totally expected to get deals. My first deal was not as good as the rest that is for sure. The exchange rate to the ever dropping USD is about 16,000 Dong to 1 US Dollar. So that will give you an idea of where to begin. You can get anything and everything you want here. So work on a deal and walk away if you don't like it. The price will drop drastically and you will get what you want for the right price. More to come about Vietnam.