Saturday, January 29, 2011

Preparing for Middle Earth

Passage to Middle Earth

  Okay, well maybe not the Middle Earth you all remember but the journey is long and arduous none-the-less and preparing for it is no easy task.

In 32 days I'll be flying out of Korea and headed for Istanbul, Turkey. The land that has been fought over for several millenia and has been a capital for the Roman Empire, Greek Empire, Latin Empire, and finally the Ottoman Empire... So one can just imagine the history and interesting culture it must still hold today. I can't wait to feast my eyes on all of the history that awaits and what has arisen today.

However, this post isn't about what I'll find there. It's about preparing to GO there. Packing. Such a dreadful chore. Such a bore!

To be honest, this is just the start of what is supposed to be an Eastern European tour. However, the more I look at this grand map of Europe there are so many places that I want to see. I want to cross ALL of it.
How will I do that. I don't know yet, but where there's a will there's a way.
This planning has been giving me quite a headache and is presenting a few issues.

The last week or so I've been racking my brain trying to figure out what I need to buy for this trip.

First, I want to be able to take some amazing photos while I"m on this trip and hopefully someday organize them into a Photography book that I can publish. I wanted to experiment with photography and some concepts while I'm there. However, this week I realized that it wouldn't be the wisest idea to spend all of my money buying new lenses and lights for my camera when I'm already taking decent photos. 
Thank goodness I came to realize that.

Second. I need to upgrade to a lighter, smaller, and faster laptop.
This is driving me INSANE!  I'm on a budget yet I do need a nice laptop.
Any help from other travel photographers or travelers in general would be greatly appreciated.
I'm thinking it's time to change to a MAC..*gasp* however they are quite expensive.

Third, I've gotta make a budget and an itinerary of some sort. At the moment, I still have no concrete plan. I just know I have a one-way ticket to adventure. I know a lot of amazing things will happen once I'm there but I definitely need a rough outline of a plan so I can budget better.

Fourth, This week it's really starting to hit me that I'm going to be seeing my girl and then leaving her for who knows how long. I have this need, this Wanderlust. I can't imagine being happy sitting still, not until I've crossed Europe. It's really starting to take a toll on me as I am trying to come to terms with my wanderlust and my love. How can I fit the two together? Can they fit together? Do I give it all up?  So many questions are coming from that and to be honest I haven't slept soundly since I began thinking about it.
I pray that it all works out well and comfortably for the both of us. This will definitely be a big obstacle that we'll face. All I know is I can't wait to see her in person in 3 weeks.

Finally, I need to get motivated and stop being so lazy. This week of vacation I should have mailed everything that's been needing to get mailed out, cleaned my house, and packed most of the things or at least organized them so I could do so minus clothes. However, I did next to nothing besides post some photos on flickr of my last photo shoot and update my blog. If I don't get my butt in gear and get responsible I hate to think how I"ll be on the road. I hope I'll be inspired enough to get things accomplished that I want to accomplish and network for friendships and possible employment.

SO the big journey, the odyssey will start in a month. I"m preparing my other blog to be a combination of travel writing, supporting charities/NGO's, and to showcase some photos. However I'm also searching the web for a good host of an actual photography portfolio.

So much to do, so little time. Lets hope I get myself organized quickly.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Rush Hour Terror

This afternoon I was informed by Jinky that there was a bombing in Manila.

Upon searching and finding nothing on CNN or BBC News I emailed CNN and told them what I knew about the bombing. I felt myself tearing up as I was learning more about this bomb and it made me realize how very connected to the Philippines I feel. 
At first I felt that drop in the heart much like I feel whenever I see images of the Two Towers billowing smoke in New York. Immediately after I began to feel anger. 

     I didn't feel this type of anger after 9/11 because there was enough anger all over the TV screens from pundits, from everybody.  Actually I felt curiosity then. That was what led to me reaching out to the Muslim community in Cedar Rapids to ask questions directly about Islam since there was not much reliable information on the airwaves. I learned a lot from this year long cultural immersion within the Muslim Community at Cedar Rapids. I became really fond of Islam and it's followers. However the most difficult part for me to understand was modern day Islam's pacifist approach to Fundamental Islamic ideology and terrorism.

      Islam was able to answer many questions that the Bible was not able to answer. It had rules to follow and it had reasons to follow them. It had order and structure. However when it came to 'brothers' and 'sisters' committing acts of terrorism against civilians in various countries throughout the world. There was barely a peep. In fact, more often than not I'd hear a 'tit -for-tat' acceptance or justification of what was happening. I'm pretty sure if the coin were flipped and an extremist Christian group was doing acts of terrorism against civilians that a majority of Christians would say, NOT IN THE NAME OF MY RELIGION! Of course not all would say that as fundamentalists usually have some amount of followers depending on how grassroots it is or not.
     If this country hadn't of done this or wasn't doing this then these people wouldn't do this. Now, sometimes it seemed to make sense. There were some heavy handed tactics being used against some countries and Islamic communities however they would come back with such ferocity and disregard for INNOCENT civilian fact sometimes specifically targeting civilians. Those 'tit-for-tat' arguments just couldn't really cut it for justifying the carnage brought onto everyday people that could by your mother, brother, or daughter.

     A question began to form in my mind. Why are good, faithful Muslims allowing their religion to be hijacked by religious zealots bent on implementing THEIR OWN ideals on how the world and Islam should be followed? It just didn't make since that even the scholars and elders that have the power to make legal fatwas (religious edicts) against such brazen acts of terror didn't do just that. Instead they would remain quiet.

Back to the bombing that happened today.

       The attack was more than likely conducted by either Abu Sayyaf, MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front which is a break off militant wing of Muslims based in the Sulu Islands off of the Southern Coast of Mindanao), or the Indonesian-based Jemaah Islamiyah. Of course we can't know until evidence comes out or one of the groups claims responsibility. Some (myself included) believe that these groups are attacking in order to keep the fight going and remind Manila that they are not to be forgotten in their fight for complete succession from the Philippines. Yes, Abu Sayyaf and the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) want to have their own country, their own Umma..or purely Islamic Community. Another example of an Umma is Afghanistan. Doesn't that sound encouraging?

Knowing this information and also listening to a justification for today's senseless attack on civilians made my blood boil. I was seeing red and my only thought was..Go Get them and Finish this.  A bit rough handed no?  I'll blame this sudden jump to conclusion and action on my 2 days without being able to sleep.  I quickly realized I needed to just breath and step back so I could think about the situation with a clear mind.

       I know some people who live and work with the indigenous communities of Mindanao and have intimate knowledge of the happenings that go on behind closed doors. They mentioned something that you don't hear much, or at all, in the news when I was fuming about the attacks.  You hear about terrorists(MILF, Abu Sayyaf) and Secessionists(MNLF) and that's it. A part of that reason is because of course the Philippines is the most dangerous place in the world to be a journalist, especially on hot topic or controversial issues. That is a topic for another blog though.
       The interesting bits of information and 'tit-for-tat' justification that I received from them was that many indigenous people are being assaulted, raped(still waiting for the sources on this one), and their homes threatened by joint military actions between the US and Philippines Armed Forces. This happens despite there being a cease-fire (page 10,11) and peace agreement between MNLF and the Philippines Government that was signed in 1996.
       Not only that, but the US is drilling oil off of Sulu and mining minerals. So the indigenous people and leaders of the Autonomous Region do have reasons to be upset. They have reasons to be MORE than upset actually. However I hope they can find a better way of addressing their grievances.

So my reason for this blog is:
  1. To look at both sides of an issue before jumping to conclusions (although I will NEVER agree with the specific targeting of civilians).
  2. To question the all to common 'tit-for-tat' justification of any act of violence when it specifically targets civilians.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Some things happen for a reason

I would have never thought that missing out on a vacation could lead to such HUGE realizations.

In the past few days since I missed my flight I came to realize a few things about my future.
I also realized I'm not completely happy with myself or where I am. Nor am I completely happy with my lifestyle. Why?  I the single life and being able to be with anybody at anytime you please.

It's a bachelors dream.  But it's also quite lonely. 

So some major things happened tonight. 

I'll post specifically about what happened soon. In the mean time I have a question for you.

Korea, albeit my love/hate relationships with it, has taught me a lot. It has definately taught me a lot about heartbreak and the bitter part of grapes. Perhaps that's just to prepare me for the sweetness.

So I wonder. 
What can you, my readers tell me about:  LOVE Please write what you feel love is all about. What is love to you!?  Write in the comment box so we can have a discourse about love and it's meaning.

What is it to you?   If you are in love, when did you realize it? 
I want to have a discussion about what LOVE is. I mean..there has to be a lot to talk about considering 85% of songs in the world tend to be about Love!  

Por mis amigos de Espanol.  Queiro conocer su opinion sobre Amor. Que es amor?  Por favor, escribe en el COMMENT BOX que piensas sobre Amor.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Making the best of what you have

The word of today is procrastination.

Sometimes it suffices ...

and sometimes it really screws you over.

This time it did the latter.

I wasn't able to make my flight to Vietnam in time and thus missed out on an entire 2 week vacation in the warm tropics of South East Asia.

All the while I'm feeling my lips and fingers go numb from the cold snap that is hitting Korea.

Usually, when I face a setback of this proportion (or less at times) my first reaction tends to be to

  • stress
  • Then panic sets in as I pull out all stops and become desperate to make it work.
  • Finally I become despondent and fill my cup of self-pity.

However, thanks to a great motivational piece from a friend I snapped out of the rising self-pity mode and decided to make due with what I have.

In his words:

"My unsolicited advice would be to call it a loss and a lesson learned and find ways to make a useful and productive vacation in Korea. Don't spend money you don't have and worse still borrow money that you should be saving for after you are done in Korea. Perhaps this is a good chance to work on something else. Sometimes things happen "for a reason". Exercise, take care of yourself, work on something creative, sleep early, avoid drama and take advantage of this incident to do some quiet contemplation without feeling sorry for yourself. Travel is great, but the things we like about it on an emotional or spiritual level can be found within and in the little things we do everyday."

Could a person really receive better advice than this?  Well said friend and thanks!

So now I need to make a to-do list of things to accomplish this week

  • Clean house
  • Finish TEFL paper once and for all
  • Budget
  • Do taxes
  • mail out gifts and postcards
  • Go to the gym!
  • Sell stuff
  • Start planning for March
  • Find a light-weight, good quality laptop for travel

Is there anything else you would add to the list?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Failure to liftoff

So this is what it must feel like when you are stuck somewhere and there are few if any options available to you.

As I blogged last mind was a bit frozen and my head swirling from a person's sudden departure from my life. I didn't pack my bags but instead just sat in front of the computer trying to make sense of my trip. I made sense of it. Figured out my itinerary. However, I overslept this morning and ended up missing my flight. After checking with the airport travel agency I was told there is only 1 flight to Vietnam tomorrow for Business class. Price tag. 960,000won.  That's about $900.  I don't have that. So...It looks as if I'm stuck the airport. 2 weeks vacation and nowhere to go. 

Hope I find a way to Vietnam soon. It's a well-deserved vacation and would be a crying shame to end up spending my entire vacation at home and out $500 from airline costs.

too be continued...

Friday, January 14, 2011

Time lapse

I've been sitting here for the past few hours in a bit of a daze.
No, not from my new flickr account suddenly getting an average of 400 hits a day up from about 4-10 hits a day, but because I'm still trying to plan my Vietnam Itinerary last minute...with my unpacked bags behind me.

You see, I picked Vietnam without really knowing much about it. I just know it's the site of WWII and has some amazing views with amazing people. I also chose it because I wanted to do some job scouting there.
However, not until tonight did I really look at the Geography of Vietnam and Cambodia to see where and how I'll get to places. haha  That habit of procrastination and last minute decision making definately hasn't improved over time.

My itinerary is slowly formulating in my head and now that I"ve downloaded Google Earth it's really helping me put things in perspective of where things are and whether it'll be possible to get to them logistically.
Thanks to a Mr. Silk for popping up out of nowhere and sharing with me his treasure trove of information and suggestions from his trip in Vietnam a few years ago.

My plan is changing non-stop but it looks as if I'll head over to Siem Riep the day after I land in Ho Chi Minh City. Before heading out though I'll drop off a suitcase full of old clothing, shoes, etc to the NGO Helping Hand Saigon.
Once in Cambodia I'll mull about the ruins of Angkor Wat with my tripod and camera..spending the day there, hopefully starting at sunrise or atleast get the sunset.(Sunday/Monday)  The next day (Tuesday) I'll head to Phnom Phen to check out the Killing Fields and capture the essence of the place with my lens. Of course I won't have it to my eye the whole time. One must actually sit back and appreciate where they are lest they forget why they travel. To NOT be behind some form of technology but to be a part of where you are.

On Wednesday I'll head back to Vietnam and I'm not exactly sure what I'll do. I"m thinking about scuba diving on this day. 

I'll have to continue this blog post later as it's getting pretty late and I need to finish packing so I'm not late for my flight tomorrow.

This will be an interesting trip :)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Preparing for SE Asia

This week feels like such a rush.

I just bought a pro account for my flickr page
It's so cool to see all the statistics. Today alone I had 255 views! I really look forward to the day when people can't help but comment on the photos because they like them so much. Until then, practice practice practice.

I'm busy preparing for my incoming Couchsurfer Joanne who arrives tomorrow night.
I'm so excited to have her even though I'll be super busy.
It's been quite a while since I've had a couchsurfer and if any of you know me very well, I LOVE  hosting people and showing them around. It's an absolute thrill to meet other people that are excited about traveling.

I've also got a special birthday to prepare for Sieun on Wednesday and then on Thursday I'll be meeting my long time friend Moon for some dinner.

But, the biggest thing going on right now is preparing for my final trip to SE Asia for the year. I love SE Asia so it's going to be hard to move farther away so I can't jump on a jet and be on the beach after 4-6 hours of flying. SE Asian beaches will never be old to me. I can still hear the surf breaking against the sand and the wet sand beneath my feet. The best part, the water is mild enough to swim in. That's definately the best part.

So anyways.

I've got 2 weeks to plan out. And I leave on Saturday. haha. This will be fun but of course I'm always a last minute kinda guy. 

My plans so far are to arrive in Ho Chi Minh City on Saturday evening and crash on a couch.  During the first week I'm going to try and catch the Killing Fields and do some scuba diving. I also want to see the Mekong Delta but I've gotta decide whether I have enough time to do that during the first half of my vacation or the second half as I head up to Hanoi

Early Saturday morning I'll have a blissful reunion with my super friend Jinky, whom I met on a Cebu Pacific flight going to Davao last year. We've been close ever since. It'll be really great to see her again. So far I have no idea what we'll be doing for the two days she's in Vietnam. But the beach is definately in order. Lord knows we BOTH need some relaxation and well...the beach is the place to do it!

She'll be going back home by Sunday, the day before the TET New Years Holiday.  
Too bad she's gonna miss that grand celebration. Actually, I just found out about the TET Holiday.
Do any of you have suggestions on some good places to party at? I'm thinking the beach will be the best option.  

So, After the Tet Holiday I'm going to high-tail it across the border to Cambodia and spend 1 or 2 days there so I can enjoy the great Angkor Wat and other fantastic ruins. I can't wait to get my tripod up there and take some photos.  Then I'll have to begin my trek up to Northern Vietnam so I can make my early morning flight on January 30th back to Korea.  

It's going to be one BUSY holiday..but it has to be since it's the last one. I'm just happy I'll have atleast one good friend joining me on the trip. :)  It'll make it all the more special.

So, do any of you have some other great suggestions about Vietnam?  The reason I picked it in the first place was because I was considering finding work there or in Singapore after my contract ends in February. However, I've decided to jet off to Turkey and backpack Eastern Europe for the year instead.

If I don't settle down in Europe somewhere you can be sure I'll be headed back to SE Asia.

And this is the end of my first blog post ever. 
Hope you enjoyed my rambling.
Got suggestions or things you want to hear about just let me know in the comments.


Can anybody refer me to the site where I can make a map that shows my planned itinerary?