Friday, August 18, 2017

Lahore so far


The night before we left, it really started hitting me that we were MOVING TO FREAKIN' PAKISTAN!!! I freaked out a little, and I looked like this for the entire day of travel. It really started settling in when we switched planes in Abu Dhabi: we stepped out into the oppressive heat, surrounded by strange new people, and knew there was no turning back.

Our first view of Lahore! The airport was a little bit of madness, but nothing we hadn't dealt with before. The hardest part was trying to get our 12 PIECES OF LUGGAGE through security. They eventually gave up on scanning them and just let us cart them through, where we were overjoyed to see some familiar faces waiting for us. The school sent the whole administrative team to pick us up! Then it was a quick drive through a new city to our house at Swedish Flats.

We made it! We have so much space here, we're a little overwhelmed. We got in late on a Wednesday night, did some preliminary shopping the next day, and interviewed a housekeeper on Friday. 



Watch out! Rani's driving! We went out with our neighbor Jill (who's been here awhile and has been an invaluable help settling in) early Saturday morning for a driving lesson. Rani picked it up quickly, and is dealing with the challenges of driving here like a champ: right side driving, stick shift, traffic. I've been out once for some practice, but I'm fine being a passenger as long as she enjoys it. I'm a better navigator anyway.

Here's the local market, part of a roundabout. If you zoom in on the yellow sign, you'll see one of the popular last names here, which means I have to be careful not to make fun...

My first beer in Pakistan! A neighbor was nice enough to share some of her supply left over from last year while we work on getting our alcohol permits. I won't lie - this was a relief. 

The American Club, or International Club. One of the few bars in town. It's in a house and has a gym and a swimming pool for members.

Happy Birthday Rani! Again, Jill stepped in with some pancake mix and syrup so that I could surprise Rani with breakfast in bed for her 30th (heehee) birthday.

Got my alcohol permit! Went right out after school, across town to one of the fancy hotels, walked around the side to a shady little permit shop, and bought two cases of beer. There are exactly 5 different types of beer to choose from, all made by the one brewery in Pakistan (as is all of the liquor available). This guy is helping carry it to the car (this is not unique: white people here are rarely allowed to carry their own purchases. Last trip to the grocery store, an employee even followed us around and held our basket while we shopped).

Lahore is so green! Not quite what we expected. The heat here is something different than we've experienced before: oppressive and unrelenting and heavy. We both suffered headaches for a few days before we figured out that we just have to chug water constantly to keep up with it. I'm hoping it will break soon so I can get a good run in; if I tried now, I'm pretty sure I'd pass out.

Two things in this shot from our ride to school yesterday: 1. BIRDS!: everywhere in the sky, you'll see flocks of circling birds. Big birds, like crows and rooks and hawks. The crows at our home are vicious; I've been dive-bombed a couple of times, and I'm watching them beat up other birds, and even stray cats, as I write this. They also have the worst call of any bird I've ever been around. 2. That's a truck full of cows that I thought was funny!
We are settling in and slowly finding ways to deal with the small frustrations of a new place. Reliable internet has been a challenge, electricity goes out multiple times each day, our bathrooms are really small with weird toilets and lame showers... We each have moments once in awhile where it all gets to be too much, but overall we're staying positive. We'll figure it out! It's all part of the adventure...

Peace and love! We miss you all.
Jon

Friday, July 28, 2017

Transitions: Dongguan to Lahore

Wow, it's been a while since I wrote anything here...

For anyone I haven't gotten around to telling yet, we are MOVING TO LAHORE, PAKISTAN!!

After 5 years of working in Dongguan, we decided it was time for a new adventure. We spent a few frustrating months on the job search, and finally spoke with the director of the Lahore American School. We were immediately charmed with her, learned more pleasing things about the school as we did more research, and eventually ended up signing our next two-year contract with them.

The end of the school year was more emotional than I expected.
A good friend left me with a proper Chinese name. These characters mean "big river/ accept/ kindness". Made me cry... a lot.


A few of my 8th grade girls (a frustrating bunch of not-always-the-best students) put these together (because I look like an ice cream cone???) along with a video saying goodbye. Also made me cry... a lot.


Saying goodbye to friends and students and co-workers, taking my last run through the park, last visit to the local pub, last sunset off the balcony of our apartment... I'll miss the school and living in China, but I'm ready to move on.

So long Dongguan!
 Since we decided to move everything from our apartment as luggage, the travel was predictably annoying (12 suitcases!!!).
Emptied my Chinese bank account to pay for the luggage.


 Spent a few days in Bradenton with Rani's always-welcoming family, and I finally got to meet her brother.


Rani and Bailey together again at last

Then it was off to DC to visit with some fellow teachers from China (they're moving on to Indonesia this year) and attend a workshop sponsored by the Office of Overseas Schools. Meanwhile, Rani (with her mom and aunt) attended a different conference in NYC.

Kim, Me, and Jay at the Beer, Bourbon, BBQ festival!

Stayed in a straight-up dorm room for the conference. Accommodations weren't so hot but...

We did our work at the beautiful Madeira School nearby.
Then it was back to Florida, where we shortly moved into an amazing little beach house for the month of July. Lots of family around (my sister just moved here, and my parents were along to help out). I'll let the pictures tell the story.

Carrs, Linds, West-Singhs relax after a HOT day of moving for the first meal in Maria's new place. 

And relax by the pool for an early 4th of July party.

Oooh, that next picture looks good...

America is really doing beer right these days, which is probably another good reason for me not to live here. Here's a flight from a quiet night we spent at Motorworks Brewery in Bradenton. 

The moms relaxing on the beach.

Spent a few days at Universal Studios. Everything's fake except the rainbow!

And now we're wrapping everything up, trying not to get too nervous, hoping we didn't forget anything, and doing our final packing and saying of goodbyes.

Peace and love to everyone, especially those I neglected to contact directly. Best of luck on all of your adventures.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Myanmar-velous Epilogue: You call that a beach? Ngapali-ze!

OH MY GOD! This beach is so beautiful.
Sunset so nice I had to taste it.
And I did.





Myanmar-velous 3: Shan-tastic!

For some reason, all domestic flights in Myanmar seem to leave before 8AM, so we packed up and got out of Bagan before sunrise. Short, two-hop flight to Heho airport, where we met our new driver and headed out for a morning drive through the Shan state.
Very different landscape here, not so dry, with lots of different plots of farmland. We are also a little weirded out after getting so much constant information for the last three days, because our driver doesn't speak English and we have to guess at much of what we're seeing.
Ladies harvesting wheat; not a lot of dudes doing the farm-work out here...

The main stop this morning is the town of Pindaya and the Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, a complex of caves filled with a truly astounding number of Buddhas.
Look at this crazy-ass spider! There must have been some story behind this, because we saw it a few different places.

Seriously, like SO many Buddhas

Buddha Buddha Buddha Buddha BU-DDAH! (can you guess that tune?)

The sign does not lie.


We also visited a three-generation old paper/umbrella-making workshop to see the family making paper out of plant fibers and fashioning the various parts of umbrellas using hand tools.
Making an umbrella handle with a super-sweet foot-powered lathe. 

We skipped lunch and booked it for Nyaungshwe on the northern shores of Inle Lake for an afternoon/evening off, had drinks and dinner in a small cafe, and called it a night.

After breakfast, we set out for a day of touring Inle Lake, a large lake in a mountain valley. Highlights included floating island farming, many stops to see local crafts, and seeing all these fully functioning villages on the lake that are just like villages on the land, with shops and schools and houses, but the streets are replaced with water. I'll let the pictures tell the rest.
Our journey begins

Out of the way, fools!

These fishermen were totally bad-ass. They're casting nets with both hands and rowing with one leg (the oar is kind of hooked in his armpit), all while balancing ON A BOAT on one leg. This skill is apparently unique to these people, and they even have races with 60+ people on one boat rowing with their legs.

Little shrine to the protector spirit, out in the middle of the lake.

Floating gardens: they grow tomatoes, squash, everything on these floating islands made from composted plant material that gets washed down into the lake from the mountains. The bamboo poles are actually anchoring them to the lake bed.

Here are some men busting up the material for the floating islands.

This is more of the material that goes into the islands. He's dredging it up with a pole.

One water house, coming up.

Making thread out of LOTUS FIBERS!? I didn't even know this existed.

I've never really seen a loom in action, but it's scary complicated: lots of hand-foot-eye coordination, and lots of patience. Also some really interesting engineering.

Local blacksmith re-purposing old springs and struts from cars.

Young boy on his way to becoming a novice at a monastery. 
Two dudes hand-sawing planks of teak to make boats



Ladies rolling sweet, sweet cheroots, complete with corn-husk filters



And with that, we're pretty much done with sight-seeing. We're headed to the beach for a few days tomorrow, which should be a nice end to this trip, and may not be worth writing about. I've been really impressed by this country, its people, and its traditions; I think we did a pretty good job of using our time here wisely, but there's still more to see, and I hope to be back someday.