Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Burning questions...


Or, Megan makes up a series of questions to answer so that she can have something to write about in her blog.

 -Age you went on your first international trip.

I'm not sure. My parents and grandparents and I went to England a few times when I was little. My first solo "international" trip was to Vancouver, Canada to see Pearl Jam.

 -Best foreign beer you've had and where.

I will go with a pint of Harp while sitting in a pub in Galway, Ireland, listening to some pretty great live music. Honorable mentions to the Corona I had last Fourth of July at a Mexican restaurant in San Diego and also to any beer I've ever had at a Pearl Jam show, anywhere.

-The last place you visited.

I guess the last really exciting place I went is to the Yeosu World Expo. I had only the vaguest of ideas what a World Expo was - an exhibition of many worlds? - but wasn't really sure what to expect. I took a 6 AM train from Daejeon that got me to the Expo at 9 AM, just as the gates were opening.  From what I could tell, the Expo was basically divided into two sections - there were a couple of Korean-themed pavilions, such as an Aquarium and some other things that honestly did not sound that interesting ("a mudflat experience?" "programs to learn about hyundai cars?") and then an international pavilion, with programs presented by many different countries.  While some of these were also a bit dull, many of them were really fascinating, especially the ones that included performances.  When I walked into the Vietnamese pavilion, they were in the middle of a dance and music show that was so good I went back later in the afternoon to watch it again.  When I went next door to Cambodia (what a global traveller!) there were some musicians sitting outside playing the drums. I stood and listened to them for about half an hour. Then I came upon a musical performance from East Timor. I had never even *heard* of East Timor before! I had to look it up when I got home, and who knew, it's in Southeast Asia! Or at least there's a chapter devoted to East Timor in my Lonely Planet Southeast Asia on a Shoestring. The East Timorians were very nice and they even gave me a free shopping bag! Maybe I should go there some day... I'll have a bag for my souvenirs, any way.

In addition to performances, some countries also had short movies, relating to the Expo theme of "the oceans." I must admit that the USA pavilion's movie made me a bit teary-eyed and homesick: the movie was basically a collage of scenes of beaches on both the east and west coast with people proclaiming, "this is *my* ocean." I also really liked the movie in the Japan pavilion.  I hesitated going, because there was a long wait (well, 25 minutes) and I had read online that it wasn't a very interesting movie.  But I'm glad that I went. The movie was about a young boy named Kai (one of my favorite preschool students was named Kai, so that made me a little homesick) who lived in Sendai when the earthquake and tsunami struck last year.  He lost his entire family. But then he found his bicycle which was, miraculously, still intact. He got on it and it grew wings and the bicycle took him in the sky all over Japan.  He watched as people started to rebuild and, basically, learned that even though there is tragedy life can still continue. As he said, humans will find a way to carry on.  I thought it was a really good short film.  Also, at the end, he found his family dog - seriously, I don't know how anyone can not be moved by that.

Small countries that were apparently not big enough to afford/warrant their own buildings were housed together in either the "Atlantic Ocean Joint Pavilion" or the "Pacific Ocean Joint Pavilion." I really liked the latter, since I have an odd fascination with living in a small island in the South Pacific.  I think it started with the movie Joe and the Volcano.  I also really enjoyed the book The Sex Lives of Cannibals, which is one man's memoir of living on a small island in Kiribati - which is possibly why I was oddly excited when I saw that country's.. well, corner.  Not surprisingly (since not many people have ever heard of it), it was pretty empty. As soon as I came closer, the man staffing the Kiribati corner started talking to me and offered to point out his country on the map. I can't remember how many islands he said make up Kiribati - but it was a lot.  He told me he lives on Christmas Island, which I think is the most populated of the islands.  But they're all pretty desolate, I think.  He told me that I should come visit his country one day, there is "one flight a week from Honolulu." I said maybe someday.

Some of the country's even had their own restaurants.  I had some coffee and pie in Romania, I ate dinner in Turkey (a really great chicken schwarma - is schwarma Turkish?) and a beer in Belgium.

All in all it was a very enjoyable trip. The expo goes on until August 12th; I might go back. If only to watch the Vietnamese performance again.

 -Favorite and least favorite destinations.

 Not sure I have any least favorites. Every place has charm if you look for it. Favorite destinations. I'll try to narrow it to five: Howth, Ireland- I can practically taste the fish n' chips I had sitting by the ocean on a gorgeous, sunny, warm day in June. Yum. I might be romanticizing those fish n' chips, but the fact that an Irish friend also waxes poetic about them leads me to believe that I'm not.

 Seoul, Korea-Despite growing up in Bangor, Maine - or maybe because of it - I am a city girl at heart. I love losing my way in a crowd, I love the subway, I love all the palaces and tourist sites, I love the coffee shops, I love Hongdae... I could go on and on. I just love Seoul. I'm quite sure I will visit Seoul again during my life time and I'm so grateful that I lived two hours from it for a year.

 Hawaii- One of the most beautiful places I've ever been. I went there -surprise, surprise- to see an Eddie Vedder concert, and my friend Kristine and I rented a car and spent a week driving around Oahu.

 Sapa, Vietnam- I took an overnight train from Hanoi to Sapa, which is by the Chinese border. The train leaves Hanoi around 7 PM and gets into a town called Lao Cai around 6 AM. From there you take a 30 minute van ride up a winding mountain road to Sapa. I will never forget sitting in the front seat of a crowded van listening to some sort of strange Vietnamese rap music and watching the sun rise over the "Tonkinese Alps."

 Seattle- Because even though I have been away from it for over 11 months and won't be back until late October, it will always be home.

 Honorable mentions: Halong Bay, Vietnam. California. Boston.

 -Event you experienced abroad that made you say "wow."

 Going up to the top deck of a boat in Halong Bay early in the morning and seeing the cliffs rise out of the fog and then disappear again.

 Honorable mention: watching the sun come up over a statue of a hand rising from the East Sea on New Year's Day.

 -Favorite mode of transportation. 

Trains, planes and automobiles.

 -Greatest feeling while traveling. 

 Finding a place on my own despite language barriers. See: finding my way to Homigot, Korea on New Year's Eve. Also, finding Hoan Kiem Lake on my first morning in Hanoi despite being so overwhelmed by the crazy traffic that crossing the street took me 30 minutes and a very nice Vietnamese man who took pity on me.

 -Passport stamps, how many and from where? 

 Currently in my passport are stamps from Ireland, Vietnam, Korea, and Hong Kong.

 -Best city view

Coit Tower in San Francisco. I walked there - and it was quite a hike! It's over priced, of course, but the view was so worth it. I love that city though, so I suppose I'm biased.

Honorable mentions: The Space Needle in Seattle (sorry, it's Seattle, I have to say it) and Seoul Tower.

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