Monday, June 13, 2011

Home Sweet Home!

Even though I barely had 24 hours left in Singapore after returning from Malaysia, I did not waste a second of it. Aunty Lay Hoon took me out to a nice quiet dinner around East Coast Park where they are famous for their Chili Crab. Unfortunately, I don't like spicy food so we settled for some steamed crab instead. After dinner, I met up with Pam and the gang for another movie. This time we watched Fast Five, which of course defied everything that Romana stands for in terms of women's rights. We did start bothering the people sitting around us, but it was all we could do to not start laughing whenever Vin Diesel or Dwayne Johnson opened their mouths. You just can't take them seriously... especially with that awful patch of facial hair on The Rock's face. The good news was that the theater in Singapore actually had salty popcorn!

After the movie we headed back to Pam's house, where I was staying for the night. Romana joined us and we had a nice sleepover complete with McDelivery at 3am. The next day was my last day in Asia, so for lunch we met up with some friends at the mall. After lunch, Pam needed to give tuition, so I used that time to go shopping and spend the rest of my Singaporean cash. By the time I got on the plane that night, I had $6 left in my pocket.

Since Aunty Lay Hoon picked me up on my arrival in Singapore, she insisted on being the one to drop me off at the end. My grandmother's two sisters were so kind as well and wanted to come with to send me off, so I had an entire departure party as I was leaving for the States.

The flight home wasn't as bad as the flight to Singapore in January since I was now a seasoned traveler. This time I was smart enough to pick an aisle seat before I was shafted to a center seat. I also wore my University of Connecticut sweatshirt since it wouldn't fit in my suitcase (which was conveniently 0.1kg under the weight limit) and that provided a conversation starter with some of the other passengers. I did make some new friends in the JFK airport who were from Connecticut College and had spent the last semester in Vietnam, so we were able to swap some traveling stories. One thing that everyone agreed on was that I chose to study in the most expensive country in the region.

After getting my bags and passing through immigration, I had to wait awhile for my parents who were, as always, late. But when they got there, we had a wonderful reunion. I was so cold though in my sweatshirt and yoga pants, but apparently the weather was nice so my parents were in shorts and t-shirts! The first place they took me to was Denny's, where I had the BEST American breakfast (even though it was lunchtime).

Since the Denny's is directly next to the outlet mall, I'm not sure why my parents were surprised that I insisted on going shopping after we ate. And while I've been blind to this specific American stereotype, coming back to the US after four months in Asia made me realize that we really do have an obesity problem in this country...

Now after a 22 hour flight, I did not have the patience to sit in a car for 2 more hours as we were driving home, but we finally made it! As we were pulling up the driveway, I saw a pastel banner strung across the front door which I assumed was a leftover Easter decoration (even though we never decorate for Easter), but it was in fact a little "Welcome Home Becca" banner =)

The first person that I saw besides my family was my best friend KC. I'm not entirely sure how I survived without her since December, but I couldn't wait to see her! She suggested going out to eat for a good American meal or cooking one ourselves, and since I was broke we opted for the cheaper option. We made the tastiest American meal of chicken and potatoes for dinner and she surprised me with dessert afterwards!

Unfortunately, I started working the week after I got back, although that did mean that I started earning back all the money that I had spent this semester. I've slowly started seeing everyone from UConn though, since Meg McCabe came down to visit and Meech stopped by the area. It makes me sad though that KC had to go to DC for an internship, so I don't really have many friends in the immediate vicinity. Lucikly, Adrienne is staying at UConn this summer and I got to visit last weekend! I felt like I was going home as I traveled the back roads up to school and drove through campus.

While my travels are limited for the near future due to budget constraints, I'm looking forward to visiting Niagara Falls and Philly this summer! Hopefully someday I'll get to travel the rest of the world too, but for now it's home sweet home in Southeastern Connecticut with the best family in the world!


Leeches and Whatnot

Before leaving Singapore, I decided to squeeze in one last trip with some friends. Our amazing friend Pam planned the whole trip (she also planned Cambodia), for which we were very grateful! My last round trip flight from Singapore was to Kota Kinabalu in Borneo, Malaysia. The purpose for this trip was to climb Mount Kinabalu, the highest peak in Southeast Asia. We were all prepared for leeches and cold weather and were ready to summit this peak in one day, but as I've found out during all my travels, not everything goes according to plan. There were eight of us going on the trip and in order to climb to the summit you need a guide, but a guide could only take a maximum of four people. While the obvious answer is to get two guides, that didn't work since I guess they didn't have extras to spare for us. So two of our group went to the summit on an overnight trip while the rest of us settled to just do some hiking in the rainforest.

Our main concern on our hike was leeches. We had heard so many horror stories about people hiking in the rainforest and finding these bloodsucking creatures on their feet or in other places on their bodies, and Pam's Lonely Planet guide did nothing but heighten these fears. Apparently these things can slip through the mesh on your shoes and can squish themselves flat so you don't even know they're there. They suck for a couple hours then detach if you don't find them, but you know they were there because they inject something that keeps your blood from clotting so you just keep bleeding for about an hour after they fall off. So we were NOT taking any chances when it came to leaches. We coated our socks in Tiger Balm AND sprayed them with bug spray before putting our shoes on, and made sure to stay away from any wet or muddy spots on the trail. 

After being stuck in the city of Singapore for so long, the greenness of the rainforest was a very welcome change.

It did happen to start raining and getting dark which made us worry towards the end of our trip, but it ended up just adding to our adventure. We could now say that we had been stuck in a rainstorm in the rainforest. In the end we managed to survive with only a couple scrapes, albeit a little soggy.

We rewarded ourselves with some nice, unhealthy KFC for dinner and followed it with a movie. We were really looking forward to buttery popcorn and were quite disappointed when we found out that all they had was caramel popcorn, but getting lost in Thor's blue eyes made up for it.

The next morning we checked out the market before leaving town and then it was off to the airport for my last return flight to Singapore. And even though this marked my fourth trip to Malaysia, I would not hesitate to go back!