Tag Archives: The Green Lion

Everybody Thinks I’m Fijian…and That’s a Good Thing

adventure bornn

*My apologies for the lack of photos on this post. I made my most costly travel error ever when I accidentally dropped my iPhone into a waterfall. I’ll explain more about that on a later post.*

I was meant to arrive on Saturday, but was having such a good time at the Beachouse that I emailed The Green Lion, my project coordinators in Suva, letting them know I would arrive at the bus station at 3:00pm on Sunday instead. No problem.

Kayaking at the Fiji Beachouse
A group of awesome backpackers I hung around with at the Fiji Beachouse.
I also meant to take the express bus on Sunday morning, but instead Ross and his girlfriend Christie (UK) happily offered to drive me in their rental car. They had to go to Suva anyways. On the way there, we stopped in Pacific Harbor to grab some food and use the ATM. I noticed the time was just a little past 3pm, but no worries, Fiji Time. Just like many places I’ve been to (Africa being the one that pops in my head the most) Fiji runs on what they like to call Fiji Time. Which means, everything and everybody is going to be late. Not too late, but a little late. It’s the whole chilled out island mantra of the island and the perfect excuse as to why anyone in Fiji is late for anything. Fiji Time. I could dig it but it can also be annoying at times particularly when waiting on food that I ordered. In this case, Fiji time would work in my favor because I was already almost a half hour late. The coordinators are probably waiting at the bus station wondering where the heck I am. But I wasn’t overly concerned because of Fiji Time.

Once we arrived at the bus station, I just had Ross drop me off in the center of it. The bus station was a lot bigger than I imagined and a lot more hectic too. I said my farewells to Ross and Christie, put on my bags and simply began to walk around looking for any sign of someone looking for me.

suvabusstation_header
The Suva Bus Station. Courtesy of Fijibus.com
I’ve done this many times before and each time there is always someone around with a sign that either has my name on it, a yellow smiley face, an IVHQ logo sign, or whatever. I looked and looked. No sign. I did several laps around the entirety of the bus station and no sign of anyone looking for me. Oddly, I wasn’t worried.

I had three options:

  1. Keep walking around looking for somebody.
  2. Go into town and sort out purchasing a SIM for my phone to call Green Lion.
  3. It’s Sunday which means I’m probably not the only new volunteer arriving. I can just wait at the terminal for another foreign volunteer to arrive.

I stuck with option one.

They had to be around here somewhere. There’s no way they would leave the bus station with the possibility of a scared little volunteer all by themselves. I wasn’t scared. This was my fault actually. I told them I’d arrive at 3pm. I didn’t even know if buses actually arrived at three. Then on top of that I was late. I had to figure out a way to make myself look known. Other than my big bags I was carrying, I don’t exactly stick out. Since the day I arrived at the Beachouse, I’ve been mistaken for being a Fijian local by tourists and the locals themselves. Many backpackers assumed I worked at the Beachouse and locals were baffled when I started jabbering in my flat American English.

“Oh I thought you were Fijian!” they would say.

adventure bornn
This is a photo of me at a local village near the Beachouse at a kava ceremony. I blend in quite well right?
I blended in so well that a group of locals invited me to take part in a traditional wedding later in the week (more about that later)!

I never once got bored of the confusion. I was happy that I had potential to coast through Fiji without sticking out like a sore thumb. It will prove useful for when locals want to hassle me. It dawned on me that the coordinators are probably around but probably think I’m some local, easily mistakable among the crowds of actual locals venting in and out of the Suva bus station. Time to change my presence.

I purposely began to appear lost and confused. I walked slowly and would pause occasionally on my tiptoes looking past the crowds with a “what the heck is going on” look on my face. I did this all in the area of where I thought the best place the coordinators would be. I paced slowly, alert.

“Excuse me?” said a Fijian man wearing a tropical blue shirt and what looked like a black skirt for men. I glanced at him and raised my eyebrows letting him know he had my attention.

“Are you looking for someone?”

“Yeah, I’m looking for the Green Lion.”

“Oh, are you Daniel??”

“Yup I’m him!”

He and the woman next to him began to laugh.
“We saw you walk by many times but thought you were a Fijian!” they exclaimed.

This would be the new story of my life.

He introduced himself as Junior and the woman as Seini. Both are coordinators from the Green Lion who were scheduled to pick me up…at three!

“The bus showed up but there were no volunteers that came out, so we were confused,” Junior said with a smile.

I explained my situation but it was no matter. They were just happy to have found me and I was relieved I didn’t have to walk around aimlessly with my bags any longer. They led me to a local bus. About 40 minutes would be my new home for the next six weeks filled with a bunch of other volunteers from all around the world.

This is the part where I usually start to wonder what my housemates will be like, but weirdly I didn’t think much about it. I was concentrating on what kind of restaurants were on the way and IF there was a McDonald’s nearby (there was). I was also taken by the funky island music on blast in the bus. Every volunteer experience I’ve done, the volunteers have always been more than amazing, with a handful being good friends of mine to this very day, so I was sure this experience would be the same.

Once the bus dropped us off, we walked to the Green Lion office where I filled out a bunch of paperwork and then directed across the street to my new home.

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I walked in the house and already there were about a dozen volunteers socializing in the outdoor area. I gave a brief hello and a wave and followed Junior down the hall, downstairs to the boys corridor and to my room. In my room were four bunk beds with someone in each of them except for one, which would be mine.

“Hello,” I said with a stupid smile as I plopped down my bag. “How’s it going?”

One of the boys on the bottom bunk was sprawled out on his side with his right hand supporting his head. “You must be Daniel,” he said in a German accent. “I expected you yesterday.”

He was correct. I was supposed to arrive yesterday. But who is this guy? He introduced himself as Johannes (Germany) but for some reason I kept referring to him as Johannesburg. I got the idea from his chattering that he was the guru of the household. He seemed to know everything about Fiji. The other two in the room were also German. Their names were Timo and Julius, my roommates for the next six weeks. All of them young and all of them experiencing their very first volunteer trip or even solo trip ever! How cute. We made brief small talk before I decided to head upstairs to meet the rest of the crew.

It’s always a bit awkward being the new guy, but turns out that most of the volunteers just arrived hours before me and there were still some coming in later. I introduced myself to about a dozen people and didn’t remember a single name upon the first greet. That usually happens. The same questions follow afterwards: Where are you from? How long are you here for? What placement are you in? Sometimes followed up with: Are you travelling anywhere after Fiji? That last question I chose not to reveal fully just yet. I don’t wanna seem like I’m boasting that I’m currently on a two-year quest to the seven continents. So I just simply would say “Probably Australia.” As a matter of fact, I didn’t have a flight booked anywhere outside of Fiji yet. I wasn’t sure how long I would stick around or where in Australia I would go to first. However, in order to enter Fiji, you need to have proof of a flight departing the country. I found that out at the last minute while I was still in New Zealand. So instead of booking a last minute flight out of Fiji on some random date to some random Australian city, I devised a fake itinerary which worked like magic. (I personally don’t advise this, as it is risky. Go with your gut.) Anyways, back to the subject of my volunteering household.

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Among the group of initial greets, a few standouts were a group of college students from Seattle, Ethan- a southerner from North Carolina, Karen – a laid back gal who hails from Seattle, Annika (Germany) and Sara and Leah, two friends from Chicago. We mingled for awhile as other volunteers made their way into the house. A volunteer who has been there for awhile already, Mychaela, lives ten minutes from my mom in Michigan. Look at that! She’s freakin’ hilarious by the way. The last volunteer to stroll in that night introduced himself as Hamish.

“Hamish?” I thought out loud.”What kind of name is that?” It just kinda came out.

“It’s very common actually,” he responded with a grin. He hails from Sydney and this is also his first major solo romp. He sat down next to me and a couple of others I was chatting with and I could already tell from the words coming out of his mouth that this guy is the most Australian Aussie I’ve ever met in my life and I’ve met tons. I thought I’ve heard all the Aussie slang but it was like he spoke an entirely different language. I wasn’t sure at the time if he was toying with me or if this was legit how he speaks. It was legit how he speaks! If anything, his Aussie slang will help prepare me for my pending trip to Australia.


Most of us new volunteers went out the next night to the only bar in town, called Sports Bar. There was nothing sporty about it. Not even a single television. It was kind of a shit hole and we were the only ones there, but still it was a great way to bond with the group I would be spending most of my time with. And no matter how many times I volunteer, no one group is like the other.

IVHQ fiji
The IVHQ Fiji volunteer group.
Soon I will begin my placement at one of the local primary schools nearby. Like every country I’ve taught in, I expected it to be challenging in a good way. A new culture, new ideals, and different languages always present a few hurdles to bound. In a way, it’s like deducing a puzzle. It always takes a few days but I eventually get the hang of it.

One thing for sure is that I always grow fond of the students I teach and I’m sure the ones here in Fiji will be just as fond-worthy.

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Everybody Thinks I'm Fijian…and That's a Good Thing

adventure bornn

*My apologies for the lack of photos on this post. I made my most costly travel error ever when I accidentally dropped my iPhone into a waterfall. I’ll explain more about that on a later post.*

I was meant to arrive on Saturday, but was having such a good time at the Beachouse that I emailed The Green Lion, my project coordinators in Suva, letting them know I would arrive at the bus station at 3:00pm on Sunday instead. No problem.

Kayaking at the Fiji Beachouse
A group of awesome backpackers I hung around with at the Fiji Beachouse.
I also meant to take the express bus on Sunday morning, but instead Ross and his girlfriend Christie (UK) happily offered to drive me in their rental car. They had to go to Suva anyways. On the way there, we stopped in Pacific Harbor to grab some food and use the ATM. I noticed the time was just a little past 3pm, but no worries, Fiji Time. Just like many places I’ve been to (Africa being the one that pops in my head the most) Fiji runs on what they like to call Fiji Time. Which means, everything and everybody is going to be late. Not too late, but a little late. It’s the whole chilled out island mantra of the island and the perfect excuse as to why anyone in Fiji is late for anything. Fiji Time. I could dig it but it can also be annoying at times particularly when waiting on food that I ordered. In this case, Fiji time would work in my favor because I was already almost a half hour late. The coordinators are probably waiting at the bus station wondering where the heck I am. But I wasn’t overly concerned because of Fiji Time.

Once we arrived at the bus station, I just had Ross drop me off in the center of it. The bus station was a lot bigger than I imagined and a lot more hectic too. I said my farewells to Ross and Christie, put on my bags and simply began to walk around looking for any sign of someone looking for me.

suvabusstation_header
The Suva Bus Station. Courtesy of Fijibus.com
I’ve done this many times before and each time there is always someone around with a sign that either has my name on it, a yellow smiley face, an IVHQ logo sign, or whatever. I looked and looked. No sign. I did several laps around the entirety of the bus station and no sign of anyone looking for me. Oddly, I wasn’t worried.

I had three options:

  1. Keep walking around looking for somebody.
  2. Go into town and sort out purchasing a SIM for my phone to call Green Lion.
  3. It’s Sunday which means I’m probably not the only new volunteer arriving. I can just wait at the terminal for another foreign volunteer to arrive.

I stuck with option one.

They had to be around here somewhere. There’s no way they would leave the bus station with the possibility of a scared little volunteer all by themselves. I wasn’t scared. This was my fault actually. I told them I’d arrive at 3pm. I didn’t even know if buses actually arrived at three. Then on top of that I was late. I had to figure out a way to make myself look known. Other than my big bags I was carrying, I don’t exactly stick out. Since the day I arrived at the Beachouse, I’ve been mistaken for being a Fijian local by tourists and the locals themselves. Many backpackers assumed I worked at the Beachouse and locals were baffled when I started jabbering in my flat American English.

“Oh I thought you were Fijian!” they would say.

adventure bornn
This is a photo of me at a local village near the Beachouse at a kava ceremony. I blend in quite well right?
I blended in so well that a group of locals invited me to take part in a traditional wedding later in the week (more about that later)!

I never once got bored of the confusion. I was happy that I had potential to coast through Fiji without sticking out like a sore thumb. It will prove useful for when locals want to hassle me. It dawned on me that the coordinators are probably around but probably think I’m some local, easily mistakable among the crowds of actual locals venting in and out of the Suva bus station. Time to change my presence.

I purposely began to appear lost and confused. I walked slowly and would pause occasionally on my tiptoes looking past the crowds with a “what the heck is going on” look on my face. I did this all in the area of where I thought the best place the coordinators would be. I paced slowly, alert.

“Excuse me?” said a Fijian man wearing a tropical blue shirt and what looked like a black skirt for men. I glanced at him and raised my eyebrows letting him know he had my attention.

“Are you looking for someone?”

“Yeah, I’m looking for the Green Lion.”

“Oh, are you Daniel??”

“Yup I’m him!”

He and the woman next to him began to laugh.
“We saw you walk by many times but thought you were a Fijian!” they exclaimed.

This would be the new story of my life.

He introduced himself as Junior and the woman as Seini. Both are coordinators from the Green Lion who were scheduled to pick me up…at three!

“The bus showed up but there were no volunteers that came out, so we were confused,” Junior said with a smile.

I explained my situation but it was no matter. They were just happy to have found me and I was relieved I didn’t have to walk around aimlessly with my bags any longer. They led me to a local bus. About 40 minutes would be my new home for the next six weeks filled with a bunch of other volunteers from all around the world.

This is the part where I usually start to wonder what my housemates will be like, but weirdly I didn’t think much about it. I was concentrating on what kind of restaurants were on the way and IF there was a McDonald’s nearby (there was). I was also taken by the funky island music on blast in the bus. Every volunteer experience I’ve done, the volunteers have always been more than amazing, with a handful being good friends of mine to this very day, so I was sure this experience would be the same.

Once the bus dropped us off, we walked to the Green Lion office where I filled out a bunch of paperwork and then directed across the street to my new home.

img_3028

I walked in the house and already there were about a dozen volunteers socializing in the outdoor area. I gave a brief hello and a wave and followed Junior down the hall, downstairs to the boys corridor and to my room. In my room were four bunk beds with someone in each of them except for one, which would be mine.

“Hello,” I said with a stupid smile as I plopped down my bag. “How’s it going?”

One of the boys on the bottom bunk was sprawled out on his side with his right hand supporting his head. “You must be Daniel,” he said in a German accent. “I expected you yesterday.”

He was correct. I was supposed to arrive yesterday. But who is this guy? He introduced himself as Johannes (Germany) but for some reason I kept referring to him as Johannesburg. I got the idea from his chattering that he was the guru of the household. He seemed to know everything about Fiji. The other two in the room were also German. Their names were Timo and Julius, my roommates for the next six weeks. All of them young and all of them experiencing their very first volunteer trip or even solo trip ever! How cute. We made brief small talk before I decided to head upstairs to meet the rest of the crew.

It’s always a bit awkward being the new guy, but turns out that most of the volunteers just arrived hours before me and there were still some coming in later. I introduced myself to about a dozen people and didn’t remember a single name upon the first greet. That usually happens. The same questions follow afterwards: Where are you from? How long are you here for? What placement are you in? Sometimes followed up with: Are you travelling anywhere after Fiji? That last question I chose not to reveal fully just yet. I don’t wanna seem like I’m boasting that I’m currently on a two-year quest to the seven continents. So I just simply would say “Probably Australia.” As a matter of fact, I didn’t have a flight booked anywhere outside of Fiji yet. I wasn’t sure how long I would stick around or where in Australia I would go to first. However, in order to enter Fiji, you need to have proof of a flight departing the country. I found that out at the last minute while I was still in New Zealand. So instead of booking a last minute flight out of Fiji on some random date to some random Australian city, I devised a fake itinerary which worked like magic. (I personally don’t advise this, as it is risky. Go with your gut.) Anyways, back to the subject of my volunteering household.

fullsizerender-3

Among the group of initial greets, a few standouts were a group of college students from Seattle, Ethan- a southerner from North Carolina, Karen – a laid back gal who hails from Seattle, Annika (Germany) and Sara and Leah, two friends from Chicago. We mingled for awhile as other volunteers made their way into the house. A volunteer who has been there for awhile already, Mychaela, lives ten minutes from my mom in Michigan. Look at that! She’s freakin’ hilarious by the way. The last volunteer to stroll in that night introduced himself as Hamish.

“Hamish?” I thought out loud.”What kind of name is that?” It just kinda came out.

“It’s very common actually,” he responded with a grin. He hails from Sydney and this is also his first major solo romp. He sat down next to me and a couple of others I was chatting with and I could already tell from the words coming out of his mouth that this guy is the most Australian Aussie I’ve ever met in my life and I’ve met tons. I thought I’ve heard all the Aussie slang but it was like he spoke an entirely different language. I wasn’t sure at the time if he was toying with me or if this was legit how he speaks. It was legit how he speaks! If anything, his Aussie slang will help prepare me for my pending trip to Australia.


Most of us new volunteers went out the next night to the only bar in town, called Sports Bar. There was nothing sporty about it. Not even a single television. It was kind of a shit hole and we were the only ones there, but still it was a great way to bond with the group I would be spending most of my time with. And no matter how many times I volunteer, no one group is like the other.

IVHQ fiji
The IVHQ Fiji volunteer group.
Soon I will begin my placement at one of the local primary schools nearby. Like every country I’ve taught in, I expected it to be challenging in a good way. A new culture, new ideals, and different languages always present a few hurdles to bound. In a way, it’s like deducing a puzzle. It always takes a few days but I eventually get the hang of it.

One thing for sure is that I always grow fond of the students I teach and I’m sure the ones here in Fiji will be just as fond-worthy.

Sai Gone

It’s mine and Lucy’s last full day with the volunteers, so my core group (Lucy, Lex, Tom, Sophie, Addie, and Rochelle (Melbourne, Australia)) planned a special day in District One. It was also a day that Quyen wanted to take the volunteers out again. What to do!? I split my time between Quyen and my group. Quyen took all the volunteers out to try a variety of fruit among the alleys in HCMC. My group separated soon enough but I told them I would meet them later on. The fruit was tasty and consisted of purple dragon fruit, strawberries, bananas, mangoes, and other strange ones that I cannot pronounce. Soon Quyen treated the rest us of that were left to fried bananas and deep-fried sweet potatoes. I didn’t want to miss out on the Vietnamese cuisine so I knew the others would understand. But immediately after, I took a motorbike to the Financial Tower, the tallest building in Vietnam, to meet up with everyone.

Financial Tower
Financial Tower

I caught up with them and we went up to the highest floor we possibly could without paying and found a nice, ritzy bar at the top with an ingratiating view of Saigon!

Saigon City
Saigon City

And so begins the wave of goodbyes. I woke up the next day and found that I only need to wear my neck brace for when I’m sleeping. I started to pack that along with everything else into my bags. Will, Tian, and a few others were leaving early this morning to go to Mui Ne beach, which meant this would be the last time I would see them. Out of all the new volunteers that arrived two weeks after I did, I was fond of Tian and Will the most. Tian just cracked me up with everything she said and did, even if she wasn’t trying to be funny. I bonded with Will a little later into my stay here in Saigon. I really didn’t get to know him until about a week ago and I found he shares the same enthusiasm for venturing the world and making fun of each other’s home countries as much as I do! He’s also savvy with a camera and would go through great lengths to get that great shot, just like me. I have a few friends I need to visit in Australia, now adding Will to the top of that list, which solidifies the fact that I need to get there soon! Watch out for those drop bears Will.

The group of five Australian girls were due to leave next. I barely got to knew them until the last couple of days here, which was a shame. I hung out much more with my students and locals than I did with the other volunteers. Even so, I helped them with their luggage and walked with them to a taxi. Afterwards, I went back to my dorm to finish packing before I went to teach another session at Cuch Gach with Duong.

This time, Duong let me teach whatever I wanted. So for the majority of class, I went over consonant and vowel sounds, in addition to changing certain words to the past, present, and future tense. The later part of the class, I helped them fine tune their conversation skills when meeting an English speaking foreigner for the first time. I loved this!

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The students were really into it!
The students were really into it!

After class was over, Duong took me to another restaurant to treat me to breakfast. Bittersweet because this was the last time I would see Duong here. She showed me around the restaurant and she was keen to hear about what I have in store for the rest of my travels. She was very interested about the Reaching Out 2 The World project I’m working on in South Africa and thought that it was the most awesome idea in the world! As a matter of fact, most of the students that knew about it, thought it was the coolest thing ever! I would never expect, nor want these students to donate so all I asked of them was to follow along to see what I would be up to. Still to this day, I have never seen Duong without a smile – still one of the most pleasant people on the face of this earth. I also found out that Duong came all the way to the hospital to check on me when she found out something happened. Once she saw that I was okay, she left but didn’t want to bother me. What an angel! After breakfast, we said our farewells, and I set off on a motorbike back to the college as she rode her bicycle back to her home. It then hit me that I have a LOT of people to say goodbye to before my flight at 8pm! Hopefully I would get to everyone!

As I walked back into the college, luckily I bumped into Duc as he was on his way to the restaurant. I told him not to leave the college quite yet, as I had something for him. I went to my dorm to get a shirt I had with me that had the “University of Michigan” emblem on it. I’ve had it for awhile but it was always too big for me. I thought Duc would be the perfect size for it and he was! We said our goodbyes. Soon he would be going to Luxembourg for a year to start his schooling there to become a chef. Good luck with everything Duc!

Duc with his a-MAIZE-ing new shirt.
Duc with his a-MAIZE-ing new shirt.

I heard a “Hey Dan!” as I was walking around the college. It was the group of students who took me out to karaoke a few days ago, lounging on the benches nearby. I was glad to see all of them here at once because I didn’t think I would see them again before I left. 20130719-104200.jpgThey remembered that I was leaving today so we all took pictures together in the center of the campus. They would ask me what my plans for the rest of my trip were and then follow up with, “When will you come back to Vietnam Dan?”. That question would always kill me. Before coming to Vietnam, I thought this would be a one-and-done visit. Now that it’s just about over, I can definitely see myself coming back to teach at the college and visit many of the students, but I have no clue when. I would always say, “One day, but as soon as I know, I will tell you all on Facebook.”

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Lucy was in the middle of packing, so I decided to go grab a quick lunch on my own at the restaurant downstairs. That’s when I saw another group of students from another one of my classes enjoying lunch. “Hey Dan!”, they said as they were flagging me over to come join them. I went over and mentioned to them that I would be leaving in just a few hours and was glad to see them one last time. We talked about a lot of different things and then eventually they gave me a keychain and one of the girls made a card for me with a 3-D basket that popped up when you opened the card. I felt really terrible because I didn’t have anything to give, because I never expected this much gratitude before coming to Vietnam. They just made me promise to skype them when I got back home to help them with their English. I would love that and can’t wait for that to happen!

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After lunch, Quyen spotted me walking past her office and so she called me over. She had a certificate for me, stating my completion of teaching English at this college. The date is a week short, but no matter! It’s still pretty nice to recieve this. Always dressed in professional business attire, Quyen has been one of the best coordinators for any volunteering establishment I have ever been a part of. Not only is she incredibly sweet and informative, she’s amazingly funny and wants nothing but the best for us. Anna and Bryan have been very helpful too. Bryan loved to hang out in the city with the volunteers and Anna was always around to make sure we were all ready for the days events. A top notch team!

Anna, Me, Quyen, and Lucy
Anna, Me, Quyen, and Lucy

On the way back to my dorm, I saw that Ms. Chi was in the middle of teaching a class, so I popped over so she could see me through the window. She knew it was my last day and wanted to say goodbye. My intention was to take a photo with just her but it turned out that the entire class wanted in on the action!

20130719-104349.jpgOnce I said my goodbyes to Ms. Chi and her students, another student spotted me from her office. Her name is Annie and she is one of the top students of her hotel management class. Good luck in all of your future endeavors Annie!

Annie and me.
Annie and me.

I had a few food tickets left that I decided to use all on ice cream instead of dinner. So I headed back to the restaurant real quick and that’s when I spotted another teacher I worked with and his student assistant enjoying a meal. They spotted me and invited me to sit with them and just like everyone else in Saigon, they wanted to treat me to a delicious dish. So nice! But, I literally had 30 minutes left before a taxi came and picked me and Lucy up, so I had to decline, but I made sure to get a photo in for memories sake!

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This whole day I was worried I wouldn’t get to say a proper goodbye to three of my closest students, Bin, Bone, and Macu. I messaged Macu on Facebook telling them goodbye and I came to terms that I wouldn’t see them before I left. Then suddenly, Macu messaged me to meet him in front of the college. And before I knew it, here he was walking along towards the college. I have been showered with small gifts and tokens from students and teachers and I felt horrible that I didn’t have anything great to offer. Macu shared in my love of food and ice cream so I handed him some money. “I want you guys to buy as much ice cream as you can!” I said. Macu is a modest one, and didn’t want to take the money. “But you must save for your trip!” he said trying to hand me back the money. “I’ll be fine.” I responded. “Tell the others goodbye for me and stay in touch!” He was the last local here that I bid farewell to. Now it was time to say goodbye to the other remaining volunteers, the ones Lucy and I have become very close to…

My roommate from the very beginning, Tom, and his girlfriend, Sophie, have been great to have around. Sophie had an English accent as if she came straight from royalty and Tom’s accent was so thick that it was hard to understand him sometimes, but it made for constant laughs. They are both leaving the next day and traveling around Southeast Asia. There is a high probability that we will run into them again soon. Addie has grown as a person, considerably since she arrived. Poor girl has been through so much here (having her phone ripped and stolen right from her hands, nearly getting her purse snatched, a kidney infection, etc). By the end, she handled everything like a pro and she’ll remember this experience for years. Rochelle likes to snicker and giggle at random moments throughout the day to herself, which we all found highly amusing. She has been here longer than the rest of us, and once her original group left, she blended very well into ours. She would remain in Vietnam for about 6 more weeks. Lex also arrived the day we did and will remain in Vietnam for a total of three months. Her and Lucy became close as they always had the same thought process. Lex lives in Toronto and I am an avid visitor of that city so it’s likely that I will see her again. One more group shot for the books guys…

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Sophie, Rochelle, Lucy, Lex, Tom,.Addie, Me.

I came to Saigon with little expectations. I thought I would stay in more of a village, with barely any electricity, bugs flying everywhere, and help teach in a school full of little kids. Turns out, Saigon is a huge city with towering buildings and bright flashy lights that really come alive at night. It’s a city that is growing economically and independently into a major attraction. I predict in a year or so, Saigon will have it’s very first McDonald’s! The college was well organized, quaint, and I felt that I was put to great use here. And to any of you students that I didn’t get the chance to say goodbye to, remember to send me some long messages on Facebook so I can correct your English grammar for you.

Cheers to the world guys – I’m off to the wild North!

Globetrotters

It’s about that time. In just a few days, I depart to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam! I have some more information about what’s going on for this lengthy journey. As some of you may know, I will be abroad for approximately six months. This will be my longest duration of being away from home thus far. This six month excursion will be split into two halves. The first half (June to early September) I will be In Vietnam for about a month teaching English to kids there with a volunteering agency called The Green Lion. According to the email I received from them, I’ll be staying at a university in the middle of the city, which means I’ll be living and teaching in the same place. After my placement there is complete, I’ll be traveling to neighboring countries with no agenda whatsoever. The second half of the trip (September through November) I’ll return back to South Africa to reunite with the Zulu’s and the students I connected with there. During that time, I will be visiting different countries exploring their parts as well. As I mentioned in earlier posts, I won’t be traveling alone this time. Let me introduce you to two friends of mine who will be joining me along the way. Get to know em! They will be featured a lot on this blog.

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From: Sheffield, United Kingdom

Met: Muizenberg, South Africa (June 2012)

Ah, Lucy. We caused a bit of a stir in the house together, especially after I left. (Only residents of Recreation Road will understand that). Lucy moved into the Rec 13 house two weeks after I got there and we almost instantly bonded. I always considered her the ‘voice of reason’ within our close-knit group. Out of that crazy bunch she was the most level-headed and even went out of her way to host a pancake party of sorts for my last day with the group before I set out to Tanzania. Before I left, Lucy stayed up with me into the late hours and helped me set up the collage of mementos I left in the living room for everyone. What was great was even after I left to Tanzania, and came back she was still there and the only one of my original group who remained. Lucy was part of the initial plan with Monica528620_10151226542121558_815322316_n to go to Vietnam this summer too. I was more than down but I thought it would never come to fruition because it’s such a huge commitment. Unfortunately, Monica won’t be able to travel with us as she intended but I’m pretty sure she will make up for it next time! Lucy stayed in Muizenberg for six months, so she was well-known around town and made quite a name for herself. The Princess of Muizenberg perhaps? She’s done some things in South Africa that I didn’t even know you could do there! She was there for so long that she even learned how to sweeten up her baking craft at the local “Secret Bakery” and became a staple there. After her time was up, instead of going back home to England, she went to Australia to stay with family there for another whopping six months. So when I see her again in Vietnam, she will still be on her lengthy trip around the world! To make ends meet, she has found a quick little job in Australia working in a sushi restaurant. We’ve kept in touch since the day I left Africa to make this trip happen and I’m happy to say that it’s FINALLY happening! Lucy has a captivating English accent (which by now probably has a little South African zest and a bit of an Australian zing mixed in) that is going to attract all sorts of weirdos so it’s my personal duty to keep her safe and BEAT UP any creep that tries to mess with her. Friends and family of Lucy, she’s in great care.

Goofballs Jaime and Lucy
Goofballs Jaime and Lucy

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Lucy will be traveling alongside me for pretty much the whole first half of this six month gig. I believe her last stop is in Indonesia, which will probably be my last stop until around the beginning of September when I head back to South Africa and join up with another globetrotting buddy of mine.

Chris O’Sullivan index

From: Eagleville, Pennsylvania

Met: Um…on here? Technically, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (April 2012)

Fearless. That’s the one word I’d use to describe this guy. My readers should already be familiar with Chris as he was mentioned earlier and quite a bit throughout my stay in Kayamandi. He’s an aspiring teacher and diving coach back home, but when he’s not doing that, he’s launching frisbees across fields, jumping off of hazardous cliffs for fun, and bustin’ backflips pretty much anywhere that demands it! This upcoming August, while I’m in Asia, Chris will be visiting past volunteers of his own throughout Europe over the summer and we will eventually reunite back in South Africa in September. What’s cool is, we had similar experiences in Kayamandi but at completely different and separate times, so us being there together will be pretty exciting. Mama Zulu, the kids, and Isaac know we are coming back because I told them the next time I comeback, he will be back as well. H296072_277407668958918_2104517161_ne has left a humongous footprint in the small township of Kayamandi when I visited and the teachers and locals always toted him as “crazy”, but the good kind of crazy. If there’s a statue of him made there in the middle of the township when I get back, I wouldn’t be at all surprised! Chris and I became friends through our similar blogs about South Africa, so this will be pretty cool. You can also bet your bank accounts that he and I will be getting into some pretty sweet adventures! And if you didn’t know already, he writes an awesome blog documenting his travels too and you can follow him on the link to the right of this page. A neat thing is once we reunite in SA, you will get two different perspectives of the same endeavors on our own respective blogs. Consider yourselves lucky. I’ll also have to BEAT UP anyone who messes with him too, but he’s the ‘World’s Strongest Man’ as the Kids of Kayamandi liked to call him, so I’m sure he’ll be able to handle his own.

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Chris made a few videos of his time in South Africa back in 2011. Here are two of them!

This first video is the one I used to find his core group of kids last summer…


This second one is great too because at 1:24 RiRi is interrogating interviewing Chris about his friend back home. The kids in this video are the same ones I bonded with last summer.


Reaching Out 2 The World

Back in October of 2012, Chris and I came up with a plan to one day return to South Africa. Soon once we booked our flights for that, we came up with another plan to take the students we once had, on a trip around their country. It’s something that tourists get to do but not the locals because of how expensive it can be. We want to spoil these guys and show them parts of their home they’ve only dreamed about such as going on a wildlife safari, hiking, visiting Table Mountain (one of the seven natural wonders of the world), canoeing through the wilderness, boat trips, visiting one of thnewbirdbranche stadiums where the 2010 World Cup was held, and so much more! But how exactly do we fund such a feat?

We launched a campaign on Indiegogo, an international crowdfunding site where anyone can raise money for film, music, art, charity, small businesses, gaming, theater, and more. The campaign is a project we call “Reaching Out 2 The World”. We even made a logo for it! More than just helping these kids explore their country, we will be reaching out to the world by documenting everything we do on this trip. We’ll be blogging, tweeting, creating videos, shooting lots of photos, and writing letters to keep everyone involved. You’ll feel as close to the experience, no matter where in the world you are, from the comforts of your own home. It’s a pretty cool project and it’s something I’m proud to be a part of.

You can help us out and learn more about it here: REACHING OUT 2 THE WORLD

At the time of this post, with the help of friends and family, we are well on our way to reaching our goal! Everyone who donates also receives a special perk or incentive:

Keep up with this blog and Chris O’Sullivan’s blog to stay up-to-date about what’s going on. Also consider following us on twitter.

The next post, I will finally be out of the country! Less wondering, more wandering. Follow along, and let the adventure begin!