Volunteer work in China and how I was a scam-victim

SONY DSC

So I spend four and a half weeks of my summer vacation doing volunteer work in Northern China. Overall I found it to be a nice experience, I met some awesome people, did work I enjoyed overall and lived with a nice family, thought this does not change the fact that I was a victim of a scam.

After looking through several volunteer companies on the internet, I found the company called IFRE (please note this name if you ever decide to volunteer). They had the cheapest rates and when I looked them up they had relatively good reviews – though I did not find any reviews from people who went to China.

This was my job description in short: 

– Teach poor and underprivileged children in rural cities of China.

– Have time to travel around in China and get help from staff concerning any information.

– Free mandarin Chinese lessons.

– Don’t have to be a native English speaker.

– 3 Meals a day and a host family will be provided.

The problem was the lack of promises they actually kept when I finally arrived in China. I did get a host family. A family of a father, mother and a daughter and they did everything to make me feel at home, so I only have good memories from my stay with them, the problems started when I had to start my work. I was assigned to work in the northern city of Dalian, nothing rural or underprivileged about this city. They put me in a private English teaching center – not a school. It was a company that sold English lessons to especially high school and university students. These classes weren’t cheap either, I was told that this is one of the most expensive English companies in China and one hour could easily cost between 50 to 100 USD. So basically, I was teaching some of the richest people of the city without getting paid, which where the next problem arose – since I might not get any money from my work, but somebody else did.

Before I arrived in China I got contacted by a Chinese guy from the China department of IFRE called “Jeff” – he explained me some of the main aspects of my work and arrangements. When I arrived in China I was told by the school that they actually paid this “Jeff” money to have me – he was getting money for the work I provided, money I never saw because I was supposed to work there as a volunteer – simply: I was working for free. I was told by other foreigners of the school that this “Jeff” was famous for doing these kind of scams, he would help people with finding a job in China, but then get half of their salary. So no poor children to teach and according to the school I wasn’t working for free either.

Where I lived in China

The apartment complex where I lived in Dalian, China.

Then came the next problem, the school weren’t told that I wasn’t a native  speaker of English and it ended with them asking me to don’t tell the students that I’m from Denmark and make of some kind of lie when it came to my nationality. “You have such nice English, easy to understand and no accent – it won’t be a problem” they told me. Exactly – I have no general accent, meaning I neither speak clean US English nor do I speak clean British English. I was taught British English and when I talk with British people my English to also sound very british, but if I talk with Americans or other English speakers, suddenly my English starts sounding more like US English.

Another problem with this concept of lying was the fact that the students liked asking questions about your country. If I told them I was from New Zealand, but suddenly couldn’t answer a single question about this country, how believable does that make me as a teacher?

Dalian City

Dalian City

The next problem came when I came for work on my second day. Another volunteer from Switzerland had been causing problems. He was from the same volunteer company as me, he had been lied to as well and was quite angry about it. He had tried contacting Jeff to get his money, he tried to cover up his non-native English by telling the students he was from England, but the students complained about him. Saying that his English was hard to understand (seems like a had a strong accent) and that he had attitude problems. My supervisor at the school told me he refused to do English Corners and he would angry at people around him. All these problems made them fear that I would cause the same problems, so they decided that I shouldn’t come to the school anymore.

“You can learn Chinese with your host family” – how they’re hardly home and doesn’t speak any English at all.

“You can travel around China” – I paid the company to come here as a teacher, so if you’re going to send me away I want a 100% refund!.

After long discussion they decided to give me a chance and instead they fired the other volunteer – who was the one causing problems anyway.

I decided to stay, even though my husband told me to quit the school since I was clearly a victim of a scam. I had come to China to get teaching experience, so I was going to stay, but I decided to tell my students that I was from Denmark and not an English speaking country. I wasn’t going to tell them lies.

Then came to promise of time to travel around China. I was given 2 days off a week. I worked from 1pm to 9pm in the weekdays – 8 hours a day and then I worked from 9am to 6pm in the weekends – 9 hours. I had to beg the school to give me 3 days off in one week so I actually had a change to go anywhere. I did get 3 days off, with only 2 days notice, meaning I had to hurry home and search for flight tickets to Beijing and find a hostel to stay at. The fact that I got these 3 days off came back to bite me in the ass later since I only got one day off in my last week in China, meaning they made me work 50 hours in one week. Yes, lots of time to explore the Chinese culture!

My trip to Beijing

My trip to Beijing

This was not my first trip to China, since I before had been to Nanjing and Shanghai which also made me prepared for a lot of things – especially the fact that there’s no toilet paper in public toilets and the fact that people will push like the next bus will be the last bus to ever come. I was also prepared for the Chinese food which is very different from non-China Chinese food and I must admit I still prefer Japanese food over Chinese food. I was used to the almost non-existing traffic rules – that cars love honking, especially if you got the silly idea of crossing the road when it’s green light (for you).

From my trip to the Great Wall of China

From my trip to the Great Wall of China

I had some really good experiences in China. I had some nice co-workers at the school, both Chinese and Foreigners. I had a lovely homestay family. I had an amazing trip to Beijing and I had many lovely students, who always seemed overjoyed so see me and always told me how much they liked my classes. Though this does not change the fact that I was scammed. I did not do volunteer work – I was working for free for another person’s benefit. I tried writing complains to the main branch of IFRE (in the US). First they talked about giving me partial refund, but first they wanted to ask Jeff about the situation – I never heard from them again. After I returned home I wrote them again saying that they worked with a liar (Jeff) and I was a victim of fraud. They contacted me again and apologized for the situation and told me they had let Jeff go – though I have no proof that this is true, instead I want to warn people on the internet and tell them to not trust the organization called IFRE – find another company!

Advertisements

Food Market in Beijing [Photos]

Image

Just felt like sharing some of the photos I took at the night food market in Beijing. Please note that most of the pictures are not the weak stomachs – lot of bug pictures.

Image

ImageImageImageImageImageImage

Trip summary: Vietnam – the land of scooters and persistence

After our stay in Cambodia we got on a bus that would take us from the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh over the border, into Vietnam and to the city of Ho Chi Minh – also known as Saigon. Because of my husband being Japanese and me being Danish, it meant we were one of the lucky nationalities to be allowed into Vietnam without any visas.

As we crossed the border into Vietnam, the surroundings also started to change. The letters became readable – without holding any meaning to me as a non-Vietnamese speaker. The jungle and the wilderness became far less dominant, while concrete buildings and city landscapes slowly took over. The roads became wider, smooth asphalt replaced the dusty dirt roads and the roads that once were empty was not full with life and were now occupied by a huge amount of scooters and the streets were filled with vendors and people showing more pride and persistence than we had seen in Cambodia – we had arrived to Vietnam, the last stop of our journey in South East Asia.

The first two days were spent in the city of Ho Chi Minh in South Vietnam, a city formerly named Saigon, which is also the name the locals still use, but was renamed after their beloved communist leader Ho Chi Minh. Of course the first thing you can’t help but notice in Vietnam is the almost scary amount of scooters, they’re everywhere, they’re fast, they’re noisy, they follow close to no rules and they show no mercy – like most traffic in South East Asia. We even received flyers on the hotel with advice on how to cross the street.

1. Get eye contact with the drivers. 2. Do not run. 3. Do not suddenly change direction.

I guess the final point should have been: show courage and prey that the driver wants to avoid a collision as much as you do.

I remember our bus guide saying: “have you ever seen an accident in Vietnam?” we shook our heads and started to wonder why. “It’s because if an accident happens, we make sure to disappear as soon as possible, before anyone gets involved. We don’t want the cops to take our precious bikes.”

We spent one day exploring the busy streets of Ho Chi Minh, which unfortunately didn’t have so much to offer when it came to sight seeing spots. Instead I focused on “people-watching” and it didn’t take long to notices the many differences between the Vietnamese and their Cambodian neighbors – besides their physical appearance. Even with their lighter skin and petite bodies, the Vietnamese showed an inner strength, pride and stubbornness showed in their eyes and there were a certain persistence in their actions. This was a people who got rid of the French and surely weren’t going to be ruled over again.On our second day we took a tour on the Mekong river and visited some of the small islands scattered in it.

That evening it was time for us to board the train that would take us to the next destination, 16 hours of traveling time away, Da Nang, a big city in the middle of Vietnam. We got on the train around 12 in the evening and tried to get a proper night sleep, together with two other Vietnamese people whom we shared a cabin with. But the train was very noisy, the toilet was very uninviting as expected, with it’s foul smell and unclean demeanor and we were often woken up by some of the train crew who opened the doors, shouted the next station and slammed the door shut again. Around 6 am we were then woken up by noisy music played through old, scratchy speakers – which was around that time I just gave up trying to get comfortable.

We arrived to Da Nang in the afternoon, and were greeted by a modern city, with flashing lights and tall buildings, which made the jungles of the Mekong river seem like a distant memory.

But even city had many areas I felt uncomfortable walking in during the evening time. Like both Thailand and Cambodia, Vietnam unfortunately also had certain characters of people who looked like they for up to no good and also here random people were ready to tell foreign all sorts of lies in hopes of gaining some money. Though, for with it’s worth, Vietnam seemed a bit cleaner than Thailand and Cambodia, were I had gotten used to seeing both huge rats and cockroaches roaming the streets among the garbage.

On our first full day in Da Nang, we went to the city of Hoi An, and old town, known for it’s traditional buildings, old streets and tailors who can make anything you like. I had expressed desires for a Vietnamese traditional dress for a few days, so me husband arranged for getting me a tailor made one in Hoi An, which I got to take home the same day. I also got two pairs of boots made in another shop – which was delivered to our hotel the next day.

Overall in Vietnam, it seemed like the people found the ability to speak English less important than they did in Thailand and Cambodia and we often had to go by pointing, signaling and good will.

“I would like this one” I said to a waiter in a restaurant, pointing to a dish on the menu. He looked at me for some time and then replied “no”. I looked at the menu again “I don’t want it?” “no”. “You don’t have it?” he sighed and said “no” – surprisingly. After taking our orders he went to another table, with another foreigner who expressed that he wanted the spring rolls and the answer was “no”.

On our final day in Da Nang, we went to a mountain called Ba Na hills, famous for it’s fast cable cars, scenic views and a big amusement park under construction.

That evening we once again boarded a night train to take us to the capital of Vietnam, Hanoi, up in the north. The next day we arrived in a jumble of narrow streets, overwhelming amount of people, never moving traffic, street vendors, markets, polluted air and noise. The first evening we wandered the streets of the French quarter, now filled with shops narrowly lined up along the old streets, some “shops” took up the side walk, boating their merchandise either laying on the street or hanging on the walls of a building. The streets felt like one big maze at times and we often lost our way and while we tried to find our way back we often had to ask each other “didn’t we already turn that corner a few minutes ago?”

On our first full day in Hanoi we went to the famous Ha Long bay, a three our bus drive from Hanoi, on uneven, bumpy roads, which made us on the back seat feel like were “very shaken, not stirred” and spent a day on a boat, admiring the cliffs and the ocean.

On our second day in Hanoi and our last day in Vietnam we explored the areas of Hanoi we hadn’t ventured out to, yet. Getting slowly tired of the scooters, their honking and especially all the cars and mentioned scooters being parked everywhere, especially at places which were originally meant to be a side walk and not a parking loot, which resulted in us having to walk on the scary streets.

Also in Vietnam I seemed extremely popular among the Vietnamese, who stopped to take pictures of or with me, making other tourist stop up as well, with wonder written in their faces while in low voices discussing wether I was some kind of celebrity.

Sometimes I wondered that myself, considering all the VIP treatment I had received in South East Asia based on my looks. Treatment was soon to be over, since we that evening got on a plane back to Bangkok, spent 22 hours there and then got on our final flight to Osaka, Japan.

Trip Summary: Cambodia – A land known by their dark history, but remembered by their smiles.

After our six days in Thailand, my husband and I went to Aranyaprathet, the Thai city bordering Cambodia, got our Cambodian visas and crossed to border into Poipet, into Cambodia. After that a very long drive from the border to the famous city of Siam Reap which offers tourists the famous Angkar Wat, awaited us.

The first I got to see of Cambodia, besides the stuffy border buildings and the big casino on the border, was the barren land, flat fields that looked like they were stretching into what seemed never ending, only separated by small villages with little wooden huts placed on poles to avoid the floods of water during the rainy season. We saw skinny cows walking along the roads, either dragged a carriage or walking by itself. We saw whole families riding a single scooter and we saw small, laughing children chasing around chickens on dirt roads leading away from the single, main paved road our taxi was putting to use. We saw people sitting outside their homes engrossed in conversations, we saw people taking a rest in their hammock under the shades of the many palm trees and we saw people working in the fields under the relentless Cambodian sun.

I found myself amazed by the sights of a world I hadn’t laid my eyes on before. Cambodia became the travel destination I would never forget and a destination that would leave me longing for a return.

Last summer I picked up a book in the local super market called “De dræbte min far” (First they killed my father) by Loung Ung, without knowing anything about the history of Cambodia I decided to buy in and soon after I found myself sucked into the life and story of Loung Ung, who was just a child when Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge army took over Cambodia in 1975, drove the Cambodian people out the fields and started what they called “Year Zero”. A new era, where hard working farmers were the ideal and educated people were the enemy. During their four year reign the Khmer Rouge army killed an estimated 2 million people, over 20 percent of the Cambodian people lost their lives to the vision of Pol Pot and a few other leaders. Many died of torture, savage executions, over work or starvation.

Through the story of Loung Ung, I found myself drawn into a dark and inhumane era of Cambodian history, a history that ones again shows us the true evil some humans are able to commit, a history that shouldn’t be forgotten.

Just outside the capital, Phnom Penh, tourists are able to visit one of the most famous killings fields, called Choeung Ek, where the khmer rouge killed and buried more than 8,800 people in mass graves and in Phnom Penh city it is possible to visit a former high school, which was turned into a prison for the many enemies of khmer rouge, called Tuol Sleng. With such a dark history I never imagined to find so many smiles in Cambodia.

I did witness poverty, especially in the eyes of the small children begging me to buy either postcards, bottled water or bracelets, or in the eyes of an old man or woman lacking limbs asking us for money. I did witness hardships, from seeing people live on the ruthless streets, seeing people work under the burning sun without breaks and seeing people just trying to survive another day, but despite of that I also saw a strong willed people who had moved on, who had raised from the ashes and a people who do their best to enjoy even the smallest pleasures in life. A people who focus on the present while they flash bright smiles to world and to foreigners like me, who no matter how books I read about the genocide, will never be able to fully comprehend what they or their parents have gone through. A foreigner like me, who will probably never experience true, human hardship.

I fell in love with Cambodia, I fell in love with all the beautiful cultural and historic sights, like the famous and impressive ancient city of Angkar Wat which draws in tourists from around the world to the city of Siam Reap, or the beautiful and majestic royal palace in Phnom Penh – which is once again a thriving capital, with busy streets, big markets and boulevards lined with buildings showing off French architecture, reminiscing the French colonization. Phnom Penh, the city once called “the Pearl of Asia”, a city left empty by the khmer rouge, is a city in development and a city worth to visit. Whole Cambodia is worth a visit and I know I didn’t get to see enough during my measly four days in this amazing country, so now I am left with a urge, a need, to once again go back to the country so filled with rich culture and history, the country which offers magnificent sights of true country landscapes, where people still rely on nature, hard work and basic utilities during their everyday lives. The country of Cambodia can offer one an experience of a lifetime, help one create memories one won’t forgot and the Cambodian people can offer one smiles, kindness and show one that it is still right to believe in humanity, even when dark times should prove otherwise.

Cambodia have now a special place in my heart and I hope others who goes there are able to make a place as well.

Trip summary: Thailand – The relaxed land of smiles and urbanization

This update have been delayed more than what actually seems appropriate – if that even makes sense. I have now been in Japan around 3 and a half week – time does surely takes you by surprise at times. This also means that it’s been 3 and a half week since my husband and I left South East Asia and due to the fact that I focused on making youtube videos, I never got around to doing a blog entry during our traveling. So now I’ll make an entry for each of the three countries, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam – starting with the first.

So Thailand, also often referred to as “The country of smiles” – which such a tagline I couldn’t help but finding myself a bit disappointed in the end.

We stayed in Thailand for around 6 days during our 3 week trip. Those days were mostly spent in Bangkok and the surrounding area. We also spent a night in popular vacation spot, Pattaya in order to visit one of my husband’s friends – a place I normally wouldn’t even consider setting my foot in.

Bangkok is a very big city with huge skyscrapers, big and expensive department stores and crowded streets. I often found myself wondering “What is Thailand?”. To me it most of all just seemed like a hotter, more dirty, Thai-speaking version of Tokyo or probably any big city. I’m not sure what I expected to see, I knew there wouldn’t be elephants running around the streets or small tree huts under the shades of palm trees – but what I did find in Bangkok was an overwhelming amount of brand shops advertising for the latest Gucci, Louis Vuitton or Burberry as well as several 7-elevens and McDonald’s pilling up along the streets.

The roads were dominated by colorful taxis, some desperate to get your attention, others couldn’t care less and if you wanted to cross the street there was no use in waiting for the signal to turn green – unless you feel like spending the rest of your holiday waiting while cars pass you by with no intention of stopping. After spending 3 weeks in South East Asia my husband and I knew that the only way to get anywhere was to seize the opportunity, seek courage and just go for it. Don’t get cocky though, the roads of Bangkok or non- relenting and merciless. We already on our first day in Bangkok we witness a bike accident on the road and the cracked skull that followed was what horror images are made of – as we heard sounds of ambulances coming to his rescue in the distance we all knew for sure that this guy was not going to make it.

So is there nothing cultural left to experience in Bangkok? Of course there is. Bangkok has an impressive array of temples and the big royal palace. All very interesting and will surely catch the eye of those seeing them for the first time.

And I do put emphasis on the “first time” part, because I did surely spend of lot of time my first few days admiring these temples and buildings, watching them stretching for the sky and glimmer in the sun and I used every opportunity I had to take pictures of these very “South East Asian” – buildings, those after those few days had past, I might as well only have seen less than half of what Bangkok had to offer in terms of temples, but I felt like I had seen them all. I longed for the non-urban Thailand experience and my husband found us a tour which took us out of the city, out to the famous floating market and out to the elephants. We got in small boats and got to experience the market first hand, seeing small boats filled with everything from fruit, noodles, souvenir, fake brands and bags pass us by.

After that we got a ride on an elephant – since this is something I felt I really needed to try out in Thailand. The real Thai experience. On that day I felt my mood and travel-spirit rise, I felt something cultural, both at the market and on the back of the elephant and I also loved seeing the small huts along the riverfront or dirt roads.

Like mentioned earlier we also went to Pattaya, in order for my husband to catch up with a friend – a popular beach area located around 2 hours away from Bangkok by taxi. To be fully blunt and honest, Pattaya was just as I feared. A place crawling with tourists, bars and sleazy looking places. For me I would normally never go such places, since for me vacations are not about beaches, sun and parties – especially not at a place were it seems like there’s more foreigners than there’s local people. At that one day I felt like my cultural level hit rock bottom and I wanted to return to Bangkok as soon as possible.
I guess the best thing I have to say about Pattaya was the fact that the beach did have a nice view and if one do like partying, hot weather and hanging out at the beach, then Pattaya is the place I’m sure.

When it came to the Thai people, famous for the smiles and friendliness, some lived up to my expectations others didn’t. We did meet a lot of nice and helpful people who were also generous when it came to giving out the famous smiles and like in all other countries we also met some less-nice people. The Thai people seemed to have an overall relaxed attitude towards many things in life – apparently sometimes customer service as well. Maybe I have just spent too much time in Japan where the service is always a top priority, but at times I was disappointed with some of the service we got in Thailand. I often experienced feeling ignored in certain shops and convenience stores, because the staff seemed more busy with chatting than helping me buy something. Once there was even a girl at the cashier who stopped serving me, in order to take a phone call from what seemed like a friend, who she cheerfully kept talking with while she then tried to finish the purchase with one hand and no words left for me.

Of course we received a lot of good service as well, no doubt about that. I just sometimes felt that a lot of Thai people had gotten tired of smiling and had no famous smiles left for us.
Of course those people who either tried to sell us something or cheat us had plenty of smiles and charming words. Overall we did end up getting tired of the people who told us lies in hope of that it could be their gain. One example was when we wanted to see the royal palace and a guy in a uniform told us we couldn’t enter because they were closing earlier today, but we should go see the giant buddha instead, we chose to ignore him and went to the palace anyway, which we had no problems entering, so it was all a scam.

Scams, lack of smiles and hot weather aside, we did have a nice time during our stay in Thailand, we did get to see cultural things and have a lot of experiences we’ll treasure for a long time.

Youtube: South East asia travel.

My husband and I spent around 20 days traveling through Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam – I pretty much made a youtube for each day to give people an insight into what you can experience in those countries. I have not uploaded all videos, yet, but they’ll be created over the next upcoming days.

Here’s some examples, the rest can be seen on my youtube channel.

I plan to make three individual blog posts about each of the mentioned three countries sometime in the near future. My experiences, impressions, feelings and memories. Until then, I’ll work on getting the last videos together.

Youtube: Day 1 – Bangkok

Overall I have been too busy to update my blog during this travel so far, also because I’m working on my youtube channel at the same time. So I thought I would put my youtube updates on this blog as well.

So here’s a video of how my first day in Bangkok – with my husband went. The spoken parts are in Japanese with English (and Japanese) subtitles.

The video contains us getting a bit lost in Bangkok, then we go temple watching and finish the day off at a restaurant.

Updated my diary blog.

So I’ve finally got around to update my other blog “Japan Diary“, which is a blog where I’ve translated the diary I kept during the time I travelled around Japan 2 years ago for nine weeks and met my now-husband. In this diary I’ve tried to keep a light and fun tone including a dose of self-irony and of course diary-like honesty, while I describe the daily events that took place while living with different Japanese families around Japan. And of course especially the events that led to me finding, dating and marrying my Japanese husband. I’ve included a small preview below and the link.

March 20th (2010) “A trip to a bridge, which lead to awkward and beyond”
This is the day I’ve often later told to friends and family in an edited version. I don’t think I’ve felt ashamed, but maybe I knew that what happened didn’t really live up to people expectations and it certainly wouldn’t be used as input for the perfect romantic movie. Though, back then I told the truth to my diary and I’ll tell the truth on this blog as well. Maybe it’ll make a good laugh.

…The question startled me and I desperately tried to pull out yet another fake laugh. This question was surely a step up from the other suggestive things he had asked me the past two weeks, but I still couldn’t imagine him being serious about this.

“I kind of think this is the wrong place” I said, trying to sound nonchalant.

“Do you know love hotels? It’s a place you can go for like 2 hours.”

I turned my head to face Hiro, who had leaned his seat back and was looking straight at me. I searched his face for hints of an upcoming laugh or smile, which would reveal the fact that this was just another joke, but his eyes kept their gaze and he looked at me with a serious look. His hand reached out for my hair, which he once again started touching, while I blankly starred at a spot between the car window and his face…

Read the beginning and the rest here: Japan Diary from 2010

Being in a long distance relationship.

Long distance relationships, to most they probably seem unimaginable, for others they might seem less genuine but, for some they’re reality. I myself, being and European and married to a Japanese have found myself being part of just that kind of relationship – the kind of relationship that I hadn’t given much thought earlier in my life.

My mother have often said that she saw it coming, considering the fact that I was always romanticizing about Japanese guys and had overall no interest in the guys in my area. And, since my goal since elementary school was to marry a Japanese guy and live in Japan, I, myself should have seen it coming as well – maybe I lacked a better grasp and wider view of reality back then. I guess, I felt I didn’t need reality, because my future goal didn’t seem very plausible to me at all back then. How could a girl with an overall lack of dating experience suddenly be able to find a nice Japanese guy who later on would marry me and we could then live happily ever after?

Life is a mysterious thing, because that was pretty much what happened, except that the “happily ever after” is dragging out a bit, because how can you truly be happy when you’re forced to part ways over and over again?

Before I met my husband I never imagined how painful it could be having to say goodbye to someone being so close to your heart. Even though it’s only a momentarily goodbye it feels like ages and when you feel a part of your soul is missing then six weeks can easily seem like six months. Overall my husband are considered fortunate in some long distance communities because we’re able to be together for around 4 weeks and then separated for 6 weeks while he works in Japan. That still means that over the past year and 10 months we’ve parted around 10 times, around 10 times have our physical touch become impossible, our conversations been limited to skype and around 10 times have I been forced to try mending and gathering the pieces together of my broken heart. And this pattern will continue till I’m able to finally move to Japan after my university graduation, which is still two and a half years away.

Some people may believe that I’m overplaying the feelings involved in this crucial part of being in a long distance relationship, but maybe it’s because they’ve never experienced such feelings themselves.

I also know other people would say “I couldn’t do it” and I also do believe it’s a fact that long distance relationships are not meant for everybody, if everybody could do it would it then even be considered as hard? I guess there’s a lot of things in life there’s not meant to be easy. But, it’s not because us who’s a part of a long distance relationship finds it neither easier nor more filling to be in these relationships. We find them equally hard, but what if you do find “that person”, but they’re located across the globe, is it then easier to say “I can’t do it”? Overall heartbreak awaits, one person does have to chose if it’s more painful to only see their partner in periods of time, rather than not seeing them infinitely.

In the beginning, sometimes when my heart ached the most, I did consider ending the relationship in hopes of finding peace and conclusion. I disliked hearing friends complain about not being able to see their boyfriends for a few days, I even at times I felt despiteful and wished they could feel “real longing” – but, nothing of that proved to be a right solution, nothing brought relieve to the pain. Because I was the one who wanted the relationship, I didn’t wish for the distance or the hardships attached to it, but I wanted the guy, I wanted to enjoy the smiles he put on my face, the butterflies in my stomach and the peace only he could bring to my heart. How could I dismiss all this because 5,000 miles stood in our way? And if I did end the relationship, who could then promise me that I would be able to find a guy that I would be able to love at least half as much?

And the before mentioned jealousy does nothing but poke at wounds and scars that’s trying to heal and fade. Though knowing this doesn’t mean that these ill feelings will fully go away. We humans are jealous creatures indeed. It’s not just that us in a long distance relationship feels that it’s us against “the others”, even in “long distance relationship communities” jealousy is a fire which can’t be tamed. There’s the couples meeting once or twice a year envying the couples who meets once a month. There’s comparisons when it comes to the number of miles separating couples or the amount of minutes they’re able to talk during a week. But, does it really put your heart more at ease knowing your partner is 300 miles away, rather than 3,000? And to poor students 400 miles might as well be 4,000 when transportation options are limited.

In long distance relationships finance is crucial. I’ve been lucky, since I have a husband who’s able to pay flight tickets between Denmark and Japan every second month, also without touching savings. But, what if he was a student like me? Then we should feel blessed with being able to see each other once or twice a year.
Overall, emotional pain lies within the “eyes” of the beholder. We shouldn’t compare and we shouldn’t think that our pain is worse than others’, because how do we really know when we only know our own? I guess, when not seeing your partner for four days seems unbearable, then it’s mostly because you haven’t tried not seeing them for four months. Though it doesn’t make your feelings of longing less valid – but I do believe they’re shorter.

My husband went back to Japan a few days ago and even though we’ve been through the process so many times, it didn’t make me cry less or keep me from try to desperately hold on to him till the very last minute. I still don’t believe him when he says time will pass fast, because I know how it felt the last time.
But, I wouldn’t consider giving up on us, not just because we have a legal paper on our relationship, but because I know I’m a far happier person with him in my life, even though he unfortunately can’t be by my side every single day. Because I know I’ll see him again and because I know I couldn’t live a life without him in it.

And… I also know he’ll be reading this and maybe understanding half of these words.

A final two-shot at the airport after I’ve been crying most of the day.

Travel plans for South Asia in progress

Taking time to make plans for making plans is not that easy when you’re lazy – which is quite problematic since I actually have to plan a lot of things.
So from the end of February I’m traveling around in Asia, which I also mentioned in a previous post. My flight tickets are bought; I’ll spend around 3 weeks in South Asia and 5 months in Japan where I’ll be an exchange student at Kobe University. My husband and I have pretty much found the apartment we need in Kobe, but our 3 weeks of travel in South Asia are far from planned.
(The outline)

So far we do have flight tickets to and from Bangkok and we’ve also reserved a hotel for the first night in Bangkok. Then the plan was to rent a weekly apartment in that lively city, go on a day trip to Pattaya and spend a night at a hotel. Then we hope to go to Cambodia, first spending around two nights in Siem Reap (Angkor Wat) and then get on a bus going to the capital Phnom Penh where we’ll aso spend two nights.

Then our travel continues to Ho Chi Minh City in South Vietnam, followed by stops in Du Nang and Hanoi. Like Cambodia we’ll probably spend two or three nights in each of the 3 cities and we’re also aware of the huge amount of travel time, which is also one of the reasons I decided to add Du Nang to the trip, so we didn’t have to travel the very long journey from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi in one stretch, which would either a 2-day train journey or a more expensive flight ticket. So far we have not really planned out our means of transport in Vietnam and how to get to both Du Nang and Hanoi as things are now, trains seems like the best option. We also need to sort out our dates of travel to both reserve transport and hotel as well in both Cambodia and Vietnam. We also have to look into flight tickets from Hanoi and back to Bangkok. My husband wanted to go back to Bangkok through Laos, but I, as a Danish citizen need a visa to get into Laos. We need a visa in Cambodia as well, but that can easily be bought at the border for 20USD. Both my husband and I (as Danish and Japanese citizen) are allowed to stay in Vietnam for max. 15 days without a visa. So in the end we plan to take a plane back to Bangkok, spend a night on a hotel and then the next day go to the airport and get on a flight to Osaka and there start my exchange student life in Kobe city.

I hope to update this blog a lot while I travel, but I’ll probably also have days where I’m too tired, but I’ll do my best. Traveling was actually one of the purposes I made this blog for. I’ve also created a twitter account so I can update on the “small and short stuff” so if you have twitter please follow me. The link is both in the sidebar and in the end of this blog entry.

I hope you all had a merry Christmas and happy new year. As things seems now I’ll at least spend half of 2012 abroad, which is an experience I’m very excited about. Please follow me on this adventure!  Either on this blog or on Twitter. – > My Twitter (Isabella Kayashima)