Sunday, January 24, 2016

Laos - Best Trip Ever with Kids

As we were having a beer watching the sun set over the Mekong River, I looked over to John and said,
I think this is our best vacation, ever, with kids
And it was.  Laos is an amazing country, but also on top of that, our kids are now at an age, where we are not lugging strollers or diapers or special snacks or worrying about naptime or finding food that they can eat.  And it was glorious.

We started our trip in Vientiane.

Well, actually let me back up a bit... this trip seemed like it was doomed the week before we left. Five days before we were to fly, Lola got a big case of the chicken pox.  They had just crusted over, so we were able to fly, with our polka-dotted girl:

Then, the night before we left, I realized that I didn't have my AR (Alien Registration) card which I need to get in and out of the country, and am supposed to have on hand all the time.  Luckily, 3000¥ ($27USD) later, and a dozen "Gomenasei" (sorrys), I was released from the immigration office and able to join the rest of the Lemley crew to get on our flight.

Back to Vientiane...  as soon as we arrived at the airport, time slowed down.  The airport was small and calm.  No one was yelling "taxi" or really paying any attention to us at all.  We got taxis to the Ibis Hotel  - where we luckily scored a family room which was perfect - queen for us and bunkbeds in a joining room for the kids.

Vientiane was great - we stayed right on the strip, so we could easily walk to many cafes and restaurants.  And we could walk to the night market and Mekong River within minutes.

We headed off to the Buddha Park for a morning with the kids which was great and our other highlight of Vientiane was meeting up with a friend who teaches there.  It was great to catch up and she took us to a fantastic restaurant Lao Kitchen, which we wouldn't have found on our own, and our love for LAAB began.
We ate it many times in Lao, but was always too excited
 and forgot to take pictures when it came to the table.
Image Credit:

After two nights in Vientiane, we rented a van and headed up to Vang Vieng.  It was lovely!  We stayed at Riverside Boutique Resort and had a lovely view.  The hotel wasn't the most child friendly place - we felt like we had to keep the kids quiet at the pool, but it was central and nice.

They arranged two kayaking trips for us, which were fantastic.  Our friends also arranged a ziplining day with their older kids and they said it was amazing. The food was great in Vang Vieng with cheap, delicious street food and many western options as well - we had falafel and hummus (which is not always easy to find in Kobe) twice and Mexican (Amigos) to mix it up one night.

After a few days in Vang Vieng, we headed up to Luang Prabang.  We stayed out of the city at Villa Santi Resort & Spa, (they also had a hotel in the city) which was good for the kids, because we could spend the afternoon at the pool.

Luang Prabang was great - there were many excursions outside of the city (Waterfall trips, Elephant Sanctuary), but we had already done a lot of outside adventures in Vang Vieng, so we stuck to the city and did shopping, eating, and templing.  The highlights of Luang Prabang was Living Land Farm, which was an interactive experience where we went through the process of rice.

John and the guys went on a day motorcycle excursion with MotoLao and they had a fantastic time. The night market was fantastic (much better than the one in Vientiane) as well as the artisan and small boutique shops on the main street.

Laos is a beautiful country.  The Lao people we interacted with were kind and welcoming.  We always felt safe in Lao and never felt taken advantage of and bargaining was minimal.  We were rarely hassled or asked to buy anything.  The food was fantastic (although in Luang Prabang we didn't find as many gems as we did in Vang Vieng and Vientiane).

Laos is a country we definitely want to explore again!

Kop Chai Deu

Kop Chai Lai Lai

Friday, January 15, 2016

A Recruiting Teacher - the last stage... the job fair

As many of you know, we accepted positions in Beijing next year.  We are very excited about our new jobs and new adventure.  The responses we get when we tell people we are moving to Beijing are interesting.  We are truly happy and can't wait.  All jobs have pros and cons.  The obvious cons being pollution and the cold winters (for me) but the perks are huge: a great school community for both us and the kids, a LARGE diverse city, and our jobs are perfect (which is tricky when recruiting as a couple).

We accepted positions at the end of November, so we did not have to attend the SEARCH Bangkok Job Fair. We still planned to be in Bangkok at the time, so we were there right in the middle of it, but got to watch it from afar.  It's a strange occurrence: hundreds of international teachers within a three block radius in Bangkok either looking for employees or looking for an employer.  We must have saw twenty people that we new from the past ten years of working abroad.

We were able to meet our new headmaster, HR director, principal (who we actually worked with before) and a student from our new school.  It was great.  We had amazing street food close from the hotel and got to know each other better, which was really nice.  It got us even more excited about going to work at our new school.

Back to the job fair...  once you walk into the hotel where the fair takes place, you can immediately feel the tension in the air and see the wild eyes in teachers looking for jobs.  First off, potential employees and employers are labelled - one with a red lanyard and one with a blue lanyard, so you can clear identify who is who.

There is a set time where the doors open in a large conference room and schools all have tables with their job openings listed behind them. You queue up in lines that have openings for you (and usually split to do this as a couple) hand your resume and give your best smile and 1 minute pitch and hope for an interview.   So then, you have interview sign-ups for later in the day and the next day.

You have these interviews in hotel rooms of the administrators.  It is a bit weird.  As a couple, you possible interview together - which is, um, interesting, or  you interview separately with different principals or administrators.

Then, you hopefully nail something good - get a good reference check and then are offered a contract. We had a lot of friends recruiting this year and we are all going to different places all over the world. Recruiting season is super stressful, but it is an exciting time where you usually end up in a place you never considered (Beijing, Japan and Peru, all fit in this category) for another amazing, unique experience.

However, this is changing with the ease of interviewing over Skype.  It'll be interesting to see what happens with the job fairs over the next few years.  It's an expensive event for both teachers and schools to go to Bangkok, and sometimes, London, Boston, etc.  I'm thinking there will be less fairs and maybe more for teachers just getting into the international school circuit, but who knows.

Now we are on to another big job as we finish out our contract in Japan... getting all the pieces together for our Chinese visa!  Whoa!