Posted on October 16th, 2008 by Aaron.
Categories: Culture-shock, Photos, Traveling.

” ‘Well,’ said Sam, ‘I’m back.’ ”

I returned to the States in August, but I’ve been a little remiss in my blogging.

Being back is still weird. The money looks strange (there’s so many new states’ quarters! and what about those funny 10s and 5s?). Driving was stressing me out at first, although I’m used to it by now.

When I went down to Louisiana to visit my family, I was just in time for Hurricane Gustav to trash Baton Rouge. We were out of power for four or five days (which was just like being in Peace Corps, really). My apologies to anyone I didn’t get to see– the hurricane made everything complicated.

Next I went on the Great American Road Trip to Colorado, which is where I’m relocating to. Being out of my country for so long made me realize that I hadn’t seen all that much of the States, so it was really a tour of iconic americana. We went through Carlsbad Caverns (ginormous caves!), Roswell (no aliens), El Morro (ancient graffitti!), the Petrified Forest (huge numbers of trees turned to stone!), Meteor Crater (also no aliens), the Grand Canyon (“what a grand canyon”), Four Corners (four states at once!), Mesa Verde (ancient cliffside cities), and the Great Sand Dunes (in Colorado? wtf?).

Road Trip

And now I’m in Denver. Even though its October, it’s pretty cold here, for a Southerner who spent the last two years in a tropical country.


New Zealand

Posted on July 25th, 2008 by Aaron.
Categories: Photos, Traveling.

And then there was New Zealand…

For those of you not up on your meteorology, it’s winter in New Zealand. I’ve been living pretty much in perpetual summer for two years in the Philippines, so I wanted to get my cold on. Well, be careful what you wish for… I had to learn to be cold again, which after a couple “oh my GOD its FREEZING in here” freakouts, some new jackets, and constantly wearing three pairs of socks, two pairs of pants, and four shirts wasn’t really all that bad.

(Incidentally, its not really that cold for people who are used to it… It was in the 40s during the day and rarely got below freezing at night. It’s just that I’m used to sweating all the time.)

We stayed on the South Island for the most part (and wouldn’t you know it, every South Islander we met said we hadn’t missed anything on the North Island anyway). It got more and more beautiful the further south we went. We did a lot of stuff– hiked the Franz-Joseph glacier, took the Transalpine Express train through the Souther Alps, rode a helicopter through the mountains to Milford Sound, and visited Mt Sunday, where Edoras the capital of Rohan in Lord of the Rings was filmed.

All in all, it was very, very cool. And cold.

New Zealand



Posted on July 5th, 2008 by Aaron.
Categories: Photos, Traveling.

Next up was two weeks in Vietnam.

We started in Hanoi, the capital, traveled by train to Hue in the center, then finally by “sleeper bus” to Ho Chi Min City (Saigon) in the south.

Hanoi was small and beautiful, with lakes and trees and temples everywhere. Hue is the old imperial capital and has the ruins of the old Imperial City and giant tombs of the Nguyen Emporers. Ho Chi Min City was big and noisy and way too Manila-like for my taste.

Hanoi was my favorite city, but the coolest things to do as a traveler are in Hue. We did a boat tour for some the more far-flung imperial tombs and one day we rented bicycles and rode around the country-side looking for some of the more obscure ones. There’s all sorts of tombs of lesser aristocrats and such that aren’t even on the maps. It was great fun.

The food was fantastic– both the Vietnamese and foreign food. The French colonizers left behind baguettes and dark coffee, which was quite a change of pace. The Vietnamese are also very much into beer, which was a wonderful surprise after the Philippines (where you can get any beer you want, as long as its San Miguel). Each town had its own specialty beer (Bia Ha Noi in Hanoi, Hue Beer and Huda in Hue, Saigon Red in Ho Chi Min) and there were lots of nation-wide beers (Tiger). There was also this notion of bia hoi (“fresh beer”), which is preservative-free beer delivered new everyday to little hole-in-the-wall joints.

Beer, bread, coffee, and tomb-raiding– what more is there to life?



Hong Kong

Posted on June 20th, 2008 by Aaron.
Categories: Photos, Traveling.

Our first stop out of the Philippines was Hong Kong.

Its only a two-hour flight, but it’s a world away. Massive buildings. Massive subways. Every ethnic group you can think of. People standing in lines.

We didn’t have a lot of time, only a few days, but we explored the ‘downtown’ part of Hong Kong island, went to museums in Kowloon, and spent a day in Disneyland. Yes, there’s a Disneyland.

Hong Kong


Tapos na

Posted on June 13th, 2008 by Aaron.
Categories: PeaceCorps.

My goodbyes have been said. My paperwork is done. My medical checkup is finished. My boxes of pasalubong are shipped. I’m all packed.

The Fat Lady has sung– my Peace Corps service is over.

It’s traditional after Peace Corps to backpack around a bit before returning home, which is exactly what I’m doing. Tomorrow my girlfriend Polly and I are flying to Hong Kong, which will start a multi-country hop around the Pacific Rim as we slowly make our way east to the States. We should be getting into the States around August.

I hope to post a bit about each country we go to, so stay tuned.