Bagheera, K-To and I continued our September Philippines adventure on the island of Boracay, a veritable paradise. When deciding to travel, you have two options: travel for the sake of travel or travel for the sake of a holiday. We decided on the latter given our hectic summers which meant that we chose only one island and we hunkered down for some serious beach time, good reads, delicious food and some chill live music as only the Filipinos can do.
We flew from Manila to Caticlan on the morning of September 3 and took a primitive yet highly efficient boat from the airport island of Caticlan to Boracay. It was about a fifteen- to twenty-minute ride.
We hired a motorbike taxi equipped with buggy for us including our three bags. He dropped us on the beach strip that is the tourist area of Boracay. We stood for a moment and took in the breathtaking paradise that stretched before us. The clean, white sand beaches, crystal blue ocean waters and the friendly faces made for a moment or two of culture shock.
We quickly regained our faculties, got some directions from very helpful locals and checked into our lovely accommodations, Amigos Beach Resort. Due to it being “rainy” season in the Philippines during this time, we were practically the only people staying at our hotel the entire week we were there. It was marvellous!
And I say “rainy” season because the entire time we were there we had two half-days worth of rain which actually served as a welcome reprieve from the heat. I can’t imagine vacationing in Boracay during the dry, hot season.
We quickly changed into our bathing suits and were tanning on the beach by noon. Another great thing about beach vacations in Asia is that, like in Vietnam, most vacationing Asians avoid the sun at all costs. So the beach was very empty most days until four o’clock or so when the tide started to recede and the sun was not as dangerous to the pearly white skin of our fellow Korean and Chinese tourists.
I wish I could say we had some awesome snorkelling adventures to write about or exploring various nearby islands but as the three of us got more and more into our holiday, we became less and less ambitious. It was necessary though and I don’t regret truly vacationing and soaking up the sun and ocean.
I did, however, manage a morning of yoga by the beach. It was just a handful of expats, locals and our very pregnant instructor. As much as I enjoy my yoga studio and instructors here in Saigon, nothing beats looking out at the ocean while exercising. After a calming session of yoga, I suited up to join K-To and Bagheera.
Our days spent on the beach afforded us a new friend: Randy, the security guard/waiter. He took excellent care of us during our eight days in Boracay. Most of our days started with fresh juice or smoothies and ended with cold cocktails à la Randy.
After watching the sunset each night we had dinner. Our restaurant choices included anything from pizza to fine Filipino food to seafood spreads to Italian with live music.
Although Boracay’s tourist area is literally just a strip of (pristine) beach, there was no shortage of options for nights out. Live music at outdoor shisha bars, dance clubs playing music that fondly reminded Bagheera and me of one of the bars in our hometown, a couple of nights of cheap drinks at a place not-so-shamelessly called The Hobbit House (employing only little people), and the best part was the drag show fire dancers. We became their stalkers. Wherever they were performing, we somehow ended up there.
By Day Four, I’d come out of my catatonic, lounger-to-ocean-back-to-lounger stupor and picked up my journal. And the reflecting began. I faced many of the reasons I’d come all the way to Asia and managed to make sense of many of the lessons I’ve learned so far.
I picked up one of the books Bagheera brought along with her which had been gifted to her by our Wisconsinite friend, Martin, before leaving in June. It’s called The Art of Non-Conformity: Unconventional Strategies for Life, Work and Travel by Chris Guillebeau.
Since arriving in Asia my list of “to reads” has gotten longer and longer and yet none of the books I’ve picked up since arriving here have been on that list. The books I’ve chosen to read have all just fallen into my lap. This book being one of them.
I was inspired. I devoured the book. I would read a chapter or so and often without getting through a full section, I’d pull out my journal again and began scrawling. I set goals, both lofty and easily attainable. I answered outstanding questions I had for myself. I thought about going back to school for the first time since graduating from McGill. And decided I still don’t have a strong enough conviction nor an idea of what I’d like to study to go back to school at the moment.
In one of my last entries of the trip I poured my heart out and whined and complained to the page about how depressed I was at the prospect of going back to “real life” in Saigon. I was going to be so sad to say goodbye to the beach and return to being tired most days. It was becoming clearer and clearer to me (and to poor K-To who was putting up with the lamenting) that changes were on the horizon.
Teaching is such a unique, creative experience. Getting to plan lessons in a way that is practical and yet tricks students into enjoying the learning process has been a huge accomplishment over this past year. I have poured many hours and large chunks of my soul into lesson planning and it’s been so rewarding. I feel like the creativity that was hammered out of me during the undergrad process has been revitalised since starting this job.
Being creative is a requirement of the job, however, it can be exhausting. Not only the planning process but getting up in front of a class for two or three hours at a time and being “on” regardless of how you’re truly feeling is draining. An incredible honour and delight, yet draining.
I was coming to the conclusion on the final few days in Boracay that I was going to need to make some changes. And teaching was one of them.
As fate would have it, Bagheera and I met for brunch after a morning of teaching children at our favourite brunch place in Saigon one weekend. Neither of us had mentioned the ruminating we’d separately been doing while on vacation but having lived together for this past year, we’ve started to read each other’s minds.
And so it all started to tumble out. We both had already planned to return to Canada for a long Christmas break. But we came to the conclusion after much discussion (although there wasn’t much need for convincing) that our time in Vietnam was coming to an end.
Returning here after Christmas does not seem like the right decision for me. Although I don’t know what I’d like to do after this year, returning to Vietnam for the sake of returning here represents stuckness as it will not propel me forward on my personal journey.
So this past week, we gave our notice to our manager and scheduling team at the school. Our last day will be Friday, November 22 and then we plan to travel through the north of Vietnam and into Thailand for our remaining weeks before returning to Canada for Christmas!