Singapore is probably one of the most beautiful places I’ve been.

I arrived in Singapore on the night of the 30th. From the airport, I was able to easily take the MRT to my hostel, B88 Hostel, which is located near Little India. Even though it was really convenient, hauling my luggage 15 minutes from the Bugis train station to the hostel was quite difficult! By the time I got there, my glasses were already slipping off from the sweat (ew, I know).

The hostel was in a quite yet convenient area, with Mustafa Center and several restaurants and food courts just a few steps away. The people at the hostel were also very helpful and polite. The lady gave me a map and circled a few places that people usually like to visit. I met a family from Indonesia when I went back to my room to unpack a few things. There were 2 girls and a boy around my age, and their parents. The girl was super amazed when I said I was from New York, and spent a good hour or so asking me questions about New York, while I also learned more about Indonesia. Indonesia definitely sounds and looks like a place that I’d love to visit some day! At about the same time, I also met from people from Taiwan. Just by speaking Mandarin, we could tell that we were all Taiwanese people. They were very nice and offered me snacks. We also learned more about each other and talked about the awesome places and food in Taiwan. It made me want to just squeeze in a little trip to Taiwan again this year! (but no, I don’t have the time or money for that!)

On the first night, I also walked over to Mustafa Center to buy some snacks. Being out in Singapore for the first time, I already noticed how safe the area was. Since I arrived at the hostel at about 8, I didn’t have much time to do much on the first night! 

The next day, I grabbed a nice breakfast, picked up my map, laced up my sneakers, and went on my way to explore at 9am! First, I walked around the area of Little India. There were many unique mosques and temples in the area. There is also a street called “Haji St." which is the narrowest street in Singapore. Colorful drawings were all over the walls along the entire block. Since the block was very narrow, it was difficult to get a nice picture of the artwork, but it was definitely worth seeing in person. After Little India, I walked along Victoria St. and followed it to Fort Caning Park. I spent a good hour or 2 here, because it was a big park filled with historical structures, endless stairs, a spice garden, and sculptures. After the park, I walked by the Government Area (I don’t remember if that’s what it’s called..). This area had colonial architecture, parks, bridges, and led to the Singapore River. There were 2 bridges that connected to the other side where Fullerton Hotel, which is a very famous building. After this, it was all a blur. But I visited all of the Suntec Towers, Marina Bay Mall, Esplande Mall, most of the Citylink Malls, Marina Bay, Chinatown, Singapore Flyer, and a few other parks. As I walked from place to place, I began to mark my path on the map. By 11pm, when I got back to the hostel, I was happy that I got to almost all the things that I circled!

I loved my day at Singapore. I could walk and walk without having anyone to wait for or complain! I can’t think of a single person that would be willing to walk around for 14 hours with me without complaining :P

I wish I had more time at Singapore. I am definitely planning on going back to Singapore some time in the near future! :)

On Tuesday, Maria, Thomas, Tom, and Linda left to go back home! I walked them to the front of the hotel and then we said our goodbyes. Honestly, I felt like I was about to cry as I hugged them goodbye. I was going to be alone for the next few weeks. Completely alone…I went back to my empty room, and began to clean. Before I knew it, it was already night time. When I woke up the next morning, I got my last breakfast at Hong Vina and then my last shake from Fresh Box! Saying bye to all the people that I’ve been seeing on a daily basis made me feel so sad!

As I sat at the airport waiting to leave, I texted my mom to let her know that I was leaving to Singapore. The first thing was asked was “Alone? Are you scared?”… Well yes, of course, I was scared! How could I not be? But I told her “Not at all, because I’m good with directions.” It was a bit of a white lie to not only make her feel better, but also to calm myself down as well.

I boarded the plane a few hours later, feeling happy and sad at the same time. i was leaving a place that I grew to love, but I was finally going to travel and explore independently, which is something I’ve always wanted to do. 

Day 1 & 2 in Nha Trang were awesome.

On the second day we spent most of the day on a boat going from island to island. On the first stop, we didn’t stop at an island, but in the middle of the ocean quite some distance away from the island. We jumped off of our boat, hopped onto another boat, and then got ready for our snorkeling/scuba diving adventures. Maria and I decided to go snorkeling, while Tom, Thomas, Jess, and Thai decided to go scuba diving. Maria and I slipped into our flippers and put on the rest of our snorkeling gear. We were a hot mess, to say the least! We went to the back of the boat and the guy was trying to tell me to jump down head first, but I just kept saying no! Eventually, I just sat down on my tush and shimmied my way into the ocean. I was SO SCARED, but I acted like I wasn’t because Maria was still on the boat freaking out. When she finally got into the water, we both tried to calm down a bit! Before swimming away, our tour guide told us that was had to swim closer to the island so that we would see more colorful fishes and corals underwater and to be careful of the rocks because they’re really sharp. So away we swam…  well kind of! Maria doesn’t really know how to swim, so it was mostly me swimming backwards staring at her and cheering her on to come. Honestly, I was too scared to take my eyes off of her, cause I didn’t wanna be alone in the ocean!

After a good few minutes of pedaling our flippers, I noticed that we were already really close to the island and tried to turn around. But the moment I turned my back, I got cut by something really sharp! I quickly turned around and swam towards Maria making sure that she also turned back quickly. She also stepped on and touched a rock or too and started freaking out! After swimming away from the rocks, I asked her “Maria, are there sharks around here?” and she assured me there wasn’t. I didn’t really want to tell her I was cut because she was already freaking out and trying to escape back to the boat. We PAID 216,000VND for snorkeling already, and Kristie Ching doesn’t waste money, so I was not ready to leave! I convinced her to to stay and stick her head under water. Once she saw some pretty fishes and colorful coral, she was more than happy to stay for a bit longer! :) It was really pretty. Neon yellow, blue, pink fishes and corals were all under us. I held her hand and we went ahead and snorkeled for another 45 minutes. I basically chased after the fishes I saw and dragged her along the way! It would have even better if I was wearing contacts, because all I could really see under water were colors and blurry shapes.

Thai, Thomas, Tom, and Jess only scuba dived for about 25 minutes, so they swam back out towards us after they finished. I gave them my snorkeling mask so they could see the beautiful fishes and colors under us too! Thai regretted not coming snorkeling with us instead :P!

Afterwards, we all went for lunch on another island. After lunch we got on our boat again. The boat linked onto another boat, that was linked onto another boat, and another boat. There were 6 or 7 boats in all. At first, they were just singing karaoke and passing the mic around from boat to boat, while also trying to get people to go on stage and sing. Then the boats unlinked, formed a big circle, and linked again.. We had no idea what was happening. They began to play loud music and threw life savers into the middle of the circle. People began to jump off the top of the boats and there was drinking floating around on a floatie in the middle. It was SO bizarre and funny! The most random thing ever. 

We had an awesome day :)

We picked 3 students to write and present speeches on behalf of all of the students in the SEAMEO Summer Fun Program! Mia from Level 1 (6 years old), Bonny from Level 2 (9 years old), and Kevein from Level 3 (11 years old). I was only able to capture a few snippets of each of their speeches, but I am hoping to get the full speeches from SEAMEO some time soon! Their speeches are so endearing and sweet. They were very nervous so it was a bit difficult to hear what they were saying, so I added captions to the video.

Kevin’s speech especially made us all want to stay and teach here forever. In his speech, he wrote about how much he loved his teachers (us), he wrote about how we were his best friends, and how he loved hanging out with us. He also went on to talk about each of us and each of our classes.

For me, Arts & Crafts, it went something along the lines of: “This subject was especially hard for me, because I am not good at it. But Ms. Kristie plays music for us in class, so it was cool." Hahaha. Oh Kevin, he tried. Even though he really wasn’t the Picasso of the group, he still made some pretty awesome crafts by the end of the summer! Go Kevin :)

Week 4 - Last week

Looking through the boxes full of crafts that my kids made, seeing snippets of the song and dances that Maria taught the kids, hearing lines from the skits that Linda has been teaching, and seeing the fashion materials that Jess’s class has been making, is so bittersweet. The kids and we have been working hard all summer to create a performance and display for the closing ceremony. We had so much fun along the way! Now that they’re starting to master their performances and completed all their crafts, we know it won’t be long before we have to say our goodbyes. 

This week we basically all just prepared for our closing ceremony! Below are some pictures from the ceremony (For more please click here!):

imageArts and craft display boards. My students did an awesome job with their crafts! I had to make sure to make the display just as amazing!

imageI love my students and my co-workers!

imageI loved how the students gathered around art corner and took pictures with their crafts! Before the performances, all the teachers and students went on stage to receive certificates. Then the students got ready for their performances that they’ve been practicing for the past few weeks. Many of the parents, siblings, and SEAMO staff came to watch! Oh, and Thai came to our ceremony too! We knew that it would be the first time he attended a Summer Fun Closing Ceremony, so we were really glad that he could come!  He said he really enjoyed it, but who knows if he’s joking or not… He had on his serious straight face, the one he makes when he’s trying to joke about something or be sarcastic. Either way, we’re still really glad that he made time to come, since he’s usually quite busy!

Anyways, I think everyone really enjoyed all of the performances and the kids and parents were proud of the crafts that they made. Words can’t even describe how much I will miss these kids and co-workers. Students have already started friend-ing us on Facebook and emailing us! I don’t mind them friend-ing me on Facebook at all. I love being able to communicate with them in any way possible! I hope that I’ll get a chance to come back and visit in the future. 

After the ceremony, we had to all run back to the hotel and pack for our last weekend trip to Nha Trang! Our flight to Nha Trang was at about 5pm on Friday. 

Mekong Trip - Weekend Trip 3

The trip to Mekong was amazing. Probably my favorite trip so far! We met so many nice and friendly tourists/locals from Ireland, Hanoi, Ukrainian, and even from New York City! 

Our tour guide HAI, was the best tour guide (aside from Thai of course!) we’ve had so far! He thoroughly explained the history and culture of Vietnam and kept us entertained throughout the trip. We stopped took a boat to an amazing tropical fruit garden and enjoyed some local honey (made at the garden) kumquat tea, dragonfruits, jack fruits, papaya, rambutan, and more! We also enjoyed some traditional Vietnamese music played by the local people at the garden! We chatted with some tourists from French during our little tea party :)

We got back onto the boat to go to another site where we were able to watch them make fresh coconut candy right in front of us! They were so efficient and fast. The candies were DELICIOUS! I love coconut flavored anything. They also had durian flavor coconut candy, which I was scared to try! 

From the coconut candy site, we got a ride on cart? behind a motorbike to the canal! We thought it was SO FUN. We were like little kids on a roller coaster. Then we got onto a canoe with our tour guide and road down the canal, as the Vietnamese lady with the cute little conical hat paddled us to the restaurant for lunch! Lunch was good, as always Thai ordered some veggies on the side for me! Thai is the best :)

I can’t believe this is our second to last trip with Thai! We will all miss him very much when we leave. He’s taken such good care of us and became such a good friend to us all!

Vietopia was amazing. As the children and I walked into “town hall,” we saw beautiful lamp posts, park benches, a theatre, a bank, everything. It was literally an utopia for the little ones! They received a Vietopia check when they walked in, and then ran into the bank to deposit the check and get money. They were able to use the money to go to different places and try our different things! There were restaurants and culinary academies where the kids learned to make different types of food, ambulances and firetrucks driving back and forth trying to save lives, buses shuttling kids from place to place, gas station workers filling up the cars, delivery girls delivering packages from store to store, English and learning academies where they were able to learn to teach, etc. The options that the kids had were endless. They also received money from completing their jobs! The place was just so adorable. Adults weren’t allowed into the stores with them, which I thought was a great idea because it teaches them to be independent. They were able to roam and run wherever they wanted without us worrying about where they were. When we first walked in we were all given bracelets; The kids were given bracelets so we could track where they were if we were trying to find them, and we had bracelets because we could stop by one of the computers to scan our bracelets to find them. The place was just amazingly designed. I wish we had something like this in NYC (And I wish we were allowed to play…) 

Week 3 - Time just flying by

I can’t believe that half of our time here is already over! As the days and weeks go by, I become more and more attached to these kids. The kids have started to ask for our emails and phone numbers already. Knowing that I’ll probably never see these kids again makes me SO SAD! It feels like this week seriously just flew by. 

Here are some crafts that my students made this week.

Level 1: Lion Masks & Thanksgiving Turkey Hatsimageimage

Level 2: 3D Lizards & Carp Kites

Level 3: Landscape Mosaicimage

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Week 2 - Weekend Trip to Mui Ne!

This is the trip I’ve been waiting for since I got here. This weekend we went to Mui Ne, the place of the beautiful sand dunes! According to Thai, the Mui Ne trip for the last few summers weren’t great because the of the weather. He said that the previous interns didn’t enjoy the trip as much because it was windy and cloudy! I was really hoping that we would have a much better time.

Unfortunately, I got sick on Thursday, right before the trip. Suddenly came down with a really sore throat, then a cough & runny nose, and eventually it escalated to a fever by Friday night came along. I was SO BUMMED! The morning of the trip, Maria had to wake me up, which NEVER happens. I’m always up and ready before she’s even half awake. We both knew that I really wasn’t feeling well… I was not at all excited or ready for the 6 hour long bus ride! It felt like senior trip all over again…

Six hours and a few rest stops later, we finally made it to Mui Ne. I felt just horrible. I wanted to go to the room and lay there for the rest of the day, but obviously I wasn’t gonna give up my trip to the sand dunes I’ve been dying to go to. I washed my face, put my head down for a few minutes, and headed down to meet everybody for lunch. There was a set menu, but Thai let the waitress know beforehand that I didn’t eat meat, dairy, or eggs, so they prepared some nice vegetable noodles for me. Thank you Thai! 

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After lunch we got back on the bus to go to see the sand dunes. We stopped by a fishing village first and took pictures of some really cool authentic Vietnamese fishing boats, which were beautiful and colorful. We jumped back onto the bus and headed towards the dunes.

When we finally got there, I wasn’t at all disappointed. Mui Ne really was as breathtakingly aesthetic as I hoped it would be. Mounds upon mounds of beautiful of dunes were naturally sculpted by the wind. Tom, Thomas, and Jess decided to get an ATV to ride through the dunes! As much as I would have loved to do that, my headache didn’t really give me that option. Looking back on it now, I’m actually quite glad that I walked the dunes instead. I walked ahead of Maria, Linda, and Thai as I headed for the top of one of the dunes. I turned back to take a picture of them, but they disappeared behind the mounds of dunes that I walked over. When I reached the top of the dune, it became really windy. The wind blew the soft, fine sand across my legs and over my feet. As I looked over at the tops of the other dunes, I saw the wind blowing the top layers of sand off the tops of the dunes, creating new angles and hills. It was really nice to get away from the busy city life of HCMC, and take a second to appreciate the natural beauties of Vietnam,

Week 2 - Field Trip!

This week we went to Lan Anh Pool with our kiddos! The kids had so much fun and really wanted to just spend time and play with us. I was so adamant about not getting into the pool because I didn’t want my eczema to act up. I didn’t even bother bringing/wearing swimwear! When push came to shove, I ended up in the pool with my SEAMEO t-shirt. These kids can be quite persuasive. Yes, my eczema did end up acting up a bit after the trip, but I’m glad that I got to play with the kids! We ran around the pool playing SEA MONSTER. I still don’t understand the game, but we basically get a group of people, rush toward a person yelling “SEA MONSTER,” and when we get close enough we all splash them with water. I have no idea how it started, but the kids ended up loving it!