The roof, the roof, the roof was on fire. No, really.

Also known as: “The true story of how my X-(Wo)Man powers manifested for the first time ever during a class at Xavier’s School For Comedy Nerds and hence I tried to burn my own dreams to the ground.”

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I was only 20 minutes early to class yesterday, which David Brown should be proud of; I’m still not 100% used to relying on public transit everyday and my 3-hours early to the airport brain was still in full effect. I ran into Starbucks to get a donut to go pee. I mean, I probably didn’t need the donut, but a) I didn’t want to be THAT early and b) having worked retail, I get really neurotic about using bathrooms where I feel like I don’t deserve it/haven’t bought anything. That sounds weird but makes sense in my brain, I promise. Also I just wanted to smash a donut into my face what more do you want from me?!

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I walked through the hallway between Adobo Grill and Starbucks on my way to my first ever class at Second City, trying to just be cool and not pulling a Disney princess spinning moment in the lobby.

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Improv A will usually meet on the 3rd floor, but because summer intensives are finishing this week, they had us go to the 1st floor…which is a little bit less shiny and gorgeous, but still. SECOND CITY CLASS, Y’ALL. We could be in a literal dungeon and I would still be excited.

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When I came in at 10:57am, there were about 15 people sitting in chairs around the perimeter of the room and it was dead silent. Not even a sniffle. I quietly sat in a chair between two guys, and tried to melt into the walls. 2 minutes later, our teacher, Kevin Reome arrived and we started class by taking roll, moving into some fun games to loosen us up physically and mentally as well as learn each other’s names.

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As we kept building on one of the games, each level gave us more info about each other starting with names, favorite band, favorite movie and finally, birthplace. When it came to my turn and I said “Bellingham,” one guy on my left said “ooooh” and I looked at him and thought “there’s probably a million Bellinghams, right?” and because the game was fast-paced and ongoing, I didn’t really think about it again until his turn, when he said “Seattle.”

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We made eye contact, and as he said “I went to Western,” my little heart burst with such joy. Dumb, yeah yeah, but having just moved here less than a month ago, it was so…”nice” sounds like too trite of a word, but sure, nice to have someone know where I was from. Ryan and I chatted on the break and he knew where Lynden was. LYNDEN. Tiny, little, Dutch, don’t-buy-alcohol-on-Sundays-Lynden!

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We all jumped into another game, and about 15 minutes after the break…

No, but really. Suddenly, a woman opens the door to our classroom and shouts in a Slavic accent “You must get out of building, the roof is on fire!”

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We all looked at each other and at Kevin like, “is this…is this like a thing? Is this a hazing thing?” because come on. A Russian woman shouting that there is a fire on the roof on your first day of the first class of improv comedy? It was like they were insulting our intelligence.

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But Kevin grabbed his bag and said “let’s go,” and we all hustled outside, back through the labyrinth of halls out to the Piper’s Alley lobby, and then we smelled (but didn’t see) smoke. The Piper’s Alley building (where Second City lives) is a 4 story building, and if there is smoke smells all the way on the 1st floor…something was clearly going down.

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We exited out to North Ave and saw 4 fire trucks had already closed the street and a couple of hundred people were on the far side, taking photos and talking. I have a sneaking suspicion that someone kind of forgot we were back there in the dungeon…I mean, clearly everyone else is already out and the calvary closed the street during the time for…whatever. Eventually someone remembered and, foreshadowing: the fire never got down to the 1st floor so ultimately we would have been fine and never the wiser until class let out 45 minutes later.

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It doesn’t look terrible, right? This is about 5 minutes after we came outside, 12:56pm. We snuggled our 17-person class together as Kevin told us, “we’re definitely not going to be allowed back in, so class is done and I’ll see you all next week Wednesday.” Half the class left, and those of us who stuck around soon realized that as the smoke got heavier we were standing around getting cancer, so we went moved east, out of the wind pattern.

Ryan and I rounded the corner onto Wells St to find a bar and grab a beer, since we would have class at 4pm again together (Writing 1), and we saw what looked like the heaviest part of the smoke coming out of the 4th floor/roof above Adobo Grill and several Second City offices.

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I mean, it didn’t look great, it’s a FIRE, but it still looked minor-ish and like something that would be resolved in time for us to have class in about 3 hours. We grabbed a beer in Corcoran’s Grill across from Second City, and chatted about where we were from, why we were taking classes, and such. We noticed that more and more people were coming in from the back door of the bar, but no one was leaving out the front…when we peeked out the windows, we saw that they’d closed the sidewalk and that the fire was most assuredly not improving.

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Yeah…we’re not having class today. Ryan headed home and I stuck around for another hour, actually running into my professor for our writing class and meeting him for the first time, and walked back out to the intersection of Wells and North to see the full scale of damage. It was not pretty. I hadn’t realized quite how bad/far spread it was, having stood only on one side most of the fire, but it was extensive. About 5 minutes after this picture I couldn’t even see down North Avenue past that tree.

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I had a moment here, on the corner, where I actually wondered, “what if there isn’t a Second City left?” What if I moved my life here from Korea and the dream is drifting away in little ash flecks from pictures of Bill Murray? Which is kind of dramatic, and rude, considering there are a million and one amazing options for comedy and training in Chicago, such as iO, Annoyance, CIC and so many more.

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The Chicago Fire Department reported that over 150 personnel were deployed for the 3-alarm fire, and you could tell. So many fire trucks, ambulances, support vehicles and people were present, shutting down the streets in every direction and while I was a little disappointed that Jesse Spencer and Mouch never showed up, it was still impressive how much coordination I saw between firefighters, paramedics, police, reporters and even the bystanders.

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Hello, news helicopters.

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Oops. Caught.

Around 3 I decided that since I wasn’t making a difference, was probably in way and definitely had way too many pictures, I grabbed a bus and headed to early dinner with Joanna, a former co-worker from K. Hogwarts (she still works there). So, something good did come out of that fire, I suppose, because we didn’t think we’d be able to meet up due to my classes and her schedule, but we did! We gorged ourselves on chicken at Crisp (where her brother works), laughed, reminisced, licked our fingers and chatted about life.

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Photo stolen from Joanna, but taken by her brother, who makes damn fine chicken.

I’m still not sure what they’ll do about classes for the future; it seems like the offices were destroyed but the theaters are safe. For the full story, including details of how the fire started, here’s the Chicago Tribune’s report and photos from the Chicago Fire Department’s official Twitter that show some of the damage.

So…how was your first day of school?

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Waiting and Waiting and Waiting Some More.

I wanted to wait to blog until after tomorrow, my first Second City class, because that’s what I’m here for, right? I’m so excited I could barf. I’m so terrified I could barf.

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But I wanted to blog about this feeling (not the barf one), the waiting. The ‘just wait’ season I’m in is about to end and I’m so glad because I am not great at it. I feel like Rapunzel in Tangled just dancing around my hair jungle and asking my stuffed totoro “When will my life beginnnnnnn?!”

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I finished my job at K. Hogwarts on May 31, spent June in Japan and Korea, traveling, saying goodbye, etc. July 1 I flew home, fought a WWE bout with jetlag, loved on/with my family and friends, and flew to Tulsa on July 22, seeing folks, driving to Little Rock on the 24th to chill with my friend family and finally, driving to Chicago with Michael on July 31.

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I’ve spent August pretty much just…sitting. It is the worst. It’s great to sit for a weekend. It’s great to vacation for a week. Or two. But having spent 3 months (THREE MONTHS!) now not working, not having structure, not having a patch of space that is mine mine mine is…exhausting. Which is probably the most pathetic first-world problem ever, says I, a white woman sitting in a Starbucks and blogging on a $2500 laptop.

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But it’s true. I moved out of my Korea apartment on June 6, and since then, have stayed in people’s apartments and houses, and I’m so grateful, truly. I am just tired of traveling out of suitcases (even though I have stuff hung up in my place now), and I want to just have my space to hang stuff on the walls, eat off of dishes I haven’t seen in 2 years, laugh/cry about what I thought was worth saving before I emigrated.

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Since I have had almost nothing on my calendar, I’ve become a weird, nocturnal squirrel. Probably more like a gremlin, if we’re being honest, since I like to eat after midnight and do occasionally shower. I go to sleep anywhere from 3-4:30, waking up from 11-12 (once, 12:45), and I don’t consider myself fully awake until 1-2pm. Which is ok on a Saturday or vacation, but other humans don’t subscribe to my hours, so I find myself watching unhealthy amounts of Criminal Minds, convinced someone is going to kidnap me from my basement room; I talked to Kevin, the dog of the people I’m staying with, holding long conversations about how much poop we could fit in the plastic bags I was carrying (hers, not mine); I probably have enough frequent flyer points at Walgreens to open my own franchise; you get it, I get it…

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HOW I LOOK SO GOOD

I AM BORED, PEOPLE. BORED. And I realize that it’s no one’s fault but my own–I’ve ventured out to get a library card (nerd), walk the dog, get groceries, explored the Broadcast museum downtown (free admission AND free Rice Krispie treats, can I get a HELL YES [also, nerd]), walked the dog some more, fallen in love with Matthew Gray Gubler’s muppet-isms, had some beers with a couple of new and re-activated friends, picked up dog poop in bathtub, ordered weird stuff online (including your birthday present, Brianna, YAY!), Skyped people I love and miss, laundry from sitting around in own filth, this list sounds impressive except its been FOUR WEEKS of this.

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But finally, it seems about to change. Classes at SC start tomorrow, I just signed paperwork for a job that starts on Friday…finally I have a reason to get out of the house before 9am…I’m just ready to go. To try the damn thing that I moved from Korea to do.

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YASSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!! *pumps fist*

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Hello, Chicago.

I’m sitting in a Starbucks on Irving Park. In Chicago. I live here now.

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No, really! I do. I am.

I came home from Korea on July 1 and spent 3 jet-lagged, laughing, warm/hot/muggy weeks with my family. I got to meet my giggly poundcake niece, Olivia, take Zoe on a walk to the park, eat green beans right off the vine from my Nana’s garden, have sweaty grass hugs from my Papa, listen to Brianna rap in the car, shoot some jugs full of water in the backyard with Dad, cook all my favorite foods with Mom, watch Em drive and start basketball games and come home from a One Direction concert like me after BigBang’s. It was wonderful.

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Then I flew to Tulsa, hugged a lot of people, ate some real barbecue (MY GAWWWWWWWD YES), and went to Little Rock. Where I then proceeded to hug even *more* people, ate more real barbecue and other assorted favorite foods. Someone tell me why my pants are tighter… And then Michael and I drove me up to Chicago (with a pitstop in BFE Missouri to see Casey & Steven, my favorites), dragging a beached whale of a U-Haul trailer halfway across the country to start my new life.

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So, I’m here. And in less than a month, I’m starting classes at the Second City Training Center. The home of comedy legends. And here I am, a 27-year old woman who majored in Broadcast Journalism at a small Christian college, who worked for the retail arm of the #1 company in the world, who just spent 2 years teaching in Korea and traveling in Asia…jumping off of a cliff. A metaphorical cliff.

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Except I am. At least a little. Right now, I’m walking around my neighborhood, Albany Park (unofficial Koreatown, which is kind of hilarious in the context of my life); learning a new bus system, carrying pepper spray (yes, Dad, its in my bag now). And I’m not scared of Chicago–not smart–thanks to 2 years of super safe life in Korea. I’m scared that I’m going to be bad at this–that I will have romanticized comedy and my role in that world.

I like comedy. A lot. I like performing it. A lot. I love when something I’ve said or done can make someone laugh, in any language. And I don’t know if Second City and improv and sketch writing is my niche. But I feel like it’s now or it’s never for this step–before I don’t have the funds or the ability to go, before I have another person’s dreams to consider or tiny humans who look half like me run around–I want to try.

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So I’m here. And I’m about to try. And I’m looking forward to where this next step in my life is going. I know a lot of you are as well–your texts, messages, calls and prayers are all balm to my heart. They are tamping down the doubt and insecurity that threaten to overwhelm me in a gas station bathroom in rural Lick Creek, Illinois and every time I look at Amy Schumer sketches and think “could I do that?”

So, to parallel how I began this blog over 2 years ago, the night before I left for Korea, I’m taking a deep breath and thinking:

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“‘Pokemon’ Is Short For ‘Pocket Monster'” and other things in Japan

Not my best title, I know, but I’m writing this over a month later after returning from Japan, so…a lot of brain cells and one egg have died since then, so I’m not on top of my game. Yep.

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It always felt that my time in Asia wouldn’t be complete without visiting Japan. For $50 you could fly from Busan to Osaka and stuff yourself full of sushi, roll in piles of Doraemon swag and perfect the art of karaoke, so that was the easiest decision ever. I finished up 2 years of work at K. Hogwarts and left for 10 days in the land of the rising sun.

Continuing with my Philippines tradition, I went makeup-less and packed just a backpack to carry on my flight, only to run into one of my bosses at the airport, so it was a great start to the trip. After landing on the island airport of Osaka (no, really, it’s an island)

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I realized that I couldn’t remember the address of the hostel I was staying at, and in immigration there was no wifi…so I lied and wrote “friend’s apartment in Osaka” and cried a little in the line after copying the phone number of the guy in front of me. Sorry Marty (and Japanese immigration official) and random stranger. I just was dumb and forgot about the paperwork part, I didn’t pre-plan to fraud everyone I JUST WANTED THE DORAEMON SWAG.

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After renting a data ‘egg’ and slowly, awkwardly reading train signs, I made it to Osaka Station. I…was not prepared. It was like Seoul Station on crack. There are at least 7 lines running out of there, and sub-stations and new letters and new solar systems and *cue hyperventilation and hypoglycemia* someone finally came out to help me because I was sweaty and awkward for too long. I finally made it to my hostel in Osaka, and it was perfectly cute and quaint–Air Osaka Hostel via AirBNB in Kitagaya was warm and friendly. They also included a map that pointed out some awesome hot springs (that I visited twice), a delicious, cheap restaurant (again, twice) and a sushi place (once, because money).

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LOOK AT THAT DESTRUCTION. I am the destroyer of Japanese foods. I also visited the Pokemon Center in Osaka and…well…

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Squeeeeeee. I never got into Pokemon as a kid, but who doesn’t like Pikachu? I bought myself a soft little squishy Pika and a coin purse because anything less than a 1000 yen note (around $8USD) is a coin. SO MANY COINS. Also of note, the only ONLY song that plays in the Pokemon Center? The Pokemon theme song in Japanese. On loop. I fear for their employees because they must walk in to work hoping for–

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After more Osaka explorations, including a 3-story Sanrio (Hello Kitty) store, Osaka Castle and a peaceful, rainy Shinto shrine:

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I then lovingly tucked my Pika into the backpack and took off for Fukuoka!

In August 2014, I got to lead a program of 60 Japanese students from Aso College, in Fukuoka and 60 Korean students from my parent school, Yeungjin College in Daegu. We mixed together the students for a 5-day, 4-night English intensive camp, and it was one of my favorite teaching experiences ever. So I was unbelievably excited to see several of my Japanese students again–they even let me stay with them, they COOKED, we talked–it was so much fun. Plus, OWL CAFE.

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You pay 1500 yen (about $12-13) to hold these handsomes. The first 15 minutes you read some safety tips, including “please don’t forget owl is rapacious bird” and “when you see hate signs while you touch owls, please stop touching owls right away.” I don’t know what a hate sign is, but look at this bro, who was bestowed the name “Nuts.” HOW COULD HE EVER HATE SIGN?!

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The next day, after a delicious homecooked meal from Tati, my students took a taxi WITH ME to the airport. They refused to let me pay and they even bought me some Pika swag from the Fukuoka Pokemon Center! I’m so happy to have met them and been their teacher and their friend too. I was a little sad to go on to Tokyo, but off I went, backpack bulging with Pikas and gifts from the Super Daiso that I had gotten lost in. Thanks so much to Tanya, PJ, Tati, Ryota and everyone else I got to see!!

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In case you are planning to go to Japan, you need to know that Narita Airport is in the middle of Egypt nowhere, so plan accordingly. I made it into my hostel in Tokyo’s Shibuya district around 10 at night, a little lonely and ready to eat my own hand. I walked up the four flights of stairs, ran down to find food and smack into a guy staring at his smartphone exactly the same way I had been 5 minutes before. I asked, “Are you looking for the Geekhouse?” He looked up, and stammered “ah 애, yes” and when I looked closer, I saw the telltale signs of Korean 20something guy–Carhartt and white socks with white tennis shoes–I replied “진짜?!” and laughed, watching his jaw drop. It had only been 6 days, but I’d already missed speaking in Korean and feeling halfway knowledgeable in a foreign country. He threw his bag upstairs and we got ramen and a beer together on the corner, talking about our lives in Korea and our travels in Japan. When we figured out that we wanted to see the same areas the next day, we ended up walking around all of Shibuya and Harajuku together–Won Geol and I, the photographer and the makeup-free white girl. (You can see him peeking his head into my otherwise flawless pano of the Meiji Jingu below)

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Over my last 2 days, I discovered a shop that sold $20,000 original, single, hand-painted animation cells from classic Studio Ghibli films like “Kiki’s Delivery Service” and “Totoro,” stood in Shibuya Crossing, the busiest pedestrian intersection in the world, and walked an hour back to the hostel, letting myself crack a little and grieve about leaving Korea soon.

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I left Japan after not-so-gently shoving my Pika and all his friends into my backpack, and hoping that Peach didn’t have weird restrictions on carry ons since my bag weighed as much as the Sherpa I would need to carry it, and headed home to gimbap and soju, ready to live up my last 2 weeks in Korea. Pictured below is me and my Pika:

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A lot of people have asked about the differences between Japan and Korea, especially my Korean friends, so here’s a brief list of things I noticed that may or may not be unique in my experience:

1. It’s quieter. There’s less noise, less ambient music, less screaming, less “Oppppppppaaaa” and less honking. Every city I was in was just calm. Even the busy areas–even in Shibuya crossing, it was remarkable. No one is talking unless they have to. Everyone is respecting everyone else’s space. Even Won Geol said, “it’s more quiet than Korea,” so I feel this one is true.

2. The food–obviously these are different places and no one does a food like a home country but DAMN. The ramen, the udon, the SUSHI, my god, the sushi, where is this drool on my chest suddenly coming from…? But wow. Japanese food is glorious, full-bodies tastes. From restaurants to home-cooked meals and even convenience store sushi, I never had a bad meal. tumblr_logdznWf4X1qzbb14o1_1280

3. Hot Springs/Onsen: Korea has jimjjilbangs (짐찔방) but while similar to Japan, there are some definite differences, chief among them, not staring. This matters when you’re a very naked, very white, very alone, chubby white girl. If they did stare then they were truly CIA-level because I felt perfectly calm and alone. Also, fun fact–the onsen I went to switched sides every other day. I went on one day and the door was the left one, and the next day, it was the right one! Amazing. However, had I never been to jimjjilbangs in Korea, I would have been quite lost in Japan.

4. They drive on the left side! I guess somewhere back in the deep recesses of my lizard brain, I knew this, but after about 5 minutes of confusion, I realized that something was wrong with the street and it was not opposite day. This did a number on me because not only do you have to be conscious while crossing the street, you also have to be aware what side of the street the bus comes on, an error I made while standing on the right in Fukuoka, watching the bus I was meant to be on drive away. Across the street.

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Anyways, that’s all for this wrap-up–you can see more pictures on my Facebook of foods and owls and temples–I’ll try to sum up the last month here in America this week and we will be *GASP* up. to. date.

ありがとう, Japan–thanks for the best food, and even better people. Especially you, immigration guy. I’m sorry I was shady I DID IT FOR THE POCKET MONSTERS!

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“Bailey, What The Hell Are You Doing Over There?”

This is a great question, person who didn’t ask–let me suss it out for you. I finished up my 2 years at K.Hogwarts on May 31st, and ever since then, I’ve been fighting crime in Gotham in a non-form-fitting suit.

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I spent my first week of freedom cleaning out my apartment and lazing around eating popsicles in the relentless heat while delivering my previously acquired goods to their new owners and trying to not cry about separation anxiety with my yoga matt that I used exactly 4 times. I moved my 3 suitcases plus hanger-ons to my friend’s apartment, where I camped out until Monday morning, when I left for 10 days in Japan. More about Pokemon land in a later post, though.

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I returned from Japan a week ago, and, well…pretty much…not doing too much. I previously asked YMKCW to buy my school-paid-for flight home for July 1 to spend time with friends and travel and make out with boys and do a whirlwind Korea bucket list like finally visit the DMZ, eat patbingsu ((팥빙수, a shaved ice treat in summer) and stuff myself full of enough kimchi to last me a lifetime of healthy lady bits.

But thanks to MERS, Korea has kind of shut down…a lot. My co-workers at K.Hogwarts have had almost the entire month of June (and most of July) with very few or no students, giving them either paid desk time or unpaid free vacation time to travel the world. What a great time to have quit, huh? DMZ tours are currently cancelled, and the apartment at which I’m staying has no wifi. So…what do I do all day?

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I get my hair cut the shortest it’s been since second grade. I got gel nails. I put a purple streak in my hair. I changed my nose ring to a hoop. I got my eyebrows waxed. I meet friends for final coffee dates and batting cages and goodbye drinks at our favorite bars. I sneak up to Seoul for a night and do stand up comedy and don’t suck 100% at it. I powered through “Orange Is The New Black” season 3 in 2 days. I start watching “Game of Thrones,” since everyone won’t shut up about it. I unpack and repack my suitcases and eat foods that I won’t see again. I see Jurassic World alone in 4D. Because I’m a put together woman who can handle life alone.

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I take really long walks to nowhere. I journal. And cry. I cry a lot, guys. I’m crying in parks as couples walk by hand in hand. I’m crying as I walk everywhere. I’m crying in sunglasses at 8pm at night like an asshole, walking downtown. I’m crying sitting alone at Suseong Lake during a light show. I’m laughing, snot coming out my nose, as I rip a fist-sized hole in the butt of my leggings during said light show when I try to switch seats and don’t see the nail sticking out of the ground and thank the Lord I had a scarf around my neck to work into some bizarre, weirdo-style. Then I walked some more, listlessly. I cried on the metro on line 3 since I only got to ride it twice. I curl myself into a sweaty ball under the covers and do that ugly cry, where you sob uncontrollably, the kind of thing you hope no one ever sees but you so desperately want someone to hold you. Because I’m not a put together woman who can handle life alone.

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And I know I’m not actually alone. I know you guys are all around, whether in person here in Korea, or via the internet, or soon to be seen in America or even if I’ve never met you. It’s not my first time feeling these feelings–April 2013 was pretty much the same–about to leave Arkansas for the scary, K-pop fueled land of Korea and feeling my heart ripping wide open, showing all the pink and bleeding bits. And, as The Script has told us, “when a heart breaks it don’t break even” and they are not wrong.

I’m not sure what stage of grief I’m in, but I’m hurting guys. I remember standing in the bathroom on my Korean Air flight on May 25, 2013, one fist holding on desperately to my t shirt and the other shoved in my mouth, trying to hold back sobs as I realized that I didn’t know when (or if) I would see my family and friends again. And I have a sneaking suspicion that on July 1, 2015, I’ll be on a Delta flight to Seattle in the same position, mourning and trying not to frighten the flight attendants as my heart breaks again with Chewbacca-like sobs in a 2 foot bathroom.

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Should I have booked my flight for July 1? I don’t know. Thinking about how I could be home right now with my family is both exhilarating (family! hugs! home cooking!) and scary (not in Korea, not coming back for who knows how long, leaving people). Can’t change the flight now, and today is one week from departure date. 7 days left. I’m going to eat so much food that I’ll be peeing 고추장.

I know this isn’t probably the happy-go-lucky-crazy-fun-Bailey-story-time that you guys are used to, but I’ve never lied to you yet about emotional, painful stuff, and this is kind of where my heart is at. I’ll update later this week about Japan and the Pikachu good times so you’re not worried…too much.

My name is Alyssa Bailey, and I’m grieving. Send puppies.

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Baguio, Baby! Reincarnated Dogs and Questionable Meats

So, I’m as bad as a network season finale cliffhanger for that last post, am I right? “I’ll post tomorrow,” I said. It’s only been (counts on fingers)…it’s been more than “tomorrow.” My bad. I have excuses, but most of them are flimsy and since y’all all WHEN YOU GON’ UPDATE, sit your Bellatrix selves down for the rest of the #PhilippinesAdventure.

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You’ll recall that day 1 in the Philippines, was, to use the colloquial, a shit show. I was seriously looking into tickets back to Korea that night, but I didn’t want to face the peanut gallery of “WHY DIDN’T YOU JUST GO TO EL NIDO I TOLD YOU I TOLD YOU I TOLD YOU” and since I am a dumb woman who repeatedly forgets that pride goeth before the shit falleth, I couldn’t have that.

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I asked my new AirBNB host, Nick, for some advice, and what I got was advice AND DINNER, y’all. At a place that was like “The Hangover,” pre-hangover.

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AND HE PAID. Yes, y’all. This dude definitely paid more for my dinner than I paid at his hotel. And it was crazy delicious. He (and his business partner) both recommended that since my first choice place of Sagada was supposed to be raining all week, I should try for Baguio, which was “just 5.5 hours away.”

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My main goal in this unplanned trip to the Philippines was to relax and unwind and just be around green things, which, in a nutshell, was what it was like in Jeju for me just 5 days before, and they assured me that Baguio was like that, and they had contacts there. So I folded myself in half in a tricycle, YES a trike, and went to the bus station. I then proceeded to think “don’t pee don’t pee don’t think about peeing you definitely don’t have to pee, you’ve never peed in your life” for the next 5.5 hours, which I am sure my sister the nurse would not be proud of.

Watching the scenery go by, I saw more and more green, making my heart excited. However, I’ve got to tell you guys that the ratio of Celine Dion songs I heard to hours I spent on that bus was just unreal. I was in love with the guy next to me by the time our ride was finished. Upon arriving to Baguio, I checked into my new AirBNB place and promptly got rained on. But the view, even in the rain, was magnificent.

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Originally, I’d just planned on staying 2-3 days in Baguio, and getting ideas for somewhere else. But, like all places, there were people that changed my mind. My new AirBNB place was hosted by Robert, who was convinced that his dog, Bruno, was reincarnated and could tell bad people (barking) from good people (no barking), and that since Bruno and I got along like gangbusters, I was a good egg. Just look at this fool, who clearly has superpowers.

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Robert fed me, answered questions, and let me just chill and be myself on his balcony for hours. I also met 4 girls who lived in the house–they are from neighboring provinces and are in Baguio for jobs/training/schooling for a temporary time, and they are awesome–they took me to night market, to bars, on walks, and got me to eat new foods, all while chatting and talking about life. They completely made my trip worth it.

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I ended up spending 5 days in Baguio–and I have to say, I never anticipated in my life being crammed into a Toyota 4 Runner taxi with 4 Filipino girls, eating corn kernels that were coated with macaroni cheese dust out of a plastic cup, and rocking out to “Gangster’s Paradise.” Sometimes when you just let the journey take to the weirdest places, it treats you to pretty wonderful experiences.

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Highlights in Baguio:

-The night market–at 11pm they close down one of the main streets in Baguio for a clothing, shoes, and trinkets free for all that is manic and wonderful and super cheap. You should all know that I really restrained myself in not buying you all vintage Nike tees. And then I ate some weird foods that I’m still not sure about.

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-Maryknoll Ecological Sanctuary–aka one of the weirder things I did in Baguio and I…I’ll just show you some pictures. This is touted as a garden, and as I was here to see green things, it seemed logical…To start with, this is how this starts:

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YES. Am I right?! I  swear, if there was just a weed scent, this would be right at home in the Pacific Northwest. This place/garden has a “history of the world” theme, and it did not disappoint with the weirdness. There were dinosaur eggs, mini-caves, and even weirder religious motifs. I wished so bad that RoyGene had been there to livetweet it with me, because it was glorious. Also, there *were* beautiful flowers, but I was too lost in the hilarity of strange.

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-Mines View Park–WE DON’T NEED NO STINKING BADGES to look at a bunch of hills that once had mines that produced valuable stuff. Not the most exciting pit stop, but a cool view indeed.

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-The Mansion–aka where the President goes to get away from the oppressive heat of everywhere else in the Philippines. I know it looks like the gates to Arkham, but I swear this is the summer white house.

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I returned to Korea, a little wiser and with mostly healed cheesy thunder thighs, and missing the one guy who knows me inside and out: Bruno. I mean, seriously, look at this fluff basket. He knows what’s up.

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TL;DR: #PhilippinesAdventure

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So if you go to the Philippines, either 1) plan better then I did or 2) just go to El Nido already and you’ll probably love it. I don’t regret going on my journey of strange, as it’s made for some awesome and horrific stories but I could have saved a lot of hours and several inches of chewed of fingernails if I’d planned better. But the Filipino people made my trip a glorious bag of experiences and for that, I’m pretty damn grateful.

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Next post: How to end your job gracefully without crying, by Not Me, #JapanAdventure and OWLS. Yes, Anderson Cooper, OWLS.

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How Not To Start A Vacation: Philippines Style

You know how people are like, “don’t plan out your vacation! Just let it take you where it will and you’ll discover blah blah blah its the journey, not the destination?”

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Such crap. I mean, like, half crap. At least when it came to my Philippines trip.

*sidebar: this coffee shop I’m at right now has an amazing, killer iced Vanilla latte. Think Sonic cup ice and creamy, glorious vanilla tears of a mermaid–it’s great. However, I was like, YES, I would like a chocolate muffin with it and this muffin tastes (and has the texture of) ground up Cheerios boxes. Not Cheerios. The cardboard box that holds and smells faintly of Cheerios. Like, I wouldn’t feed this to chickens my worst enemies anyone. But I bought it so I am damn well gonna eat it. Stupid pride. Anyways…*

Philippines. I finished up my aforeblogged Jeju trip on Monday, May 18 (happy birthday, older bro! You’re 30! I should shut up now!) by flying back to Daegu in the morning, then showering and discovering I’d been attacked by what looked like angry gnomes…I had countless bug bites, scratches, scrapes, tiny sunburn on the tops of my feet (knew I’d missed somewhere…) and the cheesy maiming of my thunder thighs. Everything hurt in that shower. Did I really want to leave the country again for 6 days? I mean, sure, the $168 round trip flight from Seoul to Clark was too Dutch to pass up and I am an adult female woman person who has pride, power and is a badass mother who don’t take no crap off of nobody so HELL YES we are going to go and…have fun…and whatever. Also, it was my last week of vacation at K.Hogwarts, so I *had* to use it.

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Everyone who knew I was going to the Philippines was all “OH MY GOD EL NIDO EL NIDO PALAWAN (that’s it, right? I have a sneaking suspicious it might be Padawan but that could also be a Star Wars thing) YOU’LL LURVE THE BEACHES” and I’m all, “please look at my skin tone and tell me about how perfect I am for beaches and snorkeling, please.” No. I was going to the MOUNTAINS and having HIKING TIMES and FINDING MYSELF like that lady from Oprah…stuff.

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So I get to Seoul, get on the flight, and immediately, start to have a weird feeling about the trip. Not enough to break aviation law, but I did have a “which sickness gets me off of here without thousands in fines” thought and I will confess to thinking about throwing nuts at a steward but I did not because I am not a chaebol lady pre-apology. I shrugged it off and said to myself “IT WILL BE AN ADVENTURE,” confirm texted my AirBNB host about the car picking me up, and then departed from Korea.

I landed to…nothing. Wait, that’s not entirely correct. I landed, went through customs, whole shebang, got the stamp, got my bag searched, walked out the doors to…nothing. No sign for the car I had previously arranged. No person saying any version of my name, mangled or otherwise. Just looking at about 200 Filipino people looking at me as they were sitting, and waiting, for other people that were NOT me in the 84 degree heat at 11:22pm at night.

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I could not figure out what brand of cross-cultural muckup I had walked into here. I frantically tried to connect to the semi-shady free wifi spots at this tiny, useless airport (that $168 ticket price tag is starting to make sense, isn’t it?) to check my AirBNB app for something, anything from my host to discover why my already exhausted, possibly hungover, bug-bitten, sunburned, cheesy maimed ass was alone in a new country and up shit creek. To add insult to these various injuries, I was an IDIOT and forgot my foreign credit cards. I know. I blame it on the Jeju magic; I’d still been in Korea in Jeju, so I was able to use my Daegu bank cards and Korean ATMS (my Korean cards wouldn’t work here. I checked). I was now in a foreign country with just under $404 in Philippines pesos FOR THE ENTIRE 6 days.

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I used 400 ($9) of my precious pesos to buy a SIM card to contact the AirBNB host, since she’d given me her number to call her in the event of…anything. Nothing like hearing the message “this call cannot be completed as the receiver is either out of service or this number has been disconnected” to make your heart sink. I hadn’t eaten in almost 9 hours, and it was just past midnight and hot and dark and I was, to be frank, scared. Yeah, I was. I was alone, and knew no one in this country. I don’t want to lie to you guys. I wasn’t totally in panic mode, but I’ve seen “Taken” and I couldn’t go back into the main airport without a ticket (which I wouldn’t have for 6 more days) and I was rapidly approaching some unattractive tears. I had no credit card to get any more money, I had no sleep options (this airport is 15 minutes from anywhere), and I was feeling really dumb about the whole trip.

I frantically tried to book different places on AirBNB, since I could use my credit card number online to pay, but since it was past midnight, I couldn’t book for the night I was currently living (18th/19th), but rather the next night (19th/20th). I still hadn’t cried by this point, but this wasn’t a moment of pride for me. In desperation, I posted an SOS on Facebook, which prompted a text from my best friend saying “you know your mom is going to freak out, right?” Yeah, I did. But it felt like a legitimate post to throw up there since I was literally sitting against a wall in a strange airport in a strange land without any plan other than “don’t get kidnapped or robbed or sold into slavery.”

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At this point, a guy wearing an official-ish badge walked up to me and asked in a not-unkind way, “what are you doing?” By now, I’d been pacing around with a constipated look on my face for about 2 hours. It was just shy of 1am and as I blurted out my story, he said he knew of a close hotel. I informed him that I didn’t have much money, which probably was mostly sold by the fact that I only had a small backpack on and smelled like anxiety. He said his job was “taxi chief” and that he knew of a good, cheap place that was safe, including “guard have gun,” which, after living in Korea for so long…is kind of unsettling…but whatever. I’d already created a frightening backstory for a lot of the guys walking around the airport, so the word SAFE SAFE SAFE was circling my head like little Disney birds. He bundled me into a cab (500 pesos) and told me the hotel would probably be about 1200 pesos.

It is possible that in the dark of the cab, to the dulcet tones of 1980s Whitney, that I maybe shed a few tears of thanks and frustration but I hid it real real well under all the makeup I was not wearing. But you can’t prove that.

10 minutes later, upon arriving at a hotel that looked not unlike the motel/gas station from the movie “Cars,” I paid 1400 pesos (you win some, you lose some) and collapsed in twin bosoms of air conditioning and fast, fast wifi and actually, did, cry for about 30 solid seconds. I opened my messages to read replies and tips from friends from all over the world, plus family who was praying for me and a message from a college friend who hooked me up with names and numbers of her dad’s missions contacts in the Philippines. It was almost 2am in Angeles, and I was exhausted in every sense of the word. Despite the fact I was 88% sure there was a lipstick cam in the ceiling (it just had that vibe), I stripped down to my underwear and tried not to think about the sheets as I passed out.

I woke up 7 hours later to some emails from AirBNB customer service (awesome, awesome people) and messages from more people (yet, never ever heard from my original AirBNB host by email, messenger or phone). AirBNB hooked me up with some credits and helped me book a place that night. I spent the rest of the morning lazing about in the air conditioning and watching some form of an “Underworld” movie before deciding to check out and walk to my new place. But since this is getting long, I’ll save the rest of the story for tomorrow–including tips on how not to pee yourself on a 5.5 hour bus ride!

TL;DR First night in the Philippines:

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