Monthly Archives: July 2017

Melaka, Malaysia–Anni-visa-ry Run!

Malacca City (aka Melaka)

Sometimes it’s hard to believe that Ryan and I have spent most of our marriage living abroad.  The desire to continue to see more places and do more things (along with complicated visa restrictions) has led us to adopt a nomadic lifestyle which for the most part we truly enjoy, even if it means moving to a new country every two to three months.  It’s therefore not too surprising that we always seem to be in transit during our anniversary.  This year was no exception.  When July 11th rolled around, we found ourselves needing to do a short visa run, so Ryan took me to Melaka (also spelled Malacca).  Located on the peninsular west coast of Malaysia, Melaka is a city with a population of nearly 900,000 people.  It was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008 and many areas have a colonial feel, evident by some of the Portuguese and Dutch architecture.  This was especially noticeable in the Red (or Dutch) Square which was one of my favorite parts of the city.


Christ Church

We stayed near the infamous Jonker Walk which is considered the Chinatown street of the city.  Every weekend there is a night market here offering a variety of interesting food, such as durian cendol and fried carrot cake.  While cendol is a sweet iced dessert–similar to shaved ice, albeit with some rather unusual toppings–we quickly discovered that fried carrot cake is nothing like its name suggests.  I was expecting a truly delicious dessert and instead found myself puzzling over the surprising texture and odd mixture of flavors.  Even after eating it, I really didn’t have a clue what it was made of.  Only later did we discover that “fried carrot cake” consists of stir fried cubes of radish cake.  It was interesting and worth trying, but not something I’d likely order again.

Cendol with green rice flour jelly and sweetened red azuki beans

Jonker Street Night Market

Fried Carrot Cake

From our conveniently located accommodations, many of Melaka’s main sights were easily accessible by foot and we made it a point to walk to every attraction we visited.  These included the nearby Red (or Dutch) Square, St. Paul’s Church, and the Cheng Hoon Teng Temple, which is apparently the oldest functioning temple in Malaysia.  We also enjoyed a river cruise along the Malacca River and took in the view of the city from the Taming Sari Tower.  It was like going up in Seattle’s Space Needle except that it was constantly turning as it made its way up to the highest point and then back down to the ground again.

St. Paul’s Church

Cheng Hoon Teng

Ryan, taking in the view

Malaysia is a wonderfully diverse country with many ethnic groups, the three most predominant groups being Malay/Bumiputera, Chinese, and Indian.  As can be expected, the food scene reflects this unique combination of cultures.  While were were in Melaka, I had some of the best Indian food I’ve ever had.  One of my best meals consisted of tandoori chicken, butter naan, and a mango lassi from Restoran Pak Putra.  This restaurant appeared to be a hotspot for both locals and tourists.  It was so busy they set up additional seating in-between parked cars in front of the restaurant and the food was absolutely delicious!  We went there twice while we were in Melaka and we were happy with both visits.

Tandoori chicken

I was also a big fan of the coconut shakes.  Although the Klebang Original Coconut Shake establishment was one of the few places we went to that wasn’t easily accessibly by foot, Ryan had read that they would be worth going somewhat out of our way to try, so we hired a taxi to drive us.  We were not disappointed once we got there.  I don’t know what made these shakes so good, but they were truly amazing!  Not only did we consume 2 shakes each, but we returned for a second round a few days later.

The Klebang Original Coconut Shake establishment

It may not look like much, but it was scrumptious!

Another exception to our foot explorations while we were in Melaka was the day we visited the Melaka Zoo via taxi, although we did a good deal of walking once we got there.  There were plenty of animals to see and they appeared to be well taken care of.  I got an unusually good look at some of the more exotic animals, including some of the big cats and the Bornean Gibbon, which looked like Sasquatch as it was walking towards us.  Unlike Sasquatch, it was surprisingly friendly!

Pretty kitty

The Bornean Gibbon

He was a friendly and curious fella.

Oddly, my favorite wildlife sightings were not at the zoo.  Rather, we spotted them frequently as we strolled along the Malacca River, which runs through the city.  At first we thought they were Komodo dragons, but we later discovered they are called Asian water monitors and are among the largest lizards in the world.  They can grow to be more than six feet tall!  A common mature weight can be about forty-three pounds, but some can be over one-hundred ten pounds.  These guys were huge and they were everywhere.  I have to admit that they were one of my very favorite things about Melaka.

Asian water monitor chilling out on the bank of the Malacca River

Asian water monitor swimming in the Malacca River

Of course my very favorite thing about Melaka was being there with my husband, celebrating our third anniversary.  We enjoyed a nice dinner at the Sirocco Restaurant located in the nearby Holiday Inn.  We hadn’t made a reservation, but once our waiter learned that we were celebrating our anniversary, he decorated our table and brought out a complimentary dessert.  He even volunteered to take photos throughout dinner.  It was great service, great food, and a wonderful occasion.  Afterwards we took a romantic stroll along the Malacca River Walk.  Thank you so much, Ryan Vredenburg, for 3 exciting years of marriage!  I can’t wait to see where our adventure is going to lead us next.

The best table in the house

Fancy cheesecake

Malacca River Walk at night


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Danang, Vietnam–Teacher Amanda

At long last, I’ve gotten a job.  Ryan is thrilled to see his dream of having a sugar mama become more of a reality, although I’ll have to put in more hours once I get used to everything to really make that true.  I’ve been teaching online with VIPKID for over two months and things are going well.

For the first time in nearly three years, I’m back to a more traditional routine.  A typical day begins with me waking up around 8:30am.  I walk up and down the four flights of stairs in our building eight times (trying to ignore the already radiating Vietnam heat).  Then I take a shower and get to work in my messy and cluttered work space.  Ryan has graciously allowed me to confiscate the entire kitchen table.

The schedule for VIPKID is extremely flexible which was one of the things that drew me to the company in the first place.  I teach 7 half-hour classes 5 nights a week (Thursday through Monday) from 5pm to 9pm (Danang time).  This is one hour behind Bejing time.  The classes are one-on-one with adorable Chinese students usually ranging in age from 5-12 years old.

Because I’m a new teacher (and a major perfectionist), it still takes me a ludicrous amount of time to prepare for each class.  I take the morning to log into each class and go through the 25-30 slides (45-50 slides for assessments), taking notes as needed.  A lot of the students are very young with a very limited English vocabulary and so I have to grade my language, cutting out any unnecessary words while still speaking in complete and correct sentences using language the students will understand.  This was harder to get used to than I originally expected it to be and I practiced A LOT in preparation for the job interview, which involved teaching 1-2 mock classes after the initial interview.

VIPKID is a really fun company to work for and teachers are encouraged to use a lot of props and creativity to make the classes more engaging for the students.  This is where I excel.  I may not be an especially efficient person, but I know how to do fun!  I use stickers and music and sometimes even dancing to reward the kids for doing a good job and to keep them engaged and focused throughout lesson.

It seems to be working.  I currently have a perfect parent feedback rating (all five apples!) and more than half of my students are recurring students.  Some of my favorites are Jake (age 7), Rose (age 5), and Liangyi (age 5).  I always smile when I see these cuties on my calendar.

So, back to the typical day.  After I arrange and organize my props for each class, Ryan and I head to lunch and when we’re finished eating we sometimes swing by a copy store on the way home.  I’ve found that with some of my younger, lower-level students it helps to make customized flash cards to help them learn the new vocabulary.  Sometimes, if they learn 1-2 new words a lesson it means we’ve done good.

I have a few hours to kill in the afternoon doing whatever I want.  Sometimes I go to the beach or play a game of Settlers or work on one of my books (not much happening there, unfortunately).  Around 4:45pm I eat a hard-boiled egg, brush my teeth, and change into my orange t-shirt.  This is as much of a uniform as VIPKID has.  Then I log into my first class and wait for 5pm.

I’m particularly proud of this prop. It’s come in handy!

When the student logs in, I turn on my camera and say “Hello!  My name is Teacher Amanda.  What’s your name?”  I almost always get a response, although sometimes the kids have to be encouraged to speak by supporting parents (especially for new students).  I haven’t had one run and hide from me yet, although I’ve heard stories of this happening from other teachers.  I HAVE had one parent sit their child in the chair in front of the computer and literally pick up her hand to make her wave at me (she wasn’t having any of it).  Most of the kids however, do seem to want to be there and I try to help them enjoy their lesson as much as possible.  As far as I’m concerned, there are worse ways to make some money.  Thank you VIPKID for this great opportunity!


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