Thursday, December 12, 2013

I'm still alive down under!

Hello World! I realize this latest blog post comes almost exactly 2 years to the day I last posted, and many apologies for having sorta dropped off the face of the poker and blogging world. I just wanted to say that I am indeed alive and definitely enjoying my time in Australia to the absolute fullest these days. Boy, 2 years, there really is so much to catch up on. For this post, I'd like to focus on highlights of my travels and life stuff (yawn?) The next post that I'll write shortly will focus on the poker side of things, including a deep run I made at the recent APT Sydney main event, which I took 11th in. Guess I can still play some cards :)

The hugest change/transition for me has been my semi-retirement from poker. As many of you poker followers may have noticed (or not), azntracker is no longer found at the tables on PokerStars. In fact, I've lurked on the PS lobby at times, and it seems like the games I used to play are pretty much dead. Gone. Sure there are hypers going all the time, but I know I chose the absolute best time to stop playing when I did and move on, which is just about as amazing timing as when I first got into it. I reached that turning point last year, both financially and mentally, where poker was no longer the most important thing in my life. And I am so happy for that.

Since my retirement, I've decided to chase my dreams of working with the future adults of this world...I'm now a graduate student pursuing my master of teaching degree, specifically in primary school! I know. Up until 4 days ago, I have known exactly 0 people that have had a passion in both poker AND teaching. This has been such a change for me, and since meeting her, I realized just how incredible and unique my ride has been. I have a renewed sense of appreciation for where poker has taken my life and allowed me freedom to usher in the next phase of my life - contributing and enriching children's lives instead of endlessly shoving on people's blinds... So I thank you for the renewed inspiration to write, Miss L.

So what's been happening since 2011, tough question. The biggest trip I've ever taken comes to mind, and I was able to pull this thing off successfully at the beginning of this year. Remember that this is a mixed poker and travel blog so I'd love to briefly mention that trip! After a pretty meh end to a relationship I had here, I was excited and ready to get out and travel for a little while before college started up. After celebrating New Year's at the beach near Sydney, I flew to New Delhi to meet an American classmate I hadn't seen in ages. We roamed around the "Golden Triangle" part of India (New Delhi-Jaipur-Agra) and I was able to see some of the most incredible sights and horrific living conditions alike. While I would recommend India to just about everybody (I'd love to go back again), no amount of preparation will ready you for what you'll see, hear, taste and smell. The crowded and dirty streets will smack you in the face and the smells will burn and linger for hours. The Taj Mahal is the most beautiful thing my eyes have ever seen, and the daily life and conditions are the most brutal and sad things I have experienced. If you are not humbled after passing through here, I have no words. And you will get Delhi Belly... google it :)

From India, I went to an even poorer place according to GDP stats and whatnot: Nepal. Beautiful mountain scenery, the most serene canoe on a gorgeous lake with the Himalayas towering above, and hiking pretty terraced hills and landscapes - that is what Nepal is to me. And some of the friendliest people too! I randomly met someone in a stopover in China, who was flying to Kathmandu, and she invited me to stay at her family's house in the city. Being the optimistic/naive person that I am, I actually hit her up when I arrived, and lo and behold, I spent 3 nights at her family's house in Kathmandu! Talk about getting a taste of the real life there. This was definitely in contrast with the people I met in India, night and day.

After Nepal, I had a day and night to transit in Doha, located in Qatar, the richest country in the world by GDP/capita (100K per capita, the US is ~50k by comparison). Wanting to check out the site of the 2022 World Cup (not really), I got my first taste of the Middle East. It was a pretty unique day spent under the desert sun, exploring the Souqs (markets with literally everything you can think of, even hunting falcons) and walking by random parked orange Lamborghinis in a country swimming with oil money. Following my little time in the oasis, I was off to Osaka for some truly contrasting experiences as you can imagine. Went out for a little bit there with friends before separating and exploring Nagasaki, Hiroshima, Kyoto and Nara on my own. I'd never been to Japan before and was told that I'd love the weirdness, amazing Jap food and pretty sights. And it certainly did not disappoint. Some of those temples in Kyoto are out of this world beautiful and the deer in Nara certainly were entertaining. I spent another few nights in Tokyo after I rejoined my friends before flying off to the next destination with my friend.

We went to explore Seoul, South Korea and the DMZ border with North Korea. That was a pretty awesome experience, and I finally heard the American accent again since the American military is stationed there.  After a bunch of Korean food, we were off to Shanghai for a similar 5 day stay and exploration. If you've ever been to China, especially the large cities, you would discover that it is a wildly contrasting place. Just across from the bustling metropolis with towering mega-scrapers and an Apple Store you need to see to believe, lies traditional China in terms of old run down buildings, street markets and general dirtiness. It's definitely the crown jewel mega city of China and I'd recommend anyone to visit. Unless of course you were choosing between it and...

Hong Kong, my next destination. As always, I like to call HK my 3rd home, as I have tons of family here to visit and it is a wonderful metropolis where I can use and practice my Cantonese. I know the city very well and try to make this a yearly destination. After my usual hangouts with friends and family, my final stop on the way back to Sydney was Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I was by myself once again so I just went around the touristy places, including the Petronas Towers. Movie tickets, even at the posh theaters were only US$4! And I finally got my first taste of an Asian massage after much internal debate... lots of "FOMO" "YOLO" and "When in rome" thoughts finally persuaded me. No, I did not opt for the ending, though it was proffered by the masseuse.

After 7 long weeks, I was back to Sydney for the start of my new phase of life, as a graduate student. It initially felt so strange to be a student again; it had been 5 years since I last stepped into a classroom. But because of my looks (young), I fit right in and have since made some very close friends whom I am very fond of. A few months ago, I was in a month-long "prac," which is a placement in an elementary school where I would take over the classroom for lessons! The class assigned to me was Kindergarten, an age group I was a bit wary of. Aren't they a bunch of snot-eating babies I thought?? But upon meeting them, very rarely (if ever before) had I felt such love from so many tiny cute human beings. I really died. It seemed like my heart melted every time I came in, even if I was stressed about doing my lessons and being observed. I can't express how much I think I will enjoy teaching. It's almost more of becoming a role model for the children and setting good practices for them to emulate, and I cannot wait to be that for them. Certainly beats winning a meaningless flip in a random $200 SNG hahaha.

The first year just finished and I am excited to be embarking on yet another adventure in only a week. I'm getting my scuba certification this weekend, so I'm extremely stoked to be scuba diving in Western Australia along with a 2 week roadtrip up and down the coast. From there, it's onto Kuala Lumpur again for a couple days before a long stay in HK. I may be visiting Myanmar and/or Taiwan from there since they are so close, not sure yet.

Stay tuned for my next post on more poker specific stuff, including my deep run in the APT Sydney a few days ago. There were some interesting hands there and it was certainly a fun splash back into live poker.

Cheers and thanks for reading :)


jairo jimenez said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jairo jimenez said...

andrew going supernova elite 2014?

Andrew Li said...

nah most likely not!

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