Monthly Archives: October 2013

Gaedo (Gae Island)

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It’s already been over a month since we took the trek to Gaedo on September 28th!

We are loving living just a quick boat ride away from so many gorgeous islands. Yeosu, our home city, is full of islands to visit just a hop skip, and a jump away. If we haven’t been hiking/camping we have been exploring islands. Gaedo marks our 8th island we have visited since moving to South Korea in April.

It rained most of our day trip to Gaedo, but we didn’t let it rain on our parade.

It was the island of cows. Seriously though. It was.  We trekked through trails overgrown fields up and around three hill climbs. The views of the sea littered with even more islands was completely stunning, but the cows were everywhere. I felt like we were back in Wisconsin. Lisa and I wouldn’t make eye contact with the cows as we passed them.  Just kept our eyes on the prize of the trail lost somewhere under the tall weeds. I am pretty sure these massive creatures of muscle were tied to the ground by a rope…although I am not entirely sure. What’s to say with a pull of their massive tree trunk legs they couldn’t snap the rope and charge at us? Tom trekked through ahead not even phased by the bulls who kept letting out what sounded like a cry-for-help-kinda-moo. Here are some of my favorite pictures from the day we spent on Gaedo. A beautiful little, quaint, and quiet island somewhere in the Sea off of Yeosu, South Korea. Tom has documented the trip extensively here for those who may want to venture there yourself. It’s spectacular. You should.

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Our trail.

A trail that once was.

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We made it through the cow invested field.

We made it through the cow infested field.

Lisa in the weeds.

Lisa in the weeds.

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Snuck in a picture with this guy. ;P

Snuck in a picture with this guy. ;P

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Back on flat ground

Back on flat ground

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Linking up with Bonnie @ A Compass Rose

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Being exactly where you are.

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My best moments of “thinking” come in the shower.

I realized this last week…when I was running. When I work out I am always thinking about everything that I need to get done. I’m jealous of those of you who see working out as a time of stress relief. This is what happens in my head when I work out:

“OK, I need to wash the dishes when I get home, make cookies, and shower. What will I teach tomorrow? My kids better listen. Tomorrow is Tuesday… will we be going out for dinner? Where will Tom want to eat? What’s our plan for the weekend? How are my sisters doing. Gosh, they are getting big. Only 67 days until I see them and get to HUG them. Will they be taller than me? Man that’s a long plane ride home. I wonder what book I will want to read on the plane. This past weekend was incredible. Korea is gorgeous.” (looking at the ocean or the mountains) and then I let out a scream (after my second time of almost getting hit by a car.)

…but when I am in the shower. All is silent except for the rushing sound of the water going over my ears. It’s my time. It’s the time during the day where I get to reflect, pray, think. There is no music blaring, I am not talking, No kids screaming. It’s still. The steam fills our ridiculously tiny Korean bathroom, and it’s still silent.

When I am laying in bed at night-  I am thinking about the next day.

When I am working out- My mind gets lost in my task list.

First thing in the morning- my brain is sifting through things I need to remember for the day.

– I tend to worry a lot, and it’s the time in the shower I feel God saying to me “Just. Slow. Down.”

Be right where you are. Right now. Just breathe.

I want to be the girl who listens, and not just listens, but listens well. The girl who can push back the worry or all the thoughts consuming my brain space, and just LISTEN. I always take notice of the people who listen well. Who give me their undivided attention. Responding appropriately with valuable input. I remember the teachers who went the extra mile, the friends who make the effort, and the people who just simply listen with hearts ready to receive.

I want to be that for others.

I want to be right where I am. Right now. 120%

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10 Stunningly Beautiful Korean Hikes

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Tom and I hike A LOT. Many weekends in Korea have been spent hiking and we can’t think of a better way to see Korea then when you hike. We absolutely have grown to love it since moving to Korea seven months ago. I have mentioned a few of the hikes we have done. Like Wolchusan and the Bijindo Island hike, but for the most part I’ve left it up to my husband Tom to do most of the hiking documentation in his sweet blog. We have now accomplished six of Korea’s National Parks, and countless more smaller ones in our area. Inspired by our incredible friends, Tom and I hope to make it to all 16 National Parks in Korea. Right now, we usually pick a “loop” route (if the park has it) and we always make sure to summit the highest few peaks in each park. Once we have conquered all sweet 16 we will go back and do other trails we didn’t make it to the first time.

Oh man, and the leaves are changing now. Talk about beautiful.  Next weekend, we have plans to hike another mountain named Naejangsan. It’s apparently the PEAK weekend to see the leaves changing colors and the best place in Korea to view the fall colors. I’m such a summer gal at heart, but fall is tugging at my heart strings. Sweaters, cooler air, gorgeous leaves, and coffee. Korea, your beauty is shocking, and you’ve completely stolen pieces of my heart. From our arrival last spring when the cherry blossoms were just starting to bloom, combating summer heat while frolicking in your sea, and now the absolute natural beauty of fall. You’ve got me hook, line, and sinker, Korea.

I have picked my 10 favorite pictures of our hikes thus far in Korea. Most of the photo credit goes to Tom, but I am his wife so I get to use steal them as I please :p

Deogyusan National Park:

Jeju Island Olle Trails:

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Gae Island (Gaedo):

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Jirisan National Park:

Bijin Island (Bijindo):

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Hallasan National Park:

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Woraksan National Park- (The completion of 10 peaks in 3 days):

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Hwahdo (Hwah island):

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Songnisan National Park:

Gubongsan (The view of some of our city-Yeosu):

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Do you like hiking?

I don’t know if it’s the beauty, the silence of nature, the one foot in front of the other, or the accomplishment of getting to the top that I love more.

Korean food through the eyes of this American expat.

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I haven’t mentioned much about the food in Korea. The truth is: I LOVE Korea, but I struggle with the food. It isn’t Korea’s fault. They dig lots of spicy grub, chili paste, and fish (often raw plain sliced fish.)

and I am just a girl who doesn’t dig that stuff. I’ve also never been a big meat eater which has proven to be a bit of an issue living in Korea.

When I eat something spicy my mouth feels on fire. It hurts. The smell of raw fish makes my stomach turn…and chili paste is a staple ingredient in cooking here. Oh, and the garlic. It melts off the skin of those who eat, and love it in Korea. If you have lived here awhile- you know exactly what I mean.

I so desperately wish I could love the food like my husband does. He craves Korean food. I can’t even imagine what that feels like. I’m over here like #PassTheCheesePlease and #WhereMySaladBeAt?

I love Greek food, I CRAVE Italian food, I enjoy some delicious Mexican food, and yup. I’ll admit it. I love me some classic American food. Indian food?  You bet! I can’t get enough. Why, oh why, can’t I just love Korean food?

Here’s what a typical school lunch looks like in Korea. As a matter of fact this was my lunch today:

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I’d like to add that there was a spicy fish soup that came on the side that I couldn’t squeeze into this picture. So there was that.

…it isn’t  all bad. I have found some things in Korea that I do like, and I should also add most foreigners that I have met really love Korean food.  I’ll first explain the Hodok that is pictured above, and then I will show you 5 foods that I do like in Korea!

A new discovery! It’s sorta like a flat pancake with honey/brown sugar inside.

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1. Mandu:

If I had to explain… I would say it’s a cousin to the American “pot sticker.” Or maybe you call it a dumpling? Basically it’s a dough outside with meat/veggies inside. You can get all sorts of variety, but I stick to plain jane meat/veggie kind.

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2. Waffles:

It’s usually sold as a “street food” or sometimes in a coffee shop. I love them.

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3. Samgyetang:

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It’s fresh chicken soup. With an entire  mini chicken in it. It’s not spicy, and it doesn’t have garlic! The inside is stuffed with a little rice, green onions, and topped with just a bit of egg.

4. Japchae

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This doesn’t have seafood, chili paste, or a lot of garlic!!! Think stir fry. It has noodles made from sweet potatoes, sliced veggies, a pinch of mushrooms, and sometimes has slices of beef. They often times season it with soy sauce and/or sugar!

5. Pajeon:

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Also a pancake like texture. It is made mostly from flour, egg, and green onions. I like the one with sweet potato mixed in.

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Who knows, maybe by the time we leave Korea I will be a kimchi (fermented cabbage with chili paste) loving, spicy food craving, American kinda girl?

Dang. Odds are that I probably will never love that kind of food.

– I’ll just keep trying it with a smile on my face. (While my eyeballs feel like they are popping out of their sockets, and my tongue feels on fire.)

Do you enjoy spicy food?! I am still trying to understand what it is about spicy food that people love/crave.  I want to taste my food…not taste fire!!!

I’ll keep it cool over here :p

-elicia

“Home is whenever I am with you”

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Almost 7 months ago (already) I boarded the plane with my husband at my side. To move across the world. Literally.

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We said our goodbyes,and I sobbed the entire shuttle ride to the airport. I had my best friend with me and I was so excited to embark on a new adventure, but why was I so darn sad when it came time to say goodbye?

Saying goodbye to my sisters, and thinking how much I would miss out on their lives while we were gone hit home (they are 22, 9, and 7!)…and geez louise. Not to mention Tom’s family. Who had become like my own family long before I married Tom. I love them to pieces. I think it’ s because up until that point we had been so busy getting ready for the big move that I honestly didn’t have time to process, and dwell on how much I would miss them. It felt right in my heart, but why did my heart feel SO sad when it came time for goodbyes?

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I look back at the pictures when we first got to Korea (7 months ago) and I think about how much we have grown since that time.

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The morning we left for Korea my mom came into our hotel room, and gave me a much needed pep talk.

She said a lot of things to me with teary eyes, but basically it was this:

“You will always have a place to come back to.”

“Tom is where your home is now.”

and

” That we always can come back when we need help, advice, or a place to feel the love of your family.”

It’s like she just knew. She knew I needed to hear that. Moms are real good at that.  I wasn’t doubting the decision to move to Korea, but I just needed a little bit of reassurance that I hadn’t lost my marbles. Leaving comfort is hard, but man am I ever counting my blessings here. There’s too many to blessings to count. I know this though: I’ve never regretted traveling. It’s like each time I travel I am displaced from beneath the place I call comfort…and I LOVE it. I absolutely freaking love it.

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If money wasn’t an issue. I’d travel the entire world. I can’t even pick my top 5 places. I’d make stops back in Wisconsin/Minnesota to squeeze my loved ones, kiss my baby sisters on their cheeks, drink wine with my sister in laws, laugh, hang out, catch up, and talk with everyone that I love.

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My home is wherever I am with Tom,but I will always have pieces of my heart in Wisconsin/Minnesota.

Where would you go if you could travel anywhere?

Surfing in Indonesia? African Safari? Killer Whale watching in South America? The Great Wall of China?

Watching the sunset in Fiji? Climbing in the Himalaya’s?

Fijian village dancers.

Fijian village dancers.

How do you pick when there are so many places to see? Things to do? Do you just close your eyes, and point your finger, and then spin the globe?

Dear traveling: You’re way cooler than sliced bread.

…and moms advice is usually right- just in case you haven’t figured that out yet  😉

Life in Korea. It’s rad.

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I’m not sure when walking past a restaurant with this:

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OR this:

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became normal life to us in Korea.

It’s become our life. Yeosu is a port city. So one thing it’s known for is it’s fresh seafood. Many restaurants have tanks for live fish or other unknown sea creatures that they cook on the spot if you order it.

When did living 3 miles from the beach/ocean become our “normal?”

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When did all of the amazing hiking/camping we have done just become a normal weekend activity?

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This is my second time ever that I am breaking my "no selfie rule" but it's a thing in Korea...so I am rollin with that! Camping in September.

This is my second time ever that I am breaking my “no selfie rule” but it’s a thing in Korea…so I am rollin with that! Camping in September.

Korean hikin' photo bombing!

Korean hikin’ photo bombing. This describes the crazy adventure we are on- so perfectly. If a picture could tell a story 🙂

When did I become so incredibly fascinated with the changing colors of the leaves?

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How was it that God blessed me incredibly with a husband I love more than I ever thought I could love a human?

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So, when does something become normal? What is normal?!

Whatever it is. Please, Korea keep being our normal. I can’t get enough of these amazing adventures we are on.

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Why I live for last minute trips- Jinju Lantern Festival

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Last week Tom and I scored four days off from work!

We had planned to hike and camp three National Parks while making a summit on 10 total mountain peaks on Thursday/Friday/Saturday (October 3-5th) of our long weekend.

We had both had pretty busy starts to our short week of work. It was over my daily coffee/break time on Wednesday with my Korean coworkers that something had caught my attention. My coteacher mentioned and begun to frantically show me pictures of the Jinju Lantern Festival.

…and it looked seriously AWESOME.

I got busy teaching classes and distracted with lesson planning. When 4pm hit I shot Tom a text prying to see if maybe he was interested in making a quick stop at the Lantern Festival on a whim before our big hiking excursion.

We weren’t packed for our big weekend of hiking/camping. We didn’t really know where in the city of Jinju the festival would take place. We didn’t know how to get there, how far it would be, where we would stay, or what time the festival ended. With a bit of teamwork speed packing, the help of my coteacher to translate festival info, and lots of excitment…we hit the road! We found out it was just a quick hour and a half car drive away from Yeosu. We arrived around 9pm in the city of Jinju. Checked into a cheap motel, and walked a few blocks to the Namgang river.

…and then I proceeded to walk around like a kid in a candy store for the next 2 hours… Stopping my kid in a candy store state to snap photos like a madwoman.

The Jinju Lantern Festival originates from the lantern lighting used during the Japanese Invasion in Korea that took place in 1592. The lanterns were used as precaution to try and prevent Japanese troops from crossing through the river. The festival takes place on Namgang river in Jinju, South Korea.

It was my absolute favorite festival we have been to in Korea. We had the perfect fall weather. The lights were so beautiful. We walked around the Jinju temple, both sides of the river, and stopped to snack on delicious Korean street food. We also had fun naming the countries that some of the lanterns displayed. The U.S was represented by a Statue of Liberty lantern!

I love last minute trips. For the spontaneity. The excitment. The element of surprise. The anything-can-happen vibes.

How could you not love a festival of lanterns?

Jinju Lantern Festival at a glance:

Putting our wishes on the wishing wall!

Putting our wishes on the wishing wall!

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Getting ready for our close up :)

Getting ready for our close up 🙂

Traditional Korean clothing.

Traditional Korean clothing

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These lanterns were created by students.

These lanterns were created by students.

View from the bridge overlooking the river

View from the bridge overlooking the river.

Exploring the Jinju temple
Exploring the Jinju temple

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The citizens of Jinju were able to purchase these lanterns in advance and write their wishes on the lanterns in the tunnel. There are over 30,000 of them!

The citizens of Jinju were able to purchase these lanterns in advance and write their wishes on the lanterns in the tunnel. There are over 30,000 of them!

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Each festival in Korea had the opportunity to have a lantern representing their city's specific festival

Each festival that takes place in Korea had the opportunity to have a lantern representing their city’s specific festival.

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Taking a break with some delicious street food snacks :)

Taking a break with some delicious street food snacks 🙂

Getting ready to release our "wish" lantern into the water!!!

Getting ready to release our “wish” lantern into the water!!!

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My favorite picture...

My favorite picture…

Making a difference.

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It’s been over 2 months since I last did a post on teaching, but today as I was browsing through my students notebook I stumbled upon this:

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“Full of dreams and full of hopes. I wish to convey my love to you”

I thought it was perfectly imperfect. I see TONS of wrongly written (or out of context) English on buildings/signs/shirts and school folders, but for a distinct reason this one hit home. I read it twice and let it sink in before I set the folder back into the hands of my adorable 4th grader who goes by the English name of “Kevin.”

It hit home, because one of the biggest struggles that I face teaching English in Korea is the communication barrier. Especially when it comes to discipline OR when a child is upset/frustrated. I felt like that quote was EXACTLY what I needed to hear today. It’s my students. It’s what they want to say to me… and I can almost hear them saying those words if only they knew how to speak them to me.

I look back on my previous teachers from when I was a kiddo. I can STILL name every single teacher I had starting with kindergarten. I can also still remember times when they made me feel insecure or times they built me up/ supported me.  No matter where you are or what you are doing you are a teacher. Someone is learning from you.

From the 4 weeks I taught of English summer camp this past July/August:

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To the students in my after school classes:

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The kids at my Friday “country” school:

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To even those that I now teach in my online distance learning classes (they live on remote islands):

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I can almost hear it…if they could only say it to me:

“I am full of dreams and full of hopes. I wish to convey my love to you.”

…every hug, every positive word, every smile. The most important things that I need to communicate to my students go far beyond what words could even clarify.

Be the difference today for one person.

The Grass Isn’t Always Greener…

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We have all heard the saying “The grass isn’t always greener on the other side”, or maybe you read the story as a child of The Three Bill Goats Gruff where the three billy goats had no food left where they were so they had to cross a bridge and try to outwit the troll who lived underneath. Did you ever wonder if there was food on their side of the bridge? As a kid I didn’t think twice about it.

Now though, as a teacher picking out which books to read to my students…I can’t help but over analyze every detail of a simple children’s story.

I’ve been reading a lot of articles lately, and I can’t help but wonder why do we as humans always want more? Why do we look at others’ lives and decide that we want what they have? I am all about setting goals, pursuing dreams, and reaching for the stars. I love cheesy love movies, quotes, and songs, but I can’t help but wonder why we constantly compare our lives to those around us. As a child, I was taught to appreciate what I had, but why does society seem to encourage the “you can get whatever you want if you work hard enough for it” attitude? What if “whatever you want” isn’t going to make you happy? What if sometimes what you need is exactly what you already have? Now, I am not saying to abandon your goals, dreams, and disregard holding yourself to the highest of standards. I believe we should always be working towards our goals/desires/dreams. I am teaching and living in South Korea with my awesome husband. There is nothing I want to do beyond that dream right now. Yet, sometimes I wonder what it would be like if we lived in Thailand or taught in Italy? I browse tons of amazing travel blogs, and wonder “what if?”

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As humans we avoid pain and we seek pleasure. We are taught to be independent go-getters and to make a name for ourselves. Whoever raised you,I believe,does the best to instill independence and strength, but not arrogance. We are bombarded by media telling us who to be and how to act. We are lured by the fact that life will be better when this happens, when I get this car….and then this house… OR when I travel here/then here/then there. There comes a point when you spread your wings to fly with the chance that you might fail miserably. Why are we so scared of the fall when the best lessons learned are those when we pick ourselves up, and try again?

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It’s just five simple words, but why don’t we ever just listen to it?

The.Grass.Isn’t.Always.Greener.

Sometimes what you need is exactly what you have.

Stop wanting and start watering your grass right where you are.

…and I promise to start doing the same… 

🙂

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One of my absolute favorite pictures of my husband Tom while we volunteered for a few days in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. (A place that is near and dear to my heart!!!)

This week, This Past Weekend, and in 90 Days.

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Wow! It’s been an incredibly busy week over here and it’s only Tuesday. The good news is that we have a 3 day work week this week which means 4 days off to travel Korea. I am super excited to hike/camp this weekend, but I have hardly had a second to think about it as my “to-do” list continues to grow and grow. Do you have weeks or days when you feel like you can hardly keep up? I love being busy, and I love the chaos (I know I am crazy for loving it, right?!) BUT I am really looking forward to 4 days of hiking/camping with my partner n’ crime along with our friend Pat starting tomorrow when we will make the trek a few hours away for some awesome hiking and camping.

This week:

Featured Expat

I’m now officially a “featured blog” on the Expat Blog website (a website with TONS of amazing blogs from expats living abroad!!!) Which I am pretty pumped about. Take a gander over to my new blog listing here and leave me some love in the comment section at the bottom of the page. To my fellow travel lovers out there: take a look at their “country listing section” where you can check out over 1,977 blogs sorted by country of interest. I have said hello to hours of awesome blog reading while planning my dream trips/ must see countries!!! Our “must see” travel list just keeps growing.

This past weekend:

WE explored yet another gorgeous island which you can read all about HERE where my awesome husband documented our entire day trip/ hike. He’s pretty darn cool. I am glad we are married.

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In exactly 90 days:

We are going to Mexico. YUP MEXICO! For my dear friend’s destination wedding that I am in. EEP! I am so beyond excited. Tom and I didn’t plan on traveling from South Korea to Mexico since it is quite the hike, but we are so excited to be spending time with them in Mexico AND I am thrilled to stand next to such an amazing friend on her wedding day. We will spend 5 days in Mexico for the wedding with an (extremely) quick pit stop back in Wisconsin, USA to see our family for just 5 short days.

Katie and I in back when we both lived in Fiji in 2009. SO thrilled to be in this gals wedding on her big day in January.

Tom and I both have to be back in Korea to teach English winter camp right after the wedding so it will be a whirlwind of a trip (not to mention the insane jet lag I am sure we will have!!) but we are really blessed to be able to take the opportunity to spend time with our family even if it’s just a quick few days.

Lastly, after the quick 5 days in the USA as well as 5 days in Mexico we will have around 10 days left of vacation to use come end of January/ Early February after we teach winter camps. Right now the top 3 countries in the running to visit in February are as follows in no particular order:

Indonesia

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Philippines  

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photo from squidoo.com

OR

Thailand 

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Which one would you choose? All of them are new to Tom and I so maybe we will just roll the dice?!? How do you decide when they all look equally amazing?

Lastly, travelin friends n’ family: Any tips on overcoming jet lag fast? I’ll probably ask this question again as we near the big trip to Mexico/ Wisconsin. We need all of the tips that we can get.

Love to all you from South Korea.

-e