Category Archives: Teaching

Surprises that warm the heart.

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The days keep flying and I just keep wishing I had more time.

More time to read, write, work out, bake delicious food, travel, longer weekends, drink coffee, drink tea. Drink wine with my husband. I keep finding myself wishing for more time.  Our weekends here are precious and valued time that Tom and I spend together traveling Korea and (if we are lucky) sometimes with our friends!

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…and so when Tom and I were presented with the opportunity to volunteer at an International English camp a few weeks back we debated over if we would give up our “precious time” to spend a weekend with kids after working 40 hours with kids. – We all need breaks every now and then 😉 We had heard great things about the camp and decided: “What the heck! Let’s do it.”

So, three weeks ago Tom and I went with 40 other foreign English teachers to volunteer at an International English Camp about 2 hours away from our city of Yeosu. 200 Korean middle school students in grade two (equivalent to our 8th grade in America) lined the pavement holding signs and cheering as the foreign teachers got off the bus upon arrival at camp. This was only the beginning of a fun-filled weekend teaching the kids how to cook food from our native countries, playing games/sports, doing a talent show, having a massive bonfire (fireworks were included!), stargazing, and teaching them a little about the places we originally call home.The best part about this was being able to hang out and have fun with the middle school kiddos in a normal environment! No pressure of studying. Just conversation and having fun. I have talked a bit about the pressures that the kids have in Korea to study, perform, study, perform AND repeat. If you’re interested in learning what these kids go through or just grasp an understanding of our life as teachers in Korea click here for a short 20 minute documentary! The camp was a great opportunity for us to be immersed in the culture of Korea that we so dearly love while getting to know some of the most amazing kids in a fun environment.

It was a heart warming weekend to say the least.

At the end one of the boys gave a wonderful speech that made me cry. He said the camp had given him confidence to use his English in conversation without being scared. Through all the hard days of teaching…feeling like what we are doing isn’t making a difference… that I am not teaching them enough. It’s the moments like this volunteer English camp that reminded me sometimes it’s the little moments in life that make a difference. It’s the smiles, hugs, and love. It’s the company of spending time with kids. Just getting to know them. Having the opportunity at the International camp showed me that what we are doing CAN make an impact!

The weekend we spent with the kiddos was a weekend that warmed my heart. I realized how selfish I was initially to view it as giving up “my time” when the kids had done SO much to warm my heart during our weekend together.

What things have you been doing lately (or have others done for YOU!?!)  that warm your heart?

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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.

School’s out for a MONTH!

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So first semester of school is over tomorrow!

My students go on break for “vacation” until September 2nd. I have memories as a kid of summer vacation being a week at the lake, lots of time playing outside, ice cream, and camping!

and while it is hot here like summer… Most Korean kids will be attending “Hogwons” or private schools in the summer to study.

Starting next week I will be teaching my summer camp! My summer camp is 2 weeks long from 9 to 12.I have 3 & 4th graders together, and then 5 & 6th graders together. In the afternoon I will “desk warm” which is just time at the desk. I am actually really excited to have time to blog, catch up on TV shows, and read.” I can do whatever I please… just need to be at my desk. My summer camp theme is “Summer Olympic Games/ Around the world.” I am really excited, because I think the kids will love being active. I want to give them a chance to get up and get MOVING! My school wanted me to create an English summer camp that was “fun.” My kids love games so I hope they get really into it. I’m pretty excited myself. Some things I am most excited for: Making piñatas, teaching them the game “steal the bacon”, designing and creating an Olympian, teaching them about other countries, water balloon toss, and MANY MANY relay games!!!

I decided I wanted to incorporate teaching them about other countries as I feel passionate about traveling, and want to expose my students to other cultures other then their own. It’s so fun being able to incorporate pieces of who I am into my teaching here.

I wanted to post a few pictures of my kids who make teaching SO fun.

Sweet girls who always visit me at my desk :)

Sweet girls who always visit me at my desk 🙂

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I love his shirt! :)

I love his shirt! 🙂

Love my Friday "country school"

Love spending Friday’s at my “country school”

We are always dancing!!!

We are always dancing!!!

This past Monday we had a ceremony to welcome exchange students from Thailand to our school.

There was singing...

There was singing…

...dancing!

…dancing!

...and Taekwondo!

…and Taekwondo!

My kids make teaching awesome 🙂

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Pieces of our life…

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Looking through pictures on my phone I am realizing that I have TONS of pictures that are like little pieces of the puzzle to our life in Yeosu, Korea. They are all so special to me, because put together they represent our daily life here in Korea. I decided that I should add the pictures to our blog that make up our every day life here. So often (me included) we over look the beautiful little snap shots of just a “normal” day. It is all apart of the big puzzle.

This is our life as of lately.

Love the flowers in full bloom!

Love the flowers in full bloom!

Care packages from our family= so much love.

Care packages from our family= so much love.

Monsters on my wall created by 3rd graders after teaching them my dad's favorite book "Where the Wild Things are"

Monsters on my wall created by 3rd graders after reading them my dad’s favorite book “Where the Wild Things Are”

My littlest "monsters"

My littlest “monsters”

Fireworks on every beach we have camped at!!! Koreans love their fireworks (and so do WE!)

Fireworks on every beach we have camped at!!! Koreans love their fireworks (and so do WE!)

We  have spent 4 weekends so far CAMPING!

We have spent 4 weekends so far CAMPING 🙂

I adore the open air markets.

I adore the open air markets.

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My walk to the bus stop after teaching at my "Friday School"

My walk to the bus stop after teaching at my “Friday School”

Tom's new hiking backpack- name TBD

Tom’s new hiking backpack- name TBD

Fresh fruit right off the tree in Jeju. Tasted like a cross between and orange and a grapefruit.

Fresh fruit right off the tree in Jeju. Tasted like a cross between and orange and a grapefruit.

We FOUND CHEESE!!!

We FOUND CHEESE!!!

Tea from South Africa, Wine from Chile, and Korean BBQ for dinner. Love it!

Tea from South Africa, Wine from Chile, and Korean BBQ for dinner. Love it!

My view EVERY SINGLE day walking to the bus stop after school. It will never ever get old.

My view EVERY SINGLE day walking to the bus stop after school. It will never ever get old.

:)

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Lights on a bus to visit friends in Mokpo. ;) Normal.

Lights on a bus to visit friends in Mokpo. 😉 Normal.

I am one happy teacher :)

I am one happy teacher 🙂

Sometimes we forgot to take a moment to appreciate the little pieces that make the big picture SO beautiful!!!

Teaching

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You know those days or weeks when it just seems like you aren’t living up to your expectations for yourself as a teacher? Or maybe it is a day/week that you feel like you aren’t meeting the exact needs of your students.

If you are a teacher. You know exactly what I mean.

And then…

Something small (like this) makes it all worth it.

Bullying- A teacher’s point of view.

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Bullying.

It happens every single day. It happens in all sorts of schools. It happens all over the world. I’m a teacher, and I’d like to tell you that we too feel helpless. My experience comes from being an English teacher in a foreign school. There is a major barrier… it’s the language. BUT bullying still happens. It happens in school AND out. How do we fix it? How do we stop it? It’s serious, and it’s real. It’s happening, and kids are hurting.

I recently watched the documentary Bully with my husband on Netflix. It made my heart hurt. I felt like angry parents were giving blame to principals and teacher’s. I guess what I want to say is that there are teachers out there who do care, who love their students, and want the VERY best for them. There are teachers out there who STAND UP to bullying. Who do everything they can to stop it protect the kids, and to end bullying in their classroom. I don’t know the universal solution to end bullying. I wish I had the answers. This world we live in is full of sin, but I am here to say that I believe something needs to be done.

The day before watching the documentary I had an incident in my classroom where I witnessed bullying. First let me preface this story with the fact that I love teaching. I love teaching English in Korea. I love my schools…and I hope what I saw was the first/last time I ever have to see that again.

We are working on a project… I look over, and one of my kids is in a choke hold from another student. I run over and tried to pull them apart , but dang those 12 year olds are STRONG…and bigger than me in size. I have never yelled at my kids, but in a panic I screamed “NO” “LET GO!”- Side note. Discipline is difficult with a language barrier. My stomach was in knots. Why was he choking this other boy? What happened? To me it didn’t matter what was said or what happened violence is NEVER okay. I looked at the boy who used violence (trying to remain calm), and sternly said “THAT IS NEVER OK IN MY CLASSROOM. DO NOT EVER TOUCH HIM OR ANYONE EVER AGAIN. DO YOU UNDERSTAND?” At this point my Korean co teacher ran over, and intervened. I explained to her what happened in English. She was already disciplining them. Both boys were in trouble. I told her that the boy who used violence should be punished. NOT both. It didn’t matter what I said. She told me that they were both in trouble, because they were fighting.I ran to the bathroom, and just cried. I just felt so helpless.

After having time to process all of it. I looked back on my experience as a teacher working at a very low income preschool. The kids who hurt others had been hurt their whole life by their own parents. They were damaged, bruised, and broken. Hurting was all they knew. Hurting others was “normal” life to them. Hurting was their survival. I love teaching. I love kids. Man,  it isn’t always easy though. See what I wrote here awhile back about being a teacher. I tell you my story, because I wonder if you have ideas on how to end bullying in the classroom. Or if you have had any experiences with bullying in the classroom?

How do we change bullying in our world? Is it more love? Is it punishment? Is it both?

Please tell me your opinion…

Together we can be the change.

Wishes...

Wishes…

Within and Without

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Within and Without

Yesterday, Tom and I went to see the movie: The Great Gatsby. I have always had a love for reading since about 4th grade so this classic novel was one that I read during high school. While many in my high school lit class despised the book…I remember getting so lost in the book that I would read for hours. I thought it was an incredibly well written book, and was completely fascinated with it. At 16 years old, I didn’t fully understand what some parts meant, and only would learn more as I learned & experienced more about life. Isn’t that the case though? The older you get…the more you learn. The more you experience. The more you love. I’d like to think that’s the case at least. It’s a sort of exhausting thing to think about, really. When all you need is time, but time simply goes too fast. Our time on earth is so fleeting.

The beautiful red roses are in full bloom around Korea.

The beautiful red roses are in full bloom around Korea.

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“I was within and without. Simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.”- That’s how I literally feel some days. I can’t write enough about how much we love Korea, but some days my brain feels like mush when I begin to think about the variety of life. It literally is inexhaustible.

I decided I’d like to dedicate a post to my “school life” as a teacher…since it is such a large part of my time here in Korea. I work with incredibly amazing kids. I teach grades 3,4,5,6. I have three sections of each of those grades and I see each class 3x a week. I also teach “after school” English classes. On Friday’s I go to my “country school.” Where I teach one class of each 3,4,5,6th grade. I stay quite busy, but I really like that! Adjusting to teaching kids who speak hardly any English was a big transition for me in the beginning. Learning the expectations, schedules, and content of what I am teaching and how to teach was tricky in the beginning. I would say I FINALLY feel comfortable to be my goofy self, and throw in my own teaching style to the content of what we are required to teach. It took about a month of teaching to get into the groove. You know, it’s always that awkward beginning part of learning anything new. Mastering the ropes, adapting, and being FLEXIBLE!

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The most important thing about being a teacher in Korea is be flexible. Well, maybe for any teacher. Some days though I come to school to find out a class is cancelled, I don’t teach at all tomorrow, or I have more classes then I expected. It is crazy to fly on the seat of your pants…but I am learning that’s just the kinda girl I am anyway. Up until a few years ago corporal punishment was accepted ,and used in the Korean schools. Now, they resort to things like P.E exercises for punishment, standing in the back of the classroom with arms up and eyes closed, or no outside time. Tom always tells me that “we didn’t come here to change their ways” and while I do understand that… I always try to give my kids some extra love while they are with me.

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Tom is teaching middle school BOYS. ALL BOYS. I think God knew that I couldn’t handle middle school boys. So, he gave it to Tom! I think it is better that way since in Korea they respect men and especially love him because he is so tall. I mean let’s be real… I would die. Overall we are pretty happy about our jobs. We both work 8:40-5pm and we commute via bus each day. Tom and I both have multiple korean co teacher’s depending on the class and day. Mine teach along side with me while Tom’s teacher’s give him full reign of the rowdy, hormonal, and sassy boys… eh hem.I mean angels.

Just a sweaty commute home from work! :)

Just a sweaty commute home from work! 🙂

We did NOT plan this… note the “slippers” (sandal type things) we must wear while teaching! No regular shoes allowed.

One of my coteacher's (Mina) and I.

One of my coteacher’s (Mina) and I.

I’ve got lots to update you on. Including the past weekend on the Shinan Islands, and our after school adventures.. I look forward to writing more this week, and weekend!

All of my love from Yeosu, South Korea.

Making it our own.

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Making it our own.

Happy Monday to all of our family and friends back home!

This past weekend was simply delightful. We are feeling so blessed to have friends here from Wisconsin, and also to have met new friends that we felt like we connected right away with and who became our first visitors in our new apartment in Yeosu. We randomly met Corey and Michelle in Mokpo while visiting friends from Wisconsin who are teaching in Korea. We invited them to come to check out Yeosu and they came this past weekend! Our highlights were hiking Gubong Mountain (the mountain my school is on!)  visiting the beach, riding “rail bikes” (bikes literally on an old railroad!) that went through a cool tunnel, and of course plenty of great conversation ,and awesome company.

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Start of the hike

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Beautiful view of our city from near the top of our hike!

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Lovin our new friends 🙂

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Planking on Gubong Mountain!

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Boys at the beach skippin rocks. Boys will be boys 🙂

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Gotta have the cute kiddo picture. They were having a blast in the water!!!

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On the Rail bikes near the ocean

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heading into the tunnel under the mountain 🙂 SO fun

michelle elicia yeosu

Loving life!!!

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On Sunday… We went to a Korean Church service…in Korean! Tom’s co worker invited us to go, and we felt we should. It was interesting, but most of it I didn’t really know what was going on since it was in another language. The people (as always) were SO kind to us. Then, Tom got sick. Which resulted in him resting. I made the trek over by taxi in the afternoon to the only English speaking church in our city. It was so lovely. A small group of some Koreans, and some foreigners gathered to worship. It was so fabulous to feel apart of a church again as we are missing our church from the states! Tom will be excited to join me next weekend at the English speaking church. After church I grabbed coffee with some pretty sweet gals from church at..wait for it.. STARBUCKS!!!!!!! It was an awesome treat. It is the only Starbucks in Yeosu. Sunday night resulted in a trip to the hospital since Tommy is sick. 😦  Very interesting experience to say the least as we don’t speak much Korean, and they spoke just a tiny bit of English. Thank goodness for being able to use the hospital phone to call my co teacher so she could translate… since, we don’t have phones yet.

Today it was back to teaching! It was hard to say goodbye to the weekend as it has been absolutely BEAUTIFUL weather here! We are excited this weekend to hopefully camp with our friends, pending Tom feels better of course!

I will leave you with a video of three of my lovely students dancing to Psy’s new song “Gentlemen” a pretty big deal over here:

https://vimeo.com/65561222

How could I not love teaching when I have these kids? I can’t help, but smile! As always, feeling blessed beyond words.

즐거움

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즐거움

I can’t believe it has already been a week since we left the states. Our journey to the south has continued to amaze, awe, and inspire both Tom and I.  I will start back at Wednesday April 10th when Tom and I took the bus from Seoul, South Korea to the small city of Jangheung…where our friend Amy has been living for 8 months. This is a long post, but it’s been 5 days of stories!!!!

Our Journey so far (in red):map sk

Gwanju is underlined in blue- where we head next for orientation, and Yeosu our home where we will be living!

Wednesday 10th– This day was much of a travel day. We were bummed we didn’t get to explore Seoul more, but feel confident we will make it back soon to explore. The buses here are similar to a coach buses back home. We made it to Amy’s city in 5 hours. By the time we arrived it was 8pm and we decided to grab some grub at a pork “bbq” with Amy’s friends Jetta’ and John. It was a restaurant that you have a small grill type thing in the middle of the table and you cook all the meat on it. All meals here are served family style…you all share soup and many small side dishes like kimchi and a whole lot of other things that I really don’t know what they are (seafood, veggies, etc). Each restaurant is a little different and the other night we ate hard boiled quail eggs as a small side dish. Similar to our eggs just a LOT smaller. I’ve noticed there is always a few sauces for dipping meat- which are usually really amazing!!! We went for ice cream (gelato) and coffee after dinner, and then called it a night.

Thursday April 11th:

Amy headed to school and Tom and I had a relaxing morning at Amy’s place. Walked down by river in her city called- Tamjin River. I found this from the official site of Korea about the city of Jangheug: “Often called the Home of Korean Flavors, because of its many creative, rich-tasting local dishes. Jangheung is famous for grass-fed juicy beef, raised on pasture. Also, not to be missed is namdo jeongsik – or a full-course meal accompanying steamed rice, kimchi and an overwhelming number of side dishes – made with Jangheung’s local produce.”  —which explains why we went for 2 “bbq” style meals where you “grill” your own food if you will and all of the side dishes! Which is very typical in Korea. 🙂 Pictures as we explore Jangheung:

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So, we met Amy for lunch…then in the afternoon relaxed, played basketball when Amy was done with school, walked up a little hill to see her city, and finished the day with an amazing meal similar to Wednesday night except with the famous Jangheung beef instead of pork. (Really, amazing food) Walked into what looked similar to a butcher shop back home- pick out your meat you want and then go upstairs to “grill” it on your table!!!Some side dishes include yellow picked radish, and a leaf looking thing that I learned you.

1. Get meat off grill with chopsticks once it is done. 2. Dip in sauces 3. Grab a few side dishes. 4. Set of all of this on the leaf thing. 5. Roll up with your hands like a little mini burrito. 6. EAT!

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Friday April 12th-

Went to Amy’s school in the morning (she teaches at a school in the country on Friday’s) We loved getting a taste of what life will be like teaching for Tom as Amy has middle school students!!Don’t ask me how this turned into an arm wrestling game…Oh, Korea.

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Friday afternoon Tom and I did an AWESOME hike near Amy’s city. We are finding that if you just start walking to the mountains you will usually find a path up! The hike was short and I don’t know the name of it, but we had a great time and I think it took like 2 or 3 hours total and was 518m  🙂

Just your typical  random workout equipment as we started the hike:

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For dinner Amy, Tom, and I headed to a place for traditional Bibimbap and we got to sit on the floor 🙂 I loved it. Tom has some difficulties with the floor as his legs are SO big hehe. Food was good, and we all of us were exhausted!

Saturday April 13th-  Went to the local market in Jangheung. Similar to a farmers market back home. Complete with dancers/performers in the middle of the market. Oh, Korea!033

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Next, we went to visit a Buddhist temple near Amy’s city. It is the biggest Budda statue in South Korea standing 36 meters high and costing 10 billion won to make. It was about 10 min from Jangheung, and was pretty neat to see.

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Then, Tom and I hopped on a bus to Mokpo- to see our friends Alyssa and Pat. We met Alyssa in Wisconsin as well. There are so many Midwestern connections…even so far away from the states. Mokpo was amazing. To summarize: Mokpo is a city on the ocean surrounded by mountains (like the rest of Korea) that will be very similar to our new home of Yeosu. Watched a laser light show with music on the ocean…and we had a bbq style dinner! The highlight of this dinner was the amazing seafood! After dinner we went for a drink at a cool little bar, and on the way home stopped at a small arcade complete with batting cages and ping pong cages. I have started to realize that Korea is full of surprises 🙂

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oops, Jessie, Pat, Paul, Jen, Alyssa.

Sunday April 14th-

Walked along the ocean with Alyssa and Pat…climbed a little hill filled with beautiful cherry blossoms, had an amazing dumpling/soup lunch (sitting on the floor!)

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WHEW!

Feeling so blessed. Feeling so happy.

Joy.(즐거움 )

Days gone by…

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Yesterday, we celebrated a wonderful friend’s Bachlorette Party. It was an exciting time, but also remained a bittersweet day because we are in the process of packing up our lives into little boxes (on the hillside little boxes made of ticky tacky) as we transition out of our (WAY nicer than just a college ish) apartment that we have lived in the past two years. With two years comes a LOT of memories folks. Let me tell you from the male issues, to teaching stories, to late( or way to early nights)… I have shared some great memories with these gals. We are excited as we start to plan our future.

I am excited for what lies ahead in careers in teaching and getting married to our best friends. It is though, a rather peculiar feeling to know that I will never live with gals my age again that I am friends with. We are movin up and over to real life. I am ready to see what God has in store for us and where he will take us. I plan on never letting go of these friendships that I have made. God really blessed me and I have leaned on them through thick n thin!

Ready or not world. Look out because here we COME!!!!!

Here’s a peak into our day… Tom and I got a new camera and I am still trying to figure out how my new baby Nikon works 🙂 Bear with me!