Sunday, February 20, 2011

Philippine adventures, Taylor Swift!! and little Lemons

So, exactly two weeks after I arrived back in Korea, we had a 5 day vacation!!! My coworker and friend Claire had asked me while I was back in the US if I would be interested in a trip to the Philippines, and as I had been wanting to go, of course I agreed. So I picked up some extra Parkway shifts, and the day after we returned from our cruise I booked my ticket to Boracay!

We arrived at hour hostel Wed evening, after an extremely long day of traveling. I had taken two flights, a two hour bus ride through windy roads, a 10 minute ferry ride (on which I which i was sure I would be tossed into the ocean and never seen again, it was so choppy!) and then finally a "tricycle" ride back to our hostel. The tricycles in the Phil. are basically mopeds with a little cart on the side, where you can seat about 4 people. Cheapest form of transportation and also fun!!

Our first tricycle ride, with Jubee in the background

After Claire and I settled into our hostel, we went out to explore the nightlife. We weren't sure where to go, so we hit up a few beach bars, where we met some Filipino guys who were more than willing to be our tour guides for the night! They took us to a club, Club Paraw(sp?), where we danced the night away to the same music that was played all four nights we were there. It was my favorite night of the week, just cause it was so unexpected.

The next morning, we woke up (because I wake up early every day, my body didn't let me sleep past 9 am any of the days we were there!!), had some lunch, then hit the beach. That evening, we got some dinner, hit the clubs again...and repeated the scenario for the next two days. It was such a relaxing, amazingly beautiful, and fun/random little vay-cay. I attempted to scuba dive, but couldn't keep my head underwater for more than 10 seconds before I panicked. I had never had a desire to go, but since I was in a country that is known for its diving, and since it was so cheap (70 bucks for 3 hours!) I couldn't pass up the opportunity. I went into it knowing that I was a little nervous, so I wasn't bummed that I couldn't finish out the dive. I gave it a shot and that's all what counts! Now I know that I don't need to try it again.

Sorry its sideways!!! But check out this view...

Our hostel was great, it was run by 5 family members, all of whom seemed to be under the age of 20, and all of whom were ridiculously helpful and goofy. Jubee, the guy who picked us up from the airport, was just this bubbly little energy ball, and would appear around the hostel at random moments. Hello maam!! He would call at any time. Are you okay? Are you okay??

All of the people in the Phillipines were so nice(with the exception of the Manila airport), and I have no doubt in my mind that I will be taking another trip there in the future (possibly next Christmas??!!). Anyways, it was really hard to leave that Sunday. Jubee took me to the ferry, and when I went to board, he grabbed my hand, said so sweetly, "take care, maam, take very good care". I nearly burst into tears because I REALLY didn't want to leave. I've never had a vacation where there was nothing on the agenda besides beach, food, and dance clubs. It. Was. Perfect. I had a great travel buddy too!! Claire and I were on the same page the whole trip. We were both looking for nothing more than a fun, relxing mini vacation, and we got exactly what we wanted.

Our first night out

Claire and I were on separate flights home, and I had only one hour between my flight from Kalibo and to Macau in China. We left Kalibo about 20 minutes late, so by the time we arrived in Manila I had half an hour to get through security and get on the next plane. The ever helpful airport staff (can you sense the sarcasm?) never seemed to be able to help me along the way, and after waiting about 10 minutes in a line, having a man check my passport, ticket, etc, and THEN ask me to go fill out an immigration form (which I've never had to do upon leaving a country), I, the ever saavy traveler, did what any experienced traveler would do. I burst into tears. Through my sobs I was able to choke out that my flight left in ten (YES TEN MINUTES SIR!!) minutes, and the guy, obviously extremely confused and seemingly terrified at my outburst, let me go through with out the paper (hopefully I'll be let back in next time!) I made it to the gate, was literally the last person on the plane, and we took off five minutes later. I made sure to let the people there know that NO ONE that I had asked for help along the way had been able to do anything for me besides wave me in the general direction of where I was supposed to be going. Thanks, Manila.

Anyways, my flight arrived in after the last bus left for my city, so I rented a cot in the airport spa, slept for about 6 hours until Claires flight arrived at 5 am on Monday, and then we took the bus back to Dongbaek, where I showered and walked to work by 9 am!!! I was pretty tired that day, but, airport mishaps and all, it was damn well worth it.

The next Friday, a few girls and I were able to go see Taylor Swift in Seoul! It was an amazing show, and once I get the pics on my computer I will put them up.

In other good news, I officially found out Friday that I will be getting my original kindergarten class back for the next school year! When I left in Dec, my replacement began teaching them, and I took over some second year students. But after my current kids graduate on Friday, my old Lemon class will become second year students, and I will have them until they graduate next February. I didn't really care what classes I got this year, new kids, old kids, etc, but I am thrilled to have my old students back. I will have taught them for two years by the time they graduate, and it will be very cool to see them through from beginning to end.

All in all, life is great over here in Korea land. Today was beautiful, and spring is coming!! I can feel it. Thank goodness!! I'm meeting more and more people every day, and am just loving life right now. Hope you all are as happy as I am, wherever you may be!!! New pictures, and my first snowboarding attempt posts are coming soon!!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


So, I arrived back in Korea on January 18th. My flight came in at 9:30, and I was lucky enough to catch the last bus back to my city. Because I was getting in so late, I stayed the night at my friend Ryan's (aka my soulmate's) house. Let me tell you a little about Ryan...

She arrived last year about 6 weeks after I did. I was thrilled to not be the new teacher anymore, and she and I were pretty much inseperable from there on out. She had lived in Barcelona for a year, the same time I had studied in Spain. She's from near San Francisco, but went to school in San Diego. And she's awesome. And beautiful. She's got beautiful dark skin and hair, and her Irish side also brings out some freckles. She's a very sweet, kind, soft spoken but very opinionated girl.

We worked the same schedules, so we walked to and from school quite a bit, which led to many dinners together on weeknights. After we discovered the nightlife, we could be found out and about often. The first night outside of our city that we had together, we stumbled upon this amazing place called, "Lose Control Clubby Bar". So we ended many of our nights out there, dancing along with the mostly 18-24 year old Korean hip hop crowd. She went to Thailand with Elena and I, along with another girl, and one night, after a few glasses of Cass light, I told her, (and I quote)..."I'm so glad we are friends!! I just feel like we are soulmates!" And I meant every word of it.

After I decided to extend my contract, I knew that it would be hard to be here without Ryan, because, I had only been here a few weeks when she arrived. There are plenty of fun people around to always hang out with, but she was always my "go to" person when I was bored, or sad, or lonely. I expressed my concerns to her, and she assured me that I would get along just fine, because there are lots of cool people in our area. She also assured me that we would have regular skype dates. (Also, when I was unsure what I would be doing this next year, she told me that I was more than welcome to come live at her and her mom's house, because she had two twin beds in her room!! I may still take her up on the offer some day.)

Before I left Korea in December, we had one "last" weekend together, because I actually came back to replace her. Our last weekend was kind of a bust due to some idiot who shall remain nameless (ahem Drew). Anyways, Ryan took me to the bus stop the night before leaving korea, and mid embrace the bus driver honked at me to get on my way. Luckily I was able to skype with her and get a real goodbye once I got to the hostel.

She kept me updated while I was back home on what was happening in Korea...and I was so excited to see her again when I came back in January! It was bitter sweet, because she left just 4 days after I arrived. I took her to the airport, we had one last "soulmate" hug, and I surprisingly didn't start crying til she had gone through the gate.

So now she's gone, but she was right. I am getting along quite well without her...although I do miss her a lot!! And we have skyped at least 4 times, and talk several times a week on facebook. I've made soooo many great, amazing friends during all of my travels, and Ryan is one of the greatest, and most amazing. I take great comfort in knowing that I will see her soon upon my arrival in the US next year, unless she is already in S. America (where I will join her later on).

So cheers to you, Ryan teacher!!! You made my first year in Korea amazing and unforgettable...and I just hope to have half the experiences I did with you in this next year. I will raise my tinto de verano to you, and to our many crazy travel and soulmate stories that are sure to happen in the future!!! I LOVE YOU!!!

In Thailand

If you look hard you can see me in her glasses!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Can I get a breather here??

I don't think I've had barely ANY time to myself to just RELAX in the past, well...two months!!! It'll take a bit to catch you all up, so here we go!!

I arrived back in the US December 15th, exactly a year after I arrived in Korea! It was great to see the family, my beautiful baby niece, and old friends after a long time. The holidays were great (and I just weighed myself today and have officially lost the 7 pounds I gained back in the US!!). I got to see many people that I hadn't seen in a very long time, spend some much needed bonding time with lil Sadie poo, and just hang out in the US.

And of course, I picked up some shifts at my favorite place, Parkway! After working there for 5 years through college, I was ready to leave it a few years ago. But when the opportunity presented itself to go back and pick up a few shifts over the holidays, of course I jumped at the chance! It worked out perfectly because in the 6 or so shifts I worked there, I was able to earn about half of the cost of my plane ticket to the Philippines!! (save that for a later post)

So Christmas came and went, (I swear, even as we get older the presents under the tree seem to grow!) and then New Years came and went (I spent it at a local bar with a close friend, pretty chill). And then it was time for our Caribbean cruise!!

My parents had been raving about cruises since they went on their first one in 2007. The timing was perfect, cause I was home and the baby was young enough to be left behind...

So we headed off to Puerto Rico. After checking in, we enjoyed the ship, looked around, and danced quite a bit (well, everyone else did, Elena and I went to bed!) The next several days were filled with off shore excursions to St. Thomas, Dominica, Greneda, Bonaire, and a beach filled day in Aruba.

In St. Thomas we did some kayaking, snorkelying, and a bit of sightseeing. Dominica and Greneda were my favorites, cause we got to see some amazing waterfalls and beaches, and they were both filled with lush jungles!! Just beautiful. Bonaire wasn't too much to see, a lot of history of slaves, and lots of salt pyramids (that they export I believe). It actually looked more like Africa with lots of dry trees and sandy, dusty roads. Aruba was a blast too, and we spent the day just hanging on the beach, had a wonderful lunch on the dock, and then headed back to the ship where we would set sail for the next day and a half at sea. The ship was amazing, and there was always something going on!! Movies, zumba, dancing, eating, drinking...that's where I gained most of my weight back home!! Before ourflight back to Chicago took off from Puerto Rico, we got to see a bit of the Old San Juan, as well as the Bacardi Distillery, which was very cool. And of course we got to sample some of the local rum!! It was such a fun trip with the family...a once in a life time thing!! I know my siblings and I are so grateful to our amazing parents!

So then I had another week in the US, where I met up with 4 very close and old friends. All of us are at such different and fun times in our lives so it was great to catch up. After one more family get together (and lots of Sadie-kissing) I was off to Korea again on Monday January 17th...

All in all, it was a much, much needed "vacation" time that I got to spend at home with great family and friends...