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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Full Passport... happy traveler!!

Can you believe that in 4 years of living abroad (plus that one summer I played around in Europe), I completely filled up an entire passport?!  This coming from the girl who lived in the same house for 21 years and spent every summer traveling to the glorious state of Alabama!  Yes, Alabama. Who knew I'd have the chance to hop around the world one day!  I am blessed... and my life has changed with each of these stamps!

“Travel brings power and love back into your life.” 

I actually spent all of Monday morning and afternoon on the KTX train to Seoul and back to visit the US Embassy, where I had to add extra pages to my passport.  Apparently Indonesia requires 2 full pages for their stamps and visas and I wasn't all that interested in getting immediately deported upon arrival for having a full passport!   Fun part was I happened to be at the Embassy on the same day that the new woman Korean president was moving into the Blue House and there were all sorts of US big wigs with their bodyguards roaming the premises!  Quite an exciting day to add passport pages!  Plenty of people watching to go around! :)

The joy of giving!

So, about a week ago, I was reading a blog post written by a fellow American blogger named Kristi, who's living in Korea with her husband and two little boys. She and her sons had baked homemade sugar cookies for some of the local store owners where they regularly shop and went around with the boys handing them out as a small gesture to thank the workers for always loving on the boys and making her shopping experiences more fulfilling!  I loved the idea and told her I was gonna do it as well, as a farewell to some of my favorite people in the neighborhood!

So, last Friday, I baked about 40 sugar cookies, packaged them up in some clear gift wrap bags and tied them with some pretty ribbon.  Then, Aaron and I headed out into the neighborhood. We started by visiting the 24 hour family owned convenience store on our corner where "mom" and "dad" (as they ask me to call them), were working.  They always have 1 diet coke stocked just for ME because I asked them to carry it a  long long time ago!  They love when Aaron and I come in, which is about once a day, and always seem to show us off to any of their friends who happen to come in while we're there! It's pretty adorable and makes us feel really loved. 

Their grandson is in the store sometimes and he calls me Emo, which translates as Aunt!  
I <3 it, and I <3 him!  He's so spoiled. I'm sure he probably got to eat ALL of the cookies!

Next stop was CHAM, our favorite restaurant!  While I don't know either of these two's names, I do know they are sisters and they own the restaurant.  They can't speak a lick of English, but I wrote them a card, completely in English, about how much Aaron and I have loved coming to their restaurant and seeing their smiling faces and how we love that they always know what we want to order, etc!  I wrote our names down at the bottom in English and in Korean and the one on the left said, "Oh, Aaron Jill!"  She was so excited to finally find out our names and was touched when she read that I had written "사랑해요"  (which means I love you!)  I'm sure one of their daughters can translate the rest of the card for them. :) I was worried whether or not they would like the cookies, but they opened the bag right up and chomped away, telling me they were "mashiso" (delicious!)  YAY!

Next stop was our dry cleaner, but his shop was closed!  SAD! ... So, we headed over to Serry and Emo's!  We couldn't just give Emo the cookies.  She's too special to just get cookies, so I had a couple photos printed of us and framed them as a goodbye gift.  She was sooo touched and kept saying that they were so beautiful.  Serry was right next to her barking for a cookie!  She's so darn smart!

We love Emo and are so blessed to have met her and Serry. She never ceases to amaze us with her generosity!  Literally, every time we come to see her and Serry she offers us a drink from her shop; sometimes even insisting that we stay and have some fruit or a full dinner with her!  I thought this would be the last time we saw her, but she insisted that we come back one last time, which we did today, and I cried like a baby saying goodbye to her and Serry!  It was the first time I had cried about leaving someone in Korea and it was obvious to her how special she is to us.  She was very touched and hugged me like a mom would.  She's just the best!        

Thanks for the cookie idea Kristi!  It went over really well and it gave us a chance to show our appreciation to some of our favorite neighborhood store owners and a chance to say goodbye one last time.

*** As I write this, I'm currently laying in bed, for the last time in my apartment in Korea.  It's weird, a bit surreal, and exciting all at once.  Tomorrow at this time, I'll be in Hong Kong somewhere, exploring the city with A.... and so the adventure begins!  Thanks for 4 UNBELIEVABLE YEARS Korea!

My husband is awesome!

There are so many reasons why Aaron is awesome, but today, I'm gonna focus on something that recently happened that made me so proud of him!  About 3 months back, Aaron was contacted by the General Manager of the brand new Park Hyatt Marine City Hotel, in Busan, and asked to submit photographs of landmarks in Busan. They needed the photos immediately, so Aaron went out right away and took the most stunning photos of 4 of Busan's most famous landmarks: Beomeosa Temple, the Gwangan Bridge, Yonggungsa Temple on the water and Seokbulsa Temple.  The Hotel's GM was over the moon when Aaorn submitted the photos and they were quickly approved by the big wigs at the headquarter in America and Aaron was promptly sent a hefty check for his work... enough to possibly pay for our entire 3 month US road trip!  Thank you Jesus for this opportunity!  We were given a box full of items that Aaron's photos have been printed on for us to keep as souvenirs!   I love these postcards, which are for sale in the gift shop as well as being placed on each bed after it's been made for the day:

His photo of the Gwangan Bridge is printed on EVERY SINGLE room key!

This book is placed in every hotel room and gives a rundown on all that hotel has to offer. All 4 of Aaron's photos are featured in this book... as the front of each section!

Even the cards in the gift shop have Aaron's photo on them!

His photo is even featured on the front of the room service breakfast menu!

And last but not least, his photo is printed on the gift bags that will be handed to any and every customer who buys something from the hotel! 

  I am soooo proud of Aaron!  He works so hard to learn about and perfect his photography skills!  This just goes to show that I'm not crazy when I say he takes AWESOME pictures... this is just proof! :)
Congratulations A!   I'm proud of you.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Adios Amigas - Crystal and Anne's goodbye sendoff!

On Sunday afternoon, Aaron and I met Crystal and Anne for lunch on Gwangali Beach and then walked down the beach to Thursday Party where our friend Shryl was setting up a farewell party for the two of them to say goodbye to everyone before they leave for 3 months of traveling and then on to their new teaching jobs at an international school in Guatemala!  I will miss these two like crazy!

Shryl, on the far right, went ABOVE AND BEYOND to make this send off party super special for Crystal and Anne, from making personalized T-shirts for them, printing pictures and hanging them all over the bar of the girls with their friends, hanging a handmade "We'll miss you" sign, making unbelievable red velvet cupcakes with adorable adornments of Crystal and Anne's pictures, buying pizza and yummy chips, making a personalized cake and even making and filling a pinata!  It was so awesome!

Here are just a few of those awesome 'Shryl details'!

I had to remind Aaron that it wasn't his pinata!  What is it with boys wanting to break stuff!?

Shryl actually melted marshmallows to make the coating of this cake and Anne's boyfriend Jinho actually wrote the message, which when translated, says: "Goodye guys/friends"

Thursday Party has been a home away from home for Crystal and Anne over the 4 years, not because they're alcoholics (because they certainly are not) but because they've bonded with the owner, the manager and the many many awesome Korean workers here.  Fionna, the bar's manager actually opened the bar early (just for the party)!  She's so sweet!

Enjoy the photos from a great party, filled with lots of laughter, delicious food, and sadly, too many goodbye's!  Love you guys!

Even Ranger came out to say goodbye!

Anne, Maggie and Crystal.

Maggie and her boyfriend used to work at the International School where Anne and Crystal are going to be teaching at starting in August... in Guatemala!  So, she made the two girls the MOST adorable handmade books of things to see, places to go, foods to eat, etc!

Anne brought her ipad mini and asked everyone to come up and take some pictures with photobooth, like a "guest book"!  Aaron and I were practically crying laughing taking these ridiculous pictures!  I personally love this one!

The weather was gorgeous and since Thursday Party is right across from the beach, Aaron, Gill and I walked outside to get a couple photos together!  My sweet, sweet Gilly flowers.

When we got back from the beach, everyone was excited for the pinata... especially Maggie!

"Ummmm... who put Ranger on the table?!"  LOL

Eventually all great things must come to an end.... So, I reluctantly bid farewell to the Gwangan Bridge, which I'd spent 4 years admiring and lounging on it's beach....

... and Gwangali Beach, which I swear is twice as bright as when I arrived in Korea back in 2009!  There's just nothing like this place, and I'm sure I'll lay in my American bed sometimes, dreaming of being here again one day!

... and I bid farewell to Thursday Party, where I've spent many fun Saturday's afternoons together with this group of girls, where I met Gill for the first time, and where I spent part of my bachelorette party! Lots of memories at this little joint on the beach.

and last but not least... I bid farewell to 3 of my closest friends in Korea!   Gilly, Crystal and Anne, you have made my life more full, more fun, more exciting and more rich!  You three are the real deal and I'll always miss you!

As Aaron and I were jumping into a taxi, he mentioned how it feels like the end of an era.  Which, it definitely does....  the end of an incredible era filled with REAL friends, adventures galore, great jobs, a very cozy home, new and exciting food, a new language, adorable (and sometimes not so adorable) students, co-teachers close enough to be sisters, and a love story born and bred between 2 people meant for each other!  I'd say it was a pretty darn awesome era!  And so for that, we celebrate the end of an era and the beginning of a new one, hopefully just as incredible!  

Saturday, February 23, 2013

So long, farewell.

This weekend was my last weekend in Korea and the last time I saw most of the foreign friends that I've made here.  Believe it or not, no tears were shed by this girl!  I'm just really blessed to have met great people and to have formed deep and meaningful relationships with them, so while we may never be in the same physical place again, we'll be in touch.  So, in my eyes, it was a bit of a celebration before moving on to all of our own separate adventures.  

On Saturday, we met Adam, Ashley, Jeff, Priscilla, Stella and Chris at Ashley's Buffet in Nampodong.  They have unlimited wine at the buffet, so it always seems to be a top contender when dinner parties are being planned with this group!  Hey, at least we're keeping it classy with wine, right? 

Or maybe we're not so classy, actually.

One of the things that's making this move so much easier is that so many of our friends are leaving Korea at the same time as us! Adam and Ashley are leaving Korea the Wednesday after Aaron and I and are traveling through Japan, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Cambodia for 6 weeks before moving back to Southern California!

Chris is moving to California to go back to school and Stella is planning to stay in Korea a little longer...

Jeff is staying in Korea 1 MORE YEAR without all of us. He's a brave man!  Priscilla is heading back to her home country of New Zealand after she spends a month traveling!

After closing down the restaurant, the 8 of us walked over to the batting cages in Gukje and spent the next couple hours hitting balls and playing doubles on the basketball machine game.  Aaron and I dominated, of course... We play that game every time we pass an arcade!

 I love this group of friends, but I'll especially miss this gem and our Monday night Revenge nights when we watch the newest episode of Revenge and catch up on EVERYTHING from work, celebrity gossip, love, life, travel, etc... all while downing popcorn like it's our job!

 It's by chance that we all met, but by choice that we became friends!  I'd say it's one of the best choices I made while living here! I'll miss you guys!