adventure

Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure # 36: Hiking in Charlotte

This past weekend was our first real weekend in Columbia. So naturally, we left town. 🙂

Some of our best friends live in Charlotte which is only 1.5 hours form Columbia. Since it was Labor Day Weekend and there was no work or school on Monday we headed to Charlotte on Sunday afternoon after attending our first church service in Columbia. (It was an Anglican church, so that was new, but more on that later).

After arriving in Charlotte we joined our friends and the four of us piled into the car and headed to Crowders Mountain, the closest hiking spot in the area. It was a 45 min – 1 hr drive to the trail head.

The trail was gentler than most of the Korean hikes we’re used to, which was fortunate since the Dunn clan isn’t in peak physical condition these days. After about an hour we made it to the top and enjoyed the view. While it was a much smaller mountain with a lower elevation than the ones around Daegu (a measly 1,624 ft), the air was much clearer which made for a better view.

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We loved being able to hop in the car and see our friends who we’ve missed so much over the past two years. We also loved getting to do some hiking which was one of our favorite activities in Korea.

After hiking we went back to Brandon and Christy’s house where we had dinner together with Bill and Jordan, a couple they’ve become close to while we’ve been gone but who we’d never met before. (Spoiler: They were totally great). After dinner we played a pretty intense game of Funglish (I’m still convinced the boys were totally cheating) that went on into the wee hours of the night, mainly because we girls were so infuriated that the boys kept getting the easiest cards and we refused to admit defeat.

We didn’t get home til 2 AM which felt wild and crazy for someone like me who is normally in bed by 10 if not before, but it was well worth it. We deeply missed sharing life with our friends while we were gone and we want to take full advantage of being so close to them now.

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can also click this button to read other bloggers’ adventures. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few. If you missed last week’s adventure about my epic roommate reunion you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.

52 Weeks of Adventure #34: (Not-So) Extreme Home Makeover

Well, we did it. We packed up a moving truck, drove it to South Carolina, and put all of our things in a quiet little condo that we now call home. We arrived in Columbia with all of our stuff last Monday and worked like crazy (along with both sets of parents who were generous and kind and came to see us/haul boxes and paint things when we arrived) and one week later, we are officially moved in.

It was fun to unpack our things and re-discover everything we own. It was also fun (for me, at least) to have a chance to decorate and make the condo feel like our space. In Korea, we lived a temporary life. All of our furniture had either been provided by our schools or was purchased used from other foreigners with little regard for the aesthetic value. When we first moved to Korea, our living room wall was wallpapered with a print of cats sitting in windowsills. Needless to say, there wasn’t a lot of opportunity for creative self expression.

My first priority in the condo was to do some painting. I think paint is the easiest (and cheapest) way to spruce up a room or create a new look. In our last apartment in the US way back before Korea, we had some bright accent walls that made our generic apartment more fun. We wanted to try something new in the new space and ultimately chose a cool-toned theme throughout with lots of blues, grays, and greens. We’re both pretty pleased with the results.

Living Room - Before

Living Room – Before

Living room/kitchen pass through before

Living room/kitchen pass through before

Living Room After

Living Room After

Front entryway

Front entryway

We painted an accent wall in the living room a bright mid-toned blue and created a wall gallery for our scratch-off “Where have you been?” map and some travel photos.

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The furniture and rug were all things we already owned, but I did add in a few blue throw pillows to tie the color together.

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The office/room where guests will sleep on the floor is mainly about the bookshelves. I picked a dark gray for the walls, but kept up the blue and green theme with the rug and the curtains.

Office before.

Office before.

Office after!

Office after!

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In our last US apartment we only painted one accent wall in the master bedroom and it was a bright red. I decide that this time around I’d like to try a full room color, but since a lot of our bedding is green, I felt limited on color options. I eventually settled on a pale sage green.

Master bedroom before

Master bedroom before

Master bedroom after

Master bedroom after

The master bedroom is a really large space and after moving in our bed, end tables, and dresser, there was still a lot of empty space. We thought a chair would be nice to make a little reading nook, but we’d already picked up a few new things for other rooms and didn’t want the expensive of a new piece of furniture. I asked my friend Lorien for advice on a place to look for a cheap chair and she sent me a picture of this one saying she was selling it. Blanket over the top and a couple of throw pillows and it looks like it was made for that corner.

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We are really happy with our space and can’t wait to have some of our North and South Carolina friends over to visit. It was a TON of work to get all of this done in a week, but it feels so good to have everything settled and be able to breathe just a teensy bit. Now on to the next adventure – finding a way to pay the bills!

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can also click this button to read other bloggers’ adventures. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few. If you missed last week’s adventure about saying goodbye to one home and hello to another, you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.

52 Weeks of Adventure #33: So Long, So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

Unbelievably, it came. It came the way Christmas came despite the Grinch’s best efforts at keeping it away. It came like the downward plunge part of the roller coaster, where the build-up seems to last forever as tick-tick-tick your way to the top and then suddenly you are plunging downhill and the whole thing is over in a matter of seconds.

So long

Friday was both our final day in Korea and (because of the time difference) our first day in America. We somehow made it through our long trip back to America with our 4 suitcases full of everything we’ve collected over these years. But before we left, we said good-bye to some of our favorite places and some of our favorite people.

We went to Busan, our favorite Korean city, and said good-bye to the water, and the skyline, and the beach, covered in fully-clothed Koreans hiding under umbrellas.

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We ate our last bingsu and our last bulgogi and mandu and (mercifully) our last kimchi.

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We went to the noraebang (like a private karaoke room) for the last time and I bellowed out a painful rendition of Colors of the Wind while my friend Josh performed an interpretive dance.

We sold, donated, or threw out all of our things. And we said goodbye to the friends we’ve made who will now be scattered all over the wide world, to Canada and India and South Africa, and good old Kansas, USA.

We said good-bye to our steaming hot apartment, our twin-sized bed, and our wallpaper with silvery butterflies.

We said goodbye to the cutest children and the pushiest elderly people in the world.

We said good-bye to city living, to daily cultural misunderstandings, to the background noise of screeching buses and old people spitting in the street and unintelligible Korean chatter.

We said goodbye to our home.

And then.

We said Hello.

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My amazing family!!!!

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With my grandparents at their regular breakfast joint.

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can also click this button to read other bloggers’ adventures. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few. If you missed last week’s adventure about my final days of teaching and my English summer camp, you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.

Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure # 32: Summer English Camp and the Last Days of Teaching

Last week I taught the last classes I will ever teach in Korea. (Though I suppose no one really knows the future, so maybe they won’t be the last!)

While the regular school semester ended on July 24th, one of the weird quirks of the contract for native English teachers is that we are still required to go to work from 8:30 to 4:30 every day over summer vacation, even though school is not in session. Every school is different in terms of what they expect their native teachers to be doing during this time. Some schools will ask the teacher to teach some low-level classes to a small group of students who are behind, some will ask teachers to practice English with the students by calling them all at their homes, and almost all schools will require their native teacher to run an English camp that can last for anywhere between 2 days and 2 weeks.

Even with English camps and other classes, most teachers will end up with a lot of time doing what we call deskwarming. Sitting at our desks streaming TV shows and reading books because there is no real work to do, but we are still required to be physically present. Some days when I am desk warming I don’t see another living soul all day. (The regular teachers get vacation like the students do, so they might pop in and out occasionally to take care of something, but for the most part they are gone). Some teachers find this maddening. I don’t mind it so much since I feel like I’m basically getting paid to come sit at my desk and work on my own writing projects.

This summer is admittedly a little different because there’s so much packing and cleaning and sorting that needs to happen, so sitting at my desk for 8 hours really does feel like it’s wasting valuable time, but we are managing to squeeze everything in in the after-work hours and I think we’re going to make it. Wednesday is our last day of work. We’ll move out of our apartment Thursday morning and head to Seoul, then we’ll spend the night near the airport before flying to America on Friday. In the midst of all the busyness, I don’t know quite how to process all that it means to be leaving Korea permanently and to be returning back to a home that’s not quite our home.

This summer Jonathan and I each had a 3-day camp and we were able to help out at each others’ schools. His school is a bit bigger than mine and had about 4x the number of students attending, so it was significantly more stressful. My camp ended up only having 14 students total so it was very relaxed.

For camp we prepared themed lessons with special games and craft activities we wouldn’t normally have time or freedom to do within the normal curriculum. In the past I’ve done a Winter Olympics camp and a Harry Potter camp. This year we just did a bunch of random topics like music, sports, movies, dinosaurs, space, under the sea, pirates, and superheroes. As always, they liked some of the themes and activities more than others, but overall it seemed to go OK.

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My Co-teacher added all the cutesy stickers and fonts to the pictures. 🙂

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This is the big rock outside of my school. It says "Daegu Ehyun Elementary School" in case you were wondering.

This is the big rock outside of my school. It says “Daegu Ehyun Elementary School” in case you were wondering.

How cute is my CoT? This is NOT the infamous CoT, by the way. This is my other adorable, sweet and very helpful CoT, May.

How cute is my CoT? This is NOT the infamous CoT, by the way. This is my other adorable, sweet and very helpful CoT, May.

And so ends my two years of teaching in a Korean elementary school. While I’m ready for a break from teaching, I know I’ll miss these sweet little faces. I’ve learned so many things about teaching, about the world, about myself, about Jonathan, and about God during these years and although sometimes they have been very hard, they have been richly rewarding and fulfilling. Besides our decision to get married, both Jonathan and I consider Korea the best decision we ever made, even when we’ve hated it. This experience has shaped us profoundly and I believe it will continue to do so even as we move on to a new adventure.

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can also click this button to read other bloggers’ adventures. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few. If you missed last week’s adventure about my trip up Daegu Tower and out to a Korean village, you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.

Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure #31: Daegu Tower and the Korean Countryside

This past week has been jam-packed with activities. Not only have we been busy packing, selling furniture, running summer camps, and making arrangements for our move, we’ve also been doing our best to have lots of Korean adventures. Our friends Josh and Laura have a friend of theirs visiting from the US which has given us extra opportunities to do more touristy things, like finally going to the top of the Daegu Tower.

Most of the bigger cities in Korea have a tower with an observatory at the top for seeing the city. Seoul has Namsan Tower and Busan has Busan Tower, etc.. Daegu Tower (technically I think it’s name is the Woobang Tower or 83 Tower) is supposedly the tallest one in Korea structure-wise, but since the one in Seoul is on top of a mountain, it’s much higher elevation-wise. Daegu Tower is located in/behind an amusement park called Eworld. It’s one of the places we’ve always said we should go sometimes and have just never gotten around to, so we were excited to check it off our list.

Picture comparing the size of different towers.  I don't think these are to scale...

Picture comparing the size of different towers. I don’t think these are to scale…

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It looks so different from above!

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One of our Korean friends who we used to see regularly at our house church recently moved out of Daegu and into a smaller rural town. She invited us to visit her there and we wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to see her one last time and also to enjoy the Korean countryside which is quite beautiful. The drive 1 1/2 hour drive to her town was so beautiful and peaceful –  a completely different side of Korea from the one we experience in every day life.
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As part of our visit, she took us to a national park in which is home to a famous temple. While it’s been unmercifully hot and humid here, we did most of our walking around in the late afternoon and early evening which made the heat a little more bearable and made for some spectacular lighting.

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This particular temple (Haeinsa Temple) is important because it houses many of the original Korean printing blocks that were made over a thousand years ago. Korea was the first country to use printing presses, hundreds of years before Gutenberg came along. The printing blocks are stored in buildings that use ancient technologies for keeping them dry and protecting from heat and cold.

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Although the traffic jam on the way home made our return bus ride a lot longer than our trip there, it was completely worth it to get to spend some time in the country, to see one last temple, and to say goodbye to our friend.

We are 10 days from our return to America and I don’t think my heart could be any more full of longing – longing for home and at the same time longing for all of this to never end.

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few – no pressure. If you missed last week’s adventure about checking out the Daegu Chicken and Beer Festival you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.

Fifty-two Weeks of Adventure #30: Daegu Chicken and Beer Festival

This past week was the second annual Chimac festival in Daegu. Chimac is a made-up word jamming together “Chicken” and “Mekju” which is the Korean word for beer. This festival is a marriage of two of Korea’s favorite things, fried chicken and cheap beer.

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The festival was held in Duryu Park, a large park just one subway stop from our place. I went to the festival with some girl friends on Friday night and scoped out the situation. Then Jonathan and I returned on Saturday afternoon and hung out for a few hours. Is there anything more fun than summer festivals? It doesn’t even matter what they’re for, I just enjoy sitting outside, listening to music, and enjoying the festival foods.

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Potato spiral proved a but tricky to eat without impaling the roof of my mouth.

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As you can see, there were tents for food and drinks EVERYWHERE so there was no shortage of options. We had fried chicken and kebab and a potato spiral. There were also several tents with craft beers from small local breweries. As popular as beer is in Korea (Korea has a VERY strong drinking culture), they primarily drink one of two beers, Cass or Hite, both of which are sort of the equivalent of Bud light or Miller. Very light and very mellow. We tried a Heffeweisen from one of the craft brew tents that wasn’t bad. It reminded me of our life in Raleigh, which feels like a thousand years ago, because  North Carolina is just bursting with little independent breweries.

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Jonathan was getting artsy.

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We watched a couple of performances as it started to get dark, including these girls who were pretty bad at dancing and later a band comprised of what looked like 6th grade girls plus one boy who was the drummer. I was much more impressed by them.

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How cute are they?

Being at the festival made us very nostalgic about our time in Korea and a little sad about leaving. In particular I think we will miss living in a big city and having unique cultural experiences at our fingertips. We spent a while dreaming about the places we might go in the future. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from our whole Korea adventure it’s that you really never know where your life might end up if you stay open to possibilities.

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Of course, no festival is complete without the dancing light-up beer bottle!

View of Daegu Tower at night. Which we are hoping to go up to the top of in the next week!

View of Daegu Tower at night. Which we are hoping to go up to the top of in the next week!

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few – no pressure. If you missed last week’s adventure about our final trip to Seoul you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.

Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure #28: Hiking Palgongsan, Featuring Lawrence the Slug

One thing we love about Korea is the mountains. I grew up in Louisiana which is so flat, part of it is actually below sea level, and hubby grew up in Indiana, which is possible even flatter. When we lived in North Carolina we loved that the land had a roll to it with lots of small hills and there were real mountains within an hour’s drive or so. Here in Daegu, we live in a geographic bowl surrounded on all sides by mountains. You can see them any direction you look and you can hike most of them. When we move back to the US we’ll be in South Carolina which might have a few hills, but doesn’t have mountains, and I know we will really miss seeing them every day.

On Saturday we went hiking at Palgongsan which is the tallest mountain in the Daegu area. We’ve only hiked to the summit once since it takes a solid 4 hours to do, but thankfully there are lots of smaller ridges and peaks you can hike to more easily and still get a nice view.

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The view from the highest place we climbed to.

We decided to go on Saturday because it had rained during the week and was supposed to rain again on Sunday so we wanted to take advantage of our window of opportunity. What we didn’t realize was that all of that rain made it unbearably humid and sweat was dripping from our fingers and elbows and noses within minutes.

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Apart from the heat and humidity, the hike we did wasn’t too strenuous and there were some temples and shrines along the way that we could stop at.

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We took my parents to this temple when they visited last year and at the time it was decorated with lanterns for Buddha’s birthday.

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The ubiquitous rock pile.

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A jillion tiny Buddhas! Dreams do come true!

We originally intended to continue on across a ridge to get to another peak, but as we headed that direction it started to thunder. Thunderstorms are extremely unusual here (at least down in the city) so we figured we should probably get off the mountain before it hit.

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We did get to see this amazing slug that was half the size of my hand. I shall call him Lawrence.

Since we only have four weekends left in Korea, this was probably our last time hiking at Palgongsan. Like everything these days, this was bittersweet. While I’ve moved many times in the past few years, this is the first time I’ll be moving away truly not knowing if I will ever come back to these places again. So while part of me is counting down the days, another part of me doesn’t quite know how to say goodbye. I am so thankful for the adventures we’ve had here, even as I look forward to the adventures to come.

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few – no pressure. If you missed last week’s adventure about our visit to the cat cafe, you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.