adventures

Fifty-two Weeks of Adventure #50: Christmas Feast

In spite of the 70 degree weather we’ve experienced here in Columbia this week, Christmas is only two weeks away. Since this is the first Christmas we’ve spent in the US in 3 years, we’ve been trying to make the most of Christmas festivities.

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The Dunn House is ready for Christmas.

We've got our stockings up and everything!

We’ve got our stockings up and everything!

On Saturday night we drove to our friends Asharae and Tim’s home outside of Charlotte. Asharae was one of my college roommates and she and her husband are fantastically talented wedding photographers and videographers and all around terrifically creative and incredibly sweet people. We take it as a clear act of grace that we now live a mere 2 hr drive from them.

Asharae and Tim hosted a Christmas party for their friends which included Brandon and Christy, who live in Charlotte and have visited a few times this fall , and also a whole slew of new acquaintances.

This party was so festive. There were Christmas decorations and holiday beverages and party foods and Christmas movies and cookies to decorate. Brandon wore a pair of excellent green velour shorts with jingle bells on them that I think we sadly failed to get proper photo documentation of.

Check out that gorgeous centerpiece!

Check out that gorgeous centerpiece!

Concentrating on the decorations.

Concentrating on the decorations.

Queen Frostine. Get it?

Queen Frostine. Get it?

Moments like these are the ones that make me so glad to be back in the US sharing these moments with people who are dear to us. I miss the excitement and glamor of life abroad, but there is something sacred and special about sharing these moments with the people we love. 12360250_10100345764262652_9103981593181293596_n

Tomorrow Jonathan’s family is coming to stay with us for a few days and next week we will head down to Louisiana to spend Christmas with my family. It’s hard to believe that there are only two adventures left in this year that has been so very full.

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 grown up birthday celebration at the zoo, 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.

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Fifty Two Weeks of Adventure # 38: Farmer’s Market and Greek Festival

The calendar says it’s fall, but Columbia hasn’t gotten the memo yet. It’s continued to hit the 90’s here most days, but since I have the ability to spend most of my time in air conditioned buildings or cars (unlike in Korea where it was equally hot but without much air conditioning), I can’t complain too much. It’s also been beautifully clear with brilliant blue skies almost every day (also a huge contrast to Korea which is frequently hazy even on sunny days) so I’ve been inspired to get out and do a little exploring.

The Soda City Farmer’s Market is open every Saturday morning in downtown Columbia. I love farmer’s markets. Back in Raleigh there is a huge, permanent farmer’s market that’s open every day with an especially big one on Saturdays. In Korea, there were two markets within walking distance of our apartment and I often got our fruits and vegetables there. The Soda City Farmer’s Market has a fun atmosphere with a combination of fresh produce, baked goods, food trucks/stalls, and art, jewelry, and crafts made by local artisans.
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The most unique part of this market compared with others I’ve been to was a produce stand that allowed you to take a box and fill it as full as you could with whatever produce items you wanted. It was $10 for the entire box and there was a good variety of fruits and veggies to choose from that all came from a local farm.
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I managed to pack in corn, kale, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, a spaghetti squash, yellow squash, apples, peaches, an eggplant, and some mushrooms.
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I had a moment of nostalgia when I passed this tent selling Korean food. It was only about 10 AM so I wasn’t ready to eat, otherwise I would have been all over that mandu!
Sorry to the lady who was standing right there while I was trying to get a picture of the menu board!

Sorry to the lady who was standing right there while I was trying to get a picture of the menu board!

In the afternoon we went to the Greek Festival which was going on all weekend long at the Greek Orthodox Church.
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My dad is Greek and I grew up eating Greek food so it’s always a little nostalgic to me to eat it. The festival was packed but the gyros we ended up with were well worth the wait.
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We also got to see a little Greek dancing.
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I’d heard rumors of a baklava sundae, but couldn’t find it anywhere so we didn’t end up having any desserts. Probably for the best considering all the yummy foods we’ve been indulging in lately and the fact that I have a bridesmaid’s dress to fit into for a Very Important Wedding this weekend!

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 teaching the 7th grade 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 #37: Tales From the Seventh Grade

I have a friend who teaches 6th grade history and media studies at a private school in Raleigh. She is pretty great at what she does and seems to really enjoy it (for the most part).  I’ve always felt a bit in awe of her, knowing that she voluntarily goes into whole classrooms full of tweens on a daily basis. Another friend (the one we went hiking with in Charlotte last week) teaches history and Latin to middle schoolers and also coaches several teams. Again, a fantastic teacher who seems to genuinely enjoy what he does. I’ve always felt that it takes a special person and personality to enjoy that awkward middle school age group and I’ve also always felt that I was not one of them. This week I put that theory to the test.

I am still actively seeking employment here in Columbia as several part-time and freelance opportunities I’d been trying to line up have fallen through. One of the few things I have been successful at was getting hired on as a tutor at a local (very nice) private school. When I interviewed to be a tutor I also interviewed to work as a substitute teacher and this week I got my first call to come in.

I got a text at 8 AM asking if I could sub last-minute. I was still in pajamas and hadn’t even had a first cup of coffee. So naturally I said yes. I had no idea what grade or subject I’d be teaching, but I pulled myself together and said a quick prayer that it was something I knew something about. Especially since this was technically my first time teaching in an American classroom.

When I arrived at the school I was taken to a middle school classroom full of maps where I deduced that the class had something to do with geography. It was 7th grade geography. Luckily, the teacher had created a PPT presentation for that day which was on the computer. I quickly tried to remember everything I knew about maps, globes, equivalency and confluency. The reservoir in my brain proved to be decidedly shallow, but, as every good teacher knows, when in doubt, fake it! Or Google it if you have time and/or can do it discreetly.

The first class came in wearing neon green and orange and yellow (it was Spirit week, and “Neon Day,” a memo I clearly had not gotten in my black and white ensemble) and talking a mile a minute. “I’m Mrs. Dunn. I’m subbing today,” I said over the sound of their chatter and my own pounding heart. And then…I taught.

I taught four geography classes and a homeroom class. To 7th graders. And I kind of loved it.

Sure, they were more chatty and rambunctious than was probably ideal, but I was surprised by how endearing I found them. In seventh grade they’ve reached the age where they’ve realized that one great way to get out of work when they have a sub is to distract them with lots and lots of questions, most of which I didn’t answer.

“Where’s Ms. H? Are you our permanent sub? Could you be our permanent sub? You have an accent (hah!) Where are you from? What’s on your shirt? Is it kangaroos? Is it dinosaurs? I think it’s cats. Where’d you get it? Where is your necklace from?”

And a few of which I did:

Student: Are you normally a geographer teacher?

Me: No, I used to teach English.

S: Then how do you know so much about geography?

M: Because I’m an adult.

S: I can see why you were a teacher. You’re good at it. I actually feel like I’m learning something.

M: Thanks. (Maybe this was sucking up, but it still made me feel good!)

There were also the funny compliments which were possibly meant only to distract me, but I like to think they were genuine.

S: I love your eyebrows.

M: Thanks.

S: No, really. They’re perfect. Look! (All the girls in the classroom look and sigh in envy) Wow. They really are.

M: Ummmm, thanks… (If only they know. My eyebrows are actually the bane of my existence beauty-wise. They look ridiculous 92% of the time).

In the end we made it through with few casualties and apart from feeling rather more tired than normal I have to admit that I had fun. Perhaps teaching middle school is not quite the hell I imagined it to be, but it still was a big 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 hiking in Charlotte 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 # 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 # 15: That’s So Korean and Igidae Coastal Walkway

Last week I mentioned that we’d intended to take a day trip to Busan and had to postpone because of the rain. This past Saturday we cashed in our rain check and headed down to the coast for the day.

Busan is the second largest city in Korea (after Seoul) and is situated on the southern coast. It is also our favorite city in Korea. We like it because, with the water, the beaches, and an actual skyline, it has a more unique look and feel than any other city we’ve been to in Korea. We also love breathing in some of that fresh sea air.  We can reach Busan in 45 minutes on the KTX (high-speed train) or 1 1/2 hours on the slow train.

We weren’t in a hurry so we took the slower train in the early afternoon and made our way straight out to the coast. We decided to check out a large park called Igidae which is located on a small peninsula with a seaside path along the rocky cliff edges. From the path we were able to look back and get a great view of Gwangan Bridge and Gwangali beach, one of my favorite bits of the city.

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While we didn’t do extensive research we did learn a little bit about the name Igidae and its historical significance. Like nearly every historical monument or emblem in Korea, the story behind this park has to do with a Japanese invasion.

When the Japanese invaded Joseon in the late 16th century, 
they conquered Suyeongseong Fortress and held a feast 
to celebrate their victory at a high, open spot that 
commanded pleasant scenery. Two Korean gisaeng 
(female professional entertainers) were taken to the feast. 
They seized a drunken Japanese commander 
and jumped into the sea 
as a reprisal against the Japanese invasion of their homeland.  
Thus, the name Igidae, which means two gisaeng, was given to this place.  
In Jonathan’s words, “So this, like all important pieces of Korean history, is a memorial to them giving Japan the middle finger.”
The path itself was very gentle and easy to walk with the exception of the suspension bridges which naturally terrify me. It just occurred to me that maybe my real fear is cables since both cable cars and suspension bridges produce this reaction in me.
It's actually more of the dangling that I hate so much.

It’s actually more of the dangling that I hate so much.

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There were many people out on the rocks picnicking, fishing, or just relaxing.

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Quintessential Korean ajummas having  a picnic on hard rocks while being covered head to toe lest the sun touch any speck of their skin.

Quintessential Korean ajummas having a picnic on hard rocks while being covered head to toe lest the sun touch any speck of their skin.

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Look at that stud!

Look at that stud!

At one point we passed what looked like a bunker built into the cliff. There was a sign explaining that these were barracks for the female divers who dove and collected sea creatures here. Then we saw these women selling said sea creatures for a fresh and tasty snack. I’m pretty sure most of these things were still alive.

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We discovered a cave along the way complete with the obligatory rock piles. A naughty part of me always wants to knock those over.

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We also grabbed a few pictures of other funny little Korean-isms. As we wind down our time here we’ve been putting more effort into gathering some of those things that make us laugh and say, “That’s so Korean.” For example:

English translations: "Here it is! A Copper Mine!"

English translations: “Here it is a copper mine!” The moment you’ve all been waiting for has finally come!

Two things about this - first, this man is just chilling doing standing pushups here on this railing. Second, this sign which has the distance to major international locations - Los Angeles, Beijing,

Two things about this – first, this man is just chilling doing standing pushups here on this railing. Second, this sign which has the distance to major international locations – Los Angeles, Beijing, etc. And then, also, Dokdo. Dokdo is a tiny island between Korea and Japan that both countries claim, but that Korea passionately insists belongs to them. “Dokdo is Korean Territory” is stamped on everything – random signs, notebooks from the stationary store, office supplies, Kleenex boxes, everywhere. I’ve heard there’s a channel that runs a continuous real-time feed of Dokdo. Dokdo is barely big enough to be called an island. It is literally two rocks in the middle of the sea. So, you know, right up there with Beijing and L.A.

On our way back for dinner we passed one of the outdoor gyms and I saw people using some of those giant hula hoops I'd seen on my hike last weekend. Blurry picture, but I was pretty excited.

On our way back for dinner we passed one of the outdoor gyms and I saw people using some of those giant hula hoops I’d seen on my hike last weekend. Blurry picture, but I was pretty excited.

We always enjoy our trips to Busan and this one was no exception. We hope to make it back a few more times before our Korean adventures are over.

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 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.