fifty-two weeks of 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.

Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure # 35: Epic College Roommate Reunion

After a whirlwind first week in America I left my hubby and new home and headed up to Chicago and then Wisconsin for a reunion with my college roommates at our friend Anna’s family lake house – a place that holds a lot of sweet memories for all of us of our time in college and beyond.

To be honest I was nervous to see these girls after two years living abroad. While we’ve all been friends for a long time now, through five post-college years and different life stages I was anxious about whether it would feel the same to come back together after being gone for two years during which I grew and changed at what felt like an accelerated pace. It also felt strange that the other girls had all seen one another without me on multiple occasions during my time in Korea and frankly, I was worried about whether or not I still fit.

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Together again! We all made it! 2 from South Carolina, 2 from North Carolina and one from the Chicago area (where we all met).

I was relieved to find that even though some things were different and I had moments where I felt disconnected from the lives and experiences of my friends, for the most part I still felt like we clicked and meshed well together. And more importantly than our different life experiences over the past few years, we still care about each other and are genuinely interested in each others’ lives.

One of the most exciting things about the weekend was celebrating Christina, who is getting married this month, with some special bachelorette activities. (And by bachelorette activities I mean Christina wore this headdress and we gave her lingerie and lots of dubious marital advice and drank tequila).

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Asharae describes this headpiece as her crowning achievement in crafting and I am inclined to agree! My favorite part of this picture though is Taylor in the background eating chips and guac and saying something with her eyes closed.

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Unfortunately, it was fairly cool (for August) and rainy during our weekend at the lake, so we didn’t do a lot of our usual lake activities like sunbathing and water skiing. We did make it out on the lake for some casual boat rides around the rain, but mostly we stayed cozy inside eating tons and tons of foods, talking each others’ ears off, playing games, and watching movies. Basically, it was perfection.

I brought my friends some gifts from Korea – superhero minion socks, scary face masks, and hilarious lip masks, all of which we tried out on the spot.

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Since I’ve gotten really into makeup and makeup artistry over the past year or so, my friends graciously allowed me to do makeup experiments on them  – some more successfully than others – to try out new things and practice looks for Christina’s wedding.

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The best part of the whole weekend was that this time when we all said goodbye we knew it would only be 4 weeks til we will be reunited again at Christina’s wedding which three of us will stand in as bridesmaids while Asharae and her husband do the photography.

I am so incredibly thankful for these women and for their friendship over years and miles. It’s kind of a big deal. ; )

Thank you also to all of you who have sent such kind and encouraging messages during a very busy and stressful time. Now that moving and my travels are done I am ready to get back to more regular posting here and to figure out what normal life will look like in this new season. I admit that the transition has been both easier and harder than I anticipated, but more on that later. For now, thanks to the many of you who have shown such kindness and support over the past few months and especially the past few weeks. It is genuinely appreciated.

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 our not-so-extreme home makeover 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.

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 # 27: Cat Cafe

Before we moved to Korea I remember reading blog posts about how popular pet cafes are here. Pet cafes, like the name implies, are coffee shops where you can enjoy a beverage while being surrounded by puppies and kitties. What could be better than sipping espresso while petting a fluffy kitty of twelve? Since arriving in Korea we’ve visited a few pet cafes and while it isn’t something most people would do every weekend, it is a unique and fun experience. We decided to go to one of our local cat cafes this weekend to get our cat fix and to experience something we won’t be able to do soon one more time.

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When you go into the cat cafe you take off your shoes and go through the gate. You wash your hands and pay the admission fee (8,000 won or about $8 USD) which includes a drink you select from the menu. Then you are free to roam around or settle wherever you’d like. There are special cat treats you can purchase if you want, but you don’t have to.

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The cats are very mellow and wander around as cats do, climbing on the tables and sprawling lazily on top of people’s bags at will. The whole thing is probably pretty unsanitary, but also fun.

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The ones that look really grumpy are kind of my favorites.

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I don’t think its angry, that’s just how its face looks.

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This little girl had treats.

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I want a fat orange cat so bad. I think we need another ginger in our family.

Personally, I prefer the cafes that only have cats. I’ve only been to one that had dogs (the cats and dogs were on separate floors) and I didn’t feel good about the dogs being in that environment. While they were undoubtedly well-fed and received more attention than some dogs, there were simply too many of them in too small of a space and I felt like they needed to be free to run around and to have an owner that cared for them and bonded with them. In contrast, I feel like the cats in the cat cafe are better off than a lot of cats in Korea. Cats aren’t nearly as popular of pets in Korea as dogs are and there are street cats EVERYWHERE so the cats in the cafe actually have a really great life compared to most cats in Korea. I actually saw a dead kitten in the road on my way to school last week which made me so sad. I feel that the cats in the cafes are well fed and they have all the fancy cat trees and cubbies and equipment they could want, so they can decide when they want to interact and can easily get away when they need alone time. They all seem to get along with one another really well and get lots of attention and they are all very gentle.

Pet Cafes aren’t exclusive to Korea (in fact, when we were in Japan there was a bunny cafe, but we didn’t go to it), but Korea is the first place that we ever encountered them and so we will always associate them with Korea. We may not be able to go to a cat cafe in America, but we’ll have something much better – we’ll be reunited with our own fur babies, Bart and Ruthie, who have been staying with friends for the past two years. We miss their little personalities and presence in our home and they are just one of the many, many things we are looking forward to about being back in America.

Can you believe that we’re more than halfway through the 52 Weeks of Adventure?! Be sure to check out my most faithful co-adventurers, Pradnya and Jenn who have both come so far on this journey and shared so many beautiful adventures.

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 photo shoot with Laura 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 # 26: Working That Camera

One of the best decision we made before coming to Korea was the decision to invest in a decent camera. We purchased a Canon Rebel T3i two years ago and it’s been such a great camera for amateurs wanting some higher quality pictures without the desire, time, or money to buy and learn to use professional grade equipment. One thing that’s been true about having our big camera is that while we get to take lots of great pictures of places we go or even of each other, we rarely get a chance to take good pictures together. For one thing, it isn’t easy to get good selfies with a big heavy camera. And it’s a bit harder to ask a random stranger to take a picture for you when in a foreign country, especially since a lot of people get intimidated by big cameras.

When we were back in the US we were so fortunate to have some good friends who are photographers. In fact, two of my roommates from college are now professional wedding and lifestyle photographers, so we had really talented friends who were able to take our engagement photos, wedding photos, and even an anniversary photo session for our second anniversary. (Check them out here and here!) Jonathan and I really wanted to take some updated photos together for our 5th anniversary and also to have some good photos together in Korea that weren’t just snapshots in front of tourist attractions. Luckily for us, one of our best friends here in Korea is (wait for it…) a photographer!

Our awesome friend Laura agreed to do some couples photos for us this weekend so that we could have some updated family photos that were also of us in Korea which will always be a big part of our lives and our story. We headed over to Laura’s side of Daegu for these pictures (about 50 minutes from us by bus) which we took on the campus of Kyungpook National University. Laura’s husband, Josh, agreed to stay home with their (almost) 11-month-old Genevieve so we could catch the late afternoon light.I’m so excited to share the photos with you, but for now, here are just a few teasers.

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Sidenote: Isn’t it totally unfair the way guys always look exactly the same no matter what? Like if they are a handsome guy, (like my hubby ;)), they are just handsome all the time. There’s no special preparation necessary, no deliberation over outfits, no fussing over their hair. Whereas I spent a long time picking a dress and fixing my hair and wearing special makeup, hubby got dressed and shaved his neck. His entire regimen took about 10 minutes. Sigh.

Laura also did a few headshots for me which was so great because the two I tend to use are 4-6 years old and, let’s face it, I really don’t look like I’m 21 anymore. 🙂 I’ll be switching out my bio picture on this site soon!

I’m so thankful to have these photos and to capture these memories of this time in our lives. I’ll share more of the photos once Laura’s finished with them.

If you’re interested in checking out some of Laura’s other work, be sure to visit her website. Josh, Laura, and Gen will be moving back to Kansas in August!

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 the hilarious Konglish writing we find everywhere 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.