After a seemingly endless winter, Swedish summer is so blissful! The summer holidays are kicked off by midsummer which is bittersweet. There is so much sunshine and celebration…but darker days are coming (quite literally). This year we spent a few days at our friends summer cabin on a small island in a beautiful lake about 40 minutes from home.
We organized a bring and share meal -including all traditional Swedish food and drinks. There was sill (herring), lots of boiled potatoes and even schnapps – complete with us ‘singing’ the accompanying midsummer/drinking song! My personal favourite is one about small frogs, and it gets me seeing adults and children alike singing and acting like frogs!
Here you’ll find an explanation and have a listen if you’d like!
The weekend was spent hanging out in hammocks, lazing on the dock, playing cards, making flower crowns, swimming, fishing and more! We are so grateful and lucky to get to hang out at this gorgeous place so often. It is quite possibly my most favourite place in Sweden!
This month Mark turned 40! It was a big birthday that definitely needed celebrating, but in a very difficult, strange and trying time. Living in another country in a very international environment, we wanted to celebrate by honouring our heritage, our roots and sharing South Africa with our friends here. (Also, what is a birthday without a braai somewhere during your birthday month to celebrate??). We also needed to at least TRY to attempt some social distancing by being outdoors as much as possible. In Sweden we haven’t seen much restrictions so we weren’t breaking any rules! So a braai it was!
Quite recently we have found some other South African ex-pats who have been making boerewors at home. We got very excited and ordered a few kg’s and had it at every campfire for about a month. While boerewors has never been my favourite braai meat back home, this stuff has never tasted so sweet! Must just be the taste of home! We put in another order for Mark’s birthday and dished it out as starters (like one would usually do with steak). We made some salads that would usually feature at South African braai (with some delegating skills). I also tried my hand at a milk tart and my dear friend Alyssa (Sweden/ Canada’s greatest baker) made a chocolate peanut butter tart AND a carrot cake roll.
Mark was so spoilt by friends and family who pitched in to get him an amazing coffee machine. It’s a bean to cup that he has been wanting for aaaages. On top of that, he received other thoughtful gifts too – chocolate, locally roasted coffee beans, a Moomin mug, and a hand painted watercolour of a trout. Time and time again we have been blown away with the kindness, thoughtfulness and connections we have with people we meet here. We are so grateful to have these people as our support and be able to share and celebrate milestones with them.
Time for our July Update! As you may know, it is now December (almost January). I am backtracking a good few months, I realise this, but bear with me! I’d like to continue our monthly updates, as memories for ourselves and to keep family up-to-date with our activities. While I’m feeling inspired in the holidays I’ll be playing catch up with our monthly updates! So, for now, let’s go back to July!
July Update – in a nutshell
In July, we were still in South Korea. Doing a part-time teaching contract while searching for new opportunities abroad. I hinted in our June Update that I had had some leads, but I was very hesitant to share too much before things were confirmed! Well, as you may be aware, things worked out and the job search was successful. July was a whirlwind month spent signing contracts, applying for visas, visiting embassies and booking flights. I got a job teaching English in Sweden, and was due to start at the beginning of August! In addition to this, we had a special visitor from South Africa and had to pack up our home and lives, once again!
South Africans in South Korea
My friend arrived at the end of June and we spent almost two weeks flitting around Korea in the extreme humidity, post typhoon! It was a bit of a juggle, with us still working a few hours a day and trying to take trips and do some galavanting. But it all worked out great! We went to the beach in Busan, got lost exploring Gamcheon Cultural Village (yet again), tried all the delicious food at The Nampodong street market, dressed up in hanbok at the grand palace and walked our feet off in Seoul! We were so excited to finally share some of Koreas amazingness with friends from home!
Our friend (and boss) Sunny has been such a blessing to us in Korea. She has helped us out and made our short time in Korea so homey, convenient and fun! As our time together drew to an end, we decided to do something adventurous to create some memories together. Her and her husband suggested going white water rafting (which is something I have always been terribly afraid of).
We went west towards Jirisan for our day in the sun and booked into a pension for the night. There are plenty tour companies that run these rafting tours, and I can’t quite remember which one we used, but this looks like it! The rafting wasn’t really “white” and was actually quite slow and boring on many parts of the river. We were able to jump off and swim alongside the boat to cool down. Just when we started getting “bored” and wishing we had a cooler of beverages in the boat, we arrived alongside an oasis. This oasis was created by the rafting company and sold plenty of delicious snacks. We very quickly demolished ramen, pajeon and a kettle of makgeolli. With spirits restored, we climbed back into the raft and continued for another 300m. These guys did it right with making an extra little income stop shop!
Packing up Home (again)
All that was left after this was to finalise our move. We had to stay in Korea until we received our work permits from the Swedish embassy in Seoul. however, we couldn’t book flights until we knew when exactly we could leave. There were so many if’s and buts. We slowly started packing some things into a box to ship to Sweden. We determined what could stay with Mark and go in his bag IF I was able to go home to South Africa between Korea and Sweden. Of course, I didn’t want to leave Mark with too much to do should he be packing up on his own. But, I also couldn’t leave him with nothing for a week if I did get to go home.
I’m an Aunty!
One of the main factors of my decision to pop in for a visit back home was because my brother and precious sister-in-law had a baby!! On the 19th July 2018, while teaching a class, I got a text message announcing the wonderful news. I stopped mid -sentence, picked up my phone and shrieked with joy! The first pictures of our beautiful addition. My mind was made up…I HAD to go home! But… our work permits still hadn’t arrived. I spent the next 36 hours searching for cheap flights (as cheap as they get when you book 4 days in advance). The very next day our permits arrived! I booked the flights to South Africa and then to Sweden a week later. Mark booked his straight from Korea to Sweden.
South Africa for a Week
It was a whirlwind! After I took the longest route possible ever to get home – I finally met my gorgeous nephew. Much of the week was taken up with visits at my brothers’ house, just soaking his baby newness all in. I’m in love! I met another special friends’ 7 week old cuteness too. I was so lucky to have these two special women on maternity leave. I’m so grateful to have been able to spend some quality time with them and their babes.
I also got to celebrate a very special 5th birthday party, and hang out at markets with my mom and dear friends. Of course, I got to cuddle my precious puppy and have a few tea times with my amazing gran. It really was a “take in everything you love” week. Who knows when we will be able to get back home again. Thank you home, for filling up my love tank!
Goodbye Korea, Again
Just like last time, it wasn’t any easier to leave Korea. We rekindled old friendships, went on more adventures, and settled into Korean life with a great sense of ease and familiarity. korea will always be one of our favourite places in the world. Delicious food, unending adventures and a home away from home. Thank you, and goodbye, SoKo. We’ll see you again, I’m sure of it.
So that was the July Update! Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for Augusts where you can see how we settled into our new home and job in Sweden!
Now that we live in a very north, very cold country, we are finding it a little more challenging to keep up our active lifestyle. We know it’s important to get outside and receive that dose of Vitamin D. This can be difficult when we only have 6 hours of sunshine and I’m at work during those hours. With the Christmas holidays taking place, we have been able to get outdoors and explore a whole array of new (to us) winter activities in Örebro!
Cross – Country Skiing
A few years ago I watched a Nordic Skiing race on TV and laughed. I thought it was a pretty pointless and strange “sport”. Never did I think that I would be in the position (or location) to one day tackle this new activity. I am much more familiar with the skiing or the downhill variety (or rather snowboarding in my case). Since the land is pretty flat in Sweden there are ample courses and tracks to go cross-country skiing. Always looking for a good deal, we found some second-hand skis, poles and boots on Facebook Marketplace. We actually made some great South African friends through doing so! So far, we have only been twice, but I do believe there’ll be enough winter to keep going. A small ski track has opened up at Ånnaboda, that we have been practising on. A few more will be opening up as we get more snow and the temperatures drop. Ånnaboda is just out of town, a mere 30 minute drive from our apartment.
Ice – Skating on the Lake
For us warmer weather folk, we have only ever skated on an indoor ice-rink. All that changed when we moved to Korea and the temperatures were cold enough to sustain outdoor ice-rinks. Now we have hit the jackpot… a country that skates on lakes and rivers! This weekend the (frozen) lake was cleared, swept and prepared for the skating season. You can hire skates, both regular or long/Nordic ones, spark (kick chairs) and helmets. The staff at Rynningeviken are super helpful, friendly and quick to rent you the equipment you need. I tried the longer skates this time, as I have only ever ice-skated with traditional ice skates. They were much easier to balance on, and when using the poles, required a very similar action (and upper body strength) to cross-country skiing. We are now on the hunt for a second hand pair of skates. Then we can head down there every weekend for a run around the ice!
Light Show at the Castle
Every year there is a light show that takes place in the city centre at Christmas time. What makes this super special is that it is projected onto the castle walls. The townsfolk stand around on the bridge to see the show which lasts about 15 minutes. Some amphitheatre style seating is available -if you don’t mind a cold bum. The light show this year was about two mice that go on all these crazy cinematic adventures. It was rather cinematic but I did enjoy the gingerbread castle ad the pac-man scene. The light show takes place twice a day, at 5 pm and 7 pm from the middle of December until Christmas. It is definitely worth an outing, especially if you have kids!
This is something that goes on all year round and we attend fairly often. You can read about our experience of Parkrun in Sweden here. But the winter adds an interesting little twist to a regular ol’ run. Snow is still so novel to us, so running in it can be quite fun! Also, I never turn down a reason to get dressed up! So when our local Parkrun announced that there was a Christmas themed dress up run the week before Christmas, I was in! My friend and I spent all afternoon crafting our delightful Christmas tree outfits. However, we completely missed them actually looking for or handing out prizes…Oh well, we know we were best dressed – we even made it onto the news!
Bonfire in the Nature Reserve.
Sweden is kitted out for bonfires and really encourages people to spend time outdoors, no matter the weather! There are numerous fire pits, barbecue areas and picnic tables along the river and into the Oset and Rynningeviken Nature Reserve. These are stocked with wood regularly so we have never encountered a lack of wood. This Christmas, we didn’t have plans until later in the afternoon. We went on a cycle in the sunshine to find a barbecue spot. We weren’t the only people with these plans, however! It was so nice to see so many families out and about enjoying the nature and sunny weather together. We didn’t cook anything on the fire this time, though. Marks enormous gammon provided us with meals for days. We used the fire for much-needed warmth and ambience! This might become our new Christmas tradition 🙂
Hopefully, some of you family and friends will find yourselves in Sweden at and around Christmas sometime…. hint hint! May these ideas get you excited to plan your visit, or if not, to at least find out what we get up to during the winter months!
It’s been a fun few months settling into our new home in Sweden. After making it (alive) to half term, we were rewarded with autumn break – Höstlov. After umming and ahhing on whether to explore Europe on our doorstep. We finally made the decision to stay local and explore Sweden. We had hit the ground running and started working right away, so we hadn’t seen all that much of our new “home country” yet. Also, with only one of us having a stable job, this was the wiser choice financially.
We rented a car (complete with winter tires and ice scrapers) and set off on Saturday morning for a week-long, slightly north, but mostly central, 7 day Sweden road trip itinerary.
Day 1 and 2 – Stockholm
At 4:30 am Marks alarm went off. By 5 am I was semi-conscious drinking a cup of coffee. (This is how most of our mornings go, albeit a few hours later). By 5:30 am we left the house and were on our way to our friends’ house to pick them up (they needed a ride to the airport). We were surprised along the way to have some snow. A real sign that winter is indeed on its way! After the 2hour ish drive to the airport, we arrived in Stockholm.
Haga Park Parkrun
After frequently enjoying our local Parkrun in Örebro, we decided it would be fun to do one of the 3 in the Stockholm area. We headed to Haga Park (part of the Royal National City Park) to take part in the Halloween themed Parkrun. This time in a reverse course. It was cold, beautiful and fun. The course consisted of a double lap around the park. There were creepy marshall’s along the route.
After Parkrun, we made our way to Järfälla where our friends stay. A shower and a cup of coffee later we were ready to tourist our way around Stockholm. But first lunch! After a failed few attempts at some popular brunch and vegan buffet spots, we ended up at Deli DiLuca. We enjoyed some delicious (but maybe overpriced) plates of pasta that hit the spot and allowed us all to be friends again.
We trotted through Gamla Stan and enjoyed the crisp air that had arrived so suddenly. Seeing as we aren’t huge fans big cities, we rather enjoyed walking through the city, seeing the architecture and taking pics, not to mention the great company and catching up with old friends. We walked a solid 10kms at least, before hopping on the train back to Järfälla. A quick stop at the ICA to get some groceries for dinner and we were home drinking box wine and playing Catan. Apparently, this is my life now, almost being 30 and all. But I love it.
Snow in Autumn!
Sunday morning brought much excitement as we woke up to some (very light) snow falling. Being southern hemispherens, there was some balcony pajama dancing and photo and video taking. This continued most of the day while we were having a gander at the Barkaby outlet stores and continued for the next day or two leaving a very beautiful, whimsical feeling to our road trip! Mark had his first experience of driving through snow (just barely) up to Uppsala, the next stop on our mini Swedish road trip.
Day 2 and 3 Uppsala
We stayed in a small town called Storvreta, just outside Uppsala. The week before at Parkrun in Orebro, we met a lovely young lady from Uppsala who we got chatting to. After a while, she mentioned that her parents lived there and since all three daughters had moved out within the year, they were more than willing to have some company. This is truly one of our favourite things about travel…randomly meeting people and feeling the genuineness of humanity. So this is how we came to stay here. And boy, are we glad we did. They are the nicest, most interesting people, both originally from Germany. We had many common expat experiences and learned a few important things about living in Sweden. Of course, we also got excellent advice on things to do and see in Storvreta and Uppsala.
First things first, after the magical sprinkling of snow (the most we have ever seen fall from the sky) we had to explore the outdoors. We went for a run at the local sports club, where they usually have cross-country skiing tracks available through the winter months. We used these tracks and some other walking trails) to explore and make our way through the forest. So much fun, so much beauty. We truly felt like kids, running and playing in the snow familiar with. The outdoors in Sweden is just beautiful, and seeing something with snow or frost on has this new beauty that we aren’t yet familiar with!
Uppsala City Walk
The town of Uppsala itself is a very nifty place. It’s a student town, thanks to the prestigious University, with beautiful gardens and trails. The cathedral (Uppsala Cathedral) is the largest and tallest in all the Nordic countries. First off, we enjoyed a delightful lunch at an Indian restaurant. Now that we were on holiday we could try the lunch options that are often available during the week! Also, (after years of wanting it) we bought the board game Carcassone. We discovered a store called Webhallen – a pretty reasonable, all gaming needs store. We don’t have one in Orebro and this was the last one that we would be passing on our road trip, so we bought on a whim (and on sale) with much excitement.
Day 4 and 5 – Dalarna Lan
As fun as snow is….apparently all that comes after it rain, slush, and ice. We took a slow drive up through Dalarna Lan, stopping in Falun for lunch at an awesome Chinese Lunch Buffet. Thereafter, we made our way up to Rattvik where we went to look at the large lake, Siljan and the 628m pier (Langbryggan) that juts into it. Apparently, in the summer, people row to church instead of just going to church. Obviously none of this was going to happen due to us traveling during autumn! Instead, we took a long cautious walk in the cold to end of it. It was super misty/ foggy and visibility was low. Combine this with daylight savings – it was already pretty dark at 3 pm. There was a very eerie feeling to it!
Our Airbnb was in Nusnas, right on Lake Siljan! Had the weather been less miserable (read sunny and warm) we would have had a blast here! Nusnas is the home of the Olsson Brothers, and ultimately the DalaHast. The red, wooden, hand-carved and painted horse figurine is a true and typical Swedish handicraft (and souvenir). You will find both workshops (and museum and souvenir stores) across the road from each other! It is super interesting to see the whole process taking place. We took our sweet time trying to decide which horse to spend our money on! They definitely don’t come cheap at 215SEK for a 13 cm painted horse or 265SEK for 15cm one. Bear in mind, the two shops have different prices, so do look around if you have the time!
Nusnas is just 10km from Mora, another small town on the lake. Mora is where the great Vasaloppet finishes each year. The Vasaloppet is a 90km cross-country ski race. We popped into the Vasaloppet Museum, which was well put together but all in Swedish so we didn’t spend too much time there. Instead, just across the road is a great restaurant called Strand Kok & Bar. They have a killer deal for a weekday buffet lunch. We highly recommend popping in here, but get there early or prepare to wait for a table! It’s really popular among locals.
Day 6 and 7 – Hallefors
Onto our final (and my favourite) leg of the journey – a small, secluded cabin in the middle of the woods. It sounds like bliss (but also like a horror movie, as Mark so kindly pointed out)! We found it on Airbnb and were captivated by it immediately. To be honest, I looked forward to this part of the trip the whole time. When we arrived, we weren’t disappointed. Our host met us in front of the llama (!) enclosure at her property, and lead us to the cabin, a few km’s away. The cabin was all of 15m2 and I loved every bit of it. Without having to describe all of its wonderfulness, here is a link to the property – Little Wolf Pond Cottage. Go take a look for yourself!
Secluded Cabin in the Woods
We spent the next few days eating, reading, playing board games and card games, going for walks and trying to fish (through the icy pond). Between these activities, we napped. The wood stove was going from before 9 until we fell asleep each night. It really was a completely relaxing few days and a great end to our vacation. We took a beautiful drive home fairly early on our final morning. We were so ready for a shower!
Mark was severely disappointed to return our rental car. She was great and got us safely around on our first road trip in Sweden. We can’t wait to explore more of this beautiful country!
So, our June Update is going to be a quick one. I’m a few weeks behind and for quite a valid reason. Things heated up quickly in June. I mentioned that I was job hunting in last months update, but in reality, I was actually already busy interviewing and crossing all fingers and thumbs and legs and arms or whatever else could be crossed. I was so hesitant to mention anything and didn’t want to jinx it. Anyway, all is well that ends well. But let’s start at the beginning (of the month).
Mark had a touch rugby tournament in Busan, his second one since being back in Korea. Thank goodness it was more local. I went along to watch and spent a glorious day in the sunshine, and got to watch them take home to trophy again!
Then, as thanks for supporting him all day, Mark went away that night on a fishing trip and left me alone haha. (Jokes it’s fine I don’t mind). I got to spend a lovely day with my Bianca having brunch that turned into lunch. We perused the balcony at a gorgeous coffee shop for well over 4 hours! We then spent some time grocery shopping at two different stores! Bliss!
Hyun Ju, Ha Yeon and I took a trip to Ulsan. The beginning of summer find all sorts of flower festivals popping up everywhere and it’s really just a great time to be outdoors. It was about a two-hour drive but it was fine for a day trip. We went to Daewangam Park for a walk first. It is a smallish nature reserve on the seaside, so think rock paths and coastline walkways. It was pretty nice.
Then we went to the site of a flower festival that had happened the previous week and just had a stroll, took photos, rented a bicycle car thing and had fun.
We had a pit stop at a coffee shop midway, feeling a bit tired from the heat.
And then began our trip home, with a stop for dinner and an ice cream.
In June I managed to win our monthly competition in my yoga class (I’m pretty sure it’s just because I am the tallest person and required zero skill). So I won an ice cream cake and shared it with our friends.
One weekend we did an awesome hike. We parked at a temple in Changwon and hiked up to a pretty big and popular peak with ed and bee. To avoid doing the same route down we hiked along the ridge to another peak and tried to find another way down. It was nice. But we ended up crossing bridges, during ropes to scale rock faces and literally sliding down muddy, almost 90° hills. Also, we ended up in Jinhae after 10kms (in 6 hours) of hiking and took a taxi back to our cars in Jinhae. It was such a fun, adventurous and spontaneous day. Loved it.
Besides a few other bits and pieces, the most significant event was the arrival of My bestie! July’s update is basically going to be pictures of us. Be prepared.
The second month back in Korea is almost done, hence time for our May Update. This month was a whole lot easier after a salary each and having our own little home so close to the school. I started yoga at the local community gym (which is brand spanking new – they had only begun building it by the time we left last year). I’ve been applying for some jobs, and after a long dry spell of no responses, I’ve slowly started getting an interview here and there. Progress! So please keep me in your thoughts and prayers.
We celebrated Marks birthday for most of the weekend (and month actually – the guy is finally learning something from me). We went out for drinks on Friday evening and took our pack of cards with us. Yes, we are those people. We enjoyed a fun night out, chatting and playing cards at two of our favourite bars. On Saturday evening, We went out for dinner with Sunny, her husband and two of his friends. Dinner extended to drinks and fruit platers and pizza. This was followed by the third round of sake and Japanese food. Korean people cannot drink and not eat. I felt like I was about to pop!
On Monday we had a public holiday, due to children’s day falling on Saturday. We went with Sunny, her mom and sister to go visit her gran in Tongyeong, a group of small islands about an hour and a half away. Her gran lives in the cutest little village – DongPirang. It is a small hillside town, complete with tons of murals and cute cafes. As Teongyeong is a seaside town, naturally there is a fish market. Mark has been really keen to try out Nakji – which is Octopus/ But it is a live octopus that you choose, then it gets chopped up and put in a bowl with sesame oil and soy sauce (or something similar)… Thing is, when it arrives it is still all squirmy and stuff and you have to chew and swallow pretty quickly. Not sure about you but this is something I definitely cannot do.
After the fish market, we walked around Dongpirang and took pictures with all the cute murals. After that, we went back to Sunny’s gran’s house and had some more fruit and snacks and played with Sammy – Sunny’s cat who now lives with her gran. Before heading home, we had a (long) drive around the island before having one last dinner (I feel like we ate all day). Like every city in Korea, Teongyeong is famous for its own food too. A specific kind of gimbab. It’s plain rice and gim, in small rolls. But with “very delicious” banchan (side dishes) of kimchi and spicy squid and odang. I mean, it wasn’t terrible and it did have its own charm, but nothing to write home about. BUT, because we had nodded in agreement with their exclaims of delight, we got given a whole bag to take home for breakfast, complete with some soup, double bagged in two packets. Yum – soybean soup, rice and seaweed for breakkie.
The second weekend in May brought a visit from our friend Sam. Sam lives in Suncheon so she grabbed a train after work and headed over to us. We met her at the train station and took her to O’Briens to indulge in some burgers, fries, mozzarella sticks and wings! Despite our town being fairly small – we are lucky to have a fair choice of western food options!
On Saturday Sam and I headed through to Busan to visit Gamcheon Cultural Village. It’s the sweetest little hilly village, filled with brightly coloured houses and cute cafes. Mark hates it, so chose not to come with us. We walked around, taking pictures and enjoying the outdoors (even though the weather turned quite chilly. By then, we decided to head through to Nampodong, our favourite little area in Busan. It is home to the Busan International Film Festival and has such a fun market and all sorts of alleys selling different things. My favourite of these alleys are the second-hand stores and the food street! Mark joined us here where we ate and shopped around before heading back to Jinhae (in the pouring rain). Ed and Bianca met us in Yongwon and we had chicken and beer and spent the evening chilling at our sweet little home (which I think was filled to capacity at 5 people).
On Sunday Mark went fishing with Son, and Sam and I decided to visit Yeongungsa – a temple on the edge of the water. Due to Buddhas birthday being the following weekend we assumed it would be beautifully decorated with brightly coloured lanterns every… It wasn’t. Even worse, the scaffolding was up all around the temple, in the early phases of decorating, so you couldn’t even enjoy a clean view of it up close. Here are some pictures of it when Mark and I went with Raina before we left Korea last year.
Marks, fishing friend Son invited us to join his family and friends for a camping trip up near Jirisan, at Sancheong. We went up on Saturday morning and enjoyed a day of eating, eating and more eating. Thanks to Korea’s great love for technology, I was able to watch the entire royal wedding live stream on Son’s tablet, connected to an external power supply, right around the campfire. On Sunday morning Mark and Son went fishing at a nearby reservoir early in the morning and were back in time for breakfast. We ate three meals before 10:30 am when we decided to leave as they were preparing the fourth. Also, Sunday marked 4 months of being married – what a gosh darn adventure it’s already been!
Mark left to go fishing with Son in Hapcheon at 7 am and returned at 10 pm. I watched half a season of The Handmaids Tale, had a shower and then watched Jersey Shore Family Vacation, before putting pajamas on and getting into bed. A great day. On Sunday we went to explore a nearby beach to prepare for summer. We arrived to find so much litter, a rocky beach, and millions of those prehistoric-looking cockroaches scurrying everywhere. We went home. Later I went to meet Kim (my old co-worker from Ungdong) in Gimhae for lunch and to meet her baby Jumi. It was so nice to catch up with her, and darn, Jumi is CUTE!!! Gyumi Jumi! (Gyumi means cute).
From there Mark and I went to Changwon and met up with Ed and Bee. We had an al fresco picnic dinner in the park. Yay for summer coming along (even though we have been avoiding winter since January 2017)!
Another month down already. I can’t believe that we have been here for two months now. Time is flying.
So as I mentioned in our 2017 catch up, I would start making these monthly updates public. The last time we were here I made a PDF update every. single. month. for the whole two years. It was like a newspaper with different columns for each activity we did that month, compete with relevant photos. It was kind of the inspiration for our blog too, but a bit more personal and to keep moms, grans and aunties happy! I would just email the PDF document to my family. If you’d like to read those you’ll have to ask my mum. She probably has a flip file with every one of them printed and filed in chronological order! In this way, it’s a memory for us, as well as keeping me writing and something going on the blog regularly. So here it is, our April update!
Month 1 – April 2018
After the visa process taking so long with collecting, certifying and sending off documents, once we actually submitted our passports to the embassy, it took a day and a half. That didn’t give us much time to book flights and say final goodbyes to everyone but we had known we were on our way out so tried to make sure we caught up with people in the weeks before we left. sorry if we didn’t get to see anyone “one more time” – those do add up and eventually we just had no more time.
Off we went to the airport with my parents (after a game of Tetris getting our bags and four people into the car). We met Marks parents and sister and brother-in-law and OUR niece and nephew (finally I can call them mine!) and said a quick goodbye. We checked in our luggage (which couldn’t be checked all the way through to our final destination because there were four locations and the luggage tag only supports three! So we had to make the choice of which airport we would like to collect and recheck our luggage. HMMMM. We chose JHB so that we could forget about it in a couple of hours. We are getting much better at goodbyes, that’s for sure. No tears from me this time and barely any from mum (thanks mum) also I turned away a lot sooner and didn’t look back! It may have helped that we were looking forward to our SLOW lounge visit as we had racked up a few from all that credit card spending we had been doing in the USA. So we had the consolation of food, drinks and massages awaiting us after goodbyes.
Arrival in JHB and collecting and rechecking our luggage proved a little difficult. Apparently, Emirates and SAA have different scales so now our one bag was over 23kg. Despite the one weighing only 17kg and only having three bags instead of our allocated 4, we were made to repack the bags. Not fun. But, we made it through. We then had an 8-hour flight to Dubai, followed by a 7-hour flight to Hong Kong, followed by a 3-hour flight to Busan, our final destination.
Marks old co-worker and friend (also our new boss), Sunny, and her husband came to collect us at 7am and take us to our accommodation. We didn’t get too much sleep on each flight (probably about 3 or 4 hours on the leg to Dubai) so by the time we arrived we were pretty zonked. Let me just tell you, this flight route to Korea is insane. The jetlag is insane and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Almost three weeks down the line, I still am battling to get to sleep and literally can not pull my eyes apart in the morning.
First on our agenda was a nap which left us feeling more like zombies than before. We had to go to school that day, but luckily just to get our schedules and get oriented. We went back home and decided to take a walk to the Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival (Jinhae Gunhanje Festival) that had just started. Mark is not a fan, as the pollen really aggravates his allergies as well as the crowds of people at Korean festivals.
Home, Sweet Home
We stayed in our friend Bianca’s apartment in Jinhae (she doesn’t use her apartment as she stays with her fiance). It was such a godsend for us as it meant already having a place to stay and all the things we’d need initially which takes a huge strain off moving to a new place. However, the apartment was about a 55minute bus ride from our academy, which meant spending 2 hours on public transport a day. It also only had a single bed, which we managed with for almost three weeks (thank goodness it was cold). So we began the hunt for an apartment closer to work!
Our new home is 265m from work and travel to work takes approximately 3minutes on foot. It’s such a huge convenience. With our work schedule being pretty irregular (we have an hour or two hour long breaks between classes sometimes) it’s such a pleasure to be able to come home and do stuff (like cook dinner on those days we work till 8 pm). Korean apartments are pretty small. Last time we just had a one-room each, equivalent to a bachelor flat – no separate living and sleeping area. This time, however, we have a two-room! Which means a bedroom and a living room! It makes all the difference in the world to our productivity and getting a good nights sleep! Speaking of a good nights sleep…we ordered our new mattress a few days too late, so when we moved in last Friday we were bedless until It finally arrived on Wednesday night! Also, now we have a living area so more place to host guests! Get on over here – spaces are limited!
The first weekend back, still jetlagged and me holding onto a nice big cold, we borrowed Sunnys car and headed off to Yeosu for the weekend. You may remember our friends Stephanie and Ryan from Hedgers Abroad who did our engagement shoot? They were packing up and about to head back to the USA for some travels at the end of April. We squeezed in one last reunion with them and Sam from There She Goes Again. It was great hanging out and playing games with everyone. Sam also couldn’t stay away from Korea and found herself back here after leaving for a little while. There’s just something about Korea it seems, that keeps you coming back for more.
We left early Sunday morning as our friends were heading to the Hwagae blossom festival. We were done with blossoms, pollen and pollution. I had absolutely no voice after playing cards and laughing and chatting ’till well past midnight. We got to have a rest and tidy up before meeting my old co-worker HyunJu and her daughter HaYeon for lunch and coffee. It felt like no time had passed since I last saw her in New York in June.
Our second weekend back, We headed to Seoul. Mark had seen that there was a touch rugby tournament happening with his old team and couldn’t resist taking part. Of course, I went along – our friends have a super lovable golden retriever who I can’t resist. Our friends also love board games just as much as we do!
It was a pretty chilly, rainy day outside, along the Han River. I ended up doing the timekeeping for their games. marls team – Up&Go won the premier division of the tournament so that was great. It also meant bar tabs and a festive afterparty at Noksapyeongs Hidden Cellar. On Sunday we met up with another of Marks old coworkers, who now lives in Seoul. You may remember I went to her wedding (Mark missed it as he had curriculum training that finished late). We had lunch, met her baby and headed back to the bus terminal for our 5-hour trip back home.
Our third weekend was spent moving into our apartment. It took us two trips from Bianca’s house to our new place in Yongwon to move everything across. Ed and Bee came over for chicken, beer and card games to warm up our new home. The weekend was mostly spent settling in and nesting in our little home.
On Sunday we went for a hike on a small island ten minutes from home. The island was called Gadokdo and we hiked a 5km loop up Cheongseongsan, down and around. It was a pretty overcast and dusty day so the views weren’t great. We should have been able to see water in every direction. We managed to get a slight glimpse of the giant bridge going to Geoje Island.
Our fourth weekend was spent hanging on ’till payday! We went to Trivia at Next on Friday evening and spent Saturday doing things around the house. On Sunday Ed and Mark went fishing and Bianca and I went for a hike/walk around Yongwon. On Sunday afternoon we went to Sunny’s house for lunch as it was her husbands birthday. Sunday evenings are for scary movies!
Time for a little catch up! I know I said I wouldn’t be doing these monthly updates this time around but I guess I find myself talking to everyone in my head telling them about what we have been doing and all our experiences so what the heck. Also, it’s nice to have a little hobby/ thing to do, and it’s helping me get back into blogging. Everything became a bit overwhelming (getting engaged, leaving Korea, travelling for ten months, planning a wedding and moving back to Korea) and we kind of just dug in our heels.
In one sense it was nice to be fully present, living in the moment and take photos of things we actually found to be visually appealing, and not just necessary for the blog. And, I’m really enjoying going through and editing all of our photos from that incredible year of travel now. Its such fun to remember all the feelings and places we saw and people we met etc. If you follow along on my Instagram you’ll notice we are definitely a few months behind. I am trying to catch up and hope to eventually be able to actually INSTA gram (or at least within a week or two).
So for those of you who need to catch up, this is how 2017 went for us…
We packed up our life in South Korea, after teaching English there for two years. I couldn’t believe how much STUFF we had, and how difficult it was to downsize (from an already tiny apartment) to a backpack! While packing things up, we got engaged! More on that in a separate post, but seriously couldn’t have been more perfect, more surprising, more fun, more special or more US! This definitely made leaving Korea a little harder to do! Then we left Korea, with just a backpack each and one laptop bag.
We backpacked through Europe for two months, using Couchsurfing, Workaway and good old friends along the way. Then we headed to Ireland with no plan, met up with friends from the UK, (twice), sailed to Rathlin Island (thanks Chris for the video), crisscrossed the country in multiple hire cars and took each day on a whim. We completely fell in love with the country despite how unprepared we were for HOW EXPENSIVE IT WAS!!!
Then we headed to the USA, which was one of our most impulsive/ last minute (but not really because Mark doesn’t let anything really be planned at the last minute) things we have done… basically because my parents were planning on visiting the US in July last year and I couldn’t bear that they were there without me, so we decided to go for 6 months. So, we spent the next 6 month travelling around the USA. We rented a car through Avis mini-lease for a few months (single-handedly our LARGEST expense) which was the best thing we could have done for our trip. Then, we traded in our backpacks for a hand luggage trolley bag each and drove a square-ish shape around the USA for the next 5 months and 28 days. We visited 15 national parks, 10 family members, countless old friends and made so many more!
After 9 months of moving around, it was time to head home. Our adventure through ten countries, many states, countless cities and probably a million different sleeping places. While we were in Europe we actually kept tabs on how many floors/couches/bunk beds/air beds etc we had slept on! We needed to have a home base for a while, fill up our family/friend love tanks and GET MARRIED! We had already set a date by September. Thanks to my mom, aunt and cousin, we had a venue booked and confirmed. So by the time we got home, we had 8 weeks to plan this thing! It was such a wonderful time to be home with family and friends. We got to celebrate Christmas, birthdays, two family members weddings and the news of two new babies arriving mid-year! Summer holidays in Durban are a special thing!
We had the most wonderful, chilled out wedding, which I’ll get around to blogging about at a later stage and sharing some photos. For now here’s a little slideshow our awesome photographer, CC Rossler put together for us like the very next day! How awesome is the song? It couldn’t be more relevant to us! Such an awesome send-off on the day we went on honeymoon. We stayed local (in KZN) by visiting a Game Reserve and spending time in the berg at one of our favourite places. We weren’t quite ready to jet off again at that stage.
And then we found ourselves heading back down the slippery slope that is South Korea. Those of you who know us well, know that we LOVED our time in Korea. While we weren’t planning on coming back quite so soon, an opportunity arose. And for us, that is what life is about – opportunity. So we seized it (and dealt with the super long flight that reminded us why we didn’t want to settle here permanently.) We have some other plans on the back burner, and we will give you all another catch up when we figure those things out. For now, we know that our life is out in the Big Wide World, and we can’t really give you more information than that!
Well, this started out as a Korea update, but felt you needed to catch up on everything that lead us here. We hope to be a little more present here on the blog in the coming months. Thanks for reading, and literally chasing us through the world in this post!
After visiting Badlands National Park (and finding our way to the infamous Wall Drug – do you know about this place??) we had to visit Mount Rushmore. Mount Rushmore National Memorial is the massive sculpture of four US presidents. The sculpture is carved into the side of Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The faces on the hill are depicted in many movies and pop culture (which is how we even know of them). The carving was completed in 1941 by Lincoln Borglum, the son of Gutzon Borglum who started the sculpture in 1927. They chose these four presidents who, in their perspective, represented the most important events in US history at that point. I wonder if the choice of presidents would be different in this day and age…
The site offers a small interactive museum to view the sculpture up close. But instead of paying the $10 to park and walk right up to the sculpture in the mountain we decided to take the scenic route! Needles Highway and Iron Mountain Road are two routes that were built and created to experience the most of the natural landscape. Needles Highway takes you through Custer State Park where you drive around sharp turns and through rock tunnels. Iron Mountain Road goes from Custer State Park to Mount Rushmore National Memorial. The highlight for us was driving through the granite tunnels which so perfectly frame the Presidents faces across the valley.
Have you been to Mount Rushmore or only seen it in a movie? My most vivid recollection of it in the movies is Richie Rich’s own version of it called “Mount Richmore”.