Sunday, June 4, 2017

NYC

Watching the Manhattan Skyline go by from the ferry

I spent a week down in New York City as part of the final stages of processing my work visa for China. I needed to come down here to go to the Chinese Consulate to apply for the visa, which I finally just received on Thursday, after about three and a half months of organizing all the paperwork. There is one more document I'm waiting on, and then I'm off to Nanning at last!

The nice thing about visiting the consulate here was the opportunity to do a lot of sight-seeing while waiting around for the visa to be processed. Below are some of the highlights:

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Technical Difficulties

Just  a quick update, in case anyone is wondering what's happened to this blog. I've been having computer issues for a while now which is why I haven't been keeping up with my goal of posting every Monday and Friday. I'd really like to get back to posting at least once a week soon, provided my laptop decides to cooperate.

I'm still staying with my sister near Boston for now, working on getting the last few documents ready for my Chinese work visa. If all goes well, I should be headed to Nanning for my new job in a couple of weeks. Wish me luck!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Paperwork, paperwork & more paperwork

Ugh...

Well, unsurprisingly, the road to China is a bumpy one, cluttered with seemingly endless amounts of bureaucracy and paperwork. I accepted a job at a college in Nanning in mid-February, and it's now nearly May and I am still trying to get all the boxes ticked on the laundry list of things I need for a work permit.

It's definitely been the slowest and most arduous process of any of the countries I've worked in so far. Luckily, the end is finally in sight.

Monday, April 3, 2017

U.K. Visit: Brighton

The West Pier in Brighton

One of my favorite places that we visited while I was in the U.K was the city of Brighton, located on the southern coast of England on the ocean. I went with Anna for the weekend and we visited some of her old friends from university.

Brighton became a popular summer holiday destination during the Victorian era, so a lot of the architecture and famous landmarks are from that time. As a seaside city, Brighton has a nice beach where we spent a lot of our time. The beach is a great place to wander around with plenty of shops, art galleries, food and pubs, and it's most famous landmark, the Brighton pier. 


Walking the beach in Brighton

Friday, March 31, 2017

From England to New England

Hello Boston!

As I explained in the last post, I've decided to accept a position teaching in China next, which will be starting soon. However, the visa process for China is turning out to be longer and more complicated than any other country I've worked in thus far. So I decided to use the extra free time while I wait for my work visa to visit family in the U.S.

I just got back stateside a couple weeks ago and I'm having a great time staying with my sister and nephew James at their new apartment in Massachusetts. I've been keeping busy here helping home school James and working on my Mandarin. I'm also really enjoying exploring Boston and New England, a part of the U.S. I've never been to before.

Although, I have to say, I'm not enjoying the weather much. The week I arrived there were actual blizzard conditions here, with on and off again power outages that are really not good for my nephew, who has special medical needs. And people say that England has bad weather! Luckily things are finally warming up now.

I was welcomed to Massachusetts by a blizzard and power outages... 

I have at least one more post about my time in the U.K. I'd like to catch up on, and then as I do more sight-seeing here I will do some posts about that. I'll also post more about the China job hunting and visa process, in case anyone reading is considering working there.

I already miss the U.K. and Anna and her family. It was really fun staying there and getting to know Bristol, and I can't wait to get back there again soon. Also really looking forward to seeing Anna again in China!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Getting ready for China

Beautiful Guangxi, China (amazing photo from Trey Ratcliff at Stuckincustoms.com)

Well, it's official now - I've accepted a new job at an international college in Nanning, China. It's located in the Guangxi region, which is in the southwest near the border with Vietnam. From the photos I've seen of Guangxi so far, it looks beautiful and tropical with some of the most incredible landscapes in all of China, especially in the Guilin area.



Terraced rice fields near Guilin in Guangxi (photo credit)


I'll be teaching English to first and second year university students, as well as potentially doing some subject classes. One subject I may do is teacher training for those students who plan to teach English in the future. Teacher training is definitely something I'm interested in doing someday, so it's really exciting to have the opportunity to do that with this job.

Monday, March 20, 2017

U.K. Visit: Oxford

University of Oxford

Oscar Wilde, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lewis Carroll, Tolkien, Jeanette Winterson, Aung San Suu Kyi, Prince Naruhito from Japan, C S Lewis, T E Lawrence, Stephen Hawking, Gandhi, T S Eliot, and a long list of many more influential people, all share something in common: they studied at the University of Oxford.

I'm an avid reader so following the footsteps of some of my literary heroes during my U.K. travels has been really exciting. Just walking the streets around Oxford, surrounded by old stone buildings and narrow alleys, you have the feeling that you could turn a corner and run into one of the greatest writers, leaders, scientists, human beings of recent history.

I only spent a day in Oxford so this will be a brief description, but the beauty of the architecture in and around the university really impressed me. We started off just walking through the university grounds, which were a mix of gardens and tiny paths that cut past warm stone halls and libraries. 


Beautiful gardens on the Oxford campus

Friday, March 17, 2017

U.K. Visit: Countryside walk from Bradford to Bath

The city of Bath in southwest England

Since arriving in the U.K. in October, I've been staying in Bristol in the southwestern part of England near Wales. Very close to Bristol is Bath, one of the most picturesque cities I've ever visited. 

Although a lot of the current city of Bath was only built fairly recently, the presence of humans in the area goes back an incredibly long time, all the way to the Mesolithic period (10,000-5,000 BCE.) Romans were attracted by the hot springs in the area and built baths there in AD 60, giving the place the Latin name Aquae Sulis which means the Waters of Sulis.

The Arthurian legend nerd in me got excited when I learned that Bath might have been the location where King Arthur supposedly defeated the Anglo-Saxxons around AD 500. At any rate, a monastery was built there possibly in the 7th century and the place continued to be known for its natural hot water. This quote from Nennius, a 9th century historian, is kind of funny: "It is surrounded by a wall, made of brick and stone, and men may go there to bathe at any time, and every man can have the kind of bath he likes. If he wants, it will be a cold bath; and if he wants a hot bath, it will be hot." (Wikipedia)


Map of Bath from 1610 (photo credit)

Monday, March 13, 2017

A very British mystery

I've been pretty intimately acquainted with British English for a while now, thanks to Anna and my many friends from the U.K. over the years and all the British TV I've watched. I've read a lot of books by authors from the U.K. as well, not to mention I've been staying here since October.

Despite all that, I still occasionally come across words or phrases that I don't understand. Here are a few of the highlights:


  • Mingin' (adjective.) "I think we should get rid of that sofa, it's a bit mingin."  (American English tranlsation: "it's a bit gross".)
  • Bob's Your Uncle (exclamation?). You've just managed to fix a broken bicycle and you exclaim, "Bob's your uncle!" (or something like that.) (American English translation: "there you go".) The origin of the phrase is pretty funny, read about it here.
  • Naff (adjective.) "That gold clock is so naff." (American English translation: "so tacky.")

Friday, March 10, 2017

U.K. Visit: Stratford Upon Avon

At the birthplace of Shakespeare, Stratford Upon Avon

Just after the holidays, we took a little day trip to Stratford Upon Avon, a small town that's famous for being the birthplace of Shakespeare. We got tickets to see a performance of his play, The Tempest, at the Royal Shakespeare Company. 

The town is small but charming, with lots of Tudor architecture (the buildings that are mostly white with dark timber support beams) and a river running through the center. Even if you're not there for a show, it's a nice place to walk around and you can see some famous sites, like the location of Shakespeare's home as a child, as well as the homes of some of his family and the cemetery where he was buried.


A Tudor building in Stratford

Monday, March 6, 2017

5 of My Favorite British Pubs

Pubs - possibly (probably) the best way to enjoy the U.K. 

So far one of my favorite forms of sightseeing in the U.K. is visiting old or unusual pubs, and we've definitely stopped in a few great ones during our visit the past few months. Here are some of my favorites from my travels so far.



Friday, March 3, 2017

U.K. Visit: London

Fun times in London

Like Tokyo, London is the kind of place you could spend years exploring and still just scratch the surface of things to see and do there. I've only spent about 4 days there total so far, so I'm far from being very knowledgeable, but here are some of the highlights from my recent trips there.

First some of the big touristy ones:

Buckingham Palace is sort of the quintessential London tourist hot spot, but it is undeniably impressive, especially when it's lit up at night. We visited just before Christmas so the guards were wearing different colors than you'd expect to see, and there were Christmas trees all over.


Buckingham Palace at Christmastime

Monday, February 27, 2017

A Month in Greece: Athens

A windy day at the Parthenon in Athens

The last place I visited during my month-long trip around mainland Greece was Athens, after stays in Meteora, Thessaloniki, Kalamata and the Peloponnese. I stopped there overnight a couple of times early on in the trip, but didn't do any real sight-seeing or exploring until the last few days before I left. 

Like everywhere else I visited, Athens has a long history and it's visible as you walk through the streets of the main downtown areas. The Acropolis stands in the center on top of a large hill overlooking the rest of the city, so that in many areas you can turn a street corner and catch a great view of it. 

Friday, February 24, 2017

A Month in Greece: The Peloponnese

The harbor at sunset in Kardamyli, Greece

This winter I spent about a month traveling through mainland Greece, as I've talked about in the last few posts about Kalamata, Thessaloniki and Meteora. I spent a good part of that time staying in the southern city of Kalamata in the Peloponnese region, thanks to its sunny weather and great beaches. Even in the winter it was a great place to relax in the sunshine.

One of the best things about Kalamata is that it's a great place to stay if you want to go out on day trips and explore the little seaside towns of the Peloponnese. In the peak season, this whole region gets crowded and expensive, but if you go in the winter like we did, you can still have warm weather and enjoy all the sights without the crowds.

The first day trip we went on from Kalamata was to the little coastal town of Kardamyli. We took a local bus from the terminal in Kalamata, which I think cost around 4 euros, and took about an hour. The ride out there went through some of the most beautiful countryside that I saw in Greece.


A cobblestone street in Kardamyli

Monday, February 20, 2017

A Month in Greece: Kalamata

At the beach in Kalamata, Greece


This is post number 3 about my travels in Greece, following Meteora and Thessaloniki. As I mentioned before, Thessaloniki is located in the north of Greece, so getting from there to Kalamata, which is located in the southern Peloponnese region was quite the trek. We broke it up into two days by stopping for one night in Athens and continuing on the next day.


It was absolute worth the long journey to get to the beautiful beaches and sunshine that were waiting for us in Kalamata. Anna and I wanted to stop for awhile in one place where we could relax and do artsy things - I focused on my writing (thus the storm of blog posts that emerged in December) and Anna worked on her illustrations. Kalamata was absolutely the perfect place for this.

View from our balcony in Kalamata

Friday, February 17, 2017

A Month in Greece: Thessaloniki

The Arch of Galerius, in downtown Thessaloniki

In the last post I talked about the first stop on my travels in Greece, the beautiful world heritage site of Meteora, which you can read here. From Meteora, we took the train up to Thessaloniki, which is in the northern Macedonian region of Greece, not to be confused with the actual country of Macedonia nearby.

We arrived there in late November, so it was the coldest place that we visited, but still not that bad when you've just come from the U.K. Thessaloniki is known for its alternative culture, with a lot of art and trendy nightlife going on. It's a port city, with a nice waterfront area to walk around, which is where you can see one of the main landmarks, the White Tower.


The White Tower of Thessaloniki

Monday, February 13, 2017

A month in Greece: Meteora


Climbing to Greek monasteries in Meteora

In 2016, I spent about a month traveling through mainland Greece with Anna. We left the U.K. mid-November and returned just before Christmas. During our stay in Greece, we visited Meteora, Thessaloniki, Kalamata and the Peloponnese Region and Athens. I'll be posting a short series on those places over the next couple of weeks.

First of all, I have to say that Greece was amazing. Everywhere we went was beautiful and full of history and the food was incredible. Especially the bakeries. If you ever get the chance to try Greek food, do yourself a favor and have some baked goods. Of course, the salads and fresh produce are also great, as are the gyros - if you're not familiar, they're a kind of pita wrap with things like meat, tomatoes, cucumber, tzatziki (yogurt and cucumber sauce), and some places even stuffed a few fries in as well.


On the left is a Greek salad with Feta tomatoes, olives & cucumbers. Right is a kind of build your own gyros.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Cornwall Part II: Tintagel & Padstow

The ruins of Tintagel Castle in Cornwall

In the first post about Cornwall, I said that I went to stay in a 13th century cottage near the town of Tintagel. I traveled with Anna and her mom, and we spent about a week living in the countryside, reading and writing, and going out for day trips around Cornwall.

One of the places Anna and I went was Tintagel, the nearest town. To get there, we followed the coastal path from Trebarwith Strand where the cottage was located, along the high cliffs over the ocean. The walk took about an hour and was absolutely stunning the entire way. We wandered through farmland with sheep and along the very edge of the cliffs, with views of wildflowers and the ocean and very few other people along the route. Granted, this was November - if you go during a warmer time of the year, I'm sure it can get crowded.


Walking along the coastal path in Cornwall

Monday, February 6, 2017

Cornwall Part I: Mousehole & St. Ives


On the coastal path in Cornwall, near Tintagel

Back in early November, Anna, her mom and I went to stay in Cornwall for about a week. Anna's mom is friends with someone that owns a 13th century cottage near the coastal town of Tintagel, which is where we stayed. The cottage was very rustic, but I really enjoyed the opportunity to stay somewhere so old. It was amazing to sit near the fire and think of all the people who lived there over the centuries and what their lives must have been like.

When I say it was rustic though, imagine a place that's perpetually a bit cold, damp and drafty, although once you got the fire going and put on a couple of extra layers it was surprisingly comfortable. It even had electricity! I spent a lot of time during that week sitting by a window that looked out over the fields to the ocean sipping coffee and doing some creative writing.


The 13th cent. cottage that we stayed in

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The job hunt begins again

This has been my life for the past month... (Image credit)

Just a quick post on what I'm up to these days and why the posts are slowing down, following the mad writing spree I went on in December/January. You can expect updates to be a little more infrequent now, hopefully at a rate of about once a week. I'm still planning to continue posting about my recent travels through the U.K. and Greece.

The holiday is officially over now, and for the last month I've been in full-time job hunting mode. It's a pretty time consuming task no matter what industry you work in, but when you work overseas, there's the added challenges of obtaining work visas and researching countries that you're considering working in. 

I really loved living in South Korea last year and my intent was to return around now (early February) to job hunt from within Korea for positions at universities. I already knew that the university market in Korea is difficult to break into, but after doing more research, it's beginning to look even more challenging than I had first thought. So I began to open up my job hunt to consider university EFL positions in other countries.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

UK visit: Wales Part II

Taking a break on the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path in Wales

The weekend of Guy Fawkes, a.k.a. Bonfire Night on November 5th, we traveled out to Pembrokeshire to stay at a cottage in a little village there. Pembrokeshire is a county in Wales, in the south and western most point. It's a really beautiful area with white cliffs, lovely beaches and rolling hills throughout the countryside. 

Our first day there we drove out to a beach near where we were staying and walked along the Pembrokeshire coastal path. It wandered along tall, flat cliffs that abruptly dropped out over the sea, spotted with the occasional sinkhole and flock of sheep. The trail dipped down to quiet beaches along the route.

Headed down to a beach along the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

U.K. Visit: Wales Part I

Chepstow Castle

Most of my travels in the U.K. so far have been in Wales, since it's so close to where I'm staying in Bristol, and Anna's mom is originally from there, so she's been our tour guide. I'll have to break it down into a few posts on all the places we've visited so far. 

My first trip out to Wales was to a small town not far past the border with England called Chepstow. It's a cute little village along the winding river Wye, with a nice castle built on the cliffs overlooking it. I wandered through the castle with Anna, which was pretty exciting for me since it was my first castle in the U.K.

View of Chepstow village from the castle

Sunday, January 15, 2017

U.K. Visit: Bristol



I've been in the U.K. since around the end of October, and even took a break in the middle to spend three and a half weeks in Greece, but I've still done so much here that it's hard to know where to start. I'm staying in Bristol, which is a city in the southwestern part of England near the border with Wales. Anna and her family have been showing me around Bristol and the areas nearby; we've made a lot of trips out to Wales and Cornwall especially. I'll be doing a series of posts catching up on what I've been up to here, and a few on Greece as well. There's been a lot of traveling, but there's also been a fair amount of hanging out at pubs and playing with cats.


My first pub in the U.K.! And catching up with some old friends from Sendai, Japan

How will I ever say goodbye to you, Peaches?

Friday, January 13, 2017

Best apps for learning Korean



I've been on a little break from Korea since September, but now it's time to get ready to go back. I'm mostly spending my time getting ready to job hunt again, but I'm also working on my Korean. One of my big goals for 2017 is to reach a genuinely conversational level. Not "conversational" as in I can get by ordering food and talking to taxi drivers, which I can already do, but "conversational" as in I can have a real conversation with a Korean friend.

So here are some of my favorite apps for studying Korean. You can also check out this post, where I mentioned websites, Youtube channels, and other Korean language resources besides apps.




Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Texan Travels Part II: Road trip!



Last October I went on a road trip from Dallas, Texas down to Corpus Christi for a special family event. We stopped along the way at Austin, San Antonio, and visited the Texas Hill Country. Here are a few highlights from that trip:

The fist stop was Austin, but we mostly just enjoyed the food and the nightlife while we were there. It lived up to its reputation for a great music scene, with live music happening every day of the week in the downtown area. We had some amazing Tex Mex at a restaurant near the nightlife area, and caught a live band on a rooftop bar.





Monday, January 9, 2017

Texan Travels Part I: Dallas

Fall display at the Dallas Arboretum

In September this year I completed my one year contract teaching in Pohang at a Montessori School and decided that it was time for a break. I really enjoyed my work in Pohang, but it had been many years since I'd taken a long break from teaching and I also wanted the chance to spend some more time with my family. So I decided not to renew my contract and to travel for the next 6 months instead.


Saying goodbye to Pohang friends :(

Saturday, January 7, 2017

My new favorite Korean food: Jjimdalk

Andong Jjimdalk, a thing of great joy and beauty

For me one the best things about life in Korea is the food. In general it's much healthier than western food, with lots of vegetables, fish, fermented things like kimchi that are great for naturally stimulating the growth of pro-biotics and uses a lot less salt. The one downside is the spiciness - although I enjoy spicy foods, my heartburn does not. Also, compared with Japan, the portion sizes are generally bigger in Korea. But at least in Korea there is somewhat better variety with rice, so you're not always served the same starched, nutrition-less white rice that is so common in Japan.

After a year in Korea trying as many new dishes as I could, one emerged as my definite favorite: Andong Jjimdalk.


Thursday, January 5, 2017

Masks and fireworks in Andong Hanok Village

A traditional home in Hahoe Folk Village

Last summer I went to stay in the Hahoe folk village near Andong, and it was one of the best things I've done in Korea so far. The city of Andong is about an hour north and inland from Pohang. You can get a bus there from the Pohang intercity bus terminal and the ride out there is actually pretty scenic, passing through valleys full of rice fields and mountains. From the Andong bus terminal, catch another local bus into the Hahoe village.

The village is on a round piece of land like a peninsula, surrounded on three sides by rivers. The first thing you'll see when you arrive is the Hahoe mask museum. It is absolutely worth your time.


Hahoe hand-carved wooden masks

Models of Hahoe mask dance performers


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Pohang Camping: Chilpo Beach

Camping at Chilpo Beach near Pohang

Pohang isn't the most bike friendly place in the world, but it does have a few nice cycle paths around the city. One of them follows the canal past Posco, along the docks, past the main beach and downtown area, and if you continue around the headland eventually curves inland toward Jangsangdong, near where we lived. From there, the cycle path heads back toward the coast and about a 45 minute ride later will take you to Chilpo Beach.

The cycle path meets up with the coastal path here and you can actually go much farther, up to the next nice beach, Wolpo, and then on to the fishing villages and more beaches farther north.



Everything I need for camping strapped on my trusty mama-chari

Anna and Will ready to hit the road