Paradise in Phuket

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First term has come and gone.  I can hardly believe it.

Back in Turkey, we spent most of our fall breaks in cold European cities, trying to find traces of autumn that would remind us of home.  This year, we took a different approach, instead opting for summery island paradise.  While I still long for colorful leaves and pumpkin spice everything, I can’t say I minded spending a week on the beach.

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In the end, I had pumpkin spice anyway. 

Adjusting to a new job and a new country is exhausting; often, so is traveling.  We didn’t want to put too many expectations on our first vacation after a couple of stressful months, so we kept it low key:  1) Hotel by the beach 2) No plans.

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Days went by with nothing but swimming, lounging on the beach, drinking out of coconuts, sipping on a few beers, and eating delicious Thai food.  In other words, paradise.

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After several joyful lazy days, we decided it was worth our while to book a tour and explore more of the island.  We joined a half-day Phuket city tour and were the only ones who booked it, so we ended up getting a private tour for the same price as the group tour.  Score!

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Our first stop was Big Buddha, a monument dedicated to Buddha that overlooks the whole island and can be seen from most of it.  As if the statue itself wasn’t enough of an attraction, the views from its platform were stunning.

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Also, monkeys!

Stop #2 was Chalong Temple, which was also gorgeous.

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Last but not least, we had a couple of hours to explore Old Phuket Town, which is a delightful neighborhood full of beautiful pastel buildings, cool cafes, and interesting shops.

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This rainbow building was my fave.

In the end, I may have had one too many Singha beers, bought more souvenirs than I really needed, and definitely left with a sunburn, but I can’t recommend Phuket enough.  Is it touristy?  Very.  Is it fun? Absolutely.  The Thai people are wonderful, kind, and friendly and English is widely spoken.  The food is cheap, plentiful, and delicious.  There is literally something for every kind of traveler, whether you want to be a beach bum, hike, or party until you drop.  We chose to stay in Kata Beach, which is a quieter part of the island more suited to couples and families to avoid some of the more obnoxious crowds.

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I left feeling refreshed, relieved at having survived my first couple of months in China, and excited to explore more of Thailand in the future.

 

Hongyadong

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Hongyadong, or Hongya cave, is an architectural oddity and key landmark of Chongqing.  Though it is a modern building, it has been built to resemble traditional Chinese market halls.  Each floor boasts a series of winding, narrow walkways filled with shops, restaurants, and stalls selling everything from carved wooden Buddhas to Dairy Queen Blizzards.

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As an aside, there is a rumor that Hongyadong inspired the bathhouse featured in Spirited Away.  I don’t think I buy it, but I do see the resemblance, which only made it feel more magical to walk through.

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As you move to the upper floors, you can take in excellent views of the Chongqing Bridge as well as the meeting point of the Yangtze and Jialing rivers.  It was lovely enough by day, but the view becomes even more spectacular at night, when the whole city lights up.

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While we enjoyed the luminescent skyline, we decided to try the local specialty – hot pot.  Hot pot is a sort of spicy fondue, except instead of cheese, everything is cooked in hot chili oil.  It was pretty tasty (great with a cold beer!), but definitely not a quick meal, so I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re hangry.

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After dinner, we walked along the bridge to get a view of Hongyadong from the river.  This was easily the highlight of our visit.  I’ll let the photos do the talking here.

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It is a nice change of pace to be living in a city with so much to do and see.  I’m looking forward to more local adventures.

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Nihao, Chongqing.

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We’ve officially been in China for two weeks and my head is definitely still spinning.

In a nutshell…the city is huge, the food is spicy, the weather is very hot, I am still processing a lot of information from our orientation, I start teaching next week, I also start my own classes next week, I optimistically joined a gym…and…that’s it so far.

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Though we have been spending most of our time working, settling in, and trying to prepare for classes, we have tried to get out and explore this gigantic city a bit.  We walked through the Expo Gardens (didn’t even scratch the surface on that place) for a bit of exercise one afternoon and we recently took a taxi into the city center to get a feel for some of the main squares.

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I am very happy to report that I LOVE our new apartment and there is plenty to do in our neighborhood, including a fabulous gym and a great local cafe that sells good coffee and craft beers.  It’s only a five minute walk to grab groceries, which is LIFE-CHANGING after living in the middle of nowhere in Turkey.

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It is still taking some time to get used to everything being unfamiliar again.  The language, culture, and landscape are all still alien to me, so I am looking forward to getting to know it all better.

Here’s to a new adventure.

 

Another American Summer

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Kansas sunsets really are the prettiest.

Greetings from China!

Yes, we are here and settling in, but before I talk about that, I feel compelled to talk about our hectic, brief summer in the U.S.

We knew this summer would be unpredictable.  International moves always are.  I’ve learned by now that the visa process is usually one big question mark until it isn’t.  It makes it difficult to plan much because everything has to revolve around the visa timeline and (of course!) you can’t make appointments.

Amidst the chaos of moving from Turkey to the U.S. and then packing again for China, 5 weeks of rapid couchsurfing around Kansas, and going to Chicago for our visas, we did manage to enjoy ourselves a bit.

Indulge me as I go through the highlight reel:

img_20190801_134339Hanging out with my grandma’s adorable cats!

img_20190801_134316Eating my grandma’s peanut butter pie!

img_20190710_150803Enjoying a beautiful Chicago summer with my partner in crime while we waited for our visas to be processed

img_20190711_130659Trying aerial yoga for the first time (loved it!)

 

img_20190723_155126Childhood treats

img_20190726_115942Reminiscing

img_20190727_192935_1Drinking wine in the Flint Hills

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Drinking more wine…this time from the wine box we sealed at our wedding.  As it was our 5th wedding anniversary, we got to open this bottle and replace it with another (to be opened on our 10th.)

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Saying goodbye (for now) to the U.S. and hello (or nihao, rather) to a new adventure.

 

So there you have it.  A very brief recap of an all-too-brief summer.  More to come on China soon!

Görüşürüz, Türkiye.

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As I type this, I am sitting in my grandmother’s air conditioned house on a hot Kansas afternoon, trying to find the right words.  To be honest, I still haven’t processed it all yet.  Leaving Turkey felt like stepping through a portal from one universe to another.  There is a piece of me that still thinks it will all be there waiting for me exactly as I left it, even though my head knows I won’t be going back for quite some time.

I didn’t sleep the night before I left.  The day was filled with tearful goodbyes to students, colleagues, and dear friends, followed by an epic Turkish party at night.  We were packing until the very last second.  I wouldn’t have left any other way.

I am so tremendously thankful for the memories, the people, and the life-changing experiences.

Her şey için teşekkürler, Türkiye.  Sizi özleyeceğim.

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Notes from the Happiest Country on Earth

img_20190605_173151-1We had one last vacation on our calendar this school year – the bayram, marking the end of Ramadan.  This, we knew, would be our last vacation in Europe for a while.  We had considered staying in Turkey, but because it was a holiday, the prices were outrageous and we figured most cities would be quite crowded.  Instead, we opted for a quick getaway to Copenhagen.

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We did not want to do too much to be honest, as we have been doing practically nothing but packing lately.  We decided not to make any specific plans and just wander around the city at our leisure.

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We got extremely lucky with the weather.  So lucky, in fact, that I managed to get sunburnt.  We spent the first day wandering the adorable streets, grabbing a quick dinner, checking out the craft beer scene, and trying to avoid being run over by crazy cyclists.

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On our second day, we made the trek out to Reffen, a very awesome, very hipster food paradise full of little stalls with everything from Mexican to Nepalese food.  We tried just about everything we had room for and all of it was spectacular.

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Day 3 was rainy and a bit cold, so we spent most of our time wandering a new neighborhood and taking shelter in random cafes.  We were both perfectly content to reflect on our travels in Europe these past four years while sipping on espressos and people watching.

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It doesn’t surprise me one bit that people in Denmark are so happy.  Good food everywhere, Aperol Spritz parties in the streets, solid emphasis on regular physical activity (bicycles everywhere!), and whimsical buildings.

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Although I am looking forward to a change, I will certainly miss being so close to Europe.  Quaint streets, punctuality, organization, charming architecture, amazing wine…what’s not to love?

 

Where We’ve Been

As we near the end of this first expat journey, I want to recap all the places we have been so far so we can look back on this moment for years to come.  When we started down this path over four years ago, we did so with the goal of visiting 30 countries before we turned 30 – a goal that we exceeded with 3 years to spare.  Some of these places we have visited more than once, but I will only list the year of the first visit.  Here is where we’ve been so far:

  1. USA – 1991IMG_0044
  2. France – 20095116_107584356659_504141659_2833515_4519609_n
  3. Spain – 2009DSC_0063
  4. Paraguay – 2013 (Sadly, no photos)
  5. Iceland – 201410347547_1504545873093609_8899424320537876548_n
  6. Turkey – 201512074588_1667618120119716_36044510800056699_n (1)
  7. The Netherlands – 201512274306_1676022422612619_3590003824024621316_n
  8. Hungary – 2016BudapestLift3
  9. Slovakia – 2016DSCF3990
  10. Czechia – 2016DSCF4059 (1)
  11. Austria  – 2016 (Bad experience. Didn’t keep the photos)
  12. Greece – 2016DSC_0452[1]
  13. Sweden – 201613096107_1724698541078340_7433953853444923562_n
  14. Bosnia & Herzegovina – 2016DSC_0083 (2)
  15. Italy – 2016dsc_0168
  16. Norway – 2016dsc_0169
  17. Scotland – 2016dsc_0173
  18. Georgia – 2016dsc_0159
  19. The Maldives – 2017dsc_0095
  20. Sri Lanka – 2017dsc_0247
  21. Switzerland – 2017DSC_0065
  22. Slovenia – 2017DSC_0035
  23. Albania – 2017IMG_1188
  24. Belgium – 201720171120_144155
  25. Israel – 201820180121_154233
  26. Jordan – 2018IMG_3158.jpg
  27. N. Cyprus – 201820180403_163706.jpg
  28. Germany – 201820180422_161503.jpg
  29. Kosovo – 201820180526_131557
  30. England – 2018IMG-20180823-WA0005
  31. Ukraine – 2018img_4919
  32. Egypt – 2018IMG_20190126_202502_195

33. Denmark – 2019

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I’m anxious to see where life takes us on our next adventure.