Swing Dancing

I try to keep things positive on here, sharing mostly the good stuff.  But last year was particularly difficult emotionally.  I decided that this year I want to make an effort to do more fun things.  I like my small-ish town, but there really isn’t a whole lot to do here.  There are things if you know where to look; sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t.

In looking for things to do I came across info for a Swing Dance class…in Seoul. That means about 1.5 hour bus ride one way, in good traffic.  It’s on Saturday evening, so that makes it more doable. So far I’ve been to two classes, and it’s been so much fun!  I’m taking a beginner Jitterbug class.  Usually after class they have a ‘social dance’ time to which more people show up and you can just chat, dance, and practice what you’re learning. I think I’m doing pretty well for only being two classes in.

That said, it reminds me of an experience I had in college with dancing in public.  I’ve always enjoyed dancing, who doesn’t? But in my UWF days the only dancing I ever did before was musical theater/show choir dancing in high school. (I can do the box step, grapevine, and jazz hands like nobody’s business!) Also, it’s relevant to note that in those days I wasn’t too keen on clubs or dancing outside of weddings or my bedroom.  So, it was a big step for me to actually go to a dance event that was put on by some group or other on campus.  I remember it vividly. “Two Steppin’ Tuesday.”  Yea, country line dancing.  I don’t think I had ever done any line dance except the Electric Slide, and let’s face it. Country line dancing isn’t a snap. I did my best, but alas…

Apparently some of the organizers were also acting as secret judges because at some random point in the evening I won the “award” for the most uncoordinated.  To say I was hurt is an understatement, but I tried to take it on the chin, suck it up, smile and laugh. Because, of course it was supposed to be funny. (It wasn’t.)  In retrospect I think that prize said more about the people who gave it than it said about me. Also, perhaps my supposed lack of coordination said more about the teaching. Who’s going to be great their very first time trying something?  Having taken just two classes, many years later, I can say what a difference good teaching and dance partners who know what they are doing can make.

Anyway, all that trip down memory lane to say,  maybe I have some dance skills after all! Try something new and fun that you’ve always wanted to do.  Make the time for it. (Budget for it if that’s a concern.) You won’t regret it.

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평창 PyeongChang

With the Winter Olympics in the same country, over my winter break, and just a couple of hours away, of course I had to go!

The short version; I went for just under 24 hours. Less if you take away travel and sleep time.  For future reference, 24 hours was not enough. I spent more money on the hotel than on my ticket, but in retrospect a two night stay would have been better. There were lots of free things to do that I had been unaware of before hand. Having said that, I’m still happy. I got to see my favorite winter sport live at the Olympics!

I arrived in the area on Monday night, and after I found my hotel I decided to try to find Olympic Park. I’m so glad I did, because although it was late (ish) the store was practically empty (as compared to the miles long line the next day) and there were some cool things to see.  Tuesday after the event was so crazy. If I hadn’t gone Monday night I would never have been able to purchase any kind of souvenirs.

At one point, I came across what looked like a stage. I saw a drum kit and heard music, so I thought, “maybe somebody is going to perform soon.” So, I decided to join the crowd and watched and waited.  Eventually I realized that what was happening was The Today Show live! They were interviewing Adam Rippon.

A few days after I got back home I decided to see if I could find a clip of the live broadcast. I found it, and I also found myself in the background!  Not exactly how I ever imagined seeing the Today Show live (not that I’ve spent lots of time wanting to do it, but it’s crossed my mind), but hey, I’ll take it!  It was an unexpected, but fun, moment.

me on the Today show. lol

 

These pictures are at Olympic Park the night before the actual event.  Except the Olympic Rings, those are in front of the KTX (train) station.

 

The next day I found myself headed to watch the Ice Dance/Free Dance.  Ice Dance has been my favorite since watching Torvill and Dean (on T.V.) skate to Bolero and win gold for Great Britain in 1984.

Side note, in the following pictures I am alone. But rest assured I was with a friend. However, said friend was given special permission to go with the instruction to not post any pictures of themself at the games online.  That said, I’m with a friend. We had fun, Canada’s skate rocked the house. They deserved their win.

Below are teams Korea, Great Britain, Canada, and USA.

 

If you ever have the opportunity, I highly recommend that you try to go.  Los Angeles 2028, anyone?

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New Country Visited; Deeper Thoughts.

As if I need any help having deep thoughts and getting too stuck in my own head! *

This winter vacation I decided I wanted to go somewhere warm, and made my first trip to a country outside of Korea in the three years I’ve been on this side of the world. The weather in Cambodia was quite a bit warmer than Korea this time of year.  Year round warm temperatures. This Florida girl was very happy just to sit by the pool, read, and enjoy the warm weather!

The hotel I stayed at offers yoga retreats, so I had registered for one.  It is also a non-profit organization, so in addition to running the hotel they also serve the community in many ways; building wells, supporting schools, and such.  I ended up being the only person on the retreat, which is probably the only thing I would really change if I could. I get enough alone time in my regular life.  The bright side is I was able to get a lot of personal attention from the instructors.

Here are a couple of pictures of the hotel and the view from my room.

 

I took two kinds of classes. Yoga and something I hadn’t heard of before, called Qigong. (chi gong)  It is similar to Tai Chi, but not exactly the same. I think I liked it better than yoga. I have done yoga here and there over the years, but never really progressed as much as I’d wanted to. I took three semesters worth here in Korea. It was okay, but the language barrier always makes things a bit more challenging. Even though I am learning Korean and can manage, sometimes it’s still quite frustrating.

Back to the retreat, I found the Qigong classes much easier and I could tell more of an immediate difference in my body from doing just 4 classes.  Having said that,  all the teachers had me doing things with my body that before this week I would have laughed at you if you would have told me I would be able to do them.   I don’t have any pictures of the classes because I a )didn’t take my phone/camera, and b) was too busy taking the classes.

For those of you who want to see what kind of food I was eating…here you go!

 

 

Usually when I travel if I check a bag I always carry on something.  This time I had decided I didn’t want to bother with a carry on. And of course, this would be the one time that my checked bag didn’t arrive with me.  When I got to the hotel the manager asked me, “where is your bag?”  Me: “In China.”

So, the next day the schedule was changed around a bit, easier when it’s just you, and we went to the market where I was able to purchase some clothes in case my bag didn’t make it another day.  By the time we got back to the hotel my bag was there.  Unexpected perk, the airline gave me $40 to recoup anything I might have had to spend b/c of not having my bag. That night we went to see the Siem Reap Circus.  It was quite good. No animals, all acrobatics and story telling. I highly recommend if you ever go to Cambodia and are in the area you should check it out.

 

Other things I got to do…visit Angkor Wat.  The largest religious monument in the world.  I heard that in Cambodia no building is allowed to be taller that it.  So, unlike Korea where everything is built up, up, up,  buildings here are much closer to the ground.  I spent one day touring three different temples. Angkor Wat, Bayon Temple, and Ta Prohm temples.  If you like Lara Croft: Tomb Raider movies, you may recognize some of the scenery here.

P.S. Don’t feed the monkeys. Seriously. (Maybe one day soon I will devote an entire post just to that story! )

 

Other fun things I got to do include taking a couple of art classes offered at the hotel as part of the retreat.  A watercolor painting class and an acrylic class.

 

Friday night I went “out on the town” with the Qigong instructor.  I didn’t really have any “going out” clothes with me, though. So, I looked like a total bum. Note to self, next time pack at least one fun outfit for being presentable in public. Thanks, Ils, for a fun night out on the town, even though I was dressed down!

p.s. This was the largest cocktail I think I have ever ordered! No, I didn’t finish it.

I also got to visit in the community to see one the wells this non-profit had built recently, as well as one of the classrooms.  I did not, however, take any pictures there.  I know people do in those situations, but I just didn’t want to.  Needless to say, children really are the same everywhere. They were cute, fun, and some of them got brave to try English with me.  A few of the boys (of course) asked me “where are you from?” and “what’s your name?”  I could see from the white board that they were having an English lesson using “this” so I tried asking them some “what’s this?” questions. Some of them answered me, some didn’t.  When you are a teacher it just doesn’t go away!

All in all, I had a good time.  If you are into yoga and are interested in yoga retreats somewhere else in the world, I do recommend this one.  Let me know if you want the info and I will give it to you!

 

*One day maybe I will write a post about the Civil War in Cambodia that happened in the ’70’s.  I have vague recollections of learning about it in school, or hearing about it on the news at the time. Mostly I remember Princess Diana walking through mine fields to bring more attention to their situation. But sometimes until you are face to face with things of history it’s easy to forget. Even though we constantly tout the saying “never forget.” We really shouldn’t. People are dumb. We are constantly making the same mistakes. God help us. Really.

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Two Seasons, Come and Gone.

I really have been slacking on keeping this updated.  Most of the school year has passed since my last update. It’s now October and the Chuseok Holiday here in Korea. That’s comparable to Thanksgiving, if you didn’t know.  I’ve spend the past few days cleaning my place, reading, going to the Cultural Festival held annually in my town, and playing games with friends. Tomorrow I will go camping for a few days.

In regards to my summer, this year I went to California to visit two of my sisters. It’s been far too long since we’ve seen each other. I had a great time with them and with my nephews. We went to Universal-Harry Potter World and Yosemite.

Here is a photo of my cup of Butter-beer. It was decent, but I’ve had it once and it was enough.  If you haven’t tasted it, it’s basically a pumpkin flavored cream soda.

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Upon landing at LAX I took the shuttle bus to my younger sister’s place, whereupon I took a shower and we went out for breakfast.

 

She is a teacher and the week I came was her first week back to school. Meetings, getting her classroom ready and such. So, what did I do on my summer vacation? Helped her in her classroom.  Here are a few selfies I took while I was putting up bulletin boards and she was in meetings.

I spent the second half of my break at my older sister’s house with her and her family. My nephews are so much fun! The youngest introduced me to the exciting game of “Plants vs. Zombies.”  I might be a little bit addicted.

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Yosemite was amazing. Next time we’ll know to be prepared to actually swim in Mirror Lake when we get to the top.

 

 

Oh, and did I mention that Korean Air has incredibly good service.  Not just customer service but the “service” service. In the Korean sense. In Korea “service” is when you get something for free. At a restaurant, cafe, grocery store, or petty much anywhere.  This is the complimentary plethora of stuff that you get on Korean Air. Good luck getting it on any American airline.

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Pictured: Blanket, headphones, slippers.

Not pictured: Pillow, water, toothbrush, toothpaste.

I’m pretty sure there was something else I don’t remember.  The meals are also good and the number of snacks they give you….they just don’t stop feeding and hydrating you. Much needed on an international flight.

Well, that’s it for now. Maybe I’ll write some more after my camping trip since it’s a long holiday.  Until next time!

 

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Another Springtime Comes.

Actually, spring may have lasted for all of a week. I’m fairly certain we’ve jumped right into summer.  I got to enjoy the cherry blossoms for about three days. Now everything is starting to get green again.

 

Since my last post was all about my surgery, I’ll start with a little follow up. I had my 3 month post-surgery check-up this week.  There are still some things to keep an eye on, but the surgeon has said that everything is as it should be at this time.  I have to go back for another check-up in 6 months.

This year I managed to figure out how to sign up for some free Korean language classes. I had wanted to do this two years ago, but unfortunately it never happened. I’ve been dong a lot of self-study during my time here, but I’m the type of student who needs a classroom and a teacher.  It’s helpful, but I think as an English teacher I am at a disadvantage. My opportunities to speak Korean during the week are limited.  Most of my classmates are either married to a Korean or work in an environment where they have to use the language.

Two years (and then some) in, I continue to enjoy my life here. Although, I think I’ve hit the point where I’m finding many things emotionally difficult; cultural differences, expectations,  and such. The past few weeks have been a bit of an emotional roller coaster. I’m not homesick, that’s never been an issue for me, really. But in some ways, the bubble has burst. Regardless, I know I’m in the right place. I really enjoy my students, they make it fun and keep it interesting.  I try not to post pictures of them, so I don’t have any visuals to show you, but here is a fun story out of today’s 4th grade English class.

The Set Up:  Activity 1 was the “Look and Listen” portion of the text book. Students have to watch a short animated video and answer some questions. In this particular story one of the characters was building a sandcastle and another accidentally fell over into it

The Question: “Why was Hoa angry?”

The Answer: Well, first know that the student I called on is one who is hesitant to answer the questions, even if he has the answer.  He seemed to be having that battle with himself that looks like a raised hand then quickly pulling it back down.  So, I called on him.

So, The Answer: “Duri, sandcastle. Kill. ”

I was SO happy! I have him a big smile and a high five.  Then tried to encourage the class to “use what you know!”

That’s about it, for now. I have a long holiday coming up in May. I’ll be taking a much needed get away. I’ll try to post sooner than three months next time.

 

 

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Happy New Year!

It’s January 31st, it’s been a month since my last post. I may live up to the goal to post once a month, yet.  The Lunar New Year holiday just ended yesterday. I had a long 4 day weekend, although technically I’m still on vacation, so…

Since my last post I’ve had my surgery and have been enjoying my winter break. I’ll give you an update on the surgery and fill you in on my fun/relaxing weekend getaway.

Surgery update. The short version is that everything went well. My surgeon removed about 8 myomas from my uterus and ovaries. My hospital stay was relatively pleasant, for being a hospital stay. The staff were all very kind. Even the lady who brought me breakfast everyday came in with a smile saying, “Good morning, Gwenda!”

I have to go back and see the surgeon in April. In the meantime I just have to monitor “things” to see how well the surgery has helped the situation. Also, as my uterus had expanded to a larger than normal size for somebody who is not pregnant, hopefully it will return to normal by that appointment. If neither of those things happen, well. Let’s hope they do.

I didn’t take too many pictures, but here is one of the meal my friend who stayed with me the first night had for dinner, versus the meal I had the night before surgery.  Mine was the one on the right. It was “super yummy!” Actually, it wasn’t bad for what it was.

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And just for funsies, here is one of me in my sexy hospital gown looking sad and tired.

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I spent about a week and 1/2 after being discharged just taking it easy. Then after my Dr. cleared me to go about my life as normal, I decided I needed to get out of my apt and DO something for the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday. (Read, Chinese New Year. But I refuse to call it Chinese New Year, since that is very limiting of all the other Asians who celebrate it. I’m just sayin.’ )

I decided, rather last minute, to sign up for a trip with one of the various tour groups around these parts.  I went on a “Ski and Winter Wonderland” trip. No, I didn’t Ski. Tried that last year. Not my thing.  We went to the city of 평창 (Pyeong Chang) which is where the Winter Olympics will take place next year. The ski lodge we stayed at will host some of the ski events, I believe.  I may try and get some tickets for any event that I can, but I digress.

This weekend I tried ice fishing, spent the day at an amazing Water Park and Spa, and also met some really great people.  Unfortunately, I did not get pictures of the Water Park and Spa, but trust me when I say that it was the BEST.  Specifically the Spa part. Outdoor hot tubs with various scented waters; such as, rosemary, aloe, tropical, cherry, and blueberry to name a few. In really cold weather. I didn’t check the temp, but it was literally snowing on us while we were sitting in the hot tub.  I give it an 11 out of 10.

Here are some other pictures of the weekend.

When you arrive at your hostel at 3:30am and just want to sleep. But first you gotta make your bed!

Friday: View from top, took a Gondala ride to the peak.

 

Saturday: Ice fishing festival. No, I didn’t catch any. But I did see two huge trout swim by in my hole. I can see what would make a person want to keep on trying. “Dang it, I’ll catch him next time!”   For lunch I had a really tasty raw trout bibimbap. Don’t knock it, it was delicious!

 

Sunday was the spa day. Sorry, no pictures.  Trust that it was amazing!

Monday: chill out in a cafe while we wait until it’s time to get on the bus and fight Seollal traffic. I think it only took us about 1 hour longer than it would have on a non major holiday weekend.   I guess “crazy picture time” means “everyone stick your tongue out”? lol.

 

It was a fun weekend, so glad I decided to go.  That’s about it for now.

Happy Year of the Rooster!

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Least you think it’s all been wine and roses.

It’s coming up on two years that I’ve been in Korea. I still haven’t heard if there will be a new contract for me for the 2017 school year. I’m hopeful, however, that isn’t the focus of this blog entry.

After lots of thought regarding whether I want write and post about this, I’ve decided to go ahead and do it. I’m actually still unsure if I should. I mean, once you put something out there in cyberspace, it’s there.  I started this blog to keep friends and family updated, but I’m under no delusions that other people don’t come across and read it. No turning back. I’ve posted about the travels and literal mountains I’ve conquered. Now it’s time to share about a different kind of mountain.

I’ll try to keep it short and pertinent. Basically, I will be having surgery in January. It’s been an ongoing process of trying to resolve the problem through various means over the course of 2016. It was January ’16 that the problem was found during my annual checkup. Multiple uterine fibroids, which have caused (among other things) iron deficient anemia. This has caused lots of tiredness and exhaustion.

After several visits to the hospital the GYN referred me to, the problem was not being resolved. Not to mention, going to the hospital these multiple times was something I did alone. In retrospect, this was probably not smart. Even back home it would have been wise to take somebody with me, if nothing else for moral support.

So, after my third visit to that hospital over an 8 month period I decided I needed to try somewhere else. Before the 3rd appointment I had scheduled a visit at a hospital in Seoul, which had been highly recommended to me by a couple of Korean friends. I’ll just say that if somebody is gong to do surgery on you, you should feel comfortable with their ability to communicate with you. Fully.

The new Doctor at the new hospital was very confident, both in his ability to successfully do the surgery and also his ability to have long conversations with me about it in English. On a side note, yes, I live in Korea and I am trying to learn the language. But it’s nowhere near good enough to be able to have these kinds of conversations with anyone. I am very grateful that these international clinics are available.

So, my surgery is scheduled for the second week in January 2017. I am hopeful and looking forward to recovering and feeling well. It’s been a long time since I haven’t felt tired for long chunks of the day. Waking up and having your first thought be, “when can I go back to bed?” is no fun, let me tell you!

Anyway, that’s the short version. Really. I’m not too worried, but the surgery does require being under anesthesia and a hospital stay, which I’ve never done either. (They won’t send me home the same day, like would happen at home. I think this is a good thing.) If you are a praying person, I would appreciate your prayers.

So, here’s to 2017. Here’s to starting off the new year with the hope of good news about a new contract. Here’s to  resolving a longstanding problem, finally; and here’s to feeling well enough, again, to have enough energy to go on more adventures!

Oh, and Happy New Year!

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A Walk and a Bike Ride

This weekend my hometown in Korea has a newly opened Subway.  Yay!  To clarify, that’s Subway sandwiches, not the tube.  (I had one person ask me about that before. So, now you know. ) My friend/neighbor/co-worker and I decided to take a walk and go grab lunch.  Since the Subway is on the other side of town this walk took somewhere between 1.5 – 2 hours. I wasn’t really paying attention, but it takes a while. By bus it’s maybe 15 minutes or so.

I think I’ve taken more pictures of food since I’ve  been here than before. For some reason, I felt the need to document my meal. So, here you go. My Turkey Bacon Avocado.

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After that, we decided to go rent a bike and take a ride.  You can rent the bikes for free and ride for about an hour. I’ve known this is something you can do, but for some reason I just have yet to get around to it.  Here are a couple of pictures I took on the bike trail.

After that I went to go meet some other friends at a coffee shop for games, then dinner. All in all it was a really good day.

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A Day at 대둔산 (Daedun Mt.)

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post. Life has, for the most part been just teaching on a daily basis, lunches or dinners with friends, and such. Nothing particularly exciting or special to tell.

Since my last post, I went home for the ten days over my summer break. A few weeks ago I also spent the weekend at KOTESOL conference. (KOTESOL is a professional organization for English teachers in Korea.) That was really good, and worth mentioning. If you are a fellow NET then you should look them up and maybe go to your own local chapter’s professional development and social events.

Today I want to write about my latest trip up a mountain. And by mountain I mean….mountain.  I had been invited by a friend to join her (in a ‘come with me and my friend, and friends of friends, type of event) hiking up 계령산 (Gyerionsan), which I did in the spring. It’s quite high and I wasn’t sure about doing it again, since I am slow and not in great shape.  At the last minute she changed her mind and asked if I wanted to go to 대둔산 instead.  I wasn’t familiar with this particular mountain, so I did some ‘googling.’ When I saw the pictures people had posted about it, let’s just say I was even more not sure. You’ll understand when you see my pictures.  Anyway, I decided “why not” and we made plans to meet in the middle on Saturday morning and make our way there.

The journey started for me at 11:30am when my bus left 공주 (Gongju) to 서댸전 (SeoDaejeon) bus terminal. From there we  caught the city bus to 대둔산 (Daedun Mt.),  which took about an hour.  After getting off at the last stop we then had to walk another 20-30 minutes to the base of the mountain and the cable car station. Because of time we decided to take it up to near the top, as opposed to hiking up the whole way.

Here we are waiting for our cable car.

 

And a few pics of the view from inside the car on the way up.

There were signs on the mountain, just in case you need them!

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I really didn’t know what to expect. I had seen that there was a suspension bridge. But I really wasn’t think about…

…the suspension STAIRS!  This is the view of them from the bottom.

 

And the top!

It wasn’t until I got about half way up those stairs that I actually started thinking about what I was doing. At which point, I looked up ahead of me and almost started to panic. But,  I used my ‘big girl’ coping skills, took some deep breaths, prayed, and just looked at the step right in front of my face. It helped a lot.

All in all, it was a good day.  There wasn’t really a “plan” per se.  We went into to it without really knowing what times the bus would come/go,  when the last cable car was, etc.  So, for me it wasn’t just a victory in climbing the top of a mountain and walking across one suspension bridge and stairs. It was a victory in really not worrying at all about what time do we need to get down, and are we going to make the bus,and, and and.

In the past, these things would have caused me a lot of stress. But yesterday? Not at all. (I think I may have annoyed my friend by being so “Don’t Worry About It” about it. But, it was a real victory for me to feel that way. Thank you life, and thank you God/Jesus for teaching me much needed lessons.

So, now on to ‘regular’ life at school and teaching.  Which, at times, can also feel like a mountain.

 

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Birthday Weekend

So, as many of you know, this weekend it was my birthday.  It was a great weekend, filled with fun, friends and food.

Although, my birthday was officially on Saturday, I started my celebrations on Friday evening.  When I found out (a few months ago) that one of my favorite artists from “back in the day” was going to be playing in Seoul on the 24th, I knew what I wanted to do. So, a couple of weeks ago bought some tickets as a present to myself.  I went with a friend from choir. It was such a good show!  Just him and his acoustic guitar and a piano.

I took some video, but you will have to check it out on fb as I can’t post video here.

 

I stayed the night in Seoul, and the next day, my actual birthday, as I have been craving Mexican food we went to lunch at a place in the “foreigner district” of Itaewon.

Here is something I learned as a cultural difference. In Korea, it is traditional for the person whose birthday it is to foot the bill on the birthday meal when you go out!

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Lunch was followed by a trip to Seoul Art Center, where we saw an exhibit by children’s author and artist Anthony Browne. It was also, excellent!  This was opening weekend, but it is there through September, so if you enjoy this kind of thing, it was well worth going!

 

By Sunday morning, I was back in Gongju and met some friends in my Korean hometown at a new “brunch place” in town. It was really yummy!  I hope we didn’t overwhelm the ladies as it is a small place and the 10 of us took up half of their space.

 

I ordered the “Too Much Plate” which is meant for 2 people and shared it with my dear friend Bridget. We also ate Eggs Benedict. It was really yummy!  The owner told me that she studied in Hawaii for 4 years. She was very nice!

After brunch, came Catan. This wasn’t officially part of my birthday celebrations, since various Native English Teachers teachers get together to play the game on an almost weekly basis. But, I can’t let the opportunity go by to post some pictures. Especially since Bridget and I won! Despite everyone’s best efforts to thwart us! lol. It was a fun game.  See the winning game!

 

It was a really great weekend. I have always loved to celebrate birthdays, but I think this was one of the most fun birthday weekends/progression of celebration that I have had in a while. So, thanks to everyone who came out to celebrate with me in one way or another; and thanks to those who weren’t able to come but sent me well wishes, and such

I appreciate all of you!

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