Tag Archives: Jeju

What a Difference a Change of Scenery Makes

Weekends are always a time of respite from the workweek just gone and a time to catch up on the one coming. While I always take some time to myself on the weekends, usually Saturdays being my “no-work” days, there’s always that little voice in the back of my head reminding me of all I have to do, all I didn’t get done, and all the people I need to reply to, prepare something for, or support. I can push it down, but it never really goes away.

This weekend Frances and I came to Jeju City, a mere 45-minute drive away from home, to stay in the poshest hotel around, the Grand Hyatt called the Jeju Dream Tower. The hotel, which opened in December of last year, will eventually have 1,600 rooms open, but for now, there are around 500 open to the public. With 14 dining options, a spa, pool, and the most incredible customer service, it lives up to its name of being a dream.

There’s something about sleeping in a different bed that makes all the difference. The act of taking a purposeful break away from everyday life, stopping to pause and relish the luxury afforded to you in a place such as this, is good for the soul. As I sit here in the lobby cafe, sipping my iced chocolate, writing this slice of life as I wait for my massage appointment, I am content. I know that I have work to do later this evening to prepare me for the week ahead, but I’m completely at ease, the staycation having done its job.

In the past 24 hours, I’ve eaten at the Italian restaurant on the 8th floor, with a beautiful view of the bustling city below, where I enjoyed a spicy aglio e olio pasta with delicious ribbons of fresh parmesan cheese straight from Italy; taken two relaxing baths in the largest bathtub ever; caught up on my shows and slice reading/commenting that I didn’t get to this week; dined at the Steakhouse on the 38th floor, literally in the clouds as the fog settled in around us, where I indulged with two Moscow Mules, crusty bread with salty butter, a burrata salad, and some roasted asparagus and smooth, creamy mashed potatoes; had a lazy morning, sleeping until I woke naturally at 9:00am, feeling well rested and refreshed; ordered and enjoyed my first-ever room service breakfast, something I will definitely do again, as eating a delicious meal in my pajamas overlooking the city is so much better than hurriedly elbowing my way through a buffet; had a late checkout and a leisurely break at the cafe, listening to the sounds of the music playing, coffee brewing, and the adorable toddler wandering, laughing, and exploring.

As I leave you to enjoy my final indulgence, an hour-long foot treatment massage, I am quietly at ease, ready to tackle the next two weeks before Spring Break. I hope you were able to rest and recharge this weekend, too.

Year in Photos 2020

One of my annual traditions is reflecting on the past year through photos. Here are my past year in photos reflections- 20142015201620172018, and 2019. While I love telling stories through words, pictures are a great way to tell my story, too.

2020 was a year like no other, as we all know. While most of my previous year in photos include pictures from all the places I traveled that year, 2020 was the year of quarantine, therefore I have fewer places than usual represented in this year’s reflection. I started out the year in Texas, flying back to Jakarta via Dubai on January 2nd. I was able to travel to Borobudur and Lembang in Indonesia before we were quarantined on March 2nd. I went back to Texas in May, where I spent the summer, and then moved to Jeju, South Korea in July. After quarantining in Seoul, I spent the rest of 2020 in Jeju, apart from a couple of quick trips to Seoul. Here are the highlights of my 2020, in chronological order. Which ones are your favorite?

Spring has Sprung in Jeju

Spring is…
sun shining
buds blossoming
breezes blowing
dogs walking
everyone smiling
plants sprouting
outside sitting
skin warming
energy rising

I’m absolutely loving the spring weather here in Jeju! The warmer weather, sunny skies, and gorgeous cherry blossoms make me smile. Today was a perfect spring day, and I couldn’t help walking around, snapping photos. I’m looking forward to riding my bike and taking long walks in the coming weeks. With Spring Break in two weeks, I’m excited to explore more of this beautiful island!

Rainy Saturday Adventure

Had I known it was going to be such yucky weather today, I would have postponed. Jeju is much better to explore on sunny, clear days. Today’s plan was to try out a new-to-us restaurant on the northeastern part of the island, Tennessee Table, which has a substantial Instagram following. Of course, we had to also make a pit stop on the way to get donuts at our favorite place, Randy’s Donuts, a chain from California that has *miraculously* made its way to our tiny speck of an island.

As we left, we noticed a blue-gray painted across the sky, but not a rain cloud in sight. Just as we were about to pull up to the donut shop, the rain began. “At least this means the line won’t be too long today. The rain will have kept people away,” we naively said. After parking (down the street, since Randy’s lot was full), we were shocked to find that the line was the longest it’s ever been, snaking around the back side of the building. Undeterred, we took our place at the end of the line to wait our turn. Forty-five minutes later, we had the goods. And before you say it, yes, the wait is worth it. These are some damn good donuts.

See the line behind me?!?!

After devouring the chocolate-covered one first in the car, we set the GPS for our next destination, Tennessee Table, which was about an hour away. The rain had given us a reprieve, and we were able to enjoy the cherry blossoms that seemed to pop up outside our windows as we cruised down the highway, singing along to my girls’ night playlist.

About 20 minutes into the trip, we were enveloped in a blanket of fog so thick you could only see about 2-3 car lengths in front of you. Slowing down considerably, I switched on the hazard lights to alert others to my presence. Jess, sitting in the passenger seat and free from the stress of driving through the soupy, barely visible sky, marveled at the scene, taking photo after photo of the eerie backdrop. As we drove through pine tree-lined backroads, I felt like I was in the movie Twilight, which seemed to always be covered in fog. The predicted time of about an hour took us longer in the end, but we made it to Tennessee Table for lunch.

Jessica, the owner, welcomed us in her southern twang, and her accent, coupled with the decor on the walls, reminded me of home. Jess had the chicken burger with fries and a milkshake and I had the veggie burger with fries and a coke. The food was delicious and lived up to its Instagram hype. Just look at the photos and you’ll understand.

We talked to Jessica, learning a bit more about her story. She has been in Jeju for 13 years, and after being a teacher for 15 years, five of which in Jeju, she decided to follow her dream of opening a restaurant, thus Tennessee Table was born. She, along with her Korean husband, built the entire restaurant themselves, which was very impressive, but something she said she’d never do again. After our conversation (including an unprompted “Bless your heart”), we headed back out. Stopping off in a Korean bookstore for a quick browse, we got back on the road.

On the way home, we made a detour to see the ocean, but the wind and rain ensured our visit was short-lived. The waves were much bigger than normal, which meant the surfers were out, but Jess and I agreed that you couldn’t pay us enough to get into that freezing cold sea on a day like today.

The ride home was a little stressful, as again, we drove through patches of dense fog, but we made it safely back to the GEC (our part of Jeju). We made one more stop on the way home to get Chai tea lattes from Grumpy Baby, a perfect end to the day.

The Perfect Ending to a Stressful Week

I’ll be honest, this week has been pretty shitty. I’ve dealt with some rudeness, hardly had any time during the day due to loads of meetings, been stressed out with the amount of work I’ve had to do, and on top of that, I started my period, which has been unpleasant. I was proud of myself for just making it to Friday.

Tonight, a few friends and I went out to dinner at Donato’s, a pizza place near Hyeopjae Beach. It was my first time here, and let me tell you, this place is legit. The pizzas were made with quality ingredients in a wood-fired oven, something that’s rare to find in Jeju. We each ordered a pizza (mine was the Chevre made with goat cheese from France) and all shared a Caesar salad. The pizza was served with a balsamic glaze and local honey on the side. I loved everything and will definitely be going back.

The conversation was easy, sometimes involving all four of us, but other times, we broke off in twos to chat. We told stories from this week and from years in the past, empathized with one another, laughed (maybe a little too loudly), and teased each other. I enjoyed taking a trip down memory lane and sharing bits of my life from the past decade as an international school teacher, and I loved getting to know my new friends even more through their stories. It was the perfect antidote to a crappy week.

Toward the end of dinner, I went over to say hi to a student from my school who was eating with her family. I noticed her when we got there, and I waved, but she didn’t come to say hi, so I thought I would go to her. She’s one of those students who always has a smile on her face and chats with me whenever she sees me. I also talked with her family briefly, as they were getting ready to leave.

On the drive home, I blasted my 90’s playlist on Spotify and we sang (mostly out of tune) loudly along with the Backstreet Boys, Wilson Phillips, Shania Twain, Hanson, and Boyz II Men, laughing all the way home. My mood was lifted, as I shook off the negativity of the past week. Fridays should always end like this!

Korean Grocery Store Finds

One of my favorite things to do whenever I move (and sometimes when I travel) to a new place is to scope out the grocery stores and see what they have on offer. I usually find some unusual things mixed in with the ordinary. Korea is no different, however as far as grocery stores go, I can find most of what I want to buy here (if I’m willing to pay the high price tag, that is), which hasn’t always been the case in my other locations. There are a few things I can’t find, but they are things I can live without.

In no particular order, here are some of my favorite Korean grocery store finds.

How’d you like to buy 1 cantaloupe for $30 USD?!? Lucky for me, I hate cantaloupe!

Not sure what these are, but some people were cooking up these Korean snacks in the middle of the store. As far as I can tell, they are sandwiches, with cooked eggs acting at the “bread” part and meat and other fillings inside.

This sign totally made me laugh! I’m not sure if the sign is meant to entice the foreigners to buy the snacks or the locals, since foreigners buying them makes them more attractive.

There are sooooo many unusual Pringles flavors to choose from, but these caught my eye! I’m thinking the butter caramel ones might be good, but I’d definitely have to pass on the Sweet Mayo Flavour Cheese…yuck!

Now I’ve heard that onion tea is great for your skin and makes you look younger, but I don’t think I could stomach the taste!

This one is a peanut butter flavored drink, like a PB version of hot chocolate. I have some, but haven’t tried it yet. My friend says it’s pretty good. This is the Skippy brand.

Need a glass of wine, but don’t have a glass? Just buy the single serve version- glass included! 🙂

This one threw me off for sure. I’ve had peanut butter before, and I’ve had squid (not my favorite, but I’ve had it) too, but never in a million years would I have put these two flavors together! Would you?!?

This one is so weird for many reasons. For one, who buys 9 green beans at a time? Why do we need plastic packaging? And why do these 9 green beans cost nearly $2 USD?!? Needless to say, I didn’t buy them, but I have to say, I do miss eating fresh green beans. They must not grow them here or they must not be “a thing” in Korea.

Anyone fancy some seaweed flavored oatmeal?? I love it that it’s Quaker brand, too! 🙂

Have you ever seen anything at your local grocery store that made you laugh or wonder who in the heck would ever want to eat that?

Friday Night in Jeju

Living in Jeju, an island in South Korea, means that my Friday nights are much different than when I lived in big cities with tons of nightlife. Where I live is a bit (okay…a lot) more low key; add Covid in the mix, and Fridays are a lot quieter now.

After a busy week at work (which ones aren’t these days?), I was ready for some down time. I picked up some fresh tulips at the local supermarket first, and after deciding that cooking wasn’t in the cards tonight, I headed to Gla Gla to pick up a take-away Poke bowl. While I waited on my order, I snapped a few pics of the surrounding area. This street is full of restaurants, cafes, and shops where you can buy fresh fish, since it’s located on a port.

Back at home, I settled in for a night of catching up on my shows. Grey’s Anatomy and Station 19 are back…after a very long hiatus…so I watched them both. I won’t reveal any spoilers, but if you are religious viewers like me, you are in for an emotional ride!

Today I…

Today I woke up early (again) and was able to ease into the morning, spending half an hour sipping on tea while reading and commenting on slices.

Today I appreciated the sun shining even more than I normally do, after days of rain and clouds.

Today I got to learn from an awesome colleague of mine who’s doing some kick ass word work with her first graders.

Today I continued to develop our PSPE scope and sequence with the PE team…we are making great progress!

Today I researched ideas about conceptual-based teaching and learning and found some great ideas I want to incorporate in my planning meetings.

Today I worked with Grade 4 to plan some engaging experiments for their upcoming unit about energy.

Today I interviewed a teacher for a position next year.

Today I was measured by the JK students (Pre-K aged) who were inquiring into measurement and how tall everyone in the class was. I was shorter than they thought I’d be!

Today I attended a GLC meeting with a verrrrrrry long agenda.

Today I spent some time with our JK Prep students (Preschool aged). We talked about what they knew about living and nonliving things (flamingos, dinosaurs, and ladybugs are living), played “Earthquake,” and added numbers on the dice.

Today I had an impromptu dinner with a friend at a little Italian restaurant in a building that used to be a bank; I love that the vault door is still there. Conversations about which books we’re reading accompanied the delicious food.

Today I got a Facetime call from my dad who couldn’t sleep…it was a nice surprise to hear from him!

Today I am going to bed early since I’ve been yawning nonstop for the past hour.

A New Adventure!

When I initially made the decision to move abroad and teach internationally, I can remember telling my parents (and everyone else) that it was just going to be for 2 years, and then I’d move back home. At the time, I actually believed that’s how it would play out. Fast forward to now, ten years later, and I’m finishing my contract in my fourth country, with no plans to return home anytime soon.

The life of an expat, while not for everyone, is my preference. It’s afforded me many opportunities I never would have had living in the states. Apart from the obvious travel opportunities, I have been able to meet some truly remarkable people, learn a great deal about myself, become a better educator, teach in the PYP, immerse myself in new cultures, develop some long-lasting friendships, and work through some very challenging times. In the past ten years, I’ve lived in Shanghai, China; Tirana, Albania; Bangkok, Thailand; and Jakarta, Indonesia. While I’m sad that this chapter is coming to an end, I’m so excited about my new adventure!

I’m thrilled to announce that this summer, I’ll be moving to Jeju Island, South Korea! To be honest, Korea was never really on my radar because, despite loving it when I visited Seoul in 2011, it was too dang cold for me! What I’ve learned about Jeju is that while it does get cold (and even snows a few times a year), it’s generally 10-15 degrees Celsius warmer than Seoul. Plus, Jeju is known as “the Hawaii of Korea,” and you can’t go wrong with that!

Firstly, I am really looking forward to joining my new school, Branksome Hall Asia (BHA), which is a prestigious all-girls boarding school. It’s all girls and boarding in the Secondary School, but there are a mix of boys and girls in the Junior School, which is a day school. What first drew me to BHA was that it’s a full continuum IB World School, offering the PYP, MYP, and DP. They are known for being innovative and they push the boundaries of what most schools think is possible. BHA was recently awarded the International School Award for “Initiative to support students as future-thinking innovators.” During the interview process, I was so impressed with the Head of School and the other administrators I spoke with about the work their students are doing. I’ll be joining the Junior School team as the Deputy Head of Junior School and PYP Coordinator, tasked with leading the integration of transdisciplinary and innovative practices in the younger grades. I can’t wait to be a part of it!

Branksome Hall Asia’s mission is “Each day, we challenge and inspire girls to love learning and to shape a better world.” This is something I can get behind! 🙂

This video highlights so many things I love about the school, including the gorgeous campus!

Now that you know more about the school, which is the reason I chose to move there, let me highlight what I’m looking forward to exploring in my new home on Jeju Island!

Aerial view of Jeju Island Source
Jeju Island is the purple island south of the mainland. Source

Jeju Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and as such, it has so much natural beauty with plenty of opportunities to be outdoors. A quick Google image search of Jeju revealed these amazingly beautiful images, and I have to say, after seeing these, I cannot wait to explore all that the island has to offer. I did mention it’s the Hawaii of Korea, didn’t I?

I’ve been researching all that I can about my new home. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  • Jeju has over 360 volcanoes, most of them dormant.
  • The island is small, with a surface area of 1,846 sqkm and a perimeter of just 274 km, so it’ll be, by far, the smallest place I’ve ever lived abroad. Jeju is even smaller than Rhode Island, USA!
  • Not much English is spoken in Jeju, so I’ll be learning Korean. I’m really excited to learn another language, although I’m a bit intimidated about this one! So far all I know how to say is hello and thank you. I’m going to use my quarantine time to start learning Korean using an app.
  • The population of Jeju is roughly 600,000, which is a far cry from Jakarta’s population of 10 million+. Guess this means a lot less traffic to deal with!
  • I’ll need to drive a car there, which I’m actually anticipating, since I haven’t owned a car while living abroad. Of course, I’ll be getting a Hyundai!
  • Being an island, it has tons of fresh seafood. There are also lots of other food options on the island that I can’t wait to try.
  • I’ll be less than a 15-minute drive to the beach, where I can watch the dolphins jumping in the surf.
  • After living in an urban area for the last 10 years, I’m looking forward to being close to nature, where I can go for walks and hikes in my free time. I’m not a hiker, but this is something I hope to change.
  • I can get to Seoul in about an hour and for less than $50, which means I can get my big city fix whenever I want! Fun fact: The Seoul to Jeju flight path is the most regularly flown in the world, which means there’s always a flight coming or going.
  • Shanghai is only an hour and 20 minutes away and about $150. Looks like I’ll be getting a 10-year tourist visa for China!
  • The currency will be easier to deal with since 1 USD = 1,2335 KRW (Korean Won).
  • The cost of living will certainly be higher than in Indonesia, but I’ll be able to save more than 50% of my salary, which includes my travel expenses throughout the year. Hello retirement!
  • Jeju has a humid subtropical climate with 4 distinct seasons, which I am actually looking forward to experiencing again. After 3 years living in a climate that’s either hot and dry or hot and wet, with no need for a sweater ever, I’m excited that I’ll need to wear boots and a coat for part of the year! Jeju’s yearly temperatures range from 3-30C (38-86F), with mild winters and hot, humid, and rainy summers. Annual rainfall is 58-75 inches. After Jakarta, I think can handle some rain!
  • The lifestyle on the island is much more laid back than in big cities like Shanghai, Jakarta, or Bangkok. This will be a welcome change.
  • I’ll be able to breathe clean air, as there’s no air pollution on the island. What a bonus!

I know there’s so much more to learn about my new home, and I’m really looking forward to exploring it in a few short months!

So…who’s coming to visit?