Where are they now?

Life just seems to work out differently than expected.

We came back from Korea five months ago. At the time we thought we had a pretty good plan. I was heading to grad school to make a huge change in career path, Jordan was looking for work and we would find an American city to take the place of the beloved one we left behind in Korea.

In the waiting and string of opened-then-closed opportunities that followed, plans changed. Many times. Each promising opportunity, conversation with the manager, and even a few interviews, ended in “Thanks… but no.” This process was much harder than anticipated. I had always considered myself a fairly patient person. But never before had I been in a state of limbo for so long. Give me culture shock, eating new wiggly things and getting lost in subways over waiting for purpose any day.

We still had fun, of course. Time spent with family and friends has been sweet. We had the flexibility to attend events, help out and travel as needed. A great in-between stint as video chat English Tutors helped pay for gas. (If you want details on early morning (USA) tutoring requiring only an internet connection and that you are awake and clothed, let us know. It has been a good company to work with).

Before this post takes five months to come to conclusion, let me just say once more: it was really rough at times. The waiting, combined with lack of purpose in the meantime, was not good. Though in the end, I suppose it’s what grew my faith the most.

The gist of it:

1. I am not going to grad school. At least not now. The major decision was that I’m not switching career paths to speech pathology.  But as I looked for part time work before “starting school”, I kept finding jobs that were exciting and I was qualified for, or could be before long. These were not in the field anything related to speech pathology, but roles that included words like “coordinator”, “planning”, “events”, “communications”… you get the idea. When it came down to it and had an acceptance letter in hand, I was simply not passionate enough about speech pathology to invest the time and money into it. I could go on with reasons, but when I realized that my last big hesitation was my aversion to quitting things that I invest in, I knew it wasn’t going to happen.

2. After months of nothing, we suddenly had options! Within days of my decision to not pursue speech pathology, and with our enthusiasm to  find work and at last get settled somewhere rekindled, Jordan received an email that upset it all. Our alma mater, Taylor University, presented him with an opportunity to join the MAHE program. (MAHE = Master of Arts in Higher Education and Student Development. A masters program he considered doing a couple years ago that would allow him to work in higher education, and has been a consistent dream/vision/passion for him.) While our first reaction was to literally LOL at the timing of the offer, I hopped onto the Taylor HR page and found several intriguing positions that I could easily see myself enjoying for two years.

But wait- life is never that simple! Within the same week, we both had interviews in Nashville. This city had been a top contender all along, and it was easy to see the ways we’d enjoy life there. Mine was a second interview with a non-profit, his was a first interview with a company he knew very little about. While lunching and chatting with a friend post-interviews, Jordan got a phone call and was offered the job he had just interviewed for. WHAT!? We were delighted to have the problem of choosing where to go.

3. We’re going to be Hoosiers again! This was harder than we thought it would be. At first it seemed crazy to go back to Indiana when we’ve talked for years about how we love Nashville. (and were maybe a little excited to shake the corn dust from our feet last time we left) Yet while the job Jordan was offered in Nashville seemed very attractive, it was in a completely new field with potential risks. Risk in job security, as well as whether he would even like doing it for more than a month. Through much conversation and prayer it became clear that now is the time for Jordan to focus and pursue a passion that has been building slowly within him for a long time. Plus, colleges aren’t going anywhere. They will change, of course. But the adaptability of my amazing husband, as well as the field of higher education, offers a future much more in line with the dreams we’ve come to share. And I am thoroughly excited for him and could not be more proud.

So it’s not that we don’t  love Nashville. There are dear friends, coffee shops, and a general vitality that we still get so excited about. But this decision was about more than that. And I still intend to put my GRE scores to use in the future, and in the meantime look forward to developing my professional skills.  This season of sorting priorities and options has taught us a lot. Not what we expected to learn, but we are both at peace about it and looking forward to planting our feet for a while.

We’re coming back, Indiana. And we’re bringing our cats with us. (Thanks, Becca!)

A big, ginormous thank you to all the friends and family who have supported, encouraged, cajoled, and cheered us on during these months of transition. Your support and prayers have been invaluable! 

The End of an Era

Cute Korean Kiddos

Teaching taught us so much! The students in our classes worked hard, joked, slept, made us laugh, challenged us, and so much more. For more of them, it was a pleasure to be a small part of their lives for a season.

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Last Sunday at Church

The wonderful folk at Yum Kwang Church had a wonderful meal planned on our last Sunday to say goodbye and to celebrate Thanksgiving. We were part of the English Ministry there since last December, and greatly appreciated the fellowship and friendship. It was the first of several bittersweet goodbyes during our last week!

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Last Hurrahs with Friends

Our friends Robert and Jenny came up from Gimcheon for a final Seoul weekend together. We discovered an amazing Thai place, showed them our favorite French chocolate cafe, and played lots of speed scrabble! Their friendship has been steadfast and encouraging during this past year, and no matter how far apart we live in the future we look forward to it continuing.

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We said farewell at work on my (B’s) birthday! It was also the birthday of one of our co-workers, Nic. Everyone went out to eat Korean Barbecue after work, followed by a visit to Dragon Bar. It was a nice chance to appreciate some of the good people we worked with during the past year.

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Alas, there were still more sad goodbyes to come. Our neighborhood friends treated us to a delicious tuna dinner a few days before I left. These fantastic people were a pleasure to befriend over the past year, and the perfect example of how kindred spirits find a way of discovering each other, no matter where you are. It was one last occasion to eat, drink and be merry.

Thank you to all of our readers! We enjoyed tracking our adventures over the past year, and hope you did too!

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Visitors from Singapore & Korean Wedding Photo shoot

Our last two months in Korea FLEW by. Usain Bolt style.

We filled them to the brim, and admittedly write this post from America. Change happens, and sometimes your blog can’t keep up.

Partially because we now finally have the time between job searching, and partially because we miss it terribly, we finally got around to document our final sweet moments in Seoul.

Singapore friends Josh and Kendra came to visit!

The friends we visited in Singapore this past summer came to see us in October. We had a wonderful week showing them our lives in Seoul during the prime of Korean autumn. They were great sports about trying Korean cuisine, though we did also get our fill of Josh’s favorite, Mr. Pizza. During our afternoon in Hongdae we went back to the Trick Art Museum, which was even more fun with more people. They visited during the height of the “Gangnam Style” craze, so of course we went to Gangnam. But rather than horse dance around the hoity-toity part of town, we went to Dr. Fish! It was great fun to hangout, play games and drink lots of coffee. Things we do on a regular basis anyway, but are made infinitely better with good company.

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Quality time with Vero

Our wonderful friend Veronica endured and enjoyed many adventures with us over the past year. So of course we had packed in as much as possible before we left, especially when her fiance Mau arrived! Unfortunately their wedding was after our departure, but we had the privilege of going to their wedding photo shoot! We’ve discussed some of the differences between Korean and American weddings before, but have not stressed the fun and importance of the photos! While in American weddings all photos are traditionally taken the day of the wedding, in Korea they take them at least 2 weeks beforehand, and spend several hours in a studio working with a photographer and assistant to help them change into multiple outfits. Vero wore at least 3 wedding dresses, they both had traditional hanbok in different colors, and other outfits too! The photographer was very relaxed (and talented), and we had fun taking our own photos and joking around between shots.

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On the road from Sokcho (속초)

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Writing on the bus to attempt the most timely blog post in a while! Apologies for any funky formatting. Most pics at the end.

Located on the east coast about 2.5 hours from Seoul, the town of Sokcho offers access to both the East Sea and Seoraksan, the third highest mountains in Korea.

We had been planning to visit for a while with some friends, and then last week found out our boss at school generously wanted to take all the teachers there the same weekend. We figured we could do a little of both, so the first part of our journey was with coworkers.

Friday: The journey to our pension included an exhilarating (and at moments terrifying) drive up a winding mountain road. It was here we all realized that our boss could have just as easily been a race car driver.

The pension was like a hotel for group stays. Floor mats and linens for sleeping are provided, and there was a mini-kitchen, bathroom, main room with couch and two extra bedrooms.

Saturday: After a breakfast of bibimbap made from ingredients harvested from the mountain, we set out to hike. Now we didn’t know until we arrived that it was the peak weekend for hiking of the entire season. So while we marveled at the natural beauty of the mountains, trees and valleys, we did so alongside hundreds of other people. There were actually moments we stopped walking due to traffic crossing a bridge or going up steps. But it was the most beautiful mountain I’ve seen yet in Korea, and the hike was invigorating.

Post-hike we were super hungry, but exercised patience as we sat in traffic getting off the mountain. We ate a late lunch at a “pick your own” seafood restaurant. Our boss haggled with a few fish sellers, and when he finally got a satisfactory deal the woman immediately began to prepare the fish for our meal. Watching our meal writhe on the chopping block was challenging for a couple coworkers, but the end product was delicious!

After the meal we left our coworkers and took a bus to meet up with our friends in “downtown” Sokcho.

Seafood is a major part of the local economy, so we had a late dinner of a yummy spicy crab soup. Then we explored the area: found a pier where people were shooting off fireworks, an outdoor karaoke concert (amazing performances from intoxicated ajjumas), and a pretty pagoda look-out point.

The rest of the evening we partook of drinks and snacks and games in our motel room. It was lots of fun and a great way to relax after a full day of hiking!

This morning we checked out the view from the lighthouse near our motel and feasted on gelato waffle and Americanos for brunch. Now we sit in traffic on the bus back to Seoul. We are tired, but content from a full weekend filled with beautiful scenery, good food and fun with friends.

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Before we say “adieu” to summer

This summer was not a great one for blogging consistency, but we sure did have fun. After the Boryeong Mud Festival our traveling slowed considerably, which ended up being healthy for our wallet and our sanity. We had time for smaller adventures around town and catching up with friends.

Much patbingsu was consumed. Many iced americanos came and went.

One highlight was the discovery of Cafe Mama’s in Jongno. Coming from someone who would regularly frequent Panera Bread back in America, Cafe Mama’s offers familiar tastes- and then takes it up a notch. They are known for their fresh fruit juices (especially the grape ones), and every salad and sandwich I’ve tried there had balanced proportions of cheeses, pestos, and many toppings otherwise pretty unfamiliar to Seoul. Bonus: it’s also quite reasonably priced for the area and portion sizes. Biggest drawback is the waiting- if you get there during peak hours you will wait a long time. As amazing as the food is, more important of course are the people you share it with. Below I’m with our friends and former coworkers Heather and Veronica.

Seoul is a fantastic city during all seasons. However let Westerners in the be warned that during August they will sweat. The month will redefine heat and humidity, yet it seemed the natives sweat a fraction of the amount that the average foreigner sweat. At first I thought it was just us, but it’s been confirmed by other waygukins. Seoul is a highly developed, super-modern country with AC in many public places. It’s just that the increasing awareness and efficiency of energy usage nationwide reigned in the power of the “air con”, as it’s referred to here. Don’t get me wrong, I fully support these efforts, I just had moments of forgetting that when I was waiting for a train at an underground train station with zero air circulation.

Of course, the season could not be complete without another American summer staple: s’mores. During a weekend visit from our friends Robert and Jenny the craving hit. Unsure of whether we would be able to find anything resembling marshmallows, Jenny and I scoured the local HomePlus. Fortunately the store is owned by Tesco, and the British grocer faithfully supplied us with mallows “made in America!”. As you can see, they were a smashing success.

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We go on dates, even in Korea

Yep. We’re old married people of two years, but we still like to intentionally spend time with each other sans screens or students. (unless I beat play Jordan at Ticket to Ride on our iPhones) While some people might think we’d get sick of each other here, as we work at the same place and live in a studio apt, that has hardly been the case!

Over the past year we’ve marveled at how couple-oriented Seoul is, so it’s quite easy to find fun date destinations. Enjoy some highlights below!

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#1- Spain Club, Apujong- there is steep competition for restaurants in this trendy area, but it was easy to see why Spain Club persists. Now we’re not masters of authenticity when it comes to Spanish food, but the tapas and seafood paella were just as flavorful as all the restaurant reviews say. The caramel cake also pictured was decadent, rich, and came from the dessert cafe around the corner from Spain Club. Most options featured the specialty caramel sauce, which made up for any healthy feelings after eating paella.

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#2- Normal Korean meal feat. stew– yep, sometimes dates aren’t super glamorous. But on any given day, this is what we crave for lunch, so we take extra time to enjoy the meal and yummy side dishes, and call it a date. It’s cheap, healthy and ridiculously easy to shops that serve stews and soups. After all, a date is more about your perspective and experience than the price tag or uniqueness of the food.

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 #3- Big ol’ breakfast @ Butterfingers- located in Gangnam, this is one of the few authentic western-style breakfast places in Seoul. It’s expensive, but when you gotta have real pancakes with sides of sausage, toast and eggs cooked how you like them, there aren’t many options. However most of the meals are totally splittable, and worth the trip once for familiar tastes like carbs and butter.

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