Welcome back to our wonderous, fabulous blog! It’s time for a bit of an update on our time here in the KSA!
We started school almost 2 weeks ago and while Ana is teaching in person (mostly), I am still 100% remote. The Saudi Ministry of Health has its own guidelines that we are following. If the country reaches 70% vaccination rates, which it hopes to do by the end of October, all students will be allowed to return in person. So…we’re hoping! 🤞 Aside from that, however, school is moving along well enough!
We’re getting fairly well settled in also. Banks set up, water deliveries, food deliveries, everything we could need! All that’s really left is to figure out how to order online from a few places, like Amazon Saudi, and to get driver’s licenses and a car. We’re hoping to get one before October, but who knows. Inshallah. We don’t really want a car, but for the weekends and navigating, it will be incredibly useful!
Now on the fun bit! This past weekend, we had a fun missile scare! The Houthi rebels in Yemen like to try and disrupt different things in Saudi Arabia, one of which is oil production. The eastern coast of Saudi is the largest oil production area in the country and home to Saudi Aramco, one of the largest oil producing companies in the world.
Anyways, the rebels launched several missiles across the country, but thankfully the Saudi government intercepted them. That said, there apparently a few people injured, though as I understand it, it wasn’t bad (I could be wrong) and some very minor damages to buildings.
It was certainly a bit tense when it happened as we were not sure what was going on and the chats were all abuzz with speculation. We finally learned what happened and there are several news outlets who covered it as well. You can read more about it here at Reuters.
Having been through a few shootings, both by myself and with Ana, this was definitely scarier in terms of the ideas that it’s completely out of the blue and our control with zero warning. That said, we are not worried, nor does anyone here seem to be worried either, so we go forward! C’est la vie!
Anyways, that’s all for now, but keep an eye open as Ana and I are planning to start a podcast, in which we HOPE we’ll have our first one up this weekend! Stay tuned!
Every move has its twists and turns. For the end of our stint in Hawaii, we had the following timeline:
Finishing work in early June
Vacating our apartment in early June
Leaving the state in mid-June
We would have loved to stay in our apartment a little longer, but our landlords wanted to have the apartment rented before they left the island for the summer. Totally understandable. It did mean that we were:
Selling items that were not coming with us (which means the apartment was messy a lot)
In and out of the apartment as it was being shown (which meant we had to keep it extra clean)
Finishing the school year
Getting docs read to apply for visas to our new post.
Getting the timing right to sell our car.
Needless to say, it was a very busy time. Shoutout to Cam for holding the fort together when I couldn’t.
We made a point of spending as much time outside as we could while the weather was nice and still not terribly hot. Which gave us views like these (from the Tantalus lookout in Honolulu):
Our apartment didn’t take long to rent out – two showings, and someone agreed to move in the day after we moved out. Oof.
Which left us with about a week in Hawaii.
We decided to spend our last week at a rental in the North Shore – our first time staying there was over spring break, and let me tell you: there is something magical about falling asleep to the sound of real ocean waves.
Pat’s at Punalu’u has a variety of condos and cottages, some of which are for rent. Make sure you check the rental minimums, as some places are different depending on the permits they have. In the first half of 2021, we stayed at three different places in the same building: over spring break, Memorial Day weekend, and our last week on the island. Cannot recommend them enough and the hosts are a dream to communicate with – especially LaRona, who manages several properties on the building. If the one you’re looking at isn’t available on the dates you want, ask her about others.
Here is the place we stayed in during Memorial Day weekend (an apartment with a balcony).
And the cottage we stayed in for our last week in Hawaii.
Now, if you do go to the Hau’ula, La’ie, Punalu’u area on the north coast of Oahu, here are some of our favorites:
Aloha Shrimp Food Truck
We started referring to this one as simply “shrimp shop”. Within walking distance of the Pat’s condos, this food truck – with seating area – serves multiple variations of the famous garlic shrimp that you can find all over the North Shore. Our favorite was the spicy garlic lemon shrimp, which comes with rice and salad. The sauce is so good, that honestly we would order just the rice with sauce and no shrimp. If you love garlicky spicy acidic foods, this is your dish. They do have two non-shrimp options on the menu, both cutlets: chicken and pork. We both tried the pork in separate occasions, and both agreed it was missing a sauce: something like a hoisin or maybe some oyster sauce thinned down with lime and soy sauce. You can see some pictures and other details in this review.
Plates average between $11 and $15. Cash only!
2. Penny’s Malasadas
Schedule is very limited on this one, but they do carry many different flavors of the island favorite malasadas – essentially, a fried donut without a hole with a very airy inside. You can get filled ones, but our favorites are the cinnamon sugar ones. It’s parked at the Longs Drugs parking lot in La’ie.
3. Tamura’s Market Hau’ula
Now why would we include a supermarket in this list of favorites?
Because it sells adult beverages.
We’re just throwing this one out there because not every grocery store in the vicinity does.
So if cocktails or cold ones are part of your chillin-by-the-beach plans, you should know that not all grocery stores in the La’ie area sell booze.
But Tamura’s does. Selection and prices definitely get the job done. And it’s a Hawaii based business (these all are, obviously) which is great to support.
We’ll be honest. We didn’t really swim on the beach that much. It was cold and stormy a fair bit. We did snorkel once and that was enjoyable.
This is one of the last sunsets we saw in Hawaii. I took these pictures through a window (I was making dinner):
We’re both working hard at taking more – and better – pictures. If you follow us on Instagram (@nomadicgregors, @analinmcgregor, and @nomadicgregorsphotos) you may have seen some of them. But here are some more.
And with that, Hawaii is now where we used to live.
So it is Tuesday and our third day of work here and Saturday and so far it’s been a pretty great experience though we do feel a bit overwhelmed with work coming into a coronavirus related world and a new school. There are a great deal of many things to be done and to learn and to understand but we are trying to go in with the mindset of will do what we can and learn as we can.
We will be moving to a new campus in January or at least that’s the plan and we are very excited about that because it is on our compound which means that we will be able to walk to work rather than have a 30 to 40 minute commute each way. That will reduce our stress it will reduce pretty much everything for us which is really nice however that said the commute is nice to take a nap after work or listen to some podcasts so you know pros and cons but mostly pros in this case. Anyways I’m going to add a couple of photos here so you can see what somebody looks like! As for the moment you’ll see desert but there are parts of Saudi, which we haven’t been to yet that are not desert so hopefully at some point will get posted pictures of those too!
Well, we finally arrived in Saudi Arabia! It was a long and somewhat arduous journey, but we made it! So far Saudi has been more than we expected both in terms of what is available to us, what we can do, and how hot it is!
We started work yesterday as the Saudi work week runs from Sunday through Thursday and students come back to us next week. We will have more updates as we go along, but for the time being feel free to check out mine or Ana’s Instagram as well as our NomadicGregorsPhotos one, which I’ll post links to later this week!
Without any intention of doing so, we will leave Hawaii exactly three years after we moved here.
We flew into Hawaii to move here on July 15, 2018,
We left for good on July 16, 2021.
So I guess three years and one day.
In true fashion for the team, we’re going to a place we were not fully planning on going, and will BOTH teach Middle School Social Studies in Saudi Arabia starting in August. So we will be back in the same school AND the same calendar (YAY!). We will also be in the same department…with one more person (the 8th grade Social Studies teacher). God have mercy on her soul. LOL
We’ll go into what the visa process has involved in a future post. It’s definitely the most intense process we have gone through and we’re very grateful that we were in the US to do it.
We are now at Headquarters in Oregon, going outside as much as we can and getting as ready as we can for the move.
Here is a map showing where the Eastern Province is – and where we will be in relation to other Gulf Countries:
You can’t really see Bahrain in the map; it’s a small island, but it will be the closest country we will have. About a 40 minute drive in good traffic. I included an expanded map because it shows where we will be in the grand scheme of things.
So with this, we’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest, the Caribbean, East Asia, the middle of the Pacific…and are now heading to the Middle East.
There is definitely a lot we are excited about.
Most importantly, we are excited to go back abroad.
You know when you live somewhere and there are landmarks that everyone wants to see when they visit, and you live there, and you never go? Or you don’t go unless someone comes to visit, and you say you were saving it to visit with them, but really, you just never wanted to deal with the crowds and the parking?
That’s Diamond Head if you live in Honolulu.
Diamond Head is a mountain and a crater, I guess? There is a crater you can see when you go up. You’ll see it in pictures in a sec.
It’s also in the middle of Honolulu. It’s walking distance from Waikiki, and gives you great views of the southeast of Oahu. As you’ll see in my mediocre pictures, the views are quite beautiful.
Now, Diamond Head is a VERY popular hike. So you have to time it right to avoid crowds and find parking. In fact, most people just park at the bottom, walk, or take a bus/Uber. It’s also paved, so it’s very, very accessible, which makes it even more crowded. There is also no shade, so it’s not a hike everyone (ahem, Cam) can do at just any hour because it would be way too much sun exposure. Our firefighter friend told us it’s common to have to airlift people out of Diamond Head – people underestimate the risk of heat exhaustion often.
In between all that caution and hoping we could just do it when one of the throngs of visitors we would have living in Hawaii came, we had lived here for two years and still hadn’t gone up Diamond Head.
And then COVID happened.
As a result, parks, beaches, and trails in Oahu were closed on and off for the better part of 2020. This put a major damper on our hiking and general outdoor time. Not all of these outdoor spaces are managed the same way though – so even when the state reopened parks, trails, and beaches, Diamond Head stayed closed, because it’s a federally managed monument.
By the time Diamond Head opened again last month, it had been closed for almost nine months.
One Saturday, we decided we were just going to suck it up, and do it.
The first fun part: it was free because we’re Hawaii residents. Everyone else has to pay for entrance AND parking. So saving on that was fun.
Second fun part: already mentioned, but Diamond Head is all paved. Okay, not all paved. There are some sections of the trail that have rocks and gave us major Hallasan deja vu, but not terrible. So it’s a trail that is doable even if your gear isn’t great. We wore very worn down, old training shoes and it was fine.
Third fun part: there is a truck at the bottom that will sell Dole Whip, like what you get at Disneyland. Is it sad that the best part of the hike was finishing it and getting Dole Whip?
Fourth fun part: We actually finished it in about the time prescribed – approximately two hours round trip.
Is it a must if you come to Oahu? No. We think the Makapu’u viewpoint is MUCH better, and a less crowded hike, even for sunrise, which is it’s most popular time. If you go back on the blog, you’ll find our thoughts on it.
Is it worth the money? Also probably no, but we didn’t pay, so I can’t really judge that.
Are there worse things you could be doing on a weekend afternoon? Absolutely.
The views are nice, but again, not views you can’t see from other points in Oahu. Nevertheless, good views.
These were tricky to take without having a bunch of people in them. NOBODY WAS SOCIALLY DISTANCING IN THAT SUMMIT!
Coming up: We are finally going to spend a few days up north for spring break. I might bring the big guns and use our DSLR while we are there. I’m looking forward to pictures of turtles, sunrises, and sunsets. I’m an old geezer now that wakes up before the sun most days of her life, so the least I can do is picture the sunrise, right?
We’ll also be talking about some of our favorite places to eat in upcoming posts. Love to all,
I’ve spent the last year and a half or so developing a writing practice/business outside of school. Recently, an opportunity came up to share stories about how the pandemic had affected the lives of those who are or have been expatriates at different points in time.
So I figured it would be a good opportunity to try to explain why in the world were we thinking about stepping back into the international school circuit in the middle of the pandemic. Because at times, the idea of trying to get a job abroad in the middle of a pandemic, when many countries were in an out of lockdowns, really did seem crazy. Needless to say, the fall and winter have been a roller coaster of stress levels.
I tried to write this from a place of humility and from the understanding that everyone has their own priorities and everyone’s happy life looks different. Just different, not better or worse, right or wrong.
If you’re curious about what life is like in other countries, I encourage you to peek around. You’ll be surprised!
It’s scary to put your thoughts out there in a space that doesn’t belong to us…but stepping out of the comfort zone is part of the writing craft, so there it is. I don’t know how many submissions they received, but I was proud to be chosen!
Now that Hawaii is reopening more, we’re trying to do some things that were put on a very long pause due to lockdowns, so stay tuned!
I think we can all agree that in the times we’re living in, we are all trying to build practices that help us maintain our sanity and build joy through simple things.
Our Saturday mornings involve drinking coffee for…well, a few hours.
On Sunday mornings, we drink coffee for, again, a few hours.
I posted about this new ritual of ours on my Instagram a few weeks ago, and so many people loved this idea that I feel it’s worth sharing through a longer blog post.
A former colleague of ours told us about her version of Coffee By the Water years ago when we lived in Jeju, a 10 minute drive from the water: she would make coffee, put it in a tumbler, and then drive by the ocean to have her coffee with a view. In a time when we all need to find nourishing activities that help us preserve our sanity, this has turned out to be a great consistent activity to look forward to. Saturday mornings we get up, drink water, throw some clothes on, get coffee, and go. We would normally make coffee at home, but we’re still burning through a bunch of coffee gift certificates we got at Christmas, so we may not be making our own coffee…maybe up until Spring Break.
If you don’t have water nearby, then just find your favorite spot and go there for a little bit at the end of the week. These are two of our spots:
We love this new tradition and hope to find different spots as time goes by. What other spots do you think are good for having coffee and reflect/watch life pass you by?
In my original plan when I went to Law school, I was going to practice law and have a column in a newspaper where I discussed regulation.
While I was studying law, I always thought that maybe lawyers weren’t doing enough to help people understand the law as it is relevant to their lives. As my career took another turn, that kind of fell through, but my idea of writing about law never really left my mind.
I’ve dabbled on and off on blogs since I moved to Seattle. Talking about law was never part of it. This is a travel/living abroad blog, which I love, and I hope we can pick it back up soon. Hawaii and Corona have seriously messed our travel lives. However, the idea of having more to say in more subjects has also been on my mind, even if I spent more time and energy in establishing my teaching career.
Now that I feel like I’m a bit more established as a teacher, my mind has more free space to think about how I can use writing to communicate, educate, and help others.
Also, Hawaii is expensive and I wanted to make more money, because life is too short to pay bills and student loans forever.
I knew that people could make money writing online – blogs can be monetized, and some sites pay for posts. I wasn’t sure, however, if it could amount to anything for me.
There is a fine line between writing content and writing copy, but the jist of it is – copy involves a call to action, which can be as simple as subscribing to an email list, or commenting on a post, or can be more involved, like buying a product.
In my attempt to learn more about writing online for money, I came across Sarah Turner, a medical copywriter who’s put her knowledge onto a course. She has a free condensed course on Youtube, (this link takes you to her channel) which is, in a lot of ways, a preview to her full course. At the same time, I also came across a content mill, where I started writing and actually selling articles. Not for a lot, but it gave me the proof I needed to believe that someone would find my writing valuable enough to pay for it (even if it was just $10-15).
After a few months, I decided to take the leap and buy the course. It’s an investment, and at first I wasn’t sure if it would be worth the investment, but I decided to take the risk and Cameron supported me.
When I was trying to figure out what to focus on (niching down is better from a business standpoint than writing about anything and everything and running around like a crazy person), my brilliant husband was essential. I had some ideas about travel and maybe small hospitality businesses and whatnot. At some point our conversations led to immigration as my niche. According to Cam, I’m “good at it”, and “understand the rules very well”, which goes into what you should write about if you want to write online: things you like to learn about and things people ask you about.
And then it dawned on me that if I wrote about immigration and global mobility, I could do what I originally wanted to do with my law degree.
Immigration law is stressful, complicated, and deeply personal. People need to understand it on their own, and lawyers shouldn’t be boggled down with writing for a blog when they need the time to help their clients.
That’s where I come in. My job is to write about new or updated regulation for immigration firms in a way that non-lawyers (so everyone) can understand. You can see some of the published work I’ve written here.
I paid off the course with one job. It was a research job and I got it on Upwork. Took a few months, but it was a great experience.
In her course, Sarah first focuses in working on mindset and then doing the business building thing. That is absolutely the right approach. Don’t skim on your mindset work. You are your most powerful asset.
You can sign up for the course using my affiliate link. I’m not going to lie here and say you’ll be flush with cash without doing any work. It’s work. But it is a route that can be very rewarding and a type of work with a lot of potential considering that now everyone realizes they need a website.
I only have one retainer client. I’m working towards more. I have no intention of leaving teaching. But I do love working on this.
You can read a review about the course from another student here.
We’ve always kept this blog about our experiences living and working abroad and it’s always been about sharing our lives with people we may not be in touch with often. We’ve never really had a monetization goal with it (as you’ve probably guessed given how little it’s been updated). But I do think that copywriting can be a viable option for people to build something that works for them in terms of work, with very little investment. That’s the only reason why this article has an affiliate link on it – because I think we’ve all seen through the pandemic that we can’t take anything for granted. Having options plural is always going to be better than having no options, or only one option that may or may not make you miserable. So if you do buy the course through the link included, I’ll get a small kicker. It doesn’t make the course any more or less expensive.
In travel news, well, Hawaii still has an inter-island quarantine in place, so we can’t visit other islands for the moment. Starting in 9 days, you can bypass the travel quarantine if you’re coming from out of state if you have a negative COVID test from the previous 72 hours. Some airlines, like United, are offering tests with some of their routes to Hawaii (Specifically the SFO-HNL route). We’re hoping that’ll mean maybe some visitors.
But we are stuck here for the foreseeable future.
If you want to chat about copywriting and starting a business feel free to drop me a line at email@example.com
Last time we updated you folks, it was spring, Hawaii was under a stay-at-home order, and there were a lot of things up in the air, including what work would look like for us.
We both started the year remotely, however, Cam has been back in-person since mid-September (although with some students in remote learning). Very few breaks. Little to no prep time. Very busy days because he has students in his classroom all.the.time. I hope things get better for him soon because I can definitely see the exhaustion not being great, especially when flu season starts. On that note, we both got our shots a few weeks ago. It was free and very easy. Go get your flu shot. Please and thank you.
I am still teaching from home, and will likely be mostly at home until the end of the first semester in December. My school is inviting struggling students to return in person for this second quarter which would mean being on campus once a week with a handful of kids. All social distancing and containment rules would apply. So I’d have to teach all my distance learning students while supervising a handful of kids in person once a week. Could be a lot worse.
We did end up going to the Oregon Coast in the summer. Hawaii has done a fair amount of flip flopping in its travel reopening plans, and we wanted to have enough time to complete the quarantine when we came back. The summer was the only time we could do that without having to take time off work because we were both supposed to return in person. Anyway…
The Honolulu airport was eerily empty. We flew out early and completed our check in and security in minutes. Our flight was empty enough. We flew Southwest to Portland via Oakland (after cancelling and rebooking our old spring break flights maybe 3-4 times). Middle seats were open and the flight wasn’t all booked up so we sat across the aisle from each other but without anyone else around us, really. Masks all the way and we brought plenty of sanitizer and antibacterial wipes with us. We got some travel sized ones that smell like lavender so you can smell something relaxing as opposed to something surgical that may trigger the germophobe in you.
Being in the Oakland airport was not relaxing. It was super full. It was hard to find seats by our gate and properly distance from people. Flights to Las Vegas were PACKED. We decided to avoid that airport on the way back.
Portland airport was emptier than I’ve ever seen it. But getting around wasn’t difficult and we were on our way out in no time.
We spent our time mostly at home, helping around with housework that is not easy for my father in law anymore. I also had a weeklong training at the very start of our time, and several faculty meetings during the summer. So it wasn’t a usual summer where there is no work involved. Well, we’ve worked both our summers in Hawaii so far so I guess while we are here working is what’s normal. Cameron has meetings on meetings on meetings, so that made the summer not as restful.
On top of that, state parks were closed for a good portion of our time in Oregon. Many places like Depoe Bay were way too crowded for our taste, so we went on some drives but not much else. National forests were open for some of the time we were there, so we went on a few hikes and walks here and there. The nature in the Oregon Coast continues to be breathtaking and very soothing for both of us. It doesn’t get old.
Public libraries also opened for library take out so we have been on a steady diet of library books, which is a good things. Some of our current reads include “The 5 Second Rule” by Mel Robbins (me) and “I will Teach you to be Rich” by Ramit Sethi (Cam).
We are also on what’s possibly our longest workout streak on record, with a Perfect Month (May) on our Apple Watches (all activity goals every day completed) and a number of consecutive weeks of consistent physical activity. Some of the tools/programs we’ve used:
Centr – Well worth the money. Meals that are easy to make and pretty delicious (not the cheapest – I do wish they had a “budget” meal plan, but skilled cooks should be able to do some workarounds), workouts that don’t really get old – or easier! – meditations, etc. We’ve been doing the workouts for the better part of the last year and a half and started following the meal plan maybe two months ago. I’ve had people ask if it’s worth the yearly subscription. My answer: yes. During the lockdown/gym closures I’ve completed their 6-week Centr 6 program (only equipment needed is dumbbells) and Centr Unleashed at intermediate level (no equipment).
Nike Training Club – Cam has workouts from this app once a week in his rotation. Free to download and the workouts will give you a run for your money. Very little, if any, equipment required.
Heather Robertson’s 12 week program – I found this Canadian trainer on IG and did a HIIT workout she posted there once, decided to find out more. Excellent program considering it’s free on Youtube. I would say it’s not for beginners because there are no explanations of the exercises, and there is plenty of plyo (I have knee issues so I modify often but I know how). But every single workout will kick your butt. When you’re happy about the fact that abs are next…well, yeah. I have three weeks left on the program and expect to do it again in about 6 months to see where my level of fitness is then. I need a lot of breaks right now.
Other sources I recommend:
Darebee – a whole bunch of different workouts for different goals, for free. We used to do some of these workouts when we lived in China.
Sports Illustrated Swimsuit‘s Instagram page – I’ve done some of the workouts with Katrina Scott (from Tone It Up – I think her workouts are on Saturdays) and they are 1) super fun, 2) will give you a serious workout in a short time, and 3) great music-wise because her husband puts together awesome playlists. You can search for her playlists on Spotify under “Katrina Scott”. There are other trainers that post workouts – they will all be under IGTV – of different kinds: yoga, kickboxing, Pilates, barre, cardio, strength training, you name it. Pretty great considering it’s free if you have Instagram. Handle is @si_swimsuit.
Tara Stiles’s Instagram page – also a lot of yoga routines under her IGTV, tutorials to make hard poses easy, but most importantly, a focus on doing yoga not for the poses but to feel better. Her handle is @tarastiles.
The 7-minute workout – there are a bunch of apps that also have this one with built in timers and customizable intervals. I’ve done this workout on and off while traveling, or while in the DR visiting family. This article link includes an advanced version and links to some of the apps. This is as good as it gets to get a workout that does the job in a short amount of time.
We canceled our gym membership and are quite content working out at home. It’s become part of our days and there’s a lot less “ugh I hate this” and more “let’s get it done”. We both have a more positive mindset towards working out right now, I think in part because it’s provided some consistency during the quarantines and helped us stay focused towards specific goals. For me, the time during which I’m working out is a time when I’m rarely thinking about something else – cause you know, gotta make it to the next rep before collapsing on the floor – so it’s a bit of a break from everything else that sucks.
We also take walks almost daily. We aim for at least a mile. Some days we scrap workouts or make it an active rest day and just go for a long walk around our neighborhood, with a detour on the very empty Waikiki.
There’s more to chat about, but that’ll have to wait until next time. This got kind of long with the workout tangent.
Stay safe. Wear your mask. Stay away from crowds. Show love and light to everyone.