Hawaii – The Good

Hawaii has a ridiculous amount of amazing things to offer. A truly ridiculous amount. While you might think the best is the weather or the beaches, I’m here to tell you it isn’t. It’s the mountains. They are, in my opinion, what makes these islands so amazing. That’s not to say that the beaches or weather aren’t amazing because they are however, I personally have found beaches I’ve enjoyed more (Philippines, Thailand, Dominican Republic, etc.). We’ll come back to the beaches on another post.

The mountains though truly set Hawaii apart (at least in my travels). On Oahu, the mountains are exceptionally steep, considerably cooler in temperature and make you feel like you are in a movie…in fact they film quite a few here (at Kualoa Ranch – more pics below…it’s awesome!). Driving through the mountains feels otherworldly, as you’ve been transported from the concrete jungle to the literal one where all sorts of things seem to be possible in one’ imagination. Now, perhaps this is just me since I didn’t grow up here or anywhere like it. For the locals, it might not be this way, but…maybe it is. Anyways, enjoy the photos below!

Great Experiences: Wayfarer Studio Photography

This review is coming long after we actually did this, but I didn’t want to pass the opportunity to go into some detail about our great experience getting some pictures with our friends atĀ Wayfarer Studio Photography. Jen and Isaac Marshall, original Pacific Northwesterners, have taken their passion for telling stories in beautiful detail through pictures and turned it into their way of living. As “not Jen or Isaac”, I think what happened to them can be explained as “Through traveling the world, we’ve seen amazing places and met incredible people with powerful stories to tell and feelings to express. Our work is to shoot so others can see it more than once”. This is what I think might go through their heads when they take pictures.

I had been talking to Jen about having our pictures taken on our 5 year anniversary for a number of years by the time we actually did it. Nothing went according to plan, but as good teachers that understand flexibility, they made us feel incredibly comfortable, and somehow, I think captured perfectly what this team is about, and how we feel about each other.

The Marshalls don’t really do “posey” pictures, thank goodness. Your job during one of their shoots is just to have fun and enjoy yourselves. Sure, there might be some light direction because as experts they understand angles and work with the outside elements to get wonderful shots, but mostly, you’re just hanging out and they experiment a little. I can say their experiments, while a bit funny at the moment, are absolutely trustworthy. Jen and Isaac are experts at capturing nature and making it the star of your pictures, while still showing what you and your family are about at that time.

The most important, and touching, aspect of these pictures to me was how happy they managed to portray us in pictures. Sometimes, we know we are happy, and we feel happy, but we might not be sure how it might look to others (not that it matters exactly), but somehow I was very surprised to see how much I was laughing, how at ease I looked, and how comfortable we are with each other. One of the things the Marshalls highly encourage their clients to do is to print their pictures so they can look at them often (we really don’t do that as much in a time and age when we have the capacity to take so many pictures and have each of them turn out pretty great). I love looking at these pictures. These are pictures I am looking forward to revisiting for years to come – that time when two kids had their friends take their pictures in a place that makes them incredibly happy.

You can read the photographers’ chronicle of this sessionĀ here.

What you need to know:

  • Jen and Isaac travel anywhere in the world – kids and everything (their kids are hilarious and super cool anyway – it’s a treat to have them around!). So if you live in Asia, or the Middle East, or Europe, or Latin America, or Australia, or anywhere, it doesn’t matter. They’ll go and take your pictures. Jen was seven (almost 8) months pregnant when they did our shoot. That kind of thing doesn’t stop them!
  • Super easygoing – again, if you want a photographer that will make you feel comfortable and not do the posey awkward family photos, these are your peeps. My husband and I are super introverts who don’t really like to have their picture taken, and we LOVE our pictures.
  • Easy, very high-quality print options – including possible decoration options and placement for your prints at your home the way it is now. Their frames are also very lightweight and easy to pack.
  • You’re not just an account number to the Marshalls. Again, this is quite literally a family business. Jen and Isaac are their own staff – the same people that take your pictures will do the editing and the design consulting and prepare the print delivery.

I’m not writing this for any type of gain. Sure, if our friends got a wedding or a family shoot out of this, that would be incredible. This is mainly out of a motivation to tell people about others who do great work and care about what they do. In a world of impersonal, obscenely large corporations, we should spread the love of wonderful small businesses when we find them.

You can see more of the Marshalls’ beautiful photography/storytelling at their Instagram @wayfarerstudio

 

 

Revisit the places that make you happy

I’m really not sure if there is a saying talking about how you shouldn’t go back to places where you’ve been happy, but we don’t believe in that. If you love a place, go back! Go back as many times as you want. We at the Team are all for visiting new places, but we also think that you should have places in your travel rotation that are “a safe bet” and where you’ll have a good time no matter what.

For this Christmas break, we decided to start and finish at our favorite city in the world: Hong Kong.

(New York is a pretty close second after our Spring Break, but Hong Kong remains our favorite).

The main reason, after the Istanbul debacle, why we decided to hop around Asia for this break is because this is probably the closest we’ve been to repatriating in the 5 years we’ve been in Asia. We are still going to a job fair, but our search is much more restricted this time around so if that doesn’t pan out, we will return to the US for a few years so I can finalize my US citizenship requirements. (If you work in an awesome school district that could use two teachers – both Spanish speakers! – with Masters degrees, please let us know! Don’t be shy!)

We hadn’t been in Hong Kong for a whole year and a half (SHOCKER! Haha) so we were excited about possibly returning for a few days. We decided to use HK as a hub of sorts for the rest of our travels, which would include Siem Reap, Cambodia (encore for Cameron, a first for me), and Singapore (a new one for both of us), with a return to HK at the end. We outlined our trip as follows:

First order of business: Find cheap tickets. We flew three low-cost airlines (HK Express, Jetstar, and Scoot – none of which we had flown before). In the end, we managed to get all our plane tickets for the whole time for around US$300 per person. At the last minute, we paid for extra luggage on two flights – about $20 per person per flight, so $80, definitely one of the ways in which low-cost airlines make their money. Thanks to some rewards points in one of my credit cards, I was able to get a travel credit for $40, which helped with the cost. Lesson learned, though – one of my resolutions for this year is to get better at traveling light and REALLY only pack what I need. I’ve gotten worse at overpacking with time, and there’s really no need.

Dec. 17-20 – Hong Kong. We flew out of Jeju (thank goodness for no Seoul business!) on Hong Kong Express. Their schedule out of Jeju is not ideal (departures are very early Thursdays and Sundays), but it would get us to Hong Kong early on the Sunday we left and have pretty much the whole day. We booked an Airbnb in Sheung Wan – a pretty nice 2 bedroom!

Dec. 20 – 24 – Siem Reap. One way ticket on HK Express. We found a great small hotel pretty close to the Angkor Temples (which was the main reason why we were going to Cambodia). We got a 3-day pass to the temples, which gave us plenty of time.

Dec. 24-28 – Singapore. One way ticket on Jetstar – We got a nice Christmas Lunch and mainly just kind of took it slow.

Dec. 28 – 31 – Back to Hong Kong. One way ticket on Scoot – nice new Dreamliner, my favorite of all the airlines we flew – This time we went back to our old stomping grounds in Causeway Bay (also an Airbnb).

Couple of highlights of our first few days in Hong Kong:

  1. Ran into the Byrne family (colleagues from Shanghai) and spent a lovely afternoon with them chasing Christmas decorations in Kowloon, and catching the harbor light show. Saw some new parts of Kowloon we hadn’t seen, which is always nice!
  2. During that light show, we saw the junk boats with the red sails you see in the pictures! We’ve been on a junk boat before, but we had never seen one with the red sails. It’s exciting to see things from pictures and postcards.

Photo Gallery: Chasing waterfalls

During this week’s Chuseok break, we have set on a few excursions close to home and not so close. One of those excursions involved finding a couple of waterfalls around the Jungmung tourist area and Seogwipo city. Here are some of the shots I took with my phone on our treks around Cheongjiyeon falls and Cheongjeyeon waterfall (yes, these are two different places!). The best part is that both of these places are less than an hour drive from our place! It’s very easy to get inland and be in the quiet here, which we appreciate despite the fact that we live in a pretty quiet area ourselves. We intend to go back to these falls in the winter and see how they look frozen (and hopefully with snow!)

Enjoy!

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Exploring Jeju: U-do island

This week we have been on break for Chuseok (aka Korean Thanksgiving). It’s been great to rest and relax after 6 weeks of nonstop work and settling in since we’ve got here. It’s also allowed us to actually go outside in our own time and start exploring more of the island and its impressive landscape.

U-do is a smaller island adjacent to Jeju – yes, we live on an island and we went on to explore another island. We’re not sure the route we took is the most efficient but since we were guided by other teachers who had gone before, we’ll have to test another route some other time. We drove for almost 2 hours to the Samseong (I think this is the right spelling) port, where we took a ferry to U-do (about 10 minutes). You can take your car on the ferry, and some people did, but we decided not to, since the island is so small you can easily bike or scoot around. We’ve been feeling nostalgic for our Shanghai scooter, so we rented one to cruise around for the day (25,000KRW for 2 hours). Scooters at U-do are gas, so there was a bit of a learning curve, but Cameron, skilled driver as he is, got the hang of it in no time. Helmets are mandatory – we even saw a couple of girls getting stopped by traffic police for not wearing their helmets on their electric bikes. We are far from China indeed.

U-do is a small island but it sure offers some great sights. It makes me think of small English prairie or coastal towns. There are some smaller beaches with white sand, and cliffside beaches with black sand. Since Jeju and the islands around are the result of volcanic formations, black sand and volcanic rocks are the norm and white sand is the exception. Nevertheless, it’s a striking contrast, very pleasing to the eye. The meadows by the cliffs have high grass and small fields that are just being planted in this time of the year. We are certainly curious to see what the fields around Jeju look like with the changing seasons. We have noticed, for example, that the orange trees all have fruit right now, but they are all green. I look forward to riding along the orange fields when it’s closer to the winter and the oranges are on their prime, ready to be plucked. One of our colleagues also has a persimmon tree outside her window. It’s just fun to live in a place where you can see fruit growing.

U-do’s crop of choice are peanuts, and peanut inspired foods are all over the island. You can buy roasted peanuts, peanut sauce, peanut butter, peanut ice cream, ice cream with crushed peanuts, you name it. We didn’t try any of the peanut stuff, but we did find a churro truck with churros made to order. We could eat those all day – very few things beat a fresh churro.

Here are some of my phone pics of our day roaming around U-do. Enjoy!

With love and crashing waves,

Ana

 

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