Best of Oahu: July-Dec. 2018

Hi friends!

Despite the fact that the island of Oahu holds 2/3 of the population on these islands, it still has a lot of incredibly beautiful nature, and it’s not hard to become better connected to it with a little intention. Striking sunshine with astonishing color. Green, steep cliffsides and mountains. The vast Pacific surrounding us. And seriously, a rainbow almost every.single.day.

Nature, and how accessible it is, has definitely been the most enjoyable part of living in Oahu. It doesn’t take a long drive to be at the beach, a trail, or by the mountains. It’s very refreshing.

 

As promised, a little taste of rainbows. We usually see one a day on our way home from work.

 

Coming back to the US has meant indulging access to hard copy books. We go to the used bookstores, and the Public Library (one single statewide system, and very well resourced!) often. Cameron also goes to New Comic Book day most Wednesdays.

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It’s been a good six months and we are looking forward to new adventures this upcoming year. From our family to yours, cheers to 2019! Be happy, safe and blessed.

And just like that…

…2018 is (almost) gone.

The past 6 months have been largely focused on transitioning to living in the US again: teaching in the US for the first time, understanding the differences in mentalities, dealing with reverse culture shock (that’ll probably not go away), paying taxes again (YUCK) and not needing to hoard or stock up on anything because Amazon is readily available and Costco is a 10 minute drive from home. We are once again in a place where a car is a must (sigh). And with moving back to the US, the nature of the things we would be able to share in this blog has changed. Nomadicgregors has always been intended as a travel chronicle of the adventures we’ve had abroad, and some of the wonderful things we get to see. As we moved back to the US, our income changed (less disposable income for travel) and we are in a more isolated place (getting to and from Hawaii is far from everywhere). Hawaii is also ridiculously expensive, and so as we’ve settled in we’ve realized opportunities to travel will be far and few in between during our stint here. There are still strikingly beautiful places to be seen in the island of O’ahu, but the reality is, it’s a little over 400 feet, so not exactly vast like, say, the Asian continent.

For a long time, the belief that we have “nothing to share anymore” was part of the reason why this blog was silent. That, combined with the demands of teaching a content area I’m not trained for (again), took its toll. For a little while, I thought about closing the blog altogether, which would probably not be that big of a deal (I can literally name two people that read this, and that’s about it – lol).

In the end, I’ve decided Nomadicgregors will mostly focus on finding ways to feed our wanderlust by exploring Oahu, writing about our favorite places, and how we stay happy in a season of our lives where there will be a significant travel “lull”. In 2019, we will attempt to complete as many hikes in Oahu as possible, starting with this list: To-Hike List 2019 Part 1

Other than a solo trip to the Dominican Republic to take care of some business, read to and hug my mother, we haven’t traveled since we moved to Hawaii. We are tentatively going to Northern California during spring break, but in the meantime, we will direct the energy of this blog to reviewing the places in Honolulu that are keeping us happy, and our favorite nature in Oahu.

To keep up with the more frequent shenanigans, you can follow me on Twitter: @cookingforcalm, and on Instagram: @anamcgregor

Up next: a photo gallery of our favorite Oahu experiences in these 6 months.

Have the best 2019, full of realized dreams, unending kindness, love and light.

Ana

 

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 at 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 session 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

 

 

Cambodia 2017 – Angkor

It’s a bit sad that, in the travel world, Cambodia gets reduced to the Angkor temples as the sole thing to do and see in the country, which is absolutely not true. Yet like many others, we went on the beaten path and scheduled almost a whole week in Cambodia over last Christmas just to see the expansive crown jewel of the Khmer empire.

Do you really need that long? Probably not. Should you take your time seeing all the temples? It depends. I was kind of “templed out” by the end of day 3, and Cameron had been to the temples before. By then it was also surprisingly hot for December, and the temples were getting more crowded each day (hordes of Chinese tourists and their ubiquitous selfie sticks), at which point we decided we had seen the most important things, chilled at our hotel, and got massages #treatyoself.

We have separate folders with pictures of each temple we went to. I won’t put you through that. Instead, I will just leave you with a snippet of some of my favorites from Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, and Ta Prohm – which are possibly the top 3 temples people visit anyway, with reason.

Once again, I felt very grateful to be able to revisit a favorite of Cameron with him. I thoroughly enjoyed my time and would love to see more of Cambodia in the future. The Khmers are lovely and their food is delicious, I might add – think Thai food but without so many spices, and revolving around one or two flavors at a time.

There were a number of things I noticed on the architecture of the temples that was interesting:

  1. Columns – pretty much all over the city of Angkor you’ll see that columns are part of the supporting structure of buildings. It’s interesting to me that the Khmer would have thought those necessary in buildings made of rocks, but they are there nonetheless. I think it’s possible those columns may be responsible for some of the temples standing to this day. If you look at some of the columns in the pictures, you’ll also see that they are not unlike columns found in Greek and Roman architecture or at least not as far apart as you’d think.
  2. Wall carvings for storytelling – this reminded me of some of the Assyrian and Persian carvings that have been found in parts of the Middle East. The Khmer did essentially the same thing in the Angkor temples by carving some of their legends and the significance of their gods/goddesses on the walls of these temples, much like the Assyrians and the Persians used wall carvings to preserve the history of their civilization.
  3. The triangular/pyramidal structure of the temples, and the way the rock has aged reminded me of some of the Mayan and Aztec pyramids, temples, and archeological sites in Mexico and Central America (specifically Guatemala). It makes me wonder just how much in common precolonial civilizations could have in common when they develop in rather different geographical location. You can see more of what I mean by looking at these pictures of the Tikal site in Guatemala: UNESCO gallery of Tikal. Notice the face carvings on top of the buildings (possibly built with the same Khmer purpose of guarding the city? I’m super curious!)

Please excuse some of the random people in some of the pictures, specifically in Ta Prohm – it’s Cameron’s favorite temple but we didn’t get to spend too much time there for two reasons: a) it was undergoing heavy renovations and a good portion of it was walled off, and b) there were SO.MANY.TOUR.GROUPS. Still incredible.

We highly recommend staying at the Pavillon d’Orient hotel in Siem Reap – it’s peaceful, quiet, and they take incredible care of their guests. You can read my review of Pavillion D’Orient on TripAdvisor here.

Our next post will bring it back to Korea in our attempt to complete some “must-do” items before we go. You can see more of that on my Instagram page @analinmcgregor.

Ahh! The first stint of our time abroad is almost coming to an end!

Cheers,

The Team

 

Watching for Wanderlust: South Pacific

In the past couple of days, we’ve been revisiting some of the magnificent work the BBC has done on their Earth documentaries: Planet Earth II, Blue Planet, and others. If you can’t travel, it’s a beautiful way to see the world. The people behind these shows have made an incredible job at capturing the beauty of our planet as undisturbed as possible. They’ve also done a pretty spectacular job at getting to hard-to-reach places and showing us things that maybe we wouldn’t see, even as experienced travelers (example: snow leopards in the Himalayas).

This week, we’ve discovered a new little gem among these programs: South Pacific. It focuses on the Pacific Ocean itself as a source of life, and very particularly in the animals and people that have managed to make it to the islands that are scattered among the Pacific, some of which are among the most remote places on the planet. Our soon-to-be home, the Hawaiian Islands, are of course featured, as they are smack in the middle of the Pacific and have pretty unique flora and fauna.

It is just breathtaking to see animals and people adapting to some of the harshest conditions on Earth. Seeing animals living in places where it’s technically impossible for them to live (penguins in the Galapagos islands!) – all because the Pacific provides the conditions to sustain all kinds of different needs that different species might have.

We haven’t gotten too far in it (we’re in the middle of ep. 2) but we are loving it! If you want to see beautiful places, I highly recommend it.

On another note, this show is not narrated by David Attenborough – it’s narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch, who does a pretty good job narrating! It was an interesting surprise and would be nice if he would narrate more.

If you have Netflix, I recommend looking into the other documentaries the BBC Earth people have done. It’s just spectacular filming and a wonderful way to see the world, so to speak!

Very excited for our visit to Oregon on spring break (is it here yet?)

Go watch South Pacific!

The Team

Christmas 2017/Jan. 2018 – Coming full circle

Cameron’s first trip abroad was eleven years ago, 2006. He went to Hong Kong, Cambodia and Thailand. That trip started Cameron on a journey that would take him to the teaching profession, his loving mistress Russia, and eventually, the establishment of this Team. When we planned our Christmas break, we didn’t really intend it to be some sort of retracing of steps, but with a week in Bangkok in early January for a recruitment fair, it kind of naturally happened.

We like trying to make room in our trips for going to new places together. This time, it was Singapore for both of us, Cambodia for me. One of the most interesting parts of doing this trip was for Cameron to see the differences between what these places were like eleven years ago, when he first visited, and now. We are definitely different people, but the places we go, even years apart, only become more familiar to us and strangely, we feel very “at home”, or close to home, in many, many places.

We are somewhat sad to bring our time abroad to a temporary stop in June when we leave Korea and go back to the United States so I can take care of some unfinished business: namely, getting USCIS off my back once and for all, and teaching what I really want to teach. We will be moving to Hawaii (Oahu specifically) sometime in July. So it’ll be like going back to the US but not really, as continental US and insular US are very different. Tourism and the military also mean that there is lots of transient people in Hawaii, so that helps. People are used to others coming and going. We fully expect some reverse culture shock (we’ve heard numbers around the 8-9 month mark to start feeling like you can actually feel the ground under your feet) but will do our best to invest in being in Hawaii and not have our heads wrapped around the bad parts for too long.

Our return to the US is open ended for now. Right now we intend to go back out and teach abroad sometime in the future. We don’t know when. For now, we are looking forward to our time in the US, the comforts of home, no language barriers, and to living in an island with more “island-y” weather.

We are excited for:

  • Tropical weather! Much as we love four seasons, we are very much looking forward to sun, beaches, and shorts-and-flip-flops weather all year long.
  • Island living: we’re all for a slower paced lifestyle where it’s not go-go-go all the time. We miss that about the Dominican Republic.
  • Legit grocery stores! – the availability of foodstuffs is key to my happiness. I spend a lot of time cooking, and love to feed people! Having options for food is exciting.
  • Affordable options for harder to find items – certain foodstuffs, like cheese, are expensive in this part of the world, because they’re not part of the staple diet of countries like Korea. We are very excited to live in a place again where we can afford things like cheese and cereal and fresh berries in reasonable quantities considering what you pay for them!
  • Efficient services – banking (although banking in Korea has been a breeze – I have no complains!), healthcare, roads where people know the right of way…
  • Real bars – no fuss places where you can sit down and have a drink without too much going into it…relaxed dress codes, that kind of thing.

We are feeling a bit of trepidation about:

a)   Teaching in the US – neither of us has actually taught in the US so we’re not familiar with how things are done…we’re just wondering how it will go with standardized testing and unions negotiating contracts and parents who may or may not be involved and what kind of home environments our future students will live in and all of that. And then there’s of course, the issue of guns…inevitably, we have to think that by going back to the US, and working as teachers there, we’re moving to a place with A LOT more guns than where we live now, and that means one of us could be in danger at our place of work. School shootings are a reality regardless of the grade level. That’s incredibly scary.

b) Paying taxes again! State AND federal…oh brother.

c) Possible work commutes – it’s still early to know whether we will find a place that is a middle ground between our jobs. We’d love to, because we’d like to only need one car, or maybe one of us being able to take the bus to work.

d) Not traveling as much – yes, we’ll be in Hawaii and there won’t be a need to take a beach vacation for example, but our travel potential will be significantly reduced. How to feed the travel bug in the years to come will be something we’ll need to figure out and it will take some time. It’s also going to be pretty expensive to travel to most places, because Hawaii is really not close to ANYTHING.

e) Not connecting with anyone/having trouble making friends/meeting people – living abroad changes your perspectives, and we’ve found that sometimes people who haven’t lived abroad simply don’t get it, through no fault of their own.

There’s definitely more we want to tell you about our Christmas holiday in Cambodia and Singapore (and pictures to show you!). Those will come at a later time. Maybe our next blog rename should be The Insular Gregors…we do have a thing for islands – Oahu will be the third island we live on!

More on the move when it starts to take more shape…for now, we have a very busy school year to finish!

Cheers to our third island (with a Mai Tai, of course – haha!)

Ana

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jeju in the late summer/fall

This year has been strangely warm for the late summer/early fall. It means that the summer was only excruciatingly hot and humid for a short period of time after coming back for the new (academic) year. On the other hand, it means that going outside is generally more pleasant.

In true Team McGregor fashion, our ventures outside in the past couple of months have included ocean views, some high viewpoints, sunsets, and as much greenery as possible. It might not really be “The Hawaii of Asia” (we really do think that’s a bit of a stretch), but Jeju is a beautiful place.

This year we also have the added benefit of former Shanghai colleagues moving to the island to teach in other schools! Periodic “capsule Shanghai reunions” are always fun.

We anticipate that the weather is getting icky for some of our readers, so enjoy these pictures of Jeju. We will continue to try to enjoy as much of the nice weather as possible. It’s late October and in the high 60s. We don’t know what that means for the winter. Hopefully not too windy.

Coming up next on the blog: Going to Seoul and actually leaving the airport!

 

A Quarter in the Life…

Hello fellow nomads (and dwellers, we love you too!)

This is Ana reporting from Jeju – I guess a sick day is as good a day as any to give the good old blog some love 🙂 Maybe I need to download the WordPress app on my phone so I can update the blog more frequently. If you can’t wait around for blog posts, because let’s be honest, we are TERRIBLE at this, you can always follow me on Instagram and Snapchat (@analinmcgregor) for more frequent updates (but not daily).

In the time between our last update, we went back to Waldport for Christmas (and it was lovely), spent the laziest, most relaxing Lunar New Year at home, survived the very windy Jeju winter (people are NOT joking when they say bring winter gear), found out THREE of our former Shanghai colleagues are coming to teach in Jeju next year (YAY!!!!!), and had a wonderful spring break in NY and the Dominican (there may be separate posts for some of these later). In between Lunar New Year and spring break, things were insanely busy at school, and now after spring break they show no sign of slowing down. We have a long stretch ahead of us (one week down, now in the middle of the second week of 11 before the end of the school year) and are very grateful for nice weather (finally!!!) and blossoming trees to make it more bearable.

The life of a teacher is definitely an interesting routine. One would imagine that routine is bad in most professions, but in teaching, it’s nice to nail routine down. If you’re at a point of the year where there are no curveballs coming your way, that’s great, you can probably go on about your job and enjoy some normalcy. Right now, we are in a bit of a slow-ish place at school (although this past week, the first back did feel quite busy and that “lull” will be over next week) but that won’t last. It’s a good thing, because time goes by fast, but it’s also not good because there is not a lot of time to catch your breath before you must move on to the next thing.

The winter also involved going back and forth between actively looking for jobs (for myself) and deciding to do another year in my current position (for a number of reasons I’m not going to go into). It definitely made me realize how competitive teaching is, both back home and abroad, and so I will be spending some time during next school year making sure I can get some relevant professional development that can help me get a better job the year after next.

The next couple of posts will be some galleries of some of the sights we’ve seen in the past few months. There’s been oceans and tall cliffs, glaciers from airplane windows, clouds of delicate blossoms, architectural gems, peace and quiet in the form of blue skies and palm trees, laughs with family and friends, but most importantly, we’ve done all of this together. Stay tuned!

With love and treasured memories,

Ana

 

First month-ish in Jeju

We have been in Jeju for about 5 weeks at this point. We finished our third week of school with Meet the Teacher Day – the school’s version of Back to School night. The previous two weeks were a whirlwind of meetings, training, laminating, decorating, unpacking, repacking, breaking, nailing, getting a little lost, being a little tired, and trying to move along and make our new home and workplace ours.

Now that we are both working full time our mechanics are a little different and we are still adjusting our morning routine. We do eat breakfast together and listen to the news, and then walk to school together (we live across the street from campus). The weather was pretty hot the first month we were here, so walking to school was a bit hard – and sweaty. This past week the weather has begun to turn and it’s more overcast, a bit less humid and quite windy, which helps a lot. We are hoping fall is slowing making its way in so we can start hiking and seeing more of the island.

In all honesty, we haven’t taken a whole lot of pictures or explored a lot, but so far, what we’ve seen of the island is quite pretty. A lot of it is undeveloped, so there is plenty of green and natural landscape. There are also quirky museums – when we go, we will go into more detail on those – but a Google search can probably show you quite a bit.

Our school is much larger than our campus in Shanghai – it’s also spread out quite a bit so getting anywhere on campus is at least a 5 minute walk. If you’re trying to herd first and second graders back from afternoon recess, it might be a 15 minute process. It is, however, an impressive campus.

Jeju is quite different from Shanghai, and we’ve only been here a little while, but very positive impressions from this first month. Also, we have a car, which apparently makes all the difference in the world when it comes to actually doing things and going outside.

We got our car yesterday so there are no pictures of that yet, but soon…

For the time being, here are some pictures of around the island, school, and our apartment. (We are on a 4th floor, have a serious closet space problem, and lots of multifunction appliances. I’ll do a future post on that).

To those of you that follow me on Instagram (@analinmcgregor), sorry for the repeats.

With love and beautiful nature,

Ana

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