Thursday 31 January 2013

After our lovely stay at Willows Lodge, we spent a couple of days getting to know Seattle.  We had fantastic weather - sunshine, not a drop of rain, and above 0 temperatures - which made for perfect conditions to take our time, wander streets, stop for coffee or beer and browse the shops.  We meandered through Pike Place Market one afternoon and returned for breakfast early one morning which was quiet with great views at sunrise.  We walked by the original Starbucks but I couldn't be bothered to wait with the crowds to get inside and order a coffee.  I found it fascinating to learn how many other major companies call the Seattle area home: Microsoft, Amazon, Nordstrom's, Eddie Bauer, Expedia,, Mike's Hard Lemonade, Jone's Soda - just to name a few.

We also toured the Boeing facility in Everett (another obligation of an engineer's wife.)  All Boeing 747, 767, 777 and the highly anticipated and recently plagued Dreamliner 787 are made at this facility in what is said to be the largest building in the world.  It was interesting to see these massive airplanes being put together in assembly line form.  The tour itself wasn't an ideal format - a large group of people bussed around the premises, no photos allowed and a very feisty woman who basically did an hour long commercial for Boeing even having us chant "If it's not Boeing, I'm not going" on the bus - but it was interesting nonetheless.

Seattle makes a great weekend trip - many great restaurants to try, a lot of craft brewing, shops and nice scenery.

Where we stayed:
-Alexis Hotel
     -reasonable prices, boutique feel, surprisingly large rooms, great location with Pike Place a mere 5 minute walk away and very pet friendly should you be traveling with your dog.  The concierge was really knowledgeable and helpful which was great for booking the Boeing tour as well as finding restaurants.

NYE in the Pacific Northwest

Tuesday 29 January 2013

Our trips home are always so busy.  We rush around trying to visit as many people as we can all while trying to experience all things Canadian that we've been missing.  At the end of it all, it doesn't really feel like a 'holiday.'  When planning our trip home this past Christmas, we knew we'd spend 1 week with Joe's family, 1 week with my family and then try to fit in some holiday time in our last week.

After 2 weeks of busy Christmas time fun with our families, I figured it would be nice to have some alone time to ring in the new year.  We didn't want to venture too far and I had somewhat selfish reasons for immediately looking at the West coast.  Two of my very best friends live in Vancouver and I figured if we celebrated the arrival of 2013 somewhere relatively close, we'd be able to swing into the city to see them and their families before returning to Norway.  I began researching lodges in Southern British Columbia and Vancouver Island when Joe mentioned Washington state.  Neither of us had been and it's a quick flight away so it was an easy decision.

Willows Lodge is about a 45 minute drive from the Seattle-Tacoma airport and is located in the picturesque wine-town of Woodinville.  Surrounded by greenery and wineries, one couldn't ask for a better escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Our room was literally, perfection.  It was serene, tastefully decorated, and luxurious without feeling stuffy.  We loved the fireplace, our private balcony overlooking green space and that giant bath tub; oh I could have spent days in that bathtub!

We arrived in the late afternoon on New Year's Eve with enough time to settle in and get ready for the evening.  We started at the hotel's Fireside Wine Cellars for a couple of cocktails and enjoyed a really great local band before heading over to the widely acclaimed Barking Frog restaurant for a 5 star, divine meal.  Each of the 5 courses were impeccable and perfectly paired with wine.  (Unfortunately, I felt my age once more when we left dinner at 11 pm and I was more than a little tipsy.  Before dinner cocktails and a table full of wine pairings were too much for this girl!)  It was the perfect way to ring in 2013.

Our first day in 2013 was off to a bit of a rough start thanks to all of those drinks the night before but was easily cured by a delicious breakfast delivered to our room, a walk around the beautiful gardens and then a trip to the in house spa for a couple's massage.  Afterwards, we relaxed in the outdoor sauna before heading next door to the Red Hook Brewery for a tour.

Willows Lodge was perfection from the start to finish and it is all of the little details that truly made this a 5 star experience for us.  The post-reservation survey sent months in advance to help us prepare and plan our stay, the champagne on arrival, the friendly staff, the decadent and delicious food, the gorgeous gardens right down to the thoughtful and extensive mini-bar selection (bath salts, local wine, French press coffee) really shows the lodge has rightfully earned it's many accolades.  If only we could have stayed longer, I would have loved to borrow bikes from the lodge to tour the local wineries and spend a little more time at the spa... and in that bathtub.

We will meet again Willows Lodge; I'm sure of it.

{In case you are wondering because of my raving review, I was not paid nor gifted anything from Willows Lodge - I just LOVED our stay.}

Winter in Stavanger

Friday 25 January 2013

When we started telling people (particularly in Gabon) that we were moving to Norway almost everyone remarked, 'Oh it's going to be so cold.'  I'm from Canada - if there's anything I can adapt to, it's cold weather.

Despite the relative small size of Norway, it experiences vast weather differences across the country.  In one day it can be -20 and snowing in the Northern part of the country and +10 and sunny in the South. Stavanger is found on the Southwest tip of the country and the climate is described as mild-maritime weather.

To put things in perspective, Stavanger is 3º below the latitude of Southern Alaska and 3º above the latitude of our last Canadian home, Grande Prairie.  One would think we'd be living in Arctic temperatures during the winter season, but I'm happy to tell you that it doesn't even come close to the winters we spent in Alberta.

Our temperatures hover around 0ºC throughout winter.  We have seen snow twice and it stuck around a few days but there is currently no trace of it left.  One day the temperature plunged to -11 and people didn't know what to do with themselves.  (-11 in Grande Prairie is welcome after a week of -35.)  We've seen a lot of rain and a lot of darkness but it's not the snowy wonderland one might imagine.

The last 2 weeks have been consistently below 0 but I'm certainly not complaining.  The freezing temperatures have brought clear skies and sunshine which is a welcome reprieve from the rain and wind.  The lakes have frozen over and kids and families are heading out to skate.  Joe and I have been bundling up and taking long, Sunday walks and I cannot get enough of the calm waters & blue skies.

It's Not Always About Us

Wednesday 23 January 2013

There is so much left to say about our time in Gabon.  When we left, I felt like I wanted to leave it to settle for awhile; I needed some space from it to see things a little more clearly and to reflect on it.  There were so many topics I wanted to cover but often I held back sometimes because I wasn't comfortable broaching those subjects while still in the country for fear of any sort of retribution and partly because I didn't want my family to worry but I do feel it's important to share them, to provide a realistic view of the complexities of living there and also to record them for myself.  While the memories are currently quite sharp, I know that as time goes on I'll start to lose some of those details and feelings.

As you know, our journey to Gabon took over a year to come to fruition and while we didn't always know that Gabon was going to be the destination, we were preparing for a big move.  By the time we actually did get on that plane to Africa, I had read and researched as much as I possibly could (there isn't a lot out there on Gabon) to try to prepare myself for the changes that were to come.  While we certainly couldn't prepare for everything, I felt ready.  I was excited and anxious but so completely ready to start the adventure.

From the beginning, I expected everything to be different and in a way, I think that helped me more than anything else.  I didn't expect to encounter any similarities between my new life & home in Gabon versus my life in Canada so it was always a nice surprise when I found one.  I knew it was going to be hard - hard to settle in, hard to fit in, hard to see what we were seeing, hard on almost every account - and I wasn't surprised when it was exactly that.  When I look back on that first year, particularly the first 9 months, I wonder how we lasted through it.  The robberies, the homelessness, the visa issues, learning to live feeling scared, Joe's particularly difficult working conditions and the consistent lack of many basic necessities would be enough to send anyone packing yet we held out and didn't give up when many of our friends, even those in Gabon who knew we had a particularly rough go, thought we might.  I think perhaps it was, in part, due to our preparedness.
The first night in our 2nd Gabonese home - Joe's truck window was smashed out.

What I did not prepare for, was how difficult that expatriation would be on our families.  I had spent so much time worrying about preparing myself, that I didn't really pause to think of the impact our decision to move overseas would have on those who care the most about us.  In the early days, our infrequent calls home were filled with details near impossible to explain to those who had never visited Africa yet we tried nonetheless.  When Joe was offshore and I was spooked after hearing a particularly unpleasant story, I shared it over Skype with my parents.  I phoned home crying after the final robbery and tried to explain that there was nothing we could do and that we couldn't rely on police nor our security to help us.  When Joe was hauled into the police station over the immigration debacle and no one knew what was happening, I detailed everything to our families.  It was so hard to explain when the society itself is so different yet I tried and always felt better after expressing my feelings.

I didn't realize that after ending that Skype call, my parents would worry.  They would worry even more when the internet would go out for several days afterwards and they wouldn't be getting updates from me.  Later on I would hear the relief in their voices when I explained that it was just the fluctuating power that week that caused my silence.  I couldn't count the number of times my Mom or sister would mutter the words, "Come home" after we faced yet another problem.

I remember in the last 6 months of our stay there was a string of armed robberies at expat homes.  It was terrifying to us as armed robberies were not very common in Port Gentil.  Our guards were unarmed, as they all were, and the recent events had us questioning our safety.  While I tried to get emergency plans from our company 'just in case' I debated chronicling it all to my family at home yet I didn't want them to worry unnecessarily.  Instead, I drove over to a friend's house and we talked it out.  I remember deciding to hold back a lot of stories because it was just so difficult to explain that if someone attempted to break-in that I was to phone my husband's boss instead of the police and hope that someone would come to our rescue.  I decided that causing fear at home wouldn't do any of us any good so it was better to keep it quiet.

When Norway came together, I had no idea the giant sigh of relief that our families would breath.  My Mom takes every opportunity she can to say, "Oh, I'm so glad you don't live there anymore."  It's evident on my Facebook page when a friend posts some crazy photo or story from Port Gentil to my wall, my Mom will always comment, "Thank goodness you're in Norway now."  Right now I'm in the middle of meeting the other expat women in Stavanger and we always list our expatriations as a way of getting to know each other, similar to, "What do you do for a living?"  Everyone is curious about Gabon and they often ask how the experience was for us.  I generally respond, "It was hard but I'm so glad we did it.  I made really great friends and learned so much about life yet we were both so happy to be moving on."

We always seem to think of the impact it had on the person living it but I'm realizing that it was just as hard on our families as it was on us, and they didn't get near the amount of reward that we did.

The Strahov Monastery - Prague

Monday 21 January 2013

After spending a few busy days touring around Prague, we were ready to get away from the crowds and the city for a little reprieve and the Strahov Monastery was the perfect escape.

We crossed the bridge to the bottom of Petrin hill where we rode the funicular to the top and then enjoyed a leisurely walk high above the city to the monastery.  The walk itself was quiet and serene with the most beautiful views of Prague.  We took our time, stopping to take photos and admire the scenery.  Had it been a bit warmer, it would be a lovely place to enjoy a picnic or a bottle of wine.

Once we reached the top, we wandered around the exterior of the monastery but we chose not to tour the buildings.  Much to Joe's delight, the monastery also featured a brewery so we stopped in to warm ourselves around a pint or two before descending on foot.

The Difficulties of Travel Planning

Friday 18 January 2013

Map via Etsy Vendor Vassi Slavova

If you ask any expat what the best part of living overseas is, the overwhelming majority will mention the ability to travel and it's definitely one of the things I'm most thankful for.  As I looked back on 2012 and all of the places we were able to visit, I wondered how we could possibly compete in 2013.

The last half of 2012 was jam packed for us - we moved from Gabon to Norway, I spent a couple of weeks in Canada, we went to Belgium and then to Houston for 2 weeks before returning and visiting Berlin and Prague and then jumping on a plane home for the holidays.  To be completely honest, I hadn't even started to think about trips for the new year until we returned last week and I had a moment to breath.  I started to see others mapping out their travel plans and I literally had nothing.  I didn't have locations in mind, we hadn't set aside any time off and I hadn't even began to ponder it.

I feel an enormous amount of pressure to see and experience as much as we can while we're living in Europe.  I read blogs and travel articles and they give me a million ideas of places to go and then I speak to readers and friends who tell me, 'You absolutely must add ______ to your list" and believe you, me - I want to see EVERYTHING.  Before I know it, I've got a massive list of cities and countries and knowing that we are living so close to so many great places, I feel like this is the time to travel.

Unfortunately, it's not quite as easy as it looks.

First of all, Joe works.  (And he works A LOT.)  It's the entire reason we are here in the first place.  He gets 20 holiday days every year - no different than if he was working in Canada.  Last year, we had an additional 2 weeks as compensation for living in Gabon.  This year we're back down to 20 days.  I know that compared to some, 20 days seem reasonable (and it sort of is) but it's quite hard to balance travel time and trips home.  We live quite far from our families and we try to make a point of coming home once a year but because it's so far, it has to be at least 2 weeks to be worthwhile.  After we factor that out, we're down to 10 days.

Surprisingly enough, Norway does not have many public holidays.  (Perhaps this is not an issue to the average Norwegian as they get 5 weeks of paid vacation time every year.)  In Canada, we were accustomed to 1 statutory holiday per month (except June and March/April depending on Easter) with a total of 12 per year.  Norway has holidays for Easter and 3 in May but then NOTHING until Christmas.  This means, we can't rely on public holidays for long weekends and this year, Joe's colleague has taken Easter & Christmas for trips home meaning we have to be in Norway.

Holiday time aside, it's not as convenient to travel from Stavanger as one might expect.  Norway isn't part of mainland Europe so we generally have to travel by plane.  Hopping on a short, cheap train isn't really a possibility for us and because we're in Stavanger, as opposed to a main centre, it generally means we need to take 2 flights to arrive at any destination aside from London, Amsterdam and Frankfurt.  This most definitely impacts the cost and time of travel making it more difficult to take off Friday after Joe's done work and return Sunday night so that he's ready first thing Monday morning.

This past weekend, Joe and I pulled up google maps to start making plans.  We jotted down the cities we most wanted to visit and which would be feasible for weekend trips.  We looked between the calendar, our list and the map of Europe when it became blatantly obvious that we just can't do it all.  We want to see as much as possible but we also want quality time in those cities instead of rushing in and out in a blur.  This is difficult for me - balancing my wants and all of the possibilities with the time we have available and the enormous amount of pressure I put on myself to take full advantage of our time in Europe.

So now comes the time where we take this massive list and whittle it down to something that is manageable; I try to dismantle the self-imposed expectations; We'll maximize the 10 days we have and I'll remember that the travels that I will get to do this year are valuable, exciting and certainly more than many people get to experience.

How do you manage your travel plans within your constraints?

(Side note: Perhaps I should start a petition within Joe's company - we must all feel this way? Right?)

6.5 Months In

Wednesday 16 January 2013

Can you believe that it has been six and a half months since we made the move to Norway?

Neither can I.

Some days it feels like it was just weeks ago while other's feel so comfortable that I think we've been here years.

A move to a completely different country is equally thrilling and stressful yet as I reflect on our move to Stavanger last July, I can't help but think how easy it all was.  A big move and how it's received is dependent on so many factors which vary from person to person but I attribute our (so far) successful expatriation to a few things...

- First, this was not our first international move.  We had an idea of what to expect, we were realistic about the entire process and we knew how to improve on the experience from our last.

- By far the biggest factor in making this an easy transition was coming from our experience in Gabon.  Gabon was hard in almost every aspect and it remained hard for practically the entire 2 years we were there.  We didn't always have our basic needs met (water, electricity, safety) and there was always an element of unpredictability.  Norway was going to be most definitely an easier transition and we knew that going in and were looking forward to it.  By this point, Gabon had also made us much, much more appreciative of the little things in life so instead of focusing on all that was different and unknown in Norway, we were really quite ecstatic just to be back in the developed world.

- Most people in Norway (or at least Stavanger) speak English.  While signs and products are labelled in Norwegian, if I have a question, someone will be able to answer it in English for me.  I don't need a translator and I don't have the anxiety of trying to communicate in another language (although I'd love to learn more Norwegian anyways.)

- Norway is similar to Canada.  They both have fairly socialist governments and a lot of the societal values are common.  In comparison to Gabon, landing in Norway felt a little like coming home.

- The immigration process (which I'll get into in a later post) is pretty straight forward if you follow the procedure and while it may feel lengthy, it's predictable.

- We had good support from Joe's company which assisted us in completing paperwork and finding accommodation.

- We immediately felt lucky to be moving to such a beautiful country and we continue to keep that attitude in mind.

While we were home for Christmas, many friends and relatives questioned how the transition was going often with a look of concern on their faces after all, moving to another country should be hard but honestly, it wasn't at all.  Our common answers were, "It's fine," or "It's been really smooth," and "Seriously, it was like a walk in the park."  There were certainly moments or even days of frustration (and I'm certain there will be more) but all completely feasible and with minimal stress.

As we head into the latter half of our first year in Norway, both Joe and I remain positive and happy about our new home and we're looking forward to the rest of our time here.

The Jewish Museum in Prague

Monday 14 January 2013

After a lengthy delay, I'm finally going to finish off posting about our trip to Prague, Czech Republic.  In case you missed them, you can check out the previous posts here.

I will be the first to admit my lack of knowledge when it comes to Judaism.  Growing up, I didn't know any Jewish people and aside from knowing of the holocaust, my information was fairly limited.  Lately, I've been seeking out information in hopes of deepening my understanding of historical events and the Jewish museum in Berlin was the perfect place to start.  Continuing my quest, the Jewish museum of Prague was next on the list.

The Jewish Museum in Prague actually a collection of buildings in Prague's old Jewish ghetto and consists of several synagogues, the Old Jewish cemetery amongst other sites.  It is the most visited Jewish museum in the world due in part that despite being occupied by Nazis, many of the buildings were allowed to stand.  Apparently the Nazis had planned to create a 'Museum of an extinct race' after the Final Solution was complete.

We began our journey at the Pinkas Synagogue.  Built in 1535, the synagogue has since been transformed into a memorial to the murdered Jews of Bohemia and Moravia.  Inside, the names of 80 000 victims of the holocaust cover the walls.  Organised by town and last name, the writing literally envelops the entire interior.  Reading through the names of entire families was incredibly hard yet moving and it certainly brought a sort of reality to the history we have heard so much about.  I can only imagine what it must be like to find your family name amongst the many inscribed.

The second exhibit in the Pinkas Synagogue is found on the second floor and is a collection of children's drawings from the Terezin concentration camp.  Most of the children were moved to Auschwitz and subsequently, their death from Terezin but some 4500 pictures survived thanks to a teacher who had buried them in a suitcase.  The drawings offer a rare glimpse into the eyes of the young.

Just outside of the synagogue lies the famous Old Jewish Cemetery where some 100 000 graves and 12 000 tombstones lie.  The cemetery dates back to the 1400s and continued to be a final resting place up until 1787.  The Jewish were not able to be buried outside of the ghetto forcing them to layer the graves up to 10 layers deep.

We knew we didn't have time to visit every site within the Jewish museum so we chose to round out our visit with the Spanish synagogue, thought to be one of the most impressive synagogues in all of Europe.  The interior is stunning and the intricate patterns that cover the walls, ceilings & domes left me standing in awe.  Today, the synagogue serves as a concert hall and I can't think of a more beautiful place to listen to music.

Cathedral photo via
Note: Photographs are prohibited at many of the sites within the Jewish Museum.

While you can purchase your entrance ticket to each individual site, we chose to buy a full entrance to each exhibit as the ticket is valid for multiple days.  Unfortunately, we didn't have enough time to make it back to the other sites.

Today I'm being featured on Expat Edna's "I Love My Neighbourhood" series.  You can check out my post here.


Thursday 10 January 2013

We've been living abroad for a mere 2.5 years now and I feel like every time we step foot back on Canadian soil, we see our home in a different light.  Usually, it's more appreciative, occasionally it's a little more critical and often, it's funny.

In any case, here are some observations...

-As I sat in the car while my sister in law ran into the bank, I gazed across the street at the grocery store parking lot watching people come and go as they prepare for the holidays at home when it became blatantly obvious to me that we (West/Central Canadians) do not dress appropriately for winter weather.  For the entire week surrounding Christmas, the temperatures plunged below -20 and often even below -30.  This is normal where I come from.  What is not normal is how many people sauntered from their car to the grocery store in a long sleeve cotton shirt.  In Stavanger when it's -2, people have winter parkas, scarves, hats, boots and mittens on.  In Saskatchewan when it's -20, we wear a winter jacket...sometimes.

-Canada lives for hockey.  It's practically the only thing that gets us through winter.  Imagine the sorrow that filled our country when the NHL went on lockout.  The mood was visibly sombre - so much so that we resorted to NFL on the TV in our homes and restaurants.  People were angry.  People were sad.  It dominated many conversations and was covered every, single night on the news.  What's the current political situation in Syria? Who knows but the lockout has entered day 106.  (Just as we were leaving the country, a deal was finally negotiated and after 113 days, players began returning to their teams.  This nightmare is finally over.)

-Have you ever counted how many times a Canadian says 'Sorry?'  Next time you find yourself in our vast country, sit back and listen.  We apologize when someone else bumps into us.  We mouth 'Sorry' in the car if we accidentally cut someone off even though we know they won't see it.  I apologize to the waitress for dropping a coin and she apologizes right back for not catching it and then I apologize again as I struggle to find it on the floor and she apologizes as she helps me.  It's a never ending cycle.

-On a similar note - we also say 'Thank you' a lot.  As Joe and I sat on the city bus in Vancouver, we marvelled at the number of people that would call out a friendly "Thank You" to the driver as they exited the rear of the bus.

-Joe and I are not used to winter anymore.  After 2 years sans winter in Gabon and now the measly thing they call winter in Stavanger, we've lost our touch with winter driving conditions.  On any given day between October and April, the roads are treacherous, dangerous and shouldn't be driven on but we do it anyway and it hardly slows us down.  Black ice, blowing snow, freezing temperatures, drifts collecting here and there, large trucks blinding us for several seconds as it kicks up said snow - one would think that would be reason enough to stay off the roads but no, we embark on a 5 hour long road trip and we continue to drive 100 km/hour.  Our tires spin out and we pump the gas; we start to slide and we pump the breaks; the car turns sideways and we steer our way out of it. No big deal.

-Our airports are HUGE and practically vacant.  I've spent a lot of time in airports and I can rant and rave about any one of them but I just can't deny that our airports are a breath of fresh air.  We have a lot of space in Canada - so much so that we can expand our airports for kilometres if need-be.  We don't need to bus passengers to an airplane 10 minutes away from the gate because we can have a billion gates.  On top of that, we have all of this space AND hardly any people.  Our entire population is 35 million and our country is the second largest in the world.  Flying out of Vancouver, arguably one of our busier airports, at the end of the holiday season one would prepare for chaos yet the international departure lounge felt nearly empty.  I could have done cartwheels from one end to the other and never bumped a soul.

What do you notice when you go home after being abroad?

We're Home & A Guest Post

Tuesday 8 January 2013

Yesterday, we crossed the pond back to Norway after 3 weeks of holidays.  It's always a little bittersweet returning home - leaving behind the sleep-in mornings, family, great food - but nice to unpack the suitcases and get back to a normal routine.

I took a bit of an unplanned blogging break over the holidays.  I figured I'd have plenty of time to write while sitting around the house snacking on Christmas treats but instead, I chose to spend some quality time with my family and it was well worth it.  Hopefully, I'll get back on track this week and finish off telling you about Prague and now, a great stay in the Pacific Northwest but in the meantime, you can catch me over at Jenna's blog, A Home Away From Home, posting about my top 5 breathtaking travel moments.

Check it out here.

(Jenna was also on Expatriated back in July.)

{EXPATRIATED} Chelsea from Lost in Travels

Friday 4 January 2013

Sometimes I get the impression that people think we are crazy for leaving all that we are familiar with for a life abroad but we aren't the only ones who have chosen this lifestyle.  In fact, there are a lot of us and many of us blog about it.  Expatriated is a series to introduce you to other expat bloggers.

A while ago, Chelsea emailed me after reading an Expatriated feature which introduced me to her blog, Lost in Travels.  One month ago, she featured me on her series about perspectives and now I'm happy to have her sharing her experiences here.  If you haven't already, meet Chelsea!

Where are you from and where do you live now?
My husband and I were married in Tulsa, Oklahoma and shortly after, moved to the small island of Geoje in South Korea.

How did you end up in South Korea and what inspired you to make the move?
Neither teaching nor moving abroad were originally the plan in my husband's and my life.  He had graduated with a degree in Aeronautical Science and shortly before getting married, I had finished my degree in Fashion Marketing.  We were starting to plan our future lives together when the calling to travel and for a unique beginning to our married lives set in.  My husband, Jeremy, had a college roommate that had just finished teaching English in Korea and was able to help us find a job.  It was the perfect opportunity for us to experience a new culture, travel the world and save money at the same time.

What is the best part of living overseas?
Being overseas has given my husband and I so much more time together compared to what we were used to in the states.  Living abroad is kind of like a long distance relationship in the fact that it can make or break it.  Fortunately for us, we have grown so much closer as a couple and learned so much about one another.  Living abroad gets you out of your element and away from your usual support system.  True colours really show over here and thankfully we have fallen even more in love because of it.
 What do you miss most about home (besides friends & family?)
I miss being able to run to the store and get exactly what I need.  Whether it is a new piece of clothing or a certain ingredient that I need to make dinner.  Being 5'8" clothing is a challenge in itself.  I can sometimes find tops but most pants look like capris on me.  Also, so many of the recipes I use call for ingredients that I never thought would be difficult to find here or I never thought would cost as much as they do (hello nine dollar sour cream and fifteen dollar oatmeal!)

What has been the most difficult thing to adjust to in South Korea?
There are obviously small cultural differences, which are to be expected when moving overseas, but I would have to say the toughest is that we're mostly friends with fellow expats.  We all have a ticking clock in this place and that means you can become very close to someone and the next month they can be gone.  We knew that when we came over here but it's a different story when you're watching someone you've shared such an amazing and unique experience with board a plane and you're not sure if you will ever cross paths again.

Any funny 'whoopsies' while adjusting to your new life?
Teaching in Korea has given me a book's worth of awkward moments and funny interactions with the kids that I teach.  Other than a lot of them having weird names (I've had a Wolf, Chocolate and Cloud just to name a few) I would say one of my favorite stories involves a six year old named John.  Well, one day in my class we were playing a simple game of 'find that shape,'  I was yelling out triangle, square, rectangle and they were all doing really well at finding that particular shape in the room.  When it came time for 'circle' one little boy, John, ran up to me and grabbed my boobs.  Later when a Korean teacher asked him why he would do that his answer was simple.  'They're bigger than my mom's.'

Saving graces?
Packages from family!  There are so many things that you can never anticipate that you won't be able to find in a different country.  Or some things that you just prefer from back home.  We have been blessed with amazing family members that have been willing to send us an occasional box with everything from clothes, cosmetics and food.  We also found out early on about an amazing little website called gmarket.  Everything you could ever need in a household for a lot cheaper than you can find it in a store.

What is your biggest lesson you've learned from your time abroad?
Patience.  It is not a virtue that comes easily for me.  But as a teacher, I spend most of my day trying to explain lesson plans to kids that hardly know the language.  I sometimes have to explain the same thing three times in three different ways.  Not to mention, as an expat living in a country where I know very little of the language I need to remind myself to be extra patient as I try to describe what I want or need in a store because after all, I'm the one that should be able to speak their language.

If you had the chance to move elsewhere in the world, where would you go and why?
My husband and I visited New Zealand while on our honeymoon and it was the first time we stepped foot in a new country and felt like 'this feels like home.'  We always talk about doing a year there after we're finished in Korea so we'll see!

Any advice for the newly expatriated?
Get involved.  Part of living overseas is the people you experience it with.  There are so many different groups and activities to get involved with, pick one you love and join.  I know personally, us getting involved in one of the local foreign churches has made all the difference.  We have built a tight community over here that we know we can turn to and rely on and it's made living overseas so much easier and enjoyable.


Thank you for participating Chelsea!

I completely agree - relationships are put to the test when you move overseas as a couple but it has brought us so much closer together!

To read more about Chelsea and her husband's life in Korea, you can check out her blog Lost in Travels.
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