Settling in

Well, it has been a week and we are settling in.  We’re still overwhelmed and have been busy with orientation, shopping to complete our new apartment, and dog walking.

Our first Sunrise - the view from our balcony.

Our first Sunrise – the view from our balcony.

We arrived at 2:30 AM last Thursday, by the time we got our luggage into our new apartment it was 4:00 and we went to bed at 4:30. Five hours later, we woke up to look for cat supplies – litter and a box – since the kittens had been holding it (yikes!) for about 30 hours. One of the directors drove Akasha to town, and by noon we were set up enough for Akasha to go in to work. It wasn’t much of a first night’s sleep, but it had to do!

Since then, we’ve been going through orientation, mostly. BLIS is a growing pre-K-12 school that is part of Bilkent University.  The university is a sprawling institution with three campuses set on rolling brown hills in a southern and as yet lightly developed section of Ankara. We’re on the East campus, with two K-12 schools (1 Bilingual-international and 1 turkish), about a mile from the middle and main campuses, where the university is.

On a hike

On a hike

Aside from a night of jet lag, where he kept us awake until 3 in the morning, Remi has adjusted perfectly to our new home. The cats are also pleasantly settled – they love the view of pines blowing in the breeze. We’ve taken Remi out into the rolling dry hills surrounding the campus, and he’s in love with all the new smells. And, on one of our night walks, he roused up an actual hedgehog. We were all very surprised. Ankara doesn’t have squirrels or bunnies, but it does have turtles and hedgehogs.

The nearest big store is a REAL, a German chain, and it’s massive, with one whole aisle of  juice (Mango! Peach-Grape! Mulberry!) and another aisle devoted entirely to variations of yogurt – and not the super-sweet kind with fruit on the bottom. Turkey is amazingly yogurt oriented. Also in the mall is a KFC, a Burger King, Body Shop, a Pet World, an OfficeMart, and a Marks and Spencer. Very modern. It’s not the quaint on-street ajjuma mart of our old Mokpo neighborhood, but it’s quite nice.

Our apartment is beautiful. Clean, light, and modern, with three balconies and large patio doors that face east, so we have beautiful views of sunrise every morning, and moonrises in the evening. We have been shopping to make it home at Bauhaus and Ikea.  It is almost finished, except for when we paint in October.  There will be a video tour in a bit…


Chicken and barley.

Food! Oh my gosh have we been eating well.  The breads, cheeses, and olives here are phenomenal.  Food is as affordable as it was in Korea.  Today Mike and I went into the city center and ate at a restaurant that opened in 1923.  It was covered in beautiful tiles and was very Mediterranean. For less than $10 we had an entire loaf of bread, a half a roast chicken with barley, a tomato salad, fries, a coke and ayran (Turkish yogurt drink.)  We will be eating the leftovers for dinner tonight.

Monday morning workshop week begins and I will be up to my ears in writing unit plans, decorating my classroom, and coordinating curriculum.  It will be fun to be back in the game.

-Oh man, I can’t wait to show you my classroom.  It is huge! and it has a beautiful balcony!  It is the most amazing classroom I’ve ever seen.

Well, that is all for now.  TTYL!

Things we love(d) about Korea

IMG_5333Here’s a rundown of what we loved about having lived in Korea for the past two years. We left in April and miss a lot of great things. We want to get this down finish this blog so we can move on to our Turkish blog.

The Short List:

Shopping in Korea can takes a little getting used to, but quickly became on of our favorite activities. We loved the outdoor street markets, especially the one in front of our home. We loved the varieties of cute merchandise in the Stationary Stores, the great customer service everywhere, and eating out was always an adventure and usually a treat. Here is a video of the outdoor market on our block. We loved this little market and miss it every time we go to a big grocery store.

Autumn in Korea

Autumn in Korea

Korea, for its being tiny – half the size of Minnesota – and highly populated, has an abundance of parks, mountains, rivers, islands, and coastlines. There are eighteen national parks, tens of thousands of islands with countless ferries between them, and well maintained hiking trails on every local mountain. If you’re into hiking, this is the place to be.  There were 3 small mountains within a 30 minute walk of our front door, and even the lesser known one offered a terrific view of the city after 20 minutes of uphill strolling. Also, Mokpo is surrounded on two sides by Shinan-gun, a county made up of 1,004 islands. We could take a bus, ferry, or our car and go poke around the islands for hours. (Quite the treat for a prairie girl!)

You can walk pretty much anywhere, any time, and feel safe here. Akasha has wandered Seoul after 11 looking for hotels and felt no fear at all. You can drink till the wee hours and hail a cab with little wait to whisk you home, usually for around five dollars. And if all that revelry puts you under the weather, the hospitals can get you back on your feet for a few dollars.

One of Mike's favorites - waffle fish with red bean paste. Yum!

One of Mike’s favorites – waffle fish with red bean paste. Yum!

Korean Food
We’ve been home for almost 4 months and would love some dolsat bibimbap, mul nang mien, Gamjiatang from the Yim’s across the street, and kim bap. Or any of the dollar ramiens from the Family Mart. Or hoduk pancakes from the street vendor. Mandu dumplings. Pat Bing Su The list goes on and on… I watched this feature on L.A.’sKorea Town last night and was drooling over the sundubu and bbq

At the Chrysanthemum Festival

At the Chrysanthemum Festival

Every village in Jeolla Province, and around Korea, has their claim to fame. Bamboo in Damyang, Bibimbap in Jeonju, lotus flowers in Muan. And for a week each year, every village gets to strut their stuff during their festival. Like county fairs that bloom in late summer of Minnesota, the festival season brings the flowers of local pride to light all across the peninsula. All the vendors come out and sell their version of the specialties, and you get to sample the local hospitality.

Internet Gadgets
Korea has lived up to its reputation as a gadget-friendly nation. Everywhere you go there’s some kind of free wi-fi, but even if you don’t know the password, the 3G is plentiful and fast, even on the tops of remote mountains. We’ve Skyped from our cellphones, listened to streaming audio while in the middle of a mountain tunnel, played poo-based smartphone games, and downloaded gigabytes of entertainment in minutes, rendering Netflix barely missed at all. For electronic toys, Korea is an A+ nation.

Great adventures!

Insert plug for our friend, Pedro. We miss Pedro’s Lonely Korea tours. Pedro is an amazing entrepreneur who started a great travel company in Gwangju (city 45 minutes north of Mokpo.) We miss our Pedro adventures. He took us on great explorations, we went to the first Buddhist temple in Korea, to a sea water spa, and river rafting. I missed a million great trips with him to Jeju, caving, fishing, jet skiing, festivals… the guy plans great trips.  He thinks of every little detail, and shows a new side of Korea to you.  He has just opened a guest house in Gwangju, Pedro’s Guest House. Go, stay there, say hi to Pedro for us.

I’m sure we’re missing some things. The bus system, for instance. Or the weather, which was mostly great. And the people, who were always friendly and helpful. Sunrises and sunsets, or the glow of neon on magic street that we could see from our window at night.

We’re moving on to Turkey now and have just put together a new blog. Thank you for following us for the last two years, and we’d be honored if you kept up with us in the future.


Here we go!

We just finished the Korea blog with a last entry on stuff we love and miss including a video of shopping at the markets in our old neighborhood.  Now we are moving to Turkey and are beginning a new blog for our time there. Mike will be writing and focusing on publishing and I will be teaching 3rd grade at BLIS in Bikent, Ankara.

Mike and I have been chilling out in Minnesota for almost 4 months. We have  been trying to soak up as much MN Charm as we can, and had a few adventurous side-trips along the way.  We had two great end caps on this trip.We spent an amazing week in Alaska with Jim, Mike’s dad, in May and we spent 4 days in the BWCA with Mike’s family in August. IMG_6917 In between Mike went to the Tin House writer’s workshop in Portland, OR, and I went to the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago, IL. We went to Duluth 3 times including a week at the cabin with Ari & co, and  lots of catching up with friends. Oh, and I finished my Master’s and walked. Not bad. IMG_6520


Next Wednesday we leave for Turkey. It will be quite the adventure. What about the pets, you ask? Well, as some of you know, most of the airlines have a pet embargo from mid-May to mid- September due to excessive heat in the cargo area of the aircraft. But, the German airline Lufthansa air-conditions the cargo hold that Remi will travel in, so we will be renting an SUV and driving 8 hours to their nearest hub in Chicago, IL.  Then we’ll fly to Frankfurt, the pet transit center of the EU, for an 8 hour layover before flying on to Ankara.  Finally, we’ll have a 40 minute long drive to our new apartment. Easy-peasy.

We are psyched for the big move. I’ve been studying Turkish, reading Turkish literature, and studying a bit of Turkish history.  Turkish history is so deep and broad that the more I read the more aware of how little I know.We’ve also been eating Turkish food at the 2 Black Sea restaurant locations, one in St. Paul and the other in White Bear lake.

Believe it or not, the Turkish language is very similar to Korean and my studies of Korean have been helping me learn Turkish.  They are both in the Altaic language family, verbs go at the end of sentences, objects go at the front, and there are politeness markers. Unlike Korean or English, Turkish has post-positions not prepositions and infixation (to form the negative of the verb you insert mi/mu between the verb form and the verb ending. Example: Koşyormek=to run Koşyorum I am reading (um=present perfect 1st person) Koşmuyorum= I am not running.  Sigh.

Once we get settled in we’ll post a bit about our apartment, my school, and life in Ankara.