Monday, September 29, 2014

Film from Norway

I just got a roll of film developed from a couple of different trips over the past year and I'm really pleased with the results. I find the photos I take with a film camera have more meaning and purpose, as I know they are expensive to develop and I have to trust my alignment, film speed, etc. are all in order. It takes more work and I find it more rewarding.

Anyway, the first set of photos I will post and discuss are from my trip to Norway early this year. I went towards the beginning of January and returned in late February. I split that time between Paris as well, so no, I wasn't in Norway for a month but rather 2 weeks. I didn't see the actual sun until my second week there and it felt so strange and wonderful to see it again. I got to visit my friend Annika, bum around her grandmother's adorable farm house, sleep in freezing temperatures (my favorite) (no really), visit said grandmother (who is in her 90's), knit, visit towns, and participate in many other adventures.

This is the frontyard. No, really, it is! You cross the street and this is what is there. You look out the window in the morning (yes this is the morning and also a few hours before the light would disappear) with your feet in hand-knit chunky socks and your cup of warm herbal tea and look out to this. It is as dreamy and unreal as it sounds. I want to relive this moment over and over again. 

At night, and until the early hours of the morning, you can look out the window and hopefully catch an incredible aurora borealis show. I was so lucky with the one I saw. It moved all across the sky, was bright green and swirled in the most unbelievable way. We also got some red in there, as you can see from this photo. I feel really lucky to have captured this moment. Annika and I were running all over the yard like madmen. This night was truly magical because my fingers were frozen, the moon was so bright, and the wind was pretty fierce so the northern lights were moving rapidly across the sky and I was worried I wouldn't capture all the incredible moments. Visiting Scandenavia is expensive but as you can see it's so worth it. 

This is a pretty awesome picture which shows 1) how insanely bright the moon was (bright enough that you could see around you pretty well in the middle of the night) and 2) how full of stars the sky is there! The area we stayed in (roughly) is called Andøy. I say roughly because honestly I have no idea. The area is so small and hardly anything is labeled. We were near a really cute town called Sortland which was full of wonderful people, including the sweet Camilla who knitted a sweater for me at my request! It was a sleepy, dreamy little town and I really hope I can go back again someday. 

The best thing about all of this is the older generation doesn't really get tired of seeing the northern lights. When I met with Annika's grandmother, who we call "farmor" (meaning grandmother from her father's side and is pronounced far-moore), we talked about this incredible light show. I'm glad the locals don't ever take this beauty for granted. Farmor also taught me how to knit, let me shower in her awesome shower, and knitted me a few pairs of socks. She made us waffles to eat with cloudberry jam (so good, let's not think about it or I'll cry) and she also had a coffee break what felt like every hour. She also is probably more active than I am, which is saying something because she's like 95. I feel spoiled having known her for only a few weeks, everyone should have a farmor in their lives.

After a week of being there we went on a whale safari. This was totally cool though I warn anyone who doesn't like roller coasters or who has neck or back problems to NOT SIT AT THE FRONT OF THE BOAT. Phew, that was tough. We used Sea Safari Andenes which I highly recommend. Maarten is awesome and knows the landscape really well. He's also amazingly caricatured. He would guide the boat with a cigarette dangling out of his mouth, he has curly grey floppy wavy hair, his outdoorsy coat. He's just a nature guy from the Netherlands and it's great. He's very nice and takes excellent nature photos, particularly of animals. You can buy prints from him of past photos, as well as photos + a USB of your whale safari adventures. 

If you want to see puffins, go in the summer. If you want to see whales, go in the winter. 

I met a British nature enthusiast who was on the other boat (two go out) who took photos of us. He e-mailed me those as well as some bonus whale pictures. The photo above is his work, thanks David! 

I know I took more photos of the whales but that might be on another camera roll. Also, the picture above the whale photos was taken in Andenes, which is at the top of Andøy. You will eat the freshest and bestest fish there. Annika's brother Jeremy lives their and he is a fisherman. I never ate fish before but I ate the fish Jeremy caught and cooked! It also helps he's an amazing chef :) That town had one great cafe with free wifi, you should go there. It was called Jul Nilsens Bakeri & Konditori as. They have some delicious baked goods and hot drinks. Around the corner from that are some good clothing stores and an excellent knitting store. 

The last photo I'll share is one of this town. This was the first time I had seen the sun since I'd been to Norway, and this is the effect of the sunlight hitting the side of the mountain. This was on our four hour drive down the Lofoten Islands, to the very end of the islands, to a little place called Å (pronounced oh-uh). We got to stay in the fisherman's cabins which I highly recommend! Very cool and cozy and right by the water. My goal is to come back to the Lofotens in the summertime because they are truly breathtaking. Then I'll be able to hike and be more outdoorsy because in the wintertime poor Annika wanted to hike but I was so grumpy and only wanted to stay indoors.

That's all the photos I'll share for now. If you are ever in the area, send me a message if you want to know anything or if you have any comments to make! Listen to Radio Bø for me (you can also listen to it online if you want, which I highly recommend), go get soaps and AMAZING treats from Alveland, which is also a bed and breakfast and would be an incredible experience for anyone, and enjoy the Fjords and beauty that Norway offers! 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Dominos in Korea

As I begin trying to pump myself up for this insane move that I am actually going through with in real life, I keep researching different aspects of Korean culture so as to lessen the culture shock. I usually find this works quite well, so much so that sometimes people are confused about why I know so much. I'm just a researcher at heart, what can I say, facts are interesting.

Moving on, I found the Dominos Pizza Korea website and let me just say, finding a plain cheese pizza is 1) impossible 2) what they have listed as cheese somehow includes chicken and barbecue sauce 3) why are they always lying about what is in their food (I ordered veggie gimpap and it had crab in it?) 4) why is everything so supreme?

Here are some of the toppings you can choose from. I don't know what angel snow cheese is and what are double crust bloomings? Maybe I just won't have dominos for a year, then -.-
Though you can order online and that's always a plus.

Bonus: when you have their website open on your computer, this is what the tab reads

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Quick Trip to Austin & College Station

Seeing as I only have one month left until I leave (which btw is rapidly closing in, I don't know if you know this or not but holy cow I leave in about 30 days!) I've been visiting friends to say goodbyes. My friend Antoinette was doing part of her medical residency in Austin so I visited her and her friend Heather there for a day before we visited our other friend Caroline in College Station for a day.
I need a higher quality camera people 
Some day my eyes will be less squinty. Also, not sure why it looks like I photoshopped these because I definitely did not.
At our brunch place, Franks. Very good! Recommend if you're in Austin.
 Got to go on a morning walk with Anto in the neighborhood she stayed in while Heather went running as she trains for the Chicago Marathon (go Heather!) Austin is prettier than Dallas, I won't even argue that. I also find the architecture to be very exciting. Overall I really loved my time in Austin, I like the city even though I feel like I never get to explore it properly. The food was good, the nightlife is alive there (too alive really), lots to do and see.
Getting to understand those Japanese photo apps as much as possible before my trip

College Station was fun. I went to my first (and let's be real) and only tailgate. It was... OK but mostly just people drinking beer around a picnic table. Not really my scene! Probably would be more exciting if I liked or went to A&M, but as is, it was a good experience. Antoinette, Heather, and I burned out pretty fast and got bored with it all, so we ate tacos and burritos at a local place and then headed back to Caroline's apartment (after a HORRIFIC taxi ride) where we watched Hocus Pocus and wrote an angry e-mail to the taxi company. Really, we had to take a cab because we walked all the way to the tailgate and didn't want to walk the couple miles home but charging 20-40 dollars to go 1 or 2 miles is INSANE. 

Next day drove back to Austin to drop people off and went home to visit with Margaret for her last couple of days in Texas. Now she and her dog Roschti are gone and it all makes me very sad. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


I have truly been trying to avoid the countdown which started as good fun and has become a countdown to an anxiety attack.

Here's something I now know about myself: I feed off of whatever emotions I decide to create for myself and this is also heavily related to the music I decide to surround myself with. For example: the other day an innocent journal entry unfurled into a tear-filled declaration of fear and anxiety about my future. It didn't help that I was listening to a playlist called "the end" which I listened to when college was over. Oh gosh.

Anyway, in an attempt to trick myself into being happy, I'm trying to remind myself why I'm making this move (I need to be independent/ grow up, I need a new adventure in life, I want to challenge myself, I want to see if I could be a good teacher, I want to make international/ expat friends, I need to arrange my health and lifestyle, etc.) I know I'll miss Antoinette's bachelorette and bridal showers and that's sad. There are things I'm missing out on. But I have to remind myself... it's just a year. It's just a year. And maybe I'll love it so much it will become 2 years. Who knows? But for now, it's just a year.

So lately, Margaret (my sister) is in town for a few weeks before she goes back to Paris. She's super into the show "Mr. Selfridge," which is great except Jeremy Piven's really stale acting. Me and my mom and Margaret have been watching that, ordering pizza in the day, running errands, and laughing really hard. (See my twitter account for my dad's insane quotes lately). We've also been shopping, going to church activities, having dinner with our adorable neighbors, and just generally hanging out. Oh and my mom plays solitaire. A LOT.

In my free time I've been ringing up my credit card bill at an alarming rate and stressing about not speaking Korean. Also I've been obsessing over the sky here and my sister's dog.

This is blurry because my mom slapped my phone out of my hands.
Ignore the dirty windshield. What a sky!
Ah I love Dallas. I mean I hate it... but I love it so much.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Current Fears

Did you know that time moves really fast when you decide you don't want it to anymore? Because it does. I swear a few hours ago it was 51 days until I was supposed to leave and now it's 45? What? I'm sorry, I'm not nearly ready.

I have lived a lot of my life being afraid of things and though I've made great strides in reducing silly fears (like reminding myself that worry is a wasted emotion and to just chill out), I still often find myself afraid of silly things. Here's a current list of my fears, some silly some not:

1. Missing family and friends. I really do have it all in Dallas, including tex-mex, my best friends (most of the year anyway), and my family. These three things (tex-mex, family, friends) really get me through life and that is no lie. I have no idea who or what I will lean on when I arrive in Seoul. I have a feeling kimchi and other panchan will be poor substitutes for fajitas, no offense Korea. 

2. Teaching. The job itself is teaching English and even though I'm very proficient in this field (this field being the English language), I'm worried about disciplining in a classroom, being monitored frequently by various managers and teachers, and being convoluted in my descriptions. 

3. Food. Did you know I'm a picky eater? I'm a very picky eater. And even though I've recently added olives, asparagus, avocados, and cauliflower into my diet, I'm still very picky. I don't like onions (including chives, spring onions, etc.), seafood (except a few white fish), fatty meat, meat with bones in it, eggs, and I think I may be coming around to mushrooms but I'll get back to you. I also might be allergic to shellfish and I heard they just don't care about shellfish allergies in Korea/ don't really know about them and a lot of food has seafood, onions, and egg in it? Literally how will I survive. 
Photo Source // I will probably weep when I look back on this post and am not eating tacos de brisket

4. Language. Did I mention all the languages I know are English and then romance languages? No Asian language experience here. I have to teach myself this language, and that's scary! Of course I can do language exchanges and stuff like that but how effective are those really? And also, how would they teach me? Exactly. Sigh. How do I buy cleaning supplies? What is detergent called? What is the name of this vegetable I'm buying? I have no knowledge of anything. Everyday life immediately becomes harder. Oh, what's in this soup? Squid? I had no idea because I don't speak Korean and now I'm in the bathroom crying, that's a situation that will probably happen.

5. Meeting people. So I'm lucky that I went to a high school that's super legit and we had Korean boarders and several of them are living in Seoul. That's awesome and something probably not everyone has. I'm also lucky that I have a few friends in cities near(ish) to Seoul that I can visit. They are study abroad friends and should hopefully make the transition easier. But as for every day friends that I can call my besties, who I can club and norae bang with.... yet to be seen. At present I'm joining a knitting club, an international expat club, and a Nordic appreciation club. 

All in all, there are many things to be excited about. A new adventure is always great and always life changing. And things that make you afraid are usually worthwhile. I need to work on tossing aside my fear and setting sail. When I was in New York I was speaking with my (new) friend Catherine who is French and traveled throughout Asia during the 70's (Vietnam War anyone?) She insisted I absolutely MUST go about my life without fear. Less people will bother me and I will be much happier. Catherine, I will do my best! 

I will miss the south, southern hospitality, being called sweet pea, being understood, being able to small talk with staff, fitting into clothes from most stores around me, my family, my friends, my home, my room, my dogs, the big tree in our backyard, our cute neighbors, my car... and Texas sunsets. 

Monday, September 1, 2014


So one of the best things about tumblr (and there are a lot of great and a lot of terrible things) are the excellent quotes I come upon an any given day. Sometimes I have to check the source because you never know, but here is one I'm just really in love with and it describes a lot of the feelings I have with travel and change.

You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place. Like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way ever again.
— Azar Nafisi

This is something I think about a lot and I've written several journal entries about it.

So, you may know I went to Norway in January. I visited a secluded island in the arctic circle called Andenes. It was a beautiful island full of fjords and low mountains, and home to some truly wonderful people. My days there kind of blended together because for a while I didn't even see the sun, there were only a few hours of hazy light, like a constant sunrise and sunset on opposite sides of the sky, and then a blanket of darkness, stars, and sometimes the aurora borealis would wander across the sky. It was a truly beautiful place and a very magical feeling settles over Norway in the winter.

When I had to leave I was on the bus in the very early morning. As we made the two hour long trek to the local airport, I looked over the island, watched the sun slowly rise and cast this amazing gold glow over the frozen water below which was nestled between two small mountains covered in dark green trees. I remember closing my eyes and feeling so conflicted because in my heart I was excited to go to Paris and stay with my sister for several weeks, to be among the exciting bustle of the city, to make friends and lounge for hours in cafes. I was very excited to do this. But a part of me was attached to the land I was leaving.

I am very lucky, very blessed and very lucky, to have traveled throughout so much of the world over and over again, to make friends, get to know the locals, and visit secluded areas people only dream of visiting. I do not take my upbringing for granted. It has, however, created this kind of horcrux like splitting of my soul. A part of me will always miss and love Dallas, crave the high school comfort and friendship I have here. I will always want to be, simultaneously, in Hawaii at the beach, in Paris with friends, in Vienna on an autumn day, in Munster as a 17 year old riding bikes with a new friend, in London in 1997 buying all the Spice Girls' paraphernalia I could find, and on and on. There are an infinite number of little moments and times I miss being alive for various cozy, safe feelings or new and growing feelings.

I have lived at home for two years now. This was not planned at all, in fact. I thought I would move out after half a year. But as happens to so many people, my degree took longer to finish than I had anticipated. And the decision for work was not as easy as I thought it would be. So I settled into a familiar, childish routine by living at home, driving around and running errands for my mom, and socializing with friends when I could. Looking back on it now, as I prepare for a new adventure, there is a certain taste to this time at home. Not quite as comfortable and safe feeling as being a student and studying and living here, but still secure. I've allowed my mind and my heart to be blank and recover from several years of pretty traumatic social adventures throughout college.

I know that I am on the verge of becoming a new me, which has happened many times before and will of course happen again. I don't know how Seoul will change me or what memories I will forge. But I know I'll kick myself for rushing out of home and not lapping up every moment I can with my family.

So this is my homework. Rather than spend all my time buying Korean food and analyzing Korean culture, I will hold off until I arrive. For now, I will enjoy the last month or so of who I am at this moment, I will try to make all decisions with a firm and wonderful purpose. I will connect with people and bake and laugh until I cry so I can really look back on this time fondly.

Friday, August 29, 2014

So the Big News...


So it's offish guys, I signed a contract and took passport pictures and everything. Look at the double chin the lady at wolf camera gave me and look at my murderous eyes:
SO yeah, that happened. I'm sure after this whole thing in a year I'll look back and look completely different. I just have a feeling I'll be changing a lot when I'm there. 

Even though I'm not leaving for 52 days or something like that (honestly who's counting) I'm trying to document all the pre-trip stuff as well because I'm so nervous// excited and I know I'll want to look back and remember what I was thinking and expecting and things like that.

First things first (I'm the realest). First things first, I've signed to work in an area called Sungbuk-gu in Seoul. I won't put the name of the school I'm working for b/c I don't want to get in trouble or say something I don't mean one angered day, but hopefully they will take care of me! I will live next to a women's university in the Northeastern-ish part of Seoul. I had no idea how large Seoul was, I assumed it was like Paris where you could get from one important area to another one in about 30 minutes or so but NOPE. The areas I want to visit, the parks I've looked up online, and all the other cool areas of Seoul I want to explore are mostly one hour away by metro. Uhh, homie say what? 

Here are the things I'm worried about at the moment: 
#1 I don't speak this language at all except for a couple of phrases I learned from k-dramas. So I'm worried about the stress of trying to find basic groceries and also wary of the inability to have small talk with people. Language miscommunications just suck and I always feel like an idiot. 
#2 I really don't like seafood and from what I've read it's everywhere and even in soups, you'll just find little shrimps floating (?!) Not sure if this information is accurate but also I might have a shellfish allergy so I'm a lil' afraid
#3 I'm worried about people staring at me already (b/c of my eyes, hair and skin for one) but I feel like my weight and height will just draw negative attention/ comments from people. We will see if this is justified in about two months.
#4 Missing my family. I've lived at home for a little while now and am used to the creature comforts in this area, instant access to best friends, and the instant emotional access of my parents. Losing all of that will be hard.

Other than that, I'm pretty excited about a lot of things. I've been trying to listen to a lot of Korean songs and have watched a lot of Korean shows in an attempt to understand the culture better. There are bloggers like eat your kimchi who live in Seoul who I want to meet. There are also boarders from the high school I used to attend who are from Korea and are currently living in Seoul. I'm excited to reunite with them and go singing and shopping and eating and everything. I'm also really excited to teach cute little children. I know there will be devilish ones but I'm holding out for the cute ones I want to hold until the end of time.

Well that's about the end of this rant. I hope everyone is enjoying their night and get excited for more blogging guys. Who knows, maybe I'll start vlogging. Ohhhhh. Ohhhhh. Oh wait, I'd need more memory on my computer to do that -.-

Here's a new k-pop video for your enjoyment. No idea what they are singing about and I don't necessarily like the video but they are a new band and I like this song.