The Best Sauce

I don’t know if it’s an actual adage, or if it’s just something my *favorite fictional character of all time* says, but I’ve heard it said that, ‘hunger is the best sauce.’ I don’t know if I’d say that I’ve been hungry for home, exactly, but being here feels a little bit like being sated.

All the same, this time coming home has been interesting. Little (and big) changes still annoy me, and there’s a bit of reverse culture shock (though I went back to driving with no problems, for good or ill but not having tax included is driving me nuts). But I think I’m finally starting to just let go. There wasn’t any food that I really, really wanted to get when I arrived–not even Kinza (though I will never refuse Kinza). There weren’t any places I really had to visit. People to see, of course. And of course I’m so happy to see my family again. But overall, I basically felt ready to go to the next place almost immediately. So someone get me a job.

Anyway. I am, of course, very much looking forward to some catching up with people because it’s been a long time. And it’s nice that it’s spring because flowers. We’ll just have to see how things progress, I guess.

The last couple days in New Zealand were lovely. During the course of our trip, we truly saw the length of the country. It was impossible to soak up everything in only two and a half weeks, but we went from Auckland near the top of the North Island to Invercargill right at the bottom of the South Island (Invercargill is such a nonentity that it’s saying I’ve spelled it wrong, trust me, there’s really no reason to visit except the Tuatarium which we stumbled into right at feeding time).

I could go on forever about that trip but, as I’ve said, descriptions will never quite do it justice. Suffice to say that it was an incredible time and a much needed respite after Korea.

Now, I find myself with too much time on my hands, facing once more the unenviable and generally unrewarding task of applying to jobs with not enough experience and too much qualification. Hopefully the year in Korea will mean something to someone. We’ll see.

Definitely will keep you up-to-date with all the thrilling developments. I am hoping to do some Washington-y hikes or something because I do really love it here, as much as I want out. It would be positively ideal to find a job that starts like in June or August to give me peace of mind and security in just running around. Maybe a road trip to California. I have a dream of road tripping to Yellowknife and Juneau but wouldn’t attempt it without ample time and financial security.

That’s all for now. With all this time zone hullabaloo, it’s hard to know exactly when to post these anymore so I’m just kind of going with it. I haven’t looked, but I have a sinking feeling that my perfect line of Thursdays was interrupted during New Zealand because this site’s clock is set to Pacific time. I dread checking because I was really proud of that line of Thursdays.

Hope you all have an excellent week. I’m busy doing very little and enjoying the rain of home.


South Island Roads are Different


A waterfall captured by the wind, Milford Sound

I know I spent years pining after Croatia only to relinquish that dream without much fanfare. But weaving through the islands and inlets of the Marlborough Sounds felt like home. Across this country, I’ve just felt a little more settled in my skin. It’s not perfect, of course. There are plenty of things that annoy, disappoint, and frustrate me. All the same, I would live here in a heartbeat. This feeling has only intensified over the past week.

I’m only going to share a few short bullet points from this week. It’s a summary, but describing each thing in detail would still fail to convey my experiences. It’ll be brief but hopefully you’ll still get the gist of everything.

Wellington is quirky and weird but in, like, a classy way. Would live there. I’d prefer the countryside, but it would be just fine.

Arrived on the South Island at night and the next morning, early, headed out and the sunrise over the mountains and water was delicate and opaline and exquisite.

Went kayaking in Abel Tasman National Park, a wonderland of turquoise water, bird sanctuary, and sunny beaches.

Driving to Greymouth, watched the clouds stretch their soft fingers over the mountains from the sea.

Driving through the Southern Alps across Arthur’s Pass was magnificent.

Arrived in Christchurch, where the 2011 earthquake is still very much in evidence– notably in the still mostly-collapsed cathedral. Would probably not live there, earthquake notwithstanding.

A trip across plains and foothills giving way to peaks. Visited New Zealand’s highest peak, Aoraki (Mount Cook), and the glacial lake at its base. And by glacial, I mean there were icebergs in it. One end of the lake was a beach, the other end was a glacier.

Arrived in Queenstown after a long journey, having seen the bluest water probably on Earth. In lakes, in rivers, just a lot of very blue water. Probably a cute town but very touristy, at least at the moment. Also, there are deer farms in New Zealand?!? I ate deer for a couple meals.

Long journey to Milford Sound (which, incidentally, is not a sound but a fjord). Beauty that absolutely defies description, appropriately obscured by rain and clouds. Profoundly incredible.

I’ve had a feeling that has been building this whole sojourn and it was cemented by our trip to Milford Sound today. You know that I’m not overfond of absolutes or favorites. And I still could not say what my favorite travel destination is (or my favorite part of this trip). But while beauty is subjective and comes in many different forms, and while I haven’t fully explored any single county, I can say without hesitation that this is the most beautiful country I’ve ever seen.

This trip has been altogether incredible. Starting in Sydney and basically every moment since. We have a few more days before heading back to the US and the great unknown which that entails. I’m planning on making the most of that time.

This is the longest I’ve been out of the US–thirteen months pretty much exactly. I rather wish I weren’t going back but whatever. If you know anyone hiring, let me know. Mostly if they’re hiring in New Zealand, but I’ll take what I can get.

The Literal, Figurative Shire

Because last week’s post was just a laundry list of fun things I did in Sydney, I thought I’d change it up a touch this week. I have just a few sections with observations mixed in with activities.

Concerning nature:
I will never not be obsessed with fern trees. They are everywhere and I love them. I could almost convince myself that I’m in Ireland, or maybe parts of England, but then I see a grove of fern trees or a field of pampas grass or a stand of palms. It’s very dinosaur-y. Haven’t encountered a lot of animals but I’m hoping the South Island will have some in store for us. Mostly kiwis. So far, it’s been pretty exclusively cows and sheep. The sheep thing about New Zealand is totally true, not that I’m complaining.

The weather has been mostly good. Apparently, the sun here is especially intense, so we’ve had our bouts with sunburns and all that. Recovered or recovering at this point, we’ll see how the next week treats us in that regard. Recently, it’s been quite rainy but nothing that we can’t handle. Besides, the low misty clouds make the mountains unbelievably magical. Also, the ocean is a very pleasing color.

Concerning the landscape:
Lots of green hills. Not the rolling kind like I saw in Devon, a bit more rugged like around Galway. My sister described it aptly as some strange combination of Ireland and Hawaii. Definitely bears a strong resemblance to Ireland with palms and volcanoes. But whereas Ireland seemed to work really hard to be green, like the land was strained to its utmost limits producing that rich emerald, the countryside here looks just easier . I don’t know if it’s the stronger sun, the awesome volcanic soil, or what. But the green here is easy. I would describe Ireland as ‘verdant’ but New Zealand as ‘lush.’

Except for the barren volcano parts. Which, when we did a section of the Tongariro Crossing, were alpine and ghostly and awe-inspiring.

We’ve visited many waterfalls, all incredible and jungle-y. We stopped for a swim in a thermal stream which was relaxing and cool, made more so by the rain and thunder.
We spent a quiet afternoon on the beach, reading, while Thomas tried to surf having watched one instructional YouTube video.

Driving this afternoon to Wellington, we encountered a great deal more of what I want to call heath, though I’m not certain it’s accurate. Heather, low shrubs, and mountain-y hills. Beautiful.

Concerning adventures:
We walked and tubed through the Waitomo glow worm caves, which were incredible. It wasn’t extreme or anything, but it was fun to get all suited up for a fairly lengthy sojourn. The little maggoty constellations were made a little more mystifying and ethereal for me because I wasn’t wearing my glasses, courtesy of persistent and strong humidity.

Thomas pressured Kaitlin into trying bungee jumping for the first time in Taupo. Into a river. They both seemed to enjoy it though, certainly a rush if nothing else (though not the kind of rush I’m interested in chasing). There was also a cat at the bungee place, they seemed cool.

Concerning entertainment:
There is a TV channel called Giggle and it is just quick, like five second ads, sandwiched between little animated memes and dad jokes. Also, saw the official world’s coolest McDonald’s in Taupo.

Concerning hobbits:
On Wednesday evening, I had the distinct privilege to visit the Hobbiton movie set. Though most of the North Island that has so far been in evidence strongly resembles the Shire, it was amazing to see door after round door built into the hills. We toured the grounds, rebuilt for the Hobbit movies, and then had a fantastical feast at the Green Dragon. Just… a truly incredible time. It rained heavily, lightly, and not at all in random cycles, but it was warm enough that it didn’t detect one iota from the tremendous atmosphere. Definitely an experience to remember, the inevitable kitschy bits included.

We arrived in Wellington this afternoon and, being rather tired from our late night at the Green Dragon, didn’t do a whole lot of exploring. Even so, I feel pretty confident in saying that I would definitely be okay living here. Auckland, definitely not. But Wellington, or some small town in the countryside, yes. Yes. Yes.

Everything has been such a whirlwind and at the same time incredibly relaxing. This trip has surpassed my already high expectations and is, even though I’m typically uncomfortable with absolutes, probably my favorite ever. It’s just stunning, and it’s not over yet.

Terra Cognita

Friends, it’s been an incredible week and I feel like I’m not going to be able to adequately describe it for you. But this would be a lousy blog indeed if I didn’t at least try.

On Saturday, I departed Seoul and headed out, after a short layover in Kuala Lumpur, to Sydney. I arrived in the evening and it had been raining all day. I was staying with a friend I met in the REC course in Ireland who lives in the city, and she picked me up. Straight away, she took me to the so-called Mrs. MacQuarie’s Chair (named after the wife of the first governor of New South Wales) for my first iconic view of Australia–a red-illuminated Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.

The rain continued pretty heavily through the night, so the next morning I decided to check off a few indoor activities. My friend lives quite in the center of the city, so it was a quick walk to the Australian Museum first thing. There were a number of beautiful and interesting artifacts, mostly from Australia and Oceania but also around the world. I learned some about Australian history, especially Aboriginal culture and modern treatment. There were also lots of animals, dinosaur bones, and a super cool mineral collection.

By the time I emerged, the rain had mostly cleared, so I took the opportunity to walk through Hyde Park and see all that’s there, including several neat statues (importantly one of Captain Cook) and a gorgeous fountain. Next, it was on to the State Library for a quick look at what I heard was a stellar reading room–it did not disappoint! Importantly, there was a monument outside to Matthew Flinders, an explorer, and beside it was a monument to his cat, Trim: “the most affectionate of friends, faithful of servants, and best of creatures.”

Then it was down the road to the Art Gallery of New South Wales. There was a special exhibition on featuring The Lady and the Unicorn, which I wanted to see. The gallery itself is in a wonderful building, as it ought to be, and the collection of Australian and international art was superb. The exhibit was super interesting, on a collection of medieval tapestries that are pretty mysterious but likely represent allegories of the six medieval senses (the sixth being that of the heart or reason).

Just cross the street from the gallery and you’ll be at the Botanical Gardens. Most of my Australian friends highly recommended it and, I’ll tell you now, I spent quite a bit of my limited time there. They were absolutely stunning. The trees, the flowers, the birds, the sun, the water. It was all pretty incredible. Pictures won’t do it, or the view, justice so you’ll just have to trust me unless you can see it for yourself.

After the gardens, it was back into the city a bit, around Cockle Bay and Darling Harbour and up an old quarry to see Anzac Bridge. I feel like I’ve written quite a bit and that was just day one but I’m not sorry and I’ll keep going.

Tuesday morning, I started relatively early to walk around a different part of town and over to Barangaroo Reserve, a lovely and relatively recently done bit of nature (not that Sydney is lacking nature). I walked around the water and across the Harbour Bridge for some more excellent views of the Opera House. Then I took the ferry (I love ferries) to Manly (supposedly so named for the very masculine aboriginals seen there by Europeans entering the harbor) for an afternoon at the beach (parenthesis parenthesis parenthesis). Manly is a wonderful and cute beachy town and I didn’t even get that sunburned!

I called it a day fairly early because that night I was due at the opera!! I had never been and I figured a world-famous landmark would be an appropriate place to see my first. It was Carmen and it was incredible though I had forgotten, spoiler alert, that Don José kills her! A terrific day and night.

On Wednesday, I met with another friend and we drove out to the Blue Mountains to see the Three Sisters. A stunning view over the valley and forest. Absolutely gorgeous countryside. We had planned on doing some more exploring but were running short on time so we just had lunch in a cute/wacky little café in Katoomba and then drove back. I left my friend in Newtown and walked back through a fun area filled with little shops and cafés and all sorts of neat places.

That night for dinner, the friend I stayed with took me to a pie place (the savory kind) apparently legendary among sailors. It’s right on the water near the naval base. So we had pies with mash and mushy peas before heading into the gardens for a deeply beautiful sunset over the city.

When I travel, I typically try to find the things that really annoy me so that I can get a balanced assessment of the place and think about whether or not I could live there. For Sydney, definitely the number one struggle would be the heat (it wasn’t even that hot for my time but I was Hot). But I think, after weighing as much information as I could, I would totally be willing to live in Sydney. So get me a job there or an Australian husband (because that’s a thing there now, yay) so I can get a visa ASAP.


I’ve been blessed in my life to have a number of dreams come true, and the upcoming couple of weeks are going to be another one. Though in different ways and for different reasons than Croatia, I’ve long hoped to visit New Zealand and that’s where I arrived this afternoon. I’m very, very pleased to be joined by my sister and her boyfriend and we’ve quite an exciting itinerary planned. Stay tuned for adventures that will, in all probability, be beyond my description of them.


Ever On and On

This is my last post in Korea, in all likelihood forever, but I don’t have a lot of profound thoughts to share. Mostly just an attempt to convey my heartfelt gratitude for the people who have become my friends here.

Before we get too far into that, though, a quick gallery of Béégashii and Lucy, possibly the cutest animals that have ever existed, I love them so much.



When I left for Korea, my step-mom sent me with a note and I’d like to share a part of it with you. She’s had a number of interesting journeys herself and I think her perspective on it all is important.

The saying that it is more about the journey is true, but sometimes I wonder as I look back on my life if we ever reach our ‘destination’ this side of heaven? I wonder if the destination is actually the present–being fully in the moment, right where we are planted–to live fully, contented, wide-eyed, learning, yearning, giving, loving–to whomever is right in front of us?

The destination that is both where we are and just out of reach. I’ve done a fair bit of traveling and who knows where else I’ll end up. Clearly, I’m all about the journey but  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, bloom where you’re planted. That’s been difficult here but I think the blossoms have been all the more beautiful for it. As they say in Mulan, the flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all.

My time in Korea has really been… something. I’ve been trying to figure out positive and succinct ways to describe it, preparing for the inevitable deluge of questions when I get home, and it hasn’t been easy. I think I’ve managed for the job, though, so I’ll start with that.

This job consisted of three parts: the students, the coworkers, and the workplace. The students were decent, the coworkers were incredible, and the workplace was awful. I’m truly and deeply grateful for the great teachers that I got to work with who (very slowly because I suck at it) became close friends. A heartfelt shoutout to all of you, thank you for bearing with me and welcoming me into your cool kids club. I’m glad that most of my students were interesting, smart, and hard workers–it made teaching them much easier and much more enjoyable. And I’m happy to say that I will not have to work at that branch or a Korean English academy again.

I am also extremely grateful for the community I found at church. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I came to Korea on that front, but the place I ended up was definitely the place I was meant to find. I learned, I grew (I hope), and I made connections–again, slowly but definitely surely. Knowing you guys, studying with you, serving with you–all have been wonderful experiences.

I also want to make sure to mention the one Korean person I actually knew coming here, and say a big thank you to her and her family for meeting with me and making me feel welcome. So thanks, Yoona and your family. We had some fun adventures together.

As is usually the case, the people make the place. Thankfully, the internet will continue to keep us together, as much as it is capable. I will not be deleting my Kakao, so feel free to send me your favorite Muzi emojis. I will also request, for those of you in Korea, please send me any and all Paris Baguette pictures and updates because I will never not want those.

For those of you at home, or those who just know people who travel, I have a request. Please do not ask me how Korea was. It’s a country, it is many things. And do not ask me extremes (favorites, hardest, ect.) because I’m bad at those. There are many things that I appreciated and things I very much did not. If you really want to know, think of specific questions. What kind of food do typical Koreans eat? Did Seoul feel like a big city? Do people still wear hanbok? How do you read Korean?

In the meantime, I’m in a mad rush to pack up my entire life (yet again), teach all my classes, get all my paperwork and plans in order, and say goodbye. I’m on a plane out of the country on Saturday night, twenty-four hours after I finish teaching my last class.


A summer sunset over the Hangang


So I’m leaving Korea and going on. I have some ideas but I have no intention of keeping my feet and every intention of being swept off. Sometimes, I’m learning, the important journeys are the ones you didn’t mean to make.

Same Year, Same Me?

I don’t think I’ve ever needed a vacation as much as I needed this one. It’s 설날 (Seollal). Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Happy year of the dog, everyone.

This week had a bit of a stressful start. I was trying to apply to a job that I’ve been procrastinating on since I’ve decided I really want it (the more important something is, the more I procrastinate, see: dissertation). I also had to go to the pension office to apply for my lump-sum refund. And you know how I feel about official things, especially involving money and bureaucracy.

In the event, however, it was incredibly easy. I thought that I would have to go all the way to Gangnam (an hour by subway) but there was another office in Seodaemun and that was a great discovery. Also, I walked into the building, went up to the ninth floor, and from the time I stepped out of the elevator until I stepped in again was under twenty minutes. A massive relief. So my pension refund will be a nice thing to get once I’m back in the US.

Other things that have been going on this week include packing. No one likes packing, I’m pretty sure. Packing for a fun trip can be fun, but packing your life is generally The Worst. I haven’t accumulated much here, and I’m going to leave a lot behind, so I’m trying to condense everything into two units instead of three. We’ll see how that goes. It’s frustrating because I need to wear clothes all the way until I leave–and even after that, too!–so I can’t pack all of my winter things. It’s not frigid here, but it’s still plenty cold.

On Wednesday, I had a fabulous day. It consisted of three stages. First, I played a computer game and packed intermittently which actually got me way further than I anticipated. So it was lazy and enjoyable but also super productive. Second, I reread a book (most of the book, I skipped around since I read it for the first time just a couple weeks ago). Third, I started a new Netflix series, Legion, and stayed up really late watching most of the season.

Today, I finished Legion which was excellent but I’m not sure if the forthcoming second season will be as great. I also met with some friends for lunch, noraebang (Korean karaoke-ish), and a VR café. It was a super relaxing and enjoyable day all around. I’m bound for bed early because there’s a special treat in store for tomorrow. Details and pictures to come next week.

Anyway, trying to think some thoughts for the close of my Korean year. I’m sitting here, with my partially packed suitcases on the floor, things in piles waiting to be packed or thrown away or recycled or given to friends. It’s one of my least favorite feelings–the empty room you’re still living in but only for a little longer. My room is far from empty, yet the almost-gone feeling is already seeping in around the edges.

When I sit down and try to think of what I’ve done and become this year, it seems underwhelming and, to be honest, disappointing. I had hoped to grow in faith, sociability, adulthood, who knows what else. And maybe I have in some ways, in some categories, in some situations.

I’ll tell you, before I started Legion I finished the Netflix series The Good Place about the afterlife and I’m trying to, I don’t know, just think about being a good person. I think I am, generally, so I’m not feeling down on myself or anything. But it’s that tension again between contentment and complacency. I want to be happy with who I am and still strive to become better. Not sure that this year has made me much better.

In one of my posts just before coming here, I contended that no experience is ever wasted. I still hold to that, and this year has definitely proved itself valuable. I came out to my whole family and people just generally which I mention casually but was a big deal for me. I learned a whole lot of skills on the job, dealing with children and adults. I succeeded in some small disciplines that have made small but noticeable changes in my life (ex. today was day 236 on my Russian Duolingo streak, having finished all the lessons a bit ago).

Mostly, I tried and failed a whole lot of things. And then I tried again. I imagine most of us have heard the “if at first you don’t succeed” spiel. I guess I’m starting to think that it’s not actually the succeeding that matters, but the trying. Willfully, and sometimes gleefully, making bad decisions is probably part of the human condition. (Sorry that I just used the phrase ‘human condition,’ I am what I am). But figuring out how you want to live and trying to get there, at least sometimes, I think that’s a great deal of what counts in the end.

So here’s to that. I have one week and two days remaining in this country. I keep returning to the C. S. Lewis poem that I memorized a few weeks ago: “to this moment’s choice/ Give unfair weight.”

In Which Little Is Done

I’ve been trying my darndest to come up with a topic for this week and I have failed. Normally, that wouldn’t stop me since all I put on here anyway is random nonsense. But, like, I really have nothing. Very little happened this week and I haven’t even been thinking any thoughts of note. While I try to figure something out, enjoy this two-for-one cat picture.


I hope you enjoyed that little interlude. They’re so nice.

The main event this week was movie night which, not to sell it short, is now a typical feature in my week. This week, it was Moulin Rouge with a friend who hadn’t seen it before and now understands the magic. Such a fantastic movie, so many emotions. And honestly, the songs in it are pretty much all better than the originals. Even if I really like the originals. Just so good.

All I can think to talk about is how soon my time in Korea will be over. I’m overwhelmed, really, and so I’m not preparing nearly as much as I need to be. I have two weeks and a couple days. That’s it. While I’m definitely ready to be finished, I’m not currently ready to be telling you about my year in review, so I’ll save that I guess. Next week is a holiday and I only work Monday and Tuesday (though I’ll also be working this Saturday) so I should be able to concoct some good musings by then. Or not. We’ll see.

In the meantime… nope. Still got nothing. I’m sure I’ll meander around until I get a decent word count because, as you all know, I can ramble until I confuse even myself.

I’ve been reading again this week, finished three books. One stand alone (or I guess there’s a sequel but it ended nicely and I don’t want to read it) and the first two in a series. None of them were incredible, but all were decent. The first was just a straight-up gay romance and I was all about it (I honestly didn’t realize I just said ‘straight-up gay’ until several hours later). Pleasant characters and some surprisingly realistic moments in the midst of straight-best-friend-turns-out-to-be-bi fantasy land. The other is a fantasy series, intrigue and theft, and such like. The characters are pretty thin and nothing I want happens with them, but the plot is super interesting so I’ll continue to book three for that reason.

Man, I miss reading in the sun. In the warm.

Next week, I’ll definitely have some things to say. Hopefully, I’ll have done some packing, had a nice start to the holiday, and tell you about my big adventure coming next Friday. And then it’ll be my last week and then I’ll be on another adventure. So here’s to that.