Month: August 2014

The Internet is Coming!

We are so excited to announce that we are getting internet soon!
Perhaps the biggest adjustment that we have had to deal with thus far during our life in Kuwait, is not having high speed internet in our apartment!  Back home, we are so used to having the fastest possible internet at all times, streaming Netflix 24 hours a day at our fingertips wherever we are. When we see that little wheel spinning on our screen and the word “buffering”, we just cringe.
Since arriving in Kuwait, finding an internet provider has been mission #1 for us! We can live without cell phones, groceries, money, etc., but internet is non-negotiable. We have been constantly talking to veteran teachers and other Kuwaiti expats trying to get some insight on the best internet possibly. After all of our conversations, we have settled on a company called WiMD. Apparently it is the only high speed internet available in the county, and not everyone is able to get it. We were lucky enough to find out that we are eligible, because our apartment building is tall enough and already has a certain kind of satellite on top of it.  Some of the teachers in the apartment building next to us are not as fortunate, because there building isn’t tall enough.  Their building is only 6 stories tall, and is surrounded by buildings that are 15+ stories tall, so they cannot get a strong enough satellite reception because of all the buildings around it. We were super excited to find out that we were able to get WiMD at our apartment!
The interesting thing about WiMD is that you have to pay for a full year of service, UP-FRONT!  The price for a full year of internet with unlimited data is 375 KD (the local currency) which is about $1,200 US dollars. At first we thought that price was outrageous, but when we broke it down by month we realized that it really wasn’t that bad. Back home in the States, we paid about $90 a month for internet and cable, and since our internet here is also going to serve as our cable TV, we thought it was very comparable to the prices back home.
Once we have internet access in our apartment, things will be glorious! Not only will we have unlimited access to search for things around Kuwait, but we will also be able to connect with our friends and families through FaceTime, Skype, Email, etc. at all times of the day. Currently we have to walk over to the Game Room at our apartment complex and access the slowest possible internet ever, if it’s working! Once we have internet access in our apartment, we will also be able to update our blog more frequently. We can’t wait to share photos of our apartment, school, and the other sights around Kuwait.
Our days without internet our numbered, we can’t wait!
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The Things Mitch Misses Most – Volume I

We have officially been in Kuwait City now for about a week, and it doesn’t really seem real yet that this is our permanent residence for the next 2 years!  It still seems like we are just here on vacation, and will be back in Minnesota in the next week or so. Before we departed the States, we talked about each of us doing a blog post about what we will miss most about living there. Well, I apparently came up with a good enough excuse not to complete my part of that post. So instead, I’ve decided to do a quick version of what I miss thus far since we have been in Kuwait.
 
1. 80 Degree Weather
 
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On the lake, and wearing long sleeve shirts. Perfect weather!

 
I cannot begin to describe how freaking hot it is here in Kuwait City!  The temperatures that last few days have ranged from about 109-119 degrees Fahrenheit. Frankly though, anything over 90 degrees to a Minnesotan is unbearably hot. Before we left, we joked with friends that it was a “dry heat” in Kuwait. However when we arrived to the airport, the members of the school who were there to greet us, informed everyone that a wave of humidity moved into the area and it would be a few days before it moved out. Lucky for us, the temperature Gods provided a little welcome gift for us! Regardless of the humidity, it is smoking hot here. The other day there was a slight breeze off of the Gulf, and it was not pleasant like one would think. It felt like when you are sitting in a sauna and someone blows a small stream of hot air at you, but instead it was over your entire body!
 
2. Green Grass
 
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Green Grass, Green Trees, & Green Bushes

 
From the color of the buildings to the ground, everything in Kuwait is brown.  In kind of reminds me of some of the new residential neighborhoods in the suburbs of Minnesota, where all of the houses are one of three shades of tan. It’s hard here to tell the taxi driver, “drive down the street, and my house is the brown one on the left,” because everything is brown! There are a few palm trees and other green plants around some of the neighborhoods and freeways, but they are far and few between.  At the school though, we are lucky enough to have 3 beautiful outdoor courtyards. They are covered with trees, bushes, vines and other lush green plants and foliage. It is a great place to have lunch or just gather to enjoy the colors.
 
3. iPhone
 
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I heart my iPhone

 
I never thought I would be the kind of guy who would admit that they miss their iPhone, but I officially think I have become one. A few days before we left the States, my phone was shut off, so I have gone about a week and a half without it. I don’t miss the access to email, Facebook, or Twitter, but rather the ability of having a map showing my location or the internet accessibility to find the answer to a simple question. As soon as Rachel gets her Civilian ID in October, we will be able to get a cell phone package with iPhones.
 
4. Mountain Dew
 
 
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I think I miss Mountain Dew more than booze!

 
More than missing the ability to drink booze, I miss drinking Mountain Dew even more! A couple of times a week, usually about 3pm in the afternoon when I would hit a wall, a 12 oz can of Mountain Dew is all I needed to perk up for the rest of the night. The thought of its refreshing taste and carbonation is making my mouth water as I type this. Multiple times over the years, I have tried giving up pop with zero success, however maybe this trip to Kuwait is all I need to make it a reality.
 
5. Friends & Family
 
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Our Little Triplet Nieces & Nephew

 
It has to be a given, that I miss our family and friends. We have been able to connect with a few people over FaceTime so far, but its definitely not the same as a face-to-face conversation, or the simplicity of sending a quick text message. Wherever we are in the world, we will miss them dearly, however knowing that they support our decision to move overseas, we feel their love wherever we are!

Where in the world is Carmen San Diego?

Anyone else play Where in the World is Carmen San Diego as a kid?  No, just me?  Did I just solidify that I was a 90’s child through and through?  Imagine an an 11 year old Rachel saddled up to the computer playing a quick game of Oregon Trail, once I killed off all my family and friends to either a rattlesnake bite or typhoid fever, I would grab the next floppy disk and try and find that ever elusive Carmen San Diego.  Unfortunately, you aren’t going to be chasing the lady in the red trench coat around this blog post, instead you are going to have me as your tour guide to learn Where in the World is Kuwait!  

Let’s start out nice and wide and zoom on in.Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 10.03.23 PM Now let’s take it in a notch to just look at Europe, Africa & Asia.  Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 10.03.52 PM…and even tighter now as we focus more clearly and narrow in on the Middle East.
Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 10.04.43 PMNow we are getting our first glimpse at Kuwait.  Check out that little chunk of land tucked between Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran…that’s our new home!
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We are hoping to get to explore quite a bit of the Middle Eastern region this year, especially Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, and Dubai & Abu Dhabi in the UAE. From this view you can check out how quick of a plane ride these trips would be.Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 10.05.38 PM

Kuwait City is a coastal city…YAY!  Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 10.06.07 PM We are hoping to get into scuba diving and snorkeling.Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 10.06.43 PM We made it to the end of our tour; Kuwait City, Kuwait.  Home to 3 million people and for the next couple of years us.  Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 10.07.11 PM

Mr. Pillow

(Rachel might kill me for this post, but here it goes anyway)
 
Long before I met Rachel, she had another special man in her life. Someone who was by her side at all times, through thick and thin. Before I became her travel buddy, he filled that void.  He traveled the world with her and they experienced a ton of cool things together. He even slept by her side every night!  That special someone is a guy I call: Mr. Pillow.
 
 
When I met Rachel 8 years ago, I noticed she had this dilapidated old pillow. It was an old feather pillow that looked like it had about 30% of its fill left. I didn’t think anything of it until our first weekend away. She came downstairs with her bag of clothes in one hand and this weird old pillow in the other. I questioned the pillow and told her that the cabin we were going to had plenty of pillows and all of the bedding was provided. She informed me about how special this pillow was, and that it goes everywhere she goes.  Rachel could probably tell you the exact date she got it, but I think she’s had it since she was like 9 years old. Knowing how important Mr. Pillow is in her life, I have never questioned the importance of it since that first weekend away 8 years ago.  I simply smile when I see her pack it for a weekend camping trip or for our adventure across the countryside of Peru. I honestly don’t think she has slept one night without Mr. Pillow in the last 20 years!
 
 
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Meet Mr. Pillow. This is a picture of him naked, after we threw away his old pillow case that was keeping him looking classy!

 
Fast forward 8 years to today, that pillow is still around and the third wheel of our relationship!  The only difference in Mr. Pillow nowadays is I think he is down to about 5% of fill left. He weighs about 1/3 of an ounce and without the pillow case, wouldn’t even look like a pillow.  As we prepared for our adventure to Kuwait, I knew Mr. Pillow would make the trip with us in the carry on bag. Over the years Mr. Pillow has found a soft spot in my heart. Mostly because I know how special he is to Rachel, but also because I’ve slept with him on a nightly basis for the last 8 years.  We both know that Mr. Pillow is priority #1 when it comes to precious cargo. Well . . . . . I regret to inform the rest of the world that I LOST MR. PILLOW THE OTHER DAY!
 
 
I was in charge of the carry on bag with all of the precious cargo including, our laptop, iPad, passports, travel documents, and Mr. Pillow! He didn’t fit in the carry on bag, so we strapped him on the outside of the bag. When we arrived to our apartment from the airport, it was about 30 minutes later when Rachel asked where her pillow was. (I’m the only one who refers to him as Mr. Pillow!) A sense of panic fell over me as I tried to back track my steps with the carry on bag. I knew I had the pillow at the airport, but somehow it must have slipped off of the bag during our trip to our apartment.  I endlessly apologized for my mistake and Rachel kept reassuring me that “it’s ok.” However I knew deep in her heart that there was a void. I had killed off the man who had been with her through so much over the years. The thing that has always been by her side and was the most comforting thing to home that she had in Kuwait. Rather it was the jet lag or just a lapse in responsibility, I knew i was the sole reason that Mr. Pillow had gone missing. I had zero faith that we would ever see Mr. Pillow again 😦
 
 
(Fast Forward 48 hours)
 
 
So today we are strolling through the courtyard at our apartment building complex after work when SUDDENLY, out of the corner of my eye I spot a ray of sunshine. (which was difficult to see because the sun is freaking intense here).  Near the security gate, on the ground, tucked back in a corner along a wall, was a small bundle of something. We were about 20 yards away when I shouted, “its your pillow!” I don’t think Rachel could quite process what was going on in my mind. I knew right away it was Mr. Pillow and ran to him with glee. Rachel stood in awe as I joyfully embraced him. I had to shake all of the sand and dirt off of him, since he spent the last two nights sleeping under the stars of Kuwait, rather than in our bed. Rachel was a bit shocked and skeptical until she looked inside the pillow case and found her sleep mask and ear plugs. Just then, she realized that she had been reunited with her pillow. It was a joyful couple of milliseconds before our excitement wore off and we were back to normal life. I’m happy to report that Mr. Pillow is back in bed with us tonight!
 
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Here’s Mr. Pillow in his brand new, baby blue tuxedo pillow case that we bought him at Ikea last week. He loves it.

 
 
Perhaps you caught the line in the last paragraph about my wife’s sleep mask and ear plugs, we’ll save that story for another blog post later. 😉

Roll Call – Mitch? Here!

Since last winter, when Rachel and I decided to take on our adventure across the world one of the first things out of her mouth was, “OMG, we should start a blog!”  I’m sure the look on my face was less than pleasant and probably portrayed the image of “you’re kidding me right?”  For all of you married guys out there you are probably very familiar with the phrase of “a happy wife is a happy life.” So with that motto in mind, I jumped on board!
 
Until today I was able to find enough excuses to avoid my contributions to the blog.  Until just two weeks ago, I was working at my previous full-time job, working on projects around the house to get it sold, and all of the other “to do items” in order to prepare for our lives living overseas. However as of today, I’m about 10,000 miles away from home, in a country where I know only one person, and unemployed!  So with that being said, today is my first blog post!
 
Our initial goal with this blog was to keep our friends and families up-to-date on what we are doing, but we are slowly developing a following of readers from around there world.  Perhaps they stumbled across our blog through Google, or maybe another friend recommended it to them.  We have expanded our goal of this blog to provide the entire world with an insight into our lives.  I’m assuming most people don’t know a couple who quit both of their full time jobs, and sold their house, both cars, and over 95% of their possessions to take an adventure and experience life abroad as an expat.  We want people to know that the world is an amazing place with so many cool places. We hope to visit some of those places and put our experiences on our blog so our readers could follow along.
 
I can’t thank my wife enough for all of the hard work she has dedicated to get this blog up and running. I’m slowly finding out that it takes an enormous amount of time to develop topics, gather your thoughts, put it to paper, and attach photos, all with the hope that someone from around the world will take just a few minutes to read it. We hope to make people laugh, cry, and mostly say, “holy crap, that is so freaking awesome!”  
 
We can’t thank our readers enough for the support and love on our blog.  We have received so much positive feedback, and that’s really what keeps us going. So feel free to share our blog with others and comment with your thoughts, suggestions, questions, or other comments. I’m excited to join my wife Rachel on our adventure in Kuwait and to share our thoughts and experiences on our new blog.  
 
Cheers!

Long Minnesota Goodbye: Kiddo Addition

Because one day at the lake just isn’t enough….and the pictures are just too good not to share.
IMG_4470We quickly accepted another invitation from our friends Heidi and Brannon to spend another day out  on their boat.  This time though they invited all the  kiddos. 
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Our friends seriously have the sweetest kids.  I don’t know what their parents have done but they are all so much fun and easy to be around.  
IMG_4474 The little kids waited while the big kids played.  IMG_4477 IMG_4481 IMG_4482 IMG_4485 IMG_4488 Henry watched with some serious concern, he kept thinking we were going to leave his Mom or Dad just floating in the water.  IMG_4489 IMG_4490 IMG_4491 IMG_4493 IMG_4494 IMG_4495 IMG_4497 IMG_4499 IMG_4501 IMG_4503 IMG_4506

The older kiddos entertained the littlest ones.  IMG_4508 IMG_4509 IMG_4521 IMG_4522 IMG_4523 IMG_4525 Then Hailey girl showed us her stuff!  She has been wake boarding for a couple summers and is getting up and outside of the wake now!IMG_4526 IMG_4529 IMG_4532 IMG_4537 Tyler could have wake boarded all night.  IMG_4545 IMG_4546 IMG_4547 IMG_4548 IMG_4550 IMG_4554 IMG_4556 A couple more years for you little buddy…
IMG_4561 You know you are getting older when the cup holders no longer are holding beer bottles but rather sippy cups.  IMG_4565

Landing an International Teaching Position

Moving overseas is an awesome adventure, but behind this awesome adventure came a ton of work, 14 months of work to be exact!  I thought it was an important enough part of this process that I needed to take a few moments to document what I learned along the way. Clearly I am not an expert, because this is only the first time I have received an overseas teaching job, but I made enough mistakes along the way to learn a few things.

  • The job hunting process starts early, really really early. This was a lesson I learned the hard way.  When trying to get an overseas teaching job you really need to start the process the fall prior to when you want to go.  What I mean is that I wanted to start a job overseas in August of 2014 so what that really meant is I needed to start the application process in October/November of 2013.  It feels crazy early but you have to start applying early.
  • Go to a job fair. I went to the University of Northern Iowa’s overseas recruitment fair, twice, and loved it!  I chose UNI’s job fair for two reasons 1.) I read that it is the largest overseas teaching fair in North America     2.) I live in Minnesota so it was super close and cost effective for me to get there.  Going to the job fair was truly an awesome experience.  Hundreds of administrators, representing schools from all over the world, gather at this job fair searching for candidates.   It is the only chance I would have had to speak face to face with that many administrators. Let’s be real, Skype interviews are weird and awkward so the more time you have face to face with administrators the better.
  • The more contact you make with schools before a job fair the better your chances of finding a job. Once you are signed up for the job fair you will have access to job postings and contact information for a zillion schools.  You will be able to look through the jobs (which change on a day to day basis) and make contact with administrators before the job fair begins.  This was a huge mistake I made the first year I went to the job fair.  I didn’t realize how much work needed to be done on the front end of the job fair. When I got to Iowa, I quickly realized how many interviews had been arranged prior to anyone arriving in Iowa.  This year when I arrived in Iowa, I had done at least 12 Skype interviews, had a couple of job offers, and had multiple first round and second round interviews scheduled for my time in Iowa.  The difference between the first year I went to the job fair and the second was night and day, and making contact with schools prior to the fair made all the difference.
  • Be open. The world is a big, big place.  Be open to living and working in a whole variety of places.
  • Take every interview that is offered to you.  I decided that I was going to use the job fair to connect with as many schools as possible and that meant some really long days of interviewing.  You never know where you might find the perfect job.
  • Talk to everyone. The job fair is a fantastic atmosphere.  It is a large group of people who love travel and exploring the world.  Some of my favorite moments were having lunch with complete strangers who had lived in amazing places like Turkey, Eqypt, Peru, and Taiwan!
  • Don’t give up. I didn’t get any job offers the first year I went to the job fair, but I used the opportunity as a learning experience and to develop a new strategy for the next year.  The second year I went I had multiple job offers, so my new plan must have worked!  It was so much fun to talk to Mitch and pull out a map and decide where we wanted to spend the next two years of our life.

Things I will Miss

Yesterday, Mitch and I went to Happy Hour with a group of people he works with. While we were there a woman Mitch works with asked me two questions about our move to Kuwait:

1. What are you most excited about?
2. What do you think you will miss the most?

I answered both questions with little hesitation. I am most excited about the travel opportunities and I will miss my nieces and nephew the most. Once I answered her though, I got to thinking that I really am going to miss quite a few things from once we move – so I started to jot them down – and realized how scattered and all over the place this list is. So, no judging, but here are a few things I am most positive I will miss next year:

Stitch Fix: It has only been in the last couple of months that I discovered this online clothing styling service, and let me tell you getting those little blue boxes in the mail will be greatly missed.  Basically you fill out an online style survey and then you get clothes hand-picked and sent to you.  To read more about Stitch Fix and to give it a try, check out this link.  Full disclosure, if you sign up under that link i will receive a referal credit of $25 and you will be participating in feeding my addiction to these cute clothes!  

 

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A few examples from my latest Stitch Fix delivery

 

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Stitch Fix does a great job putting different styles together.

 Family Gatherings: I already know I will experience homesickness, especially on those days when I know our families will be having special events or celebrating holidays. I am also sad we will miss family traditions, like signing the table cloth at Thanksgiving or the annual boot hockey game at the Johnson family Christmas party.  I will also miss not being at the triplets first birthday party, or other family gatherings. I know these days will be amongst the hardest.

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The annual boot hockey game at Christmas is one of my favorite traditions

Chipotle: This will be missed. Seriously, seriously missed.

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My favorite restaurant

The Library: Even though I have a nook that is significantly overstocked with books, being able to walk into the library and grab a physical book will not be something I am able to do.  As much as I love technology and the ease of traveling with e-books, I will miss holding books. 

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Meme found here.

Snow: I love Minnesota and all that is has to offer, including the winters, (well maybe not when it is -40, ain’t nobody got time a big enough down jacket for that) 

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A photo from our backyard last winter, after a recent snowfall

Kelsie, Carter & Cora: I was right when I said that I was going to miss these three….a lot.

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My nieces & nephew (L to R): Cora, Kelsie, and Carter

Long Minnesota Goodbye: Scenic Sisters Addition

Our long Minnesota goodbye continued the other night with an awesome evening of boating with my work friends and their hubbies.  It was the kind of night Minnesotans dream about during the winter months when the temperatures can reach 40 degrees below zero.  The lake was calm, the water was warm, and the sunset was amazeballs.  

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Apparently tubing is one of those things in life that continues to get better with age.

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This picture continues to get funnier the longer I look at my own face.

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However,  flipping the tube back over does not continue to get better with age.

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Heidi & Katie

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Show-offs 🙂

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Mitch surfing

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Whoooo hoooo, she’s got it

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Love that expression

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Katie’s turn

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Sarah won the award for most persistence

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I also really enjoy this series of pictures

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I love that she is smiling on her way down

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I also love that all you can see in this picture are her feet

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Brannon got to surf on gold that night…the light was amazing!

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This picture won the award of favorite shot of the night, Minnesota sunsets never get old.

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Never


Thank you Heidi and Brannon for a great night!  Thank you Steve, Katie, Josh, & Sarah for coming out, I will miss you ladies more than words can express.  Your friendship has brought so much fun and laughter to my life.