Posted By: Rachel

Thanksgiving 

We celebrated Thansgiving this week in our new home surrounded by a group of our new friends. As I sat around my table in South Korea eating my apple crisp I reflected on the community of people that surrounded me.  Around our table sat friends from the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Korea, and the Dominican Republic. The children who were playing together were born in Hong Kong, Thailand, New Zealand, Kuwait, and the United States.

We are so much to be thankful for including the people from all these different corners of the world that have come into our lives.

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Tangerine Picking

You can’t drive more than 10 second in any direction on this island without seeing a plot of land with trees tucked close together bursting with tangerines.  Last weekend we took our little family of three and headed off to a farm that we get our vegetable coop box from and picked tangerines.

img_0221img_0264img_0265It was a beautiful fall afternoon, that felt so much like a fall afternoon in Minnesota at the apple orchards.  I felt pretty lucky to have these two guys as my dates…img_0233img_0298

Hayden ate his weight in tangerines and we did our best to stop him from eating the unpeeled fruit, unfortunately we failed.

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You can take the girl out of the Middle East….

Apparently you can take the girl out of the Middle East but you can’t take the Middle East out of the girl.  Last week we were in Japan roaming the Nishiki Market area in Kyoto, trying to decide on what to eat for dinner.  Suddenly, we stumbled upon the most fabulous sight, a schwarma stand!  Schwarma shops are on every corner in Kuwait, and were in a strong rotation of food we ate in the two years we were in the Middle East.  Hayden and I approached the Turkish worker with a happy “As-salam alaykom.” A huge smile spread across his face as he in returned the greeting to me in Arabic.  We exchanged quick chit-chat as I ordered and paid for my Schwarma, both clearly outsiders to the Japanese culture, enjoying a moment of connection with someone from the other side of the world.

img_9975Shukran Schwarma Man, Shukran.

I’m back….sort of

Well we have officially become those bloggers….you know the ones, the bloggers that disappear for months on end only to show up say sorry and drop a few pictures of their kid looking significantly older than the last time they blogged.  Yep, we are those people.  No promises that blogging will continue on the regular, but as I am currently laying in a hotel room in Japan waiting for my napping baby to wake up so we can go the the Bamboo Forest I found myself reading through our archives of blog posts and loving reading the record that we have created.  So this is my commitment to blog, at least every once and a while 😉 img_9866Here is the picture of said child looking significantly older in Japan at Fushimi Inari

Flying with a Two Month Old

We did it….we went to Thailand with a two month old and lived to tell the tale!

Before I jump into the details of our trip to Thailand over Christmas/New Years, I need to focus on something that scared my new Mommy heart way more than being in a foreign country with a two month old…flying on a plane for 6 hours with a two month old!

I was completely convinced that Hayden would spend all six flights (yes we planned our first vacation with our newborn to have six flights, rookie mistake!) screaming and keeping the entire plane awake the entire time.  We came prepared with 80 pairs of ear plugs to pass out to the poor souls who would be stuck on a plane with us.  We said many, many prayers to the airplane gods. We packed every rattle and toy Hayden has ever shown any interest in.  Mitch and I gave each other pep talks that “we can do this, even if it means standing in the bathroom for 6 hours.” Then we boarded the plane and our newborn did the one thing we were unprepared for: he peacefully slept the entire time.  During all six flights, he slept the entire time!

Hayden first flight

I love this little boy, even if I never, ever know what to expect out of him!

 

 

Where in the world….

We’ve played this game once before on the blog, and today we are going to play it again . . . our very own Might as Wellers’ version of Where in the World is Carmen San Diego!  In our version though, we are going to find out where in the world are Mitch and Rachel moving to next.  As we have mentioned here earlier this week, we are moving to Jeju Island, South Korea this fall, so I thought this would be a good time to take you on a little tour of Jeju compliments of Google Maps.

Let’s star with a wide angle shot of the world prior to zooming in to see where exactly Jeju is located.

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Now lets focus in on Asia . . .

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A bit closer into Asia . . .

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Now we are zoomed in on Far East Asia . . .

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Narrowed down to Korea, Japan, and just a sliver of China . . .

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Jeju Island is only about 100 km (60 miles) south of the mainland of South Korea.

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Starting to get a decent view of Jeju, Korea’s largest island at 45 miles east to west and 25 miles north to south.

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Jeju houses South Korea’s highest point: Hallasan, a volcano that reaches 6,400 feet high.

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The entire island of Jeju was created by volcanic eruptions about 2 million years ago, and currently has a population of over 600,000 people.

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We are pretty excited to “zoom in” closer and explore all that our little island home has to offer!

Now back to exploring our current Middle Eastern life for the next 4 months . . . .

We’re Moving to Korea!

As hard as it was for us to make the decision on what we should be doing in the next stage of our life, we made the decision that we are moving to Jeju Island, South Korea in the fall of 2016!

To be honest, prior to last year we didn’t even know Jeju existed.  We had a friend who left Kuwait last year and moved to Jeju, which opened our eyes to this awesome little island off the coast of South Korea.  In case you, like us, are just learning about Jeju, we are excited to teach you a few things about the island as we continue to learn and start exploring this fall.

Mitch and I were both offered positions at an excellent school on the island, and we just couldn’t turn down the opportunity to continue an international lifestyle and have a new corner of the world to travel around.  Like most international teaching positions, a two year contract is required, so we’ll be there at least until June of 2018.  We hope to explore far east Asia as much as possible, and can’t wait to watch Hayden grow up in this international life, where he’s able to learn new cultures and see parts of the world that most people in the United States never will.  We are already imagining his little toddler legs walking across the Great Wall of China, building sand castles on the beaches of the Philippine Islands, and riding the high speed trains across Japan.

The world is a big and wonderful place, we Might as Well explore it.

 

Decisions are Hard

Making decisions is hard.  Sometimes deciding what to make for dinner can be hard. On at least a weekly basis this conversation can be overheard in our home:

R: “What do you want for dinner?”

M: “I don’t care. What do you want for dinner?”

R: “I don’t know. Anything sound good to you?”

M: “Not really, just something quick and easy.”

R: “Ok, like what?”

M: “I don’t know”

This can potentially continue on for a ridiculous amount of time.  If it is that hard for us to decide what to eat, imagine us making a decision as big as what country should we live in next year.

Being a part of the international community means that every year a huge portion of our friends, and ourselves, are making the decision: stay for another year, move to another country, or go back home.  We signed a two year contract when we came to Kuwait, so we knew that this was the year of the big decision for us, and we struggled with that decision….for months!

We ended up discussing the pros and cons of each scenario, at extreme length, and what it boiled down to was each option was wonderful and terrible all at the same time.  Hear me out:

Staying in Kuwait: 

Pro: We have awesome friends here, and we know a bunch of wonderful nannies that we feel comfortable with that we could easily leave Hayden with next year.  Staying here would also be super easy (moving is a crap ton of work!) and travel options from the Middle East are wonderful!  You can take a quick trip and be in Europe, Africa, or Southeast Asia very easily.

Con: Our family doesn’t live here, it is brown…very brown, and we miss grass.  The driving is crazy (seriously, every time I put Hayden in the car I say a quick little prayer before we take off) and we spend far too much time commuting back-and-forth to work every day.  I would like that hour (minimum) of my life back each day.

Moving to a new Country:

Pro: New places to explore, great professional opportunities to grow our careers, better pay, and keep are awesome teacher schedule = more family time (summers off, three weeks off at Christmas, fall break, spring break, etc.)

Con: Our family doesn’t live there, fear of the unknown, and finding Hayden a nanny will be a bigger challenge

Going Home:

Pro: Our family lives there!

Con: Less pay, no more adventure for us, and Mitch would probably go back to his old career, which means working a lot more hours and cutting into our family time.  Life back home is also a lot busier (we like the slow pace of life that we have as expats).  Also, traveling abroad would go back to one trip a year.

Each option that we had would lead to so much happiness and yet, so much sadness all at the same time.  I love living overseas and I love the lifestyle my little family has.  We work, travel, and have fantastic time off to spend together, but all of that comes at a cost; unfortunately each decision does have a cost.  We stewed about our decision from the day we got back to Kuwait last August until the day we had to inform the school of our decision in December.

As hard as it was, we made a decision, one we are both happy with and extremely sad because of.

More info on what our next life plan is coming soon.

Beach Time in Portugal

Last June when we finished the school year, we started the long trek from Kuwait back to Minnesota.  The school books our flights to and from Kuwait each year, and they usually book all of our flights using Lufthansa Air.  Lufthansa has a sweet policy on layovers.  Here’s how it works: when you book a flight with Lufthansa you can extend your layovers for FREE.  Meaning that our flight path took us from Kuwait to Frankfurt before it took us back to the U.S. Using Lufthansa’s layover policy we were able to extend our stay in Europe for 6 days to soak up some time on the beaches of Portugal, before we headed home for our whirl wind of a summer.  IMG_7102We convinced six of our friends to join us on the Southern Coast of Portugal, in an area known as Algarve.  We rented a beach house with amazing views for dirt cheap.  Our vacation began once we landed in Lisbon, where we grabbed two rental cars and drove a few hours from the capital, down to the beach.
IMG_7103We very purposefully planned nothing to do on this vacation!  We just enjoyed the stunning views over the ocean, played cards, bar-b-qued, and stayed up late listening to music and laughing with friends.  
IMG_7146My words aren’t really going to be able to describe how beautiful this area was, so I’ll just let the pictures do the talking.

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IMG_7154 IMG_7155 IMG_7156 IMG_7157Friends + Sunshine + Exploring a New Country = a Fantastic Vacation  Thanks for the great time crew, I would travel with any of you, anywhere, anytime.

Doctoring in Kuwait

This summer when we were home, we had lots of questions about our life in Kuwait, and Mitch addressed answering quite a few of them back here in this post. One question that came up quite a bit while we were home was, “what is the medical care like in Kuwait?”   I thought I would take a few minutes to dig a bit deeper into that topic and discuss what my doctoring experience has been like through my pregnancy here in Kuwait.

Kuwait has a socialized medical program, meaning that all citizens and residents of Kuwait have health insurance coverage at the government run hospitals.  These hospitals leave quite a bit to be desired in terms of facilities.  The hospitals are a bit older, the waits are long, and the doctors seem completely swamped with patients.  The government hospitals make American hospitals seem like a vacation at a Sandals Resort.

Our school however also provides us with private health insurance, meaning that we can go to the government hospitals, but we are also covered to go to private hospitals.  Thus, we decided to attend the Royale Hayat to complete my pre-natal care and the delivery of our baby. The Royale Hayat  is the complete opposite of any government hospital.  The Royale Hayat is truly a luxury hospital like nothing I have ever seen!

When we walk into the front door of the hospital lobby, there is always a woman who welcomes us with calm music that she is playing on either a harp or a flute.  There is always at least 6 bell boys by the entrance opening the car doors of patients, as the valet drivers whisk away the car to the parking ramp.  There are always a few more standing in the reception area waiting to carry any bags for us, as another woman stands next to the elevator ready to push the elevator button for us.  The Royale Hayat is more luxurious than any hotel I have ever walked into and truly seems nothing like a hospital.  The facilities and customer service are simply spectacular!

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Main Lobby of the hospital.

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Bell Boy carts just waiting for the day when we show up with our luggage.

Not only are the facilities great but our doctor is great as well.  We chose a doctor based on some very glowing recommendations from friends who had given birth at the Royale Hayat.  Our doctor is a Kuwaiti woman who was medically trained in the United States, and is both U.S. and Canadian Board Certified.  She is thorough, efficient, and doesn’t sugar coat anything.  She answers all of my questions and quiets my worried first time Mommy brain.  She has earned my trust and I have full confidence that she is going to do everything in her power to help me have the delivery experience that I am hoping for.

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Even the ambulances are luxurious, a Mercedes!

We did do some doctoring when we were home this summer, and I noticed a few distinct differences in doctoring in Kuwait vs doctoring in Minnesota:

  •  In Kuwait we have an ultrasound at every appointment we walk into.  We became very used to seeing our little guy on a regular basis! The doctor measures the baby’s head, checks in on his organs, monitors his heartbeat, and takes a good, long, hard look at our little one.  When we went to doctor appointments in the U.S. the doctor measured my belly with a tape measure, and listened to his heart beat.  Needless to say, it felt quite a bit less exciting to go to our American appointments without an ultrasound each time!
  • In Kuwait, it is quite uncommon to see Dad’s going to doctor appointments with the Mom’s to be.  Often times Mitch and I are sitting in the waiting room where he is the only father present, with a dozen pregnant women sitting around waiting for the doctor.  I have to make a special request at each appointment for Mitch to be allowed to come back into the exam room with me.  In the U.S.  we saw numerous Dad’s at the appointments.
  • In Kuwait our doctor is a conservative, covered, Muslim woman.  She almost always speaks exclusively to me.  She does not engage in conversation with Mitch unless it is completely necessary.  If he has a question, I am kind of like the translator between him and the doctor.  In our experiences, it is quite rare for a Muslim person to engage in conversation with someone of the opposite sex, unless they are a member of their family or it’s necessary for doing business.  At our doctor’s appointments in the U.S. the doctor got Mitch very involved during the appointment.  She would call him over to the exam table and have him feel the position that the baby was in, and even taught him a few things he can do to help relieve any back pain I would experience.
  • In Kuwait, we pay nothing for our medical coverage or medications.  In the U.S. we had to pay for everything, our international health insurance plan only covers  emergency care when we are back in the United States, however; even if I was still living and working in the U.S.  I would have had a co-pay at each visit, plus be paying 20% out of pocket to have a baby.

Woah…if you have made it this far in this lengthly post pat yourself on the back.  If you still have questions about our doctoring experience, we also received these questions last summer:

Are you scared to have a baby in Kuwait? 

Ummm, yes!  But not for the reason you are thinking.  I am completely confident in having our child in Kuwait.  I trust our doctor and all of the other medical personnel, but having a baby when I have never done this before is scary, and I would be scared if I was giving birth in the United States, Bangledesh, Noway, Kenya, Japan or Kuwait.

Was your pregnancy planned?

This was quite a personal question that we received more times than I felt comfortable with, but I will answer it.  Mitch and I have always known we wanted to be parents.  We did however feel like we had to arrive in Kuwait and see what the medical care was like prior to making the decision that we were going to try and have a baby.  Once we got to Kuwait, we realized that I would have significantly better maternity leave here in Kuwait, than I would in the U.S. When we realized that the medical care is fantastic, we knew it was the perfect time to start our family. So yes, it was a planned pregnancy.

You are so brave! Aren’t you scared your baby is going to die because you are having him in the Middle East?

Seriously, who asks this question of a pregnant lady???  I sure hope not!   Also, I would like to point out that Jesus was born in the Middle East and he turned out to be a pretty decent guy!  😉

Only a couple of weeks left until we get to lay our hands on our little guy for the first time.  We are beyond excited and happy that our medical experience during this pregnancy has been so wonderful!