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.

 

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Mitch’s Monday Happy Hour – February 8

Hey Everyone,

Welcome to this week’s edition of Mitch’s Monday Happy Hour!  Here’s what I would share if we were meeting for Happy Hour this week:

Hayden is 4 Months Old!

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  • It’s hard for us to believe, but lil’ Hayden turned 4 months old this week!  It blows our minds how fast the time has gone by, but it also kind of feels like he’s been around for a lot longer than that too.  The lil’ dude tugs at our heart strings on a daily basis and has brought so much joy and love to our family, that words can’t even begin to describe it.  It’s probably a bit hard to tell from this family selfie we took, but at his last doctor’s appointment, his head size was in the 75th percentile, his weight was in the 97th percentile, and his length was off the charts!  This lil’ HUGE guy is getting so big, and our Pediatrician calls him Hercules.  Hopefully he’ll make his parents a lot of money in the NFL someday!

 

Mosque in a Roundabout

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  • The other day I was driving in an unfamiliar part of downtown Kuwait City, when I came across something very interesting . . . . a mosque in a roundabout!  It was dark out (sorry for the crappy picture) and I was just following along with the Google Map on my iPhone, and knew that I had to turn at the next roundabout.  However when I looked up, there was a beautiful mosque that looked like it was in the middle of the road!  There are so many elegant mosques here with mesmerizing architecture, but this one really caught my attention since it was in the middle of a roundabout.  During our tour of Kuwait’s Grand Mosque, I remember our guide telling us that once a mosque is built, it can’t ever be torn down.  They can remodel and upgrade it, but it can never be destroyed or removed.  Which made me think . . . . . . was this particular mosque built before the roads, and so the engineers had to divert the traffic around it . . . . . hmmmmmmmm, not sure!

I did a bit more research on it (like 5 seconds on Google) and found out that it is called the Murgab Mosque at Al-Shamlan Roundabout.  Here is better photo of it thanks to http://www.dreamstime.com:

dreamstime mosque

Photo courtesy of http://www.dreamstime.com

Someone Found a Land Mine in Kuwait

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  • I love reading the local newspaper, the Kuwait Times, because you never know what you’re going to find.  Speaking of finding something, apparently people are still finding land mines from the Iraqi invasion 25 years ago in the desert outside of Kuwait City!

 

Whoaa Truck

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  • I was driving the other day and got stuck behind this guy.  It might be hard to tell from the photo, but the truck was leaning BIG time to the left.  At the next intersection, he took a sharp right turn, and I just stopped in traffic, waiting for the entire rig to flip over on it’s side!  Luckily it didn’t, but I swear his tires were off the ground.

Make Yourself Proud

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By: Unknown

  • I stumbled across this quote online a few months ago, and for some reason it just hit home with me.  So much so that I took a screen shot of it and saved it on my iPhone.  I kind of forgot about it until I was looking at old photos the other day, and it brought a smile to my face again!  I was asking myself the same questions two years ago, when we were debating on if we should move overseas to the Middle East.  (for the record though, I never dieted, cried, or hated myself, I just questioned and wondered if we would regret it)  I finally got to a point though where I just said, “we only have one shot at life, let’s live it up!”  So I leave you today to ponder the question, Are you making yourself proud?  If not, remember . . . . you only have one life, spend it well, go out and live!  Make yourself proud!!

Adios for now everyone!  Come back again on Wednesday though to see what decision we chose from our previous post.  Are we going to stay in Kuwait, go back to the United States, or move to another country?  See ya then!

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.

Excuse Me United Airlines, I Think That’s My Bag!

When I travel, I usually always carry-on one pack, my Eagle River pack.  I always fill it with my technology, any important documents, and a couple changes of clothes (just in case the airline loses my checked baggage).

However last June when we were flying back to the United States for the summer, I decided to just check my carry-on bag for the last leg from Newark, New Jersey to Minneapolis, Minnesota, because I was sick of carrying it around. We were able to squeeze all of our important items into Rachel’s carry on and stuff my carry on with all of the clothes.  As soon as we boarded the United Airlines plane, I quickly ordered a cold beer!  As you probably know by now, Kuwait is a dry country, so I was super pumped to have one!

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As I was enjoying my beer, I was watching a couple of Baggage Handlers loading luggage onto the plane next us.  I was watching as they would monotonously grab a bag, scan the tag, then chuck it on the conveyor belt, and watch it disappear into the belly of the plane.  I was enjoying the entertainment, when I noticed something different in the pattern.  They scanned a bag, looked at, then set it on the fender of the conveyor machine.  I was starring at the bag, when all of a sudden I realized, THAT’S MY BAG!

The Baggage Handlers finished loading the plane, and just walked away.  In the meantime, the final passengers were boarding our flight, and we were about to leave in any minute!

I immediately pressed the Flight Attendant call button . . . .

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Me: “Excuse me ma’m, I’m sorry to bother you, but one of my bags is on the conveyor machine by the plane next to us.”

Flight Attendant: (Looking out the window) “Are you sure?”

Me: “I am 99% sure!  I have a very distinct bag.  Could you have somebody check?  I would hate to leave my bag in New Jersey.”

Flight Attendant: “Ok, ok, I’ll have someone check.”

*In the meantime, the two baggage handlers are hiding under the terminal, with their faces buried in their phones.  All of the passengers are now loaded onto our flight, they are about to close the door!  Then the United Airlines Gate Agent comes onto our flight and comes over to me.

Gate Agent: “Sir, is there a problem?”

Me: “Yes, one of my bags is sitting on that conveyor machine, on the wrong plane.”

Gate Agent: (With a look of disbelief on his face) Oooooook, I’ll look into it.”

He leaves the plane, and I can now see him out my window walking towards my bag.  I’m a bit nervous at this point and my fingers are crossed that it IS my bag, because I’d hate to cause a big deal over nothing!

Then I see him check the tag, grab it, and walk towards our plane. It indeed WAS my bag!

In the meantime, the two baggage handlers are still hiding under the terminal, with their faces buried in their phones.  They think they are hiding, but I can clearly see them.

Moments later the Flight Attendant walks back over to me:

Flight Attendant: “Sir, thank you for letting me know about your bag.  The baggage handlers were just about to put it on our plane.”

Me: “Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight!” “Thank you for your help!.”

Seriously, about 1 minute later the door to our plane closes, and they start to push our plane back from the gate.

So my advice to you: Always look out the windows once you are seated on your plane.  You never know if you’ll see your luggage being loaded onto the WRONG flight!

Mitch’s Monday Happy Hour – February 1

What’s up everyone!  Welcome back to our (*hopefully) weekly Mitch’s Monday Happy Hour post where we can catch up on what’s going on in our lives, and any unique things I encounter in Kuwait that I think you might find interesting.  So here goes, February 1st . . . . .

My Sister is Coming to Kuwait!

  • We are so excited to welcome my sister to Kuwait next month!  She’s coming for 10 days and we can’t wait to show her around and give her some insight to our lives from the last 2 years!  We plan on hitting up some of the places that we’ve talked about here on the blog, and also hopefully taking a quick trip to Dubai.  She’s never been to the Middle East before, so we are looking forward to showing her all the cool things that it offers, and how safe it is!!!  We still have openings here at Hotel de Johnson if anyone is interested in a vacation to Kuwait this year!

My First Kuwaiti Beer

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  • I bought my first Kuwaiti beer the other day!  No, it’s not what you think . . . . . . they did not legalize alcohol here, it’s a non-alcoholic one!  Rachel was preparing dinner the other day in the crockpot and realized the recipe called for a beer.  So I ran to the little bakala (corner grocery store) to grab one.  I took a small taste and it wasn’t good!  I guess I’ll be waiting until our next vacation out of Kuwait for my next beer.

I Nailed Dinner Last Weekend

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  • I’ll admit it, I do not do a lot of the cooking around here!  Partly because I’m terrible at it and it stresses me out, but also because Rachel is awesome at it!  She researches new recipes, does the meal planning, grocery shopping and viola, a delicious meal is on the table!  However, I took over dinner the other night, and totally nailed it!  I saw one of those dumb 30 second movie clips on Facebook where they magically whip together a meal, and decided to give one a try.  I made salmon, asparagus, and potatoes and it was fantastic!  *When I told Rachel I was going to put this on the Happy Hour post, her reply, “what, you make dinner one time and you’re going to talk about it on the blog!?!?  YES, I am.

Brrrrrrrrrr, It’s Freezing Here!

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  • Most of you probably saw my post about the Snow in Kuwait from last week, but all winter has been super chilly compared to last year.  This weekend at around 4am, the temperatures officially got down to the freezing point (32 degrees Fahrenheit or 0 degrees Celsius)!  They even cancelled baseball games over the weekend due to the “extreme cold weather” (windchill of 32 degrees Fahrenheit)

Funny Photo of the Week

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  • I pulled up to a red light the other day, and noticed the guy in front of me hand wrote the brand “Daihatsu” on his tailgate.  I’m not sure if the truck was actually a Daihatsu or if he just wished it was, but regardless . . . . . he found a black marker somewhere and tried his best to make it look legit.  Kudos to you my friend for the valiant effort!

That’s all for this week folks, I look forward to seeing you again next Monday!

It Snowed in Kuwait Today!

Today, January 28th, it snowed in Kuwait!

Who would of thought, that when we decided to move to the Middle East, that we would get snow here!  We both envisioned an arid climate with cool but pleasant days during the winter.  However this winter, we have had a lot of cold days, but today’s the first that it has snowed in Kuwait!  Apparently, it’s the first time that the country has EVER received snow!

**I should probably clarify, we didn’t actually see it, because it snowed in the desert, outside of the city.

Here are a few pics that were shared on our favorite blog in Kuwait, www.248am.com:

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Photo courtesy of: http://www.248am.com

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Photo courtesy of: http://www.248am.com

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Photo courtesy of: http://www.248am.com

The snow was reported in the southwest corner of Kuwait, in an area called Al Salmi, near the Kuwait-Saudi Arabian border.

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Map courtesy of Google.com

We didn’t get snow here in the city, but brrrrrrrr was it cold out today!  When I checked the temperature at mid-day, it was 48 degrees Fahrenheit (8 degrees Celsius) with a windchill of 41 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius)!

Hopefully Spring, and the perfect temperatures that come with it, are just around the corner!  But not the summer temperatures, because those are just too freaking hot!

We’re Baaaaaaack!

Greetings Friends, Family, Followers, and Visitors!

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It’s been 3 months since we’ve blogged, and we have so much to catch up on!  The last time we posted, we had a 2 week old newborn son, Rachel was on maternity leave, and I was home on paternity leave.  Fast forward to now . . . . . . Hayden is 3.5 months old, Rachel is back to work, I’ve started a new job, and we have some exciting family news to share!!! (more on that later!)

We gave up blogging for awhile to focus on spending as much time as possible as a family.   We knew that we wanted to devote all of our free time to caring for Hayden, (and taking naps!) but now we’ve slowly developed a routine, and have a bit more free time to post every once in awhile.

Previously, we tried posting 3 times a week, however our new goal is now twice a week.  Next Monday, our weekly Happy Hour posts return (woohoo!) and we’re going to try and do one other post each week . . . . . . inshalla!

We loved receiving all of the emails asking, “where are you guys, is everything ok?”  We are totally fantastic, and life is incredibly awesome right now!  We have a beautiful-happy-healthy-smiley son, we just returned from a 23 day vacation in Thailand, and have another incredible/exciting opportunity heading our way in August!

Well everyone, we’re here . . . . . . . . . . . . . we’re baaaaaaack!

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.

Mitch’s Monday Happy Hour – October 19

After a brief break from our weekly Happy Hour posts, I am back!  It was tough to come up with a list of topics for this week, because basically all we have done is cuddled our new son Hayden.  Today he is officially two weeks old, and still perfect (in our eyes)!

Hayden is 2 Weeks Old Today!

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Some of my favorite pictures of Hayden thus far.

  • We’ve been adjusting to life as parents, and couldn’t possibly love it more!  We feel so blessed to have such a happy & healthy little boy, who brings so much joy to our lives.  Sure, sometimes changing poopy diapers at 3am isn’t much fun, but when he snuggles in and falls asleep in your arms, it makes it all worth it!  He eats, he sleeps, and he poops, so he is a perfect newborn baby!

Our New Sleep Schedule

sleep

All snuggled in!

  • As all new parents know, living with a newborn baby leads to many sleepless nights.  The first couple of nights we would just stare at him while he slept, periodically checking his pulse to make sure he was still alive.  The night before my birthday he gave me the best present ever, he slept for 7 hours straight!  We didn’t sleep for 7 hours straight that night though, we were still up every half an hour checking his pulse.  Since then he’s been a little rock star when it comes to sleeping!  He loves his crib and must have inherited his love for sleep from his mother.

Maternity & Paternity Leave

  • We are pretty fortunate that our lives in Kuwait provide us with time off to spend at home with Hayden.  By Kuwaiti law, Rachel is able to  take 70 days off of work, with full pay!  Her maternity leave will run until December, when we get another 3 weeks off of work, so technically she is off until after our holiday break in January!  Kuwait doesn’t have a law granting fathers any paternity time, however my position is very flexible and my employer has been supportive of my desire to stay home and help care for Rachel and Hayden.

Now That We Have A Baby, Is It Time For A Minivan?

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Durango looking all tough with the jack on the back . . . .

  • When guys find out their wives are pregnant, one of the first things that goes through their mind is, “oh crap, we better not be buying a minivan, because I refuse to drive one!”  Well, we aren’t buying a minivan (yet) but our Durango did lose a bit of its masculinity today and is one step closer to looking like a minivan.  Today I decided to take the big ass jack off the back!  The jack is so heavy on the backdoor, that someone has to hold it open to load the stroller in.  When you are trying to load a baby, bags, a stroller, a wife, and everything else, there was just too much going on to have two adults load a stroller. So, I swallowed my man pride and took it off.
Durango no jack

No more jack . . . .

Canadian Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving

Thanks to our friends at www.thepearlcurriculum.blogspot.ae for organizing the potluck, and for this great photo.

  • Last Monday was Thanksgiving in Canada.  We have a lot of awesome friends here from Canada, so we were invited to celebrate with them at a potluck dinner!  There was about 30 people there, and it was so nice getting everyone together and giving thanks for such great friends.  On Thursday, November 26th, we’ll celebrate the “real” thanksgiving with our American friends! 🙂

Hilton Resort Walking Paths

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2 weeks old, and has already been to the ocean multiple times.

  • One of the reasons we got a membership at the Hilton Resort this year, was because of their awesome paved walking paths throughout the property.  We were excited that we could spend all winter outside going for family walks and getting Hayden outdoors.  We’ve been a couple of times already since he’s been born, and we just love it!  One loop is about 3-4 kilometers, so its the perfect distance for a short walk, or you can do the loop multiple times for a decent one.