Expat Life

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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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.

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!

How to Pack When You’re Moving Overseas

We have officially done the big trek from Minnesota to Kuwait two summers in a row.  Last summer we needed to move all the necessities that Mitch and I needed, and this summer we moved all the necessities that Baby J is going to need.  Since the apartment we moved into was fully furnished, we were able to move with just the luggage we brought with us on the airplane. All of our other belongings were either stored or sold before we left.  We did quite a bit of brainstorming about the best way to get our things to the other side of the world and landed on using the same system two summers in a row, and it worked fantastically!

Last summer we moved to Kuwait with 6 checked bags and 2 carry ons.  We only owned our carry on backpacks (that we love!), and one large suitcase a piece.  That left us thinking, we need to purchase another 4 large suitcases!  That idea seemed crazy, when else would we ever need that many suitcases? And the cost of purchasing them was just too much for us to swallow.  Enter in the perfect solution: Home Depot storage totes!

We were able to purchase these HDX 27-gallon storage totes for $8.99 a piece, and they are the exact maximum measurements that our airline would allow.  Not only was the price right on these totes, but they also have locking lids, hold a ton of stuff, and are super heavy duty!

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Now those of you who know Mitch, know that he is Captain Safety and would definitely not just throw our belongings into a tote without securing them.  One of the benefits of these totes, is that they have holes around the edges, so that you can lock the lid on with a zip tie.

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Mitch did some research to verify that TSA allows passengers to secure their luggage with zip ties.  However, if they have to inspect them, they could and would just cut them off.  So just in case, Mitch taped this note with extra zip ties to the inside lid of each tote, so that the TSA Agent would re-secure our tote, before sending it on its way:

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So far we have crossed the Atlantic twice using this packing method and all of our totes and belongings have made it safe and sound to our desert home, without TSA cutting any of our zip ties off of our luggage.

packing Another benefit of traveling with plastic totes: we can use them here in Kuwait to store Baby J’s clothes that he won’t be able to fit into for quite a while, or other junk that we don’t use often.  The totes stack up nicely and store easily.

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If you are interested in purchasing the same totes that we’ve used, you can find them at any Home Depot store or online here.

We’re Baaaaaaaack!

Greetings Everyone!

After a nice long and relaxing summer, Rachel and I have made it back to Kuwait for another school year!  We arrived in Kuwait about a week ago, and have been busy trying to get all settled in.  We’ve been working every day to prep for the upcoming school year, getting settled into our new apartment, fighting jet lag, and anxiously awaiting the arrival for our new baby!

Rachel has been feeling great, and is currently 35 weeks pregnant.  Our due date is on October 10th (my birthday!!!) but we know that the baby could realistically come at any moment.  We’ve had a couple of doctor visits since we have been back, and both Baby J and mom are doing awesome. We can’t wait to meet the little fella and to share the news with everyone soon!

Neither of us have blogged in nearly 3 months!  So we apologize to everyone who kept checking our blog for updates, and were disappointed to see the “dumb turtle post” again!  We spent our summer back in the United States visiting with friends and family.  We had intentions to post once in awhile about what were up to over the summer, however things got busy and it slowly slipped our mind.

It was great seeing people over the summer and hearing all of the comments like, “we love your blog!”  It truly makes it all worth it when we receive such kind compliments.  Without a doubt, “Mitch’s Monday Happy Hour” posts were the overwhelming favorites! So I’m excited to announce that our first Happy Hour together will be next Monday, September 14th.  Stay tuned for some good ones!

Coming to Kuwait was so much easier this time than last year, for a couple of reasons:

1. We were so excited to see all of our friends we’ve met in Kuwait, who we missed dearly over the summer.

2. We knew that coming back to Kuwait meant it was getting much closer to baby time (just about 5 weeks to go before our little guy arrives).

3. We knew what to expect and what we were getting ourselves into.  The fear of the unknown was completely gone and we were trilled to return to our home away from home.

Our jet lag has pretty much settled down and we are ready to get back to our regularly scheduled blogging.  Not only has blogging being a great way to keep our families and friends in the loop about what is going on in our lives but it has also turned into a journal for us and a way for us to look back and remember things that we would have already forgotten about.  Last year we were able to churn out about 3 posts a week, but with a new person entering our family, we are not sure how that will affect our blogging schedule. So we hope you have low expectations for us as we get used to our new roles in life as Mom and Dad!