summer has not been what I expected. I’d planned to go home for three weeks to
get a branchial cyst removed, catch up with family and friends, then come back
to my husband for a trip to Armenia and Georgia. But one week after my surgery,
I went for my post-op, and heard a word I wasn’t prepared for: cancer.
of my time in Florida was spent in doctors’ offices. Luke had to hear the news
over Skype. My sister and mother cried, and Dad went quiet. Even with a good
prognosis (thyroid cancer is one of the most curable cancers), that C-word rattled
After hastily canceling our trip to the Caucasus region and returning to Bucharest, I’ve had a lot of time to think. What’s my purpose in life? Do I believe in a higher power? Should I stay abroad or move back home?
Almost two weeks ago, Anthony Bourdain took his life, and the news has formed deep wounds within the international community.
“He was our guide, our teacher,” says longtime expat Erin Connolly. “International teachers live uniquely transient lives; it was comforting to know that we could always turn to Anthony Bourdain to give us insight into the strange new places we were diving into.”
Connolly and her husband, Chris Powers, moved from Beijing to Romania two years ago, where they currently work at the American International School of Bucharest (AISB). “Anthony Bourdain was the person we turned to every time we visited [or moved to] a new country,” says Connolly. “Book a trip, watch Bourdain. He showed me not only how and where to eat, but how to be a thoughtful, sensitive, and productive traveler.”
Before I moved to Romania, I had never heard of Veliko Târnovo. And to be honest, I probably wouldn’t have been able to point to Bulgaria on a map.
Even though Eastern Europe is quickly becoming a popular tourist destination, Bulgaria (and Romania) is often skipped over, in favor of Hungary or the Czech Republic. I’m personally pretty happy about this fact, as it means my husband and I get to explore abandoned castles and fortified churches without waiting in lines, and are able to have picturesque medieval cities like Veliko Târnovo pretty much to ourselves.
Since Veliko is only a 3-hour drive from Bucharest, Luke and I just went for the weekend, staying Saturday night and coming back Sunday. It was enough time to soak in some of the town’s history and charm, but I would’ve liked another day or two. We’ll be back.
In the meantime, here’s a look at what we did, where we stayed and, of course, where we ate. Continue reading →
“Hot air ballooning in Cappadocia, Turkey” has long been at the top of my bucket list. I’d imagined gliding over the moon-like landscape at sunrise, taking in scenes of fairy chimneys and rose-colored valleys, then returning to my hotel room, built into the side of a cave.
It was a scene I had dreamt about so many times that when my husband and I booked the trip, I was scared the real thing wouldn’t live up to my enormous expectations. Spoiler alert: It did.
Here’s a look at our three days in Anatolian paradise, with some tips along the way. Continue reading →
Today I received a Facebook message from my friend Austin, who paid me the best compliment: “You’ve inspired me to move abroad.”
He’s heading to Costa Rica, with plans of running an online business, while learning Spanish, hitting some waves, and hopefully meeting a girl. In his words, he’s searching for “pura vida,” or “pure life.”
His message reminded me of something I wrote myself eight years ago, just before moving to South Korea. I was full of excitement and optimism and would spend hours scrolling though images of temples, reading about weekend trips from Seoul, and daydreaming about what my life would be like. I emailed everyone I knew who had spent time abroad to hear their stories.
But Austin included something in his note that I wish I had: he asked for advice, for insight. I thought about what I was going to say for awhile, and figured I’d share my reply with all of you. So, here goes: Continue reading →
Why the hell would anyone want to go to North Korea? This is a question my parents posed, and even my students, as I told them my husband and I were heading to its capital to participate in the annual marathon.
The short answer: curiosity. While living in Seoul, I had the opportunity to listen to stories from several North Korean refugees. How they escaped through China, how they left behind loved ones, and how they lived in a constant state of fear. I remember feeling completely ignorant, as I knew nothing about the country other than the fact they harbored nuclear warheads.
Who does a “year in review” post in the middle of February? Apparently I do. And I’m not going to apologize for it, because one of my New Year’s resolutions is to stop feeling so guilty for things I shouldn’t feel guilty about. Plus, this is my blog and I can do what I want.
2016 was a crazy year, end of story. Future generations will look back on 2016 and think, Geez, I’m so glad I didn’t live through that year! (Ok, they probably won’t say the word “geez.” In fact, I’m not even sure why I’m saying it now, in 2017.)
I like blaming my 30’s for a lot of things: the fine lines appearing under my eyes, the two-day hangovers, and the inability to lose weight the way I did in my 20’s. And while I don’t have too much control over the first problem (let’s be honest, eye cream is just overpriced moisturizer), I can drink less (well, sometimes) and I can definitely make healthier eating choices during the holidays.
The idea of cookie exchanges has made its way to Shanghai, and so has Thanksgiving. For my day job, I’ve had to write listicles about turkey delivery services and where to go for the best cup of hot chocolate in the city. I’m also a food critic on the side, and it’s literally my job to eat fattening food. So I cut corners when I can.
Winter has arrived in Shanghai, and even while I’m typing this (indoors), I’m wearing a scarf and fuzzy slippers. So naturally, I’m thinking of warmer places and warmer times, like this summer. For six weeks, Luke and I traveled around Croatia, Italy and Slovenia, eating pizza, lots of gelato, and kicking back in the beautiful nature that surrounded us.
We started our adventure in Croatia, deciding to cruise around the islands with Sail Croatia. I was actually hesitant to do something like this, as I hate organized group tours. Also, I had read reviews online about 30 and 40-somethings having to deal with all night parties and waking up to piles of puke outside their cabin doors. Continue reading →
When I was little, my favorite movie was “Big Bird Goes to China.” I must have watched it several dozen times, because I can still recite a song the giant yellow bird sings about learning Chinese. Serious props to my parents for dealing with that.
I loved the movie not only because of my obsession with Sesame Street, but because of the curiosity it evoked. Everything seemed so foreign, so different. I couldn’t believe that those landscapes, the buildings and the people belonged to the same planet where I lived. And, like most children, I dreamt about digging a tunnel and winding up on the Great Wall of China.