Friday, December 14, 2012

iPhone screen protector fail

So, after my screen protector started peeling off my phone and looking raggedy Nicholas kept pleading with me to take care of it; to buy a new screen protector and replace it before I scratched my phone.

Like a good wife, I allowed a week or so to pass before I acted on the advice of my husband. I finally made it to a Best Buy today to pick one up. Holy geez, those things are pricey! Mine was around $22 with tax but claims it is military grade, whatever that means, and it has a lifetime guarantee... Well, at least there is that.

Once I got back home and went to work to prep my phone for the new "shield", it appeared that I did damage my screen. There were a few little bubbles... hmm. That looked more like what happens when you put on a screen protector. Wait a minute...
Notice the little bubbles in the bottom corner... yep. Screen protected. 
After doing a quick exam of my phone, it turns out that I had placed a screen protector over my screen protector. Safety first!

In Korea, when you go into a cell store, if your phone looks like it needs a new protector, it is just one of the services they will offer while you talk to them about whatever you came for. It is like an art there. Truly. One of the guys works on it for several long minutes and when he finishes, you can hardly tell the protector is actually on- it is that good. Looks like I had mine replaced the last time I was in one of the stores in Korea and didn't notice!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Celebrating 3 years of Travel,.. I mean Marriage

"Song of the Open Road" 

Allons! the road is before us! 
It is safe--I have tried it--my own feet have tried it well--be not detain'd! 
Let the paper remain on the desk unwritten, and the book on the 
shelf unopen'd! 
Let the tools remain in the workshop! let the money remain unearn'd! 
Let the school stand! mind not the cry of the teacher! 
Let the preacher preach in his pulpit! let the lawyer plead in the 
court, and the judge expound the law. 

Camerado, I give you my hand! 
I give you my love more precious than money, 
I give you myself before preaching or law; 
Will you give me yourself? will you come travel with me? 
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live? 

by Walt Whitman 

Today marks our third anniversary. Unfortunately, Nicholas is in Korea and I am in the US, so we celebrated early in Mexico City and NYC. Of course we did. You are not surprised.

After three years, we have done a whirlwind tour of the world. Our first day of our first year of marriage started out on a plane to our new home in Switzerland. That year we traveled to France several times, Nicholas went to South Africa, we traveled to Spain and ended the year, exactly to the day on a plane back to the US.

Our second year of marriage, we started off in the US then quickly packed and sold our belongings to move back to Switzerland. That year, I came back to the US for a quick tour, then we traveled to the Middle East. We enjoyed Dubai and Abu Dhabi. We did many trips around Europe to see friends, including Belgium, the Netherlands, England, Austria and Italy. We ended the year with a new contract to move to Asia.

Our third year of marriage included a trip to the US, a quick vacation down in the caribbean for Nicholas, and our long flight to our new home in Korea. Nicholas made a visit to Japan, then was off to Dubai, Turkey and Germany for work. I headed back to the US for work and we met up in Brazil. We then headed back to Asia for a couple of weeks before we flew back west to stay in Mexico for two months. After a quick trip to the US, Nicholas flew back to Korea yesterday and I flew to visit my family.

With our track record, I have no idea where year 4 will take us but it seems likely to be an adventure.

I feel incredibly blessed with the chance to travel and live in new countries and learn new languages, customs and cultures. I feel even more blessed to do so with my best friend.

"I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train." Oscar Wilde

I believe

Monday, December 10, 2012

Stealing Wall Space

Between the ad & the Banorte sign: two women on sofa. 
On our walk home on Saturday night, we saw a movie playing on the side of a building. There was no sound, but when we turned to see where the film was coming from, it appeared to be someone's apartment! How cool to project out onto a white wall across from your building- love!

Snowing in...Mexico City?

Saturday late afternoon, Nicholas and I went to the movies in Polanco to see Argo. (Great film, go see it.) When we left the theater and walked out into the ritzy, open shopping plaza I thought my eyes were playing a trick on me. I swear I saw snow swirling in the darkening night sky... how the heck?
I was so stunned I could barely get the question out, "Nicholas, is it...snowing?!"
I lifted my head to the snow, just as I would in Cleveland growing up, to let the flakes fall on my face. Could this be happening? I was wearing gold sandals and a light sweater...
Christmas music was playing and kids were running around trying to grab the flakes. Turns out, we were just a part of the show. Even in a country with such a mild climate, the fancy Polanco mall was able to produce some snow for their guests. I have to say, it was kind of cool, but these kids have no idea what playing in snow is like. The red numbness of your fingers from the cold; the cold sting of the snow smacking you in the face, back, arm, wherever your brother takes aim; the not-just-nice-idea of a hot cocoa, but the necessity of one after playing all day in the snow.

*Edited to reflect the perspective that my comment about the economic position of the country was not correct. It is in fact the world's 14th economy, is rich in natural resources and home to the world's richest man. I should have referred to the income disparity and not speaking in simple terms. My apologies to anyone I may have offended. 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Saturday Bazaar

Nicholas and I had a great time strolling through the Saturday Bazaar at Plaza San Jacinto this morning. The weather was perfect and we were able to pick up a few small treats to bring back to wherever we are going next. I cannot wait to hand a couple of the items out! :)
We got to eat delicious taco/quesadillas with tortillas handmade in front of us. Yum!
Perfect start to our last day here!

Sushi in DF

I met up with Nicholas on Wednesday to have dinner near his office. We went to a great Japanese place called KOI. The food was tasty and had a bit of a Mexican twist on it.
The soy sauce had jalapenos and green onions in it and went perfectly with the edamame. They did a twist on tempura shrimp with a chipotle mayonaise type sauce. The TNT Roll, below, was really interesting. They plated the roll on top of a swirl of caramel and it somehow worked: the salty, sweet, and spicy flavors.
Obviously, the best part for me was to be with Nicholas.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Goodbye Game Night

Last Saturday night, our friends welcomed us into their recently moved-into apartment. This couple had recently relocated from Hong Kong and Dubai, respectively, so they were awaiting their shipment from Asia. We assured them that we not only did not mind that they only had a couple chairs and a card table to both eat dinner and then play games on but we also completely understood as we have had our fair share of waiting for overseas shipments.

We spent the evening eating pizza, drinking wine and playing our favorite card games. I have now successfully spread Pinnochle to Korea and Mexico :) Nicholas and I also learned a new game called Mao, which would have been more fun if it weren't so late, I had been drinking coffee instead of wine and there weren't sooo many rules! Despite all of the ifs, it is definitely one that I will share.

We had such a great time and before we knew it, it was 2am and Nicholas had to be up for a 9am meeting (Yep, on Sunday...). We had to say our goodbyes since they were off to New Orleans for the week and we will be gone before they get back. I have a feeling we will see them sooner than later, they get married in the summer in the US- so if we have plans to be in this part of the world, we surely won't miss it!

"You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place. Like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way ever again." Azar Nafisi

Goodbye Brunch

This morning, I met one of my friends for a goodbye brunch. Her husband attended IMD the year after Nicholas and we had an immediate bond. She is a patient woman who kindly deals with my poor Spanish and we share so many stories that bond us. I feel so close from our experience at IMD with our husbands (and her child) and now we have very similar lives. Moving around the world, having friends in every major, and minor, city around the world. Our Whatsapp contact lists reach to places we dream of going someday.

I cannot explain the instant connection that we had and the way we just understand each other, even when it is hard to understand the language we speak to each other :) From our love of coffee, delicious food and appreciating new and interesting world views, she may be a new friend but most definitely she is an alma gemela.

She gave me a gift when we departed of great Mexican candies, salsa and other essentials that I would be sure to miss and not be able to find in Asia and beyond. We promised that we would be in touch, but hopefully we would meet again in some other corner of the world because as we both know, one thing is for sure: You just never know where life will take you!

Next adventure

Big dreams, superlatives and endless optimism rule my life. Now I am about to embark on a new adventure and couldn't be happier.

I did stir the world by writing the last post and an hour after I thought I posted it, I received confirmation for a project in the US. So alas, Nicholas and I will go our separate ways physically next week but we are on the same page about our bigger-picture directions. Life has a funny way of keeping you on your toes and responding to your dreams. And... go!

Mexico trip coming to an end...

*This was written at the beginning of the week and I forgot to post*

I have enjoyed spending time in Mexico, using my Spanish and making new friends in a beautiful part of Mexico City. Now, I am patiently waiting to find out where I go next. I have a return ticket Saturday to Seoul, but I am not certain I will be on that flight. I could be heading to NYC or DC. I thought I would know by now, but I do not and I am a little anxious. If I head to the US, it will be for work and I will spend a few months there. If not, I will head back to our home in South Korea. Either way is fine, I just want to know. If I stay, Nicholas and I will be apart for 3 months. If I return, I will not be working on a project that I am passionate about.

Pros and cons aplenty. I consider myself quite flexible and spontaneous, but I also need a little time - a few days- to prepare myself for whatever is next. If I do not hear back today, I think I am going to go crazy. I am trying to concentrate on some other work, research and studying, but my mind keeps wandering. I hope that when I post this, I will stir the world into making a decision.

At this point, I am happy to at least be leaving hotel living, at least for a while, and look forward to cooking some delicious, healthy meals, and *gasp* doing our own laundry. I never thought I would say that, but Nicholas and I are quite particular about our clothes. I will miss having someone else make our bed and clean our bathroom, though :)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

How to live out of a suitcase so you can travel the world

I just love this quote and felt like I had something to say more than just posting it up. We have been living out of our suitcase for the better part of this year. All of February we were on the road, March we lived out of a hotel, April we moved into our apartment but did not have our things until the end of the month. Nicholas traveled in May for a couple of weeks and then we finally were living like normal for the next 2 months. By mid-August, I was packing my bags again, to head on the road for work and for a wedding. September was all travel in US and Brazil. October, I had two weeks at home before we packed up again to live out of another hotel for two more months.

When people see the bags we travel with, they always assume that the rest of our bags got lost on the way. Most are shocked when they find out that we really do travel that light. You would be surprised how little you really need to survive and be happy.

I love clothes and fashion and shoes. However, with our lifestyle, I have had to make some adjustments and it hasn't been all that bad. It involves having fewer things but of better quality. And, it turns out, I prefer wearing the same things. Even when I was at home with a much larger selection of clothing, I tended to wear the same 10 things and the rest just sat there for show. When we left Switzerland, I did a major closet overhaul and kept my bare basics and quality pieces. As long as you have clothing that can be mixed and layered and some great accessories and scarves, you can create fresh outfits. Same goes for shoes. For the two months we are away this time, I packed two pairs of heels, two pairs of sandals, walking shoes and my workout shoes. This is a bit extravagant for me, but since we are where the climate is really mild, all of the shoes I packed are very thin and have no bulk. So I could "splurge." When we travel and it is cold. My shoes go down to a pair of boots, running shoes, sandals for shower and a pair of walking or going out heels.

Most of the time, we are the packing pros. We even have our toiletry kits prepared so we can pack with very little notice and very little effort and never forget our favorite lotion or advil or other random thing. Some of our trips even consist of just carry ons, even when we are gone for weeks. Although, we have been known to forget things- like sun lotion when we went to Brazil or toothpaste.

The more I travel, the more I realize that I like to have my things with me and I adjust my packing so I never feel like I have to sacrifice while I am on the road. Again, you really do not need much. To survive. To feel at home. To be happy. And I swear this is true, I gladly live out of a suitcase so I can see the world.

What if...

I often wonder this, and more so in the past 3 years than ever before: What if money didn't matter?

Chapultepec Castle

Thursday, Jayme and I explored Chapultepec Castle where the Mexican Emperor Maximilian I lived. After we climbed the beautiful, twisting hill to the top, we started our exploration of the first floor, which was a museum. It was nice and all, but when we got upstairs and saw some of the gorgeous rooms and amazing outdoor gardens, we both were more than pleased. I definitely am putting in black and white marble in my outdoor garden, whenever I get one of those... :)

King Crab

photos from website
Last night, Nicholas surprised me by leaving work "early" to have a dinner date! We went to a French bistro to eat king crab legs he has been raving about since he went for a business dinner. Talk about the best surprise! My plans were to stay in the hotel room and watch bad TV.

What an upgrade! We started with great white wine and ordered a couple appetizers along with the crab legs. These are the crab lovers dream crab legs. They are grilled and opened for you and served with warm butter and limes! After my struggle in Brazil trying to eat crab, this was my personal version of heaven. With only one week left here, I can't say we will make it back this time, but if you ever make it to Mexico City, you must eat at Central Brasserie.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Friday, November 23, 2012

Ahh, Thanksgiving Success!

Started the morning with the Macy's Day Parade, thanks to the hotel getting NY's NBC :)

Then had Mexican for lunch with Nicholas to celebrate. Continued with a long phone call with the Brother and getting in one good political debate with him. Something feels right in the world :)
I observed how people communicated before the internet by joining the family via Skype. 
Finished off with a Skype date with the family at the Thanksgiving table while they had dessert! So much to be thankful for and today was no exception. Being away didn't have to feel far- in fact, it felt like I was right there with them!

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Ruins

So, when we tried to make it to town to rent the car, again, after we had called and confirmed that they would hold one for us, no one was at the office when we arrived. It was locked up with a sign that someone who return at 10:15... AM? PM? Who knows, but it was already 11:45am.
Luckily, we had met a great cab driver and asked how much he would charge if he took us on our itinerary the next day. He quoted a fair price and we told him we would be in touch. While walking along the beautiful white sand, we decided it made sense to go with him. He was affiliated with the hotel, was really friendly and had suggested a way to do our full itinerary, plus more in less time than we had planned. We called him and told him to pick us up at 6am to start our adventure the next day!
Sunday morning, rolled around too quickly, but we were really excited to go to Chitchen-Itza, Tulum, a cenote and more. We both slept on the way to the first ruins- which were 2.5 hours away. When we arrived, in record time, we were one of the first ones there. Brilliant! We got our tickets, a coffee and decided to use a guide to get the most of our experience there. We learned soo much about the Mayans. They were simply a brilliant civilization. They were the first ones to create the zero, their calendars are still exact and their architectural feats are still stumping scientists and archeologists to this day. We also learned there is nothing to fear about the world ending. We are just going through the night phase of the earth and we are about to have a reset. Hence why all the earthquakes, hurricanes, etc. And, why people are focusing more on harvesting solar energy and finding ways to recycle and reuse.
After the informative guided tour at the completely empty Chichen Itza, we headed to the popular, local cenote. I originally wanted to avoid Ik-Kil cenote because of the crowds, but because Jaime planned our day so well, we arrived and there was just one other couple there. They soon left and we had the whole place to ourselves!! We stayed and enjoyed the beauty for a while then headed to our next destination: Coba. We did a brief drive-through of a colonial town, but continued on.
Coba was really interesting, as well. This time, we decided against a guide and walked the front half then caught a pedi-cab for the rest of the walk through the jungle paths. It was perfect to zip us through the sites, get a bit of a guided tour and get us out of there as quick as possible. We still had one more site we wanted to see and we would be cutting it close!
Jaime was surprised that we returned so quickly to the car. He asked if we climbed to the top of the structure, which we did- although raced up and down it was more truthful. So many people were nervously climbing or huffing up and sitting to rest on the way to the top of the pyramid while Nicholas and I powered through non-stop to the top. Took a couple of pics and practically ran down. My thighs are still killing me a few days after the fact, but we didn't want to miss the chance to climb it as this is the last year before they close it to tourists.
We were off to Tulum! Our final destination :) This is the site of the ruins right on the Caribbean- turquoise dream against spectacular ruins! We again powered through this one, as well. At this point, we were getting tired. I should say, I was getting tired and hey, ruins are ruins. Nicholas, of course, would have spent days at each one. He loves the history and is awestruck by these things. I am too, but to a much lesser degree.
After we got some great shots, we got back to the car and got home in record time. After a day in the beautiful weather, sun and lots of exercise, I was hardly surprised that I crashed for over 3 hours that late afternoon/early evening :) Talk about a great day!

Playacar, the first day or so

Nicholas running with volleyball
Nicholas and I spent a long weekend away in one of the most beautiful beaches we have ever been. Not that we have been to that many beaches, but we have seen quite a few and this was by far and away the most breathtaking.
The first time we caught site of the beach and its varying shades of turquoise, I thought for sure it was some sort of green screen! Holy wow! We had wandered into Playa del Carmen for a quick peek at the town and hurried straight to the beach to awe at the natural beauty and sheer crystal awesomeness of it all. We walked in the noon heat all the way back to our hotel just so we never had to leave the view of the water. Worth every wrinkle I earned, for sure!

Lets backtrack just a tad... we got in very late Friday night and the car that we had rented, had gone to another lucky family sometime before we arrived. We were one of 18 people who arrived with a reservation and no car. As you can imagine, people who were in from Argentina, Venezuela, and beyond, were not pleased nor amused that Thrifty left them high and dry. The two guys told us that the company had told them to turn off the lights and lock the doors so they would not have to deal with the two and a half dozen people who were going to arrive tired and angry. Nicholas and I had already made an agreement that nothing was going to ruin our time away so when the two poor guys left working the desk said they would drive us all to our respective hotels (ours close to an hour away), we decided we would take the offer and see about a car the next day. We had the sweetest Mexican man drive us from Cancun to Playacar. Before we left, he asked if it would be OK if he looked for the other couple that walked away angrily to find another car to rent. He told us that all the companies had overbooked and there were no cars at all left at the airport and the cost to Playa del Carmen would be very expensive. Of course we agreed and searched the airport parking lot and curbside for the couple, but could not find them. Again, just a genuinely nice older man. Soon we were off and on our way to the beach town. He was so kind, lighthearted and friendly. Obviously, he could have been annoyed at having to drive people late at night an hour one way and then come back and collect more people who showed up, but he was anything but. He was genuinely sorry about our troubles and said to talk to his colleague first thing in the morning and gave us contact info. First night, ended just right!

Saturday, we spent part of the day out of the resort and the rest at the beach. Nicholas played volleyball for a couple of hours while I swam in the stunning waters. The colors went from an almost transparent blue, to a soft turquoise to a deep deep blue. So gorgeous!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Mexican Holiday

This past weekend was a holiday in Mexico. Nicholas had the full weekend off, including Monday! To take advantage of that, we booked a trip to the Yucatan peninsula. We stayed in Playacar and journeyed to some of the famous Mayan ruins and to a cenote, a deep natural pit/sinkhole that is a natural, cool pool. Cenotes were used, at times, by the ancient Maya for sacrificial offerings.

We had never been to this part of Mexico, so it was new for both of us to explore!

First for everything

This will be my first year without a traditional Thanksgiving. To say I am a little bit sad might be an understatement, but that is the price you pay when you don't live in your home country.
Our T-Day schedule; still in use! 
Even though we have lived abroad for 3 years, the first two years I had my extended "family" of Ashley and Mike close by and we celebrated in Switzerland! It is Ashley's favorite holiday and she has been sharing it with her colleagues and friends since she moved overseas. I have been so blessed that I got to celebrate with them and it always felt like my home away from home. Making the holidays much more bearable- no, scratch that, enjoyable and memorable!
Hall for 50 Turkey day guests! 
Ashley is extremely generous and started out hosting a moderate amount of people her first year, then a larger group my first year and even larger last year. We almost had to stack people on top of each other for them to fit and eat! This year, Ashley truly outdid herself. She hosted a group of 50 this past Saturday, rented a hall and did the cooking herself with the help of Mike and their friend Jeff. Ashley has spread this American tradition to so many people and really shown what it stands for. I have to say, I was so happy to receive all her messages about the preparations and how things were going, but I was also missing it so deeply and sad not to be there. Staying up all night, listening to show tunes (another Ashley favorite), catching up, peeling bags and bags of potatoes and apples and prepping the turkeys.
2 of the 3 birds Ashley cooked this year! 
Some people think that this American tradition is about excesses. To me, it is my favorite because it is a time when your family and friends gather to give thanks and nothing else. There is no commercialization, there is no pressure. It is just a time to be together, share a good meal that many people prepared and remember all that we are blessed with. Whether that be memories, experiences, people, love, or even a thing or two.

Some of my favorite Thanksgivings were when I was little at my Grandma's house with my mom's brothers and sisters and all my cousins. I do not know how we all fit in that house and how there was always more than enough food for everyone. It was a small space for that many people, but because of that, it felt much more cozy and warm :)

This year, I have much to be thankful for. And missing my first Thanksgiving will surely make it more memorable each time I can celebrate it, whether it is with my family or friends. I am extremely grateful that this is only my first time to miss it thanks to Ashley. Stay tuned- I am still searching for somewhere to have at least a turkey sandwich, even if it is at Starbucks with their holiday lattes ;)