Monday, September 30, 2013

Our Night in Hell...

Okay maybe it wasn't that bad. Here's the story- 

During our vacation a couple of weeks ago, Matt and I went up to Itaewon to stay the night. We had a tour to the DMZ the next day, and wanted to make sure we got to the USO on time and didn't have to rush! 

This was our first overnight trip here in Korea, and we were excited for the the adventure. Because we live really close to Seoul, I didn't see the need to pay a lot of money just to stay somewhere for one night. I looked around some booking sites and decided the cheapest option would be a hostel. I had stayed in a lot of hostels when I was traveling in the U.K., so I was fairly certain that things were going to be okay. 

 I ended up booking the IS@K Guesthouse. The reviews were good and the rooms looked clean- really that was all I was concerned about. 

I booked us two beds in a four sleeper room, and the total for the night was 44,000 won. 

Here are my thoughts on this guesthouse: 

When we checked in the staff was really friendly and the placed looked really clean. Shoes are not allowed inside the hostel, so there is a shoe cubby in the entryway and slippers are provided for you.

There are no locks on the individual room doors, so each bed as a free locker with a key for you to use. This was a bit weird because our door was literally a sliding glass door. It's not that I felt unsafe, it was just strange. Plus, when we were trying to sleep it never got dark dark because the doors let in all the light from the hallway and other rooms. 

The hostel really did have a good vibe {not to sound too hippyish}. But everyone we met was really friendly. 

The hostel is really small- I think it only had about 6 rooms. 

It even had a cool rooftop area where you could sit and enjoy the view, or play pingpong. 

Everything sounds great right? So where does hell come into our stay.... 

Okay- so Matt and I needed to get up around 6:15 am in order to get ready and make it to the USO on time. So, we needed to get to bed early.... We were in bed by 10:00 and were trying to fall asleep by 11:00. 

And that is when our night turned to hell. Our room was right off the main gathering room and we could hear people talking and the t.v. playing for HOURS!!!! I don't think it got quiet until 3:00 am. The whole time I was laying in my bunk bed I was just thinking I'm too old for this Sh@#. When I started to finally drift off, the other two people sharing the room decided to finally come back into the room. Then apparently thought the room was too cold and turned the A.C. and HID the remote! So not only could we not sleep, but we were laying in our beds sweating to death! 

I was really trying not to get upset about everything because it was a hostel, and the common room was where people sat and relaxed, but it was so hard knowing I was getting zero sleep and I had a 9 hour tour the next day! If we didn't have to wake up so freaking early, I think I would have been fine.. and if I could have had the AC on. {I mean I was paying for AC- I want AC!} 

Matt was expecting the noise, but I was completely taken off guard. And that's when I realized that all the hostels that I stayed at in the U.K. where multilevel. So the gathering room and the t.v. and the talking people were all downstairs. When it was time to sleep, you went upstairs to your nice quite room and slept. I have never stayed in a hostel that was so freaking loud! The walls were super thin... we didn't have a real door... and we didn't get a wink of sleep! {Even Matt, who can sleep wherever whenever, didn't sleep at all the whole night!} 

I guess the lesson I learned is we are too old for hostels. When I was younger, sharing a room and bathroom really didn't matter. Now, I want my own room. I want my own bathroom. I want to be able to get dressed in my room- not in the shower while I am still damp have my clothes stick to me. :) And I want peace and quiet as I am going to bed. And I think that's okay- it's all part of the growing up experience. I'm glad we booked one night in a hostel and realized we didn't like it versus booking a week in one and hating our whole trip. 

And maybe if we had a different room at the hostel, I would be sharing a different story. But alas, I didn't and I will not be going back to the IS@K guest house to try again. 

Now, if you are young and can go little to no sleep- this is the place for you. The hostel was clean, the staff was awesome- overall I good place to stay if you are looking for a cheap place to stay in Itaewon. It's really close to the subway, and it's close to all the restaurants. It really is a good hostel. 

But, if you're like me- go stay at a hotel. 

And thus, our night in hell ended. We ended up leaving our room at 5:30 and getting ready. And while our tour to the DMZ was fun, I was definitely feeling a little zombieish as I walked around on the tour. 

Oh well, live and let learn I guess.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Friday's Letters #7

Dear Seoul, Matt and I had such a good time explore just a little bit of your big city. We can't wait to travel back and see even more. We now know why everyone laughed at us when we commented on how big the city is we live in. Seoul is huge! Dear North Korea, we had such a blast briefly stepping into your boarders. It was a bit surreal being so close to you! {More to come our DMZ tour later.} 

Dear Matt, You continue to surprise me. I love that you go out for one thing, and come back with these adorable toothbrush holders. You make me laugh. Don't ever change. 

Dear B, I am so happy for you and Mr. E! I am so excited that you are engaged and can't wait to help start planning your big day. {The 4,000 + miles will not get in my way- trust me!} I really wish I could be there with you every step of the way, but at least we have skype. Congrats you guys! 

Dear Friday, Thanks again for coming so soon. 

Love, Alex 

P.S.- It's already week 7 of these letters! Can you believe it? 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Wanderlust Wednesday: History {Link Up}

I am so excited for another link up for Wanderlust Wednesday hosted by the wonderful Casey from True Colours. If you missed my last link up when I talked about The Isle of Skye just click here

True Colours

So for this month's theme I was thinking of going back to England and sharing the Canterbury Cathedral with you guys. I mean something that has, in some way or another, been around since 410 AD just screams history. I loved seeing all the old cathedrals and chapels that were all throughout the U.K., and Canterbury was among one of my favorite ones. {Plus, they let you take pictures on the inside, so the post could be a little more fun.} 

Canterbury is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and I am so blessed to have gotten the opportunity to visit the place that inspired The Canterbury Tales. This was one of the first places I visited while on my study abroad to England back in 2009. 

{There are over 800 coat of arms on display including: Pope John Paul the 2nd and Prince Charles}

{Death Masks were also very popular back in the day, and there are tons in the cathedral.} 

{These pictures do not give the stained glass justice. It was all so beautiful. I wish I had better pictures. Some of this stained glass is from the 1200s.}

{This candle always burns for Thomas Becket. It was this death that lead to the pilgrimage to Canterbury to be so popular, and lead to the Chaucer's work.} 

 {The Quire- when we were there, we were lucky enough to sit in on a service.} 

 {The Quire- This is used for everyday service and is over 800 years old.} 

 {This is a mural that was found in the crypt of the cathedral. It is one of the oldest things in Canterbury. During reconstruction, the workers found this underneath a wall that had been covering it for years. This was left untouched by the different invasions that came through Canterbury.} 

{The Cloisters} 

{This is one of the ceilings in the cathedral. The cross in the middle is over 6 feet in length.} 

Canterbury Cathedral should be on everyone's bucket list. Seriously, I am looking at these pictures and thinking it is so much better in person! The detail in literally every aspect of the cathedral is amazing. As you walk around you can see the different transitions the cathedral has gone through, and it's just full of history. 

If it looks like you won't be able to visit the cathedral anytime soon just visit the Canterbury Cathedral website and you can go on a virtual tour! 

So what do you think? Worth a trip? 

Gratitude 101: Part 5 {A Link Up}

Welcome to week five of Gratitude 101 brought to us by the lovely Erika

{If you would like to catch up with weeks 1-4 just click here.} 

GRAD-ITUDE 101: A Linkup By Chimerikal

If you've been reading, you'll have noticed that I've been focusing on service and how doing something for others will help you find the gratitude in your life. I think I've been so focused on this because being an expat is hard sometimes. I feel like being when you're lonely the best thing to do is focus on others and what you can do to help. 

Today I was reminded of a story that I wanted to share with you guys: 


A young girl was walking along a beach where thousands of starfish had washed ashore during a terrible storm the night before. When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up and throw it back into the ocean saving its life. People watched her with amusement. She had been doing this for some time when a man came up to her and said, “Little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach, look at all the starfish! You can’t save them all. You can’t begin to make a difference!” The man’s words made the little girl sad. But after a few moments she smiled, bent down, picked up a starfish then threw it as far as she could into the ocean. She looked up at the man and said, “Well, I made a difference to that one!” The old man looked at the girl and thought about what she had done and said. Inspired, he joined the little girl and spent the whole afternoon throwing starfish back into the sea. 

I know I shared this story a while ago, but I wanted to do it because I really love the message it shares.   Chances are we are not going to save the world. We will not be able to feed every hungry child, or clothe every one in need, but we can make a difference. I am often reminded of this in my family because this story is often linked to adoption. My two youngest siblings are adopted from China, and while I know there is no way my parents could adopt every child that is waiting for a family- I know that we made a difference with Jud and Olivia. 

We can make differences in our own lives by just taking action. I am so grateful to my parents for teaching me this lesson. It's so easy to get discouraged looking at all the problems going on in the world, but with small steps we can make a difference. 

"It matters to the one" 

Gratitude Moments for the Week: 
1. I am so grateful for adoption and the blessing it has had in my life. I honestly can't imagine my life without my little chicken and my baby. I look forward to the day Matt and I can adopt. 
2. So grateful for this story that reminds us to constantly being making small efforts for good
3. Grateful for my mom who sent me some candy corn in the mail the other day 
4. Grateful to Nikki over at Delovely Details for reminding me about the Starfish Story. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Punchbowl National Cemetery {Travel Tuesdays}

It's Tuesday, and that of course means Travel Tuesday! 

Because of Hawaii's importance in the Pacific side of WWII, there are a lot of memorials set up for those that fought and/ or lost their lives in the war. 

Punchbowl National Cemetery is one of those places. 
Cost: Free
Location: Honolulu
Time: 1 hour 

{Ariel view of Punchbowl Crater via

The whole cemetery is lined with grave markers. What I especially loved about this place was the simpleness of the markers. It is just such a beautiful place. While we were there, we saw a few families at different grave sights. It was nice to see people coming by the sights and remembering those that had fallen. 

The cemetery doesn't take too long to go through, and I think it's one of those places you should definitely put on your list. The cemetery is beautiful and peaceful, and the views looking out over the city are worth the drive up to the crater. 


So what do y'all think? 

Many thanks to Bonnie and Belinda for the link up! 

Make sure to check back here next Tuesday as I wrap up Hawaii with a list of things to do while you're on the island! 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Our Day in Everland

Last Thursday, Matt and I went to the big theme park here in Korea called Everland. It's kinda like a mix between Six Flags and DisneyWorld. We had heard that since it was Chuseok {Korean Thanksgiving} we would get discounted tickets and the park would not be that crowded. 

So here's what we learned: Yes, the tickets were discounted {normal ticket price 45,000 Won- Chuseok Foreigner discount 25,000 Won} 

And, No, The park will not be less crowded. It will be at max capacity. Everything we read said going on the actual day of Chuseok would be perfect because the crowds would be gone. And maybe that's how it was in the past, but I am telling you- Don't go to Everland on Chuseok! The discount ticket deal goes on for about a week, so I would recommend going on another day.

{map of the park}

Regardless of the crowds, Matt and I tried to make the most out of our day trip to Everland. 

{On Columbus- our first ride.}

{Korea's equivalent to It's a Small World}

{The Wooden Roller Coaster in the picture is the T-Express. It is the world's steepest wooden roller coaster in the world! Matt really loves roller coasters, so we got some fast passes to ride the T-Express. I don't like roller coasters because they make me really sick and I don't like being scared, but my husband loves them and I wanted to go with him. I didn't think I'd get too sick because it was just up and down. Plus, this was our first roller coaster together.}

{Before the roller coaster}

{During the coaster- I absolutely hated this ride!}

Because Halloween is near, the whole park was decked out in Halloween decor. There was also a Halloween Party Parade that I really enjoyed. I didn't understand anything that was said, but it was still fun to see the floats and all the people dancing.

{I was loving this pumpkin man}

{On the sky lift back to the main gates}

Overall, our day was pretty good. Here are a few things that really bothered me about the park:
1. The Smoking Areas- There were so many smoking areas around and most of the time they were right by the lines for the rides. There were so many people smoking my eyes were so dry and I was getting a headache from all of it.
2. The Lack of Water- There were so many snack vendors, but NONE of them sold water! It was like water was only sold at every 1 in 15 vendor stands. It was in the high 80s the whole day, and all I wanted was water. The water was really cheap, but it was hard to find!
3. The Restaurants- Because of the crowds the lines for food were crazy. Also, there weren't a lot of seating areas for you once you had food. I use food as a time to sit down and relax during my day at the parks, and there were just no seats!
4. The Line Cutters- For real, people were cutting lines like crazy. And it was driving me crazy!!!!
5. The Bus- We had to take a bus to and from Everland and it was crazy! They were packing these buses to the brim! I refused to go on a bus unless I could sit down (our ride home was over an hour). People were crazy! When it was our turn to get on the bus, I just grabbed Matt's hand and went all aggressive on the crowds around me. There was NOTHING that was going to come between me and a bus seat. :)

Matt and I will be returning to Everland, but we will be going in the Winter when hopefully the crowds are gone for real this time. There is supposed to be a Christmas Parade and the whole park will have the lights up, so I want to see it all lit up.

So what's your opinion about theme parks? Worth the crowds?