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Friday, February 28, 2014

Friday Letters #26

Happy Friday Y'all! 

This week went by pretty fast, but I'm still having a hard time adjusting to my new work schedule. I have three more classes and now I work until 8:50… so I get home around 9:40 now. Boo. 

Now onto the letters- 

Dear TOEFL Class, I will miss you guys- you were my favorite. For real- I loved this class. This was my highest level class and they were so smart. I loved teaching them because we could actually have good conversations. A lot of my students can't carry on a full conversation, or they don't understand my jokes- so it gets a little lonely during the day. But with this class it was so much fun. Kate (the one in the middle) studied in New Zealand for three years, so her English was amazing- plus she had the cutest accent.

They are starting high school this month, so they will no longer have the time to come to JC School during the week. I'm glad that I get to leave earlier on Mondays now, but I wish one of my not so good classes could have been taken away. :) We had a nice little pizza party on Monday, and had the best conversation. 

*High schoolers in Korea start school at 7:45 and they end about 2:45, but the schools stay open until 10:00 pm so the students can study! Then most of them spend their Saturdays at their academies. So these three will come to JC School on Saturday for THREE hours and study some more. This will be their lives for 3 years!* 
(I know that was really long, but I will really miss them.) 

 {Kevin, Kate, Sally} 

Dear Not so Good Class, This week you learned if you continue to not listen - there will be consequences. I don't know why you think hitting each other and talking during presentations is okay, because it is so not. 

*I had a lot of comments on my Facebook page about writing lines, so let me clear it up. In America- I did not do this as a teacher- it was considered a form of corporal punishment. Plus, this would not have been effective with my students. Here though, it's okay. One they are practicing writing and spelling in English. :) And it's really effective with some of my Korean students. Since teaching here- I've only done this about three times and it's always been in different classes- so they really learn their lesson :) 

Dear Nana and Papa Drake, Thank you for the Christmas presents- we love them. As you can see- I am all Betty Booped out. When I was in middle school, I started my love of Betty, and ever since then my Nana and Papa have kept me stocked in Betty Boop attire. :) 

Dear GRE Studies, You're going okayish. I'm getting a little tired of studying all the time, but I know this is the only way to get a semi good score. This weekend I will be studying again, but at least I can catch up on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. 

Dear Asian Babies, I miss you so so much. It was great being able to Skype with guys. I can't believe how big you've gotten. I wish you could be in Korea with us, but we will see each other soonish! 

Dear March, Welcome welcome. I am excited about the warmer weather- just don't get too warm too fast. 

PS- This week I had a break through with my co-workers. Apparently the key all along was to practice Korean at work. When they saw this it was like all the walls between us dropped. I don't think it's going to be perfect, but I think it's going to be better. 

{PPS- As you can see, most of my Friday Letter pictures are from Instagram. Are we friends? If not, we should be! @afahey14

Love, Alex 

Thursday, February 27, 2014


If there is one thing Matt and I have learned while traveling it's to wander. 

Put the map down. Get rid of the time table for a while. And just wander. 

Some of our best experiences have come from just walking around and wandering. 

While we were in Kyoto we only planned a few must see activities each day- which left us plenty of time to walk around and wander. And I am so happy we did this. We saw so many wonderful things that we wouldn't have seen if we stuck to our maps and our time line. 

I'll be honest- Matt and I get 'lost' every once in a while. And sometimes it's just plain frustrating, but more often than not we find something amazing. We find a place we didn't know existed, or we didn't plan to see- and it's pretty amazing. 

Our new motto is the quote: "Not all who wander are lost." -Tolkien 

I encourage all of you to put the map down every once in a while and just wander. See what you can find with no set plans. 

Happy Thursday Y'all!

Treasure Tromp

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Spot the Geiko: Gion, Kyoto {Japan}

Happy Tuesday Y'all. 

Well, another Tuesday is upon us and that means Travel Tuesday. I usually like to travel back and share travels I made in the past, but I really want to continue sharing Japan with y'all. 

Today I'm going to share Gion, Kyoto with y'all. I'll be honest with you guys- six months ago, I didn't even know Gion existed. It wasn't on my travel radar until I read Chelsea's blog post on 'Looking for Geishas in Gion'. After I read that post, I knew I needed to travel to Kyoto and I needed to find me some Geishas. 

Mini History Lesson: Gion is a district of Kyoto, developed in the Middle Ages, in front of Yasaka Shrine. It was built to help the needs of travelers and visitors to the shrine. Eventually it became one of the most exclusive and well-known geisha districts in Japan. {Source

The thing I love about Gion is it's all comprised of these wooden tea houses. Once you step onto that street, it's like you're back in time. At least, if you zone out the cars and the tourists with their cameras or the few neon signs. I loved seeing the paper lanterns and the narrow houses along the street. If you have a pretty penny to spend on dinner I guess you could go inside these tea houses. As Matt and I were on a budget, we opted to just walk up and down the street. 

*Helpful Hint: The geishas in the Gion area do not refer to themselves as geisha- instead they use the term geiko or maiko (geiko apprentice). Geisha means "artist" or "person of the arts" and geiko means "a child of the arts" or "a woman of art". Geikos are professional entertainers who attend guests during meals and other occasions. They are trained in various traditional Japanese arts (dance, music, communication, etc). {Source}

When we went- there were tons of tourists waiting around with their cameras to see if they could see any geikos. I was surprised to see so many people as I didn't think this would be all that popular… but I was wrong. 

Matt and I immediately started walking down the street to see if we could spot any geikos. About five minutes later, we saw three come out of a tea house and hop into taxis. I tried to get a picture, but people were in the way. It was pretty crazy because there was a swarm of tourists around the taxis just snapping away. It really felt like we were all paparazzi. I have to be honest it was kinda exhilarating- in a creepy- should I be doing this- kinda way. 

We walked up and down a few more times, but didn't see anymore. So we decided to turn down an alley and just walk. We were the only ones on this side alley, and we were just chatting when we saw this geiko heading down the street! I'll be honest- I might have squealed a little and told Matt to get the camera. As you can see, she was booking it because we couldn't get a clear picture. We were pretty respectful- we stayed on our side of the street, and just took a couple of pictures. 

 After that, I was so excited, and I was good to go. I saw four geikos- got a picture of one- done and done. So we headed back to the main street, and bam! Two more geikos! What!!!!! Again, we were respectful and didn't get in their faces. {You'd be surprised at how many other tourists where like crazy people with their cameras.} 

Absolutely beautiful. These women are so beautiful. Their hair, clothes- I love everything about seeing them. Okay- so now I had seen five- good to go! But wait- one more! 

This geiko was my favorite- she smiled at me :) {That's actually a big deal because most of these women don't appreciate tourists standing outside their work taking pictures… can you blame them.} 

Okay, so for real we were done, but as we were leaving we saw another three. So I think the 5:45-6:30 time is the time to go. I think they are just getting to their tea houses at this time, so you should be able to see them. 

I think you should at least walk down the street, but try to be respectful. There have been more and more complaints about tourists acting like ruthless paparazzi, so make sure you don't get in their faces.  We felt kinda weird. It was exciting, but a very weird experience. Like I wanted to get a picture, but at the same time it was strange to be taking pictures of these women. 

 I'm going to plug the En Tea Experience one more time. We did the service right before walking the street, and it actually gave us a little more insight into the geiko lifestyle. The geikos study the way of tea during their training, so the two studies intersected. It's all very interesting… at least to this history major. 

This really was a highlight of my trip- even if I did feel a little strange semi-stalking these geikos. I think it's a worthwhile experience, but maybe not up some of y'alls alley. 

Have any of you tried your hand at being a paparazzi? 

Basic Information: 
Cost: Free
Location: If you are on Shijo-dori and looking at Yaska Shrine, turn right on Hanamikoji dori Street. 
Time: Open whenever. We were there from 5:45-6:30 and it seems like the perfect time. 

{For more information- click here

Travel Tuesday

{Linking up with Bonnie

Monday, February 24, 2014

Chion-in Temple {Japan}

Happy Monday Y'all! Ugh… back to the weekly grind :) I hope your weekend was good. Saturday I spent the day studying basic math to help prep for the GRE, got caught up on my shows, and studied some more. 

Yesterday, I had my very first blate, and it was pretty great if I do say so myself. I met up and had dinner with Chantal who blogs over at Scattered Seashells. We had a nice dinner and great conversation. I had a blast watching her daughter, Penny, jump around in the booth and try to climb the glass partition between the booths. I think Matt and I need to borrow Penny for the day and make sure we really want to take on this parenting thing. (Or maybe I'm just looking for an excuse to visit Seoul's Children's Museum.)  It was nice going out to eat with another American and fellow blogger. It was a little surreal because we already knew so much about each other. It was like we were already on level 2 or 3 of friendship because we already knew the basics about each other. Good first blate in my books.
{We forgot to snap a picture, but I'm sure we'll do this the next time we get together.} 

Anyway, today I thought I would go back to Japan and share another amazing place with y'all. 

While we were waiting for our tea ceremony time we decided to continue exploring and Chion-in Temple was right next to the En Tea Shop

Chion-in Temple isn't as bright or show stopping as Yasaka Shrine or Fushimi Inari, but it's beautiful in its own right. It's not too big, so it won't take too much time out of your schedule. It's just down the street from the Yasaka Shrine, and possible to see both in one day. {We did, plus a few other places.} 

 {Hint- You can take stairs and go up to the second level of the main gate. We didn't know that until we already went down all the stairs :) } 

The main gate above called Sanmom was built it 1619 and is the largest surviving structure of its kind in Japan. The original temple was built in 1234. 

When I made it up these stairs, I sat there for a while and just took in where we were. It was so peaceful and the top of the steps had a beautiful view of the city. It was interesting because it was breezy day and the temple grounds are filled with trees- and up there it felt like I was back in Georgia. It felt exactly like Georgia does in the early Spring- nice and green, the wind blowing, and beautiful. I don't often think about missing Georgia. I always miss my family, but Georgia not so much. But up at the top in this temple in Japan- I felt homesick for Georgia, and I'm glad I felt a little sense of connection to my home state. 

Chion-in wasn't really on our list of things to do, but I'm glad we went. Like I said, it's not too big and it's perfect for waiting for your tea appointment. 

So what about y'all- have you ever added a place to your travel list and were completely surprised how much you enjoyed it? 

{If you missed any of our previous Japan adventures- click here. Source

Friday, February 21, 2014

Friday Letters #25

Happy Friday Y'all! 

Is anyone else beyond excited for the weekend to be here? My plans aren't that exciting- I plan on catching up on my Project Life album and studying for the GRE. :) 

Well onto the letters: 

Dear Korea, Sometimes the things I see here make me laugh. This little guy was cute in a creepy kinda way. The message is cute, but coming from the cat--- not so much. But here in Korea with CCTV we really aren't alone. 

Dear Gyeongbokgung Palace, You were amazing. Matt and I had the greatest time exploring this weekend. It's hard to believe that you were built in the 1300s, and it's crazy to step back in time in the middle of modern day Seoul. I can't wait to share our weekend adventures on the blog. {Posts coming soon} 

Dear Couple Outfits, You make me laugh. {For those that don't know- a couple outfit is when a couple wears matching outfits to show that they are together. Couple outfits can be just a matching t-shirt to full on head to toe matching.} I love seeing people on the street with their couple outfits. Saturday we saw a couple on the subway wearing matching shoes, black pants, button down shirts, and matching charcoal pea coats. It was amazing! And I started to giggle at them… until I looked at Matt and realized we were wearing our very own couple outfit. {I guess I'm lucky I didn't wear my grey and white striped shirt} ….  Korea changes you. :) I would say I'm embarrassed that we went out like this, but I'm not. :) 

Dear Mexican Food, You were delicious. I can still taste the yummy yummy guacamole. We decided to try a different place in Itaewon called Los Amigos. It was a little pricer than Tomatillos, but they had more variety in their menu. The ambiance of the place was wonderful and the service was great. We will definitely be returning. {PS- I felt weird saying the word ambiance} {PPS- My biggest complaint about Los Amigos is the lack of free refills.} 

Dear Get-A-Awaycation, We had the greatest time last weekend. Matt planned a surprise overnight trip to Seoul and I had the best time. {Other than getting a horrible migraine Saturday night.} We stayed at the Hilton Millennium Hotel, and I can't wait to share the trip with you guys. Matt really wanted to do something special, and I really didn't want to plan anything- so he took care of the plans and the whole weekend was a surprise. We especially loved snuggling in the robes and watching the Disney channel in Korean :) We were able to watch the US vs Russia Men's Hockey game on a nice big t.v. and it was wonderful. 

And to the biggest news of the week!!!! 

Dear Cambodia, Seriously so excited that in about 70 days- we will be traveling to Cambodia. For the past couple of weeks we have been looking for tickets to Cebu, Philippines and the tickets were crazy expensive and the flight times were horrible. So we started looking at back ups. Taiwan, Tokyo, Cambodia, and Hong Kong were on our list. And while Cambodia was the most expensive (although not as expensive as The Philippines)- the times were the best and we just couldn't resist! We have a trip to mainland China planned and figured we would hop over to Taiwan and Hong Kong on that trip. And we can always catch the Philippines…at a cheaper date. So Cambodia here we come!!!! (I can just see my mom rolling her eyes and wrinkling her nose.) 

*If anyone has any Cambodia tips or things to do let me know. 

Happy Weekend Y'all! 

Love, Alex

We Took the Road Less Traveled

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Whistler Olympic Village {Travel Tuesday}

As much as I love sharing Japan with you guys, I wanted to take a break and go back in time. And in spirit of the Olympics- I thought I would share Whistler Village in Vancouver, Canada with y'all. 

When Matt and I were planning our honeymoon we knew we wanted to go somewhere cold because we would be moving to Hawaii after the wedding, and didn't need to spend money on a beach location. 

So we picked Vancouver. While we were there we were able to take a couple of day trips and explore some areas around Vancouver. One trip we took was to Whistler, and it was pretty amazing. I recommend taking a trip up there if you have the time. I wish we had a bit more time so we could actually ski or stay over for the night. 

The Vancouver Olympics ended in February of 2010 and we were there in December of the same year, so the village was still really nice and busy. 

We had a lot of fun walking around the village. It was in a beautiful location, and had a lot to look at and explore. I love seeing all the Olympic villages. 

Happy Tuesday! 

Travel Tuesday

{Linking up with Bonnie

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Golden Pavilion Temple: Kinkaku-ji {Japan}

When Matt and I were planning our Kyoto trip, the Golden Pavilion was one of the first things we put on our list, and it did not disappoint. It was absolutely beautiful and really easy to get to from the center of Kyoto. 

The Golden Pavilion aka Kinkaku-ji aka Rokuon-ji is a Zen Buddhist temple that dates back to the year 1397. The land belonged to Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu and was converted to a Zen temple when he died. 

In 1950, the pavilion was burned down by a young monk, so the pavilion you see today is a restored version of the original. 

Here are some pictures from our trip: 

 {Tea House} 

[At the end of the garden tour, there is a tea garden you can sit and have a tea and sweet. It's about 500 Yen per person.} 

Okay, so how beautiful was this place? We were staying in the center of Kyoto and it took about 25 minutes by bus to get there. We walked through the garden in about an hour, and went to about 4 other places that day. We got there around 10:30 am and it wasn't that crowded. We had a great time walking around the garden. It was so beautiful- I can't even imagine how beautiful it looks in the Spring with the Cherry Blossoms! 

Basic Information 
Cost: 400 Yen (about $4) 
Hours: 9:00-5:00 pm - open everyday 
Directions: Click on this link for a list of buses and subways. Cost to get there is about 220 Yen each way.