Grateful, flattered and a big ‘Thanks Mom’

Thankful, humbled, flattered, honored & feeling blessed.  The last week brought lots of good news and opened new doors without closing any.  Whether its good karma, good luck or simply I that had great parents who raised me right I keep getting more and more opportunities to thrive in everything I enjoy.  Thanks mom!  A belated happy mother’s day to you (don’t worry I woke her up with a Skype call as I went to bed.  Time zones are funny like that).

On that mother’s day Skype call my parents commented that it seems like my “life is in between vacations.”  I’ve got a good job that affords me plenty of time to travel but more importantly living in Korea means I’m always traveling.  So how could things get better than they already were?  I had no idea until these last few days.

Over the weekend I attended my 2nd Google Apps for Education Conference.  It was amazing, I learned a tremendous amount to help me personally as an educator and independently with productivity tricks.  (stay tuned for an overview of the best tips & lifehacks!)  At the end we were invited on stage (roughly 200 attendees) to do a “Demo Slam” (a 2 minute presentation of on an awesome Techno trick).  I won a cool laptop bag but more importantly while networking later in the evening they asked if I would present next year!  What an honor.  I of course said yes and have already begun preparing a trial presentation for my coworkers.

The networking continued as I met dozens of teachers from international schools all over Asia.  Uh oh.  All over Asia?  Yeah, I don’t know when I’m leaving Korea but there’s no guarantee leaving Korea means returning home.  Especially if I can get into a fancy international school and explore some new corner of the world!

Already on cloud 9 from the conference I finalized my summer plans and have begun coming to the realization that I’ll be spending 3 weeks in Thailand this summer!  Brian and I are hoping to jump on motor bikes and explore the northern jungles in between beach days and hopping over to Cambodia to see Angor Wat.

Hours after those tickets were purchased I was asked to be a Teaching Mentor!  I was taken aback.  He couldn’t truly be asking me to be his teaching mentor?  I’m still young.  Aren’t I?  Okay so I’m almost 30 (with dreamy thoughts of a destination 30th on the beach!) but I’ve only been teaching for a handful of years.  I’ve always known I was good with kids and thought highly of my teaching abilities but never wanted to be pretentious.  I guess I’m inspiring more than just my students but that doesn’t mean I’m ready to be a mentor.  Does it?

I confided in him that I wasn’t sure I was qualified but IF I meet the requirements I would be happy to oblige.  Then I started to think back to the mentors in my career.  Most if not all of them mothers by now so happy mothers day to Roe, Judy, & Sue; they were some of the most influential teachers in my early career.  Can’t forget Dr. C and all my amazing professors.  I know I’m not quite among their ranks but in makes me proud to know I’m on track!

So like I said.  I’ve got it pretty good.  The truth is after leaving that crappy hagwon I have had few complaints and many thanks.  Thank you mom & dad especially for helping me become a son that you are proud of.  A person that I’m proud to be.  Thank you to all the mentors and role models in my life from Aunts, Uncles & extended family to coaches, scout leaders and of course my teachers!

Hot springs & waterfalls – a hidden paradise in Wulai, Taiwan

Wulai was without a doubt my favorite part of Taiwan.  Sure I only had a long weekend to explore but everything I loved about Taipei was in this quaint mountain town’s market too.  But the real attraction of Wulai isn’t the night market you can find in the capitol, its the lush natural surroundings & friendly locals.

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Directions to Wulai
849 bus from Xindian station (end of the green line.)
Bus fare – $15 NTD ($.50US)
Taxi fare – $600 NTD ($20US)

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Wulai 2

Upon first arriving in Wulai its impossible to miss the stunning bridges criss-crossing across the river augmented by the Wulai Waterfall.  A column of water 80 meters high plummets to the river (making it Taiwan’s largest waterfall) just across from the natural hot springs where you’ll find locals inviting you to join them for an afternoon soak.

 

 


Wulai Bridge


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Longshan Temple – Taipei, Taiwan

Even if you only have a half day in Taipei make sure you get to the Longshan Temple!  Its a stunning Buddhist temple with regular visitors and local parishoners.  Founded in 1738 as a haven for Chinese immigrants from Fujian the settlers built Longshan in honor of Kuan-in the Buddhist goddess of mercy.

Long Shao Temple

How to get to Longshan Temple
MRT Station: Longshan Station
Hours: 6am to 10pm
Fee: Free

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Longshan (alternately spelled Lungshan) was erected in the Manka district of Taipei.  It was dedicated after the Lungshan temple in their home town and aptly named for the root temple.

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A weekend in Taipei, Taiwan

A weekend is just enough to get a taste of Taiwan and realize you want to go back again before you’ve even left.  Taipei has an excellent public transit system, free wifi and lots of cultural & crazy experiences.  Here’s a quick preview of Ronda and my trip as we met my college buddy Andrew (who flew in from Japan with a few other friends).


Night Markets

If there’s one thing that Taiwan is known for its certainly the diversity of its night markets.  We stopped by at least 3 different markets and although some were “the biggest” or “best” according to a guidebook we found them all to be wonderful.  They sported an assortment of sights and smells including the infamous “stinky tofu” and all the parts of animals that you may not have wanted to sample.  I highly recommend just about anything on a stick and if you can handle the smell, stinky tofu is a delicacy!

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Night markets are easy to find and almost every subway station has *insert Taiwanese name here* Market listed on the exit signs.  We always felt safe but I advise anyone going to a public place like these market be careful with your valuables!

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Wulai

Wulai is a mountain village boasting the largest waterfall in Taiwan, an abundance of natural hot springs and the opportunity for a jungle adventure.  Luckily its only a 45 minute bus ride from Xiandan station at the end of the Green Subway line.  You can take a taxi for about $600NTD ($20USD) or ride the bus like we did for $15 NTD ($.50 USD).  Once there I recommend taking the cable car over the river to see the waterfall.  It was stunning and I can’t wait to share more; enjoy these photos for now. Continue reading

Bau House – a Dog Cafe in Hapjeong, South Korea

Do you love dogs but live a lifestyle that would be cruel for that pooch at home?  Well I know I do.  I would love to have a dog but between Seoul Hiking Group on the weekends and traveling for weeks & months every year I know it would be unfair to my furry friend and have decided to wait.  Once I finally settle down I’ll surely adopt a dog or two but until then I have to satisfy my canine cravings with friends dogs and of course the unique dog cafe in South Korea.  Directions at the bottom!

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Bau House is a wonderful place where you can come and play with dozens of friendly dogs.  They are happy to sit with you as you sip a coffee or work on that term paper.  I’m not brave enough to bring my laptop but some of the regulars will curl up with a pup and type away.  Entrance is free but they ask that you buy at least 1 drink to help cover the costs.  Most of the dogs live here with the owners but you can bring your own pup too!_DSC6988 _DSC6963

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