2012: A month-by-month rewind

January

Carolyn's new camera marked a change in photographic responsibility in our relationship.

Carolyn’s new camera marked a change in photographic responsibility in our relationship.

We visited the U.S. for our winter vacation, not a lot of photos but I really like this one of the Houston skyline.

We visited the U.S. for our winter vacation, not a lot of photos but I really like this one of the Houston skyline.

We love zoos. We started the year out by visiting the zoo in Houston with Carolyn's dad and stepmother.

We love zoos. We started the year out by visiting the zoo in Houston with Carolyn’s dad and stepmother.

January was pretty great. Carolyn flew home from Korea to visit family and such on December 30th, so once again we spent New Year’s Eve apart. We’ve never spent one together, so New Year’s Eve 2012 should be special (our fourth as a couple, first one together, heh.) She stayed with her family in New York for most of the trip, and I stayed with mine in Texas. She did come down for a week though and we spent a good chunk of it with her dad in Houston. All in all, it was a great way to recharge our batteries for a second year in Korea…although we could have been in Bangkok or something.

February

Carolyn's bestest friend (other than me, of course...I hope!) in Korea invited us down to Busan for a weekend before she went back to Canada. It was a great way to start our second year in Korea.

Carolyn’s bestest friend (other than me, of course…I hope!) in Korea invited us down to Busan for a weekend before she went back to Canada. It was a great way to start our second year in Korea.

Starting out the year staring across the Sea of Japan, we had no idea how cool the adventures we had in store for us this year would be.

Starting out the year staring across the Sea of Japan, we had no idea how cool the adventures we had in store for us this year would be.

If you need any proof that Korea can be a bit ridiculous at times, I think this should suffice.

If you need any proof that Korea can be a bit ridiculous at times, I think this should suffice.

Busan is a really nice city, and it was fun to get to see it from a tourist's perspective...even if it was a bit cold.

Busan is a really nice city, and it was fun to get to see it from a tourist’s perspective…even if it was a bit cold.

You know, I had a thing for neon for a long time before we moved to Korea, so it was good to see something to get excited about after leaving family and friends and the comforts of home behind for another year.

You know, I had a thing for neon for a long time before we moved to Korea, so it was good to see something to get excited about after leaving family and friends and the comforts of home behind for another year.

When we got back to Korea at the beginning of 2012 we had a few orders of business to deal with. First, we had to spend some time with our good friends who were headed on to whatever lie ahead in their lives. One of these friends is Carolyn’s bestie from Korea, Brittany, and the weekend after we arrived back on the peninsula we took the train down to Busan to hang out for the weekend. We had beautiful weather, stunning vistas, and a great time with our friends.

The next thing was to start getting into shape. We have a wedding coming up, ya know? Plus we knew for a fact that at least one tropical beach laid in our future. I gained 6 kilograms during January’s visit to Texas. That’s like 14+ pounds of hamburgers, chicken fried steaks, and tacos. Unacceptable. We started out by being more active and trying to eat better. This meant things like drinking coffee instead of sodas, not having a candy bar every day after work, and waking up early enough to eat breakfast. With the help of jet-lag and three weeks of not really doing anything but going to work and sitting on our butts, we had plenty of energy to get into the idea of working out in the evenings, and it stuck all year!

Another thing I did was relearn German. I bought a book or two while we were at home, followed the whole curriculum on my own, and found a great German-speaking pen-pal to help me out on the internet. I’m proud to say that I can speak and read German now, even if it’s not completely fluent.

March

March probably should have been called “Meh-rch.” I remember nothing about it. I didn’t write much in the blog during Meh-rch. From reading this post about the (now defunct) Anus Cinemas I seem to remember spending a good chunk of the month with bronchitis or something.

We continued getting ourselves into better shape, and I finally understood why everyone from northern latitudes griped about the winter. It seemed like it would never warm up. It did, though. Slowly but surely, and that leads us to…

April

Gyeongju is kinda the cultural-center of Korea, and its world expo building is pretty cool.

Gyeongju is kinda the cultural-center of Korea, and its world expo building is pretty cool.

You know it's springtime when the delicate pink and white cherry blossoms open up.

You know it’s springtime when the delicate pink and white cherry blossoms open up.

Cherry blossoms are distinctly Asian, and one of the things we're going to miss about springtime in Korea, for sure.

Cherry blossoms are distinctly Asian, and one of the things we’re going to miss about springtime in Korea, for sure.

Even if we didn't have beautiful weather, it was nice to go see something beautiful, ya know?

Even if we didn’t have beautiful weather, it was nice to go see something beautiful, ya know?

Our friends decided to take fake engagement photos for us. But it was a little awkward and we ended up giggling.

Our friends decided to take fake engagement photos for us. But it was a little awkward and we ended up giggling.

This tree looks a little lonely. I imagine it to be Charlie Brown's cherry blossom tree.

This tree looks a little lonely. I imagine it to be Charlie Brown’s cherry blossom tree.

Spring got to springing in April, and we used a day off from work (election day) to take the train over to Gyeongju to see some cherry blossoms. The weather didn’t really cooperate, but the cherry blossoms were still in bloom and we enjoyed their delicate beauty for the day. We also visited a strange Korean sex-museum to stay out of the rain. That’s something we won’t forget (even if we’d like to.)

Perhaps more significantly, April was the month that we started getting our poop together for some big trips over the course of the year. The first one we started putting together was our Chuseok-weekend 2012 trip to Japan. In 2011 we spent Chuseok in Daegu, and frankly, it sucked. A huge cultural holiday that’s not part of your culture is essentially no fun. This year we decided to get it together early and fly across the Sea of Japan for a long weekend in the land of the rising sun, and booked our plane tickets five months in advance. This started a pattern of travel planning in the coffee shop that has held pretty well to the present, and given coffee a whole new set of warm fuzzies.

May

Jeongdongjin, Korea. This is like the Amity Island of Korea, except all of the sharks starved to death because no one gets in the water.

Jeongdongjin, Korea. This is like the Amity Island of Korea, except all of the sharks starved to death because no one gets in the water.

A nice Korean guy took this photo of us with our backs to the ocean. Jeongdongjin Beach really is beautiful.

A nice Korean guy took this photo of us with our backs to the ocean. Jeongdongjin Beach really is beautiful.

Korean families light fireworks at night. It's pretty cute to watch fathers pass the torch (or roman candle) to their kids.

Korean families light fireworks at night. It’s pretty cute to watch fathers pass the torch (or roman candle) to their kids.

We had a heck of a view at our cheap (but nice) hotel on top of a hill in Jeongdongjin.

We had a heck of a view at our cheap (but nice) hotel on top of a hill in Jeongdongjin.

Seaweed drying out on the beach. The old hag lady who was drying it shooed us off when she caught us taking photos.

Seaweed drying out on the beach. The old hag lady who was drying it shooed us off when she caught us taking photos.

May was the start of a great summer of going cool places. We spent the weekend of Buddha’s Birthday 2012 on one of Korea’s prettiest beaches, Jeongdongjin. It was a long train ride to get there, and a weekend filled with kimbap and ramen noodles because all of the restaurants were seafood only, but it was a great way to get some beach time…even if the weather was a little cool.

May was also the month where we made the final decision to spend our summer vacation in Thailand, got the schools to approve our vacation days, and booked the Air Asia flights to Phuket. The coffee shop travel-planning weekly event was starting to turn pricy.

June

Carolyn's new camera virtually turned her into a Cyclops any time we've been sightseeing, and this is a good thing! She ended up starting her own excellent photoblog.

Carolyn’s new camera virtually turned her into a Cyclops any time we’ve been sightseeing, and this is a good thing! She ended up starting her own excellent photoblog.

In June we visited Busan for the first time since Brittany returned to Canada. We did a before and after theme, visiting the Aquarium followed by the Fish Market.

In June we visited Busan for the first time since Brittany returned to Canada. We did a before and after theme, visiting the Aquarium followed by the Fish Market.

Jagalchi fish market was a pretty cool place to visit, with tons of live fish, clams, crabs, octopi, etc.

Jagalchi fish market was a pretty cool place to visit, with tons of live fish, clams, crabs, octopi, etc.

 

 

By June, both of us were ready to get out of Korea, so we headed to the least-Korean city, Busan, for a visit to the aquarium and fish market. It was delightful. At this point we were running pretty much every day and doing some strength workouts on the regular too. Both of us had lost quite a bit of weight and toned up. At this point I think Carolyn was down about 35 or 40 lbs, and I was down about 20. It’s pretty crazy that we could physically change this much in just four months. Then something notable happened.

It was a Friday afternoon at work, and I felt a sudden pain in my back on the right side, super localized. It went away. We had dinner after work, laid down in bed watching TV, and fell asleep. I woke up a few hours later in pain. Then the pain was accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and quickly became unbearable. We went to the nearest hospital, got no help but were redirected to another hospital where they decided that I had a kidney stone. Pain medications helped, then we were sent off to a Urology clinic where they broke the thing up with a sonic hammer. The rest of that week was terrible.

What a wake-up call though. I apparently ate and drank crap that formed limestone in my kidney. I started paying a little more attention to what was going in my body at that point. I also learned (I already knew, but this was apparently a test) that no matter what as long as Carolyn is with me I’m going to be okay. I’m a pretty lucky guy to get to marry such a babe as her.

June was a big month. We picked the itinerary for our honeymoon and started planning it, I started blogging “for real,” challenging myself to put out content five times a week (I started slipping in October though, to a more reasonable two to three times a week because hey, it’s winter and we’d all rather just snuggle up with a book.)  This gave me a much needed “something to do” and I’ve apparently broadcast my crap to a lot more people in 2012 than in 2011 now.

July

A trip to Myeongdong is a trip to cool clothes and familiar brands from home, and one we've needed to make every once in a while since we've lived in Korea.

A trip to Myeongdong is a trip to cool clothes and familiar brands from home, and one we’ve needed to make every once in a while since we’ve lived in Korea.

Carolyn catches the light well. Starbucks should have paid for this shot!

Carolyn catches the light well. Starbucks should have paid for this shot!

I guess shopping attracts sinners, because these firebrand Korean missionaries creep around yelling things like "devildevildeviljejussuhhell!" into their microphones for hours on end.

I guess shopping attracts sinners, because these firebrand Korean missionaries creep around yelling things like “devildevildeviljejussuhhell!” into their microphones for hours on end.

Myeongdong Cathedral is kinda small compared to other Cathedrals I've seen. We didn't go inside.

Myeongdong Cathedral is kinda small compared to other Cathedrals I’ve seen. We didn’t go inside.

 

In July we basically just wanted it to be August so we could go on vacation. The end of the semester in a Korean school is a particularly hellish time of being required to show up to work (that’s fair) and do nothing because either the kids need your class time to study for their exams (because they “study” so hard) or the exam has already passed and the kids need a break from “study” to watch a movie. To make it even worse, we had our trip to Thailand just over the horizon in early August 2012. We needed an escape from our daily orbits to get our heads cleared out.

Clearly the solution to this dilemma is to head up to Seoul for a little bit of shopping. We shopped, and shopped, and shopped, then took the slow train home. It was nice, and you know what, it held us over until vacation.

August

Phuket, Thailand

We waited a long time for our trip to Thailand, and I think this picture kinda shows just how freaking relaxed we were on the beach in Phuket.

West Railay Beach, Thailand

Our trip to Railay was amazing. The landscape was otherworldly, the beaches were beautiful, the water was calm and warm. It was everything you might want from a beach destination.

Phra Nang Beach, Railay, Thailand

This view is something I dream of all the time now. Phra Nang beach is my favorite beach in the world at the moment, although I’m always in search of a replacement…

Kata Beach, Phuket, Thailand

Kata Beach was our first stop in Thailand. I think the Andaman Sea might have spoiled beaches in general for me. How can anything ever live up to this?

Carolyn caught me exploring Wat Putta Mongkon.

Carolyn caught me exploring Wat Putta Mongkon in Phuket Town. Something about the photo really captures how peaceful and quiet it was.

Clockwise from top left: Market, sweet potatoes, banana flowers, bondage crabs, baby eggplants, fresh fish

In Thailand we explored a couple of local markets. One of those explorations was led by a Thai chef, and we learned a lot about food, Thai food, and how the locals get their produce. It was sublime.

Look, I’d write a big blurb about August 2012 here, but the pictures say it all. We went to Thailand and had a complete and total blast.

September

Osaka, Osaka, Osaka

Osaka was the first stop on our Japanese adventure, and what a great city to visit. Our first order of business was to get to the top of the Umeda Sky Building to get a view of the city. It really lights up at night.

Osaka, Japan

The second stop was our first Ferris Wheel together! We rode the HEP 5 ferris wheel on top of the HEP 5 shopping center to get another view of Osaka from the air. It was also kinda romantical.

Osaka Castle

We visited Osaka Castle but didn’t get the chance to go inside. It turns out that a typhoon (probably the third typhoon in as many weeks that we would see) was headed our way to drop about a metric megaton of rain on Osaka.

Fushimi Inari Shrine

In Fushimi, near Kyoto, we walked through tunnels of red Torii that represent the crossing point between life and death (or something like that. I’m probably just making that part up.)

Fushimi Inari Shrine

I think we saw plenty of Japanese looking sites on our trip to Japan, the torii at Fushimi Inari shrine were absolutely striking.

Kinkakuji Temple - The Golden Pavilion

Kinkakuji Temple, the Golden Pavilion, is on just about everyone’s “to see” list when visiting Kyoto, and it was certainly on ours as well.

Ginkakuji - The Silver Pavilion

Ginkakuji Temple, the sister temple to Kinkakuji that never got it’s silver leaf finish, is another major site along Kyoto’s trail of temples and shrines. The foliage surrounding this pavilion was nearly as spectacular as the amazing gardens and sand sculptures in the complex itself.

Osaka Aquarium

We rode out that typhoon in the Osaka Aquarium, one of the biggest aquaria on the planet. It was amazing. The fish looked happy (large and small), the water was clear, and dude, a whale shark and like three manta rays and a ton of other big sharks? Hell yes. By far the most impressive aquarium I’ve ever seen. The best part was watching the typhoon roll in over the bay with it’s quintessentially Japanese buildings just standing there as if to say “bring it on, tempest.”

Like August, I could write a ton about September, but suffice it to say we went to Japan.

I must add, however, that I turned 31 in September 2012, and unlike 2011′s party with friends I wanted to keep it just me and Carolyn. She planned an amazing day filled with amazing homemade food and a stop at our favorite Indian restaurant. It was a pretty great way to ring in a new year of Charlie.

October

 

This year we checked out the fall foliage from the skies above Daegu...or from one of the mountain peaks at the outskirts of town.

This year we checked out the fall foliage from the skies above Daegu…or from one of the mountain peaks at the outskirts of town.

We like to enjoy the fall colors, but we sure didn't expect a long bus ride, traffic jam, and a huge queue to get to the top of the mountain. Luckily it was cold at the top giving us a great excuse for some fall cuddles.

We like to enjoy the fall colors, but we sure didn’t expect a long bus ride, traffic jam, and a huge queue to get to the top of the mountain. Luckily it was cold at the top giving us a great excuse for some fall cuddles.

Autumn in Korea is Autumnal. The trees in Asia seem to really know how to dress stylishly for Spring and Fall.

Autumn in Korea is Autumnal. The trees in Asia seem to really know how to dress stylishly for Spring and Fall.

We saw the lantern festival in Jinju light up the night in October

We saw the 2012 lantern festival in Jinju light up the night in October

 

October hit like the end of a roller-coaster ride. All of our trips for the year were over, the leaves were changing, and you could feel the first chills in the air. We headed out to the local “big” mountain (Palgongsan) to check out the fall colors toward the end of the month, and were joined by the entire population of Korea about half a million other residents of Daegu/Gyeongsanbukdo. Despite the pushing, shoving, screaming, spitting, and drunk old ladies and men with no concept of personal space we managed to enjoy the colors of fall. October was definitely transitional though, a necessary movement from travel and adventure towards coziness and enjoyment of home. Oh, and we ran our first 10k together in Gyeongju!

November

 

We love zoos. Carolyn's birthday tradition is a zoo visit. Thank dog we'll live near a good zoo for the next one!

We love zoos. Carolyn’s birthday tradition is a zoo visit. Thank dog we’ll live near a good zoo for the next one!

The Daejeon Zoo had lots of cool displays, like the old feeble people.

The Daejeon Zoo had lots of cool displays, like the old feeble people.

November is always a special month because the most important person in my life, CAROLYN, has a birthday in it! We went up to Daejeon for her special day and watched a movie on the train, visited the Daejeon Zoo, started our quest to collect enough holiday latte stamps at Starbucks to get a free planner, and had a great Indian meal. November 2012 was noteworthy for this one special weekend.

December

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Ah December 2012, the most magical month of winter! It’s snowed just about every Friday, and stuck for  most of the rest of the time, so we’ve taken it pretty easy this month. We’re gearing up for one last vacation (this time to Hong Kong), a long layover in Tokyo, and our return to the U.S. in February. Korea’s been good to us this year, but we’re oh so ready to get home and get started with life. But first, a wedding and a honeymoon!

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2 comments on “2012: A month-by-month rewind

  1. Love this post!!