It is Kim's Birthday this weekend and I have been reminiscing the fabulous Turkish road trip that we took last year for her Birthday. We brought our favorite four legged creature and set off to the Black Sea region of Turkey. Our first rest stop was at the beautiful Sapanca Lake, so serene and peaceful.
Kim loves driving and I love playing navigator in the passenger seat. The roads were long and speckled with beautiful sights like these.
We spent our first evening in the stunning UNESCO town of Safranbolu. Honestly, I just picked this town because it seemed the right distance away from Istanbul but it turned out to be a total treat! It was the cutest little place that seriously looked like it is where they shot Beauty and the Beast. I couldn't get over how adorable this place was! We stayed in a hotel that was a renovated house from the 1800's that still had a lot of it's similar qualities. I definitely want to return.
When we set out the next day we were driving through a little town and all of a sudden there was a huge castle on a hill right in front of us. We were able to drive up an explore it on foot. It turns out it was the Kastamonu Castle, parts of it dating back to the Byzantine era.
Perhaps my favorite scenery of the weekend was the mountain passes we traveled on our way to the coast. We stopped and sampled honey from street-side bee keepers and sipped tea on picnic tables surrounded by white peaked mountains.
Most of our day we spent winding the twisting coast of the Black Sea. I had read that this route was as amazing as the coasts of California and it was quite spectacular . . . for the first few hours. By afternoon we were both ready to get off of the curving paths but alas, the only way out was through, so we continued to twist and turn with these views by our side.
We ended the weekend in Agva, where we stayed at a funky place that gave us our own cottage with a working fire place that we had to take a boat to cross a little river in order to get to. They also had the most amazing homemade jam with the Turkish breakfast we had in the morning.
It was such a fun road trip over all and Ms. Penny did amazingly, quickly warming up to this new way of travel. Just writing about this makes me want to do it all over again. Happy Birthday my love, cheers to another fantastic year of adventuring.
Our summer was overflowing with Maine goodness as we visited, relaxed, and enjoyed June and July with our family and friends. The air was still cold when we arrived and I spent the first few weeks in jeans, a sweatshirt, and socks. Coming from the Myanmar hot season, Kim was loving the cool temps and continued to wear her shorts and flip flops everyday. We lived as nomads, moving from place to place spending time with all of our favorite people.
Starting off right away we celebrated Drew’s 16th birthday by camping in true Maine style – cooking lobster over the fire. It wasn’t long before it was Amanda’s 21st as we took her out for her first legal drink continuing with a trip to a casino, margaritas, tacos, and beer pong. The days quickly got filled with lunch dates with awesome people, excursions to the local swimming holes, and frosty deliciousness at our favorite ice cream stands. There were late night bonfires, family BBQs, road trips across states, hikes on the best of forest trails, catching up with friends, and quality time with family.
Our yearly trip up to Lubec (the most eastern point in the US) had a rocky start when the truck broke down on the way up. But we continued on and had a few days of bliss with ocean breezes, starry night skies, not a person in sight for miles, and lobster. There is always lobster on an Ellicott vacation to Lubec. Shortly after we said goodbye to our dearest Ellie May. Words cannot express the loss we feel at the emptiness in our lives left by the happiest creature imaginable. Ellie got along with every person and animal (besides skunks and squirrels). We were constantly complemented on her happy personality and calm demeanor. She was so much more than our puppy dog, she was the third member of our small family.
As we worked through our emotions, we continued to stuff ourselves with our favorite (and much missed) American food. Milk, steak, honey nut cheerios, swis rolls, bread that is not sweet, breakfast sandwiches, waffles, orange juice, chocolate, granola bars, fruit roll ups, meatballs, steak and cheese grinders, and so SO much more. I’m seriously going to have to work off all the extra weight when I get back.
I photographed a wedding with Andrea and some super sweet couples sessions. Kim went fishing with Josh and sunk the paddleboat. We got our one year anniversary photos taken by Aime from Aime E Photography. There was so much amazingness in these few weeks! To wrap it up we spent an unforgettable week with most of my family in a cabin in northern Maine where we explored waterfalls, went white water rafting, cruised the lake at sunset via pontoon, had never ending card games, and laughed more often than not.
The seven weeks we were back seemed more like seven days. I knew it would go by quickly, I was prepared for it to go by quickly. What I wasn’t expecting was the lack of anticipation on returning. I figured it would feel like any other vacation where towards the end of it you get the itchy desire to be back where you came from. Instead I felt very comfortable, very settled surrounded by all of my favorite people and familiar environments. It was easy and not complicated. I guess that is what it feels like to come home.
Yet, in no way am I hesitant to continue our adventures abroad. As I see fewer signs in English and more noodle dishes around me, I feel myself pulling back on my armor. Not in an aggressive way, but the necessary readiness needed for navigating a foreign country. The oh-so-familiar complications of language barriers, unknown customs, foreign cities, unrecognizable food, and general confusion that accompanies traveling is flooding back. With it though, comes endless potential for more life-changing experiences, meeting more awesome people, continuing to broaden our mindsets, and learning more about ourselves and this amazing planet everyday.
So THANK YOU Maine and everyone for the conversations and catching up, for the couches to sleep on and the overly delicious food, for the time spent with us and the un-wavering open arms that welcomed us back. But mostly thank you for all the love that filled our hearts enough to last us (what is sure to be) another remarkable year away from home.
It was Friday night and you know what that means . . . 19th street here we come!!!!! We grabbed a group of our friends and headed downtown to enjoy an evening of festivities which started with 80 cent mojitos and ended with Kim making a slew of new local friends. Another epic night on 19th street.
As is usual with our nightly wanderings, we had some unusual finds one of which was another Myanmar delicacy. My students called these tree warms. The are available fresh and deep fried. We were going to try some but they were surprisingly expensive - I think they gave us the foreigner price increase.
On Saturday we went on a much-awaited adventure of going across the river to the neighboring town of Dala. We took the ferry over after managing to find the dock and got some traditional Myanmar lunch on the other side (yes, Kim ate on the street). The we each got a trishaw to take us around town to the different sites. This defiantly needed it’s own post so:
Look how crazy adorable this little guy was!!!!!
Back on our side of the bay we lead our couchsurfers through a little tour of downtown in search of Dim Sum. We had heard that Chinatown has the BEST Dim Sum in Yangon (makes sense). But unfortunately we didn't actually know where Chinatown was to be found. It did show the area on the map but it was stretched over about 6 blocks. At least the walk was interesting.
Although we didn't find any Dim Sum we did find some tasty doughnuts off the street. Kim really enjoyed them.
Sunday we continued our usual tradition of grocery shopping but instead of taking our usual route we decided to take the long way around and explore our neighborhood a little more. One thing I love about walking around is admiring all of the colors that were once brilliant and vibrant used on the houses, now crumbling, peeling, and fading away. After walking down a random road for a good 15-20 minutes we turned out to a road that we knew but the surprises didn’t end there, we found a genuine ramen noodle house down a random side ally. Although we had already had a meal we know we will be back to try it soon.
The week held a run of work, me at school and Kim building her menu for the restaurant. We hosted a new couchsurfing couple from Spain in the middle of the week and had a blast with them sharing our love of homemade sangria and delicious food.
We can’t go through a week without having a fun new food adventure. We popped over to the Korean Mart across the street in search of some ice cream and found an interesting treat, check out this video to see what we found:
I'm not sure what to say after that so I will just leave it there. See you all next week!
It was Amanda's 20th Birthday on Friday so after dinner with my co-workers, Kim and I went over to her place to spend some quality time with her, Josh, Samantha, and India. Happiest days Amanda : )
Saturday I set off to Portland with Amanda, Samantha, India, and Rosie for Bridesmaids Dress Shopping. Andrea and Autumn met us at David's Bridal for our first round of dress trying-on. Amanda is getting married in October of this year on a beach in Kennebunk, Maine. Kim and I are hoping to make the trip back over for the wedding if it is possible with school schedules and finances, but either way I am happy to be a part of the wedding planning process. It was a long day with many options to take into consideration and we walked away without a winner but I'm sure we will find one soon. Here are some photos of the contestants.
Father's Day was on Sunday so after dress shopping we headed straight up to Kim's parents house to spend the night with them. We had lobster and clams, drinks and a fire. Sunday we went over to my Dad's house where the family gathered for a noon time brunch. After we dug out the old photo albums and Dad shared stories with us of the old days. Kim and I are both so happy to be able to spend time with both of our families and very grateful to have two amazing Dads in our lives.
Old family pics:
Monday was my very last day of school. After the sixth grade "Step-up Breakfast" I was able to finish up a project I have been working on with the kids. Each year the 6th graders at Rowe leave their mark on the school via the 6th Grade "Tiles" Project. I give each student a square on the wall to paint to represent themselves and what they want future Rowe students to know about them. I love how unique each and every square turned out.
It was very strange watching the students walking out of the school, mainly because it felt like every other day but at the same time I knew that this was the last time I will most likely see them. After a staff brunch, hugs, and goodbyes, I locked up my room for the last time. On Tuesday I met up with the new art teacher. Sarah is a very kind person who has been working in the school system for some time but has never had the opportunity to have an art classroom of her own. I was able to give her a tour of the room and school and fill her in on all of the amazing things that have been happening in the world of Art at Rowe. I hope that she is able to continue on some of my traditions (like the end-of-the-year art club lock-in) and start some fantastic ones of her own. I grabbed the few boxes I had packed up of my teacher things, passed on my keys, and walked out of Rowe for the last time.
Wednesday brought one of my very least favorite things, going to see the dentist. I'm not sure why or when but at some point in my life I developed an intense, irrational fear of the dentist. Just talking about it, or hearing someone else's dentist story will bring tears to my eyes. Unfortunately I did have some work that I needed to get done on my teeth and I knew it needed to happen before I left so off I went to Falmouth Dental Arts. Luckily I found a group of very understanding and patient dental folks that worked with me to develop a plan that I could handle. I was able to be under conscious sedation for the procedure which left a lovely amnesia effect. I am so happy to know that my teeth are up to par for our leave and mainly happy to know that I will not have to go back for (hopefully) some time.
The rest of the week involved swimming, lunch dates with Meg, going to the movies, and of course PACKING!!!
We had to make a very big and difficult decision this week, one we have been fighting for months now. Ellie, our golden retriever will be staying here while we go to Burma. If you don't know us well you might be thinking "It is just a dog, not a big sacrifice for an amazing life experience," but that is not even close. Ellie is a part of our family, she makes us laugh, gives us comfort, and depends on us as her pack. I shed more than a couple tears over this but in the end know that it will probably be for the best. This is how we came about to our choice.
On Saturday Ellie and Macy were scheduled to have a vet appointment to get a check-up, their necessary shots, and a rabies antibody blood test, all necessary for them to travel with us. To get ready I called the airline on Wednesday to confirm that this was everything we needed. The very fast speaking representative went over all of the information with me and everything was looking good. In informed him that Ellie would be flying as an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) and asked him to double check the requirements for this to be sure we had everything in order. He agreed that we in fact had everything we needed to get her out of the country but then proceeded to tell me that she would not be considered an ESA at our layover in Soel, Korea. Once there she would need to ride underneath the plane in the cargo area. I was blown away that this fact never came up in any other conversation with the airline. Finishing our conversation I researched for some time with the Air Carrier Access Act and other airlines to find out if this was the norm. I also, emailed the airline to get a second opinion on the topic.
Unfortunately all of the information came out being in line with what the representative had said. Ellie would only be recognized as an ESA on a flight to or from the US, as soon as we step off the first plane she is just any other animal. Kim and I had been doing all of this work because we have heard the horror stories of animals not making it to their destination. Many animals die in the cargo area due to the extreme heat that is unavoidable on the tarmac (while the plane is waiting to take off or waiting to unload). With even a small chance that Ellie would not make it to Burma it was not even a choice for us to take her over with us.
Not being able to have our whole family with us has really been tearing us apart and began to sour us to the move. This is really unfortunate because until now we have only had one emotion: excited! Luckily we have an amazing family and Ellie will be staying with Kim's parents while we are gone. We are very grateful to have a home for her where we know she will be just as adored as she is with us.
I kicked off the weekend with my Annual Art Club Lock-In. Friday night 20 of my 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students joined me and two other chaperones for a night of art making and shenanigans. This event is truly the highlight of my teaching year, it allows me to connect with my most dedicated art students and celebrate what brings us together - ART! My youngest sister Autumn was able to join us for the night also!
Saturday Kim joined Josh and his other groomsmen to get fitted for their tuxes to wear at Amanda and Josh's wedding ceremony. After a LONG nap on Saturday (the Art Club kids stayed up until 5am and I peeled them out of bed at 7am for family breakfast) Kim and I joined our friends Nikki and Katrina for their first bonfire of the summer.
Sunday morning started with our (Kim's) famous tacos, breakfast style : ) We spent some time trying to track down answers for our many questions regarding getting the pets over to Burma. After being on hold for ever we finally got to talk to someone from Korean Air who told us that we in fact did not have to import the pets into Korea if we are only changing flights (as long as it is with the same carrier). WOOHOO! So we finally sent the itinerary to my school, I posted a screen shot below. It will be almost 30 hours in transit with only 4 of those being layovers. It is going to be a looooooooong journey that's for sure. To celebrate we got ourselves some FroYo from the new place in town : )
The warmer weather finally arrived on Monday when it got up to 85* out. To celebrate we had an impromptu swimming excursion with some of the family. Dad ran around and threw everyone in the water which was just warm enough to be comfortable. We ate pineapple, threw sticks for the dogs, and enjoyed thawing out after the brutal winter we have had.
The rest of the week for me involved staying very late to grade a couple nights as well as attending a retirement gathering for my principal, George Sincerbeaux. A great leader, I could not have asked for a more supportive administrator to work with for the past two years. He is going to be very missed by everyone at Rowe.
For Date Night this week we grabbed my little bro, Drew, and headed to a new Chinese food place in town. Set up with a buffet, we enjoyed tastes of a variety of our favorite oriental foods - including sushi!! We were very impressed with the quality and would defiantly return if the opportunity arose.
While Kim was busy catering an event at work I was able to FINALLY start packing!! Although I didn't make it very far I managed to turn the house into shambles in the process. I doubt very highly that we will have a clean house ever again before we move. Since about 90% of the items in the house are technically mine it is going to be a lot of work on my part to go through everything and decide what needs to be packed for storage, what can be given away, and what few items will be going with us.
We started thinking about what items we will be taking with us. We have decided not to ship anything over and just take what we can bring in suitcases on the plane with us. I have no idea how well this is going to work out but that is the plan right now. We have begun a packing list of items that we are going to bring with us. Right now it is no way complete but it is a start:
Alisa & Kim
Two expats living, teaching, and eating their way across this beautiful world