One Week in Kyoto, Japan

After a great couple of days in Osaka, Ang and I took another short (15 minute) train ride to get to Kyoto. Kyoto is awesome. There is a great mix of new and classically old in this ancient city. We rented an Air BnB in Kyoto, which is basically somebody’s apartment that you rent out through this website. It was a slightly less expensive option compared to many hotels and even hostels, and it felt a little more like being at home as it was a fully furnished (although absolutely tiny) apartment. I loved it, and the owners were extremely helpful in leaving us all of the information that we would need to enjoy Kyoto.

After getting checked into our apartment, and having a Krispy Kreme doughnut and coffee, we wandered around Kyoto a little bit. We walked to the shopping arcade near the Gion district. There was a never-ending row of shops with a roof protecting it from rain. The first thing we found while wandering around was the ‘Ninja Restaurant‘. A good friend had made several obscure references to the Ninja Restaurant, and so I decided immediately that I had to go as we had stumbled upon it by complete accident. I did not realize that I was in for one of the larger disappointments of our trip. To be fair, I think there is a dinner show that you can go to, and maybe that is where the ninjas are, but our experience was in an interesting and creepy looking basement where I was expecting to be assaulted by fake ninjas a number of times. The wait staff was dressed up like ninjas, but that was the extent of our ninja interactions. I kept waiting for one to jump out and do something ninja-like, but that must only be available if you go to the show, which we did not. Instead we paid $80 for an all-you-can-eat-and-drink hot pot meal. The meal was good, but not $80 good. For that price, I really expected to have been struck by at least one ninja star.

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Hot pot at the ninja restaurant. Notice the lack of ninjas.

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Into the Heart of Beer Country: Qingdao, China

On April 30th, Angela and I made a pilgrimage with our good friends Andrea, John, Catherine, Ross and Juliet, into the heart of Chinese beer country. We traveled to Qingdao, which is the home to the Tsingtao Brewery, which to be honest was the main reason for us visiting. We had a three day weekend, and so decided to make a quick trip out of it. We arrived to a slightly rainy and cold Qingdao, and transported directly to our beautiful little hostel called the Wheat Hostel and got checked in. After we moved into our new accommodations, we decided that we should find a local Tsingtao before turning in. We had heard rumors that they served beer in plastic bags in Qingdao, and were hopeful to score one. Upon turning the corner outside of our hostel, we were greeted by a nice Chinese man who immediately asked us if we wanted some. Perfect!

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We soon found out that it seemed to be customary in Qingdao to try and pour beer with as much head as possible. However, the beer was delicious even still! We turned in soon after the above photo was captured.

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Xi’an, China: The Terra Cotta Army

Angela and I decided that for our Spring break, we should see some of China. We have seen embarrassingly little of the country that we are currently residents of, so we settled on a trip to the ancient capital city of Xi’an. I had a gig with my jazz band on Friday night, so we stayed up until around 1:00 AM the night before our 7:50 AM flight. It was a little bit of a bummer, but we made it to Xi’an, and to our very accommodating hostel called the Han Tang House. We had arranged a driver to pick us up from the hostel, but they never showed up. We managed to communicate with a cab driver and found our way. Once we arrived to our hostel, we took a nap! The room was pretty basic, but the bed was very comfortable.

After our nap, Angela and I headed to the Muslim Quarter of Xi’an. There is a large Muslim population, and a large area with many shops and food stalls, along with the Great Mosque of Xi’an.

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The Return To Thailand: Koh Lanta

On September 26, 2014 Angela and I embarked on what I believe was one of the best vacations ever had by any human being ever. We spent the day filling young children’s’ minds with useful facts about music and life, and once the clock struck quitting time we immediately changed into our beach outfits and sprinted from the confines of our place of work. We cleverly had a driver waiting for us outside in a mini-van, ready to take us to the Pudong International Airport. Angela and I were to travel to Koh Lanta, an island off of the west coast of Thailand.

We were traveling with the lower school dance instructor, a Spanish woman named Laura. She was traveling to Bangkok to meet her boyfriend, and we had to travel through Bangkok to get to Krabi, which was the nearest airport to Koh Lanta. Our flight path stopped first in Hong Kong, and then in Bangkok. We were delayed terribly in Shanghai, and we fairly certain that we would miss our connecting flight. Luckily, there were so many of us on that flight that Hong Kong delayed the flight to Bangkok. We were personally escorted through the airport and a slightly faster than comfortable speed, and immediately boarded our next flight at approximately 10:00 PM. The rest of the passengers who were already onboard and waiting seemed really glad that the plane was held for us. We arrived in Bangkok around midnight. Angela had booked a hotel at the Amari Aiport Hotel (which is a fantastic place to stay) which is near the other airport, about an hours drive from our port of entry. We had planned to take the free shuttle, but we had arrived too late. Angela loves the unrestricted internet of Thailand so much that I had to wait for her to purchase a sim card and data plan for her phone in the Bangkok airport, before I was allowed to go to bed. We took a cab to our hotel.

Early the next morning, we woke up and walked across the skybridge to the Don Mueang International Airport. We had a great flight to the Krabi airport, where a van was waiting to transport us to our hotel on Koh Lanta. The route to Koh Lanta takes about three hours by van, and includes two ferry rides. We had to wait a long time for the second ferry. I slept most of the way, because I was still tired by our late arrival and early departure.

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Last Week in Iowa!

Our final week at home is finally here.  It’s crazy how fast 1 month goes!   Nevertheless, Jason and I have been very busy with our time in the states.

The 4th of July weekend was spent in Northeast Iowa, visiting friends and our old stomping grounds!   I do feel that Northeast Iowa may be the most beautiful part of the state!   We were all lucky enough to stay at our old roommates house!   The house provided us all a place to relax and hang out, which made our short time together more fun!   We spent time in Decorah playing disc golf, enjoying the local brew (Toppling Goliath)  and food!   Even though it was a quick trip it was so great to see our friends!

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Summer in Iowa!

We have started our summer break back in the USA!   Our flight from Shanghai was a little rough and we ended departing 1.5 hours late and then at a standstill in Chicago.  After some running in the airport we made our flight to Minneapolis and ended up getting in around 11:00…we were supposed to land at 8!   A few of my cousins who were staying near by even stayed and waited with my parents!   We had a 2hr drive to get to Lake Osakis and didn’t get to bed until 3 am…so needless to say it was a long day!

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June is here!

We have arrived to our last month of our first year abroad!  We have been keeping busy with work and the city!  Two weeks ago I danced in the school dance production and it was amazing!  The performance was about the environment and the students and teachers did a great job.  It was so fun to dance with my fellow teachers and our dance was a hit!

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Work!

Believe it or not, Jason and I actually have jobs here in Shanghai!  And due to these jobs, we are busy, well at least one of us!    Jason is always off doing something!   Since August he has been coaching cross country Monday, Tuesday, Thursday!  Thankfully, that just ended this last weekend!  Besides coaching, Jason is in a community Jazz band which rehearses on Tuesday nights. On Mondays Jason and I have been going to an ultimate frisbee league!   It’s been fun so far, besides getting yelled at by our ‘teammates’ and it’s great workout!  We’re on different teams so it’s allowed us to meet other people!  I’m not sure how I’ll feel when we have our games in late November….may be a bit chilly!

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