Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Flying from Europe to America cheap (or why didn't i think of that!)

Gorgeous.  A genius.  A gorgeous genius!

Vicky is a genius.  I lead with this because she solved a problem we'd been working on with a solution that i've used before but my dense self didn't think of for some reason.  We'd been trying to find the cheapest way home and had settled on a discount airline for around $740 since we couldn't find cheaper.  What Vicky thought to do was to check roundtrip flights instead of just one way.  Suddenly we found a US Airways flight for $673.  Score one for Vicky!

We now add that to the ultra cheap ticket to Istanbul we found for $414 and we've got the major legs of our Europe trip covered.  In fact, we've purchased all our flights for the trip (all 10 of them)!  And thanks to our employers paying for our flight home, we now get our flights to Europe and back to the US for free!!!  To quote Scrooge, "I like life.  Life likes me.  Life and I fairly fully agree.  Life is fine.  Life is good.  Specially mine which is just as it should be!"

Another reason why I love my life

On Jeju the weather has finally turned and heavy coats are being replaced by flip flops and polos.  We walk home after school every day and get out and hike or walk on the weekends.  The last few weekends have been UGLY which is why I haven't posted any new pictures.  Hopefully this weekend will be less hazy and more clear (but I doubt it).  Really good pictures will probably have to wait until my contract end (June 28th).  Then I can go out anytime it's nice and take pictures.

Colorful lanterns hung in front of the Jeju Culture and Art Center.  Why?  I haven't a clue.

The only mildly sad news I have to report is that I've noticed that my vision has regressed a little since my LASIK surgery 9 years ago.  It's not enough to inhibit my daily activities but it's still very annoying since I remember having perfect vision after the operation.  To correct this, I'm having an evaluation done on my eyes this Friday about the possibility of touch-up LASIK on my right eye (it's by far my dominant eye) since LASIK in Korea is both more advanced and cheaper than it is in the US.  Plus my eye conditions are by far the most common ones here, so the doctors have tons of experience dealing with my exact problems.  The price isn't too bad (around $650-750 per eye) so it's just a matter of if I'm a good candidate to go through it a second time.  I'll post more after my exam.

Finally on a random note, want to know how sleep deprived some of the kids are over here due to excessive school and studying?  Today my best student, English name Kyla, had the day off from school (but not from the academy where I teach).  She went to bed at 10pm and got up at 12pm.  And what did she do after sleeping 14 hours?  She took a nap before class at 6.  That is one tired kid!!!  Makes me glad I didn't grow up here.

But it sure is nice to live here when I'm older.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Europe trip plans start to take shape

Hamdeok from the Olle Trail (and you wonder why we like hiking here?)

Unfortunately, today starts with some bad news.  Our friends Randy and Ness were going to join us for 2 weeks of our Europe trip but I got an email from them that they had to cancel.  They had excellent reasons why but it naturally still makes both Vicky and I very sad.  I was really looking forward to the time with them.

Fortunately there's a silver lining at the end of every rainbow (wait ... what?).  In the process of looking at what effect their loss would have on our schedule, I discovered a way to fly to Europe for $100 less than expected AND we get to have a 3 day layover in Istanbul, Turkey.  So we're saving money and adding another cool city to our tour.  Not too shabby :)

Our full (but tentative) schedule now looks like this:

Istanbul, Turkey - 3 days
Munich, Germany - 3 days
Switzerland - 3 days
Budapest, Hungary - 2 days
Vienna, Austria - 2 days
Krakow, Poland - 3 days
Prague, Czech Republic - 5 days (We may have somewhere free to stay here)
Salzburg, Austria - 2 days
Venice, Italy - 2 days
Rome, Italy - 2 days
Florence, Italy - 2 days
Paris, France - 3 days
Barcelona, Spain - 2 days
Lisbon, Portugal - 2 days
Amsterdam, Netherlands - 3 days
Brussels, Belgium - 3 days (we have friends to stay with here for free)
Luxembourg - 1 day
London, England  - 3 days
Dublin, Ireland - 2 days (we might have a friend living here to guide us around)

Total length - about 7 weeks

Of course until we buy the plane tickets, this schedule is open to change but this is what our plan is right now.  It's not as long as I'd like in some places (Rome, Switzerland) but it's enough time to see each place and get a feel for it without moving at a breakneck pace.  It's also built around smart, low cost transportation options (nearly all of our connections between cities are less than $60, some quite a bit less).

A preview of happiness to come :)

I'll fill in more details as we solidify things but I'm sure you can see why we're so excited!  I've been to about half of these places (and loved all of them which is why we're going back to them) and Vicky has been to only a couple of them so most of this is new to her.  For us it's a trip of a lifetime (though not THE trip of a lifetime since we plan to take more like it) and we can hardly wait for it to arrive!

Oh and in case you thought I was joking last time about how Koreans dress for hiking, here's a picture from our latest trip out.  They were kind enough to pose with Vicky (and even asked me to email them copies of the picture).  Notice the clothes, the hats, even the mountain climbing sticks.

This is what a toned-down group of Korean hikers looks like.

And in the "randomly adorable stories" category, we have 2 of my second grade girls trying to explain why one girl has her head on her desk.  They pointed to her and another girl, then drew a heart on the board, then drew a jagged line down the middle and a second drawing of a heart split in two.  Given they're both 2nd graders (and thus will probably have made up long before I teach them again) this was easily the cutest way i've ever seen of explaining two friends having a fight.

The soft glow of sunset over Hamdeok

PS.  If we get good luck with the weather, we'll be heading out for more hiking this weekend.  And now that Vicky's early birthday present for me has arrived, an extremely light but steady tripod, we might even try to take some quality pictures together.  If we do get to try this, I'll post the results next time.  TTFN.