We’re Moving to South Korea!

Soooo, have you been wondering where I’ve been all week?

Well, I have no excuse. Just work and the general ennui of “I’m blogging about being abroad when I’m in the US”

BUT all this is about to change.

As of last week, Vann and I signed year contracts with a school in Seoul! Meaning, assuming the visa stuff goes well*, we should be out of here in mid February, and on to another overseas adventure!!

And the truly funny and amazing thing? If the universe aligns, I’ll be seeing not just one (which would be amazing in itself), but FIVE people I knew from Prague, including some former roommates and TEFL alumni!

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Folks, the world is a beautifully small place :D

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*And I am now so gun-shy that poor Vann has to deal with me worrying about every single little insignificant detail. Saudi, you ruined me.

It’s Christmas in Old Salem

Last weekend, on the way home from Pilot Mountain, we stopped at Winston-Salem (Winston-Salem: The Town That Tobacco Built).

We stopped at Foothills Brew Pub and wandered around Old Salem, a historic town that’s preserved/recreated into the time of the colonial settlers.

It was a beautiful fall day – just full of colorful leaves and, not too surprisingly, Christmas decorations!

Folks, Halloween was over by a couple days, and it’s already Christmas in Old Salem.

America :)

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Attila the Hun: A Hungarian Folk Tale

Remember how I said I was going to be posting up Hungarian folk tales from time to time (translated by my talented friend who’s actually just started translation school!!)?

Well, here’s another, and this one is quite possibly my favorite. Remember how I was also talking about Attila being to the Hungarians this great and noble leader (and not some savage warlord like we in the far west see him)? This folk tale is 100% about that.

Prepare to view Attila as you’ve never viewed him before.*

:D

Attila the Hun

King Attila was a stern-eyed, regal and courageous warrior. He wore his beard long, just like every Hun did. In battles he was resourceful and frightening. His people found him prosperous and generous. His armor always shone, his tent was always clean.

Attila did not keep treasure in his coffer, but gave everything to the penniless. Due to his generosity, he was respected and honored by other nations.

He was also firm-handed and strict, and his soldiers were afraid of him. The Hun king had in his war camp numerous astonishing tents, which were made according to the traditions of many different countries.

After his expeditions, Attila’s stable was full of steeds. However, even though they were close to his heart, he was generous with his people. Thus, he sometimes only had one or two stallions when he wanted to spring into the saddle.

He covered his stables in velvet, while gold and precious stone decorated everything from his throne to his tables and kitchen pots. Talented artists made his golden bed where he fell asleep each night on his expeditions. His army counted one million soldiers. If one was killed, a new one immediately came to replace him.

A crowned bird decorated Attila’s coat of arms. This singular, dignified bird was the mighty Turul. The king of the Huns was the most glorious emperor of all time; he was the king of many great castles and fortresses, but he did not desired to live in any of those palaces. He lived instead with his people in simple tents and rode spirited horses, forgoing carriages or paladins. He did not eat from golden plates nor did he drink from golden beakers. No matter how renowned he became in his long and glorious life, he insisted, until the day he died, on only using wooden cups and plates.

 

*By the way, this and subsequent images of Attila? Only found if you type in “Etele Magyar” (a crude translation into Hungarian, something like “Attila Hungarian”). The only images that appear under a search for “Attila the Hun” are like this…

What Do You Drink on an Airplane?

Whenever I travel, I stick pretty religiously to ginger ale.

In fact, I have ginger ale almost exclusively on flights – every flight -, and whenever I have it in another setting, it just feels…off.

On flights that cover “the morning,” be it my actual morning or a new time zone’s morning, I’ll have a cup of coffee and some orange juice.

But that’s pretty much it! I bring my own water (fill up a waterbottle after passing through security) and mostly drink that constantly to stay hydrated, and then take ginger ale for fun/indulgent reasons and coffee/orange juice for making my body think “it’s morning! wake up!” reasons.

And I almost never drink alcohol.  I’m dried out and dehydrated and jetlagged enough without that being added into the mix!

…But I must say, on a recent 3 hour domestic flight, I did have a beer in the airport beforehand, and I did go to sleep right away. It was lovely

So maybe on short flights that would be a good plan from now on…? :)

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Do you guys drink alcohol on flights? I’m curious. And if not, what’s your go-to way to stay hydrated?

A Foggy Fall Morning on Pilot Mountain

Yeesh. When you’re not abroad it’s hard to keep the momentum going sometimes. Even if I know I will be abroad again soon (inshallah) and that I have a backlog of material the size of Texas to get through anyways.

But you still get into this…I’m in America, why do I need to set aside hours to write today?

So I’m going to do yesterday’s missed post (due to the above-mentioned ennui) today! Right now  :)

Sunday we went to Pilot Mountain, an oddly cylindrical mountain about 2 hours NW from Raleigh, right below the Virginia border.

We got up at 6, got on the highway by 7:40 (a forgotten shoes and coffee fiasco delayed us), and were rewarded with hikes and views like this by 10:00.IMG_44781

Since we were here mid-November, at the top of the mountain all the leaves were gone. However, the land stretching out into the fog below us was a riot of color.

Looking at these photos, the colors looked unreal or way over-saturated.

But really. That’s what the fields looked like.

And by the way, the whole thing just looks very Czech, non?

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6 Awesome Links to Make Your Friday Better

Prague

Did I already use this photo? I can’t remember. Regardless, enjoy it, the links, and have a happy Friday!

Fantastic decluttering tips!

On being friends with your mother (if she was your age)

Sadly Tom Magliozzi (one of the brothers behind Car Talk) died this week.

Women in art bored at parties.

And in London, a wax house is melting :)

An innovative bike lock! Pretty cool :)

And have you ever wanted to brush up on your knife skills? Here’s how!

The Sword of God: A Hungarian Folk Tale

So about 6 months back I got an email from my former roommate and good friend Magdi. She had been trying to share her childhood legends and tales with her boyfriend, but they had found absolutely no translations into English (she’s Hungarian). So for his birthday, she had this brilliant idea to translate all these famous Hungarian tales herself, and then bind them into a book.

Not only was I lucky enough to see the book in its finished form (it was absolutely amazing. A beautiful small book with Hungarian art and stories throughout), but I also got to help her edit some of the English translations!

I asked her if I could share the stories (don’t worry, the gift was given 2 months ago!), and being gracious as ever, she said yes.

So in the next couple weeks and months, expect a story to pop up every now and then on the blog.

The stories and medieval and magical, soaring and prosaic – and quite a bit like King Arthur’s court, actually, although with one great twist. The protagonist in many of the stories? Why, Attila the Hun!!

But not the Attila we grew up learning about. Not the barbarian, the ruthless army leader, the bad guy in Mulan. No, this Attila is wise and strong and unfailingly just in his kindness.

Amazing how different cultures view the same history!!

 

The Sword of God.

The morning light shone on young Attila’s proud face. In front of his table, leaders, diviners and wise men gathered. They were talking.

Attila called for silence and said:

  • Dear soothsayers, good shamans. You, who can read from heavenly signs, and whom the War’s Lord has entrusted his secret.
  • Here we are! – came the answer.
  • Listen to me, and solve my secret. Last night I had a magical dream, and I want to know if it has a good or bad interpretation.
  • In my dream I saw myself as a youngster who had assembled a small troop around himself. It was divided into two groups: I conducted the team of crane feathers. With the other troop, young Aetius galloped. The battle was on a beautiful flowery meadow and we beat the troop of eagle When our victory songs rose in the air, an upheaval shook the earth. Our wooden swords fell to the ground, our bows broke into two pieces, and steel swords fell into our hands instead. The real combat had just begun! The swords gleamed and the sky thundered again. Golden wheels rattled above us and a mighty warrior with a copper helmet raced towards the field on a Star Chariot. The great champion stopped the chariot in front of me and tied a gleaming sword around my waist; a sword that was unlike any ever before looked upon by human eyes. Then he disappeared into the sky.
  • I made a grab at my waist. I wanted to know if it was real or if my dream was playing tricks on me. I felt the weight of the sword, the pressure of the strap.
  • Suddenly, as if I had grown wings, I soared into the sky and flew as fast as the wind. Forests rumbled, powerful rivers whirled beneath me. When cities came before me, I unsheathed my sword and each and every stroke of my sword struck down an entire city.
  • What does this dream tell me?

 

For several seconds the silence gathered. Finally, an ancient soothsayer stepped forward:

  • My dear Lord, I am the oldest of all the ancient Huns, and I have never said anything which would not have been as pure as the cleanest stream.

The soothsayer bowed his head:

  • The Gods of War hammered a magical sword for his sons and hid it from the intrigue of lesser men. Whoever gets this sword will be the scourge of God! Attila, your dream has predicted it. The God of War chose you; he tied the sword around your waist. Where you will find it, I cannot say, but it is going to be yours, and I am certain of it, as certain as the truth of me standing before you now!

Suddenly, Bulcsu, the king’s bravest warrior, appeared in the crowded tent. In his hand he held a blazing sword decorated with gemstones. Beside him stood a shepherd boy.

The ruby hilt shone like the rays of the sun. Attila jumped up and shouted:

  • This is it! This was exactly what I saw!

Bulcsu looked around and said:

  • This morning I went hunting. On the way back home, a shepherd boy hurried towards me.

He patted the boys head and continued:

  • He did not utter a single word, but just looked at me, terrified.

Now the shepherd boy began to talk:

  • This morning my oxen and calves were grazing peacefully. I had lain down and I had just gotten out my haversack when I noticed that one of my dear heifers was wounded in the leg. I followed the blood stainds, and in the root of a briar-rose, I discovered a piece of iron that was sticking out from the ground. I was afraid it would injure my other animals, therefore I made an attempt to pull it out. Suddenly, a purple jet of flame leaped out from the sword. It frightened me, and I ran away. Then I saw you, my Lord – the shepherd boy looked at Bulcsu.

Now it was Bulcsu’s turn to speak:

  • When I arrived at the briar-rose, only the sword’s hilt was still in the ground. I pulled it out and brought it to you, my king, because this sword can only belong to you!

Attila stood up, stepped in front of Bulcsu and took the sword. In his hand the hilt and blade became even more glorious, and shining thus, it lit up Attila’s face. The king’s eyes glowed with fire when he raised the sword high up in the air.

The leaders, wise men, soothsayers and shamans stared at him mesmerized. In that great moment they all bowed to God’s scourge.

Only Buda continued to look at his brother, conflicting emotions on his face. He gazed at the sword jealously. He did not know what to do.

 

Vineyards on Santorini

We’d heard there were vineyards on Santorini. All over Santorini, in fact.

So when we took buses, criss-crossing the island from one edge to the other, we were confused why we couldn’t see any, just dusty white washed houses and dry, sparsely covered ground.

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On the third trip we realized that the dry, sparsely covered ground was the wine, was the vineyards.

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Hah. Oops. Guess all crops don’t look like this.

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Transport around Greece

So you’ve decided to come to Greece. You’ve decided on a length of time you can take off work. You’ve made a list of places you absolutely-have-to-see.

Now how do you get from one place to another?

After all, this is probably the trickiest part of planning a trip to Greece. You list off 5 places you want to check out, then you start to look up how to get from one place to another and realize you have time to maybe check out….3 of them.

Yeah. Just 3.

Why? Because the ferries only go certain times and days, the buses sometimes don’t line up perfectly with the ferry schedules, and the planes are great, but fairly expensive. And if you’re going in the tourist season, you have to hope you get a seat, and if you’re going in the off season, you have to hope that ferry still runs.

So here, dear reader, is a quick background of what I learned on the three main types of transportation in Greece, just for you. May it help smooth out your travel experience.

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No, you will not (most likely) be traveling by watermelon truck. But that would be cool.

Ferries:

  • Two main companies are Sea Jets and Hellenic Seaways. Nicely offering an English option on their websites, they list the schedules and stops roughly 2 months in advance.
  • Ferries = cheapest and slowest option. High Speed Ferries = a little more expensive, but faster, newer, and definitely nicer. Catamarans/Flying Dolphins = very quick and light, but also the first to be cancelled bcs of bad weather. Your Own Boat = the best option (if you can afford it)!
  • Good thing to note, you don’t always need reservations/to pre-order tickets, but if you are on a touristy route during tourist season, it will probably be sold out.
  • It should tell you this on your ticket when you order it, but they often suggest being there an hour early or so to pick up your ticket at the kiosk at the port and board. Although we saw people getting on much later than the 60 min before, it was definitely necessary to follow the suggestion if you wanted a seat (again, we were going during the tourist season).
  • Pireaus is probably the port you’ll take from Athens. Make sure you know the dock you’re leaving from. It’s all spread out. (we took a taxi to get to our early morning ferry’s port. I’d recommend that. Not that expensive, and wayyyy less stressful than a metro trip and endless search for a port at 6am). The other ports on the islands will have their own name, often, and not just be called the island’s name. A quick google check will make sure you’re going to the right one.
  • As an idea, our Pireaus to Thira (Santorini) ticket cost 57 Euros each and took 5 or so hours, and our Thira to Heraklio (Crete) ticket cost 58 Euros each and took 1.5 hours (but was business class on a high speed ferry – they ran out of economy).
  • Need more info? Check this tripadvisor article out.
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7 am ferry leaving Athens

Buses:

  • First off. the little, steep, cliff-clinging, winding road that leads from the port in Santorini up to Fira (Thira) is terrifying. Especially going down. But those drivers are pros (and I’m sure the brakes are checked often!…..right?).
  • The green buses at the port on Santorini will take you right up to the main town station of Thira (Fira) for 2.20 Euros. Not bad!
  • The green buses are local buses on the islands (KTEL) and work like many buses around the western world. There’s a station with times listed (I’m sure your hostel/hotel will have the times as well) and an electronic marquee that says the bus number, gate number, time, and end destination (with key stops pointed out). Just look for it and go from there! Just be wary of return times when you get off! We thought a bus came when it didn’t and ended up having to hitchhike across the island….
  • On the times when you don’t buy a ticket at a station, just get hop on and there will be a guy on the bus who’s job it is to collect your money.
  • Greece is well set up for tourists. There will be buses going to your destination. :)
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Athens Airport Museum

Planes:

  • Planes are quick and effective! The little Heraklion (Crete) airport we took when we flew Crete to Athens was nicely sized, close to the city, and easy to use.
  • And Aegean Air was so so nice! I definitely recommend flying with them.  Buuttt, more about that later.
  • And by the way – Athens Airport? Super nice as well. Has it’s own museum to wile away the time between flights! :)
  • It surprisingly isn’t all that expensive compared with ferries, either. Our ferry tickets were 57 and 58 Euros, and our plane tickets were 53 Euros. But that was for the cheapest option. And boy did the cheap tickets run out soon and the price hike up quickly right after….
  • As with all types of transportation in Greece, you have to watch out for strikes and cancellations and schedule changes. Either factor in a day of leeway if possible, or cross your fingers things go off without a hitch!!
  • Finally, here’s a link to an article that has even more info. The good ole’ lonely planet…

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