Santa’s Bday Rush

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As Santa’s birthday approached kitty and Santa felt shocked that an entire year had already passed from when they signed their contract to move abroad.  They reflected on their time over seas and both agreed that a single year can change so much in ones life. They both have felt truly blessed to have been on such an adventure and even more thankful they got to do it together. Santa was feeling a little lost about her birthday as she knew this was closing a chapter in her life she truly loved. Moving overseas, teaching and traveling have made her happier than she could have ever imagined. Kitty reassured her that although the future of the unknown is scary, it’s also exciting. “If your 25th year of life was this good, just think of how great 26 is going to be”. Kitty is certainly wiser as she has almost a whole year on Santa. Santa pondered this for a short while and agreed. She immediately knew that she needed to do something on her birthday to prove 26 would be a fearless year. In 3 short weeks they will both embark on a 90 day adventure of a lifetime, traveling to 6 different countries, meeting up with family and friends along the way, then heading to Chicago for the holidays. Santa will continue on to chase a life long dream of becoming an actress in California while kitty will most likely move abroad again to continue her passion of teaching the future generations of this world. It’s the ending of a great 13 year journey they spent together and the beginning of their own separate adventures that will surely be just as exciting.

Santa made the decision to drag kitty along on a thrill seeking weekend to prove just how brave she was going to be this year. They started the kick off in Seoul where they went to a bunch of awesome pubs, drank great craft beers & met some wonderful new friends. They headed to a rugby tournament on the morning of Santas Korean birthday and sat on the river drinking Cass beers, playing felt ball, chumming with the 711 owner & making new friends. The night continued on at a local pub called phillies where Kitty surprised Santa with a candle lit birthday cake and a happy birthday song that boomed louder than the music in the bar.

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The next morning, feeling the effects of the night before, kitty and Santa managed to roll out of bed and jump in a cab at 7:00AM to head to the bus station. They grabbed some food and water and got on a 3 hour bus out of Seoul to start their day of adventure. On the list of things to do was whitewater rafting, zip lining and Santas ultimate bungee jump!!!

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Kitty and Santa’s guide showed them a wonderful time during the white water rafting as he screamed commands in Korean and scared the girls into a state of shock. “HANA! DUH! HANA! DUH!” (meaning 1,2) Kitty and Santa flapped their paddle side to side hoping they were doing it right. The boat was shared by 2 older korean men and 2 middle school boys. The 4 guys on the boat repeated the guide screaming “HANA! DUH! HANA! DUH!” in military like chants. Kitty and Santa tried really hard to keep up but when their form started to get sloppy the guide threw his paddle down, grabbed Kitty by the life jacket and tossed her off the boat. He then looked at Santa in a rage and Santa dropped her paddle and jumped out of the boat on her own. Kitty and Santa laughed swimming next to the boat, wondering how they were going to survive the rest of this rafting trip with this maniac. Back in the boat they hit some rapids and got a few adrenalin rushes.

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They then pulled their raft up onto shore, Kitty and Santa thought the trip was over. They survived. WRONG. The guide made them follow him up to a waterfall where he grabbed one of the middle schoolers, knocked him over and held his face under the waterfall. They watched in fear as he appeared to be practically drowning everyone on the boat, holding their faces under the water until their bodies started to flail around in a panic. He would pull their heads out from the water and before they could catch a second breath he would shove it back under. It looked like a torture scene from a war movie. After the 4 guys came weezing and coughing away from the fall the guide looked at Kitty and Santa with a “YOUR NEXT” face. They both shook their head in fear. “We’re not doing that” Santa said with a shaky voice but before Kitty could respond Santa was pulled away towards the fall. He grabbed her face and held it under the water pounding down. Santa tried to escape, kicking her legs about as 25 whole years of life flashed before her eyes. Koreans stood around laughing waiting for their turn to be water boarded. Kitty stood in a state of shock and fear. Korea is one hell of a culture. Kitty was up next and after fighting it for a few minutes she caved and let the man almost kill her. As they walked back to the raft feeling confused about what just happened Kitty mumbled “why do I always let you talk me into these trips. This is the last time SANTA.”

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After a hearty lunch of ramen noodles, beers and snacks they suited up and zip lined around and over the river with a new and much nicer guide. The only issue with zip lining was that they thought somehow the speed would reduce when landing on the plank, they were mistaken. There was a big blue mat on the tree that they were apparently supposed to brace themselves for a crash landing. Well, no one told them so after their first zip they both flew head on into the mat in a true George of the Jungle style, they were both surprised they didn’t go through the tree leaving just a silhouette of their bodies behind.

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The last stop of the day was Santa’s bungee jump. Her official birthday present to herself. fearless freedom and courage! She was suited up, climbed into a crane and lifted 200 feet above the river. The guy inside asked her if she was ready and she responded. “fuck ya. lets do this” He opened the door to a small plank where he told her to step out to the line. She looked back at him and said “I’m going to fall” He responded, “NO. You’re going to jump! On the count of 3, ready?” “YA!” She looked down at Kitty and all the people cheering her on that were the size of ants. She did a few fist pumps, spread her arms out like a new pair of wings and when she heard 3 she jumped up into the air. It was the most amazing free fall she had ever experienced.

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Santa’s birthday was the BEST one yet, which only means one thing. Getting old means that life simply gets more and more amazing. Santa wants to say thank you to Kitty for making it so special and thank you to all her old and new friends that made this day everything it was. 26 is off to an incredible start!

Here is a video that Kitty made Santa for her birthday. It is one of the BEST walks down memory lane.

http://youtu.be/IjSQFhU5f-U

Springing South Korea

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Kitty and Santa spent the last 2 years of their lives on the tropical beaches of San Diego. When they made the move to South Korea not only did they experience culture shock, but the winter weather also brought on a period of hibernation like the Chicago bears they were raised to be. Since the weather has now turned and the flowers have bloomed, Kitty and Santa have come out of their cave and wasted no time frolicking about Korea. Here are some of their spring highlights!

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Gwangju 10K

Kitty decided that it might be fun for the duo to partake in a race while here in Korea.  After a bit of online research, and some translating by Kitty’s elementary students, they had signed up to run a 10K on April 21st.  With a little convincing, their friend Krissy signed up to run as well!  Santa and Kitty didn’t take the training too seriously, as they weren’t planning on winning.  And Krissy, well her training consisted of shopping and dancing at the bar on Saturday nights.

On race day, they had planned on meeting Krissy on the corner so they could catch a cab to the starting line together.  When Kitty and Santa arrived that morning, Krissy was nowhere in sight.  Santa started freaking out, as she always likes to be at least an hour early to EVERYTHING.  They started to walk towards her apartment, but turned around in fear she might have taken a different route and that they’d miss her.  As they neared the corner again, they spotted Krissy who was enjoying a breakfast of champions: Oreos and chocolate milk!

After a nerve racking 15-minute wait, they finally were able to flag down a cab.  They pulled out the race map in hopes that the cab driver would know where they were suppose to go.  He got a bit angry, but in the end they arrived at the starting line with about 20 minutes to spare.  Krissy, Kitty, and Santa all started the race together, but ended up getting separated during their run.  They reunited at the finish line where they were presented with medals, chocolate pies, and sweet bread (not the normal fruit and fuel they were use to receiving post run).  After snapping a few pictures with every Korean fan, they felt as though they had won the race.  Success! One more thing off Kitty and Santa’s Korean Bucket list!

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Shopping in Seoul

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Kitty and Santa hadn’t been to Seoul since they celebrated Kitty’s 26th year of birth in the fall.  This also means that they hadn’t been shopping since November.  In Gwang Ju they have a lot of small boutiques and places to shop downtown, but here in Korea the majority of clothing is one size fits all, or FREE size.  Seems a bit weird, but everyone here is pretty small.  Free size might work for most Koreans, but not for Kitty and Santa.  Their friends Krissy and Kivi also wanted to get up to Seoul, so they decided to all take the KTX train together the weekend following their big race.

This was everyone’s first time taking the train in Korea, and it was a really enjoyable experience for all.  They arrived around noon on that Saturday, and Kitty and Santa found themselves back at the scene of the crime, the Seoul Subway! As Krissy and Kivi tried to figure out what line they needed to take, Santa and Kitty got a snack and decided that after the mix up they experienced the last time they wouldn’t be putting in their two cents.  Fifteen minutes later they jumped on a line that took them directly to their love motel (love motel is how they refer to cheap motels here in Korea).  As Krissy and Kivi would say, it was actually quite nice!  They dropped off their luggage and hit the streets for a day of shopping.  After spending over three hours in the five-floor Forever XI, they decided it was time to get back to the motel and freshen up.  Krissy’s childhood friend and husband are currently living in Seoul, and invited them all over for drinks before dinner.  They enjoyed some Lithuanian sprites and snacks, before heading out to a Thai Chinese fusion restaurant.  After a family style dinner, they headed to an Irish pub for darts and Jameson.  They spent the rest of the night bar hopping, dancing and taking firework shots before ending up eating Doners at 3 am.  According to Santa, Doners is a snack she once enjoyed while visiting her sister in Germany many years ago.  Kivi really enjoyed the Doners, and went back for seconds, thirds, and maybe even a fourth.  The night become a blur after the food coma but they woke up in their beds feeling well rested!

The next morning they enjoyed a breakfast at a cute French restaurant in a quiet neighborhood, before jumping back on the train to Gwang Ju.  Kitty and Santa enjoyed their weekend away in the big crowded city, but it’s always nice to come home to Gwangju!

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Bamboo Forest and Festival

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Kitty and Santa set off for yet another weekend adventure. This time they headed to Damyang for the traditional bamboo festival.They tasted some wonderful traditional teas, cookies and bamboo flavored ice cream. Hiked through the famous bamboo forest, purchased some local bamboo goods and hung out with some bamboo wearing festival dancers. Just 45 minutes outside of Gwangju, this day trip was well worth the wons!

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Mt. Wolchulsan National Park

Santa was looking to get a feel for some real Korean hiking, so while Kitty spent the day studying for her online grad school classes Santa took the bus with a friend to Mt. Wolchulsan National Park. She was told by her friend (an experienced outdoorsmen kind of guy) that it would be a long hike but not to worry. He would provide all the snacks, water and necessities one might need while climbing a mountain. She left around 7:00 AM and returned dirty and tired at 7:00 PM. A full days work but it’s not every day one can proclaim that they climbed a mountain…and hiked an entire national park! It might have been one of her favorite days in Korea so far. Go Santa GO!

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Gokseong Train Village 

One of the many perks of living in Korea is the fact that it is so small, so seeing a lot of the country on day trips is possible. Kitty and Santa decided to hit up Gokseong Train Village on a sunny Saturday afternoon to ride their famous rail bikes around the town’s mountain base. They brought along some snacks, a bottle of wine, two dixies, and of course their cameras for documentation purposes. Kitty and Santa arrived at the bus’s final destination but didn’t see the village they were expecting. After a game of charades with the bus driver they finally were able to get the point across “RAIL BIKES”. The bus driver showed them to a taxi who drove them 15 minutes into the middle of no where. He pointed to a small building next to an old railroad track and said “rail bike, good bye”. Kitty and Santa shrugged, threw him some won tons, and got out of the cab.

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They approached the ticket counter where they asked for a two seater rail bike. The ticket lady crossed her arms and shook them violently, a korean term  they were familiar with, NO. A young Korean with excellent English skills stepped in to translate. “Did you make a reservation?” Kitty and Santa looked at each other and than made a big X with their forarms. “Noo.” Apparently it was necessary in order to ride the rail. Kitty and Santa stood there in contemplation. They didn’t know whether they should wait for another taxi to take them to this village or go on the trek without a mode of transportation…”I mean if we follow the train tracks I don’t think we will get lost…do you?” Kitty asked. The Koreans standing around them thought it would be too far for Kitty and Santa to walk, but they pointed the girls in the right direction and shook their heads as they watched Kitty and Santa disappear.

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It wasn’t long before Kitty and Santa busted into the wine as they followed the tracks winding through the beautiful Korean landscape. They sang some old rail road songs, screamed and jumped around when they crossed paths with a large snake, had a few panic attacks when crossing bridges (it was pretty close to being in the movie Stand by Me…), laughed hysterically and talked for hours about how weird it is that they live in Korea.

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One pretty important question kept coming about, especially when crossing the bridges…do trains actually ride on this rail still? The first time it came up they both laughed it off. Of course NOT, this rail was now for bikes only, and they would have plenty of time to jump out of the way when they saw them coming.  They both laughed and then became very silent…”do you hear that?” Kitty would ask over and over again. Santa kept turning to look behind her, expecting a large freight train to be there. Well, about an hour into the trip there was no mistaking the sound of a bustling steam engine heading their way. Its horn was bellowing and smoke came clouding out the front. Santa screamed and jumped into the ditch, not even thinking about the snakes. Kitty jumped to the side. Santa wanted to go further into the woods afraid the train would take them out. They were happy when they realized this train was full of tourists and it was moving like an authentically slow locomotive.

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After hours of walking they finally stumbled upon the train village. They were greeted with cold beers, carnival rides and amazing locals. Kitty and Santa enjoyed the town for an hour before trying to head back to Gwangju. A few Koreans near by spotted Kitty and Santa scratching their heads wondering when the next train back would be. “Last train to Gwangju is finished. You can ride with us, we take you back.” Kitty and Santa were so happy to have met such wonderful people. They chatted with the young newlyweds all the way back to Gwangju. The day couldn’t have gone any better…Oh Korea!

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 -Sometimes it’s not about the destination but journey that should be appreciated- 

Lost in Transportation

Kitty and Santa headed to Seoul to really celebrate the big birthday. Seoul is the biggest city in Korea and they decided it would be a perfect adventure for the weekend. They had plans for shopping, dinning, exploring, and indulging in a few well deserved cocktails. After about a 3 1/2 hour bus ride this is exactly what they did. They checked into their hostel and had lunch at Subway (upon kitty’s birthday request). No 5 dollar footlong, but it was worth every won. They Shopped until they literally almost dropped. Then had dinner at a delicious noodle house. Enjoyed a few glasses of wine and hit the streets to celebrate a long but successful day in Seoul.

New purchase: all the cool kids in Asia wear fake focals…just trying to blend.

Bunk beds, favorite part of sleeping at hostels.

Kitty and Santa found a jazz bar that featured Frank and the boys, sipped on some Jameson and talked about life and all the different kinds of money hanging above them. Ironically,  Santa went to buy the drinks and handed the bartender what was equivalent to $3.00 USD, he gave her the “What’s this” face and she knew she messed up. Good thing Kitty always has enough money to bail her out. Apparently she thought she grabbed $50.00 for the night out and only took $5.00. She will probably learn the currency just as they are leaving Korea, Kitty is worried she will have to relearn what a dollar is upon returning home.

Kitty and Santa will spare you the details on how the rest of the night went and fast forward to Sunday morning….

So there they were, sitting in the subway station at 11 AM while soju was seeking it’s revenge from the night before. SIDENOTE: When life gives you lemons and you act cool and add soju, nothing good comes of it.

Santa had her head down on the table at McDonalds praying that if it was going to spontaneously combust that it would happen soon. Kitty plopped down in her chair staring in confusion at the 2 meals that sat in front of her ” Either I’m seeing double or I think they misunderstood when I ordered a double cheeseburger”. They finished what they could and Kitty packed up what they couldn’t. “We gotta get home, lets do this.”

They thought they had mastered the subway system the previous day, but in their hazy stupor they would soon find out they were sadly mistaken. They purchased their train tickets, hopped on the train and after a few stops realized they were going the wrong way. They ran off, pushed their way on the packed car going the other direction, and finally made it to the blue line to transfer. This is when things really went wrong.

They followed the signs for their transfer train, but when they tried to enter with their purchased tickets the gates came down on them hard, real hard. Kitty and Santa looked at each other in confusion, backed up, and returned to the machine where they purchased another ticket. They crossed their fingers and tried a second time with success.  They got down to the train and realized they were about to get on the wrong one. At this point kitty and santa were exhausted. They wanted to click their heels and be back in Gwangju. They ran back up the stairs, but as they tried to exit the gates flew up and almost took them out AGAIN.

Now they were mad. They had paid twice and were not going back for round three. They busted through the gate and made a run for it. They were finally in route to the correct train, but in order to get there they had to bust through a few more gates. Now breaking the law is unlike Kitty and Santa, but when no one speaks English and they have no way of explaining themselves, sometimes there just isn’t any other way. They hopped on the right train, the doors shut but they weren’t moving.  After 5 minutes Santa broke into a sweat and almost had a panic attack. “Do you think they are looking for us? Should we turn ourselves in? I can’t believe we are going to go to jail in Korea.” Kitty started getting defensive ” Look, the thing is if we are on camera, we’ve paid twice and haven’t gone anywhere! I’ll tell them Santa. We’re not going to jail today!!” Just as they were about to make a scene in front of the Koreans swarming around them the train started to move. They both took a seat and kept quiet for the rest of the ride. But don’t you think for a second that Kitty and Santa didn’t pay for what they had done. Their legs bare the consequences of their actions. Regardless of the bruises and bumps they had made it to the express bus terminal and that’s all that mattered at that point.

After their subway switchup they couldn’t have been happier to see their bedazzled bus. Kitty and Santa were finally out of the woods….or were they? Immediately upon entering the bus they reclined in their seats, pulled their eye masks down and it was lights out.  They felt like it had been minutes when the bus came to a screeching halt. They sat up and realized they were at the half way point. They stumbled off the bus partially still asleep to use the bathroom and  grab a drink for their extremely dry pallets. As they scurried out to the parking lot they stopped dead in their tracks at what lay before them. There were a million different buses that all looked the same. Which one was theirs??

Kitty and Santa immediately broke into a sweat and their hearts started to race. They were going to be left behind. These bus drivers didn’t do a head count like in kindergarten. They walked down the line of buses but none of them looked familiar, or they all did. Thankfully Santa remembered their bus was blue. That narrowed it down, but there were still a dozen blue buses in the lot. They split up and started running onto each bus checking their seat numbers for their belongings. After running on and off what seemed like hundreds of buses Santa had found their ride seconds before the bus driver slammed the door and punched the gas.

Kitty and Santa were speechless. They slumped back into their seats and let out a huge sigh of relief. Better luck next time…

Public transportation: 2

Kitty and Santa: 0