August 28, 2008

New Zealand

-Downtown Auckland as seen from a ferry ride to Waiheki Island.-

We arrived safely in New Zealand on the 27th and are greatly appreciating the Kiwi hospitality. From the time that we have arrived until now, we have been shocked by the common kindness of strangers. We'd never imagined that Auckland could be so welcoming. While the weather is cool, cold for those of us who are accustomed to a hot Korean summer, at present we've found that the culture is overwhelmingly warm.

-We spent the afternoon on the Island sipping wine at the world renown Stoneridge Vineyard.-

After checking ourselves into a hostel in downtown Auckland, we ventured out to check out the streets and see what we were in for on our next two weeks of traveling. The city itself is a mix of old and new. It reminds Trev a lot of Seattle, while I think that London must look a little like this. One comment that Trev made that stick out in my mind is that Auckland is kind of like a mutt. The architecture varies so much from one building to the next as do the people. It seems in a way to be a multi-cultural mecca.

-Trev's great find on our afternoon of beachcombing.-

-We've found the landscape to be beautiful. Every place that we've been has been picture-perfect.-

August 24, 2008

Hong Kong - By Night

-Mid-night taxi on the streets of downtown Hong Kong.-

At the tail end of our time here in Korea I was fortunate enough to be able to sneak down for a quick visit of Hong Kong. It was in Hong Kong I met with my old life-long friend, Nicki, who I had not seen for many years.

-Waiting for the train...-

-A double-decker bus and the famed lights of this high class Asian super-city.-

During our short reunion Nick and I exchanged the more recent stories of our day-to-day lives, we reminisced about the old times we'd shared, we relayed heartaches and joys and in general we stayed up all together too late every night.

-Heaps of bracelets at a side-street, late night market.-

-The Chinese side of Hong Kong.-

With Trev and my life being so unsettled and all over the place, and with her life being of much the same nature, I never actually thought the day would come when we would be able to meet and in Asia nonetheless. Yet, it was an amazing experience to be a part of Nicki's life again, even if it was only for five days.

Hong Kong - By Day

-The breathtaking view from The Peak.-

My time in Hong Kong with Nicki and Katrina was spent catching up and taking in the foreign experiences of this once British trading post. From Disneyland to day hikes, from trips to Macau to late night meandering in hodgepodge markets, we felt like we'd taken in a lot at the end of the week.

-I was told the other day that the Hong Kong city skyline is the largest skyline in the world. I could not dispute.-

-Boarding the ferry.-

I could not help but compare my experiences in my neck of Asia, Seoul, with what I saw around me in the western influenced Hong Kong. I guess you could say that I went through a bit of a culture shock. In Hong Kong I could buy clothes, in Seoul I dream about what it would be like to walk into a store and buy a shirt, a skirt, anything really that fits. In Hong Kong they had many products that we can find at home in North America readily available on the grocery store shelf, in Seoul we head to the black market, a sketchy little hole-in-the wall store run by a mother and daughter who smuggle goods off of the army base; They might have it... but most likely not. In Hong Kong they have Ikea, dollars, English and a multi-cultural population on the streets. In Hong Kong I was not the topic of conversation on every subway ride, I was not the focus on the streets and in Hong Kong I fit in. Hong Kong didn't feel like home, but it didn't feel like a foreign country. It most defiantly did not feel like Korea.

-A shot taken from the ferry as we passed through the bay area. What a magnificent city.-

-Our ride across the bay.-

Point of Interest:
Hong Kong () literally means fragrant harbor. It's name was derived because of the incense that was grown in Kowloon, an area of the city, and shipped from Victoria Harbor.

August 21, 2008

A Foreigners Thoughts by Katrina

While spending time in Korea, Hong Kong and Macau, many have asked: "So, have you always wanted to travel to Asia?" My honesty gets the better of me and my response is: "Actually, Asia was never high on my list of places to travel." I am so thankful for friends living here to draw me to a culture I am now so intrigued by. I've had the opportunity to live in community with Asians and foreigners for the last three weeks in Korea, and Hong Kong. I was asked yesterday what has been my favorite part of Korea. After some thought, hands down, it has been observing this group of people. I have always been fascinated and intrigued by people and their lives and it has been a treasure observing life here, primarily in Seoul. I could spend hours on the subway or sitting in Starbucks (a favorite spot) just watching people. I love the kids, they are beautiful. I've seen the elderly, their strong attachment to tradition and how history has affected them. I've seen the youth trying to figure themselves out, caught between the pull of Westernization and keeping tradition.

I've also had the opportunity to live life in community here. Doing life with people has been one of my life themes as of late. I had no idea this would involve living life overseas with people. I've seen how detrimental community is to foreigners here. English is rarely spoken and a simple task such as ordering food is truly a challenge, this is where networking and community becomes survival. I am amazed at the Church and how it has been created, always there, meant for taking and giving. It really is a beautiful thing and it has been a treasure to see it at work.

Being here has deepened my love for people, culture and community. I anticipate returning home with a broadened porthole view of the people I do life with in my home community.

This is just my view - my 3 week glimpse into a deep and vast culture.


-Katrina, Nicki and Lydia chillin' in the city center with their fantastic umbrellas.-

For those of you who read the title and asked yourself, "Where the heck is Macau?", allow me to explain. Macau (pronounced mah-cow) is a special administration region of China. The best way to describe it is that Macau had a similar situation to that of its neighbor Hong Kong. Only instead of the British colonizing the tiny island off the southern tip of China it was the Portuguese who first claimed it as a trading post. So while Hong Kong speaks English, Macau speaks Portuguese. While Hong Kong stands firm on the world's stage, Macau is sitting in it's shadows waiting for it's turn to be noticed.

-Downtown Macau. Isn't it impressive?-

-The Ruins of St. Paul. This cathedral dates back to 1602.-

Quick tips (for those of you with an attention span like mine):
  • Official Languages: Portuguese and Chinese (Cantonese).
  • Population: 520, 400 (2007)
  • Macau is the most densely populated area in the world with 18, 428 people per square Kilometer.
  • Currency: Macanese Pataca (MOP)
  • It is considered one of the richest cities in the world because of booming industry and gambling.
  • It is commonly called the Vegas of Asia and now boasts both an MGM Grand as well as a Venetian. The Sands Casino in Macau is the largest casino in the world, as judged by tables.
  • Macau was established as a Portuguese trading post in 1557, it become a colony in 1887 and Macau was turned over to the Chinese government, in the same manner as Hong Kong, in 1999.
  • According to law Macau will continue to have autocracy for the first fifty years following the transfer of power from Portugal to China. In these fifty years China is responsible for defense and foreign affairs. Macau will be responsible for the legal system, police, monetary system, customs and immigration as well as events and international organizations.
  • Macau is named after the goddess of seafarers and fishermen, Matsu.
  • Residents of Macau are offered 15 years of free education (this includes 3 years of kindergarten).

    -A typical side street in Macau.-
-Someones world view.-

Katrina and I were fortunate enough to spend two days in Macau... one day planned... the other not so much. Let's just say that missed flights have a few perks.

-Katrina and I taking a break from the rain.-

-A quaint little house.-

We spent our time in Macau meandering the streets, admiring the intricate tile work, drinking in the ancient architecture and discovering a history that is practically unknown to the western world. If you are at all interested in history, architecture or culture I highly recommend a trip to the intriguing country of Macau.

-Macau is a very humid, sub-tropical island with plenty of exotic vegetation to boast.-

-Exploring Macau.-

*Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macau

August 20, 2008

Welcome Cooper!!

-Cooper Andrus-

I phoned home on Monday, expecting to get the machine as usual only to receive a shocking and unexpected surprise. As the ringing gave way to a voice, I was greeted not by machine but by the entire family, who were gathered at the hospital. It seems that my family has once again grown in numbers! Much to everyone's surprise and Dave and Karalee's relief, we've now added a beautiful little baby boy to the Andrus clan. Welcome Cooper!!

-What an adorable family...
Dave, Karalee, Dawson and Cooper.-

Arriving one month early, weighing 5lbs 14oz and with flaming red hair, Cooper Andrus was welcomed by everyone at the hospital. I guess that Trev and I will just have to wait until Christmas to meet our newest little nephew.

August 17, 2008

A Laughing Matter

A Stroll in the Park

We took a much needed break from the stress of packing up our life and we headed to the park one afternoon for a stroll with some of our good friends. Here is one of my favorite shots of my family. Aren't they cute?

August 9, 2008

Lotus Flower

On the first day of our official summer vacation I was fortunate enough to join my Korean co-teachers on a trip to the southern part of the country. Our destination was Gilisan (Gili Mountain) however, because of the heavy rains we were not able to actually see the famed mount. We did however, make a short stop at the oldest man-made forest in Korea. It was here that I learned that the famed Lotus flowers are indeed enormous! I never imagined that this Asian icon would be the size of a large grapefruit.

I was taken by the mystery and the abnormality of the lotus. Here are a few pictures of the flower in different stages of it's life.

August 5, 2008

Mud Fest

-Mud Festival, no explanation needed.-

Our first event in Korea, two and some years ago, was a fantastic little festival that was rightfully called 'Mud Fest'. And, as our time in Korea is quickly drawing to a close, we thought it only appropriate to bring our experience full circle and carry on the tradition of the fest. So for a weekend of pure bliss with our friends that have become such an essential part of our lives, we headed down south to a beach in the quaint Korean countryside, Boryeong.

-Most of our group.Yes we packed 22 foreigners into 4 small little minbak rooms (Korean home stay)-

-Trevor and Ruda expressing their true feelings for each other!!-

-Jess, Jess and Hil are demonstrating how happy they are to be OUT of Seoul!!-

We did not hesitate to jump right into the festivities and before we knew it we were slathered from head to toe in the gooey grey stuff, playin' on the beach and crashin' in the waves.

-Jungmi, Jess Christensen and I post mud and a refreshing swim in the Yellow Sea.-

-Our beach.-

-Jeff, Hil, Christensen, Jungmi and Wil.-

We spent every one of our precious moments on that beach well. We soaked in the sun and caught up on sleep. We chatted with friends and laughed till we hurt. We swam in the ocean and drank in nature. We took on the Koreans in a game of soccer and gleefully won. We even managed to scare a few passers-by with our amazing Frisbee skills.

-Jungmi learning the fine art of Frisbee.-

-Trev and Jeff showin' us how it's done!-

-Korea vs. Foreigners... We WON!!-

-We look good AND we have mad skills on the field!-

Unofficially this was our time for goodbyes. Unofficially this was our time to let those around us know just how much they had meant to us in this year abroad. They have become our support and our life. And now, this week, we have said our good byes to so many of them. Some we will see again. Some we will only remember because of these great times in Korea.

-Ruda... I loved the reflection in his sunglasses. Oh and, of course, the expression on his face. Click on the pic and check out the reflection.-

August 1, 2008

Motor City

- Nate was on something special that night!-

In the beginning of July we all decided to get together for a massive Canada Day - Independence Day celebration. We headed on out to Ilsan city where we had a fabulous time once again terrorizing the locals with our great driving skills.

-I love how Trev is see-through.-

Our celebration included everything that a good party should: fireworks, motorbikes, BBQ, apple pie, great friends and so many memories.

-Blue Steel.-

-Me, right before I almost ran over an old lady.-

-Ruda's having so much fun!-

-Trev doing a wheelie... does it count if your still standing on the ground?-

-Most of the bike gang. Eddy, Nate, Jen, Trev, Hil, and Jeff.-