Okinawa

I’ve always wanted to go to Okinawa as it’s where my great grandfather was from. As a child it always seemed like a magical far away place that I would never know. So since I’m living in this hemisphere, I had to come visit. And as a bonus, it was a wonderfully needed reprieve from the Russian winter. It was only a five day trip but I made the most out of it. Continue reading “Okinawa”

Busan – Part Two

The next morning in Busan, my sleep schedule was still WAY off, so I woke up around 6am. I was supposed to meet Sunny at 10, so I had quite a bit of time to kill. First things first, I was in need of coffee. I’ve often thought before a trip that I should ween myself off of caffeine so that I wouldn’t have to worry about headaches or worse from not being able to get my fix, but to be honest, my desperation for coffee often is a good motivator for exploring. An impending headache is a good incentive for getting out of the hotel in the morning and wandering around looking for a cafe has definitely led to some interesting places in my life. Continue reading “Busan – Part Two”

New Years in Korea

Since Russia doesn’t celebrate Christmas at the same time as us, I had to work until the 31st of December. So as soon as I was able, I flew off to South Korea. I left my house at 8:00am when it was -20°C (-4°F) and walked to the bus stop. Since I was headed to warmer weather, I opted to leave my thick winter coat and winter boots and instead wore tennis shoes and an autumn coat. That made for a particularly cold wait at the bus stop. It seemed like an eternity waiting but it was probably more like ten minutes. The bus ride was only about 15 minutes so I got there pretty quickly. Continue reading “New Years in Korea”

A Thanksgiving Abroad

One of the hardest things to adjust to while living abroad, in my opinion, is the different holiday schedule. It’s so strange that no one else around you is gearing up for a Thanksgiving feast. You can’t make small talk about holiday plans. And when the day comes, it goes completely unacknowledged; you still go into work or school, run errands, cook and clean like normal. In the end, it forces you to realize that the holiday you hold so dear is just a day like any other. Continue reading “A Thanksgiving Abroad”

Autumn in Sakhalin

I’ve been meaning to write a post about autumn since the end of September. Now since there is currently snow blanketing the ground and I’ve been wearing my winter coat for a couple weeks now, I guess I’m past due for it. Autumn came and went very quickly here.

When I arrived in Sakhalin, it was still clearly summer. Sure it was a bit chillier than Texas, but overall sunshine-y and decently warm. But right after the equinox, the days started to get noticeably shorter. Getting off from work at 7:20 started to mean walking home just as the sun had set. That same week, I suddenly noticed that the leaves had changed colour, seemingly over night. Continue reading “Autumn in Sakhalin”

Exploring Sakhalin

Once I got over some of the initial culture shock of moving to Russia, it became time to explore my new home! I started by walking around the neighbourhood quite a bit. Even though I haven’t learned any Russian yet, it turned out to be a huge help that I can read Cyrillic. There are actually quite a few English cognates, I learned as I walked around and saw signs saying things like салон (salon), ресторан (restaurant), or супермаркет (supermarket). I went to the supermarket by myself and bought several things which I then had to go back and ask my flatmate what I had bought. For the most part, I got it all right, except I apparently bought “sugar for women” instead of regular sugar. What is “sugar for women”? Who knows? Continue reading “Exploring Sakhalin”

Sakhalin – Settling In

I arrived in Sakhalin on a grey Sunday evening. It was just a three hour flight from Seoul. I had impressed myself by being able to order a drink from the flight attendant with my incredibly limited Russian (water [вода]) and thought smugly to myself that he might not know that I am not a Russian. But then they came back around again with the meal options and I had to confess that I didn’t speak any Russian. He spoke English though, but my spirits were slightly deflated.

Flying into the small airport, I got a great glimpse of the treasures offered here: several mountains looming above the city, lots of beautiful green trees, and of course the nearby ocean. The Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk airport was a tiny thing. They pulled up stairs to the plane so we could walk off and get onto a shuttle bus which drove us about 300 feet to the entrance of the airport. There we had to stand in line for the border agents, of which there were three. They seemed to be pretty thorough at immigration, taking several minutes for each person. It took over an hour for me to get through from my position near the end. Continue reading “Sakhalin – Settling In”