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Moving yeah, Grooving yeah!

Our landlord is awesome and has agreed to let us out of our lease early!  So, we have both given notice at our places of work and are planning to make our move to California the first week of October.  This makes sleeping in our heatless camper trailer that much more enticing than moving in the cold of January.  Not to mention, we’ll get to be with family for the holidays.  We’re busy packing as well as laying the groundwork for our new pet sitting business.  We hope to hit the ground running so we can offer our services to holiday travelers.  Stay tuned!

Rolling Stones

Sean and I have been living in Charlotte for 8 months now.  We’re renting a great house in a good neighborhood close to everything.  Our friends, the Tucker’s, live only 2.5 miles from us.  We are often found over at their house raising a ruckus.  I have a job at a local hospital and Sean has a job that allows him to work from home, which is fortunate for our needy little dogs.  We both recently picked up side jobs for fun with Queen City Pet Sitting where we go into people’s homes and take care of their animals while they’re away.  We’re dabbling with the idea of getting into this business for ourselves and want to see what it’s like.

We’ve taken some great trips.  Sean visited Washington, DC with his brother.  We’ve done three camping trips.  Our first was in June to the NC coast where we camped at Carolina Beach State Park.  I was jonesin’ for some beach time.  Our campsite wasn’t on the beach as the name implies  We were actually on the Cape Fear River, but we were very close to the beach.  With weather in the 100s, you can bet that’s where we spent our days.  The closest beach that was dog-friendly was at Fort Fisher State Rec Area just a few minutes away.  We’ve taken two other camping trips, both to the Appalachian Mountains.  The mountains are beautiful and they offer so much to see and do.  Plus, they are a great way to escape the heat of the city.

But, for how much we are enjoying ourselves in the south, our big news is that we are moving – again.  Yes, that’s right.  You read that correctly.  After 20 years away, I am moving back to my hometown of San Jose, CA and my husband has graciously accepted to accompany me.  For those of you that know me, this is huge.  When I left California, I never thought I would desire to live there again.  This is a prime example of never say never.

Over the years and through my experience with health care, I determined that if something ever happened to my parents that required them to need special care, I would be the caregiver as I would never put them in a nursing home.  Hypothetically, this didn’t necessarily mean that I would move to California, but maybe I’d move my parents to wherever I was.  Thankfully, nothing has happened to my parents.  They are still enjoying good health.  However, recently something just clicked and I realized that I don’t want to wait until something horrible happens.  Maybe it has something to do with the passing of my eldest brother a couple of years ago or the month that Sean and I spent in San Jose last year before we went to Vietnam.  I want to be close to my parents now while they are still in good health and we can do fun things together.  It just makes sense.  I look forward to reconnecting with them and my siblings now that I am older, and hopefully, wiser.

Our lease in Charlotte is up in January, so we will make the move at that time.  Another cross-country road trip in January – yikes!  I think we’re going to hug the southern country line as much as possible to try and keep the temps as cozy as possible since we’ll be sleeping in our trusty minimalist camper like last time.  Before then, we are planning to squeeze in a few more local trips to make the most of our southern experience.  We hope to see Savannah, the Florida Keys, and New Orleans yet.

From the couple that keeps you guessin’.

Love, Marina and Sean

Back in Nam…

When last we left you, we were whisking off to Vietnam.  We were so busy while we were there, there was no possible way to blog.  At the time, I predicted that I could easily get caught up once we were done with the TEFL course and settled in a place to live.  Well, our TEFL course ended on a Friday.  Unexpectedly the next day, Sean got a stellar recommendation from Midwest Book Review.  He’d gotten good reviews before, but this one was especially significant.  So then everything changed!  We decided there just might be something to this book.  Sean knew he would kick himself if he didn’t put some effort into promoting it.  We made the decision to come back to the States and do just that.

So, now we are in the States eating, breathing, wearing the book.  We just finished a mini fall book tour no less.  But what about Vietnam!?  I still have posted nothing on Vietnam.  I can’t really go forward without going a bit backward.  How to do that?  How do you sum up 2 months traveling in a foreign country with one blog post?  There’s no way to do it justice, but I just have to give it whirl.  I think it will involve dazzling you with photos.

But here are a few words on the topic.  Our TEFL course in Ho Chi Minh was intense.  There were 12 of us students.  Most of us (9) were American which really surprised me.  They were long days learning in the classroom and lots of homework in the evenings.  In addition, we had 9 teaching practices throughout the course where we got to showcase our teaching skills with real Vietnamese students.  Those entailed a lot of prep work, e.g. a lot of stick figure drawing.  Teaching was a blast though and we made it through among the top students in the class.  We made great friends with our fellow classmates and have so many fond memories.  We could have gotten jobs easily had we stayed.  Teachers are very respected in Vietnamese culture, which makes this a great country to go to if you are considering TEFL.

It wasn’t all work and no play, however.  After we decided to return back to the states, our return flight wasn’t for 2 weeks, so what better to do than to travel around a bit?  All in all, we got to see Hanoi, Haiphong, Da Nang, Ho Chi Minh, Vung Tao, Dalat, and Mui Ne.  Vietnam is no paradise, but we could see ourselves living there.  Hanoi and Haiphong in the north were our least favorite places.  Hanoi doesn’t have much to do and we got swindled in Haiphong.  Dog eating is also more prevalent in the north, which obviously is a concern as dog owners.  We probably would have stayed in Ho Chi Minh because it would have been the easiest since we had friends there and connections to the job market.  It’s a fun city overall with lots to do.  The air pollution got to me though. Danang was probably our favorite city since you still had the big city life with less pollution and a coastal location.  Our favorite things about being in Vietnam: amazing food, friendly people, watching the flow of traffic, moped culture, low cost of living, people always exercising in the parks, and funny english, just to name a few.  Our not so favorite things: air pollution and littering and the fear of dog-knapping for eating or ransom (seriously!)

Now for the pictures!  This is just a fraction of all that were actually taken.  There are a lot more on facebook for your viewing pleasure.

Vietnam Sampler

Our TEFL course begins in Ho Chi Minh City (south Vietnam) on July 18th.  We have been told by course organizers that optimally we will start looking for jobs before the course is over.  We thought that we might find this difficult if we’ve never been outside of Ho Chi Minh and we know that jobs are offered in other cities.  So, in preparation for our job search, we are set to arrive in Hanoi, Vietnam (in the north) on Saturday, July 9th (tomorrow) which is nine days before class begins.  During these nine days, we will travel south through Vietnam via bus and train, stopping at several cities where we know jobs are offered (in purple) to check out their livability.  I wonder where we will end up🙂

June in California

Not much time for writing about California as we just finished the month there and we are leaving today for Vietnam and we’ve just been too hectic getting ready these last few days!  I CHERISH the time I was able to spend with my family.  As my mom pointed out, it was the longest amount of time I’ve spent there since leaving after high school in 1993.  Love you, Mom and Dad and siblings and Amayas!!!  Again, this is another post best expressed in pictures due to lack of time.  Aside from San Jose, we spent a week in Lake Tahoe and you will also see some pics of our two day drive back to Colorado finishing out our road trip and July 4th spent on Pueblo Reservoir. The pics are in no particular order because they uploaded funky, but here they are. Enjoy!

Monday, May 23rd marked our departure from Colorado.  Once again, we packed up the car and hit the road with just the dogs, no Frances this time – for her sanity and ours.  We left Pueblo early in the morning and drove all day to Jackson Hole, WY – our gateway into Grand Tetons and Yellowstone Parks.  Jackson Hole seemed a great little town.  Even the Motel 6 we stayed in was cool.  The next day, we got up early and started our trek through these amazing national parks.  Unfortunately, the weather was overcast and drizzling in parts.  Because of this, we didn’t get to see any Tetons even though they were right next to us!  Yellowstone was better though.  We saw lots of bison with their young, tons of elk, and a mama big horn sheep with her baby.  We got greedy and hoped to also see bears and moose, but they did not transpire anywhere along our route.  We wound our way through the park enjoying the beautiful scenery.  It was raining on and off on the west side of the park and snowing on the east side.  We stopped at Biscuit Basin and saw some mini geysers.  We also stopped at the lower and upper waterfalls.  Of course we saw Old Faithful.  When leaving the parking lot at Old Faithful, there was a slight traffic jam due to a couple of bison on the road.  It was cool to see them so close up.  It certainly gave Sean a scare (see photo).  It didn’t help that I instructed him to stop right next to the beastie and roll down his window!  We left the park in the early evening and made it to Helena, MT for the night.  Helena was nothing to write home about.  Small town, a bit run down, everything closes early.  Montana in general, however, enjoys a beautiful landscape which made our drive very nice.

Driving the next day brought us to our next destination: Sean’s grandma’s house in Spokane, WA.  We spent three days with Elma Allen in her home.  It had been recommended to us by Sean’s mom to request a look at the “photo box” during our visit, which we did.  This was no small feat.  It made an appearance shortly after we arrived and we spent several hours each day pouring over old photos from the 40s-60s of Sean’s grandparents in their courtship and Sean’s mom and her brothers as younguns.  By the time we left, we had only made it though half the box.  I love old photos so I really enjoyed this.  In this photo collection was a picture from the 50s of Sean’s mom as a child with her parents and brothers standing near the “Chandelier Tree” which is a drive-thru redwood tree.  I didn’t know where they were exactly, guessed it was California somewhere, just thought the picture was cool.  Now, there is a reason I am mentioning this one particular photo.  Several days later after leaving Spokane, we were driving south down the California coast and what should we pass but a road sign stating there was drive-thru redwood tree if we wanted to turn right.  We saw this and thought, “Let’s do it!  Could it be…?”  The coincidence seemed too unreal, but sho’nuff, when we arrived at the spot, it was the same tree bearing the same “Chandelier Tree” sign of the one we had seen in the photo!  What I wouldn’t give to have the old photo to present side by side with ours!  Way cool!  Anyway, back to Spokane.  It was great to meet Elma.  She is such a sweet lady.  We helped her upgrade some electronics: she got a new a flatscreen tv and a laptop on which we set up skype.  We drove by the old Allen house that Elma and her late husband had built and in which Sean’s mom had grown up and Sean remembered visiting as a boy.  We were also treated to a very nice dinner with Elma, Paul and Dell (Sean’s uncle and aunt who made it to our wedding) and their son, Mark.

We said early morning goodbyes to Elma on Saturday, May 28th and headed southwest toward Portland.  Once we crossed the Washington-Oregon border, it was beautiful driving along the Columbia River on I-84.  Better yet was when we reached the coast at Lincoln City, OR.  We made it to Coos Bay, OR for an overnight.  The next day was a curvy trip down Oregon coastal Hwy 101 which lead into California Hwy 1 as we wove in and out of shoreline views and giant redwoods forests.  It was on this day that we stumbled upon the Chandelier Tree previously mentioned.  After oohing and aahing are way through the wonderfully scenic drive, night found us in Rohnert Park, CA which was to be our base for the next two days as a cheaper option to staying in Napa (our true destination) only about 25 mins away.

On Memorial Day, we treated ourselves to some R&R at Calitstoga Spa Hot Springs.  I was so relaxed after an hour mud bath, an hour massage and some hot spring action, I slept  11 hours that night.  The mud bath was quite the experience.  If you can’t tolerate high heat or if you are claustrophobic, I do not recommend.  It was actually only 10 mins in the mud bath, followed by a quick shower (to remove mud from places ahem!), then a 10 min mineral bath, then a 5 min sauna, then a siesta before my massage.  Throughout the whole experience, I was kept hydrated with cucumber water (so good!) by my personal attendant.  Despite this, by the time I reached the sauna, my goose was cooked!  I could barely tolerate it in there, but I willed myself through like some rite of passage.  Just the sauna part, the mud bath was awesome!  Sean said his experience was much the same, only he seemed to have more difficulty removing mud from places🙂.

The next day, we hit Napa.  We thought we were going to do Sonoma, but we weren’t impressed when we drove through town and we didn’t feel compelled to stop anywhere.  So we continued on the road we were on which took us into Napa and there we found wine heaven.  Wine tasting is much more expensive than I remember from the last time I was there about 10 years ago; a tasting of 3-4 wines costs from $15-20.  Luckily, at our first stop, Domaine Carneros, we asked for a Napa map and they handed us a local wine magazine loaded with 2 for 1 coupons at many of the wineries.  Score!  We only made it to 5 before we were too drunk to continue, not opting to spit out any of our “tastes” of wine.

Our road trip was amazing.  I didn’t even mention all the great brew pubs we visited.  Sean was going to write a blog post dedicated to just that, but has been busy writing his 2nd book.  Oh la la!  We are currently in San Jose visiting my family.  We leave here on Friday to go back to Colorado briefly.  We leave for Vietnam in less than two weeks!  Yowza!!!

Colorado Condensed

     We spent a month in Colorado after leaving Minneapolis (April 22 – May 22) .  It was great!  We had time to get just about everything arranged for Vietnam and tie up loose ends in Minnesota.  More importantly, we were able to spend some fun times with Sean’s family and friends.  Many thanks to Gail and Kathy, Bee and Aaron, Keith, Orren, Don and Kaye, Cody, Christian and Amber, Troy and Leah, and Steve and Liz.  This will be a post best expressed in pictures.