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2019: A Year in Review

2019 – damn were you a year. Like everyone else on the planet, there were highs and lows and days that just felt fine. 2019 brought me lessons, laughter and my fair share of tears. 2019 brought me travel and adventure with the people I care about. So before 2019 melts into the other years, I want to reflect on what happened and what I learned.

Travel

If you’ve been reading for a while, you probably understand the role that travel plays in my life. It’s always been important to me, but it’s importance grew during my first two years of teaching. I wasn’t able to find much joy in my day to day life, so I escaped by planning trips. Maybe it’s my vice or my coping mechanism, but honestly, I’m okay with that. 2019 was a travel heavy year for me.

In January, my husband and I wrapped up our road trip through Texas, during which we learned that pick-up trucks take a LOT of gas and that creative pursuits are worth spending time on. This year also brought me to New Orleans with one of my best friends, where I saw my first Banksy piece and binge watched too much Yummy Mummies.

Studio Be in New Orleans
Obligatory beignets in New Orleans

I had two trips out to Denver to see another best friend of mine, one of which had me gambling for the first time (I lost a whole $10). The other trip brought me to New Mexico to see the hot air balloon festival, which absolutely blew my mind.

The hot air balloon festival in New Mexico

For spring break, my husband and I ventured to Italy, where we ate some delicious charcuterie boards, but were overall not that impressed. We did get some dope matching tracksuits and made some pasta from scratch though!

Vintage tracksuits, vintage building (!)
Pasta making classes

During the summer, we traveled to Singapore, Korea, Japan, New Zealand and Australia. Of those places, New Zealand is the spot that truly took my breath away. As my husband says, cities are cities are cities. New Zealand, however, had nature that we don’t get to see very often.

The black sand beaches of New Zealand
Marina Sand Bay, Singapore
Kawaii photo in Japan

I rounded out the year with a trip to Spain with my mom. It was great to be able to spend quality time with her, especially as I grow older and life gets busier. While we did get on each others nerves, it was a trip that I will hold dear to my heart.

Mama y yo in Barcelona

Work

2019 was the year that I finished my first year of teaching outside of Teach for America. It was the first year I didn’t hate what I did. When I decided to teach for a third year, I was nervous. What if it wasn’t where I was teaching that I hated, but just teaching in general? Thankfully, I discovered that I love teaching. I love working with kids and seeing their excitement when things click for them. I finally can say that I love what I do. I am so grateful for that – how many people can claim the same for their jobs?

My first day of my fourth year

I was unsure if teaching was the right path for me, so I completed a fellowship on career choice this spring. While a lot of paths seem interesting to me, the fellowship reinforced my decision to stay in the classroom, at least for now. It was great for me to be able to have dedicated time and space to really think out my career plan. To be honest, I don’t have much of a “plan” at the moment. All I know is that I am happy teaching right now, so happy I will remain!

The fellowship I was so damn grateful for

2019 was also the year that I bit the bullet and got my real estate license. My husband had been encouraging me to get it for quite some time, and I finally sat down and did the damn thing. Working with real estate on the side allowed me to work skills that I don’t generally have to work while teaching – like talking to adults! While I didn’t do much with it this year, I look forward to what kind of endeavors it brings in the future.

Relationships

The older I get, the more important quality relationships mean to me. This year, my husband and I celebrate four years of marriage and five years of being together. I would say that this year brought us so much closer to one another, through the hard times and the good times. Leaving 2019, I feel more confident than ever in my relationship with my husband and excited to see what the future holds for us and our growing family.

My incredible husband

In terms of friendship, I invested in the relationships that mean the most to me and drew myself back from those that did not bring me joy. The older I get, the more I realize that one or two solid friendships is all I need. If I’m not truly thrilled for a person when good things happen to them, then I know that I can’t be a true friend to them. 2019 is a year that brought me a tight circle whom I truly trust and care about.

Self-Improvement

I worked on myself a lot this year. For the first time in a long time (maybe ever), I felt comfortable in my skin. I attribute a lot of that to hot yoga. One of my friends convinced me to give it another shot and I fell in love. The fact that in one hour, I can sweat, meditate and grow stronger absolutely amazes me. The funnest aspect of yoga is watching myself improve. To see my body move into positions that it previously couldn’t made me think about how incredible the human body truly is. While I’ve had to take a break from hot yoga during the pregnancy, I am excited to head back in 2020!

My happy place
My form isn’t perfect, but damn was I proud of my body

In 2019, I also invested in my health in other ways. I (very casually) took up meditation and mantras, and found peace and relief through acupuncture. My body and mind had gone through quite a lot this year, and I am grateful that I found coping mechanisms to help me rise above it. Listening to and making music helped put my soul at ease. Books helped me get lost when I needed to escape the most. Writing played a role in my self improvement as well. While few people may read this blog, every time I post, I feel relief. Writing makes me feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I hope to do more of it in 2020.

Cupping therapy

Overall, 2019 has been wonderful to me. I had new experiences, both good and bad. I felt low so that I could feel really high. I surrounded myself with people I love. I became a better version of myself. 2020 has a lot of changes in store for me (cough motherhood cough) and I’m excited for it all. But for now, I pay respect to what 2019 brought me. Cheers to 2019, and to 2020 vision.

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Travel

Singapore: Too Perfect?

I’m trying to write all these thoughts out before too much time passes so that the details are still clear in my memory. Today is July 29th and we are 11 days into our 5 week trip through Asia and Australia. So I guess all of this word vomit is 11 days old.

We left Chicago on the 18th on a flight to Singapore, with a layover in Korea. Our first flight from Chicago to Korea was glorious… meaning we had the seat next to us empty. There’s nothing like sitting cross legged without butting your neighbor with your knee on a fourteen hour flight.

After a 2-hour layover in Seoul, we had one more flight to Singapore. Why Singapore? I’m an airport geek. I love watching YouTube videos about airport features, and apparently, Singapore is #1!

We stayed at the Yotel at the Singapore Airpot for both nights. It’s fine for a layover, but expect to be stepping on the toes of anyone you happen to be staying with. I didn’t get get any photos of the room, but I assure you that one photo would have captured it all. Also, there’s no real divider between the bathroom and bedroom, so I hope you’re comfortable with your roomie.

Moving on… we arrived around 1am and decided to have a little walk while it was empty. The Jewel, which is the part of the airport that the Yotel is in, is a brand new addition to the Singapore Airport. It was opened this past April and is essentially a massive mall attached to the airport with an indoor forest and waterfall. It’s pretty spectacular, especially at night when no one else is around.

Around 3am we finally fell asleep, and woke up the next morning to explore Singapore! Singapore has been intriguing to me ever since watching Crazy Rich Asians. Was it really that rich? Was it really that manicured? After 24 hours there, I can safely say that I don’t have an answer for the first question, and a definite yes to the second one!

Driving out of the airport into the city, you couldn’t help but noticed how well maintained everything was! Every bush, flower and tree we passed was in pristine shape. Garbage on the road was nowhere to be found. It seemed almost too perfect.

Our first stop was to a hawker center, or Singapore’s version of a food court. The one we went to was called Lau Pa Sat. When we got there, we walked around and saw about 100 different food stalls selling a variety of food. We finally settled on a serving of Kaya toast, which is toast with a spread of coconut milk and eggs (something that Singapore is known for) and a plate of char sui, which is Chinese barbecue pork. In all honesty, neither blew me away.

After eating, we walked over to Gardens by the Bay. Along the way, we found an Ayurvedic shop called Ega Juice Clinic, which sold pressed juices, as well as goods based on your Ayurvedic type. The woman at the shop was so kind and explained the concept to us, which we both found incredibly intriguing. She gave us some soap for our type, and a couple of quizzes to determine what we leaned towards. (For anyone interested, I’m a Vata).

After drinking our juices, we finally made it to the Gardens by the Bay. While there, we explored two of the conservatories – the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest. Both were beautiful! It was incredibly hot, so we didn’t explore much of the outside – although we did get an obligatory picture.

After exploring the gardens, we headed back to the airport to explore the Jewel some more. The taxi driver along the way gave us an interesting insight into what it meant to be from Singapore. Singapore was established in 1965 when it broke off from Malaysia. Singapore is a city-state that is only slightly larger than the city of Chicago, yet it is an economic hub. Essentially, they have limited natural resources, due to their size, but have made a name for themselves in finance due to their political stability. The taxi driver was incredibly excited to talk to us about the Jewel, and rattled off all kinds of facts, such as how many stores they had and the exact date of it’s opening. Clearly, the launch of the Jewel was a source of pride for those from Singapore.

The Jewel has no shortage of delicious food, but what few may know is that it also has several restaurants which have received Michelin stars! That night, we ate at Putien, whose other branch had earned a Michelin star in 2016. The restaurant specializes in Chinese food that is sourced from the best regions in China.

Bian rou – dumpling soup
Roasted bitter melon
Cold Pork Trotters Jelly
Seaweed with mini shrimp
Braised bean curd
“100-Second” yellow croaker

In all honesty, I wasn’t blown away by the food but it was an experience. Most of the Chinese food I’ve had in my life has come from either Joy Yee or Panda Express so I was glad to get have some real Chinese food. The best dish would probably be the dumpling soup. Interestingly enough, the wrapper isn’t made of flour but of pork meat! #keto

With that, our 24 hours in Singapore came to a close. My thoughts? It was beautiful, but almost too perfect. It kind of felt like that scene in Passengers where they’ve built a garden in the space craft. I’m grateful to have visited, but in my opinion, one day was enough to get the gist of Singapore. For anyone visiting, take some cash out for the hawker centers, but everywhere else will accept credit card. Taxis are extremely reasonable as well!

See the similarities?

When we woke up the next morning, we boarded a flight to Seoul, South Korea… which is where I will pick this blog back up at (soonish). Side note – Singapore is one of those airports where you can’t bring water past security, however you can bring empty bottles and fill them up before boarding. Just in case any of ya’ll are into hydration like we are.