A Year in Photographs!!

I loved photography before, but I love it even more now!! This year was great for photography! I finally spoiled myself with a DSLR camera, that I’m still learning to use… I’ll be a pro at it someday! And I was insanely spoiled with living on a gorgeous island that I never got sick of taking pictures of! Here is a little gallery of my favorite snapshots of the year… One for every month! Plus my favorite picture from each country I visited while I was here. (I have a feeling this is going to be rather difficult to just pick ONE for each month… We’ll see how it goes.) Enjoy!

February 2012

The start to an amazing adventure!

The start to an amazing adventure!

March 2012

Me, Jeong-eun, Hyun-jeong, and Seunghee... Who became my little Korean family!

Me, Jeong-eun, Hyun-jeong, and Seunghee… Who became my little Korean family!

April 2012

The start of my Olle journey!

The start of my Olle journey!

May 2012

Teaching with my co-teacher and good friend, Eun-mi!

Teaching with my co-teacher and good friend, Eun-mi!

Probably the cutest face in all of Osaka, Japan!

Probably the cutest face in all of Osaka, Japan!

June 2012

Being silly with Hyae-jeong, Jyoo-yun, and Ji-su at the English Story Telling Competition!

Being silly with Hyae-jeong, Jyoo-yun, and Ji-su at the English Story Telling Competition!

July 2012

Jun-hyung stole my slippers for the story book I made called "Brooke's Slippers!"

Jun-hyung stole my slippers for the story book I made called “Brooke’s Slippers!”

August 2012

Damage at the school from Typhoon Bolaven.

Damage at the school from Typhoon Bolaven.

Climbing the Great Wall of China outside Beijing!

Climbing the Great Wall of China outside Beijing!

The horse I named Marida (means 'horse' in Korean) that I rode for 9 days all of the rolling, green steppes near Ulan Baatar, Mongolia!

The horse I named Marida (means ‘horse’ in Korean) that I rode for 9 days all over the rolling, green steppes near Ulan Baatar, Mongolia!

September 2012

Jin-sook made a delicious dinner for Grandma's visit!

Jin-sook made a delicious dinner for Grandma’s visit!

October 2012

Three cuties selling peanuts in Puerto Princessa City on Palawan Island in the Philippines!

Three cuties selling peanuts in Puerto Princessa City on Palawan Island in the Philippines!

A lovely time with my grandma's old school mate, Carole, and her husband, Jim, on their visit to Jeju!

A lovely time with my grandma’s old school mate, Carole, and her husband, Jim, on their visit to Jeju!

November 2012

On Chuja Island hiking the hardest Olle!

On Chuja Island hiking the hardest Olle!

Sticka Foto session for my 24th birthday with Karima & Billy!

Sticka Foto session for my 24th birthday with Karima & Billy!

December 2012

Putting together a puzzle on Christmas with Becca and a couple of Sarah's students!

Putting together a puzzle on Christmas with Becca and a couple of Sarah’s students!

Was able to talk and Skype with family back home and even open presents "with" them on Christmas!

Was able to talk and Skype with family back home and even open presents “with” them on Christmas!

January 2013

An amazing day on Olle 14-1! Thank you to Sarah, Hannah, and Dominique for making it so much fun!!!

An amazing day on Olle 14-1! Thank you to Sarah, Hannah, and Dominique for making it so much fun!!!

Going through the low-ceilinged caves on the Tam Coc River near Hanoi, Vietnam!

Going through the low-ceilinged caves on the Tam Coc River near Hanoi, Vietnam!

Spending the day feeding, riding, and bathing elephants near Chiang Mai, Thailand!!

Spending the day feeding, riding, and bathing elephants near Chiang Mai, Thailand!!

February 2013

Karima, Sarah, and Hannah hiked Hallasan!! It's a volcanic mountain on Jeju Island and the highest point in South Korea! (Very sore for days after!)

Karima, Sarah, Hannah, and I hiked Hallasan!! It’s a volcanic mountain on Jeju Island and the highest point in South Korea! (Very sore for days after!)

Jeju, it’s been great! It has definitely been the best year of my life thus far!! There were so many new adventures and food and FRIENDS!! The people I’ve met in the past year have been wonderful! I’m going to miss you all so much!! Until we meet again… CHEERS!! 🙂

I didn’t notice this until after I posted, but February 20th, 2013 (the day I posted this) is exactly 1 year after I landed in Korea!

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Bi-yi-stan Mongolia!!

“Bi-yi-stan” means “Good bye.”

Our last day, in Mongolia! A total of 10 days in the lovely country!!

We started off the morning by going to a monastery with the Brits we met yesterday. It was beautiful and there were pigeons EVERYWHERE! At each entrance, little old ladies would be selling seeds for people to fee the pigeons with. The best part was watching little kids feed the birds, especially this one little boy in particular… He was feeding them seeds at first, then he found out they fly away when you run after them. He also thought it was fun to take a drink from his water bottle and then spit it at the birds as he’s running towards them to make them fly away. I think, had it not been for his parents, he could’ve stayed there all day!

Alfred Hitchcock would be proud!
For those of you that don’t know who Alfred Hitchcock is, he directed the movie “The Birds.” If you haven’t seen it already, please do so. Haha!
 

Come here little bird…

Having some fun…

Let me at ’em!

And here he begins… Pigeons, you’ve been warned.

Run!

“Let’s get out of here!”

Oh no.. Out of ammo!

More birds…

Inside one of the buildings, there were many monks reading scripts or prayers. They would be brought these long, huge stacks of prayers wrapped in cloth. They would sit there and read the prayers out loud. When they finished, they would wrap the prayers again and wait for someone to take it and bring them a new stack. Pretty interesting, but I for one would lose interest doing the same thing all day everyday… Assuming they do actually do that all day.

Spin these for loved ones that have passed away.

After lunch, we headed to the black market, Narantuul Market. It was INTENSE!! It makes the 5-day market on Jeju (which is quite large!) look like child’s play. This place was never-ending! You go out one place thinking it’s an exit and just end up in another part of the market. I’m couldn’t even tell you how many circles we went in because it was hard to tell if we had been there already or not. Instead of the black market, they should call it the black hole! Once you go in, there’s a slim chance you’ll be making it out. Thankfully we eventually found an exit and tried to find a taxi back to the hotel… No such luck. Sore bodies, sore feet, dusty roads, dusty sidewalks, and 5 kilometers back to the hotel doesn’t make for a very good time, but we made it! Eventually.

Ready for the Black Market!

When we got back, we ordered some paninis for dinner at the bar in the hotel before we had to head to the airport. We relaxed for a little bit and said bye to the Brits before we went down to call for a taxi. The taxi ride back to the airport didn’t take as long as I had anticipated with the crazy traffic jams they seem to have here. Our cab driver took some back ways and it only took a little less than an hour.

Some new mates!

Our “Mongolia, we love you!” Face…

..And our “WTF, Mongolia?” Face!

While we were waiting to check in, I made friends with a little Mongolian boy. We played peek-a-boo for a little while. Good times. 🙂

Bi-yi-stan Mongolia!!!

It was a lovely time, but time to go back to Jeju!

Bee-amerikas-earsun!!

“Bee-amerikas-earsun” means “I’m from America!”

It is now our 9th day in Mongolia and we are just going to spend the day at the Steppe Riders camp. We got a treat for breakfast… Fried bread and spreads!

Urna told us there was a group of tourists coming to camp to ride horses for the day and asked if we wanted to ride too. I decided to go for it. Why not one last ride on the horses! When the group got there, I showed where to put on the oh-so-fashionable helmets and chaps! Then we were off… The ride was intense and pretty scary!! Borka and Oochay (the horsemen) would ride up behind our horses and yell and poke our horses with sticks to make them go faster. The horses were running at full speed, as fast as they could possibly go it seemed like. It was very hard to keep control. Most of the ride I was holding on and just trying to stay on the horse. It was scariest when we were coming to a ditch and the horse didn’t slow down, just jumped at full speed right over it and when Borka or Oochay would come up beside our horse and our horses would turn a little bit. It reminded me of when my horse took a sudden turn and I almost fell off. Thank God we all made it back to camp safely, but I was DONE with horses after that!

We decided to spend the night at a hostel that night instead of staying at Steppe Riders that night. There was a little disagreement about money issues between us and the guys that run Steppe Riders. After some arguing and a failed attempt at trying to make amends with them, we decided it was a lost cause and didn’t want to spend anymore time there for fear of more tension and stress. Plus, we wanted to take a shower!

We chose to stay at the same hostel as the tourists that came to camp that day. They were mostly from London and turns out, had just finished the Mongol Rally, which is a car rally that starts in the United Kingdom and ends in Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia! The teams are usually made up of 2-4 people and they drive little beater cars. Teams can take any route they like, but the journey is about 10,000 miles… That is one heck of a road trip. We rode into the city in the van on the lovely “paved” roads, which is always a lovely adventure. Urna rode into the city with us so she could hang out with some friends for the night. After we got one of the last rooms at the hostel, Karima and I were so excited to shower!! At this point, I had gone 10 days without showering! That is a record for me. The shower at the hostel was absolutely FREEZING!!! It was as if someone was pouring ice water on me the entire time. I didn’t realize how bad I smelled until I was clean again. Though I was extremely happy to be clean, I can say, without a doubt, say I did NOT enjoy the shower!

MANY MANY THANKS TO URNA AND BORKA!!!!!

Haha Urna was smiling in the first picture, but it was blurry..

Biel-gha!!

“Biel-gha” means “thank you,” but you must put a lot of phlemy throat sounds in it. Haha

Day 7 of Horse Trek

Last day on our horse trek! Though I had an unbelievably good time, I am happy to soon be done riding the horses in the cold weather we’ve had for the past 2 days. We started off the morning with some rice porridge with sugar. It was so cute watching little Argyle make up his bowl… About 60% rice porridge and about 40% sugar! Haha so cute. We just hung out for a little bit before lunch, playing some cards and what not. I DOMINATED in cards that morning!! Then one of the boys found a hedge hog out in the field, so we went to investigate. They wanted the little hedge hog to open up, so they poured water on him thinking that would work. The hedge hog stood it’s ground and stayed curled up like a little ball.

Mohah went home shortly after breakfast and then came back with more gifts! He brought Urna a new water bottle because she dropped hers while we were riding one day and we couldn’t find it. He gave Borka a nice watch. And he gave Karima and I a bag of hard, sweet homemade cheese bits. (It’s the middle of October when I’m writing this and we have yet to try them.) We hung out some more after lunch. More cards, the boys wrestled, and just relaxing.

We left at about 2:30pm to make the journey back to Steppe Riders. Urna, Karima, and I galloped ahead while Borka had to walk with his horse and the pack horse. Not too long into our run, I realized my painting that I had been carrying with me (so it wouldn’t get crushed again) was gone! We stopped and backtracked for a while, but to no prevail. Sad day. We looked everywhere! Then Borka with Bimba riding by his side came over the hill and helped us look. Nothing. Bimba said he would keep looking so we could move on, and if he found it, he would bring it to Steppe Riders for me. So nice of him! But he never showed up at Steppe Riders. 😦

It was soo cold and so windy. Us girls ran ahead so it wouldn’t take so long for us to get back. After a while, we walked passed a town we had passed on the way through. When we got to the other side of the town, one of the guys from Steppe Riders was driving by and picked up Karima and I and brought us back to the camp around 7:00 pm. We didn’t have to ride in the freezing cold anymore! He was driving a little blue Toyota and just whipping it around the field and then around the potholes when we were on the road. We kind of felt bad because Urna was stuck having to keep riding and bring our horses back, but we were so happy to be out of the cold, cold wind!

When we got back, the mood at camp seemed a little tense. Turns out Maemae (the little daughter of one of the Steppe Riders horsemen) and Migga (one of the guides) were both in the hospital because of horse accidents. Migga fell off first and hit his head pretty hard and had a concussion. Then after they sent him to the hospital, Maemae fell off and was dragged about 100 yards because her foot was caught in the stirrup. Two brothers from Illinois were telling us the story. They had said that they thought Maemae appeared to be dead after the accident. They were pretty shaken up and considering not going on their horse trek they had planned to start the next day. I cannot imagine what they must be feeling after seeing all that today. It was scary enough for me just ALMOST falling off the horse.

Urna arrived about 8:30 pm (1 1/2 hours after we had gotten back). Then Borka showed up with all of our bags around 10:00 pm. Poor Borka.

Karima and I had the ger to ourselves that night, so we took all the blankets from the other beds to keep warm. About 40 pounds of blankets on top of each of us and we were snuggly warm at last.

It was an amazing experience going on this horse trekking adventure and I am so glad I did this. I wouldn’t trade it for anything! … Well maybe an endless supply of travel funds. 🙂

Torson-odring-mint-orgee!!!

“Torson-odring-mint-orgee!!” means “Happy Birthday!!” This post is dedicated to my wonderful dad of 23 years (almost 24)!!! He was 33 when I was born… You do the math. 🙂

Day 6 of Horse Trek

*I apologize for the lack of pictures for the last two days of our horse trek.

It rained pretty hard this morning… No fun! We were stuck in our tents for a long time. Then of course came the the bathroom trip that I could just not put off any longer. Ugh! Doing your business in an outhouse with no roof while it’s raining cats and dogs is not something a person looks forward to so early in the morning. Breakfast was skipped and we helped Urna prepare some buuz. Buuz is a type of Mongolian steamed dumpling usually made with goat or sheep meat and some chopped up vegetables. They were pretty tasty!

Shortly after lunch some of our old friends from the other day showed up. Bimba! Along with his younger brother, Bambush, and his cousin, Ambra. The boys all came riding up on their motor bikes. It was still drizzling a bit and it was chilly, so they were going to give us girls a ride. Unfortunately, Borka had to stay behind and him and Bambush packed up our tents and packed the horse. I felt really bad for those two, but I was very grateful that I didn’t have to ride the horse in this crappy weather.

I rode with Bimba and Karima and Urna rode with Ambra on the motor bikes. Bimba and I arrived at his home first and it only took 45 minutes! When I got there, he showed me into a ger where I could stay warm and his little brother was sitting in there. Oh, he was the cutest little thing and very shy! Of what little Mongolian I knew, I tried to make conversation with him… “Mee-nee-neel Brooke.” He told me his name and I had the hardest time pronouncing it. That made him laugh a little. Urna later told me his name is Argyle, but with a lot of phlemy sounds from the throat.. Haha sorry! I’m not sure what the correct term is.

It was Ambra’s birthday, so Urna was going to make a nice dinner and Karima was going to make a little treat using wild rubarb. I helped her pick some rubarb, but didn’t last long because my shoes got wet and it was really cold outside and before long, I couldn’t feel my feet. When Ambra came in, we served him food and sang “Happy Birthday” in Mongolian. It turned out to be a great night!

Wild Rubarb!

I wish I had taken some pictures! There was Urna, Borka, Karima, and myself along with Bimba (the oldest brother and the one who seemed to be in charge, probably about 19-20 years old), Bambush (Bimba’s younger brother, probably about 15 years old), Argyle (Bimba’s little brother, about 10 years old), Ambra (Bimba’s cousin, just turned 18), and Mohah (Bimba’s friend who we met the other day, probably about 20- he doesn’t live there, but drives over on his little motor bike all the time). We were in good company! Mohah brought gifts for us! He gave us each a canteen and he said they were from WWI and that his grandparents made them! Though, Karima found a stamp on hers that was marked with a 1970’s date…? The guys sang some traditional Mongolian songs for us! (Which was so incredible and surreal!) Then we played a new card game they taught us, had some shots of vodka, and just hung out. Such a fun night! Then Mohah said a poem for us and Urna translated. It was a sad poem about a relationship. Then we got to sleep in the cozy warmth of the ger! Karima and I were given the two beds, then Urna and the boys all huddled together on the ground on a mattress of blankets.

Beautiful Sunset!!

Oosh!!

“Oosh” is what you say to a Mongolian horse when you want it to stop or slow down if you’re going really fast. Sometimes they would listen, other times they would keep on going giving you that “Whateva! Whateva! I do what I want!” kind of attitude. (I hope you all can appreciate a good South Park quote every now and then. I know my brother Dillon would if he were reading this. If you are reading this, I LOVE YOU DILLON!!) 🙂

Day 5 of Horse Trek

One last walk around this beautiful place before we head out!

After a good ol’ breads and spreads breakfast, we headed out of camp around 11:30am. We stopped for lunch at the same spot we did 2 days ago at about 2:30pm. Urna made us some Mongolian bibimbap. (For those of you unaware, bibimbap is a Korean dish of rice mixed with some vegetables, sauce, and sometimes an egg.) The Mongolian (Urna’s) version was rice with the good old vegetables and goat meat we’ve had with every other meal.

Shortly after lunch, we ran into a man that we had chatted with on the way through the other day. He spoke a little bit of Korean, so we were able to answer a few questions he had. He offered to show us his home. He (the oldest brother) lived with his parents and his 3 younger adult brothers. There were four gers and a little trailer house there and we sat in his parents’ ger talking for a little bit. Well, Urna talked and translated every now and then. We were treated with cows’ milk tea, homemade cheese, bread, and some candies. The oldest brother offered to go make us some food, so he left while Urna, Borka, Karima, and I stayed and chatted. It was taking quite a while, so we decided to walk over to the kitchen ger to see what the hold up was. We walked into something a little unexpected…

The 3rd brother was cutting up a goat and the 2nd brother made dough for fresh homemade noodles for some stew. They first boiled all the bones in the stew and then handed us a giant bowl of bones so we could eat the meat off of them. Then the dough the 2nd oldest brother (not shown in video, but he is the one in the blue plaid shirt in the video) was making was cut into strips and thrown in the stew as noodles. The man sitting in the back ground all the way to the left is the dad. The man sitting on the bed on the far side of the room is Borka, our luggage/horse caretaker. It was a pretty good meal, a little fatty, but good.

Getting dinner ready!

Eat up!

They let us have first dibs on the meaty bones. Then when we were done, they dug in. It was rather barbaric. Haha all I could think of when I saw the brothers and father eating the meat off the bones were cavemen.

Goats… It’s what’s for dinner.

The bathroom accomadations this family had… Well they had a squat toilet “outhouse” with no roof and the walls only came up just below my butt. It’s not too bad having to pull your pants down while squatting low enough so no one can see your bum, but pulling your pants back up is a whole ‘nother story!! In the picture below, you can see the oldest brother and their outhouse is the box in the background close to where his knee is…

Gettin ready for a lovely bathroom break..

Later on, Borka, Karima, and I went running with the horses. At one point, the horses instantly started running at full speed and then my horse, Malida, took a sudden turn and I almost fell head over heels off of him. My left foot slipped out of the stirrup and I pretty much lost grip of the saddle. I would’ve fell had it not been for my right foot staying in the other stirrup and holding onto his neck for dear life. For those of you that have never fallen off a horse or almost fallen off a horse, it is REALLY scary!!! I was wearing a helmet, but thankfully I didn’t have to find out if it was good enough to protect my head. I was a little shaken for a little bit and Borka came over to make sure I was alright. Then we kept riding and helped round up the horses. We also “helped” with the nightly chores, as in Karima and I each milked a cow for about a minute or two. Let’s just say I’ve now done it once and have no desire to do it again.

Milkin it!

Total distance for the day was about 20 kilometers.

Bee-tooch-day!!!

“Bee-tooch-day!” means “We can!” or “We’re powerful!”… Something along those lines. Example: “We’re riding horses in the breath-taking Mongolian countryside… Bee-tooch-day!!!” (As you raise your fist in the air.)

Day 4 of Horse Trek

Yay! We didn’t have to pack up today! Borka stayed at camp by the Tuul River while Urna, Karima, and I headed to see Turtle Rock. Turtle Rock is as far away from the Steppe Riders camp that we’ll go, so tomorrow we’ll start heading back the way we came. We headed out at about 10:30am and got to Turtle Rock around 2:30pm covering about 15 km. Along the way, we passed some cool rock formations, like Three Friends Rock. Urna was saying that Three Friends Rock is supposed to look like a monkey, an elephant, and something else… But I didn’t see it at all. Apparently, three friends hid here to avoid capture when the Soviet Russians came through.

Just a cool rock formation… Didn’t take a pic of Three Friends Rock. Oops!

We also passed a herd of cows with a stow away… A long haired, goofy-eyed goat was tagging along with the heard and, by the looks of it, probably unaware that he was with the wrong crowd. Poor guy. We also saw a herd of yaks!

Turtle Rock DEFINITELY looks like a turtle, a ginormous one at that! Really beautiful!! There, we also saw a camel and a golden eagle tied up for tourists to ride and hold, respectively. Urna asked if I wanted to pay to sit on the camel… Well ummm… When it’s tied up on a pedastal and all I would be doing is sitting on it and taking a picture, then I think I’ll have to pass. Had I been 12 years old again, I would’ve jumped for joy at this opportunity. I think I’ll just wait until I take a trip riding a camel through the desert to take a picture with a camel. 🙂

Turtle Rock!

Golden Eagle!

We stopped at the little restaurant there to have a quick lunch before heading back. Seeing as we were the only people in the restaurant, we had assumed we’d be able to get served. They said they didn’t have food or time to serve us…? But they would let us eat in the restaurant if we brought food in there. So we got ramen noodles and chips from the little convenience store and ate inside the restaurant. While we were eating, a Japanese family of about 8 came in and were served a variety of dishes. Also, the owner and her friends were served a nice hot meal. Maybe we missed the memo where we had to make an appointment to order lunch. Then we wanted to use the restroom before we headed back. As we were walking behind the restaurant, a lady yelled back to us saying that the bathrooms were out of order and we had to use the outhouse. Also that there was a 100₮ fee (about 7¢) to use the squat toilet outhouse with no toilet paper. What a bunch of crap!

This isn’t the first time I’ve had to pay to use the bathroom, but the accomadations were MUCH better than this! Haha

We headed back to camp at about 3:15pm and pretty much ran the whole way back! It was so much fun and the horses LOVED it!! We got back to camp at about 5:30pm (another 15km), running sure does make a huge difference for time! It was a little hard on the knees though having to stand in the saddle basically the whole time. When we got back, Borka and his new friend were napping after a day of drinking at camp. They brought all of our bags inside their tent and were using them as pillows and squashed the canvas painting I had just bought the day before. 😦 Though because it’s canvas, it’s not totally ruined, just needs to be flattened. Grr.

After we got back, the horses were all sweaty and catching their breath. They just chilled and relaxed and they were soooo cute!! Malida (my horse) and Urna’s horse were resting their heads on Butternut (Karima’s horse).

All tuckered out after an awesome ride!

Malida! So cute!

For dinner, Urna made another concoction of veggies, meat, and noodles. I got a giant heap of it on my plate and they were dry and I just couldn’t finish it. I didn’t want to offend Urna, so after I finished as much as I could handle, I through the rest in a plastic bag to throw away later. Even though I grew up being really picky and not always wanting to eat everything on my plate, I think this is a first for me. Haha so mature.

Bon Appétit.

Later on, Karima and I went for a walk. I tried teaching her how to skip rocks. Growing up in Arizona doesn’t give you a lot of opportunities to do this and it’s something that I took for granted growing up in Wisconsin. She’ll get it someday! Then we collected some sticks and branches to make a fire. After K got the fire going, Urna, Borka, and their friend came out and sat by the fire with us talking and teaching us some new Mongolian phrases.

Another great day in Mongolia!