This year was probably one of the best years of my life. It was a year of many firsts and one that I will always remember. I crossed off so many things off my Wishlist. It was definitely a year of adventure and excitement. I wanted my last post of 2012 to be a celebration of my favorite parts of the year, the experiences that impacted me the most and my cherished memories. So, in no particular order, the Top 12 of 2012.
1. Finally traveled to the Philippines.
After 28 years, I finally traveled to the motherland. It's kind of sad that it took me that long, but I'm glad I made it. Our trip was definitely not what I expected, but I don't regret it. I've spent my whole life always wondering about my heritage and where I came from. Now, I know. I learned a lot about myself, my parents and the Philippines while there. Also, I know what I would avoid and where to go when I travel there again.
2. Celebrated seven wonderful years of marriage.
I can't believe that Markus and I have been married for seven years. It really does only feel like yesterday that we said our vows on a beach in Florida. I can honestly say that I've found my soul mate. Markus is my perfect match and he's always making my dreams come true. I can't even imagine what my life would be like without him, most likely lame and boring. I'm so thankful for him and can't wait to see what adventures are in store for us.
3. Made it on Korean TV.
Sometimes, foreigners make it on Korean TV for the wrong reasons, but thankfully, I was on for the right reasons. At the library, we have a program called "English Adventure" where we teach students from welfare centers around Busan. A TV crew came and filmed our first day with them. It's not the most exciting segment and I still have no idea what they're saying, but it's pretty exciting to be able to say I was on Korean TV.
On our actual anniversary, we were in England. Markus and I decided to visit Chatsworth House. It's famous estate house in the Peak District and is often used as a filming location for films and TV. Chatsworth House was used as Pemberely from the 2006 movie version of Pride and Prejudice. It's my favorite adaptation of the famous novel and I've always wanted to visit. In the film it's beautiful, but in real life, it's even better. The movie only scratched the surface and spending the entire day roaming the grounds was a dream.
I've always wanted to go to Scotland, but I never thought that I would go. It always seemed a bit out of reach. While we were planning our England trip, we jumped on the chance to go to Edinburgh. It was only for a few days, but those were three of the best days of our trip. It's a great city and is probably my favorite in the UK. Trying haggis was definitely on the top of our list of things to do. I heard that it wasn't the tastiest of meals, but those people were wrong. Haggis was delicious and I spent the rest of the trip wishing I could eat it again.
6. Visited the real Hogwarts.
Who doesn't love a bit of magic? The Harry Potter Studio Tour was another must see while in England. Nothing was going to keep me from going to the real Hogwarts. We weren't able to go the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, so I was determined to make it to the Studio Tour. It was quite magical walking through Hogwarts, Diagon Alley and the Ministry of Magic. I loved seeing the props, costumes and sets. Everything was so intricate and beautiful. It was the closest I'll ever get to being on a movie set!
7. Started volunteering at a women's shelter.
In 2012, Markus and I started volunteering at a women's shelter in Busan. It's a refuge for abused women and their children. The kids are fantastic and amazing. I can't even begin to imagine what they've gone through, but they are some of the coolest kids I've ever met. There are hard days and they can be difficult, but it's a humbling experience. They've dealt with things that no child should have to go through and yet they are full of joy and happiness. I've learned so much from these kids and can't wait to spend the rest of our eight months in Korea with them.
8. Went on hiking adventures with Markus.
I never thought I would be the kind of girl that liked hiking. I have to admit that I am neither athletic or outdoorsy. I really dislike smelling like outside. You're probably asking yourself, "what does outside smell like?" Well, obviously like a person that has been running around outside. Although, for some reason, I love hiking, especially in Korea. I think it's brilliant. There's no better feeling thank spending a few hours hiking on a trail, having a picnic and connecting with nature.
9. Saw one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature, the Underground River.
My favorite place in the Philippines is Palawan. It's an absolute tropical paradise and the complete opposite of Manila. In cities like Manila and Tagaytay, it's heavily populated and polluted. There is a constant thrum of noise and activity. Living in Korea, it's the same thing and I started craving peace and quiet. When we arrived in Palawan that was exactly what I got, an untouched paradise of crystal clear water and white sand beaches. The Underground River is unlike anything I've ever seen. I can't even believe that such a place exists and it was absolutely stunning.
10. Connected with my long lost family.
Since I've lived 27 of my 29 years in Florida and never traveled to the Philippines, I've missed out on the family that lives there. There are heaps of my relatives that I've only seen once and others that I've never met. I was able to reconnect with my uncle Gus, who used to call me "Oreo". He called me that because I was five when we met and I was always eating Oreo cookies. I also met my cousin's kids, Gian, Toni and Naomi. We only spent a few hours together but we were able to bond in that short time. We talked about Sherlock and other geeky things. It's moments like those that I will treasure long after they've passed.
11. Saw snow for the first time!
I like to think that I'm a well traveled individual. I've barely scratched the surface of world travel, but I've been traveling consistently for at least the past ten years. While we were still in Florida, Markus and I would take our annual trip the last week of November. We would always go north, in the hopes that I would finally see the magical fluffy goodness. We went to New York City, Seattle, Vancouver, Boston and Prague. It never happened. Finally, the snow gods fulfilled my lifelong dream and it snowed for three glorious hours in Busan. It was everything I hoped it would be and more.
12. Found my long lost gumption and started writing again.
I thought that moving to Korea would free up so much time and I would have hours upon hours to write. I was dead wrong. In America, I was always busy and sometimes worked 12 hour days. In Korea, I don't work as much, but for some reason, I'm still busy. Things always come up. This year, I finally buckled down on the things I wanted for the future. I started writing my novel again and Markus and I put down the foundation for our collaboration project. I'm nervous but also excited. Hopefully, I'll make even more strides in 2013.
So, dear readers, that is my Top 12 of 2012. Was there anything I left out or you thought should have been included on the list? This is my final post for 2012 and will be leaving for Cambodia tonight! The blog will be on hiatus and I will return blogging again in January!