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Another Birthday For My Poor, Beleaguered Blog!

I never realized how easily time gets away from us, although I really should.  It’s the same reason I can’t play World of Warcraft anymore.  One minute you’re sitting down to it saying ‘just an hour and then I’ll do something productive,’ and then suddenly it’s 9 hours later and you’re like, WHAT AM I DOING WHAT DAY IS IT?!

Anyway, life is like that.  I really had no idea it had been so long since I last posted–it didn’t feel like it.  I guess Korea has been keeping me busy.  Speaking of which, I am obviously still alive and well!  Here are some pictures, since I haven’t posted any in awhile.

 

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Scenic shot of Masan.

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School assembly I couldn’t understand!

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Kimchi stew, food of the Gods.

Some of the world's most adorable socks live in Korea.

Some of the world’s most adorable socks live in Korea.

Whatever's going on here... xD

Whatever’s going on here… xD

All headed to Dotseom!  (Pig island.)

All headed to Dotseom! (Pig island.)

 

Teaching is good, life is good, and I’ve made a lot of friends.  It’s actually almost summer vacation!  I can’t tell you how excited I am to have a summer vacation again.  I miss school, ha ha.

In other news: I recently got to beta-read for Michelle Proulx‘s sequel to Imminent DangerChasing Nonconformity!  I was so happy that she asked I almost did cartwheels.  Luckily I remembered that I can’t, so.  That put an end to that.  Anyway, the point is, it was a FANTASTIC read, and I loved it so much. ❤  I really can’t wait to have a nice shiny copy of it to sit next to my 2 copies of ImminDang.  My comments were probably not all that helpful–mostly fangirling and freaking out in text format–but hopefully she got something useful out of it.

Also, I’ve recently adopted a regular schedule of updates with my webcomic, Love on the Line!  I know, I know, if I have time to draw… but what can I say?  Multi-tasking was never my strong suite.  The point is, it’s got a lot more pages if you haven’t read it recently.

So, that’s my life in a nutshell.  In a couple of weeks I’ll be going on my vacation; have decided to stay in Korea and travel around the Jeollanam-do and Jeollabuk-do areas.  Should be fun. 🙂  I love spontaneous traveling with no solid plan!

I promise to try and update here more often.  I’ve been out of the writing thing for so long… but I have a few posts I had planned on doing before, so maybe I’ll pick those up and run with it.

Miss you guys!  And again, happy birthday Blog.  ❤  You’re 3 years old now!  You’re a toddler past the terrible 2’s!  And in honor of that, let’s look at some weird blog statistics that you might find funny:

Views are up from last year!!  Not as big a leap as the year before, but considering my blog has mostly been taken up by KOREA for the past year, I’m still pleased.  🙂

What countries are visiting my blog?  Well the USA is by far the #1, but of note are the runners-up–apparently Russia loves my blog, go figure.  Brazil was a close third, followed by Malaysia.  I love being able to see where my viewers are from. 🙂

Last but not least, what were the most common search terms that led to my blog?  This one is HILARIOUS.

beautiful light house urns  Uhm, did I ever write about those…?

boyxboy webcomics  Guilty as charged.

wall-e love images  What now?

k-on eating maize  Who is K-on, and why is he eating corn on my blog?

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My Experience Trying to Get to Korea

It’s been a very long road, friends and neighbors, but I can finally say–I’ve done it!  I have been safely settling myself into my new job/town/life in South Korea for the past 2 weeks or so, and it’s such a relief to finally be here doing what I’ve been working towards for like 10 months.

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Here’s a quick one of some fellow teachers and I at the Jinhae Cherry Blossom festival. ❤  I’ll try to post some more pictures up soon!

Anyway, I realize this blog is SUPPOSED to be about writing, and not all of you are terribly interested in the whole Korea thing.  I get it, and I appreciate your patience while I switch my life up, ha ha.  It is definitely my intention to get back to my writing/editing/blogging endeavors as soon as I get over this cold that I’ve had for about a week and a half, and feel more secure in my new job.

But, for anyone who IS interested in the whole ordeal, and may be interested in making a similar move…  This is a post I just wanted to write for you.

1. How did I get interested in this in the first place?

A girl that I worked with at Macy’s the first year I was there had taught English in Japan.  She told me about the experience, which I was understandably fascinated by, as I have an interest in Asian cultures and have been to Japan myself.  I was expressing a lack of direction in my life and not sure what I wanted to do beyond Macy’s, even though I was graduated.  Friend told me I should consider teaching English abroad, something I had never considered.  ‘Surely you have to be able to speak the language/have a teaching degree?’ I said, but the answers were no.  The wheels were turning.

Shortly after, I started watching Boys Over Flowers again; a Korean drama that I had started some time before.  I’d heard about it because it was based on a Japanese manga that I had read.  Then I discovered that fellow blogging/writing enthusiast and my friend here, Michelle, had ALSO been to teach abroad… In Korea.  At the same time, I was remembering that a girl I met in college who graduated a year ahead of me had also said something once about going to teach in Korea.  At the time I was preoccupied by my upcoming Ireland internship.  But suddenly this wasn’t just an idea.  It was a thing people–a lot of people I knew–had done.

So I googled it, like you do with strange new ideas.  I found the website that Michelle had gone through.

I sent them an e-mail, and before I knew it, I had a recruiter.  This was a thing I could do.

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2. How was the recruiter experience?

Let me be clear–you don’t NEED a recruiter to apply to EPIK.  Actually, EPIK isn’t even going through recruiters right now–that could change in the future, or it might not.  And it’s faster to go through EPIK directly–obviously, ha ha.  But I wasn’t totally sure what I was doing, and I liked the idea of going through the same people that Michelle had.  Not to mention, if EPIK hadn’t worked out, they had more options of private teaching jobs through Hagwons, etc.

My recruiters were pretty awesome.  I have no complaints.  They responded promptly, helped me with questions, gave me a very all-inclusive packet to follow to get my paperwork on time, and at the end they arranged my flight/had someone meet us at the airport.  The process of applying to them wasn’t too difficult.  It does require an interview to be represented, but it was a nice interview, and obviously they want to know if you’re even someone they can rep!

That being said, as I mentioned, right now EPIK does not go through recruiters anymore.  But, if you’re interested in GEPIK or Jeollanamdo, or maybe a Hagwon, I would recommend my recruiters–Canadian Connection.  (CanconX.)  But there are a lot of them.  Korvia, which several people I met later on went through, also seems popular.  I really recommend a reputable recruiter if you want a hagwon job, though.  It’s easy to get scammed/abused by hagwon owners, since they are businesses.  Be careful!

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3. What was the process of applying to EPIK like?

LONG.  Long and hard, ha ha.  With periods of hurry-hurry-hurry, followed by being unable to do anything but wait.  I’m sure that’s not everyone’s experience, and if I were to do it again, I would do a LOT of things differently.  But as long as you have good time management, you’ll probably be fine.  Just be aware of deadlines, and how long everything takes–usually weeks longer than you anticipate.

AND IT’S EXPENSIVE!  I had no idea how pricey it would be when I started, getting all of the documents, getting them notarized/apostilled,  and getting them shipped here and there.  Not to mention my online TEFL course, which is quickly becoming required for any kind of ESL teaching job abroad.  It all adds up.

If you decide to go through EPIK, or GEPIK, or the Jeolla program, they all have similar paperwork requirements.  That’s because those are kind of the main things any place overseas needs to know about you in order to ascertain you are not some crazy psycho, have been to college, and are worth hiring.  Then there’s the paperwork you need for a Visa, which is required to be in a foreign country for any length of time.

You have to apply for all of these things, and they will be accompanied by so much technical jargon your brain will feel like it’s melting out of your ears.  You will re-read the same paragraph on the IRS website so many times your eyes feel like they will fall out of your head.  And you will be biting your nails in front of your mailbox, praying that your background check arrives today because you have roughly a week to get it to DC and back, then off to the recruiter in order to make your deadline.

Okay, that last part was just me.  But really though.  For me, I needed: 4 passport photos. An FBI background check (apostilled). (I applied for one through the FBI main headquarters.  That was my mistake.  It took them about 5 months.  I ended up paying $150 to get my background check done in 1 day at a channeling agency.  I could have gone through them for less money and still gotten my background check faster, but at that point I didn’t have time.)  Fingerprints for the background check.  A notarized copy of my college degree.  Transcripts from my college, sealed.  A completed EPIK application, with personal essay and sample lesson plan.  Proof of my TEFL course completion. (120 hour minimum.)

There’s a lot of stuff you need once you’re here, too, and a tax paper from the IRS stating that you lived and payed taxes in the US.  (That I’m STILL waiting on, months later.)

And don’t forget that EPIK interview!  I found mine wasn’t quite as awful as I had built it up to be in my mind, but it was still rather stressful.  I definitely sounded like an idiot–thank goodness the guy interviewing me took pity on me, ha ha!  You just have to be natural.  Let them know why you want to do this, that you know a bit about Korea in advance, that you have enthusiasm, and that you’re willing to try hard.  What more can they ask for?

In the end, I barely made it.  I wasn’t in time for the original cut off, so my recruiter held my paperwork while we tried to figure out what to do.  I interviewed for a hagwon position in Seoul that I was nervous about, since I really wanted to work in the public school system.  Then, as we were waiting for GEPIK applications, EPIK told us that I was on the waiting list and would get a position.  Like I said, it was a constant game of hurrying to complete things, and then just having to wait for them to tell me what the next step was, whether I was in or not.

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4. What happened once you knew?

After hearing that I had made it to EPIK after all, things went very quickly.  I found out at the beginning of March.  I was in Korea by the end of March.  After 8-9 months of working towards it, the actual event happened very quickly, and it was still a lot of paperwork to the bitter end.

At that point, I get sent my contract, which I had to look over and sign.  Then I sent that, with my letter of appointment and some other documents, to the Korean consulate in Chicago with my passport to get my visa.  The visa is important–you can’t work legally without having one!!  A lot of hagwon jobs will try to hire you without you having a proper visa first, and do things called ‘visa runs’, where you have to leave the country and go to Japan to get your visa after you’ve already been here teaching.  THAT’S NOT OK!!

Anyway, so there I was.  I knew I had a job somewhere in Gyeongsangnam, but that was the most I found out.  I wouldn’t know the exact school/city/county until I was there.  Canadian Connection arranged my flight, and I booked a hotel, since I was doing a night layover in Incheon.  The only thing left to do was pack for a year, and to start trying to make contacts with other people who were doing the same crazy thing as me.

Facebook is, on more than one occasion, a God-send.

And there was a lot to think about, like what I was going to do about a phone, or if I had enough socks.  You know.  Details.

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5. What are the particulars of your job with EPIK?

Here’s the deets to my job:  You get paid according to your experience and degree type.  I have a degree in an English-related subject, so I get paid a little more.  About 2000$, or 2,200,000 won a month.  I work 40 hours a week, but only 22 of those hours are teaching hours.  The rest are desk-warming, or basically working on lessons, etc.  If they want me to teach more, they have to pay overtime.  But since I only have 15 lessons a week, they supplement that by having me do after-school classes–I also teach 4 conversation classes and 2 essay classes a week.

You get a free apartment.  It could be a studio, it might have some rooms, you never know.  But you’re guaranteed free housing.  It will also come with certain things–a bed, a desk, a chair, a TV, a fridge, a stovetop, a washer, etc.  You pay for the utilities, phone bill, internet, etc.  But still, good deal, right?

Schools can require you to teach at multiple schools, and teach multiple grades.  Luckily I don’t–I only teach at one middle school–but they’re allowed.  If you teach at multiple schools, they’ll pay you extra to get from one to another.  Also, if you work in a rural area, your pay gets a little hike.

This is not a vacation.  It’s a job, pure and simple.  But it’s a really interesting job, in a foreign country.

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6. Is it very different, living in South Korea?

Yes and no.  I’ve been to other countries, so I’m kind of used to adapting to new environments.  Every country has its quirks.  Granted, I’ve only ever been to what people would consider ‘developed’ countries, but if you’re planning to come to South Korea, here’s a little of what you can expect.

Yes, some people still eat dogs here.  It’s a thing, especially with older people.  You just have to grit your teeth and bear it.  Nobody is making you eat it.  Kimchi, or fermented spicy cabbage, is the national dish.  You eat it with everything, like rice.  You should probably have an adventurous palate too, although it’s not a total deal-breaker.  They don’t really flush toilet paper here.  That one is a bit hard to get used to.  The sewer system isn’t really set up to take it, so it’s usually thrown in a wastebasket next to the toilet.  Spitting on the streets/sidewalks is a thing, especially for older guys.  You can drink in public here, and South Koreans LOVE to drink.  Take things with 2 hands.  Pour with two hands.  Respect your elders.  The beds will probably be as hard as rocks.  Get used to having no idea what’s going on around you.  You’re going to get pummeled riding on the bus, and probably miss your stop.  A lot.  The public transportation system is much more active in Korea than in the States.  Kids are kids, no matter what country they’re from.  There’s a convenience store on every single corner.  Motorists of all sorts WILL try to kill you–it’s nothing personal.  Getting naked together at the public bathhouse is a thing.  Online banking is a horrible and exhausting experience.  Pads will cost you an arm and a leg, and don’t even think about tampons.  Clothing is cheap and plentiful… as long as you’re a one-size-fits-all, and that size is a 4.  Get ready to do more recycling than you’ve ever done in your life, or the apartment ahjumma is going to have a fit.  Eating by yourself isn’t just something for sad people here, it’s just something you don’t do–like, especially at dinner places, you’re literally not going to get seated.  Make some friends, stat.

I’ve got a million more, and I’m sure I’ll have more than that before long.

 

SO.  That’s it, my journey here in a nutshell.  There were a lot of tears, some of which came from me–a lot of which came from my mother.  There were times, a hundred, where I wondered if it could possibly be worth the hassle of getting everything together, of paying another exorbitant shipping fee or losing my package somewhere in Wisconsin.  To get here I spent hours trying to learn what little Korean I could get to stick, watching fifty-billion dramas and trying to meet people ahead of time.

Korea will probably, in the next year, test everything I know about myself, and things that I don’t know.  It will make me grow up and learn to manage myself, to manage my money, to be more social, to make friends.  It will show me whether or not teaching is something I should be doing, how I feel about kids, how I feel about a strange new society.  I hope it will be an adventure, but even more, I hope that it will be the first step of a life.  I’m not sitting on the sidelines waiting for something to happen anymore.

This is it.  THIS is what I’ve been working for.

So I’m going to enjoy every second of it.

Until next time, when I promise I will get back to our regularly-schedule program!  Please stay well, my dear readers.  Coming at you live from South Korea, yours truly,

Celeste

 

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YUP.  In just over 2 weeks I will be embarking on my long-awaited sojourn to South Korea!  YAY!  I finally received my contract, sent off for my visa, and am in the process of panicking and trying to figure out how to pack a year’s worth of giant-people clothing and shoes, LOL.  As you can imagine, the stress is on–especially since they just told me like, not even a week ago.

So I will be a bit busy for the next month at least–settling into life in Korea, getting used to my new job at the school, cleaning, lesson planning, and generally trying to hang out with everyone I know here before I fly across the world.  So if you are wondering why there’s a lot of radio silence over here, that’s probably the answer.  I’m sorry!  But I just don’t think I can do regular updates during all of that, because I already know I’mma be stressed as hell, ha ha.  I hate to throw the word ‘hiatus’ around… but that’s kind of what’s gonna happen.

So wish me luck, and I hope to see you all back again once I feel settled enough to get back to routine.  Don’t worry–I’ll still be on the computer a lot, and a lot of my job is desk-warming, so I’ll inevitably be looking for something to do at some point, once the freaking out wears off and I have like a month’s worth of lesson plans already done.

I’ll see you then folks!  Till then, stay awesome, and keep doin’ your thing.  I’m gonna go eat Chipotle till I explode, then buy more socks and underwear.

Celeste

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Back Cover Help/Suggestions, Please!

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As the rather self-explanatory title of this post would lead you to believe, I need some help working on the back cover copy of my novel, The Life of Gaia!  I know it’s kind of hard to do that when you haven’t necessarily read the book, but that’s okay!  I still want your opinions!  You know why?  Because theoretically the people who are perusing the BCC ALSO haven’t read my book!  So, you know, that makes your advice rather valuable, coming from that position yourselves.

I promise that I won’t be offended either way, and also that I will not immediately go cry in my shower with a bottle of wine no matter WHAT you tell me, although “This sucks” is probably of less use to me than, say, actual suggestions for fixing it.  But I won’t turn anything away!!  It’s all legitimate feedback (probably,) so you know, lay it on me!

This is what I currently have on the back cover. (My cover designer is going to LOVE ME for coming up with changes like, months after we finished the cover…)

Sixteen-year-old Gaia has never been far from Aeslen Monastery, but she doesn’t need geography lessons to know there’s a lot more of Lysaran than the old church can offer. Yet as a penniless orphan, Gaia knows her life is destined to be spent as a priest, her dreams just that. Dreams.

Until she sees a disturbing omen in the woods. Until a knight in black armor hunts her down, and ends that life forever. Suddenly Gaia is faced by the man she’s dreamed of her entire life, and he’s offering her a deal: die now, or save Lysaran first.

Her decision will plunge her into a whole new world of responsibilities, deadly secrets, horrifying monsters and deceitful Gods. As the balance of Lysaran tips towards the darkness, Gaia seems to be the only one that can stop its descent…at the cost of everything else.

Gaia has a second life, but is it really hers to live?

That’s what’s currently on there, but it’s different from the synopsis I used on the LOG page on my website, which reads:

Gaia is an orphan.  It is the aspect that defines her, and the one that determines her future.  With no prospects and no way out, it seems like all of her dreams–the ones of adventure, of life beyond the monastery, and of a mysterious man in the dark–will only ever be that.  Dreams.  She doesn’t know that her world is about to be thrown out of balance.  That her life is about to end abruptly, violently.  And when that man offers her another chance, she takes it.

But will this second life really be hers to live?

Obviously that one is a little different, and shorter.  Aaaand, last but not least, I have a ANOTHER version that is up on Jukepop’s website:

Gaia is an orphaned acolyte, and on her 16th birthday, she’ll have the biggest choice of her life–whether to strike out on her own, or stay in the safety of the monastery.
At least, that WAS her biggest choice.
Until the day she died, met the man of her dreams, and was offered the chance to live again: with the condition that she has to save the world of Lysaran from destruction.
How hard could that be?

Anyway, let me know what your reactions are.  Does one make you more interested than another?  Any technical stuff you’d like to point out, or little changes that you think would make it read more smoothly?  Would you be at all interested in pursuing this book, or not, and why?    I NEED TO KNOW. @^@

(And of course feel free to mash bits and pieces of both together, if you feel it would sound more pleasing/enticing!!)

Thanks for your help though, seriously.  And this is just one step in getting closer to an actual COVER REVEAL!!

Much obliged,

Celeste

Also, for fun, here’s a conversation I obviously found amusing recently on the word ‘Abscond’:

AbscondFund

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I know!  I haven’t had anything so exciting to update about in a long time–at least that pertained to my own writing!  But I’m pretty psyched to announced that my website here has officially passed 200 posts–yikes!  Who’d have thought I had so much to say, amiright?  Well, I’m more impressed that whatever I’ve been blathering on about, I’ve managed to keep it up relatively regularly for over two years, and 200 posts.

Please, I beg you, keep tuning in for the future!  You’re part of the reason I have the drive to keep wracking my brain for things to write about. 🙂

Next–YES, you heard (read) correctly!  I ACTUALLY updated Life of Gaia!  Chapter 16, edited, can now be read over at Jukepopserials.  It’s the first chapter in…five months?  Seven?  Either way, it was a HELLA long hiatus.  I’m so sorry!!  I’m a terrible person, what can I say?  But I was pretty motivated to get out a new chapter recently, so I did.  Even more surprising, I just finished editing ANOTHER chapter, so you can expect Chapter 17 to pop up on there any day now.  Huzzah!  I might ACTUALLY finish that story some time this decade.

As a last teaser for this update, I wanted to say that I’m planning to do a cover reveal for Gaia sometime soon!  Now, I guess ‘soon’ is kind of relative–let’s say, within the next six months.  I know, I know, that’s really vague…  But since Korea is still up in the air, and since I want to get a few more chapters of the story out first…  Well, with my track record, it could be awhile.  But I HAVE the cover–have had it for awhile–and I’m really eager to show it to everyone.  First, though, I might need some help with the synopsis… But we’ll leave that for another post.

Thanks again, everyone!  Even those of you who hang out on the sidelines, I really appreciate your support.  ❤

Celeste

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The Ugly Truth About Book Sales

Marketing really IS the name of the game these days, ladies and gentlemen. If you think the fun stops after you’ve painstakingly WRITTEN and EDITED the thing, you are much mistaken! Consider your book, if you would like to publish it, like you would a real child–yeah, you spent 9 uncomfortable months creating the thing, but after it actually comes into the world, guess what? You still have to feed, cloth, and care for the thing for 18+ years.
Books are like that. You can’t just write one, throw it to the wolves, and start work on another.
Not if you wanna be successful!

Leona's Blog of Shadows

Today I am going to share some eye-opening truths, which might shatter the illusions regarding the book publishing business and crush the dreams of some folk out there. I have recently come across a rather interesting blog post link in the comments section under a post at Suffolk Scribblings blog.

It was a rather grim post by author Kameron Hurley. For those who are not familiar with her, she is an established author who has been a finalist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, the Locus Award and the BSFA Award for Best Novel. Her short fiction has appeared in prestigious SFF magazines such as Lightspeed, EscapePod, and Strange Horizons. Her fiction has been translated into Romanian, Swedish, Spanish, and Russian. She is also a graduate of Clarion West. Impressive credentials many of us dream about accomplishing some day, if ever.

According to her…

View original post 895 more words

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Obligatory Post on San Diego!

As I may have mentioned at one point or another, I went to visit a friend from college for a week last month…  IN SUNNY SAN DIEGO! =D  I’ve never been to California before, so that was new.  I’d also never been in the Pacific Ocean before, either, so also new!  🙂  Work is super-slow during January, so it was the perfect time to go and have an adventure.

Unfortunately, my friend was sick most of the week, but I managed to still get out and about and do some fun stuff.  The highlights were definitely jet-skiing, the beach, a Korean spa, and whale watching!  And, you know, there was the whole 65-70-degrees-and-cloudless-sun the whole week, too.  That didn’t hurt at all.

Unfortunately I couldn’t take any pictures at the spa (you know, naked people and all,) but it was called Aqua Day Spa, and I really had a good time!  Not only did I get over my fears of public nudity, I also got the scrub-down of my life, courtesy of a small middle-aged Korean lady.  I haven’t been that clean since I was born, GUARANTEED.  Man, I just love new experiences. 🙂

So here!  Have some pictures. 🙂  (Sorry for the crummy quality on some–my phone probably has some good points, but camera isn’t one of them.)

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Middle-of-the-road selfie! With pretty mountains in the background. ❤

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I was incredibly daring, and took a walk in a park APPARENTLY frequented by mountain lions?! So brave.

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Katie and I got this epic six-layer chocolate cake to share! It took us 3 days to finish. Totally worth it.

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Saturday I drove to Coronado Beach! After braving San Diego weekend traffic, I ended up here, at this lovely beach. ❤

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Occasionally I fancy myself some kind of photographer or something. 😛

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Whale watching tour!

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Pretty, sunny harbor pic!

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Just a selfie to remind you I was there. 🙂

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Ate at a Korean restaurant in Kearney Mesa, just down the street from the spa. Soooo delicious!!

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Harbor seals!!! Soooo cute. >w<

 

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Some scrubby, scenic San Diego mountains, in what they consider ‘the country’.

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A little baby waterfall on my walk through mountain-lion-infested terrain.

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Visited Fashion Valley to say hello to a sister-Macy’s! This one was super fancy–but it was also surrounded by like, Nordstrom and Bloomingdales and the like, so that made sense.

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I like this pic! =) This was me in the middle of my friend’s apartment complex.

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Katie and I after I got there! So warm, so sunny… ~

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There I am, visiting the Pacific Ocean for the first time!! (Though the bigger draw was getting to lay there and watch shirtless guys walk by… Yeahhhh…)

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A really cool tree outside the San Diego Museum of Natural History!

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We saw a King Tut exhibit at the NAT. It was pretty interesting!!

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