America

Summer Is Almost Here…

The month of May means different things to different people. For Cambodians, it marks the Royal Ploughing Ceremony and King Sihamoni‘s birthday.  In America, we think of flowers blooming and some mysterious dance around a Maypole, which I don’t think anyone really understands.

For teachers, and students, it only means on thing.

Summer vacation is around the corner.

To herald the summer of 2015, I bring you a video that Sean made of one of our favorite Wisconsin activities: playing in the water.

Last summer we spent a few days at our friend’s cabin in Eagle, Wisconsin.

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Eagle Spring Lake is a funky area. Kettle Moraine State Forest is next door, there’s an island with a house on it in the center of the lake, and there’s a gorgeous little channel of water that connects you to Lulu Lake, which is just beautiful. I’ve never seen so many lily pads.

If there’s one thing you’ve got to do in Wisconsin, it’s spend some time on our lakes in the summer. (Even if you’re from Minnesota. I won’t judge you.)

Watch Sean’s video below (in 1080p if you can), and just try not to get out your sunscreen and sunglasses.

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A True American Summer

Hello, August. The month of humidity. Of lazy summer days. Of making summer memories and planning fall plans. Ever since I was young, August has signaled a few landmark events for myself and all Wisconsinites:

 

  1. The Wisconsin State Fair in Milwaukee
  2. The Legendary August 15th Relocation: Madison’s whole-city moving day
  3. School supply commercials
  4. The Sturgis migration
  5. Finally turning the air-conditioning on!
  6. Numerous festivals involving brats and/or beer
  7. Fruit-pickin’ season
  8. The sausage races at Miller park
  9. Getting to the American Players Theater before it’s too late
  10. Losing frisbees in cornfields (Or is that just my family?)
  11. Fireflies, fireflies, fireflies!

 

This summer, Sean and I spent ample time in Wisconsin. We visited friends and family, and played tourists as often as we could. We seized every opportunity to create a true “American Summer”.

 

As I sit on the airplane, traveling back to Cambodia, I reflect on how rockin’ of a summer it was. Let me share it with you.

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Disc golf. Invented by a Californian in the late 70’s, it doesn’t get any better than this. You spend the afternoon walking through a manicured park, throwing frisbees into metal baskets.

 

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More disc golf. You can really get lost in the woods.

 

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Our collection of discs. My motto is, “Buy two, lose one.” Most courses have a gnarly rough, where we have lost multiple discs. This summer I made a personal record and lost two: one at the bottom of a pond and another down a ravine.

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Freshwater lakes! Lots and lots of them. They say that Michigan is the “Land of 10,000 Lakes”, but Wisconsin surely has them beat. (Sorry, Viking folk.)

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Lake Geneva. A Wisconsin postcard town. Sean snapped this photo as the mail boat drove by—this is how the residents of Lake Geneva receive their mail. Founded in the 1800’s as a retreat from the hustle and bustle of Chicago, affluent residents took the train up from Chicago and built decadent homes. The only way to receive mail was by boat. To this day, you can hop aboard and take part of an old tradition of delivering the mail, rain or shine.

 

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Wisconsin’s storybook turtles. I am lucky enough to average one sighting every summer.

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The White House! A tour of America is not complete without a trip to the country’s capital. We visited Sean’s brother, Kevin, who was awesome take the day off and show us all the sites. He was a fount of knowledge and energy! (Kevin, if you’re reading this, you’re the best!)

 

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Just as a trip to America is not complete without a stop in DC, one does not simply venture to DC without visiting the Smithsonian.

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As much as I loved the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History, we absolutely adored the Smithsonian Zoo. And, if you’re debating a trip to DC yourself, keep in mind that all Smithsonians are completely free to the public!

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 If you’re sick of cliches, then I recommend you stop reading now, because we actually went to DC over the Fourth of July weekend. Watching the fireworks over the National Mall was unrivaled, challenged only by the mouthwatering Ethiopian food cart I found minutes before the big booms.

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 Nothing beats the heat like a milkshake. And milkshakes we had. If you find yourself in DC, slake your thirst from museum touring with a visit to Bullfeathers for the best shakes this side of Appalachia.

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Horseback riding! My sister shows horses, so Sean and I went to one of her competitions this summer. She completely cleaned up, and wrangled first place in all of her events.

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Mullens ice cream. Founded in 1932, Mullens is a Watertown, Wisconsin staple. They handmade their ice cream, and you dine over formica tables and checkered wallpaper.

Screen Shot 2014-08-01 at 6.09.21 AM Photo compliments of http://mullensdairy.com/history_photos.html 

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Boating. If you’ve been keeping up with Angkor’s Away, then you know Sean is the proud owner of a GoPro Hero 3+. To my chagrin, he took it on the tube this summer and snapped this awesome photo as he flew off the side into the abyss of Eagle Springs lake.

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Swimming. Our friends have a cabin on Eagle Springs lake, and initiate new visitors to the “hot springs”. Telling her it was a hot springs, we smirked from the comfort of our dry swimsuits as my sister dove the bottom of a frigid cold spring spouting out of the mud.

14-chicagoOnly a two-hour drive from my parent’s house, Chicago is a must-visit. We met up with our friend Eric Walker, whom we taught with in Kuwait.
15-chicagWe had great weather for a long walk throughout the city!

 

10513413_10203511480379816_5423679962905393463_nAn afternoon on the Memorial Union terrace. Sean wanted to catch a few of the World Cup games, so we settled in for an afternoon of sunshine and beautiful views.

 

16-merrika Amusement parks. I relived my childhood memories at Little Amerricka, a traditional amusement park. Many of their rides are from the 1950’s—including this coaster!

 

17-merrikaMini golf. Need I say more?

 

18-merrikaAnd of course, a ride on the carousel. You are never too old for a whirl on the merry-go-round!

There you have it. Our very American summer. But it wouldn’t be complete without…

10350640_10203466261449371_5228002970130524419_n…a game of cribbage, Miller High Life, a bloody mary topped with a burger and bacon, and a Sprecher root beer. I think I gained a few pounds just looking at this photo.

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Door County, Wisconsin

While my blog normally covers all things exotic and foreign, it is all a matter of perspective.

For all of my non-American readers, today you will experience the exotic culture and geography of the Upper-Midwestern United States. A part of America that is so familiar to me, I can close my eyes and recreate each of the five senses purely from memory alone. We all have places like this—my friends in Ethiopia can taste shiro and injera, and smell the wild baboons in the Simien mountains. My friends in Cambodia can feel the salt of the Gulf of Thailand on their skin and the taste of tangy prahok in their mouth. Similarly, Sean and I can hear the call of the hermit thrush, taste of cheese curds, and imagine the waves of Lake Michigan lapping the rocky shore.

Here is Door County in early June.

DCIM101GOPROThe Holiday Music Motel, a vintage throw-back in Sturgeon Bay. One of the best hotels I’ve stayed at in the US so far. Absolutely fantastic breakfast in a ‘serve yourself’ diner setting.

 

DCIM101GOPROI felt like I was either in my grandmother’s kitchen or a church basement for a Friday night fish-fry. (If you’re from Wisconsin, that sentence makes perfect sense.)

 

DCIM101GOPROOn the shores of Lake Michigan, at Whitefish Dunes State Park.

 

DCIM101GOPROOne of Sean’s favorite places in Door County, Cave Point County Park.

 

DCIM101GOPROPerched on the rocky ledges of Cave Point.

 

DCIM101GOPRODoor County is famous for its lighthouses. This one is located in Peninsula State Park, one of the most popular State Parks in Wisconsin.

 

DCIM101GOPROOn top of Eagle Tower, with Horseshoe Island in the background.

 

DCIM101GOPROHorseshoe Island.

 

DCIM101GOPROHiking the Eagle Trail. Was it difficult? Not so much. Beautiful? Absolutely.

 

Screen Shot 2014-06-23 at 10.37.14 PMSean goes spelunking in the caves along the Eagle Trail.

 

DCIM101GOPROIn Sister Bay, Wisconsin, there is a famous restaurant that has goats grazing on their roof. We, unfortunately, visited on a day that they were mowing the lawn. No goats, but certainly an entertaining photograph!

 

Screen Shot 2014-06-23 at 10.33.48 PMWe then visited The Ridges Sanctuary State Natural Area in Bailey’s Harbor. It was recommended for being particularly beautiful and remote, with an active bald eagle nest. As you can see in the above photo (which is actually a screen capture from a video), I became a mosquito-fighting phantom, covering every part of my body from the ridiculously vicious mosquitos that were there!

 

DCIM101GOPROInside The Ridges there is an old homestead from the early 1900’s.

 

Screen Shot 2014-06-23 at 10.31.41 PMWe were the only people for miles around. It was a fairy land.

 

Screen Shot 2014-06-23 at 10.30.15 PMThen we popped out on the shores of Lake Michigan once again. I never get tired of this view.

 

DCIM101GOPROOn our way home, we found yet another lighthouse. Door County never ceases in its simple beauty.

 

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Top Ten Travel Highlights of 2013

Happy New Year! I can’t believe it’s 2014 already. Since we’ve moved abroad, Sean and I have rang in the new year in Jordan, Egypt, and now Cambodia. As amazing as it is to keep looking forward to new adventures, it is equally important to reflect on all we’ve experienced. 2013 was pretty awesome. We moved from Kuwait to Cambodia. We celebrated our second year of marriage. Sean had knee surgery. I had wrist surgery. Sean tried pufferfish. I started eating chicken again. We watched Breaking Bad. But I digress.

Anyways, here are our travel highlights of 2013. There’s not really any particular order; it was near impossible to prioritize such perfect memories…  I hope you enjoy!

 2013 Travel Highlights

10. Playing disc golf with my family over the summer (Wisconsin)547901_4009921418603_1670924733_n

 

9. My last vegetarian thali at Banana Leaf (Kuwait)img_2404

 

8. Climbing Kep Mountain (Cambodia)10

 

7. Learning to speak Khmer (Cambodia)1185019_10201246178628688_1713916646_n

 

6. Eating giant prawns on the Koh Kong coast (Cambodia)img_6725

 

5. Becoming addicted to shiro and injera (Ethiopia)img_4913

 

4. Smoking shisha with my mother and the head of the Ministry of Communication (Kuwait)img_4726_2

 

3. Hiking five nights on The Beaten Path trail (Montana)15

 

2. Petting baboons in the Simien Mountains (Ethiopia)img_5656

 

1. Standing under the raging waterfall of Tad Yeang—Can you spot me? (Laos)img_7795-version-2

 

 

 

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Five Days In The Wilderness

 

Hello! Today I’d like to share with you our backpacking trip in the Beartooths. I’ll keep this post rather short as the pictures speak for themselves.

We hiked a trail called The Beaten Path trail in the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness. The trail is situated Northeast of Yellowstone National Park, in a rugged and remote mountain range.

Screen Shot 2013-07-27 at 7.02.07 AMWe took five days to do twenty-six miles because there is so much to see. Waterfalls, mountain peaks, hidden lakes, snow fields. But I am talking too much. Take a look at the photos!

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Technically the sign at the end of the trail for us, but it makes for a good intro.

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Lots and lots of stream crossings!

 

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This was near Fossil Lake as we were getting above tree line.

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The weather held out, and it was gorgeous.

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Here we are skirting the edge of Fossil Lake, above 10,000 feet in elevation!

 

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Fossil Lake.

 

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We set up camp one night shortly after Fossil Lake. While the sun was glowing and the temperatures were warm, there were still hundreds of snowfields everywhere.

 

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This is Dewey Lake, which had incredible views.

 

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Impasse Falls, shortly after Dewey Lake.

 

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A gorgeous lake named Lake-At-Falls.

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On our way out, hiking past Rimrock Lake.

 

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We were able to find enough downed wood to build a hefty campfire on our final night!
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After we got off the trail, we played tourist for a day at Yellowstone National Park.

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Old Faithful, and a very pretty doggy.

26Perfect beverages for the perfect vacation.

There you have it! Thus concludes our trip in the Beartooths. It was lovely, and I’d hike The Beaten Path again in a heartbeat. If you ever find yourself looking to plan a trip in the Montana/Wyoming area, I’d highly recommend it!

 

Next Up: Cambodia! We’ve been living here for five days, and I’ve got LOTS to share! Check back again for beautiful photos and captivating stories!

 

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The Art of Racing in the Beartooth Mountains

All right, all right, all right. Big changes here at Aloha Kuwait. After much counseling from my loved ones, I’ve reconsidered changing my blog title. You are now visiting the new and improved—or more geographically accurate—blog, “Angkors Away: Teaching in Cambodia, Trekking the Planet”. Love it, hate it, let me know in the comments below! The web address will always be alohakuwait.wordpress.com so don’t worry. You can also still access all the old blog posts here on this site. We just decided to create a blog title that fused our present with our past. Hope you continue to enjoy reading as much as I do sharing!

Onto the news…

I’m currently reading a book called “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” by Garth Stein. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Been on myriad best-seller lists, I stumbled on it through the $3.99 specials in the iBooks store. The reason—I think—the book is so popular is that it’s told through the perspective of a dog, and has some pretty profound realizations on reality.

Seems fitting, right? That man’s (and woman’s) best friend holds the wisdom of the world. But, some dogs seem more promising than others, if you know what I mean. We all know the difference between wise, sage dogs and the crazy, glossy-eyed dogs. Kind of like people, I guess. But I digress.

About half-way through the novel the dog, Enzo, reflects on humankind’s obsession with time:

“People are always worried about what’s happening next. They often find it difficult to stand still, to occupy the now without worrying about the future. People are not generally satisfied with what they have; they are very concerned with what they are going to have”

I’m sitting on a plane to Guangzhou, China. My summer in Wisconsin is officially over. Sean and I are about to begin the saga of our travels in Southeast Asia. Enzo’s reflections affected me so much because we are flying, hundreds of miles an hour, towards a future we have been obsessing over for months.

When I was in Kuwait, I obsessed about Wisconsin.

When I was in Wisconsin, I obsessed about the upcoming responsibilities of Southeast Asia.

Now, on the plane, I am sorting through photographs of the epic summer that it was, and longing for the past.

Life sure moves quickly, doesn’t it? I am thankful for my blog so that I can take moments of my life to reflect on the memories I’ve made, and the beauty of all that surrounds me. Hopefully I can be more like Enzo and not worry about what’s happening next. If you genuinely—and prudently—live in the moment, the future will take care of itself.

On to the photographs! I will wrap up this summer in two posts on the Beartooth Mountains. I hope to be updating you on Cambodia within the next week, so I want to share the events of the summer before moving on.

It’s an annual… journey. Trip. Excursion. Jaunt. Wandering. Odyssey. Pilgrimage.  Yes, certainly a pilgrimage. “A journey to a place associated with someone or something well known or respected.” Our annual pilgrimage is to the mountains. My family and I started our pilgrimage to the Beartooth mountains by driving the long and not-so-lonely road from Madison to Montana along I90.

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Our first stop was in the National Grasslands outside of Badlands National Park in South Dakota. We went dispersed camping, which is when a national forest or national grassland allows camping spread over a wide area, pretty much anywhere you’d like so long as it’s not too near a busy road or destroying the natural landscape. The dogs ran, we sat outside watching the sun set, and my mom found a blooming cactus she wanted to take home, hence the plastic bag.

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These blooming cacti were all over. You really had to watch where you were walking!

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Next we made our annual stop at Wall Drug. Having started as a drugstore offering free ice water in the early 1900’s, it is now a popular stop on folks’ journeys West. I love the jackalope and the five cent coffee.

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Our final destination was Cooke City, Montana.  It’s a tiny town between I94 and Yellowstone National Park. The Beartooths offer wilderness areas, high mountain peaks, waterfalls, cascades, and great camping and hiking. We loved the Bearclaw  café as they had great pastries and free wifi.

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The family with a nice vista of the Beartooth range. The pointy mountain is Pilot Peak.

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The most famous aspect of the Beartooth region is Beartooth Pass. It’s a highway that runs from through the heart of the mountains, and the pass tops out at over 10,000 feet!

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Our first day hike was to Round Lake. (Exciting name, huh?) We wanted to test our gear before the five-day backpacking trip we were planning to undertake. That’s also what’s great about National Forests and wilderness areas—dogs can hike on the trail with you.

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My Dad picked up a fishing license in Cooke City and caught a ton of beautiful trout.

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Emily and I marveling at the grandeur.

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Along the Beartooth Highway, there is the beautifully restored Clay Butte fire tower. It has been restored through donations and using all original materials. If you notice, I am sitting on a stool with glass cups on the bottom. This was for when the ranger had to be in the fire tower during a lightening strike. The glass protected the ranger from electrocution!

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Emily on the lookout balcony of the Clay Butte fire tower.

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Then we went on a five-day backpacking trip. BUT, that excitement must be reserved for next time. There is a lot of turbulence, and I’ve been on this plane for nine hours with no end in sight. Is this an example of when I should be living in the moment?

See you again soon!

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Ten Things I Love About Summers In Wisconsin

Happy July! Sorry it’s been a month since my last post, and I know I promised to keep you updated on all that is an expat’s summer in America. Well, that sounds a little grandiose. Today I’ve got the top 10 things I love about summer in Wisconsin. I am typing this on my iPad, so I’ll unfortunately have to brief. I like the WordPress app and all, but tapping out letters on a touchscreen grows tedious. Anyways, that’s not what you care about. You are interested in what makes Wisconsin so great! So, forgive me for the awkward autocompletes that I will probably overlook, and enjoy my Wisco Top 10.

#1. Watching critters cross the road.

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We saw this little guy as we were driving between Lake Mills and Watertown on some backroads. I have always been afraid of turtles as I’ve heard they’ve got massive chomping power, so we herded him off the road into the grass as best we could.

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#2. Day trips to nearby towns.

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I love America for the ease at which you can drive anywhere. You can just get in a car and go, no strings attached. No passport, no currency to exchange, no language to learn. (That last one sounds a bit ethnocentric, but I mean it in the most polite way. Try describing travelers diarrhea to a pharmacist in a foreign count for once, and you’ll know what I mean!)

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My dad and I took a day trip to Galena, Illinois in early June. He was meeting a friend for business, and he thought I’d like getting to see the town. Galena is the natural form of lead, which is how the town got its big boom back in the day. It is incredibly well preserved, from every manicured lawn to every old fashioned home and restaurant.

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The Desoto House Hotel was built in 1855, and Abe Lincoln gave a speech from the main balcony in support of John Fremont’s bid for presidency. Galena also holds the home of Ulysses S. Grant, which you can still tour to this day. I love exploring around the Midwest!

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The Main Street in Galena. Picturesque, isn’t it?

#3. My parents backyard.
#4. Sitting on the deck with my husband and my family in my parents backyard.

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#5. Trivia Nights! This was at Tyranena Brewery in Lake Mills, home to one of my favorite IPA’s, Bitter Woman. Needless to say, we did not triumph in trivia.

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#6. Watching my sister play with her horses. However, that’s an understatement. My sister is pretty much a horse whisperer. Ever since she was six, she has professionally shown horses. She went to the American Pony Finals in Kentucky when she was ten, and came in the top 50% in the nation. Not bad for a peewee, huh? This horse’s name is Luna, and Emily bought her “green”, which means the horse isn’t used to being ridden… Or brushed… Or trailered… Or anything. The day I took this photo was the day Luna took her first steps with Emily on her back. I am so proud of my little sister!

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#7. The Old Fashioned. If you’re a Madison native, I need not say no more. If you’re not, it’s a restaurant on the capital square that serves everything that is quintessentially Wisco. Their old fashioned are to die for, and I am in love with their portobello burger. They serve everything from deep fried cheese curds to Schlitz to Wisconsin chili and local burgers. Emily loves them for their cookies.
#7.5 Playing cribbage in a place where everyone knows cribbage and every bar has a cribbage board.

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#8. Korth County Park in Lake Mills. Sean and I had our two-year anniversary picnic there this year. Due to his knee surgery, we haven’t done anything too adventurous this summer, so a picnic was a perfect romantic afternoon. Korth Park overlooks Rock Lake, and is the perfect way to enjoy the glacial hills of southern Wisconsin. (If you look hard enough, you can see the pyramids in the bottom of Rock Lake…. Look it up…)

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#9. Going out for Friday fish frys. This was at Donny’s Girl, Southeast of Watertown.

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#10. Gearing up for our annual summer backpacking trip! This year we struck out for the Beartooth Mountains in Southern Montana. As I type this I am sitting in the Bearclaw Bakery as it is pouring rain. We were supposed to leave for a five-day backpacking trip today, but the weather had other plans. I am not even in Wisconsin, but I always post my blogs in chronological order. Maybe it’s a teacher thing.

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What is your favorite thing about how you like to spend your summer? Post in the comments below, and stay tuned for our adventure in the Beartooths!

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Whoops…

Hello, world!

Looks like I haven’t been keeping up with my “myth-a-day” promise. I somehow had my hands full with arranging a wedding, getting married, and honeymooning on the Pacific coast. *Sigh.*

…Not to mention packing for Kuwait because Sean and I leave on MONDAY.

That being said, get ready for some real, honest-to-goodness myth-busting straight from the sandy shores of the Persian Gulf itself!

If you’ve patiently and lovingly (or not so lovingly) followed what I’ve posted so far, thank you! I would now like you—the reader—to contribute to the birth of my brainchild by answering the following question. Let’s make things interactive!

Question #1: During your travels, what has been something that you have missed THE MOST from your homeland? It could be that you went to Jamaica during February and wistfully recalled your cracked, bleeding, and frostbitten lips that you so lovingly embraced back in Wisconsin. (Just kidding.) It could be when you were traveling in Alaska and longed for a sandy beach and a shopping mall. Did you miss peanut butter while in Europe? I know I did. Cheerios when in China? I was recently in Canada, where I greatly missed… well… maybe I really didn’t miss anything while I was in Canada. Except my family and friends, of course 😉

Enlighten me with what you longed for when you were long away from home, and in due time I will soon be able to post my own longings from the other side of the planet.

Five days and counting!

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Myth #4

Myth #4: The Arabs are a desert people.

To think of the Arab world through the desert and its nomadic inhabitants is a huge distortion of the reality of their societies. It’s like using an account of seventeenth-century English rural life to explain modern Britain. Or Lewis and Clark’s journal to capture the modern lifestyle of American Indians.
Most people in the Arabian peninsula aren’t nomads, but are either agricultural laborers (a.k.a. farmers) or inhabitants of the eight or so major maritime and cosmopolitan cities that mark the coast of the Peninsula (think Kuwait City or Dubai).

A “desert” is where nothing grows. This accounts for only a quarter of the Arabian peninsula! A little less than 50 percent of Utah’s land falls within The Great Basin desert.

Another myth is that people often mix the term ‘desert’ with ‘nomad‘, ‘bedouin‘, and ‘tribe‘.  A desert is a geographical landmass, whereas the last three terms describe entire cultures and lifestyles.

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Myth #3

“*Gasp* You’re going to Kuwait? Be safe!”
“Kuwait? How does your mother feel about this?”
“Oh, wow, Kuwait! Will they be arming you?”

Don’t get me wrong. I love telling people that I’m moving to Kuwait. I love telling them that I look forward to life in the Middle East. What I find the most frustrating, though, are the comments above. As if I’m going to… I don’t know… East St. Louis.

The thing is, and the MYTH for today—which deviates from my trusty book’o’myths—is that Kuwait is a dangerous place.

Kuwait is actually a VERY safe place! Here is the INTERPOL crimnology report which compares Kuwait to Japan (one of the least violent countries) and the United States (one of the most violent countries). Your mind will be blown. Sorry, nationalists, you might want to make sure you locked your car after reading this.

Hard to believe, right? Kuwait’s crime rate is only 8% of the crime found in the land of stars and stripes! The United States is more than twelve TIMES as violent as Kuwait. Japan is more than four times as violent, and they’re globally known as one of the safest countries.

The bottom line, here, is not to misconstrue what makes the news for what makes a lifestyle. Kuwait—as far as I can tell—is safe, welcoming, and definitely won’t be arming us when we get off the plane. Thank goodness.

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