Australia


First, I am back home in Guam. We will be here until around August or September. Then we move to Oahu.

Now then:

I recently went on an Australian adventure. I will do a few detailed posts about the things I saw and did, but here is an overview of where I went.

First, I went to Bondi Beach and stayed in a hostel there. I did the coastal walk and snorkeled in Clovelly Bay with a woman from my Snorkel Travel Friends group. I explored the shops and sat and talked with people, and I had a great time.

Later, I moved to a hostel near central station in Sydney. I took the Big Bus Tour and got off to see all the major attractions like the Opera House and some of the old Cathedrals. Then I went on a Blue Mountains tour and met up with my friend Shari from Melbourne.

Finally, I met my friend Melissa and took a flight to Cairns. We went out to the Great Barrier Reef and snorkeled at several spots while living abroad a ship called The Kangaroo Explorer. After that, we went up to the town of Kurunda to see the rain forest.

My very last day was spent in Sydney watching the fireworks for Australia Day. Finally, I flew to Hawaii and then home to Guam.

Right now I am catching up on my sleep and sorting through photos, but soon I will share some of the better shots of the reef, and of my other adventures.

My Artwork

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I have never considered myself to be an artist.

However, I do make art from time to time.

It’s not great or anything, but it’s fun to make.

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I started out just drawing things with colored pens, because I am about five years old on the inside.

However, there is only so much that you can do with colored pens.

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However, inspired by my friend Will, I have started doing watercolors which I draw on with pen.

I thought I would share, since I guess that is what this blog is all about.

I hope you like them!

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Memories

As I get ready to leave Guam this year in August, I am feeling nostalgic about places I have lived and visited.

I have been so lucky so have had such cool adventures. I thought I would tell you about some of my favorites.

I grew up in Arizona. People think that it’s all desert, and some of it is. However, a lot of Arizona is also forest. It’s a very diverse state.

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Me with Oak Creek Canyon Behind Me

 

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On My Way to Graduation

 

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In Flagstaff with a fern

 

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At Havasu Falls inside The Grand Canyon

Then, there was South Korea. I loved it there so much! I got to experience seasons for the first time. I also got to teach cute kids and make lots of friends that I still keep in touch with.

I also learned to read and write Hangul, which is the Korean written language. My spoken Korean is not as good as my Spanish, but I did my best.

South Korea is an amazing country. If anyone is thinking of visiting: I recommend it!

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In Busan in front of the Aquarium

 

Jenifer DeLemont, JD DeLemont
At EverLand, and Amusement Park in South Korea
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At the Folk Village in Suwon, South Korea
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At the Cherry Blossom Festival in Seoul

I also went to Japan and spent some time there. I really liked the Shinto cemeteries, which have clapping sticks to keep the dead company.

I went to a Cherry Blossom Festival, enjoyed the night life, had tea at a traditional tea house, and in general just enjoyed Tokyo. It was a beautiful place to visit, and I hope to go back some day.

Jenifer DeLemont
Uneo Park in Tokyo
Jenifer DeLemont in Japan
In front of a Pagoda in Japan
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In front of a stone lantern
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A Shinto Cemetery I visted

France was amazing as well. The food was so good! I know it’s a cliche to say that the food was the best part, but it really was impressive.

I went for Christmas, so I got to see Paris all decked out for the holiday. It was cold, but thankfully there was no snow. I get cold so easily since I am from the desert…

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Standing in front of the Eiffel Tower
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In front of Notre Dame
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Amazing Cheesecake in Paris
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In front of the Louvre

I also went to England to visit my cousin Stacy. It was really lovely.

Being an American, I guess I think of the U.K. as where most of our culture came from. It certainly has a certain amount of familiarity to it.

The British Museum was a lot of fun, and I tried my first fish and chips after! I also saw all the London Landmarks.

Jenifer DeLemont
Big Ben and the London Eye

 

Jenifer DeLemont in London
At the British Museum with my cousin Stacy

 

Jenifer DeLemont
Me with Big Ben

 

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In front of Westminster Abbey

As for Thailand, I always wanted to go there, because I worked at a Thai restaurant in High School and they made it sound so amazing. I have to say, after 20 years of wanting to see it, I was not disappointed! I got to meet elephants, swim in the ocean, and check out several temples.

I only spent a month backpacking around in Thailand, and it left barely long enough. Definitely plan a long trip if you go!

Jenifer DeLemont
On a waterfall hike outside Chang Mai
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An orchid stall at the flower market in Bangkok.
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On the island of Koh Samui.
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Meeting elephants!

Australia is fabulous! I really fell in love with the land and the people.

I went to visit my friends Melissa and Shari, but I had always wanted to see the country as well. I felt drawn to it because most of Australia is as dry as Arizona. They could also easily rival each other in terms of dangerous animals.

I highly recommend visiting Australia.

Jenifer DeLemont
The Blue Mountains

 

Jenifer DeLemont
Hiking in the Blue Mountains

 

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A blue grouper in the ocean in Sydney.

 

Jenifer DeLemont
Watson’s Bay in Sydney

 

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The opera house

 

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In the rain forest in Kuranda

 

Jenifer DeLemont
On the Great Barrier Reef

I lived in Oregon after South Korea and before Guam.

It is where my family still lives. My mom is in Gresham, which is right outside Portland. And, my aunt is in Hood River. We have our family reunions in Seaside.

I love the Pacific Northwest. Even though I didn’t grow up there, having my family live there makes it feel like home.

Jenifer DeLemont
At the Shakespeare Garden in Portland

 

Jenifer DeLemont
At the Japanese Gardens in Portland

 

Jenifer DeLemont
At the lava flats in Oregon

 

Jenifer DeLemont
At the Oregon Coast Aquarium

Guam has been fabulous.

At first it was a little hard to move to an island. Islands are so small, and it’s a challenge to find anything on island (food and clothes, for example.) Sometimes all the stores are just out of everything. And no one delivers to Guam!

However, I really came to love the reefs here and the whole underwater world. It’s been so much fun, and Rich has liked his job here on the USS Emory S. Land.

Jenifer DeLemont
Rich and I at Umatac Bay

 

Jenifer DeLemont
Just me scuba diving
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Hiking to waterfalls in the jungle

 

Jenifer DeLemont
A bite of dragon fruit, which grows here on Guam

 

Jenifer DeLemont
Tumon Bay where I live

And now we are off to Oahu. I have visited several times, since we need to go through Oahu to get anywhere from Guam. So far, I have really enjoyed it. I am terrified about buying a house there and finding a job. But, I know I’ll be able to do it.

Jenifer DeLemont
Me with a turtle in Oahu

 

Jenifer DeLemont
Holding a pillow star fish in Oahu

Happy Western New Year

We have reached the end of 2017 by the Western Calendar, and that means we are supposed to be reflecting on the past year and looking forward to the next.

(Those of you in Asia can wait until the Lunar calendar caches up in February. And, happy year of the dog to you!)

Looking back at my last year, I have spend nearly all of my time taking, editing, and compiling photos of the reefs around Guam. These will be donated to NOAA along with my notes on things I have observed on the reefs since my arrival.

I am really grateful that this is the year we leave.

It has been heartbreaking the last few years to watch the coral reefs dying, and I don’t like being an environment that makes the raw pain of it completely inescapable. Plus, it has been summer now for three and a half year. I mean, it’s always summer in Guam. But I have been in Guam for three and a half years.

Only my Arizona friends can truly understand why I would be so salty about three and a half years of summer. No one else dreads the summer like those of us who have lived in a desert.

I often joke that I reached my lifetime allowance of sunshine a few years back and I don’t ever need to see the sun again.

While this is largely a joke, I have already had melanoma removed from my nose. (Thank god I was diagnosed in South Korea where a plastic surgeon handles any facial tumors being removed.)

I genuinely hope we get Alaska or Washington next so that I can enjoy some darkness and cold for a few years. I know that some of you can’t understand that sentiment. But, I hope some of you can.

Anyway, Happy New Year!

Where We Go Next

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I am saying this with all the love in the world, but friends of mine: We need to talk.

We found out that we are going to Hawaii after we leave Guam. The moment I posted about it on Facebook, I was inundated with people saying “We’ll come visit you.” More than 50 people sent me messages over the course of two days telling me that they planned to visit me in Hawaii and that they expected to be able to stay at my home.

This was really disappointing to me, and I want to talk a little about why that is.

1. Our home in Guam is really nice. Seriously, we live in a beachfront condo. You just go down the elevator and you are on the beach. It’s RIGHT THERE. We have a Jacuzzi that looks out over the ocean, so you and your travel companion (or just you) can soak in a huge tub with jets bubbling, and watch the sun set over the ocean. The place is nearly 2,000 square feet with a big living room and a master bedroom big enough that you could fit the apartment I lived in when I was in college into it. I frequently post pictures of the view from my desk saying “We will never have a view this nice again.” That is so very, very true.

The reason that I am telling you this is because a beachfront condo in Guam doesn’t cost that much, but a beachfront condo in Hawaii starts at $2 million dollars. We will not live in a beachfront condo in Hawaii. It’s a tourist destination, and as such, it is expensive. We are going to end up in a shack. I was looking at apartments in Hawaii and the ones in our price range are the size of the master bathroom in our current home. I am talking under 400 square feet for the entire place.

So a big part of why you should visit us in Guam is because we live a life of relative luxury that just isn’t possible anywhere else. And that matters, because I don’t really want you to come stay in my 390 square ft apartment. In fact, I don’t even want to share something that small with Rich, and we are married.

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2. I don’t have a job on Guam. I have a car and I have time, and I can chauffeur you around to any place you want to see. I can take you hiking to see waterfalls, get you on base for exclusive snorkeling and diving, or take you to empty beaches like Tanguissen and Haputo. I have time to play tour guide and show you around while I am here on Guam.

The reason that I have time to show you around is two-fold.

First, Rich gets two extra living allowances here; one for utilities and one for “sea pay” since he is technically on a ship.

In addition, it is so remote and hard to live here that it is considered a “hardship duty station,” (which comes with extra perks that we won’t get in Hawaii.) A lot of this is because there are no stores for furniture, clothes, and food, and it’s just not an easy place to live. If you visit it’s no problem, but if you were here long enough for your shoes to wear out, you would soon find out that you can’t buy new shoes here. And no, we have no access to Amazon Prime and most places do not ship here.

Anyway, those extra living allowances and perks let me not have a job because they cover our expenses. But when we got to Hawaii, all of that goes away.

Second, there are no jobs here on Guam besides those in restaurants.

I hurt my back about two years ago, and my physical therapist told me that I cannot lift more than 30 pounds anymore unless I want to have disks fused. So, restaurants and the heavy lifting that goes with them are out. Yet all other businesses here will only hire locals, so I haven’t been able to work.

However, I will be working as soon as we get to Hawaii because there are jobs I can do there, and that means I will have no time to play tour guide. If you come stay in our shack in Hawaii, you will be on your own for adventure.

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3. And finally, Guam is a better place to visit. It may be hard to live here, but if you are only coming for vacation, it is the superior destination. There are only 170,000 people on Guam, and many of them are military or hiding in a shack in the jungle. That means that very few of them go out to the beaches. I frequently go to the beach and am the only person there. I am not Photoshopping tourists out of my pictures; there just aren’t any.

If you come to Guam, we can walk over to turtle rock, put down a beach blanket, and sit in the shade listening to the waves for hours without a single bird, human, or anything else to bother us. It is peaceful.

If you come to Hawaii, you will be lost in a mob of tourists. There are places that you go snorkel there where you can’t even get into the water until they check your sunscreen to make sure it is coral safe, charge you a “protection fee,” and then make you watch a safety video. There is traffic, noise, and every single beach is crowded. And if you bring food, the birds will take it. (Unlike Guam where we literally don’t have birds. No really. Google it.)

Oh! And don’t forget the coral. Hawaii has rocks. Guam has coral. Hawaii has a few fish and some turtles. We have as much life as the rain forest under water because the equator is like that. And don’t forget that the water here is as warm as a bathtub and calm, while the water in Hawaii is chilly even in the summer and has rip tides.

In conclusion, you are making a bad decision if you think that you want to visit us in Hawaii instead of Guam. I know it’s a longer plane flight to Guam and it costs a little bit more. But if you factor in your level of comfort, taxi and bus fare, and all the other extra expenses you would have visiting us in Hawaii, you’ll see that it’s really not cheaper.

Yes, marketing has told you that Hawaii is this beautiful vacation spot. I get that. I know it’s hard to imagine that it is the inferior vacation destination. However, that is exactly the case. It’s just not as nice of a place to visit as Guam.

Forget the marketing and listen to someone who has spent time on both the island of Oahu and the island of Guam. I have first-hand experience with everything I am talking about here. Guam is not the nicer place to live (because Hawaii has stores where I can buy things and Guam does not,) but Guam is by far the better place to visit. You want to come here before we leave in September of 2018. This is where I can offer you a really great experience.

I cannot promise a really great experience in Hawaii.

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What I Am Reading

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I always heard that it is important for a writer to read a lot. I think that’s true, although there is only so much time in a day, and I do love outdoor activities.

Currently, I am reading a book called Gulp, by one of my very favorite authors, Mary Roach. She has written some amazing books, my favorite of which is BonkBonk (because I actually giggled out loud a bunch while reading it.) But I have loved everything she has ever written, and been following her since she had a column in Reader’s Digest called Pardon My Planet.

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I also recently re-read the Harry Potter Series for the 20th Anniversary. They were good books to bring on our recent vacation because they are engaging enough to read on a plane with screaming kids.

Some books are good, but maybe not the kind of books that you can read in a train station in Calcutta or a subway in Seoul.

My battered paperbacks of Harry Potter have served me well through all the chaos of travel, and have managed to grab my attention no matter how loud my surroundings. If you need to ignore someone else’s screaming kids, Harry Potter will never fail you.

Plus, the TSA in the US is always scary and often they are not very nice. But, I got one of them to laugh out loud when he asked: “Do you have an e-reader, tablet, laptop, or other device in your backpack?” And I replied, “No, Sir. I have a book.”

The line got quite and everyone stared at me like I had horns and a tail. It was awesome. I pulled out my copy of The Half Blood Prince and flashed it around, and I got a lot of laughs.

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Another series I was recently reading was the Sookie Stackhouse books. If you have seen the HBO series called True Blood then I am sorry, because it was pretty awful. But the books are awesome and I had read them ages ago as they came out. I recently found out that the series was finally complete, and so I bought the last two and re-read the whole thing. It was a lot of fun, and each book only takes a day or two at most. Wait in a few lines at the post office or the bank, let a few meals simmer and stir occasionally while reading, and you’re done before you know it.

My students in Korea used to be aghast that I would walk while reading. They thought it was perfectly scandalous. But like any avid reader, I have read while doing pretty much everything, even showering (holding the book out of the spray, of course.)

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Sometime else I took a second look at recently was the Anne of Green Gables books. I hadn’t read them since 8th grade, and I forgot how… let’s say “dated” they are. But, I loved them dearly.

I actually cried reading them because it was so intense to read something that I had been reading back when I was an awkward pre-teen in a loveless home full of abuse. During some parts, I remembered my biological mother screaming at me so clearly that it was almost like she was in the room. It was always in such stark contrast to the books, where Marilla and Matthew love Anne and think of her as the light of their life.

Point is: If you never read Anne of Green Gables, they are charming and worth a look.

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I know a lot of people are re-reading American Gods because of the TV show. I thought about it. But American Gods is another one of those really engaging books, and so it used to be my go-to book on long plane rides. I think I can actually quote nearly the whole thing from memory by now, so I decided not to jump on that boat.

I do have the new Mary Roach book, Grunt, on the way. I am looking forward to that. But if you have any other recommendations, please get in touch and let me know. I always need book recommendations. I don’t have enough friends that read now, and I find that extremely depressing.

Mainland Goodness

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Living overseas can be really cool. I see all kinds of new and different things, and that’s always neat. How many people get to go to a Buddha’s Birthday parade in Seoul or swim with a sea turtle? I know that I am lucky.

On the other hand, there are a lot of things that you just can’t get in other places in the world.

Fun Fact: Did you know that cocktails were invented in the United States? Some claim it was in New Orleans, and some claim that it was in New York, but no one disputes that they are a uniquely American invention.

This means that it is also pretty uniquely American to find a wide variety of alcohol and things to mix with it. (For non-US friends, I am talking about things you mix with alcohol like bitters, grenadine, and vermouth.) So, it is cool to see things like that on the shelves.

Then there are produce options!

In South Korea there is a poisonous berry that grows wild. It looks a lot like a raspberry. As a result, they do not think raspberries are food and do not import or grow them. This is a shame, as they are my very favorite fruit.

In Guam we mostly don’t have fresh fruits and vegetables. Everything has to go through costumes in Hawaii (as per US law,) so by the time it gets here it is rotten. And unlike Hawaii, we are not a volcanic island where it is easy to grow things. We are a coral island, which means that the soil is harsh and infertile.

So it’s apples and oranges, and broccoli. That’s what can make it here, so that is what we eat.

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I also miss things that are hard to explain. For example, we do have Chinese food here. However, we are very close to China and so we have Chinese Chinese food here. As it turns out, I don’t really like Chinese Chinese food. I like American Chinese food.

Fun Fact: Fortune cookies are American.

Another thing I really miss is good tortilla soup and carnitas. The people of Guam have some Spanish influence in their culture, but it’s just not the same.

I went all through High School and College in Arizona, and every now and then I am just dying to have some really good Mexican Food.

Thankfully, I can get good Korean and Thai food on Guam, so at least there is that.

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I guess the hardest part for me living overseas is shoes. Even in the US, I have absolutely broken down crying while looking for shoes.

See, I wear a size 12 in women’s. Yes, that’s right, a size 12.

Don’t bother leaving all the jokes in the comments. I have heard every single one. Yes, if I am in a hurricane I won’t blow over. I don’t need skis to go skiing. I am probably related to big foot. Ha. Ha. Ha.

All I really want to cute shoes like girls wear on TV. I want sexy pumps and cute boots and adorable sandals.

However, no one makes those things in size 12.

In Asia I can’t buy shoes at all. These just aren’t any. I tried ordering online, but so many places have sizes that “run small” and they don’t tell you. I ordered a pair from Chinese Laundry because I was so excited to see a size 12 on their site. I don’t know whose idea of a size 12 it was, but I could have cut off all my toes and still not fit my foot into it. So, I have to buy shoes in person.

I was excited to do this while stateside.

I went all the places that folks had suggested to me, like Nordstrom’s Rack and DSW. And I have to tell you: I have nothing nice to say about those places or the people who work there. Same for Target, Walmart, Journeys, and every other shoe store besides Payless.

Not only is Payless literally the only store in the United States that still carries shoes in my size, but the lady there was nice. I have no idea why shoe salesmen in other stores have to be nasty, act shocked, or ask if I am transsexual (I am not.) However, there are some mean and really rotten shoe salespeople, and I think I talked to all of them.

So at long last, I got two new pairs of shoes. With one more year in Guam, and likely another Asian posting in our future, I sure hope these two pairs last me a long time.

Anyway, I think a lot of times people look at my blog and they think that it’s really glamorous living overseas. And yeah, sometimes it has its moments. But I do live a life without raspberries and shoes, so maybe keep that in mind before you think my life is “perfect.”

Shoes that do not come in my size, sold by a very nasty person who thinks women with size 12 feet are subhuman. Thanks DSW.