Category: wedding

Wedding love

Just over 3 weeks ago, I married my best friend.  My wedding weekend was the closest thing to perfect I could have asked for.  Despite rain the entire week before and after, including the night of the rehearsal, our wedding day stayed cloudy and cool all day long – perfect for pictures, not melting in the Georgia heat, and minimizing the mosquitoes.  It was, in fact, the only day without rain within a span of nearly 3 solid weeks.  Please remind me of that if I ever say God doesn’t answer prayer.

My wedding really was exactly what I had hoped for.  It went smoothly, with to my knowledge zero hiccups.  Everyone looked amazing, the decorations were beautiful, we were surrounded by people we love, we honored God, and it was a great party.  But that would have never been possible without the incredible amount of love and support we received from so many, many people.  The weekend and day of, of course, but also weeks and months prior.  From the beginning of our engagement, we’ve had people reach out to us and plan engagement parties, bridal showers, help us with logistics and details…much more than I could have ever hoped or dreamed of.  Michael’s parents hosted a lovely rehearsal dinner – with almost no input from me and Michael, which was definitely a blessing!  One less detail for us to worry about :).  We had people volunteer to make the wedding cake, run the sound equipment, do my hair and makeup, create a video recording of the ceremony.  We had friends meet together for weeks in advance so they could lead us in worship as our first act as a married couple.  Our minister and his wife met with and mentored us on several occasions.  My dad made us an exquisite “unity coffee table” – two separate slabs of wood representing me and Michael, joined together only by the symbolic wooden bonds of faith, hope and love.  It’s so beautiful.  I love it, even more so for the time and care that so obviously went into it.

Married life has not been a bed of roses.  I knew it would be hard, but the challenges we’ve faced so far have been unexpected, and thus caught us somewhat by surprise.  But I hope that I never forget how supported and loved I felt, how present God was in all of the details, how incredible my friends and family were (and are).  I honestly don’t have a lot more memories from my wedding, as the whole thing passed by in a bit of a blur.  However, a picture is worth 1,000 words, and I do have plenty of pictures to show you!  Enjoy the 2 albums below, from the rehearsal / rehearsal dinner and wedding day.  If you’re friends with me on Facebook, the wedding day pictures are the same ones posted there.  There is also a video of the ceremony at the bottom – it’s about 40 minutes long, if you’d like to watch it.


The countdown begins

Frenzied.  That’s the best way to describe the 3 or so weeks leading up to my wedding.  Not really in a bad way…there was simply tons going on, and although I enjoyed most all of it, I also found keeping up with it quite exhausting.  I definitely can’t complain of being bored, though! 🙂

I got to spend most of those 3 weeks with my good friend Caro.  You may remember her from my Peruvian exploits last year – she was a fabulous travel companion then and has become a very dear friend since.  Anyway, she was in my bridal party, but wanted to come for more than just a weekend – gotta get your money’s worth out of a plane ticket from France!  Our first stop was somewhere near and dear to both of us – Berry College.  That’s where we met, and it utterly stole both of our hearts, so it was only natural that we would spend a few days back there.  Once there, we did very little together – we had different friends to catch up with and different priorities for our visit.  Caro flitted around all over town catching up with people; I spent most of the 3 days we were there to myself, resting and relaxing and preparing myself mentally for the next few weeks.  I did go to my old church for the Sunday service, and managed to have dinner with some dear old friends one night, which was really lovely.  But other than that, I simply basked in the beauty and peace of my alma mater.  It was a very much-needed mini retreat for me.

From Berry, we drove further north to Tennessee.  For as long as I’ve known her, Caro’s been obsessed with country music, and has always wanted to visit the heart of country music – Nashville.  So we drove up there and spent a few days exploring the world of country music – taking a tour at the Grand Ole Opry, walking down the historic Broadway Street, going country dancing at the famous Wildhorse Saloon, and watching a show at the Bluebird Cafe, a place for up-and-coming musicians that was made famous by the hit TV show “Nashville” (of which Caro is a huge fan).  Reserved tickets at the Bluebird cafe were sold out, so we got there 2 hours before the doors opened in order to get one of the 20 or so additional open seats.  The show was very good, but even if it wasn’t, just seeing her excitement made the trip worth it for me! 🙂

As the days in Nashville passed, however, Caro’s excitement level grew, while mine dissipated.  The nerves and to-do list of my upcoming wedding – at this point just a week away – were starting to get to me, and I was turning into a quite distracted and not very good travel companion.  It had been fun, but I knew that I needed to get home.  She, on the other hand, wanted to stay a day later than originally planned so she could go to a show at the Opry and see more of the city  So, I let her have my car, and I took a bus from Nashville back to Atlanta.  It worked out well – Caro was able to do more in Nashville, and I was able to surprise Michael at work and have dinner with him that evening.  Plus I got to have a few days to myself before the wedding week craziness ensued, the value of which cannot be overstated.

Speaking of wedding week craziness…while up until this point, I was only hosting Caro on and off while she was in town, starting the weekend before my wedding my house turned into a regular hotel.  It started with my dad, sister, and brother Josh coming up on Saturday.  They wanted to have a little time with me to themselves, since they knew they wouldn’t get that the following weekend.  We were able to go to a little community arts and crafts festival together, which was nice.  We all had a lot of fun, and I really appreciated them making the effort to come up and actually spend some quality time with me.

The next day, dad and Josh went home, but Hope stayed with me.  We got to spend a few days together, and she was a lot of help wrapping up last-minute details and keeping me company.  I enjoyed that time with her immensely.  By the time the bulk of the guests started arriving, I had very little in the way of wedding details to still take care of.  That was wonderful, because it allowed me to focus on spending time with the out-of-towners that I hadn’t seen in a while.  I decided a long time ago that that was what I wanted my focus to be during my wedding – not obsessing over all of the little details that no one was going to remember, but spending time with and focusing on people that I love and how much they mean to me.  I went to the airport 3 times in 3 days – to pick up my grandfather, and also my dear friends Sarah and Rachel.  It wasn’t a lot of time we spent together, but it was something, and I treasure the one-on-one moments I had with them.  I also got to have breakfast with my Aunt Cathi the Saturday before the wedding, which was a REAL treat!  She lives in Arizona and we rarely see each other, and I’m not sure we’ve actually ever had one-on-one time like that before.  It was lovely to take a step back and just be there in the moment with her for a few hours.

Of course, in talking about the last few days before my wedding I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the wonderful bachelorette party that my mom threw for me.  Most brides would hesitate at the idea of even letting their mom come to their bachelorette party, let alone having her plan it.  But it was an easy decision for me.  My mom is undoubtedly my best friend, and although she drives me crazy sometimes, I never doubt that’s she’s my biggest fan and always in my corner.  I found out later that she was really nervous about planning it, worrying that I wouldn’t like it, but I think it was superb.  It had a perfect mix of tasty food, fun (and somewhat embarrassing!) games, pretty decorations, great company, and godly wisdom and encouragement.  My favorite part was when all of the attendees surrounded me and prayed for me.  It was a good reminder that wedding preparations may be fun, they may be stressful, but really at the end of the day what matters is marriage preparations, and learning how to daily give up your life to serve God and your spouse.  I’ve sure got a long way to go learning that!

It is often said that the bachelorette party and last few weeks before the wedding are a person’s last hurrah.  In some ways, I suppose that’s been true for me, as well.  I got to travel some with just me and a girlfriend, something I probably won’t do very often now that I’m married.  I really enjoyed being able to celebrate my last few days of singleness with dear friends and family.  But I don’t feel like this is the end of the story.  The days until the wedding have been steadily marching down, true…but I hope and pray and truly believe that this isn’t the end of my adventures, but rather the beginning.  The beginning of many adventures that I don’t have to experience alone, but rather I get to share them with my best friend.  Now if only my poor nerves would go along with that and calm down! 🙂

People in Strange Clothing

It’s so strange some of the clothing that we have deemed culturally appropriate for certain occasions.  Who decided that graduates should wear a shapeless robe with a square hat on their head?  Or that brides should almost universally wear a white dress on their wedding day?  Or that performers should wear skin-tight and brightly colored outfits?  Whatever the reason, my second weekend in Albany gave me run-ins with all three.
I went up to Atlanta on Thursday night so that I could go dancing at Wicked Westie.  But then Friday morning I was off to Birmingham, to see Micah, a dear family friend, graduate from high school.  Our moms have been friends for years, and most of my memories of Micah are from when he was younger than Matt, so it was super weird for me to see him in a graduation cap and gown.  But I was also very proud of him, and it was great to see his whole family again – I’m always traveling, so it had been years since I had seen them. 

Nathan and his wife, Emily – I haven’t seen them since their wedding!

The whole Roberts clan

Saturday morning, I headed back to Atlanta to attend the wedding of my good friend, Philip.  Philip is the one who introduced me to west coast swing dancing – we used to practice together for hours when I was a student at Berry.  He also loves to travel and learn languages, so we always had a lot to talk about.  He’s such an inspiring, motivated, encouraging individual, and I was so happy to be able to be there for his wedding.  The reception was a blast, too.  He and his new wife are both dancers, so of course there was a lot of dancing.  But there were also fun little things that I had never seen before, like a trivia contest in which they asked questions about themselves, and the guests competed to see which table collectively knew the most answers.  It really was a ton of fun.  I’m going to have to ask them for tips when I’m planning my own wedding, lol.  It was even better because my wonderful, good-natured fried Elizabeth came along with me – even though she knew absolutely no one there.  She’s such a good sport.  But I think she really had fun, and I know that I certainly did – it’s amazing how much more enjoyable something is when you experience it with someone you love.

I loved the groom’s cake!!

The next day I met up with Elizabeth again, along with two other dear friends, Amy and Jen, to go to the Renaissance Festival!  When I was a student at Berry, I always enjoyed going down to this annual event in the Spring, but between traveling, graduating, and starting grad school, I haven’t been able to go for a couple years. 

But I finally made it back, and it was such a blast!!  Spending time with dear friends totally made up for the fact that it was pouring cats and dogs for much of the time that we were there.  We took advantage of the shops while it was raining – dodging from one vendor to the next during lulls in the rain, and then cutting up inside while the floods raged outside.  But it was also clear for enough of the day that we were able to see some cool performances and demonstrations, too.  We listened to a ‘gypsy’ storyteller, watched a guy throwing clay for a while, and then sat in on a glass-blowing demonstration that was absolutely mesmerizing.  Of course there was also the prerequisite joust reenactment and acrobatics, as well. 

Jousting competition

Fire juggler / comedian.  His performance got cut short because of the rain 🙁

Being silly while we waited out the storm….

That’s a real person.  So….terrifying….

Watching a potter do his thing 
…and the glass blowing demonstration!  Incredible!!

My favorite performers of the day.  Acrobatic fire-juggling virtuosos 



This year’s Renaissance Festival just goes to show that you can enjoy whatever you’re doing, as long as you decide to focus on the good.  Despite the chilly weather and torrential rain, I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a Renaissance Festival so much as I did this year.  I’m so grateful for the lovely ladies that I got to share the experience with!  God had truly blessed me with some incredible people in my life.

Old friends and new family

A few weeks ago, my family came up to Atlanta for a very special occasion.  A dear family friend of ours, a lady from our old church who we’ve known for years and years, was……you guessed it…..getting married!!  Seems to be popular these days, lol.  Tamara and I always had a special relationship.  When I was in middle school, I would always tell her that she was my “favorite adult.”  I think she thought I was joking, but I meant it in all seriousness.  On the other hand, I was one of the few kids who, in Tamara’s words, “didn’t scare her.”  I’m assuming that’s a compliment.  Hahaha.

Anyway, Tamara got married a little bit north of Atlanta, so my family came up and stayed with me, and then we all went up to the wedding together.  It was wonderful, but also soooooooo weird.  There were all of these people from my old church that I hadn’t seen in eons.  It was a blast from the past, for sure.  But I so enjoyed catching up with them.  I was really grateful that I got to go.  And of course, the wedding was lovely.  I’m sure it doesn’t come as a shock to hear that I caught the bouquet – again!  This is the fifth bouquet I’ve caught in the last year, and the fourth one in a row!  Really makes me question the validity of the assumption that whoever catches the bouquet will be the next one to get married….lol ;).

But anyway, back to the wedding…I was particularly impressed by the fact that Tamara made her own cake – and it was beautiful! I always love weddings….especially when I particularly love the people getting married! 😉  Plus, bonus points, Tamara has moved to the outskirts of Atlanta with her new husband, so I’m gonna get to see much more of her in the future!! 🙂

Tamara made this – isn’t it beautiful??

My baby brothers!!  Not so baby anymore….

I made Josh dance with me.  It was a hard-fought battle.  Lol

Spending time with my family while they were here for the wedding was also quite a treat.  It was a brief visit, but good.  We all camped out on the floor of my apartment – definitely a bonding experience! 🙂  And Chris and Julia got to come by briefly, along with their newest addition, a little kitten named Moose.  As you can see below, it seems that everyone has fallen in love with baby Moose.

This semester has been one of extremes.  Heartache and excitement, pain and wonder, stress and joy, despair and triumph.  But through it all, the Lord and the wonderful family and friends that He was given me have brought me through it all.  I can’t say that I’ve been strong throughout it all…but in our weaknesses He is strong, and God has certainly not failed me in that regard.  I’ll have one more update from school, and then I’ll be moving on to the next exciting chapter of my life!  I’m super excited to see what He teaches me :).

Florida wedding!

My sincerest apologies for the deplorable delay since my last update!  The last month has been marked by pretty much non-stop insanity – I spent a couple of weeks preparing to be gone for the wedding of my dear friend Sarah, then I was at the wedding, then I spent a few weeks catching up afterwards, and now here I am!  I’m hoping to fill you in on the rest of the month before the end of the week, but until then, enjoy the pics from Sarah’s wedding!

You may recognize Sarah from some of my pictures in Korea – she was on the same Fulbright grant as I was, and became one of my best friends while over there.  I was privileged to be a member of her wedding party upon our return to the states.  So in early October, I took a bus down to Orlando, FL, and spent 5 wonderful days catching up with her and meeting her incredible family and helping her prepare for her big day.

I was greeted with a welcome basket when I got to her parent’s home.  It was so sweet!  It was a wonderful feeling to know that, even amidst all of the insanity that is a wedding, Sarah still took the time to thank me for being there.  I felt so loved 🙂

The next few days were marked by lots of preparations.  We rolled napkins, and tied ribbons, and even made the bouquets ourselves!  She bought the flowers in bulk and then we arranged them, to save on cost.  I tell you what, I have a newfound appreciation for what florists do!

My wedding gift for Sarah and Donnie – it has “Welcome to the Durm home” burned into a wooden shingle, and then welcome written in several different languages 🙂

Thursday night we had a bachelorette party for Sarah.  It was fun and silly and lighthearted, and I think that we all had a blast.  It began with food and games at the home of one of Sarah’s friends, and ended with drinks at a bar in town that is famous for its live dueling pianists.  By that time, however, we were all pretty tired, and so we were content to simply sit and listen to the music.  Apparently our subdued attitudes were noticed, because one of the employees came up to us and asked, “is this a bachelorette party?  Because all I see is a buch of old ladies.”, and a fellow customer bought a round of drinks for every one os us.  It was nice of him, but I think we all agreed that we were actually enjoying ourselves, even if we weren’t dancing on the tables or anything of the sort :).

Sarah’s sweet sister, Hannah.  She has taken to calling me Lolo 🙂
Sarah’s mom, Mrs. Reichel, twisted her ankle pretty badly the day before the wedding, so I dubbed myself her personal assistant for the latter end of the week.  One thing I helped a lot with was preparing for the little family reception that they had at their house the day before the wedding.  I made pumpkin bars and coffee cake and I don’t remember what else.  It was fun :).

Some of the goodies I made for the reception

Sarah’s brother Jon, and Grandma Bubbles 
And then….the big day arrived!!  It was pouring for most of the ceremony, but that didn’t matter because it was held inside a big beautiful restored victorian home.  There were a few hiccups before hand – my dress ripped in 2 separate places, and there were major technical difficulties with the video that Sarah asked me to be responsible for – but overall, it was a great, remarkably stress-free day.  There was dancing and laughter and joy, and at the end of the day, Sarah and Donnie were married, so I would say that it was a successful day!

Jon was my escort at the wedding 🙂

Me and Mrs. Reichel

The Reichel siblings!  Good-looking family, if I do say so myself… 🙂

Reichel sibs + me 🙂
I stayed an extra day after the wedding.  I got to see Sarah and Donnie one more time in the morning before they left on their honeymoon, which was nice.  Her Grandma Bubbles (yes, that is her real name) insisted on teaching me poker that afternoon.  I schooled them all – had a grand total of like $15 in winnings!  It was fun, lol :).  So then that evening, I got back on a bus and made my way back to Atlanta – back to the grind!  It was a lot of work to get down there and back, but so totally worth it – I was so grateful to be there, and getting to meet and spend almost a whole week with her awesome family and friends was just icing on the cake!  At the same time, though, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit relieved that the rash of weddings is over with for a while! 😀
My first picture with Mrs. Durm! 🙂

After our poker game….hehehe

Highlights and lowlights

Well, I am firmly settled into my life here in Atlanta these days.  Between my classes, TA job, church, and dancing, free time is in short supply, indeed.  But I’ve been trying to take at least a little time every week to do something relaxing and fun with friends.  Some of my favorite highlights include:

For their honeymoon, Rachel and Ryan went on a road trip, but they swung back through Georgia on their way back to Oregon, where they are living now.  So I drove up to Ellijay and got to see them for an evening.  It was soooo lovely to be able to just spend time with and enjoy each other, away from the stresses and pressures of wedding fever.

Ryan, Rachel, me, and Rachel’s sister Sarah

A few days later, I got to see some Fulbright friends!!  Adam and Leora had both renewed their contracts to teach in Korea, but they were visiting some friends in the states before they went back to Asia.  So we met up at a great little Greek falafel place, and then went to a state park and hung out for the afternoon.  It was wonderful seeing them, albeit a little strange – although we’re all Americans, up until then I had never actually seen them in America, so it was odd being together on our “home turf,” so to speak.

Leora and Adam 

My first weekend after moving to Atlanta, I was back in Albany again – for another wedding.  But this one I just attended – I wasn’t in it – so it was much more relaxing.  I got to spend some time with my family without the stress of preparing for Chris’ wedding….plus we got a great family shot in the process! 🙂

An old family friend, Phillip, came down to visit me shortly after I moved to Atlanta.  It’s been years since we’ve seen each other – one of us was always out of the country – so it was good to reconnect.  We went to Atlantic station and got gourmet ice cream and laughed at all of the country music blaring from the speakers….then, for dinner, we went to a place called Chow Baby, which is now officially my favorite restaurant in the entire city.  It’s like an Asian buffet on steroids.  You go down the line and pick all of the ingredients you want – meats, vegetables, sauces, everything – and then they cook it for you in a delicious stir-fry and deliver it to your table.  Absolutely excellent.  I had a blast :D.

To celebrate labor day, I went on a rafting trip with some old friends, some new friends, some old family, and some new family.  Myself, Chris, Julia, a friend from Berry (Emily), a dancing friend (also named Chris), and a new Tech friend (Sunny, who is also Korean, so she’s doubly cool!) drove up to Tennessee to go whitewater rafting on the Ocoee – the same river that they did the Olympics on in 1996.  It was threatening to rain the entire day, but never actually did, so it was perfect.  I had a blast.  It was a nice retreat from all of the stresses that I was having with my living arrangements at the time.  Bonus points for the fact that I unknowingly made reservations with the exact same rafting company that I had years ago gone rafting with as a part of a youth group trip with from Cornerstone Church in Americus.  So I was having a major walk down memory lane :).

Left to right: Sunny, myself, Julia, Chris, Emily, and Chris

After I moved out of my old house and into the new one, I went to a graduate student picnic.  Not only did I see some of my old housemates from the old house – and we were on great terms, spent the entire picnic together – but I also got to meet Fernando, an awesome guy from Panama.  He was dancing with the GA Tech Salsa club, and I went over and asked him to dance with me :).  Great dancing and great friends – how can you go wrong with that?….and it was also really nice to know that no one at my old house harbored any ill feelings about me moving out.

Seth, myself, and Shawn (lives in my old house)

Peace signs….I love my friends 😀

Also, speaking of housing, check out my new digs!  It’s nothing special, but it’s exactly what I need at this stage in my life.  I’m very happy here.  I also get along really well with all of my roommates, which is always nice.  We cook for each other, run errands for each other, tell each other to go to bed when they’re tired and to eat right, and just generally look out for each other.  It’s a splendid arrangement.

In celebration of Mom, Dad, and Chris’ birthday, the Albany family drove up to Atlanta to have a big family cookout.  Well, it was supposed to be a cookout, but due to torrential rains, it turned into more of a cook-in.  But when you’re with people you love, it doesn’t really matter whether you’re inside or outside.  I had a blast.  That was also the weekend that I acquired a bed, thanks to my incredible parents who drove up a second car just to bring me my bed from Albany, thus making me officially completely moved into my new home.

The next weekend was Tech night at Six Flags!  One night every year, Six Flags closes down their park to everyone except GA Tech students.  So I gathered 3 of my new friends, and we all headed down together.   It was myself, Fernando (the Panamanian that I met at the grad picnic), Seth (a Singaporean I randomly met at orientation), at my Korean friend Sunny.  Four people, 4 nationalities…..I was in heaven.  I love connecting with people who come from completely different backgrounds from my own.  We rode every single roller coaster :).  After it ended, everyone was starving, so I took them all back to my house and made them pasta (at like 1:00 in the morning….lol) before taking everyone home.  It took me the whole weekend to recover from it….but it was worth it.  Developing friendships is something that I’m really going to focus on doing while I’m here in Atlanta.

Seth, myself, Sunny, and Fernando

Soooooo scary!!!!!

Speaking of cultural experiences…..I had another one last Sunday.  I took my new Mexican housemate with me to church, and we went out to lunch afterwards.  Somehow, we ended up on Buford Highway (which, if you don’t know Atlanta, is known for having an incredibly high latino population), and randomly went to this little restaurant called La Pastorcita.  The food was actually really good – tasty, plentiful, and cheap – but I tell you what, the second I walked in, I couldn’t help but bust out laughing.  Not because I was laughing at anyone, per se….it was just a cultural shock, and I didn’t know what else to do.  I felt like I had walked straight into Mexico.  They had the Mexican music, the sombreros, the Mexican families and couples and groups of men shoved into the boothes, the menus in all Spanish….seriously, it was legit.  Absolutely fabulous…I loved it.  Atlanta is a city in which you can feel as if you were transported to almost any country in the world, if you go to the right place in the city :).  

Other notable things which don’t have any pictures attached to them, but deserve at least an honorable mention….I’ve found a fantastic Bible study that meets only 3 houses away from mine, I’ve been dancing to my heart’s content and then some, and I’ve finally started to gain my bearings around the campus and the city.  Can’t think of anything else at the moment….but I’m sure I’ll have more to say in a few days ;).

So there you have it!  Some of the highlights from my life over the last month or so.  It hasn’t all been rosy – classes are incredibly overwhelming at times, I still have lawsuit issues going on with my psycho ex-landlord, my hearts still pines for Korea and my students and friends over there….but overall, I am very blessed.  Blessed, indeed.  God is so good!

Getting new sisters is always fun :)

So I must apologize for my long period of silence from the cyber-sphere. I returned back from Wyoming and was instantly hit with another crazy wedding week. After driving back from Wyoming (30-ish hours, without stopping…yikes!!!), I dove right into preparations for my brother’s wedding.

I left Wyoming Monday morning, got into Albany late on Tuesday, and left for Atlanta the following Wednesday. In the interim, I got to spend some time with my family, and also my aunt and cousin, whom I hadn’t seen in a while, so that was really nice. All too soon, however, we were on our way up to Atlanta, which served as our base of operations in the days leading up to the wedding. We had the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner there, saw some aunts and uncles and cousins that live in the Atlanta area, got our nails and hair done, yada yada yada.

Somehow I managed to spend 8 sequential nights in 8 different beds. I started off at home in Albany, then went up to see my aunt and uncle in Dahlonega, then spent the night with a friend in Atlanta, then with my Atlanta cousins, then with Julia on the night before the wedding, then with the Purcell’s neighbors, then in north Carolina with my grandparents (my dad and I made a quick turnaround trip up there the Monday and Tuesday after the wedding), and then finally, on Tuesday night, I was back home again in Albany.

The wedding week was crazy, stressful, and insane. But the wedding itself was beautiful. I’m so glad that I was able to be a part of such a special day in my brother and new sister-in-law’s lives.  And getting new sisters is always nice!! 🙂  Lots of pictures below…..next stop: grad school!!!!

Cooking with my momma 🙂


My family, plus Grammie, Aunt Cathi, and Cayla.  I think the peace signs were kind of laughing at me….but whatever, it made me smile, anyway 🙂


My new in-laws

I love seeing family!! 🙂  

Bridal brunch for all of the ladies….it was lovely 🙂

Chris and Julia at the rehearsal….aren’t they just the cutest? 🙂

Rehearsal dinner – lots of lovely toasts, and only a few embarrassing roasts 🙂 

My mom and Julia’s grandmother’s hands…. 🙂

Julia gave all of her bridesmaids these fun kimonos, and we wore them while getting ready 🙂

My funky hairstyle 🙂

A few pictures, borrowed from the official wedding photographer 🙂

I only have a few pictures of the actual ceremony.  But this is kind of all you need to see, isn’t it? 😉

Mr. and Mrs. Chris Fenner!! 

The reception venue was lovely 

Wyoming wedding!!!

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been stateside for 2 weeks now already.  There have been good days and bad days, culture shock has ebbed and flowed, old friends have been reconnected with and new friends have been made, and lots of life changes have been set in motion.  But the main event of last week was my dear friend Rachel and her wonderful new husband Ryan’s wedding.  Next weekend’s event is Chris’ wedding, and I’m crazy busy getting ready for that and grad school, but I figure that I should catch up before I get super behind!  So here goes – fall 2012 wedding #1 (out of 4!)

I suppose I should tell you first about my trip to America, though.  On a whim, I checked my flight status online right before I left to catch the bus to the airport in Korea.  Guess what??  It was cancelled.  Yeah.  Super unfortunate.  So I called United Airline’s customer service line, all in a panic, and they basically told me at first that there were no flights, even from nearby airports, until 2 days later.  I begged them to keep looking.  They finally found one flight, but at that point I had to leave to catch my bus, so I couldn’t confirm my booking.  So I said a prayer, crossed my fingers, and left the house, hoping that I would have a ticket on some plane upon my arrival.

And check out what happened….I love how God always has our backs.  I showed up at the airport, to find out that not only had I successfully been booked on a different flight; but I had been upgraded to business class – at no extra charge.  And, because business class customers have a higher baggage limit than economy class, I also didn’t have to pay any of the almost $200 in excess baggage fees that I was expecting.  Praise the Lord!!  And man, let me tell you what…business class is the way to go.  Seats with so much leg room that they can be reclined into fully horizontal beds, free wine and champagne, 4-course meals….they even gave you little slippers, so that you could relax your feet!  I don’t even like wine, but I had some just to be able to say that I did.  It was heaven :).

So anyway, I arrived into Jackson, Wyoming, around 11:00 pm on Monday night – jet-lagged beyond belief, but safe, with all my luggage, and ready for a week of wedding madness!  Rachel’s bachelorette party was all day on Tuesday – we spent the day at Yellowstone National Park, and then had a really nice dinner at a fancy restaurant to cap the day off.  It was a lovely day, and a needed breather between Korea and the craziness of wedding planning that would follow for the remainder of the week.  The best part, I think, is that we combined Rachel’s bachelorette party with her lingerie party – we made her unwrap a scandalous present at every stop we made in the park.  I’ve never seen her so embarrassed in my life.  It was great.  I love that girl ;).

The rest of the week went by in a blur, mostly with wedding preps, but punctuated by fun stuff, such as dancing at the famous Million-Dollar Cowboy Bar, trying buffalo steak at the Gun-barrel restaurant, or checking out the quaint and charming town of Jackson; and always underscored by the love and support of some truly incredible people.  The Murphy’s (Rachel’s new in-laws) are honestly some of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met in my entire life.  They are constantly loving, giving of themselves, thinking of and serving others, and glorifying God.  It was a crazy week, but also a very edifying and encouraging one.

And the wedding itself was beautiful.  Goodness.  So precious.  I am so honored and blessed to have such wonderful people in my life, and also to be a part of their lives.  I will treasure the memories of the Ryan and Rachel Murphy wedding forever.  Many pictures from the wedding and the week leading up to it below!! 🙂

My reaction at being in business class 🙂
The leg-room in business class – it was incredible 😀 

Course #1 – out of 5!!

Wyoming scenery – the storm literally split the sky in half!!  So cool!!

Rachel’s bachelorette party at Yellowstone – and yes, that IS her doing a handstand on a pile of logs in the middle of the river…. 🙂

Old Faithful blowing faithfully!

A famous lodge on the park grounds – possibly the coolest building I’ve ever seen

Wyoming is gorgeous, plain and simple.

Yellowstone is aptly named…

Sisters!!  Elsha and Shannon Murphy

The mud pits of Yellowstone – they bubble and pop and sing to you! 🙂

So yeah…the water was a bit cold…

Rachel trying to avoid a tanline – that’s how much she loves Ryan ;).  Haha…

More sisters!  Rachel and Sarah Leslie 🙂

My wedding present to Rachel – a personalized cookbook with old family recipes and stories and pictures from her past

I like this shot – Rachel’s engagement ring has the silhouette of the Teton mountains in them.  It’s lined up perfectly with the actual mountains 🙂 

Wedding prep!  Making programs – they were really complicated.  We had to get really creative to save time 😀

Anddddd…..a week later, the finished product!!

Korea is infectious.  Hahaha 😀

The million dollar cowboy bar.  Thus named because the knotted wood that the bar is mostly made of is a very rare anomaly, and literally costs millions of dollars!
Gunbarrel restaurant.  I tried buffalo steak – soooo good!! 

Yes, that arch is indeed made entirely of antler horns! 

The rehearsal dinner

I tried slack-lining – basically it’s a tight-rope that’s really close to the ground.  Sooo hard!!

The wedding!!  Check out the mountains in the background!  I love this shot… 🙂

Sarah (on the left) made both of the wedding cakes.  They were incredibleeeeee!!!

Me and my escort, Seth, walking down the aisle

Cambodia

My second layover in Kuala Lumpur was just about as long as the first one.  However, since this time it was in the middle of the night, I decided to just find a place to sleep and not do any sightseeing.  I looked online and found that there was actually a hotel in the KL airport, so I booked a night there and thought that that was that.  But when I arrived in the airport from India, I found out that this hotel is not accesible from the lost-cost carrier terminal….my terminal.  But, no sweat, there was a hotel just a few minutes away from the terminal, technically still on the airport grounds.  They even offered a shuttle service!  So I walked to the shuttle…and that’s where my problems started.  The shuttle was full, so the driver told me that I should walk.  Somehow, I doubted the wisdom of his scheme to tell a single girl to go walking by herself in the the middle of the night in an airport in Asia, but I was super tired, so I just silently walked the hotel.  All I wanted was a bed to sleep in.  But alas, the universe had other plans.  I arrived at the hotel to find that they were completely booked.  So I slogged back to the airport, by this time thoroughly prepared to spend the night sleeping on a chair in the airport.However, as I was getting settled on my little chair, I happened to glance over and noticed a sign for the airport’s “premium lounge.”  I initially balked at the price, but then I decided that a safe place to sleep and a shower were more important, so I bit the bullet and paid the price.  But it was so worth it in the end.  I had such a limited time in Cambodia, that I would not have been able to enjoy it if I had been sleep deprived and grumpy the whole time.  As it was, I got a shower, had reliable internet for a while (and even got to talk to my mother while I was there, woot!), took a shower, got some sleep, AND had breakfast.  Definitely worth the money.

My hostel in Cambodia was as wonderful as the first hostel in India was horrible.  They were there waiting for me at the airport (in a TUK-TUK, no less!!), and took me to the hostel free of charge.  The main lobby area of the hostel is also an outside restaurant / hangout area.  It is covered with hanging plants, and cool quite nooks to sequester yourself in, and flowers, and gentle water rippling in the background.  Upon checking in, I was greeted with an incredibly friendly staff who made the arrangements for any sort of excursion that I wanted.  They even greeted me with a fruity drink, to refresh me from my travels!  Walking into the room, I was greeted by a huge bed (which also happened to be the most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept in…ever), a modern bathroom….and flowers!  They had scented jasmine flowers strewn all over the room!  I had been in Cambodia less than an hour, and was already in love with it.

My hostel

I was determined to make the most of my extremely limited time there, so I dropped my stuff off and immediately headed out again.  I felt as safe in Cambodia as I felt unsafe in India, and decided to go exploring on my own for a while.  I hired a tuk-tuk to take me to the arts district, and then let him go so I could meander home on my own.  So I walked through a place called Artisans of Angkor, which takes young artisans from all over the country and gives them a year of training in their craft, so that they can make a living doing it.  Pretty cool place….

Walking home, I got asked by several drivers if I needed a ride.  But the beautiful thing about Cambodia is that they respected my answer when I said no.  In India, people would follow you for blocks and blocks, entreating you to to buy their products the entire time, no matter how strenuously you denied their offers.  But in Cambodia, they asked once, and if you said no, they backed off and let you be.  It was a wonderful thing.

In the afternoon, I went on a boat cruise down the Tongle Sap lake.  The ride lasted about 4 hours, with a few stops mid-way.  The main ride took us through a huge floating village in the middle of the lake.  It was fascinating to see these people living completely, constantly on the water.  I wonder if they ever yearned to be on land for a change of scenery, like I sometimes yearn to be on the water.  There were other people on the tour with me, mostly from France.  My one semester of college French allowed me to make some small talk with them, but I was really wishing that I knew a bit more.  But it was still a blast.  Being on the water, with the cool breezes ruffling through my hair, was so incredibly relaxing.  I could have stayed there all day.  The only thing that I didn’t like was the snake children.  Cambodian women have a habit of putting snakes (non-poisonous ones, I hope!) around their small children’s necks (we’re talking, like 3 and 4 year olds).  Then then paddle around in small boats when the tourists show up, and anytime someone wants to take a picture of their child, they extract a small sum from them.  I’m not sure exactly what it was, but something about that particular practice really really bothered me.

We stopped at a crocodile farm – they creeped me out!!
This is what they did with the crocodiles….

But anyway, Cambodia was a wonderful experience, so let’s move on to happier things! 🙂  My hostel is owned and operated by a lovely Australian couple.  Twice a week, they offer an all-you-can-eat Australian bar-b-que.  So that’s where I found myself Tuesday evening.  Boy I tell you what, when they said all-you-can-eat, they meant it.  There were chicken kabobs, and beef kabobs, and vegetarian kabobs, and all sorts of grilled meats, and sausages, and salads, and potatoes, and fruits, and breads….it was amazing.  I went to bed one very happy puppy that evening.

The next day I headed out to see Angkor Wat, the largest temple in the entire world.  I was planning on getting up early and watching the sunrise….but my bed was far too comfortable.  So I missed the sunrise, and I’m entirely ok with that….the bed was worth it :).  I was on a different tour with different people this time, some of who also spoke a foreign language.  Except this time, they spoke Spanish…and I was in heaven!  There was a Taiwanese couple who spoke fluent English, a lady from Colorado named Carolyne (more on her later!), and a couple from Madrid, Spain.  She spoke a little bit of English, but he spoke none at all, and so the three of us talked in Spanish almost the entire day.  It was amazing…I had forgotten just how much I love Spanish – speaking it, hearing it, everything.  Reminiscing about Spain was just an added bonus :).

Angkor Wat in all its splendour
The whole group having a Khmer picnic lunch!
There was a wedding at Angkor wat while we were there 🙂
The steps to the top – it was a 70/100 slope!!

So anyway, we spent the whole day on a walking tour through the temples of Angkor.  It was really cool at first, but I have to admit, by the end of the day, they were all starting to look the same.  The other American in the group, Carolyne, was in her 70’s, and she finally called it quits when we got to the last temple, and waited for us while in the van while we were walking.  Honestly, I wanted to do the exact same thing, but I refused to be outdone by middle-aged people, and so my stubbornness won out and I persevered :).  But regardless of our age difference, Carolyne and I really hit it off on the tour, and she invited me back to her hotel when it ended to go swimming.  As sore as I was from all of that walking, I gladly took her up on her offer.  So I went swimming in my jean shorts and t-shirt (I hadn’t brought a bathing suit), and we just talked for a couple of hours.  She’s a fascinating woman.  She’s a French and art teacher, and has lived for extended periods with her husband working as a teacher all over the world.  Now that he’s gone, she travels the world on her own seeing as many things and meeting as many people as she can before she dies.  I want to be like her when I grow up :).

I had to cut our visit short, however, because I had a dance to go to!  Cambodia is famous for their traditional style of dance, Aspera dancing, and my wonderful hostel had arranged for me to go to an Aspera show in the evening.  The performance was in a big buffet-style hall, and because I was a party of one I got seated alone at a small table right near the front.  The view was great, but the seating was rather lonely.  But that was quickly rectified.  A woman was walking by me as I was getting settled, and she happened to say, “Oh, you’re here alone?  Me too!”  So I invited her to join me, and she accepted, and we had a wonderful talk.  Liliana was just as fascinating as Carolyne was.  She was born in Columbia, but moved away when she was 18, and now lives in Switzerland.  So in the end, I got the best of both worlds – a great view, and also someone to share it with :).

My meal at the Aspera restaurant – it was soooo yummy
Aspera dancing!!!

And that was it.  That was the entirety of my stay in Cambodia.  I took a Tuk-tuk to the airport early the next morning, bought a coconut for breakfast (which, suffice it to say, undoubtedly put me on cloud nine), and headed back to Kuala Lumpur.  Even the airport was lovely this time, with a huge Lunar New Year’s celebration going through the terminals while I was there.  One of the flight attendants gave me 2 oranges…which became my dinner that night :).  Cambodia was the epitome of relaxation and rest, with the warmth of the sun rivaled only by the warmth of the people, and I can say with ease that I most certainly want to return there sometime in the near-ish future.

My coconut!!!  It’s been years since I’ve had one…I was sooo happy 🙂
Lunar new year celebration in the KL airport

India

My next stop around the world found me in Delhi, India.  India was the biggest cultural shock that I’ve ever experienced in my life.  Ever.  Including Korea, which took me months to really adjust to.  I’m not quite sure where to begin.  But as countless wise men have undoubtedly said over the ages, beginning at the beginning is probably the best course of action, so I will start there, shall I?I had reserved a place at a hostel in India in advance.  I had also given them my flight information (three times!), and they were supposed to come pick me up at the airport upon my arrival.  My flight got in around 8 in the evening, so it should have been a nice, easy night.  But unfortunately, life had other plans.  What actually happened was this: I arrived on time, exited the airport….and found no one waiting for me.  I waited for a while, with no luck.  If being stranded in the New Delhi airport wasn’t bad enough, I also couldn’t call my hostel to see where they were – there were no pay phones in the entire airport.  But even if there were, I wouldn’t have been able to use them, because I didn’t have any money.  I had brought a lot of Korean won with me to exchange on my travels into the local currency; however, the currency exchange counter wouldn’t take won, so I was left with a lot of useless money and no money that I actually could use.  So I asked a random stranger if I could use her phone to call my hostel, and she begrudgingly said yes.  Well, the hostel told me to just take a taxi and then they would reimburse me.  Which did me no good because I had no money.  However, I found a small police station and asked them for help, and they helped me find a cab driver who was willing to take dollars, of which I had a few tucked into my passport, just in case.

So I was finally on my way!  The drive lasted about 20 minutes.  We got about a block away….and then found out that the road had been closed, in preparation for Republic day celebrations that would be held the next day.  So I borrow my taxi driver’s phone to call the hostel again (I have GOT to get an international phone!!).  The guy at the hostel refused to meet me, but rather told me to go to a travel agency and find somewhere else.  Needless to say, I wrote a biting review of their establishment once I returned to Korea. I was soooo frustrated.  When I got to the travel agency, I found that because of the national holiday the next day, all of the cheap hotels were already booked.  At this point it was nearing 11:00 pm, so I finally told my taxi driver to just take me to the closest place that had an open room.  This ended up being about 10 times the price that I had originally anticipated spending…but I was so tired, I chalked it off as a learning experience, locked my door and went to bed.  It certainly wasn’t the welcome to India that I was hoping for, but even in the midst of all of that, there were bright spots.  The policeman, taxi driver, and travel agency worker were all super nice and helpful, and made me feel much more at ease.  They kept calling me m’ame, which I found amusing at first, but eventually came to realize that it’s just how they show respect to foreigners.

I must admit though, I was glad when a new day dawned.  I woke up singing “Journey to the past,” from Fox Animation’s Anastasia….”people always say life is full of choices, no one ever mentions fear.”  Hurrah for Fox, giving inspirational songs for people all over the world! 🙂  I had bought a trip with a travel agency so I wouldn’t be completely alone the entire time, so I headed out bright and early to the meeting point.  A bit too early, actually…the cafe wasn’t open yet, and so I had to wait outside for nearly an hour.  The leering stares of the men who also happened to be on the street at that time made the first time in my life, in all of my travels, that I have ever been truly honestly frightened.  It was a sensation that I experienced on multiple occasions over the course of my week in India.  At the risk of inundating you with my writings, I wrote a separate article reflecting on some of the thoughts that were going through my head when that was happening.  If you want to read it, just follow this link.

But anyway, at last the group met up – it was myself, our tour guide, and 4 Germans, and we started our tour of India.  We took a walk through old Delhi, dodging the taxi and motorcycle drivers that squeezed through the tiny alley streets with reckless abandon for pedestrian safety, walking past savory street-side food vendors and stalls stuffed to bursting with knick-knacks and tourist merchandise, and ducking under the tangled and frayed electrical wires that hung from the crowded buildings in unstable masses.  That afternoon, we headed to Agra, for the next leg of our journey.  The swirling mass of humanity seemed to multiply, if possible, once we got on the road.  Every moment we were stopped, people swarmed the car, trying to sell me something, asking for tips for simple tasks, or simply begging for money.  The worst was when we stopped for lunch.  I was the only patron in the entire restaurant, so I was naturally swarmed there too, but this time I had no car to protect me.  It was rather overwhelming, especially since many of the Indians didn’t seem to have a proper filter as to what were appropriate topics to talk to a stranger about and what weren’t.  I didn’t get to my hotel until late evening, and I promptly went to bed.

The oldest mosque in India
The streets of Old Delhi
Lunch with my German friends!!
Yummyyyyy
A moqsue that offered free lunch to everyone.  Since they couldn’t pay for it, they volunteered their time to help make it.  Pretty cool….
My Delhi tour guide, Hirdesh….super sweet girl
The lotus palace, seen from the car on the way to Agra
Typical Indian traffic

The next day was The Day!  Really the only reason (or at least the main reason) I wanted to go to India was because I wanted to see the Taj Mahal.  And let me tell you what, it certainly didn’t disappoint.  The Taj is beautiful from a distance…but once I got up close, once I actually touched it….it sent a thrill up my and down my entire spine.  The Taj Mahal has 43 million individual gems in it, the carved panels inside took 2 men approximately 8 months to make – for each panel, and it took approximately 20,000 workers 22 years of intricate, detailed work to complete the entire building.  And all for the love of a woman.  It is such a timeless symbol of love and dedication – so much more so, I think, than Romeo and Juliet or Anthony and Cleopatra – that it was literally breathtaking to behold.  Sure gives all of the men nowadays some big shoes to fill :).

The main gate to the Taj Mahal
The “classic” photo of the Tj Mahal
The entire place was sooooo detailed

I spent the afternoon with Mehran, my tour guide – the Germans had opted to get a massage.  Mehran took me to some of his favorite sites in the city – the Agra fort, another tomb, the shop of some gem inlayers who use the same techniques as were used in the Taj Mahal, and the moon gardens, which lie across the river from the Taj.  The Germans actually told him to go spend time with me, and then told him you’re welcome for giving him the opportunity to spend more time with me, which I found highly amusing :D.  He was a good guide and a good friend, however, and I enjoyed the afternoon immensely.  He was also a rather good storyteller, and I thoroughly enjoyed the tales he told me about his escapades in college, such as when he cried “snakes” on a crowded metro just so that people would run away and give him more space :D.

The Agra fort
Another tomb….not nearly as impressive as the Taj Mahal, but far more peaceful and quiet
The gem-inlayers of Agra
Me ‘n Mehran 🙂

Day three, Mehran took me to Fatephur Sikri, a deserted fort about 45 minutes outside of Agra.  There I said goodbye to him, and headed to Jaipur.  Jaipur was my least favorite city in India.  The guide was cold and unfriendly, and the repeated warnings I got from locals about the danger of a woman being alone in the city made me nervous about even leaving my hotel room.  Although I did get to see an Indian wedding at my hotel, which was really cool.  I also went to a ton of famous temples and shrines and forts that I honestly don’t remember much about – they all seemed to run together after a while.  But I did get to ride an elephant!!  That part I remember quite clearly.  Those great big lumbering beasts do not make for the smoothest ride, but it was certainly fun!  I can’t imagine crossing countries on one, though!!!  I also made a point to go to a Bollywood movie in the evening.  It didn’t disappoint – the sumptuous costumes, intricate dance scenes, exaggerated fight scenes, overdramatized acting, and intermission so that people could go buy food midway through to sustain themselves through the excessive length – it was everything and more that I was expecting to see in a Bollywood film :).

An Indian wedding
The ladies’ quarters of Fatephur Sikri
Parcheesi – Indian style.  The pieces were concubines, and the winner got to spend a night with the emperor…
Yay for elephant rides!!!
The wind palace for the ladies of the palace – they could see but not be seen
The water palace
The Pink City
The peacock gate to the royal palace
The largest sundial in the world
The amber fort in Jaipur
My reflection in the hall of mirrors in the amber fort
The peacock restaurant!!

My last day in Delhi I went to a saree shop.  I was only supposed to look and play dress up, but I found one that I absolutely loved, and so I allowed myself a splurge.  I have no idea where I’ll wear it, but it’s beautiful, and I love it :).  On the drive back to Delhi, my driver decided to pick up some random people on the side of the road and take them with us for a few hundred kilometers.  This is very common in India, but I found it quite awkward, and I must admit that I was glad when we parted ways.  My driver also decided to randomly stop at his home before he dropped me off.  That was also awkward – we had tea, and just sat, not talking, for about an hour.  I asked why were there, and I was told “to kill time.”  But whatevs…when in Rome…  But honestly, even though it was awkward, I actually kind of enjoyed it.  I got a glimpse, however small, of the “real India,” which is what I always prefer to see in any country that I go to.  It was nice to see a slice of what really happens in India, away from the tourist centers.

Where they made the dyes for the sarees

So I checked into another hotel in Delhi (courtesy of my wonderful friend Mehran, who booked it for me, since I had originally planned on staying at the hostel that stiffed me), spent the night there, and then caught a taxi to the airport the next day.  I had quite a few takeaways from my stay in India.  The first one, is how very very blessed I am.  I was surrounded everyday by stark, raging poverty and pain.  And I couldn’t get over the fact that I am so very very blessed to even own a passport, to live in a country where I am financially able and also allowed to travel basically anywhere in the world that I please.  Also, a smile goes a long way.  As a solo traveler, there were lots of times when I really needed help, and I can’t tell you how much more willing people were to help me when I smiled and was nice to them.  They even said as much.  Another takeaway: I realized just how much I dislike head scarves.  Actually, head scarves aren’t bad…but I realized that the more of face is covered, the more I dislike it.  It dehumanizes the wearer.  On multiple occasions, I found myself wondering, “what happens if one of these women gets hurt in the street and needs help?  Her husband wouldn’t know it was her to help her, even if he was staring right at her.”  As the week wore on, I found myself growing progressively more and more impatient with people who homogenized me as a “rich foreigner,” and were unable or unwilling to see me as what I was – a person.  But I realized that a full head scarf does the exact same thing.  I know there are religious, cultural, and familial reasons for wearing them, so please don’t jump down my throat….I’m just saying that from my perspective, they seemed to dehumanize the women who wore them a bit.  They became just a pair of eyes, and by the end of the week I had grown to dislike full head coverings just as much as I disliked being swarmed by beggars every time I walked outside.  But overall, India was a great experience – if nothing else, a massive learning experience – and I’m very glad to have gotten the opportunity to go.  Oh, and one last takeaway….know the currency exchange rate before you go!  And make sure you have money!  It will save you a whole bunch of headache and trouble :).