About Nathalie S.H.

Music and science fiction had a baby.

5 Days in Jeju – A Review

In which I’m the only person in my guesthouse who doesn’t know there’s a typhoon in the area.

Oh well. Yolo.

Ahh Jeju. Where to start. Korea’s southernmost Island. Korea’s southernmost province. “The world comes to Jeju, and Jeju goes to the World.”

Jeju-do is the largest island off the coast of the Korean Penninsula and is home to many natural wonders, seeing as it’s a volcanic island. Hallasan, the highest peak in Korea, can be seen from all corners as it’s situated right in the island’s centre. The island was also voted one of the “New7Wonders of Nature”; a title it holds loud and proud (albeit with some controversy, as there was no limit on the number of times people could vote, and thus the Jeju government spent a load of money on a campaign to get citizens to vote as much as possible). 

I had 5 days on the island, and didn’t get to see as much as I would’ve liked. Although small in area, I didn’t have a car, and was thus limited to the bus system. Although it got me where I wanted, it took upwards of 1.5 hours to reach certain places.

If you find yourself in South Korea I highly recommend taking a few days for Jeju. It’s quieter than the cities (at least when I visited in mid-Sept; but be sure to avoid Korean Thanksgiving). Here’s how I spent my time on the island.

Cheonjiyeon Waterfall and Seogwipo Harbour

A no-brainer, seeing how these were both a few minutes walk from my guesthouse. It’s only 2000w to enter (1000 if you’re a youth age 13-24). Although I saw loads of tour buses in the parking lot, there weren’t a lot of people inside the grounds. The area is pristine, and who doesn’t love a waterfall. Right nearby, Seogwipo harbour is a great walk, as a bridge takes you over the crashing ocean waves onto a small provincial park and island with a walking trail.

World Seashell Museum

I have been aggressively trying to get more people to visit this gorgeous exhibit. I passed it on the bus ride to my guesthouse and knew I had to see it for myself. The director has collected a good 95% of all the shells and corals on display themself (with the other 5% coming from people who want to help). While the price is a bit higher (6000w) I spent a good 2 hours here and had the whole place to myself. The ambience is beautiful and calming. There’s also a cafe on site.

Hallasan


9.6km. That was all holding me from the peak of the highest mountain in South Korea. 8:16am I began the hike. 11:35am I reached the summit. They recommend giving yourself 5 hours to ascend, and of course I took that as a challenge. The last 4 km were brutal as it was basically stairs non-stop (Grouse Grind has NOTHING on Hallasan). I was lucky enough to catch the last sunny day before the mountain closed due to the windy weather, and it was absolutely breathtaking to look down and see the entire island at your fingertips.

Café Day – Villa de Ato

Macaroon smoothie. That is all. 

Jeongbang Waterfall

Another walkable waterfall. This one you can actually walk up close to, and witness it fall directly into the ocean. It was more crowded here than at Cheonjiyeon, even though the weather was clouded.

Jusangjeolli Cliff

Also called Jungmun Daepo Coastal Walk, these columns stretch over 2km along the Jeju coast. They were formed from the cooling and contraction of lava, which results in “stacks” of hexagons. As it was a windy day, watching the waves crash over these pillars was breathtaking. 

Seogwipo Daily Olle Market


Jeju has a lot of markets. This one was right near my guesthouse. I ate dinner there basically everyday. Grilled pork, etiquette, steamed barley bread…andof course, the pictures octopus bread (SO GOOD).

Seongsan Sunrise Peak


More hiking to see a crater. And not at sunrise. It took me 1.5 hours to bus here, but the views were worth it. I would love to come back again for sunset, and take a walk away to get pictures from further away.

And that was Jeju! I’m currently sitting in the Busan airport waiting for my flight to Osaka, so my next post may be about Japan. BUT I also visited Damyang and Suncheon and would love to write a post on those 2 places, so keep posted!

Until next time!

Next up, Japan!

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100 Days on the Road.

I’ve been travelling for 100 days.

I originally believed that this 100th day of travel would coincide with the first day of Autumn; my favourite season. It doesn’t. I though September 21 was always the first day of Autumn. It isn’t. Now I know.

Regardless I’m in too deep to stop writing now so here we go.

I’m in Busan right now, having spent 5 days on the island of Jeju (and that reminds me that I have to get started on that post as well…). I arrived 2 days ago and spent my first day bumming in a local café for some writing and trip planning (I head to Japan in a week’s time).

So 100 days. What changes in 100 days. Travel style? Nope I’m still chugging along with my “backpacking but also not backpacking” style. My original travel plans? Not really…I mean my trip to Malaysia wasn’t something I’d planned when Ifirst envisioned this trip, but nothing along the lines of scrapping Asia and flying down to South America.

I actually was just having a similar discussion with someone I met when I first arrived in my hostel.

Something that I suspected would happen, but wasn’t able to fully confirm until the trip started, is that sometimes I just need a day to hang around and not do anything. Whether I just scroll through Instagram at a local cafe, take a walk around the local area and then call it a day, there are days where all I plan to do is nothing. Sightseeing, especially if transitting to multiple locations sprread out across a city, can get exhausting (see my prevous post about my time in Berlin).

The type of people I vibe with…this hasn’t really changed as much as I feel I’ve gotten a bit more confident at initiating conversation with new people. I’ve never taken lightly to fools, incompetent or lazy individuals (within reason…I consider myself lazy but would never waste days upon days when travelling in a new city), or party animals. This is the same even back home, though, and I’m thankful that I’ve been able to meet so many amazing people and personalities that I have been able to click with.

I’m still working on not feeling guilty if I make plans for the following day and then cancelling. It’s my own long holiday, for goodness sake, what’s there to feel guilty about?

Probably the biggest thing I can say changed is my worries about jobhunting and money. Which I know isn’t exactly travel related, but it pertains to my mindset and way of thinking.

I should start by saying that, in complete honestly, I want to be wealthy. My main reason for wanting a good job is to see my savings grow and hopefully retire early and live comfortably and easily at whatever age I end up retiring. To be in a position where my bank account is only depleting, it’s a little hard sometimes. But it was worse when I first started. I honestly contemplated not going on this trip because I knew that it would keep my savings account at a decent level. And then there were a few days I was watching my budget so closely I ended up more stressed and just feel as if those were wasted days I could’ve spent enjoying the city I was in. And while I stay budget conscious (I am sadly not made of money), it’s not something I’ve decided I need to waste time worrying about.

Ironically, while my friends working back home are jealous of the fact that I’m travelling for so long, I find myself jealous of the stability that comes with a job and the aforementioned money. I know this is an unhealthy mindset, but I did pretty much just admit I’m money obsessed.

I planned this trip because I wasn’t able to get bridged into a full-time position at my last co-op job (student work contract). I was heartbroken; I had finally found a job that Ioved and that was relevant to my degree, but a series of unfortunate events and bad timing meant that once my contract was over, that was it. And while I know the desire to travel would have been strong had I begun a full time job ASAP, I had really wanted to keep my position.

Anywho, after realizing that I officially had no obligations after my graduation, I decided that it was the perfect time to take a “gap half-year”, as I keep saying. It would be a way for me to travel places I’d wanted to visit for years, reunite with friends across the globe, take a breather from the last 6 years of school, and, more importantly, hopefully drill into my brain that I can only plan so far in advance. And I admit to worrying quite a bit how the jobhunt would-well, will go once I return home. But no point worrying about things that haven’t happened yet. My worries still pop up every now and then, but I’ve opened up to so many people at this time that it’s easier to talk about, and I hope that’ll make it easier to face head-on once I’m sitting in front of my laptop back at home and searching up postings. I’ve always been a planner, and have loved planning things  in advance, but sometimes, you just can’t.

I didn’t go on this trip to discover myself, try my hand at independence, or escape from anything in particular. I  simply didn’t want to start jobhunting. While some go on a round the world trip to find what they want, I’ve found that my goals have cemented themselves even more in my mind.

But until then, here’s to the next few months of running away from adult responsibilities!

Until next time!

Busan, South Korea

On Homesickness

I could feel the lump forming in my throat and my eyes getting warm and watery. I gritted my teeth and managed to suck back the tears I could feel forming, but the lump stayed. The sudden urge to cry had come on suddenly and without warning, and I wondered if I could find an area to be alone and cry to just get it over with.

If I told you this happened in the first day of my travels, it shouldn’t come as a shock.

How about if I said this happened less than a week ago, the day I left Seoul for Jeju? Approximately 3 months into my trip?

Maybe that’s a bit more surprising. It is to me. I had just skyped my parents the same morning and had experienced a wonderful week in Seoul and my guesthouse. And maybe that’s why. Leaving a place I had felt so welcome and cared for to somewhere different, maybe it was too much of change. The night before I had enjoyed playing trivia games with several friends. The next morning, as I prepared to leave, I was all alone. Maybe it was too much and too abrupt of a change. The video call with my parents may just have reinforced that I was still going to be away from home for another 9-12 weeks.

I didn’t even feel that excited about the next leg of my journey until my plane was preparing to take off. And even then it was just a small flicker of a feeling; something that made me think “Oh I think I’m finally a little excited for Jeju.” In typical Nathalie fashion, I attempted to comfort myself by internally monologuing this blog post during the bus ride from the airport to my next hostel. Yay for moments of creativity in sad times.

On my first full day away from home, back in June, I had the same feeling. A lump in my throat, warm, wet eyes, as the fact that I’d be away from home for 6 months really sunk in. I’d been away for a bit less than half of that amount of time before, but at that time there was a set date to retun back. This time, there wasn’t. Before Christmas. That was all I had as an indication. I (foolishly, I now realize) found myself counting down the approximate weeks until I got to go home.

One day into my solo journey, in Oslo, as I ate dinner alone at my AirBNB, I let the homesickness take over. I full out bawled for a good ten minutes. Besides being homesick, I had convinced myself I was going to be miserable in my next hostel and meet nobody but creepy people. It was overwhelming. I  missed home, I was super nervous about what I was getting into…and I missed my dog (KIRA WAH I still do).

In Denmark, another bout strong enough to drive me to tears. This time, in addition to another round of homesickness, I had now convinced myself that I was going to get robbed in Thailand or at some point get on a bus and be dropped off in the middle of nowhere and not be able to find my way back.

And then in Seoul. Which took me entirely by surprise, but now seems understandable given the contrast between the night before and the morning of.

So. 4 big bouts of homesickness (plus some other factors). Some of the few times in my life I would say I felt a deep sadness and ache in my heart.

But you know what, I do miss home. I miss my family, friends, dog, the feeling of my home, and being at home. Waking up to the sound of rain in my bed and having tea with my mom and lazing on the couch watching TV.

I’m really close with my parents, and I know this isn’t the case for every traveller. In fact, so many blogs I come across discuss how the author was able to sell all their stuff and quit their job and travel indefinitely because they didn’t have a super close relationship with their family. I message my mom pretty much everyday. For a while we were skyping every week. As excited as I am to travel, I’m equally excited to return home, share stories and gifts, and be back in my house (OK my parent’s house…).

And there’s nothing wrong with that. If you find yourself homesick a lot, you’re not alone. If you’ve never felt even the slightest bit homesick, I envy you. More than once I’ve considered cutting my trip short and going home. But I pushed forward. Not out of some sort of obligation that I had to stick to my 6 month travel plan, but because I know I’ll find myself away from home again in the future, whether it be for more travel or for Mandarin immersion or for work, and I have to learn to deal with this sadness that sometimes comes upon me, often at the most inconvenient at times (or the most ironic, like during the aforementioned time in Oslo and I was having soup that I thought could use more salt, and then lo and behold TEARS).

I myself find these feelings slightly ironic because I love alone time. I love eating alone, sightseeing alone, just walking around and exploring a new place and my own pace. When arriving in a new hostel though, I can tell fairly quickly how the atmosphere will be for meeting people. And if the atmosphere is lively and social, I love meeting new people from all over. If the atmosphere is kinda blah, I make the most of it regardless.

In addition, there’s always the loneliness that I feel when I leave a place where I met so many amazing people and made fast friends. This can’t be helped. We meet people, then say goodbye, make friends, lose friends…it happens everywhere. The sadness that comes with leaving (or being left by) an amazing group of people or an amazing place…while heavy on the heart, is how I know that the city and people made their way into mine

Heart and Seoul

Your beloved author (lol) is trying something new. To retroactively write a piece about the city you visited is one thing, but having 8 days in a city is a a fair bit of time. So we find our beloved author (lol) writing this post even before she leaves her current city.

*And at the time of publishing beloved author (LOLLL) was still editing this piece so I don’t even know what I’m trying to get at anymore.*

OK writing in 3rd person is weird. I am your beloved author, and I also hate editing my own work, but looking back on some of the previous posts I’ve written for my travels, it’s come to the point that I really want to try and make my writing as concise as possible, while still keeping a sense of humour and things…flowy (so close).

When I first told people I would be spending 8 days in Seoul, I kept getting told “Are you sure? That’s so long.” It got to the point where I was starting to regret my time there, before I even arrived.

After 8 (OK as I right this, 7 (OK now as i publish actually 8)) days you know what I say? Thank GOODNESS I chose to spend 8 days in Seoul. I have 3.5 weeks in South Korea total, and could have easily spent all of them in the capital. Besides the amazing nightlife, food, and shopping, there’s a plethora of museums, palaces, temples, and cultural and architectural feats to marvel at. In addition, there’s a handful of hikes that take you into the mountains and out of the city and all you have to do is take the subway for half an hour or less.

While not as easy on the budget as Southeast Asia, it’s extraordinarily easy to find cheap (along with a handful of free) acitivites and outings. Many museums offer free admission, and of course walking the local and national parks are always free of charge. With a bit of wandering you can eat meals for anywhere between $4-$10 CAD (with $10 being a very large serving that could be split between friends or used for lunch and dinner). Public transportation is efficient and opens a whole world of possibilty for exploring.

My guesthouse was near Hapjeong Station, in the Hongdae area. Hongdae is where you want to be for nightlife as you can find bars, clubs, noraebangs (karaoke), and a pedestrian street with performers all within walking distance from each other. Not being a night owl, I still found ways to enjoy the vibrancy of this area at night through walking down and window shopping with street food in hand, and going to a bar and noraebang with friends from my guesthouse.

A great, cheap option for a night out with friends? The aforementioned noraebang (karaoke, but named differently here). With 2/3 people, you can pay around $1 for 6 songs. When I went with a group of 7, it was $4 per person for an hour of “singing” (because let’s be honest, it’s screaming/wailing/shouting lyrics and not pretty at all). In the last week I’ve gone with one other friend, and then with a group of 7 total. How I’m still able to talk is beyond me…

Other free activities I’ve partaken in have been visiting the War Memorial and Museum, and hiking Bukhansan National Park. The War Museum and Memorial is, in my opinion, a must-visit for anyone who, like me, has minimal knowledge of the history of Korea and the Korean War. When I visited on a Tuesday afternoon, the military was giving a demonstration on ancient battle techniques and current training drills.

For those looking to escape the city and get a workout, Bukhansan is a must-visit as well. There are many different routes and trails to follow, and you’ll be in the company of older ladies and men who are…for lack of a better word, hardcore (think walking sticks, layers of athletic wear, visers…).

And for cheap shopping, you can’t beat $1 (or less) face masks at Myeongondong, fancy bookmarks at Insa-Dong, and $3-$5 clothes at the Express Bus Terminal underground shopping centre (sidenote: subway stations in general have pretty good clothing selection and price if you’re looking for something less than $10).

How can I forget the rich cultural history and architectural feats. There are 5 Grand Palaces around Seoul, all built by Kings of the Joseon dynasty. I hit up Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung during my time there. Gyeongbokgung is the biggest of the palaces, and covers an enormous area. However, Cheongdeokgung was my favourite. There didn’t feel to be as much empty space as there was at Gyeongbokgung, and I found the colours of the palace and the layout of the grounds more appealing.



For anyone interested, my Seoul itinerary is below. It’s definitely doable to add in more activities, but this was perfect for me
Day 1: Arrival, Hongdae walking steet at night
Day 2: Myeongdong shopping district, War Memorial and Museum, cable car to Namsan Park and Seoul Tower
Day 3: Gyeongbokgung Palace, Insa-Dong shopping area
Day 4: Bukhansan National Park hike
Day 5: Iwha Mural Village, noraebang
Day 6: Jongmyo Shrine, Changdeokgung Palace and Secret Garden
Day 7: Traditional Korean Tea House, noraebang in the evening with hostel friends
Day 8: Shopping at Express Bus Terminal underground mall




Seoul is one of those cities where if you have 1 day or 1 week you’ll easily find things to do (and eat). As I finish this post up I’ve just finished my first day of activities in Jeju and will be blogging about my time here soon!
Until next time!
Next up, Jeju-do (Jeju Island)

3 Days in KL (Kuala Lumpur) – A Review

Roti canai, teh terik, chicken satay, oh how I miss you.

My trip to KL was not part of my original plan. As I searched flights from Indonesia to Seoul, every option had a layover in KL. Having been told that 9 hours wasn’t really enough to experience the city, I made the decision to spend 3 days in the Malaysian capital.

I was a little apprenhensive about the humidity, having melted countless times over in Bangkok and then recovering in Indonesia. My 3 days were thankfully lacking the humidity levels I feared; the weather was hot and still but not at the levels I experienced in Thailand.

Armed with firsthand knowledge from a friend that had spent a few weeks of her own eating her way through the capital of Malaysia, I was looking forward to food-filled days. Combined with an amazing and cheap Indian restaurant attached right beside my hostel, I was set.

My first day in the capital happened to concide with Hari Merdeka, or Independance Day. Merdeka Square was the site where the British flag was raised and the Malaysian one raised on August 31, 1957. The main square was the sight of a huge parade of dancers, army and government members, and floats. The mood was joyful and festive, and I got to marvel at the mix of British colonial and Islamic archtitecture in the surrounding area.

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Military planes fly over the Sultan Abdul Samad Building during the Merdeka parade

Even though it wasn’t humid, the heat got to me quite quickly and after 2 hours I headed back to the hostel to plan out my evening. I decided to find a beef noodle shop along Petaling Street.

At this was quite sick of being hounded by stall owners, so stopped my walk early and sped walked to my beef noodles refuge.

On my second day I made my way to the Petronas Twin Towers. The bottom was filled with people trying to get the perfect shot, and touts trying to get said tourists to purchase selfie sticks. With the skills acquired from the last 3 months of travel, I managed to get some good shots with no selfie stick required.

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Tol and smol

And then proceeded to eat the best chicken satay of my life at Madame Kwan’s in the Suria KLCC mall.

Day 3 I made my way to the Batu caves, a Hindu religious site built into, well, a cave. I was a little nervous because the monkeys here are supposedly quite brave, and after being chased by one in Indonesia I didn’t want to be subjected to thtat again. Thankfully, brave didn’t equate to aggressive in this situation. I made my way up the 272 stairs, spent a while wandering the inside of the caves (where unfortunately they were completing a lot of renovation work and had a lot of the areas fenced off) and sweating, and made my way back to KLCC for more chicken satay. And mango sago.

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If I had more time in Malaysia I would have planned to spend some more time outside the capital. However, thesse 3 days were perfect for a bit of sightseeing, and a lot of eating.

Until next time!

Next up, South Korea!

Bali Baes (AKA 6 days in Ubud – A Review)

Yes yes excuse the slightly tacky title that me and 2 friends named ourselves during our 6 day adventure in Ubud.

So Ubud is quite a popular tourist destination ever since the movie “Eat, Pray, Love” came out. I could describe my time there simply as “Eat, Haggle, Take-50-pictures-of-friends-so-at-least-1-turns-out”.

We stayed about a 15 minute drive outside of the city at Gangga Blessta Homestay. If you ever find yourself in Ubud book yourself in here because the level of service we received and the friendships we forged will forever stay with us.

We decided to hit the Traditional Art Market in Ubud for our first day. Not so much a traditional market as a souvenir market, the 3 of us got to practice our haggling, to very satisfying success. I admit that I usually am too shy to haggle, don’t feel like I should if the item is already fairly cheap, and always fear that I’m taking away money from the people who sell these things as a living. However, here, where everything is inflated to 3-5x the price it should be, it was time to refine my skills. The 3 things that seemed to work the best for me: Be smiley and have a fun tone when you name lower prices, go for the older stall ladies, and walking away with a smile and “no thanks”. I bought a bit more than anticipated…but I am being mindful of my budget, and am getting things I know I couldn’t find back home.

The next day was a long one. Tegenungan Waterfall and Pura Besakih, the most important temple on the island of Bali. The three of us found our “signature pose” while wandering the grounds with our guide. We also stopped by a coffee plantation and had a sampling tray of some of the most delicious teas and coffees I’ve ever tasted. If anyone reading this ever has the chance to try mangosteen tea and coconut coffee, accept ASAP.

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When we fit in Jatiluwih Rice Terraces into the next day’s itinerary, we expcted maybe to spend an hour there. However, with walking paths covering the grounds encompassing no less than 600ha, we took 3 hours to wander and take ‘gram-worthy pictures. I loved these terraces because it was very easy to get away from the crowds. You simply walk a few minutes and you have a wonderful scenic area all to yourself.

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The highlight of our Ubud adventures was definitely the sunrise treking adventure up the active volcano Mount Batur. 1am wake up, 2am pickup, 3am breakfast, and 4am start time. We reached the freezing cold and windy viewpoint at 5:30am, and even in leggings and a windbreaker I was shivering like crazy. I had to hold a freshly boiled egg in my hands for a slight bit of relief. Thankfully, after an absolutely gorgeous (but frickin cold) sunrise, walking in the direct sunlight helped to warm us quickly. A highlight of the trip, for sure.

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We took a well deserved spa and ice cream filled itinerary the next day. With my skin still recovering from a sunburn I stupidly received in Sanur, and sore quads from the hike, I was most thankful for the full body massage, scrub, and yogurt rinse. Also because I won’t be able to be spoiled like that in Vancouver. Maybe for $200…

Also I am in love with mangosteens and don’t even want to think of what I’m going to do when I can’t find someone in the market or at the side of the road selling fresh mangosteens (sobs).

Ubud is a great base if you plan to make longer trips to the famous temples and attractions. The city itself is busy, but we still found local restaurants that weren’t full of tourists and lots of cute places for small treats.

As for me, it was an amazing energy boost to travel with 2 friends for a week. I love solo travel and alone time, but now that I’m nearly halfway through this trip seeing familiar faces was super refreshing. And I will admit that as much as I enjoy eating alone, it was fun to once again enjoy good conversation over meals!

Until next time!

3 Days in Java

(Aside: I am VERY delayed on these postings and am trying my best to remember the best details to relay to you wonderful readers!)

I can’t remember anymore what exactly I was searching; “Best temples in bali”? “Best temples in Indonesia”? “Day trips from Bali”? The specifics escape me at this point. But what I do remember is a picture of Prambanan and Borobudur temple. And falling in love. And realizing immediately that I had to see this temple. Finding out it was on Java, a separate island from Bali. Searching possible ways to do a one day tour from Bali. Thinking that I wanted more than 1 day for this now definite side trip. Leaving the planning until about a month before I was due to land in Bali, and booking the return flight during my stay in Zürich. I was going to Yogyakarta!

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I booked an early morning tour of Borobudur, a 9th century Buddhist temple that lay abandoned following the Javanese conversion to Islam. This meant a 3am wake up time to drive to the lookout point that would provide a view of Borbobudur and the surrounding mountains as the sun rose. It was a slightly foggy morning so the temple outline wasn’t very clear, but everyone was respectful and quiet as the light of day hit us, and I could only imagine the craziness and non-stop shutter sounds if I had booked the sunrise tour at the temple itself.

At 6am we were driven to the temple grounds itself. After milking the fact that I can still abuse my student card for student entrance fee prices (no shame because it was $30 for Borbobudur/Prambanan joint ticket with student card and $50 without), it was time to explore. I had had a very dull and dissapointing first week in Indonesia, and as soon as I took a step into the temple complex I felt complete. The top level, with stupas and amazing mountain views, simply blew me away. Most of the sunrise crowd has dissapated, leaving only a handful of people and making it easy to find areas of solitude.

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For the following day, I had an afternoon tour booked of Prambanan, a 9th century Hindu temple. At 5 hours long, I would be able to catch the sunset at the temple complex. The main grounds were busy, but a 1 minute walk to a trail surrounding Prambanan was basically abandoned. The friend I travelled with and I found a wonderful viewpoint that offered a stunning panorama of the entire temple complex and the setting sun. With the annual jazz festical providing a (surprisingly) soothing soundtrack, I allowed the pride and satisaction of my ability to plan a side trip to set in.

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With limited time in Indonesia, I cannot recommend Borobudur and Prambanan enough. It’s even posible to fit both in one day, though I feel as if I may have been “templed out” had I done such a thing.

So for those thinking of detours on their main travels; I say go for it!

Until next time!