Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Moving (on)

I was watching this EatYourSushi video and it got my thinking about the same question, "What's it like starting over in a new country?"


There is no easy answer to this, it's been both easy and hard. Yes, I was alone coming here but the minute I landed, I met other people who were on the same boat. At the EPIK orientation I made my first friends, and even though I don't tend to make friends easily, it was a comfort just to know that we were all clueless in a new country. 

As soon as I went to Pohang, my first city, I was lucky enough to have great neighbors who were new and old to Korea, so I had a good support system right away. 

Yes, of course I've had my breakdowns. I've cried myself to sleep missing my family and wanting to drop everything and go back. 

Just this past few weeks I went through a rough patch. I was super stressed out, and my first thought was "I just want to go home," but talking to my friends not only calmed me down, but it has definitely let me know how much my friends care for me.

Another easy part is that us expats are not really starting from zero. When we get a job here, most of the employers offer accommodations or offer extra money for rent. With EPIK, you get furniture and some pocket money right away to buy essentials. Also, with EPIK, each person gets an assigned "handler" or co-teacher who helps you out to get settled in. My handler was extremely helpful; she took me grocery shopping, she took me to the bank to open an account, she took to the cellphone store, and she pretty much was just there for me.

Something that is definitely a problem is not knowing the language, but living in Seoul is pretty easy compared to living in Pohang where almost no one speaks English. I can get by with basic words and expressions. Though I do know people who have been living in Seoul for years, and they don't even know how to read Hangul.

So my experience coming to Korea doesn't even compare to my parents' experience of moving from Mexico to the US or to most immigrants'. Most people have nothing when they move and start a new life somewhere else.

That's today's reflection haha. Now for the fun stuff! Today is my 5 year anniversary in Korea! I knooooooow, it doesn't even feel like 5 years, crazy! So to commemorate my anniversary with Korea, here are some things that I did over the summer from my Korea Bucket List:

Dokdo and Ulleungdo!


Muiido ...I actually got to go there twice this summer, yay!

                            

Look at that sunset!


Boseong Tea Fields
Definitely a favorite from now on.

Find the floating heads hehe

                                   














It was also nice to go back to Gyeongju ^^


























And lastly, thanks to Korea, I am debt free!! On September 9th, I made my last student loan payment, yupiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii. Man, that was a struggle, especially these last few months because I really really wanted to pay them off before turning 30. I can make it rain now!!!

Do I regret taking out loans? Nope! Otherwise I wouldn't have been able to study abroad nor take some time off work when I was doing my MA. So, thank you Korea!

Hope you had a great summer! 

Peace!






Saturday, July 30, 2016

Heeeeeey, summer!

Summer is here, and so is the rain. Since this is actually my first full summer in Seoul,  I thought I'd add a few things to The List about summer.





This is an event we were supposed to go to, boo!
147. Rainy Summers (typhoon season). Though I love summer, Korean summers can sometimes suck because it rains quite often, and it is very unpredictable.

Korean summer is really icky as well. It is so humid that you sweat just by sitting down and being motionless. Add the rain on top of that, and it's a yucky feeling fest. Unfortunately, due to the rain, sometimes summer events get canceled, boooo!

Typhoon Sanba in 2012; it knocked over the school's canopy 
I held out on buying rain boots because I have never really needed them since I have summers off. And so if I just wear sandals wherever I go, I'm fine. This summer however, I'm actually working almost full time M-F, so I gotta wear nice shoes. About three weeks ago when it was raining really hard, my shoes got completely soaked that I was so uncomfortable throughout the day, so I decided to get a nice pair of boots. Cute, right?!



148. But when the sun comes out, it is picnic time!!! Picnics at the Han River are one of my favorite things to do when it's nice outside. Just pack up a bottle of wine, some cheese and bread, a mat, and you're ready to go. Actually, do don't even need any of that. You can buy almost anything there. You can even order takeout ...yes, takeout will be delivered to wherever you're sitting. When you get to the park, a flock of ajummas will attack you to hand you their take-out chicken/pizza fliers. 

The last time I was at the Han waiting for my friends near the subway station, I got so amused by their attacks that I started recording them. These ladies are intense! At some point, two of them started fighting each other because a younger ajumma kept pushing an older one whenever they approached a person, crazy!



149. In the video above you can hear them (00:26), the cicadas. They only come out in the summer and are annoying AF. They mostly stay on trees and blend in pretty well, so you'll never really see them. 

From what I've heard, cicadas have a very sad life. When they hatch from their egg, they immediately go underground and stay there for years until they become adults, come out in the summer, sing, mate, and die; que triste.

Y de paso aprendí que en español estos animalitos se llaman cigarras ...no tenia idea jaja. 

150. This last one doesn't have to do with summer, but rather with the last post. I wrote about how Koreans like to sit on the floor at home. Some restaurants (Korean food) have floor seating as well. When I first came to Korea it was kind of annoying to go to those restaurants because my legs would get all numb. Now that I'm used to it, I don't mind it; I actually prefer it sometimes. But anyways, there is this bar in Gangnam that I've been to a couple times and it also has floor seating! You feel like a Roman lying down and drinking your cocktail. Awesome!

Other things happening in my life:

I passed my Korean Level 1A class! Woot Woot! 



I CAN'T PLAY POKEMONGO!!!


WHY? Check out this map below. Google maps is not allowed to fully work in Korea because of national security (having to do with North Korea). The rhombus type shapes are the areas protected, thus nobody can use PokemonGo there. However, if you look closely, there is a tiny small area to the north east that does not fall under the protected area. Apparently, a few weeks ago, thousands of people flooded the city of Sokcho in order to play. I would go, but, meh, just too lazy.

                                     

Lastly, thanks to the Jisan Rock Festival, one of my dreams has come true. The awkward 13-year-old inside of me finally got to see the band that saved her life. AND IT WAS AMAZING! 

I was sick as a dog, but waited 7 hours standing in the sun surrounded by lame Korean teenagers all the way at the front so I could see them as close as possible. I'm still paying for it though; I'm still sick, and I don't know when I'll be all better. But again, it was all worth it!!



Hope you're having an amazing summer!
Peace!!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

GUUUYS It's My 100th Post!!!

And since this is a special occasion, I thought I'd do something different. When I started writing The List, I thought I should focus on things that are different from American stuff, so I almost never write about similarities. The only times I have written about similarities is when I've talked about Mexican and Korean similarities, though I've only mentioned a couple. Today, I'd like to add more to that list -some of which will also be added to The List. 

Why? I just find it remarkable how similar Korea and Mexico are when it comes to the smallest of things. It's the small things that amaze me the most.

                                                  Amélie, anyone?

This is for sure not a complete list, and though I've been trying to add to this list the minute I landed in Soko for the first time, I'm sure there are loads more. So if you got more, shoot and I'll add them.


Spicy food -duh, this is a given. Though I do have to say that it is a different type of spiciness. My family only knows this, but I don't particularly enjoy Mexican spicy food  *gasp!* ...yeah, I know. My mom always had to make me a separate batch of food if she knew I wouldn't eat what she made ...soy una concentida jeje. However, that doesn't mean that I can't handle it, trust me, I can. So when I came to Korea and started eating their spicy food, I was like "pff, you call this spicy?" What I mean is that Korean spicy food burns differently. Mexican spicy food hurts/burns as you swallow, but Korean spicy food is quite enjoyable. Needless to say, I do prefer eating Korean spicy food over Mexican spicy food hehe ...sshh, don't tell my mom though.

Side note, it blows Koreans' minds when I tell them that it is thanks to Mexico that they have spicy food, you're welcome! 

Other Food -in Mexico we eat moronga, here they eat sundae (순대). Both countries eat chicken feet. Both countries eat intestines (tripas/ gop-chang 곱창) ...I guess in 'Murica they're eaten too, but only in the South. Both countries eat insects (chapulines/beondegi 번데기). Mexicans eat frituras as a snack, Koreans eat them too:

notice the hot sauce my Mexican friends and I added hehe
Patriarchal ...and misogynistic -Not much to say here, it is what it is in both countries. I felt so bad when my Korean female coworkers at my old job would tell me how their husbands didn't give a crap about them, and that they were just there to clean, cook, and raise the children.

There was a recent attack in Gangnam Station where a man hid in a bathroom and waited to kill a woman. In a statement he said he did it because he hates women:


On the up side (if that), one kickass thing that women do in a marriage is that they take control of the family money, ha! 

**UPDATE: I saw this post this other day. A new women-only train is going to be tested in Busan. One of the reasons is to prevent crimes against women. Shouldn't they focus on the problem instead of trying to put a bandaid over it? EDUCATION PEOPLE! Parents and the community need to educate their young sons to not be assholes. I know of mothers with sons in Korea and in Mexico who have straight up told me that they would never have such a conversation with their sons because ...well just because they don't want to. AY! The ignorance. 

Superstitious -Mexicans believe in el chamuco, la llorona, lighting candles to saints for luck, and many more things. 

142. Koreans believe that you can die if you sleep with the fan on and leave your windows closed. I do it all the time, yet here I am. 

Koreans also believe in fortunetelling (Mexicans do too). (#77)

143. Koreans believe the number 4 is unlucky. They are so hard core about it that most elevators will only say "F" instead of listing the number. (see pic)

Family oriented -a def nice thing about both cultures is that both are very family oriented. Like Mexicans, young people do not move out of their parents' until they get married. Also, holidays are about being with family not about getting trashed with your friends.

Family image -and the above leads to this. Family image is everything! Both cultures will lie about their problems in order to portray a happy perfect  family which c'mon, who has one?

Small cities similar to Tijuana -This is something I've been saying since I moved here but no one believed me. Actually, when I took my Korean friends who were studying in SD to Tijuana, the very first thing they said was how similar it looked to Korea. I, of course, didn't believe them, but once I got to Pohang, I was like "yup!"

This is a picture of a neighborhood near where I live, and it could easily be Tijuana.


Electricity cables - one thing that both countries share is how crazy the electricity cables can get. Both countries give a crap about safety -you can kind of see it in the pic above.

City feel -and not only can Mexico and Korea look similar, but they also feel similar. It's a little hard to explain, but the low buildings, trash everywhere, and dog ddong/caca on the street make me feel right at home, lol.

Jay walking -this happens in most countries I guess. The difference between Korea, Mexico, and the US is that in the US you can get a ticket for it. Here and in Mexico it's nothing illegal -or at least not enforced at all. However, one thing I've noticed here is that people are not that careful when they jaywalk; they don't look both ways, children and adults alike! I've seen more than my share of almost accidents and even a couple accidents, yikes!

Bad drivers -I've talked about bad drivers in Korea before, but I didn't mention that in Mexico (or at least in Tijuana), they are pretty bad as well. Unlike most US expats who are scared to get behind the wheel, I'm not scared of driving here in Korea since I drive in Tijuana too.

Street vendors -ah yes, one of my faves. In both countries, street vendors are everywhere. They sell anything from snacks, to hats, to toys for your kids. 

Lack of hygiene -street food in both countries can make you sick haha.

Soda with meals -In Mexico we drink coke, here they drink cider, or a Korean version of 7Up. 

Sparkly clothing for doñas and ajummas - I wish I had pictures of this. But I will say that when my mom came to visit, she blended right in.

Tackiness -and the clothes aren't the only tacky thing in both countries, the level of tackiness both countries share is hilarious. Both countries looooooove tacky doilies and anything lace. Both love tacky figurines. The worst is when Koreans buy a nice car and they tacky (new verb?) the crap out of it with tacky cover seats and monos on their dashboards.

Exhibit A (Korea): Tacky fake flowers glued on to the glove compartment of a taxi.

Exhibit B: Look at all that tackiness ...look at the monitos!!


Lastly, Exhibit C: poor car (wedding car)



Bad hair dyes- especially on doñas and ajummas. In both countries when they do home hair treatments anything could go wrong, and if often does. 

Floor seating -in Mexico we use petates, in Korea they use floor mats. All Korean houses I've been to have a dining set and couches, but they prefer to sit on the floor to eat and watch TV and sometimes even sleep. I like it. I'm siting on the floor now as we speak instead of my couch or desk chair, haha. 

Marry early -I'm considered an old maid in both countries now *ask me if I care*. I've heard of Korean girls marrying just because they "have to" since their parents pressure them to and end up in an unhappy marriage. So sad. 

144. Tuberculosis vaccine scar - I have mine and Koreans do too! The weird part is that children nowadays have this crazy looking scar, which is actually kind of cool looking.

I never took a pic of my students because I though it'd be weird to be like "Hey, let me take a pic of your arm", but I found a pic on the internet.



So that's what I go so far, I may keep adding more if they come up later so stay tuned.

In other news, today in Korea is Chobok (145) which according to the Lunar calendar, it is the hottest day of the summer (not really, it's been raining and a little chillier than normal). 

Dog meat stand in Ansan

Chobok is part of a three day cluster (2nd day = Jungbok” (중복), 3rd day = Malbok” (말복)) which is a part of the month long sambok (삼복) or boknal (복날) meaning the dog days of summer. From what I've read, it used to be a holiday for farmers who needed to get away from the heat before their harvests. Traditionally/historically on this day, Koreans ate dog stew, 보신탕 (boshitang -146) to keep cool. I never got the logic of how eating a hot stew keeps you cool by the way.

Anyways, I don't know how I've never talked about dog stew. First of all, no, not all Koreans eat it nor have tried it. Especially people here in Seoul are disgusted by it. But yes, there are restaurants hidden here and there. There are still dog meat markets (to which foreigners are not allowed). People in the countryside are more likely to eat it. And yes, I have expat friends who have eaten it. 



I would NEVER EVER EVER EVER try it. The one time I thought my coworkers had taken me to a dog restaurant, I almost puked.

Back when the World Cup happened in Seoul, the government was trying to say that they had completely abolished this tradition and closed down all dog stew restaurants, BS!! ...I wonder if they'll say the same for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.


Thankfully, nowadays Koreans do not eat dog stew on Chobok, they instead eat a chicken soup called samgyetang (삼계탕) or other traditional dishes like bingsu, yum!!


Lol, sorry, this post ended up longer than I expected, but thanks for sticking around! 

Hope you're having a nice summer!

Peace!!




Sunday, April 24, 2016

Crazy shit!

I've written more than once about the lack of caution drivers have in Korea. Just now though, I witnessed the craziest thing. A toddler was alone walking from an alley to the street -she looked like she was 1 year old. My obvious reaction was to wonder where she was walking to and where were her parents. She was holding a phone and seemed to be talking to someone. I wasn't sure if she was actually receiving instructions to walk towards someone or just pretending. 

As she got near the street, I got concerned that she would have to cross the street alone. A car passed her by barely missing her. Then a motorbike also passed by barely noticing her. I was about to jump from my seat to go get her.

Then another car came and instead of stopping or even slowing down, it just honked like crazy. Thankfully, there was a group of ajjeoshis who held her back and rescued her from getting ran over.

But seriously? What driver just hunks at a little girl?! The driver should've done everything in its power to come to a complete stop, A COMPLETE STOP!! 

Her grandma later came out running from a house from the alley. She thanked the ajjeoshis and walked away. She didn't even seem to be concerned that she could've been ran over. The little girl shouldn't have been on the street alone to begin with, but that driver would've had aaaaaaall the blame if something had happened. 

My heart is still beating so fast right now that I can't drink my coffee anymore.

Jeeeezuz!!


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Pop!


St. Patty's ...Spring kick off!
Time to get back to writing; sorry, it's been a busy semester. Not only am I taking Korean classes, I'm also working 5-days a week like a real person, boo! In case you're wondering, yes, uni jobs here usually contract you for 4 days/week (sometimes 3), but most universities are going through changes, so now the foreigner staff is the first victim. I'm not complaining; I am still beyond grateful to have my job. I just have to get used to the schedule which has been a bitch. But like anyone else, gotta move on and fight that bitch. So here I am.

The List for today.

138. Children at coffee shops. This is so odd to see to be honest. I know I'm not a parent, so some may say that I don't understand. And maybe I don't, but what I definitely don't get is why parents think it's a fun idea to take their kids to a coffee shop. They drink their coffee and chat with their friends while the children sit there with a smart phone playing games. 

Isn't this selfish?

Why not get coffee to go and meet your friends at a park where your kids can be kids? Mmmm.
At my local coffee shop ..notice the excitement of the boy on the left

Do parents do this in Murrica?

139. Want to get a tattoo in Korea? No problem! No, it is a problem! You would have to look for a tattoo artist who has a medical license. This is the legal way of course which doesn't even exist because it's a ludicrous combination. What doctor decides to tattoo on the side? Or what tattoo artist will put himself/herself through medical school just to tattoo?
This law leads tattoo artists to be labeled as criminals and hide underground; total bullshit!

I actually don't know fur sure it it's a medical license that's needed, so it may be something similar. But what I do know is that it ain't that easy to just pop open a tattoo shop.

Watch this:


First official picnic of the year!!
140. One of the most anything things of going to a restaurant in Korea: one menu for everyone. Gaaaahhh!!! I don't get it. Seriously. The worst is when we have a huge group of people and pretty much have to wait in line to take a look at the menu. Some of us sometimes have to resort to stealing menus from other tables, lol. For those of us who are indecisive, we may have to wait in line again to take a look at the damn thing *le sigh*.

My guess as to why they do this is because Koreans share their dishes, so maybe one person takes charge and orders for everyone. The funny part is restaurants that serve Western food also follow the one-menu-per-table thing even though most Western food isn't meant to be shared. On the other hand, the only restaurants that give each person a menu is restaurants that are owned by foreigners and serve western food.

141. 사랑니 (Sarang-ni= love teeth = wisdom teeth). I had a couple students tell me about this a while ago. They told me that in Korea when their wisdom teeth start to come out, it means they will fall in love soon. Cute!

Why do we call them "wisdom teeth"? Are we supposed to have more wisdom when we get them? HA!

Since spring is here, I'd like to end this post telling you about cherry blossoms that were in full bloom a couple weeks ago.

My new favorite place to see them is Kyunghee University. The cherry blossom trees were absolutely delightful. They felt more organic as opposed to the ones in Yeouido where they are planted in neat rows, boring!

I took my bicycle to the campus (only 10 minutes from my house!), but I wasn't sure what to expect. I was first impressed with how busy the university area is; there are lots of restaurants and cafes to enjoy, so I'm definitely going to go back to explore.


I also wasn't expecting that many people to be there. There were people having picnics, and there was even a couple taking their wedding pictures. But thank goodness it wasn't as crowded as Yeouido.


So next spring , head there!

Happy spring everyone!
Peace!

PS: The title "Pop!" refers to a movie I just saw about Korean twins who were given up for adoption but were separated. The movie is called "Twinsters" and it's on Netflix, watch it!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Paradise #2: Thailand and Malaysia

I just remembered one more for winter as it decided to have one more last hoorah before it ends and dump snow on us today. 

This one is especially for you San Diego people where you are very lucky to not have a real winter. For those of you who do live in a place with a real winter, this will be boring.


137. Every time it snows here in Seoul and I got out to the streets, I noticed either sand or what people have told me is salt, on the ground that either melts the snow or helps make the streets not as slippery. When I noticed this, I didn't know where it was coming from; it just always suddenly appears.


Also, ever since I moved to Seoul, I started noticing these boxes along the streets (they're there all year round). Little did I know that these boxes contain the magic stuff for the snow! So when it snows, city workers go around the city shoveling the white stuff onto the streets. Not only that, I've also seen huge trucks spraying the streets. I have yet to find out what the chemistry is behind the salt, but I thought it was something interesting that we definitely don't have in San Diego.

Anyways, now to talk about PARADISE! Hooray! Here's The List for Thailand and Malaysia in no particular order; I just added things as I traveled along. 





Thailand:


1. Less pushy sellers. Thailand is the third country I go to in South East Asia, and I can definitely see the difference on how sellers push sales on people. In Cambodia and in Indonesia sometimes I felt pressured and hassled to buy stuff. It was just easier to completely ignore sellers unless I really wanted to buy something. But Thai sellers barely even paid attention when I went into their shops. They wouldn't immediately start throwing prices at me, which to be honest, felt kind of refreshing to not have to deal with the whole ordeal.

2. Lots of kitties too! Duh, of course I had to mention this; but it really seems like SEA is just filled with kitties no matter where you go. Needless to say, I loved it.





3. Drive on the wrong side! Haha, just kidding, but they do drive on the left side. One thing I learned about Thailand's history is that it is the only SEAsian country to not have been colonized by any Western country. So if they weren't colonized by the British, whyyyyyy are they driving on the left??? 

4. Thai boys want a free ride. Lol this is a funny one. When I wrote about Cambodia a couple years ago, I talked about how I saw white guys with Cambodian chicks who were just companions for the trip. In Thailand it was no different. In fact, I noticed it even more. What struck me the most was how in Cambodia it was mainly old/fugly men with Cambodian chicks, but in Thailand I saw plenty of attractive looking men with Thai chicks, why go all the way to Thailand to get a girlfriend? 

Fresh strawberry smoothie
Anyways, that's not the point. Since it seems to be pretty normal for Thai chicks to get a free ride-along-Thailand trip, Thai men are getting on it too. More than once at bars, bartenders (men) would make comments such as "you need a Thai man." No thanks, homeboy. BUUUUUT I did notice a handful of girls with young Thai men hehe, get it guuuurl!!

5. No mud butt ! Yay! TMI maybe but who cares! It may be that my stomach is getting used to being exposed to worldly germs, haha. In Cambodia, I was so sick that it even scared me to go to the bathroom. In Indonesia, I did get sick, but I had zero cramps. Now in Thailand, and Malaysia for that matter, nada de nada! Yay!

6. Chubby greeting statues. Cute little figurines that greet you at the front door. However, I don't seem to make a connection between the statues and real Thai people. All the statues I saw were chubby, but Thai people are generally skinny. Weird.



7. Street food is amaziiiiing! Oh man, I still can't get over this one. Thailand is THE country for street food ...mmm make that #2 'cuz Mexico is still #1 hehe. My favorite thing to do in the evening was to find a market and just try as many things as possible. Delicious things everywhere!!! 

Fresh fruit smoothies!

crepes!
coconut cakes
My favorites were the fresh juice/smoothies stands and the crepe stands, nutella banana anyone? Yum!



One of my favorite snacks, fried food!
8. Mini gas stations. I saw this in Koh Lanta, cute little things. 



Malaysia:


9. Cheap! If I thought Thailand was cheap, Malaysia beats it hands down. I felt like I barely spent any money there.

10. Drive on other side too. Well at least I know that Malaysia was a British colony, so there is a reasonable explanation. Thailand, I'll be waiting for yours.

11. Starbucks is cheap! Referring back to #1, even Starbucks was cheap! And by cheap I mean compared to Korea; the prices were pretty much the same as they are back in Murica. I ordered my usual mocha frappuccino with soy milk and a pastry, and it came out to be just under five bucks. 

12. Starbucks door greeters. Yup. What is this, Walmart?

13. No tall size at Starbucks. Weird. Maybe it's not just shown on the menu board?

14. Juxtaposition of religions in a small area. This was pretty cool. When I was in Georgetown, I immediately noticed all the different people, cultures, and religions packed into a small area. There are mosques next to Catholic churches, next to a Hindu temple. In front of a mosque, I found a sign that said the street even had a name, Street of Harmony. Cool!

15. Convents. I've never seen so many in a single area (this was in Georgetown). Not sure if they were using the word convent to mean girls' school or something like that.

16. Mini coopers, lots! ...everywhere! ....the British influence again, maybe?

17. Durian ban. Have you ever smelled durian? If you haven't, it smells like vomit, pungent vomit. But people like to eat it, so I was surprised to find out that durian is banned inside public transportation and even inside shared hostel rooms. Thank goodness! 

Sign on a public bus
My Chinese roommate in Georgetown had it in our room, but thankfully when the host showed me to the room when I checked in, he was shocked and immediately asked her to get it out of the room. 

17. Women only coaches on trains. Not sure why they have this. It is a Muslim country, so maybe they want/need to be separate sometimes?

So that's it for my trip. Of course there are many more things that I would like to say, but I don't want to bore you; my pictures and whatever you Google are enough to tell you how breathtaking these countries are, and they should be a must in everyone's travel list.

If you would like to know more about the best beaches/places I went to, let me know, and I will gladly tell you. 

Sunset in Koh PhiPhi
OOOOOOHHHH I almost forgot, I was able to cross off one item off my Bucket List. I completed my scuba certification!! I am soooo excited for this; I can't wait to start using it in other countries #fearconquered.
With my scuba instructor, Lorenzo
Peace!!