Saturday, April 22, 2017

Same ol' same ol'

Second time! ..hehe
Yeah, the dreaded "oh my god, it's been forever since I last wrote" post is here, yay! And as usual, the lazy bug got to me, and seems like this time it got me gooood. 

Why do I suddenly feel like writing? I feel accomplished!! This whole time that I hadn't written I completed the same Korean course twice, hahahaha. Today I completed the second one. I had to repeat it 'cuz I was not in a good place last time I took it. But this time I passed with 100% and perfect attendance, boom!
First time I passed level 1B (October) haha 
I even got a perfect attendance certificate, cool!
Today's additions to The List have no particular theme; they're all random things that have been put off because they wouldn't fit into the previous entries, lol. 

151. I'm not throwing any shade on this one; I am just pointing out a cultural difference which as much as it gets on my nerves, I can't do anything about it because again, it's not my culture. So what it is? Chewing food with an open mouth ... yeah, think about that one. When I asked some students about it, they told me it's a sign of showing that the food is good. What surprised me is that they also told me that it does bother some people... others not so much. 

Even though I have lived here almost six years -six, wow!- I still cannot get used to this. And yes, I do have friends who do this, but I will not be an ass and tell them to stop. What I do do is when my students tell me that they're going to study abroad and ask for advice about do's and don't's, the first thing I tell them is to not do this in public. 

candy a student gave me with his hands
152. This one I used to think it was a kiddy thing, but I've seen it with adults too. Let's say someone is eating candy or chips. They then offer you to have some, but instead of letting you grab some with your hand, they grab some with their hand and hand it to you. Gross. The only reason I can think of why people do this is that our logic of I-don't-know-where-your-hands-have-been is applied the other way around, and they don't want the other person's hand touching their stuff. Weird. But I'll still eat whatever they give me haha. 

153. If you go to any temple, you'll see these little stacks of rocks. From what I've heard, if you add a rock to it, it will bring you good luck. However, if you knock it down, it will bring bad luck, so be careful hehe. 

154. As the weather is finally getting warmer, I was reminded about this one. Warmer weather means shorter skirts hehe. You have to remember that in Seoul, we commute almost everywhere by public transportation which means that we will run into weirdos and pervs. Anytime we take the escalator or the stairs in the subway wearing a short skirt, we gotta make sure that no one tries to sneak a peak by covering our derrière with either our purse or use our hands to keep the skirt from flapping around. Yes, this is a problem. That's why in iphones and other phones you cannot disable the picture shutter sound so that pervs don't take indecent pictures in public. 

And no, I will not accept anything like "well that's your fault for wearing short skirts"... I wear what I want!

Dress shop shopping! 
155. Back in December one of my good friends got married, so I got to know more in detail all the preparations that are different from ours. The one thing that stood out the most is that instead of choosing a dress, you choose a dress shop. The first thing to do is go dress shop shopping -this involves going to shops and trying on dresses that they have and getting to know the staff. After choosing it, they will rent you all the dresses that you'll use for the wedding and the photoshoot (yes, wedding dresses are rented and brides get to wear multiple dresses, especially for the photoshoot ... oh and the photoshoot is one or two months before the actual ceremony, lol). 

Heidi came to visit (for Nicky's wedding) yay!!! 

At my friend's wedding photoshoot

156. You think you're cool with your unicorn sugar loaded frapp? Nope! We get cherry blossom sugar loaded stuff too ....every year! ...and not just food, but cherry blossoms on errthing! 

Check out this EatYourKimchi video where they try cherry blossom food in Japan. And even though we don't have as many things like in Japan, we still get some interesting things. 

Daiso cherry blossom goodies

Cherry blossom burger anyone?

Cherry blossom .99c galore!
So what else went on this whole time? ....

Saw Kimchi for my Epic 30th Celebration, yay!

Finally got to eat a McDs apple pie! (they were only brought temporarily just like the Reese's McFlurry)

Knocked Hobbiton off my bucket list! ...amazing place!!
Enjoying my complementary drink at the Green Dragon Tavern

Had a mini Pohang reunion with Matt in New Zealand

yeah baby! 

My first Boxing Day with the Bolton Family

Went to Australia and hung out with some furry friends.

Went diving in the Great Barrier Reef ...another bucket list item. I also got my advanced certification, yay!

Went to Sydney too :)

The Blue Mountains in all their glory .... -_-
So about eleven years ago I saw Coldplay for the first time and it was epic. Last weekend they came to Korea for the first time, and I was lucky enough to get a last minute ticket from my friend Jayoung. This concert doesn't even compare to when I saw them last; they had the whole enchilada from fireworks to balloons to singing a little song written specifically for Korea, cuuuuuute!

That's it! That's 7 months worth of writing haha. I will not make any promises as to when I'll write next since who knows when my booty will want to sit down again and write even though I enjoy it a lot.


PS: Nobody in South Korea is worried about North Korea. We all know here that it's all exaggeration from the media. People are instead focused on the coming election since the last president was impeached. So don't worry about me hehe

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! 


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 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! 


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!

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 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!