Jan 15 (Fri): Meh, typical. Out from work on time, had my late evening Yoga class starting from 8 pm. By the time I finished, it was about 10:20 pm. Different from other Friday nights, I had a small casual meeting with Brian – founder of LinkedIn community for expats and professionals in South Korea, also working as an English instructor. It was so hard to just to meet him. On our first meeting, I got sick. Second, he got really busy. Third, we could not make it. But finally, for this time, we met at a local cafe near Shinchon, along with his lovely friend. He was such a delight to have around! Moreover I have not had a good social conversation in English for a long time…so it was a really good moment for me. I would not put up all the details and such about how he ended up in South Korea after all that big name with thick paycheck office job in Philly. However, listening to hear his story invoked me one of the things I miss about American culture: emphasizing on “being yourself and choosing what makes you happy.” Overall, South Korea lacks choices when compared to US…but it’s also true that the falling world economy is limiting choices all over the world, Korea and US included. On the top of that, it is always fun to talk about surprising points about modern Koreans or part of Korean custom that leaves us the most imporession. At the same time, it is funny how I, being a Korean, shares a lot of sentiments with expats here, while capable of offering a better explanation than other expats.
I think the nirvana level of understanding different customs is not only embracing it, but also figuring out how it is different from your home culture, look back into their history a bit so you can reason in your way, and furthermore able to explain it in your language. But I am not saying everyone should be able to reach the explanation level. To many people, accepting difference is already a big giant step forward, and I would like to send a big applause for people who are able to do that.
Despite of Brian’s popularity in South Korea (lol), we agreed to spend more time whenever we can – I get to meet his boyfriend too next time, if possible. How exciting!
Jan 16 (Sat): Went to Mokyoktang (목욕탕) with me mama for a nice bath, sauna and exfoliating. Go ahead, feel free to laugh or gasp but I’ve been doing this since I was 6 with my grandma. Before we head off, there was an issue between my mom and me. Like I said before, my mom is all about looking nice and en vogue. I, grew up in a humble Midwestern America, is not (I’ve improved over the course of years though). I had my hoodie, jeans and doc martens. My mom was not particularily happy with my fashion (if you can call it as a fashion) then went on and on and on and on about my clothing. I exploded. But getting stark naked in a same place makes people feel more friendly and closer, so by the end of our regular Mokyoktang session, we were all friendly again. Mums and daughters of the world, unite.
Did I tell you BBC entertainment withdrew its service to Skylife, which my family subscribed for satellite TV? Nowadays, to my knowledge, there are three satellite TV service providers in South Korea. Skylife, Qook and SK Broadband. Skylife is the oldest one, slowly losing its market share. As soon as we noticed that BBC entertainment is no longer serviced to Skylife (they didn’t even send out a prior notice!), we tried to cancel our subscription and switch to SK Broadband, which offers BBC entertainment AND BBC life. Unfortunately we are bound to this damned evil contract with Skylife until April. Sob…My family’s average TV watching hours decreased dramatically since then. So instead, I opened up my Life on Mars DVD box set and played it. Though I am a big sucker for this show and its spin-off, Ashes to Ashes, I did not get to watch it throughly. For some reason the display was too white and I had to struggle with DVD player’s display setting for about 20 minutes. But I figured it out. Ha! This is the best TV show ever – and if you are a fan of 70’s pop music with all that retro stuff, and able to laugh off at the politically incorrect lines, you’ll fall in love with this. Avoid American re-make version.
Every weekend, I promise to myself that I will take a solitary walk with a book and have a quiet quality time at a cafe. It worked very nicely in Tokyo. Ever since I came back to Korea, it worked only once so far. Whenever I take off, it’s either every places are so crowded, the shop closed down, or I don’t go out. Honestly the major reason is third one. I blame it on the weather and population flooding downtown location. I can’t really blame it to the visitors from other districts – it’s true that Seoul does lack places where you can have some quiet time with tea and book. Maybe I’ll just have to practice getting my lazy ass up and take off.
Jan 17 (Sun): Got up a bit earlier than other days, probably because I slept A LOT on Friday and Saturday. My dad wanted to have a family brunch. I had to come back by 1 pm, since I promised to be Skype online with my dear friend Maria. Well, my dad was running late – he showed up at 11:30 am. Then the place we originally wanted to go was overflowing with people waiting – there was 6, 7 groups before us. Not 6 or 7 people, 6 or 7 team. So that’s about more than 20. You can imagine how anxious I was already. We gave up, hit another place with low expectation Fortunately they had a quiet good food and we came out from the restaurant, tapping our full belly. By the time I got back to my home, it was 12:50. Phew!
The term “brunch” has turned in a quiet strange way in Korea. Brunch. Breakfast + Lunch. The first meal of a day when you get up after 10 am. That’s it, right? Well, in here, people see brunch as a specific kind of meal, like American breakfast – egg, bread, salad and all that. Now I am used to it, but when that whole “brunch” thing started to spread in Seoul, it definetely felt weird – almost like people are saying “yeah, I eat this thing called ‘brunch‘ at posh restaurant or cafe. I’m so sophisticated.” Fu*k that, get over it – it’s just a meal! You can still call your traditional Korean rice dish as brunch! It helps when I miss that greasy American breakfast, though. And recently my dad started to buy this Koreanized idea of brunch. I mean, I’m glad that my dad is never afraid and willing to try out the new things, but I hope he does not get the twisted idea of ‘brunch‘…
Skyping with Maria was a blast. There’s a big difference between talking without seeing the person and actually seeing the person in front of you, even if it is through webcam. It was so nice to see her again (and her dad, for the first time!) and chat about all the small things for an hour! Ever since she left here for her sun-blessed hometown in CA, I’ve been missing her. Sure, there are still many good people around Seoul, but Maria and I shared a lot – how we like to have some quiet quality time with a small group of people, drinking a very small amount and going back to home before 1 am and still enjoy it, not getting wasted and party like crazy. Yup, call us boring but it is fun for us. After she left it is hard for me to go out and do stuff with others, because majority of people want to get wasted here. I don’t mean to belittle them – as long as you are being responsible and not putting yourself into danger, or bother others, who cares? They are just doing what they like to get that stress away. I’m just not in it. Like Maria told me, we should definetly do it regularily.
At the same time, I don’t know why the current world witholds opportunities for young’uns. It’s really hard to get on and start something. Back in the days it seems like there are more opportunities and more organizations who are willing to give us some chance to start and learn through mistake, and willing to train us. Not anymore and the world is falling into a boredom, lacking color. And, let’s not forget that evil immigration regulations.
Not a bad weekend, overall.