Tag Archives: city

Snippet of Borderline Case

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As I walked back from the public library to the bus station, the gigantic franchise bakeries on the main street were throwing opening special events.  One was Paris Baguette and another one was Tour les Jours.  In front of Paris Baguette, a bras band made of three or four white men was constantly playing tunes, wearing uniforms as if they are one of the Paris Baguette crew or bakers.  Of course they are not.

In front of Tour les Jours, they, too, had a random white guys in front of the newly opened store.  Also in Tour les Jours uniforms.  But I doubt they are actual staffs. Either way, the stores hired some random white boys for a one-time event boys.  Like how old Harrods department store used to have exotic animals to attract more customers.

I couldnt’ help thinking how they are like caricatures of foreigners in South Korea: good ornaments, looks like they belong ,but not so in reality.  But who cares, they are 외국인 (foreigners).

Then what about me?  I look like belong but not so in reality.  I might be a good ornament, but less so because my passport, looks, blood and names are not foreign enough.  I can’t really tell which is worse or better.

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The Coffee/Cafe Craze in Seoul

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For some reason, the coffee/cafe craze in Seoul city doesn’t stop.  And I don’t like it.  You might say, “well, what’s the problem? Of course it’s good to have a good cafes! That’s what cities are!”  Yeah, sure, if those cafes are all very unique, quiet, and serves good tea and snacks.  But no – it’s all Starbucks, Coffee Beans & Tea Leaf, and domestic brands who tries too hard to imitate the first two (and often their drinks taste like shi*).

One of the things I hate the most about Seoul city is lack of quiet, cozy cafe where I can enjoy decent tea (and snacks) and read for hours.  It is near-impossible to find a quiet cafe in Seoul.  Pretty much every single cafes are in the main streets of some populated, touristy area, with multiple stories and hundreds of seats.  Of course it is exploding with people.  And, I don’t know why, but so many Koreans always come and go as a group.  Sure, sure – one of the cafe’s function is to enjoy your time with good people.  But, again, I don’t know why, but Koreans tend to speak loud. Really loud.  Even when you don’t have to.  So imagine trying to read your favorite novel, surrounded by 10+ groups, all speaking really, really loud at the same time.  Oh, and the ceilings of these cafes are so damn high, the sound reverberates.

Secondly, despite the number of cafes in Seoul, they are all same. ALL. SAME.  It’s like Wallmarts – after all, it’s either Starbucks, Coffee Bean, Cafe Bene, or Tom&Toms.  That takes away one of the joys of cafe visiting.  You already know what it’s going to like, and you know what the menu will be like.  Why bother?  You just end up doing same things, or just stuck in your room, watching the same old TV show.

Lastly…almost all of them seriously lacks tea menu.  I’m a tea person and this greatly saddens me.  It’s upsetting when you ordered a cup of black tea, paid 5,000KRW and the tea bag says Lipton.

The thing I really loved about Tokyo was its richness of cafe culture.  They have Starbucks, but it’s certainly less crazed than Seoul.  Tokyo is full of million cafes run by different individuals.  They are all different in looks and menus.  And yes, they also serve a lot of teas.  No one bothers you whether you come alone or no.  There are people who come in as a group, but they don’t scream like Koreans (they do so in bar or pubs, though).  So for me, pretty much every weekend was great.  I would grab a map and my favorite book, eye-shop for a cafe, take a seat, and enjoy great food and lovely tea, along with book.  No one bothered me and all was very calm.  After 4-5 hours, I would come back to home, very content.  Tokyo has its share of hustle-bustle cafes, but at the same time, there is almost equal portion of no hustle-bustle cafes.

So far, I found only one or two cafes that satisfies my standard of cafe.  I was at one of those cafes today, doing my stuff.  A group of girls came along, probably working on a fashion industry, about to have a brainstorm or something.  One looked very absent-minded.  They opened the labtop and logged on to (what is supposedly) their company website.  Like many South Korean websites, you know, one of those things filled with Flashes and big beat music.  They just left it on.  So that big music started to echo in the whole place, mixed with John Mayer songs.  I ahemed a bit.  They did not notice.  I was annoyed (I caught cold. Again).  Finally, I had to say, “look, would you please turn that music down?” The girl was so surprised, hastily said “oh, sorry, sorry.”

Isn’t it a common sense to either silence your sounding device or use your own audio set in the public place?  Like, she should have known it as soon as she take out her computer, instead of putting it on until I say it.

Few days ago, I watched a documentary on Seoul’s cafe craziness.  Surprisingly, many Koreans associate Starbucks and other big-name coffee store brands as better and tastier and more sophisticated.  Starbucks? Sophisticated? I don’t know. But I wouldn’t make fun of it, since my image and experience of Starbucks and that of many other Koreans are different.  I suspect it also has to do a lot of Koreans’ consciousness of the look of others – but hey, if you think the coffee taste like shit, you can say it.  Don’t pretend just because you are worried about what others might think of you.  They aren’t paying for your coffee.

Most of all, if you want to look sophisticated, you’d better start with the sophisticated behavior – because, failing to behave in what is supposed to be sophisticated place will actually make you look worse.  Sadly, I haven’t seen many Koreans doing so.

CCK from Mono-Dad

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My dad is a good man.  He is very responsible, good at his job, and hard-working.  While he is not exactly the romantic family man type of father, he is dedicated for family.  Compared to millions of other typical Korean dads, who still believes they are the king of the jungle hence get to be the “bum” back in home after work and command other family members, he is far better.  Most of all, I would not be able to enjoy what I have now without his dedication and hard work.

But he is still Korean dad.

Ever since I came back, there were moments of conflict.  I, who grew up in States, was accustomed to state my position clearly in words and direct communication.  My dad did not.  My dad took this as me just throwing excuses and not respecting him, unlike his colleagues’ kids.  Now we somewhat got over with it.  I do not meddle in his land and he does not meddle in my land.  Still, there are moments when I get pretty irritated, such as him NEVER EVER answering the phone in home (instead he tells my mom or I to do it) or asking about my future plans and “advises” on it out of blue.  It is better than being ignorant, but I cannot help thinking, ‘since when were you that interested in my future plan, when you barely sent me an e-mail or regularly asked about me to my mom?’  (due to the working hours and time difference, my mom got the most updates on me real-time) While I value his advice on some topics, like interpersonal stuff, it is a bit baffling when he started to say I should do this and that on field that is not his expertise.  Lastly, when he suggests that we should have a conversation, that conversation usually ends with him saying whatever he wants to and me only allowed to say “yes, yes, gotcha.”

I am aware of the fact that my parents are not CCK like myself.  I am also aware that my dad is not a big travel bug like my mom, visited USA less frequently, and does not speak fluent foreign language.  I do understand why some people of homogenous country treat light-skinned foreigners and dark-skinned foreigners differently, rather than calling them “racists!” instantaneously (I knew an American girl from Ohio working in Korea – I was pretty baffled when she says Korea is such a racist country and she is so thankful that she is American.  Not entirely false, but she failed to understand that Korea is historically homogenous country just started to take baby-step for diversity and forgot US had a long history of obvious racism too!).  I know non-CCKs’ definition of foreigner is different from that of CCK’s.  I also understand while homosexuality in some countries is socially accepted, in some other countries it is seen as perversion, mental illness and/or sin.  It is not because these people are just ignorant scumbag; they grew up in a different society with different values and thinking process.

But I really do not know what to do, or how to react when my non-CCK, Korean dad calls homosexuals as “homo saekki (Korean, literally brute, figuratively and realistically “fag” or “bastard”).”  If these are the words from some person of my age’s mouth,  I could have just yelled that you are such a narrow-minded impolite douche.  Obviously, I can’t really do that to my own father.  Especially when I am perfectly aware of him being middle-aged Korean man, and how Korean society views homosexual individuals.  On the other hand, it is hard for me to stay quiet since some of my dear friends are homosexual.  Things would have been so much easier if I were just any non-CCK Korean who has no homosexual friend and have Korean understanding of homosexuals, or an American with very little understanding of Korean society.  Well, I’m neither.  All I could say was “Dad, please.  Some of my good friends are homosexual.”

As we eat our meal at the  Moroccan restaurant, the chef’s family and employees – all Moroccan – were enjoying lazy and relaxing Sunday brunch, and family time in the same space.  There was a very cute, lovely, cheerful 8-years-old girl.  After watching some Korean pop program on TV, she got bored and started to play doctor with her cousin in perfect Korean.  I thought it is great she is fluent in Korean, but I was not that surprised.  Nor did I thought her as a foreigner – the ultimate CCK question, what is the definition of foreigner and who can define it? Though she might be Moroccan physically, is she really a Moroccan when she is living in Korea with Moroccan family, interacting with Koreans on daily basis and attending Korean public school?  In the middle of friendly conversation, I heard my dad: “so how many foreign students are there in your school?”  I froze for a few seconds.   I was just begging secretly for either the girl or others in the presence not to take offense of my dad’s question.  No one took offense.  To my dad, of course she and her family are foreigners.  To me, that’ is hard to tell.

He is my father.  Without him, I would not be here, writing this.  Without him, I would not be enjoying many comforts in my life that I have now.  We chit-chat and joke around.  Yet he does not feel like a close family member to me.  Being a CCK (or just “someone who is literally all over!”) I really do know that blood tie is not the only thing about family.  He is my dad and always will be, but is he a family to me?

I don’t know why CCK/TCKs have all this questions coming up in life in addition to all the other common questions……

Stormbringer, or Disasterbringer

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The well-known life coaching book, Secret.  Paulo Coelho’s novel, The Alchemist.  What do they have in common?

All these two books say: whatever you wish, dream on, be positive and keep up with your effort.  Everything on this world is on your side, and your wish will come true.

I like it, and to some extent I believe it.  But there are some period – let it be day, weekend, week, or month – making you wonder that God hates you for sure and the entire world is against you.  It’s one of those days.  You wake up, open up your fridge to make a delicious scrambled egg, only to find that all of your eggs are expired.  Holy snap, but I’ve already defrosted my bacon and potatoes!  So you head off to local supermarket, but the traffic is bad.  And then you find the supermarket is not open today. you shrug, turn back, and then now someone has crashed your car window and took your car audio away.  You are hungry, wasted your time and gas, and got something stolen.  You wonder – what the fuck is wrong?  Did I do something wrong?  Why, oh why, does God hate me?  I’m sure he hates me!  Maybe because I didn’t go to the mass last weekend? Yeah, one of those days.  Know what I mean?

To me, half of this week was it. As of the end of January, I finished my work from the office I kept ranting talking about on this blog.   I did not want to be a lazy hikikomori bum, and now several plans on my mind, I was so ready to get on the new days.

Day 1.  Internet breakdown.

I thought this is a perfect time to write an e-mail to my dear friends.  So I turned on my modem and computer. Well, something’s wrong .  I could not even connect to Google.  Maybe my computer failed to recognize the connection?  I tried reboot.  Nope, still doesn’t work.  Alright, maybe the cable was loose?  I checked it, rebooted.  Nothing.  Okay, maybe it’s IP communication problem.  I’ll just turn off the modem, wait a bit and reboot.  Still, nothing.  So I tried turning off the modem and my computer.  No connection.  Finally I picked up the phone and called the customer service.  After doing exactly what I was doing for hours, the representative said they will send the maintenance technician on the next day evening.  I knew my mom would be at home, so I said okay.  Turned out, my mom had some last-minute plan change and she would be away.  Great.  It turned out the main cable of our apartment town had a major problem, so instead of sending 300 technicians to each household, they repaired that one main cable.  Next day, the internet was back.  But I failed to write e-mails as I planned.

Day 2.  PC Crashdown.

I turned on my computer, wrote all that e-mails I planned.  One last thing – I tried to install the Korean version of Microsoft Office, so I can review what I learned from my evening MS office class on that day.  Installed the Korean version, and deleted the English version, which was originally installed on the computer.  For some reason, the applications started to go crazy.  Whenever I open one excel file, I would get multiple Excel windows throwing Korean and English ribbon menu.  What the heck?  So I tried pretty much everything.  Tried windows uninstaller released from Microsoft’s official website, direct erasing from explorer, and lastly, touching up the hard drive registry by myself.  Nothing worked.  After 2 hours of researching and trying, I was very annoyed.  Computer, it’s either me or you dying tonight.  I’ll just say I ended up formatting my hard drive and re-installing the entire window, not to mention re-installing of all that drivers, downloading/installing all of my programs, and adjusting settings.  I won, but I went to bed at 4: 30 am, only to wake up on 9:00 am.  Because if you sleep too much, it messes up your sleep cycle.

Day 3. Sleep Deprivation.

It was one of the better days.  Despite severe sleep deprivation, I managed to catch up with Brian, drinking coffee.  I’m usually a tea drinker.  If there is time for me to drink coffee, that was my final exam period in college.  So if I am drinking coffee, that means I am so goddamn frigging tired, probably able to hurt someone if I am further annoyed.  I still pulled myself to the evening MS office class.  But really, for the whole day I was just out of my mind.  How can you be, if you had only 4.5 hours of sleep?  If this day was minus Brian, I would’ve gone crazy.

Day 4.  Cancel, cancel, cancel.

I got up early and went to Yoga studio, so I can make up last day’s missing workout.  The door was locked – it was their weekend off.  So I had no choice but to walk all the way back to home.  I and two other pals, who studied Japanese in college and still passionate about using it, planned to go to this Japanese-Korean language exchange community’s weekend social.  I was excited.  As soon as I finished putting powder on my face, one of the friend called me, saying she can’t make it tonight.  I am not mad at her – her reason was totally understandable.  But there I was, feeling a dark shadow looming over my supposed-to-be wonderful Saturday night.  So I checked with another friend.  He was not fully recovered from his bad sore throat.  What can I do, except pushing it to next week?  By that time I was halfway dressed, so I was back to my pj in 10 minutes.

Then my mom called me, for a dinner out.  Great, my facial powder will do justice.  I was back dressing up, completing my makeup and all ready to go out.  10 minutes later, she called: “Oh my, the traffic is really, really bad.  There’s no way I’m going out for dinner.”  So again, I was back in my pj, with makeup only to be cleansed within 30 minutes.

In sum, I spent about half of this week doing nothing, despite of my willingness.  I absolutely hate it when I am done with planning and also physically/mentally ready to turn on the engine, but everything doesn’t work out and you are forced to turn yourself off.  Then, usually, when you just want to sit back and relax, everything forces you to go on.  For the times like this, even the most religious one can’t help asking: “God, why do you hate me so much?” or at least “God where are you? What are you doing up there?”  Well, if you are too busy, you don’t even have a chance to ask.  It’s uncanny how I wanted to relax a bit for this coming week, but now I have more meetings than this week so I am unlikely to relax, at least for the first half of the week.

Well, well, one of those weeks…I’ll just cross my fingers and hope next week to be a better one.   To be honest, there were some good stuff this week – like delicious dumplings and ramen for dinner.

Jan 22-24 Weekend Sum-Up

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Jan 22 (Fri): I got out of the office a bit early, and headed to the aesthetic salon near my home.  For about $70, you get your face and feet and leg and entire body.  Good deal.  Mrs. Shin, the ownder and also one of the two masseuse in this place is such a hard working woman and I have a lot of respect for her.  She opens her place for 24 hours, and get to see her family who are not working with her – her husband and son – once in a while.  Some might find her a bit aloof.  Unlike many other who works in aesthetics, she rarely talks and a bit clumsy when talking.  But I really do not mind – after all, you go aesthetic to relax and possibly pass out, no? I’ve been known this lady for more than 5 years, and that is when Mrs. Shin was working as an employee or local mokyoktang.  After much trouble – I’ll just say her average earning was higher than others, and there rises the trouble – she managed to quit and opened her own place with her daughter.  Like gyms, aesthetics can cling – like calling you every once in a while, asking you to come and talking about their campaign and such.  Usually at your busiest time.  I find this pretty annoying, so I simply say no.  But Mrs. Shin is exception.  She texts me about twice or thrice per month.  Just like herself – no fancy emoticons, background pics, nothing.  Unlike other aesthetic spams, I give in and call her back.  You can’t just ignore someone who is working that hard and diligent! And she and her daughters are good.  And I get free food that’s really funky good for my health every time I visit there.  So why not going there?  I only wish her and her family the best, and people like her deserves success.

Jan 23 (Sat): After long and winding road of scheduling, I finally managed to hang out with Margaret and her big group of cheery friends.  It was sooooooo good – I really, really needed this kind of social with drinks.  I’ve been busy researching information about my potential target employer and looking for Chinese language school/MS office courses, while going through my colleagues constantly bugging the hell out of me.  Urgh.  There is an ice rink operated by Songpa gu (ward) government – for 87 cents, you get free skate and helmet rental and 90 minutes of free skating.  The skate and rink itself is not superb (duh, it’s free rent, what do you expect?) it was a really good deal. Not only it was fun but also because I haven’t skated for forever!  I used to be a speed skater and while I was skating, I was so tempted to get a new pair of speed skate.   There are several ice rinks open to public – in terms of ice, I would say Taenung is the best but I don’t know about their rentals.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t offer rental service.  There’s another one in front of city hall and Lotte World but it is always overflowing with people, making it impossible to move on ice, let alone skate.  But this one at Olympic Park, I definitely recommend.

So after that fun skating, we stopped by Margaret’s place and then hit the road to good ol’ Hongdae wonderland.  Unfortunately, Margarita Splash was out of enough seats (try hanging out with Margaret.  What originally was a group of two triples within three hours – I am amazed how she makes such a big group of friends quickly!).  So we moved to a local Makgoli place.  It was quiet an international group with no common points, but that is what made it fun. Damn I did not know Makgoli makes your stomach fuller than beer.  We had a Korean photographer, two Korean OLs (maybe three because technically I fall under this category), one Japanese student and two American English instructors.  So it was a big jumble of Japanese and English and Korean thrown all in a bowl.  With drinks.  So you can pretty much imagine.  As the clock hits 11:00 ish, I bid my goodbye – I can’t really keep up that late, and I don’t want to miss my train to home.

From Hongdae (for me, Sangsu) station to my home, I have to change my train once at Yaksu station.  Surprise surprise, when I was about to go downstairs heading to platform, I saw several white guys and Asian guys standing there, talking, and two station officers standing at the entrance of platform with walkie-talkie on it.  I immediately thought, ‘oh shit, bad situation – Korean officers and western dudes getting into a trouble, stay away.’  But it turned out that the officers were there simply to let people know the train is no longer running.  I was relieved, but five seconds later I was a big frustrated.  Only few months ago I changed my train here around 12!  What happened?  I managed to get a cab, but said my destination to department store (No, I wasn’t drunk) – in the end I managed to get to my home safely.

Jan 24 (Sun): My dad’s brunch fever continued this week.  As soon as I opened my eyes on 10:30 morning, my mom was standing in front of me, still in her pj and said, “brunch outside today.”  We went to Butterfinger Pancakes – it’s a restaurant serving typical American style food, like egg, bacon, shakes.  I was super excited to see eggnog on the menu, only to be disappointed to hear they no longer service eggnog.  Darn it.  But the food was good and very large in portion.  Love it. We had to wait for 20 minutes because of the long, long waiting list, but the food was worth it.

While we are eating, there was a family with young kid on the very back of restaurant.  From our waiting the baby kept shrieking, making everyone to turn back once in 15 minutes.  I do understand he is still a young kid, but shouldn’t the parents do something about kid when he is screaming really loud, especially if they decided to bring young kid to a restaurant like this? Like saying “be quiet in public place,” “do not annoy others” or even taking out your kid to outside for a minute? Next to our table, there was a dad and a young son just like this family I talked about.  But they were so different from this family mentioned above.  They were all really gentle and quiet.  The father cuts and passes food to his son, and his son quietly ate it.  When asking for something, the son never raised his voice.  It was two extremes in one restaurant.  I almost wanted to give a nice pat on the quiet kid’s head.

As the “screaming family” leaves the restaurant, I could clearly see it from the looks.  They might have money to afford to come all the way to this posh area of Seoul and have your en-vogue meal called “brunch,” but they clearly does not belong to this town.  They were not local.  The “quiet family” was already different in looks.  Now, please do not get me wrong.  I do not mean to portray myself as a princess living high up in the golden castle, and I hate judging people solely based on their looks or what kind of brand they have.

After many revolutions, bloods spilled and lives lost, most of the westernized/industrialized countries managed to achieve democracy where the importance of social class dropped to near-zero.  As long as you can afford it, nothing stops you from eating wherever you want.  But still, there is a thin, fine line that separates people by group.  And it’s natural.  You can’t hide it even though you wrap yourself in Hermes and Prada and brandishes your seven digit bank account statement.  Actually, doing so only worsen the situation.  No matter what you do, it’s gonna ooze out from you.  And you can’t hide it.

Readers, sorry if I made too much of big deal out of small thing.  But that’s what my family talked about and I agree.  And hey, I’m INTJ, always thinking too much.  Get over it.

Jan 15-17 Weekend Sum-Up

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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.

The. Best. Show. EVER.

LOM's Spin-Off in 80's - Ashes to Ashes.

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 BroadbandSkylife 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.

Confused

Standard

Dear Ceberus,

It is unfortunate that you’ve decided to leave – I know you put a great deal of effort for the program and I appreciate it a lot.  Call me when you can, I would like to buy you a lunch.

Park

After receiving my Christmas card, Dr. Park, the program director of EC Program (which I manage) and also a professor, sent the e-mail.  I like Dr. Park – he is one of the few people who can speak a good level of English with his US degree (trust me, there are a ton of people who got all this prestigious degree from States yet speak bollocks of English).  Even better, he is good to work with.  He leaves me to handle the job, easy-going, yet does his part when needed.

So we went out for a lunch.  He is talkative, which is good – I am not that talkative.  Moreover, it is even more difficult for me to be talkative in front of Korean senior.  In Korea, if you talk too much in front of someone who is older than you are, you probably would be regarded as an impolite person.  So most of the time I listen, nod or say “yeah, I know, right” and he gets even more excited to talk.  Good combination. Or maybe he felt the need to talk more because I don’t talk much.  Anyway, he talked about this and that – and many of them are pretty useful advices for me.  I will compile them separately.  Yet some of them are wacky.  He said “accounting isn’t all that bad, it’s not about math; it’s more about logics and creativity. Business is more about math.” According to my sneak peek at accounting textbook, it was a ton of math and I suck ass at math.  Sorry, I’ll filter that one out.

Then after a while, the topic started to move to my upbringing and background – that I grew up in States for 8 years and spent another year in Japan.  Park mumbles and blur the point a lot, so I often have to ask “sorry?” Then he said: “You know, doing that – asking me to repeat – is just like me and my nephew talking.  He’s Korean-American, speaks pretty good Korean, but always ask me what I mean and I have to repeat.”

“Well…that’s because you mumble and blur a point a lot but I’ll keep shush.”

“I think it’s because you grew up in western culture, you know? It’s not your language ability.  Western culture is a very low context society while Korea is one of the highest.  Like you have to just infer it and left things unsaid, which does not work in US.  So yes, you speak good Korean, but you don’t really speak Korean-Korean.”

I still think it’s mostly because of his mumbling, but he has a point here.  So I just decided to listen on; after all, it’s not nice to interrupt your senior in Korea, right?  Park went on.  He has an older brother.  When Park was 9th grader, his family lived briefly in States.  While Park came back to South Korea with his family, his brother went on to college there, got a job and is still living there.  His bro speaks good Korean and says he is Korean, but Park doesn’t feel that he is.  They are still very close to each other, but when Park tries to share his experiences in Korea to him, he just doesn’t get it.  Naturally, Park stopped to share it with his brother.

“My kids are somewhat like him.  And you too, I bet. What American teenagers experience and what Korean teenagers experience are different and it’s really hard to be shared, you know.   Once you are exposed to all that friends and surrounding, there’s no reverse.  So don’t try too hard to convince yourself to be Korean or have some Korean identity.  You will never feel comfortable, like wearing a jacket that doesn’t fit for you.  Don’t try too hard, like you HAVE TO get a job here and settle down. You are American. “

Thanks for realizing that I’m not the next-door-Korean-neighbor!

Realistically, it’s difficult to not to do that.  The opening of job market is very narrow worldwide, and South Korea really lacks option to develop your career in a step-by-step way.   It’s one shot or nothing.  Many organizations involve a lot of hierarchy and vertical structure, which I am not a fan of.  Like Park said, my potential Korean bosses and colleagues will throw it directly to me, instead of giving me some time to settle and learn, saying ‘well, aren’t you Korean?‘ On the top of that, American immigration regulation is getting tighter and tighter, despite Obama administration’s promise.  Who wants to hire a newbie foreigner, involving much more money, time and administration than newbie local?  (Which is why my potential employer canceled the whole deal).  I don’t see any positive signs of change on regulations yet (I know I know, super-busy time with that social security bill).  On the top of it, I think it is important to have a first-hand work experience, preferably with different business cultures.  Maybe not.

Overall, I am grateful for Park, not only for lunch and good advices, but also for recognizing that I am not quiet a typical Korean.  It feels better that there are Koreans who see me as I am, instead of throwing “oh well, you are Korean” and shove it to my throat.  Sense of hope and comfort, I guess.

But at the same time it also felt weird to hear “you are American.”  I guess more than half of what makes me came from American experience, but there are times when I clearly felt that I’m not 100% typical American (duh) – to begin with, I have a nice dark green South Korean passport and nothing else.  Once in college, I was left out from the class discussion for the entire semester, being the only international student and also the only non-Caucassian.  When I was about to speak something of A, everyone else already started talking about B.  I was so stressed out that I had to take Tylenol before I walk into that class.  I went up to the professor, almost crying, only to hear: “Um, I am not too sure what I can do here…so what do you want me to do?”  So I went up to the Dean, who was very understanding and only after than a situation got a tad bit batter.

I think I am closer to figuring out about my plans (or maybe I just want to believe so?).  But this will remain as a big homework for the rest of my life – dealing with people who does not understand the TCK identity.

So let's trust my power as INTJ...if things don't work out, I can just be an ultimate villain and blow the shit out of this world.