Tag Archives: Japan

Never Complete

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I’ve been very busy.  My law school prep course is tight, and the people who are taking the same course are not the most contributing kind.  I just finished submitting my 2nd paper of the course and it’s 1:43 am here.  Phew.  I feel like I am back in my college, writing papers until 3 am with app kind of books, papers, cups and clothes spreaded all over my room.

Recently I became a friend with Jay, who is in pretty much same situation with me.  Jay’s passport is South Korean, but he went over to Arkansas at age 3 and spent his entire life in South.  Then something happened and he had to come back, now serving his military duty like a good South Korean citizen.  He is going through some of the phase I went through (or currently going through) so it has been a pleasure to talk with him.  Maybe it’s because him talking about how all of his friends are in Arkansas, and how he misses the American South – good barbeques, cool beer at patio in the midst of warm, humid south air and laid-back people.  I didn’t have a chance to property visit American South (okay, I visited Florida once but that’s not really South…no offense, Floridans), but I understand him.  Likewise, I miss crazy snowstorms, how everything was either gray, black or white, the crisp cold winter air on my cheeks, reddening my skin, and kind Midwesterners, wrapped in their Gore-Tex Northface shell jackets and hats.  And we are two Koreans in Korea.

Maybe it was because of this chat, but a thought suddenly occured to me – that I probably will never feel “complete” or “at ease” wherever I go.

When in Korea, I hate the fact how the whole society is homogenous, stigmatizes different voices, treat “foreigners” differently based on their nationality/skin color, thinks it is totally okay to sacrifice individual for the sake of group, and communicating vertically only.  And how all the “foreign” foods that isn’t really expensive or that special suddenly becomes twice the original price and treated like some kind of luxury. And the total lack of middle ground market for clothing and pants: they are either all really short, really small, or really decorated over the top.  In addition, most of the pants don’t fit me well here.  I misses Japanese people’s respect of privacy and misses a lot of things about America.  Of course, friends those are not in Korea, too.

When in the United States, I hate the fact how people have allergic reaction to any kind of government regulation (Grow up, people!), shipwreck med insurance system, D- grade infrastructure, evangelist politicians and total lack of public transportation.  Then I start to miss a lot about certain things of Korea and Japan: those two countries superb public transportation and infrastructure (both countries has bullet train AND public transportation covering entire nation; US is like x10 bigger than those two.  What are they thinking?!?!), awesome public med insurance and 24-hour operating service/stores.  And free restaurant deliveries.  I again start to miss home and a small number of friends in Korea.  I’ll probably miss more once my school starts, since I managed to make a bit more friends in Seoul.  And how you can “get around” some rules by connections and negotiations in Korea.

When in Japan, I hate how people don’t ever tell anything in a straightforward manner and unwilling to take any risk or responsiblity. Usually, there are no words equivalent of “flexiblity” (not in a literal sense, though).  Bureaucracy there is so bad, and the decision making authorities are so unwilling to change, even if it is verge of survival.  Sometimes they are way too obsessed on small details.  And, kind of like Korea, it is so hard to be considered seriously if you are not one of them (fortunately, I suffered less of this because people around me were so great and I look Asian – Japanese – enough for most Japanese).  Soon I start to miss how things are so much more straighforward and flexible in America and Korea.

Sure, I appreciate my unusual international experiences.  I know that is my edge, and I know that’s what makes me as me.  But think about it – most others feel pretty settled and fine in a certain place.  Your friends are there and you lived there long enough.  All the pieces that makes you are at one place, so whenever you want to go back or get some peace of mind, you can just go to that one place.

But what about someone like me?  My entire childhood is spread around the world.  I can’t simply drive several hours or get a weekend trip to revisit my past and remiscine good ol’ times.  I don’t have my private jet.  You can’t just plan to visit America from Korea over a weekend.

Whether I end up living in America, Korea, Japan, or somewhere else, one thing is sure: I will never feel complete or settled.

People say acceptance is the key to everything.  I accept, I guess.

But it still saddens me – that I will never feel complete or settled for the rest of my life.

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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.

Being Smart Doesn’t Help You.

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At least in hiring process in Asian company.

Sorry for being MIA for a long time, readers.  While I’ve been studying for LSAT, my motivation started shake pretty badly, because the employment for graduates were bad, and even worse for non-citizen internationals like myself.  People who graduated from top10 schools, like Columbia, were coming back to South Korea because no one was offering them a job, let alone internship.  Now that is something I really do not want, especially after busting your butts for 3 years and paying huge sum of tuition.  And my score stalled (which isn’t impressive at all, by the way).

Then I randomly ran into a global hiring posting by a prominent Japanese company (henceforth JC).  This company is fast-growing, young Japanese company who did really well even in the global recession, and they are very aggressive in international expansion.  Most importantly, they sponsor your visa and you get to work in Tokyo.  There aren’t many employers willing to sponsor your visa in times like this, and in my humble opinion, it is a bit foolish to not to take such an opportunity.  After all, I didn’t have much to lose.  Even after law school, I would love to work focused on Japanese market, and I thought it would be a good chance to test myself and the company – whether I can fare as TCK in Japan, and the company really means what they say.  And, I wanted to check I can actually handle the daily work.  Plus, they pay for the flight and accommodation – and the JPY is frigging expensive.  Hell yeah!  I applied, passed the resume screening, 2 interviews, and 2 personality tests.  Then I was invited to Roppongi, Tokyo, Japan for final interview.  According to the official e-mail, the chosen candidates were to spend 9 days in Tokyo, having some presentations, group discussion, 2.5 days on field, and then final interview.

The flight arrangement was not smooth at all.  Some of the factors are my fault, but again, many things could have been better if the outsourced company planned a bit more carefully.  For instance, my flight schedule was changed once.  The flight number and time were same.  I went to the Incheon airport on the day of my flight, and handed my passport and e-ticket.  The lady at the desk looked really confused, and said: “ma’am, your flight doesn’t leave from here.  It leaves from Gimpo airport.” (Seoul city has two airports).  Fortunately, I did not miss my flight but I had to give up all my practical duty-free shopping, like my formal black coat which was 30% off.  I am just glad Tokyo’s temperature did not drop much during my stay.  It turned out that the flights have exactly same numbers, but two different flights leaving from different airports.  I wasn’t the only person confused.  Honestly, it would have been more convenient to let people book their flight individually and file compensation to the company.

Then, for some reason, the company did not make a solid plan for meals.  So 15+ people who flew from all over the world had to just follow chaperon, visited a restaurant, wait outside for a seat availability, kicked out, walk, then another restaurant.  Had they thought more, they could have divided us into smaller groups (Roppongi doesn’t have big restaurants with lots of seats!) or made reservation to somewhere else.  Really, it’s not that hard.

But all of this are nothing compared to people from Russia and Mongolia.  Something went wrong in immigration, and they were locked in the airport for 3+ hours.  As soon as they arrived at the office, they were greeted by 3 hours long personality test.  During the program, We were given 2.5 days to spend in actual workplace.  After the first day, each group’s field experience was vastly different, and it wasn’t hard to infer that the pre-arrangement was next to non-existent.  Around the middle of program, a strange rumor was spread- that after the interview, the company’s human resource officers will secretly pick candidates to have final round of interview with the CEO.  Not everyone took it seriously, and many thought it is just some urban legend created by frustration and nervousness.  After all, you wouldn’t do such a covert operation when you are doing “international hiring,” and many people came all the way from the other side of earth, flying 10+ hours.  Right?

The 6th day was supposed to be wrap-up/review meeting with human resource people.  Well, in the morning, the human resource officer said the plan has changed and the interview will be today.  Not an ideal situation but not impossible to be understood.  But then, the interview arrangement was shit.  They had only two interviewers to interview 27 people in a day.  Expectedly, interviewers were totally worn out, and toward the end some candidates were given only 4-5 minutes, if not waiting for 6 hours locked in a waiting room.

Then on the next (and also the last) day, we were supposed to have a group discussion.  A lady from human resource picked 7-9 people, saying there is something wrong with their personality test so they will have to retake it.  Now, this already sound strange – retake? On the last day?  And those people were asked to bring their translation receiver.  When one candidate asked, “excuse me, but why are they taking receiver for taking a test?”  The officer said “well, they just have to be returned for a while.”  Nice excuse, ma’am.  The rumor turned out to be true.  In addition, the “chosen ones” were asked to lie to others (that they took test, not the final interview with CEO) by human resource in order to “keep everyone happy.”  Instead, the intention of “keep everyone happy” really made everyone awkward with each other.  And people knew it anyway, so what was the point of “lying?”  If you want to hide something, hide it well.

Since I had a working experience in South Korea (where the business culture is very similar with Japan), my reaction was more like “well, I should’ve expected it…” (not that I was happy with it).  Now, the people from UK were flipped.  Totally flipped.  They pretended that they are just asking others’ opinion, but really they made a pretty clear complainant to the company.  By no means I am saying the chosen ones were undeserving losers – but everyone who were called to the “secret final interview” were people who don’t really have their own opinion (or don’t really state it), a bit naive, zero to little experience living in Japan, and speak zero no little Japanese.  Now, if you say you are looking for someone who are going to work in Japan yet hire someone who has zero to little Japanese experience, I think the message is clear: the company wants people who are easy to deal with, follow their way unquestioningly, and easy to train. Some people who were active and/or received positive feedback on in-field experience did not get the job.

If the supervisors who actually spent time with us were decision makers, I think the result would be very different.  But they were not decision makers, and usually, Asian middle managers don’t want smartest/brighest/talented/skilled people to be hired – they don’t want to be outsmarted and lose their face in public.

Now I really don’t hold any hope on Asian big-shots’ “globalization.”  If you are doing everything in a very local way while hiring, how would you expect to have a diverse, fresh view in your company?  I would not expect the companies to be 100% honest on their intention.  But if what they want is “nice” malleable people, they really should not say they want someone active and self-thinking – for three days straight.  This company calls itself as young, active, and a totally new type of Japanese company.  They could’ve just told us such-such things are to be expected, instead of hiding everything (and never admitting it even after everyone knows everything).  Go and screw your sorry ass, and forget about globalization.

I don’t want to sound like ugly American/Westerner who believes everything  western is better (after all, I’m not exactly the westerner).  But in terms of communication and getting to the goal, west is better – there’s no crap and meaningless effort involved to hide.

On the positive side – my supervisor liked me, I got some compliments, and people whom I spent time together liked me.  And I got to visit some of my dear people in Japan.

The Shoe Journey #1

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Maybe it was that random inspiration little voice talking in your head, maybe it was the compass item to be carried with TCKs as souvenir, or maybe it was because I was way to annoyed by my spatially challenged apartment’s shoe shelf overflowing with shoes.  I really wanted to write about something on my blog, but I couldn’t figure out what to write about.  Today, as I walk down street, suddenly with a lightbulb I thought of shoes.

Yeah, yeah, I can picture the male readers of my blog cringing at the corner, thinking “holy hell, Ceberus was another shoe-crazy woman” and expecting a posting bombarded Louboutin, Jimmy Choo, and other brand names with kill hills you can’t possibly pronounce, let alone wear.  Well, no worries, because it won’t be my posting.  I thought of shoes, because, regardless of your place of birth, background, nationality, school, occupation, etc., shoe is something you can’t completely separate from your life, and one of the few things people have in common all over the world.

That being said, I ought to write my first posing shoes about Dr. Marten’s legendary 1460 8-hole boots:

 

Dr. Marten, 1460 8-hole in black

 

My father first became Dr. Marten fan when I was still living in South Korea.  That was before when Dr. Marten started their official exporting to Korea.  So how did he know about Dr. Marten?  Living in the center city, it is very easy to be exposed to cutting-edge trendy stuff, voluntarily and involuntarily.   My guess is, my dad was looking for a new pair of shoes, stumbled into local shoe store carrying their direct import shoes, introduced to these sturdy and comfy pair of shoes, and fell in love with them ever since.

Through him I got my first two pairs of DM.  One looked like 2976 (Chelsea) but with more round, upward toe, black.  Another one was the famous 1460 in black.  When my parents’ friends visited our home, they would joke “so your kid is going to army soon?” upon seeing my 1460.  I wore it pretty much all the time with anything.  When I was leaving to States, I carried 1460 with me in my luggage.  Even in States, I would wear it constantly.  Though lesser than when I first got them, I would still keep them, carry them wherever I go and wear them frequently.

One night in my college junior year, I found I can no longer wear my beloved first pair of 1460 black.  Being DM, it was ever-sturdy; but the sole started to crack everywhere visibly, and where the yellow stitch holds sole together with leather started to crack too.  My toes would get cold.

Only then I realized, that this 1460 travelled everywhere with me for more than 10 years.  In Michigan, in Illinois, in Indiana, in Japan, in Korea.  It ran the grass fields of Illinois with me.  It walked the snow-covered fields of Michigan with me.  It walked the campus parking lots with me in Indiana.  It walked the busy pedestrian roads of Tokyo with me.  It walked around Incheon Airport multiple times with me.  Physically, it was closer to me than my parents for the past 8,9 years of my life. Me and my 1460 black – by then we have been together for 12+ years.   But it has to go – its time came to the end.

So just like that, with a small vacuum in my hand, sitting on my bed, I was staring my old pairs of 1460 on Friday night, with lot of melancholy and emotions swirming in me.

Next day, I took my 1460 to the dorm’s shoe donation box.

Then, I ordered another pair of 1460 black. Unlike old days, this new pair isn’t made in UK.  But it’s still that black 1460.

We all know DM is such a unique iconic shoes for rebels and counter-culture movements.  Kurt Cobain wore it.  Joey Ramones wore it.  Joe Strummer wore it.  When Sex Pistoles and their gangs trashed the club, DM was on their feet. Charlatans are still wearing it and so does Avril Lavigne. Sure, it is special because it is a certain statement: screw you, leave me alone.

Yet DM is special to me because some other reason.  Would my 2nd pair of 1460 black will travel all over, like my 1st pair?  I can’t tell, but I hope so.  One thing I know is, no matter how old I am, wherever I am and what kind of journey I am on, I will carry my 2nd pair of 1460 with me, just like my 1st pair.

God chose me to be his/her prank target today.

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In order to balance out my study life and actual real world life, I force myself to do regular socials.  Few weeks ago, there was a nice social for expats so I and my friend went there.  We met a fellow foreigner (wait…can I say “fellow foreigner?”) who was just transferred from Japan.  Since my friend and I both lived in Japan and speak Japanese, we formed a nice little Japanese bubble.   During the follow-up emails and such, he suggested me to send a copy of my resume.  I did, and ta-dah, the interview came along.

Now, after having been duped several times and experienced multiple interviews with domestic and international employers, I don’t hold my hopes high.  However, I thought this might be a good opportunity for me.  I lived in Japan/Korea/US, know the local culture very well, and speak Japanese, Korean and English fluently.  The company was sort of business consulting, specialized for westerners trying to enter Asian market.  The office wasn’t far from my place either, which was a bonus point.

So I went to the office.  Thought they seriously lacked personnel in the office, I did not mind, knowing the company just opened their Korean office few months ago.  I was to be interviewed by my reference-person’s boss (either British or American), who is in Korea for a business trip.  The surrounding looked alright, given that I tend to work better with non-Koreans.  I came prepared.  I read off their company website, read job description, thought of few typical interview answers – such as, “tell me about yourself” – and took a copy of my own resume.  There I was, ready to play catch-ball with questions, waiting for my interviewers to throw the questions in.  Instead, the interviewer went on and on for about +20 minutes, explaining what their company does.  I appreciate his thoughtfulness, but I really think he could have cut it down to 10 minutes.  He saw my copies of his company website and I told him I read the company website.  Growing up under Korean parents who have zero tolerance on impolite behavior, I am brainwashed to not to ever cut off when someone is talking (even more so if he is my potential boss).  What could I do?  Just nod, smile and let him finish.  Thus, after that 20+ minutes I was pretty exhausted.

Then he asked, “have you read our job description?”

Well hello, I’m already DOING the interview for the very position, and who on earth with their right mind doesn’t even read job description and go to the interview?!?!?!

Finally we moved on to questions.  Which made me feel a bit uncomfortable, if not strange – because, according to my experience, a lot of interview is about what kind of person I am.  Thus many questions, if not all, are about your strength, weakness, unseen experiences on resume, background, etc.  I don’t think he asked any of that…except that he asked where do I see myself in future.  Now that I think of it, I think he just asked it because he felt he needs to do.  Generally all the questions felt like he is either quizzing me with answers already in his mind, or “Can you do this? that? this?” Most of them, I think, can be inferred from my resume…but this is a subjective opinion so I’ll put it aside.  Then as he answered my questions, I was further confused.  In the beginning, he said whether I am familiar with high-tech industry (which I answered, “well given that I am fast-learner and always curious person…” blah blah, you know the drill).  Then, in the end, he said they are looking for generalists.  Er…sorry, so your job description is…?

I came back to home after the interview.  Took a short break, checked my e-mails and LinkedIn, and changed to do some workout.  It would be a good idea to pick up my pants, which I left to local seamstress shop because the pants were a bit too long for me.  Few days ago, I left my perfectly fine and new two pairs of Uniqlo pants to the seamstress shop.  She said she make the adjustment by Wednesday.  So I visited there Wednesday.  She said it’s not ready yet.  Honestly, I wonder how long does it take to shorten your pants, especially when you already pin-tucked your pants with the length you want.  Oh well.  I went back today.  I said my address and told her I left two pairs of pants for length adjustment.

Then the seamstress was going here and there, looking for my pants.  She said she doesn’t see them.  I said:

Ceberus: Well, I left two pairs of pants for length adjustment.  Don’t you remember?
Seamstress: I don’t see them though…
Ceberus: A pair of jeans and another pair of black pants?
Seamstress: (blank face) Er…could you describe it for me?

Yeah, like it is so easy to describe your own pair of jean.  Unless you are talking about some limited edition premium jeans with swarovski crystals on the butt or grand decoration, how can you really describe your jeans? Oh it’s blue and there’s white washing on your knees?

Ceberus: Well, it’s from Uniqlo.
Seamstress: (another blank face, searching for the rack)
Ceberus:…(sigh)
Seamstress: I will have to look for it…can you come back later?
Ceberus: I can’t believe this.  You put another day of delay, and now you are saying my pants are gone.  Fine.

I was on the border line of getting late for my workout, so I backed out.  After the workout, I visited the shop again.

Ceberus: well, did you find it?
Seamstress: You’ll have to come back tomorrow.
Ceberus: …(visibly unhappy) Do you mean, you found the pants but it’s not done, or you just don’t know where the heck my pants are?
Seamstress: (smile) Well…I’ll have to look for them.

Like seriously.  What can I say.  How hard it is to track down your customer’s stuff?  I’m not talking about she should have a grandiose account managing system.  All she needs to do is tuck the memo or copy of receipt on each hanger.  I almost wanted to unleash the hellfire but I was too tired.  I just gave her a visible eye roll, and dashed out without talking.  I will visit her tomorrow, and if she has not located my pants’ whereabouts, I’ll have to make her pay for the pants.  But then, that means I’ll have to do shopping again, just to buy identical pairs of pants.  Fudge…alright, empty-brain time.

I logged on to internet.  Then, I found a cheaper deal than the pair of ankle boots I ordered a few days ago – my old boots are so very old, it’s visibly falling apart.  So I tried to cancel my old order.  But they say, by the store policy, cancellation is not possible.

Those three happened all in one day.  One fucking day.  I am so sure that someone high up in the sky got pretty bored, rolled a dice, and made me his/her prank target for today.

All that whining music saved me

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Oasis

Oasis

 

 

Radiohead

Radiohead

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some people are not a big fan of downbeat, introspective, dark shoegazing music.  I.E, sissy and whinny.  Music does affect people’s mood.  For this reason, there are plenty of people claiming a depressed person should avoid listening to these sissy sad music; some goes further, dissing these bands/musicians altogether.  “Look,” they say, “stop locking yourself up in your bedroom and play that silly music all the time.  Come out and enjoy the weather.  Listen to some happy music.  That will cheer you up for sure.”

It’s not entirely untrue; but looking back my life, that didn’t hold true for me.

Plastic Tree

Plastic Tree

I might look like a normal geeky kid with no trouble record, decent grade and alright relationship with people, but I was so lonely in highschool.  After experiencing some tough incidence in my junior high, I knew that anyone can possibly backstab me and I’d better be careful.  I also knew that small community of girls can be very tiring – all that gossiping and making a big deal out of nothing.   I don’t know whether it was because of my INTJ man-scanning instinct or experience, but either way I am not all-out open person when I first meet someone.   My high school was a big, elite-club, cliquish bubble community.  Everyone knew each other – even teachers and students, since the school had preschools to high school.  Think of J-Crew catalogues.  Imagine Gossip Girl and Desperate Housewives: now move the setting to small, wealthy Midwestern town.  If you still can’t imagine, watch this:

Now you have the idea – I almost had goosebumps when I first saw this video, because it was so like my high school.

I turned for Korean student community.  After all, I wanted to try what it is like, and was excited to see that many Koreans in my school.  I thought I would have no problem, because I’m Korean.  Soon I started to see my expectation was wrong.  I could never understand why Korean kids always have to do everything together, even if you have to sit with someone you really don’t like during lunch.   If they spot you hanging out with some white kids or bail out of some kind of group activity because of your schedule, all of sudden the whole Korean community started to bash on you and deem you as some sort of traitor.

Syrup 16g

I still don’t understand why Koreans are so obsessed with “proper treatment of senior classmen” even when they are no longer in Korean school.  If you fail to use honorifics Korean or fail to call your (Korean) senior classmen with sunbae nim, again you just turned the entire Korean student community to your enemy.  I still don’t understand why Korean students HAVE to go to Korean church, when there are hundreds of other churches or religious community.  Lastly, I still do not see why the seniors expect you to do whatever they tell you to, and get flipped if you don’t, even with a proper explanation and excuse (they believe you are simply lying).   No wonder why so-called Global Club was consisted entirely of Koreans.  After my first year with Korean Student club Global Club, I quitted.  That was also the last time I ever joined any kind of Korean club.

I hung out of some Korean girls, mostly out of social appropriation and not making any enemy.  I couldn’t really be a full member of that group – after our school vacation, they would always bring some Korean pop CD and magazine to share.  While all of them are giggling about this new Korean actress and drama, I was really not interested (I tried).   For some reason, they were able to distinguish this actress from that actress while they were in States; I couldn’t.  I tried to listen my favorite Japanese pop album, then a plenty of them flat refused my suggestion, saying they don’t like to listen to a singing in foreign language.

Dir en grey
Dir en grey

By nature I enjoy being alone and capable of doing many things on my own (example: I can totally eat alone in the big restaurant).  However I was lonely and felt there was no one to turn to.  Until I find two of my good friends (bless their souls), all that whinny, sissy music was the only thing I can turn to.   I tried some happy pops, but I couldn’t really fall for it.  The words were about some distant world that I’m not a part of.

That was my blowhole.  Listening to these musics in my bed, doing nothing, with open window, cold winter breeze and sometimes snow, I could let all the things I wanted to say out – the things that no one quiet understood at the time.  That’s probably why I can’t let go of them, no matter how these bands fell into mannerism/plagiarism/bad music/breakup, etc.  They are part of me.  If they were not there, I really don’t know what would have become of me.  And I’m glad I was able to reach out for the music.

Maybe They Don’t Want Me

Standard

On April 7th, I had my job interview with a major shipbuilding/raw material trading company.  Of course it is Korean company.  I thought let’s go and try it, because 1) the more interview you have, you get better and 2) the company works A LOT with foreign market.  There office was one of the driest office building I’ve ever been to.  On the top of that, the entire office space had carpet.   My throat started to dry up really bad.  Ever since I moved back to big Asian city, I started to have nasal obstruction and dry bronchi in Spring.

This isn’t my first interview with 40-50 years old Korean executives.  But after this one, I have this weird feeling.  I feel that the interviewers don’t quiet know how to deal with me.  They feel uncomfortable with my presence around.

No, I’m not talking about how way too cool I am.  Let me turn the table around and put it this way.

So you are typical middle-age Korean salarymen.  Your position is about senior manager and you are 50 something.  Of course you grew up in South Korea under Korean parents and Korean friends and classmates.  You started your career in a Korean company, and you have been working for the same company about 20 years.  Your subordinates are Koreans of 20 and 30.  They obey you.  Now, you are about to interview loads of candidates – of course someone who will be your subordinate and drink all that liquor as you command, and come to the office as soon as I say so, even though it’s 7 am Sunday. Here’s the next candidate.  She looks Korean, speaks fluent Korean but feels a bit different.  Foreign.  But she is Korean.  Um….alright, let’s check her resume.  So she went high school and a good college…in States.  It’s not California, New Jersey or New York, where there is bunch of Koreans. And, unlike other Koreans who got Western education, she literally grew up there.  And she was in Japan, too.  I’ve never quiet seen something like this…hmm.  I called her because her resume looked interesting but oh, what should I do, what should I do?  Think, think…well I’d rather have a good obedient Korean who covers my ass rather than an unidentified living creature, which I don’t know how to manage.  It’s better to be safe than taking a risk.  Alright, off you go…NEXT!

I feel this is what’s happening in their head.

I admit in the world like this, candidates with degree of more “practical,” specific field – like accounting, engineering, finance, etc – is preferrable to employers.  I don’t have one, and I would not be surprised if that part plays a big role in their decision.  But honestly, it is baffling when all these Korean employers are saying how globalized (or trying to be) they are, and how the candidates are so not globalized and incapable.  Then some “global” candidate appears.  The employers are then scared to hire him or her.  Now about the capability – they can’t even write a clear job posting, or organize what kind of skillset they are looking for.  My generation of candidates is probably the “smartest” candidates of Korean job market history.  Yet the employers complain.  Just stop all that bullcrap about how global and open-minded they are, and go right to the point on what kind of people you are looking for.

So why not scrap all of this and go off to grad school or travel?

Here’s my weakness.  I am very reluctant to quit before I see the tangible result.  Sometimes along the road, I start to feel – or realize – that it will probably fail.  But I keep doing it anyway, saying you never know until the end.  To be honest, I’m not really happy here.  Sure there are some things I would like to keep – such as superb infrastructure, cheap public transportation, floor heating, cheap beauty products and service and medical insurance.  Still, if I have a choice I’d rather live in States.  Yes I know, US has not so impressive infrastructure, expensive insurance (subject to change, of course), lack of heating device other than radiator that dries heck out of your skin, immobility without a car, and so on.  But I was happier there.  People usually let me be.  Here, everyone pushes me to be outsider and insider at the same time.  I feel like the society here is pushing me to be something that I am not.  Sorry folks, I can never be the nice, obedient Korean girl next door.  While I do not deny my Korean self, I feel only about 20% of my self-consciousness is Korean, other 20% Japanese and 60% Midwestern American.  And employers, please stop bragging how globalized you are, when your managers are narrow-minded Koreans.

Like I said before somewhere in this blog, if I am to go to grad school, I really want it to be my ticket out of this rat hole.  But what’s the probability?  About 10 years ago, the probability was high.  After that , here I am, whose employer refused to sponsor my visa at the very last moment.  Let’s say I get into one of those top law schools and graduate safely.  Would I actually be able to settle down in States, or, at least, get to work with a group of people who are not solely made of Koreans and live in somewhere else?  If that’s not possible, then what is the point?  Obama, please do something about the immigration law.  Damn my green South Korean passport.  Maybe I should just buy off a man with American or European citizenship.

This is also my excuse of why there was no posting for a while on my blog.