Tag Archives: winter

All that whining music saved me















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.

Jan 22-24 Weekend Sum-Up


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


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.

10 inch snow and they call it “snow bomb explosion.”


Many westerners think of warm weather, tropical rain forest, beach and elephants upon hearing the word “Asia.”  True, but a lot of them forget that there are norther Asian countries and these countries can be freaking cold, with snow.  The city of Seoul gets its regular dose of snow too, albeit not as much as American Midwest.

On January 4th and 5th, Seoul had a lot more snow compared to the average.  It was about 10 inches.  Media screamed that this is the largest amount of snow in 41 years.  The entire city became winter snow pandemonium.  Buses were delayed, if not flipped upside down; subways were packed with passengers for all day, not to mention delays; highways and bridges became a big parking lot; the city’s snow cleaning squad was not enough so the city called support for army’s Capital Defense Squad; about 3,500 army boys joined to clean the snow; the city lacked snow tractors/blowers so the mayor made an official statement, asking for help of everyone who has snow cleaning vehicle; subways and buses extended their business hour, running until 2 am.  I was about 20 minutes late, yet I was the 3rd earliest.  Officially excused to late, leave right on time and wear Ugg to work. Yay.

Despite the craziness and inconveniences, it was pretty funny to my eyes.  In Great Lakes areas, it snows almost ever day for over 15 inches in winter.  People are so used to it.  Salts are regularly put on the road for thrice a day.  Snow blowers go around 3-5 times per day.  People, wearing their snow boots, fleece hat and gore-tex jacket, drive to work.  That’s it. So the amount of snow did not surprised me; I was rather surprised by the entire metropolitan Seoul fell into a havoc and panick attack just because of 10 inch snow.  I know Seoul is just not ready for this kind of snow, but it was still a new experience for me.

Michigan night pic found from Google: I do remember this color. Seen this million times.

At the same time I really liked it.  It reminded me so much of my days in Midwest – all that snow, white scenery, trees, snow piles on a road, cold, crisp, clear air, quietness, navy-blue evening sky…calmness.  Great to listen to music.  Pull out any music – snow and coldness makes it sound like 5 times better.  Listening to Joy Division’s Atmosphere, I was just full of mellow, pleasing feeling of melancholy.  I used to mindlessly bike around with my iPod on.  I know I know, I will start complaining about snow and lack of urban conveniences once I go back.  Maybe it’s not even the same Midwest I lived or remember.  Maybe I am just fond of Midwest because I was lucky enough to meet people who are nice to me or share a lot with me only.  Maybe it was just all daydream illusion.  But I miss it – a corner of my heart does not want this Seoul snow melt away.

Typical winter day in Midwest.

Used to walk the roads like this one.

Used to walk the roads like this one.

This is all you see when you drive down Midwest in winter!