Only in Korea….

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Korea is an interesting place. It’s gone from one of the poorest nations in the world to one of the wealthiest. It’s got the fastest wifi, the most mobile phones, and everyone from toddlers to the elderly are tech obsessed. It’s a culture that’s based on Confucianism, work, friends, and family. In Manhattan, you can joke that there’s a coffee shop on every corner. In Korea, the reality is that there are three. Here are a few of my favorite things about Korea that are very typical of the culture.

Hostel entrance in Seoul, Korea.

Hostel entrance in Seoul, Korea.

Shoes Off

Before entering a home, you are supposed to remove your shoes. I work in a school, and everyone from the kindergartners to the principal puts on a second pair of ‘indoor shoes’. The same goes for many hostels and hotels.

Buy a drink, play with animals.

Buy a drink, play with animals.

Pet Cafes

I love pet cafes! Picture this, a spacious cafe with booths, lattes and smoothies, and dogs of all sizes playing everywhere. You can bring your own pooch or just sit and play with the numerous dogs owned by the cafe. Apparently a large number of these cafes rescue the dogs.

Downtown Daegu, Korea.

Downtown Daegu, Korea.

Drink Mascots

Drinking is a big part of Korean culture. So why not have mascots of beer and liquor running around the city?

I had to phone jail my 4th graders.

I had to phone jail my 4th graders.

Cell Phones

Korea is one of the most wired cities in the world. Everyone and their moms (and their kids) uses mobile phones. You get cell coverage everywhere from the mountains to the underground. The addiction is real.

Of course there is much more to the culture than just its quirks, but it’s these qualities that make the country so endearing. 

 

Take Me Back

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I have a terrible memory. I think perhaps I’m just not very observant, but regardless, I have a hard time remembering things. I can’t make mental notes, I need to meet someone twice before I can remember the name and the face, and I’m constantly misplacing things. Ask me what I had for dinner last night and I probably couldn’t tell you. Friends and family find it both incredible and incredibly amusing. I find it incredibly inconvenient.

 

I remember snapping this photo on my phone and thinking 'Is this really my life right now?' I'm happy I understood how lucky I was.

I remember snapping this photo on my phone and thinking ‘Is this really my life right now?’ I’m happy I understood how lucky I was.

However, every great once and a while, something will cause a flood of memories and nostalgia. Usually it’s triggered by seeing or hearing something. Today, it was Johnny Flynn’s The Wrote and the Writ. I think I listened to the album A Larum every day while I was studying in Paris, and so hearing that song transports me back three years. I can feel the Parisian autumn air, smell the boulangeries, and see in my mind the metro, the streets, the buildings. It’s such a nostalgic feeling, and I’m so overjoyed that I will be making my way back to that magical city. Even better, I get to introduce it to the loved ones I will be traveling with.

I love how memories work. I love how something as simple as the scent of baking cookies and take you back to a moment in time. Does anyone else feel like this? I’d love to hear some stories.

Taking Care Of Myself

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Ever since I started having thyroid problems late last year, I’ve been really susceptible to illnesses. I guess my immune system is just still worn out. I’ve been trying to make sure I stay on top of my well being because it’s really easy for me to just forget.

I know it sounds silly, but I’m the type of person who lets the way I feel dictate a lot of things. As you can imagine, this can be problematic when you’re getting sick all the time. Eating and living badly, getting sick and eating and living badly, and on and on.

If I’m not feeling well, I’m not going to eat nutritious foods. I’m not even going to eat comfort foods because they take time to prepare. I will literally exist on Hershey’s chocolate and ice cream for days at a time. I will walk into the nearest establishment with food (a bakery or a  7-Eleven) and grab the first thing I see. As you can imagine, this isn’t really conducive to getting better and staying that way.

So, over these past few months, I’ve been making a conscious effort to look after myself. As I mentioned earlier, I stopped drinking alcohol. I’ve greatly reduced my caffeine intake, I’ve been exercising more regularly, and I’ve been eating much more nutritiously. Next time, I plan on going a little more in depth on body image and confidence, but this post is already quite long.

I’d like to clarify I’m not doing anything drastic by normal standards. I’m not eating raw meals or juicing or even cutting anything out. I’m just trying to find a balance where I can feel good and keep these pestering illnesses away.

I will be turning 25 this year, and as I get older, the more important it is to be serious about my health. I know how much better I’ve been feeling lately, and I do plan on continuing. 

Coffee Talk

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I’m currently dreaming of a hot mug of coffee, creamy and slightly sweet. It’s like 88 degrees with nine thousand percent humidity. Okay, fine. I’d even settle with an iced coffee. Hazelnut. Oh, now we’re onto something.

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Once upon a time, I really enjoyed my daily coffee ritual. It was relatively simple – hot coffee in the winter, iced for the rest of the year. Always milk or preferably, cream. Sometimes sugar.

I stopped drinking coffee regularly last year when I moved countries. It wasn’t for lack of abundance, as I swear there are more coffee shops than people. But, it just became inconvenient. Coffee shops didn’t open until 9 (so no chance of a pre-work fix) and coffee is just … absent in coffee shops. Five dollar Americanos, yes. Drip coffee, no. I found that I just didn’t care for espresso and water, so I just decided to go without.

This morning's brew of the day.

This morning’s brew of the day.

Let me tell you, it’s a lonely life without coffee. Since my remaining options are basically instant powder or pay 25 dollars for a pound of Starbucks Blend, I’ve resorted to bottled sugar water. It does its job, but it’s like eating a Weight Watchers cookie instead of a Tiramisu. Minus the low calorie bit. I’m not making any sense. Someone send me coffee please.

 

Apparently

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Apparently, when your boyfriend tells you he wants to eat dinner at your house, this means you are supposed to cook something.

Apparently, when you’re used to eating scrambled eggs and baked potatoes for dinner when left to fend for yourself, the bar isn’t set very high.

Apparently, pasta plus onions plus garlic plus sausage plus whatever else you find in your cabinet can’t turn out that badly.

Apparently, when your boyfriend says he’s coming for dinner, that means he’s going to fall asleep for 3 hours and arrive … 3 hours late.

Apparently, this meal is fine enough as a dinner for one plus the optional Netflix date.

Apparently, my love for Robin Wright is not limited to just Jenny from Forrest Gump.

 

I love Kevin Spacey, and not just because he's from New Jersey.

I love Kevin Spacey, and not just because he’s from New Jersey.

Happy Fourth

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Since it’s the morning of the 4th, and I have no patriotic photos to show of today, I will use this one as a substitute.

It’s from last July with some of the first and closest friends I met in Korea. It was the last time we were all together. (And probably the last time we ever will be)

How sad those thoughts can be. But how happy the memories are.

Happy 4th to those who celebrate it. And Happy Friday to everyone else.

 

Step Back In Time

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I always feel a little lame posting TBT’s on social media like Facebook and Instagram. Realistically speaking, that’s the whole point of #tbt, but honestly for me it’s a little unnecessary.

Because I live abroad, and I spend a good deal of my work day on a computer, I’m on platforms like Facebook far more often than my friends in America. I’m uploading photos more often and making more comments, and so I already feel like I’m invading peoples’ news feeds. As a result, I tend to try and avoid making excessive posts. I’m not one to post food photos or daily life updates or selfies. I’m actually a terrible selfie-er. Which is funny because I used to be quite nifty when it came to mirror pics. Remember those?

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18 years old. First music festival. First road trip.

Well, since this is my blog and it’s dedicated to whatever I want to post at the moment, I’m putting up this old photo. (That was a long preamble for a single photo).

This photo was taken in summer 2009. Three of my friends and I took a trip down to Tennessee for Bonnaroo Music Festival. That entire trip was fairly spontaneous. I can still remember talking to my friends one random afternoon about how we really wanted to go. And so we logged onto the website and ordered our tickets. And that was that.

In retrospect, I think most of the decisions I make in my life are impulsive. I’m constantly changing thoughts, opinions, and ideas. I’m one of those people who really does change day after day, and looking at this photo proves it. Sure I may look the same on the outside, but I remember my 18 year old self’s mentality, and we’re completely different people. I won’t really get into that here.

Anyway, I really like looking at older photos. They really take me back to the exact moment in time, and I can sometimes even remember how I thought or who I was. It’s also nice to see how, even though it feels like you’re a totally new person, some things stay the same.

 

With All That Perfumed Hair

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Let’s talk perfume! For me, perfume is something of an ideal gift. My friends and family know that I prefer my fragrances to be floraly and relatively light. And so, it’s nice when they buy me a bottle for a holiday or birthday. I like the idea of them sampling different scents to find one that they think suits me. In fact, I can’t even remember the last time I purchased my own bottle.

 

As I said, I don't go perfume shopping, so I didn't even realize there are different Floras. Mine is apparently 'Gorgeous Gardenia"

As I said, I don’t go perfume shopping, so I didn’t even realize there are different Floras. Mine is apparently ‘Gorgeous Gardenia”

I currently rotate between three scents. I’m partial to Gucci Flora (the pink one), a gift from a college roommate, and J’adore, a gift from my oldest brother. My mother bought me Vera Wang’s Princess a while ago, but it’s a little … assaulting at times. I think I have a sensitive nose or something because it’s a lovely scent on other people. It’s just a tad too strong on me.

H&M's finest - this shirt only cost me $5.

H&M’s finest – this shirt only cost me $5.

I also have to say that, especially in the summer, I’m a fan of simply spritzing on some rose water in lieu of an actual perfume. It just feels lighter and more refreshing to me (not to mention wildly less expensive). I don’t remember offhand which brand I use, but it’s advertised as a facial toner and refresher, and it’s lovely.

 

The Great Hunt

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This weekend we hosted a grand scavenger hunt in the down town area of the city. It was a sunny Saturday afternoon. People donned their best costumes.

Play Rock Paper Scissors with a stranger

Play Rock Paper Scissors with a stranger

After months and months of planning and advertising, it’s safe to say it was a success! We had over 20 teams of people running around all afternoon trying to cross off as many tasks as they could. It was madness, but it was so much fun. Although I didn’t personally get to run around (I was busy judging the photos being sent in), I must say it looked like everyone was having a blast.

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Hug an old lady.

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Propose to someone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A lot of the tasks involved approaching strangers, which can be a daunting enough task, but we also have a language barrier here. Sure, foreigners can speak enough Korean to get by and most Koreans have at least a few years of English learning under their belts.

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Stand behind the counter of a restaurant.

 

But really, how do you explain “Excuse me random stranger. I know I am dressed in an absurd costume and I may look scary, but would you please assist me in this charity scavenger hunt by posing in a specific photo with me? It’ll only take a few minutes.” Especially when your Korean is pretty much limited to “More beer please!” and the area is bustling with very busy people.

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Stand behind a matching couple.

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Arm wrestle a bakery employee.

 Long story short, I was amazed at the amount of simply hilarious photos we received. It really goes to show how good natured the citizens here are, especially in the face of a bunch of crazy foreigners.

Win a wheelbarrow race.

I decided to share some of my favorites here. They were all launched upon unsuspecting Koreans.

Stand between a couple wearing matching outfits.

Stand between a couple wearing matching outfits.

In a city of about 2.5 million, in a culture where people are constantly on the go, sometimes it’s hard to stop and take a moment to simply laugh. Well, there was an awful lot of laughing going on. From students and soldiers to adults and the elderly, everyone stopped to take part in the hunt.

Kiss someone on the cheek.

Kiss someone on the cheek.

Naturally, there was a rather large raffle, and the winning teams received prizes generously donated by local businesses. And everyone had a great time supporting a cause that is near and dear to us. Here’s to a successful event for Love146!

Hug an old man.

I’ve Been Loving

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I visited the doctor (twice!) yesterday. He told me that I have too much stress in my life and that I need tor rest and relax more.  Considering the fact that I’m like the human version of Pusheen the Cat, I’d have to beg to differ.  Sure, I deal with about 150 different students every day, but I think I have it pretty easy. But in the name of good health, I’ll try to take it easier.

In order to calm my apparently overworked self, I decided to start compiling lists of things I really really enjoy. Here’s the first batch.

 

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1.)  Savages by Don Winslow – This was a bizarre book, and I read it immediately after finishing Eat Pray Love. So goodbye feelings of wanderlust and self-improvement and hello feelings of omg what just happened?

2.) Innis Free Nail Polish - I’m terrible at doing my nails as I always end up smudging at least one nail within 5 minutes of finishing painting. This nail polish goes on fairly smoothly and dries quickly which is important for me. I’m a fan of the pink shades.

3.) Holes by Louis Sacher – I had my 6th grade book club read this (or at least attempt to. It’s obviously way advanced for esl learners) and now we’re watching the movie. This is how I will always imagine Shia Labeouf.

4.) Buddy Holly – I’ve been randomly listening to a lot of Buddy Holly and the Crickets. Honestly, I’ve always enjoyed his music, but lately his upbeat sweetly naive tunes have been really hitting the spot so to speak. At this actual moment, I’m listening to this.

5.) Chocolate muffins – This is a given. I’m sure I’ve posted about my love for muffins before, but I ate one for breakfast and I’m still thinking about it.

6.) Love146 - It’s an organization geared toward the abolition of human trafficking. I’m a taskforce member in my city, and we’ve been working on organizing a fundraising event. It’s on Saturday, and I’m so exciting all of this hard work is amounting to something.

What have you been loving lately?

 

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