Friday, July 31, 2009

An Article to Describe Korea Better Than I Ever Could

Koreans very much live in a competitive, "I want what my neighbor has and more" society. This is very evident by the simple fact that I am here with thousands of my western comrades who are getting paid handsomely for doing something that comes naturally.

However, today in the Washington Post there happens to be an article that talks about South Koreans and their atrocious savings abilities. While I'm not entirely interested in financial matters, it does get at the heart of how and why Koreans do what they do.

Take a second to read it... I absolutely love living here, and I think that education IS the most important thing in any culture, but does this kind of thinking actually lead to something catastrophic?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

RIP Passport. Feb 2007 - July 2009

Born in New York City, February 2007 - Died in Tokyo, Japan July 2009.
4 visas for Korea and China, multiple stamps for Korea, 2 for China, 2
for Hong Kong, 2 for Japan, 1 for Canada, 1 for the Philippines....
You were full of life and color and will be missed.

There's never a dull moment around here that's for sure. I had this
plan of Tokyo for 2 days, visiting a friend who would be working on the Simon
& Garfunkel tour. I'd fly in with my roommate Dan, crash for a night
at the Ritz, and get a room somewhere for the next night and be home
in time to not miss a beat.

Then a traveler's worst nightmare happened. On the subway between the
airport and the hotel I somehow managed to lose my traveler's folder
which had my passport and 100,000w. I guess it just happened to fall
out of my bag, but of all the things to happen this was not what I was
expecting. I got off at Roponggi station and then the very helpful
staff tried contacting stations but to no avail. Luckily the little
notebook I always keep in there with my friend's number was in another
pocket so I was able to call him. After that and talking with the
embassy there really was nothing else I could do but wait and go out
and enjoy Tokyo.

We headed to the Tokyo Dome and enjoyed an amazing Simon &
Garfunkel show. I sat next to a guy who writes for Billboard magazine and
just seemed to be such an uber fan that it was great. After the show
we headed backstage to meet up with Craig*** (one of my bestest
friends and savior this week) and then headed back to the hotel. I
gotta tell ya, of all the places to be stuck for a week the Ritz
Carlton Tokyo is not the worst place one can be. This hotel is better
than most houses I've seen. Craig's room was on the 50th floor over
looking Tokyo Tower and the view was breathtaking.

We spent our night just hanging out drinking vodka in the hotel. James
Garfunkel, Art's son, came in and our little group had some amazing
conversations and laughs. We left for a bit to go out in Roponggi to
get some Ramen and man, do the Japanese know how to do ramen. Of
course you'll pay around $10 for it but it's worth it - absolutely
delicious. Afterwards we just moseyed back to the hotel and after a
long day called it quits.

The next day Craig and the tour headed out to Osaka and Dan and I
headed to Shinjuku to get a hotel. We visited Shibuya and Harajuku
which are two of the most famous areas of Tokyo and notoriously the
most crowded in the world. The people there are just otherworldly. The
style of clothing and hair is just so fantastic. The men have hair
that is laughable and closely related to Bon Jovi circa 1988. We
walked around Shinjuku just getting the lay of the land and people
watching. We ate at a tiny little noodle shop and were back to the
hotel fairly early. Shibuya:

Monday at 6am we parted ways - Dan back to Korea and me to the Tokyo
police station and U.S. embassy. Three hours and $100 later all of the
paperwork was finished and I'd get my emergency temporary passport the
following day. I wish I could say that I went off to do amazing things
with my newfound time in Tokyo, but I was so tired, stressed, and sick
(btw, I had some sort of allergic reaction to something, so my skin
was all messed up the whole time) that I just went back to my hotel
and watched movies all day. Pathetic I know, but I had all week and
very little money in one of the world's most expensive cities.

As luck would have it another friend who performs every summer in
Japan with a touring group called Blast just happened to be landing
that afternoon for one night in Tokyo. We met up for dinner and he
took me to this amazing little shop in Ginza and then showed me all
around the area. Randomly the hotel he was put up in also happened to
be in Shinjuku so we went back there and got some drinks at a Family
Mart and sat in a small park catching up (gotta love that no open
container law). The drinks we were consuming were called Chuhi and
they came in tall boy cans and tasted like a wine cooler or a hard
cider but were 8% alcohol. After 2 I was quite hammered. Since we had
no idea how to navigate him back to his hotel and mine was a block
away we made our way back there. Along the way we found batting cages,
so somewhere circa 1am we were drunkenly knocking them out of the
park, as ya do. Shinjuku:

Tuesday and Wednesday were easy going days. Got my new passport and
headed back to the Ritz to meet back up with Craig. We got some wine
and that night hung with one of the guys from the tour and Wednesday
just got some food at this great little place they had found for
lunch. I also decided to take in another Simon & Garfunkel show (why
not right?) at the Budokan. The venue was significantly smaller than
the Tokyo Dome (45,000 vs. 14,000). Not surprisingly the show seemed
more intimate, but was just as good as the Saturday performance.
Tokyo Dome:

Thursday was Craig's day off so we were off to Ginza with Michael, the
tour accountant, for lunch. Ironically after I couldn't find the place
I ate at a few nights before, we stumbled across a Korean restaurant
that wasn't amazing but did the job. We headed to Asakusa which is old
Tokyo and home to a nice little market and Buddhist temple. We
wandered around for a few hours and shopped and then headed to Shibuya
to see the crosswalk and get some coffee then over to Shinjuku, got
some beers and sit outside.

When all is said and done this has been an amazingly ridiculous and
seriously lucky experience. How do I wind up losing my most valuable
possession and being forced to stay in a country, seeing two of my
closest friends thousands of miles from home, seeing a legendary music
group twice for free, and staying at the Ritz Carlton for a week? Oh
and on Thursday I learned that the ceiling in my Korean apt collapsed
which, maybe my being in Tokyo saved my life since it would have definitely
landed on me? This all has my mind sufficiently blown on almost every level. Just goes to show how important friendships are; this whole thing could have been much
worse if it wasn't for my old (and new) friends. As far as Japan vs.
Korea... It's been tough. I loved Japan, but I think Seoul might just
have it over Tokyo. Yep, I said it. It has more going for it, and at a MUCH better price.

One last thing before I sign off... there is nothing funnier than
being known around the whole Simon & Garfunkel operation as the girl
who lost her passport. Almost any time Craig introduced me to a tour
staff person or band member the first thing was, "oh so you're the
one..." ha.

Ahhh only me.... (and I guess I wouldn't have it any other way). ;)

***If he reads this or not, a gigantic thank you goes out to Craig for
making it all possible and being my hero :)

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Busy Little Unemployed Bee

Well, I've been quiet this month... and its time to break the silence. Sure, losing your job, your apartment, money, visa, another job possibility, boyfriend, and living in a country with the constant threat of World War III from the neighbor to the north, hasn't been easy. Best part about it all is that whole work business and then being offered a job by the same boss that let you go. Ridiculous. BUT when you hit rock bottom you can do nothing but try and crawl your way out of it.

It's actually been pretty good - moved into Seoul and living with a friend of mine, Garak Market to be exact in the Songpa-gu Region. I'm so close to so many things, its great - only 10 minutes from Jamsil on the bus. And this area is above and beyond Seongnam, and even in some cases better than Suji (even though Suji will always be my first home in Korea). I joined a gym here and that's made a big difference. Nice to have a goal to work on. I've been temping at a school for the past 2 months and the money has been excellent. Actually ended up making more money in May and June than I did in any month I've been here. Korea's amazing for that actually. I finish up this week with the school and will be piling on private lessons hoping to save as much as I can before heading home in the fall.

As a tourist now, I have to leave the country every 90 days to reset the tourist visa. In two weeks I will be heading to Tokyo for 2 days to see one of my most favorite people from home, who's hooking me up with some tickets to see Simon & Garfunkel. It is going to be nothing short of a blast. After that there's the annual Boryeong Mud Festival with Matthew's Club, and then the Jisan Valley Music Festival. SO it'll be busy summer, but a fun one. If all works out I may even have a visitor! I'll also be helping out Syracuse University's Study Abroad Program, when the Hong Kong Director comes to Seoul in July for some meetings. All I'm looking forward to now, is Greece in September, and home sometime after that. Life's funny sometimes... unexplainable, but funny. I'm looking for jobs at home, and also into doing some free lance writing MAYBE. Just trying to keep moving... and watching a lot of TV ;)

One of the things I've been working on is creating some advertisement for Matthew's Club. A language group I've been apart of almost the whole time I've been in Korea. If you're reading this, and curious, check out the Matthew's Club Group on Facebook. Always a good time.

And since these are the last few months, I'll attempt to blog a bit more when something comes up. Sad to think I might not be an ex-pat for much longer... OR even scarier to think that I could maybe wind up an ex-pat somewhere else. The world is full of delicious possibilities...