Some of the highs, lows, and in-betweens from my two-week vacay in China.
Traveling is incredible. It presents us with infinite opportunities to explore faraway places, grow, and connect with kindred spirits. But, one inevitable part of traveling is rarely talked about – the post-travel blues. It’s that dull state of mind we find ourselves in when we must settle back into our normal routine after having had an epic trip, regardless of duration.
S. Korea and I have an all-or-nothing kind of relationship. But thankfully, we’re experiencing a happy, fight-free period. In the fourth installment of the ‘Love/Hate Series,’ I rave about S. Korea’s skincare craze, jimjilbangs (bathhouses/spas), convenience store culture and the superb delivery system. Bae can be pretty damn charming when she wants to.
Picking up where I left off on my Korean love/hate drama, I voice some annoyances once again. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve made great progress in our somewhat tumultuous relationship, but she still continues to irritate me here and there. I understand that my deep-rooted Western outlook is partly responsible for the frustration I sometimes feel. And I’m truly committed to Bae but for now I blow off some steam…
It’s been about 7 months of my teaching adventure in Korea and to celebrate, I am sharing some interesting facts I’ve discovered about Korean schools. The stuff noted here isn’t absolute whatsoever but rather what I have taken away while teaching in a public elementary school. These observations are based on my personal experience. Here are 7 differences between schools in Korea and the U.S.
I like to pretend that Korea & I are dating seriously. A few weeks ago, I vented and aired her dirty laundry, or what I think are some of her flaws. But being in a healthy relationship entails accepting a person (or a country in my case) for who they are, fully. And sometimes it’s good to focus on their positive qualities rather than dwell on the negative. Although, I haven’t experienced a honeymoon stage with the ROK, there are plenty of aspects that I do enjoy. In the follow up to the love & hate series, I share some of what I deem to be Korea’s virtues…
I knew that living and working in Korea would be a challenge in many ways. When I told people about my plan to live in Korea for a year, I got a lot of puzzled looks. The common response was something like ‘but you’d fit in so much better in Vietnam, Thailand, anywhere in South East Asia.’ And they had a point. My personality would mesh a lot better in a country whose culture is less rigid. But my goals were clear. I wanted to focus on my writing and traveling while earning a decent income that would allow me to do the latter. I’m doing exactly that and it’s totally worth it. Nonetheless, I’ve felt homesick plenty of times. Here are some things that I either dislike about Korea or miss from the US.
One of the many reasons that attracted me to South Korea is the prevalence of Buddhism. In a country of about 50 million inhabitants, 18% of the population identifies as practicing Buddhists. Although Buddhism is not the current most popular religion, the influence of this faith is still an important part of Korean culture. Recently, I had the honor of experiencing Daegu’s Dalgubeol Lantern Festival, which celebrates Buddha’s Birthday.
I’ve been exposed to Korean culture for a couple of months now and during this time, I’ve noticed certain qualities that are a stark contrast from American or Mexican cultures. Before getting on a plane to Korea, I did research on the country’s history and culture to gain basic knowledge of the new place I’d call home. Collectivism, Confucianism, nationalism and hierarchy are some of the words that can sum up this fascinating country. Since living here, these seemingly abstract notions have become my new reality. Before, I had an intellectual grasp of these ideas but witnessing them firsthand has led to greater understanding. In this post, collectivism, hierarchy and the hurry, hurry syndrome are explored. It should be noted that these observations are my mere perceptions and interpretations.
It’s been only three weeks since I’ve been in Korea but it feels like months. It must be due to the fact that so much has happened in the last 20+ days. I left home sweet home Chicago, flew halfway across the world, had an intense but rewarding week-long orientation, arrived at my new apartment in Daegu, met my school staff and started teaching! Just the way I like to live my life – as productively as possible.
I recently created a playlist with the theme of change because change is inevitable. We grow up, we become ‘adults’, we get new jobs, we move cities, etc. But changing circumstances can prove to be overwhelmingly difficult and stressful. Change can also be a source of excitement and fulfillment. I even have a tattoo on my wrist to remind me that impermanence is the only true constant in life. Isn’t it cool that everything around and within us is in a constant state of flux? That every living organism is always evolving, from the regenerating cells in our bodies to the cosmos...
Over Halloween weekend, I visited Denver for no other reason than to play and enjoy myself. Tickets were cheap, accommodation was taken care of (thanks Justin!), and there was some concert my friends were going to… I was in! It was one of those rare trips in which everything is figured out and one isn’t required to think at all. Traveling in this way can sometimes be super refreshing and fitting of my personality because all one has to do is say yes, to everything. This impromptu trip marked the second time I visited Colorado and needless to say, I was once again reminded why one day I plan to live there. From the mountains, to the people, to Colorado’s booming economy, I expand on why I envision myself there.
A few weeks ago, I visited another small mid-western city – Cleveland. I’ll be honest, other than Hot in Cleveland I had no further reference to this town. Nor did I really care. And I think this is a shared sentiment among my fellow Chicagoans. No offense Cle. Besides passionate sports fans and nice people, I didn’t hold further expectations. So, I hopped on the megabus and made the trip. What I found was a smaller version of Chicago sans the cosmopolitan element or the pretension. It was refreshing!
Last week, I had the opportunity to visit Milwaukee, Wisconsin for the first time. It’s hard to believe that I’ve lived my entire adult life in the Chicagoland area but rarely venture out to smaller nearby cities. I was glad to explore this charming and quaint city as part of my company’s end of summer outing. We happily traded our cubicles and computers in place of cheese, beer and more beer.
I recently ventured to Avondale to explore Joong Boo Market and get my fix on authentic Korean grub. Located in the northwest side between Kimball and Avondale, the Korean grocery store + restaurant easily met and exceeded my expectations. First of all, they have a dumpling stand outside which sells massive buns for $2 apiece. This is my kind of deal! They offer pork, spicy kimchi with pork and red bean fillings. Sadly, I was too excited eating the tasty snacks and forgot to snap pics.