A Moment of Solitude

In a city of 12 million people, it can be a wee bit difficult to find a place of quiet, a place to truly be alone (outside of your own apartment that is). The sidewalks are lined with an obstacle course of people walking in every which direction. The subway walkways look like a herd of antelope in a canyon, all rushing to the next destination. Coffee shops, which in the US are known for being places to study or relax, are rarely quiet, even at 2 in the morning. Even the hiking paths are crowded with the ajummas and ajosshis of the Korean world, equipped with walking sticks and visors, beating you to the top. Needless to say, a place of tranquilite is a rarity indeed.

However, the other day, I applauded the creativity of one of Seoul’s citizens. In a semi-crowded morning train this young man reached behind me to hit the button that opened the two sets of doors that led to the next train. He stepped inside the first door and stopped. My first thought was ‘he’s going to get stuck in there.’ I watched him with confusion and curiosity, arching my eyebrows and tilting my head, much akin to the way my former whippet would. He waited. The doors closed. He turned sideways. And promptly sat down. I almost laughed out loud. I looked away, but continued to chuckle at him for having such a brilliant idea. The 3 older women I was standing in front of caught a glimpse of him and stared, shock bringing their hands to the mouths.

In a country where not standing out is the norm, having a young Korean man take a stand against the lack of solitude was refreshing at best. I found myself blocking the button as if I could prevent anyone from trying to use that doorway while he enjoyed his moment of silence. I also resisted the urge to knock on the door and give him two thumbs up as a sign of my support. Instead I left him in silence, just him, a backpack and an MP3 player.

He was my hero for the day.

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Randomnessiosity

Naejangsa (Temple)(I know you love my make-believe words)…

I had a lot of random thoughts on the walk home from work today and instead of making each one into a separate blog, I decided to post them all here – kinda like mini-blogs!  I wonder if they’ll be as good as mini-Cinnabons.  Umm…maybe not because the cream on Cinnabons is too much to compete with.  I can’t handle that kind of competition.  But these morsels are still good food for thought.

1)  The Right of Way.  I haven’t ever thought much about sidewalk walking habits.  Have you?  Where I come from we mostly walk on the right side of the sidewalk.  I don’t know where this idea comes from.  I once read that it had something to do with British history and passing a gentleman on the sidewalk…related to the different society levels…something akin to that.  But of course now that I need the article, I can’t find it.  Point being – in Korea this sidewalk etiquette does not apply.  I’m not going to get into which culture is more logical when it comes to this (been fighting cultural differences in logic all day at work), but I will say that I’ve been here over a year and my body has still not adjusted to this difference.  Someone comes at me walking in the opposite direction and I automatically move to the right and expect them to do the same so that we can pass each other without breaking a step, but noooooo, more than 50% of the people still manage to get in my way.  Then there are the weavers.  Drunk, old, texting or just plain stroll-challenged.  You go to pass them in a narrow area and they veer to the right.  You try again and they veer to the left.  Egads.  Dude, the quickest way to a destination is in a straight line, so follow it!

2) Fall.  Ok, on to less GRRR-ness.  I LOVE FALL IN KOREA.  Well, to be more clear, I LOVE FALL EVERYWHERE.  Butttt for all intents and purposes, I shall narrow it down to here.  Pretty simple actually.  The weather is great.  It’s cool enough for cute hats and scarves to make me feel all Mary Tyler Moore and ish, but not cold enough to need a bulky jacket.  Plus, there are these dark barked trees here with REALLY yellow leaves on them.  The contrast is stunning against a daytime AND nighttime sky.  Maybe I’ll actually remember to charge my camera battery this weekend so I can get a pic for it.  It makes me want to lay down on the sidewalk and just stare up at the leaves for a few hours.  I assure you though that I do resist that urge – not because people would think I was crazy, but because people here spit all over the sidewalk and I am not about to lay anything more than the bottom of my shoe on Seoul’s sidewalks.  The sidewalks in Salt Lake?  Yeah, I’d lay on those.  (Did you notice?  I love fall SO much I capitalized like 10 words in that tiny paragraph.)

3)  That Girl.  Do I talk too much?  Sometimes I wonder if I do.  I wonder if I’m ‘that girl.’  The one that people see coming and want to turn in the other direction for fear of finding themselves in the throws of a lengthy conversation.  The one that everyone knows talks too much but she just doesn’t realize it?  Maybe I’m just being paranoid.  But didn’t you ever wonder – of all the people and personalities you bitch about to your friends – which one of those people categories you fall into?  In my defense, I have a lot of thoughts running around in my head and they need an outlet and since I don’t exactly have a boyfriend or a cat at home to ramble to, you all are stuck with the brunt of it.  😛  Hehe

Looking back at the number of words in this post, I think I may have just answered my own question about talking too much.  Oops.  I try to keep the conversations balanced in person, I just hope others realize that.

4)  I reealllyyy miss salads.  A lot.  A whole bunch of lotta lot.  So next time you westerners eat a salad, think of me and have another bite on my behalf.  Mmm…Sweet Tomatoes.

5)  Crushes.  I could do an entire blog and a half on different types of crushes and maybe I will someday, but in brief…for those out there who have a crush on someone, or more than one someone, here’s a tip on how to see how serious you are about that person.  Tip #721 – Make yourself uber-busy.  Then, see who you still find yourself thinking about when you barely have time for sleep or a decent meal.  I realized today that I hadn’t thought all week about a minor crush I had on someone, which means that I probably had the minor crush on him because I was bored, not because I really saw it going somewhere.  But the one I have thought about?  That’d be the one that I really think I should be with.  The one who has been on my mind for a loooonnnnggg time.  It just took me having less time to think to, well, think it all out.

So yes, these are all the things that I thought of in the 30 minute walk home.  Actually there were more things than that, much more than that runs through my mind all the time, but these are just a few.

¡May you all have happy weekends!

Top 10 Cleaning Tips from One Bachelor(ette) Pad to Another

Lately, my apartment has begun to look like a bachelor pad.  Anyone else have this problem?  I am fully prepared to blame it on the fact that I’m not home all that often these days (and less so starting next week) and I haven’t quite found the right chi-fengshui-energy-whateveryouwannacallit for this apartment, which means I am less inclined to be productive in it and do things like, ya know, clean.  Funny thing is I am pretty much a germaphobe, just not so much when it comes to my own place – probably because they are my germs vs that of some man whose hands have touched the subway handle before mine (sorry men, but statistics show that men are less likely to wash their hands after going to the bathroom – which btw is even worse because they have direct hand to man-part contact – so I’m using your species as a germarific example).

I shall not go into the specifics of my particular pad, but I thought I’d share some time/energy saving tips that Martha Stewart and Mr. Clean would NOT be proud of.  For us single 20 and 30-somethings who are just too busy being the social and technological beasts that we are, we simply can’t do things their way anymore.

1.  Pick one spot for each category of clutter to go.  Instead of strewning (oh yeah, you are loving that made up word aren’t you?) your clothes all about like they were doing the Hokey Pokey, throw them on one chair or on top of one dresser, for easiest clean up.  Ever watched the scene from Love Actually when Sarah unexpectedly has Karl over and tries to hide all her clothes in the 5 seconds that is walking up the stairs?  Yeah, don’t be that girl (or guy).

2.  Multi-task.  As if we don’t do this enough already right?  But this time, apply it to your cleaning methods.  For example,  I rarely cook at home (why would I when you can eat out so cheap in Korea?), but the one thing I do cook is pasta.  With about a 15-20 minutes time frame between boiling water and cooking the pasta, that is a good time to wash the dishes.  Not only can you keep a better eye on the noodles (ever overcook something because you were glued to FB?), it also cleans out the sink for the colander when you drain the water.   Make it a competition to see if you can finish them before the noodles are finished.

3.  Speaking of dishes in the sink.  Rule #1 to avoid mold and strange smells?  Rinse the dishes when you are finished with them and empty out the water.  If you put water in them to soak then forget about them for a couple days…hmm …stagnant water smell, not so sexy.

4.  Avoiding foul odors.  Since I am not home often, it takes awhile for me to fill up even the smallest of trash bags, especially in Korea, aka Recycleland.  So what is a girl to do with all the empty take out containers she brings home?  Store them in the fridge or freezer until you are ready to take out the trash.  It will keep the apt smelling much nicer.

5.  While on the subject of fridges…stop going crazy with fruits and veggies on your ‘I’m gonna be healthy from now on’ day.  You and I both know that you will bring it all home intent on making smoothies and fruit plates for dessert, then you will go back to your junk food binging (because cutting up fruits and veggies takes way too much time away from your social media surfing) and be left with rotting fruits and veggies in the fridge, reluctant to throw them away and admit your defeat.  Now, I’m not saying don’t eat healthy, lord knows we all need to.  I’m just saying don’t go all Costco on it in one day.  Only buy that which can be cut up during the duration of the SYTYCD episode that you plan to watch that night.

6.  Open your windows!  Even when it’s cold, even for just an hour while you hover under blankets.  It is worth it.  Fresh air brings new life back to you and your apt.

7.  Invest in the most convenient cleaning supplies.  You should be buying stock in Swiffer (wet and dry), a dustbuster and antibacterial wipes.  Who has time to bust out a big vacuum, a bucket, rubber gloves and a harsh cleaner every week?  Not I!  I don’t recommend it as your only cleaning path, but for quick jobs and to keep life a little more livable in between cleaning cram sessions, have these brilliantly convenient ditties on hand.

8.  Have less stuff.  Seems obvious that less stuff means less you have to clean, but how many of you have really made the commitment to throw old things away?  Why are you keeping CDs when they are all uploaded and backed up on your computer?  Have an e-reader?  Then, start weaning off of your book collection.  Books collect dust (so do the shelves you need to put them on) and sometimes you can even attract book mites (sometimes referred to as book lice).  With the ever-growing world population, move to urban areas and all-in-one electronics, having less clutter is the new green.

9.  Have less stuff 2.0.  To include less dishes.  Less dishes means you will run out of dishes faster and be forced to wash what’s in the sink before they get nasty.  That’s right people, start getting rid of those cereal bowls.

10.  Have company.  Best way to get motivated to clean?  Invite people over.  It’s one thing for me to live in the dust and strewn clothing and sink full of dishes, but I’ll be damned if I let someone else see that unattractive side of me.  If you are like me and don’t like to host people often, have it a simple ‘stop by and pick something up’ visit.  If combined with #9 they can come pick up the extra dishes you no longer need.  Two birds, one stone.  That is what this generation is all about (just with less bird killings).

Any tips you wish to share?

Updates…and Writing for Your Health?

I know, I know, I haven’t written nearly as much as I used to, but such is my life, creativity and focus comes in waves.  I’ve tried to fight it to maintain consistency and dependability, but alas the waves always win out and I have learned to accept it.

Since we last met, not too much has happened, except that I have FINALLY, finally…did I say FINALLY?…signed up for Korean language classes.  I tried a free class, I tried studying on my own, I tried a language exchange, but none of it really works for me personally, so I had to bite the bullet (err…more like bite a hole in my wallet) and sign up at an academy.  And since I have already put it off for so long, I decided the best way to catch up was with an intensive course.  So I’ll be taking 2 hours of classes, 5 days a week, hopefully until I reach the top level which will be for like the next year-ish.  I’m actually really excited about this because I know I’ll be able to pick it up quickly.  I’ll be starting on the 2nd level since I already know the basics and how to read, so I have until Tuesday to do the lessons they’ve already done in lesson 1 to make sure I’m not behind.  I’ve been doing 1-2 lessons a day for the past week and I love it.  I’m actually glad that I waited this long because now the language and words seem to make more sense because I’ve been here long enough to have heard and read and seen the language everywhere, so it seems somehow easier.

NANOWRIMO starts the same day as my classes so let’s see how well I do while balancing 10 hours of classes, 40 hours of work a week and 1,667 words a day in my life!  HA!  I may have mentioned before that I got my best grades in high school when I was working two jobs, so it may actually work since I am more productive when given limited amounts of time.  Not too sure how well that will bode for my blogging though…argh.

Now, on to something less about me, me me…

I read an article on yahoo about this book called The Secret Life of Pronouns and given that I like analyzing things and I love linguistics, I was instantly interested.  The idea of the book is that the pronouns, articles (a, an, the – for the non-English teachers out there) and prepositions we use say a lot about us and our interactions with others.  So I went to the author’s website and played with his linguistic personality exercises and watched his videos.

One of the videos was not related to pronouns, but was related to writing in general and I thought it would be of interest to you bloggers and fellow writers in the universe.  Here’s what he has to say about it…

What are your thoughts?  Do YOU think writing contributes to your health and well-being?  Do you feel physically better when we get it all down on paper (or monitor)?

Big Meal For ONE Please

The first thing I always ask people when talking about visiting or living abroad is “What are some of the small cultural differences you saw?”  The big cultural differences I usually already know, you know, general Wiki’d knowledge.  So it’s the small things that fascinate me, the cultural trinkets of daily life.  So from time to time I will entertain you with a peek at some of the cultural trinkets I keep tucked up on my Korea shelf.

Today’s tidbit is of a culinary nature.  Today I ordered omurice, one of my favorite inexpensive Korean dishes consisting of rice, egg, ketchup and in this case some sort of gravy (costs less than $4 US).  It comes with a small side of salad, kimchi and other sides per the usual.  Looks like this:

Omurice

I got it to go.  When I opened the bag in my apartment there were two sets of chopsticks…as if I am not expected to eat such a large portion all by myself.  I appreciate the foresight, but I don’t think they realize how it comes across psychologically.

Some of you might think it was just a simple mix-up, but trust me, this extra silverware/plasticware/woodenware thing is a norm here.  The other day, no lie, I got 2 straws with my Lotteria soda. ???  I remember the first time I noticed this habit.  I was feeling ultra emotional that day, somewhere back in culture shock phase #2 (the irritable phase) and went to Caffe Bene with one of my girls.  I got one of those belgian waffles with the scoop of gelato on top (yes we are still in Korea) to indulge and the waffle is only slightly larger than my palm, so definitely a small dessert size for my American tendencies.  (See below note the size in comparison to the size of a normal coffee mug)

Caffe Bene Gelato and Waffle

I was already thinking I should’ve ordered a side of extra gelato to compensate.  When I went to the counter, vibrating coaster in hand, I was given a prettily arranged plate with TWO forks.  Seriously.  Do I LOOK like I can’t handle this dish alone?  Have you seen these hips??  Curvy is my best asset and I’m not going to stay all curvy if you expect me to share this tea-party-portioned dessert with my girl over there.

I’m not a big fan of sharing food to begin with, let alone desserts.  Ever see that episode with Joey and the sharing food?  JOEY DOESN’T SHARE FOOD!  If not, see below…

I’m a big big (did I mention big?) fan of Friends so expect more clips as they relate to my life…anywho, that’s me, the non-sharer.  Here, there are some foods that must be shared and they are some of my favorite foods here like Korean BBQ and Shabu Shabu, so I share there, but when there are individual menu items involved, they are meant for the individual.

I must also point out that it is a good thing that I’m not one of those girls who is sensitive about my weight because it is hard enough living in a country where pants don’t come in your size, but to then have the 40kg teenager behind the coffee counter hand you two spoons for a small dessert basically insinuating that you’d be a pig to eat it alone…it could be very detrimental to the emotional health of many a young, less secure women I know.

I realize it is just a cultural difference and they do it out of kindness because they are used to people sharing things here (you should see some of the fruit ice cream thingys that come in like fish bowls with 4 spoons!),

Fish bowl sized shareable dessert

but word to the wise dear kind servers, westerners I know are used to asking for a second fork or set of chopsticks if they really need it.  Thanks though!  🙂

Oh and before I go, I wanted to fill you in on Korea Tip #127, when finished eating your take out in your apartment, store the container in the freezer until you are ready to take your trash out.  Any remnants of kimchi will wreak havoc on your apartment’s normal fragrance for days.  Trust me, your date will thank me for it.

NaNoWriMo

Writing is My Hobby

So remember that 30 day challenge I posted a few weeks ago where I was going to do a couple lessons of Korean a day?

EPIC FAIL.

Oh yes, that’s right.  I publicly admit that I failed on my own challenge.  I can’t even say I started and got distracted.  I never even did one lesson.  That is pathetic.

However, I am willing to take the chance at humiliating myself further with an even bigger challenge…

NANOWRIMO (imagine that being said in the big scary Wizard of Oz voice with flashing lights all around)

NaNoWriMo is coming our way folks and despite last year’s sad, sad failure with me writing only 4,000 out of 50,000 words, I am ready to try again.  If you have not yet heard of NaNoWriMo, it’s short for National Novel Writing Month which happens every November.  It’s like a contest, only you are more…competing against yourself and Father Time instead of others.  The goal is to write a novel of 50,000 words during the month of November.  That means you have to write 1,667 words a day minimum.  This, my friends, is no easy task.    You are expected to finish November with a pretty ish-y novel, then go back and revise it later.  The point is to get the words out of your head and onto the ‘paper.’

In preparation for the upcoming month, I headed to our much loved English bookstore today, What The Book, and stocked up on some used chicklit books (haven’t gotten an e-reader just yet) to help inspire me to be witty in my own forthcoming chicklit novel.  I already have an idea for the novel so that’s definitely a step in the right direction.

Anyone else joining NaNoWriMo this year?

First book on the pre-NaNo-reading list…Every Boy’s Got One by Meg Cabot.   About half way done in a matter of hours and laughing on just about every page.  This woman is funny!  She writes like I think.  Perhaps I’ll write a review here for you when I’m finished.

Ta Ta For Now!!

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I was emailing my teenage niece tonight and I asked her this:

If you could be any career without thinking about the salary or talent or education needed or anything like that – ie no obstacles – what would you be?

It got me thinking.  Then I thought some more.  And I realized that I wasn’t sure I could even answer that question for myself.  At least I didn’t have an immediate answer.  I’m sure there are many of you out there who don’t have an immediate answer either.

So that is your project.  Take a few minutes out of your day today and think about what you truly want to be.  Don’t give me the practical answer – you know, the career that you want to be because it will make you enough money or because that is what you know you can get a job in.  Give me your inner child’s answer.  That’s right, pretend you are 7.  Like back in the days when all kids wanted to be firemen, astronauts, models, actors and rock stars.  And don’t give me your parent’s answer either (I can’t tell you how many Korean children have told me they want to be lawyers and diplomats when they don’t even know what lawyers and diplomats do).  Give me YOUR answer.  Like the question above says, don’t think about talent or degrees, just what you would do if you had the choice.

To be fair, I will give you my answer to get things going.  I would be…well, a couple things actually.  Here they are in all their random glory:

If I'm going to be a librarian, you bet I'd be a hot one!

  • Librarian.  Odd right?  But I love books.  Not just reading them.  I love to see them lined up and organized all pretty.  Really old books and really new books are especially smile-worthy.  Why am I not a library you ask?  Because it requires a master’s degree and then the salaries are not worthy of the debt that the master’s degree would put me further into.

 

I want to learn how to make this perfect combo of caffeine and art.

  • Barista.  No, I don’t have a love of coffee or a desire to work with scalding liquids all day at a fast pace (which opens the imagination to visualize all kinds of dangerous spillage).  I just love the feel of a coffee shop, especially the non-franchisey ones.  The ones with the Goodwill couches, Thursday night local guitarist and no uniforms.  And I love the idea of a non-professional job where I can be my goofy self all day.  I’d get to listen to mood music all day and people watch during the non-rush hour.  Once I get out of debt, this is part of my plan.  Don’t cha just love it?  😉

 

  • Writer.  Can’t decide what kind of writer.  Novelist.  Travel writer.  Magazine writer.  Any of the above would be great.  And this is something I’m currently working on.  Being a language learner, I am very passionate about words and using them as a form of expression.  And I am a big advocate of sharing information.  I like the idea that it can be part-time or full-time and I can write from anywhere in the world thanks to the inventors of the computer and the internet.  Fingers crossed this one pans out.

 

Great shot of Keira Knightley from the movie the Edge of Love

  • Lounge singer.  I have no desire to be a big pop star or anything like (despite my 7 year old aspirations to be Debbie Gibson or Tiffany).  I don’t think my paranoid side would deal well with the fame and being in the public eye.  I want to be the woman at a dark, sophisticated piano bar with the sultry voice singing Diana Krall songs like Peel Me a Grape, Temptation and Cry Me a River.  (Those who have heard me at noraebang, stop snickering…I do much better with real music, less beer and no cheesy video distractions.  HA!  😀 ).  I’m Jessica Rabbit biotches.  Accept it.

When I was 7 I wanted to be a teacher and a dancer.  Without even realizing it, I ended up becoming both.  So I truly believe that if you tap into what you truly want and where you truly want to go in life, your raw passion for it will make sure you get there.

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