Things I’ve Learned Since the Self-Induced “No-Facebook” Ban

  • I notice the desire to sit in front of the computer “just a little longer”, stalling many of the other priorities I have.
  • Instead, I write longer and more involved emails to friends and family. I’m working on a few as we speak. Catching up, if you will.
  • I rely on others to spread information from Facebook to me in real life. Gone are the informal Event Invitations.
  • I read much more.
  • I think about the future more.
  • I am going to blog much more.

In conclusion, Facebook consumes time and energy that’s better spent on myself. I think I might just stay away completely.

Merry Christmas-u!

매리크리스마스 everyone!

It’s once again that time of the year, when last minute shoppers claim their name to fame, trains are completely packed, it’s absolutely frigid outside, and the only thing on your mind is being with family and enjoying some quality time together.

First, I hope that your Christmas was amazing. Or is going to be amazing, since I’m posting this during your Christmas Eve (East-coasters!). Hold your moms and dads just a little bit longer when you give them a hug, since there are millions of people who wish they could do the same this holiday season.

Now to give you a few details before I post some pictures… Imagine this if you can.

Opening the door to Dan’s apartment and seeing a walkway of candles that stretched to the middle of the room, where the candles formed a heart around a little table, topped with French champagne and sushi. On the far table, carefully laid out, were two homemade dishes: strawberry salad and alfredo pasta with mussels. Warm light bounced off the walls, Christmas music was playing from the speakers, and a lighted Christmas tree stood on the bedside table. Christmas cards from Daniel’s students were decorating his refrigerator and completed the Christmas-y feel.

It was, quite literally, the most romantic evening of my life. The dinner was perfect, the champagne was delicious, and the atmosphere made me feel as if I were in my own personal heaven. I didn’t want the night to end. Props to Dan for making it a complete surprise, and personalizing it to my every wish. I think he might know me better than I know myself!

Later this week I will update with what gifts were given and how I spent my Christmas Day. I wanted to share with you the magic of my Christmas and I hope you feel just as much cheer as I did!

Love you all. Merry Christmas!

‘Tis the Season

 

One thing that can nearly be universally recognized is the Christmas holiday. Here in Korea, things are taken just as seriously as back home, but the massive commercialism of the United States hasn’t quite affected Korean minds to the same effect.

For example, Christmas decorations did not go up at the same time as Halloween decorations this year. I watched with careful eyes, waiting for that first Christmas tree to go up. I believe I remember the exact date that I saw one, tucked away in the bedroom furniture section in Yongsan Digital Complex. It was mid-November. That’s the latest I believe I’ve ever seen a Christmas tree put up for display. And the thing is, I didn’t see any more Christmas trees until around the first of December.

My school is just now putting up Christmas decorations and it’s the 7th. Is it that Christmas is not as widely celebrated here? Is it that Christmas is not as important?

The short answer is yes. Although about a third of South Koreans are Christian, most of the remaining population is Buddhist or Atheist. The materialistic side of Christmas comes out here more than the “true” meaning of Christmas, although the same thing could be said about the United States right now, too.

My point is, there seems to be a lack of interest for commercializing Christmas in South Korea. The holiday is celebrated in just about the right amount: a few weeks before the actual event. People go shopping for presents (mostly just for children and lovers) and order Christmas cake. It’s another excuse for a holiday and lots of professional pictures.  There is no need to stretch Christmas out from October to December. There isn’t as much pressure to buy presents for everyone you know. Spending time with people and enjoying that time together is more important than getting the perfect gift.

It blows my mind over how much time and effort we Americans (or Westerners) invest into making sure everyone we are friends and family with get a present. There are exceptions, don’t get me wrong, but even here in Korea I am stressing out about buying presents for my friends and family back home. I know those presents probably won’t arrive in time for the holidays.  (In fact, I’ll be surprised if most of my family gets them before the end of January.)

But if there’s one thing I’m definitely excited for, it’s the opportunity to spend part of my winter break traveling around Korea and the other part skiing and snowboarding with Dan, Sully, and Jayu during New Years Eve.

So far it’s been a wonderful ride. December 30 will mark my 5th full month in Korea. It feels like it was just yesterday that I arrived (as you can probably tell from my lack of posting).  I’m looking forward to the next 7 months of adventure and exploration and the likelihood that I will stop there is slim to none.

In short: Christmas is coming and I’m ready to celebrate! Bring on the eggnog!

Giving Thanks

It was a wonderful Thanksgiving here in Korea. You might think that the spirit would be dampened since there is a significant lack in ovens and turkey. There is also difficulty finding ingredients and spices like the ones we can get easily and cheaply at home. But somehow, through it all, I managed to have a wonderful Thanksgiving with my friends here, the people that make it feel like family.

Joel, a guy who always manages to have the best parties even in his teeny-tiny apartment, hosted the party. A few days leading up to the event it was decided that some people should bring dishes to share in a potluck style. Of course, to me this meant making some of my family’s famous stuffing. Turkey was too expensive and hard to come by, so the group decided to just get some chicken from KFC and use their imagination when eating it.

The stuffing was actually quite a bit more difficult to make than usual considering I don’t have an oven (and probably won’t buy one for another 2-3 months if at all) and it seems that chicken broth does not exist in Korean cuisine.  I literally made my own chicken stock by having to season, cook, and boil the skin and bones from a pre-cut chicken the night before the party. Then, using my own special spices from back home, combined the bread, celery, and onions together with butter and the fresh chicken stock.

I let this cook in the rice cooker for about an hour or so, allowing the juices to soak up into the bread. It tasted divine. I almost had trouble putting down the chopsticks! The next day it was party time, so I lugged all my materials to the apartment via suitcase, set up in the kitchen and got to work. I think this is probably what made it feel most like Thanksgiving to me. Without a little elbow grease and kitchen work, it probably wouldn’t have been close to what I’m used to on Thanksgiving Day.

We all enjoyed the amazing meal that also included fruit salad and mashed potatoes. Since this is a traditional American holiday, Joel bought us all Budweiser (which is pretty expensive here!). We made toasts and went around the room telling each other what we were thankful for. Joel was thanked about 5 or 6 times for hosting, and I’ll say it again: Thanks! Spending time together with everyone from the meet-up group really made the evening feel special.

I’m thankful for many things this year: my job, my loving family back home, my friends, and for meeting Dan. It was the closest thing to perfect I could have asked for. I’m happy here, peaceful even, and that makes life so much easier to enjoy.

Life In General…

I haven’t made a proper blog post in quite some time. I’ve found that the more time you invest in living your life, the less time you really have to reflect on it in terms of journaling goes. So here I am, making some time during the day (when I’m not supposed to be getting sleep) to share with you the little happenings in my life.

The last three weeks have been so busy! After the Jeju Biking Trip, I went to the Busan International Film Festival.  There was so much to do! Dan, Mike, Chris, Justin, and I watched about 5 movies each. I’m sad to say that only one of those was completely enjoyable. We spent the day relaxing in some of the best movie theatre seats I’ve ever sat in. I indulged in wine during the last two movies of the day, and had quite the time trying to find a hotel in Haeundae.  The next day was spent touring the city, eating fresh fish sashimi-style, tasting a persimmon for the first time, and reclining on the beach during sunset. It was because of this that I missed my train home, but luckily (and boy, do I mean luckily), I was able to get the last ticket on a train bound for Cheonan.

I started taking guitar lessons two weeks ago at a music shop called 안 기. Last weekend I spent a good amount of time trying to play my favorite songs and ending up learning some major chords but failing at playing a whole song. I am getting better, though! Last night we had practice again and I played circles around a couple of the people there. Practice makes perfect.

Another hobby I’ve found myself interested in (but currently not enough to buy a whole set of gear) is longboarding. It’s like surfing and snowboarding and skateboarding at the same time.  The rush that you get from it is incredible. In the spring of next year, I might have saved up enough to buy the gear and go to town. It would be really fun here in 쌍용 because there are so many hills and gradual grade in the streets. At night, when it’s cool and there’s very little traffic, would be the ideal time to go for a ride. Unfortunately, it’s getting pretty chilly here at night and that means cold-season.

Speaking of colds, I had one at the start of every week for the last three weeks (since coming back from Jeju). This week is the first time in so long that I haven’t been sick! It’s a good feeling. Thanks to Gam, I was able to recover quickly the first time with Sudafed, but now I have to rely on Korean Medicine, and it’s just not strong enough for my immune system.  Doubling-up is common for me. It makes the days crawl by.

One thing that I’ve dropped since coming here is exercise. It’s up to me to make it a regular thing. It’s up to me to get out there and actually do it. When I think about it during the day, I’m excited. I want to get out there and run. But by the time I’ve worked 8-9 hours, it’s the furthest thing from my mind.  I’ve got so many other aspects of my life under control… this is the next big change about to happen.

Anyhow, it’s time to wrap this up for now. Next? The much-anticipated Jeju Biking Trip post!

Hey there.

I don’t really have too much time, but I wanted to say that I am indeed alive and well in the ROK. :)

Last weekend there was a huge party to celebrate the 80’s and 90’s at Kooma in Ssangyong-dong. There were quite a few people who attended, but I, unfortunately, got sick early in the evening and missed a lot of the good stuff. However, it was fun to spend Saturday thrift shopping in the streets of Cheonan with Andrew, Stephanie, and Erica. We made fun of horrible 90’s fashion and donned rediculous clothing because, hey, thrift shops are full of the stuff.

This week I’ve been busy with studying Korean and work, as usual. I haven’t had much time to sit down and enjoy some tv yet. “You’re in Korea! Why watch TV?” I have to say, I’m the kind of person that needs to unwind sometimes. Too much of a good thing can turn into a bad one. I don’t want to burn myself out in the first few months and then be miserable for the rest of my time here.

Originally, I planned to spend my Saturday morning and afternoon at the animal shelter in Asan. It doesn’t look like this Saturday is so good for my friends, so we’ve moved the date to next Saturday, the weekend before Chusok. I’m excited to go back to the shelter because I really want to see the unnamed Malamute again. I’m still undecided on fostering him. On the one hand, dogs are awesome. They provide a comfort and kind of love that I can’t get from anyone in Korea. It would be nice to have someone to come home to and take care of. Also, dogs are just freakin’ sweet. On the other hand, it would limit my ability to travel. I would have to either put him in a kennel (doggy hotel) or at the vet, or maybe get someone to look after him and walk him.

Those are really the only downsides. I don’t mind spending my free time searching for a good home for him. That is the nature of fostering, after all. I want to take him for walks, and spend money on food. If I’m about to leave Korea and he doesn’t yet have a home, then he’s coming home with me. I don’t mind paying to send him to the US if it comes down to it.

I’m also not afraid of watching him die. If his heartworm is as bad as Mr. Park says it is, then I won’t be able to afford to fix it. I’ll try to give him the best life possible before he dies, and then I’ll have to arrange his cremation and etc. I don’t even mind that.

I’ll definitely visit at least once or twice more before making a final decision. I want to spend more time with him and make sure that his behavior is very good. I want to test his abilities.  If he is petering on the edge of “shelter fever” then I might not be able to save him, no matter how hard I try. But he is very calm, a perfect walker, and very sweet. He needs a loving person to take care of him for the rest of his life. It might not be much longer, I’m not sure yet. But every day my heart just aches for these dogs, this one especially.

… I just realized that most of this post was about the dogs! Well, it is important to me. It’s one of the non-school related things that I really love being involved in. Until next time…

Asan Animal Shelter

Before I left for Korea, I was interested in adopting a new dog. I knew it would be impossible at home because I would be living in an apartment with maybe only one bedroom. All of the dog breeds I was interested in were big dogs that need a lot of room inside, and most of those need a decent amount of attention to keep them occupied.

I watched a few videos and checked out an online forum about fostering animals in Korea. Shelter conditions here are terrible, but I’ll get into that in a few more minutes. I knew that it was the right thing to do if I found myself in the position to have enough time.

Last Saturday, I visited Asan Animal Shelter with my friend Lawrence. It was an experience, let me tell you. I’ve never been to an outdoor shelter before. In Richmond, I visited the SPCA, a clean and air-conditioned place where people find cats, dogs, rabbits, and all kinds of other animals to adopt. The adoption fee was $150 the last time I visited the shelter, and the dogs had all their shots and papers.

At Asan (and many shelters in Korea, to my understanding), they only have enough money and manpower to keep the animals outdoors, sometimes completely unprotected from the weather. The pens are rusty and have large holes that have been “fixed” with chicken wire or pieces of fence that was just lying around. Most of the pens are barren soil with rocks lying around, no grass to be found. When it rains, the entire area becomes a muddy sea of feces. The stench is something you get used to after an hour or so, but it is heartbreaking to see the dogs in this state.

Some dogs are kept in cages above the ground. They are also rusty from being exposed to the elements, and most only have a tiny square of wood for the dog to sit or lay on. Otherwise, their paws have to walk on the bottom of their wire cage.

Many dogs are in the shelters because they have a disability. Skin problems, broken bones, hip displaysia, cancer, tumors, and missing body parts are common ailments at Asan’s shelter. They rarely get walked, and even more rarely get bathed.

There is one dog at Asan animal shelter that I want to foster for sure. (Actually, there are several I wish I could rescue, but this one is definitely the dog for me.) Here’s his picture.

He has no name that I know of. He’s an Alaskan Malamute. This breed is usually known for being extremely large, dominant, and possibly aggressive with small children and dogs. However, if trained properly, the dog can be the sweetest thing. They need a firm leader from their owner and lots of exercise/room to live in. They were originally from colder climates, so they love winter time. Malamutes in general should not be living in Korea, and definitely should not be living in an outdoor shelter in the summer.

Needless to say, I’m going back this Saturday morning to visit the unnamed Malamute again. I want to spend more time with him and see how he behaves around other dogs and people. I’d like to really get to hike with him and bring some extra food… a bone, maybe some shampoo, too. I’m aware that this will limit what I can do and where I can go, but I have to tell you that I’m not crazy. This dog is beautiful inside and out. He has a great personality for his breed. I just want to see him have a better life than what he has now, even if it’s only for a few more weeks.

If you are living in South Korea and are interested in adopting or fostering animals, please visit Animal Rescue Korea’s website.

No matter where you live, please consider adopting your pets. Those that you see at pet shops for sale are animals that have been inbreed several times and will likely have very short lives with an expensive price tag. Save animals that really need saving! Mutts need love too!

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