Category Archives: travel

Let’s wrap this up?

photo6

I’ve been a neglectful mother to my blog that I began nurturing back in late 2011. Writing is like a good workout for me. I think about it daily. I put it off and make excuses because IT’S HARD. Yet, I crave the satisfaction of walking away from the computer upon hitting the blue ‘Publish’ button after writing a time consuming and well-crafted post. Coming home has been fantastic, yet I feel as though I’m walking around constantly missing something. Did I forget my make-up? Do I have pants on? I am no longer an expat or a teacher in Korea and on top of that I have lost my ‘Travel Blogger’ title. Don’t get me wrong, I am ecstatic for what is next and I know I am ready for it, but I also know it is going to take some time and I miss having the blog platform to go to late at night or when I’m feeling creative.

photo5I may complain about not having a full-time job at the moment, but I know in a few weeks (fingers crossed) I will be missing mid-week beach visits like this one.

I arrived stateside about a month ago and it’s been a crazy yet wonderful return home to New England. Mere hours after landing in Boston and still battling jet-lag, my family descended upon Schenectady, NY for my brother’s graduation from Union College. After a weekend of reminiscing and lamenting to my parents as we passed early morning kegger remnants and sleepy-eyed students that, “Oh, those were the days…” we packed up my brother’s life and headed home. In the back of my mind I was thankful I was currently post-expat and not simply post-grad. Looking at the newly diploma-ed youngsters did bring me back to memories of late nights full of you-won’t-believe-it stories, but I also recognized that although I was job-less and living with my parents like many graduates would be for the summer of 2013, I had 17 months of Korea under my belt and in some mysterious way I knew the adventure was going to guide me to what was next.

photo2Portsmouth, NH, oh how I missed you!

I’ve spent the past month catching-up with friends and family, enjoying New Hampshire’s beach-lined coast, and missing Korea, and all the friends I left there. Oh, and when I’m not stuffing my face with hummus, making small-talk with (English speaking!) strangers in Starbucks and Trader Joe’s, loving the salty air and familiar landscapes of my beloved Martha’s Vineyard (Where I WILL own a house someday.), and sweating it out at my dearly missed Bikram yoga classes, I’ve been learning the art of NETWORKING, because really people, THIS IS HOW YOU GET A JOB.

photo1Early morning lessons and networking with Stonyfield Social Media experts!

I won’t bore you with all the details, but finding a full-time job is a full-time job and as hectic as it’s been it’s also been kind of fun. I’ve entered rooms full of strangers and forced myself to mingle. I’ve woken up at 6am to eat bagels and sip coffee with other ‘Social Media Enthusiasts’ at the #PortsBkfstClub. I’ve reached out to company owners and New Hampshire leaders through LinkedIn and friends of friends of friends. I’ve answered questions about my past and done so honestly and I’ve gotten fantastic responses to my answer, “I was teaching and living in Korea and I just got home and now I am job searching…” Korea gave me Psy socks, a new appreciation for barbecue, and life-long friends, but it also gave me a sense of confidence and the assurance that everything is going to work out. I’ll have to revisit Korea someday and thank the old jimjilbang ajummas and my Korean students, because if you can survive a naked scrub-down from an old woman and manage to control a room full of horse-dancing Korean speaking children all in one week, you can do anything.

photo3Catching up with old friends is hectic. We couldn’t stop chatting to take a photo!

I’ve come to the realization that while living and teaching in Korea may stand out on a resume timeline, it definitely brightens the page rather than tarnishing it. I’ve had to formulate some creative answers to show people how my time in Korea prepared me for my future career in marketing and communications, but it’s been a good exercise for me to find multiple ways to tell a story. And isn’t that exactly what I was doing in Korea? Staring back at adorably clueless Korean faces after explaining a lesson in English forced me to find a different way of expressing myself. I want to continue to create stories and find clever ways of telling them and luckily I’m re-entering the world of communications where content marketing is “about continuous storytelling. It’s about a steady stream of storytelling innovations—large and small—delivered as an ongoing pulse. A drumbeat.” (Read more from Jake Sorofman’s blog post here.)

photo4You can travel around the world, but nothing beats a familiar summer sunset from your porch.

It is encouraging to see that people are still using this blog as a tool for living the ‘Expat life in Korea’ and I hope to remain a resource for those of you who have questions or comments. As my job search continues I am also working on creating a new blog for my new adventure. Who knows, ‘The Expat Comes Home’…and FINDS A JOB? Or perhaps overdoses on hummus? You’ll have to stay tuned. So, I guess this isn’t about wrapping it up, it’s just the beginning!

2 Comments

Filed under devan teacher, korea in the news, travel, yoga

Oh, and one more thing. *Advice about The Arrival Store*

I’m home. Phew. That was a long flight.

I’m ecstatic to be home. Everyone said it would be weird and strange and that reverse culture shock is a monster, but honestly it’s been pleasant so far. Perhaps it is because my family has been amazingly supportive, I have so many friendships to catch up on and a few babies to meet (New people arrived while I was away!), and I am super busy networking and job searching.

homehome sweet home

I have a few more words to post about life in Korea and I hope to create a new post-Korea blog soon (Any ideas are welcome!), but I wanted to give a shout-out to The Arrival Store (Check them out.) for making  my Korea departure just a bit less hectic. Back in 2011, when I was preparing to move to Korea, I found TAS to be a valuable resource for making my expat transition a smooth one. TAS sent me comfy pillows and a plush mattress pad along with a transformer to keep my computer powered and my unruly hair tamed with a beloved straightener from home.

the arrival store

I also, after a handful of other new teachers recommended it, bought a smart-phone through TAS. As many of you know, acquiring a mobile phone in Korea can be tricky and can sometimes involve a long period of waiting. My new TAS phone was delivered immediately and was easy to use. While other friends were phone-less and relying on I don’t know what, telekinesis? to make plans and navigate Korea, I was texting, chatting, and downloading awesome apps that made adapting to life in Korea a piece of kimchi cake.  I found the bills easy to pay. I could walk up to any ATM and with a few pushed buttons I was set. When I decided to stay in Korea for an extra term of teaching TAS told me it was no problem and included directions in an email for my future departure.

When the time came to leave Korea (tear tear) I started making lists and boy those lists were long. I packed up my Korea life and said goodbye to some amazing people. TAS made my departure so easy because I was able to hold onto my phone until the morning of my flight. It was too easy! I simply put the phone in an envelope and shipped it back to their Korean office. I didn’t have to go to a store or fill out crazy forms. When my phone reached TAS hands my final bill was calculated and then the remainder of my original phone deposit was put back into my PayPal account. Score: Money I forgot even existed was now mine again!

So all in all I can give you a lot of advice about moving to Korea (Email any questions to drmeserve@gmail.com.) and my single most important piece of wisdom is: GOSH, JUST GO! But my other advice is to check out The Arrival Store. I’m all for making things easier. I promise life in Korea is easy and fun and gorgeous and TAS can make it that much more convenient.

Other advice:

1) Soju: If it’s offered, drink it.

2) Learn *some* Korean.

3) Smile and love Korea.

4) Know Chincha.

5) Make friends on SHG trips.

& HAVE FUN!

Leave a comment

Filed under departure, travel

Get your music on this summer in Seoul.

I’m all about the music. I am up for any concert, just ask. With only a few days left before I leave (tear tear), lately I’ve been reminicing about all I’ve managed to experience while teaching and living in Korea (Are you ready?). I am amazed at how much I have done in such a short amount of time, especially when I think about all the concerts I’ve attended. It seems like ages ago, but at this time last year I was preparing to witness Lady Gaga’s first and very controvercial world tour stop in Seoul. A short while later I joined happy-go-lucky young Koreans lounging on Nami Island for the annual Rainbow Island Festival with Jason Mraz as the headliner.

A friend surprised me the next month with tickets to Korea’s famous pop music countdown show, Inkigayo. I was able to live out my childhood TRL dreams and be schooled in K-Pop all in the same day. Later in the summer I hopped from one stage to the next at Super!Sonic where I was able to inch my way to the front of Foster The People, Gotye, New Order, The Vaccines and other stages. Also, during the summer and fall I spent many a weekend night with a beer in hand in Hongdae park where young creative college students performed for large spontaneous crowds.

Oh, and how could I forget, I basically had a date with Psy last fall. He paid for everything, soju was chugged, and his shirt came off.

IMG_20121005_1

 *****

 After stumbling out of Hongdae’s Rolling Hall a short time ago with ringing ears and sore feet I sadly realized this particular night probably marked my last big Korea concert. But I couldn’t think of a better act to end with.

IMG_20130324_2

 

Claire Boucher (aka Grimes) is a Canadian musician who has learned to successfully mix just the right amount of electronic pop with beautiful vocals to create dance-worthy and uplifting beats. Her Seoul trip was a special one becasue she is a huge K-Pop fan and apparently a few big Korean names, including G-Dragon, were present at the March 23 show.

grimes

photo from @supercolorsuper

I may have a year or so on the small yet fiercely blonde music-maker, but her stage precense was uniquely uplifting and powerful. I think one reason I enjoy live music so much is that I love witnessing people doing the one thing they are meant to do in life. Grimes is a musician and she is made for the stage. I left the show with a desire to continue dancing and an even stronger apprecition for my decision to wear flats on this particular night.

Here are a few resources you should check out to ensure you do not miss the next big show in Korea. So many fantastic acts grace Korea with their presence each year, you just have to be on the look-out for information regarding each show.

1) SuperColorSuper ‘makes concerts’ and brought Grimes to Seoul. Check out the other shows they are working on here.

2) The Korea Gig Guide is a great resource for small and big acts performing in Korea. While browsing this guide last year I stumbled upon the Lady Gaga show information. You can also skim it before venturing out on a Friday or Saturday night to see which bars will have live music.

3) Interpark is kind of like the TicketMaster of Korea. I used this site to buy Super!Sonic, Lady Gaga and Rainbow Island Festival tickets. The site is easy to navigate and you can sign up for emails to inform you of upcoming shows.

IMG_20120610_004116

Get your music on this summer:

June 7-9: Rainbow Island Festival

June 14-15: Ultra Korea

July 26-28: Ansan Valley Rock Festival (I am so jealous, The XX will be there this year. Check out the promotional video here. It makes me want summer in a bad bad way.)

August: Super!Sonic will return this year, but the specifics have yet to be released. Keep an eye on this page for more information and don’t miss it.

  Enjoy. And wear flats.

Leave a comment

Filed under music, seoul, travel

Go ride a bike.

 

“When I see an adult on a bicycle I do not despair for the future of the human race.” -H.G. Wells

I’m sorry, I cheated on a previous blog post. I recommended a bike ride along the Han River in Seoul as a fabulous Spring activity if you are living in Korea, yet my feet hadn’t connected with pedals in almost a year. In an attempt to redeem myself, I along with two friends, ventured into Seoul this past Sunday and were successful in renting bikes and having a grand and glorious day. We saw kites, kid cars, bball players, swan boats, speed walkers, unicyclers, tandem bikers, gardeners, and dancing toddlers to name a few. Everyone was out on the river this weekend and you should have been too.

IMG_20130403_9

I know there are many places along the river to rent bikes, but I recommend starting your day at the Ttukseom Resort Seoul Subway Station (Line 7). It is conveniently located right on the water and you can spot the rental shop as soon as you walk out of the station. I paid 3,000 won for the first hour (less than $3.00) and I left my ID with the rental shop. When I returned more than three hours later I paid a bit more for the extra time and collected my ID. The process was easy and foreigner friendly.

IMG_20130403_1

IMG_20130403_2

IMG_20130403_3

 Biking along the Han River was one of the best things I have done this Spring. Please enjoy my pictures and video included below and if you’ve rented bikes at a different location I would love to hear about your experience.

IMG_20130331_3

IMG_20130403_4

IMG_20130403_6

IMG_20130403_7

IMG_20130403_8

IMG_20130403_10

IMG_20130403_11

2 Comments

Filed under cuter in korea, seoul, travel

A Seoul Spring on the Han

Something about being near water is simply relaxing. When the weather finally agrees to reward Seoul, Korea with a mild and sunny day after a brutally long winter people tend to flock to the Han River. Here are 10 ways to enjoy the river in the coming months.

1

seoultower

photo credit: my cool friend James

1) Banpo Bridge

The Banpo Bridge is home to the world’s largest bridge water fountain show. Arrive around dusk and enjoy the multicolored show of lights and water. It is amazing, this picture from last summer doesn’t do it justice!

IMG_20120623_200950

2) Walk, run, or roller-blade – just get out there and be active.

You will feel 100x better after an active river excursion on a day off from teaching English in Korea. Separate pedestrian paths line both sides of the river and you can cross the water at various bridges.

hanarrows

photo credit

 3) Yes, those are floating islands in the river.

The Seoul Floating Island (3 separate islands) is an artificial island in the river and was built in 2006 after a Seoul citizen, Kin Eun Sung, suggested the project. Kinda cool and random, huh? I love it.  Make your way over to the islands while enjoying the Han River in Seoul.

floatingisland

photo credit

 4) Bike, bike some more, stop at a  7-11, and then continue on your bike.

I have yet to rent a bike and enjoy a leisurely Sunday ride along the water. I must do this before I leave Korea. Bikers are always smiling and I want to be one of them. Maybe it’s the endorphins, or perhaps it’s the numerous soju and snack breaks. Either way, count me in. Read here for more information on bike rental spots along the Han river in Seoul.

IMG_20120917_32

5) Chill out. 

You can easily lounge for hours in the grassy areas along the river. If you need to use a restroom there is usually always one nearby (Just remember to bring your own TP.). Also, if you find yourself and your English teacher friends craving a pizza (or really ANYTHING) you can simply call and order delivery (You may need help from a friendly Korean.) and minutes later a motorbike will arrive at your blanket with food. It’s simply amazing.

IMG_20120624_140254

6) I’m on a boat.

There are many ways to explore the Han river via boat. Check out this write-up about a Hangang river cruise through Seoul.

IMG_20120917_33

7) Go fly a kite.

I know you’re a ‘grown-up’ now, but I promise it’s still fun.

IMG_20120506_221219

8) I really wonder where they find all the matching outfits.

I’m always down to people watch while I relax with a beer in hand and the sun on my face. I love spotting the adorably dressed matching couples strolling along the river hand-in-hand.

9) Stretch it out.

I’m a sucker for these friendly reminders to take time to stretch. After an activity-packed day on the river you deserve a little TLC.

pudto_I'm 17_20120304_003612

10) Relax, but keep one eye open at all times…

Here is something I promise you will not experience at the Han River. Oh, but you just never know in Korea. I’ve seen some pretty outlandish things.

 

1 Comment

Filed under food, seoul, travel

“Free, for me?” Korea knows a thing or 2 or 10 about great service.

Living and teaching in Korea has allowed me to adopt a pretty decadent life-style. I’ve been pampered in traditional Korean bathhouses and spas, I’ve wined and dined most weekend evenings in Seoul, I’ve adopted a Korean sense of style and I can find an item that ‘I just have to have!’ in any store, and I’ve adventured throughout Korea and flown to Taiwan and Thailand all in the last year. My teaching salary has allowed me to try, see, taste and shop my way through Southeast Asia all while sending money home to the US each month to pay off student loans and other debt.

I will leave Korea in June, so I have decided to be a bit frugal and save more money in my last few months. It is comforting to know that while I am saving I can still enjoy myself in true Korean style. Korea is famous for exemplary ‘service’ and freebies. Money is great, but free things are even better.

free

10 Fantastic Korean Freebies:

1) Restaurant Side Dishes

In any Korean restaurant the owners and workers believe that ‘The customer is king’. If you are an expat in Korea you are familiar with the word ‘service’ (서비스 – seobiseu). While restaurant workers do not expect tips for their service, they also do not expect diners to wait long for food or have an average culinary experience. I have not had a bad restaurant trip yet. Staff go out of their way to make sure you are happy. ‘Service’ most commonly refers to freebies gifted to customers. I have been gifted beers, bottles of soju and extra orders of barbecue meat. Of course free soju tastes delicious, but when I return home to the US I will most miss the endless supply of Korean restaurant side dishes. As a former waitress I can recall being scolded by management for giving extra honey mustard to customers without adding it to their bill. In Korea this is unheard of. Most meals come with at least 5 or 6 small bowls of delicious side dishes and they are continuously replenished during your meal for free.

food2

2) Cosmetic Samples

I could probably open my own store with all the samples I have. Although I am always using the samples and bringing them on overnight trips, I still have a mountainous supply. Each time I visit a SkinFood or Etude House store I leave with a bag of free samples. 

free2

3) ‘Just Because’ Gifts

Last Sunday night a pleasant man selling fruit out of his truck threw an extra box of strawberries and four oranges in with my original purchase. When I bought a new perfume this past summer the saleslady tossed in a straw floppy hat. And many times my local convenience store cashier chases me out of the store because I leave before he can retrieve the free juice drink (or candy bar or soda or pack of gum) I deserve because I purchased a coffee drink (or special snack or energy drink or pack of ramen). Sometimes all the free ‘just because’ gifts can get confusing, but I love them.

IMG_20120613_222806

4) WiFi and Phone Charging

Korea’s outstanding WiFi is something I will also miss when I am back in the US. Many of my friends choose to not pay for internet service on their smart phones or tablets because they know they can find free WiFi in most places in Korea. Here is a great resource for getting free WiFi anywhere in Korea.

Free phone charging still baffles me. Why wouldn’t stores and restaurants charge for charging stations? I was first introduced to free phone (and device) charging while at a music festival last summer. After a day of map and Google searching, hours of snapping pictures and taking videos, and endless texts to my friends who were scattered around the different music stages my phone was close to dead. I laughed at a sign next to a Vitamin Water booth (They were giving away free Vitamin Waters of course.) that advertised a ‘recharging service’. The festival was on an island and I imagined someone making ridiculous profits by providing mobile phone charger stations. When I heard another concert-goer utter ‘FREE!’ I quickly steered myself to the station.

Most bars and restaurants also provide phone charging services for free.  

IMG_20120610_004841

5) Food Delivery

Most restaurants in Korea deliver. And it is amazing. It is fast and free and along with the usual freebie appetizers the restaurant also includes dishes and utensils that you simply leave outside your door when you finish feasting.

6) Seoul Tours

SeoulMate offers free tours of Seoul. Their website states: We are ‘SeoulMate’, composed of university students that volunteer as special Seoul tour guides to non-Korean tourists for free. We offer the opportunities for you to make Korean friends and understand the culture of Seoul through our tour programs. Check out their website for the latest tour dates and information.

aboutSeoulMate

photo

7) Museums

Most museums in Seoul are free or very affordable. I do know the Museum of Contemporary Art is free on every fourth Saturday of the month. The War Memorial of Korea and The National Folk Museum also offer free admission.

8) Festivals

Sometimes it seems as if there is a festival going on every weekend in Korea. My favorite festival is definitely the Lotus Lantern Festival in Seoul. I spent the weekend in Seoul snapping pictures of the brilliantly colored lanterns, learning about Buddhism at various informational booths, and watching traditional dances, ceremonies and a parade. The entire weekend was free. Here are a few other festivals to enjoy.

IMG_20120520_011010

9) Promotional Goodies

Promoters in Seoul are constantly trying to give you free things. And there are no obligations. You don’t need to sign up for a credit card or give away your email address. You simply say thank you and enjoy the free gift. Last weekend my friend and I were waiting in line for concert tickets at an almost sold-out Grimes show in Hongdae. With over two hours of standing ahead of us we complained of upcoming fatigue. Luckily we scored free Monster energy drinks from a nearby promoter. I love when life works out like that.

free1

10) Gym Equipment

I should get a gym membership. But why pay for one when you can just use the free equipment scattered all along the river and in parks? I try to make it down to the river to walk or run at least 3 or 4 times a week and there are clusters of decent gym machines for public use on both sides of the water.

pudto_Venice_20120331_184629

5 Comments

Filed under seoul, travel

So Long, Farewell: It hurts when friends leave Korea.

 

jump

I won’t lie, last week in Korea was rough. I should have been elated for the upcoming weekend forecast of warm weather and birthday celebrations for yours truly, but my heart was a little crushed. A handful of fellow teachers departed or began preparations for the journey home. Each time someone leaves I realize how much they’ve influenced my time abroad. I mean, come on, they basically made it.

group

Before moving to Korea I was worried most about encountering loneliness while abroad. But after saying goodbye to my mother at the airport in Boston I was only really ‘alone’ for a brief flight to NYC. In NYC I met another teacher headed to Korea and we bonded over packing stresses and teaching applications until our plane began its slow descent into Seoul. I hadn’t known this girl for more than a day, but we already had so much in common. We were doing this ‘teaching in Korea’ thing and we were anxiously enthusiastic to finally get to it.

IMG_20121229_2

My fellow plane buddy and I recruited a few other wide-eyed soon-to-be-teachers from our flight and we together conquered customs and baggage claim. Although my new friends soon departed for different parts of Korea, I continue to check-in with them on Facebook and I luckily ran into one of them this past summer at Korea Burn, Korea’s ultimate hippie soiree. We hugged and chatted like we had known each other for ages. As cliche as it sounds, we had started the journey as English teachers together in NYC and it was nice to know we both were excelling at the expat ESL life in Korea.

After the airport I joined 50+ other newbie teachers in Seoul and we trained together for the week. There were no awkward first conversations. We were all here to start a life of teaching and living in Korea and that fact was the only necessary key to unlock friendly conversation. I instantly realized I had more in common with these people than I did with most I encountered everyday back in Boston. After a week of late study nights, new foods and embarrassing attempts to figure out the Seoul Subway, we were separated and sent to our new schools scattered across Korea. And yet, although we have settled down in our respective Korean cities, we still keep in touch. I traveled to Busan this past June to visit training friends. I love running into others in Seoul. And we all laugh at comedic teaching moments we share with each other using social media.

grouppsy

So, even before I arrived in my city I had a handful of close ‘Korea friends’ and loneliness was a distant worry. And then I met my Uijeongbu family. Sometimes we laugh about how we all met each other. Sometimes the details are fuzzy. Korean friendships are different. They are fast. They are necessary. They are void of awkward introductions and pleasantries. Upon meeting the fellow teachers in my city we did not hesitate to share phone numbers and weekend plans. We each had jumped head-first into a new life in Korea and we needed each other. We ignored our differences in age, life experience and nationality. It was quite refreshing.

These friends became my family. We have celebrated holidays, birthdays and Friday nights together for the past year and time has flown. I haven’t had much time to feel lonely. My friends helped make Korea home and each has helped to make me feel confident about where I am at this point in life and also enthusiastic about what the future holds. They get me, and this understanding is rooted in the shared itch we all had at some point in the recent past to travel, teach and live abroad.

 drinks

Although abroad friendships are quickly created, they also change in the same manner. Living abroad is not permanent for many and teaching contracts have end dates. So, earlier this month I said goodbye to a dynamic couple who were always eager to coordinate social outings, religiously brought home-baked goodies to the bar and loved to laugh. Last Monday I painfully said goodbye to one of my closest friends in Uijeongbu. I can’t think of much we didn’t experience together in Korea. We arrived at the same time, bonded over a misspelled salad sign that read ‘Crap Salad’ at an expat dinner and stuck together for the rest of the year. Friday I helped a neighbor and dear friend carry her bags to the bus stop and endured another goodbye hug. Now I have a few weeks to prepare for the April departure of a friend who has been a constant source of laughs, optimism and honest and intelligent advice throughout this hectic year.

group1

I know these friendships will continue and flourish in the years to come. I will be in Korea for a bit longer, but we will stay in touch and I am excited to visit each of them and learn more about their post-Korea adventures. I know I am lucky to have friends in crazy area codes, but for now I’m letting myself miss them, because in doing that I am able to truly see just how much they mean to me. Thank you friends, you know who you are. 😉 ^^

“No distance of place or lapse of time can lessen the friendship of those who are thoroughly persuaded of each other’s worth.” – Robert Southey

IMG_20130302_1

2 Comments

Filed under arrival, cuter in korea, departure, travel, uijeongbu