Author Archives: MK Chadwick

About MK Chadwick

I'm MK. I like 찜닭. I live in Seoul.

The Circle of Excuses

You hear often of people wasting the present because they are so concerned with the past. A life full of “what if”s or “if only”s. I too used to live that way for most of my life. If only I hadn’t acted that way at that party, if only I hadn’t said that to him, what if I texted him a little earlier or later…
I got tired of all that. I grew tired of looking into the past and fretting over things that could never be fixed. So I moved my attention to the future. I have become fixated on making the perfect future. Except, now, I am so focused on my plans and what I will do that I forget to live in the now. To enjoy the moments I have now.

And it’s not even like I plan accordingly and stick to it, I plan out something with a half-assed effort and then the deadline passes and I begin to plan for the next deadline. I’ve become too sloppy, too lazy, in my efforts to begin. I waste time and money. I become disappointed in myself.

And no matter how many apps I try to find to make me be more responsible, to help guide me back on the right path (budgeting apps, exercise apps, reminder apps), nothing works. Because the problem is me. I am the one who has problems focusing on one task, particularly the one in front of me. I find myself constantly searching for something- a better me, perhaps? Something to make me better. It’s useless, I soon realize. It’s a giant circle that I know I’m walking in and one I choose not to stop walking, though I blame something else. You know the circle.

That’s it! I’ve decided to lose weight! I’ll start slowly. I’ll go on walks. Oh, today I’m tired. I’ll take the day off and rest. Tomorrow I’ll walk again. Oh, I’m still tired. This can’t be right. I need to exercise in order to feel better. But I am so tired and depressed. Oh, I’ll just go sleep. Oh, dear. No time for exercise. Why don’t I have a boyfriend? Because you’re fat. Well, I’ll just exercise. But I’m so tired. And Oh, I have no money. I need to budget. I will start budgeting tonight! I will lay it out. Oh, hi! Yes, I have no plans tonight. Dinner? Sounds great! What time? Perfect!

And on and on this goes. I’m wasting time. I’m wasting my life. My precious life. The one I waited for so much when I was young, is quickly racing by. And I have nothing to show for it. I am no longer a young kid. I am no longer a young adult. I need to stop wasting time and get moving. Both physically and mentally. Put down the phone. Make a list. Start checking things off. It’s time. Now is the time.

Categories: life, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Road to Freedom Part 3 – Immigration and The Interview

Part 3

So, after going to http://www.hikorea.org and booking my appointment for the 9th of September, it was just a matter of waiting. Do I have all the documents I need? Is everything in order? Am I forgetting something? I think I looked over my documents at least 3 times before leaving the house that day.

When you book your appointment, they give you your waiting number at the same time. So when I got to the immigration office, all I had to do was wait. Number 17, my lucky number, oddly enough. I clutched my file folder and waited until I was called.

When it came time, I smiled big and hoped for the best. She told me to just give her everything and she would sort it out. So that’s what I did. She went through everything and asked me questions about what some of the documents were and why I was giving them. She also prints out a copy of the point system sheet for her to count. She was confused about my study abroad experience.

“Did you receive a bachelor’s in the end?”
“No.”
“You didn’t exactly go for language instruction, did you?”
“No, I was a regular exchange student.”
“Unfortunately, I can’t count that as study in Korea experience.”

Oh, dear. This isn’t looking good. I mentioned that it was a shame that Korean was my major but it meant nothing on the sheet. She asked me to show her what I meant. Luckily I brought my transcripts. So when she (hesitantly) opened them and looked through them, I pointed out that my major was East Asian Language and Literature, but I focused on Korea. If you look throughout my transcript, it had Beginning Korean all the way up to Advanced and Business Korean.

“Did you count the points before you came today?”
“Yes. I came up with 81. But you know the system, it might not exactly be that much. Depending on the mood of the worker, it could be more or less.”
“Right.”
So I wait patiently.
“So, how many points did I end up with?”
“Well, according to my count, 82.”
“82?! Really?!”

Now, my TOPIK score was only a 5, so I could only get a max of 28 points for the TOPIK + KIIP section. But after speaking with her in Korean and explaining my major, she gave me the full 30 points. That’s the only way I could get an 82.
She asked me to copy my passport and the KIIP document and deposit 30,000won for my new card. So I did that, but ended up forgetting to copy my passport since I had a bunch of college exchange students from America asking me questions at the machines. I got confused. So when I came back without the passport copy, she was a bit annoyed and I felt bad but she copied it for me. I’m very grateful to her.
So I passed! She didn’t need the 급여내역서 in the end, but she took everything else with her.
Since you have to surrender your ARC when you apply, you are not allowed to leave the country until you receive your new card. No trips, no nothing. Boo.

But just yesterday, the 19th, I got my message from immigration.

“Your visa is permit. Please visit immigration office pick up your alien registration card. You can pick up after 2016.September.30.”

The English might not be so good but that tells me that I can go get my ARC card anytime in October. So while you may get the message early, you might not be able to pick it up for another two weeks. It’s the new semester at schools so there are tons of foreign students. So immigration is quite backed up. That must be why I have to go so late. That’s fine. I was planning to go in early October anyway.

So there you have it! Your guide to getting the F-2 visa! It only took me…. Almost a year (a little more if you count life experiences and stuff but…)! Good luck to everyone and let me know if you have questions.

Categories: immigration, korea, life, Uncategorized, visa | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Road to Freedom Part 2 – Documents

So now, I’m going to talk about getting the paperwork necessary for the F-2 visa while in Korea.

In order to get the visa, you have to prove everything you want points for. This is going to be quite difficult. So I made a list of everything I would possibly need, as well as picked up a few things I might need off of some forums. These lists make sense when thinking about how sensitive Immigration is. So the documents I will prepare are as follows:

Some documents for F-2-7 Visa
——-

1. 근로원천징수 (Most recent income tax statement. Ask for it to your employer. They should be able to give it to you.)

2. 급여내역서 (Statement from your bank of recent income  – they say have it made for the current year. It should also show income not one your previous year’s income tax statement or something… I’m not sure what this means but if you go to the bank and ask for it, they should know what to do. Sounds like a bank trip to me. And this costs just a few thousand won.)

3. 거주지 확인서 (Proof of residence –  Someone said they used their internet/cable bill. I use smart billing/e-billing, so I will have to figure out a way to get that.)

4. 재직증명서 (Statement of current employment from employer. This is to prove you’re employed currently. I don’t think the whole 3 years has to be under one employer, but it must be under the same visa type. I would double check this, though. Luckily, I’ve been with my company for 3 years so it won’t matter.)

5. 사업자등록증 사본 (Employer’s business license with number, pretty standard when changing visas. This is to reinforce #4)

6. Passport (and copy, just in case)

7. Certificates from KIIP (One is shipped to you, one can also be printed. They are different certificates so just print both.)

8. Certificate from TOPIK (they don’t mail these anymore, I think. So I printed a copy from online. I hope they like B&W copies…)

9. Apostilled copy of Diploma

Honestly, this last part was the hardest out of all of them.

I’m currently in South Korea. How do I get my degree apostilled without bothering my family and friends for the billionth time?
While looking all over these forums, people kept referring to this one place- apostillepros.com.
Honestly, I thought it was some sort of scam to get you to spend a lot of money and then they never send you anything. You know what I mean. But I was desperate. I first emailed them about what I had to do. And clearly, based on their reply, they’re used to people like us. There’s two methods for this:

  • Send them your degree and they will get a copy apostilled.
  • Send them a high-quality color scan of your degree and they will apostille that for you. And for only $140 ($95 per degree apostille, plus $45 for shipping).

This seems like a lot. But honestly, you will probably fedex your document home (because I don’t trust normal postal services with my expensive degree.) This will cost about $45 one way. Times two… Then, if you live in some place like New Jersey, to get it notarized (depends on where you go for pricing) and then apostille something costs $25 per document (every state is different. Some states ask $5, others ask more. How rude…). If you are lucky, you can go in person to get all that done. If not, you gotta send it through the mail again. Honestly, this whole process can take weeks. Precious time many people don’t have.

So I decided to go for the scan. I sent the email with my scan, my order form, and my affadavit stating I didn’t photoshop/digitally alter my degree (necessary if you scan it) on Monday morning. By 10:30 AM, the money was charged from my credit card. 2 hours later, I got an email stating my Fedex package’s information. Monday night, the apostille was sent out. By Wednesday, 2:19PM (all my time, by the way), I was holding my apostilled copy of my diploma in my hand. I repeat. Within 48 hours, I was finished with the absolute worst part of the documents part of my visa process. I laughed when the Fedex guy came into my office. I thought he was joking. But definitely not.

So my recommendation to you all is, if you are in Korea and need things apostilled, I highly recommend ApostillePros. Don’t think, just do. Now, for Criminal Background Checks (you won’t need it for this visa), it might be a whole different procedure. But I highly recommend this.  Also, when I looked up the cost to send from CA to S. Korea (by the way, where you get your degree apostilled and notarized doesn’t matter. I have a NJ diploma. As long as the notary and apostille are in the same state, it is fine.), and with the same shipping time, it would’ve cost $87.50 or so. Wow. So yeah, money well spent. I can sleep easy tonight knowing that what I thought would take two weeks took only 2 days.

Now I just have to get the documents from my company and bank.

Last step? The immigration office. I will tell you about that step when it happens. But that might not be until September. So hold on tight.

Categories: korea, life, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Road to Freedom (or an F-2 Visa) Part 1 – Points and Class

Miss me? I have been busy for the past couple months and here is a half-explanation, half-review. Enjoy!

As many of you may know, I have been living in South Korea for about six years now. I like the country a lot. It has its ups and downs, depressing and happy moments, but overall, it gives me the satisfactory life I want. That is why last year I decided I wanted to get the F-2 visa.

What is an F-2 Visa?

It is the Long-Term Residency visa (장기거주). If you have lived in this country for over 3 years continuously, you are eligible for this visa. Now, just the 3 years isn’t enough, you also need to have enough “points” to qualify for the visa. Points? Yes, points. It is a point-based system, with points coming from your educational background, work experience, language proficiency, etc. For more information on their point system, please visit F-2 Visa Point System Breakdown . This will give you the actual requirements (though many other blogs have this as well).

 

Now, why would anyone want this visa? Well, I call this the “Freedom Visa”. You know how Americans love their freedom…(eyeball roll). Anyway, this visa allows visa holders to not be tied down by their job. Meaning, you can work anywhere you want without visa sponsorship. You can work 4 jobs and be homeless in Seoul Station and the government can’t really bother you as long as you pay your taxes. While for some, this may not be worth trying for, to some (including me), that extra bit of freedom is worth it. Many of the jobs I want to apply for, such as companies or government organizations, need an F-series visa in order to apply. So this opens many more doors for you. Those who would like to get out of the Hagwon system might want to opt for this. Also, from what I’ve read on some forums, if you stay two years on this F-2 visa, you can then apply for the F-5 visa without having to have the money aspect. I am hoping this is true because that would be my ultimate goal. F-5 is a Permanent Residency Visa (never going to immigration again for the rest of your life. One step away from becoming a Korean.)

 

Now, you will notice if you look at the point system that it is actually quite difficult to get. Most people will be 1-2 points short, or even 10 points. And yes, those 1-2 points do matter. So if you can earn more points, take all the points you can. You never know what they will throw out and what they will keep. There are two ways to get enough points. There is the language and culture route, and there is the money route.

  • The money route is something like, have $30,000 worth of investments (house, car, bonds, stocks) in Korea and you will get the visa. Money solves many things, right?
  • The other is go through the immigration offices language and culture classes. This alone can offer you around 30 points, or even just 10 if you have already studied Korean on your own and take just their culture class.

I did the second route since I already knew Korean. Less points but not much I can do…

I was about 11 points away from the visa (including having at least a 4 on the TOPIK exam). This was driving me insane. So I tried to enroll in the Culture class offered by the KIIP, the language and culture program offered by immigration). If you have a 4 or higher on the TOPIK, you can be exempt from the language classes and go straight into the culture class. You have to submit your TOPIK Certificate to the Immigration Office in Mokdong (not any other place. Believe me, I tried and wasted an entire day). You fill out a form and then you get exempt. But make sure you are already registered on socinet.go.kr.

Then the waiting game.

Waiting for those elusive classes to open up so you can register. I missed the first round in January because of a simple 10 minute car ride. What I mean is, just like college class registration, it begins at exactly 12am midnight. They don’t announce the date of registration really, you just have to keep checking until you find out when the registration period is. Then wait for midnight. And then at midnight, you rush like crazy to register. Except in this instance, it didn’t start at 12am. I waited for 20 minutes. Nothing.

I was at a friends house so I decided to just go home. It’s just a 10-15 minute taxi ride home.  When I went home and checked, all the classes were opened and full. I cursed a bit and then decided to wait again.

The next registration period wouldn’t be until May. So I waited until then. This time, I made sure I was prepared,  I was at home, equipped with two laptops, and this time successfully enrolled in a weekend class near Sukmyung Women’s University (숙명여대) at남영역 (1호선). These classes are for one month and very intensive. 5 hours a day, Saturday and Sunday, for one whole month. I sacrificed my June to do this. It was worth it. The morning class is primarily Chinese University Students (with other occasional foreigners). They are very sweet and I really enjoyed my class. If you take the afternoon class, it’s filled with many foreign housewives. So a completely different dynamic. I learned a whole bunch about Korea and Korean history and culture, and overall really recommend the class to others. It’s heavy but well worth it. And my teacher was the loveliest woman ever. I wish I could have her as my Korean teacher all the time. Maybe I’ll look her up and try to take a class with her…

After the 5 weeks of classes, you register for the final exam, which is two weeks later. It is nerve wrecking. There’s only 40 questions out of all the material you learned in the 5 weeks (which is a ton). And you have an interview. The interview is done in twos since there are so many people. Luckily, I had a fellow classmate with me so I felt a bit more at ease.

The written portion is only 1 hour. But then waiting for the interview can take between 2-3 hours. Overall, you spend half a day here so really, don’t plan to do anything until the evening for this test. It begins at 12 (you have to be in your classroom really early) and it didn’t end until 4 something for me.

 

Once the test was over, the results are announced two or so weeks later. Lucky for me, I had this test on Saturday and the TOPIK test on Sunday of the same weekend. I was exhausted this weekend. Luckily, in the end, I passed this class and got a good enough score on the TOPIK to get a 5. Just enough to push me over the 80 points that I needed. Finally! I nearly cried.

 

Now for the fun part – collecting all my documents to submit the visa. More on that in my next post.

Stay tuned!

Categories: korea, life, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Brand Name is the new Bap

Link to 명품 article

I saw the above article and it really made me think due to a discussion I had (and have had multiple times over my years here) with Koreans/colleagues/friends about S. Korea’s past.

Koreans in a way love to talk about their poor past. I don’t think this is true. But what I mean is, they tell me about it a lot. Almost as if this was a pity contest and they were trying to get the most out of it. “You know, back in the old days, right after the war, there wasn’t always food on the table. Often times we starved.” This is why in Korea you MUST finish your bowl of rice in front of a Korean mother. It is/was a luxury to have such food. It is the reason restaurants serve such a variety of side dishes with a meal. Otherwise, the restaurant is looked down upon. And I understand as it is the lasting image that Americans have of South Korea – a poor, war-ravaged country where many people might not have enough food, or proper shelter, etc.

 

Nowadays, Korea is not that war-torn country. It is extremely modern, moreso than the US and has many more advantages than we do, though they still fail to see just how far they’ve come. You always hear people say, “Oh, you’re from America?? I’m so jealous! I bet it’s amazing to live in America.” except the people who have actually lived there admit to how behind the times and slow life really is there and that really, what works in Korea doesn’t really work in America.

 

Back to the point of the article. It talks about the word 밥
(bap). This means “rice” literally, but it has come to mean, a meal. Because in Asia, if you haven’t eaten rice, you haven’t had a meal, and eating is everything in a poor country. So this word is very commonly used as the word “meal”, “food”, “rice” and any other variation. We use it at least a thousand times a day. But this article talks about how now, the new word to talk about your social status and wealth is no longer bap, but 명품 (myungpoom) meaning “Brand name”. It used to mean something that wasn’t no-name. Like, Neutrogena, instead of the target version of it. But now, it has come to mean “luxury brand”, such as Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and all the others. Instead of asking “Have you eaten?”, you might be more inclined to talk about your latest acquisition from the Department Store, the height of luxury shopping.

And I find this to be true. Many people talk about all their department store cosmetic purchases and their duty free shopping conquests, etc. I’m even guilty of it. Though a lot of the reason I buy from department stores is because the formulas are ones that won’t hurt my face and cause me to break out, though often times when you read the back of a Clinique bottle let’s say, it will state “Formulated for Asian Skin.”. Yeah, the American stuff doesn’t say that lest it be considered racism. But it makes sense when being sold in Asia. But I realize that I see results when I use the higher end products. Thus I keep using it.

People in Asia are so very obsessed with spending lots of money on these luxury items, it’s almost absurd to an American. We brag about how cheap we bought something, while they brag about how much they spent. Now, this is not true for everyone, but often times it can be. Depends a lot on one’s age as well. I thought another interesting point was the sexism within this culture. If a man buys expensive, luxurious products, he is called a 도시만 (doshinam), a smart, city guy, or even a 차도남(chadonam), a suave, car-driving guy (since a man having a car is like the senior quarterback in highschool with his car- oh so cool and sexy). But, a girl would be called a 된장녀 (duenjangnyuh), literally, a duenjang stew girl, but means, a girl who lives outside her means (it comes from the idea that someone will eat only this stew, which is one of the cheapest dishes in Korea, in order to save up the money to buy these luxurious products.). There is the male version, but it’s not used as often as the female version. This blatant sexism is also fascinating. I mean, there are more working women these days, especially in the middle aged and young generation so they can afford it.

Anyway, I know it is in Korean, but google translate it sometime if you want. I read some of it, but found the idea of the topic fascinating. I wonder what others think.

 

Categories: korea, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Hello, it’s me.

The title sounds quite cliché, however, for some reason, I find it appropriate here. WordPress happily reminded me that it’s been over a year since my last post on this page. It doesn’t feel like it’s been over a year and yet, when I think about it, it really has. I have written drafts of entries, and mulled over what to write here. “It’s been three months, do I pick up where I left off? Do I write a summary of the last few months? Do I put in a newspaper commentary? Where do I begin?” and three months turns into six, turns into 9 and then it grows. I admit, I have this problem with e-mails. I get e-mails (or text messages) and a “I’ll message tomorrow” turns into three days into a week into a month, and this anxiety builds and builds to the point where I don’t know what to do. Will the person be offended if I respond late? Will they be more offended if I don’t respond and feign ignorance? I get wrapped up in these thoughts and they begin to consume me. It drives you mad, honestly. So I am just going to start, and write. I don’t know what, but I will write.

In the time that has passed since my last entry, things have changed, but they haven’t. I say this because, my American life is changing, and changing faster than I can catch up with. But my Korean life stays the same. In America, I have a new nephew, my friends are getting married at an alarming rate and even more children. My newsfeed is littered with pregnancy or baby talk. Breastfeeding is a constant issue, it seems. And I feel somewhat bad since I am in this single-hood, where my life revolves around when the next time I’m meeting up with friends, drinking, what clothes to buy, while my friends worry about issues like buying a house, ways to manage kids behavior and routines and health, etc. The level of connection is separating. It’s hard to keep reading it everyday. Not that I ever really wanted to become a mother and that I envy them (though I am proud of them). I just can’t relate. Nothing I say will be of much help because in one way or another, it will end up being “You don’t have kids of your own, so you can’t understand.” And I really can’t. But I try to understand them. With all that I can. And thus, I feel more and more alienated from my American self and become closer to my “Korean” self.

 

And in my Korean life, things haven’t changed very much. Same job, just people keep coming in and out. Luckily, I do still have constants in my life, though not many. But I appreciate them. I am trying to build this Korean life and Korean “family”, but nothing stays the same. The only thing that seems sure these days? My job. I will update more later on my social life in another post, but my job, my social life, and life in general has brought me down a bit and made me not want to post much, lest I bring others down too. But I realized that I can’t keep having thoughts and nowhere to vent them. I realize some people might read this for the Korean stories, and I will keep them up. But one thing I pride myself on this blog is that, it shows positives and negatives evenly, and not from a one-year teacher point of view, but someone who is completely surrounded by Koreans each and every day. Who is thought of as more Korean than a Korean by my Koreans. It is a tiring position, trust me. But not entirely a bad one. Here’s to another beginning with this blog.

Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Quality over Quantity – A World Over

I’m a big girl. And I have a large chest. Anyone who has ever met me probably knows that is the first thing anyone notices about me. And it’s fine. I have grown to love them, despite the problems they give me (see:back problems). With a voluptuous chest comes great responsibility to hold them up. So I must get bras. And any full-figured, large chested woman will answer, “Right, and have you seen the bras they have out there for us? Something out of Grandma’s closet.” And most of the time, they are right. We always complain, “Why aren’t there any pretty bras for me?” But this problem isn’t exclusive to just large-chested women, but also plus-sized women. Our choices for clothes continually seems to be those of a handful of brands: Lane Bryant, Ashley Stewart, Oldy Navy (online only now! Thanks, ON!…)(…I hope you caught that sarcasm…) and Torrid. If you are lucky in some areas, another low-budget pop-up plus-size store will be open in your mall, like Fashion to Figure, or the like. And most women think this is all that is open to us. So young 20/30 year-old women are doomed to look like either 40-year-old woman or the other side of the spectrum, teenyboppers with our muffin tops, breastages, and other parts of flesh popping out of ill-fitting clothes in an attempt to look semi-youthful but looking immature due to our inability to adequately dress ourselves (When were muffin tops ever okay? Really now?)

This has pissed me off. And we let this cycle keep going because we refuse to actually venture out of our comfort zone. I hear a lot of “well, I tried this store and they don’t fit me.” or “I don’t like shopping online.” And I understand these complaints wholeheartedly. But women, we need to stop being irresponsible. That’s right, I said it. When was the last time you measured yourself? I mean, really measured yourself? Go ahead and do it now. Then write those numbers down. Yes, it sucks. But it’s necessary. And guess what? Numbers are an objective element. They have no soul. They have no meaning other than numerical value. If you want to attach positivity or negativity to any number, that’s humans overthinking stuff. The only think I can kinda understand is negative numbers. It’s in the name of the word, I mean. But I actually think they are kinda fun. Things go apeshit when you start multiplying them and dividing and squaring. Woo!! But besides negative numbers, why are we negative about numbers? If you wanna get cranky about big numbers, go look at other countries.

Europeans are ok because they go by 28, 30, 32, 34 since those are based off of actual inches. That’s fine and dandy. But look at UK sizing, our lovely neighbor… They are literally 2 sizes higher than US sizes for the same thing. A size 12 is a size 16. A 14 is an 18. And so on. Why? BECAUSE THEY SAID SO. Why not? Aren’t sizes arbitrary to begin with? Why not go crazy? How does that make you feel? Confused? Me too. Who cares. Korean sizing goes by 44, 66, 88, then 105, 110, 120. Or something like that. What on earth is this? It’s your circumference in milimeters. Why milimeters? WHY NOT? But then bra sizing is in inches. 28, 30, 32…. And then cup sizing is a whole other ballgame. Am I DD or an F or a FF? Wha? That’s right. FF and GG’s are something. And quite normal. But people must remember, bra sizes are NOT universal. A UK 40E and a US 40E are not the same. Let me explain it this way. I’m a 40GG. I thought I was a 42DDD. But if a bra band is loose and comfortable, you are wearing the wrong size. Straps don’t hold puppies up and support, band holds puppies IN and supports too. Oh yeah. Think about that. But the 40GG is a UK size. Why? America doesn’t have GG’s. They stop doubling letters after D’s… Britain doesn’t. So I’m a 40J in America. But you know what? I don’t care. J means nothing. It just means I just have to look harder. But you know what? These bras exist. “But not in America!” Right! Because we have let them run us around. We have let them steal our money and satisfication.

Full-figured women, get your asses over to the other side of the pond. What I mean is, go online and look at British sites. Or European sites. They have demanded fashion at all shapes and they get it. Simply Be, Asos, Eloquii, etc. Stop limiting yourself to the mall. You have freedom, you just have to be willing to give them a shot.

Now, my other qualm with some people are the ones who are like, “It’s too expensive. I don’t wanna pay $30 for a T-shirt.” That’s fine. Don’t pay it. But don’t expect to get good quality. And don’t expect to NOT be supporting companies who utilize countries with lower wages, poor working conditions, among other problems. Do you remember the Indonesian Manufacting Complex Building collapse a few years ago? Companies like Old Navy, Banana Republic, United Colors of Benneton, etc were all producing their clothes there. I know you think “These companies probably never realized it. They were too removed from the process.” But actually, they aren’t that far removed or even removed at all. Profit margins are more important. And we gotta cut costs somewhere. You wanted your shirt cheap. It comes at a price. But even Banana Republic, Gap, the clothes aren’t very high quality. But they charge more. Because they play you.

Sometimes the higher prices ensure good quality, sometimes they don’t. You really have to see about the brand. Check tags. That’s why they are there. To ensure quality. And while the quality is one thing, people must also remember to learn how to treat good quality garments. You can’t just throw everything in the washing machine, no matter how convenient it is. Those bras you just spent $60-70 EACH on? Yeah, just carelessly toss them in the washing machine and dryer and allow them to be thrown around at speeds of 40mph give or take. And you are putting your lace through that? Sure, I’ll do that. Let’s be practical, Yes, they go through some wear and tear through the day but you can make things last longer by taking care of your garments, especially lingerie. You can make any pantyhose last months with daily use if you know how to wash it correctly.

This is a reason why many Europeans don’t own many clothes and clothes are priced higher. The quality is better, they take of their clothes better, and they understand that clothing is an investment. They don’t buy just anything for the sake of wanting something. They spend more of their budget on eating, or something else.

Another fascinating point is, when I got to Korea, I noticed everyone had designer goods. Why? One reason, they want to look good in front of others. Koreans don’t invite people to their house like Westeners. So the only thing they can show is themselves. Their clothes make them presentable. Americans want a clean and presentable house, others prefer making themselves presentable since that’s what people see EVERYDAY, vs. just at a party. It’s a better reflection of themselves in their opinion. Another reason, most Koreans will say, “They have good AS.” meaning, it lasts a while and if something breaks or gets ruined down the line, they can get it fixed by the manufacturer. Can your walmart bag come with that guarantee? Nope. But most high-end brands here do, such as Prada, Burberry, Coach, etc. They will fix it for you at a small charge of about $10-30. Sure it’s a bit much for scuffs or ripped leather, but beats by a whole new bag. So when our Walmart bag gets ripped, we just chuck the whole thing and toss a whole new, adding more trash to the landfills. Some people repair it, sure, but who has time for that? You can’t even handwash your bras but you will sew shut a $10 Walmart bag? Priorities…

An interesting concept to wrap ones mind around is the idea of carrying around luxury goods. Now, in Korea, we carry it around to show how much wealth we have, among many other reasons. We want to look good and give a good impression to others. But Americans flaunt their cheapness. And I mean, “Oh, this little thing? I bought this at Walmart for a steal. It was really cheap.” or “Look at those people. I don’t have enough money to ride around in a Benz. Like I have money to burn on that.” First, you are flaunting your poor status in the eyes of some people. While we might think we are flaunting “our shopping-savvy mind” and our ability to “get the best price”, to many cultures it can look like you just can’t afford the real thing. A lot of my students used to be very surprised that we would happily say we got something very cheap. It is looked down upon in their culture. But this is just a different way of thinking, not a wrong one. I’m not criticizing the American mindset either. Getting a bargain is great, but there is something as too cheap. Remember that stores buy stock with intentions to discount it later to ridiculous levels. Higher end brands don’t always do that.

Just some things to think about when shopping. I know my shopping style has definitely changed while being here. Some might think I am fancy because I buy high end cosmetics rather than some cheap stuff. But when after buying cheaper and more convenient products I ended up with cystic acne scars and have been able to heal my skin plus get my skin good enough that I get compliments on a weekly basis for it, I’m convinced I’m investing in worthwhile products that really do make differences.

Which is cheaper, paying more money upfront, take care of the product, and enjoy it for years? or spend very little, put less effort into maintenance, but have to replace it every 6 months to a year? Depends on the product, sure. But my current philosophy, quality over quantity.

Categories: fashion, korea, life, plus size, rant, shopping, style | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Trip Home Update/Rant

I’ve been a little MIA for a bit. I apologize for that. I had a trip to the US for my brother’s wedding and I was preparing for it a week before that and I was busy with work in general. So I should probably update you on the trip.

The reason for this trip was my brother’s wedding. I’ve known that I’d have to go on this trip since last year. I was half looking forward to it and half dreading it. As the time for departure approached, people became more and more needy, asking for this and that from the States for them to buy. This was quite annoying since it was people I barely talk to except for now and then. So this made wanting to go much less.

Finally the time to leave came and it was uneventful and quick. However, the flight was not and I was exhausted. I ended up being jetlagged for most of the trip. That was not fun. As soon as I got off the plane, I got a Pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks since that is what everyone keeps raving about. Pumpkin this, pumpkin that. So I finally got one. I was also sporting stoner red eyes due to lack of sleep and exhaustion and could barely communicate with the barista as she kept asking questions on how I’d like my latte. It was a bit too much to listen to English first thing off this flight. And then I realized this Pumpkin Latte sucked. But I had to drink it. So I drank it.
And that set the precedent for the trip. There were some good things about the trip. Mostly, hanging with my sister, hanging with my great friends (thank you, Emily!), and my doggy. I missed them so much. It makes the flight back so much harder. I did some shopping but as much as I had done, I ended up pretty bare when it came down to packing. I was sad/proud of this. Especially since last time I ended up paying $700 in extra baggage. So being under is quite a feat. And being under by atleast 15 is also a sizable accomplishment.
One of the fun things I did on this trip was go to the Valley Forge Casino with my Dad and Uncle. It was weird because while sons may take their sons to strip clubs to be men, what do Dads do with their daughters? Mother certainly don’t take their daughters many places, other than the gyno. So my dad decided that on our day together, we would go to the Casino together. And it was nice. My dad and I are quite similar gamblers. AKA, not very. But we enjoy the atmosphere. My dad and I ended up winning about $50 each. Which is fine, because we didn’t spend much anyway. My uncle, on the other hand, is quite the gambler and ended up losing about $200. We even ended up leaving him there because he said the night was still young and he had some more time for gambling left. So Dad and I went home. Overall, I enjoyed the experience. I’m glad I went there. I ended up learning a bit about my dad and uncle that night and how fun family can be. I enjoy their optimism and realize I get the optimism from my uncle but the realism from my dad. I think it’s a healthy combination.
And now onto the wedding. The wedding was a small affair, only 20 people or so. But it was quite nice. My sister-in-law’s family came but I wasn’t very impressed with them. It was hard to watch as they just sat their, looking unimpressed, while some people couldn’t even make it to the wedding, though they wanted to go. See, my parents weren’t invited to this wedding. My brother has been distant from them for years now for various reasons. And my brother went about not inviting them the passive aggressive way and just never said anything to them. Sent save-the-date’s but no formal invitation. I’m not sure why. So after that, my parents asked my sister and I about the details of the wedding. We didn’t know much since my brother didn’t feel like communicating with us either. My dad is the kind of person to just get really quiet and walk away when angry/upset/emotional. He doesn’t talk to people about it. My mother is the opposite and gets childish and throws tantrums and tries to tell anyone she can about how she feels until she gets what she wants. So my mother kept hounding us while we were home and trying to make us feel horrible about going. She kept saying that this isn’t normal and that she should be invited. Family should be invited and go to these sort of events. We tried telling her that we are trying to go to be some semblence of a normal family and that we have no control over the invitation list. But she fails to see this. But the wedding was overall quite nice. It was beautiful weather in New Hope, PA and the backdrop was perfect. Everything ran smoothly and the wedding was fun. So at least the wedding was fun.
I just hated being around my mother. She constantly had something snarky to say about everything. I try to joke with her and she gets offended. I try to pay for meals and she gets annoyed and sees it as her incapable of paying for anything. But then she will tell me the cost of every single thing she has to pay for as if she wants us to contribute to the bills. And when I invite her out to go shopping for the day, she says “I’d rather you help me clean the house.” Yes. Because I flew 6,000 miles to clean the house…. In the end, I didn’t have to clean the house. But because she wanted it that way, not just because of me. But then later she complained that nobody helped her clean a room. And with her being ultra-conservative and me being ultra-liberal, we just don’t agree on anything. I can’t even talk to her about anything because she always has the opposite opinion and she has the only correct opinion. She loves to play the victim too. I slept at her house while I was there to make her happy. Occassionally, I did come home late. But many nights, I was there and she was just sitting on the computer, doing something or other. And if we ever say anything, she tells us to come to the kitchen and sit with her. Except there is nothing to do because there is nothing in the kitchen except a table. We have no TV or cable in the house, and we have no heat, so when my sister and I come home, we stay in our beds to keep warm. And we have to clean our rooms or play on our phones. So my mom stayed on the computer while I just sat on my bed doing nothing. Then she complained she wanted us home with her. She said she wants us to live with her forever. So I can’t buy into her tears she gives me when I leave, saying that we abandon her.
I know this isn’t much of an update. This is more of a rant of a crappy trip. But there’s not much to say. Well, actually, there’s plenty but I’ll leave that for another blog post. One good thing about being home? Meeting the mason’s chimney sweeping companion who is soooooooo cute. I would love to get his number. Too bad I didn’t. Oh well. I’ll go over more things in depth perhaps tomorrow. For now, here is my update.

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Performances in Insa-dong

I would like to say that I get along with my British friends because I am able to contain my enthusiasm for certain in the way that British people express themselves. Americans are quite known for being passionate, enthusiastic, etc. I like to think I’m not easily impressed or enthused by things. I do get excited, though much of the time I feign it to get reactions. I remember growing up, my mother would cook a meal and ask the family how it was. My brother and sister would always say “Oh, it’s great, Mom!”, though later confiding that Mom really can’t cook well. But they were very encouraging. I, on the other hand, would be the less enthusiastic one and remark, “Eh, it’s not bad~”, much to my mother’s dismay. Understandably so.

When I went to see my favorite Korean band in concert, while everyone was screaming and chanting, dancing along, I merely stood there and bobbed my head lightly, singing along as well. I’m not much of the fan girl type. I would think my British friends would approve. They always jest that their wedding vows would be along the lines of, “Dear wife, you’re not that bad. I guess I can live with you for a bit. Just make sure the tea is warm when we get home.” I know they are just joking but that’s the English personality. Scottish, a little bit different. But English is quite like this.
So today I was on my way back home after getting a few things for the house and then lunch/dinner. I bought it for take-out so I could come home and watch TV while eating it. I was out until about 5:30 this morning with my British friends so I just felt like relaxing today. Nothing too crazy. I even cancelled my plans to go visit a friend and his fiancé as a result. I really cannot stay up all night. I get grouchy, tired, my stomach hurts, I get nausea, etc. I am just a pain in the ass. I give them a lot of credit for sticking it out with me.
Anyway, that’s beside the point. So, I was on my home and I noticed a performance going on right in front of my apartment building. That always happens because it’s Insadong, the commercially traditional part of Seoul. They always have these performances on the weekends for the foreigners here. I always say that I dislike Insadong because it feels so fake. It’s like a giant, living museum of old Korea with way too many souvenir shops. The name Insa-dong, means “Greeting Area”. It’s a bit obnoxious as a foreigner who lives here because I’m automatically assumed to be a tourist or a Russian Karaoke Room worker. Yeehaw.
So I decided to stop by and see what it was. To my luck, it wasn’t just the normal Sameulnori group (traditional farm music celebration group) that usually plays, it was another drumming group. Many people are familiar with Taiko (Daiko) drumming from Japan. This was similar. They play the drums frequently used in Sameulnori and they set it up on a stage on the floor. You have to sit and play it. I really love Percussion-based performances, such as Nanta or Taiko, due to the energy they bring. It’s one of the reasons I really enjoyed being apart of my high school’s drumlins group and did front line percussion. You cannot believe the rush it gives you to play in one of those groups.
Drumming in Insa-dong performance

Drumming in Insa-dong performance

So, I thought it would just be another boring group. But they were amazing! I don’t know how to explain it. They were just so into it. I can’t even describe it. It was so amazing, I found myself crying. Just tearing up and running down my cheek. It was odd. It was like, tears of happiness. I’ve never really experienced that before. What made it more lovely was looking at the crowd. Most people weren’t really foreigners. They were Koreans. Especially older Koreans. This area is filled with older Koreans. And I saw these two men dancing to the music. Yes, they were a bit off, mentally. But they were dancing to the music in that old, traditional style you might see at a Pansori (Korean traditional folk storytelling music) that accompanies it. And I realized that the music isn’t just for the foreigners, but it’s for the Koreans too, primarily the older generation. It gives them a way to remember they old days, their youth. Back in the 50s or 60s when Korea was still a poorer country and these were more common place. It gives me a release that you just don’t see everyday. I just loved the atmosphere. I loved the performance for so many things.
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Old man dancing in front of the drummers

It made me appreciate the area and the performances they do there. Sure, it’s artificial in nature, but I think it does some good. I think I can lessen my hate of this are for it. I just wish it wasn’t so commercial, with all the souvenir stores and makeup stores polluting the area. I like the local artists, the painters there. I just don’t like these stores.
I’m glad I got to see this performance today. I have this energy in me to restart music and restart mallets again. I just wish it was easier to do so.
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Chuseok

Happy Thanksgiving-Korean-Style/Harvest Moon Festival!
Or, just happy Chuseok.

So it’s my 4th Chuseok so far. I think they get easier and easier as time goes on. It’s pretty much like American Thanksgiving where all the stores close, everyone goes to a relative’s house for a day or more, and make lots of food for the holiday, and just eat. We don’t have a ceremony like Koreans but Thanksgiving Day football is a ceremony, right?

This year a lot of people complained because Chuseok was on a Monday. In Korea, usually the day before and the day after are public holidays and nobody works. But since the day before landed on a Sunday, companies were given the option of either remaining closed on Wednesday or opening. The government and large businesses would close, but some opened. My company opened. Darn you….

I was speaking with some of my Korean friends and asking them how they would be spending the holiday. As I stay here longer and longer, more and more people seem to be not celebrating this day. There are a lot of reasons behind this. Most of the people I’ve asked have said it’s because they’re Christian. It’s like celebrating the Winter Solstice but being a Christian. It’s a pagan holiday to them, giving offerings to the harvest gods for a good harvest. But as more of Korea becomes Christian, people find this ceremony heretical and against the teachings of God. I get somewhat annoyed at this because the holiday has lost that pagan feeling and has become more of a time about remembering one’s old family members and ancestors. But regardless, people don’t want to offend God and so they refuse to do the holiday.

Another reason is to avoid the travel and the cooking. I feel as though Koreans complain just a little bit more than my mother ever did about Thanksgiving and Christmas cooking. My mother didn’t like it, but in a way, she took pride in it after she got the table ready. So people just want to avoid the stress altogether and just go on a vacation. Some people in America do that but I kinda like the idea of family assemblying at someone’s house and having a giant dinner together. And having these traditions together. It gives reason to living. Otherwise, why live? How else do you help make time go by and be more exciting? It’s quite difficult otherwise, I believe. Life just feels like a continuous mess. I really enjoy holidays. I think they are necessary. I just wish Koreans would see the need to keep their heritage and culture alive… They will regret it later.

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