Sunday, August 30, 2015

It's not all beaches and laptops

Five Expat Misconceptions

1: We are all sitting on a beach drinking margaritas and working on our website.  

Sure, that's the article that makes the front page of the Travel and Leisure section, but that's not all of us.  Some of us don't want to spend our lives living out of a backpack, chasing wifi signals.  We want a home, benefits, bread makers, and health club memberships.  We have real jobs that go on real resumes and require advanced degrees.  It's not the stable life that we are running away from, but that we are running towards.  We have discovered that jobs outside our home countries provide better stability than we found back home so we embrace international careers.

2. We are 25 years old without a care in the world.

Many of us are adults and we have responsibilities.  We have retirement plans to build, mortgages to pay, health issues to balance, student loans to complain about, spouses to consider, and children to raise.  We didn't choose this lifestyle because we have no worries, we chose this lifestyle so we could meet our obligations while also living our dreams.  Through research and determination, we found a way to have our cake and eat it too.  

3. We want to travel every second of every day.

It's not always about the next place.  Some of us land in a country and love it.  We spend our vacations having stay-cations and/or returning to our home countries to visit family. Just because we are expats, it doesn't mean we are headed to a new country every weekend to drink cocktails and practice the limbo.  Instead we are cleaning our homes, running errands, and meeting friends for lunch - just like we did back home but with the added challenge of trying to read the fine print in another language.

4. We are running away from relationships and community.

Yes, certainly.  Some people became expats to change their situation in life, however, expats are some of the most relationship/ community focused people in the world.  We value every friend we make and we go to great lengths to maintain them across time and space.  We have only each other and we value that.  Many of us stay expats to remain a part of this community because we have finally found the place that we belong and the people that support us.

5. We aren't living in the real world.

If you think that expats aren't living in the "real world" you are sorely mistaken.  We are dealing with the direct effects of the government policies of multiple nations on a daily basis. We face wars, coups, financial crashes, and religious craziness constantly.  Each time our visas come up for renewal we have to fight to keep our lives and our dreams afloat while pushing against the tide of changing policies in languages we don't understand. Just because our lives aren't built on a traditional blueprint doesn't make them any less real, it's just makes them really fun for us.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Something Fishy

UPDATE: All current blogging for area recommendations has moved to:
 South of Seoul or

To Eat: Sashimi

Holy 음식 Batman!
This is our idea of heaven.
When we have a bit more money to spend
and want eat too much sushi, we go here.
Although it's more expensive than something things,
it blows our mind how much we get for our money.

This is for serious sashimi lovers only.
It's also only for groups,
although we eat 4 servings between 2 people.
Either way, prepare to eat until you want to die.

See more pictures here: Korean Food Blog

It's on the same street as Monkey Papa.
However, instead of left at Port of Mocha, go right.
The address below is not really great and maybe you can't understand the Naver Map.  Hopefully the Monkey Papa and Port of Mocha help you find it.

Name: Japanese Restaurant 우전

Dog On Good

Today is National Dog Day In the US, 
so let's talk rescue doggies.

We adopted our two doggies using an expat website such as Rescue Korea.  When you are an expat adopting a new little friend, you really need to consider thinking with your mind as much as your heart.  You need to do this to help preventing future hearts from being broken because of housing issues, transportation, vacations, etc.  That said, if you are financially and emotionally prepared for adopting a bit of joy, it's a wonderful experience.

The first little bit of wonder we brought home was Diego "The shark" Burrito.  Diego had been abused and neglected for years and his behavior issues turned out to be intense.  Which is something you really have to be prepared for when adopting an older dog from a shelter.  Once they settle into your home they are likely to eat all your furniture, bark at all the people, and pee on all the stuff until they figure out that you aren't going to be another person who lets them down.  

When this happens, it's going to take rock hard determination, a community of supportive people, and tons of research to make sure your new family member lives up to their potential.  For us, that meant learning to use alternative medicines such as Catnip as a mood stabilizer, saying goodbye to furniture while he was being trained, not traveling for a while so that we could build a strong relationship with him, and finally, it meant getting a second dog for him to love.  Which is how we ended up with our little, black sunshine - Nyx "The lizard" Money.

When I wake up the morning and when I get home at night, these two little bundles of joy make me believe in miracles.  Helping them overcome starvation, fear, anxiety, abandonment, and anger has made me a better person and I'm thankful for that.  It's hard for me to imagine, as they race around me for hours - playing their little games, that anyone could have thrown them away: Diego was to be killed in a shelter and Nyx was starved to bones and skin.  

What I have learned is that when you rescue a doggy and you stick with them through thick and thin, it changes both of your lives.  If you are worried about the doggy bonding, don't.  There is no love stronger than that of a puppy who lost hope and then found it again.  They will NEVER want to let you go (which can bring about it's own set of issues).  

That said, I'm also a realist and I don't recommend doing anything half-cocked.  There are important things to consider.  Here are a few of the issues that we have faced:

Expat Animal Lover Groups: Be very scared of the expat animal lover groups when you need advice.  Even the most benign request for help/information can release the The Kraken. Be prepared for some weird interactions and unfounded aggression.  Although, personally, I had excellent experiences with the two fosters I worked with, others I have known have not been so lucky.  In the end, I withdrew from all animal rescue groups because I didn't like seeing how they treated people who were doing their best.  Instead, we found our own community of expat dog lovers and enjoy our lives unfettered by the cray cray online.  Remember, Facebook groups are a choice.  You don't HAVE to join them just because they exist.

Language barrier:  If you are adopting an adult dog from a foreign country it most likely doesn't understand your language. When we first brought our dogs home we thought they hadn't been trained.  Turns out the joke was on us.  Our dogs were very well trained, just not in our language.  Once we started using Korean (their language) they listened almost perfectly.  In fact, one even knew tricks!  So, be prepared to learn a new language or retrain them in your mother tongue.   

Behavior Issues:  Dogs in shelters and off the street are not often dogs that have been treated well. This issue not unique to any one country.  Sadly, the mistreatment of animals is universal experience.  Adult doggies often have issues so intense they need professional help so know what your options are and have a support system in place. Also, consider this when looking at your budget and your adoption adoption options. Don't try to be a hero.  Adopt a dog you can handle, not the dog you feel the sorriest for.  I am very thankful we saved our little 'eggo beggo (our dogs have many names), but he is not for everyone.  For this reason, if you have children, consider adopting one of the abandoned puppies instead of an adult animal.  There are many puppies who need homes as well.

Transportation:  You and your new puppy are going to need to go places: the vet, a park or beach that allows dogs, the kennel when you travel, etc.  Most of the public transportation options are not pet friendly unless your doggy is very small and cute. Are you prepared to get your own wheels or do you live near the services you need? This is a very real issue for dog owners in Korea.  Be sure you have a plan for how to transport your baby doggy when they aren't feeling so well.  It's a terrible feeling to be trapped, unable to find a way to the vet.

Time:  You are going to have to put weekends away and travel on hold for up to a year when your new family member arrives.  Especially if you live alone.  There is going to be training and relationship that needs built.  This is perfect if you are a homebody, but if you love to stay out late and travel on the weekends, it might not be time for you to bring a furry friend into your life.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Go Jump Off A Mountain

Options for paragliding near-ish Pyeontaek.
Happy flying

Option 1

Name: Eunho Kim
Phone: 010-9423-8674
Location: Contact pilot for details, this is based on wind wand weather.
Price: Tandem 100,000 won includes video and photos  

Option 2

Name: Sang-Ki Lee (local pilot)
Phone: 010-2488-4129
Location: Contact pilot for details, this is based on wind wand weather.
Price: Tandem 80,000 won includes video and photo

Option 3

For Adventure
Location: Yeongwol, Gangwondo 
Price: 150,000 won
(flight is about 30 minutes long and you can go higher up.)

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Lady and The Tramp Date Night

To Eat: Le Miel

As downtown Pyeongtaek slowly dwindles,
other areas like 동삭동 are starting to take off.
Sometimes we don't go near AK Plaza for months.
UPDATE: All current blogging for area recommendations has moved to the blog South of Seoul.

A new reason to try the new neighborhoods
is this love Italian restaurant called Le Miel.
This is where you want to go 
for blue cheese pasta or real carbonara 
which shine more than the seafood tomato pasta.

It's also one of our favorite new date nights
since the restaurant sits right on the river walk.
After dinner we can go and take a lazy stroll
and tell each other stories.
Far more relaxing than the hustle and bustle downtown.

Address: 경기도 평택시 동삭동 704-7 
Phone: 031-657-7288
Website: 031-657-7288

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Pain in the Neck

My neck has been killing me since last Sunday and the two year old painkillers I found in the back of the closet just weren't cutting it.  Then this morning my glasses broke. So today at lunch I took some sick leave because I have that now.

Before going to the ER I stopped by the glasses shop across the street and in 30 minutes I had an eye exam and new glasses for $95.  

On a side note, the eye exam was one of the best I've had. Didn't even know one could have an opinion on eye exams until today, but now I don't want to go anywhere else.

Once at the hospital my Dr visit with X-rays took 30 minutes and cost $14 including medication.  So much medication.  Such a lovely pain killing shot.

Since the whole thing only took two hours with drive time included, I tried to go back to work but they told me no, I needed to go home and rest. So I headed straight to The Stoop for ginger ale and a salad, then I went home to bed.

Days like today are my favorite and happiest kinds of days. Sure, bad stuff happened but there is so much joy in having ones basic needs met.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Spicy Romance

To Eat: Swoyambhu Restaurant

Romance is warm colors,
strong flavors,
and shared memories.

Today we celebrated these memories of college
and last Christmas when we ran away to India
with the tastes make it all real again.

Name: Swoyambhu Restaurant

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Social Climbers

Last week one of my younger students came in to chat with me before class started.  We were discussing our favorite summer activities and I told him I loved rock climbing.  The next day, as soon as I walked into school he came bouncing out of his class to give me a brochure for a climbing gym in Songtan and Pyeongtaek.  He said he went with his parents and had a really great time.

Although I knew this gym was in Pyeongtaek City, I hadn't realized there was one in Songtan.  I hadn't even thought to look. Of course I had to to check it out.  I mean, it was recommended by a third grader. 

The gym is about 5 minutes walk from Seojeongri Station.  It's only bouldering, but that's fine with us.  We climb outside on weekends so we are just looking for a place to train a few hours during the week.  The owner and climbers were very welcoming.  Sure, they didn't speak much English, but you can figure things out.  The Harri-bou-bou will be joining the gym after summer holiday and I will most likely join this winter.

They gyms are open Monday - Friday but closed on the weekends.  
They stay open until 10 or 11pm.
The price is 80,000 a month.
Discount for couples membership.
Discounts for 3, 6, 12 month plans.
Not sure the price for kids/families.
They don't usually do single use.
There is an are for storing gear.

Name: 평택클라이밍센터
Address: 경기도 평택시 이충동 467-8
(Where we went)

Name: 평택클라이밍센터
Address: 경기도 평택시 비젼동 818-3
(We haven't visited here)

Public Displays of Napping

I need naps.
I embrace naps.
I practice naps.

Hidden throughout the cities and countryside,
beneath the leaves and between the trees,
 are napping havens.

Sometimes I just stop what I am doing
take of my shoes and rest.
There is no reason to be tired
in a culture that accepts cat naps
as a normal part of life.

Put your pride aside,
let down your guard,
stretch out and relax.
Listen to the birds,
watch the sun in the leaves,
enjoy the banter of grandmothers.
Be still in public 
and say, "I am home."

You will be amazed at what you will discover
about yourself and the world around you.
A quick stretch and rest on these do a stiff back good.
Feel free to kick off your shoes and crash.