4.16.2015

The FIVE Best Resources for Expats in Korea

So, now that I've been living in Korea for six months as of April 15th, I can officially tell you this: You will not be uncomfortable living in this little country for at least a year. Once you get the hang of the basics: transportation, housing, banking, food, you'll discover that finding the food you want, learning more about Korea, or just shopping is as easy as owning a laptop or computer. There are very few things I have to do without in this country (none pop into my head specifically right now), and that's thanks to the resources provided by the growing expat community, continuing globalization, and, of course, the handy-dandy internet! Here is my list of the five best resources of expats in Korea as they make home in a foreign country.

EAT YOUR KIMCHI

These guys are the best. I know they've attracted criticism (fair and unfair) in the past few years, particularly when they moved from being teachers to full-time business owners, but there's no denying they do a lot of the research on what's happening in Korea, whether it be food, trends, or more. They talked about what we all wondered when we watched K-pop videos (SJ, "Because I naughty, naughty" Chincha?). They introduced us to different kinds of foods, trends, trinkets, and more in Korea. They taught us more about Korea from a waygook's perspective with comparison videos, TL;DRs on different topics (everything from teaching to gender relations and more), and gave us a fantastic ramyun hack. The food ones have been especially fun, especially when Martina shows her recipes. That chocolate tofu pudding, on. point.

DOM & HYO

Dom is an English teacher in Korea, and he's currently engaged to Hyo. While their life as a couple, depicted in his cartoons, is adorable, I really love the site for their infographics on Korean vocabulary! He has a ton, and they're so fun and easy to use. Plus, he obviously has Hyo to make sure everything is correct, so you know you're getting good, easy information. I particularly love the infographics on food vocabulary because often I forget the names or never learn them (it's very easy to point and just try).

G-MARKET

It has an English section, albeit some more specific descriptions may require Google Translate. Simply find what you want to buy, add it to your shopping cart (make sure it's domestic, not international), and opt to pay via bank transfer. G-market will give you your own account under the same bank you want to transfer from (so no transfer fees), and simply go to an ATM or your online account, and transfer the money. In about two days (sometimes the NEXT day), you'll have whatever you ordered. The best? Shipping is usually free or the most is around 2,5000 won ($2.50). And you can find almost anything on G-Market. From new booties to camera accessories to lasagna noodles to CDs and more, it's all there.  


iHERB

Great for healthy or more conscious eaters. Heck, if you're in the USA, it's great for you too. You do need your home country credit or debit card (however, if you have a Korean credit card it will work), but it's about 4-5 days delivery to Korea, and it costs about $4.00 for up to 15 lb or $105. The prices on things are better than in Korea (like quinoa, dark chocolate, etc), and you can most likely find random things you won't be able to find at all here easily (like spirulina, actual whole wheat flour, oats).  
P.S. Use this code to get $10 off your purchase! LZF040 


WAYGOOK

An awesome site for general questions and a ton of lesson resources. Simply google Waygook and the name of your lesson, and you will be flooded with responses. Heck, even finding food can be helpful (it's how I discovered I can buy lasagna noodles on G-market!)


Have you tried any? I don't know what I'd do without these sites. When I started middle school teaching, I was totally lost until I looked up lesson ideas on Waygook, and iHerb has been crucial into my healthier eating habits!

4.13.2015

[In the Mix] April



Ah! Oop! | Mamamoo ft. ESNA 
 Apple | GaIn ft. Jay Park
Five Years Time  | Noah and the Whales
Honey, I'm Good | Andy Grammar 
House Party | Sam Hunt
Ice Cream | Red Velvet
Little Bitty Pretty One | Thurston Harris
Neapolitan Dreams | Lisa Mitchell
New Romantics | Taylor Swift
Only You | missA
Pray to God | Calvin Harris ft. HAIM
Reflections | MisterWives
Trouble | Iggy Azalea ft. Jennifer Hudson
We Could Happen | AJ Rafael
Who's Your Mama? | JYP
Wonderland | Taylor Swift
Any recommendations? 

4.10.2015

The Minimal Wardrobe

I have been incredibly interested in the concept of minimalism these past few months, and I've been reading almost everything I can online about it. It started with being aesthetically attracted to the typical images associated with minimalism-- white walls, clean floors, and, well, a minimal amount of stuff. I then stumbled upon Into Mind, a site dedicated to living a minimal life (it's more of an online book than a blog). She then featured Caroline and her blog Un-Fancy, which I'm obsessed with (talk about a cool concept and a very sweet soul). Eventually through Bloglovin', I stumbled across The Private Life of a Girl, and after reading her blog for hours one afternoon, I discovered her take on a minimal wardrobe. Between these three serving as both inspiration and sources of information, I began to formulate my own approach when it comes to my wardrobe.

While moving to a country where the XL is still typically too small for me has made me kind of follow Caroline's capsule wardrobe concept, I have found myself buying a lot on the occasions I make it out to H&M in Gwangju or Jeonju. And that kind of needs to stop. I have decided to try and follow Sophie's lead with her concept of the Minimal Wardrobe. I just took out my spring clothes from my suitcases, and after a bit of a shopping spree the weekend after returning from vacation at H&M and Uniqlo, I have put myself on a restriction. Including the two non-basic items I brought that weekend, I will only be allowed to buy five items a season. Here are her rules adapted to my life:

R U L E S:
  1. Every season only buy five items. 
  2. My seasons are defined as: March 1st-May 31, June 1-August 31, September 1-November 31, December 1-February 28/29*
  3. Underwear, bras, and socks do not count, but should also not suddenly increase in amount.
  4. Accessories (sunglasses, necklaces, bracelets, watches, tights) do not count, but should be purchased sparingly and only for high quality items.
  5. Coats, shoes, and bags count.
  6. Basics, within reason, do not count.
  7. Basics are define as basic shirts or pants in black, white, or tan. 
  8. Second hand items count. 
What do you think? I'm actually a little excited! I spent my teen years with such an interest in fashion and style, filling my room with a shoe corner, all sorts of unnecessary clothes, and magazine clippings, I want to start living a simpler, higher quality life. My wardrobe is the perfect place to start.

U L T I M A T E  G O A L S:

  1. Begin to practice minimalism in my day to day life.
  2. Ultimately save money.
  3. Learn more about ethical and eco-conscious manufacturing
  4. Learn more about what exactly constitutes as "higher quality"
  5. Appreciate my clothes more
  6. Narrow down and define my personal style
  7. Become a more conscious consumer.
Over to you guys! All tips, stories of experience, and links to more resources are more than welcome.

*Yes, this means if I want to buy some things at home, I cannot shop too much during June and July! 

4.08.2015

What Happened When I Stopped Putting Pressure on Myself

Ever since I was young, I've been a consummate over achiever. Here is what my senior year in high school looked like: 5 Advanced Placement Classes, anywhere from 10-20 hours of swimming a week (practice, weight room training, meets), roughly 5-10 hours of life guarding a week, random leadership positions in various clubs, and blogging. I was also consistently somewhat sick (constant coughing with "I'm fine!"), I had a huge mark on my face from some skin condition no one could quite figure out, constant fatigue (many a days were spent falling asleep in study hall hours), and I was really bad at learning how to express my frustrations or anger. Like really bad. I'm still working on it. 

In short, I seemed like I had my shit together, but I was miserable. I hardly hung out with people outside of swimming and school hours. I wasn't much fun. All I wanted to do when I was exhausted was crash and watch random K-pop videos and variety shows. It's sad, though, because if I'm being perfectly honest, I had this secret, slightly masochistic pleasure in being worked to the bone. What's with that? I liked being able to give someone a disdaining look when they were complaining about their workload and then spouting off about my own and pointing out how I had much more and was making it work. Yeah, guys, I was that chick.

I don't know why I was like that. To a lesser extent that over-achiever crept its way into my college years, and it's taken being out of that competitive, academic zone to find some sort of inner peace (how yogi of me, right?). I put a lot of pressure on myself through my academic career, and I frankly don't know why. I think I had these fantastical dreams about being famous for some crazy, cool thing I did when I was young. I wanted to get to that level of "I made it" before I hit twenty, but I had no actual passion for one specific thing. I always say, and I still do, that writing is my true passion, and one day I'll be this crazy novelist working silly hours pouring my heart into some inspiring, life changing story. However, I had been so busy trying to prove something (to me, to people, who knows?) that I lost what it meant to be a writer. 

How could I write about life when I wasn't experiencing it? My over-achiever path wasn't exactly leading to any breakthroughs, and it was having a serious impact on my over all pursuit of happiness. I was unhappy; I was lonely, and I often had this feeling of being insignificant. It's one thing to be a blip in a population of 6 billion; it's quite another to realize that in all of your various friend circles, your presence wasn't exactly missed. Like college admissions advises, it's better to be passionate about a few things than stretched out among a lot. The problem was that I thought I was passionate about everything, but really I just felt like I needed to do everything. Maybe I had a bit of FOMO? 

Anyhow, when I found myself miserable, slightly overweight, lonely, and consistently annoyed with everyone and everything, I knew it was time to make a change. I was saying goodbye to an important part of my life, and I was entering a new one. If any time was a time to change, it was then. 

I made a promise to myself that this first year in Korea would be, if anything, a time of improvement. I was going to relax. I was going to stop planning for the future down to every last detail. I was going to say yes when I wanted to say no and binge watch TV. I was going to stop looking at the negatives, and I was going to stop using "stress," "too busy," and "PMSing" as excuses. I would stop getting my feelings hurt over what I perceived as people "forgetting" me or not being able to hang out. I would do more, ask for more, give more, and I would just give myself a break. Forgive myself for the things I said and did, be proud of what I've accomplished no matter how little or big, and just live.

I'm not saying it's as easy as a few yoga sessions or some mirror talk, and bada-boom-bada-bam, you're cured of taking insane pleasure in your even more insanely over-achieving life. It takes a lot of personal reminders and a lot of pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and even your slight discomfort zone to get to a place of genuine happiness. It takes work. But the result, while slow, has so far been worth it. 

4.06.2015

The Best Place to See Cherry Blossoms in Korea

cherry-blossoms-in-korea
Okay, so my experience of seeing cherry blossoms in Korea is limited to two places, but I feel confident in saying that the most beautiful place to see these pretty pink flowers has got to be in Hadong County in a little village called Hwagae (화개마을). It's another place that's popular among Koreans, but I have not seen many expats visiting, and it's the kind of place that'll make your jaw drop. 
hwagae-cherry-blossoms
I actually went on a total whim when my friend texted me Friday night and asked if I wanted to go with her and our Korean friend at 7 a.m. Now, here's where my motto on saying yes as often as possible comes in handy. I was this close to saying no a few times, from the initial text message (ugh, mornings) to setting up alarm three times to wake-up (seriously, ugh, mornings). If I hadn't gone I probably would have never really heard about the Hwagae Cherry Blossoms, and I wouldn't have had such a random but fun Saturday in early spring. And that, frankly speaking, would be a tragedy. 
cherry-blossoms
I'm being dramatic just to hit home how beautiful this site is. Even with all the people crowded in, the countless selfie sticks, and cars backed up, the Cherry Blossom Road is a site to behold. It's crazy to think that this view really only lasts a week or two in spring. Also known as a wedding road, apparently walking along the 4 km of cherry blossoms will ensure you that you and your loved one will be together for 100 years. 
cherry-blossoms-korea


How to Get There:


I took a car, so I can't give you a foolproof plan. From Seoul there's a direct bus from the Intercity Bus Terminal to Hadong that you can take. From Namwon, I would have to take a bus to Gurye and then from Gurye to Hadong. 


Read More About Hwagae:


Have you been? Have you gone to any cherry blossom festivals? I always just miss the ones in DC.