Monday, August 28, 2006

North of the U.S. of A?

So I think I'm going to change the name of this blog to 'North of the U.S.' or something. Doesn't have quite the same ring to it, but whatevs. I officially hate clubbing in Vancouver. Went to Gecko's last night downtown. It was ok, good electro, very danceable, but the club was quite sparse. The overall mood in the club area: hostile and bling. Felt like I was going to be jumped at every corner.. hummers, girls prancing around in literally undies and 5" heels, guys looking for fights, police everywhere. I thought I'd club a lot more here, but now I can at least scratch that one off my long list of things to do here. Suburbia is also driving me nuts. A 25 minute walk to the mall, and I see not one soul on the sidewalk. Everyone is barricaded behind copious amounts of sheet metal and glass. So isolationist. Oh and the prices are pretty bad, especially at London Drugs. I think Fukuoka, Japan was cheaper in some aspects. The big city vibes, the hostility, the highschool gangstaz, the materialism, the seemingly HUGE influx of druggies on Hastings.. I hate it all. But these things were pretty much anticipated.

In these voids, the sensual appeal of Vancouver compensates. Walking to the mall, I can smell the cedar, fresh cut grass, pinecones, blackberries. I can see the whole skyline from many points in the lower mainland, and watch the whole sunset without buildings blocking my view. It's gorgeous. Went for dim sum today with Brento, Kat and Moolz, and the taste sensation made me want to leap out of my chair and do a jig. It was so nice to see the gaudy red and gold dragons again. Later, we went to Safeway. THANK GOD ALMIGHTY FOR ETHNIC VARIETY!!!!! I went nuts in the Italian / Greek section and made rye sandwiches with hummus, about 6 kinds of olives, goat cheese, the smelliest gorgonzala I could find (that looked like something died in it), and salami. Oh yeah, and we went to my parents place to visit my dog, take a walk in the woods and pick blackberries by salmon-spawning streams.

Oh Vancouver, how I love and hate thee. But mostly love thee. Just like how I love and hate Korea. :)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Hello Vancouver!

Got into Van around noon.. the total flight time equalled about 16 hours.. I flew west, to Hong Kong, where I went through a tirade of additional security checks and got some of my makeup thrown out (though they didn't find my toothpaste in the bottom of my bag... if I were a terrorist, my explosives would be in the toothpaste tube, not the tiny lipgloss tube).. then I flew east, passing Korea and Japan again, before ending up home. (Mental note: shop around at other travel agents next time, to find a more direct route!)

The 'reverse culture shock' I was anticipating hasn't really occured! Rather, it's just plain GOOD to be back. The multicultural airport, English everywhere, and the laidback westcoast vibe. There's a lot more construction here than when I left, and the roads are long and winding. So far all I've really seen though, is Moolz's place, which seems 1000000 times bigger than my place in Manchon. When I left, they were deciding on the colour schemes for their new house, and I gotta say, back then I never thought red and cream would go together so strikingly. But it works! They really did an amazing job designing and furnishing this place. I just stepped out on the balcony, and it's amazing how cold it is here.. 14 degrees! Best of all, it's eerily, gloriously quiet and dark. No yowling cats, none of the banging and shrieking and laughing I'd normally hear late at night at 1050-99 Manchon 3-dong. The noise was comforting, as it brought a sense of community, and I really do miss all the nice shopowners on my street (I only said bye to one of them, but I'm sure she'll tell the rest on my behalf). But I think I prefer the quiet overall. And I can smell the trees. Mmmm, fresh air.

Overall, I'm very happy with my year in Korea. I accomplished everything I set out to do there. I read several books on business and careers have a clearer idea of what I want to accomplish, and started scrapbooks of ideas. I paid off my entire student loan, and saved enough $ to get a car here, which will make living in Van MUCH easier. I learned enough basic Korean phrases to get by on a daily basis, and learned to read Hangul. I learned how to party really, really hard. I proved to myself I can survive in a third world country alone (yes, I recently found out that Korea actually has official third-world status - but mainly so that it can recieve international tax breaks and government grants). I enjoyed my job for the first time in my life, and gained valuable leadership skills. I travelled all over Korea, and to Japan, Malaysia and Thailand. I acquired a whole new wardrobe, and got to observe and absorb fashion trends in a distant country. And best of all, going to Korea has made me appreciate Vancouver all the more.

I nearly wept eating some of Moolz's homecooked Chinese food just now. And this is just the beginning...

(^ 2nd last night partying in Korea!)

(^ Gangwon rafting trip) More pics of rafting here.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Bye, Korea!

20 minutes till we start our 5 hour busride to the airport! WOOOO!!! I've been dreaming of this all year! ^^

More posts on reverse culture shock to come. See you in Vancouver!


Saturday, August 12, 2006

Gangwon Rafting

We went rafting today, white-water style.. though it was mostly brown placid water, with the odd tufts of white. Nevertheless, we got to see some beautiful Korean scenery that is usually only experienced from behind the window of a train. Paddling thirteen kilometres down the wide, meandering river, we gazed at mountains and hills as they rolled and blended into one another. Every inch of mountain is heavily blanketed with a certain very green deciduous tree. Our guide pointed out various faces and images hidden in the rock forms around us. He then proceeded to push every last one of us into the frigid water, then stretched out with a sly smile as we all hopelessly attempted to clambor back on.

Along the edges of the river, small areas of fine sand were interspersed between the cliffs; silt that had been carried along and remoulded into new mini-beaches after the recent monsoon rains a month ago. High up on the cliffs on either side, plastic bags, frayed grey cloth and faded tarpaulin clothed pine trees like scraggly, disheveled scarecrows - eerie testament of a much higher water level during the monsoon. Apparently this was one of the villages that had lost some material possessions - and lives - during the flooding.

At one point we moored on beach of smooth, round rocks and went for an official swim. I love feeling the power of nature firsthand. Thunderstorms, windstorms, etc. Whenever I see the Squamish river running at different strengths, I always have an urge to jump in and see how strong the current is, and how fast I'd be catapulted down the river. Luckily, I got the chance to feel the undertow today. Drifting to the middle of the river, my toes could no longer reach the bottom, and I let the river pull me a bit. Then, I quickly tried to backstroke against the current, to no avail.. it kept pulling me farther down at a frightening speed.. and then a second later, I swam toward the shore, rather than against the current (surfing class 101) and suddenly I could touch the ground again.

All in all, not a trip to go on for the ' white water rafting' aspect, but rather for the scenery, and great way to spend a hot Korean day cooling off, without using aircon.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Everyone knows a kid like Anthony..

Before I sleep, I just gotta jot this down..

I have a kid in my preschool class, Anthony. He's smart, cute, extremely talkative and precocious; a little engine, and unstoppable. Always up to something; always has that gleam of mischief in his eye. I teach his older sister too, Lily. Lily is outgoing and very smart too, but the similarities end there... she's the perfect, well-behaved A+ model student. When I had a parents' demonstration lesson for Lily's class, I started off by writing 'Present Progressive' on the board, and from the back of the room, a little voice started yelling out, "P-R-E-S-E-N-T.." until his mom shushed him. Today I noticed he was extra hyper, doing a few extra cartwheels than usual to the front of the room if I called on him to answer a question. Later, when I taught Lily's class, she interrupted the lesson to tell me something. Apparently, Anthony and Lily had gone to Costco last evening, and Anthony had randomly approached a Canadian couple. Guess what he said to them.......

"Are you crazy?"


PS. Hi, comment posters! It's so nice to know that I'm not talking to myself in this blog! Can't wait till I see somma y'all soon! And to those who didn't post a comment, I knooooww whooo you aaaaree and I will find you and make you start your own blogs as punishment. ;)