Let’s wrap this up?

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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!

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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.

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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!

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May I have this silent dance? *Korea Silent Disco*

Hongdae, one of my favorite neighborhoods in Seoul, Korea, is known for being loud and full of music. Every night you can count on the area’s public spaces to be full of spontaneous and talented performers and one can not ignore the deafening beats blaring from the many clubs that line Hongdae’s narrow streets. But one random night each month is reserved for a different kind of party.

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My friends grew tired of me trying to coordinate our plans so that we would be in Hongdae for this infamous soiree. After a few missed dates due to conflicting dinner plans and bad weather I thought it just wasn’t meant to be. With just over a month left living and teaching in Korea, I eyed my Korea Bucket List with satisfaction and shrugged off the 2 scribbled words in the bottom right hand corner: Silent Disco. You can’t do it all… Or can you?

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And then, as life goes, when I wasn’t looking I full on stumbled into a quiet mess of headphones, swaying bodies, balloons, and all sorts of dancing.

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The Korea Silent Disco is widely known in the city and has helped to make the Hongdae playground a fantastic meeting place for friends and those looking to enjoy the fresh air, the talented local performers, and of course the cheap convenient store beer and soju.

The Silent Disco is not exclusive to Korea. This type of party is widely known around the world and it is a disco where people dance to music listened to on wireless headphones. The DJ’s music is broadcast via an FM-transmitter and the disco-ers wear headphones that pick up the signal.

We found our way to a small booth where a handful of Korean women, who I swear were K-Pop stars, took our money (about $4.00) and IDs and issued us bulky headphones.

For the next few hours we danced and admired the diverse crowd of dancing Koreans and foreigners. Each disco participant seemed to have a different style of dance, but no one seemed to mind. Between every few songs I managed to let the headphones slip down to my neck and I relished in the peaceful party that surrounded me. It’s a very strange feeling to experience a full-blown dance party with no sound. Although I thoroughly enjoyed the disco, I believe the oblivious people passing by got the real show. They curiously laughed and pointed at us and some dancers kindly allowed the strangers to wear the headphones for a brief few moments.

Toward the end of the night the disco leader led the party out into the streets. We followed him as he dodged inbetween traffic, past packed restaurants, and through the busy shopping alleys of Hongdae for what is called an ‘open air love parade’.

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This night was a quiet one, but one I will surely not forget anytime soon. Make sure to check out the Silent Disco Korea Facebook page for their monthly party dates and times. I promise, you have room for this one last thing on your Korea Bucket List.

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A Splendid Salad at Seven Springs in Seoul

If buffet chain restaurants were a flock of teenage girls, Seven Springs would be the Queen Bee demonstrating the supreme art of  smörgåsbord dining in Seoul, Korea.

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I ventured to one of Seven Springs’ Seoul locations recently. When a friend mentioned she wanted to go to a buffet restaurant for her birthday dinner I laughed and asked where we were really going. She was excited for this particular salad buffet in Hongdae, and because it wasn’t my birthday I went along with the green meal idea and made my way out of Exit 8 at Hongdae Station and found the veggie oasis.

I quickly ate my words, along with a mountain of deliciousness.

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Seven Springs is glorious. It boasts a passion for seasonal, local, homemade, and environment-friendly food. This is not just another picked-over buffet with cheap fried food and soggy pizza. The food is healthy, fresh and the vegetables are actually delivered every morning to the different restaurant locations.

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You can order meat and other things for the table to share, but I recommend just going with the standard salad bar. There are separate lunch and dinner prices. I admit the prices are a bit steep, but I think the food’s taste and quality are worth the money spent. The salad bar option also includes hot food items (think: baked pumpkin, pastas, honey bbq chicken, corn on the cob, pizza, and more) appetizers, dessert (think: ice cream, green tea cake, and yogurt parfait), drinks (think: mint and lemon infused water, berry, and non-alcoholic mojito concoctions to quench your thirst).

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I piled my plate high with some strange combinations. I jumped for joy when I spotted capers (CAPERS!), green olives, various leafy greens, homemade salad dressings, avocado (the real deal), bowls of walnuts and almonds, and corn on the cob.

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I recommend Seven Springs for vegetarians in Korea, but I also think anyone who needs a green fix or appreciates fresh food will leave this place smiling and planning a second Seoul Salad Soiree.

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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.

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 *****

 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Let’s shop ‘Folk Style’ in Seoul.

Once upon a time the Seoul Folk Flea Market (서울풍물시장) vendors set up shop around the Cheonggyecheon Stream in Seoul, Korea. Now they return each day to well-manicured squares of space within a recently built warehouse location. Some merchants refer to the market as The Ant Market due to its many moves over the years. Thankfully, a friend who is always in the know dragged me to the market a few weeks ago. I am very glad she did.

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The vendors hope to keep the culture of the traditional market alive and the newest location is well-organized with maps and signs leading shoppers through a maze of small shops selling everything from Buddha figurines and wooden masks to designer handbags and musical instruments. With only enough time to discover the first floor of the massive market, I found great Korean souvenirs, a vintage pair of Ray Bans and a slouchy black leather bag. I will be back soon to tackle the second floor.

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Have you visited the Seoul Folk Flea Market? What great finds did you come across?

Sinseol-dong Station (Line 1 or 2 Exit 9), Closed every 2nd & 4th Tuesday, 10:00am-7:00pm

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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.

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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.

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 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.

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Filed under cuter in korea, seoul, travel