Saturday, August 12, 2017

Letting go of what was thought to be the answer is like whoa.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

It's not about the taste. It's about the emotion. The memory that comes from it.

Monday, August 07, 2017

"It's never too late,
to be who you wanna be."

From the song Summer Bummer by Lana Del Rey.
"Blue is the color of the shirt of the man I love."

From the song Beautiful People Beautiful Problems by Lana Del Rey.

Monday, July 31, 2017

I'm back in New York after two months in Seoul...

I think I just need a really long nap.

Friday, July 28, 2017

"One thing I know for sure is that,
something just ain't right."

From the song One Thing by Luscious Jackson.
"Is it raining outside?"

The question I get asked daily right now during Korea's rainy season when I go to meet people. I'll usually answer with a polite no before explaining my shirt is drenched in sweat, not rain.
Summer sweat.
Steamy Seoul.
Scorching sun.
Strolling solo.
Soaked.
So sopping.
Smooth skin.
Sticky.
Same story.
Sigh.
Sluggish.
Savoring stolen sub-zero shivers.
Sanity.
Sleepy since sunrise.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

"Oh, the truth is a beautiful thing."

From the song Truth Is A Beautiful Thing by London Grammar.
Kalguksu is the ultimate Korean comfort food. Available at most general restaurants, it’s enjoyed all over the country as a cherished dish cooked with a mother’s love and care.

As a noodle soup made with a broth from beef bones, kalguksu has a wonderfully milky taste and rich quality. The noodles are handmade from wheat flour with the magic touch coming from pushing down on the inner wrist when kneading. It’s then cut into thick strands that are known for its dense body and chewy texture. Korean cuisine generally favors long strands of noodles, which are a sign of living a long life. So if your bowl has particularly longer noodles, it’s not only good for your stomach but an auspicious sign of what’s to come. What makes kalguksu especially standout from other soups made with a similar broth is the starch from the noodles that give it an extra heaviness, which is a divine combination. The first sip of the broth will immediately give that full-bodied flavor from the beef and carbs, hitting the palate like the most comforting hug from childhood.

There are many variations of kalguksu that are not made from a beef broth. The beef version is more commonly found in Seoul since cow products are more expensive to use as an ingredient. But another popular type would be dak kalguksu, which is made from chicken broth with hand-pulled shreds of meat. It’s often referred to as Korean chicken noodle soup, holding the same nostalgia as similar versions from other cultures. Haemul kalguksu is made with a plethora of seafood, and popular in the southern and coastal regions within the country. This kalguksu is often cooked in larger quantities in a single pot to be enjoyed family style. But the most common form of kalguksu has a broth made of out anchovies since it’s a more affordable base to use. Unless a restaurant specifies the type of kalguksu they’re serving, the anchovy is what’s most likely being sold.

What’s just as important about the kalguksu eating experience is the kimchi it’s served with. Unlike other Korean dishes, kalguksu is specifically eaten with fresh kimchi, also known at geotjuri. This is a type of kimchi that’s not fermented and meant to be consumed within a week of being made. Kalguksu aficionados will often rate their favorite restaurant of the dish by the quality of their geotjuri, since it’s often harder to mess up on a kalguksu recipe rather than one for fresh kimchi. Geotjuri tends to have more spices and seasoning than regular kimchi, giving it slightly more of a bite and clean spiciness.

Some Korean people also eat kalguksu on days they feel like having geotjuri, making the noodle soup the side dish to fresh kimchi. But the most popular time for kalguksu is definitely summertime. Korean people love to eat hot soups and stews in the scorching summer weather because they like how it warms their body up to sweat even more. There’s a Korean phrase often used to express their delight for moments such as this. It’s called “shi-won-ha-da,” which translates to feeling refreshed and invigorated. And it’s the expression often heard in kalguksu restaurants when the temperature outside is feeling tropical.
Big chain conventient stores in Seoul are best for when you’re drunk, broke, or in a rush. Or perhaps at any given moment, you’re living life to the fullest and achieving two out of three of these factors.

Found on just about any block here, convenient stores here are brightly lit, colorful, and attainable beacons of happiness that invite you in with their wide selection of products and services in strong air conditioning. Pantyhose, chocolate, T-Money cards, whiskey, or small items to make a last minute meal—you’ll find whatever you’re looking for. They’re open 24 hours and can be more comforting than any best friend ever could. Depressed and in need of some ice cream? A convenient store would say, “I got you, fam.” Depressed and in need of some soju? A convenient store would respond with, “Say no more.” Or depressed and in need of some delicious processed food? A convenient store would yell back, “Come on over!”

While the eating options there can be endless, there are two standout items that are mostly associated as Korean convenient store food: samgak kimbap and cup ramen.

Samgak kimbaps are triangular shaped kimbaps wrapped in plastic. Their specially designed wrapper is meant to keep the seaweed crisp until ready to be consumed. The plastic has special instructions and a tab you pull at that unwraps it in a way that’s super easy to eat. Under the seaweed is densely packed rice with a filling in the center that comes in a wide spectrum of flavors. They range in traditional fare such as spicy chicken or bulgogi, to more adventurous like spam with eggs or eel. With the average price for samgak kimbaps hovering around $1, they’re an all-time favorite for many and great for snacking on anywhere in thanks to leaving a minimal smell. In fact, they’re so popular and constantly being restocked that a specific time in the day is noted in their expiration date.

The second place champion of convenience store foods would be cup ramen. Cup ramen is the quicker and easier version of ramen, which is like using a microwave with no buttons. For cup ramen, instead of having to get a pot to cook your ramen in, you can simply pour boiling water into the makeshift bowl the cup ramen comes in. Whatever type of noodles you prefer or flavor you’re looking for, there’s a cup ramen out there for you. They’re also available in different sizes, providing options on the level of bloat you want to subsequently feel. Hot water and wooden chopsticks are a given at convenience stores, and a large majority will also have indoor and outdooring seating. That makes eating your cup ramen in peace while leaving no evidence behind as easy as slurping noodles.

With ramen practically being a national pastime, walking by a convenience store to get a quick glance of someone enjoying cup ramen here in Seoul is as common as seeing the shop’s lights on. The slight difference with samgak kimbap is that it’s more often eaten on the go. It’s no surprise though that these two products are the king and queen of convenience store grub because they’re the lightning versions of things that are already loved within Korean food. But whether you’re dining on the store premises or not, samgak kimbap and cup ramen at convenient stores are extremely satisfying bites that can be made into a full meal or hold you over until you eat again. And you can easily grab some banana milk, sausage, or countless other items to make it the full course banquet of your dreams.

Friday, July 21, 2017

iPhones sold in Korea always make a shutter sound whenever taking photos with them.

For locals here, there's no such thing as secretly sneaking a picture.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Adam's apple.
"And a lust for life,
keeps us alive."

From the song Lust For Life by Lana Del Rey.
"Most people live their entire lives, and never understand you can't always believe everything you think."

Said by Andy Andrews in Robin Roberts' Podcast: Everybody's Got Something. Season 2, Episode 5.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Build.
"For $9.99,
I'm perfectly disguised."

From the song Pink Sunglasses by Miranda Lambert.

Monday, July 17, 2017

It was Seoul Gay Pride this past weekend, and I was so happy to go check out the festivities.

When I got off the subway at the City Hall stop, I wasn't sure what to expect. I was elated to see people within the station with pride flags painted on their faces and other visible signs of support for the cause. But I have to be honest in saying that I was also surprised by the number of protesters I saw as soon as I surfaced above ground.

There was a large counter demonstration across the street from where the festival was being held. They also had a huge screen set up to broadcast whoever was speaking on the stage, and that made it both pretty visible and audible from the side where I was standing. At that moment I arrived, there was such anger and vitriol in that specific speaker's voice. I was truly taken aback by it. He was an older gentleman, angrily screaming at the top of his lungs as it echoed everywhere. I could hear the graininess that seemed to come from losing his voice as a result of yelling so loudly. Then on the side of the street where the festival was being held, all I saw was a wall of police officers standing on the sidewalk to keep other protestors from getting too close to passersby as they made their way towards the entrance. I could feel my blood boiling as I had to walk by them and listen to their furious shrieks and protests. They waved their big signs in the air and howled with passion while preaching about how LGBTQ people are less than. They showed so much rage, but everyone who had to endure their hatred did not. Most people simply ignored them or walked by with smiles and excitement for what the day meant.

When I finally made my way into the festival, the vibe was completely different from what was going on outside. There was nothing but love, happiness, and celebration. There were so many people, with a large presence of foreigners as well. Being within the space instantly made me forgot about all the mess that was happening outside, and I happily walked around alone to soak it all in.

The actual parade took place outside of the festival area on a main street of Seoul. And I was fortunate to have perfect timing to witness the entire thing. I can't tell you how moved I was in seeing the thousands of people marching. Young. Old. Straight. LGBT. Korean. Non-Koreans. The diversity in everyone amazed me. All I thought was, where are all these people living and going out to? I didn't realize there was such diversity here, especially among the LGBTQ community. There were way more people actually marching in the parade than watching it as a spectator, which only made me think that people didn't just want to watch it, but they instead wanted to be a part of the movement. Seeing it all almost moved me to tears. It was very emotional and heart-warming. It was parade float after parade float that was filled with swarms of joyful people in between.

Towards the end of the day, the feelings I had from seeing all of the protestors were overcome by the warmth and love I felt from all of the supporters. I have to say that the Seoul Police Department did an excellent job in maintaining order and keeping angry protestors from getting too close to festival goers. I was extremely grateful for that. Overall, it was a memorable Pride. Korean society still has a ways to go in regards to accepting LGBTQ people, but they're definitely on their way there. And the amount of love, support, and LGBTQ allies from the weekend truly did show that.
"At first, it feels good, savoring each bite, the world falling away. I forget about my stresses, my sadness. All I care about are the flavors in my mouth, the extraordinary pleasure of the act of eating. I start to feel full but ignore that fulness and that sense of fullness goes away and all I feel is sick, but still, I eat. When there is nothing left, I no longer feel comfort. What I feel is guilt and uncontrollable loathing, and oftentimes, I find something else to eat, to soothe those feelings, and strangely, punish myself."

From the book Hunger by Roxanne Gay. Page 170, e-book edition.
"Food was not only comfort: food also became my friend because it was constant and I didn't need to be anything but myself when I ate."

From the book Hunger by Roxanne Gay. Page 58, e-book edition.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

In Korea, there's always some drunk motherfucker in the background.

Sometimes, it might even be someone you know. Or maybe it's even you.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

RuPaul and Michelle Visage laughing together on their podcast is everything.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

"We could run."

From the song We Could Run by Beth Ditto.
Food truly does create the most amazing connections on a global scale.

I was hanging out at restaurant last week in Hannamdong called Parc. Sitting there alone for hours with my laptop, I soaked up the energy and took notes on my computer while observing the spot throughout the evening. At one point during dinner service, I saw a set of two customers walk in together. I've always had a knack for faces, and instantly recognized one of them from back home in New York. She had been a regular at a restaurant I used to work at in Williamsburg years ago, and I couldn't believe that she was coming in to eat at Parc on the same day I was there to survey the place. I didn't approach or bother her until she and her friend were at the counter to pay after they had finished eating. I was in no way expecting her to remember me, but asked if she used to live in New York. She told me she still did and that she was just in town for a short while. I then proceeded to tell her that she used to come to my old work place in Brooklyn often and that I remembered her as soon as I saw her walk in to the restaurant earlier in the night. She then confirmed, yes, it was indeed her. 

Wow. Small happenings like these only help me realize that with clear eyes, there is so much to see and learn in life.
Some photos from my time in Korea so far.














Monday, July 10, 2017

Note to self: Do not panic when things don't go according to the plans you created in your head, which were more safe ideas nice to think about.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

From my days of living in Thailand, I still enjoy checking out free tv episodes that are offered every week on iTunes. I recently watched the first episode of Season 2 for Huang's World from VICE. And all I got to say is, mad respect to Eddie for the entire episode. I really liked it. Go check it out if you haven't already.

Friday, July 07, 2017

"Don't be afraid to catch feels."

From the song Feels by Calvin Harris.
TGIF everyone!

It's Friday evening here in Seoul, and I'm cooling off with my laptop at a cafe after walking around for hours. I was literally dripping in sweat when I walked in, so this air conditioning is giving me life.

I had lunch alone today at the Noryangjin Fish Market. This is a huge wholesale market that pretty much sells any type of seafood you could ever want. Because South Korea is a peninsular nation, seafood is a big part of the country's cuisine. And a place like Noryangjin is a great spot to access the most freshest kinds from the region that's available in Seoul. Fish, crabs, lobster, stingrays, live octopus, or whatever---this place has it all. After choosing whatever you like, instead of taking it home to cook, you can go to one of the many restaurants within the market that will prepare the seafood for you. You can get your fish sliced and served raw sashimi-style. Or maybe you want it made into a nice stew. Or perhaps you're craving steamed Dungeness crab along with some abalone. Or maybe some fried jumbo shrimp. Regardless of what you get, eating it within the market is definitely a fun and delicious experience.

I was craving some sea urchin, so I picked out 3 for ₩10,000 from a very nice vendor. She then directed me towards a small restaurant around that area of the market through a nearby alley. They took the spiny creatures from me to open up the shells and serve along with some standard side dishes traditionally eaten with seafood in Korea. I also ordered a pajun and large beer to complete my meal. My bill at the restaurant was only ₩22,000. So that makes the total price of my lunch under $30 for both the cost picking out fresh uni and enjoying it in the comforts of a restaurant with some booze. It doesn't get any better than that.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

I've pretty much lost count on the number of rubber bands for my braces that I've accidentally ingested while eating.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Loose leaf.
Happy 4th of July, America!

I spent the holiday alone getting some work done here and there. But I wanted to eat some good ole' American BBQ for lunch, so I headed to Linus' Bama Style BBQ in Itaewon. I had the pulled pork platter, which was pretty good and totally hit the spot. It felt nice being in the restaurant today because it was filled with other American customers who also seemed to have come with the same craving as me. It was a mixture of both young people and families among them who seemed like locals, in the military from the nearby American army base, or tourists. Being around fellow Americans was especially comforting on a major holiday like today, and reminded me of being back home in the U.S.

In general, I take the subway everyday here in Seoul. It's my major form of transportation. The trains are modern with full cellular and data capabilities, but the only bummer is that they stop running from midnight to 5:30am. One other major difference about the Seoul subway system in comparison to New York's is that each station here has floor-to-ceiling glass partitions at the edge of all platforms. The glass walls block any access to the tracks and only open where the subway doors open. That means angrily leaning over the edge of the platform like I do in New York to look down the tracks for the next train is impossible here. But stations in Seoul are equipped with tv screens that tell you how far away the next train is anyway, so that solves that. Another good thing about the glass partitions is that they also prevent people from falling into the tracks, or god forbid jumping in front of a train to kill themselves.

The other day, I was walking down the steps to a platform of a station when I saw a mass of people starting to walk up towards me. I knew the subway had just gotten there, and didn't want to have to wait for the next one so I darted towards the open doorway. I saw that the doors were sliding shut but didn't care and still went for it. The doors closed on me and I got stuck with half of my body inside the subway and other other half sticking out. Now, this happens all the time in the New York subways. And when it does, the conductor will quickly re-open the doors to allow whoever is stuck to get their whole body onto the train. Or if the conductor doesn't do that, other straphangers might help out by pulling the doors apart to force them open again (which usually always works). But when I was stuck between the doors the other day here in Seoul, it so did not go down like that.

From the shoulder down, it was the left side of my body that was sticking out of the doors. My tote was also in my left hand swinging in the air, so as I was trying to squeeze the rest of my body and bag into the train, I struggled to push through with the doors not budging. At. All. I looked around the subway cart in panic as I was fighting to get inside, and straight up made eye contact with all of the other straphangers who just sat there stoically watching me. It was a good ten seconds of my body in limbo as everyone just stared, but it felt like an eternity. Someone was even standing inside right at the door in front of me, but she did nothing but watch me scramble as well. And since the subway doors couldn't close with me jammed inside them, the doors of the glass partition weren't able to close either.

The conductor finally re-opened the doors and I managed to stumble inside feeling a bit frazzled. I looked around and felt this sense that people were looking at me like I had gotten myself into this mess, and I suddenly realized that they were right. In that moment, I became aware that commuters in Seoul don't stick their limbs or bodies between closing doors of the subway because that's just not how it works here. And I couldn't remember a single time when I had seen anyone else do that in the trains here. Well, phew. Duly noted, and lesson learned. Thankfully with my body still intact.
"We know the pain is real.
But you can't heal,
what you never reveal."

From the song Kill Jay-Z by Jay-Z.

Monday, July 03, 2017

"Here's to the ones who dream,
foolish as they may seem."

Sang by Mia in the movie La La Land.
Heart.
Start.
Art.
Shart.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Friday, June 30, 2017

"Do you try on all your nights like this?"

From the song Slide by Calvin Harris featuring Frank Ocean.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Monday, June 26, 2017

Dongdaemun is a popular night market here in Seoul. I checked it out a few days ago with some friends who were visiting from New York.

We got to the market past midnight on a weekday, so it was pretty late and not that busy. One of my friends wanted to buy a whole bunch of socks, and we stopped at this vendor who had set up an outdoor shop at a main intersection. Since I was not interested in perusing their massive sock collection, I hovered around the other types of souvenirs and products that were on display near the area where customers pay. I immediately noticed the two women working the stand. They had to be in their 50's, and there was a heaviness to their demeanor. I couldn't tell if it was from them feeling exhausted after a long day of work, or perhaps from other stresses that were troubling them. But there was something about them that I couldn't help but curiously observe. One women was larger with short hair and round wire-framed glasses, we'll call her Lady 1. And the other was slightly more petite with wavy shoulder length hair, we'll call her Lady 2. I stood there practically right in front of them with only some products separating us, but they seemed preoccupied about something serious. And as I was pretending to look at the keychains and other knickknacks before me, Lady 2's cell phone rang. She turned around to face the large makeshift display made of metal-wire that was bountiful with inexpensive socks, and picked up the phone with her back to everyone else. When the phone rang, Lady 1's eyes widened. Lady 2 put the phone to her left ear facing slightly outward so Lady 1 could also listen in on the conversation. Lady 1 in turn put her arms around the shoulders of Lady 2 to get closer to the speaker, with the left side of her head resting on Lady 2's. They both stood there, practically hugging each other for comfort as the phone call started. 

Lady 2 did all the talking. Her voice remained strong as she spoke with pride and a bit of defiance. I have no idea what the person on the other end of the phone was saying. But Lady 2's responses were as followed. "I told you I would get the money, I just need more time." "Don't you think I would have paid you back if I had it?!" "I told you I'm working on it." "I don't have it right now. What else do you want me to say?" The conversation went on and on like this. As Lady 1 listened in, she signaled to Lady 2 that she had said more than enough. She tried providing moral support as Lady 2 continued to explain the same thing over and over to the caller. And repeatedly, Lady 1 motioned to end the call, suggesting there was nothing else left to say.

When Lady 2 finally did hang up, the both of them just stood there... embracing one another. They seemed emotionally drained as they consoled each other. But in that moment, I felt their strength. And it said so much about who they are. 

This is also when my friend was ready to pay, and she approached them with her multiple bundles of socks to tally up the final cost. That's when Lady 2 turned around to face us and help my friend, and I saw tears streaming down her face. But even as the tears continued to come down, she helped my friend with a wide smile and happy demeanor. And it made it all the more such a moving moment.

After my friend paid, we thanked the women and they courteously said goodbye and wished us well. These two women have been in my thoughts since this night, and I can't seem to shake off this feeling of wondering how they are. When my friends went back to Dongdaemun and to the same area of the vendor a few nights later to buy more socks, they said the women were not there...  wherever they are right now, I wish nothing but the best for them.
It's gotten pretty hot in Seoul. The humidity is at a point where I'm sweating just from walking outdoors. But I've miraculously been living without an air conditioner or fan at the place where I'm staying. I guess that's where booze comes in handy, because buying a bottle of soju is cheaper than getting a cup of coffee here and easier than thinking about the heat. Oh yes, that magic green bottle that now comes in flavors like grape and peach. It tastes just like candy, I swear it does. It's like the adult version that quenches your thirst to blackout and forget everything that's happening on the playground.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Writers writing about writers.
"She smiled. Leapt without looking."

Said by the character Mia in the movie La La Land.
"It's new every time. It's brand new every night."

Said by the character Sebastian in the movie La La Land.

Friday, June 23, 2017

"I wanna go somewhere where nobody knows. 
I wanna know somewhere where nobody goes."

From the song Highway Vagabond by Miranda Lambert.

This song is from Miranda Lambert's album, The Weight of These Wings. I love this album. I listen to it constantly. It soothes me. It's go-to music for stress relief. It calms me when I'm feeling like shit. It's completely transporting to a land of serenity and beauty when I feel chaos. The opening song of Runnin' Just in Case feels like the start to a beautiful journey. And the entire album has just the perfect mix of some upbeat songs to get me going as well. Even to have it on in the background while I work out my thoughts makes a world of difference.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Sunday, June 18, 2017

It's Monday afternoon here in Seoul.

My sleep schedule has been really wonky the past few days or so, but I finally got a good night of sleep yesterday and am feeling a bit more clearheaded today.

I ate kalguksu last week at a place in Yeonhui-dong, and it was so good. Kalguksu is a traditional Korean comfort food that's pretty much a noodle soup. The broth can be made with a variety of things such as chicken or seafood, but I ate a version made from beef bones. I really liked it because the hand cut noodles are made from wheat flour, and I could taste the starch from the noodles in the soup. The combination of the thick, milky broth with slight depth from the carby noodles was straight up delicious. I'm still thinking about it even days later. Kalguksu is also traditionally served with fresh kimchi, which is supposed to be eaten within 7 days of being made and isn't fermented. I've actually always loved this type of kimchi my whole life, and preferred it to the regular kind. The entire meal just totally hit the spot.

But what I'm seriously craving right now is a decent haircut. I really need a good fade to feel freshened up and clean.
"Let's go, girls!"

From the song Man! I Feel Like a Woman! by Shania Twain.
"Fattier Pork Is Better Pork."

From the story title of a June 16, 2017, New York Times article. Written by Melissa Clark.
One word at a time.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

If your cell phone is charged at 50%, doesn't that mean it's halfway charged or halfway empty?

I would say halfway empty because anything below an 80% battery gives me anxiety.
The one thing I'm not crazy about here in Korea are the typical bathrooms that are found in any common household.

They're modern in every sense of the word and even have electronic bidets that are fancy. But they usually don't have showers or a designated area for it. Instead, there'll be a handheld showerhead that's expected to be used in the middle of the bathroom or in a small corner of the space. Since there's no official shower area, the floor is made of tile that's meant to always get wet. That's the reason why a pair of rubber slippers will always be positioned at the door to help keep your feet dry. But I hate wearing those rubber slippers for some reason. It's a little annoying to put on every time I enter. Plus, I don't like thinking about who's worn them before and what they've done in them with their wet feet and all. At the place where I'm staying, I thankfully don't have to share the bathroom with anyone so I just walk around in it barefoot.
"And my darling, 
I'll be rooting for you."

From the song Rooting For You by London Grammar.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Sunday, June 11, 2017

It's Sunday evening here in Seoul, which also marks a little bit over my first full week in town.

I've spent a lot of my time eating and snacking on different things so far, ranging from street food to serious fine-dining. My favorite though has been the traditional Korean street food you'll find at almost any major subway stop or area. They're basically these tents or the backs of pickup trucks you walk up to and eat at while standing. You simply place an order for 1 serving of ddukbokki, kimbap, blood sausage, battered and deep fried squid/shrimp/vegetables, or fish cakes, and it's served right away. Everything is pretty much already made and ready to eat, but they'll quickly refry anything deep fried so it's nice and hot for you. And a small paper cup of the soup from the fish cakes will also be given for free as your savory beverage to sip on, so don't expect any water. This liquid will either be offfered to you directly, or you'll know it's self-serve by the ladle sticking out from the fish cake broth. Eating like this is great because I can have a feast on the cheap. Plus, it's also convenient for when I'm alone.

I've been particularly eating a lot of blood sausage called soondae, which I often crave in New York and have a small go-to spot in Flushing. But I do also need non-Korean food on a regular basis, so I've eaten great pasta and even the occasional fast food burger here as well. The dining choices are endless in Seoul, which is awesome. Another thing about Korean food culture is that they're absolutely coffee obsessed, so you'll find multiple cafes and Starbucks on any block. I personally avoid caffeine because it makes me feel crazy, but have had the occasional cup since arriving due to social situations. Korean people will meet for coffee at 10pm not for the caffeine, but just because it's an alternative to meeting at a bar in a culture that's so booze dominated. I've told myself no more coffee, though. My body just doesn't react to it well and I always end up feeling extremely wired and manic. The place where I'm staying at doesn't have wifi, so I have to go to cafes often for times I need to get online through my laptop. That's when I'll usually just order a tea to loiter for as along as possible, such as this very moment right now.

I had lunch this past Thursday at Jungsik, which is as fine-dining as you can get in Seoul. All of the food was spectacular, and the sommelier paired everything with some really great wines. A friend also showed me an area called Boseok-gil over the weekend, which means "jewelry road" and is a new neighborhood with a lot of small restaurants and cafes. It hasn't been completely overrun yet, which was a nice change to so many other main hotspots that are always packed with people and major chains. If you're looking to check out an up-and-coming area of Seoul, I definitely recommend it. My friend took me to a small Korean restaurant off Boseok-gil that's popular with young people for its newish, yet traditional, spin on Korean cuisine. It's called Jang Ggoma, and was super good. "Jang" translates to traditional sauces (think gochujang, ssamjang, etc), and "ggoma" means little kid. They don't have a lot of seating though, maybe 4-5 seats at the kitchen on the ground floor and less than 15 seats at a communal table on the second floor. You get to the upper level through a narrow staircase, and the communal table is made up of what used to be the door of a traditional Korean dresser made of beautiful mother-of-pearl. Eating there was such a fun and delicious experience overall.

I've been good with not going out at night or staying out too late because my main priority is getting work done. A lot of my friends and the people I'm working with drink daily until the wee of hours of the early morning, but I haven't done that yet. On the one or two nights I've gone out for a little, I've always tried to make the subway home before it stops running at midnight. But on those occasions, I will admit to ordering some Korean fried chicken near my place for when I do get off the train home a little tipsy. I think of it as my reward for getting back at what locals here would consider a modest hour.

Friday, June 09, 2017

"Your game is tired.
You should retire.
You're about as cute,
as an old coupon, expired."

From the song Swish Swish by Katy Perry.
Alone time is an absolute necessity.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

I had this dream last night, where I was trying to scream into my phone at a company because they had wronged me somehow. I was so livid, which was escalated even more because they had me on hold for over 4 hours. When it was finally my turn to speak to a representative, I choked and couldn't talk. I was trying to yell and shout my frustrations because I was so hurt and angry, but it was as if I had lost my voice. My rage had been boiling and become more intense over the time I waited and I obsessed about exactly what I wanted to say. But it came out as a whisper and at most, I was only able to say a few words. I kept having to try and clear my throat again, yet still, nothing. I actually woke up when I heard my own voice talking out loud.
People only want the good, the shiny, and the sparkling aspects of our lives.

But exactly how much of our day-to-day life actually consists of that? Life is not one, big Instagram filter. And that's what I'm determined to share here on my blog.
It's okay to have a good cry when it's needed... it's better than eating until you hate yourself.

Monday, June 05, 2017

I arrived in Seoul four days ago, and everything has been going great so far. I've already been able to see some family and friends, in addition to eating some good food here and there as well. It feels nice to be back. There's this level of comfort from being here that sort of puts me at ease.

My flight landed at Incheon Airport in the middle of the night, so I had to take a taxi to get into town. My driver was pleasant and we ended up chatting throughout the entire trip. He eventually asked if I was married, and I had to think for a split second about how I wanted to answer the question. I decided it was best to not divulge too much information and get into it, so I responded with a simple no. Then he proceeded to ask why, saying men my age should be married. Next he asked if I like Korean women or American women. I told him it didn't matter and that I was open to anyone. That was followed up with other questions that were just a natural progression of our conversation. What kind of girls had I dated before? What kind of girl do my parents want me to marry? Etc.

Afterwards, I was telling one of my friends about my conversation with the driver and explained that I wasn't looking forward to having this same discussion with elders or strangers over-and-over about marriage during my two months here. Then she offered a solution in how I should respond. She suggested I just say that I was divorced, and she guaranteed the topic of conversation would end right there. I thought it was pretty smart and funny for her to say that. I mean, in general, it's not like I am looking to straight-up lie to people and tell them I'm straight, but it's a different culture here. And I'm not looking to get into anything with people, especially if their questions are just a mindless way to be social and make conversation.

My schedule here has been different everyday, and it will most likely stay that way until I leave. It's amazing how once you leave a routine that you were used to daily for years, it's like your brain already forgot about it all and has moved on. It makes me all the more grateful to have the opportunity to be here.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Dear friends,

Please check out my new homepage at www.taeyoonwriter.com!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

What do you do when you see the name of a new popular book that's one word off from the title of a short story you've had in your head for years?

Kick yourself really hard. And move on.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Whenever in need of retail therapy or some instant gratification, I look no further than the "Cookbooks Under $5" section on iBooks. It's updated throughout the week, and there are always cookbooks from major publishing companies and big time chefs/restaurateurs on sale!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Leave it to the kind employees of an Apple Store Genius Bar to give you an ear complex.

Since the days of the original iPod, earphones that usually come with Apple products have never really fit my ears. Their design has always been too awkward for my natural shape, and would fall out or simply never felt right. This lead me to trying lots of different earphones over the years, but about a month ago I decided to give one from Apple a go.

I purchased the Apple-In Ear Headphones that come with silicone tips, which usually always work well for me. I was happy with the new pair, and everything seemed fine. I even noticed how different it felt to go about my day using white earphones from Apple like most of the world---it was like I was finally a part of modern civilization. But then a few weeks later, I began to have issues with the left side. Anytime I attempted to pull the earphone out, the silicone tip would come unattached from the wire, leaving it it sitting in my ear canal. After days of dealing with extracting it out with my fingertips, I decided to go to the Apple store to return them for a new pair.

I've been dog-sitting Oscar for the past few days, so I decided to exchange them at the Apple Store in the Upper West Side. When the nice associate at the Genius Bar began assisting me, I explained how the left side was defective, and I just wanted a new pair. Since the sound quality was still fine, I inquired if my issue was something he saw often, which he responded to as no. I demonstrated how the silicone tip would remain sitting in my ear when I pulled at the wire. But when he tested the same thing on his own ears, the earphones did not have the same issue. After a bit more assessment, he recommended a full refund rather than an exchange. When I pressed him for more info, he said that because of my ear shape, this problem would most likely happen again. And when I explained my history of having ill-matched ears for Apple earphones, the whole thing just made sense. It was then when I realized: Apple products and my ears just aren't meant to be.

I know there are tons of other earphone options for me to try, but I can't say that I wasn't a teeny-tiny bit bummed leaving the store. To come to the conclusion that this relationship will never happen, well, okay Apple, I finally hear you.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

"Just... two people that like warm rolls."

Said by Melvin in the movie As Good As It Gets.
"When he found out I was a writer he gradually began to reveal more personal details. He may have felt that, like therapists and religious leaders, writers had a legitimate right (or duty) to hear people's confessions."

From the short story, An Independent Organ, in the book Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami. Page 91.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017