Sunday, November 28, 2010

i have less than a week left in seoul. it feels so surreal.

i will not be heading back to nyc, not just yet at least. on december 5th, i will be flying on a one-way ticket to thailand. while i have no money, don't know anyone in bangkok, don't speak thai, and don't know what to do or where to go as soon as i step off the airplane, i guess i just have to make it work somehow...

the reason that i'm not going home yet is because i want to write a book. yes, an actual book. it's scary for me to state this in public because now it means that i have to finally go through with it. i don't know if it will be good or if it will ever get published, but it's been my lifelong dream to write a novel and i must get it done. i know that if i don't take the opportunity to make it a priority now, then it might never happen.

why thailand, you ask? mostly for visa purposes---it's the only place that ended up working out. plus, i was looking to stretch every last dollar i have and hope to make it happen there. i'm not going there for vacation, but instead just to have a place where i can concentrate on getting my work done. i'm nervous about it all, but excited at the same time.

if you will be in bangkok within the upcoming months or have friends there i could meet, please let me know.

as for now, i'm still trying to come to grips that i will be leaving korea for a very long time. the korean military office called me again today to check on my decision. i let them know that i will definitely not be enlisting for two years in the military.

cheers to my to last week here---i plan to make it a good one.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

at the very moment where tens of millions of other americans were having their holiday feasts, i was nursing a major hangover and ate a $1 breakfast at my local convenience store early in the morning.

happy thanksgiving!

on a side note, toilet paper plays many different roles in korean culture. over here, its use is not only limited to wiping the lips below your waist...

is ten days enough for a chance at love?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

this is the headline that south korea woke up to this morning.

after yesterday's historical and unprovoked attack from north korea, south korea is left with two dead soldiers, tens injured, destroyed homes of innocent civilians and the underlying sense that the country's comfortable mindset of safety from war can be shattered in a moment.

i woke up this morning relatively early to run errands and while i usually never watch television anymore, i was glued to the news to catch up on the latest updates. understandably, the story dominated every major network and i pondered how everyday citizens were dealing with the events.

i left my place and headed on my way, carefully studying the faces of all the seoulites around me. the weather today is crisp and sunny with passing clouds, and i found myself continually looking at the sky and wondering if there will be a day where the capital city will be engulfed by plumes of smoke and panic below.

as for the people of seoul, everything seems to be pretty normal this morning; the subways were packed during rush hour with commuters, businesses were open and ready for customers, tardy people desperately ran for their departing and already packed buses, cars waited patiently at red traffic lights, businessmen walked confidently in their suits, students in their uniforms walked stoically as they tuned out the world through their headphones, trendy young people laughed while talking on their expensive cellphones, people sipped their hot starbucks coffee with tiny straws (i still really don't understand it though), women waited with their small children for the school bus, and dense people walked down the street without a care in the world and their eyes glued to their electronic devices. it's evident that just like every other morning in seoul, people went through the motions of going about their business, unaffected by the attacks.

who knows if the country will go to war again with the north. as for now---things are still routine.
i'm longing to go on a scenic drive somewhere.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Saturday, November 20, 2010

it is so NOT COOL for dudes to dry off their pubes at the sauna with the communal hair dryer.

Friday, November 19, 2010

formally saying goodbye to someone in korea usually requires bowing. whenever i'm on my phone and respectfully saying goodbye in korean, i find myself subconsciously bowing to thin air in public, especially on the subway. so...f'n...embarrassing.
life goes on.

in spite of those pesky minor details of what, where, and how---life always goes on.

Friday, November 12, 2010

wow. okay. so. let's see. i don't even know where i should start with this entry. oh yes---i got it now.

to start with the good news---I GOT A JOB.

yes, and it's not teaching english at some banal school or anything, but an actual i-could-do-this-for-my-career sort of job. as a matter of fact, i can say that it's my DREAM JOB. i could not have imagined a better job that suits me, my work ethic, what i want to achieve in korea, and how i always imagined myself living here.

last thursday, i interviewed at the #1 pr agency in all of seoul. the office is located a block away from the galleria mall in apkujeong, which is one of the ritziest parts of town. the ceo lady of the company personally interviewed me and she hired me on the spot. in that moment, i can't even begin to describe how happy i was. finally, after five months of an extensive job search and in korea and busting my ass, it was all coming together. and the best part was, i could finally quit my bar job! all i could think was yes---there was a reason for it all. all the doubt, struggle and adversity from the past five months were immediately relinquished from my heart and i felt twenty pounds lighter. if i had not gone through all that, then i would have not been at the point where i now was. i'm a huge believer in fate and now that i figured out what i would be doing in korea, i felt such relief. relief in the fact that i didn't have to worry about money anymore. relief that i'd be doing the sort of work that i could be proud of. relief that i could confidently say that everything had been worth it. relief that my job search was finally over, and i could finally fucking move on and start this new chapter of my life.

i was asked to start working that very morning, but i told them i had to take care of some things and it was decided i'd start the next day. immediately, i was given an assignment and informed about the client i would be working with, which is probably one of the most famous fashion brands in the world (you know the one that has a monogram of two letters and is duplicated and sold in chinatowns around the world?). the fashion brand is doing something really big in seoul in about a month. it's something that has never been done before in korea, so it's a big deal for everyone. only the top editors, stylists and fashion people from asia are invited, and my job would be working with all of them and other facets of the event.

my first day of work last friday was very intense. i was proud of the fact that i not only survived it, but did a good ass fucking job as well. the fact that i read and write korean on the level of a native second grader, or that this was my first time being submersed in korean office culture, or that colleagues would come to me to discuss work related stuff and i would just nod my head while saying "sure" even though i had no idea what they were saying or that it takes me an exorbitant amount of time to do simple tasks because i can't understand powerpoint in korean didn't matter, because i was enjoying what i was doing. i was happy that i would be learning and working alongside the industry's best in korea, and was proud to be given a role at this company. it's been almost two years since i was laid-off at my former publishing job, and to be employed again where i didn't have to serve customers was something i felt extremely grateful for. to have my own desk and area and somewhere i could call my own again, man---it just felt good.

i also worked on saturday because my boss and i had to go to a few stores and museums to do some location scouting. afterwards, she took me out to dinner and we had a few beers and got more acquainted with each other. to go back to my whole belief in fate, let me tell you about my boss. she had just started working again the week before i started because she had just returned from being in nyc for two years. she worked at the company before she left for nyc, so the office and environment wasn't completely new to her, but she was still trying to get back into her work groove. she told me she really enjoyed being in nyc and it was great because we talked about restaurants, bars, and other nyc stuff that we liked. during dinner, i really got to know her and realized how damn lucky i was to have her as my boss. she's super smart and good at what she does, and she told me that from what she witnessed on my first day, that i would do well at the company. she even stated that finding good employees in korea is hard, and that once i start networking more, she was sure that i'd start to get other job offers from competitors because that's just how the industry works here. she said we were both fortunate to be working with each other and she wants to do all she can to help me succeed. all that on top of the fact that she had just returned from nyc and was understanding/patient with the fact that my korean isn't perfect, what more could i ask for? everything just felt right. if you put all these details in a brown paper bag and give me a black sharpie, i will seal the top with a quick crumple and write FATE in large lettering.

suffice it to say, i was on cloud nine for the remainder of last weekend. i called my family and told them the good news. i emailed close friends to share how happy i was and to tell them about an interesting incident that happened on my first day. i couldn't wait for the weekend to end and was looking forward to monday morning. i felt excited about life again. the feeling of finding a good job after such a long time of unemployment/instability was now in the past and i was elated with the opportunities that could possibly materialize with my hard work. the rest was up to me now, and i was definitely up for the challenge.

on my commute this monday morning, i even found a seat on the subway. i don't know if any of you have ever experienced rush hour in seoul, but it can be brutal. actually landing a seat and catching up with my sister on the phone was the perfectly auspicious way to start my first work week.

i arrived at work by 9:20 that morning and i got started on what i needed to get done. then around 10am, i received a phone call from an unfamiliar number. the person on the other line was a lady who i had never spoken to before, and she stated my name and asked if she had the correct number. i confirmed that it was and asked who she was and what she wanted. she told me she was calling from some sort of office, but i didn't understand what she was saying in korean. i excused myself from my desk and took the call outside, and that's when everything began to unravel.

it turns out that the woman works for the korean government, and was calling me from the military department. she stated that december 6 would be the six-month mark of my time in korea, and that's the longest i can legally stay here. if i want to stay in korea past december 6, i must enlist in korea's mandatory two-year military service. if i choose not to enroll, then i must leave the country and i am not welcome back for another six months. this is all in effect until i turn 38. if i have any desire to live in korea, be here for more than 6 months at a time or legally make money here before i turn 38, then i absolutely must spend two years in the korean military.

seriously? wtf.

the reason for this situation is, i've previously blogged about this before, but when i was born, my paternal grandfather (the one who currently still lives in alaska) put my name on the korean national registry. he put the names of all his grandchildren on that list with good intentions, and it technically makes us korean citizens. for females it's not a big deal if their names are on the list because the draft doesn't affect them. however, for males, if you plan to live in korea and if your name is on that list and not taken off the list before you turn eighteen, then you absolutely must serve in the armed forces. and that's what happened with me. since my name is on that list and i didn't deal with it before i turned eighteen, well, i'm stuck with the consequences. most other korean-american males (and females) can come and settle down in korea for years with a particular visa called the "f4" visa. this special visa allows people who have korean parents that were born in korea, to work and live freely here as korean citizens. the difference between me and the majority of these people is their names were most likely never put on the korean registry, but mine was. therefore they don't have to deal with all these legal technicalities or even fathom the idea of having to go to the korean military. and for any other foreigner who wants to come to korea, it's not a problem. while they aren't eligible for the f4, they can always come here through a work visa.

the phone call was shocking, but at the same time i knew my name was on the national registry. however, i only found that out when i arrived in korea and applied for that special f4 visa. since i wasn't eligible for the f4, i just assumed that if i acquired a visa through a job, that that would allow me to stay here since i wasn't just moving here to just live here, but i was legally moving here to work. the lady on the phone told me that a work visa did not matter because it doesn't change the fact that my name is on the list---i'm still required to get serve in the military no matter what, just like every other male korean citizen.

after i hung up the phone, damn, i sure was fucking pissed. everything i had worked hard for in the past five months was just gone. my first monday morning of work started off so awesome and i thought i had nothing but the world ahead of me. but all that evaporated into thin air.

the dream of living here long term and establishing some sort of live here is gone. the dream is now officially dead.

i know this situation is something beyond my control, so i've accepted everything for what it is. the day my grandfather put my name on the national registry, my fate was sealed. before i turned 18, i had no fucking idea of what my grandfather had done, let alone did i have any desire or thought at that age of wanting to live in my parent's homeland in the future. however, i must give kudos to the korean government for their impeccable record keeping and the fact that they were able to track down my phone number. since i don't have a visa, officially i can't do anything under my name so my cell phone was opened under my cousin's name.

i'm really still pissed off about it all, but i guess really just more upset. i've made some good friends here, people who have looked out for me and always made sure i was okay; people who have heavily influenced my time here in a positive way and that i've gotten to know very well. but now my time with them is most likely over. sure, it doesn't mean i'm never going to see them again, but i'm sad that the era of being with them in korea is going to end in a few weeks. i also really love living in seoul. i feel comfortable here and appreciate all the culture and progress that's been made in this country. there's just so much going on here in terms of art, technology, culture, finance, politics, etc, and i just wanted to be able to experience some of it. if you've never been here, forget what you think you know about seoul. it's so much better than what you can even imagine.

up until that phone call, the goals i had set for myself seemed to finally start materializing. finding a job that i enjoy was the last part of the missing puzzle in my life and everything finally felt complete. the timing of the phone call is just so crazy. the very first monday of my new dream job is when i receive this life-changing news. it's pretty hilarious, really. i mean, my business cards were already ordered for god's sake. and during dinner with my boss last saturday, she already mentioned future projects and what my roles could be in regards to them. and now it's as if none of that ever happened... the promising possibilities of my future was laid out before me, and then snatched away in a second.

i guess korea just wasn't meant to be. i don't know what my next steps are, but i'm 99% sure that i will not be going back to nyc. i'm not ready yet. it's just not the right time. i know that something else is supposed to happen to me at this time of my life, and i know it's not in nyc. i don't have many options since i'm broke, but i'm just going to have to deal.

the good news is, life events like this don't falter my belief in fate. i know everything happens for a reason. thank you, life---for always keeping me on my toes.

Monday, November 08, 2010

what the fuck.

life is so ridiculous sometimes.

i was planning to write a full-on entry about what the fuck is happening with my life, but it will have to wait until tomorrow when i'm in a sober state of mind because i'm beyond drunk.

all i can say is, WHO THE FUCK KNOWSSSSS.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

last week, two of my very good friends and former roommates from nyc came to visit me in seoul.

words can't describe how great it felt to be able to spend time with them in korea. it was tons of fun and our days were filled with sightseeing, eating, drinking, more sightseeing, more eating and more drinking. i'm proud to say that we covered a lot of different spots and neighborhoods in seoul and am glad they were able to experience the awesomeness of the city.

they took hundreds of pictures from their camera, but here are some of my favorites. i'm very anal and like to tell a cohesive story, so of course any pics i post are always in chronological order.

thank you jenn & daniel for coming halfway around the world to see me---i miss you both dearly. also, it was daniel's birthday on the day they arrived in seoul, hence the birthday-boy glasses.