Barriers to Entry.

6.13.17 (09:29 KST): I’ve successfully nailed down the same seat for the past 4 consecutive days at the Starbucks next to my apartment. I’m considering putting up different wall decor around my “office” or think tank.ย IMG_9745.JPG

The seat itself, I just noticed, could be played kind of like a really bad metaphor. The first time I walked in this Starbucks, I looked right at this seat. The opportunity to sit, facing the street, but also have my back against the wall, is kind of how I feel and have felt. Anyway, the Starbucks wall art here in Korea is just as plain as it is in their stores back home.

Alright, before I get carried away with the ambience of a Starbucks, I’ll get to what I wanted to jot down. The initial noticeable differences here in Korea. I’ve been here for going on 3 weeks, now, so I’m not sure when the clock runs out for me to have to get over this spell of looking at everything/everyone like some sort of Humanities study. So, while I still get to play that card, here goes. (Also, some of these items still stem from my trip last summer).

  • Everything is sweet. I hadn’t been in Korea for 24 hours yet, and I was looking for something snacky. I walked into G25 (basically a small convenience store that is on every corner of Seoul). I looked for the first thing that looked familiar and bingo – I spotted a box that resembled a Ritz Cheese cracker box. After turning the box over like I was solving a Rubik’s Cube, I finally found the side with the English translation. I scrounged up the 1,200 KRW in change I had and handed it (insultingly, which I will come to find out later) to the cashier. I took the crackers to my room and as I salivated while opening the box, could barely contain the excitement to eat something that Iย knew what it would taste like. First bite, boom. The buttery Ritz cracker that I’d become used to was swapped out for a sugary cracker/almost cookie. The cheese kept it’s same character. For some that know me, I’ve been called a “picky” eater, in the past. I gagged dramatically and spit out the cracker. Life as I knew it was now turned upside-down. I’m more of a salty > sweet person, but I decided to try out the next familiar snack I could find, the next day. The Oreo. Just to confirm – they taste the same. The focus of sweetness and seafood here is kind of like me walking into Target without a list and just grabbing things and seeing how they turn out. I was lucky to have met up with my buddys Austin and Dylan this past weekend in Itaewon and we met to catch up over a burger. My prayers had been answered.

My go-to Korean food, right now, is Mandu. It’s amazing, common and better than a burger. #Paleo

  • The homogeneous culture. Yes, I noticed it last summer, but didn’t really notice it until now. Often said with ignorance or some weird humor: Asian people all look the same. Well, after being here for a bit, I’ll confirm that statement isn’t entirely inaccurate. Just walking down the sidewalk, at the market, in the subway, sometimes I feel like I’m in some horrible Drew Barrymore movie about dopplegangers. Aside from that vapid observation, I’ll admit that the men dress so well here and the women are gorgeous.
  • No Spotify/Pandora. Back home, my pulse was synched with my John Mayer Spotify mix. Here, not only can I only say 3 words, but I can’t even get in the shower with a playlist going.
  • Respect. I mentioned that I handed the cashier at G25 my change disrespectfully. I’ve also greeted and said goodbye insultingly, unintentionally. But culturally, the people here are so much more respectful, kind and accommodating. I grew up in the Midwest U.S. which has the reputation of being chivalrous and nice…it is, but not as much, IMO.
  • The wifi. Wifi is everywhere here. And I get kinda geeked out now and I’m ashamed to admit, one of the first things I do when I step inside an establishment is run an Ookla Speedtest on the wifi haha. I’m sitting at Starbucks and their read is – Download: 352.28Mbps / Upload: 511.68Mbps. Back in Ohio, people get pissed paying for 50Mbps and only getting 35Mbps…which would seem like dial-up now, but it was never worth the horrific back-and-forth you’d have to spend with TimeWarner or AT&T to resolve the issue, so you just deal with it.
  • The language. It’s just as daunting as it was when I stepped off the plane. Some friends here have already provided me with information and suggestions for learning the language. Hopefully, once I’m a bit more settled, I can do what’s right and start to meet this country half way, by learning the lexicon. Until then, I’ll continue to beat the dead horse and say “hello”, “thank you” and “excuse me” until I learn something new.
  • Public transportation. This will always be something that I think separates a city from a “major” city. Since I’m still green, and not conditioned to use public transportation, I still stumble on the idea of not getting into my car to drive 3 miles to Target, anymore. Now, I actually have to plan to be places, when I should be there. But this process that is so normal to people that live/grow up in cities with this means of transportation is something that I hope I’ll get used to, soon. Each time I get to a destination, it’s like it’s worthy of a celebration for making it there. The subway system here is clean and easy. There are numerous apps that work and are in Korean and English. Even if I’m going somewhere I’ve already been, I still follow the app, stop-by-stop and check my phone more than when I’d sit there and wait for a girl I like to text me back (which was a lot). Counting the stops, each stop, for 20 stops sounds so dumb, and I hope I can shake the ritual soon.
  • Finding a church. Back home, I tried to make it a thing to go to church, regularly. When I moved to Columbus, I jumped around, because I couldn’t find a church that I really liked. Then, in March, I found a Korean/English church (KCCEM) – shout out to Monday CG (I’ll be writing about you, soon). It is a Christian church, which I found to be the most similar to the church I was going to in Dayton (Apex). Admittedly, I was intrigued by this church for selfish reasons, initially. I knew I was moving to Korea – and I really thought, first, that going to this church would expose me to the Korean culture…in English. Well, it did, but more importantly, it allowed me to find a church and establish connections that I’ll never forget and hopefully never lose. I did research the church before going and there is a bio about the Pastor, Isaac and his wife, Hannah which instantly resinated with me. Isaac was born in Toronto (another city I have fallen in love with, for more reasons than one), he taught English in Korea and eventually relocated to Columbus. Obviously there are more bullet points, but I’ll just put the link here:ย
    Anyway, both Isaac and Hannah, and others from the church (James) have been so generous as to help me find a church here. I’m still on the quest to find one, it’s just taking me a bit! I miss you guys, and appreciate the (actual) prayers. I’m praying for you guys, too. Again, I will write about you guys, soon.
  • Constant distraction. I’m not going to diagnose myself by logging onto WebMd, and maybe distraction isn’t the best word. I’ve been extremely intrigued and interested by everything. Again, trying to transition from less of a tourist to more of a citizen (both figuratively and lawfully). I want to see so much, because time is moving so quickly, that I think I’m not giving enough attention to things I do see, if that makes any sense? Hopefully I can slow down a bit and pay more attention and appreciate things, and not treat being here like I’m thumbing through my Twitter feed. Perhaps a benefit of spilling thoughts on this thing. Now that I think of it – maybe fatigue has something to do with the lack of focus, too…

I swear, when I started typing, I had more things I wanted to jot down. One of the things I’m going to do, is start making notes, so I can remember to put them here. I know when I walk out the door, there are going to be 5 more things that (I think) may be worth sharing.

Until then, to whoever is reading this, I miss you and hope you’re well.