The top 5 lessons I’ve learned from my 20’s (you might be happy to know too)

Hi I’m back! There have been a few valuable jewels of wisdom I’ve picked up along the way from my 20’s, as I close the door to this fundamental chapter in my life. While it pains me a little to finally realize that I am no longer an adolescent anymore, it does give me solace to know that I’ve progressed through the growing pains of my 20’s and finally figuring out what I want in life, better late than never!

1. The biggest failure is not taking the chance at all. 

Why not? A great question to start with when making any major life decision. If I listened to my fear of the unknown, and never taught English abroad, went out to be part of an amazing all-girls dance group, gone back to to school, or attempted stand up comedy, I would have missed out on such monumental experiences. No experience is wasted, only choosing no experience will be the biggest regret of all.  When we’re old, looking back on the montage of our life, we will never regret those chances, even if they turned out to be failures. Sometimes, you just gotta go for it! Failure is inevitable, it’s impossible to be successful at everything so why run away from it? The least we get is a valuable life lesson. 

2. Progression isn’t linear.

I’ve learned this the hard way. After I graduated I had this fairytale notion that I would just work in a large company and stay there, naturally progressing up the ranks and that would be that. As long as I was a diligent hard-worker and had a great attitude, I would be set. Boy was I in for a wake-up call. I left my first job after I was offered a new job months later that was more money and responsibility. I asked myself “why not”? When one door closes another opens right? I did my job well, just passed probation, and then I received the dreaded news, “we are restructuring and today is your last day here”. Let’s just say I was taken back, shed a few tears, and sank into a shroud of confusion. There was no closure, no reason why, just that I wasn’t needed anymore. That was a reality check for me I’ve had to come to terms with that day. You can do everything right, and it still won’t be enough, but it was just a small detour. Everything truly happens for a reason, and every setback helps lean you forward to somewhere better! Looking back, I can guarantee that’s true.  

3. I’ll be happy when/if I…. Is the biggest myth 

Perspective is everything. In fact, it can be a survival tool. When we focus on obtaining exterior things instead of focusing on the interior, it will only be temporary and our insatiable wants will never go away. If we ground ourselves in gratitude for not only what we have, but what we are and have achieved already, happiness will no longer be this unattainable far away thing. We got it in the palm of our hands already! We can see this lesson with the rich and famous, a lot of them are not happy. Money evidently doesn’t buy happiness. There’s nothing wrong striving to be better, but being grateful for what we have has the best personal return of investment. 

4. Self-respect is #1. A.K.A. boundaries. 

Ah boundaries, what a necessary and beautiful word. Personal boundaries are necessary because respecting yourself comes first. Self-respect is #1 and that comes with being true, kind to yourself, and most of all being authentic. This one has a continuous learning curb, especially if you value being liked and people-pleasing (guilty). But as long as we’re going through life adhering to this value, we will set up for success. 

5. Talk is cheap. Action is valuable. 

“People show you who they are.” Maya Angelou’s words could not have been more truthful. It’s one of the most powerful lessons that resonated with Oprah when she talked with her many years ago. People can also tell you things, and make promises. But at the end of the day, if there is no follow through with action, their talk is worthless, zero, all smoke and mirrors. This lesson sometimes has to be learned the hard way, but listening to the gestures that others do or don’t do speaks more volumes than any word can.

I can proudly say I’m 30, thriving and thankful as I’ve officially opened the door to this next decade! What are some lessons you’re grateful you learned in your 20’s? 

  If European Cities Were Your Family Members 

Having been back in Canada now for a while (better late than never!)  I have had the time to reflect and take in my  once in a lifetime solo travels throughout Europe! London, Paris, Amsterdam, Prague and last but not least Copenhagen. Before you travel to a country you always have this preconceived notion of what the overall atmosphere/vibe will be like.  Stereotypes and cultural conventions I had of each city were debunked and confirmed. What the people will be like and ultimately if a country could embody a person who would he/she be? But not just any person. What if these metropolises represented your family members? Intrigued? You should be.

London:

London to me resembles the lovable quirky, eclectic crazy aunt who raided the vintage store. Frankly for the longest time I  thought of London to be a gloomy place with locals who keep to themselves and didn’t really like contact with people. Maybe this impression had something to do with the media portrayal and too much exposure to Sweeney Todd when I was younger (oops). Boy was I wrong. The essence and character of the city is anything BUT gloomy. When I arrived to London though, this diverse metropolis exceeded my expectations. It only rained on me one day and the people were very hospitable and polite. I stayed at a really great hostel called Wombats City Hostel and is worth checking out! Authentic and one of a kind street entertainers lit up the tube walkways and streets. I even saw a poet for hire along the bank of the Thames with his typewriter out ready for business. Strolling through the Camden market streets and into the famous Cyberdog store definitely  felt like an outer world experience. Right then and there I fell in love with this city and could definitely see myself living there. Londoners are colourful, endearing, and truly make this historically rich city come to life.

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Paris:

” The city of lights” gave me the impression of the beautiful snobby rich cousin who always needs a man by her side. Paris felt like Noah’s ark was nearby because it seemed like the majority of everyone came in twos. Love is definitely in the Parisian air. Everywhere I went there was another couple on each other around the corner, looking longingly into each others eyes. Rolling my eyes literally and figuratively I minded my own business and continued the sightseeing. I knew the city was famous for being the quintessential “city of love” and for snobby locals and the stereotype does holds true, depending on luck and who you run into. Of course not everyone I encountered was snobby and entangled with another human but it was just really interesting to see cliches  converge and come to life right before my eyes. Maybe I wouldn’t have been so bitter seeing love all around me if I wasn’t traveling alone but I still loved being draped in every second of Parisian  culture. Solo travelers just be prepared for possible feelings of subtle loathing and getting over the reminder that you are by yourself. But going to Paris was worth a  brief moment of single bitterness.

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Amsterdam:

“The Venice of the north” really struck me as the cool, alternative and liberal distant uncle. I have been looking forward to exploring this unique city, its various canals and just seeing what really churns this city (no cheese pun intended). First of all, the impression of Amsterdam I first had of everyone smoking weed on the streets was completely false. In fact the people who usually go to the so called “coffee shops” to smoke the stuff are mostly tourists. The same applies to the red light district in that it’s tourist driven big time. The locals avoid and steer clear of the conventional places that we think of when we hear Amsterdam, and I can totally now see why. The bicycles are definitely the rulers of the city and the bike roads were sometimes bigger than the actual car roads themselves.  “Look out”!  was a very popular phrase to say and hear for when you were a pedestrian and you should take it very seriously if you don’t want to be run over. Besides the weak WiFi connection, I highly recommend Clinknoord Hostel. In addition to being clean, great service, and modern style art hanging around , the hostel used to be a old Shell oil laboratory. Pretty neat for a place to stay!

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Prague:

Prague really seemed to me like the chill and cultured beer loving sister who went away to study abroad. I always heard that the city was gorgeous and known for its castle like structures, but I had no idea how magical and beautiful it was until I got there. Setting foot in Prague literally felt like a real life fairy tale city. The smells of roast fire on the streets and the Gothic style architecture emitted off an almost medieval like atmosphere. Everyone can speak English and the vibe is relaxed and friendly. Buildings are so beautiful they looked like they are staged in a way.  If you need a good hostel to stay at Post hostel was exceptional. This city had to be one of the cleanest and most beautiful and architecturally stunning cities that I ever ever been to. Ernest Hemingway called Paris “a moveable feast”, but  Prague seems to be more fitting for that description.

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Copenhagen:

If the city could be any family member, it had to be the  foodie eco- friendly, undercover hippie brother. There are two sides to this city. One is sustainable, modern and progressive, and the other is an anarchist secretive hippie. Copenhagen is popular for being known as an expensive country, which applies to all of the Scandinavian countries and that is definitely true! A normal price for a cup of coffee is only a mere 9 Canadian dollars. I think you have an idea of how expensive the quality of life there is. The prices may be more than you are used to, but the quality of food is definitely high, and you won’t be disappointment.  Torvalhorne and Paper Island markets should be at the top of your sightseeing list for sure! Again not cheap, but in return you will receive fresh top quality organic food. So at least it’s something worthwhile, and it involves your body which is a pretty good investment I think.

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Christiania is the anarchist free-spirit community underbelly of Copenhagen. And while they are technically a free state with their own flag, and take pride to differentiate themselves from mainstream capitalist societies, they are still Denmark. Word on the street there is that they sell weed there, which I may or may not have seen ( just don’t take pictures of them)  and a co-ed sauna! Strolling through the free town I couldn’t help but feel conflicted about the whole “anarchist” sentiment. General stores and shops were alive and thriving, so it really makes you wonder if a community can truly fundamentally  divert from capitalism? Anyways I came out really glad and  I got to experience this distinct sub culture of Copenhagen!

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So there you have it! My hopefully brief family member profile of the European cities I have gone to on my own so far! Each one has their own personality. Some of them you just click with instantly and others you have to take a while to warm up to. For me they were all  equally amazing but Prague, London, and I connected the most.

One Is Not The Loneliest Number

“Be alone. Eat alone. Take yourself on dates,sleep alone. In the midst of this you will learn about yourself. You will grow, you will figure out what inspires you, you will curate your own dreams, your own beliefs, your own stunning clarity, and when you do meet the person who makes your cells dance, you will be sure of it, because you are sure of yourself”.

“Aren’t you scared?”

“Wow you’re brave!”

” I would never let my daughter travel Europe alone”

“I would be so lonely and bored of myself”

I could never do it”

Believe it or not these are just a sample of the many reactions I get when I told people  of my future plans to travel Europe in September alone. Both men and women are taken back by the idea, I guess because it’s still unconventional in this century, especially for a woman . If I inspire at least one person to be venture out of their comfort bubble and feel comfortable with themselves enough to  travel solo then this blog has done its job.

I have always been a wanderer though. I still feel like the kid who went to the mall with my parents who wants to go off on my own and explore. That sense of freedom is sacred and we should hold onto that as much as we can. I have just always liked going off on my own and doing my own thing.

If it’s one skill I have learned to foster and take away from my second year living abroad in Korea  it’s to be  satisfied and content traveling and living alone with myself. Living on your own in your home country is one thing. But to do it in a completely foreign country? On the other side of the world? That perspective is through a totally different looking glass all together. Being immersed in independence allows you to reflect on what you want in life. It filters out all the exterior noise from what other people want and  forces you to focus on the most important person: You.

You learn to like your own company.

You can be on your own, but you don’t have to be lonely.You don’t to be a loner.  You can be alone with your thoughts, and therefore be more in tune with yourself. Being solo allows you to spoil yourself because you simply don’t have to make any compromises for anyone else. Learning to embrace being alone, I think is critical to being comfortable in your own skin. It’s taken a while to be fully comfortable solo but now that I’m at that stage I am really thankful!

It’s healthy.

I think being alone is a necessary skill to have in order to be successful in life. Appreciating myself. This is coming from a very social person who loves and thrives being around people. You can have the best of both worlds and I’m learning to balance the two out. Being alone sometimes is healthy and necessary to recharge. You definitely don’t have to be an anti-social person wearing a hoodie covering your face and hunched in a corner far away from people. You can be that social butterfly, while being alone and genuinely enjoying your own company too.

You learn to trust and like yourself a lot more.

I started travelling alone to Australia  last year and it’s amazing. Why wait around for your friends to travel with you? Just do it! Don’t limit yourself. There is nothing like learning to trust yourself, because at the end of the day you have you to depend on you first and foremost. You can also meet more amazing people along the way as well.This September Europe trip is the biggest one for me yet: London,Paris, Amsterdam, Prague and Copenhagen.3 down and 2 more to go!

Being alone is liberating.

Lets change the dialogue around the idea of being alone. We can do this by first changing up the vocabulary that is tied to it: independent, solo explorer, and self-sufficient are all imbued with freeing sentiments. If we think of those images the next time we think of being solitary, there is really no need for us to be afraid of being on our own. Let’s debunk the socially construed notion that to be alone is pathetic or pitiful. We can be totally capable and independent people, who thrive enjoying our own company.

Ultimately you are never really truly alone, because you are with yourself, and NEVER ever feel guilty for being solitary. I know it sounds cliché but when you learn to be happily alone, you learn to really like and respect yourself in the process. When you do have some “me time”, chances are you may discover new things that you never knew before. So what are you waiting for? Even if it’s taking  yourself on a date.  It’s still a process, but I’m learning it’s okay to be alone. It’s entirely 100 percent okay. At the end of the day if you don’t like being alone doesn’t that mean you essentially don’t like your own company and thus yourself ? Maybe it’s really not for everyone but at least try it.

Ask yourself when was the last time you were alone? Did you like it? Why or why not?

I think thriving  to be alone and getting along with yourself is just as much a social skill as learning to get along with others. Preschool doesn’t really cover that basic.

Where The Eclectic Things Are…

“We travel because we need to, because distance and difference are the secret tonic to creativity”

About 3 weeks ago  I had the fortune of visiting one of the best Asian cities that I have been to: Taipei, Taiwan. Despite losing half a day because I missed my flight. I am so happy I had a taste of this relaxed and cool city. After all, it’s the quality not the quantity right ?

The young fashion seemed more edgier and more open in Taipei than Seoul, which came alive at night in the Ximending downtown  district. As you saunter down the alleyways, tattoo stores open up for the night on the street and start buzzing away on fresh new skin canvases for everyone to see.

If novel and quirky places are your thing then the Modern Toilet restaurant downtown is probably right down your alley ( no pun intended). Going there was definitely on my Taipei  bucket list  and is probably somewhere you only need to go once. The food was not the most appetizing (for obvious reasons) but it was a great venue to take pictures and obligatory selfies, have a laugh,  check that off your list and be on your merry way.

 

 

The hostel I stayed in was awesome and probably one of the cleanest and coolest ones I’ve seen during my travels. The SpaceInn hotel would make Buzz LightYear feel like he was back at home. As soon as the doors opened you really felt like you were aboard a space ship. The lobby was decked out with futuristic lights. Even the staff members wore NASA jumpsuits. I was pretty impressed. The washrooms were spacious and spotless, and the dorm room beds were comfortable and clean. It’s located right in the heart of downtown and under a 5 minute walk to the subway station. Not too shabby at all.

A fellow friend of mine told me about a really nifty hole in the wall speakeasy bar that he heard about.  The bar is called Ounce and was without a doubt one of a kind. Chances are that you haven’t been to a bar as intimate and seemingly clandestine as this one. Tucked inconspicuously away behind a funky cafe under the name Relax, Ounce is definitely not your ordinary bar. As we approached the back we came across someone who seemed like a butler who told us the bar is full and to wait.  Our group waited close to 15 minutes to be let in but we were sure glad we did. Another unique character of this bar is that it frowns on menus. The waitress literally asked us questions on what flavours get our taste buds tingling and and within minutes created a drink that was costumed to our specific styles. She was spot on. While drinks are on the expensive side, the ambiance and quality of drinks are worth it.

You haven’t experienced Taipei without tasting  the street food culture here and the soup dumplings. Street food is copious and the best selection you can probably get anywhere in Asia. With over 9 major street markets circulating throughout Taipei, you will never get bored.  

Taipei made an impression on me and is a city I definitely crave more of. I hope this amazing Asian city has impressed you as much as it has for me. This unique metropolis  should definitely be on your Asian bucket list. 

 

 

 

 

Bali Paradise- Ketut’s Place

Last month when I was in Ubud, Bali  me and my friend stayed in the cheapest and  most beautiful hidden gem that money could buy called Ketut’s Place. I was fortunate to have stumbled on it using Hostelworld and my eyes were immediately drawn to the 8 star rating and rave reviews.I thought it should have received an even higher rating.

  • The pictures looked the lush and exotic getaway that I was imagining Bali to be but not even  visual documentation could prepare me for its beauty.
  • The grounds are owned by Ketut for generations. This oasis definitely runs in the family!  We saw the grandmother, father, son and daughters all work at the information desk, bringing food to people, and happily answering people’s questions. They were all so welcoming and hospitable as if we were their honoured house guests
  • We stayed in a little villa style room with a spacious bathroom complete with a buddha statue and  little terrace. Breakfast was included every morning and we could from a choice of homemade pancakes, fruit salad, coffee, and fruit juices. I felt like someone had to pinch me from a dream as I was sitting on our terrace sipping on some coffee as we looked out into the garden that was our hotel.
  • The food there was exceptional. Not only the included breakfast but also their traditional Balinese style dinners that you could order anywhere on their grounds. Beef curry and rice called to me on the menu and I’m glad it did because it melted in my mouth. Simply buttery creamy goodness all the way to down to the pit of my stomach.We ate our meal by the comfort of the poolside. You know. No big deal.
  • Their  customer service was exceptional and so fast. My friend and I needed some pieces of clothing washed. They took them to the local laundry place and within 24 hours we found them on our beds. Talk about fast delivery!
  • Ketut’s family was nothing but personable and always there for us when we had any questions. My friend decided last minute to hike up the volcano Mount Batur and needed socks. We walked all over downtown core of Ubud and asking where to buy socks and the locals looked at us as if we had three heads. I guess they are not a hot commodity like back home. We were losing hope when Ketut’s son quickly offered his pair of socks, no problem at all.  Thats the kind of service this place offers, the kind of service that makes you feel like their family.They will offer you the shirts off their backs. In this case, their socks but fully washed of course. Don’t get the wrong idea.
  • At the end of the day I would recommend Ketut’s place to anyone traveling to Bali. In my opinion, its the best place to stay for your money’s worth. The accommodations, the food and service were worth the value tenfold.  But don’t take my word for it. ea3b5016-2060-4b6c-9550-21a625ec8489cfe0591c-6336-424e-940f-077849731bf3Go see for yourself!
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And That’s A Wrap: What Teaching/Living In Korea Has Taught Me

Where do I even begin? It was a strange  feeling to be typing this last post as an expat worker . In fact I don’t truly feel like like one anymore. A big chunk of my soul, heart, and mannerisms have really molded into a Koreans. Ulsan has been a place I called home for so long that I really can’t imagine what life will be like back in Canada. I’ve encountered many amazing friends, memories, experiences and  people over these years, that it really does feel surreal.

A very different Melissa set foot in Ulsan in 2012. She didn’t come alone and came in a package deal with a partner. Alongside that brought restrictions. Restrictions she put on herself because she was with a boyfriend at the time. She never went out with friends, and in fact didn’t really have many. She never even had a phone during that entire year in Ulsan. She would have never thought to travel solo around Europe and she was definitely more fearful.Lets just say she held herself back on some incredible experiences because her partner didn’t want the same things as she did.

I would be lying if I said it’s a little hard to really process I’m packing my bags and moving on from a place that now represents a huge mosaic of memories for me. A huge turning point in my adult life where I realized and actually became comfortable being by myself.  But no matter where I go, my second home will always be in Korea. I know it’s cheesy to say, but this dynamic country has left a deep imprint on me forever and it will definitely call me back for a visit.

Change is good and healthy. Growth and evolution  is necessary. And we should strive to avoid being stagnant and in the same place as we once were last year. At some point we need to move alongside with time and onward to the next stage in our lives. Whether it’s a part of yourself you need to overcome or the literal location of your life, you just know when it’s time to move. It’s like a feeling in your gut telling you it’s okay to close this door and enter a new one.

With all that cheesy existential stuff out of the way. Here is my top 10 list of how Korea has forever changed me.

  1. Sharing food is essential in public gatherings and dates. Back home in Canada it’s not really a requirement to share any of your food. After being immersed here I really appreciate Korea’s sharing culture, and now the act has become second nature.
  2. It’s okay to feed people you are well acquainted with. Feeding is an act of affection in Korea and displays a comfortable and close bond between each other. Yup. I’m definitely more comfortable with it now.
  3. Being squished like a sardine and impersonating a rain forest tree frog clinging on to the pole for dear life are all acceptable on a bus.
  4. Naked bodies in public with the same sex are NBD in the bathhouses. We are all naked and have the same parts , get over it.
  5. If someone is holding heavy bags on the bus, it’s okay to take them to help lighten their load for the duration of the ride. No questions asked.
  6. Reverting back to your childhood is okay, stuffed plushies are your friend, cute emoticons are the coolest and wearing bows and ribbons in your hair is just darn adorable.
  7. Bumping into someone and not saying sorry is pretty much okay, we can just feel each other’s apology. That’s cool.
  8. Bowing when meeting new people is normal courtesy (Korean or not).
  9. Being a community and looking out for one another instead of yourself. Korea is a collectivist society. So many work activities are very group and team work oriented and I really truly understand now the saying “all for one, and one for all”.
  10. Slurping noodles loudly in public just simply signifies that you are thoroughly enjoying it, and/or it’s just really hot.

 So thank you Korea. You have opened my mind and made me realize that I’m actually capable of more than I think.

A Letter To Bloody Mosquitos

  • During my trip to Bali this past February I encountered an unprecedented attack from nature’s little  bloodsucking buggers. I thought an appropriate way to channel my long felt frustrations with them was through a letter. I hope you enjoy it.

 

Dear Mosquitoes,

We have bad blood between us. Just as Taylor Swift’s song perfectly goes “Now we’ve got problems and I don’t think we can solve them you made a really deep cut and baby, now we got bad blood”. The issues we have with each other run deep. They go back as far as my childhood when I was scared to go to my uncle’s cottage. I would come back home looking like I had the case of the chicken pox. Meanwhile everyone else in my family were perfectly fine.  Even back then you would always pick on me.  Did I do something to offend you? Okay sure I may have been on a few murderous escapades but your friends deserved it.

My vacations with you…where do I even begin?

My first traumatic experience with you was 3 years ago when I ventured to Thailand. Sure I was naive and innocent at the time when I rode an elephant barebacked into the jungle devoid of any protection. I had my ankles, feet, and arms exposed naked. I was basically volunteering myself up for blood donation.  At the end of the day however, the side effects  of your feedings reared their rigged pink heads. Of course, my ex was unscathed. Maybe it was because he was a ginger and not trustworthy, therefore deeming his blood unworthy. I’m sure you can sense things like that. An itching fervor started to ignite over my arms. Once I first scratched I couldn’t stop. It’s like I was put in a trance to scratch my skin off.  Thanks for keeping me up all night as I try to take off the very skin that gave me life. Also, for turning me into a Wolverine character trying to slice the bites off my body with my claws. I really appreciated it.

My last scarring experience but certainly not least with you was my most recent vacation to Bali for 7 days. The Balinese branch of your operations should receive an award for the most impressive damage inflicted on a human. Nothing could have prepared me for the horrors I was about to endure. This time, I made the mistake of not bringing any loose pants. I did, however pack enough shorts, skirts, and dresses that seductively bared my ankles to entice you. I guess you would probably say I was asking for it right? And not to wear those kinds of clothes at night? I can read your miniscule brain already. Clothist.

By the second day I was on Bali soil my ankles and legs looked like an acupuncture session gone badly wrong. Even though I am clearly extra allergic to your love bites, I have never seen my body undergo a transformation like it did there. Your bites materialized gradually throughout that day and by the mid afternoon I felt that dreaded itchy tingle spread its tentacles across my ankles. The hairs on my legs were raised. Then your signature red hockey puck sized red blotches made their dramatic comeback. Just what I was missing from my life. My once small dainty foot had now ballooned into resembling an elephant’s. Nice, big and swollen to the touch. As a result you gave me cankles, which was something I never experienced before so thank you for giving me something new. When I tried to walk, you made me master the hobble move. I couldn’t even press down on my foot without instantly inducing pain on myself.   As the days progressed and my bites were turning into bruises, they gave a nice purple undertone to my once pale skin. I’ve had red sunburnt skin but never purple before. Why didn’t you just turn my skin into all colours of the rainbow? I was already off to a great start. As I tried to move the foot you plagued, I was left only with the numbing sensation of inflammation.

I must say you gave me anxiety. Worried that I would have to amputate my swollen elephantine sized foot and I would need a peg leg. I was imagining pirate names to call myself appropriately, which my students and any kids in general would find amusing. “Peggy” “Captain Mel” and “Swell Mel” were just a few that came to my mind. I mean I would be set with a Halloween costume for the rest of my life. I just need to practice my “arrrrgs” a little more and own a mimicking parrot to perch on my shoulder to send the whole image home. I had it all planned out. I was, for a hot second, ready to embrace my new fate. Either pirate, or just gain a ginormous amount of weight so the rest of my body would be proportionate with my larger than life foot. Pirate or human elephant. I had options. I was unfortunately ready for this challenge and to accept my inevitable doom.

I was losing all hope when the pain increased and the walking was starting to become unbearable. My ointment creams, antihistamines were all not making any difference to this condition you kindly imposed on me. My mother advised me to go to the medicine doctor man she saw in Eat Pray Love. But in all honestly I know nothing about that or even if he really exists. “You can go to him and he can make a special herbal paste for you”, she enthusiastically said to me. My mom is a huge fan of the movie and her inner fan girl clearly showed. Yeah I didn’t think that was a plausible choice.

Alternatively I stumbled into a facility that is more mainstream to modern days called the pharmacy. They gave me a weeks worth of ibuprofen to take 3 times a day. I was feeling pretty defeated by your ravenous efforts but I decided to give it a try anyway. It was the most magical thing I had ever put in my mouth.  Hallelujah! The angels have answered my prayers. Within a few hours the pain was greatly diminishing and I could actually put pressure on my elephant foot. I started walking like a normal person again. Within a week it shrank back to normal size and my bruises vanished. It was a miracle and I have to thank good old ibuprofen for rescuing me. I really was starting to give up any hope for a normal functioning life again. Your evil plot of turning me into a pirate or elephant was foiled.

My past mistakes showed I greatly miscalculated how vile and conniving you really are. I clearly underestimated your wrath and have learned my lesson through hardship blotches and bruises. I am prepared for anything now you have flying at me. Next time you see me I will be armed with extra layers of clothing and drugs. I know how to deal with you despite my seething hatred. We may have bad blood between us but you will definitely be sucking less of it out of my body in the future. Talk about a buzzkill!

Sincerely, Melissa

A Mountain Load Of A Problem…

Oh Korea. I love you so much but there are just a few things that I can’t deal with. Your piling garbage in the middle of the streets is probably one of the top pet peeves I have. Especially in my area the public negligence of disposing garbage is getting out of hand. We all pay taxes in this country, so why are the public service workers doing such a disservice? Are they on strike? I hardly doubt it since other areas don’t seem to have the problem  as opposed to my landfill that has accumulated across my apartment. It’s disgusting and it makes needing nose plugs necessary for walking by it… which is unfortunately an unavoidable act.  Where is the garbage monster when you need him or a garbage truck to take this revolting sight far far away?!! Nonetheless even a simple regulated trash bin would suffice. Heck even the garbage monster has a trash bin as a home! I have definitely noticed Korea has a lack of organization when it comes to garbage disposal. It’s pretty much anything goes. Just throw it all outside in a big pile and just hope someone takes it away. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to avoid the overripe  contents of opened garbage bags spilling out onto the sidewalk. Fish bones, old food, you name it.  Korea.. you need to take a pointer from other countries such as Canada or Japan in this specific category.

It’s been over 2 weeks since this ordeal has  materialized. You know its bad when cars are having trouble driving down the road because the waste pile is obstructing their way. Hmmm maybe that’s a sign to… I don’t know do something about it! Instead of driving over it perhaps?  As a foreigner you feel helpless in situations like these. Where are the Koreans who don’t want to have a landfill a meter away from their apartment? Someone needs to take a stand because I know I would if I was magically endowed with Korean fluency I would be all over this situation. Like…cmon. Its currently raining too, so that’s just going to make tomorrow morning’s walk just that more pleasant. Maybe the garbage problem is really careless in my area because I am out in the country and not downtown. People have said that the garbage system is really efficient and great here but I  got to be honest and say I have not seen the fruits of that labour just yet. In the meantime I will just pray for a garbage monster to come. Good morning to me!

Squats And Planks May Strain My Muscles But Corporeal Punishment Will Never Hurt Me

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I have to admit something. I am somewhat amidst a no mans land between completely adapting to Korean culture, and still ruminating in culture shock. Even though its my third year here, Korea’s seemingly peculiar and unconventional method of  school punishment never fails to still baffle me, and keep me on my toes. Two words: Physical punishment. Detention is so passe I guess. Most are downright comical and hilarious sight to see in the halls, while some are not so funny and actually worrisome to someone looking in from the outside. Here are a few of the quirky punishments I have observed:

  • The waddle walk for starters is a quack, literally. Its the common form of discipline for late comers to class and always welcomes me as  a great laugh. The teacher orders students to squat and then proceed to waddle to the end of the hall and back while holding onto their ears. Hearing their whines and incessant cries of discomfort ignite in me a satisfaction that detention could never do. As I first step onto the school grounds in the morning my eyes are greeted by a line of late boys ordered to do squats, as they were shouting in unison something Korean. Probably something that they will never be late again.
  • Put your hands up!  Halt in the name of the Law! Well school law in a manner of speaking. This one’s pretty amusing too. The korean teacher would order misbehaving  students to the back of the classroom where they have to raise their arms over their heads for a prolonged period of time.
  • The good old plank is another popular one, and I am guaranteed to hear their groans in the halls from doing those.
  • Burpees, jumping jacks, the dreaded wall sit, you name it are all on the list. If they are done in gym class, they are done as punishment as well.
  • The other day I saw 2 tardy students  come to the front of the class and squat facing each other while grabbing each other’s ears. Talk about multitasking! They were giggling in amusement though along with the rest of the class body.
  • At my other school,  I saw 2 boys have to stand at the back while holding up chairs for about 5 minutes.

No wonder there are hardly no overweight students, they get their daily fix of exercise by getting punished! You would think they were in P.E class or something.  The really bad students must have buns and abs of steel! Not to mention great stamina. It’s a win win situation for both student and teacher.

There is also another type of physical punishment that is not so funny.  Last week a student of mine rolled up her pants to expose a huge purple bruise on her leg. My jaw dropped to the floor and I was completely enveloped in shock. My co-teacher just treated it as normal and proceeded to business as usual, but I couldn’t get over it and it disturbed me for the rest of the lesson. Apparently hitting in  Korean schools is generally forbidden but there are many schools (most from what i’ve heard) that still use it to maintain school discipline. Is it  it the most effective form of school discipline? Im not entirely convinced. Can it be amusing and even downright hilarious sometimes? Check!

What is school discipline like in your country? Is it similar? Let me know!

Subway Subway On the Wall Who’s The Prettiest Of Them All?

IMG_4302I love Korea. The infatuation has worn off and a deep eternal love and affection for this country has emerged and made its way into my heart forever. The food, people, culture, nightlife, tenacity, convenience, style, language and a million other facets of this country I adore.  A large part of my being feels Korean now and I will take it with me wherever I go.

-However with great  economic success and achievements comes along adverse side effects too.  While most of my blog posts are usually happy I would like to think, this blog piece is going to be a little sad but it needs to be said. There are parts of Korean society that are heartbreaking and I will never ever get used to and shake off, no matter how long I live here. The kind of parts  including the fact my family and close friends back home do not reside here, and extremely high social pressures to perform academically and conform to Korea’s narrow beauty ideals. I mention the burdening pressures Korean students feel with the copious amount of tests they are given in a previous post. It’s for these main reasons why I could never raise a child in this environment. Despite being such a wonderful and dynamic country, Korea is a highly pressurized society where people are constantly striving to attain the top in everything. While always trying to do your best is a great quality to have, if you don’t achieve the best to everyone’s expectations, you receive massive disappointment and feel like a failure. Sometimes it is  to the point of suicide which is unimaginably and indescribably horrible  but it’s the reality of Korean society. These reasons explain why Korea has sadly been called the suicide capital of the world and especially amongst the developed world.

Key in point, Korea’s social compression  to be perfect can be seen everywhere and is especially prevalent through the plastic surgery business. If you go into a Seoul subway you will be advertisements for it plastered everywhere that has a flat surface. Me and my friend noticed this startling ad on a subway last weekend. It was advertising a plastic surgery clinic. The english translation is in small print at the bottom and reads:

Daughter: Mom! You told me I would be prettier when I grow up!

What am I supposed to do now?

Mother: Let’s go.

I wish I was making this up. I wish this is just a made up story. When we saw that, our jaws dropped. We couldn’t believe it. The realization of what it truly said made me cry on the inside.While I was shocked it wasn’t all entirely surprising to see. Those kinds of ads are just normal here but they never lose their shock value. Korea? Why do you have this insatiable desire to change yourself? As Bruno Mars says “you are beautiful just they way you are!”.