Losing isn’t always bad…

I’ve been called a “poor loser” as recently as this week, and I admit it, when it comes to games and competitions I can be quite the sour person when faced with an inevitable loss. As a child I used to play my sister in Battleship and move my ships every time she would’ve hit one which allowed me to win each time. That was until she caught on to my scam and told my mother on me, then I was the ultimate loser because I got in trouble. I still won the game of Battleship though! I’ve mostly grown out of my cheating ways now that I’m in my 30s. I say “mostly” because let’s be honest, we all take an extra 10 minutes for lunch every now and then, but at least I’m above cheating on board games now. Mainly because my mother has met most all my friends and warns them that I not only cheated in Battleship, but that I also steal money when being banker during Monopoly and The Game of Life. Seriously, what 10 year old cheats at the Game of Life? Apparently I did.

Enough rambling, back to the reason for this post.  In the years since I’ve started this blog I think I’ve mentioned at least a half dozen times about how I’m going to get back to working out and diet and lose weight. All those times I made such declarations were followed by going to the gym about twice, dieting for about half a week before ordering a pizza or hitting the McDonald’s drive-thru. Maybe I lost 3 or 4 lbs, but then I’d drink 5 beers at happy hour and gain it all back. My motivation was never there.  All my friends would say “You don’t need to lose weight, you look fine”. I love my friends, I do, but looking back I really wish at one point, especially the point in 2011 when I tipped the scales at over 160 lbs and then just stopped getting on the scale all together, that someone would’ve been honest and just said “Hey, you’re fat, maybe you need to get healthy”. Sure it sounds harsh, everyone wants to be the “good” friend, but sometimes we all need a little tough love.

Well, I finally met my match here in Korea, a friend who is brutally honest and doesn’t give you the run around, and apparently at this point in my life, just the kind of friend I needed. Not only did this friend nag me about being overweight, but when I said “I can’t run 1 mile” he met me at the park and pushed me to run 3. When I said “I’ll never survive the Spartan race” he ran it with me and helped launch me over the 8 foot high walls, if only he had been there to catch me on the other side! Everyone needs someone in their life that is brutally honest, that person who will push you to be a the better version of yourself that you didn’t even know existed, that person that makes you rethink everything, even when you don’t want to.

I owe this friend a lot of credit for getting my act together this year. Since March I’ve lost 20lbs, I’ve gone from huffing and puffing to lightly jog 1 city block to being able to run 6.5 miles. Apparently I am a runner now. I’m still eating candy, damn this sweet tooth I have, and I’m not losing weight nearly as fast as I’d like, but I’m getting there, and I’m sticking with running, and biking, and just being active. It’s amazing how your life changes when you have that one person who just pushes you in the exact right direction. It’s nice having coworkers notice that you’ve lost weight and compliment you, but for me and my competitive personality, it’s even better to have those compliments followed by the one from your honest friend saying “Don’t worry, I still think you have more weight to lose”. To bystanders this sounds harsh, but this friend knows it’ll drive me to run the extra mile that night, or to avoid that second cookie that I really really wanted to eat after lunch.


(Left: July 4, 2011 & July 4,2014.   Right: Me before heading out to run in 90 degrees on a Saturday afternoon)

My goal is to lose another 15 lbs before seeing my family for Thanksgiving…plus then my clothes will be the perfect amount of looseness for stuffing my face with homemade food!

To all those friends out there who are honest and bring out the best in us, thanks. I’d cheers you, but apparently I traded in boozing on Friday nights for running 6 miles instead. My next mile is for you!  And to my friend who has helped change my life for the better in more ways than one, I know I’ve told you this before, but Thank You, you know who you are.

I miss Ikea.

If you’re moving to Korea soon and hope to swing by Ikea  for some good inexpensive things for your home you might be waiting a while.  When I officially moved here in 2012 and had to furnish an entire apartment, I was nervous that without an Ikea, it would be expensive and a long process.   Ikea is slowly making it’s way to Korea, after having already been in Japan for years, and it’s first store is set to open by the end of 2014.  I suspect though, that even once it opens it’s doors the crowds will be so outrageous that you may still be searching for alternative.

Although there are still things from Ikea that I crave and find hard to find substitutes for such as Ribba frames and those storage boxes of all shapes size and colors, there are plenty of alternatives for shopping in Korea for anything household related; even if you don’t read or speak Hangul (Korean).   Here are some of my favorites:

GMarket: I like to say this “GMarket” as if it’s the name of a hip-hop artist, it just makes it more fun.  Think Korean-Amazon (because no, Amazon is not available in Korea unlike Japan).  They have a “global” site which reads in English, and although it can still be a bit tough to navigate because a lot of the item descriptions are still in Hangul, it’s a treasure trove of anything you can think of, and all reasonably priced too.  You can buy anything from groceries, furniture, clothing, electronics, etc on this site.  I furnished my entire apartment for under $1500 here.  Some stuff will even be delivered to your door on the dame day!  Word to the wise those, check those measurements, as Korean furniture tends to be ultra small.  Although I’m totally used to it now, when my couch arrived from GMarket I swore it was child-sized.

Modern House:  This place has a bunch of brick & mortar stores all over Korea, and they are adorable.  The physical store isn’t that large, mainly being located in malls, but they pack a lot into a smaller store.  The best way I can think to describe this is a smaller mix of Crate & Barrell and Ikea.  The prices are some of the most reasonable I’ve found in Korea and it’s actually quality stuff, unlike most things in Korea that are cheap for a reason.   The website is all in Hangul, however if you use Chrome, the translate function works well enough for you to navigate, however I had to had a Korean friend help me when it came time to setup an account and checkout.

EMart:   This is like the Super-Target/Wal-Mart of Korea.  Beware going here on weekends, as it could easily take you an hour to get a parking spot, then hours to ram your way through the crowds of people, and another hour to get out of the parking garage.  Weeknights work best for me, or I’m sure weekday mornings would be good if you aren’t working.  You can find anything you need for a house here, and then go shop for groceries too.  They even have a descent selection of clothing if you’re not looking for anything with a designer label.  Some things are overpriced, probably because of the convenience factor of the big store, but most items are competitively priced.  They have a website where you can buy anything and have it all delivered even the same day (hello grocery delivery); but the site doesn’t translate to English well so I just go to the store.


500 (+) Days of Travel

Travel is the only thing you can buy which makes you richer.

I saw that quote online a while back and have lived by that motto ever since.  My response to friends is always, “can’t take the money with you…”

It’s been 578 days (yes I counted) since a friend dropped me off at SEA and I boarded a plane for Korea; that was Sept 9, 2012.  I just had just flown back from Virginia Beach three days earlier where I hugged and kissed my dog, Lane, goodbye and told her I’d be back soon.   Dragging a rolling duffle big enough for me to live in, a massive overweight extended-trip suitcase, a roll-aboard, and a tote bag, all of which were stuffed within an inch of their seams, I boarded a plane to Seoul, South Korea.  I’ll spare you the details of my life story from then until now, however I do enjoy a good travel update post, but since I have 578 days of travel adventures to catch up on, I figured a little info graphic and statistics could do the trick.

My flight map of the past 578 days:


In the last 578 days I’ve…

  • made 20 trips
    • 4 of which were such a far distance for such a short trip that people called me “crazy”
    • 3 of which the flights were booked less than 24 hours before departure
      • 1 flight booked 2.5 hours before departure
      • 1 flight booked while in a taxi on the way to the airport, 1.5 hours before departure
  • visited 7 new countries (not including trips back to the USA or South Korea since I live here)
  • stopped in 3 new countries on layovers
  • flown 60 different flight segments
    • 18 of which were in business class (it’s really hard going back to economy once you experience international business class…yes I am the 1% of travelers now)
  • experienced 13 different airlines
  • traveled 135,732 miles on airplanes
  • spent 2 nights living on a boat while island hopping in Indonesia
  • earned Gold Status on United 3 times (including guaranteed for 2015)
  • carried Lane on 4 flight segments from ROA-IAD-NRT-ICN all in a 24 hr period
  • been escorted off a plane by paramedics 1 time upon landing

It’s been a whirlwind for sure, with some amazing adventures, fabulous friends, and great stories, but I’ll leave those for separate posts, hopefully soon.

Where have you been in the last 578 days?  Off to plan my next adventure…


Happy has gone to the dogs

If you’ve turned on the radio at all in the past few months then more than likely you’ve heard Pharrell’s song “Happy”.  It was original written and featured in “Despicable Me 2” (which was a cute movie by the way), and is  now topping the charts, and making waves with his 24-hour music video.  It’s prompted all kinds of YouTube remakes and parodies, and I think this version about puppies & dogs might be the cutest thing ever.  Try watching this in entirety without smiling, I dare you!   Have a HAPPY day!

Dreamer not a Doer

When people ask me, “What is your dream job?” I normally don’t have to think too hard before answering, “blogger”, which is ironic, since I haven’t posted on this blog in almost a year!  Obviously, I am too lazy to follow my dreams, but on the bright side I’m definitely lazy enough to dream a lot! *wink*wink.   Seriously though, if I had some concrete motivation and a little more ambition I would love to start a blog that could take off, eventually make me money, just enough that I could live on a beach in Bali and just blog the days away in the sunshine.   Who doesn’t have that dream?   I always have these great ideas for blogs and great ideas for posts, but never take the time to sit down and make them happen.  Can I hire a TaskRabbit to do the work for me?  (hit that link, if they service your area your life will be forever changed, I swear.

To all 5 of my loyal readers…if I haven’t lost you in my year-long absence, what do you want to hear about?  Korea? Rambling of my life? travel?   Give me some motivation to get back to my blogging dream.  Happy Monday!!

Lovely Patong

At 12:05am Thursday night, technically Friday morning, I touched down for the second time in beautiful Phuket, Thailand. The airport here is always crowded, tiny, and falling apart, but who cares! I hopped in a taxi after a bit of negotiating with a few drivers and made my way to Patong Beach.

I ended up in Patong accidentally last fall when I booked a last minute trip to Thailand and just choose the most highly rated hostel in Phuket on hostelworld.com. I did no research or planning, just hopped on a plane and winged it. I was 100% nervous, although I never would’ve admitted that to anyone then, but it was my first time traveling completely alone to a brand new country and I didn’t know if it would be awesome or horrible. Turns out it was more than awesome! I met some amazing people, had some sketchy but memorable adventures, and started, what has now become, my strange love affair with Patong Beach.

Patong is not a family area, in fact, unless you want to drink till 5am and party a lot I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s a different world here. There are more beautiful beaches and nicer resorts in most other places in Phuket and you’d avoid the shitshow that is Bangla Road, with the constant badger of “See the Ping Pong Show!” as you stumble from one loud club to the next. (Note: I can’t even dignify “ping pong show” with a link. It has nothing to do with table tennis, and I’d warn you 100% about googling images/videos of it, NSFW!). With that said, it’s not the beach or nightlife that brought me back to this touristy, sometimes trashy yet lovely, area of Phuket but friends and the promise of more sketchy and amazing adventures and memories for a lifetime.
My plan when arriving in Patong was to check in to Bodega and head straight to bed, seeing how it was already 1:15am (3:15am Korea time), but I should’ve listen to my friends advice to “expect the unexpected”. As I paid my taxi driver, grabbed my backpack, and rounded the corner into my hostel I saw familiar faces! I screamed out “Lucy!” And after a reunion of “Oh my god, you’re here I’ve missed you” and hugs I knew that sleep was not on the menu. I checked in, grabbed a Singha (Thai beer) and reserved to chatting with friends and familiar faces and it seemed although 6 months had passed and I had only met Lucy once before, it was like I had never left. We chatted and told stories, and drank, and went to the bar and sang along to a live band, and at 5am when I was barely awake in the lounge and people started finally turning in and the rain started to pour down I knew it was gonna be an amazing weekend and that I made the right decision to come back…trashy clubs, heat, humidity, and all. This place and the people here gave me a new outlook on life last fall and made my first solo traveling experience the best and feel anything but “solo”.
Thanks Patong for welcoming me back with open arms…I’m sure this isn’t the last time.


Real Real Estate

When I arrived back in Korea in late January I immediately began the search for a new apartment. Since my roommate from the Fall didn’t return back to Korea the apartment I was living in was just too big and too expensive for me to maintain on my own. Although having a roommate for three+ months was fun, it definitely made me realize there was a reason I’ve lived alone for the past seven years. The search was on for the elusive two bedroom in Seoul. Cheap studios and micro-sized one bedrooms are plentiful, as are three bedroom/two baths, but two bedrooms/one bath are a bit rare.
In Korea the easiest thing to do is use a realtor and there are plenty that speak enough English to help you out. My
previous realtor, although nice, was a bit flaky so I decided to do a little research and reach out to some other ones. I’m glad I did, since I found a great young realtor, with good English, and ultra quick responses. I was sold, then I gave her the impossible task of finding me a two bedroom apartment, with a strict budget, in a small radius surrounding the train station which is a pretty high end and desirable area, especially for expats. After a few late evenings viewing apartments after work I finally found the two bedroom I was hoping for. It wasn’t furnished and at the top of my budget, but the finishes were great, not tacky like so many other places, and the location was prime. Still within walking distance to the best pizza in Korea was a major plus (I love you, Pizza Heaven).
After some strange, all in Korean negotiations, and lots of signing and stamping on papers covered in pretty symbols that meant nothing to me I had my apartment and moving day scheduled for a few weeks later. Sure I realized a week after signing my lease that the appliance under my stove was not an oven but a kimchi fridge instead, and I had a minor freak out thinking about all the laundry I’d be doing without the convienence of an American style clothes dryer, so much so that I almost forfeited my 1 mil Won deposit (roughly $1,000). In the end, I decided to suck it up, living like a true Korean without Western appliances would make the expat experience more authentic.
Most of my friends/coworkers live near the Army base in Pyeongtaek where apartments are almost always fully furnished, come with western-style; sometimes American brand; appliances, and even have both 220v and 110v power ouets throughout. I like to consider this “cheating” and living in what I refer to as “Little America”. Where is the true expat experience?
Some things I will never get used to in Korean apartments or rental ways include kimchi fridges, windows into public hallways, and key money. Yes, any respectable Korean household has a separate refrigerator, normally in the form of two drawers resembling a high end dishwasher, solely for the storage of kimchi. My second bedroom has a window, however it’s not to the great outdoors, but to the common hallway outside my unit. The owner placed contact paper on the window, with fun little clouds on it, for privacy but it doesn’t block out the light. Sleeping in there is ultra confusing since its always the same brightness no matter what time of the day/night it is. Key money is a deposit system used widely in Korea. In the US we put down security deposits, usually equal to one month’s rent or less. In Korea, the deposit which they call “key money” is a large sum usually anywhere from 10mil to 200mil+ Won. This money is fully refundable. The more you put down the less you pay in monthly rent. In some cases Koreans will put down a large sum of money and live rent free, then get all their money back. I’m still unsure how this really benefits the landlord/owner but its the way it’s done. For my apartment the key money was 10 million Won, which is equivalent to a little mess than $10,000.00 depending on the exchange rate. I can’t tell you how nerve racking it is to go to a bank with almost $10,000 cash and tell the Korean banker to deposit it into an account number provided to me by my landlord/realtor. I still get nervous just thinking about that amount of money just given away. I can’t wait till I move out and it’s given back…in full hopefully (*fingers crossed).
My realtor helped me scheduled movers to pack and move all my items for a nominal fee, they spoke English and were awesome and so fast, and everything went smoothly. I’m getting settled and navigating the process of purchasing furniture for my new place but it’s coming along. I’m hoping to make some progress this weekend and then Ill post some pictures. Lets hope I stay for a long long time…not sure I want to do the Korean real estate process again anytime soon.

Snow, Snow, Snow!

10 bonus points if you can sing the title and know what movie it comes from.

Today I woke up way too early on a Saturday and climbed in a cute little hatchback armed with roof racks and 3 awesome people for a little road trip to the ski slopes.

This was my first venture to the snowy slopes in Korea and maybe my last. I enjoy skiing; mainly for dressing the part; but will never try to oversell my abilities.

The bunny slopes are my home! This fact was proven to me as I wiped out on my first run on an intermediate slope since I was in middle school at good ‘ole “Mass o’ Nutten” in VA. Virginia is definitely not known for their skiing.

As I type this on my iPhone I’m lounging in the lodge food court with my battered knee, foot, and pride as my friends brave the freezing temps for some ultra cool night skiing.

Being the perpetual beginner skier that I am, I’m probably not the best judge of slope conditions, but I miss the shin deep powder on the slopes in Washington. The slick icey slopes camouflaged with a thin dusting of powder don’t seem like optimal conditions. Hoping to heel up quickly and try again, but maybe next season when the snow is fresh and plentiful.

I’ve been skiing on/off for 4 years now. Will I ever graduate from the beginner slopes. Maybe snow sports just aren’t my thing…is it boating season yet?

Besides the general conditions of the slopes I find it a little funny how the whole scene here is different. In WA the slopes are dominated by snowboarders and the over abundance of black and neutral toned ski clothing makes it virtually impossible to pick you your friends on the slopes. Korea seems to be the opposite as the slopes are highly skewed to skiers over boarders and the fashion here is bright bright colors and head to toe patterns. I thought my friend in the bright orange coat would stick out like a sore thumb but wrong! every 5th person was wearing the same color. Oh and the best is the matching couples and families. I saw an entire family of 4 in matching head to toe pink leopard print. Wish I got some pictures. Oh Korea, you never cease to surprise me.

Bad Neighbors

I’m beginning to think I am cursed with bad neighbors. I have lived in 6 apartments since graduating college and at least 3 of them have shared walls with bad neighbors; 4 if you count freight trains as neighbors. What was I thinking with that one!?! In less than two weeks I’ll pack up, or better yet a couple of Korean men will pack up, and move from my apartment in Seoul that I’ve called home since September 2012. Ill be moving a mere 1 block away. (Note: if you have known me through any of my other intercity moves you know I generally like to relocate within a 10 block radius, yes I am weird). I’m looking forward to downsizing and being in an apartment with more modern finishes that suit me a bit better. Sure I won’t have an oven or a conventional clothes dryer, but hey, when in Korea live like the Koreans! Most of all though I’m looking forward to not living below a herd of elephants with what I am assuming is a crying baby, a screaming toddler, and a very yappy dog who apparently has no training. It’s like being on a flight from hell except you can’t land and get off the plane, it’s every day! If my trend of moving works out my next place should have better neighbors. My new apartment number is 711, that’s gotta be lucky for something right?

*If you’ve shared walls with me in the past 7 years and are reading this blog then chances are you weren’t a bad neighbor!

But Baby it’s Cold Outside

BRRRRR!  When I moved to the PNW from Virginia in 2008 my body acclimated very quickly to the more mild climates.  A breezy 72 in the summer and anything below 40 degrees in the winter was cause for extreme winter gear.  Well, now that I’ve moved even farther west (or far east if you care to think the opposite direction) to Korea, my body is once again trying to acclimate to some extreme weather.  A few days ago; as I climbed into bed in flannel pajamas and fleece socks; I checked my weather app to confirm to me that the temperature was a blustery -8 degrees F with a windchill of -15!  So, all you east coasters who complained a few weeks ago about the windchill being in single digits..try walking home from the subway when the windchill is in negative double digits.  Today it was 25 degrees, but the sun made it feel like 32, and as I walked out of eMart (Korea’s version of Target) I didn’t even put my gloves on, or my hat because it felt “warm”.   I’m still not sure my body will ever kindly endure a -15 windchill, but I’m embracing the fleece hooded footie onesie I purchased for myself as a joke last fall as perfect lounge wear on these cold chilly evenings.  I still haven’t 100% figured out to maintain a temperature in my own apartment, but have learned layers is the best option.  Forecast for tomorrow, high of 29, low of 20 (real feel 24/17).  Snow on Tuesday.  Puxatawnee Phil may have decided spring is coming early in the U.S. of A, but I’m beginning to doubt his premonitions stretch to Korea.  Bundle up ex-pats, it’s cold outside!  Enjoy this video from my favorite movie, “Neptune’s Daughter”, it’ll keep you warm inside.