Catching up


So it’s been awhile since I wrote last.

Don’t really have any good excuse for that, other than I didn’t really know how to continue more after my last post.

Because the last time you heard from me, I was not liking Korea that much.

And I still can’t say I want to move here long-term, but these last few weeks have been more than good. Good enough that if I didn’t have my next step in academics already planned out, I might consider extending my time here.

So what follows is pretty much another long, wordy post to follow up with the jumbled multiple thousand words that I’ve just posted. ;P

(Also, what was new…)

I went to take a weekend trip to the Philippines.  I originally went because my friend invited me along and the plane ticket there and back was super cheap, but due to some mistakes, firstly out of bad communication and secondly out of carelessness, I ended up a) taking a taxi to the airport as opposed to the airport train, thus costing me half as much as the flight ticket and b) missing a flight and paying half as much as the flight ticket to change it.

Well, I guess a normally-priced plane ticket would be just about as much as I spent all together.  This is a somewhat comforting thought.

Lucky for me, my friend paid for the food and housing for three days, because me ending up in the taxi was her fault. She texted me when she was leaving for the airport.  However, this texting platform requires internet, and she did not have good internet. (The fact that she was cognizant of this fact is the main point.)  Therefore, the message wasn’t sent.

Greatest impression: THE HEAT. It was so hot. Just so hot! It’s been way too long since I spent time in tropical Asia. I even fell asleep on the side of the road while we were waiting for a taxi…that’s my funniest memory of there. (Bec says it was me kicking her and stealing the sheets all night.) Oh, and the beach was nice.

On the academic fronts, well, my life in mobile programming for the second semester was quite boring. Quite boring.  Not only did I not have any idea of what was going on in class, I also had no idea of what I should have been studying outside of class.  I came to the professor a couple more times with Java queries, but even this proved to be absolutely useless in understanding anything.

My friend Misa ended up doing all the work for the project.  I felt so bad about it, and I really tried to keep up so I could be more help, but me trying to cram the knowledge and experience of multiple years of engineering school into one semester was just kind of a failure.  Even worse, this particular branch of engineering wasn’t his specialty, so he was also pretty lost.  We were both trying to get through some online courses to help with the actual course, but I kept getting stuck on the simple things and made significantly less progress than him.  I got stuck on lesson 37 of 75, and unfortunately, you can’t skip around with these things because they build on each other. (I tried to skip this lesson and move forward and that made my confusion even worse.)  Misa was really nice about it though. He told me multiple times, “This is how it works in engineering school.  Sometimes, you save everyone, and sometimes, you’re saved by someone else.” He himself had experienced something similar. Well.  If this is the case, I envy the engineering school attitude.  I heard other group-project-not-going-well stories from other people in the business department.  Normally people in that department get mad if everyone doesn’t pull their weight.

As for all my other classes, well, let’s just say that I have some great stories for the next interviewer who asks me to describe how I overcame a significant challenge. Great stories.

OH! And there was this one time I went to meet an ecotourism researcher!

No, it didn’t just happen to be that we were in the same restaurant, or anything nice and convenient like that.  I follow multiple tourism groups on LinkedIn, and one of them published an interview, which turned out to be from a Korean researcher based in Seoul.  So I dropped a significant amount of money buying one year of LinkedIn Premium–(that was an accident though.  They give you one free month, and if you don’t cancel within 30 days, you’re charged for 1 year.  Guess who forgot to cancel within the month.) Anyway, the thing with Premium is that you can message anyone. ANYONE in LinkedIn, so I messaged her.  Then I didn’t hear back from her, and I just had the crazy idea to try facebook.

It worked.

I contacted an academic from among the highest echelons of this field by facebook.

And she wrote me back.

I was so shocked, it was like I was dreaming.  As I write this, it’s like I’m still dreaming, because I’m just hanging out for a few more days here on this island after going to participate in some forest monitoring studies for developing a new ecotourism program set to give a public launch next year. I also got to go see a “secret” destination that one of her colleagues is hoping to make into a tourist attraction and at the same time, not have it become overrun and ruin the environment.

So I got to meet her and ask her some specific questions about the direction of her work and the sustainable tourism status in Korea.  I was so scared that I asked my friends to accompany me to go meet her.

That was just one of the most amazing things I’ve done here.

Around that time, we had our school festival, unfortunately, I didn’t take very many photos, and the ones I did take don’t really explain anything.

As for the extra-currics, I went to three classical music performances put on by the uni, and one theatre performance.  Korean theatre! It was so cool.  The music performances were excellent and inspiring, and the theatre performance was just so amazing….I read the description of what they were going to be performing and then went to see it with a friend, who explained some scenes to me.  It was the story of the crown prince Sado, in ancient Korea.  Not understanding all the words, I really paid attention to the costumes, lighting, makeup, voice changes, dance moves–all the things I kind of “look at” when I watch English theatre, but I never really pay attention to, because I’m wrapped up completely in the story.  It was such a great experience though, I highly recommend watching a foreign language theatre performance to enhance cultural and artistic appreciation.

I went to Lotte World with my roommate and my other friend, Dani.  It was a really fun!! Just us three crazy, assertive, driven girls that can’t resist a good wisecrack or a selfie, determined to hit up all the adrenaline-pumping attractions in the park and wait in as few lines as possible.

I went to Busan finally.  I went by myself–because all my classes got cancelled during the week, and I knew if I kept waiting for other people to agree to come with me, then I’d never go. I actually wrote a budget and itinerary for going there one of the first weekends I was here in Korea, sent it to all the friends I had made by then, and….that didn’t work out.  Then later, around mid-terms, I was making plans again with someone else, but that ended up not working either.  Solo travel gets lonely, and I have to admit, it’s really not quite as much fun, but I finally went.  So that’s incredibly satisfying.  Even more satisfying is that I decided to go, bought a ticket, and left on the same day, without really needing to ask permission from anyone.

While in Busan, I met someone in my hostel who works as a media consultant for a company based in Germany, but she travels around the globe full time because her work can be conducted completely by internet. She’s been to a lot of places, spending about a month per country. I’m debating whether or not I’d love to do that.


And of course, there are the ins and outs of daily life, grocery shopping (or not), living out of a convenience store, eating food that surprises you by how nice it is, et. cetera.

So, that’s what I’ve been doing lately.

Now for my summer break plans:

Thailand for a month. A. Month.  Thailand has been on “the list” ever since I went to Vietnam in 2009, so I’m pretty excited.  I also studied Thailand extensively for that long research paper I wrote almost two years ago, so I’m finally really going to see it for myself now….I really want to stay in a homestay in Koh Samui and maybe check out some ecotourism groups doing community work up in Chiang Rai.

Then I’ll go to Vietnam for another month.  I have tons of friends to see there from my life in Taiwan, and I’m super excited to “return” somewhere and see eight years of change.

I’ll mostly be using the money I’ve been saving from my multiple part-time stints.  🙂 Pretty happy about that.

During these times, I’ll be trying to figure out the Beijing visa paperwork…pray for me…even thinking about this subject drives me crazy.




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