Five surprising things about China

China

The look: brown miniature poodle

The sound: Lady Gaga’s Joanne

The smell: Misc. Asian city

IMG_8843-ANIMATION.gif

Work it


1. I actually loved it.

I was not really looking forward to this trip, or China specifically. I hadn’t heard the best of things. I read even worse things. I stepped into this country with zero to negative expectations. Boy, was I incorrect — it’s amazing! Maybe low expectations are what made it so great.

IMG_8435

The Bund — it’s less polluted then I thought!

Shanghai is my favorite city so far. It has a unique and charismatic — in the words of Cesar Millan — energy that I fell in love with. A metropolis city full of good food and expensive coffee, I can see why people call it the New York City of Asia.

Noodles for me

Loaded with MSG

IMG_8505.jpg

I was applauded getting this photo taken.

The police: handsome and helpful. They made my heart skip a beat and not because I was scared. They were always willing to give directions in exchange for a picture. I don’t know if they have a Chinese version of Cops, but if they did, I would hoard episodes on my nonexistent DVR.

IMG_8449.jpg


2. The face of China is a brown mini poodle.

Well groomed and fed, these pups were everywhere. I didn’t see too many strays and the dogs seemed *actually* trained  (cough Korea). Talk about a cute trend!

IMG_8853.jpg


3. Disneyland is high tech.

Both a look to the future and one of the best days of my life, Shanghai Disneyland brought the magic. And at a cheaper price! I don’t think I can go back to the one in California because this one was SO. GOOD.

Though the most yelp rave about the ride Tron, and I agree that ride is amazing, the real magic was Pirates of the Caribbean. I have no idea which of the movies this ride was based on, but it doesn’t matter. The ride left my mouth agape.

We broke the day up by watching the production of The Lion King. It was exactly the same as when I saw it in New York and LA — except in Mandarin.

This day was essentially perfect and I learned a valuable lesson: always bring my passport.

IMG_8549


4. Seeing is believing: the air in Beijing.

IMG_9106-EFFECTS.jpg

The Forbidden City

My first impression of Beijing was that I liked Shanghai better. I stand by it, but Bejing is so oooooooold, I have to appreciate it. For the amount of history it has, Bejing is a small city. It still is difficult to wrap my head around, especially Tiananmen Square. Although I walked past it several times, I couldn’t convince myself to take pictures. I had goosebumps. I guess my history teachers in high school were excellent because I could sense the secondary trauma looming in the air.

OR was it just pollution? Either way, the air was thick.


5. There are literally dead bodies in the Great Wall.

“You are better than the cable car people.”

Our tour of the Great Wall came with a complimentary lunch and pep talk. In some of the renovated area of the wall, they built a cable car for the convenience and to cater to lazy tourists. We were better than those people.

The guide was probably five feet tall. He had a buzz cut, a faded tattoo on his left hand, and a lot of experience climbing the Great Wall. He told us tales of how it took over 3,000 years and millions of people to build it. Each time someone died, they would build over their bodies making their corpse a part of the wall (OMG!!!).

When they say climbing, they mean it. The Great Wall winds up and down a mountainous landscape with stairs of varying depth and dimension. Sometimes there were no stairs at all. It was designed for people to eat it (ie Mongols attacking #GenghisKhan). I was weary, but I did it. Our group was there for three hours taking selfies — er, I mean climbing the Great Wall…

IMG_9054

Meditating on the potential remains of a PERSON.


I thought I would go to China a second time out of mere obligation for such an expensive visa. However, it is a beautiful and historic place that I can’t wait to visit again!

Nostalgia in November

It’s getting cold. Freezing cold.

November was a good month. I took a weekend trip to 전주 (Jeonju) with some of my friends. I got a taste of Korean culture and wore a 한복. (I’m so cool, I can type in Hangul.)

IMG_5097.jpg

I summited another mountain with my good friend, Justine.

IMG_9329.jpg

Most notably and least picture friendly, I wrote a book. I completed my first attempt at the NaNoWriMo challenge and wrote 50,000 words in 30 days. I’ve resigned my contract and am staying in Korea for another year.

Somethings amiss though. I’ve been so focused on building my life here that sometimes I forget the one that I left at home.

Now, it’s on fire.

My thoughts are with the residents of southern California. The Thomas Fire is nothing short of devastating. I miss my family and I miss my friends (and In n Out). Stay safe.

Here are some cute dogs.

IMG_9454

Steeper than a hill

Much like Moana, I have always been called to the ocean. From scuba diving to swimming, even to my bachelor’s degree, I never had a doubt in my mind that the sea was for me.

DSCF2786.jpg

The ocean is best admired in the absence of pants.

But lately, I mean the past couple of weeks lately, I have been lusting over the mountains. Probably because of the film Mountain that was featured at Busan International Film Festival left my mouth gaping open.

Regardless of the movies that I watched, Korea is the place to fall in love with mountains. 70% of Korea’s topography is mountainous, so I might as well like it.

My non-romantic partner, Justine, invited me to climb Jirisan. I thought of the mouth-watering drone footage from that inspo-doc (a word I just invented for an inspiring documentary) and said yes. It’s the second-tallest mountain in South Korea.

IMG_9246

It doesn’t look that big because it was cold.

We ascended before dawn. Right as we hit the trailhead I felt like I was going into cardiac arrest. I had to sit down for more than a few moments. I breathed thinking “I am connected” and waited until I couldn’t feel my heartbeat in my eardrum. Bless my patient friends.

This hike wasn’t as technical and scary as Sinbulsan (and my ankle wasn’t sprained this time), but it was still challenging. I had to repeat my mantra throughout the duration of the hike. I realized that challenging yourself physically takes a whole different form of mental strength that I am not used to exercising (ha).

Back at home, I would hike. But I would usually go by myself, climb high enough to get a view of my car, then come back down. There was no such thing as “summiting”. The trails in Korea are often steep and difficult, but always rewarding.

IMG_9271.jpg

Don’t let my nonchalance fool you, my legs felt like jello.

While I’m probably not going to give up my current life to become a dirtbag in Yosemite, I have a found a new way to challenge and become a better version of myself.

Proverbs from an essay contest

Homework is your flesh and blood.

Daym. The study culture here is no joke. This was a student quoting their dad.

Next day my mom will hitting me with her hands.

Not doing homework is not an option. Daym x2.

Finished off the Voldemort

Fuck yeah, you did.

The hero is very coor

“Coors” and “Cool” are essentially synonymous.  Coors lite anyone?

Maybe I’m tired… and die

Maybe this particular mother isn’t going to kill their kid for not doing their homework, but the monotony will.

Happy birthday to me

IMG_8140-PANO.jpg

It was my birthday recently. A month ago — but still. For the for the first time, this birthday I woke up actually feeling a difference. Perhaps I felt healthy from Justine’s vegan mac n’ cheese. Or maybe the wine was good quality and didn’t leave me hungover. Whatever the reason, I observed a healthy detachment. Twenty-five is going to be a good year for me as it was an album for Adele.

IMG_8094

My friends got me an adorable cake! Feelin’ hashtag loved.

I am ready to spring into action. I wake up the perfect amount of tired. I fart. I trap my fart by making my bed. I have a solid morning routine. I have shifted my focus from getting my shit together to mastering myself. I’m moving on from my breakup. I got a tat I’ve wanted for a long time. I even got a new digital watch to reflect my inspired change.

 

IMG_8186

New ink

 

IMG_8224

Cropped out my impressive pit hair

Life seems like a dichotomy. I’m either traveling and all the Instagram worthy things or I’m sitting around, writing my 750 words and waiting to press my coffee.

It is scary for me to feel settled. Change is when I overcome challenges, grow, [insert synonym here]. The present feels like I am in-between cups of coffee. The same feeling I had in the year building up to come here.

But the reality is I still don’t know what is going to happen next. I can write anything.

 

Entropy observed small children

“Hello class, how are you?!” I try to embody a Disney princess even though I dress like an exhausted version of my seventh-grade biology teacher.

“So-so”
“Tired.”
“Hungry.”
“Mad.”

My students don’t know a lot of English, but they know enough to complain.

I came here with the expression “I don’t like kids” branded into my brain. I would be lying now if I were to say that was true, though I wouldn’t be caught dead saying it.

Maybe it’s not the kids I like or their age-related sass. I think my almost-fondness towards children boils down to what everything boils down — the second law of thermodynamics. My nipples just got hard too.

The second LOT states that in any cyclic process, entropy will increase1 (or will remain the same, but we’re not going to talk about that.) Entropy is the universal tendency towards chaos.2 It can be seen everywhere and observed in anything. What was once in a neat, organized state gradually became a shitshow.

entropy

This cyclic process can be modeled as my daily routine. I come into class prepared, only to realize I am not. I try to make my students laugh and they make me laugh. Sometimes they even learn some English. Facilitating group activities and hands-on learning, I am the exact type of teacher that I hated when I was a teenager. Ugh.

Accommodating to these kid’s busy hands and minds tend to spiral into anarchy. Er… entropy.

 

entropy

I think the intention of this image was to show gas particles, but you can reimagine it as my students’ desks before and after class.

 

I know what you’re asking: Can this chaos be reversed? Yes, it can! A la energy! Energy in the form of heat. The heat of my anger, the heat of my co-teachers breath yelling in Korean, and the heat from the four cups of coffee in ingest before 10 AM.

These children need constant structure, guidance, and instruction. It is exhausting but sometimes (and boy do I emphasize that sometimes) it is amazing.

A child’s reaction to AC/DC is simply inspiring.

A little electric guitar gets these kids PUMPED to use English. If I had the same kind of motivation and energy, I would have written five books by now.

Jokes aside, my favorite part of working with small humans is their innate curiosity. Before a certain age, they don’t give a fuck about making mistakes or looking dumb. They are just trying to wrap their heads around the millions of bits of data floating around them. It’s this stoicism I admire.

It makes me feel less bad about not pursuing academic science. Kids are scientists and it’s bloody incredible. Perhaps there is more than one way of becoming a scientist. Exploring curiosity, making mistakes, and facing your fears; that’s what my students do every day in English class. They inspire me to do the same.


  1. (n.d.). Retrieved September 11, 2017, from http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/thermo/seclaw.html
  2. entropy. (n.d.). Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved June 1, 2017 from Dictionary.com website http://www.dictionary.com/browse/entropy

Me, my selfie stick and I: Jeju Island

IMG_7792-PANO.jpg

“Why did I order this? I am trying to be vegan.”  With a fork I toyed with the muscle in my seafood pasta. I was reliving dissection lab from Invertebrate Zoology three years ago. It’s difficult to find something appetizing when you trying to recall functional anatomy. Regardless, I was enjoying my time alone with a mouth full of bread.

IMG_8080.jpgThat was until I an unsolicited visitor joined me at my corner table. Short and bald, he had an accent thicker than the sauce of my pasta. “Hello there! Mind if I sit?” He asked after he had already sat.

“You are sitting here all by yourself. Why are you alone?” We introduced ourselves to each other. I can’t remember his name, but I can remember the alcohol that scented his breath: gin. “You seem like a normal, nice person. I am not coming onto you, you just seem like a normal person and I wanted to give a friendly hello.”

If I had a piece of chocolate every time I’ve heard this from a white male 50+ years old, I would have diabetes.

He continued his monologue. I stopped eating.  He told me I should leave Korea. He said that I am not happy and my heart isn’t here. He said that I will start drinking and drinking more if I don’t go and pursue my passions. I sat there and nodded my head until he went to tend to his nicotine fit. I paid my bill and skedaddled.

This interaction didn’t sit right with me. It took me a couple of days until I understood why. It wasn’t what he said, it was who said it. Drunk, older men trying to give us life lessons. Fuck them. They are answering questions that no one asked. They do not know the secret to our happiness. This small behavior, this “friendly hello” is actually oppressive.

And then I realized that this small island had made some big changes. I won’t say that I have found myself, but I have become more comfortable with who I am.

IMG_7568

Solo travel is wearing cargo shorts and still feeling sexy.


My impromptu itinerary

Day 1

Land in Jeju and head towards the beach in search for a fabulous brunch spot.

IMG_6885

Samyang Black Sand Beach

After wandering for two hours I acknowledged this brunch spot no longer exists. I settled for the place that it turned into. As serendipity has it, they had one of my favorite beers that is only sold seasonally in California. I ordered one at 11:00 AM.

IMG_6924.jpg

“Enjoy your meal,” said the man serving  my morning brew.

Day 2

Scuba diving! I walked into the dive shop early in the morning and told them I wanted to go diving. An hour later, I was on a boat headed towards this island:IMG_7640

We were dropped off on the island and lugged our gear onto the rock. There were tons of soft corals and tropical fish. I was lucky enough to see tuna hunting in a school of sardines. It was some of the best diving I have ever done! I felt like I was in a BBC documentary.

IMG_6952

Me and the eccentric dive master

IMG_6978-EFFECTS

Meandering after dinner.

Day 3

I decided not to dive again because I am lazy. Instead, I visited a bunch of waterfalls and went to the healing forest.

IMG_7034

Seojeonbang Waterfall and the effect humidity has on my hair

IMG_7557

Jeongbang Waterfalls

 

IMG_7799

Cheonjeyeon Falls – 1st tier

IMG_7827

Cheonjeyeon Falls – 2nd tier

IMG_7842

Cheonjeyeon Falls – 3rd tier

IMG_7632.jpg

This is not a waterfall.

In the afternoon, I went to the Seogwipo Forest of Healing because I had some work to do. I was denied entry on account of my flipflops. I was perplexed. They warned me there were snakes and getting bite by a snake would do the opposite of healing. They called me a taxi and I went home to change my shoes.

IMG_7675

I immediately took off my shoes to enjoy this foot massage.

Day 4

I set this day to tackle Mount Hallasan. An early morning and $30 cab ride later, I discovered the mountain was closed due to bad weather. Vanquished, I made my way back into town to come up with a different plan. I wanted to take advantage of the beautiful scenery unique to Jeju.

IMG_7869

Jusangjeolli cliff

These cliffs were formed from the cooling and solidification of lava from 250,000 years ago. The columns are formed when molten lava contracts during cooling, which splits the rock into polygonal columns. It is called columnar jointing and is pretty badass.

Next I went to Love Land. It is famous for it’s plethora of dick statues. Everyone is immediately immature upon entering. A group of giddy young men behind me giggled as they grazed the exhibit.  It was also refreshing to see a German woman directing her daughter how to pose with pornographic sculptures.

IMG_8002

Love Land


I was sad to leave Jeju but I will be back in the winter. I am excited to see how the island has changed over the different seasons. Until then, I will continue to have adventures on the mainland of Korea.