As I emerge from Hansung University station, I’m greeted by a mass of people, the smell of beer, and a DJ pumping dance tunes across a square. It’s the World Beer Festival hosted in Seoul. Like an excited eighteen-year-old, I smile from ear to ear.
My Korean friend Buyeon emerges from the throng. We hug. I hear my name shouted out. It’s Harry, the Meetup host. He remembered me from my last visit with his group at the Latin American Festival. After greetings, he announces that we’ll wait for other joiners before we disappear into the crowd in search of beer and food. That evening, I meet local Koreans, expat teachers, a retired international footballer. We take photos with celebrity Bulgarian chef, Mikhal, and dance with the live DJ. If I hadn’t stumbled across Harry’s Meetup invitation the night before, I wouldn’t have known about this marvelous event.
With celebrity chef Mikhal
As an expat deprived of my long standing network of friends and family, it’s very easy to feel isolated. Meetups cater to several needs, the need to belong to a group and receive support, indulging adventure and trying new experiences, as well as meeting people with similar interests.
I discovered Meetup.com through a friend. He casually mentioned ‘Meetups’ and curious, I went online to discover that this network offered. I joined particular groups that were located in or near to my current city, Seoul, and began receiving invitations to attend planned events. Over the last fourteen months, I have attended all kinds of Meetups which I’ll present shortly.
Attending meetups has been one of the best ways I have found to network, make friends, and meet people who have similar interests to me. Many Meetups are attended by international traveler-types as well as locals who like meeting international travellers. As an expat, it’s challenging always feeling like an outsider or guest in Korea, but when I’m with world travelers, these people ‘feel like’ home.
Through Meetups, I’ve met outstanding people. These include Traditional Korean medicine doctor, Yoon who I continue to visit for natural beauty treatments (see my article about Dr. Yoon’s natural fillers and acne scar treatments here). I’ve also met CC and Mr. Kim, two remarkable (and fit) Korean men who encourage hikers to push through the physical and mental challenges of hiking. I met Ernesto who reintroduced me to the Latin dance scene and reignited my passion for traveling around Korea itself. Recently, I met Marco, Andii, and many Spanish speaking friends through Hola Cafe Meetup. I attend Hola Cafe regularly, and these friends are becoming my new family.
I receive multiple invitations to events every week, but I only attend whatever I feel like doing. I hit the ‘attend’ button and show up the day of. There are many interesting Meetup groups, but here are my favourites.
All kinds of festivals regularly take place all over the country, and particularly in my current home, Seoul. I joined Harry’s The Seoul Expat Global Meetup Group, and together, we attended the Latin American Festival in May 2017. Once confirmed attendees arrived and we all introduced ourselves, we roamed around the festival, trying sangria, Spanish vino and all kinds of foods, mainly from Latin America. Harry’s events often attend festivals. It’s a brilliant way to enjoy a festival and meet fun new friends too. See The Seoul Expat Global Meetup Grouphere.
There are many language exchange groups. The events seem to be concentrated in Gangnam and Hongdae, and take place at designated cafes. These seem to entail Koreans teaching expats local Hangul, and expats teaching Koreans English language, and this is done mostly through conversation. I don’t attend these Korean/English language exchanges, but I’ve heard that these events are sometimes used to find people to date.
I regularly attend Mangwon Spanish Language & Culture Meetup, hosted by Marco on Saturday afternoons at Hola Café. Marco offers Spanish and English language classes throughout the week, but Saturday from 5pm is allocated for a large mixed group of Spanish speaking people to share their cultures together. I’ve met people from Mexico, America, Kazakhstan, Venezuela, and a large number of international Koreans who have lived in Spanish speaking countries. Every week, I encounter people from previous events, and there are constantly new faces to meet. Find Marco’s Spanish Language Meetup here.
Photo courtesy of Andii MtzReyna
With new friend, Andii
I like to hike with Climbing In Korea (CIK) Meetup Group. It’s run by Mr. Kim, and he is very organized leader. I try to attend the hikes identified as ‘easy’ because many hikers are really fit in this group, and hikes at intermediate level entail rock climbing and considerable stamina. The group also organize trips to see other locations throughout Korea. I enjoyed a CIK weekend camping trip to Pyeongchang where we were introduced to preparations for the upcoming 2018 Olympics. I reviewed the event here. To find CIK meetup group, click here.
Discover Seoul/ new experiences/ dinners
Johncito of Seoul Village organizes events including hanbok dress-up, visiting palaces, touring central Seoul, particularly Myeongdong, visiting Kwangjang market, and enjoying walks along the Cheongyecheon stream. I’ve attended several events by Johncito, including language instruction (Korean and Spanish) within a café setting, walking and talking (in Spanish) at Namdaemun market, enjoying traditional Korean lunch at Kwangjang market, and dinners at Buddhist, Thai and other restaurants. Johncito is lots of fun to hang out with, and he also mentors expats who want to start their own meetups! To find Seoul Village, click here.
Latin dance classes
I just attended my first Latin dance class with dance instructor, Mr. Kang. I simply had a blast learning Salsa, Bachata and Cha cha. I have every intention to return as soon as possible! Mr. Kang is professional and patient, and plans to teach us Tango too! To find Let’s Learn Latin Dance with Mr. Kang via Seoul Village, click here.
Mr. Kang photography
Mr. Kang photography
Photography groups are useful for people looking to meet and share skills with other photographers, and other people related to the industry. I just attended an event with Seoul Model/ Photographer/ MUA/Stylist/ Community. We were a team of approximately seven models and six photographers, hosted by Don and Izzy. We used the Seoullo overground pass, and surrounding area near Seoul station to look for ideal backdrops and places to shoot.
Buyeon_Kim photography: model So Jin
Buyeon_Kim photography: with Tom Dahl-Hansen
Buyeon_Kim photography: with Izzy and Adrian
Buyeon_Kim photography: with model Andii
Izzy specializes in fashion photography (see Izzy’s site here). Don, in addition to portrait photography, creates videos and documents his photography in articles published onhis website. I’ve included Don’s video below.
Izzy and Don are two very professional and fun guys to work with. See Seoul Model/ Photographer/ MUA/ Stylist/ Community page here.
Literature and writing clubs
I recently attended Christine’s Meetup, Seoul Writers’ Collective. The workshops focus on developing writing skills for writers working on prose (books, articles etc.) and poetry, and developing critical thinking skills. I attended an event at Dan & Chung Café, Itaewon, where after introductions, attendees were presented with a poem that we broke down and discussed. The process was fascinating. As a blog writer, the development of discussing chosen words and punctuation helped me consider aspects of my own writing that I had previously overlooked. I definitely intend to return and hope to bring friends with me! Find Christine’s writing group here.
There are plenty of other Meetup groups which I haven’t attended. These include weekend drinking parties in Hongdae for those interested in drinking or dating, as well as art, and many others. Additionally, if you see that no Meetups are offered for your particular interest, you can create and host your own one!
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It started out as a peaceful day on Chaweng beach, Koh Samui island. Later that evening, while walking along a main road, my friend Beth and I heard a crash, followed by shouting. Alarmed, I shouted out, and we began to run to where the incident originated.
On arrival, there was a crowd of about twenty Thai people around two men. Both were cyclists. One cyclist had fallen off his motorcycle, and was sprawled out on the road with his head against the concrete sidewalk curb. He looked unconscious or dead. Meanwhile, the second cyclist seemed fine, and was yelling about the damage to his motorcycle, presumably caused by the guy lying on the road. I think he was yelling at the seemingly unconscious or dead guy lying on the road.
My friend and I were shocked at the situation. We were surprised that the cycle guy who was clearly unhurt was more concerned about the damage to his bike rather than whether the man lying on the road was seriously hurt or dead.
One onlooker was on the phone, presumably calling an ambulance. Two people crouched down, trying to assess how hurt the man lying on the ground was. They began lifting his torso. I was thinking at the time, shouldn’t he not be moved until specialists arrive? He could have internal bleeding or other complications that weren’t visible. After a few minutes, the injured cyclist actually began to stir. I felt relieved. He looked around at the crowd and at his motorcycle lying on the road, and appeared confused.
I began to understand the situation a little better. The man on the ground seemed to be very poor from the look of his clothing and his scrawny motorcycle. The angry man was clearly much better off. He had nice clothing, he was much heavier, and his motorcycle looked new, shiny and wider.
As the crowd looked on, wondering about the condition of the injured cyclist, an ambulance siren blared in the distance. Slowly, the injured man dragged himself off the concrete, and just as the ambulance pulled up to address his injuries, he got on his bike, started the engine, and took off in the same direction that the ambulance approached from. As the paramedics emerged from their vehicle, the angry motorcycle man continued cursing, furious about unpaid damages to his property. The crowd looked on, seemingly unsurprised. I suspected they had seen it all before. My friend and I stood there for a while with our jaws hanging open. We eventually walked off.
Have you experienced anything that surprised you while traveling? Please share and commentbelow.
“Er… I think you need to practice your winks, Tash. You seriously wink like a Quebecois farmer! Haha!”
This moment between photographer and friend Danniel Oickle and I several years back had us rolling in stitches. We were doing a 1950s/60s period photoshoot in his retro studio basement in Ottawa Canada, and in three hours, we created around four-hundred photos. That evening, we didn’t produce a single ‘sexy wink’ shot. Some of our images were later used in Danniel’s Ottawa photography exhibit, The Corruption of Flesh and were seen by thousands of visitors at SAW Gallery, Ottawa in 2011.
Why write this article?
I have never really taken modeling seriously. Modeling has been a hobby for over ten years, and I do it because I enjoy the experience and love the results. I’m no professional model, but having worked in the fashion and beauty industry and knowing a thing or two about photography, it’s my hope that aspiring models may benefit from my experience.
Meeting my first fashion photographer
I met my first photographer, Combie McNeil, while I was doing esthetics and make-up artistry courses in Ottawa Canada. While the students were introduced to working with television and photography make-up, the academy invited Crombie to discuss intricacies of photography, and he explained how make-up application affects photographs. Make-up artists and photographer usually work together for TV and photoshoot purposes to get the best possible result on camera.
After Crombie’s presentation, he took photos of the students, which gave us a chance to observe how our own make-up applications appeared on printed paper. We could see how we needed more contour here, or blend eye-shadow more there.
Crombie invited me to take more photographs with him as a model. Thereafter, we did about four photoshoots together. My first was horribly awkward and I had no idea what I was doing. He patiently told me how to position my body, where to focus my gaze and how to place my hands.
First photoshoot Crombie McNeill Photography
First photoshoot Crombie McNeill Photography
The second shoot was much easier because I felt more comfortable and had an idea of what to expect. As a result, I could pose more naturally and even initiate poses without receiving instructions every time. Crombie and I didn’t stay in touch, but I was grateful for the experience because I developed the confidence to model in the future.
Since that initial introduction to modeling, meeting photographers has been fairly easy. I met several amateur photographers who were building portrait portfolios who needed volunteer models. I met Dann (from Daniel Oickle photography) through my work. I met photography student Samantha (Samantha Garafalo photography) at my university. She needed a model for her final exam project. I met Aaron (Mad_Zoge photography) in a coffee shop after striking up a conversation about his camera in Itaewon Seoul, and I met Don (don.macdonell photography) through expat social networks in Korea. Photographer Izzy (easy_izzy_photography) is a friend of Don’s and so when Don organized a photoshoot, he invited Izzy to join us.
Networking and locating photographers
Although in my case I largely made personal connections with most of the photographers before working with them, actively seeking photographers is probably easiest to achieve through social networking. Portrait photographers who are building portfolios need to find photography subjects so they place adds on Facebook group pages and organize Meetup events to get photographers and models together. Often, photographers have photographer friends, so this gives models the opportunity to meet and work with more photographers with different creative styles. This was the case when I met Izzy through Don.
Figuring out the deal
Before doing a photo-shoot with Dann, he asked me to sign a contract acknowledging that any photos that he took legally belonged to him. This made our understanding very clear, and defined for me what typically tends to be the arrangement between amateur models and photographers who are not making money from a photo-shoot.
Modeling for amateur photographers usually entails an exchange of services, where the photographer retains all rights to the photographs, meaning that the photographer can sell the images for a profit. The model often receives a copy of the photographs, and if s/he wishes to share the images, the model expected to credit (identify) the photographer. A model often selects their favourite images to build a modeling portfolio.
Some photographers prefer studio photography while others like outdoor destinations. I personally prefer outdoor locations as I find that studio bright lights can tire my eyes after hours being under the spotlight. Outdoor shoots also include circulating fresh air which gives me more energy to perform for the camera. Outdoor shoots also offer variety because photographers often want to change from one location to another, looking for different backdrops, and occasionally, shelter from the rain.
But studio photography gives the photographer a lot more control over lighting settings and it can be much more convenient since both the model and photographer don’t have to contend with bad weather and models don’t have to go far to change an outfit.
Samantha Laura Garofalo photography
Samantha Laura Garofalo photography
Samantha Laura Garofalo photography
Before going on location, discuss where you and the photographer have in mind to shoot. I have done shoots on roof-top car parks, inside fancy restaurants, on castle grounds and in parks, beside interesting architectural structures and within university and home studios. I really like street art so that’s what I hope to incorporate into my next shoot.
I have several guidelines I loosely follow before a shoot. I often plan for a good sleep routine in the days leading up to my shoot, and prefer to schedule my shoot for later in the afternoon to ensure I get eight hours sleep. Sleeping well is a famous routine models famously stick it. You don’t have to be a genius to be aware that good sleep patterns create healthier, happier human beings and side effects are often glowing complexions.
I also avoid changing my skin care routine. Beginning an experimental skin care treatment just before my shoot risks pimples on the day of shooting. It’s simply not worth the risk. I may paint my nails the night prior, and also plan outfits beforehand, including shoes and accessories. I like to bring scarves, gloves, fans, umbrellas, hats and so on because props help me with movement and variety of poses during shooting, especially when I hit moments when I can’t think of any interesting pose to do.
On my last shoot, my hair was a disaster due to the intense humidity from Korean summers, and I was grateful for some of the black and white finishes which drew less attention to my crazy hair. Ideally, I prefer to have my hair cut about three weeks before a shoot, so that the style is refined, and I’ve learned how to manage it. Also, my hair would have had a chance to grow and doesn’t look shorter than I tend to prefer.
I happen to be a trained make-up artist, so that makes make-up preparation much easier. Although I take about seven minutes to do my daily make-up routine, I tend to take more care with things like symmetry and precision for photoshoot make-up, and as a result, I end up taking about twenty to thirty minutes. For someone who doesn’t have too much experience with make-up application, and plans to do their own make-up, I suggest the following.
Consult your photographer and decide on a particular theme (urban chic, classic, and so on) which can help you decide on how present your make-up. Consider your outfits before deciding what color lipstick and eye shadow to use. Your make-up may need to be suitable for several outfit changes. Brown tones work with almost every outfit. I sometimes consult make-up tutorials available on YouTube for new ideas. I recently bought a new palette of eye shadows, and having this available meant that I had a great deal of flexibility with choosing colors.
In the same way that actors wear plenty of make-up for the theater stage so the audience can perceive facial expressions from afar, likewise, make-up for the camera serves to enhance facial features so the camera can pick up details. With photography makeup, more is better. You need to wear more contour and blush, and need richer lipstick colors. Peach tones work really well for photography.
Mad Zoge photography
Mad Zoge photography
Mad Zoge photography
Bringing friends along for shoots makes the whole experience a lot more fun, and sometimes, you can even convince your friends to participate!
Parks or gardens provide neutral backdrops that are often easy to work with, particularly for models doing a first time photo-shoot who prefer to get away from crowds and onlookers. On this occasion, we actually had a group conference of around fifty Korean men and women suited up pile into the gardens and stare at us. They were also there to take a group photo! It was actually quite funny.
Mad Zoge photography
Mad Zoge photography
Day of shoot
I like to do an aerobics morning workout before showering and dressing for my shoot. The endorphins and energy it produces helps to put me in a good mood, feel empowered and confident.
I also like to go for a coffee with my photographer just before starting the shoot to get to know each other and enjoy a little banter first. This will give me a chance to discuss previous modeling experience and expectations of the shoot.
On a recent shoot, I didn’t clarify what I had been looking for, and to my surprise, many of the shots turned out very artistic, moody and mostly profile and mid-body shots. I had expected lots of frontal face and full body shots, however that was something I failed to communicate. Photographers and models can’t read each other’s mind, so it’s pretty important to discuss ideas prior to the shoot.
One of the more challenging things for me has been creative posing. Figuring out what to do next, where to look, and what to do with my hands and feet.
Sometimes the photographer had something very specific in mind and gave lots of direction over body placement, facial expression and so on. But many times, I have been left to own devices and created my own movement or poses.
Easy Izzy Photography
Easy Izzy Photography
Easy Izzy Photography
As the model, I cannot see through a camera lens, and thus often rely on feedback from the photographer to know what body movements to do. Models should not be shy to ask for direction. This aspect of the photo-shoot gets much easier with experience. After getting over the initial anxiety of learning how to pose, I began to actually enjoy it and this switched happened, in my case, within the first two photo-shoots.
My PROS AND CONS to getting involved in modeling shoots
I enjoy the experience of going out and participating in these events. They can be a lot of fun.
Supportive friends and others will give you lots of accolades and it can be really confidence-boosting on a very superficial level.
If modeling is something you want to pursue professionally, unless you get ‘spotted’, you will have to put yourself out there and therefore need to build a portfolio showcasing different sides to your look, your creativity, and your potential to sell products.
Photo-shoots can be tiring. They may last hours, and as center of attention, you would be expected to be professional and ‘produce the goods’, namely, be able to perform for the camera. It helps to have an exhibitionist personality type that likes to receive attention. If this is not your cup of tea, then modeling may prove uncomfortable and stressful.
Buyeon Kim Photography
Buyeon Kim Photography
Buyeon Kim Photography
I think that high expectations and self-criticism are two of the hardest things about modeling, and living in world surrounded by media that demands perfection can make marketing yourself emotionally challenging. Modeling exposes you to your own and everyone else’s critique. Sometimes, we are our own worse critiques, and photos often pick up on our insecurities and these might leave you feeling down.
Benefits to investing in modeling experiences
Oftentimes, the fun experienced during the photo-shoot itself and the accolades received from others make photo-shoots worthwhile, even for someone who is not pursuing modeling as a career. Helping amateur photographers build their portfolios can be as serious or as fun and ridiculous as you dictate.
Modeling has helped me develop in surprising ways. Organizing and performing in shoots pulls together various skills, including learning how to network, and creating grit. Learning to pose has trained me to ‘be photogenic.’ Working with photographers has also helped develop my confidence, by learning to build rapport quickly, and brought out my social skills. Overall, I’m so grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to dabble in this fascinating industry.
Most people are interested in health, beauty, or both. I’m always interested in discussing what I should eat, digestion issues and so on. But, I’m definitely set on maintaining a youthful, glowing face. It’s no secret that the two go hand in hand, and there’s no better person to discuss these topics with than a Korean traditional medicine doctor who specializes in dermatology and women’s health.
This article is a follow-up to an article I published in May 2017. I’ve always been interested in understanding how western and traditional Asian treatments differ, and I’m also very curious about traditional clinics which utilize modern skin treatments. To discover more, I revisited Dr. Yoon at his clinic located in Insa Dong, Seoul, along with my friend Lydia.
I received two treatments by Dr. Yoon free of charge. In exchange for my consultation and treatments, I would write about Dr. Yoon’s service and my treatment results. As someone who considers carefully what beauty treatments are worthwhile, I was very curious to see what Dr. Yoon deemed safe to bring into his regular practice.
Rejuvenating, Acne Scaring Treatment
A month before this visit, Dr. Yoon informed me that I had lots of tiny acne scaring. Now, I thought that I simply had large pores, but since I had gone through both teenage and adult acne, this news shouldn’t have caught me by surprise. We decided there and then that my next treatment would include some kind of acne resurfacing treatment that would diminish the scaring to give me more even, less porous looking skin.
When I asked Dr. Yoon which treatment he intended to use on my face, as a former esthetician with ongoing interest in innovative skin care treatments, I understood perfectly what he had in mind when he introduced me to the AMTS. I learned about this treatment two years earlier in Victoria Canada through a skin specialist.
The AMTS CRP – CELL machine works by injecting five pins simultaneously into the skin, puncturing the dermis (all skin layers) through to the blood supply beneath. The treatment works by creating new scars where the skin is punctured which replaces older acne scars. The result is that older, pock-marked or damaged skin tissue which may appear as “large pores,” become refined and smooth after several treatments.
First, I was asked to wash my face using a facewash provided. Next, I lay down, and a comforting warm pillow was placed on my stomach. This may have been to help relax me. Dr. Yoon then applied a face peel gommage which removed dead skin cells from the skin’s surface and after removing the gommage, applied a think layer of anesthetic gel to numb the skin surface. He added a sheet of transparent cellophane cling film over top, presumably to enhance the potency of the numbing agent.
After fifteen minutes, the anesthetic gel was removed and Dr. Yoon began the AMTS treatment. It felt a little like a staple gun would, i’d imagine. The hand piece was pressed against my face, particularly the areas which have lots of acne scaring, which in my case was my forehead and chin. The treatment was a little painful around the cheekbones and forehead as these areas don’t have much cushioning.
As the punctures penetrated to my blood supply, blood appeared on my face. The treatment was over in probably seven minutes. Blood was left on my face to act as a serum to nourish the skin, and a mask sheet of moisturizing essence was applied over top. Then Dr. Yoon painted a cooling face mask over top of the essence sheet, and I was left to relax for about twenty minutes to absorb these topical ingredients.
Time: approximately 1.5 hours
I’d recommend this treatment for people who can tolerate a little pain.
Patients have to use sunblock for a few weeks after the treatment to ensure that fresh regrowth skin cells are not prematurely damaged by UV rays.
You will be provided with a topical cream to apply. Don’t apply too much on your forehead or too close to your eyes otherwise it may seep into your eyes and bother you. That happened to me.
My skin is sensitive, and after the treatment, some areas on my face were red and sore, and I had bruises on my skin, particularly the less fleshy areas like my forehead and cheekbones. I actually avoided putting any make-up on the day after, and just to be extra safe, avoided the sunshine hours. Two days later, my daily routine returned to normal and I was using my make-up (with SPF UV protection) along with the topical cream provided.
I visited Dr. Yoon one week after the rejuvenation treatment. The aftercare treatment was to promote healthy cell production.
The procedure included applying several products to my face, including cooling creams, a gauze and then a mask. The treatment usually includes a herbal treatment, but this step was skipped in my case due to time constraints. The treatment was done by Dr. Yoon’s nurse, so unfortunately, due to communication barriers, I could not ask questions about the exact products applied to my skin.
Anti Aging Naturopathic Fillers for Frown Lines
Fillers essentially fill in creases including forehead frown as well as smile lines. Fillers are sometimes used an an alternative to botox in so much as they reduce sharp lines in the skin and plump out the skin. But botox, a paralysing agent used to prevent the muscles from contracting, is considered a toxin. As a result, some people avoid botox and similar brands because, when digested into the body, they are considered unhealthy.
The clinic I currently attend for laser hair removal treatments specializes in skin treatments, and this clinic (You&I) offers filler treatments. However, when attempting to research what exactly fillers are made from, I have found little information available in English within Korea. Thus, I really liked the idea of receiving fillers based on natural ingredients at Dr. Yoon’s clinic.
Different options were available with Dr. Yoon. Lydia asked for a filler treatment that was essentially vegan, and contained no animal byproduct. I had the treatment that did include animal byproduct.
Dr. Yoon asked me to frown to locate exactly where the creases lie. He then injected into the appropriate areas between my brows. About five minutes and 5 injections later, the procedure was over. It was my second treatment, and the procedure went very smoothly. Lydia was more sensitive to the injection needle. She had recently undergone lots of facial acupuncture, and is prone to headaches, so Dr. Yoon abandoned treatment partway through as she found it stressful.
Rejuvenation treatment and aftercare results
My face has lost some of the more prominent pores particularly in the area around my chin where I tend to get hormonal breakouts monthly.
The tone of my skin seems to have changed a little. I tend to get red patches on my face, particularly around my nose and cheek area, but the treatment seems to have ‘evened’ my skin tone somewhat. Since my treatment, I have not felt obligated (as I usually do) to wear face foundation.
Firstly, I only had one treatment. My results were subtle, and to be honest, to see a real difference in notable removal of acne scar tissue and evening of skin tone, you need to have several treatments. Most clients book multiple treatments which work out cheaper as a package.
Also, the treatment itself may be considered expensive, however, Dr. Yoon explained that of all the laser skin resurfacing treatments currently available, the prices for his treatment are pretty standard. Each treatment is usually approximately 250,000 won ($250). He is currently offering this treatment at a reduced price for clientele who mention this article.
Finally, non-Koreans (or foreigners) are not as accustomed to needles as local Koreans. Acupuncture treatments are common here, but inserting something into the skin may be daunting to westerners. The rejuvenation treatment works by inserting several needles at once into the facial tissue, drawing blood. This treatment is not for the squeamish, however, Dr. Yoon knew exactly what he was doing. While it was a little painful, and my face was blotchy, bruised and sensitive for a few days afterwards, I definitely feel that the results made the treatment worthwhile.
Naturopathic Filler results
The treatment was very effective. The lines created from repeated muscle contraction between my brows are completely filled out. I’m very pleased with the overall result.
Filler treatments lasts up to a month before the body absorbs the filler ingredients.
You have the option to chose from fillers that contain animal product (deer antler) or vegan (only plant base). I used the non vegan filler which is popular among the Korean clients.
The fillers used at Dr. Yoon’s clinic give a youthful ‘glow’ to the skin as the product is absorbed into the blood stream.
Naturopathic fillers are made from natural ingredients. Unlike fillers received at western style clinics, naturopathic fillers are not dangerous once absorbed into the body.
Initially, because the lines between my brows are fairly deep, Dr. Yoon injected a substantial amount of filler, meaning that for the first few days, the injected area was raised, forming a slight bump under the skin. Several days later, as the filler began to disperse and be absorbed by my body, the bump disappeared.
The filler possibly affects the tear making glands, as I’ve noticed that my tears stung my eyes a little for a few days after the treatment.
Naturopathic fillers last up to four weeks. Fillers administered at western clinics linger in the area for three to four months. Thus, if you wish to consistently retain the effect of naturopathic fillers, you may find yourself getting retouch treatments fairly regularly. Dr. Yoon charges 55,000 won for the first treatment, and a touch up within three weeks is approximately 33,000 won for clients who mention this article. Consultations are free.
Would I repeat these treatments?
Yes, although I have grown used to having ‘porus’ looking skin, Korean obsession with flawless skin has increased my expectations for acquiring the skin I’ve always wanted. I credit Korean skincare products with eliminating the adult acne I suffered from since the age of thirteen, so I feel that Koreans are definitely doing something right.
If I continue to have more treatments, my t-zone area (forehead, nose and chin) would be considerably smoother, and my face tone would have significantly reduced red patches.
Yes, I would have this treatment again. I have already had it done twice. It essentially makes me look younger. For people worried about smile lines or vertical forehead lines, filler also works for these areas.
I’m not a K-Pop fan. But, I have a friend that is. Riley wanted to grab a new edition of EXO‘s newest release, and so we popped into SM Town‘s multi story building to pick up her stuff. Little did I know that I was about to embark on an adventure!
Before we could even enter the doors, Riley got distracted by a crowd of girls waiting around at an adjacent car park, and after plucking up the courage to ask fans who the hell we were ‘waiting’ for, we discovered that Red Velvet, a local girl band who were attending a signing event at SM Town, were expected to appear at any moment.
After waiting around for about fifteen minutes, Riley decided that since we didn’t know when they would appear, we could move on. We resumed our hunt for EXO’s “The War: Kokobop”.
We took the escalator up, and here, we found a hall with posters featuring bands managed and produced by SM Entertainment. After encountering some younger Korean ladies sprawled all over the floor in the hall, Riley explained to me that these girls had cards of pop idols that they wanted to trade. That explained why they had merchandise scattered around them. Essentially, when you buy merchandise like albums, they come with cards (like collectors baseball cards) featuring cute band members, and many girls have a favourite member. Often, girls receive cards that they’d prefer to trade for cards that feature their crush.
We stepped onto the brightly lit sales floor. The room was packed with mostly young women in their teens to mid twenties. A few boys were there too, mostly because they worked there, or were boyfriends waiting while their girls shopped.
Here, we found a large open area featuring all kinds of stuff: fancy record displays, live-sized cardboard cut-out pop stars, album displays, posters, tote bags, hats and clothing merchandise. There were even traditional style Korean items usually featured in museums on the display cases.
We got into a line up, and were handed a paper so Riley could mark down what she wished to purchase. At the paying counter, Riley handed over 45,000 won, and in return, received three albums. She explained that she was getting EXO’s The War: Kokobop version a, version b, and a private version, all sung in Korean and Mandarin. Apparently EXO pride market themselves as a band that release songs sung in various languages.
Happy with her purchase, which included poster gifts and trade-able cards, our adventure continued. We meandered up to the next floor, which opened up into another hall. It had a long, central display case of clothing used by band members while shooting videos that later became famous. There were many sexy posters featuring SM’s bands dotting the walls, and plenty more girls sitting on the floor displaying their pop idol cards. The environment itself gave a feeling of close accessibility to the stars, and this presumably, is why so many fans flock to this venue.
Riley explained to me that SM invites clients to experience various degrees of feeling like a star, by offering services like recording a video at their studio, for around 200,000 won (approximately $200 US).
At the end of the hall, was another large room named the SUM Cafe. It was filled with hundreds of girls sitting around tables, displaying their idol cards that they hoped to swap. There was a section dedicated to K-pop food, including tea and snacks, and there was a very long cafe counter, displaying macaroons and other delicious delights to entertain the fans that wile away their time with other like-minded girls.
Marilyn Monroe hair (fan blowing behind me)
My favourite feature was the ceiling lamps which had many idol cards hanging down. The arrangement reminded me of tree-like chandeliers. Everywhere I looked, fans were comparing and admiring cards. Signatures from the SM stars were applied to the backs of chairs and table surfaces. Girls played video games. Riley explained that these games were based on reactions to rhythm, and were designed by some of the pop idols themselves.
Leaving the room, we were about to go to the top floor, which Riley described as the best floor of the three because it contained handprints from EXO and other bands, and fans could place their hands within the handprints of their favourite stars. Unfortunately, the top floor was temporarily blocked off to the public because of the Red Velvet signing event, which presumably was taking place upstairs. I agreed to visit again with Riley as I would like to see the third floor displays.
Overall, the experience was fascinating to me. The entire building seemed like a sacred space for these fans, and I felt like an undercover alien discovering a young female ecosystem. It was fascinating, and I have every intention to return, if only to explore the treasures closest to heaven: the top floor.
Shout out to Riley Haslett, K-pop expat consultant and specialist.
What do you find interesting about the K-pop culture in Korea? Have you visited SM Town or any production studios that you would recommend experiencing?
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Standby for my follow-up blog: my SM visit to the top floor!
9 am I wake up, put on Ricki Martin’s “Maria”, start dancing around my tiny apartment, and drink water while catching up on instant messages and emails.
9:30 am Yoga time. I start every morning with an Ekhart Yoga video, followed by meditation practice. During Heart Meditation, I think about my nephew Reggie, which puts a huge smile on my face. My day starts with an glowing sense of happiness.
10:00 am I look at an email response from a recent blog upload. A woman raved that I’m a home wrecker, someone akin to a woman that destroyed her marriage and family.
Backstory. I recently wrote an article detailing how one of my work colleagues used our workplace as his hunting ground to seduce and emotionally manipulate three women. Unawares, I fell prey to his charms and believed he loved me. Ultimately, I underwent indescribable emotional betrayal, had trouble sleeping, cried nightly, developed chest pains, and considered leaving my job. Today, several women at my work suspect he may be a narcissistic psychopath. Meanwhile, because I mentioned he was a married while he preyed on me, I’ve received lots of hate mail from female readers after publishing my account of what happened. This week, I’ve been called scum, lacking courage for not telling his wife, a cheater, racist, closet narcissist, and several other passionately rendered insults.
10:30 am After reflecting on the message, I wrote in my gratitude diary. I gave thanks for my health, my ability to make new friends and the useful devices that benefit my life daily. Following Tim Ferriss’ TedTalk, Why You Should Define Your Fears Instead of Your Goals I also wrote about two of my fears, how I can prevent them coming to fruitation, and how I could repair the situation if need be.
11:00 am Shower and breakfast. Plenty of various Korean face products, and a bowl of cereal with sliced banana and pumpkins seeds.
12:30 pm I tear out the door headed to KHAP sexual heath, a Korean service that provides STI checks based on donations to foreigners. I haven’t had an STI check in a while. Time for a visit.
1:30 pm I get to their location by Gireum station (line 4) a tad late, and expect them to turn me away. Instead, I’m handed forms to fill out, and a cup to pee in. What a relief! My blood is extracted, and a finger pricked. 45 minutes after arrival, the doctor declares no HIV. The remaining results for syphilis, gonorrhea and urethritis will be emailed to me 5 days later. Nothing goes on record. Everything is kept very confidential.
2:30 pm I’m on my way to Hongdae. I want to check out the Hongik Children’s Park to see the artsy crafts created by startups students at Hongik University. I also want to write about the market. While on the train, I feel so dizzy that just as I’m arriving at my destination, I sink down to the floor. I was on the verge of fainting. I decide to skip my afternoon in Hongdae, and head right home. The blood extraction at KHAP, the crazy July humidity, my lack of lunch, and the Seoul trains packed with commuters probably caused me to feel weak.
4:00 pm Heading up the escalator to my local exit, I’m doubling over, and feel faint again. I rest on some steps for five minutes, drink water and fan myself. I resume taking the escalator and finally exit the subway after at least 1.5 hours of traveling.
4:15 pm I head to my favourite local casual restaurant, Tomato Kimbap, where I know all the staff. I chat with them in broken English-Korean, and sit down. They bring me some Mul Nengmyun. I add vinegar and mustard, take a pic and begin slurping away.
5:00 pm I head over to see Ms Kitty. My friend and work colleague Riley is in Taiwan. She left me in charge of her cat which I’ve been visiting daily. She needs lots of attention and love, and gets very angry if I don’t visit her frequently enough.
Backstory. I walked in the other day to a creamy poo and wee on the floor, to my horror. Since I don’t own pets and have never had children, the dilemma of how to attack a cream poo situation was super perplexing, especially since I had limited scoop/spray stuff at my disposal. To relieve your suspense, I confess that a day later, after letting the poo harden and shrink and the wee evaporate, I dealt with the situation using very long gloves. Yuk.
Back to the story. I hang out with Ms Kitty for about an hour or two, pretty much having a siesta with Ms. Kitty’s head in my outstretched hand. She has grown so comfortable with me over the past week!
6:30 pm I replenish her water and food, say goodbye and wander home. I pot around, looking at social media, reading travel blogs and information about Instagram. As I do this, I enjoy a prepackaged Starbucks coffee served in a glass with a screw cap and a snack on a wafer chocolate. I write down some ideas for future blogs. I begin writing this blog.
8:45 pm I go to my local grocery store, E-Mart. The place is packed on a Saturday night at 9pm. I try samples from salesclerks all over the store. A slice of watermelon, a piece of sausage, a drink of chicken soup with actual chicken inside it, and fat free yogurt beverage. I load up on western food. Bagels, cheese, pasta, ground beef, wholemeal bread, and a twix chocolate bar. I bought all my fruit and veg at the local market the day prior. I admire the bathroom ware, and pay at the cash register. As I walk home, it rains. It’s rainy season here in Korea during July. It rains all month long, but the rain does little to relieve the god awful humidity.
9:45 pm Home, and air con immediately goes on. I put away my shopping and make a bagel sandwich with cream cheese and a fried egg. The egg goes inside the sliced bagel. I have some ripe, juicy and earthy tomatoes on the side, which I eat like apples.
10:45 pm My friend Miranda messages from Canada. She commends me for the controversial blog I recently published. We decide to Skype later. After deliberating between Indian and Japanese incense, I chose the Japanese and light it. I really love incense. Smells really help me create an environment that feels like a temporary home here in Korea.
11:15 pm Miranda calls. She gives me a tour around her apartment in Ontario. I admire her interior decoration, particularly her taste in ancient Greek vase ware and her own replicas of ancient ancient Greek black figure images. I want to return to Athens. We talk about my recent blog post and the reactions I’m receiving. She advises me to ignore the haters. For some readers, drawing attention to psychopathic behaviour could potentially help them. She says, focus on the good reactions I’ve received, and don’t give any energy to these haters. Writers can never please everyone. I thank her for listening to me, and for her words.
1 am Before going to bed, I read Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road.”In this post apocalyptic novel, humans have resorted to cannibalism to survive. Yesterday in the story, the father and son nearly walked into a hunter trap. They accidentally discovered a mass of humans kept like livestock in the basement of a house. I’ve watched the movie a few years ago. The more I read this, the better this story gets. I love it.
2 am The “gift of sleep”, the ancient Greek perspective. Happy to still be alive to enjoy another night of rest.
Although i’m no major foodie, there’s something that British women love, and that is breakfast. To complicate matters, I also lived in Canada, and thus I’ve also developed a taste for North American style breakfasts and bunches too.
Several weeks ago, my friends Buyeon and Anita decided that they’d take me to a cute restaurant on an early Sunday afternoon. It was buried beside many other competing restaurants scooped up behind the main Itaewon drag by the Hamilton hotel in Seoul. Taking a right beside the Hamilton, and then following the restaurant camino de deliciousness, we curved left with the alley, followed straight, and then, as we soon hit a narrow alley running perpendicular to us, we took an immediate right. There on the corner, with a halo on top, was Gobble n’ Go. We stepped inside.
After some indecision due to the temptations of sitting by pleasant air conditioning, we settled by the large front window, and because the day was hot, the attentive server quickly came over and suggested that we move into the air conditioned area of the restaurant further back. Perplexed by our determination to have a view and ‘endure’ the sun shine, he kindly lowered the blind for us a little to cut out some heat.
The quaint restaurant had light coloured, pretty furniture that reminded me of French decor. The servers seemed happy, and the place served mostly Koreans with a scattering of foreigners, all around the ages of 25 to 45. Gobble n’ Go had a clean, fresh feel to it, and I was delighted to see a water dispenser available for thirsty clients to refill their own glasses, since perhaps clients arrive hungover from the previous night’s shenanigans.
Even the toilet was cute! The style of the paintwork and the bathroom accessories were artsy. While the toilet itself was easy to spot, when I went to wash and dry my hands, my eyes had to search the interesting coloured walls to identify the soap and paper towel dispenser!
I ordered the Basil Chicken & Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict. There were two English muffins served with poached eggs, and hollandaise sauce, and each muffin had different toppings. One benedict contained smoked salmon and avocado, while the other contained basil pesto chicken, mushroom and Swiss cheese. These were accompanied by a delightful, small hash brown, and slice of crispy bacon, one juicy tomato slice and an amazing sliver of fried banana. Price: 16,000 won
On our second visit, I once again ordered the same thing! Anita ordered the Ham Cheese French Toast, which was served with scrambled egg, sausage and bacon, as well as dipping syrup for the sausages and French toast. My friend described it as a nice mix of salty and sweet. Price: 16,000 won
Buyeon tends to go for lunch rather than breakfast or bunch meal options. She chose the Big Boy Chili Smoky Hotdog. It included a grilled sausage with bacon, Mexican beef chili, Swiss and nacho cheese, a nice portion of fries and a salad. She seemed to enjoy it. Price: 15,000 won.
Gobble n’ Go also serves lunch dishes including burgers, philly steaks, omelettes, pancakes and salads. These options include fish & chips, Spanish garlic prawns, tomato/olive oil/rose and cream asparagus pasta dishes, as well as burger steaks.
Prices vary between 15,000 and 18,000 won.
Drink options include coffee, soda, sangria, beer and mojitos. Prices vary between 4,000 to 9,000 won.
Approximate address: 118-12 Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
There’s something I’ve avoided writing about for a long time, but I knew this post would come. I need to write about this. Not only because I need to understand what happened better, but also my story may resonate for other women, and I want them to realise that they are not alone. Perhaps together, we can make sense of all of this.
*Disclaimer: I have changed the names of all persons involved.
About a year ago, I moved to Seoul, S. Korea, and had just begun to work for a private school that seemed like the ideal English teacher’s job. I quickly began to respect and adore the directors, and the staff seemed lovely. However, most of the staff were caught up in relationships and I soon found that I was pretty lonely. I was located fairly far away from any previous friends I had made during my last work contract in Korea. Actually, I didn’t realize just how lonely I was at the time, but looking back, I can see it plainly.
Out of no-where, Juan, my married work colleague, trusted personal friend to my two school directors, and teacher trainer/ middle manager suddenly took an interest in me about three weeks into arriving. It began like this.
In late May, 2016, Juan’s mother was visiting for his wedding. He had married his Korean wife Anita a year prior, but they were marrying again so family and friends could witness the ceremony, as I understood it.
One evening after work, we all went out for Mexican dinner. Anita joined us, and that’s when I met her for the first time. She seemed nice enough, but her English was poor so I imagined that Juan and Anita had a difficult time communicating. I got on famously with Juan’s mother, and the next evening, a Friday, we all went out again to celebrate Juan’s fabulous mother, this time without Anita. Juan’s mother brought a lot of energy to our group and it was easy to see how much Juan adored her.
After dinner, we went to Noribang, Korean Karaoke. Juan and our other colleague, Mikele, the school manager at that time, kept filling my glass with soju, a local Korean liquor. I drank much more than I would usually, and soon, the directors left. That left myself, Juan, his mum, Mikele, and colleagues, Tim and Rose.
I flicked through the Karaoke song listing when suddenly Juan bounded over to me in the far corner and buried his nose in my arm, sniffing for my perfume. He turned and said to me, “ummmmmm, you smell so good.” I was pretty inebriated by this time, and before I knew it, I was sitting on the opposite edge of the sofa, when Juan sat beside me and put his arm around my waist. I was talking across Tim to Juan’s mum at the time, and soon, Juan’s hands slipped from my waist to my bum and legs. That was the first indication I received that Juan liked me. His wedding was only two days away.
After this occasion, Juan began to enter my thoughts more and more. Ironically, I was soposed to cover his classes while he went on a honeymoon, accompanied by his mother since she was visiting from the states. I felt conflicted when Juan returned a week later because he had just renewed his wedding vows before all my work colleagues. I didn’t attend the ceremony even though I had been invited. I felt confused.
Soon thereafter, after another heavy drinking session with colleagues, and numbers dwindling to Juan and I, we slept together. He told me that he loved me, which really caught me by surprise as we hadn’t known each other long.
As time went on, he began paying me many compliments, and flirting began to occur between us. He would often pass me closely in the school hallways, or would talk to me in either my class or his, and he’d find some way to innocently caress me in the interim. But I had reservations because he was married.
I explained to him that I too had been in a similar situation to him, married but unhappy with my relationship, and that I also had cheated. But, I said to him that I really regretted staying in my marriage that long and dragging out our misery. That if he wasn’t happy, he should end their relationship. I was assuming that Juan started an affair because he wanted out of his marriage, just like I had done. He made me feel important and special to him, and I thought that he recognized my value. Meanwhile, he nodded and listened, but actually, nothing changed.
He continued to pay me lots of attention, which I began to crave, but since he was married, everything seemed to be on his terms. He decided when he wanted to have sex, and I acquiesced. I tried to initiate a kiss on one occasion, which took him by surprise and he refused, explaining that he needed ‘liquid courage’ or alcohol to be intimate. He began to be in total control of our romance, and the expectation that I’d be entirely passive and receptive to his affections began to be very taxing on my emotions.
Meanwhile, I began to ask myself questions like, what does his wife have that I don’t? Is she more attractive than me? How could he possibly not want to be with me? Soon, he was asking me whether I loved him, eliciting proclamations of love. I convinced myself that he would leave his wife for me, and it was only a matter of time.
During intimate moments, he’d tell me again that he loved me. He entrenched himself deeper into my thoughts and my expectations increased for a monogamous relationship after his ‘soon-to-be-disolved marriage.’ He was on my mind every day, and I even told my family and close friends about him.
Actually, friends and family were becoming very worried for me, telling me that Juan’s loyalty toward his wife was foremost, and that I was in grave danger of getting hurt. I retorted defensively, explaining that they didn’t understand the full situation or the complexity of the relationship, and they hadn’t met him, so how could they really understand.
In fact, I begun to tire of listening to my friends and family expressing their concern for me. But meanwhile, I was also concerned about whether Juan took my needs seriously. Everything seemed to be entirely focused on him, and what he needed, and when timing was convenient for him. His pushing me away and pulling me back wore me down, and I began having trouble sleeping.
After about six months, around November 2016, a major turning point occurred. Two teachers left my school, and two new female replacements arrived, Kelsey, and Arianne. Kelsey was in a relationship, which she often talked about, but Arianne was single. Juan took an immediate interest in her, and I began to see this quite plainly, particularly after Arianne mentioned that Juan and Mikele took her and our other colleague, Jennifer, out drinking, and I had been excluded from the event.
I began realizing that Juan was manipulating circumstances so he and Mikele could strategically be around the new staff member. I allowed myself to feel rejected, unimportant and came to the realization that the impediment to Juan and I’s not getting together was not in fact his marriage. He just wanted to play the field, using the female staff at the school as his harem. I felt sick and used. In fact, the situation was so upsetting that I began to develop chest pains. I began to worry that my lack of sleep, and the chest pains might put me at risk for panic attacks, and I was shocked that my body was responding this way just because I felt wretched and heartbroken.
But Juan was still interested in me. He continued visiting me in my class room and visiting Arianne in her one. He appeared to have his two favourite toys at his disposal every day between the hours of 2 to 9pm. He’d come in early to visit Arianne to ‘train’ her on how to perform her duties well as a new teacher. Then, he’d wonder into my classroom. Since my class is on the mezzanine level, he’d pass my class to visit her on the top level, and of course, I’d hear him walk upstairs.
Arianne mentioned that Juan told her that she looks like his ex girlfriend. She was beaming, and so was he, just like new lovers. I could see the whole pattern that had happened six months earlier between Juan and I, like deja vu, but Juan wasn’t hiding it from me. He would roar with laughter as he flirted with Arianne from the top floor.
The situation began to eat me up inside because I felt betrayed. The irony was that he continued to flirt with me at the same time, and even tried to ‘train’ us both together during a science afterschool training session, perhaps to see how we would react. I began to wonder if seducing the newest teachers, the vulnerable ones arriving into Korea with little to no friends, was a pattern for him. I began to feel a mixture of emotions, including deep sadness and intense anger.
He popped into my room on one occasion, presumably to see if I was still sweet with him after returning from Arianne’s room, and I spared no thoughts. I told him that I thought he abused his position of trust as the right-hand man of the directors, and used his unofficial status as middle manager as leverage to impress the new employees and that he had manipulated me. He listened, but refused to discuss the matter.
At the time, I felt as though Juan was driving me crazy. Later, I realized that he was playing mind games. Friends have termed this unhealthy type of relationship behaviour as “gas lighting“, a term that I only learned last week.
After about a month, I decided to tell Arianne everything. I knew that since I still cared for and even loved Juan, this behaviour was torturing me daily, and also, she needed to know that Juan was far from sincere. She couldn’t allow herself to be taken in by him, as I had done. I now distrusted him.
Arianne and I sat in Daechi Dong cafe, and there, I explained how the romance began, his control over all aspects of our romance, my increasingly deep feelings for him, and my frustration.
With tears in my eyes, I explained how his sudden interest in her was heart breaking to witness, and that I could see a repeating pattern in his behaviour, namely, the targeting of vulnerable, new, single teachers at the school who would look up to him. I asked her to avoid developing any feelings for him, that we were puppets in his game to be used at his beckoning. She hugged me, and promised to stay well clear. She was incredibly supportive.
The following week, we tried to stop his behaviour. At that time, he was running between our classrooms, flirting and whispering sweet words to both of us while my face got sterner and sterner. He continued to smile. I was flabbergasted that he could think that we wouldn’t notice, or that our self esteem was so low that we wouldn’t mind casanova Juan doing his thing daily.
So, when he once again targeted Arianne to ‘train’ her, I joined them in her room, and brought some papers to mark, on the guise of just hanging out. I noticed he seemed on edge having me in the room, especially since he did not invite me, but nonetheless, teachers often join each other casually in their respective classrooms, and this usually poses no problem whatsoever.
After nipping back to my classroom and returning, Juan directly asked me to leave. I was taken aback, and when I seemed reluctant to leave Arianne alone with him, he raised his voice and commanded me to leave, shouting at me. Both Arianne and I were startled because neither of us had seen Jose angry or aggressive before, and we were astonished at how quickly his ire escalated. In fact, we were both a little scared. I felt that if I didn’t obey him, he’d become nasty, and at the same time, I was worried about leaving Arianne alone with him, especially with him in that state of mind.
Later, Arianne told me that Juan had asked her while I nipped down to my classroom why I was in her classroom, and she had replied to him that she simply wanted me in there. That December was probably the most agonizing month for me.
In January, Arianne, Kelsey and I went to Kyoto, Japan together. While there, I began to recover. I realized that space and distance can be such a healer, especially as I was not seeing Juan every day anymore. I badly needed to be away from him. I had considered leaving the school several times by now. In Japan, I realized that my self esteem could actually recover very quickly, as indeed it did.
At a restaurant near Shichijo station, I also confided in Kelsey, telling her about what was happening back at the school between Juan, Arianne and me. She was very surprised as she was very fond of Juan at the time. Later, when returning to this topic, she explained that Juan’s devious actions, his controlling nature and need for significance through simultaneously using multiple women suggest he has psychopathic tendencies, and if not, he is an outright psychopath. This hadn’t occurred to me before, but his emotionless reaction when I had told him my guttural hurt feelings back in December suggested to me that his brain was not wired for empathy the same way mine is, or most of the other humans I’ve met.
As February and March passed, his behaviour calmed down, and still, I continued to care for him. Despite everything, my heart was still entangled and my brain, confused. We continued as friends. But in mid March, Juan attended our colleague’s birthday party and he brought his wife, Anita with him.
I found the situation of hanging out together extremely uncomfortable, and encountering Juan at the doorway as we entered, I said to him, how could you put me in this position! My directors were there, and I didn’t know how to excuse myself from the event as I had only just arrived.
I distracted myself by talking to my director, showing him photos on my tablet of my family back in England, and he kindly looked at everything I showed him. But a few drinks later, after my directors had left, I was in the host’s bedroom, and suddenly, the door slammed shut. Someone had just walked out, and I found myself alone with Juan. He wanted to kiss me, and I replied, no, you’re married. Meanwhile, our colleague Tim, who had been sitting on the other side of the bedroom door, slammed it open with the same energy that Juan had closed it moments earlier. We sheepishly walked out, while Juan’s wife, who had been sitting only about five feet away, watched on.
Later, I began to wonder whether Juan has a need for danger, and that despite recently returning from a honeymoon at the Maldives, he had no loyalty toward his wife. I began to realize that I had been comparing myself to Anita and Arianne, asking myself, what do they have that I don’t? But indeed, none of that really mattered. Juan didn’t actually seem to care about any of us.
I’m now writing in mid July, and I’ve come a very long way from all of these events. I no longer love Juan. I began learning how to regain self confidence, despite continuing to work in the same school as Juan. I sought out mentors like Tony Robbins who discusses managing our emotions that control our actions. I also began actively following entrepreneurs, Clark Kegley, and Evan Carmichael, who review influential books and successful people in order to understand and try strategies to develop my strengths. I began changing my morning routine (Hal Elron), and most recently, began to focus on eating more healthily.
I additionally threw myself into writing blogs regularly, and I even wrote about the strategies I was using to recover (see “Learning to invest in myself,” parts one, two, and three). I also started keeping a gratitude diary, and begun to journal (Clark Kegley on journaling) to identify monthly goals toward self improvement, as well as asking myself important questions to identify what makes me happy, and how I can continually challenge myself to become the person I want to be. I was enthralled to discover Gary Chapman’sFive Love Languagesand learn which type of love expression is foremost to me. I also was fascinated with Tony Robbins’Six Human Needs, and discovered that ‘significance’ had long played a very important part of my basic needs, but that learning and teaching have recently stepped into my primary focus.
Today, I continue to seek out advice daily, listening to recordings, particularly by Tony Robbins and Dale Carnegie, about taking responsibility for my mental state and happiness, and learning how to genuinely give others the appreciation that each of us crave.
My experience with Juan forced me to learn about myself, begin changing my habits and routines. This experience helped me identify an incredible sense of significance derived through my writing, sharing both my travel experiences and my personal struggles. I’ve also learned how important it is to surround myself with caring, loyal friends, and to develop the strength to walk away from people who don’t have your best interests at heart. Finally, I’m grateful that today, I am more self aware, and am in a position to help others who have experienced some form of psychological abuse.
I want to thank my sister Vivien and my friend Riley who both listened to me without judgement at my deepest moments of despair, as well as my friends Beth, Sue, Buyeon, CeCe, and Miranda who tried to stir me in a healthier direction. I also thank God for guiding and supporting me at my worst moments, and for my later recovery.
Lastly, I want to thank myself, for finally deciding to stand up to Juan by reporting his misconduct to my school director, and seeking out healthy support that I needed in order to once again be my gregarious, fun-loving self, but this time, a Natasha with a lot more self awareness, kindness, and readiness to help others.
There’s probably no better way to get to know a city, than by touring with the locals. That was precisely the amazing opportunity presented to me on day two of my journey in northern India. In Jodhpur, India: Possibly the best day ever! I discuss my visit to Mehrangarh fortress and Jaswant Thada. We motorcycled through dusty roads and markets, stumbled into street processions, and encountered fabulous meandering cows. But the following day, we had less control over our plans. Let me explain.
Jay met me in the morning at my quirky accommodation, LG Paying Guesthouselocated in Mehrangarh mountain, and straight away, we headed by motorbike to Neralidani, a casual fast food restaurant. I ordered a Janta Thali, with a nutty Kesar shake, while Jay ordered an Idli Sambhar. We learned the day prior that Jay’s friend Sham, his wife Yogitha and their two young daughters, as well as Yogitha’s brother, sister-in-law and their baby would be visiting Jodhpur for a day. So we intended to all hang out together. Meanwhile, Jay invited Sharvan, his employee, to accompany us and guide us around the city. Sham and family all live in southern India, and they were enjoying a month’s holiday, sightseeing around northern India.
We rendezvous at Neralidani, they also ate, and soon, the fellas went hunting for a conveniently located hotel. We thereafter all relocated to the Gulab Sagar hotel around the corner, where Jay had skillfully got Sham and family a great hotel price using Make My Trip app. The families cleaned up as they had just arrived from a very long overnight train ride, while Jay, Sharvan and I waited and chatted with whichever family member was no longer upstairs in their respective hotel rooms preparing to leave.
It must have been around midday when we finally headed up to Umaid Bhawan Palace. We piled into two rickshaws, and I took funny photos of the children as we kept passing each other on the winding, deserted roads! The girls, especially the younger one, was quite the poser.
There was an entrance charge, however, I don’t remember the amount. The grounds itself were large. Picturesque gardens surrounded the main palace, which is still inhabited by the Umaid Singh Jodhpur royal family.
Inside, we wondered through courtyards and museum exhibition halls, detailing the history of the palace construction and British influences. Outside was very hot, and we were hard pressed to find any shade! Before leaving the grounds, we stopped to see the vintage cars exhibition. The cars were entombed in glass showrooms, and some of the vehicles were in desperate need of love due to scratches, rust and other decaying elements.
Our waiting rickshaws took us back downtown, and we headed to a huge dirty pool at the base of Mehrangarh mountain close to the Ghandaghar clock tower. Unfortunately, there was a lot of rubbish in the water, and also the footpath bridge which crosses the pool was lined with trash. On the other side, we met with some cows and dogs, which was the only scene remotely worthy of a photograph! In retrospect, I wish I had photographed the abundant trash to draw attention to it!
We stumbled into a local gym which seemed like a scene from an old 1950s film. Men had loincloths wrapped around their sexy parts for modesty, and they grappled with each other in the central pits. The gym was also lined with dumbbells, boxing bags and other equipment. I wanted to take photos, but actually I felt embarrassed to snap away because all these fellas were almost naked. I retrained myself, and then we headed to Sadar Market and the Ghandaghar clock tower.
We stood off to the side in a central space, while motorbikes swerved around the slow, meandering crowd. There were families everywhere, and all the women were dressed in traditional clothing, bright yellows, fusia pinks, rich oranges and grass greens. Children ran around while fathers monitored them, and people were everywhere, chatting and eating in the street in groups of families.
We headed to Mishrilal Hotel,a famous local lassi café, but quickly changed our minds and went to a street corner where a samosa business thrived. The fat owner proudly sat at the entrance, watching the customers approach and his staff serving them. Despite the many distractions, I specifically enjoyed observing him!
There, we picked up samosas, pani puri (crispy balls filled with fragranced water), and just hovered around eating with all the other families near the street vendors. Some families made picnic spaces on the concrete ground, and other family wedged themselves between parked motorbikes to enjoy their evening street food. After eating, Sham and the families impressively piled into just one rickshaw, and away they went.
Left to our own devices, Jay, Sharvan and I returned to the lassi café. The lassis were saffron flavoured, and the yogurt had a smooth, rich texture. We then headed to a shisha bar recommended by Sharvan who knew the owner, and we were shown into a dark room with comfortable sofas. We ordered a peppermint-grape mix which was delicious. Some other fellas wanted to join our room and sit at another table behind us, but interestingly, the owner decided that they wanted our little entourage to enjoy privacy, and redirected the other customers to another room. We hung out there for two hours, listened to music on our cellphone devices, and eventually Jay dropped me off at my guesthouse.
That night, I met Sunil. At first, I didn’t know what to make of him. He seemed aloof and a little arrogant. He hardly said anything about himself but asked me fifty million questions. We ended up chatting for hours. Mostly, I talked about my love life history, while he listened and asked questions. He proclaimed that I have an interesting life story, and that I should write an autobiography as soon as possible. He said my story reminded him of a story called, Eat, Pray, Love. I replied that I have never read the book or watched the movie.
I ended up enjoying his company very much. He had a very funny, high pitched laugh and would laugh extensively at things I didn’t find funny. It was a very interesting evening.
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Have you had the chance to tour with a large group? What were your impressions? Please like, share and comment below!
I had dreamed of visiting India since adolescence. The thing was, I had also heard that India is the pinnacle of challenging backpacking and that had made we weary, especially as a single female traveller. Interestingly, this made me even more determined. Apparently, if you can backpack in India, you can backpack anywhere.
I hadn’t been ready to handle the challenge of India for a long time. Two years ago, I travelled Thailand for a month with my friend Beth (see her blogsite, Empanada Girl), and we encountered several challenges. These included encountering scams, being treated like dollar signs, and nearly knocking myself out walking into a protruding chunk of concrete overhanging a side-walk.
Beth at Wat Phra Kaew, Grand Palace
With Beth in Bangkok
After a later emotional meltdown in Saigon Vietnam due to travel fatigue and feeling overwhelmed from different expectations about my physical safety, I decided that I definitely was not ready for India. My frustration and temperament was not in the right place.
But this Spring, something changed. I had changed, and I felt ready to visit this mystical country, and even do so on my own. I booked my ticket, and on April 22nd, 2017, I landed in India for the first time.
I arrived into Delhi international airport, and after changing American dollars for Indian rupees, I got my passport stamped at the e-visa immigration counters and exited the airport.
The 7pm hot Delhi air hit me immediately. Indian families were waiting outside the airport doors as only travelers were allowed inside. I needed to get to Delhi Cantt train station to get my overnight air-conditioned train to Jodhpur. Taxi drivers approached me immediately, trying to get my business, but I made a beeline for the Police Taxi yellow building in front of the airport. There, I encountered a bunch of men all trying to talk to the teller, and after some skillful and assertive maneuvering, I paid about 300 rupees to a tired looking man in a booth. He issued me a receipt, and waved me in the direction of the nearby rickshaw taxis. I was relieved to avoid haggling with the regular rickshaw and taxi drivers by using this regulated, prepaid service.
I ended up sharing a rickshaw with an education profesor who praised me for traveling to his country. Within minutes of arriving, I was so happy with my decision to visit, and for the immediate validation for having the balls and curiosity to learn about this country. We had a lot to talk about as we both work in similar fields. He emphasized the demand for English teachers to work in India and encouraged me to consider working in India someday. After a pleasant twenty minute conversation swerving through Delhi night traffic, the driver dropped me off at Cantt station.
I hung out at Delhi Cantt for about 3 hours, as my 9:45pm train was running a little late. I met friendly people on the platform, including a Jehovah’s witness fella. I must have asked at least five sets of people, who incrementally directed me to exactly where to stand to board coach 3, where the air conditioning section of the train would stop. My friend Jay who lives in Jodhpur and works for the local rail system was sending my pre-booked ticket along with coach employees and these employees were expecting me to rendezvous at coach 3. Also, the train would only stop for a minute, so i’d have to board quickly.
When the train arrived, there was a scramble to get on. Jay’s employee, coach attendant Rajanish, was not evident at first. I furiously looked around as I had a photo of him to identify him. Another fella pointed out Rajanish, who was distracted with his work duties. I hopped onto the train before it pulled away, and when the train did pull away, Rajanish had to run to get up onto the coach. He gave me a ticket, and directed me to an upper berth spot where I could hide away for the next 10 hours.
The upper berth required some agility to climb onto. I brought my small osprey backpack up with me as I didn’t have a lock and chain to anchor it to the luggage holding area by the doors. The coach attendants provided bed sheets and a pillow, and there was a net support to place my water bottle inside.
People came and went below me, and eventually, as we approached Jodhpur the following morning, I began talking to the people around me. There seemed to be a lot of couples and families traveling together. The men could often speak English, but these women only spoke local languages and Hindi. We hung out while I admired bichudi, ringed toes that signify that a woman is married. Before I knew it, we had stopped and Jay was already in my coach, looking for me!
Two berth air con. coach
With new friends
I gave Jay a big hug and said goodbye to my new coach friends. Jay asked about my trip, and then we slowly headed toward his motorbike, stopping along the way to make appointments with some of his employees. We passed some of the train cleaning staff, ladies in yellow saris who all looked adorable. They kept smiling at me and one lady kept trying to talk to me while Jay was distracted, conversing with employees.
Around 8am, we were speeding through the streets of Jodhpur on Jay’s motorbike, wind in my hair and wearing a light backpack. It was my first experience of the famous Indian traffic that I had only seen on TV. Here, the local vehicles were mostly motorbikes and rickshaws, and Ragasthan, I noticed, was quite sandy. It was frankly, exhilarating. My eyes were like sponges, soaking up every little thing about this new world I had been suddenly transported to.
We passed through the famous Ghantaghar clock tower, just as it began to chime at 9 on the hour. The ground was all cobble stones, and Sadar market was beginning to stir, as it was still early in the morning. I recognized this area from all my previous research and it was thrilling to see with my own eyes.
The first thing we did was head up to LG Paying Guesthouse, a wonderful place which I found through booking.com. On arrival, I discovered that Jay had visited the owner, Jitendva, a day prior to scope out the accommodation. The owner was welcoming, kind and attentive. The guesthouse was located on the side of the Mehrangarh Fort mountain, so the steps were all steep and deep. His family lived on the first floor, while the guests lived above them. The newly renovated area included a central courtyard with a great neighbourhood view, and an enclosed patio which made a nice spot to take tea and breakfast. The guest rooms all branched off of these central spaces.
We snooped around the property, and I admired my new room for the next three nights which had sexy Indian images painted on the walls. The room and bathroom was clean, and included towel and toilet paper, which I later discovered was something of a luxury in Indian guesthouses and hostels. We enjoyed a chai tea on the patio before I freshened up.
Jay and I headed directly to a local restaurant down the mountain to find breakfast. We had paneer with tea as the day quickly warmed up. We were joined by Jay’s acquaintance, Manish who would guide us around Jodhpur. Jay explained that he himself had lived in Jodhpur for four months, and this was his first opportunity to be a tourist in this city.
We were soon joined by Jay’s employee, Varun, and together, we headed to Mehrangarh Fort. After cramming my stuff into my camera bag because security demanded that I could not bring my plastic bag with me into the grounds, I paid the entry fee (500 rupees) plus a fee for bringing a camera. Jay, Manish and Varun, as Indians, paid a significantly smaller entrance fee.
We encountered massive metal entrance gates with protruding spikes to impale elephants if enemies tried to use elephants in warfare attacks. We wandered into restoration projects undertaken by foreigners and locals. The museum displayed chair carriages carried by slaves to transport monarchs, as well as elaborately decorated hookahs and other interesting royal items.
Imepdiments to elephant attacks
Caught Jay in a nice spot!
We also encountered courtyards made from marble, and gorgeous architectural designs. The view of the colonial cannons poised on the fortress walls overlooking the city was one of my favourites. Elements of detailing on the walls reminded me of the Moorish Muslim palace in Spain, Al Alhambra.
Interestingly, Indian boys and girls there wanted to take photos with me. I had read about this peculiar custom while researching ahead of my trip, so I expected this would happen. A group of boys asked Jay’s friends if they could take a photo with me, to which they replied, no. I found the situation hilariously funny, although somewhat sexist since they boys didn’t ask me personally. It appeared to be a respect thing, since it seemed I was traveling with an entourage of Indian men. Some of the locals were extremely attractive, with light eyes and gorgeous faces. I was having a splendid time!
The day was very hot, possibly 41 degrees Celsius, so we stopped off at an onsite café to have a refreshing Kingfisher beer. The café had a roof, but the front was completely open, much like a terrace. We were surrounded by paintings of Indian monarchs, and we watched the passers-by while we rested. The waiter had a huge maharaja mustache, and I noticed that many of the staff at the fort, as well as staff at other tourist sites I would later visit donned these huge, impressive mustaches!
Before leaving, we stopped by the gift shop as I wanted to pick up some postcards. Printed images on paper and fabric seemed plentiful, and some of these could fetch a pretty penny! They featured scenes from familiar Hindu stories. I have no place back home to hang these larger beautiful prints, so I contented myself with admiring the images, and buying small postcards instead.
On our way out, we passed a very large and famous Hindu temple. Jay explained that he didn’t want to visit it, so we skipped it and headed out. It was also exhaustingly hot, but if I visit Jodhpur again, I would like to see it.
Despite the heat of the lunchtime sun, we speed off to visit the Jaswant Thada(white) mausoleum. It was located about half a kilometer from the fort, so it was a quick motorbike ride over. The grounds had a lush green park, and after walking around a pavilion, we took some photos on the red brick steps which directed guests to the main mausoleum entrance. The interior appeared to be one huge room with ornate architectural features. Many portraits of deceased maharajas were displayed.
Funnily enough, Manish suddenly ‘became’ my tour guide, repeating the information on the wall painting descriptions for me, which I could plainly read for myself. Perhaps he was practicing his tour guide skills for a future job. The interior was cool and airy, and was a huge relief to be out of the unrelenting heat.
Outside, we took photos of the exterior features of the white marble architecture. I wanted to photograph everything, but settled on a handful of pictures. We returned to Jay, who had waited in the gardens because he refused to go into temples. His sister passed away recently, and he just didn’t want to be in spiritual places.
Soon, we were on our way to downtown Jodhpur. The fellas all had motorbikes, and I was paired with Jay. Often, we rode in formation, one after the other, but other times, we rode side by side while the fellas slowed on the winding dust roads to chat about directions. It was incredibly amusing and fun. Jay later told me that he had reduced his speed to make sure I felt comfortable and safe riding with him. I thanked him for that. I truly enjoyed riding around together, although every morning, It was a struggle to wash the sand out of my hair.
We went to dinner early, possibly around 5pm, because we had skipped lunch. The restaurant complex named Neralidani contained a downstairs bar, which Jay told me was full of drunks and we needed to avoid. We went upstairs, to a massive, banquet style hall where we four were the only guests. Below on the lawn, the staff were setting up to receive a wedding reception.
I cannot remember what we ordered at the restaurant. Only that the tables were so large that we were seated quite far apart, and also the air conditioner was blowing so hard that we played musical chairs to evade it. Jay explained that the restaurant was very popular, and that later in the evening, the entire restaurant would be packed.
After saying goodbye to Manish and Varun, we sped up toward my guesthouse. Since it was located near the top of a mountain, the paths were uphill, narrow, dusty and winding. At some point during our day, en route to my hotel (I forget the time sequence), we encountered a celebration procession of party-goers walking downhill, and we had to stop to wait for them to pass.
All the Ragasthani party women were wearing colourful, traditional clothing, and they seemed to be balancing dishes of food or gifts on their heads. Some were beating drums and playing music, and everyone was smiling and happy. Jay and I just sat on his bike, staring, as they slowly sauntered by. The colourful sights, the delicious cooked food aromas and the accompanying music made for an intoxicating sensory experience.
As if that wasn’t enough, once we resumed heading up into the mountain, passing local goats lingering outside their owners’ entranceways, Jay exclaimed, holy shit! We encountered two huge cows, and one of them was completely blocking our narrow path. We had to wait as we slowly inched forward, while the cow took her sweet time to swivel around. By the time we arrived at the guesthouse, I was so enamoured by my surroundings.
I have travelled to many places, and seen many things. This first day in Jodhpur showed me things I’ve never seen or experienced before. This first day turned out to possibly be the most exciting day of my life so far.
Jay and I agreed to meet the following morning, and I headed up to my guesthouse terrace. There, I chatted with a Korean couple and the guesthouse owner intermittently. Before heading to my sexily decorated room, I snapped some photos of the local neighbourhood at night and marvelled at the grand fortress, touring above the guesthouse. What an amazing place to experience!
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