Category Archives: South Korea

Anti aging fillers and rejuvenation scar treatments: dabbling in the Korean age-defying beauty 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.

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Lydia and Dr. Yoon
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Dr. Yoon’s storeroom:  packed with traditional Korean medicine products

Disclaimer:

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.

Procedure:

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.

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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

Note:

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.

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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.

 

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Aftercare visit

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.

Procedure

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.

 

 

FINAL RESULTS

Rejuvenation treatment and aftercare results

Pros

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.

 

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Cons

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

Pros

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.

Cons

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?

Rejuvenation treatment

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.

Fillers

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.

 

Dr. Yoon’s clinic

Dr. Sook-yoon Lee, Pibro Haniwon Skin Women Clinic26 Insa dong, 5 gil,                           Tel: 02-3667-1577

 

 

 

What treatments have you tried, and what was your experience?

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Recent articles by travelandtash:

Laser hair removal: my personal experience in Korea

Manipulation, heartbreak and recovery: my story

Delhi, India in 4.5 days: a personal story – Part One

A day in the life of a blogger expat, living in Korea

Saturday. July. 2017

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.

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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.

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KHAP Seoul: very professional and private service
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Selfie while waiting for KHAP results…

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.

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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.

10:00 pm As I eat, I watch a British program (of terrible quality) on YouTube called Billionaire Mansions. Partway through, I recall I’ve watched this before. I continue watching it anyway. Yesterday, I watched a far better quality documentary called, Untold Wealth: the Rise of the Super Rich.

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.

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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.

 

What are some of your daily or weekend routines?

 

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Check out previous blog posts:

Manipulation, heartbreak and recovery: my story

Korean traditional medicine: my first experience

Latin American Festival, Seoul 2017

 

 

 

 

 

Brunch at “Gobble n’ Go”, Itaewon Seoul

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.

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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.

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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!

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Food

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

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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

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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.

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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.

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Drink options include coffee, soda, sangria, beer and mojitos. Prices vary between 4,000 to 9,000 won.

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Gobble n’ Go Facebook group

 

Where is your favourite breakfast/ brunch restaurant located, and what is your favourite dish there?

 

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Check out previous blog posts:

A guide to ordering Korean food

Korean traditional medicine: my first experience

Introducing K-POP’s SM Town at COEX Samsung, Seoul

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Manipulation, heartbreak and recovery: my story

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.IMG_20170709_155059

*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.

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With supportive friends in Kyoto

 

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.

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With my new, supportive friends, January 2017
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Journaling in Kyoto: steps to recovering self esteem

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’s Five Love Languages and 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.

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Caring friendships

 

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.

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In a much happier space: hiking, nature and restarting my experience in Korea
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We all deserve caring, loving friendships. Let’s believe that we will accept nothing less. This T-shirt reminded me of Evan Carmichael’s one word.

 

 

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Korean traditional medicine: my first experience

 Always wondered about Asian traditional medicine, but never had the courage to walk into a clinic and try it? I’ve been curious about traditional medicine for years! I randomly met a Korean traditional doctor at a social Meetup event in April. My Meetup friends besieged Dr. Yoon with questions about broken capillaries, rosacea, diet, and metabolism issues so, noting our curiosity, he took us to his Insa Dong clinic located nearby to show us his practice and answer our questions.

Two months later, I returned to Dr. Yoon, and he began the process of educating me about my body, explaining what natural Korean treatments could do to optimize health, and treatments to preserve youthful beauty. I wanted to talk about my stomach digestion, energy levels, large pores and acne prone skin, as well as alternatives to Botox. Dr. Yoon then performed three treatments on me, including acupuncture, a stomach warming treatment and natural filler for forehead frown lines between my eyebrows. I hope that by sharing alternative treatments, we can challenge assumptions that wellness and care stem only from western medical practices.

My first experience with Korean Traditional Medicine

The truth is, I knew very little about Asian traditional medicine. Whenever I’m sick, ironically, I avoid the doctor like a plague! I hate medical clinics and hospitals, the sterile walls and being around ill people. I only go if I have to.

While studying at UVic for my Applied Linguistics Diploma,  professor Sandra Kirkham introduced the concept of two very different approaches to medicine. The western approach, which usually entails treating symptoms and prescribing drugs which generate lots of money for private manufacturers. These may produced negative side-effects discovered only years after the drug has been sanctioned by local health authorities. Other times, ‘miracle’ drugs, like the one that apparently clears up HIV,  are promoted and even limited to wealthy clients due to high prices dictated by unscrupulous patent holders and manufactures.

One thing that really impacted me in Dr. Kirkham’s Culture and Communication Linguistics class was an introduction of an old video about traditional Chinese medicine. The documentary followed a US doctor who wanted to find out the secrets of traditional medicine, and whether it really worked.

He attended traditional hospitals and observed doctors. These doctors prescribed numerous herbs and roots to target malfunctioning organs causing manifestations of illness. The doctor also looked at acupuncture treatments which assisted the ‘chi’ or life force to flow through a patient’s body. By disrupting the body’s ‘meridians’, traditional doctors addressed energy blockages which caused symptoms called ‘illnesses.’

The doctor witnessed tailor made massages, which moved around the inner parts of the body to work on illnesses including cancer. The footage also looked at regular practice of Tai Chi by many in China, and how movement and maintenance of the flow of energy is considered an integral part of general health maintenance. I realised that western health approaches treat symptoms, but Chinese traditional medicine seeks to heal the cause of the problem.

Years earlier, my interest in traditional medicine had first been kindled when I learned that my friend Van, living in Vancouver Canada, had received several traditional treatments with Asian doctors, including acupuncture and diet prescriptions to improve her health and deal with unbearable allergies.

Additionally, while travelling in Saigon two years ago, I meet Johnny, a Canadian cancer survivor. He revealed very interesting opinions on western medicine. He explained that he had been diagnosed with cancer, but rejected western treatments that involved running radiation through his body using a pill. He was told that he would not be able to stand within ten feet of a pregnant woman while on this treatment.

Johnny explained that his aunty was diagnosed with cancer at the same time that he was. While his aunty followed the hospital chemotherapy treatments, he rejected them all, and put himself on a very organic, healthy lifestyle.

Five months later, he was alive, and his body had eliminated the cancer, while his aunty had passed away. He bitterly expressed anger at the western medical system, and said that he believed that doctors know far more about how to eliminate cancer than they let on. That western medicine is big business, and that at the expense of many lives, specialists sustain their expensive drugs, rather than admit that wholesome food and self awareness about lifestyle can in some cases eradicate even serious conditions. But, the promotion of diet and lifestyle is not profitable for drug manufactures.

As an expat living in S. Korea, I’ve was recently presented with the opportunity to learn about alternate, traditional medical approaches. A few months ago, I attended a meetup event to enjoy vegetarian food organized by event host, Johncito, from Seoul Village meetups. The restaurant was located opposite Jogye-sa temple, and catered to non-meat eating Buddhist monks who popped across the street to eat the excellent quality wholesome food provided at this restuarant.

Dr. Yoon also attended this expat meetup event. Over a delicious dinner, Dr. Yoon explained to me that as a person with a slight figure, I most certainly have a fast metabolism, and that I should avoid ‘hot’ foods, including turmeric and cinnamon. Soon, not only was I curious to learn more, but everyone else at the meetup was too. So Dr. Yoon offered to show us his clinic located around the corner, where he would give us a little tour. Host Johncito was happy to alter our evening plans to accommodate his curious meetup guests, and within minutes, we were poking around in Dr. Yoon’s clinic.

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With Johncito and Dr. Yoon at a restaurant serving Buddhist food in Insa Dong, Seoul

Everyone threw random questions as him. Can acupuncture help with this? Can it help with that? How can this be treated? One woman made an appointment for the following Monday, eager to discuss her rosacea skin condition and begin treatment as soon as possible. It occurred to me that westerners, or non-Asians, often have very limited knowledge about Asian medicine, and what treatments are available. After a discussion with Dr. Yoon, we agreed that I’d return to experience and write about traditional treatments.

On June 17th, I visited Dr. Yoon to learn more. I was curious about what clinics like his offer, what kind of approaches are used and what exactly can be treated. We only had about an hour together, but in that time, we decided on three treatments for me. These were based on my personal concerns and his evaluation of my current health.IMG_20170617_160610

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Reception area

Treatment One

Digestion was a concern for me. I recently (and very reluctantly) went to MizMedi hospital where, after some bloodwork tests to test my liver function, the doctor revealed that I had dangerously low protein. These results explained my severe tiredness of late, and she had advised me to immediately begin incorporating small meat portions with almost every meal.

Having recently been reminded of my poor nutrition, I wanted Dr. Yoon to focus on my core, my stomach, and upper and lower intestine. He explained to me clearly exactly where all these organs were in my body and that the upper intestine absorbs water while the lower absorbs the nutrients from my food. I quickly began to realise that all those instant noodles dinners were starving my body of nutrients, and the very next day, I did a massive shopping which entailed lots of veggies, starches and meat.

We also discussed my ability to retain water in the body, how much I sweat, my weight and other factors. Dr. Yoon explained that the stomach is a major source of energy in the body. He explained that in traditional medicine, the body is divided into ying and yang, cool and heat, and he concluded that although my upper body had a lot of heat, but that my stomach was a little cool. He then applied a device to my stomach that slowly began to warm it up. He explained that to give my whole body more energy, that my stomach and intestines needed more warmth.IMG_20170617_170205IMG_20170617_161436

Treatment Two

Meanwhile, we also began discussing my kidneys. I explained to Dr. Yoon that the doctor at MizMedi was worried about my alcohol intake. In short, my MizMedi doctor had noticed from my liver function blood test that I had high levels of alkaline phosphate and when she asked how much alcohol my body processed regularly, I confessed that since arriving in Korea, I had been binge-drinking, on a bi-weekly or monthly basis with my work colleagues.

So while my stomach was receiving warmth to create body energy, Dr. Yoon began working on my liver through acupuncture. This was my first experience receiving acupuncture, and I noticed that he targeted particular points along my body, including my feet, legs, hands and arms. Sometimes, the pin tip would hurt a little, and I learned that what Dr. Yoon was doing was temporarily closing meridians in certain places so that the efficiency of energy flowing through the rest of those connected channels would be improved. Something was definitely happening within me because after a while, my arm containing two pins began to feel physically heavy.

I took the opportunity to point out to Dr. Yoon a cluster of spider veins on one leg that are threatening to become varicose, and asked whether he had any treatments that help with that. Dr. Yoon then gave me a basic lesson about how arteries are connected to the heart, while veins are connected to the liver. He continued that, outside of cosmetic surgery to remove unsightly veins, the root cause of my veins is once again, my unhappy liver. I essentially need to take better care of it.

On a completely different note, I noticed something very unusual after these two treatments, and I cannot pin-point which of these treatments was responsible. When I initially arrived at the clinic, I had been feeling very anxious and upset about something that happened earlier in the day, but after these two treatments, my hormones completely changed. I felt relaxed and the change was so marked that I was surprised at how quickly this changed happened.

Treatment Three

While lying down and receiving belly warmth and treatment for my liver, I asked Dr. Yoon about treatments for acne. I have some hormonal outbreaks on my chin area, and wondered if traditional medicine offers healthy remedies for this kind of monthly lady problem. He suggested we do an acne treatment, but because I was wearing make-up and planned to rendezvous with friends downtown directly afterwards, we decided to reserve that treatment for a future date.

Instead, I asked whether he had any anti aging treatments for frown lines developing between my eyebrows. He replied yes, so we moved to a different treatment room where I was asked to lay down. I saw a little purple bag and naturally gave it a squeeze. I realized it had warm liquid inside it, and before long, Dr. Yoon had wiped between my brows, had inserted a needle into the purple bag, and began injecting the filler between my brows.

I may have received small five injections which were a little painful. Dr. Yoon explained that not only would this filler plump out the skin, reducing or eliminating the lines for four weeks (depending on the quantity used), but also that the substance was nutritious herbal medicine which brightens the skin. Essentially, herbal fillers are absorbed into the cellular tissue and are a far healthier alternative to western plastic fillers that last much longer.

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Treatment room where I received the filler treatment

I was delighted to hear this because for the last six months, I’ve been considering getting botox treatments from my local laser surgery clinic, but as a former esthetician with a background in administering anti aging treatments, I’m acutely aware that botox (and similar stiffening treatments) are poisons which your body eventually digests into the blood stream, and while effective, these are not particularly healthy for humans. I had heard of fillers before, but as a non-Korean speaker, I had not successfully found a filler treatment yet. This filler, to my surprise, is natural and even healthy for the skin.

The next day, I noticed that the area was a little bruised from the injections, and several days after the treatment, it is still a little sore. But, I noticed that I can still frown. The muscles are not frozen. The area however, is plumped out, and the lines previously there are gone!

Other treatments available

There were many other traditional treatments offered at the clinic. As a gynecologist, as well as dermatologist and traditional medicine doctor, Dr. Yoon addresses problems related to the vagina using traditional methods. I observed a herbal vapour treatment used to treat Puritis Verginitis. The clinic also treats women for menstrual cramps.

I am personally interested in his treatments for acne scaring, and intend to begin said treatments on my next visit. Dr. Yoon explained that although acne treatments require a few visits, they are very successful. I have many large pores on my T-Zone that are in fact tiny scars. The treatment sounds like the equivalent of facial resurfacing or laser treatments, but done in a holistic manner. I intend to write about this treatment in my follow-up blog. Please subscribe to get notifications of future articles.IMG_20170617_155848

Dr. Sook-yoon Lee, Pibro Haniwon Skin Women Clinic26 Insa dong, 5 gil,                           Tel: 02-3667-1577

 

My treatments were provided free of charge by Dr. Yoon for the purpose of experiencing first-hand traditional Korean medicine at work, and producing an article based on my experience. All opinions are my own.

 

July update:

  • Free Naturopathic diagnosis and treatment on the first appointment
  • Naturopathic filler treatment (between eyebrows): 55,000 won
  • Naturopathic filler treatment retouch (within three weeks): 33,000 won

*Please mention Travelandtash to receive Dr. Yoon’s promotional prices when booking an appointment

 

I will visit Dr. Yoon again very soon. Please help me ask the right questions at my next appointment by letting me know what kind of treatments you’d most be interested in. Please like, share and leave a comment below.

Keep learning!

 

 

 

Latin American Festival, Seoul 2017

My close friends, Buyeon and Anita, were heading to Ultra Music Festival Korea on June 10th, and since Buyeon had been itching to dance for ages, Anita adventure seemed like a fantastic scene for the two of them. I was a little sad not to be joining them, but, after an amazing day elsewhere, I was so glad events worked out that way. Here’s why.

I signed up to join The Seoul Expat Global Meetup Group  hosted by Mr. Harry Yoon. The plan was to spend the afternoon eating, drinking and enjoying live music at the Latin American Festival. I had attended this same Latin festival a year prior with friends Dan and Sariska, so I knew that we’d have a great time, especially with the sun out.

I rendezvous with the meetup group at Hansung University Station. Harry quickly directed me to a group of expats nearby and soon, we all introduced ourselves. My friend Kate joined too, and I was particularly excited to hear about her recent adventures in Germany.

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With Kate

Seongbukcheon Fountain Square was filled with expats of all colours: blacks, whites, Latinos and many Koreans, including families. Our group began meandering together from tent to tent, checking out the food and beverages available at each one. There were tents from Spain, Guatemala, Peru, Mexico, Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and other tents set up just for sangria and football fans.

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Our crew
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The chef (in white) was from Barcelona
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Paella deliciousness
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The Spanish team

I soon had a sangria in one hand, and a tapa sized paella in the other. The Spanish chef seemed to cook at least one huge saucepan of paella every hour.

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Sangria! Harry in the blue and white stripes, and Ernesto in white
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Showing off our paella… are you jealous? You should be…
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Steve, with nachos chips and spicy chocolate sauce dip

After finding food, we hovered around a table with an umbrella to stay in the shade while we all got to know each other. Steven from the USA had lots to talk about and he was particularly engaging. Harry wanted to take lots of photos so we posed happily. I chatted with Ernesto who had a very interesting cultural heritage, and in some ways, reminded my of my own one. I also reconnected with Tasha who I had met on a previous Meetup event.

The Mexican and Brazilian tents always had massive lines ups. I later got a delicious pork (including chorizo) and vegetable sandwich, again from the Spanish tent, while Kate got skewered meat and a coffee from the Brazilian tent.

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Getting to know each other in the shade
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Posing for Harry – with Tasha, green top

Kate and I soon wandered and found ourselves looking at pretty bracelets in the Peruvian tent. I picked out a bracelet to match my colourful Ragasthani bangles.

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Kate admiring Peruvian handicrafts!

But the stage was equally distracting! The performances that really stood out were the Argentinian Tango, the “Spanish K-pop” student performance, and El Combo Sabroso band, which played many classics and got the crowd dancing.

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Organizers cleared a dance space while El Combo Sabroso played. My new friends took to the dancefloor, particularly Ernesto who was very skilled at Latin dance. I hope to see El Combo Sabroso play in one of the local clubs in Seoul soon.

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El Combo Sabroso

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Enjoying the dance scene

Daniel Baker‘s dance class was a riot. His energy on the stage was phenomenal, and he had people all over the square following his dance moves. Kate and I were trying to scope out tents for more food, but got stuck mid-way bouncing to Daniel’s moves cause we found it hard to tear away from his infectious energy! Check out Daniel’s page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/zumbaitaewon/

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Daniel Baker and friends, stirring it up!

The venue had few chairs, so intermittently, we stopped to rest behind the tents which also offered shade from the sun.

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Later that afternoon, the lingering members of Harry’s group found each other, and Ernesto swept me off my feet as we bounced to the blaring music. The atmosphere was exhiliarating. The tunes were fantastic, everyone had a sangria, tinto de verano or Brazilian coffee in their hand,  while whiffs from nearby sizzling Mexican fajitas filled the air.

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Posing with pretty ladies, and Ernesto!

The food, music, sunshine, and mix of incredible people made for a delightful afternoon! I was so happy that the universe brought me to the Latin American Festival!

Soon, we all decided to visit the Philharmonic Orchestra concert organized at the Han river later that evening. But that is another story.

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Evening fun at the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, Han River

Latin American Festival: June 10th, 2017 (yearly event)

02860  2 Dongsomun-ro (Seongbukcheon Fountain Square), Seongbuk-gu, Seoul                 Travel there: Hansung University Station (line 4), exit 2

A big thank you goes out to Mr. Harry Yoon who provided many of the photos used here.

 

What do you enjoy most at cultural festivals?

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Pyeongchang Camping Festival: Anticipating the 2018 Olympic Games

I’ve camped twice. Once, under the stars with the Bedouin in the Jordanian desert. That was a warm and comfortable experience. The Bedouin are pros at desert camping and they take good care of guests. My other camping experience was in Canada, Victoria Island, BC. The October weather was rainy and miserable.

My friends sat in a circle, mostly strummed guitars, and sang popular rock songs. I was bored to tears. I hardly slept because I was cold and uncomfortable. Also, all the campers were constantly reminded by one friend about how amazing their previous camping experience was, when apparently, everyone slept with everyone. That story alone made this boring camping trip forever embedded in my memory. I hoped that the Korean Pyeongchang Camping Festival event would be completely different.

I heard about the Pyeongchang Camping event through Mr. CC Pak while hiking Ansan with Climbers In Korea (CIK) last month. CC explained that Mr. Kim, the organizer and director of CIK, was running  a program, sponsored by Pyeongchang county, Gangwon-do and the Korean Tourism Organization. The purpose was to promote the upcoming Olympic Games here in Korea. All expenses were covered by Pyeongchang county, and there were a limited spots available. The last count I saw anticipated 280 guests.

I signed up, reserved my spot, and showed up at with personal items on Saturday April 8th, before 8:45am. All camping supplies, including tent, mats, lanterns, sleeping bags, and food would be supplied. We were provided with an itinerary so we knew exactly what events we’d participate in.

ITINERARY

Saturday April 8th:

  • 9am – Leave Sports Complex Station
  • 3:30pm – Lunch and Welcome Ceremony/ 2018 Olympics promotion
  • 6pm – Attend hockey match: Women’s league: Netherlands VS. Korea
  • 9:45pm – International performances (camping guests perform)
  • 11pm – Open air movie

Sunday April 9th:

  • 7am – breakfast
  • 8am – Korean yoga
  • 9am – Camping safety training
  • 11:30am – Head to Pyungchang traditional market for lunch
  • 1:40pm – Head to Gangwon-do coastal walk (East Sea)
  • 4pm – Return to Seoul

I’ve listed the times as I remember them taking place. The schedule deviated from the initial plan due to changing circumstances like traffic encountered traveling to our destinations.

LOGISTICS

As already mentioned, Pyeongchang county and Korean Tourism Organization funded the event to promote the upcoming Olympics. Mr. Kim, the director and organizer, managed a group of volunteers who in turn managed their respective groups. The volunteers received group updates via instant messaging to their phones while we travelled together on buses, and they quickly imparted the new updates to their groups.

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Director, Mr. Kim (far right), and our amazing volunteer team; photo curtesy of Mr. Kim

Several buses were used, and while traveling, the bus drivers lined up the buses conveniently in chronological order so guests could locate buses easily. This was especially useful when we made short toilet breaks at intervals during longer bus commutes, like driving to and from Seoul.

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Buses A to F; photo curtesy of Pippa

On arrival at the festival camp, Pyeongchang camping organisers had prepared tents, distributed sleeping items and outlet equipment so each tent had access to electricity. Cooks prepared our meals. The camp had hired an MC, a band, and prepared giveaway prizes for performances. The festival also had an onsite café and food truck just over the little bridge from where the CIK guests were camping.

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Campsite; photo curtesy of Brooke Yay
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Campsite; photo curtesy of Mr. Kim
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Excited for a hot lunch on arrival at the camp site; photo curtesy of Brooke Yay
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Props to the chef! Hungry campers; photo curtesy of Catherine
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Yum! Photo, curtesy of Mr. Kim
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Kate and I enjoying lunch!
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Happy fellas! Photo curtesy of Pippa
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2018 Pyeongchang Olympics promotion and Welcome ceremony
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CIK friends trying out workout toys!
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Armed with souvenirs! The weather was lush!
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Volunteer conference! Photo curtesy of Minjeong

MY STORY: MY TOP FIVE HIGHLIGHTS

HOCKEY MATCH

The journey to the Kwandong Catholic University Campus (관동 대학교) was long because of traffic, but we were very happy to be admitted and seated fairly quickly on arrival. Everyone wanted to pose for photos with the Olympics backdrop and fun characters. Most of us stopped by the merchandise table and collected Korean and Dutch flags to wave in support of our female hockey teams that were battling it out for a lower league title.

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Fun times; photo curtesy of Kate Chang

 

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Approaching the stadium
at hockey rink
Posing!

mine

The stadium was small compared to the stadiums I had visited in Canada, and I wondered if this stadium would be used for any of the winter Olympic events in 2018. The nice thing about a smaller stadium is that the action takes place near you! Unlike previous games I’ve watched in Canada, here, I didn’t spend my time watching the big screen rather than the action on the ice itself.

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Feeling Korean Fever!

Our crew was pretty tame compared to a bunch of Koreans to our right who seemed passionate, shouted a lot, and frantically waved their flags. Partway through the first twenty minutes, a young Korean fella working for the stadium wearing white was assigned over to our calm crowd and he began revving us up.

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Motivation!

Thanks to his motivation, Kate and Vass and myself had a really good time! We bounced to the DJ tunes during time outs, shook our flags, slapped promo balloons together and let the young Korean fella teach us new dance routines using our promo balloons. Kate and I joked about how handsome he was, and whether he was in need of a girlfriend.

As the match wore on, entertainment ensued. Kate and I shouted more and more furiously as exciting collisions occurred between players, an angry shove emerged from a goalkeeper, two goals smashed into the Dutch net, and bodies slammed full speed into the Plexiglas separating the players from the audience! Soon, we were fully decked out, complete with temporary tattoo face-stickers and flags pledging Korean allegiance wrapped around our bodies.

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Myself, Vass and Kate; photo curtesy of Vassilina Mozajeva

It was funny to notice that many Koreans had flags for each team, including Kate, suggesting that some people didn’t really care who won anyway and patriotism was not a big deal at this event. At the last minute of the game, I grabbed Kate’s Dutch flag, viciously waved it around demanding one goal for Dutch honor, but the fabric flag flew off the white handle, and me and my friends laughed heartily. Korea was destined to reign victorious.

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Mr. CC… looking good!
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Happy CIK friends! Photo curtesy of Varun Bansal

PERFORMANCES BY THE GUESTS

On Saturday evening, we were treated to an international performances show. Apparently, Korean style camping often involves some kind of entertainment, so a stage and seating is usually situated within the camp site so campers can easily access the show. Across from our camping area, families were also camping and therefore attended the festival. It made for an odd mix of “foreigner” twenty to thirty somethings age group, and then parents who were eager to have their children up on stage. Interestingly enough, it wasn’t our age demographic that showcased inappropriate performances.

One performance showcased a little girl no older than six years old, lip-syncing and dancing to a popular KPop song. She took to the stage wearing a sexy, adult outfit: a belly top and short skirt. The evening was cool, and I was wearing a hoodie, hat, and scarf so she must have been cold. In her performance, she imitated the sexy dance moves of the adult song version. My friends and I felt uncomfortable watching this because we felt like this child was being objectified. Interestingly, the MC actually awarded her first prize for her performance.

Injong Kim photo
Live band; photo curtesy of In-jong Kim

 

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CIK performers! Photo curtesy of In-Jong Kim

CIK guests were invited to perform onstage, whether dancing, singing or introducing their home culture in some way. These performances were incredibly entertaining, and included a Salsa duo, modern dance, Indian dances, and acoustic songs from India.

Punil, who performed at the end of the show, was quite the performer. He refused to leave the stage. He sang song after song from the Punjab, while we in the audience clapped in rhythm to his soulful ballads. His eagerness to share his culture was infectious. Toward the end, he invited his friends to join him on stage. Indian Bhangra music blasted from the stage speakers, and we in the audience wanted to hop up and dance along! It was an incredible feeling to observe this all live. I felt like I was inside a Bollywood movie, and wished we could have cast aside our wretched, confining seats, and burst into dance too.

EVENING CAMPING

Later that event, Peter, an older British fella, invited me back to his camping spot to enjoy some Makkoli (local rice wine). Kate, Yoona, Brooke and others joined, and after an hour or so, we drifted elsewhere. I wandered over to CC and friends, who had a campfire set up. CC was discussing martial arts with Alex, a fella from Australia. Everyone was drinking, while I was invited to enjoy some sashimi that several members of the group had ordered in. No guitar playing, no singing, no talk about who slept with who on previous camping trip. This was a much better experience so far.

Our party soon dispersed as the rain began to come down. By 2am, I returned to my tent. To my delight, my tent-mates, Yoona and Kate had also both arrived, so we settled down for the night, enjoying the heat supplied from our electric heating pad.

 

Pippa
Photo curtesy of Pippa

 

MEETING NEW INDIAN FRIENDS

The following morning, we ate a (mostly) hot breakfast, and then participated in open air yoga. After a rainy night, the morning was cool, and everyone seemed to be warming their hands using hot packs which had been distributed the evening prior.

After yoga, I had the fortune to talk with some of the India fellas who had been part of the performance the night before. I met Punil, Gautam, Varun, Vivek, N Gyan, and Manoj. This encounter was the highlight of my trip! I explained to them how much I enjoyed their contribution to the International Performance show, particularly Punil’s songs, and everyone’s dance! I learned that they are engineers, and some of them live in Delhi, which is precisely where I’m headed later this month.

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Our stars from India; from left: Manoj, Varun, N. Gyan, Punil, Vivek, and Gautam

We joked and laughed, while I practiced my very limited Hindi skills. They were so encouraging with my language learning, and offered to help me while in Delhi if I need anything. The camping safety demonstration began over the speakers, and after exchanging contact information, we soon dispersed. I walked away with a warm feeling in my belly.

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One last walk around the camp site; photo curtesy of Arijit Sakar

 

Arijit Sarkar
Photo curtesy of Arijit Sakar

WALK ALONG THE EAST SEA

We made a quick stop at Jung-Ang market (중앙시장) in Gangneung city (강릉시) to eat lunch.

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Complimentary vouchers, provided for lunch at Jung-Ang Market

 

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Lunch at Jung-Ang. Final bonding experience with tent-mates, Kate (far left) and Yoona (right)

We then embarked on a private coastal walk along Jeongdongjin beach (정동진 해변 ), patrolled by the Korean army due to its proximity to North Korea. We were lucky that organizer, Mr. Kim, arranged for this tour as Jeongdongjin is not open to the public.

Once we descended the wooden steps from the guarded entrance to the coast itself, we walked along a metal platform, secured by rods and drilled into the large rocks below. I was happy to be by the coast, surrounded by blue sea, crashing waves and salt spray. The sun was shinning and warm, and we all walked along our designated route, the same one that the Korean guards use to patrol the coast.

Wooden look-out posts along our path were forbidden locations to photograph. I saw no boats. Nothing was traveling down from North Korea. We were alone, walking along and snapping photos together in groups. The large boulders along the coast has some interesting markings, and Peter remarked that, based on the striation markings on the rock surfaces, over time, these horizontal rocks lying on the sea bed had gradually been erected vertically. They were fascinating to look at.

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Photo curtsey of Romaine Smith

 

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Enjoying the coastal walk

Finally, we stopped off beside Sun Cruize Resort, and after examining the grounds and absorbing our last few weekend rays of sun, we hopped aboard our bus that promised to return us to our daily routines in Seoul. We were all sad to leave.

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With new friends, at Sun Cruize Resort; photo curtesy of Varun Bansal

 

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Preparing to leave; photo curtesy of Mr. Kim

MY OVERAL IMPRESSION:

PROS

There were numerous amazing things about this trip. First and foremost, organizer, Mr. Kim and his team, including my fantastic tent-mate Yoona, ran the event smoothly and professionally despite the challenges encountered. The entire event was fully funded and we guests hardly spent a dime!

We were provided with food, including two hot breakfasts, dinner snacks on the bus, and vouchers for lunch at Jung-Ang market. I never had a chance to get hungry throughout the trip. Not only were tents, mats, sleeping bags and lanterns provided, but we also received heating blankets and long-life hot packs (lasting thirteen hours) for our hands. All our transport was included to and from Sports Complex station in Seoul. In addition, we received entertainment for almost every moment that we were not on the buses.

CONS

Unfortunately, some seats on the bus were empty, so due to some no-shows, people that wanted to attend the event missed out. We encountered traffic, particularly en route to Pyeongchang, and between the festival campsite and the hockey stadium. We observed plenty of construction on the Gangwon-do roads. Pyeongchang county is constructing lanes to make the city more accessible for the upcoming Olympics. I got the impression that congestion will probably be one of the major challenges that Korea will face during the 2018 Olympics, and since Korean terrain is mountainous, this is no easy task to address.

Pyeongchang County and Korean Tourism Organization were so industrious in their efforts to provide us with a special experience that we were often rushed for time. This was exasperated by the traffic between locations that often put us behind schedule. Everyone seemed to sigh a breath of relief when we returned to the campsite Saturday evening, because we could finally camp and enjoy free time.

I appreciate all the effort put into the planning and execution of this trip, but I think we guests would have been content with fewer plans. Finally, some friends had experienced hiccups, whereby one tent didn’t receive a heating blanket, and another set of friends had no tent allocated, so a tent was set up in a hurry, but later leaked during the overnight rain. Nevertheless, these friends appreciated that the volunteer team did their best, and minor oversights were bound to happen. Everyone was just happy to be part of this memorable experience.

WOULD I DO IT ALL AGAIN?

Absolutely! I am grateful that I had the chance to see the Korean preparation for the upcoming Olympics. I can begin to understand the scale of the challenges faced to accommodate international visitors to a mountainous terrain in a country plagued by excessive traffic.

I observed coastal sights I may never see again. I savoured experiences, like enjoying my first Korean hockey game, and bouncing to Bhangra tunes with new friends. I am so thankful to have been included in this experience.

I’d like to thank, Mr. CC Pak, for inviting me to this event, and both my tent-mate and friend, Kate Changhee Lee, and Mr. Varun Bansal, for helping me document our trip  as accurately as possible. Finally, thanks so much to Mr. Kim’s efforts, and his brilliant volunteer team, who put our experiences and needs ahead of their own.

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Our crew! Photo curtesy of Mr. Kim

 

Have you visited Pyeongchang to see the changing infrastructure in preparation for the Winter Olympics, or had a chance to visit any of the locations designated for Olympic events? Please comment below to share your experience or opinions.

Keep learning!