Tag Archives: #Korea

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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Jodhpur, India: Possibly the best day ever!

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.

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.

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Delhi Cantt railway 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.

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Indian train system: the best way to travel around India! View from my upper berth

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!

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.

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First breakfast in India, with Jay

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.

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Restoration projects

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.IMG_1656 (2)

IMG_1664Interestingly, 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!

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Mini photoshoot in a gorgeous marble courtyard
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View of the lower fortress and the city of Jodhpur

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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.

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My guardians! Jay (in blue), Manish and Varun
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Impressed by the spectacular white marble!

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.IMG_20170423_185737

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Selfies at Jaswant Thada

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With new friends, Varun (brown shirt) and Manish (plum)

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.

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Fun times with Manish

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.

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Sexy images of royal couples on my Guesthouse walls
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My neighbourhood, up in the mountain (view from LG Guesthouse)
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Night view from LG Guesthouse: my local neighbourhood in Mehrangarh fortress mountain

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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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?

Please like, share, and leave a comment  below.

Keep learning!

 

 

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.

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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.

 

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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.

Romaine Smith photo
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.

Group pic - Mr. Kim
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!

Laser hair removal: my personal experience in Korea

THE PROBLEM

Annoying, unwanted hair. The Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans used razors, sugaring, pumice stones, and tweezers to remove body hair. Ancient Greeks even burned off their public hair. Renaissance paintings depict women with no public hair at all, and today, we are inundated with spas and clinics that offer all kinds of hair removal methods.

I graduated from an Esthetician academy back in 2006, equipped with the latest knowledge back then about getting rid of unwanted hair. I learned at my academy that laser treatments could be painful. For example, if the laser didn’t have a definitive target because the patient’s skin was too dark, the laser could burn the skin, rather than target the hair root. A colleague of mine at the time was undergoing laser hair removal treatments, and one day, she came to class and showed a few of us girls her bikini area and how burnt her skin was from her latest treatment. This experience highlighted for me both how tricky it can be to find the right hair removal method, and also the lengths to which women go to to get rid of unwanted hair.

I became interested in electrolysis treatments, but I learned that these treatments were also complicated because the process itself requires a skilled technician who really knows what they’re doing.  Electrolysis works by targeting individual hair follicles at exactly the right angle in order to successfully shock the hair root, preventing the hair growing through again. The challenge was to find a experienced electrolysis technician with happy client reviews. At the time that I was interested in this treatment, hardly anyone, it seemed, used this hair removal method, so I had trouble finding a recommendation for a technician in my local area.

Most recently, I moved to Korea. Korea has a reputation for being the number one country in the world for providing plastic surgery. Many of these plastic surgery clinics offer laser hair removal and other minor treatments, including botox, fillers and so on. Since my esthetician days, laser hair removal has advanced considerably, for example, the manor of applying the laser to the skin area no longer requires that the hand-piece of the laser machine touches the client’s skin surface. But, it seems that still today it is much easier to find an appropriate treatment if you are the “ideal” client. That is, that your skin is fair, and your hair is dark. The laser can target your hair follicle easier when the hair pigment really stands out from the pigment of the skin.

RESEARCH, AND HOW I FOUND MY CLINIC

In late 2016, I came across a dialogue thread in a Facebook group dedicated to expat women in Korea who share tips and experiences. Contributors  recommended particular clinics which offered laser hair removal services, and one comment caught my eye. A friend had posted that she attended a clinic called You&I Skin Design Lab, (henceforth referred to as You&I) located near Seollung station (Bundang line), and that she was pleased with the results of her treatments. The location was convenient for me to get to, so after privately messaging my friend for further details, I decided to pop over to the clinic to scope it out.

card info

MY FIRST TRIP TO THE CLINIC

The reception area at You&I seemed orderly and professional, and there were numerous receptionists at the front desk. One of them spoke some English, so I inquired about the type of laser the clinic technicians use for their treatments. I also asked about treatment prices. I then returned home and researched their laser machine to find out if this type of laser would suit my skin and hair type. Fair skinned with largely dark hair, I happen to be the ideal candidate for many laser types. You&I use Apogee+, which apparently received a Choice Awards prize back in 2005 for the number #1, hair removal system. On further research, I learned that Apogee+ is a type of Alexandrite laser system, which works best on fair skin and dark hair. Thus far, everything I was learning pointed to an effective treatment.

 

Epogee
The Epogee+ Alexandrite laser machine, used at You&I – image taken from the You&I client pamphlet

I asked my Korean friend Sue to phone the clinic and book me my first appointment. They asked her for my name, contact details, and a list of treatments which I intended to have on my first appointment. They explained that I could pay for the treatments when I arrived. They also asked that I arrive a little early, and that I shave the treatment areas the day before (or just prior to) the treatment. Apparently, not all laser clinics ask for payment upfront. I wonder if payment upfront is a standard Korean practice for these kinds of treatments.

 

A LITTLE BACKGROUND TO HOW HAIR WORKS

I began my treatments in December, because I had heard that winter is a great time to get laser treatments done. You cannot tweeze between treatments, and most definitely cannot wax. This is because tweezing and waxing remove hair from the root. The laser needs to catch the hair in the early anagen stage. The anagen stage is the hair within the hair shaft (pore) that sees active growth and is nourished by blood supply. Since the laser targets the hair down to the follicle, if you remove the active anagen hair from the root, there’s no point getting your laser treatment done because there’s no root available to target.

 

hair follicle image
Image showing how Epogee+ disrupts the blood supply to the anagen hair, creating a dormant hair follicle – image taken from You&I client pamphlet

 

The only method of hair removal allowed between laser treatments is shaving, because shaving does not remove the root from the hair follicle. However, shaving must be kept to a minimum between treatments, because shaving stimulates more hair growth and thus exacerbates the laser treatments.

The clinic encourages clients to book at least five sessions and stager these sessions. After staggering my first four treatments a month apart as the clinic suggested, I later learned, after consulting with laser expert, Alia Hawthorne, that treatments should be eight weeks apart, as treatments a month apart do not provide adequate opportunity to catch the hair in the early anagen stage.

Each hair follicle (or pore), may have up to three hairs that grow from the same root. So, while one hair may be poking through the surface of your skin (the visible hair), another may be halfway up, within the hair shaft, and the newest anagen hair may be within the hair root itself. The third (telogen) phase may mean that the hair folicle is dormant for up to three months, and this is precisely when laser to that follicle won’t be effective. The aim of laser treatments is to eventually catch the three hairs at the optimal point (the anagen stage) when they can actually be targeted by the laser.

MY FIRST TREATMENT

When I first entered, reception staff at You&I asked me to pay for my treatments before receiving my first treatment. They confirmed what Sue had initially booked for me over the phone: bikini, upper and lower legs, and underarms. I agreed to pay for five treatments of each service in advance (around 790,000 won).

After paying, I was whisked into a doctor’s office, and she asked whether I had had any laser hair removal treatments prior. She explained that usually, five treatments are sufficient for under arm and bikini areas, however legs usually require follow up treatments. She also explained that laser treatments never remove hair one-hundred percent. She emphasized having realistic expectations of the treatment outcomes, and then checked with me that I had shaved the treatment areas very recently. Thereafter, she decided I was ready to receive my first treatment.

I was shown into a small, private changing room, asked to remove all clothing and wear the clean gown provided. I placed my clothing and belongings into a secure locker with a pin code. When I emerged, I was shown to a treatment bed close by, and before being asked to lie down by an assistant technician, I caught a glimpse of the epogee+ laser machine.

It hummed and sounded like it was gearing up. Soon, the assistant returned, put ice packs on my soon-to-be-lasered bits, and left. Initially, I was surprised at being expected to endure ice packs on my skin, but interestingly, my body soon adapted and I no longer felt uncomfortable. Presumably, this was to numb the pain.

After waiting about ten minutes, the doctor and assistant appeared, and after very quick introductions, googles were placed over my eyes and treatment began immediately. The doctor held the laser hand piece a few inches above my skin and began to move it back and forth, a little like the motions of a vacuum cleaner.

Sometimes, I could feel the laser penetrating my pores and these produced tiny pin-prick sized shocks of pain, similar to being waxed, where the root is pulled from the hair follicle, however the laser sensations were no-where near as painful as the pain of being waxed. The pores that were receiving these pin-prick sensations were indeed the pores that were successfully targeted in this particular session. If you don’t feel any pain, that is because the laser is not working.

The hand piece should apparently be held at a ninety degree angle in order to successfully target the hair follicles. The experience lasted about 20 minutes, which I was very surprised about. I wondered how a technician could adequately target my hair follicles in an optimal manner in such a quick sweep. I later learned that Alia spends about two hours performing the same treatment to maximise results.

Over the following two sessions, I added a couple more treatments to my package, including belly and feet, with the result that I probably paid around 1m won for five treatments. Thus, each session totalled about 200,000 won, or $200 US.

TREATMENT PRICES

  • Upper and lower leg: 484,000 won
  • Bikini: 264,000 won
  • Underarm (on promotion): 42,900 won
  • Belly: 88,000 won
  • Feet: (I cannot recall)

DR. OH

On my third treatment visit, I asked reception staff about botox treatments, and they explained that they had three different options. I asked what were the differences between them, and the receptionist explained that she’d book me in to have a consultation with Dr. Oh who would answer all my questions.

About fifteen minutes later, I was shown in to Dr. Oh’s office, and she asked me how my treatments were thus far. I explained that I came from an esthetics background, and that I felt that because I had blocked several treatments together (underarms, legs, and so on), that my treatments were being rushed and that some individual areas were not receiving the attention that they should. I knew this because I could feel nothing, no hair follicle pain, for large sections of the treatment. Every time I could feel prickling pain, I knew the laser was successfully targeting that hair root.

I pointed out that when I used to wax clients, I would have them turn on their side to ensure that I waxed the sides of the legs accurately. Thus far, I noticed a difference in the results between the easily targetable front and backs of my legs, while the sides were somewhat neglected and I could see a difference in hair return. I added that I had asked the laser technician on my previous visit, to go back over areas I felt she had missed or scanned too quickly which produced no pain.

Dr. Oh thanked me for my observation, and drawing these details to her attention. She explained that she would personally oversee my treatment that day, and make sure I was satisfied with the laser application. I thanked her, and then we began discussing what the clinic offered in terms of Botox treatments.

Later, Dr. Oh did indeed perform my laser treatment. Irrespective of whether I decided to purchase a Botox service, she made me feel like a valued client. I wanted to leave a review, praising her for how attentive she was, however, because I don’t speak Korean, the website was difficult to navigate, and I couldn’t locate a customer review section.

MY OVERALL IMPRESSION OF YOU&I

Generally, when I wait in reception, I see staff rushing around. It suggests to me that the staff are really busy and I wonder if they are overworked. This could explain why I felt my treatments were rushed, until I pointed it out to Dr. Oh and she began taking care of my treatments. Having said that, I don’t know if things would be less visibly busy if I visited another clinic. Koreans tend to work longer hours than westerners.

On my fourth visit, Dr. Oh once again did my laser treatment. I was pleased to see her and grateful that she was in charge of my treatment. I still have another treatment to go, and I have deferred this appointment to stagger it two months from the previous one. Her diligence in taking care of me has certainly improved my overall impression of the clinic.

MY RESULTS

I’ve had four treatments over the last four months thus far. As my initial discussion with the Dr. predicted, treatment has been most effective on my underarms and bikini. I suspect that this is because all the hair is dark and thus, easier to target. I’d guess that hair in these areas has already been reduced by fifty percent. Unlike these areas, not all the hair on my legs is dark. I’d guess the results so far have reduced hair up to forty percent, and this is possibly due to the lack of consistent dark hair. Also, the area is much larger and it’s easier for the laser technician to miss spots or apply the laser too quickly. I also wonder whether the hand piece is consistently held at the ninety degree angle, in relation to the target to work effectively.

I suspect that after summer passes, I’ll have a much better idea of just how effective these treatments have been in the long term.

WOULD I RECOMMEND LASER HAIR REMOVAL TO ANOTHER PERSON?

If my treatments have been effective long term, this investment will have been a great use of my money. For now, I can travel to India for two weeks without bringing a razor with me. I don’t have to feel self conscious about not having shaved the day prior if I wear a skirt. I can wear skirts every day in summer!  I never have to go through the ridiculous pain of waxing ever again. Let’s hope that these results are long-term, and that with the arrival of my next anagen hair phase, I won’t be disappointed.

You&I Skin Design Lab PROS

Pricing for legs, bikini and underarms was reasonable. The clinic is clean, clients see the laser technician on time, and the Epogee+ laser machine is effective for light skinned, dark haired clients.

You&I Skin Design Lab CONS

Technicians rush your treatments, so you will have to ask the technician to go over areas that they have missed or skimmed too quickly. The technicians oblige and are professional. They want to keep their clients happy with the treatments. I still feel that the sessions are too short, and I have walked away from sessions where I’ve felt little pain, meaning that the laser has not targeted the anagen hairs effectively.

Overall, I look at the five treatments as a whole, and thus far, I’m fairly pleased with how I’ve been treated and the results I’ve received.

 

Finally, a big shoutout to Canadian laser consultant and specialist, Alia Hawthorne, who helped me define accurately the process of hair cycles and how laser works.

Check out Alia’s various clinics located in Canada on the following social media sites:

 

Disclaimer: All the opinions presented here about You&I Skin Design Lab are my own. I received no endorsements to promote them.

 

Keep learning!

July 2017 update: I will be writing a follow-up article shortly to report on my current results, and any further laser hair removal treatments pursued using the Alexandrite Epogee.

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Do you have any observations about laser hair removal treatments? Can you clarify any information I have presented here, or have anything to add about Alexandrite laser machines? Please like, share and comment below!

 

See more articles by travelandtash:

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

Manipulation, heartbreak and recovery: my story

Korean traditional medicine: my first experience

 

 

A guide to ordering Korean food

I’m totally down if you wanna eat at the new Korean restaurant, but you can order for us cause your Korean’s much better than mine, and I’m not even sure what all that stuff is on the menu.

Does this sound familiar? Korea has been my home for over two years, and yet,  I still get anxious if I go to an unfamiliar restaurant and order from a new menu. This is especially true when the restaurant staff look busy, I feel that the staff will have little patience with me, and the menu is exclusively in Korean. I can read Korean, but I often let Korean friends both decide what we eat and communicate our order. But I’m fed up of being dependent on others. I need to finally learn how to recognize meals, and communicate basic orders with confidence.

On my quest for enlightenment, I’ve enlisted the help of foodie experts and local Koreans, all of whom know a ton more about Korean food and language than I do. Together, we present Korean grilled meals (cooked before you), meals brought to your table, useful words and phrases, and our personal favourites you must try! A big thank you goes out to Buyeon Kim who translated much of our menu list into hangul so that readers of Korean can identify these meals on street posters and menus.

Rather than attempt a comprehensive list of Korean meals, this is a simple guide, designed for tourists and expats. Hopefully, we’ll introduce some new Korean delights to your pallet. Many delicious meals are not included here. Without further ado, let’s delve right in!

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Tour guide and socialite, Johncito (Seoul Village Meetup), giving us a tour of the delights in Kwangjang Market, Seoul – bottom left: Dduckbboki in red sauce

Dduck bbokki (떡볶이) is an incredibly popular street food among local Koreans. Servings are made from thin, long rice cakes drenched in red sauce, and take-out portions are usually around 2,000 won. As a child growing up in Korea, I always dropped by a local restaurant en route home, and picked up dduck bokki. Today, I still love this tasty snack. Dduck bokki is available at pretty much every Korean market, however, you can also make it yourself. Bring water to the boil, add pre-purchased rice cakes, heat and drain. Add red pepper paste to add spice and flavour, and a little sugar or soda pop to sweeten. Stir in sliced green onions and allow flavour to soak into the rice cakes and enrich their flavour. Enjoy! By Buyeon Kim

OUR MOST POPULAR MEALS COOKED ON A GRILL AT YOUR TABLE

Bulgogi (불고기) 8,000-32,000 won (per person)

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Friend Siri, excited to eat bulgogi!

Origogi (오리 고기) smoked duck meat on the grill, 10,000 won (per person)

Samgyeopsal (삼겹살) prices based on cut of meat; 6,000-12,000 won (per person)

Samgyopsal

I’m always up for Samgyupsal (삼겹살 6,000-12,000 won per serving ) pork belly barbeque. The pork must have a perfect ratio of lean meat to fat, and the side accompaniments play an important role. Samgyopsal is usually served with greens (lettuce, kale, sesame leaves, beet greens, and others) used to wrap the meat and side dishes (banchan 반찬). Fire sources are charcoal or gas, and the hardware is often a grill, stone slab or iron pot lids. The iron pot lid have a large surface area which often hold onions, mushrooms, sour kimchi, sliced garlic, spicy bean sprouts, and of course, the pork belly. The meat and trimmings are traditionally eaten first. Round two entails servings of rice and a hot pot of soybean soup called Dwenjangjjigae (된장찌개). If you have room for round three, Bimbim Nengmyun (비빔냉면), cold, spicy noodles, or Mul Nengmyun (물냉면), cold, brothy noodles  are recommended if you are particularly hungry! This makes the perfect meal. By Ji-Young Kim

Galmehgisal (갈매기살) 7,000-10,000 won (per person)

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Buyeon enjoying Galmehgisal

My favourite Korean meal is a type of Korean grilled Samgyopsal called Galmaekisal (갈매기살). I enjoyed this dish with Buyeon at a chain restaurant in Hongdae, Seoul, and the price was around 10,000 won per person. The grilled pork is cooked on a circular table grill accompanied by an omelette.  The omelette cooks around the perimeter of the grilling dish. We also ordered a salty, soybean soup which complemented the meal very well. The galmaekisal cut of meat is one of the most tasty cuts I’ve ever tried. Also, making the omelette is a lot of fun because you get to distribute little vegetables, provided in a side dish, into the circular grill mold where the omelette cooks. Then you add the prepared egg mixture by pouring it over your vegetables. This meal is so much fun both to cook and to eat!”  By Natasha Banky

Moksal (목살) leaner cut of grill meat, 6,000-14,000 (per person)

Deung Galbi (등갈비) 9,000-25,000 won (per person)

Gopchang (곱창)  7,000 won-15,000 won (per person)

SengSun Guwee (생선구이) 6,000won-40,000 won (mixed platter)

Jang-Uh Guwee (장어구이) 7,000won-50,000 won (mixed platter)

Chadolbagi (차돌박이) 10,000-25,000 won (per person)

Haemul gui (해물구이) fresh steamed or grilled seafood available at waterfronts and port towns; 25,000-90,000 (mixed platter)

Dakgalbi (닭갈비) 8,000-13,000 won (per person)

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My favorite Korean food has to be Dalkgalbi (닭갈비 – 8,000-13,000 won per person)!  It is an amazing combination of shredded chicken, rice cakes, cabbage, onion, pepper and red pepper paste, fried on a grill over an open fire in the center of a table. It is great accompanied by beer mekju () or rice wine makkeoli (막걸리). You can choose how spicy you want your platter, from #1 being the lowest, to #5 being super spicy. I usually request spice level #2 or #3 to help bring out the flavor of the dish. Usually, it is served with lettuce, cabbage and perilla leaves to wrap the chicken mixture in. Of course, there is always the usual banchan (side dishes) including kimchi, salad bean sprouts, and garlic that accompany the dish as well. Finally, there is often an option to add shredded cheese. When you have finished your meal, the server will bring out Bokembop (볶음밥)to cook on the same dalkgalbi grill. Bokembop is a mixture of spiced rice, seaweed and egg. It is a great way to finish this hearty meal. By Dan Schmidt

OUR MOST POPULAR MEALS BROUGHT TO YOUR TABLE

Mul Nengmyeon (물냉면) 6,000 won

Bibim Nengmyeon (비빔 냉면) 6,000 won

Bibimbap (비빔밥) 9,000 won

Dongkas (돈까스) 7,000 won

Kimbap (김밥) 2,000-5,000 won

 

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I regularly eat at my local Tomato Kimbap, located by Hanti station

 

When you’re in a rush, or want a low calorie food item, Kimbap (김밥)  is an excellent choice. It consists of vegetables, pickled radish, and is often offered with Kimchi, tuna or spam rolled in rice and dried seaweed. Kimbap toppings and ingredients have transformed due to changing tastes and globalization. Kimbap is offered everywhere, from small kiosks to larger restaurants, and prices vary between 2,000 to 5,000 won. Popular chain restaurants include Kimbap Nara and Kimbap Sarang, while  Baruda (바르다) and Gimsongseng (김선생) are well known for their quality and composition. By Sophie Kim

YuggaeJang (육개장) 7,000-9,000 won

Shabu (샤부) 9,000-60,000 won

Jok bal (족발) 20,000-40,000 won

Jja jang Myun (짜장면) 3,000-7,00 won

Jja jang Myun (짜장면)  is a Korean adaptation of a Chinese meal, which Koreans have made their own. It is very different from the Chinese original, and it can be found in Chinese restaurants in Korea. The meal consists of thicker noodles served in a black bean sauce(Chunjang), and both the noodles and sauce are typically served separately. The client usually mixes the sauce and noodles together. There are variations of this meal which add seafood, and include different side dishes such as kimchi and radish to the basic noodle and black bean sauce combination. These meals are usually around 7,000 won, however, depending on the type of restaurant you go to, it can vary between 3,500 to 10,000 won per serving. These soups are even available in instant noodle form (Jjappageti) at supermarkets. By Buyeon Kim

Soondubu Jigae (순두부찌개) 7,000 won

Samgehtang (삼계탕) 10,000-50,000 won

Bo Ssam (보쌈) 20,000-40,000 won

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I fell in love with Bo Ssam (보쌈 – 20,000 to 40,000 won) the first time I ate it. Initially, it was more of an emotional connection than about the food and flavour itself. It was served as school lunch one day when I had been in Korea for maybe two months. I remember being homesick to the point of almost crying that morning. When lunch came around, I served myself, and the other teachers explained how to eat the food. I tried the meat on its own first. It tasted exactly like one of my mom’s meat dishes, and it was comforting and precisely what I needed at that moment. It felt like a hug from home. Bo Ssam is pork belly that’s been boiled instead of grilled and it is less greasy with a softer, more velvety texture than samgyeopsal. It is also served in much the same way as samgyeopsal, except that it comes to the table already cooked. A little packet of ssamjjang, raw garlic, and lettuce, with a slice of bo Ssam and some bo Ssam kimchi makes the perfect mouthful of flavour. Bo Ssam kimchi also happens to be the best kind of kimchi in my opinion since it’s still quite fresh and a little crunchy. The relative lightness of the meat and the freshness of the kimchi makes this a great alternative to samgyeopsal. By Sariska Fortuin-Schmidt

jogiyo button
Best call button ever! Discovered at a duck restaurant near where Dan and I used to live. The top button is possibly for “service.” The bottom right is for mekju. Bottom left is for soju. Usually, call buttons are only one button for all requests. – Sariska Fortuin-Schmidt

USEFUL FOOD WORDS

  • Galbi 갈비 “meat”
  • Dak  “chicken” (Dakgalbi  닭갈비 “Spicy BBQ chicken”)
  • So “beef”
  • Seng sun 생선 “fish”
  • Ori 오리 “duck”
  • Samgyupsal 삼겹살 “BBQ pork belly”
  • Soon sal 순살 “boneless”
  • Gyeran 계란 “egg”
  • Twigim 튀김 “fried”
  • Guk “soup” (Manduguk 만두국 “dumpling soup”)
  • Tong “stew” (Galbitong 갈비탕 “meat stew”)
  • Myun 면 “noodles” (Ramyun 라면 “noodle soup”)
  • Bap “rice” (Gimbap 김밥 “Korean sushi rolls”)
  • Mekju 맥주“beer”

USEFUL RESTAURANT PHRASES

  • Yogiyo! 여기요“Excuse me/ over here please” (used in a casual restaurant)
  • I inbun juseyo 이(two) 인분 주세요 “Please give me food for two people”
  • Yang-i ulmankum na wha yo 양이 얼만큼 나와요 “How big is the serving size?”
  • Mul jom duh juseyo 물 좀 더 주세요 “Please give me more water”
  • Dul mep gae haejuseyo 덜 맵게 해주세요 “Please give me less-spicy food”
  • Doe juseyo 더주세요“Give me more please”
  • Kimchi jom doe juseyo 김치 좀 더 주세요“Please give me more Kimchi”
  • Mul tee shoo  juseyo 물티슈 주세요“Please give me wet wipes” (to wipe hands)
  • Ap cheema juseyo 앞치마 있어요? “Please give me an apron” (Most BBQ places have these so you don’t get oil/food on your clothes)
  • Hwajangsil udieyo? 화장실 어디에요? “Where is the toilet?”

MEET OUR CONTRIBUTORS:

SariskaSariska Fortuin-Schmidt is an enthusiastic eater from South Africa. For the past seven years, she lived in South Korea and fell in love with the country’s cuisine. She is currently back in South Africa with her husband and hopes to continue their culinary adventures in the Middle East, and someday, have a restaurant of their own.

BuyeonBuyeon Kim is a 30-something Korean, professional language instructor, and global traveller. She has lived in Canada, enjoys touring Europe, is constantly planning her next trip. She dreams of living in new cities.

Ji-young KimJi-Young Kim has resided in South Korea since December of 2006. She loves the outdoors and trying new things, especially food. You can see her and her dog (Conan) hitting the trails, biking, or on a picnic at a park. She’s loving her life in Korea. Follow Ji on Instagram: conan_from_korea

DanDan Schmidt is a foodie at heart. After eating his way around Korea for six years, he has settled in South Africa with his wonderful wife. He is planning his next adventure in Saudi Arabia to not only teach English but also learn the art of Middle Eastern cuisine. He aspires to attend culinary school and transition career paths into the food services industry.

Sophie 2Sophie Kim is an international Korean, currently living in Berlin, Germany. Sophie grew up in Seoul, S. Korea, has lived in France, and travels frequently to get inspired! Sophie speaks Korean, English, French, and is currently learning German. She is an avid hiker, enthusiastic socialite and one of the most driven persons I’ve had the fortune to meet.

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Enjoying papingsu in Gangnam

Author, Natasha Banky, is an English teacher, travel writer, yoga enthusiast, salsa-dancing wannabe, and loves outdoor activities, particularly hiking and weekend trips around S. Korea. She has lived in England, Canada, and now works in Korea. She plans to see, and eat her way around the world.

Papingsu 팥빙수 shaved-ice dessert; perhaps a topic for the next blog

tash and buyeon
Seriously enjoying Papingsu in Hongdae, Seoul

 

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What are your favourite Korean dishes? Do you have any recommendations or tips to share?

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