Let a thousand flowers bloom

After a long wait, spring has finally arrived in Seoul and the flowers are blooming all over the city.

Forsythias (개나리): One of the first signs of spring

What excites me most is the Cherry Blossoms (벚꽃). Interestingly enough, they have always been my favorite kind yet I had never seen them in person up until now. I thought they could only be found in Japan for some reason but they are literally all over Korea apparently. I wish spring would stay forever.

Magnolias in full bloom

Wherever you are, I hope you are enjoying springtime. As for me, I’m so ready to do some major spring cleaning!!

Snow Wonderland

I’m away on a sort-of-last-minute mini vacation at the moment. Had one of the best runs ever today since Aspen more than two years ago though the snow isn’t as great (it is no longer Winter, after all). So awesome how the slopes are almost empty, though not so happy about having extremely limited choices when it comes to eating as most places are closed due to its being off-peak season. As a result, when we walked into the food court this morning, there was one thing on the menu, and it was not cheap. Can’t complain though, because I can’t remember the last time when I got to feed myself warm Korean-style breakfast before going on the slopes. It was always either pizza or a burger that cost more than a lift ticket.

On another note, it’s been twenty years since I last visited this particular resort. It’s a strange feeling to be back after so many years.

NOTE: I’m obviously on a short break from the 15/20 project for a few days due to the ski trip; thanks for your understanding!

Less is More

Says Mr. Kelly

Was at LACMA last week with Mr. P for Ellsworth Kelly’s exhibition who is famous for abstract art. I personally am conflicted when it comes to such subject because it always seems that the description is more interesting than the work itself… but then again, that may just be me.


Ellsworth Kelly: Prints and Paintings is the first retrospective examination of Kelly’s exceedingly prolific print practice since 1988. The exhibition includes over 100 prints, the majority from the collection of Jordan D. Schnitzer and his Family Foundation, and five paintings. The exhibition is organized thematically in order to explore Kelly’s mastery of key formal motifs: grids, contrast and curves. In the words of catalogue raisonné author Richard Axsom, Kelly’s prints “exchange the totemic presence, the tangible physicality and public assertiveness of the paintings and sculptures for the qualities no less genuine in registering Kelly’s vision: intimacy, delicacy, and in nearly immaterial veils of shape and color, an unmatched ethereality.”

Back to Reality. And Boy, Does It Feel Good

I don’t think I’ve ever said this before, but it actually feels awesome to be back to reality. Praise the Lord!

Oh, by the way, finally sharing some shots of Sam Cheong Dong taken in Winter. It’s so nice and warm in Seoul now. Lovin’ it!

Seven Grand

“There is definitely a bookish, masculine vibe to the place… the kind of joint you’d find in Fitzgerald, Hemingway or Miller (Henry, not Arthur)… a great place to drink bourbon, puff on a cigar and pretend to be in an imaginary boys club. Even if you’re a girl.”

“Boys Club” is probably the most accurate way to describe this place, though all I had was a glass of ice water in place of a cigar and scotch.

Great music & art, funky crowd, and lots of heads…

It’s a Small World

Was in Las Vegas last week. Though we did take our Canon with us, there weren’t many opportunities for photos. Anyhow, these are what I have from the trip taken on my iPhone. In a nutshell, the trip basically consisted of strange yet interesting sightings including a giant Prada luggage, a dragon, the Statue of Liberty, a gondola, a gigantic dog on a bike, snow in the desert, etc. What was most interesting however, was seeing the replicas after actually having been to the actual landmarks not so long ago, such as the Venetian Hotel and the mini Eiffel Tower at the Paris Hotel posted above. Now that I had the ability to compare them to the real things, I realized what a good job they did replicating. That’s some skills, right there.

It was surprisingly chilly. Definitely regretted (and still regretting after being back to California from the trip) not bringing warm clothes from Korea.

A Walk to Remember

Two days before we left Korea, it snowed so much that everything in Seoul, and I mean everything, was covered in snow. We happened to be on the 8th floor of Doota in Dong Dae Mun when it started snowing so we were able to witness the beginning of it all. After grabbing a few fishcake sticks (odeng) and a potato dog outside, we decided to take a walk which ended up being two hours long… Despite having to fight the cold, it was the most romantic walk ever. I felt like I was in a Korean drama walking by Cheong Gye Cheon (a stream that flows across the city). If you are ever in Seoul during the winter, I highly, highly recommend this walk, especially when it snows hard.

Culture Shock

The more I learn about the Korean culture, the more my heart breaks. 5-year old kids who are sent to English classes, single ladies who would do anything to get married (including plastic surgery, studying their butt off to get into a good college, etc.), the guys who max out their credit cards to buy American things, kids starting to compete against each other at a very, very young age because there is no way they can survive otherwise… The sad part is that this all stems from their wanting acceptance whether by their peers, family, or the community in general. I’ve noticed that Koreans tend to pay a lot of attention to what others are doing, especially on those whom they have some type of relationship with, or ones they know even slightly. This is much more prevalent in small towns as everyone tend to know everyone which can be both good and bad. It’s not as bad if there is something to celebrate, but if there is something that you would rather keep private, you may easily get hurt as people are so ridiculously nosy here. Ok, I admit it, it’s almost to a point where I’m starting to get annoyed. Why do they care that a neighbor’s son did not get into the school that their son got into? Why should you drive your parents crazy because your friend got a spanking new jacket that your parents cannot afford? Why are random people so curious about other’s private life..?! No wonder there are so many celebrities committing a suicide. They not only have no private life whatsoever, but people create rumors and spread it like a wild fire, and best of all, the media publish it like it’s a proven fact. While I understand that this particular behavior has something to do with the fact that Korea once was one of the poorest countries of the world (which was surprisingly not too long ago), I truly hope that they start to realize that it’s what’s killing them on the inside. Yes, the country has experienced some ridiculously rapid growth in the past ten years or so, and the people may be brightest of the bunch, but unless they stop being so nosy (because they lack self esteem and are self conscious of everything), they will continue to drink away their lives. Speaking of drinking, I’m just appalled at the drinking culture here. They drink soju like it’s water, literally. I have yet to see someone who actually drinks water here. I’m like the only one who carries a water bottle everywhere. Soju is cheaper than coffee. It’s party time every night. There are drunken people everywhere; it’s actually quite easy to see a girl puking on the side walk, or a drunken man yelling at another drunken man using lots of derogatives on the streets. When I ask them why they drink, there is no direct answer, but that it’s just part of life. But why should it be? I once went through the phase too when I would just drink until I couldn’t remember anything, but it ended a while ago, yes, a while ago, but here in Seoul, it continues until… they find out that they have cancer. I may be exaggerating just a little bit, but many of them continue to drink until their body can’t handle it. I have relatives who did so, and I continue to see more of them doing the same thing, killing themselves. While it’s fine to have a glass or two, or until you know that you’ve reached your limit, meaning that if you had one more glass you know you are getting messed up, I really don’t know what good it does to get drunk to a point where you make a fool out of yourself. Come on, we know that we do stupid things when we are drunk, the things we wouldn’t do in broad daylight in our right state of mind. Would you please, please control yourselves..? There is no need to abuse our body, and to abuse others’ (by getting drunk and doing stupid things to them). This is not the first time I’m talking about this issue, I share my perspectives with people I meet, not because I’m trying to be all holy and righteous (I know I’m far from it), but because my heart aches. Perhaps I’m even more sad because I once was one of them who was jealous, judgmental, nosy, drunk, and… just didn’t care. If you are reading this, please know that you were made to do great things, and there is a reason why you are here today, so please take a good care of your body- eat healthy, cut down on drinking, exercise, and stay positive. Oh, and please, please mind your own business. Who cares what others are doing with their lives? It’s your life, and everyone’s different- the situation, skill set, personality, interest, everything. You only make your own life miserable by talking about others. Let them live their life, so you can live your own- then everyone’s happy. Yay!

The Past and the Present

Insadong-gil is “well known as a traditional street to both locals and foreigners” and represents the “culture of the past and the present”.  It contains a mixture of historical and modern atmosphere and is a “unique area of Seoul that truly represents the cultural history of the nation.”

One question I ask myself regularly is, ‘What will I be doing a year from now?’ A year ago, I had no idea that I would be moving to Korea. It was the same situation a year before I moved to New York which suddenly took place in 2000. Three years later, I didn’t know that I would be moving back to California the following year. I didn’t know that I would be studying Marketing in college instead of Design, and even less expected was that I would end up in graduate school. (I never considered myself as the type that could study for hours, or even read so many books…)

I used to enjoy developing and maintaining short term and long term plans but I realize that no matter how well-planned I believe myself to be, nothing in life happens as planned and I’m often reminded that everything is in God’s hands. As the year-end approaches, I sit in my new room in Seoul and wonder what I will be doing, or where I will be on December 23, 2012.

But for now, my focus is on enjoying the present.

I’m extremely thankful to be given an opportunity to be reunited with my roots, and experience the growth of my love for Korea. (btw, one of the huge supporting factors is the Korean Drama called 뿌리깊은 나무, or Tree with Deep Roots. It’s not only remarkably entertaining (it’s been the top rated TV show in Korea for months), but educational and artistically inspiring. It’s helped me develop a new appreciation for the Korean language and its history.) I’m loving it here even though it’s so cold out I rarely leave the room. haha

I wish every single one of you a very merry Christmas filled with many blessings and joy as well as a very happy new year. Thank you for reading my blog and commenting, it really means a lot to me.

Hugs & Kisses,

Karen <3

Home, Sweet Home

These photos were taken about a month ago a few days after our arrival in Seoul. So far, my experience has been more interesting than exciting. I’m actually not sure how to accurately describe what I’m feeling towards it. I feel at home but at the same time I could not feel more awkward at the idea of living here. It’s true that I was born here and spent a good amount of childhood here before leaving for America but everything is so different… yet the same.

All in all, I am loving the convenience of city life, one that’s quite different from the life I had in New York; I’m referring to the food deliveries that take less than ten minutes, access to all the tasty food that’s extremely affordable, all the shopping opportunities, and the fact that there’s pretty much everything I need right out the door. I also like that the cold water is actually cold, and the hot water is hot the way it’s supposed to be, and the crisp cold breeze that welcomes me every morning. In midst of the hustle and bustle of city life, you can always find a place to take a breath of fresh air at a nearby park or a mountain in my case, all for free. We went hiking yesterday to a neighborhood mountain which turned out to be a famous landmark. I’m continuously amazed at the abundance of things you can do in this city that are available for free.

Most important however, is that I don’t look like a foreigner anymore, something I struggled with for a very long time when I lived in the States. Often, people are surprised that my English pronunciation is quite good considering that it’s my second language. What they don’t know is how hard I tried to hide my identity, a struggle one would have a hard time fully comprehending unless experienced firsthand. I know I should have been more proud of my background but unfortunately, my self-confidence was overpowered by fear of isolation and neglect at the time. For more on this topic, read here.

Yeah, so the verdict is… that I like it here, because

I  am  home.