Monday, April 29, 2013

Happy and tired

Aksana and David arrived this morning and will grace me with their upbeat presence until Wednesday morning when they leave, for good, for Europe :( Although we are extremely happy for David and his new job opportunity in Geneva, we will definitely miss this lively couple.

Today, Aksana and I visited the jimjilbangs for our last time together. It was bittersweet. Aksana is the one that discovered so many of the great bath houses here in Korea with me.  First, when we traveled last year with our friend's family and then every week until I left for my extended trip abroad. We fumbled through the customs and now could be mistaken for the ajoumas ;) We ended the evening with delicious, cheap Korean food. Now, after a big day of catching up and running around the city, we are ready for a good night's rest.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Living Abroad: Starting Over, Friends edition

In continuation of my last Living Abroad post, I have been thinking about the great parts of living abroad and the challenges. One challening thing that both Nicholas and I agree on is the constant starting over. Not the finding of an apartment and where to buy your food, opening new bank accounts and learning your new home culture, but the struggle of making friends. The starting over with who you will spend your weekends with, who you will go for hikes, bike rides and runs with, who will be the people you try a new restaurant with or share a meal in your home, and eventually will be there to share your deepest secrets, wipe your tears when things are rough and cheer you on when things are well.

Living abroad makes your circle of friends extremely important. They become your family for the holidays and the people you count on when you need an extra hand. Friends are always important, but being away from home, with no immediate family to call on, they are it. 

I love to be around people and I cherish my friends. However, this time coming back to Seoul, I did not want to make friends again. Getting older, I think we get more particular about the people we hang out with. I love meeting people and trying new things, but at the same time, I also just would like to have a solid group of friends who are available and ready to go out at a moment's notice. Although it is incredible the amount of time I can spend with my best friends and family on skype, hangout, phone and whatsapp, I realize that actual human contact is important, too ;)

It is especially difficult this time, because Nicholas is gone. So, instead of hanging out with many of the couples we normally see, I am flying solo. Which in some strange ways, is a blessing in disguise. I am forced to put myself out there and start over. One of my closest friends has moved away and the group of people that we know here is very nomadic. Lots of people moving in and others moving out. So, for the nth time, I am starting over.

One thing I have discovered by doing this, is that I am doing things that I "normally" wouldn't do. "Normally" meaning my life when I was in the States. I would not go to random gatherings solo, I always would invite friends to a museum opening, lecture, cocktails at an embassy or other such event. Here, I have no choice. My closest friend here is a mom and she has a little baby to take care of at night when most of these events take place. So, I walk into a room by myself, take a deep breath and dive in with a smile.

So far, I haven't crashed.

Si puo fare- Italian night in Seoul

Last night, I went to Club Italia for their homemade pizza and movie night. I have been so tempted seeing the invite on FB while I was away for their once a month gathering and I was finally here and able to make it!

I had hoped to meet up with some friends there, but figured worse case, I could meet some new ones and get some delicious food and watch a movie out. None of my friends showed up, besides the one who made the pizzas, but I was so happy to meet a group of students who are here for a semester from Italy, Finland, Germany and France. They were so sweet and genuine. Before I could really speak, they each were hoping I would say I was from their country. The Italians jumped on me first, speaking Italian hellos and introductions. I apologized that although my family has Italian origins, I do not speak it :( Then the German girl got a big smile and shouted that I was German. Nope. Then where? asked the French girl. The US, my family is in Ohio.  Small world. One of the Italian girls has a friend who went to do a semester in Columbus and never left. She loved it that much :) I mean, obviously...

So, we got some fresh-out-of-the-oven pizza and grabbed our seats for the film. Si puo fare. It was great. I highly, highly recommend it. The film is about the social co-operatives in Italy from the 1980s. Where they would help patients transition out of mental institutions or others who were disabled. It was a comedy/feel-good movie and I couldn't help but be the one to start the applause when the credits started to roll. (while some tears rolled down my face).

Sometimes, a film is great because of the people you are with and the atmosphere it creates. I know that definitely played into this one, but I am pretty sure it was a great one, regardless. Just in case, make sure to eat with a pizza and some great company.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Brunch in Gangnam

Today I had brunch with my favorite Vancouver couple and a new Colombian who is in the group. We had a great time and the food at the Flying Pan was quite impressive, delicious and filling, considering we are in Korea eating an American-style brunch.

It was raining, windy and really cold as I headed to the restaurant after my Korean classes and I was chilled through when I arrived. Still in my warm coat, I ordered a coffee and Patrick, in just his work shirt and in true Canadian-style, ordered a strawberry smoothie with frozen raspberry garnishes... I was cold just watching him. There must be some truth to the Canadians toughness to the cold climate. Brrrr...

It was a great little gathering with the guys who ducked out of the office to join us and Nicki. It was great meeting the new member of the team and seeing how much he is like Nicholas. Yes, they are both Colombian, but they also both attended IMD (different years). I think that has something to do with it. His girlfriend arrives sometime soon and is currently living in DC! Talk about a crazy small world. Cannot wait to spend more time with this couple!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Lyla Arrived!

Lyla Levy just could not wait the extra 7.5 weeks to arrive- she wanted to get out and play now! Lyla arrived on Friday, April 19. Rachel and Lyla are both doing beautifully. Lyla has to stay in the NICU for a few weeks to be monitored but at 4lbs 5oz, she is a little fighter. She is breathing and eating on her own! 
Cannot wait to meet my niece! Congrats Tony, Rachel and Carter! 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Living Abroad- Weekends

Something I have realized and find so strange living abroad is how I view my weekends. I have not had a full-time job since I left my NYC firm. Even still, I view weekends as my free time- my time to do whatever I want to; to enjoy and relax. During the week, I put pressure on myself to be productive and focused. Even though I could relax more, I feel ingrained that I have to put in time on my projects and studying. I am in class until 9am and have moved my US calls to early morning-prior to them- so I can stay focused and more productive during the day. By 5 or 6pm, I call it a day and make dinner, flip on a show or hang out.

I just realized, that if I wanted, I could make a Wednesday feel like a Saturday, but something in me physically stops me from that. Strange thought, but the weekends are still weekends. The feelings that come with a TGIF, still feel the same to me as when I reported in and received a regular paycheck. It just strikes me as odd. Some things never change.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


I remember when I qualified for the Boston marathon in the fall of 2004 and ran it 7 years ago, in 2006. I could not have been more proud of the work I put in to qualify and then run the race. This is a place that most distance runners dream of participating. For me, it was a magical experience. I felt like a celebrity or professional athlete. The organizers shuttle the runners in buses with police escorts to the start of the race and I remember when I finished and put on my finisher's medal, I was bursting with excitement. I had done it! When I entered a restaurant shortly after with my medal around my neck, the host shouted that a finisher had entered and everyone in the restaurant stood up and applauded me. It was a moment I will never forget.

I am saddened that today will not be the same for so many of these elite athletes. Today, their long hours of training, both mentally and physically, and their accomplishment has been overtaken by this tragedy. It breaks my heart.

However, I was not surprised when I read that some finishers crossed the line and kept running to the Mass General hospital to donate blood. In the midst of tragedy, there is good.

Monday, April 15, 2013

And he's off

As luck would have it, Nicholas left this morning for his assignment in South America. He did not travel last quarter while I was away, and now, of course, he has a full schedule of it! I would love to join him, but honestly, for the first time, I just want to stay home :)

He is thrilled to go back to Brazil and travel around Latin America, he will even have a stop in Colombia! Buen viaje!

Friday, April 12, 2013

New Bikes!

While I was away, Nicholas was keeping busy with all of our friends. One group in particular, is very active and big bikers. They all got bikes here in Korea and talked Nicholas into getting bikes for us, so we can join them on weekend outings.

The day after I got back to Seoul, Nicholas took me to pick them up. He picked out nice, light racing type bikes, so I can try another triathlon with the proper equipment. Of course, Nicholas had made friends with the owner and his wife and wanted to get a photo. Not only that, but also one of our friends and Nico have also sent many of their friends there to buy bikes, so we wanted to have photos of each of us with the two of them.
It has been so cold, windy and rainy/snowy, we haven't been able to take the bikes out yet. Looking forward to spring arriving and taking some long bike rides!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


The first question we get when we say we live in Korea is, "North or South?"

"South...", of course.

Now with all the attention on our little peninsula due to our neighbor to the North, most people don't have to ask that question.

From our perspective, life is as normal as ever here. Trains still run on time, the city is clean, the people are dressed fashionably and well-heeled. There is plenty of traffic and activity. It is a vibrant place that I love.

What there isn't is: panic, worry, fear. No one discusses the issue. Even my expat friends, amongst ourselves, rarely talk about it. I only think about it if we get a message, and we get many, from a friend or family member checking in.

While Nicholas and I were away on a very disconnected, relaxing vacation last week, our last night we mistakenly turned on the television and saw all the media about the threats. It was disturbing. And overhyped. If I didn't live here and had loved ones here, I would be sending the same concerned messages.

But as Nicholas continues to tell anyone that asks us (me; view his latest FB post...) about our welfare is simply: