Tag Archives: travel

Can you pay my bills? Can you pay my telephone bills? Can you pay my automo-bills?

So one of the 500 reasons I had for coming to Korea was to fast-track my way into a little bit of financial security after the free Jesus for everyone! experiment.  I don’t make a ginormous amount of money here–in fact, salary-wise, I’m still way behind the curve of where I wanted to be at this age–but the cost of living is inexpensive and there are a lot of perks associated with being a foreign word slinger for hire.

Now, please understand–I  used to be BROKE.  So broke I opened e-mail accounts just for the spam. So broke that I considered getting married for the rice. So broke I used to read recipes for dinner.

I used to be so broke, that a bum once gave ME a dollar for food.

I wish that last one was a joke, but it’s true. I gave it back to him. Chicago has some remarkably sensitive and kind homeless people.

Anyway, my point is that I have been SO poor for SO long that ANY money seems like a whole lot. Now that I’m actually making grown person money again, I vacillate between spending way too much of it on silly things(like way too many shoes) just because I can and being scared to death to spend any of it because I am just not used to being not-poor. I can’t get used to the idea that there is more money coming next month and it’s a consistent amount!  I’ve been living on noodles and coffee all month because I knew I wanted to go out on two consecutive weekends and also because I haven’t received my bills for the month yet and wasn’t sure how much they’d be.

I just got those bills. Gas and electricity–about $53. Cable and internet–$38. Phone–$106. (Okay, THAT one’s ridiculous but I figured I could afford a splurge upfront. It goes down by $30 in two months when I’ve paid for my phone.)

Let me reiterate.

Gas and electric–which cost upwards of $70 EACH in the US and UK if you live like a Luddite and wear thermals everywhere…was a total of $53.

Cable and internet–which I could never really afford in the US or UK so I have no idea how much they cost, just that it was out of my budget–$38.

Phone–okay, my phone is a terrible deal. But considering how inexpensive everything else is…I think I can afford it.

I didn’t mention rent simply because I don’t pay it. My job does. Or transportation, because I only pay it on special occasions–I live pretty much within walking distance of everything in my town. Even so, the hour long journey into the heart of Seoul only costs aboout $1.75.

I feel like I hit the poverty-recovery jackpot here.

I have student loans and a credit card bill to pay in the US, of course. But I don’t think I’ll have any problems doing that, do you?

For today’s quote, I’m sure you know the song…

Peace, beautiful people!

I always knew that I’d like this place–you don’t have to look too far to find a friendly face…

So yeah…how do you like the new look? Thought it was time to lighten things up a bit and actually start blogging a bit more about the odd turn my life has taken recently.

Before I get started on that though, I want to add an update to my last post, on family and the things that I have learned and let go when it comes to the topic.

Shortly before leaving the US for Korea, I got some bad financial news. Went into deep depression, mourned, stayed in bed for two days and accidentally let the whole sorry episode slip to my grandmother when I went to go visit her.

What happened next shocked me. I had started a crowd funding campaign to get me out of the bad investment hole I had managed to dive headfirst into, and while my friends were incredibly helpful, my family members–including some folks I barely talk to these days–were responsible for over half of the donations.

I was stunned. Shocked. And am eternally grateful. As a result, I left Colorado feeling loved, safe and secure. That is a way I had forgotten how to feel. Thank you family. You know who you are.

I guess that’s a good lead in to the point of today’s blog entry, which is…Korea is different. My Korea experience so far has been very different both from my UK expat experience and from all of the blog and vlog and book accounts I’d read before coming, and I’m glad.

I’ve heard horror stories, weird stories, stories of discrimination etc…but I’ve had nothing but good experiences here when it comes to Koreans and Korean culture. The only issues I’ve had so far have been with other expats–primarily white Americans and Europeans but chile, that is a whole other topic for another post. Not gonna touch that now.

My point is, despite what you may have heard about Korea–political turmoil, cultural pecadilloes, etc…–my experience here so far has been one of feeling safe, secure, and remarkably unworried. Even though I’m working a full time job, don’t speak enough of the language to understand most of what anyone says to me yet, and don’t really know many people yet–I feel so relaxed I might as well be on a extended vacation.

Part of that is the usual culture-shock honeymoon stage wide-eyed thing, I know. But part of it…I don’t know.

For example, right now, it’s Friday night. I’m chillin’ at home. Ordered a pizza(in Korean! Amazing, right?). Went to the corner store and got a beer and some cookies too. I had all these grandiose plans to clean my house and work on some crochet patterns, but I’ve been talking to people all week so instead I’m sitting in front of the TV with my laptop and a terrible beer and a decent pizza typing nonsense and watching this;

No, really. What the hell is this, anyway? Is this a grown ass man in a hipster outfit doing crisp choreography? And do I actually think it’s CUTE? What has my life come to?

Comfort, that’s what. I don’t feel guilty for relaxing. I don’t have the constant pressure I felt in the US and UK to always be doing something, working on something, making something happen.  I don’t feel like I need to be talking to someone, forcing a social connection, or helping somebody.

Maybe it’s selfish. But if this is what life in Korea is like so far…I think I’m going to love it here. It won’t last forever, but right now, I need the break. It is so nice to have options to do a lot of stuff–and not HAVE to do anything.

There are pressures and odd spots and major cultural differences, of course. I’m 15 minutes away from the DMZ(aka the North Korean border) and that’s certainly interesting, if not as drastic as most English-speaking media makes it seem. Hearing K-Pop music everywhere constantly has pretty much ended my temporary love affair with it.  Americans are often racist morons, to my chagrin. Koreans seem to be polite to us allanyway, which is kind of them. And I am really embarrassed by my low level of ability in the language…I’m so used to talking my way into and out of things that without that ability, I feel like I seem stupid and inept. In fact, I AM kind of stupid and inept. Viva humility.  Over the course of time, I’m sure I’ll blog about all of that but right now, I’m still riding out my first impression of Korea. That impression is…

…I like this place.

But seriously though. THIS just came on. What the hell is this? Where’s the dude with the Bane mask?

Follow me on Twitter for more consistent updates on the mamalazarus Korea experience and hit the subscribe button on this blog…it’s somewhere over there. —>


PS; Today’s blog title comes from this song

Get back to where you once belonged…

Returning is hard. Leaving wasn’t easy, but it was gradual. A six month visit turned into a 6 year stay, but I was never there permanently and it took some time to adjust. I’m not sure I ever really did. But there was always that sense of adjusting, of moving, of changing and adapting to my surroundings.

Coming back happened all of a sudden, and all of the things I remembered that made me want to leave were bigger and even more annoying than before. I didn’t want to be back. I didn’t want to deal with 8-lane highways, gridlock, and hours on public transportation. I didn’t want to deal with jumbo sized everything and flat Midwestern accents and well-meaning racialicious white people who felt entitled to inform me how unracist they are.

More than anything, I didn’t want to deal with the questions, or the assumptions behind them.

“You must have money, right? Anyone who travels like you do must have money.”

“You musta got your heart broke by some Englishman. That why you came back?”

“Did you bring me something nice?”

“Do you think you’re better than everybody now?”

It’ s not that people here in the US are any more ignorant than people in the UK, or anywhere else in the world. It’s just that returning has reminded me how ignorant we all are, and how few people actually are aware of that ignorance.

I can’t wait to be consciously ignorant again. Here’s to February, and blowing this big ol’ red white and blue popsicle stand again.


What’s your name, what’s your number?

Yeah. So this whole make a post saying I’m having a bad day and disappearing for months on end thing? Not a good look. Have to quit doing that.

Been laying low and attempting, unsuccessfully, to relax and interact with the world in a less pressurized way. It hasn’t really worked–the pressure is on more than ever–but it has made me realize a few important things in the first few weeks of the new year. I love to study and will probably wind up teaching sooner or later. I need a better job. I need to move, both in the short and long term. And I really need to make more youtube videos–positive ones. Speaking of youtube though,  I appreciate all the kind messages sent by you guys after my last one…thank you for your kindness and concern. I’m fine. Hanging in there. Trying to, anyway.

There are lots of things percolating in my head as usual, about things like human kindness, human arrogance, and the perils of growing old alone intentionally. However, today I just want to do something light and get out of my blogging slump.

See what it is after the jump…

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You’re my little secret, and that’s how we should keep it…

There’s a dirty little secret that nobody ever mentions when a body goes off to become a single, unprivileged expat.

That secret is the emotional tailspin the “Emergency Contact” blank on a form can send you into.

Read more after the break…

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Oh-oh I-iiiiii, I’m still alive…

There’ll be another travel post up later tonight, but meanwhile…

And although this has absolutely nothing to do with today’s content, the title comes from here. What can I say, I was a teenager in the 90’s like a lot of you were…

I can still hear the footsteps, I can see only walls…

So…I’ve gotten my thoughts on the “riots” off of my chest.  We now return to our temporarily scheduled travelogue...with Warsaw, Poland.

Eating dried mango in a sleeper car. Nuclear freaking heat. The Palace of Culture and Science. The synagogue. A lovely couple from Lyon. Being grouchy from traveling badly. The mall.
A Polish Chicagoan. Fizzy water. 5-star Polish restaurant for 228 zlotys. Lovely, happy chef. Chopin. More amber. A green Polish pedicure.

A Korean-Japanese gentleman named Im. Chinese Hungarians on the train platform. Rude train lady. Syrenas. Surprising amounts of diversity. Italian food everywhere. Strong coffee. Bad pizza. Homesick. 

Kind people helping with the language. White sleeper car sheets(again!). Bouncing. Changing clothes in the top bunk while a friend stands guard. Dead phone. Strange stares. Lovely people. Grim city. Good night!

Today’s musical connection for the title was quite hard to come by…the first thing that came to mind was David Bowie’s” Warszawa”:

…which doesn’t exactly have the most accessible lyrics.  So, I went with Joy Division’s “Warsaw” instead. It may or may not have anything to do with Warsaw, but it does have lyrics…

Grits ain’t groceries, eggs ain’t poultry, and Mona Lisa was a man…

For an explanation of why the blog’s been weird lately, click here.

Vilnius, Lithania…

Wait, people here eat grits!? Amazing museums. Russian deportation photojournalism. Old lady with blonde hair and drawn-on black eyebrows. Young lady with black hair and drawn-on red eyebrows. I don’t get it. Gigantic hamhock(spelled “ham hog”) covered in spicy ketchup.

Cathedrals. Saints. Statues.

Terrified stone faces. Huge size disparities. Pile of sick outside the hostel(yuck). Loudest, longest street sweeper ever. Cutie from Argentina who sleeps like a rock. Wooden stairs. Church bells.

The Davis Cup, with Morroco leading. Searching for mysterious French speakers. Cili Pica. Dumplings with curd. Strawberry mash. Upusis? What does that mean? Strange neighborhood with lots of rules. 

River in the park, park on the river. Nigerians in the university. Night bus to Warsaw. Good night!

Didn’t hear much music that I remember in Vilnius, so today’s title comes from here…in homage to my shock at seeing grits in Lithuania…

Summertime and the livin’ is easy…

For an explanation of why the blog’s been weird lately, click here.

Kaunas, Lithuania…

Oh-my-God-I’m-so-tired! Walked all over! Long train from Vilnius to Kaunas. Meeting Greta in the sunshine with a bag full of cucumbers. Eating cepilinis in the pouring rain. Cepilinis=big dumplings of mince meat and potato dough. Walking to Santaka, the meeting of two rivers…

Disappearing dancers. Hanging laundry in the hostel. Herring and potatoes. Big girl in a bunk. Not enough litas. Too many lats. Noisy streets. Sad people. Tiny pub. Strong dark beer.

Restored churches. Franciscan and Jesuit monks. Slightly easier language. Aciu means thank you, pronounced like a sneeze. Teeny tiny showers. Artsy graffiti. Lots more stuff. But OHMYGODSOTIRED!

Today’s title comes from the classic Gershwin tune Summertime, covered here by famous Lithuanian pop-ska band SKAMP…

And yeah, I know the first rap is in French. I don’t know why, but hey…welcome to Europe.

Layla, you’ve got me on my knees Layla…

For an explanation of why the blog’s been weird lately, click here.

Riga, Latvia…

Okay, so we’re in Riga. Friendly-uninterested stares as opposed to the friendly-curious ones in Estonia. Cheap, plentiful beer. Street violinists.

Amber jewelry. Playing foosball with two Frenchman and a German with an audience of Taiwanese. 4.90 lats for way too much food. Marrow and dill and tarragon, oh my! Alex the Canadian-German-Serbian. Two honeymooning gay couples. Balsam liqueur. Marcis with a “tz”. The 26th floor bar. Beer gardens. Street culture. Getting tipsy, then lost. Disgusting creamy marrow pancakes. Lidos. Expressive statue faces.

The Naughty Squirrel Hostel. Long coach ride. No border check. Bristolian in bar who loves Latvia but is being sent to Arizona by his job. Stalin’s last building. Freedom is 3 stars held by a woman in green.

Incomprehensibly long language. Twilight at midnight. Hearing “Layla” sung with a Latvian accent. A Scottish Latvian(I don’t get it either.) A Russian Estonian. Pink chicken–didn’t eat it. Brezel means pretzel–didn’t eat that either. Loving couples sitting at a fountain. Turning a corner and finding this…

Today’s title, by the way, comes from a rendition of the iconic Clapton tune that we heard   performed by Mitrokhin’s Master Band live in a beer garden in Riga…sadly their groovy rendition of Layla isn’t on their site, but plenty of other tunes are…check those out HERE.