I need a break…

Ever since I came back from Korea last year, I find myself more and more lacking the passion that got me into programming and computer science. Since I was 12 years old, all throughout high school and university I’d been designing and working on webpages and websites. After I graduated in 2011, I immediately found a job in San Francisco and was happy to live there and attend tech meetups and startups there until 2014 when I moved to Korea.
When I was in Korea I was also working though my enthusiasm was slightly diminished due to me focusing more on the goal of meeting someone there. When I failed that goal ultimately and was forced to come back to SF, I found myself even less eager to get back into programming and working a day job again. There’s nothing wrong with Spigit, the company that I work for, nor my coworkers who are pretty easy going, nor the salary or benefits (except I wish I had more PTO), nor the technology (I actually prefer Angular 2 to ReactJS) but its just the timing I guess.

I’m at a point in my life where I needed to find a partner, and being back in SF definitely does not help. It doesn’t help that SF has gotten a lot worse than before. There’s more homeless, more crazy people, prices have gone up, less women, less internationals, less Koreans and salary is the *exact same* as what I got from Walmart in 2014. So same salary, less PTO, and everything else in SF has become worse. I only have one friend left in SF now and he wants to leave here even more badly than I do! Coincidentally or not almost all my close male friends have chosen to be with Korean women.. and all of them have had more success than me, ironically, even though my Korean skill is probably the highest out of all of them. And not to mention that I have been focusing on Korea the longest, since 2012.

So yeah, I need a break from work, and I need a break from this city. SF while its still a tourist friendly city, has become a worse and worse place to live in. There’s less and less reason to stay here while the salaries are still stagnant.
These days I just hang out with my friend who constantly complains about life in SF and the lack of women here (doesn’t help my cause) and play video games all day. All my other friends are in Canada or Korea. What a life.

I really want to stay at my company at least one year though, since I’ve never worked for a company less than that and I want to make it seem that I’m somewhat loyal to the companies I go for. Plus I have a plan to sell my place next year and get out of the US, which means this could be potentially the last US job I work for. So why not make it last a little longer?
But yeah this is still next June, and surviving until that time is… difficult. Almost all of my friends from 2014, from before I left SF the first time, are no longer here. Making new friends is difficult; most of the internationals I’ve met this year have all been temporary couchsurfers who I only get to know for a few days before they take off again.

So yes that is my pitiful situation currently. I’m not enjoying my job, Its hard to make new friends here, my old friends have all gone, its impossible to make a girlfriend here due to lack of Koreans, and all this while all my friends and people I care about are next to North Korea, a country that Trump might decide to attack any day now. It is quite misery indeed. Even though 2013 and 2015 weren’t terrific years, in retrospect they were, and in addition to 2012, 2014 and 2016 (those which I always remember fondly), I even begin to miss my life in 2013 (in SF) and 2015 (in Seoul) too… compared to those times 2017 feels like being in a prison. I have to stay here to save money, but at the same time I feel no joy, depression comes fairly often, and I feel trapped in this place that I can’t escape until at least June 2018. I need a change in my life for sure.


Finally moving to Korea

It’s been a long time coming – but I’m finally moving to Korea. Yes, this is the moment I’ve planned for for over a year. It took me a while to get here, but from stubborn determination I was able to do it.

I’ve had a lot of good memories in SF, especially in 2012, and I’ll never forget that. But it’s time for me to move on to the next step in my life. I’ve been preparing for over a year for this moment.
After I came back from Korea in Sept 2013, a place that fit me to a T, I promised myself that no matter the cost, I would find a way to be there. I would learn another language, I would give up my job, I would give up living in SF, I would give up making lots of money.. for a chance to be in the place that I love, for a chance to find a girl I love. That’s not a crazy thought – it’s who I am, and what my destiny is.

This year was a year of enlightenment – I didn’t have any crazy trips like in 2012, or go to crazy parties like in 2013, this year I focused on one thing only – getting to Korea. I continued working at BitTorrent for over a year to get experience, I lobbied hard at Walmart to get a remote position, and I re-dedicated myself to Korean, attending two semesters at Sejong Academy and 3 months of Korean tutoring.

I learned that experience is more valuable than anything. I was spending crazy amounts of money over the past year and a half – $30k in shopping expenses – about 30% of my total income was being spent on unnecessary things, and this year I’ve learned more than ever that money was not the key to happiness nor was owning a lot of things. I’ve sought this year to keep my spending to a minimum – and I’m happy to say that last month I’ve reduced my shopping expenditures to a mere 9% from 25% a year before. Experience is what counts – not owning things.

I’m doing all this because I was tired of living in America, in Canada, in western culture. The so called “American Dream” is really just making a lot of money, and owning a lot of things. In SF, all the politically correct nonsense that people have to put up with (Gamergate being the latest example of nonsense caused by feminists and the media). All the tech companies here are filled with 70% tech-obsessed males who live and breathe code like some kind of zombies. When I look at Korea, I see a country where they value being together. Being with others. Drinking fun with your friends. Eating with your co-workers. Taking cute pics with your boyfriend/girlfriend. That’s what life is about. Not about owning the latest 4K TV or smartwatch. But being with people.

Everything I have to do myself. Just last month, I had to call up Blue Advantage Arkansas to manually send me my health insurance card (Shouldn’t Walmart have done that?), I had to pay $200 to see the doctor (because Walmart didn’t mail me the insurance card on time), I had to pay $2500 to get rid of bedbugs from my apartment (left me with tons of scars and got in trouble with the condo management), pay $50 for someone to unlock my iPhone and they never called me back, pay $260 to mail back my passport in time (passport renewal failed because my passport photos weren’t correct which also wasn’t my fault), pay $200 for a background check for my soon to be tenant (my old high school friend), help set him up with an interview, do the paperwork, unit inspection, etc. I had to pay $600 in towing/parking fees to the SFMTA even though they wrongfully towed me (I mailed a towing dispute 3 months ago with no response), I have to call up everyone to confirm things that were supposed to be done weeks ago. I have to find an apartment in Korea, pay a massive deposit (Korea’s deposit is a year of rent), somehow find health insurance there, live like a vampire (work SF work hours), transfer my money over, buy furniture, etc.

As you can see I’ve been quite stressed last month. I’m sick of it, frankly. I need a fresh change. I realize the life in Korea is not perfect. They have to study from a young age all the time, be competitive all the time, study hard, get into a good school, find a good job, work long hours, live with their parents, marry the right person, etc. Conversely, I’ve been living by myself since I was 18, paid for my own tuition working part time and the PEY internship, paid off my student debt within a few months of graduation, found my own full time job in California right after I graduated making more than my parents, and have never been unemployed since. I did this all with very little help from my parents. They helped me look for a place initially, and helped finance my current home, but everything else was mostly my own doing.

And now once again I’m on my own to move to Korea. And I will do it. Because unlike many people, I have the ability to focus when I need to. I have my mother’s stubbornness and my father’s talent to thank for that. This is why I can’t play games or watch TV for long, because I can’t do anything unproductive for sustained periods. I have to be productive. So I make videos. So I study Korean. So I play guitar. So I read Wikipedia. So I blog. So I do programming. And so on. I have to do something with my time that’s worthwhile. And I believe when you really really want something badly enough, you will find a way to do it. No matter what obstacles are ahead. I’ve always believed this. Human willpower is a very strong thing. As long as you have something to motivate you, a passion for it, an absolute desire for it, then it’s like Michael Jordan going in for a dunk; nobody can stop you.

난 비생산적인 하는걸 싫어서 오래동안 티비랑 게임하는거 할 수 없다.
매일매초 생산적으로 해야된다. 그러니까 동영상를 만든다, 한국어를 공부한다, 기타를 친다, 위키피디아를 읽는다, 블로그를 쓴다, 프로그램을 한다 기타 등등. 어떤 뜻있는 일을 해야된다.
만약에 어떤 걸 진짜 진짜 원하면은, 어떤 방법을 찾아낼 것이라고 확신해요. 아무렇든지 방법을 강구할거예요.
내가 인간의 의지력을 항상 믿는데 동기를 주는게 있고 열정 있고 의욕 가지고 하면은, 아무도 못 말려요.

I can’t help myself but complain about this issue: Mark Zuckerberg speaks Chinese and all the Chinese girls on the internet praise him. How come no one ever praises me for speaking three languages? So Zuck speaks one other language (and not that fluently FYI) and gets praised for it, while I can speak 2 languages fluently and one at an intermediate level and I get nothing. Is this because Asians are expected to know more languages and Westerners are not? Why the double standard? Ok I’m done ranting with that.

General School/Work

BitTorrent and Korea

I have two major updates that happened to my life recently:

I changed companies
I’m currently working for BitTorrent Inc as a Front End Engineer. Yes, though my old company (Switchfly Inc) was a pretty good company to work for, I’ve decided to take up new opportunities… BitTorrent’s stack consists of Python, MongoDB, BackboneJS and NodeJS, which gives me enough of a change from Coldfusion, PrototypeJS, EmberJS, Freemarker and Java. Its a new experience, with a strong recognizable company who are headquartered in downtown SOMA, and I’ve been enjoying working there so far.

Edit: if you want to check out my submission for BitTorrent’s coding exercise, check out the TEDx Feedreader application I made using Backbone + Bootstrap, all done in 8 hours:

I went to Korea
I just came back from 2 weeks in Seoul, Korea and I loved it. As expected, I enjoyed every moment of that trip, and I still miss Korea already. There are several things I like about Korea more than USA such as:

1) Food/Drinks are amazing
Forget Korean food in USA. Korea has much better food than USA, much healthier with more organic ingredients, cheaper to buy, and tastes better. Forget Pizza Hut, Mr.Pizza is amazing. Forget Bulgogi and Bibimbap, Dalkgalbi (chicken ribs) and Jimm Dalk (steamed chicken) and Chi maek (fried chicken and beer) is much more amazing. Forget Soju and Korean Beer, try the many flavors of Makgeolli (rice wine), Paekseju (flavorful, weaker version of Soju), Cheongha (tastes like a mix of soju and sprite), Bokbunja (raspberry wine), and Maehwasu (plum wine). All amazing.

Oh and by the way, all the stores close later than in America, usually around 2am. The bars/clubs usually close around 6am, and some of the cafes and restaurants are 24/7 as well. Just amazing. Oh and did I mention? There’s no tip or taxes in Korea, and there’s a button you can use to call the waiter in restaurants. And fast food has delivery, like McDonalds and Burger King have guys on scooters that deliver burgers to you. Double amazing.

2) Technology is widely adopted there
Wifi is ultra super fast in Korea. You can use Wifi in the Subway, even in the mountains, pretty much everywhere, as long as you have a Wifi card. EVERYONE in the subway is on their phone, and when you can watch TV on your phone and use super fast Wifi, why not. There’s Google Maps touch screens in the subway. Everything has a dispenser or a machine for convenience. Even the toilets have controls on them. Alot of the designs in Korea are just amazing. Its hard to believe the smartphone only came in 2009 in Korea, yet now everyone from schoolgirls to old men use them there.

3) Transportation is amazing
The transportation system is probably the best I’ve experienced, ahead of NYC and Shanghai. The Seoul subway takes you all around Seoul and the Metro area, and is cheap on top of that. There’s apps to calculate the exact time it takes from one station to another, since trains are always on time. In addition, the places where you can’t go using subway, you can take buses or taxi, both of them much cheaper than in America.

4) Clothes are better
Korean clothes are a much better fit for me, being more suited to Asian bodies. People there are skinnier in general, and I’m skinny so it really fits me. In addition, they have much better styles than boring American clothing and are cheaper as well, as long as you haggle. Ironically, Koreans mostly buy foreign brands, not knowing that foreign brands (which are made in Southeast Asia) are actually lower quality than their own Korean brands (which are made in Korea). Shopping Malls as high as skyscrapers and numerous cosmetics stores are everywhere in Korea.

5) Everyone dresses up and looks good
Ever wonder why Koreans get so much plastic surgery?? Because its societal pressure!! Korean girls feel pressured to get plastic surgery because everyone competes to get a job, and since you have to submit a photo with your resume, the prettier girl gets the better job!! In addition, everyone dresses up everyday, regardless of situation. Korean girls wear makeup, contacts, high heels, nail polish, dresses/skirts/short shorts whereever they go, and Korean men often wear blazers, khakis, tight jeans, nice fitted shirts too. Its the society norm. Clubbing clothes in America are everyday outfits in Korea. As a result, a large majority of the girls there can be considered very beautiful by any standard. Trust me, its so weird to see model-looking women eating at McDonalds, or reading books at the public library wearing stilletos, but its normal.

6) Everything is clean and organized
Everything is clean and organized in Korea. This isn’t China with smoggy skies or littered streets. All the streets are clean, all the clothes people wear are immaculate, and even the bathrooms will be as clean as you can find them. There is even a machine in the public library to sanitize books. Everyone gets an apron when they eat barbecue. Towels to wash your hands are offered at different places. There are rarely any homeless people, and buskers only play in one place: Hongdae. Next time I will carry a pocket stain remover wherever I go.

7) Korea has a strong sense of community
I learned that Koreans have a sense of 정/jeong, which is this unique korean sense of feeling kindred with others. As a result most Koreans are very polite and nice to others when they have a chance. Normally Koreans are very different than Americans in that they are mostly quiet, reserved people who go about their days almost too predictably. Koreans have a very rigid mindset, and are almost robotic in the way they conform to society. This means you are probably very safe in Korea, as no one has the cultural mindset to steal, mug, rob, rape, loot, plunder, kill, or anything like that. You can leave your phone on the table and be safe about it. Girls can walk home alone at night without worry.

8) Korea loves couples
On the other hand, Koreans really love couple culture. Americans often have to think about where to go when they date, most likely a restaurant or a theater. But in Korea, alot of places are meant for dating. You have many options to go when you are with your significant other. Seoul Tower is a popular spot, as is Cheonggyecheon (river flowing downtown), or Lotte World, or a Korean village, or a beach, or a theater with a love seat, or an arcade, or a shooting range, or a sticker/photo booth, or one of the many bangs (rooms) set up in Korea, like Noraebang (karaoke), DVD-bang (DVD-room), Jjimchilbang (spa/sauna for couples), Soju-bang, PS/PC-bang (for gaming). There are even shops that sell couple accessories like matching bracelets, t-shirts, charms, everything. Korea is a great place for couples, and can be lonely if you go by yourself.

All in all, I had an amazing time in Korea, especially visiting my friends and experiencing the unique culture… and I really think that out of all the places I’ve been to, I belong the most there. My quiet, unassuming, conformist personality fits right in. So I got a little sad when I realized I’ll never get to experience those memories; I never had a gf when I was in high school or college, never had those kinds of couple culture going on, and of course never experienced a long term relationship with a Korean girl. (FYI I have good reasons for the lack of relationships; I grew up in a small white town with no asians, and was busy with CS in university, a major with very few women). This worries me, as I don’t like long distance relationships, yet I feel Korean culture fits me best. Unfortunately, Korean work culture is very competitive; they have to work long hours, for little pay, and little time for recreation. I would live in Korea, if not for the work aspect. Working at BitTorrent is miles ahead of anything a Korean company could offer me, but maybe someday I’ll have a chance to experience a good work culture, and live in Korea as well. I just hope I can do that while I’m still young.

At a peaceful Korean village
At a peaceful Korean village
At the top of Bukhan Mountain
At the top of Bukhan Mountain
Me and my friend at Gyeongbuk Palace
Me and my friend at Gyeongbuk Palace
Lotte World
Lotte World
CheonggyeCheon in Gwanghwamun
CheonggyeCheon in Gwanghwamun
Lovers Locks at Seoul Tower
Lovers Locks at Seoul Tower

Edit: Something ironic and sad that I’ve noticed…
If Americans had to be obsessed with Korean the way Koreans are obsessed with English, this would happen:

Everyone is required to learn Korean in primary school.
Everyone has to go to private academies after school to learn additional Korean.
Everyone has to know Korean and pass a Korean test to get a job.
You will see Korean words mixed in with English wherever you go.
You will see Korean movies with English subtitles, Korean actors, Korean singers, and they will be popular amongst your friends.
All English songs will contain some Korean in it.
Your companies try to copy Korean brands and Korean technology.
Korean clothing is more popular than American clothing.
A lot of your advertisements contain Korean models.
Parents will make their kids have tongue surgery to speak Korean better.
You will have a lot of makeup and plastic surgery to make yourself look more Korean.
You have Korean armies on your land.
Many American girls will fall in love with Korean guys.
Many Americans want to marry Koreans so they can live in Korea.
There is a special district for Koreans that many Americans go to mingle with them.
A Korean education means a lot more than an American education.
Many Americans want to be Korean teachers and make a lot of money.
You often go to eat Korean fast food or drink Korean coffee.
Speaking Korean makes you look more cool and helps you advance in life.
You rely on Korea to protect you from Canada.

…sad but this is all true, but reversed for Korea.