Life update… I’ve been in Korea for 9 months already!

Holy cow its September 2015 already. I barely even remember the new year has passed and already the year is almost finished. Crazy. I’ve been in Korea for 9 months now and its just flew by. I guess when you stay at home most of the time, that tends to happen. Ugh…

Anyways what have been my thoughts about living in Korea so far? I love living here, I love how fast things get done here, like getting a pair of glasses took just 30 minutes (it would be 2 weeks in the US), getting a bank card is instant (in the US it takes 2 weeks+ to mail it to you), getting contact lenses took me just 5 minutes, I just bring the prescription and they immediately give it to you. It’s so fast, so efficient, I love that aspect of Korea. There’s just too much bureaucracy in Western countries to get things done fast.
The aspect I don’t like about Korea? How everyone is so busy all the time. I know, its Korean society and they have alot of pressure to work hard. Their whole life is set out for them, study hard, graduate from good university, find a good job, and then impress your boss. It’s not much of a life. There’s alot of things in Seoul to do, but its hard to find people to do them with. Everyone has a lot of pressure and has to study or work overtime. That’s the main reason why I don’t want to work in Korea.

Other things, well despite some embarrassing moments, my Korean has improved alot. When I first came to Korea in Aug 2013 I could barely hold a 20 minute conversation in Korean. Now, I can spend an entire day with someone speaking just Korean. Listening still needs alot of improvement though. As for getting a gf, well I found that much like a job, you can’t just go for the best right away. You have to get some experience first. I couldn’t have gotten my job at Walmart if I didn’t work at BitTorrent, and I couldn’t have gotten BitTorrent if I didn’t work at Switchfly, and I couldn’t get a job in the USA if I didn’t do an internship in Canada. And so on.
A relationship is similar. I’m kind of too picky, and I have to start somewhere first. I realize now that I can’t just go for the prettiest girl all the time, having very little relationship experience, and expect that girl to like me. Girls can detect whether or not a guy has a lot of experience, especially pretty ones. So, I have to lower my standards and start from somewhere first. If I keep waiting for the perfect girl, it would take forever, because its a catch 22, just like getting a job.

My parents want me to come back home to live with them in Canada. I think thats pretty much a death sentence for me. Going from the busy nightlife of Seoul to a place where there is basically nothing, no friends, no girls to meet, nothing to do.. I would probably die. My parents think that I would be more happy in Canada (I have no idea why they think that). I would still be working from home, except in a much more desolate place in that small country town in the middle of Ontario.

People here like to dress up, and that makes sense to me. Why not try to look good all the time? Why only look good on special occasions? The only real excuse is laziness. I know that appearance doesn’t matter as much in Canada/US, but the truth is, it does, just people don’t say anything about it. If an average girl always puts on makeup and dresses up in Canada/US she would get much more attention than if she didn’t. When you’re young in you’re 20s and 30s, you should make good use of your time, and I definitely don’t want to look back on that time in my life and say, wow I was much better looking back then, but I didn’t make good use of my looks. I like to dress up and look good everyday. There’s no downsides to it. Why only look good sometimes?

So yeah, I plan to stay in Korea as long as I can work remotely. As long as I can keep doing my work. My place in Seoul is kind of expensive right now ($900 a month), and I can definitely find a cheaper place, so as soon as my lease expires in Dec 2015, I’m moving to a different, smaller place. Maybe around $500-600 a month would be good.

I’m fine in Seoul. I might not be really happy, but I wouldn’t be happy anywhere else either. I’m trying to find happiness here, that’s my goal. I wish I could go back to 2012 and 2013 life back in San Francisco, I was really happy back then, but times change and I can’t go back. People change, people got older, my friends got married and had babies, and I got older. And now I’m here, and thats my future I think.

In other news, I met some Chinese people at different meetups and its interesting to hear their take on the differences between Korean culture or American culture with their culture. I agree that China is very different than Korea and America in a lot of ways. A lot of that is due to the size of the population in China, the socialist government there, and the amount of diversity there in China, compared to Korea. I have always got the feeling that Koreans are less open, more xenophobic and more racist than Chinese people are in general. That comes from living in a small country that is 99% Korean. For the comparison with USA, I found this book an interesting read. It compares China’s meritocracy to the USA’s democracy system. I think both have their advantages and disadvantages but one thing that everyone seems to agree on is that both systems are corrupt and no system is perfect. (Not trying to be overly patriotic here, but I think Canada has the ideal system with a mix of capitalism and socialism).
One thing Chinese people are right on is that they don’t attempt to force others to believe in their ideology the way Americans seem to force on other countries.

Speaking of great books to read, here’s another one I read recently and it was a pretty great read that shone alot of computing history to me: Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution. If you’re a techie like me, its right up your alley. And written by the same guy that wrote the Steve Jobs biography, another great book.
Other books I’ve read: Becoming Steve Jobs was an interesting take on Steve Jobs. And American Born Chinese is a book that while short, hits pretty close to home for me. The Kennedy Half-Century was one of the better books about JFK that I’ve read. And The Book of Basketball, The Dream Team, The Showtime Lakers, and When the Game Was Ours are absolutely fantastic reads for any NBA basketball fan like me. Highly recommend these books.

The Year of the Dragon

Bruce Lee

李小龙
李小龙

This year is the year of the dragon in China. I was born in 1988, so this is my year, which only happens every 12 years. So why not talk Bruce Lee, the “Little Dragon”? I went to watch a documentary about him a week ago, called I am Bruce Lee. This is a really good documentary, it touches on every part of his life from his childhood up until his tragic death at age 32. There was also lots of celebrities who talked about him at length, including his wife, daughter, Kobe Bryant, UFC President Dana White, etc. It’s all very interesting, and I think more people should watch the film, about a man who sought to defy racial stereotypes and promote Chinese pride over 40 years ago. He brought Chinese martial arts to the west, was the father of mixed martial arts (his ‘style’ is called Jeet Kune Do, the way of the intercepting fist), the first major Asian star in the U.S, married a white woman (still rare today that Asian men marry white women), and a great philosopher who constantly strove to improve his body and mind. All that, and he died young. Perhaps those that God loves die young.

Acoustic Guitar

I’ve recently decided to focus more on acoustic guitar. I’ve played guitar for 8 years now… and up until recently have focused on the electric and shunned the acoustic. I’ve always thought electric guitars could do anything, emulate any instrument like violin, and guzheng, and piano and even acoustic guitar. Although I can make it sound similar, there’s something about acoustic guitar that feels really natural, and I love the portability of it, not needing an amp to play. I can easily bring it to a friend’s house, unlike an electric. So all this is short for ‘I bought a new acoustic guitar’. Yup. A Martin OMJM for $2500.

Martin OMJM
Martin OMJM

What can I say? It’s really really good, and I love playing it. An acoustic guitar only has one factor in the tone besides your playing, and that’s the guitar itself. An electric guitar however, has lots of factors like the guitar, pickups, cables, pedals, amp, strings, etc. An acoustic guitar really only has strings and the guitar itself, hence the pricey investment. Here’s a video of me playing it.

Social Life
Finally,  I found that its still been hard for me to make friends here. Mostly because of my chronic shyness. Why is it so easy for me to talk to someone online but in person I lose all courage and become so shy? Perhaps I am afraid of people reacting to me.. but I want to fix it, how do I fix being a loner? Go out and meet people. Join meetup groups. Attend church services. Volunteer. Go to clubs and events. Take courses. Look for ways to connect with people from the bay area. Find a roommate once my lease is up. Most importantly though, I have to keep practicing talking with people, especially with talking with  a group of people, and sustaining a conversation, which I find difficult. Because I’ve been a loner since I was young, this is something that needs a lot of practice. If I don’t practice, I will be doomed to be forever alone… =( .

Update: Learning Korean

Update: new, more indepth korean grammar post here.

So a couple posts back, I described how I was beginning to learn Korean, an exciting new language that is both similar yet different from Chinese. So far, I’ve found that although I’ve progressed, I haven’t progressed as quickly as I had when I first started.

The biggest difficulty I have with Korean is that there are just so many particles, so many verb conjugations, and so many ways of saying something using different characters. Its easier when I read Korean, but orally, when someone is speaking Korean fast (like at my church), it becomes very hard to determine what they are saying because first I have to process the context and then what sounds they are using. The double consonants (ㅃ,ㅉ,ㄸ,ㄲ,ㅆ) are very hard to differentiate for me from the single ones. And some words can be completely different if they are using double consonants or single consonants.

And there are alot of particles. The straightforward particles are the topic, subject and object particles. 저는 is the normal way of saying ‘I’ the first time you introduce yourself (‘는’ being the topic particle). But this is a rather formal way of doing it. 나는 is the more plain way of saying it. Of course some Korean words are only used in writing, rather than speech. ‘와/과’ is used more often than ‘하고’ in writing for the word ‘and/with’. And verb conjugations. There are so many irregular verbs, verbs that have silent letters in them, etc. I pretty much just have to memorize which ones are which. The conjugations can be fairly simple like 먹다 -> 먹어요 for the polite form of ‘to eat’ or more irregular like 크다 -> 커요 for ‘to be tall’, with one of the consonants, 으, removed when its conjugated.

And here is a general list of particles I have to remember:
-subject particle: -이/가, to denote subject noun.
-topic particle: -은/는, to denote topic noun.
-plural particle: -들, to emphasize plurality on a noun.
-object particle: -을/를, to denote noun being acted on by a verb.
-case particle: -으로/로 , to denote a noun is being used (by,with), or direction, or selection, or change.
-possession particle: -의, to denote possession between two nouns.
-location particles: -에, which can denote place, time or quantity. -에서, which indicates a dynamic location or source of action.
-conjunction particles: -와/과,-하고, to link two nouns together.
-special particle: -도, which adds the meaning of also/too/even to a noun.
-special particle: -만, which adds the meaning of just/only to a noun.
-special particle: -이나/나, which means something similar/or/as many as/about.
-special particle: -부터,까지 which means from a time/place to another time/place.

Verb particles
-으면/면, which adds the meaning ‘if’ to a verb.
-고, which adds the meaning ‘and’ to a verb.
-거나, which adds meaning ‘or’ to a verb.
-지만, which adds meaning ‘but’ to a verb.
-는, which turns a verb into a present noun modifier. (-ㄴ/은 for past, -ㄹ/을 for future).
-ㄴ/는, which turns an adjective into a present noun modifier.  (-ㄴ/은 for past, -ㄹ/을 for future).

See, that’s a lot of particles. Chinese only has a few (的,得,地,着,被,给,对,向,跟,和,与). In addition, I don’t have opportunity to practice Korean alot. But anyways… here’s hoping I can improve enough to go to Korea next year.