Culture Shock

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Moving overseas means making all new friends. It’s scary when you unpack your suitcase and think about how alone you are. At first, it seems like you’ll never figure out all the things that are different.

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Some people go for a year, don’t make friends, and then go home. They have stories of going to see sights alone, and of trying to watch TV in another language.

I guess that’s okay if you are the sort of person who really enjoys that stuff, but I am not.

So, I joined everything!

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I joined the Seoul Hiking Group, the Suwon Knitters Society (above), and even started a D&D campaign (below).

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I love meeting new people because it helps you learn more about ways to see the world and ideas you never had.

It opens doors to having new experiences like going to a Korean wedding (I am in the back of the photo) and seeing how different culture celebrate milestones in their lives.

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My apartment was dubbed “Isengaurd” (yes, like in Lord of the Rings) because it was in a white tower. And Isengaurd was a place for people to come and hang out.

I even got cake for my birthday (below), although it was a sugar-free green tea cake with tomatoes in it because that is how adults eat cake in Korea (sweet cakes are only for kids.)

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I had a struggling artist living on my downstairs couch for awhile after he went through a bad breakup.

I hosted group meetings to plan events, and I even helped throw a few big parties with my friend who was a DJ.

Basically, I made my home a place where people could come when they wanted to get together, and I was rewarded by being part of a lot of unique and interesting experiences.

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In South Korea, we have electronic locks (above) instead of doors that use a key. They feel that it is more secure, and it means not carrying keys since everyone takes the very fast and amazing public transportation.

I think all of Suwon knew the code for my door (which was the numeric progression 2468.)

After all, South Korea is rated as the safest country in the world. There’s no fear of anyone stealing your things, and even shops leave merchandise out over night. (It was surreal at first to be in a place when elementary school kids rode the subway alone and people just trusted each other.)

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It was fun to have a constant stream of new and different people in my life.

And it’s good to have unexpected adventures (as long as you always make it to work excited to teach!)

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Teachers come to South Korea from English-speaking countries all over the world, so I met people from New Zealand, Australia, England, Scotland, Ireland, and different parts of the United States.

Of course, I also met a lot of amazing people who were from the Middle East (who ran shops) and from Africa (restaurant owners and things like that.) And we all muddled through in English and Korean trying to communicate.

My favorite part is how it’s popular to put English cuss words on everything from children’s clothes to buildings. Check out the name of this beauty salon:

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It was nice to see all new things, as well. New types of buildings, new ways of doing business, and new scenery.

It really got me interested in International Business because I realized that LG, Samseung, and other companies are Korean, and yet their products fill American homes.

My friend Elizabeth wrote technical manuals for Samseung printers that would be shipped to the US, and I was always amazed at how much of the things we use everyday back home are from South Korea.

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Even when it comes to silly things like the clothing and jewelry, you could really make a lot on a Korean Imports store. And it’s interesting to study the complications of that kind of cultural exchange.

Once, Chevy tried to sell the Nova in Mexico. This is hilarious because in Spanish, Nova literally translates to “No go.” So they tried to sell a car whose very name implied that it didn’t run.

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And in China, Pizza Hut tried to open a chain of stores without knowing that the Chinese don’t eat cheese. Rather than giving up, they actually launched an ad campaign to convince Asia that cheese was healthy. Imagine that!

I actually took some classes in International Business through Coursera (free online college) because I found it so interesting.

Anyway, the point is, there are so many new things that you think about and so many ideas that you get when you are in a new place, and it’s fun to have that experience.

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If you have ever thought about just taking off and doing  year overseas, my advice is to do it.

If nothing else, it was hilarious to watch another country do elections. In South Korea they have several political parties all represented by different cute animals.

And yes, the party representatives do dress up as the cute mascots and go lobby for votes.

Moments like that are the kind of moments that I really enjoyed; when you stand back and just realize how different other cultures are and how neat that is.

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If I had to say one thing about going overseas, it would be this: You only regret the chances that you don’t take.

Even if it’s just for a week some day, everyone should get out of the US and see something new.

I feel like establishing international contacts is a neat foundation to lay because it opens potential for all kinds of things in the future.

Plus, you end up with some really cool pictures.

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A Book!

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Some of you may remember Choose Your Own Adventure Stories from when you were younger. They were quite popular when I was little, and I loved them because they helped me to feel more engaged in the story.

Well, now Dave Strand (of the band the Strand) has written an Audio Book App for iPhones and iPads which will allow you to relive the awesome media of Choose Your Own Adventure. Instead of having to read the story (who has time for that any more?) the books are all audio, so that you can enjoy them in your car or while you work on other things. After all, it’s so rare these days to be able to sit down and just read a book, but how much time to you spend biking or riding to work?

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So the App Dave wrote is called Multi-Path Audio Books, and you should definitely download it! I thought it was such a great idea that I volunteered to write a story for it. I must admit, with a background in journalism, fiction did not come easily to me. And of course, it’s not so easy to write a story with one beginning and 30 different endings.

To write the story, I actually had to use my entire laundry room as a story board, because while most people can use a simple diagram to keep track of the story lines, I needed to print every single section and tape it to my walls, so that I could read each thread of the story over again before writing the next part.

It was certainly an adventure!

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I really enjoyed writing the story once I decided to set it in Portland and use my family members and friends as characters. I do hope they will forgive me, but I think it’s an expression of how much I miss the place and the people since my husband was deployed to Guam. There really is no place like Portland, and no one as cool as my family (again, sorry guys!)

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So, the story is called The Vampire’s Sister. It is a goofy detective novel full of vampires who do not sparkle in the sunlight. I hope that you guys will consider downloading it when it comes out mid-March 2015. I’m really very excited about it, and I think that even though it is cheesy, you’ll have fun playing it.

I’d like to thank every D&D group I ever played with, because without you guys I know I would never have had the guts to try my hand at fiction or Choose Your Own Adventure.

I have never considered myself to be a creative person. As a journalist I wrote about wonderful artists, musicians, dancers, etc. As an events coordinator with Third Eye Promotions I booked amazing bands and DJs. But I always considered myself the one to write about the creative types, rather than to be one myself. But I guess people change…

Please take a look into Multi-Path Audio Books and check out The Vampire’s Sister if you can. I really, really hope you guys will like it.

Thank you!

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