7 Days Out

I enjoyed watching 7 Days Out, the documentary series from Netflix that shows the seven-day lead-up to big events. I hesitated to watch the episode about Eleven Madison Park. I used to work in fancy restaurants – not in New York, but in Los Angeles. Did I really want to watch a show about hectic stress?

Obviously, I did end up watching it. It was very much a trip back down my restaurant memory lane. The perfectionist FOH guy/gal, who never misses a thing. At one point, they check on the comfort level of the couch velvet, and that was TOTALLY a thing one of my previous jobs did.

The only thing I disagree about – at the end of the episode, the FOH guy goes on about how you can close your eyes in the middle of dinner service, and hear how good the shift is going. NO!!!! There is no difference. He was spouting nonsense. The only difference is if the dining room isn’t full = less noise. Also, less problems = FOH leader not flipping out, and not taking the time to close his eyes and bask in whatever the hell he thinks he’s hearing.

Myeongdong money exchange

Because I’m moving to China, I’ve had to exchange a lot of Korean won to Chinese yuan. Normally I wouldn’t exchange so much, but it seems so tricky to transfer money into China. Transferwise, Xoom, all of these services require that the recipient have a Chinese National ID card. And since I’m not a Chinese citizen, I’ll never have a Chinese National ID card. Cash it is. The maximum Chinese yuan cash import/export is 20,000 RMB, and that’s way more than I need.

Today’s mid-market rate is 1 CNY = 163 KRW. Everywhere in Myeongdong was posting 163, 164, 165, and 165.2 on the windows. This is, however, the buy rate, because most of the customers are tourists exchanging their money to KRW.

The exchanges near the Chinese consulate were posting buy rates of 165 and 165.2. Further away from the embassy were 163 and 164. So, for someone changing Chinese yuan to Korean won, the exchanges near the consulate are slightly better.

But for the reverse, to change Korean won into Chinese yuan? Despite the slightly different buy rates posted by the various exchanges I went to, all of them sold at 1 CNY = 166 KRW. The sell rate was never posted because most people who go to an exchange in Myeongdong are interested in exchanging foreign currency for KRW, not the other way around. 166 KRW is not bad, considering that the rate I was seeing inside the banks were 155 buy / 175 sell.

And I guess because I was exchanging Korean won to a foreign currency, nobody asked me for a passport. There’s signs everywhere that says passports are required — clearly, that’s only for foreign currency being exchanged into Korean won.

I went to about eight different exchange bureaus, to spread out the risk of getting fake money. I figured that instead of getting all fake money from one place, maybe just get fake money from one out of eight different places.

Was it real money? I’ll find out next week. I didn’t notice anyone doing any special checks on my Korean won for authenticity – that said, I’ve never come across any fake Korean currency. They ran the Korean money and foreign currency through the same bill counter. I don’t know if bill counters are sophisticated enough to detect fake bills in multiple currency? I assume the exchanges already did their checks on the foreign currency when they first got it, though. Would be silly for them to only check before selling it. All of my newly-acquired Chinese yuan feels and looks similar, so hopefully they’re all real, and not all fake.

Feeling better

I’m still feeling down about Captain being gone. There’s a cardboard box that he used to sit in all the time — it’s bittersweet to look at it and see his scratch marks still in there. He used to scratch the base before lying down in it, you see. Whiskey doesn’t use it at all.

I’ll eventually have to throw out the cardboard box. I can’t bring myself to just yet.

Goodbye to Captain

Almost two years ago, around the third week of August, I adopted a second cat, Captain. He was four years old back then, I was his fourth home, and he had been at the shelter for about a year.

He died this week, and I feel so, so down.

I came home from work today and I still found myself looking for Captain to come running after Whiskey, to greet me at the door. Of course, only Whiskey was here this time.

Such a cuddly cat. “Aggressively friendly” was how the shelter described him. Accurate.

On Wednesday evening, after I got home from work, I noticed that he was lying down and breathing heavily. I got him to the nearby vet at about 5 pm. They took an X-ray and showed me that the bronchi were showing up as whitish instead of a healthy dark color, meaning that he wasn’t taking in enough oxygen. Pulmonary edema was the diagnosis. Lung or heart failure or both. Perhaps by the stomatitis/stinky breath/dental problems he had, that had never really seemed to go away, even after scaling and numerous rounds of medication.

Because the nearby vet was closing at 8:30 pm, they called me in at 7 pm and had me move him to a 24-hour vet about fifteen minutes away. I suspected it was bad when the vet asked me to sit down by the oxygen incubator with him for a while. They called me to come back at 2 am and he had just died before I arrived. They had tried CPR and he was attached to all these machines in their operating room. It was quite horrible to see, actually.

The vet on duty was very sympathetic, looked very sad, and bowed a lot. He actually looked like he was on the point of crying. While I was looking at him, I found myself trying to figure out if it was real or a practiced facial expression. I decided that it leaned strongly towards genuine. Even in such a lousy time, I was really impressed by this, and really grateful too. Surely dying animals are a routine process for them — weekly, daily, several times daily. I never, not even once, felt like I was being put through a routine by someone who had other, more important things to do. That was wonderful. I will never forget that.

Yesterday was a miserable process of cancelling travel plans for him. I had made plans to take him with China with me, and the flight is two weeks from now. I’m still going, but now I only have Whiskey with me.

Oddly enough, on the last night I had with him, I happened to sleep on the sofa instead of in my bedroom. Captain and I had a nice cuddle while sleeping. I’m glad I ended up sleeping on the sofa.

I don’t believe in an afterlife. I strongly believe that we are here, and then we’re gone. But if there is one, I hope all my pets will be waiting there for me. If they’re not, then I’m not going.

Meeting up with ex-classmates from Korean class

Gyehwa, me, Pungran, and Myeongho.

Hanging out with my friends from Korean class, I always thought that my Korean listening skills were shitty. Now that I’m alright in Korean and studying Mandarin, I’m beginning to realize that it was due to language crossover.

I hung out with my Chinese friends from Korean class this weekend. 풍란 (Pungran) lives nearby, and I went to her officetel first.

“삼백우 (sam baek uu),” she said, telling me her officetel number. There is no “uu” number, so I assumed this was 삼백구 sam baek gu (309). Went up to the third floor, and there’s only 301, 302, 303, 304, 305.

I call her again. “SAM BAEK UU!” she repeats loudly, but this time holds her fingers up: 3-0-5.

5 in Mandarin is “uu”. 5 in Korean is “oh”.


After that was figured out, we headed to town to meet the other two friends: Gyehwa from Yanbian, and Myeongho from Inner Mongolia. Myeongho passed KIIP 5 on his first try. Pungran and I got through on our second try. Gyehwa had taken her third KIIP 5 exam earlier that day, before we met up. She said that the writing test was awful: write about your personality 성격, and the advantages/disadvantages 강점/단점. That’s from KIIP 3. I hated that chapter.

We had lamb skewers 양꼬치, which I’ve never had before. Technically it’s adult sheep, but I guess in English, it’s marketed with the term “lamb”.

“There’s lots of restaurants like this in China,” they told me. Really? They make it sound like it’s everywhere. I was amazed at the setup, which moved back and forth, made the skewers rotate over the coals. Technology! No need to flip them over – it’s all automated!! And I love that the skewers are stainless steel.


I loved it! I liked the spice mix for dipping the lamb in, with the cumin seeds and everything.

Pungran insisted we take the bus home, just as she’d insisted we take the bus there. She complained about having to walk long distances from the subway, and the subway station stairs. While on the bus, her Korean boyfriend called her and it turned out that he hadn’t eaten dinner yet. Pungran then told me, Ugh, I have to go home and cook.

“Tell him to cook,” I said. She rolled her eyes and complained that Korean men can’t cook, because the women have always done it for them.

“But now you’re doing it too!” I pointed out. I told her to hand him a packet of ramyeon and have him figure it out.

“You should marry a Chinese man,” she told me. “Chinese men know how to cook.”

Trying to escape, and then giving a speech

I did it. I gave a speech in full Korean! It was a speech that was sprung on me about 1 minute before it happened during 회식.  I lost steam towards the end because I ran out of ideas and also I ran out of Korean vocabulary/grammar. Ended with, “음………………………………. 잊어버렸어요.” Shit. Oh well. I did it? Kind of?

I wanted to say 많은 것을 말씀하고 싶지만 사전이 없어요 when I ran out of ideas, but got stuck at 말씀. Not only did I run out of ideas, I also ran out of language! Ack!

I tried to bounce out of the 회식 in the first place, but got caught. Everyone carpooled to go to the company trip, to Gimpo’s Jangneung tomb site. As usual, the foreigner gets forgotten in the mess, so I got overlooked during carpooling. I arrived at the blazing hot parking lot with everyone else, and everyone else seemed to know who they were carpooling with and split off. For a hot minute, I was a bit upset at being forgotten. And then I realized that it was a really hot and humid day, and I hadn’t wanted to go anyway. Aha, I thought, and sneaked back to my office and air conditioning. Lol, they’ll never notice.

An hour later, my supervisor phoned and asked, “Where are you?”

Uh … the office?

My supervisor said omg I’m so sorry, I didn’t drive here either and I thought you had a ride, etc etc, we’ll go pick you up now. I said don’t bother, I wasn’t interested in going anyway.

“[department head] already left to pick you up.”

Ohhh. I felt bad about it for a moment, then did the social math and figured out that I wasn’t at fault for any of this. If anything, very minimally.

Both the supervisor and department head were in the car when it arrived. I saw the vice head give them a very restrained, Korean-style telling-off at the site. Essentially just going over what happened in a neutral way, but driving it in nonetheless by having brought it up.

The drive to Gimpo was familiar. I’d taken that route by bus so many times in 2016, when I was taking Korean classes from the Social Integration Program. I’ll tell you what, the Gimpo commute for Korean classes was a nightmare for me. 1 hour each way, and longer (with additional carsickness!) in the evenings because of traffic. I quickly learned to transfer to Gyeyang Station’s subway as soon as possible. We stopped just short of passing by the Gimpo class site.

The Jangneung site was kind of like a park. Very manicured site. Looks really good. I wanted to walk up to the path and into the building, but we didn’t. We went for a walk around the surrounding area, which was a really nice park and surprisingly big. Though I think it could use more flowers.

And then, back to the office area, to a nearby restaurant for 백숙. Before dinner, that’s when the staff head came up to me and said, “This might be the last time you can properly meet the other staff members, so can you prepare a speech?”

We had duck 백숙. Duck in porridge is a bit too gamey for my liking. On the other hand, thick 누룽지 is quite nice!

Because I’m known for being into computers and games, I received an ergonomic computer mouse as a goodbye gift. It’s really sweet and I appreciate the thought that went into it. The bad thing is that I’m the problem. It’s a nice mouse, but right-handed. I’m left-handed and it’s actually kind of annoying to have to hunt down ambidextrous mice. It seems like 90% of premium mice these days are right-handed ergonomic. Honestly, I should just switch to right-handed mousing.

To sum up, today was interesting. My supervisor also started talking to me in Korean instead of English today.

I guess if I can get to this point in Korean, I can do it in Mandarin Chinese. 加油?

Language lessons

I finally broke out of my “next week, next week” procrastination mode and signed up for Mandarin Chinese classes. I’ve known about my move to Shanghai since November 2017, and kept telling myself I’ll sign up for classes “next week”. Here I am in July 2018 and, well, I’m in my first week of italki classes.

And looking back at studying Korean – I’m not fluent in Korean, but I’m alright and according to the Korean language board, have the equivalent of TOPIK 5. I don’t believe in those charts about x hours required, because:

They say that for Korean, that takes around 2,000 hours of study. I took a grand total of 380 hours of Korean classes. Levels 2, 3, 4 were 100 hours each. Level 5 was 50 hours. Each class hour was actually 50 minutes of class time, followed by a 10 minute break. And I only attended 80% of my classes because that’s what the minimum attendance requirement was. It’s hard to do a Monday-Friday 9-5, followed by classes from 9-6 on Saturday or Sunday. For Level 2, I had classes from 9-6 on both Saturday and Sunday, with an hourlong commute before and after!

… I attended 100% of my classes for Level 2, come to think of it.

I did a bit of homework and studying outside of class. Randomly chatting to coworkers in Korean. And living in Korea, but does that really count because I’m quite the house mouse?

I’m hoping the same works for Mandarin Chinese. The same words with slightly different pronunciations is throwing me off, though. I’m not sure if that makes it easier or harder.


Lone Digger

Most of Caravan Palace’s songs seem to be a rehash of the same song, but, whatever. I like Lone Digger. Also, I don’t know what’s up with the weird stripper/barfight music video.