Love (III) by George Herbert

Location: MacOdrum Library, Ottawa, Canada

Song: The Piano Guys, “Beethoven’s 5 Secrets”

That moment when the things you learn in school is relatable and speaks to you:

Love bade me welcome. Yet my soul drew back

Guilty of dust and sin.

But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack

From my first entrance in,

Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,

If I lacked any thing.

A quest, I answered, worthy to be here:

Love said, You shall be he.

I the unking, ungrateful? Ah my dear,

I cannot look on thee.

Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,

Who made the eyes but I?

Truth Lord, but I have marred them: let my shame

Go where it doth deserve.

And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?

My dear, then I will serve.

You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:

So I did sit and eat.

Taiwan (2016)

Location: Yu House, Kanata, Canada

Song: Justin Timberlake “Can’t Stop the Feeling”

Hotel: Airbnb near Ximendeng Station

After leaving Korea, my parents and I started our Asia trip with our first stop in Taiwan. My mother insisted staying longer. Why? Simply for the food. So to make her happy (and I as well), we stayed a total of five days and five nights. We left Korea just after midnight and arrived around 3:30am in Taiwan. Through our airbnb, we were able to book a taxi since the buses had stopped running by then and the great thing was we got a discount because the owner of our airbnb does business with that particular taxi company quite often.

By the time we arrived at our place, it was almost 5am so we pretty much passed out once we got everything sorted. Our airbnb was conveniently located near Ximendeng subway station-roughly a 10 to 15 minute walk. It was a central location and we had no problems getting to places.

Taipei City has a lot to offer. Just walking around our area, we were able to quickly find some street food and landed on a small shop that had zhong and noodles.

The Red House, located just outside Ximendeng station exit 1, is a marvelous place filled with small independent shops that sell items ranging from clothing to postcards and souvenirs. I bought so many postcards there because they weren’t the typical touristy ones that you can find everywhere. They were unique ones drawn by local artists. It’s definitely a place worth checking out.

Another stop was Taipei 101 for lunch at none other than Din Tai Fung. Located just outside exit 4 at Taipei 101/World Trade Center MRT station, this location gets crazy busy but they have a pretty good waiting number system. Once you arrive, you head to the front desk to get a number and they’ll give you a menu for which you can check off what you want. That way, when your table is available, you can just pass off your order and won’t have to wait as long for your food to come. We definitely ordered way too much food but what can you do when you’re in the land of food heaven?

Just north of Taipei 101 lies Dr. Sen Yat-Sun Memorial Hall. You can get a great view of Taipei 101 while walking which makes for a great tourist photo.

Taipei is known for their night markets and if you’ve ever researched them, then you’ve heard of Shilin Night Market. It’s divided into two sections: a main food court hall and outdoor street vendors. You’ll be amazed by all the food selection offered ranging from shaved ice to oyster omelettes. My personal favorites are the huge chicken cutlets and bubble tea. To get to this food heaven, take the MRT to Jiantan station and follow the crowd to exit 1.

Another night market favorite, and one of the oldest, is Raohe Street Night Market which is more popular among the locals. Take the subway to the end of the green line at Shongshan MRT station and you can walk up exit 1 or 5.

Taiwan’s such a small yet large country. Don’t undermine it because it looks small on a world map. Once you’re there you’ll be going places and doing things every minute of the day. It’s definitely a place for food junkies as you’ll never be too far away from something delicious. Your tummy will love you forever.

Until next time.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Location: Yu House, Kanata, Canada

Song: Ruth B. “Lost Boy”

After a long hiatus, I am back with another post (aside from my Bagan one that I finally finished up). This post is for all you people who have applied to university and got rejected…because that’s what happened to me.

As you know, I applied to three schools to study education (B.Ed) back in December for this upcoming fall term but it wasn’t the smoothest of rides. The time between when I submitted my application to when I heard back from all my schools was almost half a year. It was a really long wait and those admission results had me on my tippy toes, but sadly I was rejected by not just one school but all three schools I applied to.

A part of me is disappointed at myself because I should’ve been more aware of the admission requirements. I should of made sure 200% that I had everything before applying but with all mistakes, you learn and that’s the most important part. Yes, I made some boo boos but I’ll know the next time around.

Although I didn’t get into any of the schools, I’m not fretting over it. Of course I would’ve preferred to be back at school this year but rather than crying over the fact that I didn’t get in, I’m finding the joy from within the situation. Just because plan A didn’t work out, I’ve still got plan B, C, and even D. The key to being calm and collective about an outcome like this is to always be prepared. You can’t always get what you want and you have to be ready for any outcome.

Regardless, I’ve got a lot to look forward to this year (shall I call it a gap year?). I’ve applied to go back to school as a special student where I can take courses not towards a degree, but as transfer credits/required courses for when I reapply for a B.Ed degree next year. I’ve also got two trips coming up in July and August where I’ll be able to travel and see familiar faces again. I’ll also be able to work again and save up money for tuition. I’m excited for this year and for those who are in the same or similar situation as me, don’t fret because there’s always another solution.

Until next time.

Bagan, Myanmar (2016)

Location: Yu House, Kanata, Canada

Song: SNSD “Talk Talk”

Months after my trip to Myanmar, I’m back with part two of the trip where we went to Bagan for a few days.

Hotel: Shwe Nadi Guesthouse (Nyuang U)

Day 1:

Our bus arrived at 5:00am and as soon as we got off the bus, hoards of taxi drivers were crowding over us shouting in hopes to make some money. We were approached by one such driver who kept quoting us prices but because we had just woken up, we were still very dazed and slightly annoyed. We had the option of either get driven straight to our hotel or to the Shwesandaw Pagoda to wait for the sunrise and hotel afterwards. We chose the later choice as we were up early already. We headed to the pagoda and waited for a good hour or so in the cold. I really didn’t expect it to be that cold so I hadn’t packed any sweaters for my trip but Serene came to my rescue with an extra sweater for me to wear.

Note: As you enter into Bagan, tourists have to pay a $20 USD entrance fee to the “Bagan Archeological Zone”. Once you pay, you receive a card that you should keep on you just in case you’re ever stopped or whatnot.

After the beautiful sunrise on the pagoda overlooking the city, we hopped back into our taxi and made our way to our hostel in Nyuang U. Nyuang U is the hotspot for low budget accommodations with lots of hostels to choose from while Old and New Bagan are mostly resort hotels but with a few hostels. We were able to check in early and proceeded to spend the morning catching up on some sleep.

Once we were fully recharged, we went to “Restaurant Road” in Nyuang U where there’s an abundance of restaurants that served both local and foreign foods. We opted for some burgers at Weather Spoon’s Restaurant, which was dang delicious. Their iced coffee is also to die for! We took the day easy and decided to get some foot massages afterwards at a place right next to the Shwe Pyi Nann Thanakha Museum. Our legs were dying from all the walking we had been doing and the massage definitely helped relieve some of the tension.

We visited the Shwezigon Pagoda right by Restaurant Road and took in the beauty of the place as well as did a bit of shopping at the mini shopping street adjacent to the pagoda. I ended up buying some pants because I hadn’t expected the weather to be so cool during the mornings and evenings and being the light packer that I am, I only brought shorts and t-shirts. We also went to check out the Mani Sithu Market but were a bit disappointed because we had gone when the shops were closing. It looked more like a local market because they had a home, kitchen, clothing, food section but they also did have a few shops with souvenirs.

Dinner time we went back to Restaurant Road and got some pasta at Black Bamboo. Food prices were decent and taste was not bad.

Day 2:

We had to take a rain check on our second day. For some reason, we both got sick. Serene most likely got some sort of food poisoning as she had been sick during the night. As for me, I was fine when I woke up but as I tried to eat breakfast, I was barely there. I felt cold and didn’t have an appetite so I went to seek some warmth from the sun. Before heading out for the day, I wanted to take a nap in hopes that the sickly feeling would pass but when I woke up, I just felt worse. We tried really hard to make it out but we kept falling back asleep so by evening time, we had to force ourselves to go out and grab some dinner. We went and got some noodles (I only ate a few bites) and went back to the guesthouse to ready ourselves for bed again.

Day 3:

Because of our sick day the previous day, we knew we had to take things easy. Our bodies were still very weak from lack of movement and food. After breakfast, we got ready to head out for our bike ride to see the temples. We rented bikes from our guesthouse, made sure our map was ready, and took off.

Bagan was once the ancient capital of the Kingdom of Pagan, now modern day Myanmar, hence the large concentration of Buddhist pagodas and temples. As you get closer to Old Bagan, you’ll start to see the ancient temples popping up on both sides of you. We spent the day riding around before heading for our overnight bus back to Yangon.

Note: JJ Express offers shuttle bus pickup from your hotel which is awesome because that saves you a taxi trip back to the bus terminal. They’ll tell you the time of pick up from your hotel so just be ready to leave when they come get you. The shuttle bus goes around Nyuang U, Old and New Bagan before arriving at the bust terminal. We were near the beginning of the bus route so we had to sit for a bit.

Thoughts: One week is definitely not enough time. In that week, we were only able to go to two cities but there’s so many more places worth visiting. If you’re planning on going, make it at least two weeks so that you could enjoy the beauty that this country has to offer. Make sure to go soon before it becomes more touristy.

Reflections from Kaiping

Song: Wang Lee Hom “䜠䞍矄道的äș‹”

Location: Coquitlam, Canada

I’ve had one of the best weeks back in the motherland. I spent my time traveling in and around Guangzhou, visiting relatives and my ancestral village. Just thinking about my time there makes me emotional. It’s been so long since I’ve been back in Guangzhou. The last time I was here was when I was 9 years old and being that young back then, I can’t clearly remember that visit.

Visiting my ancestral village was a bit of a challenge. Getting to the place wasn’t a problem but once there, trying to find the house was a bit of a struggle. First off, we didn’t know what house was ours since we had no address and my father had never been back before. We saw some locals and started asking them if they knew my grandfather but no one could recall since he had left when he was a young boy. But once we started asking, more locals started coming out and seeing what the commotion was. It was after awhile that an older lady came out who remembered a couple (my uncle and his wife) that came the previous year asking for the same house. She happily brought us to the house where we began our search for the past.

The house was empty as no one had lived in it for many years and it looked like it had been raided for valuables (as many old houses are). There were old items lying around everywhere and as I walked around, I tried to imagine what the house would’ve looked like back then. I imagined a living room with high ceilings, a kitchen that always smelled delicious, and bedrooms filled with books and belongings. I imagined a house that was filled with the laughter of family and neighborhood friends.

I’m forever grateful for how my life has turned out and it’s important that I remember my roots. Hearing stories about how my family made its way to Hong Kong and then to Canada shows how determined they were in wanting to create a better life for their future offspring. People nowadays have it easier as society has progressed significantly. A lot of people back then grew up in extremely poor societies with not a lot to live with and not a lot of opportunities to better their situations. Although they struggled, they still found a way to be happy with what little they had.

My dad dropped me off at the train station and as we parted ways, I felt like I was 17 years old again when I left California for Toronto. The respect and love I have for my parents have increased significantly since our trip to China together and it was an honor to hear more stories of the past that I never learned of before.

20160315_111739.jpg

Until next time.

Final Thoughts

Location: The Landmark Macau Hotel, Macau, Macau

Song: Yoon Mirae “Always”

I came to Korea soon after graduating university and it was my first time going to a foreign country with no connections whatsoever. I didn’t know anyone and I didn’t know the language well enough either. I cried the last night of orientation because I knew that the next day I would be venturing out into rural Korea. I was scared of the unknown. Luckily, I was blessed with an amazing support system as soon as I arrived in Seocheon. I met some of the older veteran teachers who reassured me and made sure that I was alright. They became my family and we went through the highs and lows together. This family was what got me through my first year of Korea and what made me so sure that I wanted to stay another year.

What was meant to be a year’s experience turned out to be three years. I got to experience a once in a lifetime opportunity that brought me together with amazing schools and co-teachers. They helped me grow as an educator and supported me inside and outside of the classroom. Without them, I would’ve left after a year. They treated me like any other teacher and not simply just the foreigner teacher. They included me in teacher bonding trips and really made sure that I was enjoying my time.

But what bothered me the most was even though my teachers always made the effort to make sure that I wasn’t stressed, they were actually the ones that were stressed and yet, they never showed that side to me. They didn’t want to burden me with any of their problems but I would’ve rather been able to help them in any way I could. They’re selfless and hardworking educators who really work for the wellbeing of the students and that is what I can only strive to be.

My elementary and middle school students challenged me to continue to expand in the classroom with my lessons and activities. I still remember the first day of school and my first official class. It was so nerve-wracking because I was a lot different back then. I was shy and worried that I would not be able to do what I came to Korea to do. But these students got me to break out of my shell and be spontaneous. Through them, I learned a lot about myself and how much I loved working with students. Because of them, I figured out what I wanted to do after Korea and because of them, I applied to school again.

As I wait for school admission responses, I think a lot about what will happen if I don’t get accepted into any of my schools. Although I feel confident with my experiences, there’s always the possibility that what I have to offer is not enough. But despite the chances, I’ve already created a list of backup plans–all of which will lead me to becoming a teacher in Canada. I know that even after I graduate, I’ll have to work my way up to becoming a full time permanent teacher. I know this but my time in Korea has made me realize how badly I want this. I want and I’m eager to be able to work with students again.

I’ve learned a lot during my years in Korea and I’ve met a lot of people along the way, not only fellow expats but also Koreans. Before I left for Korea, I challenged myself to really put myself out there and experience the journey to the fullest. I wanted to learn and be exposed as much as possible. I do believe that I was able to complete that challenge but not without the help of others. So thank you to everyone for all your love and support. You know who you are and if you don’t, know that if we spent time together, regardless if it was just for a few minutes or more, I’m talking about you.

No words can fully express how grateful I am to have been able to go to Korea but I thank God everyday for blessing me with this opportunity.

Until next time.

Visitors From Ottawa

Location: Taoyuan International Airport, Taoyuan, Taiwan

Song: Hunter Siegel (Feat. Kai) “Let Me Love You Right”

After three years of trying to get them to come, the rents finally came to Korea! It was all or nothing. If they didn’t come this time around, they’d be on their own when they do come. They arrived on a Wednesday afternoon and we left together Friday night. For two and a half days, I tried to show them the most important places I could think of but I really wished they came a bit earlier. Nonetheless, it was a very memorable time for me because I was able to show them the country that took care of me for the past three years.

Wednesday:

I started off the day by getting my top braces off. I happily waited for this day after being told a week before that I would need one more week. I didn’t mind only because I actually did love my braces. At first, I thought I would miss the bling on my teeth but after a few minutes of them being off, I felt so free. I could eat my meals without having to worry about how much food was stuck in my braces or if my tongue would get caught.

By the time I was finished at the orthodontist, it was already 1:00pm. My parents were to arrive at 4:30pm and because I really didn’t have anything else to do, I decided to hit the airport early. I ended up doing some face mask shopping at Olive Young while I was there since I had accumulated quite the CJ-One points to get me 10 free masks.

When the time finally arrived, I made my way to the arrivals hall (which I’ve never been to since arriving in Korea). I had figured that my parents would come out around 5:20pm after going through customs and baggage claim but they ended up coming out at around 5:45pm. Talk about a long ass wait! But regardless, I was so happy to see them and couldn’t wait to grab our first dinner together in Korea~

 We made the trek to our Airbnb near Insadong and after dropping our bags off, we ate dinner in the area. I ate way too much because I had only eaten one meal that day =/ My parents really enjoyed the meal because they’re meat lovers. Afterwards, we called it a night because we had to wake up early the next morning to head down to Busan.

20160302_201528.jpg

Thursday:

Thursday was our day trip to Busan. We started the morning early and grabbed the 8am KTX that arrived in Busan at 10:44am. The first thing we did when we got there was grab some food! We went to get some famous Busan pork rice soup (돌지ꔭ밄) at ëłžì „ëŒì§€ê”­ë°„ just outside Busan KTX station. It was a great brunch meal as it was not too heavy on the stomach in the morning.

Afterwards we visited Gamcheon Village as suggested by a friend. To get there, you simply grab the subway to Toseongdong Station. Head out from exit 6 and turn right at the intersection. You’ll see a bus stop a few minutes away and you can take the 1-1, 2, or 2-2 local bus. Most people who grab the bus will get off at the village so just follow the crowd. You’ll most likely spend at least an hour at the village as there are lots of shops and scenary to see.

You can also do the stamp hunt there. For 2,000won, you can purchase a special map (at the information booth right at the entrance of the village) that has 9 places you need to find in the village. Once you find the place, there will be a stamp there that you need to collect on your map. There are 2 places that will give you a postcard prize. Sadly, I couldn’t find all the places so I don’t know what you get when you finish the whole thing.

After spending time at the village, we went to Dongbaek Island and Haeundae Beach before heading to Jagalchi Fish Market for dinner. By the time we got back to Seoul, it was 11:30pm, which was a nice time to go to bed.

Friday:

This day was a sad day not only because it was my parents’ last day in Korea, but also mine. We made this day “shopping day” so what better place to bring them than Myeongdong. Myeongdong is one of my favorite places in Seoul even though it can get hectically crowded. There’s an abundance of stores, restaurants, and cafes to go to so you can just spend a whole day there. It’s also walking distance to Insadong and Gyeongbok Palace area (if you want to take a leisurely walk around), which was exactly what we did.

We had left our luggage at Seoul Station and I highly suggest it if you have a lot of baggage. The prices are reasonably cheap and you can go grab them on your way to the airport via the Airport line. The luggage storage shop is on level B2 (same level as where to buy your ticket if you take the Express Airport line). It closes at 8pm but you have to grab your luggage by 7:45pm.

We ate dinner at the Lotte Mall food court in Seoul Station, said our final goodbyes to Seoul, and headed to the airport early. Sivmui and Freud came to visit me at the airport and we got some coffee and bread to eat. After checking in and grabbing our boarding passes, we went through security. It was a tearful goodbye but nonetheless, one that I’m grateful for.

I’m so happy that my parents were able to make the time to come to Korea, knowing how important it was for me. Although it would’ve been nice if my sister was also able to come, I’m grateful for this time. As we travel around Asia these following few weeks, I want to be able to create more memories before heading back.

Until next time.