Solo Female Traveller: Table for One

I am what many people call “an independent woman.” I take care of myself (most of the time) and have no qualms about doing stuff on my own. Since I was young, I have preferred to do stuff without help from others.

When I was 20, I decided I would move to Hawai’i. I was encouraged to go and make sure it was a place I could live. So I went on my first big trip by myself. I stayed in a hostel and made friends and did what 20 year olds did. A month after I turned 21, I moved to the Aloha State completely on my own without knowing a soul out there. I managed well enough.

21-in-hi  North Shore, Oahu, 200something, my first visit to Hawai’i

When I was 25, I decided it was time for another move. I would move to Thailand to teach English as a second language. Three days before my 26th birthday, I packed my bags for the 3rd or 4th time and I boarded a plane. The first leg was delayed, causing me to miss the following 3 flights. I arrived in Surat Thani on a lovely monsoony afternoon, greeted by my new roommates the eve of my 26th. My first morning in Thailand was my birthday. During that time, I traveled to the Maldives completely on my own. I couchsurfed for a few nights and then found a nice local atoll to crash on for a few days. I couldn’t afford to stay in a fancy resort (although all inclusive) and it isn’t like many people go to these romantic locations on their own. I saw an opportunity, and I took it. I had a lovely stay at the Dhonvali View on Maafushi. The staff was amazing and set me up on dive trips and other atoll visits, and included all meals for me, set up on the roof overlooking the ocean.

That is the moment I realized the downfall of traveling solo: I would be eating alone. The staff would occasionally join me and chat with me about life and whatever. Sure, it allowed me to gather my thoughts as I ingested some local cuisine and gazed upon the desert waters. But I was eating alone.
In Maldives, when I eating alone, it really wasn’t so bad. I didn’t mind really at the time. But I didn’t quite realize how many meals abroad I would eat in silence.

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Not a bad place to be stuck.

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Rooftop dinner for one.

The latter half of my 20s has/was spent living in Korea. While there, I took a trip to Boracay on my own. I got myself a nice quiet room for the first half of the week and met with a friend for dinners or random travelers for lunch. A fruit shake for breakfast wasn’t a big deal for me on my solo journey.
It was the end of my trip when I booked myself a nicer resort with a fancy pool and buffet that I started experiencing the Maldives sensation, squared. I remember stepping up to the host and the lady greeting me with “Hello, miss. Table for 2?” Confused, I saw behind me was a man. We laughed awkwardly for a moment as his wife walked up and I replied, “Just me. This guy is taken already.” I don’t know if what I saw in her eyes was embarrassment on her part or for me. She sat the other couple first and then proceeded to make me wait while she found a tiny table in an obvious part of the room. It was the table anyone who has worked in a restaurant knows. THE table that doesn’t get seated unless desperate. They put me at the desperate table.
But being the proud and independent woman I am, I held my head high, straightened my posture and ate like a champ. The next day, as she walked me to the same table, I asked to be seated elsewhere.. a little less obvious. My wish was granted and I was put into a corner. Damnit. Whatever, the food was fucking incredible.

This is something I have been enduring for a decade. I know the motions and have learned to take it with a grain of salt… but unfortunately, it’s a bit harder without the tequila and lemon.
Quick flashfoward to today, September 16th in Hoi An, Vietnam. I am on a solo trip in a beach town at a nice hotel & spa. It’s my first breakfast buffet here. I cannot fucking wait. I walk up and I see the dining room is full. There are barely any seats. I tell the hostess “Just me” and she looked confused. “Table for one, please.” Fear or shock, or both?, filled her eyes and she looked around for a table or a place to waste on a single woman. Then she smiles and says “Follow me, please.” So I followed her through the dining room. I kept trying to find that table that I knew she would place me at, but this dining room didn’t have one! Whaaaaaaat? She took me through the dining hall and OUTSIDE TO THE POOL. Where a nice square table set for 2 was set. Next to a crying Asian child. Next to a couple who were soaked from swimming. Next to people in their bathing suits.
She tried to put me outside. Then, as if to embarrass me further, she asked if I was with the gentleman near the door who was waiting for his omelette. Deja. Fucking. Vous. Nope. I replied in my sweetest before-10am venom-dripping voice. I am by myself. I am eating alone. I would like a table with the rest of the guests, thank you very much.
“But miss, there are no tables.” So I went inside and found a long table that had 8 seats. The 4 corners were occupied by 2 separate couples. I walked up and said “Excuse me, is one of these free?” Silent nods. I sat down. “But miss!” said the hostess. I sweetly glared at her and said, “Why yes! I would love a coffee, thank you so much.”

And that is how I started my day.
Solo travelers, especially women, be wary of eating alone. Not because of someone drugging you (although, yes be wary of that), but because assumptions are made and you are better than whatever the assumption is. Find your spot and sit in it. Then proceed to make a mess and eat like a big, leaving bits of jam on the table for them to have to clean up. Actually, try to eat like a lady with a little self-respect.. but definitely leave a bit of jam on the table.

 

Oriental Medicine

Is it even politically correct to say that anymore? Eastern medicine. Korean medicine.. but it’s not just in Korea. Acupuncture is an Asia-thing.

My history: I have back problems, like an old man would have. But.. i’m barely 30. Many moons ago, I was sick from whatever cold or flu was plaguing me. I had just moved back from Hawai’i to Florida and was miserable. Plus always sick. My dad suggested I try acupuncture. He had a hippy-dippy friend who was about to graduate acupuncture school. I thought, “Sure. Why not?” And it hurt. I was miserable. I had one of my biggest fears sticking out of my body in plain sight. There was one point that the pressure built up so bad that I thought my knee would explode. I cried like I was dying. Needless to say (and yet we do anyway), not a good experience.

I have not condoned it and encourage everyone to try their own thing. I had not looked back once. However, since May 2016 (that’s nearly 4 months) I have been experiencing low back pain. It doesn’t radiate anywhere else. But I can’t bend forward, I can’t comfortably bend to the side. Standing, sitting, slouching, and even laying down is uncomfortable. AKA always in pain. Chiropractor isn’t helping. Massage was barely helping. Finally, I gave in and am currently seeing an acupuncturist.

Dr. Yoon (in Kyungridan/Noksapyeong) is really nice. He’s straight to the point. Today was my third session. I have had needles sticking out of me, electro-magnetic waves pulsing through me, and even cups suctioning the life out of me. When your friends say you barely feel it, they lie. It does not feel good. Maybe my trigger points are so bad that the struggle is real. Maybe it’s in my head. I don’t know. I don’t love it. But I’m trying to stick it out. Ha. Needles. Stick. Ouch, it hurts to laugh.

Today the Dr came in and said ‘Today we try venom of bee, okay? Small allergy test… and okay.” My back hurts. I’m exhausted. So far, so meh.
I’ll keep the world posted on my situation.

Foreign Hospitals

(Originally posted in Tickets To: 2014)

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Sometimes, when we move to a new country, we have to get a medical check. Hopefully it’s before. But typically your employer wants to know from a doctor who is native to their country.

So far, I have come to realize. You don’t go to the doctor. You go the hospital. Always the hospital. This makes it sound a lot worse than it is.

In Thailand, we had to go and get some blood work done to make sure we didn’t have some kind of ridiculous disease that I think they made up. I’m that person that passes out from a shot. I need to lay down when getting blood drawn or else the unfortunate person taking my blood (or giving the shot) will have to deal with my unconscious body falling face first onto the floor. So, I’m in a Thai hospital. After filling out paperwork incorrectly twice and waiting for about 30 minutes next to all the people hacking up a lung, I was called back. I explained that I faint. They smiled, nodded and told me to take a seat. I hesitated and had to mime to them that I pass out. They spoke in Thai and laughed at me, but eventually escorted me to a room shared by a guy who had broken limbs. You know that nervous feeling that you may throw up? It’s similar to the feeling of seeing someone with broken limbs and wanting to throw up. They saw my green face and closed the curtain and lay me down. The English speaking doctor (where was she this whole time?!) explained they needed at least two vials of blood. So naturally I covered my eyes and tried not to panic. They did what they had to do, I cried and got dizzy. I sat up and laid back down before almost falling off the gurney. So I stared at the wall while regaining my dignity. And there it was. Blood. On the wall. Blood on the wall. Let me make myself clear: THERE WAS FREAKIN’ BLOOD ON THE WALL. After a few months, I got over it. Because I needed to go to the hospital to get some stuff checked out. And it wasn’t as bad because it didn’t require blood. And interestingly enough, my doctor was my private tutoring student. That was awkward.

Flash forward to August 2013: Korea. The first week here, I needed to get a medical check. When I asked what it consisted of, the manager said ‘Oh normal things.’ So, I went and had my teeth looked at. Even though I had just eaten and hadn’t brushed my teeth, they said I have great teeth. Then I had my hearing tested (3 high pitched notes), an eye test (look at numbers after having a thing pressed against your eye and making vision blurry), a height/weight check (not your business), a urine test (haha! I passed that one!), and the blood test. SCREEECH. What? A blood test. Please stick out your arm. Um.. no I can’t do that. Yes, you have to, Teacher. You didn’t tell me about this! Oh sorry. You will be fine! I pass out. What? I faint. What? I need to lie down. Oh Teacher don’t be silly. No seriously, I need to lie down. Okay. (Insert crying and dizziness). Now please bare your chest so we can awkwardly test your heart beat. Now go upstairs for chest x-ray. Wait patiently while the nurses are distracted by their KakaoStories on their phones. Cough to get their attention. Then straight up say “Hey” and then put your chest against the x-ray machine. Relax. Now push so your shoulders are against the flat board even though you have huge knockers and can’t really be flat against anything. Okay thank you Teacher. You can get dressed now.

Well at least it was over and done with, right? Nope. My manager failed to pick up the documents by the deadline and guess who got to do it ALL OVER AGAIN?! Me.

Then, I got a promotion 6 months later. And last week I got a text message, “Teacher, I will take you to hospital tomorrow.” “Why?” “New contract. New hospital tests.” Le sigh. At least there wasn’t any blood on the wall.

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Obviously there have been some updates since February 2014. I have been in the hospitals for various surgeries as well.. Feel free to read those articles. 

Champagne Birthdays

(reposted from my original blog entry on Tickets To: originally April 2014)

Golden Birthday. Champagne Birthday. You have my attention

The day when you turn the age of the date of your birth. It’s supposed to be awesome. Of course I didn’t know what that was until about a year ago… but that’s cool. I love champagne so it’s a great excuse for a theme. It’s also a great excuse to drink champagne every day for the week leading up to my birthday.

Champagne1

On Friday, my coworkers on my floor (there are three floors to my school) surprised me with a classic Korean cake and some streamers.

Cake2

On Friday night we had Korean BBQ (beef) and drank soju with pineapple Fanta. Then we went to our local bar and drank a bit. On Saturday I woke up early-ish, pre-cooked some food for my Sunday picnic (visit www.anotherfoodthing.wordpress.com for great recipes!), and made my way to Busan. I met some friends from Seoul and Ulsan there and we drank a bit. The day wasn’t sunny enough for the beach, but it was warm enough to appreciate. We had an amazing BBQ dinner, went to another bar, went ‘clubbing,’ and then, my favorite part, we went to the noraebong and sang our hearts and voices away! Seriously… how much soju and singing can a girl handle? It was fantastic.

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I looked hot in my little black dress with my teal dream shoes (see wittylmt.com for more info on that), I was with great company, I ate and drank well.

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I got back to the motel at 5 am and was sleeping by 6am. I left at 10:30am and was back in Ulsan by 12:30pm. I had a party starting at 2pm I had to get ready for. Because the weather was questionable my outdoor picnic became an indoor picnic: blankets on the floor, drawn park on my whiteboard, paper plates, etc. The good people showed up and brought many bottles of bubbly. We drank mimosas and sangria for a few hours and chatted merrily. A few gal pals stayed after everyone left and we chatted and watched Bad Teacher (excellent sitcom. Get on it). Today, I came to work and the teachers on the 6th floor bought me a Larva cake.  I will go home and drink more champagne since I now have 5 more bottles and chillax on my patio smoking hookah. All in all…it was a great birthday.

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Sockstuff

(from my blog participation at Tickets To:)

Cute socks are a thing. I don’t remember them being a ‘thing’ in the States, but I do remember seeing what I considered to be cute socks and buying them. Even if I don’t wear them because I lived in Florida and we don’t believe in socks for 10 months out of the year.

In Korea, however… cute socks are a BIG thing. And I LOVE IT! I have pretty much gotten rid of any pair of boring sock I brought with me and have happily replaced them with awesome socks. They have socks here that are a ‘pair’… where the picture is in half and you can put them together and make a face or something.

pink

Another fantastic one tend to be some kind of animal or superhero on the heel which is the mouth. Like this Batman one:

batman

And of course this is my favorite. Just look and laugh. They have it in weird Asian faces or ‘yellow hair’ people. If you’re lucky you’ll get Frankenstein or a Mummy. Ha!

blondsock

This is a perfect gift for friends and family back home. They’re cheap at only 1,000-2,000won (less than $1) each. Until you buy 20 and then it adds up.

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Mirena, 1+ year in

**Disclosure: FAMILY – THIS CONTAINS INFORMATION YOU MAY NOT WANT TO READ>>> CLOSE THIS NOW IF YOU DON’T WANT T.M.I. ON MY PERSONAL LIFE!**

 

Last year, I made the decision to say, “Screw you!” to pills, Nuvaring (although I mostly loved it), and any other birth control method short of spaying myself.

I chose to drop a few $$ and insert Mirena. (You can read about the entry here).
It was a painful process. I spent nearly 40 days with spotting and dull cramps. Then one magical day… it stopped. The bleeding, the cramps, the discomfort, and then my life began.
I have been blessed with some good sex in my life. Apparently, this good sex was dulled by previous birth controls. Sex has never been so good. Like.. holy shit. Guys who were maybe average at best, were doing a pretty damn good job. Before Mirena, I was using mostly Nuvaring, occasionally a pill; and I was dull. Sex was just an act. If I got off, it was less often than Halley’s comet. But my sex drive didn’t exist. I seriously pondered my sexuality. Boyfriends and lovers knew I was lying and some thought I had been cheating on them.
Then Mirena happened.
.. as it turns out, I’m very straight. And I’m so much happier with Mirena. Sex. is. awesome. Like– wet, hot summer awesome.

Oh yea! And I lost a bunch of weight! When I had Mirena inserted, I was weighing in at ~73kg (about 160lbs). While I’m sure other factors were involved (leaving an unhappy job, moving up a hill, running to subways and buses for new jobs, etc), I am now at ~63 kg (138-140lb) today.

Menstrual cycles suck. Period. (hah. a favorite of mine) From 6th grade through recent years, my period has been a giant cluster-fuck. They were unpredictable. As Cher would say from Clueless “I was surfing the crimson wave!”… more like Crimson tidal wave. It was hell. I had special clothes to wear because I needed to change and clean them so often. My cramps had me in bed, crying like a child. Sometimes they would last longer than a week.. then reappear about 2 weeks later. Then other times they wouldn’t show for weeks (pregnancy scares what???). I got onto birth control and it helped a bit. But I still had shit strong periods.
Now a year after Mirena insertion, my periods are mostly non-existent. I might get ‘ghost cramps’ once a month and the occasional spotting every other month or less.

Overall, everything is awesome.
But let’s sum a few things up real quick:

Pros: 
1. 5 years of baby-free sexcapades
2. Little to no periods/minimal cramping
3. Higher sex drive
4. Weight lost (subjective)
5. Overall happier life.

Cons:
**denotes possible Pro rather than Con
1. 350,000won (KRW = USD ~275) ((((in the states they said it’d be ~600$USD without insurance)))**
2. PAINFUL AS FUCK DURING INSERTION!!!!! FFFUUUUCCCCCCCK.
3. Bodies may react differently
4. Gotta stock up on condoms for all that sex!**
5. I got nothin.. I can’t think of anything else.

Living the Dream

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We all want to be this or that when we grow up. In 5th grade I said I wanted to be a doctor that made people beautiful. … nope. Didn’t happen. Forgot about that dream within a month I bet.

I wanted to be Ariel or Belle. Obviously I cannot trade my legs for fins, or suddenly become tall, French, and into hairy men. But I knew that I wanted to be them. Almost every character from the cartoons I watched, I would impersonate. I taught myself to sing by listening to cartoon musicals and Andrew Lloyd Webber shows. I would make my voice like theirs.
It took a while for me to realize that this was called ‘voice acting.’ I loved to know that Jodi Benson was Ariel and I watched videos of her being coached through ‘Part of Your World.’ It astounded me when I realized that she was also ‘Thumbelina’. Then I started realizing other voices: Wendy is Alice. Ms. Swan is Trisha Takanawa is Lois Griffin.

I wanted that. I still want that. My new goal is to be a Disney princess for Seth McFarlane. I have been introduced to other animated shows recently, only to discover that a character voice I have done since forever is almost identical to the character I’m watching now. I couldn’t decide if I was disappointed or elated.

Anyway, I’m in South Korea now. I have auditioned online for voice over gigs for almost 2 years. I have gotten a few of them, but not that many. Then one day on Craigslist Seoul, I saw an ad for auditions for voice actors. I booked myself into the audition. The day before, I got a cold. I sounded awful. But I wasn’t going to miss the audition. I went and they put me into a booth. My very first time in a booth. They adjusted the speaker into my face, I had a screen in front of me to see the other actors, and a script about 15 pages long. Nervous much? Totally. I subtly gargled some water to clear my throat only to be told, “Did you gargle warm water? Is everything okay?” DAMNIT. The mic was on.

I read like a champ. The first actor and I read, then he left, and they had me stay. I read with the second actor, he left, and they had me stay. I read with a third actor and then on my own. They told me they would let me know how it went.

I have been working SO much since then. I go all over Seoul into studios to read whatever the heck they give me. Educational scripts, presentation videos, a video game (!!!!), and finally a commercial.

I am forever thankful for this opportunity to work here and build my skills and experience in Seoul.

Seth, it’s on.

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