Return to Yongwon Street

Busan

Today was incredible, and like most of my time since arriving in Korea last Friday, today I was once again reminded of how very lucky I am. I am writing this blog post from the comfort of my room on the 26th floor of the five-star hotel where I am staying in the southern port city of Busan, South Korea. Normally more than I would spend on myself, I justified the decision to stay at this rather fancy hotel as an early 40th birthday present to myself, and to commemorate my return to this city 10 years since leaving it. I used to live and work in this area until I decided it was time for me to return home to the United States in 2007.

And to this day, I still believe my decision to leave Korea when I did was the right choice to make. After 5 years in the country, I was missing the comforts of the United States, I missed friends and family, I missed weddings and babies and felt my career would not grow unless I moved back home. And so I did.

It wasn’t until a year ago that I started having these recurring dreams about being back in Korea. They were dreams of being once again in Seoul and Busan, the two cities I lived in during my time here, and these dreams simply wouldn’t go away. For the past year, I have been having them about once every two weeks, and I knew deep down inside the only way to make them go away was to return to these cities ASAP. Continue reading

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Attitude

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Sometimes I watch these stupid recorded classroom lectures at Stanford University, aired on Japan’s NHK US channel. They really are silly, although I can see the attraction. The classes focus on abstract things like happiness, problem-solving, or unconventional brainstorming exercises (which at the end of the day are still brainstorming exercises if you ask me, for it doesn’t matter if you switch out a poster-size pad of post-its for a folding screen of dry erase boards attached to the wall, arranged in small stations for groups to gather around, forcing people to stand throughout the exercise vs. sit—it doesn’t change the experience, which for many students, will continue long after their college days in an artificially lit, windowless office where management will oddly continue to hail brainstorming sessions as innovative and creative when in reality, 90 percent of the time they will be a complete waste of time. Trust me, I’ve participated in plenty of brainstorming sessions, including a few rare ones that were actually very productive, and at the end of the day, it’s not the tools or the layout of the brainstorming experience or whether you are sitting or standing that creates results—it’s the people participating that make the difference and the quality of their input, not the volume. Having all these ingredients in place is actually quite rare, if you ask me, and for this reason, I find the majority of brainstorming sessions a complete waste of time). Continue reading

The Curious Thing about Self-Awareness

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As I prepare for my vacation to South Korea, I am bombarded with curious questions from friends and colleagues about my upcoming trip. Do I have any family there? (Not that I am aware of since I was adopted by an American family as an infant.) Am I afraid of the political situation with North Korea? (North Korea has been a constant threat to South Korea so much that the average South Korean is not that worried about an attack from the North. Besides, I’ll be staying with well-connected people who have ties to the US Embassy in Seoul, the US Army, Navy and other security entities.) Will it be nice for you to finally be in a place where you will physically blend in? Yes! And the most curious of all questions I have fielded, Do you think you’ll find your dopplegänger there? Continue reading

Breaking Down and Floating Up

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It’s been a tough week. Actually, it’s been a tough month. So tough that to my horror, I found myself silently in tears on the bus ride to work Thursday morning. It came out of nowhere, and I was horrified when I realized what was happening. It’s not like I was sobbing in a fit of hysteria, but there were definitely quiet tears streaming down my face. I did what I could to pull it together. Act like an adult, I told myself. Grow some thicker skin. Don’t be such a child, and pull yourself together. And while that sort of worked, it wasn’t what I needed to truly get back on track; it was only a temporary fix that was just long enough to stop the tears. The stress, frustration and disappointment continued to hound me throughout the week. Continue reading