The Squat Toilet

  • This post is a little TMI, so if you prefer not to read about my bathroom misadventures abroad, stop reading now.

Call me spoiled, but I have never been particularly fond of bathrooms without “real” toilets. In fact, they strike fear and anxiety in me that will probably (unfortunately) lead to a bladder infection one day.

It all started in elementary school. My mother and I were at the family friend’s party in upstate New York when the septic tank crapped out (pun absolutely intended). They told me I had to pee in the woods, and I simply couldn’t do it. Instead, I cried and had my mom drive me into town so I could use the restroom at the local toothless bar. It wasn’t ideal, but it was better than the woods.

A few years later, on a trip to Greece with my mom, her friend, and her friend’s son, we had decided to take a road trip from Athens to Halkidiki (about six hours). I was completely unaware of the concept of “Turkish toilets” and naively downed a bottle of Fanta before our departure. Not too long into our journey, I had to use the bathroom. We pulled over and, to my horror, the bathroom was nothing but a hole in the ground with a footprint on either side of it. I ended up taking a nap in the car to keep my mind off the fact that my bladder was going to explode.

Let’s fast forward to Korea. 2015.

I was meeting my friend Hannah in Daegu. After a long bus ride, I finally arrived at the terminal and figured I’d use the restroom. The line was long, but I waited. Finally, a woman exited the stall and it was my turn. I pushed the door open and there was nothing but a squat toilet. Panic. I paused for a moment before turning around and walking away very quickly. I had to pee pretty bad at this point. And, it turned out, that Hannah was across the city at another terminal. So, I took a taxi to find her and we wandered around until we came across a Mom’s Touch (a popular fast food restaurant) where I could use the bathroom.

And we’re going to fast forward again. Korea. 2018.

Krysta and I were in Busan. She was getting her hair dyed, which was a long process (more than 6 hours). I sat with her, watching TV and drinking cold water because it was so brutally hot outside. Finally, it hit me. I had to pee. So, I asked the manager where the bathroom was. She grabbed a key and led me to a door outside. She unlocked it. I froze. It was a squat toilet.

I awkwardly walked inside and closed the door behind me. It was oppressively hot. Terrified I was going to pee on myself, I removed my pants and underwear and hung them on the doorknob. Looking back, it was probably pretty stupid, but I didn’t want to take any chances. As I placed one foot on either side of the “toilet” and proceeded to squat down, I had an overwhelming fear of falling over and reached out to grab the wall on either side of me. What a position I was in. I finished up and went back inside the salon. There wasn’t even a sink, so I slathered my hands in hand sanitizer and waited for Krysta.

I have never felt so embarrassed in private before. As well as mildly traumatized. The entire experience was as bad as I always imagined it to be, and I hope I never have to do that again.

Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation? Do you have a bathroom horror story from abroad? Feel free to share in the comments!

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Dreams of Becoming a Digital Nomad

Hey guys! I know it’s been a while, but I’ve been focusing most of my time on the food blog I share with Matt (which can be found here) as well as our Instagram page (which can be found on our blog page). I wanted to come back to my personal blog, though, to write about what’s been on my mind lately.

Recently, I started binge-watching The Amazing Race from season one and it has seriously reignited my desire to start traveling again. I’ve been scouring the internet to see how some people have made their dreams of living abroad and traveling long-term a reality. Some blogs I’ve found truly inspiring are The Intrepid Introvert and Nomadic Matt, as well as Eat Your Kimchi (who I have loved since before I lived in Korea.)

Then, I started thinking of things that I could do to make income while living abroad. Of course, the first thing that came to my mind was teaching English since I have experience and I have passion for it. So, I started researching some purely online options to teach. After making a post on Facebook and talking to a couple I knew in Korea, I think I am going to try and apply with VIPKID. The hours are flexible, they provide all the teaching materials, and they offer a great base rate of $14/hr.

Ideally, I’d love to travel while teaching to support myself. There are so many places I want to see and things I want to do. Sometimes I feel stupid being 26 years old and not having a stable 9-5, but I don’t think that is something that is ever going to make me happy.

Does anyone else teach English online through a platform like VIPKID? Please tell me about your experiences!

Or, if you are traveling abroad and working remotely doing something else, tell me about that too!

Return of the Wanderlust

Recently, I’ve had the overwhelming desire to go abroad again. The more I think about it, the more depressed I become about staying in this country. I don’t exactly speak openly about my political beliefs (especially on the internet), but I am truly worried about the future of America; and I feel like I will never have a future here.

I am 26 years old, working hourly as a barista to pay my bills. Overall, I enjoy my job right now, but I don’t feel like it is sustainable even if I pursue a management position. I see that the managers don’t really have lives outside the company. They are always on call, coming in earlier and staying in later than they have to. I don’t want that.

I want to leave work at work and enjoy my life. I want to travel and experience new cultures.

Obviously, I don’t have nearly enough money to make this a reality anytime in the near future. However, it is constantly on my mind. I don’t know where I want to go. Everywhere?

I had a very complicated experience in Korea, but it was mostly due to my particular hagwon. I met so many amazing people and got to see so many amazing things. Compared to what it is right now, my lifestyle was much better in the regard that it felt more financially stable.

Have you been in a similar situation? What have you done/are doing to make your dreams come true?

Foodies in New York

I celebrated my birthday on November 6 and my boyfriend, Matt, celebrated his on October 25. Since we both had off yesterday, we decided to spend the day in Manhattan to do a little more birthday celebrating. I was very lucky to have been able to spend a lot of time in NYC growing up. However, Matt hadn’t visited in about ten years, so I was extremely excited to show him around.

We woke up bright and early to head up to Jersey City to take the PATH. We may or may not have gotten into a car accident (everyone is okay) which set us back a few hours, but we were able to take care of everything and get a rental car to continue on our adventure.

We took the PATH to 14th Street and headed to Chelsea Market. The two of us were overwhelmed by mounds of colorful spices, fresh fish, pickles, and other delights. We walked around, sampling anything we could and talking about what else we would eat. After, we headed up to the Highline for a nice walk on a beautiful day. There were so many people enjoying the weather, as well as taking pictures of some protest art posted on one of the large walls.

Next, we made our way to Momofuku Noodle Bar, which was absolutely the highlight of our itinerary. There was no wait and we were seated at a bar with a view of the kitchen. I ordered an apricot soju slushie and Matt ordered a spicy lychee one. For our appetizer, we had shrimp buns and for our entrees, we shared a bowl of Momofuku ramen and a bowl of chicken pho. Everything was superb and I want to go back already.

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Then, we walked around a bit and made our way to the Pour House across from Webster Hall. They had $6 Don Julio margaritas! Delicious. Times Square was next. All the buildings, lights, and masses of people were overwhelming, but the energy was exhilarating. We also made a stop at Rockefeller Center and admired Saint Patrick’s Cathedral.

After that, the Metropolitan Museum of Art was next. It is one of my favorite museums in the world, but Matt had never been. I couldn’t wait to experience it with him. We explored Egyptian art, arms and armor, Japanese art, and so much more. My friend Candice from college was also in the City yesterday, and she ended up meeting us at the Museum. So that was a really nice surprise.

The three of us walked from 81st street and found ourselves at Milk Bar on 56th Street and 5th Avenue. Candice and I got cereal milk milkshakes and I split a piece of their signature crack pie with Matt. We continued down to 42nd Street where Candice left us to head back to Grand Central Station. Matt and I stopped at the Bryant Park Holiday Market before walking down to 33rd Street to take the PATH back to Jersey City.

We were exhausted by the time we got home, but it was a truly wonderful day.

What did you do today?

 

Three Weeks Later

It’s been three weeks since I left Korea. I’m very happy to be home in New Jersey and able to see my mom and friends. It’s nice to have access to familiar things, as well, such as the lake I like walking around, the boardwalk at Point Pleasant, and even my favorite restaurants. Pizza and bagels were sorely missed.

I just got a job at a restaurant near my house. I won’t have to spend a lot of money on gas and I think I’ll be able to do some saving. In the meantime, I plan on getting certified to teach ESL in public schools here. There are a few tests I have to take, including math, but some friends have offered to tutor me. I’m really grateful for that. The other tests are for oral and written proficiency, which I’m not worried about.

Even though I was only in Korea for six months, it’s admittedly been a little strange getting reacclimated to life at home. It took quite some time to get over the jet lag, and all my days seemed to get mushed together. I got so used to using Facebook messenger or Skype to talk to my friends at home (the only person I texted or called in Korea through my actual phone plan was Hannah), but now I can communicate with them without needing the internet. I also don’t have to bow at people or handle money like a Korean (which I found myself doing for a while right after I got back). I’m also thrilled to have my car again and not have to rely on public transportation when I need to go somewhere.

Anyway, I’m still getting back into the groove of things, and it’s really nice to have found a job so quickly. I hate sitting at home with nothing to do!

I’m also thinking of changing the name of my blog. If you have any suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments!

A Trip to Tokyo: Part 4

Tuesday was my last day in Tokyo and I really didn’t want to leave! For breakfast, we had rice with dried seaweed, rice crackers, and water. We also had spinach with bonito flakes and soy sauce, and soup. I legitimately love Japanese food. I strongly prefer it to Korean food. It’s very mild in comparison (I don’t like spicy food) and there are a lot more vegetables!

After, we went to the train station to get an express ticket to the airport. Then, Eri’s dad drove us to an art studio to make traditional kiriko glass. We each picked a piece of glass to work with and the artist provided us with an adhesive template of a cherry blossom pattern. We both chose solid blue sake glasses. Then, we placed the template over the glass and cut around it with an X-acto knife. After, the glass was placed in a sand blaster, which removed the color from the glass where there was no adhesive. It was a long process, but we were very happy with our finished products. (Mine is the one on the left.)

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Following our arts and crafts session, we headed to the train station and set out for Tokyo Station. From there, we would catch the express train to Narita Airport. We had some time to kill, though, so we wandered around and got lots of yummy things to eat. Like a tonkastu sandwich and shrimp dumplings. After we took the train to the airport, it was time to check in and make my way to the gate. Eri and I said goodbye and I thanked her profusely for such a marvelous time.

I am quite madly in love with Japan and found it far superior to Korea in many ways. The people are so friendly and helpful. I didn’t feel out of place as a foreigner at all, like I often do in Korea. Eri’s family was so welcoming and hospitable, which really added to my positive experience. I also found there is much more variety in Japan, specifically regarding personal style and fashion. You can see that there are different subcultures and it was comforting to me.

Additionally, while the public transportation system is massive, it is extremely efficient and gets you everywhere you need to go. When you visit temples and other historical sites, it is easy to forget that you are in a city of over 13 million people. In Korea, you always know when you are in a city. It is overcrowded and dirty, there is garbage in the streets, and you see the same chains whether you are in Seoul, Busan, or Daegu. Tokyo is very clean for a city, almost too clean!

The food is absolutely phenomenal. Japanese food has always been one of my favorite cuisines, but having real Japanese food in Japan was pretty next level. It’s hard for me to find food I enjoy in Korea, mostly because everything is so spicy. Also because everything is so expensive.

I’d really love to go back to Japan and see more of this incredible country! My trip was definitely too short, but I loved every second of it.