Sunday, October 30, 2016

Seoul Drivers Are Impatient and Selfish



Today was a crazy day for me. This morning as I'm walking down a narrow street near Nakseongdae Station, with no sidewalks and two cars parked on the right side, I hear this car driving down the hill fast and heading toward me. I couldn't get out of the way immediately because of the cars on my right and no sidewalk to my left, but as soon as I got space, I moved over to the right side. Then I tapped the car that was barreling down behind me as he started to pass me. An older Korean man responds with a "Ne?" ("Yes?" but more like "What?"). I told him in Korean to go slowly. He responds by calling me a Korean expletive translated as "dog baby". It's about the equivalency of calling me a son of a bitch. He drove off. It didn't register to me what he called me until after he drove away since he didn't say it loudly. I'm a bit glad it didn't process in my mind right away because I didn't want to get more upset. I'm usually a passive person, but rudeness drives me crazy. Pun intended.

Then while I was walking along a crosswalk on the main road in Gangnam on my way to church, with 10 seconds left on the countdown of the walk sign, a woman almost hit me because she was obviously trying to get a head start. She didn't realize I was there and when she saw me look at her, she waved her hand as to apologize to me. At least I give her credit for that.

Finally as I was about to reach church while walking to New Harvest Ministry, another older Korean man starts backing out of a parking lot. Three members from my church were walking and were almost hit by this guy that was trying to hurry up and back out of the parking lot. With cars on both sides of the street and five pedestrians in total walking down this street, his impatience was very dangerous.

I'm really sick and tired of seeing people in Seoul drive erratically. Here are some examples:
a. I see people texting while driving at least once a week.
b. I see people driving while talking on their cell phones at least once a day.
c. I see taxi drivers 4-5 times a day honking their horns because they can't wait 30 seconds as the driver in front of them is waiting for people in front of him or her to cross the street.
d. I see bus drivers not waiting for passengers to sit down before they drive off like madmen.
e. I see people run for the bus but don't get on because the bus driver is in a hurry to move on to the next stop.

I understand that drivers in Seoul are much better than drivers in just about every major city in China. But come on. China is a communist country with lack of real freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of expression. If Seoul wants to be an international city and if South Korea wants to get the "developing" label exchanged for "developed", then traffic laws need to be enforced. Cameras are not enough. Most cars have GPS systems that detect them, so what's the point? There must be more traffic cops and they need more power. Police officers in Seoul are the polar opposite of officers in the U.S. Officers in the U.S. get a decent salary with benefits and sometimes have too much power. In Korea, police officers get paid little, have few benefits, and have little power.

But don't take my word for it, check out an expat site that gives driving tips for those moving to Korea. You'll get more of an idea how poor the drivers are here. The site is Korea4Expats.com and the driving tips can be found here.


Scott Worden (The L.A./Seoul Guy)


Sunday, October 23, 2016

A Fun and Unique Experience in Seoul: Visiting a Raccoon Cafe





As mentioned in one of my previous posts, Korea has really erupted into a coffee culture, which was not the case at all when I arrived in Korea in September 2003. Koreans thought coffee wasn't healthy and preferred tea instead. The only places that served coffee were Dunkin Donuts and the "dabang" where only older people hung out.

Then the coffee explosion hit in 2006. Starbucks and Coffee Bean became a trend. Due to their success, Korean companies wanted to add some competition to foreign brands and cash in on the booming trend so TomNToms, Angel-In-Us, and Holly's started to open. Later Cafe Bene opened and even started expanding to New York City and Los Angeles.

In 2011, Korea opened its first dog cafe to add to its coffee fascination. The first one to open was Bau House Dog Cafe in Hongdae. I went there and was surprised at how clean and well taken care of it was. To this day, it remains popular.

Then Korea jumped on the cat cafe bandwagon. Cat cafes started in Taiwan in 1998. Then they got really popular in Japan and as of 2015, the city of Tokyo had 58 cat cafes. Naturally, Korea couldn't be outdone by Japan, so Korea started following the cat cafe trend.

Seoul started getting even more creative with cafes (See Seoul's Unique Cafes and more recently the The 10 Best Uniquely Themed Cafes by 10 Magazine). You have a Charlie Brown cafe, cafes where you can study, a sheep cafe and believe it or not a raccoon cafe!

Last week, I explored the Blind Alley raccoon cafe near Sookmyung Women's University in Seoul. Once you get there, you order your coffee (about W5,000 for a cafe latte) and then you can go to the room where the raccoons are (go to the back and then turn right). Three raccoons were running loose with a Corgi dog playing with them. Here is one just hanging around enjoying the attention:


They were really clean and very well taken care of. There were four staff members. One person took coffee orders, a woman in her 20s, a guy in his 20s, and the owner who you could tell loved the raccoons. I was able to feed one and pet it at the same time as you can see in the picture below. If I tried to play with them with no food, they would be a bit rough and bite me. Haha! They could bite hard, but they were just playing. You just need to be careful or make sure you have food in your hand!


Interestingly enough, this place also had an albino raccoon. I had never seen one at a zoo let alone at a raccoon cafe. I was able to get a decent picture despite it being so active and running from one side of the room to the other. His fur just like the other two were really soft a domestic cat or a dog.


But the highlight of the visit was seeing the Corgi dog interact with the raccoons. The Corgi, which loves to roam all over the cafe, was wrestling with one of the raccoons. After posting this video on Facebook my brother said if that was a real fight (and not playing), he would put bets on the raccoon easily. The dog instigated and the raccoon seemed to win. It was the most hilarious thing I had seen this year. See the video here: Corgi vs. Raccoon

How to get to Blind Alley Raccoon Cafe:

1. Go to Sookmyung University Station (Line 4)
2. Come out of Exit 10
3. Turn back and go to the corner.
4. From that corner turn right and go under the overpass.
5. Cross the street of a major intersection and continue going straight.
6. Walk for 5 minutes and then you will see the street you're on merging with another small street.
7. From there you'll pass three blocks and it will be on your right. Just be careful not to pass it because the entrance is tiny and the front door isn't directly on the sidewalk.

You can use Never Maps like I did as you see in the pictures below. The first one shows where to go from the station and the second one zooms in once you get closer to the cafe:



If you have any questions, drop me a comment and I'll do my best to help you! Have fun, have some coffee, and pet some raccoons!


Scott Worden (The L.A./Seoul Guy)

Monday, October 17, 2016

Korean Adults Studying English are Still Victims of Korea's Education System




Today I had a female student, in her 30s, who works at Coupang. She uses English a lot at work, so her company wants her to improve her English for business meetings and dealing with foreign customers.

She took a level test on the computer, which tested her grammar and speaking skills. Her result came out that she was a low-intermediate student. She acknowledged in her first class that she was nervous, which was very apparent. She was shaking a bit at the beginning of class and spoke with a lack of confidence.

As the class was about half over, we worked our way into an activity about giving advice. She would read a situation on the card and pretend she would give advice to that person using the word "should". Since she was the only student, she read the problem and gave advice as well. She used other phrases such as "Why don't you~", "How about ~ing?" and a couple others so this wasn't new to her. However, her answers were very typical of a student that has gone through the education system:

1. Her answers were very basic and not creative.
2. She had a hard time thinking outside the box.
3. In her mind, she felt like there was only one right answer.

For example:

Situation 1: "I would like to get a job in travel and tourism."


Student's Advice: "You should study tourism in university."

Ultimately, I tried to get my student to be more creative and think as if she was talking to her best friend. She could say "Why don't you become a flight attendant?" OR "Why don't you go to different countries, experience the culture, and see if you want to do that job?" OR "Why don't you improve your English and become a tour guide?"

So we tried another one:

Situation 2: "I'm going to fly next week, but I'm frightened of flying."

Student's advice: "You shouldn't be nervous."

I asked my student "What if that person just hates flying and she's always nervous? What specific advice can you give her?" She had a hard time answering, so I gave her more examples "You should drink some wine", "You should take some medicine before you get on the flight", "You should read a book", etc.

As a victim of the Korean education system, we still have students that are shy, afraid to make mistakes, or think there's only one answer. Do I have faith that the Korean education system will get any better? Younger students are starting to speak English better, but are the habits changing? Former President Lee Myung Bak wanted to get rid of the academy (hakwon) system but things reversed themselves as Koreans allowed academies to stay open until 11pm as of last year.  Kids still attend 3-4 academies on top of going to school everyday and the college entrance exam is still a major thorn in high school students' high school lives. The pressure still remains high and parents want their kids to attend the best universities (Seoul, Korea, or Yonsei- SKY universities). I pray that kids can be kids one day here and there is more emphasis on critical thinking skills and outdoor activities. I also hope more Koreans will step up and start a revolution to change the system here. It definitely needs an overhaul.


Scott Worden (The L.A./Seoul Guy)


Monday, October 10, 2016

My Interview on TheCrazyMind.com




I am pleased to announce that I was interviewed on the website TheCrazyMind.com. It's a site that discusses various topics (acting, art, books, education, fashion, music, and technology) and interviews authors from various genres. I was asked the following questions about my latest book "The 50 Best Places to Visit in Los Angeles".

The questions I was asked are as follows:

"Who or what inspired you to write 'The 50 Best Places to Visit in Los Angeles'?"

"What are your main aims and motivations in writing travel books and publications?"

"Which are the top 3 books that you personally like most from the other 7 books that you have written?"

"How different is writing for materials for young children?"

"What are you debating about writing about South Korea? What would be the probable challenges in comparison with writing about L.A.?"

You can find the answers to the interview questions here!

Enjoy!


Scott Worden (The L.A./Seoul Guy)

Sunday, October 9, 2016

St. Michael's Cathedral in Qingdao, China



One special German piece of architecture that is very popular and not far from the Qingdao Pier  (Zhan Qiao Pier) is St. Michael's Cathedral. It's about a 7-10 minute walk from the pier and is located in the oldest part of Qingdao on 15 Zhejiang Road. It was built by German missionaries and resembles a German cathedral from the 12th Century.



According to Wikipedia, this cathedral has gone through a major historical journey. It began when the Germans had a strong presence in the Shandong Province during the 19th and 20th centuries. In the 19th Century, European powers forced China to trade with them. The Divine Word Missionaries built a church in the Jiaozhou Bay concession in Shandong in 1902, and constructed the cathedral in 1934, while it remained under their administration until 1964. The Japanese Army took control over it in 1942 and then gave it back to China, when they left Qingdao in 1945. In the early 1950s, all missionaries including the Bishop of Qingdao, were either imprisoned or expelled from China, and during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), the church was defaced and abandoned. In 1981, the Chinese government repaired and reopened it. In 1992, it was listed as a Provincial Historic Building in the Shandong Province. St. Michael's Cathedral is 2,740 square meters or 29,500 square feet.



As of 2008, 10,000 active Catholics attend services there. Mass is celebrated daily at 6:00am by Li Mingshu. Services are also on Sunday, Christmas and Easter. Services are held in Korean and Chinese with one Korean and several Chinese priests on site.

Tourist's Perspective: Two things were notable about this place. After being in London, I got a European presence when I got there. Although I haven't been to Germany yet, it definitely didn't feel like China when I reached the cathedral. Secondly, I was amazed to see so many couples getting their wedding pictures done there. I saw three sets of couples taking pictures and as I was leaving to the next destination, I saw two more sets of couples getting ready to find their spots to take pictures in front of the cathedral.





Scott Worden (The L.A./Seoul Guy)


Monday, October 3, 2016

The L.A./Seoul Guy's Life as an Author




Since I came to South Korea in November 2003, I've had the pleasure of teaching elementary school students, middle school students, and adults. I've also been able to travel to 14 countries. While doing that I've also been blessed with the chance to write some ebooks by myself and some with my co-author and friend Liam Lusk. Together, we've written three children's books and two books targeted at ESL learners. I used to work with Liam for three years and we always discussed ways that we could make some extra money while doing something we enjoy. We decided to get into the writing industry because it is enjoyable and also has the potential to bring in some extra income.

My friend Liam has also written three books alone including Presentation Skills: How To Make a Great Presentation (my favorite book by Liam), YouTube: Are You Doing This?: Get Your Video Found on YouTube, and Twitter: Are You Doing This? Liam is an expert in Social Media, in the business sector, a husband, and a father of one daughter. I've known him for 11 years and consider him one of my best friends.  You can find his Amazon author page here: Liam Lusk's Amazon Author Page You can also find his blog at: www.liamlusk.com .

I have written three books by myself all related to traveling. My first book was 100 Travel Tips For Asia and although not as successful as I would like, it helped me to become a better writer. This book was written on my birthday ironically (January 19, 2014).

My second book 100 Travel Tips For Seoul helped me to establish myself as a legitimate travel writer and although it was written December 4, 2013, it has often been in the Top 10 in Seoul books very often. Currently it's ranked #14.

I consider my my latest book 50 Best Places to Visit in Los Angeles to be the best of all my books. It's 219 pages and discusses the 50 best places you need to go to if you're traveling in Los Angeles. Timothy Holm, a formal journalist in London and friend of mine,  and an expert in Asian Studies, is the editor of this book. This book was written on April 1st, 2016. No this is not a joke! Haha!

You can find my Amazon.com Author Page here: Scott Worden's Amazon Author Page

Now I'm debating whether to write a book about my 13 years of living in South Korea. I've lived in three cities, six homes, and taught various ages while living in this amazing country. I would love to know what you think.

Scott Worden (The L.A./Seoul Guy)

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Adventures of Living Abroad- At a Sandwich Shop in Seoul






On Wednesday, I went to a sandwich shop similar to a Subway or Quizno's, although the main thing on their menu is coffee. The place is called Latte King. A nice middle aged Korean woman (ajumma) greeted me and asked me in Korean what I wanted to order. I told her that I wanted an Italian Chicken sandwich. Then I asked her in Korean ("어떤 소스 있어요?" or "What kind of sauce do you have?") I told her three times, but she had this look on her face as if to tell me that she had no clue what I was asking her. However, she had a curious smile to go with the dumbfounded expression. I told her in Korean, "I'll write it down." Then when she realized what I was trying to ask, she pointed to the list of sauces right in front of me! This is why living abroad is awesome. Every day is an adventure!

Scott Worden (The L.A./SeoulGuy)