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Precious summer vacation has finished.. Big break from studying at my Korean university, I went back to Japan to see my family and a new family member, Jack, a Seeing Eye dog for my mother. Last winter, my mother received it after finishing dog owner training program. I was amazed how smart and thoughtful he was. I helped my mother memorize the map around our city by directing her from behind when she was walking with Jack so she could get around by herself. Jack changed my mother’s life completely and let her come out from a dark shell.
Numerous similar kinds of restaurants are gathered in one area and serving same dishes. Stores in certain area are selling same products and produce with usually the same prices. This is one of my wonders in Korea. How could they stay in business? As I am from Japan, this is very awkward. Japanese business owners will avoid this kind of situation. But when they do, each of the stores will offer something special to make their businesses stand out or give breath taking prices for customers to compete with others. This created variety which made Japan more interesting to live.
Information is the key for our life. When you are informed it can greatly improve your life. When you get the wrong information or no information at all it will harm you. Sometimes information is worth gold. Today I have just found out there was a school bus just a couple of blocks away from my house and it was free, more comfortable and faster than taking public buses. I have been going to my university over 6 months and using public buses to commute everyday. I wasted about $150 and 1920 minutes in a semester. Get the right information.
Many people know Japan has become an ageing society. When I saw a list of priority vaccination targets for influenza A it made me re-realize that. There are 6 million infants, 14 million students and 21 million senior citizens. The number of seniors is 3.5 times more than infants. Though Japan is one of the richest countries, birth rate is a problem. Wealth made it possible for women to keep away from a marriage and enjoy their own lives. The more money we have, the more choices of life we gain but also it brought society a disorder.
One phone call from Japan. It was my mother from her Computer. About 10 years ago, she learned how to operate the computer and the internet herself. It amazes me what she does and tries. Her phone call brought me another surprise. She was very happy to tell me that she managed to walk to her son’s house, which she had never walked by herself, by using a compass and a new GPS system for blind people. By seeing her, I realize life is something you continue to learn and have ambition to explore new experiences in any circumstances.
It seems like Korean people treat foreigners better than their own people. Since I look similar to Korean people, I get two different treatments depending on people who I am speaking to recognize me as a foreigner or Korean. When I speak in English I get a quite good service and consideration compared with using Korean. They usually give me a discount or extra produce. At first I tried to use Korean so I could get local price but the price was the same. I would like to practice my Korean but I get better service when I don’t….
After finishing my grocery shopping, I saw an astonishing sight on the street. One kid popped out right in front of a car without thinking and was hit and flown up in the air. The moment stopped for a few seconds around us. His sandals were flown over to the other side of the lane, the traffic was getting jammed and everyone was scared to see what has happened to him. Surprisingly, he stood up and got into the car which hit him by himaself and he’s taken to a hospital… The traffic started moving like nothing has happened......
Diversity, unusual and different makes life interesting and unique. But it might create a lot of enemies. Do something different that other people would not do. Do not follow the path that everyone is taking. Even you become outsider of a group, it is worth trying and gain something most people never experienced whether it may hurt you or please you. Do not listen to other people who tell you that you are not capable of something that you are trying to do. Let’s try not to end our lives as everyone else. People often say life is short.
A 45 year-old man died of Swine flue and this is the first case in Japan people died without any chronic illness. Last couple of months more people were infected with the flue in Japam and the government is warning people to be cautious with the disease. The concern is also obvious in Korea. When I went through the immigration I had my temperature taken with special machine. In some university, foreign professors had to have their temperature taken for a week. “Globalization” made world small and close to each other but also deepened the problems between each country.
“The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” “Cry for the moon.” People tend to compare themselves with others and never be satisfied with what they have given and got. It is wildly known that plastic surgery is favorably accepted here in Korea, young or Old. I heard sometimes parents encourage their daughters to have surgery before they enter the university so they can get a better boyfriend. Shocking!! A beauty is the number one priority for women in every country but I wonder denying and changing what we are is more important than inner beauty?
We always stand at the crossroads of our life, a little one or a big one. When we face critical decisions and know the decision we make will change our whole life, we often get lost between wants and needs. Should I change our directions because of someone I love or hate? People often say you shouldn’t run away from the situation because of bad relationships, but deal with it. I often disagree with this. No matter how hard I try for good relationships, there’s always someone who neglect it. Why do I respect or care for them?
I really love the bus system in Korea. It is a lot cheaper, less time to wait and runs everywhere. In Japan, the cost will change depending on the destination, usually $1 to $20. On the other hand in Korea, no matter how far you go, one ride is less than a dollar. However, they are usually speedy and ignorant to the passengers. The other day the driver missed the stop and when one passenger told him to stop, he got upset and started shouting at the passenger. I was wondering "where is your spirit of service as a driver?"
Our TV picture wouldn’t come on… We reluctantly made a phone call to Samsung customer service assuming it would cost a lot to fix with an expired warrantee. Three days later, two gentlemen from Samsung visited our apartment and fixed our TV but did not ask for money… They said they will report their company this TV was still on a warrantee. They refused to take money. Amazing treatment!! Maybe that is why Samsung became one of the biggest companies in Korea by satisfying the customers. Their action made us think “We will buy their product from now on.”
Motorcycling in a mountain, watching all the beautiful sceneries and walking in the woods makes me relaxed and fell like I am back in my home town. Where I am from there are beautiful mountains and quiet country roads and the ocean on the other side of mountains. I didn’t realize that I grew up in a blessed environment. Now I miss them a lot and the activities I could do there. Hiking, motorcycling, camping, waterskiing, scuba diving... We often have to give up something to get new experiences. And at the end we always think “Did it worth?”
I cannot believe how strong Korean middle aged women are. I often see they are carrying tons of card board piled up high on a pulling cart and walking on the roadway. It is so high that I could not see her from behind. What I have noticed in Korea is, many middle aged women are working on the street selling fruit, produce and so on but not men. These women are physically and mentally strong compare to Japanese middle aged women. Maybe they had to be that way in order to become developed country after the independence from Japan.
Speaking in Japanese with Korean students makes me feel weird and wonderful. It makes me feel weird because I rarely communicated in my language outside Japan unless they are Japanese and wonderful because there are so many students eager to learn my language and culture, and studying hard to acquire them. Seeing that makes me really happy because what I was worried about before I come here was that there might be a day that I get into an arguement about the historical issues. However, they accept Japanese and admire Japanese culture. And it made me feel comfortable and proud.
When I look around Korea, I can see a lot of garbage everywhere. No matter how beautiful place it is and cleaning people clean up, there is always new garbage on the street. I could not understand why they want to ruin their beautiful nature and make it worse. Some Korean friend told me Korean people are lazy. But I do not think that is the only reasons. I found out that because Korean garbage bags that government orders people to use are unbelievably expensive, people do not listen. Government’s intention is going around in circles and not working.
I love Korean returning policy. Even you open the products and used them once, it is possible to return them and get your money back here in Korea. It is OK if you misplaced your receipt. This summer I struggled with Japanese returning policy. It is a bit difficult to return products once you paid for it even though you have not used it once. If you lose the receipt, it is the end. Knowing what I can do in Korea, I was upset that Japanese stores are inflexible and rigid in their rules. This also represents Japanese society, inflexible.
Good leader is who can listen to other’s opinion and encourage them. However I am having difficult time dealing with the people in my presentation group. No matter how we try to encourage them and help them, their goal is not same as ours who are trying to make it best. This is the big problem in group work. We all have to aim for the same direction. No matter how big the group is. Good companies begin from good workers. The strength of the company is the quality of the bottom workers not how smart the leader is.
Learning new things can be exciting but also anxious. Today I had a chance to drive standard car which I have never drove in my life. Although I can drive motorcycle and understand how clutch and gear works, it took a little time to get used to it. I was a little scared that I might crash into something… However, I knew the fear will stop me from learning new things so I pushed my anxiety away and concentrated to have fun and learn. The fear is the worst enemy when learning something new and challenging. Overcomeing fear is important.
"Isolation". It is sad and lonely but relaxing. I found that, in Korea, isolation is very important for me. Compare to Japan it is very busy country and people are very aggressive. I did not know why I am so stressed but when I went back to Japan I realized that What I need was a calm and peace of isolated time from the noise. The noise from the traffic, people and stores especially phone companies and cosmetic stores. It is just a noise but it did influence my mind significantly. I believe it is effecting to Korean national character.
I meet people to learn something from them. Culture, language, life and their experiences. Since I am studying outside my country I have many opportunities to learn new things every day. In Korea, their space between friends is very close compared to Japanese. I sometimes see boys holding hands and walking together, holding each other’s shoulders in a bus, girls touch other girls’ hair without saying anything and stroke speaker’s arm while talking… These things made me surprise at first but now I understand Korean people build close relationship to feel each other like one of their family.
I love Korean drinking water system. Wherever I go I can usually get free water. Water cooler machines are almost in every supermarket, bank, school, restaurants and even in the individual stores. When I get thirsty, I drop in one of the stores whoever have water cooler and ask for water, and then they will give to me without any hesitation. I couldn’t believe this at the first time. In Japan you must buy water if we get thirsty outside. I don’t even think about asking for water at stores except restaurants. Korea takes care of its citizens.
Again, there is a truck driving around with a loud speaker and microphone and selling something. It is night time now but they do not care how loud they are and how annoying they are. But it seems to be no one is complaining with the noise they make. Also at night, I can hear from my room that people are fighting or arguing on the street. At first I thought it was a serious problem and some people are in danger but usually it was nothing and what is more, sometimes they were just talking loud and having fun…
One rainy day, a big post office truck was clashed into the tree and overturned on the road… A bunch of mails were spread on the street and getting wet. A windshield was dented and dropped on the road… Before long, there was a pile-up which involved 4 cars… The police officer in Korea does not really stop the traffic violation which accelerated people drive very aggressively and rude. Pedestrians are not respected and cars have higher position. People have to watch the car and take care of themselves. I have one Korean friend who is on a wheelchair…
`Continuing from yesterday`… When he was in his twenties, a drunk driver crashed into where he was walking and hit him. Since then he could not walk… I see too many accidents in this country. I think it is because the police do not regulate the traffic strict enough. There are many motorcycles without helmets, speeding cars, cutting in and parking everywhere they want to even in the middle of traffic lane. However, the police do not warn or punish them. Maybe I am wrong but it seems like the police here do not have a strong power over people.
I am wondering about one of the differences between Korea and Japan. Almost everything in Korea is a lot cheaper than Japan, which I really like about. But notebooks in Korea are really expensive compare to Japanese. It is almost twice as much for the same quality. I remember when I went to a stationery store I was very surprised that most of them cost about $2 to 3. In Japan, usually it is $1 and when I buy 5 of them they’ll cost only 50 cents. I still cannot figure out why there is a big price difference.
Drinking, drinking, drinking, AND drinking. In Korea, every place I go I see many people drinking at the restaurants, parks, and even university property. It is widely known that Korea is one of the drinking culture country. I can clearly see that when I go out at night. But it amazes me that there are not so many severe climes and disorder in society. Usually in western country the alcohol increases climes and violence so the governments control the alcohol flow. But here in Korea, you can buy alcohol at any corner store even they are teenagers. A Drinking heaven.
Thanksgiving is coming soon in Korea and unexpectedly our university will have six day’s holiday!! I started aching to go back to Japan. Japan and Korea is located very close but it is totally different feeling living in each country, good and bad. I realized what makes each country different from others is its people, how they treat each other and what do they cherish. It is not food, languages, geography, or the environment. However, in this globalized world, what we are should not be determined by where we live. What we are is what we wish to be.
M7.6 earthquake hit in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesa. Yesterday there was an M8.0 earthquake near Samoa. It is scary to imagine being there and experience those strong earthquakes. There are a lot of earthquakes in Japan, too. One time M4.9 earthquake suddenly hit my region at night and shook all our furniture and about for 3 days aftershock continued. Usually they were weaker but still we were so scared thinking when will it come next and it might be the biggest one. I am glad there is no earthquake here in Korea.
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