Korea

Photo Walk: Yellow

Photo Walk: Yellow >> Life In Limbo

I woke up this morning and felt like going for a photo walk, so I decided to do the next colour in the rainbow I’ve been making: here’s red and orange. At the rate I’m going, there’s no way I’ll finish the rainbow while living in Korea but that’s okay with me. Maybe it’ll take me years to finish and I’ll have walks in a bunch of different cities and countries. I like the idea of that.

And as always when I do a photo walk, I realize that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I wouldn’t frame any of these photos individually, but I adore how they look together.

These photos were all taken Wednesday morning on a sunshiney day in Jangsan, my little neighbourhood in Busan.

Photo Walk: Yellow >> Life In Limbo Yellow02 Yellow03 Yellow04 Yellow05 Photo Walk: Yellow >> Life In Limbo Photo Walk: Yellow >> Life In Limbo Photo Walk: Yellow >> Life In Limbo Photo Walk: Yellow >> Life In Limbo Photo Walk: Yellow >> Life In Limbo Photo Walk: Yellow >> Life In Limbo Photo Walk: Yellow >> Life In Limbo Photo Walk: Yellow >> Life In Limbo

You can see all my other past photo walks here.

Getting LASIK Eye Surgery in Busan, Korea

Getting LASIK in Korea >> Life In Limbo

On Saturday, I got laser eye surgery here in Korea. It was a really wonderful experience and the best part is that I can now see! So far into the distance! Without wearing glasses! I know that’s the whole point of getting laser eye surgery, but as someone who has lived almost her whole life wearing some kind of corrective lenses – to me this is quite literally a miracle. This is a very long post, but I wanted to share my experiences for anyone thinking about getting LASIK in Korea.

Why

One part of my motivation for coming to Korea would be to get my eyes fixed here. Korea has the highest number of LASIK procedures in the world because in general there is more myopia (farsightedness) here, at least according to my optometrist. This means they are very efficient and supply-and-demand means the price is much lower! It all depends on where you go, but you can expect to pay around 1,300,000 won or about $1200 US dollars. Back home, it’s usually at least this much or more per eye, so it’s definitely worth the cost. Also since I wear contacts, this surgery will pay for itself in just a few years.

Where

I had a really easy and straightforward experience with my surgery and really liked the clinic I chose. I’d had Hivue Eye Clinic in Seomyeon recommended to me by a few friends who had done the procedure earlier in the year. They offered a discount to foreigners as many clinics in Korea do.

When

The timing of my procedure was so easy. I booked a consultation for Saturday but had heard that sometimes they offer to do the surgery the same day. They warned me not to wear contacts a week before the surgery, but since I didn’t think I would be having the surgery on the day of my consultation I only stopped wearing them about 4 days before. Still, they said it was fine.

My consultation was at 11:30 and took about 1.5 hours from start to finish, including several tests of my eye health and determining my prescription. That included a sit-down meeting where they explained to me each test and my results compared to the normal baseline population. I had never gotten that kind of information on my eye health back in Canada and I must say it was both interesting and comforting to know. Then they sent me off for lunch and told me to come back in an hour for the surgery.

I came back, was sent down to the pharmacy to buy some eye drops, signed a consent form and had two more short tests. Then I was taken up to the surgery room and had to wait quite a while for someone else’s procedure to be completed. But once it was my turn, it moved very quickly and took altogether only about 1/2 an hour in total.

Getting LASIK in Korea >> Life In Limbo

What

Here are some things you might encounter:

  • They took my blood to make “medicine”. (I’ve since Googled this and no longer am so alarmed, but trust me I was at first.) They use your blood plasma to make special “autologous” eye drops that prevent dry eye and encourage healing. But I have friends that went to other eye clinics in Korea and did not have this.
  • I had to stand in a special wind chamber before entering the operating room, presumably to get all the dust off my clothes.
  • Since it’s Korea, I had to take off my shoes outside the operating room.
  • The staff may not speak much English. I was lucky that my optometrist had some basic English, enough to explain the procedure, and I had help from the contact who works with this clinic.

During the surgery (I had LASIK, not LASEK):

  • You might have to get up after the corneal flap has been cut and move to another operating table across the room. This was a very surreal experience and all I could think was “there are flaps in my eyes!” That said, I could see fine to walk even if it was a little blurry.
  • You won’t feel any pain or even much sensation. There is an intense pressure on your eye before they make the flap, but after that I didn’t feel anything. My biggest fear was having to watch what was happening but in fact I couldn’t see much at all.
  • You will smell a funny burning smell when they use the correcting laser, which is a bit disconcerting.
  • The lights are very, very bright and it was hard for me to keep my eyes open.
  • You don’t have to worry too much about keeping your eyes open because there is a (painless) clamp that holds your eyelid gently open.

After the surgery:

This will differ for everyone of course, but at my clinic they said I’d be totally fine to walk around and see right after and I was. I took the subway home with a friend of mine but I probably could have navigated it alone! That said, I had some discomfort: it felt as if there was something in my eye, and I had a lot of light sensitivity for the first few hours. Also, things were a bit filmy and blurry with a halo effect around lights. Before I went to bed that night though, it was much more comfortable and I could see pretty clearly. When I woke up on Sunday, it was like magic! My eyes as of this writing are still fairly dry but my vision is great! In general, my clinic said to expect only about one day to recover from the LASIK procedure.

Be prepared to go into the clinic after one day, one week, two weeks, and a month intervals. My day-after followup was a very short eye test and the doctor took a look at my eye under the microscope. Everything looked fine and they say I have above 20/20 vision now.

Getting LASIK in Korea >> Life In Limbo

Overall

I was really pleased with my experience and am absolutely thrilled with the results. My recovery time was absurdly short with minimal discomfort and best of all, my eyesight is great now. I am so excited that I was able to give myself this gift and feel very lucky that I got the opportunity to be in Korea and was able to feasibly save up for this.

If anyone has any questions about the procedure, let me know in the comments below and I’ll try my best to answer them.

Would you ever get a medical procedure in another country? If you wear glasses, would you get laser eye surgery to correct your vision?

Igidae Coastal Walk: Top 15 Things to Do and Eat in Busan, South Korea >> Life In Limbo

Top 15 Things to Do and Eat in Busan, South Korea

Top 15 Things to Do and Eat in Busan, South Korea >> Life In Limbo

I recently had the privilege of having my mother as a visitor here in Busan. It was an amazing opportunity to show someone around to all the things I love best about the city I’ve called home for the past 9 months. It was also a wonderful reminder of what makes this place so special. Until I moved here, I’d never heard of Busan – it’s not well known internationally compared to Seoul – but I completely fell in love with it once I arrived. If you ever get the chance to visit, there are so many things worth experiencing here. Here are my top recommendations for Busan, whether you have just a short time in the city or are staying for a while.

To Do

Dongbaek Coastal Walk: Top 15 Things to Do and Eat in Busan, South Korea >> Life In Limbo

Haeundae Beach and Dongbaek Island coastal walk: The beach becomes crowded with umbrellas during the summer months but it’s beautiful at any time of year. The views from this beach are some of my favourite in Busan. The boardwalk is a lovely place for a stroll, and just past the Westin Chosun hotel it turns into a gorgeous coastal walk around Dongbaek island, where the APEC summit was held in 2005.

Gwangalli Beach: As lovely as Haeundae is, Gwangalli is my favourite of Busan’s 5 beaches. The Diamond suspension bridge is particularly beautiful at sunset. Gwangalli beach has a very vibrant beach strip of bars and restaurants running right along the beach road so it’s a fun place to spend time. Almost every café along the strip has views out onto the beach and the water.

Igidae Coastal Walk: Not far from Gwangalli is the beautiful scenic coastal hike at Igidae Park. It offers views back towards the Gwangan bridge, the shiny buildings of Marine City and Haeundae beach. It’s not a difficult hike, but the path hugs the cliffs and has wonderful vistas of the ocean all the way along to Oryukdo – two pretty islands set just offshore. You can easily take a cab back from Oryukdo once you’re finished hiking.

Igidae Coastal Walk: Top 15 Things to Do and Eat in Busan, South Korea >> Life In Limbo

Shinsegae Department Store and Spaland: Busan is home to the biggest department store in the world, though it doesn’t feel like the biggest when you’re actually inside. Shinsegae is located in an expensive area of Busan, Centum City, and has a whole day’s worth of entertainment inside if you want it: countless stores, a huge international food court, a movie theatre, an ice skating rink, and of course Spaland. Spaland is a luxury version of a traditional Korean spa. On top of the classic baths area (note: this area is nude and gender-segregated), it also has a huge number of themed saunas, TV rooms, massage chairs, two restaurants and an oxygen-therapy clinic. It’s a lot of fun and a great way to feel pampered for only about $15.

Haedong Yonggungsa Temple: There are countless temples in Busan, most of them in the mountains, but this coastal temple is one of the best. It does get touristy, but it’s absolutely stunning and definitely worth a visit. It’s set right into the coast with views out over the water.

Jagalchi Fish Market: Top 15 Things to Do and Eat in Busan, South Korea >> Life In Limbo

Nampodong neighbourhood and Jagalchi Fish Market: This is such a fun neighbourhood. It’s chock-full of things to do with everything from vintage clothing stores, food from all over the world, international markets and a book alley. Not to mention the Jagalchi fish market, one of Busan’s biggest claims to fame. The market is crowded and very alive with every kind of seafood you can imagine. It’s such an interesting place to walk through. Nampo is also a great place to get hotteok ssiat, see below!

Lotte Giants baseball game: One of the most fun activities in Busan is a weekend late-afternoon baseball game at Sajik stadium. The open-air stadium is surrounded by mountains and is actually quite picturesque at sunset in the summertime! Add to that the fact that you can bring as much food and booze in from outside the game (and the prices for alcohol are identical to those outside the stadium anyways), and the hilarious cheers and dances of the fans and you can see why it’s a total blast.

Dalmaji Hill: Top 15 Things to Do and Eat in Busan, South Korea >> Life In Limbo

Dalmaji hill and Vesta Spa: The second most famous spa in Busan lives on Dalmaji hill. One of the reasons it’s so popular is the views it offers of Haeundae and Gwangalli beaches from its rooftop. Dalmaji road is also a lovely place to walk or have a coffee, especially at cherry blossom season when the trees are in bloom.

Hike Mount Jangsan or Mount Geumyeonsan: Busan should really be famous for its abundance of nature alone. It has been so lovely to be so close to both the mountains and the sea for the first time in my life. Both of these mountains have beautiful hikes and are so close to and accessible from the heart of the city.

To Eat

Bibimbap: Top 15 Things to Do and Eat in Busan, South Korea >> Life In Limbo

Dolsot bibimbap from any kimbap cheonguk: Bibimbap is a very traditional Korean dish of rice, vegetables and gochujang, a spicy paste. Dolsot means served in a hot stone bowl, so the rice on the bottom gets a bit crispy. A kimbap cheonguk is a bit like a Korean diner – they have bright orange signs and are everywhere. Look for “?? ???” on the menu.

Cheesy Kimchijeon from Tony’s: You can kimchijeon, a kind of savoury pancake, at a lot of Korean restaurants, but my favourite is from a little hole in the wall in the Kyungsung University area in Busan. It’s cheap and comes served with melted mozzarella on top. Plus Tony, the owner, is hilarious and so welcoming.

Dak galbi: A really delicious dish cooked right on your table by the waiters. It’s a type of stir fry, usually made with chicken or seafood, a really delicious sauce and plenty of vegetables. We always order cheese-filled tteokbokki (Korean rice cakes), cheese, and rice to go with it. This a type of restaurant, labelled with “? ??”.

Shabu Shabu: Top 15 Things to Do and Eat in Busan, South Korea >> Life In Limbo

Shabu Maxim Gwangan: Shabu shabu is a really fun type of meal where you cook your food yourself in pots of hot broth on the table and then make spring rolls using rice papers, fresh veggies and plenty of different sauces. Shabu Maxim is my favourite because it looks out over Gwangalli beach and you get your own individual hot pot to cook everything yourself as opposed to cooking everything in one in the centre of the table.

Hotteok ssiat: Hotteok are a type of Korean street food – deep-fried pastries stuffed with cinnamon sugar. Hotteok ssiat is the typical Busan version which comes stuffed with cinnamon, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and peanuts. The best to be had are in Nampodong.

***

Busan is really a wonderful city. It’s considered a “second city” compared to the larger and more famous Seoul, but it’s beautiful and fascinating.

Have you ever wanted to visit South Korea? If you’ve been to Busan before, are there any other places you’d add to this list? 

What to Pack When Moving to Korea to Teach English

What to Pack When Moving to Korea to Teach English >> Life In Limbo

When moving to Korea to teach English, it can be hard to know what exactly you need to bring. Although Korea is modernizing quite a bit, not that much has changed since many of the posts already online were written. Still, I wanted to write my updated list for 2014 of things you should consider packing if you move abroad to teach English.

Resources:

Notes:

  • This list is based on my experience living and teaching in Busan, the second-largest city in Korea and home to Shinsegae, the largest department store in the world.
  • In Seoul, these are still the less common products, but I can say that they are easier to find in Seoul than elsewhere in Korea, because it is a more diverse city with lots of international grocery stores and big brand chains.
  • Just like in any country, these kinds of imported products become scarcer as you get into more rural towns.
  • For food and beauty products, iHerb is your best friend. You can use my coupon code LWW752 to get 10% off.

What to Pack When Moving to Korea to Teach English >> Life In Limbo

Fitted sheet:

I have friends that went their entire year in Korea without using a fitted sheet, instead opting to place a duvet on top of their bed or use a flat sheet, but for me having a fitted sheet has made all the difference. Be aware that the beds here are of slightly different proportions so the sheet may not fit exactly, but in my opinion it’s infinitely better to have a sheet you can tuck in easily and not have to adjust every morning.

Full-sized bath towel:

I brought one from home, and I have never seen a large one, though I’ve read they’re sold at Costco. The typical towels sold in Korea tend to be just slightly larger than a hand towel size.

Your favourite toiletries:

The majority of products sold here are, of course, Korean. I have had good experience with many of the local brands and have adopted many of them to use in my beauty routines. You can find imported brands like Clean and Clear, Nivea, Tresemme, Crest, and Neutrogena, but these tend to be more expensive and they may not have the exact product you use back home. They definitely do carry higher-end products, for example Estée Lauder and even Clinique at the big department stores, but again these will be much more expensive. So if there’s anything you feel you (or your skin) couldn’t live without, make sure to bring a year’s supply.

Sunscreen: 

It’s not hard to find, but it’s very expensive here.

Toothpaste:

I would recommend bringing enough tubes of your favourite toothpaste to last you for the year. I haven’t used Korean toothpaste, but I’ve heard that it tends to be a bit weaker than we’re used to in North America and has a funny taste. I personally can’t brush with anything other than Sensodyne otherwise I get bad tooth pain and I haven’t been able to find that brand here.

Deodorant:

Don’t ask me why, but deodorant is not a common product here. I can find tiny, expensive imported deodorants (usually Nivea liquid roll-on) at a local store but stick deodorants aren’t common. I’m told that the cosmetics section at places like Costco and EMart have it, but since I make my own deodorant (yes, even in Korea) this hasn’t been too much of a problem for me.

Shoes:

If you have feet larger than a size 8 1/2, as I do, I would recommend bringing shoes for every season to Korea with you. My feet are just slightly too large for most of the Korean sizes, which usually go up to about 250mm in women’s sizes, which means I can only usually wear unisex shoes like off-brand Toms or Converse styles that they sell for men’s and women’s sizes. You can often find larger sizes at stores like H&M, but they are much harder to find than regular shoes. If your feet are smaller than mine you shouldn’t really have a problem as long as you live in a city center or will visit one during your time in Korea.

Jeans:

It’s not impossible to find jeans in your size if you live near major shopping center, which has stores like H&M, the Gap or Uniqlo. However you should know that jeans here are expensive. If you can bring enough pairs to last you for the year, you’ll save some money.

Bras:

Same as for jeans. I’m sure you can find them some places but most stores don’t carry my size.

Books or a Kindle:

English books aren’t common here, even at larger bookstores. But you can use the awesome website What The Book which stocks a lot of books and offers free shipping throughout Korea.

Plug adaptors:

I’d recommend bringing enough to charge every device you have. I only brought two, and I need to invest in a couple more so I can charge things from home. Don’t bring a hairdryer or straightener from home: they’ll be the wrong voltage and they’re inexpensive here. By the way, most electronics you bring from home won’t need a voltage converter, read here for more details.

Favourite food products:

I was sure when I first came that I wouldn’t be able to get things like peanut butter, ranch dressing, or Earl Grey tea. But Korea has come a long way since Simon and Martina made that initial video. I can now find Caesar salad dressing, tortillas, barbecue sauce, honey mustard and Alfredo sauce in almost every grocery store. While these products do tend to be a bit more expensive than you’ll be used to paying back home, they’re not impossible to find. Still, if there’s a particular brand of hot sauce or tea you love, bring it with you.

What to Pack When Moving to Korea to Teach English >> Life In Limbo

For everything else, don’t worry too much. Korea is becoming more developed all the time, especially if you’re in a city, and increasingly you can get almost anything you need. If I was packing for Korea now I would pack: a few more bras, a few more pairs of shoes and comfortable pants, more of my clothes, and a few more of my favourite cosmetics. But in general I have been able to find just about everything I want (even avocados!). Except for maybe cheese – there’s still not much cheese here.

Just bring yourself, a good attitude, and enough clothes to last you for the year. You’ll do great. Also, congratulations on making this huge decision! For me it’s been such a rewarding experience in so many different ways and I wish you the best of luck on your upcoming adventure.

If you’ve ever moved to a foreign country, what was on your packing list for your big move? Fellow expats in Korea, what would you add to this list?

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