Tag Archives: wanderlusters!

Erin’s Problems are Hipster Bands

We are Erin's Problems. sitarmustachehat*fart*

I’m coming to you live, internet, from my office. I’m eating a Tootsie roll pop. It’s Friday afternoon. The kiddies are gone for the day and I get to doink around on the internet, writing frivolous blog posts and what not.  They pay me to do this guys. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of actual work involved too, and I’ve had a few crappy weeks prior to this. But today was a good day. And tomorrow will be a good day because I’m going to Seoul to stare at some North Koreans and then I’m going to bathe myself in IPA. (More on how orgasmically exciting that is next week.)

The thing is, I can’t think of anything to write about.

At some point, I transitioned from being Uberforeign, to Mute and  Uncomfortable, to Not Terrified Anymore, to Partial Understanding of Everything, to I Get It, to I Live Here, to I’m Stagnant Again.

Yeah, we're called Uberforeign. You've probably never heard of us...

“As Erin awoke one morning from uneasy dreams she found herself transformed in her bed into a gigantic ennui-machine…”

We are Ennui-Machine. Here's a 20 minute keyboard solo.

It’s a welcome feeling, I mean, compared to the first few weeks of peeking cautiously out of your windows and around corners lest you come in contact with a native. And I couldn’t claim to be acclimated. I just claim to be much less surprised. And that makes me sad.

We are Dread the Hipster. This is a song about....Galesburg. Whatever.

But in 90 days I’m out. And in 90 days I have no idea where I’ll be. Safety net = home, but home is so full of hipsters….how I dread the hipsters…The answer is, I guess keep moving. Which is what I did when I got bored with Chicago. And Omaha. And good God, who wouldn’t have been bored with Galesburg? And Cheyenne!? Come on.

So tell me Hipster Band, am I doomed to constant movement? Am I lost to the world of Normals and Happies?? Will the conclusion of 90 days find me in my parents’ basement or living out of a van somewhere?

Here's my pocket Nietzsche. There are no Normals and Happies.

 Cold comfort, hipsters. Cold comfort.

We Love You Long Time

This, friends, is The Wanderlust Diary’s 100th post. WOOOOOHOO! Now, this might not mean much to you (except that you’ve had to change your pants 100 times because you peed yourself laughing), but Megan and I are the sort of people who get an idea, get really excited about it, drink a bottle of champagne to celebrate it, then decide it’s too hard. Follow thru, not for the faint of heart. So this here blog is something of an achievement for two people who can’t finish a head of lettuce before it starts to liquify in the crisper.

To celebrate, I’ve made you a list of 100 best things you should know about Korea…

Continue reading

Sabor de Soledad

Friends, we are fast approaching the 6 month mark in this, the Year of Korea. This is a time of reflection, to pause and note what I have learned about this foreign land, its people, myself, and others like me, in our self-imposed exile. As I sit here in my lotus position upon my mountaintop pondering these things, I have come to one conclusion about displaced Americans:

Our greatest common passion is the pursuit of legit Mexican food.

Exactly. (courtesy of the best place on the internet)

We go to extraordinary lengths in the service of this insatiable hunger. We take hour long train rides in Seoul to an On the Border (a scurrilous Tex-Mex chain I would turn my nose up at Stateside, but such are the concessions one must make in Korea…) for a 20 minute dinner, bottomless chips and salsa, and Modelo. We stay up til 4 am in order to sample the wares of the legendary Hongdae taco truck (Remember?). We fashion excuses to gather and construct enchiladas and quesadillas in cramped Korean kitchens, combining our cheese stores, swilling Coronas and wondering why it’s so hard to find a ripe avocado in these parts. Even on vacation in Switzerland, my American friend couldn’t help but bring up how unfulfilled he was without access to chorizo.

Despite our perseverance, our damnedest efforts put forth, the Real Thing has remained elusive.

It is therefore incredibly painful to speak of Korean takes on Mexican food. First, one must understand that Koreans approach food from a health standpoint: eat this because it is nutritious and benefits you in X and Y ways, even if it tastes like Neptune’s butt (…because everything tastes like ocean here. Keep up with me people, I shouldn’t have to explain my jokes to you punks.). Americans approach food from the pleasure side of things: make it taste good and give me more. At heart, we are a nation of hedonistic walruses. Example: say an American discovers an opportunity in Gwangju to order nachos* at a restaurant. American eagerly anticipates a mess of tortilla chips piled with about 14 c. of delicious ingredients including, but not limited to: meats, beans, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, jalapenos. The American believes the dish should weigh no less than 5 lbs. and require a waiter with hypertrophied biceps to deliver it. But this is what the American receives:


8 individually decorated chips, displayed in an aesthetically pleasing ring. Heavy on vegetables, low on meat, nothing in excess. Korea, this American walrus knows you’re better than her, but it’s still kind of weird to make little chip pizzas and call them nachos and trick me into eating them. And then there was this, a shot in the dark for something like Doritos** and the inspiration for this post. A foul, sweet, disgusting turn on something billed as “Maekshikan tacoe” flavored, but that tasted like a churro rolled in cheeto powder. I hate you, Dodohan chips.You might look the part, but the Asian chick in the sombrero belies your true nature.

Ahora con mas semen del toro!

We few, we happy few, we band of gringos! There is no hope, but still we search. Search for the mythical taco stand that will sate us somewhere in the heart of Asia. So on. On we ride. On into the friscalating dusk light.

*We at TWD are fully aware that nachos are not authentically Mexican.


Graphic Content

Anyeong Haseyo! Guess who’s back from Europe? Look what I did:

And nourished shall be thy body,dessicated by the scorching inferno of temperance

that, AND I wrote like 400 more words on my novel (coming in 2035 – a labor of agonizing love and chock full o’ genius), AND kept constantly reminding my old bosom buddy Hayes that living in Korea is way harder than living in France and that he should move that bottle of wine closer to the couch so I don’t have to get up because I’m on vacation and I’ve been living in Korea. Oh, and did he think he could drive me to the store for more wine? Because I started drinking wine at 11 am and might run out before dinner.  Whatever Hayes. Shut up. I usually live in Korea. For like four months now I usually live in Korea. My life is hard and burdened and totally cool. So totally cooler than your stupid life. In Europe. Which I also secretly want.

Pretty much any complaint/observation Hayes made about his new life situation elicited the same knee-jerk response from me: It is harder to live in Korea than France, therefore your discomfort is invalid and I’m better than you.

I can’t decide if this illustrates my natural fondness of pissing contests or some reaction that occurs when you encounter another American abroad. But I think there is a kind of currency to where one lives, when one chooses to live abroad. I have made a graph to illustrate my point. (Erins = Units of Cool. Look it up.)

See it in all it’s professional glory (and larger!) here.

So, supposing you’re an English-speaking American like myself, living in the States starts you out at 0. Then, as you get further away from other English-speaking Americans, and further from what one might consider a “safe” place with few repulsive diseases or the threat of frostbite/trench foot, the more Erins you acquire. So like, the most socially impressive place you can live is, short of the moon, on a remote volcanic island, unpopulated save for plague-harboring rodents which you are forced to hunt and eat.

Of course this is partially in jest, but there’s something to studying the question Why Do We Go Where We Go? And why do I think Cappadocia > Minnesota? Or Korea > France?  Look deeper into your black, withered hearts, Readers, and tell me that there isn’t a sliver of you that doesn’t travel for bragging rights. That doesn’t look forward to that first conversation whenever you might make it back home to say to some stranger, “Oh, I’ve just been spending the last year abroad. In Asia. What have you done lately?”

Hey Look at Me! I’m Kinda Korean!

No, this isn’t another vaguely racist blog post. This is about adaptation, y’all.

Moving to a different country, speaking a new (and Asian) language, diving head first into a new profession, all of these things are designed to challenge one’s identity. The whole point of moving myself to the other side of the world was to encourage personal development. It’s a pretty solid equation

Discomfort = Adaptation = Growth = Bad Ass Human Person

I expected life to be inconvenient: communicating in general, becoming familiar with the public transportation, getting a hold of American things like food or beauty products, none of these challenges came as a surprise. It’s the kind of stuff you take for granted when you are nestled in America, the ease with which you function on a daily basis.

But then there were a few unexpected twists and problems that I did not think I’d be facing, and it’s kind of goofed up my plan.

“Hey dude this beer tastes horrible.”

I didn’t realize that it would be impossible to drink a decent beer. I don’t know if anyone believes us when we keep saying this, but the beer here is shit. It’s just plain awful shit. I often find myself wondering if I would enjoy a Keystone or a Coors Lite more than Korean beer. Worse, I find myself believing the answer is yes.

The dearth of tasty alcohol has left me with a bit of an identity crisis. I’ve gone weeks at a time, WEEKS people, without having a beer. There’s a large bottle of soju that has been sitting on top of my refrigerator untouched since the beginning of September. And the only night I usually drink now is Fridays. THE ONLY NIGHT.

Sometimes I’ll turn to Erin and say, “Remember when we used to get off work at 5:00 on any old weeknight and head straight to <insert random bar> and drink a few <insert tasty beers>? When we used to drink for pleasure?” And then our eyes gloss over as we step back in time and watch our former selves enjoying spontaneous Happy Hour at Delilah’s or T’s.

Then we snap to, soberly look each other up and down, and shudder at what different people we are, what different, less alcohol-bloated people we are.

“Hey, it’s COLD in here.”

If you are reading this blog and plan to come to Korea to teach English, bring long underwear. I will say it again, if you are coming to Korea to teach in a school, bring long underwear. One more time, just in case, if you will be teaching in Korea in the winter BRING LONG UNDERWEAR.

November rolled around and it got cold, as it’s apt to do in the Northern Hemisphere. Then it got colder, and then a little colder. And as it kept getting colder, the Koreans began wearing their puffy coats in school and started opening the windows like it was spring. The foreigners, in turn, started wondering why all the windows are open and why isn’t the heat on. Not one of the answers I have received about the lack of heat and the compulsion to “be one with the outdoors” is satisfying. So I’m forced to spend most of the day with my winter coat on, still freezing my bum off from the icy breeze that’s come in one of those open windows.

And the other day, a Korean had the AUDACITY to insinuate that I was foolish for “not knowing” it would be cold here.

“Didn’t you know it would be cold here?” As in, didn’t you know Korea has a winter season that gets cold?

Um, excuse me, bitch please. “Yes. I did know that Korea has WINTER. Thank you. I just didn’t know that Korea lets winter INSIDE”. I did not know that you choose to leave all the fucking windows open all day and that everyone has to dress like a bloody eskimo to come teach in what is essentially a walk in freezer.

Forced to adapt, I have become a person who appreciates heated America in a completely new way. But I have also become a angry popsicle person. This one might just be a wash as far as personal growth goes.

“Hey, but, how do I cook?”

I knew the kitchen would be small. That there’d probably be no oven. That I’d be working with only a pair of burners to get my ‘cook’ on. But I was still pretty optimistic about being able to spend time in the kitchen doing my very favorite thing in the world, the thing that makes me feel like me.

However, my hopes were quickly extinguished when I realized that I have limited access to American cooking ingredients (remember cheese?), that I can’t read or identify Korean food, and that while I can function with two burners, one square foot of ‘counter’ space is actually really sucky.

I gave up on the cooking pretty quickly. I started eating more and more for lunch at school and pretty much stopped eating any kind of real meal for dinner. I might have a snack, some fruit (I know!) or a piece of toast. And so the only thing gourmet I do anymore is make spam and egg sandwiches on the weekends. Don’t get me wrong, they are kick ass, and I’ve perfected the frying of an egg, but as a culinary enthusiast I don’t have much to show for my four months here. I feel sort of like I’ve failed myself.

Which is why last night’s Kimchi Fried Rice was a major accomplishment. I know, it’s just fried rice, like the easiest thing on the planet to make. But this is the first time that I’ve really used Korean ingredients to make anything resembling a Korean dish, and it’s only because I was forced to. A coteacher gave me a giant tub of kimchi and I needed to figure out something to do with it besides just eat it plain.


And so I fried a little spam and fried a little egg and put some kimchi and kimchi juice and rice in a pan, and voila! Now I’m more me than I’ve been in a long time, but I’m also kind of Korean!

Swiss Miss

Guys! It’s vacation time! Yes yes, potential EPIK employees take note: winter vacation comes with 2 weeks of paid leave. This is way more rad than all the other lame job benefits  I’ve had in the past. (You can keep that 20% off select entrees, Applebee’s. Jerks.)  While other people have decide to take this opportunity to go somewhere warm like Bali or Thailand, I, friends, am taking the road less traveled and less thought-thru – I fly to Switzerland tomorrow.

My feelings are neutral. *rim shot* <cartwheels off stage>

Why? I guess it’s because I really like hating snow and making myself miserable. Also, my friend is living there (Hi, Hayes!) and I will go anywhere that I don’t have to pay for lodging. I’m stoked, and I’m going to tell you why.

In Switzerland, things that should be made of wheat will be made of wheat: Things like bread, noodles, beer, grain alcohol, beer, BEER, flour, beer, bagels, cookies and assorted pastries, beer, and certain petroleum products used in plastics. (Beer!)

In Switzerland, there are white people the size of grizzly bears: Holy crap am I excited to feel small and anonymous. I’ve come to grips with being Completely Obvious the last few months, but it’s a lot of work to know you’re being looked at all the time, especially when you can practically see the exclamation marks over people’s heads as you walk past. “How the hell did that get here?!” has become the logical response to my face. So not eliciting that  reaction for a week will be great. And I’m not exactly a monstrous person, size-wise, but the Korean population is slight – a bunch of fine-boned, lovely bird-people. That means I kind of feel like a socially awkward Tyrannosaurus Rex. Self-esteem, you’re about to make a comeback.

In Switzerland, I will go beard watching: Damn do I miss facial hair on men. I realize that I’m in danger of sounding like a beatnik hipster type, but in this regard, I can’t help it. I remember last winter watching a friend’s band play (oh god, ouch, hipster, ouch) at a shady bar in Chicago. At some point I looked around the dark music hall and every. single. man. present had a full beard. I swooned. Megan was there, ask her. I also have extraordinary hopes that I will run into Pascal Baffert, the sole Swiss member of the Handlebar Mustache Club…just click on that link. Experience the magic for yourselves.

In Switzerland, there is cheese:

Erin: Man, I really underestimated how much I miss cheese.

Coteach: Korea has cheese. Korea has two kinds of cheese.

Erin: Yeah, but France has like, 500 national cheeses.

Coteach: The yellow cheese? Cheddar, you know it?

Erin: You mean those plastic-y Kraft-singles-looking-things at the store?

Coteach: What?

Erin: Nevermind.

Coteach: And we have white cheese too. It’s called….cream cheese?

Erin: <sigh>

Switzerland has it’s very own national cheese, just like America! Any country who takes the time to give their people a personalized dairy product is awesome in my book.

In Switzerland, I will sacrifice myself on the altar of travel: Like I said, I’ve been here a few months so the novelty has begun to fade. This vacation comes at the perfect time to throw myself back into the cold water of a language barrier and up against the wall of cultural differences (though after Asia, Europe seems really really mild, as far as cultural differences go.). When you travel, you’re forced to be the best version of yourself, trust people in an unquestioning way that in ordinary life doesn’t come so easy. I’m ready to be extravagantly uncomfortable again.

So peace out, homes. I will try and send you a line from the Alps, but I might also be lying dead in a cheese and beer coma. One can only hope.

Wanderlust Hall of Fame: Alexander von Humboldt

Wie geht's, bitches?

Oh Alexander, I want to be just like you. I want to travel uncharted waters and lands with my French manservant. I want to encounter foreign peoples, map the Amazon and let the Spanish know that they have the location of Cuba totally fucking wrong on their nautical charts. (To which the Spanish said, “Hey thanks! Can I interest you in some tapas, perhaps?”) I want dare myself, like you, to wander up mountainsides and look at the life in everything. You, sir, define the word “wanderlust” and are likewise German and awesome.  Here’s to you and your extraordinary accomplishments.

Behold Alex’s many good deeds in the name of travel here.