Essay

Only the people in love live, others just exist”

                                                                                         -William Shakespeare

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                 For all those reading this quote your first reaction would probably be, “Yeah, yeah…”, “That’s not true, if I’m not in love it doesn’t mean I’m not living!” or “Oh, here’s another improbable idea”. Reactions that can be expected from people who have been hurt in a previous relationship. Such as, a man who has given everything, but unfortunately his efforts were wasted, a man unable to admit to himself that he’s lonely and needs to know this wonderful feeling they call – love. Love is a feeling lost by those who would react in such a way to this quote because they are unable to take it serious and consequently look at life as a game. However, there are few who contemplate the first thoughts and feelings that they would usually reject. I considered myself to be one of those people who overlooked everything different from my point of view and my everyday life. Furthermore, I retained all my principles in life without changing them, but acknowledged the opinions of others. Nonetheless, there comes a time when a man might, as the time passes by or with the increasing of his life experience, begin to change his perceptions about the things that happen to him. He matures, has realizations, forms interests, and grows understanding as if being transferred to a different world, bearing different emotions.

              There are many different understandings and composed thoughts as to the meaning of being in love. People fall in love with a play at the theater, a song they hear on the radio, a place of beauty, a specific article of clothing, a favorite dish or just life in its simplicity. It’s such a good feeling to have with the way it makes us happy, smile, and feel, but let’s not forget that there’s a difference between being in love and just liking something very much. Love is a feeling more prominently felt between two human beings. The relationships a man forms with the people around him are perhaps the most important in life, it’s the force that drives it, it’s everlasting, and it stretches past our limited comprehension of the world, where everything is just temporary, even if we like it or not – it has its term and like our lives it will end. Isn’t it ironic? People put such effort in life to achieve the perfect career, receive the best education or to have an overwhelming amount of riches, but they’re left feeling empty essentially because those possessions have no meaning or substance without those to share the most intimate and sincere emotions with. Want it or not, love is a crucially vital essential in life that gives us existence, it’s the most important element in life worth putting efforts towards.

                  The love of a person goes through certain stages, but I think the key-moment is when you fall in love. Everyone has been in love with someone at least once in their life, it’s an unmistaken feeling. The feeling of being weak in the knees, butterflies in the stomach, nerves going crazy, anxiousness, face going red, and those are just some of the symptoms. However, I depict the word “in love”, as having in its contents a deeper meaning. When someone’s in love they change as their entire world begins to change. His eyes begin to sparkle with a glow and shine of beauty and positive thoughts become ever-present in their mind. When people are in love, they become improved, inspired, motivated, find strength to endure the fluctuations of life, find the beauty in the worst, feel happy, energetic, and feel alive.

                   As for myself, I love the feeling of being in love. I enjoy meeting different people, getting to know them, and learning interesting things about them to the point where I am able to unravel them to their core. I love being inspired by others around me, seeing the world through their eyes, and through this process collect a part of them that impressed me the most and left an imprint in my mind. Respectively, it makes me feel like my life is more colorful, beautiful, and true. I believe myself to be a very caring person who has a big heart. I didn’t always fully understand what is to be one, but I’ve now acknowledged the feeling I have inside of me that makes me consider otherwise. Over the years I realized what really makes me happy is having a big heart, loving others, and to be in love with this strange creature they call “man”. To be in love with his qualities, his quirks, his pain, his hopes, and his most cherished dreams. In actuality, falling in love keeps my mind under-pressure, but not in a negative way, just in a very special way. In this moment, I feel as if a light inside me grows bigger and bigger wanting to launch outward to grant the others around me with smiles and happiness. In this moment, I feel as if every cell in my body is filled with so much love and an assertive energy so powerful filling me up even in my darkest days, making me function, sprint towards the adventures of life, and helping me enjoy and appreciate the little things in life. Indeed, it’s a feeling I love to have and hope to never depart with. Although, it may not always lead to good things especially when it becomes an uncontrollable force and brings frustration, tears, and grief. It’s not robbing the human soul, but taking it on the road to discover inner truth and qualities that we never imagined having, leading us to much more valuable things. Values such as exploring our strengths and our existence, with whom we will be able to find true happiness. That’s why, as much as I pouted, as much as I regretted certain situations, I would never eliminate the feeling of being in love from my life. I prefer to fall, get up, and fall again, suffer, risk, learn, and pass through it all over and over again than to remain indifferent. Indifference is the killer of all that exists inside of me and all the effort, valuable lessons, relationships, and life that has been given to me to discover myself and fulfill my mission in this world. I prefer to feel alive!

                   I have come across this quote from the great Shakespeare in many occurrences, but never really paid attention to it. It’s probably similar for most people, but not everyone has the same attitude towards it as I do, nevertheless I guess most of us would agree at some point in our lives with his words. As naïve as it may sound I believe that love makes the world a better place. I believe that it’s the foundation for everything and that only love can change people, solve problems and expel all faces of evil. Maybe people will continue to deny the notion of falling in love and will continue to rebel through the trials of life without it being part of their life. However, sooner or later everyone will reach that conclusion and realize how much truth is contained in the nine words put together by Shakespeare and see the true value of what they mean. Of course, everyone has their own opinions and choices as to how they want to live and know what is best for themselves as far as what to believe and pursue. Nonetheless, I sincerely hope someday they could feel in love as I do and the happiness, passion, and power to create beautiful things around them. In addition, I hope they will be able to most importantly feel alive, feel the essence of what they’re made for, and the reason of their existence on this planet.

Claudia Petzova

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11 facts about South Korea

Lately, while wandering the streets of Seoul, I have been thinking how many things impress me in Korea and how many interesting creations have the Koreans developed for the comfort of the people residing in this country. Living here, day by day I start getting used to all of them and I have the feeling, that if one day I need to go live somewhere else, there will be so many things I’ll miss and I might even experience reverse culture shock. This is why I decided to share with you some of my experiences here and wish that they’ll be helpful and interesting to all of you as well! I know, that many bloggers and vloggers have already mentioned many similar facts, but I’ll try to not repeat them and make a list of my top 11 personal(maybe more specific)things, that impress me in Korea and they go like this:

  1. There are restrooms everywhere and they’re for free! The reason why I’m impressed about that, is because in my country you can mostly find restrooms in restaurants, coffee shops or fast food places and if you’re not their customer, you should pay. Here in Korea they have restrooms anywhere you think about – subway stations, playgrounds, forests, next to rivers and so on. And no, they’re not in a bad condition, instead most of them are very well maintained, decorated in a certain theme(there was even one restroom with artificial cherry blossom trees for the upcoming spring). Another fact is, that almost every restroom has a separate little part for the ladies, where they can fix or do their makeup. It’s very convenient!
  2. Talking about convenient things, their convenient stores are amazing! In them you can really find all kinds of food(well there’s a lack of variety since they’re small after all) from potato chips, to kimbap, burgers, entire dishes, fruits, salads, pastry, coffee, sanitary stuff, possibility to recharge your transportation card and many more. Maybe the thing I like the most, is the possibility to buy ramen and cook/make it there on the spot, because they have microwaves and also hot water. Some of the convenient stores even have places to sit so you can eat what you bought without worrying. Some of the stores work until very late, which is the reason I sometimes call them “life saviors”.

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  3. The screen boards in the subway stations, which illustrate on which station is the subway train you want to take right now and how close it is to your current station. This really helps when you are going down in the subway, because you can estimate how much time you need to hurry up, so you don’t miss your train. 23513439-10155778518781635-1263725379-nSpeaking about the subway, of course, there is no way I can miss the screens in the trains(which show mainly advertisements and upcoming stops or videos about proper traveling etiquette). Also, if you get into a certain part of the train by mistake, but want to go to another part of it, it’s not necessary to get out of it on the next station and run quickly to the one you want to get into, because there are automatic doors with sensors between each part of the train. Of course, everything is well designed for elder people, pregnant women and disabled people, for which I give thumbs up! There are also shelves above the seats, where people can put their bags or other luggage so it doesn’t have to bother them or make them uncomfortable while commuting, but it’s important to not forget it there haha. Also, people wait for the subway train at specific doors, because this is where the doors of the subway train match when it arrives at the station, so this is why you don’t need to run and follow a certain door. Furthermore, people waiting at a certain door form two lines on each side(left and right) so that people who get off the train can go out from the middle and not bump into other people(which is clever, but people don’t always do it). Continuing with the topic about subways – I really love the express subway trains. There are a lot of subway lines which are very busy especially during peak hours and for making the process more easy, the Koreans have subway trains on the same line, which skip the smaller stations and stop only at the main ones. In other words, if you normally take a subway train which takes you from point A to point B for about 30 minutes, with the express subway train it will take you around 10 minutes. Each station is announced in 4 languages – Korean, Chinese, Japanese and English. In every subway station there are little shops, coffee shops or bakeries and in some bigger stations there are huge underground shopping malls. And lastly on this subject – what surprised me the most was, that there are subway lines that even go to other cities(not near Seoul, but cities that are 90km far away from the capital). In my case, one of the lines I was using was reaching the city I lived in for 1 year and it took me about 2 hours and a half to go to Seoul, but the traveling part was pleasant and provides the possibility to enjoy beautiful views along the way.
  4. Very often when you go into a cosmetic store, even only when you want to just browse or look around, the person who stays at the entrance gives you a little basket, where you can put the items you like and along with the basket they give you little gifts – cotton for removing nail polish, make up removal and other small things. When you buy something, they always give you little samples of a certain foundation, crème or other type of cosmetics so you can try it back home and if you like it – to buy it next time. This is a great commercial tactic, but it’s also good for the clients to be able to try out the product before they buy it and determine whether they really want it. In many cases, the samples they gave me, were actually really good and of a high quality – perfect for people like me, who don’t know a lot of things about cosmetics and need guidance. Here is a photo of my personal collection:

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  5. When it’s raining outside and you need to enter a mall or just a regular shop, they always put a little “device” at the entrance, where you can wrap your umbrella in a plastic bag so you don’t splash water all over yourself and don’t make dirty water steps in the shops. The plastic bags fit both small umbrellas, that can be folded and the big ones with a static handle. It’s very comfortable for carrying.
  6. Active elderly people! I’ve been to so many places, which require a lot of energy and strength to hike or climb and I always admired elder women and men(having the same age as my grandparents), who bravely and without hesitation keep walking and taking difficult routes. There are actually many times, where I felt very awkward and bad about myself, because they have even more energy than me haha. I like how they take care of their health and shape in such a great way!

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  7. As a country with high developed technology, in Korea you can pay for everything with your cell phone. Tickets and reservations for so many things, bills, groceries and all of that by using a QR code. You can also use your phone as a replacement of a transportation ticket when you download the specific application for that, order your ticket through it and simply scan the QR code later in the bus. Because I had to travel often from my city to Seoul, I never had to worry whether there are any seats available in the bus I want to take or other things, because I could always follow the timetable of the bus, which seats are available and pick one afterwards…all of that on my way to the bus station. There’s always the possibility to delete a reservation and make a new one instantly, as well as to receive information about how long it will take you from your place to the one you want to reach according to traffic and other criteria. On the other hand, with debit or credit card, you can also pay your taxi fare, which surprised me a lot.
  8. Talking about outer city buses, they’re all in a really good shape – clean, organized, comfortable leather seats, places to put your bottle of water, drink, etc., USB slots for charging your phone, magazines and others. This is the state in which you can find them usually no matter if you travel for just 1 hour or 5 hours. 471674914.jpgThe seats can be tilted back and forth and can be pulled simultaneously from both two ends of the length by becoming almost a bed (we did that with my friends while traveling to the airport when there were no people). Another interesting thing is, that in order for you not to be stuck so close to the person next to you, you can adjust and move the seat sideways, making a space between both of you. Cool right? There are also single seats which are very comfortable. The buses ALWAYS depart on time without exception and any delays.
  9. When you are in a coffee shop or at another place and leave your phone/laptop/other important item on the table…no one will touch it! In the beginning I was very afraid of leaving my personal belongings like that, because I was used to keeping them with me or asking someone else to check up on them for me while I am not there, but I didn’t have to think about it here. Many of my friends had an experience of losing their wallet with money and all sorts of documents or something small falling out of their pocket in a public space, where immediately someone runs after them and gives it back or in the case of the wallet – the stranger does everything possible to find the owner and make sure he safely got it back.
  10. Even though you can rarely find trash bins in Korea on the streets, all cities are overall clean and Koreans are serious about recycling. In every building there are 4 types of trash bins one next to another – for paper/carton, for plastic, for cans/bottles and for food or general trash, that cannot fit into the others types.
  11. And last, but not least – the thing that impressed me the most so far is the respect towards elderly. Here elders always have the right(since they are considered the most wise people and the ones who can teach us about many things in life) and regardless of the age or whether they agree or disagree with someone, Koreans always respect their grandparents or other elderly people(even when they are mean sometimes) and don’t talk back or raise their voice to them. The same goes for doctors or teachers/professors. If in my country the students do whatever they want and go on the nerves of teachers as much as they want, here such thing doesn’t exist. Arguing with them also doesn’t exist.

My Korea pt.1 – korean people

It has been already 1 year since I came to Korea and I finally decided to share my expectations-reality experiences in the country, which captured my heart 5 years ago. I know, that for sure 1 year is not enough to understand the culture in depth, but it did help me open my perceptions and taught me a lot of things. Therefore, I wanted to write down my thoughts, hoping that they will help others catch a glimpse of Korea through my eyes.

First, how did I form my interest in Korea? Why exactly Korea? I have been asked the same or similar questions a lot and usually people stare at me in confusion or wonder what influenced me to make such decision. I think, that ever since I was little, I have always been attracted to things that are unfamiliar to me. For many years people would most likely visit countries in Western Europe or they would go to the USA either for traveling or pursuing their education. I must admit, that I also wanted to do the same, but I was never a “crowd follower” or trying to do things, that simply society, family or just “the others” think that it’s the best to do. Looking back at the decisions I took in my life or the dilemmas I have been through, in the end I have always picked the unknown – either for the mystery it carries, or because of my heart, that loves to explore new things. I assume, that this sums up why I have interest in Eastern Asia in general. But why Korea? Since MUSIC probably takes 90% of my heart, I accept it not only as an universal language, but also as a key to get to know other cultures and enrich my soul. Therefore, I must admit, that the first thing that set my sight on Korea was k-pop. Back in year 2012, k-pop was still not that much influenced by the western trends in music, which come and go, so as a “non crowd follower” I naturally started following this “new” music style. And I remembered how fascinated I was not only by the upbeat songs, but also by the lyrics I checked later on Internet, the variety of melodies and of course – dancing. It was different and it was definitely a moment, that I will always remember. Later on I kept looking for more and bit by bit I started reading information on the Internet about Korea, searching for photos, reading books until my eyes would literally fall out. And of course, since I’m a nature person, temple lover and ancient architecture admirer, all of that somehow combined and made me fall in love in Korea so much, that I accomplished my dream and came here – having the possibility to enjoy all I have read and heard in live.

Of course, before coming to Korea, I had certain expectations and I was a bit worried, that I might get disappointed. However, strangely enough, from the moment I stepped outside of Incheon Airport, I didn’t feel like I was in an unknown place, I had a feeling, that I am – home. I must say, although the US are more closer to our culture, spending 4 summers there made me understand the culture better, but I never felt at home. While in Korea, the country that is “just another world” and has almost nothing in common with my culture, made me feel warm and cozy. I was happy about my first impressions and also about the fact, that most of my expectations were met. Korean’s nature is indescribably beautiful and has its own charms, the mixture of modern architecture and traditional architecture is truly captivating, and the places I have always only seen on photos on the Internet, were breathtaking. I feel like the only expectations I had, which turned out differently are about Korean people.

Koreans, as expected, are a bit more shy than westerners and are sucked in the busy and rushed everyday life. However, as an Asian country I had this image of them as being nice, extremely polite and respectful people. Fortunately, I haven’t experienced many unpleasant situations, but I did see things that amazed me. Starting from the korean middle aged women called “ajjuma” or “아주마”, who simply don’t care and push everything that is on their way, continuing with men spitting on the streets, noisy and sometimes bad mannered students, narrow minded administration officers and finishing with the social norms that put such pressure on koreans.

The last part really shook me. I never thought, that Korea or any other country is the best or, that everything is so easy and shiny, however I was really surprised how society dictates korean people’s life to such extent, that they accept things, only according to what is said to be good or not, leading them to develop a lot of complexes, insecurities and overexhausting themselves. In Korea, if you don’t have that specific shape of nose, that specific shape of eyes, chin, ears, etc. even if a person is obviously beautiful, this person will still not be considered beautiful in Korea. This makes people always trying to achieve perfection and never feeling good enough or satisfied with themselves. It also makes them try to fit in a certain criteria, which one day, as all things in the world change, will change as well. I feel really sad that instead of embracing their own beauty and individuality, they just end up in an endless circle of other people’s expectations. Of course, I am not saying all koreans are like that, but I do notice this often. Even when applying for a job, people go to photo studios, where compared to most countries, where you just stand at one spot they take a shoot and you are done, here in Korea it is a very special process. You pay around 30$ and the preparation for the photo starts from having staff that put professional makeup on you, do your hair, take your photo, clear your skin on Photoshop, or even in some cases they change the shape of your eyebrows, face, and so on. Yes, this is a whole art and proves in a way how important looks are in Korea. Same goes with body types, clothing fashion and other aspects.

Koreans also need to meet the expectations of society about extra activities in school, the universities that they must get into, the jobs they should work, the role of a man and a woman and things in life in general. I admit, that this hard work contributes also in a good way – such as generally having no people with low IQ, being well educated and more successful in their carrier compared to other countries, but it does also lead to depression, exhaustion and stress – three key factors that can harm any human being’s health. I will not go in such details, and will try to focus instead on a different part, that might be also interesting to many – korean men and women in dramas and in real life.

From a girl’s point of view, to be honest, I never expected korean men to be the same as we see them in dramas. Of course, there are many of them who are true gentlemen and will always do all those little things that impress girls, but there are also many of them who are disrespectful and “bad boy” type, but not in the attractive way. Korean men can be very well mannered and very nice at first, but most of them are also very clever and use this facade in order to simply get what they want. This is why especially foreign girls have to be careful, of course if you are not a fan of  risky adventures, one-night stands or simply fun- then you are fine. Also, in dramas korean men would always spot the not very attractive girl and fall in love with her and live happily ever after, however as mentioned above – in reality koreans pay a lot of attention to looks so they are most likely to follow the “plastic” girls or foreign girls – because they are something different and they would like to have an experience and boast with it. On the other hand, one thing that maybe matches the image of them in dramas, is the fact that they do have those fierce emotions of jealousy, possession, protection and doing a lot of effort for their chosen girl. The first two, in my experience are not as cute as I want them to appear, but rather a bit destructive. Another thing that is similar in dramas, at least to me, is that most korean men are tall(unlike in the past) and a big percentage of them are handsome – especially if you walk around the streets in Seoul. Since they also care more about fashion than many men in other countries, they do look presentable and give a nice impression.

As for korean girls – they do put a lot of effort in doing their makeup. Unlike in the West, where you put a lot of makeup only for special occasions or a night out – korean girls put a lot of makeup wherever they go. I have seen girls doing their makeup on the subway or even in the dance studio where I sometimes go dancing – but not where they change their clothes or the bathrooms, they do it during break time in the actual dance hall! A thing, that I found funny and absurd in the beginning, but slowly started to adopt it after living a while here is rolling up your bangs with the “grandma rollers” and wearing it in public. Yes, korean girls walk with this roller on their forehead from the moment they leave their house until they reach their desired destination and this is not considered weird here. For me, it was, because if I do that in my own country I will get stared at and people will think I am crazy. I did start using those rollers, because they were helpful for taming my wild hair, but to this day I still didn’t have the courage to stay with it in public. As expected, I have also never seen a korean girl showing off her cleavage and most of them do indeed wear either cute feminine style clothes or very fashionista ones. Most of them act in “aegyo”(cute way), but it’s also too much and seems very infantile at times to me. Of course, like korean men, there are also very sweet and kind korean girls, who still look pretty, but are also more bad-ass and independent on the inside and I am happy to have them as my friends.

And in the end – koreans and their perception of foreigners. First I would like to mention, that it really depends which part in Korea you go to. For example, if you go to smaller cities, where people are not used to seeing many foreigners – you will get stared at(as we joke with my friends and use the phrase “staring contest”), people might try to secretly take picture of you or some of them will even openly push the person next to them to look at this “alien”. However, in cities such as Seoul, where lately there are so many foreigners, people are already used to it and will most likely not pay any attention to you. Korean people hardly approach someone they don’t know randomly on the street, but I feel like some of them are genuinely curious and might gather the courage to do so. They seem interested in different countries and will never judge or say anything negative or sarcastic about your country, unlike americans. Whenever I said I am from Bulgaria I never got the reaction “Oh, is the economy getting better there?”, “Oh, I see.”*makes pouting face*, “Oh, that freaky guy Azis”(I have actually really had those reactions in the US). Instead koreans have always said “The country of yogurt!”, “It’s a really pretty country, I would love to visit it one day”, “You have good sportsmen”, etc. Of course, in some cases they might also say it out of politeness, but I did admire their positive outlook on the rest of the world. Another thing that is interesting, is that koreans are very harsh on other korean people, but when it comes to foreigners they go like “Ah, he/she is a foreigner, it’s okay”. That comes after you go somewhere and don’t understand anything, or if you are not used to a certain rules or unfamiliar to different cultural habits and in those cases – you get away with certain situations instead of being judged. I am not saying it’s a good thing, but it is a lot more easier in my opinion to be a foreigner in Korea, than a Korean in Korea, taking in mind what I mentioned before. Koreans will also be very impressed if you speak Korean. Sometimes when you even just say “Hello”, they will give you a compliment on how good you are speaking Korean, which is a bit absurd and you start questioning yourself if they are really impressed and appreciate your interest in Korean language, or simply saying it because they try to comfort/praise you, since they know most foreigners don’t speak Korean. If you do know more Korean and can freely have normal, basic conversations – then you will really impress them and sometimes you can get stuff as “bonus” when you shop at a certain store. There are many Koreans that will understand and speak English to you, but don’t expect much. And there were also cases, where you speak to them in Korean, and even if you speak clearly and well, they will still answer you in English, which never made sense to me. There are many koreans who have prejudices(some bad, some good) towards foreigners due to mainly to the big amount of americans and russians residing in Korea. In many cases when trying to guess where you come from, they will most likely mention one of the two countries and think that all foreigners are open-minded, rebels, wild and things that might make you feel upset and annoyed sometimes, however if they have the chance to get to know a person better, they start seeing that not all foreigners are the same – same as not all asians are the same. But overall, in my opinion and judging from my own experience, most koreans are kind and will help a foreigner, when lost or in need of help with something. I did also experience gestures of kindness in the bus or the subway, where people sitting next to me and opening a bag of snacks or cookies, turns to me and offers you one. I honestly did not know how to react, since it never happened to me before, but I really admired them for that and such small thing made my day.

In conclusion, I would like to say that this was my own experience and it might be different for other people, and like in every country thinks can be “pink” and “not so pink”, but this goes for all countries in the world and instead of focusing on the bad sides, it is important to use the negative experiences as learning different lessons and using the good ones to create wonderful memories and broadening your perceptions f the world. There are so many more things I can say about korean people through my eyes, but I will leave it for another blog or maybe video and there are definitely more parts to come.  I hope that everyone enjoyed what I wrote and found it helpful.

Until next time!

Your,

Claudia