Wednesday, September 25, 2013

For My Birthday: What Advice Would I Have Given Myself 10 Years Ago?

I came across a question on the internet recently:

Knowing what I know now, what advice would I have given myself ten years ago?

It's an interesting question to answer for my birthday.

Aside from realizing that I'm getting older and there's nothing I can do about it, I thought it was interesting to think about since my life was so different ten years ago. I stopped to think about where I was and what I was doing. It was a turning point in my life.

Posing with family members about 10 years ago

Where was I ten years ago?

Let me see. I was just starting out my senior year in high school. I went to a medium-sized public school in the home state, where I spent my time with a close-knit group of friends and otherwise kept to myself in most aspects. At the same time, I was gaining a new confidence in myself I hadn't had before. I tried my best to stay away from the drama in my high school and was more focused on my future.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

It's Chuseok Time!

 The kids at school in traditional Korean clothing, called the Hanbok, and making rice cakes
Chuseok or 추석 is the biggest and most important holiday in Korea. It celebrates the year's harvest and it's a time for Korean families to come together, be thankful and recognize the contributions of their ancestors.

It's a family holiday known for its food and gift giving. They come together and eat traditional food, and its staple is called Songpyeon (송편), which is a type of rice cake that is rolled into a ball and contains a sweet filling. There's also quite a bit of gift giving, where practical presents are given to friends and neighbors. Ideally, Korean families will visit the hometowns of their ancestors to pay respects to their spirits. It's technically one day, but it's celebrated as a three day holiday.

This year's gift box!
There are some similarities to Thanksgiving, so Chuseok is often described to foreign people as "the Korean Thanksgiving." 

You can read more about the Chuseok holiday here and here.

Since I'm not Korean, I don't have family that's from here, leaving me with little to celebrate. While I've heard of it happening before, it's not really common for the locals to invite foreigners to celebrate with them. It's strictly a family thing, so we are normally outside of the bubble of celebration.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Common Scams in South America... and Ways to Avoid Them

Just about everyone is excited to travel and explore new places. Although I would always recommend a new, fulfilling experience in South America, there are people who are only looking to gain access to your money. Sometimes, these people are just plain dishonest and walk away with your cash that they obtained illegitimately.

Children talking to a reporter in Bolivia
Many of us have heard of the extremes of what could happen to visitors, which include kidnapping for ransom or even murder. However, that's not likely for the average person, so this post isn't about emphasizing those extreme cases. 

In other words, these are the sort of things that visitors are likely to encounter, either directly or indirectly because they're so common. These are the scams to look out for on a day-to-day basis.

Check out these true stories about some of the negative parts of my adventures to countries such as Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia!