Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Traveler's Medical Insurance

I decided to get medical insurance for my trip to Chile, since I don't have any medical insurance in the States. Better safe than sorry, I suppose. While I can give no claim to how well this medical insurance works (and I hope I will not have to find out), I did find this site to purchase traveler's medical insurance: http://www.insuremytrip.com/

This site will give you side by side comparisons of all the medical insurance that is available to you in your state. The prices were very reasonable, and you can call for assistance, for free, as well. When I called, the man I spoke with suggested I get a $0 deductible, so that they will reimburse any medical expenditures. You can also choose to pay a little more and get hazardous sport insurance, like I did, since I might be going skiing. All in all, I think I paid around $24 for two weeks. I think thats quite acceptable, as long as it really does work.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Time Machine: Chile

I found on my MySpace page (that I never update, by the way) with some things I wrote about Chile when I was there last time. Here they are. Let's see if anything has changed. I noticed that as the time goes on in this little mini-blog I kept, the comments got progressively more negative. Was I getting bitter?

Monday, April 24, 2006

Current mood: calm

Impressions of Chile after 2 months ( apparently the one i posted after 1 month never appeared)

1) Where's the Ranch Dressing? all I got here is salt, corn oil and lemon....

2) Wow.. they have a really fast really clean really efficient metro.....

3) Why did a camera that is older than me cost almost $400?

4) Manjar is the food of the gods....

5) I can buy a box of cookies for less than a $1.00

6) I can get a full meal for less than $4.00

7) Chau Huevon!!!

8) Chileans don't speak Spanish, they speak Chilean... Cachai?

9) No, really, I've had to add about 200 new words to my lexicon of Spanish... novio=pololo, bebe=guagua, camisa=polera, melocoton= durazno, etc etc... and I'm not even talking about all the new slang words....

10) Apparently I speak like a Mexican... cant figure that one out...

11) Chileans are like the British.. they love to queue

12) Theres a lot of mountains here

13) Work? who does work?

14) Going out at night and coming home at 4:00 in the morning is early... what were you thinking?

15) Pisco is the greatest drink on the planet... I'm still deciding how I'm going to smuggle some back into the states....

Thursday, April 27, 2006

More impressions...
Current mood: worried

A few more impressions of Chile...

1) I understand why they water the grass, but why do the water the dirt??

2) You know when air pollution is bad, when you look out, and the sky looks grayish brown when there is not a cloud in the sky....

3) If its a long weekend, why aren't there more buses going to Argentina??

Saturday, June 17, 2006

more impressions
Current mood: shocked

some more impressions of Chile....

1) Chile: home of the mullet and the rat tail

2) you know the air is polluted when you cant see the 5,000 ft (aprx) snow capped mountains that surround the city on all sides... just gray smog...

3 )you know the air is polluted when you see people walking around with surgical masks over their faces...

4 ) you know the air is polluted when your throat huts just from breathing the air for too long...

Oh, in case anyone is interested about poor air quality in Chile, check out CONAMA: (spanish language)

Friday, June 13, 2008

Korean Protests

In South Korea right now there is a big controversy over the import of American beef, which they claim could be infected with mad cow disease. I won't make any commentary on this until I get there and see what is happening for myself, but I did read this excellent article that I wanted to share about the nature of the protests. I found it very interesting, and slightly reminiscent of my time spent in Chile, during the protests of the pinguinos (high school students) protesting against the unfair distribution of money within the school system.

Here is the link to the actual article at the Asia Times Online: http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Korea/JF13Dg01.html

Party time at South Korea's protest 2.0
By Sunny Lee

SEOUL - This is strange. Even as anti-government demonstrations in South Korea go, this is an odd, odd scene. Even a foreigner thinks so. "I have never seen anything like this before," said Jeff Lazar, an American activist observing the ongoing protests here over the import of beef from the United States. "It's like a festival. They are even using a laser projector to write their protest words in the air. It's effective because it's fun. It's also a sure attention-grabber," he adds.

South Korea's infamously combative street protests have taken an unexpected, and sometimes amusing, turn. It has become much more peaceful, but, mind you, that's a relative term compared with previous practices. For example, during the 40-day-long candlelight demonstration that started on May 2 - when 15,000

students unexpectedly took to the streets - and up to this Tuesday which commemorated the June 10 Democracy Movement in 1987 that had bid farewell to the decades of military rule, only one person has lost his life.

And the deceased was not killed because of a bloody clash with the riot police, but because he set himself on fire.

Like any good festival, some people have come out wearing interesting costumes. Lee Dong-keun, a 19-year-old freshman at Korea University, and a classmate wear identical full-body tiger outfits. "I got a lot of pictures taken by media people," said Lee with pride.

And the streets themselves are much cleaner because of people like Cho Eun-mi, who volunteers to pick up trash, including empty soda cans, water bottles and pieces of torn slogan-bearing placards. "I know some people frown on the protesters. They think streets get dirty after protests. So I thought if I made the street less dirty by picking up trash, then those people might also get less upset," Cho said.

The most commonly seen slogans are variations on "No to US beef!" But people seem equally, if not more, upset about President Lee Myung-bak. "The President Lee said he would serve people. I think he's not doing it. So, I am protesting," said tiger-suited Lee.

Mahbub Alam from Bangladesh said of the street protests: "I get the feeling that the issue is not just about the beef. The American beef is rather a symbol for people to snub President Lee, who they feel is snubbing them."

Besides the lack of violence, what is surprising - even to South Koreans - is that there is no organizer for the already weeks-long demonstration. People took to the streets and formed ad hoc protest groups, usually around 6pm or 7pm each day. This has been bewildering to South Korean civil society, labor unions and opposition politicians - the usual players in such public protests. Tuesday's rally was the first officially organized protest and had the biggest turnout - police estimate 105,000 demonstrators, while the organizers said the number was closer to 500,000.

Still, one might think it was some kind of mass picnic, until you spot the riot police standing stiff, waiting for a crackdown order. Some people are holding impromptu concerts complete with guitars and violins, singing and dancing. In some cases, entire families have arrived to literally "camp out" in the middle of traffic. Of course they brought tents with them.

Other "protesters" have brought hot coffee to serve anyone who needs it. And high school students have given out roses to riot police, a move that definitely brings down the tension level. Some are distributing water bottles to the aggressive "frontliners" who usually shout more and work up a justified thirst. There are even volunteer medics walking around, shouting "Does anybody need help?"

Young couples use the protest for a romantic outing. They march with hands held tight, and the other hand holding a candle. Local TV footage has shown a man celebrating his girlfriend's birthday with a protest-candle cake. Other "demonstrators" have brought an outdoor movie projector and are showing the US documentary Sicko.

With the party atmosphere in full swing, the street vendors are enjoying a heyday of extra money and unusual business hours. It's 2am, and here they are selling kimbob (Korean sushi) or bundaegi (roasted silkworm larvae) right in the middle of roads that have been declared "no-traffic zones" by protesters who're occupying them.

This is South Korea's street protests 2.0. Or, perhaps, South Korea's "postmodern" demonstrations. With some Koreans mistrustful of mainstream media reports on the demonstration, they've taken matters into their own hands by broadcasting and reporting themselves. Using high-speed wireless Internet, some "embedded" citizens are using their own laptops and camcorders to broadcast real-time events. There are "citizen reporters" conducting interviews and taking pictures and posting them on their personal blogs and Internet forums. In fact, these news hounds have been so effective that some established newspapers have begun quoting them.

With no leaders leading, the protest might be considered "ineffective". People are protesting individually, shouting different slogans, marching in different directions; different people with different agendas. Some shout "2MB", the lowest speed unit of computer processing and also the initials of President Lee, sarcastically pointing out how slow Lee is in understanding the people's will.

Lee, who won the presidency in December with a record 5-million vote margin over runner-up Chung Dong-young, saw his popularity plunge below 20% by the time he marked his 100th day in office last week - another record in South Korea's recent decades. In fact, Lee has recently become so controversial a figure that the Korean edition of Wikipedia, the online participatory encyclopedia, decided to freeze any further revision on "Lee Myung-bak" for the next four months, fearing malicious attempts to distort the "facts" on him that have yet to be settled.

In this unusual protest, there are some unusual chants as well. "Turn away from your evil sin and turn to God," shouts a 40ish woman waving a Bible. "Take President Lee to God. I pray that God takes Lee out of the planet quickly," a man shouts back. Not far away, Roh Eun-jung, 28, a web designer chants: "Non-violence! Keep non-violence!"

Meanwhile, those who have earned an appetite after hours of street protesting yell, "We want food!" This mantra received echoes and giggles from sympathetic comrades throughout the crowd.

For the police, this unorganized rabble - ranging from a uniformed high-school student to a 57-year-old housewife, who said she came out "to change the world" - is easier to manage than a well-organized and militant group of protesters led by a strident leader. This self-appointed mob, however, does tend to stick around longer. And why not? It's 4am now in Seoul's main Gwanghwamun area and there are still quite a number of candle-holders milling about.

A police officer, asked when all this was likely to end, said: "I have no idea because this is an organization where there is no organizer." The conversation was then interrupted by a man holding out a cup of silkworm larvae to the officer. "Please, eat and keep up the good work!" the man says. A lady next him agreed: "We love you, police officer!" Surely, even love is possible in this wondrous war zone.

But things aren't so lovely all the time. As the protests have stretched into weeks, the familiar protest tools such as steel pipes and rocks have also surfaced, spelling an omen for possible violence and bloodshed.

For example, Friday will mark the sixth anniversary of the death of two Korean middle school girls who were run over by a US armored vehicle - a very emotional issue for many South Koreans. What is also worrisome is that the month of June in South Korea is traditionally a season for annual labor protests.

Already some labor groups have designated June 16 as a walk-out day. Then comes June 25, the Korean War Memorial Day. It's likely that the rightist groups will take to the streets at that time to protest against the leftist groups, who they believe are fooled by Pyongyang and sympathetic towards North Korea.

There will be many more pickets, chants, roses, candles, silkworm larvae and DVDs - it won't be a quiet month.

Some people call the recent lack of violence in protests as "democratic progress". They also see it as a social experiment in South Korea's deepening democratic experience. Hardline "old school" protesters, however, view it as "a picnic that doesn't change the nation". They argue that a street demonstration should be more forceful, with a clear set of actions designed to get concessions from the government. They believe that after the decades of military rule ended, a noisy protest is still the best way to make one's voice heard.

Amid this raucous imbroglio, it was a foreigner who saw the silver lining. "I think it will eventually help the country's democratic progress. People will find a point of convergence where they can begin a constructive dialogue," said Mahbub Alam from Bangladesh. "They just need some time to sort things out."

Sunny Lee, a native of Seoul, worked for the United Nations and as a journalist and writer. Lee is a graduate of Harvard University and Beijing Foreign Studies University.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Thai Sweet Basil and Some Gelato Too!

Today I headed up to Andover to go to my most favorite Thai food restaurant: Thai Sweet Basil. This place is amazing. The ambiance is great, there are tapestries all along the wall that make me want to go to Thailand just to get one of these things. The wait staff are very friendly too.
Here are my personal suggestions if you go:
This dish to the left is a must have for a starter. It is a Mango Cucumber Salad. Just a warning, the white squares are squid. But, really, I don't usually enjoy squid, but this is delicious.

For the main course, my friend and I tried two dishes. I had the Changmai Noodles. The picture is here to the left. This is delicious. I highly recommend this dish. It's mildly spicy, but not overly so. I beleive they are crispy noodles (not so crispy since they're in the sauce) but they sprinkle some crispy noodles on top too, which will soften once they are mixed in the sauce.
My friend tried the Crazy Noodles. These were excellent as well, although I liked my noodles better. These are pictured here to the right.

This restaurant is a 10 in my book :-)
Here's the address:
209 N Main St
Andover, MA
(978) 470-8098

With the scorching heat (97˚F in Boston today) we decided to get some gelato to cool down and relax. My friend brought me to yet another amazing place to eat. We headed over to Dolce Freddo Gelado in Methuen. I would never have found this place, it's just a small little café in a nondescript plaza but the gelato is amazing. They make all their gelato fresh every day, and evidently they have different flavors every day, there are over 100 that they make. Flavors include watermelon (and it actually tastes like a real watermelon, not some artificial flavoring), tiramisu, pistachio, and I tried a taste of something that I have never heard of before; chocolate with cayenne pepper. At first it tastes like chocolate, but then after a minute, you get a kick, right in the back of your throat. I don't think I could have eaten a whole bowl of that flavor, but evidently it's good with another flavor to clear the palate. Anyway, I would also highly recommend this gelateria.
Here is the address:
300 Merrimack St.
Methuen, MA 01844

Monday, June 9, 2008

Hei La Moon: Dim Sum in Boston

Today I had a little adventure into Chinatown (Boston). Chinatown is probably my favorite part of Boston (although, I love almost everything about Boston). Generally, I frequent the various Vietnamese and Chinese restaurants. I'm addicted to bun (Vietnamese noodles), and Bubble tea is quite refreshing on days like today.. hot and sticky. Today for Sunday brunch my (self-proclaimed) foodie friend brought me to a restaurant just on the other side of the Chinatown arch, a Dim Sum and traditional Chinese food restaurant called Hei La Moon. I'd never tried dim sum before, but I think this place is probably as close as you can get to China without actually getting on a 24 hour long flight to Asia, not only because of the authentic food, but because a great portion of the waitstaff doesn't speak a word of English. It doesn't seem to bother the owners much, since 75% of the clientèle there seemed to be Chinese.

The way dim sum works here is that you are seated, and they give you some delicious tea to start out with. Then you watch the carts roll around you, and you can look, and point to what you want to eat. Sorry to the fans of General Tso's Chicken and pork fried rice, you won't find that here. Unfortunately, I can't tell you what you will find, since no one was able to translate for me, but I can tell you what I ate/ think I ate.

The first thing we grabbed was something that seemed to be some sort of fried dough.. although it could have been fried tofu, jury is still out on that, wrapped in some sort of rice noodle. Not bad, good, safe start.

Next my friend saw something she recognized and grabbed right away. Chicken Feet. Yes. Chicken Feet. See that picture up at the top? That's just what they looked like. Now, I was quite skeptical, I must admit. I love to try things... up to a certain point, but generally speaking, chicken's feet cross that certain point. But I told myself that I had to get used to trying new things. So I went for it. Some tips for eating chicken's feet: yes, there are bones (we are spoiled). Put one portion of the leg completely in your mouth. With your tongue, work the meat off the bones. Spit out (yes, spit out) the bones, and place them on your plate. I did it. So can you. Its actually.. not that bad. I don't think I would eat them on a regular basis, but I can now say that I have conquered this achievement.

Plate number three. My friend suggested a new dish. From my side of the table, it looked like noodles. That sounded good to me.. something a little more familiar.. after the chicken's legs. When it was placed in front of me, I recognized it from some Pho (Vietnamese soup) I got once. This was tripe. My last experience with tripe was not a particularly pleasant one. But, once again I mustered all my adventurous spirit once again, and dove in. Turns out, my second experience with tripe wasn't so bad! However they marinated this tripe made it almost good! Again, not something I'd order on a regular basis, but hey, not half bad either.

Oh, sorry. What is tripe did you say? Well, as for looks, they have a sort of noodle-y appearance. Flat and white. The big way to distinguish them is the visible texture. They have small bumps on the surface.. not sure how well this picture shows it though. Still don't know what it is though? Oh, you know, it's cow stomach. Specifically the first three parts of the cow's stomach (remember middle school bio class. Cows have four stomachs). Evidently the fourth stomach is not edible by humans, but dogs go wild for it. So they say. Sounds appetizing, right? Well, if you happen to be at Hei La Moon, I'd go for it.

We then ordered two different kinds of dumplings. Not the best dumplings I've ever had (I've had some good dumplings), but definitely worth trying.

All said and done, with five plates of food ordered, not to mention our pot of tea, the total came to $16.60 USD. Not bad at all.

From there, we headed out to one of the many restaurants in Chinatown that sell bubble tea, to try to beat the heat. Actually, I'm not sure if what I was drinking is technically considered bubble tea, but I had a nice cold drink with tapioca pearls. Highly suggested. You can find these drinks in almost any restaurant in Chinatown/ any Asian restaurant.

Let's hope this heat wave doesn't last too much longer.

Here is the address for anyone interested:

Hei La Moon
88 Beach St.
Boston, MA

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Korean Dramas

While I've been watching Korean dramas here and there for the past few years, I finally just started watching one on YouTube from the beginning. This is much easier for me than trying to catch them when they are on AZN (Asian channel, at least here in Boston) since I'm not very good at sitting down every day at the same time for a program, and I am not quite technologically advanced/ rich enough for TiVo or DVR or whatever it is people are using nowadays. I do wish I could remember the names of some of the other ones I was watching on TV a while ago.. they were good, and I never saw how they ended.

I'm trying to use this to learn some Korean. So far.. it's not really working.. every once in a while I can pick out a word, but beyond that I'm still a dunce. Maybe I should start hitting the books again.. I've been so lazy with my Korean studies lately. You'd think having my visa in my hand would motivate me to start practicing more. (btw, I got my visa today, and it is very nice looking. My pic isn't on it, but its much fancier than my Chilean visa.)

How are Korean dramas (or soap operas if you like) different from American ones? Well, the thing I like best, is that they don't go on for 20 years... or however long All My Children or General Hospital have been on the air for. Who can keep track? I'm no expert by any means on Korean soaps, I'm just getting into them, right now, but it seems that they tend to only last for a season or two. Thats a big plus in my book. I'm not patient enough to watch 10 seasons of a show.

I also think that Korean soap operas are a little more innocent. From what I've seen so far, no one is pregnant with their best friends husband's sister's brother's child, or having an affair with their son's Spanish teacher. . But there are still plenty of jealous women and rivalries and all the sort of stuff that makes dramas so addicting.

Here's the one I'm watching now. It's called All About Eve. My friend Jennie suggested it to me. It's not bad. Worth checking out.

for this episode and more, click here

Volcano eruption in Chaiten, Chile

I wanted to share some photos of the volcano eruption in Chaiten, which is 1,200 miles south of Santiago de Chile. This is nothing I have to worry about for my trip, but a friend showed me these pictures, and I had to get them up here, because they are really incredible. I stole these from Boston.com. Here's the actual link: http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2008/06/chaiten_volcano_still_active.html

Lightning storm over the volcano. Evidently this is very common around volcanoes, but the scientists still don't know why.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Korean Consulate Visit. Time for my visa.. finally.

Today, I went to the Korean Consulate in Boston. Their website sucks, so I'll give you the links here. You can't get from the Korean language home page to the English version.

Boston consulate links:

http://www.kcgboston.org - This is useless unless you are bilingual
http://www.kcgboston.org/bbs.php?table=board_60 - This is for visa information for Boston
http://www.kcgboston.org/inc.php?inc=602&lg=en - This is for directions and hours.

Your school should supply you with all the necessary paperwork. The most important thing is the visa issuance number, which you receive once all your paperwork has been sent to Korea, and passed through immigration there. Your school/recruiting agency will give this number to you.

Things to bring to the consulate in Boston:

Visa Issuance Number
One passport photo
Visa Application
Health Statement (they have copies there)
$45 in cash or money order. No checks or credit cards.

It's always a good idea to call the consulate ahead of time, to make sure that nothing has changed. Other consulates may also require to see your diploma, transcripts, copy of your criminal background check, etc.

Once you get there, you will have to fill out some forms, then you will have an interview with the Consul General. For me this was really simple. I just sat down with the consul, and made idle conversation with him for about 5 minutes. He was very nice. He told me that Seoul is very safe, but I should still be careful if I go out drinking at night. Then he told me that I should try to go to Japan and China while I am there. I told him that I would be careful, and that I wanted to travel. That was really about the extent of the interview.

Thursday I have to go back and pick up my passport. I hope my Korean visa is more impressive than my Chilean visa.. my Chilean visa is just a stamp. I've seen some very cool visas before, I want one. hehe.

Chile Update:

Ahora tengo la fecha para mi viaje a Chile tambien. La Sarita y yo llegamos en Santiago el 17 de Junio, y quedamos alli hasta el 1 de julio. Más que las fechas.. no tenemos planes fijados... asi que quieres reunir con nosotras, nos avisen pronto! ¡Queremos ver todos en Santiago!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Gringas locas vuelven a Chile! Por Fin

Bueno, mis planes de volver al hemisferio del sur estan casi logrados. Asi que tengo un mes y medio libre ahora que no trabajo decidí hace algunos meses que quise volver a Chile, donde estudiaba un semestre hace 2 años. Tengo muchos amigos allí que echo de menos mucho. Anoche hablé con mi amiga Sarita, mi amiga gringa que conocí alli en sudamerica, y parece que vamos en una semana y media más. la fecha de viaje viene pronto, y no estoy lista. Todavía, nececito conseguir mi visa de trabajar de Corea. Mañana iré al consulado. Espero que no haya problema. Nececito empezar de hacer mi maleta de viajar. probable debería encontar la ropa y todo para ir a Corea tb, para que no estoy media loca cuando vuelva de Chile. Me voy.... nececito organizar mi pieza... recien me trasladé de Vermont hasta Boston, y todavía nececito deshacer mis maletas y desemplar las cajas. buu.

Escribo en Español para que los hispanohablantes esten incluidos en mi blog. Si hay interes, puedo escribir mas en español.

Quick translation/other stuff. I talked to my friend Sarah last night, and I think we're going down to Chile to visit friends. We're still trying to work out where we're staying and such details, but I'm very excited about this, since I've wanted to go for a while now. Now is the best time to go, since I'm in between jobs. But, I've got to go work on getting stuff together now... just moved out of my apartment in Vermont, and moved back in with the parental units. So many boxes, so little time, so much laziness. Then tomorrow I go to the Korean consulate to get my work visa. Hope that goes well. Then I got to start packing for Chile/Korea. Anyone have any suggestions on traveler's insurance? I'm wondering if I should get insurance for my time in Korea, in addition to traveling to Chile. Just in case I want to travel in Asia? I'll post anything I find out about travel insurance up here. Por si acaso.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Tutoring in Vermont

I've been tutoring English for the past 9 months with the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program. This is a picture of me and my tutee. I've had such a fun time working with her. She was so sweet, for our last meeting, she gave me this African outfit as a going away present. I highly recommend volunteering with VRRP. They have many volunteer opportunities. They are always looking for English teachers. You don't need any experience, just patience. A lot of the refugees are new to the country and have no English skills whatsoever. Others are even pre-literate, meaning they are not literate in their own, native language. The woman that I worked with was college educated in the Congo. She has also been living in the US for several years now, and her English is at a fairly high level.

VRRP has other volunteer opportunities as well. You can host newly arrived families and help them adjust to Vermont and the US. I imagine that this must be very stressful, but extremely rewarding as well. Many of the families that arrive have been living in refugee camps for a number of years and are not accustomed to all our modern conveniences. Like stoves and things. Often, host families will continue to assist the newly arrived family for a while, until they are settled in their new life.