Friday, February 27, 2009

I realized that it's been awhile since I've actually written anything about how work is going. (Or even anything about China for that matter.) So let me give you an update. It's a tale of the good, the bad, and the ugly:


The Good: I have real work!

Two weeks ago, I had a meeting with my manager and he finally started giving me real work. Enough of this, "Oh, just figure out your training by yourself because I have no real plan for you." He's decided which group he wanted to place me with and I was given some real assignments. I mean presentations and factory tours for customers are important, but they don't occur that often. I was left twiddling my thumbs in the time between visits. Now though, I'm much more involved in project development and management. More than anything, it's just nice to contribute to the group. I was beginning to enjoy work and find stability until...

The Bad: I might be going to Finland?

I had another talk with manager about final placement after China. I mean we had planned for me to complete training in China by this July; that leaves about 4 months until I'm leaving! I just had to bring it up. I've known for awhile that my choices were either with the "A" Company in Northern California, or the "N" company in Finland. (Yeah, I know. That's a huge difference!) He had made the decision that working in Finland would be a better fit and a more viable option.

Hearing the news upset me for awhile because I had always planned on coming back home to US. I wasn't sure if I was ready for another 1+ years abroad, away from friends and family. I wasn't sure if I had the heart (both mentally and physically) to endure another tour of duty in a foreign country. I really tried not to worry about it so much, but I couldn't help it. Now some might consider this offer a good thing. It is another once in a lifetime opportunity and for that reason alone I probably would have accepting the offer. I'd probably seem like a fool to turn it down. I would have accepted it until it was seemingly taken off the table...

The Ugly: WTF is going on?

And then today some more bombs were dropped on us at work. In an attempt to consolidate and improve overall efficiency, my business group was dissolved. (Damn you global economic credit crisis and you sub-prime mortgages!) My group is to be restructured/split up/absorbed by other larger groups. It's all my coworkers have been talking about all day. (In fact, two people just came over to have a discussion about the situation.)

So how does that affect me? The basic low-down is that I have four options at this point:
  1. Switch groups and stay in my current location
  2. Stick with my group and move to a different factory
  3. Stick with my group and move to Taiwan
  4. Quit
Now there's still a lot of details that need to be hammered out. There's a lot of stuff that's still up in the air. And given my recent history with unexpected change, who knows what will happen next week. But regardless, I'm trying to figure out what will be best for me. I'm really worried about having to start over in terms of settling into day to day work, getting to know co-workers, restarting my training, etc. 

Would I be a coward/idiot for quitting and coming home, hoping to find a new job in this economy? (I've signed a contract, so I'm not even sure if it's theoretically possible.)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Now just down the street from the Namdaemun Market is Myeongdong, one of Seoul's main shopping districts. It's one of those dense, pulsating, crowded shopping areas. Myeongdong translates to "bright village/district," and the name makes sense considering the density of brightly-lit signs and neon lights. This is where you can find international brands, department stores, smaller trendy shops, and street vendors (This is also the place where I almost broke down and bought that North Face down jacket, haha):



Speaking of the cold, it would suck to be a street vendor on those cold, snowy, winter nights. I mean they had portable space heaters to keep warm, but that ain't gonna keep snow off the merchandise (That's where feather dusters and big tarps become handy):


I only wish that I could have seen the place in it's fully glory. The wind chill and snowfall make this open-air market less than ideal for nighttime strolling. As it gets later and later, the streets begin to clear out and shops begin to close up relatively early:


I'd frequent Myeongdong for two reasons. For one, it's literally down the street from Namdaemun Market and my hostel. (Although those 5-6 blocks seemed endless in a flurry of snow. I should have just paid to take the subway one stop.) And the other reason was I wanted to get some awesome pictures of the architecture of Myeongdong Cathedral:


Located on the fringe of the sprawling shopping area, the Myeongdong Cathedral is the center of the Catholic Church in Seoul.  The main building features a steeple bell-tower that's 45 meters tall. That's about 147 feet high! Here's a wide angle picture of the the steeple. (Notice the pointed arch, the defining characteristic of Gothic architecture?):


Completed in 1898, the cathedral was dedicated and consecrated to the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin. I'm not Catholic or anything like that, but I just wanted to document some of the architecture:


Actually, what I really wanted was take pictures of the interior. Problem was that every time I'd visit, there would be a mass going on. I went back multiple times, but I suppose it wasn't meant to be. It would have felt rude/weird to be taking pictures while people were praying. So I settled with this picture of people leaving the cathedral after mass:

Ah, the Namdaemun Market, the place I most often frequented during my stay in Korea. Located conveniently across the street from my hostel, I'd walk through the market everyday. It's a cool place just for walk around in, even if you're not in shopping mood. It's general wholesale market with just about anything: clothing, kitchenware, handicrafts, food, military supplies, etc. (Yeah, the military equipment seemed a tad out of the ordinary until I realized that there's a mandatory 2 year conscription.)  Anyway, having officially opened as a government chartered market in 1414, it has the distinction of being one of Korea's oldest continuously running markets:


I still remember arriving in Seoul and getting off the bus stop adjacent to Namdaemun Market. I headed straight for the hostel to drop off by luggage, packed up my camera gear, and headed right back to the market. It was time to just get lost in the market and just absorb the environment. This is, after I had a steaming bowl of kimchi jjigae for lunch. This is picture of the exterior of the restaurant with all their dishes on display:

After lunch I went out to go explore some more, but after awhile the cold got to me. I couldn't take it anymore, so I ducked into an underground shopping area. People must have been thinking the same thing, because the place was packed. And it didn't help that the stalls were so dense and that the aisles were so small. After I'd warmed up sufficiently, I braved the cold on mission to find earmuffs. Ah, my lifesavers.

The highlight of the day had to be this particular vendor. Notice anything strange?


You know, like that bra on his head? Or the shimmery, sparkly coat he's wearing? Haha. I spotted a crowd of women sifting through this pile of clothes and decided to check it out. And then I noticed the eclectic vendor. He was quite the entertainer though, joking around with the customers and the crowd. It's too bad every vendor wasn't like this:

Usually, (i.e. when it's not freezing) the market stays open until the wee hours. However, everynight I'd walk through the market on my way home and vendors began to close shop at arouond 8 or 9 PM. I guess I can't blame em. It's cold enough out there at night that puddles freeze over and you have to watch your step.

Actually, as the sun begins to set during the winter nights, people start setting up these makeshift tented restaurants. They'll set up their clear plastic tarp tents right in the middle of the roads/pathways. With the plastic walls, helping to keep out the cold, they'll set up some heaters around the tent to keep everyone warm. And there will be this huge spread of vegetables, meats, seafood, skewers etc. available for ordering. You pick what you want and they'll cook it on the grill and bring it too your table. Pretty nifty idea. I should have tried some.