Monday, June 29, 2009

I don't think this was intended

So I was awake (or had my eyes open) for a rare moment on the bus ride to suwon recently. And I noticed that across the street from our "compound" was a store called "Samsung City" Now anyone who has read my comment about Citibank in Korea would know why I started smirking when I saw this. Pronounced in Korean (which was right below), it is Samsung Shitty). And given my recent issues with laptops and my phone...

Friends leaving (2 sets of couples)

So a few more folks leaving. It is funny, as I likely look at the end of my time in Korea, I am reminded by a bunch of the cool things that I have experienced here, the friends that I have made, and the general craziness. And to have a great apartment, and at least at times, a great lifestyle. (at least before I started commuting to Suwon ;) So over yesterday and today, I have two sets of friends leaving. One back to Dubai, and one to the US. I am happy for them, since a new world awaits afterwards, but it is strange to think about the next step on my side as well.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Crashing a Korean wedding

So at some point in the coming week there will be a lot of confusion between a bride and groom. Because I went to a wedding this past weekend, carefully checking the invitation, but realizing it would be fairly awkward since i didn't know anyone there (other than the groom, and maybe one other person who never responded to my email!) About halfway through the wedding (awkwardly sitting at the table with a group of koreans I didn't know), I decided to look at the invite just ONE more time. The 28th...Wait, isn't that tomorrow? Who knew it was a Sunday wedding? Given that I had already given a small envelope of cash, I decided I needed to at least finish the meal (can you imagine me trying to go up and ask for my money back?) I decided it was worth the W30,000 I had paid for my story of sheer stupidity. I just wonder how the groom and bride will react. Who the hell is Angus Maclaurin!??!

So on Sunday I decided to go back, to the actual wedding. I stood near the corner to take things in (I did not feel overly comfortable sitting down after the previous day, and that whole "being the only white guy at a table filled with koreans who probably just want to hang out with each other and not make small talk with a foreigner." (as an FYI, i feel that more in korea than other asian countries, it is a little more insular here). What was super nice was the groom saw me standing there, and ended up guiding me over to a table of his friends, and the one person I knew, who is actually about to leave Samsung this week). So I had a great time meeting new folks, mainly Korean-Americans, and quite the peanut gallery ;)

The ceremony was almost a carbon copy of the previous day (exact same food btw), and it cracks me up to see how the scene unfolds. Apparently they delayed bringing out the food, which meant a more relaxed ceremony, and they played 3 whole songs (instead of the usual 1), so I joked that it was going to be a "long" Korean ceremony. Literally a full Korean ceremony seems to take 1 to 1.5 hours. I watched the couple come down from the ceiling on a platform, light a large candle, pour champagne on a tower of champagne glasses (that looked REALLY cool, especially with the gas or smoke-like effect when it was poured!) and cut the cake. All in a span of about 10 minutes!

We ended up staying longer than that and I learned from one of the friends visiting from the US about how a traditional Korean ceremony works. They changed dresses (this was the third dress she had worn, the wedding gown was so big that it could have been enough fabric for a small village, and was such a nightmare to move around in, you could tell walking down the aisle was not the easiest of all tasks!) So they both were in traditional Korean wedding attire, and there was a sort of "tea ceremony" with the different families. Of course in Korean style, they were drinking alcohol from the brass kettle ;) They had to catch dates that were thrown by the parents (signifying fertility and how many kids you would have), and he had to give his mother-in-law a piggyback ride (to show he was taking the burden off her in terms of caring for her daughter. I think James felt like he should have spent more time in the gym at this point, and the peanut gallery was likely not appreciated at this point ;) But at least they could blame things on having at least 2 full-fledged foreigners there. If this had been Koreans only, it might be been rude, instead of funny (although it was the Korean Americans that were making the most noise ;)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Samsung quality or not

I remember my 2nd cellphone very well - actually my 2nd and 3rd phones, since the 2nd one had the notorious issue of faulty wiring between the base and the speaker (it was a clamshell design). Needless to say after those experiences, I switched from Samsung phones, sick of the quality issues (which many of my friends had). On the whole there has been a lot of talk about how the quality has improved, but it was not evident last weekend. Over the course of 1.5 days, my screen stopped turning on (unless I slid the phone shut). The screen being on when you slide is shut is okay, but not if you actually want to access your address book, see who called, etc. (After missing a phone call on Friday night, I had to call back, asking "who is this?" and hoping I was not dialing an international number). Needless to say, it was an easy (and fairly cheap fix), but the same thing happened to Michelle's phone, and the camera on mine was also broken (that was not going to be a cheap fix. $50+ for a 1.3 megapixels of crap? sorry). So needless to say, I am not happy with the Samsung quality again, and I won't even get started on the fact that my computer battery lasts all of 10 minutes.

What I do find interesting will be the iphone launch over here. The pricing on the phone is very low, and a number of foreigners I know intend to purchase the phone. If iPhone succeeds in breaking into this market, it might be one of the best things for Samsung (a much needed wake-up call). The technology here is amazing, but services and quality (not that Apple is any better on that one, Nokia is though), not so much...Interesting times in Seoul!

Headed back to GSG

So last week it became official. I am headed back to GSG for the last 2 months of my current contract. I told a number of my team last week (including a bunch of them during my impromptu birthday celebration on Friday). It is tough to leave the team, as much of a hassle as it has been. I feel in some ways that I am just getting started, and learning more about how to do really drive things to the next level. But the personal side of life is important as well, and even my VP understands that ideally you want to live in the same continent as your partner!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Facebook means birthdays cannot be hidden

So the trickles started early with 1-2 people wishing me a happy birthday. It is nice to get the attention of course, although I can definitely blame the Facebook wall for that ;) Funny though that no one on the teams knew about it. So at 4:30 pm I casually mentioned it to a co-worker, saying "I wonder if I should cause trouble for my team by telling them it is my birthday ;) He went into overdrive (which was amusing, since he had forgotten his jeans at home and was wearing gym pants (and therefore couldn't leave his desk. After an hour long conference call, I had an ice cream cake and a whole group of people to celebrate with. It was really great, although it was tough since when I gave my "speech" I had to tell the team that I am returning to my old group =( I like this team, and I have enjoyed the year + that I have been here!

I went out that night with some friends, we ended up taking over a local bar in the Karosookil area. Even out was my friend Han (who has a 9 month old baby, he was crazier than I was though, staying up until the sunrise...It ended up biting him however, since he arrived home to his wife handing him the baby. You want to try and take care of a baby after pulling an all-nighter? ;) He somehow managed a game of basketball with us in the afternoon, but Sunday was not so good a day for him...I had an awkward moment on Friday night when I saw someone I knew, and put my hand on their shoulder, only to realize it was NOT someone I knew. (This is the 2nd time this has happened, and it is amazingly awkward when they turn around).

On Saturday I had a few friends over (all in time to discover that the air conditioner in my living room no longer works! Update: apparently I did not open the window in my laundy room where the venting unit is, another of my "not so smart" moves this weekend) In came the second birthday cake (although it was amusing when I was giving directions, and the person on the other end thought they were talking with someone else "okay, i understand where the apartment is, can you come out since i have a cake for him?" "umm, do you realize who you are talking to?" an audible "shit" from the other end of the phone. ;)

The weekend was great, but I will say, 3 am both weekend nights = exhausted. My body doesn't recover well from that!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Amusing new phrase

The other day a colleague told me about a phrase that goes something like: "pissing on your feet when you are in the snow and ice" The general meaning is that it may be a short-term solution to making your feet warmer, but in the long-run, it makes it worse (much less the fact you just peed on yourself). The ramifications of this phrase are broad, and how many business decisions are made thinking only about the short-term profit? (This is not one company specifically, or at least I choose not to comment on my current company, but it is worldwide). I guess humans and their companies like to piss on their feet too often ;)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Busy weekend, bad weather

The weekend started a bit early, Thursday night to be exact. There was a Haas alumni dinner, with 41 people showing up, including one undergrad and classes ranging from 1987 to the new admits for this year. My class was out in full-force, with 8 of 11 joining. It was great to see this group, it had been since the poker night that we had all seen each other! I saw a few folks from previous years, colleagues from Samsung (including people I had never met but work right next to!)

Friday was quiet (necessarily so), and Saturday I was dismayed as the rain came down. But there was a silver lining to that cloud, I was able to see a bboy competition (one on one break dancing competition). I definitely felt about 10 years too old, and my ears were assaulted a few times by dog-whistle level screams for one of the Korean dancers. It was highly entertaining, one of Sunghee's friends actually breakdances, and was telling us more about how it is judged, what different hand movements mean, etc.

I also walked to a hotel called the "Imperial Palace" which was really interesting. My camera battery decided to go right in the middle of my tour around the hotel (which was a cool French Renaissance decor), so I ended up with fewer bboy pictures later unfortunately. That specifically meant no pictures of a female dancer with quite possibly the worst color dress (and combination of army boots) I had ever seen. But I have no doubt that floral patterned mumu will not leave my mind for a number of years.

That night was out to a friend's place and then a club. I broke out my "Foreigner" t-shirt, which always gets a bunch of laughs. One of my co-workers girlfriends practically yanked the jacket off my back to ensure that people could see my t-shirt.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Finally done!

The TV commercial that took months (if not years) out of my life is finally almost done. Well it is finished, but now the goal is promoting it. And that takes more time and energy than I originally realized!

What is amazing though is that I started to reach out to people for the TV commercial, as a true grassroots marketing, and it is impressive the responses I get. (Not necessarily the PR stories that I want, but still, that people respond at alL!) And this includes some of these are famous people (Seth Godin), who I would not have thought would respond. Yes, you could say it helps that I work for Samsung, but it does remind you about the importance of a personal touch...

Monday, June 15, 2009

A light at the end of the tunnel

It has almost been 2 years in Korea (hard to believe), and I finally am near the end of the promotion for the music phone. The downside is that we created something interesting, but it is never enough (at least not for what we wanted to do out of it!) It is hard to believe that my 2 years is almost done though, I am excited about what's next, but also scared since so much is up in the air! It has in some ways made it easier to be more relaxed and try to take things with a grain of salt. I am still not sure how people spent 10 years here though. Perhaps it would help if I was married to a Korean. But I think Michelle would have something to say about that!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Two weddings

Two weddings on consecutive weekends, plus a whole set of work in the week in between. It was great to see friends and former colleagues, but it was a lot to fit in! Michelle and I realized that we can never look at a wedding in the same way again, as we were analyzing details, trying to figure out what we could easily do or not do...I did love being back in the US in some senses, like things like call waiting, voicemail (you know, for a country that is supposedly way ahead of the curve, Korea is in the stone ages for this one!) Was of course welcomed by the other parts of the US (unfriendly old ladies who wouldn't give me directions, thank you chatham NJ, HUGE portion sizes, etc). But i know how to deal with all of that, and it is in a language I can speak ;)