2S2 is a regular meet-up where expats, and anyone, can get together, build and strengthen connections, learn about Korea and integrate in Korean society. We hope that 2S2 will help expats in Korea participate more meaningfully in the country we share with Korean natives, and that we can have a better experience of Korea by doing so.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Hi Expat: Where to Volunteer

Hi Expat, a useful new site, has a list of places where you can volunteer. Hopefully, he will be adding to that list.

Go read up.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

2S2 Anguk: Donating Blood and a Photo Show

OK, readers. Here's the news for our blood donation trip:

(Facebook event page here)

1. 2S2 Anguk will need to split into two groups: one group will go to donate blood, but those of us who don't meet the requirements for donation will still meet up and do something else that'll be fun: at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts, there's a photo exhibit of National Geographic photographer Steve McCurry, the guy who took this photo, and a bunch of others: (more here) Admission is 8000 won for adults. (photo source)

2. But if you want to donate blood...

A wonderful lady names Ms. Ban helped me get the full information about the blood clinic situation, and I'm passing it on to you.

First of all, as mentioned earlier, there are some caveats to donating blood; if you're B- or, under specific cases (if I have this right), if you're AB-, you might have the platelets necessary to help out our man Yoo-woon. If you're not, you might still be able to donate blood, but it'll be out of your own general awesomeness, not for helping out his boy specifically, provided you pass these hurdles.

Take a look at this document. Read it carefully.
Take a look at this document. Read it carefully.

If any of the questions/explanations on those two pages preclude giving blood, sorry: you can't do it. Yep, that means our UK friends can't give blood in Korea. Enjoy the photo exhibit!

Next: if you meet those requirements, and want to donate...

First of all, the nurse we talked to wants saying that everyone at the blood clinic really appreciates our desire to contribute. Next, here are the other requirements for foreigners who want to donate blood. There isn't much information on whether Korean-Hyphenated expats will have an easier time of it than straight-up non-Korean foreigners, but this lady had no trouble.

1. you need to have been in Korea for at least a full year. The person interviewing might take that to mean continuously (without leaving) or they might take it to mean you've lived here for a year with a few excursions, as long as you haven't traveled to those malaria-risk areas mentioned in the donation interview linked above.

2. you must have an Alien Registration Card.

3. you must be able to speak enough Korean to answer the questions in a personal interview about your medical history. There aren't English speakers in the clinic who can interview you, and we tried to suggest some work-around options, but we couldn't get it done. Sorry folks, but that's just the way it is at this point. I'm sure by 2015 there'll be workarounds in place, but for now, there aren't. Sorry.

So if you're stuck at "멕주 하나도 주세요" then look forward to hanging out at the photo exhibit.

If you're confident enough in your Korean that you could still donate blood, here's the next thing.

There are several types of blood transfusions. Our man Yoo-woon needs a different type of transfusion than the regular blood donation, because of his situation. It's a bit more involved than a normal donation: it takes 1-2 hours, and it can rupture blood vessels in some donors, so if you've given blood before and had no problems, you're eligible for this one. If you haven't given blood before, even if you're B-, the nurse suggests giving a regular, 10-15 minute donation on Saturday, and getting your name on the list of people they call when they need B- platelets (there's a list that they have, kind of a volunteer group of people whom they regularly call when they need it; the nurse says the B- supply is not reaching dangerous lows, but the larger that pool of volunteer donors is, the better off everyone is).

The nurse recommends this, first to check that your blood vessels will be robust enough to handle the more involved donation, second, because the special kind of donation Yoo-woon needs is perishable, so they can't keep it in storage: collecting a week's worth of B- platelets doesn't help much when it only lasts 3 days, and third, if we have a group going, it'd be really hard to process a bunch of 1-2 hour donations at the clinic's busiest time of week (Saturday afternoons) - we don't want to overwhelm the clinic on our first try, so that they decide "Forget it. Accommodating foreign donors is too much trouble." And start rejecting us out of hand, rather than just putting us through a bit of a rigmarole. If it's a smaller group and people meet all the criteria, they might be willing to go for the long version, but if we have a big group, I think that the best thing we can do is make this a really positive experience for the clinic, so that they think, "Yeah, we really SHOULD make it easier for foreigners to donate, if they're all as nice and cooperative as that group was."

So, given that this is going to be a first-time experience for this clinic, let's make sure this is a positive experience for them, so they'll be more amenable to accepting foreign donors in the future, and will be more likely to see the value of finding workarounds for that Korean language interview that, for now, rules out a lot of healthy, eligible donors from donating: I think that kind of long view is a good one to take, because it will enable us to help out more people in the long run, than if we come on too strong this time, and cause a negative reaction.

So, on Saturday afternoon, at 2PM, meet me on the second floor of Twosome Place, to the right of Exit 1, Anguk Station. At 2:30 sharp we'll head out to our various destinations.

See you there!

2S2 Suwon Update

Greetings to all 2S2ers!


2S2 Suwon will kick off this Saturday. We're going to do some cultural activities near the summer palace of King Jeong Jo (정조), walk Suwon's Hwaseong Fortress wall, and then go to a restaurant for either Suwon galbi or tofu soup for vegetarians.

Lookout Tower, originally uploaded by Schplook.


1. Meet at Suwon Station at 2:00 p.m. Go to the 2nd floor near the bottom of the escalator to the third floor. It's opposite the train ticket machines. There's also a model there that shows how the wall looked when it was first built.

2. Take a bus to Paldal Mun (팔달문)/Nam Mun (남문) at about 2:15 - 2:20. We'll walk out of the station, cross the road and take a bus from the road that runs perpendicular to the subway/train lines -- not the ones on the road directly outside that runs parallel.

3. Walk from Paldal Mun to the area inside the wall near the palace by about 2:40 - 3:00.
We'll head north up the main road, and turn left into the large, open event area.

4. Do various activities.
Here are the options:
4a. Making "Royal Cookies and Sweets."
4b. Making traditional pottery.
4c. Dressing in traditional Korean costumes, or Hanbok (한복).
4d. I think it will still be possible to do the "Dragon Train" tour, but we'll have to check times and availability of seats on the day.
We'll have to buy 1-3 special coins (2,000 won each) for each activity. These events will end at between 4:00 and 4:30 - so we need to get there quickly and decide early what to do.

5. Walk the wall. After doing the various activities, we'll meet up (if we get separated) and walk the fortress wall, starting at Paldal san (팔달산).

6. We will go out for dinner. As mentioned above, we have two options - Suwon Galbi (barbecued, marinated meat), or Dubu (tofu) soup for vegetarians. It's unlikely we'll find both dishes being served in one restaurant, so we'll discuss it with everybody in attendance before making a decision.

7. Those who have time are welcome to stay on and have a few drinks. There are plenty of bars near Paldal Mun. Or we could head to Suwon station - there are a lot of inexpensive drinking places there too.


We will be outside for most of the afternoon and the weather may be quite cool. Remember to check the weather forecast (see the links) and wear suitable clothing and shoes.


The Suwon city website has some information on Hwaseong Fortress.

Suwon weather information can be found here and here.

To get updates, ask questions, or RSVP, go to Suwon 2S2's Facebook group, which can be found here -- and the event page is here.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Special 2S2: Bilingual Korean/English speaker needed

Hey there.
You've probably heard about this guy: There's a Korean student, about 19 years old, who's suffering from lymphoma, a kind of blood cancer. There's a page for him on Facebook. Basically, he has B- blood, which is extremely rare in Korea, and also a bad blood type to get sick with, because it can only receive from O- (in certain cases) and other B- types. There's been a push to get some help for him, and because so few Koreans have B- blood, word has been circulating among the expat community.

Now, on Saturday, for 2S2, I'd really like to bring a group down to the blood clinic to donate blood. If you have B- blood, especially, really, seriously think about coming out and helping out, because this kid is not doing well. Even if you don't, giving blood is a cool thing, and, frankly, a powerful symbolic action that projects a really positive image at a time when English teachers in particular are taking a beating.

(Arafat giving blood after 9/11 - the picture says it all. source)
I've located a blood donation clinic in Shinchon, and I even went down there today with a good friend to talk with the people. After a bit of talk, here's the score:

They don't usually take blood donations from foreigners, because of communication problems, concerns about where we (typically well-travelled folk) have been, and maybe also other... um... less scientific reasons, that aren't the focus of this post.

Now, we might be able to go down there and give blood on Saturday, but before we do, the lady we talked to gave me her phone number, and has asked me to have a bilingual friend contact her, to make sure she can explain the process in detail, and have that information accurately relayed to any would-be expat donors. She spent a lot of time talking about the correct process for donating blood... fair enough.

So, readers, here's where you can help: I really want this to happen, and I have a phone number, but not the language skill. Is there a reader out there who's fluent in Korean, and able to talk to this lady, and then explain the "process" to me, so that I can clearly pass that on to anyone else who needs to have it explained? I'd totally owe you a beer at the microbrew of your choice.

And that's our tentative 2S2 for Saturday: Meet at Anguk station Twosome Place (same time, same place, every month), go down to the donor clinic in Sinchon, and give blood... IF we can get the communication issues cleared up. This means that if you can talk to the lady tomorrow, I need you to send me a message tonight, with your phone number, so that we can clear up her concerns about misunderstandings or improper adherence to due process.

Also, if any of my bilingual readers are free on Saturday afternoon, please accept this as a gentle nudge that your presence would help de-stress these poor, nervous nurses at the clinic. It would be hugely appreciated, even if you're not B-!

If you want to donate blood, here's the nitty gritty:
1. You need to have an Alien Registration Card. Bring it, and be ready to present it.
2. You need to have been in Korea for a year.
3. You need to be able to answer some questions about your medical history... this part was a bit murky, and this might be the deal-breaker which will decide if we can go ahead or not. The guy at the Seoul Global Center, while very helpful, was pretty sure that if you don't speak enough Korean to answer the medical history questions yourself, you wouldn't be able to donate; hopefully we'll learn a way that we still can tomorrow, even if we can't speak all the Korean. I'll keep you posted.

If this doesn't work out, we'll do something else for 2S2, probably involving really, really good food. But I hope we can make this work.

Any word from the 2S2 Chapters about this coming 2S2?

Feel free to post it here, as soon as you can!