Seoul Part 2 – Food!

I can not eat spicy things, which made eating in Seoul rather difficult for me. We did eat many Korean meals of course and they all came with red spicy sauce,  kim chee as well as pickled vegetables. However, there was no shortage of French bakeries in Gangnam, along with European, American, Japanese, Chinese and Malaysian restaurants. There was a huge coffee culture, so my Viking husband was happy that he could obtain his expensive but available coffee anywhere. Admittedly I have not had so much fatty pork on a daily basis for dinner in my life along with cabbage, but when in Korea, do as the Koreans do…for a while anyways and then pizza started looking really good!

Breakfast

For breakfast we usually had tea or coffee with French pastries. We went out a few times and had a pretty god omelette at a French bakery restaurant. Prices were about $5-9 per coffee, lattes or tea, pastries about $2-5 and big breakfast (omelette, eggs benedict) about $15.

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Lunch

We had many lunches of noodles and sometimes had sandwiches, generally it was whatever we could find as we were travelling all over the place.

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Dinner

Lots and lots of Korean BBQ for dinner along with kim chee, pickled vegetables, tofu and spicy soups. We had pizza and chicken wings delivered one night as well, came in 20 min! Pizza in a fancy New York Pizza place was surprisingly pricey at $40-50 for a medium but it was full of people on dates.

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Snacks

Lots of vending machines in the subway, convenient stores on every street corner and my favorite are the French bakeries!

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Toilets

Yes, I am obsessed with toilets. The Korean toilets were similar to sit-up ones in North America, but they had a few heated ones like in Japan with bum washes. There was also squatting ones as well.

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Seoul Part 1 – Surviving!

The reason for our visit to Korea was for my brother-in-law’s wedding. The latest addition to the Garrard clan at this point was a new sister-in-law who is Korean. Prior to leaving, I asked my Korean friends what to expect at this wedding and they didn’t really know how to answer my questions. “Oh, we are just like any other culture!” they told me. I had been to Seoul once for a few days with a Hong Kong tour group and the tour guide told us to not be offended if people slam into us in the street as this is what happens if it is crowded.

I find Korean people very tall and they generally remind me of Northern Chinese people. So I was surprised when everyone started speaking Korean to me. Even the Garrard clan I was with half expected me to suddenly speak Korean on their behalf. Having never taken an Korean lessons, I started to learn a few words…which made the situation worse because people thought I was joking that I didn’t know any Korean.

We did similar things on this trip compared to our Tokyo trip, such as renting a wi-fi hotspot to guide us. With my brother-in-law’s help, we also rented cell phones as this trip consisted of a large group that would split up occasionally.

Instead of staying in a hotel, we rented a house from the AirBNB website in Gangnam (yes, like the song). Gangnam is the richest neighborhood in Seoul and there are tons of young people, a thriving night market along with lots of foreign restaurants (Starbucks, TGI Friday, Baskin Robbins, McDonalds, French bakeries, etc). The house had four bedrooms, kitchen, living room and washer/dryer combo machine. The floors were heated which felt strange and the entire bathroom was a shower! Pictures at end of blog post (scroll down).

1) Wi Fi hotspot, Google Maps & Cell phones

We made arrangements as soon as we landed to rent a wi-fi hot spot. You can rent and return at any airport, which made this very handy. As well, the stand next to the wi-fi hot spot had cell phone rentals & returns. We weren’t smart enough to rent the cell phone in the beginning so we visited a store instead and then returned it at the airport prior to leaving. Again, Google Maps helped us navigate the areas as we walked through them.

Cost of Wif Fi hotspot – about $7/day
Cost of cell phone rental – about $5/day

2) Cash

We used a lot more cash in Korea than Tokyo. There are certain banks that have ATMs with “Global” on them – these are the only ones that allow international bank cards to be used. When we travelled there, it was about $1 US to 1000 Won. Although it sounds like a lot to have 10,000 Won, it’s actually just $100

3) Plugs

You will need adaptors when you travel, their plugs are different from North American ones.

4) Buy a subway card

The subway cards in Korea are similar to Japan, you “beep” as you enter and then “beep” as you leave. So you pay by distance. Putting money onto card was amazing as they have some wireless no touch technology going on. You put the card in the large slot in the machine and money “beams” into the card. The subway line will announce stops in English and the maps have English/Korean.

5) Prepare for price shock

I found that the prices of things in Seoul were the same price as visiting a large North American city (NY) or Europe (London) which surprised me. Things were cheaper in Tokyo! Also, street market vendors don’t like to bargain, especially with foreigners. I usually hate bargaining too, but if I’m buying 10 souvenirs, getting a bit of a break would be nice!

6) Basic Manners – These are some of the things I picked up:

  • Walk around people – Unlike Japan, even if there are arrows in the subways, people don’t follow them. So you just walk around people.
  • Subway exits & gas masks – Perhaps due to continuous threats from the North, every subway has maps in English and Korean detailing exits. As well, there are cabinets of gas masks and other emergency supplies.
  • No eating in subways – the subways are quite clean due to lack of food. People do talk or they are watching tv on their tablets.
  • Being pushed – In crowded places, there is less “private space”. So don’t be surprised if you are pushed/shoved around as people just need to get past you. Or alternatively, if they don’t like you and the subway is empty, they will push you anyways as it seems to be a form of communication (they saw me as a Korean girl with a foreigner spouse).
  • No tipping – restaurants do not require tipping.
  • Daiso – Daiso is a 100 yen store in Japan (dollar store) and they are also in Korea. If you need to pick up a few things, this is a great place to go.

8) What else to expect:

  • Beer, lots of it! – Seoul has a more robust drinking culture than any other Asian city I’ve visited. We even visited a self-serve bar in which you grab your bottles from the fridge and then the cashier counts the empties. There was beer ranging from Korea to New Zealand to Estonia!
  • Steep hills – We stayed in a house on a hill at a 45 degree incline. I think I lost a few inches from gravity pressing down on me!
  • Cold/Snow in Dec – yes, it was -10 degrees Celsius and snowing.
  • Coffee everywhere – if you need a daily jolt of caffeine, no fear – there were tons of cafes all over the place with delicious French pastries. However, European (Nescafe), Korean/European (Paris Croissant) and American cafes (Starbucks) have higher priced drinks at about $5/6 and pastries $3-5. The local coffee is about $2. My Viking husband observed that the $2 coffee places tend to be street stands and the foreign coffee places have tables, so the drinks are more expensive as you are almost “renting space.”
  • Amazingly cute things – Like everywhere in Asia, cute sells. So pastries will have little animal icing decorations, anything and everything will have teddy bears or other cute looking creatures on them. If you are not immune to cute things, it may be sensory overload! The best cute thing I saw was a baby seal ice cream cake at the Korean Baskin Robbins!
  • Limited English – we didn’t stay at a hotel this time, but in a AirBNB house rental. The owner left us some guidebooks which was nice. You will see that the street signs, subway maps and stores will have English…but not many people speak English. I was told that people learn English in high school, like how we learn French in Canada…then people just forget it as they don’t use it!
  • Vending machines – less than in Tokyo, but they are common in subways
  • Interactive subway displays – for people waiting for the train, they can play games or look up places where to eat next. Great if you know Korean…
  • Selfie pics – in Gangnam there is a large interactive display for you to take pictures of yourself. I’m not sure if you can email it out or not, but there was some voting contest of which selfie was the best. Lots of drunk pics of people have a good time!

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Tokyo Part 4 Shopping & Anime

Shopping, Geeking Out on Anime Stuff & some Videos

Generally, shopping in Japan is pretty awesome.  There is incredible customer service and everything is so damn small and cute!  There are lots of pictures in other posts about retail at Skytree and the temple already.

One of the anime cons I volunteer for asked if I could look for “Attack of Titan” buttons. There was an anime store at Skytree, but they didn’t have any merchandise for this series. So I dragged my Viking to Akihabara, the anime central of Tokyo to look for stuff because that’s where Reddit people recommended that I go.

Here are some picks on Harajuku where there were lots of Lolita clothes I couldn’t afford and Akihabara, the place to geek out for anime stuff.

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Evangelion & Japanese Swords Exhibit

At the Mori Art Museum in Ueno, Tokyo, the “Evangelion and Japanese Swords Exhibit” ran from Nov 23 to Dec 23, 2013. I went on my own for this one as my Viking husband went to another museum nearby. Indeed, there were many otakus at this exhibit!

Sword masters were recruited to create weapons based on  the Evangelion movies and Japanese swords in the image of the characters using traditional techniques. There was a second exhibit as well with scenes from the anime recreated with figurines. They were pretty amazing!

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Videos

Prince Park Tokyo Tower Hotel Toilet

I miss my heated toilet! Here I show its covers opening up automatically. My husband thought I was silly for shooting this…

Prince Park Tokyo Tower Hotel Christmas Light

This is outside the hotel and so pretty!

Garden Eels at Skytree Aquarium

Cute and creepy at the same time. I think they are Nature’s snacks for other animals!

Swimming Penguins at Skytree Aquarium

I was surprised to see so many penguins!

Toy trains at Skytree

This would have been difficult to carry back, I could watch it all day!

TV movie

My favorite space hero dubbed in Japanese!

Subway Train Coming!

Why can’t we also have barriers and warnings like this?

Floor mini display at Edo Tokyo Museum

This was suppose to be a miniature English Garden estate, but underneath your feet!

Tokyo Part 3 – Sights

You realize you are a foreign stranger in a strange land when you notice that all the signs are in Japanese and there is no English. Or in my case, no French as well. It’s a uni-lingual city because the majority of the people are Japanese!

Out of all the places we went to, I thought that the neatest area to visit was the Senso-ji Temple area because there were so traditional artsy things and yummy street food!  There was a lot of shopping on the 33 floors of Skytree, the tallest tower in Tokyo.  The three floors of desserts alone left my Viking husband breathless and he usually hates retail!

The following sets of pics include: 1) General stuff – Tokyo Tower, musical posters & casino 2) Senso-ji Temple, highrise sights & Disney Xmas trees, 3) Skytree shopping mall & aquarium and 4) The Meiji Shrine and Edo Tokyo museum.

General stuff

Xmas was everywhere in December although most people don’t celebrate it – it’s just a shopping holiday to them! We were living near Tokyo Tower, so it was a nice sight to see daily.  Originally I thought the casino was an anime store because there were so many cute drawings outside – but it turns out it consists of arcade games, some anime related (Evangelion game).  There were also tons of musical posters in subways stations – such as Wicked and Love Never Dies (sequel to Phantom of the Opera).

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Senso-ji Temple, highrise sights & Disney Xmas trees

One of the coolest places was Shibuya station. My friends insisted that we go to see the street scramble.  It was a bit scary to be crossing the road with over a hundred people at once!

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Skytree shopping mall & aquarium

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Meiji Shrine and Edo Tokyo Museum

It was raining the day we went to see the Meiji Shrine but it was still a nice place to visit, although a bit cold and damp.  The Edo Tokyo Musuem was highly recommended by a friend and it was pretty incredible.  There was a lot of large displays of buildings from different eras you could walk into.

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Tokyo Part 2 – Food & Lodging

Eating in any Asian city is superb since there are so many people and it is super competitive for businesses. Many restaurants have signs or “plastic food” on display to attract patrons and sometimes a mall will have giant displays to let you know of the many restaurants on each floor.  All the food I had in Tokyo was excellent, in particular, the Family Mart sushi was better than in the restaurants we visited!

If you have dietary restrictions, I would recommend using Google Translator to list out all the items you can’t eat ahead of time and show the service people to avoid getting killed by allergic reactions, etc.

The hotel we stayed in (Prince Park Tokyo Tower) had a lot of Western guests, so the staff spoke English.  My favorite thing about the room was the toilet, it was amazing and I am sad that I could not bring it back!

Pictures below are separated into general food, breakfast, lunch, dinner and lodging.  Each pic has some notes to let you know what the heck is going on…

General food – pics of menus, advertisements and plastic food

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Breakfast food

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Lunch food

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Dinner & Dessert food

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Lodging – hotel and my beloved hotel room toilet!

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Tokyo Part 1

In December 2013 I spent about a week in Tokyo, Japan before heading for a wedding in Seoul, South Korea.  We took thousands of pictures, so sorting through them will take a while.  Over the next few weeks, I’ll be dividing my trip into the following blog posts for both countries:

Part 1 – Surviving or aka how to survive with language barriers

Part 2 – Food & Lodging on my trip

Part 3 – Sights, cultural stuff we saw on the trip

Part 4 – Shopping, retail and what to expect

 

Post release dates:

Japan posts
Jan 6, 2014 – Tokyo Part 1
Jan 13, 2014 – Tokyo Part 2
Jan 20, 2014 – Tokyo Part 3
Jan 27, 2014 – Tokyo Part 4

Korea posts
Feb 3, 2014 – Seoul Part 1
Feb 10, 2014 – Seoul Part 2
Feb 17, 2014 – Seoul Part 3
Feb 24, 2014 – Seoul Part 4

Now let’s start with a post about Tokyo, an amazing city!

 

Tokyo Part 1 – Surviving!

As with any Asian trip, there is always some culture shock upon arrival because…well, everyone looks Asian!  Also, for some reason, people think I am Japanese or Korean although I’m Chinese.  My Viking husband was amused that people always seem shock when I open my mouth and then I start getting the “she must have a mental issue” looks.

I knew some basic Japanese since I studied the language 10 years ago, but it really wasn’t enough to get by with any conversations.  I could ask a question, but would pick up only 10% of what people responded with.

Anyhow, there were a few things that made our trip a pretty good one even though we didn’t have much language sills and below are a few tips I compiled that would help anyone with no understanding of the Japanese language.  We relied on the Lonely Planet guide book which was pretty good and they have a website with lots of basic info: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/japan/tokyo/

Pictures at end of blog post (scroll down).

1)      Wi Fi hotspot & Google Maps

Prior to leaving Canada, my Viking had made arrangements for a Wi Fi hotspot device to be delivered to the hotel upon our arrival.  It’s basically a portable internet wi-fi spot which we used for our phones.  This was a life saver as all the street signs are in Japanese, so we relied heavily on Google Maps to tell us where we were going.

Sometimes we didn’t know how much a fare was on the subway system, but Google Maps would tell us the amount and list all the stops before we were suppose to get off as well.  Also, just on the street, with Google telling us, turn left, right, etc., it was enough for us to avoid getting totally lost.  Amazing technology!

Cost of Wif Fi hotspot – about $5/day

2)      Cash

While many places use credit cards, the basic denomination taken by all vendors is still cash.  So carry some around and look for international bank ATMs to get more cash if required.  We found such ATMs in post offices around Tokyo.

3)      Plugs

I travelled with my laptop which has 3 prongs.  In Tokyo, things only have 2 prongs, but the hotel was nice enough to lend me an adaptor.

4)      Google Translator

On our 14 hour flight, my husband offered to buy me diamonds as he realized he had forgotten our Studio Ghibli tickets at home.  Like any good anime fan, I said I didn’t want diamonds but wanted to see Totoro and the Cat Bus.  Since the Japanese travel agency took our names down, I decided to write a short message with google translator to see if we could talk our way into the museum.  It turns out we had to buy another set of tickets, but having a translated message made things a lot less confusing.

It cost money to print out the message as we didn’t have a printer, so I just emailed it to myself and used the wifi hotspot we were carrying to let people see the email that was already translated into Japanese.

5)      Buy a subway card

There are 5 lines in the subway system owned by different companies.  The first day we were schooled when we kept buying wrong tickets as it was confusing which machine we were supposed to buy for.  The “THIS MACHINE IS IN ENGLISH” announcement was super loud every time we used a machine in English and it was a bit embarrassing because people would look at us oddly.

Anyhow, to save a lot of grief, please buy a subway card as you just load it up with money and all the lines will take the card.  There are a few kinds such as PASMO or JF IO card which are interchangeable on the lines.  We bought the PASMO and beeped our way through instead of trying to figure out how much we needed to pay for a ticket per every trip as the price depends on distance.

The subway maps are all in Japanese although when you get on the train, the stops are sometimes announced in English.  There is also a little tv above the doors which has the stop names in English and katakana as well.

6)      Hotels are big enough for big people

Prior to visiting Japan, I had lamented on Facebook about the size of my husband and how I worried if he would fit into the tiny hotel rooms in Japan.  Someone recommended The Prince Park Tokyo Tower hotel to me and I booked it.  The rooms are huge!  Bigger than some NYC rooms we had stayed in.  OK, fine, my husband’s feet sticks out a bit on the double bed, but 98% of the length of him fits on the bed, so it’s good enough!

Before going, do take a look at travel review websites to see pictures of the room and to make sure they are big enough for your use.  My husband is 6’4” and he was fine with the size of the hotel room.

7)      Basic Manners

My Viking husband likes order in general, so he was pleased that people followed the rules in the city:

  • Walk on the left – If you want to avoid being run over by bicycles on the sidewalk, pedestrians should walk on the left.  My husband watched in amusement as I was like a deer in the headlights, uncertain which way to dive to dodge the bikers.
  • No garbage cans – After attacks from over a decade ago by terrorists, there are no garbage cans on the streets or in the subway.  People are expected to carry their garbage until they reach a bathroom.
  • No eating or talking in subways – the subways are super quiet and clean.  People don’t talk and are usually on their cell phones texting.
  • Follow arrows on subway stairs and platforms – yes, there are lots of arrows for up/down in the stairwells and arrows to let you know where the doors will open to board the train.
  • No tipping – restaurants & taxis do not require tipping.  They will run after you if you tip and give back your money!
  • Bow a lot – it’s a sign of politeness to nod your head and bow when you greet someone or thank someone.  They will be bowing back at you too.

8)      What else to expect:

  • Super service – we had never experienced such fantastic customer service before!  People will go out of their way to help you and thank you, so don’t be afraid to ask questions.  Use Google Translator to ask for more complicated things and they will do their best to solve your problem.  Although had to re-buy my Studio Ghibli tickets, the guide at the museum called the Lawson (convenience store) ahead of time to make sure there were tickets available and gave me dates to chose from before directing me across the street to make the purchase.
  • Amazing retail – Just Skytree (tallest tower in Tokyo) alone has 33 floors with most of them retail.  There are convenient stores everywhere open 24/7 and you can buy anything you want with a hundred styles to choose from.  Even my Viking husband who hates shopping, was tempted to buy stuff.  The several food floors alone in Skytree amazed him as he had never seen so much food in his life and they all looked so good!
  • English brochures – at our hotel there were stacks of brochures in English. If you are not staying at a hotel, you can visit one as local brochures often includes coupons and other tips to help save money.

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I am a "generic Asian"

Happy New Year!

Throughout December 2013 I had been travelling throughout Tokyo, Japan and Seoul, S. Korea since there was a major family wedding in Korea.

To my surprise, people thought that I was whatever they were and would speak to me at length before realizing I didn’t understand. Then I would get the “this girl is a deaf mute” look. This has happened before in China (I speak Cantonese, not Mandarin), but I didn’t expect people to think that I was Japanese or Korean.

A computer in 2009 simulated average faces for Asians, can you tell which faces are Chinese, Korean and Japanese? (click for answer as well as South Asian faces)

My Viking husband labelled me the “generic Asian” as he was quite amused by all this. With his red hair and beard, people didn’t even try to speak to him. I learned how to say “I don’t understand/don’t know” in Mandarin, Japanese and Korean. However, people sometimes interpreted this as I didn’t know the answer to a question. My brother in law suggested that I learn how to say “I have a mental disability” which may work better.

I was so amused by my new nickname that I decided to rename my blog to “Musings of a Generic Asian” from “Musings of JF Garrard”.

Unfortunately, there was some negative stuff as well which was obvious from angry speech and body language – that I am a terrible Asian as I am hanging out with non-Asian people. Usually it would be an older Asian man that would come up to me directly and say a long speech with nasty glares.

I was being made to feel ashamed that I was a bad Japanese/Korean when I was Chinese. I’ve never traveled to China with my husband, so I’m not sure if we would experience the same thing there. Generally, I think this happened so often because the older generation wants to enforce their rules on the younger generation.

Regardless, it was a wonderful trip and I have been inspired to create art again after a visit to the Seoul Museum of Art (SeMA) and National Musuem of Modern and Contemporary Art in Deoksugung. It was amazing to see the fusion of Eastern and Western art techniques and the powerful messages behind each piece.

I don’t think I’ll see my husband much this year as I want to finish up a few books, travel to a few conventions, start a podcast and create some cultural identity art!

Over the course of the next few weeks I’ll put together my pics and comments, so stay tuned!

Conversing with a Manga Artist Part 2

This is Part 2 of a conversation with Eri-Chan, a super talented manga artist from the Philippines…Part 1 of our Q &A is here.

Eri2

 

Eri4

If I were to commission you for a manga, what kind of information do you need?  A script of some sort, I imagine?

A script is okay, but a novel-like format works better for me. I love reading novels, and as such, I tend to get a better image of the scenes in my head compared to script-like stories. 🙂

What is your favourite manga?  Why?

I don’t have a certain top favourite (since I have lots of favourite manga and anime), but for the shoujo-type manga, I fell in love with NANA, Card Captor Sakura, Kareshi Kanoujo no Jijou, and Zettai Kareshi. For the shounen, I’ll always love Naruto and Death Note, and am currently getting hooked with Shingeki no Kyoujin. I also liked horror and suspense manga like Goth and Jisatsu Circle.

I don’t really like manga and anime for the art style or what~ usually; its impact on me while reading it is what I look into. Did this manga tickle the imagination in a way that either I relate so much to it, or that it leaves my brain thinking about it for a few days or even weeks?  I guess I love series that leaves my mind in a deep thinking state after I read it.

What is your dream job?  Well, you are already living it – or perhaps better way to put it – dream commission?

I’ve always wanted to work on published love story or horror/suspense manga. I’m also working on my own title, a comedic love story, and I may be releasing it by next year. (im currently writing the story J) Other than that, I still want to pursue my studies and go for a multimedia art school (once I get me enough funds for it) so I can learn all sorts of stuff to become a professional all-around artist and illustrator. 😀

Have you ever turned down a commission? 

Oh yes, a lot of times. And it breaks my heart to turn down offers of illustrating beautiful stories just because the client wants a rock-bottom price for the art, I mean, I would definitely love to draw for them, but of course, I have bills to pay too, right? Aside from that, there are a lot of stories that didn’t suit my style, (like shonen stories, sci-fi, action, sports), and I always try my best to be honest with my clients if I know that my art style isn’t gonna be the best one suitable for their kind of story. I don’t want to accept a request if know that I can’t do my best on it.

For people who want to become manga artists, what tools would they need?  Do you use tablets or certain software?  What tips do you give in general?  (Eek!  I know one is to backup stuff as there was a huge issue when her computer died…damn electronics!)

Yes, having backups of your files would be one of the most important ones, if you’re going for drawing manga digitally (especially after what I’ve been through with my pc when it broke down on me since I do everything on my PC~ haha..😀 I use a graphics tablet, and Paint Tool SAI + Photoshop CS3 for drawing. I can’t give that much advice for traditional mediums in manga, since I do stuff digitally, but I do believe that investing time to study the art and everything about it that you use will be very helpful in the long run. . Also, take in mind that there will always, and always be people in the industry that are better than you, but don’t let that get you down. Lastly, always be open to new ideas, like what my artist friends are always telling me.

I’m still starting up, and I’m looking forward to learning more as well.

This conversation continues onto Part 3…

Conversing with a Digital Illustrator Part 1

I cannot tell you how happy I am to have found Eumir.  Initially I saw only the chibi/cartoon work he was posting on an ad on one of the sites and they looked hysterical.  However, I wasn’t looking for chibi/cartoons at the time.  But there was something different in his style compared to all the different drawings I saw, so I decided to look at his fantastic website and blog: www.theartofeumircarlofernandez.daportfolio.comwww.theartofeumircarlofernandez.blogspot.com.  The art on the website blew me away!  I had written to many artists at that point and a few pieces were already on the go, but I decided to ask him to make me a drawing anyways to see how things would work out.

Although there is a twelve hour time difference because I live in Canada and he lives in the Philippines, we still manage to somehow catch each other on facebook and email.  Alarmingly, he seems to like the concept of bearded men as I complain about the red tuff on my Viking husband, but oh well…if you can’t beat ‘em you join ‘em I guess!

east west

Hi Eumir, thank you first of all for having me as a client as a first place.  I feel honored and privileged to be able to use your services.   So can you tell me where you went to do your training and what did you learn from there?

I studied Bachelor of Fine Arts major in Painting in the University of San Carlos in Cebu, Philippines. But most of the things I learned there are basics. The real training was when I was working in Author Solutions Publishing where I did a lot of self study. The majority of the illustrations requested of the publishing company are for children’s books, but drawing kids and cute cartoon animals didn’t really help me apply the new skills I had acquired. I learned more in a span of one year from all the videos on FZD design cinema and CGMA 100 folds compared to the four years of college. And what I believe is the real learning begins when you’re already out of school.

What kind of jobs did you do after school ended and why did you decide to be a freelancer?

First I didn’t know what to do after school. Then my girlfriend at that time was offered a job for furniture design rendering but couldn’t make it and asked me to show up in her place instead. Though I only worked there for a month it made me realize that I can actually make money through drawing. Then the VFX company called me up where a colleague and MTG friend of mine works and I only stayed there for 2 weeks when the Publishing company contacted me. I accepted the job (at the Publishing company) and spent my two years there 2010-2012. So within those two years while doing self study, I felt like the new skills that I have learned would just be wasted if I stayed drawing children’s books. The company I worked for charged clients $145-$300 per illustration (cartoon style $145, realistic paint style $300).  As artists, we did 5-7 per day and our salary was $300/month.  So doing 2 drawings in one day already paid for my 1 month salary!  So I decided to freelance to make good use of my new skills and earn the right amount money for it.

Is it difficult to be a freelancer?  I mean, lots of people dream about being their own boss!  Although most of the time I saw my husband filling creating lots of paperwork (taxes, invoices, etc) when he was freelancing…

Well yes and no. Because first of all you have to be good or cheap. And to get good at what you do you have to spend endless hours on the side. I remember having 2-3 hours of sleep just to squeeze out time to practice. And when you do start getting clients they are technically your boss and you follow what they are asking for. And you are a service provider so you have to comply or you will end up with no clients coming back. You do get to be the boss of your time but you have to manage it well or you won’t get anything done. I don’t know about paperwork but I do manage my files well so there will be no confusion.

What kind of things have you been commissioned to draw?

I have been asked to do Book cover Illustrations, Card Game Illustrations, Concept Art, a whole lot of Chibis, Storyboard for a TV series, Press Kit Illustration and Character Design for a music video

Interview continues on in Part 2

Curing the Living Dead…With No Sugar Added!

“How are you even alive?” The Chinese doctor looked at me and sighed. “You barely have a pulse, do you eat anything at all?” I told him that I have been trying to eat more vegetables, exercise, etc. “Is there a problem with meat?” “No, I just thought I was eating too much.” “Well, you need protein for your cells to repair and function.” At this point I was flabbergasted.  He knew cell biology? He was a Chinese practitioner with 35 years of experience and worked in HK, Taiwan, and Canada. But I guess I had a stereotype that people usually chose one culture’s scientific knowledge over another.

It’s been 30 years since I have seen any Chinese doctor after the last one my parents dragged me to did some “bone reconfiguration” after I sprained my ankle.  So now I have two “ankles” on one foot due to a misalignment somewhere. “It’s not like you are crippled!” my mom yelled back when I told her why I was afraid of Chinese medicine.

With reluctance after trying to have a damn munchkin for so long, I caved into to seeing a Chinese doctor after my Western doctor became too “busy” to see me. It was a difficult situation with a parent there, as she explained to him how she thinks it’s a stupid idea for me to have a child as children are bad karma creatures out to collect debts from the parents. The doctor smiled politely and said, “You’ve shared your experience with your daughter, now it’s up to her to make the final decision.” A former university colleague of my mother’s, he knew her personality well.

He spoke for about an hour about how to eat properly as it turns out I was malnourished.  With not enough nutrition to function, how did I expect to grow a parasite? He taught a minimal cooking technique for green vegetables to preserve as much nutrients in the food as possible: Add 2 slices of ginger to a wok, heat up; add vegetables which have been rinsed in water only; cook for 3-4 min; add a little olive oil and water if needed; use lid to cover wok; cook for 3-4 min and add a little bit of salt for flavor.

In regards to cutting vegetables, he recommended not using a knife if possible as just hand breaking them preserves the cells better. Also, what I can eat depends on my body type, so he had to take my pulse.

Looking at my left wrist, he shook his head as my non-existence pulse.  After feeling my right wrist he frowned and asked, “You should be experiencing abdominal cramps after meals as you have a bad digestive system.” How did he know this? It was true, I get cramps once in a while, especially when I’m super full.

Then he looked under my tongue; there were black colored veins and when I relaxed it, the tongue did not have smooth sides.  “Your veins are black due to bad blood circulation and there are lumpy sides from your teeth.  When the tongue becomes swollen, it presses against the teeth which is why it is lumpy when you relax it.”  My mom, the energizer bunny, had a super healthy tongue of course.

After another hour of teaching me how to better take care of myself, he started to set my prescription for the next five days.  I had a weak body (low energy, bad blood circulation, heat based), but if I had too much rich food, that would make things worse.  He said there is lots more to know, but didn’t want to overwhelm me at the first meeting.  I have to return in a few days and have another assessment, then my instructions might change depending on how my body is doing.

herb powder ss
From herbs to GMP powder

My instructions:

-powder Chinese medicine mixed 2x per day in lukewarm water (on empty stomach, can eat 1 hour after).

I was expecting to have to buy herbs to cook, but he said that his GMP certified powders were tested for toxins and guaranteed to be the correct herb, unlike random vendors.  This technique of manufacturing Asian meds had been perfected by the Japanese.  Also, people don’t know how to cook the herbs properly which may mess up the meds too.  There were about a dozen powdered herbs in one “dose”.

-can only eat until 7/8 full for each meal

-can not drink water or liquids during the meal, as apparently I’ve been diluting my stomach acids.  I can have half a bowl of soup/water before and after meal that is warm in temperature.

-3 meals: breakfast (something small, carb or protein), lunch (palm size meat with 2x vegetables and some carbs), dinner amount is same as lunch, fruit 2x

-meat = chicken, fish, pork; my body can not handle lamb or beef

-vegetables and fruit must be different if eaten in the same day

-no caffeine = tea, coffee

-no alcohol

-no pop, too much sugar

-speaking of sugar, avoid as much as possible as body can not digest this well

-ARH!  NO CHOCOLATE!  I might as well be dead!

-Vitamin C, 500 milligrams; taking prenatal multi-vitamin ok as much of it will be peed out anyways

-breathing exercises, no more than 5x each or I might damage something (no aerobics as I didn’t have enough energy for that)

-no spicy or fried things

-less soya, tofu due to hormones in them

-No eating of frogs, toads, quail spit, placentas (really?!)

-snacks can either be fruit or yoghurt (Apparently the Japanese have the best yoghurt which is not available in North America)

I had questions about my use of Western medicine and he said that I should not stop as it would be a shock to the system.  I told him it was too late as the doctor pulled me from all meds after my last failed baby attempt.  He said it will take a while for my body to recover, but my body wasn’t too terrible compared to other women he had seen with the same problems.

He told a few stories in which he knew what to prescribe, but held back as he was worried about lawsuits as there is not much confidence in Chinese medicine in the Western world since Western medicine dominated.  There was some communication issues, as my background in science had been taught in English and his in Chinese.  So there were some moments which was like a game as we tried to describe the cell part we were each talking about.

In previous meetings, my Western doctor had said that I was about to take the last step in how they can help me and if it didn’t work, there was no other alternative.  So, I guess, I’ll have to give this Chinese medicine a try as I’m not sure what to do anymore. I am feeling hopeful, which is always a dangerous thing. Wish me luck!