Summer Isn’t Made For Me.

*Press play on this video as you read. Trust me.

With the warmer weather approaching, it’s time for me and my kind to go into hibernation. You know, us melatonin-deprived, bread-dough people made from leftover envelope glue. We are the blinding legs of fathers in shorts at Disneyland. Us descendants of Irish immigrant dreams can’t survive out here with you kayaking, sun-kissed, athletic goddesses. We are made for Renaissance paintings and splashes of brightly colored hipster sparrow tattoos on our collarbones, for 3:47am internet searches about how many toes does a sloth have and hissing in the dark as someone opens a window shade before 9pm. As Ghosts of Christmas Past we long for sunlight but know it is a one-sided love. We are pale Hades covered in Coppertone and you are Persephone, dewey with sweat that doesn’t smell and we lust for you to love us. And yet you will not. You scorch us and scald us and leave melanoma on our outer left forearms in your Vitamin D infused wake. We apply an onion’s worth of sunscreen layers and still you refuse to let us be in live action mountain-climbing ads for Viagra. We are the pasty legion on the beach covered from toe to fingertip and your great-aunt’s floppy straw hat that has seen too many vampire books come and go. We are those that do go quietly into that good night because the day is a living hell at 74 degrees. We are oozing our sunburned, lobster-red meat sacks into a pool made only of aloe vera and sweet tea and it feels like heaven. Go have your Victoria’s Secret Pink tunics and Tevas and hikes up Laurel Canyon. You’ll see us in a couple of months, when the crisp leaves fall and the great Ugg Boot in the sky is in retrograde. When we unfurl our receipt paper limbs into leggings and boots and thigh-high socks and emerge at full strength, powered by Pumpkin Spice and our cold, Voldemort hearts wrapped in scarves filched from a Forever 21 Power Sale. But until then, enjoy the warmer weather, you beautiful tan manatees. Don’t take your powers for granted. We’ll be watching you from our iPhone-powered drones and weeping orange spray tan tears into our hordes of inspirational quote Etsy mugs as we whisper to ourselves, “the dark never bothered me anyways.”

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*I wrote this for my “Writing for Late Night TV” class at Second City; we learn about different bits and styles for late night hosts such as Colbert, Conan, Fallon, et al. This week we were working on rants, where the host goes off on a 1-4 minute diatribe. My vision for this was Colbert shaking his fist at warmer weather and how us alabaster souls long for it and yet cringe from it.

*I also recognize how ridiculous it is to be a crybaby about being “too white” when cultural norms in certain parts of the world falsely goad people into skin-whitening creams in order to be attractive, or place higher safety or value on lighter skin.

*Written indoors on a sunny day by me, a professional vampire.

Bye, 2015.

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January 2015/Lynden, WA, USA

  • I Visited two new countries: the Philippines (Part 1 and Part 2) and Japan. Yay for new passport stamps! Wait, I have to renew it this year?!

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  • Left and moved out of Korea after 2 years. I still miss it. And people.tumblr_msn0n7V24s1rsnz70o1_500
  • Did my first ever stand-up in Seoul. Don’t be sad you missed it. Truly not a knock out.

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  • Moved to Chicago and invested in all wool and down everything. I need to google if they make wool bras EDIT: THEY DO!

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  • Kissed my 3rd guy ever. Unleash your gasps, it’s true!

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  • Went to BigBang’s concert, not one, but TWICE, in Seoul. I thought “I’ll never get to do this again,” so I rolled hard. Such fun. Very sweat. Much happy.

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  • Took classes at Second City in improv and writing (adding stand-up, voiceover and acting in 2016); but the best part is that I’ve met new friends that I love and mentors that I want to work with.

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  • Auditioned for and got on an Open Ensembles team on my first try and I am beside myself to be a member of team Dryer Sheet and our first show is a week from now. Exactly.

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  • Became an aunt for the second time, her name is Olivia and I miss her baby smell even though I just saw her 5 days ago.

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  • Was able to see family 3x (January, July and December), which is some kind of a record for me! I love those goons. They’re mine.

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  • Saw Lee Min Ho aka ‘God of Asia’ in person outside an H&M and there is some serious witchcraft in those cheekbones, y’all. No one should be that handsome in real life.
  • Performed in “Almost, Maine” with Spencer and watched his butt fall in love with a bookshelf.
  • Figured out how to order Pizza Hut 4 months before I left because Korean McDonald’s broke my heart.
  • Saw Illionare’s 4th Anniversary concert in Daegu and guys, Beenzino is for real, hot. And Dok2 is for real, short. And The Quiett is for real, not memorable. But throw them hands up!

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  • Got rehired at the one of the best companies in the world and, surprise! I didn’t forget everything.

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  • Bought a bed brand new and they are hella expensive. But I’m sitting on it right now and my butt is really happy.

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  • Got really lucky and met two really nice roommates on Craigslist and now I live with them and I don’t worry about the bottles of blood in the fridge.

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  • Joined a weight loss study sponsored by a university here and I’m looking forward to making some changes and having free help to do so.
  • Two friends have visited me already in Chicago–thanks Brooke and Dana for eating food I cooked and letting me tag along in you tourist adventures because I’m like, seasoned now (I’m not), and of course I’m too cool for the Bean (I’m not) and I’m totally a pro at the L (I’m not).
  • Consumed a horde of great shows and movies and fell head over heels for Spencer Reid Matthew Gray Gubler on Criminal Minds and this is all Toshira’s fault for hyping him/it for like 5 years. And now I have less than 1 season left to go and I’m not emotionally prepared to say goodbye.

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  • ADELE HAD A COMEBACK, I’M STILL RECOVERING

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It was a damn fine year. Bye, 2015. So long and thanks for all the fish.

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Currently.

 

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December 2015/Chicago, IL, USA

The Finite Realest Top 3 Scariest Kid’s Movies Ever, According to Me (but not Garp).

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I keep seeing all these “Scariest Kid’s Movies,” “Top 5 Creepiest Movies for Kids!” lists and let me tell you, they are all crap. PURE GARBAGE. Sure, a lot of you shouldn’t have seen “Labryinth” when we were 12 or younger (I saw it after college, mah babes [what babe?] with the powers [what power?]). But for all the Roger Rabbits (yes, creepy) and Gremlins (still haven’t seen all of it) and Princess Bride (seriously? this is scary??), nothing can match these 3 (which are never on the lists!) that, no joke, I still TO THIS DAY refuse to watch.

1.All Dogs Go To Heaven

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“In this animated feature, canine casino owner Charlie is killed by gambler Carface, but returns to Earth from heaven thanks to the powers of a magical, rewindable watch. Charlie sets out to take his revenge on Carface by means of an elaborate plan that involves an orphan girl, Anne-Marie. But as the plan progresses, Charlie discovers that Anne-Marie is being exploited by Carface. Charlie must decide whether to change his mission from one of revenge to one of rescue.”

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How lovely. Here’s the real sitch: Charlie, a lovable rascal/lawbreaker of a dog/hero who is besties with Dom DeLuise, owns a casino, smokes a lot, and gets MURDERED by some other asshole dog who smokes cigars.
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Charlie dies HE DIES! In a kids movie! and gets awarded a watch in heaven by some pretty purple sinewy lady dog (she’s a dog, why couldn’t she have some rolls?) but he cheats and rewinds the watch and escapes heaven (there is an escape hatch?) as the purple fairy dog screams “YOU CAN NEVER COME BACK.” Charlie comes back to earth, there is a singing alligator in drag who…like imagine if a Mardi Gras float came to life, got stuffed full of cliches about gay people, SLEEPS ON A BED OF BONES and then sings a song about making music with Charlie after he tries to eat him in a cage of bones.
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Then Charlie ends up going to melty, freaky lava hell and this happens:
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Try sleeping now. There’s some other subplot about a ragamuffin girl who’s name no one remembers that Charlie then dies for but you’re too scarred to remember that part. Also: Charlie is voiced by Burt Reynolds, so good luck ever enjoying “Smokey and the Bandit” ever again.
Fears made: Mardi Gras, people who smoke cigars, drag, clock shops, purple dogs, naked Burt Reynolds
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“A magical board game unleashes a world of adventure on siblings Peter and Judy Shepherd. While exploring an old mansion, the youngsters find a curious, jungle-themed game called Jumanji in the attic. When they start playing, they free Alan Parrish, who’s been stuck in the game’s inner world for decades. If they win Jumanji, the kids can free Alan for good — but that means braving giant bugs, ill-mannered monkeys and even stampeding rhinos!”
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The truth: boy gets sucked into game. He gets trapped and can’t get out just like my brother and I did in my parents trunk once and that was a horrific, terrible, can’t breathe, could-have-died moment that I really am not a fan of reliving. Then he emerges because two dumb-dumbs play a harmless board game like good, wholesome kids instead of do drugs/sex/alcohol like bad kids and he’s a man who lost all that time and his parents are gone and his family is gone and he is ALONE except for Bonnie Hunt, who’s cool and all but NOT YOUR FAMILY and then they almost all die and almost get trapped in the game again and what a great lesson about playing outside and never never touch shit in your attic EVER. Also the whole time: terrifying drumbeats that I can still hear in my nightmares.
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I love Robin Williams, truly, for so many wonderful moments of my childhood. Like all of us, I still can’t put on a face mask without asking someone if they want “one lump or two,” and Genie and Hook and oh captain our captain but THIS movie still has me in its grip. Once, when I was a freshman in college, I tried to turn it on on TV, alone in the basement WITH THE LIGHTS STILL ON, and you know, when there’s that moment, that brief flicker before the picture comes in and you hear the audio and I heard the drums and was like NOP NOPE NOOOOOPE. I was almost 8 when this movie came out and I’m almost 28 and still NOPE and just like before, if I watched it, I would go sleep under my brother’s bed again because that’s still my safe space. Hope that’s cool with his wife. And they’re apparently making a sequel for Christmas 2016 to ruin my birthday season. Excellent.
Fears made: board games, drum beats, getting trapped and can’t escape, losing my family, zoos
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“In this animated film, Chanticleer, a barnyard rooster, has convinced the other animals that his crowing makes the sun rise. When, one day, he forgets to crow and the sun comes up anyway, the secret is out. He heads for the big city in shame. But as massive storms and dark clouds stop the sun from appearing, the farm animals get worried, so a mouse named Peepers and a kitten called Edmond lead the gang on a trip to find Chanticleer in the city.”
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Where to even begin with this mountain of PR lies?! Step 1: Edmond the little kitten is a real little boy–the movie begins with his real, non-animated family farm flooding and the evil satan huge demon massive terrible owl overlord barfs some magic to turn Edmond into a kitten SO HE CAN EAT HIM. WHAT. Here’s that touching children’s movie moment for you:
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Then Edmund and all the animals (who now talk) decide to go rescue the aforementioned Chanticleer aka Elvis, so he can come back to the farm and crow so the sun will rise and dry up all the rain and the itsy bitty spider climb–and end the movie. Edmond and his faithful bloodhound are almost drowned in oil/black water as the owl duke and his cronies try to pick them out and eat them. Just a reminder again that Edmond is a REAL BOY as a kitten, ALMOST EATEN ALIVE by the above-gif’d magic-barfing owl.
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They get to Vegas or whatever, where Elvis/Chanticleer is singing in a bar/theater and doling out such forward thinking gender equality bits like this:
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La-di-da and a bunch of creepy characters later, Chanticleer gets back to the farm and all the anthropomorphic animals are like “crow, dude” and he realized he forgot how. Then, and I quote, “The Duke taunts him and tries to drown him (Chanticleer)…” and then said Owl Satanicus “magically strangles Edmond” A KID THE KID HE STRANGLES A KID and then all the 5th-string characters all start to chant the most horrific chant that haunts me TO THIS DAY.
If you guys got through that, congrats, because I ate a popsicle before for courage and couldn’t do it. Then, ta-da, Chanticleer is like, of course I can do this and saves the day and “Edmond, now apparently dead from his injuries transforms back into his human form in front of the others who realize he was telling the truth about being a little boy.” HE WAS DEAD in a kids movie! WHAT. Then, of course, he’s fine, la-da, where is the realism in this story?! And why is this entire movie dark?! Seriously, it’s all dark blues and blacks and purples and just DARK, which is spoopy (spooky and creepy).
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Fears made: the dark, the night, flooding, owls, being turned into an animal TO BE EATEN by satan Owl Duke, asshole guys who sing well and think they own the world, DID I MENTION THE OWLS
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So there. That’s the 3 scariest kid’s movies according to me, and now you know what I’m scared of. I just realized that 2/3 are Don Bluth movies, so that explains a lot.
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I must now go and purge my hard drive and computer trash and my mind of all this filth and gifs and go watch an episode of Mindy with 2 more popsicles as a reward. If you feel like torturing yourself/tempting the Duke Owl of Magical Barf, here’s a bonus treat for your nightmares:
PS: if you send me anything from these 3 films…
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This is not a drill.

The roof, the roof, the roof was on fire. No, really.

Also known as: “The true story of how my X-(Wo)Man powers manifested for the first time ever during a class at Xavier’s School For Comedy Nerds and hence I tried to burn my own dreams to the ground.”

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I was only 20 minutes early to class yesterday, which David Brown should be proud of; I’m still not 100% used to relying on public transit everyday and my 3-hours early to the airport brain was still in full effect. I ran into Starbucks to get a donut to go pee. I mean, I probably didn’t need the donut, but a) I didn’t want to be THAT early and b) having worked retail, I get really neurotic about using bathrooms where I feel like I don’t deserve it/haven’t bought anything. That sounds weird but makes sense in my brain, I promise. Also I just wanted to smash a donut into my face what more do you want from me?!

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I walked through the hallway between Adobo Grill and Starbucks on my way to my first ever class at Second City, trying to just be cool and not pulling a Disney princess spinning moment in the lobby.

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Improv A will usually meet on the 3rd floor, but because summer intensives are finishing this week, they had us go to the 1st floor…which is a little bit less shiny and gorgeous, but still. SECOND CITY CLASS, Y’ALL. We could be in a literal dungeon and I would still be excited.

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When I came in at 10:57am, there were about 15 people sitting in chairs around the perimeter of the room and it was dead silent. Not even a sniffle. I quietly sat in a chair between two guys, and tried to melt into the walls. 2 minutes later, our teacher, Kevin Reome arrived and we started class by taking roll, moving into some fun games to loosen us up physically and mentally as well as learn each other’s names.

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As we kept building on one of the games, each level gave us more info about each other starting with names, favorite band, favorite movie and finally, birthplace. When it came to my turn and I said “Bellingham,” one guy on my left said “ooooh” and I looked at him and thought “there’s probably a million Bellinghams, right?” and because the game was fast-paced and ongoing, I didn’t really think about it again until his turn, when he said “Seattle.”

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We made eye contact, and as he said “I went to Western,” my little heart burst with such joy. Dumb, yeah yeah, but having just moved here less than a month ago, it was so…”nice” sounds like too trite of a word, but sure, nice to have someone know where I was from. Ryan and I chatted on the break and he knew where Lynden was. LYNDEN. Tiny, little, Dutch, don’t-buy-alcohol-on-Sundays-Lynden!

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We all jumped into another game, and about 15 minutes after the break…

No, but really. Suddenly, a woman opens the door to our classroom and shouts in a Slavic accent “You must get out of building, the roof is on fire!”

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We all looked at each other and at Kevin like, “is this…is this like a thing? Is this a hazing thing?” because come on. A Russian woman shouting that there is a fire on the roof on your first day of the first class of improv comedy? It was like they were insulting our intelligence.

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But Kevin grabbed his bag and said “let’s go,” and we all hustled outside, back through the labyrinth of halls out to the Piper’s Alley lobby, and then we smelled (but didn’t see) smoke. The Piper’s Alley building (where Second City lives) is a 4 story building, and if there is smoke smells all the way on the 1st floor…something was clearly going down.

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We exited out to North Ave and saw 4 fire trucks had already closed the street and a couple of hundred people were on the far side, taking photos and talking. I have a sneaking suspicion that someone kind of forgot we were back there in the dungeon…I mean, clearly everyone else is already out and the calvary closed the street during the time for…whatever. Eventually someone remembered and, foreshadowing: the fire never got down to the 1st floor so ultimately we would have been fine and never the wiser until class let out 45 minutes later.

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It doesn’t look terrible, right? This is about 5 minutes after we came outside, 12:56pm. We snuggled our 17-person class together as Kevin told us, “we’re definitely not going to be allowed back in, so class is done and I’ll see you all next week Wednesday.” Half the class left, and those of us who stuck around soon realized that as the smoke got heavier we were standing around getting cancer, so we went moved east, out of the wind pattern.

Ryan and I rounded the corner onto Wells St to find a bar and grab a beer, since we would have class at 4pm again together (Writing 1), and we saw what looked like the heaviest part of the smoke coming out of the 4th floor/roof above Adobo Grill and several Second City offices.

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I mean, it didn’t look great, it’s a FIRE, but it still looked minor-ish and like something that would be resolved in time for us to have class in about 3 hours. We grabbed a beer in Corcoran’s Grill across from Second City, and chatted about where we were from, why we were taking classes, and such. We noticed that more and more people were coming in from the back door of the bar, but no one was leaving out the front…when we peeked out the windows, we saw that they’d closed the sidewalk and that the fire was most assuredly not improving.

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Yeah…we’re not having class today. Ryan headed home and I stuck around for another hour, actually running into my professor for our writing class and meeting him for the first time, and walked back out to the intersection of Wells and North to see the full scale of damage. It was not pretty. I hadn’t realized quite how bad/far spread it was, having stood only on one side most of the fire, but it was extensive. About 5 minutes after this picture I couldn’t even see down North Avenue past that tree.

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I had a moment here, on the corner, where I actually wondered, “what if there isn’t a Second City left?” What if I moved my life here from Korea and the dream is drifting away in little ash flecks from pictures of Bill Murray? Which is kind of dramatic, and rude, considering there are a million and one amazing options for comedy and training in Chicago, such as iO, Annoyance, CIC and so many more.

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The Chicago Fire Department reported that over 150 personnel were deployed for the 3-alarm fire, and you could tell. So many fire trucks, ambulances, support vehicles and people were present, shutting down the streets in every direction and while I was a little disappointed that Jesse Spencer and Mouch never showed up, it was still impressive how much coordination I saw between firefighters, paramedics, police, reporters and even the bystanders.

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Hello, news helicopters.

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Oops. Caught.

Around 3 I decided that since I wasn’t making a difference, was probably in way and definitely had way too many pictures, I grabbed a bus and headed to early dinner with Joanna, a former co-worker from K. Hogwarts (she still works there). So, something good did come out of that fire, I suppose, because we didn’t think we’d be able to meet up due to my classes and her schedule, but we did! We gorged ourselves on chicken at Crisp (where her brother works), laughed, reminisced, licked our fingers and chatted about life.

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Photo stolen from Joanna, but taken by her brother, who makes damn fine chicken.

I’m still not sure what they’ll do about classes for the future; it seems like the offices were destroyed but the theaters are safe. For the full story, including details of how the fire started, here’s the Chicago Tribune’s report and photos from the Chicago Fire Department’s official Twitter that show some of the damage.

So…how was your first day of school?

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Waiting and Waiting and Waiting Some More.

I wanted to wait to blog until after tomorrow, my first Second City class, because that’s what I’m here for, right? I’m so excited I could barf. I’m so terrified I could barf.

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But I wanted to blog about this feeling (not the barf one), the waiting. The ‘just wait’ season I’m in is about to end and I’m so glad because I am not great at it. I feel like Rapunzel in Tangled just dancing around my hair jungle and asking my stuffed totoro “When will my life beginnnnnnn?!”

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I finished my job at K. Hogwarts on May 31, spent June in Japan and Korea, traveling, saying goodbye, etc. July 1 I flew home, fought a WWE bout with jetlag, loved on/with my family and friends, and flew to Tulsa on July 22, seeing folks, driving to Little Rock on the 24th to chill with my friend family and finally, driving to Chicago with Michael on July 31.

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I’ve spent August pretty much just…sitting. It is the worst. It’s great to sit for a weekend. It’s great to vacation for a week. Or two. But having spent 3 months (THREE MONTHS!) now not working, not having structure, not having a patch of space that is mine mine mine is…exhausting. Which is probably the most pathetic first-world problem ever, says I, a white woman sitting in a Starbucks and blogging on a $2500 laptop.

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But it’s true. I moved out of my Korea apartment on June 6, and since then, have stayed in people’s apartments and houses, and I’m so grateful, truly. I am just tired of traveling out of suitcases (even though I have stuff hung up in my place now), and I want to just have my space to hang stuff on the walls, eat off of dishes I haven’t seen in 2 years, laugh/cry about what I thought was worth saving before I emigrated.

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Since I have had almost nothing on my calendar, I’ve become a weird, nocturnal squirrel. Probably more like a gremlin, if we’re being honest, since I like to eat after midnight and do occasionally shower. I go to sleep anywhere from 3-4:30, waking up from 11-12 (once, 12:45), and I don’t consider myself fully awake until 1-2pm. Which is ok on a Saturday or vacation, but other humans don’t subscribe to my hours, so I find myself watching unhealthy amounts of Criminal Minds, convinced someone is going to kidnap me from my basement room; I talked to Kevin, the dog of the people I’m staying with, holding long conversations about how much poop we could fit in the plastic bags I was carrying (hers, not mine); I probably have enough frequent flyer points at Walgreens to open my own franchise; you get it, I get it…

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HOW I LOOK SO GOOD

I AM BORED, PEOPLE. BORED. And I realize that it’s no one’s fault but my own–I’ve ventured out to get a library card (nerd), walk the dog, get groceries, explored the Broadcast museum downtown (free admission AND free Rice Krispie treats, can I get a HELL YES [also, nerd]), walked the dog some more, fallen in love with Matthew Gray Gubler’s muppet-isms, had some beers with a couple of new and re-activated friends, picked up dog poop in bathtub, ordered weird stuff online (including your birthday present, Brianna, YAY!), Skyped people I love and miss, laundry from sitting around in own filth, this list sounds impressive except its been FOUR WEEKS of this.

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But finally, it seems about to change. Classes at SC start tomorrow, I just signed paperwork for a job that starts on Friday…finally I have a reason to get out of the house before 9am…I’m just ready to go. To try the damn thing that I moved from Korea to do.

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YASSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!! *pumps fist*

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Hello, Chicago.

I’m sitting in a Starbucks on Irving Park. In Chicago. I live here now.

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No, really! I do. I am.

I came home from Korea on July 1 and spent 3 jet-lagged, laughing, warm/hot/muggy weeks with my family. I got to meet my giggly poundcake niece, Olivia, take Zoe on a walk to the park, eat green beans right off the vine from my Nana’s garden, have sweaty grass hugs from my Papa, listen to Brianna rap in the car, shoot some jugs full of water in the backyard with Dad, cook all my favorite foods with Mom, watch Em drive and start basketball games and come home from a One Direction concert like me after BigBang’s. It was wonderful.

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Then I flew to Tulsa, hugged a lot of people, ate some real barbecue (MY GAWWWWWWWD YES), and went to Little Rock. Where I then proceeded to hug even *more* people, ate more real barbecue and other assorted favorite foods. Someone tell me why my pants are tighter… And then Michael and I drove me up to Chicago (with a pitstop in BFE Missouri to see Casey & Steven, my favorites), dragging a beached whale of a U-Haul trailer halfway across the country to start my new life.

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So, I’m here. And in less than a month, I’m starting classes at the Second City Training Center. The home of comedy legends. And here I am, a 27-year old woman who majored in Broadcast Journalism at a small Christian college, who worked for the retail arm of the #1 company in the world, who just spent 2 years teaching in Korea and traveling in Asia…jumping off of a cliff. A metaphorical cliff.

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Except I am. At least a little. Right now, I’m walking around my neighborhood, Albany Park (unofficial Koreatown, which is kind of hilarious in the context of my life); learning a new bus system, carrying pepper spray (yes, Dad, its in my bag now). And I’m not scared of Chicago–not smart–thanks to 2 years of super safe life in Korea. I’m scared that I’m going to be bad at this–that I will have romanticized comedy and my role in that world.

I like comedy. A lot. I like performing it. A lot. I love when something I’ve said or done can make someone laugh, in any language. And I don’t know if Second City and improv and sketch writing is my niche. But I feel like it’s now or it’s never for this step–before I don’t have the funds or the ability to go, before I have another person’s dreams to consider or tiny humans who look half like me run around–I want to try.

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So I’m here. And I’m about to try. And I’m looking forward to where this next step in my life is going. I know a lot of you are as well–your texts, messages, calls and prayers are all balm to my heart. They are tamping down the doubt and insecurity that threaten to overwhelm me in a gas station bathroom in rural Lick Creek, Illinois and every time I look at Amy Schumer sketches and think “could I do that?”

So, to parallel how I began this blog over 2 years ago, the night before I left for Korea, I’m taking a deep breath and thinking:

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“‘Pokemon’ Is Short For ‘Pocket Monster'” and other things in Japan

Not my best title, I know, but I’m writing this over a month later after returning from Japan, so…a lot of brain cells and one egg have died since then, so I’m not on top of my game. Yep.

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It always felt that my time in Asia wouldn’t be complete without visiting Japan. For $50 you could fly from Busan to Osaka and stuff yourself full of sushi, roll in piles of Doraemon swag and perfect the art of karaoke, so that was the easiest decision ever. I finished up 2 years of work at K. Hogwarts and left for 10 days in the land of the rising sun.

Continuing with my Philippines tradition, I went makeup-less and packed just a backpack to carry on my flight, only to run into one of my bosses at the airport, so it was a great start to the trip. After landing on the island airport of Osaka (no, really, it’s an island)

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I realized that I couldn’t remember the address of the hostel I was staying at, and in immigration there was no wifi…so I lied and wrote “friend’s apartment in Osaka” and cried a little in the line after copying the phone number of the guy in front of me. Sorry Marty (and Japanese immigration official) and random stranger. I just was dumb and forgot about the paperwork part, I didn’t pre-plan to fraud everyone I JUST WANTED THE DORAEMON SWAG.

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After renting a data ‘egg’ and slowly, awkwardly reading train signs, I made it to Osaka Station. I…was not prepared. It was like Seoul Station on crack. There are at least 7 lines running out of there, and sub-stations and new letters and new solar systems and *cue hyperventilation and hypoglycemia* someone finally came out to help me because I was sweaty and awkward for too long. I finally made it to my hostel in Osaka, and it was perfectly cute and quaint–Air Osaka Hostel via AirBNB in Kitagaya was warm and friendly. They also included a map that pointed out some awesome hot springs (that I visited twice), a delicious, cheap restaurant (again, twice) and a sushi place (once, because money).

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LOOK AT THAT DESTRUCTION. I am the destroyer of Japanese foods. I also visited the Pokemon Center in Osaka and…well…

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Squeeeeeee. I never got into Pokemon as a kid, but who doesn’t like Pikachu? I bought myself a soft little squishy Pika and a coin purse because anything less than a 1000 yen note (around $8USD) is a coin. SO MANY COINS. Also of note, the only ONLY song that plays in the Pokemon Center? The Pokemon theme song in Japanese. On loop. I fear for their employees because they must walk in to work hoping for–

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After more Osaka explorations, including a 3-story Sanrio (Hello Kitty) store, Osaka Castle and a peaceful, rainy Shinto shrine:

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I then lovingly tucked my Pika into the backpack and took off for Fukuoka!

In August 2014, I got to lead a program of 60 Japanese students from Aso College, in Fukuoka and 60 Korean students from my parent school, Yeungjin College in Daegu. We mixed together the students for a 5-day, 4-night English intensive camp, and it was one of my favorite teaching experiences ever. So I was unbelievably excited to see several of my Japanese students again–they even let me stay with them, they COOKED, we talked–it was so much fun. Plus, OWL CAFE.

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You pay 1500 yen (about $12-13) to hold these handsomes. The first 15 minutes you read some safety tips, including “please don’t forget owl is rapacious bird” and “when you see hate signs while you touch owls, please stop touching owls right away.” I don’t know what a hate sign is, but look at this bro, who was bestowed the name “Nuts.” HOW COULD HE EVER HATE SIGN?!

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The next day, after a delicious homecooked meal from Tati, my students took a taxi WITH ME to the airport. They refused to let me pay and they even bought me some Pika swag from the Fukuoka Pokemon Center! I’m so happy to have met them and been their teacher and their friend too. I was a little sad to go on to Tokyo, but off I went, backpack bulging with Pikas and gifts from the Super Daiso that I had gotten lost in. Thanks so much to Tanya, PJ, Tati, Ryota and everyone else I got to see!!

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In case you are planning to go to Japan, you need to know that Narita Airport is in the middle of Egypt nowhere, so plan accordingly. I made it into my hostel in Tokyo’s Shibuya district around 10 at night, a little lonely and ready to eat my own hand. I walked up the four flights of stairs, ran down to find food and smack into a guy staring at his smartphone exactly the same way I had been 5 minutes before. I asked, “Are you looking for the Geekhouse?” He looked up, and stammered “ah 애, yes” and when I looked closer, I saw the telltale signs of Korean 20something guy–Carhartt and white socks with white tennis shoes–I replied “진짜?!” and laughed, watching his jaw drop. It had only been 6 days, but I’d already missed speaking in Korean and feeling halfway knowledgeable in a foreign country. He threw his bag upstairs and we got ramen and a beer together on the corner, talking about our lives in Korea and our travels in Japan. When we figured out that we wanted to see the same areas the next day, we ended up walking around all of Shibuya and Harajuku together–Won Geol and I, the photographer and the makeup-free white girl. (You can see him peeking his head into my otherwise flawless pano of the Meiji Jingu below)

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Over my last 2 days, I discovered a shop that sold $20,000 original, single, hand-painted animation cells from classic Studio Ghibli films like “Kiki’s Delivery Service” and “Totoro,” stood in Shibuya Crossing, the busiest pedestrian intersection in the world, and walked an hour back to the hostel, letting myself crack a little and grieve about leaving Korea soon.

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I left Japan after not-so-gently shoving my Pika and all his friends into my backpack, and hoping that Peach didn’t have weird restrictions on carry ons since my bag weighed as much as the Sherpa I would need to carry it, and headed home to gimbap and soju, ready to live up my last 2 weeks in Korea. Pictured below is me and my Pika:

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A lot of people have asked about the differences between Japan and Korea, especially my Korean friends, so here’s a brief list of things I noticed that may or may not be unique in my experience:

1. It’s quieter. There’s less noise, less ambient music, less screaming, less “Oppppppppaaaa” and less honking. Every city I was in was just calm. Even the busy areas–even in Shibuya crossing, it was remarkable. No one is talking unless they have to. Everyone is respecting everyone else’s space. Even Won Geol said, “it’s more quiet than Korea,” so I feel this one is true.

2. The food–obviously these are different places and no one does a food like a home country but DAMN. The ramen, the udon, the SUSHI, my god, the sushi, where is this drool on my chest suddenly coming from…? But wow. Japanese food is glorious, full-bodies tastes. From restaurants to home-cooked meals and even convenience store sushi, I never had a bad meal. tumblr_logdznWf4X1qzbb14o1_1280

3. Hot Springs/Onsen: Korea has jimjjilbangs (짐찔방) but while similar to Japan, there are some definite differences, chief among them, not staring. This matters when you’re a very naked, very white, very alone, chubby white girl. If they did stare then they were truly CIA-level because I felt perfectly calm and alone. Also, fun fact–the onsen I went to switched sides every other day. I went on one day and the door was the left one, and the next day, it was the right one! Amazing. However, had I never been to jimjjilbangs in Korea, I would have been quite lost in Japan.

4. They drive on the left side! I guess somewhere back in the deep recesses of my lizard brain, I knew this, but after about 5 minutes of confusion, I realized that something was wrong with the street and it was not opposite day. This did a number on me because not only do you have to be conscious while crossing the street, you also have to be aware what side of the street the bus comes on, an error I made while standing on the right in Fukuoka, watching the bus I was meant to be on drive away. Across the street.

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Anyways, that’s all for this wrap-up–you can see more pictures on my Facebook of foods and owls and temples–I’ll try to sum up the last month here in America this week and we will be *GASP* up. to. date.

ありがとう, Japan–thanks for the best food, and even better people. Especially you, immigration guy. I’m sorry I was shady I DID IT FOR THE POCKET MONSTERS!

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