Unemployment Day 1: Let’s talk about Cheesy Thunder Thighs

It was with the happiest, Disney-villain gusto that I woke up at 9:24 this Monday morning to no alarm. No dulcet tones of BigBang’s “BaeBae” (it’s grown on me, guys), no “Cruella DeVil” 5-minutes-before-the-bus-leaves-get-yo’-ass-UP alarm, nothing. It’s like vacation BUT IT WILL LAST FOREVER or at least until August-ish. I hope. You know what time it is, y’all, it’s time to:

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I’m curled up in the mothership, enjoying a horse-sized iced vanilla latte after going to the bank and transferring money home LIKE AN ADULT (after staying in bed until 11:47am LIKE A CHILD), and I feel good. Sure, this latte cost as much as the cab ride over to this side of town but I’m happy with it.

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LOOK AT HER SEXY VANILLA CURRRRRVES.

It’s so strange to think that there’s nowhere I need to be. I have these 5 days to move stuff out of my apartment and into suitcases/friends’ caves before I leave for Japan for 10 days next Monday. I have no idea what I’m doing in Japan, which is a terrible/wonderful thing according to my Philippines vacation 2 weeks ago, wherein I landed at 11pm and my AirBNB host went COMPLETELY AWOL and I was stranded, sticking out like the tall, sweaty, uberwhite uberwomensch that I am.

But we’ll get to the Philippines in the next post. Right now, I need to back up and tell you about winning the field of dreams of Jeju while getting fantastically maimed.

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It was Thursday, May 16, and I had just landed in Jeju for my second “Jeju Furey Beach Volleyball Tournament,” where my team’s name was “William Shatner Face” (say it 3 times fast and you’ll get where our minds were at), where we sweat, sunburned, got bit by a host of radioactive spiders, and I got scalding cheese on my lady bits AND THAT WAS JUST THE FIRST NIGHT. Here’s a visual of what was dropped on me:

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You know like, when you get fajitas and it’s all steaming and they’re like, “do not touch this hot metal thing in the middle of the wood trough we brought you human piglets?” Yeah. Like that. Dancing front the table onto my uncovered, lily-white, Snow White-esque upper thighs and into the stuff of LEGENDS. If you’ve figured out the gist of our team name, just imagine the kind of jokes we made of THIS incident–which, by now, is past the “blistering fields of delicious, cheesy thigh pain” phase and into “Pink post-surgical scar where they hid the drug-filled condoms” phase, aka it’s definitely almost healed. Also, I artfully hid the burns in following picture because Photoshop.

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Friday was spent on the southern side of the island as I got my tourist self on and visited all 3 big waterfalls of Seogwipo and wrote a lot in a journal and had generally awesome solo white girl travel times while sipping on tea and meeting Mr. Darcy and then traveling on a bus full of 35 high school boys practicing their English on me “YOU LIKE DRAKE?!”

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I really loved these places, chock-full of tourists (like me) as they were. There’s just no bullshitting with a waterfall. It’s not a museum or a monument or something man-made. It’s powerful and peaceful at once. The color of the water here is just unreal. It feels like you ran into a Totoro tunnel and came out in a different world where your other worries and cares are gone. I could have sat for hours except rocks are not the most comfortable seats, y’know? But if you are lucky enough to get to Jeju, screw any other tourist spots (except maybe climbing Hallasan, which I have not done:( but heard is also naturally wonderful) and just get to these waterfalls and bathe in their serenity.

Saturday began volleyball times. I’d played with a different team last October and had only met one member of my new team, so you know I made a great first impression with le cheesy thighs of power and grace. We slowly warmed up on Saturday, getting to know each other’s positions and strengths and alcohol tolerances. I’m very proud to say that I drank an entire bottle of Hallasan soju (한라산 소주) in a scant 6 minutes and 43 seconds, beating everyone else on my team and establishing myself as alpha wolf of the drunk tank.

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After a restless, sleep-ish night, we went on to win our bracket/division and I promptly ran my championship exhausted ass into the ocean and waved at you guys…what, didn’t you hear me? from the sandy, gorgeous, alcohol-infused sands of Hamdeok Beach.

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It’s my second time going to this tournament, and both times, it was stupid fun. The typhoon of last October and the glorious weather of this round, the people who I recognized and those who remembered me as “Dan Quick’s friend,” it was all awesome. Thanks to the other members of the heroin centipede (really, you don’t want to know) and here’s to cheesy thunder thighs forever.

Bonus pics:

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*post ocean run WHY WAS THE TIDE OUT THE WATER WAS SO SO FAR AWAY model look*

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*Sunday morning 6:30am sunrise. Magical.*

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*Hamdeok Beach being a lovely little volcanic wench*

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*I might have had a slight little extreme sports crush on this Korean guy’s skills*

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Next time: Adventures of Ma’am in the Philippines!

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5 Korean Husbands. 13,000 Fans. And Me.

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Through a magical twist of timing and fate, my favorite Korean boyband, BigBang (yes, I know, people, I have betrayed my NSYNC roots hard) had their first comeback in 3 years and first concert in Korea in over a year, last weekend. The weekend before last. April 25-26, in Seoul. Naturally, I was ready to leave some bodies in the streets in my quest to see them live.

I enlisted one of my Korean co-workers, Ara, to help me, and we made plans to go to a Starbucks and buy the tickets. But that didn’t happen; another friend recommended a PC Bang (bang=baang=room, aka what we would probably call an internet cafe), where the internet connection is super fast due to all the people playing MMORPGs and trolling the respawn, Jeremy. We planted among the horde of unwashed college guys screaming creative curses while playing “League of Legends” (also known as just “LOL” here) and pulled up the ticket-buying website, G-Market. Ara and I looked like totally out of place with our work clothes and ovaries.

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We pulled up a clock and the website and then proceeded to fight thousands of other people for seats. By that I mean that EVERY SINGLE ONE we clicked on that was free, disappeared immediately? Our conversation was “yes!” “gone” “none” and “ahhhhhhh…” Finally after about 15 minutes, we found one on the 3rd floor and we were both shouting “BUY BUY BUY” among the curse-hurling, ramen-eating college boys. I was elated: it was really happening.

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I spent the next 2.5 weeks preparing emotionally and physically for this concert: bought train tickets, booked AirBNB, and purchased an external battery so my iOS stuff could just keep going and going and going. Friday, April 24 couldn’t come fast enough–so I jumped on the train with a dream and a cardigan (a yellow one. The cardigan. Not the dream).

I arrived in Seoul and made my way to the AirBNB and had some potato wedges and take-out beers whilst watching kids screaming for their mothers across the lake at Lotte World amusement park. I found myself waking up at 7:30 the next morning to start the process of sexy-ifing myself. Which of course took less than 5 minutes. You know what Tae and I are about.

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I headed over to Olympic Park early to get in line to pick up some merch for friends and found myself in line for 3 hours…alone…surrounded by Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese speakers. It was a multicultural love fest of sharing umbrellas and interacting on Twitter with other shameless BB lovers.

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After the line came some lunch, then waiting, more waiting and then finally, I got in line as we heard the thumping bass sounds of dress rehearsal. We got in and I found my nosebleed seat on the 3rd floor, section 33, #231.

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And then, at 6:34pm, April 25, the BigBang 2015 Comeback began.

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Glorious, dorkery. And then I went back the next day, to suffer through standing, pushing, rib-cracking, fainting women for a chance to see these idiots’ faces.

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Notes:
-standing area tickets are like volunteering to be tribute to die in the arena but there are no hot Hemsworths. I have never been so sweaty for a non-sport event, ever. It was like a sauna that you paid obscene amounts of money for. I saw at least 10 people lifted out of JUST MY SECTION for fainting.

-Their video teasers and filler videos were AMAZING. I was so impressed; the Sergio Leone vibe was strong in music, in the look and style and the Tarantino influence was tangible and awesome. I would just flat-out buy the music from them. So impressed.

-YG Entertainment does not play around with photos/video. I had the girl next to me pulled the first night and they deleted all her photos/videos and let her come back. Another girl on Twitter said she got pulled from standing and was forced to delete everything AND kicked out. That said, I felt for our section’s security guy, who was jumping on the barrier screaming in Korean to put our cameras down. I wanted to pat him on the back like “you tried, bro. There was no stopping us, but we know you tried. Nyah, nyah nyah.”

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-The concert was awash with their hits; opening with “Fantastic Baby” and running through “How Gee,” favorites like “Haru Haru” and “Cafe” as well as the VIP anthem, “Lies.” Each member did a 1-song solo stage (with the exception of Seungri, who had 2 songs/a mashup) and I got to dance along with people who knew every.single.lyric.

-you really can see all of their faces and joy watching fans sing along with them. It really was cool to see them respond and point at people, to throw water on fans and towels and then take their mics away to hear us sing *their* lyrics back to them.

-These idiots are hilarious and put on a huge, big, insane show, and I am so, so glad I went. I know it was a lot of money, but I tried to remember–when am I ever going to do this again?! Thanks to everyone on Twitter (@alyssa_bailey), Snapchat (baileysayswhat) and Insta (@a_bailey) for the love and translations! Until whenever, VIP nerds.

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PS: Taeyang. Stop trying to steal me from TOP, you thankful little shit. King of fan service, indeed.

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Pre-Grieving

I should be home by now. In fact, I’m sure my coworkers are already snug in their Woobang nests. Instead I got off downtown for 2 fake errands…and I can’t really tell you why I did it.

I guess I’m starting to get nostalgic.

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Which…is dumb, because I’m still here, right? I have over a month to go. It’s like I’m pre-grieving someone or something that hasn’t died yet. But I feel it slipping through my fingers. Another week went by, then another, and another and it’s already almost the end of April.

I’m sitting in a cafe I’ve never been in that has open-air windows and I’m on the second floor, overlooking one of the busiest intersections downtown. Couples, kids, couples with kids, college students in letterman’s jackets (although I couldn’t tell you what on earth they lettered in), high school kids in their dark colored uniforms, and the occasional sore thumb foreigner walking by.

The weather is gorgeous, 68 degrees (20 for y’all metric/celsius normals) right now, at 7:44pm. There’s a slight breeze and there’s lights everywhere still. I’m facing another coffee shop (sans open-air windows, BOO), and I see 2 no, FOUR cellphone stores from my vantage point. Is it creepy to people watch this much?

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I think 98% of all the dudes walking by are drop-dead beautiful. I wonder if I will find Korean guys so heart-stoppingly lovely when I’m not surrounded by them 24/7. Sorry, all Korean guys. I’m watching you. You’re gorgeous. Don’t worry about stereotypes. If someone doesn’t want you or doesn’t like “Asians” then they are the idiots, not you. That said, try not to be dicks to women about their weight/looks (not that you all do that). It’s ok if you’re not into a certain type; just say someone’s not your style. Don’t be an asshole and point out exactly what it is. You’re not all Kim Woo Bin either. And if you *are* Kim Woo Bin, just. Message me. I’d like to punch you on the shoulder like a 8-year old boy on the playground and pull your pigtail and shout “I LOVE YOU” and then run away and tweet about our moment forever.

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I’m eavesdropping on all these conversations right now. I understand zero of them. I’m sitting with one headphone in and frantically typing this nonsense, looking busy. I look totally professional, right? RIGHT? I wish I could understand; I pick up words and verbs here and there but I’m like level 1-2. I know, I’ve been here 2 years and my Korean is still shit, despite all the kids being like “TEACHER YOU KOREAN SPEAK WELL” and my frantic “Shhhh don’t let a Korean adult hear that I”m talking Korean to you in class” mode.

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I’m so deep into pre-grieving that I’m looking into grad schools in Seoul despite the fact I’m A) definitely going to Chicago for at least a year to study at Second City Improv and B) I don’t even know what I would *want* to study. I’m all “I would maybe spend thousands of dollars on that major, sure, or maybe that one,” which obviously makes a lot of sense.

I hate this part. The tearing apart part. I put it off for so long that I pretty much just bleed when it happens. There’s no slow tapering off. It is violent and gross and I’m kind of worried how I’m gonna be those first few weeks back. Leaving Arkansas…I mean, it’s been two years and I still miss most of them with all of me. I sent them dorky care packages full of weird makeup samples and even weirder socks, and they returned the favor. Sure, the magic of technology keeps us tenuously connected, but it’s not the same. And I’m going to miss THESE idiots (lovely idiots) fiercely. I’m already planning on spending my weeklong Philippines vacation next month just sitting in an hammock writing thank you/goodbye letters to everyone (and that’s a lot of everyones). Or maybe I’ll just kidnap you all and put you in my suitcases. I’ll poke air holes.

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I know in my sad, sad, banana strawberry smoothie-filled heart that its time to go, though. Today I was walking to class and one of our Korean staff leaders asked me to take part in a group picture that I had no part of. In that, I didn’t know nor was I interacting with this tour group all day, they just wanted a foreigner face in their group shot. And I got so…angry. Just immediately, 1-60mph/96kph anger. We jumped over irritation immediately. In the past, I wouldn’t have minded. And I wasn’t having a bad day; I was doing ok. I was just immediately DONE. It was like “do you not see me walking to class? Do you think I must just be free since you see me?! WHO DISTURBS MY WALKING SLUMBER?!” And of course my customer service self said “sure” but when I walked away after the picture I looked at our Chinese intern and we both made the most irked bitch face at each other about it. And 20 minutes later, our photographer is in my classroom for 5 minutes taking “action shots” as I have a rude posse of 6th-graders ignoring me and I almost asked him to leave (super faux pas) before I yelled in Konglish.

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DGEV has been a good part of my life the last 2 years. I’ve learned a ridiculous amount of slang/Korean and met wonderful people both Korean and foreign, I’ve learned that I can handle just about anyone for 45 minutes and that I’m ok in front of crowds of people I don’t know. I didn’t think it was possible after working retail, but I’m even more comfortable introducing myself to seriously, anyone. Bus, street, doctor’s office, doesn’t matter–there’s always someone in your face asking “where are you from?” since the answer clearly isn’t “here.”

In a glorious way, I’ll probably never be rude to an immigrant again. Not that I think I was…I just now would have more grace with people. Being an immigrant/non-native you guys–it’s like pulling your skin off everyday. You’re putting yourself in an uncomfortable environment BY CHOICE and saying “I will make it work and I will become a better person through this.”

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I’ll never forget in my last 2 weeks at the fruit retailer, a guy came in and asked for “Opis.” I was like, “I’m not sure what that is, can you repeat it?” “Opis, OPIS.” *thinking* “Is it an acronym? I can google it for you” and he’s frantic, loudly saying “OPIS OPIS for computer, OPIS” and I’m like “can you spell it for me I must be doing this wrong” and he then turned and his eyes lit up when he pointed at a yellow box on our shelf that said “Microsoft Office.” A half-second later I realized, having read Roy-Gene’s post about f/p sounds for Korean ESL learners (wherein he found out that his hospital Visa visit “check finished” was definitely not “check penis”) that this guy was Korean and just wanted Microsoft Word and I was just in the way.

I cannot tell you the THOUSANDS of Korean people who have had buckets, mountains of grace with me. I accidentally swear in Korean, I mispronounce, I use the wrong level of honorific (or none at all) and they are unending in grace. They laugh at my bad jokes and over exuberance at K-Pop. They try their best to use English with me and walk me far, far out of their way to help me get where I’m going (even if I just got lost around the corner). They help me buy tickets and text cute boys and box up my groceries so they won’t be squished on the bus. So helpful.

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Maybe I could have gotten away with more time here. Maybe I could just change jobs and stay in Daegu. Or make the big leap to Seoul and do comedy with some of the Stand up Seoul people there–who are equally awesome. Maybe. But right now, I know that DGEV has been a good chapter, but the DGEV chapter just has a few pages left.

I don’t have words for how nervous I am about this Second City chapter. It’s scary and weird and what if I can’t make it in America anymore? I might now be as funny as many of you have said, but I want to try. I want to be a shriveled up, awesome old woman in sequins saying at least I tried it and didn’t wonder “what if”—OH MY GOD I just want to be Betty White, don’t I?! Well, that just clicked. But anyways, improv…I think it’s like Korea. I’m throwing myself somewhere uncomfortable and saying “I choose to make this work for me and I will become a different, better person through it.” Or at least look cool while trying.

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You are not perfect, Korea. Nowhere is. But you have been very, very good to me. You’re trusted me with your children, with your time, with a very lovely sum of money. You write English on your signs for me and smile when you see me like I’m someone famous. You’ve let me eat your food, blog about you and fall in love with your people. Thank you. I mean, I doubt Park Geun Hye would read this, and if she did, that it would mean much, but it’s been very, very good, and I’m grateful.

I’d like to come back sometime. If you and Kim Woo Bin would have me.

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Thingamabobs (you know, I got 20).

In the words of my Korean non-husband (WHO IS HAVING A COMEBACK ANNOUNCED TODAY), “long time no see long time no see.”

Here’s what you missed in the last 4 months on “Glee:”

  • Pizza Hut is the husband I tried to cheat on with McDonald’s, the evil, non-delivering, dicks and yet Pizza Hut lovingly takes me back like Hosea’s wife and delivers me gorgeous, glorious pizza with no trauma or difficulty or Korean. Website here
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  • me trying to teach kids how to say “freckles” and explaining it in Korean only to discover I’ve been saying “줄넘기 (julnumgi aka jump rope) instead of “주근깨 (jugeunggae aka freckles)” FOR MONTHS. MONTHS. “Hey kids, look at all the cute jump ropes ON YOUR FACE.” Not nightmare-inducing at all, I’m sure.
  • getting into an existential crisis about how I’m now Korean 29 years old (read this for why) and I’m like one foot in Ms. Havisham territory despite the fact I TURNED 27 JUST 3 MONTHS AGO. I’ve slid over into the mental block of being 29 and I can’t claw back out.
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  • doing one of those quizzes where you put your music on shuffle and answer questions to only get “This song describes how you will die: Too Much Food-Jason Mraz” and “This song will play at your wedding: Rollin’ Home Alone – Jason Lytle” which is unacceptable and hence I’m never playing again because my iTunes is clearly out to get me and artists named “Jason” are dicks.
  • met a guy from Bellingham who went to Sehome High School on my birthday in Seoul at a random, hole-in-the-wall bar and he kissed me on the cheeks 3x as he told me to smell a fir tree for him when I went home (I did).
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  • I’ve been writing down my dreams and you guys, you should all try this. There are some real gems, such as “at one point I reached up and touched his right bicep as part of the dance. then we took a weird group photo where someone sat on me and i was their legs. ” as well as “i was at first on horseback and we were like, trying to catch a old murder/solve on a and were riding down the hill behind the now food pavilion in lynden. […] then other people came and i fake slit my own throat and laid down in the water and watched what they did.” Just…even weirder things going on in my sleep, guys.
  • I need to throw out a shoutout to O’Fallon Brewery for spotting me a 6pack, and my former co-worker John Mitchell for draggin it over halfway around the world. I told none of my other fiends about this because you best believe I gollum’d those real hard and told NO ONE MY PRECIOUSES WHEACH BEER JUST FOR ME.
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  • Just was gifted some gummy bears from a student and the bag said “made with real fruit juice” and let me tell you that is a nightmare waiting to happen. I used to work on a raspberry harvester and when the season is done and limping out with its’ tail between it’s legs, that’s when you do “juice” barrels (or some farms just do juice only). If you’re lucky, there’s a sorter sitting there throwing out the weirdest stuff (dead birds, worms, plastic bread ties, mold, unsolved CSI mysteries), but usually, there’s not. They are literally pulling blood from whatever turnips (raspberries or whatever else) go across the belt. So the next time you see “made with real fruit juice,” you better start hoping you get one of the *good* superpowers.
  • Saw my first Korean celebrity, “God of Asia” Lee Min Ho, when I went to H&M for a pair of leggings and emerged empty-handed to about 250 people outside the doors looking expectantly towards the black, heavily-tinted bus in the street. I grabbed a passing Korean girl and, gesturing at the bus, asked “누구세요?” (who is it?) and when she replied I shouted “진짜?!” (REALLY?!) in her face like a grown-ass woman clearly in control of her faculties. And let me tell you, it is unfair for him to actually be so good-looking in real life. There is some weird juju going on there. anigif_enhanced-buzz-14966-1389606273-34 vs IMG_0592
  •  Had an impromptu 8.5-year high school reunion when I was home and everyone is married to everyone else’s somebody and half of the people are showing baby pictures and it was great. Beer and people you used to be afraid of sharing bottomless fries with you is just magical. Also, when you see a guy that 16-year old you had a huge crush on and 27-year old you is still like tumblr_lu5jnkcTFs1qd3x44 then you know it’s time to go before you embarrass yourself and his mom (hi Leslie!).
  • I have less than 2 months left in Korea. I know. It’s weird. I’ve decided to go ahead and pursue a year (at least) of Second City improv comedy training in Chicago. Yeah, dreams! I can’t even tell you exactly what I’m going to do with it, but unless I want to be a shriveled up “what if” grandma wondering about it…I’m going to do it now, before the aforementioned fake Korean husband locks this down. Classes start August 17 and before then I’ll wrap up Korea life, travel to 3-4 Asian countries (Japan, Philippines are locked, possibly also Thailand, Cambodia and/or a Vietnam, China) and then be home for a couple of weeks, Tulsa/Little Rock for a week and then the great migration to the Windy City around August 1.

I’ll let my spirit animal, Adele, close us out.

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Thailand.

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At exactly 6pm everyday all Thais stop moving and stand still. They do not talk. They do not blink. Having had ZERO warning about this, I naturally assume 3 hypotheses: 1) Rapture: ruled out because all their clothes were still on, also, bodies still here. 2) Doctor Who/Torchwood aliens-are-on-our-frequency/Children of Earth: ruled out because no one started talking with alien voices demanding blood or nukes or kryptonite. 3) Someone just hit puberty and their X-Men power is stopping time for JUST Thai people, not foreigners.

Unfortunately, as it turned out, the Thai national anthem plays at 6pm and all Thais have to stop moving and walking and like stare straight ahead until it’s finished. Me and the 2 other foreigners I could see just gingerly stepped around the Thais and made wary eye contact saying “WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING HOW IS IT NOT AFFECTING US” in eye language. Then they just suddenly started walking again and it was back to normal…BUT FOR THAT 34 SECONDS IT WAS TERRIFYING.

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>>>>

Thailand is booze and cheap souvenirs and cheaper viagra and hookah and ladyboys and studying and river and lights and more studying and then teaching and street food and good people and sweat and muay thai muscle and cabaret and magic. This is Thailand.

It’s hard to wrap up the 4 weeks in words, but here’s a video link below to get you started. I rode on the back of a bike, got a (reputable) Thai massage, walked where Bradley Cooper has (State Tower: Hangover 2) and got to meet the most awesome people from all over this earth. It was hot and humid as Hades (I imagine) and I didn’t once feel like I was gonna get murdered or robbed.

I can’t wait to go back and be a proper tourist: temples, tigers and sand between my toes. See you soon, Thailand. ขอบคุณค่ะ

PS: A CELTA wrap up post is coming!

The Long Overdue Wrap Up Of A Whirlwind Week In The West

Let’s get in our Tardis and jaunt on back to the week of June 20-28, when…too nerdy.

A month ago, I spent a week back in the states…too boring.

#MURICA. JUNE 20-28. (THAT’LL DO PIG, THAT’LL DO)

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So I got to go to my various homes and here is that story.

**For best experience, play song**

I hopped in a plane at TAE with a dream and no cardigans, off to Seoul for 9 hours. How did I fill those 9 hours? GREAT QUESTION, YOU DIDN’T ASK! There is a jjimjilbang (Korean spa) in the bottom floor of the airport and I went down there to explore and paid less than $10 to sleep for 5 hours and soak in the hot/cool baths. If you remember my previous naked jjimjilbang horror story from last summer, don’t worry: this was nothing like that. I mean, there was nakedness, but no emotional/physical scarring. Just blissful sleep on a hardwood floor and solo soaking. I didn’t see another soul near me the whole time. Incheon Airport earns my vote for best.airport.ever.

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I then slept fitfully through about 11 hours of flight until I landed in God’s glorious green Promised Land: Western Washington via Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. I squealed as I hugged my mom and two sisters and we (almost) all went on a mutual pee break before starting the drive back to Chez Bai(ley).

Upon arrival at the Nest, I discovered my dad, our dogs, and my Nana’s homemade Raspberry Pie. And although my body didn’t know what time or day it was, my stomach started hyperventilating at the thought of real, Washington raspberries (I left last year before raspberry season and it almost killed me [y’all know my blood was almost exclusively Diet Coke, raspberries and David’s Original Salted Sunflower Seeds before Korealand]).

I spent 4 sleepy, blissful days with my family at home: going on a lunch with my Dad at Boundary Bay Brewery and exploring a farmer’s market after which my dad proceeded to disobey me and keep snitching the artisanal whole wheat sourdough bread we got for dinner. Belated Mother’s Day (and early Brianna birthday) pedicures lady-times, steaks and lasagna and just lazy, jet-lagged, 4am happy-for-a-Keurig moments with the people I love and who put up with me living far, far away.

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**view from the end of our driveway**

THEN THERE WAS YOU, ARKANSAS.

From SEA>PHX with Brianna then PHX>LIT solo, then I was back in the land of Sonics, sweet tea and hogs fans. I was wearing shorts (I know. I flew in shorts. I wear shorts now, thank you boxing) and a tshirt and just felt like everything in life was clicking back into place as I hugged Michael, was gifted a nice, cool can of Diet Coke and we headed to the place where I cried, sweated and loved: The Apple Store.

And there you all were.

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The cool tones of the heavy tables, the immediate straightening of iPads that my fingers couldn’t stop caressing, the dulcet tones of indie-pop and cobalt tshirts. Oh, yes, and the people. My husband, the Bearded One, rustled out of his perch of power; the now ear-pierced Trace, my host and stylist; Abs, who although he had promised me his voice would startle me when I returned TOTALLY STILL STARTLED ME; and Lisa and Rampage and Everett (update: still smells like I imagine Jake Ryan smelled outside the church with Molly Ringwald) and Jonathan and Patrick and and and and all of you. God, everyone. Even if I didn’t like you, my heart was so happy to see you. Even if I met you that day, I was so, so happy. I forget how a place becomes a home. And while Arkansas is gracious and accepting, the people that work at that Apple Store are in a special class of magic. Thank you guys for molding me, loving me, and most of all, for missing me. I only teared up once. Or twice. Counting is irrelevant.

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Look at these gorgeous people. Such family. Much love. We Ross shopped, Birks shopped, strange-drag-white trash-awesome-shopped, we ate (Chipotle, Damgoode Pies, Shipley’s Donuts, Whole Hog)…and I just cannot say enough about these people. I am most myself around them. I want to be better and aim higher and laugh more and make them laugh. I don’t really feel worthy of them all missing me, but then again, that’s what I think a friend-family is. They have seen me cry and grow and fail and win and cry again and hopefully there is a time where we will all be in the same place again together and continue doing that.

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OK, no more sad sad, onto Tulsa!

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There’s truly no better way to start off a road trip than with Shipley’s Donuts. In fact, I just called Ruth Bader-Ginsberg and we stamped that into law. You’re welcome.

Michael and I began the drive to Tulsa and talked and laughed and I cried and we listened to music and it was strange, doing it again a year later, in the same car and same drive and just a better life place. For both of us.

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We wanted to swing by the revamped Woodland Hills store, so I alerted the local paps and got this reply, which is hands-down “Why I Love Jeff Smith 101.”

 

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After more hugs and intros and people I also love, I hugged Michael goodbye again in Tulsa and strutted into the Mayo Hotel as the very classy doorman (bellhop?) let me weep a little on the marble floor and 9-floor-long elevator ride behind my huge sunglasses.

Thus began 36-hours of wedding: rapid 20-minute change into dress, new birks, some semblance of make-up and jump into a huge truck to the rehearsal dinner.

Sister Act.

Sister Act.

Then the next day, I got to sleep in a little and go do mini-boxing workout (already out of shape from 1 week of non-jump roping…) with Dad as the other Bailey ladies had to go and sit for their hair/makeup preps. I spent the morning sweating, then drinking fantastically strong coffee, going on a long walk around downtown Tulsa with my Dad and talking about life. I’m really glad I had no data on my phone this trip; it really made me want to wring every drop out of being with my family for such a short time. And being able to just SIT and watch dogs in fountains and drink water and talk with my Dad was priceless.

We then hoofed it back to the hotel as I showered and started my relatively simple get-ready process, watching Alien on my laptop as I curled my hair, my Dad yelling out plot points from the other room. I snuggled on my dress and off all 5 of us went to the trolley. YES, TROLLEY! to the church.

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The beautiful thing about being family and yet not in the wedding party was a) not buying a dress, b) not doing that all-morning in a suite getting ready thing, and c) relaxing, having no job.

Oh, everyone has to take pictures? Haha, not us!

Oh, everyone has to take pictures? Haha, not us!

Then we laughed, we danced, we sang, we ate, we danced some more and Jordan and Luke were married. I shoved everything into my suitcases…which surprisingly had a lot of room left HAHA WAIT FOR THAT IN THAILAND HAHAHAHAHA…and slept for 3 hours before going to start the next leg of the journey: TUL>DFW>ICN (no spa this time)>BKK.

Thank you beyond measure to my families in Washington, Little Rock, and Tulsa. You lighten my soul and I will be back in two shakes of my two sizes smaller butt.

Until then…

anigif_enhanced-28447-1402951723-13…in Bangkok.

 

 

I Promise This Post Only Mentions Miley One Time.

Wow. Been awhile, yeah? Having just passed my 11-month anniversary here in Korea-land, it’s getting harder to write about the everyday. While I still like this place, it’s not all LOOK ANOTHER INSANELY CUTE COFFEE SHOP and OH MY GOD THESE PEOPLE ARE TINY I AM SHREK and ANOTHER TEMPLE?! everyday. Because that is true everyday and my head (and yours) would explode if I wrote about it weekly. Or monthly.

Really, what I have now is mostly emotions, which Roy-Gene has told me that no one wants to read about. How I feel about life. Love. (And other mysteries, am I right early 2000s Christian gurlz?!)

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Well, in things that have happened recently, I joined a boxing gym. I know. I will be looking very J.Lo in “Enough” with my tight, tan, Latin body in black Lycra any day now. Have I always been such a big sweat-er, you guys? I mean, I could wring out my clothes and hair every night leaving this place, which is just a 10-minute walk from my apartment. My co-worker Angela talked me into going with her, and I’m glad she did. Although I will confess that going to a Korean-speaking-only gym freaked me the heck out. Sometimes I just look at Angela (who is half Korean and brilliant), our 샘 (“saem” being the Korean shorthand for teacher) and two other Koreans in our class laughing in Korean and feel like the most brilliant ghost-pale, fish-out-of-water ever. Then again, sometimes I feel like a tall, unbeatable Amazon as the teacher chants “jab, jab, double jab, 1-2” and I beat the hell out of the training mitts.

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In sadder news, I’m sure many of you guys (I hope all of you) have no doubt heard about the absolutely horrifying ferry disaster here in Korea a couple weeks ago. It’s easy to think we’re removed from all that, but we’re not. If over 200 hundred high school kids had died in an accident in the states, you guys, we would be losing our shit. Sorry for the language, but it is overwhelming to think about children, CHILDREN really, with so much life to live, going out in this way. Something preventable. Something that could have been handled so different. Texting their parents from inside the ship as they’re trapped. It’s horrifying. And just as horrifying is the kidnapping of over 200 high school girls in Nigeria right now–parents not knowing if they’ll ever see their kids again. This ferry disaster has reverberated so much through the country; the government has actually forbidden all school trips until the end of first semester, which is the end of June.

Because the Village (DGEV, aka my workplace) is a week-long intensive immersive camp-like overnight experience, we’re included too. This has caused no small amount of problems as BAM, we have no students. There are teachers who have already been hired and ready to fly out here that had to be delayed by 6-8 weeks because there’s no kids to teach. We’ve still got a few Kindy programs (as they’re not overnight) and the occasional 1-day field trip and (THANK MY STARS) the Adult Programs as they’re exempt. But it leaves us with a lot of time on our hands to lesson plan, clean classrooms and create unnecessary drama, of course. Which I am *far* too classy to go into. Right now. Because I don’t really care about it and kind of want to talk about happier things.

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So, due to boxing taking up 7:30pm-around 10:30pm of my nights this past week…it’s safe to say that I’m spending a lot of time with these people. Angela, Irene (who has FANTASTIC English, and who’s Korean name is Da Som 다 솜) and No San (노 산 aka the Machine because this guy jump ropes for TWENTY MINUTES without stopping JUST TO WARM UP. Seriously. Before I knew his name I just called him “Machine” in English and Korean. His box jumps are like watching someone dunk from the free throw line. I’m in awe. And a little bit of unrequited crush on his skills.) We all worked out 5 nights this week, M-F, and then we went karaoking (karaoke-ing?) after working out on Friday. Do you recall me saying how sweaty I am post-workout? Still have NO idea why we went, but we left the gym at like 11 and went to karaoke, then drank makkoli (rice…alcohol? it’s sweet milky goodness served in like a Winnie-the-Pooh pot that you ladle out) and ate chicken and more alcohol. We got home around 3, comfortably drunk, still in said workout clothes…and I promptly woke up at 7:30. Stupid body clock.

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THEN THESE SELF-SAME FOOLS are all “let’s go hiking tonight” and I stupidly, stupidly agreed. I finally dragged my butt out of bed around 11 to have Roy-Gene and his plus 1 make me breakfast, went downtown on a ladies day with Brooke and got my nails done (I look like 12-year old Ke$ha did my nails) and headed home to get ready to go hiking AT 8:30PM AT NIGHT. Yeah, I think the alcohol was still in my system. Because the Machine is not hot enough to make me break a leg on a Korean mountainside in the dark (although I will confess that I *did* do my hair in a really cute ponytail and put on some winged eyeliner so sharp that it could cut glass) and I clearly had not thought it through. It hurt.

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It hurt. It hurt so bad, you guys. My toes. My calves. My butt. Things I didn’t even know were like, growing in my legs hurt. And of course all the Korean old ladies are trucking by with their murderous ski poles and professional hiking gear as I’m trying really hard not to alert everyone in a 5 kilometer radius that I’m sucking wind and am convinced that my lungs are going to like, invert or something. At one point I did legitimately wonder how they would airlift my body off this damn mountain.

And here’s the Sunday school lesson/point to the title of this post: mountains. And if this comes off super cheesy, I apologize. No, you know what? I don’t apologize. I really don’t. Because this here is my blog about my feelings and if you wanted out, I really doubt you made it this far. And if you did make it this far and don’t like this…well…

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Mountains are weird. All you can think when you’re climbing it, when EVERYTHING hurts is, “when will it be done?” “when can I rest?” “will it be worth it?” And you can’t really see anything through the trees. You’re all “oh look, a peek at the moon through these two huge branches” or “wow, I guess that’s *kind of* where I live with those lights?” but you’re not really getting a good look. You think about how other people are passing you and should *you* be going that fast? and do I look ok? can they tell that there’s a hole in these pants where my chubby thighs are rubbing together? or that other people are coming back down and you wish you were them and how happy they must be.

And then. Finally. When you least expect it (mostly because all the signs telling you how far you are happen to be in Korean so you really have no idea when the torture will end), you’ve made it. You’re at the summit. And it doesn’t hurt anymore. And you feel a little like crying but you can’t because it’s weird enough that you’re the only 2 foreigners on a Korean mountain hiking at night, you don’t need to be the white girl crying in front of Buddha, a couple hundred Koreans who are praying to said Buddha and the 3 people that you get messy sweaty with 5x a week. And my God, but it is gorgeous. The city is breathtaking. The air is different. The twinkling lights are a marvel as you look how far you’ve come and you can’t believe you made it. That you did that. Your two exhausted, sore legs did that. In the darkness. With a couple people you barely know. It’s so worth it. So worth the pain, the frustration, the not-knowing-when-it-will-end.

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And in that moment, I swear we were infinite–but that moment can’t last. You can treasure it up in your heart, but sooner or later you have to go back down the mountain. Which is somehow infinitely worse than climbing…because it’s so easy to slip and fall in the dark (even though the trail is quite well lit, it’s still a wet, stone set of unending stairs and gravity would still do it’s job). And if anything, you have to be more careful because you’re tired from your previous fight.

I just couldn’t help but think as I was on Palgongsan that half a world away, my younger sister, Brianna, was graduating from my alma matter, ORU, with her Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing with a crapton of well-fought honors and how we have to choose what mountains we are going to climb. She’s at the top of her justly-deserved mountain, and now has to climb back down and drive across the country (which I do not miss doing just a year ago with her; that is a DRIVE).

And because I’m me, I can’t help but think too about love. YES ITS BECOMING THAT POST. I remember the only other real hike I’ve done in my life, Church Mountain in my senior year of high school almost 10 years ago (OH MY LORD) and thinking the same things now as then. You can’t see when it’s gonna end. You can catch peeks at where you’re at, but it’s not the whole picture. An everyday occurrence in Korea is being asked your name and if you have a boyfriend. And it kind of wears on you over and over as well as being told the reason you don’t have one [SIDEBAR: S Club 7’s “Never Had a Dream Come True” just came on in this coffee shop and I really feel like I am in a rom com with Hillary Duff and like someone needs to come walking around the corner] is “because you’re fat. You know, you have a pretty face, but you’re fat. So, you’re not going to get one until that changes.”

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And of course, I’m working on that with the aforementioned Million Dollar Baby workout business because I’d like *for myself* to be fitter, but I’m trying to remember that someone quite fantastic has wanted me before, when I was just as heavy/big/”unappetizing” as I am now (although I have extremely slowly lost about 20lbs in Korea…somehow) and that’s important to remember. But love lives are a mountain, like anything. Suddenly, out of nowhere, you’re at the top and it’s worth the pain, the tears, the extremely present pain in your butt muscles and you’re incandescently happy, Mrs. Darcy. You can’t stay at the top forever, you’ve got to come back down with your sewing machine leg shakes and drive back to chimek, but still. You I *will* have more than just peeks at the view. There will be a mountaintop that I’m not expecting. And it’s going to be worth all this bullshit. I have to believe that whoever you are, you’re going to be worth it. With all your faults and weirdness, with all my strange quirks and emotional diatribes, I’m going to want to stare at you while you sleep and hold your hand in a movie theater and know how you like your coffee or that you hate coffee and love tea or water or 소주 and you really like my butt in pencil skirts BUT I will draw the line at feeding you because that ish is weird to me. [PS: S Club 7, you LIARS, no one has come around the corner but old people and babies]

And yeah, that’s strange to type on a public blog about my life and Korea, but hey, if you made it this far, you should’ve known. Because if I can’t believe that it’s going to be worth it someday, there’s really no point in climbing the mountain. I will give up. I will not even try. And that would take away a really essential thing that makes me me, and then I wouldn’t be me. SO META. I hope. I believe. I hate the pain and the burning and the futile, fleeting peeks at things, but I believe that the climb is so worth the journey and the top and the bottom and the in between of this life.

I’m going to cue up Miley’s “The Climb” and blow out of this coffee shop and trip in the crosswalk and not meet some hot doctor-type because right now, I’m climbing this mountain solo-style. You show up when you’re ready, 남친. I’m not waiting for you to live my life. I’ll just keep climbing and you’ll show up whenever you’re supposed to because my world is not defined by this mountain. It’s not defined by you. I’m still me, regardless of when you arrive. But damn, hurry up! My butt hurts.

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