Acting out.

I should write more often. But because I should, I won’t. I don’t. It’s been over a month now since my last post, and that’s ok. Things here at the Village keep on trucking; we’ve had a lovely and slow 3-4 weeks thanks to exams and grade changeover in the Korean schools. Most of us had the opportunity to co-teach with several different coworkers, giving some new insight and ideas into classrooms and management. I was most definitely blessed to see a big variety of classes and work with some of my favorite people and see how they run their classrooms, which is great. 

I’ve just signed here for my second year at DGEV, which will renew as of June 1. I’ve found a lot of happiness in teaching our university and adult students, and without further education on my part, I wouldn’t be able to do that at a university or college in Korea. I’m really honored to have the chance to lead the Adult Program with my 6-year partner-in-crime-and-chocolate, David Brown. He’s heading out April 1st, but he’ll get me up to speed and then we will have a large ceremony where he will transfer his power to me by the ritual passing of the sock puppet, a hallowed tradition. 

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On a personal note (I mean, clearly this website is all about me, so of course it’s all personal), I am positively chuffed (thanks Brit friends!) to say that I did my first real acting yesterday. After a power-course of rehearsal all day yesterday, Daryl, Nikki, Rae and I produced something beautifully insane and genuinely fun. We were one of 8 groups participating in the first ever Daegu 10 Minute Play Festival. Our story, “The Zister Sisters” was written by someone in the Carolinas, and depicts 3 strange sisters’ attempt to check their mother into a nursing facility. The youngest sister, Edith (Rae), is lovably, laughably lost, 20 and still waiting on her Hogwarts letter. Elaine (Nikki) is the middle sister, and hasn’t been home for 10 years–she’s currently sporting an English accent and some suggestive business wear. The oldest sister, Edna (meeeeee) is fed up with the fact that she has to care for their 86-year old mother, Edith, and herself, having just divorced Ben Isaacs, “a rich old one-eyed Jew man from Detroit” who cheated on her with the produce lady from the Piggly Wiggly. Hilarity ensues as the sisters clash and the director of admissions, Fleming (Daryl) tries to keep the peace. 

I thought I was going to mess everything up. All 3 of my castmates have done acting (Nikki was even in the Les Mis film, SHE SO LEGIT) and I was convinced I *was* the weakest link, goodbye, embarrassed that 10 of my friends from work paid money to see me ruin the thing. BUT I DIDN’T RUIN IT. It was funny and great and magical and I didn’t throw up and my voice didn’t shake and I love, loved hearing people laugh. It was like a superpower. I even got a message from a friend of mine who I really respect as a writer with a lovely, warm compliment and I’m just bursting. I’m so grateful to my friends for coming, for laughing, for buying me drinks after and most of all, for putting up with me. 

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(me, Rae, Nikki and Daryl)

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People I am lucky to call friends and work with (plus Marty and Elins, who came too)!

 

 

Pros vs. Cons vs. Chimek

Few things are more sacred in Korea than chimek. The ritual so awesome it got a celebrity mashup name, chicken and mecju (beer) is known pretty much the moment Korean kids enter the world through the portal of cuteness and stickers from whence they come. It’s super social and frankly, super awesome to have fried chicken and beer as plentiful as Starbucks in Seattle.  

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However…it’s not something you usually do alone. And here I am, solo white female wayguk (foreigner) on her laptop watching Dr. Who, having ordered a $16 basket of chicken and 500ml beer on my own. If I’m being honest, I only know of like 5 restaurants in Chilgok, and most of them are social-oriented. I haven’t really found places for people desperately alone…or maybe I’m just not looking and MAYBE I JUST REALLY WANTED CHICKEN, Y’ALL. 

I got off campus on the 2:20 bus thanks to the generosity of David Brown and 3/8 of my soul sold to the scheduling gods—hanging out with my friend Elins on the ride in as he tries to teach my brain how to not insult people in Korean—so I decided to hit up the CGV and see if there were any movies worth watching. After soothing my soul with the baby blue pools of peace that are Chris Pine’s eyes in “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” (sidebar: when have financial analysts ever been SO DANG HOT), I meandered over to one of my favorite Chilgok coffee haunts: Coffea Coffee. 

I like it for the cement wall atmosphere, not for the fact that the bathrooms are OUTSIDE and you need a passcode to get in them. I put off peeing for 2 hours until I was ready to eat my own arm off (and also ready to go into kidney shock or whatever [insert Brianna medical term]) and went. Way in…good. Wait 4 minutes as employee having smoke break is chatting on the phone in the stall…painful. Way out…APPARENTLY I SET OFF SOME KIND OF ALARM AND SO I JUST RAN. Yeah. Reaaaaalllly classy way to represent all foreigners: setting off the bathroom alarm in downtown ‘burbia. At one point I pretended to talk on my phone in Spanish. THE SHAME. 

Having run and following the whims of my stomach, I stumbled into Okkudok, gateway to chimek heaven and personal torment. 

Me: “Hi! Aanyong haseyo!”

Dude: “Aanyong haseyo.”

Me: “Uh, one. Hanna. Hanbyeong.”

Dude: (weird look)

Me: “One person. Solo.”

Dude: (holds up one finger) “…hanmyeong?”

Me: “Yes! Neh! Just…solo. Hanmyeong.” 

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Just so you are aware: hanbyeong means “one bottle,” so God only knows how that sounded. 

And then I walked over the bridge over Terabithia, into the Daiso, and bought DB a water bottle because I’m afraid his kids will all be mutated due to him reusing the same cheap, single-use plastic water bottle for the last 4 months and then sat my butt down at Starbucks, ordered a $5 tall vanilla latte and just planted. I’m about 10 minutes away from the bus, which comes in at 9:25 to go back to the commune. 

I totally didn’t start this one as a “let’s do a play by play of the most exciting Tuesday EVER,” but there it is. I started it to talk about my feelings about being 8 months in and needing to make some serious decisions about the future. But in classic me mode, I’ve put it off with rambling about the mundane for 40 minutes. 

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So at DGEV, you need to make a decision about renewing when you are 8 months into your 12-month contract. Which for me is February 1, aka about 10 days from now. In November/October I was convinced I wanted to go to Chicago in June for 4 weeks of training at Second City Improv. And while that’s still something I want to pursue, I’m not 100% convinced it’s the right step for right now. I…kind of like Korea, you guys. 

I’m sitting in a Starbucks and there’s…46 people that I can see in here and all of them are (or at least look) Korean. Not a single foreigner. And that doesn’t scare me. It’s…kind of normal. It’s kind of nice to sit and just listen to the static of not understanding other people’s conversations. And it’s not unlike that game on “Whose Line” where you can make up whole conversations that people are having based on their body language. 

I like the people I work with: Koreans, foreigners, whomever and I finally feel in my stride at work—I’m co-chair of the Adult Program with DB, I’m part of the Social Committee, I have free room and board and gym and heat and water and a HUGE bathroom all fo’ no’ moneys. I can probably name about 100 Korean words or terms, and can slowly sound out words in Korean and write them myself. Most importantly I have about 3 insults I can use, which is gold in any foreign language. 

I told one of my Korean friends that I was thinking about staying another year here and was really surprised when he said, “that is good…and bad.” I said, “Don’t you want me to stay?” “Yes…but you are sad.” GUYS. WHAT. I actually feel mostly happy and good (at least *decent*) at my job now and don’t curl up in a ball and weep missing you all most nights. But it’s totally taken me aback and I’ve been questioning it the last 9 hours. Which would probably freak him out knowing how much trauma that’s caused me. Am I sad? I don’t…think so? I don’t feel any more sad than I did living in Tulsa, or Little Rock. Sure, life is up and down and sometimes you’re in a relationship and it’s great or you’re in a relationship and you’re lonelier than when you’re single and you see couples everywhere and some days the job is magical and you teach an old person how to FaceTime their kid in Afghanistan and sometimes you’re screamed at because a rich, drunk 24-year old dropped his iPhone in the lake over the weekend and OF COURSE it’s your fault as the creator of the device itself and sometimes your students laugh and love you and sometimes they sleep and mumble about how you’re a fat waygookin and sometimes you fall asleep texting someone special and sometimes you fall asleep heart wrenchingly lonely, but that is the same anywhere, not just in Korea. So…what I’m trying to say is that I don’t feel exceptionally sad.

tl;dr that last paragraph: I *think* I’m not sad here. 

I kind of feel like I’m at the point of excitement and joy about Korea, learning Korean, and exploring things and people that I should have been when I arrived…it’s only taken me 8 months to get here. 

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BUS BUS BUS 

I love public transit here. Cheap, simple, reliable DEAR GOD WHY CAN’T I FOCUS WAS IT THE CHICKEN IT WAS THE CHICKEN, WASN’T IT.

OK, so, back to decision time. Let’s list it:

Pros vs. Cons

Pro: free room and board and gym and shuttle and wifi and utilities

Con: it’s kind of out in Egypt and is a real buzzkill on weekends to get into Daegu and meet non-work people

Pro: living overseas! Widening horizons! 

Con: sometimes you’re not really in the mood to stretch and it’s really frustrating, also, language is really difficult.

Pro: new people!

Con: you miss old people (old being relative) a lot. A LOT. Technology is a shallow representation, but kind of better than nothing. Insert clip of “Lonely” by Akon.

Pro: Cash moneys

Con: is there a con? I don’t think it’s corrupted my soul yet…

Pro: build up a resume of international work

Con: have no home base

Pro: Koreans are almost always awesome and loving and kind and funny, especially if you’re willing to try their language.

Con: Koreans are sometimes mean and very blunt and straight up rude to foreigners. 

Pro: re-signing another year means +$1000 bump in pay plus another round-trip airfare to anywhere. As well as a favorable look at my evaluation and potential annual bonus. 

Con: brain dislikes the idea of another year adrift with all things in 3 different states and 2 countries, as well as heartstrings snapping as I spend another year away from relationships. 

 So…clearly I’m not any closer to making a decision, but here’s where my brain is currently at: 

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Night Blogging Is For Idiots, And I’m One Of Them.

If you asked me what one of the stupidest things you could ever do is, night blogging would be in the top 5. Behind hotdog-eating contests, black tar heroin and Snapchat, #4 has got to be night blogging. #5 is probably texting and driving or something mundane like that.

We’re all so brave in the darkness, aren’t we? It’s why we love campfires and candlelight and sitting outside under the moon. Our secrets scurry back like roaches into our hearts when the sun rises or the fluorescents come back up.

Jetlag is kind of a bitch, you guys. I haven’t posted since mid-November and I thought I should squeeze one more in before I turn 26. Or in Korea, pre-28 (you’re like 1 when you’re born and then everyone gets a one-up mushroom on January 1st. So I was 1 for about 13 days and then turned 2). Lovely system, that.

When I first went to Korea I would wake up at 4am, then 5, then 6 until now I have to roll out of bed by 7:45 in order to shower, sprint into the caf, grab a piece of toast and setup my classroom by 9. Versus here where I’m going to bed at 12am, 2 and now 4am and sleeping later. Is it supposed to get worse before it gets better?

I got in bed at midnight, then decided to start watching “Gangster Squad” as it’s one of 4 movies in my iTunes I hadn’t seen (because I forgot to load new ones up, sigh), promising myself I wasn’t going to watch the whole thing. Good lie, self, it’s now 3am. So then I turned off the laptop (you sense foreshadowing, grasshoppers) and rolled around in the dark for 24 minutes trying to mentally write a letter and just getting more and more upset.

SO WHAT DO I DO?! I get up and sit down in my closet and go through bins of my old stuff from high school. What a perfect way to soothe your troubled, emotional, teary heart, huh? “Dang I looked good then.” “Why did I think that outfit was great for picture day?” “I wonder what happened to her?” “WHY do I have so many people’s senior photos?! And Tolo pictures from people I’ve never met?!” “I wonder how much weight I’ve gained since then; oh look, here’s my dresses hanging up in my closet…maybe…” no, no, I refused that. Mostly because I’ve tried it before while in college and I know if it didn’t work then it’s not working now.

Being home is weird. It’s not the first time I’ve said that either. I’ve now lived not-in-Lynden for 7 years. Tulsa, Little Rock, Korea—I’m making a wide loop around this little town. I know that everyone has that “I’ve-grown-and-I-don’t-fit-in-the-same-emotional-(and-physical)-shape-that-I-did-before-and-how-do-I-reconcile-adult-me-with-old-me-that-everyone-here-knows” dilemma. Which I’m sure compounded with attending my now-high school age younger sister’s basketball game tonight. The same court where I slid and sweated and laughed and cried and spent hours and days and years of my life on. To see my same coach. To see some of the same parents. To see old teachers. And strangely, to want to hide.

I love seeing my family, I don’t dislike the hard-working feel of this place, and there’s about 20 people I miss dearly here…but for the other 89% of you…if I look like I’m on the phone, I’m probably not. I don’t have a SIM card for this country no mo’. I just don’t know how to act around you.

It’s weird to think about turning 26 tomorrow and looking at my old ACT scores (31, y’all) and my sports tshirts and the smiling, makeup-less face of my younger self. What would she think? Am I happy? Did I think I’d be married? Did I think I’d have more stamps in my passport? Did I have any concept of what Facebook would be like? Would she be proud of who I’ve become? Let’s cut the shit—am I proud now? Am I happy?

I don’t know the answer. I can truthfully say I’m happier than I was 6 months ago. God, that move was difficult. And for as much training as I did with customers and coworkers at Apple, I was not prepared for Koreans (who are lovely, amazing, gracious people, but it’s different), for children, for “WHAT DO ALL THE SIGNS SAY” 100% of the time. You keep expecting there to be a relief but you’re living there now. The mission trip does not end in 2 weeks, dear.

I finally feel comfortable in my job. I know the right jokes, the right timing, the right mix of clownish foreigner and how much soju I can drink before spilling state secrets. I have now taught from 1st grade to 60+-year old government employees how to hopefully speak better English…or at least how to murder each other at dodgeball. I have Korean friends (I know! I haven’t scared them all away with my crazy!), and I can write my own name in Hangeul (unfortunately that is due to rote memorization and not because I have mastered the language).

In short, I’m comfortable. I’m 6.5 months complete of my 12-month contract. I have enough deodorant to last through the inevitable rise (and subsequent fall) of the Terminators, and enough Korean skills to not embarrass my school in public.

But having just crested and now starting the downhill slope of the summit begs the question: “What’s next?” There’s a finite end to this contract, unless I wanted to renew.

Options:

1. Move back to Arkansas, love all my friends to bits and have no idea what to do with my life/job but be very well-fed by Trace, well-entertained by Abs and well-loved by Beard and Co.

2. Enroll in Second City Summer Intensive for the month of June in Chicago, learn to act and write improv comedy for 4 weeks…then…dunnos…move to somewheres and hopefully implement said learnings.

3. Renew contract with DGEV or merp over to some other school and stay in Korea as a teacher.

4. Move back to Lynden/Whatcom Country and watch my sister continue to grow up and be gorgeous and amazing and being with my family and learn to cook and not be selfish and live far away and have no idea what to do with life/job but at least I would be with family. Maybe become a sports coach.

5. Pursue potential opportunities with tech-based IT consulting firm that hunted me down on LinkedIn and wants me to do Field Support work as a Mac/iOS technician for Facebook Korea (Seoul) or Facebook Australia (Sydney) and move to said places for at least a year.

6. Become a reclusive hobbit, wither, die, haunt you all as a Internet ghost. Marry Benedict Cumberbatch’s ghost and have tiny detective ghost babies and a pet pterodactyl.

The thought of going somewhere new and ripping my heart of out another place might just kill me. Truly. I’m still not over you, Arkansas. I love really deeply and I just want to give and love and find a home. When I decide you’re mine, it’s over. You all get down deep inside of my heart and though I hide it with snark and putting my face in my iPad, leaving is traumatic. It gives scars. Imagining that pain again, so soon, makes me having to consciously think happy thoughts and rock back and forth.

I open my heart and eyes and my arms to any feedback or comments anyone reading this might have, and thanks for listening. Especially you, Benedict Cumberbatch. We need to decide what to name the ghost babies.

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PS: Mom, I’m sorry, but I’m gonna need a Venti tomorrow/today.

Zen.

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After feeling slightly, lovingly chastised from my Nana last week as she told me how she checks for my blog every Sunday and I hadn’t posted, I’m back with a post about finding some tai chi or whatever, early on the posting schedule because I gots stuff to do tomorrow!

Myself and Marty, a newer teacher from BC, Canada, and I decided we were going to go and see Thor 2 last night. It would have been the second time for me and the first for him, but hey. Why pass up an opportunity to see Chris Hemsworth’s muscles and Tom Hiddleston’s pained looks?

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So off we went, and met up with Roy-Gene at HomePlus (Korean Walmart) after we discovered that Thor 2 didn’t play until 8:30, was 2 hours long and our shuttle left at 9:40 and neither of us wanted to pay $20 for a cab because we’d miss the shuttle just to see said muscles and faces. So we decided to go shop for irrelevant things (and yes, I can hear some of you saying, “but you’re a person with iThings! Why didn’t you just download an app or consult with the great and powerful Cupertino and know what time the movie played before you got there?! Well, little sassmouths, I tried and the CGV app is all in Hangul [Korean] and there is no option to switch it to English. Also my link with the mothership terminated on my last day. I can no longer predict iPhone releases or what size iPad is the best fit for you either, so there).

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After Marty and I had each bough a frivolous, excellent hat (mine makes me look like Amelia Earhart, I’ll selfie it soon) and rung out, the three of us decided to head back to the Donga/Daiso/Chilgok IC4 “aka our pickup by the shuttle” area. Having an inordinate amount of time and being relatively fit (read: have 2 legs, will walk), we all decided to walk along the river back rather than take a $3, 3 minute cab. You know, I would have been fine with the cab but heck, why not walk.

IMMEDIATELY these two take off at bat-out-of-hell-speed. I had just bought a donut and was totally fine with hanging back and eating it alone slowly, lovingly as the brisk November wind whipped through my greasy hair and the river babbled away on my left and older Koreans walked by me swinging their arms dangerously.

This past 2 weeks we’ve had some staffers from the University of Colorado: Colorado Springs (UCCS is the partner school with Yeungjin College for DGEV) visit, which they usually do about every 5-6 months. This time they brought a therapist, Dr. Field, with them to talk about resiliency in education for students and educators, which was a great topic and opened my eyes more to what motivates students and also how we can not all go crazy being here. I kid, I kid. Kind of.

I put off wanting to talk with her one-on-one for a week and then had a slight panic attack on Tuesday that she was leaving Thursday morning and I wouldn’t get to run my current dilemmas past someone who is a professional and might actually talk me out of my tree (which is a tall, knotty, difficult oak). She graciously agreed to meet with me and hear me out about life.

Guys. Therapy is such a weird word. Such a loaded word. Really all it is is just talking. Talking to someone who can help you untangle the rats nest you’ve made of your thoughts and memories and hopes and dreams and fears. I’ve gone in a couple times to talk with someone in Arkansas and it was truly one of the best decisions of my life. It was put best to me as “if there’s something up with your foot, you would see a doctor. No question, right? So if you’re worried or there’s something you need to talk out why wouldn’t you see a doctor?”

There is something wonderfully, gloriously freeing about telling a stranger who has no reason to root for you, no obligation to be in your corner all your life and having them look in your eyes and say “that’s a lot. You are allowed to feel overwhelmed. Your feelings are valid.” It’s like opening the doors at the end of Legally Blonde and walking into the whiteout.

It doesn’t solve everything (or sometimes anything) other than your own anxiety about being anxious about your feels. I want to just dump all the pieces of my life and push them across the table and then look up, hopefully, and say, “how do I put it together? What should I do?” But a therapist is neither a genie nor a toothless gypsy soothsayer. Unfortunately. That would be kind of awesome. But really, I don’t know how legit advice would be from someone who lives in a lamp or who is lacking in good oral hygiene.

Regardless, it was the 110% right decision. She even said “I think you’ve already decided what you want to do. Trust yourself.” I’m almost 6 months here, guys. 6 months of looking back to missing all of you in Arkansas and Washington and Oklahoma and 6 months of looking forward nervously trying to figure out “what am I gonna do?” And I’ve realized that with so much past and future that I’m missing the present.

Yeah. That was kind of cheesy. You may slap me 1 time the next opportunity you have. 1 freebie. But truly. I’m trying to think of things I’ve done here in 6 months and there’s so much more I wanted do want to do. And now it’s about to get cold as Jötunheimr up in this place and the opportunities for traveling and hiking are getting slimmer.

As I walked behind Roy-Gene and Marty, I realized that I didn’t need to speed up. If they wanted to walk fast, go for it. I’m walking along a river in Korea. IN KOREA. There’s maybe 3 of you reading this blog who will ever be able to do that. And here I am worrying about job opportunities when I get back in June, 6-7 months away. There’s a mammoth, gently-curving monorail being built along the river that makes all of the neon behind it look like the world Blade Runner was supposed to be. My donut was nothing like the Lynden Dutch Bakery nor Shipley’s (long may they prosper), but it was a donut. I’m healthy. I have legs that work. A threadbare NorthFace. Jeans without holes in the thighs (for now). Sturdy fake Converse that carry me. A comfortable bank account where I can buy faux-Amelia Earhart fur hats and peanut M&Ms and a random pomegranate. An iPhone that I can take pictures and capture my sights.

How unbelievably stupid and selfish to not breathe deep the crisp November smells of crackly, decomposing leaves; bow and whisper “anyong hashimnikka” to the Koreans getting their brisk walks on at 8:26pm; and just rest in the moment. This moment. This moment to remember and treasure and just be in. I don’t need to look forward nor back and miss out on being here. Just walk and tear off pieces of donut and breathe and take another step and be in Korea in this time and place and hop on stones across the river and swing my plastic bag and just smile. I’m happy. My heart is pulled in a lot of directions but it’s resting here. And here is blessedly, beautifully happy.

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40 Days and 40 Nights.

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This is why I don’t do journals. I skip a day, or a week or a month and now I’m all THERE’S TOO MUCH TO SAY WE MIGHT AS WELL CURL UP IN A BALL AND JUST EAT CHEEZITS AND WATCH DR. WHO, Y’ALL. I realized today on my countdown that there’s only 40 days and 40 nights (still not over you, Josh Hartnett) until I land in Seattle for Christmas. Apple pies, Diet Coke and family times!

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Ok. So its been almost a month since you heard these thought-to-word patterns (hold on I just remembered I have to message someone congrats on Facebook) and I’m back. 

This is what’s gone down:

  • Zombie play is complete! While it was a great ol’ time, I am exhausted and was ever so glad to rest up this weekend. I also fulfilled a lifelong dream of losing part of my voice as well as hanging out with some super-cool people. Next week is the 24-hour play festival and though I’m terrified as heck, I think I might try to write something. 
  • I got a phone. Well, to be honest, I took my unlocked iPhone 4 with me, but finally got a SIM and some service to call the friends I’ve made (you and I both know I made them all up, honestly). 
  • Celebrated 5 months in Korea on Friday–Steven and I both wore jean jackets to commemorate the fact that I viciously tweeted the following on the first day I met him: Image
  • Saw Thor 2 and fell madly in love with Tom Hiddleston all over again. Have barely restrained self from googling “tom hiddleston girlfriend” for now. FOR NOW, I SAY. Image
  • Dressed up all last week–thank you DGEV!–as zombie, Spider-Man, Ursula from The Little Mermaid (which confused the Koreans a LOT) and a vulcan from Star Trek (which REALLY confused them as they though my vulcan ears were “hobbits.”) Image
  • Visited an American military base, Camp Carroll, in Waegwan, about 20 minutes away. Is it possible to get anxiety attacks there? I was the only foreigner with 10 Korean adults on a field trip–and we’re all eating amongst a sea of American camo at Pizza Hut, Subway and Popeye’s Chicken. It’s really weird to see no Hangul (Korean) writing and to only hear so. much. English in one place. I felt like I wanted to say hello to the military people but didn’t because A) what would I say? and B) I don’t want them to think like 10 Koreans kidnapped me and are keeping me for themselves or something. 
  • I have had the most wonderful, sassy adult students this month and it gives me hope. The Ulsan City Officials group of 7 that were so high that we could have moralistic conversations in fluent English, the Daegu City Officials that all hugged me and tried to set me up with their sons–they’re so lovely and I miss them already. Image
  • Drank booze out of a ziploc bag at Bunny’s–it was magical and I can’t wait to do it again. 
  • Missed Apple peeps immensely as new iPad launched, Mavericks released and WHAT IS THIS iPHOTO AND iMOVIE UPDATE YOU GUYS?! 
  • Watched the amazing, breathtaking Colorful Daegu Festival 2013 parade and even made a video about it here! (sorry, no can embed) https://vimeo.com/78453759
  • Took a shameful amount of selfies that I can only 64% attribute to my Halloween costumes… Image

And now I’m heading off to bed to sleep and prepare for the next week of whatever. Maybe I’ll even shave my legs if I’m feeling adventurous, you know, for TOM’s sake (yes, I already googled it I have no self-restraint). See you in a week!

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SpiderPig.

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In which I spend the best $10 of my life but first talk about my feelings. I really like to make you work for it–believe me when I say this title is going to pay off by the end. You are welcome to savor it. (Above photo top left (TL): flying saucers and my toes, TR: just that everyday Korean life, BR: FaceTiming with the Dad for his birthday, BL: New less-than-$3 scarf that I never want to take off.)

Sometimes it takes a concerted effort to relax. I’ll notice that I’m walking really fast, but there’s no destination. I’m carrying a ton of stuff in a backpack, but I don’t even use half of it. I’m frantically searching for something to buy, but I don’t need anything. It’s interesting how the subconscious can work like that. I didn’t think “walk faster,” but I was. I didn’t need a new hoodie,” but I wanted and felt like I needed it. I’m no psychologist, but I find it interesting to shrink my own brain. I have to stop, say “slow,” and make myself see things. A new coffee shop. A sweater that, gasp, looks like it will actually fit me. A 40-minute sit alone on my laptop at the shuttle pickup, relaxing in the perfect weather at 8:22pm on a Sunday night.

Dang. I feel so good right now. I still miss all of you. I’m fracturing a little, into my horcruxes. There’s the me that misses all of you and still sometimes cries at the 2 months until family time and unknown amount for the rest of you. That’s harder, the not knowing. I learned that after college. Once I started working for Apple, there was no guaranteed Fall Break, Christmas, Spring Break, etc. Every time you said goodbye you didn’t know when the next hello would be. It’s easy to ‘x’ off days, but when there’s no finite number, it is overwhelming. As millennials (that sounded even more pretentious then I thought it would), we often make our friends into family. I think that’s especially true for those of us that move far from our family–while they are irreplaceable, someone must hold that position of accountability and unconditional love in your life that you can see everyday, so we create new siblings and forge new bonds that feel almost as strong as blood.

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And there’s also new me. Who is old me, who all of you know, but who is Korea me. I can get somewhere and the language barrier is a scalable thing. I can take buses, subways, transfers, cabs, trains–and still get home, safe and by myself. I can buy new things without hating the cost (as much). I mean, I’m not throwing it out there, but it’s nice to flex for a $20 pair of shoes. Which I just did. I’m not afraid to ask for help from a kid, an adult, another foreigner, the internet. Apple taught me that. There’s always going to be specs and products and adapters and How To’s sort of things I don’t know–Google is my best friend. And if not, a big “I’m stuck” smile and a polite “mien hanmida? (excuse/pardon me?)” is gold.

I don’t hug as much, which is really weird since I definitely consider myself a hugger. You can always ask for hugs, but that feels unusual. I can also offer hugs, which is fine. But I miss Mom cuddles and Dad hugs and Lisa squeezes and Everett long hugs. Those ones where I know you’re coming out of your love at me and I don’t have any choice or social reason where I get to refuse. I’m just getting loved out of your overflow and swimming in happy.

Sometimes I don’t miss you guys. And that’s a strange feeling. I’m just sitting here on my laptop feeling very “I am a 25-year old, self-sufficient American woman living in Korea and today, I’m doing ok. I’m doing the damn thing and I’m not failing at it and my heart isn’t shattering anymore.” There are times when I think about staying another year. And there’s times where I think DEAR GOD JUST PLEASE LET ME GET TO THURSDAY, I CAN COAST TO FRIDAY FROM THERE IS IT THURSDAY YET WHY IS IT ONLY TUESDAYYYY?!?! It’s not a decision I have to make soon. I’ll be home for 2 weeks in December, and I don’t have to make the great renewal decision until I think around January 1st. Start preparing your arguments, “yedera (you guys).”

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Sidebar: You know what’s great about Korea? There is (knock on wood) like no crime. I’m sitting outside a building–a car dealer, I think–in a city the size and density of New York, eating a banana and typing on a $2500 Mac. And no one is bothering me. They walk or ride their bikes on by, savoring the last few hours of the weekend and the glorious, just-enough-wind weather. Couples holding hands and walking slowly, groups of adolescent boys in tracksuits and blindingly bright running shoes shoving each other and laughing, pairs of girls with one earbud in each giggling and all of them fantastically themselves. I’m pretty content in this moment…except the part about sitting on a granite step. That is starting to get a wee bit concerning.

Let’s see, my day, my weekend, my week: I’ve been participating in the Night of the Living Dead production with the Daegu Theatre Troupe and it’s been pretty fun. I’ve met some great people who have opened my eyes to thrift store shopping in Daegu–just you wait until the reveal at the end of this, where I spent the best $10 EVER–and took me around to find where ladies of the night buy their hair extensions, for you know, *science.* We had play rehearsal both Saturday and Sunday, which was a little draining to get out from the village and stay out until the 9pm shuttle both days since it’s an hour-long trip each way and you’re dependent on a bus that only comes back at 3 and 9pm. But I got to get some great food–even Indian!–and hang out with Jill, who I met at DTT auditions and is one of my favoritest people here, as well as a shopping buddy now!

I’m at the bus so early because I fast walked/trotted over to the “saucers,” which are apartments with what I can only assume as helipads on them that are brightly lit at night–They’re actually apartments called Centro Palace and are a pretty well-known downtown icon at night (see top left in the above photo), but I prefer alien saucers, don’t you?–to meet up with a lady seller (that didn’t quite come out right…) to buy a romper. At night. In the dark. But don’t worry, “Korea Me” is super confident and kind of intimidating since I’m bigger than 89% of the population, so it’s all good. We found each other and I bought a romper! Don’t worry, Trace, it’s not all bad. It’s quite cute, although it’s sleeveless and might need a cardigan A) because the weather is getting cooler and B) it is scandalous as hell to have bare upper arms/shoulders in this country (and if I’m being honest, C) because I don’t really like my upper arm/shoulder area…).

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Now I’ve slowed my roll on over here to sit, eat a banana and enjoy the rest of my night here, which should last another 14 minutes. I keep forgetting to download this time lapse app that Carp showed me to record with; I want to just set it in the window of the bus and show you the night colors. Some things about Asia are exactly what you’d think: lots and lots of neon and bright night lights, cutesy animal icons and strange logos.

Guys, I kind of want to try on the romper. I’m in leggings, red Toms shoes, black slouchy hat, glasses and red Star Wars tshirt (which another guy in the theater troupe was wearing today. Of all the shirts in all the world from all the Target men’s sections, it had to be on both of us. On the same day.). Oh the bus just arrived and saved me from the shame. ON THE BUS and there are only Koreans. I think every possible village guide and Korean YJC-Chilgok student is on here. There are no teachers–which is weird, considering how many of us got off downtown at 3, but this is the only bus back since then. Either someone with more experience is teaching them one of about 3 ways back or they are about to spend a lotlotlot of money on a cab home (about $30-40).

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Ugh. Bus typing is not nearly as much fun. 1, there is no beautiful weather enclosed in the bus and 2, the jostling makes typing a little difficult. However, I will say my butt is at least marginally happier off the granite.

This is so rambly. But of course, if you know me and you’re reading this, it doesn’t surprise you. I just jump around, jump around, jump up jump up and get doooown (insert music break). Speaking of music, I’m really into Lorde’s entire “Pure Heroine” album right now. She looks kind of odd and watching her perform is kind of spooky but I could (and have) listened to that album on loop. I previewed the whole thing, put it on my iTunes wish list and yet only held out for about 26 hours before I just went ahead and bought it for $10. (Don’t worry, this is not the aforementioned “best $10 ever” that was promised, that is coming later. Although I would say the album is also worth $10 if you have it to spend. It is much more than just “Royal,” though that track is excellent.)

Do do do do do how have I written almost 3 pages of mostly single-spaced typing? And why was it so difficult to do in college? This is so easy peasy to record my brain chirps. Merpity merpity merp. Happy song. Happy chirps. Happy me.

So onto the greatest purchase of 2013, maybe all time. We had descended to an underground thrift store (I mean this not in a hipster-y “it was so underground and exclusive” way, but rather in a “we descended into a dimly lit batcave so ‘underground’ that it was LITERALLY underground” way) to see this huge yellow Southern Belle costume for a theme party one of the girls, Kita, was going to tonight. As she got it off the wall the rest of us wandered off, picking up leather Hard Rock Cafe jackets and 80’s electric teal snow pants (which looked eerily familiar to me) when I saw it on a wall. The most gloriously, fleecy red and blue object that is treasured by millions, dare I say billions of people the world over: a Spiderman fleece onesie.

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I picked it up, carefully cradling the precious in my hands as the wrinkly ajumma wandered over and held up 10 fingers. Only $10?! WAS SHE ON CRACK?! (1. No, because pretty much all drugs here are zero tolerance and they will send your ass straight to jail with like no chance for parole for even smelling like weed, regardless of your citizenship and/or good looks and 2. If anything this lady was clearly smoking mothballs.) Now, I’d tried on a few things during the day’s thrifting, almost all either not fitting my voluptuousness or just looking daft (I’ve been reading a lot of Bear Grylls and hence I like this word) as heck–I had pretty much zero chance of this one working out. But I held it up and thought, “maybe.” I slipped the right leg over my jeans, thinking “okay, not terrible.” Left leg, “acceptable.” Now the scary bit: hips, “mmmmkay.” Shoulders–am I too tall for this? “Nope, it’s working.” I’m starting to feel the first dangerous inklings of “could it actually be?!” Breathing heavily, I did up the buttons. With every one, my “ohmygoditisworkingitisworkingitisworking” grew until the last button was fastened. I looked in the mirror and threw the hood over my face and turned to face the huge (3 person) crowd that had assembled. MerryDeath (who I *think* is named Meredith but chooses for obvious awesomeness reasons to go by the former name) said, “If you don’t buy that, we can’t be friends.”

And now I own a Spiderman onesie and at least one new friend.

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The Wheels on the Bus, They Go.

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There hasn’t been a lot going on since the last post 2 weeks ago; the wheels are indeed going round and round (round and round). Last weekend I spent Saturday and Sunday on a solo walkabout at Seomun Market, reveling in the fact that I’m living in Korea, a completely foreign country. Riding the subway in a car with 70 people, and I’m the only foreigner. Walking among fish heads and baby clothes in the market, not one word of English to be heard. And reminding myself, “there’s nowhere I need to be. I’m here, in this moment. I’m doing the thing.” 

Which, even to my own ears, sounds ridiculously cheesy. But it’s been very empowering to know that I’m able to get downtown, to the subway, add money to my transit card, get to the stop, walk a couple miles around with people who I’ll never see again, speaking a language that I don’t think I’ll ever get the hang of, and get back to the village, alive and in one piece. After living in Korea, I kind of think I can do anything. 

Right now I don’t have any big plans on the horizon; then again, I didn’t plan Seoul or Busan more than 4 days out anyways. Hopefully the weather will stop acting like Hades soon and I’ll be able to visit some parks and mountains without sweating fresh to death.

This week I conquered the first out of 13 weeks of P90X and you know what? I’m really proud. I never sat down. I never stopped. And now I’m looking at Monday and a whole new week with a bit of a groan (and tight calves), if I can do 1 week, I can do 13 weeks.

Apologies that this isn’t more exciting–sometimes life isn’t the big festival 5k, it’s the day-to-day grind and sweat–and it’s about pushing play every day and probably buying more sports bras to go along with it. 

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