Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Student Once Again

Holy Moly! Six blogs posts in 2011. I’m quite ashamed of that number and have been hiding from my blog on purpose lately to avoid seeing that. I do have a great excuse though…I’ve just been way too busy. I started a master’s program in May of last year. Let me tell you that school hasn’t gotten any easier or less demanding in the 8 years since I graduated from NAU. In fact, I would say that this program is even more demanding on my time. However, I really love what I’m studying which is vastly different than how I felt about my undergrad degree. I was never a typical business major and only studied marketing because I had a desire to open up a hemp store. Alas, I realized that I don’t have a huge interest in owning a business so that dream has been reexamined and tossed aside. What I should have studied way back then (and what I did start out studying) was English Literature. If there is one thing in life that I can (and do) spend hours of my time doing and never find myself bored…it is reading. So, this time around I’ve decided to study something I’m interested in. The authors that write the type of literature that I tend to gravitate toward are female international writers. I find that I relate easier to a woman’s experience (go figure!) and that I love learning about the world, history, and culture through the medium of literature. So, you can imagine my excitement when I found an online program that seemed tailor-made for me. I’m now studying for a master’s degree in Multicultural and Transnational Literature…and I LOVE it!

However all the time that I’ve been devoting to my studies leaves little time for other things such as writing a blog.  Jason suggested that I post the papers I write for my classes on my blog. While that would be a very good use of my time, I didn’t think that would really be interesting to anyone else. Instead I thought I would post a list of my favorite books that I’ve read so far in the program. Hopefully you can check out one or two of them!

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie
The Sorrow of War by Bao Ninh
Let the Dead Bury Their Dead by Randall Kenan
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
When Living was a Labor Camp by Diana Garcia
Girls of Riyadh by Rajaa Alsanea
The Day Nina Simone Stopped Singing by DArina Al-Joundi

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Meklit Hadero

I saw Meklit Hadero on an episode of CNN's My City My Life (San Francisco) a few months back. I've been enamored with her ever since. She's a bit Ani Difranco and a bit Billie Holiday - two of my favorite artists. Enjoy!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Naked in a New Land

I think it's true what people say about Americans. We're prudes. You may doubt this, what with the tattoos, and skimpy clothes, and medical marijuana...but it's true. Think about it. How many nude beaches are there in the states? Sorry, naturist beaches. Actually, I just googled this...and there are more than I would have believed, but who really goes to these places other than pervy old men. I guess I wouldn't know since I've never been to one. Maybe I should stop calling America a prude and start pointing at myself.

Either way, Koreans are much more comfortable in their birthday suits than I am. This has been evident to me for a long time as I've actively avoided jimjilbangs since I arrived here. Jimjilbangs are saunas - they're just not saunas like I'm used to. I've been to many different gyms/health clubs in the states that have saunas in them. People wear towels wrapped around their precious parts and let the steam do its thing to purify the skin. That's what I always thought they were, but no. Not here in South Korea. Here they are something different.

They're places of camaraderie. Places you go with friends to hang out...naked. I'm not talking about towel around the privates naked...I'm talking about the whole enchilada naked. Jimjilbangs are huge complexes where you go to cleanse yourself. The hot water flows in tubs and showers. People sit around and talk, scrub themselves, shave their legs, loofa their bodies and just hang out. That's cool. No judgment here, but I'm once again a spectacle at these places. People out and out stare at me. I'm not Pamela Anderson, but you wouldn't know it if you saw the way people stop and open mouth stare when they see me. That has kept me away from most saunas on the peninsula.

However, a group of friends and I went to a hot springs resort recently. The place was swimsuit-required. There were co-ed waiting pools, a lazy river type-thing, and herbal spas touting the benefits of ginseng and rose petals. It was a fun, relaxing sort of vacation destination. Once we went to the changing room though, it was the same all over again. An American friend and I hid behind the rows of lockers to change, since old ladies were sitting on the floor, staring unabashedly at us. We skipped the shower there and hurried back to the hotel room instead. Our friend Eun-ha asked why we weren't going to shower at the resort. When we told her that everyone stares at us, she replied "oh yeah...I would probably stare at a foreigner I didn't know too." That settled it for us.

This situation has been keeping me away from the swimming pools as well. I just don't like to be scrutinized in such a vulnerable state. But! I finally decided to hell with it. I need some exercise and I want to swim. So, I have a membership at a health club that has a pool. It took a little getting used to, but now I can semi-comfortably shower and dress at the club. It's still a bit weird as it's such a naked place. The women seem to want to spend as much time possible airing their wares as they can. They blow-dry their hair, put on make-up, and chat with other folks all while as they're as naked as the day they were born.

I'm still the prude of the place and wear a towel after showering until I get my clothes on. It's taken some time, but now I try not to notice the women staring objectively at my body while I try to hurriedly drop my towel and slip into something more comfortable.

My new health club. The green net thingy off to the right side is a putting green. They're very popular in Korea.

The rest of the photos are from the trip to the hot springs resort. We stayed overnight and barbequed samgyepsol on the back porch of the hotel.

Scissors - I have a different appreciation for their kitchen functions since moving to Korea. They used to cut everything here...meat, vegetables, snacks, you name it.

Carolyn in a box.

The people who owned the hotel, brought out the webber for us. They were very happy that their American grill finally got used.

Eun-ha and Carolyn supervising the vegetables.

It was delicious!

Nathan enjoying the grub.

Thankfully, Fritz has since shaved his Amish beard.


Saturday, April 16, 2011


Obviously, there are some issues that make it difficult to live abroad. The foreign language, food, culture, ect., come into play, but being so far away when a family emergency or family death occurs is the hardest part for me. With a 20+ hour plane ride, flying in for a funeral almost isn't feasible.

Since I've been in Korea, I've lost both of my Grandma's - two wonderful women whom I adored. I don't like funerals...that's not why it hurts. In fact, the first funeral I ever went to was my Great Grandma Ruthie's. And though I was only 4 years old, I remember it vividly. Looking into a casket isn't something that is easy for me, as I still remember her more often from that moment than I do from all the other times we had together. What I miss when I'm away, is the stories we share of the person who passed - when family and friends get together and remember the good times. I always find out something special or surprising about the person I loved from other people.

At my Grandpa Charles's funeral, his sister Joyce told stories of how they were as children. They used to sit on the cows they had at their farm and "wind" them up. That is, one person would sit on the cow, while the other grabbed the tail and swung it in a circle. Sadly, once during a very cold winter...the tail snapped off. :(

At my Grandpa Vernie's funeral, we looked through all of his old photo albums. There were a ton of pictures from his time as an MP on a military base during WWII. He was such a handsome man in a uniform...and there were quite a few pictures of him with lovely ladies who were not my Grandma Helen. (gasp!)

It's a very cathartic way to observe the passing of a life by sharing memories. We should do this more while the people we love are still here.

It's also hard to be so far away when something sad happens here. Though not as difficult as losing a close family member, I lost one of my best friends recently. My Kitty. Well, I didn't lose her...I know exactly where she is...on a hill behind our apartment.

At sixteen years old, her health that had belied her age for so long, finally turned. I guess it was a blessing that she didn't suffer a long drawn out death...but the last month of her life was anything but good. Now that she's gone, I have a kitty-sized hole in my heart. She was such a little lover, cuddler, comfort, and trial. She had more personality and sass than almost anyone I knew. Jason nicknamed her Phyllis. That was my Grandma's name. My Grandma was one of the sassiest people I knew...she was like that. If you didn't know her very well...she was off-putting. But, if you were fortunate enough to really get close to her, you knew what a wonderful soul she was. I miss them both.

I want to thank everyone who helped me over the years in caring for Kitty. I had a lot of help from friends, family, roommates, ect. Especially Carley and Stefan, who were her foster family for a year, even if she didn't say it...I'm sure she was appreciative.

To all my loved ones who have passed, I miss you all and hope you are in a better and happier place. And if you're looking down on me...please close your eyes when I'm in the shower.

Wasn't she a doll?

Finding a place to hide was high on her list of priorities - suitcases were a particular favorite.

She was very good at comforting me whenever I felt ill.

Miss you!

Monday, February 28, 2011

32 flavors and then some...

I have lived in a number of places in my life. I don't think this is my fact, this is one of the few things I do attribute to my upbringing. I was a gypsy as far back as I can recall...and further since there is documentation of moves made before I was in short pants. I moved approximately 13 times before I ever graduated from high school. Apparently, I'm not one of those people who suddenly turn the other way and stop the craziness from continuing...oh no! I continued on in the tradition I was raised. Since I moved to Arizona after graduating from high school, I've lived in 19 other places. That's 32 different places in 33 years of life. Not all of these were my were none of the moves before I graduated high school - except one move in California to a beautiful house with an atrium and possibly a ghost. I also went on vacation one New Year's to New Orleans...when I came back my roommate had moved me to a new house...that's a whole other story on its own. :)

I've once again moved to a new place that wasn't my idea. Jason and I were informed that we needed to move to a new apartment before the semester started this year. Why? Because students are loud and obnoxious in every country. Actually, our school has "dorms" in a few of the different apartment complexes near campus. Apparently, the students in one of these apartments were too loud for the occupants below them. The old crotchety man on the third floor had complained so many times to the school, that they finally decided to move the students to a new location...our location. Since our apartment is furnished by the university, we really didn't have a say in the matter. The only bright spot at the time, was that I finally didn't have to schlep any household goods from one spot to another. They hired a moving company. Score!

Now that we've settled into our new digs, we actually like them better. The apartment complex is better situated near restaurants and stores, the grounds are nicer and full of trees and flowers, and we're closer to the earth. Our last two places in Korea were on the 15th and 16th floor. Now we're on the 4th floor and it's so much nicer. Not only because I think I'd probably survive a jump if the building caught on fire, but because the view is so much more human. I feel more connected with life down here - I can hear the birds, see the trees, and hear the kids screaming on the playground.

So, move number 32 is a success. I'll have to thank the students for giving the old guy downstairs heartburn when I see them around campus.

We live in the LG XI apartments - supposedly the same ones that Yu-na Kim lived in.

What does Xi stand for? X-tra Intelligence, of course.

We have a nice long reflexology path on the grounds.

We haven't walked on it barefoot yet...being cold and all still.

There are several gym/playgrounds.

It takes a while to figure some of the equipment out. Jason's walking toward what we think is a climbing wall.

Jason standing out in front of our building.

One thing that is a let down compared to our last place is our shoe closet. No more his and hers - we've had to intergrate our shoes.

Guest Bathroom

Clothes/Bike/Yoga/Ironing Room

Kitchen & Living Room

Notice the oven and the dish washer - we're high class.

Our vestibule porch area is quite nice in this place.

View from our apartment

Our Office - where Jason has been camped out all semester working on his master's classes.

Our Bathroom - off the dressing area & bedroom

Dressing Area

Bedroom - I've decided that it's impossible to get a good shot of a usually ends up as a picture of a bed. Oh well...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


It's always hard when I try to teach my students about comparatives and superlatives. Just in case you aren't up on your English grammar sh*t; comparatives compare two things...better than, prettier than, more unique, and superlatives compare more than two things...the best, the most comfortable, the coolest, ect. If you didn't know it...and I probably didn't a few years ago, there are rules to these things as there are to everything else under the sun.

The rules to determine whether to use "er", "est", "more" or "most" are dependent on syllables. We all know syllables, right. (hands clapping - red (1), yellow (2), magenta (3)). Unfortunately, when you're learning a new language this isn't so simple. You may have never heard the word spoken before or your language has Konglisized or Spanglisized certain words incorrectly. For example, strange. It's a one syllable word, right? Not in Korea. Here it's pronounced, sta-range-ee.

It may not be politically correct to talk about how strange Korea is...or how strange certain things here are. Things are normal (2 syllables) to the people here, but they are strange to me. They might not even be strange to other Asians or Europeans or Africans or what-have-you. They are strange to me though, so I thought it was time for another posting of "things in Korea that are weird". Yup! Even after 3+ years, I'm still encountering things that throw me for a loop.

Eel catching contests are very popular at festivals in Korea. I haven't entered one yet as I've seen the eels bite a few too many people.

These trucks make the rounds in Korea. There's one that shows up every few weeks near an intersection by our apartment. How handy is it that all your bamboo-weaved needs are all in one place?

The Anyang River walk near our house could use a little sprucing up. I guess that city thinks so too since it has pictures of nice nature scenes over all of the ducts.

It's strange that it took this long to get a Taco Bell in Korea...and that I still haven't been there.

This is one of the forms I had to fill out when I got my health check. I'm pretty sure there's a typo on it since I can't understand why someone would need to know if you get imitated easily.

The curtesy button in the bathroom stall...once pushed it creates a very loud toilet flushing sound.

Did you know that armpits are prettier when they're white? I didn't.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Winter English Camp

There are some sadistic parents out there who send their kids away to English camp during winter vacation. These unfortunate kids have to study English 9 hours a day for an entire week. Even more unfortunate are the teachers who sign up for the gig. This year, two of those teachers were me and Jason.

We taught a three week English camp that was held at a resort about an hour south of where we live. Jason got the job first and encouraged (or more accurately bullied) me into applying for it too. It paid well, so I decided it was something I could do. It didn't sound so bad in the fact it sounded kind of fun and different. In addition to the regular English classes, we also taught science, math, cooking, music, and would go sledding with the kids.

I was under the impression that I would be with the kids for 5 or 6 hours a day - ha! I was required to be with them from 8:50 in the morning until 10:00 at night. Well, actually I had the littlest kids (8 - 10 years old) and it was decided after the first week that 10:00 was a bit too late for them to stay up. The second and third week we ended class at 9:50 instead.

The kids were super cute though. It wasn't their fault that they were shipped off to bootcamp, so I somehow mustered up the energy everyday to teach, sing, play, dance, and mother them. I only had a few criers, a few ADHD kids, and one pooper the whole time - the rest of the kids were fantastic.

The woman in the middle was my TA during the camp. Kate is a university student and was gaining experience for her resume.

All of the kids received certificates of completion during the graduation ceremony...and then they had everyone sign them like yearbooks.

This little cutie was in my second week class. She warmed my heart when she told me that she very very loved me. :)

Week three students showing off their certificates - they were really proud of them.

The girl on the right had a crush on one of the male teachers (she's only 10!). She told my TA Kate that she couldn't sleep at night because she was thinking of him. All the other teachers gave Alan (the male teacher) a lot of hell for that one.

This is Cathy. She was showing off the bow-tie that she colored for our Wipeout Korea skit. When I looked at the photo I started laughing. She asked why I was laughing and I told her that it looked like she was giving me the bad finger. To this she replied, "Teacher! No f*ck you! No f*ck you, teacher!" - which made me laugh even harder.

On Thursdays we went sledding with the kids. The runs were a lot steeper than they look in this picture. I went down a few times and my legs would be all jiggly afterwards because I was a little freaked out by the speed I picked up.

Two TA's (Vanessa and Stacy) and Niall teacher enjoying the winter weather.