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Write This Down

8 Jun

“I believe in manicures. I believe in overdressing. I believe in primping at leisure and wearing lipstick. I believe in pink. I believe that loving is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.”    -Audrey Hepburn

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…I also believe in Instagram, electric blue lace, and shameless hipster pics.

Today I’m thankful for …coffee.  And the delightful ladies at the Starbucks across from my school that know my order, notice my haircuts and accessories, and make sad faces when I have a cold.  It’s the happiest place on earth.

Strong Female Lead

14 May

A few weeks ago, my friends and I were discussing Netflix, among other things we used in our past lives (like Hulu, Target, and drive-throughs).  I mentioned that Netflix was always recommending movies and TV shows with a “strong female lead”, based on my queue.  This became a running joke throughout the night, as we discussed what fabulous, independent ladies we are (example: When I had Netflix, I totally paid for it. By myself.)

And someday I’ll fill you in on my OCD list of TV shows and must-watch movies, but for right now, I will just leave you with a short Strong Female Lead post…a theme I think will find its way into this blog a lot.  All joking aside, I think women are badass, and I’m big on female empowerment. (please see previous Mother’s Day post, or any post involving my friends)

So today’s Strong Female Lead is my sister-in-law Mandy, who graduated with her Master’s Degree this weekend.  She’s going to be an amazing teacher, and she’s already a fabulous mama.  And she’s nice to me, even when I’m the bitchiest sister-in-law imaginable. (that’s a therapy discussion series of posts for another time)

Congrats Mama, we (my millions of readers fans and I) are so proud of you! It also greatly pleases me that Tator Tot will grow up with a Strong Female Leading lady, much like Mandy and I have (Mandy’s mom is the total HBIC, which is awesome).

That scowling guy in the background is so jealous of the blonde cuteness happening front and center.

 

Today’s song/video/quote, which I dare you to listen to and NOT dance along:

………….

Today I’m thankful for Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Kristin Wiig, Megan McCarthy, Mya Rudolph, and all the other hilarious and intelligent women who are making it cool to be Strong Female Leads.

Have a happy start to your work week y’all!

 

I Can’t Quit You

7 May

What started as a fun travel blog, later became a chore.  So I took a break; I felt like I was too focused on writing about my experiences instead of actually experiencing them…but after another fab conversation with Monica, and a writer’s-dilemma post from my friend Jenna, I realized it was time to get back to it.

Writers write.  So if I’m not writing, I’m not a writer.  And that made me uncomfortable.  So in the hope that motivation will win out over my penchant for self-indulgence, I’ve decided to make myself write every day.  Even if it’s just a paragraph.  Or a quote.  Or a picture with a caption. Something. Anything.

But, let’s quickly catch up.  During the last 8 months, I…

-met and fell in love with my nephew. I happily wear the crazy aunt hat.

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-got my TEFL certification, despite my best efforts to avoid scholarly pursuits outside of Jeopardy

-left Korea, amid a flurry of parties and tears.   3 months later I came back, amid a flurry of parties and tears.

-Dated someone I thought was really amazing, but we broke up because he wasn’t.

-Went to Malaysia for New Year’s Eve.  And Taiwan for a 3-day weekend. (pics of Taiwan to come- Malaysia will not be mentioned on the blog again due to aforementioned break up and my self-respect.)

-Became a kindergarten teacher.

-Got violently ill à la Bridesmaids at the Incheon Airport.

…and today I cut all my hair off, which was much needed.  I am metaphorically and literally lighter.  The last 4 months have been a challenge, and now that I’m finally coming out on the other side of it, it’s time to write again.  You’re so welcome, friends.

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Today’s quote:

“And in the spring I shed my skin
And it blows away with the changing wind”     
  –Florence and the Machine, “Rabbit Heart”

And lastly, to stop the constant self-deprecating humor, and for my own spoiled peace of mind, I’m going to write something I’m thankful for everyday – which is cheesy, but significant nonetheless.  Like a good episode of Gilmore Girls.

Today I’m thankful for how utterly humbling the last 4 months have been. (please see public food poisoning in above list) And I’m thankful they’re over.

Monk Livin’

24 May

*Please note that once again, all pics are stolen from Megan.  It’s recently come to my attention that my camera is old and in need of replacing, so I’m now relying on other people for documentation of my awesome life. Thanks Meg!

Last month, Ms. Megan and I teamed up once again.  This time the excursion was a temple stay – a program that allows outsiders to live like a monk for a weekend.  This was one of my must-do things before leaving Korea, and spring was a great time for it.  The weather was perfect – and most of the temples are up in the mountains, so it was really beautiful. This was also a good excuse to not wear makeup or play Carmen Sandiego all weekend.

Saturday morning we boarded another charter bus, and headed about 3 hours outside of Seoul, to Magoksa Temple, located in Cheung Chong.

Partial view of the temple grounds. Please notice the lanterns, which were strung all over the place.

As soon as we got there, we were divided up into boys and girls, and then given our monk clothes for the weekend.  The clothes consisted of khaki parachute pants, and a pink jacket type thing.  And yes, I did the MC Hammer dance immediately after putting on my parachute pants.  These outfits were insanely comfortable.  Paired with my black converse sneakers all weekend, I looked pretty fly for a monk white girl.

We were then introduced to the basic bows and chants.  While a half-bow is super easy (simply bending at the waist) a full-on monk bow is a work out.  To do this:  place your hands in front of you in a prayer pose.  Bend your knees, lowering yourself to the ground.  Place your forehead and elbows on the ground, along with your knees so that all 5 points are touching.  While keeping your elbows on the group, lift up on your hands.  Then return to kneeling, then standing pose, all without using your hands.  Repeat.  A million times.

We then took a tour of the grounds, which consist of a lot of small temple buildings, most used for praying, and some for sleeping.  The whole place was decorated in colorful lanterns, in preparation for Buddha’s birthday, which was May 10, a national holiday.

One of the temples, which housed 1,000 Buddhas.

Next, we went to the stream, where we were treated to an exercise in trust and patience.  First we had to partner up, with one partner wearing a blindfold.  We then had to hold hands and guide our partner over the stepping-stone rocks across the stream, which was actually a good distance.  We then switched and repeated this.  Thank god I trust Megan.  We got a good system going, which consisted of a lot of “little step, little step, little step, ok BIG step!”  And thanks to her, my feet stayed dry.  So did hers, for the record.  We also had a great time watching other people sticking their feet out and blindly moving it around, hoping to find a rock at the end.  Some got their feet wet, but sadly no one fell in.

I even trust Megan enough to take a good pic of me.

Then it was craft time.  No, really.  Under the supervision of monks who laughed at our sub par motor skills, we made lotus flower lanterns, and prayer bead bracelets.  While my lantern was a hot gluey mess, my bracelet is pretty sweet.  I wear it when I’m feeling all spiritual and what not.

Then it was gong-ringin’ time. After watching a highly skilled monk play a huge drum, we were allowed to go up and ring the gong, 2 by 2.  Which was pretty bitchin’.

Megan, in front of the beautiful structure that housed the drums and the gongs.

We then went to the pagoda statue/monument, where we said a prayer, and walked around the statue for about 15 minutes.  In silence.  Which was very peaceful.

We then had dinner.  All of the temple food is strictly vegetarian.  Also, the monks believe that not even a kernel of rice should be left on your plate, so you must only take what you will eat.  It is also frowned upon to talk during meal time.  Unfortunately, I misjudged the kimchi, and wound up with a lot of it on my plate.  I just couldn’t do it.  So I quickly gave my plate to the monks, apologized, bowed, and ran away.  (shrugs)

We then had tea time with our monk, a big jolly guy we got to hang out with all weekend.  Fact: I had to fight the urge to hug him all weekend.  We asked him questions, and a lot of the information was actually really interesting.  For example, most monks don’t decide to enter into the lifestyle until they are in their 30s or 40s.  And for the record, there are lady monks as well.  And monks are divided into 2 groups: those that meditate all day, and those that do administrative type tasks for the temple.

Fact: I love this man.

Divided once again into boys and girls, we retired to our separate rooms and went to sleep. At 9pm.  And once again, we slept on the floor.  Sunday, we were woken up. . . at 3 am.  Which just means it’s dark and kind of cold, and everyone is highly disoriented, but too tired to complain.

We went to the temple where we chanted and bowed with some of the monks.  Then we spent 30 minutes learning the art of mediation.  And of course the monk gave us a topic to think about, which of course everyone thought about for 5 minutes. . . before drifting off into thoughts of caffeine, internet access, and what to wear tomorrow.  Or was that just me?!  Either way, at least I didn’t fall asleep, like our program director who, impressively, snored loudly while maintaining his mediation pose.

Then we got hardcore.  It was time for the 108 bows.  Remember earlier how I described the full-on monk bow?  We did that.  108 times.  We bowed to an audio recording, which explained what each bow was for.  There were 4 sections, some asking for forgiveness for past transgressions, some discussing acceptance of our present lives, and some offering prayer and hope for our future.  And while I am highly skeptical of all religion, I thought this was extremely beautiful.  Mainly because the 108 different sayings and vows were so applicable to everyday life.  They were simple things we can all do to be better people; things like selflessness and getting rid of our own egos.  This was, surprisingly, my favorite part of the weekend.

It was also my cardio.  It took us 30 minutes, and by the end we were sweating.  So it was spiritually and physically cleansing.  And I was just proud to say I did it.

Then we had breakfast, which included a lot of ceremony.  We had to place our food in certain bowls, in certain ways.  We had to help pass out the food to each other.  We ate our small, vegetarian portions in silence (but please note, breakfast was delicious).  We then did a cleaning ceremony, in which we used a yellow radish (the bane of my culinary existence in Korea) and water to clean each bowl, before eating the radish and drinking the water in the last bowl.  Which was disgusting.  Because I hate yellow radishes.  And because the water tasted like yellow raddish, mixed with bits of leftover food from the other bowls.  So I thought of it like a shot – breathe out, drink it fast, and try not to puke at the end.

Surprisingly delicious.

We then did a few chores like sweeping and cleaning the dishes, before having free time, in which I napped.  Megan of course took a picture of me, because: “You looked like a dead child.  Or like a dead Ooompa Loompa.  Don’t worry, I took a picture.”

Zen.

Next was our hike.  Please note, all of this is happening before 11 am.  Our monk led us up into the nearby mountains, for a fairly easy, relaxing hike.  We took a lot of pauses, where he asked people to sing songs. . . so we heard everything from Nelly to kindergarten chants we use for teaching.  The monk loved it.

The hike took place in the most beautiful woods I’ve ever seen.  It was straight out of a Disney movie.  The trees were huge and twisty, and the whole place was covered in purple flowers.  It was exceptionally beautiful.  And very peaceful.

Perfection.

After the hike, we had more free time, where I slept again.  Then another meal.  Then we changed into our regular clothes, turned on our cell phones, and boarded the bus.

After exiting the charter bus in Jukejon (much closer to my home than going all the way into Seoul) I wandered into one of Korea’s largest department stores, Shinsagae. (like Nordstrom’s rich, Asian cousin)  Despite being dirty and exhausted, I made my way to the Starbucks, where I finally injected some caffeine into my veins.

I was home napping and playing Carmen Sandiego by 4pm, despite having done a full day’s worth of activities, which made the weekend feel very, very long.  But wonderful.  It was peaceful.  And rejuvenating.  And I was proud of myself.

Another thing that keeps jumping out at me from the weekend was a particular girl on the trip, whose mom had come to visit her from America.  The mom was always joking with her daughter or playing with her hair.  And I couldn’t stop staring at the mom.  And then it hit me:  I haven’t seen my own mother in 8 months, and I miss her more than I even realize.  I was so jealous of this girl, whose mother was with her – I honestly didn’t realize how much I had missed those simple maternal gestures; like how my mama always touches my hair, or complements my outfit, or gives me a hug.  Let me tell you, it is very strange to go without that for so long.  Especially when, on a day-to-day basis, I find myself doing those same things to my kids (well the ones younger than 13, who still think it’s cool to hug the teacher).

Strange.

Because I Find Myself Infinitely Interesting

25 Apr

This is a list of currents – just so we can continue to get reacquainted after my shameful absence.  Please note that I stole it from a delightful blog called Lauren From Texas.

Current Book(s): I just finished up Joan Didion’s Play It As It Lays and Betsy Israel’s Bachelor Girl: 100 Years of Breaking the Rules–a Social History of Living Single, which despite being one of the very rare non-fiction books that I’ve ever read, was really interesting and conversational.  And as of yesterday,  I finished reading Mini Shopaholic.  Because my copy of War and Peace wouldn’t fit in my suitcase.

Current Playlist: “Turning Tables” by Adele and “Power” by Kanye West.  Literally only those 2 songs, on repeat. Let’s just chalk this up to hormones and move on.

Current Shame-Inducing Guilty Pleasure: Um, I could sit here and list every TV show I watch, because they are all uber-shameful.  But the number one guilty pleasure this week? Carmen Sandiego on Facebook.  Where in the world is my grip on reality?

Current Color:  Purple. Delish.

Current Drink: Dr. Pepper and Tom n Tom’s Americanos.  They are the only way I get through the “challenging” (re: punks) classes.

Current Food: Bibimbap!  Not only is this meal about $3, it’s really filling and actually very healthy.  It’s rice, assorted Korean vegetables, and chili pepper paste. I get mine meat-free with a fried egg on top.  This is my dinner about 4 times a week.

Current Favorite Show: Dexter. I love dark humor.  And he’s not bad to look at either.  And The Office, because Steve Carell is about to leave (RIP Michael Scott), Will Ferrell is guest-starring and the writing has finally picked up.

Current Wishlist: A dryer.  Some new cute flats in bright colors.  A spa pedicure.  And some spring scarves and dresses.  Oh, and world peace – obvs.

Current Needs: A better sleep routine, so I’m not always tired from lack of sleep or groggy from too much sleep. Perhaps I can Ferberize myself.

Current Triumphs: Just put a decent amount of money into my US bank account. . . which almost makes all the saving and scrounging every week feel worth it.  And I just completed a weekend temple stay, that was really really cool. (more on this later. . .with less vague adjectives)

Current Bane(s) of my Existence: Any class involving children under the age of 8.  I’m not your babysitter.  I’m not your mother.  Stay in that seat or so help me God I will tie you to it.

Current Celebrity Crush:Anna Paquin and Alexander Skarsgård – every weeknight at midnight, the Korean TV station plays True Blood, which is a nice break from America’s Funniest Home Videos. (called USA Funny Video here, but still just as stupid)

Current Indulgence: Carmen Sandiego.  There’s just no getting around this.

Current #1 Blessing: My health.  For a number of different reasons, I feel good these days, and I know that won’t always be the case.  So I’m trying to remind myself to be thankful for how good this feels.

Current Slang or Saying: “What am I, a wizard?!”  I can’t even get into this right now. But I’ve been saying it a lot since I moved to Korea.

Current Outfit: Distressed jeans. Patent-leather blue Sperry’s.  Flowered button down shirt, with a black tank/makeshift sweater vest over it.  Swarovski bracelet.  Leopard headband.  Oh, and 2 huge bags under my eyes.

Current Excitement: Starting my new book Juliet Naked by Nick Hornby. Watching all new episodes of the Real Housewives of Orange County and New York City this week.  A work get-away this weekend (for free!).  And a day off work next Thursday.

Current Mood: Resolved.  That I will get through Monday.  Because I have to.  And because relaxing after this workday is going to feel so good.

Anyways. . . how are you?!

Anniversary

14 Mar

6 months ago, I moved to South Korea with a lot of clothes, a little fear, and no teaching experience.

And 6 months later, I am happy to report that we are pretty happy together.  We stumbled along for the first month, and really hit our stride around my 23rd birthday in October. The fall was easy.  It was fun.  It was full of preparation for a Christmas/New Year’s trip to Sydney that was absolutely perfect.

And then our honeymoon phase ended. The weather became unbearable. I got hurt and spent a month in a cast. One of my favorite people left.  I was broke.  Things weren’t looking good for us.

But we pulled through, and took a much-needed trip to Boracay, where we decided to use Lunar New Year as the official starting point for 2011, since January was so shitty anyway.

And since then, things have been slow and steady.  We are in a routine. We know what works for us.  We see a future together, at least another 6 months. I’m still in love with Korea, but in a more comfortable way – like I can take my make up off and start wearing sweatpants kind of way. But I love it, loyally.

And in semi-related news. . .

Last week my boss asked me to consider staying on for another year to teach.  If a school likes you and your teaching, this is pretty common. But there are always factors, and it can of course get political, and you never really know who will be asked.  But I was.

And that’s a really, really good feeling.  Like the warm feeling I got this afternoon when one of the kindergarten classes sang “Let It Be” to me.

And although I haven’t told my boss this yet (I’m waiting until our next schedule comes out – seriously) I will not be extending my contract.  I have some big things planned for next year, which I will tell you more about at the appropriate time.

But just like all those Oscar losers always say . . . it’s an honor just to be nominated. (cue gracious smile)

So on this rainy Monday, when there doesn’t seem to ever be enough coffee which is OK because 5 year-olds are singing the Beatles, I just want to take a moment to stop. And wish myself a happy anniversary.

Because let’s be honest – it’s one of my longest relationships ever.

Le Has-Beens

10 Mar

As I briefly mentioned a few times, I have been taking ballet class for the last month. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday before work, I take an hour-long class along with 2 other teachers I work with.  And while they are learning something new, I’ve taken dance class my entire life – at least until 3 years ago.

Hence, Le Has-Beens.  Granted, I’m the only Has-Been, but group solidarity and support is key when you’re  23 and wearing a leotard and pink tights.

Luckily, ballet class is not for talking. Because the last thing I want to do after I wake up is speak. But dance, well that I don’t mind. Even if it means losing an hour of sleep, packing my work clothes, and consequently getting ready for work in a tiny dressing room with 2 other people.

Part of the reason I like the ballet class? Our teacher, whom I call Princess Grace.  She weighs 90 pounds tops, and is everything a dancer should be: effortlessly graceful, outrageously flexible, and teeny tiny.  Even though I understand about 1/8 of what she says (and that’s usually just when she uses the French terms for the ballet words), I’m borderline obsessed with her.  She is really patient with us, even though it’s early for her too. And she probably laughs at us after class, much like I do with my own students.

Fact: Princess Grace is unamused by your pain and thinks you can stretch further.

And the other reason I like ballet class?  It’s my happy place.

First, a bit o’ background: I started dancing when I was 3, and continued up through my freshman year of college. I got serious about it during middle school, and in high school it became my only “after school activity.”  And by activity, I mean I was part of a  competitive company that did a lot of competitions, and practiced 6 days a week.  And I really, really loved it. Especially during those melodramatic high school years, when everything is either absolutely amazing or insanely bad. There was no in between. But dance kept me balanced. And focused. And introduced me to people, places, and feelings I otherwise probably wouldn’t have discovered as a teenager in Kansas (this also started my obsession with gay men and rhinestones).

And during my freshman year at Emory, when I was homesick and confused, dance remained my happy place.  It was the one thing that seemed to stay the same that year. I needed that.  And it was the only class(es) I never skipped. (sorry Mom and Dad)

And then of course, I took a 15 pound 3-year hiatus, which happens.

Then, in February, as I approached my fifth month in Korea, I realized that my life here was starting to seem normal, and at times, lacking. So I set off to find my happy again. Or more specifically, something that was “mine.”  I think that’s really important in a new place – you have to have something that is just yours, that you do for pure pleasure, and that will sustain you through the less glamorous times.

And thankfully, I’ve found mine. I found my happy.

This is what 11 a.m. looks like.

And yes, half of the lesson is in Korean, but the basics are the same. Dance is the universal language, and for the most part, my body still speaks it. I’m definitely not as strong or as flexible as I used to be, but my muscles generally remember what to do.

It feels right and yummy and exciting and normal all at the same time. Finding your happy is definitely worth losing an hour of sleep for.  Even if you have to wear a leotard.