Dairyfest

My drool woke me up. I have been back in Korea a week but my circadian rhythm hasn’t realized it yet. Turn my ondol on, turn it off. Browse Tinder and hate it. Open the window. My ankle hurts. I twisted it cramming my foot into my shoe at the airport. It’s been swollen ever since.

I don’t know what it is about 5 AM that makes me introspective. Am I thinking the clearest or the least clear of the day? Blanketed in unnecessary anxiety, but it’s fine. A lot of changes are coming my way.

Maybe it’s all the dairy.


I landed in California. I knew I was home but didn’t feel like I belong anymore. Things felt familiar, but not the same. Reacquainted with old friends, familiar scenery and drugs. Life is good but surreal. I took the requisite pictures one would in California. The beaches, dogs off leash, even the Golden Gate Bridge.

Something besides the California sunshine blinded me though. It was the revelation of the network of badass women that I am fortunate to have. Hold on to your hat, it’s about to get sappy y’all.

From my mother to Lady Gaga. The women in my life are amazing. I am lucky to have made connections with such independent women abroad. It took me a year away to realize that I have as strong of a network at home. Or maybe it’s because I just read Orange is the New Black. Either way, I am glad that now I know.

My mom never forced me to practice the piano. Rather, she always supported me trying new things. Oh, you want to play soccer? I’ll drive you to practice. Oh, you want to be in a play? I will go to every performance. At the time, I wondered why she didn’t force me to stick with one thing and become an expert. I was always bouncing around from hobby to hobby. Instead, I became an expert at adapting — the now necessary skill for my chosen lifestyle. Learning new things, and loving it. I understand now.

Intelligent, beautiful women are invaluable on my journey. I didn’t grasp it until we sat down for brunch. The importance of life is the people who listen to your stories without a punchline. It’s people who tell theirs and you genuinely care.

Sure, you can quantify life by age. But the people you love make it qualitative with shared experiences.

Everything has built up to this point and will continue to build to the next. I love to think that I’m independent, but I’m not. I would not be who I am today without these lovely life-changing people who shaped me along the way. At the time I thought I knew, but I didn’t viscerally appreciate. Years of self-doubt, insecurity, family problems, eat disorders, clinical anxiety. They built me up when I was below sea-level.  If you are in doubt that I am writing this about you, I am definitely writing this about you.

And I love you.


I landed in Korea. I knew I was home but still didn’t feel like I belong. Things felt foreign in a familiar way.

The USA took home silver and bronze in Big Air (holla). In Seoul, I reunited with a friend on her last night.

It is crazy how one person can influence your trajectory. I hate to admit it, but I was so scared coming to Korea. Terrified. I connected with Justine deeply, who made my year all OK. Crazy coteacher? Let’s drink some wine. Sprained ankle? I’ll buy you dinner. Also, let’s climb this INSANE mountain, Sinbulsan.

The tragedy and beauty that is being an expat are the people you get to meet and have to say goodbye to. I have learned so much from her. She taught me how to efficiently chop an onion, pack for a trip, and navigate Ulsan. She helped make me a strong person that I would want to look up to as a kid. She is a forever sister. And I hope this post makes her cry.


I’m crying, but I haven’t lost anyone. I am so blessed, even though I hate the religious ties to that word.

I guess, what I am trying to say is: always have someone in your life to climb mountains with.

Lucky for me, I have dozens.

 

한글 for tinder

Korea: A land of culture, beautiful landscapes, and worldwide handsomes.

I’ve gotten some really positive feedback hitting on men in Korean. Expressions like:  “So cute,” “Good job,” and “I’m not Korean.”

 

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Look at them

 

Unfortunately for native English speakers, Korean is not a language that can just be absorbed. It takes persistence, dedication, and motivation to study. What motivates me is skin like porcelain and tinted lips. They are untouchable. They are also scared of my English.

 

I probably should mention that I have been wildly unsuccessful with dating Koreans.  I’ve been rejected with translator apps. A few guys have literally run in the opposite direction.

I am quite comfortable living on the fringe of society. But I want to challenge myself to learn a new language and to further indulge in Korean culture (wink). Dating is an all-encompassing way to do that. I know I’m not the only one swiping on Tinder with a textbook in my lap, so here are some go-to expressions.

안녕하세요

Annyeonghaseyo

Meaning: Hello. Duh

매력이

maelyeog-e

Meaning: charming. I have no idea how to conjugate anything.

dong

Meaning: poop. This is irrelevant, obviously.

잘생겼어요

jalsaeng-gyeoss-eoyo

Meaning: handsomeness. It lets them know that I am serious about learning Korean.

아빠

oh-ppa

Meaning:  father. I think girlfriends use it like “honey.” I really don’t know any Korean at all. I am underqualified to be even writing this blog. The more I study, the more I am like wtf.

 

내 목졸라줘

nae-mogchorachwo

Meaning: Choke me.


So. Things are going well. You hooked up with the person (high five). Is it safe to assume you can drop the ‘요’ and speak informally using 반말? No! Always ask. Some people get offended by the informal language even if you’ve gone all the way. As a foreigner, I’m sure you could get away with it, but it is always better to be polite.

안녕! Bye!

 

Nostalgia in November

It’s getting cold. Freezing cold.

November was a good month. I took a weekend trip to 전주 (Jeonju) with some of my friends. I got a taste of Korean culture and wore a 한복. (I’m so cool, I can type in Hangul.)

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I summited another mountain with my good friend, Justine.

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Most notably and least picture friendly, I wrote a book. I completed my first attempt at the NaNoWriMo challenge and wrote 50,000 words in 30 days. I’ve resigned my contract and am staying in Korea for another year.

Somethings amiss though. I’ve been so focused on building my life here that sometimes I forget the one that I left at home.

Now, it’s on fire.

My thoughts are with the residents of southern California. The Thomas Fire is nothing short of devastating. I miss my family and I miss my friends (and In n Out). Stay safe.

Here are some cute dogs.

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Steeper than a hill

Much like Moana, I have always been called to the ocean. From scuba diving to swimming, even to my bachelor’s degree, I never had a doubt in my mind that the sea was for me.

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The ocean is best admired in the absence of pants.

But lately, I mean the past couple of weeks lately, I have been lusting over the mountains. Probably because of the film Mountain that was featured at Busan International Film Festival left my mouth gaping open.

Regardless of the movies that I watched, Korea is the place to fall in love with mountains. 70% of Korea’s topography is mountainous, so I might as well like it.

My non-romantic partner, Justine, invited me to climb Jirisan. I thought of the mouth-watering drone footage from that inspo-doc (a word I just invented for an inspiring documentary) and said yes. It’s the second-tallest mountain in South Korea.

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It doesn’t look that big because it was cold.

We ascended before dawn. Right as we hit the trailhead I felt like I was going into cardiac arrest. I had to sit down for more than a few moments. I breathed thinking “I am connected” and waited until I couldn’t feel my heartbeat in my eardrum. Bless my patient friends.

This hike wasn’t as technical and scary as Sinbulsan (and my ankle wasn’t sprained this time), but it was still challenging. I had to repeat my mantra throughout the duration of the hike. I realized that challenging yourself physically takes a whole different form of mental strength that I am not used to exercising (ha).

Back at home, I would hike. But I would usually go by myself, climb high enough to get a view of my car, then come back down. There was no such thing as “summiting”. The trails in Korea are often steep and difficult, but always rewarding.

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Don’t let my nonchalance fool you, my legs felt like jello.

While I’m probably not going to give up my current life to become a dirtbag in Yosemite, I have a found a new way to challenge and become a better version of myself.

Proverbs from an essay contest

Homework is your flesh and blood.

Daym. The study culture here is no joke. This was a student quoting their dad.

Next day my mom will hitting me with her hands.

Not doing homework is not an option. Daym x2.

Finished off the Voldemort

Fuck yeah, you did.

The hero is very coor

“Coors” and “Cool” are essentially synonymous.  Coors lite anyone?

Maybe I’m tired… and die

Maybe this particular mother isn’t going to kill their kid for not doing their homework, but the monotony will.

Happy birthday to me

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It was my birthday recently. A month ago — but still. For the for the first time, this birthday I woke up actually feeling a difference. Perhaps I felt healthy from Justine’s vegan mac n’ cheese. Or maybe the wine was good quality and didn’t leave me hungover. Whatever the reason, I observed a healthy detachment. Twenty-five is going to be a good year for me as it was an album for Adele.

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My friends got me an adorable cake! Feelin’ hashtag loved.

I am ready to spring into action. I wake up the perfect amount of tired. I fart. I trap my fart by making my bed. I have a solid morning routine. I have shifted my focus from getting my shit together to mastering myself. I’m moving on from my breakup. I got a tat I’ve wanted for a long time. I even got a new digital watch to reflect my inspired change.

 

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New ink

 

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Cropped out my impressive pit hair

Life seems like a dichotomy. I’m either traveling and all the Instagram worthy things or I’m sitting around, writing my 750 words and waiting to press my coffee.

It is scary for me to feel settled. Change is when I overcome challenges, grow, [insert synonym here]. The present feels like I am in-between cups of coffee. The same feeling I had in the year building up to come here.

But the reality is I still don’t know what is going to happen next. I can write anything.

 

Entropy observed small children

“Hello class, how are you?!” I try to embody a Disney princess even though I dress like an exhausted version of my seventh-grade biology teacher.

“So-so”
“Tired.”
“Hungry.”
“Mad.”

My students don’t know a lot of English, but they know enough to complain.

I came here with the expression “I don’t like kids” branded into my brain. I would be lying now if I were to say that was true, though I wouldn’t be caught dead saying it.

Maybe it’s not the kids I like or their age-related sass. I think my almost-fondness towards children boils down to what everything boils down — the second law of thermodynamics. My nipples just got hard too.

The second LOT states that in any cyclic process, entropy will increase1 (or will remain the same, but we’re not going to talk about that.) Entropy is the universal tendency towards chaos.2 It can be seen everywhere and observed in anything. What was once in a neat, organized state gradually became a shitshow.

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This cyclic process can be modeled as my daily routine. I come into class prepared, only to realize I am not. I try to make my students laugh and they make me laugh. Sometimes they even learn some English. Facilitating group activities and hands-on learning, I am the exact type of teacher that I hated when I was a teenager. Ugh.

Accommodating to these kid’s busy hands and minds tend to spiral into anarchy. Er… entropy.

 

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I think the intention of this image was to show gas particles, but you can reimagine it as my students’ desks before and after class.

 

I know what you’re asking: Can this chaos be reversed? Yes, it can! A la energy! Energy in the form of heat. The heat of my anger, the heat of my co-teachers breath yelling in Korean, and the heat from the four cups of coffee in ingest before 10 AM.

These children need constant structure, guidance, and instruction. It is exhausting but sometimes (and boy do I emphasize that sometimes) it is amazing.

A child’s reaction to AC/DC is simply inspiring.

A little electric guitar gets these kids PUMPED to use English. If I had the same kind of motivation and energy, I would have written five books by now.

Jokes aside, my favorite part of working with small humans is their innate curiosity. Before a certain age, they don’t give a fuck about making mistakes or looking dumb. They are just trying to wrap their heads around the millions of bits of data floating around them. It’s this stoicism I admire.

It makes me feel less bad about not pursuing academic science. Kids are scientists and it’s bloody incredible. Perhaps there is more than one way of becoming a scientist. Exploring curiosity, making mistakes, and facing your fears; that’s what my students do every day in English class. They inspire me to do the same.


  1. (n.d.). Retrieved September 11, 2017, from http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/thermo/seclaw.html
  2. entropy. (n.d.). Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved June 1, 2017 from Dictionary.com website http://www.dictionary.com/browse/entropy