Happy Halloween. Less than a week before I leave for the States to attend my sisda's wedding. What do you think about these video things? Like? Loathe Entirely?
And then, it's cold.
And the winter smell is seeping in the crack, crawling up underneath the window and melting into walls. It is hovering over my purple comforter, wrapped around me as if I were a very large burrito- the kind they give you for free if you can eat all of it.
It is cold enough for the gray fleece jacket that I still find cat hair on after leaving my house over 8 months ago. But it is not cold enough for the gray fleece jacket in the subway. I am not sure it will ever be cold enough for the fleece jacket down there.
Because there are still a lot of people who go to work everyday. And we are making a lot of warmth in the small metal cars racing us to our jobs. Sometimes I close my eyes and I pretend that the warmth is goodness and kindness. We are so good and kind standing here huddled together that it's hard to breathe. And our goodness and kindness condenses into compassion. And that compassion begins to bead underneath my arms and to run in long thin streams down my chest and around my breasts, tickling as it drips.
And I imagine that the woman's elbow in my back is a sharp reminder that I am of worth. A sort of strong, pressing welcome to the stifling goodness and kindness we are sweating in our box. The ajumma's purse in my kidney is a dinner invitation and the man's arm reaching across my shoulder for a handle is complimenting my hair.
And when I exit the box and march up the stairs with all the people who have somewhere to go, the air punches me in the face and I zip my fleece jacket up to my chin. Because it is cold. I walk fast to keep the goodness and kindness from fading too soon.
The winter smell. It smells like walking up the Hill at Shorter. It smells like getting out of a taxi and rushing inside for coffee with Tariq. It smells like sitting at home for hours in a dark living room with my mom and the TV, blankets shielding us from the cold that creeps under the front door, despite the towel rolled up and shoved next to the gap.
And now, it also smells like arriving above ground in Korea and taking a deep breath that stings with its chill after all that stuffy goodness and kindness.
What the crap have I been up to? My absence here has caused my mother to doubt my existence, setting all sorts of horror scenarios into frenzied motion. She is worrying as only a mother can. The truth is boring.
What the Crap I've Been Up To:
1. I have spent time carefully planning my menu and schedule of eating out for the few days I'm at home. I am craving several particular things and plan on hitting all of my favorite restaurants, despite all obstacles. I am daydreaming about sweet tea, especially.
2. I am reading The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently...and Why by one Richard E. Nisbett who desperately needs to read William Zinsser's take on the exclamation mark.
Dear Mr. Nisbett,
I like your book. It makes the stops on the subway go by much quicker and also lends insight into the reasons why the crazies around me are behaving the way they do. But your exclamation points are ineffective and annoying. "Don't use it unless you must to achieve a certain effect...We have all suffered more than our fair share of these sentences in which an exclamation point knocks us over the head with how cute or wonderful something is. Instead, construct your sentence so that the order of the words will put the emphasis where you want it."
Thank you very much.
3. Dexter has been eating hours of my time. I caught an episode on TV here from the first season and was compelled to view the entire season in order. It's a bit of an addiction, but one that is far less embarrassing than say, admitting you lost an entire week of your life to the Twilight series close to 2 months ago.
4. I have been learning to cook and enjoy tofu using this tasty recipe from THE Pajeon Princess. I never liked tofu before, but apparently my tastes are still changing. I find that if I give the food a chance, take a few deep breaths before digging in, and remember the work it took to prepare it (although with this tofu dish the work is negligible), it usually tastes good. I've continued to cook for myself almost every night of the week. I now dub my attempts in the kitchen as part of WifeO Training. Lord, I have such a long way to go!
5. I am reading James Finley and I am numb to the ever recurring words, "interior, meditative states of awareness" and "arise, endure, and pass away." Finley is sometimes exhausting, but the gems I've found far outweigh those phrases heavy with repetition.
6. I am still spending most of my day yelling and laughing at small monsters called children. A few phrases my 7 year olds have finally picked up on:
My words: "Stop picking your nose." Stated matter of factly about 6 times every 40 minutes.
Kid version: "Teacher! Teeeeeeeacher! Steve picking your nose! Picking your nose! Stop!"
My words: "I. Don't. Care."
Former Kid Response, "Teacher, what?"
Current Kid Response: A look of defeat, usually accompanied by a lowering and shaking of the head.
My words: "Go away."
Kid version: "Go awaaaaaaaaay!" screamed as they are passing through the doorway at the end of class.
7. Wasting time; going to the bathroom; bothering my fiance about quitting his job; not cleaning my bathroom; laundry; drinking caramel macchiato; drawing a large blue X across another day on the calendar before I go to bed.
8. I spend an inordinate amount of time looking at my ring.
9. Wondering why more Americans don't look up the term socialism. Being frustrated with America's willingness to be distracted from the actual issues by emotional propaganda espoused on both sides of the political system.
10. Missing my friends and family and counting down the days until I get on an airplane to come see them! And praying that my period does not coincide with any time spent in a cramped aircraft with inconvenient bathrooms. Praying in general.
That about does it. Oh, and thinking about writing. Obviously I'm just thinking about it. I'm not doing it. Or you would be well aware of that, wouldn't you? Also, if I stay around constantly, I can't ever have these mini-comebacks, now can I? If you never know war, you cannot understand peace. So, if you never miss me, you cannot appreciate the ChubbO.
So, in addition to this lovely gem of video blogging, I'm also "starring" over at Sarah's blog with a guest post about... you guessed it! The Seoul Metro.
Let me know what you guys think about the video blog. I might try it out because it doesn't take as long to run my mouth as it does to write carefully and rewrite 5 times.Go have a donut, you deserve it.
1. Friday night I made the most awesome video blog for you guys. It was kind of funny, there was dancing and singing, my right armpit made an appearance, and generally it rocked. The most awesome video blog was, however, lost. Forever. I spent Friday night trying to recover from the depression.
2. I lost another kilogram! Which is pretty amazing considering I didn't really keep up my Super Duper Don't Be the Fat Sister Workout Plan. At all. I drank coffee every day at lunch; I didn't run or walk; I neglected my 100 push up plan entirely. I did, however, start cooking for myself every night and eating early in the evening. About 6:30 or 7:00 is my cut off time for dinner. After that, it's only water. I'm down 2.2 pounds and only have 2 more pounds to go to meet my goal for my sister's wedding. Only 25 more days until I fly to the States!
3. Saturday, I got my ring! I'll save all of you from using the barf bag you keep close by your computer when stopping by those pink oh-my-gosh-I-found-my-flowers-and-my-bridesmaids-dresses-are-soooooooooooooooooooooo-cute wedding blogs. I'm so happy, it's gross. So instead of triggering your gag reflex, I'll leave you with this:
What do you think?
Because there is a dire need.
Public Service Announcement: How to Wait for and Enter an Elevator
Dedicated to all Koreans who are astonished that someone is in the elevator.
I understand that waiting for an elevator can be maddening. I get it. Because it's those few precious minutes that determine whether you are "on time" or "running late." And I, too, watch the small black screen with its red numbers, wondering how long it can possibly take for someone to get off or on the elevator one floor up. Why aren't the numbers changing? Why isn't someone pushing the button that closes the doors? What could they possibly be doing up there? And I find myself absolutely welling over with rage before I've even exited the building. I want to express to you that I feel your impatience. I sympathize and I empathize. But please remember to turn on your brain before you walk out the door. Have your coffee, take your vitamin, stand under a hot shower for 20 minutes - do whatever it takes to function like a human who possess a smidgeon of common sense and common courtesy.
When waiting for an elevator, please remember to allow at least a meter of space between yourself and the doors. If there are two elevators, I suggest standing between them. You are close enough to secure yourself a spot on whichever becomes available first and is headed in the right direction.
When waiting for an elevator, do not stand directly in front of the doors. Your proximity to the doors does not make the elevator arrive sooner. When you stand directly in front of the doors, you make it impossible for the people on the elevator to exit. What's worse is that you actually hinder their exit by trying to enter the elevator as soon as the doors open wide enough for you to slip in sideways. This is always a mistake unless you are lucky enough to score an unoccupied cabin, and even then it's unnecessary.
When waiting for an elevator, do not be stupid. If you are senseless enough to stand directly in front of the doors and try to breach the entrance as soon as possible, do not then be surprised when you run into... a person! The worst thing you can do is gasp in surprise, push your eyebrows towards your hairline, and mutter "ohmo" in true ajumma style. This betrays your belief that this elevator exists only to serve you, to take you to your floor, and that everyone else should, well, disappear, or at the very least take the stairs. Besides, if you wait long enough, the doors will open completely and there will be plenty of room for you to enter and for me the previous occupant to exit at the same time.
When you attempt to run me over in your hustle, you are stirring The Rage. You cannot know how hard it is for me not to scream say, "Back. Up. Off. Me". Yeah, you're so close, I need two prepositions to express myself. There is a basic principle of common courtesy that should be exercised here. It's called WAIT YOUR TURN. WAIT YOUR TURN. Just wait a few seconds longer and you won't enrage poor ChubbO who is already angry enough just being awake, who is already dreading the 40 minute fight in Metro Purgatory, who is already fed up with being stepped on, shoved, and jostled mercilessly. The ChubbO who is trying so hard to curb The Rage, to cultivate compassion, and to freaking not punch you in the face.
In conclusion, please stop.
This has been a public service announcement from Rage in the A.M. Management Team, whose goal is to curb the bubbling and dangerous Rage that boils within the unfortunate souls who cannot seem to adjust to being physically assaulted on a daily basis.
So, I was contacted by this website to do an interview about being an expat in Korea and it's up on their site today. It's not a huge deal, but I thought it was kind of cool, and I think you should go read it. Not that you're not completely aware of all the details already, but because you are my dear readers, part of your job description is to read. They even put up some pretty pictures! I gave a shoutout to some K-blogs, particularly Ask A Korean and my new fav, Stuff Korean Moms Like. Enjoy!
[This is the first post in a series entitled Imagine All the People. I do not claim to do justice to the amazing people in my life with these small images of who they are to me. But because I have been given so much, changed so much, loved so much by these friends, family members, and acquaintances, I want to share them with you. These are the people who have helped to make me who I am.]
She walks with purpose, upper body always slightly tilted toward her destination. She greets the day with bright lipstick and sometimes wears it on her teeth, but never for long. Because she is the kind of woman you tell about the lipstick-on-the-teeth. And you will be rewarded with her full, robust laughter when you do. Carmen is a professor, author, mother, and friend, and while teaching me how to write, also taught me how to live kind and to live wide and to live honest.
The thing I love the most about being with her is talking good. Yeah, talking good. I thought there might be a better, more elegant way of putting it, but talking good is it. She taught me how to talk good about people. When I remember Carmen, there is a certain atmosphere that my memory plays back. It feels warm and bright. There is a buzzing, words upon words flying out from us and around us and circling the room only to land lightly on our shoulders and our cheeks. Our words turn into bees busy making the sweet honey of conversation, of authentic dialogue. And we talk good about people we know. We talk good about Ben, how intelligent he is, how we're still reeling from his latest poem; we talk good about Bill Rice, how kind he is, how he can write the pants off any Pulitzer Prize winner any day of the week, how much he knows about good music; we talk good about her kids; we talk good about my mom; we talk good about Hildegard of Bingen; we just talk good. And I am filled with a healthy affirmation of humanity. And talking good leaves a rich and delicious taste in my mouth.
Most of all, Carmen is real. And she thinks I'm much smarter than I am, which is always nice.
I just had to share this with you. Because I love you and it hurts me to imagine that you could possibly be living your life without the joys and musical genius of ol' Zimmy.
You can listen to Bob Dylan's new "bootleg" 2-disc album FOR FREE until it's release date, October 7th. So you only have a few days to give your ears the gift of Tell Tale Signs, courtesy of NPR. Click here to discover the auditory brilliance of Dylan's "new" stuff. You can thank me later. Or you could thank me now, like in the comments.
Yesterday I bought a toaster oven. It is awesome. I had my first piece of toast this morning, and I remembered how much I love the sound of the knife spreading butter and jam across the crackling surface of the bread. That scratching was immensely satisfying for no reason at all, and I took joy in it.
Also, I am continuing to swim through Rilke's Book of Hours. I want to share another of his poems with you. So, dress your heart up in its Sunday best and sit down. Allow yourself to be vulnerable for a few short minutes in this day. My favorite parts are bold.
She who reconciles the ill-matched threads
of her life, and weaves them gratefully
into a single cloth -
it's she who drives the loudmouths from the hall
and clears it for a different celebration
where the one guest is you.
In the softness of the evening
it's you she receives.
You are the partner of her loneliness,
the unspeaking center of her monologues.
With each disclosure you encompass more
and she stretches beyond what limits her,
to hold you.
I feel that I am breaking the sacredness of the moment perhaps, by putting my own small and insignificant words after Rilke (I mean, who speaks in the hall after good writing is read?), but I want you to know how earnestly I am longing to weave these ill-matched threads I've been given, how desperately eager I am to stretch beyond these things that limit me (they exist in abundance), to reach over them victoriously and to hold Love. And after holding Love, to be so full up with it that I've no choice but to love others with it. Genuinely and authentically to love the ajumma stepping on my foot, the girl pushing me in order to see her reflection in the window. And most of all, to love those who love me.
Go, stretch beyond your limits. Weave a beautiful and pleasing garment from the seemingly ill-matched threads in your life. And I'll meet you there, in Love's house.
So, as I type this I'm munching on 56% Cacao pieces and sipping tiramisu in liquid form. It's delicious and I've no idea how many days I have (okay, it's like 32, but I don't care, so there). Anyhow, total and utter failure of my Super Duper Don't Be the Fat Sister Workout Plan. But you guys don't really care to hear about all that stuff anyway, right? It's boring, and you can click on 100 blogs and 99 of them will be some ChubbO complaining about how she just can't stand to look at herself one more minute, but then she can't stand to live without the 190 calorie goodness of an Iced Caramel Macchiato, either. Therein lies the rub. Although I've failed since the second day of my failtastic plan, I'm not giving up altogether. The way to success lies not in not falling down, but in getting back up after you've fallen down for the fifty-second time. And if I truly believe that, then I'll suck it up and get back on track.
P.S. He says "Pity on me" at the end and not "Pee on me."
In other news: my holiday has been great so far. Thursday I went on a field trip to the Children's Park near Achasan and saw the animals with my monsters. It was a beautiful day and my kids made me feel like a celebrity, calling my name all day and running to give me hugs and pulling my hand to show me something. I truly enjoyed being their teacher because we were outside of the pressure-cooker classroom, there were no right answers, and hey, Danielle Teacher can do cartwheels! And of course, it was my 2 year anniversary.
My Thursday only got better as I left the park to meet soon-to-be hubby and we did a little ring shopping aaaaaaaaaaand... I totally found my ring. It's being handmade and I'll get it... well, I don't know when. It will be available the 10th of this month, but who knows when Kenny will actually deem it the right time to present it. I've fallen in love with it. It's different than anything else I've seen and although it's still shiny and pretty, it's also simple and my style. I think I truly allowed myself to be a girl about the whole thing and it took Kenny by surprise. But I have a right to be giddy and excited about it. So I am! I'll be sure to let y'all know whenever I get it.
It may seem weird from a western view that I've already been proposed to, that my wedding was in the planning stages before that proposal took place, and that I still don't have my engagement ring after being engaged for over a month. But that's usually how it works in Korea. The wedding is pretty much planned and taken care of and then the girl waits and waits and waits and the guy makes a big show of the proposal and presents the ring. I guess it comes from the fact that wearing engagement and wedding rings is something that is becoming more popular in the younger generations here and is not generally regarded as necessary. But I'm glad Kenny was up for it!
Enough mush. Onto the goodness that is my gift to you today. Yesterday we ventured a drive out towards Suwon to the Korean Folk Village. Kenny's parents warned that we shouldn't go anywhere, especially in a car, on a national holiday in Korea, but we pooh-poohed on their negativity and went anyway. We begged his father to borrow the navigation system and went on our way. I drove. This video is what happens when Danielle drives in Seoul. I know that Koreans have only been driving for a few years compared to the United States and the laws are a bit behind when it comes to safety issues on the roadways. Needless to say, it's crazy. But we had fun and even if we almost died a few times, it was worth it. Enjoy the long lost rage that resurfaced behind the wheel. I know you guys are probably missing The Rage a bit, and to tell you the truth, I am too. After watching this clip, you'll probably be able to hear my voice a bit clearer in any rants to come.
P.S. He says "Pity on me" at the end and not "Pee on me."