You Can Thank Me Later

for the awesome linkage I'm about to bestow upon you. 
Today was the first Sunday of Advent and I got to participate in it by being part of the group that lit the first candle. I wanted to write something about Advent tonight, but after reading something a friend had written, everything I wrote seemed to be echoing his piece. So, instead, I offer you the original. This is a link to one of my buddy's posts on Advent a few years ago that he was so kind to share with me. You can find it here: Part I, and Part II. I believe that everything he says is spot on and that we waste so much time in our lives by refusing to live expectantly, refusing to feel everything thoroughly. We refuse to do the waiting as the waiting should be done. And I think we're missing things. At least, I think I'm missing things. I just want things to be here and to be now. But this Advent season, as I stood in front of the congregation this morning and sang The First Noel, I allowed myself to be overwhelmed with anticipation... things are coming toward us, sometimes in slow motion. And so many times the slow motion is an opportunity. I plan on taking those opportunities. 

Also, Thanksgiving has come and gone and everyone has posted their mandatory list of things they're thankful for. Well, my favorite blogger of all time (who often makes me late to meetings, to work, to appointments, to church, to wherever I'm supposed to be but can't get there on time because I'm reading her blog and can't seem to pull myself away) posted something that seemed so true and I thought that I would share it with you

On a completely unrelated note, Roboseyo (who seems to be taking over my blog at the moment- was this your plan, Rob? To charm me into plugging your blog ceaselessly?) has done some incredible editing to the stupid video Kenny and I made about ordering food in Korean. He has made it watch-able, entertaining, and actually helpful and informative. So, watch it again because it only gets better! We tried to record me actually ordering the food, but the first place was closing and wouldn't take my order and the second place was no longer serving what I ordered, so both calls were aborted. The next time I order something, I'll try to remember to turn the camera on first. It's much easier to remember all the Korean when you're sitting in your apartment with your boyfriend. It's much harder and incredibly nerve-wracking to actually speak to someone on the other end of the line!

Anyway, hope you enjoyed the linked love I'm sending you this holiday season. 
Let's wait in eager anticipation together!


I'm Full Up

Full up with good things. 

Today was a day where I wanted to slice myself down the middle and open myself up wide enough to encompass the world and then sew myself back together, everything nice and cozy in there. Can you feel it, world? 

I have been finding beautiful treasures under my fingernails, beside me on the subway, and in my email inbox. Sometimes they are small and other times they are life-size. Some I am uncovering, wiping away the layers of dust that have made their home on top. And some are shiny and new. 

I am missing Thanksgiving at my house this year and I wonder what's on The List. My mother always takes a yellow legal pad and writes and writes for days before our family meets to eat and talk and eat some more. And before we eat, she reads her paper. I miss my mother and her beautiful, grateful heart that lives in awe of the good things that continue to rain down into her life and the lives of her children. 

This is my list, mom.

I am thankful for a rock of a family that cannot be moved or torn apart or shaken. A family that is whole and fully gracious and loves, loves, loves, the pants off of everyone who takes a step inside it. 
I am thankful for the partner I have in life- the way he leads me to new places and makes everywhere we go home. 
I am thankful for generous and good friends back home that distance cannot silence or mellow. 
I am thankful for generous and good friends I've met here that give me hope and make me laugh and appreciate community.
I am thankful for all the comments and little notes in my email I've received from people I do not know, but who encourage me and tell me they enjoy reading what I write. You don't understand how much your words keep my words coming. Writing is solitary (and boring to watch, as Audrey Niffenegger says) and your kindness breaks into the room where I so often find myself alone. I am not lonely here. Thank you. Thank you.

This is a short list. Because I happen to be thankful for a gym membership, which I fully took advantage of this evening. And I'm also thankful for long, winding conversations with my almost-husband that have kept me up late. And I'm thankful for poetry like this:

I, 59

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don't let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.

Rainer Maria Rilke, Rilke's Book of Hours



Because I'm a total nerd and because I'm a little bit overexcited about.... well, most things, the boyfriend and I have made a video! I was inspired by this awesome video that Roboseyo so kindly posted on his blog along with more extremely helpful hints. I don't know how many expats read this blog, so this might simply be entertaining my friends and family back home. And in that case, I'm totally quizzing you guys next week. That's right, mom, so listen carefully and watch twice! 

No, really, it's just for fun and because I thought that perhaps it would be cool to hear both sides of the conversation when you're ordering food in Korea. I'm not sure why I haven't raved about the take out service here before, but it's fantastic. You can get food delivered to anywhere. Let's say you're down by the river side sitting on a bench and you feel those familiar, wonderful fuzzies down in your tummy. Some people call them hunger pains, but whatev. I love to eat, but I love to eat even more when I'm hungry. So, you're starved all of a sudden and you're on this random bench and you are convinced that you will die if you do not have jjah-jang-myun (짜장면) immediately. You make a call, you give your approximate location, and a few minutes later, a guy on a motorbike calls you and says, "The third bench underneath the tree on the right after the toilets, or the bench under the third tree?" Seriously, delivery is no problem. And it's free. And, as Otto notes in his video, there are no dishes to be done. There's actually nothing to be done but the eating.

However, before you can enjoy this delicious meal on the third bench, you must order your food. And that might be a bit difficult. So to make it easier (or extremely difficult but rather funny), enjoy our first language lesson experiment! 

[EDIT: Actually, upon review, we have come to the conclusion that our video totally sucks. A remake is in the works that is much simpler and slower and less chatty. So, this is pretty much just for kicks. It was done in a hurry and we didn't practice. And we didn't ever sum up and like have the entire conversation again just in Korean without the explanation. In other words, we know it sucked, you don't have to tell us. But you could tell us how much you love us, instead.]


Poor, Poor Jamaica Fitness

I just want everyone to know that the gym down the street is going to cry itself to sleep like a little girl tonight because I KICKED ITS ASS. 


My New Crush: They're Very Sparkly

Last night was probably one of my best nights in Seoul. For the past nine months, I've been lugging this sense of isolation and loneliness and un-bliss around inside The Belly. And last night, I feel like the ol' uterus of my soul gave it up and I birthed friends. A community, really. A community of like-minded and beautiful people who drink good beer and have deep, authentic conversation and at the same time have ridiculous non-conversations and laugh really hard at each other because we are happy and not alone. Well, at least, I was happy and not alone. 

I know I'm being Cheesy McCheesington, but it can't be helped. For the first time since I have been in this country I have found a table I can sit at and be entirely comfortable and open and vulnerable and safe all at the same time. I was my fullest self (okay, maybe a little more than myself after 5 hours of talking and listening and imbibing delicious beverages) and I felt as if I was spreading out, leaking right out to the borders of who I am, filling in all the cracks and spaces of who I am supposed to be. Because real people make you feel things like that. And I met so many real people. Real, kind, generous, caring, thinking, loving people. And it was the first time I'd met any of them and I felt home. 

And yes, I could qualify all that and cover my insecurities by saying something like Oh, maybe I'm so lame and they didn't really like me, but whatev. Forget that. I like them and I know them! This clip is exactly how I feel. I feel giddy and happy and warm. Just replace "Santa" with "Sparklers!" 

And of course, I'm totally also freaking out about Christmas. So this is uber-appropriate. It's coming, people! Christmas is coming! And I might just have some friends to celebrate with!


Say Kimchi!

Kenny and I took some of our wedding/future fund when we visited the States, used the rocking exchange rate to maximize our won and bought a freaking awesome camera. I don't know exactly what it is (I'm not the camera expert by any means) but it's a Canon EOS something. The names here are not the same in the States, so even if I knew exactly what model and number and all that our camera was, it wouldn't really matter to all the exposaroonies out there. I heard my sister's wedding photographer say it was probably the Rebel XSI. But who knows. I'll get all that info and add it here later for the hundreds of photographers who live in daily anticipation of my photo posting. Riiiiight. So, we got the camera. And we made sure to purchase a wide-view lens as well, because what will the Himalayas be without a wide-angle?

And. It. Is. Awesome. Thought I'd share the proof with you guys! 

This is one of my favorite pictures, pretty much ever. This was taken at Kenny's house and that's my mother-in-law! Isn't she beautiful?  

Wide-view lens, Seoul Metro station, waiting on Hein to take our second round of engagement photos in a small cafe. 

The dreaded transfer from Line 2 to Line 8. Not bad on the weekends, of course. But picture this entire hall packed from wall to wall with commuters. Traffic jam!

And there's proof of that donut I ate! Yep, I'm at Krispy Kreme. And let me tell you, it's hard to pass up Krispy Kreme. You know how you can stop at the ones in the States when the "Hot Now" sign is on and get a fresh donut? Well, in Korea, the "Hot Now" donuts are handed out free of charge while you stand in line to put in your order. So, you can get free donuts and then decide you don't want anything else and move on. This is Kenny's strategy and it seems that enough people want other kinds of donuts and coffee that it's profitable for the Krispy Kreme to hand out free hot, fresh donuts. It's awesome. I had my free donut eaten before I pointed to the Mocha chocolate donut on my plate (topped with choco-covered coffee beans! Yes!) and asked for an Iced Caramel Macchiato, my caffeine drug of choice. 

Of course, you can tell who hogs the camera. But I really don't mind. He's trying to teach me a bunch of stuff and I'm really excited to learn. But I still have a tendency to just point and click! Right now, I'm learning how to focus or unfocus on certain objects in a frame. It's fun and I'm so glad we'll have a great way to document our could-go-disaster-or-triumph honeymoon! 

(Oh, Honeymoon Update: We're skipping Tibet altogether and this makes our heads hang low, letting our chin get to know our chests a bit better. But the permits we have to have to get in and the group tours we'd have to take to get them are a little pricey for our taste and we couldn't get the train from Beijing to Llasa going in the right direction. So we're heading straight for Nepal and the Annapurna circuit. Which will freeze all our body parts and we'll probably die. But whatever. We'll have damn good pictures documenting our demise! After Nepal we'll spend a few months in India, volunteering at Mother Teresa's house, visiting a few missionaries that Kenny knows through his father's work, and generally honeymooning in our hut on a beach. Oh, and wearing saris! And eating curry! Woot.)

On another note completely unrelated to this post, which is something I know you regularly thirst for, I am MAKING myself meet a bunch of people tonight in Korea. A bunch of other expats who write incredible blogs. I can't read all their blogs too regularly, because it starts to depress me. Ah, writers. How petty and jealous we can be! But anyway, the point is that I am making an effort to socialize outside the fiance. He may be coming (probably not) but I've sworn myself to participation no matter what. And I totally had a dream about Roboseyo last night. A very weird, awesome, dream in which he owned a huge boat that had two Olympic size swimming pools and allowed me to wander onto it whenever I pleased and he hosted an engagement part for Kenny and me there. It was totally strange and I wore my wedding dress into the pool to thank everyone for coming. And then I was self-conscious because I wasn't wearing a bra underneath my dress. And there were puppies there. And a lot of people were there: Ruthie Martin Kolb (new mommy in real life), Jennifer Wilson McCaman (whose dad took us to her house that was down the street from the boat), and the guy from ZenKimchi was there, another blog I read. Isn't that strange? I guess it's a sign I should definitely go and meet these folks if I'm already dreaming about them! And sometimes, Roboseyo turned into Doogie Howser and that was awesome. 

Digression #53: If you get a chance to go see the British film Happy Go Lucky, do so. But do not under any circumstances get the jumbo caramel popcorn and devour it all while only sharing small handfuls with your almost-husband after having had four spoonfuls of awful school bipbimbap and a piece of foul kimchi for lunch. Just see the film and enjoy a regular size popcorn and make sure you share. A lot. 


Super Duper Vibrations

Last night Kenny and I went to the gym for the first time in months. We had frozen our accounts with about a month and a half left on them because neither of us had the time to go. So we reopened them this week and last night, people, I KILLED IT.

I rode the bike for 20 minutes to start with. I had a killer playlist. Bohemian Rhapsody took me over a few hills; Kanye West helped me keep up a decent pace; Bruce Springsteen made my thighs burn; and a little Mamma Mia soundtrack helped me cool it down just to list a few. I was sweating and trying not to look at all the Korean girls walking nonchalantly on treadmills and stretching their thin limbs in the mirrors.

Then, I hit the weights. My dress requires stunning shoulders and I have banned back chub completely, so I did a load of different free weights and alternated with weight machines. I tried to work every opposite muscle (so like, if I did my sets of triceps, next I did my biceps) and I did 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps. And I was already sore when I stopped to drink some water out of the little entirely unsatisfying paper bags (I should take a picture). Then I went to hang upside down (does wonders for your back when you lay on a bench and hook a bar over your feet and then it goes horizontal as you push a button and you can flip almost completely and utterly upside down). After that, I stretched and I could already feel my arms tightening up. So, I took a chance and got on this machine.

Yes, I got on the fat jiggling machine. And it does jiggle your fat. Without a doubt. But I'll tell you what else this bad boy does: it shakes all the soreness out of your muscles and prepares you for the next day's workout. I have never bypassed the "next day soreness" before. But seriously, today, my right tricep aches a little right over my elbow, and of course I'm hyper-aware of all the muscles in my upper body today, but seriously, I'm good. For my arms, I used this position.

Now, Asian people generally seem to believe that if you shake your fat, it will go away. I see the ajummas walking down by the river holding their arms out in front of them and shaking those wings with abandon. I had a Chinese flatmate in Exeter who kept me awake at 3 in the morning with some kind of clapping noise. I was so angry, but more than that curious. I knocked on her door and it turned out she had just taken a shower and was slapping her fat. Slapping her fat. She couldn't believe that I didn't slap my fat. And Kenny keeps feeling my belly and my arms saying, "It's getting mushy! When your fat gets mushy it means you're losing it!" I seriously don't feel any mushier to myself, but maybe he's more of an expert on the mushy scale. I doubt you have one of these at your gym. Unless you live in Korea. Where we also still have these:

So if you can find a machine to jiggle your fat with super fast vibrations, I suggest it as a post workout insurance against the next-day soreness! Hope everyone is having a good workout week. I'm off to the gym...


What the Crap Wednesday: Winter Edition

Dang. It is cold. 

Last Friday, when Kenny and I got back to Seoul and went past our stop on the bus, it was still pleasant to walk outside back to the house. Saturday, it was yucky and rainy, but it wasn't really that cold. Sunday, I shouldn't have worn only a sweater. And Monday...

BAM! It was winter. Like, unbearably freaking cold winter. Like, your tongue sticks to the flag pole winter. The wind is the killer. It'll getcha. Walking from the subway to work is the worst, the wind biting through all my layers and causing me to utter moans and protests that probably remind the commuting Koreans around me of a constipated polar bear. There are no words, only the strain of all my muscles as I try to catch a breath through my clenched teeth. It's the middle of November people, and it feels like January or February. What the crap?

To counteract the unbearable cold, of course, is the unbearable heat of the subway. Because I must wear a shirt, a fleece, a jacket with a hood, a scarf wrapped around my face, all topped with my black winter coat (that now totally fits and I can so move my arms), I am hot in the subway. I am hot beyond hot with all the other wrapped and muffled and coated commuters on the Metro. And because it is apparently now winter, the Metro staff in charge of the air vents on the trains seem to think they are not necessary. But take a minute and think about it: there are still one thousand of us piling into the same small car, being mushed into Metro Purgatory with nothing to hold us up but the bosom of the ajumma behind us pressed into our back and the oversized handbag of the trendy young girl in our spleen. And we are all dressed for the Arctic. How does air conditioning not make sense right now? What the crap?

I am also forced to wear leggings under my jeans, because man, have I mentioned the wind? It is not joking. The wind is serious this time of year with no sense of humor whatsoever. And so, I don the leggings and pull them up over my bellybutton in an attempt to keep my midsection snug and cozy. But when I get to school, I sit on the floor with my kids (which I am going to have to rethink. Chairs from now on, I believe) and because we have ondol heating, our butts burn! And when you've got leggings under your jeans and you're sitting on a hot floor, you've got a veritable sauna in your pants. And let me tell you, no matter what country you live in, Sauna Pants is a serious condition. It can lead to Chafing Pants and other moisture-related and unpleasant situations. 

Let's recap: 
Outside= Freezing with Wind Intent on Killing Us All
Subway= Hell 
School= Sauna Pants

Say it with me now, altogether! WHAT THE CRAP!


"Home, Home, Where I Wanted to Be"

"I want to live in a wooden house, where making more friends would be easy." 
Thank you, Coldplay. 

Yes, that is the home where I wanted to be, and I was there, and now I'm back and I want to be there again! I'd really like to do the whole trip over again because I learned a few things. 1. Do NOT fly United Air. They are crap. They do not have the little personal screens on 12 hour flights. The stewardesses were rude and did not follow the "do not stick your butt in the passenger's face by bending over, but simply kneel to grab something from the bottom shelf" rule. When there are two hour delays on the runway, they do not make an announcement letting passengers know what is going on. They estimate everything will take 20 minutes, but it always takes at least an hour. See? United Air sucks. 2. Take lots of medicine on the flight over so that you are not deathly ill when you wake up the next day and have about 4 hours to find a dress to wear to your sister's wedding. 3. TAKE MORE PICTURES. I don't have any pictures of just me and my mom or just me and my sister. It's sad. I mean, I'll see them both in February, for my wedding, but I would have liked to have more pictures. Sadly, wedding madness ruled the weekend. So, yes, I'd like to do the trip over again wiser and better, but I'll take the time I got with my family and friends anyway! 
I'm not much of a picture poster, just because I like to show you things with words instead. But this is a special exception for you dear readers because you have been severely neglected lately. And I keep promising to rectify the situation and it's just not happening, is it? I'll try to make it up to you. A few highlights from Kenny's first trip to America, full with commentary! 

Morning ritual for Kenny: sitting on the deck with his coffee. I am here for your viewing enjoyment with airplane+sleeping hair and my beautiful kitty Kimchi! Kenny took lots of pictures of my house. I was glad he did that because I got to see it in a different way and appreciate my home even more. (I guess it's not technically my home anymore, although my mom would beg to differ!) Being at home was comfortable. I wanted Kenny to feel comfortable in my home, to experience the warmth of my family. I think he did. 

Holly and Matt exchanging their rings.
The whole fam. 

My little sister got married to a wonderful man and I now have a goofy brother-in-law to discuss my latest bowel movements with. I cried when she walked down the aisle with my daddy and I cried again when they danced together. My family is so precious. And yep, that's me in the little black dress! AND, dear readers, go ahead and open your mouth and gasp in preparation: I wore high heels. Almost the entire night. I even danced in high heels. Here's evidence: 

My mom was upset because no one was dancing. My moves were meant to inspire others to join me. (They inspired a little growl from Kenny!) Anyway, a good time was had by all except my feet. I left the heels and the dress at home. We'll see if the dress still fits next summer, when it will be a little more season-appropriate. Ultimately, I was of course, the fatter sister, seeing as how Holly is a size 0 and that is not a possibility for me, ever. But I was NOT the fat sister. So, I think the Super Duper Don't Be the Fat Sister Workout Plan was a success. I think I need to draw up the next stage which will be something like the Don't Have a Belly in the Wedding Dress Workout Plan. Or, Look Hot and Make Your Husband Drool on your Wedding Day Workout Plan. Or Love Yourself and Your Body on your Wedding Day Workout Plan. Hmmm... I'll have to give it a little more thought. 

Speaking of things fitting, I AM OFFICIALLY 63 KILOS. Which means, in plain American English.... 139 pounds. (I will take a moment for your applause. Yes, thank you, thank you.)
I'm pretty excited about this. Seems that being sick probably was rather beneficial because it did a number on my appetite. I did not consume nearly enough sweet tea or fried foods. But I didn't gain 5 pounds either. Rather, I came back close to 2 pounds lighter! Tomorrow I'm rejoining the gym with the boyfriend and the fight for the next 4 pounds and losing the rest of the belly continues! 

Also along the line of things fitting, please grab your barf bag because I found my wedding dress. I'll wait while you read that sentence again to make sure you got it right. Yep, wedding dress= check. It's not anything like I thought it would be. It's everything I walked into the store saying I hated. I am not going to thrill you or cause you to puke up any more of your guts by showing you previews. But I will show you how much fun 4 hours of wedding dress shopping is for the father of the bride. 

Doesn't he look thrilled?

Do you love it? I gave you a bigger size so you could focus on the sincerity of the facial expression. And yeah, Kenny was there, too. But shopping is his thing. Some guys are good at like, throwing balls or playing video games. My guy is good at shopping (among many many other things.) And he's way more picky than I am. So it made sense for me to have him help me pick out the dress because with my taste, there was a good chance I would walk down the aisle and have to see that look register on his face. The one I get when I point at things in the store and he rolls his eyes like he can't believe he knows me or that I just touched that piece of clothing. I wanted to make sure he liked it and there's no better way to do that than to get his approval from the beginning! So now, he gets 3 months to forget what it looked like! (Okay, it's 96 days until my wedding. 96 DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYS! Oh, sorry. I should have warned you that you still may need the barf bag. I'm finished now. You can put it away.)

I also got to spend some time with my Wifey and her hubby while I was at home. It was AWESOME to see her. She did my makeup and my hair for the wedding and it was just like being back in good old sub-par paradise, getting ready for a night out. It was pretty much pure bliss. And I got to hang out with my good friend Melanie, whom many of you might know from her blog. Yep, she was my real-life friend first! We've known each other since high school and I couldn't have made it living at home after college without her! 

Kenny, 139 pound Me, Kerri, and Buck
Melanie and Me

Well, I could choose to complain about all the things that went wrong or could have been better on my trip home, but hey, I already did that at the beginning of this post. I had a good trip home and when we got here, the first set of our engagement pictures were ready. I'll give you a peek here and the rest you can see in this Facebook album

This was a purely self-indulgent post, but I'm hoping you loved it anyway. I'm heading back to the hell hole tomorrow for a few more months of work with the monsters. They've given me a week to do evaluations for all 25 of my kids. Oh well, whatever. By the way, I totally ate a donut today. Do you know why? Because I deserved it! 

It feels good to be back. I missed you. 


I'm Going Home

I am going home. I am excited about the food (oh sweet tea, my love!). I am excited about the Reunification with my Wifey. I am especially excited to see my Sisda, whom I am actually friends with now. It took us years and years to get here, to this place of accepting each other fully and pushing each other toward better versions of ourselves with love and support. Our relationship has ripened over the past few years, distance doing weird but wonderful things for us. I am looking forward to a sweet time of sharing this adventure of marriage with her. I love it that we are getting married so close to each other. I am excited, of course, about seeing my mom and dad, who grow more precious every day I'm away from them. I am jumping up and down to see my kitty, Kimchi, who has suddenly started sleeping on my bed again in anticipation of my arrival, I'm sure. And I'm full of joyful expectation over introducing my almost-husband (so much easier and shorter than soon-to-be, don't you think?) to my friends and my extended family. I am excited for Keun Ha to be in my house where I grew up, to inch a little closer to understanding where I'm from. 

But most of all, I am ready to be comfortable. Yes, Tariq, I just want to be comfortable. Because despite all the routine and all the survival Korean I'm speaking and all the support I have here, my life is not easy. It's not as difficult now and I'm adjusting to changes much quicker than when I first arrived (I've been here 8 months and 1 day). But it's not the same as being surrounded by people who know exactly who you are, who won't be surprised or offended by you in any way, and who want nothing more than for you to be perfectly, through-and-through, you. There have been parts of my personality that have had to take a back seat to respect for others, for other cultures, and other ways of interacting in relationships. I don't begrudge Korea this subtraction it does inside me. In fact, I'm proud that I can adjust and find myself avoiding the typical American expat stereotypes (or so my friends tell me). I think that being able to adapt to other cultures and appreciate them and participate even is a valuable part of me and helps me live here. But it will be nice to not have to think, to calculate, to be careful. 

There's no other word. I just can't wait to be comfortable. 

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