Shameless Self-Promotion

I ended up being nominated in two of the categories for the Golden Klog Awards. I was thrown into the running for Funniest Blog, which is absolutely astonishing. I've read the other blogs in the list with me and they are actually funny. However, most of the time I'm awake I look pretty funny, so if that at all counts for anything, you could possibly vote for moi. Also, I am up for Up and Comer, 2009. Well, I am Up and I do intend to keep the blog posts Coming. 

This is really, really cool and I just celebrated by consuming ice cream. So, I suggest you get yourself an ice cream, a donut, or whatever other food warms your particular lovely and generous heart, and go here to click on the links to vote for me, or for any other blog you like! There are two surveys of voting, so make sure you peruse both! Also, the categories have been linked on the Hub of Sparkle post, so make sure you check them out to add new awesome award-worth K-Blogs to your reader! 


Required Reading

Sometimes I have friends ask me about my blog or blogging in general or the blogs I read. A lot of the time I hear, "But I feel like there are so many blogs out there. How do you pick which ones to read?" 

I find blogs in almost the same way I find books. I go to the bookstore. I browse. I see a book. I pick it up. I feel it. I open it and close it and feel it some more. If it's the book I'm supposed to buy, I'll know it. If it's not, it goes back on the shelf. The books speak to me. I rarely walk into a bookstore with a certain book in mind, although I do often have friend's suggestions rolling around in the back of my head. Same with blogs. I click a few links, take a look around, feel things out, and if it's for me, then I add it to the good old reader. If it's not, I go elsewhere. 

photo from serena nguyen

I have found a jewel of a blog. Or, as my friend Wishcake likes to say, a peach. This writer is just a peach. This gem was something I was directed to by another lovely blogger whom I never stop blathering on about, Tamie. And I actually found Tamie through Roboseyo, and I have no idea where I first found or clicked on Rob's blog. But all of these small forays into the wide world of the Internet (and its constant habit of reflecting the interconnectedness of the world outside it) have led me to this brave, beautiful woman across the world from me who writes down things I feel in my heart. (Well, she probably felt them first, but whatever. We won't get into the technical details of all that.) Sometimes there are bloggers and sometimes there are writers who happen to have a blog. Jillian is a writer. 

If you read one blog, it should be mine.
If you read one other blog, it should be aqui estoy. 

In My 25th Year

photo from juiced pixels 

In my 25th year
I moved to Korea
I grew to love 30 children
and hate them just as much 
all within an 8 hour period
I learned to eat kimchi
and to twist a few Korean words
around in my mouth
I picked up chopsticks
I dropped chopsticks
I wore my food
I picked up chopsticks 
I started blogging 
with the intent to blog
and I started talking about my blog
without planning on it
I started saying 
"The other day my friend said"
when really I could say
"I was reading a blog the other day and it said"
I slept 
I read good books
I did not read enough poetry
I lost a beautiful friendship 
to culture and customs different from my own
I had my appendix out
in a hospital with pretty nurses
 and ajummas rustling plastic bags
like they had found their true calling and purpose in life
I didn't sleep
I got engaged
I got pushed and whacked and handled
on the subway 
and expressed, suppressed, and channeled my Rage in the A.M.
I got angry
I got angrier
I drank coffee
I found things to be happy about
I lost 8 kilograms
I ate delicious donuts
I hiked up mountains 
I ate cookies on mountains
I hiked down mountains
I missed my mom
I missed my dad
I missed my sister
I missed my wifey
I missed my friends
I saw my mom, dad, sister, wifey, and friends
I watched my sister get married
I watched my fiance discover my home
I learned to wait 
I got married
I got a new family
I made new friends
I found a community
I had snow and ice on my eyelashes and in my eyebrows
I sat in a hot tub without any clothes on
surrounded by staring naked ajummas
and bowed to old women
with no teeth
I discovered that I was so much more than I had ever been before
I discovered that there was so much more to be
I laughed
really loud
I forgot certain things
I remembered others
and I wrote about my 25th year
after I had lived it's last hour


New Year, New Family

Today I went to Yeongdeungpo with Kenny and his parents to meet up with the rest of the family for the Lunar New Year. 

Can I confess that I have started this post about 7 times. What comes after that sentence? How do I tell you how surprised I was to feel myself relax into a wonderful atmosphere of promise? The essence of expectation mixing pleasantly with the smells of sizzling beef, spicy kimchi, and simmering dokk kuk, the traditional New Year's soup of beef, dumplings, and rice cakes? How do I make you understand my aunt's cheerful beautiful laugh as she hobbles around her small apartment, serving everyone, making sure all the men have heaping bowls of food steaming in front of them? And I want you to see my cousin's smile, her whole face lighting up with generosity and kindness as she congratulates us on our marriage and looks forward to our ceremony. 

Most of all, I want to share with you the joy I found in my small part of the day's ritual. I stood beside my husband, in all my hanbok glory, and bowed down before my grandmother and great aunt, touching my forehead to the floor. I repeated the greeting in Korean I had practiced countless times. I stood back up and watched as the rest of the family, couple by couple bowed before the eldest living members of the family. I felt some small thing shift inside me, some part of me honoring this way of seeing a new year unfold. Bowing before all that has come before, recognizing all the suffering and hardships that bow these two women so close to the ground, even when they're sitting upright. Honoring the past, the foundation for who my family has become in this year and who they will become in the year to come. I found beauty in kneeling before these strong, ancient women, wrinkled and more like children now than adults. 

I filled my belly with good food, prepared by women with good hands and mighty reserves of patience and strength. I crunched through apples filled with sweet honey, a natural effect of stress. Those apples had been peeled by my mother-in-law, a woman whose stress has turned her insides sweet instead of bitter. I held out my hands and received money from my family, trying to remember to look at the giver instead of the gift. I consumed donuts with my cousins and exchanged jokes across languages. I sat in the floor, surrounded by my new family, and felt accepted and loved. I looked to my husband, who paid close attention to conversations, making me feel connected and a part of what was happening around me. He is my only link to the world of foreign words flying around my head at dizzying speeds. And he bears the weight of my inability to communicate, to understand, and sometimes to be present at all. 

Today was a beautiful beginning for me. And tomorrow is another new beginning, marking the 26th year I've been breathing and sleeping and eating. 

My wish for you is that you all find a place that feels like home, that feels like family. 


Small Insight

As I was standing in front of the mirror tonight, squeezing my toothpaste onto my toothbrush and thinking how much I wish I was in the bed instead of doing all the things that needed doing, I realized a small something. I remembered when my mother used to tell me that my character was defined by what I did when no one was looking. It's a popular saying and perhaps it is true. But for me, I think my character is defined by the choices I make when I'm tired. 

When I'm tired, I can excuse myself from almost anything. I can leave the dishes until tomorrow, push the email to a dear friend back another day (or five), pull on the same outfit from the day before. I sometimes even fall into bed, remember I didn't brush my teeth, and simply roll over, hoping my teeth will keep until morning. And too often, I turn off my computer with a million things to say at the tips of my fingers, but the effort of clicking out those tiny words into sentences seems too much and not important enough. I'm not only talking about this blog, which has become ridiculously important to me and a lovely part of my life here in Korea. I'm talking about all the other writing that no one sees, that isn't being written with the excitement of push-a-button-and-you're-published waiting for me at the end. And that's really the writing that matters.  And sadly, the opportunities I have had to practice the craft of writing have been so numerous. I've not taken them because I was tired. 

I'm glad that when I finished brushing my teeth, I turned my computer back on. I am so very tired and my bed is one footstep away. But this is where I decide who I am, what I am made of. Perhaps this is what I have been missing, the diligence I have been longing to practice and yet failing to make a reality: this push beyond the weariness. 

Just a small insight, a little bit of self-revelation written down when I could have been lying down. 


ChubbO NoMo, Really? With this attitude?

This is a short film in which you will see why I insist on calling my blog ChubbO Chubbington, despite my small weight loss and efforts to not be a fatty in my wedding dress. Because, as I've said before, being a ChubbO is not necessarily about your size or your scale, but about the way you think about and enjoy food in ways that other people only dream of. And yes, my film editing skills are still in the negative. 
When I moved to Korea, I imagined being forced into a size 2 pair of jeans because there would not be the delicious food that I was used to gorging myself on. And to a point, this was true, because let's face it, the thousands of calories I consumed through sweet tea were cut and also, there is no Cracker Barrel or Chik-fil-A. However, this lack of fried and sweet goodness only served to heighten my cravings. And so I learned to crave other, available, foodstuffs. And in this case, the 7-11 stocks Haagen-Dazs coffee ice cream bars wearing a delicious jacket of chocolate. And so, I crave it. And I cannot be dissuaded. It is a serious disorder. In short, my taste buds in combination with my appetite make for one serious dictator. And I shall never see a size 2 pair of anything. Unless they stop making chocolate, iced caramel macchiatos, Haagen-Dasz, waffles, dark chocolate, and fried chicken. Then maybe. But what would we really have to live for? 


The 2008 Golden Klog Awards!

Sometimes I don't have anything to say.
And when that happens, you should write it down in your planner as "History Made."
And you should still read my blog because other people have things to say and I'll just say it for them. 

Over at The Hub, Roboseyo has had nothing better to do over his winter vacation than to dream about giving and receiving awards. So, for those of you that still haven't checked it out:

You can go here to vote or you can head on over to the Facebook page for the Hub of Sparkle and vote there. Not to squeeze my own love handle or anything, but yours truly has been nominated for a few things. This is a miracle in itself and proves that the rest of the bloggers here in Korea are just as unhinged as I am!  

Is it wrong to say that I squealed like a little girl and hopped up and down in my chair and generally made merry to my computer screen when I saw the big O after Chubb appear in not only one category, but um....4 official categories and uh, 1 unofficial but totally awesome category? Because if it is wrong to tell you that I'm still grinning and emitting various noises that sound like Hello Kitty and the Wonder Girls exploded inside me, then I. AM. SO. WRONG. 
Categories the ChubbO has been nominated for:
Best New Korea Blog of 2008 
Up and Comer- Blog to Watch in 2009
Funniest Korea Blog 
Happiest Korea Blog (apparently FatMan Seoul missed my Rage in the A.M. days!)
and, although not an official category but one that I support fully with every inch of cellulite on my body: Hottest Blogger! What? I mean.... uh, what, yeah, that's what. ZenKimchi, you are a winner already, bud!

Other categories that you can nominate your favorite K-blogger for: 

Best Overall Korea Blog, 2008
Most Thought Provoking Korea Blog, 2008
Most Current and Timely Korea Blog, 2008
Most Helpful Blog to Expats in Korea, 2008
Angriest Blogger, 2008
Best Pop Culture Blog, 2008
Best Culture Blog in General, 2008
Best Food Blog, 2008
Best Korea Photography Blog, 2008
Craziest Comment Board in a Korea Blog, 2008
Most Interesting Comment Board in a Korea Blog, 2008
Best Post or Series by a K-Blogger, 2008
Korea Blog Most Completely Taken Over by Obama’s Run To The Presidency, 2008

So hop on over to the Hub and make your nominations, for me of course, so we can get on to the voting! Woot. 


If I Were President

Akin to the last supper, sacred and sacrificial. The HubbO took this picture sometime before Christmas when I swore I wouldn't eat another donut until after our wedding. So, Krispy Kreme run after we say our vows? You bet. 
You can get your own here. Also, thanks to the lovely Ashley, who linked me to this Obamicon goodness, supported by Paste Magazine. Paste Magazine, I miss you and your mix cds.


On Blood

If you are a man, you may not want to know.
If you are a woman, you already do.

My body betrays me
every month,
sometimes twice.
I cannot count the days
because my internal calendar
seems to have slipped out with 
everything else that seeps 
around and into cotton weave 
in the dark parts of the day.

I sit in a small stall
my knees kissing the door
angry at the bright stain there
despite all the necessary and
supposedly sufficient measures taken
to staunch
this generous cave within me.

I wash my hands, scrubbing and soaping,
because it is everywhere
under my fingernails and on my thumb
even at my wrist. 
I cry while the water runs in the sink
because I still do not feel clean.

It's too much, I whisper.

It pushes against me
eager to escape. 
I cannot keep it underneath me. 
It spreads out around me 
like a heavy crimson cape.

There's nothing left to do
except to yell at everyone all day
and kick the copying machine.


Life of Anonymous Celebrity, Part V

In case you're a newbie: LAC 1, LAC 2, LAC 3, LAC 4

When Kenny and I arrived back in Korea from my sister's wedding in the States, he started working part-time as an English teacher in a hagwon 3 days a week. This schedule is lovely for us and he gets home before I do most days and he actually told me last week he enjoys it. When he first started work the school was in the middle of huge preparations for a school-wide English presentation. All the students were to either tell a story, have a dialogue, sing a song, or give a presentation on a foreign country, all in English. It was perhaps two weeks into the job (this is where you pretend I wrote this over a month ago and totally ignore the fact that I've had this lying around on the couch of my brain for weeks) and he invited me to attend the presentation. 

It was a special night for the kids because the school had rented a room in the local library to make it more official. I showed up and skipped straight to annoyed because I was surrounded by elementary age children that do not come equipped with pinch-able cheeks or patt-able bellies, but rather had greasy hair and talked too loudly and were already sporting some attitude. (Also, adolescent attitude transcends all language barriers). They would, in groups of two or three, approach me with a fawning shyness and utter as many syllables as possible before the entire group dissolved into a tangle of giggling and shrieking. They asked me my name, where I was from,  if I was teacher's girlfriend. I finally answered my way into the room where most of the parents were already sitting. I took a chair in the very back row, perhaps feeling a big toe's worth of what real celebrities deal with every time they walk out their door. 

The principal came and sat down next to me. She introduced herself and said, "We are so honored to have you here." 
"Oh, thanks so much. It's nice to be here. I'm excited to see the kids." 
"Well, we are so lucky to have Kenny as a teacher."
"Yes, he is wonderful, isn't he? I think he's definitely a better teacher than I am."
At this statement, she raised her eyebrows and opened her mouth halfway before snapping it shut. Then she smiled big again and said, "I better get back. Please excuse me."
So she went back to doing absolutely nothing worthwhile that I could see. She did not tell the kids to be quiet, to find a seat and stay there, to stop running up and down the stairs, to quit screaming right now or I'm GOING TO GO CRAZY AND EAT YOU. Nope, none of that. She pretty much stood at the door and handed out canned coffees and programs to a number of equally useless parents. 
The show finally began and my celebrity status slowly waned as the students became more nervous about when their turn would be than skipping by, shouting or whispering hurried questions at the white girl in the back without waiting for an answer. 
It seemed interminable. Children were constantly moving, walking up and down the aisles, in and out the doors, during their classmates presentations. Screaming, laughing, talking. And the parents, all the time, craning their necks and squinting at the stage in hopes that decreasing the visual would increase the auditory. 
I finally placed myself in the doorway and began telling children to shut it. Kenny corralled some of the crazies into a room across the hall and shut the door. It didn't seem to make a dent in the noise or the number of monsters constantly moving about. 

During a break between acts the principal came to me and said, "I hope you won't mind saying a few words after the presentations. We would love to hear what you think about our students." 
"Um, okay? What should I say?"
"Oh, just anything! Whatever you think about the students. We'll have Kenny translate!" 
She rushed back to her new post at the front of the makeshift auditorium with too few chairs and resumed being rather good for nothing, simply supervising the production by watching the emcee and leaning against the wall. 
When the presentations were over, all the  parents voted and the best of each category was awarded a prize. And then they called my name and Kenny followed me up the middle aisle. He said to my back, "You should have some critique. Don't say everything was great or they won't believe you." 
I took the microphone. I looked out at the parents' faces. They had no idea who I was, had never even heard of me before and yet they were so eager to hear what I had to say. Because I was going to say it in English. It grew incredibly quiet. I introduced myself in Korean, which earned me another round of applause. And then I began slowly and deliberately, one sentence at a time so Kenny could translate.
"The kids did a good job and I can tell they worked hard to prepare. (Awkward pause, wondering what one's face should do while their words are being translated). Their pronunciation sounds natural and easy. (Awkward pause, reflecting that this was in fact the truth). They seem to be able to communicate at appropriate levels. (Awkward pause, this is a lie this is a lie this is a lie. Okay, umm.... critique!). But more important than learning English, (let him translate this bit looking serious) is being kind and listening to others (Wow, glad that came into my head at the right moment). From what I've seen here, your children have kind down. (Lies, more lies.) But they could really work on the listening part." 
This last sentence was met with laughter, delayed only by the few seconds it took Kenny to turn my words into sounds the audience could understand. They all clapped again. 

Once more, it felt so weird. I was asked to speak not because I was qualified to do so, not because I could actually offer any constructive criticism after not-hearing too many presentations to count, but because I happened to be born in the States to parents who happened to speak the open sesame of languages. Sometimes I just want to tell the parents, "It's not worth it. Pushing your kids like this, pressure becoming the defining aspect of their brief youth, it's not worth it." But what do I know?  All I have to do is open my mouth, speak my native language, and it seems that the universe bends to meet me. 

And really, why shouldn't it? I do, after all, have anonymous celebrity status...


Some Stuff Happened

I've been meaning to do this, to let you know how my holidays went, or un-went, just like I've been meaning to clean those dishes in the sink and mail the Christmas cards still sitting next to me. Hey, you took priority over the Christmas cards, so um, be thankful, rejoice, celebrate, be merry, etc. 

Christmas was "eh." And that's all I have to say about that. 
Also, I got married. 

We didn't have our ceremony, of course, which is still on February 21st. And which, if you read this blog or wear pants, you are invited to attend. But we did do all the paperwork, which in Korea, is all it takes to be legally wed. So, yes, I'm totally a wife! Not to be all Cheesy McCheesington, but my husband is awesome. I'm so happy it's gross. (And stop judging me just because I didn't shower the morning I went to tramp about from the US Embassy to the Korean Ward Office and back to the Embassy again. It was early. And things are just as important with unwashed hair and a headband. Promise, mom.) 

And New Year's, I hiked in Jirisan with the HubbO. 

It was so incredibly cold. We cut our trip short a day. Mostly because I was cold. And HubbO totally overestimated my speed and basic overall fitness. So, he was understanding and beautiful about changing our route to something I could handle. 

Do we look married, or what?
You can see Day One here and Day Two here. And why aren't you my friend on Book of the Face? (Shout out to Tariq, and Sexy David from Downstairs, and of course, most importantly, thank you Scrubs, Beardface.) 

I also had my first Korean public bath experience the day after we returned. So I started the new year with a combination of -16 Celsius, icy mountains and the heat of a lovely hot tub filled with naked, staring ajummas.  And me, the white girl. It was surprisingly relaxing and perhaps I'll give you a more detailed post on the experience, but only if you say pretty please in the comments, or care. (I hear you Rob, Oh my gosh, she's going to do the rote jim jil bang post... bor-ing.

Anyhow, I'm still around. And I'm a wife. Yay! (Yep, I give you permission to retch into your handy-dandy barf bag, kept for just such occasions when I go off into seemingly unwarranted marital blissfests. Well, they're warranted. Oh, man are they warranted...).
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