[Oh yeah. I went to Jeju. LAST YEAR.]

I've been meaning to write up our Jeju Christmas Trip,well, since Christmas. I blogged a bit about Seogwipo, an adorable art-inspired town in southern Jejudo over at ZenKimchi, while simultaneously raging about Magic Tea. But I have this picture. This picture must be shared with the world. Hopefully, someday, I will share the other amazing photos Kenny and I took while we were there. But this one, it deserves to find its home on the Internet. Here you go, Internet:

Isn't the resemblance simply striking? This is one of the many statues found all over Jeju Island. They are called dol hareubang (  돌 하르방  ), dol meaning "stone" and hareubang being a Jeju dialect of "grandfather." They're basically thought to be gods offering protection and, some say, fertility. They are guardians.

I'm not sure what we're guarding here, but we're definitely happy about it. Also, I have to get a new coat. This one is just not flattering. I mean, it makes me look like a hareubang. And when was the last time you heard anyone giving a hareubang a compliment on his lovely figure, eh?

[oh no, not again]

Yes, again, my friends. Because I have had enough.
Before my dinner tonight, I don't remember the last time I ate a vegetable, unless we're counting the sun-dried tomatoes on my margherita pizza, or the seaweed wrapped around my bulgogi kimbap. Before my dinner tonight, I honestly don't remember the last time I truly cooked something. Not like, warmed it up, boiled it, or scooped it out of the rice cooker. But really cooked something. Tonight I did that. And it felt good.

I was going to the gym. How could you forget my Korean Aerobics Class Fiasco? But I had only signed up for a month. And that month is gone. Also, I got lazy. And I got cable. I am a firm believer in this equation: hours of tv watched per day = pounds gained per week. FOR REAL.

I ordered jeans last week. Because both pairs of my jeans have holes in the crotch, where my thighs are having their constant trysts. And I ordered from a Korean site, yes. But we ordered the sizes that matched my current jeans, both pairs which I bought here in Korea (miracle of miracles, I know.) They came. They were too small. I cried, but only for a minute. Sizes are wack in this country anyway. Who measures themselves in centimeters, really? That just makes your numbers huge! Anyway, I sent them back and exchanged them for the biggest size in both pairs. I got them tonight. One of them is a long way from fitting. But the second pair, they button. I wouldn't dare sit in them for fear that all my organs would protest and go on strike the minute they were squeezed that tight, but I buttoned those suckers. And the fat that buckled up and bulged over the waist of them was HORRID. OH MY GOD. I'm an old person. I'm an old, fat person! How did this happen?

Oh wait. I know. It's all the crap I've been eating. For the past month, I haven't paid attention to what I've been eating. I've just been shoving it in. And also, it's all the TV I've been watching. Because watching TV is so easy. So much easier than blogging. So much easier than emailing friends. So much easier than making lesson plans. Or thinking. Or breathing. Well, maybe it's on par with breathing. Maybe.

So, it's my fault. And yes, I'm deriding myself and metaphorically punching myself in my stupid face. But. There is hope, ladies and gentlemen. Because 7 months ago, this was my body:

Suck on that, belly fat! I know you were planning this hostile takeover and finally protruding further than the boobs, but you will be thwarted! You shall be dominated and then, exterminated. Also, thighs and butt, you better watch yourself. Because once The Belly is eradicated (yes again, shut up), you're next in line. I have my almost-fitting pair of jeans hanging on the wall in my room, along with a medium size shirt that my boobs and back fat used to fit into. I will fit into them again. I'm giving myself two months, y'all. Two months of mindful eating, intense gym visits, and hard work. I have a goal. I have an achievable-I-just-looked-like-this-less-than-a-year-ago goal. And I'm so tired of looking back at our honeymoon pictures and being jealous of  myself. I'm getting a car on Saturday: no excuse to not go to the gym; no excuse to not go shopping for fresh veggies because I have a way to transport them; no excuse to sit at home on my butt. Basically, I'm just preemptively removing all excuses out from under my feet.

Also, pray for me. A new Dunkin' Donuts just opened across from work.


[What the Crap Wednesday: Wonderful Crap is Happening Edition]

Holy Crap, it's Wednesday! And I'm at work, fixing up my classroom and pre-planning for next semester which starts next Tuesday. Yep, you read that right. I'm AT WORK ON A HOLIDAY. And this isn't the first time, either. Nope. Was all up in here on Monday, too. What the crap? Since when did I become such a dedicated overachiever? Oh, right. Since my birth.

No, really, it's this new girl. (She's not actually new anymore because we got three new guys, so now they're the new guys. Anyway, Saralyn has been here for a while now and she's awesome. She can do math. She can make any kind of form, test, or grid in Word in like 2 seconds and then email it to you as a template. Did I mention she can do math?) Anyway, the new girl is a great teacher. She's taught in so many different countries and she has all these little tricks and rules and guidelines and ideas. And I pretty much just sit next to her, watch her, and then copy everything she does. Pretty much. Anyway, she's making me want to be better. And can I just say What the crap? Because I was all happy being lazy and half-assing my way through everything and forgetting to give tests when I said I would give tests and coming in about 20 minutes before class and then crying about how unprepared I was. I was okay with that. But noooooooooo. Saralyn has to be all "together" and "organized" and right next to me, too. In other words, she's making me look bad. So, I gotta step up the "teacher" game, kids.

On another note entirely, unrelated to teaching English in every way imaginable, Kenny's show opened on Saturday. And there were altogether perhaps between 30-40 people who showed up. It was fabulous. He's had a few offers on some of his pieces, been in two different newspapers, and now we've snagged this TV documentary thing. We met with the writer and producer with a camera this morning at the gallery. Then they kind of followed me around. We're meeting with them again next Saturday. Anyway, all this to say: I'm gonna be on TV, y'all! WHAT. THE. CRAP!

It's not a big deal, actually. And it's kind of funny because the woman keeps instructing us to chat naturally, but she wants Kenny to speak Korean. And finally, I said, "Look. If you want us to chat naturally, that's NOT going to happen in Korean. We speak English." And then she stopped saying that. So, I'm pretty sure none of it is going to be natural. But it's a half hour documentary. It's only showing in Gangwondo, but I'm pretty almost definitely sure I can strong arm a tape or DVD of it out of someone. Obviously so I can make everyone who ever comes over sit down and watch it. And then we'll look at my wedding scrapbook. And then we'll make them look at our traveling pictures and pet our cats. No, I'm kidding. Maybe.

Also, our car comes on Saturday. WOOT. So I'm going to Seoul tomorrow to get my Korean driver's license. I believe What the Crap Wednesday: On The Road editions will become quite frequent. So brace yourself. And book yourself a bus ticket to Wonju if you're in Korea. Because it's really not that far (especially from Seoul. Oh, come on. This country is like 6 hours tall and 5 hours across, y'all. Make the trip.) and Kenny's paintings are well worth it. Hopefully sometime next week I'll have a video tour of the gallery up for all of you outside of the country!

Better get back to work. I've missed you lovelies. Sorry for the silence. It'll probably happen again. You know me...


[how to love a stranger: park keun ha | solo exhibition]

February 20th, y'all! Mark it on your calendar, book your flight, reserve your seat on the bus! Kenny's show is opening at 4:00 pm. The exhibition is in Wonju at ACOZZA Gallery Cafe. Above is the front and back of the invitation postcards. Woot for designs at printer! Woot for the invites and exhibition brochures being delivered on Thursday or Friday! Woot for the HubbO finally getting to show the world how completely awesome he is and validate all my ranting and raving about him!

Questions about how to get there? Email me at sparticusdb@hotmail.com. Or leave a comment here and I'll get back to you!!


[Funny the Way It Is]

[push play, read]

I listened to this song on the bus home tonight. I realized a few lines of the lyrics captured the culmination of some debate going on inside me about convenience and comfort and what they cost.

standing on the bridge
watch the water passing under-
neath it must have been much harder
when there was no bridge just water
now the world is small
remember how it used to be
with mountains and oceans and winters and rivers and stars...

I live in the country of convenience. We have the fastest Internet; we have the most efficient airport in the world; we have ridiculously affordable health care; we have free shipping with online shopping; we can order food and have it delivered in a park, on the sidewalk, in an alley. And that delivery guy will come back later to pick up your dishes. We live in apartments surrounded by every kind of convenience you can imagine. Korea is saturated with convenience. Everything is done for you. You don't even pump your own gas in this country.

And I will tell you, dang, it's comfortable. I sit around and think about ways I can make my life even more comfortable. And generally, I discover how many things I need to achieve this. I need a better rice cooker so my rice will stay fresh longer and cook faster. I need a car so I can go where I need to go exactly when I like and skip the 10-minute-wait between buses. I need a better computer so I can spend more of my time in front of it. I need cable TV so I can watch programs I have seen before in English. I need a better cell phone so that I can Twitter on the go (because does Twitter really count if you must be tied to your computer and an Internet connection?). I need a personal trainer who will roll my belly out of bed in the mornings and march me to the gym. I need a personal chef (okay, I sort of have this one covered with the HubbO, but still) who will force me to eat things that are good for me while at the same time relieving me of the worry about and proximity with the food I consume. I need a lot of money so I don't have to teach. Because then I could spend all my time on the Internet, and everyone knows how great the Internet is!

And all of those things are fine. I love things. They're great. And I love easy and fast.

But what I don't love is who I become when everything is easy and fast. I don't love how those things prompt me only to consider further what more I need in order to be comfortable.

These things never stir me to create, to commune, to care about the person next to me. These things never allow me to test my patience or my discipline, both things running on empty. I am beginning to be drawn to the simple things in life. And I want to find beauty in waiting on the bus, instead of inconvenience. I want to order my life so that I don't need my rice cooker to keep my rice for 49 hours. And I want to stop seeing only my needs and the things that would make my life easier, instead of discovering the ways I can reach out and embrace a bit of difficulty or complexity. I want to stop complaining about being busy and having no time, and rejoice that I have a community to be a part of and people to care about. I want to work hard and build something for myself instead of ordering it to be done for me and delivered to my door for free.

I never understood why artists and writers always went to the woods or sparsely furnished shacks on the beach. I always wondered why they needed to seclude themselves from everyone else to get their work done. But it's not the people or the place they're running from. It's the things. The convenience and the comfort. Because let's face it; how many times can you site comfort as the great motivator? It's not. It just doesn't move us. It doesn't make us dance. It doesn't help us value vulnerability with each other or even within ourselves.

And we're ruining things with it. I crossed a good number of swinging rope and stone bridges built across small streams and hung across large coursing rivers in the Himalayas. And I was so thankful for those bridges. They held me and led me to places I couldn't have dreamed up. But the bridges are simply not enough. It's not enough that people can walk through the mountains and cross the water with relative ease now. People can't drive their cars through the mountains, and well, that's just annoying, isn't it? So not only do we want bigger and better bridges, we want roads. We want a clearly marked line to follow on the map. We don't want to twist and turn and investigate corners. We want to know where we're going and exactly how many minutes it's going to take us to get there.

The roads that are being constructed and laid through those mountains are destroying Nepal. Eventually, it won't be any big deal to hike through the Himalayas because you'll simply be able to drive through it. Without relying on the generosity of mountain farmers to feed you. Without poking dirt-bathed babies tummies on a stone wall. Without talking to the people of this land and trying your tongue at their names for the earth and its inhabitants. Nope. You'll be able to drive through it, with your air-conditioner on, your iPod plugged in, and all other experiences drowned in the comfort of your leather seats and the convenience of your four wheels.

Perhaps if I was Nepalese and walked everywhere, I would think differently. Perhaps speaking from the heart of comfort and availability and the opposite of hardship, I find the simplicity of others' lives beautiful. Yet, I have felt that simplicity work within me. I have walked through those mountains, trying to avoid the roads and being thankful for small bridges. I have seen what it is like when there are "mountains and oceans and winters and rivers and stars." And I met myself clearly there. My vision was not blurred by modern gadgets that keep me busy. Because the longer I think about it, the more convenience hides me from myself. Extremely comfortably hidden, actually. I don't have to look inside myself to, to examine myself, to reflect on my character, my choices, my heart. I certainly don't have to consider anyone else in this scheme of the easy life. If it's easy then it's good. If it's difficult, or complex, or fuzzy then it needs some work and someone needs to fix it so I don't have to do that work myself.

I'm tired of it. I'm tired of feeling the things I have within me being hushed by my comfortable life. Of course, we'll see where all this weariness gets me the next time I have to, God forbid, stand in a line and wait for something. Or when I need to order my time more wisely so I'm not 5 minutes late to everywhere. Or when I need to turn off the TV and shut down the computer in order to sit in front of the looking glass. We'll see. I am looking to simplify my life. Hoping to ignore the comfortable and choose instead the creative.

But y'all. I still want a car. Really, really bad.


[More on Middlemarch]

'You must be sure of two things: you must love your work, and not always be looking over the edge of it, wanting your play to begin. And the other is, you must not be ashamed of your work, and think it would be more honourable to you to be doing something else. You must have a pride in your own work and in learning to do it well, and not always be saying, There's this and there's that- if I had this or that to do, I might make something of it. No matter what a man is - I wouldn't give twopence for him' - here Caleb's mouth looked bitter, and he snapped his fingers - 'whether he was the prime minister or the rick-thatcher, if he didn't do well what he undertook to do.'
George Eliot wrote these words  found on page 562 of my 1994 Penguin Classics copy of Middlemarch borrowed from the school's library. And it got me thinking about "my work." What exactly is my work? Surely it isn't teaching. I enjoy it and it suits me, mostly because it feeds my self esteem to have someone looking at me for at least 6 hours out of everyday. It's nice to have a room full of people listen to you, and sometimes to write down what you say. There is some satisfaction in feeling a bit more important than I know I truly am. But this work is not what I love to do. And I do find myself, more often than I'd like to admit, looking over the edge and wondering when I get to play.

I've been absent for a while. I've been silent for a few weeks, with random posts stuck in here to hold my place in your mind or your Reader. And I have missed something. I've missed the way I feel at home when I think about things in words. I've missed the way I make miniscule but important self-discoveries when I try to fit everything flying through my head into paragraphs. I've missed the joy I find in the dance of my fingers over the keyboard. And it makes me hope that this is my work. That writing is my true work. I find that I have pride in my writing in a way that is not found in any other area of my lfe. Not a pride that sets me above others, but rather one that makes me thankful and sure of myself.

I guess I am still trying to find a balance in my life. A balance that creates a space for my husband, for housework, and for writing. (We won't mention that I have a full time job). I'm not balancing those things well. It seems I am either an exceptional wife who writes little but remembers to clean the litter box, or I am a writer who does little else exceptionally. This writing thing is powerful and time-consuming. And I can get lost in it.

But when I find myself lost in writing, I found myself missing out on my life. I'd like to be worth twopence, though. I'd like to be able to devote myself fully to my passion. I've been given the gift of actually knowing what I'd like to do with myself. So many people are still wandering about, trying to figure out what they're suited for. But I know. I know! I'm wondering when I'll be brave enough to try to feed myself with these sentences.

Until then, I will be mindful of not saying "There's this and there's that- and if I had this or that to do, I might make somehting of it." I have this and I have that. And I can make something of it. I think.....


WTCW: Baby Fever Edition

I know you're already thinking, "What the crap, Danielle? It's not even Wednesday." And I'd just like to second that. Because holy crap it's Thursday already?

And I was going to write this on Wednesday, but then I had to clean the litter box, and eat dinner, and wash the dishes, and do laundry, and watch TV in English! Also, I had to read a bit more of Middlemarch because I really have no idea how this story ends. And then, of course, I had to sleep. In conclusion, welcome to What the Crap Wednesday, Thursday Edition!

So, I want a baby.
But I don't want a baby.
What the crap?

I know. Number one, I can't afford a baby. Number two, I don't want to not be able to watch my baby belly grow because I already have a food-baby belly in place. I'd like to lose weight and then get fat. If that even makes any sense. Number three, I would have to quit my job, because they don't exactly have maternity leave at the ol' hagwon. In turn, we would lose our house because my job provides our apartment. (This might be able to be shoved up into number one, but whatever.) Number four, I have no idea what to do with a baby. Number five, I have a particular aversion to crying children. Number six, I want my sister to be first. She's been wanting a baby for who knows how long. It would feel wrong to have one first. Number seven, I want to travel. Number eight, I want to have more time with the HubbO. Because we've not even been married a year. (But almost, so yay!) Number nine, I can't afford a baby. Number ten, I can't afford a baby. (Also, the HubbO is not completely on board with my children-in-the-future plans. So, that's another strike against the baby fever.)

See? Ten good reasons why I don't want a baby.
But, no.
I still want a baby.

One that looks like this:

This is Sophia, the daughter of some of our good friends, Sandra and Philip. They graciously let us spend New Year's Day with their family and Kenny and I got some great shots. We had a really great time. It made me want a baby even more.

I don't know what it is. There's just this feeling that rises up through the center of my chest when I see babies. It's not just a "so cute let me pinch those cheeks" kind of feeling. It's not necessarily just happy or dreamy, either. It's this kind of sobering and resonating belief in something small and vulnerable being worth whatever I have to give. But then this other feeling pushes the that down with a ripening of my will, my desire for freedom, my search to see the rest of the world. Or at least a bit more of it before I sit down in a rocking chair and sing lullabies. It's strange. Because I want a baby. And I don't want a baby. In the same moment. Am I crazy? Possibly. 

To recap: I want a baby. I don't want a baby. 
Anybody else feeling me on this one? 
Seriously, y'all. What the crap?

(P.S. What the crap do you think about the new WTCW banner?)


[Four Cakes and a Stomachache: Birthday Recap]

So, the above stash is what ended up being the sum of all my beautiful birthday gifts last week. My birthday was Wednesday, the 27th, and I am now officially 27 years old. (Or, 28 if you count it the Korean way, which still doesn't make sense to me because 9 months does NOT equal a year. No matter what kind of math you do.)

My students gave me a number of unexpected gifts and sweet cards. But the best card I got was from my new friend, GeumOk 금옥, who works at the front desk at school. She is kind, thoughtful, gentle, and encouraging. And her card was so perfect. I wasn't sure if you could read her writing, so I typed the text below:

On my birthday, all day, I walked around in a daze of feeling loved. It was one of the most dreamy birthdays I've ever had, but I'm going to blame that on the four cakes I had. (No, Mom, it doesn't top any of your surprise parties or amazingly orchestrated birthdays.)

Yep, four cakes. And that's not bad Danielle Math, either. Right, so I'll tell you how to get four cakes on your birthday just in case you wanna try to pull the massive sugar high and then sleepless stomach ache of a night I had.

First, you should promise your incredibly fluent, bright, and intelligent high school students who have signed up for a daily English class DURING THEIR HOLIDAY before they go to university- you should promise them that you will buy them an ice cream cake. Then you should proceed to meet them at Baskin Robbins and buy a ridiculously expensive ice cream cake, which shouldn't even be called a cake, because there's no cake. You heard me, people. Ice cream cake in Korea is a SHAM! It's just a cake-shaped lump of ice cream frosted and decorated to make you want cake. So, you should eat only a few bites of this cake because it is before lunch time, y'all.

After you eat a bit of Ice Cream Just Kidding There's No Cake Number 1, you should head to your favorite restaurant for Shindukk Ddeokbokki. You shouldn't order the fried mandu, because you will get 6 of them on the house because it's your birthday. While you are there, you will be called by one of your coworkers who will tell you, "Hey, there's a meeting in 10 minutes. You know that, right?" And you will say, "What the crap?" And it will be totally appropriate because your birthday was on a Wednesday! Imagine that. So, you eat your free mandu in a hurry and rush to school for some "meeting." But it's not a meeting. No! It's a surprise party with, you guessed it, Ice Cream Masquerading as Cake Number 2! You should eat some of this cake ice cream, which was accompanied by another gift of a caramel macchiato from Sandra and her baby Sophia (squee-worthy pictures coming soon!) because it's after lunch now.

Then, after work is over, you should head to a new Italian restaurant to meet your husband and dear friends. Your husband should call the restaurant ahead of time and when they ask if they should make a cake for the occassion, he should tell them that his wife generally doesn't like Korean cake because it's not cake, it's like bread. Also, that she really likes chocolate. He should also buy another Ice Cream Minus Real Cake Number 3 to take to the dinner because he thinks there should be cake and is unaware of  the amount of Ice Cream Not Cake formerly consumed by his wife and also because he thinks he told the restaurant no cake.

At the end of the dinner, the restaurant should present you with REAL CAKE (Number 4 if you're still counting), that they especially made for you with EXTRA SERIOUS AMOUNTS OF CHOCOLATE in the SHAPE OF A HEART! And although you are already full of half of your own entree and half of another person's entree, you should try this cake. It is awesome and you should eat it because they made it just for you! But when they bring the chocolate heart cake that you share with everybody because you're stuffed, they will follow that with already cut slices of the Ice Cream Minus Real Cake Number 3. Because apparently, we eat a lot of cake. Or Ice Cream with a Cake Complex. Whatever. And because the Not Really Cake has already been cut and served so nicely with cute little dessert forks, once again you shove some down because, well, I mean, it's ice cream.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you get 4 cakes on your birthday, 3 for free.

I whined all the way home in the taxi and had the hardest time falling asleep. I had a terrible stomachache. But my heart was more full than my stomach and aching a bit, too. Because I had no expectations for my birthday and it ended up being so sweet. I felt special, cared for, and of worth. What more could a girl ask for on her birthday?

Thanks to everyone who wished me a Happy Birthday on Facebook, as well. I know amazing people all over the world. I am grateful for everyone who constantly shows me love and support, even though I rarely deserve it.

[P.S. The Internet has been down at our place. It's infuriating. I never realized how many things I looked up on the Internet in a day. Or a weekend. Goodness. I sometimes choose to take a break from blogging, or get busy and don't have enough time for everything I'd like to do, but involuntary breaks are the worst! I've msised you guys. Also, if you're reading this in your Google Reader or other feed, pop on over here to check out the new February design! Inspired by one of my lovely birthday presents! And make sure you scroll to the bottom of the page to see Kenny's new thief illustration!]

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