Touchy Feely

Kenny is currently reading The Brothers Karamazov on my iPhone. He feels that once he has succeeded in reading Dostoevsky's tome in English, he will have reached some pinnacle of language learning and will then be magically filled with inspiration. I guess then, he's going to write something. In English? Not sure. But the thing is, it bothers me.

It bothers me that he is reading this novel on an iPhone.

I love my iPhone. It's like a permanent extension of my right hand. I'm absolutely enamored with this piece of technology that puts the Internet in my pocket 24/7. And with Korea's super-duper technology obsession, there's pretty much free wi-fi in the street. I read blogs on my iPhone; I read Tweets on my iPhone (isn't that what it was made for, anyway?); I read emails on my iPhone. But I do not read books. Nope.

I don't count it as reading. There should be a cover. There should be the turning of pages. There should be scribbling in margins, underlining sentences, bracketing paragraphs, and marking entire chapters. I also have a habit of moving the book around constantly as I'm reading it. It's a strange habit and I didn't know I did it until my best friend Kerri asked me why I was doing that to the book. I hold it in both hands and bend the pages away from each other, then let them fall back together. I don't break the binding, but I just read with this slow widening of the book, this back and forth motion with my hands. I often rub my right thumb over the pages I have left to read, perhaps measuring how much further our relationship will progress.

I love the snot out of my books. There's something about the weight of the page, the set of the type, the width of the binding that marries the story itself in my hands. I could possibly be blindfolded and handed any number of books from my collection and tell you without looking which book it was. I'm kind of touchy feely with my books. I also have an initial press that I clamp around the cover of most of my books when I get them. So, sometimes, while I'm subtly rocking my book, I'm running my fingers over the small ridges of the lowercase cursive d and my maiden-name b.

Maybe I'm a little neurotic about the act of reading itself. I'm okay with this. I'm never going to be a Kindle person, or any kind of electronic reading device person. I am well aware it is more portable, more affordable, more convenient. But it does not sit right with my insides. Something feels fake, forced, and disconnected. When I read a story, somehow it becomes a part of me and shifts things around in my guts, my heart. Maybe sometimes the shift is imperceptible. But it's there. And I feel it with a book in my hands, pages between my fingers, without buzzing or beeping.

So last night, after almost 4 hours of watching Kenny read The Brothers Karamazov in a coffee shop, I came home and pulled out the book itself. It felt so good. As I opened it and flipped through it, I remembered not so much the story in the book, but the way I had felt while reading it. The texture of the pages, the weight of it in my hands woke something up inside me. I said, "How can you not want to hold this?" I believe in good writing. And I believe that there is crap out there in beautiful binding. But when good writing and satisfying binding come together, it takes reading to another level altogether for me.

For those of you reading on a screen, the story remains the same. The words are in the same order, sometimes even on the same number of pages. But I still think there's something missing!

What about you? Are you a tactile reader or a technological reader?


I Take It All Back

Remember how I was all proud of myself for dealing well with changes to my work schedule?

Well, that was stupid. And apparently all lies.

Today was one of those days at work that makes me wonder how I will last 6 more months. I hate these kinds of days. They put a big fat rain cloud over the light at the end of the tunnel. I know it's stupid, but I get really depressed thinking about how I have to go to work and teach until February. And that's not really the most depressing part. The worst part is that it's MY fault that this is my job. I haven't figured out anything else to do, or haven't had the guts to try anything different. I got this job so that we could come back to Korea and have a free house for another year. I knew I was done with teaching, but I made this decision anyway. So, really, I am completely responsible for my own unhappiness. That's never a fun realization to have your coffee with.

I am also sick. My throat started getting scratchy this weekend and last night, despite a sleeping pill and an overzealous dose of cough syrup, I could not sleep for the coughing and tickling in my throat. I even sprayed a bunch of throat spray to try to numb it, but to no avail. So, I'm sleep deprived, sick, and miserable at work. And yes, I'm letting it ruin my day.

However, I am still proud of myself. Want to know why? Because even though I'm sleep deprived, sick, and miserable at work, I was still productive. Normally, I let a bad mood kill any plans I have, even simple ones. Not today. I came home from work, took a shower to relax and have a good cry, put away all the laundry hanging on the racks, washed the dishes and cleaned the kitchen, boiled myself some honey tea for my throat, sat down here and recorded a crappy one minute vlog, and then proceeded to write this.

So, despite the fact that I'm no longer proud of myself for dealing well with change (this new Monday/Friday schedule is killer), I'm proud of myself for not completely shutting down just because I had an awful, no good, terribly bad day. My attitude might suck, but gosh darn it, I'm going to get things done!


Catching My Balance

(On Phewa Lake in Pokhara / photo by The HubbO)

Lots of things are changing for me. I feel funny about it, though. I think I may be getting more used to change, or handling it better anyway. Perhaps this was due to happen because of the way I live. I don't live in a permanent residence; I don't have a long-term job (I sign contracts for a year at a time, or sometimes 6 months); I don't know where I'm going to be a year from now.

I feel like I live in a boat. I know I'm in a boat, and I know what kind of boat I'm in, but I have no idea where the boat is going or where my final destination is. And right now, that's okay. I like this boat. There's a hot Korean man in this boat with me! But it has taken me a long while to get used to the roll of the waves under my feet, the undulating and shifting. I feel like I might finally be catching my balance.

Today was Saralyn's last day at work. She's leaving Korea on Sunday. Another of my coworkers left today as well, and with his departure, I am now the longest-standing employee there. I have been there longer than the new director we got last month. I have been there longer than the elementary school principal we got in February. I have been there longer than all the employees who arrived in January, February, and now the two new ones who have arrived in August. It is strange. Staying put and watching everyone pass through. It's like this school has become a long hallway. I keep walking down the hallway, but everyone else takes the emergency exit. That's not intended to be any kind of commentary on the school itself. I'm fine there. But I'm not used to these revolving-door relationships. People come into your life for only months at a time. And yes, they usually make a graceful exit, but it's an exit all the same.

My schedule at work is also changing. I'm losing some of my girls that I've taught English to for a year now. Everyone knows I don't love teaching, and I surely don't love kids. But I do love my students. I'll be seeing them in the hallways, but I won't be their teacher anymore. I'm also losing some of my breaks, although not all of them. Mondays and Fridays will be full, busy days. I'll most likely have to work a lot harder the first few weeks of this next semester. Perhaps I'll enjoy feeling like I've earned my weekends.

Of course, I'm still complaining about all these changes. But I find that deep down, I'm becoming okay. I want to become a more flexible person. And I'm finding that if I keep my mouth shut a little longer, process change inside myself first, then I begin to accept it much better. It's not so tough. I want to stop being afraid of small changes. I want to become a person who can accept big changes with grace, allowing them to shape me into a richer, more authentic person.

I don't want to become callous. I also don't want to become so flexible that I lose my direction altogether. I do want to let life surprise me. I do want to live an inspired existence. And inspiration doesn't follow agendas or ask to be pencilled in.

I'm a little bit proud of myself for keeping my balance in the boat this month as the waters are stirring and unsteady underneath me. And that's a little change, too.


Inside My Head

What we think about ourselves is dangerous territory. And talking about what we think about ourselves with others is like sticking dynamite in your mouth and hoping it doesn't go off. I find when we begin to have a genuine conversation, an authentic dialogue about who we really believe ourselves to be, we discover that we're not so alone in our neuroses.

But it takes a certain kind of person to get to that place. Usually, if you try to talk about what you think about yourself, you will be bombarded with comments like, "How could you think that?" or "Don't be so negative." "Don't be so hard on yourself." "No, you're not ___________!" (Fill in the blank with whatever your current body/self-related obsession happens to be). And I find discussions like this to be stupid and somewhat pointless. When I tell you what I think about myself in my head, I don't need you to tell me that I'm wrong to think that. If I'm telling you about it, I probably already know it's way off course. And that's the thing about self-image. How can we ever be certain about what others think of us? And honestly, they're probably too busy going over their own list of flaws in their head to care too much about yours.

But VEDA? VEDAers, as I've taken to calling the participants, are not like this. They are listeners. They are willing to open up authentic dialogues. They are willing to hear the most horrible things you have to say about yourself and respond with sympathy, not trite platitudes about how you should love yourself. Because we all know we should love ourselves. Sometimes, what we really need to hear is, "Yeah. Me too."

I was really blown away by the response to my own VEDA video, and definitely moved by many others' honest and vulnerable videos. I thought I would share some of that here. I also want to send you over to read this post from Kerri, who is sadly not participating in VEDA, but has ended up writing a beautiful and inspiring post on body image at the same time!

These are the stories we're telling ourselves about who we are. These are the dialogues we're running in our heads. These are the words informing our esteem, determining our worth. They are not perfect, but they are honest. And they are real.


Another Year Over

A year ago today, on August 15th, Kenny and I landed in Incheon airport and began the long process of settling down. A few weeks later, we were moved into this apartment in Wonju. This little place has become a precious home. It's the first place we've lived together, considering the first 6 months of our honeymoon were spent alternating between mountain shacks, jungle huts, sweltering hostels, 5-star hotels, and one of the guest rooms in my parents' house. We have snuggled down into a routine here. We know the back roads; we know where to get good coffee; we know where to find smiling, kind faces.

And most of all, Wonju has been comfortable. This year of our lives has been so domestic, so tranquil, and perfectly lovely. So, obviously, the things to do now is shake things up. So, in February, when my contract with my current employer is up, we're packing up all our stuff, storing it at the parents-in-law's place, and heading out for our next big adventure.

On February 21, 2011, we will celebrate our 2 year wedding anniversary. One week later, I will work my last day at Yonsei ELP. And one week after that will find us with backpacks strapped on headed for our second honeymoon. We are hiking El Camino de Santiago. Yup. That's what's next on the big trip agenda. We'll start from the south of France at St. Jean-Pied-de-Port and make our way through Spain to Santiago de Compostela. It's the most traditional route, and also the most well-known. We're looking to make our journey in 35 days, but we all know how slow I am. Unlike our Annapurna trek, I won't be able to have a wonderful porter carry my bag. I'll be doing it myself.

Yes, I am scared. Yes, I am excited. Yes, I am so ready to challenge myself. We may begin our traveling by hitting a few spots in Europe first (Prague, I'm looking at you) and finishing up with a week or two in Barcelona.

And after that? Your guess is as good as mine! NOW is the time to start your life over every other year. NOW is the time to travel to places and do things that once we're tied to a house payment, or children, we won't be able to do. NOW is the time to risk spending most of our money (besides our savings) on seeing the world, doing something magnificent and difficult and of worth, and come back to nothing. NOW is the time to start over as many times as we feel like it. NOW is the time to not know what to do with my life or where it's going. NOW is the time to celebrate our marriage and rejoice in the fact that without each other, neither of us would be going on these adventures. NOW is the time to refine ourselves through sweat and heavy luggage, and hard-earned sleep.

So, I have 6 months to read, plan, read, hike, read, get stronger, read, plan, and leave. Woot.

(photo by cornyvall)
P.S. I'd like to say for the record that we still have not purchased toilet paper. ONE YEAR and we have not had to buy toilet paper or laundry detergent. And this isn't the end. It's not like we're about to run out. We still have tons of it stacked in the storage closet and on the veranda behind a screen. I remember thinking it was so silly to give toilet paper as a gift. Now, I completely understand. And you know, it's just a funny housewarming gift. Talk about community! What a beautiful year of our lives has just been lived.


For Your Entertainment

So, maybe you guys have heard of the Apple girl. If you haven't, here she is.

Yeah, she's pretty cool with all her little iPhones lined up. And here's the funniest thing I've seen in a while.

The funniest thing is that he's just saying numbers and pushing them over and over. I love it when he says, "I'm Korean," just like she usually says, "I'm Apple girl."

Your Saturday laugh has been delivered courtesy of my husband, who apparently has nothing better to do than to watch parody videos on the Internet.


If I don't do this now, it might not ever happen

I'm writing. Right now. I don't care if it is crap and I don't care if I don't have anything to say. I'm doing it. I haven't been doing much consistently these days, unless you count overeating and oversleeping. Or undersleeping. My issue is bedtime. I can't sleep. I've gotten on this funky schedule where my body won't calm down until around 3 or 4 am. I'm reading on the couch until then. When it's time to get up in the morning, I just use the excuse that I didn't sleep until a few hours ago. So I sleep until 11. Or noon. It's gross.

But tomorrow I must get up and get ready and be at the City Hall before 10 a.m. in order to get my visa renewed. I hope it will be a painless process. But then, I get to go to the post office downtown to pick up the package that my mom sent me that includes all my Billy Collins poetry collections and some more Mary Oliver. That will nourish my soul for a few days! Good poetry is always a good reason to get out of bed. (Please call me and tell me this tomorrow at 8.) I've also scheduled a sweet tea making on the agenda because Saturday Kenny and I are planning to head to Gangneung once more, devour Kraze Burger burgers, and hang out at the beach. And really, what's a day at the beach without sweet tea?

Running? I was doing well. Until I hit week 5 and I had an amazing day 1 run. Then, I found all sorts of excuses and this is my third week not running. So this weekend, I should start over.

Vlogging? Yes. It's the only thing I'm doing consistently and I'm holding onto it for dear life because it's the only thing I've accomplished in so long. I said I would vlog every day in August, and I know it's only been 12 days, but I've done it. Every. Single. Day. Almost halfway through.

I get paid tomorrow. Yesssssss.

This post is stupid and it doesn't mean anything. But I. Don't. Care. It's something I wrote. It's a start. I'm going to stop letting lethargy and laziness run my life. It's my life. I'm in charge here. So if I say write, then I'm gonna write.

I have written.


Why I Suck

I'm not sleeping these days. Maybe it's because Kenny's away for four nights, and although I was looking forward to sleeping at an angle in the bed, I can't sleep without him. Maybe it's because it's too hot without air conditioning these days, even though the rain is cooling things down quite a bit. Maybe it's because I'm a crazy person who can't fall asleep very fast. Ugh. I don't know what it is, but being awake until 4 every morning totally sucks. Lucky for me, I do get to sleep really long in the mornings, since I don't have to be to work until 2 on most days. 3 tomorrow!

I spend my insomniac hours listening to This American Life podcasts, which I highly recommend you go download right now. I'm a little bit in love with Ira Glass. Sometimes I make long to-do lists, but of course don't do any of it, because who's really productive at 3:30 in the morning? (I did make homemade lemonade at 1:30 am today though. Didn't want all those failed-cleanse lemons going to waste. Honestly? I didn't even start it. I just thought about going on it yesterday, didn't eat much, and didn't have coffee. Then, my life sucked. So this afternoon, I put the world right with a coffee and a few donuts. Cleanse? What was I thinking.) Or I watch all the VEDA videos.

Speaking of VEDA videos, here's something I'm not good at, which was our topic for today.

Sorry the quality is so crap. It's not crap in iMovie, but when I throw it up on the web, it disintegrates. Whatev. You can still hear my big fat mouth, and that's really all that counts.


Good Morning, Good Morning

The only way I think the morning is great is if I stay up late and meet the next day in front of the computer, reading a book, or talking with the HubbO. Kind of like this: (Sorry for the subtitles at the bottom. The rest of the videos had disabled embedding.)

That was one of my favorite scenes from Singing in the Rain and it's still the only way I like to have anything to do with morning times. It's a happy song that only makes me happy after the morning is over. Because basically, nothing can cheer me up or pull me out of a funk before 11 am.

Today's topic was "Mornings" for VEDA. So, here it is.


VEDA: Vlog Every Day in August

Today is the first of August (I have 6 minutes of this day left!) and it is also the beginning of Ashley and Pham's collaboration: VEDA. Which stands for Vlog Every Day in August. Apparently in is too short to ride this ride. Poor guy. Maybe next year.

Anyway, I am participating in this huge video blogging extravaganza. And let me tell you, I do NOT feel like figuring out all the editing stuff for my videos. So, most of it will be uncut and unedited. Except for the fact that I took like 15 takes and said a lot of bad words. So, the final product is okay. It's a little longer than I had planned, but for me to talk to myself for less than at least 10 minutes is rough. Anyway, it's not all fancy pants or anything. 

Another note, before you watch it (because you are going to watch it, right?), we do not have air conditioning. Have I told you this before? And I had to turn off the office fan in order to be heard on the video. So, it gets a little messy there, what with the sweat mustache and all. Forgive my perspiration.  Also, I had to change my freaking location because Korea doesn't allow people to upload videos due to their "real name/ID" policy. Yeah, that's right. No anonymity on the Korean Internets. Luckily, it was easy to fix. 

AND you can find all the participants' blogs, YouTube channels, and Twitters here. You can find my YouTube Channel here and my Twitter here. I'll post the first couple videos here, but most likely will turn out just posting links here, as well as Twitter and Facebook. 

Not only is this week the first week in August, it's the first week of a 10 day cleanse I'm doing. So, if I'm all cranky and crappy in the next few videos, you'll know why! Enjoy the videos and make sure you leave lots of comments. Because I'm off the coffee and donuts for the next 10 days. Feeeeed me with your looooooove. Okay? Okay!

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