Thursday, May 29, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mommy!!!

In lieu of being a good daughter who wrote a card or sent a timely present, I want to talk about the two most important people in my life. I want to tell you, the Internet world, about two of the most amazing people I know. In case you were thinking Senator J. William Fulbright or the first person to make chocolate chip cookies (a close third), you're wrong. The two most amazing people I know are my parents.

Sometimes you never really realize how great your parents are until you hear someone else talking about them. It sometimes comes to me, randomly; the thought will just enter my thinking sphere and flit across my consciousness and just as quickly disappear. But every now and then, I have a moment, something happens, or a light clicks, and I go, "Wow, my parents are so amazing."

Example 1: 
Immigrant Family on Ellis Island

In college I took some random classes and somehow ended up working with recent Hispanic immigrants. A lot. I studied them, I spoke with them, I taught them, I volunteered in community centers with them, I called them on behalf of their kids' school. I spent a lot of time observing and interacting with Hispanic immigrants. I saw (kindof) how hard their life was, what kind of roadblocks America threw at them, how difficult it is to sustain yourself and your family while building up a solid foundation for what I would call a fulfilling and satisfying life in America. This was really my first experience with what life was like for recent immigrants

I mean, I knew my parents were immigrants, it's not like I grew up without the customary
"You have no idea what your dad and I went through. You have no idea what we had to sacrifice and put up with to get here. You're so ungrateful and you're so spoiled."
I knew they had "had it rough," that they had started off in a studio apartment in Queens. I knew they had both worked and gone to night school at the same time. But I never really FELT it, I never really SAW it, I never really BELIEVED it. Because of all that they had done and endured, I was so sheltered and far removed from those experiences that they were never REAL to me.

My experiences with the Hispanic community in Durham gave me my first glimpse into the life of a recent immigrant. It gave me a feel for what it's like to not be at home. What it's like to play someone else's game by someone else's rules. You're just an impromptu player. Sure, you wanted to join, but you didn't really know what the game (or sometimes even the stakes) really was. Whenever we had the essay prompt: Who is someone you admire and why? I would always answer with "My parents because they immigrated to America and went through a lot so I could have a better life." But that was so cliche. I didn't REALLY know what I was thankful for. I didn't UNDERSTAND why my parents were defaultly admirable for producing a second generation kid like me. I just knew that was the right answer. 

Consequently, doing all the community service and ESL work I did in Durham was one of the FIRST times that the meaning of what my parents had been through even flickered across my consciousness.

Example 2:
When I first got to my placement city in Korea, I was finally striking out on my own. I had left the nest and was supposed to figure out how to do this flying thing without crashing and breaking my little bird skull on the concrete sidewalk (or in Korea, the brick sidewalk). Anyway, I had been playing with the idea of "parallels" in my mom's and my life (I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this in earlier entries). 

1. My mom got married when she was 22 years old and immigrated to America. 
2. I graduated college when I was 22 years old and accepted a yearlong fellowship in Korea.
Both the same age, moving in opposite directions across the Pacific, and setting upon totally different journeys.

Okay, so I know I've said it before. But yea, this was the first time I realized how difficult exactly it is to try living in another country. Let's not count the benefits I had that she (and my dad) didn't, shan't we... 
I had a secure, guaranteed, highly respected job waiting for me. I had room and board supplied for me. I had a 6-week Orientation including foreign language classes. I came with a coterie of compatriots, 70 to be exact, to share my triumphs and sorrows. I had a strong support group in place that I could contact with the click of a mouse or a few buttons on the phone (GOOO 28 years of technology!!!). I had grown up learning the language in context. I had grown up with access to both the culture and the greater Korean community. I LOOKED like I fit in. I knew that if I hated it, I was definitely going to be able to leave after a year.
In short, I had it so much easier, and yet I still felt like I had it so rough. And that only highlighted how much harder it had to have been for my parents, newlyweds with two suitcases and rudimentary English skills. (I've been teaching here for a year, I KNOW the school-learned English they took with them was useful for, um, NOTHING save describing the weather perhaps).

So the fact that I really had come face-to-face with what it's like to LIVE in another country, even one that claims to be my motherland and one whose culture I'd been sampling all my life, really drove the point home, that what my parents (and countless others of their generation) had done, was really quite remarkable, quite admirable, and even completely surprising. I could NOT believe they didn't pack up their bags, call it quits, and come back. (I know enough random families who have).

Realizing that what they did was so much harder than what I was doing and that everything they endured had been so much tougher was another, "Wow, my parents are amazing," moment.

Example 3: The thing that spurred me to write this entry
I had dinner and coffee tonight with some old family friends. They were two Korean priests who had been consecutively sent to our Korean parish in New Jersey. One had been there from 1996 to 1998. The other had been there from 1998 to 2000. They had known me and my family pretty much a decade ago, give or take a few years.

The first notable thing was that after a decade they still remembered me and my parents. They still cared about my parents enough to call me and take me out for a rather expensive and ridiculously delicious dinner. To me, this says something about their estimation of my parents and consequently how my parents treated them.

For nearly all my accessible memory, my parents have been superactive in our church. My mom has served in so many capacities, as a Sunday School teacher, a Korean School teacher, Korean School principal, youth group director, PTA liaison, education director/"provost", and those are only the positions that I remember and can name positions, too. There are so many other things she directed and led and coordinated. Even after my sister and I were no longer active members of the youth community. She both attends and teaches Bible scripture study classes. My dad has always been active, too, though in quieter roles. He would do Sunday readings, he served as an acolyte (my sister and I used to tease him that his specialty was incense-waving), he is often a Mass narrator (I forget what they're called), and he was our 구역 leader and all these other important things where he would go to official-type meetings.

I'm not particularly religious (as of the past 2 or so years) and I know I should be, especially in light of the fact that I really do think God smiles down on my life. But anyway, the point is, my parents are totally active members of our church. Everyone at our church and many people at churches in NJ, NY, PA, VA, and even CA and others know my parents. So, it's not surprising to me that former and current priests that have met and know my parents remember them.

What does surprise me, is how fondly they remember my parents. How much they seem to genuinely respect my parents, and how often this translates into how well they treat me and my sister and the respect they show us, now as young ladies entering society proper.

Tonight, the two family friend priests and I were joined by a third priest from the city of Cheongju that I was meeting for the first time. They continually praised and described my parents (and family) to the third priest. I was struck by all the good things they had to say. I've been surprised and struck by all the things they've told me my parents did for them and how my parents helped them out. I won't bore you with another list of the things that my parents did and the wonderful things they were saying about my parents.

But the things I could hear in their voices, how much they really respected my dad, how much they appreciated my mom's work in the community, and how even they, the priests, admired my parents for everything they've endured and achieved - that meant a lot to me. My eyes welled up as I tried to maintain the illusion of aloofness that is considered polite when a "young'n" is present and privy to grown-ups' conversation.

I am so proud of my parents. For the many things I know about them. And for so many more that I didn't and don't yet know about them. 
Whenever I complained that my mom spent more time at church and that I was the one who had to sacrifice playdates and prompt rides to and pickups from places she used to say:
I really believe that the more I give and sacrifice for our church community, the more that will manifest itself as grace and blessings and good fortune for you and your sister. I don't do it for me, I do it for you.
I guess you could say she believes in karma. And I'm not going to lie; I definitely believe in it, too. Especially because I seem unfittingly to be on the receiving end of it.

Clearly not following in my parents' footsteps - the kind of gift I normally give to others, exactly those things that I myself want.

And so, at the end of this lengthy diatribe, I guess it's only fitting to conclude by saying: Happy Birthday, Mommy!!! Here's to another year of happiness and health. And my strengthened conviction to make you proud of me, as I am of you. And that's the big present for this year and many to come. (In addition to your new Sony Wii and Wii Fit board).

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


I'm leaving Korea "early"!!! I'm leaving Korea "early"!!! I'm leaving Korea "early"!!! I'm leaving Korea "early"!!! I'm leaving Korea "early"!!!

Dear Christine,
After review of your application for early departure, Mrs.
Shim has decided to grant your request.

YAYYY!!!!! I'm LEAVING KOREA JULY 2ND!!! I KNEW if I wanted it bad enough and kept telling people I was leaving July 2nd, it would come true. It's like all those Disney movies and Thomas the little engine that could said: If you believe in something enough, (and you're clearly in the right) it'll happen!!!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Miss. Will and Do.

So, now that the time for me to leave Korea draws near, people here have started asking me that horrible, guiltifying question of, "What will you miss?"

And it's horrible and guiltifying because every time I've been asked, I haven't had an answer. The well-meaning questioner waits, and waits, and waits, and waits some more. All the while I wrack my brain and sputter something about how there's so much I can't really pick something specific or make something up about how life here is so convenient and feel stupid about not being able to give details about what I mean when further prodded.

And so I've decided to ponder this because I KNOW there are things I'll miss. And I know it'll be much easier to make this list from the other side of that ocean, but in the meantime, I feel it's at least being a good sport of me to humor the people who've been so generous and well-meaning towards me these past 10 months. If I had a guest who were leaving my home, I would want to know that there had been some good things to be missed.

Unfortunately, a lot of the things I'll miss in Korea are foods that I can no longer eat (haven't eaten for the past 4 months) so I feel like it's cheating to put them on my list. But I will anyway. (no people on my lists-only things/experiences).

Korean stuff I will miss:
delivery anything. twinberry cheesecake ice cream from baskin robbins. green tea chewisty donuts. green tea lattes. angel-in-us. banana milk. sweet vegemil soymilk. 2,000 won (now 2,300) baskin robbins. 졸졸 hodduk. supersweet lemonade. shoe service. wide shoes. excellent A/S. this yummy fiberlicious apple yogurt. the idea of my students. public transportation. cheap cabs. cheap transportation. super-clean subway. cheap manicures. being a busride away from all my friends. $20 때massage. proliferation of jjimjilbangs. 50 cent or $1 ice cream bars. =)

And to balance out the entry with some Asian-style yin and yang...

American stuff I do miss:

dryers. AC. organic skim milk. BOTTLED WATER. water with lemon at restaurants. granola. any combo of cheese, chicken, and carbs. mexican black beans. ny style thin crust pizza. white wine. pedicures. new yorker magazines. perusing barnes. italian food. chinese take out. mac/apple stores. jcrew stores. trying on shoes. trying on clothes. calling ppl when i feel like it and not worrying about time zones.having a car. (having other people drive me around). personal space. cheesecake factory. non-korean asian food (including fusion).

Sunday, May 25, 2008

In sickness and in health

I will love myself. Haha.

Okay, so I guess it all came to a boil about 2 months ago at the Jeju Conference. I ate some tomatoes for dinner. I broke out in hives and a fever. I took some Benadryl. And life was better.

Or at least a little bit answered. I started taking Benadryl every day because I was pretty much breaking out in mini-hives or having super skin redness and itchiness after every meal. It turns out, taking the Benadryl actually also cleared up my skin. If you're unaware that I've been having major skin problems in Korea despite having superclear "baby skin" (thank you, Joan unni) in America, then you're a horrible friend and blog reader. 

Here's a quick reminder.
Skin in America: 
MemDay weekend 2007, T minus 2 weeks until Korea

Skin in Korea:
December 2007, not as bad as it got (un?fortunately, I refrained from taking pics during the worst of it)

On the mend, April 20thish 2007,  few weeks into my Benadryl treatment

May 11, 2007: No new problems, just old scars

So, after about a week and a half of my daily Benadryl supplement, it came to this: I had to choose between being drugged and beautiful or clear-headed and ugly. Although the Benadryl was allowing me to eat pretty normally again it was also making me so drowsy and tired I had to nap every day after school. So was it really sad that my quality of life came down to choosing between “drowsy and clear skin” and “less drowsy (but still tired) and looking like Bog and Quagmire”? 

For your reference, Bog and Quagmire were the (pink and orange) moat twins from Eureeka's castle with those weird colorful boil things all over them.

I know, it's not as existential as some existential crises get, but for me it was a pretty low point. Anyway, FINALLY I decided I can't take it anymore, between the avoiding all foods because I was no longer on Benadryl and my skin flaring up again, I called Severance's International Health Care Center (IHCC) in Seoul and made an appointment for Monday, April 21.

I met with an allergist who spoke no English. I grew despondent when I  couldn't think of the word for "dry skin" in Korean and he and the nurse were both no help. I finally said, "After I eat, my skin is not wet," and I recognized the word for "dry skin" when he said it and noted it. Then I was taken to the testing area where they scheduled me for a food allergy skin-prick test and told me what other tests I needed. One included sticking footlong Qtips up my nose into my brain (I swear that's what happened-SOOOO painful and strange) the other was just a simple blood sample.  I was given a prescription for 2 different 2nd gen. antihistamines and told to stop taking them a week prior to my allergy test. Done and done.

I took the meds and my skin cleared up considerably. Apparently allergies (seasonal, food, chemical, etc.) can trigger skin problems. Something about the histamine levels going wild in the body and increased blood flow which opens up pores and welcomes in bacteria and then the histamines mess with your hormones and spur increased sebum production. So, big pores + more bacteria + excess sebum = perfect storm of acne. I was almost scared to stop the antihistamines a week before my test because I didn't want my skin to mess up again.

Anyway, last weekend, GARRRR. I headed up to Seoul to spend time with family and friends before my allergy test on Monday. All went well until Sunday night when I started throwing up everything I'd eaten all day and feeling miserably feverish and getting the chills and body aches, etc. I drag myself to the hospital Monday and explain that I'd been throwing up all night and morning and if my current less than 100% condition would affect my test results. They said as long as you didn't take antihistamines to deal with it don't worry (which I kindof dunno how I feel about) and we did the thing.

Results of the brain-prodding Qtips, blood tests, and skinprick test: 
*I have seasonal allergies in Korea to birch, oak, ragweed, and sage.
*I am so so SO allergic to house dust/mites (yea, I knew that from America-I actually wear those construction face masks when I clean/vacuum the house and that's not a joke).
*I am allergic to the following foods: barley grain, corn grain, wheat flour, bananas, oranges, strawberries, celery, crab, lobster, mussel, oyster, shrimp, peanuts, potatoes, and cow's milk.
Oh, the good news: my allergies were not so bad and they hadn't yet caused a sinus infection or inflammation INside my face (just wreaked havoc on the outside). Yayy!!!

In addition to the foods that were tested, the doc confirmed that based on the "pattern" of my food allergies I was probably allergic to the other foods I had had previous problems with (honeydew melon, kiwi, pineapple, chameh, etc.). Anyways, I was a little confused about my allergies. I was allergic to MILK? BANANAS? PEANUTS? POTATOES? WHEAT FLOUR? I loved and ate those things ALL the time in America.

Me: What's the deal, doc? How can I suddenly be allergic to things I always ate?
Dr: Well, based on what you've told me of your family members' allergies, you could just be predisposed to these allergies and they're just latent until something really stressful triggers the allergy
Me: Stress?
Dr: Yes, final exams, family troubles, some external cause of a lot of stress can mess with your immune system and these latent allergies will emerge. Have you experienced any increased stress in your life lately?

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!?! Hmm... who knows the answer to this one??? (Aren't you impressed at my Korean skills? The following conversation was necessarily in Korean). Yea, so he also thought my throwing up all night/morning was possibly an allergic reaction to the sushi I had eaten the night before because I don't know how well they're washing the knife/cutting board or what kind of mishmash of seafood is going into every little thing.

Anyway, he gave me a month's prescription for the 2nd generation antihistamines (main difference from 1st gen. is that 2nd is supposedly non-drowsy) and a follow-up appointment in a month. I'm debating not going if things clear up and I don't have to. We'll see.

My mom also wants me to re-get the allergy tests done when I come home. Hopefully I will get unallergic once my stress goes away. I will be forever saddened and seeking revenge if my time here made me allergic to milk and potatoes and bananas and such.

So, after throwing up for 12+ hours last week my body was a mess, I had an open class for parents in addition to teachers and principal/VP on Tuesday. I took like 4 Advil in the morning and smiled and was lovely in class. Luckily though after that one class my coteachers gave me the rest of the week off when they figured out how I was feeling. But not without a caveat. I got the week of in exchange for coming into school TODAY, on a MONDAY, my usual day off to film a class for EBS, Korea's education network. Oh well. It was a good week off from life. I took Advil, my antihistamines, ate porridge, and slept all week. I even missed 2 swim lessons. I'll have to make them up this week. =]

And the drama continues...

Korea is known throughout Asia for one big export (okay, probably more but this is the one that I'm the most aware of). KOREAN DRAMAS. This is the essence of 한류, or the Korean Wave. It's an export of pop culture and TV and music and all that good stuff. 

But anyway, since Korea is the originating site of such "drama" as it were, it only makes sense that there is some "drama" in my own life. And here it goes.

Drama #1. So there is pool drama once again. The boss manager at my pool has been apparently harassing our swim instructors again and so this time instead of waiting to be fired they are acting proactively and 4 of the 6 swim instructors have given their two weeks' notice. This time, seeing how the management has sufficient time, the transition to new people is supposed to be seamless. The current instructors will finish out this month and then starting in June 4 new ones will arrive to supplement the 2 that stay behind. 

Of COURSE, my instructor is not one of the 2 that is staying on. He's actually moving to the first pool that I looked into closer to my house (but impossible for me to get to using public transportation). And that pool doesn't allow private lessons. So, I will probably not be following him there. Okay, I lied. I will definitely not be following him there as I just paid my June pool fees Saturday morning. I'm now debating if I want to join a general class (which he encourages me to do because he thinks I'm ready) or if I should take more lessons either with a new instructor or one of the ones I know who's staying. Hmm...

Drama #2. Okay, so last week was my allergy appointment at Severance. And of course when I got home I debriefed my hostfam about it. I also complained a bit about the lack of "international" service available to me after all the hullabaloo about how foreigner-friendly Severance would be. 

For example, I didn't see one of the "English-speaking" doctors in the International Center, I was referred to an allergy specialist from the first time I went (directed by the dude I spoke to on the phone who asked why I needed to see a doctor) who spoke very minimal English (he knew the names of drugs in English). AND THEY DIDN'T GIVE ME AN INTERPRETER!!! okay, so I LOOK Korean, but clearly if I went through the IHCC that means SOMETHING.

So anyway, imo starts criticizing John Linton (the head doctor guy of the IHCC at Severance). First of all, both my host parents went to Seoul National Med School so they're kindof rival schools with Yonsei (parent to Severance Hospital). It's like Harvard v. Yale, I guess. Anyway, hostmom was like, "scoff, what? after all that bragging about the IHCC and how English-friendly  their services are?" and I was like YEA I KNOW GRRR. and she goes on to tell me this story about why she totally doesn't trust John Linton and thinks he's kindof a nutjob.

Apparently, many years ago, there was some bitter rivalry between Yonsei and Seoul National's med schools. And their hospitals had some feuding going on also. At which point, John Linton staged an ambush at Seoul National. He busted into the clinic where imo was working with a bunch of other Yonsei people and they tore up Seoul National's clinic, throwing stuff around and making a huge mess before declaring victory and leaving. I didn't quite understand this whole story and imo seemed very upset about what had happened, so I didn't press her. But, wow. People are so interesting...

Saturday, May 24, 2008

How Christine got her joy back. (2008).

Despite teaching only 1 actual class/hour this week, I somehow slept the rest of the week away and did almost nothing productive. But more about that in my upcoming health entry. This one's about JOY.

I can't believe that the year is half over. And I don't mean school year or my year in Korea (which is actually almost completely over) but the year of 2008. The year is almost HALF over. It's almost JUNE. And then June will be over. And then 2008 is halfway over!!! Which to me is CRAZY!!! 

I don't know, I just feel like it took a really long time last year to get to June and this year it's just FLOWN by. It's not like I'm busiER than I was last year or anything or had less to look forward to. But these past 5 months totally feel like they just happened without my knowing. 

I think another reason it feels like this though is that this "year" really started in March. January and February nothing much happened other than going home and that was kindof the "beginning" to 2008 for me (nothing else really broke up 2008 from 2007 the way winter break and spring semester happened last year to demarcate a new year). So technically, I feel like it's been 2008 for only March, April, and May. And so clearly that's like half the actual time that's passed in this year. 

So anyway, now that 2008 is almost halfway over, I want to explore something I noticed a few days ago.

I was on the bus coming home from swimming I think and the bus lurched and I almost fell. And the funny thing is, I laughed. It was *funny* to me that I was swinging around on this bus and almost fell. It *amused* me. And then I thought,
Wow, there was a time when I responded to almost everything and anything with laughter and not bitterness or cynicism.
And this was a ridiculously crazy insight for me. But it's true. I used to be a person of joy. A joyous person, if you will. And I feel like slowly, bit by bit, the last two years of high school, college, and now KOREA has done what they've can to take the joy away from me. AND I WANT MY JOY BACK. So I've decided to reclaim some of the joy that's floating around out there for me and my life.

There really was a time, not too long ago, when my initial reaction to most anything (for better or worse) was ALWAYS laughter. Things amused me, entertained me, made me happy, made me laugh. Ridiculous was the order of the day. Even bad news was just part ridiculousness and another story to tell later on.

Bus-lurching and near falls in Korea usually elicit my, "I HATE KOREA, STUPID KOREAN BUS, STUPID KOREAN ROAD, STUPID KOREAN DRIVER, STUPID FALLING IN KOREA" response and I KNOW KNOW KNOW that in America, I would've just laughed. In fact, other than occasional eye-rolling on "bad days" I usually smiled or giggled about minor daily mishaps. Especially on the Duke buses. 
A little proof that I went from a "Happy" country to an "Average" one. (so my changes in happiness are a bit justified...)

Maybe there are little changes and triggers here in Korea, I've never been rudely pushed and shoved on the Duke buses (okay, maybe a FEW times post-tailgate when the bus was full of drunk kids - but being drunk is an excuse). I've never had anyone on a bus YELL at me to get out of the way and mutter how stupid I am for blocking their way. So perhaps there are reasons my reactions have changed, but still.

I was KNOWN for my joy. My ridiculous laugh. For how easily and lengthily I laughed. People would laugh at my laughing. I was always the harbinger of *GOOD NEWS*. I'm not saying I didn't have bad days and bad moods. Everyone has those. I'm just saying that Korea has almost fundamentally changed my outlook on life and my daily attitude for dealing with life. And THAT is unacceptable.

If anything, Korea should've challenged me and made me stronger, better, wiser. But there's NO WAY and NO HOW that I'm letting Korea, or anything else for that matter, turn me back for the worse. Life has just been too precious and amazing and everything I've had to do and deal with has meant too much to me for me to give up and retreat. 

I DO believe the world is a good place. That happiness is there when you look for it. I love the sun and flowers and puppies and babies. I love butterflies. I love water and aquariums and bridges. And I'm going to bring that joy back. I'm going to laugh and smile when things happen, because life is a beautiful thing and should be no matter where I am or with whom or under what circumstances. Okay, so if I were stuck under a building in China right now because of the earthquake maybe I would feel differently, but because I'm not, because I've been so blessed and lucky, that's all the more reason why I should continue fighting the good fight and spreading the joy. =)

Here's a super-cheesy image to end with. *coughgaycough* (I know, I'm a horrible non-PC person but I'm from new jersey and that's how we do).

Friday, May 16, 2008


because of swimming.


Apparently, even more than I heart yoga.

I'm actually really surprised by how much I like swimming. Although I definitely am of the opinion that swimming has been my godsend and lifesaver for this spring semester.

Before I started swimming, the semester was going really crappily. For many reasons. But I was feeling down and dumpy. I was realizing that the way I felt and looked (skin rashness) after every meal had to do with being allergic to most things I ate. Imagine, if you will, what it's like to slowly realize that you have been allergic to the all the foodstuff you've been consuming for the past ELEVEN months. Not a fun thing to do.

I was also feeling super-blech because I was coming off my visit to America high. And my, Oh, look, Korea's not so bad upon returning high. ANNND trying to JOIN a swimming pool and get lessons was proving an obstacle NIGH insurmountable. Obstacles just KEPT popping up and every time I knocked one down, ANOTHER THREE would come out of left field to taunt me and test me.

And test me they did. But I also realized just HOW badly I wanted to swim. Even before I started, the fuel for my passion was there. And even after I joined a pool and had a week of lessons, the obstacles kept coming. Sucky bosses at the pool, random rules (that are then lifted) about cutoff times for lessons, etc. etc. etc.

But through it all, swimming has been my saving grace. In all senses, but one of the most important is health-wise. Right when I stopped eating because I was feeling an aversion both physical and mental/emtional to the food here, I realized I HAD to eat in order to swim. I was too weak and sick/dizzy-feeling during my swim lessons once I stopped eating school lunch and skipping dinner. (Breakfast was toast or granola bars so I was eating that). So, yea. I'm back to eating my school lunches. Nutritious, if not completely delicious. And I'm eating dinner more regularly. Skipping dinner made the next mornings unbearable.

I have more energy than I did. Swimming coincides with what was previously my late afternoon slump (what my apparently Spanish body thinks is "siesta time"). And so now I'm powering through that and the extra adrenaline is making me feel better.

And my springtime (seasonal) insomnia (past 3-4 springs have been unbearable!) is totally out of the picture. It had started early April and now it's totally gone. I can fall asleep ANYWHERE at the drop of my head. (I even awoke at the end of my deep-tissue massage very surprisedly because it's always so painful I couldn't believe I fell asleep during it!).

It's also been really refreshing mentally to be sportsy again. Running was getting boring and yoga at my studio wasn't challenging enough. Ashtanga in my room was getting claustrophobic. And running outdoors in this pollution was not an option. So it was nice to find something new to keep me active. Especially after my 2-month hiatus. 

It's also nice to have something that forces me out of the house every day. It's really easy to just get sucked into coming home after school and melting in a puddle of tiredness from teaching in my bed and staying there until the next morning when I have to go to school all over again. It's nice to have new friends and people to look forward to seeing each day. It's nice to see people who aren't school people and offer a different perspective on life. People who enjoy and appreciate an active lifestyle NOT centered on their own kids and husband (i.e. like my fellow teachers). Also, all the swim instructors are fairly young (range is 25 to 32) and not married so they are a little more like having "friends" in the more traditional sense of the word, meaning we are more or less at a similar life stage.

This is me. Doing the butterfly. Now. But soon my elbows will not bend (I will get strong - my arms will strengthen) and my instructor will stop yelling, "ELBOW!!!" at me every time my head comes out of the water.

Swimming helps me clear my head. I heart it. And I'm more focused when I'm at home. I also have much less time wallowing in my room listing the evils of Korean life (Cheongju life). hehe. My schedule is much more tightly packed with actual substantive STUFF. And not just free time to procrastinate school prep or count down to America. =T

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Teacher's Day

And just when I want to quit (again), this week happens.

Last week was a hormonal mess, what with the almost strep and drama at school and starting another set of new meds (WHY AM I ALLERGIC TO EVERYTHING IN KOREA!?!?!).

And I really hated school and my students and teaching and all that good stuff.

But this week, starting yesterday, I was just watching my kids during our lesson and I couldn't help *BEAMING* because they were just so precious and sweet and just all-around good kids.

Anyway, this morning started off with a beeeeeeauuuuuuuuutiful bouquet of roses from the class of one of the teachers who always takes such good care of me. And then a little basket of carnations from 현규, who I love so much and started tutoring after lunch yesterday.

Then I guess the students had to write letters in their first few periods to teachers they like, because random students kept dropping in giving me letters. And two girls just stopped by to give me heart balloons. So it's been a good day. Presents-wise. Haha.

Favorite line from letter (misspellings included): 선생닐 왈레 한국 사람이져? 눈 보면 다 알아요.

Translation: Teacher, you're originally a Korean person, right? Your eyes give it away/I can tell by your eyes.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. I don't know what to do/say.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Albrecht Dürer, The Revelation of St John: The Four Riders of the Apocalypse

Does anyone else get the feeling we're headed towards our apocalyptic doom?

Not to put a damper on anyone's week, but seriously. Think about it.

1. Katrina
2. El Nino
3. That huge tsunami in SEAsia
4. Cyclone in Burma
5. Earthquake in China
6. US not a world power anymore?
7. US-college-educated job-holders foraging for food at empty food banks  (highlight on CNN's AC360)
8. Gas is $4/gallon?
Oh, yea. I almost forgot.
9. 9/11 and the ensuing "War on Terror" that's clearly going well for us
p.s. 10. Avian flu in Korea (chicken being the only meat I crave around this part of the earth)

So, I'm doing a little research on the Internet. And I found this site for a book called "Apocalypse 2012." And it's kindof creepy. But I guess the guy's premise is pretty much the same as mine for looking into this, umm, unfortunate amalgamation of disastrous world events.

Also, I think I read elsewhere about how apparently we're getting sucked in closer and closer to the sun and that's another reason our world is going all crazy with the environment and global warming and death and disease and all those African and Asian genocides and crazy governments (OK, European and American governments are kinda crazy, too) and just all these big, bad things are all happening all of a sudden. 

ORRR have all these things been happening all along and I just wasn't paying enough attention to the news and the world OUT there? Maybe all these disasters HAVE been happening but all of a sudden our world is global enough and has enough technology that EVERYONE else has access to all this information AS it happens. Maybe for all of history, death and destruction is exactly what's been on the menu but we just weren't aware of all the bad things happening elsewhere in tune with the things right in our vicinity. Does that make sense?

This makes me think, SERIOUSLY, if our apocalyptic end is forecasted for 2012, and in some cases in 2060 (the apocalypse according to Isaac Newton).

In one manuscript from the early 1700s, Newton used the cryptic Book of Daniel to calculate the date for the Apocalypse, reaching the conclusion that the world would end no earlier than 2060. “It may end later, but I see no reason for its ending sooner,” Newton wrote.

So, this is kindof worrying me. All this doomsday thinking and these crazy environmental and economical and political events make me question, maybe law school is not where I should be heading right now. Maybe CHURCH is the right place for me to go. Because, okay, let's say the world ends in 2012.  That's ONE year after I graduate from law school. And right now, the plan is I'll be trading in my soul and human-helping instincts for a corporate expense account and a fancy schmancy big law firm job. And I'm not sure that's the way I want to greet the Final Judgement Day. (The current plan accounts for living many years AFTER my corporate law days when my responsible investment decisions enable me to give back to the community/world writ large). 

Judgement Day (via Terminator 2)

Maybe, if the world is going to end in 4 years, I need to do some serious soul-searching and live a better, happier, generous-er life NOW, instead of banking on doing that all at a mysteriously future point in time commonly known as "later." And MAYBE that's the meaning behind the saying (and I'm not sure which is the chicken and which is the egg or which comes  first),
Live like you'll die tomorrow but dream like you'll live forever
and the Beverley Mitchell lyrics:  
Let's dream like we're gonna live forever
And live, like we could die tomorrow
So, really, my apocalyptic (this is my new favorite word!!!) fears are just driving home the point, to relish life each and every day as though it were my last. To really act as I would in front of a fear-inducing, justice-breathing God every day and treat people as though this God were going to come down and confront me tomorrow.

(I discovered how to color my text today. Did you notice?)

Monday, May 12, 2008

Graduation plus 1

It's been one year plus one day since I graduated from college and that made me think, "HOOM, what have I learned this year?"

This is my first year NOT being in school of some sort since I was 3 years old. And yet, to say that I've not been in a "learning environment" would clearly be a lie. But exactly what KIND of learning environment has it been? And what exactly (or not) have I learned?

1. I think this year has been an exercise in patience. Learning to be patient with others and with myself. I had to be patient in understanding, in trying to understand, in trying to communicate, in waiting for the wisdom to make some sense of all I've been experiencing, and patient in counting down 'til the end of this year.

2. I've learned that money doesn't exactly grow on trees. I even went completely totally bankrupt sometime in early January. I had less than $4 to my name. And I learned something. I learned that maybe squirrels are smart in hiding away their nuts for leaner times. And so I've learned a little about the value of money. Not only because I felt what it was like to have my tail between my legs poor, but also because I've finally had to "work" for it. I've really had to punch in (well, sign my name) my timecard every morning, answer to a "boss," and bend over backwards and smile even when I didn't want to because that was what my job required.

3. I've learned a lot about the value of friendship and the love and support of family. I've learned that having good friends REALLY IS the most valuable thing one can have. Even when all else fails, good friends can pull you through ANYthing. I've learned how wonderful it is to have a loving and supportive family. And how that family and those relationships can give you strength that distance can't affect.

4. I've learned what it's like to HAVE family. Having grown up in America, away from my large (and largely crazy) extended family, I was always jealous of my friends who got together with their cousins, aunts, uncles, and other relatives for big holidays and special occasions. I finally know what it's like to be with people who look somewhat like you, who share a history with you (maybe not one that either of US remembers, but the shared history of our grandparents and our parents' growing up), and people who are tied to you whether you like it or not. I've learned that certain quirks I have aren't mine alone, but are shared by these people who are at the same time both foreign and so familiar.

5. I've learned (a bit) about what it's like to stand on your own two feet and not always on the shoulders of those venerable giants who came before us (i.e. my parents). And although it will ALWAYS be the lessons they've taught me and the love they've shown me that support me from within, it's good to start seeing what life is like, as the Swahili say, "on my own." To have to solve problems without them by my side (literally), to fend for myself, to be "independent."

6. I've learned how much I love and need certain things and people and what things I can do without. This applies to all possible items: be they animal, vegetable, or mineral.

7. I've learned REALLY how much exactly I love learning and school. I can't WAIT to go back. I can't wait to be a student again. (regardless of the NYTimes article that more learned members of a species die earlier given the only variable is their learning experience).

8. And I know that learning is never over. (Another NYTimes article reporting that old dogs CAN learn new tricks). I will continue to grow and learn and mature (hopefully). This year has been a crazy one. A year ago, Tuesday we drove up to Boston to pick up my little sister and bring her home. Last year, the 3 of us drove up and 4 of us returned. This year my mom drives up alone and returns alone, going up just to help my sister move into her new abode for the summer semester. So much has changed, and yet - really nothing that MATTERS has changed.

I'll need to ponder upon this subject quite a bit more before it becomes quite lucid to me. Also, my eyes are drooping closed from the tiredness this great weekend had upon me. I guess it all comes full circle. I spent this year's (2008's) graduation weekend with the good friends I hadn't yet made and the family I didn't quite know a year ago. The people that, if I had such an event this year, I would've wanted to spend this special weekend with.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

happy memories. unsure future.

so here's a taste of mature for you.

on this blog, and elsewhere in my "real" life, i keep iterating how i can't wait to go home. how i'm so psyched and how all i want is to go home NOW. how america is the best place on earth (despite its flaws) and i'll automatically be happier there than here.

first. i've started realizing that i'm holding onto a dream, onto past memories here.
i keep looking forward to going home. but i actually have no idea what i'm going back to.

i keep thinking only of the past. but i have no idea what my "present" (current future) will be like.

i'm realizing that i will be going back to something NEW. this is not america as i knew it. i am not returning to my "old life." i'm returning to the new version of my old life. i'll still be christine lim from caldwell, new jersey who now lives in north caldwell. but i'll also be christine lim 1L at columbia and not christine lim duke undergrad bleeding blue. and THAT new christine's life, i have NO idea what it'll be like. the cost of grocery "staples" like bread and milk are at an all-time high. what is this new christine on a budget going to eat?

old christine: happy duke undergrad surrounded by her friends
new christine: unsure columbia 1L with her friends scattered around the country/world and having to make new friends

old christine: knew what she wanted for her future (duh law school)
new christine: not really sure what she wants for her future, what direction law school will take her (i hadn't really planned the future past the point of law school)

old christine: parents' gold amex (no spending limit!)
new christine: no gold amex, a million dollars in debt for school

old christine: young and confident that she can do anything she wants to do
new christine: a bit more mature and experienced in the side of the world that doesn't let her do just anything she wants to do and knows that even in the face of the best-laid plans, somethings just do NOT work out her way

old christine: shopped 'til she dropped and then some
new christine: will have to deal with living in a princess' city on a pauper's budget

old christine: lived in a 300+ square foot room that exuded newness and AC and closet space and happiness
new christine: will live in a teeny tiny pest-infested apt. in new york whose monthly rent could cover an ENTIRE year of rent in durham

old christine: spent over $1000 a month on FOOD, in addition to her on-campus meal plan
new christine: has been debating if it's worth it to spend $60/month on food for the last 2 months she's in korea

the america i'm going back to is also not the same place i left.

i remember an america where gas was less than $3/gallon.
there was no economic recession/depression.
my friends were fighting for jobs at bear stearns and UBS (and now one's bankrupted and bought out and UBS had largest layoffs yet).
no foreclosures on homes all the time.
we thought the nominees would be hillary and giuliani and they had it in the bag.
britney was not crazy.
i wasn't worried/didn't care what food cost in NY bc i lived in NC.

it'll be a HUUUUUUGE readjustment. not just the "culture shock" i'm bound to encounter on my way back into the atmosphere of normal. (or a kind of a crazy that i'm used to not this korean crazy that's all greek to me). but going from american in terms of undergraduate life in durham to graduate life in NYC. why oh why am i doing this. what oh what is my life going to be like.

but i think, as long as i keep this in mind, i'll be less set up for disappointment. i've realized that going back and expecting to pick up the same life i left behind makes no sense at all. i know i'm going back to america, but like anything else, even my country has changed. i'm looking forward to going home, to america. but not to my old life, not the one i left. i keep forgetting that i've graduated and everything has changed. and that's not just because i'm in korea. it's because we've all moved on, we're all going to keep moving on, life is going to keep changing. but i am totally looking forward to my constants. to my friends and family who keep me grounded and love me and support me no matter where i am or what i'm doing. regardless of how far apart we are or how randomly we are able to talk, those constants are what REALLY makes america what it is to me, what REALLY makes america a country worth returning to.

and some mathy thing that showed up when i google-image-searched: "past future"

Zooland and Sports Day!!!

ok, it's about time i did this entry. it's been in the works for a week now.

so last tuesday, april 29th was our school's field trip day. i tagged along with the 2nd graders to Zooland in daejeon. Zooland is a "zoo" with some amusement park/town festival-type rides. i'll do the entry via photo-essay. one of the weirdest things for me was that there were no chaperones. just the teachers, each with their 36 kids. and this was true of the many groups i saw there during the day. just 1 teacher handling 30plus kids. crazy.

2 lunchboxes prepared by class moms for meeee

a bunch of my 2nd graders at the entrance of zooland

this kid didn't need to go to the zoo, he brought his pet beetle in a box in his backpack...

the animals were all mid-shed = GROSS

this bird got shat on ... yea, buddy, i feel ya

so i had never noticed this kid before, but he kept 챙겨ing me, giving me food, and trying to give me the prizes he won. he seems kindof irreverent but he does have manners. at least towards me.

this is one of my chubby ones. she was going in her backpack and EATING the whole time. chubbs represent!!!

what koreans will do for a picture. perch preschoolers precariously in a hippo's mouth several feet above brick ground.

the "multicultural" festival. their "mexican" dance was to ricky martin's "She Bangs."

this little halmunni was having the TIME OF HER LIFE. dancing and shaking like nobody's business!!!

lunchtime was a strange and interesting time. all the kids brought their own plastic mats, and they all got together and shared/ate food. they also all bring little offerings to the teachers. it was kindof sad tho bc i got to see all the kids who don't have friends eating by themselves (in the cafeteria they are all forced to sit at class tables with no spaces between kids).

two of my little ones on a ride (min-gyu and hyun-gyu)

3 of my boys. the one in blue jacket is SUCH a good guy. he's mature for the grade and sweet and polite and just a wonderful kid. it's the ones like him that make my days bearable.

boys being silly. the one in the moss vest (far right) is my little airplane.
he actually STOOD up on his chair last year and spun around with his arms out like he was a plane in the MIDDLE of my class.

this is one of my absolute favorite. not a good pic, but when he smiles, i melt and angels are born.

hyun-gyu, one of my favorite little students

Now, for Sports Day (운동회). It started out kindof eery and creepy. All the students were lined up in the dirt yard in front of the podium thing, and after the principal gave some speech about school honor and pride and love for country they all saluted him and yelled, "충성," which means "Loyalty!" And it was so miltaristic it was weird. Also, I then joined in with the aerobics. They all stood in their straight lines and stretched and warmed up together counting in unison. It was ridiculous. (apparently this is a relic of the japanese colonization?) they claim that japanese schools do this, too.

Anyway, unfortunately i don't have any pictures of my FAVORITE event, which was over before i even pulled out my camera. it was the 6th grade boys' competition. it was a sort of chicken-fight with 3 boys as the base and one on top. and they were all running around and pushing the other "boy-towers" over. and yea, it took about 5 minutes for this game to end. =( they should've just done this ALL day.

The podium area where the principal, VP, and other important people sat.

2nd graders lining up to approach racing area.

3rd graders (my kids from last year) doing some hula hoop dance

they raced through a "rainbow tunnel" made from the hoops

1st grade girls running

coteacher holding the finish line all day long

english head teacher in charge of keeping score (i got to sit here, too!)

random game in the middle where halmunnis got to do ring toss and you won the soda/juice bottles if your ring went around it

moms' relay. this is where my head english teacher's husband told me, "you will see AJUMMA POWER!!!"

dads' relay. no similar comment was made about ajussi power.

2nd grade girls had this BIZARRE game where they had to roll this GIANT ball thing, every time they tagged off, the new group of girls would run over at least 2 of the girls who were still behind it ... lol it was hysterical... and SO BIZARRE

all the moms and dads playing tug of war for points for their kids