Monday, January 25, 2016

be calm Sunday

I keep seeing this phrase 'self care' being batted around and I thought it was just another dumb buzzword, and I'm pretty sure I was right.  The concept, though, is simple and something I try to maintain on Sundays.  The big idea is to take care of yourself by setting aside time to do things you enjoy or that enrich your life and make you a better human.  For different people this means different hings, obviously, and I want to take a few moments to tell you what my version of this is because it really has made a difference. 

It used to be that I would be kind of emotional or stressed on Sundays and so Mondays were hectic in turn.  Over the last year or so I have been trying to get better at having a nice Sunday so I could have a great Monday.  First, I try to be home no later that 6 pm Sunday night, but if I'm honest I like to be home most of the day.  I usually take a long shower and wash and scrub and be very thorough.  Then I put lotion on.  I used to skip this step but this winter I have worked at keeping hydrated and lotion is part of that process for me.  I bought some nice body lotion and a heavy duty facial serum as well as a heavy duty hand cream and I use them!  I often do a load of laundry, but not always, and then the real relaxation sets in because I almost always pick up my knitting and watch a movie of some sort or a couple episodes of a tv show.  I like to make myself dinner, nothing too time consuming or fancy, but something that I will want to eat and I often have a glass of wine.  I clean my humidifier on Sunday night so it sounds nice and not like it's gasping for breath.  Then I get my bag ready for Monday and sometimes set out my clothes for the morning and get the coffee ready to go.  I like to finish the evening in bed with a book.  Starting a routine of calming myself down in the afternoon helps me feel prepared to go to bed and ready for the week ahead!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

reflections on politically correct language

I had a conversation with a friend a couple of weeks ago where I was lamenting America's obsession on politically correct language.  I thought this would just be a breezy couple of sentences and then we'd move to another topic.  I was wrong, and my friend was upset.  She explained that using language that doesn't upset or exclude people is just common courtesy.  I countered that I thought it was a waste of time to so carefully weigh every word when I just wanted to convey information.  She told me my attitude was selfish.  It wasn't the light conversation I was going for.

This morning as I was looking through facebook I read a post that was about getting eyelash extensions: 'tranny lashes.'  I though, wow, that is some harsh, tacky language.  I have used that word to describe low brow yet over the top fashion, and then I stopped because I was equating trans people with low brow tacky fashion, and it was really derogatory way.  I didn't want to talk about my fellow humans that way, and so I stopped.  In fact, there are a lot of words I have purged from my vocabulary because I felt that they were tacky and derogatory.  I was misrepresenting myself and who I want to be and I was labeling others.  Not cool.

I brought it up with my friend again today.  I told her that after a bit of self reflection and seeing it in the wild, I was going to be more mindful of using respectful language.

Friday, January 22, 2016

girls in lip gloss

To start, maybe I should tell you that I teach English as a foreign language to 5th graders in South Korea at a public elementary school.  

Not too long ago I read a post on a popular ESL teachers in Korea forum that talked about the audacity of older elementary school  girls because they were...*gasp!*... wearing makeup.  The original poster wrote that he was appalled by the use of lipstick in his classroom and that he had begun confiscating it.  I was appalled that a grown man was appalled that some 6th grade girls were experimenting with makeup.  The issue of 'sexy dancing' also came up.  It's not at all uncommon here for an after school club to consist of a large group of girls learning all the latest dance moves from the latest music videos and performing at school assemblies. 

What I have to say about this is very simple:  Children wearing makeup and experimenting with what being an adult is all about are completely normal.  Grownups are charged with being graceful to children during this part of life.

Today there was a lot of noise in the hall during a time when the school is usually empty.  I went to check it out and all the 6th graders were filtering in because today they will be escorted to their new middle schools.  They have been off school for 3 weeks and they all look well rested with combed hair and clean clothes and it made me really happy.  A lot of the girls had on lip gloss and maybe a bit of foundation and they looked happy and like they were growing up.  I'm happy for them and I hope they continue to grow and learn and become confident women, wearing whatever makes them feel awesome.

I might want to write blogs again...

It is the beginning of 2016, and I'm thinking about writing blog posts again.  I often feel like there are things I want to say but that Facebook just is not the place for my ramblings.  So, in the spirit of the new year, and in the spirit of this year being full of changes coming, welcome back, me  Please, enjoy yourself!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

There is good news, but it's bad...

That was how my handler informed me that my performance review went swimmingly.  The review is called Open Class, and you plan a special lesson and it is filmed and sent off to somewhere where some people watch it, see that you are not a failure, and tuck some notes away to consider when they review you for a contract renewal.  If it goes really well, you are punished.  The punishment is that it becomes a competition to be the best teacher in you district of the city.  (The city has 2.5 million people and 10 districts.  That's a lot of elementary school guest English teachers!)  I will prepare another special lesson and instead of it being filmed, delegates from the ministry of education will be sent to observe in person.  I am competing against 10 other teachers for 6 prizes.  I think the key is showcasing your students, their success is a reflection of my efforts.

Friday, November 8, 2013

배배로 Day!

So Monday is Pepero day.  Pepero day is a genius fake holiday that was created by a cookie company.  Pepero looks like the Japanese cookie Pocky and 2 of them together look like the number 11 so 11/11 is Pepero day.  The stores are filled with displays and I see people with big bags of them.  Last week I was at a stationary shop and saw that they sell all the bits and pieces so you can make your own style Pepero to give to your friends and loved ones.  I picked up a few packets of cookies and some melting chocolate and I am going to make some for the teachers in the English office.  Yes, it is totally commercial and mostly celebrated by middle schoolers, but I love a good kitchen craft!

Thursday, November 7, 2013


The rice cooker baking continues!  These are the brownies I made and made and made from 2010 to 2012 in my toaster oven.  I don't think I've made them in maybe a year, but in reading about all the things a rice cooker can cook, brownies came up a few times and all the instructions said just use your favorite recipe.  These turned out surprisingly well.  The texture of the top of them is not as wonderful as when they are baked in the oven, I think because of the way moisture works in the rice cooker, but they taste just as good and though I thought the texture would suffer from all the steam I was wrong.  

I just mixed up the batter as I usually would, poured it into the rice cooker bowl, turned it on, and then as the cooker turned itself off I would wait for maybe 15 minutes and then go turn it on again.  I have the very basic style of cooker that just has the switch that flips back up when it gets to temp, so I did have to keep turning it on.  I recommend patience and you will get a feel for how it works.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

pacing myself

Today I have no classes to teach due to a field trip.  These days are hard because I am not a person who usually gets bored, but on a day like today I often fear the afternoon.  To make matters more boring, this is my second day this week without classes.  My plans: finish all the lesson planning for next week, do my Korean homework, read a book, watch a movie on my computer, look at knitting patterns, read the NY Times book reviews, and look at pictures of haircuts.  The thing that always gets me about these days is that the work load is especially heavy the rest of the week because 5 days of teaching is pushed into 3, but there's nothing I can do about that today!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

No oven? No problem!

I made a loaf of bread in the rice cooker this weekend!  It was delicious!  I followed the instructions on this website but I cut the time down a lot and even so ended up scorching one of the sides a lot, but I just scraped it off and enjoyed it because it was wonderful.  I will try this again!

Friday, October 18, 2013

I just read that you can go to a rehab for cellphone addiction.

a new cake!

For several reasons I have decided not to buy an oven.  I may change my mind, but for now, no oven.  There are a few no-bake cakes out there, and this is the second one I have tried and I think it's pretty fantastic.  It's called a  gâteau de crêpes and it is so simple and a bit different and so wonderful.  It is a cake made of crêpes and filled with whatever you choose.  I filled mine with nutella whipped cream, sliced bananas, and toasted almonds.  I would like to try a ginger lemon concoction or a fruit and cream one.

I used the Cooks Illustrated / America's Test Kitchen recipe for the crepes, and against all that is sacred, I didn't follow their recipe exactly- I chilled the batter.  I have always done it this way and I probably always will.  The Nutella cream was a simple Martha Stewart recipe: 1 part Nutella to 2 parts whipping cream.  Heat the cream, whisk in the Nutella until smooth, pour into a mixing bowl and chill until cold, then beat with cold beaters just before assembling.  Assembly is simple.  One crêpe and then a layer of filling and on and on.  I used 15 crêpes because that's how many good ones I ended up with, but I would have liked to have had 20 for height.  Last but not lease, save a good looking crêpe for the very top.  So fun, festive, and delicious! 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

this is not a feel good story: there are creeps everywhere

I have lived here long enough that I should have seen a Burberry man by now.  Named for the type of knockoff coat they wear, they commonly hang out around girl's schools, which are more common here than in the States.  This guy was not a flasher, as many of them are.  He was 'hiding' in  the bushes touching himself.  I noticed him, and thought it was strange, but didn't really think past it.  My friend who was with me was a few steps behind, pushing her bicycle, and she got a more complete view.  She made a disgusted noise and I knew what he was up to.  It was the middle of the day and we were on our way to the subway station.  He followed us at a distance for about half a block before she went over to talk to him.  All she had to do was pull out her phone and threaten him with taking a picture and he shuffled off.

The differences between Korea and America are vast.  This is one of the kinds of social differences.  America has violent crime, and Korea has a bit, too, but it's my opinion that there is a lot of weird sex stuff that goes on here.  This would never be tolerated in the States but it's a right of passage here- for a girl to see a Burberry man.  I have even heard that it's good luck to see one on your way to an exam.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Since changing the type of school I work at, I have learned some interesting things about the public school system in South Korea.  One of the most interesting is that not all public schools are exactly public.  My school is one of those.  The building is privately owned, which is one of the reasons it is so small.  I was just making conversation with Jinny, my co-teacher, about some of the politics of public school when she told me our school building was privately owned.  She speculated that the building was owned by the same company who built the giant apartment buildings behind the school, as a perk of living there.  There are some benefits for the school, too.  Everything is maintained buy the owner.  During the break walls were painted and many classrooms had their floors repaired.  The janitorial staff as well as the security guard are also provided.  The major downside is that the school can't be expanded, so slowly classrooms that were intended to serve a specific purpose, like the music room and next term the English classroom, are being converted to regular classrooms.  Music and English are still being taught, but we will take out lessons to them instead of them coming to us.

for the ladies

The first time I came to South Korea in 2010, I scoured the internet for lists of things to bring to this corner of the world.  I even posted my own list a long time ago about what you might want to bring if you ever decided to stay here for an extended period of time.  One thing on that list were tampons.  When I first got here, tampons were just starting to make their way onto the shelves.  I would see them at pharmacies or big box stores, but not at my neighborhood grocery store.  Tampons are becoming easier to find as time goes on, and to prove it, I present you with 2 different boxes I have seen at the stores.

And I quote, "A tempo is a absorbent of cotton that woman use into the vagina to absorb the flow of menstrual fluid during menstruation."

This one just looks like it came to us from 1992.  U are So beautiful!

Thursday, September 5, 2013


That's my name in Korean, and Korean is about to get real.  I started taking Korean classes, after only 2 years here. Oopsie.  I had a million excuses not to before.  The lessons were at a time that was terrible for me, and it would have taken over an hour by bus to get there.  In Incheon the lessons are only 2 subway stops from my house, and actually a nice walk.  One big reason, aside from the obvious, is I need to make some friends.  I love to be alone, being alone gives me the energy I need to be with people, but alone all the time makes me feel sad.  I think I made a friend, and I think her name is Samantha.  She is from South Africa and we plan to ride the subway home together next Monday after class.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

home sweet so much nicer than the last apartment

Of course since I moved to a new city, I moved to a new apartment.  A fancy apartment.  An apartment with an downstairs AND and upstairs.  When I say fancy, I mean with a real shower enclosure and no mold. When I say upstairs I mean a 4.5 foot ceiling.  This place is tiny.  This place is mold free!  For now, let's just focus on the kitchen, because it is better than the last one, because it has a counter!

I am not a fan of the stove top, because it is rickety and the pan I have slides around and wants to slide right off.  If I had children I would replace it with something less slidey.  Just above the stove top is a pull out fan and light, it just slides right out and slides back when I'm not cooking anything.  There is also a fancy front load washer.  These are all the rage, but I do not love it.  It's not good for soaking anything, and if I forget something I can't just open it up to toss whatever in after the fact.  It does have a really great feature though: a timer.  I can put the clothes in in the morning, set the timer to start the whole thing going at 3 o'clock, and when I get home they are just done and ready to hang up.  I forgot to mention that the cutting board hung up behind the sink fits just in the sink to make even more counter space!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

oh, hello!

I ran away from home for a while, but now I'm back, or I will try to be.

Welcome back to Korea, I said at the end of May.  I took a job at a public school in Incheon, South Korea, which is a suburb of Seoul as well as it's own city.  Incheon is where the main South Korean airport is, which is about an hour away by train from my part of town.

This job is a much better fit for me and I am happier here than I was working for the academy in Daejeon.  There is still plenty to frustrate me and make me shake my head in confusion, but this place makes more sense to me and I am thankful for that.

Let's talk about some of the highlights:

School lunch!  Now, I was really excited about this, REALLY excited, but I have cooled my jets a little as of late.  I pay about $25.00 a month, or rather the school deducts it from my pay, and I get school lunch.  It's a great deal and very convenient, and the meals are nice.  The problem is that they can be pretty rich, and it's all Korean, all the time.  It's just so easy!

The students!  It is nice to be the first stop instead of the last.  At my last institution, kids came after they had already been in school all day.  They were tired and hungry, always asking for food and falling asleep during my lessons.  Now when I see the students, though still sleepy, they are in better moods, they are not complaining of hunger, and they are not nodding off in class.

So there you have it, a tiny bit of what I have been up to.  If you stay tuned, you may find that I have written something else in a more timely manner.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Welcome back

to myself. Things have happened since we last spoke. I left South Korea and went to Mexico where I earned a TESOL certificate. (I spent well over 120 hours learnin how to better teach English.) I went to southern Mexico. It was hot. I saw monkeys, aligators or crocodiles, I'm not sure which, gekos, giant moths, bats, and all sorts of other things. I visited indigenous villages. I ate a lot of tacos and listened to a lot of music. I made new friends. Then I went to northern Mexico for a vacation and to see my parents. From there I visited friends and family. Now it's time to get a job. 

During all this funemployment I have been knitting and crocheting, cooking, taking pictures, jogging, playing with kids and dogs, and having a really good time. It's time to get back to work! 

Friday, September 21, 2012

so this is it

The countdown has begun, I leave the ROK in 5 days.  My boxes are nearly packed, my suitcase is in total disarray, all of my errands are done.  I went to the tax office, I went to the pension office, and tomorrow I will go to the post office.  On Saturday, I will have one last hurrah at the micro brewery with my friends, and a big fat chocolate cake that I made at the beginning of the week.  I started saying goodbye to my students, which has been less emotional than I prepared for, which I am thankful for.   Then, on Tuesday, after 20 hours of traveling, I will arrive in southern Mexico to attend a TESOL course.  I am tired, a bit stressed, and so looking forward to touching down in Chiapas de Corza, Mexico, and falling asleep.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


I survived the typhoon. I filled up all the water containers. I had about $100.00 cash just in case. I took a shower the night before just in case the power and water were cut. I had a flashlight and candle. I had some extra food and a book. I got the message not to come into work. One of my expat friends told me to come over and hang out and wait and watch out the window. I quickly packed up my backpack and got on the bus, knowing I had just enough time before the storm landed to get to her apartment. AND THEN NOTING HAPPENED! I read and she made lunch and we just sat around, enjoying our day off. We stayed home because we thought it would be windy and pouring down rain. We watched the clouds out the window. She washed the dishes in case her water was cut. I filled up a bucket with water and put it in the bathroom in case we had to flush the toilet. We waited and waited! Finally is rained when we were watching a movie. We stood at the kitchen window and looked out and it was really beautiful, but not the full on rain I was expecting. No strong winds. I'm thankful to be safe, but a little sad I missed the show.