Wednesday, August 27, 2014

America in Pictures

It's been quite a trip.

Did you know Incheon Airport has this free photo booth thing?

We landed in the States.

We've missed driving cars.

We've also missed eating Mexican food.

Look what we found in storage! As a kid, I had a Korean nanny who wrote my name in hangul. Granted it says, "Hay-dull" but how freaking cool is that! This is the same nanny who told my parents one day after work: "Heather potty-trained." Bam. One day. Finished. 
They have no idea what she did, but it's still working.

Since we've been gone my parents have moved from Loveland to the family farm.

A tree growing in the silo.

So much open space.

Dad and the new dog, Stitch.

Grandpa's brand for the farm.

Grandpa's untouched work bench.

So much fresh air.

All the gluten-free goodness. That's a muffin, folks!

Have I mentioned all the open space?

Riding around in the new farm toy.

Indian food.

Monday, August 18, 2014


I write from America.

From a country that I certainly poke fun at and have criticisms for, but still absolutely love. Less for its petty politics, disinterest in the environment, and embarrassing entertainment industry, but more for the people who live here and make it home. I mean, have you seen Colorado recently? Sheesh. What's not to love?

I write from America.

A place that is so very different from Korea. Home is a place where I know the rules and I understand the culture. A place where I can be independent versus co-dependent. I can drive a car. I can get around. I can speak the language. People make eye contact. People hold doors open for one another. Complete strangers make small talk. I am not a perpetual "foreigner", I am a native.

We've been here for about a week and already I feel myself thinking, "Tell me again, why are we going back to Korea?" Not because it's a horrible place, but just because it will never be home. Which is precisely why we left in the first place (...shaking my head...), we wanted something new. Something challenging. A "foreign" country where we would be "foreigners" and that's exactly what we got.

Last night, I had a panic attack. One of those crying, hyperventilating fits where it's hard to bring yourself down. It felt just like the attack I had a year ago when we landed in Korea. And surprisingly the reason on this side of the ocean was the same: These two vastly different worlds exist at the same time and I don't know what to do about it.

Obviously, the answer to that predicament is: nothing. I can do nothing about it. I should do nothing. I don't need to have this all figured out. But "nothing" feels too simple and all of this...ALL OF THIS...feels intensely complex. Like too much to hold at one time.

Like the best thing I could do is put it down
just wait and see
take a breath
take it all in

but instead,
I squirm
I struggle
I wake up at 3am just pondering it all
I kinda, sorta make myself crazy.

And it's a good thing I have this guy.

Because today, we took a drive up to the mountains for space and quiet and all kinds of things that are not readily available in Korea. And the space has done me good. Time to focus on things that are true:
-We are in America.
-Soon, we will return to Korea.
-Korea is a good place.
-The people we love aren't going anywhere.
-There will be more of this in our future.
-We can do this.

Sunday, August 10, 2014


During my last year in college, I distinctly remember sitting at the local coffee shop, in-over-my-head with homework and term papers, making a list of all the things I had to look forward to after college. All the things I would do. All the (non-text)books I would read. All of the simple pleasures I would treasure because I'd spent so much time buried in the demands of college.

And now, I've been out of college about as long as we've been married (over two years) and it's surprising how quickly we humans forget our past promises to the Universe and find something else to complain about.

In Korea, Jeremy and I spend forty hours a week at our jobs, but the rest of the time is ours. What a gift! We don't have kids. We don't have PTA meetings. We don't have anything else we have to do. Time is on our side. But recently, I heard myself venting to a friend the struggle of having so much time. Which, I know, to most of you is such a bizarre thing to whine about. Who doesn't want more time?

Well...this girl.

And I say that because time can make me anxious.
As if I should be producing something.
Preparing for something.
Planning a life.
Figuring out a career path. Any career path!
I mean, I'm almost THIRTY!
Like we have this rare moment of "too much" time that we'll be longing for in a few years, and all I wanna do is sit and watch another season of Grey's Anatomy in one binge-worthy sitting.
Which feels like such a waste of time.
Because it is.

There's so much unknown ahead of us, that I find it hard to just sit with the time because it feels like it if I do, it will strangle me. It will swallow me up. So numbing myself to these unknowns is just so much easier than feeling them. 

It always is.

And I can assure you that this is not my over-achiever, type-A personality talking. Like I just need to give myself a break. No, this is really just a lot of time in the past year that has been sucked into computer screens instead of funneled into anything particularly rewarding (unless you call Buzzfeed GIFs "rewarding", in that case, I'm living the purpose-driven life). I notice this particularly if I'm not blogging. Because if I'm not blogging, I'm probably not learning or having meaningful conversations or experiencing much that is worth sharing.

And that feels awful. And I don't like saying this out loud. Admitting that I'm not sure where my purpose went. That I have so much time and no idea what to do with it. That I'm feeling a wee bit lost.

Going home to the States will be good. A small reset, if only for a few weeks. To reflect and figure out what to do next. How to navigate our second year in Korea. How to get perspective. How to feel instead of numb. How to love better. How to live better.

And making the next best decision.
One day at a time.

Always. Onward.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Things I've Heard in Korea Recently

From a co-worker at school, "Haydugh (which is how they say my name), the principal says he likes you."
Me: "Oh wow, that's good news. Do you know why?"
Co-worker: "He says you have blonde hair, which is good (which, I don't, but in comparison, I suppose it appears blonde). And you wear helmet. And you use apple box on the back of your bicycle. He says, 'She obviously doesn't care what people think about her.' "
Me: "Is that good?"
Co-worker: "Meh."

Exhibit A (on the left)

Not caring what other people think seems to be a luxury here. At least, that's according to my co-teacher who says, "If I didn't care, I couldn't survive. It is my duty as a Korean person to fit in. To be the same. You don't have to do that because you are a foreigner."

I may never fully be able to understand what she's talking about because I live in a big country with a wide variety of people and beliefs, but I also don't belong to a distinct cultural group with which people judge me other than...white. So, while my family immigrated from Germany, I don't have to look/speak/act German. A luxury I'd never considered until now.

- - - - - - - - - -

Co-worker: "Haydugh, sunglasses! Ooo, like movie star!" (this is a response I often get)
Me: "Do people in Korea not wear sunglasses?"
Co-worker: "No. We think people who wear sunglasses are arrogant or trying to show off."
Me: "What? Well, should I stop wearing them so people don't think that?"
Co-worker: "No, you're a foreigner. People expect that. It's okay."

- - - - - - - - - -

And then there was that time we had a fire drill at school and the bell scared me so much that I spilled my hot tea all over my computer keyboard. As my co-workers rushed out the door, I said, "I'll be there as soon as I can, I'm just going to wipe this off."

Three minutes later, I walk out to the field where the school has gathered. We stand. We listen to the principal say something. We all walk back inside.

At lunch, "Haydugh, during fire drill, you didn't run!"
Me: "No, I didn't. Was I supposed to?"
Co-worker: "Yes! The teachers have been talking about you. The principal could have seen you. He might've thought you weren't trying. You should have run!"
Me: "Oh, I'm so sorry. I didn't know we were supposed to run. Back home, we are told not to run, just to walk quickly."
Co-worker: "You don't need to run, just appear urgent."

- - - - - - - - - -

Co-worker: "Your muscles. So big for woman. You really don't care what people think about you."
Me: "Well, I'm starting to..."

- - - - - - - - - -

Co-worker: "Koreans have healthy eyes. Better eyes than you. We don't need sunglasses. You have Western eyes. You are weak."
Me: "What? You're making this up. Why are your eyes healthier than mine?"
Co-worker: "We don't need sunglasses like foreigners. Healthy eyes."
Another co-worker chimes in in Korean, she shakes her head in agreement.
Co-worker: "Not healthier, my eyes are smaller. Less space to be attacked by sun. Don't need sunglasses."

(Is this real life? Is this a thing that people have known about people who have smaller eyes, that they don't need to wear sunglasses? Or are they pulling my leg?)

- - - - - - - - - -

Me: "Jongmin, do you know what it means if someone says, 'Duh!'?"
Jongmin: "Wait a minute...'duh'? No, I don't know."
Me: "It means that something is obvious. It's a very informal way of saying that you already knew something."
Jongmin: "Okay, like, 'I'm putting on my shoes. Duh!' ?"
Me: "Yeah, kinda. Like, 'Jong, look we're in our apartment.' You could say, 'Duh!' ."
Jongmin: "Oh I've got it, okay, see you later." Goes to close the door and then pokes his head back in, "Duh!"


- - - - - - - - - -

For English summer camp, I've been teaching a Frozen-themed week. If you don't know about this Disney movie, you've escaped an existence English teachers in Korea could only dream of. However, because it was such a hit with my kiddos, I wanted to a subtle-rendition meaning that we would talk about weather, for example, because winter is such a theme in the movie. Or we're talking about mythical creatures like trolls and the abominable snowman, both of which (kind of) appear in the movie. And I would have been a happy camper to have avoided singing "Let It Go" entirely, but my co-teacher sneaked it in about a dozen times on the first day and it's been downhill since then...