Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 Das Quiz

I'm currently watching a game show in German...Did anyone else hear about the bear in Colorado that drove a car into a bush?  I feel so out of the loop on current events... :)


P.S. My love for Hasebe and Wolfsburg only draws blank stares.  My like for BVB and Schalke 04 makes everyone nervous.  But my knowledge of Bundesliga impresses everyone despite my non-knowledge of German. 

Friday, December 24, 2010

I'll be Home for Christmas


I have made a Super Junior man cookie.  Please note the fabulous Asian hair.
Enjoyed some pre-Christmas snow
In the past week...
I have driven to Culpeper, to Richmond, to DC/Baltimore...

 And to Charlotte, North Carolina.
That's over 1200 miles...
 While in Charlotte, I found this sign depicting energy drinks quite amusing,
 And I saw a great light show at the Charlotte Speedway (actually located in Concord)
 Where we laughed at horse-drawn trees...
And got to drive on the actual Speedway track going as fast as we could so we didn't fall off the curve in a mini-van.

It's nice to come home.

Merry Christmas, friends!


Monday, December 20, 2010

Once upon a Dream

Dear Sub-conscious,

Well played, friend.  West Side Story meets Buttercream Gang?  What more could a girl ask for than to have a dream where she has a run-in with a rough and tumble gang whose leader takes her side and serves as her protector?  The rest of the gang penitently following hoping to gain the leader's forgiveness as we marched through the streets was a nice touch.  But your timing in having the entire gang dance a hip hop dance number in unison in the streets and finish just before the alarm went off was absolute perfection.  This might make up for the previous sock folding blunders.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Sprechen sie 中文?

Dear Self,

Despite the current joke, you were not raised in a Korean household.  Far from it, in fact.  The other day when you called your dad to see how he was doing, the Korean words were on your lips: "Apa, saranghaeyo."  But alas, it went unsaid - in Korean, that is.

However, isn't it strange in the first place that some little girl from Illinois whose parents were from Illinois whose parents were from Illinois - and it goes on like that for a few generations more - that you know any Korean at all?

Your parents, for the majority of your formative years, would have been classified as middle Americans: with high school diplomas and some college but no college degree*.  So this begs the question as to how it is in they would have children that would have invested time in learning (at least in part) the following languages: Arabic, Bulgarian, Chinese Sign Language, Croatian, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, Taiwanese, Welsh**.

Truly, how did this happen?

So you recall the random language tapes you and your siblings would borrow over and over from the library that taught you how to sing, "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" and "It's Raining, It's Pouring" in French, Spanish, German and Russian.  You remembered how a favorite family prayer song was, "All Around the World" in which you got to sing 'Thank you' in multiple languages.  Your family is also very big on using correct grammar and pronunciation of English so perhaps this is just a carry over into being interested in other languages and cultures as well.

But then one day, you find yourself in Nursery with a little 3 year old girl who you are trying to teach "Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam" and you naturally use ASL signs as you try to help her learn the words.  The little girl follows and loves the sign for "Sunbeam" making this song one of her new favorites.... Wait, wasn't this a favorite childhood song for you too? and for the very same reason?

And then you remember that most people did not grow up in a household where the mother would teach her children to sing in ASL.  Or that in high school none of the rest of your volleyball teammates would have conversations with their mothers from across the gym.  Or that most extremely shy 4 year old little girls, when asked their name by adults would simply not respond rather than finger spell, as did your sister "E-L-I-Z-A-B-E-T-H" with her hand down near her side.

And then you realize that perhaps your family was more multi-lingual when you were growing up than you realized.  You grew up with a TTY telephone by your parents bedside and you knew exactly what to do when a Relay system called from a hearing impaired friend.  You spent much of your childhood watching your mother sing hymns in ASL and you would often join her, learning how to express the birth and life of Jesus Christ through your hands.  Your childhood also consisted of many ASL speaking friends moving in and out of your family's life - people with their own vibrant and dynamic language and culture.  And all this with a non-hearing-impaired mother.

What with your extensive traveling and intense foreign language training and your desire to integrate what you learn and love about the cultures you encounter into your own life, it seems you are not really so different from your parents after all.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Good Idea/Bad Idea (in Marketing)

Good Idea: 
Yesterday: My sister tells me that she needs to go shopping at H&M in preparation to go to Uganda.
Yesterday: I was watching a popup mv by Wongfu Productions and they stated that their clothes came from H&M.
Today: Hase posts a blog about Christmas shopping for his niece and nephew at H&M.

What is with H&M?  And now I'm wondering, is this a sign that I need something from H&M?  Even if it's simply to figure out why three separate people in different parts of the world (well, really Western Hemisphere) all make a point to shop at H&M.  If this is a marketing ploy, I think it might just work.

As is this,
Suddenly I feel the need to buy the tie.  I don't wear ties nor do I know anyone who would actually want to own a Samurai Blue tie (besides the 18 men shown here - and others associated with them)  

Bad Idea: 
Two weeks ago: I walked into an outdoors sporting shop interested in buying a pair of stylish but practical boots for my upcoming trip to Germany.  The shoes are all kept in the back so you need a sales attendant to help you. Everyone ignored me.
Last Saturday: I went back to the same shop because there were some boots I had seen that I really wanted to try on.  Again, I was completely ignored.

I had three theories:
(1) I looked like a poor student who couldn't afford anything in the store
(2) I didn't look rugged outdoorsy enough for them to bother with me.
(3) I looked like I was outdoorsy enough that I could figure out what I needed/wanted and so didn't need close supervision

So I went home and asked my roommate who is more outdoorsy than me and has a whole family of hiking, mountain climbing, biking and backpacking brothers.  She told me it was reason number 2.  Apparently unless you look like you think sleeping on a glacier is the best way you can think of spend your weekend, they offer no help.

But if you look like you think sleeping on a glacier is the ideal way to spend a weekend, don't you already own half the store anyway?  Or work there?

To make this bad idea into a completely neutral idea, please just let me try on your boots in peace.  I don't mind being ignored but at least leave the boxes out in public space so people who at least think that hiking a mountain or through snow in Germany a reason to find something more durable than the high heeled fashions available elsewhere.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Kindred Spirits the World Over

Dear World,

Running down O-Hill on Friday, I was so thrilled to be out in the cold and to see the hot air balloon in the air and that it was Friday that I just cheered as I jumped and ran down the hill.  And then, I looked up and saw some man walking the opposite direction as me.  He had been watching me dance and cheer to myself and now he was laughing at me and then with me as called out some encouraging comment.

Driving to the Christmas Devotional on Sunday, I pulled up to a light as I pushed back my hair out of my face.  In the process I glanced over and realized that the car next to me thought the gesture was a wave and smiled before catching his mistake.  So I gave him a large encouraging smile before becoming self-conscious myself when he nodded back.

On Tuesday, Kato blew a tire.  It was frustrating to have a flat while trying to get to the temple but within minutes, a kind man stopped to help.  And then when he realized we didn't have all we needed, Lindsey and I settled into the tall prairie grass to eat the rest of our lunch and wait in the breezy cold weather to wait for AAA. And despite the cold, it was glorious.  Until another kind man with a big smile stopped and pulled out his tools to help us out.

Yesterday when I was trying to find a way to get to rehearsal, unconsciously asking myself how I was going to figure out where to do, I wondered why the Chinese man gave me a big grin as he held the door open for me.  It was only an hour later that I realized I had been mumbling aloud to myself in Chinese.

It seems at those moments when I am my most awkward self that I find friends and people who understand and reach out.

You dear, dear thing!


Monday, December 6, 2010

I just realized...

...I am a people person.


P.S. I think that explains a lot, actually.

告白 (Confession)

Dear 日本代表,

When I first chose you, it was simply because I like things to come in 3's. (1) US (my home team), (2) Republic of Korea  (how can you not cheer for Hanguk with Super Junior backing it?) But who would I choose for No.3?  Taiwan and China didn't have teams and I wasn't sure how Chosun even got into the competition... So that just left you.

And so, anxious to jump on the cheering bus, I watched a few games.  And this is what I saw...

Image from
Image from
Image from TorontoSun

And these pictures don't do it quite justice.  A million little things impressed me.  The time Keisuke could have taken a shot and instead lobbed it to his teammate who made the goal.  The time Keisuke talked Endo through the PK.  The time that Hasebe went down injured and I knew it was real.  The time that the Paraguayan gave a few words on encouragement to Komano who was upset for missing his shot and Nagatomo(?) thanked him for being considerate of his teammate.  The press conference two days after leaving the World Cup where you all laughed so hard as though defeat didn't exist.

I think I'm in love.  

Love, Me

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Joy to the World

Dear Man at Kroger,

It took you a second to realize that the attendant wasn't demanding to see your receipt but was simply giving you your receipt as you frantically searched through your purchases while he held out his hand.  (My roommate was slightly confused too) But once you did figure it out, you excitedly exclaimed, "Oh Thank you!  But where did you get it?"  The attendant indicated his attendant station.  Again, you exclaimed, "But how?"  The attendant was smiling by this time, "Well, your station is out of paper so it printed to mine instead."  The joy in your voice was as unmistakable as it was remarkable.  You reminded us all how wonderful a thing it is to have someone show kindness no matter how small.  Thank you for making my night.


Dear Self,

First it was Mis-matched by Lensey Namioka.

Next it was The Good Women of China by Xinran.

Now you're onto The Secrets of Mariko by Elisabeth Bumiller.

The books are as enlightening as they are well written.  They raise questions for you about race and relationships, about culture and identity, about heartache and healing.  Grateful, you are realizing truly how blessed you have been.  Thoughtful, you are wondering how many other stories out there are ones that will touch you so.  Hopeful , you are yet wishing, that somehow, you can be a part of the great work: helping humankind.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

He who laughs last...

Dear Makoto,

Every year (well, almost every year since the 2009 calendar still hangs on my office wall) I buy a new calendar to help me keep track of the days and organize my life.  This year, I saw your calendar and thought, 'hey! I can kill two birds with one stone: support my favorite soccer player and keep track of my life'.  So I bought your calendar and eagerly anticipated its arrival.

Maybe I should have paid attention to the listed size of the calendar.  Maybe I should learn what cm actually means in terms of inches.  And maybe I should realize that not everyone actually uses a calendar to keep track of their lives but more as a front to have poster-sized pictures of someone they like on their wall.  


Dear Subconscious,

You really outdid yourself this time.  Three weeks until the end of the semester and suddenly you're faced with the fact that there was that one class that you had signed up for but forgotten to attend class claiming that you would get the work done on your own time.  And now you're wracking your brain trying to figure out how to get a semester's worth of material into your brain in three weeks so you can pass the class.  

The story has been played before - pretty much every semester in fact.  However, this semester its different.  In your waking moments, you actually did have interest in taking Japanese.  You actually did have that problem at the beginning of the semester with applying for classes.  And you actually hold in your possession Japanese language books.  

So, there I am in the middle of my dream, living a nightmare.  I'm remembering that in the past three months, I've only learned a handful of Japanese phrases.  The teacher and the TA tell me that I will inevitably fail the class, unconcerned of course that receiving a failing grade gets me kicked out of my PhD program.  I discuss the matter with my Japanese-speaking friend who claims he had repeatedly told me that not attending class was a bad move.  

Meanwhile, the analytical part of my brain is trying to figure out if these experiences are memories of other dreams or of waking reality.  And I'm panicking because I can't figure out amidst the details of the dream if I will wake up and find that its not just a bad dream.  

Three weeks until the end of the semester.  And I do have to finish an independent study class.  

Fortunately it's radiative heat transfer.  Thanks for the almost heart attack anyway.  


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Rant

別回答 別回答我 我愛著你也不能說
別回答 別回答我 我擔心你是否我太瞭啦 可時空變幻了這麼多 給了你我心中的王國
我不願一切就要跟你離開 隨著漩渦 漸漸沉沒
愛我吧 像是你的心不動 說完了 我都不想承認心痛 忘了吧 我也不能坐在這兒心掛 愛我吧 愛我吧

凡人的無奈 像是一袋赤手的紅塵 這倒帶 消失的愛追不來 要去忍受 在笑顏後有難過的時候 古人曾經說過 知己難求
愛我吧 我還沒有得牽掛 說完了 我都不想承認心痛 忘了吧 我也不能坐在這兒心掛 愛我吧 愛我吧

(方大同 月,爱我吧)

Don't answer; don't answer me.  I love you but can't tell you.  Don't answer; don't answer me.  Is my worry for you caused by understanding too much?  But time has changed so much - I've given you my heart.  I don't want everything to leave with you just as with a whirlpool that sinks into nothingness.
Love me - your heart seems unmoved.  Saying this, I cannot accept the pain I feel.  Forget it - I can't sit here with my heart hanging.  Love me;  Please love me.  

The helplessness of people seems like a bag of empty handed red dust.  Rewinding, the love that has  disappeared may be sought but never returned.  Learn to accept that behind every smiling face there is sorrow.  It's always been said it's hardest to know oneself.
Love me - I still haven't gotten your concern.  Saying this, I cannot accept the pain I feel.  Forget it - I can't sit here with my heart hanging.  Love me;  Please love me.  

(Khalil Fong's Love Me from the Orange Moon Album, trans. Ruo-hua)




Monday, November 29, 2010

I scream, You scream, We all Scream for ...

Dear Little Friend at Chick-Fil-A,

I wouldn't have paid you much attention on my way out the door.  I had my food and we were in a hurry to catch a movie but your innocent question posed to your mother made me stop and stare:

You: "Where's the ice?"
Mom: "Ice?"
You: "Why is there no ice?  It's just cream."
Thanks for making me smile.



Mountain Lake Biological Station, August 2009
I went to a bookstore on Saturday evening and bought 11 books.  Two of them were books I had read before and just wanted to own.  8 of them dealt with Asian issues.

Every Sunday, I spend my morning twisting my hair around my finger and thinking about my life.  I get ready while thinking about the Saints in Taiwan.  I spend the 5 minute car ride to church panicking about the things I have failed to do that week.  I spend the first hour in church near tears about the enormous responsibility of being a member of the kingdom of God.  By the end of Sunday I have forgotten that the load I carry is too heavy to bear.

I keep thinking tomorrow is the day that I get to go to the temple.  And then I remember it's a 5th Tuesday.

The South Korean/Taiwan argument leaves me feeling confused.  

The South Korean/North Korean/China/US military skirmish leaves me feeling vulnerable.

Did you know that 'fun' is a noun?  I've never thought about its place in the grammar world before yesterday.  But it is most decidedly a noun.  Like 'love'.  Or 'hope'.

I really like the Dominoes Mexican Train game.  The more I play, the bigger the gap I lose by.  And yet, shuffling all the dominoes reminds me of friends and good conversation and I wonder if this is why people like mahjong.

I wish I knew what happened to my short story entitled, The Egg.  It was possibly the closest I have ever come to a good story or pretend good literature.  Watching Wongfu Productions' movies makes me think that it would make a good movie too.

What constitutes some great thing?  I think I keep hoping that I will accomplish some great thing in my life.  But I barely can handle the little things... like eating lunch or eating breakfast... or doing my laundry... or figuring out how to create a dll...

Makoto didn't play yesterday.  And his team didn't win.  They just tied AGAIN.

Kato got pulled over on Wednesday by a really nice cop who tried to make small talk.  It's a little unnerving for a cop to tell you he is familiar with your street when you are 3 hours away from home.  Especially when you don't know if he's just about to hand you a ticket.

Although I lead a busy life that has its daily random adventures, I secretly wish I was a creature of habit who spends her evenings cooking meals, doing laundry and dishes and ends up curled up with a good book.

I miss Asia every day.  I wish I didn't.  I wish I could turn off my heart.  And my thoughts.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Leaf Jumping

Dear Undergraduates,

You see us at the front of your labs, TAing or teaching.  You watch us complain about our papers and our proposals and we always throw out the intimidating but nebulous RESEARCH.

And yet, you intimidate us more by the fact that you know what you want to do with your lives and you do research on future jobs and graduate school and fellowship opportunities.  We used to be where you are.  Will you ever be where we are?

But where are we?

Jumping in big piles of leaves with all abandon; we are children, once again, without a care in the world and without the weight of our research on our shoulders.

And you just stare at us in shock.

When you get where we are, maybe you will understand why.

Me (a graduate student)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Act II

Dear Self,

It bothers you, doesn't it - that your story doesn't have an ending. At least not yet, at least not ever. You keep hoping for the perfect little ending where something marvelous happens and we all live happily ever after. But in the stories, that's when you move on to another book, another character, another plot or just hope for a very well-written series. (Hardy Boys was SUCH a disappointment, wasn't it?)

And it bothers you too, to have loose plot lines. Last week you watched a movie with a character that you loved introduced early on and never reappeared - it frustrates you even now. Perhaps that is why you continually check your email hoping from some line from Isao or you drive around town looking into the face of every Japanese person you see hoping that it is that law student you met a few weeks back or continually attend every seminar you can to find that man you've dubbed as your "future husband". (笑) You keep searching for signs that the people that you easily learned to love and care for will reappear - that their lives will have been intricately tied into your own.

Not to mention those weird, unexplainable moments of your life. That time that you listened to a Chinese song over and over on your media player on your computer. It was beautiful and all you wanted was to find out the artist and the title only to discover that no such song existed anywhere on your computer. Or that short story that you spent a week working on only to find out that it disappeared completely.  If I was the author, shouldn't these events have to do with the ending in some elegant and masterful way?  Instead, I think they're gone forever.

And then, here's the kicker:  Here you are stumbling through the hardest period of your life (up to this point).  Past trials make for good stories with morals threading their way through every frustration.  But this one has no end in sight and you don't what events will transpire to get you through it or what sort of person will emerge.  Truly, this trial as no other is testing you as you've never been tested before.  Failure seems as likely - or possibly more likely - than success...

From the words of your friend, President Packer: 
"W e sometimes wonder, if the plan really is the great plan of happiness, why must we struggle to find fulness of it in mortal life? If you expect to find only ease and peace and bliss during Act II, you surely will be frustrated. You will understand little of what is going on and why it is permitted to be as they are. Remember this! The line “And they all lived happily ever after” is never written into the second act. That Line belongs in the third act when the mysteries are solved and everything is put right." (The Play and the Plan, May 1995)

Double rainbow, Utah 2009



Monday, November 15, 2010


Dear Friends,
The wealth of English phrases in Korean pop songs yields some absolute gems that I feel Americans undervalue and appreciate in our own musical stylings:
Leeteuk of Super Junior dressed up as Your-Guess-is-As-Good-As-Mine
"He's no Superman, He must be Mama's boy" (Super Girl by Super Junior M, Korean version) - Words cannot describe...

"Fantastic, Fantastic, Elastic, Elastic" (Ring Ding Dong by Shinee) - Just because two words rhyme does NOT indicate its necessity to appear in any song.

"Every day I shock <shock>; Every night I shock <shock>"  (Shock by Beast) - Finish the thought please.  Shock what?  Is this a Physics lesson in static electricity?

"[You] Shoot, Shoot, Shoot; [I] Hoot, Hoot, Hoot" (Hoot by SNSD) - Okay, I get the idea about Cupid's arrow and shooting but why are you hooting?  How is that a good response?  Again, just because two words rhyme does NOT require you to use it in a song.

BUT it seems the real gems come from things my sister thinks she hears when she listens to kpop music.  And it's awesomely hilarious because once you hear it, you can't seem to hear anything else.  Try it out for yourself:

"Last night I would be your obso" (0:34 of It's You by Super Junior) - Okay, so we don't know what an obso is but everything else makes sense.

"Oh, my super girl makes you want a baby girl.  Oh, my super girl - what you need's a super man" (1:03 of Super Girl by Super Junior M, Mandarin version) (This one is harder to hear for me since I speak Mandarin)

That's Okay, I rolled in Kashi" (0:47 of So I by Super Junior)

"Taco. Mexicans, they love me" (2:13 of Angel (Haru OST) by Super Junior)

"I'm a good Mormon guy" (3:37 of Beautiful by Beast)

Disclaimer: While I get tickled over the use and mis-use of English in Korean pop songs, these examples are not an indication that all use of English in Korean music is wrong.
Disclaimer: I may or may not listen to incredibly large quantities of Korean pop music on a daily basis.  
Disclaimer: If anyone thinks this is an indication of my insane love of Asia... it is.  


Currently listening: Beautiful by Beast.
Currently reading: Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Currently noticing: 尤其 Yóuqí -In particular 

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Charlie Brown Life

Dear Chinese,

Unrequited love - it was always a theme that bored me to death.  And the whole Charlie Brown/Lucy football thing always infuriated me.  Why didn't Charlie Brown ever just move on and give up?  Lucy was NEVER going to let him kick the silly ball.  And then she would crow over him about it too.  "Haha, Charlie Brown!  You failed again!" What sort of friend does that?!

And yet, isn't this how you treat me?  I study and study and study and beg and beg for any kind of sign that I'm improving or being accepted... It's like a bad rerun where I run my hardest and fall flat on my back over and over and over again.  And yet, do I give up?  No, because for some really odd reason that I am unaware of, I still believe that one day effort will result in success.  One day I tell myself, I will be able to express myself in Chinese.  One day, I naively believe, I will be treated like family rather than like a white foreigner.

And now look at my relationship with Korean:

The other day I walked into a Korea restaurant and ordered in butchered Korean, dukbokki and kimchi jun.  While my roommate pondered over the menu, I casually looked at the kdrama being played on the TV and asked the restaurant owner/manager about it.  She responded and I noted that a few of the faces were familiar.  So then I challenged my roommate to figure out the entire drama while we waited for our food - this was fairly easy since both love triangles showed up in the five minutes we were there.  I casually re-translated one of the words from what the subtitle said to what the Korean actor actually said and soon the owner/manager was at my elbow asking me where I had learned so much about Korea.  She was enthusiastic and said she thought that I had lived in Seoul and had wanted to know for how long.

You see?  I casually know something about Korea and suddenly I have a fan.

But with you?  Somehow it's all mixed up.  I get mad at myself at a soccer game and find myself yelling in frustration in Chinese.  I have a dream with a war veteran who I'm talking about his home state of Pennsylvania with in Chinese.  I think all day by myself in Chinese.  But get me around a Chinese person and my mind goes blank.  Instead, I stumble around with a suddenly-limited Chinese vocabulary slapped together with American grammar.  It's an absolute mess.  There is no casual conversation about music or dramas or Chinese current events.  There is no casual conversation at all.  It's more like me running after that silly football and just landing flat on my back.

I think I'm still hoping for a George Albert Smith/Lucy Woodruff ending.  (or perhaps more appropriately,a 惡作劇之吻 ending) (or we could also go with the Korean counterpart: 장난스런 키스)


For my dissertation, I propose to speed up time...

Dear Time,

We had a debate about you last night.  My friend, Lissa, insisted that I figure out some way to speed up time.  We had half an hour before rehearsal started and she had nothing to do and she didn't want to keep waiting around for it.  So we decided to add it to my dissertation topic: figure out the equations to jump time ahead.  And we went enthusiastically along with the idea.  The conversation ended though with her demand, "Erin, whatever you do, don't you EVER stop time."  

Except sometimes that's exactly what I want to do.  

i.e. When I realize that I am getting more white hair in my head that I would like to admit
i.e. When I discover that 20 minute halves in intramural soccer games are wearing me out. 
i.e. When I find at the end of the day that I am not entirely sure that I accomplished ANYTHING
i.e. When I'm with my family and I have to go and I wish we had time for one more hug, one more long conversation...
i.e. When my roommates and I sit at the table after eating a fabulous dinner and we just chat for hours
i.e. When the trees and the sky are so beautiful that I wish I could explore the world over just as it is as that moment
i.e. When I am with my friends and we just can't stop laughing over silly little nothings
i.e. When I meet a new friend who will only be in my life for a short time
i.e. When I realize that the wonderful moments of NOW will never return


Monday, November 8, 2010

Snapshots of the weekend

Dear Self,

Lest you forget...

Do you remember showing up at 10:30 pm at the Huntwood house only to have one Peter completely confused and to leave the other Peter confused because of a random text message from a number you didn't have saved in your phone asking you to do a favor?  Not sketchy enough to be too unsafe, just sketchy enough to make for a good story.

Do you remember that time that you helped throw a tea party for your friends Emily and Colleen?  Emily spent most of the party running around exclaiming that this was her first tea party! but refused all offers of the tea.  Meanwhile, the adults tried to figure out what actually happens at tea parties while avoiding politics - so instead we told stories of our childhood.  Its hilarious to tell undignified stories while sitting around properly drinking tea from tea cups with hats of every variety atop our heads.
The tea party spread, by Kendra Ogzewalla
Do you remember gloriously spending a quiet Saturday evening on the couch, eating up the story of A Scarlet Pimpernel?  When was the last time you spent an evening just reading?

Do you remember Sunday's wonderful busyness as you and your roommates and friends managed to simultaneously prepare snickerdoodles; apple dumplings; chick pea, spinach and potato soup; homemade Italian tomato sauce; pasta; and risotto?  It was a blur of running between cutting onions, coring apples, stirring tomatoes and begging Aaraina to taste the sauce once again since you were fasting and couldn't taste it yourself.

Times like this remind you of the sweetness of life.  But also, you need to find your camera soon.


Chance encounters

Dear Friend,

I wasn't supposed to be where I was when I found you with that map flipped upside down as you tried to make heads or tails of where you were.  The scene was almost just like a movie - you completely lost and possibly a little worried? while unassuming students passed without even giving you a second's glance.  And since where I was supposed to be actually wasn't and what shouldn't have been my own time now was, I was at leisure to stop and give you a smile and my offer of help.  

Of course, it doesn't take much for me to care about a person.  The moment you put down the map, I knew we could have the potential to be great friends.  And that feeling only deepened in our few minute walk as you told me of your plans for your very bright future.  Already accepted into the Japanese bar and in a Japanese law firm, you came to America to get a Masters of Law degree and to become a trainee in a big law firm in NYC for some time before returning home to Tokyo.  When we parted, I was sorry to see you go but wished for your every success.  

Isn't it funny that I never asked your name?  I don't even know if I will ever see you again.  But thank you, for touching my life just a little.  I will never be the same.  


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Making Mountains out of Molehills

Dear Self,

Don't you feel silly?  You knew that your over-empathetic heart and your impossible-to-be-turned-off brain would get you into trouble some day.  But really?  Everyday?  How do you manage it?  No wonder you're getting grey hair.

Let's just pretend that people don't really care if you care about them or not.  Because in all honesty, most of them get along just fine without you.

Scraped up elbows, bruised and swollen knees, and cramped muscles don't a 'friend in need is a friend indeed' make.


Currently reading: Polite Lies by Kyoko Mori
Currently noticing: kore, sore, are; kono, sono, ano; koko, soko, asoko (Japanese)
Currently listening: 一心二用 by Yen-j

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Speaking American

There's nothing that makes you realize what you are quite as coming face-to-face with what you aren't.  In the past year I have discovered I am not North or South Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Taiwanese, Hakka nor even Aboriginal Taiwanese.  And as I have thrown myself into learning about these cultures, I have found many times I have asked, "Wait? Wha?" with practices, traditions and phrases that everyone else in that culture just 'gets' but leaves me scratching my head.  

And it has made me wonder, "Is America like that?"  I've grown up with the impression that because America is a melting pot of the world, the only way to have culture was to have a distinct genealogy that allowed you to carry over traditions from generations and countries before.  But the more I study about Asian cultures, the more I realize maybe America has a culture that I never saw before, in the little things that we do day to day that could leave others scratching their heads and wondering, "Huh?"  

Thanksgiving for instance.  It was the story of a friend of a friend of a friend... who had a TV film crew follow him to America from South Korea to see a real American Thanksgiving and the thought of a bunch of Koreans sitting around watching some American family eating dinner and playing Turkey Bowl football before the dinner and sitting around in a food coma afterwards that I realized, Thanksgiving is part of American culture and tradition.  (I mean think about it: Why Turkey?  Why cranberries and stuffing?  Why the Turkey Bowl and the food coma?) No matter when your genealogical roots came to America and how separate families bring in their own traditions into holidays and practices, we still have a culture that is our own and can be considered just as rich and interesting as other cultures.  

So I've compiled a list of Americanisms by no means comprehensive but definitely one that makes me realize that after spending a lot of time trying to fit in, sometimes its nice to just realize that you already do.  

1. Ollie Ollie Oxen Free!  - What we yell when playing hide and go seek and someone has been caught.  I have no idea what it means or why we yell it but we all seem to get it, and use it.  

2. Pin the tail on the donkey - A favorite game for birthday parties?  It's actually quite boring and we've all threatened to pin something/someone else accidentally instead.  But despite this, we still think about this game when it comes to planning parties, even if just in jest.

3. The Jeopardy Song - When doing any activity where eventually we're all just waiting for someone to finish writing their thought or thinking and its almost guaranteed that someone will start singing the jeopardy theme.  My roommate claims she's never even SEEN an episode of Jeopardy and she knows that song by heart. 

4.  The Seventh Inning Stretch to sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame - Even friends who don't like baseball and are ready to go after one inning will wait so they can stand and, with gusto, sing.  And whoever thought an organ was a good instrument for a sporting event anyway?  Think about it.  

5.  Jingle Bells, Batman Smells, Robin laid an egg, Batmobile Lost a Wheel and Joker Got Away - This could have its own separate list of things elementary kids make up and sing and yell to each other in the playground.  But when I was younger, I honestly thought that a friend of a friend of a friend in my elementary school had made up this song.  It seems a few of my friends from other sides of the country had grown up singing the same song and thinking the same thing about their peers.  We realize that there is a huge elementary school culture that somehow transcends location even though we have no idea how.  

6.  Be Aggressive, Be Aggressive, B-E A-G-G-R-E-S-S-I-V-E - Last week at a high school football game, my friends and I were shocked to find we knew almost all the words of the cheers.  It seems that all schools tap into some mysterious cheer bank where you simply insert appropriate school and mascot here. 

7.  Groundhog Day - Really?  We take our weather predictions from a large rodent?  And yet, it goes on the calendar every year and we continue to all want to know if the groundhog really saw his shadow or not. 

8.  Happy Birthday!  - We sing the same song with the same silly variations at the end which various persons will insist on singing.  And making a wish before blowing out the candles on your cake?  Plus, we insist on cake AND ice cream.  

9.  It's X:XX, Do you know where _________ is? - Can you believe we got this from a public service announcement back in the 50's, 60's, 70's and 80's about child safety?  I showed up at my friend's the other day asking if she had her keys and everyone shot back, It's 10:30, do you know where your keys are?  I smiled at the joke we all shared.  We just 'get' it.  Other commercial jokes include Can you Hear Me Now? (Verizon) and Got ___? (from the Got Milk commercials)

10.  Hammer pants - Say hammer pants and everyone gets what the fashion statement is.  Isn't it hilarious that we attribute a specific look to people?  Imagine Elvis fans for instance and you immediately see the curl in the middle of the forehead with some man in a white and silver spangled suit complete with bell bottoms.  Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, and others all have their own distinct identities that we just know.  

Please feel free to add your own. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Crazy Head

Dear Flu, The World has stopped making sense. Because of you, I couldn't sleep last night.  Instead, I stayed up and read half a book all the way through (every other chapter). I made a new frienemy this weekend and I don't even know what that means.  Are we deep down really friends?  Or are we deep down just enemies?  Why can't I understand a thing he says? Kato went into a panic TWICE last night. 長谷部誠 was taken out of the game in the 59th minute and then his team ended up losing the game. I had a dream that I was taking a popular culture survey and I had to remember and critique significant events in the year 1983. And 韩庚's 女皇 (Empress) is stuck on repeat in my head. Is everything just fuzzy and confusing because you are here? Love, Me Currently Noticing: 我不知道該_______ (Wǒ bù zhīdào gāi)(I don't know what I should ________)  Currently Listening: 我喜歡,不,我愛 by Yen-j 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

You Always Find What You're Looking For

Dear Self,

Do you remember on your mission when you couldn't tell foreigners from native Taiwanese apart?  And how when you did figure it out - thanks to your companion who would tell you - you would gasp in shock as though you didn't look in the mirror every morning and see a non-native Taiwanese looking back at you.  Of course everyone laughs when you tell that story.  Who could believe that a pale-skinned, freckled, reddish-headed girl from Illinois couldn't tell the difference between herself and her dark-haired, dark-eyed, non-freckled peers around her?
Yours Truly in Taiwan 2009, picture taken by Jim Chunhung Chen

Well, it seems, the confusion never ended since returning from your mission.

True story: You thought a friend in your ward had some Asian background and in front of his Asian peers and colleagues, you decided to ask him about it.  Of course, they think that you are as crazy as your companion did. They all laughed and then jumped up and pointed out the distinct differences between their eyes and his.

True story: Friend of your sister came up to her and asked her about her Korean upbringing.  It seems he thought that her parents were raised in South Korea and that they in turn raised their children in a Korean speaking home.  Of course, as you know, Isa does not look Asian.  She is as pale-skinned and freckled as yourself with the exception of blue rather than hazel eyes and blondish rather than darkish reddish hair.

I'm glad to see I'm not the only one that is confused.


Currently listening: Say No by 韩庚

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Hermits in Hiding

Dear Chosun,

I was thrilled when your soccer team came to play in the World Cup.  I have to admit I was curious to see what a real North Korean looks like.  And so I foolishly looked at every picture I could, looking in your faces, trying to get some glimpse of what your lives were like.  I apparently wasn't the only one who felt that way.

Of course the World Cup came and went and for most people, you fell back into the recesses of our minds as a defeated soccer team returned to your country that we knew nothing about.   But not for me.  My interest was piqued.

Well, yesterday, the big black hole that is you opened up just a little and let me see inside.  Granted, any account that I read about you will have some biases and will fail to give the entire perspective.  However, what I did see was enough to make me marvel and laugh and admire and cry and sorrow.

Is it true that in my lifetime, while I was learning Precalculus and worried about boys that people on the other side of the world were watching their modern conveniences slip into oblivion and their food waste away until corn husks and grass was considered a staple?  While I was wondering why the biggest worry in my life was my grades and my future, others were wondering if they would even have a future?  And I thought being 4 foot 11 was an insult - it actually was...while it lasted - but I never faced stunted growth because of malnutrition.  But not just the sad stuff, I  saw a people who in their own spheres still worry about school and boys and growing up.  I saw a people who endure much and still find that life has something to offer them.  I want to know people like that more.  I want to be like that more.

You see, for the longest time, I only saw you by how you were unlike me.  But now, I can see you for how you are not that different.  And one day, when your world opens up to mine, then we will begin to see things as they really are.


P.S. I must admit, it is slightly disconcerting to realize that I am older than your next leader.  It just makes me feel so old.

Currently reading: Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the Twenty-First Century by Oliver DeMille
Currently noticing: 怎麼會這样 Zěnme huì zhèyàng - How could this be? (I'm not sure why this is my new pet phrase) Also, new favorite: 不好,不行,不乖 (I made this one up but it's so fun to say!)
Currently listening: 國境之南 by Van Fan 范逸臣 (I'm not sure why his name translates into Linkin Park on Google Translate...I promise it's not the same)

Monday, October 18, 2010

One of Those Days

Dear Ninja-in-Training,

Thank you for that fabulous display of your skill with your plastic swords earlier.  I was impressed by how confidently you pulled them out from their place in your backpack as you looked around for possible enemies.  Of course that meant that you looked right at me.  And that you realized that I had been watching you the entire time that you had opened up the window to that dorm room and then threw your backpack inside.  I also watched as you awkwardly managed to get yourself in through the window while wielding your swords from potential attackers...i.e. me.  It was all very intriguing but I did want to ask: Aren't ninjas supposed to be so good that their stealth is undetected?


Currently reading: Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick
Currently noticing: I make a really good third wheel...and apparently always have
Currently listening: Yen-j

Friday, October 15, 2010

Let's pretend it's success.

Dear Research,

After hours and hours and hours of frustration and advice such as, "Just push enough buttons," I saw a glimmer of getting some equipment to work.  Thank you for making my Friday!


(Pictures are forthcoming)
(Does it seem weird that I took pictures of a piece of equipment that works?  I know parents who take pictures of their kids for doing less)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Dear Self,

Getting your passport renewed is quite the adventure.  But I have yet to understand why/how you managed to look the exact same in this passport photo as you did 10 years ago - same hairstyle, same expression and everything.


Dear Makoto,

My trip to Germany was all planned and I just wanted to overlook the fact that between the last Bundesliga match in December and the first one in January, you would probably go back to Japan.  I could only hope that you would return a little early for practice.  Little could I forsee that you would actually be playing your next match in Qatar.


Dear Kato,

I tried to take good care of you.  And what did you do?!  Got yourself checked into the mechanic's 'until further notice'.  Do you really not love me that much?  I'm willing to pay your bills and everything.  Just come back to me and soon.


Dear Heechul,

The South Korean Justin Bieber?!  A quarter million followers on Twitter?! Really?  Do you know how hard it is to pretend to have a crush on you when I have no idea why girls really do have crushes on you?  This makes my pretend fight with my sister extremely difficult.


Dear World,

I don't know how you do it.  You can be perfectly cruel and perfectly miraculous at the same time.  You wage war, destruction and tragedy in the midst of sunny days and blue skies.  When my heart yearns to ache from all the hurt I see, then you give me something like the Chilean mining miracle that leaves me in awe.  And yet, when I wish to rejoice in the beauty of humanity, you seek to show me how much hate can be hurled around instead.


Dear Dreams,

Do not give up on me yet.  I have not given up on you.  I still think that my great can be worth something great, to someone, somewhere, sometime.  How much I wish to help and to serve and to love.  My heart is big enough sometimes to just burst.  Meanwhile, I trudge along with my feet of clay, walking, ever walking and waiting for and looking


Currently reading: Made in America by Bill Bryson; Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick
Currently noticing: 嫁給 jià gěi - marry (how could I have misunderstood those characters for so long?) 
Currently listening: Out of my League by Stephen Speaks

Monday, October 11, 2010

Perhaps Small Elephants Cannot be Finished

Dear Self,

Do you remember that scene in Anne of Ingleside when Anne tries to enter the room gracefully to impress Gilbert's old flame - Christine -  and she trips over the bearskin rug on the floor, and after a brief and seemingly drunken stagger across the floor, fortunately, but barely, lands face-up in an empty armchair?  I think that scene might describe your latest attempts at dealing with life.  Quite simply, you are a social klutz.

I couldn't find the picture of Anne breaking the slate over Gil's head but I figured the moment before might suffice.
Anne again getting herself into trouble.
It's not that you don't get the importance of stepping carefully through situations that involve people's feelings and hopes, fears, disappointments and heartbreaks but for some reason, something always trips you up and you find yourself staggering through the situation like a bull in a china shop and recover only long enough to realize that you've quite possibly turned the situation from delicate to downright critical.  And the only way people want to now deal with the situation to get you out...immediately.

Sadly, it's not like you aren't aware of others when you come crashing in.  In fact, it might be the very opposite.  You are all too aware of the wounds that have been inflicted or could be inflicted.  You are all too aware of how everyone in the situation feels and your empathy almost brings you to the point of incapacitation.  But somehow despite your sensitivity, something always gets you in trouble as you administer what may seem like emotional blunt force trauma to the patient.  So, why not just avoid the situation altogether?  Because you see so many around you suffering and your heart is too big - bigger even than your social two left feet - to just watch them struggle.  And somehow you keep hoping that even the most awkward of hands can do much to lift up the hands that hang down and strengthen the feeble knees.

But the hardest part is that after the dust has cleared, you still haven't said that you needed to say.  So let me, gawky teenager-like, stumble through what it is I came to say:

I love you.  Enough that I want you to be happy.  Enough that I would do anything to make you happy.  Enough to realize that I can't force happiness upon you.  You must choose it yourself.  And sometimes that requires work, communication, forgiveness and love.  If you do not choose these, and as you continue to persist in avoiding these, the reality is that consequences we do not desire are becoming our future.  Life is too short to doubt, to hold grudges, to fear.  But in these, you must choose for yourself.  I know I am not perfect and have possibly hurt you as well: Please forgive me.  Please let me know what you need.  Please let me help you.  I love you more than I can express.

Autumn at UVa, Charlottesville, VA


And while we're on the subject of Gilbert...Oh we aren't?  Well...

Still reading: Made in America by Bill Bryson
Currently noticing: Our rich heritage of Americanisms
Currently listening: 今生不再 by 周以豪

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Boys over Flowers...

Dear F4 Apartment ,

Did my life turn into a Korean drama?  Did I get a red card in my locker from you?  Well, as it usually goes, you give me the red card and everyone else makes my life miserable.  But you see, I moved to Mormon Row and the real F4 are, despite my initial impressions, far too nice to pull such a prank.  So you decided to take things into your own hands.  I see how it goes.

First there was the smoke detector - going off just as I was ready to get to work.  No problem - we can just turn it off.  But no, you insisted on going off nonstop until we decided it was necessary to pull out the battery.  So we pull off the cover and what do we see?  Cardboard telling us that our smoke detector contained radioactive elements and enough wires for us to realize that it was wired into the ceiling.  How long has that been there?!  The 60's?!  Do you know what it took to stop that little prank of yours?  We had to turn off the breaker for all upstairs power.  And then you went off again today.  

This lovely piece of work belongs in a museum

But you really outdid yourself with last night's prank.  Just as I had turned off the light and was settling into sleep, who should come into the parking lot but some man driving a large and loud souped up truck.  And then he proceeded to stand outside and yell the same profanity over and over until I wondered if the man had ever learned another word in his life...until I realized that the loud beat accompanying was a song whose words were the exact same as the words this man was demanding.  Needless to say, with the man yelling or Karaoke-ing or whatever it was he was doing outside our apartment, sleep was not forthcoming.

Most people could never manage past a week after receiving the red card without finally just leaving and giving up.  But not the main character of the  That's right.  You can give me whatever you can dish out and I will just take it and insist on living there.  You can't scare me!!! Take that!

Because despite your best efforts, I still love you, right down to your creaky floors and drafty doors.  And in time, don't you see, you too will come to love me.  And you'll do all sorts of things to keep me near your side, such as buying me nice cell phones and trips to exotic islands, or impressing me with your own private formula  car racetrack and hockey rink, not to mention your Lotus Europa S (yes please).  And if you would like, I'll take one of those men they always show off in the kdrama- just make him dangerous: considerate, independent, handsome and single.


F4 in their private soccer stadium
P.S. Tonight is Bar Review? I will not be intimidated.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Riding with Hitler

Dear 長谷部Katoさん,

You and I have come to know each other pretty well.  I know that you panic at the sight of snow and no wonder with your last winter.  (On second thought, aren't you from Wolfsburg Germany?)  And it's the end of the world for you when you get low on gas but not when your emergency brake is on.  I know that you get touchy on windy days.

Of  course you have learned some of my quirks as well.  Such as the fact that I often spend hours in absolute silence.  And that my stomach lurches at the sight or thought of deer.  You know that late at night, I prefer Korean music but on nights back from DC I prefer Khalil Fong.  More than anyone else in my life, you have listened with me to my Asian music over and over and over and over without complaint.  You have heard my frustrations, my dreams, my fears, my questions and my hopes.

You are the most faithful little friend a person could ask for and you always get me home safely even during that snow that you despise or those late windy and rainy days when you and I both wish we weren't on the road.

In the past two months, you and I have gone to Charlotte, NC 3 times, to Washington, DC 7 times, to Richmond twice and once to that random corner of Maryland between West Virginia and Pennsylvania.  5000 miles, over 80 hours together and mostly just us (and Hitler if we're using Beato's counting method).  We're both getting ragged and peaked around the edges.  While I am amazed that I have not tired of your company, eating up the road as our means of spending time together is rather losing some of its charm.  How about we try some other activities - movie watching or simply meandering down 29?

I've always wanted to know why there is a historic marker in Manassas entitled 'Rock Fight!'



Currently reading: Made in America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States by Bill Bryson
Currently noticing: 城堡 Chéngbǎo - Castle
Currently listening: Hello by SHINee (Does anyone else think Primary song?)

Why Kato hates snow!

Monday, October 4, 2010

What Dreams are Made Of?

Dear Subconscious,

I know that you don't like to make up fantastical things - I don't ever remember being able to fly or jump over buildings in my dreams.  And conversations with people are usually pretty true to their real character.  But despite that, I didn't have much reason to complain.  You did give me that dream where the prophet told me I had to get married by the end of the day and I spent my time running around talking with all the guys I knew and trying to figure out if I could marry any of them.  And then there was the dream where I lived a Mission: Impossible type dream where I was being chased by men in risk of losing my life and found that my mole had been my 'loyal' chauffeur who terrified me by pulling a gun on me when I thought I was finally free.  Of course there was that winner dream where I was sister to SJ's  Ki Bum and he had to come save me from the crowds of some big city by riding on the back of his motorcycle because  I was the 14th member of the band and I needed to get to the concert in time.  Of course as the 14th member of a boy band that meant that I needed to pretend I was a boy so I spent the rest of the dream trying to find a way to dress in the women's restroom without letting any of the fans know that I was a girl...I don't think I ever made it to the concert.  Do you know how many 13 year old girls need to use the restroom before a concert?  But still I didn't complain.  Those dreams were all fascinating in their own way.  Where do you come up with this stuff?  I always wondered.

But lately, you have been letting me down.  Now granted it was entertaining a few weeks ago, when I dreamed that I was going to be late for my job at Gap and I asked my roommate to give me a ride but she refused.  I was really upset that I was going to be so late until I remembered that I didn't actually HAVE a job at Gap and woke up to go to my real job at the ARL.  (Is it possible you actually WANT a job at the Gap over rocket science glory?)

But today takes the cake!  There I was, in my dream of course, opening up my wardrobe to grab a pair of socks to wear to work and I found the missing sock to a pair and I was thrilled because in my previous dream I HAD BEEN FOLDING SOCKS AND FOUND ONE SOCK MISSING.  Really?! That's what I do in my dreams?  I FOLD SOCKS?!!

Disgruntled doesn't even begin to describe it.


I apparently don't have a lot of pictures of beds or sleeping.  And I don't think I have ANY pictures of me folding socks.  Who does that?
My wonderful bed in Taroko, Taiwan
My wonderful bed in Taipei, Taiwan