Excerpts from my journal; Spring 2017


Today is the kind of day that makes me thrilled. It’s the kind of feeling that Korea translates as heart-fluttering. Sure, the sky is overcast and a thick grey that puts me in mind of fog porridge, and the temperature dipped down twelve degrees, but apart from all that, today is a wonderful day.

We’ve been very busy lately, to put it mildly, and I haven’t had space in my head to breathe. Everything was pressing down, my pace was quickened, just enough to keep everything taught. Now I can relax, take a step back, and let it out for a bit.

I’m eating better, drawing again, writing more, going out with friends, and feel more inspired. My life is going well, and I realize how the bad things that happen are so transient and don’t last. Stuff doesn’t last. Yeah, I’m happy now.

That could also be because I saw cherry blossoms about to burst today. Hmm, maybe.


Plant our own mound. Start a little molehill and turn it into a mountain. Mmkay.

Of course all my characters are me. I’m still trying to figure myself out. So I keep inserting my mini-me into different situations and seeing what I’ll do. Maybe one day I’ll make sense of me.


Listen, little soft girl. I am not “was just like you as a kid.” I am just like you. I am soft and unsure and wide eyed scared of everything. Only I seem larger than life and bright and confident, leading you here. But it is armor I have crafted, and not even that well. At night it shatters so I have to remake it before morning. Sometimes the light shows through. My light. But that light means the darkness can get in. Anyway what you think of as admirable is only my shoddy imitation of other bright people I have seen. I am like you. I am not like me.

I feel like way too many people idolize kids. I mean, I’ve taught kids. Kids aren’t magical and sweet and wide eyed, breathless with innocence. Kids pick their noses and make fart jokes and think calling the rash on a kid’s hand a brain is clever. Kids are just little drunk people with terrible jokes. 


Excerpts from my journal; Early 2017


What matters? The story. It’s always in the back of my mind, or should be, the ever running, ever-evolving storyline. I hold my imagination most precious, most dear to me. It is my greatest asset and more dear to me than anything. My imagination keeps me warm, keeps me entertained, keeps me happy, keeps me thinking and feeling and buzzed on life. The only thing that matters is the story.


This past Saturday I ran my brother through the D&D Death House, the intro to “Curse of Strahd.” I was amazing, even starting out the encounter wearing a raven mask and with an amazing greeting. It was wonderful. And I had great music and didn’t flub or forget much. It made my throat ache and my head pound, but it was so worth it.

So no matter what happens, I am amazing.


I was thinking today about the fact that I used to read a lot of military history books. I was quite the ridiculous nerd in high school, and at one point I was absolutely enamored with tales of wars, prisoners, daring escapes, battles, politics, and intrigue. I remember reading “Ghost Soldiers” and really loving it. Which is odd, as that book entails graphic descriptions of some of the worst things a human can do to another. It didn’t really bother me. I think I was genuinely less sensitive to it than I am now, and I don’t really understand that.

I think if I read that now, I would cry. I would feel so much more deeply the horror and cruelty and wonder so much more at the things that made those soldiers do those things, that it would affect me far more. Why, when I am more mature, wiser, and have more worldly knowledge, would I be LESS capable of hearing about the horrors of life? I don’t get it. It’s interesting to me how much more things affect me. As an HSP, of course things will, but why does it get more pronounced as I get older? Is that normal? 

Excerpts from my journal; 2016


Zoom in and smoke is seeping between the windows and the wall. Someone is burning rubbish behind their house and it tickles our noses and turns my teaching voice raspy. It’s spring, a fit time to burn, since the smoke couldn’t possibly be worse than the drifts of pollution, yellow dust, from China. A sign of the change in me; I now have an app to tell me pollution levels, and check it obsessively. Will breathing kill me today?


I have decided to be like Ernest Hemingway, and write clear and hard about what hurts. Right now, my lower back hurts from doing the dishes. I had to do the dishes because in Korea dishwashers are only for the rich, and people wear rubber gloves because they have to do the dishes and don’t want to mess up their hands. So two more things that have changed since I came to Korea. I have started wearing rubber gloves when I wash dishes, and I care about what my hands look like.

Today I also had to scrub up some mold that had grown on the bottom of my utensil jar and had crept to the cutting board behind it. I wonder if the mold on the cutting board made me sick. I’m sick now, by the way. First time in a long time, and it’s the season. It’s also PTA week this week. I shall tell parents their children are progressing nicely through a clogged nose. That will add to my emotional appeal, if not my rational one.

I talked to two people today. I talked to the cashier at the bakery where I bought my dinner. I didn’t want to make tuna spaghetti, and that’s all I had, so I had to go out. The other person was my brother. I was supposed to play video games with him today but I got sick and had no energy. So I laid on my bed while he made pan-fried fish in America at 1am. We talked about getting old. We talked about life being boring. We talked about what we wanted for the future.

My lower back still hurts. Is that clear?

October 31

Happy Halloween! I work at a Christian school and wore ears for Halloween, and when the students asked me about it and I told them, one child told me that God hates Halloween. Okay, thank you, please let me wear my ears. Always a hard decision to make on how to address that.

Anyway, had my first D&D last night! It was amazing!!

Excerpts from my journal; Fall 2015


It’s the end of day two of lessons. I’m so utterly exhausted I can barely type. I’ve been to immigration twice now; yesterday after classes ended and today before my last class. And I still have to go again tomorrow. I don’t know if they’re telling me the truth or not, but they keep saying there are too many people so I have to come back. Now they’ve told me tomorrow morning before 9. So I’m going at 8:30 and oh well if I can’t get done. My co-worker is taking over my classes for the time being. I feel terrible about it but what can I do? I have to go. And I have to go soon or my health check will expire.

On the whole, classes are going as well as can be expected. We’ve had the schedule change twice now. Yesterday that meant that I had to suddenly teach a couple of classes with no preparation, but I muscled through them, and it’s not like the students can tell.

I have to keep reminding myself that they don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing, so if I go off lesson plan it’s okay. I will get used to things and be better. Because just the act of teaching is so new, I don’t have room to think of creative things to do with the material. I just lecture and make them do work mostly.

It’s very hard not having internet at home. I could do a lot more if I could work on it here. And hopefully tomorrow I can be done with immigration and have time after classes end.

I found the garbage area. I’m sure I did it wrong, but no one was around to yell at me so I did I anyway. I’ll figure it out or just keep doing it wrong.


Yesterday I had my first accosting. I was in the grocery store line and an elderly lady said hello and welcome to Korea and wasn’t I pretty? All in Korean, of course, so I just smiled and nodded and ignored her. That’s been it so far.


I feel like I’m getting to know the ahjussis who work at the CU downstairs. There’s the older guy who works in the morning most days who speaks very good English and always says “Good morning!” to me. He’s my favorite. He makes counting music when he counts my coins. Like a little song. But he doesn’t smile, so it’s even funnier. Then there are the two slightly younger older guys, maybe late thirties or early forties, who seem either scared of me or just so angry about working there that they border on being rude. Finally, the older guy who may be the owner who asked me if I just got paid when I gave him a fifty. No, sir, I just only have many fifties in my house.

Excerpts from my journal; August 2015


My biggest memory of arriving in Korea is of sweat. I wore a sweater thing on the plane because it was freezing, but I didn’t take it off when I went through the airport, and when I got outside I felt the hot air rush towards me and my sweater with steamy caresses. Bless you, Korean air.

My friend who teaches at my school met me, and we took the airport bus back to our apartment. We live on the same floor. We also live above a convenience store, which is…convenient. That was our dinner. I don’t know what would have happened if we went out. I might have passed out at the table.

The people have been very nice. When we were trying to get a taxi, after the first man refused us, for some odd reason, a guy came out of the McDonalds behind us and offered help. And our taxi driver who did take us was very friendly.

Today I went to Daiso to get some basics. A pillow, for one. I don’t fancy stuffing clothes into my pillowcases every night. Slippers, as well, and a trash can. No more leaving trash on the ground. I’m not a dirty college student anymore.

I won’t have internet for a month or so. It takes a long time to get the Alien Registration Card (ARC), and I can’t get phone or internet or a bank account until I get that one. They say the first month is the make or break. If you don’t go mad, you’ll be fine. I didn’t realize how much I used internet until I didn’t have it. However, I love that I don’t. It’s hard since that’s the only way I can contact family, but it’s giving me an opportunity to do other things I normally put off. Like writing, practicing ukulele, reading, and exercising. Most importantly, I can study Korean.


Today was the first day of school. It was really, really good. I didn’t have anything to do at first, so I followed my friend as she showed me the place and looked over the textbooks a bit. We have a new curriculum for Language Arts so all the teachers are trying to get used to it. They just finished camps so everyone, including me, is preparing at the same time.

In the afternoon we had two hours of CPR training with a certified instructor. He also talked to us about general heart health, which led straight to a sales pitch on L-alginine, some supposedly miracle drink that will clear up all your arteries. For only $400, you too can feel a few pounds lighter and have fat come out in your urine! Awesome.


Today we have the day off, since tomorrow is Independence day and otherwise we wouldn’t have a holiday. So I went to pick up my health check, all by myself, and then stopped at Home Plus and Daiso for a pot and skillet.

I’m very pleased I worked the buses and remembered where everything was all by myself. It wasn’t hard or scary and I’m beginning to feel like I live here. As opposed to what, I’m not sure. Visiting, I guess. It’s annoying not having a phone or anything but I can live without it for a while, I suppose.


Today is my birthday! It doesn’t feel like it. But I did get to Skype with mom and dad and the brother, so that was good. Seemed birthdayish. Actually, it was funny – I went out this morning in search of wifi, and found one outside a building, so I stopped there and checked messages and things. I was heading to the mall to see if they had some there, but I went down into the subway to use the bathroom and found some from Daiso, so I sat on the bench outside and called home. It was great. We spent a lot of time talking and they got to see the subway.

I stopped to get kimbap on the way home – enough for lunch and dinner. I need to go grocery shopping for real food again but until I can stock up on basics like spices and oils I don’t want to try cooking much.

I just did some cleaning. My friend said the girl who lived here before wasn’t clean, and I can tell. Mold by the door and grease all over the backsplash. Ugh.

Why does this kitchen view seem so familiar already? Why does it seem like this is the life I’ve always had? Time and my memories have condensed strangely, until I’ve always been living here, like this, waiting for school to start. My whole universe has been this desk, with that green tile wall in front of me, and Monday I open the door to another universe…