Thursday, October 29, 2015

Move over food blogs, my life goes here.

How the blog feels right now.
Although I've avoided creating a location dependent useful blog, I've finally jumped off the cliff and created South of Seoul.  I already manage this blog (Until We Meet Again), The Expat Table, and NaeNae Korean so doing one more wasn't of interest to me.  However, not many folks have lived in this area very long and people ask me for information regularly so having blogs with addresses and info is easier than answering the same question a hundred times.  I tried just posting them on this blog, but it just messes up my flow.

This blog isn't supposed to be about anything.  It's not supposed to be useful, it's just where I ramble about crap so I can get my brain right.  Kind of like a journal everyone is allowed to see, but nobody is really supposed know about.  Except that now they do. Apparently thousands of people each month now stroll through my drama.  Which is fine, but also weird because they might not really care.  They might just be looking for a burger or a Korean grammar point.  

Which is why I'm getting my act together and getting rid of some of the clutter.  So, for those of you who are caught up in the drama, feel free to stick around.  But if you are just interested in finding lunch or passing your exams, check out my other blogs and you will find more of what you are looking for in easier to search formats.  You don't have to sort through all my issues just to find a good sandwich.

South of Seoul:  Things to eat and do around Pyeongtaek
The Expat Table: Expat oriented cooking and gardening website.
NaeNae Korean:  Help for those studying Korean, especially the KIIP program

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Desk warming, More like Heart Warming

My favorite spot for studying and thinking about things
For the last four years I've listened to teachers complain about something called desk warming.  This is where you are required to be at work, but actually have no required work to do.  In short, you have eight hours you need to be "at work" but you can do anything you want with this time.  Even as I write this I think, "How can anyone possibly hate this?"

Of course, I tried not to judge because, as a hagwon teacher I had not walked a mile in their shoes.  Yah, well, now I have walked in said shoes and I'm calling it, "The bitching and moaning is cray cray." This is my dream come true.  Weeks on end of eight straight hours where no one can bother me while I do my projects.  Let's see, what am I doing?

Writing books
Studying Korean
Talking to my family
Researching things
Practicing basketball & volleyball
Staring at the wall (my fave)
Looking at trees
Listening to sounds
Researching grad schools
(Eventually doing grad school)
Generally relaxing without being bothered

In short, it's the vacation I've always wanted.
Without the expectation to have fun, I can actually relax
and then go home to my own bed.

There is no way to meet anyone, go anywhere, or doing anything spectacular or interesting.  This is dedicated me time just for thinking and doing stuff.  This is so much cooler than the coolest job I could have dreamed of, because on top of this dedicated "me time" I'm also granted 20 vacation days for the adventures that I do want to have.

Even just now, I got tired of blogging, pulled out the yoga mat and did a bit work on my back.  You never even noticed, neither did my boss. Oh, wait, there went another good 30 minutes checking out Kpop dance tutorials. Once again, no one was bothered by my lack of focus or motivation.  Desk warming is my new favorite hobby.

Oh the books I will write, the restaurants I will review, the food swaps I will plan, the Korean students I will help.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

All Hope Is Lost... until next time I hope

Recommended tool for surviving class
Sitting in a cold, moldy basement I started to question my existence, life choices, and the futility of hope.  I walked through all the choices in my life that had brought me to this point and I deemed them wrong.  At times I could hear my teacher talking, but mostly I focused on the six hour game of phone solitaire that I was playing in hopes that it might help me cling to some small part of sanity.  It those moments I realized that dreams aren't worth it.  The only thing that mattered was not losing my mind.

That was me yesterday. Trying to cope with my final 8 hour class taught be the worst teacher I have ever had. Today I actually do want to live again, but I'm still not sold that dreams are worth it.  I'm mentally drained and the sound of all languages makes me twitch.  The sight of my text book, straight up makes me want to cry.  Thankfully most of my English classes are cancelled and I can spend the day meditating on what's important. It might help me find a sliver of that inner peace I used to promote as, "The most important thing" before I stuffed it in a gutter for two years while I attempted to complete the KIIP program.

Two weeks from now I will take the final exam for the second time, and I will fail it for a second time. Despite intense effort, I simply haven't been able to reach the level they require in the time allotted. It's maddening. However, I also know it's not from lack of trying or lack of knowing. I'm just not a person who can memorize and regurgitate. I'm a slow methodical person who has to understand everything in great detail - so I can't make the deadline.  I'm still learning the language and they want me to be memorizing data.

Has the journey been worth it?  It's hard to say. Sitting in class for 6-8 hours nearly every Sunday for years, for me, can only be described as psychologically crushing. Especially since, for 1.5 years, I was studying at least 6-8 hours a day on top of that. In the intensity I lost all grasp on all languages I speak, along with sanity, and control of my emotions.  I felt mental and physical pain from learning.  I've never experienced anything like it. It was as if my brain was being ripped apart and rewired and, frankly, I couldn't handle it. Especially because it felt like I never improved. I'm still so far from where I need to be it's humiliating.

You might think, "Good lord, how stupid must she be? Who studies that much and still can't pass a test?"  A person with Dyslexia, that's who.  It was so hard to overcome this. No matter how many times I saw things I couldn't get it to stick right.  Each time it looked new or different. Thankfully I overcame this with colored film, but the time was still lost. As they say, those are years you can't get back.

There was also that whole 6 months of bed rest after an injury the day before KIIP started, along with a year of pain killers and rebuilding my left leg that made it a bit difficult to focus, but- honestly - that was nothing compared to the mental pain so I kind of forget about it these days.  Let's just say that there were many battles being fought and, for a long time, I felt like I was losing all of them.

So, after yesterdays little mental collapse, I'm staring down the barrel of this final test I'm just like, "Screw it. I'm done."  I'm not going to cram for this.  Yes, I'll have to take the class one more time, but at this point I don't even care because I NEED it.  I'm not the person who can pick up a new language in a minute.  I need it jammed into my thick skull by force until my brain is so miserable it just gives up and accepts the new reality.

So, for all of you out there trying to keep you head above the KIIP waters. Fighting!!! Our misery will end someday as long as we just keep showing up.  Some of us will be rewarded, not for our intelligence, but our sheer stubbornness and that's good enough for me.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

I'm on your team, be on your team with me

They say you're pretty lucky if you can count your good friends on one hand.

Having connected with some great women around the world I consider myself luckier than most.

They're all amazing, capable, beautiful, lovable, empowering human beings, and it is such serendipitous magic that we're in each other's lives.

It's interesting though, as free-spirited, independent women we're all subliminally bombarded with messages, daily, about how we're not enough.

Because we're women, our value as humans is tied to our relationship status, age, demurity, niceness, size, money we have (or don't have) along with countless other irrelevant factors.

While sometimes difficult, it's important to utilize our strength to value ourselves.  In other words, be on your team! That's much easier said than done, and I personally find that it helps to have others on your team with you.

So most importantly, surround yourself with people who love you, so when those moments of doubt inevitably creep in, someone will remind you "I'm on your team, be on your team with me."

It's taken me a long time to even recognize that doubt, let alone be able to turn it off and breathe.  I'm lucky enough to have friends who encourage me to value myself, be on my team.

This is part of why I'm moving back to Bali, and part of why for the first time in my entire life, I made the decision to not take a job in front of me, and value myself more than expectations set before me.


Norma Jean

You can view all of my doodles, with everything I love on my website, Norma Jean Loves

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Korean Tutors in Pyeongtaek

UPDATE: All current blogging for area recommendations has moved to the blog South of Seoul.
Finding a Korean tutor in Pyeongtaek can be maddening.
Thankfully, I know two amazing ones!

Introducing Sue and Jennifer!

Jennifer Teacher
Sue Teacher
These two wonderful teachers just finished up an intense two year certification aimed at teaching Korean to foreigners and they are ready to help you get to the next level.  If you are just getting started, or you need to get over a learning hump, these women can help you succeed in learning Korean.

Personally, I'm lucky enough to have called them friends for four years, as well as taught English with them and learned Korean from them.  I can attest to the fact that they are excellent at explaining concepts and helping you find answers to your questions.  

It was so exciting when they received their Korean Teaching certificates because suddenly I could recommend not one, but TWO qualified Korean Tutors available in Pyeongtaek. As a bonus, they both speak excellent English!

For more information contact: 



Seriously, they are the best.

a world of doodles is born

It all started with a boy.  A boy and a book.  A book and a tender heart.

Let me elaborate... about a year and a half ago, I dated a boy.  We had a lot in common; he's smart and funny, comes from a good family, and makes music.  It was only for about 6 weeks, and it ended because he just didn't like me that much.

Objectively, it wasn't a good fit, and our lives were in different places.  As a logical person, this totally makes sense.  As a life-long romantic, who was currently a traveling, musical, bliss-sprinkler in the midst of the counter-culture shock of the west, and the first winter I'd had in years (and a pretty rough start in Australia,) it was slightly devastating.

Feeling pretty isolated, and not having internet (part of said rough start) I joined my local library to check my emails, and keep in touch with the wider world.

Libraries are magical universes unto themselves; time stops, things are still, there are limitless stories.  All is quiet thanks to the watchful eyes of dowager librarians in lumpy grandpa cardigans.

It is here, in a library, in suburban Melbourne, that I found an American friend who's heart had also been been tender, and open, and bruised, and resilient.  All at the same time.   His name is Leonard Cohen and his 'Book of Longing' brought me so much.

I had started writing poetry about feeling sad, that longing for community, the isolation of winter - both in Melbourne and being coldly alone in a new place,  expectations set upon women, and mostly girly, romantic notions of things that didn't work out.

Reading a book of how someone else felt the same way was inspiring, and inspired me to start creating out of it.  It started with a couple little doodles.. they weren't for anyone else but myself.

I think I started drawing them as a roadmap to get back to myself, to gain perspective of  my life, what I value, and how to genuinely love myself in the face of isolation, a consumerist society, and the illusion of loneliness.  

I'd take pictures of them and read them on the tram or waiting at bus stops, reminding myself that everything is okay and the feeling that it's not, is temporary.  I started sharing them with friends who felt similarly, who'd internalized the idea that in any way they just weren't enough.  Enough for a boy, enough for a job, enough for themselves.

Sometimes the road we pave for ourselves helps others get to the same destination.

Friends encouraged me to share them, and I decided to launch the ambitious project of posting a new doodle, everyday for the entire year of 2015 on my Instagram.

It's been a pretty great ride so far, and the road that I've started down I now walk with heaps of supporters, friends, and an entire online illustration community.

Today is day 280 out of 365.  I've gone through more relationships, friends, jobs, and moments of self-doubt since those first little cartoons.  I've come out stronger, my heart confident that I know who I am, and that I'm not only okay, I'm great (hopefully with a sense of irony, humor and a bit of grace!)


Norma Jean

Check out my Instagram  or website, Norma Jean Loves where you can see my doodles, music, and everything I love.