Wednesday, November 25, 2009




How is it Thanksgiving all ready? I can clearly remember last year:

I bumbled down the sidewalk, gazing at all of the Christmas decorations adorning the historic Victorian houses. A door creaked open at one house in particular, and a stream of children poured out onto the front lawn. My heart was instantly thumped backwards and filled me with memories of my cousins and family through various holidays. As I breathed in a swirl of cinnamon, green beans, and other Thanksgiving delicacies, I was sad.

Very sad, actually.

Being only a mere eight hours from home, I missed my family.

Now?

I am eager to spend the evening with Canadians and Koreans. Certainly I miss my family, and every once in awhile, I still get deeply nostalgic over Nashville (hence my previous post).

But...I have come to absolutely love Korea. This year, I don't have any sadness, but I'm filled with true thankfulness of where my life presently is. I'm surrounded by amazing people who I get to spend quality time with every weekend, I have an awesome job, a stellar apartment, good health... I'm SO unfathomably lucky and fortunate!!

My blog, unfortunately, has not seen so much of this love.

I have post after post of potential entries that have never fully come to fruition, but hopefully, I'll eventually become more proactive in finishing each of them (in good time..of course)

***

ps-I think the vegan turkey pic is pretty dynamite... :)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Oh, Nostalgia...
please stop getting the best of me.

I randomly heard this song yesterday, and I found my head spinning around details of a Nashville night eight months ago.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sdl658l5TTQ


I wish my head and my heart could work out an agreement on which city to be in.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

As the majority of my students concentrated on their vocabulary tests, Christina pushed her finished test aside. Quietly, she pulled out books to study for a test in her following class.

I watched as she followed the foreign words with the tip of her blue highlighter. Every few moments, the highlighter would pause, and I could see her eyes narrow further in concentration. I wondered if the sentences, correctly formed on paper, could also correctly form in her mind.

Instead of stopping, the highlighter tapped against the paper. Christina casually rolled her head to meet her shoulder and lifted her eyes to the window. Suddenly I was taken back to Mrs. Zaferopolos' second grade class. My math book may as well have been written in Greek because I barely could translate fractions. Constantly my eyes would find the window, and I would daydream about what every little girl thinks on... horses, swimming, and what happened at lunch earlier. Within seconds, Mrs. Zaferopolos would summon me back to figuring out fractions. She ruined so many rides on my horse, she pulled me out of my neighbor's pool, and interrupted the replaying lunchtime conversations.

Christina's blue highlighter scribbled translucent ink onto her nails. She pressed it deep into the ridges but was careful not to stain the adjacent skin. After she painted three nails, she placed the highlighter down to admire her work.

I was caught.

She smiled to me, and I walked over to her seat.

Before I could even speak, she took my hand into her own.
"Patty teacher, at Korean school, I am the fastest in the second grade! I am even faster than all of the boys."

She refused to let me speak..

"You have the most beautiful hands, teacher. Do you think that one day I will be as beautiful as you?"

My heart instantly warmed. On more than one occasion, I've had a student touch me so deeply with their heartfelt words, that it has almost pushed out my tears.

"Teacher! Your face is so red!"

I let out a sigh and laughter.

"Oh, Christina.. you are so beautiful," I said, crouching down so that my eyes could meet her level. "How did I ever get to be so lucky that I am your teacher? I hope that one day, I can be as beautiful as you..."

She placed my hand on her folder and started to turn the nail on my index finger blue.

"Here Patty teacher, this will help," she said.

I let her fill in the rest of my nails. She was again so cautious to deeply shade them, yet concerned with not coloring the cuticles. Within my two minute manicure, I felt so loved...

While it is such a desire of mine to show all of my students how much value that each of them possess, I am constantly reaffirmed of my own.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Iron and Wine induced nostalgia..

Belmont Blvd. was the most traveled road I followed on my journey through Nashville.

I can clearly remember my last run on that road before I moved to Korea:

The air was so saturated with springtime that sunshine and warmth pleaded to peek through the January mush. I gulped in the weather as I tried to trace all of my previous running paths: back and forth around Bongo coffee, tasting my last glass of Shiraz on PM's patio, and forcing my tired legs up the hill leading to Belmont's parking garage.

Pausing...

I walked to the edge of the garage, and I climbed up on the ledge overlooking Belmont's campus. People drifted in and out of my mind much heavier than as they had drifted into and back out of my life.

(Moments can often drag on like waiting for Christmas)

Danielle was picking up the last pieces of my furniture, and I needed to make my way back to my apartment.

Soon it wouldn't be my apartment anymore.

Not that it mattered.. it was just two rooms, fixed together by nails. Yet, that framework still encases many pieces of my heart.

I had to say goodbye to love in my living room...
I fell in love where the kitchen tiles connected to the carpet...

My heart still feels drippy with nostalgia when I think of all the amazing memories that that street invoked in to my life.

I can't help but to remember certain pictures:

how the pineapple popsicle bit into the nerves of my teeth on the side walk,
how my little car smashed its nose into another while turning a corner, the thick, hot Nashville summers, fingertips pressing into the centers of my palms in tree lit backyard, a lonely Thanksgiving stroll where the houses smelled of green beans, cinnamon, and coffee, running through raindrops so fat that I was blinded, stumbling home from the combination of Shiraz, dark chocolate, and laughter far too loud for the bible belt, New Year's morning and talking in my bed the entire day, having friends help me pack up my car and locking 2123 Belmont Blvd's apartment door for the last time...

***

Sometimes I speak the names of loved ones into the wind that passes me. It is my hope that the love from my heart is powerful enough to project my words over the miles and miles that separate us.

Friday, June 19, 2009

say, "kimchi!"

It has been three months since I have written anything on here...so get ready to digest an out-of-order, bits and pieces account of the past 12ish weeks...

***

At a club called Volume, I walked into a packed-out, apartment-sized bathroom-oozing with intoxicated Korean women. Being the only foreigner, they all stopped what they were doing and stared at me like a herd of deer trapped in car headlights.

"You speak Korean?" one of them immediately asked.
"No," I offered with an apologetic smile.
Girl then grabbed my arms, and she pulled me so close I thought she was going to kiss me.

"You are so beautiful! So exotic! I'm so happy to meet you!"

I laughed out loud...me? exotic? I'm still fumbling with the concept that I'm the minority here. I also laughed because this amazingly beautiful woman (if you don't know or have been walking around with a bag over your head...Korean women are probably the most beautiful women in the world) who was wide-eyed, had a gaping mouth, and clinging to me... was telling me that I was beautiful.and exotic.

"You are so beautiful!" I responded back.

A volcano of laughter erupted. I blinked, and they were gone.

Magic.

***

Father: Do you know where the embassy is?

Me: Yes, Dad.

Father: Do you know how to get there in case anything happens with N.Korea...

Me: *sigh* Yes, Dad.


I've never been good at multi-tasking; therefore, I may not be an expert on how many tasks a person can adequately juggle. During my morning runs, I have seen many Korean school children on their way to school. On their bicycles, they successfully steer around chaotic traffic, listen to music, AND read a book.

North Korea?

I'm scared of getting hit by a small child.

***

Lately, I've been craving saltine crackers: the perfectly crispy, nutritionally void, salted squares of taste-bud heaven. Thankfully Seoul sports one of my random food cravings.

***

My director had warned us about consistently washing our hands, and while I adhered to her advice, I proudly announced how I rarely got sick.

Before I could cross my fingers, knock on wood, or complete any anti-jinxing witchcraft, I of course was coughing and constantly blowing my nose. Despite my valiant attempts to overdose on vitamin c, get sleep, drink gallons of water, and eat many vegetables...I quickly got worse. Thanks to the smoggy, yellow-dusted, Seoul air, I developed a pretty serious sinus infection and bronchitis, which led to an even more serious ear infection.

I begrudgingly went to the doctor's office (actually, another foreign teacher, Ashley, at my school kindly walked me there because I was not in any kind of normal functioning state).

He looked at my ear with an intricate mini-camera, and he then sent me to an ear specialist.

I was completely in a daze from the pain, and I was running a ridiculously high fever (102!!!). The map that the doctor drew for me to get to the ear doctor's office was an exact replica of a Mike Patterson map (Alliance Review edition)(1).


Even though I begged the doctor to write down the name of the ear doctor's office in Korean so that I could just hand it to a cab driver, he insisted that I would be able to find my way.

Unfortunately, he couldn't understand how much Patty Blake lacks a sense of direction.

As I bumbled down the sidewalk, the only thing I could think about was how much I probably resembled a cat my family once had. Our kitty, Nanna, had once too suffered from an inner-ear infection. Until she died many years later, she walked around void of any balance and with her head tilted to one side.

Could this potentially be my future?

I was incredibly weak and dizzy from looking up at the buildings, and trying to match the Korean Hangul letters to business signs. By the grace of God, I ended up in a bakery at the bottom of the building I was supposed to be in. I handed over my makeshift map and the kind employees took my hand, put an arm around my shoulders and ushered me upstairs.

The next sight that I saw was directly out of a bad foreign film...

The office was crammed with a sea of black heads. I towered over everyone in the room as I barely made it to the front desk. They handed me a dirty, crumpled paper with English requesting my contact information. The receptionists could see how weak I was, and one of them led me to an open seat.

It was shoulder to shoulder seating. On my left sat an Adjumma who took up most of the space with her dominating expression and to my right sat a small child reading an Anime comic book. As I drifted in and out of a dreamy sleep state, my name was finally called after an hour, and I then saw a doctor (who looked like he was 12) for five min.

He wrote me a prescription and told me to come back in three days.

I now no longer can look at children as children. All I see are slimy hands, drippy noses, and heated, fevered foreheads.

I'm lethally armed with a bottle of hand-sanitizer.

***

The man who lives in the apartment above me has an amazing ability to pee at record lengths of time. I am marveling at human anatomy-how is it possible to hold over a minute's worth of pee in your bladder?

Yes, the walls in my apartment building are that thin...

***

I've been informed by a variety of people (namely my students) that apples are not sufficient for a meal.

I beg to differ:

Apples are the breakfast, lunch, and dinner of a champion. The end.

***

Where was my life before rock climbing?

***

Kindergarten student: Teacher you look a like a beautiful princess!

Me: Thank you!!

Kindergarten student: But you are the most beautiful. Like a flower. Like a beautiful flower.

Me: Oh my goodness! Thank you so much!

Kindergarten student: So...do I get a sticker now?

Me: *sigh*

***

For anyone who really knows me well, I am pleased to inform you that I have been set free of my coffee addiction.

I just better have be able to have black tea as soon as I wake up :)

***


1. Mike Patterson Map: A drawing accompanied by (usually) spoken directions . The picture itself contains no actual road names, only arrows. Forms of shapes that are supposed to represent buildings and/or various landmarks enhance the map's visual quality but mostly do not pertain to one arriving at the correct destination. The map consists of approximately two or three post-it-notes, a scrap of newsprint, and/or a previously written on piece of paper.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Up and Down or A Climbing I Will Go...

(thinking out loud)

I always try to concoct long, epic blog posts. Yet, what usually happens is that I run out of time to finish or halfway through, I decide that it sounds ridiculous and I don't post it.

Therefore...

Since it is important to me to be documenting my life here...and hopefully interesting to anyone who reads this, I'm going to try a new strategy of posting smaller bits and pieces more frequently.

***

Tomorrow I am going climbing (finally), and I couldn't be more excited!! I feel incredibly thankful to have found an online community of climbers who have made me amazingly welcomed into their circle. I haven't been climbing in a couple of months, so it will certainly be challenging.

*I promise to post pictures :)*



This is one of the walls that I will probably be climbing. The wall is about 15 meters high and unlike all of the man-made walls that I have climbed, this one is outside!

Friday, March 13, 2009

While I have been experiencing a great deal of culture shock on an everyday basis, I was hit quite hard this morning:

Taylor Swift singing, "Our Song," in Korean.

Before I heard her (well...the dubbed over her... or a Korean singing and sounding EXACTLY like her), I could only hear the guitar part. In the middle of blinking, the twangy music transported me back to Nashville. Then in hearing a slew of Korean words, I was immediately brought back to Seoul. Even though my plane ride was 17ish hours long..I felt like I traveled home and back again in seconds.

*sigh*

I have really been missing home...

***

Last night, the only exciting thing that I did was buy delicious apples from the little fruit stand outside of my apartment (my fruit sellers are going to make a killing off of me this year..haha). Apples are my favorite food and having them gives me a "slice" (sorry, I couldn't resist) of home. Since the work week in Korea apparently means 50+ hours instead of a normal 40, I opted to go home....on a Friday night... in a huge, new city. I am awesome.

Since I haven't written that much, over the next few days I will TRY to re-cap what I have been experiencing...

Last weekend, all of the English teachers and I had an amazing dinner. In many of the restaurants in Seoul, you have the option of sitting on the floor.

Chopsticks+floor sitting=dining heaven

Since Koreans are awesome, they heat buildings from the floor up. What does heat do? Heat rises! Therefore, everyone takes off their shoes...gets comfy on the warm floor and is served an abundance of AMAZING Korean food.

Most of the places we have eaten at are Korean barbecue restaurants (note: I am the ONLY herbivore in our group..so I go where everyone else goes. I'm a sheep). However, the word barbecue is more than likely offering an incorrect connotation. Normally, barbecue restaurants in the US are places such as Texas Roadhouse, Logan's, etc....that serve lots of meat, french-fries, fried anything and everything, lard-cooked veggies and of course, good ole country music.

Here, the plate of whatever meat is ordered is brought out (gag-reflex) and the dining party or the server cooks it in front of everyone on the table's personal grill.

The part of the meal that I enjoy is the bottomless kimchi, HUGE romaine lettuce leaves, rice, red bean paste sauce, onions, garlic, jalapenos, bean shoot/sprout things, and sometimes jiggae (soup with tofu...and I'm counting on it being made with miso, not chicken stock).

Amazing.

Rather than to be stuck in a over-sized portion on a personal plate, the group sharing the meal is much better able to enjoy the company of one another. I have found that meals here are far better for experiencing people, as compared to meals served back home. Through the reaching, the food falling out of a chopstick grip, the messy lettuce wraps, and friends (or sometimes strangers..haha) re-filling your water glass, the focus is forced to faces, hands and conversation.



(sorry Taylor...I swiped your pic!)

Monday, March 2, 2009

heart and Seoul...





Before I left for Seoul, I said that I was going to try and blog often...post pictures and videos...blah blah blah.

And now..two weeks into my Korean city-life, and I have not blogged ONCE!

So far, here are 15 things about Koreans that I have learned:

15)It is completely acceptable to be an alcoholic here.

14)If you don't watch your back, you will get hit by a bicycle.

13)While you are looking over your shoulder to dodge a possible bicycle injury, you will either walk into someone who is playing with their cell phone or listening to music.... or you will step on pigeon. '

12)When ordering something without meat, fish, eggs or dairy...you will be stared at like you ordered a salad without lettuce, vegetables or salad dressing.

11)Koreans LOVE gear. Example: If you are hiking, every Korean will have the gadgetiest backpack, the most tricked-out hiking shoes, and a walking stick.

10)If you are hiking, no matter how good of shape you are in, you will get passed by a Korean that is at least 70 years old.

9)Korean men LOVE western girls, but they will barely talk to you.

8)Korean children are not only beautiful and amazingly cute, they are also ridiculously intelligent.

7)Korean women are gorgeous. The end.

6)K-pop is bigger than Britney Spears.

5)Kimchi is magical.

4)While there are driving schools here, EVERYONE drives erratically and over-aggressively. If you have ever watched the Harry Potter movie scene of when Harry is riding in the bus, that is exactly how I feel whenever I take the bus...

3)A fire-show at a random, everyday bar is not uncommon...even on a week-night.

2)Koreans are incredibly hard-working.

1)Koreans are very sneaky...you will never know what kind of restaurant/bar/grocery store/stationary store/animal hospital/driving range that you could possibly find on a floor of a high-rise building.

So far, my experiences here have been absolutely amazing and I am so thankful that I decided to do this. While my heart is so deeply tied to Nashville (in so many ways), I fall more in love with Seoul everyday...

Wednesday, February 11, 2009