happy november!


November is here! Today, while walking to Dominos to get some hangover pizza, I felt happy just knowing that fact. The temperature has finally dropped, things are changing, and the world–and me along with it–is moving forward.

oh october!


October is here, and with it the feeling that autumn has officially arrived! Although the weather in Korea is not as cool and crisp as what you might find in Wisconsin at this time of the year, it’s beautiful outside — bright and breezy during the day and a little bit brisk at night, with a slow but persistent cold front that’s quietly pushing us toward the winter season.

Because Korea and Wisconsin are on about the same lateral plane, they both share the fortune of having four distinct seasons, Korea’s summer being hotter and stickier and Wisconsin’s winter being colder and snowier. But never mind summer and winter. Fall is my absolute favorite time of the year, and I’m excited to be embarking on this Autumn 2009.

Even though spring is traditionally regarded as the season of renewal and fresh beginnings, I’ve always felt the most alive during the autumn months. The changing colors, the falling leaves, the blowing winds — all of it invokes in me such a strong sensation of promise and potential, the thrill of taking that next step around the bend, and the hope that what awaits you just might change your life. Happy Autumn, everyone!

– from A to Z –

A, Age of Consent by New Order

B, Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell

C, Casimir Pulaski Day by Sufjan Stevens

D, Dreams by TV on the Radio

E, Electric Feel by MGMT

F, Falling out of Trees by Barcelona

G, Go by the Apples in Stereo

H, Hummer by the Smashing Pumpkins

I, It’s All Right (The Way that You Live) by the Velvet Underground

J, Just Like a Woman by Bob Dylan

K, Krush by Stars

L, Leaves that are Green by Simon & Garfunkel

M, Modern Romance by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs

N, The Needle Has Landed by Neko Case

O, One Chance by Modest Mouse

P, Peaches & Diesel by Eric Clapton

Q, Que Onda Guero by Beck

R, Rest My Chemistry by Interpol

S, Stay Loose by Belle & Sebastian

T, Tereza & Tomas by Bright Eyes

U, Use Somebody by Kings of Leon

V, Volcano by Damien Rice

W, Walking on a Dream by Empire of the Sun

X, X-Ray Eyes by Guster

Y, You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb by Spoon

Z, Ziggy Stardust by David Bowie

One day at home, and I’m hitting the road again. A group of us are going to Busan this weekend for some beachside bedlam. Be back on Sunday!

my home


After a flash of a week at home in Wisconsin, I’m back in Suwon, Korea.

Suwon, my home away from home — or maybe my actual home, my new home, my adopted home — I’m never quite certain. These sorts of distinctions grow more and more blurred, and perhaps less and less important, by the day.

Being in Wisconsin was sublime, to be sure, taking in the familiarity of it all — the way you know your grandpa’s house by heart, the way your parent’s embrace makes you feel like a child again, the way you can pick up a conversation with an old friend as if you’ve never ended the last one, the way revisiting a place envelops you in memory so warm and fluid you don’t want to leave. But being in Wisconsin was also strange. You notice that some things are not so familiar, and you find yourself feeling unfamiliar within and among them. You arrive home thinking the present involves you, intrinsically and permanently, but by the end you realize it’s only the past that’s got you locked in its archives, where photos and documents and records can prove you were there. Now your home has changed, and because you’ve changed in a different time and place, you’re no longer tethered together by the insides.

I enjoyed it all, even the parts that caused such contemplative confusion. The family reunion, the reconnecting with old friends, the jaunt into Madison to watch the memories of my college days unfold like a parade down State Street. But I was also satisfied to come back to Suwon, where I feel like I’m living in the present, where connections are current and feelings are experienced, not just remembered.



After a very long series of bus rides and flights, layovers and transfers, I’m back in Wisconsin and feeling exhilirated (and exhausted)! I’ll be here until next Wednesday, and then it’s back to Suwon. But I’m not thinking about that. Right now I’m only focusing on this next week and how excited I am to be catching up with family and old friends.

I planned a last-minute trip home to surprise my mom, who, let me tell you, was a little too surprised for my (and any physician’s) liking. I walked through the door and her face turned white. Her body was expressionless, motionless, and eerily so. And when I approached her to give her a hug, and she still remained frozen, I really thought that I might have killed her. Eventually, though, she did regain consciousness, beginning to cry and saying over and over again, “I can’t believe it’s you!”

And in some ways, I can’t believe it either. It’s amazing how strange it can feel to return home after a year away. Everything feels the same, but it’s not. Everyone seems the same, but they’re not. And it’s difficult to remember that time continues to pass, changing people’s lives, even when you’re not there to witness it.

But I’m not as adverse to change as I once was, not as put off by the word or apprehensive about its meaning. Change is possibility and excitement, and I’m excited to see all the changes that have taken place since my departure. I’m excited to see my dad and my relatives, and learn about what’s new in their lives. I’m excited to see Madison and my college friends, and hear about their developing plans for the future. I’m just plain excited.

  • 1 new stamp in my passport, proclaiming my admittance to the R.O.C.
  • 1 broken hand, fractured at the fifth metacarpal, from taking a tumble at the Taroko Gorge
  • 319 photos and 11 videos of my island journeys through Taipei, Kaohsiung, Kenting, Hualien and Taroko
  • a dozen unflattering tan lines from the harsh subtropical sun
  • 1 NTD$100 banknote and various loose change to be added to my box of foreign currencies
  • countless memories worth keeping for always
  • As you may or may not have known, I just recently took a short trip to Taiwan, departing last Tuesday and arriving back to Korea on Sunday. And despite the frustrations of breaking my hand (and my writing hand, at that!), I couldn’t be happier with how the trip turned out. I found it all — the bustling night markets of Taipei, the peaceful contrast between the lulling tides and crashing waves of Kenting, the beauty and awe of the looming cliffs and falling waters of Taroko — to be so incredibly, so naturally perfect. And though it was a mere five days I spent in Taiwan, I felt at home there, like I’ve come to Korea for a holiday only to return to Taiwan in a week’s time. If only it were so. I cannot wait to one day go back!

    I’m having one of those days. One of those days when I just loathe teaching. And if Korea believed in apartments with bathtubs, you could be sure I’d be taking a long, hot bubble bath tonight. I hope tomorrow is better.

    it’s friday!


    And that makes me so very happy!

    Okay. That’s all.

    Ever since news spread amongst the ninth graders that I actually reply to the student letters I receive, I’ve been flooded with bunches of little notes, all of which I collect and  keep for those days when I’m in desperate need of some encouragement.

    Here are two of my favorites:


    To: Ann Teacher Love

    Hi! Ann Teacher. My name is Oh Ji Young. Korea name Oh Ji Young. English name is Ava? Am I writing that correctly? ㅠㅠ

    English very hard but English important! Beacuse very hard teacher ㅠㅠ

    I’m English very weell???

    Today is teacher day~! Happy! day~!

    Umm … Ann~teacher Write letter!! teacher letter –> me. Understand? ㅠㅠ

    But teacher very kindness and respect!

    Next year me middle school leave teacher very much meet! Correctly English? ㅠㅠ

    Teacher understand pleas ~

    I love you~

    From: Ava


    To. Ann

    Hi, Teacher Ann.

    My name is Lee Seong Hee.

    I hope you remember my name.

    I’m sorry to hear that this letter paper isn’t pretty.

    I worry speak test.

    I want you very much friendly.

    I want to buy many clothes.

    But I don’t have money.

    Soon my birthday!!

    My birthday is June 9 nine.

    When your birthday?

    I forgot your birthday day …

    I’m sorry.

    Our’s graduation soon …

    I’m so sad.

    I want to raise English apility.

    But so difficult ㅠㅠ

    I want to exchange email with you.

    When I exchange letter with you continue

    Do I raise my English apility?

    I wish you reform my wrong grammar and word in this letter ㅎㅎ

    I wait your letter …

    Bye teacher~ㅎ