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Archive for May, 2006

Today is Election Day, and I have the day off. Things I plan to do:

1) Cut my hair, because I've been wearing it in a ponytail for the past two months.

2) Clean the apartment, because it smells.

3) Shop for Taekwondo stuff, because I'm staying at Wonderland for one more month than expected, because I have no spine.

But why should I have all the fun? For your viewing pleasure I've updated my Tidbits page.

Now you know mind-numbing details like what coffee I'm drinking, my high school crush on Jackie Chan and who will bear my children in five years.

Edited to add that I'm now learning how to do a front handspring. It's way more difficult than the one-handed cartwheel, but it is fun to learn.

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Exile

Remaining too long in one place our attraction
To loved ones upsets us, we’re tossed in its wake.
The flames of our anger towards those who annoy us
Consume what good merit we’ve gained in the past.
The darkness of closed-minded thought dims our outlook,
We lose vivid sight of what’s right and what’s wrong.

We must give up our home and set forth from our country–
The Children of Buddha all practice this way.

–The Thirty-Seven Bodhisattva Practices

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“Hey, Mom, it’s me. My supervisor asked me if I could stay until the end of August.

“A Korean teacher is leaving, and she was only here for two months before she quit. So if I go at the same time, it’s going to look bad and we could lose a lot of students.

“They said if I agree to stay for three more months, I won’t have to reimburse them for my flight.”

“What did you say?” my mother asks sleepily. It’s five-thirty in the morning in California.

“I told her I’d tell her on Friday.” Five days. I should have asked for another week.

I’m in the market, picking through plastic bags of red grapes. Taekwondo class has finished, and it’s become my nightly ritual to come here and get as much fruit as I can manage.

I know pineapples come on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and the cheaper grapes (less than 4,000 won! Bliss.) arrive on Tuesdays and Thursdays. But I haven’t managed to get any strawberries for the past two weeks and the kiwis are still hard. I’m hopeful.

“Ajosshi,” I call to the clerk, holding up a bag. “Eolma eyo?” How much, sir? (Sometimes I pronounce this phrase incorrectly, leading most to think I’m asking if their product is dangerous.)

“What are you doing?”

“Hold on. Gamsa hamnida,” I say as he slaps a price sticker on the bag. “Annyeong-hi kyesoyo.” Thank you very much. Good-bye.

“You’re speaking Korean,” my mother gasps as I leave the store.

“Yeah, but my pronunciation is still off.”

“But that’s . . . that’s very good,” she says. Her voice is low–she’s proud, but knows what this means. “You’re still coming back, baby?”

*****

On Friday I make a compromise: I will stay until the end of July. “I’d like a month in between jobs,” I tell my supervisor. She nods along, weary.

The director will think about it.

After Taekwondo class I meet my friends at a bar not too far from the school. C, a white boy from Idaho, has my Korean friend A in a headlock. They’ve been dating for two months and already have couple rings and couple shirts. She’s hot and energetic and has received two marriage proposals in the past month. He’s . . . well, he’s got stringy hair and a really loud Hawaiian shirt.

“I wish I could have seen them in their couple shirts,” I tell M after they’ve left. D told me that their matching attire read “He’s my boyfriend.” “She’s my girlfriend.” With arrows.

“I can’t stand the guy,” M grumbles as we leave. “He’s too rough with her. If my boyfriend punched me like that if front of our friends, I would have told him off.” Earlier the happy couple had been displaying their bruises from playful boxing matches. The idea of hitting your girlfriend is repulsive to my roommate, who is Samoan.

“I just can’t get over how mismatched they look together,” I tell her as we head into a bakery for cakes. “She’s got this gorgeous face, knockout figure and awesome personality . . . and he’s makes me think of those weird old foreign guys who hit on me in Itaewon. He told me I’m pretty. Now who would say that in front of their girlfriend–their Korean girlfriend?”

“He wants her to go back with him to Idaho in two years,” she tells me as we walk back home.

“Ugh! Has she ever seen Idaho?” I bite into my donut, which as red beans in it. Delicious.

“She told him she doesn’t want to go. She said, ‘I’m Korean, so why do I want to go to America?'”

Months ago I would have thought A was insane. But I’m hearing more stories like this–frustrated expats with Korean women who won’t to go west.

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Canada’s Finest

I have a new Internet crush.

Model/Photographer/Latest Pia Obsession, Katie West

And this was the image that done me in. (Not work safe, and currently the wallpaper on my laptop.)

Jesus, if I could make myself look that erotic, I don't think I could tear myself away from the bathroom mirror.

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I love you, Jo-Jo!

My sister Jo (the photogenic cutie on the right) and me with our Easter loot. Dyess Air Force Base, Texas.

She's graduating from CSU Longbeach later this week. Congratulations, Jo–I'm grateful you're more grounded than I was before I left college.

You're hardworking, gregarious and beautiful. You've managed to work through college and pay for a large chunk of your expenses without a wrinkle in your skirt. I honestly believe you're going to be a success at whatever you do.

(It's funny, how we switched roles. Until college I was a workaholic who wanted nothing more than to stay home and make Ma and Pa happy. You just needed to get out of NorCal and live a life of your own in the city.)

Now you're going to secure a stable living in Sacramento with a good guy and our parents' blessing; while they keep themselves awake wondering when I'm going to come back and get a real job.

Jealousy aside, I can't be happier for you. It's been hard for Mom, having her two eldest so far from the nest, but two out of three ain't bad I guess.

Also, I have been feeding my ass religiously, as promised. Have you?

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The Lake House, starring Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock, comes out this summer.

While there may be shamed individuals like myself who are thrilled about seeing these two actors together again (I've watched the trailer multiple times, in spite of Keanu's awful acting), most of you may not know that the plot for this film was taken from the South Korean film Siworae (or Il Mare, as it's known in the U.S.).

Ji-hyun Jun in Siworae Siworae Jung-Jae Lee in Siworae

So now I'm looking for the Korean version. It's supposed to be gorgeous.

And yes, I will watch the new one when it comes out, if just for Sandra. Oh boy, I so wanted to be her when I was in eighth grade. She's so pretty and chipper!

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As I sat in the lobby, lacing up my sneakers–I never wore my shoes in the dojang, although I had a nasty habit of letting my toenails grow out–The Instructor joined me. He crouched near my knees, watching my dry, cuticle-ridden fingers.

"Sabunim?" I asked, uneasy.

He held his hand up for silence, his eyes low. Deep in thought, he considered for a minute before he laughed at himself. He stood up and took my elbow, pulling me to my feet. We laughed again, embarrassed.

Who knows what he would have said? Perhaps he would have reminded me to practice my spinning hook kick; perhaps he would have asked why I still hadn't memorized the terminology.

Or, as JY once told me, perhaps he would have confirmed what she'd long suspected.

As I walked home, I thought of myself at nineteen, back to my studies under The Frenchman. Lying on the mats after three-hour practices, staring up at the ceiling, turning over to clutch at his dobok and press my cheek against his arm.

Scrounging for dumb Kung Fu movies at two o'clock in the morning, passionately debating why I held so much disinterest for Bruce Lee. The rare double date with friends I would never see again; visits to his brother, who would never meet my gaze; discussions over Jesus as the crucifix swung between us.

A winding drive through San Francisco, as we vowed to remain in each other lives, in one way or another–

Waking up in a corner of the library to his face and realizing that somewhere along the way, I'd fallen for him. Standing with him on wooden planks as I demanded to know if he truly loved her. As he demanded to know why I would never marry.

The stench of wet dung hung in the air as I was brought back to nineteen. Five years ago, and yet on this particular night I felt as if I'd never move on. Fulfilling a promise.

*****

JY tells me she is quitting her Taekwondo classes so she can focus on her police training and upcoming English exam.

We stop at a small market outside my apartment, incapable of vocalizing just how much we will miss each other. Finally, she reaches into her wallet and hands me a tiny portrait of herself, donning a simple top and staring at the camera emotionlessly.

"I will email you," I tell her, although I know she can't read English.

"I email you, too," she says. Wrapping an arm around me, she tells me, "You are my first foreign friend. You are my Onni." Older sister.

"And you are my Yodongsaeng," I reply, squeezing her hand.

At the time it doesn't hit me that I may never see her again. That is, until I'm snug in my bed, staring out of an open window.

A breeze passes, I shiver and it slowly sinks in.

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