Thursday, May 31, 2012


I am a glutton. Last night I consumed an entire half-loaf of bread. I bought a jar of peanut butter a weak ago and it’s almost completely gone. When I was little (last summer), my parents would tell me to “slow down with that ice cream over there” because it wasn’t “going to run away” and it probably isn’t healthy to “inhale your food.”

I still remember the moment my junior year of high school when I realized exactly how much cereal I could consume in one sitting. It was (and is) my habit to eat cereal while reading books, keeping the milk and cereal box close at hand and refilling the bowl until I get to a reasonable stopping point in the novel. It must have been an enthralling book because after a chapter or so I remember picking up the cereal box, which I had newly opened in that sitting, and being shocked to find it almost empty. Perhaps even more memorable is the time I ate half of a pizza when I was in second grade. My babysitter was, I recall, equal parts fascinated and horrified.

Cuties. Unrelated, but dang. Cuties.
Gluttony is most obvious when it comes to food. I love my cookies and my peanut butter and, mysteriously, candy corn[1]. But the pattern of gluttony is everywhere in my life. I binge. This week, because Buddha was born, I didn’t have school on Monday. With the extra time, I thought I would get a little reading done. But once I started my book (The Thief—I’ve read it at least ten times by now), I refused to stop, even for much-needed sleep and even-more-needed study. And then I read its sequel the next day. I hurried through them, my eyes glued to the page so tightly I almost missed my bus stop. I will reread these books two or three times a year I love them so much—but I never can persuade myself to slow down and enjoy them, to wait for the denouement in order to prolong the book’s spell even by a day.

It’s the same hurry I’m in to eat the entire half-loaf of bread in a single evening. After I’ve eaten a reasonable amount, the inner dialogue begins:

“Why are you eating so much? Goodness—this is just excessive.”
“I have to enjoy it now because—because...”
“Because it’s good. No, that doesn’t make sense, but yes, I understand. But think about this: won’t it be as good tomorrow? Maybe it will be even better because you’ll be hungry again? And you’ll be looking forward to it all day, too.”
“Yes, I know, but it’s good now.”
And I eat.

It’s gluttony. It’s how I watch T.V. shows, read books, and even how I write.  Wherever I can rush—like a mouse sprinting through the maze for the promised cheese—I do. It’s how I live: as though pleasure in and of itself is a valid end.

The Greeks had this big thing about “everything in moderation,” and if I’m honest, I see positive results in my life when I follow this philosophy. Balance is key in time management. As per Ecclesiastes, there is a time for everything under the sun: working and relaxing, talking and silence, movement and stillness. Eating and reading and writing.

But the patience for Ecclesiastical wisdom eludes me. I want cookies and I want them now. I want to read The King of Attolia and I want to read it now. I want to play soccer now, to sleep now, to fight, to speak, to hide, to feel better now.
Moments like this.

Acting like a three-year-old is nothing special or profound. We all do it, especially when we’re in pain. How many times have we all echoed David’s psalms with the anguished and more colloquial, “Hurry up, God! Fix it! Don’t you care about me?”

I don’t know why my book gluttony of this weekend got so much air-time in my mind’s radio station. Mostly I think it just reminded me to slow down. It doesn’t matter so much with books, but on a grander scheme that’s a skill I’d like to obtain.[2] I want to be able to slow down evening the maddening moments of life—these times when I’m worried about the future and muddled in the present—I want to slow them down and recognize when I’m “chasing after the wind” and not after God.

I feel like I’m always so hurried and so hungry—hunting after satisfaction and happiness like a glutton, wanting perfection every second of the day. But just like a good book is meant to be enjoyed, like an apple pie is supposed to be eaten a slice at a time—so it is with life. There are moments when I am not eating apple pie (a very unfortunate truth) and books that I read that aren’t particularly good (Eregon, I’m still looking at you). Just because it’s not perfect does not mean it should be rushed—neither should perfection be rushed through. My lesson from God this week has been rehashed from dinnertime admonitions: Don’t inhale life—it’s not going to run away, so slow down and don’t choke yourself.
Comic. A little old (get it?!).

[1] After a handful or so I’m usually grossed out by the taste, but I just can’t stop eating them. The texture is addicting.
[2] Along with that pen-flippy thing that other people were always doing during lectures.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Answer to All of Korea's Problems

There are no living rooms in Korea. This was one of my first observations upon reaching Korea—right after noting how little space an apartment has and how rare it is to find a couch in them as well, relegating seating options to either someone else’s bed or their floor.

These days, between communication and transportation technology, people are able and expected to isolate themselves as never before. (Bloggin’ bout my generation!) In Korea it’s even worse. First, city life is often, by necessity, more isolating than the town life that many of us Americans are used to. Then combine the normal city practice of keeping to oneself with the language barrier and it’s double isolation.

Plus, for many of us, this is the first time we’ve ever come home to empty (elevator-sized) apartments after an entire day without hearing any English spoken by anyone but ourselves. There’s no family to visit. Varied locations and work times make hanging out with friends into one of those old logic puzzles we did in summer school GT classes. Sometimes it’s like open-house hours in Calvin’s dorms again: we have to finish the movie by 11:00 because we have to catch the last subway or bus back home.

But I have the answer. I know what will fix Korea’s problems: couches.[1]

This is the kind of awesomeness you never see in Korea.
Back when I was in high school, my church youth group met in “the couch room.” It is, exactly as the name implies, awesome. Also, an attic room that you had to climb the steepest stairs to enter the circle of couches—fat, skinny, squishy, hard, all in varying states of dilapidation. Couches are comfortable the way nothing is in Korea. In a room full of couches you can sit slouching or with your knees pulled up to your chest. Cross-legged works, but so does Indian-style or side-saddle. Couches, by definition, force you to be too comfortable.

Puppy knows what I'm talking about.
Couches are very American that way. They are very communal pieces of furniture: inviting and equalizing. Sitting on the floor is humbling and probably good for you (develops character and keeps your knees spry?), but in matters of hospitality, patting the floor-space next to you doesn’t even compare to budging up, scooting over and patting the comfy cushion of a top-notch couch.

[1] You taking notes, ambassadors to North Korea? I got your back!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

No Nonsense

I’m writing this in desperation.

I’ve maintained this blog for over a year and this is the first time in 16 months that I’ve failed to post weekly not only once but twice. Unheard of! Absurd! I made myself a pledge—this is unthinkable![1]
Why? Why did I stop writing, or more accurately, stop posting? I had plenty to say these past weeks—too much in fact, as always. But sometimes life tricks me. It makes me think, suddenly, that living life is the antithesis of writing about it. Introverted Elaine worries about her writing side sometimes, how she’s always removing herself from the situations and observing. She doesn’t like to get involved. She’s the Homebody Elaine, the one who would wear pajamas all day out of sheer animalistic comfort and inattention to the need of getting dressed. Introverted Elaine can (and did, last week) spend an entire day reading and writing without speaking to anyone beyond the perfunctories.

Introverted Elaine coexists with Outgoing Elaine. Outgoing Elaine has recognized that it’s possibly unhealthy to split her personality into individual personalities refer to them in the third person. Outgoing Elaine is socially functional, wears high-heels, and craves long conversations with friends and enjoys clubbing. Outgoing Elaine is essential to Introverted Elaine’s happiness, but Outgoing Elaine is nearly as exhausting as work is to Introverted Elaine, so when I have free time, I tend to ignore Outgoing Elaine.

That’s when my day-long hiatus from speaking to people occurred and it exhausted Outgoing Elaine. So during the upcoming weekend, Introverted Elaine caved and pulled a Friday almost-all-nighter, spent Saturday in Seoul with some soccer boys, and Sunday chatting with church friends. The next three days found Introverted Elaine curled into a ball on her bed, keening like a wounded wallaby.

WorkoutFascist Elaine was too tired from the weekend’s shenanigans to monitor and maintain her body’s endorphin levels so she allowed InternetJunkie Elaine to take over for free periods. PeanutButterEnthusiast Elaine was allowed free reign when Responsible Elaine ignored grocery-shopping duties in favor of showing up to her classes on time because Wastrel Elaine was too busy reading Rick Riordan books and watching K-Pop MVs to help with lesson planning. But perhaps the biggest blow to the Elaine economy was when SmileyBible Elaine forgot that praying might be beneficial and thus threw the whole diligence thing out the window to the dog that always barks when Morning Elaine is trying to sleep and the cat the meeyowls as if being skinned by SlightlySadist Elaine.

Writing Elaine took one look at the mess all the other Elaines were in and, in disgust, spent her time writing angry diatribes in her journal like a jilted violist who has just discovered she will never ever get the melody unless everyone else in the orchestra dies.

So it is with desperation that I, No-Nonsense Elaine, reveal to you the nonsense that is my host brain. I’ve done my best, but I do not concern myself with second drafts nor checking vocabulary like Writing Elaine does. However, somebody has to get things done around here and until ListMaking Elaine remembers where PackRat Elaine hid the pens, I’m doing the best I can.

[1] Here’s to you, Fiddler fans.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Too Lazy to Write - Here's a Few Pics

Korea is in love with love.

Kimchi break!! When I asked to take their picture, they invited me to join. ^^

but i had waterfalls to find

and bamboo to see

and mountains to climb

and other kimchi breaks to rubber-neck on

thanks, korea

the famed phallic rock

me and shinee and jason mraz

let's murder the english language and all its verbs, shall we?

Bible study pizza night!!

The desert pizza (nutella and bananas) was unquestionably the best

Old ladies are always walking around small patches of grass
harvesting...something. We don't know what, but they go everywhere.

Went to the horse races today and got a million amazing pics. Unfortunately,
my camera saw fit to delete them while I wasn't looking. Guess we'll have to go again.

I was doing well on my Greek studying, so I took a break
to take a cute picture of my out-of-date-not-hipster-enough
glasses and forehead wrinkles

Then I remembered that I still need to memorize
how to decline  πας's masculine, feminine, and neuter forms
in both third and first declension.

No smoking, kiddos

Me and my mama

My lighthouse

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


One of my favorite things about languages is that each one has found a way to convey the same thing. It’s as if God gave out a quiz and got back thousands of different answers, all of which adequately answered the question “How do you say <insert universal idea here>?” We have a finite number of things to say as human beings—only what is in our experience. And yet we’ve come up with millions of ways of saying just about everything.

However, some answers are better than others. I, as God (this is probably blasphemous), would personally grade the answers based on clarity, efficiency, beauty, and simplicity. For instance, English beats out Japanese in the efficiency category with “have to go.” The Japanese prefer, “ikanakerebanarimasen,” which in turn beats out English in the fun-to-say category. And so on.

My theory is that all languages pull even eventually, but I’m not actually God so I’ll probably have to wait a while for reliable judgment on that account. In the meantime, I like to dabble in vocabulary comparisons. In every language there are gaps—words we don’t have. gives a nice little list of a few English lacks here, but I’d like to supply us with one more:


Jeong is the loving tolerance two people have for the things they can’t stand about each other based on a long and trusting relationship. So when Grandma leaves her shoes in the middle of the doorway—which drives Grandpa nuts—and Grandpa leaves the jelly out of the fridge—which has been a bone of contention since day five in the marriage—they both hardly take notice except to scoot the shoes to one side or cap the jelly lid and slot it into the refrigerator door on the way to the living room. Jeong.

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about things I require from the books I read. I think jeong is one of those things: I love reading about it, I love seeing it in my parents’ marriage, and I think it’s one of the most beautiful things on this earth. I’m not entirely certain jeong is something we can strive toward, but just as with faith, hope, and love, I eagerly desire this great gift.