23. darkroom days

October 28, 2010 § 1 Comment

organizing my external hard drive and i came across my high school ap portfolio.  can you find the little man?

1. im amazed that ive already used up my external drive…i bought it last year thinking it would take years to fill up and im already in search of a new one. though i guess its good timing because im in the right country to buy personal electronics.

2. these are dinosaur age photos. yes. 35mm film, developed with real chemicals, darkroom, tongs, handmade contrast, the whole shebang. i miss it. the darkroom is a very peaceful place.  quiet and dark yet productive.

3. our digital age makes everything so…digital. lightning-fast information at our fingertips is great but looking at these photos made me reflect on our current world and how much time we spend staring into digital interfaces and screens (especially korea, where every other person walks around staring into their internet-tv-phonetextshoppinggaming handheld device. even the ads on public buses have that weird square of a blackberry barcode/id/scan thingie).  sucks for our eyeballs. remember to look at a tree once in a while. theyre quite nice :)

4. speaking of trees, i went on one of most memorable hikes of my life on monday. the ascent was filled with vertical columns of high trees so that when you walked by you just saw stripes of black silhoutte against the white stripes of negative space.  and then the plateau was covered with off-yellow wheat grains as tall as you are. you heard the sound of running water as the grains waved back and forth along the crisp wind amidst the warm sunlight.  and then when we were coming down there were marble-like rocks everywhere that you had to swing down from and it makes you feel like a hybrid of kindergartener/rockclimber/monkey.  and the views of the mountainside across from yours were amazing.  imagine giant slabs of white rock, patterned with organized cracks and crevice of different shades of black/brown/red/blue. and every so often these crevices somehow provide enough sustenance for a full grown tree to peep out of the unlikely crack.  its leaves were bright fall color of red orange and yellow that popped out amidst the neutral tones of the mountainside rock.

i wish i took my camera so i can show you guys all this but a part of me is glad i didnt because 1. i wouldve been too distracted by and worried about my camera to fully enjoy the hike and 2. photos, or any other art form for that matter, cannot do justice to the breathtaking experience of nature. its almost unfair. this sounds fluffy but if you think about it, nature is the greatest artist of all time.  too often do we marvel at works by michelangelo or spielberg or adams or jobs without appreciating the amazing forms we pass by and live within without a glance. so, again. next time you pass by a tree, or a rock, or a beetle, or the sky, take two seconds from your busy day and enjoy the moment.

no little man here.

5. hmm i think i need to read thoreau. i feel like what im writing about right now is very walden-esque though ive never actually read it.

6. now that ive gone on and on about nature, heres some urban modern korean city life for you (wowz dont you think the color is quite a shock from all that b+w?):

‘the chocolate’ is reasonable enough. check the subscript though. maybe the combination isnt as odd as it seems…try it and let me know.




22. writer’s block

October 20, 2010 § 2 Comments

do you ever have days when life is busy but you feel stuck in a rut?  my days have been filled, but for some reason im not too compelled to write/photograph.  its odd. the stability of a routine is comforting but i have this complex where familiarity flattens inspiration. ive been exposing myself to different people and ideas and experiences, but korea as a whole is just not that fascinating to me.

and that got me wondering…are we internally or externally inspired? am i just easily bored or is my environment really boring?

a lot of psychology research suggests that your outlook is internally driven.  no one would doubt that korea has a lot to offer, but i also cant doubt that something within me feels dampened by this environment.  i dont feel as driven or stimulated as i used to.  i guess this is why people pick up hobbies and random stuffs after getting used to a 9-5 schedule.  i counteract this by constantly exposing myself to new ideas, reading, going to conventions, exploring the area, and anything else I can think to do amidst the routine parts of my day.  and in some ways, it works.  i love a good challenge, so i make sure everything i do has a component of mastery and learning in it (which ranges from cooking a particularly complicated dish to aiming for a high GRE score to trying my best to be a loving person…oddly enough the lattermost presents the most challenges -.-;;).  however, there is only so much internal drive one can have before becoming a bit restless. i hit my limit and i realized something was missing, but i had no idea what it was and why i was in a funk.

i discovered that missing piece last monday.  Every Monday, there is a Toastmasters International meeting at the Korean Advanced Institute of Technology (Korea’s MIT which is more commonly known as KAIST).  Toastmasters International is an organization that meets to improve public speaking and leadership skills.  I’ve been meaning to go the meetings since I’ve been in Daejeon, but every week something came up or I’d make excuses to not go.  I don’t know why this particular Monday prompted me to go, but it did.  Although I got frustratingly lost and showed up half an hour late, I’m really glad that I went.

I felt a rush of familiarity and comfort when i stepped onto the KAIST campus.  Not because I’ve ever been there, but because of the fact that I was walking in an institution where people are working to change the world.  The people around me were inspiring. I was walking amidst an environment full of people who were hard working, ambitious, creative, and intelligent.   The people at Toastmasters represented a variety of backgrounds – KAIST students, military veterans, foreign researchers, high school seniors, and professionals both young and old.  However, everyone was gathered there with the common goal of challenging and bettering themselves.  They were accomplished in their own different ways, and even though that was only my first meeting, I was hooked. And I stumbled upon one key point: it is important to surround yourself with people who inspire you.

my past self would gawk at that last statement.  I used to see complete self-sufficiency as the ideal state (kinda like China’s and India’s old economic policies) and considered interdependency a grave weakness.  While self realization is still a very important component for development, balancing that with environments and people that stimulate and inspire you will do wonders and give yourself that extra kick in the balls.

hmm so much for writers block. once i get writing i guess i write quite a bit ^^

anyways.  i made delicious musubi the other day! :D

spam musubi with grilled onions for the brobro

I made a tuna version for myself. i died a little.

and of course…amusing engrish/konglish/bootleg (you may have to look twice): how many ‘a’s’ in ‘adidas’?




21. faces

October 13, 2010 § 3 Comments

My dad’s church held a group singing contest for Korean thanksgiving.

Jeonju Kangrim church. My dad is the one surrounded by a plethora of fruit baskets.

One thing I always wondered was why traditional Korean masks look like this:

I could never understand why our traditional mask looked so creepily happy and wondered where the inspiration came from.  And then I took a picture of this lady at the right moment and it all made sense: see the resemblance?

Among the hundreds of adults singing their hearts out, there stood the occasional child who was, more likely than not, forced to participate by his or her parents. As I watched the various groups perform their songs that Sunday, I noticed that the kids could be divided up into three general types:

I. stand there and look pretty: 

II. work what your momma gave you:

III. wtf am i doing here/i have no idea whats going on:


20. notes

October 11, 2010 § Leave a comment

dear saleslady at the cosmetics store, no, i dont wear makeup everyday. really. not even foundation.  get over it and stop telling me i need to, it doesnt make me want to buy your products >.<

dear coffee, i think im addicted to you. crap.

dear sir or madam, im sorry you are bitter

dear GRE, i will own you.

dear allergies, why do i have you? you cause my nose to start producing unending streams of mucus and my eyes cant stand being open.  this does no good for my quest to find friends.

dear charice, legit new filipina cast member of glee, its nice to see an asian girl throw it down on major tv. make us proud :D

dear box of cookies, you’re funny. you are the epitome of korea’s notoriety for bootleg luxury goods, which apparently includes ver(s)ace cookies.

dear korean desserts, you are so pretty. sometimes i want to buy you just to take a picture ^^;;

dear giant bruise on my left knee, how did you happen?

dear ants, sorry i killed so many of you. i mean it when i say i wish we could coexist peacefully in the kitchen. however, the thought of you frolicking inside the food I eat makes me queasy.

dear brobr o, as su nuna cleverly pointed out, i remember when you didnt even like walking when you were a lil kid ^^;;  and look at you now, treading all sorts of ground, pushing yourself, and uncovering your potential. we’re all so proud of you!

19. uh oh

October 1, 2010 § 3 Comments

friday’s breakfast for the brobro: bbq ham, egg, and lettuce topped with honey mustard and homemade bechamel sauce. between slices of a butter-toasted bagel. yum.

well hello.  i wish i could come bearing some good news but im afraid this entry will be a bit bleak.  after my egg exploding fiasco from last entry, i took extra care not to blow anything up.  however, i did almost burned the house down.  i decided to heat up some soup on the stove and went across the apartment to work on the computer.  after some time, i remember smelling something delicious and thought ‘wow our neighbors are cooking something delicious,’ completely oblivious to the fact that the smell was actually my mom’s soup.  and then things started getting funky. my throat started itching and i smelt the grossness that could only be an overcooked pot burnt to the core.  i was wondering why our neighbors would let something burn for so long when i was hit by the realization that the smell was coming from our kitchen.

i dashed through the doors to the other side of the apartment and what i saw made me want to laugh and cry at the same time.  the kitchen and dining area were filled with a thick layer of smoke pouring out from the closed metal pot.  i was astonished that the fire alarm hadn’t been set off until I remembered that smoke detectors were nonexistent in our apartment.

cursing myself in a state of amused panic, i ran to the pot and turned the gas off, opened all the windows and doors, and then stared at the closed pot.  the smoke was still seeping through from inside and i just stood there, silently staring at the pot, willing it to be untarnished so i could escape my moms reprimands (it was a really nice pot. and a really delicious soup).

knowing that my efforts were futile, i finally got the balls to carry the pot outside and slowly opened the lid.  a gust of fresh smoke gushed out, and the stream of smoke that followed seemed to have no end from this bottomless pit of a pot.  it was actually kinda pretty, with the smoke reflecting off ambient light against the darkness, rushing through the wind in a steady pattern of waves before fading into the night sky.  and then i looked down at the pot and saw how charred and black and disgustingly melted everything was.

what remained didnt even look like it could’ve been food at some point in time.  it was just burnt black balls of stuff melted into the bottom of a burnt black pot.  i wouldve taken a picture except that i didnt want any visual evidence of this kitchen mishap roaming around the internet. it was too much. who knows, maybe ill run for office one day. i cant risk it.

BUT. ive had a very successful journey in the kitchen this past week since i started cooking for me and my brother.  i’ve made omurice, sweet sticky and spicy tofu/beef with vegetables, egg and shrimp fried rice, spaghetti with a garlic beef and potato sauce, toasted garlic bread topped with cheese, and szechwan shrimp with broccoli.  oh and that breakfast sandwich pictured above. yum. oh. and did you know then when you boil milk, there comes a point when the level of foam goes from 0 to 100% in a matter of milliseconds? so, if you are ever boiling milk, keep a close eye on it!  cooking makes me happy. ^^ it also helps when you have a brother who enthusiastically gobbles up the food. yay.

my maternal grandfather, a man who fought for survival on the streets after being orphaned at childhood.

so i guess in all seriousness and aside from kitchen adventures, one major thing thats going on is my mom’s health.  shes had severe respiratory distress symptoms for over a week but being the stubborn nurse that she is, she thought she could take care of herself until her symptoms went away.  thankfully, she agreed to go to the emergency room last friday and was admitted to the intensive care unit that same day.  she couldn’t breathe by herself – a minute without the oxygen mask and her blood oxygen levels dropped ten percent.  ten percent can seem minimal, but when your blood oxygen level should be at 97-99% to be fully functional, a ten percent decrease puts you at risk for organ failure.  currently, the doctors have diagnosed the symptoms, but they cant figure out the underlying cause. they will have to perform a biopsy this monday to get a better idea. lets hope for the best.

the night sky fading away the sunshine atop my grandparents’ farm

im trying to keep myself calm throughout all this but i cant say its been easy.  i spent the first day and night with her at the hospital and it was a bit nerve wracking. first, the emergency room is just a room of people in pain. and agonized waiting. some people are in so much pain but they have to wait so they scream and curse the hospital and demand treatment while their loved ones look on, pathetically helpless.  its worse when you see children or teenagers being rushed in, sweat on their brows with glazed eyes that seem to look at nothing and everything all at once.  and then you go to into the Intensive Care Unit and all is quiet.  for a moment you breathe a sigh of relief because you can finally hear your own thoughts and the chaos of the emergency room is far far away.  but then you look around and you notice the rows of patients, most of them withered and all of them hooked up to machines, and it hits you that its so quiet because most of the people in the room are silently waiting to die.  and then you realize your mom is being put in the same room with these people and you stand there, wondering wtf is going on.

looking over his land

that night i watched her as doctors made their rounds and as nurses came in and out.  my mom has had four surgical procedures this past year so i knew she was physically unwell, but watching it firsthand was so much more different than hearing about it through the phone halfway across the world.  i woke up at 5am to her screaming in pain because a nurse couldn’t find the right artery to draw blood from and my mom’s nerves, raw and sensitive from a previous spinal procedure, were amplifying the sharpness that already comes from being stabbed multiple times by a needle.  i was torn between wanting to strangle the nurse for his incompetence and feeling sorry for him because he has no choice but to do his job.

a makeshift storage facility he built

i wanted to be strong for her. i wanted to tell her that i could spend another night with her but i betrayed myself with a sense of relief when she insisted i go home.  i couldn’t stand being in that room any longer.  its interesting though – im a very visual person, but the auditory signals are what strike me hard when it comes to these emotions. ive watched live brain surgeries, witnessed babies getting giant cysts cut out of their heads as they lay awake and conscious, seen surgeons shove a metal rod up a person’s leg, and much more, all without a flinch of discomfort but apparently i cant listen to people cry out in pain without wanting to shoot myself in the foot. nothing makes you feel as helpless as you do when you hear someone, especially your own mother, scream in pain. i am so glad im not going to be working in a hospital.  all you pre-med, med school, and nursing peers out there, you all are brave people, and im glad you exist because the world needs people who can directly face the pain of others.

walking up to visit his parents and his wife

hmm. this post has shifted moods quite a bit hasnt it?  i apologize if i’ve made you uneasy, but we all know life isnt always rainbows and butterflies.  thanks for reading :)

traditional Korean graves. From bottom up: my maternal grandmother, my great grandparents, and a heap of dirt.

and as promised, i take my leave with some amusing english: luxury sexy business. where i truly belong.

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