Friday, December 17, 2010

Speaking of Marriage...

Life is full of humor. As soon as I finished writing the previous post, I received an email from a guy on LDSlinkup who wrote me the following message:

miss, it is with joy and pride that I address you. on this site I'm looking to join the woman I want to marry after the discovery of your picture I could not stay without writing you miss I want you to be my wife, I am a member of the church thanks you.

Ask and ye shall receive! Where do I sign up?

The Fortuneteller Tells

So, I went to go get my fortune read again because I was so curious about where I would end up next year. My co-workers and I went to this famous fortuneteller after work. I applied to Columbia, Harvard, UCLA and University of Washington. He said I will be rejected by Columbia and University of Washington; have 50% chance of getting into Harvard; and will be accepted by UCLA with open arms. Well, I was just glad he didn't say I will be rejected by Harvard. At least there is some hope.

He also said that I will tempt or be tempted by a man in June (right before I leave Korea! Amazing timing, Life!). That seems like the highlight of my new year other than the fact that I will be starting school again. (I am soooo excited about that!)The fortuneteller also warned me that if I don't get married by 2016 or 2017, it would truly suck because I would probably have a very difficult time finding someone. All the fortunetellers I've talked to always tell me how hard it would be for me to find a man like I need reminding. (Oh yeah? Really? Tell me about it.)

So, there it is. If the fortuneteller is right, I'll end up in Los Angeles with a "Will Work For Marriage" sign by the freeway exit. I will see you there.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Christmas Spirit

I have been having a very hard time getting into the Christmas spirit this year. I have been getting less and less excited about Christmas and it's been very sad. I used to feel giddy and happy when I saw Christmas lights and trees. But since I don't feel the "specialness" of the Christmas season anymore, I just planned on letting December pass by without much anticipation.

Then, I went into the rehearsal of Handel's "Messiah" this past weekend. The choir has been rehearsing "Messiah" since September but the choir director let me come in for the last few rehearsals to sing in the performance since I know the music. As I sang about the birth, death and atonement of Christ, I was reminded of what Christmas was truly about. I was trying to induce the excitement of Christmas through Christmas lights, trees, and presents but nothing worked. But when I remembered the true meaning of Christmas and the miraculous birth of Jesus Christ, my heart filled with joy and gratitude. It is through knowing and accepting the atonement of the Savior that I can have everlasting joy and peace.

This is going to be a great Christmas. :)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

I have lived a very blessed life. There were tough times and bad times but overall, I am grateful for the opportunity to experience life and learn. Everyday is a new gift and my heart is full of gratitude.

Here are some of the things, memories and people I love and am grateful for.

Pistachio gelato; summer nights in Paris; making soup in a sun-lit kitchen in an autumn afternoon for people I love; being caught off-guard by the sound of classical music; cuddling with a good book and a warm cup of tea; dinner with family, the laughter and smile of my niece, the mosaic of the blue sky through autumn leaves; street hotdogs; talking endlessly with someone I love; watching winter-white streets and foggy windows of restaurants; warm blankets, chocolate chip cookies, milk, a good romantic comedy and girlfriends; the budding of new leaves in the spring; footmassages; Christmas trees; Facebook; a stroke of artistic inspiration; watching good acting; meeting inspiring people; breathing in clean air; hiking in Ireland and Scotland; the love of my friends and family

Thank you for blessing my life, everyone! Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Party-crashing the G20 Summit

We were trying to get the president of Indonesia to come on our show, "Heart to Heart." Well, to be more exact, we were looking for ways to roll-over and bark and see if we could get 30 minutes of his time whenever we could, wherever we could. The embassy took forever to get back to us so meanwhile we applied for the press pass just in case we could show up with our cameras to the G20 Summit. Well, he ended up coming on the 2nd day of the summit and didn't have time to meet with us. This post would have been much more interesting and glamorous if I said I sat with the president of Indonesia, sipped tea and talked about the recent natural disaster he had to deal with and the state of Indonesia as a newly emerging market. But it was not to be.

But on the up side, we had the press pass so some of my co-workers and I went to the G20 Seoul Summit on the second day anyway (just to remind ourselves how important we are).

We first registered and got our badges...

...and went to the media center. Because there were thousands of reporters from all around the world, only a few were allowed in the actual room where the meetings were held. Most of them were placed in the media center and watched the meetings from the big screens.

I tried to get online to work on the post-production writing (subtitles, names, bio that goes into the program) of the episode of Dena Merriam, the founder of Global Peace Initiative of Women who came to Korea to attend the World Religious Leaders Forum that was being held in parallel to the G20 Summit. It was being aired that night so I was frantically trying to finish.

We walked around trying to look cool, calm and collected.

We posed for pictures...

...and had a fabulous buffet of lunch.

It was really great to feel the vibrancy of the reporters. I just wanted to sit there all day but we had to go back to work so we posed for one last time.

The head-spinning speed of Korea's economic growth is lauded as the "miracle of the century." When Korea was nothing but a waste land of war, its gross domestic product was less than $20. Sixty years later, its gross domestic product is approaching 1 trillion dollars making Korea the 15th largest economy in the world. It's really mind-boggling to think about it.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

My Conversion to Buddhism

For two days that is. I went to do a temple stay at a Buddhist temple where people could come and learn about Buddhism and mediate.

Day 1

We first had a tour of the temple and the temple ground.

There were a lot of exchange students who came that day and the interpreter was so nervous to speak English, I ended up doing most of the interpreting.

We had dinner after the tour. We sat on the floor with our bowl and couple of people went around the room to distribute food. We had to eat every tiny morsel of food then wash the bowls with water and a piece of radish and drink the water and eat the radish. We ate/drank everything that was in our bowl.

After dinner, we had tea with the head monk of the temple for a Q & A session.

Around 9:30pm, we all went back to our room (shared by all the females there)and laid out our sleeping blankets on the floor. Lights went out at 10:30pm. The thing about communal sleeping arrangement is that someone is always bound to snore. This night was no exception. I was woken up a few times by a girl whose snoring got progressively more thunder-like as the night deepened. I was woken up again around 3 am feeling very annoyed and irritated. The calm, peaceful, chatter-less mind of the previous night, GONE! I got up and followed the sound of roaring thunder marveling at how she can sleep through the sound of her own snore. After brailling through the floor in the dark, I finally found the culprit. I really wanted to stuff toilet paper down her throat and nostrils but decided against it (after all, I was at a Buddhist temple). Instead, I gently shook her to wake her up so she would stop the damn noise. But she wouldn't wake up! So, I shook her harder, and she still wouldn't wake up. So, I slapped the side of her arm, and she stopped snoring. I crawled back to my blanket and lied down. A few seconds later, the snoring resumed. I wanted to kill myself.

Day 2

We woke up at 4:30 am to get ready for the morning chant, prayer and meditation. We did 108 prostrations to repent for our sins and offer gratitude for our blessings.

After prostrating 108 bows, we sat and meditated until the sun came up.

We had breakfast after and went for a brief hike and meditated some more.

After the dawn and morning meditation I forgot all about the snoring of the previous night and felt at peace. We had some warm tea and Snickers (yes, Snickers) on the mountain and slowly descended down to the temple. The last thing in our itinerary was making lotus blossom lanterns. I gave mine away to a sister missionary and I forgot to take a picture before I gave it to her so you'll have to just rely on my word that it was the most amazing lantern you've ever seen in your life.

The head monk delivered a final remark before we departed as I interpreted in the back of the room.

We said goodbye after 2 days of meditating, praying and friendshipping.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Day in the Life of Hannah Kim

I have been putting this off for a while now but I promised a couple of you that I would write this post so here it is.

About a month ago, I was on my way home from work when a stranger accosted me and said, "You have a very bright face. You look like the oldest child in your family." My first reaction was "Okay, psycho, what are you selling tonight?" Then, she proceeded to tell me about my family history (which were uncannily true). Then a short little man that came up to my armpit chimed in and said, "Do you have someone in your family with a bad back and bad knees because they are really hurting me right now." (My dad had recently hurt his back and my aunt was suffering from bad knees at the time.) So, yeah, they had my attention.

The woman asked if they could speak to me for a bit because they had something to tell me. I was curious so I said yes and we went into a cafe. She volunteered me to pay for the drinks and we sat down in a corner.

They peered piercingly into my face (which totally amused me) and the woman said, "You have a lot of ancestors following you around. You also have a lot of baby ghosts around you. Have you had miscarriages or abortions?" I said no. She looked dubious. "Well, your life is about to change," she said confidently. "It's not a coincidence that we met you today. You haven't been able to accomplish what you really wanted to accomplish because something always got in the way. That is going to change from now on." She was freaking me out with all the ghost talk but I liked what I was hearing so far about how my life was going to change. (I am gonna be rich and famous!)

She said the reason why my ancestors were around me because I was "the person" in my family that could help them. Because they are without bodies they couldn't repent for their sins and couldn't enter heaven. So if I would go to their temple, and pray for them they will be able to rest in peace and leave me alone. Finally, I realized they were Buddhists. I don't have anything against Buddhism and I am open-minded so I continued to listen.

"Why don't you come with us tonight and offer food and prayers to your ancestors? The reason why your life didn't go the way you wanted is because your ancestors got in your way so they could get your attention." I was hearing this for the first time and I was trying to think critically like an intelligent, full-witted person. But this was all new information and I just didn't know how to filter it.

They saw my resistance to accept their offer. I mean it was getting late, it was dark outside, and I was supposed to just blindly following these two strangers to some shady temple to pray for my ancestors? Besides, they told me I had to pay 490,000 won, about $450, and I couldn't tell anybody about this for 3 weeks. Anybody with a quarter of a brain would hear these stipulations and high-tail out of there.

Well, not me. I told them I would go (partly out of curiosity and partly because I thought I would regret it if I didn't go.). But I told them I couldn't pay the 490,000 won but I would pay 200,000 won (about $180). They accepted my offer and I clapped my hands and said "Okay everybody, let's go to heaven!" (Well, internally that is.) And off we went!

We took the subway train, got off and starting walking. I was looking for a Buddhist temple when they led me to a shady-looking karaoke building. The man said, "It's on the 4th floor of this building." So, we went up and I found a large undecorated space with several rooms. They had me bow to this wall (because apparently there was a god there. I wondered if he/she would have been offended if I walked to the wall and just sat there.).

They prepared the table of offerings as I changed into a Korean traditional dress they lent me (because that's how they roll there.)

FYI, that's not me.

After I changed into this outfit, a few people decked out in their outfits and I bowed constantly (for about 30 minutes) to some strange chant uttered by the woman who accosted me. It was in ancient Korean so I didn't understand a word of it. In the midst of all this, I kind of came out of this mental cloud and thought, "What am I doing here? I was just on my way home!" Sometimes I can't believe the life that I live.

But I did feel the presence of my ancestors and I felt at peace. I felt it was a good thing that I did. After the ceremony, the woman asked if I could come for 21 days and recite the chant that she had just recited. So I went back a few times a week mainly because I didn't want the ghosts to haunt me down and freak me out.

But each time I went, she tried to convert me to Buddhism. I told her I wasn't comfortable her trying to convince me of the realities of reincarnation and how we can wash away the sins of the dead through our good works here. It made me think a lot about the gospel and the plan of salvation.

She really got on my nerves toward the end so ghost or no ghost, I stopped going. And for a few nights I couldn't sleep or if I fell asleep I was woken up in the middle of the night in cold sweat because I thought my ancestor ghosts were coming after me. (I know, this sounds ridiculous but the woman really scared the crap out of me with all her talks.)

But I told myself that this is all psychosomatic and that I should be able to sleep in peace. And I have been. Just with the lights on.

Friday, October 22, 2010

GRE word of the day

Capon: a cockerel castrated to improve the flesh for use as food

Had no idea roosters had balls. Did you?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Dear Friends

I am sorry I haven't been very diligent about blogging. The GRE is consuming my life right now. I take the damn thing this Saturday so I will resume my humanely role in a week. I do have a very interesting story to tell though. So stay tuned! :)

Monday, October 4, 2010

My Big Fat Korean Wedding

Well, it really wasn't *my* big fat Korean wedding but a big fat Korean wedding nonetheless. It was the wedding of my grandfather's brother's daughter's daughter's wedding so it was imperative that I go. The wedding took place in Busan, about a 4 hour drive from Seoul. The parents of the groom and bride rented a huge tour bus for the guests driving down from Seoul. However, this was no ordinary tour bus.

The wedding started at 2pm, so the guests gathered at the bus terminal at 7 in the morning to ride down together. I got up at 4 am to get ready and get down to the terminal so I was pretty exhausted and prepared to sleep on the bus. Unfortunately, this "tour" bus was equivalent to a night club bus that operated also in the morning. I got in my seat and got cozy to sleep when the driver blasted karaoke music at 7:30 in the morning. 7:30 in the freakin' mornin! And they proceeded to pass out breakfast complete with rice, bulgogi (marinated beef), donkatze (breaded pork), and various side dishes along with beer. The heartiest breakfast I have ever seen in my life.

As people filtered into the bus and my aunt introduced me to all the people that I was distantly related to, I realized that most of the people on the bus were my relatives! They were mostly the descendants of my paternal grandfather's brothers. A lot of them knew who I was because they knew my dad. I learned that they referred to my dad as Hee-ya oppa (my dad's name is Byung-hee, and oppa means older brother). I felt very welcome and stunned at the fact that I had so many relatives.

I thought about all my cousins in the States and how they don't even know these people exist on the other side of the globe. I also thought about the cultural collision and shock they will experience when they meet these people. It was a strange feeling straddling the two worlds of the same family.

Anyway, we arrived at Busan around 1 pm and waited around until the wedding started. The ceremony was short and quick. We finished eating and socializing around 4 pm and the bus came to drive us back up to Seoul.

Most of the guests got up at the crack of dawn to come down to Busan so I assumed most of them were exhausted after the wedding and reception. After all, most of them were in their 50s, 60s and 70s. I fell asleep almost immediately after we departed. But only for a short while. Another session of blasting karaoke music shocked me out of my sleep. But this time with disco lights. The entire ceiling of the bus was lined with bright, eye-blinding technicolor. After a couple of hours of singing, the MC (yes, there was an MC) suggested dancing.

I huffed at this suggestion. There was no way these old people were going to get up and dance on the aisle of the bus. But to my utter surprise, with the start of the deafening blast of techno remix of Korean oldies (ppong-jak), people in their 50s-70s stood up, went to the aisle and started doing a very jolly rendition of I-have-to-go-pee dance as they basked in the schizophrenic beams of disco lights. My. Jaw. Dropped.

Who says Asian people don't know how to party?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Chuseok: Korean Thanksgiving

Yesterday was Chuseok, Korean Thanksgiving Day. Chuseok is very different from the American Thanksgiving in that it includes a ritualistic ceremony for one's ancestors. So, this being my first Korean Chuseok, I made a number of cultural faux pas that I tried to pass off with nonchalance and grace only to shroud myself in the cloak of idiocy.

The ceremony is called "charae" and to properly offer food to the ancestors, one must arrange the food in proper order and put chopsticks on the food so they can "try" that dish. Then, we prostrate ourselves in front of the pictures of the deceased twice and do a half bow. We rearrange the chopsticks so they can "try" other dishes and each time we change the chopsticks, we prostrate ourselves again in the same manner. Since there are a lot of dishes on the table, we do a lot of prostrating.

I think there are 3 ways to prostrate oneself for various occasions. I didn't know which one to do so I just picked the simplest one and kept going. And of course, it was the wrong one but nobody corrected me. I was also supposed to cover my feet with socks or footsies but no one told me, so went in barefoot. I felt a bit irritated but I think they were trying to accommodate my "foreignness." It felt very strange to receive the treatment of a foreigner even among my relatives.

The whole event was an interesting experience but it also made me realize how much there is to learn about the Korean culture and how everything is related to eastern philosophy and the indigenous psyche of the Korean people. But that's a whole new entry.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


I am taking the written portion of the GRE tomorrow morning. I feel prepared but still a bit nervous. I am going to get a good night's rest, wake up in the morning to review some stuff and head out. I am not too worried and I think I will do well. I am aiming for a perfect score of 6 so we'll see how I feel tomorrow. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Yes, I am still alive and kicking

I know, I know. It looks like this month's posts are going to be less prolific. I am spending every spare time I have to study for the GRE. I am taking the essay portion of the GRE next Friday so I am reading and studying like a mad woman. The good thing about taking the GRE abroad is that I have to take the written portion separately which allows me to just concentrate on writing essays. I take the verbal/math portion on October 23.

Most of you probably don't know that I am applying to graduate schools (yet, again) for next fall for a joint M.A and Ph.D. program in ethnomusicology. I am really excited to go back to school again. (If I could be a professional student for the rest of my life, that would be way awesome but since I can't, I thought becoming a professor wouldn't be so bad.)

Will let you know how the GRE essay goes. Cheers~

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Monsieur Butterfly-deconstructing Puccini's Madama Butterfly

Tony-award winning playwright, Henry David Hwang deconstructs the famous Madama Butterfly narrative in M. Butterfly or Monsieur Butterfly. This play is inspired by a true story of a French diplomat falling in love with a Chinese opera singer and having an affair with her for 20 years. However, the twist of the story (a true one!) is that he didn't know that his delicate Madame Butterfly was actually a man! Gallimard, the French diplomat, thinks he's Pinkerton, Puccini's antagonist, seducing Madama Butterfly. Song Liling or Madama Butterfly is actually a Chinese spy who plays the role of Puccini's protagonist and molds himself into Gallimard's construction of the Perfect Oriental Woman--submissive, mysterious, and sexual. Memorably, he asks his Suzuki counterpart "Do you know why women are always played by men in Chinese operas? It's because only men know how a woman should behave."

In the end, Song Liling reveals his true identity to Gallimard and he is subsequently arrested for treason against the French government by leaking information to the Chinese spy. (Can you imagine his shock? Song even faked pregnancy and produced a bi-racial son! Anal sex=fertilized egg???? You tell me.)

He goes to jail and finally realizes that while he thought he was playing the role of Pinkerton, he was actually playing the role of the victim, Madama Butterfly. He grabs a dagger and kills himself, completing the parallel.

This play was also made into a movie. You should check it out.

Some cool people I met

About a couple of weeks ago Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa came on our show. He was in The Last Emperor, The Mortal Kombat, and Memoirs of a Geisha among numerous movies. Contrary to his bad-guy image he had accumulated over the years in Hollywood, he was genuine and really sweet. We hit it off right away. We talked about our identity issues as Asian Americans and how we can create our own niche to feel at peace in such a convoluted and complex world.

I asked him how he came to be at peace with Hollywood only giving him racially stereotypical roles as an ass-kicking villain. He said he wanted to be in film and he took whatever opportunities that came his way so that he can make a difference from inside out. Now, he has enough connections in the industry to make films he wants to make and foster future generations of Asian American actors.

Here is a picture of me and Jihye, my co-worker with Cary-Hiroyuki.

This week, we had the legendary Korean film director Lim Kwon-taek on our show. He has directed Seopyeonje (서편제), General's Son 1,2,3 (장군의 아들), Chun-hyang (춘향전), and Chuihwason (취화선) for which he received the best director award at Cannes Festival. I love all of his movies especially Chuihwason. I am sure you can get his movies with subtitles on netflix and I highly recommend them. His works are masterpieces.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to talk with him very much but did get a picture with him.

The Korean Folk Village

Last Saturday, I had visitors from the States and took them to The Korean Folk Village. The Korean government has recreated this folk village to display the traditional life and culture of the Korean people. There are approximately 250 replicas of buildings of the different social classes (peasant, landowner, aristocrats) and a traditional market and restaurants. We also got to see the traditional Korean wedding, and the farmers' performances of traditional music and dance. It was pretty cool.

Here are some pics!

Farmer's dance and music

Korean traditional wedding

Korean traditional kitchen

My traveling backpack with straw shoes tied in the back

Me hauling water

Carrying water on my back

Monday, August 16, 2010

Eat, Pray, Love

Go get this book NOW! I loved this book. I mentioned this book earlier in my Spiritual Recovery posts, but I will briefly reiterate its premise.

Elizabeth Gilbert is a devorcee who goes to Italy to pursue worldly pleasure, India to practice spirituality, and Indonesia to balance the two. It's an extraordinary memoir of her journey as she regains her mental, physical, emotional and mental health and discovers a source of lasting strength and courage.

And of course, this book wouldn't be complete without a love story. She meets a Brazilian man named Felipe and when he first sees her (well, the back of her, to be exact) at a party, he says to himself, "That is my woman. I am going to do anything to have her." Wouldn't it be just fantastic to have your soul-mate recognize your backside and pursue you like a madman? That night, I prayed a very sincere prayer that this would happen to me someday.

Spiritual Recovery: Day 7, the Finale

Okay, I am late. I am sorry. Yesterday was the Sunday session of district conference. I didn't even try to prevent the boredom from consuming my sanity by telling myself how interesting all these talks are. Like I said, I am mentally allergic to church meetings. Give me their talks in print and I will read it and will probably get much more out of it that way. I am a reader, not much of a talk-listener. But I will try next time to really hearken unto their voices without drifting into the la-la land. Next time.

I am making sincere prayer and meditation a part of my nightly routine. It's helping me stay more in tune with God and have peace. It's really lovely to fall asleep in a state of total calm instead of thinking about boogie monsters and ghosts coming in through the windows (yes, I still suffer from these thoughts).

Anyway, here is Matthew Chapter 7.

This is a great chapter. But there was one verse that really captured the essence of my spiritual quest.

21. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

Understanding and doing the will of my Father in heaven have been the epicenter of my philosophical seism. Knowing the will and the workings of God is a tricky thing. It will be a life-long quest but I am on my way to being just a little closer to Truth. Blogging has helped me stay on track for 7 days and it looks like it has created a nice pattern for my spiritual growth.

Even though my 7-day blogging is over, it's only a beginning of my spiritual awakening. So, stay in tune for a better, improved Hannah!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Spiritual Recovery: Day 6

I had friends over last night, which means I really didn't have much time to get all cozy and pray and meditate. They left after midnight but I did pray a sincere prayer although I don't remember much of it. I started to meditate but fell right asleep.

Today was district conference (a smaller version of stake conference). I think I am allergic to church meetings. Or I seem to suffer from ADD as soon as I sit down to hear someone give a talk. I thought about bringing a coloring book next time.

But I tried. Really tried to listen this time without feeling too ansty. And guess what? It helped me ponder about a few things that I have been lingering on my mind for a very long time. How does my practice of meditating and gleaning spiritual advice from Buddhism and Hinduism fit into Mormonism?

It's complicated to explain but I think all religions aim for the same thing and teach the same message in a different way despite their doctrinal differences. As for my allegiance to Mormonism, it has been a product of countless days of mulling over questions that have risen from my ever-inquisive mind. It has been difficult. It still is. How is it possible to fit all the truths of the universe into one religion that is prone to the imperfection of men? It's not. And I am trying to do the best with what I've got with the religion I have accepted as my own.

Anyway, Matthew Chapter 6:

This chapter has the Lord's Prayer in it. I practically sang this in my head. (Malotte's version of Lord's Prayer, just in case you were wondering.)

On top of this, this chapter includes one of my favorites scriptures of all time.

28. Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin.

30.Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?

31.Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?

32.(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

33.But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

34.Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

There was nothing more comforting than to know that your needs will be met as a dirt-poor grad student that I was not even a year ago. But I think this lesson could be applied to our emotional, mental and spiritual needs as well as long as we stay in touch with God. I am coming to believe that God is much nicer than I imagined Him to be.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Spiritual Recovery: Day 5

Last night's prayer was one of the most sincere prayers I have ever offered in a while. There were no residual bitterness, or anger trailing around at the tail of each phrase. Then I meditated again, this time with more ease and less restlessness. Instead of using a mantra, I just tried to become the observing awareness of my own consciousness. I can control my thoughts completely when I am in that state. I felt peace after I emptied my mind of useless, and endless chatters.

I am still reading Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love and am thinking about joining an ashram myself next summer to practice meditation. I am planning to go to Nepal next summer for about a month before I return to the States to volunteer at an orphanage, so I could probably squeeze in a meditation practice before or after work while I am there. Maybe I'll even swing by India at the end of my trip.

Anyway, I feel like I am on way my to finding lasting peace although I don't know how all of this fits my Mormon faith. That part, I am still working on.

Matthew Chapter 5:

There is a lot in this chapter but ultimately the whole point of this chapter boils down to this last verse.

48. Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

I read somewhere that the word perfect is a mistranslation for the word whole. Meaning, we don't have to be perfect because that's just impossible in this world, but immerse wholly with God and be perfected in Him. I also take this to mean that we are whole when we feel God's constant presence and our connection to Him.

Meditation has helped me greatly with this. Somebody said prayer is when you are talking to God and meditation is when you listen for God's answers. That sounds about right. Thinking about taking yoga again.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Spiritual Recovery: Day 4

Before I went to bed last night, I tried to quiet the endless chatters of my mind before I offered the most sincere prayer I have given in a very long time. I thanked God for specific blessings I could think of and asked him to protect my family. And I tried to repent for all the bad things I did that day, but I really couldn't think of any except for maybe feeling irritated for being asked to do something I didn't want to do. Then I thought about the "right way" to repent as I have been taught in Sunday School. I have to feel Godly sorrow for my mistakes and have to have a change of heart. Frankly, I did not want to feel Godly sorrow for feeling irritable. Was I supposed to feel guilty about this? I was kind of getting ticked-off at the requirements of repentance. I can have a change of heart and resolve to be more kind in my thoughts but do I really have to beat myself up for it? I don't agree with this. But still, I was in the middle of prayer so I tried to dismiss this argument until the prayer was over. But the residual bitterness stayed as I offered my final words while Skepticism sat in the corner of my mind blowing cigar smoke my way.

Then something good happened. I tried meditating after saying my prayer. I closed my eyes and concentrated on my breathing, and repeated the mantra, Ham-sa, which means "I am That," over and over again until the internal chatters were replaced by a concentrated effort to empty my mind. I am really good at meditating for like 30 seconds. Which fortunately proved to be just enough for that night. I opened my eyes and felt a mist of peace showering down the room. I felt God in that present moment. And it reminded me that God is always there, wherever I am. He is constant in the backdrop of myriad variables of life. All I need to do is knock on the door of the present moment and enter.

I am much happier today. I have decided to not dwell on my past or future. I will try to stay present as much as I can.

Now, Matthew Chapter 4:

Jesus called Peter and Andrew "[a]nd they straightway left their nets, and followed him."

WOW. No "Who are you?," "What's your deal?" or "How can I trust you?" They just followed? I guess that's why Jesus chose fishers to be apostles and not lawyers. Humility is such a hard thing.

I was just thinking the other day about how to boost the level of my faith. In order to trust God, I need to know who God is. I need to know who it is that requires and receives my trust. Who is this God that beckons me to follow Him? And who is a better source than Jesus for me to learn more about God?

"25. And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.

24. And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.

25. And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan."

Jesus was a very nice man so God must be, too.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Spiritual Recovery: Day 3

I went home last night and made myself a sandwich for dinner and turned on "Sleepless in Seattle." About a quarter way through the movie, I fell asleep and woke up again around 9 to get ready for bed and turned off the lights at at 9:30. I thought I would wake up at the crack of dawn since I went to bed so early, but I slept until the alarm went off at 8:20 am.

I have been feeling unusually cranky and irritable these days and I suspect it was due to stress and fatigue.

I feel much better today.

I read Eat, Pray, Love on my way to work. This book is about a woman's journey to Italy, India and Indonesia to experiment with worldly pleasure, spirituality, and to balance the two in respective countries. Elizabeth (the author)is in India right now and she is practicing Yoga-a method of meditation to find God.

She says:

"We're miserable because we think that we are mere individuals, alone with our fears and flaws and resentments and mortality. We wrongly believe that our limited egos constitute our whole entire nature. We have failed to recognize our deeper divine character. We don't realize that, somewhere within us all, there does exist a supreme Self who is eternally at peace. That supreme Self is our true identity, universal and divine. [A] Greek stoic philosopher Epictetus [once said]: 'You bear God within you, poor wretch, and know it not.'"

Or in today's colloquialism, "Duh! God lives in you, you dimwit."

I went through this phase of finding God last year and learned a very valuable lesson: That God exists in the present moment. It is only through the portal of being fully present (and not immersed in our thoughts about the past or future)that one can have access to the Divine. And Truth or parts of the Truth can be revealed only in that state.

With this reminder and a good night's rest, I am in a better state of mind to read Matthew Chapter 3.

When the Pharisees and Sadducees came to be baptized of John, he declares: "O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance."

This phrase makes me think of my baptismal covenant and the necessity of a daily dosage of repentance to be worthy of the promises that were made to me when I was baptized. My nightly prayers have become automatic, ritualistic, and insincere. I should take a few moments every night to reflect, evaluate and identify the aspects of my life that needs an extra shot of the present moment. :)

Here I go.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Spiritual Recovery: Day 2

This morning isn't as depressing as it was yesterday. But I feel tired and totally drained of energy. I just want to go home and take a nap.

I meet a really cool Kiwi hiker who wrote a guidebook on a Korean mountain range called Baekdudaegan. He totally flirts with me and I don't have the energy or the desire to flirt back. He offers to take me around the mountains he knows well (which is like every mountain in Korea). I think he is very nice but am not going to take him up on his offer. (My dad will be very disappointed but he's used to this kind of disappointments so it's okay.)

I have a little argument with my co-worker and now I am in a bad mood. Hopefully Matthew will be able to help me through this.

Matthew Chapter 2:

God seems to communicate important messages through dreams (well, at least to important people in the Bible). Joseph is told by an angel in a dream to escape to Egypt and when Herod dies, he is instructed again in a dream to come back. Those must have been very lucid dreams.

I am glad those communications worked for Joseph. I don't know how I would have responded.

I am still in a bad mood. Maybe, I'll go read some more when I get home. I am signing off for now.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Spiritual Recovery: Day 1

I have been spiritually struggling the past year or so. It seems like life's metaphysical and epistemological questions regurgitate themselves every few years like a menstrual cycle. And I have been PMS-ing for a whole year.

I am not sure if it's any use to ask questions like: What in the world is really @#$%&! real? And how in the #$@*!@ world do I know what I know? I have been asking questions like these since I was 19 and I am still asking.

It's really physically and mentally exhausting to continuously ask such complicated questions especially as I relate them to my religious faith. So I laid these questions in the dungeon of my subconscious as if they didn't really matter and as if I could live happily without really addressing these questions. But I was really struggling internally. That went on for a year. Now my PMS has expired. I really have wrestle with these questions again and try to find answers satisfactory enough for them to go back to the dungeon until the time comes again.

During my sabbatical year from these philosophical questions, I also took a leave of mental absence from the spiritual and religious department. Now, I am trying to groove myself back in. But instead of taking the traditional route of thinking in circles forever, I decided to study the New Testament in search for Truth and blog about my spiritual experience/shift/awakening for 7 days.

Today is Day 1.

As I ride the bus to work, I feel depressed, sad and want to cry for no reason. I have Elizabeth Gilbert's book Eat, Pray, Love on my lap and wonder why my talents aren't recognized and why I am still poor. I struggle to get off the bus with my huge piece of luggage (I am house-sitting a friend's apartment for 3 weeks) feeling very sorry for myself that I don't have a hot boyfriend to help me carry this stupid thing, all the while questioning the meaning of my life. I grab a cab to take me to work. I arrive, sit on my chair and let out a sigh of relief.

Now, Matthew Chapter 1:

I am impressed by Joseph. How does he just wake up from a dream and accept the pregnant Mary as his wife? Just because an angel appeared in a dream? I wonder what his parents said about that. I wonder what my parents would say if I wanted to marry a pregnant man (if a man could be pregnant, that is). They would flip out for sure even if I told them that an angel told me to marry this man. Kudos to Joseph.

I think it takes a prodigious amount of faith and humility to do something so brave. Faith and humility go hand-in-hand but I realize that when you get crushed in life, usually faith goes down the toilet along with its buddy, humility.

I am trying to restore my faith and humility to surrender to the greater Omniscience in complete and absolute trust. It's an uphill struggle...

The Kitchen God's Wife

There have been books written about the generational and cultural gap between the 1st and 1.5, 2nd generation of immigrants. (FYI, 1st generation: born and raised in the Mother Country and emigrates to a new country as an adult. 1.5 generation: born in the Mother Country, but emigrates when she is young. 2nd generation: born and raised in the new country) I liked the stories told from the perspective of the 1.5 and 2nd generation because that is something I can relate to. But I also have read books and articles about the stories of the 1st generation of Korean immigrants who have emigrated to the States after having experienced the brutality of Japanese Occupation and the Korean War. But I always blamed the generational gap and cultural misunderstandings on the 1st generation parents because I saw the situation through the bias of my own experiences and unexpressed frustration. Reading The Kitchen God's Wife softened my heart and allowed me to see my parents in a different light.

The beginning of the book is told by the voice of the 40-something-year-old daughter and her complaints against her mother. The rest of the book (until the daughter's voice comes back in the end)is in the mother's voice telling her 2nd generation daughter about her life in China during Japanese Occupation, WWII, the liberation of China from Japan's grip, and China's subsequent emergence with Communism.

Through the stories, the reader, along with the daughter, gets to know the mother and is able to understand her history and the source of her "weird-ness" that her daughter is so embarrassed of.

It was a heart-warming story that addressed the prevailing problems between these two generations. I felt like I saw a glimpse of the my own parents' tragedy in The Kitchen God's Wife. My heart grew about an inch after I read the book.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Love Them or Hate Them: You Decide!

When I see an article of any fashion-related stuff, I either love it, hate it or am indifferent to it. When I saw these "bubble flip-flops" I expected my mind to produce one of those three reactions. But instead, my mind froze--it did not know what to do. That's okay, I told myself. When an initial, gut reaction is seized by a "what-the-heck" moment, the mind needs some time to reflect on its past tastes, its likes and dislikes, its social, intellectual, and artistic implications, and the level of propriety for a 30-year old to be "flip-flopping" around in a perpetual cluster of bubbles.

So, I waited myself out and for the verdict. But even with the relative objectivity of hindsight, I still didn't love them, or hate them. Which is just fine. The problem was, I just could not be indifferent to them.

It's like looking at a good piece of modern art. It refuses to leave you unaffected. But these flip flops are no modern art unless somebody decides to put some toothpicks through the bubbles, sharpie some of them in black, sprinkle some jelly-beans on top and put them in a glass case with a scary-looking security guard yelling at you for being too close.

So, I am torn. Even through the filter of my bias, and sub- and unconscious desires, I've got nothing. Maybe I should stare at them a little longer.

What do you think? Do you like them or hate them? (See, I told you. You cannot possibly be indifferent to them.)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Living History

I have always liked Hillary Rodham Clinton. I liked her even when I claimed to be Republican. I read a couple of books about her when I was younger that portrayed her in both good and bad light. It was good to finally hear her story from the horse's mouth.

This book mainly focused on her experiences as First Lady in the White House and the Administration's diplomatic relations with Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. She also used the book as a score-settling platform against Newt Gingrich, the Speaker of the House during the Clinton Administration and Kenneth Starr, an independent counsel who led the brutal Whitewater investigation about the financial dealings of the Clinton's.

Even though she left out or watered down a lot of the most difficult or humiliating part of her private life, I got to read about her vision for the world's future in woman's rights, health care, and global poverty.

This was an interesting read for me because I have always liked Hillary Clinton but I think it would still be an interesting read for those who are curious about who she is and what she has done.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Auguste Rodin

The first time I saw a great collection of Rodin's works was three summers ago when I trudged over to Musée d'Orsay after I discovered that the Louvre Museum was closed on Mondays. I was already super tired from backpacking around Europe and basically museumed out by the time I got to Paris. I walked around with what seemed like the capacity of a pea-sized brain and tried to admire the works of great masters. I don't remember much from that experience except for one piece of work called "Celle qui fut la belle heaulmière" or "She who was the Helmet-Maker's once beautiful Wife." It is more simply known as "The Old Woman."

I remember my visceral reaction when I saw the work for the first time. It was tragic and mournful yet beautiful and celebratory at the same time. The old, wrinkled body evoked the feeling of inevitability of the passing of time and yet it seemed to celebrate the strength of the human spirit that lives on in that frail body.

Rodin said: "Commonly ... ugliness in nature can in art become full of great beauty. In art, only that which has character is beautiful. Character is the essential truth of any natural object."

Rodin's sculptures and drawings went on international tours for the first time and I got to see many of his works again in Seoul. Although I didn't see "The Old Woman" again, I saw the great beauty of character in his works. Maybe it's the nostalgia evoked by the quality of impressionist sculptures, but I was emotionally moved by the experience.

Also, I learned about his pupil and lover, Camille Claudel and their love story. An artist is incomplete without a passionate, and stormy love story that often ends in tragedy. She ended up dying in a psychiatric hospital.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Mud Festival!

I don't know why they don't do this all over the world. Get some mud, and a bunch of blow-up bouncy obstacle courses, and voila! You have a mud festival! The festival was free (very cool) but we had to pay for extra activities like making mud soap, and pottery and getting a mud facial (my favorite!). Good thing was, they weren't expensive at all! Mud soap + pottery + facial = less than $20.

This festival was created to promote the city of Boryeong and as you can imagine, it generates a lot of business. (If I ever become a mayor of a city, I will most definitely host a mud festival.) Boryeong is famous for (guess what?) MUD! The mud that we used to paint, fight, tug and wrestle in is actually good for the skin. When I rinsed off after playing in the mud for an entire day, my skin felt smooth and soft and I didn't even have to put any lotion on! After I got my mud facial, I looked like I have been translated because my face glowed with amazingness (a true testimony of my friend Diana except for the translated amazingness part).

About 80% of the people at the festival were foreigners (I really cringe when I use this word, but that's the word they use here.) They were English teachers, military people, travelers from all over the world. For a moment, I felt like I was back in the States and felt a little bit homesick.

Anyway, here are some pictures from the festival.

Getting painted.

This was the second time I had a burger in Korea. Sarah (center) was equally excited.

I contributed about 20% to the process.

Transforming into amazingness.

Yeah, this is pretty much how I felt the whole time.


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