Green Is the New Purple; Soccer Hurts

I love my tae kwon do studio. I feel like I have a growing crew of
protective little brothers. They’re so funny.

I took my belt test today. I was the only one testing. Now I have a
green belt (for the third time in as many studios) instead of my
purple belt. After the test, Tired Guy clapped really loud, Cocky Guy
(he’s 18 I found out today) yelled, “Good, Amanda!”

Then. It was soccer time. I got the soccer ball straight to the face,
smack on my glasses, whap. No damage, but glasses here are cheap and I
should probably invest in a pair before mine break. I asked one of the
boys on my team if I could take his glasses because he was holding
them in his hand. I asked in Korean and he looked shocked and smiled
and said, “Korean! Good!”

We had a break and played more soccer where we were all mixed up,
teenagers, kids, and the few adults there and I ended up playing
against Cocky Boy, which was my worst nightmare but I ended up doing
some good high kicks to the ball. And I smacked my foot hard into
someone else and I’m sure it will be bruised tomorrow.

I ended up staying after class and learning some names, ages and
phrases. I met a new guy who was breathless that I could read his name
in Korean. Tall New Guy shocked the hell out of me by answering
Breathless Guy’s “What’s your name” before I could. The whole name! He
got one part of my middle name wrong. I corrected him, he fixed it,
and got the P right, too! I gave him a high five and then he asked if
I knew his name. Nope, buddy. You may have all seven bits of my name
memorized (which would actually become something like nine characters
if I wrote it in Korean), but I don’t have your three characters down.

I think that hurt his feelings. Until I wrote down his name. Then he
wanted me to guess his age and I refused until he told me and guessed
mine (never got it). I wrote down “Tall New Guy” next to his name in
my little book. Then he wanted to know what that meant and followed me
around the studio, right on my shoulder, asking questions and striking
poses until I finally explained what it meant, as well as “short,
slim, fat, big, small.” I tried to get him to say “short” correctly
and finally wrote it in Korean, complete with blends (sh/rt) which DO
NOT exist in Korean but he got it right after that.

I use easy Korean phrases and they throw praise on me. Someone new
comes and the boys turn into protective brothers, sharing my name and
occupation but smacking little kids that don’t quit staring at me.
They give me water, chairs, benches, and watermelons first, teach me
Korean, practice Korean and English with me, and tease me about

They make me feel like I’d be missed if I weren’t here. I’ll sure as
heck miss them when I go home.

Oh, I’m pinning my belts to the wall as I retire them.

I Am Exhausted

Let me tell you about tae kwon do class tonight. (If you have no
interest in a long, long post about why I’m exhausted and how the boys
were weird to me, don’t bother to open the rest of this post. Page 2
is “What We Did” and page 3 is “What the Boys Did.”)

Pages: 1 2 3

[Admin edit: I lost the rest of this post while moving platforms.]

Thailand Photos Are Up!

I think this is a speed record for getting photos up! As always, you
can also click on the Gallery tab to get there as well.

When I was flying in yesterday, I was a bit surprised at how excited I
was to see Korean newspapers again. I guess it’s starting to feel like

My Last Full Day in Thailand and Coming Home

I suppose coming in from Phuket after midnight was the start of my
last full day in Thailand. Let’s just say I ended up running around a
nearly empty airport with three big Israeli guys (carrying…guitars)
trying to find a legal taxi who was willing to meter. Eventually the
four of us ended up in an illegal taxi and I got three chaste kisses
when I was dropped off at my hostel.

(Now my mother is freaking out, wondering “what were you doing running
around with three strange men in the middle of the night?” and my
father is thinking, “That’s my daughter!”)

And that was the start of a fairly interesting day.

I headed over to the big weekend market, Chatuchak. I am always
overwhelmed at these things, so I did what I usually do: I bought
cheap jewelry that will turn my wrist green and ate a lot of street
food. Here is a list of what I ate and what my mother now fears I will
die of: fresh pineapple and canteloupe (Hep A), some sort of chicken
dumpling on a stick thing (Avian flu), coconut ice cream (brain
freeze) topped with fresh pineapple (Hep A again) and peanuts (an
unknown peanut allergy), and a vanilla Coke (I am sure it was a knock
off brand that will kill me somehow).

I searched and searched for some yarn. I found tons of silk and even
found a woman crocheting with silk, but she told me I couldn’t get
yarn there. Sigh. I wanted some great silk yarn.

After a few hours of that, I headed back to the hostel, a great place
called Asha Guesthouse. On the way there, I found this guy welding
something on the street.

[I can gas weld!]

(A side about the hostel: I ended up cancelling my reservation for
another hostel to stay at this one a second time. Very nice place,
good people, a slightly older crowd that’s not hellbent on getting
drunk every night nor on place-dropping. You know what I mean—”Man,
when I was in [insert-never-heard-of-before-city-here] it was cool,
but now it’s been discovered and man, it’s all been downhill. You can
actually buy Coke there. Can you believe that, man?”)

I read for a bit in my room, enjoying the AC, until a giant BANG!
occured that knocked out the electricity and killed my AC. Afraid I
was going to die of heat on the 4th/5th floor (depending on how you
count), I headed down to the main floor to see who was around and I
found some Americans, Bill and Leaf. I’d met Bill before and Leaf,
too, although I didn’t know Leaf’s name. Bill was heading out to
Sydney and there was a Londoner trying to plan a trip to America. We
told her to be sure to check out the Grand Canyon and Mount Saint
Helens. Bill bought us all a round of Singhas and we wished him a good
trip. Leaf and I got started on voting and politics (we scared off the
Londoner, I fear) and eventually I demanded we eat something.

After a lot of “I don’t know, where do you want to eat”ing back and
forth, we headed to BigC, a sort of shopping center, and put in a
table request at MK Suki, where you get to cook your own meal in
boiling water. It was actually quite good and cheap for the two of us
to eat, although poor Leaf had to make sense of the seven sales slips
that were handed to us at the end of the meal. We were the only
westerners in the place (and it was packed), but unlike South Korea,
nobody pointed us as and screamed “foreigners!” How nice!

Before and after our meal, we went to BigC and tried to find some
suction cup hooks and get me some new shirts. Despite Leaf’s fabulous
sign-language for “suction cup,” we didn’t find any.

We did, however, find this shirt. Which neither of us could make sense
of. (hoi den\hoi den.\n (1900) 1: a long wicver inserted in a split
bun typically served with sauce.)


We also hammed it up in the not-suction-cup hook aisle together.

[My Bangkok teacher friend.]

Back at the hostel, I eventually fell asleep (where I was awakened
with two more explosions in the middle of the night) while reading a
book exchange copy of Freakonomics.

Chaste kisses to street food to cooking my own food to mimicking
licking suctions cups to giggling over whatever a “wicver” is. This is
my life.


I’m in Thailand!

I can’t upload photos (slow computer) and I can barely type (old
keyboard) but I’m here!

Today I went to the Grand Palace and some temples and managed to take
the monorail (Skytrain) and the watertaxis on the river without
getting lost. A tuk tuk (motored tricycle) driver tried to scam me 16
ways from Tuesday (“I can’t bring you to the pier, it’s too rainy and
yesterday 6 people died from China yesterday.”) and I didn’t fall for
any of it. Amazing, don’t you know, Thailand is having a special
today, free petrol for tuk tuk drivers for tourists.

Yeah, right.

The street food here is fantastic. And best of all—NO KIMCHI!

Tae Kwon Do, Thailand, Not Cool Enough to be as Cool as I Want to Be

I love my tae kwon do studio. Maybe I should rename this blog “Amanda
Takes Off…and Takes on Tae Kwon Do (and Soccer)” since I talk about
it so much. Tonight we ran around the studio for 20 minutes and then
did forms. We had to do various…things while we ran. Skipping
sideways, some sort of twisting leg thing, and so on. I got yelled
at/encouraged in Korean and thought, “Yeah, Korean, no help there.”
I’m just not a sprinter, never have been. I think part of the reason I
like the studio so much is because class is always different.

During forms I learned a new word, 똑같은 (something like “dok kat ul”)
which means “the same.” He was telling me to remember to use the
correct stance on the way back because I needed to end up in the same
place. A few classes ago I learned an exceedingly important word. 인중
(in jung), or the philtrum in English. The what? You know that
vertical line under your nose and above your lip? That’s it. Yep. I’m
willing to bet Michael doesn’t know that word.

I think I got some more cred from the boys for showing up on Saturday.
I usually get some directed hellos in Korean but today several guys
greeted me in Korean and English. I was wearing my sunglasses outside
of the studio, taking off my shoes, and one guy said, “Hey. Beautiful
sunglasses!” Several studiomates not only said hello but asked me how
I was in English.

At the end of class Master told us to bring running shoes every day
for the next month because we’re back to two hour classes and he wants
us to run for the first hour. I said, “Maybe I’ll stay in Thailand.”
It took Master a minute to register what I’d said and he started
laughing and some of the other guys did, too. Master said running was
good for me and I just said, “ice hockey.” But I said it in Konglish,
so it was more like, “I-suh hock-ee.” He smiled.

When I pulled on my dobok I discovered that I had some fabulous stains
on the leg from Thursday’s class. Most of the mud came out in the
wash, but I think this one is set. Hey, it’s better than the
semi-broken foot that Master got from playing 축구. His toes are still
black and purple.

Soccer Ball Stains

I finally booked all of my rooms in Thailand after going through some
messy stuff online and making three phone calls, two of which were
dropped and one of which I finally hung up on as I couldn’t understand
what in the world the woman was saying when she kept asking for my

I so want to be one of those cool people that just shows up and gets a
room somewhere, but I’m getting to Bangkok after midnight and I’m
traveling solo. I’m not cool enough to be that cool. (However, I have
just walked into hotels back home while on road trips and gotten
rooms. And deeply discounted ones sometimes, too.)

Silly me, I bought 14 bananas from this man on Saturday. I don’t know
what I was thinking; I can’t finish these before I leave!

Banana Truck on my Street Corner

Not Even 9 AM and I’ve Had a Full Day

Soccer was fantastic! The weather was perfect. It was mid 70s but with
a 10 mph breeze and overcast. It was cool but not chilly. It was
wonderful. It was a surreal experience, walking around the neighborhood
on a Saturday morning before 7 am. People do sleep here. I wanted to
get a picture of my studiomates walking in a pack, but I didn’t manage
to catch it. Maybe next time.

Here is a picture of me with some of my studiomates and my Master
(back row, right). The bottom pictures is both studios, no Masters.

[My Tae Kwon Do Studio]

[My Tae Kwon Do Studio]

I used the other studio’s Master’s camera and filled up the memory
card. Master was looking at the pictures and he said, “Oh, Amanda!
Good! You pro!” I just laughed. The camera I used was very, very nice
and it makes me want a new digital camera; mine just can’t handle
action shots.

It was a blast to go this morning. I hope he invites me again. It’s
not even 9 am and I’ve already had a great day!

I Get Mail, Therefore I Am

For years I had a Dilbert cartoon on my cork board. Dilbert was
sorting through a stack of mail, muttering “Resident, Resident,
Dilbert!” He smiles to himself and thinks, “I get mail, therefore I

Yesterday my sent-by-boat care package came from Mom and George.
Sandals, books, 80 oz of wonderful extra-crunchy peanut butter (I had
a spoonful yesterday just because I could and tonight dinner was an
extra-crunchy peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwich!), candy from
Aunt Debbie, my perfume, pictures I didn’t know were
coming…wonderful! Wonderful!

Today I got Jeremy Fisher’s CD Let It Shine. Prior to this, I heard
only one song of his, “Lemon Meringe Pie,” found on my Utne Indie
Culture 2004 CD. I bought the issue years ago and didn’t even unwrap
it until days before I left Atlanta. I read not one article in the
issue and probably donated it to charity, but I loaded the CD onto my
iPod. I loved Fisher’s song and eBay was the only place I could find
his CD, so I ordered it from a Canadian seller.

[Small World Mail Service]

The return address is Colorado, the customs form claims it’s from
Canada, it’s posted in Germany, and sent to me here in South Korea.

I look at my Asia map on my wall, consider the Penske drive from
Atlanta to Minnesota, I think of how long flights are, and how big the
ocean is when you’re over it and the world seems so big. Then I
realize that some posters in my school here in South Korea are about
The Blake School in Minneapolis*, I chat via Skype over the internet
on the phone with my mom and it’s so clear I can hear Kirby barking in
the background, I look at my flipflops which have walked over earth in
Sweden, Costa Rica, South Korea, Germany, and multiple US States, and
get a package like this and I think, “When did the world become so

(Sidenote: The CD is great and the “Lemon” song is a different version
than the one on Utne’s CD. Worth the money!)

I ran by a photo studio to get a stack of passport photos today and a
young child, maybe first or second grade, was in the shop. He was so
excited when I showed up that I thought he might explode. I was
speaking to him in the few Korean words I know and he kept jumping up
and down saying, “OK! OK!” I asked for 20 passport sized photos
because, well, they’re handy and I need three to try and get my Korean
license. A man, I presume his father, came in the shop and gave me a
comb and sat me down and took my picture and the kid was just bouncing
up and down behind him. I thought the photos were too small and then
did some research and found out that ignorant little me has no idea
what a passport sized photo is. I’m a bit surprised immigration
accepted my American-sized passport photo for my ARC.

Last night we played soccer against the other studio. Master forgot he
wanted to test me; he remembered when we were walking to the soccer
field. Some folks I’d never seen before showed up for our studio. Of
course, I got to the soccer field and the kids from the other studio
gaped at me and the women from the other studio and I bowed and asked
“Annyeong ha sayyo” multiple times. I “played” soccer, which means I
got some good mud stains on my dobok.

Back at the studio one of the people I’ve never seen before, Tall New
Guy, started talking to me as I was trying to use my cell. He was
speaking in Korean and I made the mistake of chirping off the few
Korean phrases I know, including “want to eat together?” So he thought
I was inviting him out to eat and everyone flipped out and oh no, no,
no, that’s not what I meant at all.

With the help of Cocky Guy (he makes me laugh because, well, cocky
teenagers don’t scare me), I got it across that I was just listing
phrases I knew. About a half dozen of my studiomates formed a
semicircle around me and watched as Tall New Guy asked questions. All
of them talked back and forth about me in Korean, and Tall New Guy and
Cocky Guy (who, upon Master’s encouragement, asked if I had a
boyfriend several weeks ago and then what kind of boyfriend I wanted)
kept up a good long dialogue while I acted like I was at a tennis
match, looking from one to the other. Tall New Guy shook my hand at
least three times and I sort of felt like I was in a zoo. I finally
said, “Um, I am going now.”

“Oh! You must leave?”

“I need to eat.”

“OK, OK. When I see you again? Tomorrow?”

My studiomates started screaming about my class schedule (in Korean).
I said, “Toe-yo-il, yo-sote-shi” (Saturday, 6:00) and I said “AM,

He yelled, “Six AM! I know six AM!” and started leaping about in the
air. I stood there, laughing, shaking my head thinking, Good. Ness.
What am I doing here? He shook my hand again and I gave him my name as
“Amanda” (as if he hadn’t been told my name seventy-three times by
everyone else already). I think he asked me what my whole name was, so
I told him. He repeated it, counting the beats, and yelled, “Seven!
Seven! In Korea, we have three.”

I laughed and said, “I know. I have three in Korea, too. Just ‘A-man-da.'”

I love tae kwon do and my studio because it’s always an amusing
experience to go. I’m either treated like nothing special (guys
changing with the door wide open, oh, are blue jockeys the “in” think
right now?) or gaped at. Every day is something new, even if I do
wonder if I’m taking tae kwon do or soccer.

*My high school debate partner’s first serious boyfriend was a debater
from The Blake School.

Soccer (Always), Aliens, Time to Turn in the Passport?

I just learned my new form entirely on Monday. Master wants me to test
tomorrow and again on the 31st. I don’t pretend to understand. Today’s
class consisted of 30 mins of poomse (forms) followed by
watching…soccer. I don’t pretend to understand. I do wonder why the
US doesn’t follow soccer the way the rest of the world does. I don’t
pretend to understand.

I don’t know exactly what’s going on Saturday, but Master invited me
to something. I think this is the plan: we meet at the studio at 6 am,
run for 20 mins, pass a soccer ball around for 20 mins then take a bus
trip somewhere else and watch soccer. Or something. I think that’s it.
It’s 5000 won (about $5) so I said I’d come. Why the heck not? It
gives me something to do Saturday and he specifically invited me and
then took the time to struggle through the conversation with his
little English and my very, very little Korean. (I understood most of
it, really, but I thought he said we were going to run for an hour.) I
asked if I should wear my dobok and he told me to wear traning
clothes. I said, in a mix of Korean and English, “two skirts, two
jeans.” He laughed and said I could wear jeans. Running in jeans…

I got my alien residency card (ARC) today. I’m an alien!

I’m going to Thailand in six days. I finally started looking at my
Lonely Planet book today. I’m overwhelmed at all of the possiblities
and the distinct lack of time, but I’m not yet excited about it.
Overwhelmed, yes. Excited, not exactly.

Which made me pause and wonder. Does this mean that I find travel
boring and uninspiring? Does it mean that it’s just more of the same?
Have I finally “owngrown” the urge to travel, the way everyone seems
to think I will? Or does it mean that I’m just used to it? That it’s
no longer something to worry about? That I’m “seasoned?” That I’m not
afraid to be flexible? That I’m spoiled because I don’t have to beg
for a two week vacation and plan it for twelve months?

Is this a sign that it’s time to hang up the carry-on bag and hand in
my passport? Or is it a sign that my life is becoming the travel-rich
one I’ve always wanted, where traveling is not a luxury but rather
essential and expected and…normal?

It’s Alive!

When I got here, I discovered that my studio had inherited a plant.

Plant in July

I’ve been watering it when I remember to and today I realized it was
about to unfurl a third leaf!

It’s Alive!

I have been so excited about watching it shoot out new roots that I
hadn’t even seen the third leaf. I wonder how quickly it will open up?

I managed to grow three beautiful, beautiful Niobe clematis plants in
pots (that’s the big deal part) when I was living in Atlanta. I loved
those flowers; they were gorgeous and they covered the view of the
parking lot from my porch. They bloomed and bloomed. Then, a year
later I went to Costa Rica and Mr Aerospace promised he’d water them.
He lied and killed them.

Damn him.

Right now this plant, whatever it is, is hardy enough that I’m going
to stick with it. I think it’ll handle Thailand and any other extended
trips pretty well. At least it will be my fault if I kill it.