Onwards To The Land of the Morning Calm

So I’m moving to South Korea.

For those of you who have been following along here on Very Nerdy Curly and on twitter won’t be too surprised I think. I’ve talked about it before, quite seriously actually. I’ve tweeted in mini essays about it and why I think it’d be a great idea and your feedback has been lovely. In the end I was just making sure I was convincing myself… or rather, I was letting myself realize that it was the right choice.


I’ve found myself in an odd, but not terrible situation. I’ve been getting more writing work, which has been wonderful, but also means I don’t have to be in any specific place. Granted, my on-air show at the local station is at stake here, and I do love my radio family, but I only have a show one day a week and  I’m very interested in the English language radio opportunities in Korea. There’s also internet radio, so I could just start up my own show in the land of the Morning Calm. I’ll be teaching English again, something that I did in Japan once upon a time, though I’ll be busier and teaching more often… which will be a great improvement.

One of these things is not like the other...
One of these things is not like the other…

When I told my sister, the first thing she asked was: why Korea? Other than the reasons mentioned above, the main reason is the ability to make and save some money. I’ve been thinking about the best way to go about that. I have quite a few friends now in Denver where the economy and job market (especially in tech and creative works) is doing really well and I’ve been seriously entertaining heading there, but I wanted to do so feeling secure. I can’t do that at the moment. I know any one of them would be willing to put me up until I got a job and got myself situated, but it’s a point of pride and self-reliance that I want to do it on my own. I’m determined really. So while I tried to find something local, I even went the retail route, nothing was coming up.

However I knew I could get a job teaching English. I’ve done it before and have multiple teaching and childcare credentials to my name. It makes sense. The Korean economy isn’t in the best of shape, no, but I also know how to live frugally. Any graduate student becomes more than efficient at that before long after all. So while my salary may only be around $2k a month in Korea, I should be able to save at least half of that every month as my housing will be paid for by my school and expenses won’t be too high going by what I’ve researched.

Also there’s the creativity aspect. The last time I lived and worked in Asia, I wrote a book. I really want to get back to creating, and every time I’ve been in Asia, be it visiting or living there, I have found myself immensely inspired. I don’t know what it is, but I like it. And I intend to use it.


So that’s the grown up plan. Go to South Korea doing something I will enjoy, broaden my horizons a bit, live responsibly, CREATE, save money, and do things on my terms. Will I stay a year in Korea? Probably. But I could stay longer. It’s hard to say now when I still have lots of steps to go through before I head out.

The first time I went to Korea it was the summer of 2010 and I was finishing up my contract in Japan. It rained pretty much the entire time. I 34319_541674772841_5522780_nwent with a fellow JET and we did all the touristy things like the DMZ tour and palace hopping and the folk village. We got new glasses Namdaemun and ate more kimchi than we knew what to do with (especially since our taste buds were so use to Japanese food which, while delicious, is not spicy at all). It was only a three-day-long trip and I immediately yearned to go back. After finishing The Mongol Rally I finally got that chance, and I won’t lie, a large part of me wanting to head back to Korea after the rally was to gauge if I did want to move there. I’ve been writing about that trip in detail at The Nerdventurists, but in short, I found myself aching to stay longer. Korea is a country caught in rapid constant change. It’s modern and not afraid to affiliate itself with the Western world, but also it is fierce in keeping to its traditions, especially when it comes to food. It’s not as intense about it as Japan, which I find interesting from a cultural standpoint, but I also understand it given the two countries’ history.

It’d be remiss to talk about reasons I have been drawn to Korea without mentioning their pop cultural exports: KPOP and KDrama. Two years ago I had no idea about the Hallyu craze. I wouldn’t have been able to name a single Korean artist or actor if you paid me. But in my YouTube roulette looking up versions of a song I loved from a German musical (look, I’m super nerdy OK?), I came across a Korean version and immediately fell in love with the singer’s smokey voice. That singer turned out to be Kim Junsu, a legendary figure of the KPOP world and former TVXQ member (the first Korean boy group to break into Japan). Little did I know it would be a slippery slope and I discovered his discography and music videos and the rest is history.

I’ve talked about my battle with depression and panic disorder here and there, but I had never tried any sort of music therapy before. Despite working in radio, I’m not much of a music person. I mainly did talk radio. If someone had asked me my favorite band a few years ago I literally wouldn’t have been able to tell you; not because I couldn’t choose, but because I simply didn’t have one. But there was something about Junsu’s voice, his passion, and frankly his killer dance moves that helped me. His dance tracks help me feel energized and happy, his ballads can comfort me or help me cry when I need to and the tears won’t come.

Through discovering him I discovered his new group, JYJ, and other artists. I got introduced into Korean Dramas and found many of my friends were also fans. It was a new world for me and one that just genuinely made me very happy. It’s very unlikely I’ll ever be able to see Junsu live as he has to enlist in mandatory military service this year, but his work alone has done wonders for me. I wish I could explain it better, but I invite you to watch the two videos above to see sort of what I may be talking about. Or at least enjoy the show.

In my planning to learn Hangul, I came across a proverb that I thought was quite apt for this decision and going forward.

가려운 곳을 긁어 주다


Galyeoun gos-eul geulg-eo juda. It literally means “you scratch where it itches.” Moving to Korea has been itching my brain for ages. I kept going back and forth, back and forth, but it’s time to scratch that itch. I know I’m still young and that there’s no rule saying you can’t keep bouncing all over the world as you get older, but I want to do this now before I do get settled somewhere (if I ever do, let’s be real). It’s time to scratch that itch. And so, 가려운 곳을 긁어 주다!

Living and working in Korea will bring a slew of challenges, but I am ready for them and am excited for them. Now to get all that paperwork done…

Oh The Places You’ll Go.


I was sorely tempted to just write a thousand words on my immense Star Wars feelings, but the last thing the world needs at the moment is yet another Star Wars review. In short, I loved it to pieces and beyond and I cannot properly express my delight that the largest film at the moment (and possibly of all time if projections are correct) stars a woman, a black man, and a Hispanic man. Like… that’s amazing, and how much I reacted to Rey and how empowered and happy I was after my now two viewings of The Force Awakens speaks volumes of the importance of representation in media. Especially epic franchise media. Also BB-8 is the cutest and purest thing in the world and I NEED ONE.


But that’s what I’ll say about Star Wars. Perhaps in the new year I will solidify my own theories about who is what and what is going to happen, etc. In the new year a lot of things will be happening. And that’s why I’m going to take a step back for the rest of the year.

I’ve been trying to find out my place in time and space the past few weeks, most in terms of work and thinking about what I really want for the future. I think I have a plan and I’ll know better before the end of January. But for now I am going to decompress.


There’s only a few days of 2015 left and as always, tis the time of contemplation. 2015 was good to me more or less: I became a member of the Baker Street Irregulars, I graduated with a master’s degree, I got a job on-air in radio, I did the Mongol Rally and drove across 17 countries in 33 days, I raised a bunch of money for charity through various events, and I actually get paid to write things now with a fantastic group of people. 2015 was very good, but I want 2016 to be great. I want to take what this past year has given me and apply it to my future. I want to create again, I want to save money, I want to keep exploring, and I want to be excited.

I want to keep going.

This morning on my show I told people to get a head start on their New Year’s resolutions, to start now instead of waiting. If you’ve already got 11988317_786218729872_9167482284402599353_nsomething in your mind, just take that step in the moment. Don’t wait. If you wait it’s less likely you’re going to do it. Find a way to do it now. I started. You should too. No matter what it is. Do it now. I realize a lot of this is quite cryptic, but that’s because my plans aren’t 100% set in stone. Also I’m down and out with a cold sinus-y… thing so nothing totally makes sense at the moment. But what I am clear of is that we are all responsible for our own destinies as it were. Things can knock us down, drag us down even, but we have to push ourselves and make the choice to keep going and to go forward. Sometimes we’ll have friends, old and new, that will inspire us. Sometimes we have to chart that journey alone. So whether you’re Finn, afraid and unsure, or courageous Poe, or Rey, independent, brave, and yet still wary… know that you have it in you to do whatever you want to do. It may take awhile, but the journey has to start somewhere.

So May the Force Be With You (and also with you… you can leave the church but damned if that phrase will never leave you), and come on 2016… I’ve got expectations of you.

Tea: Therapy Of A Different Kind

Today is International Tea Day, and while I could argue that every day should be International Tea Day, perhaps it’s best us tea enthusiasts don’t drown the common folk in our favorite blends and water boiling gadgets every day of the year. I’d happy go on about my favorite teas to you all, but there’s something I wanted and felt compelled to write about today. Tea is actually very important to me. And I’m not kidding. It was what saved me more than once. And I want to share that story.

I had my first cup of tea, real tea, when I went to London for study abroad in my junior year of undergrad. An internet friend and her family picked me up from the airport and brought me, a jet lagged and terrified nineteen-year-old who had never left the US, to their lovely home in Tea1Essex. The first thing offered, other than to bring my massive bags into the house, was a cup of tea. I had been warned that I would be offered a controversial amount of tea, but I was excited. I quickly learned that a cuppa was an intrinsic part of being English. And while there were many types of tea, when it came down to it, good old traditional black tea was still KingQueen. I was instructed on the proper way to make a cuppa during my time there and quickly became an enthusiast… even if not an expert. It also started a love affair, not only with the country itself, but with the drink that would become increasingly important to me.

It would also give me caffeine poisoning. Because it turns out if you drink too much caffeine (and if you leave green tea bags in your cup for longer than twenty minutes the potency doubles) it poisons your blood stream. Oops. SO if you have the shakes for like… a week. You probably have caffeine poisoning. Just an FYI.


This infatuation would only grow as I moseyed about the world, moving to Japan after I graduated. Ironically, I would move to Shizuoka Prefecture, famed for its green tea fields that rolled into the distance. Shizuoka tea would flood my cabinets and was the tea of choice at the high school where I taught. I would learn what matcha was most of all. A decadent frothy version of green tea that’s whisked, matcha is popular in Kyoto, the cultural epicenter of Japan, and very popular with yours truly. It’s a rare treat indeed, mostly because I have been spoiled by having matcha in its home, made by people who know what they’re doing. There are a few things that give me total comfort andmatcha is one of those. If you ever have the opportunity, please try it. It has a bitter, but silky taste that’s very powerful and is meant to be enjoyed with great respect. There’s ceremonies devoted to its preparation after all.

I remember this day perfectly, because it was probably my best day ever at the school. I didn’t teach a lot because I only taught oral communication and my high school being a high level one, they were more concentrated on writing and reading for university exams. But on this day I had three classes, got to see some of my students perform in a recital, and was invited to sado, a tea ceremony demonstration and session. I was on a high all day and it was great. Some months later the teacher who had invited me gave my a CD from the day and I still think of it fondly. It was the first time I really connected with the culture in a practical way. Sadly I wouldn’t get another chance, and a lot of this probably had to do with the feeling of sadness that overwhelmed me for much of my time in 日本.

While I was living in Japan I was diagnosed with panic disorder with depression and insomnia. I was a desk warmer at my school and felt horribly useless. I would wake up in the middle of the night gasping for breath and it got so bad I made the long distance phone call to my mother, crying that I couldn’t breathe. This continued and eventually I had to go to my supervisor and try and explain to her that I was having trouble breathing, that my chest hurt. While she spoke fantastic English, this wasn’t something easy to convey. After a few doctors visits and health scares and such later, it turned out I had Panic Disorder and Depression with Insomnia (as my very frank Japanese doctor put it… you have psychosis and depression). It made a painful amount of sense and explained the outbursts and fear I felt for a lot of my teenage years. I knew where it had all stemmed from — a toxic and horrible relationship with a thankfully now defunct and divorce step-father — but it had grown into a many headed beast in the years it took me to finally realize I wasn’t supposed to feel this way. I was put on all sorts of medications in Japan, some of which I would later find are actually illegal here in the USA of all places, but they helped. I was able to finish my year without much more issue, but with a pain in my heart and a frustration that had I figured it out and asked for help easier I could have enjoyed myself more.

One way that I would calm myself and take comfort would be with cups of tea. Every morning after the morning meeting in the staff room I tea7would wander back to the little rest area and get myself a cup of green tea and hold it to my chest. The warmth of the tea would comfort me like nothing else and it would ground me.It’s okay. Tea would become solace, relaxation, and strength for me. The photo to the left was taken and edited in Japan and at the time the difference in colors was just me trying to be artsy, but looking at it now, it means so much more. Tea was what I had to really keep me alive. And even as I write this, gazing at a younger me (with alarmingly large hair), I’m getting a little weepy. I want to go back to her and hug her and tell her she’ll make it through the rest of that year and the harsh two years that’d follow. And I want to give her more tea, because she probably should have drank a bit more.

To this day I still hold tea cups to my chest. It’s instinctive now. Sometimes it’s because I am feeling low, but other times it’s because I like the feeling of it or it’s just written into my muscle memory. I’m not on meds any more. After failing at my first MA and having to jump back and forth across the pond (I ended up returning to London multiple times) I went back on them for a period of time before working myself off them. Meds work for people and they work for me, and I will never disparage anyone seeking out medication for their brain. Brains are awful and sometimes they need help to be less awful. I decided I wanted to try without meds and it’s worked for me, but it doesn’t work for everyone. So to anyone reading this, never feel inferior for having to use medication to help you stay you. Never.

The last time I moved to London it was to do my MA in Radio, which I finished and graduated from this past February. It was a very different experience from my first MA wherein I was isolated and a horrible mess. I had moved from Japan to England almost immediately and it was not a smart decision. I had no time to adjust, reverse culture shock destroying my will power, and my inability to connect with anyone in my course made it a truly miserable experience. I found companionship and a reason to wake up in the morning by the creation of The Baker Street Babes, but in the end I had to head back to the states.  But this time it was different. I had friends, I had a purpose, I had an amazing course and colleagues, and I had tea.


Tea and various tea companies have brought me endless happiness. FromAdagio and they’re amazing contributions to all The BSB has done with SherlockeDCC and beyond to David’s Tea cold remedies staving off the cold from hell that plagued me for three months, these damn tea leaves have done a ridiculous amount for me. I also started collecting tea pots and now have these vessels of happiness from Japan, Korea, Cambodia, England, and the US.

Leaving London last year was one of the most difficult things I had to do. I had a life there, a life that was growing and one I really wanted. But visas expiring and the inability to find a place who would sponsor me to stay and work ended with me having to say goodbye. Tea3The place I had called home for the better part of three years was letting me go. It was the place that gave me my passion, inspired by travel, and gave me tea. The final thing I did in the airport as I flew out was order a pot of tea with my breakfast. I had to. I needed to. It was my farewell in its purest form. And it was a thank you. Thank you for introducing me to a simple but vital thing that would get me through so much. Thank you for sharing a part of your culture that fostered friendships and companionship. Thank you for giving me the joy of making tea for hardworking friends and colleagues as we collaborated. Thank you for the warmth, for the caffeine, and for that special feeling in my chest when you grounded me.

There are many types of therapy in the world. For me, tea is the best of all.

Happy International Tea Day. And thank you.