Archives for category: Random

“Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering.”
― Nicole KraussThe History of Love

I woke at 3:44 AM and I thought – I knew, but I also didn’t know – today is the day. My abdomen contracted every few minutes, but there was no pain. Only anticipation.

I got up and let the dogs out and wrote lists. I fell asleep again. I woke up, and the contractions were still there.

We spent the day counting minutes and going on walks and waiting for an increase in intensity. We went to Target in the afternoon, and finally the contractions strengthened. We went home, ordered spicy Chinese food, and the contractions became painful. I went into the bathtub, a small relief. Steven came to check on me. The contractions were too hard to speak through, and I looked up from the water and said, “I think this is it.”

Steven called Krista and told me we were going to the hospital. I didn’t want to, because I feared they would check me and tell me I wasn’t dilated enough. But he insisted. Krista arrived, and we drove to the hospital. I needed a wheel chair, the idea of walking to Birthways was too difficult to consider. It was around 9 PM.

I got checked into my room on a silent floor. They said nobody else was in labor and there was only one other family that was leaving the next day. Susan arrived, and found me 6 centimeters dilated.

We spent the next few hours on the ball, working through contractions that were more and more painful. After a long time, they said they had filled up the whirlpool if I wanted to sit in it. I decided that if it were like the bath I’d taken at home, it would be a little relaxing and worth the move to the bathroom.

It wasn’t worth it. The water did not relax me, and I thought maybe going to the bathroom would help. That didn’t either. I didn’t know it yet, but I was already in transition.

Susan offered to break my bag of waters, which could speed up the process. I agreed. After she did that, I felt the warm water gushing. I sat on the ball again, and cried in pain. The nurse, Emily, told me that I had been doing very well with controlling myself and my body through my contractions, but I was starting to let the contractions control me. I had to take back control to get through the rest of labor.

Susan checked and said I was 9.5 centimeters dilated, but there was still a cervical lip in the way. She suggested that I continue by moving to a hands and knees position. Krista whispered in my ear wth each contraction how to breathe, like I were blowing out a candle. My body was taking over, forceful contractions pushing my baby out even as I tried to control my body. The pain was incredible. I would slump and rest deeply between each contraction.

Finally, Susan said I could turn over and it was time to push. Although pushing was difficult, the pain wasn’t as terrible. I pushed as Krista and Steven held my legs. I don’t know how long I pushed, but finally, I felt her head come out, I felt her turn, and felt the rest of her body slide out.

Then she was set on me, hot and wet and beautiful. They tell me she pooped and peed on me, but all I could see was her dark hair, her dark blue eyes, and her little butterfly lips. She was a little person, waiting to be nurtured into her own life.

I started talking to her. I told her about all the people waiting to meet her. And maybe other things that I can’t remember. I couldn’t believe I wasn’t pregnant anymore, and that I was responsible for this gorgeous, fragile little creature.

“Maybe the first time you saw her you were ten. She was standing in the sun scratching her legs. Or tracing letters in the dirt with a stick. Her hair was being pulled. Or she was pulling someone’s hair. And a part of you was drawn to her, and a part of you resisted–wanting to ride off on your bicycle, kick a stone, remain uncomplicated. In the same breath you felt the strength of a man, and a self-pity that made you feel small and hurt. Part of you thought: Please don’t look at me. If you don’t, I can still turn away. And part of you thought: Look at me.”
― Nicole KraussThe History of Love




Hey Jude, don’t make it bad
Take a sad song and make it better
Remember to let her into your heart
Then you can start to make it better

– Hey Jude, The Beatles

How many times has she heard people sing that song? A million. At least a million in the last 10 months. And here I am, drawing inspiration. In her absence, through tears, I’m listening to The Beatles and (probably disgracefully) using a keffiyeh as a tissue.

I wrote a few times when she first got here, giddy and hyped up on a new relationship blossoming. Let me just stop right here and switch gears for a minute.

Dear Jude,

You were perfect for us. PERFECT. I know everyone has expectations about their exchange student, but I really tried not to because I wanted you to be able to be you without that extra burden of living up to being someone you are not. Just because we chose you from the many wonderful options, just because something you wrote on an application months before we read it spoke to us, just because we hoped you’d fit in with us, didn’t mean you actually would. But you did. Expectations or none, you were what we needed.

You are silly and weren’t afraid to make faces. You are funny and quick to joke. You are sassy and sarcastic and kept Steven in his place. You are so much quicker to cuddle than I have ever been, but holding you on my iPad screen today, unable to reach through the glass and touch your hair and pull you close and smell your shampoo was absolutely, painfully, as literal as the metaphor can be: heartbreaking.

I have spent the last week trying to dam the tears and hold my heart shards together and pretend that I’m already over it. But you being gone is worse than any breakup. I know you are not dead, I know you are alive and well, you are happy and healthy and with your family, but in a way I am grieving your loss like you’re gone forever. I know that isn’t true. I know that! I will see you again. But my brain and my heart are unable to communicate, and it physically hurts. The silence when I walk into the house, the missing “hair mice” on the edge of the bathtub, your missing shoes, your room stripped bare. No za’atar on the counter, no shampoo or conditioner for curly hair, no Naked palettes, no easy tears, no songs on repeat, no high school gossip, no more hugs, no more sweet and crazy laughter, no more Lorde sing-a-longs. No, not no more: none for a while. But again, my head knows that – my heart is too busy shoving tears through my eyes and snot through my nose and closing my throat up so I sit here looking at old Instagram pictures and sobbing loudly. I miss you a lot and sucks.

I’ve tried to be strong about it. Before you left, I tried to make it easier for you to go by reminding you about your friends and family waiting for you. I’ve tried to be strong and tell people, “Yeah, Monday sucked, and Tuesday I cried at work, but by Wednesday I felt a lot better.” What a joke. I spent Wednesday through Friday lying to myself. I slept for 15 hours on Saturday. That’s not normal. That’s what sadness looks like. And then today, after we talked and I saw that you were sad too – I saw it in your eyes – I knew I wasn’t alone and I wanted to feel better about that but it just made me start crying all over again.

I know this seems melodramatic and I’ll hopefully be laughing at myself soon. But I know you get it. I said a few months ago as we talked about you leaving soon, “You don’t get to pull away, I’m not going to let you make this easy. You have to feel every emotion all the way until the end so that you cry when you say goodbye.” And we did that. I just didn’t know how much I was going to feel, too, in forcing you to promise me.

I love you. You are my first daughter, my first teenager, and forever, a friend. This house is always open to you. You are a part of my family, and heart. I love you and always will.


Maybe that says it all.

But what I want to write here, for the world to see, is that part of the reason I’ve tried to seem “okay” is that I didn’t want anyone to see me sad and think, “That looks too hard, I wouldn’t want to host because I don’t want to be that sad when they leave. Look at Kim, she totally broke down.” Yes, I did. I am broken. But I wouldn’t change it for a thing. I will host again, because for each tear I’ve shed, there are a million fantastic memories. If love is a currency, Jude has made me rich. If anything could have convinced me to have a child, it was parenting Jude with Steven. If an experience can be life changing – and I’ve had many life changing experiences – I never expected this experience to be so transformative. This hurts, but it also makes me appreciate every moment I had with her, and I want to chase that feeling, regardless of the pain. I tried to convince myself that I only needed a few days to grieve, but my dear friend reminded me that for each year you are in a relationship, it can take about 3 months to grieve their loss. Yes, she is out there, living and laughing and chasing her dreams, but I am allowing myself to grieve her absence and relish the grief: it is proof that we loved and loved deeply.

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If you’re a visual learner like myself, then you know maps, charts and infographics can really help bring data and information to life. Maps can make a point resonate with readers and this collection aims to do just that.

Hopefully some of these maps will surprise you and you’ll learn something new. A few are important to know, some interpret and display data in a beautiful or creative way, and a few may even make you chuckle or shake your head.

If you enjoy this collection of maps, the Sifter highly recommends the r/MapPorn sub reddit. You should also check out There were also fantastic posts on Business Insider and Bored Panda earlier this year that are worth checking out. Enjoy!


1. Where Google Street View is Available


Map by Google



2. Countries That Do Not Use the Metric System


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I’ve been back in America for a harried and fantastic 31 days. That’s one long summer month, although it’s been much cooler and less humid than I expected. In fact, being back in America has smashed most of my expectations into a million idiotic pieces. What a fool I was to think I knew what I was walking back into. America has been by far more wonderful and lovely and comfortable and happy than I had anticipated. I was very, very concerned and freaked out about coming back here. I feared politics and religion that I wasn’t used to (and didn’t miss) smacking me in the face. I don’t really know why… probably because I’ve had an undiluted version of America via Huffington Post and other news outlets telling me what America is like for the last three years. Don’t get me wrong – I think I’ve learned a lot about America and its position in the world from not living here for three years. But I also was overwhelmed with certain types of information, and I forgot about the people.

Everyone has been so amazing. Happy to see us, excited to hear about Korea and what we’re doing next, etc. It’s been nice to sit around and chat (in English – it can’t go unsaid), drink delicious micro-/home-brewed beers (DELICIOUS – it can’t go unsaid), to eat familiar and fantastic food (that doesn’t make me ill – it can’t go unsaid), and just feel, well, one. Not other. NOT OTHER. IT CAN’T GO UNSAID. As a privileged white girl, I never felt “otherness” until I left America, and never as powerfully as when I forced myself into the expatriate role abroad. And I loved it, but I forgot how easy it is to just be with others who are just like you. I love being otherly and I love being with minorities and I love being a minority, but what a breath of fresh air it has been to just be the same as everyone around me. It’s weird. But for the moment, it’s refreshing.

So, what have we been up to since we got back? Fine, you asked for it.

  • We arrived in Denver to a little Welcome Party of two – Kayse Nation and Ashley Heffern. We spent the first couple of days letting them help us back into our American-ness. We ate some good food, played Cards Against Humanity, stayed in a hotel, and relaxed. It was lovely.
  • We went down to Colorado Springs to see my mom and Jack, her boyfriend. Colorado Springs was so much better than I remembered. Jack’s house was awesome, we ate more delicious food, drank a lot, and enjoyed the mountain air and the Fourth of July.
  • We drove back to Denver for a weekend with Kayse. We did things. We ate at Steuben’s. We met people. We enjoyed company. Sarah Frundle came up and we saw Amy and Jake for a dinner at a great pizza place. We drank at a bar (and I wished for a split second I was in Korea again, where nobody ogles you and those that do you can pretend you don’t understand their language). Steven, Kayse, Sarah, and I drove up to Fort Collins and hung out down town. Kayse and Sarah left, and then…
  • We began the weeklong vacation with Steven’s family: Janine and Floyd, Kacee and Mike. We did Ft. Collins, Estes Park (Grumpy Gringo is NOT a good Mexican restaurant), Rocky Mountain National Park (where Janine befriended ALL the animals and tried to steal an aspen), New Belgium Brewery Tour (the highlight of the trip for me – Paardebloem, La Folie, and Lindsay’s S’mores Porter). We went to Denver next: saw Candace and Ken, Art Museum, saw the governor give a speech outside the Capitol, and I got lice somehow (yes. Lice.). Then: Colorado Springs, where my mom gave me two lice shampoo treatments and combed my hair, dinners at Jack’s cabin, Mafia, Manitou Springs, tornadoes on Pike’s Peak, horseback riding in the Garden of the Gods, and more Sarah Frundle.
  • Drove back to Iowa, finally, and I spent half a week going through about 70% of our worldly possessions (I left kitchen things for another day – we won’t need them for now). Threw away about 40 pounds of junk, and gave a bunch of clothes away. We went to Sioux Falls and saw Kacee and Mike again, as well as Jon and Kendra and their boys; I saw my brother and my grandparents, and Steven patiently stayed awake through about 8 hours of old home videos of me as a kid.
  • We finally made our way back to Ames. I love Ames. We are living at Kate and Chaz’s and there is no immediate or any time soon plan to find our own place, although after visiting Elizabeth in Des Moines, a home of our own would be really nice… but for now, we’re just settling in. We’re currently waiting on a mattress, bed frame, and a sofa slip cover to arrive from Amazon to finish up the rest of the moving in process. We’ve hung out with Kate and Chaz (briefly before they headed out on a vacation this week), Meghan and Lily, saw a glimpse or two of Kyle, and Chelsea, Ian, and Melodi are hanging here this week until their new duplex is ready to move into. We saw Diane at BAM! and I randomly saw Cayla (nee Westergard) in a parking lot. I have intentions to visit more people soon, but I need to take a breather and relax for a little bit. Steven starts work on Monday and I’ll start on the 15th. I’m going to let myself ENJOY nothing to do (ha – nothing – not quite).

Besides America being profoundly more expensive than Korea, it’s been great being back. Good thing we worked our little butts off in Korea for three years so we can afford to transition ourselves back into this country. Between car maintenance, Sasha’s vet bills, new furniture, paying off the rest of my student loans, and life in general, we’ve burned through more money than I’d care to acknowledge. We still need to buy another car, get Steven a bike, and save up for a future house. Oh, and finish paying off Steven’s loans, although that is definitely something that we could pay off slowly over the course of a year or two without it affecting much of our monthly income. Anyway, that’s blabbing on about things nobody cares about except for me. I have a new phone and phone number, I have a new hair cut, I will soon have a new comfortable bed (I cannot explain the depth of my excitement over a comfortable bed after three years on what basically amounts to sleeping on a box spring), and I will soon start a job that I am both nervous and excited to be a part of again. I’m glad to be part of the Ames community, and I have my Masters program deferred until next year, when it may be possible to continue working full time and take some part time classes if I feel like I still want to do that. For a brief moment, right now, things are good. I hope it lasts.

When Steven and I started thinking about moving to Korea, we guessed that if we stayed here for three years, we’d pay off most or all of our student loans. That didn’t mean we were committed to staying for three years. It just meant that Korea might be the rainbow that brought us to the pot of gold and way out of a huge portion of our paychecks disappearing at the end of every month. When we got the jobs, we sold almost all of our furniture, let our friend Evie take what we couldn’t or didn’t want to sell, and moved about twenty boxes of personal items into Steven’s parents’ attic. We drove our car, our luggage, and our dog to the end of the country, said goodbye to our friends and family, and flew across the Pacific Ocean.



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We arrived in Busan with a built in support system: Kate, Chaz, Kelly, and Kat met us at the airport, and Kayse arrived within days. I remember a lot of rain at first, followed by the worst humidity. School was boring for the first month – it was the end of the semester and the teachers wanted to finish the work they had started without incorporating me into it. I finally got to teach English Camp lessons (not the whole camp, but parts of it) for three weeks in July and August, and my vice principal at that time let me leave in the afternoons. We met Amy, Meghan and Kyle, and Rena and Patrick, Vas, and Marybeth (who at the time was only visiting from Japan), and we hung out with them all a lot – drinking, singing, swimming, more drinking… The first few months were easy, breezy, save for the fact that I was sick a lot. The food did not agree well with me, although I loved eating it. Every morning at 10 a.m. I had a spicy bathroom adventure. We moved into our crappy apartment and started working on buying furniture and decorations to make it into a home. We started taking Korean classes and picking up bits of the language. Kayse, Steven, and I spent many hours at Brown Chip in PNU and Caffe Benne in Seomyeon studying. My friend from high school passed away in August, and that was tough.


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We had a week long break for Chuseok and that was followed with a free week long trip to Seoul for orientation. We met lots of new friends and had a great time just hanging out with a ton of other foreigners from around the world who had made the crazy decision to work for EPIK in Korea. I missed the Fireworks Festival because I was sick, and came close to missing the Halloween party craziness in KSU – but everyone forced me to come out, and everyone got insanely drunk (when in Rome…). I started to fall in love with K-Pop (Miss A and Narsha, specifically). In November we had our first North Korea scare (the attack on Yeonpyeong Island). Almost six months in and I finally figured out the stupid bus route to my school. I missed being home for Thanksgiving but made up for it with a long night of delicious food and Mafia at Meghan and Kyle’s. I kept growing my hair out. That semester I worked with a substitute teacher while my main co-teacher was out of the country, and that was tough. He didn’t speak English and he also hit the kids when he wasn’t happy with them. I was anxious for Ji-Eun to return.


The world in which you were born is just one model of reality. Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you. They are unique manifestations of the human spirit. (Wade Davis)


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Had a terrible Christmas – our water pipes burst from it being so cold and we only got one card/gift in the mail from my grandparents. We spent HOURS in a bus in traffic trying to get to and from an orphanage, and I was in a terrible disposition. It wasn’t a great day. I started the Teeny Tiny Book Reports on this blog, and through those books got back into my passion for working on abolishing human trafficking. In January, Kate and I went to Seoul for a conference put on by Not for Sale and Onnuri Church, and I got to meet David Batstone. I started a small group of friends and invited the Busan community to join me in learning about trafficking issues. Winter Camp was cold but fun, but my new VP made me stay at school all day with nothing to do. That sucked. Winter in Korea kinda sucked. Kayse’s mom and sister came for a visit, and it was fun to show Korea off to people from the outside. Ashley showed up at the end of February!


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The new school year started, with the triumphant return of Ji-eun, who literally trusted me enough to let me start teaching one lesson all by myself every week, and treated me as a co-teacher the other two lessons a week. I also had a new co-teacher, Miss Shin. She was very sweet, if not a little shy. She had never taught English, nor worked with a co-teacher, so teaching with her was fine but a little boring. But it was a good rhythm, and much better than the previous semester. I had tons of stomach issues and finally was diagnosed with gastritis. Got medicine and changed my diet, which helped a lot. We went to the DMZ. Meghan found out she was pregnant, and in May she and Kyle went home. Kate and Chaz made preparations to leave, and that was hard.



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We made it through our first year and went home for two weeks. It was crazy manic fun. We came back renewed but also CERTAIN that we would only stay for one more year. It only took a couple of months to realize that our second year was a million times better than the first year – we knew more Korean, we knew how to explore more, we knew which restaurants to avoid, etc. I started my human trafficking blog. Ashley and I went to Japan and met Rebekah!


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I read the worst book of my life (Divergent). I struggled with the idea of staying a third year, and also looked forward to it. I wondered what would come after I finally left this country. I attempted to go to the Fireworks Festival, but after sitting on the beach guarding an area for all of my friends, it started to rain and I left. I learned about the Korean emotion called “jeong.” I met Young, who was substituting for Miss Shin for the semester, and Young and I became insta-friends. I bought my first scooter.


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Winter was whatever: cold, English Camp, boring, vacation. Chelsea and Ian left. Nikki showed up at the end of February, which was great!


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The new school year began. Ji-eun trusted me with teaching all my classes on my own (with her help, of course), and Miss Shin returned with lots of new ideas for making class better. She trusted me to start teaching a class on my own and started to utilize me better in her lessons. Our scooter was stolen. We bought a new one. Our scooter was returned. We sold it. Ashley, Nikki, Kayse, and I were in a dragon boat race with all of Ashley’s Ulsan friends.



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We prepared for Kayse to go home, and she was gracious enough to take Sasha with her. We had a murder mystery party for her going away party. I cried through a teacher dinner on the day she left. Steven and I went to Japan for our vacation. I got LASIK surgery on my eyes! Someone I know died. My last summer camp. There were some typhoons. Psy went viral. I learned how to French braid. We got to know Jayna, Charlie, and Sarah. I thought about becoming a substance abuse counselor.


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I watched the seasons begin to change and understood that it would be the last time I saw fall on these mountains. Elizabeth came for a visit, which was AMAZING. We went home for Steven’s sister’s wedding. While home, my DMACC advisor insisted I reconsider my future, and look into the MSW program at U of Iowa. We came back. I applied for grad school. I started doing Korean tutoring with Gen and Pete with an amazing Korean friend named Minja – she’s an excellent teacher.


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Kat came for a visit. I read some good books. Last winter camp. Wine Train. Got one of the only good hair cuts I’ve ever gotten in Korea. It was cold and we hibernated. Ashley left. So did Jayna, Sarah, and Charlie.


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It started to get warmer. We didn’t have many foreign friends left (only Nikki and Shikara), so I spent most of my time with Koreans (Young and Yoonjeong, Ji-eun and Yongjin, Minja). Seomyeon suddenly became the coolest place in Busan. My mom and her boyfriend Jack came for a visit! I started to sell the furniture and pack everything. I found out that I got into the MSW program, but that I would not be considered an Iowa resident (basically making it financially impossible/insane to pursue the program at this time) – that was a pretty tough day.

June 2013

Rebekah came for one more visit, and we spent the entire month packing, purging, selling, and preparing to leave. I write this on my last full day in Korea. I still can’t believe it.


I know some things and I don’t know some things… but we’re basically debt free and ready to start the next chapter!

  • reading and writing the Korean alphabet
  • speaking and listening to and in Korean (high novice/low intermediate)
  • basic HTML/CSS
  • ukelele
  • poetry memorization (eh… kinda)
  • how to roll gimbab

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This weekend we went camping, and I know this will sound melodramatic, but it was an existential experience. Maybe “existential” isn’t the right word, but it was deep and meaningful and surprising. I grew up camping and going to camps and going on adventures with my family and traveling the country and visiting national parks and swimming in rivers and riding horses and boating and hiking and seeing famous sites and getting sun burns and sweating and playing in the mud. Then I went to college and I haven’t really been outside for long periods of time since.

And especially since moving to Korea. Humidity and cold and no car and an inability to control our heat or get our apartment cold enough, blah. We just hide away a lot.

But this weekend, we went out. The sky was our ceiling and rocks were our carpet. The river was our bathtub and a fire was our kitchen. There was samgyeopsal and s’mores, a clash of camping cultures! We hiked and played badminton and met a million little Korean kids who were awestruck to see foreigners outside of their school walls. They wanted to talk to us and they climbed all over Steven.

A million memories of my childhood flooded over me. Tents and pop ups and bike gangs and swimming in Lake Lakota and huge campfires and games and singing and s’mores and food and hikes and friends and family and communal showers and outdoor movies and just being outdoors for days on end. I couldn’t believe I’d let myself not care and forget and move on.

I freaking love the mountains. I need trees and beauty and the outdoors. And it’s not like this is a decision, but that is what has always drawn me to Colorado. And I love Iowa and honestly, moving to Iowa would be easiest. But… it really shook something loose in me. Something I’ve barely recognized in my periphery. I want to be outdoors, with mountains, and warmth, forever.