Stiff by Mary Roach

Type: non-fiction

Page Count: 303

Received by: found it in a box of books Steven had from college

Started reading: 1 August 2013

Finished reading: 7 August 2013

Interest level: 7 – Everyone who knows me has an inkling that I’m obsessed with death. I thought I’d love this book, but it was a little more scientific/historical than I envisioned. To be fair, I’m not sure what I should have been envisioning, but it was still fairly entertaining.

Recommendation level: 6

TTBR Synopsis: I bet you don’t really have any idea what happens to your body when you donate it after death…




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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And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

Type: fiction

Page Count: 404

Received by: bought it at King Soopers

Started reading: 15 July 2013

Finished reading: 25 July 2013

Interest level: 8 – It was good, but each chapter is from a different perspective, meaning you’re jumping around so much that you sometimes get lost or lose interest. But still good.

Recommendation level: 7

TTBR Synopsis: One tragedy. Many lives. Afghanistan, France, Pakistan, U.S.A., Greece

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!

Photo on 6-19-13 at 10.45 AM

Hello! ~ kimi teacher!

my name is Lee ga yean.

teacher is very kind.

I’m Here your go America news.

I’m very sad.

teacher is very happy teaching.

I am very fun English.

Please, don’t go away.

Dongpyeong There is some money left.

We are together study. ~

your going is I’m very sad English study

😦 I’m sad. ~ Please, don’t go away.

Please ~

I love kimi teacher. – Lee go yeoan –

Dear World,

This will be the second time in the last 3 years that I will be moving abroad. Trans-Pacific. Changing zip codes, changing phone numbers, changing time zones, changing languages, changing everything. Shedding all my furniture, half of my worldly possessions, and almost everything that I would cobble together as “normal.”

It is not a pleasant experience.

The last time I did this, we sold almost everything. The bed. The desk. The TV. The couch (THAT BEAUTIFUL COUCH!). The computer. The futon. The entertainment center. The chair, the dresser, the end table, and the dining room set went into a friend’s garage. Anything not traveling abroad went into storage. Everything going with us had to fit within 4 bags at less than 50 pounds. And I thought that was hard.

But it wasn’t, not really. Because I wasn’t saying goodbye to my stuff, or my friends or family. Not really. They were always with me, on Facebook or e-mail. They were home whenever I went back on vacation, and they would still be there when I finally returned from Korea.

This time, it’s so, so different. I’ve lived here for three years. I picked up a serious set of language skills for a language that will have very little use to me in America (especially in the mid-west). Sure, I had to shed my furniture and many worldly things again, and who cares? But the relationships I’m leaving behind… well, I’m really leaving them behind. I have many, many Korean friends now, and it will be very difficult if not impossible to see them any time soon, if ever again. They can’t really communicate with  me via e-mail because they aren’t comfortable communicating very well in written form. We communicate by talking, by drawing pictures, by body language, by quickly looking up words as we go. That can’t be done from a distance. That’s not going to happen anymore.

That’s a heavy sadness to carry around.

With most of our things already packed, with furniture being bought daily, with friends coming by to raid our cabinets, cupboards, and crannies, we’re feeling less connected here. We mailed things home, we are canceling the phones and the internet and the utilities, we are unregistering our scooter, we are snipping all the tethers. In that regard, every day is difficult to get through. It’s like everything around us reminds us that we no longer belong here. It’s time to go.

But my relationships – to people, to a society, to a language, to this very specific form of adaptability – where does it go? What happens to it? And what happens to me? Where do I go from here?

And here’s where I get very, very emo. I’ve lived abroad for three years, and for three years my friends from back home were incredibly strong and kind to me. They sent me mail, letters, Skyped with me, sent me messages, kept me up to date on their lives, and didn’t forget about me. It’s been amazing, and I’ll never be ungrateful or forget that. But in the last month, it’s like all communication from back home has dried up. Right, not all – I’ve gotten the occasional, “Are you ready to come home?” and “How are you feeling?” from a friend or acquaintance. But my closest friends, it’s like summer hit, and blam, they have literally disappeared. I’ve messaged them, I’ve called them, I’ve tried to Skype with them, but all I get are answering machines and “Seen” checkmarks, but no replies. I know, it’s life, people are busy, it happens – I do understand that. I don’t take it personally, and I know I can’t expect people to always be extending themselves around the world for me. But actually, these last few weeks may be some of the most emotional and difficult days of living abroad. I just wish my friends were more available to make that transition easier.

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