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But that would apparently put me in the minority. According to an article in today’s New York Times, people in L.A. are flocking to Kogi Korean BBQ-To-Go, a food vendor that announces its locale via Twitter. (Oh yeah, I’m on Twitter now. Follow me or something.) Now, tacos are a wonderful thing. Why would anyone want to go and ruin them with something as gross as kimchi? Maybe I’m biased. I’ve only had kimchi a few times, so I have not grown to love it. Nor will I ever, as apparently it is made with shrimp brine, and I’m a Jew, so none of that traif for me.

You might ask then, Melissa, what do you eat?

Well, faithful fans, let me tell you. When I’m not cursed with peritonsillar abscess (Note: George Washington died from it) and can eat solid food, I fair pretty well in the food department. But in a country dubbed by many English teachers as kimchiland, where the pork and squid are ever-present, a girl can only eat so many things. Every Monday, Erin and I (and whoever else we coerce into coming with us) go out for Indian food in nearby Dongdaemun. I’ve spent more evenings at Indian restaurants in my five months in Korea (good God, has it been that long?) than in my 21 years in America. But now, I’m hooked. So whenever I wind up back in the States for good, expect to indulge me.


Also, expect me to order something so ridiculously spicy that I break a sweat trying to eat it and down half a dozen glasses of water (at least) in failed attempts to cool down my mouth.

We also have our Mexican nights, our Italian nights, etc. Basically, we do whatever we can to avoid the food in the cafeteria, which usually also involves avoiding Korean food. But if your meals generally consisted of processed pork and white rice in some sort of sauce, wouldn’t you do the same?

Luckily, we here at SEV have been blessed with someone very special. His name is Donny, and he hired Erin and me back in August (so obviously he’s got fantastic taste). Donny knows some great places to get a decent meal, even in barren Suyu. Last week, Donny convinced some of the teachers to go to a local restaurant for Korean barbecue and soju (oh, that potent, potent soju…). Typical Korean BBQ uses pork, but this particular place served meat. Donny said it was some of the best beef he’s had, and I’ve got to agree with him. With a price-tag only slightly less than Mercado, and the obvious plus of being located in the neighborhood, this place is pretty swell.

Donny tends the meat...and the soju

Donny tends the meat...and the soju

While the beef cooks on the grill, we eat soup and salad...Korean-style

While the beef cooks on the grill, we eat soup and salad...Korean-style

David models the final product--beefy deliciousness

David models the final product--beefy goodness

But of course, a night out with Donny–or any Korean, for that matter, wouldn’t be complete without some soju. Soju always seems like a great idea in theory, but in actuality, well, she’s quite a bitch. Let’s just put it this way: Nobody feels good the morning after drinking soju. Nobody.

However, this doesn’t stop us. Donny came up with his own concoction–one part Coke, one part soju and one part beer–and made us all down a glass.

David was the first victim


Unfortunately for perhaps all of us, the shotglasses holding the soju on top of the Coke got stuck together, and the drink was an epic fail. Donny insisted that we were doing it wrong, and to prove that we were idiots, made himself a drink.

Now that you’ve witnessed it, I think we can all agree that “Donny’s Drink” won’t be a bestseller anytime soon.

While Donny’s Drink may have been a flop, it goes without saying that I’ll be returning to the restaurant–the food was absolutely incredible, and not just as far as Korean food goes. I would probably shell out the same amount of money (21,000 won, which is roughly $17) for the meal. Of course, that’s provided my Korean friends don’t try to make me drink any more crazy concoctions…


Today, I looked up the weather for the first week of March in Cebu City, Philippines, where I will be spending my vacation next week. I thought I would spend the week tanning on the beach, basking in the sun’s warm rays.

Well, incorrect.

Thunderstorms every day.  FML


I don’t even know how to begin this post, so I’m just gonna hit the ground running. I watched a movie with some friends on Thursday, and after coming back to my apartment, realized that my throat was a bit sore. Felt a little worse Friday, and by Saturday I was in full-fledged sick mode. Body aches, sore throat, nasal congestion–the works. I chugged water like it was my job, but even the H2O influx wasn’t enough to stave off the sickness that was about to coup de my body. Managed to go to the local medicine man (OK, so it’s a pharmacy, but like, a really ghetto one where I point to what hurts and the guy at the counter gives me drugs), but the crap he gave me (and that I paid four bucks for) didn’t do a thing to make me feel better. Sunday wasn’t much better–I managed to eat a sandwich and pasta and drink two cups of tea, and that was my nourishment for the day.

This morning was perhaps the worst. My throat felt like it was closing up and my tongue seemed as though it had swelled to twice its size. I couldn’t speak normally and was concerned about calling out sick to work, because I didn’t think my Korean boss would be able to understand me through my cotton mouth. Couldn’t get a hold of her, but did call our head teacher, who told me to take it easy today and go to the doctor.

Which brings me to the clinic. Now, when I think clinic, I imagine Izzie Stevens and George O’Malley and a ton of interns who mix up patient tests. Here in Korea, clinics are nothing like that, at least not the one in Suyu, and perhaps that is for the best. Here’s how my morning went: I walk in and hand my medical card to the receptionist, who immediately escorts me back into the doctor’s office. His English is, while not great, semi-decent. He’s been dealing with SEV English teachers for awhile and is used to strange, sick foreigners in his office. After a quick check down my throat, he deduces that I need antibiotics and a shot. A shot, you say? Yes, a shot in the tush. So off I go to the next room, where I drop trou and lay face-down on the bed. Once that’s over and done with, I’m immediately ushered into another room, where I have to breathe into some weird oxygen apparatus for two minutes (EDIT: My med school friend Kevin tells me that this machine is called an albuterol nebulizer). I’ve done this at the clinic before, but never understood why. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Korea, it is that you just do things without asking why, because even if it was explained to you, it probably wouldn’t make any sense. Don’t believe me? Well, I live in a country where even medical professionals believe that “fan death” exists, and if that isn’t the stupidest thing in the world, I don’t know what is.

After my two minutes with the machine, I head back up the reception desk, where the doctor comes out and charges me 3,000 won ($2.50) for his services. Hollerrrrrrrrr, cheap health care! Here’s how the rest of the conversation goes:

Me: So, what do I have?
Doctor: Three thousand won, please.
Me: Right, but what am I sick with?
Doctor: Sick with?
Me: Yes, what is sickness called?
Doctor: Sickness called?
Me: What is name of sick?

And you all wonder why my English has gone to pot.

Then I find out that the name of sick is tonsillitis. Awesome. I haven’t had tonsillitis since my 19th birthday, but I recall it being one of the most miserable experiences of my life (clearly not as awful as mono, the 18th birthday gift from hell). So the doctor writes me a prescription to take downstairs to the pharmacy, where I pay 2,600 (TWO BUCKS) for antibiotics. Take that, Nekos Pharmacy, where I almost shelled out one hundred bucks over the summer for a week’s worth of antibiotics.

I spent the rest of the morning in bed watching the Academy Awards and patting myself on the back for watching more Oscar-nominated films during the past week than I had all year. Took a four-hour nap in the afternoon, woke up in time to grab some dinner at an Indian restaurant with friends. Oh yeah, by the way, I hadn’t eaten anything at all since the night before. That’s what happens when you can’t eat solid food and have run out of soup and LIVE IN KOREA WHERE THERE ARE NO PARENTS OR ROOMMATES TO TAKE CARE OF YOU. Right, yeah.

So today I definitely started reminiscing about my month-long flu-turned-bronchitis saga last February, which would have escalated to pneumonia had I not demanded that the health center give me the right medication. Before they got me on the right stuff, I was taking seven different drugs (one more than Heath Ledger when he died), including anti-nausea tablets that are usually given to cancer patients. By the way, none of those helped. Way to go, University of Maryland Health Center.

Wow, I forgot how bitter I was about that whole thing. Anyway, now I’m home, having eaten semi-solid dal makahni and ice cream. I didn’t eat a whole lot of it, but that’s what leftovers are for, right? My bum is rather sore and slightly bruised (that’s what she said), but hopefully will be better in the morning. I’ll be chugging water until I go to bed, in hopes that I wake up tomorrow in less pain than I did today.

Unsure if I’ll be going in to work tomorrow. I think I’ll play it by ear. Part of me really doesn’t want to miss another day, especially at the end of the month, when I can’t make it up. But another part of me knows how badly I need to get better, especially since I’m going on vacation in less than a week. So we’ll see. Only one thing is for certain at this point: Antibiotics give me crazy dreams, so I cannot wait to go to sleep tonight.

Yeah, so Valentine’s Day has come and gone. What did I do on this very special day of love? Well, I spent the day with my one true love–grammar. That’s right, I was working last Saturday. One weekend a month, we get kids who are sponsored by a Korean bank. These kids, the KB kids, are generally a bit higher-level than most of the students who come to SEV. But they also think they know what they can and cannot get away with. Case in point: I had two boys in my class who were passing a piece of paper back and forth. I knew something was up about half an hour into the class, so I took the note, which was all in Korean, and brought it to one of the staff to translate. He started laughing after reading the first line, and told me that the kids were dropping the f-bomb all over the note. He took the duo out of the room, and when the boys came back, they were noticeably more well-behaved. That’s one of the amazing thing about the way things work in Korea–even a tiny, sweet, 20-year-old Korean girl can reduce rowdy preteens to tears in mere seconds.
So yes, I taught grammar on Valentine’s Day. Sexy, eh? That night, I kept it pretty low-key and watched a movie with friends, as I’d gone out the night before with coworkers and definitely didn’t have it in me to do that again.

Valentine’s Day in Korea is much, much different than Valentine’s Day in America. Shopping malls aren’t decked out in red and pink, restaurants don’t book up weeks and months in advance and people don’t freak out about having (or not having) someone to share the day with. As for myself, I had a valentine who happens to live thousands of miles away and who (admittedly) likes planes and cameras more than he likes me. I think you’re going to have to find yourself a new valentine in 2010, Jon. You’re fired.

Here is how the day works in Korea: On February 14, girls are supposed to give their boyfriends chocolate. Then on March 14, which the Koreans call “White Day,” boyfriends give their sweeties some candy. (Eww, that was so corny.) A month after that, on April 14, single people get together to celebrate Black Day and eat noodles in a black bean paste sauce.

Reuter’s Jon Herskovitz wrote a nice little piece on Black Day last year, so check it out.

All I have to say is, if that stuff tastes anything like the black bean sauce they have here at school, then single or not, I think I’ll pass.

Unsure if it is due to the weather, a child stealing my coat yesterday (though I eventually got it back), half my kids relocating their fingers to their noses or–even grosser–the kids who stick their hands down their pants for the entire class, but I’m sick again.  Just feeling out of it with a really sore throat, but that’s enough to bum anyone out.  I’ve only got two hours of programming this afternoon, so I think I’ll take an absurdly long nap after that.  Sadly, today we’re saying goodbye to Tobey, one of the Korean staff.  The goodbye party starts at 9 p.m. and I’m determined to be in top shape for it.

Things to expect from this blog in the next week:

-My trip to the Noryangjin fish market and subsequent sashimi experience.

-Hiking up to Seoul Tower to get a sweet look at the city.

-Korean Valentine’s Day.

-The Gustav Klimt exhibit I’m going to this weekend (woooo favorite artist!!!!!!)

All in good time, my friends.  All in good time.

…totally goes into this blog.  Or at least, it will once I get back from the Philippines!  Our school is shutting down for the first week of March, when all of the pubic schools start up again, so all of the teachers have a nice little break.  Erin and I decided to take advantage of the week and booked tickets to Cebu, one of the 17 provinces of the Philippines.  At the suggestion of several friends, we’ve decided to forgo Manila and head non-stop to Cebu.

Sun, fun and awesome are just two weeks away!

Surely by now, you in the States have heard about Nadya Suleman, the world-famous drag queen who is failing in her attempts to channel Angelina Jolie. Oh, and she is also the mother of 14 children, including newborn octuplets. Right, point made.

En route to dinner yesterday, while on the bus with some of the Korean staff from school, I tried to learn a few more words in the native tongue. Erin asked Rachel what “japon-gee” meant, because one little boy kept repeating the word yesterday. Translation: vending machine.

Immediately after this conversation, we started talking about Ms. Suleman and her overactive birth canal. Then I asked Rachel how to say “baby” in Korean. Baby = “agee.”

Therefore, Ms. Suleman is an “agee japon-gee,” or a “baby vending machine.” See the things I’m learning here?

Agee japon-gee joins the ranks of hajima (stop), ya (pay attention), aniyo (no), mulayo (I don’t know), anja juseyo (sit down please) and my personal favorite, setchegee (line-cutter). I think it’s pretty clear that I work with kids, isn’t it?

So last month I went to Japan. Remember that? It’s a wonder I do, what with everything that has been going on as of late. I keep meaning to update, but always find myself distracted by one thing or another. But here I sit, showered and wide awake as the clock nears 11 p.m. The only other thing I need to do tonight is e-mail my grandmother so she doesn’t think I’ve forgotten about her. (EDIT: After typing that sentence, I decided to call her on Skype. Success! I have not been forgotten about and she was delighted to hear from me.)

Now that contacting the Solomon family matriarch has been done, I can finally, finally write all about Japan.

So the morning after my first (exhausting) day in Japan, Nadav and I headed into Tokyo to see some sights. First, we met up in Shibuya, one of the trendiest areas of Tokyo and also the location of Nadav’s university. As Wikipedia will tell you, one of the highlights of Shibuya is a gigantic intersection with six different crosswalks. Every few minutes, all the auto traffic comes to a halt and each pedestrian light turns green. Hundreds of people then have about 60 seconds to cross without getting hit (insert joke from one of my former roommates here) when the traffic signals turn green. I took a video from one of the street corners. Not the most thrilling video I’ve shot, but then again, when you’re filming crosswalks, how exciting could it get?

So that’s the crazy intersection. Also in Shibuya is a statue of a dog named Hachikō.  Hachikō’s owner was a professor at a local university and every day, the dog would greet his owner at the Shibuya Station.  One day, the professor suffered a stroke and died, never making it back to Shibuya Station.  Yet day after day, Hachikō trekked to the station to meet his owner.  Touched by the dog’s loyalness, a statute was erected in his honor.

Hachikō, up close and personal

Hachikō, up close and personal

After meeting Nadav, we headed over to Asakusa (pronounced “Ah-sock-sa”), where we wandered around the market in search of some cheap eats.  Though we didn’t find any restaurants that weren’t ripping off tourists, we did enjoy the area around the Asakusa shrine.  There were a ton of outdoor markets, similar to the Mahane Yehuda shuk in Jerusalem.  It was so nice to be in such a large, public environment without the smell of fermented cabbage and the sight and sound of old men hocking and spitting every which way.


After a ton of walking, we decided to hit up a local supermarket and pick up a relatively inexpensive lunch.  We got tuna sushi and made ourselves comfortable on a ledge outside a nearby hotel.  Could we get more hobo? I think not.  Anyway, it should be said that up until that afternoon, the only sushi I had ever had was at a Super Bowl party years earlier (and I think I spat it out).  This sushi, on the other hand, was absolutely fantastic.  I was hooked, and considering lunch cost only about five bucks, I’d say that sushi was an alright vice to have (at least while in Japan).

Sushi on the street, because I'm a hobo.

Sushi on the street, because I'm a hobo.

After our lunch, we set off to check out Sensō-ji, a Shinto shrine in Asakusa.  The shrine grounds were absolutely incredible and well-kept, despite the throngs of tourists packing the area daily.  Despite fears of my camera dying, I got a few cool shots of the shrine and surrounding area.




After a couple hours walking around the market and shrine, we put my (well, my friend Paul’s) Lonely Planet guide to good use.  We walked to nearby Ueno to check out a big park that was supposed to be fantastic.  Yet again, I was not let down.  Of course, it’s hard to be let down when you’re constantly chugging Dr. Pepper.  I’m telling you, between inexpensive sushi and Dr. Pepper, Tokyo is Vice City.  So when we got to the park, we walked up a hill and took in the view below us.


As the sun began to set, we walked around the park and caught up some more.  Nadav and I hadn’t seen each other for eight months, so it was nice to chat about school and mutual friends and gossip about our time in Israel the year before.  As we were walking, we came across a gorgeous pond on the outskirts of the park.  It literally took my breath away.


As darkness fell, Nadav decided that evening would be the perfect time to visit Electric Town in Akihabara, an area of Tokyo largely frequented by anime/manga fans.  I know what you’re thinking–this is totally not up my alley.  You’re probably right.  However, you can’t hate on a neighborhood where a girl can play some SuperMario on a street corner.


On the other hand, feel free to hate on a place that has an abundance of anime porn.


Our bodies absolutely exhausted, we finally decided to call it a night after our jaunt through Electric Town.

The next day, we headed into Tokyo to walk around for a bit before indulging in some all-you-can-eat pizza, followed by more walking around Shibuya.  We tried to make it to the Meiji Jingu shrine, but it closed earlier than we thought, so we headed back into Shibuya.  At that point, Nadav had to go teach a class, so I did some more exploring on my own.  Flash-forward a couple hours: My stomach grumbling and my feet aching, I decided that I needed to find someplace to sit and rest my weary legs and get some nourishment.  Only one problem-I speak absolutely no Japanese.  Somehow, I found a quaint little noodle shop that served decently-priced food.  Here’s how it goes: You walk in, insert money into a vending machine, then press the button with the picture of the food that you want.  You get a receipt and hand it to the cook, who gives you a bowl full of whatever you ordered within minutes.  It’s all very futuristic, if you ask me.  Finally my bowl came, and despite my hunger, I could only eat half of the contents.  Apparently noodles and broth are incredibly filling.

The counter, with my Lonely Planet in the foreground

The counter, with my Lonely Planet in the foreground

The cook whipping up my dinner

The cook whipping up my dinner

Half-eaten deliciousness

Half-eaten deliciousness

The next day, Nadav promised me some of the most amazing sushi I would ever eat. But first, some sightseeing!

We trekked up to the Meiji Jingu shrine, which was everything I expected and more.  It was a small patch of calm and serenity nestled inside the hustle and bustle of one of the world’s most advanced societies.  The buildings, meant as a place for people to pay their respects to Emperor Meiji and his wife, were  beyond spectacular.  If you could block out the trendy Japanese people walking around and the occasional train whistles coming from nearby, you could easily picture the shrine as it was in the early 20th century.


Yeah, I'm there giving the peace sign.


Handwashing before entering the shrine

Handwashing before entering the shrine

After we left the shrine, Nadav and I met up with his friend Justin and headed over to a tiny little place in Shibuya.  The restaurant has a conveyor belt that all the sushi comes out on.  Food is priced according to plate, so certain pieces will come out on specially colored plates.  I’ll admit that I went a bit camera crazy, but only because the sushi was SO GOOD.

Tuna, avocado and mayo

Tuna, avocado and I like taking pictures of food. So what?

The best things in life come out on conveyor belts.

It is official: The best things in life come out on conveyor belts.

This was the only video taken that contained appropriate audio.  Unfortunately, it was also the most boring.  But it’s past midnight and I don’t feel like censoring the audio on the other videos I took.

The obligatory "we're in a mirror!" shot

The obligatory "we're in a mirror!" shot



After lunch, Justin and I headed over to Ikebukuro to check out a planetarium I wanted to see.  I kind of have a thing for planetariums, and the one in Ikebukuro got rave reviews in Lonely Planet.  Sure enough, the show was awesome, even though I didn’t understand a single word.  After the show, Justin headed to a nearby pub to meet some friends for a drink and I went to…um…a place called Nekobukuro.  I’m not sure what the translation is, but basically, you throw down 600 yen (about eight bucks) and you get to play with cats for as long as you want.  I love cats.  No, seriously.  I LOVE cats.  It didn’t matter the price, I was gonna do it.  Turns out, the cats are so used to being fawned over and lavished that they didn’t care to play all that much.  They just lazed around and acted as though they owned the place.  Took some photos, but I must say, my two cats at home (yes, both of them) are eons better than the ones at Nekobukuro.



So that was the cat place.  After that, I met Justin and his friends for happy hour, then we walked around in search of some quality yakitori.  The first place was a total flop–the only chickeny thing they served was chicken liver.  I did get a quick video of the cooks, but I turned my camera sidways, as I have a tendency to do.  It’s worth it to watch all 16 seconds of the video though, just for the surprise twist one of the cooks throws in at the end.

With the help of Lonely Planet, we found a second yakitori place.  This place was absolutely fantastic.  I was probably full about halfway through, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me.


After the second restaurant, I decided I wanted more sushi.  Luckily, the guys indulged me (that’s what she said) and we found a small standing sushi bar nearby.  Earlier that day, Justin had tried to convince me to eat this fatty tuna sushi, but I flat-out refused.  While at the sushi bar, he bought me a piece as my going-away gift.  OK, he was right–it was the most amazing thing I’d eaten in months.  Well, the story only gets better from here.  Turns out you can have the top of the tuna blow-torched.  I never thought I’d say that fish melted in my mouth, but folks, the sushi absolutely melted in my mouth.  I think the only word to describe it is “divine.”

Regular sushi...

Regular sushi...

Some blow-torching action....

Some blow-torching action....

And the end result!

And the end result!

And this, my friends, is where the pictures end.  After a 13-hour journey, I made it back to my apartment in Seoul.  It was wonderful to get out of the bubble here and experience a different Asian society.  It is easy to think that all Asians are the same and that all Asian cultures are the same, but I learned how untrue that was.  Every society is different.  Each one has its pros and cons, but no two are the same.  I came back from Tokyo energized and eager to explore the rest of Asia.

I just want to take a second to thank Nadav again, for hosting me in his apartment and serving as a wonderful tour guide for the week.  It was, to say the least, a trip I’ll never forget.

On a more somber note, my last post was about Ken Joseph, my Scholars associate director.  It was a tough weekend, but talking to friends both here in Korea and in College Park helped me to get through it.  I’m still waiting for it to feel real, but that moment hasn’t come yet.  The Diamondback had a good obit today, but I’ve come to realize that no words can sum Ken up.  I consider myself extremely lucky to have known him in the context I did, and can only hope that whoever takes his place has even a fraction of the heart and charisma he had.

I hate the word mentor. It cheapens the unique relationship that two individuals have. Why would I want something that millions of people have? (Except the iPhone. I want an iPhone.) When I think of mentors, I think of old men hunched over their desks, engaging youth in philosophical discussion. Or I think of high schoolers playing basketball with little kids from a bad part of town. Perhaps part of my disdain for the term stems from the fact that my mentor was nothing like either one of those examples.

That being said, Ken Joseph, the admissions coordinator of UMD’s College Park Scholars program, passed away suddenly Thursday.

Coming into Maryland as a freshman, it was easy to get lost in the sea of nervous, awkward 18 year olds. But walking into my first Media, Self and Society colloquium, all of that nervousness dissolved. Waiting for us in the room were Ken and Dr. Kalyani Chadha, who greeted us with, “Hello, Melissa,” “Hello, Sarah” and on and on. They spent the entire summer memorizing our pictures, just to be able to greet us all by name on the first day of class.

Even though Ken was the admissions coordinator for all of the Scholars programs, he had a special interest in Media, Self and Society. He was at every class, providing commentary, witticisms and occasionally tubs of ice cream, much to the joy of the 80 Media scholars.

This morning when I woke up, I checked the Facebook group that was created more than four years ago, “Friends of Ken Joseph.” Ken was incredibly anti-Facebook and was completely embarrassed when he first found out about the group. When he discovered it, he took the time to write an e-mail to all of the Media scholars in the group — and by the way, it should be said that all of Ken’s e-mails were legendary (I’ve got three dozen of them saved on my computer). Freshman year, we would print them out and tape them up on the walls because they were completely absurd. Here’s part of Ken’s reaction to the Facebook group:

“I’m flattered … I think it’s hilarious … And, I’m a bit scared. After all, where can I go from here? How can I possibly hope to surpass having one of you refer to me as a “pimp?” (please, Matt, don’t answer that) I’m afraid that life as I know it can get no better, and given that I plan to live for a at least a few more years, what do I have to look forward to? It’s not like the Tigers are ever going to be in contention for a pennant again. It’s not like Bill Gates is going to decide to give me a significant percentage of his fortune (of course, if he tried to transfer it to my account electronically, my bank would probably have to download some sort of MS Windows Service Pack 3 Update, which would promptly crash the bank’s computers and delete the meager funds that I do possess). It’s not like Ricky Martin is ever going to rejoin Menudo. Uh, let’s just forget that last part, shall we? So, I guess it’s all downhill from here. Perhaps next I’ll achieve cult status (no matter what I say, don’t drink the grape Kool-aid). White robes and flying saucers for everyone!”

Ken was a lot of things to a lot of people. Freshman year, he knew I was looking for a job, and found me one in the Scholars office, where I worked for the next year and a half. A year after he got me the job, he encouraged me to work fewer hours in order to take an internship on Capitol Hill. Ken was always the one who would listen with open ears, and who could provide sound, adult advice while seeing the world through a 20 year old’s eyes. Even after I graduated, he would occasionally e-mail or instant message me to see how things were going. It always brought a smile to my face to see his “Out of my office………and my mind” away message.

I thought about Ken a lot this past week. Kids from the orphanage were here again, and as usual, driving the teachers up the walls. The first time we had orphans here, in my exasperated state I put up a nasty away message about them. Ken saw it and e-mailed me a friendly warning that my boss or superiors may see it so I should be careful. He went on to ask how I was enjoying Korea, yada yada yada. I didn’t read the e-mail until several months later; he had sent it to my UMD e-mail address, which I stopped checking once I switched to Gmail. I kept meaning to respond, but never did.

I don’t really know what else to say. When I found out (at 2 a.m. Korea time), I called the Scholars office and talked to some of the people who I had worked with and who also were close with him. I also frantically called Erin’s cell phone until she picked up. After talking to Erin, we both went online and started telling people from our program. It was bittersweet–it was nice to get back in touch with some of them, having not spoken to them in years. I just wish it wasn’t for this reason.

Ken was a wonderful, unique person. He taught me not to take things too seriously (which might account for the Cs I got in some of my classes), and, as we learned in kindergarten, to be nice to everyone. Typing these words, it doesn’t feel real; it’s only when I Skype with someone or hear a voice that I lose it and start crying again.

If Ken could see everything that’s happened in the past day, all the fuss being made, I think he’d hate all of the attention being drawn to him.

And he’d probably send us an e-mail about it.

Possibly the worst photo of either one of us.  I kept stealing his camera when I was volunteering at the 2005 Service Day.  I'm glad he decided not to delete this.

Possibly the worst photo of either one of us. I kept stealing his camera when I was volunteering at the 2005 Service Day. I'm glad he decided not to delete this.

At our Media happy hour a few weeks before graduation.  Ken doesn't drink.  I do.  Obviously.

At our Media happy hour a few weeks before graduation.

*Stolen from Erin*...Ken made an effort to find as many Media scholars before the main commencement ceremony.

Ken made an effort to find as many Media scholars before the main commencement ceremony.

Ken, you were a blessing to those of us who were lucky enough to know you. You had a profound impact on so many of our college experiences, and none of us will be the same without you.

Sorry that I haven’t written all about Japan just yet. I had a busy weekend, packed full of sightseeing and Anthony Bourdain-esque activities (which will be blogged about eventually, I swear). Plus, we got about 150 orphans today, and those children are absolutely exhausting. Hoping for a decent night’s sleep tonight so that I’ll have the energy to update tomorrow after work. Hope you all are doing well, wherever you might be and whatever you might be doing.