Friday, February 08, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: What Else Do You Do?

Okay, even I can't read ALL the time, so I'm guessing that you folks might voluntarily shut the covers from time to time as well. What else do you do with your leisure to pass the time? Walk the dog? Knit? Run marathons? Construct grandfather clocks? Collect eggshells?

When I'm not reading, my book-related activities take up a fair chunk of time. There's hunting and gathering books. There's blogging about books. There's looking at other people's blogs to discover a new (to me) author or book. There's waiting for the student worker to bring the mail which will hopefully include even more books. There's those small moments during the week when I actively mourn The Library Situation. When the weather is good, there's walking downtown past the row of secondhand shops looking for the perfect bookcase for dorm sweet dorm. Last, but no way least, there's my brilliant book group, BOOKLEAVES.

Maybe that's not what you would call well-rounded, but I'm not really so different from other expats. Take my coworkers, for example: Work. Drink. Work. Drink. Computer games. Drink. Or: Work. Church. Work Church. Visit another church. Or, for those have found love in Korea: Girlfriend. Work. Girlfriend, girlfriend, girlfriend, girlfriend, girlfriend, girlfriend.

If I've let my life get a little lopsided regarding books, so what? There have been years, even decades when other things bit cruel chunks out of my time, and there will be years like that again, probably as soon as I leave Korea. Meanwhile, I revel in my bibliomania. People use my name and "books" and "obsession" all in the same sentence. My reply: "Have you got any books I can borrow?"

Of course there are tiny chinks in the book fortress I've let grow up around me:

1. Scrabble. I love to play Scrabble online. I play on Facebook and I play at If you go to the latter, my handle is kumohsuz. "Kumoh" is my school, and "Suz" is a variation on my first name. One of my opponents thought it meant something nasty, and kept inviting me to do things that weren't even remotely Scrabble-related.

For all that I play, I'm still not that good; I have to struggle to keep my rating in the 800s. I taught Mr. Bybee to play, and what he lacks in weird-word vocabulary, he more than makes up for in strategy. It must come from playing chess; he's not only thinking about his own moves, he's analyzing his opponent's moves and trying to predict two or three moves ahead. My dream is for him to enter a national Scrabble championship and take home all the duckies. Mr. Bybee recently purchased a Scrabble dictionary, so he's serious. He's on his way. See you on ESPN, Mr. B.

2. Food. Some of my hunting and gathering skills are diverted towards food, as in knowing where to find certain "foreigner" foods. For example: Huge blocks of cheddar or mozzerella? Hit the Costco in Daegu. Cans of Campbell's soup? Try Home Plus. Pace picante sauce? E-Mart, but only the medium kind. Pop-Tarts? The international food market in Itaewon. Sometimes. Ditto sauerkraut. Dill pickles? Lotte Mart, but they're finally starting to catch on in Korea. The rest of it? Your best bet is to make friends with someone in the military who has commissary privileges.

But I have two moods when it comes to food: Sometimes I want to improve my Korean cooking skills. So far, I can make a few simple dishes, most involving kimchi. When this mood strikes, I have to search out ingredients, which means looking them up in my Korean-English dictionary, then systematically going down each aisle of the grocery store and carefully comparing the labels with my vocabulary sheet, and finally going home and carefully studying my favorite cookbook, Korean Cooking Made Easy. (I was going to insert a YouTube video here with excellent step-by-step instructions on how to make cabbage kimchi, but am not quite sure how to do this

3. TV, Movies. I have never been the sort of bookworm to turn my nose up at television. I love it. I miss it. I never see my 2 favorites, "Jeopardy!" and "The Young And The Restless" anymore, but since moving to Korea, I've become enamoured of shows put out by Showtime and HBO, which I was too cheap to include in the cable package back home. I'll buy the shows as they come out on DVD, season by season. Some of my favorites, like "Deadwood", have never appeared here past the first season. The only series I've been disappointed in is "Grey's Anatomy." I guess you're either a "House" person or a "Grey's" person. My students really like it, though.

One of my best purchases was made last winter vacation when I sent Pablo, CanadaBoy and my son out to buy me an all-region DVD player. There's a correlation between this purchase and the falling-off of my weekly trips to the local cinema to see the latest Hollywood releases.

I'm watching "Dexter" right now, but I'm also in a Korean movie mood, getting movies that have English subtitles at the local DVD rental. Many new movies come out in Korea every year, and my students give me advice on what movies to watch. Some of my favorites are: "Marathon", "The Brotherhood Of War", "Oldboy", "Oasis", and a sweet romantic comedy that takes place mostly in a hakwon called "Please Teach Me English". The movie I have liked least so far is "Champion", a biopic of boxer Duk Koo Kim. When watching Korean movies, I enjoy spotting things I recognize as Korean culture but are now everyday sights, learning new things about Korean culture, and overall, just the different look and sensibility of their cinema compared to Hollywood.

4. Expat. Actually, just being an expat takes up a lot of time, because the everyday activities you would breeze through at home, like going to the bank or post office take more time and effort because of the language barrier. Living in a different culture is fun, but sometimes exhausting. Every time I set foot outside my door, I'm not just me, I represent all Americans. Finally, most expats are in one stage or another of that endless cycle known as culture shock. Happily, now that I'm working on my 4th year here, I know that the frustrating and maddening stages aren't a permanent thing, and that there's always someone who knows exactly how you're feeling.

Looking at the list, this seems like a rather sedentary life, but as long my office remains a brisk 5-minute walk away from the dorm and I remain car-less, I'm in no danger of becoming a completely inert lump. I'm gonna haul it up out of this chair in a few minutes. My second non-book obssession is beckoning me. Food mood? Nachos!


darkorpheus said...

I'm definitely a House M.D. person. Can't bring myself to like Grey's Anatomy - found it whiny.

Have you watched Oldboy yet? I caught the director's Revenge Trilogy - and my favourite is Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. A far better tale of revenge than Kill Bill any time.

I watched the TV series Dae Jang-geum just for the actress Lee Yeong-ae (who's also in Sympathy for Lady Vengeance). My whole family was hooked on that TV series. Who knew? :)

Literary Feline said...

So much of what I like to do is book related too, even if it's not reading. :-)

I admit I'm a Grey's Anatomy person. I have never actually watched House though, so it's probably not fair to claim allegiance to one over the other until I do. Maybe someday. House just never really interested me.

Hubby and I watch a lot of TV shows via DVD. It's so convenient. This is the first year we've ever subscribed to HBO (it's the final season of one of our favorite shows--one we watched on DVD up until now).

Anonymous said...

OMG! I loove Scrabble!! What's the site you go to? was a business site as far as I could tell.

And I loove Dexter. Have you gotten to Season 2? Apparently that show is based on Darkly Dreaming Dexter, which I think is a novella? It would probably be an interesting read...

Isabella K said...

Look me up on Facebook if you want someone new to play Scrabble with. I'm bloody addicted.

Bybee said...

Dark Orpheus,
I liked Oldboy, but haven't seen the others in the trilogy. Sympathy For Lady Vengeance is definitely in my queue of must-watch Korean movies. "Sympathy/Lady Vengeance" has a gorgeous movie poster which I covet.

Literary Feline,
I was going to just be a wiseguy when I did this question, but I read your thoughtful answer and decided to be a little bit thoughtful as well...well, as much as I can be...thanks!

I made a mistake:
I fixed it in my blog post.

I'm awaiting friend confirmation. Let's play!

Susan said...

Why can't I be brilliant and pithy in my answers like you? Why didn't I say 'making lists of books to read, going online and finding new books to put on lists, reading what others have been reading," since this takes up a chunk now of each day? You have such a fun way of exploring books and your world! I play the real Scrabble, I just don't have time for the online game at the moment, or I'd invite you to play. Not that my husband and I have played since Holly-Anne was born (age 5 now).....

Eva said...

Your thoughts on being an ex-pat are spot on Bybee! Very impressed. :) I'm not a big scrabble person, but I do join you in dislining Grey's Anatomy-I saw about five minutes of an eposide that recapped the entire season, and I just thought, "Oh-it's like General Hospital, but prime-time." I used to love House, but the new season with new assistants is just annoying me.

Anonymous said...

I've been a huge fan of Hugh Laurie since 'a little bit of Fry and Laurie'. I still find it quite amazing that his American accent sounds so good, well at least to me! His novels aren't half bad either.

I've acquired you Janet Frame books!! I sent you an email earlierin the week, hope you got it?

kookie said...

I seriously might have to open a Facebook account just so I can play Scrabble with you. I get really tired of losing to my would be fun to lose to you for a change. :D

Nyssaneala said...

Ooh, Scrabble online. I'll have to check that out.

You sum up the whole expat thing very well!

Tara said...

Me too - all those non-reading yet book-related activities. I imagine the expat stuff can be exhausting at times. I watch a little TV - Grey's Anatomy - but to tell you the truth I don't miss it with this writer's strike.

Bybee said...


That's exactly what Grey's feels like to me: who's shagging who? The only bright spot in the show is Sandra Oh, but I hate how they made her all silly and conflicted about marrying that one doctor...can't remember his name, but the actor was booted off the show for calling the gay actor names.

Yes, I got your email.
I've watched a lot of Fry and Laurie skits on youtube. I didn't realize Hugh Laurie was a brit at first. When my coworker told me, I argued with him!

That would be so much fun if you'd come play...doubt you'd lose, though!

Yeah, come play...the more the merrier!

Even though I grumble a little about being an expat, I really like it. It fits my military brat upbringing. I hope the writer's strike ends this week. Don't see why the suits have to be such jerks to them!