Jessica Moves to Korea

EDIT EDIT: I did my first spoken word reading in Korea last night at a bar in KSU called Cafe Radio. It was so great to be back in front of a microphone reading my words again. When I was there, I was surprised by how much I had missed the concept of reading poetry in general. Of course, I miss Barley Rhymes and Hops on Birch, because they are populated and run by the best people in the world.

As it turns out, though, I also miss just sharing my work. I miss having a reason to put poetry together. I miss the bravery it takes to stand up in front of people (beer in hand, of course) and lay everything bare, to be open, to say here I am–well, part of me–take me or leave me.

WordZ Only gave me the opportunity to do that again. I’m…

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Dear Friend: Be Kind to Yourself

Last week, I started a new plan/initiative/pact with my friend The Stumpy Giraffe to support each other in taking better care of ourselves. Not long after the new year started, I got a message from her, a panicked sounding message about how she felt about her body, a desperate reaching out for someone to listen or relate or tell her to quit buying into that bullshit she’d been listening to–probably a bit of all three. At the time, I was also not in a very good place (post on that to come), and I proposed that we work together, using each other as support to set and work toward health goals that would make us feel better about ourselves.

She told me she really wanted to fit into a certain sized pair of jeans. I suggested instead that, “it should be more of a focus on feeling good about yourself no matter what size you are. Let the size thing be secondary to feeling healthy and liking yourself.”

And then my dearest friend said something that broke my heart:

“I just have no idea what it would take to like myself.”

It just about made me cry that my charming, funny, smart, caring, crafty, BEAUTIFUL friend not only didn’t like herself, but had no idea how to even start to do that.

I know depression. There was a time in my not too distant past that I felt like it was hopeless to want things for myself. That I must being doing something wrong or all the things wrong to deserve the feelings I had. I thought, who the hell am I to have opinions, to be here doing this job, teaching this class, participating in this conversation, taking up this space, this time, this person’s attention? I made myself very, very small. But through it all, there was one tiny thread holding me together–the belief that there was something somewhere in me that was worth preserving. No matter how much I hated the things I had let myself become–passive, obedient, timid, scared–I knew there was still something there to like.

This feeling is foreign to me.

Friend, this morning, I read a blog post you wrote several months ago which laid your feelings out quite clearly. I wish I had been following it more closely. I’ve been away, and I haven’t noticed the pain you’ve been suffering. I haven’t been there to hold your hand or tell you jokes or just listen to you bitch and yell about how unfair it all is while you try to work through it. I should have been there, and I am so sorry that I wasn’t.

Friend, I can’t even imagine how you are feeling right now, how you’ve been feeling, what it is to not see beauty in yourself. To be honest, I have a hard time even grasping the concept because I see so much beauty in you.

Let’s set your body aside for a moment because you are not your body, it is merely a part of who you are. Friend, you radiate love and compassion and generosity. I have never met someone (aside, perhaps, from my own mother) who cares about the people in her life quite the way you do. You do little things every day to let those people know they are cherished, from art projects with your kids, to checking in on your mom when she is sick, to goofing around with your husband in the kitchen while you make dinner, to sending your overseas friend a screen shot from your phone of an inside joke you share.

AND you do big things, huge, life changing things, for your people when you can. You stay home to take better care of and pay more attention to your kids. You live in your mother’s house to help her financially and to make sure she isn’t alone. You unflinchingly and unhesitatingly gave me a place not only to live, but a place in which I was welcomed as part of the family when I needed somewhere to go and people to care for me.

You are funny. Maybe not in a way that everyone gets, but in a way that draws on your personal experiences with people, finding humor in your shared experiences. Friend, the laugher you have brought me (and other members of my family throughout the years) is beyond value.

Friend, you are a smart, critical thinker. You pay close attention to the world around you. You love deeply, you live wisely, you give of yourself without worry or pause.

And Friend, all of that is housed in a body that rocks. You are physically beautiful. You have stretch marks and acne and more fat on your body than you’d like and hair that you’re never quite satisfied with, but we all have that. Friend, I wish you could have been with me at the public bath; I wish you had seen the dozens of women I did who are flawed in various ways as you are, as I am, as everyone we know is, all hanging out in their bodies and nothing else, unashamed.

Friend, I wish you could see you the way I see you, the way your husband sees you, the way random people on the street see you. We do not see the flaws, we see the person. We see a woman, sometimes happy, sometimes tired, sometimes enraged, sometimes baffled; we see her smile, laugh, cry, and we do not think: that fat woman with the acne and the bad hair cut is crying. We think, that woman looks sad. I hope she will be okay.

Friend, I hope you find the strength to be kind to yourself. Whatever you may think or feel, you deserve kindness. I wish for you that one day you will look in the mirror and realize that you like what you see, that a whole person is looking back at you–she isn’t perfect, but she’s perfectly likable, lovable even. It’s time she got the love from you she deserves. In the meantime, she does have my love–maybe it will grown and develop with her. Maybe it will bring her into the light.

Jessica lives her life that happens to be in Korea: A Blog Repurposed

Hi Everyone who’s keeping tabs on me. Long time, no post! I have a thought about how I might be more motivated to give you more, though…

Here is a picture of a bunch of flower pots in my neighborhood that just showed up one day. Unrelated to this post, but they are pretty.

Here is a picture of a bunch of flower pots in my neighborhood that just showed up one day. Unrelated to this post, but they are pretty.

When I started this blog, I had this idea in my head that it would be all about me experiencing KOREA! I would write about this cool thing that I did in KOREA, talk about how weird it is that people do whatever thing in KOREA, help my friends and family back home get insight into what my KOREAN life is like, and so on. This seemed obvious to me because I’M LIVING IN KOREA!

As it turn out, though, living in Korea is a lot like living anywhere else. The new things I’m doing now that I’m living away from my home are not KOREAN things, they’re just things that happen to be possible because I’m not at home. I think some of them are indirectly related to being abroad and spending my time with a lot of other people who are also living outside their home countries, but some of them are just because I like to do things and I have more opportunity here than I did back home.

Also, I’m having trouble writing recaps of my experiences. I find I don’t have a ton to say about most of them. I went hiking. It was great. The ocean is beautiful. Just doesn’t make the best blog post.


So, since this is my blog, I’m changing the rules. This will no longer be a blog about KOREA! It will be a blog about whatever happens to be on Jessica’s mind at the moment, much of which will be colored by the fact that she lives in Korea now. I think this change of scope will yield more posts because I’ll actually be writing about the things that are on my mind instead of trying to find something sufficiently drenched in foreignness to write about.

(I also will try to get on sometime this weekend and post some pictures for you guys, ’cause I have A LOT that just haven’t made it up yet.)


At present, I am participating in NaNoWriMo, and I don’t have a lot of writing time and energy left over after trying to write roughly 1500 words every… single… day, so it still may be a while before you see a post with some real content in it. But, I have a lot of thoughts, and I do want to get around to sharing them with you.

Be well, everyone!

Day One in Haeundae

I wrote this post at the beach, my first day in my new place. I had no internet then, and so I’m just now getting around to posting it. That day was fantastic. I was told by my co-teacher that the ocean was a 15 minute walk away and as soon as she left me on my own, that’s exactly where I went. I got close to the ocean and I just knew it was there, right on the other side of those buildings, if I could just get past them. And then, I turned the corner and there it was.

It was beautiful.

It was beautiful.

Anyway, here’s the original. There are some additional photos at the end, too!

I think this might be the best place in the whole world.

It's getting to be evening, and I hear guitar music and ocean waves.

It’s getting to be evening, and I hear guitar music and ocean waves.

My life was such shit in so many ways a year ago, and today, I stood on the beach on the verge of tears because I can’t believe how amazing this place is. I feel like I’m getting paid back for living in that hell for so long. I know that’s not really how the world works—people don’t always get what they deserve (good or bad), so I’m going to try to get everything I can out of this experience while it lasts.

I’m not religious, but I attended a church service with my mom just before I left. There was on prayer in particular that began a few simple words, words I never want to forget. Those words keep running through my head now, because at this moment they are perfect (please set them to a background of ocean waves, a man playing guitar and singing in Korean, and the distant voices of people talking and laughing for full effect):

Thank you for this day.

Thank you for this life.

More photos from day one:

Not the most flattering picture of me ever... I was very tired, but look--I'M ON THE BEACH!

Not the most flattering picture of me ever… I was very tired, but look–I’M ON THE BEACH!

I got there late enough that the sun was setting, so the beach looked like this. Perfect timing.

I got there late enough that the sun was setting, so the beach looked like this. Perfect timing.

Most of the beach is sandy, but the far end has all these moss covered rocks. I am a born rock hopper and had to get a piece of that action, the lady in the right side of this shot saw me fall on my ass on the slimy rocks and looked extremely worried about me--I tried to reassure her, not very successfully with the language barrier that I was okay before walking away. Embarrassment knows no language barriers!

Most of the beach is sandy, but the far end has all these moss covered rocks. I am a born rock hopper and had to get a piece of that action, the lady in the right side of this shot saw me fall on my ass on the slimy rocks and looked extremely worried about me–I tried to reassure her, not very successfully with the language barrier that I was okay before walking away. Embarrassment knows no language barriers!

Apparently there is a designated "zone" for foreigners. Wouldn't want them mixing with the general populace or anything--who knows where they've been!

Apparently there is a designated “zone” for foreigners. Wouldn’t want them mixing with the general populace or anything–who knows where they’ve been!

Annyeonghi Gyeseyo (Goodbye) from a TLC Staff Member

My goodbye on Think Literacy–The Literacy Center’s blog.

think literacy

by: Jessica Clark

Hello everyone—Think Literacy is back after a bit of a break. Summer closure plus a mountain of work has kept me away, but we’re back! Before we get into the meat of this post, a little housekeeping:

As of August 9th, I will be done working for The Literacy Center and no longer in control of this blog. Jenelle Caines, our Program Manager, will be taking over as the manager of Think Literacy. More info on Jenelle, from Jenelle, a little later.

When I leave, The Literacy Center will be reducing its number of staff members to only two. This may mean changes in the frequency of posts that appear on this blog, so be ready for some possible changes.

Finally, we need contributors! If you are a Literacy Volunteer for TLC or elsewhere, if you are involved in adult literacy in the Flagstaff community…

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Help Us Make Our $25,000 Goal!

Part of leaving the country means leaving behind lots of people and places and things I love. Although Dan Savage coined his “campsite rule” with relationships in mind (in fact, with a very specific type of relationship in mind), I think the concept of leaving a person or a place “in better shape than you found it,” is relevant to most circumstances in our lives. I hope that I have left the people I’ve known and the places I’ve been in better shape after encountering them.
One place in particular that I hope has been improved by my having been involved with it is the organization I work for, The Literacy Center. I would be thrilled to know that when I leave Flagstaff, I will be walking away from a healthier, stronger organization than the one that hired me.
To that end, check out this post about The Literacy Center’s efforts to earn $25,000 by the end of this Fiscal Year. If you believe in what this organization is doing for adults with low literacy levels, please do what you can to help support them. Even reblogging this post or distributing it via your social media channels can make a big difference!

Thank you!

think literacy

The Literacy Center is trying to make $25,000 by the end of the Fiscal Year (June 30th). If you appreciate the content on this blog or the services we provide, consider making a donation to help us reach our goal. You can donate online via: to help us start the new year strong!

This year, TLC has helped more learners study for more hours than ever before; by the end of the fiscal year our learners will exceed 5,000 hours of study through the various services we are able to offer thanks to your generosity. Also, by fiscal year end, we will have over 100 volunteers serving over 200 learners.

Additionally, our Partnership for Literacy Rehabilitation is now offering two to four literacy classes per week in the Coconino County Jail which helps reduce inmate recidivism, improving our community overall. (Learn more about PLR here, here and in…

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