This novel by Min Jin Lee follows multiple generations of a Korean family who emigrated to Japan during the Japanese occupation of Korea and who stay in Japan through and after World War II. While the novel rewards some characters for putting in the hard work to keep their family afloat, ultimately it shows us how people can seemingly be victims of their own fate and circumstances that are beyond their control. Indeed, many of the women in the novel repeat the mantra that ‘A woman’s life is sorrow,’ which, given what happens to many of the women characters, seems to be true, at least for them. Even the men characters who are allowed to achieve some sort of financial and/or career success are victims of terrible racism that prevent them from ever really being a part of Japanese society. I thought this novel was really well written, although my previous experience living in Korea and understanding some Korean language helped fully understand parts of the novel.
KonMari-ing My Clothes
I don’t consider myself to be a clotheshorse or particularly fashionable–what working from home has revealed to me is that, if possible, I would wear the same jeans and zip-up fleece combo every day of my life. However, I still seemed to have a ton of clothes in my closet, and I wanted to get rid of some of them. I have a tendency to keep clothes for work that I think I should wear to look more professional, rather than what I keep because it is comfortable or makes me feel good. Part of KonMari-ing my clothes was to get rid of these items. I was able to cull about two and a half trash bags worth of clothes, which is approximately ⅓ of my wardrobe, give or take. This included the aforementioned aspirational items, as well as some things I used to wear but feel a bit too juvenile for who I am now, and some things that I just, frankly, wore to death and are beyond fixable. My partner and I live in a studio apartment, so getting rid of this much feels really good, since space is really at a premium here.
Long Hikes in Open Spaces
I’ve been very lucky in that I’ve not only kept my job during the pandemic, but my institution also granted us 11 days off over the holidays, the weekdays of which were paid days. This has allowed my partner and I ample time to explore new hiking spaces. The other day we did a nine mile hike through a beautiful open space preserve located on the San Francisco Peninsula that had a creek and lots of second-growth redwoods. Even before COVID hit, hiking was one of my favorite pastimes; I appreciate it even more now that it’s pretty much the only thing I do outside of my house.
Tea from Art of Tea
Spending so much time at home has also made me really appreciate the smaller things in life, like really good tea. I drink an average of four cups of tea a day, so it’s nice to have tea that tastes really really good. I’ve only ever bought regular grocery store brand tea before, so I don’t think I ever appreciated how good tea could taste until I was given some from Art of Tea. The Monk’s Blend might be my favorite, but I’m currently sipping a delicious mug of their Earl Gray. I also drink their Soothe tea when my stomach is acting up (which is often), and I think it makes me feel better. Or maybe it’s the placebo effect, but even so, it tastes really good at least.
Calvin and Hobbes
My swap partner for this year’s Reddit secret santa sent me a copy of the first Calvin and Hobbes comic collection, and I’ve been flipping through it every day. When I was little, my mom took me and my brother to the library every two weeks or so, and we would always check out tons of Calvin and Hobbes, Foxtrot, and Garfield comic books. Flipping through this book makes me think back on those “simpler” times, and now that I’m older, I find a lot of the strips hitting differently (in a good way).