June 27, 2011 § 17 Comments
Part 1: the conversation
While I [Natalie] can’t remember the exact words exchanged, but I know the general concept went something like this:
Micaela: “Ahhh Nat.”
Natalie: “Uuuh?” [this is a Korean sound that covers any and all meanings possible, include 'sure', 'what', 'yes', 'ok', 'i agree', 'go on', 'oh! that's interesting' etc.]
Micaela: “So I’ve been reading this urban homesteading blog, you know the one I talk about like everyday?”
Natalie: “Uuuh, uuuhhh.”
Micaela: “And I’m pretty heavily considering…ahh…yep. Well, I think I’m going to stop using shampoo and conditioner on my hair and see what happens. Like an experiment. You interested? You want to do it together?”
Natalie: silence. a slight head tilt followed by a: ”I’m in. totally. I mean…whoa wait. Let me do a little research, but I’m in, for sure.”
That was in the month of March. And here I sit, late June upon us, with the rain pounding the pavement outside my window, the beginning on monsoon season here in Korea.
Part 2: the reasons why.
Now, I [Micaela] know what you are thinking…”ewwww” and “do the herbal essence commercials not mean anything to you!”
1.) The cool-kids are doing it.
I follow blogs rather religiously. One in particular is called the Path to Freedom and it’s by a family living in Los Angeles county who is choosing to have as little impact on the environment as possible through urban homesteading (aka having a large garden, generating their own electricity, and simple things like not using shampoo). I pretty much think everything they do is the bees knees. So, when I came across this article I was pretty inspired. And figured if the cool kids over at this blog were doing it, I should jump on the band wagon.
2.) I am 23 and I still use Johnson and Johnson Tear-Free shampoo.
Upon further investigation (read: googled it), I found that not only is it good for the earth to refrain from using chemically manufactured shampoo, but it is also good for your body. According to an article on CopperWiki.com, “shampoos could contain toxic ingredients — chemicals that are found in anti-freeze, engine de-greasers and brake fluid — which are absorbed through the skin into the body and the brain three times faster than water!” So, when you are putting some shampoo onto your head you are not only exposing your scalp to dangerous chemicals, but you are flushing them into the sewage system which in turn pollutes our water.
One of the main ingredients in shampoo is sodium laureth sulfate, which, on the mild side has been proven to irritate skin and eyes (have you ever really thought about how strange it is that we massage shampoo into our skin…and yet it burns when it gets into our eyes?).
3.) Boyfriends 존재
Well, one perk of neither Nat or I having anyone to impress (read: boyfriends, employers, potential-employers or even cute-boy-at-the-record-shop) there could not be a more ideal time to experiment with greesy hair.
Most of the blogs I read said it could take 2 to 6 weeks for the oils in your hair to normalize. Essentially, using shampoo strips your hair of it’s naturally produced oils. When you use shampoo, your hair adapts by producing more oils. In order to get your hair to normal pH levels, you need to refrain from using shampoo to allow your hair to produce the amount of oil it needs. So, we’d figured this would be as good a time as ever to test it out.
4.) Those expensive organic shampoos
To be quite honest, I [Natalie], have been a purchaser of those natural…organic…green…very expensive….beautifully packaged and bottled…shampoos and conditioners. I love them. I love how they smell. I love how soft they make my hair. But they cost me my pay check. And that I’m just not so fond of.
So there’s got to be another way, especially if you are buying organic shampoos and conditioners for the whole family. And I’m here to tell you, there is…keep reading…
Part 3: just gotta get in the shower.
This is what we were originally using for showering and cleaning purposes; purchased around the corner at our local Lotte Mart and down the street at Homeplus superstore.
As you can tell, they are locally produced and endorsed, especially the DeBON [which we first read as DeBone], made by LG. You probably are more familiar with this company as the producer of your cellphone or washing machine, but here in their home country, they dabble in just about everything.
Start first with some baking soda, not to be confused with baking powder [we've learned from experience through an extremely unfortunate mixup of the soda and the powder]. The powder will be your downfall…so stick with the SODA.
Ours we purchased in a little sack for about 45 cents. It isn’t even half gone yet, and we’re pushing a few months now.
So when you are standing in the shower, dump a little baking soda, quarter size amount into the palm of your hand. Turn off the shower stream, let a few drips of water hit the baking soda, creating a little creamy paste substance. Flip your head over and direct the paste-like substance into the roots of your hair. Focus on the greasiest areas of your scalp, the crown of your head and your part.
Now, give yourself a little head massage for a minute or two. Some articles say that the massaging of the scalp stimulates hair growth.
If you are looking for creating a lather by massaging the baking soda into your hair, I better tell you right now, that you won’t find it. In fact, it feels kinda gritty. But I’ve when you choose to learn a new kind of normal…you get used to it. And you know what? I even like it now.
While living in Korea, sometimes you run into troubles. Like all you are wanting to find is some apple cider vinegar to condition your hair, but all you can find is apple vinegar of some kind. It kinda smelt the same and it was in our kitchen for other culinary endeavors, so we decided to try it.
But upon Micaela’s arrival back from the States, she brought many essentials like, homemade cookies, sour gummie worms, skittles and….exhibit D.
Apple Cider Vinegar, compliments of Trader Joes, directly imported via Micaela’s backpack compliments of crossing the oceans by Asiana Air all the way to Chilgok, Daegu [yes, we understand the irony of the carbon footprint].
We’ve taken two tablespoons of the vinegar into a small travel size spray bottle, filled the rest of the way with water. After the baking soda, spray a bit of the vinegar/water mix on the ends of your hair. Let sit for a few moments, similar to using conditioner, then rinse out.
And there you have it.
Another tip we’ve picked up from the Urban Homesteading blog is, if it’s available to you, grab some coconut oil before your shower and add it to the dry ends of your hair. Let it sit for a few minutes before jumping in the shower.
part 4: be one of the cool kids.
Micaela and I are pretty into this. In fact, we love it.
We both sorta missed on the finer points of our science education [not because our mother's didn't try their darnest], but now, every time we step in the shower it’s a bit of an experience. Perfect.
Which, might I add that, overall, I step in the shower with the intention to wash my hair significantly less often. Today is…what?…Monday. Last time I washed my hair?…Tuesday. That’s correct. A full 6 days ago.
Before you go blasting me for my lack of personal hygenie, I would just like to say, let’s remember back to the days of reading Laura Engels Wilder and how the knobby-kneed-Natalie admired her all the more when I read she only bathed once a week. Obviously she’s my [weekly] inspiration.
So, we are writing all of this to say, you should try it! And let us know what you think! Have you already been doing this kind of thing for years? Do you think this is the weirdest thing you’ve ever heard? Do your own research. Let us know what blogs, articles or research you find. We’d love to learn more!
Anyone who is interested in joining the experiment for at least 6 weeks, Micaela and I would love to take you out, once we are state-side, and hear about what you thought. We’ll even bring you an Endangered Species chocolate bar.
And if that doesn’t inspire you. I don’t know what will.
Until next hair washing,
M & N
April 2, 2011 § 3 Comments
i’ve always been a sucker for a good piece. you know, the chunky necklace from grandmas closet, the flats from the thrift store, fabric from mom’s collection. things of color and texture.
which is why, when i [micaela] first got here, i would literally gasp at some of the amazing pieces people wear on a daily basis. the leather ankle boots! the lace tops! the frill skirts! the floral prints! the hats! the print tights and leggings! the tri blend t-shirts! on and on, i commented and envied.
the shopping here is…how can i explain…it’s like having mini anthroplogie stores around nearly every corner. the faux vintage, hand stitched look. for sure, korea has jumped on the mori girl trend alongside japan.
and, apparently, daegu is the fashion capital of korea. (there are some shows in the spring which are on the to do list!)
March 7, 2011 § 1 Comment
Have you seen any good films recently? I just watched Poetry, a Korean film by Chang-dong Lee. He is from Daegu, the city we live in. He was a teacher and novelist before directing his first film at 40. He is absolutely brilliant.
The story is of a grandmother who is raising her only grandchild by herself. She is a maid during the day, and at night begins taking a poetry class. Throughout a tumultuous turn of events, she is painstakingly attempting to write just one poem and dust off words buried deep within herself. The film was haunting and harrowing, diligent and proud. The acting was superb, the cinematography was breathtaking. It embodied some of the things I have experienced about Korea in my short time here. There is a subtle appreciation for the beauty of small things, birds in trees or flowers growing up through the pavement.
So, if you find yourself need a good film to watch while winter winds down, I highly recommend it. It’s even on Netflix
February 25, 2011 § 3 Comments
“If there is any secret to this life I live, this is it: the sound of what cannot be seen sings within everything that can and there is nothing more to it than that.” –Brian Andreas–
It’s easy to get caught up in the ebb and flow of life. To simply pass through the days, the moments without recognizing them. I took a moment last night to write down a few things I am grateful for in my life right now.
-The weather was to die for, sunny and brilliant. Spring peaked her head around the corner and I think she has begun to taunt us.
-Living in South Korea with my best friend! On a daily basis, I think to myself “Well, sure am glad Natalie is here”. Since we were young, we spoke of traveling and venturing together. And, here we are. There is something beautiful in having a dream with someone else, and then getting to realize it together. And, it has not looked the way I had imagined, but life rarely does, and at the end of the day the fact that we are doing it together has made all the difference.
-I’m thankful for Nat. It has been a wonderful experience to see new sides of her while living abroad. She’s been great at updating this blog for one thing! She is reflective and perpetually asking questions of those around her. She listens. Oh, and shes got the best free style dance I’ve seen yet. It is so good to be reminded that everyone has so many dimensions, no matter how well you think you know someone…there is always something to learn from them, something new to discover in one another.
-Here in South Korea I have had a chance to re-imagine beauty. We made some new French friends last weekend. One of them, Matthieu, noted that much of what he has seen in Korea are muted, neutral tones. It is Winter, so some of this is due to the lack of natural green. Yet, it is true. The high rises, where most people live, are variations of white and off white, the trees in the hills seem toned down by the smog, and even the sky is usually gray or light blue. The burst of color have to be found in other places. Color shows up on the bright green bike path, or the hot pink bow in a little girls hair, or even the neon sign advertising the Karaoke room across the street. Bursts of color, you just have to notice them.
-Last, but not least, McDonalds ice cream. Nat put it well, “We are really embracing the super chains for all they are worth here in Korea”. No shame in my game.
What are the bursts of color in you life right now?
February 15, 2011 § 1 Comment
February 13, 2011 § Leave a Comment
“And you will not be allowed on the hike unless you have proper equipment.” This were the words of our cultural and hiking guide, Yeong Min, the night before we were to depart for Hallasan. Now, if you’ve seen any of our pictures from previous hikes you know that Koreans live by the boy-scout motto “Always be prepared” when it comes to hiking. I swear, The North Face must rake in at least 99% of their profits from the elderly hiking Korean population. They pack everything but the kitchen sink. But, he was our guide, so heed his words we did. Nat purchased a 20,000 won pair of hiking boots the night before, and we both laid down 10,000 won for spikes to attach to the bottom of our boots.
Good thing we did too. At 6,398 ft, nearly 2,000 meters for our metric friends out there, Hallasan is the tallest mountain in South Korea. Although the island greeted us with sun and palm trees upon arrival, our hike into the heart of the island, a volcanic beauty, was better described as a warm winter wonderland. We woke bright and early, ate some pbjs, drank some nestcafe and were on our way. A large map at the base of the hike stated, “Jeju Island is Hallasan; and Hallasan is Jeju.” Although I loved the entirety of our Jeju ventures, I would have to say that the hike was the highlight of the trip. We strapped the spikes onto the bottom of my boots and embarked on the hike with 22 companians from our tour, Adventure Korea.
The sun shone brightly upon us as we filled into the long que of hikers, which rarely broke for the duration of our hike. We went up the Seongpanak Trail (성판악), which is about 9.6 km. The first hour was a brisk walk amongst evergreens which boasted a frosting of snow from what has been a long winter on the island. I chatted with Yeong Min for a while. He said he’d hike Halla (san means mountain in Korea) three times in the summer, but that he thought it was the most gorgeous in the winter. “Three colors,” he said, “white, and green and blue.” That’s about all I need. It was refreshing to breathe…deeply of the cool air. Although it is a strange experience to simply join in a steady flow of literally what must have been hundreds of people hiking up the mountain, there was something wonderful in it also. I suppose it was the movement of so many of us, all going in the same direction, walking a course that countless had walked before us, and undoubtedly more would follow. As much as I love the adventure of taking the path less trekked, there is something simple in merely joining in the snake as it weaves its way up the mountain to reach the summit.
Our goal was to make it to a lodge at the base of the most defined incline in the hike by noon. We were right on time. We stopped for a short break. There were people crowded into the warming house, others purchasing ramen and soju, a cheap Korean alcohol, (two things which can be found even in the most obscure locations in this country), before starting in on the last leg of the journey.
I’d say that the first 3 hours of the hike are pretty mild, but the last hour or 40 minutes is a challenge. I found myself right behind Yeong Min, making myself keep up with his pace. Soon, we were scaling the side of the mountain one step at a time. The overlook was beautiful. The last one hundred meters were, as my favorite track couch drilled into me, “simply a matter of mind over matter”. The summit was packed! So many people, all congregating, waiting in lines for photos in the best spots, peering into the mass that was once an active volcano. The Island was essentially raised from the sea by the volcano and it was incredible to peer into the center of the eruptions and imagine the slow rising of this mass of land. I had a Joe Vs. The Volcano moment, but read that the last eruption was in 1000 C.E., so figured I’d be okay.
So, we all high fived and took some pictures while yelling “halla, halla back” into the abyss before descending down the mountain. We went down the Gwaneumsa Trail (관음사), which is 8.7 km. As much as I enjoyed the hike up, the descent was life-changing for sure. First off, there had been so much snow that the evergreens were literally peeking out from the covering, you could only see the tips of some of them. We were walking on top of the forest for parts of the hike! The sunlight fell upon the path and guided us down the mountain. And here, folks, is where it gets good. Lets be real, I’ve never been the most coordinated of people. I mean, some might go so far as to say I am clumsy. As helpful as the spikes on my boots were for making it up the mountain, they were necessary in getting down also. However, seeing as how there were so many hikers who preceded us, the trail was slippery! So, rather than fight it, a good deal of us simply succumbed and slide down the mountain. That’s right, got a running start landed on our butts and whipped down the mountain yelling loudly from pure joy and in an effort to avoid knocking right into the more serious of hikers. It was a blast! On occasion we would inspire others and at more than one point I found myself in a pile at the foot of a long stretch with some adjushi (elderly Korean man) who decided to cast his walking stick off to the side of the trail!
Down we went. At points, walking, sometimes talking, always admiring the sights, mostly just taking it all in. When we arrived at the bottom, I knelt down to take off my spikes. Low and behold, I had put one of them on upside down! So, instead of helping me grip the snow, it was puncturing the thick sole of my shoe. No wonder I kept falling down!
All in all, a great climb.
(Please note, I may or may not be quoting Miley Cyrus in the title of this post…open for interpretation)
-Over and out, Micaela
November 2, 2010 § 2 Comments
Because I don’t have any adequate words (or inadequate words, come to think of it) at the moment, I ran around the place and took a few snapshots to show ya’all. So, this is home sweet home. The abode is found. It was a messssss when we arrived, but we’ve done up the place quite nice.
October 22, 2010 § 1 Comment
I was teaching a young class of 2nd graders yesterday. They requested the fabulous tune O-bla-de by none other than the Beatles (See video below). As the kiddos sang along, I got to thinking.
What defines our generation? They say that most generations are a reaction to the last generation (aka, our parents). In this video, the handsome four are undoubtedly reacting against the picture perfect, picket fence values of the 40s and 50s.
So, fellow Generation Yers what is it that we are reacting against? The 9 to 5? Suburbia? Religiosity or organized religion? Adulthood (Not going to lie, although not meant to be endearing, I am rather smitten with the term The Peter Pan Generation)? Capitalism and neoliberal policies? Globalization? Materialism (If you are only going to click on one of the many links above, it should be this one:) ?
In light of this reaction hypothesis, is it possible to not merely live in a reactionary way but an intentional way. Is it possible for our generation to be defined by something more than mere youthful, rebellious angst? I’d like to believe that we can carve out a semblance of a whole as we seek to live well.
In our first two weeks here in Korea, Natalie and I have had the opportunity to come into contact with people of all different worldviews and pursuits. We have surprisingly been amongst the youngest in the various crowds we have kept company with. Some themes that we have talked about involve the desire of other ex-pats and young Koreans alike, to experience something different from that which is familiar to them. Rather, many of those in our generation desire to know what it means to live cross-culturally. There is a strong sentiment of holding all things loosely, in an effort to better understand the world around us.
For Nat and I, this is manifest in the fact that we are living in Korea. Contrasting with our previous ventures where we often passed through foreign and unfamiliar lands, we are now entering into a phase in life in which we will be for a while. For us it is one year. What does it mean to invest in a place for a year. Is a year any time at all? We want to invest in the ways we can. We want to learn Korean, to make friends with people who know their country and fellow citizens well enough to share it with foreigners.
As we hold all these things in our hands, we must ask: how do we intentionally pursue a culture on its own terms? Living here in Korea is not difficult for a Westerner. There are McDonalds and Dunkin Donuts. There are ex-pat bars and clubs. There are English speaking sports teams and television channels. If one wants to, it is relatively simple to confine yourself to a comfortable enclave of all things familiar. Indeed, it is possible to experience Korea as if you had never left America at all. I consider some of the reading I did in college (Such as The McDonaldization of Society, by George Ritzer). In a region such as South Korea where all things Western are readily available to a foreigner living here, how do we know when the comforts of home are OK and when we should challenge ourselves to know Korea by daily experiencing life as a Korean?
This is a lot to think about. So, maybe instead of thinking you can just listen to good music. That’s what I do. Here ya go: