THE KOREA KRONICLES, PART XII: Greetings from Bokhyeon-dong, and Other Good Tidings of Great Joy

Bokhyeon-dongIt’s been a while since I’ve posted anything in the Korea Kronicles. I say that while indulging in the slight vanity of thinking that someone might have noticed and, perhaps while noticing, cared, if only a little. That dearth of news specifically concerning my life and work in the Land of the Morning Calm has been primarily a result of there having been little to report. Since my last writing, my life in Korea has quickly settled into a very enjoyable if predictable routine, the heat and craziness of summer is becoming a comfortably distant memory, and, quite simply, things have stopped being new enough for me to care enough to write about them. My kids still say crazily, cutely, and outlandishly funny things from time to time and I’m still learning how to navigate this somewhat strange and definitely foreign culture; you know, same old same-old. As of this posting, I’ve been in Korea seven months and counting and now, at last, I have something new to report. Actually, quite a lot of somethings, so hold on to your butts. Continue reading

PERSONAL FILE: When We’re All Where We Belong

IIMG_0052 sometimes forget I’m living abroad. You’re probably thinking, How is that possible? And it’s a perfectly logical question. I understand little to nothing that anyone says and I stand out–with my white skin, green eyes, brown hair, beard, and frequent flamboyance–sort of like a red prom dress would in a funeral procession. Nevertheless, now that comparatively little about Korea or Korean culture is unfamiliar to me anymore, I do sometimes forget, if only for a few moments or so at a time, that I haven’t always been here. Maybe that seems odd to you, and that seeming oddness might make sense if you’re the sort who’s always felt an integral part of something. I haven’t, though. This is a tired old confession, which it seems that everyone makes (honestly or just in a moment of depression) at some point in their lives, but, in fact, I’ve never felt as if I truly fit in anywhere. A fairly large part of that is due to the fact that I’ve spent all but the past six months of my life in the closet, but that’s only one reason among a vast multitude, the host of which I don’t intend to share with you simply because I’d like to maintain your interest in what I have to say.

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PERSONAL FILE: We All Know Robert Frost Was Bullshitting

Two PathsWhen I first started writing this post, I was sitting in a street-side coffee and gelato cafe called Coffee Namu & Zzoo. Don’t ask me what that means: I’ve no idea what or who “Zzoo” is and why he/she/it bears standing equal enough with Namu to warrant deployment of the ampersand. Although it’s probably just two Korean words written phonetically in Roman letters, it’s possible that whichever Korean came up with the name thought it meant something cool and trendy in English. Using English in the names of businesses or cafes and writing English phrases on the walls in fancy letters is a thing here, sort of like how we sometimes do with French or Italian or Spanish. Examples: a quick mart wittily called “Buy & Bye,” a shoe store almost-cleverly dubbed “O My Sole,” and a bank unfortunately named “WooriBank.” They seem to think it adds an exotic and cosmopolitan flair to a venue, except of course when it’s less English and more Konglish. For example: “Sometimes, fall in love when two people meat in the night \ I asked for her relationship and she asked me her accommodation.” It makes me wonder how often something similar happens when an Irish-American pizzeria proprietor pastes an Italian phrase in Vivaldi font above his cafe’s double glass doors. It’s okay though, Koreans. A lot of Americans can’t speak English very well either, and they’re supposedly native speakers.

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