THE KOREA KRONICLES, PART XIV: Dispatches from the Ice Palace

This morning was the first on a day off from work since I came back to Korea a month ago that I didn’t wake up next to someone, and it felt really strange. This weekend is 설날 (“Seolnal”), also known as the Korean New Year or Lunar New Year. Typically, it falls on the second New Moon following the Winter Solstice and is a time when Koreans return to their hometowns to be with their family, eat traditional food, drink soju, celebrate the passage of another year, and perform ancestral rites. The practical effect of this for me is that my boyfriend, who we’ll call DG, won’t be coming to see me until Saturday evening, even though the both of us have a long weekend. He’ll be celebrating with his family in Busan and, as a result, I hope to be forgiven my mild melancholy. Okay, I admit, it’s not that bad. It’s just that it’s cold and it’s nice to be able to snuggle up to someone special when the chill starts to bite, which it does in my sometimes frigid apartment. Continue reading

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DIRTY LITTLE FREAKS: Story Arcs of 2013, Part Un

Edited Student Image “If you do not stop talking, I will turn off the air conditioning, open the windows, and make you all sit on the floor,” I said, thoroughly exasperated. “Do you understand?”

Their affirmations of “yes, teacher” were of course accompanied by seismic eye-rolls and I had little confidence in their intention to heed my warning. In fact, I think we barely made it another minute and half before I simply stopped trying to talk over them, walked to the back of the room and turned off the thermostat, then methodically unlatched and slid open each window in the classroom. With the windows open, there was nothing to hold back the hot, sticky, Korean summer air from steamrolling through and turning the classroom into something just short of a sauna, which it did, and in barely any time at all. Continue reading

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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THE KOREA KRONICLES, PART VIII: Blood, Sweat, and Tears

IMG_0019I have never had a nosebleed. Nope, not one. I say this because a lot of people find that little tidbit about me really interesting. “You mean you’ve never had a nosebleed?,” people ask. “Not even once?” I know, crazy right? I’m not sure about this, but maybe nosebleeds are like flammable flatus. Only about a third of humans have the bacterial cultures and genetic background necessary to produce methane-rich farts. And, yes, before you ask, farts are indeed flammable if they contain methane. That said, it’s not advisable for you to attempt to light your body’s natural gas on fire: if it does catch, it burns faster than it can exit your body and can burn your intestine (or so I’ve been told). True or not, it’s enough to make me not really want to try it as that’s an injury I’d be mortifyingly embarrassed to explain to an emergency room doctor. Continue reading