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

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 IX: No Job is Awesome All the Time

Free TimeIt’s a fact of life and if there’s one thing known by people close to me, it’s that I keep it real. Cynicism is a waste of time, but, believe it or not, failing to acknowledge the times when things aren’t going great can ultimately lead to a cynical mindset. Keeping negative emotions pent up doesn’t make them go away; it just makes them worse. In light of that, I’d like to go on record and say that this was a decidedly atrocious week. I’m not talking about a routine squall, but really a Perfect Shit-Storm. So many things converged at once to make this week one that just wouldn’t pass quickly enough. So, sit back, relax, maybe grab some popcorn, because you’re about to hear all about it.

To that end, I should point out one more thing generally known by those I know best: I’m really not in the habit of taking bullshit, particularly teenage bullshit. And, you may rest assured, the surliness, poor attitude, and “too-cool-for-school” mentality so typical of American teens is something that transcends culture. In fact, it’s one of the things that reminds me culture is pretty much an entirely human construct and that beneath the mores and customs that define those cultures, we’re all remarkably the same. I once said that all cultures are, in their own way, superficial; a better way to say it is that all cultures are, by their very nature, superficial. The stuff that makes us human is rooted far deeper.

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