Same Year, Same Me?

I don’t think I’ve ever needed a vacation as much as I needed this one. It’s 설날 (Seollal). Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Happy year of the dog, everyone.

This week had a bit of a stressful start. I was trying to apply to a job that I’ve been procrastinating on since I’ve decided I really want it (the more important something is, the more I procrastinate, see: dissertation). I also had to go to the pension office to apply for my lump-sum refund. And you know how I feel about official things, especially involving money and bureaucracy.

In the event, however, it was incredibly easy. I thought that I would have to go all the way to Gangnam (an hour by subway) but there was another office in Seodaemun and that was a great discovery. Also, I walked into the building, went up to the ninth floor, and from the time I stepped out of the elevator until I stepped in again was under twenty minutes. A massive relief. So my pension refund will be a nice thing to get once I’m back in the US.

Other things that have been going on this week include packing. No one likes packing, I’m pretty sure. Packing for a fun trip can be fun, but packing your life is generally The Worst. I haven’t accumulated much here, and I’m going to leave a lot behind, so I’m trying to condense everything into two units instead of three. We’ll see how that goes. It’s frustrating because I need to wear clothes all the way until I leave–and even after that, too!–so I can’t pack all of my winter things. It’s not frigid here, but it’s still plenty cold.

On Wednesday, I had a fabulous day. It consisted of three stages. First, I played a computer game and packed intermittently which actually got me way further than I anticipated. So it was lazy and enjoyable but also super productive. Second, I reread a book (most of the book, I skipped around since I read it for the first time just a couple weeks ago). Third, I started a new Netflix series, Legion, and stayed up really late watching most of the season.

Today, I finished Legion which was excellent but I’m not sure if the forthcoming second season will be as great. I also met with some friends for lunch, noraebang (Korean karaoke-ish), and a VR café. It was a super relaxing and enjoyable day all around. I’m bound for bed early because there’s a special treat in store for tomorrow. Details and pictures to come next week.

Anyway, trying to think some thoughts for the close of my Korean year. I’m sitting here, with my partially packed suitcases on the floor, things in piles waiting to be packed or thrown away or recycled or given to friends. It’s one of my least favorite feelings–the empty room you’re still living in but only for a little longer. My room is far from empty, yet the almost-gone feeling is already seeping in around the edges.

When I sit down and try to think of what I’ve done and become this year, it seems underwhelming and, to be honest, disappointing. I had hoped to grow in faith, sociability, adulthood, who knows what else. And maybe I have in some ways, in some categories, in some situations.

I’ll tell you, before I started Legion I finished the Netflix series The Good Place about the afterlife and I’m trying to, I don’t know, just think about being a good person. I think I am, generally, so I’m not feeling down on myself or anything. But it’s that tension again between contentment and complacency. I want to be happy with who I am and still strive to become better. Not sure that this year has made me much better.

In one of my posts just before coming here, I contended that no experience is ever wasted. I still hold to that, and this year has definitely proved itself valuable. I came out to my whole family and people just generally which I mention casually but was a big deal for me. I learned a whole lot of skills on the job, dealing with children and adults. I succeeded in some small disciplines that have made small but noticeable changes in my life (ex. today was day 236 on my Russian Duolingo streak, having finished all the lessons a bit ago).

Mostly, I tried and failed a whole lot of things. And then I tried again. I imagine most of us have heard the “if at first you don’t succeed” spiel. I guess I’m starting to think that it’s not actually the succeeding that matters, but the trying. Willfully, and sometimes gleefully, making bad decisions is probably part of the human condition. (Sorry that I just used the phrase ‘human condition,’ I am what I am). But figuring out how you want to live and trying to get there, at least sometimes, I think that’s a great deal of what counts in the end.

So here’s to that. I have one week and two days remaining in this country. I keep returning to the C. S. Lewis poem that I memorized a few weeks ago: “to this moment’s choice/ Give unfair weight.”

Advertisements

In Which Little Is Done

I’ve been trying my darndest to come up with a topic for this week and I have failed. Normally, that wouldn’t stop me since all I put on here anyway is random nonsense. But, like, I really have nothing. Very little happened this week and I haven’t even been thinking any thoughts of note. While I try to figure something out, enjoy this two-for-one cat picture.

BubbaCamaro2018-2-8

I hope you enjoyed that little interlude. They’re so nice.

The main event this week was movie night which, not to sell it short, is now a typical feature in my week. This week, it was Moulin Rouge with a friend who hadn’t seen it before and now understands the magic. Such a fantastic movie, so many emotions. And honestly, the songs in it are pretty much all better than the originals. Even if I really like the originals. Just so good.

All I can think to talk about is how soon my time in Korea will be over. I’m overwhelmed, really, and so I’m not preparing nearly as much as I need to be. I have two weeks and a couple days. That’s it. While I’m definitely ready to be finished, I’m not currently ready to be telling you about my year in review, so I’ll save that I guess. Next week is a holiday and I only work Monday and Tuesday (though I’ll also be working this Saturday) so I should be able to concoct some good musings by then. Or not. We’ll see.

In the meantime… nope. Still got nothing. I’m sure I’ll meander around until I get a decent word count because, as you all know, I can ramble until I confuse even myself.

I’ve been reading again this week, finished three books. One stand alone (or I guess there’s a sequel but it ended nicely and I don’t want to read it) and the first two in a series. None of them were incredible, but all were decent. The first was just a straight-up gay romance and I was all about it (I honestly didn’t realize I just said ‘straight-up gay’ until several hours later). Pleasant characters and some surprisingly realistic moments in the midst of straight-best-friend-turns-out-to-be-bi fantasy land. The other is a fantasy series, intrigue and theft, and such like. The characters are pretty thin and nothing I want happens with them, but the plot is super interesting so I’ll continue to book three for that reason.

Man, I miss reading in the sun. In the warm.

Next week, I’ll definitely have some things to say. Hopefully, I’ll have done some packing, had a nice start to the holiday, and tell you about my big adventure coming next Friday. And then it’ll be my last week and then I’ll be on another adventure. So here’s to that.

Winter; Discontent

Hi.

Lucy2018-1-27

The most precious

She is the most recent unintentional adoptee of my sister’s time in Arizona. I call her Lucy and she is my heart. I mean, look at her.

Monday marked, hopefully forever, the end of the colder-than-cold weather. It was also the start of level up testing so it was simultaneously stressful and relaxing. We had some big classes to get through and we’re only provided with the materials moments before testing starts so it’s a little rough. Sort of like five minutes of furious activity followed by eighty minutes of reading the news, looking at Facebook, and making sure no one’s cheating. We finished off a long day by watching The Incredibles which was, of course, a delight.

It snowed on Tuesday night, lots. And by lots, I mean maybe two inches. It was absolutely gorgeous in a way that made me want to cry a little, which is perhaps more reflective of me than the landscape but what can I say. Small beauties should be felt deeply just as much as obvious ones. Though it was extraordinarily beautiful, particularly that frozen waterfall near the grocery store, I haven’t been 100% rosy in my attitude.

The incredibly cold weather, in combination with a number of other factors, has provided me with ample opportunity to brood in a dark, wintry mood over the last few weeks. Or months, really. Not continuously, but enough. So here are a few things I’ve been turning over in my head a bit.

This blog has often seen me write of the power of stories. Sometimes, I weigh myself against the adventures enumerated therein and I find myself wanting. I judge that I would not live up to the challenges of living the life of–or even in the same story as– a hero. But also that my life, this real life, is a poor substitute for the seemingly flesh-and-blood trueness I find in books.

Then I berate myself for my ingratitude and blindness. By any account, my life has held plenty of adventures. No dragons have been slain, no deep magics harnessed, no destinies foretold and averted, changed, or fulfilled. Yet I have seen far horizons, I have heard a dozen tongues, I have stepped on the soil of many countries.

Have you ever read that poem by William Carlos Williams about the Brueghel painting? Landscape with the Fall of Icarus? It’s kind of terrible in a blunt, realistic way. But what if Icarus lived? What if he crashed into the sea, swam to shore, and lived the rest of his life in ashamed obscurity? I think another poet actually wrote that counterfactual. Several poets, probably.

Sometimes the winter gets to me a little so I’m sorry for being a bit of a downer this week. Of course, the moment the idea came into my head, I spent a good while imagining alternate adult lives for Icarus and that was thoroughly distracting. By the time I came around, the oppressive wintry mood had vanished entirely. Anyway, there are some thoughts from my brain to yours.

There’s a tricky balance between contentment and complacency; maybe a little discontent every once in a while is healthy. Who knows. Whatever. Anyway. It’s February and that’s… a relief? Terrifying? It’s something. I’ll let you know when I figure it out.

Daring, but Not Hardcore Daring

Author Eudora Welty once said, “A sheltered life can be a daring life as well, for all serious daring starts within.” May we all find the courage and strength to dare within.

Anyway, this week marked the conclusion of intensives. Yesterday, I taught my last one ever! And wow, is it a relief. I, in fact, don’t want to say anything more about them because I’m just glad to have them finished. Suffice to say that they weren’t great and I’ll be moving on with my life now, thank you very much.

This week has also marked the return of the incredibly cold weather, with the low for tonight forecast to be a solid -2 Fahrenheit. So that’s less than ideal, as much as I like cold weather. Gratefully, I don’t have to be out and about much and my walk to work is only like ten minutes. Definitely could be worse, and I suppose it’s at least somewhat justifiable as the Winter Olympics are coming soon and I want there to be plenty of cold and snow then (though please not this cold…).

Fun story of tonight. I got home and there was a bucket catching drips right outside the door to my building. Then the lights in the hallway, which are normally motion triggered, weren’t working. Then on the second floor, people were sweeping up slush because obviously someone’s pipe burst. And then I got home, my lights were working and my water’s fine (I left it dripping) but my internet is down. So I had a little panic for a while, thinking it may somehow be related to that burst pipe, or perhaps one I couldn’t find in my apartment. But after several resets of the router, here we are. Thank goodness, I 10/10 could not handle a pipe explosion right now. Or ever.

On a much better note, we also finished Return of the King and, as I could probably write ten thousand inane blog posts gushing about it, I’ll refrain here and spare you. But that film. So much.

There’s really not much more to say this week. It’s honestly been fairly quiet and I’m grateful for it. The end of my time here is creeping up quickly and I’m partially panicking and partially doing a happy dance every waking moment. And there are certainly some things (read: people, mostly) that I’ll miss. It’s a strange feeling. Someone important once said something along the lines of being lucky to have places that are hard to leave. Not quite there on Korea but you get the gist.

I don’t want to do a whole year in review post yet, it’s definitely still premature, but I encountered the opening quote this week and couldn’t help myself from sharing it before I get to that point. But a sneak preview of some of the things I’m likely to say: this has been a year of daring within. Or, at least, trying to. Take from that what you will.

To conclude our month’s choral selections, I have put together a list of lullabies and other songs that put me in mind of evening. I hope you can give one or two a listen and find a bit of rest.

Sleepytime

  1. Seal Lullaby – Eric Whitacre
  2. Good Night, Dear Heart – Dan Forrest
  3. Lullaby – Daniel Elder
  4. Only in Sleep – Ēriks Ešenvalds
  5. My Love Dwelt in a Northern Land – Edward Elgar
  6. Sing Me to Heaven – Daniel Gawthrop
  7. i carry your heart – Connor Koppin
  8. Sleep – Eric Whitacre
  9. Grace Before Sleep – Susan LaBarr
  10. The Road Home – Stephen Paulus

Side by Side

This week has been pretty run-of-the-mill in terms of intensives, it doesn’t give a lot of room for variation. As I noted last week, I did get off at 4 on Wednesday and I absolutely loved getting home before sunset and just doing nothing at home (as per usual). That evening also featured disk one of The Return of the King so the week couldn’t have been all that bad.

As a follow-up to my description of last week’s weather, here’s a glimpse of the ‘urban nature park’ on my way to the grocery store last Saturday. The waterfall has been frozen for a while, but it snowed that morning and it looked incredible. The stream was partially frozen as well.

IMG_20180113_113216631_HDR.jpg

In addition to watching The Lord of the Rings over the past few weeks with friends (“…side by side with a friend…”), I’ve watched all the Harry Potter movies again. Four movies two weekends ago and the other four this past weekend. I just quickly wanted to say a moment–the only moment–that made me tear up for a sec.

Unpopular opinions: I don’t care that much for Dobby or Hedwig or George, not really bothered by the deaths of Remus or Tonks or Dumbledore, don’t think Snape is a good person and am not moved by his story. Harry Potter is of course fabulous and I love it, so don’t take those as criticisms. However, there was one part that got me, if just for a moment, this time around.

At the end of the end, when Harry is about to go to Voldemort in the forest, he just sort of vaguely hints that he’s a horcrux (spoiler) and only Hermione understands. Then she says, “I’ll go with you.” And that is one of the most beautiful of the many statements that the series makes about death. A friend who will fight beside you, even to death.

So there’s that.

Anyway, here’s our choral music selection. Latin music holds a very special place in both historical and contemporary Western choral musical traditions so I thought it an appropriate category. Some of these songs are quite old, some medium old, and some are much more recent but all of them come from a musical and theological tradition spanning thousands of years. It’s kind of a big deal.

I’ve given the English for the titles but if you’re really curious it just takes a quick Google or Wikipedia search to get the full text translated.

Latin Sacred Texts

  1. O Mangum Mysterium – Francis Poulenc (O Great Mystery)
  2. Ave Maria – Javier Busto (Hail Mary)
  3. Ubi Caritas et Amor – Ivo Antognini (Where Charity and Love)
  4. Absalon, Fili Mi – Josquin des Prez (Absalom, My Son)
  5. Angus Dei from Mass in C minor op. 147 – Robert Schumann (Lamb of God)
  6. Si Iniquitates Observaveris – Samuel Wesley (If You Mark Our Iniquities)
  7. Magnificat – László Halmos ([My Soul] Magnifies [the Lord])
  8. O Sacrum Convivium – Olivier Messiaen (O Sacred Banquet)
  9. Adoramus Te, Christe – Claudio Monteverdi (We Adore You, Christ)
  10. Amen – Henryk Górecki (not really Latin but I’m over it)

Then the Traveller in the Dark

I woke up early on Tuesday morning absolutely convinced that it was Saturday. The week continued downhill from there. Things haven’t been that bad, I’m managing just fine. It’s more the idea, the concept, of doing work that has become so dreadful. In the event, it doesn’t bother me as much, but the anticipation (and everything else around it) is draining.

It snowed (yay!) on Tuesday afternoon but while the forecast predicted one to two inches, it ended up being the faintest dusting. I was, however, braced for that disappointment because life is disappointing. I was hoping to have a somewhat lighter schedule on Wednesday but instead my three hour intensive was immediately followed by four hours of phone classes. Not the worst–and, importantly, it’s balanced by only having my intensive next Wednesday–but a bit disappointing all the same.

In other news, it’s also very cold. You may have heard about the super freezing weather in the US and we’re apparently getting some of that too. I woke up this morning and it was 6 F and the low tonight is forecast to be 3. Which is very cold. There are no blizzard force winds but it is a step or two above breezy which isn’t helping either. I enjoy the cold in terms of staying in and doing nothing but being warm. However, when I do have to go someplace, for example, work, it makes my fairly short walk pretty unpleasant.

We also got together to finish the second half of Two Towers on Wednesday night, having watched disk one last Saturday. Absolutely tremendous, as always. And some of us painted our nails, I was going for ‘something dark and wintry but that could not be mistaken for black’ and we ended up with this gorgeous color between forest green and mint that is exactly right. Of course, I did a terrible job actually painting them (this being my third time) but it still looks okay. Though it’s already chipping.

I was going to title this post something about being unfortunate, or disappointing, or just generally meh. But I went with a line from the lesser-known third verse of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star (there are five). Because it doesn’t take much to keep hope alive and, though there are no stars in Seoul, sometimes a single snowflake on the tongue is all the sustenance that it requires.

Then the traveller in the dark
Thanks you for your tiny spark;
He could not see where to go,
If you did not twinkle so.

Celestial Songs

  1. The Spheres from the Sunrise Mass – Ola Gjeilo
  2. Young Galileo – Mark Gresham
  3. Astronaut Anthem – Meredith Monk
  4. Underneath the Stars – Kate Rusby, arr. Jim Clements
  5. Stars – Ēriks Ešenvalds
  6. A Breathing Peace – Daniel Elder
  7. Northern Lights – Ola Gjeilo
  8. Madrigals for the Space Age – Lalo Schifrin
  9. Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star – Daniel Elder
  10. Choose Something Like a Star – Randall Thompson

Food of Love

Yesterday was my first nine hour teaching day of 2018. So I made it two days. We may or may not be given some half days here and there this month, but otherwise I’m slated for nine more such fun-filled days. It actually wasn’t bad, my intensive class is actually pretty decent and I packed plenty of food for our fifteen minute break. But it is still less than ideal. I’ll live, or at least I assume I will, just like I did last time.

In other news, it’s 2018 which means less than two months until I’m finished. I’m really looking forward to that time. I’m definitely ready to leave Korea. It’s been a good experience but it’s just not my place, you know? Not in the way that Exeter, for example, felt like my place. Obviously, I’m looking forward to my vacation plans as well, come the end of February.

Camaro2018-1-4

Me, after one day of intensives

I’ve been thinking recently, though, that it’s important how things end. As much as I want to just let everything go and cruise to the finish, I don’t think that’s what I should do. It would be easy to let things slide and give as little effort as possible, especially in the midst of intensives. But that is not how I want to finish my time here, as little as I honestly care about these next few weeks. It’s easy to work hard when you care, it’s more challenging–and perhaps more important–to work hard when you don’t.

On a different note, it’s been a while since I’ve given you music to listen to (or ignore, as you wish), so I thought I’d do choral edition for songs I listen to. Obviously, I’m really into choral music and I’ve put a great deal of thought and time into making these lists. The songs are from a variety of times, styles, and genres. Most, but not all, are a capella. My original purpose in posting songs was to prove that I don’t only listen to ‘opera’ [sic] but I want to expand your repertoire and challenge you to give some choral music a try.

I’ve broken it into different categories because who doesn’t like themes? Many, many wonderful works have been left out, I’ve just chosen a few songs that I enjoyed and fit (I tried and failed not to have too many repeat composers). I’ve also deliberately left out large scale choral-orchestral works. Some of these I have sung and some I have only listened to.

Just a note: as much as I enjoy sharing the gift of song, I make these lists mostly for myself to look back on in the future to say, “Oh yeah, that song! I should listen to that again, it’s great.” I encourage you to give these a go but the lists really are for me. Maybe choose one with an interesting title and give it a try, you can find a decent recording of most of these on the You Tubes.

The categories are, loosely, 1) poetry and prose 2) celestial songs 3) Latin sacred texts and 4) sleepytime. Hope you will enjoy this as much as I.

Poetry and Prose  (and that one song with random words)

  1. Brothers, Sing On! – after Edvard Grieg
  2. Willow-wood – Daniel Elder
  3. I Love My Love – Gustav Holst
  4. Jing-ga-lye-ya – Bruce Sled
  5. Let My Love Be Heard – Jake Runestad
  6. Anthem (The Dove Descending Breaks the Air) – Igor Stravinsky
  7. Too Much I Once Lamented – Thomas Tomkins
  8. I Am Not Yours – Z. Randall Stroope
  9. Even When He Is Silent – Kim André Arnesen
  10. Valiant-for-truth – Ralph Vaughan Williams