- I moved to Korea.
- I read Pictures of Hollis Woods and The Graveyard Book for class and enjoyed both.
- Britain decided to leave the EU.
- I lived in a house that was perpetually cold and had no heating.
- I got a Kakao and a Line account for work. Kakao is much better.
- I developed a deep and abiding love for Tesco.
- I felt at home in a place that was not my home (more than once but not often).
- I visited my sister and checked off two more US states (AZ and NM).
- I learned that LG originally stood for Lucky Goldstar not Life is Good.
- I watched Inside Out and thought it was alright.
- I consumed gochujang in many forms and still don’t like it.
- I received this picture of my cat.
- I learned how to use screen mirroring because I do it in class every day.
- I despaired of finding real cheese in Korea.
- I found some real cheese in Korea, but only on one particular dish.
- I learned Hangul.
- I started playing D&D again (virtually) and it’s great.
- I felt lonely (more than once).
- I ate some tangerine named after Hallasan (the tallest mountain in South Korea).
- I killed a rosemary plant and nearly a mint but the mint is still hanging on. Barely.
- I washed a quilty-thing when I probably should have had it dry cleaned but it’s fine.
- I visited Antwerp.
- I read The Count of Monte Cristo.
- I tried aged kimchi for the first time. Better than regular, but still gross.
- I moved to Ireland.
- I got over not having a dryer.
- I learned more Konglish than Korean.
- I moved into an apartment that is always hot but has AC.
- I went to Jeju.
- I graduated with an MPhil from Trinity College Dublin.
- I took a trip on a single line of the Seoul metro that was almost two hours one way.
- I visited Amsterdam.
- I had a Belgian waffle (with Nutella) in Belgium. Exceeded expectations.
- I started saying ‘grand’ all the time because the Irish do.
- I worked in retail at midnight on Black Friday (but not directly with customers).
- I had ox bone soup. It was delicious.
- I tried and failed to figure out how to turn down the temperature of a toilet seat.
- I learned that Ohio is the only US state that shares no letters with the word mackerel.
- Donald Trump was elected president.
- I read A Man Called Ove and am still emotional about it.
- I got over not having a key but still sometimes check my back pocket for one.
- I found out who BTS was and kind of wish I hadn’t.
- I became a teacher.
- I climbed Ansan multiple times.
- I reread Stargirl for the umpteenth time and still enjoyed it.
- I found an English-speaking church in Seoul that I like.
- I received this picture of my other cat.
- I got Snapchat. I mostly don’t regret it.
- I learned about gene doping because I had to teach a lesson on it.
- Three members of my family visited me in Korea for a week.
- I felt embarrassed (more than once–often).
- I read the Chaos Walking trilogy and very much enjoyed it.
- I made many new friends.
- I grew to hate air pollution personally rather than in the abstract.
- I told my French cat joke to more than one native French speaker.
- I watched The Bourne Legacy and wasn’t impressed but was entertained.
- I planted basil and it’s doing well.
- I went to many museums in Seoul and learned a lot about Korean history.
- I turned 22.
- I ate small octopus (different from squid and normal octopus) for the first time.
- I got used to waking up at 2:30 in the morning.
- As soon as I was able, I stopped waking up at 2:30 in the morning.
- I watched Man of Steel. It was decent.
- I saw a few of the original Dol Harubang (stone grandfather) statues on Jeju.
- I managed to live without a microwave or an oven (so far).
- I visited Oslo.
- I tried Pokemon Go but gave up because I don’t have data here.
- I learned how to pay bills at a 7-11.
- I possessed more money at one time than I have ever done.
- I successfully completed a dissertation. Or thesis. Still not certain what it’s called.
- Macron became President of France.
- I walked almost two miles in the rain at night during winter because I am stubborn.
- I worked retail on Christmas Eve morning (but thankfully not Christmas).
- I started to give a slight bow instinctively in certain situations.
- FARC signed a peace deal with the Colombian government.
- I visited the Hoh Rainforest.
- I had a lovely visit with a friend who had a twelve hour layover in Seoul.
- I felt proud of my accomplishments (more than once).
- I climbed a (dead) volcanic crater in the pouring rain.
- I got a smartphone for the first time.
- I got another, better smartphone.
- I became a multimillionaire after only two paychecks.
- I came out.
- I was in Dublin for Irish elections to the Dáil.
- I was in Seoul for a presidential election.
- I visited Gyeongbokgung Palace.
- Rio de Janeiro hosted the Summer Olympics.
- I became increasingly sensitive to and aware of nationalism.
- My sister visited me in Ireland.
- I did not visit the DMZ because of a mix up but was promised a trip at a future date.
- I had to drive to Seattle three times in one week and it made me sad.
- I bought a mask because spring air pollution in Seoul was killer (it hasn’t improved much).
- I bought a leafy green which turned out to be spinach still attached to the root.
- I saw many beautiful cherry blossoms.
- I read the Farseer Trilogy and thought it was good not great.
- I existed in closer proximity to more humans than I ever had before.
- I received this picture of my sister’s cat.
- I visited Paris Baguette for the first time.
- I learned a lot about the Sami.
- I started a blog and here we are.
I kid you not, our guide on Jeju was a Russian from Vladivostok. His name was Viktor, which was also my name in Russian class. Obviously, I’ve gotten way ahead of myself but I had to tell you about him straight away since I was literally taking about Vladivostok in last week’s post. Anyway. Allow me to backtrack a sec for you.
This week I have some family visiting: my younger brother, step-mom, and her mom who is Korean but has been living in the US basically since the Korean War. So we’ve done a bunch of touristy things (including a number of things I’ve been meaning to do but had been to lazy to do alone). It’s been great so far.
We started on Monday with a pretty full schedule of running around Seoul and seeing as much as we could. We visited Gyeongbokgung Palace (the main palace of the Joseon Dynasty), a number of mountains around Seoul, Namdaemun market (where I had actually been before), and a variety of little sights around the city. Lots of driving. Like I said, very full.
Now they had booked an actual tour deal, but it was just us. This meant basically that we had most of our time fairly scheduled, but that we got a cool, personal guide. It is very different from how I usually travel–I also usually travel alone–but it was great. Our guide in Seoul is rad and it’s nice to have someone who knows where they’re going and can take you there witout much ado.
On Tuesday, we flew out to Jeju Island, which some have called the Hawai’i of Korea. It was absolutely lovely. As I’ve stated, our guide on the island was actually Russian, do that was neat. But mostly, Jeju is just wonderful. We visited natural wonders: waterfall, lava tube, cliffs, crater, beach ect. We also saw a wonderful temple (all the way from the 1980s!), historical governor’s palace thing, a stone park with lots of cool rocks and stuff, and a traditional folk village. We had some tangerines, for which the island is famous, and some fried chicken, for which it is not. I got sunburned (thankfully not too badly) and we climbed a mountain in torrential rain and strong wind.
Nothing we did was actually super impressive or absolutely amazing (not to disparage it at all) but the thing I loved most was just being out of Seoul. It was astounding how much I reveled in being surrounded by green. I guess not astounding because of course, but still. Sea breeze. Trees that are actually true green. Everything so, so lush. Driving along country roads with the windows down.
Everything was made of black volcanic rock. There were some columns that looked like a baby Giant’s Causeway, some cliffs that reminded me of Carrick-a-Rede. There was a crater on the coast that, from a distance, looked like Howth, even with the little low-lying isthmus connecting it to the main island. So basically I was in a hot, Korean Ireland.
I truly had a wonderful time there, in all the different weather. It really felt like a vacation. But I’ve just flown back from Jeju tonight, a couple hours ago, and I’m sort of pooped. So I’ll write more next week, I promise, and maybe include a few pictures. Tomorrow we’re going to the DMZ and I probably won’t say much about that, but we have a few more things to see on Saturday, and my brother and grandmother are leaving on Sunday and my step-mom is leaving on Wednesday.
Anyway. I know I talk a lot about city/nature but golly. I really needed this green. If you have green around you, please appreciate it on my behalf. I won’t be leaving Seoul (at least not for more than a day or two) until March. So read some Keats (that’d be the title) and nature as much as you can.
A bright idea I had before coming to Korea was the thought of visiting Vladivostok. It’s not too far away and it’s been a long-time dream of mine. Before I ever imagined living in Croatia, I hungered for a visit to the Russian Far East.
From a pretty young age, I was obsessed with maps. Looking at them, memorizing them, creating them for the fantastical realms in my mind. Two towns in particular captured my fancy, for no discernable reason other than they seemed isolated and uninteresting (hipster childhood, what can I say)–Vladivostok and another town across the Sea of Okhotsk called Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky (that’s Владивосток and Петропавловск-Камчатский for those of you who would like to know the Russian). In fact, those two cities are farther apart than Washington’s border with Canada and California’s with Mexico.
Fun fact, Vladivostok means Lord of the East. Also, fun fact, the Kamchatka Peninsula is not accessible by road. There are roads on it, but none that connect it to the rest of the country. Mind you, this is a peninsula about the size of Colorado.
Having learned more about the region (and it’s many, many volcanoes), I’ve long wanted to visit, but it’s one of those pipe dreams, you know? Like, the only real thing on my bucket list (that I don’t really have) is to do the entire Trans-Siberian railroad in winter and have a nice visit in Vladivostok at the end.
It always pleases me when people ask me questions about Russia–history, politics, (more rarely) language. I am certainly no Russia expert, but I definitely know more than the average American. And one thing I’m proud of, if I may, is my willingness and often eagerness to look things up if I don’t know.
My roommate in college and I shared a passion for Wikipedia. Being intellectual college-y types, we were of course fond of having intellectual, college-y conversations. This often led to disagreements both philosophical and practical. On these practical questions, we would turn without hesitation to that wellspring of easily accessible and digestible information (yes, he was usually right). Sometimes our battles of facts were about which was harder: Russian or German. Who could produce the most abstruse, confounding, absurd rule or grammatical structure. Often, they were about the minutae of historical and political discourse that delights us. We were pretty ideal roommates for a number of reasons, not least because our arguments were almost always extremely short-lived–typically only the time it takes to skim the relevant header on a Wikipedia page or two.
Like I said before, I am not an expert. In Russia or in anything. But what I lack in outright knowledge (which is admittedly 94% useless and obscure trivia), I make up for in curiosity.
In couple of my classes recently, we’ve talked about charisma (a difficult concept to explain, let me tell you). I was reading just a couple days ago this guy who was saying, in a massive paraphrase, an important aspect of charisma–and even just happiness–was curiosity. To be genuinely interested in other people and the world around you. Not that I’m super charismatic or anything, but you gotta thing it’s maybe something important.
I also want to take a second to note that I’m also generally pretty apathetic about things. In some sectors this is waning, but it still looms large in my personality. And sometimes I’m overeager to share the answer, or overly meticulous about correcting small mistakes. And I do get embarrassed when I’m proven wrong and feel vindicated when proven right, even at the expense of another’s feelings.
I keep getting distracted by these caveats making sure I’m not painting myself in overly flattering terms. Whatever, you get it, I’m not great. But I’m not meaning to talk about me. I’m talking about curiosity.
Basically what I’m trying to say is: it is okay not to know, as long as you’re willing to find out. Ask questions. Listen to answers. Be honest about the extent of your knowledge, and try to increase it.
I love talking to people about things I’m interested in, especially if it’s waaay more than they really wanted to know. And, likewise, I love listening to people explaining things to me when I ask, even if it’s waay more than I wanted to know. In my limited experience, I’ve found that people with knowledge are generally pleased to be asked to share it.
So go forth and ask questions; you’ll probably make someone’s day. The only way to fill in a map is to go off the edge of one. To get what you’ve never had you must do what you’ve never done.
There’s really very little to say this week. Classes have continued to be alright and I think I do prefer this term’s classes to last, though it’s hard to say. My extra class of very small humans is trying to me but it’s not really that bad. Sometimes getting answers out of students is like pulling teeth but again, it’s nothing exceptionally unpleasant (so it’s not really like pulling teeth after all, but you get the idea). Maybe rather boring, but it isn’t awful by any stretch.
I’m trying to venture out more with my fellow teachers, just to socialize after work and the like. “More” is a relative term so it doesn’t mean much actually, but it’s the thought that counts. My outings have increased in frequency; that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. It’s much easier to be social with this group because, while I really liked the teachers from last term, they had all been together for a year at least–not that they were exclusive, they were just used to each other. This new batch is new, so it’s not like I really have to break into super established social circles.
I do have one quick story. Last Saturday night, my neighbor’s alarm went off. I didn’t note exactly when it started, but it was around 9:30 pm. It continued all through the night, was still going the next morning. I left at 10 am or so, it was still going strong. Luckily, it had stopped by the time I returned a few hours later. It wasn’t incredibly loud, but it was 100% audible for the duration. It wasn’t a great night’s sleep.
This story comes to mind because I just heard the same alarm, starting at 10:19 pm, but it lasted for less than ten seconds. So they weren’t actually dead, the killers returned to the scene of the crime, or zombies.
If it’s the zombie apocalypse, you heard it here first.
I recently purchased a bottle of peach and golden kiwi drinking yoghurt and it was really good. There are few delights in this world to compare with consuming something that is unexpectedly delicious. (Also, I spell yoghurt with an h. Sue me.)
This week has furnished precious few moments worth mentioning, but that one was particularly enjoyable. If you’ve never had the pleasure of tasting some great peach golden kiwi drinking yoghurt, I’m sorry. I hope you do someday.
In the meantime, feel free to share with me your experiences of things that you may or may not have had expectations about but which turned out to be super tasty. Precedence will obviously be given to bread products and things that are sweet, but I won’t discriminate. I like food.
Until next week, here’s to tasty things. Especially the unlooked-for kind.
It’s weird to be writing this post while complaining that my apartment is way too hot for 10:30 at night, but it is what it is.
I love the sun. As with anything, there are consequences to overindulgence (and privation). But what a marvelous, extravagant gift. I understand why ancient peoples worshiped it, and I praise the God who graciously offers it to us afresh each morning. Every day offers fresh tableaux of sun, sky, and land, even when clouds or haze dilute the vibrancy of the light.
That was just my major thought for the week. Well, I guess major is a bit much, but it was a thought that I had. I complain about being too hot fairly often, I have a low sun threshold. I love it anyway and I don’t want to take it for granted.
In terms of school, this week has not been nearly so crazy as I anticipated. The first time teaching any class–and the first time meeting new students–is definitely scary, but I’m already feeling pretty good about the term. There are some challenges, obviously, but I’m moving forward with a lot more confidence than I had at this point last term. I may even be getting my expectations too high. Only time will tell.
This term, one of the books I am teaching is Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. Every time I remember it, I remember how much I love it–flashback to Mrs. Tweten’s eighth grade primetime class. Every time I read it (including last Saturday) I am reminded of how sad it makes me. I wonder what opportunities I’ve squandered by thinking more about who I wish I could be than who I am. Chances that, once missed, can never be taken again. I wonder if I’ve ever met a star person, and been to afraid to allow myself to see them. I wonder if I’ve ever heard a moa, and if I’d notice if I had.
And then I think, maybe it’s all beside the point. In the dedication, Spinelli writes, “And to Loren Eiseley who taught us that even as we are. we are becoming.” I remind myself how firmly I believe in justice and black bean burritos for all. I pray a quick prayer of thanks that the sun shines on the good and the bad. And I feel stronger for it.
I can’t tell everyone to enjoy the sun (though I can and do, actually) since who knows what the weather’s like when and where you’re reading this. But I guess just revel in small things. The old line about taking nothing for granted. Savor the newspaper-filler minutiae of your life (and the lives of others). Celebrate the little things, the big things, and all the things in between.
There is a Ray Bradbury poem, and you’ll forgive me if I misquote it, having been unable to find it on the interwebs. I don’t even remember exactly what he’s talking about, the sun, stars, maybe just life in general. Regardless, he says that there is a light in the universe that is “saying Yes and Yes and again Yes to the great, dark, silent No.”
May our lives be a Yes in the face of that utter No.