Strike the Harp

First, a little look at the cats because it’s always a good time to look at cat pictures.

Very cozy, I’m sure.

Second, on Wiktionary (the Wikipedia dictionary, extraordinarily useful and interesting for a person like me) there are three English etymologies for ‘troll’ and the third lists one meaning to indicate “to sing loudly, freely or in a carefree way.”

On Friday, I had a number of extended video chats with family members and it was lovely. I just like my family, they’re pretty neat. It’s always a bit dizzying to be passed around a room on a little screen but it’s worth it. I continue to be surprised by and grateful for the wonders of technology that allow such communication and contact. I’m also very excited to meet my new little niece when I get back to the US.

ALSO, I can’t believe I forgot, it snowed on Friday morning and it actually stuck for a few hours so that was absolutely lovely.

This week has been rather on the hectic side but I’m still alive and that’s really what matters. I guess.

The first week of my last term so let me give you a little rundown on what’s going on for me. My first class is the lowest level I’ve taught (aside from that bonus extra fun-time lovely joyous class from the summer term) and that’s less than ideal. My other class is a pretty high level and this is the third time I’ve taught it, second time this level and this course. So that one should be okay, even though most of my favorites leveled up.

I have surprised myself by doing mostly alright, I think, with the very small people. I have one class of that low level with fifth and sixth graders but the other class is a couple years younger. That bonus extra class from the summer had some younger ones but that was one hour twice a week and three hours on Wednesday, this class is three hours twice a week which is a lot. But like I said, we’re all still alive. All in all, I’ve actually had some really nice classes with my students already and I think it bodes well for a mostly positive final term.

There have been a number of things recently that have been really less than ideal at work, though, and they’ve really soured things (more so than in the past). Some of them have been mis non-communications and general huge problems from corporate. They have made teaching pretty unpleasant even though my students have all been mostly good. Other things have been specific to our boss who just keeps making unpleasant choices. Which. Whatever. I think that’s about all I can say about it without exploding.

On a much better note, we got a new teacher. He’s from Australia, hired to replace our Welsh teacher who left which keeps our non-American population the same. He’s a nice guy, should fit in just fine 🙂

It’s also after Thanksgiving now so people can’t stop me from being super Christmasy. I mean, they couldn’t stop me before, but now they can’t even try.

I know Christmas time isn’t a happy time for everybody and that makes me sad. There are totally valid reasons for it, of course, but I wish everyone could feel like I do around Christmas because it’s honestly the best. Of course, as Muppet Christmas Carol instructs, I try to make the feeling last all year. But it’s so much easier during Christmas. Sometimes I feel like I’m just going to burst it makes me so happy. Which is cliché, but clichés are cliché because they’re true.

Even in my sad times when I remember that I’m not going to Christmas very much this year, it still such a cozy, warm, happy sadness. Christmas, obviously, is important for many other, much more important reasons but the one that I’m grateful for today, in this moment, is the simple, commercial–even secular–Christmas spirit.

I just want to strike the harp! My coworkers can attest: I often troll yuletide carols. And you should too.

Join the chorus. Fa la la la la la la la la.

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Thank You for Saving the World

So I know today is Thanksgiving, and I’d like to address that. But I’d like to start with something else because I finally watched Wonder Woman with some friends last weekend and the more time that elapses the more I appreciate what a film it is.

In particular, I’d like to collectively ponder a quote from the end of the film. It doesn’t give away any plot, though I guess it does reveal the psychology of the ending so if you haven’t seen it yet, go and do so before continuing.

I used to want to save the world. To end war and bring peace to mankind. But then, I glimpsed the darkness that lives within their light. And I learned that inside every one of them, there will always be both. A choice each must make for themselves. Something no hero will ever defeat. And now I know that only love can truly save the world. So I stay, I fight, and I give, for the world I know can be.

First, I think it’s so mature and accurate to real life for a superhero movie to just say straight up that heroes can never save the world because people suck. In the end, we just choose. And choose every day, every moment, how to comport ourselves, how to speak to other people, how to act and think when no one else is looking. And, all too often, we will choose poorly.

Second, only love can save the world. I have no commentary for this.

It’s Thanksgiving and I would just like us to take a moment and pause to make a deliberate and heartfelt choice. To choose light and love. To enter into the greatest love of the God who came near and share it with another. And know, for that small moment, that we are living a part of saving the world. We will fall short of goodness again and again but, in the words of C. S. Lewis, “to this moment’s choice, give unfair weight.”

That is what I have for that. But this week has been pretty full so you’ll forgive me if I include a little more before getting to Thanksgiving, even if this post becomes cumbersomely lengthy.

On Saturday, I had some friends from church over and we played Settlers of Catan. I really love the game (a board game of… settlement and building if you’re not familiar) but haven’t played in ages. We had a lot of fun. I finished in the middle of the pack, but would have been a strong contender for first if we had rolled like Any sixes the whole game. I’m not bitter though, don’t worry.

It snowed on Monday, not for long and it certainly didn’t stick, but the flakes were large and wet and delicious. Yes, I caught a few on my tongue, heinous air quality notwithstanding. My friend caught me on video enjoying a bit of a frolic. She wanted me to upload the video but I’m too technologically un-savvy to figure it out, I’ll put it on Facebook and that’s the best I can do. Sorry Blair.

We also received our schedules for next term (*MY LAST TERM*) and it’s not terrible but it’s not great. I’ll tell you more about it next week when I’ve actually taught my classes. There was also a small breakthrough regarding Christmas but, again, more on that later.

Anyway, Wednesday was a half day as per usual. After work, we gathered at one of our apartments and had a small Thanksgiving-ish sort of time. And it was wonderful. (I refuse to the term Friendsgiving because a. we are not giving friends b. we are giving thanks c. one of the things we are giving thanks for is friends d. friends are a normal part of Thanksgiving e. it’s dumb).

It was a bit of an eclectic mix. Korean fried chicken, pizza dip, Kraft macaroni and cheese, dumplings, fig jam, and Costco pumpkin pie. In other words, exactly as Thanksgiving should be. In a pretty tame game of most likely, I was voted most likely to know how to dispose of a body and become a brutal dictator, and tied for most likely to start my own fashion line. All of which I took as the compliments they were.

I truly am grateful for my coworkers. For a place where I don’t I like working very much, I value my time at school substantially more because of them. They really have made a world of difference for my time here. I’m grateful for my church home here in Seoul, for opportunities to serve, for Paris Baguette, for just so many things.

I’ll be video calling my family tomorrow because it will be Thanksgiving in the US on Friday here. So that will be nice. Now that I have a few non-family Thanksgivings under my belt, it’s not such a strange feeling. Christmas, I’m sure, will be an entirely different matter, but I’m feeling pretty good for this Thanksgiving. I know people around me love me, and I hope they know I love them. I’m grateful, I’m grateful, I’m grateful.

That’s all it is, really. I’m so thankful to have people in my life, present with me physically and virtually, who choose love. Maybe not every time, but as much as possible. Maybe not perfectly, but as best they can. According to Wonder Woman, you’re saving the world. So thanks for that.

Alarm Clocks are for Zombies

Next week is the last week of term and I expect I’ll have something to say about how close I am to the end of my time in Korea. But in the meantime, I still have another week. This week was less than ideal at work insofar as I had two combined classes, taught a class of third graders in a level I’ve never taught before, and had another class mostly as normal except in a random different classroom and which suddenly combined to double its size for the last half hour.

All in all, not huge burdens or anything but frustrating. A general theme I’ve noticed at my workplace (and which seems to be a common mindset in Korea) is to approach problems as if they only had one dimension. You choose what thing is the most important and you make that look the way you want without considering anything else. Which is frustrating because it means there are easier and simpler solutions that are overlooked. I get that this is for-profit education so money comes first. I hate it, but I understand. Sometimes, though, it’s just straightforward efficiency and time management issues.

Anyway, it’s my first full-time job and I’ve obviously joined the ranks of workers who think they know better than their bosses. Though I’m pretty sure I do, whatever.

On the plus side, though, I had a surprise day off on Wednesday which is always nice. I didn’t do much, surprise. I had a nice, brisk walk (it’s gotten pretty cold here) but nothing too arduous, just around town. I picked up some fancy groceries just because I could–pasta, cream sauce, and fig jam. Highly recommend. Mostly, I just lazed around and slowly went about a few household chores that I had been putting off. It was the right balance, enough to make me feel productive but little enough to let me feel rested.

Our topic today in my debate class was world government but I didn’t really like the lesson so, after doing obligatory lesson things, we had a debate on the proposition ‘War is always wrong.’ And my students (there were only four today) actually had some really good ideas. I helped provide them with some historical examples for both sides but they did quite a bit of work on their own, I was impressed with their maturity. These are mostly sixth graders. Though I did have to stiffle a laugh when, in their speech, a student talking about the US Civil War described slavery as “doing a lot of hard works, listening to bad words, and not being treated as human.”

Kind of funny but also I’m glad that they know enough about the world to say, without my prompting in any way, that slavery treated people as less than human.

You may recall that a few months ago I wrote about the mysterious alarm clock in my neighbor’s apartment that was on for like a day straight. Well, it was back again this week. Starting on Tuesday morning at 9:30 and ending sometime while I was at work, which means at least four and a half hours of beep-beep-beep. But at least it wasn’t overnight like last time.

My explanations then were murder and zombies, a brief recurrence later in the week seeming to suggest the latter. This week’s episode confirms the theory and, I think, zombies must just be heavy sleepers. Because there is no other possible explanation. Zombies.

Though honestly it doesn’t sit well with me that zombies have enough going on in their lives (unlives?) that they need to set alarms. No rest for the wicked, I guess. But are zombies really wicked, if it’s an infection that you can’t choose to get and then suddenly you have a need for brains?

I don’t know. These are the questions that occupy my time. At least I can say I’m together enough as a person, and have leisurely enough mornings, that I don’t use an alarm. In fact, the only alarm I hear in this building is the zombie’s alarm.

Take from that what you will.

Революция

A couple days ago marked the hundred year anniversary of the so-called October Revolution (so-called because at the time, the Russian calendar was about two weeks behind the Western one). The Provisional Government, formed after the abdication of Nicholas II in the spring, was overthrown. Lenin was the man. Which is to say, in short, it was the birth of what would become–after a devastating civil war– the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Союз Советских Социалистических Республик).

As an aside for grammarians and students of Russian language, can you imagine having genitive plural as part of the name of your country?

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Пролетарии всех стран, соединяйтесь!

It may seem a little strange that I didn’t manage to muse publicly about the Reformation but do have the time and energy to write about the Russian Revolution. But, in truth, it’s not strange at all because of who I am as a person.

I follow a page on Facebook that has been posting quotations and informational stuff all year in memory of the anniversary (it’s called Project1917 if you’re interested). The past couple days they’ve also been doing faux news reports, especially as fighting broke out in Petrograd and the Soviets began taking over the city (note: soviet just means council). I find it so incredible (and also impossible) to imagine being present for all those momentous happenings.

I don’t have any profound historical insights, nor contemporary philosophizing. I just think it’s important to remember these unimaginably important moments in history. Though the Great Man/Great Moment theory of history is mostly a nonstarter for me, this gets pretty close. A lot of it came down to a few people seizing a short space of time and radically altering the history of the entire world forever. I could write a million counterfactuals around the idea of no revolution.

Today’s topic in my upper-level class was nuclear (non)proliferation. It was cool to have a relatively mature conversation about the pros and cons of different arguments. I also got to talk about the Cold War and some Soviet history which was nice.

I haven’t talked all that much about Russia on this blog, mostly because I’ve been doing other things. But I remain deeply interested in it as a country, culture, language, and just…place, you know? I have no idea how it might happen, but I would totally be okay with ending up in Russia next year. I would love to go back–and to see new places.

Not much else happened this week. Glad I didn’t have to endure another Bonfire Night in Stoneybatter because all that black smoke and burned mattresses were not doing it for me. It’s almost the end of week 11 which means only two more weeks left in term.

And then it’s my last term.

That’s soon.

Agh.

Wine Stains; Unsent Invitations

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it to you, readers, but there is an extraordinarily comprehensive wine stain on the wall of my apartment. Sitting at my desk, where I spend most of my time, I am constantly thinking various droplets are bugs and sometimes even move almost involuntarily to smash them (not entirely unreasonable seeing as there are often bugs but that’s a separate issue).

To be clear, I did not put the stain there. It was the previous occupant, another teacher who left when I arrived and whom I never met. I have it on good authority that they tried very hard to clean it but it wouldn’t budge. There is even a place where they must have tried some truly serious intervention because it seems to have stripped away the protective layer from the wallpaper in a weird-shaped blotch before they gave up. Honestly, if I had made such an incredulously large and splattery stain I think I would leave it untouched as a badge of honor.

I would include a picture but the lighting and tones make it difficult to capture what I can see so easily. But believe you me, this thing is (I cannot impress upon you how un-exaggerated this is) approximately ten feet across and extends from the floor to the ceiling in a number of spewed arcs from what appears to be multiple sources. And by ceiling, I mean it extends in one particular sweep a solid three feet into the room.

There’s a Russian saying, к хорошему быстро привыкаешь, which means ‘you get used to good things quickly’ and which I think is probably true. But though it might take longer, I think most mediocre and even bad things can gotten used to. The problem is that being used to something is not, in and of itself, a bad thing but it usually ends up that way, at least in my life. Maybe that’s why (one of myriad reasons, I’m sure) it took so little convincing for me to agree to move to Korea.

‘Variety is the spice of life’ is one of my unofficial life mottoes. Aside from being absurdly cliché, it is my greatest retreat when people tell me I’m boring which I am. I like to think that I have variety in the small things so as to preserve the greatest possible monotony in the big things. This doesn’t seem to hold true insofar as living in one place goes, but in many other ways it is suspiciously close to a religious tenet. I make the same soup every day, but I season it differently. Usually. I get frustrated and resentful when my routine is disrupted but I also like going on spontaneous three-hour walks to new places.

Okay, basically my arguments about variety fall apart under even cursory examination. Anyway. I thought I might write about the Reformation this week but surprise, I’m not going to. A book got in the way.

The book is a seasonal favorite. I’ve read it a few times, not nearly as many as I’d like. It’s not an outstanding book but it’s good and it’s very Christmasy. Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos.

1 November is the date on which I have historically sent out invitations (via Facebook) to my annual Christmas party. Annual as in since 2007. Annual as in this would have been the eleventh annual. Correct, would have been. Because I’ll be here, in Seoul. And while I’ve known that, of course, and knew it going in, sometimes I remember particularly and it’s a small anguish.

I’m very possessive about my favorites lists, it takes a lot to change them (I think we’ve covered that I’m not wild into change). One that I’ve had to face up to in recent years is favorite Christmas song. It used to be, for many years, The Christmas Song aka Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire. But in Ireland, I think, I finally acknowledged that my new favorite is Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. Because it says, “Through the years, we all will be together if the fates allow,” and “Faithful friends who are dear to us gather near to us once more.”

So I guess this post is mostly things I did not do this week. Invitations were not sent. Bugs were not squished. Well, actually they were, but not the phantom wine stain bugs. Changes were not made and my soup was only marginally spiced. Some weeks are just like that, I guess. Weeks of not. I’ll live.