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.

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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.

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Winter; Discontent

Hi.

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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.

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.

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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

 

O Hush the Noise

The weather of late has been decidedly wintry. The occasional snowfall (without sticking, of course) has served to gently punctuate the suitably seasonal cold. As Seoul receives the vast majority of its precipitation during the monsoon of late summer, winter is a relatively sunny time which calls to mind Dickinson’s slant of light, but also has provided ample days of crisp, stunning clarity (in stark contrast to the haze-draped thickness of spring air). All in all, I’ve been enjoying the sweater weather thoroughly.

I’ve somehow subconsiously decided to name all my posts between last week and Christmas after Christmas song lyrics and this week I learned something about a particular carol which I would like to share with you.

It Came Upon the Midnight Clear is a lovely carol; it has an interesting tune (referring to the Carol, not Noel tune), softly poetic lyrics, and a slightly more up-beat Silent Night vibe which I wholeheartedly approve. Reading the Wikipedia page for the song this week, I learned a great deal about the poet and how he came to write such verse. I also had the pleasure of reading, for the first time, all five original stanzas and I would ask that you do so now as well.

As the article points out, it is a relatively unique carol in that it makes absolutely no mention of the Nativity itself. In fact, only the first stanza even references the fact of Christmas at all. You may think that this almost disqualifies it as a Christmas carol, since only one verse is even somewhat related to the birth of Jesus. I would contend, however, that its primary content is distinct from traditional carols but is relevant in very important ways to Christmas and in particular our current world.

The bulk of the poem is about the modern world, or as modern as the world of the poet in 1849. The main thrust is that the world is dark and dangerous and weary. And that speaks heavily to the world I encounter through the news and through my life every day. This song is not a song sung to Jesus, it is a song sung to us, “ye, beneath life’s crushing load.” The thing is, Jesus was Immanuel, the God With Us. He came to Bethlehem, yes, but God is still with us now too. Christmas is a special time in history, of course, but it’s also Christmas every day because of the nearness of the holy we are privileged to experience. I’ve had much cause this week to rest beside the weary road and strain my ears for that long-echoing angels’ song.

And now for something completely different: I’ve received some complaints about the lack of Béégashii recently so here’s an update on the traveling cat, currently back home in Arizona. Very handsome.

 

Ten points to you, reader, if you’ve ever read a book with some kind of mind control–or something along those lines–which must be combated by the characters through various exercises of mental discipline. Mantras, almost, that can give the thinker enough force to withstand the mind of others.

An additional ten points if you’ve ever read of a character taking a steadying breath. A moment to recover, plan, center oneself, summon up courage ect.

Tuesday of this week was a really hard day for me. Thankfully, it wasn’t related to my classes, which were both pretty great. But it was rough. Just… rough. And the anti-mind control device I used to stave off shaking myself apart from the inside out was God give me peace.

There are some truths that, in my heart, have become a little hackneyed. But that changes when I take a moment, especially when I’m really in dire straits, to drill them forcefully into all of my fibers.

I am loved.

God is good.

There is hope.

And that’s basically Christmas. I managed to survive this week and that’s the message I bring to you.

O hush the noise, ye men of strife, and hear the angels sing.

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.

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.

Doughnuts, Sweaters, and Being Together

So the super important news of the week is that the Paris Baguette across from work, which has been closed all month, is finally open again!! It’s been magically transformed into a Paris Baguette Café which means I’m not sure what. But it looks very fancy and shiny and new (but also mostly the same). Yesterday was the grand reopening and everything in the store was 20% off, obviously I bought everything in the store. It really was almost exactly the same but still. One new product I saw was blueberry doughnuts so I got one and it was delicious (though it kind of made me miss Tesco).

It was truly a hardship while it was closed. There’s another one ten or fifteen minutes down the street near my grocery store, but I only ever go there on Saturday, it’s such a burden.

Okay, that is all the first-world complaining I have for this week, promise.

I would like to share a really precious picture of Camaro who just wonders why life gotta do her like that.

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Work continues to be pretty generally fine. I covered one of the three hour sessions of the extra course I taught last term and, while the class itself was fine, it did renew my gratitude for being free from teaching that this term. We’re also having a little Halloween poster contest for the whole hagwon, a fun diversion for them instead of stressing over the test. Some of them are taking it very seriously which is always nice.

My students are pretty good, several of them are definite favorites. Teaching higher levels is a major plus for me and hopefully I’ll finish strong next term with similar classes (and I’d love to have a bunch of my students again). Next week is the level-up test which means there’s only one more month left in this term.

Sweater weather is finally here, too. A great relief after long-enduring days of too much heat. It hasn’t been hot hot for a while, and we long ago left the humidity behind, but it was getting pretty late for an actual start to fall. So I’m very much enjoying wearing all my sweaters again, giving them some fresh air after too long stowed away in the closet.

Not much else has been going on this week. Doing some reading. Doing a lot of waiting because I’m on hold at the library for like twenty thousand books and it’s taking forever. Also, I have not suddenly become fluent in Korean, I’m referring to the Pierce County Library which has on online lending system for Ebooks that I’ve been using.

Also, how crazy is it that Martin Luther nailed up his theses 500 years ago? Five hundred years of protest. Maybe next week I’ll have some thoughts about it, I didn’t realize that it was actually on 31 October, just sort of interesting because, like, Halloween and stuff. You know. Not feeling eloquent today, and feeling generally lazy, so that’s all I’ve got on that but there is plenty to be said, maybe next week.

I don’t have much to say this week in terms of discussion topics, but I did have a little moment of almost déjà vu. Did you ever see those Android commercials from several years ago? With the animals playing together? I do happen to use an Android phone but regardless of that I really love the slogan for that ad campaign: Be together, not the same.

That’s my closing thought for today.