- 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.
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.
Surprise, I have not been up to much of anything this week. We had our first solid rain yesterday and I was pleased. It felt good, even if it didn’t really seem to influence the city-ness of the air. And my walk to work is only like five minutes, so I wasn’t even that wet. Back in Dublin, it was tough when it started raining part way through my forty minute walk and there were no buses on their way. Anyway.
On Wednesday, I had a small addition to my routine. Normally, I go into work to putz around, plan, and grade or whatever miscellaneous work needs to be done before phone sessions. This week, I was in charge of a review session for the first part of the day. Basically, we looked at answers the kids all had already, chatted about topics they only vaguely remembered, and played games. But it wasn’t so bad.
I don’t really have anything else to report. Sometimes I appall myself with how truly and utterly I fill my time with nothing. I don’t even watch that much Netflix. I have no idea what happens to the time, though I know even if I had more I lack the willpower to do anything much with it. I have a few theories about this particular iteration of nothingness here in Seoul, maybe I’ll share them at a later date.
For now, I’d like to give you a bit of insight at how my BA in international studies continues to actually mean something in my life, even if it’s not directly related to my job.
I recently subscribed to the blog Political Violence at a Glance, which issues both a weekly compilation of important news articles and longer topic pieces on relevant issues. This is the latest of three similar updates I follow to keep track of international events. I claim this neither as many nor few, but I encourage everyone to take some time regularly to look at what’s going on from sources that don’t only care about things in other countries when our country is involved or there’s a horrendous disaster.
This week’s discussion was on the fighting, both militarily and socially, the violent extremist groups in the Sahel and Maghreb (if you’re interested, you can read it here). Importantly, as the piece notes, counterinsurgency is not just about wresting control of territory from violent groups, it is also about the classic winning of hearts and minds. This has long been the dilemma of people involved in counterinsurgency efforts. The author drew a comparison between contemporary states’ attempts in the region and colonial French policies and I think it’s an important one.
The writer talks about the ways in which groups are defined by the state as constitutively violent change depending on who’s in power (because generally religion doesn’t advocate a whole lot of violence). The problem they describe, therefore, is not one of message but of identity. The solution, it follows, is then not about amending your ways but of amending yourself. It’s “be a member of this sect” instead of simply “don’t preach violence.” This isn’t entirely unhelpful but it will not bring a durable peace.
In my studies, I have encountered a wide variety of ways to talk about peace but this brief article provided a new one for me, and one which I immediately took to heart in times like these. Defining the problem in the terms outlined above does not actually distinguish between violent and peaceful groups. They certainly are violent but the response to them comes from a redefinition by the group in power. The line drawn is between revisionist and politically quietist.
I may have run across the term “politically quietist” before but it didn’t seem to make much of an impact. Here though, and now, I find it resonating deeply. And the term is easily transferable. Protesters: Black Lives Matter, Standing Rock, Women’s March ect. Viewpoints: political correctness, legal discrimination, minimum wage ect.
Is it peace or is it status quo? Do you want what’s right or what’s easy? What’s true or what’s convenient? Political quietism is just a fancy way of saying the people with the power want to protect and (pre)serve power. Keeping things the same is a heavy and powerful idea.
And do we see people as essentialized, petrified bastions of oversimplified beliefs or human beings who can make mistakes and learn from them? Who are deserving of mercy and grace? Who can be forgiven even if they do not seek forgiveness?
Using another term, I want to seek positive peace–not the absence of war but the presence of justice. I want unity in diversity. If that makes me a troublemaker, so be it.
I reject quiet. I pursue peace.
Okay, you may know that most of like junior year of high school I thought I was going to major in linguistics. Specifically, historical and comparative linguistics (like, I sort of really had things planned out). Obviously, that didn’t pan out. But I remain generally fascinated by language and I love learning little quirks and things (and I’m still trying to become at least proficient in a second language, but that’s another story).
Anyway, near the beginning of first semester Russian, we learned the verb работать (raBOtat’) which means to work. My professor told us that it comes from the same Slavic root as a similar Czech word meaning forced labor that was used by the Čapek brothers, particularly but possibly not originally by Karel, in the play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots). They invented the word robot. So that’s pretty cool.
Additionally, the proto-Indo-European (the term to describe the theoretical language spoken by basically everyone from Ireland to India before languages diverged) basis for robota/работа is also the root, meaning to change from one state to another, for orphan. You can read more about it here. Thus the question posed at the beginning: can robots be orphans? Probably not, at least in the strictest sense, because of the whole they’re not alive and so don’t have parents thing. But I guess if their makers abandoned them, they’d be sad about it too. And who’s to say whether or not they dream of electric sheep.
All this has basically been to say: I have a job! It’s just a part-time seasonal position in retail, but money’s money so I’m not complaining. My job could 100% be performed by a robot, and I feel like it might be in some parts of the world, but I don’t mind the work and I’m finished about the time most other people’s jobs are beginning so I still feel like I have a lot of free time. I may be job shadowing or something in the mid-future, we’ll see. Just trying to keep occupied to have things to say if ever I get an interview for a job in my actual field.
So that’s the news of the week, I started last Friday and, you know, it’s been a big thrill. Not much else has been going on in my life, but I’m kind of okay with that. I’d love to be getting a move on, but while I’m here I’ll echo what I said when I arrived in Ireland: bloom where you’re planted. Other things are things (coughtheelectioncough) and they’re not terribly uplifting and they certainly don’t tend to inspire great confidence. I just watched V for Vendetta for the first time on Tuesday and wow. Firstly, I really liked it. Secondly, how terrifyingly topical. Wow, I tell you what, wow. Fascism is the worst.
The Wikipedia page on R.U.R., after describing the plot which involves a hostile robot takeover and the extinction of humanity, says that the play is “dark, but not without hope.” That is a direct quote. I haven’t read/seen the play, but if the extinction of humanity can be portrayed as dark, but not without hope, maybe there’s something to be said for humans after all. Maybe, just maybe, we’re a little better off than sad orphan robots (if it’s possible for them to exist).
Maybe hope is for the dark times anyway.