On a sidenote,
I’ve totally flopped on NaNoWriMo this month. In previous years I’d gotten as far as a hundred and something pages, but this time around, it’s day 28 and I have about 4 pages handwritten. 😛
Next year I’ll try again!
On a sidenote,
I’ve totally flopped on NaNoWriMo this month. In previous years I’d gotten as far as a hundred and something pages, but this time around, it’s day 28 and I have about 4 pages handwritten. 😛
Next year I’ll try again!
Since it’s been a busy week so far (even if I’ve only woken up to wednesday a few hours ago) I slept early last night. Early for me is about 2pm. I woke up at a reasonable 9:30am, so that means that I got a solid 7.5 hours of sleep which is good. 6 hours is my normal amount, but when I’ve logged in some exercise for the day that amount usually increases because of the extra recovery time. If i exceed 8 hours of sleep, that usually means that I’ve overtrained or something, so 7.5 is within acceptable parameters.
I’ve been having a good day so far, considering I’ve only been awake for about five hours. First off, I picked up the guitar since my fingers were still fresh. I strummed a bit, warming up… and then, today, I tried the song I’ve been working on for the past month or so, “God is the Strength of my Heart.” And you know what? I played the whole song! It wasn’t perfect, but the rhythm was steady, I crashed through my mistakes and kept on going. It actually sounded like the song (at least remotely) and I can’t beleive that what I acheived today ever felt difficult– waking upto it just felt natural.
It’s biology, really– muscle memory stored in your body itself and the coordination that gets imprinted in the growing web of dentrites in your brain make things easy when you practice, removing the need for realtime processing power which is usually the reason for our frustration. At some point, it just becomes natural. The whole process of “practice”, really, is just correcting the growth of those webs of muscle memory and nerves. Like trimming a bushing plant.
It happens all the time that something that is bugging me to oblivion one night will magically be possible from the getgo the next day. Moral of the story? We don’t always see our progress– but not everything is conscious. Sometimes we just have to accept that our physical and neurological growth needs time to catch up with our conscious desires. The only way for that is to accept that we’re going to have to take the time to practice, practice, and practice.
I think that most of the time when people “give up too early” it’s because they’re used to the kind of activities where conscious thought makes all the difference. They look at it like balancing a checkbook. It’s math, it’s numbers– the solution is there, it’s just a question of trying all the angles.
But real learning isn’t like that– real learning has a great deal to do not with intellect or conscious reasoning, but in many cases, brute-force repetition. It sounds barbaric and inefficient, but this I now beleive is the difference between my friends who practiced activities seriously and those who didn’t– they know what it means to practice and not give up. As a result, their scope of learning isn’t only limited to those things that can be acquired through ‘pure thought’– their scope is the world, because their method is ‘hands on’.
(For those of you who haven’t watched it, watch the anime series Hajime No Ippo. For those of you who have already seen it, watch it again.)
Anyway, after guitar, I spent some time watching this new Oprah ‘reality show’ called “next great invention” or something like that. It was, surprisingly, interesting.
After that, it was off to the dojang for some training. The Gwanjangnim’s wife made me breakfast, which was surprising and very kind of her. It has been a long time since I’ve had a home cooked meal.
Now, I sit at work in an office warmed only by sunlight. All is well at the moment.
Well, except for that bruise on my elbow where I totally smoked myself with a nunchuck… but that’s another story.
“Teacher, wot dosu ‘spattered’ mean?”
“Where is that?”
“‘…The snow-spattered path wasu narro and treacherouss…'”
“Who here plays videogames?”
I draw a stickman on the wall.
All the boys and even some of the girls raise their hands.
“What’s a headshot?”
“Headshotu? Headshotu? Head is go plaf!”
“Yes,” I nod. “Exactly!”
I draw an exit wound with a funnel of blood flying out of the back of the stickman’s head.
“The way the blood lands is the spatter.”
If you called me somewhat cocky or intimidating in person, you’d probably not be the first person to mention it. Frankly, I don’t think that I show off all that much– but I suppose that’s just a question of definition. I do talk about myself quite a bit, especially on this blog– I mean, why not? It is my blog, right?
Therein lies a difference though– I don’t talk about myself to put others down. I do it, above all else, to remember myself, given that even though I’ve only been around for 25 short years I’ve already developed such bad memory.
And why not write only to myself in a diary? Well, perhaps someone is interested, simply.
While there are certainly many people out there who are really showoffs, I don’t really care about these people. The vast majority of people who are my friends are the exact opposite. They display potential, and perhaps they are even using it and developing it, but what they don’t realize is how special they are or what they are capable of.
It’s so easy to get caught in a cycle of resltlessness, of “I’m no good at this” or downright self-loathing. I was thinking about it, and that’s one of the things that I’m realizing from the fact that I’m at once teaching English, while learning guitar and TKD in Korean. When I started off out here, there were plenty of things that bothered me because I simply couldn’t understand why it was so hard to learn something.
And then came the guitar. Less so with TKD because that had it’s similarities to previous activities. But with guitar, there I was in a foreign medium– unable to do the simplest things. Sure, I’d heard guiatar. It sounded simple enough. But just as my kid recognize even the simplest English words perfectly and yet can’t prnounce them the way he wants to, so too did it bug the hell out of me that a single chord could involve the coordination of so many thoughts and physical particularities all in simultaneity.
It is frustrating. It is easy to dismiss one’s hard work and all that has been gained and to settle for something less than what we saw. It’s easy to say “I’ll never be as good as him/her, but I’ll be just good enough, y’know?”
And that’s a trap.
I was really annoyed the other week because I had been practicing some muting techniques for several days and I couldn’t do it– my wrist hurt enough that I simply had to stop playing for fear of injuring myself.
You don’t understand how frustrated I am. Or do you? Everyone knows that feeling. But sometimes we forget what it is, because we never have anything to compare it to– perhaps we don’t pat ourselves on the back enough.
Like all things, conceit and humility are both necessary. You can’t just say 1 part showoff, 1 part humility. I think that if you can go with 1000 of each, then you can accomplish more. Would it make sense to you if I could ask you “How big is your tao?”
That sounds like a strange idea– we like to think of balance in terms of fractions. In that sense, 1000/1000 is the same as 100/100 or 25/25 or 1/1. But it’s not, and I think this is one of the things that I’ve been trying to explain to people for a long time but never really had an analogy for the purpose.
Lowest common denominators isn’t a great example, but my point is that there is a difference between 1000/1000 — it has to do with the details, the precision of the event, the range of experiences.
I think that, for example, there has to be a push pull. When a student is learning english, you can’t just tell him “You’re doing good in some ways and bad in others.”
You’ve got to make the reporting process a dynamic one, where every past success or failure is built upon. The scope has to get wider. If you can make your student feel confident, then push him to overconfidence– then cut him down to size. Repeat. Repeat. And that is how experience in life is.
The real sad situation is when people are too conservative and stick to a particular camp and try to do everything out of that.
Anyway– it’s 2pm here. The day’s events so far?
I feel I have so much to write but i don’t know where to begin.
For starters, I’m listening to Dave Matthews. I haven’t listened to him for a while, but Mark (my garage guitar teacher) was kind enough to send me some of DMB’s stuff which I’d never heard before and it’s awesome. Now that I’m playing guitar myself, I’m finding that I can actually hear things that I couldn’t before– I can hear the techniques, I can imagine the strumming patterns– it’s beautiful.
And that sets the stage for the rest of my day. I had a guitar lesson this morning and it went pretty well. I mean, as always, it never goes bad, because the teacher really works to accomodate my progress. But at the end of it all he asked me if I was having fun– yes, I was. He said I’d improoved.
And it’s not that I can’t take a compliment. My friends will say bad and good things to me all the time. It’s not that I don’t value their thoughts. But when I get a compliment from someone whose skills I really respect, it really feels like something right. It feels like some sort of lifeline when you’re struggling through something. It’s a glimpse of hope that to the rest of the world, you don’t look like a guy blindfolded with his hands tied behind his back.
Getting that kind of appreciation from my teachres reminds me that when it comes to my students, I cannot ever forget to appreciate them when they do work hard.
I mean, we’d all like to think that we’re independant and of strong will, to the point where we don’t care what others think. Yeah, that’s ideal. But really, who’s perfect? The truth is, we do get depressed, we do feel worthless. Maybe not always, but every now and then at least, and for some more than others.
During those times we need to be reminded that we are getting somewhere. We need checkpoints.
The Koreans who I work with have this habit which I still need to get used to. It’s that they’re totally incapable of speaking to you wherever you are– they will always pull you outside of communal areas to a more private place to speak (such as their offices or their desks). At first I thought this was because they wanted to give you an opportunity to save face in front of your peers in case you were up there for some bad reason… but then again, I’ve also found that the Korean professionals I work with very seldom tell you exactly what they’re thinking. It’s all very passive agressive even when they are annoyed or downright angry at you for whatever reason.
It’s not that it’s a big deal, but usually in western culture people just walk up to you and ask you about what they need or what they want to know. Going to the prviacy of an office is usually, in my experience, when somebody’s really in trouble.
So considering that I’ve been in trouble at work at least 3 times that I can count for twisting the cirriculum a bit, everytime I’m called up I can’t help but fear that it’s the last time I’ll ever be called up.
I got called up to the office twice on friday. One was concerning my electric bill, which turned out to be 19 000 won (about 19 bucks CAD/USD). The other was because I recently got a ‘promotion’ of sorts. I got in trouble a few times at work for not following the rules and teaching the kids a bit differently, but the flipside is that the kids are saying really good things to their parents and their parents are saying good things back to my bosses. So, after getting in trouble a few times for not following the schedules or the lesson plans or because I bribed my kids with a competition where the winners get free food, I’ve been offered the little task of writing the branch’s newsletter. It’s a very simple 2 page thing, where the bosses actually give me all the information I need to put on it so my job is basically to format the paragraph and make sure it’s written properly. It’ll probably take me about 30 minutes tops per week, but I’m being paid an extra 100 000 won per month (about 100 CAD) to do it so I’m quite happy with the bonus considering how little work it is.
The money always comes in handy. And for those wondering why I always am trying to make money, it’s simply because the field of study that I’ve completed back in Montreal isn’t all that great for finding high paying jobs. That in mind, I’m trying to invest as much as I can while I’m still young so that my quality of life won’t suffer when I get tired of odd jobs, if for some reason I can’t find work the way I want it back in Montreal when I get back from Korea.
It’s report card week again, so I’d better get back to work blabbing.
One of the advantages of being in Korea is that the snow really isn’t much to speak about. Don’t get me wrong– I don’t mind snow (otherwise, I’d have a serious problem being from Montreal) but there are two things that I don’t like about it. First of all, I don’t like shoveling snow. This isn’t usually a problem because I don’t drive a car, so I largely don’t care, but because in Montreal I lived with my family, that meant that I had to shovel for the two cars that my parents drive. The second reason is because snow really gunks up my bike’s transmission wherever I park it.
In Korea, we had snow a few days ago, but today was just rain.
But I’m getting ahead of my little update.
Yesterday night, I asked a Korean co-worker of mine to help me write a letter to my Gwanjangnim (taekwondo instructor) asking him if it would be possible for me to pay extra to have some time in the dojang so that I could practice. My Korean friend told me “He probably won’t ask you to pay.” I said uhm… are you sure? Well, write that in anyhow, because I don’t want to be rude by not offering.
So I brought it to the Gwanjangnim, not really expecting much. I mean, the dojang is built into his home, and he also instructs at a prestigous university. He actually spends very little time at his home gym. On my end of the table, there are my strange sleeping hours and the fact that I only finish work at 10pm, and I really just didn’t expect it to be possible. I figured though that I’d take my chances, nothing to lose by tring so long as I’m polite about it.
“Anyong hashimnika…” I stammered. It’s funny how though I can pronounce this properly, I still stumble because I’m so self conscious around him. “Igoh… chingu byunchi-i sun… chon… na hangukmal yangchi-i…”
He gets most of it, which basically translates to “Hello sir, this is a letter that my friend wrote since my Korean is weaksauce.”
He reads it, and he says a few words to his wife. His wife speaks more english than him, so she translates every now and then. But this time, I don’t need a translation. “Good!” says Gwanjangnim. “Yes, okayyy!” Then he asks me something in Korean which I don’t understand. She translates the question to “day which”.
“Anyday!” I reply, suprised and excited at once. “Ichung (before)…” I point at 2pm on the clock on the wall, since despite having been here for over a month, I still can’t count higher than four for some reason and “…ihooh (after)…” 10:00pm. He laughs, showing me 10 fingers to confirm that really I finish that late.
In any case, he doesn’t just let me come one day but he tells me to come twice a week. And he doesn’t ask for money. So now, instead of 2 hours per week, I’ll get 4 hours. He won’t be instructing me during the two extra hours, but it will be very nice to have a space to myself just to bounce around and move. Private space is really something that’s a premium in a place as crowded in Korea. Everything from the way food is communal to the way that there are more computers in Internet cafes than in homes reflects this. Perhaps this is also why I’ve felt compelled to make my home my own.
It’s such a small detail to be given permission to be in a dojang unsupervised. Not just because of the advantages for the training. I just mean, because this is the teacher’s home. I don’t mean it figuratively. The dojang is built on the second floor of his home. In the next room is his office, and in the room next to that, is the changing room which is in fact the piano room for his children. His children sleep in the next room.
There is something genuinely beautiful about this country in the way that things here are so safe, and with that comes a elevated willingness to trust in people, and a generosity that keeps going outwards without much thought of personal gain. I’m sure that it sounds like I’m stereotyping, but my honest apraisal of the situation is that Anyang, and in some degree Korea as a whole, are a lot more trusting than anything back home.
This morning, the adventures continued. One of the teachers who is finished her contract and is heading back to Canada and was basically liquidating her apartment. Among some of the things I bought from her include an ethernet router (non-wifi), two plant pots and a rocking chair. I’m going to be hooking up that router later on next week after I go to Seoul’s electronics district to pick up about a hundred feet of ethernet cable, then a fellow teacher and I are going to run a the cable outside our back windows. Indiana Jones techniques may or may not be involved.
Anyway, the teacher selling me all this stuff is moving out today so I had to pick it up this morning. I got it all right… but what I thought would be a simple, single piece rocking chair (like the kind grandma might use on the front porch while toting a shotgun and telling tresspassers to get off her property) turned out to be this rather large, fancy import chair with a spring loaded base. The thing weighs about 20 pounds.
Now, 20lbs isn’t all that heavy. But considering it’s size, it’s rather cumbersome. And, return to the begining of my post: rain.
It’s thunderstorming in Anyang today. So this morning when I went to get the chair, I did get it alright, but not only was it a real challenge to carry down the stairs but it took some doing to get through the front door. When I hailed a taxi…
… it did not fit in either the trunk or rear seats.
So, I threw it over my shoulders, propped the backrest against the top of my hiking bag, held the arm rests military press style, and hiked the kilometer and half home in the pouring rain.
That was, surprisingly, kind of fun.
(Though, I don’t think it would have been possible if I hadn’t been watching Hajime No Ippo for the past few days.)
After getting home, I just dumped the chair in the apartment, got a spare set of clothes which I dumped into my bag, and headed to work to use the internet. My clothing now is hanging in front of the heater of my classroom, soaked right through. I biked to work in the rain. I’m really glad that I have my scooter helmet from Taiwan with me, the adjustable visor is lightyears ahead of anything goggle technology has to offer in terms of rain travel.
Once you accept the idea that you’re going to get wet, biking in the rain is actually one of the most awesome conditions to do it.
So, it’s been a long 24 hours so far, but it is friday, and strangely the events have left me not with a feeling of tiredness but of invigoration.
Yesterday, I was teaching my middleschool students a lesson about inventions. The article we were reading was basically about the steps to success as an inventor. When the last paragraph came up, I told them: “Alright, and if there’s nothing else you remember about this lesson, remember the last paragraph of the text here. What is the main idea? What is the author trying to tell you? This main idea has to do with inventions, but it can be applied everywhere. What idea here can be applied even to your life, every day? Now? Tomorrow? What is Thomas Edison’s idea?”
“Success isu won pursentu inspirashun, ninteenine persentu purspurasyun?”
“And what does that mean?”
“Teacher! Ideu isu, dreamsu… enubu (enough) no. Weu (we) mustu woku (work) hard!”
Live as you dream. Have a good weekend folks!
For the second Wednesday in a row, I went bowling with a bunch of people after work. I’m not all that great at bowling. We play two games per week, and we’re grouped in teams of four– each week, our team plays against another team in a single elimination tournament for an approximately 300$ betting pot that everyone contributed to at the begining.
The first game, I scored about a 64. Second game, I got a 97. This week’s first game, I got a 75. Second game though, I got a 122.
Now, here’s the cool part. Every week, we play against one team. The way the outcome is decided is as follows– you get one point for your team having a higher total score than the other team. So, if you beat their score in both games, then you win the encounter. If it happens to be tied with each team winning one game, then the tie is broken by the team who has the highest total score for both games in the night.
My team is the ‘leftover’ group. We’re sort of like the ugly kids in elementary school who get picked last to play for your soccer team. Because we all figured we had nothing better to do on Wednesday nights, we signed up, and on top of that we signed up last and without really caring what team we were on, so there we are– the leftover cheese stuck on the grater, thrown in as an afterthought. The people on my team aren’t even my co-workers; two of them are teachers at two other schools in Anyang, and the other dude is a guy who plays turntables at the music school I’m going to.
In any case, the first game last night our team bowled a pathetic 410 or so… (thanks to me and my wicked 75, in part). The opposing team bowled something like a 430, so we were down a point. Second game though, we totally rocked the place and got a crushing 515, to completely dominate our opponents’ 450.
To be honest, I didn’t think bowling could be so fun.
Well, it’s a different kind of fun. It is competitive now– it wasn’t competitive before because I didn’t think we had a chance in hell of winning. But now that it’s possible…
There’s one thing that I miss from my activities back in Montreal, and it’s something that’s I haven’t been able to find yet around here. That’s the real sense of connection with an opponent. Maybe it’ll just take a while to warm up to a bowling alley, but I miss badminton, I miss sparring. I miss the little breaks in between the moves where you just stare at your opponent and feel your fighting spirits splashing against eachother in the air between you, that something voluminous and heavy and electrifyable.
We haven’t been sparring in taekwondo so I don’t get that. I mean, sure, I am improving bit by bit, however it feels like that thing at the end of it is missing. The humanity at the end of it all is missing, that matching of intention and ambition between yourself an an opponent.
I think I’m going to get better at bowling and TKD than I will at guitar. Frankly, sports are easier– large muscle movements, if I just repeat them enough, my brain will figure it out subconsciously. The brain fills in the gaps and allows me to perform moves without thinking abou them. All I have to do is pull the trigger, and the mechanics are automatic.
Guitar is different though. Perhaps it’s because I’m not a stage of familiarity with the techniques involved, but every little thing in guitar is a real, frustrating uphill battle. 3 weeks into my lessons, I still forget the basic strumming pattern I was taught in my first week. I need to spend a couple of minutes everytime I pick up Rockstar (the name of my guitar, named after the brand of it) to just get the pattern back in my head. What do I have to show for it? As my fingers tap out words to Xanga, I feel the fingertips of my left hand burning– yet they’re still not strong enough to hold down some of these chords, still not light enough to transition from chord to chord at the speeds I need to maintain a fluency to the song.
I do get results sometimes. Sometimes, when I’m practicing something to total frustration and give up, the next day if I have the courage to pick it up again I’ll find miraculously that the movement offers me no resistance– as if somehow, I’d learned it in my sleep. Maybe I’m asking for too much in too little time?
The more I look at it, and by it, I mean all things, the more my fear of death becomes greater. There’s so much I want to do in my lifetime. I’ve started writing notes in Korean on my refrigerator so that I can speed up the language acquisition.
Am I asking too much?
What is too much?
… it may not make sense for me to say this, but maybe ambition is only made worthwhile by the possibility of failure. We’re just sacks of meat looking for punishment.
… is the name of the Christan Contemporary Revival song that I’m learning to play on guitar.
Music has always been of great interest to me because of the way that a simple progression of notes can be compounded to make something really great. First, I learned the first few chords of the song. Then, we moved on to strumming patterns and rhythm. Then it was accents.
All the while, with every lesson, the song gets longer and longer as I’m introduced to new phrases to the song. And every week, one or two new technical things are introduced that completely change the way I look at guitar playing.
On a very basic level, imagine yourself pressing a key on a keyboard. There’s essentially only one way to do it– it’s 1 or 0, the key is either pressed or it isn’t. But guitar playing, like all music, offers so much more… this week, he started teaching me how to mute strings rhythmically in the middle of phrases. That completely killed me, because everything I had previously learned to do properly suddenly became difficult all over again, because being ready to mute requires a different grip from what I was using. Back to square one, essentially.
Anyway, all this is to say that I’m enjoying the challenge. The nice part about starting something new is that the learning curve is so high. When you start off an activity, you’re just like a tourist– everything is amazing and fresh and new.
…it’ll be a different story I suppose once I get good enough that every little improovement will be a tedious uphill battle…
I’ve taken a lot of time lately to smooth out details. This, I think, is one of those processes that is the ‘tricks’ I have to feeling good about myself. I think in the past, I was looking everywhere for something interesting or at times, anything at all, to do. In most cases, there are plenty of things that need to be done, it’s just that we overlook them. And it’s not that I enjoy doing work– but small details generally are the little things that bring you close to getting something just right. Getting closer or just getting it is what gives you that feeling of accomplishment that you need to get you through your life. A half ass job just makes you feel like you spent some time, but going all the way and seeing progress from it really makes my day.
Guitar is one of those things of course. Taekwondo is another, and not even just in the scope of TKD itself. Like guitar, half of the experience of these activities is exposing myself to native Koreans who are talking to me. Slowly but surely some of those words are sticking.
In other news, I finally got around to cleaning up my classroom’s piles of papers. I had some tests from over a month ago, along with bookreports and other things that I completely forgot about. Now my room is in order so I can get onto more important things.
I’ve also noticed that I really really enjoy adding things to my home. I mean, furniture. Just re-arringing things. Customizing it. It follows largely one philosphy of gaming where you ‘minmax’ to get the most function out of your tools. I just enjoy it. Not that I’m a home decorator, and truth be told, my furniture doens’t match at all, but I just take great joy in making my place a more and more functional base of operations.
I just… really don’t understand how someone can live somewhere and NOT make it their personal space.
In Korea, many folktales are very fun.They have instruction, too. I want
tell to you a Korean folktale. It’s title is ‘Hung-bu
& Nall-bu’. It is a very famous Korean
Long ago, there is (were
)Hung-bu and Nall-bu. They were brother .
Nall-bu was rich, but a very bad man. Hung-bu was
kind, but very poor. And Nall-bu didn’t like
One day, Hung-bu saw a swallow. It broke a wing. Hung-bu take (took
)it and remedied it. A(The
) swallow said “Thank you!
soI give will give you a seed.” Hung-bu
sowed the seed. A (The
)fast and in a fruit
, thatwas money and gold. Then Hung-bu was rich.
was greedy. He asked
“How are you doing
for a (did you
become ) rich?” So he broke a swallow’s wing and remed
it again. aAfter
one day there was a fruit. But in the fuit, there was
not gold. It a
a goblin!!! It hit
Nall-bu, and steal his all money.
Now, Nall-bu is poor. Hung-bu is
rich. Hung-bu live with kind Nall-bu, because
Nall-bu’s house is broke and he is poor now!!!^.^!!!
Fall is, by far, the season which I love above all others. Here in SK it looks pretty much like fall in Canada, except that the leaves are different shapes and sizes.
The main problem with Korea is that it has too much cool stuff. Cool stuff which I cannot help but keep on spending money on. This is very problematic for my plans to build up a nest egg. Must. Resist. Temptations.
(Just because Canadian teachers at my school outnumber the American ones 23-4)
Sitting together on a train , traveling through the Canadian Rockies, were an American guy , a Canadian guy, a little old Greek lady, and a young blonde girl with large breasts.
The train goes into a dark tunnel and a few seconds later there
is the sound of a loud slap.
When the train emerges from the tunnel, the American has a bright red hand print on his cheek . No one speaks .
The little old Greek lady thinks: The American guy must have groped the blonde in the dark and she slapped his cheek .
The blonde girl thinks : That American guy must
have tried to grope me in the dark , but missed and fondled the old
lady and she slapped his cheek .
The American thinks: The Canadian guy must have groped the
blonde in the dark. She tried to slap him but missed and got me instead.
The Canadian thinks: I can’t wait for another tunnel, just so I can smack the American again .