dal niente

Month: August, 2008


K**** “Jinryu” Y** is a CBC, described by the knowing as obsessive and
promiscuous in his activities.  He’s worked as a sweatshop screwdriver,
a reptile and fish zoologist, a one-man IT department, and a hospital
manager. He also speaks a handful of languages (badly), all at once if
he’s had too much. We’re not sure what his talents are but he’s
competed in enough in music, martial arts, badminton, writing and
cycling events to know that really, he knows nothing about the world. 
He currently resides in South Korea, where he is a teacher who
specializes in his own ignorance.  At night he studies Taekwondo and
Korean.  He is single and looking for the woman of his dreams, who for
every moment he searches for her, she too is searching for him.

I was asked to put together a bio for a gallery of some of my pictures that will appear online on a friend’s site.  Ever considered it? What’s your bio look like?

Black and Blue

Today, I got to try out the new Street Fighter IV game while I was in an aracde in Macau.  I don’t know about you folks back home and whether or not the game has arrived, but it’s new out here in Asia.  I’ve seen it in HK and in Macau so far, but not in South Korea unfortunately. I think it’s because SK is mostly into online PC games (at PC bangs, as you call them here) but you really will have a hard time finding a traditional arcade with any current games in it around here.  It could also be that most arcade games come from Japan and there is still a great deal of anti-Japanese sentiment in the country, even though there has been lots of progress on that issue.

In any case, the new Street Fighter game is visually pretty nice, and it has this new combat feature which I don’t quite know the name of.  I, however, would like to call it a “fortified strike” or “fortified counterstrike.”  What it is is that when you have a certain amount of meter available to you, you can hit and hold medium punch and medium kick simultaneously, and your character will wind up for some sort of big hit.  While you are doing this, you can endure a certain amount of damage from the opponent, and within that limit, you will still complete your attack.  If your attack lands, you slam your opponent in such a way that he drops no matter what, at which point if you want, you can follow up with a combo.

I like this move because it parallels a lot of what I think people need to get their lives on track.  I think that people going through their lives are often not willing to get their hands dirty or to get hurt, and as a result, a lot of doors are closed to them.

The principle is apparent by many analogies– I was reading an old old book by Lasker a few years back, I think it was called “Chess for Fun & Chess for Blood” (written from way back when using an ampersand was still kinda cool) and notably, one of the most basic principles of intermediate chess is the idea of sacrifice.

Chess and Street Fighter are actually very similar.  Both of them are one on one.  Both of them are about concentration.  Both of them are about creativity and deception.  And just as in real life, someone saying “Checkmate!” and someone else saying “What! I didn’t see that!” is total bullshit, in the same way, nothing in Street Fighter should be unexpected– you should know your mistakes without anyone ever having to tell you, even if it’s just a moment after you commit to it.  In those situations, you just pray that nobody noticed and can counter, and you go about your plans.


My Shoryuken shirt is actually one of the tees that I brought with me to HK, and I’m frankly glad that there’s a SF game on coin-op again.  It’s been too long that people have been playing bling and flash games like Guilty Gear or Soul Calibur.  While I’m not a huge fan of SNK, I still grant that they’re one of the few companies that understand what it takes to make a well balanced fighting game.  To have an SF back on machines is great because that means that people will start to understand the mechanics of that kind of gaming again, and by ‘that kind of gaming’ I mean the fighting game genre that hasn’t really had any real noteworthy paradigm updates in a long long time in face of leaps and bounds in MMORPG, RTS and FPS gaming.


Hah, or, when I reread my words, perhaps I’m just a gamer past my prime, like those before me who insist that Pac Man was still the greatest game ever.  Maybe my secret hope is that Steet Fighter will become cool again, and I can get in with the young hip crowd.


Regardless, my original point was that when we want to go after things, we need to accept that we’re going to have to take a few black eyes to get there.

Final Destination

As I write this, I’m in Hong Kong.

It’s a notable experience to be out here because this is where my father’s half of the family came from. Being born in Montreal,I see a lot of things out here that just make things back home seem to make alot of sense.  There’s no card reader, soI can’t really share any pictures at the moment, but there are just so manysimilarities.

First of all, the food styles are actually very similar. Imean, Chinatowns back in the Toronto and Montreal regions are very similar towhat’s actually in Hong Kong, and even the way that they run their restaurantsis very similar.

In a strange way, as Zanshin puts it, being in Hong Kong isa lot like being home—Hong Kong reminds me so much of Chinatown back inMontreal that it really is like just crossing over, back to Canada, at leastfor that niche portion of my existence before Korea.


One of the strangest experiences is in terms of the suddenhuge crack in the language barrier.  In Korea, I understand very little of what’s going on around me. I mean, I’ve been studying Korean informally for about 6 months, and so I have basically enough understanding to survive in the country without any help.  But I’d say that realistically, I underst and maybe 10% of basic conversation.  I guessthe rest, really.

I’m not really great with my Cantonese, but, out here, I canunderstand about 60% of what’s going around out here.  Not only that, but when speaking, I canalmost make sentences.

I say this all with a dry tone.  The fact that I am not fluent in Catonesebothers me at times, but the way I figure is that if I really thought it was really important, I would have put moreeffort into getting it right.  As itstands, I speak a mix of Cantonese, Fukien andToysan, and can understand those dialects as well as some bits of Taiwanese and maybe Mandarin.  (It’s complicated.)  The bottom line is that when it comes toChinese, I’m pretty messed up because of the different provinces from which various members of my grandparents’ generation came from.  Throw in that after not speaking Chinese toanyone for about a year due to being in Korea, well, it makes me more thana bit rusty out here.

But it came back, a lot faster than I expectedactually.  And I think the fact that mostpeople here either speak straight Cantonese or straight Mandarin really helpsclean up my accent, because before I used to speak a mix.  Now I’ve really been put in a situation whereI can either say something or I can’t, and the only way I can is if I speakpure Canto.


Those are just details.  My point really was that after spending 11months in Korea and beingvery used to not understanding my environment, being in Hong Kong is suddenly like being thrown in the middle of a Star Trekconverntion—all around me is language that I can understand, but I just wanteveryone to shut up.

Not that what they’re saying isn’t all that interesting, butit’s frankly too much, all at once. It’s like a sensory overload!

And that may be the greater part of culture shock, I realizenow, when I go back to Canada.It will be that suddenly, I will understand what people are saying around me,whether I want to or not.  It took meover a month to get used to the idea in Korea that I wouldn’t understand muchof what was going on around me—and then, for months, I lived with that fact,even as I studied Korean.  But coming to Hong Kong and hearing Cantonese, it really is a shock tome.  It’s no longer just body languageand feelings that are being expressed—specific thoughts are flying around.  Today, on the way to Macau,there were these two women who were arguing about the stupidest thing andinsulting eachother in the stupidest ways. I just wished they’d shut up.  If it was just noise it would be one thing,if it was body language it would be another. But this was like listening to a bad radio station that you couldn’tturn off—it was the content that made it more horrible than if I’d just beenlistening to nonsense in another language.


The food here has been really great, as hasbeen the rest.  It’s the first time Ireally have some major time off.  This week, I’ve really been doing the yuppie life. I’ve been eating from all ranges of restaurants for breakfast, lunch andsupper (or only lunch and supper if we’d been sleeping in too late forbreakfast).  We’ve been shopping inmedium to upscale malls.  We’ve watchedthree movies while out here.  We evenwent to Macau, only to play Street Fighter IV(yes, it exists!) and DDR.  We reallyhave been just doing whatever we want. Hong Kong isn’t as big as I expected, and by tomorrow, I’d say that we’rejust wrapping up buying souvenirs for some friends in Korea ifanything, maybe check out the nightlife later on.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the way of life I have ou there and really, there’s not much to complain about.  Life of course isn’t really about just looking for less things to complain about of course, but we’re taking it one step at a time.

I kind of have two choices in front of me, which I’ll have to make before the end of 2008.  One is to come back to Korea, and the other is to stay in Montreal.

I haven’t 100% decided either way, but when I get back to South Korea after my vacation, I’m going to start handing out applications to Korean universities.  One of the major things that’s going to affect my descision whether or not I come back to South Korea is going to be what kind of job I can get and the kinds of benefits I get with them.

The major change I want to make is that I want to start teaching an older crowd instead of just children.  Not that I don’t like my children– I love ’em to bits– but frankly, they can be stressful. I think that I’ve done a decent job with them, I’ve really connected with a lot of them to the point where some of them actually treat me like an older brother or even a father figure, and in some cases as a good friend, but frankly, if I’m to be caught up in all the dramas of a child’s life I won’t have any energy left for myself.  And all that multiplied by 5 classes of 14 students each, well, it’s a bit much for my sanity.

If I did find another job at another academy, the teaching hours would either have to be drastically reduced, or I’d need a lot more benefits or pay.

But I’ve really been enjoying my Special-H class, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that I can communicate with my students on even ground.  I can get some real, meaningful feedback, and they can ask me questions for which I’ll share the burden of finding an answer with the other classmates.  They’re a lot of fun because they can speak enough English to hold a conversation, but more importantly, because they’ve got a willingness to use it.   The unfortunate reality of the academy situation is that most young Koreans aren’t learning English because they want to– it’s because they either have to, to get that academic edge, or because their parents are simply forcing them to.  That’s why you get that rainbow of nightmare children who do everything from swear to bite.  While there are good students out there, I’m not in the mood to really deal with any of the bad ones for some time.
I really admire elementary and middleschool teachers for their patience, and I think it is their definitive virtue.  With those ages, a teacher’s job turns out to be as much about parenting and friendship as it does about actually knowing anything about the subject.  Perhaps moreso.


I’ve found while out here in HK that I really don’t care about being a tourist.  I mean, I’ve been around a good number of Asian destinations now.  Several parts of the Philipines, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Korea, and now Hong Kong and Macau– and I’ve found that I really don’t care much about just dropping into a country and seeing the sights.  Sights really don’t do it for me.  I don’t care about looking at temples or museums and just scratching it off my to do list.  If the experience of being in Korea has taught me anything it’s how to actually live in a foreign country.

THAT is the fun part, I think.  And it has to do with all the everday mundanities.  How to ask for cheese crust on your pizza.  How to ask where the bathroom is.  How to eat in public.  Where to go if you need your teeth checked out.    Who to talk to about this or that.  It’s all the things about living in my home country that I took forgranted because of the fact that I knew the place and I knew the language, those were the things that were fun to discover here in Korea. I say discover and not rediscover because for the most part, many things are done differently– and it is those differences of everyday life that make the foreign experience what it is.  A picture with me in it? That, well, I could have done that by cuting out my face and slapping it on a postcard.  Does visiting some place and saying ‘oooh’ or ‘ahhh’ really amount to much?
When I was a kid, that kind of traveling meant a lot to me, I mean, just the ability to say “I’d been there.”  But now, I guess now that I’m a lot better travelled, I can honestly say that travelling isn’t all that interesting to me in itself.  It’s more living in another country that makes it appreciable in a real way.

And I suppose the question isn’t just in terms of time either. I’m not really saying that we’re better off living somewhere for a long time as opposed to just visiting for a short time.  It really has to do with what catches your eyes, I suppose.  I personally find, for example, that one of the best parts of being in Hong Kong are the trams.  It’s just a tram, but it says a lot about the peoples’ way of life that wouldn’t be obvious if all you did was take the taxis (which aren’t expensive) or the subways.


It’s about 1AM right now and I’ve exhausted most thoughts for now.  Maybe more later.


Hong Kong is the last “major” vacation that I take while in Korea, and perhaps it’s for that reason that I’m getting a bit pensive both of the past year and the year to come.  After this vacation I have one more mont of service at the academy, and then it’s off to Vancouver, Calgary, and then Montreal. 

Final destination, unknown.


At some point when I was in college, I went to see Cats the musical.  It’s been years now but even before I’d seen cats, I’d heard a few renditions of the song “Memory” by heavy hitters like Barbara Streissand and such.  I mean, really belting it out– the kinds of performances that in the early later days of my music studies, I could really appreciate, because I could almost imagine tears on the faces of the people singing.

I was reading eucalyptus’ blog and the question came up– what are you afraid of?

And in the last year, I think it’s come down to one thing really– forgetting.

I’m not afraid of not being able to fall in love– it has happened before and I’m confident I can do it again, and even as jaded as I get from the experiences I undergo, every swing of that pendulum usually makes the experience more intense in contrast.  I’m not afraid of getting old, in itself– although, if getting old means I will lose my memory, or if that means that on a physical level, my body will forget how to do the things that it does, then that would be what I fear.

And that’s an important point for me– memory isn’t just what I can write down on a peice of paper or photograph, it’s what my body can remember to do, like chop some onions the way my dad taught me so that I wouldn’t cry, or exactly how to whip my body when spriging to my feet, or how to hit a few chords in a row on a piano.  These things, these experiences, they are me, as are you your own, aren’t they?


I mean, what are we really, and what is dying if not the end of experience?

I was watching Wall-E (spoilers alert!) and if you’d seen it, you’ll know what I mean about the ‘memory issue’ that made me tighten at the throat and hold my breath.  It was true sadness that I felt at that point of the movie– sadness and fear.

I’m in Hong Kong right now and here’s the interesting part– I haven’t been speaking Chinese in the last year.  I mean, the last time I used Chinese for more than 10 minutes in a row was about 11 months ago when I left for Korea.  Since then, I’ve not had the chance to speak Chinese with anyone really.  I feel awkward and somewhat ashamed when I call my grandparents with the best of intentions and I find that I’ve forgotten so many words, words that have strangely enough been replaced by Korean ones.

As I eat the food out here in Hong Kong, I feel a strange nostalgia– going into a Hong Kong restaurant feels so much like stepping into a restaurant back in Montreal that it’s disturbing, and disturbing only by the fact that it’s so easy.  I mean, it’s so similar, that it’s like I never left– yet up until 2 days ago when I got here, I had all but forgotten about this kind of experience.  The taste of this kind of food was refreshed when the first meal came to my mouth saturday night, but before that– I just sorta saw it as something in the picture books.  Something distant, like non-fiction writing that I was reading about someone else.

I’ve worked really hard to get where I am, I think.  And I suppose that’s a pretty relative claim– everyone gets to where they are because of how they’ve made their choices right?  I always made choices though that I thought would get me some sort of advantage, some extra tools developed, that would help me in the game of life. It has always turned out that the most important things have always been the roads to these sorts of aquisitions, and not the goals themselves– and yet, as I grow older it becomes more and more apparent that I take it forgranted exactly where I came from.


I don’t meant that in a geographic sense, or a cultural sense.  I mean that on the level of people.  Of my connections to people.  All those hims and hers out there who were connections in my life that helped me get the tools that I now use unconsciously– I mean, before I could even fathom the idea of being physically on my knees to exhaustion a mere week ago, there was P-Chan. In the early days of Jeet Kune Do, he probably thought that what he was saying was corny, but it meant a lot to me: you lose today, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try again tomorrow.  And then there was Hunter, who gave me a second chance to get into the high school band.  There were my parents who said that we will back you up.  There was Flynt, who said that there are no real goodbyes if you’re truly pure at heart, just chances to say hello again for the first time.  There was Vittek, waiting with me in the emergency room while we waited for a doctor, who told me that he was happy that I kept going.  There was….


We could go on and on about it I think, but they wouldn’t mean anything to you just as one liners I suppose.

Even the question of whether or not to continue working in Korea–


— people have told me that if I go back to Montreal, even if only with the intent of vacation and even with a Korean job lined up at a university, they told me that I might stay because I’ll remember how easy it was to have so many friends and family around me.

It’s not that I’m living in the past– but living in Korea, and being in Hong Kong now for a week long vacation, well, this is kind of a yuppie life.  At least at the moment, I don’t have to worry about finances– I’m making a good amount and I’m managing to put away a fair amount in long term investments.  I’ve been focusing on the ‘present’ for a long time now. 


It’s not that I’m focused on the past, or wish to relive all that.  On the contrary.  The past is where it is because it’s behind us, not in front of us. But, I realize now how important it is.

Every little thing out here kinda reminds me of back home.  It refreshes my memory and reminds me of things I’d forgotten which I didn’t really care enough about to remember, but, once refreshed, I feel sorry that I had forgotten, because they are where I came from.


Does that make sense?


I feel it more important then, now as much if not more than ever, to make sure I write about every little thing that happens to me.

I’ve been sick for about a month with that lung problem which started when M and R left Korea.  At first it also included chest pains, headaches and muscular atrophy (could it have been mono or something??) but all of those symptoms went away except for the really bad breathing problems, which kinda remind me of having asthma when I was a kid.  Somehow the fine Hong Kong air is either cleaner or killing me, so the lung problem is mostly gone.  I did get some wicked stomach cramps for the past 4 days or so but that’s all passing gradually.  I’m rather tired of having a broken body, and I’m really kinda angry that all that cyborg technology that we were promised by the year 2000 hasn’t really arrived yet.  But well.    Here’s to hoping.

I’ve been eating nonstop since I got here, in spite of the fact that it causes me stupid amounts of discomfort– but it’s my vacation damn it and if it’s going to kill me, it will be on my field and on my terms!  I’m out here with Zanshin to watch my back at least, so I’m not likely to be get into too much trouble.

On a lighter note– life is good right now, it is– simply!


In any case, my time is up at the internet cafe almost, so I’m back out there– I’m taking notes, and I intend to write about the backlog events like Intensives as well as this trip when I have some straight time at a terminal.

Until then folks, work hard, play harder.

A Dump in the Dark

I was at work early this morning, the only teacher in the building.  While I was in a washroom stall taking a dump, someone must’ve thought that the place was empty and, being environmentally conscientious, turned off the lights from outisde.  So there I was, sitting in a stall, in pitch blackness.


It was an interesting experience because you never really know how much wiping you have to do if you can’t see, and for that matter, if you’re even throwing that tp into the toilet or on the floor.  It’s also a pretty surreal experience to inch your way across a bathroom carefully, because that’s not exactly the place you want to be reaching around feeling around in the dark. I should add that our bathroom is huge.


Anyway, I made it out unscathed, found the lights, and went back in afterwards to wash my hands of course.

Don’t Look Back

… and I made it.

I made it out of intensives.  I’ve still got an insane amount of essays to correct but other than that, things are on track.  Report cards are done.  Intensives are done.

After work today I ended up going to eat with a bunch of coworkers– mostly the same group who I went to the beach with.  Dan is leaving– he’s one month my senior at work.  Ellie too is leaving.  She’s been my counsellor for the past few months, and her help has been invaluable.  She’s like the voice of reason when everything else goes down the shitter.

It’s interesting how much more sense it makes to me to talk to people when they’re on their way out just because I myself have only one month left.

I think I was a pretty awesome teacher today.  After the morning at taekwondo, I went in there and really just taught the shit out of my kids for once.  I think today was really one of those do or die kinds of days, and frankly, I did, so it was okay.  There have been days where that hasn’t worked out, but this time it worked out okay.

I feel there should be more to say but I can’t seem to right now because I’m too tired.  I’ll try and write something before I leave Korea but if not, see you all on the flipside.

T-Minus 15 hours

In 15 teaching hours, my vacation begins.


Good riddance to Intensives!


It’s 7:26AM and I just finished breakfast.  I have that slight “woke up too early” headache thing going for me– but it can’t be avoided, since in about fifteen minutes I have to go to taekwondo.  This morning is the last time I will be teaching intensives, and thank God.  I’m totally at the end of my rope with this class.  I “only” have to teach them for three more hours, but their level of comprehension coupled with the beaureucracy of “make sure it’s fun, you’re not supposed to really teach them” really has me with my hands tied.  I tried to explain the game of Battleship last class, and that failed miserably because they girls sunk 5 ships to the boys 0.  The boys would score a hit, and no matter how much I explained to them, they would just randomly fire off into random parts of the ocean thereafter, treating the game more like Bingo than Battleship.


Of course it’s not the kids I should direct my annoyance at– it’s really the whole morning program.  Zanshin’s teaching a debating class in which his students apparently don’t say jack squat, so I suppose that could be a problem too.


Today is the final day of this class, codenamed “Treasures 1.3.”  I just really need to find something for them to do.  Just 3 hours.  Man do I ever hope inspiration hits me soon…


Treasures 1.3 is probably the most immature group of students that I have.  Fights constantly break out in this one.  It’s simply the roughest class I have to teach, because they’re so immature– wish I could say more, but the brain cells aren’t quite fired up yet so…

Drunken Lullabies


Last friday was a national holiday in Korea, celebrating the independence of Korea from Japanese rule with the close of World War 2.  I must say, for an animosity that is even present today, I rather expected a lot more celebrating going on, but everything seemed pretty tame. 

I took the 3-day weekend as a cue to get some much needed R&R.  With a bunch of coworkers, mostly the cool ones, we headed out to Daejeon (대전) which is on the west coast of Korea.  It never ceases to amaze me how beaches in Asia are so damn warm, but I suppose that’s a product of my Canadian upbriniging.  For me, water usually means hypothermia.

And it was great.  It was, more than anything else, a bonding experience for a number of reasons.  The first was that the women out at the beach were simply beautiful.  Call it my bias, but Korean women are pretty thin out her– the ones who wear the bikini’s know how to wear it well.  I think that as teachers working on a street called “Academy Street” we naturally start to ignore the women in our environment, because they’re not women– they’re jailbait.  But, at the beach, anyone’s in our league, and at the very least, the male teachers could relate.

Being foreigners, we kind of stand out as well.  I’m a bit of an exceptional case, because even though I’m not Korean, I’m almost always mistaken for one because I’m Chinese.  Nonetheless, hanging out with my buddies at the various bars, we met plenty of people who were just there for the same reasons as us– to have fun.  While at the bars, we had some guys politely and embarassedly come up to our table and ask for a toast, because they wanted the opportunity to say that they had toasted with Americans (which we later corrected them on, since we were mostly Canadians).  Another dude wanted to take pictures with one of our female teachers, because his buddies had dared him to do so.  In revenge (goodnaturedly) Trevor and I went to their table and shook hands with everyone at their table and he even stole a kiss on the hand of the most beautiful woman at the table, who we codenamed WhiteSox  because of her hat.

Though we left for the coast only friday afternoon and arrived only int he evening, by Friday night, most of the group was completely wiped out with alcohol.  Yet, they still insisted on takng a 2am swim in the waters.  Who was I to object.  And honestly, it felt good to do so.

The next day was more of the same, although there was some lounging around at the beach and the playing of some good old roughhousing sports like 500 and American football.  Someone’s fingernails took out a chunk of my wrist but other than that it was all without incident.

Night came and we hit more bars, and then went to a noraebang, which is the Korean equivalent of a karaoke room.  I say karaoke room because they’re actually rooms, not a huge open floor where everyone in the bar is focused on one singer.  A group can rent a private place and just rock as hard or as soft as they want.  While we saw everything from Backstsreet to the Doors.  By the time I was singing Beat It, my voice was starting to crack and I wasn’t quite able to sustain the high notes anymore.

Somewhere at that point, one of my coworkers who I almost never talked to more than casually at work started to lean up against me as all of us sang backup for the people with the mics.  Next thing I knew, her hand was on my leg and her head was on my shoulder.

To me this is a strange experience– I’m not the kind of person who’s openly physical with my friends, much less people I hardly know, unless I’m trying to beat you up.  Yet here I was.  I was somewhat annoyed at first, to be honest– did I look so drunk that I could be taken advantage of?  And in truth, I was pretending to be drunk– it was the easiest way to find an excuse to let loose and to get people off my backs about drinking more. I was slightly buzzed, but impairment hadn’t come near to hitting me yet.

Yet on the other hand, and I think this is why I just went along with it and played by ear, I was flattered.

By the time we were done in the noraebang we were back outside on the boardwalk and she was stretching out her hand to me, expecting me to take it up.  I sorta pretended I didn’t see it.  Call me a conservative or call me a purist, or whatever you want– I wasn’t going to give false signals.  I suppose the bottom line here is that I wasn’t really interested in her.  She’s not my type.  The fact that we were in this sort of situation was part of the reasons why.

The most I afforded her was leaning against her abit due to my ‘drunkenness’.   It was decided that we’d all go for a swim again.  A bunch of them went for the 500m swim to the buoy, which I wisely dclined– I’m really not that much of a swimmer to be honest. Even when I hold my breath and relax completely, I eventually sink like a rock.

I flopped on the ground of the sandy beach, about ready to pass out from exhaustion of the days events.  I told them I wanted a nap, which they took as me being too drunk.   But she grabbed me by the arms and practically dragged me to the water.  This too surprised me– what, did a couple bottles of soju suddenly make us a couple?  We still hadn’t exchanged more than a paragraph of words together and here she was whining at me the way girlfriends do when they want you to just do something for them, just because it’s them.

Reluctantly, I got in the water and swam out as far as I could while still having some land under my feet.  At some point I decided that was enough– I was tired.  I don’t mean I was in a bad mood– I was in a great mood!  But as all people there, I was physically exhausted– it was about 3 am, and I’d been up pretty late just the night before. 

And wouldn’t you know it, she was a lifeguard in a previous life before she became a teacher– seeing that I was couging (due to the lung problems I’d been having for the last 3 weeks) she assumed that I was in trouble, and started dragging me back to shallower waters.  It’s been a while since I’ve had that kind of contact with a woman– she in a bikini and me in a set of hiking shorts, there’s a lot of skin in there.  To the point where I said “I”m alright, it’s fine.  You can let go.”

The whole experience was kinda surreal.  “Is this going to be strange on monday?” I asked.

“It can be whatever you want it to be on monday.”  That kind of comment raised my eyebrows.

We got back to the shore and I mostly ignored her for the rest of the night, because I was too wierded out by her forwardness.  I don’t think she’s a bad person– but I think she’d had a bit too much to drink.  She was so out of character even for someone who I didn’t know well and this didn’t seem like it could lead anywhere but a regretful place if we kept on this path.  I don’t really think the possibility of alcohol related memory loss is a good enough reason for a one night liscence to do anything one wants, as tempting as the idea might be.

Some people might object to my choice of action for any number of reasons, but simply put– I’m not that kinda guy.

We all got back to the min bak (민박) sometime like 4am.  A min bak is essentially an empty room with no furnishings except a kitchen sink.  There’s a bathroom and shower too.  But for the most part, it’s a traditional korean kinda room, where you’ve got a bunch of bedrolls and are expected to just sleep on the floor.  There were 12 of us in the room and though I ended up sleeping next to her, I sat up most of the night, my back against the wall, trying to stay up so that my chronic coughing wouldn’t keep the others awake.  There were a few hushed conversations floating around the room and in those hours of the morning I really developed an appreciation for those coworkers who were still able to stay awake and talk.  It made me think about life and everything in general– especially the question of whether or not I wanted to return to Korea after this contract was over.  It’s a difficult descision to make, one that would change my life even the second year around as much as it has this first time around.

At about 6 am, when they were all asleep, I lay down for some rest, more or less certain my coughing wouldn’t wake anyone.

I dreamt of the happiness I had in the days events, shouting and screamingn on the beach, singing our souls out with the slight aftertaste of soju on the tips of our tongues. High fives around the table, and warcries all around the bar as Korea scored a goal on the screens.

By the time monday came, I’d be ready to really teach the shit out of those kids.

The foreign teacher is an interesting kind of being.  Though I can only speak for the kind that work in Korea, the general point I’m trying to make is that we’re a bunch that is in part machine, in part animal.  Teaching is a large part of our lives– and I don’t mean that everyone wants to be a teacher or that everyone does it well or that anyone is better than anyone else– but it is our circumstance, it is our responsability and it is our condition.  We all share that warfront.

A classroom is the full range of emotions– not just the students, but the teacher too feels things out there.  I mean, a teacher can feel the joys and that’s all good, but what really test the teacher is the moments of stress.

And in that way, hanging out with teachers, while it can be depressing to be with people who are just complaining, on the other hand you can see a part of them that you don’t get to see at the workplace that they’ve wanted to get out all along.  You get to see some of the other colors to people.  3 days off?  It’s a huge thing and really, between the songs and between the shouts and the high fives, you get a bit more in touch with the humans beneath the professionals.  In the silent moments between smiles, sometimes a teacher’s mind may wander back to the classroom– he or she will worry about that student that cried in class last week, or the one who was bullying another, or the one that wrote an essay that seemed like a suicide note– and yet, they’ll smile.


They won’t smile because they’re sociopathic or psychotic– they’ll smile because cards will be dealt and hands will be played, and you do what you can with what you have.  And therein lies some comfort of our stock– that we’ve all got that in common, and that we’re not alone. That all our professionally-rooted eccentricities will be accepted instead of laughed at.  Mostly, anyhow.

They is a nice word.”

“I like the word weren’t‘  It really rolls well when you’re typing it.  It’s like a left handed alley-oop to the right or something.  It feels smooth,” I say.

Mike tries it out.  “That is smooth.”‘

“You guys are such losers,” says Erin, his girlfriend, sitting at a computer a bit further off.

“Fuck you Erin.”


Today is Wednesday.  I’m at the checkpoint.  Halfway to friday.  On friday, I leave for a week vacation in Hong Kong with Zanshin.  I hope to squeeze more writing in, but it’s pretty hard to determine if that’ll happen before the end of this week..

I’m not certain that happiness is a choice.  But unhappiness certainly requires effort.


Back in Anyang

I just got back home from 대천, which is a place in the west coast of Korea.  Beach area basically.  It was my first 3 day weekend in a long long time, and the first time I spend it with co-workers despite having been in Korea for such a long time.  I’ve only got about 8 possible hours of sleep before I have to wake up for monday’s routine of taekwondo and Intensives teaching, so I can’t really write so much right now and that really annoys me.  But I’m writing down a few notes here that I’ll address later and write more about when I finally have enough time, assuming that’s possible since at the end of THIS week I’m going to be heading to Hong Kong.  Somewhere during this crazy week of taekwondo, korean lessons and 13 hour work days I’m supposed to correct a month’s worth of essays and do report cards for 7 classes.  That’s just… ugh.

Anyway.  Notes to me about recent events:

  • The coworker who seemed to be trying to take advantage of me while I was “drunk”
  • Random Korean people on the beach
  • Tetris on the train
  • Roman Candle mortars
  • Tubes
  • Noraebang (노래방) and mobile noraebang
  • Asians versus Caucasians
  • The price of hot chocolate
  • freedom of speech versus freedom of thought
  • The one guy everybody hates
  • How I miss having the time to read peoples blogs seriously (which is why I haven’t been commenting in forever)
  • Jimjebangs
  • Spending habits (jimjebangs, food, Tetris and Striker 1945)
  • Sleeping in a 민박

And last but not least my plans to come back to Canada for at least a while with a stopover in Vancouver (YES IT’S FINALIZED!) as well as Calgary in the middle/end of october– some of you mentioned in comments in passing that you’re in those areas but if you’re serious drop me a message and I’ll really try to hook up and catch a coffee with you fine folks!

Yes, I hate using excessive exclamation marks as much as the next person, and I also hate using bold characters, but I’ve read a lot of fine blogs from out in Van and Calgary and if you guys want to tell me where and when, it’d be cool to meet up with the faces on the other sides of the screens even if only for a few days.

And because I haven’t listened to it in a while:


He pressed the button, and it beeped.  The numbers stopped moving.

He looked around.  The people still were.  Moving, that is.

He sighed, grinning to himself.  If only. 

He shrugged, put his hands in his pockets, and walked on.