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Sunday, April 02, 2017

The Best Birthday Present

My second best birthday present this year was a pocket watch. It's a bit sad that it came in second, especially since I picked it out myself. And paid for it myself. And opened it all by myself. It is mechanical, with crystal front and back so you can see the works, and a wood ring in the cover. I made the mistake of searching for an online photo instead of just taking a picture myself, and found that I could have purchased it for much less than I did. Thanks, China.

It's a wind-up, so no battery to replace. It looks nice, but the face is too busy, and the hands too scrolly, making it a bit hard to read, especially in dim light. It's really more of a show piece than a time piece, so I'm not sure how long I will use it. But it's nice, nonetheless.

The best birthday present this year will stick with me quite a while. Though it is impossible to say whether it will outlive the watch, I suspect that it will still have life long after the watch and I have parted company. My birthday was on Tuesday, and I was teaching a class at Kyungsung right after lunch*. This semester Tuesday is my first day with classes at the university, so it has a Mondayish vibe to it. Not as bad as a real Monday, but I still had that just-woke-up feeling, compounded by making a cross-town trip to drop off library books during my two-hour lunch break. One of my best students in that class, I'll call her Jackie** was sitting in the front row drinking a soda in class. Something about that soda was nagging at my Mondayeque mind as we worked through the vocabulary for the lesson. At one point in my powerpoint, there was an example sentence: "The students cut class to drink beer. Bad students!"

That's when the lightening struck me, right in the figuratively: that soda was not a soda. It was a can, like soda, but much taller. I stopped teaching, and pointed at it, and asked the traditional question for seeking clarification: "Whaaaaaat....?" Quickly followed by, "Is that......?" I picked up the can, observed that it was about 2/3 full, and smelled it, on the off chance that she had rinsed it out and filled it with cold, pure, innocent water. It smelled more like debauchery.† In my classroom. On a desk. In the front row. I then moved in for the verbal kill. "Why do you have beer in my class?"

Jackie informed me that she was thirsty.

This reminded me of a lesson which I constantly drill into my students: you should construct your question based on the answer that you are hoping to hear. Of course, I had had no such answer in mind, and cannot even now imagine an answer that would be satisfactory.††

One key to being a good teacher is having an automatic set of responses to given circumstances. When a student is playing with their phone, I first make eye contact or tap their desk, going for subtle, then mention it in front of the class for the second offense, then take it away if they do so again, forcing them to come talk to me after class.‡

Somehow, in my fifteen years of teaching in Korea, I had never thought of how I would respond to that particular circumstance, so I'm afraid that I may have been a bit incoherent in dealing with it. Eventually it occurred to me to move the offensive can out of site, so I did. Then I continued teaching, with no more than a dozen call-backs to the beer in class during the final twenty minutes of class. When class was finished we had a little talk, which included promises and apologies: she apologized for ruining my birthday, and I promised to show up drunk at her next family reunion by way of returning the favor.‡‡

The gift that keeps on giving is a good story. I love this story because I spent the afternoon of my birthday laughing about it, as well as a hefty portion of that class time. And if you, dear reader, have laughed at any point in reading this story, then it was definitely the best birthday present ever.



* For some reason, the university still refuses to make my birthday an official holiday.
** A bright, bouncy name, which matches her personality, but has no phonetic similarity to her actual name, for reasons which will become clear in the next paragraph.
† Which smells remarkably like beer and lip gloss.
†† "That's not mine!" would likely come the closest, followed closely by, "I thought you were thirsty."
‡ Because who would leave behind that significant portion of their soul?
‡‡ No, I didn't.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Return to Korea

The plane lands, and taxis to the gate. At the moment the fasten seatbelts light turns off, a man sprints past me. We are sitting in the fifth row from the tail of the plane. He makes it forward about five more rows before he is slowed, if not stopped, by everyone else springing up to get their luggage from the overhead bins and secure their place in the queue to escape the flying death lozenge.

We are definitely back in Korea. This is our sixth flight, three to get to Kansas, three to get back, and this is the only time I've seen the passengers go nuts as though there were special prizes for those first off the plane, rather than the same interminable waits (immigration, baggage claim, customs) that we will all endure. And this is after the announcement that we will be taking busses through the rain to get to the terminal!

I don't even wake the kids up until the people behind us are starting to move. We're the last ones off the plane, exhausted, red-eyed, stiff and sore. But the flight crew doesn't seem to mind. They know how far we've come, why we act like zombies, eyes laced with sand, bodies beaten down, tears of departure dried on our cheeks, and stomachs heavy yet jittery with airline food and too much coffee. They know for the same reason the crews of the two previous flights knew: I said so in our thank you card.

While preparing for this trip I found myself with a small problem: I had purchased a ton* of hard candies to give to my students after finishing their oral exams. I then neglected to bring the bag of candy with me on the two days with the most testing, so I was left with a lot more candy than I like to have around.** So I bought some gift boxes on which were written some clever thank you puns in Korean.***

On the first flight, I gave it to an attendant at the very end, then we went off to find our next flight. But on the 11 hour haul from Tokyo to Dallas, Quinten and I went to the back and handed it to some of them in the middle of the flight. I explained the Korean pun on the package, and told them that I really appreciate how strenuous their job is, and how it often appears thankless. Then we sat back down.

Some time later they brought me ice cream. The kids were asleep or they would have gotten some, too. Real ice cream, with hot fudge sauce, in a glass cup, a little taste of first class, I guess. Later they brought me four little hospitality bags, the kind they used to give to everyone who flew. There was a little toothbrush and toothpaste, socks, a blindfold, lotion, mouthwash, and a pen. The bag itself was real, if a bit cheap. It made a good replacement for the ziplock I had been using to carry our little medicine kit.

And that stuff was nice enough, but what struck me most was that at some point I think every member of the flight crew stopped by to say thank you. This happened on every flight in which I gave our gift early, though I can't be sure that every crew member talked to us every time. On the Tokyo to Dallas flight, the lead crew member herself came and talked to me, close to tears. She told me that people like us are the reason most of them get into this career: they like to help people get through a time that can be stressful and unpleasant.

I didn't witness any horror stories on our six flights, but we all know that they happen. I remember only one crying baby from the entire trip, but I've been on long international flights with children who definitely did not want to be there. My kids both hurled on the Tokyo to Dallas flight. I managed to mobilize the airsickness bags in time, but you know that there can't be a 100% success rate with that sort of thing. People on planes are sometimes deep down scared, which leads them to make poor choices. And even if everything else goes well, the crew is working an eleven hour shift, with nowhere to be away from the job.

Before the return flight I bought a mix of American candy, and had the kids prepare cards to go in the gift bags. In fact, I'm planning do this on every international flight we take. Not for the ice cream, or the thank yous, but because it feels good to let people know that they are valued, and this is a behavior I absolutely want to model for my kids.

I hope that you will take the opportunity to make someone feel valued. And for what it's worth, you could do a lot worse than giving them candy!



* Assuming that each piece of candy weighed about five pounds each.

** I will happily eat chocolate every day for the rest of my life, but I cannot easily set aside the fact that a hard candy is basically a little lump of refined sugar.

*** A picture of four persimmons, which sounds like "thank you" in Korean if you fudge the grammar a little bit.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Boy's Life--a book review

A few months ago my Aunt Becky recommended a book to me, Boy's Life by Robert McCammon. I popped over to Amazon.co (click here to buy the book) and bought it on sale for $2.99. Definitely a bargain. As I was reading it I made a mental note to thank my aunt, which I did. Then I made a mental note to recommend it to others, which I didn't, because by the end I decided that I had to push this book harder than a blurt on Facebook.

So I will link to this review from Facebook, where I will post a much, much shorter review and Amazon link.

But for you, my loyal Roblog readers, an excerpt. This is the last page of the prologue. The narrator is talking about his home town of Zephyr, Alabama.

          We had a dark queen who was one hundred and six years old. We had a gunfighter who saved the life of Wyatt Earp at the O.K. Corral. We had a monster in the river, and a secret in the lake. We had a ghost that haunted the road behind the wheel of a black dragster with flames on the hood. We had a Gabriel and a Lucifer, and a rebel that rose from the dead. We had an alien invader, a boy with a perfect arm, and we had a dinosaur loose on Merchants Street.
          It was a magic place.
          In me are the memories of a boy's life, spent in that realm of enchantments.
          I remember.
          These are the things I want to tell you.


I love this introduction: It freely gives away massively tantalizing hints without spoiling a bit of the story, and let's you know that the writing will be so rich and succulent that you will feel like licking your fingers after you put the book down.

There is something about his storytelling that reminds me of Stephen King, though with a much lower fatality rate. McCammon paints lovely, believable pictures quickly and efficiently, but not so sketchily that you get confused. As you can see above, there are times when he waxes lyrical, almost poetic, but with none of the pretension of poetry.

McCammon has a large body of work available in electronic form, so I can buy them easily for my Kindle, but I'm not going to rush into them: I want to take my time to digest each one, like a fine meal. You don't go out for an expensive steak when you had a Chinese buffet for lunch, and there are some bits of Boy's Life that will stay with me for years: the first day of summer vacation, the narrow escapes, the release from pain carried for so long.

This book reads like a memoir, but with elements of fantasy expertly woven in. It made me wonder if perhaps my childhood held similar miracles and terrors, memories later driven out and replaced by sitcom memories, long days in boring classrooms, the only magic left restricted to the silver screen.

Last summer I watched the movie "Selma" on t.v. Maxine watched some of it with me, and we had a couple of conversations about racism, and why someone would blow up a church, killing four little girls. My kids are aware of what it means to be different from everyone else, but I am very grateful that they do not face challenges like those.

Boy's Life is set in the late 60s. The civil rights struggle and racism of that time infuse the whole story, sometimes fighting in the middle of the stage, sometimes scratching around the edges of the scenery, almost never completely out of sight. I was born in 1970, so I didn't witness that era, but books like this help me to wrap my brain around what it must have been like. Yes, it is fiction, and yes, the author is white. I would not count on a book like this as a primary source, but it adds another viewpoint to my limited vision of where the United States of America has been, and where it is going.

I should also note that Boy's Life won the 1992 World Fantasy Award for best novel. It does not feel like a 15-year-old book to me, but then again I didn't feel like a 46-year-old after reading it.


If you've read it, I'd love to hear what you thought in the comments. 

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Well Earned Tears

First grade is hard the same way the ocean is wet. There is only so much newness that one can take in before one is overwhelmed, and the only response is to break down a bit. For example, today was a normal day, with our standard lesson and activities. One activity that I particularly enjoy is when our teacher sings to us. She has a beautiful voice, and I don't know about everybody else, but I always feel like she is singing for me.

Today when she started to sing, it was a new song for our class. New, but somehow familiar to me. At first I hummed along, without even knowing how I knew the tune, then an old door creaked open in the back of my mind, and the memory came spilling out: it was a warm, dark, safe place, with Mommy. She was holding me in her arms, and singing the same song. I remembered it so hard that for a moment I was there in Mommy's arms, without the words to express the joy I felt at falling asleep in this perfect place hearing this perfect song, that reminded me of an even more perfect place, hearing the song of Mommy's heartbeat and breathing, surrounded by her.

For a moment the memory was a perfect crystal, more beautiful than anything I've ever held. Then it melted into the here and now, and my cheeks were wet with the past. I realized that I was back in a world where sometimes I got to spend no time with Mommy. I could't remember the last time she had sung to me, and it sat on my chest like a gorilla. I sobbed, mourning the changes in my life this past year, and fearing what was to come.

My teacher asked what was wrong, and I told her that she had sung a song of my infancy, now further away than the stars, and even more impossible to reach. I asked her to hold me, and she did. It wasn't the same as being with Mommy, but it was okay. I sat on her lap and let my anguish flow until all that was left was the memory itself, now tinged with sadness.

I got up off of her lap and returned to my seat. I could see my pain reflected in the faces of my classmates. No doubt some of them were sampling their own bittersweet memories. Maybe some of them were reawakening to the blessings that they had tuned out due to familiarity. I saw no contempt, no mockery. We can be so cruel when we see our classmates in tears, especially when we believe they are unearned. That day all of them knew that I had earned my tears, and some of them joined me in weeping for the lost past. Then I noticed that same pain reflected in the eyes of my teacher. I realized at that moment that she loved me. All of us, really. Of course not as deeply as Mommy loves me, but with a real love. A love that is there every day, ready to pick you up and brush you off when you fall down, ready to wipe your nose, and willing to help you better yourself. But more importantly, she loved me even though a year ago she hadn't even met me. I realized that love can be found outside of those who have known you your whole life: it's ready to grow into any crack in your life.

Everyone says that I am too young to be nostalgic, longing for what has gone. I say that a lifetime ago is a long time, whether your lifetime is seven or one hundred seven years. Learn to love the time you are in now, but don't let go of your past. Rather, use it as an anchor as you search for the love that will inevitably be found in your future.


Quinten with a bear. Not his teacher.

[This story is third hand, based on what Horyon told me of a text message received from Quinten's teacher. As such, I have taken some liberties in imagining what happened at the time, and assuming Quinten's point of view, and expanding his vocabulary somewhat. I don't believe I am breaking any rules in this, but feel free to contact the authorities if you disagree.]

Sunday, November 06, 2016

A Moving Story

"It looks like they are not going to try to rent out our old apartment, so we will have to pay the rent on it until it gets torn down next June," said my wife, while simultaneously feeding me lead shot from the freezer, or so my gut was telling me.

We broke our contract, seven months into a two-year contract. First question: what is the penalty clause for breaking a contract like this? Answer: technically, there is no penalty clause, because you can't break the contract. As long as no one is living in that apartment, you are responsible for paying the rent, and you sure don't get your deposit back. There are supposed to be rules, like the owner can't raise the rent, making it less likely for a new tenant to move in. But otherwise it is a system that just assumes someone will move in. Our old neighborhood had a stretch of ten real estate agencies lining one side of the road, broken up only by a phone store and a dietary supplement store.

We had understood that we would be paying rent on both places until someone moved in, which would make our budget tight for a month or two. But now it was scary: Horyon checked and found that our old apartment was not being listed for sale! The real estate agent had told the apartment owner that she did not have to do anything, because she would keep getting rent whether someone new moved in or not. And frankly, wouldn't she rather avoid dealing with all that registration nonsense, and the transferring of key money, and all the little clean up stuff, like putting up new wallpaper over the old cracks (which I am sure are no indication that the building is close to falling down on its own, much less with the help of an earthquake or two).

Context time: in September the southern part of Korea has been the epicenter of a few little earthquakes, measuring: 5.1 and 5.8 within an hour of each other on September 12th, then a week later a 4.5, a 3.5 two days after that, then a 3.1 on the 28th. October 2nd offered up a 3.0, barely noticeable after the previous excitement, and followed by a typhoon on the 5th that killed a few people. And another earthquake on Monday October 10th. Looks like Monday is our regular earthquake day.

Anyway, the old building was constantly shedding bits of concrete, and the safety railings were all loose. The elevator was out of order anytime there was enough rain to flood the basement, but even when it did work you had to take half a flight of stairs to get to your floor. It was slow to get to the ninth floor, but once it got there you had to get the heck out in a hurry, because the doors would close three seconds after opening. That elevator nailed me a few times

It was a nice neighborhood, though. A five minute walk from Horyon's parents, a ten minute walk from the subway, a real French bakery just down the street, and Gwanganli Beach only a 20 minute walk away.

On the other hand, it was only a five minute walk from Horyon's parents, people whom I love and respect and don't want to wander into my home at random hours when I may or may not be wearing pants.

We were happy to be out, even paying two rents each month for a month or two. But that horrid sinking feeling dragged on my gut for a couple of days. It felt like a hopeless situation, but neither of us realized that the sleeping dragon had been awakened, and was even then doing battle. Horyon's mother never liked our real estate agent, and didn't trust her. When she found out how we were being used, she started making calls and visiting friends and kicking up a mess. Over the weekend she managed to find someone who would rent our old apartment. Not just move in, but take over the key money as well as the full rent!

The problem was that we couldn't reach the apartment owner to seal the deal. The real estate agent had told the owner to not answer the phone. At this point in the story, I am not sure what the various motivations were. Why would the real estate agent want to make our lives miserable? Why would she not want to get another tenant into the apartment, thereby earning some sort of commision? Why hadn't she just listed the apartment? I don't know. Why would the apartment owner not answer her phone? I don't know. But my mother-in-law sent her a text message that basically threatened to sue her if she didn't deal with us, so she finally picked up. Within three days, a contract was signed. By the end of the week, we had our deposit money back.

I don't like to admit it, but for those few days I was starting to resurrect some of my old feelings about Korea. The feelings I had back in 2007 when we moved back to the states. The feeling that this society is built on disrespect, and that the Confucianism at the root of Korean society had grown into a big, ugly, repressive monster that only benefited those at the top. We moved to America in 2007 partly because we wanted a good future and competent schools for our children, but also partly because I was no longer able to go about my daily life without an inner raging against my host country. My attitude was completely unfair, and reflected more about myself than Korea. Korea is not perfect, and the cultural differences between here and the midwestern United States are very real. But my concept of what the midwestern United States is actually like to live in had only the most tenuous connection to the actual experience of living there.

Long story short: I learned to love Korea by leaving it for four years. I still love the United States, but it lost some of it's shininess during that four years. And wherever you go, there you are.

Fortunately, those negative feelings about Korea did not have much chance to germinate, and were quickly uprooted. I am still aware that there are individuals out there who will do mean things and treat you unkindly, but for the most part people aren't interested in making life worse for others. Most people will be kind, given the opportunity, because it makes them feel better about themselves. As long as there is not too much at stake, anyway.

Enough philosophical musings, let's get down to brass tacks:

The new apartment is a downsize for us, from 34 to 25 pyeong* (~1200 sq ft to 890 sq ft). So we lost about a quarter of our old floor space. To be fair, some of what we lost was a hallway, in which we hung coats on the wall and piled bags and stuff on the floor. We're better off without that. We think that we also lost some communal space, like the hall outside leading to the elevator. We lost a bit in the living room, but the old one was more space than we needed. The most painful loss was the kitchen/dining room. It is now much more difficult for us to sit down together to eat a meal. When we do, it's impossible to walk through the kitchen.

But the kids now have their own bedrooms. Quinten's room is big enough for his bed and some shelves. He doesn't do much other than sleep in there because there's not room for even a little person like himself to play. I am proud of how quickly he has adjusted to sleeping in there by himself, though.

Maxine loves having her own room, and has already taken to shutting herself in to read, draw, and grow that icky shell thing that teenagers get.** She has about half again as much space as Quinten, so there is a desk and bookshelf, a tall chest of drawers, and her bed in there. She is so happy to have her own desk and office chair!

Horyon and I are in the master bedroom, where we have some lovely built-in closets that were a present from her parents. For the first time in five years I have all of my clothes in the same room, and it's the room where I sleep! I've also got a combination desk/bookshelf and a rolling office chair. Mine is more expensive than Maxine's, of course: you have to pay for the kind of quality that can hold me.

Of course, one aspect of downsizing was that we had to get rid of stuff. Which we did. Certainly not all of the useless stuff, but a lot of it. And now I have three or four plastic bins full of stuff that I couldn't bear to part with, and now barely look at because they are in plastic bins on the verandah. Occasionally I miss something and go out to find it. Eventually I really need to go through those bins and toss out everything that is left.

We acquired some cool stuff in the move from friends that were also moving. The two big ones are a sofa and an electric piano. Both are old, and show it. They survived a little girl's childhood, and have the marker stains to prove it. The sofa sits lower than it should in some places, and the arm rest is a tiny bit wiggly, but when we haven't piled laundry and books and toys all over it, it is perfect for a nap. The electric piano is a little scuffed up, and the buttons are all labeled in Korean, but it sounds good. When we got it, it was capable of playing more loudly than the neighbors would appreciate. Thankfully, Quinten fixed that by dropping a screw into one of the headphone jacks. How clever is my boy? Now you have to turn the volume all the way up to hear it, and I have to figure out how to fish a screw out of a headphone jack. Ah well, idle hands and all that.

A couple of weeks after getting the piano I was out with Quinten and we passed the Alladin used book store in Seomyeon (which is not bad for English readers: there are a few shelves of English novels, as well as CDs and DVDs if you still like your media to have a physical presence). I went in, dragging my poor, bored child with me, and asked if they had piano music. They did! I spent about $10 and got half a dozen books of music, ranging from Maxine level to slightly above mine. Since then I have spent some time playing the electric piano, and really enjoying it. I honestly can't remember why I took piano lessons back in middle school, but I suspect my mother was the motivating force. Whether or not that is true, my parents at the very least paid for my lessons and drove me to them. Thank you Mom and Dad!

One other good thing about the piano is that Maxine spends a lot of time on it. She took piano lessons for about three years, then got bumped. I guess the teacher had some better students lined up. Anyway, she enjoys it, and knows enough to not get quickly frustrated and quit. I think we will be setting her up with lessons next spring. Maybe by then we will be settled enough to consider that.

This post has gone on long enough. I have delayed with the intention of taking photos and including them, but clearly that is not going to happen. Perhaps I will shoehorn them in at some point.



* I just now learned that the pyeong has Chinese origins, which shouldn't be surprising considering that China has always been just sort of monstrously there, hovering over Korea, breathing yellow dust down its back and leaking culture all over the place.

** Sorry. Just realized that I was thinking of a caterpillar becoming a chrysalis. Looks different, acts different... are butterflies sullen, by any chance?

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Seize the Day, and Don't Let Go!

At bedtime today Quinten was sobbing under the covers. I couldn't understand: he had gone to the zoo today with friends and Mommy, behaved very well, not gotten hurt or lost. So i asked him, "Quinten, why are you crying?"

"Because today was the best day ever, and I'm never ever going to have this good day again!"
This was not the best day ever, but it was pretty good!
Parenting creates such a messy jumble of feelings. It is so rare for me to have a "best day ever" that it took me a while to remember the latest one. And with kids, even the best day has trying moments. But I don't remember ever having a moment so pure as Quinten shared with me last night. I suppose that's part of growing up, losing that sense of perfection, forgetting that you ever had it.
I should have taken more pictures.
Soon he will be ready to ride outside the playground. We will start with some of the bike paths near our home (after walking through some somewhat hazardous territory), and work up to biking to school like I used to do with Maxine. I'm so excited! Once I've got him pedal worthy, the only holdback will be Horyon! That's gonna be a tough one.
I attempted to reassure him that there would, in fact, be better days, but I understand the feeling. It is not until we have had many "best days ever" that we realize that better days are possible. And it takes a measure of wisdom to realize that you can have more than one best day ever without jumping the shark.


Quinten is more than halfway through first grade now, and it has been an interesting year. He has matured a lot in the past eight months: he is less likely to go crazy jumping around and making noise like a monkey on cocaine, though it still happens on occasions when there is too much excitement. But when he does, I can calm him down by taking him aside and talking to him, rather than pulling him completely out of the situation and giving him an enforced time out. Inconsolable crying, like tonight, has a much shorter half-life than before.

And last week he mastered riding a bicycle! At the playground behind our home he has practiced riding in circles around the playground equipment more times than I care to count. Between the slide and the hedge that borders one side of the playground there is a little storm drain, so the ridable gap is only a couple of feet wide. As he rides this circuit he sometimes runs into the hedge, and sometimes runs into the slide. No serious injuries, not even scratches, though he got sort of pinned by the bike a couple of times. The best he managed was five times around without running into anything (or anyone).

p.s. I copied the first of this from my Facebook post, and somehow it kept the formatting, including the white background. I am not going to attempt to fix this, as from here it looks like a suspiciously deep rabbit hole.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

I have moved lots.

Horyon told me that this is our seventh move together. She didn't count the first one, probably because she didn't have more than a suitcase worth of stuff in our Seomyeon apartment. But it was a real move for me, so I would call it eight. Before that, on my own, it depends on how you count a move.

The first time I changed homes was from this little house on Congress Street in Leavenworth, KS to the home where my parents still live. I don't count this as a move because I doubt that I had anything to do with it. Probably spent a couple of days at Grandma and Grandpa Euler's home.
; moving from home to university was a single car-load affair for me, and often my parents were driving me. There are horror stories aplenty about these moves. When my long-suffering mother says to me, "Do you remember the time when you had to move from/to K.U. and you started packing the night before?" the only proper response from me is "Which year?" Later I had my own car, which took some of the pressure off. Every year there were pick-up trips in the first few weeks, and seasonal clothing exchanges. I'm pretty sure it was a pick-up truck move some years, as I had a La-Z-Boy recliner that I pretty much wore out at K.U. I ended up leaving it outside in the back alley behind Pearson Hall. My guess is that it found it's way into someone's apartment and probably kicked around a few years more before collapsing into a pile of sawdust, rust and lint. Disgusting, duct-tape sticky, semi-sentient lint.

Five years at K.U., so 10 moves there.

Nepal was either two moves, or two plus a dozen. In terms of physically transporting a lot of stuff and myself to a new dwelling place, it was just the move from America to Nepal and the move from Nepal to America. In Nepal there were two or three training site moves, a move to my village, a move from one place in my village to another, then a move to Kathmandu. There were various little moves after that with varying amounts of luggage, usually just a backpack's worth, but sometimes an aluminum trunk and a backpack. I spent a couple of months in Tulsipur with Jim Durham, a few weeks out West with Kathy Beahn, and shorter stints in different places. Let's call Nepal four moves from October 1995 until November 1997.

Then I moved to Korea, once again with no more than suitcases. I shared a place with Jason Kozar and Tom (not sure of his last name) in Chaesong-dong. Unfortunately, from a story-telling perspective, I missed the cockroach wars. Jason told me about spraying pesticide between the wall and ceiling, causing a cascade of dieing roaches. The housing was provided by ETS, and I did manage to be present for many, if not most of the major battles there.  and back to the States about nine months later to wait out the three months left in that year-long, trapped-in-hell contract. I'm pretty sure I left some stuff in Korea, planning to come back, and I did, so I'm not calling that pair moves, more like extended vacations. But before I left Korea, I moved from Chae-song-dong to a little roof-top apartment I shared with Jason Kozar. (This was partly to get out from under the thumb of the evil Mr. Edward Cho, director and owner of ETS, and proof that absolute corruption requires no more absolute power than that of a hogwan director. "Jason betrayaled you! He told immigration everything!" "What everything? That I'm working for a crooked hogwan?")

Our apartment was on the eighth floor of this seven-floor building, perched on the roof like an afterthought, and slightly better insulated than a tool shed. Jason taught in the hogwan on the fifth floor, and the owner of the building lived on the top floor, right beneath us. I never worked for her, but she was one of the nicest hogwan owner/directors I've ever met. Her English wasn't great, and there were plenty of misunderstandings, but in general we all got along well. She had twin daughters in middle school at the time, and they spoke English very well. I don't have any pictures of the apartment, but the building it's perched on is here on Google maps. Cold as hell in the winter, hot as an oven in the summer. We had access to the rest of the roof for hanging laundry or just chilling out. (Thanks to Jason for hunting this down for me. Apparently while I was living there I had no idea where I the heck I was.) There are some good memories associated with that place: late nights of Starcraft of Starcraft with Jason, watching his relationship with his future wife Sora grow. I changed employment, played trombone with a band called Mondo Pepper, had a brief roller-coaster relationship with Korean groupie who chose alcohol over me, and eventually wound up working at YBM/ELS in Seomyeon. So two more moves.

My next move was to a rental house, a bit of a rarity here. One story, Kitchen/dining room and two bedrooms. In some ways it was the best place I've lived in Korea: the neighbors were a bit noisy, but they weren't above me. It was kind of cold in the winter, but not deadly hot in the summer. It was cozy. I had a decent stereo, a workable kitchen, and a shelf of cassette tapes (left by the former renters) that introduced me to one of my favorite band, Rusted Root. And though we only lived there for a few days, it was still, in my mind, our first home as a married couple.

Moving from there is the last move that doesn't include Horyon, so two more, for a total of 18 moves before I turned 31. The move of September 3rd was our seventh together, so I'm up to 25 moves! By now I'm sure I've left more stuff behind than I have now, but I still have too much stuff!

This post has gotten long enough, so I'm going to stop here and actually write about the move last month on its own.


A Brief Introduction

Roblog is my writing lab. It is my goal to not let seven days pass without a new post. I welcome your criticism, as I cannot improve on my own.

Here is a link to my cung post, which remains the only word which I have ever invented, and which has not, as far as I know, caught on. Yet.