My name is Jared Way. I was born in California, and became an "adoptive" Minnesotan. Now I'm contentedly expatriated in South Korea.
For many years I was a database programmer, with a background in Linguistics and Spanish Literature.
I quit my well-paying job and starting in September, 2007, I spent 2 years teaching EFL to elementary kids in Ilsan (suburban Seoul), South Korea. From April, 2010, until April, 2011, I worked a public school position in rural southwestern Korea (Yeonggwang County). I have since returned to Ilsan and continue to work there.
As of June, 2013, I remain in Ilsan in South Korea, but I was diagnosed with cancer, and have been undergoing treatment. As a consequence, the focus and tone of this blog has changed somewhat.
I started this blog before I even had the idea of coming to Korea (first entry: Caveat: And lo...). So this is not meant to be a blog about Korea, by any stretch of the imagination. But life in Korea, and Korean language and culture, inevitably play a central role in this blog's current incarnation. Let's just say... it's a blog about whatever I happen to be thinking, that currently takes place in Korea.
Basically, this blog is a newsletter for the voices in my head. It keeps everyone on the same page: it has become a sort of aide-mémoire.
If you're curious about me, there is a great deal of me here. I believe in what I call "opaque transparency" - you can learn almost everything about me if you want, but it's not immediately easy to find. I also maintain a work-related blog on the Korean portal Naver: jaredway.com.
I like to take photographs. I'm NOT a photographer. Recently, I've been trying to consolidate my "good" photos and have opted to try hosting them at a website called panoramio - partly because I mostly take pictures of landscape or scenery and panoramio is well-integrated with google earth. Here is a slideshow of some of my photos.
A distillation of my personal philosophy (at least on good days):
I have made the realization that happiness is not a mental state. It is not something that is given to you, or that you find, or that you can lose, or that can be taken from you. Happiness is something that you do. And like most things that you do, it is volitional. You can choose to do happiness, or not. You have complete freedom with respect to the matter.
"Ethical joy is the correlate of speculative affirmation." - Gilles Deleuze (writing about Spinoza).
Think about it. We could have built a high speed rail network for the whole country for that price - if you assume $100 million per mile construction cost (very generous), you could get more than 10000 miles of high speed rail.
When I was in middle school and high school, I had a pet rat. His name was Fnugus. I saw this video recently that made me remember that indeed, my rat was a pretty smart rat.
I had trained him to go to his cage much like the girl in the video. He would also jump whenever I said "jump rat." If I did it several times in succession, it made him look like he had a weird tic or was spastic. That was entertaining. It was also fun to put him on some elevated platform and have him jump to another platform. He would jump back and forth.
Mostly when I was in my room, I would allow him free run of my room. After he died, I found he had built a secret nest behind a filing cabinet in my room. It was full of some of my drawings, shredded into a comfy bed. I didn't hold it against him.
Now the king told the boogie men You have to let that raga drop The oil down the desert way Has been shakin' to the top The Sheik he drove his Cadillac He went a' cruisin' down the ville The muezzin was a' standing On the radiator grille
[Chorus:] The Shareef don't like it Rock the Casbah Rock the Casbah The Shareef don't like it Rock the Casbah Rock the Casbah
By order of the prophet We ban that boogie sound Degenerate the faithful With that craazy Casbah sound But the Bedouin they brought out The electric camel drum The local guitar picker Got his guitar picking thumb As soon as the Shareef Had cleared the square They began to wail
Now over at the temple Oh! They really pack 'em in The in crowd say it's cool To dig this chanting thing But as the wind changed direction The temple band took five The crowd caught a wiff Of that crazy Casbah jive
The king called up his jet fighters He said you better earn your pay Drop your bombs between the minarets Down the Casbah way
As soon as the Shareef was Chauffeured outta there The jet pilots tuned to The cockpit radio blare
As soon as the Shareef was Outta their hair The jet pilots wailed
He thinks it's not kosher Fundamentally he can't take it. You know he really hates it. Really really hates it!
We were having a debate in my HS classes, on the topic of "restoring the Korean monarchy."
This may seem like a quixotic topic, and it is, a little bit, but it is a sort of leitmotif in Korean media, sometimes - there was a popular TV drama a while back set in a vaguely alternate universe where South Korea was a monarchy. Historically, for most of its long history, Korea has been one or more monarchies in the Sinospheric tradition of "conceptually tributary but de facto independent" kingdoms under the suzerainty of the Chinese emperors.
Anyway, to make the debate more interesting and less of a fairy tale, I focused on the aspect of an implied transition from a presidential system to a parliamentary system of government, since that is generally how monarhies operate in the modern world. We talked about separation of powers, about the seeming higher incidence of authoritarianism and corruption in presidential systems, South Korea's own problematic history of authoritarian presidents and how a parliamentary system might have moderated that or how it might prevent future tendencies in that direction.
In that vein, the students vented their annoyance with the incompetencies of our current dynastic president, Park Geun-hye, the daughter of the 1970s dictator. I made a throwaway line about the methods by which we might choose the new monarch, aside from simply annoiting some descendant of the Yi family that ruled Joseun prior to the Japanese takeover in 1910. In this vein, I mentioned both the Park family of the current president and the Kim family that has been ruling our neighbor to the north for the last 75 years. This was really meant as a joke.
However, one student, Seungyeop, decided to run with it. Seungyeop is one of those types of students that abound in my high level middle-school debate classes: pretty good at English, quite brilliant academically, but not really interested in doing homework. In fact, Seungyeop never does homework, but he can often get away with it in my class, where the main score is based on the quality of one's speeches.
He gave a speech yesterday where he explained, more-or-less cogently, the advantages of making Kim Jeong-eun, North Korea's current dictator, the king of Korea as a part of resotring the monarchy. He said that since he seems mostly interested in the trappings of power, he would be happy for such a figurehead position, but since it would be implemented as a constitutional monarchy, he would be essentially powerless. Thus, this type of restoration could bring about Korean reunification.
His speech is the first in the series of five speeches in the video I posted for the class blog (embedded below).
It's a little bit hard to hear, and as always, keep in mind that these are just middle-schoolers learning English, so I hold them to a fairly low standard on some axes of evaluation. But overall I thought it was a clever argument and it holds together especially well considering he slapped it together in the five minutes before speaking.
I have been sleeping badly lately. I can't quite figure out why. Maybe it's the summer heat and humidity, the intermittent rain and steamy nights. Maybe it's worrying too much about things I can't control very well - my imperfect health, my overall existential situation, work.
Whatever the reason, I will wake up far too early in the morning, often before dawn, and struggle to continue with my night's sleep. I will gaze out the window at the pinkening eastern sky, and anti-nostalgically remember distant dawns witnessed while standing in formation in basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. I suspect the humidity and heat cause this inevitable mental train to depart the station.
Then I will wake up fully, end up reading something or trying to write something, and then attempt to take a nap. Some mornings, the naps work, other mornings, they don't.
This morning, as thunderstorms brewed, I successfully napped. I had strange dreams.
In one dream, I remembered a story that once made a huge impression on me. The strange thing (or the inevitable thing) was that the story I remembered, in the dream, was a story by Borges about dreaming. A man dreams another man, who grows to become real. In the end, the dreaming man is revealed to have been dreamed by another, ad infinitum. This is the "Ruinas circulares," a quite famous Borges story.
I awoke and found a link to the story text online. I re-read it, as I have done many times.
I made a resolution, which seemed to emerge from that groggy post-dream space, that this should be my epitaph:
My students did a roleplay called "The Wedding Mice," which seems to be an adaptation of a traditional story of some kind of Asian provenence (maybe Japanese? I can't figure it out). Some of the songs are traditional Western "kid songs," however - "Hokey Pokey," "If You're Happy and You Know It." It's a typical cultural mish-mash.
I think they actually sing pretty well - the video (cross-posted from my work blog) shows them singing along to melody only - there's no "assist" from recorded voices here.
Nosequién y los Nosecuantos, "Pacha." No entiendo esta canción muy bien, pero me imagino que el eslang tiene un sentido que no debo elaborar demasiado aquí.
Sé que el vocablo "vohue" es una alteración de "huevo," utilizando el juego de palabras "vesre." "Hacer la sapa" es probablemente un lundardismo. Respecto el título, "pacharaca" es una mujer ligera: ""Originalmente 'pacharaca', despectivo para muchacha de vida ligera o de entrega sexual sin mayores complicaciones, pero de bajo nivel social y mestiza." - según una definición encontrada en línea.
Ya no recuerdas quien soy, yo te hice plan en la playa tu te enfrentabas al sol y yo me acerque por la espalda pasado el susto inicial, vencida tu descofianza buscamos de lo que hablar y cruzamos las miradas, me fui con tu direccion y tu numero en la agenda, y en la mente un vision mezcla de hembrita y pantera, deje q pasen los dias y a tu numero marque, y cuando por ti pregunte, me dijeron q no vivias, Ja Ja Ja . . . ni siquiera te conocian
Tu no estas obligada a satisfacerme, por eso no debes mentirme si no te apetece verme, trata de no ser falsa busca ser sincera siempre, quiza antes de recibir lo que puedes ofrecerme lastima que con tu gracia y con esa linda facha te quieres hacer la sapa y actues como una pacha
Pacha . . . Pacharaca Pacha . . . Pacharaca
Tu no estas obligada a satisfacerme, por eso no debes mentirme si no te apetece verme.
Pacha . . . Pacharaca Pacha . . . Pacharaca
Lastima que con tu linda gracia y esa linda facha te quieres hacer la sapa y actues como una pacha
Pacha . . . Pacharaca Pacha . . . Pacharaca(x2)
No te veo de nuevo, no quiero verte otra vez, me he dado cuenta de que contigo, solo he recibido un revez no te veo de nuevo en la playa, no te veo para que te ahogues me he dado cuenta de que simplemente eres una calienta vohue
Franz Ferdinand, "Right Action." Um... this song seems weird. Is it a reference to steps 2, 3 and 4 of the Buddhist eightfold path? Or just a coincidence?
Come home practically all is nearly forgiven Right thoughts, right words, right action Almost everything could be forgotten Right thoughts, right words, right action
[Chorus:] But how can we leave you To a Saturday night or a Sunday morning Good morning
Sometimes I wish you were here, weather permitting Right thoughts, right words, right action This time, same as before, I'll love you forever Right thoughts, right words, right action
11 South Court Gardens England’s Lane past end to London
[Outro:] Sometimes I wish you were here, weather permitting Right thoughts, right words, right action Right thoughts, right words, right action Right thoughts, right words, right action Right thoughts, right words, right action...
The monsoon has finally come. The last week has been pretty continuously rainy and grey.
I like this kind of weather. I can feel my mood improving, as contrasted to how I feel when it is hot and sunny, which always just feels oppressive to me.
I'm working hard. My TEPS-M cohort middleschoolers, who normally annoy me greatly, made me laugh yesterday. Somehow we got on the topic of politics. They said we should have a debate about politics. I am actually a bit wary of having debates about politics - the kids are either apathetic or bear the same irreconcilable "culture-war" views as their parents no doubt have, i.e. the evangelicals are Saenuri-dang (Korean Republican analogues) and the rest are Minju-dang (Korean Democrat analogues). Mostly I prefer to focus the debates on specific policies or lifestyle choices.
Somehow they seemed intrigued when I said that a few years back I'd actually had a Korean "presidential debate" in one of my classes. They asked what other topics I'd done. Out of the blue, one student burst out, "Hey kids! Let's have a debate about Park Chung-hee!"
It was in a voice meant to imitate mine.
"Hey kids" is an imitation of the way I speak to them, when I first walk into a classroom. It's a kind of fakey-jokey, super upbeat tone-of-voice phrase that is meant in a vaguely ironic way, that has become part of my classroom "brand," I suppose. Most of my students seem to find it entertaining as it contrasts with my normal tone, and it's quite predictable.
The humor was in combining that cheery introduction with an immediate segue into what could conceivably be a very controversial debate topic - but of the sort of complex, elevated topic material for which I'm probably also known (and dreaded): Korea's notorious dictator, Park Chung-hee.
Anyway, it made me laugh. I hear only silence. Maybe you had to be there?
Sometimes, I will admit, what I'm listening to right now is not something I particularly like. I try to keep myself exposed to Korean culture and that includes the pop my students mention to me or that I happen across on the TV.
My students said I was old yesterday. This is true, but I still ended up preoccupied by it. So I went surfing Korean pop music.
I have been somewhat neglecting my efforts at meditation practice, probably to the detriment of my mental health. I still tell people I'm "Buddhist" in Korea when they ask me about religion (which is more common than you would think) - mostly because telling them this precludes the standard opening to Christian evangelism that annoys me so much - but in fact it's a bit of a front.
I underscored this recently for myself, with a joke with a student. In my TOEFL2 class, there was a big ugly scary bug working its way across the floor. I didn't really want to kill it, but the students were jumping around and being distracted by it: there seems a certain bug-phobia embedded in Korea's younger generations. So, hesitating only briefly, I walked over and stomped on it, on my way out of the classroom. I turned and said, "I guess I'm not a very good Buddhist, am I?"
This was what you might call a throwaway line - one of those jokes that I make that I don't really expect my students to understand but which I make because when I'm with my students, I make an effort to talk "as much as possible" on the principle of "contextualized input" - it's an actual strategy that's part of how I approach my role as a native-speaking teacher where there are very few native-speaking teachers.
I was actually quite surprised when one of my students, the quite intelligent Sihyeon, burst out laughing at this joke. On the part of the student, it takes both some actual cultural knowledge and some effort to "pay attention" to previous discussion topics for him to have gotten it.