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 have a professional website: 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 webstie 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.
"A Tax on Bunny Rabbits" premiered at the 2011 Ottawa International Animation Festival. This short film is all text animation, ascii style! No bunnies were harmed in the making of this film. See more of my work at http://oxen.tv and http://riotsquad.tv
... by which I mean, the end result of the interview with me last week. Below is a screen-cap of part of the interview posted on KarmaPlus's "blog" - I use quote marks because "blog" in Korean internet context isn't quite the same as "blog" in the sense that this here blog thingy is a blog thingy. It's a sort of "advertorial website" - some of the material is produced by the advertising agency that Curt hires to do publicity for our hagwon, and some of the material is things we have said. It's all mixed together. If you click the picture it will take you to KarmaPlus's website - it's all in Korean, which makes perfect sense for an English hagwon, right? Nevertheless I urge you to visit it - it will give you a very different window on my world and life and work, I think.
I've been so tired lately. I know that officially I'm not sick, but I definitely can assert that I don't feel my health is optimal. I feel as if I am "older" than my actual age - ever since my run-in with badly-behaved telomeres last year. I'm not used to that feeling - up until then I have always felt "younger" than my actual age. Now I have all these creaks and aches and twinges and I just feel that my body is decrepit and broken.
Random geographic trivia fact of the day:
King County, Washington, has a population of 2,044,449. King County, Texas, has a population of 285. Who's the real King?
I woke up feeling weirdly disoriented - perhaps from the break in routine yesterday. I peered out my window, and the fog was humboldtian (i.e. resembling the thick, persistent fogs so frequent in my childhood, growing up on the northern California coast).
My friend Peter posted a question to my post from yesterday. He asked what I meant by "the stream of almost jingoistic Korean semi-revanchism of the cultural component of the 'training.'" I suppose that's a bit of an exageration, but there were a few things that always bother me when they crop up in the nationalistically-toned "get-to-know-Korea" materials that are common in venues liek this.
Firstly, there are the historical inaccuracies. One video stated that Korea had never started a war with another country. I seem to recall several instances from the medieval period when the country entangled itself in conflicts with its neighbors. There was the citation of the 2333 BC date as the founding of Korea, without any kind of admission that this date has no foundation in actual historiography, and is simply fixed by tradition. There was the display of a map of "Korea" from the medieval period showing it including most of Manchuria and Primorskiy (I think from the "Balhae" period), which although accurate is difficult to justify when decontextualized. This latter is what I meant by "semi-revanchism." As far as jingoism, I would say only the several references to the Dokdo question, which seems to be a nationalistic narrative perpetrated by the powers-that-be mostly intended to distract regular Koreans from other, more relevant news (maybe not unlike the way conversations in the US get distracted by "there is too much illegal immigration" or "Obama is a socialist" narratives). What's doubly frustrating about that particular issue is that, given that possession is 9/10ths of the law, I don't see what Korea has to worry about vis-a-vis Dokdo, anyway. I don't foresee Japan starting a war over it.
The other thing that bothers me a great deal about these presentations is that whenever they make a presentation of hangeul (Korea's writing system), there tend to be manifold linguistic inaccuracies that grate on my sensibilities as a linguist. There is, foremost, the inevitable confusion between the ideas of "writing system" and "language," as in "King Sejong invented the Korean Language." Further, the discussions of the actual writing system are full of terminology that is inappropriate for linguistic description: "a perfect match to the Korean sound system" (clearly not true, phonologically - consider as one example the issue of vowel length which is not written but which is phonemic, or the question of the phonemic -ㅅ- inserted between morphemes sometimes). Worse, the idea that Hangeul is able to represent "the most different sounds" is risible - the number of sounds represented by a given writing system is always a match for a given language's sound system, with whatever kludges are necessary to make it possible - e.g. diacritics, etc. Therefore the writing system that represents the most sounds would be the language with the most distinct phonemic sounds - perhaps Georgian?
Hm. So that's a bit of a rant, I guess. The only other negative were several of the foreign teachers themselves - it's inevitable when you have a gathering of nearly 700 foreign hagwon teachers in one place that you will get to see not only the high quality ones but a few of the bad apples, too - and there are definitely a few. One gentleman stood up during a question-and-answer session with an immigration official and asked why it was "the government's business" to know so much about us foreign workers.... um, excuse me, did you happen to notice you were a guest in this country? Did you happen to read the Korean constitution, which guarantees a number of rights -- to citizens?You're not in that category. You can ponder why Korea doesn't grant those rights to non-citizens, but I'm not sure the lowly immigration official is the one to ask about it.
Having said that, I will return to the "other parts" of the seminar, yesterday. Except for the cultural presentations (which were only about 30% of the time), I was actually quite impressed with the quality of what was done. I was not, in fact, bored, as I'd expected to be. There was a dance/martial arts demo that was quite professional, there were several awards presented to some teachers, there were speeches by two foreign teachers that were mildly interesting, and there was the charismatic professor of education whom I mentioned yesterday.
I went to a provincial government-mandated "seminar" for foreign English teachers (e.g. E2 visa holders) who work at hagwon, as I do. Somehow, although I don't think it's a new law, I've always managed to avoid having to go for one reason or another (for example last year, I had cancer - heh).
It wasn't as bad as it could have been, though I was plenty turned off by the stream of almost jingoistic Korean semi-revanchism of the cultural component of the "training." In fact, though, the part actually dedicated to teaching was pretty well done, mostly focusing broad based, inspirational aspects of "why we're teaching." The main speaker, a woman named Kim Jiyeong who has been a USC TESOL professor as well as a consultant to the Korean Education Ministry, had a substantial amount of charisma.
The worst part of the whole program was the fact that it was in Ansan, which is in the far southwest suburbs of Seoul. Consequently, to attend a 3 and a half hour seminar I spent roughly 5 hours on the subway - 2 and half hours each way. And I had to wake up at 6 am in order to get there on time, which is hard given my normal work schedule.
Anyway. I was tired when I got home, but didn't want to sleep, because it would mess me up. I forced myself to stay awake all afternoon and watched humorous videos on the internets.
A "type 6" TOEFL speaking question requires the answerer to summerize some kind of classroom-style lecture on an academic topic. We listened to a fairly simplistic passage about global warming. There is a kind of shorthand in TOEFL answers where one refers to the lecturer as "the professor" - I don't really like this style but it is encouraged by the sample answers in our textbooks, so I go with the flow.
My student Tom had a kind of brain-freeze and was unable to answer very well. So he said something like this:
The professor loved his father. His father died. Because of global warming. It was very sad. Something to do with hairspray. And carbon dioxide. Yeah. Carbon dioxide. So sad.
I had to laugh. That would get a very low score. But somehow I couldn't feel upset. It was funny.
I guess my problem with infinitely delayed posts from my phone continues: I posted from my phone while I was at the hospital, and it never showed up. Rather than post it again and then have it show up 36 hours later and thus have a duplicate, this post serves as a placeholder to show I am still alive until such time as that post from my phone actually shows up. Oh... and by the way... argh.
Update: I guess that email-based post will never happen. Or, perhaps by posting it here, that guarantees it will show up immediately. I'm deeply annoyed with my blog-hosting company now, but I'm frankly too lazy to bother opening a help ticket, since they've never been helpful in the past. I'll just deal with it.
Meanwhile, here is the gist of my original post from yesterday at the hospital - it wasn't really that interesting:
Caveat: Been there done that
It becomes almost routine after so many times: a return visit to good ol' room 12. Later I will have a consult with reassuring Dr Cho and his disconcerting German accent.
The conclusion was: "nothing there to see." Which is to say, no evidence of any kind of metastasis. So I get to stay alive for some more time.
I ran across an article about hippies-as-defense-contractors in Afghanistan, that I found compelling and read at one sitting, which with longer-form journalism as found on the web really isn't that common for me. More typically these days, I simply skim an article or will read it in parts over some period of time.
The article isn't that new - it dates from over a year ago - and the material it treats seems rather like the conceit to a novel rather than a simple journalistic account of something the really happened... it's a kind of William Gibsonesque or Thomas Pynchonesque take on the Afghan War. So it is like reading some kind of fiction, but I suspect it is mostly true. It almost (I said only "almost") makes me imagine going to Afghanistan. Perhaps if my inner demon metastasized, I would - just for a last hurrah.
Speaking of which, I get to spend tomorrow mid-day (before work) at the hospital, getting a regularly-scheduled CT scan and check-up. I always feel nervous for these things, even though it's essentially just a roll-of-the-die.