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.
I have always been only a half-hearted user of facebook. I've been really bad about staying in touch with it lately (and other social media too, like Korea's kakao, etc.). Nevertheless I view it as a valuable tool for staying in touch with people, and I was very grateful to have it as a means of staying in touch during my illness last summer. Lately I have neglected it, feeling both strongly anti-social and specifically anti-facebook.
I have decided to end the "feed" between my blog and facebook. I have two reasons. First, I feel it gives people a false impression of my level of participation in facebook when they see posts from my blog - people don't seem to realize that my blog "cross-posts" to facebook without my having to log into facebook. I think it's more "honest" for me to only post in facebook when I'm actually in facebook - then people can see how rarely I actually go there (hmm, maybe once a month, these days?). Second, the cross-posting function is unreliable and there are formatting issues that are hard to manage, sometimes. So rather than having to monitor it, I'll just go back to the old way: if people want to see what I'm up to, they can visit my blog directly.
Anyway, thank you to all my friends and acquaintances who have followed my blog because of these cross-postings to facebook.
This is an aphorism from my aphorism book - really more of a noun-phrase than an aphorism.
함흥차사 ham·heung·cha·sa Hamheung-messenger
The messenger to Hamheung
Apparently it refers to a messenger sent by an ancient king to his father's hometown of Hamheung to try to make amends for some previous slight, but the messenger was killed - and thus never returned. This appears to mean something along the lines of English's "shooting the messenger" but the usage is somewhat different - it means someone who doesn't come back from some task. It does NOT appear to mean something like "don't blame the bearer of bad news" but rather "where did so-and-so wander off to?"
I feel as if I am counting down to something. But I really am only counting down to the past. There is nothing specific ahead, except "continue living." I feel as if I have abrogated all those sweeping "bucket list" goals I spent so much time outlining and meditating on during the depths of my illness last summer, and now there is only each day.
This isn't completely bad, of course. It's good to live "in the moment," as they say. I need those sweeping goals, though - otherwise, the aimlessness of life underwhelms me and leaves me feeling purposeless.
I am neglecting the social stuff - work is highly social, of course, and my schedule is very, very busy these days. Consequently, when I'm not at work I have no desire for human contact or interaction. I ignore the "social media" with the exception of this odd, one-way communication that is my blog. That's ok, I guess, but I know some of my friends and acquaintances become annoyed. If so... I'm sorry.
And... today was a really depressing day. Was it depressing because I was already depressed, and thus I only saw the bad parts? Or was it objectively depressing? I had a completely new schedule - meaning unfamiliar classes (although I know almost all the students well enough). I was inadequately prepared. I have huge pile of correcting and grading and evaluations hanging over me... undone. At the end, it was capped off by some unwanted, negative feedback conveyed from parents. Stupid complaints: the typical stuff, parents who think they know English better than the teacher and want to second guess what teachers say, or how they correct their students' work, or whatever. I have no time for that crap.
Without a doubt, I'm depressed, lately. Am I more depressed than I was last May, when I was sick with cancer and didn't know it, and when I was in constant pain and dissatisfied with work? Hm... I'm now recovering from cancer, rather than unknowingly sick with it. But I still have constant pain, I'm still dissatisfied with work, and now I have my new food miseries as well as the gloom of my mortality hanging over me more prominently than ever.
Overall quality of life? 30%. Has it been worse? Yes. Has it been better? Yes.
What I'm listening to right now.
Digable Planets, "Graffiti feat. Jeru The Damaja."
Last Friday, it was a late Christmas for my Stars "Betelgeuse"-반 kids, who role-played a memorized musical "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" for their month-end speech. They didn't do perfectly, but they actually did much better than practice sessions would have led me to expect. Ah... the power of the pressure to perform.
This aphorism is not from my aphorism book. It was one that Curt was admiring and trying to explain to me, which he got, in turn, from the Kakao status message (Kakao is a kind of Korean facebook) of a student.
내가 지금 편한 이유는 nae·ga ji-geum pyeon·han i·yu·neun I-SUBJ now comfortable-be-PPART motive-TOPIC 내리막길을 걷고 있기 때문이다 nae·ri·mak·gil·eul geot·go itt·gi ttae·mun·i·da downhill-way-OBJ walk-ING there-be-GER reason-be The reason I am comfortable now is because I am walking downhill.
I am comfortable because I am walking downhill.
This is not a way of saying "smooth going" but rather that you are not working hard enough. Which is to say, if you do not strive for something, you will just coast downhill.
Today was a holiday. I did nothing: I slept in, and then played a game on my computer. Day over. Today, I coasted.
I've commented before how it is possible to know and work with someone for years in Korea without knowing a person's name. This is due to the Korean custom of using job-titles in place of names in workplace situations. Hence, although I know my bosses as "Curt" and "Helen" in English (their "English names" which are really deployed, linguistico-semantically, as just a kind of specialized job-title), I would never, ever use their Korean names if speaking to them in Korean - I'd address them or refer to them exclusively by their titles: 원장님 and 부원장님 [won-jang-nim and bu-won-jang-nim, roughly "honored director" and "honored vice-director"]. Likewise, most of my coworkers have "English names" which are used as titles, often with an honorific suffix -샘 [saem = teacher] attached, e.g. Danny-saem or Gina-saem, and I don't know their Korean names (although in their cases, I know where to look to find out, should I need to know). But these English name/titles are only used for those who do actual teaching. For those coworkers who have other, non-teacher roles, they have job-titles in the the standard Korean. Thus, for example, there is 실장님 [sil-jang-nim = honored front-desk worker, more literally "section chief"] or 과장님 [gwa-jang-nim = honored assistant, more literally "department head"]. When one translates the terms, they seem inflated and unnatural, but they are truly natural and automatic in Korean discourse.
We got a new March class schedule today, and on it were the little two-letter abbreviations for the various teachers. I am "JW," Curt is "Ct," etc. There was an unfamiliar abbreviation: "Ca."
"Who is Ca?" I asked - the mysterious Ca was down for a few of what we call "online" classes - where kids complete work in the computer lab using the contracted online provider of web-based English practice exercises. It turned out Ca was the gwa-jang-nim - the assistant in charge of student transportation (the bus schedule) as well as a kind of jack-of-all-trades for the hagwon. "But what is 'Ca'?" I asked. "That's his English name," it was explained.
"What's his English name?"
Ken and I speculated: Calvin? We couldn't think of many English names that could be abbreviated "Ca." Finally, I asked the gwa-jang-nim directly: Carl. That's his English name. Because he's stepping into a teaching role, supervising the kids in the computer lab, suddenly he gets an English name, after knowing him for 2 years. Carl-saem.
It's weird. And then Ken and Gina and I reflected that we still had no idea what his Korean name was. He's always been only gwa-jang-nim.
We did a completely unrehearsed debate today. On some slips of paper, I wrote some rather silly debate propositions about the family of aliens that I drew on the whiteboard (see picture, above). Then the students drew the propositions and whether they would be PRO or CON, randomly, and had 5 minutes to prepare their speeches. The three propositions were:
"Bob the alien is weird."
"For aliens, uniforms are wonderful."
"For aliens, playing is most important."
I wrote the propositions originally for a younger group, but these three older (7th grade), more advanced kids did really well with it and had fun too.
Happy the man, and happy he alone, He who can call today his own: He who, secure within, can say, Tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today. Be fair or foul or rain or shine The joys I have possessed, in spite of fate, are mine. Not Heaven itself upon the past has power, But what has been, has been, and I have had my hour.