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).
Geofiction - this has evolved into a significant "hobby" for me. I like to draw imaginary maps, and these sites enable this vice.
I have, in fact, been working as a volunteer administrator for OpenGeofiction for about half a year
now. I enjoy it, and I've learned a lot. I created and maintain the site's main wiki page: OGF
The above work has required my becoming an expert in the Openstreetmap system. Openstreetmap is an attempt do for online maps what wikipedia has done for encyclopedias. I have considered becoming an openstreetmap contributor, but I feel that my current location in Korea hinders that, since I don't have a good grasp Korean cartographic naming conventions.
I originally discovered the above site when exploring this site Urban Geofiction.
Another geofiction site Norscand. They recently linked to OGF, too.
TEFL - my "profession," such as it is.
Online English Grammar reference Grammarist. Useful for settling disputes over grammar.
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.
This has been a quite busy week at work. Basically, I have spent the week crafting a textbook for a special debate class that will start next week for middle-schoolers who are not participating in the full 내신 (test-prep) schedule, due to the always-changing vagaries of parental demand.
I have made my own debate textbooks before, but this one is being driven by Curt's desire to see me integrate better with the other teachers who will also be teaching the same cohorts.
Textbook-making is a lot of work. I long ago gave up on vague ambitions to make an actually-publishable debate textbook, although for my middle-school Karma debate classes I have been using variations of my own book, in print-out format, for many years now. And I still get "writing team" emails periodically from Darakwon, the Korean EFL textbook publisher with which I'd started a tentative relationship that never amounted to anything. This tends to keep the textbook-writing concept always floating around in the periphery of my consciousness.
So I'm tired. And I haven't even started the special classes yet. That's next week.
Yesterday, in the Newton2 elementary cohort, a boy who goes by Jhonny (the mispelling is deliberate and he's quite adamant about it) announced to the class that he had a girlfriend. He's always a bit of a clown, so this interruption wasn't completely inconceivable.
"That's nice," I said, blandly. "What's her name?"
"I don't know," he said, sheepishly.
"You might want to find out her name," I suggested. "Girls like it when you know their names."
"I can't," he protested.
He's not great with English, and it was clear he wanted to explain more. He explained, in Korean, to the boy, Jerry, next to him, who is better at English.
Jerry said, "A girl gave him a note. Secret note."
"Aha," I said. "That makes sense. So you don't know her name."
Jhonny nodded, vigorously. The girls at the front of the class tittered. "It's so horrible," Jhonny complained, burying his face in his palms dramatically.
Death. "Oh my. That's not good." She made a face. "But it's upside down." I pointed at the card. "True," she admitted, smiling. The Tarot card looked so scary. "It means you should be dead. But you're not."
As I've written before here, I sometimes use my Tarot cards in my classes, as a kind of cross between communicative listening exercise and entertaining reward. Many (maybe most) of my students are fascinated to have me "read their future" about some question. They ask about their upcoming test scores, their health or the health of family members, about their careers and future prospects for marriage. I keep my readings pretty generic, and of course, like any Tarot reader, I use clues in their questions and things I know about my students to make the answers more interesting and relevant.
Last night, I had a confident fifth-grader, Soyeon, insist that it was her turn to "read" the cards for me, instead. This doesn't happen often - the kids are intimidated by the 30 pages of printed out "card meanings" that I use with the cards, to lend some legitimacy to my interpretations and to find plausible meanings - I don't have the 178 possible meanings memorized. Most of the kids understand the principle that an inverted (reversed) card would have an opposite meaning, too, so I can play with that when it happens.
Soyeon was happy to lay down the cards and page through my printout of meanings, however. She told me to ask a question. Keeping to a nice, "safe" topic, I asked about my future health. Most of my students know about my cancer saga - it's been the background of many a spontaneous classroom discussion. So that gave her something interpret against, too.
She laid down three cards: a past card, present card, and future card. She turned over the past card, and it was "The World." She looked at the printout, but she didn't just read it out loud. The printout, to be honest, has a lot of difficult vocabulary. I made it that way on purpose - it gives me a chance to teach something when I read the cards, and it also allows me to "hedge" meanings when I feel like things are too gloomy or creepy or anything else. Soyeon thought about what she read for a moment, and complained she didn't understand it. I told her to just look at the picture on the card and use the words she did understand to come up with her own idea.
"You traveled everywhere the world. It was good."
Not bad, right?
Next, she turned over the present card. It was the 9 of wands. This was one of those eerie moments when random Tarot hits really close to accuracy. The meaning of this card, as I'd put on my printout, is something like "a warrior has won a battle but now must rest."
She said something like, "You got sick and it was like a battle. Now you're tired."
Then she turned over the final card. It was "Death," but reversed (upside-down).
She laughed. She only glanced at the printout, before saying, triumphantly, "You should be dead, but you keep refusing."
That seemed really clever, and exactly the right way to read a card like that.
I don't actually currently have with me either of the books, The Dispossessed by Ursula LeGuin, or Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. Yet over the years, I have found myself recalling both books frequently in my meditations on philosophy and the nature of human societies, although until just now, never really at the same time.
I had a very weird epiphany, the other day, however. In my mind, anyway, these books are actually in the same category. Most thinkers would be alarmed by this suggestion, I imagine. LeGuin and Rand are hardly philosophical comrades-in-arms.
Both books, thematically, are about utopias. In fact, both are about flawed utopias, though the flawed utopia of each one is the dystopia (anti-utopia) of the other. Yet both tread the ground of the conflict between the two topias. Both authors influenced me hugely in my own thinking about utopias and intentional communities of all kinds.
My epiphany is "incomplete" - I need to work through how these books connect. They may even be in a kind of accidental dialogue.
Interestingly, my curiosity prompted a quick googlesearch, which revealed to me that LeGuin has explicitly claimed she was NOT influenced by Atlas Shrugged. This is almost humorous, in light of my epiphany. It makes me want to try to prove otherwise. If LeGuin read Atlas Shrugged, as she admits, then it suddenly becomes inevitable, in my way of thinking, that there must be some influence, if only that LeGuin is writing against Rand. I am recalled to mind of critic Harold Bloom's influential work, The Anxiety of Influence.
If I had the texts in front of me, I would be tempted to re-read them in parallel and find out what relations might exist. Maybe I'll purchase copies on my next trip to the bookstore - I heard there's a new Kyobo Mungo store at 백석, a much closer trip than heading into Seoul - the Kyobo Mungo outlets there form my main source for English-language books.