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 had a kind of bad weekend. Mostly due to food, which I try so hard not to complain continuously about on this blog. It is always some ill-calculated food texture that brings on the worst of the coughing and gagging. I made some rice to go with my soup I had made before. Something did not work. Bleagh.
My coworkers use and expression sometimes which I was trying to figure out, yesterday. It's a kind of interjection following a declarative sentence. It is the term "첨나" [cheom-na]. I understand the pragmatics of it pretty well, I think: it seems to mean "How dare he/she/you?"
For example, Ken says (in Korean), "Jeong-yeol [a seventh-grader] is taller than me! 첨나! [how dare he?!]" Or [on e.g. a TV show] something like, "My girlfriend was looking at that other man... 첨나 [how dare she]!"
But not a single one of my coworkers could "explain" this expression. What I mean by that is that I want to understand the syntax/semantics/etymology. Where did it come from? Aren't they curious? Is it a verbal particle? It seems to be some sort of verbal contraction, as best I can guess. Or is it a noun particle? It sounds vaguely Chinese, but these types of slang expressions are rarely Chinese - most Korean slang comes from native Korean vocabulary or from more recent Japanese or English borrowings. No one knows. No one is curious to know. 첨나! [how dare they?]
Anyway, I want to figure it out. If anyone reading this blog is knowledgeable about Korean and able to "explain" it, I'd love to know. I drew a complete blank on my internet searches - which are admittedly imcompetent in the area of Korean language studies.
I was born in California, and lived my first 18 years there (with a few minor interruptions, never more than a few months). Although I generally identify myself as a Minnesotan now (because of my university and post-university years there), I have also lived in California for some years during my adult life.
I have always had an interest in California's unique history, and when I was in the bookstore last Sunday, I bought another book (aside from the one about the Chicken, already mentioned yesterday on this blog) that made for quick reading. It was a used book about California's missions - a fragment of some journal by a French traveller who visited Monterey (at that time populated by probably less than 50 Spaniards and maybe a couple hundred Native Americans, but nevertheless the capital of California) in the 1780's. How a book of this eccentricity arrived on the shelf of a bookstore in Seoul, I have no idea. But I bought it. It's quite short, has a well-written and academic introduction (and many footnotes!), and offers an interesting perspective on the earliest Europeans in California. The title is Life in a California Mission: Monterey in 1786, by Jean François de La Pérouse.
I bought some books last weekend when I went into Seoul, but I wasn't that happy with my haul at first - I have been reading a lot of Korean history, and was hoping to find more of the same, but I found nothing in that category that appealed to me at all. So I had desultorially bought some other books based either on having heard something about them or because they struck me as possibly interesting in my browsing.
One book I picked up was the English translation of a novella by Korean Sun-mi Hwang (황선미), called The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly (original 마당을 나온 암탉). I agree thoroughly with one of the reviews on the cover, by Adam Johnson: "a novel uniquely poised at the nexus of fable, philosophy, children's literature, and nature writing."
It's a pretty good book. It's less than 100 pages, and I read it in a long morning.
We had a 회식 (work dinner) last night. This was no ordinary hweh-shik, however. It was, arguably, my first hweh-shik where I was the initiator. I'd proposed sometime back, to Curt, that I'd like to give a "thank-you dinner" to the hagwon staff because it was the first anniversary of my cancer surgery, despite the hard times and difficulties, overall the staff has been hugely supportive.
Curt said he'd take it under consideration. I'd even offered to pay for the dinner, which I'm pretty sure he didn't think I meant seriously, because last night, when it finally happened and we went to a buffet near LaFesta and had our hweh-shik, I took out my card to pay at the end, and everyone was dumbfounded. In Korean custom, it's almost always the boss who pays for these things, but in fact there is one situation where another might pay - which is if the person paying is "senior" (i.e. older) than the boss. And that, unfortunately, is the case - I'm the old man at KarmaPlus, by about 10 months.
I was congratuleted, therefore, not just for surviving my cancer, but also for behaving truly "korean."
Several commented that they'd never even heard of, much less witnessed, a "foreigner" buying hweh-shik for Korean coworkers.
저는 미국 아저씨인데요, I said, half-jokingly. ["I am an American ajeossi." - ajeossi is a difficult-to-translate term that means a typical Korean man of middle age and indeterminate social status, maybe something like "average joe" but also used as term of address toward people with unknown names... it could be compared to the way mid-20th-century Americans would deploy names like "Mack" or "Joe"].
I try hard not to get boring or repetitive in these daily blog posts, but sometimes I just don't have the time or energy to put something of appropriate diversity. So here's another song - though quite different from yesterday's.
What I'm listening to right now.
Kacey Musgraves, "Merry-Go-Round." I love when some song I don't remember buying or downloading rolls around on my mp3 shuffle and it's like hearing it for the first time, except that at some point I must have chosen it because otherwise it wouldn't end up on my mp3 player on my phone.
This song surprised me. It's just a sort of desolate but well-crafted country song, with simple melodic hooks and clever rhyming. These days, however, I tend to listen to songs while imagining trying to explain them to my students in one of my CC classes, as I often end up having to do with the various bits of American pop that roll along on the "CC" curriculum. In that light, this song qualifies as: too complicated, thematically too adult, and too culturally alien. I could imagine teaching a graduate seminar on American culture to Koreans, using lines from this song as lecture titles on the syllabus.
If you ain't got two kids by 21, You're probably gonna die alone. Least that's what tradition told you. And it don't matter if you don't believe, Come Sunday morning, you best be there in the front row like you're supposed to.
Same hurt in every heart. Same trailer, different park.
Mama's hooked on Mary Kay. Brother's hooked on Mary Jane. Daddy's hooked on Mary two doors down. Mary, Mary quite contrary. We get bored, so, we get married Just like dust, we settle in this town. On this broken merry go 'round and 'round and 'round we go Where it stops nobody knows and it ain't slowin' down. This merry go 'round.
We think the first time's good enough. So, we hold on to high school love. Sayin' we won't end up like our parents. Tiny little boxes in a row. Ain't what you want, it's what you know. Just happy in the shoes you're wearin'. Same checks we're always cashin' to buy a little more distraction.
'Cause mama's hooked on Mary Kay. Brother's hooked on Mary Jane. Daddy's hooked on Mary two doors down. Mary, Mary, quite contrary. We get bored, so, we get married. Just like dust, we settle in this town. On this broken merry go 'round and 'round and 'round we go Where it stops nobody knows and it ain't slowin' down. This merry go 'round.
Mary, Mary, quite contrary. We're so bored until we're buried. Just like dust, we settle in this town. On this broken merry go 'round. Merry go 'round.
Jack and Jill went up the hill. Jack burned out on booze and pills. And Mary had a little lamb. Mary just don't give a damn no more.
After yesterday's excursion to Seoul, I felt really exhausted today for some reason. I think I'm not sleeping well. The weather has reached that continuously hot and humid aspect of the high Korean summer, but it's been a remarkably un-monsoony, dry summer (after what seemed like a wet, monsoony spring). Supposedly, rain is forecast, but it's been forecast a lot with not much actual rain.
Anyway, I feel very tired. I had a number small, annoying failures today that added up to a bad day. Monday is a dense schedule of classes on the current arrangement.
What I'm listening to right now.
N.A.S.A., "The People Tree" (feat. David Byrne, Chali 2na, Gift Of Gab, & Z-Trip).
I've blogged this song before, but at the time I didn't post the lyrics, which I was listening to more carefully today as I heard it, walking to work. I think it's a pretty interesting song, and pretty complex collaboration of a diverse group of artists that works out well.
Intro With the N.A.S.A. team, we will take you bodly where no man has ever gone before. We will take you back some fifteen billion years to the beginning of time.
Verse (Chali 2na) Yo! From a drop of blood to bones and body parts To vital organs form and your brain and tiny heart Your fetus, date of birth, til puberty finally starts Adolescence, adult, then your elderly body rots It was devine decree that begun the plan But it's disease by the greed of the sons of man Who try to lead with their guns in hand Understand God's the one that command...
Pre-chorus (David Byrne) Did we climb out of the sea? Where did we come from you and me? Two legs to walk and eyes to see Am I the man I want to be?
Chorus (David Byrne, The Crack Alley Children's Choir & Gift of Gab) People grow in my back yard In my garden, in my heart Pink and purple, red and blue On this sunny afternoon
Verse (Gift of Gab) Back before time was time and space was space The ever present I divine so laced with grace Decided it was time to try to chase the taste To what it was designed, now life is taking place Within it' self-divided, now it takes some space They can't be fathomed by a mind creates the state Of ego now what's is mine, is mine, ok now hate We'll reign until the blind have eyes and they awaken...
Pre-chorus (David Byrne) Planting the seeds in the ground How is my garden growing now? A tender kiss, a little smile The way a mother holds her child
Chorus (David Byrne, The Crack Alley Children's Choir & Chali 2na) Tasty little human beings I grow them on the people tree I will eat them one by one If there's enough for everyone
Bridge (GIft of Gab and Chali 2na) Oh, unending ever flowing life beyond the birth Tell me what the purpose is for creating the earth Mainly we created the planet as man's habitat Be fruitful and multiply across the planet's back But why does hate exist, the war and AIDS and shit? It we're to be fruitful, why can't poor people pay they rent? Cause love and hate, both sides are conjoined Physical forms have to deal with both sides of the coin Why do we die? So you can live Why do we strive? So you can win But why do you defy every truthful word I recommend? My question back is: Why do you recommend then throw temptation in? So I can test you patience and tolerance in the face of sin But why a test when you hold all the answers to the state we in? For you to bear witness to imperfections of mortal man So it's a lesson? And a blessing journey back to where you've been Cause before the tree can flourish, seeds must first be planted in!
Chorus (David Byrne, The Crack Alley Children's Choir & Gift of Gab) People grow in my back yard In my garden, in my heart If you like my garden, you might like me Underneath the people tree
Outro Getting closer to God! Getting closer to God! Call upon your God! Closer to God! He'll answer your question! Closer to God! God said I trust you! Behold! Who are you? I'm God muthafucka and I'm not who you thought I was! They better be giving me all the respect All y'all, all y'all, all y'all, all y'all check yo self! Cause I'm God! Hello hello hello hello Feel me, feel me, feel me all you
It was almost the case that nothing happened on Sunday. That's probably the way I prefer it.
But it happened that my friend Nate, now formerly of the US Army, is around and we ended up going to dinner at my favorite Russian place near Dongdaemun - I was craving borscht. It was good. . . he is an excellent conversationalist and, I suspect, a soon-to-be-famous writer - he already has some excellent non-fiction online.
굽은 나무가 선산을 지킨다 gup·eun na·mu·ga seon·san·eul ji·kin·da be-crooked-PASTPART tree-SUBJ ancestors-grave-OBJ guard-PRES A crooked tree guards the ancestors' grave.
Even a tree that is crooked has a job to do - it bends near the ancestors' grave and protects it. Something viewed as useless turns out to have a use after all. (Image: a bent tree found online, guarding someone's ancestors' graves).