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.
My coworker taught me this aphorism. So, for a change, it was actually contextual when I learned it, instead of it being simply something I ran across in one of my books or online. That was cool.
밑빠진 독에 물 붓는다 mit.ppa.jin dok.e mul but.neun.da bottom-lack-PP jar-IN water pour-PRES [...like] pouring water into a jar with no bottom.
Maybe this means something like "bailing water from a leaky boat" or even "in one ear, out the other." My coworker used it in the context of describing a frustrating student who never seemed to actually acquire any knowledge from her constant efforts to teach him. It made me laugh when I figured it out.
I really haven't been sleeping well, lately. Partly it's the sultry late summer temperatures, I'm sure - I don't like to sleep running my a/c which is, in any event, not very useful, but it's hard to sleep with my apartment at over 30 C.
So my sleep feels fragmented. I wake up at 4 am. I read or something - I refuse to just lie in bed awake - though it might be smart to try to meditate, but my mind has been really resisting that lately, too. So then I doze off and wake up again at 5:30. Same pattern, several times. The night gets sliced up.
When I was young, and could sleep continuously for 12 or more hours with little difficulty, I used to sleep with the radio on. I can't do that anymore, but I think it left some permanent effects.
One thing that used to happen that was more than a little bit entertaining was that my dreams would have commercials. Fully separate, hallucinatory vignettes inserted willy nilly into some other hallucination. Mostly I don't have commercials, anymore. But the other thing my dreaming developed at that time which remains a recurrent constant is the "announcer voice." Sometimes, my dreams have an announcer, or a voice-over. It's not my voice, nor that of anyone I know. Just a disembodied, often authoritative voice making commentary.
Since it's dreaming, however, the announcers rarely make much sense. Things don't seem relevant, or the utterances are non sequiturs.
Yesterday morning, I woke up before dawn with the following voice-over stunningly, clearly and precisely reverberant in my mind. In that moment of awakening, it felt incredibly profound, and I wrote it down - otherwise, like most of my undocumented dreaming, it probably would have faded from memory quickly and disappeared.
"You're not wearing shoes, and you blame me for such totalitarian conditions?" - the disembodied voice in my brain.
Instead, later I found that scrap of paper where I had written it, and I decided that although it was rather gnomic and weird, it still seemed oddly profound.
I wonder what it means, or shows, about my subconscious and my state of mind. Perhaps, it only demonstrates that I read too much philosophy, history and political science while barefoot in my apartment?
What I'm listening to right now.
Black Boned Angel, "The Witch Must Be Killed (Side B)." This is a "drone metal" group from New Zealand - I posted "Side A" some years ago. My musical tastes remain weird.
Not strange in the sense that it was wrong. But after living in Korea for 8 years, I didn't really expect to discover a new tax obligation out of the blue. Did they just recently realize I existed, and finally get their stuff together enough to send me a tax bill? Did the law change? My coworkers seemed familiar enough with it.
It was strange in a kind of annoying way, too, because it was for such an insubstantial amount: 5000 won for a year. Wouldn't the cost of collecting this tax be more than any possible amount collected at such a rate? Maybe this is why they never bothered to collect it until now.
"In a sense, we are all crashing to our death from the top story of our birth ... and wondering with an immortal Alice at the patterns of the passing wall. This capacity to wonder at trifles - no matter the imminent peril - these asides of the spirit ... are the highest form of consciousness." - Vladimir Nabokov.
This Nabokov quote serves, probably unintentionally, as a summary of the plot of the poem Altazor, by Vicente Huidobro, which is probably my favorite "long" poem, at least in Spanish.
World Order (Genki Sudo), "Multipolarity." These guys do really interesting robotic dance routines, which is why I first found their music. The music is kind of pop-generic but I don't mind it, either. Mostly it's for the videos, though.
I don't have the lyrics. I searched by my ability to search in Japanese is stunningly poor.
그동안 시인 33년 동안 나는 아름다움을 규정해왔다 그때마다 나는 서슴지 않고 이것은 아름다움이다 이것은 아름다움의 반역이다라고 규정해왔다 몇 개의 미학에 열중했다 그러나 아름다움이란 바로 그 미학 속에 있지 않았다 불을 끄지 않은 채 나는 잠들었다
아 내 지난날에 대한 공포여 나는 오늘부터 결코 아름다움을 규정하지 않을 것이다 규정하다니 규정하다니
아름다움을 어떻게 규정한단 말인가 긴 장마 때문에 호박넝쿨에 호박꽃이 피지 않았다 장마 뒤 나무나 늦게 호박꽃이 피어 그 안에 벌이 들어가 떨고 있고 그 밖에서 내가 떨고 있었다
아 삶으로 가득찬 호박꽃이여 아름다움이여 - 고은
For thirty-three years as a poet I merrily defined what beauty was. Each time, without hesitation I would declare: beauty is like this, or: this is a betrayal of beauty. I went crazy over several different kinds of aesthetic theory. But beauty was never in those aesthetic theories. I was falling asleep with the light on.
What fear in the days gone by! From now on I will strictly refrain from any definitions of beauty! Define away! Define away!
As if beauty can ever be defined! All through the weeks of summer rain no flowers bloomed on the pumpkin creepers. Now the rains are over and at long long last a flower has bloomed, inside it a bee is quivering, outside it I am quivering. Pumpkin flower brimming full of life: you are true beauty! - Ko Un (Korean poet, born 1933)
The translation is not mine, it is from Cornell East Asia Series, 1996, and was shared on 3 Quarks Daily blog.
I haven't even touched my IIRTHW ("if I ran the hagwon") effort in more than a year. I kind of gave up on it as excessively idealistic and not relevant to my goals. But of course, the nature of my job means that I nevertheless think about it frequently.
Yesterday I was having a conversation with my boss about his constant casting-about for new, more effective approaches to curriculum.
It's odd, because I feel like we've reversed roles, somewhat, in comparison to when we first met, years ago. Back then, I thought, and argued frequently, that curriculum design was important, while he said, much to my consternation, that a "good teacher" ought to be able to work with whatever curriculum was on hand.
I resented this at the time, and took it to mean that my frustrations with curriculum were symptomatic of my not being a good enough teacher.
Yet over the last several years, I've evolved to a point where I more or less agree with the sentiment. Much to my dismay, yesterday, Curt seemed to essentially disagree when I said something to this effect. I had said that we should focus on improving our teachers, rather than on improving our curriculum. And his reaction was that he didn't see teachers as being the problem. It wasn't a direct rejection of the earlier philosophy, but it certainly felt like an about face to me.
The context in which I suggested focusing on teachers instead of curriculum was actually a sort of brainstorm I had, during our conversation, about curriculum. Curt is looking at alternatives to the fairly fossilized "Reading-Listening-Speaking-Writing-Grammar-Vocab" subdivision of material that prevails in hagwon. I first went with my prefered notion, what he called "Immersion" but that I think of as "subject-driven" - teaching "subjects" in English, integrating the various functional components.
When Curt rejected that, for the same reason he always does - the dearth of native-speaking teacher to serve as a focus for that style of teaching (a rejection that strikes me as utterly rational if not completely necessary), I decided to suggest another alternative arrangement that I've been mulling over lately, mostly out of frustration with the seemingly excessive complexity of our modest hagwon's schedule.
This alternative would essentially say we only have 3 types of classes, which is really my observation that we have three basic types of teachers in our hagwon:
1) integrated class - this is the native speakers (like myself or Razel or Grace), who focus on "subjects" or "topics" in the immersion style mentioned above
2) analytic class - this is the grammar-translation style that is most traditional in Korean English education, rejected by pedagogy but a reality "on the ground" and we have teachers who teach this way and we might as well support them - some are quite good in many respects
3) foundations class - this is the "daily word test", the memorization words and also the naesin (school term tests) style memorization of speeches, essays and other fragments; this also includes the attendance-keeping and counseling aspects of the "homeroom" teacher job. I hate this memorizaiton stuff, not because I don't think it's helpful - I actually strongly believe that it is helpful - but when overly emphasized, it makes English painful, and that discourages students, and destroys motivation.
Anyway, I laid these ideas out to Curt. He basically said, "that sounds like it's teacher centered." I said, well, but that's OK. If we focus on our teachers' strengths, and develop them, that will benefit the students, in the long run, as our consistency and quality will increase." He asked about how we would decide the curriculum for these new divisions of labor, and I said what he'd once said to me, that it didn't really matter - the focus was improved teaching and good teachers would inevitably choose or develop appropriately good curriculum. He was somewhat scandalized by this notion.
Hence my feeling that the tables had been turned.
I haven't developed a specific thought about this at this point, mostly just recording here for future reference.
Chew the pill that tastes like hell, but gives you strength Embrace the drug that makes you mad, cause then it turns you into something else Feel the need for love grows stronger! Swap your mind for a mirror-search, and shake until the break of day
One day you'll realize that you were wrong And you'll regret that all this happened Did it (all) happen? Some day you'll realize that you were wrong (You'll be) Left with paranoia, (as your only friend)
Your mind is full of enemies, the room is full of energies That want to take control They're all around you, and you're all alone Your mind is full of enemies, the room is full of energies Haunting your soul They're all around you, and you're on your own
One day you'll realize that you were wrong You'll regret that all this happened Some day you'll realize that you were wrong To be left with Paranoia
I found this aphorism in my Korean-English Buddhism dictionary. Most of the aphorisms there are embedded in the articles, and are of Chinese origin (since that is the language of Buddhist scholarship in Korea for the most part). This makes them doubly hard to make sense of, and mostly I just go with whatever explanation is given, without trying to puzzle out the etymology.
I found this explanation: 남아가 가는 곳 마다 고향인데, which (very roughly) seems to mean "every place is your hometown."
I like the sentiment of this. There is an English aphorism that I think it was my uncle used to say: "Home is where you hang your hat." I think this is similar.
We were working on a listening passage in my TOEFL2 cohort, last Saturday. Here is the last part of the listening, which is kind of a sophomoric imitation of a literature class lecture, I guess. That's the way the TOEFL goes, especially in the dumbed-down "prep" modes.
... One of the earliest genres of literature was tragedy. There are a lot of different defining qualities of a tragedy, but in general there's a heroic character with a tragic flaw, something in the character's personality that makes him or her meet with bad fortune - like Medea. Medea is a play by Euripedes, where the main character, Medea, meets with bad fortune because of her jealousy. Her tragic flaw was her jealousy.
Comedy is another genre. Comedy, these days, usually means something realy funny, but comedies earlier in history were more lighthearted than funny. Generally, strange events happen because of some sort of misunderstanding. Perhaps the most famous comedies come from Shakespeare, whom I'm sure you all know. Shakespeare's comedies usually involve people in love who are tricked or confused through some clever ruse. A Midsummer Night's Dream is a good example. People in that play fall asleep in a forest, where a magical flower makes them fall in love with anyone they see.
At this point, Sihyeon became agitated and interrupted, "No! That's a tragedy!"
"Why?" I asked, laughing already.
"Because right now Seokho is who I see."
Seokho wasn't offended by this. He seemed to feel similarly.