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.
It feels pre-emptive to announce this, today, because this coming Monday, I have my scheduled checkup at the hospital, when they will do a scan and hopefully give me the "all clear."
But today is the the official 2-year anniversary of my surgery, which was July 4th, 2013, and thus I feel like commemorating it today. I can always do a retraction if I get bad news next week - but I think I'd be feeling lousier in terms of health if I was going to get bad news. Who knows?
Last week was also the 15th anniversary of Michelle's suicide. Her ghost still visits me, but not that often.
I don't really feel like meditating overmuch on "where I'm at," right now. I'm just plugging along. Not great, not terrible, but hanging in there.
I have moments of great enjoyment in my job. And moments of frustration, too. I have greater frustration with my unfulfilled avocations - chiefly studying Korean, my writing, my art. But that's nothing new, and there have been no major transformations on that front that are worth reporting or reflecting upon.
I have an oft-mentioned student (or gadfly) named Sophia.
Today she came early, and since she hadn't done her homework, I sat her a computer to compose her essay/speech for me. She is very hyper and unfocused, but over the course of about 40 minutes she managed to produce an essay that vaguely resembled the desired output. I was looking periodically over her shoulder, and she was actually writing the thing.
Then, when I wasn't looking, she turned and said, "I finished."
I looked at the screen, and it was blank. "Where's you're essay?" I asked.
"I didn't save," she shrugged, grinning at me almost proudly.
"What? Really?" I was a little bit surprised - not that she'd lost her essay, but that she seemed to have done it deliberately. So I asked, "Why did you do that?"
"Cause I'm NO HOMEWORK GIRL," she shouted, triumphantly and defiantly. She jumped up and ran out of the room.
개미가 정자나무 건드린다 gae.mi.ga jeong.ja.na.mu geon.deu.rin.da ant-SUBJ shade-tree stir-PRES An ant stirs a shade tree.
The ant cannot be successful in trying to shake a big tree. This means "out of one's league," maybe: the small man provoking or challenging the big man - a hopeless battle.
In other news, today is the last day of my "naesin vacation" - i.e. my reduced work schedule because of the middle school exam prep period. Frankly, this naesin vacation was the least vacationy I've had - since Grace was out for the first 3 weeks of it, I actually didn't have a reduced schedule but instead an increased one. Last week I finally got the reduced schedule, but it hasn't had the recuperative effect I normally derive from these periods of easier work. I'm still feeling stressed and burned out.
Welcome to the tired generation of pliered patience we're the tossed pennies, the Reaganomical waste kids but look at me, broken link off every socialites token blink thinking I'ma change shit I don't want your nomination my name is Sims, freedom fighter writer trapped in cat's cradle Doomtree that's phat the label (Yeah) so hang from your halo, but I spit mud on your Dockers not trying to graduate to a Craftmatic adjustable office turn your brain waves on and off like water faucets I'm astonished stomping through the modern process so I rally around stone throwers my bones colder than icebergs titanic havoc wrecking shop with Christ slurs twice burned for advice learned before I met hesitation open visitation for a dead generation so wake the fuck up, I'm running out of patience wake the fuck up, you're sleep walking wake the fuck up
(Come on man, listen to this shit) (Wake up)
We were born agitated seeds but grew into apathy half of me wishes out of this modern catastrophe but I've got my nine millimeter mouth to blasphemy twelve steps to being a better self but the ladder collapsed on me casually humanity becomes a casualty of graphic mastery, a mental masterpiece but the pieces spit out my mouth like faulty orthodontics unorthodox phonics and chronic smoke choke on autopilot a fleet of Palm Pilots disperse from universities what's worse meaning isn't surfacing, time to face how can y'all take the days straight without a purpose to chase? there's more to life than grades, work, then graves
Put the tape in the tape deck Yo put the tape in the tape deck (My life, my life, my life's a fucking mess. Minneapolis)
Next year I might be 25 light beams ahead of myself (might) be 25 cents richer depending on my shelf life ain't what it seems but I've got one to bleed so save up a fuck for the agitated seeds smashing piggy bank dreams saturated breed, soaked in fat and granite planted on this planet next to the blaze that we didn't raise we saw the flames and fanned it now I'm annexed to vexed manic panic status, I got next ante up your war machine mechanics and pension checks they're out their right mind I threw a left cause just to stop the motive duly noted as I throw my clear thoughts in their gearbox it's like there's one typewriter and a million fucking Xerox so save those peer props about beer gogs and gear rocked cause you got steered lost
Put the tape in the tape deck (I crank the mix tape and wait for the break) Yo put the tape in the tape deck (I crank the mix tape and wait for the break) I just don't think you're good that's all (I crank the mix tape and wait for the break) (Minneapolis)
I crank the mixtape and wait for the break just to drown out in the city of lakes I crank the mixtape and wait for the break just to drown out in the city of lakes I crank the mixtape and wait for the break just to drown out in the city of lakes I crank the mixtape and wait for the break just to drown out in the city of lakes I don't wanna be a part of your workforce I don't wanna be a part of you problem I don't wanna be a part of your workforce so I guess I'll be that thorn in your side
(I have to start all over again. Ain't that the damnedest thing? Loneliness. Did ya know that loneliness will kill you deader than a .357 Magnum? Did ya know that?)
About a month ago, I misplaced my book of proverbs. I don't quite know how this happened - I was straightening things up and put it somewhere I thought was logical at the moment, and then couldn't for the life of me find it again later.
This was annoying. I actually looked quite actively for it a few times.
Yesterday, I finally ran across it, under a vast pile of papers I had intended to sort out at one point. How it got there I can't quite fathom, as the pile of papers precedes, archeologically speaking, the loss of the book.
Anyway, I am glad to have found it again. Here is a proverb.
내것 잃고 인심 잃는다 nae.geot ilh.go in.sim ilh.neun.da my-thing lose-CONJ hearts-of-people lose-PRES "I lose my things, and I lose the hearts of the people."
I guess this has a pretty self-evident meaning, although it's not clear to me if the loss of the things leads to the loss of people's hearts, or if it's more about how bad luck comes along all at once, losing this and then that.
Anyway, this is why I was sad to have lost my aphorism book - because I knew that subsequently, I would be losing the hearts of my readers.
Who could believe an ant in theory? a giraffe in blueprint? Ten thousand doctors of what's possible could reason half the jungle out of being. I speak of love, and something more, to say we are the thing that proves itself not against reason, but impossibly true, and therefore to teach reason reason. - John Ciardi (American poet, 1916-1986)
On my work blog's admin page, hosted on the naver.com website, which is Korean, they will put up these little "prompts" to suggest blog topics, in Korean.
Yesterday, on June 25th, appropriately, they had the question:
6.25전쟁과 같은 전쟁이 다시 일어나지 않으려면, 어떻게 해야 할까요?
Roughly, it asks, "How can we avoid another war like the 6-25 war?" ("6-25 war" is what South Koreans call the Korean war, since it started with the North's surprise attack on June 25th, 1950).
The answer that popped into my mind immediately was: "Just keep doing the same thing that's been done."
Why such a flippant answer? Well, it's worked for 60 years, right?
I would characterize the South's approach to the North with the oxymoronic phrase "vigilant disregard." Vigilant because the Korean military is large, well-trained (relatively speaking), and well-supported (e.g. financially, by the U.S. alliance, etc.). Disregard, because, despite this vigilance, there is little coherence or intentionality to be found in the broader policy portfolio. It is mostly reactive, but tempered by a strong conservative tendency to hove to the status quo and avoid provocation. I've always said that South Korea seems to mostly see the North the way a Korean family would regard a mentally ill elderly relative. Something to be embarassed by, to try to ignore, but also to be controlled as best possible.
Anyway, I answered that naver blog question here on this here blog thingy.
They've gone and found his bones, finally. He was known to be buried in the Convento de las Monjas Trinitarias Descalzas, but the precise gravesite had been lost to time.
A short editorial in the New Yorker observes that this business of finding the old satirist's remains is tied in with a creeping commercialization, i.e. the emergence of a "Cervantes tourism industry." I'm not inclined to condemn this out of hand - it strikes me that Cervantes wouldn't have been offended by someone making a buck off his remains - indeed, it's the sort of scheme he'd have been on board with.
I suppose I have a special relationship with Cervantes - his work is, after all, the topic of my never-quite-written PhD dissertation. If I ever make it to Madrid, I'll feel compelled to visit this newly-created bit of history, I reckon.
Meanwhile, just last weekend I read 5 pages of a certain book that, in theory, supports that never-quite-written dissertation. Not that I'm going to write it, but sometimes I think about it.