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.
Actually it snowed a little bit this morning. Still nothing that stuck, but more of a snow than the flurries the other day.
What I'm listening to right now.
Moderatto, "Si No Te Hubieras Ido."
Te extraño mas que nunca y no se que hacer despierto y de recuerdo mal amanecer espera otro dia por vivir sin ti el espejo no miente me veo tan diferente me haces falta tu La gente pasa y pasa y no se que hacer el ritmo de la vida me parece mal era tan diferente cuando estabas tu si que era diferente cuando estabas tu No hay nada mas dificil que vivir sin ti sufriendo en la espera de verte llegar el frio de mi cuerpo pregunta por ti y no se donde estas si no te hubieras ido seria tan feliz No hay nada mas dificil que vivir sin ti sufriendo en la espera de verte llegar el frio de mi cuerpo pregunta por ti y no se donde estas si no te hubieras ido seria tan feliz La gente pasa y pasa y no se ke hacer el ritmo de la vida me parece mal era tan diferente cuando estabas tu si que era diferente cuando estabas tu No hay nada mas dificil que vivir sin ti sufriendo en la espera de verte llegar el frio de mi cuerpo pregunta por ti y no se donde estas si no te hubieras ido seria tan feliz
Yesterday, for most of the morning and as I walked to work in the early afternoon, there were snow flurries. None of it stuck, but I guess, technically, it counts as first snow. Farther south, some areas got a lot of snow.
The progression of the seasons in Korea has always seemed far too orderly, to me. I much prefer the almost random feel of Minnesota's weather.
Anyway, work is horribly busy these days. December is going to be hellish.
Es mediodía. Un parque. Invierno. Blancas sendas; simétricos montículos y ramas esqueléticas. Bajo el invernadero, naranjos en maceta, y en su tonel, pintado de verde, la palmera. Un viejecillo dice, para su capa vieja: "¡El sol, esta hermosura de sol!..." Los niños juegan. El agua de la fuente resbala, corre y sueña lamiendo, casi muda, la verdinosa piedra. - Antonio Machado (poeta español, 1875-1939)
Last week, I wrote an elegy to the vacant lot I walk past every day. Today, I found out that the vacant lot is going to be taken over by Mormons. Here is a picture of the construction site (a bit blurry). It says it will be a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints - in English and Korean and something Chinese off to the right side, which I find quite puzzling.
I sometimes have expressed that I feel a certain fascination for Mormonism - a kind of fatal attraction. It may be because I grew up in a house across the street from a fairly large Mormon Church. It may be because in middle school and high school, I had several close friends who were Mormon. One friend, Wade, used to evangelize me on a fairly regular basis, though he was always quite respectful and polite. The consequence is that my own emerging atheist "faith" came to be defined, in part, as the outcome of a dialogue with Mormonism. Even at that age (or because of it?), I took that dialogue quite seriously. I suppose I was somewhat attracted to social aspects of the Church, even if I found the cosmology absurd.
And then there's my name, which has meant that when Mormons meet me, they assume I'm an apostate - because Jared is a very common Mormon name, whereas it is not so common in the broader culture. One of the proto-Mormon groups in the Book of Mormon is even called the "Jaredites." I had a teacher in high school who was Mormon (there were a lot of Mormons in my hometown, although not a majority), who even asked me once why my parents didn't send me to the Mormon Church. He just jumped to the conclusion on the basis of my name that I must be Mormon in background.
So the fact that they're building a church a few blocks from my home in Ilsan feels weird to me. Like they're following me around.
Happy ye leaves. whenas those lily hands, Which hold my life in their dead doing might, Shall handle you, and hold in love's soft bands, Like captives trembling at the victor's sight. And happy lines on which, with starry light, Those lamping eyes will deign sometimes to look, And read the sorrows of my dying sprite, Written with tears in heart's close bleeding book. And happy rhymes! bathed in the sacred brook Of Helicon, whence she derived is, When ye behold that angel's blessed look, My soul's long lacked food, my heaven's bliss. Leaves, lines, and rhymes seek her to please alone, Whom if ye please, I care for other none. - Edmund Spenser (English poet, 1552–1599)
There are many aspects of Ben Carson's character that makes me question his ethnic loyalties. This is not necessarily a bad thing, and certainly, just like Obama, perhaps only an African-American with deep ambiguities vis-a-vis African-American cultural identity could ever be successful running for president in a racist America. In Carson's specific case, however, I do think it is a bad thing, that his ethnic loyalties are so unclear. He seems to be a kind of latter-day Clarence Thomas. In fact, would I say that I rather dislike Ben Carson - despite being a trained surgeon, he strikes me as a dangerous luddite and a flaming fanatical hypocrite of the worst sort. Nevertheless, there was something reassuring about the revelation that this painting, below, is hanging in Ben Carson's home. To riff on the website where I saw it... finally, we have some concrete proof of Carson's blackness.
There is a cartoon movie called Minions, which is an installment in an on-going series. I haven't actually seen this movie, but all my students know it, so I decided it might be a good jumping off place for a writing assignment. Minions are essentially what the name says - little alien-like creatures whose sole purpose is to serve comedically over-the-top villainous overlords. The writing prompt goes like this:
Last week, I woke up becase a minion came in my room. "What do you want?" I asked. He said, "You are my master. What do you want me to do?"
My student Alex, never one to be constrained by coherency even in his best moments, wrote a bizarre, vaguely stream-of-consciousness tale of nuclear apocalypse, time travel paradox, and a lot of bananas. I have transcribed his writing verbatim.
minion go to school for me. and make nuclear bomb in freetime. and put it and run away. then, school and Earth is blast. so people all die many people. and make time machien and go to before make nuclear bomb. and kill minion yourslef. and this is crazy you die in the would. Bye bye bye bye bye bye bye crazy crazy you die crazy people in the school. so you can be explode nuclear bomb, and you eat plutonium crazy fire wax salt banana. so minion is die. banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana! minion says in the would "banana!" and everyone eat banana (fire, bomb) so many people was die.
To be honest I don't quite know what to make of it. Clearly he's got some issues to work through, but I wouldn't assume he really has serious psychological problems - global destruction is a very popular theme among 5th graders. I rather like the time travel paradox, although I don't quite see what it adds to the plot. I would be curious to see him develop the story further.
I can't find you where I've been looking for you, my elegy. There's all too many graveyards handy these days, too many names to read through tears on long black walls, too many bulldozed bonefilled ditches. And all the animals to mourn, wiped off the earth like mist wiped off a mirror, leaving one face, reflection of itself alone, image of its imagined image; nothing else, no grief, no dirt, no dogs, no elegies.
That desert is no place for you. And so I looked where death is birth and gods are animals and being flows through being as from spring river flows into river to the sea; but what's to mourn, if life betakes itself into another life? Better a rite of passage, painful joyful celebration of the change, warning and welcome to the soul returned forgetful who it was, and we not knowing either, seabird or child, salmon or fern or fawn.
And on the eightfold way, although compassion finds itself at home, all the hard work of sorrow dissolves to breathing in and out the lives let loose from turning turning turning, gone nowhere to do no harm at last, after the long despair.
So where to seek? I used to dream of climbing high in the hills, those silent ridges red with dawn, to find your sisters the Laments; but that's a hero's journey. I am older than a hero ever gets. My search must be a watch, patiently sitting, looking out the open door.
Far off through shadow I can see a woman who stands to speak a name. Though I can't hear her voice across the ruins of the centuries, I know how hard it was to speak, how her throat ached. In Rome, beside the pyre or open grave, they'd say the name aloud three times, and then be still. A name is hard to say. Who'd read aloud those names on that long wall, what woman born could bear to know so many children dead? Numbers are easier. The men of money say numbers, not names. Grief's not their business.
But I think it may be mine, and if I have a people any more, I will find them in tears.
My elegy, your clothes are out of fashion. I see you walking past me on a country road in a worn cloak. Your steps are slow, along a way that grows obscure as it leads back and back. In dusk some stars shine small and clear as tears on a dark face that is not human. I will follow you.
- Ursula K. Le Guin (American author, b. 1921)
The posting of this "elegy" and the one I wrote the other day are not really related events. I ran across this and liked it, and it just so happens to be an elegy. I guess I'm having an elegiac period.
My student Jiyun channeled Donald Trump, and delivered a pure ad hominem rebuttal during an impromptu debate last night. I know it's not really good debating style, but at the elementary level, I am actually happy to see students taking the initiative to use English communicatively and effectively even if it is only to insult their classmates during a debate.