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 me 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.
Today is "Hangul Day" - a Korean holiday that was recently invented (or rather, "restored" as apparently it existed before, but its current incarnation became a legal holiday last year). I think South Korea was feeling self-conscious about how few holidays they have, relative to other OECD countries, so they've been inventing new ones. To celebrate Hangul Day, it seems logical to study Korean.
In that domain, here is something I've been working on recently.
I have posted about Korean language phonomimes, phenomimes and psychomimes 3 times before (here, here and here).
I have decided to just put together a consolidated page listing them, which I will update when I feel like, because such a resource for non-Korean speakers does not seem to exist online.
I suspected we had had a dry summer, compared to the normal Korean monsoon, but no one seemed to comment on it, so I thought it was just subjective yearning on my part for more rain.
Then on the news this morning, however, I saw a report about drought and crop damage, and I found this article from Korea Herald. So it's official - we are having a drought, after all, and it looks like Seoul has been particularly affected. It's El Niño's fault, apparently.
Yesterday I was at work until 11 pm because of a meeting. I have made a commitment to myself to try to attend all the middle-school staff meetings, which Curt has always excused me from because they are conducted entirely in Korean (unlike the elementry staff meetings, which tend to go back-and-forth). I'm doing this because I was complaining that I never know what's going on with the middle-school kids. I'm not sure attending the meetings in Korean will help that much, but I'm trying to solve my problem instead of just complaining about it.
They have a lot of meetings. I'm just speculating, here, but maybe that's linked to the middle-school staff dissatisfaction problems, somehow.
I have been feeling sorry for myself in my perennial inability to improve my Korean language skill. Of course, that's another thing I have no right to complain about. Maybe these staff meetings will help - Korean language meetings are quite difficult for me to endure. I end up feeling sympathy for my students when they're confronted with a listening task that is too far above their ability level.
I recently ran across a very entertaining bit of fiction. It's a little bit borgesian, I guess, in that the story's protagonist is an idea rather than a person.
It's about a "chord tunnel" (an ancient concept orginally developed in the 18th century, also called a "gravity train," that pops up sometimes in science fiction) used for delivering burritos from San Francisco to New York City:
Yesterday was one of those days when I am thankful for my job.
As I've told people many times, this job (meaning "TEFL in Korea" - in its various incarnations over the last 8 years) is the first job of the many that I've had where I often feel better about the job at the end of the day than at the beginning. Mondays are hard days - I have six classes, strung in a row with no breaks. Several of these Monday classes are in the once-a-week-and-why-am-I-trying-to-teach-these-kids-English category.
As I went to work, I was dreading it. I felt unprepared, so I went to work early. The sky was stunningly blue as is often the case in the Fall in Korea - the only season of the year when that kind of weather is common. But I felt depressed and gloomy, after yet another weekend when I felt like I had achieved none of the personal goals I'd set for myself - as minor as they may be, I still couldn't find the motivation to do them. Clean my desk? Not checked off. Go to the big store to get some supplies? Not checked off. Fix some persistent problems on my blog site? Not checked off. See what I mean?
I was gloomy. I was dreading my six classes.
I went to work, and tried to get organized, figure out my lesson plan for each class - I don't write these down, much anymore, but I always do it mentally, and without it, I go into class feeling a bit desperate. I did this, and even was in my first class 10 minutes early. The students were there and we "hung out" which I always feel is better "English Teaching" than what we do in our textbooks, sometimes, since I always try to interact with my students in English, even at the lowest levels.
The kids surprised me later, when, halfway through the class, I was happy with how they were doing and so I offered to "play a game" for the remaining 20 minutes.
"Teacher, no. Workbook." This set the tone for the day. All my classes showed an unexpected interest in actually learning. Even the advanced class, later in the evening, where they took me up on a similar "play a game" offer that comes when everyone's done well on their homework, they ended up trying to teach me to play a game that I hadn't played before - which is probably much more difficult, from a functional English standpoint, than anything they actually have to do for the class curriculum.
Well, anyway. It was a day that felt like I was teaching English. So walking home, I wasn't as depressed or gloomy.
It's not very often that I will watch a movie all the way through when I don't understand it. But I caught this movie on TV yesterday that held my attention visually all the way through, despite the fact that it was a Chinese movie with Korean subtitles.
It is called 畫皮 2, known in English, apparently, as Painted Skin: The Resurrection. I found it online by searching for the Korean title which was on the TV, "화피2," and then searching the Chinese title in the English wikipedia.
Perhaps someday I will try to find it and watch it in a language where I understand it - although it's also possible that in understanding it better, I would like it less. I found it compelling the way that a surreal but incoherent dream is compelling. It certainly had a lot of violence and weird magic.
Many years ago, I made some posts on this blog (in its earliest, pre-Life-in-Korea incarnation) about the issue of open borders and migration as a human right. I still basically believe this, although it's not something that I consider particularly urgent, and certainly, living as a de facto immigrant in one of the world's less immigrant-friendly regions presents some ironies to this.
Recently, in a post on the crookedtimber blog, I ran across what I would consider one of the best counter-arguments to the idea that borders should be thrown open. Actually, it was a comment below the main post that raised the issue (by a commenter named "Merkwürdigliebe" - whoever that might be), but I think it's possibly the best rebuttal to open borders I have run across.
The idea is that when you have open borders, a government (or a people, in the form of a mass movement) could "weaponize" migration. Many conspiracy-theorists (especially on the right) already believe there is intentionality behind mass migrations of e.g. Mexicans into the US, and, with respect to certain fringe groups (such as the Aztlan revanchist movement) there is actually some validity.
The commenter raised the idea of, say, the Russian government using putative open European borders to flood former East Bloc countries such as the Baltics with direct Russian migration, until those countries were rendered majority Russian and thus captured into the Russian orbit.
In fact, there are plenty of examples from history of successful "weaponized" migration - everything from the barbarian invasions of the Roman Empire to the movement of settlers from the British Isles into North America to the Argentinian leverage of Welsh nationalism to subdue the Patagonian natives, to the entire Zionist project from conception to its current manifestations in the West Bank settlements.
These historical examples themselves constitute the essential counter-rebuttal to the argument, however: all of these historical examples of "weaponized" migration were successful despite active resistance on the part of the people being "migrated against." Thus, whether or not there are "open borders" seems structurally irrelevant. If a given people or movement or government make a concerted effort at weaponized migration, the presence or absence of border controls seems not to matter a whit. As the borg pointed out, as it effortlessly zoomed across Federation border controls, "resistance is futile."
Nevertheless, it is a cogent and intelligent argument, and would need to be addressed in the context of a debate in favor of open borders.
I have been undergoing a bit of a depressing realization, lately, about my character and about my life. The fact is that I am quite bad at all social relations that go beyond a certain, superficial level. Really, more accurately this is not a "realization" (because I already have known it), but rather a reinforcement, or a reminder.
I am good within what you might call "well-defined" or "bounded" social interactions, I think. This is why I don't have problems with teaching, or work in general, or with making a good impression on sociable strangers whom I meet on the street - if I need to. But for the closest, most important social relations, I'm terrible. I am, perhaps, too self-centered. I come by this trait quite legitimately, of course. That does not really excuse it, however. It is a substantial moral failing, in my own opinion.
When it comes to my family, I don't really stay in touch very well. The same is true with close friends. Some of my friends and family tolerate this poor performance, and so they periodically reach out to me - meeting me on my own terms, so to speak. They read my blog, because that's how I choose to make myself accessible to them. Many other relatives and friends, however, do not do this. Because of this, I quickly drift out of touch with them.
Last weekend, this shortcoming of mine was hammered home to me in the most shocking, sobering, disconcerting way possible.
As many know, quite a while back I essentially quit the facebook. I maintain my account there, but I almost never log in. In fact, it had been at least 3 or 4 months since I last logged in.
A few days ago, I decided to log in just to check if anyone was trying to get in touch with me but was too stubborn to realize I wasn't using facebook anymore. There are quite a few people in this category, of course - many of whom are quite close friends or family, or at least were such at some point in the past.
I logged into facebook, and discovered that my stepson, Jeffrey, is now a father. That makes me, um... a grandfather. Stepgrandfather, yes, but... as close as I'm likely to get in this life. Although Jeffrey and I are not close, now, there was time when he was young when we were quite close, and he called me "dad." I have mostly good memories of those interactions. I have many regrets about my own failures in my role as parent.
Clearly, however, Jeffrey is not one of those people who will reach out to me "on my terms." That means that it's up to me to stay in touch. I have been failing to do that. This has led to this huge surprise.
I don't want to intrude on his privacy. He has his life. I am mostly grateful that he seems to have turned out OK, despite the difficulties of his adolescence, especially with his mom Michelle's death in 2000. I have tried to help him in various ways, at various times, over the years, but I doubt he sees me as particularly reliable. I expect that he perceives me to be that flaky stepdad that wasn't there for him or Michelle at those critical moments when I might have been most needed.
Thus I understand his reticence to reach out to me in any way but the most peremptory manner. Indeed, I'm sympathetic - there were many years when I've had a similar level of distance between myself and my own parents - I was, ironically, just discussing this with my mother recently, too. It's been 6 months since I traded emails with my father. Even worse with my sister.
There is a realization that being left out of the loop with respect to Jeffrey's life hurts a little bit. Just as my mother was telling me how it hurt her to have been left out of mine, years ago.
I choose not to feel anger, though. My reaction is to simply decide to accept my own flakiness, I guess. I am simply not meant for social intimacy. Not meant for family. Not meant for marriage. A certain residual sadness, such as comes with the first cool days of autumn.
For many years I have been a kind of de facto urban hermit. I have my work, but it is, as I already said, well-bounded. I go to work, I am social and even caring about my students and coworkers, but this is possible for me, psychologically, precisely because I am able to walk away from it each day and mostly not think about it the rest of the time.
This is my hermitage. It's not really a new realization, either - I've realized it before. I have long been drawn to, and most comfortable with, a kind of eremetic lifestyle. It becomes more and clear to me, however. I exist at the center of my solitude.
I watch the world. Someday, I will stop watching the world.
In my Betelgeuse반 (no, I didn't come up with that name), which is a very small class currently consisting of two elementary third graders, we have been making comics about aliens. They are beginning level students - their class is the first class in our curriculum after completing the Phonics classes (Alpha, Beta - yes, I did come up with those names). I believe strongly that getting kids to make up their own stories even in the most rudimentary English is a very productive way to help them internalize new vocabulary and grammatical structures. So I essentially allow them free reign to make their own stories, providing them with the words or sentences they ask me for in order to tell them.
Here are the stories about aliens. I like the pictures - they are pretty expressive.
정용화 (씨엔블루), "처음 사랑하는 연인들을 위해 (반말송)." I don't really like this song, but it's sociolinguistically interesting - it tackles the moment in a Korean romantic relationship when potential lovers switch to "banmal" - the less formal register of the Korean language used between intimates.
맨 처음 너를 보던 날 수줍기만 하던 너의 맑은 미소도 오늘이 지나면 가까워질 거야 매일 설레는 기대를 해 무슨 말을 건네 볼까 어떻게 하면 네가 웃어줄까 손을 건네보다 어색해질까 봐 멋쩍은 웃음만 웃어봐 우리 서로 반말하는 사이가 되기를 아직 조금 서투르고 어색한데도 고마워요 라는 말투 대신 좀 더 친하게 말을 해줄래 우리 서로 반말하는 사이가 될 거야 한 걸음씩 천천히 다가와 이젠 내 두 눈을 바라보며 말을 해줄래 널 사랑해 너와의 손을 잡던 날 심장이 멈춘듯한 기분들에 무슨 말 했는지 기억조차 안 나 마냥 설레는 기분인걸 우리 서로 반말하는 사이가 되기를 아직 조금 서투르고 어색한데도 고마워요 라는 말투 대신 좀 더 친하게 말을 해줄래 우리 서로 반말하는 사이가 될 거야 한 걸음씩 천천히 다가와 이젠 내 두 눈을 바라보며 말을 해줄래 널 사랑해 우리 서로 사랑하는 사이가 되기를 잡은 두 손 영원히 놓지 않을 거야 바라보는 너의 눈빛 속에 행복한 미소만 있길 바래 우리 서로 사랑하는 사이가 될 거야 아껴주고 편히 기대면 돼 너를 보는 나의 두 눈빛이 말하고 있어 널 사랑해