Monday, December 29, 2008
I missed the last train to incheon, where I was planning on spending the night (in the airport) waiting for hiuyan’s plane to arrive. as her plane will be arriving at 5 in the morning, I was left with few choices: it was either go to the airport the night before, or not meet her at the airport at all. my students made it clear that this was unacceptable and that it was my duty to see her arrive at the airport, no matter the cost, and eventually their reasoning had enough effect on me to make me acquiesce.
unfortunately, friendly christmas spirit ended up being my undoing. there were next to no students present for the last 10pm class on christmas eve, so all the teachers combined classes and I led a game of christmas charades. the game had the added effect of making all of us teachers real chummy, and as we closed up the school, the suggestion of a round of beers was non-refusable. I knew I didn’t have much time before the trains closed for the night, but that couldn’t dissuade me from making a ‘quick stop’. I shouldn’t have played that last song on jason’s guitar. I knew I was running short on time. when I finally did leave, it was nearly eleven and my bulging bladder seemed to bounce threateningly as I power-walked to the station.
I would have to change trains at guro station in order to get to incheon. I was anxious the whole way, the incessant urge to pee not helping to calm me down. I got to guro at about ten to twelve and as I got off the train, my heart swelled with hope (although not as much as my bladder) because there were loads of people waiting on the platform for the train to incheon. soon after I got into the queue, however, an announcement came on the loudspeaker informing everyone that there were no more trains for the night. people looked around at each other with confused and worried looks, and eventually everyone made their way up the stairs. i was at a loss. I asked several passerbyers if I had heard the announcement correctly. I had. eventually I took my consolation prize and relieved myself in the station restroom and exited to the street.
as the crowds dispersed, attacking taxi drivers split the streams of people like rocks in a flowing river, shouting out offers of rides to incheon. I ignored them, knowing the price would astronomical. just out of curiosity, however, I asked one guy who was pestering me, no doubt thinking me a potential sucker, what the price would be. he said $80. I said, how about thirty. he said, it’s christmas so how about fifty. I said no and kept walking. I wasn’t sure where I was going. I just heading kept down the same street, following a medium-sized crowd of people who had also just left guro station, and eventually we came to a dimly-lit bus stop. I tried to scan the posted schedules for any buses that might be going somewhere helpful to me; nothing. I was thinking about the possibility of sleeping in a PC-방 (computer ‘bang’ – room; you pay by the hour to use a computer), and when I called my buddy wonchul, he suggested this course of action. thinking that this would be an undesirable yet doable fallback way to spend christmas eve (although not any worse than sleeping at the airport, I suppose), I decided to walk around a bit more to see what I could see. if possible, I was considering staying up all night in a coffee shop or a bar (I did bring along my computer after all) since by now I had to wait only 4 hours or so until the station opened again.
the streets were pretty empty at 12:30. most businesses were closed; only a few places showed any lights glowing like islands among the silent skyscrapers towering in darkness. after wandering around for a while, I decided to pop in at solitary coffee shop that was still open for business. I ordered an americano and flipped on my computer to begin writing this entry. I made it as far as about a paragraph ago (now im finishing the rest at home) when the manager of the place came up to me to tell me the shop was closing. he looked apologetic. I hastily packed up my things, noticing that all the other patrons had indeed left already. it was starting to feel more like a lonely night as I pushed through the door out onto the cold, empty streets.
I walked on a little more, keeping my eyes peeled. I didn’t want to stay in a pc bang if I could help it. I passed a cheesy-looking bar whose only positive attribute was a sign saying it was open until 4am on christmas eve. I kept it in the back of my mind as I walked, looking for another potential refuge from the cold.
after a while I noticed a colorful glow in the sidewalk and looked up. there the bright green letters of a 24-hour 찜질방 (‘jjimjil-bang’ – bath/sauna house) shone down on me. as soon as I saw it, I knew that would be the perfect place to camp out until morning, and I wondered why I hadn’t thought to look for one earlier. it’s sort of hard to imagine such a large public bath on the 8th floor of a building, but once you get inside, it’s like an isolated world. trying to act as casual as everyone else (i.e. not like a foreigner) I put my clothes in a locker, washed myself at the deserted bathing stations, and soaked in the baths for an hour. going back and forth between hot and cold water really put the life back into me, while also refreshing me from the cold, windy outside and soothing my aching body. at around 2:30 I meandered down to the common area and scoped out a likely spot to close my eyes for a couple hours. I hadn’t expected the place to be so packed and noisy (although maybe I should have) on christmas eve (the bath had been virtually deserted, after all). it took me a few failed attempts choosing a place and laying down to finally be able to doze for a little bit. there were tons of young people in gender-segregated groups likely of single people, as christmas is a ‘couples’ day’ in korea. I drifted in and out of sleep in a creative position on a tiny sofa until I got up, groggy, at 4:30 and tiptoed through the maze of people sleeping everywhere to get back to my locker and head back onto the cold streets. when the ‘morning’ air hit me, it was more than a little hard not to go back inside to the cozy, moist bath house.
I made my way through the dark back to guro station and found I was early. a bit too early, in fact. on christmas day, the trains don’t start until about 5:30, so I had quite a bit of time to wait. with only a handful of people scattered across the whole station’s expanse, the numerous platforms looked like odd little islands in a sea of train tracks. it was cold, and with my body facing the direction of least exposure to the wind, I kept looking down the silent, dark tracks for the coming train to incheon. I listened to music (the first song randomly came up as a 15-minute long ambient trip and I just floated away) and waited as the platforms slowly began to attract more christmas-morning commuters. at 5:30 the train eventually came and I made my way to the incheon airport where my girl had likely already arrived and was waiting for me.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
im not normally this out-of-control. this unbalanced lifestyle is entirely the fault of my unbalanced work schedule which has me teaching at 7:30am and finishing at 10pm. okay, i dont work all day by any means. actually, i only teach a total of 6 hours a day. my morning classes finish at noon and evening classes begin again at 7. i have to admit that sometimes this schedule is nice - i have more motivation to do something more productive during those seven hours of break than i would have if my free time followed a full day of work. and the evenings aren't ever lonely since im teaching. but you can imagine how difficult it would be to split your work up like that. the worst part is definitely finding a stable sleeping schedule, but it also really sucks to have that 'oh shit i have to work in one hour'-feeling TWICE a day.
well yesterday i fell asleep at my computer in the afternoon and snored 3 of my afternoon hours away. i woke up like a zombie 1 hour before class, and believe me, i was NOT AT ALL pleased with the situation. screaming out R Kelly's 'i believe i can fly' in the shower helped my mood a bit, but i still had to exercise control on my grumpiness. luckily my evening students are super.
yesterday i also tried an interesting activity with some of my students. at 10am i have a 'free talking' class which i always refer to as my 'ajumma class' since nearly all of them are 30-something to middle-aged house-wives. it's a pretty fun class. on tuesday we talked all about tattoos and body piercings which many of them referred to as 'injuring the body' and a sin. you could say that they have some conservative leanings, but ive also been surprised with some of the stories they've shared from their 'younger days'.
well, yesterday i decided to give them a psychological test.
i asked them to draw a person, and, refusing to give any other instruction, set them to work (i borrowed this from the 'house-tree-person test' which is used to assess children's personalities for presence of abuse or derangement). i'll explain the interpretation through some examples from my class, with, of course, whatever explanations on korean society i can think of.
i also want to make it clear that these interpretations are merely the untrained guesses of a non-korean and so they could completely off.
these two drawings were made by 50-ish student named soon.
the students are supposed to draw one person and then draw another person of the opposite gender. the first picture is typically of the same gender as the artist and reflects a more direct personal perspective on personality. the opposite gender represents also parts of the artist's personality, but aspects that are not directly acknowledged. soon drew a woman sitting down first, then a man standing.
the legs and feet represent the security, strength, and power of the artist, like the trunk and roots of trees, so really weak legs and small feet suggest insecurity (and so do really large feet).
we use our arms to engage the world and our hands to affect it. arms reaching out from the body suggest a willingness to interact with the world and open hands, confidence with such actions. closed arms and hidden or gloved hands could mean defensiveness, a lack of confidence, insecurity. so soon's woman sitting down in profile with one arm outstretched and one held in close gives a sort of mixed message. especially when compared to the man standing with more open arms and facing forward. it seems like soon sees herself as being more reserved with repressed feelings of wanting to engage the world more.
interestingly, the woman and the man both look nearly identical. i told laura that this might mean that she has fewer repressed feelings. this certainly would fit her personality in class - she often very openly describes her emotions, fears, even insecurities with us. for some people, listening to her talk about how she 'feels depressed today because she doesn't know how to be a mother to her boys who have different perspectives from her - whether she should badger them to study (as most parents are compelled to do in korea) or let them have some fun even though there is a constant stream of test and examinations (more on korean education system later)', they consider laura a confused and worrisome woman. i think this is a healthy way of facing the insecurities that trouble many housewives and it gives laura a unique strength. both of her drawings feature people with their arms open and fingered (a trait absent in all other students' drawings). they are also simple looking and well-dressed with pleasant expressions.
despite being in her late twenties, her drawing style is like that of a adolescent girl. i have found this to be typical of most teenage - unmarried-20 year-olds. as details in these drawings are sparse, there's not much to interpret. the neck connects the body (needs and drives) with the head (thoughts - cognitive). no neck would mean no separation, and a really long neck might mean desire for disconnection. everyone drew pretty average-looking necks, and i would say in my opinion, women in korea have more of a balance between those two processes than men.
her drawings deviated a little from the norm in some quite interesting ways. first of all, her woman appears by traditional perspectives more masculine and the male more feminine. her woman holds her arms in close and somewhat protectively. the feet are cut off (this could suggest a lack of security or merely that the drawing's size was not correctly anticipated). the woman appears quite formal and reserved. the man, on the other hand, has long hair, casual clothing, and is holding a guitar. i told grace that this perhaps means that she has some latent desire to express more creativity, but it is hard to say why she chose this image.
there's a lot more that i could say about this class, but i'll save that for another day (mostly because im hungry and it's dinnertime). i do want to mention, however, the strong sense of camaraderie that has developed in this class between the students. they often hang around and talk or get lunch together afterwards. i have a fun time playing along with them and i have to say ive made a pretty cool connection with them. maybe it's because of their higher english level, or maybe it's their personalities, but i think i've been able to share more of myself with them than most other students. they're great!
yesterday was a good day. i stayed at home and was therefore able to receive several calls on skype from my sister, mom, ginny, and even LUCAS SOKOL-OXMAN who i havent seen in months resulting in serious withdrawl symptoms. i was also able to finally write a blog entry on my experience last week with eunsoo's accidental passing away, and i was very glad to do that.
all of these things took my entire afternoon, however, and only after i started cooking a big pot of mashed potatoes (my comfort food), i noticed it was almost time for evening class. the potatoes went on the back burner (pun INTENDED) and i jogged to school with a grumbly tummy.
fortunately (or not?) i managed to grab a quick burger at a nearby KFC in between class to hold me over. the spuds became my after-work treat and my this-morning-bellyache. ug!
well, gotta run to class now!
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
eunsoo was a friend of ours from hawaii. although i can not say that we were very close, eunsoo and i shared many good times in hilo together, playing baseball together, weekend barbecues, and many late-night go stop binges. we also met a couple of times in seoul two years ago when i visited korea for the first time. myself and other friends joked often about eunsoo's apparent lack of success with girlfriends and his constant stream of overly-melodramatic screen names on instant messenger such as 'what the hell am i doing with my life' and so on. these jokes were never an expression of looking down on the guy, meerly expressions of affection.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
attempting to create a membership at hong-ik on my first visit to the place was an interesting encounter. unfortunately the receptionist did not understand my korean 'telegraphic speech', and it took quite a while for her to figure out just what i wanted. if only she could have slowed her speech down just a little, i might have been able to catch her words, but she instead talked to me at the speed of a native korean speaker with only a doubtful look on her face as a consolation prize. we eventually settled on a sort of game of charades and i was practically doing imaginary bench press on the countertop between us before we finally agreed on a membership plan.
so i began heading to that place everyday. it's actually pretty large, offering swimming lessons, dance lessons, even 검도 ('geomdo' - modern fencing, the korean kendo) and squash quarts, all of which i have yet to take advantage of due to the limitations of my membership plan. one curious feature of my gym is the basement shower room. the women's locker/shower room is on the main floor, but to get to the men's, you have to go down a dimly-lit flight of stairs and pass through what appears to be a storage place for old furniture and is likely a supposed 'amenity' (nobody, however, is seen lounging on the torn, 'fleather' couches and partaking of this comfort). every time i enter the locker room, i take off my shoes (as is the custom in korea as well as japan), place them in the little rack, and give a greeting to the old man who is always sitting in the same spot, day in, day out, and who i suppose to be the 'shower room manager', despite the lack of instances in which i have witnessed him 'at his duties'. the locker room itself is very cramped and low-ceilinged, but it's lighting coupled with the steam from the showers give it a friendly, dull glow that is quite relaxing. i meander through and nimbly tiptoe over the men and children lounging about (all of whom are comfortably naked) to get to my assigned locker and change into my 'workout clothes' which could be better termed: 'the clothes i wore yesterday'. i have yet to use the showers because i keep forgetting to bring a towel (no towels are provided due to the mysterious disappearance that befalls many of them). even though it's unnecessary due to the fact that i live just a few minutes away and usually shower at home after the gym, i still want to try a shower down there sometime.
nobody seems to pay any attention to the videos anyway, as the majority of the patrons to the weight room at 12pm are 아줌마 (ajummas - literally means 'aunt' and refers to all middle-aged women) on bicycles or stairmasters. this leaves me with relatively free-reign of the weights (except for the occasional 'hee-men' - slightly disgustingly muscular, short men who comprise the only male patrons). i usually take a short jog on the treadmill to warm up and do a few rounds on the weight machines before heading home, spending no longer than an hour and a half total.
Monday, November 10, 2008
the last week and a half has been quite a roller coaster ride for me. everything began with an emotional explosion, and ive been picking up the shrapnel ever since. but the explosion also knocked loose a few things that had gotten buried under all the excitement of the last few weeks/months of my life. and a few new discoveries were unearthed in the process as well. you can probably guess that all of what i have been describing is in reference to relationship things, for that is what it is precisely.
it wouldnt be accurate to ascribe all of ginny's and my problems to long-distance, because this isn't our first encounter with that dilemma. but it is our second, and that, itself, carries definitionally with it an entirely different experience. the heart of the matter, however, lies more in the nature of our situations, the intrinsic discrepancy that exists in attempting to pursue our own dreams as well as share one together, the conflict that has arisen from my being in korea specifically, and in the nature of our emotional responses and the mistakes we have made in attempting to deal with them.
hiuyan's decision about whether or not to come to korea this winter has been like a pendulum swinging back and forth, and not without striking it's toll on me. her indecision lies in the fact that she has a hard time viewing korea in a positive light, a prejudice that has been more difficult for me to bear than i thought it would. there are many possible explanations for what has caused hiuyan to develop such an opinion, and likely they are all somewhat responsible for the result, but the fact that i am here now, and have experienced something with korea that she can only imagine through my retelling, is a likely major cause to her trepidation (perhaps not unwarranted, but misplaced, all the same). these negative inclinations have fed off of her insecurities, which in turn have become so fearsome, it has become difficult for us to have a conversation without them finding their way into the topic of discussion.
i, in turn, have usually been able to find a way to remain patient, to put my needs on hold, to reach as tirelessly as i can for my hopes of unconditional love. as i described to my brother and sister a couple weeks ago, however, this act of putting my feelings on hold has the side-effect of making me entirely unemotional, and i feared that my feelings of my relationship with hiuyan were turning from 'intimate' to 'caring' or 'understanding' - not unimportant aspects of romance, but i better realize now how intimacy requires some 'selfishness' to function two ways.
instead of recounting my experiences from memory, i think it would be more revealing to share with you my own words from the last week and a half. some things i have written to ginny personally, and some things i am sharing with her here and now for the first time. if you feel uncomfortable reading about some of our very personal and emotional experiences, feel free to skip ahead. both of us believe, however, in the importance of being open and transparent, not just to one or a few people, but to anyone who cares enough to look.
this is something i wrote for myself just after the conversation that detinated the emotional 'time bomb' that had been building up inside of me since i came to korea, or possibly longer:
"as the webcam video blinked and refocused, she told me about how some of her Japanese friends had invited her to spend the Christmas holiday in japan with their families. she said it was something she really wanted to do. she said if she went to korea to spend the Christmas with me, she thinks that she’d feel like she’d lost an important opportunity. her voice was drumming in my ears but I couldn’t feel anything. it was hard to hear her over the sound of the blood rushing through my ears. words utterly failed me. I had no encouragement to give her. I couldn’t even reach out and touch her anymore. it was as if in the last few seconds a chasm had grown between us. if I strained my eyes I might be able to see her, but right now I was looking at my own reflection in the puddle at my feet. to reach her, i’d have to step in that puddle. my skin was sticky and clammy; I felt like I was soiled in my own cheap stink. if I washed off that smell now, I might have enough strength to turn toward the other side of the canyon, but I’d never smell like anything again. never like flowers, or like fresh rain, or like new paper. I was sinking deeper and deeper into my cheap leather chair which stuck to my skin like glue. I wanted to give in to my disappointment and let my tears pour out, but I couldn’t. I wanted to find some way to tell her it’s alright and go ahead and go to japan if it’s important to you and I’ll be fine but I couldn’t. it was as if my heart had suddenly awoken and flown into the air and turned out to be not one, but two birds flapping their wings, straining in opposite directions. the albatross’ confident voice called to me, ‘it’s alright; you’re strong; our love can soar under any conditions, rain or storm.’ but it could not drown out the plea of the ‘amakihi, a honeycreeper fluttering with all its tiny might, ‘if we travel too far away from the sweet ohia flowers that bloom in our heart and flow with the nectar that is just right for us, we will perish over the ocean, or worse, forget the sweet sustaining flavor that fills us with life.’ the two birds were tethered to each other at the neck, a chord long enough to give the albatross a considerable distance from the ‘amakihi, but the line was stretched to the limit. if I cut the albatross loose, it would take the little honeycreeper with it. perhaps those two birds’ voices were like the voices of my brother and sister. I called the albatross back, sat down in my puddle, and turned toward the video of my girl. she was crying, and I had let the first tear spill out. ‘I need to be alone for a while.’ I felt the puddle soaking into my jeans. ‘please don’t call me for a while,’ I told her. we looked at each other for a while and eventually hung up. suddenly the emotion started flowing out of me. I leaned over, clutching myself. I felt small and sick, soiled in my own reflection. but I held onto those birds with all my might. ‘what am i?’ I thought to myself. ‘who the fuck am i?’ I couldn’t figure out which way to turn, which bird to cut loose. and I felt utterly fake and pathetic in my confusion. ‘you’re weak,’ a voice like the albatross’ told me. ‘you’re valuable and beautiful,’ said a dull, shallow whine like an imitation of the ‘amakihi’s. I went into the bathroom to urinate, but when I entered, my reflection stared back at me. it was distorted with sadness. I sank to my knees with shame and disgust at the ugly, alien countenance that shone back at me. but I had known what I would see in the mirror, and I shook my head wondering when would I understand my reflection? when would I recognize the face looking back at me? and why did I have to always look for that person alone?"
i stayed alone for a while. the week progressed and i taught my classes, but it was like i was in a different reality when i was with my students, as if my problems were put on hold just for those few hours. coming home, i would sink back into self-reflection, but not despair. i felt confused, but i also felt satisfaction that i had not sacrificed something precious within me. i concentrated on caring for myself, something i had been unthinkingly holding back for too long. i took walks and explored suwon more. last sunday i went walking to paldalsan, a nearby mountain. i was anxious to see the autumn colors, and i wasnt disappointed. paldalsan is in the heart of suwon; it exists on the edge of hwaseong fortress:
that evening i decided to write to hiuyan, even though i didnt know how. somehow writing felt like the only natural thing i could do:
Sunday, November 09, 2008
"i dont know how to start writing about what i want to say...
there have been things that ive wanted to tell you over the last couple of days, things i want you to know, things i want you to realize about me
i could not just tell you about them, because you need to figure out how to love me the way i need
i can't just write out a user-guide to myself
i felt hurt that you dont see what i need, frustrated at this irrational part of myself that wont just talk about everything directly, and so so confused
the only thing that has given me the air i need to breathe is the knowledge that i am at least listening to this part of myself, as emotionally reckless and irrational as it may be
so i haven't wanted to talk to you, even though i want you to understand me
and now ive become a little trapped in this isolation, i dont know how to talk to you
even these words seem awkward and inexpressive
but i owe you an attempt at the very least, to give you an idea where i am now
you say that we just dont realize the ways we are caring for each other or see how we are trying to show it
ive been told this by girls before
perhaps there is some truth to that, but i cant ignore this nagging feeling that those words are just a lame excuse for our fear of vulnerability from sharing ourselves more fully
there are many things that i feel like im missing these days, holes in our relationship, things i am now realizing i need that are not there
my values and ideals have guided me in the past, whispering in my ear that i dont need much to be in a relationship, that my strength comes from within, strength that gives me the capacity for patience, selflessness, unconditional love
i still believe this
but i know also that i need people to value me the way i love myself, to understand my love for myself, to inspire that love for myself to grow in new ways, to be a part of that love
this is what i need you to realize
you say you love me
i believe those words, but i need to feel them
i feel like you dont know me, as i know myself
maybe you're afraid to see my love for myself
maybe you dont know how to love yourself that way, and so you cant understand how i do
maybe you cant understand why i feel this way now
you must figure it out to find me
i am an open book, i think
so i wonder how you cant see me, respond to me
perhaps this is all a figment of my immagination
perhaps i am the one who cant see your love
that may be, i cant deny the possibility
all i know is what i feel now and what i must do in response to that
maybe my patience and commitment has given you the impression that i am a solid rock that you can smash yourself against to examine the pieces of yourself and find their meaning for you
in many ways, i am able to function in this way
this is a part of my character
but there is another part, a fragile part, a precious part, that must be cherished gently as an irreplacable treasure
it is vulnerable
not anyone deserves to love that part of me or deserves to care for that part of me
im sorry ive suddenly become this way
i know there was no warning, even i didnt really see it coming
but i should have guessed that it would
it had been building up slowly, i had been waiting for you to see me and fulfill me
i should not have hoped for that without telling you
i feel that i have been slowly losing a lover
and the confident, understanding, gentleness i so desperately long for
you aren't the only one who needs that
you aren't the only one who feels the need for reassurance
you've had little to say to reassure me, and much to discourage me, whether or not you realize it
im in a dark place now, but it is not forlorn because i know im here with me
the choices ive made to distance myself from you tell me that im unwilling to sacrifice myself, and that gives me a kind of hope, and growing confidence in myself, despite the weaknesses i know are also there
if you take this to mean i dont need you anymore, that would be very sad interpretation
i am unable now, however, to stretch myself any farther
if i did so, i would be sacrificing a part of myself, which i am not prepared to do
in many ways, writing all of this is very confusing, because i am trying to express, rationally, something inside of me that is quite irrational and difficult for even myself to understand
reading my own words, i almost seem to be hypocritical with my expression
i dont really expect you to understand that which i can not completely grasp
perhaps this is the more femenine side of my emotions - i think a lot of the ways that ive learned to express these emotions is through experiencing some of the ways women see and care for themselves
there i go again...a rational attempt to explain something so bewildering - it's a contradiction inside of me
that's why this part of me frustrates me so much
as im sure it does to you too
i cant say anymore for now
i dont even want to post this, it doesnt feel right, but i will anyway
i'll hope that you receive it the right way"
all the next week we didnt say much to each other; i couldnt come back yet. i played a lot of guitar music, downloaded the muppet show, black adder, star trek voyager, and started studying more korean and reading more dostoyevsky. but yesterday we finally began chatting over instant messaging. after i left to buy some dinner, ginny stayed on and wrote more, to which i responed this morning with my own monologue. i'll put it here:
[11/15/2008 7:56:17 PM] yanyan says: ciao~
[11/15/2008 8:04:10 PM] yanyan says: just remembered something
[11/15/2008 8:05:16 PM] yanyan says: i told you that i've been watching a taiwanese show, a singing contest show ya?
[11/15/2008 8:05:43 PM] yanyan says: in the one that i've been watching these few days
[11/15/2008 8:06:39 PM] yanyan says: the singers were all very very very good at singing
[11/15/2008 8:07:34 PM] yanyan says: but they all had the some kind of weakness
[11/15/2008 8:07:39 PM] yanyan says: that was
[11/15/2008 8:08:29 PM] yanyan says: because they're all very good - they had good techniques and stuff
[11/15/2008 8:08:36 PM] yanyan says: because of that
[11/15/2008 8:09:19 PM] yanyan says: they became very careful when they're singing
[11/15/2008 8:11:27 PM] yanyan says: and that kinda became a barrier for them to paint their feelings and thoughts when singing a song
[11/15/2008 8:12:33 PM] yanyan says: i've been feeling like that this 2~3 months
[11/15/2008 8:12:54 PM] yanyan says: on our relationship
[11/15/2008 8:14:33 PM] yanyan says: i've always felt that i'm person who has more feelings to "sing" instead of techniques
[11/15/2008 8:15:04 PM] yanyan says: but once i started to become too careful
[11/15/2008 8:16:26 PM] yanyan says: the only thing i have the most would be lost, or covered up
[11/15/2008 8:18:14 PM] yanyan says: i think, my love for people is more like a "disffusion" (spelling?)
[11/15/2008 8:18:38 PM] yanyan says: slowly, slowly, deeper, deeper
[11/15/2008 8:19:55 PM] yanyan says: not like fireworks, which goes like "bang!", then "wow!"
[11/15/2008 8:20:54 PM] yanyan says: oh, diffusion
[1:32:01 PM] yakul85 says: does being careful cause this diffusion
[1:32:49 PM] yakul85 says: maybe being careful is what takes love longer to manifest
[1:33:42 PM] yakul85 says: you described yourself as being passionate, singing from your heart
[1:34:07 PM] yakul85 says: your passions are not like fireworks
[1:34:45 PM] yakul85 says: it is hard for me to understand how both of these things could be true
[1:35:05 PM] yakul85 says: passion takes me by storm
[1:35:18 PM] yakul85 says: it caries me far far far away
[1:36:17 PM] yakul85 says: to someplace so beyond the realms of reality, within its beauty lurks a danger of being caught, trapped, lost in that place
[1:36:31 PM] yakul85 says: but i must let myself reach out an touch it
[1:36:50 PM] yakul85 says: i have never really given myself a chance to slowly develop skills and techniques
[1:37:04 PM] yakul85 says: i can only reach beyond them to where my passion lies
[1:37:47 PM] yakul85 says: this fills me with excitement, hope, love for myself
[1:38:07 PM] yakul85 says: and it also means that without my passion i can not accomplish as much
[1:38:20 PM] yakul85 says: so it is a limitation in as much as it is a gift
[1:38:45 PM] yakul85 says: because i am this way, it is hard for me to understand a slowly deepening passion
[1:38:57 PM] yakul85 says: to me this is virtually a contradiction in terms
[1:39:56 PM] yakul85 says: i think what is clear is that we have different feelings of passion and different ways of expressing them
[1:40:15 PM] yakul85 says: and we are still exploring and learning about these feelings within ourselves and what they are capable of
[1:40:42 PM] yakul85 says: it will take time for us to be ready to explore each other's sense of passion
[1:40:46 PM] yakul85 says: and of love
[1:41:35 PM] yakul85 says: being apart, being forced to rely on our own passions for strength more so than before, brings out these differences between us more visibly
[1:42:10 PM] yakul85 says: and makes it harder for us to attempt learning about each other
[1:42:59 PM] yakul85 says: i think what we may need is a chance to share in each other's personal expression more
[1:43:25 PM] yakul85 says: when we talk directly, we may find it harder to share those things
[1:43:46 PM] yakul85 says: i want to do a better job of keeping an online journal
[1:43:52 PM] yakul85 says: that will help me listen to myself
[1:43:57 PM] yakul85 says: and help you listen to me too
[1:44:47 PM] yakul85 says: and what i want to hear most these days, is not your words to me as much as your words to yourself
[1:45:13 PM] yakul85 says: you have much within you that i know is inspirational to me
[1:45:29 PM] yakul85 says: but you cant choose what i may need from you
[1:45:50 PM] yakul85 says: and all i want to give you is myself, anyway
[1:45:57 PM] yakul85 says: i will only be me
[1:46:04 PM] yakul85 says: i never want to be anyone else
[1:46:19 PM] yakul85 says: even if changing myself can make you happier, i'll never do it
[1:46:29 PM] yakul85 says: that much i know
[1:46:31 PM] yakul85 says: but
[1:46:56 PM] yakul85 says: i am willing to give you everything that is really me
[1:47:50 PM] yakul85 says: and too, i must accept who you are, despite my disappointment
[1:48:51 PM] yakul85 says: maybe you can not be my 'princess charming' who sweeps me off my feet
[1:49:52 PM] yakul85 says: but you can be 'hiuyan'
[1:51:04 PM] yakul85 says: that's who i want in my life
[1:51:31 PM] yakul85 says: and i just want to share my life with you
[1:51:42 PM] yakul85 says: and i must tell you
[1:51:59 PM] yakul85 says: how much it hurt me to see that you didnt want to share in my life now
[1:52:03 PM] yakul85 says: you didnt say this
[1:53:46 PM] yakul85 says: but it felt like that to me everytime your uncertainty about korea became more important than my experience of it
[1:53:57 PM] yakul85 says: what is a place anyway?
[1:54:29 PM] yakul85 says: it's what is drawn out of you in a place, what you experience and learn about yourself, that makes a place significant or special
[1:55:23 PM] yakul85 says: to me it doesnt matter how good or bad korea is socially, economically, educationally
[1:55:53 PM] yakul85 says: all i know is what ive learned about myself through my interaction with it and its people
[1:56:24 PM] yakul85 says: and i love this place because i love the parts of myself that are drawn from this place
[1:57:24 PM] yakul85 says: perhaps this causes me to overreact by feeling you dont like me when you dont like korea, because all i know about korea is through this experience of discovering some of myself through discovering korea
[1:57:56 PM] yakul85 says: i wont say, 'if you love me, love korea'
[1:58:39 PM] yakul85 says: but i do wish you would put your hope and trust in the words i have to share about korea
[1:58:53 PM] yakul85 says: instead of in your fears and uncertainties about it
[1:59:53 PM] yakul85 says: i do love this place
[1:59:57 PM] yakul85 says: the people are so human
[2:01:13 PM] yakul85 says: with their struggles against screwed up education, professional, political, even familial and religious systems, they shine as passionate, sincere people
[2:01:48 PM] yakul85 says: at first, i honestly felt like many korean people reminded me of high school, with their emotional and sometimes almost transparent responses to situations
[2:02:51 PM] yakul85 says: but despite all the shit everywhere, they have a really, really inspirational perspective on unconditional love
[2:03:26 PM] yakul85 says: i cant begin to express how much ive experienced this
[2:04:12 PM] yakul85 says: i have to admit, it comes most clearly to me through the young-adult generation
[2:05:07 PM] yakul85 says: and i think a lot of my experience of it has to do with the fact that i am an 'outsider'
[2:06:06 PM] yakul85 says: for one thing, ive found that having a language barrier can facilitate honesty and a more dedicated attempt at expressing sincerity
[2:09:01 PM] yakul85 says: and it just occured to me that the closeness i feel to korea probably has a lot to do with the stage of my life that i was in when i began experiencing korea
[2:10:22 PM] yakul85 says: in a lot of ways, i was coming back to reality from a period of remote isolation and self-exploration
[2:11:12 PM] yakul85 says: my reunification with the world happened in hawaii, and subsequently with koreans
[2:11:57 PM] yakul85 says: anyway, although i have found such a strong sense of belonging here, it is not complete if i dont feel a sense of belonging with you
[2:13:20 PM] yakul85 says: but i cannot coexist with your insecurities
[2:13:31 PM] yakul85 says: yes, this word 'insecurities' again
[2:13:42 PM] yakul85 says: it is one that you have begun to fear
[2:14:07 PM] yakul85 says: and that is where it eats away at you and at our relationship
[2:14:13 PM] yakul85 says: through fear
[2:16:29 PM] yakul85 says: honestly, i often wonder how such a fear can reside inside such a person as yourself, someone who is so straightforward, honest, hopeful, unpreoccupied with the eyes of others, and fearlessly explorative
[2:16:58 PM] yakul85 says: at times i nearly think of you as two different people
[2:17:09 PM] yakul85 says: when your fear comes out, it's not you
[2:18:52 PM] yakul85 says: when i say these words, i say them as much to myself and my own worries and doubts: you must not fear your insecurity
[2:19:38 PM] yakul85 says: acknowledge your weakness and live with it, talk to it, talk to yourself
[2:19:53 PM] yakul85 says: speak out loud (that's what i do)
[2:20:17 PM] yakul85 says: dont cringe, but fight back
[2:21:05 PM] yakul85 says: you must shout to yourself, 'NO!'
[2:21:37 PM] yakul85 says: i can love you even through your struggle, i know that
[2:21:45 PM] yakul85 says: This message has been removed
[2:22:27 PM] yakul85 says: but it is hard for me to feel loved
[2:22:37 PM] yakul85 says: that is my weakness, i know
[2:22:52 PM] yakul85 says: if i were perfect, i would endure as long as you needed
[2:22:59 PM] yakul85 says: and i am enduring now
[2:23:13 PM] yakul85 says: but things like what has happened to me will happen sometimes
[2:24:05 PM] yakul85 says: my sense of self-preservation will kick in
[2:24:58 PM] yakul85 says: and i will need to be alone for a while to give my emotions the attention they need
[2:25:11 PM] yakul85 says: i tried to avoid this
[2:25:19 PM] yakul85 says: i thought i could keep holding on, remaining patient
[2:25:58 PM] yakul85 says: but this ended up just making my retreat more dramatic, more painful for us both
[2:26:18 PM] yakul85 says: now i realize that i needed you to see this about me
[2:26:35 PM] yakul85 says: to understand my needs
[2:26:58 PM] yakul85 says: by trying not to be selfish, i was even more so
[2:29:10 PM] yakul85 says: i now have a clearer understanding of my own needs
[2:29:21 PM] yakul85 says: and of my value
[2:29:48 PM] yakul85 says: i can not sacrifice my own value for you
[2:29:53 PM] yakul85 says: that would not be love
[2:29:59 PM] yakul85 says: only servitude
[2:30:05 PM] yakul85 says: not intimacy
[2:30:59 PM] yakul85 says: i think i tried to sacrifice my own value because i wanted you to express yours
[2:31:37 PM] yakul85 says: i wanted you to be selfish, so to speak, to tell me what you want, what you need
[2:32:04 PM] yakul85 says: because i dont want a servant either; i want an equal
[2:32:49 PM] yakul85 says: i did exactly what i didnt want you to do, ignoring my own needs
[2:33:55 PM] yakul85 says: well, i will leave you now (meaning i will stop writing)
[2:34:11 PM] yakul85 says: to think for yourself about these things
[2:34:51 PM] yakul85 says: if it's alright with you, id like to post some of this 'conversation' on my blog
[2:35:09 PM] yakul85 says: i think it really reflects a lot of my values and self-awareness
[2:36:11 PM] yakul85 says: despite all the hardships, i am learning about myself through this, being with you, and that's a very important thing
[2:36:19 PM] yakul85 says: so just that fact gives me a lot of hope
[2:36:25 PM] yakul85 says: i miss you
so that's where i am now. i wanted to write about this, to help me look at things more objectively. this is sort of a first for me, writing so openly on a blog like this. but i want this to be more than a blog or a journal. i also want to make clear that everything ive written about hiuyan is from my own perspective which i certainly know by now to be considerably limited. please consider everything ive written as a window into my own life and thoughts. i cant presume to express hers.
if you've read all this, im impressed and pleased. i hope that your patience has been a benefit to you in some way. now i must go to see my friend's concert in seoul. remember hyunsook? i saw one of her company choir's performances already this fall. today is the grand finale. it is nice to be going out.
Monday, October 20, 2008
it's finally here! - the not-so-fresh, not-so-hot-off-the-press photos from my first month in korea!
the pictures you've been waiting for have arrived.
i now begin the laborious project of attempting to catalogue them all and write sufficient explanations for the events and moments they capture. this is going to take a long time. i know it. i should just stop complaining and do it. but im hungry and the water is boiling for my ramen... can't i do it later, after i eat? NO. now. get to it.
it took about four days for me to meet someone i knew after arriving in korea. those first few days felt long and kind of strange. i was in a place i knew and yet it seemed unfamiliar. i felt like i was coming home to korea, but it was as if i came home to an empty house. i didnt have much chance to inform my friends of my arrival due to how quickly i had to begin working once i arrived. i had no phone, so i used a payphone to call my friend 선영 (sunyoung), my korean sister. as soon as i saw her and heard her voice it was the atmosphere of korea completely changed, as i expected it would. i was back home. we met at 안양시장 ('anyang shijang' - anyang market), above.
me and sunyoung. she helped me by some 상추 ('sangchu' - lettuce), 김 ('kim' - dried, salted seaweed), and 김치 (kimchee - which ended up causing my fridge and thus apartment smell like kimchee for more than a month, until i finally threw away it away, a decision i later regretted after i learned from my students that kimchee lasts practically forever and that old kimchee is great for making 김치찌개 - 'kimchee jjigae' kimchee stew - one of my favorite home dishes)
that weekend i stayed with my good buddy and oldest korean friend (in terms of length of acquaintance, not age) 원츨 (wonchul - aka 'chris'). unfortunately i did not bring my camera to his home in anyang (foolish). nevertheless the weekend was a very welcome change of pace and escape from my less than desireable living conditions. wonchul's father works for the government as an executive in waste management. their family lives in a very beautiful part of anyang, next to a nice looking park with a gentle mountain overlooking the neighborhood in the near background. i promised myself that i would one day come back to visit one of the many nearby 찜질방 ('jjimjilbang' - public sauna/bath house). we grabbed some beers and fried chicken at a local joint, played go stop, and talked late. i remember noticing that wonchul's home seemed nearly exactly the same as other korean homes i had stayed in (i.e. same layout, arrangement, even furnishings, furniture, and appliances). so even though i had never had the chance to visit wonchul's home during my last stay in korea, it felt very familiar to me, not so much like an eerie deja vu, but just a comforting familiarity, much the same as wonchul and other koreans might feel about the reed roofs, lanais, and palm trees of hilo. after about a week and a half i was finally feeling more caught up in sleep and so i took some time to paint a little. i chose a familiar subject :) unfortunately, something was a little off in my sketching (possibly due to the wrinkled nature of the paper, post-unpacking) and my subjects nose turned out a centimeter or two longer than is commonly characteristic of humans. i cropped the picture to save you from nightmares. the following friday i was finally able to meet up with miri! we met at 한국외대 (hankuk university of foreign studies - a place from which many of my friends have come, but i never had a chance to visit last time i was in kroea). we were supposed to meet at the university entrance, and as i was waiting there looking for 미리 (miri), someone came up to me. i was even more startled when i realized it was miri! she had changed her hair and was wearing a different style of clothing than she normally did in hilo. i felt silly for not recognizing her right away and just a little disappointed that her style had changed a little, but then i should have expected as much. im sure i looked a little strange to her too with my military-length hair. anyway, as soon as we opened our mouths it was easy to recognize each other's old personalities. not much change there! it was just like old times. we grabbed some 회덮밥 ('hoedeopbap' - bibimbap with raw fish and lettuce) and took a look around the university. miri is living on campus now and she'll finish up school this winter. that means job-hunting-time and many stresses and sleepless nights for most koreans. i have learned that the process can be more than just challenging and stressful - for many it is isolating, exhausting, and even despairing. i have a lot of opinions and feelings about this aspect of korean culture (which i wont get into here, but, rest assured, will soon). for now, i'll just say that this is one area to which i feel especially called to share my perspective with koreans. i have really learned to trust things to work out in my life, despite failures, set backs, and the superficial judgement of people in decision-making positions. indeed, it is because of more than one supposed 'setback' that brought me to a place where i could learn about korea and later put me in a position to visit here two years ago. in short, i try to give as much support to my friends as i can - i know how much they need it. in that way, it is a real great thing to be here and give that personally again.
the next series of pictures are from my chuseok weekend; to hear a more detailed account of that, see previous posts. that very evening i was able to get out of my evening classes so that i could meet wonchul and his family who would be driving to 보성 ('boseong') to meet wonchul's grandparents and celebrate 추석 ('chuseok' - the korean mid-autumn festival). they happily agreed to allow me to come along and be a part of the family for the weekend. score! after 4 hours of driving, we stopped in 광주 ('kwangju') to spend the night. the following day we met wonchul's cousins, aunt, and ucle and went to the local market to pick up some fruit for the family gathering. as you can see, the market was like a warehouse full of people buying and selling local crops.onions
rural korea - soon i'd get my first up-close encounter
asleep in the car saturday morning. we have arrived in boseong. only a half hour left of driving to get to grandpa's village. 밤 ('bam') - chestnuts - we'd be picking a lot of these soon
wonchul's grandparents' home and where his father and uncles grew up. it lies on the slopes of what i called the 'park family mountain' where several previous generations had lived and many relations still lived. i later learned from wonchul that until recently there had been no toilet other than a hole in a shed and quite a few domesticated animals. red peppers (grown only a few meters away) drying in the sun. they will be used to make 고추장 ('gochujang' - korean red pepper paste, a staple ingredient to many dishes) among countless other culinary uses.
kimchee pots preserving homemade kimchee and other essential korean foods. traditionally these pots are buried underground and left sometimes for decades to achieve a truly remarkable (and a little sour) kimchee flavor.
wonchul's father (left) and uncle peeling for the imminent feast. wonchul's cousins (everyone is playing on their cellphones or one of the other mobile electronic devices that are so popular in korea) - they slept most of the weekend.
getting ready to eat my favorite korean food - 삼겹살 (''samgyeopsar' - pork belly meat). the meat is not cooked with any spices, simply grilled and wrapped in a leaf of lettuce or a sesame leaf with gochujang, marinated onions, garlic, and/or kimchee. alternatively, the meat is dipped in a dish of salt, pepper, and sesame oil (as in the picture). it is essential for this meal to be consumed with alcohol, preferably soju. and it's cheap. lovely.
on the way up the mountain in haraboji's tractor
i thought chris looked so silly in this hat haraboji - grandpa - at the chestnut orchard
it was a really beautiful afternoon - i cant imagine a lazier atmosphere
the waterfall where we washed our faces and took a nice long drink of fresh mountain water
the countryside around wonchul's grandparents' home
wonchul's distant cousins playing badminton (an extremely popular sport for all ages in korea)
after an afternoon siesta - it was hard work picking those chestnuts and digesting all that food.
haraboji found some old, forgotten bottles of soju which also preserved the remains of a snake haraboji had found, killed, stuffed in a bottle of soju, and burried over 10 years ago.
behind the house
the side of the house - where apparently some relatives used to live and the site of the household toilet before a porceline one was installed me and 할머니 ('harmoni' - gramma)
me and 삼촌두명 ('samchon du-myeong' - two uncles)
me and 할아버지 ('haraboji' - grampa) and wonchul's parents
at the 녹차 ('nokcha' - greentea) farm
posing like haraboji
much of the countryside right around here looked just like this. you could see green tea growing in rolls all over the slopes of hills and mountains, looking like fuzzy, green courodoy
with that ocean in the background, it almost looks just like old times in hilo...
no one was more surprised than i to discover this very life-like replica of my birth. also a pretty good resemblance of my brother on the left.
wonchul's father turns out to be a kindred spirit
a few days after returning to suwon, i took a train into seoul after finishing my morning classes and met my friend 민지 (minji). we walked around a cemetary park which housed the remains of countless soldiers who had died in the korean war (june 1950 - july 1953 - 1 million+ casualties). the park was unbelievably huge for being so near the center of seoul. it was a really beautiful day - one of my last summer days before the weather turned south.
all those little dots are graves. part of seoul in the background
some old guy was being interviewed outside this building. we couldnt figure out who he was. or i just forgot.
here housed the ashes of many other creamated people. a lot of these 'cabinets' were empty, as if the building had been very recently constructed.
these must have been for the general public, since the pictures showed lots of old guys.
looking down at the floor in the center of this building from above. a tradtional korean symbol. what is it called again?...
another view of seoul from the outside.
shooting at a wild boar
yeah archers! you rock!
화성 - the wall
children playing 'get the foreigner' - i was a little nervous seeing them run at me from a distance without slowing down
yup. the wall is right in the middle of the city. pretty cool actually.
the next week i took a train into seoul for the afternoon and met my old friend 영민 (youngmin - we've been friends since my first year in hilo during which we played in the hilo orchestra and volunteered at the UHH women's center together; later i stayed in her home for almost a month while living in korea for the summer) in 용산 ('yongsan' - a part of seoul that has lots of foreigners due to a military base). we ate some vietnamese beef noodle soup. yummy!
a group of kids seated under an immense bullet. this was apparently some secretly designated day for school field trips. many, many children everywhere.
주현 (joo hyun - 'hong-joo'), 현숙 (hyunsook), 보경 (bokyoung - 'bobo'), 명주 (myoungjoo - 'mj'), 혜진 (hyejin - 'alison') (left to right)
left to right again - mj, tall mikyoung, chris, daniel, hong-joo, hyunsook, bobo, alison, me
better not get into now.. i wont be able to stop...
hyunsook kindly helped me ask around looking for a good cell phone deal. we wandered around a department store (homeplus, i think) and at some point i was under the misimpression that hyunsook was looking for lamb meat, though i cant remember why. she bought me a pancake with an egg fried in it (i cant remember what those were called, but they were GOOD, yo) and we spent a while trying to figure out which bus would take me to the train station. although hyunsook apologized for the inconvenience, i thought it was really nice just wandering around aimlessly for a few hours.
me, miri, sieun
miri stopped by only for a short time; she was on her way to daejeon or someplace for her friend's birthday. of course, she hadn't gotten a gift yet, as everything she had encountered or thought of didnt seem special enough. so we made some hasty parousals of locals shops walking away from all of them empty-handed. lol
after miri left, we had a couple of hours left before i had to go. i made the timid suggestion of 노래방 (noraebang - singing room, just like karaoke) and sieun quickly jumped on the idea with whole-hearted approval. another craving fulfilled that day. i hadnt been to karaoke since japan. i sang my guts out and my voice was subsequently at 50% power for my evening classes. 100% worth it. just thinking about how much fun it was to impulsively go there on a late afternoon makes me want to get up and go right now... alas, only 2 hours until class... i gotta finish this up.
singing 80s songs gets the most enthusiasm out of me.
okay. now it's really rockin. and we didnt even have anything to drink. i think we were singing 'way back into love' - a song from the popular-in-korea film 'music and lyrics'
left to right, 9pm interchange 3 class: lucy, alicia, richard, josee's arm
my hagwon's secretary youngmin (left) and japanese language teacher (who i was able to communicate with in japanese surprisingly well, thanks largely to the soju, no doubt)
me and alicia (just pretending to be sloshed)
at the hookah bar following dinner (most everyone is sloshed by now)
it was a beautiful day for a festival in yeouido. many children.
mikyoung (aka: 'kate' or 'small mikyoung' - there were two mikyoungs in hilo the year she was there) a cool little garden path and a cute little family
alison paying respects to daniel and his parents at the wedding hall (actually a hotel)
alison in the wedding hall right before we sat down
daniel and his fiance bowing to each other at the beginning of the ceremony
daniel surprises us all with a song for his wife
the gang: bobo, hyunsook, chris, alison, jiwoo, sophia, sookjeong, brian (who came to stay in suwon with me that night), long J
the after reception gathering and drinking... good 'ol long J - as dapper as ever
i made it!