The sparse writings of a dedicated hermit continue...

Sun Feb 1, 2004

I have a feeling this journal will soon fade into obscurity and neglect, as often happens when people no longer feel the need to communicate their lives to others outside of their immediate social context. I hesitate to cease these writings entirely, but at the end of the month I will no longer be a hermit in the hermit kingdom, and this journal will have served it’s purpose. I am not one to constantly barrage an internet vacuum with the minutiae of my daily life but… it is kind of cool having a blog I guess! I may just breathe new life into it and birth a more introspective, philosophical writing forum, I don’t know, I certainly will have the time when I’m finished up here, but quite frankly, I don’t think I have a huge following except for a few very cool people like yourselves, so this thing won’t be missed I’m sure.

Anyways, I have some new pictures on my site, I’ve actually reached nine whole pages of pics, click here for the latest ones. I realize Geocities sucks big-time, and sometimes the site is inaccessible for short periods of time. It’s because of a ‘data transfer ceiling’, which means it shuts down under high traffic. Why any company would want to sabotage their own efficiency is beyond me to explain. I couldn’t be bothered to improve the situation, so all I can do is apologize.

Things are going pretty well, considering. On the work front I’ve had to bite my tongue a few times to avoid getting into a confrontation with Debbie. Mostly over trivial nonsense - it’s the classic emotionally fraught ‘I know I’m right and she’s wrong, but being my supervisor she is always right’ scenario. I also know, in a rational sense, that confrontation is futile and given the cultural and personal context is inadvisable. It’s amazing how rigorous anthropological training can fall away when you have your back up and you’re stressed and so near the end and the temptation to buck against the restraints is overwhelming.

Besides from that I’ve come to feel quite sorry for these kids in general because, with exception of course, genuine parenting seems to be replaced by superimposed parental ambition over here… a phenomenon that has been unfairly criticized by Western intellectuals I’m sure, but does exist nonetheless. Kids are pushed to succeed at a very young age, and are placed in structured learning environments for the whole day and given very little opportunity for natural play, exploration or family bonding. If they express an interest in drawing for example, as most children do, they are whisked off to an ‘art academy’ for training. That’s probably why a lot of my students don’t think colouring is very much fun at all, because it’s become a chore. A lot of kids, barely six years old, go to several English academies, ‘art’ schools, Tek-won-do schools, piano or violin lessons. One of my six year boys expressed dismay to me because his mother constantly blasts piano music into his bedroom. Classical music apparently increases ones IQ, a bona fide wives tale if there ever was one. It’s almost comical, and to my mind, most certainly verges on the absurd.

That’s one side of the coin of course, on the other side, I quite admire the discipline and drive of such practices, insomuch as the nation as a whole will reap the economic rewards of producing a dedicated and task-orientated workforce. The West could learn a lot from the East and visa versa (I thought I would throw that in there so I don’t sound like a self-righteous Western bastard, although I think it’s probably too late).

I may rant about the system, but on a human level teaching here in a small town has been just my cup of tea and I’ve really come to enjoy seeing the kids show up in the morning with their big smiles and dusty little shoes (and of course been overjoyed to see them leave again). The kids really are respectful and good-natured for the most part and I haven’t experienced the horrid anarchy I hear about at other schools, especially in Seoul. It’s very rare that I’ll get the “puck you” and finger combination for example, something that irks other teachers. It happened once but after I threatened to break the child’s finger off it unequivocally ended the matter. But even then, it was all in jest of course.

On the social front I’ve been keeping it relatively low key as usual. I really enjoyed a hike I took up Gamaksan (Mt. Gamak) a while ago with Brian. There was a while there where it was really really cold, like minus 20 degrees Celsius. On one day I was taking pictures in Seoul and I lost all feeling in my hands and for a frightening ten minutes thought I would have to undergo amputation until they thawed back to life with a painful burning sensation. Let’s see, what else? These are just snippets really. I bought a cool leather jacket in Itaewon and made the usual foreigner pilgrimage to Subway. I’ve been playing Knights of the Old Republic more than anyone ever should. I’ve been hanging out with this cool American guy from Washington called Sky, his girlfriend was thinking about taking Sulu’s job at Wonderland but things didn’t work out there because of differences on both sides. Sky has also been getting me into scrabble, although being an English-Lit major he consistently kicks my ass. Last night we went down to Sinchon in Seoul, the student quarter always has a great atmosphere and once again I wasn’t disappointed. They have such great names for rock bars down there, like Judas or Sabbath and Cock’s blue and, my favourite, HA!.

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