I can’t believe it’s been a year since I spent Christmas with the Buddha in Busan. And, it’s twenty-two days until I pass my second birthday here in Korea. Four months and a few weeks will find me back on US soil.
I realize it has been a while since I wrote on this or posted any pictures. To be honest, things are pretty routine. For me, it is exciting to be making good progress with the book. Also, work is an ever-changing environment, what with co-workers arriving and departing on an almost monthly basis (my friends Amanda, Colin—of Beijing Trip fame—and Alex—of fame I will not mention here—are all gone off to their next adventures). Also, the kids at work are great and of various dispositions that keep me guessing every day. I am commissioner of a Wednesday night bowling league that saw expansion after just one six week season. I must admit, I am almost a bit too into it to be above names like Munson or Lebowski (though I am sure those characters rolled better than I do, not to mention, they were waaaaaay cooler). Nonetheless, after half a week of work, its good to go knock shit over, so long as it isn’t the kids—or the Korean counter staff. I am unsure at times who needs it more. Yar yar.
Since I moved up here to Anyang, I have never posted any pictures of my apartment or of my “office.” I am teaching a good group of kids. Three of my five classes are pictured; can you guess which ones are 10, 11, and 12? Their distinguishing characteristics are more defined than I can ever remember in my subbing days, yet I can certainly see, after five months of working with these particular groups, how much change happens in these three years. Anyhow, the groups shown can, in the span of one class both amaze me with their apprehension of certain aspects of language and, in the very next breath, irritate the hell out of me for forgetting the simple past tense of irregular verbs that we studied only four weeks prior and that I have hounded them about constantly ever since. But that’s the teaching of grammar: repetition. And though they sometimes feel the wrath of my discontent, often I think they might describe me as fun and most often just flat out crazy. I am sure that the former is due to the latter. Sarcasm is a different, even foreign, concept here, but there is a word for it: pung-ja-joken; it is written phonetically and in the Hangul up on my whiteboard so I can point to it as often as needed. If there is anything I leave here having taught, it is the beauty, subtlety and necessity of pung-ja-joken (despite it’s being “anger’s younger cousin”—see movie Anger Management).
I also realized recently that I had no pictures of the changing fall colors. So, early on a Saturday morning, before too many of the natives clambered up Morak-san, I took a hike. I painfully recognized about halfway up the hill that I am in piss-pour climbing shape, but want to get into shape for a February attempt at Korea’s tallest peak, Halla-san on Jeju Island. Anyway, it is quite a sight here in this temperate zone when fall rolls around, what with the dramatic hills surrounding, turning gradually from reds to yellows to rust. And now, most of the deciduous trees are naked like the prickly spine of a porcupine. In fact, a couple weeks ago there was a light dusting of snow that cleared the air that is often so smoggy and unbearable. Also, I took a four hour bus ride to the northeast coast, a border town called Sokch’o, the imposing mountains to the north and west, the East Sea to, well, the east, of course. Dried squid and a sparse population greeted me for my brief stay there. I turned in the New Year earlier this year in another sparsely-populated area called Uljin. I guess cold weather deters people from the beach. And I am glad of that; so often those kinds of places can be swamped with people. I am fortunate to have visited those places during the off-season when the beaches are clean and the cafes and restaurants are amenable to solo travelers.
There really is not much more that is noteworthy or photo-worthy in my life right now, but I am sure that there will be some adventures to share soon, with a long-overdue visit to the Big Bu and Big “Punchy” Paul and his wife, my former co-worker So-yuan. Also, I have an eleven day Christmas break coming up—am still unsure what I am doing—and the Halla-san hike during Sol-nal (Lunar New Year). I hope all is well and I hope you will fill me in on your happenings.