Back To Work

And another semester begins in lurvely Daegu.

We’ve gone back to teaching “non-mixed” classes, which means all the students are from the same major.

Problem is, the way the Korean college entrance exam works, you’re basically herded grouped by English language ability (but apparently this might be changing).

So if I’ve got the nursing students, the material is far too easy for them.

If I’ve got any other major, the material is just right or even too challenging.

But they all get graded on a mandatory college-wide curve, regardless of major.

I know, I know — it makes zero sense but hey, welcome to South Korea.

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My Nephew Contemplates The Sublime Nature Of The Universe


Outer Banks, North Carolina.

Actually, he was scared of all the recent shark attacks down there.  Same difference.

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My dad’s neighbor’s garden.  That’s my old man on the left.


My dad’s neighbor’s dog, Nevada.

Good times.

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Back from another great vacation in America.  I saw my dad in Bellingham, Washington and my sister and her family back in the DC area.  We even made it down to the Outer Banks for some beach fun.

Tomorrow I’ll have to go in to the office for a few hours and upload my syllabus for the coming semester, which starts on Monday.

Always easy to forget just. how. slow. America is compared to South Korea — stores, restaurants, cabs, etc.

It’s good and bad, but I’m definitely used to a more uptempo lifestyle 49 weeks out of the year.

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I’m off to America tomorrow for a much needed summer vacation.  I’ll be visiting my dad in Bellingham, Washington and my sister and her family back in the DC area.

Apparently Seattle is going through a heat-wave, which sucks because one of the nice things about seeing my dad is enjoying the relatively cool weather as opposed to the blast furnace that is Daegu.

DC, of course, will be humid and disgusting because that’s my hometown.

And the new semester starts on the 31st.  Boo, time.

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“do what you want me to do”

This being Korea, I have a lot of interactions with Korean cab-drivers, all Thomas Friedman-like.  In addition to their cars being clean and cheap and easy to find (seriously), it’s also a scientific fact that nine out of ten Korean cabbies are addicted to cheesy 80’s English language soft rock.

Suffice it to say, when you relocate half-way around the world you’d be surprised at how many times you’d being going to Korean class on a Saturday morning listening to Tina Turner’s “Private Dancer.”

My god, what an awful song.  Seriously — go back and listen to it.  I promise you’ll hate me for it.

Posted in Korea, Kultur, Music, South Korea | Leave a comment

Godspeed, Jon

I tried and failed to explain the significance of Jon Stewart to my Korean boss.

For me, it’s two things.  The first was his episode after 9/11.  It’s hard to convey how shell-shocked everybody in America was, and how he went on live television to basically hold our hands and tell us everything would be OK.

Conversely, the second reason he’s so important is that he was one of the few national figures to call bullshit on the racist, doomed, willfully ignorant wastes of life and money that were the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.  Around 2003-2004, before it became obvious America had made its greatest foreign policy mistake ever, mainstream journalists were asking anti-war folks like me, with a straight face, “Why do you hate America?”

Anyhow, I was surprised to get choked up watching his final episode.  He can’t be replaced.

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Popcorn Time

You have to love the fact that the GOP primary field is so over-stuff with unhinged whackadoodles that they’re going to have something approaching an overflow kiddie table for the first debate.

I think Bobby Jindal and Carly Fiorina should have to wear arm floaties and over-sized bicycle helmets as well.  Or maybe those cones that dogs wear so they don’t lick their scabs off.

Couldn’t hurt the ratings.

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Travel vs. Tourism

Oliver Farry on the pretensions of “travelers” versus the supposed naivete of “tourists”:

“They are also just as prone to finding something in their destination charming or ersatz. And the idea that a traveller or a tourist (let’s persist in this distinction one last time) is capable of fully comprehending more than a tiny fraction of what they experience while travelling is an illusory one.

The reality of any locale is constantly shifting, according to what is introduced to it or withdrawn from it – the presence of visitors is no different – and the best any visitor can hope to extract from a place is a distillate of the environment and culture, helpfully mediated through their own language, or at least one they can speak.

And, remember, to the locals, especially in countries that are less well off, there will be no doubt as to your status as a visitor – for a Greek or Portuguese person getting by on €700 a month, you are a tourist above all else, your pretensions to greater awareness notwithstanding. That is about the greatest measure of authenticity of the place you are visiting.”

I’ve back-packed through remote-ish parts of India and Laos.  I’ve done more conventional one-day bus tours on Guam (where the tour guide only spoke Japanese, natch) and in Hong Kong (Victoria Peak is not worth the trouble).  I paid a tuk-tuk driver 20 bucks to carry me to the Killing Fields outside Phnom Penh (I ended up having to assist him in some minor mechanical adjustments when we broke down 10 km outside of town).  And I think this passage really nails the absurdity of trying to break travel into “authentic,” culturally enlightened experiences and mere “tourism.”

So much of travel is really about what you bring to the table — what you really want to see or experience, and if you do that in the most out-of-the-way cafe in Paris or one of Korea’s huge national festivals, more power to you.  But chasing the “real” or “authentic” France, China, or Mexico is a fool’s errand, not to mention a fairly problematic one in terms of post-colonial or Asian (“Oriental”) countries.

I’ve always found “tourist-y” places kind of fascinating, actually.  They’re not my preferred cup of tea but I want to experience as much of a foreign country as possible.

The economic point at the end is important as well.  As a white dude in Asia, who the hell am I to arbitrate what an “authentic” experience of, say, Vietnam is supposed to be?

There’s no right way to travel, beyond realizing you’re a tourist no matter how elevated your tastes might be.

And I’ve said it before — one of the most authentic meals you can find in Asia is at a KFC.  (Don’t stop there of course.)

Posted in Food, Kultur, Travel | 2 Comments

Winding Down

True Detective season two is that novel you’re going to force yourself to finish even though it’s kind of balls.

I mean sure, episode seven gave us some action and ZOMG SEX but if it’s all going to end next week in a big old shoot-out then there’s really not much of a payoff for the absolutely convoluted plot so far.

But it’s amazing how they made two rather gorgeous humans like Colin Ferrell and Rachel McAdams look pretty damn desperate and unattractive in that final scene.

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