Category Archives: stories

field trip





I’m feeling so entirely despondent today. everyone had a beautiful time at the temple and the kids really got into writing down ten things they saw in English. I think Xiao thought it was pretty cool, too. it’s 9:30pm now and I have no lesson plan for tomorrow or a plan for myself and where I am going to go for the weekend. I have to teach on Sunday so I really don’t want to go all the way to Seoul, plus its so expensive. Apa talked to me today about how the whole money situation is going down and it’s not extremely pretty so I’m concerned about spending…. but many of my friends are in Seoul so I’ll probably just go for it. Xiao is leaving tomorrow, which is way too soon, though a few days ago I thought it couldn’t be soon enough. my pretentions have really gotten in the way with having him here – I think it was hard to have another American on my turf, and not having seen him for 2 years and then being so heavily associated with him was intense. now I think we’ve had some time to relearn each other and I’m feeling really close to him again. but he’s leaving. tomorrow. damn you tegan.

this whole sexism thing drags me down too, and now I’m projecting that anger towards the rest of the culture. I’m just tired of it all. except the kids, of course. I never get tired of kids. oh, last night at the jimjilbag the MOST ADORABLE kid EVER was wandering around and being cooed at by everyone. it just so happened that I walked down the steps as he was making his way slowly down and he looked up to me with his big, dark eyes and reached his soft little innocent hand out – we walked slowly down the stairs together. he then followed me over to the water cooler and we drank together. it’s interactions like this, truly human, full of life, love, trust; that I really live for.

I haven’t touched my cell for days but picked it up today realizing that I had to make weekend plans and have since found out that I’m totally missing meeting some of my best friends while I’m here. the time is just too short, I guess. many of them have winter school – my beloved Ji-min is taking a TOEFL class right now that lasts everyday from 9am to 11pm. that’s not a typo. it’s a 14 hour class. my other good friend is beginning his army service this week. another good one is in Australia. a bunch of them are just scattered across the country in various inconvenient locations. sigh. the funny part is that my chances of seeing them are probably as likely as the chances of seeing some of the random friends that I’ve got scattered throughout my own country. it’s all a meticulous balancing act – who really matters to us? – what really matters? – why do you love someone? – what is sincerity? – what is real friendship and what does it feel like? – can you ever really have too many friends? I was reading a book of Korean Buddhist stories a few nights ago. one of the stories was about the infinite capacity of the human mind. I wonder if that infinite capacity can be applied to human relations and carried over into infinite love…


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bandages and bondages of the mind

my weeks seem to be getting more exiting the closer i come to departure – and i dont mind a bit. i’ve only got two and a half weeks left now, which just makes me want to cry and cry and try to extend my ticket. but its near impossible. so i’ve got to live it up.
on thursday i went out for dinner with my project group from my public administration class. we had sam-bap, for my first time, and it was absolute heaven for newly-returned-to-vegetarian. there were all these amazing little dishes of tasty veggies to be wrapped up in green lettuce leaves with sauce, just like bulgolgi without the meat. divine.
afterwards we went out to a beautiful valley and splashed around in a stream together with our pant legs rolled up. eventually, someone got thrown in and thats when the pleasant trip took a drammatic turn for the worse. one of the guys attempted to throw another one in, but instead they both fell, one on top of the other – who fell face first, onto a huge boulder. the sun had just dipped behind the mountains, and in the darkness it was hard to tell how much blood there was in the water and on his face. but it was clear that he needed medical attention – so off we all sped, dripping wet and scared in opa’s car through the beautiful valley and into downtown Wonju to the creepy hospital there.
the doctors cleaned him up while Mi-na and i had disconcerting experiences of our own in the ridiculously disgusting bathroom. they bandaged his forhead and told him he would have to go to the plastic surgeon the following day for the stitches. it was obvious that the deepest, darkest fear of everyone involved, excluding myself, was that the boy would have, god forbid, a scar on his forhead. forever! and the guy who caused the accident clearly felt worse then the one with his head gashed open, who was responsive, amicable, and even laughing a little, while Jin-hyung(the trouble-maker) sulked and apoligized profusely – even to me, he said he was “so sorry for giving me a bad memory.” come on people! cant you see this isnt about me, or my memories, or scars on someone’s face?? doctor – stitch that boy up, give him some meds, and let him sleep soundly tonight! what is this?

regardless, i learned a lot about culture through this unsettling event (i called the boys the next day and his surgery went fine, though i won’t actually see him until tomorrow) about how people deal in times of panic and emergency, and what is most important in their minds, what they do and say first. i felt peculiar and my place in the situation was clearly peripheral as i marveled over the fact that even though i have been here for four months and have a good understanding of the way people act here, i still know next to nothing about why people here act the way they do.

that evening i had to attend a party at my favorite bar in Maeji-town with my business students. a friend drove me home in another friend’s car by curfew so that i could submit a paper online, but first backed the car up into the jeep behind it.
nice. maybe it was just me today. bad karma?


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save the moon bears!

Please help Korea's Moon Bears
a few weeks ago three of the most tolerable american students took a trip out to the east coast where they proceeded to save a drowning puppy from a freezing river. i was sitting in my neighbor An-ji’s room when one of them called and asked her what to do – she told them to call the cops or something, then she laughed and explained to me while sparing their sweet, naive innocence, that she really didnt know what to do either, and that there are roughly a bazilion homeless puppys in this country, and that frankly, nobody gives a shit. regardless of my lack of innocence and naivete, i felt a little sad place in me that would save a drowning puppy any day, and hoped the boys would succeed in their task –
they returned home late the next day on the bus, puppy stowed away in Ryan’s messenger bag, looking as cute as ever. they couldn’t keep her, however, so they forfeited her adorable little life to JK who promptly fell madly in love and let the little bugger, whom she named “Inka” rule the entire GV office, tumbling over papers and under desks and peeing where ever she jolly well pleased. within a few days JK gave Inka to a nearby horse ranch where she has lived for the past few weeks. recently she broke her leg and needed an operation which must have cost our compassionate JK a pretty penny…
after our trip to the studio and Insadong, JK hadnt seen the pup for a few long days, so we went out to the farm together on sunday afternoon. it was a beautiful drive with the windows down in her mini-car, pleasant conversation about our dreams and aspirations, and farmers, the toiling sundays worldwide – wading through their warm, wet rice paddys in the early afternoon sunshine –
but when we got the farm, we were informed of the devasting news. our little accident-prone-miracle-puppy had died that morning when a hay bale fell on her little body. sigh. JK cried at her little green grave. we went for a walk in the sunny, pine-laden mountain and vented our sorrows and insights on life and death. we hiked up a modest slope until we came to a clearing that opened into a small garlic field with a valley in the distance. below the garlic field a somewhat large cage surprised us from behind the brush, and as we neared it we were even more surprised to find that it contained a small black bear!! of course we were both startled and the ferocious barking of dog nearby didnt make it any less scary. we went back and reported the odd sighting to a farmhand, who, after being shown the operation herself (whereupon we found that the disheveled complex held not one but TWENTY of these pitiful looking black bears, and about four heavily abused and frightened canines) took the information back to the ranch owner, a Korean-American who is part of the Korean royal family, and, needless to say “has connections.” she was infuriurated and immediately called her sister in Hong Kong and alerted her and the moon bear organization that she is heavily involved with about the incident. copy and paste this URL if you don’t know anything about moon bears and what they are used for in Asia, and their impending extinction as a result (or google it yourself…) the photos here are exactly the kind of sad little bears i saw this sunday the_unbearable_trade_in_bear_parts_and_bile/

the eventful day was entirely unreal. we lost the sweet, little life of our Inka, but may have saved the lives of 20 moon bears as a result. it was at once the most bizarre and yet the most real experience i have yet to have here. while the exposure to such a wierd, far-out and illegal circumstance really put me on the peripheral of the culture here – it also gave me a sense of complete immersion. i learned more about East Asian philosophy, medicine and tradition from this one bizarre illegal practice than anything else here has managed to teach me so far….


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foreign just like me

perhaps the best part about this weekend was meeting Fei.
i knew right away when i saw her that there was something really special about this girl. maybe it was the color red – the rims of her glasses, fingernails, and the rose on her coat. maybe it was her smile, or her style, or the look on her face. whatever it was, i was thoroughly intrigued. we didnt even talk to eachother until about 4:00am when we stood on a balcony witnessing the drama between our korean counterparts over the actions of our american counterparts, both of us lost in translation. i kind of sidled up next to her as she smoked her cigarette and asked her frankly in english if she knew what was going on, and if she was japanese, as everyone assumed. we went on to spend as much of the next three days together as possible. Fei is a chinese girl, in korea for her first time outside her nation, visiting her korean boyfriend here at yonsei and then on her way to japan where she plans to study at a university and work on her japanese skills. despite the language barriers, we managed to express our total amazement with oneanother, and discovered so many similarities in life philosophy and passions that it was nearly uncanny….IMG_1721.JPGIMG_1731.JPG
last night i brought her to the jimjilbang for her first time and we reveled in the harmony of it all together. the hot air, sweet sweat, warm water, conditioned hair, hard boiled eggs. it was as if she were a long lost sister, or an apendage from a past life. sigh. if only she were here longer… she went to seoul today at five, and flies to japan tomorrow morning…..such is life….IMG_1732.JPG

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well, this weekend i really lived it up like a college kid. the whole nine yards, well, i guess it was more like eight yards because i didnt get completely smashed, or have massive amounts of unprotected sex. so maybe more like seven yards. anyhow, i did have a smashing good time and stayed up for pretty much the entire weekend just hanging out, talking, laughing and generally genuinely enjoying my life.
on friday a bunch of american kids and a few koreans headed out to the east coast (again: but this time being extremely cautious of any roadside stands….) for the annual “Membership Training” bash which is major designated, we went to the english one, and is more or less an initiation ceremony for newbies and an drunken bash for all. this event finally quelled my thirst for homo-friendly culture in this staunch nation as the main event of the weekend was to dress up a large group of boys; asian, white, willing, unwilling and everything inbetween, as sexy women and present them to the large group of spectators who cheered enthusiastically – both in support and sarcasm – and camera flashes stunned the already terrified victims. the show builds up from the veiled entrance of the pretty ladies in mismatched blankets, led by overly-enthusiastic female team members


the boy that got dressed up in my group was a very handsome korean freshman (precisely why he was chosen, “handsome” and “freshman” being the key terms). he protested until he realized it was a lost cause (perhaps the first time his beauty has ever costed him such scrutiny…) and then resigned to the fact. his face drooped all night long, until the dress was shed and the makeup washed away he felt no repreive. here he is, presenting him, er, herself, to the cheering crowd….

IMG_1696.JPG i have to admit, these korean guys really make beautiful girls (pssst… and i think many of them know it…)

needless to say, the scrawny, hairy american boys who braved the bold cultural demonstration (…they non-abashadly displayed their enjoyment to the point of abnoxiousness) left much to be desired

all borders crossed – the ladies enjoyed eachother’s company on the dusty dance floor at the end of the evening….

my roommate Ha-na, an english literature major, and i enjoyed the show together, perhaps for very different reasons, but nontheless…..IMG_1650.JPG

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Judy turns 61

i used to think that the highest concentration of pisces-peoples resided in the driftless region – but now i have come to assume that they just stick to their school of fellow fish. our professor Judy Dwyer from the ol’ UW arrived in korea earlier this week after spraining her ankle really badly in tokyo. she has been very well taken care of here, except the fact that Jinkyoung Mok (GV program director) forces her to drink this horrid concoction of dark chinese herbs that are brewed into a stinky disaster that Jk actually goes so far as to call “tea.” jason and i have been taking turns plugging our noses and downing some whenever Jk looks the other direction so as to spare our visiting teacher further pain. yes, we enjoy the pain of martydom. anyway, yesterday was Judy’s birthday and jason and i miraculously navigated ourselves via taxi to judy’s hotel where we enjoyed conversation and chocolate cake until Jk drove us to a nearby restaraunt where we followed up our wholesome desert with some rewarding entrees – black noodles and fried pork things. it was a nice meal.
here is the hugest drum i have ever seen.
the amazing sunset that greeted us on our way out the door from judy’s abode.
judy and i hanging out
judy, jason and i. we make for a wierd looking little family. IMG_11501.JPG

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