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The Good, The Bad, The Impossible All Have Something to Teach Us

Hey, teachers, both ESL and good old fashioned first language educators: do kids annoy the shit out of you sometimes? Oh, absolutely! Children are unpredictable as hell. One day, the little angel can turn into a little asshole. Heck, they can do that in the span of one class. Then there are the ones who are never nice, the little sociopaths seem to want to stop at nothing to turn your psyche into a puddle of sad goo, waiting to be dumped into the nearest drain, flushed away with your self-esteem, hopes and dreams.

But not all experiences are like the bleak picture described above. If they were, I am not sure anyone would have the fortitude to withstand a day in a classroom, let alone a year. For those that could, you get my eternal gratitude, and any drugs I could find for you.

Even the assholes usually have a reason why they are assholes. And, like their swing toward terror from angel, terrors do occasionally swing back to angel, often unexpectedly.


Guest Post: All Foreigners Come Back

About two years ago Conor wrote a real nice piece about me as I had just left Korea. It’d been a pretty long journey for me as I’d been there for five years. As Conor wrote I was pretty excited to do some things I’d been saving and planning for a while, but beneath all that was some anxiety as my long term plans were still unclear.

It’s a long story but the short version is my first job out of college was teaching in the Midwestern United States. It was a tough place with a lot of challenges, and after two years I decided to leave. I had the idea in my head that I accomplished something, and thought I now deserved some fabulous life or something like that. Basically as soon as I left my life went downhill. Lots of different things went wrong, had some ugly experiences etc. One thing led to another and I ended up taking a job in Korea.


문득 내가 잘못 살고있다는 느낌 때문에 잠 못드는 밤…

작게 크게 오규원 시인의 시.

잠자는 일만큼 쉬운 일도 없는 것을, 그 일도 제대로 할 수 없어
두 눈을 멀뚱멀뚱 뜨고 있는
밤 1시와 2시의 틈 사이로
밤 1시와 2시의 공상의 틈 사이로
문득 내가 잘못 살고 있다는 느낌, 그 느낌이
내 머리에 찬물을 한 바가지 퍼붓는다.

할 말 없어 돌아누워 두 눈을 멀뚱하고 있으면,
내 젖은 몸을 안고
이왕 잘못 살았으면 계속 잘못 사는 방법도 방법이라고
악마 같은 밤이 나를 속인다

문득 내가 잘못 살고 있다는 느낌 때문에 잠 못드는 밤.

내가 죽을 때. 사고사가 아닌 그렇게 그렇게 살아가다가 늙어 늙어 죽음이 언저리에 왔을 때. 그때.
그날 어느날 주위를 돌아봤을 때. 나를 돌아봤을 때. 내 인생을 돌아봤을 때. 내가 걸어왔던 길이 후회와 아쉬움이라는 구역질나는 오물로 여기저기 뒤덮여 있음을 깨닫게 될 때. 그때를 상상해본 적이 있는가? 나는 매일 상상한다. 몸서리가 쳐진다. 무섭다. 그런 순간을 맞이할 바에야 지금 이 순간 당장 죽는 것이 백만번 낫다는 생각을 수없이 한다. 죽음을 직시하고 죽음에 대해서 생각하고 죽음에 대해서 고민하고 죽음과 1대1로 마주하는 시간을 가지게 되면 우리가 현재의 삶에서 고민하는 것들 그리고 미래의 불투명한 것들에 대한 불안감, 답을 알 수 없는 선택에 있어서 고민들을 해결함에 있어 많은 도움을 받게 된다.

이왕 잘못 살았으면 계속 잘못 사는 방법도 방법이라고 악마 같은 밤이 나를 속인다.


모든 순간이 꽃봉오리이다.

나는 가끔 후회한다
그때 그 일이
노다지였을지도 모르는데…
그때 그 사람이
그때 그 물건이
노다지였을지도 모르는데…

더 열심히 파고들고
더 열심히 말을 걸고
더 열심히 귀 기울이고
더 열심히 사랑할 걸…

반벙어리처럼
귀머거리처럼
보내지는 않았는가
우두커니처럼…
더 열심히 그 순간을
사랑할 것을…

모든 순간이 다아
꽃봉오리인 것을.
내 열심에 따라 피어날 꽃봉오리인 것을

-정현종, (모든 순간이 꽃봉오리인 것을) -김영철 지음,한국경제신문 ‘일단,시작해’ 90p

그렇다. 우리가 살아가면서 내가 살아가면서 얼마나 많은 순간 이런 후회를 했던가…
그때 그 일…
그때 그 사람…
그때 그것…
그것이 노다지였을지도 모르는데…
그때 그것을 했더라면 지금쯤…

지금 이 순간에 충실하자

오늘 코칭시간, 팀원 한명의 발표 내용중에 미래와 현재, 과거에 관한 내용이 있었고 그것에 관해 많은 질문과 깊은 토론이 있었다.

나의 생각은 이렇다. 과거는 이미 지나갔다. 후회해도 결코 되돌릴 수 없고 이미 지나가 버린 시간이고 내 손에서 떠났다. 아무리 손을 뻗어 움켜쥐려 해도 결코 움켜질 수 없다.


(실전영어이야기) 나이 때문에 망설이는가?

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(photo by Simon/Simba with kettlebell)

현재 다큐멘터리 인터뷰영상 번역 후반작업중이라 정신적 스트레스가 이만저만이 아니네요. 이런 정신적, 육체적 압박감 다른 말로는 스트레스를 느낄 때 저는 제가 살아있음을 느낍니다.

시험 치기 전날 벼락치기할 때의 그 압박감! 회사에서 힘든 프로젝트를 맡아서 팀원들과 함께 밤을 새며 내 모든 열정을 쏟아부을 때의 그 압박감! 잡지 기사 마감일, 혹은 학생이라면 리포트 혹은 논문 제출 전 마감일의 압박에 머리에서 김이 나는듯한 느낌이 날 정도로 집중할 때의 그 압박감!

많은 사람들이 이런 압박감을 부정적인 스트레스로 받아들이며 극도로 싫어하고 그래서 그런 상황을 애써 모면하려 하고 피하려고 하죠. 그런데 이런 상황을 부정적인 스트레스로 받아들이지 않고 그 상황을 즐기게 되면 그때 여러분은 새로운 인생을 살게 될 것입니다.
쓸데없는 서두가 너무 길었네요.

두번째 글입니다.(첫번째 글에서 밝혔듯이 글이 반말인 점 이해하시길.)

‘You are never too old to start a journey that will change your life’ -Charles Bukowski

내가 영어회화정복이라는 원대한(?) 목표를 세우고 도전을 시작했을 때 주위사람들에게서 수많은 부정적인 말들 중에 가장 많이 들었던 말들 중 하나.

‘목표는 좋은데 나이가 너무 많아서 안돼’


Even We Are Never Forever

I wrote this on a bus ride after work the other day, following the news that three of our school’s favorite students, and some of the best conversationalists, had left the hagwon. One was somehow getting bad grades in school and his mom pulled him, while two decided to go to another hagwon. Those two didn’t tell me until the day was over. The other one didn’t tell me at all, I found out from his Korean teacher, who also was not told about any of them until that day.

And while students come and go, after spending nine months here and seeing them literally grow up over that time (they’re about 12), it felt like a little bit of the air was knocked out of me.


플라톤의 ‘이데아’와 자기계발

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자기계발이란 무엇일까?
요즈음 가장 많이 고민하고 답을 찾고있는 질문중의 하나이다. 내가 추구하고자 하는 진정한 의미에서의 자기계발. 

‘인생이 묻고 철학이 답하다. 오가와 히토시 지음/홍성민 옮김/더난 출판’ 을 읽다가 다음의 구절이 눈에 밟혀서 글로 옮겨둔다.(책152P)

‘플라톤은 고대 그리스의 철학자인데 소크라테스의 제자로도 유명하다. 그는 아카데메이아라는 학교를 세우고 영원한 이상으로서의 ’이데아’라는 개념을 주장한 이상주의자다.
이데아는 원래 사물의 모습이나 형태를 의미하는데, 이 경우의 모습과 형태는 눈에 보이는 것이 아니다. 영혼의 눈으로 봐야 비로소 보이는 것이다. 그러므로 우리가 보통 보는 것은 이데아의 그림자라고 할 수 있다.
예를 들어, 내가 손으로 칠판에 원을 그리고 ’여기, 원이 있습니다.”하고 말했다고 치자. 이때 여러분은 칠판에 원이 그려져 있다고 생각할 것이다. 그러나 엄밀히 말하면 그것은 원이 아니다. 컴퍼스를 사용하지도 않았고, 자세히 보면 흔들림이 있는 원 모양을 한 도형이다. 그런데도 우리가 그것을 원이라고 인식할 수 있는 것은 원의 이데아가 어딘가에 존재하기 때문이다. 이것은 플라톤이 말하는 이데아다.’


Something that make my life better(Korean)

일요일 오전. 역시나 내앞에는 따뜻한 카페라떼 한잔과 온갖 메모들이 휘갈겨져 있는 노트 한권, 로지텍 블루투스 키보드에 세팅되어 있는 아이패드. 옆에는 여러권의 책이 들어있는 묵직한 백팩이 의자위에 있다.

거의 하루도 빠지지 않고 출근도장을 찍다시피 하는 모 카페 2층.

일요일 그것도 이른 오전이라 그런지… 아니면 천고마비라는 말을 증명이라도 하듯 푸른하늘 때문인지… 카페에는 2층 전체에 나만 혼자 자리잡고 있다.

단돈 3500원에 이 넓은 2층 전체를 무제한으로 빌리고 있다. 음악도 틀어주고, 내 자리 바로 정면에는 커다란 벽걸이 TV에 뮤직비디오도 틀어주고 있구나.

늘 오면서도 무심코 지나쳤는데 오늘 문득 카페 외부 유리벽에 쓰여져 있는 글귀를 보았다.

OOO makes your life better.

평소라면 코웃음치며 정말 유치한 글귀라고 생각했을텐데 오늘따라 왠지 강하게 공감이 간다.

난 이 카페에 주인도 모르고, 개인적으로 프렌차이즈 카페(사실 카페 뿐만 아니라 무엇이든 프렌차이즈를 개인적으로 좋아하지 않는다.음식점이건 체육관이건…)를 좋아하지 않기에, 그리고 커피맛도 중급 이하이기에 그리 좋아하는 카페가 아니다. (더 깊게 얘기하면 이 카페 이전에 있던 개인 카페와 얽힌 이야기가 있지만…그건 심하게 옆길로 새는 이야기이기에.)

그렇다. 좋아하지 않는 카페다. 그런데도 매일 오는 이유는? 사무실에서 넘어져서 세바퀴 구르면 코 닿을듯 가까운 거리이기에 책 보다가 글 쓰다가 언제든 원하면 금방 다녀올 수 있기에 자주 이용한다.

그런데 오늘 저 글귀를 보니 저 말이 정말 사실이라는 생각이 들었다. 가깝게 있다보니 귀한 줄 몰랐을 뿐. 이 카페가 없었더라면 내 생활이 상당히 불편했을듯하다. 글을 쓰고 책 읽고 공부하는 것에도 상당한 영향을 받았을 것이다.
분명 뜯어보면 장점이 많은 곳이다.


My Stomach Connects Me to This Place

There once was a time in Korea when I was pretty scared to just jump into a new, small restaurant and order something. Sometimes, I still am. But, I’ve gotten better.

Korea likes its chains. Whether it’s coffee or food or clothing or something else, chances are if you see a place, it’s not the only place of that place in this place. You follow?

And those can be pretty great, too, as well as a unique flavor, whether of your neighborhood or just Korea in general. While there’s a Paris Baguette in Edison, NJ, I am pretty sure the Woncho in Jangnim, Busan, isn’t making the trip over to the U.S. any time soon.

The best way to get a taste of this place, a connection stronger than just being there, is eating there. And, that connection gets especially strong when it’s a one-of-a-kind establishment, the type the locals frequent. The type where, yes, occasionally the waygookin might get a couple of looks when he walks in.


Flea Marketing

Myself and Herself have half a kind of a hobby these days. By these days I mean Autumn, as its kind of a seasonal thing. We go to flea markets and sell our *ahem* stuff.

The reason why we say it’s kind of a hobby is because we’ve only ever done it three times, and at the same time we only have so much to sell. But yeah, we’re well into it. We’ve a big black suitcase packed full of old but decent clothes, a few other bits a and pieces, as well as our mat for sitting on, and we head off and start selling our stuff. It’s good fun, social, and we usually come out with a few quid in our pocket.

I think it’s kind of a fad at the moment, because there seem to be flea markets for all sorts of occasions. There are a couple of charity ones, and of course there’s one in Hongdae, and for some reason they seem to be getting a lot of attention of late. Don’t ask me why. Probably because of Hongdae, but who am I to presume?


One Month and a Bit: photos from Korea, August to October, 2013

As I said, I’ve been back in Korea for a little over a month and a bit. Plenty has happened, including Chuseok, the IAK ceili, a trip to Herself’s grandmother’s farm, walks into and out of work, and a little bit of a trip to a theme park.

Here is a simple photo update of the past 40 odd days. Some have had some editing, others go up in their natural state, so to speak.

All photographs copyright Conor O’Reilly, 2013

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Letter from Korea, October 2013

Suwon, Korea
Ocotober, 2013

Dear Ireland,

It has been well over a month since myself, Herself, and +1 have been back in Korea, and what I expected would be my September letter got left by the wayside and is only being seen to now in October. You know you’ll get the usual excuses for not doing anything which isn’t vital to one’s survival, such as being busy with things which are vital to one’s own survival.

After two and a bit months in Ireland, returning to Korea for life, work, and more life, was less the shock we had thought it might be. A smaller home, no garden, no dog, less rain, and that view from all the way up at the top of our tower just seemed to be what was right at the time. There seems to be less culture shock the more we travel between Ireland and Korea.


Instagramming My Environment

Friend and travel blogger Steve Miller a.k.a. The QiRanger, has started a new October series of videos titled Eye on Your Environment. His aim is to look a little closer at the world around him, and to talk about what makes his environment special to him. I can see a lot of worth in this kind of post (and have tried myself before), but especially because Steve doesn’t live too far away from me and in an environment which is not too dissimilar to Yeongtong.


This Post is for My Father

Unlike in 2005, when I pined over a girl who was never going to go out with me again for 40 days before I decided to go home, or in 2010 when I pined over being anxiety-riddled and aching from a shit gallbladder for 55 days before I decided to go home, I have been able to remain in relatively steady contact with my father since arriving back in South Korea in February 2013.

Skype can definitely be thanked in large part for that. It was not around in 2005, nor was a laptop and I never bothered getting a cell phone before I bailed. It was around in 2010, and I did have a laptop, but I didn’t really reach out to my father as much as I probably should have. Most of my calls home tended to be to my best friend, Amanda, who at that point was more just a very good friend and I used to date and who was getting increasingly sick of me butting in on the conversations she was having with another boyfriend at the time.


Days of Chuseok

The Chuseok holiday is ending slowly here. All that is left is the rest of the weekend, but that’s not really Chuseok. Most businesses will open up tomorrow in the hope of catching those desperate to restock their fridge and fill their belly with something other than Chuseok food.

Of course we suffer in Korea this year because Chuseok, a three day holiday, has fallen on a Thursday, so the three days around it also meld into Saturday and Sunday making it a nice rounded five day break. There will be a very slow and more unenthusiastic than usual start to work all around the country this Monday.


70

by Ray Hyland

For as long as I’ve been a resident of dear Dunboyne, there has been a tenuous but definite link back into Dublin City. An artery if you will, which pumps from the heart of the City Centre back to the edge of the old green belt.

I’d guess I’ve been on the 70 bus or one of its variants at least 5000 times since 1985 or ‘86.Probably more actually. I remember all subtle route changes. Did you know its original terminus was just by the Ha’penny Bridge beside an old carpet shop? From there it would wrap around to Liffey Street back onto Lower Abbey Street, pass the old O’Connor’s denim shop ( complete with weird mural that nobody remembers) back onto Capel Street, over Grattan Bridge and back to the still familiar route.


The End of the Summer

It’s still hot in Korea. By hot I mean warm enough to prefer shorts to trousers but pleasant enough to consider the walk, wherever it is you’re going, enjoyable. Only this afternoon it started raining the kind of rain that smells of the heat that has warmed it. Like some kind of stagnant puddle water. And as it drops and hits the ground the water mixes with all the other smells walked into the street, then stewed up to create a black paste which seems to follow every foot’s step in the city. It’s a summer rain true, but not a high summer deluge.

When we returned to Korea from Ireland a little under two weeks ago we were told we had missed the worst of the summer. The breeze which we found chilly was a much welcomed breath of life into a country drained to exhaustion from the hottest of summers. We were grateful that we had chosen our flight dates well.


Home to If I Had A Minute To Spare Towers

I kid because I love. But in this case I’m not kidding. I do live in a tower, a twenty storey high tower pitched between what seems like a thousand other twenty storey high towers. Although mine is made from concrete, steel, and glass, not ivory. This may or may not be a good thing.

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After a long summer away in Ireland, myself, Herself, and +1 have returned to our perch overlooking the ever present traffic which persists along that big long avenue that runs through Yeongtong-dong which I have no idea of the name.


Goodbye, Friends, Hello, Friends: The August Expat Bloodbath

On Sept. 13, I’ll have been in South Korea for seven months. You could definitely call me a veteran now.

The thing with being a veteran is, you start to see a lot of casualties. It starts slow–one outlier here or there that got a hagwon contract on an off-month. But then, either February or August arrive and …

… it’s a bloodbath. Koreabridge becomes a bone-picker’s paradise: everything goes up for sale, from bicycles to furniture to videogame consoles, to computers, musical instruments and, of course, jobs. Lots of jobs.

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<--break->


Alcohol Alternatives. Or, the ‘ICing’ on the Fried Fish

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8 p.m. Classes have been over an hour. We’re back to our normal schedules at my hagwon now that the kids are back in school. I’ve graded some papers, kibitzed with the other foreign teacher, got the approval for two days off in October from my boss that will give me a five-day chunk to visit friends in Japan and now it was time to head home.

But first, I decided to stop into the little mart (for anyone not in Korea, pretty much any place that sells any thing is called a mart here. Not supermarket, though that is used. But even a supermarket would be a mart. Just roll with it) next to my school to pick up a couple things, as at the time I thought I’d make a tuna fish sandwich for dinner (I ended up eating some fried fish, but that’s not the point).


Letter from Ireland, August 2013

Dunboyne, Ireland
16 August, 2013

Dear Korea

Negativity is an often attractive topic. It’s in our nature to be critical, to find issue with what is at fault, and even when we are happy we still find reasons to complain. This isn’t exclusive to any particular situation or condition, everyone does it in some manner or form. There may be some explanation to it, but that is not my aim today.

I wanted to write today about something which has being an increasing source of bother for some time, and since I am now in Ireland I thought it would be appropriate to reflect on it from a particular standpoint.


The Koreans of Europe

No two cultures are the same but every one is similar, right? You could certainly say that about much of Europe, where thousands of years of breeding, trading, warring, traveling, and sharing across ever-shifting borders has caused a mixology of international characteristics of which one can be difficult to discern from the other.

In Asia, it is a little more difficult to separate the differences because the continent has suffered less fluctuation of its borders, and in terms of today’s map, colonialism for the most part decided on today’s borders. But still you can throw in the changes, regardless of actual influence, of international trade, development, colonialism, the sharing of ideas, television, and migration, and the wind at the weekend if you wish, and you will soon realise the stark similarities between peoples and cultures there.


Thoughts at Six Months: One and Done or Beyond?

The majority of those who come to South Korea to teach English, to experience a new culture and all the standard trappings of the “expat experience,” usually stay for their first contract—one year. I base this only on anecdotal evidence. After nearly six months here (in a row, at least), I have already said goodbye to several who have stayed their one year; I will say goodbye to several more this month. Maybe some of them extended their stays by a month or two, as Martha did. But, for the most part, for many, it’s one and done.

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Chickens Fried by a ‘Donky,’ Reunions 8 Years in the Making

Sometimes, I feel like a teenager. I feel like I’m 21, leaving the U.S.A. for the first time on a seven-day trip to the Czech Republic. Sometimes, I’m going to South Korea for the first time.

It was almost eight years ago that last one happened. And, while sometimes it seems like no time has passed, the gray hairs becoming even more apparent in my beard and on my arms tell me otherwise.


Colours, Colours, Colours! A Good Vibes Post for My First Two Weeks Back in Ireland.

I’ve been back in Ireland for approximately two weeks. I promise that during this post I will not mention the weather too much. All I can say is that it has been unseasonal.

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When we return to Ireland we spend most of time in my parents home and my old stomping ground, Beechdale in Dunboyne. At the best of times it’s a fairly ordinary housing estate on the outskirts of Dublin, albeit in County Meath. We also managed to get down to Kerry for a few days, to show the visitors around (the visitors being Herself’s oul pair who are over here with us).

Well, we’ve been doing plenty of touristing around here (yes there are some things worth doing) and also down in Kerry. It has been a good few weeks.


For Amanda, My Best Friend Who Will Be Here Soon

For eight years, this whole tale of Korea–of coming, going, coming back, leaving again, then finally arriving and staying–has been about me. I have been a little self-centered about it, I will admit. It’s been my “thing,” my narrative.

On July 24th, 2013, it will become her narrative, too.

Amanda, my best friend–the girl who fielded my calls in the afternoon in Korea when it was 3 a.m. in New Jersey; who, despite dating a guy at the time would still field my calls when the two of them were talking; who nursed me back to health when an unexpectedly incredibly painful gallbladder surgery recovery laid me out for several days after I came home early in 2010–is coming to Busan next month, to teach.


Jangnim, Uphill. Or, Forever Expanding My Mental Map

(Cheap plug! Also, be sure to check out my first Busan Haps article, published this morning on the lovely and talented, tireless volunteer, Katherine Herrmann!)

After spending a certain amount of time in a place (it must be different for everyone how long that amount of time is), we develop “mental maps” of our surroundings.


A Letter to My Seven Month Old Daughter

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Dear +1,

Look at you with your smiles and shitty nappies, you are the world too me. You may not realise it as you are undoubtedly focusing on something you just saw and must now touch, but it’s true, you mean so much to me.

I am writing to you today as I wish to part with some advice. As you are young it is hard for you to understand much, and as you are young it is your natural inclination to believe that you are 100% correct about everything. If the truth be told you will not learn the fallacy of this until you are, well probably close to your own deathbed many years from now.


Rando Man

The photo below does not inspire much, I imagine. It is in many respects quite depressing. A dry and slightly burnt piece of toast, a cold strip of streaky bacon, and the end of a rather watery looking class of orange juice, all wrapped around a white circular border. It is, other than the leftovers from my breakfast, a pitifully ordinary scene worth no moment of fame in any media. It is not artistic, so don’t go thinking it is. The loose crumb is only a loose crumb, the juice was as I left it, as was the toast and bacon. Just to the right was a eggy plate and a mug with a thin brown layer of leftover coffee. The photo was entirely random. So why bother?

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On traveling alone

To travel, human
But let me travel with you
For that is divine

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