Wednesday, September 19, 2007


We were done with chess. I won, barely. The room was filled with happy people, drinking, lounging, eating, some even settling into their beds laid out on the wooden floor. Charles and I went to the front door and put on our shoes and stepped out on the porch for a cigarette. We were up near the Northern border outside a beach town for our company weekend retreat. It had rained all day. The wooden deck was covered in beads of water. We lit our smokes and exhaled. We stood in silence for a minute. I was listening to the wind through the trees, breathing in the clean air, face red with drink. The Crickets chirped. I can't remember ever being as content.

"mmm, You like, ah...wait, wait," He took his cellphone out of his pocket and with one hand typed a Korean word into his English dictionary. I watched the screen in anticipation. The word popped up. Romantic. "Ah romance," I said. Yes very much. He was smiling. He told me he likes to be romantic with his girlfriend, how he can't wait to marry her. "Where is your girlfriend? Why is she not here?" I asked. "No come. Work." "Ahh." "I come, I drive in car four hours to see you, and Bryan and Ben. You good friends. Your mind, my mind, same." I smiled, same minds. "Thanks Charles. I'm glad you came."

"You want to walk?" So we walked down the dirt road that winds through small rice fields and eventually climbs over a little hill covered in pines and slopes down into the Pacific. "You know what is awesome Charles, that I can come from over the sea and meet people like you, people with like minds. We don't even speak the same language but we communicate through games like chess or through music." I drew the word communicate with my fingers on the air. "I'm glad you made it tonight." "Ah, mmm hmm," he said.

"You have tattoos?" He asked.

"No tattoos. You?" He told me he had one on his back. It meant something, peace I think he said. "Are you going to get more tattoos?"

"Yes. I want more."

"What is it about tattoos that you like? mmm, Why do you like tattoos?"

Ah, he said. "I don't like my life. Tattoos, mmm like, mmm, ah..." he was frustrated. "You don't like your life?" I asked slowly, perplexed.

His brow creased at the center and he looked up and searched right and left in his brain for the right word. "I get tattoos, because I don't like my life. I get tattoos for..." and he brought out his cellphone again and typed out a word. The light on the phone monitor was bright in the country night. There was a word on the screen that made my stomach twist and my eyes nearly fill with water. Redemption. "Ahh, redemption," I whispered.

"You know word?"

"Yes. I know that word."

You get tattooed for redemption. I understand. Yes, I understand."

I patted him on the shoulder, and smiled. Come on, let's get back to the house."

Charles, my new friend and I walked back to the house, like minds, like hearts.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Harder Than It Looks

One of the words on the children's vocabulary list was chemical. Chemical--n. a substance. "Who can give me an example of a chemical?" I asked them. Blank stares. “Okay how to illustrate this one,“ I thought, like I do so often these days when explaining something that to a native English speaker is second nature.

I went to the white board with three different colored pens in hand. I began by drawing a simplified periodic table, filling in the first box with an H for Hydrogen and the second with an He for Helium and so fourth, after each box looking back at the kids to see if I was enlightening them. Blank stares.

Do you know what the periodic table is? No? It's a chart listing elements from the lightest to the heaviest. "Has anyone heard of the hydrogen atom?" No, no one had heard of Hydrogen. One boy in the back asked, "Teacher, what is atom?" Oh gosh, "An atom is the smallest bit of matter. Here, let me draw it for you. I turned back to the board and drew a circle inside a circle with rings around it. Turned again. Nothing. I put an "e-" on one of the rings to illustrate the concept of an electron shell. Each time I turned I saw the same horrific glossy eyed stare coming from my students which compelled me to draw anther interesting chemistry model.

After about five minutes of this madness I became aware of my surroundings, that but for the squeaking of my furiously moving pens there was dead silence. I told myself, "Stop, your being paid to teach ENGLISH. It is okay if they don't know chemistry yet, they just hit puberty.” I looked at the board and for a moment was terrified. It could have been taken from the wall and hung in a museum of modern art. I abandoned my effort and repeated to the students again, "a chemical is a substance. Everything we can see and touch, everything in the universe is made out of chemicals. I left it at that and moved on. They half smiled.

After class a Korean staff member came up to me and said one of the students had complained that my vocabulary was too high. I had to laugh. If the staff member had seen what I’d done to the white board, I probably would have been fired.

@#$! it.

Like Roger Clemens, I am back from retirement. Thanks for understanding.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Keeping an Inn On Ramandu

While drinking Cass beer on couches at a bar that looked like the Cantina from Star Wars, my new friends and I discussed the internet. If not for the internet we would not be here in Seoul. It's true. The world is very small.

As soon as I got the internet hooked up recently I visited Micheal's site, Yummy Brain Gravy, and was very surprised to find that he had retired his blog. He said that he felt trapped there. It is strange to think about a code trapping you, or choking your creativity. Just exactly how does an immaterial object obstruct you? I'm not sure but I feel as Micheal does.

I love Adventscribing. It is nostalgic--it is where I grew up. I can remember walking the streets of Bellingham thinking about literature and politics. I wanted to change the world and make it a romantic place where my ideals would grow like a vegtable garden. I would sit down at my computer and my hands would move like a blur. The words would just come out. It hasn't been like that here for many months. I'll type and then delete half the line and then type some more and delete. It is slow going. I've always thought of this blog as a story. I've shared with you pieces of me that when put together add up to something. I'm not sure what. The themes in my life now are very different than they were when I started this blog. Maybe I'm not as confused as I used to be. But I want to get my fingers moving again, and so I'll say good-bye, maybe not forever, but until I find exactly how these two chapters in my life relate to each other. Until we meet again, good-bye.