Thursday, December 31, 2009


There's only a couple minutes left in 2009. The fire works will go off at the beach just a few blocks away and I have a front row seat from my high rise apartment in Pohang, South Korea.

Reflecting on this year, I have to admit it has been one of the hardest of my life but as it comes to a close, I am so happy about my future. A year ago, I was preparing to come back to Korea and writing from home for students I had never met. Almost all of that work was based on theory--how Korean education worked in my imagination. This year I have learned a lot and for the first time in my life, I feel like I know a little bit about something.

At one point this summer I had 5 roommates sharing a small three bedroom apartment.

One day I was so frustrated, I stormed out of the office proclaiming, "I quit!"

I lost 15 pounds and then gained it back plus 20 more.

I met new and interesting people, learned how to cook Korean food and read the Korean language.

I read the Lord of the Rings for the 8th time.

I went back to college. I wrote 6 books.

All in all I did a lot this year. But I am most excited to come home and hopefully meet interesting people and become more stable.

I want to get healthy and become a better son, brother, friend, and hopefully boyfriend.

I didn't think the world would last past 1999. The 21st century was not real, it was just science fiction and Y2K would send us back to the stone age. This past decade, I lived my 20's. This coming decade I'll live my thirties.

My one hope for the next decade is that people would become more optimistic about the future and work hard to make our world better. I think Christians need to stop being political and start being loving. People are ignorant about the Christian faith and so it has become popular in recent years to reject religion. I hope that doesn't continue.

2009 has put hair on my chest and I am excited for 2010.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Confessions of an English Teacher in Korea

Hey brother,

Went on a trip this weekend to Jinju--that is about three hours south west of here. Went with my boss and a coworker. The highlight of the trip was visiting an ancient castle and learning the history of a Japanese invasion. This was a pretty great story man. So this Korean hooker is a national hero. A long time ago like in the 1400's this Japanese general came and occupied Jinju, a former city of great importance. This guy was the brains behind the whole operation, planning strategy and having the balls and guts to drive his men to glory. Well one night this hooker gal. She started rubbing on the General and dancing with him. Then when they got near the edge of the castle, where it drops off a great wall on to the rocks beneath, she clung to his ass and dragged him down to their deaths. Dude this broad sacrificed her self for the Country. I guess the Japs tucked tail and booked out of there without their mighty general. It is amazing to think that people like that effect the flow of history. I visited her shrine and saw the place where she jumped to her death with her claws around the general. Pretty cool to see ancient history.

However, history aside, Korea looks the same no matter where you go. Every damn street in this country is indistinguishable from the next. I guess diversity in it's true sense, (not the PC commie Barrack Obama propaganda sense) is really beautiful. Our country even though it is new has so much more cool things to look at.

Anyway, it was another weekend trip of feeling out of place as I ate dinner and lived with my work mate's family for three days. We couldn't communicate a damn word to each other. Just bowing our heads off and smiling like there was no tomorrow. It was a blessing really. But it gets old man. Everyday not being able to say simple things like, "I appreciate your hospitality" or "I just want to be loved".

On Friday I flipped out. I have been so composed and put together here. Just smiling and bowing like a maniac. But man working around computers (full of bugs and tech problems) combined with a major language barrier, paired with the prospect of spending a weekend living on a Korean family's floor for the weekend was too much. When my computer broke down in the middle of class I started yelling and said, "that's it! I've had enough! I QUIT!" and stormed out of the office. I think all my Korean work mates were in amazement and half scared out of their wits. My manager came running after me and pulled me back and was forcefully blocking the door, saying you must teach, you must teach. F it man, we are lucky in America, someday a brother needs a sick day or personal day. I have been teaching my butt off for two and a half years without a break. Even working on Christmas and Thanksgiving. I feel like a prisoner here.

I guess I needed to get that off my chest. I keep telling myself that few foreigners ever come to Korea and experience this life. I count my blessings everyday and have learned to appreciate my home, my country, and begin to realize what is really important in life and how much we take for granted back home. I can't wait to come home. So have a great December, enjoy the weather, the snow in the mountains, Christmas lights and slay bells with your family. Peace Brother,


Monday, October 19, 2009

Far from Home

I click out of the program. Class is over. It's remarkable how when teaching at home from your lap top computer, the transition from work to home life is as fast as the click of a button. With the buzz of the classroom gone--I'm left alone. The refrigerator dully hums. I've got slippers on--I'm wearing a dress shirt and athletic shorts. I'm like an anchor man in my own home; But really, this isn't my home so it's not exactly like that. More like: I'm an online English teacher living and working in Korea. That is strange enough.

It's 8pm. The apartment is too quiet. I decide to go for a walk--to the beach. It's cold now and I take a sweater out of my suitcase. I've lived out of a suit case for two years. The beach is nice. It is clean and I feel cleaner as the wind blows over me.

I walk miles. Just keep walking into the night. I end up on a pier far from home, staring out to sea. The red light blinks above me in the light house. The world is dimly illuminated in red and the disappears into black then reappears. It's pulsating. The waves come in and out. I'm staring out to sea. When I've seen enough, I walk miles back home, go up the elevator. My reflection in the elevator mirrors looks older than it should. The elevator doors hiss open. I unlock my apartment door--back where I started. The refrigerator is humming.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Drab Text books

I wrote the first little story for the first lesson in the seventh grade text book yesterday. There wasn't much too it. Though I long to write deep thematic, fantastic epics, I've come to grips with writing watered down stories for ESL students. And even though my editors don't have a lick of imagination, I try to drop subtle pictures in that I hope the students will pick up on and perhaps, peek their interest in dreaming.

The story I wrote and sent away yesterday was less than three hundred words. A girl goes on a field trip with her class to the Natural History Museum and goes floor to floor visiting the different exhibits. The top floor, the fifth floor, was the MAN EXHIBIT. The girl sees displays of people playing chess, writing symphonies, constructing skyscrapers, and in the last exhibit, traveling to space.

I got the notes back from the editor today. She suggested changing that exhibit to show the history of man. "Maybe you could write about cavemen building fires and hunting with spears" she wrote.

No. No. No. Why should I change that? Why do educated people scoff at romantic portrayals of Man, replacing them with brutish cartoon characters?

I am seeing now that almost every shred of imagination is ringed out of educational material. They bore me to tears. I know that children respond when you ask them to open their minds. I have schools requesting that I teach their students. You think someone would ask me why my students don't fall asleep. Why my classes are fun. Why kids open up to me...

I am just tired of people unwilling to believe in magic--the nobility of Man. Children do, that is why we get along so well.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Two Breakfasts

The first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is check my email. Both accounts, then Facebook. I want to get email. I crave it. I love it when I do.

This morning, after checking my email and finding my inbox empty, I decided to clean and cook. It is the weekend. That is what I do on the weekend. While I'm doing it, I imagine how great it would be if I had someone else to do it for me. To sweep and mop the linoleum floors--to put my dirty laundry in the machine and then take it out again and hang it on the clothes rack to dry--to iron my work shirts--to cook my meals. I'm not sure if I need a wife or a maid. I might even settle for a robot.

The kitchen table was damp and spotless and the dishes drip dried in the dish rack when I sat down with a cup of coffee. I was full from the eggs and ham breakfast I had cooked for myself for breakfast. I put my feet up and tried to relax. I want to relax more than anything but I want it so bad I start to stress about it and in the end I can't. So relaxing has become mythical, like a promised land or better yet, a fairy land. I think just a little more cleaning, just a little more work, just one more week of thirteen hour days at the office, then I'll relax. Yeah. But the next day always brings more work. I wonder if that is what people really want when they talk about heaven, if some just give up on peace here on earth and look for it in the next life. In the next life we will relax.

My roommate woke up. I felt a bit bad about cleaning and cooking in the morning but it is eleven o'clock. Eleven o'clock! The phone rang. It was 11:03. "Hello Mah-tyew. I am Hae-seoung." That's right he was going to cook breakfast for us this morning at eleven o'clock. I wanted to stay home and relax with my coffee and the view out my window but he sounded so happy.

My roommate took off, right out the door, looking like he just woke up: his hair disheveled and a greasy glean to his skin. I tell him I'll catch up. I throw on some jeans and a button up dress shirt and roll up the sleeves, then ride the elevator down eleven floors. I step out into the day. The sun is shinning and the east wind feels like fall. There are children everywhere! They all giggle and say "Hello! How are you today!?" in English and then run away laughing when I say hello back.

Hae-seoung lives right across the street in a tall apartment building like mine. I can look right into his window at night when his lights are on. But with the elevators and walls and gates, it takes me about ten minutes to walk to his apartment building.

"Mah-tyew! Hello!"

I look up and Hae-seoung is hanging out of the twelfth story window waving.

I'm coming, I tell him.

I ride the elevator up. There are three big mirrors in the elevator-one on each wall. They are at eye level for Koreans but I can only see my reflection from the chest down--an infinite loop of my ever growing belly reflected back at me. I turn away and look up at the numbers change on the display as I go up and up. When the door opens, Hae-seoung jumps out and says, "Boo!" He is happy. He loves to eat.

We walk down the hall to his apartment and take off our shoes. His apartment is simple and clean: wooden floors, a sponge on the aluminum counter top, a low table in the corner with a ten year old TV on it, his laptop computer on the floor playing the best of classical music, and in the middle of the room--the breakfast table was set. Mushroom spaghetti took it's place of honor as the main course in the middle of the table and around it were three empty bowls for the spaghetti and three bowls, one for each of us, filled only half full of vegetable cream soup. There was also a board with nine fresh French rolls laid out in three rows of three. For silverware, he had put out two plastic forks for Paul and I, the Americans. How thoughtful!

He dished out our spaghetti and we ate and talked well past lunch time with the window open and the ocean sparkling not two blocks away. The sea breeze, mixed with the Mozart and the smell of mushrooms, was almost too much. Eating breakfast with those guys, even if we do speak in broken Korean and English--was relaxing.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Airport Lounge

I'm waiting at the airport. It's a small rinky-dink airport. Looks more like a bowling alley than an airport. I decide to kill some time so I go to this greasy spoon cafe-bar type place. The bar tender is a real cute girl, maybe a little older than me. Kind of hippie like. Everyone is sweating a bit cause it is hot in the bar. I ask for change to play the arcade game they have there. I also order a coffee. She tells me the coffee is nine dollars. I ask who in their right mind would pay 9 dollars. She tells me she'll give it to me black for $8.50. I pass. This couple next to me is eating french toast. He has on glasses. Looks a bit like a cars salesman or lawyer from the 80's. His wife I can't make out. She is probably younger but she doesn't make much of an impression on me. We strike up a conversation about coffee. How expensive it is.

I am hungry. I really want some french toast. She tells me a joke but I don't get it. She tells me I wouldn't understand. I tell her she can't tell me a joke and then not explain it if I don't get it. The bar tender tells me I'd have to dance to understand. She tells me to stand up. She puts a quarter in the jukebox. We start dancing. It's kind of a fast dance. I still don't get the joke but the dancing is fun. A black girl cuts in and I dance this fast hot dance with a black girl. I thank her when it is over. She has a big white toothed smile. When it is over I go back to the bar and drink water while waiting for my plane to arrive.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


What a busy summer I have had. I took a college course. I wrote three children books. I created a summer program for our school. I traveled home to Seattle and then back to Korea again. Part of me loves the work. It makes me feel useful. After all what would I be doing if I wasn't working. But part of me is getting lost each day--the part of me that longs for coffee on the porch with friends; who writes silly poems about the woods in my journal; that introspective piece of me that feels connected to God and nature--so, this is what being an adult is all about. I feel a bit thin, almost like a wraith sometimes and that can't be good. But then something small reminds me again how wonderful life is and that I am connected to all of it. I ran into two old students today at different times. They both said the same thing--"Oooh! Hello Maht-yu." That made my day.

It is nearly impossible to explain my life in Korea to people back home. Living in Asia, teaching, living with Korean room mates is after all something I never dreamt I would do and even while I do it, it feels both familiar and strange at the same time.

I was just up on the roof having a cigarette before bed. I opened the door to the roof and it was pitch black. I stumbled over a vent as I walked out to the edge to look down on the city at night. After my smoke I looked around at the roof top and realized my eyes had adjusted to the darkness, that walking back to the door I was able to see the vent and go around it. My eyes readjusted to the light of my apartment when I came inside. Living in Korea for two years is kind of like that. I am adjusted to it. What seemed so alien at first is becoming common place. Now it is home that is strange.

Thing is I am always going back and fourth between light and dark, city to city, friends to friends. I guess that is life. But something in me is really longing to settle down. To stop moving, to be part of a more lasting community.

I am proud of my books I made this summer. Proud of graduating university, of coming to Korea by myself and being completely independent. I am amazed at how much I have been able to do by just saying yes and plugging along. But--I am looking forward to the next adventure to come my way. Settling down after all is probably the biggest adventure of all!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Five Years Blogging

Five years ago I started a blog. Feels like hundreds of years have gone by since that day.

Today I am flying back to South Korea after a week long vacation at home in Washington State. I can't really describe this longing I have for home. I think we all have something like it. But living in South Korea is strange a lot of the times and I always imagine my home as this special thing. A strong place, a fortress...but homey, like a warm oil painting of the shire. It is familiar. It is where I belong. It needs me. I need it. I need a conversation in English about simple things--like tomato plants.

Friday, July 24, 2009


I woke up hungry today. My stomach felt as if it was a an empty pit. But I wasn't hungry for food. I wanted to eat a forest in fall, or a love story, or Leavenworth at Christmas time with the hobo barrel fires and fudge smells.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Back in School

Today I started my first day at the University of Maryland! I am taking an ESL certification course online. It was a good first day.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

American Women

I went to the cinema to see a movie. I walked into the theater with nachos in one hand and a coke in the other. I saw three American girls! I found my seat and thought about going up and introducing myself but I held back and watched. They were so loud and big! and they were sprawled out with their feet hanging over the seats in front of them. I actually became frightened. I looked around at the tiny little Korean girls nestled into their boyfriends shoulders and I sighed.

Is it ridiculous to stereotype all women in America as big and loud or is there some truth in this? I wonder if a whole generation of women in America have turned into teenage boys, and I wonder, do they know how very unattractive it is!

Sunday, June 28, 2009


My boss bought me a shirt in America and gave it to me today. I was happy because I need a new summer polo shirt.

I opened the package. The shirt looked big. I unfurled the tag and read the three letters with a smile: XXL

I wear large.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Daily Life In Korea

I have lost all perspective of what I should or should not expect in life. Part of me says work hard and be thankful that I have a job in a down turned economy but another part of me says that my daily routine is absurd.


Wake up at 6am in a pool of my own sweat.
Walk to work at 7:30. Arrive at work with a red face and sweat dripping from every pore in my body. Fantasize about having talcum powder.
Teach my first class at 8 AM from a tiny TV studio in a 4 ft. by 5ft closet. (Door shut)
Walk home again at 9 AM and eat breakfast and use the restroom. 10 AM to 12:30 PM Teach in said closet.
12:30 to 1 PM eat good, but admittedly, strange food consisting mostly of fish and garlic for lunch. My workmates speaking Korean and me not participating in the conversation.
1PM to 2:30 PM. Get caught up on emails and class prep.
2:30-4:00 Teach in the closet.
4:00 to 7 PM teach at onsite center. 90 percent of that is just getting the kids to settle down and show me an ounce of respect.
8PM Finally get to go home, unless there is a meeting.
10PM: G chat with American Staff. Today I was guilted into signing up for an on line college course for an ESL certification that all our workers are participating in.
11PM Check face book every second hoping that I have a friend.
1 AM sleep.

Saturday and Sunday

Head to the office around 10 write text books until 8PM.


Learn today that I need to design a summer intensive course by next week.
Participate in meetings where there is a major major language barrier.
Get stared at constantly for being sweaty and red, not to mention a towering giant freak.
With less than one minute notice get called to an online presentation to show our product to people wearing ties.
Have students draw pictures of me as a bald man.
Worrying about a possible nuclear war.

I can't tell you how good I feel when I finish a task. I think, If I can survive this then I am the strongest person alive. And after locking myself in a tiny room at the office on the weekends and finishing my stories for our books, I feel so proud of myself. I enjoy being in the fantasy worlds I am creating for students, and I'm so proud also to have the opportunity to publish my work that will be read by thousands of people. That is a good feeling. But I just pray that there is a reward at the end. I know that is selfish but I hope there is a reward. I am tired of being alone, and tired of sweating, and tired of not being able to communicate...I am tired. I don't know if I am whinnying or doing something that few people ever do. I just am not sure.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


"Matthew, do you like ja-jen-myuen?"

"Is that the black noodle stuff? Yeah, why?"

"Ji-hyun is not here today, so we order food for lunch-a."

"Uh, so, no woman means no food?"

"Ha ha, that's right, we order today."

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Hypothetically Speaking

During lunch my workmates talk about a possible conflict with the North. I can't understand the language they are speaking but there is no mistaking their concern.

Today waking up to more bad news about the north I asked my American roommate, "Hypothetically speaking, what would we do if war broke out? How would we get out of here?" "I guess we'd have to wait it out on the military base and be evacuated from there."

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Top Ten Signs That You Are a Zombie

I am amazed at the major rise in media hype recently, from something small like hyping a piece of garbage movie like The Watchman to the hysteria of the swine flu. But what really gets me is how these ideas, opinions, and doctrines, that first appear on the Internet, soon become the mantra of the public.

Here is a list of topics that I think people have lost their minds over, they don't think about them anymore, it is just cultural fact and to question it is a grounds for being called "small minded", "backwards thinking", "neo-con" or the ultimate insult-- "Fox News watching Bush lover":

1. Gay marriage--If you so much as utter that marriage is a union of man and woman, well forget about it, you should die.

2. Global warming--Science said, Science said. You're not coming to the BBQ on saturday.

3. How Did Everything Come to Be?--A once important scientific question is now settled. Dude, it was The Fly Spaghetti Monster.

4. Anything to Do With the Middle East--Go watch the video blog posted up on Democracy Now, then we can talk.

5. Teenage Vampires, Goths, and Other Trendbots-- Memo to Teachers: When talking to a student in a black cape wearing vampire fangs, pretend that it is normal, we don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. Failure to comply carries a sentence of one week of sensitivity training during your lunch break.

6. Hollywood Movies-- It's so subversive. And oh, go see Slumdog. It's a movie from a different country.

8. Organic Food and Bottled Water--Don't I look cute with this hemp shopping bag.

9. Wanting To Start a Revolution of Responsibility--You're using the word wrong man. Revolution means sex, drugs, and rock and roll. I don't know "t-e-a-p-a-r-t-y". You must mean tea-bag.

10. The Simple, Happy Life--What a naive ignorant person you are. Let me direct you to hand full of literature, most of which is online which points out everything bad about the world, like how the world is going to end in 2012 because of solar storms.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Star Trek Review

The best part of this movie was when it was over, when Leonard Nemoy says: Space, the Final frontier....To boldly go where no man has gone before...

Sadly this movie didn't take me anywhere new. Here is yet another Star Trek movie where there is an evil alien dressed in black who is bent on destroying the earth. Oh yeah, and time travel for the sake of bringing back an old cast member.

I did enjoy seeing it in Korea though as I was able to arrive 10 minutes before the movie started, buy nachos and a large coke for less than five dollars and get a good seat! I didn't have to wait in line for three hours with a bunch of mouth breathing nerds.

I love Star Trek but I am not buying into the hype that this is a fresh start for the franchise. It looked like a lot of the same stuff that has come out in the last 10 years. I really would like to see a Star Trek movie that could show us "new life and new civilization", a life not yet imagined, a visionary movie. Not this comic book garbage! I am sick of nerdy comic book movies.

Friday, April 24, 2009

I get to be a kid for a living...

Yesterday I asked the students to write their own stories. They had to decide on characters, setting, and action by answering some simple questions. We took notes before actually writing the story. This one girl, She is probably 15 years old, was cracking me up. You probably had to be there:

Who? Waterman

What? drinks water

Why? thirsty

Where? Jejudo

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


I want to see mountains and hike deep into the wilderness. Dry mountains are preferable to wet ones. I hate it when this feeling of restlessness comes on. I want to get out of here, go somewhere real. The mountains seem real.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sunday Evening Thoughts

I have been enthusiastic about the future since I was young. Star Trek probably had a lot to do with that--watching the crew of an intergalactic star ship cruising around on diplomacy meetings with aliens and meeting far out aliens with strange god like powers. Who wouldn't be excited about that? I might not be able to go Vulcan but Korea was as far as I could reach for now. Educating children has also seemed attractive to me if for no other noble reason than to see if I could do better than those teachers that so miserably failed at inspiring me but also to honor those few that did really blow my mind and encourage me.

But today, alone in Pohang, I've had a few thoughts about the world we live in. One thought comes from the pastor's sermon today from the book of Romans chapter 7. The other from hours of mindless Internet surfing that came after the sermon.

First: There seems to be this truth that I find absolutely true in my life and I think if people are honest they will acknowledge is true in their own. That I try and do good but I end up doing bad. Why is that?

Second: I am convinced that the best education is a father walking with his child through the woods, or a mother cooking with her children. All the gimmicks we come up with only lead to more stress and in the end. I have to wonder if, for example having a global online education actually increases happiness. I am pretty sure it doesn't.

So if my efforts to do good so often end in failure and the global project to advance technologically and culturally are not a means to happiness than what is it we are all doing when we work so much?

I saw a movie called "Knowing" yesterday and the narrative has become all too common today in art and culture. Man fouls up the world so bad that it brings about destruction but aliens or angels or both step in in the final hour and save us from certain destruction. It is a sad and helpless plot line.

So again, I'm coming at this from around the edges, whittling away at the corners, but I can't help but feel that this project we have all agreed to work so hard on is in the end a lie. And today I have this urge to tear it down and start over, start fresh. I'm not looking for aliens to save me or angels. I'm simply wondering where the wild at heart go these days when it looks as though more and more people are becoming face book drones and work-a-holics. I want to go to a wild frontier, not to control it but to be part of it. There is something wild and powerful and AWESOME that my heart longs for but I can't find, it isn't in Korea and it isn't on Deep Space 9. But it is there, in the old poems, behind wardrobe doors.

The pastor gave it a name today, and I shifted in my seat when I heard it named. I realized, yes, that is what I've been looking for: Grace. I want to find Grace.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


Last year it was The Wondergirls and I guess this year it is Girl's Generation. I have to admit these K-pop girl bands sure are catchy and the girls sure are cute. I went to to a restaurant tonight and this song was on a loop. I kid you not. Over an hour of this song over and over and over again.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

The Watchmen: A Total Piece of Garbage

I had little else to do yesterday than wander around like a Yankee hobo in the orient. I ended up at a theater and to my disappointment there were only two English movies playing. Benjamin Button and The Watchmen. One of which I had not seen. I paid for my ticket and sat down in the enormous theater by myself. A few couples sat here and there around me.

I am not a comic book kind of guy. I find it hard to relate to people in tights fighting crime. It is something that was interesting to me when I was 6 but not so much anymore. But one thing that is highly disturbing to me are the dark comics that are being adapted for screen.

The only super hero I think is worth a damn really is Superman. An extraterrestrial living among us, a god, come to earth, who looks after humanity with humility. But The Watchmen are different, the movie was different. It was filled with anger, violence and sex. Superheros with broken psyches and emotional baggage, who live in a world of relative morality--mercenaries. Who has time for such garbage. When we make our superheros as fragile and weak as men, what is super about them anymore? Lose the costumes and just make a Life Time channel drama.

There is geek and then there is demented, live-in-your-mother's-basement-watching-porn-and-playing-dungeons-and-dragons-all-day geek.

I've had this experience many times in the last couple years: watching American movies and TV in a foreign country. I always feel shame watching these things with Koreans. I want to tell them that not everyone in America is that dark, is that violent. And would you feel anything but shame, when the people in the audience gasp and turn their heads, as characters are sawing each others arms off?

Does anybody have the guts to create something beautiful, something new, something to rally around, a piece of art that lifts people up in troubling times. Are there people like that out there? Are there people who are willing to dream, that see people not as animals in dungeons but as children playing in green fields? Is everyone scared of being gay? What's the deal?

The Watchmen: a total piece of garbage and truly small.

Friday, February 20, 2009

No Fear

I was taking an online questionnaire yesterday to entertain myself and this one question popped up, what do you fear most: #1. giving a speech #2. meeting the president of your company #3. taking a long road trip with a stranger #4 being alone in a foreign country without speaking the language.

I felt kind of proud. I have been terrified of all of those things to the point of near insanity. No joke. I used to turn red and almost poop just thinking about talking in front of a group. Now I've given some speeches and speak in front of people for a living. And then just two months ago, I crossed two more off the list. I had to ride in the car for eight hours with the president of our company who I had just met! And flip, the last one is an everyday occurrence. I felt pretty good about myself after reading that.

Then today happened. I had to get my physical for my alien registration card. I hate going to the doctor. I hate being touch and examined. But what I really hate are the machines that can see right through me. I can compose myself for the most part for people but the computers know when my heart is beating fast. The computers know if I have been eating bad. That's the stuff I don't want people to know.

Everyone stares at me, which is hard to get used to, but having everyone stair at me while holding a cup of pee is really hard.

I lived. I like that I am conquering my fears.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


I don't know if it is a fault, I think most Americans are this way, we like our privacy, our individual space, we like to be left alone. I am extremely that way. I am a private person. It is nearly impossible to live that way in Korea.

I joined a gym today. I did this so that I will have something to do in the evenings. So after work I went to my new gym. What I wanted to do was put my ipod on, run on the tread mill and space out but it didn't work out like that.

When I arrived, I saw that one of my Korean co-workers was also there. I told him that I had joined this afternoon and he had went and joined too. A work out buddy! A woman trainer greeted me on the way in and she used my Korean co-worker to translate. She told me all about the gym. Now honestly, these were my thoughts: I've been to a gym before, let me work out in peace. Before I knew what was happening her and another man were pulling me to a scale, measuring my body fat, hooking me up to a computer to see my muscle mass and vital signs. I was dumbstruck. So much for my space out time.

I am a fat flipping old guy now and when the computer spit out my health chart, she giggled, telling me that I needed to loose 14 Kg. I didn't need a computer to tell me I'm a fat ass. So after that station, she pulled me to a stretching chart and we did stretching together. Then we were carted off to the bike where she set the timer and speed for us and pushed my back in so I would sit up straight. I'm not going to fight it. What's the use, I'm part of the collective. When the bike timer went off she whisked me off to the tread mill and, same as before, set all the settings for me. When I had jogged for a good half hour, she took me over to a strange vibrating machine. I stood on and it just vibrated my guts out for five minutes. I could feel every fat roll on my back jiggling. It was amazing.

Off to the showers.

I'm not a shower in public sort of guy. Here in Korea people bathe together for fun. So I'm in the locker room with my co-worker and I know I am being awkward but I have to pretend I am cool being naked in a locker room full of young buff Koreans who I know are staring at me. I know they've never seen a guy with red pubic hair. A guy comes up to me half naked and sticks out his hand. "Hello, nice to meet you," he says. I shake his hand. I shower and get dressed. When I am leaving a young guy follows me out and says the same thing, "Hello, nice to meet you." His name was Jahoon. I have to remember that for tomorrow when I see him again.

I prefer to be a loner, but you know, the alternative isn't that bad. I love the Korean people.

Monday, February 16, 2009

There and Back Again

Well I am back in Korea. I got in early Friday morning after over 24 hours of air and bus travel.

It was surprisingly easy traveling this time thanks in part to the virtually empty plane I was on. I had a whole row of seats to myself.

After clearing customs, I headed outside into the cold. I lit up a cigarette at the bus station and guarded my mountain of luggage. Was I really doing this again? I just couldn't believe that I was back in Korea.

After a five hour bus ride, I finally arrived in Pohang. It was after midnight. My new workmates picked me up and wouldn't you guess, took me to McDonald's. Afterward it was off to see my new home.

I have two roommates. One is my boss, a twenty six year old Korean-German American, the other is young Korean guy who speaks maybe a word or two of English. Both really nice guys.

I did almost cry when I saw our apartment. It is so small and I have never had real roommates before. I'm sleeping in a twin size bed. The first time I have done so in over 15 years.

With no friends and nothing to do this past weekend, I took another five hour bus ride north up to Seoul. I visited my old neighborhood and learned a sad lesson. I got off the subway and there I was, as if I had never left. Janghanpyeung. I walked by my old work, past my old apartment, past the GS 25 food markets. It was all there but it was different somehow. It was just as weird and strange and backwards as ever but my buddies weren't there to understand the weirdness with me. I do have two buddies left there and as I waited over three hours for them to show up, I couldn't help but feel as lonely as I ever have in my life. It was like being Holden Caulfied from Cather in the Rye--everything just looked so sad and lonely.

I realized then what I have realized before. You can not go back to happy times. You have to create them constantly and that is life. Maybe not the purpose of life but a reality of it. When I went back to Bellingham the same thing happened, except less extreme. The place was the same but the people were gone, or different. I was different and there was no going back to college.

There is no going back to those times in Seoul.

Once I met up with Brandon and Laura, we met some new people and had dinner and beer. Then it was cool.

It's all about the people you surround yourself with.

Today was a great day. The sun was shining and I took a long walk on the beach. Pohang is a beach city. I have a feeling when the weather warms up I will be spending my mornings on the beach with a book--if I can find an English bookstore.

So yep, here I am. Korea. My last year in my twenties. It is going to be a good year. I'm not scared, but I do know how long a year really is.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Hell's Kitchen

I was watching that cooking show called Hell's Kitchen with Gorden Ramsey. People are yelling and cussing and practically having heart attacks. Chef Ramsey is calling everyone an f-ing doughnut and throwing steaks against the wall.

Went out to eat with my brother the other day. He pulled a hair about three feet long out of his salad and then just went on eating.

I think those guys in Hell's kitchen are taking it a bit too serious.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Bragging, Maybe a Little

This visa thing is taking forever! In the mean time I started work at home yesterday. It felt so good to work after weeks off! I felt that it was a dream come true actually, the beginning of something awesome! I will be designing a weekly reader/magazine thing for the school I work for. I was stressing out about it and you know, when I sat down to start writing, (I'm being paid to sit at home and write!!!) a story just came out. It wrote itself! I didn't even have to try. And then I started working with Andy on the lay out and we were in his humongous room/art studio, listening to music and writing and drawing.

I mean this is what we've been working for, right, and it was happening. We sent it off this morning and kids all over Asia are, this morning, reading our story book! How awesome is God's plan!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Donut Shop

I can see the donuts being fried in the vat in the kitchen. It's late, after midnight, and the man says we can pick any donut we want, he'll just go in the back and get them for us. Give me a maple, I say, and how about one of those sprinkles too.

While he's in the back getting our fresh hot maple bars, Andy and I are waiting by the counter, making small talk about the Vietnamese decor on the walls, but I can tell he is really excited about getting the donuts. I'm happier than I can remember, I can barely stand the anticipation. I can't even contain my smile and laugh out loud. This is awesome, man! I can't wait to get our donuts!

The man comes from the back with two bags, each with a maple bar sticking out a little bit. He's holding them like they are antique glass-ware. Be careful, he warns, rough up the bag and all that hot maple will come right off. He puts in a couple Christmas sprinkle donuts and we order a milk to boot. It's the highlight of my night.

In the car, I'm opening the milk with one hand and shoving a bite of maple bar in with the other. It's hot and gooey. There's sticky maple all over my face and fingers. It's warm in my mouth and so sweet. A gulp of cold milk washes everything down--even enhances the flavor on the back of my tongue. I'm not kidding, I'm over joyed to be eating this donut. Andy and I are eating and describing the eating and comparing descriptions. There are multiple layers of pleasures expanding and carrying me to unexpected levels of contentedness.

We drove to the next city to get these donuts and have them polished off not five blocks down the road. Man what a night!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Another Night in Paradise

Jack's Tavern.

Third time in four nights the police have come to good ol' Jack's. This time the shouting and cussing starts up. Andy and I turn off all the lights and run to the window. Let the good times roll. This time a drunk middle age dude starts running at the mouth. A real classy chick has about enough of it so she slugs him in the face. The man pushes her and starts swingin'. Her gang of dignified suitors immediately jump the guy and start beating him. "Don't hit a girl man!"

With in seconds, five police cruisers pull up and surround the place. People start running. They take the lady to jail.

I am losing faith in women today. No one should hit a lady, ever. But come on. Be a lady. These broads are thug life!

One result of the smoking ban means that all these people that need a smoke after a few beers end up out on the street drunk. No bouncers, no security to keep them in line. Once these girls start running their mouths, then the guys have to get into it and wal-la--no sleep for me.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Jack's Tavern

I'm awaken at 2:30 AM to shouting outside my bedroom window, same as every night. Bunch of drunks. I lay in bed and listen. The shouting gets louder, guys calling each other f@#ers. One guys says, "Come on mother f@#*er!" There's crying. I get out of bed open my blinds and look down into the ally next to the very classy Jack's Tavern. A totally sauced chick is curled up sobbing on the wet pavement while her low life boyfriend is rolling around with two guys, punching and kicking. One guy runs up and kicks the low life boyfriend in the face with his boot. "Don't hit a woman, man!" Apparently the boyfriend had just hit his girlfriend, thats why she's laid out on the ground.

A car pulls up and a woman in the passenger seat rolls down the window. "It's New Year's guys. Stop. Don't do this. Peace and love! It's a new year. Peace!"

The men are still fighting. Fireworks are bursting in the sky above them lighting up the whole scene in a festive glow.

I lean my head out the window, "I'm calling the cops! Knock it off! I'm trying to sleep!"

Andy is in my room calling 911.

Last night one of these drunks busted out my front windshield, looks like with maybe a bowling ball, and now tonight a massive brawl below my window.

I hate bars. I feel bad for these people. What a way to ring in the new year.

Someone Broke my Windshield Last Night

Dear Robert,

You have to go see the movie Grand Torino, starring Clint Eastwood. In the movie, Clint Eastwood is this old school Marine. He received a silver star for his valor in the Korean war and now lives as an old man in his house that he spent 50 years working for at the Ford plant. In essence, he represents the greatest generation, a caricature of our grandparents ethics. Slowly the white working class has moved out of the neighborhood or died off and ethnic minorities have moved in. This once Americana Michigan neighborhood is now a place where blacks, Mexicans, whites, and Asians all have to live together without a clear purpose or role to play. They have unique cultures but all share in a culture of violence. I think that in itself is very representative of our nation as a whole. Eastwood's family turned yuppy and moved out of town up to the hill and their children are spoiled emo kids that have no inkling of the hard work that their grandparents put in to build what they have.

But the thing I loved the most is that Eastwood is a marine throwing racial slurs around galore but he isn't a bad guy, not a racist, in fact he is the hero of the movie. It isn't cool that he is throwing these slurs around but that he can still be a hero in spite of this shortcoming. He does'nt compromise his values by adopting political correctness. He is a man's man. The gangs are threatening his neighborhood and he doesn't wait for someone else to fix it. He doesn't stand on the corner with peace signs or write his representatives. He reacts. He basically takes on the gang himself and by doing so saves the neighborhood from violence.

After Andy and I saw the movie last night we strolled around the mall and I wanted to puke when I saw all these fairy looking young men with studded belts hanging off their waists and gay looking hair styles shopping with slutty looking girls in pink. I thought, what would Clint Eastwood say to these boys. I am so sick of men being unmanly. A man doesn't use violence but commands with his voice. A man works for a living, providing for himself and his family. A man doesn't apologize for being himself but tries and better himself. A man is honest and open and says what is on his mind. When a man sees wrong it is his duty to make that wrong a right. A man leads. An older man councils the younger man. A man does not break windows out of cars in darkness of night and then hide or flee!

I am so sick of the wimpiness I see all around me. and, as I've said before, I'm sick of waiting for a real man to fix things. I'm at the point where I am forced to believe that I am the man! You are the man and together we are men of the west! Grab your sword my brother, look people in the eye, give them a firm handshake, hold yourself with dignity and speak out against those that would be lesser men! Together, ourselves, we can make this world a better place. We don't need Batman, or Clint Eastwood, or Barak Obama, we need to become our selves men worthy of history! They may take our lives, but they will never take our freedom!!!

brother Matt