On Peace Talks and Snowboarding

Greetings, dear readers, and welcome back to A Day With J (South Korean Edition). A lot’s been happening here on the peninsula lately. For starters, you might have heard that the 65-year standoff between the North and South might finally be coming to an end.


I asked my sixth grade students how they felt about this development and they all seemed to view it very positively. 100% of them said they want peace with the North, a formal ending of the Korean War, nuclear disarmament, and better lives for the North Korean people. Most of them stop short of wanting total reunification, though. Only 10% want that. Personally, I have no idea how all of this will play out, but for now I feel things are moving in a good direction and I’d love to see an agreement that benefits both sides.

Here’s a list of my other posts about North and South Korea if you’re interested:
Vacationing on the 38th Parallel
Mississippi J and the Temple of Yeoju
China, Day 3: Midnight Trip to Dandong
North Korea: From Hermit Kingdom to Merchant Kingdom?

Oh, and speaking of countries coming together in a spirit of friendliness and peace, I completely forgot to mention my trip to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang earlier this year.

On February 24th, my friends Jason, Young, and I hopped the KTX to Pyeongchang and went down to see the snowboarding events (Snowboard Big Air).

As always, I arrived at the train station first, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. As for Jason and Young, they were…well…


It’s a shame, really. They missed a lot of beautiful snow-covered scenery.

As you’ll see in the map below, the Olympics village in Pyeongchang was divided up by events. Snowboarding over here, cross country skiing over there, bobsledding right this way…


When we first arrived, we got some bad information and ended up taking a bus to the wrong event. To make matters worse, my heart was broken when I realized that this building was not an IHOP like I’d originally thought.


The only silver lining was that I spotted some interesting Coca Cola advertising. (I wonder who gets to keep the Pyeongchang 2018 Coca Cola trashcans.)

I also got some pretty good commentary about the situation from Jason.

Fortunately, it didn’t take us very long to get ourselves turned around and over to the right place.

Except for a few Korean and Japanese spectators, the crowd was mostly made up of foreigners like ourselves.

If I was giving out spirit awards, I’d give 1st place to Canada – mostly because of the guy who showed up wearing boxer shorts in the freezing cold weather.

2nd place would go to the US of A – loud and jubilant as usual.


The J Fleece is one of the oldest and most idiosyncratic articles of clothing in my entire wardrobe. My grandmother made it for me when I was in college. I still wear it every winter.

3rd place would go to the UK for the two or three Union Jacks we saw waving around (and bonus points for finally standing up for free speech).

From where we were sitting, we had a great view of two large screens that let us know when the snowboarders were coming down the incline. When the right time came, we could then turn and see them fly out over the top of the hill. Here’s a video to illustrate what I mean.

And here are some videos of the most memorable moments from the American team.

Kyle Mack

Chris Corning

Redmond Gerard

The entire experience was a very worthwhile addition to ye olde bucket list. And except for one little hiccup related to my souvenir shopping…

I’d say my Olympics weekend was a success.

Here’s hoping we’ll soon be saying the same about our talks with the North.

– J.
May 12, 2018

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100 Things I’ve Done in My Lifetime


I sat down a couple of weeks ago and, instead of writing a bucket list, I wrote a list of interesting things I’ve already seen, done, and accomplished in my lifetime. It got a lot of positive feedback on Facebook so I thought I’d posted a longer version here. Each section is as chronological as it can be and I’ve included links to more info wherever I could. Some of the things on this list are great, some are mundane, and some are simply things that most people don’t get around to. But, they’re all true. “What will your verse be?

Work and Education

(1) Got suspended from middle school for fighting
(2) Took part in a summer camp for gifted kids
(3) Played Santa Claus at the mall
(4) Delivered pizza for Domino’s and Papa John’s
(5) Co-hosted a successful radio show
(6) Studied German in Bremen, Germany
(7) Attained a masters degree in American Literature
(8) Attained CELTA certification
(9) Taught kindergarten and elementary school students in Korea



(10) Wrote columns for two newspapers
(11) Won a writing contest in Arizona
(12) Wrote an award-winning short play
(13) Won a writing contest in Australia
(14) Had two articles published by the Ludwig von Mises Institute


(15) Saw the Glenn Miller Orchestra
(16) Toured Graceland
(17) Toured Sun Records and saw Jerry Lee Lewis in concert
(18) Saw the The Phantom of the Opera, Cats, and Wicked
(19) Played guitar, sang, and wrote lyrics as part of a garage band
(20) Saw Marilyn Manson at the height of his controversy
(21) Saw Black Sabbath (all original members)
(22) Saw Nirvana, David Bowie, and Prince in concert
(23) Saw the White Stripes in Southaven, MS
(24) Attended the Chicago Blues Festival

Celebrity Encounters


(25) Wrote Jim Davis (creator of Garfield) a fan letter and got a signed response
(26) Wrote Stephen King a fan letter and got a signed response
(27) Met a ton of WWF wrestlers
(28) Interviewed Senator Trent Lott
(29) Met Megadeth
(30) Gave Eli Manning shit at Domino’s Pizza
(31) Saw Muhammad Ali in person
(32) Met Richard Dawkins
(33) Met Salman Rushdie


(34) Went inner tubing in San Antonio
(35) Beat Mike Tyson’s Punch Out
(36) Rode a horse
(37) Rode a camel
(38) Took a trip on a riverboat
(39) Ate barbecue at Rendezvous in Memphis
(40) Partied on Beale Street in Memphis
(41) Partied on Bourbon Street in New Orleans
(42) Went to Mardi Gras in New Orleans
(43) Watched the New Orleans Saints win the Super Bowl
(44) Partied on Texas Street in Busan, South Korea.
(45) Bowled a 2-Turkey game
(46) Set a high score on “Cadillacs and Dinosaurs”
(47) Went canoeing



(48) Was an altar boy
(49) Sponsored a candidate for RCIA
(50) Watched Into Great Silence in one sitting
(51) Partook of a St. Joseph Altar
(52) Ate a Jewish seder meal
(53) Witnessed a Mormon baptism
(54) Visited Buddhist temples in Gyeongju, South Korea
(55) Attended a temple stay



(56) Went to Disney World
(57) Went to Opryland
(58) Visited the Alamo
(59) Toured caverns in San Antonio
(60) Toured the Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans
(61) Visited Washington, D.C.
(62) Toured the Holocaust Museum
(63) Toured the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga
(64) Toured JFK’s assassination site
(65) Attended the Tennessee Williams Festival in Clarksdale, MS
(66) Went to the top of the Sears Tower in Chicago
(67) Went to the Hamburg Art Museum
(68) Stood at the shore of the North Sea
(69) Stood in the ocean in Guam
(70) Ran through the Louvre and saw the Mona Lisa
(71) Attended the Bloomsday festivities in Dublin
(72) Climbed Mount Fuji
(73) Went to the Beijing Zoo
(74) Toured the Forbidden City
(75) Walked on the Great Wall of China
(76) Saw the set of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood”
(77) Went to Hershey, PA
(78) Visited the Andy Warhol Museum
(79) Visited Andy Warhol’s grave
(80) Walked Mapo Bridge in Seoul

Interesting or Bizarre Accomplishments

(81) Got stung by a bee
(82) Performed a stand-up comedy routine
(83) Was a Cub Scout and earned the Bobcat and Wolf badges
(84) Was on a tee-ball team that lost every game
(85) Touched the bottom of the Biloxi Natatorium pool (12 ft.)
(86) Had a mullet
(87) Sumo wrestled (in costume)
(88) Appeared on local news opinion show
(89) Saw Star Wars re-releases in the theater
(90) Karaoked “Sweet Child O’Mine” in a chipmunk voice (got standing ovation)
(91) Became a lifetime member of Graceland Too
(92) Won a “Stella!” shouting contest
(93) Made a cake for a baking contest
(94) Gave my best friend away at her wedding
(95) Snuck an organ out of a monastery
(96) Read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged cover to cover
(97) Told fortunes at the Barnes & Noble release party of the last Harry Potter book
(98) Made a roomful of zombies in a Halloween haunted house laugh
(99) Set up a haunted house
(100) Attended a dinner theater murder mystery (won an award)

What kinds of things would I find on your list, dear readers?

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Loud Park 2017, Pt.1: Tokyo Awaits

Sad Intro Part

I was too optimistic in 2013. Some of you might remember. After living in South Korea for two years I finally stumbled across one metal show and assumed I had found an entire underground scene that could provide me with weekend after weekend of what I jokingly referred to as “True Korean Black Metal.” It was not to be. Once that gig was over, the bands I saw that night all went quiet on Facebook and I eventually lost touch with everyone I’d swapped contact info with.

Two and a half years passed before I got to see another show: Babymetal live in Japan. (Go ahead and hate if you must. Your edginess falls on deaf ears. Pop-infused thrash metal with lyrical themes related to Japanese horror and paganism is at least interesting, unlike that chugga-chugga “My parents were mean to me so I stretched out my earlobes” bullshit.) But except for that, it was a long lonely lonely lonely lonely lonely time for your humble, metal-starved narrator. (Pause here for effect.) Until the metal gods in their mercy threw me an extremely large bone near the end of 2017.


The Loud Park Festival in Tokyo. Holy shit, would you look at that line-up: Slayer and Emperor and Alice Cooper and Overkill and Opeth and Brujeria in a single day. It would have been so easy for the Loud Park concert promoters to do something truly evil like scheduling Slayer and Emperor on separate nights, but nope. Everything I wanted to see was happening on Saturday. Needless to say, my concert and flight tickets were purchased within minutes of seeing this announcement on Slayer’s Facebook page. I didn’t even ask my boss for permission to leave the country. I just said, “I’m fucking going to Tokyo this weekend.”

My History with Slayer (The Short Version)

Like most metalheads, I have a decades-long history with Slayer dating back to middle school. Check out the shirt I’m wearing in this pic from my 16th birthday:

And it wasn’t just me. Notice what my buddy Jeff is wearing in this pic taken a year or so later.


For a period of time between 8th and 9th grade, my friend Dane sported a Slayer logo pendant as part of his daily wardrobe.

61ehyue029l-_ux522_He wore this while drawing a series of comic strips entitled “Slayer Forever in Hell” in which Slayer would invite horribly out-of-place guest stars like Vanilla Ice, Barney, and the rapper Snow to perform at their concerts. These guest stars were inevitably ripped to pieces by rabid Slayer fans at the end of every strip. Dane also made me extremely jealous by showing off his effortless ability to play “Spirit in Black” and “Postmortem.” (Years later I would discover that neither song is especially difficult, but it was a very big deal to a middle school student.)

Another friend of mine famously used Slayer’s “War Ensemble” as the background music for his answering machine message (remember those?). I doubt the original recording still exists, but I once re-enacted it as part of a camcorder movie.

And finally, when I first came to Korea in 2011 I was ambushed by an evangelical missionary at Dunkin’ Donuts who started our conversation with, “Jesus Christ gave you the keys to Heaven. What has Satan ever given you?”

Without missing a beat, I said, “Slayer.” Confusion and hilarity ensued.


And yet, for all my years of listening and spreading the good news, I somehow never managed to catch Slayer on tour before Loud Park.

So you can imagine how excited I was when I stepped off the subway at Saitama Super Arena and was immediately approached by a Japanese guy who took one look at my Slayer hoodie, threw up the horns, and yelled, “FUCKIN’ SLAYER!!” I was home.

On my way over to the arena I became fast friends with some guys from Malaysia and the Philippines, all of whom had flown over for the show.  No joke, if I hadn’t known where I was it would have been almost impossible to tell from the crowd. During the course of the day I met people from Japan, Canada, Argentina, the States, and even Russia.

Once inside I quickly realized that Saitama really had its shit together in terms of crowd control. Instead of crushing everyone together like cattle, they had a barrier running straight down the middle of the hallways. Merchandise and concession stands were on one side. Foot traffic was on the other. If you weren’t buying anything, you could just walk along without having to fight your way through a crowd. Well done.


The stage setup was a similarly well-oiled machine. At the front of the arena there were two stages sitting side by side (seen in the pic above). Whenever a band was playing on one stage, the next band’s crew was setting things up on the other. Like clockwork, one show would end and another would start five minutes later. No rest for the impatient.

The Shows

Because I’m not one of those toolbags who goes to concerts and stands around with my phone in my hand, I don’t have a lot of pics and/or videos to share. Fortunately, a lot of the toolbags who do that shit have posted their videos on YouTube. Here now are a few choice moments from Loud Park along with my commentary.

L.A. Guns

The first band I saw perform was L.A. Guns. Good showmen, but not my style. They were one of the minor bands from the glory days of 1980s hair metal. You might remember their biggest hit, “The Ballad of Jayne.” (Fun fact: in the mid ’80s, a few members of L.A. Guns and another band called Hollywood Rose got together and formed a new band called….? Guns N’ Roses.)


One of the crown jewels in my high school collection of death metal cassettes was my copy of Brujeria’s Matando Gueros with the uncensored cover (featuring actual photos of a severed head). I had to special order that bad boy from Bebop Record Shop and wait two or three weeks for it to arrive, presumably from Mexico. I played it for the Spanish exchange student my family hosted and sat by like a little ghoul while he translated all the fucked-up lyrics for me. (Turns out “Matando Gueros” means “Killing Whiteys.”) Brujeria kept the circle pits blazing, led two or three anti-Trump chants, and ended their set with a marijuana version of the Macarena. Don’t believe me? Just watch the video above. (Note: this video is not from the Tokyo show, but they did the same thing.)


How Winger ended up on the same bill as Slayer and Emperor I’ll never understand. While they were busy sucking, I struck up a conversation with a very loud, very drunk Canadian guy who asked which bands I’d come to see. When I said “mostly Emperor and Slayer” he proudly showed off the Emperor tattoo he’d recently gotten on his bicep and explained how he and his girlfriend had completely changed their Asian travel plans just to come and see this show. He also made an interesting point that seeing Emperor live was actually a pretty rare experience for North Americans, given that they don’t often tour the US and only play a few shows when they do…See how I’m writing about Emperor under Winger’s heading? That should tell you my level of interest in seeing Winger.


Opeth is one of those bands that a lot of people are really into, but which for some reason I just can’t find a lot of enthusiasm for. From what I understand their earlier albums are completely brutal, but most of what they record nowadays is melodic and proggy. I don’t dislike them – they put on a good show with some pretty heavy riffs – but I’m not hooked yet. All ears if anyone wants to point me toward the albums I absolutely need to hear from them.


Overkill was hands-down the biggest surprise of Loud Park 2017 for me. Growing up I was (obviously) a big fan of thrash metal – The Big 4, Exodus, Dark Angel, Testament, Sepultura, Virus, Kreator…. – and yet I never owned any albums by Overkill. Huge mistake on my part. They tore it up and rivaled Brujeria for the wildest pits. Lately I’ve been making up for lost time, going back and getting their albums. Really great shit. And their lead singer, Bobby Blitz, is fucking hilarious. Glad I got to see them.

Alice Cooper

Loud Park 2017 marked the third time I’ve seen Alice Cooper in concert. The first two times were in my hometown of Biloxi and the neighboring city of Gulfport. (He plays the casinos there quite a bit.) I’ve also seen Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie, which grants me membership in a special club for people who’ve seen all the major shock rockers. (Unless you count KISS as shock rock – I haven’t seen them.) Alice always kills it. The man’s a legend.


I would have been stoked to see any of the second wave Norwegian black metal bands, but seeing Emperor was the best of all possible worlds. If you follow my Instagram, you know that Emperor was the band I always turned to when my students had their weekly violin lessons in my classroom last year.

They were also my soundtrack of choice when I toured the Forbidden City in Beijing. Incidentally, the album I listened to that day – Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk – turned 20 in 2017, so, to celebrate, they played it in its entirety. An amazing experience.

I’ll have a lot more to say about Emperor in Part Two.


Do I even need to tell you that Slayer lived up to their name? They ripped through all the classics (even “Fight Til Death“!) and all the best tracks from the later albums. The wall of death for “Raining Blood” was a thing of beauty. And Tom’s scream at the beginning of “Angel of Death” was quite possibly the best I’ve ever heard him do it live. This is what keeps fans loyal for a lifetime. Fuckin’. Slayer.

Continued in Part 2

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Loud Park 2017, Pt. 2: An Audience with the Emperor

This is Part 2 of a 2-part post. Part 1 can be found here.

There’s an interesting postscript to this most metal of weekends. The next morning I woke up and went to the airport almost five hours early – a habit I’ve developed after literally years of missed flights, long security lines, and various unforeseen flight complications.


Better to sit around and read for a few hours than arrive at the last minute, all stressed out about making your boarding call. Thus spoke J-rathustra.

This habit of showing up early paid off in a major way when I was flying back to Korea after Loud Park, because almost as soon as I stepped into the airport I spotted a bearded, long-haired guy who I was 95% certain was Emperor’s guitarist Samoth. (There were quite a few bearded, long-haired guys at the concert, so I couldn’t say for sure.) He appeared to be deep in conversation with someone, so I decided not to bother him. But wouldn’t it be epic if I ran into Emperor here? I thought to myself. (I had actually been listening to them on my way to the airport.)

Went and got my boarding pass, and on my way back to the gate I saw that the bearded, long-haired guy (Samoth, it turns out) had been joined by someone who was unmistakably Ihsahn, Emperor’s lead singer and (other) guitarist. He also has a successful solo career.


Holy shit. I am running into Emperor here. At my age it’s embarrassing to admit to being star-struck – and I can honestly say that there are multitudes of celebrities I would never cross a room to talk to – but this was unbelievably good luck. An American living in Korea meeting a legendary Norwegian black metal band in a Japanese airport. You just can’t make this shit up. Like the loud, drunk Canadian guy had said the day before, simply seeing Emperor in concert was a rare privilege. What were the odds of running into them – of all bands – at the fucking airport? Not L.A. Guns. Not Winger. Emperor. I couldn’t let the opportunity pass me by.

Samoth was still involved in his conversation, so I walked over to Ihsahn who was digging around inside a guitar case. When he looked up, I said, “I don’t want to bother you. Just wanted to say that you had a great show last night.”

It’s hard to predict how someone might react after being approached by a total stranger at 7 a.m., but he actually smiled as if he was pleasantly surprised to have been recognized. “Thank you very much,” he said. (Read that in a Norwegian accent if you can.) We shook hands and I told him how I’d flown over from Seoul to see the show. “We really appreciate that. Thank you so much.”

He reminded me of my ex-uncle Darin, the kind of guy who naturally gives off a vibe of authenticity and friendliness. I was tempted to drag the conversation out a little further by telling him what a spiritual experience it was to hear Anthems and “Curse You All Men” live, but I didn’t want to wear out my welcome. (And just a word to the wise if you ever run into one of your heroes in an airport: none of the shit you want to tell them is anywhere near as interesting to them as it is to you. That’s just a fact. I can’t imagine what the loud, drunk Canadian guy would have put them through if he’d run into them.)

I thanked him for his time, nodded to everyone else in the crew, and went on my way after snapping a quick pic as evidence.


I don’t care if it’s another five years before I get to see another show. My experience at Loud Park is gonna hold me over for a long time.

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Have We Grown Apart? Take the Quiz!

devopsdays-bluesbrothers-aA friend and I were recently talking about the pros and cons of living in South Korea, and one of the biggest cons, we agreed, is the way time sort of passes in a bubble here. As we’re living our lives on this side of the world, largely devoid of adult responsibilities like car and mortgage payments, we’re missing out on a lot of important developments in the lives of our friends and family members back home. Some of my dearest friends have spouses I’ve never met and kids I’ve never seen. Yeah, sure, there’s Facebook, but most people in my age bracket are coming to a point where they don’t really use it very much anymore. [FUN FACT: The reason Facebook often seems so immature is because the people who use it most are people who haven’t outgrown Facebook.] And maybe it’s just an unavoidable side effect of getting older – people grow up and grow apart. It happens.

But, one of my resolutions this year is to reconnect with old friends and try to take more interest in other people’s lives. (Yes, that is as self-absorbed as it sounds.)  So, to that end, here are 10 questions that will help me understand where you are at this point in your life. We’ll talk about other, more important shit eventually, but this will bring me up to speed.

                                  TEN QUESTIONS TO BRING ME UP TO SPEED 

  1. Where do we know each other from? (I’m usually good at this, but I’ve gotta be honest, I get some of my acquaintances mixed up.)
  2. When was the last time we saw each other?
  3. Have you moved since then? (If so, how many times? And where are you living now?)
  4. Where are you currently working? What do you do?
  5. Are you currently or have you ever been married? (If so, what is/was your spouse’s name?)
  6. Do you have kids? (If so, what are their names and how old are they?)
  7. Have you faced any great challenges since the last time we saw each other (serious illness, loss of a loved one, etc.)?
  8. What would you currently consider your greatest challenge? In other words, what are you going through? And is there any way I might be able to help you with it?
  9. What are you into these days (favorite t.v. shows, movies, music, books, hobbies, life philosophies…)? What’s your general vibe?
  10. Any questions for me?

Feel free to message your answers to me on Facebook. (Be sure to like my page while you’re there – *hint hint*) If you don’t use Facebook, you can e-mail them to mrj.uchon@gmail.com

Everyone is free to message me, of course, but please know that I only plan on responding to people that: (1) I actually know and (2) I have an active interest in maintaining a friendship with.

That said, I hope to hear from you soon, dear readers. 🙂

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Mapo: The Bridge of Life and Death

Greetings dear readers! This is my first post of 2018, so I guess I should probably say “Happy New Year!” too. One of my resolutions in 2017 was to post an update every week, but obviously that didn’t work out. This year, though, I’m sticking to it. I’ve even set aside a special day for it: Saturday, which shall henceforth be known as Blog Day (three cheers for my breathtaking creativity). Be sure to check back with me weekly.

Anyway, 2018 is off to an interesting start. Some of you might have heard about that toolbag on YouTube who got in trouble for posting a video of a suicide victim in Japan’s Aokigahara forest.


I wasn’t familiar with Aokigahara before this incident occurred, but as I started doing a little research it quickly became my first morbid fascination of the new year. To explain it in a single sentence – there is a forest at the base of Mount Fuji where dozens of people go to kill themselves every year.

My fascination with this tragic place stems from the simple question, how? How does this happen? I understand how a place can become world-famous for its beaches, its mountains, its weather, its festivals…But how does a location become a hotspot for suicide? I remember seeing The Bridge (about suicides at the Golden Gate Bridge) several years ago, but I thought that was sort of an isolated anomaly.  Unfortunately, no. Suicide sites are a worldwide phenomenon, to the point that Wikipedia has a whole page dedicated to them. Looking over the list on that page, I was surprised to find that one of them is right here in Seoul.


Mapo Bridge. Again, I wasn’t familiar with this place before I started digging around online, but once I knew about it I just had to see it. I enlisted my friend Lauren to be my sidekick on this particular adventure and together we headed off to Mapo. Here’s a (very short, very depressing) slideshow of what we saw there.

I admit I felt a little weird for delving into this kind of morbid tourism, but according to my buddy Keith I’m far from alone. The travel/hospitality industry actually has a name for it – “grief tourism.” This term applies to anyone who travels to see things like murder houses, concentration camps, “haunted” locations, etc. Have you ever taken a trip to a place that was marked by tragedy, dear readers?


Before I sign off, I just want to add a quick disclaimer that I did not become interested in Aokigahara and Mapo Bridge because I myself am suicidal or depressed. Thanks in advance to anyone who might have had that concern, but I assure you that’s not the case. I’ve had ups and downs in Life like everyone else, but I’m very fortunate that I’ve never suffered from the kind of debilitating depression that might lead someone to take their own life.

But if by some chance you’ve found this post because you’re feeling low, I want to urge you not to suffer alone. Even at its worst, Life is a rare and precious gift. Please reach out for help before hurting yourself.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

US – 1-800-273-8255

South Korea – 2-715-8600

Canada – suicideprevention.ca

Worldwide – http://www.suicide.org

It’s a new year, everyone. Stick around and live it well.




IG: poms_are_metal / sell_your_seoul (horror/metal account)

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Catching Up With J. (A 5-Question Update)

Welcome, dear readers, and greetings from day 8 of my December-long Immortal-thon. Immortal, for the sake of all you non-metalheads out there, is a Norwegian band famous for writing songs about frozen landscapes, winter, snow, ice, frostbite, winterdemons, blizzards, and the Far North.

Now that the daily temperatures in Seoul are hovering between 19 and 22 degrees Fahrenheit (-5 degrees Celsius), they’re the only background music that really makes sense.

Yes, winter is here. ‘Tis the season to make yourself cozy, curl up with some hot chocolate, and get caught up with your ole pal J. Let’s not waste any time.

   Catching Up With J. (An Update in the Form of a Questionnaire)

1. How’s life, J? Whatcha been up to?


Not gonna lie, y’all. I’ve been pretty stressed out and pissed off for the last couple of months. For some reason (don’t ask me to explain it, because it seriously doesn’t make any sense) the Seoul Ministry of Education – SMOE – thought it might be a good idea to eliminate English programs for 1st and 2nd grade students. Obviously, this created a number of irritations and problems.

In a nutshell:

(a) SMOE wanted to eliminate 1st and 2nd grade English programs in Seoul, but it took them several months to make any official declarations about it. As a result, the directors at my school weren’t sure whether the 1st and 2nd grade programs were going to exist next year. Imagine your significant other saying “we need to talk about something” and then waiting 10-12 weeks to tell you what it is – that’s SMOE.talk(b) There are eight 1st and 2nd grade teachers at my school, many of whom have worked there for almost a decade. If their classes were eliminated, they’d either be out of jobs or moved up to higher grades. To make room for them in the higher grades, however, several of the newer teachers would have to be let go. As a 6th grade teacher who’s only been with the school for a couple of years, I was directly in the line of fire.

don't shoot

(c) When you’re not sure whether you’re going to have a job in the near future, you start to become very conservative in your habits. For example, I didn’t plan a winter vacation (had to save money) and I started spending a lot of time at home. No fiddling while Rome burns for me. I have goals.

(d) This is the libertarian in me talking: I strongly resent the idea of a government agency dictating the curriculum of a private school.

(e) This is the educator in me talking: if you’re so gung-ho to eliminate English (which is already pretty weak among young Koreans), it would probably make more sense to eliminate the higher grades than the early developmental years. Speaking metaphorically, I could have gone my whole life without algebra and trigonometry, but I use basic addition and subtraction every day.

This is why you should never leave the government in charge of anything.

2. Whoa! That really sucks. How did everything work out?


In the end, after months of dragging their filthy bureaucratic feet, SMOE finally declared the 1st and 2nd grade English programs illegal. Because of this, a number of very qualified teachers were let go from my school. Fortunately for me, the school has expressed an interest in keeping me around for at least another year. In March 2018 I’ll begin my final year as a teacher in Korea.

3. So has anything good happened during the last few months?

A few things, actually. For starters, I flew to Tokyo in October and had an awesome time at Loud Park 2017 (more on that in a separate, longer post).

loud park
A couple of weeks later I also got to see George Orwell’s 1984 adapted as a stage play. It was especially interesting to see it in Korea, given that North Korea is probably the modern world’s closest equivalent to the society depicted in the book. (Be sure to watch Christopher Hitchens’s commentary about this.) When the play ended, I turned to Claire and said, “Wow, that was pretty bleak.” She looked at me like I was an idiot and said, “Yeah, J, it’s 1984.” Probably should have seen that coming.


Also among the good news: my cousin Joseph is engaged to be married next July. Congrats to him and his fiance Taylor! Hopefully I’ll find a way home for the ceremony.


The same goes for my ole buddy Keith and his fiance Ashley, who welcomed their son Jack into the world back in July. For the record, Jack was a bit of surprise delivery for a lot of people, but I found out about him waaaaay back in January when I visited Pittsburgh. Uncle J is fucking awesome at keeping secrets! Congrats, y’all!

Jack birth
Finally, I was very happy to see one of my students do exceptionally well during last month’s school orchestra concert. I hope you’ve all watched the video of her performance by now. If not, well, here it is again.

4. Kimchi’s been in the States for almost a year. How is he doing without you?

Lemme tell you something. When I first left Kimchi with my parents I was extremely concerned that he might have severe separation anxiety and get sick. That’s not vanity on my part. Poms are a “one person breed” who sometimes have a hard time adjusting without their owners. Kimchi, however, has basically forgotten that I exist – to the point that he doesn’t even acknowledge the sound of my voice during Skype chats anymore. He and my mom have gotten very close, and she’s essentially told me that I’m never getting him back.

Kimchi tv
In October he entered a costume contest dressed as Elvis and won first place.

It’s worth noting, by the way, that I’m the one who bought the costume for him. I got it at Starfield, Korea’s largest and most pet-friendly mall. Here’s the video of my mom un-boxing it. (My friend Mallory says this video is probably the most Southern thing she’s ever seen.)

More recently, Kimchi and my sister’s dog Buddy had their pictures taken with Santa Claus at Petco.


I can’t say for certain, but the evidence would seem to suggest that he’s getting along just fine without me.

5. Cute Christmas picture! Speaking of which, what do you want from Santa?

Oh, you don’t have to get me anything….(looks around to see if anybody’s buying this)…. But I mean, if you want to get me something I do have a wishlist at Barnes & Noble.
It would also be cool if you made a donation to TNKR or the African Wildlife Foundation. Or, if nothing else, I’d greatly appreciate it if you’d please share my post about the Hyehwa raccoon.

That said, what do you want from Santa? Let me know.

I think that’s just about everything for now. Check back in a day or two for my post about Loud Park 2017. Until then, dear friends, I hope everyone is well.

Tell me what’s up with you,

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/J-Wiltz-142761115744236/

Instagram: @poms_are_metal / @sell_your_seoul (horror/metal account)

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClZj2rVRCg8sLQqsWQx2RTQ

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