It’s a new year, dear readers. Time to evaluate our situations, shed last year’s bad habits, and keep on moving forward. In keeping with the spirit of my first post on this blog, I thought I’d set this one up as a question-and-answer session. I solicited my Facebook friends for questions and here’s what they came up with (plus a few of my own).
(1) How is Kimchi? (submitted by my mother, Cathy Wiltz)
This is the question I seem to be asked most frequently. Even here in Korea, whenever I go into my corner convenience store without Kimchi in tow, the lady behind the register says, “Where is dog? So cute.” Kimchi is currently doing very well. His winter coat has grown in, which means he’s extra fluffy and looks like a walking snowball. It’s been too cold to take him for walks outside lately, so he’s been getting his exercise by playing fetch in the hallway outside my apartment. He’s gotten really good at it and seems to really enjoy it. The most exciting piece of Kimchi news, though, is that he now has a long-distance girlfriend named Francesca. Like all celebrity couples, they’ve combined their names into one convenient catch phrase: “Kimchesca.” 🙂 Take a look at her. She’s the Pomeranian in this pic.
One thing that consistently surprises me about Korean culture is how old-fashioned it is. A lot of the Americans who live here like to joke that Korea is stuck in the 1950’s. But, being from the South, I don’t really see a problem with that. hehe (Lest we forget, I received my undergraduate degree from the university voted “Student Body Most Nostalgic for the Reagan Years.”) The women are very feminine. The men are driven to be successful. Couples do cutesy things like holding hands and going out for ice cream. And the country as a whole feels absolutely no shame about its love of material things. Apart from that, I’ve also become interested in 20th century Korean literature, and I hope to learn more about its major figures in the year ahead.
(3) When are you coming back home? (submitted by Jennifer Gruich, who misses me like the deserts miss the rain)
I guess now is the time to announce this to the world…I’ve signed a new contract with my school here in Anyang and will now be living in Korea through March of 2013. So, that’s the earliest I could come back. But if Obama is re-elected — and I believe he will be — I might just go ahead and apply for citizenship. I was not kidding when I said I didn’t want to live in a country that could fall for that dog-and-pony show.
(4) How did you kill Kim Jong Il without anyone ever noticing you sneaking to the North and back? (submitted by Brandon Geter, one of many former B&N co-workers that I really miss hanging out with)
How did I do it? Well, I have to give credit where credit is due. Everything I learned about espionage I learned from watching Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers. Disney Afternoon FTW!
In all seriousness, though, when the Grim Reaper came to take a big dump in Dear Leader’s face I was just two hours south, dressed as Santa Claus and passing out candy canes. “My life has been extraordinary…”
(5) Does being there make you appreciate America more? What freedoms do they have there that we don’t, if any? (submitted by James Zeller, whose commentary on the Scott Peterson verdict still cracks me up whenever I think about it)
I love my country very dearly, but my honest answer to the first question is no. I have not been homesick for America even once since I’ve been here. In less than a year Korea has provided me with a full-time job, an extremely low income tax, a stable living situation, sufficient means to travel, and a Pomeranian. None of these things would have been possible if I’d stayed in the US. Sad but true…Koreans aren’t allowed to own guns, though, so there’s one big feather in Uncle Sam’s cap. U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!
(6) Are you going to be suicidal in February knowing that I’m laying around on Sundays eating a tasty McRib and watching Eastbound & Down Season 3? (submitted by – who else? – Matt Banderman)
(7) Does it stink there? (submitted by Amy Simon Randall, CEO of Glade)
Quite the opposite. South Korea is, for the most part, immaculately clean. I’ve taken Kimchi for walks at night and seen various trash and debris on the sidewalks, then gotten up the next morning, walked to the bus stop, and noticed that the sidewalks had been swept completely clean.
(8) To what extent were you involved with the poisoning of the Dear Leader up north? (submitted by James Robertson, who lost no sleep upon hearing of Kim Jong Il’s demise)
See my answer to Brandon Geter’s question. I regret nothing.
(9) How many times have you visited the massage parlor? (submitted by a certain male-whore friend of mine named Jared Rogers)
Sadly, my first six or seven months were spent paying off old debts back home, which means I didn’t have a lot in the way of disposable income. No trips to the massage parlor, as it were. But rest assured it’s on my list of things to do in 2012. 🙂
(10) What are your most and least favorite local dishes? (submitted by Ryan McClelland, whose Christopher Walken impression is one of the great wonders of the modern world)
Favorites – I’m a big fan of a Korean pork dish called bosan (not sure I’m spelling that right) as well as beef galbi/kalbi.
Least Favorite – cold noodle soup is some kind of terrible.
(11) How long were you there before an official informed you of the country’s legal consent age? (submitted by Annemarie Beede Bohn, who knows me too well)
The beautiful part about a language barrier, dear Annemarie, is that it makes the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that much easier to enforce.
(12) What is something that initially “shocked” (maybe not that extreme, but you get the point) you that you have mostly adjusted to? (Question #1 submitted by Clara Teacher)
At first I didn’t know what to make of the fact that I seemed to be cooking my own food at every Korean restaurant I visited. But now it’s basically par for the course – if we all go out for Korean, I know I should be ready to cut and grill. The only thing I haven’t adjusted to is not having a dryer.
(13) Are there any stereotypes about Korean culture that you’ve experienced or seen debunked? (Question #2 submitted by Clara Teacher)
One thing I’ve discovered is that Koreans are a lot more open about the whole “eating dogs” thing than I would have thought. I’ve never met one who will admit to trying it, but they all seem to know where I can get it if I’m ever curious.
(14) While you were at home, what did you miss about Korea? (Question #3 submitted by Clara Teacher)
(15) Can you get me a job there? (submitted by Seth Vincent Flake, another young American seeking to live the dream in Asia)
There’s no shortage of teaching jobs here on this side of the world. My advice is to Google “ESL Jobs in Asia” and see what you find.
(16) When can we come visit? We seriously want to live over there…. (submitted by my parents)
I’m trying to picture my mom and dad sitting next to each other on a plane for 19 hours without killing each other……….nope, can’t do it.
(17) Any New Year’s Resolutions Heading into 2012?
I do indeed have a list of resolutions:
(A) Stay active in the gym and get back in shape — I was really doing well for a while, but the stress of the holidays took its toll and now I need to get cracking again.
(B) Start watching my language a little more closely. Cryssie once told me that her husband can tell when she’s talking to me on the phone because her language suddenly gets a lot worse. That’s a reputation I need to shed really fucking quick…Oh shit, I just did it again…Oh, damn it…
(C) Study Korean every day. I got the Rosetta Stone (Korean) for Christmas and will make an active effort to learn at least the basics. For someone who loves words and language as much as I do, it’s criminal how very little effort I’ve made to work on my Korean.
(D) Start taking Tae Kwan Do at the beginning of March. Don’t laugh. I’m giving myself a couple of months to get back in shape and then I’m going to start studying Tae Kwan Do. I haven’t really had a physical hobby since I stopped playing soccer in the 6th grade. It might be fun.
(E) Finish my novella by May 25th. I’ve been starting and stopping my short novel for eight years now. Time to buckle down and get it done. I’m giving myself until my birthday.
(F) Read one short story or article every day. This ties into my effort to complete my novella. Every writer must also be a reader, and I plan to keep my mind alive.
(G) Read one book every week. This is a discipline thing. I’ve always had a tendency to procrastinate on just about everything, including my reading habits. Left to my own devices, I can spend two months reading a single book. That changes this year. Again, I have to keep my mind alive.
(H) Keep a daily journal. I used to be really good at this, back when I had the time. This year I’m going to get back into the habit. My time in Korea is very special and I need to keep it well-documented.
(I) Start dating a Korean girl. Some things speak for themselves.
If you have any questions that haven’t been addressed here, feel free to leave them in the comments on this page. Or, look me up on Facebook.
Happy 2012, everyone!