If you had asked me in March where I was going for my summer vacation, I would have said Australia.
Having spent the bulk of the past four years – well, let’s be honest, the bulk of my life – sitting inside under fluorescent lighting, I thought maybe a trip down under would be a perfect change of pace. I could lie on a beach or two, see some wildlife, take in a symphony, pay my respects to Steve Irwin, and finally figure out what a Vegemite sandwich is.
As the school year went on, though, my summer plans began to grow far more modest. After endless weeks and months of teaching, checking papers, planning classes, making homework, writing report cards, meeting with parents, helping new employees, and trying to understand a new curriculum, I realized that I didn’t have the energy for an elaborate vacation. Instead, I just wanted not to work. A nice long week of naps, music and movie marathons, blogging, afternoon walks with Kimchi, and maybe the occasional day trip. That’s all I was asking for. By December I’ll be ready for another great adventure, but for now just let me rest.
How cruel was Fate when I started to feel sick right in the middle of my final class on the Friday before vacation.
The Vacation That Wasn’t
“Is that high?” I asked my students.
“What is it supposed to be?”
“About 36,” they said.
I passed the thermometer around the room and let everyone try it, hoping maybe my temperature was just a glitch in the matrix. Nope. All the students were sitting pretty around 36 degrees. I, on the other hand, was sweating by the end of class. By the next morning I could barely move.
It took some effort, but I finally managed to drag myself to the hospital around 4 in the afternoon. It was there that a series of x-rays and blood tests (taken with blood from my legs of all places) determined that I had pneumonia. So, aside from seeing an off-Broadway performance of Chicago with my friend Claire near the end of the week, I basically spent my entire vacation lying in bed, barely conscious and soaked with sweat. Not quite the break I’d been waiting for.
It took me a couple of weeks to get focused on work again, mainly because I felt like I’d been cheated out of my long-awaited and well-deserved vacation. But fortunately I have a really great group of kids that was worth getting my act together for this year. Just a few of my favorite examples –
(1) “We’re going to the playground, Bay-bae!”
(2) Christina loves the Geico Camel. 🙂
(3) Subtraction for a Rainy Day
Sometimes teaching younger kids can feel like a glorified babysitting gig, but this year’s students are very bright and, for the most part, well-behaved. Forgive me a moment of mushiness, but these are the kinds of kids that keep me in Korea. 🙂
Meanwhile, on the Homefront
Okay, J, we can see that you’re enjoying yourself, but are you ever coming back to the States? And what do you think of Donald Trump?
Those of you who know me as a political junkie may be surprised at how very little attention I’ve been paying to the presidential primaries currently underway in the USA. While it’s kind of amusing to watch Hillary Clinton starting to stumble and fall and the GOP going to war with itself over the Donald, it’s really just a sad reminder of how badly the American experiment has failed in recent decades. In a country of more than 300 million people, these are my options for leadership? Please.
Personally, I think it should scare every right-thinking person half to death that the election of just one person could make such a major difference to the overall direction of the country. What this tells me is that there is far too much power invested in the executive branch of our government. Find me a candidate with no grand schemes to remake the world in their own image and I might be on board. Until then, I’m with Eamon de Valera: “We defeat the empire by ignoring it.”
I Want to Ride My Bicycle. I Want to Ride My Bike.
In less soapboxy news, I bought a bicycle not long ago. We had rainy weather for the first month or so after I got it, but now that fall has finally arrived I’ve been taking it everywhere. It’s great. Helps me burn calories while getting some fresh air and saving on bus fare. As the pounds start to fall off, I’ll be joining my buddy Kristian on longer rides into Seoul. Never thought I’d be the kind of guy to ride a bicycle (it’s more California than Mississippi), but hey, whatever works.
The only downsides to riding a bike:
(1) inattentive high school students playing cellphone games in the middle of crosswalks
(2) girls putting make-up on/looking at themselves in their phones while standing in the bike lane
(3) old people who can’t hear you ringing the bell and yelling at them to move
(4) people who can’t walk in a straight line, making it impossible to go around them
(5) those days when you somehow manage to hit every single red light
(6) other bicyclists
I’m now convinced that Ludacris wrote “Move” while riding a bicycle through Seoul. But again, whatever works. The good outweighs the bad.
A Major Upside to Riding a Bike
One of the best parts about riding my bike to work is that it gives me about an hour of uninterrupted music time each day (30 minutes both ways). What have I been listening to? Well, apart from the usual stuff I’m always listening to, I’ve been getting into –
(1) Ne Obliviscaris
My old buddy Jeff turned me on to Ne Obliviscaris sometime around April. They’re an Australian band that plays an odd mix of atmospheric death metal and violin. It’s like SHREDSHREDSHREDSHRED!!! ***Pretty violin break*** SHREDSHRED! ***Peaceful melody*** They sound nothing like Tool, but it’s kind of the same vibe. Calms and storms. I dig it.
I’m not really sure how it started, but about a month ago I started listening to a lot of KISS. I think it was because I watched a YouTube video about a guy with a massive KISS collection and realized that I’d never listened to very much of their music outside of the greatest hits. Wanted to remedy that. What I like about KISS is their shameless kitsch. They’re not a band who sold out. They’re sellouts marketing themselves as a band. Like GWAR, Green Jello, and Alice Cooper, they’re putting on a show. Can’t fault anyone for that. And Kimchi likes them too.
Sidenote: I want an original KISS pinball machine in my game room someday.
(3) Iron Maiden
Nothing new or surprising here, but seriously, if you ride a bike you need Iron Maiden on your playlist. They take a ride to work and turn it into an epic heroic quest. I feel like I should be carrying a sword or something when I’m listening to this. Dorky? Oh, you betcha. But I look forward to it every single day.
Unlike my KISS phase, I know exactly what set off my Queen phase. It was that viral video of Freddie Mercury mocking and then upstaging Kanye West’s performance of “Bohemian Rhapsody.” I’ve always had Queen songs in my iTunes library, but I’ve been listening to them a lot more since then…And because you can’t mention Queen without thinking of Wembley Stadium, this is the perfect segway into my final piece of music news.
My Final Piece of Music News
In April, I’ll be travelling to London with my aforementioned old buddy Jeff to see Babymetal headline at the SSE Arena. Babymetal – for the uninitiated – are a J-Pop/ thrash metal hybrid from Japan. You might have seen their “Gimme Chocolate” video –
Definitely not for everyone. but they’ve got enough fans to headline Wembley and you can count us (and quite of few of my students) among them. Besides that, who needs an excuse to visit London?
One More Thing
Before I forget, my short play “Do Not Collect $200” is being performed in California once again, this time at a college festival in Whittier. The student directing it, Kechia Bejarano, seems like a very capable, intelligent person. I wish her and her cast the best of luck.
The only thing left to mention now, of course, is that famous canine o’mine, Kimchi. The furball had a rough couple of months in the recent past. In May, he had a slight eye infection and had to wear a cone for a short while.
Then, not long ago his girlfriend Kate moved home to Canada, leaving him heartbroken and inconsolable. But, never one to sink into the swamp of sadness, he’s now moved on to a new love interest, one Alishia Ruff.
He describes this period as “one of the happiest times of his life” and he hopes all of his fans out there are doing well.
So let’s see, I’ve talked about my sickness, students, politics, bicycle, music, travel plans, and roommate. Yup, I guess that’s everything for now. Thanks for checking in with me, dear readers. Until next time, this is J saying…