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.(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.
(c) When you’re not sure whether you’re going to have a job in the near future, you start to become really 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.
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).
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!
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.
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,
Instagram: @poms_are_metal / @sell_your_seoul (horror/metal account)