Archive for July, 2009


One Man’s Maxim is Another Man’s Oxymoron

It’s the end of my first day of teaching. I am home sitting on the veranda, drinking beer, smoking rollies and watching an amazing thunderstorm linger overhead. It is the kind of storm wherein the lighting and thunder happen concomitantly; the kind of storm that makes you realize why our ancient ancestors thought that the gods were seriously pissed off at them, and so raged overhead with an awesome natural power that made them feel quite fragile indeed.

I am surrounded by fifteen storey buildings, both old and new. It’s an urban environment that I could do without, but for the time being – and possibly for the duration of my stay – it is one I am stuck with. So I am keeping my eye on the lightning rod on top of the brand new and unoccupied Lotte Palace building across the way, hoping that maybe a lightning bolt with strike it. They are that close, dancing angrily across the dark gray, early evening sky, super charging the night and striking at the air like spidery witches fingers. I want them to zap the Lotte Palace out of existence and show me the mountain that lay behind, but they miss and slowly move west, taking with them the loud explosions of oddly soothing thunder.

I arrived in Ulsan on Monday night and spent a couple of hours catching up with Sam, my buddy from my former school, W Language Academy. On Tuesday I met with my new director, River (her family name means river in Korean) for a half an hour or so, and then spent the rest of the day visiting friends and resting. On Wednesday I observed classes, on Thursday I did my best to make heads and tails of the rather wacky system employed by my new employer, and today I taught my first batch of classes.

For those of you that recall my trial by (extremely hot) fire last year, you might note that this re-entry into Korea land is a great deal more sane than the last one. This is true, though it hasn’t escaped my notice that despite how much better this gig might prove to be, I am still in a culture – and teaching within a system – that runs about as counter to my own ethos as can be imagined.

Why was it again, that I decided to come back here?

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