Caveat: 28) 무시 함으로 인해 악연이 된 인연들에게 참회하며 절합니다

This is #28 out of a series of 108 daily Buddhist affirmations that I am attempting to translate with my hands tied behind my back (well not really that, but I’m deliberately not seeking out translations on the internet, using only dictionary and grammar).

26. 이간질로 인해 악연이 된 인연들에게 참회하며 절합니다.
        “I bow in repentance of the ties that become like an evil destiny due to the divisions sown between people.”

27. 비방 함으로 인해 악연이 된 인연들에게 참회하며 절합니다.
        “I bow in repentance of the ties that become like an evil destiny due to slanders done.”

28. 무시 함으로 인해 악연이 된 인연들에게 참회하며 절합니다.

I would read this twenty-eighth affirmation as:  “I bow in repentance of the ties that become like an evil destiny due to ignorance .”

Ignorance, shmignorance.  Sounds like you got an epistemological problem, buddy.  Typical.  Happy New Year.  Not.  My.  Favorite.  Holiday.

Caveat: Snowmageddon, K-Version

The recent humongous snowstorm in the Northeast US was being called "snowmageddon" at The Atlantic website – which I thought was funny.  As an adoptive Minnesotan, the idea that anything under a meter of snow could shut things down seems rather weak-hearted.  But, that being said, Americans (except Californians and other Sunbelters) are actually pretty good at dealing with snow.  Koreans, on the other hand…

Let's just say that I don't think they really enjoy coping with substantial snowfalls.   Yeonggwang is allegedly much snowier than Seoul, but here we are, with less than 10 cm on the ground, and lo, I've been notified that school (or, er, Winter Camp) has been cancelled.  Heh.  Actually, I'm flattered and pleased that I was notified.  Then again… I would be willing to bet that Yeonggwang County possesses at most 1 or 2 snowplows, and I've never seen a snowplow in Seoul – even in the wake of the huge storm last January.

Yesterday, riding the bus home, I saw old men with green jackets ("citizen brigade" types) and carrying shovels, spreading salt on the steep hill on the north end of Beopseongpo – it definitely seemed like a hazardous highway condition – and I think that's probably a typical extent of Korean snow emergency procedures.

So, what shall I do with my SNOW DAY?  Sigh.  Not exactly a great day for going out adventuring, is it?  I suppose I could bundle up and go snow hiking.  We'll see how my motivational matrix develops.

Last night, for dinner for myself, I made some really delicious curried vegetable dhal, using some of my yellow split lentils that I'd bought at the foreign grocery in Gwangju quite some time ago. I will say this – rice cookers are the way to go, when it comes to trying to make dhal!  Amazing. 

Now I have a terrible problem, though:  my apartment smells delicious.

Caveat: 2010

I returned to
Korea, but the job market wasn't what I'd hoped. So I enrolled full-time in a
Korean language school, and hunkered down for a long-term job search while
living at a cheap hostel in Suwon (south of Seoul). I travelled to Japan
(Kyushu) in April, and then at the end of that month I started a new job at Hongnong Elementary (public
school), in rural Jeollanam Province. I really
enjoyed being an elementary school teacher, and I made a lot of friends
among my Korean co-workers, but my principal (boss) was xenophobic (hating
foreigners) and the housing situation was very unstable – I was moved into four different
apartments over a one-year contract. I solidified my at-least-once-a-day blogging habit, though.

[This entry is part of a timeline
I am making using this blog. I am writing a single entry for each year
of my life, which when viewed together in order will provide a sort of
timeline. This entry wasn't written in 2010 – it was written in the
future.
]

Caveat: Leaving Work On the Day With the Snowstorm

I had a bad day at work.  The kids were hyper and distracted by the snowstorm, maybe.  Or maybe I was off my game, for the same reason.  Or who knows?  A student, Geon-u, told me he hated me today.  Sometimes, not knowing Korean might be an advantage – it was only because I understood his Korean that I felt badly about it.

So I felt melancholy.  I took some pictures.

Here's the view out the window from the hallway, right outside the door of the second floor classroom I've been using for my winter camps. 

P1060160

Here's my bus.  It went very, very slowly.  It only fishtailed once, on the slippery roads.  I wore my seatbelt.

P1060165

Here is the view down highway 23 (looking southbound just beyond the traffic circle), which is what I walk down to get to the lovely middle-of-nowhere place where my apartment building is located.

P1060168

Here is a little house (business?) that always makes me think about the Boxcar Children novels.

P1060171

Here is my front yard.  Which happens to be a gas station.  And the home to many happy dumptrucks.  Though that's not why this blog is called caveatdumptruck.  Just coincidence, that.

P1060173

I'm home now.  I'm drinking some Korean ginger tea.  I'm watching some weird Korean reality show.  I don't understand it.  The year will end, soon.

Caveat: And I stepped out into a blizzard

It was a full-fledged blizzard when I stepped out of my building this morning at 7:40. Wet, sticky, dense snow falling sideways due to the strong north wind. I made my way to the bus terminal. By the time I got there, the snow had stuck to my long woolen coat and I looked like an abominable snowman. The Koreans were unimpressed. I caught the 7:30 bus at 8:01 – because it was running so late. So I actually ended up at work 5 minutes early. By the time I landed in Hongnong, however, the sun was shining. Men were throwing salt on the slippery roads, and arguing about something. My classroom is getting warm. The clouds, the clouds, at ten minutes to nine in the morning, look like sunset: silver, grey, white, gold. Blobs of snow packed onto the sides of pine trees.

Caveat: 27) 비방 함으로 인해 악연이 된 인연들에게 참회하며 절합니다

This is #27 out of a series of 108 daily Buddhist affirmations that I am attempting to translate with my hands tied behind my back (well not really that, but I’m deliberately not seeking out translations on the internet, using only dictionary and grammar).

25. 원망하는 마음으로 인해 악연이 된 인연들에게 참회하며 절합니다.
        “I bow in repentance of the ties that become like an evil destiny due to a resentful heart.”

26. 이간질로 인해 악연이 된 인연들에게 참회하며 절합니다.
        “I bow in repentance of the ties that become like an evil destiny due to the divisions sown between people.”

27. 비방 함으로 인해 악연이 된 인연들에게 참회하며 절합니다.

I would read this twenty-seventh affirmation as:  “I bow in repentance of the ties that become like an evil destiny due to slanders done.”

Caveat: December 28th, 1990…

…was my first day in Korea.  Twenty years ago, today, I stood in formation for 3 or 4 hours outside the transfer offices of the 2nd Infantry Division at Camp Casey, Dongducheon, Gyeonggi Province, South Korea.  I was still in my dress uniform that I'd worn for the MAC flight over, and I was freezing my ass off.

I was a Specialist (E4) in the US Army.  A week before, I had completed training as a Heavy Wheel Vehicle Mechanic and Vehicle Recovery Specialist at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.  Rather than going off to Kuwait, as so many of y fellow trainees had been doing over the previous months, I got to take a week of leave, seeing my dad, step-mother and siblings in California, and now I was being stationed in South Korea.

I had joined the Army because I was depressed.  Seems like a crazy idea, but it was working out for me, weirdly enough.  At least, at that point.  I was very amazed that I had not only managed to complete basic training, but had gone on to graduate from advanced training at the top of my class.  I had gone from being a 140 lb weakling nerd to being in the best physical shape I'd ever been in my life.

Arriving in Korea was the next step in that adventure.  My first impressions were lasting ones:  a disorganized place that nevertheless managed to get things done.  The US Army in Korea seemed to be just as chaotic, vaguely corrupt, and disorganized, as the society which hosted it.  I've since developed the sociological theory that there is a causality there, and that it goes in an unprecedented direction:  much of the character of modern, crazy South Korea is, in fact, a direct legacy of the US Army's seminal role in the forging of the nation.   It explains so many things that blaming Confucius really fails to do.

The MAC flight had been mind-blowingly unpleasant.  MAC means Military Airlift Command – essentially, a charter civilian flight for the purposes of transporting military personnel.  I had left my dad in San Francisco on a civilian, ticket flight, and caught my assigned MAC flight at LAX.  The flight had then proceeded to stop at both Anchorage and Narita, Japan, before finally arriving at Osan air base.  I'm not actually certain it was Osan air base – it may have been Gimpo airport (Incheon didn't exist yet, as an international airport).  I think it was Osan mainly based on the fact that the bus ride to TDC (US Army acronym-slang for Dongducheon) was at least 3 hours.  If the arrival had been at Gimpo, it should have only been maybe an hour or two. 

The bus finally entered the gates at Camp Casey at around 3 AM.  And we ended up standing in formation, in the freezing cold wind and snow of Korea in late December, until the first light of dawn.  Perhaps they were trying to acclimatize us newbies to just how damn cold it can get in Korea – most US soldiers coming from balmy places like South Carolina or Texas.  Personally, I just think they were being disorganized.  I was exposed to plenty more of that, over the following year.

Finally, they let us go into the barracks.  They were very crowded – bunk beds, barely 2 feet apart, in rows in a quonset hut.  I had a Sony Walkman (yes, a cassette player – it was 1990), and I had 4 tapes:  Guns n Roses Appetite for Destruction, Nik Kershaw The Riddle, Kate Bush Hounds of Love, Peter Gabriel So.  That was my soundtrack, for my first months in Korea.  I remember the barracks being overheated, crowded, miserable.  I remember standing in offices waiting for paper work.  I had the lasting impression that the 2nd ID didn't know what to do with me.

In the end, I ended up with 296th Support Battalion, at Camp Edwards, Paju.  Which is why, even now, I refer to Paju as my Korean "home town."  Paju is the northwesternmost county against the DMZ in Gyeonggi Province, in the far north-west suburbs of Seoul.  And I loved the fact that when I eventually came back to Korea in 2007 to work as an English teacher, my job was in Ilsan, only 7 km down the highway from Paju.  One October day, a few years ago, I actually walked from my apartment to my old Army base – now abandoned and overgrown with weeds.

I grew to really, really hate the Army.  When I was offered an "early out" at the end of my year (the US Army was downsizing in the post-first-Gulf-War, post-Cold War era), I grabbed it and got the hell out.  But I developed and enduring love for the physical beauty of South Korea, and the seeds of my love-hate relationship with the culture and fascination with the language were planted.  I have deeply embedded memories of the fields and hills of Paju, which often provoke an undesired nostalgia – like remembering a home town that hosted a particularly unpleasant upbringing. 

There were good times – the long, rainy summer during which I had a "work detail" that involved me spending a lot of time with Korean civilians, off base, were perhaps the best.  Stopping at roadside bunsik joints, eating cheese ramyeon.  Zigzagging all over the pre-expressway highways of northern Gyeonggi Province, dangerously tailgating "kimchi rockets" – 2-wheeled tractors hooked up to trailers overloaded wtih cardboard or farm produce.

Rural Jeollanam, nowadays, where I am now, reminds me a lot of what Paju was like, back then.  Paju has been radically altered by subsequent development and urbanization – and so, except for the physical familiarity of the hills and roads, it doesn't really resemble my memories that much.  But everyday, here in Yeonggwang, some hillside vista will flash me back to the smell of gunpowder at the firing range at Camp Howze, or the icy winter marches through the pine forests bordering the DMZ, or the chilly spring afternoons spent using the winches on my "big green tow truck" to extract a Humvee mired in some annoyed farmer's rice paddy.

Caveat: A Snowman by the Outdoor Faucets

The Guk twins (2nd grade) made a snowman after class today, in the courtyard by the outdoor faucets.  They are good kids.  I'm very proud to say that I can tell them apart – Geon-u has a freckle on his forehead between his eyebrows that his twin Hyeon-u doesn't.   It can help that at least one of them usually forgets his glasses on any given day, but rarely do both of them.   Anyway… their brother Snow-u has a funny-shaped nose, too, looks like.

P1060115

Caveat: 26) 이간질로 인해 악연이 된 인연들에게 참회하며 절합니다

This is #26 out of a series of 108 daily Buddhist affirmations that I am attempting to translate with my hands tied behind my back (well not really that, but I’m deliberately not seeking out translations on the internet, using only dictionary and grammar).

24. 인색 함으로 인해 악연이 된 인연들에게 참회하며 절합니다.
        “I bow in repentance of the ties that become like an evil destiny due to miserliness.”

25. 원망하는 마음으로 인해 악연이 된 인연들에게 참회하며 절합니다.
        “I bow in repentance of the ties that become like an evil destiny due to a resentful heart.”

26. 이간질로 인해 악연이 된 인연들에게 참회하며 절합니다.

I would read this twenty-sixth affirmation as:  “I bow in repentance of the ties that become like an evil destiny due to the divisions sown between people.”

“이간질” seems hard to translate in this affirmation.  The dictionaries say everything from “division” to “alienation” to “mischief” to “the act of playing one side against the other.”  None of these really work in the above phrase.  So, I’ve settled on “the divisions sown between people.”

Caveat: Gray Palm Trees

I had a dream in which I was living in a car in a parking lot of an apartment complex like Willowyck – which is the name of the apartment complex that Michelle and I shared in Lansdale, Pennsylvania (north Philadelphia suburbs) in 96~98. 

I was living in a car – it was not a Volkswagen, which is the type of car I actually lived in for a time in 1985.  The car I was living in, in the parking lot of that apartment complex, was a Kia.  That's logical, maybe.  It was a run down, beat up Kia.  It was gray colored, with patches of rust and rumpled areas of primer-paint.

In the dream, my father had a gloomy little apartment at the apartment complex.  But he was making me live in my car, because he had no space in his apartment.  I realized I was late for a flight to Korea, but I couldnt get any help from my father.  He was obsessively sorting some papers out, silently, while sitting at a table in his dark apartment.

Then, the dream shifted.  I found out that my brother had taken over living in my car.  My brother wouldn't help me either.  I went back to the car again after a time, when he wasn't around.  I was looking for my airplane ticket printout for my flight to Korea.  Instead, I found a stuffed, toy monkey in the car, and so I stole the toy monkey from my brother.  He was angry. 

Time passed.  I was walking through the streets of West LA, maybe somewhere near Macarthur Park, carrying my stuffed monkey.  I felt like a homeless man.  It was like a desert, littered with mini malls, apartment buildings, Korean dry cleaning establishments, Mexican taco trucks, Guatemalan dollar stores.  Gray palm trees waved in a bitter tasting wind.  It was beautiful.   But very desolate.  I felt lost and alone.

What issues is this dream working through?

Caveat: 25) 원망하는 마음으로 인해 악연이 된 인연들에게 참회하며 절합니다

This is #25 out of a series of 108 daily Buddhist affirmations that I am attempting to translate with my hands tied behind my back (well not really that, but I'm deliberately not seeking out translations on the internet, using only dictionary and grammar).

23. 분노 심으로 인해 악연이 된 인연들에게 참회하며 절합니다.
         "I bow in repentance of the ties that become like an evil destiny due to succumbing to rage."

24. 인색 함으로 인해 악연이 된 인연들에게 참회하며 절합니다.
        "I bow in repentance of the ties that become like an evil destiny due to miserliness."

25. 원망하는 마음으로 인해 악연이 된 인연들에게 참회하며 절합니다.

I would read this twenty-fifth affirmation as:  "I bow in repentance of the ties that become like an evil destiny due to a resentful heart."

This affirmation sounds like a country western song lyric.  A little bit.

Caveat: A Snowy Christmas Eve

Just a regular day at work, day two of winter camps, having fun with first and second graders.   I gave them puppets and we ask each others' names:  "I am Pig.  What's your name?"  "I'm Hippo."

It was snowing hard outside.  Well, it seemed like a lot of snow – mostly swirling flakes.  All day.  Only a few centimeters by the end of the day, today, though.  I took some pictures this morning at school.  Here is a view from the front steps.

P1060109

Walking home, this evening, from the Friday night foreigners' hweh-shik (pizza, beer, trivia), I took this picture of a strange looking scooter missing its front end.

P1060110

Caveat: Unfulfillable Withdrawals

I found an interesting tidbit in an editorial by Retired US Army General John Cushman, that was posted at The Atlantic.  President Carter promised during his campaign to get the US military completely out of South Korea.  It ended up not working out so well, for him – the Pentagon stalled, at the time, and Reagan reversed the process.  And 35 years later, the US is still in South Korea.  And, as I've argued before in my little blog, that's not a bad thing.  It's part of the balance of power in this part of the world, obviously, although I don't reject arguments that it probably also at least provides the North one of its favorite excuses for irrational behavior. 

My thought, however, returns to more recent deployments of US troops, in places like Afghanistan or Iraq.  Why do we need to be so committed to "leaving"?  Wouldn't it be smarter, and earn more trust on the part of the sorts of "locals" we're tyring to support, to be committed to "staying," but without the ongoing violence?  I mean… I'm not trying to justify that our troops are there.  It was a mistake that they ended up in Iraq, without a doubt.  And Afghanistan has been managed very badly from the start, too.  But… as long as  – or now that – they're there, we can't be "short timers" – short timers are not invested in long-term solutions.  

Caveat: 24) 인색 함으로 인해 악연이 된 인연들에게 참회하며 절합니다

This is #24 out of a series of 108 daily Buddhist affirmations that I am attempting to translate with my hands tied behind my back (well not really that, but I'm deliberately not seeking out translations on the internet, using only dictionary and grammar).

22. 시기심으로 인해 악연이 된 인연들에게 참회하며 절합니다.
        "I bow in repentance of the ties that become like an evil destiny due to jealousy."

23. 분노 심으로 인해 악연이 된 인연들에게 참회하며 절합니다.
         "I bow in repentance of the ties that become like an evil destiny due to succumbing to rage."

24. 인색 함으로 인해 악연이 된 인연들에게 참회하며 절합니다.

I would read this twenty-fourth affirmation as:  "I bow in repentance of the ties that become like an evil destiny due to miserliness."

It can be difficult to let go of physical possessions and money.

Today is the first day of the winter term – I will be teaching optional "English Camp" classes for the kids – many of the kids and most of the teachers are on vacation. 

Caveat: The Amazing Triumph In Which Bad News Came Embedded

I'm writing this as I ride the bus to work. Sometimes I do writing on the bus – it's a good use of the commute time. I save a file, and move it to my online cache or post it later. 

After my previous post, which was depressing in tone, I was meditating. Well… I was attempting to meditate – I don't really think that what I do counts as "real" meditation, although it might count, under some zen-like definitions. Mostly, I watch my monkeymind as it monkeyminds around, with a certain effort at detachedness. I was thinking, of course, about the upcoming Move. What worries me, most, about it? Well, I know which building I'm moving to – it's being built by the school. The school will be my new landlord. This is terrifying, because the school has a notably horrible track-record in managing other aspects of its physical plant. Therefore I expect, with 100% certainty, substantial problems in at least one of the following areas: utilities and internet (90% chance); appliances and things falling apart – despite (or because of) it being a new building – (60%); lack of essential furnishings (40%); plumbing problems (99%). Et cetera.

As I was thinking, however, I tried really hard to find and enumerate the positives. And there are quite a few, actually: 1) the commute will be reduced from 50 minutes each way to less than 5 minutes each way; 2) I will not miss living in Yeonggwang, which is still, by far, the ugliest town I have known in Korea – a country not noted for its attractive efforts at urbanization; 3) the chances that the new apartment is smaller than my current one are probably about nil; 4) I will save money on at least the commuting aspect – I'll be paying no more of the 3400 KRW daily in bus fares, which will add up over my last several months; 5) hopefully money can also be saved vis-a-vis the apartment billing too – my current building nickel-and-dimes me on mysterious building maintenance fees quite a bit – but with the school being the landlord, I might have more opportunity to push back on that kind of thing. 

But there was a real, amazing victory right in front of me, too. It was something altogether different. Yesterday morning, I went to bow to my principal in the morning, as I generally try to do. And after bowing, he approached me and spoke to me about this apartment matter – in Korean. That's how I got the confirmation of the rumor. Yes, I received the news in the Korean Language. Entirely. I even caught some of subtleties of the communication: "did I happen to know that…?" "I hope you'll be OK with…." And this is, upon reflection, a suprising accomplishment. I was receiving work-related news from my principal in Korean and I wasn't even really thinking about the fact that it was in Korean. I didn't understand everything – I never do: impressionistically, it's kind of "blah blah new apartment blah blah in february blah blah I hope that's OK blah blah." But I had no sense that there was some important ambiguity in the communication that I was missing. It was simply what he was telling me. And that was a linguistic triumph.

Caveat: Scorched Rice, Looming Relocation

Sometimes, when I'm at the grocery store, I will buy something that I don't really know what it is, just because I'm curious to find out.  There are so many packaged snacks and candies in Korea that fall into the "I don't really know what that is" category.  Monday, I was in the candy aisle looking for some candy to buy for our "English Store" to sell to our students, and I saw something that was called "누룽 지향 사탕" – I still have no idea what this name means, since except for the last word, which means "candy," the dictionaries and googletranslators are unenlightening.  But under this name, in small letters, I found the descriptor "Scorched Rice Candy."  This sounded intriguing.  It's hard to think of "scorched rice" as being delicious.  Or as being candy.  But it sounded very Korean.  I bought a bag of Scorched Rice Candy.  It's not bad.  It really does taste like overcooked rice.  But of course, it's mostly sugar, which makes it candy.  I wonder if there's some kind of "comfort food" psychology behind a flavor like "scorched rice," in Korea.

I found out yesterday that the rumors circulating that I would have to move, again, were true.  That will be my fourth apartment since starting work at this school.  I'm not thrilled.  It's difficult for me not to feel a lot of anger and frustration over this aspect of my employment.  It definitely underscores why, no matter how much I like some aspects of Hongnong Elementary, I could never find myself renewing.  This is not to say that I don't recognize that other schools don't put their teachers through similar crap – it will be a gamble, wherever I choose to go next, and I realize that I could end up "losing out" and going somewhere with even worse problems.  My efforts to locate a school "ahead of time" where I might feel out what the job and living situations are like have come to nought.

The move date will be in February.  I wonder how complicated it will be?  I wonder how much extra of my own money it will end up costing me?  I expect I'll find out these answers on the day of the move – certainly not ahead of time.  Sigh.