Caveat: You Already Are

Last night, Ken, Curt and I were having a kind of light-hearted discussion of life-goals. Curt was going to get a fancy house and have a successful business – but I already knew that. Ken was going to become a billionaire entrepreneur. I know he likes to think big, too, though I have my skepticisms. I really get tired of most people's obsession with making money as the measure of success (and to be clear, I don't view it as a necessarily Korean fault – other cultures are just as bad, including my own). Just the other day, in surveying a debate class about the question, "Money is the most important thing," I got all PROs and zero CONs. The money-obsession is everywhere.

I try to take it in stride, however, and stay light-hearted about it.

In a joking tone (but with utter sincerity lurking just below the surface) I said, "I want to become a Buddhist monk." Without pause, and in unison (but without consulting one another even in a glance), Curt and Ken both said, "You already are."

This was interesting. On the one hand, it shows that my inclinations are pretty transparent. But it also led me to think another thing: if I already am, I don't really need to plan on that, do I?

Caveat: He’s, Like, Retarded

In class today some student was acting like an idiot. This happens. They're kids. I muttered something under my breath. It was just a spur of the moment thing, but I guess I'm learning Korean, a little bit. Another student said, "Wow, teacher. That's really good Korean."

What had I muttered under my breath? "장해인 같아…" [Jang-ae-in gat-a]. It's definitely not politically correct. In essence, it's the sort of things teenagers and pre-teens say to each other all the time. Roughly, "He's, like, retarded…"

I felt embarrassed to say such a rude thing to a student, but weirdly proud to have said in flawless Korean (as reported by the other students. I supposed it goes toward a certain "street cred" with the other kids.

It's a sign of my environment that some of the things I know best in Korean are ways to insult kids in Korean.