Last night I had a strange dream. All dreams are strange, but somehow this dream seemed stranger.
I was in a house that wouldn’t stay level. It was a run-down, wooden house in a rainy place – maybe Ketchikan, Alaska, or Craig, Alaska, where my uncle lives. It could have been Valdivia, in Chile, where I studied in 1994, which has a similar maritime temperate rainforest climate. The house would begin to tilt, slowly, and I would have to go out into the rain and put concrete blocks under one corner or another to prevent it from tilting further.
Inside the house, there was no furniture. There was sawdust in the corners, and the floorboards were badly spaced, so you could feel the cool air rising between the cracks. I had a roll-out set of blankets for the floor where I slept (a Korean-style bed – this is how I actually sleep). I had a little kerosene stove for cooking, but it was fidgety to control and all I had to cook was ramyeon (Korean ramen noodles) and a brass saucepan.
I was trying to hold hagwon class in this tilting house. It was going OK, except occasionally men on horses would gallop past the house in the rain, and the thundering of the horses’ hooves would tend to send the house tilting moreso than it did normally, forcing me to interrupt class so I could put more concrete blocks under the house. I tried to get the students to help, but they refused to go out into the rain.
There was a landlord, a grumpy old man, who would come by occasionally and yell if the house was too tilted. He’d tell me it was my responsibility to keep the house level. I didn’t really agree with that, but I also didn’t like trying to teach class in a tilted house, so I did my best to keep the house level.
I have a student name Chaewon – she is a student of mine at Karma. She is a diminutive girl in only second grade of elementary, and I worry about her a lot because she has a slightly unusual situation: she lived, until last Spring, with her parents in Abu Dhabi, where she attended an English-speaking kindergarten. As a result, she in fact knows English almost perfectly, but she somehow got behind on literacy, and she is basically unable to read or write in English. We’re trying to help her, but meanwhile she is mostly struggling with the fact she has to learn Korean now, because before she was only learning it from her parents. It’s a linguistic minefield for her, but, like most kids that age, she has the natural ability to adapt to it. She’ll end up fully bilingual if given the chance. She has a very forceful personality, and she tends not to use the correct honorifics in Korean with her elders (older peers or teachers) so all the Korean teachers complain that she is rude. I am certain it’s a linguistic issue, not a social maladaptation.
She was in the dream, and she came up to me and pulled on my sleeve as I struggled in the rain to push a concrete block under a corner of the titlting house. She said to me, “The space jesters from the seventh dimension are coming.”
I was alarmed, and turned around. Somehow, in the dream, I knew who these “space jesters” were and it was definitely bad news. Just then a group of the men on horses galloped past, splashing mud and making so much noise that further conversation was impossible. Chaewon was wide-eyed and fearful-looking.
I took her inside, and found all my other students were missing. My old friend Ken was sitting like a Buddha in the middle of the floor (this is not my recent coworker Ken, but an old college roommate of the same name, whom I haven’t seen in more than 20 years). I asked him if he’d seen any “space jesters.” He pointed to the wall. I looked closely, and there was a cartoon-style painting on cardstock pinned to the wall. Rainwater was oozing down the wall from a leak in the ceiling, making the characters seem to move and waver as the ink in the painting was diluted and blurred.
Chaewon pulled my sleeve, and I turned back. Ken was throwing my ramyeon out the window. I yelled, but he scrambled out after the packets he had thrown, and was gone.
Some student’s mother showed up, peering in the open door. She was holding a newspaper over her head, from the rain. She spoke to me in Korean and I didn’t understand.
I turned back to Chaewon, and she was disappearing into the painting on the wall. I woke up.
[daily log: walking, 2 km]