Archive for the 'Life' Category

*sigh*

Oh, what I wouldn’t give for a clearness committee right about now…

Advertisements

A note on an aspect of “Simple Living” in my life…

I realized today that there are quite a few things that we take for granted in the west, that I do not have here (and some that I don’t have at home, either), and I have realized that really, some of them suck to not have, but most of them aren’t so bad:

Dishwasher: If I had a family, this would be pretty necessary (unless I made dishes a part of chores), but for one or two people, so long as you make sure to do the dishes once a day, or as you use them (as I tend to do), it’s not a problem.

Washer/Dryer: Pretty much the only thing I miss about a dryer is being able to wear something within 15-30 minutes of it coming out of the washer. Here, it takes 2-3 hours at best, and 2-3 days at worst. But, in general, it’s not a problem, and if I end up with a house, I would strongly consider line-drying the bulk of my clothes, so long as I have a dryer as a backup for during the rain. The lack of a washer (I have one in Jindo, but not here in Gunnae) sucks though. I washed a couple days of clothes in the kitchen sink today, with some dish soap and some tea tree oil soap (for disinfectant), and since I also have no hot water at the moment, I had to boil the water to wash them. Not the end of the world, but it does sort of suck. A washer is not something I think I would willingly give up for more than a few weeks at a time.

TV: Only once in my life have I ever had a TV in my living space, and at that, it was only a few months and virtually never got used (and even then, it was only for DVDs). I do watch some TV on my computer, but very little (maybe 1-2 hours a week). I watch movies pretty regularly (once a week-ish), but again, on my computer most of the time. I have a TV in Jindo, but it is almost never used, and even then it’s mostly used to watch CNN. If one could be had cheaply, I think I would have a TV in my living space, but it is definitely not a priority, and I could easily continue to do without one.

Cell Phone: When I tell Koreans I have no cell phone, they look at me like I’ve just told them I have no left ear. Hell, I get a similar reaction in the states when I tell people that on average, I use about 40 minutes a month, and never more than an hour (well, not in the last 3 years, anyway) and generally only use them for coordinating amongst friends. Honestly, I hate cell phones and wish they’d go away. I hate that I “have” to have one in order to communicate with people in this day and age. I use pay-by-minute cell phones and if I could, I wouldn’t have one at all.

Car: Now, this one I miss. I love to drive. It’s very zen for me, and I love being able to wander. However, that said, I love my scooter. Depending on what happens with Marc and I when I get back, I would seriously consider having just the Ural sidecar bike that I intend to get when I get back and, if he would be up for it, sort of sharing his car as our non-open air vehicle, and using Zipcar or somesuch if we both needed a car at the same time. I’d prefer to also own a car, but it wouldn’t be terrible to have to share a car.

Microwave: While I did use one of these relatively regularly back in the US, I think that while I will probably have one when I return, I will use it far less. I don’t have one here, and I have learned how to do without it. This, along with dryers, is a huge energy waster.

At this place I also have no furniture other than a bed, only one lightbulb, and infrequent hot water. Those all pretty much suck, but it’s not the end of the world. Back in the US, I got mockingly called a “luddite” on more than one occasion, but really, that’s not true. I love my computer and the internet (though going without, when necessary, doesn’t bother me much, as I write in paper journals in addition to my blogs), and I do love certain aspects of technology. But, there are many aspects that I can definitely do without, and even some aspects that I strongly dislike.  In general, I definitely prefer this more simple life to a more technology-filled one.

A trying day…

Korea is very big on corporal punishment (with sticks, not rulers), and punishment in the classroom in general.  I, predictably, am not.  I generally try to redirect the student’s energy into something at least vaguely productive.  About 90% of the time it works, often to the surprise of my Korean co-teachers, who seem to be fans of using a (often rather knobby) stick instead.

I refuse to hit my students like they do, though I do sometimes rap the whiteboard pen on a student’s desk if they’re being particularly disruptive or distracted.  That’s about as violent as I get in the classroom.  The harshest thing I’ve done in the classroom was when I made a really rowdy student come sit in a chair by my desk.

That is, until today.

Today I had to discipline an entire class.

They didn’t like my lesson, so they were protesting by being silent. In an attempt to determine whether they were just upset that I was doing a grammar lesson, or if the lesson was simply too hard, I asked them if it was too difficult, a simple yes or no question. Silence. I told them that if it was, I would do an easier activity, that it was no problem. Silence. I had my Korean co-teacher translate, in case they weren’t understanding. Still silence.

I did my best to not get angry.  I raised my voice a little, but I did not yell.  But, eventually, their blank stares wore me down.  I tried to think of a punishment that was non-violent, non-shaming, and non-personal.  After 10 minutes of trying to get them to say something, anything, even “yes” or “no”, I told them that if they were going to be silent, they were going to do so uncomfortably. I made them all stand up from their desks and stand with their arms outstretched. Silent. For the entire period. Believe me, after 15 minutes, it starts to get really uncomfortable, and there was about 25 minutes left in the class.

I’m vaguely worried about retribution, however. Last week a teacher punished a few students, and they broke 7 windows in the teachers’ office in response. I told my co-teacher that in America, those students would be expelled, or at least suspended. These were the 8th graders (or rather, the Korean equivalent), who at this school are apparently are a reasonably violent and vengeful bunch, so I do have to be careful about what I do with them. After the bell rang, I asked them “Did you enjoy that?” “No…” “Will you speak when I ask you a question, in the future?” “Yes…”.  Next class, I will likely pretend it didn’t happen, and just move on, though if they behave the same way again, I will bring it up.

According to my co-teacher, they think I should only play games with them, as their previous foreign teacher did. I told them that I would play a game with them the last week of every month, but if I *only* played games with them, they will not learn anything from me because I only see them once a week, and insinuated that it would greatly lessen their chances of getting off the island and into a university. Harsh, yes, but they really, really angered me. They were completely disrespectful to both me and the co-teacher, and the other Korean teacher who was brought in to help. They were disrespectful by American standards, and *extremely* disrespectful by Korean standards, even cussing at both me and the Korean teachers at times.  I tried explaining to them that this decision to not learn had a far more reaching effect than they could really understand at this point in their lives, but it seemed to have no effect.

It’s early in the year, and I do *not* want to start off the year seeming like a pushover, but I also am generally a very friendly teacher and didn’t want to start out on this type of footing either. I really hope this has some effect, so that I do not have to do anything even remotely similar in the future. As a friend of mine says, if I continue with the same, all I will do is achieve compliance through force, which is not a productive form of classroom management, and not a role I feel comfortable in.

After class finished, I felt really uncomfortable with what happened.  In fact, I think that discomfort may have in fact resulted in me being more frustrated in class than I otherwise would have been.  I did not want to punish them, but, at least within the Korean system, they left me no real choice, and I was upset with them for inadvertently forcing me push the boundaries of my personal convictions, thus making me feel very un-Quakerly and generally uncomfortable.

I have been trying to think of less confrontational ways to deal with similar problems in the future, but thus far, I haven’t been able to come up with much that would work with Koreans.

Planned Posts

Posts coming soon:

Equality and Teaching in Korea: Oil and Water
Today’s REALLY UnQuakerly Moment (and how uncomfortable it made me)

Hurricane Gustav

So, it looks pretty bad for New Orleans. This hurricane is stronger than Katrina. Thankfully, most people seem to actually be leaving this time, including my some of my Louisiana friends.

I’m also a little worried about my own family. Houston is in Gustav’s potential-path-cone, and having been through a couple bad ones as a kid, I don’t want to know what a category-5 would do. There have been a few close calls with our house being flooded before, and if Gustav hits Houston, it could be really, really bad. For reference, here‘s what Houston looked like after a heavy tropical storm, my senior year of high school. Here‘s other photos (and more).

So, please keep everyone who could be affected in your thoughts over the next couple days.

Is stealing ever right?

So, I have a conundrum.

Now, of the various Quaker testimonies, the one I have had the absolute most trouble with is that of Integrity.  I am not a compulsive liar, but I tell tons of “little white lies” all the time, for no apparent reason.  One of my 101 goals is to go for two days without lying.  I suspect that it will actually be one of the most difficult goals on the list for me.  When I was a kid, I never cheated in class, but I used to do things like pick locks for fun, steal the belongings of friends and then see if I could return them without them noticing, etc.  I have always been an adrenaline junkie and I am very glad that I somehow managed to nip the thieving bug in the bud (in my year between highschool and college, actually), before it actually became a problem of actual danger.  Even still, while I have absolutely no desire to actually steal anything (I’ve never coveted something enough to want to put my liberty at risk), I do often pause, when looking at a given situation or item, and think about how I would do it.  I have spent years trying to squelch those thoughts to no avail, so I just try and make sure that it never passes the line from fantasy to actual plan.

That said, I have a conundrum.  Despite all of that coaching myself that “stealing is bad”, I think I need to steal a dog.  Yes, “need to”.  Yes, a dog.

You see, there was a stray who lives at a nearby temple, that Marc and I met.  He’s friendly, but has clearly been abused.  I fed him a few times a week for a month, but then went away on vacation, and was considering adopting him when I got back.  Well, I went to feed him a couple days ago, and it seems that someone has chained him up.  Now, I had previously asked at the 4 houses in the little hamlet to check and make sure he was nobody’s.  Yep, nobody’s.  So, clearly, someone must have decided they wanted him.  Sounds great, right?  Well, the problem is that as a stray, he was at least able to scavenge from the local restaurant, and drink from the river, in addition to the food I brought him.  His current owners, however, are not feeding him at all.  He is thinner than ever, and is ecstatic to see me when I bring him food and water (I sneak into their backyard almost every evening, after work).  I went by yesterday, and he had clearly caught a bird, and was eating the remains.  This dog is slowly starving to death.

So, I am now caught in this decision over whether it is worse to steal the dog, or to let it continue to be mistreated.  I definitely am leaning more towards stealing it, as it feels more like saving than stealing, but still.  It is a difficult decision.  Part of it is that while yes, I can continue feeding it in their backyard, once I leave Korea, or when I go away for the whole month of February, it will go right back to a slow path toward death.

I would love some advice or guidance.

My “Fashion”, or Lack Thereof: Some Thoughts on Plainness and Simplicity

So, I have been doing a lot of thinking recently about the way I dress.  Sorry this is so long, but I couldn’t think of an effective way to split it.

Here in Korea, the colors are very bright (as those of you who read my Korea blog may have noticed).  The traditional culture is generally very colorful, and people’s everyday clothes are also quite bright by comparison to the US, especially New England (where the general palette is slightly duller than the rest of the country, in general).  By comparison, I might as well be monotone.

I wear mostly black, grey, brown and blue (as a glimpse at my laundry line will tell you).  I have a few “desaturated” green and red clothes, but that’s about it.  Here in Korea, I have bought a few brighter shirts (I have a vibrant teal one, and an orange one, now) just to help me fit in a bit better, but wearing them feels a little unnatural.  On an average day, while I do not immediately stand out, clothes-wise, from Koreans, I do stand out a decent bit, when you compare me to an average Korean.  Even in the US, I have gotten many a remark on the small range of my color palette, and while I do not necessarily stand out in the US (especially in New England), those who know me over a period of time do tend to notice.

I also have never paid attention to fashion.  Not when I was a kid, not in high school, not in college.  There was a year between high school and college when I went a bit punk/goth, but it was a short-lived phase, and was a response to high school more than anything else.  For the vast majority of my life, I have generally only paid attention to function, in my clothes.  Starting in middle school, I decided that shorts that were more than about 3-4 inches above my knee felt immodest to me, and made me uncomfortable.  Since the mid-90s was a time of ever increasingly short (and tight) shorts and skirts for girls, I found that the easiest option was to start wearing boys/mens shorts.  Once I started doing so, I found them vastly more comfortable and practical, and I have never really gone back.  Sure, I have one or two pair of women’s shorts, but they only really get worn when I need the practicality of shorts, but need to look a little less like a grown-up tomboy.  As a whole, I focus almost entirely on functionality in my wardrobe.  I like garments that can serve more than one purpose, and they tend to be somewhat out of fashion (my wearing of knickers, for example), but not conspicuously so.  Marc once made the accurate observation that both of us, while we are not intentionally “retro”, do tend to dress in a bit of an older style in general (see: me, Marc, and the both of us).  I also tend to wear my clothes until they are unwearable.  I wear them until they have holes, and then I often will patch the holes and continue to wear the garment until it really is too ratty to wear outside (and even then, I often turn them into heavy-work garments).  I have yet to be able to bring myself to stop wearing my current winter coat, despite the fact that the cuffs are very frayed and there are small holes in the elbows, for instance.

I wear mostly loose clothing (not baggy, but not body-hugging either), as tight clothing, in general, makes me self-conscious.  When I wear skirts, they are generally relatively full, almost always of solid color, and are universally at least to my knee, if not longer.  Until recently, I rarely wore skirts, as I found them inconvenient and impractical.  I wore pants, shorts, or breeches (my name for shorts like these, which I wear quite often) all but one or two days a month, at best.  However, here in Korea most women don’t wear pants at work, and I have found myself slowly converting to skirts.  I wear them most of the workweek (sometimes every day, actually), and occasionally on weekends as well.  As with my everyday clothing, when I dress for work, I dress for functionality.  I wear mostly either plain trousers or solid color skirts that come to a couple inches below my knee, and either a solid color polo shirt or button down shirt.  If I wear a button down shirt, I invariably wear a vest or sweatervest, as a shirt like that worn by itself feels a bit like “undress” to me without something over it.

My clothing is also rather informal by most of society’s standards.  I do have “dress up” clothes, but I have only a few outfits of them, and they are very versatile garments.  In general, my “nice clothes” are still rather informal – for instance, for college graduation I wore a button down shirt, a tweed vest, and a grey wool skirt, with some casual oxford-type shoes (you can see the outfit here).  To me, that was “dressed up”.  I just simply do not see the purpose behind getting “dressed up”.  To me, a major reason for wearing fancy clothes seems to be trying to either A. attract the attention of the opposite sex or B. look better than others in the room.  Neither of those things matter to me.  Regardless of the fact that I already have a significant other, “A” does not matter to me because I am not a flirting type, and “B” does not matter to me either, as I have never particularly cared about seeming better or worse than my fellow man.  I am what I am, and that is enough for me.  I am secure in my place in life, and do not feel the need to appear as anything different.

Along these lines, I also do not wear jewelry.  For a few years, I wore a simple silver disc on a rubber cord (so that it would not be cold on my neck in the frigid Massachusetts winters) that I had made with the help of my father (who used to be a jeweler, ironically) and engraved with a design that was meaningful to me and served the purpose of reminding myself of who I am.  However, in the last year I even stopped wearing that, and now wear nothing.  With the exception of rings, jewelry generally makes me feel self-conscious, and it feels like I’m somehow “decorating” myself.  I don’t like the concept that I should have to decorate myself to make myself presentable to someone, so I tend to avoid jewelry in general.  That said, sometime in the next year I hope to acquire a simple, small pearl necklace, for situations where I do need to fit in a bit more with an upper class crowd.  I also do not wear, or even own, makeup.

I am also generally relatively modest.  It’s not that I have any issue with being sexy; on the contrary – I enjoy my body, and have my fair share of pretty undergarments.  But, showing large amounts of skin in public makes me uncomfortable.  Shorts more than a few inches above my knees make me feel like I’m wearing daisy-dukes, and spaghetti strap shirts make me feel like I’m wearing nothing at all on my shoulders.  I do often wear v-neck shirts, but any cleavage that results is purely coincidental, unless I’m out with my partner. 😉   There’s no religious reason behind this or anything, but I have just never really felt the need to show myself off to the general populace, and am generally vaguely uncomfortable when I end up doing so (such as wearing a bikini at the beach, which I do).

I have sometimes heard this general fashion philosophy/style of dress referred to as “Plain Modern” (generally in a Quaker context).  Most of the time, that term is used in a religious context, but for me, it’s just personal.  I don’t dress the way I do because I feel that it’s “wrong” to show more skin than I do, or to wear fancier clothing, etc, it’s just not something I particularly enjoy.  I enjoy dressing this way, always have, and I doubt that that will change.  Call it what you will, be that Plain Modern or nothing at all, it’s just the way I dress.

What this has all resulted in is that I have sometimes been mistaken for someone conservative.  Especially here in Korea.  I have now been asked by 4 separate people here if I am conservative, and my dress/fashion has universally been stated as the reason for asking.  Being a relatively far-left liberal, I am always struck broadside by this question.  There seems to be an attitude in our culture that focusing on function rather than fashion is a negative thing, and is seen as a focus generally only undertaken by very conservative groups (like the Amish, etc) because of something they read in the bible.  I have given this negative view a reasonable amount of thought, and the only cause I can really think of is that functional clothing is associated with lower (often farming) classes, and fashionable clothing with the middle and upper classes.  Thus, the idea that someone of the upper or middle class would willingly choose to dress more like the lower classes is mystifying to them.  I don’t dress the way I do to try and deny my class, or to correspond with a religious belief; I dress the way I do because it makes me comfortable and keeps me from being self-conscious, and keeps me focused on other, more important parts of my life.  Well, until someone asks me if I’m conservative, that is.

 

So, yeah.  Commentary?

By the way, for those interested, I have put together a set on flickr that shows a decent depiction of what I wore on a daily basis back in the US.  Many of these were before I got rid of most of my clothes, and so I have picked those which I feel are most representative:  My “Fashion”