A friend told me last night, “Everyone has flaws.”  Of course, everyone does.  It’s just that when it comes to my best friends, the people i love, i have a much harder time accepting flaws.  Because i’m too much of an idealist.

I hold the people i love to a much higher standard.  I want them to be perfect.  I want them to be the kind of people everyone respects, adores, and emulates.  I want them to be the shining ideal of a person, a representation of all the things i stand for.  And when they fail to be that, i’m crushed and inconsolable.  It hurts me deeply.

And that makes me afraid i’ll never be happy with anyone.




Filed under ethics, love, personal

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Filed under korea, teaching

If only i could be a vagabond…

…moving to a new city every few months. Not becoming known or committed to anyone or anything anywhere.

I miss Vietnam. I treated my two weeks there as a parallel universe; i convinced myself that nothing i did there mattered to the “real life” i led here in Seoul. I did whatever i wanted without a thought or a doubt. And i came back here feeling…different. I wouldn’t say “transformed;” not only is that way too cliché, but it doesn’t even really make sense. I felt more sure of myself, like i shouldn’t ever be afraid to do anything anymore. Like i hadn’t properly lived before i took that trip. Like i hadn’t trusted myself enough.

I’ve only just realized that i’ve been more confident in everything i’ve been doing since my return from Vietnam. I’m much more confident in my teaching, i’m more confident with people in general, i’m more confident in being myself at work, at a place, in a culture, where it’s probably not a good idea to be entirely myself. I don’t really give a shit about acting “Korean” at school anymore. I’m fed up with surface courtesies and the never-ending obsession with appearance. I hate feeling like i have to act Korean because i speak Korean. I hate that everyone there expects me to do so. It’s not fair that i have to take on all the responsibilities of a Korean teacher just because i’m capable of it. I don’t get paid nearly enough for that.

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Filed under korea, personal


The Dosa Man had relocated to a seedy alley with barely any foot traffic.  His cart was smaller, with a tiny square of a grill and not enough counter space for his mise.  I tried making dosas, failing with each attempt.  Too thick, too burnt, too fragile, too thin to hold the fillings…  The burner flames grew and shrunk and died of their own accord.  To the left were two slabs of cooked pork, black, prickly animal hair sticking out of the skin, big globs of fat bulging out of every crevice.  Dead meat, dry and tough as shrunken leather.  As dead as the stiff grey rat cadavers swept into dusty corners.

I was running inside the wet stairwells, my panicked footsteps ringing in the ominous open space.  I was in a boxed room, claustrophobic and defunct, dead creatures piled up in previously unknown nooks and crannies.

There was no way out of the building; its exits led to further exits which only led to growing piles of products, metal and plastic all hammered and melted into the same shape.

At the end, i was with a man, a man i had met that day.  We were alone in the store; it was locked up for the night.  All the red 80’s furniture looked like imprisoned toy soldiers, silenced and chained down to rest until the lights go on again in the morning, welcoming customers.  The shutters came down, landing on the concrete in a jangly mess, a shudder traveling up their neat, parallel spines.

We were trespassers who felt they had every right to be there.  Maybe we’re employees.  Well, who’s to say we aren’t?  We were two children in hiding, crouched underneath the counter, sketching a grandiose plan to pull the greatest prank ever; we were armed with a blueprint of the building.  I liked him; he liked me.  And we were just playing, two grown-ups having sex where they shouldn’t be.  And underneath our childlike hesitation, we really didn’t give a damn about what might happen to us.

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Filed under personal, sketches

Old students

I had a student last year who once wrote in her journal about how much she hated me and my class.  A few weeks later, she wrote me an apology journal saying how sorry she was for being immature and resolving to work hard.  I don’t teach her anymore, but she’s the only one who makes sure to say hi to me every time she sees me in the hallways.

There was a student in 2-5 last year whose gaze always haunted me.  She had eyes like deep, empty wells, and not once had i seen even a hint of an expression on her face.  Never smiled.  She never said a word in class.  She always did other work in my after school class.  She wasn’t defiant; she was just blank and lifeless.  And then, during one of my last classes that semester, something changed in her:   she smiled for the first time.  I haven’t seen her since.

2-6 was always the quiet, obedient class.  There was a Vietnamese student in that class who never did any work for my class.  Her journal grades were a straight row of 0’s.  In my final lessons, however, she grew uncharacteristically attentive:   her eyes never left me.  And she had a constant smile on her face, the kind of smile you see on students who are genuinely enjoying your class and hanging on your every word.  She was always beautiful.  I saw her outside the school recently and said hi, and she gave me the biggest smile, one that i’ll never forget.

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Filed under teaching

Pleasant dreams that haunt

My last dream was the only one i remember being so perfectly pleasant from beginning to end.  Everything was so convincingly real; from the main plot to the characters right down to their individual quirks, the story and its framework were a carefully lifted extension of real life, my life here, my life now.  I was fully invested in the story; i dreamt it in the first-person, and every move i made, every feeling i felt, was analogous to my character in waking life.  It was too real for me to even tell whether i was dreaming what i wished for or what truly will happen in the near future.  It was everything i wished for (and still wish for, possibly, maybe subconsciously), yet there were enough flaws in the story—pitfalls in the dream life—to convince me that the dream could be real enough to be premonitory.

It was part three of a series of dreams i’ve been dreaming on the same issue.  It’s amazing how much the story develops with each episode.  Every development is believable; there’s a clear explanation for every story arc, logical reasons for everything that the characters do.

I regularly have premonitory dreams.  This is only my second set of episodic dreams.

My dreams rarely ever make this much sense while being completely fictional.

The dreams i have the most trouble with are the ones with people i know in them.  When a dream moves and haunts me as much as this one does, i feel obligated to tell the people who were in it.  This time, i can’t bear to.  And i lost episode 2.

What if it is a premonition?  What if it’s the kind of premonition where it’s best for everyone to know about it?  But even if i did tell them, how could they possibly understand exactly what i felt, what i saw, what i knew so certainly in the dream?  It was something i could never believe in real life.

Or what if it’s the kind that doesn’t come true unless you do something about it?  Like a whisper in your ear urging you to go after what you were always too afraid to pursue?  Because you could never do that in real life?


Filed under korea, perception, sketches

Losing everyday

You encounter a problem.  A big, but simple problem that can be resolved in one of two simple ways, one of which hurts you.  You know how this problem will be resolved, and you know it’ll be resolved in the way that hurts you, and you know there’s nothing you can do about it.  It’s like being trapped in a maze, a maze with a “good” exit and a “bad” exit, except you don’t get to find your own way out; you’re getting dragged towards the “bad” exit, where pain and suffering await you.

It’s not fate.  There’s no such thing as fate in this world.  It’s like being at the mercy of someone else, having a say in what they do to you in this maze, and being heard—intently and with great consideration—but ultimately not having any power to change their mind.

It’s unfair.  It’s unfair because you can’t shake the feeling that you have a right to influence the outcome—the right to make moves of your own—but you can’t plead your case because it’s just a feeling, not a fact.

And meanwhile, with each passing day, with every turn you’re forced to make, you inch closer and closer to the bad exit.  How would you feel?  How are you supposed to feel?

If i were the one making the moves, i’d not only listen, but change my mind.


Filed under korea, love, personal