Friday, May 28, 2004

as my anus says: it all works out in the end

When I get angry, my ears and cheeks get red and feel hot. I think this happened this evening, even though I was perversely enjoying myself.

I've blogged before about Jang-woong's #2 older sister Mi-young, here and here. She's going to a conference tomorrow to hear some American academic spew more propaganda about how America's an empire. She printed out that academic's paper (Dr. Amy Somebody or Other, apparently big in her field, which appears to be American Studies), and asked me to read it over and help her develop some post-presentation questions (read: provide her with some questions) for the prof.

This was bizarre: I was being asked to do this despite the fact that Mi-young knows I don't agree with her political views. But she beamed and told me, "You're the perfect person to make questions because you're critical!" I didn't really buy that, though, and as time went on, I saw I was right: Mi-young and her mother (who speaks excellent English) got into a typical "old conservative vs. young liberal" debate, and at several points Mi-young groused to her mother that she wanted to be able to ask questions that reflected her own point of view. I stopped reading and told her that that was a good idea. Mi-young nevertheless wanted me to continue formulating critical questions.

Both Mi-young and her mother thought, based on my previous critique of Mi-young's own paper (see the links above), that I was a strong conservative (or "rightist," as both ladies said). I suppose I appear this way to people far out on the left, but I think of myself as either apolitical, or moderate at best. Tonight, it seems my views were closer to Mi-young's mother's than to Mi-young's.

I guess what upset me was sitting face-to-face with someone who held the kind of views espoused by lefty papers like the Hankyoreh, listening to silliness like "America has killed more Iraqis than Saddam Hussein has," and so forth. It didn't help that the mother-daughter debate was happening while I was reading a truly frothing-lefty paper whose point of departure was the fundamental thesis, articulated by Edward Said, that the West's dominance is the equivalent of rape (read Said's Orientalism if you think I'm kidding, then do yourself a favor and read Bernard Lewis's critique of Said in Lewis's Islam and the West-- Chapter 6, I think). Dr. Amy Whatshername's paper was shot through with Said-isms, Foucaultian polemic about power, and that awful, awful swear word used by postmodernists to describe the problem with general conclusions, ahistoricality. Her paper also ranted on and on about empire, empire, empire, without once defining what she meant by the word. Sloppy.

A lot of tonight's discussion, which I got sucked into several times while I was reading Dr. Amy X's paper, revolved around Guantanamo. Dr. Amy makes the point that Guantanamo has become, for the rest of the world, a symbol of American injustices and empire. Dr. Amy concludes her paper with the mad speculation that the entire world might become one huge Guantanamo-- a sort of "ambiguous space" where it's not quite clear what the lines of authority and jurisdiction are, but nevertheless an area that serves the United States' hegemonic designs. I told Mi-young this was baloney. I'm not a fan of slippery-slope arguments, whether employed by the right (cf. my post on gay marriage) or by the left. Life doesn't usually occur at the extremes.

Mi-young spouted about how degrading it is, nowadays, that foreigners are having to be fingerprinted in America. I quietly (but gleefully, and with ears ablaze) noted that, here in Korea, foreigners who expect to get their residence cards are also fingerprinted, and that, years ago, I remember one American complaining about how degrading that experience felt (full disclosure: for me, when I was fingerprinted years back, I thought nothing of it).

Tonight, I was supposed to teach Mi-young's sister, Yeon-ju, the woman to whom I usually teach TOEFL English. But when I got to Yeon-ju's apartment this evening, she turned me around and sent me over to Mi-young's place (they live in the same apartment complex, but in different buildings). As I said earlier, this is the land of sudden changes in plans.

Next item:

It all works out in the end.

Earlier in the day, I did another walk-through of the area by Korea University and headed over to a hasuk-jip I hadn't visited before. The lady was very nice and took me inside to see two of her rooms, one upstairs on the fourth floor, and one in the basement. Both rooms looked mighty cramped, but that can't be helped: hasuk rooms are generally small.

I'll be paying W370,000 a month for my cubbyhole, and I was cautioned not to "leave at a bad time." Here's how the adjumma explained it: if I leave right as the semester is beginning, it's unlikely that students will come along and rent the room, so it'll be empty (and not earning any money) for a couple months. Students usually settle in before a given semester begins, with some time to spare. So she told me it's OK to stay for two or three months, but if I leave around late September or sometime in October, that's bad news. I'm welcome to stay until Christmas, though: that wouldn't trouble the adjumma at all.

I appreciated her frankness. She seems very nice, and so does the adjoshi, with whom I spoke on the phone. I'll be moving in on Sunday; I need Saturday in order to figure out how the fuck I'm getting rid of my huge refrigerator, and what I'm going to do with my large table-- the one on which my computer currently resides.

Hasuk-jip rooms don't come with their own bathrooms; the facilities are public-- showers, too. Luckily, I'll be living in the half-basement area, which has only four rooms in the narrow hallway, and two bathrooms. It shouldn't be that bad, so long as no one is a bathroom-hogger. To be honest, I might become the bathroom-hogger, since I prefer to take long, luxurious, stanky shits. My hallmates are gonna hate me. I need to give myself a nickname, something to lend a little oomph to whatever bad intestinal reputation I earn. Maybe "Blaster." Or maybe hang-mun ki-hap (i.e., anal kiai).

I'm going to try to prevail on the hasuk adjumma to allow me to have DSL in my room, despite the fact that I won't be there more than a couple months, tops. I'm hoping she'll be OK with this. She seems reasonable.

Once I got everything arranged with the hasuk, I called my #3 Adjumma and cancelled on her. She doesn't need to prepare for my arrival (I'm sure she's relieved), and I don't need to worry about a two-hour commute to work. I also called K'eun Adjoshi; he griped that I should've talked to him before drawing up a contract with the hasuk adjumma. I told him not to worry, but inside I was resentful: he gave me so little time to prepare for this move that I seriously doubt he could have found a better deal within a week.

So everything's set. By Sunday evening, I'll be in a new, cramped place, with boxes, suitcases, hanger stands, books, and bookcases leaving me barely enough room for a bed. I'll have to take some pics of my cloister. But while the living conditions won't be quite as spacious, at least I won't have to worry about hearing, "Turn your fan off! It might catch on fire!"

In the meantime, hats off to Wooj, who actually suggested that I should check into a hasuk-jip. It all works out in the end.


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