Thursday, November 25, 2010

switching home bases

I'm getting cable and Internet service hooked up at my new abode this coming Friday; it's been a long time coming. Up to now, I've had to remain in Alexandria because I work from a computer, and therefore need to be where the stable Internet connection is. Now, at long last, I can finally switch the base of operations to my new, undisclosed location out in the boonies, where the population is under 15,000.

The moving process has proceeded in fits and starts. Over 90% of my possessions were taken to my new place over a week ago, but I've still been collecting all sorts of knick-knacks and driving them out to the apartment as I can (tiny car = many trips). Setting up Internet service has proven to be a pain; it took three customer service representatives for me to discover that, Internet ads notwithstanding, Verizon does not provide service in my new place of residence. Out there, it's all Comcast country; Comcast sucks, but it's like Jabba the Hutt: when you're on its turf, you have to pay it a tribute. The day Verizon FiOS is available, I'll be switching over, even if it means breaking contract with Comcast.

The apartment is a pile of boxes right now; today is going to be devoted to unpacking the kitchen items and making up the guest room. Yes, I've got a guest room: it's a two-bedroom place, with 1.5 bathrooms. I'm setting up a simple bunk bed in the guest room so as to accommodate at least two guests, who will even be able to enjoy their own half-bathroom. As Borat might say: very nice.

The eventual plan is to turn the apartment's living room area into a classroom, and to have the classroom up and running, at least part-time, by March or April. The quicker I can switch away from ETS work to something more my style and speed, the better.

Right now, though, the immediate plan is just to get totally moved. Today is all about prep for tomorrow: a haircut, a paycheck deposit, a paroxysm of last-minute desperation shopping for some humble Thanksgiving ingredients (my buddy Dr. Steve will be coming over to spend the day; as I mentioned earlier, my two brothers will be otherwise engaged), the prepping of the kitchen and guest room, and the setting-up of the electronics so that Mr. Comcast Dude can come over on Friday morning, work his technical magic, and leave me with a functioning TV and computer.

A big shout of thanks to my buddy Mike, who helped me shuttle over some bulky purchases (TV, mattresses, etc.) this past Sunday. Meanwhile, since I won't have a functioning computer until Friday, I'll take this opportunity to wish my three readers a Happy Thanksgiving. May there be much turkey, cranberry sauce, and hugging (and perhaps a bit of furtive, TSA-style groping) during your holiday.

UPDATE: Be sure to read my buddy Charles's essay "System of Control," which talks about the current Korean situation using the idiom of "The Matrix."

UPDATE 2: All the Korean ajummas at the local $7 cut barbershop (where I practice my Korean, since they only speak to me in Korean) are telling me I need to get married. When I told them about my move out to a small town, they were horrified. In true Korean fashion, they felt that their cookie-cutter solution-- to plunge into the human fray as deeply as possible-- was the best remedy for a soul in pain. "You have to go where there are lots of women! Job! Church! Clubs!" they said (before they learned I was moving, and that I have a work-at-home job). One lady, however, was more sympathetic to my point of view. She seemed to understand that some folks, especially after suffering tragedies, might want to take some time off from the hubbub and just chill in quiet, natural surroundings.

Modern Koreans, alas, are too deeply in thrall to the idea of social life to understand the quietistic urge. They'd freak if I were to read them Dr. Vallicella's frequent odes to individualism, contemplation, and spiritual depth. For many (but certainly not all) Koreans, happiness is found in the hive, the flock, or the herd. That may be why, when I was teaching in Korea, the students who made the deepest impressions on me were those who were striving to break away from all that conformism.

We have it here in the US, too, of course: people who follow trends and conventions, people who can't stand to be alone, people who are directionless and purposeless without the comfort of the herd. But we're more of a "have it your way, do it yourself, break new ground" kind of culture. When Koreans break ground (pace the bitter expats: Korea does produce a great deal of technological innovation; it's not just copying and miniaturizing), they tend to do it together. Even Grandma will grab herself a smart phone if she sees everyone else using one. Contrast that with the crotchety American Luddites who, even now, refuse to have anything to do with email or the metric system. Or with people like me who are content to float at the margins of society. I'll never pretend I'm a rugged individualist interested in building his own log cabin somewhere in an immense forest, nor will I say that I want nothing to do with society. I've just never been one for too much noise, is all. Seoul was great for eight years, but one thing it lacked was any opportunity for true solitude.

With one foot in both cultures, Korean and American, I sometimes feel comfortable with the Korean hive-mind mentality. But not right now. Right now, tranquility is just what I need. One of the ajummas warned that I might become a misanthrope, living all by myself. Well... I lived alone while I was in Korea, and didn't end up bitter. Quite the contrary, I made a nice, tight circle of friends, gained a better understanding of the culture, and came away from the experience feeling enriched. I think I'll be just fine.

The ajummas lamented that I wasn't going to be around to teach them English, but I told them I'd probably be in the area from time to time to get my haircut. My new town also has a $7 haircut place, but I have no idea how good it is. With both of my brothers still in the DC-Metro area, it's a sure thing that I'll be back regularly.

Digression: I ordered a load of Chinese food (godawful, except for the main dish) a few days ago, and kept the three fortunes from the fortune cookies I received. Here they are, each one spookily relevant (and none of them a true fortune in the predictive sense):

1. Learn to enjoy every minute of your life.

2. A house without books is like a room without windows.

3. Devotion is worth the effort at this time.

The cosmos is speaking to me through little slips of paper. Go be good and be happy. I'll try. Promise.

And now... I'm finally about to leave Alexandria. I've gotten my haircut, mailed off the $100 rebate paperwork for my cell phone, and have bought some more stuff for the apartment-- a vertical lamp for the guest room, and a new microwave. It's time to toss this computer into the car, make the long drive to my new home, shop for food, prep the place, and get ready for my old friend's arrival tomorrow afternoon. Signing off for now... but possibly blogging by phone later on. Stay sexy.



Charles said...

Thanks for the shout out. I wrote that thing on Tuesday, let it sit for twenty-four hours, and then rewrote it, and I still don't know if it says what I want it to say.

Sounds like a nice place you've got yourself there. I assume you have invested in a shotgun and plenty of rock salt to keep the kids off your lawn. Oh, and you'll want a rocking chair for the porch, too. You have a porch, right?

"Seoul was great for eight years, but one thing it lacked was any opportunity for true solitude."

Yeah, and you can't even run away to the mountains for solitude either, because they're crawling with people, too! The convenience is nice, but I do miss the quiet of a simpler life.

John from Daejeon said...

Unlike Al Gore, I am trying to lessen my foot print with a Tiny House that I'm having built right now. While only 176 feet ( I don't know the metric or South Korean coversions--also don't know what the North uses either), it has room for eight eight adults to slumber, although four of them will have to climb ladders and crawl into the two lofts.

Also, to cut back on energy usage, I've jettisoned a full-sized stove in favor of this modern marvel.

What really sucks is now I'm being pulled towards both the West and East coasts for awesome job possibilities. I just don't think I can live in either NYC or LA again with compared to the tranquility of my less than 200 person hamlet lakeside in Texas. I leaning towards being poor and happy in Texas instead of dealing with the craziness of living in both LA and NYC and then paying crushing state income and federal taxes in either California or New York. It also helps that the taxes on my new home will be less than $50 a year which go to the county, school, and hospital.

hahnak said...

the sticks are nice but i miss the city life. ill try to enjoy where i am though.

kevin enjoy your new place! and happy (quiet) thanksgiving!

(i spat when i laughed at loud at the tsa groping comment btw. had to wipe my monitor clean. thanks for that)

Anonymous said...

Maybe I just haven't been paying attention, though I swear I read your blog every morning while I have my tea, but where is your dad this Thanksgiving?

Anyway, have a happy one. May you find the peace you're looking for, both outer and inner.


Kevin Kim said...

Addofio: without getting into details, I can say that my father is currently away from home and enjoying the new life he has chosen for himself. Now that I'm out of the house, I suspect he's going to sell the place and move to greener pastures-- somewhere not so laden with sad memories. That's too bad; it would have been nice for the house to have remained in the family, given all the sweat and effort that went into improving it. I may be wrong, of course; he might choose to remain right where he is. But I doubt it.