Sunday, November 30, 2008

approximately 40%

that is the (theoretical) pay-cut i have taken just be being here for 3 months*. theoretical, because they pay me in won and i live in korea, however i am the sort that needs to send money back to the US. this can potentially, and does, have very real implications for me.

1. i offered to fly my darling lady over, she charged the ticket on good faith, and then international finance happened. she was fantastic to me (in every way, but for the sake of this) financially when i was unemployed and running out of money, essentially keeping me feed for two months. unfortunately, her finances have changed just as rapidly as mine, and she is fucked since i can't get her the money. that is to say, what i thought was going to be my opportunity to (literally) repay her kindness has caused fiscal problems beyond our control^.
2. i have some debt that i planned on paying off while here, that has changed drastically.
3. i have to go to europe after my contract for a wedding, and some of the money (actually, all my money for europe) needs to be earned here

those are the biggies.

there is one large question that comes from all this, that is a lead-in to the really big question. first the smaller one that is easier to handle: what do i do after my contract is up?

it is only 3 months into the 12 i have signed, so who knows how the exchanged will look 3 months from now. that is the most obvious point, but why not speculate?

i really like my job. i enjoy teaching, but more than that, i like where i teach, where i live, and the life i am living here. this isnt to say it is 100% joy, but it beats the pants out of my life since 2006. is there a point where the exchange rate makes being here prohibitive? unsure. some experts say it can get up to 1800/1usd, but experts are often proved wrong. [side bar: the real shits'n'giggles aspect to this devaluation vs the dollar is that the people who are benefiting the most from this are the US armed-forces personnel stationed here, and they are the ones that, generally, koreans dislike the most.] as long as i have enough to keep paying my debts, perhaps the idea of saving some money stays a point that i cannot currently reach.

my goal is to re-sign for another year. i have given myself these two years to live abroad (part of what makes the lady so wonderful is working with me on this) and i plan on using them. what happens if i dont sign in korea? i need to then find a brand new country to go to, and walk away from what i have just stated is a life i enjoy. i mean, i can do it, sure--i didnt come to korea for a korean-centric purpose beyond being really excited to see all the paik nam june works, but i do love me some habit (that i can modify as need be), and i have found some (i have a local bar, have befriended many koreans, and, for the first time in my life, go to the gym 3 days a week, and volunteer once a week). plus, if i re-sign, i don't need to develop a brand-new curriculum, tho i am sure some of it could carry over to say, poland or viet nam.

the really big question is: what happens after these two years?

before i left dc, my friend threw a party for me and another guy who was leaving dc. at this party a friend of mine who is quite grown-up (is a partner in a marketing firm, has a house, married, with child) said, 'you know, when you come back, you need to settle.' i thought at the time, and still do to a certain extent, 'i'm not sure i need to be as middle-class as you', but there is still a very valid point to what he is saying. i have been pondering what will happen when i get back to the US and the only thing i know is i will be spending some time in buffalo with my family, then moving to where the marvelous woman is. (did i mention she will be here in less than one month!) but beyond that, it seems likely it will involve me heading back to school. this comes as a bit of a shocker. didn't think i would be doing that at what will be 32/33.

the idea of re-entering school at that age colors what i go back to school for. i still would love to take two years and get an mfa (so i can enter the factory;) but i have always thought an mfa is kind of an indulgent degree, at least i don't think i want to teach creative writing (not that it would be that bad to do, but...) so the only reason for me to get one would be to have full-time dedication to art production for two years, and since i am taking two years for myself now, that starts to add up. who knows, i will prolly end up getting an mfa and laughing at my current outlook.

the other possibilities that attract me are: getting certified as a teacher, social work, and community organization/activism. teaching makes sense. i could potentially start teaching when i got back and have my school pay for my degree (assuming i find employment). what level (elementary, middle, or high school) and what subject are open for debate. this in many ways is the most logical path, since i will have two years teaching experience, but as it is the most logical, it is the one i approach with the most skepticism as i am a smidge nuts.

social work seems like a good one. my biggest fear is burn-out (even more so than teaching--actually with all of these 'career minded' degrees i am terrified of burn out. it has been my practice since graduating college to not do the same job for employment for more than two to three years. the idea of having the same categorical job for 30 years or so worries me.) it turns out i want a job that will make a difference in the lives of other people, and while teaching offers that (and yes, it does 'help' people to be educated) social work seems like a much more concrete example of help.

community organization/activism. this one seems quite natural. while in buffalo i organized (with chris fritton) the buffalo small press book fair and worked with just buffalo in curating the small press poetry series. also, i think my public relations experience would be helpful in this field, tho i admittedly know the least about it.

a friend of mine thinks that i would make an excellent fact checker. that too has some attraction, but would require me to live in a large city with lots of publishing, i think. also, i wonder what the qualifications for such a position are.

when i signed my contract and came to korea, it was approximately 1040 won/1 usd. it is now about 1475/1. it has been higher (over 1500/1) and lower in the last two months.
fortunately, part of her super-awesome goodness is recognizing that these problems that have occurred all well beyond either of our control, and getting me to get closer to accepting that truth.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Rock The Vote


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

ces soir

a man asked where i am from, i told him.
he then asked
gun? boom! boom! boom!

i told him i didn't own a gun.

a man asked, mafia?
i think he ignores context.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Thursday, November 13, 2008


i came to korea a vegetarian, and i could very well end up a vegan back in the states, but in the mean time, i eat whatever.

there are a few reasons for this.

when i first arrived i would walk the streets trying to find food. of course, there is tons to eat in korea, but wanting to stick to my veggies, i didn't want to just order anything. so the language barrier was a gigantic issue. also, koreans don't quite grasp the concept of vegetarian. there are numerous stories of people telling their koreans co-teachers, or whomever, they are vegetarian only to the get a pizza with ham on it and they saying, "look, vegetarian!". add to this that seemingly vegetarian things, like kimche dumplings, have pork in them and it was quickly a war that i couldn't win. or at least for now. in addition to those practical problems, i was also thinking about a conversation i had with steve z before i came over. steve is a vegetarian and stuck to it when he went to france to visit his then girlfriend and he said he regretted it. not because french meat was more appealing, but that food is a gigantic part of a culture and he felt that he literally missed out on a part of french culture.

so i went on a meat eating rampage.

i am an adventurous eater. i want to try nearly everything once. as meat was done being a road block, i set some korean gastronomic goals: dog, live octopus.

i asked my co-teachers about the first goal, and it turns out one of my co-teachers--a very demure woman, who is also the youngest--loves dog. i asked her out.

'(laughs) are you sure? i hear western peoples they...think we are barbarian for dog.'

not wanting to explain the concept of entrapment and that i wasn't doing that, i told her that i am very curious about it and that i was fairly certain if i tried on my own to get dog that korean restaurateurs would most likely not give it to me.

they day came she took me to eat dog ("healthy soup") she was very nervous.

there is usually the possibility of another western being in a restaurant, but that wasn't going to be the case in this establishment. every korean who came in the restaurant did an even larger double-take when they saw me (i am accustomed to koreans looking surprised to see me, but here it was an even bigger deal).

after the meal the proprietor was very curious as to my reaction to the meal, and it turns out, so was my school's vice-principal as it quickly spread that i was trying dog.

my conclusion: it is okay. it isn't the best thing i have ever had, nor anything i need to eat again in my lifetime. it is extremely tender, and a mix of red meat and game.

(ugh, its is over-dubbed)

last night i was out with my friend rob for dinner and some beer. when we met he was fairly certain the establishment we went to had great galbi (ribs). it turns out he was incorrect. this restaurant only served one thing, and so we got what they serve. a korean man at the table next to us said, 'this may not be the restaurant for you. food is below stomach.'

rob had lived in viet nam last year teaching and both of us like to try whatever the country we are in throws at us, so we ignored what the man said, tho i had a feeling what 'below stomach' meant, and i was right.

they serve pig intestines and liver. i am not a big fan of liver. even when i ate meat it seemed like i shouldn't eat anything that serves the function of filtering bad things out of the body. but, in comparison to intestines, liver is good.

while we were out i was getting texts from my bartender that i should come in. then i got a text from a regular at my bar telling me i should come in. so, while on the subway i decided i would go.

the bar was very quiet, only about 5 people, but people i know well: 'vick' who took me out of town one weekend, young (my bartender), billy (the owner), ji who sells things on the korean home shopping network, and young, a man who is often at the bar. i was told that since it was 'rolling stone family night' they all started asking about me.

i was already drunk when i got to the bar and i showed them the two new swearing flash cards i got when i was out with rob and this korean man joined us. now, young (bartender) had already taught me 3 swear words, and one of them is extremely bad. however, these two new words are (apparently) abhorrent. ji asked to see all of my flash cards and he saw the one that says (roughly) san nag che, or live octopus.

'why do you have this?'
'i want to try it'

customer young yelled, 'i love san nag che! we go now!'

i didn't really want to eat at 145 in the morning, and i tried to protest, but then he said, 'i serve you!'

vick clarified, 'he is buying, you go'

so young and i went across the street for live octopus. it isn't as dramatic as the scene above, as it is cut up, but it is moving all over the place. it was very interesting to eat. i decided to night bite into it right away (after it crawled up my chopsticks) and let it just sit in my mouth. the suction cups affix themselves to anywhere they can. there was one piece that attached to the roof of my mouth. i was told there can be a danger of it sticking to, and therefore, blocking off your throat. so, to take care of the one that was stuck to the roof of my mouth, i took a sip of soju (korean liquor) and pushed it with my tongue.

a few minutes into the meal, the rolling stone family came and joined us. it was quite flattering that young and billy closed down the bar early just to eat live octopus with the foreigner. so there we were, a table of 6, eating a growing meal (they started adding courses) at 315 in the morning. my favorite question was, 'is sushi okay?' and i laughed and pointed out that if i will eat live seafood, uncooked seafood shouldn't be much of a problem. it was a good night.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

pepero day

"can i touch it?"

this is what caused me to turn around to a gang of girls standing behind my office chair.

i have what they refer to in korea as a high nose. an extremely high nose. from what i gather, this means that i have a high nose bridge, ie, my nose comes right out of my forehead, not the gentle slope of the swedes, or the low bow of many asians. in turns out, this is a desirable feature that koreans want. this, of course, makes me laugh. in america, people get plastic surgery to lower their nose bridge, in korea, they get plastic surgery to raise their nose bridge.

never having left 6 years old, i replied, "only if i can touch yours"

suddenly i am having 2 girls (out of 5) touch my nose, and i am touching the noses of 2 girls (out of 5). they eventually leave.

kim, who saw all of this, and who is one of the best students, and kindest human beings, then drops off my pepero.

today is pepero day. (see photo)

after she gives them to me, she says, hesitently, "many high nose. you have a very high nose, so we like your nose. if i may, may i touch your nose?"


kim touches kev-kev's nose.

"do you want to touch my nose?"

now i was only touching these girls' noses because i think the entire thing is funny, and in part to remind them that i am a human being, and not just here for their nose touching curiousities. kim, however, seemed worried that i didn't immediately want to touch her nose. not wanting her to feel left out, i touched her nose.

the bell rings, kim smiles and heads to class. i eat a pepero. kim's pepero gift also came with a note.

it is 4 pages of various morsels of wisdom in english. my favorites:

Nothing matters very much, and few things matter at all.
Arthur Balfour

Why don't you go and sin a little?
So God deserve to have something to forgive you for.
Martin Luther

Money may be the husk of many things, but not the kernel.
It brings you food, but not appetite; medicine, but not health;
acquaintances, but not friends;
days of joy, not peace or happiness.
Henrik Ibsen

It is preoccupation with possessions,
more than anything else,
that prevents us from living freely and nobly.
Immanuel Kant

after class she returned and said, "did you read my note?"
"it is my hope that these things, that they help you."
'thank you'
"i was worried, i was up, i was writing them at midnight, and that, ohhh, at 1am i was so tired."
' didn't have to do that. thank you very much. you are very kind.'

kev-kev shares a pepero with kim

Thursday, November 6, 2008


been less than inspired to do many of the things that i hold dear. actually, held? this has been coming to a fore the last few years. basically since i left baltimore. in particular, reading, writing, and making collages. i used to spend hours on these activities, now not so much. i am still passionate about these subjects, and that passion may be in part why i do not participate as much in them.

my last big project was KEVIN IS RUNNING LATE BUT WILL BE IN (available for download here, reviews here, here, and here). it was an easy project for me to make. i did it at my day job. i have a tendency (work ethic) to throw myself hard at whatever is occupying the majority of my time, so as this project came about, i simply allocated resources from managing my department into making this project. now i am teaching, and i am throwing myself at it full-tilt. but i don't think this explains my drop in production.

the majority of the work i make is extremely personal to me (even if it seems it is simply documenting). last week on the walk to school, when i initially was going to write this post (see what i mean about delays and lack of motivation), i was listening to my ipod on shuffle. one of the tracks came on. at first i was shocked (hearing my own voice). then i giggled. then i was left with this absolute feeling of distance. this was so much a part of my life (9 hours a day at the job, then the self-identification with an art object) for so long (2+ at my day job, countless hours with nick recording it) and now that is over. not completely over, as the object attests, but in many ways, a relic.

let me back track. when i was in baltimore i wrote a book, made many collages, was active in mail art, and was making poems regularly. none of that has been the case in the last few cities i have lived in (buffalo, dc, seoul).

it isn't that i haven't made *anything* just that the size and scale has been drastically reduced. a few weeks ago i bought collage materials. and that night i was cutting things out, coloring things, and thinking about organizing things on the page. and then, nothing happened. i was also working on a new transcription project, that too has fizzled.

post-baltimore, i was invited to perform in many cities (nyc, toronto, milwaukee, chicago, dc, baltimore, buffalo, etc) but even then, my work was always made to order. it seems that shy of having 'an order' i am unproductive. i have written or conceived numerous things in my head, but i never follow through. this has left me in a peculiar situation.

i don't mind not producing, i am quite content focusing on teaching, but there is something about this challenge to identity (tho, perhaps i am still an artist) that i think about. it could be very well that i am incubating, or i am on hiatus, or i am done, or tomorrow i begin another period of production.

the only real 'conclusion' i've reached is that without a community (define that abused word, at least in american poetry) any way you will, i am simply not active enough on my own. or perhaps it is that now i am a fan of various communities (including the art scene i have found in seoul, which is quite active, and great), more of a fan than an active participant, and that the free-time i alot to art is spent taking things in. it is, i repeat, not a bad thing at all to be absorbing. nor is this a woe is me post. it is simply something i wanted to put out there, no matter if i am sharing it with the same six people i could simply email this to, or if it is read by hundreds.

okay, time to shower. gotta teach tomorrow, after all.