Archive for April, 2007

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don’t mess with li’l stevie

April 29, 2007

Stevie likes my jokes, but sometimes I think he overdoes it, cuz he just wants food.  Spring Sunday Seoul, 2007.

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Closing the Ann Arbor Chapter

April 25, 2007

This past April, filled with staggered goodbyes, has really made me feel the bittersweetness of vagabondage. [see flickr set] It was much more difficult to leave Ann Arbor than I had anticipated it would be. This, of course, is directly related to the sadness I feel about leaving beloved friends and valued colleagues, all of whom will be sorely missed.  As trite as it may sound, with each new move, life becomes more complicated. We now have cherished friends living on at least 4 continents and 12 different cities. In a perfect world, we could visit ALL of them once a year for at least a week each. Until that magic day when Matty and I both become wealthy independent scholars and make this possible, however, we will console ourselves with the thought of how fortunate we are to have met so many wonderful people on this journey so far. Here’s hoping that our next episode in Appleton will bring us similar joys and sorrows.

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What strange side effects

April 24, 2007

The fallout from the VT massacre is having some truly revelatory effects over here. The initial fear of Korea “losing face” based on the horrific acts of an immigrant is gradually fading and a rather stark appreciation of America’s public grieving process is taking hold. This is causing a bit of soul-searching that is, frankly, refreshing and a bit overdue.

First of all, there have been articles asking Koreans, “what would we do if an immigrant here did something so horrific?” Such self-reflective pondering is absolutely essential to the process of the cultural maturation of a nation growing increasingly multiethnic/multicultural. This preventative reflection is obviously much wiser than simply waiting for something to happen and then trying to harness the inevitable whirlwind.

In addition, there are some rather startling realizations about cultural differences vis-a-vis assigning blame and forgiveness. For too long, the comparative analysis between the US and Korean culture has been stuck in two simplistic modes: 1) we are different, and if it goes any deeper than that, 2) we are different, and we are better. But the reaction to the massacre has brought something new, 3) they have their own impressive aspects, too, don’t they?

What has been most impressive to Korean people has been the respect shown to the perpetrator, Seung Cho. Take a look at this cartoon, from the Hankyoreh Sinmun:

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The top picture refers to an incident in 2002 when two middle school students were run over by a bridge-laying vehicle during military exercises. The caption notes that the US is has not only a “responsibility shirking culture” and the in the tracks of the vehicle are written the schoolgirl victims’ names and the phrase, “numerous crimes by American troops in Korea”, but also… in the lower picture, “On the other hand, a culture of forgiveness: a memorial for Cho that is exactly like those of the victims.”

I’ll admit, while I was optimistic that no major backlash against Asian students would occur in the States, I wasn’t such a pollyanna to think that this self-reflection would be inspired here in Korea. Let’s hope this otherwise entirely lamentable event continues to contribute to more positive cross-cultural communication and mutual understanding.

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Late April… a wedding and a mass murder, so it goes.

April 18, 2007

Hello loyal reader. I have been a bit remiss in regularly blogging, I know. I tend to save up everything and then let it out all at once. I think I can blame the lack of good beer for my inability to write more often. The lubricant delivered by that sacred combination of fine hops and barley has earned my even further appreciation. Not sure I thought that was possible, but there you go.

Well, leave it to big events to get me going again.

Read the rest of this entry ?

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a few days in april

April 3, 2007

 

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Decided a change of pace was in order. I look really tired, because I am. I hope it doesn’t bore you too much. )