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L.A. Fields
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A Return to Books

L.A. Fields
I just read a whole book without feeling obligated in I don't know how long. Veins, by the Drew who draws Toothpaste For Dinner, which was free for a day through Amazon, and which is nice and disheartening. I gave it 4 stars because when it comes to reading about the mental and economic struggles of people who live in Ohio, Keith Banner is my high bar, but I read the whole thing because I kept wanting to read it, which hasn't been happening a lot because of grad school. Next I'm reading a Robert Louis Stevenson book I found in the supply room at work.

I outlined my Leopold-Loeb book to my sister last weekend, mostly because I knew she wouldn't stop me--we were walking and talking, she probably let her mind wander. I told her my planned ending and she said something like, "You should probably have more of a pay-off if you want to make any money or fans," and I was like, I don't care if I have fans, I'm trying to make something Better and Truer than what's been written about them before, and she was like, "Oh. Do whatever then."

I'd literally rather work an honest cog job for money and do my art for a pittance, I'm practically a martyr. I'm hearing more and more about my sister's husband's business world and the elaborate money-spending rituals they go through to develop contacts and clients, and after every anecdote I have to wonder who gives a shit. I get wanting to make money (like, not living in poverty is ideal), but when you spend all your time spending money to make more money, when is the part where you enjoy it? If you don't enjoy a process that takes your entire lifetime you are completely missing the point of having a lifetime.

I've spend a lot of time worrying that my job and new lifestyle will make me complacent about writing. I work during the week, spend the weekends with my sister, and already a month has gone by like that. It's so easy not to feel the steady creep of time because I'm happy, and I worry about what if not that will motivate me to write. So far all that sits me down to type out a few more paragraphs has just been the thought that I if I don't keep writing after I get a real job, then all I've been for the past decade is a tourist. Hopefully a real motivation will develop soon, like incurable existential boredom.

True Love

L.A. Fields
I spent an entire weekend with my sister (slept over at her place on Friday night, spent Saturday walking to my place with her, went shopping and back to her place that night, had ANOTHER sleepover at her place, then spent all day Sunday with her getting a haircut and browsing for the last few small things I needed), and after a full two days in each other's face I called her after she got home and we talked for three more hours. IS THIS LOVE? Is this true love and why is it with my sister; I didn't prepare for this life scenario; please help.

I got my hair cut (it's shoulder length, layered, curling up all over), and the guy who cut it gave me his card with his personal cell number written on the back. He pointed it out, made sure I saw it, handed me the card. He did not do this with my sister a month ago when she got a haircut and she was handed a card. We think I was being flirted with.

This weekend was the one my sister really acknowledged how disappointing a dude our dad is. I don't cut family 100% out of my life because I'm a softie, but I wouldn't be surprised if I never saw my father in person again. He won't come to Korea even with both of his adult children in the same city, he wouldn't come to Chicago when I invited him, he wouldn't have driven through Sarasota on my birthday when I was in college if it hadn't been on the way between home and some kayaking symposium in St. Petersberg, and now that my sister and I are both adults we can talk about how much he's let us down. I guess he's okay, but who becomes a father hoping their kids grow up to say, "You know with dad, he's okay, I mean I still email him seven times a year because he's our dad, but you can't rely on him at all and I'm not sure he really cares about us." He wants to know what he can get us for Christmas from the states now that we are both here. My sister wants him to help her with her stateside taxes (which isn't what he meant and he won't help her), and I suggested he buy a giftcard through an international company so we can just get something ourselves. He gets sentimental but never enough to do anything real about it, and with how good the relationship between me and my sis is (we support each other; we like each other, and we love each other), he's just got no chance of impressing us anymore.

Anyway. I have put skin moisturizer made from snail slime on my face and am headed to bed.

Resident Alien

L.A. Fields
I got my Alien Registration Card today, I get a bank account tomorrow. I totally live in Korea now.

My head teacher was asking me about jobs, about whether I wanted to move into administration eventually (to which I was like LORD, NO). I explained that writing is my thing, and teaching is what the majority of writers I can think of with comfortable lives do, so I was just looking for the teaching gig with lowest hours and highest pay, and I've got a good one for now. And in a beach town near family, no less. Short of some weird fortune finding me, I'll do this until I can get into college teaching maybe and then just keep on keeping on.

My head teacher told me there was a writing group in Busan and I had to let her in on the fact that I don't necessarily like other writers. Just like with normal people, there are maybe a handful of writing enthusiasts I like, and just buckets of them I either hate or pity. Head teacher was like, "Some people just like to write and have fun, right?" and I had to be like, "Yeah, I found a lot of that in grad school, people wanting a support system for their hobby, but like, do they deserve a support system if they aren't serious about it?" And then the conversation ended. How hard is it to do your own hobby that you like? If you want support, go buy a bra, seriously.

Oh also, in case anyone was curious about my cryptic hints relating to my last roommate's weird behavior? She had food issues that caused her to eat in secret and "hide" the trash in her closets, drawers, and under her bed. I saw ants once and started going in there to clean out her garbage--I know that's no way to treat the underlying mental issues, but since her family seemed to be waiting for her to snap out of it on her own somehow (I talked with her dad about it), and her school's counseling center said they don't do outreach even when someone contacts them with news that a student is having panic attacks and shows signs of an eating disorder (which I did in an email), I could at least keep the place that I lived trash free. Every month I cleaned out 4-7 pizza boxes and even more Little Debbie snack boxes. Once I found that the suitcase she kept in her closet had been packed with empty cereal boxes and old plastic cake containers (meaning at some point she ate an entire cake and then stuffed away the evidence). It was her chore to take out recycling, and one time I found the recycling I thought she'd taken down weeks before stashed in her closet. Maybe this would have been easier to deal with if broaching any subject that sounded like criticism ("You know you put a bunch of empty stuff back in the fridge?" or "Your cat might not attack you so much if you didn't hold him like a baby until he scratched at your eyes.") wasn't met with a really creepy Annie Wilkes sort of dead face. When I have room to question your mental health (hi, I stayed inside for 60 straight days once as a free adult), you have some issues. I'm not judging you, I'm just trying to help another traveler on the road.

It was pretty annoying watching someone only a year younger than me just do nothing AT ALL to change her fucked up behavior. I understand that's sort of a thing that humans do, resist positive change in favor of comfortable dysfunction, but I never ever want to live with it again.

I had two roommates in Chicago, and both of them were mulish about things that caused problems and stress in their lives--never analyzing the behavior, and never changing:

Erin (former best friend) was particularly bad with money; easy about going into debt, always spent everything she made even when she was making 30K a year and could have saved a comfortable emergency cushion, and even though once a month it meant she sat in the living room crying and freaking out and wishing she'd bought less Starbucks.

Caitlin (second roommate from Craigslist, and an MFA fiction student from another school) had a cycle of binge-eating and shame, and even though she must have noticed that I started cleaning up after her, she did nothing to change or evolve in over a year. I've seen Hoarders, I get that it's a Thing, but I just have no patience as an adult with issues of my own for other adults who both do destructive things and refuse to even own it if they're confronted with stone hard facts. Who are you fooling? Not me, not you, not your family... maybe three people who don't actually know you on the internet? What is the point of not acknowledging it, except to stupidly keep the bad habits that make you unhappy?

Anyway, here are some pictures of what I was living with for the past year and managed to only tell fifteen people about privately (which is hard for me as bloggy writey type). These were all taken on separate occasions:

2014-10-23 12.25.192014-09-03 17.11.21
2014-11-13 13.20.502014-10-23 12.18.55

Long story short: living in my own place in Korea is great.

Currency Exchange Rate

L.A. Fields
I made just over $11 in royalties from the UK erotica anthologies I was published in between 2011 and 2013. Six Xcite anthologies that paid about £50 ($70-ish for me at the time) for the stories initially have also now paid out royalties because I rose above the $10 dollar Amazon KDP minimum. It's no career, but it's not nothing either.

After working two and a half weeks at my school in Korea, I finally get paid some tomorrow. They do direct deposits mid-month, but I don't have my Alien Registration Card yet (should come this week), which means I don't have a bank account yet, which means I'm going to get the 300,000 (~ $270) they keep in cash tomorrow, and the rest when I get my bank account. I make over $100 a day for seven hours of work, it's a good deal. I finally get to treat/repay my sister this weekend when I sleep over at her house by buying us dinner and lunch, hooray.

So international now, much cool and interesting, many couple of incomes!

Distinctions

L.A. Fields
I have a favorite student. He's a quiet boy who reads right up to the bell and then pulls his book back out as soon as the assignment is done, all while getting perfect grades. I LOVE HIM. Last week he was reading a comic book, this week it was Harry Potter, he's perfect. If you could guarentee me a quiet, bookish child, I'd literally have one, but that's not how it works. I might get this kid, or I might get the slacker who just got smart enough to tell me I'm so fat in the place of one answer on his test. He lost two points just to make sure I'd know his opinion of my weight. It's a crap-shoot.

Girl students are better than boy students as a general rule. Better behaved, better at speaking, I have one class of six girls and no boys that is a delight. Last week their assignment was to run for president, they were so engaged and clever, they're the best. When the girls are too smart for their assignment, they use their free time to become helpers (start their homework or aid others); when boys are too smart for their assignments they use their free time to smack each other and scream just to hear themselves being loud. What inferior creatures.

I'm planning a sleepover with my sister this Friday night. My head teacher (she is a teacher with four years of experience over me who is coaching me through this orientation) keeps inviting me out for Saturday night party stuff, but I'm really not that interested in young people fun. I enjoy drinking, but I prefer to do it with people I've already vetted in a quiet venue. I don't get sick of my sister's company, I moved here to see more of her, and I don't really need more friends than that. It might be nice to date (I keep thinking) but I'm sure if it's meant to be I'll meet someone when I'm out with my sister at a place that isn't a club (I've been to like three clubs in my life, cannot take them seriously).

The farther away I get from Florida, the more I like country music. I can admit it more and more easily as it gets rarer and rarer in the people around me. I just can't stand not being special, man, I don't like that at all.

Assimilation

L.A. Fields
My cold has been occupying my weekend--can't taste, the cold weather hurts extra, sleeping is difficult. I think it's finally letting up. My sister spent Saturday waiting at my place for a maintenance man who never came, and I'm spending Sunday with her watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

It's been three weeks since I moved to Korea and it already feels like I've been here much longer. I'm very aware that I could do this job and hang out with my sister and look up suddenly to realize I'm thirty and have like emotional episode about it. I bet that'll be fun. One of my fellow teachers was marvelling at how quickly my sister got married after moving here, and told me he thought he would date more, but after six years in this country he is still single. Whatever, dude: I've been single all my life, and I'm barely insecure about it.

I've already been asked a lot by my fellow Westerners if I would ever consider dating a Korean. My response is usually: "Why not? Have you seen Korean people? They're beautiful." I will be upfront that I'm not interested in being with anyone long-term who isn't incredibly fluent in English, but as long as they have the ability to appreciate my charming sarcasm, I'm willing to consider all applicants. I like being open minded like that, it's kind of my thing.

My sister got me a pillow shaped like a piece of octopus sushi, at my request. His name is Tako-bap--tako is Japanese for octopus, bap is Korean for rice, look at my new little buddy:

2014-12-05 21.21.14

Vocals

L.A. Fields
Yesterday was long--11 AM to nearly 9 PM, starting with parent conferences (during which I had to not-yawn while my co-teacher translated), then a boy who threw a tantrum and had to be bodily removed from my classroom (apparently that happens a lot with him). My next class was rowdy and loud, I still don't know if/when I'm supposed to be collecting the million types of homework these kids have, and I ended the day with a nose-bleed that hit me when I was reorganizing my room so everything isn't in the damn way. Today, between my cold and having to yell at my students to sit down please 500 times a day, my voice is fading. I have my smokey bar sick voice back again.

All week there are parent conferences. The good part of those is that some of the mothers go out of their way to compliment me (it's the hair--letting all this curly hair down), and lunch is ordered in for the teachers. Next week I'm back to the short, easy job I signed on for, and this weekend my sister's coming by to hang out with me, so it's all still good.

Down time between conferences today allowed me to do some writing at work, which was super satisfying. This time next month should be smoother, but it's already working out pretty well here. Every weekday I call my sister and we congratulate each other on our non-home-town lives, it's fun.

Depiction

Nathan Leopold
I think I've got half a cold that my immune system's winning against. Last week in Seoul my medical test came back with a high white blood cell count (probably from stress, since they've retested and said nothing--you'll get fired for being too sick in Korea, FYI, and most job applications are submitted with a head shot to make sure they like your face), so maybe my army of white cells is keeping it down to just some annoying sniffles.

Today was my first full day inside in at least two weeks. My sister called and asked if I wanted to meet her out; I did not. They came to me instead and brought lunch, so that was good. My apartment is settled, just a couple things I want to buy after I get my first pay check (a little desk organizer, a compact mirror, a pillow for the pillow case someone knit me in college). Tomorrow (Monday) I go get my Alien Registration Card and possibly a bank account (at least by the end of the week), then after work someone is coming back with me to get me lightbulbs--I have five burnt-out lightbulbs in my place right now, four working ones, but they're all ceiling lights so it makes a difference.

I think by this time next week I'll be back to writing. I have a lot of free time in the mornings and evenings and weekends, and no real desire to go out and socialize because I already have my sister, and she's much more fun to be around than strangers. She knows my speed, we've spent too long apart in the past few years already, and so hanging out with her is my priority. The rest of my time is pretty empty unless I fill it with TV. I'll take up going on walks with my sister, and since work stays at work, I can write all during the week, mornings, evenings, whatever. I won't really focus on it for this first month (I'm giving myself time to adjust to what I've done, where I am), but after that I'll set myself a schedule for finishing the Leopold-Loeb book in 2015. I'm halfway done already, it'll happen.

Here, have a picture of Gwangan Bridge, a depiction of Gwangan Bridge on the seawall, and Marine City, where my sister lives:
2014-11-23 13.02.19

Week One: Done

Sparks
So: my first week working and living in Busan has gone well. I'm getting good at the grading process at the school and all the minutia that goes along with it, and I know for sure that if my mother had put me in such a pain-in-the-balls program when I was a kid I'd resent it still to this day. The place I work is an after school thing, either two or three days a week, and the kids are expected to take two quizzes a week, do writing homework, record speaking homework, and recieve phone calls from their teachers. That's something I have to do to them. Poor little suckers. When I was their age I spent all my free time in a mental Hogwarts, and I was happy. I didn't have school and more school until seven o'clock at night, gross.

Although it did occur to me while looking up what all the symbols on the Korean flag mean that I'm pretty used to looking at that flag because I spent a few years doing Tae Kwon Do as a kid, at my mother's insistance, and I definitely hated that. My bro-in-law and his friend who helped me around Seoul last week are both black belts from their time in military service (all South Korean dudes have to do at least two years of service--they can pick which two years, but it's mandatory). I was a blue belt with a red stipe before my dojang started adding bullshit belts to keep people in classes longer (purple, orange, and brown belts are not real Tae Kwon Do belts) and I was allowed to quit. I broke a board with a kick once, but it was being bent by two grown men with all their strength at the time, so it's not the accomplishment it once seemed.

I've put in a cancel order for my American cell phone plan. My bro-in-law put me on his company account for as long as I'm here, which means the only bills I currently have (since my apartment is paid by the school) are gas, electric, and student loans. I also no longer own keys because Korea is all about the keypad door entry. Somehow getting a job has given me more freedom than I've ever known before and it's delightful.

Tomorrow is Saturday, and I'll be spending it all with my sister, doing a little more shopping (I need a rice cooker, a new subway card, a pillow shaped like a piece of sushi), and hanging out at her place. Nicest life!