Coming to Terms

Dearest humans,

It is with deep regret (and deep tardiness, apparently) that I post this, what is likely my last thing as Stupid Ugly Foreigner for the foreseeable future. Know that it is out of my respect for you that I write this, as I believe in closure, and I feel like a turd going out on a post that calls my departure a hiatus.

The ease with which blogging slipped out of my life lately confirmed the gooey, honest truth for me: that I was needed elsewhere. That my home planet was calling me. That somewhere out there, there was a bowl of noodles going cold, uneaten by my face.

I am still writing, of course. Fiction was my jam long before I was bloggering, and although I like both I think it is time I direct my creative juices (cranberry flavoured!) towards making something different. I am working on a project right now (it involves clones, horned aliens, and all of the pathos you can get) which I feel very excited and proud of. It’s not yet ready for human consumption (although people interested in reading drafts of short stories can always email me and by my friend), but maybe one day soon it will.

This is both easy and hard. Easy in that the internet has always been ethereal nonsense, a whiff of smoke and electrons sparkling on my laptop, and closing the lid does not take a lot of energy. It is hard because I have been very proud of this blog and the things I have put up here. I have bared my heart, my brain, and all but my butt in how frank I have been about my failings in life. I have written some things I am very, very proud of, and also some things I am deeply embarrassed of. I have chronicled several years of my life in pictures and words, and some people read it, and they even liked it!

I have really appreciated all of you who have read, liked, shared and commented over the years (Jesus, it really has been years). I feel honoured to have had an audience at all, especially one so encouraging and pleasant.

I hope to see you all again, out there. I may blog again in the future, and knowing my own need for yammering, I will certainly always have at least one outlet for my stupid thoughts on the world (@ironcardigan, y’all!). But until then, may the roads you walk be long, the bowls of soup you eat be tasty, and the plane rides you take be less-than-farty.

See you on the road.

Summer Hiatus

As some of you local SUFferers may have gleaned, I have been lax on my postings lately. This is because it is summer! Time of beautiful sunshine, swimming, ill-advised nights of drinking expensive craft beers, and endless concerts. I attempted to still dole out your regular assemblage of words and larfs, but alas a vacation within a vacation (I am a Matryoshka doll of self-indulgent travel) and a whole lot of last minute “But I haven’t seen you in a year!” gatherings have limited my writing time. Also, I am attempting to lodge more time in my short stories, and in a screen play I am co-authoring with a dear friend, because if there’s anything about being mildly self-absorbed in your writing and simultaneously aimless in your mid-20s, it’s writing a goddamn screenplay.

 

But adventures have been had. Words float in my noggin. I have travelled, and eaten the things, and taken pictures, and thought about what a whackadoo world we all live in. I will be bringing you my thoughts on the matter in about two or three weeks. Until then, enjoy your summer, eat some noodles, and walk down a strange road you’ve never seen before.

Of Six-Year Olds and Other Pathological Liars

Dragon Boats

Cruelly suspicious dragon boat doubts the veracity of your tale.

My mom is at home with my baby brother,” Ryan told me, with beguiling sincerity. “He’s really young, so she still has to feed him. He’s only 2 years old!” The conversation went on for several minutes in this way, and I found out all about Ryan’s younger brother. “He has brown hair!” “He likes yogurt!” “He likes to play with my toy cars!”

“Earlier you were telling me about your older sister,” I mentioned casually, not trying to trap him. I was mostly curious to see how he responded–I was a cat pawing at a half-interesting ball of string.

“Oh.” A pause, a blink. “She’s 20, so she doesn’t live with us. She lives in America.” Ryan nodded to himself, as though checking his mental atlas, scrolling through the tiny, well-thumbed pages of his young brain. “So we only see her sometimes.”

Ryan doesn’t have any siblings at all.

I know that, and Ryan knows that, and Ryan probably knows that I know that. I didn’t mention it, because calling a six year-old out for being a liar is a little harsh, and really I’m just happy to see the oral language development.

Working with small children, you grow accustomed to these flights of fancy and regular dalliances with abject falsehood. Children test the world around them to see if their words can capture truth, if they can capture untruth, if they can shape the way others think by using the real and the unreal. Words are just so much noise and it barely ever occurs to them the weight they might carry, the value of some kinds of words in one assembly versus those shaped in some other configuration. Lying is just another way of breath passing through your lungs, so why not give it a try and talk about the time your family lived in Nicaragua, or how often your parents let you eat chocolate for dinner?

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My Birthday at the End of the World

A birthday at the end of the world

25 in 25.

Seas flow and converge into the ocean beyond a distant, rocky point. Kanyakumari consists of pastel houses, slowly decaying hotels, an enormous statue of a poet-saint who stares out across the waters. Pilgrims flock the beach, dipping hands and feet out into the water, and praying to the virgin goddess who rests here. Her home lies on the very southernmost tip of India.

When night falls, enormous vampire bats swoop and screech overhead. Ghostly music shimmies out from the coast and the temple, which stays alight. The power dips on and off, and the town is cast into darkness and into light in an irregular, unpredictable rhythm. Walking the streets becomes a journey through the black, with just starlight and reflections on windshields to guide the way.

All along the south-western coast lies a decaying amusement park. Like the houses the colours are bright and childish, neon blues and pinks and greens, slightly murkier and mossier now from age and neglect. An ancient aquarium lures a handful of bored children, and dozens of carnival rides slowly rust in the sun and the salt spray. A ferris wheel still runs, still lights up sometimes in the night, a great circle of flickering orange and yellow. The tilt-a-whirl died a quiet death eons ago.

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A Brief Soliliquy on Losing

So, I come to you day slightly crestfallen, as I did not win The Big Blog Exchange. I can’t deny being slightly disappointed, but it was a battle valiantly fought, and some of the other contestants have some really cool content, and others some really dynamite motivation. So congratulations and bon voyage to them.

I lied awake at three a.m., considering that I was not getting a free trip, and feeling weird about feeling bummed. Nobody owes me this. This company is not duty-bound to fund my travel based on my mental assessments of merit. And really, this contest has always been an extrinsic reward I’ve tacked on to something I find pretty intrinsically motivating. The existence of this blog is not contingent on the creation of a contest on the internet. I will continue to travel, and will continue to write, because those are things I like doing and planned on doing anyways. A free trip to Iceland or Spain or South Africa might have been nice, but I know me, and I know that I’ll get to each of those someday. And I’ll be writing the whole time, and hope you’ll come along with me.

See you on the road.

In Which Our Hero Requires Aid

Dearest compatriots,

I do not often write to you directly in this manner, for I feel it lowly of me to beseech you in such a fashion, but we have arrived at a time of need.

I know many of you hunger to assist me in any manner possible. Through many long nights you have sat awake at your windowsill, looking out onto the dark landscape with longing. Your thoughts were troubled, your heart heavy. You glanced back at your commemorative Stupid Ugly Foreigner shrine that you built in my honour. You clutched your handmade SUF t-shirt close to your heart. There was still a sting on your lower back from where you had your freshest SUF tattoo recently inked. But still you yearned. You wanted to do more for Stupid Ugly Foreigner, the man. Sending him disturbing nude portraits and locks of your hair just didn’t seem enough anymore.

Fear not, gentle reader. I bring you the opportunity you have waited for. For now is the time I sound the clarion, when I too sit at the sill and hope that somewhere, out there, my champions await.

The Big Blog Exchange. Hostelling International has opened a contest on the internet. Writers from around the world enter, call upon their devoted and ravenous fans to vote for them, and move up in the rankings. Those chosen few who vanquish others in their region have a chance of being selected to exchange blogs and lives with one of the other winners from Anywhere in the World. They fly these writers around the globe, put them up, feed them, and furnish them with all sort of zany hi jinx in which to engage. The only catch is: they must write about this experience.

Writing, you say? I have some experience with that.

And so, I throw myself before you, dear chums. Click on that glittering wonderbutton at the top of this post, or the one permanently and garishly lodged into my sidebar. Vote for Stupid Ugly Foreigner (and confirm via your email), then come back here and receive words of praise and adulation from the cult of SUF and perhaps even the thanks of the suave, Svengali-like master of this group.

Vote Stupid Ugly Foreigner in the Big Blog Exchange. It’s like democracy, except better.

Nuggets of Pedagogy: Election Time

The entrance to my school is through a park, where several branching paths eventually merge and usher my students forth into the bowels of elementary education. On Monday, I took to the park with my earphones in, and soon noticed there was some amount of commotion up ahead. Being in Korea, and being at a Korean primary school, I am strangely acclimated to loud, showy commotions: people chanting, people singing, people waving signs, people distributing leaflets. This is common. It is not as common for my kids to be the perpetrators.

 

Democracy in motion.

 

Being the relentless attention-hog that I am, I switched paths so that I could walk the gauntlet and witness the frenzy first-hand. One of my camp kids, JW, spotted me from afar, screamed my name, and took off running. His compatriots followed, and they stopped before me and began to sing their campaign chant, while telling me to vote for CM, Grade 5 candidate number one. When I informed them that I probably didn’t get to vote, they chanted once more. The further I moved along the path, the more I was accosted once more in partisan passion, as my students threw logic to the wind, abandoned their usual terror of English, and urged me to vote for their chosen one.

 

The campaigns went on for three or four days, much of it bewildering and bizarre as it was comprehensible. When I could read the signs, they usually said the same things (Our school! Happy, clean, fun!), though the parents obviously differed in how much money they shelled out. Some went for heart-felt and homemade, with lots of glitter-glue and embossed construction paper, while the eventual student president, DG, had professionally printed and graphically designed posters (he also, in person, seemed like he really did not want to be in the race, but as my co-teacher mentioned, his mother was probably in on it). What some lacked in flash, they made up for in intensity. And sashes. There were a lot of sashes.

 

The eventual winners were not at all who I predicted, but I did play a part in student democracy, and got to enjoy embarassing my grade 6s by taking pictures of the candidates. And ultimately, that’s what teaching is all about, probably.