With the flow
September 13, 2009 § 1 Comment
After two weeks of living in Seoul, I can say I have one major mountain to climb: learning Korean. I have a few key survival phrases down, thanks to my friend Sangnam’s patient coaching. My major hurdle is pronunciation. What little Korean I do speak I speak with a Kansas accent, and apparently that makes it unintelligible. I learned this the hard way, when I was trying to use a taxi to move my belongings to my new apartment. After several failed attempts at both verbal and written communication with the driver, he finally took me to the Ritz-Carlton, where the taxi stand guys are bilingual. After their advice failed to get us to the right apartment, he just dumped me off on some poor police men and I went to my new apartment in a cruiser, with the lights on.
The better part of the past week I spent getting settled in – finding the local supermarket, meeting all my students, sifting through all the floatsam left in my apartment by the previous tennant, investigating some the bar districs with my new neighbors, going down to the river for early morning runs. More or less I’ve been trying to find the pieces that will make up my life here in Seoul, so hopefully soon I can make something of them…
Tried to write about this before, mostly unsuccessfully. Now that I’ve been here two weeks,and nearly everyone I’ve met in those two weeks has asked me what I’m doing here, maybe I can finally articulate why I’m in South Korea. Namely, opportunity. Teaching jobs here are easy to get and they pay well. I got a free ticket across the Pacific; I have a free place to stay while I’m here; I’ll likely make more than twice what I used to. But mostly what appealed to me the most about this gig was that it will allow me a set amount of time in which I can find a renewed sense of artistic/career direction and also not have to scrape too hard for money or time. Basically, the idea was to come here and find my focus. I feel a need for focus because I interests and skills are a bit far-flung for me to easily see my ideal place in the world. I really have no specific long-term goal, just a loose collection of short-term ones – ‘Find EMart. Finish this book. Learn Korean.’ and perpetual ones – ‘Run farther. Draw better. Don’t have a meltdown today.’
Essentially what I’d like to use this year for is to find a way to connect my illustrator/designer self with my sustainability and world affairs self. I spent my last semester of college studying the illustration market, and came away dissipointed that the majority of products using illustration are disposable, frivolous products geared toward a fairly wealthy audience. I spent my last winter vacation travelling in a developing country and gaining and appreciation for all the things us residents of wesernized nations take for granted. I have a real passion for making art and get deep pleasure from beautiful design, but also get a deep satisfaction from working out the practical problems in design and I have a keen interest in world affairs and public policy. I believe that quality of life consists of both having your practical needs met and having access to aesthetically pleasing objects and rituals that give life meaning.
More or less I’m looking for focus among many things that all seem a bit disparate at the moment. I have all these things I want to know and do, and already feel a bit crazy at trying to stitch it all together. Maybe what I should be doing is trying to get comfortable with the idea of juggling all these things…find a way to be productively distracted. After all, I did come here to experience new things.