Friday, December 17, 2010

Edited For Christmas

So, before I get started, Id just like you to observe this trailer and consider the following:
-      Somebody made a Rock Em Sock Em Robots movie.
-      Its not even called Rock Em Sock Em Robots.
-      That somebody is, in part, Steven Spielberg.
There are times when I have some misgivings about my decision to leave Los Angeles. There are times when I feel like maybe I was impatient and I should have stuck around to see if I could make better opportunities for myself. Then I see someone throw Steven Spielberg, Hugh Jackman and several tens of millions of dollars at a kitschy childhood toy, and I have absolutely no regrets at all.
The school year is winding down here. Right now its finals week so today Im in the teachers office all day with nothing to do. I already planned a lesson for next week, half-constructed another lesson and reviewed this years completed lessons so I can improve on them next year, so theres not a lot left to achieve at work right now. My non-work commitments are also wrapping up for the year. I dropped out of Korean language class this week. It had gotten to the point where not only did I not understand the current lessons, but some weeks I couldnt even remember what topic we had studied the week before. Plus there were only two classes to go and I kept picturing myself coming to the final class date and getting the certificate for completing the course  with perfect attendance, to boot when I hadnt actually learned anything, and the thought of it was just humiliating. My accounting courses are over for the quarter as well, thank Christ. Unfortunately I missed the deadline to submit course evaluations to my school, but that might be a good thing since it would have been hard to resist the urge to verbally tear my statistics professor a new asshole. So right now my only obligations are relaxing, planning my trip home, resisting the urge to buy another TV series from iTunes and checking out the latest World of Warcraft expansion. So far I cant tell you if Im impressed with Cataclysm or not. Honestly Im kind of bored with WoW altogether but theres not that much else to do here that doesnt involve a train trip to Daegu and spending money. Some of my real life friends in the US have been sucked back in by the expansion so I do get the chance to get together with them in the occasional Friday night/Saturday morning or Saturday night/Sunday morning joint session. Mostly Im sticking with the habit because Im too lazy to try to find another equally engrossing PC game that will run on my netbook. (Whats the deal with Civ 5, people? Should I wait until the first expansion comes out? Would picking up Civ 4 instead be a waste of money?)
Im definitely looking forward to coming home for a visit in January, although Im not as pleased about having to float the money for the trip on credit cards until I get my re-signing bonus in March. The little trend line on the Excel plot of all my debt is way above the target line now. I know itll come back down once that signing bonus comes in, but now that I can see the big picture of all my debts it makes me nervous to spend any money before I have it in hand. Plus its going to be difficult not to engage in a glut of shopping and fast food buying as soon as I hit American shores. Ive actually been browsing the websites of certain fast food chains to see what their current promotional items are. As much as Ive been missing greasy American fast food, I dont want to get back into the gastronomical habits I got into when I was in LA. Before I left I was perpetually either unemployed or freelancing on set. When I was freelancing, I was probably burning 3,000 calories some days, but meals on set were generally all-you-can-eat and on days off I didnt have time to cook healthy meals or buy groceries. When I was unemployed I was generally sitting around the apartment not feeling good about being unemployed and looking for any excuse to leave and do something enjoyable. In short, I ate a lot of junk in large quantities. Unfortunately my crappy, rusty scale was broken so I didnt realize exactly what I was doing to myself until I started seeing Facebook photos of myself with a giant bloated whale gut hanging out from under my t-shirt. So, as much as I dream of being able to gorge myself with American fast food again, Im also wary of re-inflating my waistline beyond the confines of Korean clothing size 110 (which, by Western standards, is not very large). The other day I learned online that one of my habitual fast food guilty pleasures from life in LA is over 2,100 calories. People, thats just not a good idea. Having lived here for a year and seen the way Koreans eat, its easy for me to see why the United States has a collective weight problem: people eat way too much, and way too much of it is junk calories from carbohydrates, cheese, grease and sugar. I wouldnt describe myself as svelte by any means after living here for a year, but at least its been easier to shed some of the awful eating habits I had when I was in LA. Then again, I cant credit Korean cuisine for all of the weight loss a lot of it has to do with having the time to prepare my own healthy meals instead of relying on fast food all the time. But I gotta tell you, Im counting the days until I can saunter up to the window at Tommys and order a double chili cheeseburger and those chili fries with so much processed cheese that theyre almost impossible to finish. And a giant bucket of Cherry Pepsi. And I noticed Papa Johns has a six cheese double bacon pizza now, too. Maybe Ill just cut calories by skipping breakfast
When I got here, I wasnt only surprised by the smaller portions but also the fact that most of my co-workers end up throwing away some portion of their lunch. I was raised in a good Protestant house where we were taught to never waste food, and I assumed since Korea went through a period of intense poverty after the Korean War that Koreans would similarly object to wasting food, but every day in the cafeteria some portion of my co-workers lunch ends up in the big organics bin for food waste. I voiced my surprise to one of my co-workers once and he explained that, in the old days, food waste went to the farm animals so people didnt see throwing away food as wasting it. Im assuming these days they do something else with the organic waste. At least I hope so, since most of what I toss out at home is eggshells and coffee grinds. Also I remember that feeding animal byproducts to animals was one of the things that was supposed to have led to the spread of mad cow disease, so considering the stink that was raised here over the supposed dangers of US beef I sure how theyre not still feeding garbage to their livestock here. But its interesting to observe the different attitude towards food. Of course now that Koreans have money and KFC and Dunkin Donuts everyone is worried about their weight, and apparently Koreans, who are generally very image-conscious, are now some of the worlds most fervent consumers of diet pills. Hmm. I guess development is a two-edged sword. Then again, obesity is probably a better problem for a society to have than malnutrition.
Ive been contemplating some sort of trip to celebrate my sudden glut of free time. I was talking to Mo about visiting Seoul but he hasnt been feeling well recently so I dont know if well be out tearing up Hongdae before the new year. I may finally go to Haeinsa Temple this weekend to see the Tripitaka Koreana. I had been wondering what to do about Christmas, since we have school up until the 29th, which prevented me from heading home before the holidays. Happily one of my co-teachers invited me today to spend Christmas Eve with his family. Im not exactly sure how the celebration of Christmas works here. Oh sure, there are tons of Christmas decorations everywhere, but Ive heard conflicting stories about to what extent non-Christians celebrate the holiday. For young people, it seems like a night to go out on dates or go out and party. I was actually contemplating going to church on Christmas morning just to do something to celebrate the holiday, since I cant be with my family. I know, to many of you thats about the least unusual thing I could do on Christmas. I was raised in a very Christian household, so if Im home with the family its definitely a part of the holiday regimen, but I'll admit it's been a little liberating to sleep in on Easter or go out for Persian food on Christmas night when I've been away for the holidays. I had prepared a page-long diatribe about how organized religion is full of shit to justify my position, but I don't feel like offending my family or religious friends this close to the holidays, so I'll summarize it thusly: I believe in God, but I have no faith in man's religion. There's a lot of wisdom in the scriptures of many religions, but as organized entities I find that all of them have erected shaky edifices from their solid bases. So, that said, why am I still tempted to go to church on Christmas? Well, in Korean culture, and what Ive seen of a lot of Eastern cultures, a big part of religion is respect for ancestors. Several times a year Korean families get together and wander off into the woods to tend to the burial mounds of their parents and ancestors. The younger generation is a little tired of it, in fact, from what I hear. But theres a very strong connection to family and roots here, and I think its been rubbing off on me. Maybe its that whole absence makes the heart grow fonder thing, I dont know. Honestly my family is kind of irritating. Theyre very idiosyncratic. For most of my life Ive been pretty happy to get away from them. This year, now that Im almost exactly halfway around the world from them, Im missing them a little bit. Almost enough to go to church, even though I think church is weak sauce. So there, if thats not a touching Christmas message then I dont know what is. Merry Christmas, one and all.
I had more to say, but if Seinfeld taught me anything, its to go out on a high note. Happy Holidays, everyone, in case I dont get a chance to post anything else before the 25th. Call Mom and tell her you love her. And tip your waitresses. Unless theyre Korean, then youll just confuse them.

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