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Jack Brown: Blog

Four weeks in Korea, two weeks at LSU!

Posted on August 26, 2012 with 4 comments

Well, Monday August 27 marks four weeks in Korea for me.  Late Monday night July 30, I started a new chapter in life.  Okay, it was actually early on a Sunday afternoon when I got on that plane in Seattle for an 11-hour direct flight, but . . . well, it's an International Date Line thing, and my dad used to get in trouble with my mom when he would start explaining it at parties.  Shutting up now about that.

Back in the US, things are going well for Kevin, my son, who has just started his freshman year at LSU.  He seems to be getting along with his roommates and, by evidence of the background I see in Skype chats, they have similar cleanliness standards.  Today on facebook I saw a friend link to her freshman daughter's dorm room . . . wow, what a difference!  But that's another story.  After one week of classes, Kevin feels pretty good about everything.  Physics is hard work, but he likes the work so he's pretty happy.  Sounds like me majoring in music -- even when it got hard, I liked the work.  So perhaps that bodes well for his future in that major.  Yesterday in the mail I got a package from Kevin and his mom -- an LSU DAD t-shirt.  Guess that means he better not flunk out!

Here in Korea, the big news is Typhoon Beloven, which will brush by us Monday night and Tuesday morning.  Shouldn't be too bad -- it'd be a category 2 hurricane in the US, with its center about 30-50 miles (50-80 km) away from us but over water the entire time.  We'll get the strong side of it and it'll be moving fast, so we'll get some wind and rain.  I'll bring everything in from the patio and tape the windows, and I have plenty of non-perishable food.  So I'm not too worried.  Trying to decide if I should do the other usual stuff -- fill the bathtub, etc.

Things are going well at school.  I'm slowly learning the kids' names -- always a big learning curve for me, but this year it's worse because the photos in the attendance software are THREE years old.  Try recognizing a ninth-grader from his/her (particularly HER) sixth grade picture.  Or a senior from his/her (particularly HIS) freshman year.  But the kids love singing -- the middle school boys choir is one I'm particularly proud of.  There are only 14 in there, but they are fearless singers and sound great.  I"m getting to know a lot of the faculty and am having fun with that.  I'm learning, though, that for social outings, I am apparently one of the more literal-minded staff members.  Signs in English are rare, so I like directions that say things like, "Go north on such-and-such street, turn right at the second traffic light, look up and to your left," or whatever.  So far, most of my faculty friends are more comfy with directions like "behind the subway station" (the subway station is completely underground and has eight exits/entrances, all equal in importance and public use -- which one is the front?), "the bar right where the bus turns" (the bus makes several turns), "right by our apartment complex" (which covers 30 acres or so), and so on.  I've made it my mission to figure out all the locations and write down literalist directions for future newbies.  And I'll probably be the only one who ever uses them. :-)

Several friends have asked what I miss most from the US.  The easy answer would be Kevin -- but if I were in Boise I'd still miss him, because he'd be 2000 miles away in Baton Rouge.  No, there are two things, I think (at least if we're talking things, not people).  I miss my house.  Apartment life isn't bad, and I totally agree that it makes more sense than house living in a gigantic city like this one.  It's no different from high-rise living in New York City -- everyone lives in an apartment and you walk or ride public transit anywhere.  But still I miss my lawn, my garden, my upstairs I could escape to if I wanted.  And I miss all-year groceries.  Fruits and vegetables here are very seasonal -- right now pineapple, cherry tomatoes and peaches/nectarines are in season and plentiful and cheap.  Oranges and nectarines are coming on.  But apples? They're sour Granny Smiths and they are expensive.  In fact, groceries in general (there are frequent exceptions) are much pricier here.  I'm spending as much on groceries to feed myself as I did to feed Kevin and me in Idaho.  Electricity is pricey too -- part of the government's conscious effort to reduce greenhouse emissions.  But there are trade-offs.  I spend much less on transportation -- going all over the place on the bus and subway costs me maybe $15 in a busy week; that's way less than the tank of gas per week I tended to burn in the US, and way WAY less than that same tank of gas would cost in most of the world, Korea included.  Insurance is cheaper -- health, property, everything.  My school has a decent gym that I can use for free, and there's a private gym nearby where the membership is a good bit less than what I paid in the US.  I can walk to nearly every basic need -- and the ones I can't walk to are a very short bus ride away.  And of course, in the end, the pay and benefits are much better.  So I can't complain about money stuff. :-)

As to what I miss most (not things), it's definitely my friends -- biking with Kim or Tami, goofing off with Tobey, skiing with Deb, doing nearly anything with Quinn/Shirley and Seth/Hallie, playing music with Jean, trading stories with Conroy, and drinking the Friday after payday with Malcolm, Stephanie, Mike, James, and the rest of the RHS crew.  I'm making great friends here too, just like I have elsewhere, just like my parents did every time the Air Force moved them around the country and around the world.  But my friends in Idaho were my friends in the first place I ever really put down roots.  I'm having a great time!  I'm not coming back soon and I'm cool with that!  But I'll be back someday, and in the meantime, you guys gotta come visit.  After all, this place is amazing.  I look forward to your visits, as well as to visits from music friends, Mississippi friends, Texas friends, and any others. :-)



Cindy Bottomley

August 26, 2012

Hi Jack,
Sounds like you made the right decision to teach in Korea. We will miss you at FAR-West this year! Love your blog....


August 26, 2012

It sounds like your adventure is shaping up swimmingly! Good luck with the hurricane tonight!

Rhonda Anderson

August 26, 2012

Once again, I loved reading your blog.Your comments about what you missed reminded me of when Eric and I lived in Australia. When asked what we missed about the U.S. it was never about things but definitely about people. We missed our family,high school friends and college roommates. It didn't stop us from enjoying our 10 years there but I did have difficulty with the idea of never truly being accepted by the Aussies. We were Yanks and no matter how long we lived there, we always would be foreigners.

Quinn Van Paepeghem

August 26, 2012

Hey Bro! Your name came up at our MEA info update meeting yesterday. The neg. rep from EHS said "do any of you know Jack Brown? (Several hands went up) Well, he just got sick of this and has a great gig in Korea!" I will say that this will be a much better start-of-year than last, only because we aren't expecting much to change. Otherwise, things are good here, wedding plans and all. We're looking forward to playing next weekend at the McCall "Jazz on the Green". I just want to play my guitar ALL THE TIME (and get paid for it). Thanks for the updates, LOTS of folks are reading..... -Q