Happy New Year

I’m told that not long ago, Koreans tended to reserve the phrase “Saehae bok manhi baedusaeyo!”1 for Seollal, the Lunar New Year (or what we in the West call Chinese New Year). However, people tend to say it a lot more now for January 1st, so that’s what I’m wishing you all out there.

For Miss Jiwaku and myself, it was a quiet New Year’s, and a busy week before it. Well, quiet compared to some, I suppose, but we had a lot of running around to do, things to get done, and so on. That cooking at home thing we’re trying didn’t work out as constant as I’d hoped, but I did master caramelizing high-fructose, high-water-content vegetables in the pressure cooker, which makes for some interesting cooking. (Caramelized carrot soup and caramelized pumpkin soup are both highlights.) We also got some baking done, and I smoked some stuff (especially almonds, which turned out amazing). Not as much as I’d hoped — and I’m sad to say I didn’t brew anything — but all in good time. I’ll likely brew tomorrow night.

In the meantime, we learned a lesson. Which is: no matter how we like a given small business, if we know that they are bad at inventory-keeping, then we should avoid them on weekends and holidays. Otherwise, you will be served something that isn’t palak paneer, but you will be told, “Yes it is,” when you point this out. (A hint: palak paneer ought to be green and spinachy. Even Google knows that.) Now, instead of remembering that restaurant as a good place we went on nice evenings in the autumn of 2011, we’re going to remember it as the place that screwed up palak paneer and then told us they didn’t. The place that has never had all four lassis on the menu available at any one time. The place that made us wake up to the first day of 2012 with a little weird feeling in our guts.

Lately, I’ve been posting little, mainly because I want to avoid doing what the owner of the restaurant did that day: to present something less than quality, for the sake gettin’ ‘er done. I have a bunch of posts I haven’t completed, mainly because the posts are repositories for frustrations, for annoyances, for the things that disturb me. The reasons I want to leave Korea, and the reasons I ought to do so this year.

And I ought to. So this year is a countdown of sorts. Not this year, exactly. My work contract stipulates I am employed by the university until February 2013, and employed I shall remain. But the year shall be composed of doing the many things I’ve been putting off doing. It will be positive, if for no other reason than, I shall finally be enacting that insight I already know in my head, if only I would act upon it… that I can choose the path I take through this life, instead of letting inertia determine it.

I have stuff to throw out, or to donate away. I have books to sell, to trade, and many more books to read. I have things to prepare, research to undertake, planning to start.

As the end of 2011 loomed, I began to read, with a furious energy. I was sad that I’d read so few books in the year — though, honestly, every semester seems more demanding of me than the last. (This is, of course, because I let it become this way. This is, of course, something I must stop letting happen.) But I will, I pledge, read like a marathon runner this year. Well, a marathon reader, anyway. My object is to work my way through a third of the books in my home — assuming, of course, that I needn’t finish books that bore me.

This year, I will also be working on balancing the things I do. 2011 was a year of heavy brewing, and it cut into my writing time. But I feel like I’ve made some strides in brewing beer, and that it’s time to start balancing it with my goals in terms of writing. Fitness, too, is something I let slide somewhat, in part because, well, it’s obnoxious to have to exercise in a tiny gym on campus surrounded by students — some of them mine — and to then have to shower in an open space with, yes, more students, occasionally including someone from one of my classes. I will resolve that, one way or another — either by signing up at a gym just off campus, or by sucking it up and buying a membership and tracking my progress online.

Writing is a big struggle for me, these days. I’ve done too little of it, lately, and I shall have to build momentum again. But my office, unfortunately, is the living room, and I don’t often get the privacy I need. When my neighbors decide to have friends over, the forced glee is very loud through the wall beside which I work, and Miss Jiwaku’s natural tendency to come by with news, or questions, or whatever, breaks my focus too. So — I think I will start putting my work office to use, and if I need to bring a heater over, then I’ll do it. Scheduling a certain amount of time per day, or a certain number of words, is a must.

What I suppose I am saying is that, if I say “Happy New Year,” what I really mean is, “Think about what you need to do in order to make this year happy, and then go ahead and do it.” I’m grouchy when I don’t read, or don’t write. I feel like crap when I don’t exercise for too long, or when I don’t cook good, healthy food. When I let work take up too much of my life, it makes me unhappy. So… I need to do things about these issues.

The good news is that all the issues are resolvable. They all intertwine, but if you untangle them a bit, they’re all manageable. So I am going to work on that, in order to make this new year, 2012, a happy one.

There is little I can do about the constant racist harassment we get in public; there is nothing I can do about the fact my employer insists on housing us in a slum neighborhood, or that the slum has essentially one or two decent places to eat. But the things I can do something about, I will… because I need to, and want to, and can.

And if talking about it here inspires anyone else to do the same, I’ll be even happier.

I’ll have more news soon, including some interesting publishing news… but for now, I’m just going back to settling into the new year.

1. Sorry for the romanization. Since upgrading to the version of Ubuntu Linux I’m using, I haven’t found of way of getting the Korean text input working properly. It keeps breaking up words in ways it shouldn’t, and it gets quite annoying. I will likely upgrade to a newer version of Ubuntu solely in the hope that this problem gets solved, though when I do I’ll be kicking myself for not doing it sooner. Of course.

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