Getting Organized

Long story short: it’s less a “new year’s resolution” than it is just a resolution, period.

So, over the last week-and-a-half or so, we moved to Seoul. Actually, the process took a little longer than that: I was packing in early December, and we had the shipping company in Saigon show up about mid-December to pick up most of our stuff. (As it turns out, this is something to do on the last day, but live and learn.) We spent a week in a lovely but very affordable hotel, basically sorting out last-minute stuff, sending out job applications, and saying goodbye to a few friends we made during our visit there, as well bidding adieu to the city itself.

It was nice to leave Saigon while we still liked the place a lot, but after some of the annoyances started to get to us just a tiny, tiny little bit. That's the perfect time to leave a place.
It was nice to leave Saigon while we still liked the place a lot, but after some of the annoyances started to get to us just a tiny, tiny little bit. That’s the perfect time to leave a place.

Oh, and winnowing the contents of our checked and carry-on baggage. Here’s what we carried onto the plane:

  • two saxophones (tenor & soprano)
  • a wooden flute
  • a transverse flute
  • two electronic wind controllers (a Yamaha WX7, and an Akai EWI4000S)
  • a mandolin
  • several hardware synth and MIDI modules
  • our backpacks, loaded with all kinds of stuff, including family pictures and irreplaceable manuscripts and documents, and two portable computers each. (Our Macs, plus our backups: Mrs. Jiwaku’s little Windows netbook, and my Linux one.)
  • winter clothes, including big huge winter coats with pockets stuffed beyond all reckoning

It was a long overnight flight from Saigon Seoul, via Shanghai. If you absolutely must carry ridiculous amounts of carry-on stuff, try get a direct flight.

Believe it or not, we’d worked hard to reduce the weight of everything we’d be carrying. But it’s impossible to winnow away the weight of a musical instrument, of course, so this mostly involved me copying data from CD-ROMs and scanning the pages of old notebooks so I could archive their contents digitally, and shed the weight of all that paper. And what do you know, it felt good. It felt good to sort through our papers, clothes, books, and it felt good to get rid of stuff.

Actually, it felt like stuff could become manageable. That maybe I would be on top of things, instead of running behind. I mean, not that I haven’t always stayed on top of work stuff, and writing, but… well, I’m a pack-rat, and I haven’t always stayed on top of all my stuff, much as I’ve wanted to. When we left Seoul a couple of years ago, I discovered belongings I hadn’t realized I still owned. I sold off backpacks I hadn’t used in years, found clothes that once again fit me that hadn’t in years. It was all, well… kind of ridiculous.

Okay, this is really a photo from a long-ago move, but… well, this was after only a few years in Korea. You don’t even want to imagine the volume of stuff we dealt with in March 2013!

So I’m sorting, winnowing still, in the quiet moments between job interviews and submitting CVs before deadlines. In the last 36 hours or so I’ve been winnowing my email accounts, cutting all those stupid subscriptions that clutter all the tabs of my Inbox. I still have a few thousand to sort through, though that shouldn’t take long: I’ve dealt with most of my outstanding emails from 2012-2014, and I don’t think I’ll be replying to most that date back before 2011. (And, besides, I suspect a lot of what’s back earlier than 2011 is sent from addresses people no longer use, so replies wouldn’t get through anyway.)

Still, I’ve run across some fascinating tidbits here and there, so I am actually looking through the emails, not just mass-saving or mass-trashing them. It’s taking a little more work this way, but I find it’s worth it, just for the sake of running across neat things I didn’t know about, or having emails on file that I would probably not have. For what? Well… I’m a pack-rat, and with email, it costs nothing. (Yet. Still.) I’m down to about a thousand unread emails (many of which actually were read, but then marked unread for some reason or other), and another five hundred marked read. That’s a few hours work, probably, since I got from 3,000 to 1,500 in about five hours. I should be approaching Inbox Zero soon… though nobody actually says Inbox Zero anymore, do they?

Certainly, they've run out of Inbox Zero merit badges by now...
Certainly, they’ve run out of Inbox Zero merit badges by now…


(Ironically, the very idea of Inbox Zero cropped up around the time I started not managing my email rigorously, back in 2007. I guess some bandwagons are worth joining along with everyone else? I’m kicking myself for not attempting it back when the idea was really popular, which I think was around 2008 or 2009. But, you know… better late than never, I guess.)

I’ve also been fixing the Korean encoding on my site, which somehow got broken, I think when it was ported from MySQL4 to MySQL5. Sigh. That is painstaking work, involving either using a weird online decoder, or just plain guessing some of the time. But I don’t like having broken encoding sitting there for all the world to cringe at, so… yeah.

Anyway, that’s what I’m up to while I hunt for a job in the chilly winter of January 2015… in Korea. Yeah, about that: surprise? It’s not wholly unexpected to us, but we moved the date up a bit to help ensure I could make it to more interviews in person. And, what do you know, all my interviews so far have been via Skype anyway! That’s not so bad, though, just a little ironic. It’s actually nice to be back, even with the things that raise my hackles. We’re not on Line 1, though, and we’re not in Yeokgok, and that makes a world of difference.

Ah, Bucheon. If I never visit again, it will be too soon. (Though, truth be told, I'm visiting on Tuesday.)
Ah, drab, aggressive Yeokgok. If I never visit again, it will be too soon. (Though, truth be told, I’m visiting on Tuesday.)

4 thoughts on “Getting Organized

  1. Welcome back, SUCKAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!

    Korea always, always, always draws you back in. Always.

    I’d heard about your impending return weeks ago, and was sworn to silence about it. “Gord’s coming back, but DO NOT blog about this!” I was commanded by some mutual friends of ours. So I didn’t. I have no idea why your return would be such a big secret, but I also have no idea why you’ve returned! I mean, hey, welcome back and all that, but what was Vietnam not giving you that Korea can give you? Was it just that the Missus missed her homeland? Were you, too, getting a little nostalgique, perhaps? I saw mention, in your post, of “annoyances” in Vietnam, whatever that means. Do tell.

    Anyway, good luck as you reinsert yourself into the country that loves you best. May you find the job that’s right for you. And soon.

    1. Hi Kevin,

      Thanks. One of the things I’m hoping for this time around is that you, and I, and that mutual friend of ours manage to get together at some point, since I’ve known you for years, but never actually met you. :)

      The secrecy of our return… well, it wasn’t that secret, but I thought it’d be fun to spring it on people. Also, my wife and I have a lot of mutual friends, and you know how a lot of people are when you fly in: immediately with the “Let’s meet!” and “We have to get together ASAP!” and, well, we knew we’ve be wiped out from the move, and need some time to adjust, and also would be very busy job-hunting.

      As for “annoyances” in Vietnam, it was nothing major: think of it as “annoyances” in the way New Yorkers talk of the annoyances of living in the Big Apple, or for that matter how I feel about the (highly unlikely) prospect of living in my hometown. The people of Vietnam are lovely folk most of the time, as long as they’re not (a) in a government position of any sort or (b) barreling toward you through a red light on a scooter at some unholy velocity, or (c) driving a cab with my wife as the lone passenger. Outside of those circumstances, I found the people we met and crossed paths with mostly quite pleasant. No rancour there.

      (In fact, most of the negative or weird experiences we had in Saigon were in encounters with random Koreans or random Western expats. There’s tons of both, and, well, too many in each group seemed to look down on Vietnamese people.)

      But even having said that, let it be noted that on our last day in Saigon, we dropped by a Korean woman’s Dutch Coffee shop (outside of which I took that blue sky picture above), and halfway into a goodbye chat, she whipped out some of her equipment and taught us how to roast coffee beans, a full-on lesson, just because we seemed curious enough to listen. (And then she gave us the beans we roasted, as a goodbye present. One kid I know in Saigon basically became an Arduino hacker in the last month we were there, and still makes me smile with every email update of his projects. (I’m going to see if I can get him to start blogging them again, too…)

      As for why Korea, well, it’s a mix of reasons. I’ll try elaborate on that some other time, in a post. But it’s a mix of reasons, ranging from the econogeography of the TEFL industry, the specifics of Canadian immigration law, Mrs. Jiwaku’s desire for “serious” work experience as well as a good location for working on shorter projects of her own, and the relative ease of slotting ourselves back into a place we know (as opposed to building from the ground up in an unfamiliar place). Which I suppose boils down to “the usual”?

      Looking forward to finally meeting you.

    1. 216883_10558110997_98_n

      But actually, we should meet up soon. Once the whirlwind of job hunting and interviews is finished, if you have time, I’d be happy to… if you’re in Korea at the moment, that is!

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