Thursday, June 29, 2006

벌서 일년

When I was teaching at the Lykeion Language school in Apkujong-dong I had a friend that was a true soul mate. Jaewon was an artist in the purest sense, interpreting her world in new and intriguing ways every day in words or images on paper for the world to see.

Once I lent her the Tori Amos album "Little Earthquakes" and she responded by writing a series of 3 or 4 essays that described her visceral response to the music and the voice that sang the words she couldn't understand.

It was stunning how well she caught the subtleties of the moods and feelings that swirl in deep and dark colors through the songs on that album. The power someone has over us when they can evoke our tears, how little tremors can show the fragility of the human psyche and rip it into pieces.

I never paid a lot of attention to the lyrics of the song 벌서 일년 (Already One Year), by the Korean R&B duo Brown Eyes. I always took it as an affirmation of the wonder of a love that has blossomed over one year and remains strong and true:

"I believe in you I believe in your mind / 벌서 일년이 지났지만"

Which translates loosely as:

"I believe in you I believe in your mind
Although one year has already passed."

It seemed to perfectly encapsulate a year of bliss before even a moment of doubt clouds a "new" love - or in this case a well-worn love that seems fresh and invigorating even as the months have gone by. This line seemed purely distilled and ever so bittersweet to me.

But it is never so simple! The mind plays tricks with us, not able to cope with how the tune has hit us directly in the heart and soul and totally bypassed the brain. I sat down with the lyrics to 벌서 일년 tonight and tried as best as I could to translate them - some lines stymied me even after I dug a dictionary out.

But the bottom line is that the sweet beauty of the song comes in pain, longing and doubt - as is so often the case. There is already a ring on her finger, but that doesn't make the songwriter nearly as sad as just looking into her warm eyes. I am not sure that he ever told her he loved her...if one year has passed then that is one year he has waited for her.

I wish so much that I could get the full picture of this song, to confirm my clumsy translation and know where the sad memories were birthed. In the words of another bard:

"It's gotta be here
In your spider-web alphabets
Did I read it all wrong?
Or have I just not gotten it yet?"

On June 26 I celebrated a birthday and an anniversary of loss - or at least one small but important increment in a long and painful process of loss. 벌서 일년. Already one year has passed, and my head keeps telling my heart not to believe in you, to give up on that belief in your mind, heart and soul.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Wings to fly....

My blog - almost purely self-referential as it may be to date - is but a fledgling bird so far. It has wings that are visible to all as its potential, but it can't yet fly on its own.

It has taken its first few gulps of air and has even been fed once or twice, but it is far from being able to fly on its own.

It hasn't had the attention paid to it that is necessary for it to develop its own identity and personality, for it to stand on its feet proudly secure in its knowledge of itself. No one knows yet if it will grow into a success or a failure - if it will leap from the nest and fall to the earth or soar in the sky.

It is barely an adolescent and must be fed much more if it is to thrive and grow. And even then, it could be a sullen and surly teen or a vibrant contributer to the community it inhabits.

Yet my journal is still jealous! Silbling rivalry is rampant between the two. My journal has been nourished for years through nervous steps into new worlds and the triumphs and set backs of my professional path. It has witnessed and revelled in the growth of love and it has empathized with the anguish of seperation.

But it need not fear - it is still equally cherished as a fellow traveller and a confidant - it still has its unique and special charm and is irreplaceable in those exact ways. It has been ignored before and it will be again, sadly, but it will always be remembered and returned to.

For the Internet, if it teaches us one thing, teaches us that there is a true need for separation between the public and the private. There are thoughts and ideas to be shared with the world at large and there are emotions and urges to be trusted to a close friend and confidant - like my journal or my closest friends in the world. Whereever they be.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

First kiss....

I finished a book moments ago - "69", by Murakami Ryu. I have been a great fan of Murakami Haruki (no relation) for a long time now, having been introduced to his writings in Korea, and many people who heard that I like Haruki suggested Ryu to me - I can only imagine they had more reason to do so than a shared surname!

Both write about Japan, and both share a wistfulness and even a sadness - but the keenness of Haruki's sense of the isolation of the individual is much more pronounced. This sense of isolation makes the moments of human connection all the more poignant.


"Jane..." My heart felt like it was going to burst, but I went ahead and said what I'd already decided to say, "Have you ever been kissed?"
She laughed. I was so embarrassed I turned red from my ears to my toenails. After a while she stopped and looked into my eyes and shook her head.
We both stopped swinging, and the angel closed her eyes. My heart was pounding, saying Go on go on go on go on go on go on go on. I got off my swing and stood in front of her. To say my knees were trembling would be a hopeless understatement; my entire body was shimmying like the moon on the river. It was hard to breathe. I wanted to run away. I crouched and looked at the angel's lips. They seemed like a wondrous, separate living being, like nothing I had seen before, a beautiful creature breathing pale pink in the dim light of the moon and the street lamps, quivering faintly. I didn't have the courage to touch them.


As you read the passage you start to tumble across the words, almost getting ahead of yourself in the rush to that magic moment - that never happens and crushes us with regret. We've all been there and are keen to reexperience the rush with this Japanese student in the summer of 1969.

It doesn't take me to my first kiss ever, but it takes me a first kiss of monumental proportion in the summer of '98.

Sitting on cool concrete church steps and holding hands. Feeling the closeness, feeling the desire...and the rush of giddy fear.

But its as unstoppable as the compulsion that led you to hold her hand for the first time that Sunday afternoon a couple of weeks earlier.

Did you keep your eyes open or were they closed?

Your heads tilted and moved towards each other in the still night air. And your lips brushed together softly and tenderly, hunger held in check for now so you can test the waters.

And then your teeth clash.
Embarrassed laughter.
Crimson cheeks.

Maybe a murmured apology, or something else, forgotten, mumbled to bridge the awkwardness before trying again. And again........

And the world is perfect, and each streetlight stands out more clearly and illuminates the nighttime urban landscape with a sharpness and clarity that makes even those city streets beautiful.

I revisited those concrete stairs before I left Seoul.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Opening the Window...

The other day I was online and I stumbled across a friend's blog. I hadn't been aware that he kept a blog, so I perused the contents and was quite surprised by what I read. Its not that there was anything shocking or outlandish, it was just that the blog postings painted a very different picture of him than I had in my mind - it was full of pieces of him that I've never seen.

This got me thinking about the whole blogging concept, and reminded me of a lyric from a 54-40 song: "I want you to know me only as what I believe I am." Its really a true statement, and one that often comes up in my mind. The Internet can hide who we are, and we read and hear about instances of this all the time, but it can also show a much more complete picture of who we are - or at the very least flesh that picture out and fill in the cracks.

I don't know what this blog will end up being. I can't say at this point whether it will become a confession of my innermost thoughts or a collection of sarcastic observations on the minutae of life, but hopefully the net result will be a window onto a true version of "me" for all of you who are scattered over the world - in Korea, Canada, Bosnia, France, Holland the UK, etc.

One thing I can be pretty sure of, as is already evidenced by this intro, a lot of song lyrics will show up. I have a knack for remembering lyrics and lines (or at least paraphrasing them more-or-less accurately), and I think that this is because words have always been my primary way of interacting with and understanding the world. Some people focus more on the rhythm and the tune or the day, getting the general tone and ambiance of the song or the world. However, I focus on the little details, with each word being mined for the many potential meanings it lends the whole.

And basically, it is more than often the case that someone else has said it better than I ever could: "I am worthless sounds compared to all your perfect words."

The original inspiration to start this internet version of me was to post pics from my recent travels through Cambodia, England, Egypt, Jordan and Israel. I still hope to do this, but I am not convinced that this is the proper forum/format for posting hundreds of pics (I took over 1500). Thus, I'll just add a pic that I like a lot to this post - I took it in May 2005 at Terance Bay in Nova Scotia.

Enjoy :)