I done got the job!

14 06 2008


Contracts were signed and emailed yesterday. As soon as my passport comes, I can leave for Seoul! The private language school I’ll be teaching for (DYB Choisun, a well-regarded institution) will send me an e-ticket presently. Wa wa we weh.


Bernard Tschumi’s Chelsea Apartment

8 06 2008


This Sunday’s New York Times Magazine is the Architecture Issue. It’s about building new cities lockstock and barrel. This image is of Bernard Tschumi’s 4,800-square-foot Manhattan apartment, which he designed himself.

Shelley Speaks

8 06 2008


I had a moment of cognitive dissonance, or heightened awareness, in Barnes and Noble. Reading a Granta short story collection, considering the idea of doing valuable work as a writer, I looked up far across the room to see a corporate prefab mural of writers. A painted woman with black and wise eyes was staring straight at me. We had a distilled communion of a few seconds, flashes of another dimension. “Join us,” she said. It was Mary Shelley.




7 06 2008


I realize now that I’ve been in purgatory for over a month. Days spent in a haze of doubt. Most of my minor evolutions come after a period of enormous confusion and suffering. They don’t happen voluntarily, of course, they’re scheduled like some horrible routine maintenance. When I surface, I’m fitter, happier, more productive…

The Essay Test

7 06 2008


The following email came yesterday from one Song Ko, MBA.

Hello, David
Thank you for submitting your essay. After reviewing your documents and essay, we have decided to recommend you to one of our partners. We will contact you soon to schedule a final (phone) interview with one of our partners, thank you.
Best regards,
Song K. Ko MBA
After some research I’ve found out that what Mr. Song promises is pretty competitive for a one-year tour: round-trip airfare, 15 paid national holidays per year along with 10 paid vacation days, free housing, one month’s severance pay at the end of the term, and 40,000,000 won per year (around $40,000). Thirty hour workweek. Pretty cush.
This is a chance for me to plug into structured life that lets me do much of what I want: to teach, to contribute to other people’s lives, to save money, to travel, to live abroad, to immerse myself in otherness and shuffle off my concrete understanding of things, to be reborn.


Ve vill need to see your papers!

5 06 2008

Korean military man  


     I got a call from Song Ko, of TnTAsia. I had applied to a posting on Craigslist – one of many, for everything from writer and editor to tv producer or host to short order cook. He told me I qualified to teach English in South Korea, and now, parked in a lot in Westminster, Colorado, I felt the course of my life shift. I would need a passport (mine had been stolen from my glovebox by a street stranger I gave a ride to). I would need a copy of my English BA diploma from Colorado University. A visa…both kinds. 

    Song was polite and diffident on the phone. I was asked to “jump on it” if I was interested. Presumably TnTAsia gets a lot of tepid inquiries from people who don’t follow through. I received an email from Mr. Song:


Hello David,

Thank you for submitting your documents. Our next step is to have you write us a short essay. This essay will be used to judge your writing skills. It should only take an hour (take few more if necessary). It is really important turn in your essay early. Please return your essay within 48 hours, thank you.


Best regards,

Song K. Ko MBA


    I was asked to choose from the following list of questions, and write a 500-word essay in response:

1. In your opinion, what invention or discovery has brought about the most far-reaching and lasting changes in our civilization? Explain. 

2. If you had the power to change any event in history (outcome of an election, who won a war, etc.), which would you choose to change, and why? 

3. Apart from chronological age, what are some major differences between an adolescent and an adult? Explain. 

4. Which single person has had the greatest impact on society and why? 


The questions seemed a little naive, but this wasn’t supposed to be a major philosophical treatise, just a short essay to see if I knew how to string together a sentence. Excitedly, I banged out a quick two-page essay, which on later review looks pretty overwrought and silly. I chose question 2. My essay is below.

         I subscribe to the Taoist idea that the universe is perfect. Rather than a series of hits or misses, we can view the events of history as a beautiful and kaleidoscopic expression of universal consciousness. If I had the power to change any event in history, I would not change the  outcome of a single war, or the placement of a brick in a single building, or the course of a single butterfly. Within the chaos of our lived experience we find evidence of a larger intelligence, in the bustle of a busy train station, in the cosmos of the human body, and ultimately in history itself.

A view of Grand Central Station in New York City would seem to show a tangle of random and chaotic pinballing – people and baggage and carts careening off of one another in a frantic and dissonant symphony. But below that surface lies a subtle architecture; one governed by the capacities and goals of the travellers, by schedules, and ultimately by time itself. This can be seen in a time-lapse film in which the station fills with people like breath, and exhales everyone on to their perfect path.

Every physical system answers to an ascending heirarchy of greater beings, as we find in the human body. Within its own world, the atom is a vast universe of matter and energy perfectly calibrated to perform its duties, but its movements are governed absolutely by the will of a heart cell. That cell in turn carries out the wishes of the heart, which is tuned precisely with  the needs of the other systems of the body…to heal itself and digest food and perform millions of processes every second. And our bodies have a narrow course of possibilities, which are defined by the needs of our entire race, and ultimately of life itself. Beyond us, there are the whirling desires of planet earth, of our solar system, of nebulae, which are but macrocosmic atoms. And the heirarchy keeps extending, infinitely outward. Way down here, we’re humming on all cylinders according to plan.

We can look at history as a continual movement away from entropy and toward order, toward self-actualization. In the developed and developing worlds, we find ourselves at the greatest moment of possibility in our existence. We see greater access to education, to resources, to healthcare. We can travel faster, process more information, contribute more to society than at any other time in our history. We are moving toward enlightenment; toward becoming free agents who – regardless of class, gender, nationality or religion – can find a way to live in our dharma, to realize our greatest gift and to give it. One person with borrowed equipment and a plane ticket can travel anywhere in the world and make a film, and distribute it everywhere in the world instantly! A private microlender in Sydney can help a poor villager in Bangladesh open her first restaurant to feed her people. And a young man from Colorado can blossom into his potential by helping children learn about language in Seoul.

On the local level, we experience the great suffering of war and natural disasters, of dire conflicts within the family, of a scraped knee on a crying child. But on the universal level, each difficulty offers us the mechanics for our own fulfillment. I wouldn’t change history even if I could, because the long, difficult road of history has laid down the conditions for our own evolution – for total brilliance in all beings. 


I submitted the essay yesterday and am waiting to hear back. I’ve already started learning some remedial Korean. I bought Teach Yourself Korean for $26.95. It’s teaching me how to say “the towel is dirty and the food is cold,” a phrase I hope will not come in handy.