Well, it is currently 2:01 in the AM standard Korean time, even though the timestamp on my blog will lie and try and convince you that it is some normal hour of a Tuesday afternoon. In the past couple of days, I have found myself eager to write, but not really sure what to write about. In actuality, the last couple of days I have started to realize just how much free time I have here. I’m only teaching 21 hours a week, and even with prep time for my classes, actual working hours work out to less than 30 hours. That leaves me with about 138 hours to kill every week (and yes, I did just do that math out in my head, just because I have the time) and only so many of those can be wasted lying around, wrapped in my floral-pattern blanket and pretending to sleep.
Basically, I realized, I need a hobby. I’ve been reading more in the last couple of weeks, which has been good, but just that hasn’t seemed to cut it. Then, there is the movies; I’ve been downloading at a torrid pace and have been watching something I haven’t seen from one of the thousands of top 100 lists out there on the internet (including The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, Casino, Fargo, and 12 Angry Men, to name but a few). But again, while entertaining, watching a movie or TV show just isn’t the kind of stimulation that I’m looking for at the moment.
I’ve tried starting a short story or two, but keep getting stuck, maybe because I still don’t quite feel comfortable enough here to start writing about Korea like I really know the place. So tonight, I went back to my trusty political manifesto. After about an hour of writing and some real hard thinking, I realized that if I want to do it right, the project I originally envisioned is going to have to be a lot more involved. But maybe that’s a good thing- I do have the time, after all.
Well, the next episode of How I Met Your Mother just finished downloading, so I guess I should go try to fall asleep to that, but just a quick story before I sign off. I was teaching one of my Interview classes the other day and conducting a raucous discussion on the importance of physical appearance in Korean society. One of my students raised his hand and explained (in rather broken English) that people shouldn’t care about outward appearances, then told a fable to back up his opinion (good to hear, after spending 90% of the class reminding my students that all good opinions are built on a foundation of strong reasons!).
Now, this story might seem mundane or boring for my average reader, but here is where it gets interesting. The source of the story was…THE TALMUD!! That’s right! His explanation went a little like: “There is a story in the Talmud that says…” I nearly passed out right there in class. Of course, I couldn’t really understand either the moral of the story or what it was about, but I was pretty sure I’d heard the world “Talmud” right. When I asked the student where he’d seen or heard the story before, he looked at me like I was stupid. “What, Teacher? Everyone studies the Talmud here!” And just about all of his classmates started nodding their heads in agreement.
Apparently, the Talmud is as common a school book in Korea as The Great Gatsby is in America. “We all have a copy in our houses!” another student called out, holding her hands about six inches apart to demonstrate the thickness of the volume. It took me about 10 minutes to wipe the smile from my face. I’ve been telling this story to everyone that I can here, but because no one is Jewish they don’t seem to really understand the magnitude of this image of every little Korean boy and girl sitting curled up on a sofa with a mug of rice tea and a copy of the Talmud on their laps. I guess you learn something new every day.