Monthly Archives: February 2009

Eric in Korea

eric-in-korea-smallIt’s been about two weeks since I’ve gotten back from my vacation, and I’m only four days away from being in South Korea for six months. It’s been nothing but a whirlwind so far. A lot of my friends here, both old and new, are leaving soon. For some, their contracts are up, and it’s time to go. For others, their hearts are simply leading them elsewhere. Despite my having a hard time readjusting to life here, I feel lucky to still have six more months left. I don’t know what I’m going to do after that time is gone, but I have a feeling I’ll have figured it out by then.

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I’ve been thinking a lot about why I want to travel. I’ve been trying to understand the effects travel can have on a person. I’m not sure I have any kind of firm grasp on this yet; I haven’t traveled all that much. A little in the United States, mostly in the Midwest and on the East coast, and of course, South Korea and the Philippines. I always experience an elation upon arriving in a new place for the first time, whether that place was a different state or country. It’s a high, a lot like the feeling of love. I hate to think this feeling goes away, but, of course, it does. After that initial high, you begin to see things more clearly. I think this is where I am with South Korea right now, and I think it’s a great place, maybe the only place, to begin to cultivate something meaningful and real.

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The photo was taken on Valentine’s Day. A friend asked me to be her date to a fancy dinner an international women’s organization hosted. Her date had cancelled on her at the last minute. It was a great evening: a good dinner, professional dancers, who danced the waltz, tango, and foxtrot, for entertainment, and then some unprofessional dancing of our own. Afterward, I met other friends at a noraebang, and before we left I of course had to sing a song. I’ve never been much for karaoke, but that night I rocked out an energetic version of Hey, Jude. Later, as you can see, I meet up with my real date, Winnie the Pooh.

This is me in Korea, and though I see things here a bit differently now, I think that’s how they were supposed to be seen all along. Here’s to making my time here the best it can be. Cheers.

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Take the beach, for example.

img_1977For the past week, I’ve been trying and failing to make progress on a fictional story I started in a very nonfictional way. I suppose it’s the bad tendency of the out-of-practice writer to take his own experience and try to turn it into a successful piece of fiction. Perhaps this is my bad habit alone. In either case, it’s not a memoir I’m trying to write, and I’m fairly convinced now that no memoirs are successful and engaging unless the author utilizes the imaginative process one uses in the creation of a novel or short story. Memoirs are devious creatures indeed – ones in which I rarely place any faith. When it comes to writing fiction, memory is the same way: take the beach, for example.

My favorite place in Boracay, in the Philippines, is a secluded beach called Puka Shell Beach. It’s absolutely beautiful there. Hardly any people know about it, and so most everyone stays on White Beach, the main tourist spot of the island. I knew about it because a local informed me of it and its location and how to get there. You have to take a motorized tricycle about twenty minutes north. You shouldn’t pay more than 25 pesos (that’s less than a dollar). You should go if you want to get away from all the people, and I really wanted to get away from them. I could have stayed on that beach for a very long time. There are a few people there; I even saw one girl sunbathing topless. But that in itself gives you an idea of how few people there really are. And it’s serene, so serene. I believe in many ways it opened my heart.

But if I want to use this beach in my current work-in-progress, I have to leave the image I have and my memory of it behind. If I don’t, it makes it very difficult to let my imagination take control. I don’t just want to fill in the gaps of my experience there. I don’t just want to put myself in the scene, and wait for an appearance of the wild monkeys. They’ll never come, because I never saw them (though I heard them and saw bats one evening). I wanted to see those monkeys while I was there, but now I’m glad they never showed. I’m perfectly content in letting them live in my imagination. Perhaps I’ll even let them start my story. This is the problem when you try to write fiction from memory: if it didn’t happen, then you can’t write it down. So, the fiction writer, instead, writes from imagination. Everything that didn’t happen on my vacation, including my not getting around to visiting Dead Forest or seeing a cockfight, is just waiting to be developed in story.

In that way, I’m able to relive my time in the Philippines – time I’ve been missing very much since I’ve returned to South Korea.

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