Jeffrey Miller

A Writer's Life

Category: Personal (page 2 of 7)

First day of classes

Not really, because my two freshmen classes were cancelled today, so instead of having to traipse over to the university this morning and afternoon, I am still on vacation for one more day.

Fine with me.

It’s a good day to stay in bed a little longer (though I was up at 7:30 to call On and my Mom) because it looks a little nasty out there today—cold and rainy.

My kind of day, right? Sit here at my desk, update my blog, finish my coffee and then later, walk over to the gym and then get something to eat.

Both On and Mom are doing okay. On is going to see a doctor later this morning about the baby and Mom was getting ready for bed. Mom was feeling a depressed today because no one had called or stopped by. That hurts me a lot. At least I have been calling her every day and I know that makes her feel better.

I was able to use the phone card that I have been using to call On but the connection is not good sometimes. And sometimes I will lose 3-6 minutes each time I do call. The card works okay if I call the States; it is just when I call Laos that I sometimes have a problem.

Another day of missing On very, very much.

Last night I dreamed that we were together—staying in a hotel somewhere—and that I had to get ready to come back to Korea.

I miss On so much.

And then it’s February

What happened to January? 

Four weeks ago the year was just beginning and I was in Vientiane with On and now, it’s the first of February already. 

Came back to Korea, taught a two-week teacher’s training camp, followed by a one-week government children’s language camp, extended my sojourn status, and then it’s the end of January. Is it just me or does time really fly by when you are middle-aged? 

The big Five-Oh is getting closer and closer. That’s starting to weigh a little heavy on my mind and soul these days, not to mention my life in Korea, missing my family and On, and all those other life-defining issues as one turns 50 and thinks about the life they have and how to live the rest of it.

Another week; another schedule change

That’s right my schedule changes again.

For those of you keeping score at home this is the third time my schedule has changed the past three weeks. First it was a teacher’s training camp for two weeks, followed by a government children’s camp for a week. Now it’s a conversation class.

Well, at least it’s going to be a short, sweet week. I just have to teach Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 7:00-9:00. It’s an upper level class, a so-called “free-talking” class whatever that is supposed to mean. Oh, I know what “free-talking” is here in Korea and it definitely does not mean talking freely.

Whenever I have had a student come up to me and say that they wanted some “free-talking” or when a class asked for some “free-talking” time a red flag would pop up inside my mind and I could hear the Robot from TV’s Lost in Space go “warning, warning Bill Robinson” because a warning is what you needed when it came to “free-talking.” What it could be loosely translated as was the students wanted to speak Konglish (Korean/English) with a smattering of English and more than likely mostly Korean.

Well, that’s the way it used to be and I haven’t taught the class yet so maybe I am going to be in for a surprise when I walk into the classroom tonight.

Wow, it’s already the end of January. Gee, this month sure did fly by.

When West meets East and Vice-Versa

Sitting here at my desk with my second cup of instant coffee this morning. Just looking out the window and watching the snow coming down. In the distance the mountains are shrouded in a veil of falling snow and low-lying clouds.

Another cold, damp, rainy/snowy, gray day in Daejeon. Actually, I love these kinds of days. Feels more like November weather than January weather. I am sure, right now it is snowing a lot somewhere in Korea.

It’s 9:30. Another hour and I will hit the gym for two hours. Then stop off for—at what has become my favorite little Korean restaurant—a take out of kimchi-fried rice. That’ll be my next few hours. Mapping out my day; making all the necessary arrangements and adjustments to the schedule that I have this week with these government children’s classes I have to teach in the late afternoon and early evening. One thing is for certain; this week is going to fly by.

Then just three classes next week followed by one the following week and then, on vacation again for twelve days.

To the untrained observer, this might not sound like the exciting and exotic life of an expat teaching English in the Orient. Then again, I have been here for so long I am not always certain myself what is supposed to be exotic anymore or what was supposed to be exotic in the first place.

It was kind of like when I first came here and had certain preconceptions on what I thought life was going to be like in the Orient. Imagine my surprise when I first came to Seoul in 1990 to teach English and ended up living in this block of apartments that could have been in Chicago or New York. And then, imagine my further surprise when I turned on the television my first night in Korea (the apartment the school had set me up with was furnished) and I could watch David Letterman.

Perhaps a lot of people are the same way after reading about the Orient and deciding to come here for a few years. One of my friends said that he first became interested in Japan after reading Shogun. Sometimes that is all it takes—a novel or movie to feed one’s desires to leave home for any length of time and see a part of the world, and perhaps, even become an expat.

However, once one is lured to the Orient, it’s not all about quaint Buddhist temples tucked away in spirit-filled mountains, disciplined tea ceremonies, terraced rice paddies, glimmering statues of gold, mysterious ancient cities and misty groves of bamboo.

Just visit places like Shinjuku or even here in Korea Itaewon to have all those images and romantic notions dashed.

And at the same time, I am sure that a lot of people might feel the same way about what life is supposed to be like in the States. When I was in Japan in 1989 and told students that I was from Chicago, they wanted to know all about Al Capone and all the gangsters. One student even asked me if I had a gun when I was living back home. Maybe these students had seen the movie The Untouchables.

These preconceptions, and sometimes misconceptions, which drive us, fuel our imaginations, and for better or worse, make the world an interesting place to live. Even when we get some things wrong, or are way off base, it is what makes the world go round and round. It definitely makes life colorful and interesting and perhaps, that’s what we really want in the end.

Gee, I wish I didn’t look like a middle-aged Danny Partridge in this photo

There are good photos and then there are bad photos. And then there are some that are just too painful to look at. 

Take for example this photo of Drew Carey and myself taken back in 2002 when Drew was in Seoul as part of a USO tour (along with Wayne Newton and Bo Derek) that I was covering for an article for the Korea Times. You’d think I would have taken a harder look at myself in the mirror that afternoon and tried to do something with my hair. I was going through my “I am going to wear my hair long again” phase and just didn’t know that I looked like a middle-aged Danny Partridge. 

Then again, Drew was pretty cool when he met me at the USO reception held in a courtyard outside the Hyatt in Seoul. He must have thought I was pretty hip when he saw me and said, “Hey man, how’s it going?”  

Later I found out that we are the same age (he was born five days before me). 

Be that as it may, that is not going to change anything. I am forever going to look like a middle-aged Danny Partridge in this photo.

8:25 Monday Morning

Sitting here at my desk, cup of coffee in hand trying to wake up. Trying to function. Another week in front of me.

Outside it’s snowing—not much but just enough to add a bit of wintry charm to this morning; just enough to tug on the old heartstrings of helpless romantics (like myself) who love snowy days of coffee shops and teahouses and walks in the park.

There’s a guy yelling fruit from a small blue truck slowly making its way through the neighborhood. Later, it will be an elderly woman ringing a bell and announcing tofu, or tubu as it is called here.

Today I don’t have to go into school until three-thirty. My schedule changes again—one class in the afternoon and another one in the early evening. Last week it was a teacher’s training camp. This week it is a government children’s camp course. Winter language camps, boy that sounds like a lot of doesn’t it? Gee, when I was a kid winter vacation meant sleeping late, playing all day and just having fun being a kid. When did kids stop being kids?

There’s more of that white stuff coming down now. Hmm…maybe it is going to snow more this morning.

I’ll make myself another cup of instant coffee; catch up with what’s been happening in the world overnight or for me over here in Korea, what is happening right now—yesterday back in the States.

This is how my Monday begins.

Gee, I wish I didn’t look like a middle-aged Danny Partridge in this photo


There are good photos and then there are bad photos. And then there are some that are just too painful to look at.

Take for example this photo of Drew Carey and myself taken back in 2002 when Drew was in Seoul as part of a USO tour (along with Wayne Newton and Bo Derek) that I was covering for an article for the Korea Times. You’d think I would have taken a harder look at myself in the mirror that afternoon and tried to do something with my hair. I was going through my “I am going to wear my hair long again” phase and just didn’t know that I looked like a middle-aged Danny Partridge.

Then again, Drew was pretty cool when he met me at the USO reception held in a courtyard outside the Hyatt in Seoul. He must have thought I was pretty hip when he saw me and said, “Hey man, how’s it going?”

Later I found out that we are the same age (he was born five days before me).

Be that as it may, that is not going to change anything. I am forever going to look like a middle-aged Danny Partridge in this photo.

Beating the winter blahs (part 2) and everything else

As expected, another quiet weekend here in Daejeon.  

Then again, every weekend in Daejeon has been a quiet one since I arrived here almost a year ago. Just a few more weeks and it will be one year here. A year ago at this time I was back in the States getting ready to come back here. And just like that, another year of my life has passed. 

It was quite chilly here again today, but not as frigid as it was the other day. I hit the gym early this afternoon and then stopped at the same Korean restaurant I have been frequenting the past two weeks for a takeout of kimchi-fried rice (with a fried egg on top and a small bowl of soup). It’s what I have been living on the past two weeks along with bananas, oranges, and lots and lots of yu-ja cha. I am calling it “I don’t have much money for food” diet and it seems to be doing the trick. I am still weighing in at 79-80 kilos. I tell you, I am feeling pretty darn good for a man who’s going to turn 50 in a few months. 

Now, just have to improve my quality of life.  

I’ve been reading War in Shangri-La, a memoir of the civil war in Laos by Mervyn Brown today. Brown was a British diplomat in Laos during the 1960s. So far the book has been a good read especially with Brown’s descriptions of what life was like in Laos during that time.

Beating the winter blahs (part 2) and everything else

As expected, another quiet weekend here in Daejeon.

Then again, every weekend in Daejeon has been a quiet one since I arrived here almost a year ago. Just a few more weeks and it will be one year here. A year ago at this time I was back in the States getting ready to come back here. And just like that, another year of my life has passed.

It was quite chilly here again today, but not as frigid as it was the other day. I hit the gym early this afternoon and then stopped at the same Korean restaurant I have been frequenting the past two weeks for a takeout of kimchi-fried rice (with a fried egg on top and a small bowl of soup). It’s what I have been living on the past two weeks along with bananas, oranges, and lots and lots of yu-ja cha. I am calling it “I don’t have much money for food” diet and it seems to be doing the trick. I am still weighing in at 79-80 kilos. I tell you, I am feeling pretty darn good for a man who’s going to turn 50 in a few months.

Now, just have to improve my quality of life.

I’ve been reading War in Shangri-La, a memoir of the civil war in Laos by Mervyn Brown today. Brown was a British diplomat in Laos during the 1960s. So far the book has been a good read especially with Brown’s descriptions of what life was like in Laos during that time.

Two full weeks into 2008…

have come and gone and it’s another quiet Friday night in Daejeon.

Riding out this “winter intersession” as it is called here. What it means is that you have to teach all sorts of classes. It is a kind of a pain in the butt because you can’t really settle into a routine because some classes last only a week or two. Then again, maybe that’s not so bad if you are unlucky enough to get a class you don’t like.

At my age though I prefer more of a routine. I am not too keen on having my schedule change from one week to the next.

It’s going to be another quiet weekend in Daejeon. Hit the gym tomorrow and then just catch up on some reading and writing.

Wondering what it is going to take to have more people comment on my blog or visit my page at thisisby.us (streetwalking cheetah is my handle/screen name over there just in case you are interested). Here I am averaging just around 25-30 visits a day. Gee, I have more friends than that I hope. Don’t know what more I can write about to generate some comments and feedback. Who are the people who read my blog? What do they think?

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