Archive for the 'past' Category



I realized today that I haven’t spoken to another native speaker of English in 11 days, other than a skype session with Marc mid last week.  At this rate, I’m going to return to the US with halting, pidgin-esque speech patterns.

Strangely, this (the lack of contact) doesn’t really bother me.  I have never had much trouble being alone.  I entertain myself by talking to imaginary people (mostly real people who are merely absent, though the occasional fictional character makes an appearance) and daydreaming a lot.  I have traditionally found that I am far better at retreating into my own mind without going nuts than most people.  I spent most of my childhood in a very rich inner world, and I think that probably was a major contributor to that ability.

I probably won’t see any of the other foreigners until Thursday at the earliest, and mid next week at the latest, which would bring my total days without seeing another native speaker up to around 20 days.  There are 7 other foreigners on the island, and I don’t dislike them, I just don’t really have that much of a drive to socialize here.

Anyway.  Just some thoughts.


Listen and See

I like to go for walks in the evenings here, after work.  At that time of day, the light is usually beginning to gain that slightly golden tinge that signals the beginning of the winding-down of the day.  Jindo Eup, the town, is in a valley and the sun sets behind one of the mountain ridges a few miles from town, and so the sky stays light for quite awhile after the sun is no longer visible.  Most of the farmers are finished with their work for the day, so I can wander around un-harassed among the little dirt roads that crisscross the fields like a fishing net, with my camera on my back and my ipod piping music into my ears.

I am rarely without my ipod when I am out shooting.  I consider it as much a part of my requisite gear as my extra memory cards, or my lens-cleaner.  It is not that I find it difficult to shoot without also listening to music, but instead I find that music helps me to “see” the moments I shoot, before they happen.  It’s not that I can necessarily tell what is going to happen – it’s that I see the photo I want to take, in my mind’s eye, and then it is merely a matter of finding the right position and waiting for the scene to occur.  Sometimes it never does.  Regardless, people who know me well can sometimes figure out what kind of music I was listening to at the time simply by looking at my photographs.  Similarly, if I don’t have music, my work is often somewhat uninspired, and I generally even have to remind myself to shoot.  To me, my eyes and ears are not just organs for sensing different aspects of the world around me, the two are in fact very inter-connected.

I estimate that I spend, on average, 8-12 hours a day listening to music.  Music has always played a rather large part in my life.  I have spent most of my life surrounded by it.  When I was young, I had a toy which, if you were to rock back and forth on it while sitting on it, it would spin you around.  I would sit on that toy, with an old Sony Walkman in my lap and headphones on my head for hours on end, listening to The Yellow Submarine or Joshua Tree over and over and over again, in an almost trance-like state.  There exist countless photos of me on the damn thing, my blonde hair flailing out in every which way.  In middle school, I got a portable CD player.  I listened to it endlessly in the car, as I had previously with my Walkman.  Not only that, but I began taking it to bed.  I would lay awake at night, listening to soundtrack CDs (my favourites were Last of the Mohicans and Benny and Joon, both of which still top that list to this very day) over and over again, imagining whole stories to go along with the music.  Near the end of middle school, I actually began to sneak out of the house at night to go sit up in my tree house in the middle of the night to listen to music and watch the stars.  I was a weird kid.  Most parents would have been concerned about a 14 year old sneaking out at night to go be with boys; mine were concerned about me falling off the ridge of our roof while climbing around pretending to be a spy at 4am (at least, they would have been, had they known).

I become more observant when I’m listening to music.  My eyes tend to slightly un-focus, and so while nothing is in sharp focus, I get a better general picture of the world, and I notice small things, especially motion, far faster.  My reaction time also goes up incredibly, as does my ability to focus without exhausting myself.  Without music, I get tired after an hour and a half of driving.  With music, I have been known to drive for 18 hours at a stretch (with gas stops, of course).  Without music, the world seems dimmer, duller, less real.  The best way I can describe it is that when I have headphones on, the world feels like I’m in a movie.  When I don’t have music on…it feels like the monochrome world of 1950s sitcoms, only minus the funny neighbors with witty one-liners and the happy-go-lucky postman.  I honestly cannot imagine going through my life without music.  The world I experience when I don’t have music on is interminably dull.  I don’t know how others deal with it, frankly.  Sometimes I feel like the protagonist in Pleasantville; I experience the world in colors, and when you take away my music, I am stuck the real world – in grayscale.  But to me, the grayscale is unnatural, rather than the colors.  Frankly, it’s a miracle I have never gotten into drugs, all things considered.  Maybe music is my drug – it certainly alters my perception of the world.

I recently got a pair of wireless headphones.  Now, I never have to be without my music, as I cook, as I clean, hell, even as I sit on the toilet with my book.  Sometimes I listen to short stories on audiobook as I cook – last night I listened to Hemingway’s The Snows of Kilimanjaro while cooking zucchini for my spaghetti.  I have taken to wearing them even to bed.  They are cushioned, so they don’t hurt my ears when I lay on them, and this way, I can give the direction of my dreams a musical “nudge” as I drift off to sleep.  The playlist on the computer only lasts about 10 minutes, and it rarely takes me more than half that to fall asleep.  In the morning, I pick them up off the floor where they invariably fall during the night’s tossings and turnings, and stick them back on my head as I prepare for my day.  And so it begins again.

Over the years I have figured out that I can change my behavior in subtle but significant ways through music.  By listening to particular music before I have to complete a given task, I can shift my actions, even my deportment, to be more appropriate to the undertaking.  This has backfired a few times in recent years – after listening to aggressive, confident music, I have occasionally come off a bit too far on the side of self-assured and have been dismissed as cocky.  In general though, it has been a great help to me, and has aided me in getting through some difficult situations.  Usually it comes through in my personality, though sometimes it even has physical influence – in middle school I used to listen to fast music before running in a race.  When I was able to, I almost invariably came in first or second.  When I was unable to, I was somewhere near the back.  The power of mind over matter is truly amazing sometimes.

So, you see, I would have to argue that music has been and still is, quite possibly, the most influential force in my life.  My parents and various friends certainly have all played a major hand, but on the olympic platform of my life, music stands at the top, a gold medal around its neck.




Waiting for Nighttime

I have realized something recently:  I am far, far more energetic at night than during the day.

I try to get myself to go on walks during the day, but really, I don’t really “feel” it until at least 5 or 6.  I start telling myself I should go out and walk around 1pm, but I find it very hard to make myself do so until the beginning of the evening.  I go for a walk around 6pm usually, but then at 11pm or midnight, I find that I get a surge of nervous energy, and I literally begin to feel tense if I don’t go out for a walk – my legs slowly tense, my jaw sets, my fingers get twitchy to the point that my typing accuracy falls through the floor.

For instance, when I try to run during the day, I’m lucky if I can make it 200 yards without stopping. I have exercise-induced asthma, while I can make it that 200 yards damn fast for my size, by the time I hit 200 yards, I can barely breathe. It’s been like this all my life – even when I was in top shape and my middle school’s track star (in sprinting, duh). I have been taking advantage of the endless dirt roads that run through the farm fields near my apartment, and I have been heading out onto them for my midnight walks, and recently I decided to start running occasionally, when I feel like it (though I’m glad I do this at night, where nobody notices the weird foreigner who runs at random). What I have discovered is that I can run 5 or 6 times as far at night as I can during the day, and while I do have a limit still, I am less winded at the end. I could still run again if I needed to, whereas during the day I usually am just *done*, at least for a few minutes.

I’m not sure why this really is, but I realized the other day that it has happened since I was a kid.  In middle school I used to wake up at 2am and climb out my window and wander around the block, or read in bed, or climb into my tree house and read, when the moon was bright enough, then I’d go back to bed around 5 or 6.  In high school I used to get out of bed at 2 or 3 am and go for a run around the block, then I’d sit at the end of our driveway and read by the light of the streetlamp until 4 or so, then go back to bed.  In college I used to go for walks through the fields and woods and farms at all hours of the night, for an hour or two at a time, then I’d go to bed.

I have no idea where this energy comes from, but it has always been useful in getting writing done at night (my thesis was almost entirely written between 10pm and 6am, and I write most of my blog posts at night), and the fact that streets and paths are generally deserted means that I can walk to my heart’s content and see only a few people, which makes it easier to use my walks for daydreaming and contemplation.  However, when I can’t go out (and I will go out in anything other than flat-out rain), I find it almost impossible to sleep.  I’m not tired the next day when I wake up in the middle of the night and, say, go for a two hour walk, but I am when I don’t.  It’s odd.

Left to my own devices, I’m generally awake from about 9-10am until 4-5am, and I take a nap around 5pm for an hour or so.  It drives most people nuts, because I’m the last in bed and the first out of bed, with people who need more sleep than I do.

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