Carole King’s album Tapestry (try www.caroleking.com)was, when it came out, one the best-selling albums ever. She had already written hits for Mowtown artists, like “Locomotion,” which became a hit for a lot of bands. Imagine all these hit songs on one album:

1 I Feel the Earth Move

2 So Far Away

3 It’s Too Late

4 Home Again

5 Beautiful

6 Way Over Yonder

7 You’ve Got a Friend

8 Where You Lead

9 Will You Love Me Tomorrow

10 Smackwater Jack

11 Tapestry

12 (You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman

13 Out in the Cold

14 Smackwater Jack (Live)

You don’t have to be an old fart to realize this is a monster album. But what about the tapestry woven in Gwangju? Is there anything positive about the strides Shin Gyonggu and so many others have made to make Gwangju livable for us “aliens?” Well of course, but how is it that no matter how hard we try, getting IN to a Korean IN group is impossible? Is it possible for Koreans to get IN to an IN group in my country (the U.S.A.?) or do they huddle around their own churches, often meeting in the afternoon at a place that had an earlier worship of Americans? Why not just join the US group, since they are US citizens? It is sad.
This is the type sadness that could, if we let it, drag us away from the goals and desires we set forth when we came to Korea. You’ll see a pack of quotes by a man I used to think was a QUACK as a kid at the bottom of this Blog. To some he still is, but how about this one for y’all?:
“If there is no fun in it, something is wrong with all you are doing.”
For many, Carole King’s “You’ve got a friend,” happens in Gwangju by the grace of God, the good intentions of the GIC, or, by romance, but romance is not a good reason for adventure unless you are 1) dating someone from a similar culture or 2) ready to accept that your multicultural relationship may not bring you the FUN you might have had with someone back home.
You want polar opposite cultures? Try Korea and the USA. In Korea, work comes in first, second and third. Diligence here beats, by a quantum leap the hard work ethics put in place by the Puritans (See “No man Shall Profit form Another Man’s Labor” seen previously in this same blog) meaning many Koreans have limited types of fun: Alcohol, buying shoes and playing with their children is about all there is time for. Movies, classical music, and baseball games come in way behind the others, and normal activities you may have loved just don’t exist in Korea: want to go for a sail? That will take some work. Water skier? Yes you can find a lake near Naju and maybe find a way to water ski. Swimmer? Well not all pools are equal but they can be found.
In Europe that six week vacation helps people unwind and become better workers. That 35-40 hour work week helps too. The US is pretty good about not overworking its laborers, but you need to get enjoyment out of your work week here, because it may take up more of your time than your work week did back home. Like the above quote, the Tapestry here gets better and more diverse when people find fun in their jobs. If you don’t drink developing a social life in Gwangju can be hard, unless supported by groups like Epic, which itself, is not for everyone.
Don’t expect to make a golf foursome here, and you can’t go out to a course alone and join up with another group….no no no, it’s impossible, and akin to when you go to a restaurant alone: it means you don’t have any friends, and as soon as judgmental types (they are all over the world, but hard to miss here) see that you are eating alone, ANYWHERE other than Burger King, where other foreigners will be eating alone, and probably not inviting you to join them either, you will be stared at. Others have commented about how stand-offish foreigners can be with EACH OTHER, which in the case of the USA is just a hangover from NOT TRUSTING anyone on any street.
Pity the man without friends in Gwangju, and that’s part of what drives the International Center.
Step one in happiness always comes from within, but long-term happiness takes the Tapestry around you…and some new arrivals feel like they are never going to weave one, but most find a way to “fit in” to this culture, even if they find it impossible to play by all the rules. The secret is not a major one to uncover: most Koreans don’t play by all the rules either. Sadly, just like the adolescents in any country, those who can not live up to their father’s expectations here often lie to cover their natural desires. Others take Dad’s Commandments to heart, take it too seriously, and commit suicide when not #1 in their class, or even #10 (out of 400).
For educators (most of us are) the statistics about the pressure put on middle school, high school, university, and non-working university graduates is unbearable. Many of us have come from systems where growing a student’s ego and critical thinking and “thinking outside the box” are paramount to Math, Science, English, and even sports. Of course sports help build teamwork skills, leadership skills (in some) and camaraderie…as entire towns show up for their high school football game on Friday night, entire alumni groups show up for their University’s Saturday game, and professionals line up on Sunday to tailgate and watch the pro game.
People do not congregate in large numbers except for Kia Tigers games here. It’s why Gwangju lost its basketball team and may not have soccer for very long.
But back on the education front: be yourself, sneak in what your culture does best. It won’t hurt your students to learn something a new way…even if it’s a language that is so hard to figure out.
Sports fan? Oh you’re in a desert here, but if you pay enough you can watch games starting at 2am or 3am on your computer…IT’S WORHT IT, trust me. You can right now get free recap highlights of the NHL playoffs in the US at http://www.nhl.com But if you’re a hockey fan in particular, this is not an easy to place to stay in touch with what your team is up to.
So how is your calico going to be attached to this quilted Tapestry? Keep your head up, and get a kick out of this long-dead man’s quotable quotes:
• When life hands you a lemon, make lemonade.
• Drop the idea that you are Atlas carrying the world on your shoulders. The world would go on even without you. Don’t take yourself so seriously.
• Those who are fired with an enthusiastic idea and who allow it to take hold and dominate their thoughts find that new worlds open for them. As long as enthusiasm holds out, so will new opportunities.
• It is of practical value to learn to like yourself. Since you must spend so much time with yourself you might as well get some satisfaction out of the relationship.
• Joy increases as you give it, and diminishes as you try to keep it for yourself. In giving it, you will accumulate a deposit of joy greater than you ever believed possible.
• Believe it is possible to solve your problem. Tremendous things happen to the believer. So believe the answer will come. It will.
• Never talk defeat. Use words like hope, belief, faith, victory.
• Watch your manner of speech if you wish to develop a peaceful state of mind. Start each day by affirming peaceful, contented and happy attitudes and your days will tend to be pleasant and successful. (OK Stuber has a hard time with this one)
• The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.
• A positive mental attitude is a belief that things are going to turn out well, and that you can overcome any kind of trouble or difficulty.
• The tests of life are not meant to break you, but to make you.
• Live your life and forget your age.
• If there is no fun in it, something is wrong with all you are doing.
• Empty pockets never held anyone back, only empty heads and empty hearts can do that.
(Norman Vincent Peale)


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