She's Gone Where The Goblins Go
The Milky Way Over the Peak of the Furnace
Credit & Copyright: Luc Perrot
Why return to the U.S. when my life was a perfect dream? By now I realize there is a secret hidden within the pictophonemic characters inscribed on a shiny black stone over looking the East China Sea. I guess it is just enough to simply say I'm following the directions of a dear father who made me promise upon his death that I would love and care for his daughter regardless of what may come. This vow I have kept, even though it has meant surrendering a wonderful dream in Korea to follow the life long objective of my wife, which was to come to the United States. Her dream flew in the face of all reason after uncovering a the hidden history of Jeju Island which caused her to fear for my life but ultimately crushed my soul. Being certain that my return to the U.S. would sever all connections with my Korean life, the flight landed in Fairbanks Alaska on a dark subzero night in March 2009. Unknown to me were members of the same Korean social group waiting outside at the Fairbanks airport. It was the same people who had been our extended family in Korea for so many years, Koreans to whom we owed our profitable survival in Korea for so long . These Korean had arrived at the airport to take us home in Fairbanks, to give us a hot meal, a warm welcome and a snug bed to sleep in. They instinctively cared for my wife and I as essential members of an ancient family. I never left Korea but just brought a larger part of our home land to Alaska..
From the time of arrival I thought, "At long last my wife will know how I felt as a foreigner in her country." I rubbed my hands together thinking, "This is great! I can't wait to watch her struggle with a life I was familiar with." Yet, this was not the case. The truth of our arrival actually plunged me into an experience of being a stranger in a world far more alien than Korea; here in lay a secret and a mystery for which I have not been privy to understand. I became a teacher of children hoping to instill the beauty of Korean cultural love for children along with all the nurturing safety of the world they lived in; this lovely but ephemeral service was nearly two years of joy as it met children who spoke my language, yet were very interested in my ability to speak and write in Krean. As mentioned at the start, I do not understand any of the dynamics associated with my return to a land I once knew, but in the pages ahead, I find as I write I hear a voice not my own telling a story which uncovers a mystery I have yet to fully understand. Only in the process of writing and sharing do I get a chance to hear a tale which solves the mystery, one that explains why I was taken out of a world that western colleagues in education described as "a teachers dream life."
I returned from a land of dreams where the centuries have seen children loved by all, a land where families and society collectively endeavor to see their children excel in every aspect of life's richness. Daily I would walk streets filled with little private schools, each designed to convey special lessons to enrich the lives of children; the air was filled with the sound of music playing on pianos by children in private piano schools; mixed in with the music of pianos were the unified voices of children preforming marshal arts. All of these sounds of children were backed by a chorus of ambient laughter as other children shared their works of art created at yet another little private art school. These sounds formed the backdrop of my everyday life, as I would walk or ride my bike home from a day teaching in the public school. As I walked through the streets with all kinds of little markets and shops, people would always look at me and greet me more so than others due mainly due to the fact that my blond hair and blue eyes instantly signaled I was an American. After hearing children saying several times a day, “Yogee, mee-gook sahram eb-ne-dah” or “Mee-gook-ee” both with mean American and sometimes the strange “Young-ah sahram” which means English person, I became a little shy by how much I stood out from everyone else who had black hair and dark brown eyes. However, after hearing kids say this several times a day, every day of your life for eleven years you begin to do one of two things; either you ignore the statements generated out of curiosity or after you gain sufficient fluency with Korean I began to have some fun.
One very common and a bit less respectful was being called a “Way-gook-en” which is simply rude for “foreigner.” Hearing this from children was simply an indication that they had never seen a white person which is so common in rural Korea, non-Korean people are perceived as oddities. Once I gained fluency with Korean I would walk over to the kids who called me “ Way-gook-en” and politely correct them and say, “ Way-gae-en” which literally means, “I'm an alien from another planet.” They would either say in Korean, “Oh sure you joke very well” or else they would frequently respond with, “Really!?” If they said “really” I would go one to explain about my “Oo-joo-san” or my spaceship that I landed in. This was all done in fun and since I had to pass the same way frequently, I won some friends and we played soccer together.
In the local community, all the streets were arranged like spokes on a wheel, which formed pathways to a large central hub. Here in this hub is where everyone found the public school building, established in such a way as to be a place for the community to gather. Each school had the same style large court yard / playground covered with sand because grass is too difficult to maintain on public school grounds. These school areas all had the same peaceful feel about them and community members would frequently come to play their usual game of soccer.
In these playgrounds children would gather is groups to play games, swing on swings or slide down the slides. It would seem like a common vision for any other playground in the world, except for one critical yet wonderful observation; every child would be playing with others in close relationship, and not one child was ever found sitting alone at any time. Exploring the depths of this close social expression would take me years to understand. After my return to the U.S. I was given and introduction to common school procedures for handling wounds or “lock downs'; these matters never existed within the Korean mind so my efforts to explain such things to them would be as alien to them as something from a horror fiction story, most would think it incomprehensible.
As for me, I still wrestle with the whole scientific basis for claiming any kind of superiority of the white Caucasian race over other races. I read scientific journals dealing with temporal phenomenology and find that most writers are Caucasian scientists. As a matter of fact, the recent birthday celebration of the Caucasian scientist and inventor Thomas Edison brings back the issue of comparative studies of various races and their ability to modify an environment in which to live. Personally I believe that the knowledge of how to survive in harmony with a given environment is more sensible and valuable than being able to wield the technology to live in outer space, where your muscles atrophy due to lack of gravity and you need to, BYOB “Breathe Your Own Breath” after it has been recycled in very expensive filters.
Anyhow, the genetic race with the longest unbroken written history has been in this country expanding their presence very quietly; they have an agenda which is written deeply in their genetic code. Fortunately I have had a chance to read the “Head Lines” and I realize that if you can't beat them, you should join them. I did this back in the year 2007, it's done and it's finished I have no regrets.
In the warmth of Asian society, each day begins with children waking as children do in America, but after waking, the world they entered differs in a vastly beautiful way. Children are greeted each morning by their family who all sit together sharing meals because no one ever eats alone in Korea. After breakfast, they prepare to go to school and again this was never done alone; friends always come by the house and meet their classmates after which they would all walk to school. There are no school buses to transport children to and from schools. Schools are always built to serve within a local community all within walking distance for children.
Detailing this dream I lived with for eleven years is critical because I never want the memory of a totally safe world to be forgotten, a world where children are loved by all and education defines the culture rather than being simply a part of it. Even as I write these words, a memory from the year 2006 comes to mind, a joyful memory of being greeted with a big hug by a first grade student who was walking with her mother. The student was so happy and excited as she jumped up and down beside her mother asking her to let me come home with them. I will never forget such wonderful memories. She was one student among thousands, yet as the flow of time and events would have it, she warmly waved goodbye as her mother knew that teachers held a unique position within Korean society and culture,. Though allowing me the chance to visit her home required me to engage in a culturally relevant dialogue to convince the mother that her daughter's request was an honor not a burden. Her cheerful little voice could be heard saying, "Chal gah-say yo sun-sang-neem" which means goodbye teacher.
Yet on another occasion a student invited me to her home where I met her mother and family. Women all have the same life long job in Korea aa mothers for their children's needs. Women all work very hard as mothers while their husbands work many long hours at whatever job they may have. With this student, the mother asked me if I would like to go out to a restaurant by the ocean that had a very luxurious swimming pool lit up with many different colored lights. It was such a beautiful experience to be a teacher in a civilized country where parents valise your skills and desire the best for their child; a place where it is culturally okay to invite teachers to be part of your family and there are many programs where teachers do go in an live with the family while teaching during the day. The families who host the teacher consider is a rare and precious privilege.