Week One in Cheonan – Sniffle, Sniffle, Cough, Cough

I’m writing this to you from my tiny studio apartment in the Buldangdong neighborhood of Cheonan, South Korea. I flew into Incheon last Sunday night around 6PM and then took a bus to Cheonan where my school director picked me up and brought me to my apartment. I went to bed almost immediately after having been on the road (or in the sky) for what felt like forever, but was realistically closer to 18 hours.

I went straight to work that Monday, getting to know my coworkers and shadowing classroom teaching for a few days. Wednesday I started teaching my own classes. It’s funny how preparing to teach sucks, but actually teaching is fun. I’m not sure how that works, but that’s what I feel so far. I hate planning, so I guess I need to just get good at looking like I plan well. But I really do love teaching the kids and playing with them.

My kids are between the ages of 5 and 12. A pretty wide range. Most of the teachers at my school have been there for several years, so it doesn’t seem like a place with high churn rate, which is good. The owners of the school seem nice enough and have been helping me get my medical screenings and immigration work squared away, but maintain a general stoicism that I’m coming to expect from them as the year progresses.

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About 36 hours into getting here I started to feel a little off. The jetlag, which I’m familiar with from traveling abroad a few times, was really getting the best of me. I was waking up in the middle of the night or super early in the morning and unable to fall asleep. I started to feel a little sick on Wednesday and tried to ward it off by going to bed early, but with all the clamor and stress of being a new teacher, by Friday night, I was fully in the grips of some awful virus. Headaches, chills, body aches, sweats, stuffy nose and probably fever. I was a mess. I really wanted to go out and explore this weekend and thought about trying to power through it, but realized I was going to have zero luck with that. So I went home after work on Friday, meditated and took a short nap. I woke up feeling way worse and tried to grab food in a restauraunt right near my apartment and was politely asked to leave because the lady running the place spoke no English and couldn’t take my order. So, I went across the street to the other place I knew of in my neighborhood and had porridge for dinner (see picture above). It was good, but I’ve already had it 3 times this week and wanted something different.

Saturday I woke up feeling terrible still, so I pretty much stayed in bed all day until 5 PM, when I put some clothes on and forced myself to leave the house in search of food. I went down to where my school is, where I know there are restaurants with picture menus that I can order from and grabbed some food. One of the ladies working at the restaurant heard my voice and saw me generally looking and feeling like shit and brought me over a big cup of hot broth and told me in broken English to drink it and that it would make me feel better. It was a very nice gesture and one I appreciated very much. After that I made my way back home, talked with my mom on Facebook chat and then went to bed early again and woke up a reasonable hour today.

So, all-in-all, South Korea has been an interesting experience so far. The little kids are fantastic. The food is very good and interesting (and very cheap!). Getting sick my first weekend was a huge bummer, but I’m hoping I’m developing anti-bodies that will ward off more germs as the year goes along. I need to find some vitamin C packets somewhere and make that a daily regimen.

I’ll try to keep these updates going out as regular as possibly without being spammy. I’m off to find some bibimbap for dinner and hopefully avoid getting asked to leave for having no Korean language skills yet. Luckily I found a few survival phrases on my phone that night help me.

As always, feel free to email me any time or Skype/Google Chat me if you see me online!

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Hopefully A Good Example of What Korea Is Going To Be Like

Get ready to shake your butt and not understand why.

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Cheonan or Bust!

OK, here’s the update. I just accepted a job offer teaching in Cheonan, South Korea at a school called ILS (International Language School). It’s pretty close to Seoul, the water and a bunch of city life that I’m excited to explore.

I start November 3rd, so I’ll be hanging around the USA a bit longer than I originally planned, but patience is a virtue. Hoping to be productive, get some more freelance work and maybe travel a bit domestically in the meantime.

I must say, I’ve been very lucky to have a lot of advice given to me along the way by people who have been there and done that with the ESL teaching thing. I wouldn’t have figure it all out on my own in time, I’m sure, so thank you! You know who you are!

If anyone’s interested in checking out ESL teaching jobs in South Korea, I’m pretty much an expert at the process now, so feel free to ask me!

Anyways, that’s my news for now. I’ll be updating more as time goes along.

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An Update On Pretty Much Everything… Oh, And I’m Moving Overseas (Probably)

Where I’ve Been

2014 has been an interesting year. I haven’t posted much on my blog because I spent the early half of the year in a bit of a daze as I packed up my life in Colorado and slowly trekked back East, interviewing with various companies along the way. It simply has been too hard for me to write about in explicit detail. But generally speaking, I went through a breakup. Not just a breakup with a woman whom I loved very much, but with an entire family, with friends, with a city and a lifestyle that I had come to be quite comfortable in. The heartbreak was real. I’d be dishonest if I said the first half of this year wasn’t some of the hardest times I’ve been through in my entire life, yet somehow I managed to experience some of the biggest stretches of growth in my life as well. As one of my favorite quotes from a BJJ Master says: “Reduce your elements and become efficient in very small details.”

Gratefully, with some help and a lot of space and time I got some things physically and mentally back in order that hadn’t even realized were holding me back. It wasn’t a fast or easy process, as I so wanted it to be, but sometimes the right place and time happens upon you and you have to agree to go through the entire process of healing and growth, regardless of what it takes to get through. Or you could just choose not to grow, but that’s a whole other matter…

So here I am at a turning point. A moment that will shift my entire life as I know it. I’ve prepared myself for this by getting in shape and losing over 40 lbs through diet and exercise. I’ve also doubled-down on my mediation practice and mental fortification through reading more.

So here we find ourselves.

Bye Bye Wheels

Yesterday I sold my 2008 Toyota Yaris. That car was damn good to me over the years. It’s seen a lot of this country with me and has never failed me when I needed it. I was in a pensive and grumpy mood when I was closing on selling it because everything about the situation seemed like it was stripping me of my identity and mobility. Yet, it was my idea to sell my car under these circumstances. I could have waited a few more weeks, taken a few more job interviews, or just put it off a little bit longer for maybe more money, but what as I signed the car’s title over and accepted payment, all of my anxiety about the transaction vanished and was replaced with gratitude. I had just sold off the single most valuable asset I owned and I now had what I needed to take the next steps I’ve been planning for so long.

Where I’m Heading

In about a month, I’m planning to move overseas to South Korea to become an ESL teacher for a one year contract. I’ve held off on telling many people I know because I’ve had various potential employers here state-side whom I’ve been speaking with over the past few months and I was sort of just waiting to see if they made me an offer that would convince me that going overseas wasn’t worth it. But, after spending months researching what teaching ESL in South Korea was like and lamenting on a past decision to pass the same opportunity up I realize that this is exactly what I need to do right now in my life. I’ve wanted to do this before and never did it. Now is the time. So, besides selling my car, I figured publicly announcing to the world my intentions to move across the world should seal the deal on my options. Bold action breeds bold results, or so they say!

So, now what? I am car-less for a few weeks and I don’t know my school, city or departure date yet. Figuring out the exact place I’ll be traveling to in October is of utmost importance. I’ll also consider one or two short trips to take that I’ve passed up this year because of various reasons. But, besides that, I’m taking the next 4-5 weeks to essentially deepen my relationships with friends and family before I go. It’s important to me that everyone know exactly where they stand with me leading up to this.

I’m not sure what else to say except that this choice I’m making truly is an expression of who I am and where I am at in life right now. I am trying to live my truth regardless of how it makes me look to others. I’d encourage everyone else to try and do the same, for that matter. Life is too short. You really don’t know what could happen to upset our perfectly laid plans at any moment, so how much true happiness and expression are you willing to put off and sacrifice in order to have a life that appears safe and calm from the outside?

More updates to come on where I’ll be going and when.

Posted in personal development, relationships, relocation | 2 Comments

Book Review: Is This Legal? Inside The Story Of The First UFC From The Man Who Created It

I consider myself to be somewhat of an MMA subject matter expert. Of course, I am humble in knowing that I only know what I know from following the main-stream media coverage of the sport and its athletes and figures. However, I’ve been around since 2003 obsessing over every event in the UFC and overseas as well.

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So, when I got an email from Art Davie’s media team asking me to review the book “Is This Legal?” I was instantly intrigued. I really enjoy tell-all books. I think the last book I read from an insiders perspective of MMA was Pat Militich’s biography which I absolutely loved. But, I was a fan of Pat’s before reading it and frankly, I had only heard of Art Davie’s name a handful of times before getting this book in my hands to review.

I’ll be very honest about something – I came into reading this book with a real bias against it. I know a lot of people in the MMA world dislike Dana White or the current UFC as a business and have gone their own ways in saying how they built MMA, not White and the Fertittas. I was just hoping this book wasn’t going to be chapter after chapter of arrogant bullshit and shit-slinging about stuff that is way under the bridge.

I was pleasantly surprised to read the opposite of that. Art Davie does a great job of painting himself as a humble, passionate, eccentric business man who was in the right place at the right time in creating the UFC. He does, however, give some insight into the dynamics of the Gracie family that made me slightly squeamish to read about. I’ll attribute that feeling to the fact that I’ve come up and gotten my blue belt under a really old-school black-belt and it’s sort of just understood that you don’t air other people’s personal dirty laundry, especially when they are considered the grand master’s of the sport. I suppose Art Davie took off his own blue belt and put on his businessman coat when he decided to do that. That’s his call.

All-in-all, the book was entertaining to read, had a lot of cool stories about early-stage figures in the original UFC that frankly don’t get brought up anymore and gave a peak into the world of what many for us take for granted – an un-charted and largely illegal new sport that took over the world in later years.

While a lot of the fighting terminology and general descriptiveness is based on terms that seem somewhat antiquated in modern MMA circles, this also gives you a feel for what the atmosphere for this sort of event was back in 1993. It’s almost hard to even consider what it would be like.

My main criticism of the book is that Davie describes one of the tournament fighters, Gerard Gordeau, as a potential member of the Neo-Nazi party, only going on to clear that description a few hundred pages later in the book saying that the salute he was doing wasn’t a Nazi salute, but actually a martial arts salute. I even thought myself that Gordeau might be a Nazi when I read it, only to find out later that he wasn’t. If I hadn’t finished the book, I would have had a forever-spoiled view of Gerard Gordeau and that wouldn’t’ have been fair.

I’d recommend “Is This Legal” to anyone for entertainment value and as something to bolster your knowledge of the sport of MMA and it’s roots in the original UFC. While it seems like this book is set on another planet at times compared to what the UFC is today, it should give you some perspective into how far things have come since then.

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Review of “Bleeding Edge” by Thomas Pynchon

I’ve been a hesitant fan of Thomas Pynchon since 2005, when I met a beautiful and way-smarter-than-me German woman in Prague taking a literature class with me in Charles University graduate school. She was talking to me about how hard “A Gravity’s Rainbow”by Pynchon was to understand and she seemed frustrated enough about it to make me curious if I could impress her by reading it.

So, I bought an English language copy at a local Prague bookstore and started reading it. I didn’t actually finish it before heading home to America that semester because A)  I had so much damn reading for my other classes and B) it was hard to read. Actually, the hardest thing I had ever read up until then.

Reading Pynchon isn’t for everyone. He’s won a National Book Award for Gravity’s Rainbow and his level of writing is said by some to be on level with greats such as James Joyce (who I’ve never tackled). It took me about 6 months to get through, bit-by-bit “A Gravity’s Rainbow” once I committed to it and it took the same amount of time this year for me to read “Bleeding Edge.”

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Considering that Thomas Pynchon is in his 70’s’s I was very surprised at how well he was able to encapsulate the early 2000’s where “Bleeding Edge” takes place. Also, the fact that he’s not a tech entrepreneur in any way that I know of is impressive because he really does get some nuanced bits of information about what it’s like to work in the information and tech based businesses. I can vet some of that just from my own experience working in tech throughout my career.

When reading Pynchon, I’m always cautious to critique him too harshly because I sometimes feel what he’s writing about and how he’s writing about it might just be over my head. Then again, I probably don’t give myself enough credit. “Bleeding Edge” does an interesting job of writing about a complex world of international embezzlement, 9/11 culture in the early 2000’s and the tech bubble of the time. I haven’t really read much around that time that felt appropriate and accurate, but this book does a good job.

I’d say that this book isn’t Pynchon’s greatest work. “A Gravity’s Rainbow” still is. “Inherent Vice” was a ton of fun to read too. “Bleeding Edge” wasn’t so much fun as some of his other books.

I might have to read it again, but as of now, I’d judge “Bleeding Edge” as a B- effort from Pynchon. I’ll be interested to look up some other reviews on the internet as I haven’t read any other opinions on it before writing this.

I hope Pynchon has another good novel in him at least. We’ll see. We’ve been lucky to have what he’s given us so far. I’ll keep reading what he rights in attempt to expand my mind and hopefully impressive the next impossibly smart women I meet at a pretentious cocktail party.

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Your Social Media and Community Best Practices Are Bullshit

As I’ve spent a lot of hours interviewing with a lot of companies over the past few months, I’ve realized a trend in the types of companies and people I’d potentially like to work for and the ones I have to fight the urge to roll my eyes at.

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When I get pressed to discuss industry best practices in social media, I’ve literally started responding with “I don’t care.”

This might seem abrasive or arrogant, but frankly, people who ask these questions are the types of media professionals that don’t “get” the new waves of digital technologies that are constantly evolving. It’s like trying to keep up with SEO. If you introduce me to someone who’s been an expert in ever single change and best practice in SEO over the last 8 years, I’ll point out someone who is either full of shit or on some Rain Man level of information retention. You don’t want a historian who simply tracks changes over time running your social and community building programs if you’re trying to do anything interesting. You need someone who’s willing to learn, absorb and try new things, regardless if they are or are not in vogue with the rest of the industry.

Everyone is making this shit up as they go along. EVERYONE. I don’t care how much of a savant someone might seem in articulating the current state of social media, when it comes to predicting how tight behemoths like Facebook and Twitter make the collar on marketers, it’s anyone’s best guess until algorithms are changed and everyone sees how bad their marketing reach really is.

I suggest employers ask candidates what their thoughts are on specific problems. How would they solve them? Ask them what annoys them about the current state of affairs in marketing. Don’t ask them to recite what Brian Solis  Gary Vaynerchuk are going on endlessly about lately.

If I, or any of the other candidates can’t look at your product or service with a fresh, objective, un-biased set of eyes and figure out a unique marketing strategy or approach, their value to your organization is and always be limited.

The companies I have been most excited about are the ones who don’t want anything to do with the status quo. Those are the places to be.

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The Happiest Moments Of My Life

For most people, when you ask them “what was the happiest moment of your life?” you’d probably wind up getting a variety answers that were likely based on another person or group of people. “When my first child was born” or “when my wife and I got married” or “that family vacation where we went to the Grand Canyon.”

It makes sense that those are the types of answers that come to mind. The other day I read a prompt from my favorite astrologer Rob Brezny. He suggested writing down the top 5 most ecstatic moments in your life and taking enough time to write them down and dwell on them so that you were able to really remember them and feel them through you.

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I did this exercise and all 5 of my moments were based on other people or groups of people. Ex-lovers and family were at the center of my top 5 moments that came to mind.

While there’s nothing necessarily wrong with this, it made me take pause. I didn’t have any solo moments of ecstasy that came to mind. No examples of great joy or pleasure or happiness while I was by myself. This caused me to take time and space to actually contemplate this. I tried not to force it or be convoluted in thinking up moments where I was mindfully happy without the input of others directly on the moment.

I’m glad I wasn’t too hard on myself for not coming up with these moments, because out of the blue a few just came to me as I came across a Charles Bukowski quote posted by my jiu jitsu idol Renzo Gracie.

I realized those moments were incredible. I was a full version of myself at those moments. I was giving more of myself to others and to myself at those moments. I was my best self. I was healthy. I was strong. I had energy for the world and I received the worlds energy as well. I was living fully.

So all of this is to say, maybe these solo moments should take up a few more places on my top 5 all-time moments. Maybe it needs to be a top 10, rather than 5 so I don’t feel like I’m excluding any dear memories. Or maybe it’s about prioritization of myself.

I’m not sure, but I love when exercises like this lead to sharp moments of perspective like this.

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Well, I’m 30

I really wanted to write a super long and articulate blog post about turning 30, but I simply can’t find the words. Too much has happened, too much is in the process of happening and it’s just bigger than me right now. I accept it.

So, Happy Birthday to Me! I am one tough, creative, resilient son of a gun. Time for cake and ice cream!

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Mom – My Biggest Advocate

A lot of people say “I wouldn’t be where I am without my mom,” or “I owe my mom everything.” I think a lot of us agree with that sentiment, but I really, what does it mean?

There are too many examples of this sentiment for me to list. I can think of several of the most important, risk-filled, half-brained moments in my life where I had the choice between an un-fullfilling, easy, steady path and something I was passionate about but scared to hell of doing.

To name just a few…

Embracing my love for writing
Going to Saint John’s
Deciding to go to college
Leaving UMass Dartmouth and moving to Boston
Learning how to treat a woman and be vulnerable
Moving to Madison to work for a startup
Moving to Colorado for love
Moving back to MA to start over and finally live my truth, wherever it takes me and in whatever form

God knows, I’m a stubborn son of a gun and have done whatever I wanted a lot of times, but as much confidence and bravado I might show in the face of uncertainty, much of it has to do with knowing that I have the support of my mom. Even if she doesn’t agree with what I’m doing or it makes her nervous (a lot of the times, this is the case), she has always put my personal, professional and health growth ahead of what is safe, easy and comfortable.

Life has been one hell of an adventure so far and I imagine it’s only getting started at this point. I have grown more from just the Worcester boy I knew myself to be than I could have ever imagined. As all-over-the-place as I may seem, the love and support my mom has always shown me throughout my life has shaped my world view and grounded me more than every new piece of art, every book I read, every new place I travel to and every new person I meet does.

Thanks for everything, mom!

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