What Can You Do?


This is one of those positivity posts you happen upon across the blogosphere. Don’t worry though, I’m not going to tell you how to change your life. It’s one I’m hoping you’ll read and decide to post your own appropriate response. I got the idea from Caitlin Kelly’s Broadside Blog (a blog I’m trying to get back into reading because of its great ability to encourage and establish ownership of yourself, as well as some pretty neat ideas for blog posts). She got the idea from someone else. And that other person undoubtedly happened upon this idea elsewhere, or in part from another facet of life. I could go on but I think you get the idea. Think of it as an e-NekNomination in list format.

As it is a list on a blog your undoubtedly concerned that it’s another bucket list. Relax. There is no bucket or receptacle requirement for this post. Unless you actually need a bucket for whatever ailment it is you’re suffering from. Please follow your doctor’s orders, not mine, at least with regard the bucket necessity.

Am I still talking about buckets?

This is a ‘can do’ post. One that talks about ability not probability. Not goals, not aspirations, not dreams, because as lovely as they are you won’t get near them if you don’t know who you are.

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However, this isn’t about what can you do well, or whether or not you’re the best or recognised as something to do with it. It’s about recognising in yourself your own ability to carry out actions which result in something. Usually you would do quite a decent job at this something upon carrying it out. This something may be a finished product or it could be just another step in a continuous process. Everyone has these, but for some reason all talk seems to be about what I can’t do, or why I am the best at doing something. And I say we should raise the two fingers to that.

I’ve never been overly competitive so my list reads quite dull, to be honest. These days I just want people to recognise what I do as good, rather than the best. I’d like to be great, but I’m not twenty anymore and I realise that I should have been starting out on that road back then, rather than doing other “stuff”. I’m happy enough where I am, but it’s nice to be liked. Maybe that’s where my internet addiction stems from, my constant search for likes and favourites across whatever social platform I’m engrossed in at the time (this blog is no different).

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Anway. Here’s my list. Be awed.

I can…

  • Drive a car kind of well
  • Draw a picture
  • Cook decent grub, especially with feck all in the fridge. 
  • Take a decent photograph with a DSLR using manual settings (I couldn’t do this three months ago – I know, amazing).
  • Tie my shoelaces if I want to.
  • Speak English and make a living from it.
  • Walk to work.
  • Write and publish a poem or two.
  • Write well.
  • Be witty.
  • Read an entire classical novel on my ipad.
  • Teach a language class to a variety of levels of language users where no one ends up leaving in tears.
  • Lead a great team of people to organise a St Patrick’s Day festival or two.
  • Live in Korea relatively successfully for nine years.
  • Love a woman unconditionally.

Even if you suffer the same affliction as I, a list like this will comfort you as you realise that much of this doesn’t really require likes, and does require time and attention to become proficient at. It’s also a list you can look at and think, well hey that’s me, that is who I am, and as I composed my rather rickettly makeshift list I could picture times in my past when I just got better at doing this stuff. The learning curve I believe they term it, except it being a positive list, said curve included only sentimental flashbacks of success. None of that repeated abject failure business.

So let’s see your list – What Can You Do?

 

Archiving


Over the past couple of weeks I have been busy going through old photographs from travels long since finished and uploading the to my flickr page.

Derrynane, Co. Kerry, Ireland, July 2013

Derrynane, Co. Kerry, Ireland, July 2013

It started accidentally, with me uploading a huge number of images from my summer in Ireland, mostly from Kerry on the south west coast. After this, I realised that I still had at least a memory card or two worth of photographs from our most recent visit to Thailand, in February of 2012, and Malaysia in July of the same year. While I’d uploaded some of my photos from Malaysia, I think the Internet still deserved a few more.

Further inspiration for uploading more photographs came when a package with around 250 photographs from our Honeymoon to Turkey in 2008 arrived on the doorstep. I had finally taken the initiative to put together a photo album from that time, and it only took something like five and a half years.

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Hierapolis, Turkey, July 2008

Now this really was an amazing collection of photographs, not just of the memories myself and Herself shared, but also of a very spectacular and scenic country, one which we’d both like to return to again in the future. I think I was quite selective in the photographs I chose to develop in that they reflected our experience together and the memories we’d like to look back in in the future. That being said, that I left out so many due to this is a perfectly good reason to trawl through the folders again and share some of these images here.

It’s interesting to watch how my style and quality of photograph has developed. With travel photography, there’s always the necessity to capture as much of the scene or the action as possible, and to present a sense of how it actually feels to be there. I think that as I’ve taken more and more photos, both every-day and travelling shots, I’ve become more capable of doing this. Of course most of my early shots are simple point and shoot efforts, regardless of the quality of the camera (back then mostly a Sony DSC-H5, which I still have back in Ireland), I still had to do my best to take as good a shot as possible, a skill which I kind of had to learn myself.  With time I spent more and more effort composing the photo, taking time to frame it, and to snap at the right time. With my DSLR now I am starting to see how this is even more important than ever, considering I know so little about light, shutter speed, aperture, and eveythign else bar pushing that little shiny button on the top.

Before I begin to share photographs here on mass, I should add that I’ve just uploaded a small set of photographs from a brief stopover in Hong Kong we made on the way to Seoul from Dublin in the same year. I am also beginning to dig into other folders saved on my hard drive and on CDs of visits to places like China, Japan, more Thailand and Malaysia, France, the UK where myself and Herself lived for a year after getting married, Ireland, and of course Korea. It’s is an exciting project ahead for myself.

Hong Kong and the Star Ferry, May 2008

Hong Kong and the Star Ferry, May 2008

When I think back over the countries I’ve visited I don’t think I’m that well travelled (I base this assumption on the amount of countries I still want to visit), but when I look back at the many different experiences and locations I’ve been to I can be proud of myself in this regard. I still know that I have many journeys ahead of me, and along this way I plan to have my camera, Herself, and for the foreseeable future, +1.

To view the sets on my flickr page, including recent uploads from Thailand, Malaysia, and Hong Kong, please click on this link.
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Letter from Korea, October 2013


Suwon, Korea
Ocotober, 2013

Dear Ireland,

It has been well over a month since myself, Herself, and +1 have been back in Korea, and what I expected would be my September letter got left by the wayside and is only being seen to now in October. You know you’ll get the usual excuses for not doing anything which isn’t vital to one’s survival, such as being busy with things which are vital to one’s own survival.

After two and a bit months in Ireland, returning to Korea for life, work, and more life, was less the shock we had thought it might be. A smaller home, no garden, no dog, less rain, and that view from all the way up at the top of our tower just seemed to be what was right at the time. There seems to be less culture shock the more we travel between Ireland and Korea.

Update: Some photos from the last month and a bit back in Korea

When we first came back to Ireland we walked around in a half-daze finding it hard to comprehend that the last time we were here was almost two years beforehand. Yes, we had been back briefly in April for a funeral, but this was different. With the funeral we knew that we only had so much time and that we would be busy, obviously, and the week passed quicker than we knew it before we were back in Korea.

Two months is in many respects a long time, but you know it’s never long enough some times. Every time I seem to go home I seem to leave everything I want to do until the last two weeks of my time. This includes meeting friends, going into Dublin, and a whole list of other things. Maybe because I just feel comfortable up to that point until when I realise that it’s all going to be miles away in a mere matter of days.

This August though, we returned relatively scar free to Korea and returned to the regular humdrum. It’s a humdrum though that exists for everyone after their holiday, regardless of where they were or how long they were away for. Maybe we’re getting better at it, and maybe we’re becoming more aware of what it is we should be doing and when we should be doing it. In this case, it’s getting on with our day in the middle of all the other days.

We go to work, we go shopping, we take +1 out for walks and to her little classes, we meet friends, we go for dinner, and on occasion I get a little drunk. We complain about the weather and things that aren’t working properly in our apartment, we say hello to neighbours we recognise and wonder why others still don’t pay any attention to us even though we’re living here three years. The sunsets continue to decorate that sky to the right when I look out the window around six or seven every night, and always we see our little daughter growing stronger and more mobile to the point that we are often lost for words. This is just a snapshot of everything that occupies us, and I believe we all have our comparisons tidied away somewhere.

At the back of all this foreground lies our future. We could not continue to move forward without knowing what lies there. We have been fortunate enough to be given the many opportunities presented to us, and we know each moment presents opportunity. Korea for all the things it is not is definitely a boiling pot of opportunity, you just have to fight harder to make the most if it. The life I have delved, almost accidentally it seems sometimes, has brought a mightly stew of changes in my life, and my family’s life. Opportunities have been taken and missed, but regrets are something we seem to have few of.

On the east coast of Korea in a small town called Jeongdongjin, right on the coast and just south of Gangnueng, you can see this happening but you need to wait around for a while.

Right beside the broad white beach is a small urban park, and the centre piece is a rather large cylindrical egg-timer. Yes, an egg-timer as I know it as, that drops grain after grain through a tiny hole bit by bit counting down until the end of the year, until it rolls over and starts again.

We never see a grain dropping and we would need to spend the entire year to see the results of this ever gradual change. But like most who see the change, we come and and we go and we see it at different stages of progression.

In the future we know that by sitting here and watching everything reverberate and rotate balancing on its fulcrum, we know that things change with every minute. From full to empty and half-full again, it is worth taking a step back and realising that we never see progress as it happens, only once it has passed.

We don’t need anniversaries or milestones really to see this, just the patience to allow each grain of sand to pass through the hole and for the mound of white sand grow and grow until we have our own little mountain.

Notebooks


I’ve been going through my old computer files and notebooks lately hoping to find some encouragement. It’s always interesting too look back, be it in a diary, an old collection of photographs, or even old posts on a blog. Pages and photographs fortunately have a stronger sense of permanency than timelines or twitter feeds, and even if you can find everything online, the nostalgia is physical when leafing through the old pages written in slightly different handwriting and in faded pencil or ink.

Aside from my newest Moleskine and a collection of my newest fascination as a writing medium, yellow A4 lined paper, I believe it’s called legal pad, I have all kinds of paper and notebooks scattered around the bookshelves and packed in boxes around the home. All of these have served some function in my scattered and impotent career as a Nobel laureate.

I don’t really write much here about poetry, as it’s something that I consider myself far from an expert on. But it drives me crazy to the point that sometimes I lose sleep over it, or I am a useless conversationalist. More than anything, I’ve always looked to excel at writing poetry, as to do it well is more than art, it is pure craftwork.

My poems to me are mostly biographical, at least in their instance, and reading back over them reminds me of how I was thinking at that time.

The thing is, I’ve never been one to keep a diary, and this blog certainly doesn’t serve as one – it least not in the day-to-day sense – so reading through notebooks I’ve written in serves odd reminders of what I’ve done in my life over the past few years. There are peculiar connections and many of these start with the actual medium itself, be that the notebook or the loose sheets of paper I wrote on.

Many pages are neatly organised together and appear like a final draft, or as close as I got to one, and then many are roughly folded with the edges frayed from being kept too long in the bottom of my bag. Some I recognise from the time I wrote them, such as white printer or copier paper, which often suggests to me that I wrote this while I was teaching in class (say nothing), or possibly at my desk on a break. Of course I can’t recall when and where I wrote whatever it was, but these scattered sheets are equally scattered memories.

Unity comes from between the binding of my notebooks. Each starts with a flourish infected by the desire to spoil the freshness of the recently freed paper, and ends slowly and unconvincingly as enthusiasm wanes with the final few pages, and I look to start a new notebook before the older one is even finished. This has always been the way I’ve used a notebook, from my primary and secondary school copies to my newest much underappreciated Moleskine which I seem to needlessly carry with me everywhere.

Every page in these old and new notebooks of mine is like an old cryptic diary arranged around some thoughts I had at some stage. Often these memories are vague and cliché, with nothing more than the impression that I was living in a big city and I was utterly appalled by the post-modern condition of urban habitation, or something unoriginal like that. Sometimes there are bits worth keeping though.

I have one of those cheaply made notebooks with plastic covers which you see being sold on the side of the street in Seoul. They are always too big even for the most ambitious writer. I bought mine back in 2007 at the top end of Insadong and I ended up writing in it right up until 2010, and maybe even 2011, but there’s still room for more. It wasn’t my only place to write, but it is without a doubt the one notebook I will reach to if I am looking to raid my memories for new material, or a simple dose of nostalgia.

But there are glimpses of the moment too. There are times when I travelled around the country with herself, there are poems from our honeymoon, such as this one which was published by Wordlegs:

“Foça”

“The wind has been blowing here
for three thousand years
and it will not stop
just for your honeymoon”
the fisherman told us,
soaking and shivering
from the gust laden tides;
the Aegean not as warm
as the guidebook
had optimistically implied

(As a gesture of goodwill and decency, please give Wordlegs a visit and have a read of some of the other excellent poetry and prose on their site)

There are poems from the creative writing module I took while doing my masters in Southampton, and there many, many poems and stories and comments on all other aspects of life. There are also a few poems I wrote to Herself, although I won’t post any here. There are notes for articles I wrote for magazines in Korea, and even the first couple of drafts for a post which still attracts a certain amount of attention here (just checked the super-sexy and detailed WordPress statometer and it’s ranked #8 all time most clicked post – what the fuck is up with that?). There are doodles, lists, phone numbers, and even email addresses for people or places I have no memory of. This is all just from one notebook, and I’m sure there’s more elsewhere.

If I were to stack all my notebooks up I’m not sure how high they would reach. If I combed through every page I’ve written I don’t think I’d fill even a small notebook with anything worth keeping. But as a good friend and mentor explained to me, undoubtedly as we were drunk in Itaewon late at night back in the day (or night), for every piece you’re happy with there is bound to be ten more you’ll never look at again but you have to keep writing because you’ll only know the difference if you have plenty to compare them against. The same ratio is probably true for anything I write which would be deemed good quality by an editor other than me – even here.

But that’s what writing is all about. The more you write the more you put down into a more permanent and physical kind of memory that can be actually picked up and looked back on. Unlike a photograph, words written down in an apparently random situation force you to think and force you to remember and recreate that situation. For me this is essential for any and all future written efforts.

Right now I’m half way through a new chapter of memories like this. There may be less words, but there are other things which act as a flint, such as a wireless password for a guesthouse in Langkawi, a picture of me that looks nothing like me drawn by a friend of Herself’s, and a several lists of things I should have done but I seem to have crossed very little off. That’s just me. Soon I’ll finish that and move on to the next one and soon those pages will be vague memories for rekindling. I look forward to the fire where I will bring this notebook and all those other notebooks too.