1997-2001

Here are some high level bullet points of what went on in my life after leaving the Korea in 1997.

1. Tried to patch things up with girlfriend I abandoned for 3 months to see the Korea again.

2. Succeeded at #1. Not as easy as I thought it would be.

3. Got a part time job copy editing technical support documentation. No skills or experience in the field, other than my M.A. in Literature.

4. Went full time as copy editor.

5. Took over management of the same copy edit team. Grew team to 12.

6. Bought my first house and moved out of my parents' basement.

7. Left the copy edit team for a different role at same company.

8. Got woken up occasionally in the middle of the night by phone calls from the Master. "Hello. When are you coming to Korea? How is your health? Good-bye."

9. Got engaged to #1 above.

10. Planned my next trip to the Korea.

Ping me separately for a full treatment of any of #1-9 above. Full coverage of #10 follows forthwith.

10 comments:

Matthew Smith said...

sign me up. inquiring mind want to know!

White Rice said...

Which number?

Matthew Smith said...

beggars can't be choosing but if I had a choice, I'll take all the above.

White Rice said...

Matthew-

Since you asked…

Truthfully I cannot seem to get the momentum needed to write about the Korea 2001, so I’ll take you up on this diversion. I’ll put a comment in for each number and as long as you comment back, I’ll move on or dwell as you request. Deal? A little 2-way sidebar via Comments.

1. Tried to patch things up with girlfriend I abandoned for 3 months to see the Korea again: As a devoted reader I’m sure you know the high level here. But here’s more of the story. I had arranged to go to Seoul in early 1997 to substitute teach for 3 weeks, but I had booked my return flight for 3 months later (tourist Visa max length stay). I never told my gal either way if I would return home in 3 weeks or in 3 months—or somewhere in between. Secretly I expected to stay for the full three months, but 3 weeks was easier to market. She and I had been together and exclusive almost 3 years by this time in 1997. During those 3 years I had previously left town for one summer between semesters of my grad program. I left to go work on some projects in the film industry (the same industry I hated so bad before that I left it to go to grad school). Precedent set? Off I went.

While substituting and milking out my 3-month tourist Visa (and meeting the Master and the rest you already know) I was not religious about calling or writing or staying in contact with my lady back home. I called on occasion (like the day after her birthday—ooooops) and sent an email when I got into a PC Bang and whatnot, but not often enough. I just took it for granted—fairly or not—that, upon my return, we would pick up where we left off. Apparently there was no shortage of “gentlemen” who had no problem telling her what a douche I was for leaving her like that. She certainly pointed out that she had options while I was away. She could’ve, but she didn’t. And so it was that my grand homecoming was not greeted with fanfare and balloons and I might have expected. She was distant to say the least. She made my transition home a bit difficult. I admit I deserve it. I had a great adventure in an exotic foreign land whacking the donkey as they say. She was stuck at home working for her father in his restaurant. A nice restaurant, but her father is a trifle difficult. Three months is not a long chapter in the larger scale of one’s life, but it is long enough to carry with it some statement of one’s priorities.

2. Succeeded at #1. Not as easy as I thought it would be: After a few weeks of awkwardness and rapprochement, we got things sorted. You already know from #9 below that we worked things out. But it still comes up at times. Not in a mean way, but a reminder that she could have moved on without me. I almost effed it all up in other words.

OK to move to #3-5?

Matthew Smith said...

deal. sorry for the late response.

I love that it still comes up from time to time, as you say. Sure it sounds like you deserved it but still cute to hear that she holds you to it.

My next real curiosity is this whole copy editor thing. How does a Korean-speaking foreigner get into a desk job after all that adventure and sightseeing that no normal traveler would see? It just seems to anti-climatic especially seeing as how close you seemed to Korea. I expected some sort of Korea-related job field.

Plus, #10 is something I'm looking forward to.

White Rice said...

Matthew, here is #3. You are right. More right than you know. When I returned from Korea in 1997 I was an unemployed, broke dude with an MA in Literature. A friend of mine was quitting a job he hated but it was decent money and only part time. He told me about it. I applied. I got an interview. On the walk in to meet the hiring manager I saw one of my oldest friends in the world. He just happened to work directly with the same hiring manager. I got a job offer shortly after.

It truly was grim work. 20 hours/week. Reading Technical Support documentation for printers and PCs. Fixing stupid spelling and grammar errors made by the so-called "Technical Writers." Trying not to edit their content. Enforcing standards of a Writing Style Guide. Writers they were not.

But there was an endless queue of documents to copy edit and a group of 4 of us hacked away non-stop until the end of each shift. 2 guys, 2 girls. The 2 girls were friends. I became friends with the guy. The most fun part of the job was customizing the toolbar icons in MS Word for all the macros we created. Good times.

Meanwhile I was also doing some contract writing for the local Alternative News Rag. I wrote 250 word blurbs describing new businesses open in the area. Twelve 250-word pieces every quarter. I got $50 every quarter. One quarter I figured my net pay to be around $1.25 per hour. Grim. It was also a challenge trying to take the new owners seriously at times. Really? You honestly think you can make money opening a store that only sells Wizard of Oz memorabilia? Brutal. But I got to be creative and I wrote some of the most outlandish things you might ever see in print of a newspaper that is trying to be taken seriously.

My friend whom I replaced in the copy edit job relocated to start a newspaper similar to the one I was writing for. I sent him the occasional book review or CD review. I looked back on those recently and they made me laugh.

And still, every day, for 4 hours at a time, I fixed up tech support content with a girl who was afraid to look at herself in the mirror, a wannabe Goth chick, and the most normal guy one might ever meet.

Wow. That's enough for #3 I guess. I'll cover #4 and 5 upon your request.

Matthew Smith said...

this is gold. Are you kidding me?! How can one who writes like you do continue to do that type of work? Please understand that I am in no way criticizing or looking down on that profession. It's sometimes hard to convey true emotion through text.

What I mean to say is that someone like yourself with a truly unique story and perspective on Korea could surely find something in that field that would fit your expertise.

There's more to this story, isn't there? Please keep it coming if you can look away from the technical manual for a few minutes.

White Rice said...

Ha! Funny. If I can look away from the technical manual. Ha.

As it turns out, I had some aptitude for the grim Bartleby-esque task of copy editing. Within a couple months, I added more hours until finally I was full time. The chick who was afraid of seeing herself in the mirror moved away leaving the leadership of the team in question. I threw my hat in the ring and got the "promotion."

Shortly thereafter, due to the intricacies of "co-employment" I absorbed several other contract workers into a larger contract with the copy edit team. I hired people. Soon we were 12 large. I was managing ~$250,000 US/year. I fired people, including one terrible frumpy soul who napped at her desk and flipped me off behind my back and was still stunned when I showed her the door. Entitled much?

With my promotion and increasing contract size I was getting paid a bit more scratch than ever before. I bought a house. My first one. A small brick number of ~1250 square feet. 3 bed 1 bath. It cost $91,000 US. That was 1998. So you see #3 - 6 all happened between May 1997 and fall 1998. Settled down pretty fast you might say. But I loved that house. I still drive by almost everyday and look at it with a certain fondness. Of course it is on my way to work so it is not some neuro/stalker mentality that drives me past it.

By 1999 my gal from #1 above moved in. Moved in for good. That news quickly got back to work since my boss's pastor lived next door and went ahead and filled him in. Odd.

My lady was working full time and trudging through university at nights and on weekends. I was busy enough at work trying to do quality control on my team's work. You know, the big stuff like trying to figure out of there was a systematic way to determine if the copy editor changed the phrase "floppy disk" to "floppy dick" on purpose or if Spell Check was to blame. Either way it spelled fun for me.

At some point I started going around and conducting writing training for the "technical writers." I passed on simple techniques that I picked up as part of teaching Freshman Composition at university while finishing my Master's. I added the additional fun of showing the writers specific examples of their terrible writing we had found as part of the copy edit process. They laughed, but it was not a comfortable laugh. It all made me feel better about myself though...

Ready to move to #7?

Matthew Smith said...

the tension is rising! #10 is what gets me now. I wonder if the new company is what leads you to #10 or if it just provided the means to do so...

you bet your floppy disk I'm ready to move on to #7!

Melissa said...

I've been totally neglecting the comments section - and there's so much going on here!!

Excellent!