Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity.

William Wordsworth, Lyrical Ballads

Some years ago, I took up traditional Korean dance for a while. At the start, it was just me and my teacher and these three old ladies, all of us practicing basic movements. At the end of the hour, when my shoulders ached and I was drenched in sweat, the old ladies would be laughing and smiling with the teacher. I couldn’t figure out how they did it.

And then, after maybe six months of doing these same dumb…

If you’ve spent time hiking in the Korean mountains, you know they can be more treacherous than they look. The trail gives way to open granite slabs, or clings to an unexpected cliff edge, or there’s a rope you need to pull yourself up by, and a chasm waiting below if your grip fails.

But in my experience, these visible danger spots aren’t where you get hurt. The twisted ankles and surprise tumbles come on the way down, at the end, when your legs are shaky and your mind has wandered from the trail to the cool drink you’ll have…

Most people don’t know this about me, but I was an award-winning rapper way back when. I was recognized for my rap game before Native Tongues, before Colors, before N.W.A. or “Boyz-n-the-Hood.” I have a certain claim to having been there early, if not actually at the beginning.

That I was recognized by the Kiwanis Club of San Rafael, California, bears mentioning. As a sixth grader at Miller Creek Middle School, in Marinwood, I won second prize in a contest they sponsored to make promos for a sober graduation. …

Nearly twenty years ago, I came to Korea to teach English at an after-school academy. As a starting teacher, I got 2.1 million won a month and a place to live. Astonishingly, this is still exactly what new teachers get. The exchange rate has hardly budged for decades, always hovering around 1100 won per dollar, which amounts to about $1900 a month, or $23,000 a year. What has changed is how much those dollars are worth in real terms, and also how much everyone else in Korea is earning.

Let’s look at inflation first. If hagwon salaries kept up with…

Books that make the high school canon enter a kind of purgatory. They never go out of print, but they’re forever read by the wrong people. When F. Scott Fitzgerald was writing about fraying marriages in the Jazz Age, or when Ernest Hemingway was writing about war and impotence and alcoholism, they weren’t writing for kids. Even all those high school novels with kids in them — A Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird, Huck Finn, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man — were written for grownups, not teenagers, and certainly not written as primers…

I have two favorite keyboardists. The first is Red Garland(we used his song Soul Junction as my wife’s wedding processional)who’s too often overlooked among the top tier of jazz pianists. Still, he played with Miles Davis’s first quintet and cut plenty of his own sides. There’s a difference between overlooked and unknown.

Unknown better describes my other favorite keyboardist. He has played, as far as I can discover, on exactly two tracks, both by Air. That may not seem like much, but these are two of my favorite songs ever, and the keyboard solos are what put them over.


The other day, I took my daughter out to practice riding her bike. We’ve got the training wheels up high now, and she’s starting to get the feel of riding on two wheels. As we rode around the apartment complex, we saw two little girls playing by the fish pond. My daughter just stopped and stared for a long time. She’s not in school right now, and she hasn’t been able to meet any friends for a while. I wanted so much to tell her to go talk to those kids, to say hi and see if they wanted to…

Here’s a list of useful links I’ve found for information on dealing with the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak in South Korea. I hope to keep this updated. Some links are in Korean, so it’s best if you add a translation extension such as Google Translate to your browser.

If you have more useful links, please mention them in the comments!

Last update: March 2, 2020

Corona 19 Screening Clinic and Relief Hospital (Korean)
Full, searchable list from the KCDC.

Emergency Ready App
Korean government app that provides emergency alerts in English.

Itaewon Global Village Center
Doing a heroic job of translating government…

Places lived: 5
Bay Ridge, Brooklyn
Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn
Seocho-gu, Seoul
Seocho-gu, Seoul, same building but different apartment
Bundang-gu, Seongnam City, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea

Places worked: 2
Google and Samsung

Samsung job offers rejected: 1

Samsung job offers accepted: 1

Countries visited: 21
United States, India, Ghana, Hungary, Austria, Mexico, China, South Korea, Costa Rica, Israel, Trinidad and Tobago, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Singapore, Japan, Sri Lanka

Countries visited for the first time: 15
United States, India, Mexico, China, South Korea, Japan were all repeats.

Countries lived in: 2

Percent of decade spent outside the US: 43

In Korean dance, every movement, down to the fingertips, originates in the core of the body, an extension of the breath. This is called trunk dancing, as opposed to Indian or Southeast Asian styles of dance, whose isolated movements are known as branch and stem dancing.

I learned this idea years ago from Dong-Won Kim, a member of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble. It comes to mind today, on my birthday, as I go with my family — wife, daughter, mother-in-law — to see Ma perform the complete Bach solo cello suites in Seoul. …

Josh Philip Ross

UX writer at Samsung in Seoul, formerly at Google in NYC. Husband, dad, expat. http://www.joshphilipross.com/

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