Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Multi tasking and Seoul Station Homelessness

There are two things I missed or didn't get to in my last blog. Seoul station, which I'd thought about before, and will explain is one. Multi tasking as a way to get things done when the schedule heats up.

Multi - Tasking

I'll start with the multi tasking first as it's fairly straight forward, not very emotionally laden, and of a practical nature. In my last entry I was talking about being overwhelmed, not having enough time to do everything, or not getting as much done as I wished or thought I would. One of the things I feared would go by the wayside was getting enough exercise and still finding time to study.

I was going to go to the gym around 5 today then come home and study. Also I had to take my wife to a government office today so couldn't stay home and focus %100 on study. First, this afternoon while my wife was in her meeting/information session that took about 2 hours I spent a large part of my time in the waiting room reading my Philosophical Foundations of Adult Ed book. I'm enjoying the book and making progress on reading it, even though I'm busy and not finding lots of time to just sit and read yet. I'm doing it though multi tasking. On the subway to work. The nice thing about books. They are portable.

At five a new student came. My wife had forgotten that she had made the appointment, and I did too. I had just been planning to go to the gym when my wife came back home and told me about the student. Things like that seem to happen often. I think I'm going to get work done and something comes up. Of course I can't blame it all on that. Procrastination is also a big factor, but that's a topic for another post. I want to stay somewhat on track.

After the new student left at 6, I decided that I wasn't going to blow off the gym. I spent two hours at the gym. The first hour I spent on an exercise bike, and that hour I also spent reading and high lighting. It's possible to let the body go on auto pilot for some types of exercise, while the mind is spent in other endeavors. I've known this for awhile, but haven't always used that knowledge.

Seoul Station

Another thing I've wanted to mention in my blog is my reflection on Seoul Station. I take the subway to work and always transfer at Seoul Station. I actually have to leave one station briefly and walk to the other line. If you have ever lived in Seoul or even visited and been outside Seoul Station there is something that would be hard to miss. There is a very large congregation of homeless people that spend their time at Seoul Station. They are often seen sleeping in the sun, baking the days of dirt on them. I'm often the kind of person that has a hard time waking up in the morning. Sometimes I'm depressed and don't feel like going to work. Seeing all the homeless people makes me think and realize how lucky I really am.

What does this mean to me as a teacher? I'm not sure. Maybe that I should be more grateful to have my job as a teacher. Maybe to take seriously my responsibility to my students. I'm not egotistical enough to think that my teaching will have a direct result on whether or not my students end up on the streets. It is, however a striking reminder, that choices in life do matter. The things we do affect other people. The things we do affect ourselves too.

I don't know the particular circumstances that drove these people to a life on the streets, or perhaps deposited them there in a way that they had no control over. I do feel confident that choices made by people probably had some influence in the matter. People have made choices that affected some of these people. These people may have also made some bad choices themselves. Perhaps their experience with education, lack of education, or access may have had some effect as well. Mental illness is probably at play in some people's circumstances. I know from my own history with depression, a depression that is fairly mild compared to others, that it can really effect your lifestyle and ability to hold down a stable job, let alone find one.

Maybe I seem like a person of empathy for covering this topic, but let's be realistic. I usually just go about my day, and walk past. I do think about it, but the thing is I'm just not sure what I should be doing.  At the same time I don't want to beat myself up or feel guilty because I don't do enough. The thing, is I really don't know what I should or could do. When I searched for a photo of homeless in Korea I first saw some articles. Perhaps that's a place to start, educating myself somewhat on homelessness in Korea by reading some of those articles on homelessness in Korea, and perhaps even looking for some stuff in adult education journals. I suspect it's maybe a bit off track of where my research has been heading, but reading one or two articles probably won't hurt before I rule it out as relevant to what I'm doing. Even if I don't use it in my research per se, it's still likely good for me to educate myself on a problem that I see everyday.

I can think of one angle that fits with where my research is going. I am interested in identity formation in adult education. Every time I walk by and ignore it I have to question my self. Who am I? Am I a person who cares about other people in pain or not? Did choosing this topic set any kind of events in motion for myself or others? I don't know honestly, but at the very least I found an interesting blog to follow called Korea Real Time when searching for a photo. http://blogs.wsj.com/korearealtime/
I also found some articles. Here's a PDF of "A Study on the Homelessness in South Korea" by Il-Seong Yoon at Pusan National University.

In a brief skim before reading I did catch something about education being a factor and noticed the words "cultural identity". I look forward to reading the article.

Here's another blog post about Sociology of Homelessness in Seoul.


Some staggering numbers of homeless people it claims (1 million in Seoul, 24.5 million population in greater Seoul so 1 in 25 is homeless) I wonder if these stats are accurate?


Here's a blogpost about someone who found a homeless Korean in the US who has his own blog

And here's the actual homeless man's blog
There's a lot of anti gay stuff in his blog, kind of disturbing. I still think taking a look at what actual homeless people are saying even if there is some insanity or prejudice inside, is a useful endeavor. I think reading the academic stuff is good, but probably also revealing to hear some stuff straight from the horses mouth, actual homeless people.

I wonder if there are many homeless blogs out there? I think I want to watch The Fisher King, The Soloist (true story of homeless schizophrenic, who had attended The Julliard School, violinist, Nathaniel Anthony Ayers) and Pursuit of Happyness (also based on a true story, Chris Gardner's year of being homeless) again. What are some other good movies that feature homelessness? If you can think of them let me know.

Edit after the fact, response to a blog

I read the blog called 'Sociology of Homelessness in Seoul' from above and left a comment. The comment is somewhat critical of one thing he said, but on the whole I found it to be an interesting read.

Here's my comment

"Interesting post Daniel, especially how you break down the different types of lifestyles and reflect on it. I pass by Seoul Station on my way to work because I transfer there.
I did however have a possible different reading for one of your reflections. You wrote
"A few minutes after giving one of our blankets to the small-community “lifestyle” homeless, I saw him scratching out the bible verse that we had taped on the case.  It almost seemed as if he was concerned with the “presentation” of the blanket because he wanted to sell it."

I think it's somewhat of a hasty assumption that he wanted to sell the blanket. This may be the case, but it seems not so likely to me, as a blanket could very well be more valuable to a homeless person than money because of the usefulness to survival as well as level of comfort. Another possible reason that he wanted to scratch out the bible verse might be that he is not religious, or belong to a different religion. It's even possible that he found it offensive or that is just slightly rubbed him the wrong way. He  might interpret it as taking advantage of his bad situation to try to recruit him. If he didn't really really need the blanket or food he may have rejected outright if he was not religious. This is of course not the only possible explanation, but is a possibility. It's just food for thought. At any rate I think it's commendable that you were giving out blankets and food to the homeless."


  1. trevor, so glad to have a window into your head even though its so far away. you have a big heart, a beautiful mind and great prose. so happy to see you formally laying it all out in blog form. as i was reading this i couldn't help but thinking that maybe you should do a self study for your research project through your blog. its such a wonderful way to capture the ebbs and flows of your learning and thinking. i think you would be so well suited for it.

    also your thoughts about homelessness made me think of a great song by one of my favourite groups The Be Good Tanyas, they are from Vancouver and have a beautiful song called the Junkie song that captures that feeling of caring and empathy but needing just to walk by because you don't know what else to do. here is the you tube link...


    hang in there i know that the reading and thinking behind it all will come so naturally to you.


    ps where the heck are all the non-sequitors when you write? its like they vanish when you express yourself in the written word. :) sounds like a type of krptonite my friend??

  2. Love the tune Rachel, sums up some of my feelings quite nicely. Think I'll put the lyrics here for future reference

    The Junkie Song - Be Good Tanyas

    Took a walk in my neighborhood
    It was two in the mourning
    By the skytrain station

    The streets were full of junkies and homeless
    And they all wanted something
    They all wanted something

    And what am I supposed to do?
    There are too many of you
    Too many of you

    And sometimes they look you straight in the eye
    Saying 'I too am human, you could easily be here
    Easily be here'

    Although we all hover between apathy and compassion
    Fill up all our days with so much distraction
    Whatever makes it easier to see what we don't want to

    But we all live here
    We all live here
    We all live here don't we?

    Took a walk in my neighbourhood
    It was two in the mourning
    By the skytrain station

    The streets were full of junkies and homeless
    And they all wanted something
    They all wanted something

    And what am I supposed to do?
    There are too many of you
    Too many of you

  3. The non-sequitors were all there pregnant in my head, I just didn't birth them onto the page. I think having the title with the two topics helped to reign them in. Rest assured I could have gone on a million tangents, but just didn't. I'll let you imagine them!