Sunday, April 14, 2013

Singapore

After a week full of teaching I left South Korea late on Friday night. Equipped with a cheap last-minute fare with SQ and some new books, I followed the aircraft across the digital map towards the equator. Six hours later, the tropical heat hit me on the jetway. Like in the past, I was reminded of how vibrantly green this city is, how spotless the subway is and how much it all still lives up to the cliché of being “Disneyland with the death penalty”.

This time around, I had the fortune of having some good travel advice from an old student of mine which opened previously unknown doors to Lebanese food, great coffee on Kandahar Street and a probably not intended walk along the margins of society. Afterwards, as I was diving into the swimming pool back at the Conrad, I could still not help thinking of “The twilight years” by Richard Overy and how “the modern era's promise of progress was overshadowed by a looming sense of decay and death” during the intra-war period in Britain. Not only the last week on the knife-edge in Korea but the whole territorial proxy-conflict madness that the rest of Asia has been sinking into has made the future far more precarious than it was only ten years ago. Back in Europe, the anti-feminist backlash, rising xenophobia and short-sighted austerity measures sorts of complete the picture that we are incapable of taking active responsibility for our global future.

Against that backdrop, I do the only thing I can do and that is to write another academic paper pointing out the possibilities of accelerating globalization.

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Sunday, April 07, 2013

Changing travel plans

A lot more thinking later and we decided to indeed change our travel plans. Now, Anna and Eddie will head up to Kiruna while I return alone to Korea. Given the situation with North Korea, but also our own private circumstances with problems of finding adequate daycare for Eddie and a good working environment for Anna, this feels like the right decision. Later in April, I will fly over to Europe to join them for some days after which we will decide whether or not we are all going back to Korea for the remainder of the semester.

So, for the first time since he was born in July last year, I will spend a night away from Eddie, something that I think will feel very strange. At the same time, I will try not to think too much about it but rather focus all my energy on my long list of research papers to be written and then count down the days until I board my Turkish Airlines flight in the evening of the 16th April.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

The Embarcadero

Taking the stroller for a walk along the San Francisco waterfront, it is strange to imagine that in less than 48 hours, our aircraft will be flying in over the Korean Peninsula and we will be back at the epicentre of all the recent belligerent rhetoric. As a parent, it of course becomes particularly difficult to make the decision to go back under the current circumstances. On one hand, we are returning to a city of twenty million people including some of our best friends, not to mention all the students and the different professional responsibilities that await us. On the other hand, it is difficult not to wonder what people returning to Warsaw in August 1939 were thinking, if they were just as certain as we are that rationality would prevail and that the security guarantees given by the Western powers would make war unthinkable.

Obviously, the Poland-analogy is halting since a total war would mean a quick end to the KFR (or the “Kim Family Regime”, as the DPRK is referred to in American military lingo). Knowing this, I remain optimistic that the current dark clouds will blow away.