Monday, July 21, 2008

Packing Notes

I shipped 714 kg to Shanghai yesterday. It should take 4-6 weeks to arrive; shipments are being delayed because of the Olympics and stricter controls.

I also threw out a great deal of paper. I went through the two remaining boxes of my PhD stuff and saved some of the articles but I am going to dump a bunch of articles I had collected on early Korean history, on archives and the historical record in Korea, and some other random stuff that I don't think I'll read again. If there's anyone (in Korea) who wants these I will send them to you -- I spent many hours copying these articles in libraries and in the National Archives and I can't quite bring myself to just dump them even though I no longer have any use for them.

This is my last week of teaching and it is also "health week": we all have to have our final doctor and dentist appointments, vaccinations, etc. Have to stock up on medication before we leave. Aiden's now on vacation (he ended up with pretty good marks for his first semester of second grade, despite the drama) so I'm also juggling his rather full social schedule. It's his last chance to play with all his Seoul friends before we leave so I'm not going to deny him anything at this point...

I wrote this when I couldn't sleep one night. I still owe a post on gender but I need a few hours to really write it well so please wait for that.


1. A rock climbing move last used in the college Quad came in handy: one foot on the microwave and the other wedged into the handle of the refrigerator door allowed me to open a cabinet whose contents, untouched for the last three years, were a mystery. What I found: six large stoneware plates and bowls, six heavy stainless steel napkin holders, a special device for storing and pouring cooking oil, and a set of wine charms. Apparently when I moved here I thought I would be doing a lot of entertaining.

I had uncovered artifacts of the expectations I had when I moved to Korea. Or perhaps these are remnants of a previous life in which we threw parties, collected wine, and had an expandable kitchen table. My instinct (itself bred by five years of a more streamlined, humble lifestyle) was to donate these to charity. But then I thought: maybe my life in Shanghai won’t be like it is here. We will, after all, have an actual table with chairs. How can I know in advance the shape of the next stage?

2. I tend to obsess about categories of things — books, clothes, and toys mostly — but when I dig into the job at hand I realize (again) that half of what we own isn’t categorizable. The bits and pieces are what take the most time — the random pieces of fabric or paper I’ve collected, the electronic gadgets, the drawer of stickers, the lost puzzle pieces. Packing makes me believe I can put my life into a better, more efficient order, and then quickly makes me desperate for the less efficient but serviceable order I left behind by dumping everything out.

To escape the clutter I obsess about other things. I felt compelled to separate the Lego pieces by color before packing them. This took over a day and I ended up with in a nervous tic, but it was awfully satisfying to see order prevail in that microcosm of my life. The last time my friend Emily was faced with a move her form of denial took the form of the search for a perfect runner for her hall. She’d wake up in the middle of the night to look at candidates online. If I can just get this runner, everything will be fine. If I can just put these Lego pieces in order the rest of it will all follow.

No comments: