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Note #108: Four weeks from departure (2016.12.2)

I mentioned toward the end of my last entry that I would be in the States next year, and I thought I would elaborate on that briefly today—because today happens to be exactly four weeks before our departure. That’s kind of terrifying, actually, when I think of everything that needs to be done before then. Stuff will get done, though, as it always does.

Anyway, we are going to be at Harvard, at least during the spring and fall semesters; during the summer, we will be with my parents in New York. For the spring semester, I will be a visiting scholar with the Faculty of Mythology & Folklore, and for the fall semester I will be a visiting scholar with the Korea Institute. Why two different affiliations? Well, the professor who will be sponsoring my affiliation with the Korea Institute is going to be on sabbatical through the spring semester. Early on I suspected that this might be a problem—the fact that the Korean academic year begins in the spring and the US academic year begins in the fall—and I did actually try to delay my sabbatical by a semester so that it would coincide with the US academic year. That didn’t work out, though, so here I am. I think it turned out better in the end, though, because I am looking forward to my time with the Faculty of Mythology & Folklore quite a bit.

During my time at Harvard, my primary research project will be a book on the Korean trickster (in English), although I will also be presenting papers at conferences and getting other papers ready to send out to journals. I will be at MLA in Philadelphia in early January (thus the relatively early departure) and most likely at the American Folklore Society meeting in Minnesota in the fall, and there is another conference in the spring where I have been asked to be part of a panel; that last one is still not decided, so I won’t say any more about it. In addition to the book and conference papers, I’ll also probably have the opportunity to talk about my research at Harvard as well. And, if everything goes according to plan, I’ll be heading down to Kentucky during the spring semester to talk about Korean folklore and some of my research. So it’s going to be a pretty busy year.

During the summer, we will be mostly in New York at my parents’ place, but we do intend to do some traveling as well. This traveling is going to be mainly within New York state, as my parents are planning on moving down to Texas (where my brothers now live); the idea is to do a sort of “farewell tour” around the state before they go. I have to admit that, even though I’ve known about my parents’ plan to move for quite some time, I only recently realized that this meant future trips to the US would most likely not involve visiting New York. That is going to be sad, because I really like New York, both the city and the state. I grew up there, and it is the place in the US where I feel most comfortable and at home. When my parents leave, though, the last of my roots will have been pulled up, and I will no longer have any ties to the state. To be perfectly honest, the longer I spend living outside the US, the more tenuous my ties become anyway, but this feels quite... final.

That’s one of a number of reasons why I have mixed feelings about next year. Don’t get me wrong: I’m very excited for the opportunity and looking forward to the experience, but at the same time... well, I’m not really sure how to explain it. It is an extreme interruption in my life, and it is quite outside my usual experiences. And I will admit that all of the hassle involved in preparing for it has also probably affected my attitude toward it. You would think that an American citizen going back to the US for sabbatical would be a fairly simple thing, but it is not. For one, I’m not sure if I’m going to be taxed twice—the Korean government will take taxes out of my salary, but I will not be eligible for exemption from US taxes because I will be living in the US. Getting a visa for HJ was also a chore. Normally, visiting scholars and professors get J visas, and spouses get the appropriate spouse visa. But since I won’t have a visa, there is no suitable visa for HJ—she has to go on a six-month tourist visa and hope that we can renew it while we are there (if we can’t she’ll have to leave the States and come back). Oh, and there’s also the whole health insurance thing, which I don’t even want to talk about right now. Let’s just say that it has been a mini-nightmare trying to get all of our ducks in a row for this.

And now we are four weeks away. How do I feel? I don’t know. It doesn’t feel real yet. It probably won’t feel real until we leave. Until then, I will probably be busy getting everything ready. Time and tide wait for no man, as they say.

(Oh, before I sign off for today, I did finally put up my Miami photos yesterday. If you only check the front page, you may not have noticed.)

Send me your thoughts.

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