Caveat: So this is home

I’m back home in Ilsan. And going away, then coming back – that kind of makes it feel more like home, strangely.
A picture from Hong Kong. More forthcoming. I really like Hong Kong. I definitely want to go back and spend more time there.

Caveat: Hong Kong

I’m in Hongkong overnight, returned from Cairns today.  The flight was OK, despite the noisy baby in the row in front of me.
Hong Kong is essentially the opposite of rural Queensland, by any standard of comparison:  population density, first and foremost.  I have a pretty posh hotel, here, in the Kowloon area.  I’ll go exploring tomorrow and then fly back home to Seoul, and post some more.
Here is a picture of Val (my mother’s good friend), me, and Ann (my mother).

Caveat: Quilts

I spent a good portion of the day today driving around with my mom and her friend Val (who’s visiting from Apollo Bay, Victoria) meeting some of my mom’s friends who she does quilting with.  I saw a lot of artistic and beautiful quilts, both in-progress and completed.
Here is a picture of my mom standing next to my bright orange rental car that I drove up from Cairns, parked in the carport beneath her house.

Caveat: Ockers?

My flight to Cairns was diverted by a Typhoon, so instead of changing planes in Hong Kong I switched in Brisbane instead.  I picked up my rental car in Cairns at around noon instead of the scheduled 8 am.  I was rather tired, but I managed the drive up the hill (via the Kennedy Highway through Kuranda, Mareeba and Atherton and, after getting lost on the road leading to my mother’s house, I arrived at 3 pm or so.
I realized that if I’d driven the same amount of time at the same speeds in South Korea, I’d have nearly crossed the country, diagonally. Australia is a huge country, and very sparsely populated.  I have been in a strange sort of culture shock since I got here – much stronger than during my previous two visits to Australia.  I think it has to do with having come here after living a full year in Korea – my previous visits had been coming from the U.S., which really isn’t that culturally different from Australia, when you get right down to it.
For one thing, both countries have lots of ockers.  But in the U.S., we call them rednecks, I think.  Or some word like that… I’m not sure that’s the right translation. “Ocker” is an Australianism, and means a boorish and annoying person, from what I’ve gathered. My mother used the term to complain about the idiotic patrons in a store she’d been in, I think. I like the word, anyway. Maybe I can find an excuse to teach it to my students.
In the first picture, you see a wallaby. They congregate at the top of the hill above my mother’s house, where the driveway starts at the dead end of the road. In the second picture is a friend of my mother’s named George, a female kookabura, who often comes to visit seeking handouts and snacks.
-Notes for Korean-
외국에서 살기가 재므있을 것 같다.
=”seems like it’d be fun to live abroad”
잘 하기는요=”Ha, I do it well?  Not really.” (very idiomatic translation)

Caveat: 120 Essays

I’m off for a week, now.  I fly to Australia tomorrow.  I have about 120 student essays to correct–which gives me something to do on the plane journey, I guess.
It rained most of the day today, and it was cooler…  It was nice.   After work got out, I had dinner with Curt and we talked about his plans for his academy that he’s trying to build.  I hope he is successful… I felt a bit badly about having rejected his offer for ElBeuRitJi’s, especially with those essays weighing down my backpack.  But… that’s life, right?
Curt spent some time talking about 정 (jeong), about how it was a Korean concept that had no direct parallel in English. It definitely seems to have a lot of possible translations:’s online dictionary says “feeling, emotion, sentiment, love, affection, passion, human nature, sympathy, compassion, heart” among other things. But I don’t think it’s that inaccessible a concept. Curt feels strongly that Westerners are too dominated by practical and excessively rationalist tendencies, while Koreans are guided by emotion. I don’t think this is true, but I have a heard time trying to argue with him about it, so I tend to just nod and reflect on what he’s saying. I guess I’m always more interested in what people of different cultures and backgrounds have in common than what separates them, so I’m always seeking commonalities, maybe.
Below is a picture of the shiny metallic-looking Jeongbalsan police station tower, as seen (through some other buildings) from a parking lot a block west of my apartment building.  It looks a bit like a grounded rocket ship from a 1930’s-era movie.
-other Notes for Korean-
In other notes:  뜻이 있는 곳에 길이 있다=”where there’s a will there’s a way”
뜻=aim, intention

Caveat: 스페인 여객기 추락 153명 사망

I had another tiny yet triumphal linguistic milestone this morning when I logged onto the internet. I opened up google news, which, because of my IP address, plops me down on the Korean version of the site by default. Normally, the only time I spend time on google news in Korean is if I’m intentionally and masochistically spending time there trying to decipher a headline or maybe (if I’m feeling ambitious) the first line of an article.
But today, I had the experience of a headline grabbing my attention and leading me to click through to the article. It said: “스페인 여객기 추락 153명 사망…19명만 생존.” It helped that there were a few keywords in the article that I easily knew: 스페인=(Spain), 명=(PEOPLE COUNTER), 사망=(dead). So it was about 153 people dead in Spain. More terrorism? I, the reading public, had to know more!
Of course, I went to google news in English, finally, to satisfy my curiosity. But it was cool to have the experience of “spontaneous reading” (as opposed to deliberate reading, I guess). Still, reading about airline crashes, whether in Korean or English, isn’t necessarily smart, right before an airplane trip.
And now, a completely unrelated thought. There’s been a lot in the news lately about McCain closing his gap with Obama in polls on the presidential race, and much commentary about how they’re “neck and neck,” or somesuch.
But Obama is still at 60 points to McCain’s 40, if you look at Intrade.  Intrade is a “prediction market”–a place where people bet real money on the outcomes of future events–and a large number of studies have shown that prediction markets are phenomenally more accurate than polls at predicitons.  So I’ll just keep watching Intrade and keep ignoring the polls–I will be surprised if that historical accuracy doesn’t again prove out.

Caveat: 드르르

My current favorite Korean word is 드르르 (government romanization deureureu, IPA /tɯɾɯɾɯ/). Although I’m not quite sure how to use it smoothly. Er… that’s what it means: “smoothly, swimmingly.” Something like that.  I love the sound of it. The way it sounds like you’re beginning to hum some great musical trope or something. Duh-ruh-ruh.

I went to KINTEX this morning. KINTEX is a giant convention center, but every Wednesday the Uijeongbu area Immigration office (which handles the northern half of Gyeonggi province) sets up a help desk for all the foreigners in the Ilsan area, so they don’t have to trek to Uijeongbu to get their paperwork dealt with (40 minutes in on one subway line, then 40 minutes out on another is the most plausible way to make the trip, I would guess).
I got the reentry visa and paperwork worked out for my trip to Australia next week (leaving this Saturday). The matter went smoothly. There:  드르르 진행되었어요. I used it!

That date has crept up very fast. Of course, with my last-minute negotiations over the contract renewal and all, I actually only bought the tickets last week.  So not that fast, really.  It’s ending up being a last-minute thing all around.

I took the taxi to KINTEX–it’s less than 3 bucks, so no big deal. Then I decided to walk home. The sky was deep cerulean. The weather’s been hot, still, but much less humid, and so there’s not much haze in the air, especially with a nice morning breeze blowing.  There were huge puffy lumps of cobalt and chalk cruising the skies randomly, looking for something to rain on. I zig-zagged through the narrow grid of the kburbs somewhat aimlessly, knowing my general direction.

I felt extremely aware for once of what a huge metropolis I’m living in – I’m on the northwestern corner of one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world, by population. I could travel east, south, or southeast for over an hour and still be in neighborhoods identical except in specifics. West and north are different – 15 minutes west is the estuary of the Han River, and beyond that some islands and the Yellow sea and China. 20 minutes north is the most militarized border in the world, and a socialist workers’ paradise, I think.

Here is a picture of a lovely ivy-covered kburban home.

Caveat: 내가 고추룰 봤어요

A common enough sight, this time of year:  red hot chili peppers lying around on the sidewalk, drying and becoming delicious.  I think people must grow them on their balconies and rooftoops and things… although there do seem to be quite a few community gardens around, too.

Caveat: Buyer’s Remorse

Any time I make a major decision, whatever it's about, I tend to go through a phase directly afterward where I spend way too much time second-guessing the decision, wondering if I did the right thing, worrying about the opportunities lost by having made it, etc. 

So, given I signed that contract last week, I guess I spent the weekend feeling a bit a "buyer's remorse," as I tend to think of it.  I'll get over it.

On Saturday, I go to Australia, via Hong Kong, to visit with my mother for a week.  Meanwhile, I have an immense amount of work to do–grading papers and all that.

I was walking to work earlier, and a former student from RingGuAPoReom, John, ran up to me yelling "teacher teacher" and gave me a warm and completely spontaneous hug.  That was a good feeling, to be missed, but there was a comic sadness to it too.   John was always the class clown, and there was a component of clowning in his actions, as he was with a number of other students when he did this, probably from his new academy setting.  But it was heartwarming nevertheless.

-Notes for Korean–
"내 마미요"
=I do as I please
(I heard this, and have no idea if I've transcribed it accurately–I'm not able to parse it as it stands, though)

마음=spirit, idea, heart, fancy, mood, intention, inclination, feeling, interest
사실=evidence, "as a matter of fact…", so:  actually

자다=sleep, so:  자, 자자=(ja, jaja)="c'mon, let's go to sleep."

Caveat: The End of “Spring”

I finished watching 달자의봄 (Dal-ja’s Spring). So far, this is the Korean drama I’ve liked most of all the ones I’ve tried watching–as I mentioned before, it’s edgier, by far, than any of the others, despite its sappy, romantic core plot elements.
My favorite character in the drama is 강신자 (Kang Shin-ja, played by actress 양희경=Yang Hui-gyeong – see the picture). Part of why I like this character (and/or the actress who plays her) is because she speaks a very clearly enunciated, slow, methodical Korean, which is easier to understand than most that I hear on tv shows. Whether this methodical Korean is part of the character, or inherent to the actress’s personality, I’m not sure. Regardless, I enjoy listening to her clipped, slow syllables.
pictureThe character herself is kind of intriguing, too: a hyperbole of Korean stereotypes about the middle-aged female middle-manager. She’s quite hilarious, without ever being silly or undignified. And in the end, you realize she’s a very sympathetic character, too. I wish they’d made more of the fact that she turns out to be the male lead’s aunt, but she kind of drops out of the last episodes.
If you want to see her in action, she figures prominently in part of episode 11, which someone has been kind enough to upload to youtube (with Spanish subtitles!). [UPDATE 20200327: link was rotten. Here is a different short link from episode 12.] Check her out – she’s the rotund woman in the red suit. Listen to how she minces out those Korean syllables… fabulous!

Caveat: Hundertwasser

pictureI was surfing wikipedia earlier and discovered an Austrian architect named Hundertwasser I’d never before heard of, but whose work is very interesting to me–in the same vein as Gaudi, I’d say.  The building at right is not by him.  But it shares a few stylistic elements.
I wonder if one can become a successful architect late in life?  Has it ever been done?
When I was a child, I was certain I wanted to become an architect, and I held fairly fast to that ambition until the summer after my graduation from high school.  I worked for a civil engineering office and became intimidated by the sheer magnitude of number crunching that successful structural design seemed to involve.  And I was too committed, at that time, to understanding not just the design ideas but the engineering principles to even consider become an “art”-type architect (i.e. one who doesn’t do the engineering parts).  And from that time until now, I’ve never had much clarity of ambition.
-Notes for Korean-
context: a song lyric
이런=such,, of this kind
마음=idea, thought, mind,
이런 내 마음 알고 있나요
=such my thought understand-PROGRESSIVE-CONJECTURE-POLITE
=[?] I wonder if I am understanding
고백=confession, admission

Caveat: Old-Style Liberalism

"The essence of liberalism is an attempt to secure a social order not based on irrational dogma, and insuring stability without involving more restraints than are necessary for the preservation of the community.  Whether this attempt can succeed only the future can determine." – Bertrand Russell wrote that, about 100 years ago, as the concluding words to his "Introductory" to his The History of Western Philosophy.

I'm not sure we've yet reached that "future" he references.

Caveat: And After All That Complaining…

Well.  As of last night, I made a commitment and started paperwork to extend my contract with 엘브릿지어학원 (LBridge Language Academy) for one year–that is, through August of 2009.  This probably seems very illogical and inconsistent of me, given my many recent complaints about the place.  But… first and foremost, we shouldn't forget that it's always easier to complain than it is to point out the positive:  when I looked as objectively as possible at my options, my goals and my feelings about what I was doing, it seemed like the right decision.  Additionally, a number of recent developments conspired to make the whole thing more attractive.

Last week, my old boss, Curt, made me a sort of "counter offer."  It wasn't very firm on the details, though–he's trying to start his own, new hagwon, but such start-ups are notoriously unstable.  Consider only the fact that LinguaForum, which was just such a start up, failed despite having "bought" substantial student body at the start and having extensive corporate backing, neither of which Curt has access to.  So although I would enjoy working for Curt again, and found the idea of a more laid-back atmosphere than what prevails at 엘브릿지 to be almost compelling, in the end I was frightened about making a commitment to him.

Then, two days ago, the supervisor here made two suggestions (the second one at my prompting) to "sweeten" the deal 엘브릿지 was offering.  First, apparently a raise of about 8%.  And then, the possibility of about 9 days off before the start of the new term in September–a chance to take a little trip somewhere, out of the country (My intention is to go to Australia to visit my mother). 

Another–probably significant–reason I changed my mind comes down to flattery,  actually.  The other day, I had someone observe my class, and then she gave a fairly glowing report back to the boss here, who subsequently reported that feedback to me enthusiastically.  Given the occasional crises I've had in the past over feelings that my teaching efforts weren't appreciated or were downright disapproved of by previous supervisors (not including Curt, but others), this meant a great deal to me.  "Flattery will get you everywhere," as they say.

Lastly, as I've mentioned before, I've been craving some stability, I think.  Staying with my current employer makes the coming year predictable (as LBridge is too big to go crashing to the ground as Tomorrow School and then LinguaForum have done), and so it gives me a chance to continue improving my teaching abilities in an always highly structured and occasionally supportive environment.  So… that's the plan.  Signed, sealed, delivered.

Caveat: Analytic comforts

I don't have much to say at the moment.  But I've been putting together some ruminations on language learning. Here's a recent draft.  I was thinking of making it into a standalone webpage somewhere, after some more editing and content, for my students to see.

Jared's thoughts on how to actually learn to SPEAK effectively.  Or, rather… "a list of some things that don't really help you speak better."

  • Memorizing vocabulary doesn't really help.  Lists of words with definitions or translation-meanings have a place, especially starting out, but farther on, learning and memorizing lists of words with meanings, in this way, will not ever help you improve fluency. 
  • Knowing grammar won't make you speak better.  It helps to understand the ways that the grammar of the language work, but studying it and memorizing "right" vs "wrong" grammar cannot improve your fluency.
  • If you can't understand what you hear, you won't get better at speaking. Listening is critical. It's better to study listening by hearing real conversations, dialogues on television, etc., instead of just listening to things from textbooks, which are made-up conversations that are not real.  And it's better to be able to answer simple questions about what you hear than to just memorize the content of the dialogues, too.  Answering simple questions well (automatically!) is more help than answering complicated questions slowly or uncertainly.
  • Good reading or writing skills don't guarantee you will be a good speaker. Spoken English is a different language that written English – really!  The spoken version of any language is very different from its written version.

As anyone who looks at my little "notes for Korean" will no doubt realize, I'm not very good at following my own advice.  There's a comfort and safety in pursuing language-learning analytically, that makes it very difficult to abandon such efforts despite their ineffectiveness.

-Notes for Korean-
소식=light fare, plain meal
소식=news, information
새롭다=new, fresh, recent

Basic adverb-derivational endings
-이=for most "old" or native-korean verbs
-리=for descriptive irregular verbs in -르 (this is just a systematic extension of the -ㄹ- doubling irregularity)
-히=for sino-korean verbs in -하다 (this is a highly productive and large class)
I had an epiphany as I figured this out:  most -하다 verbs are sino-korean, and the whole process is about accommodating the complex morphology of korean, when borrowing from other languages – it happens with english loanwords that become verbs, too!

곱다=beautiful, lovely, fair
-부터=from, since

Caveat: Hero of Dust

I awoke from a strange, somewhat unhappy dream this morning, but the details quickly fled.  Something about being left in charge of a large, gloomy place, with insufficient knowledge or support to know what to do.  Like a cross between a poorly maintained data center (a la my last job at HealthSmart) and a musty old used bookstore, with shades of an automotive junkyard thrown in.  And there was this wind blowing, and then some hero-type-person showed up, but he was made of dust, and was all bluster and no depth.

I ate a delicious nectarine as part of breakfast, and drank my iced coffees, and checked my emails.  Not many emails, these days, except spam and direct marketing from Mr Obama's campaign and suchlike.  I've mostly convinced myself that renewing with LBridge is the most stable, logical choice, the "path of least resistance," but I find myself groping for excuses to be angry with them and to avoid renewing.  So it's clear I have some discomfort with the idea.  The question is, is my discomfort with renewing greater than the prospective discomfort that will come with the multiple uncertainties about "what's next" that would accompany not renewing?  I seem to be craving stability, lately, more than is my wont.

-Notes for Korean-
대결=contest, confrontation
매력=attractiveness, glamor
펼쳤다=unfolded, spread out, opened

정말… 괜찮은겁니까?="Are you really alright?"
There's a wacky infix -ㄴ거- that I can't figure out, though my guess is that it's related to the normally non-terminal -ㄴ걸, meaning "the action or state expressed by the verb occurs or is the way it is despite and contrary to whatever expectations what might normally have" (awkward phrasing courtesy my grammar book, p 225).  The book also says "this pattern can attach '요' to express politeness," which leads me to think that in the above case, -ㅂ니다 is being attached to express higher formality, and that this is causing the -ㄹ to be dropped.  But I'm not terribly confident about this.

힘들어="I'm tired" (it's arduous [?])

Caveat: The Obsolete Code of the Higher Eclectica

I was reading an editorial in the New York Times that, although clearly intended as satire and meant tongue-in-cheek, struck me as fundamentally accurate. And it made me feel outmoded, given the extent to which I buy into the "code of the Higher Eclectica" as Mr Brooks put it. I feel a certain scorn, combined with a distrust, of those who base their definitions of cultural coolness on media over underlying culture. But I think it's true. It's now the iPhone generation, and cultural content has become moot – all that matters is means of transmission. 

I begin to imagine a marxian-style analysis that encompasses historically and materially determined transitions in "modes of transmission" that goes above-and-beyond the classically marxist transitions in "modes of production."  Let's just call it the germ of an idea, for now.  Mientras tanto, digamos adios a la "Higher Eclectica" del Sr Brooks.

Which reminds me of a couple of lines in the latest Korean drama that I've been watching episodes of:  they mention the "386" generation as being those people in their 30's and early 40's (in Korea, but it applies just as well to U.S. culture I think)–people who's formative years included personal computers but for whom the internet and broadband cellphone connectivity seem just a tad "newfangled."

Anyway, the drama is called 달자의 봄 (Dalja's Spring), and it is consistently violating all the "rules of Korean drama" that I'd decided must exist up until now.  It deals with all kinds of unexpected and "taboo" subjects that every single drama I've watched up until now scrupulously avoided:  divorce, suicide, abortion, premarital sex, pregnancy outside of marriage, middle-aged career women, single mothers, irresponsible fathers.  And more than just blinkingly, although by U.S. standards it remains utterly G-rated.

Yet despite all that, it is a very light-hearted, even sappy romance, with a fundamentally conservative social message, just like all the Korean dramas I've watched.  This message strikes me as both compelling and unrealistic vis-a-vis human day-to-day realities in any culture.  And it continues to reinforce my earlier not-so-clearly-stated hypothesis that contemporary Korean culture (and perhaps East Asian culture more generally?) is undergoing a kind of Confucian counter-reformation within a modernist and/or post-modernist trajectory.

Yesterday I worked–I'd "volunteered" to help with a speech contest, and so I woke up early and went over to ElBeuRitJi's Baengma Campus, and served as a judge for lots of not-bad student speeches.  It was awesome to see some of my former RingGuAPoReom students (middle schoolers) who were participating, and one of my former students, shy-but-supremely-competent Irene, even managed to win a runner-up prize, which was quite an accomplishment in the context of ElBeuRitJi's much more intense academic standards, as well as a remarkable conquest of her own reticence.   I felt parentally proud, as teachers sometimes do, I suppose–Irene is one of the few students who I remember vividly from my first few days of teaching back last September, when I realized quickly that she was the quiet one feeding all the right answers to her loud and gregarious friend, Amy, who was sitting next to her. 

After work, I walked home in the steaming heat of mid afternoon, all the way down past Madu-yeok and Jeongbalsan, and when I got back to my apartment I felt terrible.  Tired and sickly.  Perhaps I had given myself mild heat stroke or something, I don't know.  But I basically passed out, feeling exhausted, and had an unpleasant night of restless sleep.

-Notes for Korean-
context:  달자의 봄
쿨하게 나가야지="act cool" (kulhage nagayaji = cool-DO-ADVERBIAL go-out-SOME-IMPERATIVE-VERB-ENDING-THAT-I-CAN'T-FIND-IN-A-BOOK)
note that 쿨 (kul) is apparently directly from English

지금 뭔가 야한 상상 하고 있었구만, 맞지?
"Now you're having some vulgar fantasy, right?"
야한=dirty, coarse, vulgar

일어나다=to get up, wake up
so… 일어났어요?="you're up now?"

context: obsessing on unparseable Korean
According to the drama transcript on the KBS website, in episode 18, about 47 minutes in, grandma says:
고저 한번 잘해볼라다가 끝나는거 고거이 인생이라구 말이디.
I had tremendous difficulty trying to parse this, and I have failed.  Also, as I listened to it over and over, I don't think that's what she actually says.  The last words sound more like … 인생이라고 말이야, which, conveniently, I find slightly easier to parse–so I'm going to assume, with great hubris, that there's an error in the Korean written transcript, or else the transcript is meant to reflect some kind of dialectical variation and that the actress playing grandma chooses not to implement when she actually speaks.  Certainly, I've never heard of a verb ending -디 before.  Anyway… according to the subtitlers, the phrase is supposed to mean:  "The true meaning of life is to live well once through."  So, you can see why that caught my interest–a nice philosophical, aphoristic nugget.  But I really have been utterly unable to parse this successfully.
With my revisions to the transcript, the transliteration would be:
goseo hanbeon jalhaebolladaga kkeutnaneungeo gogeoi insaengirago maliya
=fluctuation once well-do-try-[INTRO-WARNING?(p231 in my grammar)]-[INTERRUPTED-PAST(but can this ending attach to the previous one?)] end-GERUND-[MYSTERY-ENDING-#1] [MYSTERY-WORD-#2] life-[COPULA]-[AUX VERB -고 말다?=finish up?]
한번=once<=한=one (ADJ form)+번=time (COUNTER)
끝나다=end, come to an end
인생=human life

Caveat: Life in Sunshine Heights

The news from Lone Mountain, Sunshine Heights, Near-the-Capital, Korea. 

Place names in Korean are often revealed to be rather inane once you figure out what they mean.  I became curious about some of the terminology in my address, and investigated a little bit.  I live in a district called Ilsan, which means nothing more than "one mountain."  Technically, there are two districts:  Ilsanseo-gu and Ilsandong-gu (West One Mountain District and East One Mountain District) – so I guess that means the two districts have to share the one mountain.  Nor is it clear to me which of various mountains in the neighborhood is the "one." 

These districts (also called "wards" and, in my opinion, best translated as "boroughs") form part of Goyang City.  Goyang seems to mean something like "sunshine elevation" – so you might call it Sunshine Heights City. It's also an exact homonym for "exaltation" and a near-homonym for "cat" (goyangi).

The city of Goyang is part of Gyeonggi province. Gyeong is just the Chinese hanja for "capital" (as in capital city), and is often a word used to refer to things related to the capital of the country, Seoul, which is just down the subway line. The -gi ending seems to refer to the fact that the province is "near-the-capital," which is self-evident if you look at a map.

Interestingly, the name Seoul is just the native Korean word for "gyeong" and means nothing more than "capital," too. In fact, you can use the word seoul to refer to the capital of other countries:  e.g. 프랑스의 서울 파리 (peurangseu-ui seoul pari = France's capital, Paris). 

-More Notes for Korean-
context:  work preparations and random thoughts
성적=record, score
중=middle, during
대비=preparation, provision
기말=end of term
문제=question(for discussion)
나무조각=wooden sculpture
지긋지긋 하군요="it's revolting"<=지긋지긋 하다=be tiresome, be disgusting, be abominable, etc.

Caveat: “Teacher, there is less freedom here!”

One of my former middle school students called me out of the blue at about 5 pm yesterday, while I was between classes here.  "What's up?" I asked.

"Nothing," he answered.

"How do you like ElBeuRitJi?" I asked – he'd migrated with some of his peers to the Juyeop campus where they have classes for the middle schoolers.

"Teacher," he sighed, "there is more not freedom here!"

"You mean, 'less freedom'?" I corrected.

"Yes, teacher," he agreed.

It was a sad phone call – like getting a call from a friend who'd ended up in jail or something. 

Caveat: 과연 외로움은 상처보다 견디기 쉬운것일까?

Yesterday, with my extra day off, I met Basil in Gangnam and ate some delicious very authentic-tasting tacos al pastor – they could’ve come from a street vendor in Mexico City. I felt happy.
Today was more melancholy. Time is running out on my never-ending vacilation/procrastination regarding my decision to stay with ElBeuRitJi or not. I hate the fact of having to make decisions like this. If you just read my blog entries, you will conclude that I’m not very fond of ElBeuRitJi. And that’s true. But there are factors that encourage me, nevertheless, to want to renew. The primary one being that I’m craving some stability and/or predictability at the moment, and I am finally feeling somewhat pleased with the progress I’m making on my efforts to learn some Korean, so to throw things up in the air to see where the land, just now, feels like “running away without a good reason.”
Anyway, nobody will want to read too much about my angst. Let’s just say, by the end of the week, I’ll know for sure if I will be staying with ElBeuRitJi for another year or if everything will be up in the air come end-of-August, with who-knows-what coming next.
In other news… “Go-Stop” is a ubiquitous card game Koreans seem obsessed with–scenes involving people playing this game appear everywhere in movies and dramas on television.  I am trying to learn more about it. Rules:
-Notes for Korean-
context:  random notes
매일=everyday, daily
싫어=”Nope” or “I won’t do it” (a bit rude I think)<=싫다=to be disagreeable, to be unwilling, to be unpleasant
-보다=[comparative particle ending] “…than…”
-네=”and family” after a name, e.g. 달자네=Dalja and family
context:  reading a transcript alongside a tv drama
과연 외로움은 상처보다 견디기 쉬운것일까?
=indeed loneliness-TOPIC injury-than bear-GERUND easy-thing-COPULA-CONJECTURE
=”can it be that loneliness is easier to bear than pain?”
context:  a web advertisement for a game
재미없으면 보상해드립니다!=”if you are not amused, you get a refund!”
I’ve decided to add this to my blog’s tagline, for a while.  The breakdown:
보상=reward, compensation, recompense, refund(?)
드리다=[DONATORY auxiliary verb, HONORIFIC BENEFICIARY]=give, let, set, make a present of something to someone… preceded by V+어/아/여
cf. 주다=[DONATORY auxiliary verb, HUMILIFIC BENEFICIARY]… also preceded by V+어/아/여, which we use all the time to make requests…
… these are a case of a HONORIFIC/HUMILIFIC lexical pair, I think.
Just below, in the ad:
그걸과!=…I have no clue what this means, exactly; 그거-(<=그것) can be “that, this,” but what’s that embedded -ㄹ-?  an OBJ ending?  과=and, with, against; but that means the phrase has no verb… is that OK?  it would mean something like “against that!”  doesn’t sound quite right…
context:  reading the labels of household products
곰팡이=mold, mildew

Caveat: Are we there yet?

With my long weekend, I really should get out of my apartment and do something.  I'll report back later.

-Notes for Korean-
context: trying to improve my spontaneous public transportation vocabulary
저 내립니다=I'm getting off [here]

Caveat: It takes a million years for people to meet

I watched two movies.
The first was 時をかける少女(toki o kakeru shoujo, The girl who traveled through time), a Japanese film from 1983 about a girl who starts spontaneously hopping back and forth through time – as the title suggests.  It’s a rather stark, haunting work, but beautifully filmed and with memorable actors in the key roles, and a silly 1980’s JPop music video at the end, almost completely at odds with the tone of the rest of the film.
It’s interesting listening to Japanese after all my hard work in Korean – as I’ve read many times, knowing some Korean seems to make Japanese more “accessible,” even though my passive Japanase vocabulary is probably limited to at most 30 or so words and phrases (and my active vocab includes 2-3 fixed phrases, no more).  This weird accessibility comes about despite the fact that Japanese and Korean actually seem share very little mutually comprehensible vocabulary.  I think it must have to do with the similarities in grammar, word order, and pragmatics (i.e. how the language is deployed conversationally). One line in that movie that I liked: “It takes millions of years for people to meet,” from a recurring song sung by the character Fukushima.
pictureThe other movie was a bit of decadance. Or regression. A movie may qualify as being only great in its transcendent badness: Flash Gordon, Saviour of the Universe. This is the 1980 remake of the original 1930s series, and is one of those movies that was so bad it has since been elevated to high camp. But, with its Queen soundtrack and retro special effects, I have harbored an inordinate fondness for it, and it’s been so long since I’ve seen it. It came up in conversation with Basil yesterday, and last night I found it on a torrent and downloaded it. It was awesome. One memorable line, of many: “Are your men on the right pills?!” says Emperor Ming to his creepy number two, Clytus.
-Notes for Korean-
context:  here and there… going through some old scraps of paper I wrote things down on
싸려 = 아닥 = shut up
곤란 difficulty, suffering, distress, hardship (and with ―하다 )
당황 confusion, consternation (and with ―하다 )
방언 dialect, slang
재촉하다 press, urge, request, command
서두르다 hurry up, get a move on,
website says:  깝치다 = 서두르다
꼭 tightly, securely
깝치다 = to put on airs
기다릴게요=[I] will wait for [you]
진짜 스님 될려고 그러세요?=(really monk become-INTENTIVE is-true-DEFERENTIAL-POLITE)=”do you really want to become a monk?”

Caveat: 오블리비어스

If only the real world had hyperlinks in it.

Today was a day off from work. I spent time hanging out with my neighbor in my building, Basil. A Palestinian-Canadian-American, he’s an interesting character. And, as of last week, a coworker – one of those “small world” things, I guess. I’d been a passing acquaintance of his since we had met each other walking around one time, and realized we were next door neighbors in our building.  But now that we’re coworkers and nearby deskmates, we have more in common. So we talked for a while and hung out, and went into Seoul together, and had lunch/dinner at a middle eastern restaurant in Itaewon called Dubai. It was pretty good food, too.

But actually what I wanted to write about was the odd subway ride home. The subway was crowded, and so I stood in a corner of the subway car, and, per my usual habit, my eyes tried to find fragments of Korean to attempt to decipher. Obviously, I realize it’s impolite to read over one’s shoulder, but sometimes I can’t resist, especially when I catch something in Korean that I can actually understand.

This one woman was sending and receiving rapid-fire text messages in Korean on her cell phone (all the while reading a Japanese novel), and I read several words that I recognized, and I began to follow little isolated chunks of the conversation. One word she used that caused me to wonder, was when I read, clearly, 외국인 (foreigner), and then, a few words on, some form of 있다 (there is). Which made me wonder, intertextually, if she was perhaps texting her friend about the fact that a foreigner was reading over her shoulder. This seems unlikely, in retrospect, but it was one of those coincidences that piqued my interest, I guess. So I kept watching, circumspectly.

And then I saw the word 오블리비어스. What is that?  Hm…. obeullibieoseu.  Aha!  Oblivious!  Konglish, I thought. I don’t know what it is.  I don’t think “oblivious” is a common Konglish term.  So I googled it.  Not right then, of course – although if I’d truly wanted to, I could have: my cellphone can surf the internet, if I pay exhorbitant rates. But the day is not far off when everyone will be able to google (or naver, or whatever comes next) anything they see, right as they see it. And then the real world will begin to grow hyperlinks.

But, meanwhile… I filed it away in my brain, and as soon as I got home, I googled it. And lo and behold, “Oblivious” is the title of a song by a Japanese musical  artist named Kalafina, who appears to be popular in Korea, at least as far as I can tell. So, “oblivious” is not so much Konglish as Japanglish-borrowed-to-Korean. This made sense, given the fact she was also reading a Japanese novel at the time. She was probably reporting to her friend via text message as to what she was listening to on her MP3 player.

pictureAnyway, I found this website/blog [UPDATE 2021-12-08: this link has rotted and I can find no replacement – sorry] dedicated to posting the lyrics of Japanese pop songs in both Japanese and Korean, and found something else intriguing that I’d never seen before – the use of hangeul (Korean writing system) to represent the Japenese language, somewhat like Konglish, of course. I wonder what this is called? Nihongeul?

Here on the left is a sample (the website was in “Flash,” which made cut-n-paste difficult, so this is a screenshot instead). Each lyric line is given 3 times.  The first line (purple) is Japanese.  The second line (grey) is Japanese-in-hangeul. The third is a Korean translation. Isn’t that cool?  Hmm… most of you are shaking your heads–what a language-geek!

In any event, it turns out that I really like that song by Kalafina, “Oblivious” – I’m listening to it for the third time since I discovered it. Kind of chanty and new-agey, maybe, but not bad, for JPop. And I discovered it solely because I “clicked a random hyperlink” that I happened to see while looking over a woman’s shoulder in the subway. It feels like the future, today.

[UPDATE 2021-12-08: I’ve noticed this is a very popular post for random visitors from the wider internet – probably being found via google or some other search engine. For 2021, it’s my single most visited page in this blog. So, for my visitors’ convenience, here is a link to the actual song: カラフィナ – Oblivious.]

-Notes for Korean-
너무=too much, excessively
냉채=cold mixed vegetables (basically, korean salad?)
냉-=iced, chilled, cold
쓰디쓰다=extremely bitter
뭔데?=”what is it?” (…more of that problematic -ㄴ데 ending thingy that the grammar books are so unhelpful on–perhaps it’s highly informal/idiomatic?)
오피스텔=apartment (this is actually from English, but via Japanese, I think.  literally office-tel… as in office-hotel.  cf. 아파트=apateu:  The semantic fields work differently, 오피스텔 is the name of the individual unit in the building, 아파트 is the name of the entire building, if it’s strictly residential.  To the extent the former is used at all in English, the semantic fields are exactly reversed)
사실은 나 그 애를 많이 좋아했었거든=”actually, I liked her alot” (truth-TOPIC I that kid-OBJECT much like-do-PASTPERFECT-SUPPOSITION)
context:  movie titles (burning CDs to make room on my harddrive)
장화, 홍련 = rose flower, red lotus = “A Tale of two sisters”
광식이 동생 광태 = Gwangshik’s Little Brother Gwangtae=”When Romance Meets Destiny”
간큰 가족 = “A bold family”
context:  words
가장=extremely, most

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