Caveat: Enkidu Goes to Earth

My Sunday was a bit strange. When I got home from work yesterday evening, I was very tired, and I fell asleep at the unusual hour of 6 pm. Instead of a short nap, I slept until midnight. The consequence of this was that I then didn't really sleep well the rest of Saturday night into Sunday. I napped fitfully and had a strange dream that I was on a city bus in a snowstorm and trying to talk to a group of mentally disabled Koreans. It was challenging, as they all had speech impediments on top of the fact it was in Korean.

I was feeling disoriented all of the day. I was trying to draw something but it didn't work out. I read some of my Mesopotamian literature-in-translation. Enkidu went to "Earth" (which means Hades, too, interestingly, in Sumerian-Akkadian myth). 

[daily log: falling down, 1m]

Caveat: hombre vestido de gris


Este es el poema en el que existe un hombre sentado, un hombre que está vestido de gris, que viaja a visitar a otro hombre que ni siquiera conoce, a un hombre que también ha tomado el tranvía y viaja a su encuentro y que va pensando lo mismo que el otro hombre de gris.

Este es el poema donde existen dos hombres sentados, los dos han amado, los dos han sufrido, los dos han tomado el tranvía, se ignoran, no saben que ambos viajan al encuentro de un hombre vestido de gris.

Este es el poema donde existen tres hombres sentados, tres hombres que hablan de un hombre que habrá de venir, un hombre que vestido de gris estará esperando el tranvía sentado en un banco no muy lejos de aquí.

Este es el poema en que cuatro hombres sentados se miran, pero ninguno se atreve a pronunciar la palabra, la misma palabra que está ardiendo en sus labios desde el instante preciso en que cada uno de ellos se decidiera a venir.

Esperan, aguardan a un hombre que aún no ha tomado el tranvía, un hombre que está abriendo el armario y saca su traje y se ve en el espejo vestido de gris.

– Juan Carlos Mestre (poeta español, b 1957)

Translation, by the author


This is the poem in which a man is sitting, a man who is dressed in grey, who is travelling to meet another man he doesn't even know, a man who's also taken the tram and is heading to this meeting and who's thinking the same thoughts as the other man in grey.

This is the poem in which there are two men sitting, both of them have loved, both have suffered, both have taken the tram, they do not know each other, nor do they know that both of them are heading towards a meeting with a man dressed in grey.

This is the poem in which there are three men sitting, three men who ate all speaking of a man who is to come, a man who, dressed in grey, will be waiting for their tram, sitting on a bench not very far from here.

This is the poem in which there are four men sitting and looking at one another, but none of them dares say the word, the same word that's been burning on each of their lips from the very moment each one of them decided to come.

They are waiting; they are waiting for a man who has not yet taken the tram, a man who is opening his closet and taking out his suit and looking in the mirror at a man dressed in grey.

[daily log: walking, 5.5 km]

Caveat: Ken’s Last Day

My coworker Ken is leaving KarmaPlus. Today was his last day.

I've mentioned him often enough in this blog, but that doesn't really capture the extent to which I interact with him. I sit across from him at work, and he is the only native English speaker at KarmaPlus, besides myself. Consequently, he and I have a basiscally continuous patter going at work whenever we are both at our desks in the staff room.

I've known Ken since 2008, when he started at LBridge after I'd been there a few months. My vague recollection is that he was hired as Basil's replacement. For a few years, when I went to Yeonggwang and came back to Karma, I didn't see him, but when Karma swallowed up the dregs of LBridge, two years ago, then Ken was one of the LBridge refugees that joined us. He's the longest lasting, now, except for May (the front-desk lady). All the other LBridge refugees have moved on (myself and Helen don't count as refugees, although we both formerly worked at LBridge, because we left LBridge before the "crash"). 

Anyway, over the last two years Ken has become a kind of surrogate younger brother to me, and I've grown to respect immensely his talent for teaching, his commitment to the kids, and his wide-ranging intelligence. I tolerate his foul language and conspiracy theories, and almost always enjoy his company. I will miss him greatly. 

[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: a divine machine

In Canada, Riding a Steam Locomotive Towards the East Travelling for 9000 Plus Li

汽輪駕鐵迅如飛     기륜가철신여비
行止隨心少不違     행지수심소불위
透理何人知此法     투리하인지차법
泡茶一葉創神機     포차일엽창신기

The steam wheels ride the iron, fast as if flying;
Travelling and halting, they follow their own mind, not even slightly faltering.
Having mastered the theory, what kind of person realized this method?
Bubbling the tea’s one leaf has created a divine machine.
– Kim Deukryeon (金得鍊, 김득련, Korean poet 1852-1930)

I found this poem online at a website about translating Korean poetry written in classical Chinese (which was the main way to write poetry in Korea until the 20th century). The author of the poem above apparently traveled around the world in 1895-96, and upon his return published poems about his experience.

Caveat: 문장의 5형식

I want to write about something called “문장의 5형식.” This translates as “[the] 5 forms of sentences” and is a core component of what Koreans learn when they study English grammar. This disturbs me to no end, because, of course, despite my training in linguistics, this concept has no meaning for me. It’s specific to English-as-a-foreign-language as taught in South Korea, as far as I can tell. But most English grammar books include it, and it has become apparent that I need to know about it, if only to be able to best help my students to make sense of what they’re being taught.
I remember, vaguely, running across this same issue last year some time. I decided that since I have had the same issue twice, I should “document” it on my blog, because my brain is too porous to retain the specifics and searching for the relevant terms online revealed nothing that was sufficiently bilingual to prove remotely useful by way of explanation or summary. By putting it in my blog, here, I will be able to find this information in the future quickly by googling. This is the essence of the sense in in which this blog has, more and more, become a sort of aide-memoire for me.
Here is the page from the student textbook that mentions the grammar point of the five forms.
KOR9788960275324Like most Korean EFL grammar textbooks, the text book is mostly in Korean. This is annoying, as it makes it challenging for me to provide any kind of support to the the Korean-speaking teachers in teaching material from the book. (The book title, for completeness’s sake, is 중학영문법3800제 [at right]).
Anyway, what are these five forms? I speculate that they’re linked to, or derived from, something in classical Korean grammar (which in turn is linked to classical Chinese grammar in the same sort of geneological relationship as modern English grammar has with classical Latin grammar).
The first form (1형식) is an intransitive sentence, with a non-pronoun subject and verb. This form also allows prepositional-phrase complements (and adverbials?). The book examples are

The sun shines.
I went to school.

The second form (2형식) is a verb with subject complement (a subject complement construct? 주격보어 is “subject complement”). The book example is

He looks happy.

The third form (3형식) is a transitive sentence with subject-verb-object (SVO). The book example is

Amy likes her teacher.

The fourth form (4형식) is a ditransitive sentence with a subject-verb-IO-DO (간접목적어 is “indirect object” and 직적목적어 is “direct object”). The book example is

She gave me a book.

Does this mean it only allows prepositional indirect objects? Typically ditransitives with phrasal indirect objects occur with the two objects reversed, e.g.

?*She gave a book to Mortimer.

The fifth form (5형식) is what I would call an “object complement construct” – I don’t really know (or recall) if there is some other term for this type of sentence in English (복적격 보어 is “object complement”). The example in the book is

We call her ‘Angel.’

I find it very ironic, that the single thing that is impelling me most toward improving my Korean, these days, is my desire to understand English Grammar (*as taught in Korea – that’s the caveat).
[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: Autorretrato

Last week during the staff meeting I made the following detailed notes about what I was listening to (i.e. long debates in Korean about minutiae of curriculum and scheduling and parental complaints):


As you can see, I got a lot out of the meeting.


[daily log: walking 4 km]

Caveat: The Snowy Road to Hwna

I spent part of the weekend trying to resume my drawing habit, which has been moribund. Because the weather was hot and unpleasantly humid, I decided to draw snow. That helps me feel less hot, I guess.

I made this picture.


It is titled The Snowy Road to Hwna. This is an imaginary place (of which I have a plethora in my mind). Specifically, it lies somewhere in the mountain country on the island of Puh in the western part of the Mahhal Archipelago. 

The style of the drawing is strictly derivative, of course. I think of it as a "contemporary Korean faux-traditional" style – the kind that is ubiquituous in cheesy decor and is for sale as paintings on street corners by third-rate artists. Regardless, I was pleased with it. 

[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: A Proliferation of Plants

A while back I wrote about how I had bought some dirt (potting soil) because my gift plant from when I was in the hospital last year looked like it needed some new digs. I said that having bought more dirt than I needed for that plant might impell me to buy another plant. It did. I bought two more, but then I felt I needed more dirt, so I bought some. Once again having left over dirt, I bought more plants. This is what one calls a feedback loop. So far, the plants seem to be surviving.
2014-08-24 11.48.10.jpg
[daily log: walking, 2 km]

Caveat: Drifting in and out of lifetimes

What I'm listening to right now.

Joan Baez, "Love Is Just a Four Letter Word." The song was written by Bob Dylan, but it's Baez's version that everyone knows. 


Seems like only yesterday
I left my mind behind
Down in the Gypsy Café
With a friend of a friend of mine
She sat with a baby heavy on her knee
Yet spoke of life most free from slavery
With eyes that showed no trace of misery
A phrase in connection first that she averred
That love is just a four-letter word

Outside a rambling store-front window
Cats meowed to the break of day
Me, I kept my mouth shut,
To you I had no words to say
My experience was limited and underfed
You were talking while I hid
To the one who was the father of your kid
You probably didn't think I did, but I heard
You say that love is just a four-letter word

I said goodbye unnoticed
Pushed forward into my own games
Drifting in and out of lifetimes
Unmentionable by name
After searching for my double, looking for
Complete evaporation to the core
Though I tried and failed at finding any door
I must have thought that there was nothing more absurd
Than that love is just a four-letter word

Though I never knew just what you meant
When you were speaking to your man
I could only think in terms of me
And now I understand
After waking enough times to think I see
The Holy Kiss that's supposed to last eternity
Blow up in smoke, its destiny
Falls on strangers, travels free
Yes, I know now, traps are only set by me
And I do not really need to be assured
That love is just a four-letter word

Strange it is to be beside you, many years the tables turned
You'd probably not believe me if told you all I've learned
And it is very very weird, indeed
To hear words like "forever" plead
though ships run through my mind I cannot cheat
it's like looking in a teacher's face complete
I can say nothing to you but repeat what I heard
That love is just a four-letter word.

[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: Coda to Yesterday’s Post

Just as I was pondering what in the world to write on today's blog post, my friend Peter (who is currently on a whirlwind return to the US but will be back in a week or so) posted a huge, deeply-thought-out response to my post from yesterday, about the debate topic of whether teachers should teach specific knowledge vs teach self-confidence. I actually agree completely with what he wrote (you can go read what he wrote [broken link! FIXME] here, appended to my blog-post).

When I wrote what I wrote, yesterday, I was very focused on the "other side" of the debate question: the alternative offered by the textbook, in the way it formulates the question, to teaching "specific knowledge," is instead to teach "self-confidence," and my point was that I was becoming more inclined to agree with my students that teachers do not need to be in the business of teaching self-confidence. 

The mistake, of course, is to see these as the only two possible options: we either have to teach "specific knowledge" or we have to teach "self-confidence."

Obviously, there are other choices. Peter includes some "third ways" in his discussion: we can teach curiosity, or teach analytical thinking. My arguably most-talented coworker, "Anne-teacher," has the best answer, maybe: I long ago realized she does not, in fact, teach English at all. She shows her students "how to study." Her students always excel on those Korean exams – far more so than my students, who are learning from me something I rather naively and optimistically refer to as "English," or Curt's students, who are learning from him a topic that could best be characterized as "English grammar as analyzed ad infinitum - but done so entirely using the Korean Language." 

[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: Advice for Teaching

We recently tackled a topic in my advanced TOEFL writing class that revealed the gap between US and Korean culture, vis-a-vis attitudes toward education and learning. The topic came from the book – I cannot take credit for introducing it, but it has induced me to a great deal of reflection. 

The question in the book was phrased as followed: "It is more important for a teacher to help students gain self-confidence than to teach them specific knowledge." 

The book required them to write in the CON position – i.e. they were required to disagree. I like this structure for writing exercises, as I find that it encourages clearer thinking when students are "forced" to take a position on a debate topic, rather than letting them choose. 

Anyway, they all wrote very convincing arguments against the idea of it being important to have teachers teaching self-confidence. They all seemed to find this the naturally logical "order of things." 

One student, Charles, I will quote at length (as always, this is pre-corrected, all errors retained verbatim):

First, teacher's rule is to give students specific knowledge and make their students clever and smart. Teacher's basic duty is to give students knowledge. Isn't it? If teachers don't think that it is not important to give them knowledge and giving them self-confidence is more important they should be fired. Teachers should try to make their students smart. Making students self-confidence doesn't make students smart, but giving knowledge to students does. Helping students gain self- confidence is a possible thing for parents to do. Techers don't have to focus on that. …

Second, when students get knowledge, they will gain self-confidence. Many students and even adults feel self-confidence when they know something. A lof of people think the same whqy too. The easiest way to make students confidence is to give them knowledge. When students know they are able to answer any quesitons about specific subject, they will feel confidence. To make them able to answer any questions, teachers need to give them specific knowledge. For instance, if a teacher asks a quesiton about math and if students answer it perfectly they will feel confidence.

Another student wrote:

First, study and self-confidence is distinct from each other. Volition and fervor on study is more important than self-confidence. It is no use to have self-confidence but, don't have violition and fervor even though I have a little bit of self-confidence. Also, teachers have to focus on giving knowledge to students. It's right released to their job: teacher.

Contrast that with (what I think is) the standard American view, which seems to be that teachers need to instill confidence before learning can take place. Given the differential in performance of American and Korean students in academics, I have begun to wonder if that's right. 

Unrelatedly (maybe?), I ran across this quote.

"Always assume that there is one silent student in your class who is by far superior to you in head and in heart." – Leo Strauss

I like this advice. It is worth keeping in mind, definitely.

[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: 10 minutes on car-free streets

Walking to work is very easy and convenient when the Koreans are holding their monthly civil defense drills. At 2pm on certain Wednesdays (I haven't quite figured out the pattern, I confess – I used to think it was first Wednesdays but clearly today wasn't one of those), the sirens go off and all these volunteers and police go out and pretend we're being attacked by North Korea. Mostly this involves making everyone stop driving their cars. Everyone has to sit in their cars at intersections for 10 minutes or so, while the drill happens, emergency vehicles pretend to ciruculate, etc. 

It makes walking to work very pleasant, because all the wide avenues in Ilsan are carless (well, moving-car-less – they're all pulled over or stopped at intersections). If you jaywalk at mid-block, you can stroll casually from block to block, avoiding the intersections, and never worry about a car.

For 10 minutes. Then it's back to psycho-driving-taxis… the usual. 

[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: Why Pursue a Career as a Lawyer?

Teacher (following theme in the textbook): "What do you want to be when you grow up?"

Student: "I want to be a lawyer."

Teacher: "Why do you want to be a lawyer" (we had previously discussed many possible reasons for wanting to pursue various careers: money, satisfaction, helping people, etc.).

Student: "I want to control people" (this was not one of the reasons we had discussed).

I laughed. "Wow," I said. "I think you understand what it means to be a lawyer very well."

[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: we make a world

Metonymy as an Approach to a Real World

Whether what we sense of this world
is the what of this world only, or the what
of which of several possible worlds
–which what?–something of what we sense
may be true, may be the world, what it is, what we sense.
For the rest, a truce is possible, the tolerance
of travelers, eating foreign foods, trying words
that twist the tongue, to feel that time and place,
not thinking that this is the real world.

Conceded, that all the clocks tell local time;
conceded, that "here" is anywhere we bound
and fill a space; conceded, we make a world:
is something caught there, contained there,
something real, something which we can sense?
Once in a city blocked and filled, I saw
the light lie in the deep chasm of a street,
palpable and blue, as though it had drifted in
from say, the sea, a purity of space.

– William Bronk (American poet, 1918-1999)

[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: Hunting Mammoths Along the DMZ

Yesterday, after work, Curt invited me to “drive around” with him. We have done this before, though not that often – I would say it happens once or twice a year. Often, it happens when he has his two kids because his wife has to work.
So we go do something hopefully fun with them. I would say this time, it did not really work out. For one, I was not really up for it. I felt tired after work and eventually I developed a beastly headache. By the time I got home, I felt the worst I have at any point since the dregs of my radiation treatment. It was not any particlar fault. . . just how it worked out.
I do not think the kids really had that much fun either. First we went to a temple – Curt seems to find my interest (as a foreigner) in temples fascinating, so he often suggests it. We went to one I visited before with my friend Peter, some time ago, in northern Paju, called 범륜사 [beomryunsa]. I like it there because it is in a steep mountain valley, but there was not much to do if one was not planning on hiking.
So we drove down into the town of 적성면 [jeokseongmyeon], ate some ramyeon at a bunsik joint, then we drove east to the Hantan River north of Dongducheon, where there was a cheesy “prehistoric village” – one of those classic Korean roadside tourist traps. I find the plethora of these tourist traps clustered right along the DMZ fascinating.
The little one, Curt’s son, had fun, but his daughter was bored. We saw statues of cavemen, fake grass huts, and some mammoth-hunting talbleaux. Were there mammoths in Korea? I do not know. I was definitely puzzled by the collection of international flags flying beside the wild-boar hunting scene. The shoot-your-own-bow-and-arrow booth was closing, so we did not get to do that.
Finally, we left and came back. The sun was setting and I stared at the barren hills of North Korea right across the Imjin River as we zoomed along the 8 lane expressway back to Ilsan. I pondered the contrast.
When I got home, I went to bed and passed out, well before my usual bedtime. My blog post yesterday was one of those “pre-queued” ones, which was not really meant to go live. But. . . oh well.
Fortunately today, my headache was gone. I still felt lousy though.
[daily log: walking, 1 km]

Caveat: Walks Like a Communist

I walked home with my coworker Ken from work, because he lives near me. Normally he doesn't walk, but today he did, as we were talking about some things. When we were walking home from work together, this old woman marched passed us walking in that very typical "old Korean person" style, kind of pumping her arms and half-marching. 

Ken laughed and said she walked like a communist. I was trying to think how a communist walked. 

[daily log: walking, 5.5 km]

Caveat: Beer, Chicken Wings, Celts and Greeks

Last night we went out for a drink and some food (beer and chicken wings) – very western – at a place near La Festa near my apartment. It was just the "elementary team": Ken, Kay, Helen and I. There is going to be a major staff change at the hagwon, and it is going to be a difficult transition for the hagwon and for me, I expect. More work, at least in the medium term. I'll give details later when I can feel confident I'm not breaking any confidentiality issues.

Price_europeThis morning, I finished one of my history books that I bought a few weeks ago. It was The Birth of Classical Europe, by Simon Price and Peter Thonemann. It's a kind of summary of the classical period. The first half could be called "the rise of Greece" and the second half could be called "The rise of Rome." I was most interested in the peripheral cultures – the Cretans, Trojans, Phoenicians, Etruscans and Celts were the "runners up" in the classical Mediterranean sweepstakes. I was particularly interesting in the interesting fact that Massilia (modern Marseille in France) was a flourishing Greek city before Rome. I hadn't really thought about that. It was an interesting intersection of Greek and Celtic culture.

[daily log: walking, 5 km]


Caveat: Speaking

I had a really exhausting day. I'm not sure why I found it so exhausting – it wasn't that different than some other days, although with so many speaking classes, I spoke a lot – that might not make sense, but anytime I ask students to make speeches, I have a policy of making sure to "model" good speeches for them – so I end up giving a lot of speeches in my speaking classes. Also, I think I haven't been sleeping well, lately. 

So anyway, I don't have much to say, and I have nothing interesting from the internet, as I haven't been doing much internetting either.  I guess this is an appropriately banal entry to make the day after having made explicit my intention to be uninteresting. 

[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: 10

Ten years ago today, I made my [broken link! FIXME] first blog post to this blog.

The first few years, it wasn't very consistent. After a burst of frequent posting during my trip to Europe in February, 2005, I missed almost an entire year in 2005-06 as I became absorbed by that difficult job in Long Beach / Newport Beach. My total number of posts for the first 3 years was something around 50.

Once I realized I was going to be changing careers and coming to Korea to teach English, however, I became more focused, and I've averaged at least a post a day for the last 7 years (since late 2007). My blog administration tool tells me I currently have 3841 posts – this includes a small number of posts that I've "backdated," – transcriptions from my pre-blog journaling. 

Overall, I'm pretty happy with it. It's not always interesting, I'm sure – I'm not interested in being interesting. I don't want to become a "popular" blog or perform any kind of broader, journalistic function. This blog is nothing more than an exhibtionistic kind of journaling.

[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: el consuelo que nos falta

What I’m listening to right now.

Julieta Venegas, “Ya conocerán.”

Todos los que no entienden de perder
Te dirán no pasa nada la vida seguirá
Todos los que no saben de soledad
Te dirán todo se olvida, otro ocupa su lugar
Como van a saber si no han nadado en la profundidad
Ya conocerán la verdadera sensación del mal
Lo que a tu lado fui me lo guardare
Solo pido que deje de doler
Lo que a tu lado fui me lo guardare
Solo pido que deje de doler
A todos nos tocara enfrentar
Por primera vez la mirada que nos cambia
A caso no es algo natural
Buscar en los demás el consuelo que nos falta
Ya te encontrara siempre te va buscando en la verdad
Un día entenderán lo poco que va quedando en su lugar
Lo que a tu lado fui me lo guardare
Solo pido que deje de doler
Lo que a tu lado fui me lo guardare
Solo pido que deje de doler
Lo que a tu lado fui me lo guardare
Solo pido que deje de doler
Solo pido que deje de doler
Solo pido que deje de doler
Solo pido que deje de doler
Solo pido que deje de doler

picture[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: Um, spoke too soon

Yesterday I was announcing the end of monsoon, but today by 4 pm it was rainy and so overcast that it was prematurely twilight (see rainbow, previous post, from phone).

I have been obsessively writing the history and politics of one of my imaginary countries. I do not really talk about this much, because, as a hobby, my imaginary world-building is difficult to explain or justify to others – everyone wants to ask, “what is the point?”
Guess what? There is no point. . . That is why it is a hobby and not a job. It is merely a kind of creative self-entertainment. So normally I tell people, more generically, that I am “writing,” and if asked to elaborate, I will say something vague about “novels-in-progress,” but lately, I am feeling impelled to be more “out-of-the-closet” about it.

My recent burst of creativity in this realm has been brought about, in part, by the discovery of several websites that host collaborative “fictional” encyclopedias – imagine a cross between Tolkien’s or Frank Herbert’s voluminous appendices and. . . wikipedia.

[daily log: walking, 2.5 km]

Caveat: 5th season

The weather yesterday and today has been what I would describe as "post-monsoonal" – dry, and clear, that first taste of fall maybe.

The monsoon was pretty lame this year, frankly. Maybe more will come later, but it feels "over."

It always seems to come around this time. I really think Korea should perhaps be thought of as having 5 seasons rather than 4: fall, winter, spring, summer (monsoon), summer (post-monsoon).

It makes walking to work more pleasant, anyway. 

[daily log: walking, 6.5 km]

Caveat: fallen twice in the feeding sea

I Dreamed My Genesis

I dreamed my genesis in sweat of sleep, breaking
Through the rotating shell, strong
As motor muscle on the drill, driving
Through vision and the girdered nerve.

From limbs that had the measure of the worm, shuffled
Off from the creasing flesh, filed
Through all the irons in the grass, metal
Of suns in the man-melting night.

Heir to the scalding veins that hold love's drop, costly
A creature in my bones I
Rounded my globe of heritage, journey
In bottom gear through night-geared man.

I dreamed my genesis and died again, shrapnel
Rammed in the marching heart, hole
In the stitched wound and clotted wind, muzzled
Death on the mouth that ate the gas.

Sharp in my second death I marked the hills, harvest
Of hemlock and the blades, rust
My blood upon the tempered dead, forcing
My second struggling from the grass.

And power was contagious in my birth, second
Rise of the skeleton and
Rerobing of the naked ghost. Manhood
Spat up from the resuffered pain.

I dreamed my genesis in sweat of death, fallen
Twice in the feeding sea, grown
Stale of Adam's brine until, vision
Of new man strength, I seek the sun.

– Dylan Thomas (Welsh poet, 1914-1953)

The poem is about World War I, I think.

 [daily log: walking, 5.5 km]

Caveat: Pretending to Pretend

I have reachd a point where I can often understand simple questions and comments made by my students in Korean, especially if they are pertinent to what you might call "classroom administration": "What's my homework?" "Do we have to memorize it?" … that kind of thing. It is especially comprehensible when my students stick to what's called 반말 ([banmal = half-talk]), a kind of stripped-down, informal version of Korean used by children and in intimate settings, mostly devoid of the baroque complexities of the intimidating Korean verbal system.

So the kids get lazy – they start asking me stuff in Korean, and, if I understand, I sometimes just answer in English without forcing them to figure out how to say what they want to say in English. Consequently, over time, the kids have become convinced that my level of understanding of Korean is higher than it really is, and sometimes when I don't understand, and ask them to please say it in English, the students accuse me of pretending to not understand in order to force them to speak English.

I have started to play along with this, and thus, I am pretending to be pretending not understanding, when in fact, I don't undertand.

[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: 전임자

I was presenting a listening passage to my TEPS반 and I was trying to explain the meaning of the word “predecessor,” and I got a bit lazy and just wrote down the Korean (not that I knew – I was looking at the bottom of the page of my script of the question, where unfamiliar vocabulary is glossed into Korean). I wrote the meaning of the word in Korean on the board: 전임자 [jeon-im-ja].
I assumed, then, that that solved the issue. But later a student asked me, “who is Jeon-Imja?” He’d thought it was a person’s name (it has that familiar three-syllable format typical of Korean names). He didn’t know the Korean word. The other students found that entertaining, but it’s important to be reminded that in fact, these kids often are pushing the boundaries of English vocabulary such that its level of complexity exceeds that of their native vocabulary.
[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: No Smart Phone = Smart Student

There is a student who goes by Lindsay, a mere fourth grader, who regularly out-performs the fifth and sixth grade students in my Tuesday/Thursday "Honors" class. Today only Lindsay and Sally showed up – a lot of kids are on trips with their parents because summer vacation has started in earnest, now. 

So we were chatting about various things, having an easy class, and Sally, a sixth grader, was asking why Lindsay was so good. I didn't hear all the details of their conversation, which included a lot of Korean, but then Sally concluded, in English, by saying, "Ahh. She doesn't have a smart phone, so she studies very hard." 

I had to laugh. Everyone in Korea, from 1st grade or even younger, has a smart phone. This is the land of the smart phone, now – Samsung. 

[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: Are You Listening?

I dreamed I was giving a listening test to my students. This isn't that strange – I do it a lot. It was one of those standard Korean TEPS-style English listening tests, you hear some conversation or short academic-style passage, and then the voice drones through the possible answers: "A bla bla bla; B bla bla bla; C bla bla bla; D bla bla bla." These sorts of tests would be difficult for native-speaking students, too – you have to pay close attention, as often, the possible answers tie in to some detail in the preceding passage. I was telling my students to focus, but I was unable to focus, myself, and I was unable to get the right answers on the questions, either.

It wasn't a very interesting dream, plot-wise. It was just interesting that it was a sort of fragment of my life, re-lived so vividly that my memory of the dream and the incomprehensible questions in it stayed with me all morning, and when I got to work after my vacation, this afternoon, I was trying to figure out if the test really happened or if it was, in fact, just a dream.

[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: Five Sundays

This little holiday has been an experiment of sorts – what would my life be like if I quit my job (because of the stress), and did not replace it with another job (because any other job would be stressful too)?

The answer is that I would neverthless find many things to stress about: my health (or lack thereof), my progress (or lack thereof) on artistic pursuits, my financial situation. Et cetera.
My job is not so bad.

I was careful to avoid certain bad habits – in particular, I kept my “minimum internet” rule, because it is so easy to waste an entire day absorbed in the various blogs and art and culture sites I habituate. I keep the rule for Sundays, normally, because it is too frequent that I wonder where my day went, afterward. Keeping the rule for 5 days was difficult. It was like a chain of five Sundays, and by today I was vaguely restless and missing work.

I took a long walk in the drizzle down past Madu to Baekseok, this afternoon, and did something unexpected. I ate at a McDonalds. This might seem to be a bad move, but I had been struck by a compelling thought: I used to frequent that type of American fast food restaurant – it is partly how I managed to reach 125 kg in 2005 – but now that I am struggling not to lose weight, there is no longer any reason to avoid it. Unfortunately, my transformed taste buds and swallowing problems meant it was not the nostalgia trip I had been hoping for. It was my first American fast food experience since before my cancer – the last time I was inside a McDs was during my US trip 2 years ago. This visit went poorly. I guess mostly I do not miss it. . . this was out of curiosity.

[daily log: walking, 4 km]

Caveat: rainbow at dusk

The view from my window.
I tried to take a picture with my phone. It is almost invisible, but you can just make it out, right above the juncture of the two buildings, looking southeast from my apartment window. Well, if you cannot see it, take my word. . . there was a rainbow.
The skies are often interesting in high summer, here.

2014-08-02 19.37.21.jpg

Caveat: Rainbow Deferred

I took a picture of a rainbow from my apartment window. I have been having some weird technical issues with posting pictures to my blog. So. . . maybe later.

I am not really enjoying my vacation. Trying to relax in my apartment, my post-cancer hypochondria kicks in. Grr.

[daily log: walking, 1 km]

Caveat: Liberate Wide Normal

I am better at acquiring books than reading them.

That is not to say that I do not read. . . I have been reading a lot, lately. I am finishing Charles Mann’s book, 1491 (review: not bad, but mostly stuff I have read or learned elsewhere), and I keep craving more history books. I have several novels in progress as well as my standard half-dozen philosophy texts, but those all seem to move very slowly (I spent 2 hours on several pages of Nietzsche’s Birth of Tragedy, this morning), whereas I seem to zoom through history.

I took the subway the full hour and a quarter into Gangnam (infamous Gangnam, Seoul’s Hollywood and Times Square and Beverly Hills and Park Avenue, mashed up together), not because I particularly like it there, though it is interesting, but because I remain convinced that the Gangnam branch of Kyobo Mungo (a sort of Korean book superstore, run by a life insurance company) has the best-organized, most diverse selection of foreign books in Korea.

I was partly inspired to do this because I rearranged my shelves in my apartment yesterday, and ended up with – lo! – free shelf space: . . . must. buy. books.

As usual, I bought books that I might not actually read. But some things I probably will read were included, too.

Walking up to Sinsa station for the subway home (just to walk it – it is maybe 2 km from the Kyobo tower to Sinsa), the air was remarkably clear, despite the hot, muggy conditions, and the mountains at Bukhansan were jagged and starkly beautiful as I was looking north up Gangnamdaero – normally one hardly notices the peaks lurking across the river in the haze.

I am writing this as I ride the subway home – sharpening my phonetyping skills, clearly indispensible for life in the 21st century. The man across from me has a shirt that says, in gold cursive letters on black cotton-polyester: “Liberate Wide Normal.” What did someone believe this might mean, such that it merited citation on a shirt?

[daily log: walking, 4 km]

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