|November 10, 2007
I'M FAMOUS!Okay, that's a little bit of an exaggeration -- but I am on YouTube. I was digging around in some of the deeply-nested directories of my site the other day when I came across three VIDEOS that I took in North Korea. They totaled about 30 seconds of footage (which I inflated to 50 seconds by slowing two of them down). Then I did some ad lib narration and mixed in some video effects with Windows Movie Maker. The result is the video you see to the left: my first YouTube video, ever. I don't expect high ratings or anything. I just did it for the experience, and to show my readers stuff they've never seen from the DPRK.
November 9, 2007
I've come up with a little analogy here:
A Korean classroom is like a war. When you're learning grammar, it's like you're doing little border skirmishes with infantry. You are attacked by a small number of unknown words that you have to learn, but it's not too devastating.
During the elective classes, some assemblies (the ones that don't use the 자료집), cultural experiences, etc. it's like a ceasefire. You have hope that the war of learning vocabulary words may be coming to a close, or at least that you can reorganize your troops until the vocabulary word war breaks out again.
Then, twice a week, the reading instructor comes in. Although she is incredibly hot, when she whips out that 읽기 책 (reading book) it's like you're being bombed. You get onslaughts of words that, while intense and difficult, are manageable if you've prepared ahead of time and are current on your vocabulary words.
Unfortunately, it's often after an easy day that suddenly the teacher pulls out the 자료집 (Source Book). It's like a NUCLEAR BOMB. Like, you can expect to get NUKED with 30, 50, 70 or more words from just one period of the 자료집.
Today was one of those days where it was looking like we'd get away with only learning 10 or so words -- until last period. The 자료집 came out and we did "세상 읽기" ("World Reading"). There were two stories. That was like two atomic bombs. So long story short, as soon as Period 4 hit, I realized that this weekend is going to be filled with hastily cramming vocabulary. Oh boy.
As for other news, I may soon have a class picture to post on this website. That is if 지원 (Jiwon) sends me the picture she took when all of us were at a Chinese restaurant. If she sends it, it'll end up in my gallery for class photos.
November 8, 2007
Man, the most crushing time of the week is Thursday. The reason is that after school on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I have Korean literature class, so at the end of Thursday, it feels like "I never have any free time." To compound this this week, I have a newspaper article that I need to present in front of the class tomorrow (신문 발표). Our teacher has been LAYING ON the words. I'm saying the teacher is, not the curriculum. I have a theory that few if any of the other classes are using Source Book (자료집) as much as we are. In past levels, our teachers have never used it this religiously. This level, it seems like our classes are always moving at breakneck speeds and we always need to flow over into break -- I think it's because the teacher is using the book more than anyone else, so she can't stay within the normal time frame/normal pace. As a result of using that book continuously, we have far more words to memorize than an ordinary person can.
Finally, at just after 5:00 PM, I plopped into bed (well, technically not a bed, just my mat on the floor that's sitting there while the ajumma washes the other one). I thought I'd sleep for a long time, because I was tired. However, my phone (which I can't turn off being it's my alarm clock) started ringing. It was some teacher from Ewha Women's University who wants me to participate in research. Okay, fine, I'll do it. Unfortunately, that woke me up, and now I'll probably get tired again really quickly.
What will I do my newspaper article report on? Well, yesterday, en route to Golden Pond, I spotted some dude reading the free evening paper, "City" (시티신문). The headlines looked REALLY easy. Like, this newspaper must be the US Today of Korea. So I reached up on the metal rack above the passengers and pulled down a discarded newspaper. Sure enough, a "City." People just chuck them up there when they're done with them.
At first, I was thinking about using the article "내년 자가용 타고 금강산 관광" ("Next Year You [Can] Drive Your Car and [Go to] Geumgangsan Tourism [Complex, in North Korea]"). However, I've already presented something about Geumgangsan this term. So I have decided tentatively on "모기향, 담배보다 더 해롭다" ("Mosquito Coils, More Damaging than Cigarettes"). It's a simple article about how mosquito coils are 22 times more carcinogenic than cigarettes. I haven't read the thing in its entirety yet, but I bet I'm about to find out how!
Well, pretty ordinary day overall. Didn't pay attention much in the literature class. I don't get it, are we just kind of on our honor to learn this stuff? I mean, there aren't any tests. So I just sit there, don't learn much, and get credit? I feel kind of bad about it, except that I deserve way more credits than I have, because my Korean language classes are vastly undervalued (only 6 credit hours per 200 hours when I think it should work out to more like 12 if you divide 200 hours by 16 weeks in a regular semester), so I'm willing to do a bird class, no problem. It's just so weird to sit there, do my homework for my language class, and get credit. Is there something that I'm unaware of here? Is she going to pop a test on us on the last day? If so, I'll be pretty embarrassed!
November 7, 2007
Well, unfortunately it looks like I haven't learned any lessons from the past -- I'm still procrastinating on my studies. If I can skate through Level 6 like that, then great, but based on what I've heard, it's incredibly difficult, so I may not be able to do that. Jangok told me today that he got a 70% on the Level 6 midterm, versus an 82% in Level 5 overall. So I need to start preparing for Level 6 before I even enter it.
As for other news, I updated the class photos section. Click on the "Photos" button and click "My Classes (Yonsei, IGSE)" and you'll now see two photos from my CELTA class (I've uploaded them before, but they weren't very accessible) and two NEW scans from my Level 5 class, showing homework and notes (I have translated the homework, which you may find entertaining). That's about it in the way of updates. I'm still not sure if I should pay tuition for Level 6 or not. I'm leaning toward doing so. I mean, if you think of it this way, then it seems like a clear choice: imagine you'd done three and a half semesters at a community college and learned how to do a skill, like repairing air conditioners. Sure, you already know how to repair air conditioners, BUT if you just pay your tuition and come in for a few more classes, you get an ASSOCIATE'S DEGREE in it. Like, the official certification that you can put on your resume -- rather than just saying "I took some classes," you can say "I graduated." So I want to stick with the program if possible. I'm sure I'll call myself crazy later on.
|Level 5 Midterm Exam Results:
Listening: 74% (C)
Speaking: 90.25% (A)
Reading: 80% (B)
Writing: 69.1% (D)
Overall: 78.34% (C)
Breakdown of Speaking:
|November 5, 2007
WOOHOO! I'VE DONE IT AGAIN!I passed every single midterm test! I'm overjoyed! Yes, you saw that correctly, that was a 74% on the listening test! That's a C! I'm extremely thrilled (really, I am, I'm not exaggerating, I thought I'd fail).
I guess I just got really lucky on those multiple-choice questions. I mean, if I hadn't lucked out on a lot of those ones where I could only reduce it to two possible choices, I easily could have ended up with a failing grade. I was LUCKY. The guys next to me weren't. One had a 52% and the other a 66.5%.
Not only that, all my other grades were up, except for writing. I don't really care that I got a 69.1% in writing, because in real life, I can write QUITE well for a foreigner. While I got a D on the writing test, when I was allowed to free write to a topic for the composition, I got a 90% (A). I know that if I prepare harder, I can get a good writing score in the future. The only preparation I did besides my homework was a last-minute review session of some grammar I hadn't understood with Mijung.
So yeah, all I have to do is manage a 46% or higher on the final listening exam (may sound easy, but my luck could easily go the other way next time). As long as I can get a 61.66% average on the midterm (all subjects) I can get a C in the class and get credit for it at Excelsior College. I would like to try harder than just getting a bare C, though -- maybe I can make a B again like the good old days of Level 2 and 3! I am absolutely thrilled!
However, I'm not going to let this relatively minor success cloud my judgment -- I need to go to China after Level 5, not Level 6. I have thought about it a lot and just don't think the benefits of finishing the whole Yonsei program are worth the economic hardship I'll experience if I stay (as well as the extreme difficulty of Level 6). If I go to China early, I can find a job in Yanbian. I won't have to worry so much about money, because I'll still actually have some (rather than a huge heap of credit card debt). Yanbian will be 10 times better for my Korean than having to settle for some other province that doesn't use Korean because I came too late and couldn't find a job in Yanbian. Anyways, if I finish Level 5, that's the capability of university entrance right there -- my original goal. I want to keep some electives in my degree program open for other subjects, as well.
As for other great news (there's been a lot of it since Sunday morning) I WAS OFFERED A JOB AT 7-ELEVEN! You cannot understand unless you're a white foreigner in Korea how much it means for a Korean 7-Eleven manager to encourage you to apply at her place. I mean, that is like total cultural acceptance -- it's saying "I think you can do this job, which has no relation to your English skills, comparably to a Korean, so please apply!" Yes, that's right, I saw a new 7-Eleven had opened near my hasukjip, so I went in and just asked out of curiosity why there was a new 7-Eleven within sight of another 7-Eleven. I was talking with the woman behind the counter about what working at 7-Eleven in the US full-time for over a year had been like, and then she was like "we're hiring! You should bring your resume!" It turns out she's the manager of the store. Will I take this job? Almost certainly not, because I don't have a visa to do that work, and I'll get deported faster than I typed this sentence. However, it really flatters me to get a job offer like this that has so little relation to my English abilities.
Oh, we finally solved the mystery of the jack-o-lantern that disappeared off of Mijung's doorstep. Mijung asked around and found out that the nextdoor grandmother, who was totally unaware of Halloween, had thought it was trash. So she took it inside, cut it up into little pieces, and made pumpkin soup with what she thought was our garbage. :-)
Well, things are looking good today. I feel on track again. I feel like it wasn't a mistake to take Level 5.
November 2, 2007
This sucks. I took the listening test this afternoon and am afraid I totally bombed it. It was hard as hell. I'd say there's less than a 30% chance that I passed. I mean, in theory, since it was almost all multiple choice, I could have gotten an A or an F depending on my luck, but realistically, I doubt it'll exceed 50%.
All I can say to people in Level 1 and 2 is this: BUFFER WHILE YOU CAN. By Levels 3 and 4, you'll have too much required material thrown at you to buffer, and by Level 5, you'll be struggling just to stay up with the class. Of course, if you're Chinese, Japanese, or a gyopo, you can disregard this -- I'm talking true foreigner native English speakers here.
Besides the listening test, I don't think I failed any others. I'm sure I didn't do that well on them, but listening is the only thing where I think "I seriously wonder if I can pass this class because of this subject."
The weird thing was that the pace of the speaking was really slow and the words were clear, but the vocabulary was SO HIGH LEVEL it was impossible to understand what the woman on the tape was saying. There were a few questions where I was fairly confident, but aside from those, the best I could do was cut it down to two possible answers, and on some, I think it was just a total crapshoot.
One thing I really hate about Yonsei KLI is the way they keep you a prisoner of their program, not allowing you to leave. I'll explain this. Basically, if you're gone for more than one term (three months) you have to take the placement test again. No one who takes the placement test ever places into Level 6, because Level 6 is considered too difficult for anyone to place into (KLI policy). Therefore, I cannot go and work in China for six months and come back -- either I finish the whole program in one fell swoop, or I give up and end up taking the placement test again and repeating levels that I've already done. This is a highly aggravating situation, because finding three-month English-teaching contracts in China is extremely difficult, and even if I could find one, with the plane ticket and the living expenses in China, I wouldn't make enough money for another term at Yonsei.
So I think it's time to decide whether I really want to finish at Yonsei -- it is becoming counter-productive to my original goal of living in Asia. I mean, these classes (for which I'm only getting six, or at best nine credit hours) are so tough and expensive, I could easily take twice as many classes for the same money/effort through Northern Virginia Community College online. Then I could get my degree faster, and get a JOB in Asia faster -- ironically, knowing Korean does not appear to help with this.
So I'm going to pray that I finish Level 5. Honestly, Level 6 is kind of useless considering that Level 5 grants entrance into Yonsei University proper, gives me enough credit hours for my depth requirement (at Excelsior College), and probably gives me as much classroom Korean instruction as I can really benefit from. Plus I already paid for Level 5. Then maybe I can just go to China directly after Level 5. Really, the only advantage I can see to completing Level 6 is the Yonsei certificate and a note on my Excelsior College academic transcript that I have Korean as a concentration (like a minor). I can still graduate from Excelsior without completing Yonsei Level 6 -- my degree may not look as good, BUT if I don't take level 6, it'll free up nine electives, which might be a good idea so I have more room to study more Chinese and maybe take a for fun course like photography (so I can take better photographs of my extremely interesting life) or web design (so I can have a web page that doesn't look like am amateur made it).
I want to work again, and soon. I have not been a member of the workforce in close to one year, five months. I want to know that my life in Asia isn't some slow descent that will eventually end in failure after a few more months or a year.
November 1, 2007
Well, I just finished the speaking test. I wasn't super concerned, and there was no reason to be super concerned, so that's good. Basically, we were instructed to prepare and memorize three different three-minute monologues. One was on a Korean custom, one was on the differences between generations, and one was on your job outlook.
I prepared heavily for the latter two, but all I did to practice for the Korean customs one was to look up Chuseok in Wikipedia for its history and practice relating this history and my experiences at this year's Chuseok into a microphone on my PC. I was going to be damned if I memorized any of those dialogues, as I've frequently not done so in the past and still gotten B's.
What do you know, she picked the one that I hadn't prepared much for -- the Korean custom one. So I started giving a monologue about it. I talked about spending Chuseok with a Korean friend this year, eating hobakjeon, how people go to the countryside, the Spam culture, etc. In the end, she didn't tell me my score (this is policy, I'm sure) but when I asked her to roughly let me know how I did, she said "you did well." So I know I passed, but that's no huge surprise. Good points:
My speech was apparently pretty fast. In the past, she'd said it was a bit slow. Apparently it has improved.
My vocabulary was good.
My monologue wasn't too short, as I'd previously feared.
She said it was obvious that I had done a lot of preparation -- actually, for this one, less than an hour, but I guess living with Koreans and speaking Korean at home for seven months was the grandest form of preparation.
Now for the bad points, which are unfortunately more numerous:
My grammar was too simple, and was sometimes incorrect in my haste to keep talking. I used 어(아, 여)서 too much (this is very basic grammar) and I used 죠 too much (basic grammar which I also tend to get wrong). Apparently it has a tone to it that if used at this frequency, may make the other person angry. Fascinating.
My monologue was actually too long! She had to cut me off (fortunately I was almost done and struggling to bring it to a logical close).
My intonation is weird. She picked on my "공휴일이죠?" intonation. I know it's strange, but I don't care enough to correct it, especially since Yanbian uses completely different intonation, so if I somehow acquire correct intonation, I'll have to change it when I move anyway, or sound awkward again. Why adjust it twice?
I have a bad habit of interjecting the word "오케이" ("okay") and possibly other expressions taken from English in awkward ways.
From the way I was wording the phrase for people removing trash from their ancestor's graves, it sounded like I was saying that they throw trash ONTO the graves.
In short, I bet I got at least 75%, which is good, because I'm going to need it, I fear, to buoy my other grades which I doubt will be very good. This afternoon we have the reading test, which is supposedly "되게 어려워요" ("very hard"). So I'd better get reviewing for that! It's one of the two that I'm worried about, but the worst one comes tomorrow...
October 30, 2007
For every test prior to this one, I have learned at least 90% of the vocabulary words before taking the test. This time, I'm not even going to bother. Until earlier today, I had thought "I'll try to learn them all." Then I noticed that today we had learned a TON of words, and decided "maybe it'd be best to count the number of words that I have to learn, to see if it's even feasible."
I am estimating the number at somewhere around 800 for just 19 school days, though that may be a conservative estimate -- it could be more like 900+. That's absolutely fucking ridiculous. There is absolutely no fucking way I can be expected to memorize that many words.
Therefore, I'm not going to. I have an internal sense of accomplishment when I learn all the assigned words, but the reality is, Yonsei could just chuck me a dictionary and say "learn this" and it wouldn't be possible. Memorizing this many MAY have been possible had I devoted like three hours to just vocabulary memorization every day, but guess what, I didn't.
The reading teacher maintains that in every class, one or two people fail the listening and/or reading tests, usually. If everyone but me is somehow managing to learn 50+ words a day and hear them perfectly the moment they're spoken, obviously I don't deserve to be in a class full of god-like supermen.
Therefore, I'm just going to GIVE UP on all these stupid word lists for now. I think it is actually counterproductive to just spend hours on end studying vocab until I drop from exhaustion. There is absolutely no fucking way I'm going to learn all of these by Thursday.
So what is my new study plan going to be? Well, I obviously still have to learn SOME vocab, so I'm going to review Chapters 41, 42, and 43 and try to weed out all unknown words. That's what we've traditionally done to prepare for listening tests. I'm going to ignore the damn 자료집 monologues that keep on threatening to drive me to total insanity.
First up is the speaking test. I'm going to prepare lightly for that, by memorizing some monologues that I write. That's feasible. There ain't much else I can do for that.
Then at the end of the day will be the reading test. I'm going to learn the vocab for the two long stories we covered, and then I'm going to call it a day. Once again, fuck the 자료집 and its hundreds if not thousands of new words.
With those things done, I will declare myself "ready enough" for the speaking and listening exams.
The next day is the listening exam, the one I'm fearing the most, and the writing exam. For the writing exam, I'm just going to make sure I know all the sayings and all the grammar. I'm going to make an addition to this website about them to make sure I know them. For listening, all I'm going to do is know Chapters 41-43 and the associated vocab. Fuck the 자료집.
If I fail it, I'll fail it. There are some things in life that are just impossible to do, or that are so close to impossible, it's unreasonable to expect us to be able to do them. If I could understand the listening practice questions they've been giving us, I wouldn't even need to be in this class -- I would already be fluent in Korean. I refuse to believe that the test is going to be as hard as those questions, and if it is (or if it's even close) then most of the class will fail, which will be a huge anti-KLI scandal.
I have reasonable confidence that I'll pass at least three of those tests. If I fail listening, I'm going to take a real close look at my score -- if it's below 50, I'm simply going to drop out of the class and go directly to China, not even looking back. You can't salvage a score in the 50s or below to one that's 60 or above. It's just not realistically possible. If I get between 50 and 60, I'll know that MAYBE I can bring it up by finals, or maybe fail the finals, but do okay on the retest. If I get above 60, I am going to be absolutely fucking ecstatic.
October 28, 2007
Well, it's Sunday: the first day in Midterms Week. Desperation has set in, but not ultra-desperation, yet. I will go to bed more or less on-time tonight, I think.
I want to have the following things done by Thursday's midterms:
All vocabulary memorized that will be relevant to the test. I believe this covers material up to Friday, October 26. This is going to be a HUGE corpus of words -- almost certainly more than I've ever learned in a one-month period.
I plan to review both the "short stories" we've read this term, as well as the stuff in 자료집. So I guess I'll kind of read through them and ask my language exchange partner or Mijung if I can't make heads or tails of an expression (which will happen a lot). There's not a whole lot I can do beyond that -- a lot of the test will have nothing to do with the things we've read, and the only way to do that part will be a huge vocabulary and knowledge of the language (more like a proficiency test).
Prepare three monologues for my speaking exam. Although we're supposed to memorize them, I almost never have and I've done fine, so unless I find myself with a huge amount of free time, I'll probably just come up with outlines.
Then, for Friday, this is what I'm going to do:
I'm going to listen to the listening comprehension CD up to the end of Chapter 43.
I'm going to read all the listening practice scripts out loud over a space of five days (all of them each day, starting today). This will hopefully get the stuff etched into my mind so I can recognize it when it comes up on the listening exam.
That'll be about all I can do for listening. I've given up on leaving the TV on, because all I can pick up without cable is a radio station that is getting SO FUCKING REPETITIVE. The DJ thinks he's SO COOL, but after hundreds of hours of listening to the station, I'm so sick of him. His constant shouting out "출석 체크!" and playing the "Hakuna matata!" sound clip from "Lion King" really are starting to piss me off, as are some of the ads and the excited, screaming child sound that the station plays over and over again. I just can't stand that damn station anymore! Anyways, about the writing exam, I need to pass it, so I'm going to make sure I know all my grammar patterns. I'm going to type them into my computer and maybe upload them to this website as a document.
Then I'm going to make sure I know my idioms, some of which are already up here -- but they're ALL going to be up here! So I'll know my words, my grammar, and my idioms. What else is there to know to be a good writer? I'm fairly confident I'll pass that test.
If I follow this listening- and reading-heavy strategy, maybe I'll pass. If I don't, at least it'll mean I can go to China quicker before I end up too far in the financial hole. If I pass, I'll be ecstatic and it'll make my financial difficulties okay for a little while.
As for other news, some motherfucker took the pumpkin from Golden Pond! Like, they took out the candle and left it on the wall, but stole the pumpkin. We speculate it was maybe the garbage man, because mischievous kids would've taken the candle, too. What a stupid garbage man. I mean, that jack-o-lantern totally wasn't garbage. So I guess we'll have a Halloween with no jack-o-lantern. At least it lives on in photos and memories...
This is the pumpkin we made, with the "Golden Pond" lettering on the side of the pumpkin in both English and Korean.
|October 26, 2007
This is the pumpkin we made, at my suggestion. It'll look nice outside the guest house. Anyways, I'm tired. Time to go to bed.
October 25, 2007
Well, the birthday is officially over. It wasn't bad or anything, which is pretty good.
I didn't quite follow my meal plan, mainly because I just wasn't hungry enough to follow it. I got the donggaseu (Japanese pork "cutlet" [one of the most regurgitated words Koreans use]). I woke up from my long, long nap (really a full night's sleep) at 11:30 PM or so, and decided to go out for one last birthday meal, so I went looking for KFC for a Zinger Burger, but the place had just closed. So I went to McDonald's and got a Big Mac combo instead. It was 4,600 won. I've pretty much given up hope now that McDonald's prices will ever fall despite the importation of US beef. I mean, why would any major corporation decide to LOWER its prices over an issue many folks don't know anything about? On the other hand, McDonald's is an okay place. They seldom wrong me. Some folks feel the need to mistrust any large corporation, but I think McDonald's is a fairly benevolent ruler overall. I mean, their food is good and universal, even relatively cheap (cheaper than Burger King) -- can anyone beat 400 won on an ice cream cone? They have fun regional items like the shrimp burger and the bulgogi burger in Korea, as well as the ogok shake and stuff like that.
So McDonald's is a reasonable substitute for KFC. Retrospectively, though, I should have gone to Hooter's. I could've gotten my picture taken with extremely beautiful Hooter's girls. Maybe I'll do that when I turn 22 or 23.
So it was a day of guilt-free spending. However, except for my medical appointments, I only spent 8,300 won (one 1,200 won KLI sandwich, 3,500 won donggaseu, and a 4,600 Big Mac "set").
My medical appointments were expensive. The hearing test was expensive. The doctor's appointment was less than 20,000 won, but still expensive for like three minutes of doctor time. The infection is apparently gone from my right ear. However, the doctor says my left eardrum has retracted into my ear. I have no idea what this means. I asked him if it'll require surgery, and he said "maybe." Wonderful. I love how my ears operate flawlessly and never have problems of any kind. There's going to be a checkup appointment in 90 days if I'm still in Korea then, and he's going to take another look (and another chunk out of my already extremely limited wallet).
The hearing tests say that my hearing is within the normal range in both ears (now, with the wax out), but my left ear (the one with the retracted eardrum) is below the standard of the right ear. I love how my hearing tests always say "hearing is normal." I mean, seriously, what bullshit. They've said that for years, every time I go to the doctor. Believe it or not, after two sets of tubes and two botched timpanoplasty operations, my hearing is NOT normal. Well, whatever, at least I don't have to be ripped off by another doctor for 90 days. However, I should probably get on the national insurance plan in case I need surgery. That wouldn't be such a nice out-of-pocket cost. I mean, if a quick three-minute checkup exceeds 19,000 won, just imagine what an operation with anesthetic, in-hospital rest, etc. will cost? Therefore, I need to get on the national plan quickly.
|October 24, 2007
Well, it's my birthday: exactly 21 years ago today, I was born in Bronovo Ziekenhuis in Den Haag (Netherlands). I'll eat some good food today. I don't know if I'll make it over to Yongsan Electronics Market, though. My sleep schedule is such that I'll probably be really tired after school and just sleep. Oh well, better for my wallet and studying time anyway.
I'm still super scared about the test, but there isn't a whole lot I can do about it except to do the roughly three hours of audio on the Level 5 CD and read the listening passages over and over again, and study my vocab (hundreds of words). Okay, never mind, there is PLENTY to do.
I thought I'd post some pictures from my hasukjip's roof that I took a couple of days ago. If it were summer, I could relieve some stress by launching water balloons off the roof onto unsuspecting 된장녀 (doenjangnyeo) below. However, it's too cold for me to do that and feel humane about it. Oh well.
October 23, 2007: UPDATE 2
I'm starting to have the shit scared out of me. According to our reading teacher, usually about one or two students in each class fail the reading or listening exams (particularly the listening exam). Well, it just so happens that our class has two true westerners (not gyopos) -- me and Irina. I guess we'll both fail. Or maybe she'll pass and I'll be the one (if our class as a whole gets lucky). I'm so scared.
All I can say is I hope I either fail it by a good margin or pass it. I'd hate to get like a 55. Then I'd be on the edge of my seat for the rest of the term worrying about whether I could pass or not (only to fall one point short of the mark on the final exam). I hope I pass it, but if I fail it, I want a 40 or less. If that happens, then I can just go ahead and pack up my bags and move to China without further ado, while I still have plenty of money.
It seems so unfair that a student who made a 99 on listening in Level 1 be allowed to fall through the cracks to the point where he's worried about even passing in Level 5. Language programs shouldn't work that way.
I guess I'll just study my backlog of hundreds of words, try to do all the relevant parts of the listening CD, and read the listening practice scripts over and over and over again until I know them forwards and backwards. Is there much else I can do in just ten days?
|October 23, 2007
Wow, it's October 23. I'll officially be 21 tomorrow! While I look forward to being one year older (infinitely important in certain superficial Confucianism-based ways, except that in Korea, that's based on your Korean age, which doesn't go up tomorrow), aside from that, I'd just as soon stay 20. I mean, sure, this means I can drink alcohol in my own country -- the place where I have not lived for over one year and four months, and in which I don't plan to live in the next few years.
It was really nice to look forward to a WHOLE DECADE of being in my 20s. Now I just have nine years to look forward to. That's not a decade, that's a single-digit number. It doesn't even round up to a decade!
It could be much worse, though. Really, in the grand scheme of things, 21 is a great age, and despite some bad years, I've spent my 21 years pretty well so far.
What am I going to do for my birthday? One needs to treat themself well on their birthday, there's no doubt about that. So here's what I plan to do, besides the two doctor's appointments and class on that day:
I'm going to spend no less than 12,000 won on meals! That's less than most of you dorks spend in a day, and this is my birthday, but what can I say, I'm frugal! I'll probably get donggaseu (a Japanese pork chop, 3,500 won from Kimbap Cheonguk), whatever the KLI is serving for lunch that looks good (probably about 3,000 won), and then I'm going to treat myself to a Zinger Burger from KFC -- the full combo! It's going to taste GOOD, and I'm not going to regret splurging, because 12,000 won divided by a whole year between birthdays is only about four cents a day!
October 20, 2007
This is the front of a seemingly unassuming USB drive that I received after completing a survey (actually, I received four of them).
October 19, 2007
Man, I'll tell you, this hasukjip is full of belly-achers. Between the ajumma who runs the place who is always "just reminding" me to turn out the lights in the shared bathroom (which I do almost religiously now, but the other people on my floor continue not to do) and asking me "which number is that?" when I come up for my third bowl of food, to the girl on the fourth floor who complained to me tonight, some of these hasukjip folks just need to learn to live in an environment where there are other people around! She was claiming that I'd woken her up by opening the door to the kitchen and by talking loudly. The latter assertion was a one-time thing, and the guy I was talking to was the one at fault -- he was one of those folks who COULD NOT CONTROL THE VOLUME OF HIS VOICE AND WAS REALLY EXCITED TO TALK TO A FOREIGNER even though it was about 2:30 AM. As for opening up the door, sorry Princess, it's going to keep happening. I explained to her that I'm white, so if I go out to eat at this time of night, someone will beat me. This is true -- anti-foreigner violence is so common in Korea (like for example, I've experienced it twice, almost three times in less than a year and a half), I'd be crazy to make going out at night a regular thing. Furthermore, this is a HASUKJIP. It means that unless your neighbor is blasting loud rap music or running his belt sander, you SUCK IT UP AND PUT UP WITH IT. If you can't sleep in a semi-communal environment, get a one-room apartment! Live with your apparently quiet parents like all the other folks do until they're married!
She ended up acting kind of sorry to complain to me and even said "I'm sorry." I don't think she's really sorry, but if this is the end of the belly-aching, I'll forgive her. However, knowing how awesome human beings are, she'll probably complain to the ajumma, who will then complain to me.
Look, I'm going to use the facilities here to the fullest extent possible. Here, food is free and so is electricity, which is a damn good thing, because I'm a poor foreign student who is not legally allowed to work, so I have no income, and since I'm not a Korean citizen, I can't get the huge student loans that Korean students are entitled to. Therefore, I'm GOING to economize, whether they like it or not, by using the free things that are provided. If they insist that I go out for two meals a day, that's at least 6,000 extra won a day, which is 180,000 won a month -- I could rent my own apartment for that! So I'm not going to go out and eat.
I'm not going to switch housing arrangements unless they do something really bitchy like raise my rent or try to evict me, but these complaints are annoying -- if I wanted to be complained to about little things, I'd have a roommate and save on rent. In my opinion, the girl on the fourth floor has a door that she can shut -- unless I'm running my leaf blower, she should PUT UP with the small noises BECAUSE I'M NOT THE ONLY ONE AROUND HERE MAKING THEM. I mean, hell, the guy down the hall blasts his music at late hours of the night (not that I care, but it's louder than what I do). The complainer girl even went to the bathroom with the door that's hung too tightly, which made a sonic boom sound far louder than any of mine!
October 18, 2007
Man, oh man, that Korean literature class is so DULL. Three hours of just sitting there in the lecture hall as the teacher rapidly scribbles notes on the board (adding confusion by writing them really small and doing them in light red marker), and then drawing these damn line drawings with stick figures. I feel compelled to copy everything down, because I don't know what else to do. Seriously, these stick drawings are so ridiculously bizarre, I can't wait to scan my notes and show you my copies of her bizarre drawings.
Today we read some poems, at least one was written by a gisaeng (supposedly like a geisha, but more like a prostitute) with an "erotic" tone to it -- according to the teacher, this one isn't usually taught until high school. The gisaeng talks about "cutting through the night" by rolling round and round with the guy that she's waiting for. However, even this poem is drained of all life by the dry teaching methods of constant lecture, no student-to-student interaction, and no visuals except stick drawings on the board. I really hope the teacher never sees this. I'd feel pretty bad. I mean, she seems nice, even if she is an Ewha-educated feminist whose views sometimes slightly annoy me.
We learned in greater detail about Heungbu and Nolbu, the brothers. Nolbu inherited all the property. Heungbu was poor because he didn't get an inheritance, so he built a little house and had like a gazillion children (or maybe I'm thinking of one of the countless other pieces of literature we covered today) so that compounded his poverty. One day, in some kind of episode involving a snake and a tree and a bird, a bird's leg got broken, and Heungbu raised it back to health (Heungbu was a nice guy, by the way, but his brother was selfish). Then the bird flew away, and came back with something containing mushrooms, gold, etc. Then somehow Nolbu got poor, and Heungbu ended up taking care of him. It was like a role reversal thing, with the 교훈 (lesson) at the end. The class doesn't sound that dull when I reflect back on it, but it IS dull.
I'm going to have to find some way to pass some of that time. Maybe I can do my homework if I sit in the back of the lecture hall. Three hours would be MAGIC for my actual Korean language studies. I feel a little bit guilty about not taking notes or paying attention, but since most of my grade is based on simply showing up and giving one presentation during the term, I don't see how this will really hurt me. I am now attending a total of 31 hours of class per week, and that's not counting homework -- I need to get more efficient!
October 17, 2007
I woke up after less than six hours. I must be a superman.
I have a lot to do. I need to prepare my 신문 기사 발표 (newspaper article announcement). I don't even have my article yet, and I'm presenting it this morning. However, I have done this twice before, so I know what I'm doing. I'll just pick an easy, short article.
Yesterday we were discussing the cultural significance of colors (there's this stupid short piece in our reading book about cultural confusion regarding the color pureun-saek [variably translates as "blue" or "green"]). The piece was dull and I wonder why we can't have authentic source material at this level more often instead of this tripe, but the Chinese students told us about a taboo in Chinese society that I thought was pretty funny. Chinese people do not wear green hats, because if a man wears a green hat, his wife has cheated! I don't know why this is, but took a guess -- I figured that men in the army wear green hats (I don't know about China, but in a lot of countries they do) and wives often cheat on soldiers who are away for long periods of time. So I posed this to the Chinese students, who replied "no, there's no reason." Wow. Remind me not to repossess that US Army hat that Mijung liked (and that I gave to her) and bring it to China! What amazes me about this myth is that it means that you wife HAS CHEATED. Like, it works retroactively! Fascinating...
October 16, 2007
My dear GOD that literature class is boring. We literally sit in a lecture hall for three straight hours with only one short break, and listen to the teacher drone on about things that are so far over our heads, we can only grasp the basic meaning. Today we covered more ancient songs/poems from so long ago, they practically aren't even in Korean. We did the one on the Cheongsan (a metaphorical green mountain thought of as paradise by the Mongol-ravaged Koreans) which I had seen before on one of Bongdo's worksheets -- and he's a 32-year-old Yonsei University alumni and a native speaker!
These stories are just so bizarre, and I have no context to put them in, as they are explained without any visuals or anything (except for a few crude scribbles the teacher makes on the board). So we go over these bizarre stories and I forget them rather quickly. One story we learned today was the story of a famous bronze bell in Korea. A bell creator, desperate to make a bell that actually sounded melodious (something the bell creator had tried and failed to do repeatedly) asked what they needed to do -- someone (I don't remember if it was a monk or Buddha or who it was) told them to "give their daughter to Buddha." So they threw her in the bell crucible! Then, the most beautiful melody came from the crucible -- "E-MIL-LE, E-MIL-LE!" This is ancient Korean for, "MOMMY, MOMMY!" Somehow, this influenced the modern bell to make the sound it currently does. Huh. At least that one was so morbid that I wasn't bored for a span of like five minutes.
There are also a gazillion songs/poems written by women pining for their husbands. Apparently it was fashionable in those days for women to actually miss their husbands when their husbands weren't around. You hear it in these poems...
Apparently I'm only going to have to give one presentation in this class, so I signed up for November 15, which is conveniently halfway between midterm and final exams. The teacher let me know that I can do it on a more modern piece of literature if I want. That's good. My comprehension of written Korean is mostly restricted to the 20th and 21st centuries!
I am extremely tired and am just hoping the ajumma comes soon so we can talk about the room downstairs that is hopefully cheaper. I need to nab it before someone else does. I have a newspaper presentation to give tomorrow, and haven't even found my article yet. I think I'm going to plop into bed at 6:15 PM and sleep until about 6:15 AM (I'm that tired) and then do the article then. At least I'll do it efficiently under pressure.
Okay, I just talked to the ajumma -- fortunately she came in early. SHE WAS SHOWING ANOTHER PERSON THE ROOM, DESPITE THE FACT THAT I ASKED YESTERDAY! So I went down there and she immediately said "the ajeosshi told me you were interested in this room, but I figured you wouldn't be when you found out it is more expensive than the one you're in" or something like that. I took a look at the room, and sure enough, despite what I had previously believed, it is not a small room by Korean standards. It actually has a bed. It's very narrow, which had given me the illusion that it was small, but it stretches pretty far back. She told me it'll be over 300,000 won. So I'm not interested in it. I guess I'll stay in my current room, then!
This Site's Fast Facts:
|October 15, 2007: UPDATE 2
Okay, I just backed up this website! It had been a long time since I last did it, and the drive on which the backup is held failed, so I thought "the only copy of this site that exists is the one on the server." Therefore, I decided to back it up. Here are the latest pieces of site trivia regarding this site (and unlike the site's claim that it makes 450 million dollars a year, these are actually true so far as I know):
Right now, the site consists of 585 files, some visible to the public, some for my own private use (though this is a minority). None of them are copied from other sources unless they have a picture of me in them -- in other words, all 585 files are original content.
This site holds a total of 460 images. Some are GIFs, some are JPEGs. Some are buttons, some are photographs. Some are not visible to the public, but most are.
Before writing this post, the total size of the site (the portion viewable to the public) is 100,211 words (if I took out things like formatting, this would amount to about 401 pages, assuming that 1 page = 250 words). I have written all of this text myself. There are also many thousands more words in documents for my private use. Basically, someday when I write my book, this site will really help me out!
This page tends to be what I feel like throwing on the internet at a given time, but it's all original material! 401 pages of text -- there are a lot of authors who haven't written that much for one project! Man!
I predict that if I keep on updating this site, I will hit 1,000,000 words before I turn 30!
October 15, 2007
Well, it's time to get that depressing last entry off the top of the page. Sure, I have my depressing moments, but what's really important is that MY LIFE IS STILL 10X COOLER THAN YOURS! I'm going to print that on a T-shirt, with a cute little bunny. You know how confrontational T-shirts are all the rage. Well, they were a year and three months ago when I stopped living in the US, anyways.
Here is a summary of my day:
I woke up and did my homework in a flash, then jogged off to school after a little breakfast eaten strictly to make sure I wouldn't get hungry during the day and buy expensive food (hasukjip food is free).
First period was just a dissection of a textbook dialog. The teacher got mad the Mongolian girl who was sleeping in class. I could hear the irritance in her voice. This teacher can get angry sometimes. I mean, she doesn't yell at the top of her lungs (unless she's emphatically explaining grammar, which is probably unintentional) but for a Korean teacher, she lets some of the students get under her skin. However, I can kind of understand why. This is a tiny class, since almost no one shows up -- in theory there might be like 12 or 13 people, but only about half that amount seem to be in class these days, so if you sleep, it's perfectly visible -- this ain't no lecture hall. Anyways, this Mongolian girl wakes up and presents her article -- a most spectacularly scholarly piece taken from a low-grade newspaper, about 여자전용 바 (bars for exclusive use by women) that employ sexy men to pour drinks -- they must be 180 cm or taller, etc. We discussed it. I always get asked the question in discussions "what's it like in America?" so I told them that indeed we had the same thing in America -- men are increasingly entering traditionally female-dominated fields, and one of my high school classmates was a male stripper. They found that entertaining. Apparently China has similar bars, as does Japan, and as it turns out, Sakai of the Japanese Self-Defense Force, used to work at one -- the teacher commented that Sakai has had some interesting jobs, I tend to agree.
Then it was break. I ran downstairs and bought my hanja textbook (한자와 함께 배우는 한국어 2, or Korean that [You] Learn Together with Hanja 2). 12,000 won! What a ripoff! It's only like 78 pages! I had only brought 10,000 won, used to the low textbook prices for most other books, but fortunately, Andrew, who was right behind me in line, loaned me two grand.
Then we went back to class and had more instruction.
Then it was break again, so I did my hanja homework. It was easy, but nevertheless almost used up my full 20-minute break. I arrived in hanja class just in the nick of time.
There were seven questions. The teacher said words and we had to write them in hanja instead of hangeul. It was pretty easy. I got six unquestionably right, and the seventh one was arguable -- I got the character 父 (부, father) right but the teacher took issue with the way I wrote 母 (모, mother) because she said it didn't have enough of a slant, and she wasn't a fan of the dot-line-dot stroke order that I used to render the inside of the character. Sorry, that's just how it was taught to me originally -- no slant and working from top to bottom. However, from now on, I'll use her method. Everyone has their own personal stroke order beliefs, it seems. Anyways, hanja class is really easy, and I'm so glad I didn't go into Level 1 because that would have KILLED me with boringness.
Then it was last period. We did some insanely difficult listening comprehension practice -- we'd learn the key words like one minute before being expected to pick them out in conversation. Impossible. Seriously, I need to quiz them a few times before being able to understand them, even in an optional situation.
The internet was down at school, so I came home and had some soy bean soup (콩나물국) and some refrigerated squid (오징어) and some rice. I talked to the ajeosshi about the thief's now-empty room. He said it's cold. Oh, boo hoo, a cold room. I'll take it anyway. I'm going to take a nap now and wake up at 5:30 or so to talk with the ajumma about transferring to that room (if it's cheaper).
October 13, 2007
Korean women never cease to amaze me with how logical they are! Let's take the example of U-yeon, the latest Korean girl to lower my self-esteem. Fortunately, I'm so jaded to crap like this, I'm practically already over the incident. Back when I first started experiencing things like this, they really got me down. Now they happen so often, it's no more devastating than getting a bad grade on a paper or finding out that someone stole my USB flash drive.
Basically, I first met U-yeon last week. We went with a friend to a bar and got beer. It was a good time.
I met her at the Guest House again last night. She suggested that we drink beer and soju together! What a great idea! In fact, she even bought! So we sat around the low table in the kitchen and talked about overseas study experiences (she was telling me about studying in Germany and I was telling her about studying here). We seemed to be getting along pretty well. We finished a whole 1.5 liter bottle of beer and broke out a bottle of soju. At some point, I figured "well, she suggested that we drink one-on-one late into the night with no one else around, she appears to like me, why not?" so I tried to kiss her -- which she completely SHOT DOWN. Like, she stuck her arm out, preventing me from getting near her. It was really humiliating. We haven't spoken since (besides me saying "okay, I'm going to bed" and maybe a few other meaningless things) and probably never will again.
Apparently, I must be really bad at reading a girl's signs. For example, when a girl suggests we drink alcohol one-on-one with no one else around and seems interested in me, that's actually female-speak for "I hate you, can barely tolerate you, and wouldn't touch you with a ten-foot pole." In short summary, I love how logical women are, especially Korean women. Well, at least I got free beer and soju without even 1 won out of my pocket!
|October 12, 2007: UPDATE 2
Finally, after over two months of waiting, I finally got my CELTA certificate in the mail! I guess Cambridge University is too poor to afford to ship them out sooner? I don't know. I'm glad I didn't need it right away for my job! Now it's in-hand, with a grade of "PASS" -- not just the provisional grade of PASS, but the official thing.
October 12, 2007
If you think the composition of YOUR Korean class is cool, wait until you hear about mine! Basically, we do "Roundtable Discussions" about politics and current events, and one my classmates is a Japanese soldier (a member of Japan's "Self-Defense" force) and one of my classmates is a reporter for a pro-Communist Chinese newspaper! Therefore, we get some interesting and differing opinions, especially on North Korea. There're two people whose jobs require them to have diametrically opposing views (a Chinese pro-Communist reporter is going to be very liberal and a Japanese soldier is going to be very conservative). A mini World War III could definitely erupt in our class! The teacher was very surprised when she heard that Sakai was in the Japanese military, and immediately asked his views on North Korean reunification. He said he was against it, and cited several reasons. His newspaper article-based presentation was about Japan extending its sanctions on North Korea (which he was obviously in favor of) regarding the abductions of Japanese citizens and the return of their remains. Surprisingly, the teacher seems pretty hard-line as well! Apparently a relative of her was abducted by North Korea, so she's not so much for this "Sunshine Policy" crap. This relative later became famous in North Korea, so her family learned about his abduction.
I agree with Sakai and the teacher that any kind of sudden reunification is a bad idea. I think it's easy for college students with no financial responsibilities to say "let us unify with our North Korean brothers" except that if taxes rise to 50% to prop the North up, I doubt they'll be saying that anymore. Lots of people cite relatives on the other side, except that it's been so long, most of those relatives are probably very distant. I mean, who wants to pay 50% of their paycheck to support Great Uncle Kim who they've never met? I realize that a few old people have brothers, sisters, etc. on the other side, but I think visiting those relatives could be accomplished if the two countries would just admit that they're not going to reunify and sign a peace treaty. I mean, come on -- look at things historically. Did us Americans reunify with our British "brothers?" Finally, if the two Koreas begin reunification talks and look like they're going to do it, I'm OUT OF HERE. Why? Because they'll probably expel me anyway, or kill me during some anti-foreigner riot caused by a surge in ultra-nationalist sentiment. Finally, I think if the two Koreas reunited, North Koreans would become an "oppressed minority." I mean, think about it: South Korea can't even handle its overstaying guest workers, it's mixed-race children, people from Jeolla Province (historically the poorest), or even its dark-skinned Koreans who are absolutely no different in any respect from other Koreans besides being a little bit darker! Are people so naive to think that North Koreans, with RADICALLY different lifestyles, are going to integrate seamlessly? Unlike South Koreans, they are used to communism, they're mostly atheist, they probably have no experience with technology, and their language is quite a bit different! Right now, reintegrating any talbukja (North Korean escapees) is a huge chore -- despite getting tens of millions of won in government handouts, they have extreme difficulty in integrating into South Korean society. How can you expect a whole NATION of talbukja to integrate? I think reunification is something that can only work in very slow, gradual steps, unlike what the protesting college students want.
I digress. Fortunately, today wasn't a shitstorm of words like other days are. This will give me some breathing room so I can catch up. I had my first real day of class for Hanja Level 2. I was worried about my hanja ability since I never did Hanja Level 1 (I was put in this class by administrative mistake) but the teacher was NOT WORRIED. She was like "you lived in Hong Kong for three years, you WILL be able to handle this class." Well, I wasn't quite sure, but went along with her suggestion. She was right. It is EASY. I mean, even Level 2 might be too easy for me. Of the characters that we officially learned today, I knew every single one! I asked a dude in Level 1 and he says they just spent the time learning numbers! I'm glad administrative error placed me in this class, because I would be so bored in Hanja Level 1. I don't think Level 2 will even be that challenging, but that's okay, I think that between Level 5's onslaught of vocabulary and my after-school Korean Literature class and my online Chinese class, my plate is full enough. Hanja Level 2 will be a time during the day when I can sit back and relax!
I completed my online Chinese class' first quiz early this morning with a not-so-shabby 97.5%, after which Wang Laoshi sent me this note!
|October 11, 2007
I'm really, really tired. I got less than three hours of sleep (due to studying for my online Chinese quiz for a long time, then taking it, mainly). A negative side effect of the wax being out of my ear is that I can now experience how LOUD and intense the teacher is! I'm not saying that I dislike her or anything, just that she's intense (you're trying frantically to copy down all the stuff she's writing on the board and she's like "Don't write! Look at me!") and cannot control the volume of her voice!
Even though it's almost 2:00 PM, I can't take a nap yet, because I have my Korean Literature course from 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM. I'm taking it in the hopes that the three credits I get from it will transfer to Excelsior College. Since the class is free with my regular language program tuition payments, it's worth the risk. All I have to lose is my time and sanity.
I saw Chunmae today. Actually, I'm looking at her right now. She always hangs out in the computer lab. She has a new haircut. She looks a lot more refined now.
I wonder if I can get an A+ in my Chinese class. Since there are 90 points worth of available extra credit, I could easily get over 100%. Yonsei is bringing my grades down, and I need something to prop them up, like an easy Chinese course.
Okay, now here's a little update. I've just finished my first Korean Literature class. It was pretty overwhelming! Basically, this is roughly the same class that freshmen in the Yonsei University proper take when they're studying literature. On a transcript, it appears exactly the same way, apparently!
Because of that, it is a SHITSTORM of information and new words. I've decided I'm not even going to make an effort to learn every word -- that could easily be like 200 new words per class, many of which are extremely obscure. Today we covered some Shinhwa (tales of gods) stories (Dangun, Jumong, how Hwanung became human and bore Dangun, et cetera). A lot of the stories were written down like 1,500 years ago or more, and were translated into semi-modern Korean in the 1920s by Japanese scholars during the occupation (because a lot of Koreans at the time lacked the necessary literacy and character knowledge, I suppose). Even so, the prose (or poetry) was about as similar to modern Korean as the Bible is to modern English.
I'm sure I missed a lot of information, and the pace at which the teacher diagrammed things on the board was frenetic. However, I learned plenty -- Jumong being born from an egg, which was laid by a woman who became pregnant out of wedlock (but not by a lover, but by the gods). Gee, that story sounds familiar, I just can't remember where I've heard that before! Actually, a lot of the Korean creation myths sound A LOT like the Bible. Korean legend has a Tree of Knowledge-type tree called Shindansu. She (Teacher Lee) even told us something about some kind of a resurrection of a famous Korean figure, possibly Jumong (but my Korean comprehension wasn't good enough to grasp the details).
If this class had tests, I would be VERY afraid. However, points are mainly based on things you prepare outside of class (like presentations), so I think I can do okay in it, especially as we move toward more modern prose.
In any case, I am worn out and ready to go to bed! Other highlights of today included: