Friday, December 02, 2011

Oh hello there, December

"J'ai souvent constaté chez d'autres cette espèce d'instantanéité dans l'emploi d'une langue étrangère, après un travail inconscient d'incubation préparatoire ; il est remarquable d'ailleurs combien peu de mots suffisent pour exprimer les pensées les plus usuelles." - Arnauld d'Abbadie, Douze Ans de Sejour dans la Haute-Ethiopie
December! What!  And I have not even learned Korean yet, or sung nearly enough songs at the noraebang. And yet, here we are, with only three weeks more in Andong, Korea. I have to pack!

Today, I read the passage quoted above and it rang true.  Roughly translated, he says that he is always telling people that there's a revelatory moment when you can all of a sudden sort of use a foreign language that you have been working at learning, and that it's amazing how few words you really need to express the most common thoughts. Naturally this resonates with me the most from my Spanish, which I learned a-travelin' just as this author was learning Arabic on the road back in the day. I totally remember observing my brain make rapid progress in Spanish; in fact, it was almost as if I could note the physical occurrence and see my brain improve from Sunday morning to Monday night. There was a sudden moment where I just understood more. I totally get what my boy Arnauld is saying here. As for Korea - sigh. If only we used the language at all in our daily lives here! This is the same problem I ran into in 2005-06. All day I am paid to specifically not speak Korean. Then I go home to my apartment. Really, restaurants and stores are the only places I use the Korean language, unless I make an effort to set out to do so, and even in the shops and such people English us a lot. I've learned a bit - I learned to read and say a few phrases last time I lived here, and I've learned a bit more this time, but it's just crazy how little Korean the expat English teachers get away with knowing. I mean, even in Daegu many teachers don't read 한글 (hangeul - the Korean script), and in Seoul? Those people could probably get away with not even learning 맥주 (maekchu - beer) and 감사합니다 (kamsa hamnida - thank you)! Although everyone should always learn "thank you" in every language wherever they go even if they are just there for a day. I even learned it for my brief (wonderful!) stint in Turkey - then promptly forgot. (Ahh, right, teşekkür ederim - thanks for the refresher, Google translate!)

Anyway, where were we? Oh, yes. December. It's beginning to feel a lot like winter, especially inside my classroom. Yes, I said inside. I have been teaching class in a coat/jacket for three weeks. We have heat now and everything in our newly "renovated" building but I have windows that are maybe like the thickness of a Ziploc of them doesn't even shut all the way...lots of my students just wear their jackets in my classroom. Our apartment upstairs has some draft/insulation issues, too. But have I mentioned we have only three more weeks here?

There will always be more things to do in Korea, but for now it is time to wrap it up and focus on our upcoming trip to Cambodia where we will see many wondrous things and help to build a house.

In other news, let's see.. my artistic endeavors in Daegu have ended (for now), I'm still picking up a few scraps of the Korean language here and there, I'm still managing to drag my cold self out from the blanket under which I huddle to make it to kickboxing once in a while, I'm reading about my boy Andrew Johnson and really digging his plebian, common man, pro-labor self. Let me just tell you that if Andy Johnson were alive today he would totes be #Occupying. And he is so not a fan of the organized religion in the USofA, circa 1850. It's pretty awesome. I remain fascinated by the prez bios I read.

Oh, also?  I could use some new music recommendations. What are you listening to?

Hurrah for December!  I love Christmas! I will be on a plane this Christmas Day but I still love it.

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