Friday, July 04, 2008

Time time time no time

I feel like I'm operating at least a week behind everyone else now that I'm in this time zone. I'm having a hard time keeping up w/blogs b/c I'm on other computers almost all the time rather than my own. So before I forget, Jami sold her next book!!!! SO EXCITING. And Jeff Chang did a great article for Salon on Korean b-boys. I really want some serious b-girling to come out of this country, too.

I just finished up one whole week of language study. After having lunch w/my cousin who is a doctor at Severance Hospital (5 minutes from where I take classes, one of the best hospitals in Korea, part of Yonsei University, also home to the international clinic that I plan to check out soon), I checked out electronic dictionaries at the school bookstore. I feel like such a dinosaur w/my dictionary in book format (I'm still not quite over the fact that these are becoming ancient history), but I think I'll stick with it. It's a good way to keep on top of my ga na da's (the first three "letters" in the Korean alphabet) since I only know up to five characters for SURE in the right order and then things fall apart. Someone needs to teach me whatever abc song they have here. I'm too old to figure out mnemonic devices for myself.

Speaking of old (I know, I'm talking about it a LOT lately, but come on! I'm going from a life where I'm in the youngest/almost youngest bracket of my circle of friends and family to a very, very different life. I mean, all these kids!) - a Japanese boy in my new class is 19!!! Kelsey, the former ETA Fulbrighter, kept laughing at me when she saw the faces I was making when he told us how old he was. The other American, Audrey, is in grad school for East Asian studies at Harvard. And it turns out that Kelsey knows kate hers, who I met online via Pauly, b/c Kelsey is also a Korean adoptee and current Blakemore fellow. I'm totally going to pick her brain for the next two months.

I called Diana today, finally, after emailing her for a while (actually, it started last year during my Fulbright app research). She's a poet on a Fulbright in Korea now that I met online thru Ching-In. She has been super helpful and really good at calming me down re: all things related to Fulbright and moving to Korea. She keeps reminding me to take good care of myself and remember that a lot has changed, so it's fine to take it easy. It was really good to chat today and share our experiences: she also did the extra language grant last year and lives really close to me right now. So we talked about how the commute makes things challenging, and how utterly exhausting the intensive language study is, and the importance of just being present and taking one day at a time.

That said, I feel crazy b/c I haven't visited any museums yet or gone to Insadong, where one of the traditional papermaking families in Korea has a shop. But anytime I think about doing things besides go to class and study, I feel crazy. Especially now that the insane humidity has set in. Grossness. Koreans don't have dryers (which, overall, I think is a very very very good things), but I really wonder if my clothes will dry in this weather. I'll find out soon, since I am about to hang my first load of laundry here once I get off the computer.

It's been a trip to learn so much about how I learn. Today, I figured out that the best way for me to hear and repeat dictation is to stare at a blank wall or chalkboard. If I look at the teacher's mouth or other students or down at my book cover, it's just too much stimulation. I also wonder if I'll ever get to the point where I can see Korean characters and see them as words. Right now, I have a weird invisible shield that goes up and blocks me from being able to read them right away, esp if there is ANY English mixed in the soup. I see everything as pictures, images, symbols (which I know they are, but even more abstracted), instead of WORDS. It's getting to the point where today in class, our teacher wrote a big capital N on the board (to indicate "noun") and then more Korean, and I stared at the "N" for a while, thinking, "did she misspell Korean? What the hell is that character??" I only realized after she wrote another "N" somewhere else on the board that it was an "N"!! This whole 1.5 thing in terms of my language ability is going to be tricky. Since I already feel my verbal English starting to slip.

Good news: all these people I'm meeting at school are potential traveling mates! AND, people to visit in other countries. One woman, who I swear could model if she was half a foot taller, is here from Thailand. She goes back in September and goes back to work for a hotel. How fun would it be to visit?!

It's also interesting meeting people who have both Korean and American names, and which they choose to use in class. I chose Aimee (Koreanized, of course, to something akin to A-ee-mee) b/c I realized a few years ago that I just don't feel much of a connection to my Korean name. I'm glad that I have it, it will be useful when I travel to places where having a Korean name makes sense, and I love that it falls w/in a tradition and generation so that I feel like I'm part of a family lineage. But I just don't respond to it anymore. I used to more as a child. But my whole family calls me Aimee now. Even though I'm learning Korean, I felt like I would misrepresent myself by using my Korean name. It reminds me of my private performances: it has become something just for me now. Not for other people to see or use. And no judgment! It's just how it is.

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