I started Korean lessons last week and I am really excited for my future studies in learning the language. There are definitely a few sounds I have problems replicating and one I don't know if I'll ever be able to pronounce correctly, but I will keep practicing. It occurred to me that there really is one major shortcoming in the English language that makes it so difficult to learn. There may be more but this is the first one that i've been philosophizing about with others.
Why are there only 6 vowels in the English language? It's almost absurd when you think about it. I am still learning but there are at least 10 vowels in the Korean language. Seems like a lot to memorize, but here is one fundamental difference that I think makes Korean much more effective than English as a language. All Korean vowels have one sound. They don't have different sounds depending on the word they are in. If you memorize a Korean vowel and the sound it makes you can have 100% confidence that it will be pronounced that way every time. I was helping someone practice Korean and he said the word 'placebo' but pronounce the 'a' like you would in 'play'. It was only then did I realize, "How would he ever know to pronounce the 'a' any differently without ever hearing someone else say it or looking it up the pronunciation?" How difficult is it to expect someone to memorize a character, then have to memorize more than one sound it makes depending on the word it is in? To me, that is just inefficient and a real stumbling block for learners.
I'm sure I'll have more thoughts to share as my study of the Korean language progresses. Only having experience with the latin based languages of Spanish and French, this is my first foray into a completely different language. I would love to hear others thoughts about this. Please leave comments below. Thanks for reading!
So, I had gone to a Noreabang (Karaoke Room) in Jeonju during orientation but didn't have enough time to properly document it. So here is my official blog on Noreabang. In Korea, they have rooms for everything. There is a pc room to play games or do other things on the computer, a DVD room to go watch a movie with friends, or a Karaoke room called Noreabang (bang means room so to play on the computer they say PC Bang). It is not nearly as social an event that most singers are used to. I was a karaoke DJ for a long time back in America and although I thoroughly enjoyed the company I was with, the Noreabang leaves a lot to be desired. You walk into the room and there is a big couch area with a table on one side. On the other side is the screen. They provide you books and a huge remote. You basically pick the song you want to sing, enter it in the remote, and bam it starts playing on the TV and even queues a cystal ball and light show. The problem is, the echo is full blast and there is no stopping it or adjusting it. So don't try to do a wrap song and don't expect to be able to adjust the reverb for any song to try to make your good singing shine through. For me it was fine because I can use it as an excuse for why it sounds so bad (even though it's really my voice that kills it)! Another odd thing is that they do not play videos on the screen of the actual song. The words come through but instead of being on a normal blank screen or the actual video playing in the background these have random Korean videos. So you might be singing "Highway to Hell" by AC/DC but having two love birds walking on the beach hand and hand on the video. It can be quite odd at times. Sorry about the lighting quality of the pics. I only had a short time to document the room before my date came back from the restroom. I didn't want to be caught being a tourist, lol! Big shout out to all my ex karaoke groupies! Love you guys!
A couple Sunday's ago I went to Daecheon Beach. Every summer they have a 10 day long event they call the Boryeong Mud Festival. Basically everyone goes and covers themselves in cleansing mud and engages in all these activities and games. Then you drink, party, and they have concerts at night. It is very popular among the foreigners. Check the pics in my gallery. We arrived on Sunday at around 6pm. Most people had cleared out by then so the pics don't really do justice to the wildness that is Boryeong Mud Festival. You can do a search if you want to see how crazy it gets. The water was really nice and only a little cold. I went in right away for about 10 minutes figuring I would have plenty of time to walk around and dry off before the sun went down. It's been really hot in this area the last couple weeks. I was mostly right :-). The beach was better than the beaches I have been two in TX and almost on par with beaches on Long Island. It was nice to be there and it's even a better feeling knowing that this is only a one hour drive from where I am in Korea. Most people travelled 3 or 4 hours to get there! I hear the beaches on the eastern coast of the country are nice but I was thoroughly impressed with the one's on the western side. Next year I will make sure to attend during the busy time so I can do a proper blog posting.
Okay. Time for a blog post on food in Korea. I've talked a little about it before but after a few outings with friends and some school functions I figured now would be a good time to divulge everything I know.
When going out to Korean style places for dinner there are going to be lots of differences from America. First of all there are still several places where you have to sit on the floor. I find it very uncomfortable and my legs always fall asleep. After asking several Koreans they tell me that their legs fall asleep as well, it just takes longer because they are used to it. Regardless, it is uncomfortable for everyone involved, but appears to be a tradition that is not going away anytime soon. With me it just involves sometimes pushing myself away from the table so I can stretch my legs. It certainly stops people from lingering too long at the table! Once you are done you just want to get up and leave.
Another very big difference is the concept of sharing. When we get food in America normally you get your main dish and side dishes and the only thing you might share is bread or an appetizer. Of course there are family style restaurants in America as well, but pretty much many Korean places are family style. I've been to a chicken place, a duck place, and a pork place and the experience has been the same. You get your own little grill (see the pic inset) and you cook everything on that grill. Then, there are several side dishes and you pretty much grab a piece of lettuce in your hand. Then, you take some meat, side dish stuff, dip it in sauce, and put in one by one on the lettuce. Then you put down your chopsticks and roll up the lettuce and eat it. I struggle with this constantly. It's hard enough picking up little pieces of vegetables or what have you with chopsticks (i'm getting better), but then holding a hot piece of meat shielded from your hand by only lettuce is VERY difficult. It takes a lot of effort and practice. I have to say though, once it hits your tongue it's nothing but wonderful flavor. I haven't have much food that I haven't enjoyed here so in the end it's been worth the practice. Just realize that if you are going to a work function or out with friends you may be sharing their germs and you either need to accept it or starve. Head to the gallery to see pics and you can also take a little and the silkworm I tried. It didn't have much flavor and was chewy. Then it left me with a chalky feeling in my mouth. I will pass next time and ironically I was the only one at the table who even touched them. Perhaps it was a joke and they were all waiting to see if the silly foreigner would try it. Well I did so laugh it up!
Okay, i've been busy the last few weeks and haven't kept my blog up to date on it so here is one big one.
My Birthday (5/1/2012) : I turned 36 and the teachers had a nice little cake for me. It was really sweet and I thank them so much for being such great coworkers. Pics in the gallery :-)
Festival Day (5/17/2012 & 5/18/2012) : This is the equivalent to field day in America. I don't even know if kids still have that anymore, but that's what we called in when I was in school many years ago. Pics in the gallery and a video of teachers playing some instruments and the tug of war. It was a ton of fun! Also, they had soccer matches for all teams and the two teams with the most wins played each other for the championship and got to hold the school banner. It went to kicks from the mark and everyone crowded around to watch. It was FANTASTIC! Nice to see soccer be the main sport rather than stupid American football! There really wasn't much for me to do so I kind of just watched and pretended to do some lesson planning on the side... hehe.
Market Day (1st and 3rd Friday of every month) : I had been meaning to do a blog about market day and all the things in the streets for sale. It's quite odd to just see live and dead things just sitting there for you to choose from. One day they had puppies and I REALLY hope they were for pets because this market is mostly food items. I'm seriously guessing they were for pets with the way they were being handled.... Pics speak for themselves, hit up the gallery!
This past weekend my language exchange family, the Kos', invited me to go with them for a "Temple Stay" in the mountains of Ulsan. In ended up being not so much a temple stay but a weekend seminar on meditation and other workshops associated with Buddhism. i attended several seminars and did a lot of meditation, but since I don't understand Korean it ended up being a lot of napping which is fine with me! Saturday rained all day and the weather was miserable. It was a little bit colder in the mountains and the rain just made it worse. In the morning there was a small stream trickling down the mountain but by the evening it was full blown white water rapids. I had decided to buy myself a birthday gift ( a new camera), but I didn't get much use out of it the first day. The second day however I got some great pics. There really isn't anything to highlight about the temple stay other than it was nice to see a little bit more of Korea. They drove but were staying an extra day and I had to come back Sunday for work on Monday. I took the KTX (Korea's high speed train) from Ulsan to Daejeon and then hopped in a taxi for a short ride to Seodaejeon and then a regular train to Iksan. The trains were pretty cheap in my opinion. The high speed rail was 25,800 won and the regular train was only 5,200. Both trips were about an hour. Daejeon is huge and it piqued my interest just a little to see a larger city. It seemed like there was a lot going on!
So head on over to the gallery to check out my pics. A lot of them were messing with the settings on my camera but rather than only show you a few I included them all. Enjoy!
I started a language exchange with a family named the Ko's. I am helping their 12 year-old son practice English and his mother is teaching me Korean. Yesterday was the first day we worked on Korean and it was an excellent start. I am starting with the basics and she provided a great foundation with the alphabet and numbers. I am really fortunate to have found a great family to do this with as some language exchange tends to be one sided. So far it is working out beneficial for both of us. She is also fluent in Spanish so whatever she can't explain in English she is able to do in Spanish so both of us speaking that language has been helpful as well.
They invited me to a "Temple Stay" in Ulsan last weekend. I will write a blog post and add photos to the gallery later today so stay tuned!
If you haven't caught NBC's "Awake" yet you are missing out on one of the more refreshing shows out there. "Awake" stars the guy who plays Lucious Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies. His name escapes me. Something Isaacs?? He plays a detective Britten, a man who just awoke from a serious car accident to find himself living in two realities. In one reality, his wife died in the car accident and his son survived. In the other reality, his wife survived and his son died. Right away it's an interesting gripping plot. He goes to a psychiatrist in each reality, solves crimes, interacts with his wife and son, and pretty much lives a normal life. He wears a colored band throughout the day to remind him which reality he is in. You have to watch it if you haven't gotten a chance. The best is at the end of every episode introduction you hear the female psychiatrist say, " I can assure you Detective Britten this is not a dream" in which he replies, "That's what the other shrink keeps telling me".
Oh, and the other two actors I recognize are the male psychiatrist who was one of the high up feds giving orders in "Prison Break" and Fez from "That 70's Show" plays a younger detective partner in one reality to Britten (in the other he is still on patrol).
So this past Friday I played football with the kids for the first time. I am completely out of shape and knowing that i'm a soon to be 36 year old running around with kids half my age it was going to be a challenge. I certainly didn't hold my own but I wasn't a waste of space out there either. A few more Friday's and I think i'll be able to join the other guys my age and play some competitive games in the future. The kids did a great job of making me feel welcomed and didn't act like I was a teach infringing on their club time. They seemed to willingly involve me. We will see if that continues though. I told them i'd be back every Friday so we'll see. They did laugh pretty hard when the only shot I took flew over the net heading towards the street. I did have a few assists though...
After football the teachers had a get together. It was ANOTHER rainy Friday so it was indoors. They had a few games set up but the main game was volleyball and I got called to action right away (think my height had something to do with it, lol). It was so much fun. The teachers were really good at teamwork and they were constantly setting the ball to me. The were really organized, unselfish, and not bumbling around like most times I play volleyball with an older crowd. I was thoroughly impressed. Anyway, kill after kill I was beginning to get annoyed if somebody got a hand on the ball even if we won the point. Don't get me wrong, I was stoned a few times and our team actually lost two out of three games, but I was on fire!
In the end reality sets in that I am a scrub surrounded by 17 year olds but an Adonis in the 40-60 Korean crowd. I did get a lot of exposure and had a lot of teachers come up and commend me on my performance. I also had my own little group of cheerleaders that I never caught a hold of after the game to thank. It was a great time and I enjoyed the comraderie the teachers seemed to have with each other. I look forward to future events!
Not a long post here. I went to a Korean Theater for the first time. It was awesome because they had kiosks with English options. Gotta love that! It was a movie called Battleship. They had Korean subtitles of course which is only a minor distraction so no complaints. It was a very pro American military and even Japanese military movie so it was funny to hear some Koreans clapping at the end. I am not going to do a review, it was just a big manly action movie with a rehashed plot but it wasn't bad. The only real difference between the Korean theater that I can note is you purchase your seat like you would at a sporting event. When I went to buy the ticket the movie was starting in 5 minutes and there was one seat left towards the back and all the rest available were right in front of the screen. It's pretty much the same as if you show up late and all the seats are filled. I sat in row K seat 4 and no one sank my Battleship...