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Posts Tagged ‘Korean’

It’s been over a month now since I turned 37. Life is going well in many respects – but it’s also pretty tiring.

I think it’s fair to say that my birthday celebrations were a great success. About twenty people came to the meal at a British-style fish and chips place in Sinchon in Seoul called Battered Soul. The menu wasn’t very diverse – the was little choice outside fish and chips – but they had plenty of beer and most people were satisfied with what they got (one American friend was somewhat disappointed by the fish cakes – she had never had them before). I got Guinness-battered cod and chips – along with a pint of Guinness.

After that, we headed off to Hongdae, where we went for drinks at a hookah bar (my sister had been rather confused when I told her this via Skype; my default pronunciation of ‘hookah’ is the same as ‘hooker’); after that, we went to Luxury Noraebang – a fancy karaoke place; and after that, those remaining went to a bar/club for another drink or two and dancing.

It was a long and tiring but very satisfying night. I’m very grateful to all those who came out with me – most of whom were friends that I’ve made since I returned to Korea in November. I think it’s a mark of how much I’ve developed as a person, even in just the last seven months, that so many people chose to celebrate with me.

And, although I’m not going on as many tour group trips as I did in my first few months back in the country, I’m continuing to meet new people. There have been several birthdays in the last six or seven weeks, and I’ve met new people at all of them – even my own; and there are more birthdays in the coming few weeks. I’m also continuing with my coffee mornings – I met several new people just yesterday – and I’ve attended a local language exchange group a couple of times. In Seoul, the meetings of the Tolkien discussion group are going well, and we’ll be talking about The Hobbit soon (stayed up far too late last night reading it – the hot weather is not conducive to sleep).

Finally, I’m organising little events of my own to try to bring some of my acquaintances together and develop those tentative relationships into more solid friendships. I got a few people together recently to see the new Star Trek film – an action-packed disappointment, by the way – and I will be getting some people together to go to a rose festival and modern art exhibition at Seoul Grand Park on Saturday.

I’ve been stepping up my efforts to learn Korean and, to this end, I’ve started attending classes twice a week. My teacher is a Korean woman who takes various lessons in the living room of her apartment near to where I live. She is very sweet and very patient – which latter quality is essential for teaching me, as my brain hates being forced to communicate in an alien tongue. I’m slowly getting there, though. I feel more comfortable speaking Korean with my Seoul-based language exchange partner – but she’s always off travelling the world, so I don’t get to see her as often as I’d like.

My cat, Acalia, is really starting to act like a real pet – as is her duty, of course. It’s been a slow process, but she has continually built up her confidence and her liking for me has grown and grown. Whereas previously, I’d come home and not see her, and she hardly ever made a sound, these days, she is generally keen to get attention. I always find her lying on the bed when I come back home. When I enter the living room, she hurriedly gets off the bed – she’s still quite skittish – but then she follows me around and meows continuously, though not annoyingly, until I spend some time petting her.

She still doesn’t like being picked up for more than a couple of seconds and, when I move to pet her, she will sometimes either avoid me or duck her head as if she’s afraid of being struck. But she purrs very readily once I start stroking her and she enjoys the attention. She also like to chase stringy things. I made a toy out of a pizza box ribbon and the handle of a spatula (the rubber head of which I use as a cat fur-remover) and it never fails to rouse her interest.

If I offer her a finger to sniff, she always bites it – which I have mixed feelings about. It’s cute, but it’s also a bad habit that I should maybe try to wean her off. She also has very watery eyes – a feature of her breed (exotic shorthair), apparently. It wouldn’t be too bad if her eyes were merely watery, but the liquid that gathers around her eyes is pretty gunky. She leaves spots of dried, brown fluid all over the place. I clean her eyes with damp kitchen towel, which, naturally, she doesn’t like, but she doesn’t fight against it too much.

I also made her a bed out of a big cardboard box that contained my new fan. The bed has an open compartment and a closed compartment. I cut my old bathmat in half to carpet each side of it, and I made an arch strut for the covered side so it doesn’t collapse when she sits on the top – or jumps on to it, as it’s right under the window.

Work is going well. I’m taking advantage of the relaxed regime to do some more creative but English-related things with my classes. For instance, in the past week or so, I’ve had many of my kids making wordsearches and crosswords. Now that I’m more than halfway through my contract and near halfway through the calendar year, I’m starting to think about what I will do in the next six months or so. Well, I’ve been thinking about it for a good while, and I pretty much know what my plan is; I’m just starting to worry more about what exactly to do. The downside of keeping busy at weekends is that I don’t have much time to dedicate to the thought and research needed for this planning. That’s something I should schedule for the coming weeks – before it’s too late.

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It’s been a depressing kind of a week. Having finally started work on the text of my novel the previous week – the novel that everyone keeps asking me about and that barely exists – this week the going has been hard and slow.

I’ve been trying to spend a fair amount of time on it; Monday and Tuesday are pretty much write-offs in terms of novel work, however – on Monday I have a blog post to research and write, while on Tuesday I have a roleplaying game to prepare for. Then the rest of the week I was plagued by a lack of sleep, which saw me getting up at progressively later and later times, cutting my writing time short.

Then when I did try to write, it didn’t flow at like it had on the second day (when I got a couple of thousand words down). On Wednesday I tried to rewrite the scene that I’d started, and got bogged down in the details of the logic of my protrayal of the characters – basically, I changed how they reacted and then had to incorporate the new with the old without completely redoing everything. I still got a thousand words done that day.

Then I spent a chunk of time drawing maps of a keep because I couldn’t visualise the characters’ walk through it. Useful work, I suppose, now that it’s done, but it takes up time and it’s pretty superfluous to the end product. Then I worried about not knowing what the characters were going to do in the immediate future.

By the time I finally felt a little happier about progressing on Friday, my daily output had dwindled to less than 600 words. That said, I started pretty late on Friday and had homework to do in advance of my Korean class.

The Korean class has been distinctly less than marvelous, too. The teacher spends most of the time talking – and very quickly – and doesn’t provide many opportunities for the students to speak. Still it was my last class with her for the time being – after a test on Friday, I progressed the next level.

Another thing that’s been bothering me has been pain in my left hip and in my left shoulder. Also, inability to sleep. These things seem to be reciprocal: sleeping on my side has probably given me a sore shoulder, which now makes it harder for me to sleep. I imagine my writing also factors into the equation: my experience this past week has left me feeling like I have no imagination and barely have the ability to string words into sentences (even my ability to have a conversation seems to be dwindling away). And if I can’t even make a go of writing, what the hell am I supposed to do with my life?

On the plus side, I started reading Joe Abercrombie’s The Blade Itself and it’s shaping up to be pretty good.

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(That’s ‘English breakfast tea’ transliterated into Korean Hangul (‘잉글리쉬 브렉퍼스트 티’) then transliterated back into Roman characters – which demonstrates how clunkily Hangul represents languages other than Korean.)

I just bought myself a cup of tea at a Starbucks in Myeongdong. The barrista made me smile (not something I do often when I’m out and about these days). After asking, ‘Hot?’ she gestured at my travel cup and asked, ‘In?’ then she gestured at the price display on the till and said, ‘Dis.’ (‘This.’)

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