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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

마이 읽어요 = mani ilgoyo = many read = read a lot

(Those are the steps one has to go through to turn Korean into English, or vice versa. You’ve got to deal with alphabet changes and massive syntactical changes, which show up more in more complicated sentences, in addition to all the normal vocabulary issues.)

What have I been doing recently? Let’s start with an easier question, perhaps “what are you doing now?” Well, I’m sitting in my room preparing the post, since at school I generally only use the computer for about 30 minutes at a time, and it’s almost guaranteed that during the last 10 or so there will children watching me and perhaps even tugging on me or trying to type. And they inevitably keep groaning “teeeeeeeeeeacher” over and over, since their English isn’t good enough to say much else.

Anyhow, back to now. I didn’t head to the gym this morning, since I mysteriously contracted some pinkeye and so will have to go to see a doctor before work with my boss. I’ll also have him check out my throat, because I’m afraid that pesky laryngitis may be planning to lay siege on my throat again.

I’m sipping on a little shake that I made with the cheapy little mixer/blender that I bought at the superstore sometime in the past few weeks when it was on sale. Actually, lots of things were on sale, and stuff was sort of sloppily labeled, and so I read the sign for a $7.90 iron and thought it was for the mixer (in Korean, “miksoh”), which actually cost $12.90. So when I got past the cash register and looked at my receipt, I went to the customer service desk and was able to tell the people what happened. They confirmed that I had made a mistake, but I decided just to keep the mixer anyway, because mixing stuff is pretty nice. My shake is composed of a banana, some canned pineapple, some canned peach, and some peach juice, all blended up. As for food, a friend prepared “chapchae” (what we usually call chop suey, I think) for her family and made a little extra for me. So I’m snacking out of a Tupperware filled with cellophane noodles, hot peppers, carrots, onions, strips of tofu (I think that’s what it is), strips of spinach, and strips of ham. I think I’ll need to learn how to make this.

The only thing atypical about this morning, besides the sickness, is that I didn’t go to the gym and am planning to leave for work before noon. Usually – because the lady who gave me this chapchae also gave me one of her extra bikes – I leave for work at about 2:10, after waking up around 9-9:30, having some tea and a little bit of yachaeppang (vegetable bread) for breakfast, spending 2 or 2.5 hours at the gym playing squash, studying Korean (with help), helping people with English, or just chatting, and then coming home and having lunch around 1ish.

The Korean is coming along quite well and generally my Korean grammar, at least for relatively simple matters, is better than most Korean people’s English grammar. But they all have much bigger vocabularies. Just go give an example, I surprised my boss’s husband (who speaks very little English) by explaning to him that I didn’t need a ride home since I had received a bike and ridden it to school that day. He asked where it was and I told him where I had parked it. I say it surprised him because I guess I don’t speak very much Korean at school (the kids, especially the little ones, go a little bonkers and won’t concentrate, and they just keep yelling “uri mal haeboseyo” [our language speak-try-please]), but I speak a good deal at the gym and if I go out for lunch and dinner, so he didn’t quite know how much I had picked up.

As you may well know, I’m not too skilled with bikes, but so far I’ve managed to ride it to the gym and to the academy several times without so much as endangering myself or anyone else.
Another recent acquisition is my cell phone, which was on sale for $10 at the store and which has a camera and mp3 player and organizer and all sorts of other spiffy stuff – though it doesn’t have a Korean dictionary. The phone plan costs 13 dollars a month and gives me unlimited text messages and incoming calls, but costs something like 1.8 cents for 10 seconds of outgoing. So if I call out, I still do it from home. Hopefully now I’ll be a little more willing to go exploring downtown or even outside of Daegu, since I’ve got a little added safety. If I could get a dictionary installed on this bad boy, I’d be set.

OK, so about those pictures below. Sometime near the end of march, I believe, a friend English-named Sally took me to gyeongju, a city sort of on the eastern coast. It’s famous for its cherry blossom tress, so those are the white thingies that you see in some of the pictures below. There are also some cool Buddha statues from a museum we went to, which has a lot of neat artifacts from the Shilla dynasty, but I don’t remember when that was. Lots of knives and arrows and spears and other stuff that Jamal would love; and lots of bowls and jewelry and spoons and stuff that maybe some anthropologist friends like Marisa would dig (HA pun). After the museum we went to a totally awesome lake-retreat that the emperor made all his little peons build for him. It’s got lots of curves and inlets and they’re arranged just so that there’s no one point on the lake from which you can see all the rest, even though it’s rather small. Originally there were something like 19 or 24 buildings around it, but now all that’s left are the foundations. The ones you see in the pictures are attempted reconstructions.

After pacing around the lake for a while, we got stuck in traffic for an absurdly long time and then went to eat something called “ssambap.” Bap (pronounced like “bop,” the synonym of “whap”) means rice and I don’t know what ssam is. The meal was a little more ornate than usually. Korean meals always come with side dishes; some only come with a bowl of broth and another bowl of kimchi; some also come with anchovies, cucumbers, yellow radishes, garlic, onions, bean pastes, peppers, tofus, other radishes, other vegetables, egg things, and who knows what else. This ssambap meal came with more sides than I’ve ever seen, and I’m not exactly sure what the main part of the meal was, though I suspect it was that fish that we dismantled.
Then we went to some huge temple, which may have been called donghwasa, though I could be making that up. Lots of rooms with gilded Buddhas – which of course confused me, since as far as I know Buddhists believe that the material and sensible world is an illusion, and since if I believed that I wouldn’t bother making gold statues and tapestries and what not – and lots of other rooms which were empty. The architecture does look pretty cool and it’s as ornate as lots of the churches in Europe.

Then we walked through the big park with all the cherry blossom trees and took a few pictures. By then it was getting dark (maybe 7PMish), so we were thinking about going home, but traffic was still terrible, so we decided just to go the other way. We drove up the mountain but whatever place was up at the summit was closed, so we went back down and Sally made me arbitrarily pick somewhere to go based on road signs that I didn’t understand, and we wound up at the beach where you could look across to an island where someone had buried some king’s remains. Then we went and ate jjajangmyon (noodles in black bean sauce) and tangsuyuk (sweet and sour pork) at a Chinese restaurant. By now it was about 9pm, but the streets were still packed, so we just wandered around until it was too cold, and then we went into the Hilton hotel and sat around in the lounge and listened to music while drinking $10 milkshakes. I’m not sure what the deal was with the teddy bear bus stop, but I liked the mustachioed bear so I took a picture with him.

Then we left there, maybe at 11, and the roads were still packed, so we stopped at some wild market with clowns, skits, restaurants, dollar stores, gambling games, and a skinny, deformed midget – Sally actually thought he was a monkey at first – playing a drum. I kind of wish I had taken a picture of him, but I didn’t have my camera out and I would have felt guilty.
Finally, at midnight, the roads were clear enough and we got on the road, and made it back to Ch’ilgok (the name of our suburb) at about 1. Exhausting day. So exhausting that since then I haven’t left the city again, though I think I probably went downtown once and wandered around a little more. Nothing of interest happened though.

One other thing. I’ve discovered a new restaurant here called “chiarestaurant” (I believe that’s their attempt to spell “chinarestaurant”), which has really cheap food. Jjajangmyon is $1.50, dumplings are the same, jjajangbap is $2.50, fried rice is 3, chapchae with jjajangbap is $3.50, etc. It’s wonderful. The only downside is that the cooks and waitresses at the other restaurants I used to frequent more frequently now always ask me “wae an wassoyo,” why didn’t you come. Up until this last week, I didn’t know the name of the days of the week, so I could only explain by saying “yesterday I did this and yesterdayyesterday I did this…” But now I’ve learned the days – ilyoil woryoil hwayoil suyoil mogyoil kumyoil toyoil – and so I can manage it.
Phew, that was a fat post. Speaking of fat, I think I’ve put on a kilo or two (I’m up to 65.5) (with shoes and clothes), probably from all the delicious dumplings that I eat. Though of course there’s always the [remote] possibility that the gym time has actually resulted in some muscle gain. But I don’t think that’s the case.

충분해요 = choongboon haeyo = (it) enough does = that’s enough. Oh yeah, I forgot to write about my birthday. Maybe next time. Oh yeah, I forgot to explain those muscly pictures. Maybe next time on those, too.