Thursday, November 27, 2008


someone once told me i should marry a linguist.  a small part of me is realizing more and more how incredible that would be.  

as i break through the surface of this world across the world from "home," i begin to indulge my unknown desire for languages other than my own.  sure, i learned a bit of spanish, a bit of Russian, and even a bit of Ukrainian, but i have never been immersed into an unknown culture speaking an unknown tongue for so long before.  it's incredible.  being here hearing nothing but Korean spoken everywhere i go forces me to listen intently to the patterns of speech with what little grammar patterns i know.  i watch expressions, listen for vocal inflections, and hear each and every phrase or small word i know.  i am amazed at the amount of simple conversation i can understand just following these patterns.  having only three lessons in Korean, i am indebted to the seemedly simple structure of the Korean language system and the great amount of expression in each person's vocal inflections.

yes, i realize my words are so completely immature in judgement, but i wanted to make sure i expressed this as the Korean language is unveiled before my eyes.  i am so grateful that i have this opportunity to learn a language while living in its native country.  what a blessing!  It is Thanksgiving after all.  I will reflect.

I think everyone studying to teach English to English speakers should have a time where they teach to non-native English speakers.  Most of us forget how we originally learned English.  We forget all the patterns, constantly learning vocabulary, and all the time it took.  May I be so bold as to say that we, as native English speakers, got it easy?  Do you realize how many people in nations all around the world spend excessive amounts of money and time learning the language that we were taught for free from day one?  

Katy's Warm Korean Fruit Compote Cocktail

Recipe (serves 3):

1 red apple
1 persimmon
2 kiwifruits, peeled
2 Tbsp raw sugar, appx
1-2 cup water, appx
1-2 cup peach milk (it's like a SoBe juice), appx
Splash of plum wine

1. Cut all fruit.  Leave the peels on the apple and persimmon to boost flavor.
2. Put all ingredients in a lidded pot on high heat until it boils.  Stir occasionally.
3. Set pot on low heat. Boil for about 10 minutes.
4. Enjoy the deliciousness.

This was my Thanksgiving, y'all.  Myself alone creating a wondrous delight for my (and your)  tummy completely by accident.  I consider it my cornucopia, for which I am very thankful.  :)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Almost a month...


This is my second report from Seoul, South Korea…the first can be found on my blog at  Family members hearing from me for the first time: I nabbed your emails from the email Gabe recently sent home to you.  Friends hearing from me for the first time: why didn’t you read my blog before now?? >(

I have been here almost a month and I can hardly believe it.  Oh how I am always surprised at how quickly time flies.  I had my first Korean lesson on Sunday, but I don’t know if I learned anything.  Unfortunately, I entered during the middle of a beginner class, so the other students are not on my level.  I feel I might learn more by teaching myself, but I will ignore that temptation of antisocial behavior.  For now, the lessons I take are free (though only once a week), so I shall continue.

Gabe and Min have been my personal tour guides—I am so thankful they are sharing Korea with me so willingly!  This past Saturday, we went to the Seoul Grand Park Zoo. J  I was thrilled, honestly, because I haven’t been to a zoo in a very long time.  As far as I know, I’ve never seen so many genetically modified animals in one day…Gabe informs me that Korea is one of the (if not the main) national leaders in cloning…it makes me wonder if you could consider it a zoo with real animals or not.  The raccoon/dog mix was certainly something I’ve never seen before.  Two weeks ago, Gabe and Min took me to Seooreung in western Seoul, the burial site of five tombs of royalty that lived during the Joseon Dynasty.  That was a day filled with beautiful nature, changing leaves, and a lovely hike.  It is true when ‘they’ say you never really appreciate something until you no longer have it—I cried, literally holding back tears, when I saw the mountains surrounding Seoul for the first time.  I had been in the city for 2 weeks, walled in with smog and high city buildings.  A lump formed in my throat at the sight of mountains directly ahead as I rode in the passenger side of the bus during our school field trip to the Museum of Natural History.  I guess I forgot all the times people told me you can see the mountains from nearly wherever you are in Seoul—a city surrounded by mountains.  Therefore, back in my apartment on a very clear Sunday afternoon, I looked out my window on the 8th floor and beheld mountains.

Apart from those two weekend days, I have been solo here.  Slowly, I am meeting people and making friends.  I really want to find a dance place (where I can continue Swing and Ballroom), but I haven’t had luck searching online in my area.  Apparently, I did miss the Seoul Lindy Exchange—I was even here that weekend, but oh well.  Each time I do something new (like take my laundry to the cleaners or order food at a street-side restaurant), it takes me about 10 extra minutes to get out the door, because I am afraid to just take that one step out of my apartment… but finally taking that one step and closing the door in the face of fear behind me just makes each additional step that much easier.  The language barrier is my greatest fear…I think it’s actually my greatest fear even in English—I don’t know what to say in this situation or in that situation.  I love the way my English school director communicates with me: she doesn’t compose English sentences well, though I am increasingly impressed with her reading and object recognition abilities in English.  Basically, her communication to me consists of her speaking what she knows in English, telling me the rest in her most familiar language of Korean, and then cleaning up her sentences with greater clarity in English for me.  Communication takes a longer amount of time, but the message gets to me—and we have fun in the meanwhile.  It really puts a smile on my face to see how proud she is after successfully completing with me what is really a difficult conversation for her.   Those of you who know me well know how hard it is for me to communicate deep feelings or difficult situations verbally.  Those of you who have encouraged me along the way to just “spit it out and clean it up later” will be happy to hear that I am learning that very same message now as I write this halfway across the world. 

 As I pause to collect my thoughts after I scattered them into the words of the last paragraph, I realize I cannot write more than one truly meaningful thing in a journal entry or letter home.  My mind is overwhelmed now with thoughts of communication.  I am thankful that truth of the last paragraph found its way onto paper, since it was roaming in my mind still uncollected from my experiences here.  You know how they say a good pastor preaches to himself when he addresses his church?  Well, I now believe the same is true with writers. 

I say goodnight to you all…I love you, as always.


Katy Shea