This is the Blog for Scott's Uhls's vicissitudes in Ulsan, South Korea.
Friday, April 17, 2009
Alright, now that it is officially Saturday where I am, I am down to one day before my exams. Yes, Exams. I'm not just taking one exam, but two exams. I will be taking the TOPIK beginner exam from 9am to noon-thirty and then I take the Intermediate exam from 2pm to five-thirty. The idea behind this is that I'm sure I can pass the Beginner test, but if I fail the intermediate test, then I get nothing. They don't say, "Oh, well, he did good enough to know Korean." No, they just give me nothing. So, in case I fail, I decided that I should take the Beginner test too.
I'm not ready for that either.
But I'm pretty sure that I will be able to squeak my way through that one. Not because I'm all full of myself, but because I'm in the University of Ulsan's intermediate class and I'm in the POE's "Advanced" class, so either scale would agree that I've got enough of an understanding to squeek through the beginner level.
Doesn't mean I'm not stressed.
Anyway, I just wanted to write in this blog to de-stress. I was thinking of writting an hourly update on my progress toward the TOPIK exam, but then I thought "Since when did my blog become my twitter account?" so I decided against that. Basically, I'm just studying at 2:30am 'cause I slept through most of yesterday (I'm fasting so I didn't have dinner, which meant that I fell asleep at 5, right after I got back, and just slept until midnight). The idea is that I will study until I get tired again and then sleep, and then wake up and get stuff done and then fall asleep again, and basically completely mess up my sleep schedule that way I don't know if I'm coming or going during the test. That should increase my success, right???
Yeah, sure. And monkeys like to watch the NY Stock Exchange.
No, I'm sick. I woke up this morning (and by that I mean Friday morning) to find that I was more sick then before. Is it stress? Maybe. Is it my body trying to let me in on something? Most likely. But I don't have time to talk to it. After the TOPIK, I can sit, relax, and let myself recover. In fact, coming up around Golden Week time, it's Buddha's birthday and Childrens day, so I'll actually be able to sleep. After that, I want to take a trip to Singapore or Hong Kong, because they're so close and I would be incredibly dumb not to take advantage of that.
But right now, I gotta worry about passing my TOPIK exam. You know, 'cause I really want to be justified in my patronization of the Foreigners who have been here longer and know less Korean than me. Of course, the fact that I'm fasting and asking for the gift of tongues is balanced out by my desire to call my brother Racca. Dang. I really need to get back into congruency. I mean, how mean is my desire? How much of a jerk am I?
But seriously though, I was thinking about it today and was thinking that there's no excuse really. See, even if I started working for a company and they sent me out to the most remote part of the world for whatever reason, I think that I would still not be like these people I keep referring to. Consider than these people have been in Korea for 10+ years and still don't have a basic foundation. Or, consider the fact that there are people who arrived the same time I did, and this not being Thomas but being like the people in my "Advanced Korean" class with the POE, and they still miss pronounce many words...
..of course, there's a few things that I need to consider here if I'm going to break these people down. 1) I should not be judging them in the first place, lest I be judged with the same judgement that I judge upon them, 2) perhaps I'm not the best judge anyway, as I seem to be divinely gifted for this particular subject, thus changing my perspective, and 3) they likely have other qualities which I do not posses that make things different in their particular circumstances.
For example, one of these said people may, in fact, be a way better english teacher than I am (which I totally believe is highly likely situation). Or, perhaps these people have been spending their time developing highly fulfilling relationships.
BUT, I can't say that is the case for all of these people, because I KNOW that some of them are actually just wasting their time, as they have told me about their situations in detail. That still doesn't mean that I'm not just more blessed then they are, but let's remove the possible outliers and look directly at some of the people who I know I can talk about with some certainty (assuming of course that they have other qualities that still make them good people, but I'm examining their language abilities, not their worth as a person. I know that these people have great worth, especially in the eyes of the Lord).
Two acquaintences of mine have been in Korean for 15+ years. These gentleman have Korean wives and jobs here in Korea. One is part of a small business trying to promote new works in the Tech field, and the other owns a foreigner bar and has been part of several small business endavours such as this. But both of these men have been held back by their lack of language skills. In my mind, if they are married to someone who speaks another language fluently (and in the case of one of them, has a couple of children who speak Korean as their native language but English as their nearly native second solely based on him being their father) and has been married to this person for years, they should have been able to learn a significant amount just from attempting to create dialogues with their spouse. Also, if they have been busy with business in this country, and they've been hindered by language, why haven't they tried to rectify this situation?
For clarification purposes, one of these men has been trying, but seems to have a complete inability to perform basic pronunciation exercises. Strangely enough, this same person speaks at least 2 other languages as well, being a part-time professor of French at the Uni.
I blame this kind of situation on lifestyle choices. They could have but they didn't. This brings me to some other aquaintences who also seem to have a problem with the Korean language. These aquaintences haven't been in Korea much longer than myself but don't seem to have any understanding of tense or grammar. Why? The answer can only be found when you look at their lifestyle. This group generally spends their time after teaching communicating with each other or going out for drinks. Most of these people go to foreigner bars, where they can order in english. They drink, they might go to a Karaoke place (which always has songs in english), and sometimes inter-date. This means that their lifestyle is much the same as living in the US, with the added benefit of less bills and thus more spending money. But, their life is almost completely in english. These people are the ones that make it hard for me to ride in Taxis or meet new people, because they help develop the belief that all foreigners are here to get drunk and try to pick up korean chicks. Thanks guys.
Now, considering my own complaints about trying to learn Korean, I'm sure there are many ways to justify these people's behavior, but I think that it's more of a situation of laziness than of actual inability. It's a question of application. Many of this latter group have just finished school (college) and are still in that transitional period before entering the "real world." Some people would call this an admirable move of maintaining ones youth as long as possible, and such "youth maintainence" actions are good things, but when you completely forget about learning because you "are bored with it," well, you don't get any sympathy from me.
I say again that I would not be like them if I were put in some far reaching place in the world. They leave work eventually, right? I mean, they drink and have fun often with their foreigner friends, so they obviously have free time. Why don't they use some of that free time to study? Some of these people are always trying to pick up girls at the bars and clubs. Why don't they try talking to these girls in their own language?
See, now you can go ahead and throw these questions back at me, but I actually can respond. I do study with my free time, and I do attempt to talk to people in Korean. However, more than I few times have I said something in Korean, thinking it was the correct sentense, only to have it thrown back at me with the question, "What the hell are you talking about?" That's really disheartening. But you can ask Eun-mi or Taseol, or anyone that gets a text from me these days, I try to use korean with people who I know understand it. I would do the same thing if I was in Nepal, Norway, Argentina or the Phillipines. If you are in the nation, it is really dumb to waste the opportunity and not get to know the people. And how can you get to know the people if you don't understand what they are talking about?
Well, now that I've ranted about something that's been bothering me for a while, it's time to get back to TOPIK studying.
Mountain Dew Drinking, Japanese and Korean speaking, story writing nerd who doesn't exactly spend all his days in his basement doing nothing, but don't be surprised if you find my laptop filled to the brim with downloaded TV shows like Battlestar Galactica, Dark Angel, Supernatural, The Wire, or the occasional anime. I lived in Japan for 2 years, and lost a whole lot of my manga/anime fanatacism, but I also learned to love Manga. 2 years in Korea reminded me that I can do the impossible.
I've got the perspective, if you are willing to listen then I'll give you low down on whatever you want to know.