Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Subway is Great for Studying

Now that I moved all the way across the city, I have to take the subway for about an hour and a half, then transfer to a bus for a total trip of about 2 hours to tutor my one student. I believe I introduced him before.... Just in case, I'll explain again/for the first time. That day that I was so miserable I decided to go to a bar alone for some drinking, I made friends with the manager of that bar. She then called two of her friends to come join us. One of those friends is an English teacher for little kids. That friend, 선화 언니 (Big Sister Sunhwa) got me a job tutoring her friend's son. The boy's name is 지호 (Jiho) and he's in 5th grade. Later this summer, he and his mother will go to Canada for 8 weeks, so his mother wants him to learn some English really quickly and get used to speaking and listening. So, I get paid about $30 US dollars per hour to talk to him in English and get him used to culture. I go there every Tuesday and Thursday from 5pm to 6:30pm. 지호 (Jiho) was extremely shy at first, but now is eager to show me things and tries hard to make me understand. Sometimes he uses Korean and I can understand a little, but I told him to assume that I can't speak any Korean at all. He showed me some of his schoolwork, and the math and drawing are especially impressive. I think he can do both better than I can! He loves soccer and he likes baseball, too. His favorite books are Le Petit Prince, Charlotte's Web, and a short series of Korean books. Of course, he reads translated versions of the former two in Korean. His English is extremely limited. But, he's a very fast learner and a good speller.

Last night (Tuesday night) I kept my promise to visit my bar manager friend, 마찌마찌 이모 (Mazzi Mazzi (bar name) maternal aunt) on a weekly basis. After tutoring I went to 까치산 (Ggachisan) and walked around the familiar streets, which was amusingly surreal. Then I played piano at the church for an hour, waiting for the bar to open at 9. I went to the bar, but a part-timer said my friend would be in around 10:10 (oddly specific) so I went to 까치산역 (Ggachisan station) and read/studied until I fell asleep (subway/subway station sleep is like a light half-sleep state, more like recharging than sleeping).

A side note here: I bought a book that fits roughly in the religious philosophy genre a while ago. It was originally written by a Korean pastor in an attempt to combine Christianity, Buddhism, and Taoism into his thought processes, but my copy is a translated text in French. Needless to say, it is not an easy topic to read in a second language. French isn't really necessary for me to study, so it's kind of a fun thing for me to kill time on the subway or while waiting for people to read it, underlining words I don't know and jotting down notes like "false cognate?" or writing smiley faces next to phrases I particularly like. I'm almost halfway done with it now.

Anyway, around 10, who should call but my best friend 은영 (Jenny)!! We made plans for this afternoon. I figured I'd stay at the bar until closing (4am) then study in the station until the first train home (5:30am), then sleep a little bit, then get ready and go talk to a teacher at a Korean Language Institute in 분당 (Bundang) at 10am, then get on the subway immediately to meet her on the other side of the city at 12pm, then leave at 5pm to meet my friend 래욱 (Raewook, English name Eddie) back on the east side for dinner at 6pm, then return home and sleep. Take into account I got 3 hours of sleep the night before.

After hanging up the phone, I headed to the bar and, as usual, got a couple of beers and some food and had a nice chat. After a while 미주 (Miju) came to join me, which was great because we don't see each other much anymore. She says my Korean is getting better :) Unfortunately 주환 (Joohwan) and my old landlord couldn't come, but I'll go there every week so there will be many chances to see them. 미주 (Miju) invited me to come back to her room and sleep a little before getting on the subway because she didn't want me to be alone from 4am to 5:30am, which was a very good idea. So we went there, again surreal because I lived there less than a week ago and now I was a guest, and I got up for the early train. I got home around 7:30am and decided to sleep from 7:45 to 8:00. I woke up at 12:30 to a text message from 은영 (Jenny) asking where I was. Awesome.

Anyway I finally ACTUALLY woke up around 4pm, took a shower, and read the email from 서 선생님 (Mr. Seo) who teaches at a 한국어 학원 (Korean acadamy) next to 서현역 (Seohyeon station), which is where I live now. That was a lot of Korean in one sentence for you guys, wasn't it? Haha. He gave me directions to the place, so I memorized them because they were very simple. He said to go out from 서현역 3번 출구 (Seohyeon station exit gate number 3) and take the left overpass to the SH Sienne building, and 굿모닝 어학원 (Good Morning Academy) would be on the second floor. I entered the station and looked EVERYWHERE for an exit 3. I couldn't find it, and I was running out of time because I had to meet my friend for dinner. So I asked a guy standing by a door in a suit with an earpiece (these people are there just to answer questions, basically), "SH Sienne Building 이 어디에 있어요? 알아요?" ("Where is the SH Sienne Building? Do you know?") He was very confused at the name and said something like, "Is that a store in AK Plaza?" (AK Plaza is the giant mall attached to the station, which is technically where he works). I responded, "AK Plaza 에 없어요." ("It's not in AK Plaza.") and I pointed outside. Then he asked me to repeat the name, so I wrote it down, at which point he pulled a small map out of his pocket, looked at it for a while, and called for help. I heard the word "외국인" which means foreigner, a word I hear almost every day. After all that, we had been practically staring at the building the entire time. I think sometimes I can be so smart and so stupid at the same time. So, I thanked him and walked the one or two minutes across the street to the SH Sienne building.

Apparently I'm at a low intermediate level of Korean according to this particular academy's standards. Their classes consist of 3-8 people, and the one that would work best for me is a little advanced for me, but the other classes would be too easy. I'm a very fast learner. As I told Mr. Seo, I was that kid in French, Japanese, and Korean class who never studied and got the highest score. He seemed very excited by that. He was also very impressed with my Korean skill, as I had told him that I'd studied for one semeseter at MSU and the rest was from teaching myself by talking to friends. The class is Tuesday through Thursday. I told him I will decide and get back to him by Monday. It's appealing, but I was talking to one of my friends on MSN tonight and explained, in Korean, about my day and the academy. He corrected my sentences as usual and said, "very good^^... absolutely you are good... you don't need to go there." I've been talking to him since before I came to Korea, so he's been watching me improve. If he thinks I don't need to go there, maybe I don't need to go there. I'll have to get the opinions of my other Korean friends and think it over.

For dinner, I met 래욱 (Eddie), who is extremely chivalrous and kind, funny, and completely average-looking. We got sushi and udon at a Japanese restaurant in 신천 (Shincheon) and then walked to a park in 잠실 (Jamsil). There, in the middle of a lake, is a cute amusement park called Lotteworld (I think that's the name). Lotte is a large corporation in Korea, I believe. There are Lotte stores, Lotte products (like the "FLAVONO" gum I just bought), Lotte this, Lotte that... it's everywhere like Samsung is. We didn't go to the amusement park, just walked around and sat on a bench. While on the bench, I got a text from 은영 (Jenny) asking if I was available to meet, so we started texting back and forth formulating a plan. At the same time, another started texting me. In Korea, people just have conversations via text all the time. On the subway, at dinner, while hanging out with friends, walking down the street, in class, lying in bed, whatever. I'm starting to become Korean in that way, but my texting stealth is not exactly up-to-par and multitasking stressed me out a little. So, here I was having 3 conversations at the same time, and believe me Koreans can text very quickly so it's really a conversation. I was talking to 래욱 (Eddie) in person about how ridiculous texting in Korea is and how it's tough for me to keep up, while at the same time making plans with rapid-fire texts to 은영 (Jenny) and talking about my day via text with my other friend. 래욱 (Eddie) was extremely amused by how flustered I was becoming when we started walking to the subway station while I was still texting both people, and said he's going to text me at random times and immediately follow each text with "you're so slow" or "hurry up" or "what the hell" or "bite me" just for fun. My friends are great~!

So FINALLY I got to see 은영 (Jenny) after 6 weeks. Last time I saw her was in our apartment in Michigan. It seems like a million years ago and a million miles away already. We didn't have much time to see each other because it was pretty late, but we went to a sticker photo booth and took cute pictures together. My set is in my wallet now. We're going to see each other tomorrow evening, too, and Friday night, probably with some other friends.

Random culture note: "oppa" means big brother - in Korea, people who are close, no matter what the relationship, are called by the corresponding family member. So, I should call my younger friends who I'm close to 동생 "dongseng" - younger sibling, older female friends 언니 "eonni" - older sister, etc.. 오빠 "oppa" is kind of a term of endearment for girls to call older guys, often their boyfriends, and guys LOVE it).

Another random culture note: Private movie rooms are very common date places in Korea because the definition of PDA (public displays of affection) is much more conservative and couples usually don't go to each others' homes because they generally live with their parents until they get married (women) or get a job (men). So, going to a DVD방 (DVD room) is cheaper than a movie theater and gives couples the opportunity to cuddle up and watch a movie together, which is a rare opportunity in Korean culture. Women can also go there with other women. If men go together, people think they are gay, which is a big no-no in Korea.


  1. Jenstin Reunion~~~

    You sound as confused as ever, ki-chan. At least you've got some adventure in your life now :o

  2. Haha. Well don't feel bad, confusion is a huge part of my life too. lol.
    Glad things are going well & that you're busy.