I heard a “hi” behind me at the gym and turned around in alarm; the last time a Korean person approached me in English was to recruit me into a cult.
It was not that, luckily, but one of my fifth grade boys. “Oh hi!!! We’re matching.” I pointed to our generic black gym-provided uniforms.
That was too much English at 7 in the morning for him so he ran away. But we passed each other at school later and high fived. His friend was pleased that I also fist -bumped him.
The new new sub showed a motivational video about a Korean man who was homeless until appearing on Korea’s Got Talent and three of my 3-3 boys cried. They’re so soft hearted .
I saw a whole span of kiddos after school: my precious 4-1 boys screamed “Abigail teacher!” from their bikes. My twins in grade 3 were eating ddeokbokki and two grade 4 girls stopped to show me their jelly candy. Even though school lets out at 2:30 there are always students around the neighborhood after closing time.
There was a small Asia Time moment in which I went to the community center to register my address. I handed over my ARC but the worker started a long spiel about… something. She spoke slowly and kindly but I know zero vocabulary about municipal government or housing contacts.
Luckily S was a quick call away so she straightened it out. After receiving the phone, she asked “so did you understand?” “…..no.” So S passed along the last bit of info about paying for my registration paper.
I felt pretty dumb, especially when I stopped in a Kimbap shop and thought I was interrupting their break time (I wasn’t, the opening time was 6:30…AM) but the Kimbap ladies and I had a good laugh and I got a full dinner for under $3.
En route to class the entire line 2 train was professionally papered over with TOMORROWXTOGETHER signage which makes me think Bang Shihyuk is crying into his 5 man won bills when anti-fans insult BTS.
In Korean class we talked about 너무 which sparked my memory of possibly the greatest Kpop song, Replay by SHINee, which prompted the teacher and officially cool new student to sing it.
Tomorrow is Hangeul* Day! So I can celebrate my basic Korean literacy.
*Hangeul 한글 is Korea’s alphabet. Until the 1400s, Koreans spoke Korean but used Chinese characters for writing. In 1443 King Sejong invented a 28 (4 of which are now obsolete) character alphabet to simplify writing and better represent the Korean language. However, scholars thought that the simple alphabet was “too lowly” and threatened their status by allowing common folk to gain literacy easily so important documents continued to be written in Chinese until the late 1800s.
However, under Japanese colonization in the early 20th century Korean language and writing were banned. After independence in the mid century, pride and study of Hangeul was stronger than ever before. Now Hangeul is and remains the writing system of both North and South Korea.
If you’re interested in the history of Korean language (no? Just me?) this wiki article is good reading:
Fun fact: currently Korean language, like Basque, is considered a language isolate meaning that it is unrelated to any other past or present language on Earth.
Happy Hangeul Eve!