Happy late Valentine’s Day!
I spent Galentine’s Day with an expat friend I’ve met a few other times these last two weeks. The other two ladies who originally planned to come to the museum with us dropped out so the two of us wandered the near empty Busan Museum. I learned a bit more about Busan– did you know it became the temporary capital when Seoul was overtaken during the Korean War? People have also lived on this part of the peninsula since the Neolithic Age, which is where the idea of Korean people originates from.
There was a line about the Bronze Age that went something like, “During the Bronze Age, people discovered metal and learned how to make tools which they then used to create weapons and concentrate power” and I immediately thought, wow. People will never same. We invented power and fought for power since the dawn of time. To quote Aesop, “how often we give our enemies the means of our own destruction”.
We two gals closed out the surprisingly long day with egg tarts and conversation about mental health and how moving abroad to follow our hearts changed our lives for the better.
Today I continued on a goal I just recently recognized this year and skipped off to Korean class. The path to fluency is full of shoots and ladders but every day little interactions become a little easier, a little more understandable.
I must again post this comic from Itchy Feet:
I love the puzzle that is language learning. It’s strange to think how many gears go into learning and using a language; gears that maybe monolingual friends haven’t lifted the hood to see.
Languages are not simply one to one alignments with differently spelled words. Languages are full of idiosyncrasies, a reflection of a nation’s history, an intricate interlocking mechanism. Besides using a different alphabet (Hangul is a 24 character alphabet, not a character writing system like Chinese), Korean has an endless number of delicate petals that have no direct correlation to English, and vice versa.
I have a brother.
Yo tengo un hermano. [lit: I have a brother.]
나는 남동생이 하나 있어요. [lit: I younger male sibling one exist]
There is nuance for “I”: I used the informal version here; when talking about siblings, Korean has separate words for younger/older brother/sister which also depend on your own gender. Additionally, the word for “have” in Korean is actually intransitive so there is no direct object; you simply exist alongside one another.
To quote Marge Simpson (again), I just think that’s neat.
Now that Mt. Fluency is within view, so too are my abilities and aspirations. I joked that pizza was my one true love this Valentine’s (and forever, really) but that would be a lie; my heart lies in linguistics and it’s a magical feeling to reconnect with my first true love.
My teacher today said, “I bragged about your ability to my friend”.
“You’re joking,” I responded mock suspiciously.
“I did! I also told her about your ‘diamond’ pronunciation.” We both laughed; I am truly terrible at loan words.
I think back to my days at the university intensive Korean program in 2019: how hard it was, how difficult it was, and how I somehow managed to become valedictorian. It came right after the many lows of the Atlanta job and I had never commiserated more with The Office’s Kevin in that moment:
Even when parts of my Abs Abroad life feel challenging, ultimately they have also felt right.
Sometimes it’s hard to believe I’m sitting in a bedroom in an Airbnb in Korea and feel more at home and more at peace than I did at my fancy apartments I rented when I worked in corporate.
My imagination has been a lot less active lately and I wonder if it’s because I’m simply old and boring or rather that I’m living my own dream and thus my imagination is satisfied.
I’ve always had a huge dearth of interests and maybe the underlying thread is I feel most alive when I’m consuming experiences. I want to take a bite out of the whole world.
Life has really only improved since I made the decision to move abroad. While Valentine’s Day is not a day of thanks, I’m still incredibly grateful for boarding that plane.