August 13, Cap & Gown

Oh my goodness y’all, not only did I pass this 200 hour intensive Korean language course but I am also class valedictorian!

Wow, what a turnaround from the first day where I wanted to cry through most of class. And to think just a few months ago I worked for someone who regularly implied that I was slow.

It’s nice to win one!

August 12, Thank you, Teacher

I learned a lot from my female teacher this summer not just about Korean language but also how to be a better teacher. I took an hour to write her a small letter. It took so long because there is of course another tense to use when talking about a teacher (but not yourself). So hashtag “I tried” “making an effort”.

Now I’m sure there are grammatical errors and awkward phrasings but hey, those are all part of the charm.

I wish her the best and hope she does in fact get married to Park Bo Gum.


August 11, Itaewon

Itaewon is a non-Asian-foreigner district right of the US army base where stores proudly advertise”BIG CLOTHES”.

I live on the east side of the city where things are a lot less international and a lot more sleepy so wandering through hilly, narrow, crowded streets with different neon signs in English, Thai, and Arabic was a jolt to the system.

There were falafel stands and pancake houses and hip hop bars and 24 hour cafes and buskers. I went to a vegan restaurant where the waitresses were American and I could actually eavesdrop on people’s conversations (“so should I date this guy? Should I chase love?”), a pastime I didn’t realize I sorely missed.

Itaewon is a whole new world, the Upside Down of my little neighborhood.

August 6, Encounter

I was at the newly erected emart convenience store buying milk (let’s talk about my dependence on dairy another day) when another strange magical thing happened. Not only did the cashier say more than one word but the friendly older man also spoke English?

You’ll probably read below and think “this is what you mean by speak English?” but when I hear zero English on a daily basis (aside from “ice Americano”) any effort impresses me.

C: 천팔백 원.
C: Eighteen hundred.
A: 카드 괜찮아요? (Card is ok?)
C: mhm. You like milk?
A: um. I like cereal.
C: ah. Mix? [makes stirring hand motion]
A: yes… [confused at what amounts to excessive amount of convenience store friendliness]
C: ah, very hot outside? Hot.
A: 네, 아주 더워요. 덥네요 ㅜㅜ (yes it’s really hot, surprisingly hot)
C: 아 한국어 말해요. 안녕히 가세요! (Oh you speak Korean. Okay have a nice day!)
A: 네, 안녕히 계세요. (Same to you!)

August First, The Winds of Change

I was excited to go to the bank to pay my health club bill because it was something I (thought I) knew how to do only to find that the original teller room had been removed because the bank walls have been knocked down and everything else rearranged.

I was gone for a week and when I came back two fast food places has shut down, Innisfree had moved from its new location back to its old location four doors down, and a Starbucks had popped up.

Two weeks ago there was a convenience store on my corner that has since been gutted and made into a different convenience store.

The salad place I wanted to try is now closed indefinitely.

Last week my friends and I tried to revisit our tiramisu ice cream place only to find out after passing an empty building several times that the cafe had disappeared, with only a dusty door sticker to indicate that it had once existed at all.

And I have to ask again, are we completely sure that Seoul isn’t the Room of Requirement?

If I wander enough will a Target appear? Fingers crossed.

July 27, 개고기

Well it finally happened.

In between cured pig heads and bags of kimchi and men shouting watermelon prices and the biggest lobster I have EVER seen with claws the size of my face in this never ending maze of a market, I saw two stalls selling meat from a butchered animal that looked very familiar. I wandered closer to look at the sign: 개고기.

Yep. Dog meat.

No, I did not buy any. I did, however, buy kimchi from the neighboring stall.

Shop local, as they say.


Disclaimer 1: I have never seen a restaurant that has 개고기 on the menu and I eat out a LOT. It’s simply not common.
Disclaimer 2

~It’s Official~

July 25

I am officially an immigrant! Or something.

Not only was my visa approved, but I also received the unicorn of E2 visas. On the Korean visa application there is no place to request single or multiple entry and most E2 applicants are automatically assigned single entry, which means they can’t leave the country until they have an official alien card. Alien cards are required but take about a month to process after initial entry.

Somehow the Korean powers that be granted me multiple entry so I am free to come and go as I please regardless of a separate ID.

Feeling blessed, y’all .

July 18, Surprise

I have been waiting my whole life to learn this verb tense. An entire tense to express surprise. Also useful for insulting people (wow, you used to be handsome).

Korean grammar is incredibly different from English: verbs come last and pronouns are a luxury. Adjectives are actually verbs and the equivalent of “to have” doesn’t have a direct object in Korean, just a main and sub subject.

There are two counting systems that are not interchangeable but used together. Every number of items requires its own counter word (3 bottles of beer, 2 glasses of water, 5 animal-counter of animals, 4 persons of people, 1 line of sushi, 10 sheets of CDs). There is a counter that is for only a full pizza but doesn’t apply to slices of pizza or any other round food like pie.

The verb tense ending changes to match the politeness level required of the situation: is the listener older, younger, a friend, your manager? In fact, Korean has 7 speech levels; on a daily basis I use around three.

As such, Korean is listed by the US Department of State as a level 4 language: the hardest to learn for English speakers. This category only includes Arabic, Japanese, Korean, and Chinese.

But to quote a meme, l just think it’s neat.

July 12, A Win

As you know, the beginning of this class was a hot mess for me. Now it’s been 6 weeks and I’d like to humbly say I have turned it all around.

I knew things had really changed when one of the studious Chinese asked ME a question. 70% is passing and not all my classmates are right now, even though they studied like crazy for our midterm.

The teacher asked me if I studied a lot for these tests. I said “I didn’t study at all. But I DID hang out with Korean friends.”

(You can see my speaking grade is lowest: “your pronunciation and conversation are great but your spoken grammar… you should study.”)

I do think it’s a real testament to the quality of class time that we absorb so much information that studying is only supplemental. Plus everything that we learn is immediately applicable to our life outside of class. Personally I like to “practice” by shopping and eating.

I plan to take night classes after this summer course is over and will continue ~making an effort~ (PS please buy me a shirt that says that).