This is really cool....
P.S. -- I'm somewhat dropping out of Korean class for the time being. There are three major reasons for this:
1. Work. I've always said my job is my first priority in Korea, and I mean that. Not rushing out of the office at soon as the clock turns over to 4:30, and not trying to jam Korean homework in between classes on my off periods has allowed me to slow down and put the time and effort I used to into my lessons. I miss feeling completely prepared and relaxed at work. And I haven't given the level differentiations as much attention as they deserve since we've made them. I need some time to adjust to the new work load and schedule, so that I can do my job in the most effective manner possible.
2. Now that I'm at the level I'm at, I want to try my hand at studying on my own, just to see how it is -- if it will be more or less productive than attending classes. Studying on my own means I can focus on what I feel is useful for me, and not just whatever the class is working on at any given moment. My class has also slimmed down significantly and... I don't mean to sound like an asshole, but I started out as the next-to-lowest level student and now I'm pretty much the highest. I have a hard time being patient when I understand what the teacher is saying the first time around, but I have to sit and listen to her explain it six more times so everyone else catches on.
Also, I was somewhat joking when I mentioned K dramas as "studying" before, but what I noticed when I was watching them over vacation (for the first time in ages, since I've hardly had the time lately), is that I really am understanding a significant amount. Enough for it to actually help, and to be able to hear individual words and phrases and understand them in context.
3. The holidays are coming up and it can be a lonely time in the ROK as a foreigner, if you aren't making the effort to stay connected to other foreigners who are going through the same thing. Lately, I haven't had the time or energy to socialize much outside of a very small group of Incheon people, because when the weekend rolls around, I literally cannot make myself go into Seoul, or out at all on a Friday night. And there isn't time to even think about socializing during the week.
The holidays coming on the tail of my first trip home has the potential to lead into a serious emotional meltdown if I allow myself to get too stressed, underslept and socially isolated. I'd prefer to get good sleep, eat a well-balanced diet (which is impossible on nights when I have Korean class), and spend time with those people I haven't had much of a chance to, because the live in other parts of Seoul and the satellite cities.
Not to mention, Smalltown is leaving very, very soon. And we've been talking about taking a trip to Busan before he goes. I won't have the energy to make that happen if I continue on the way I have been.
I feel nervous about making this decision, because I feel like I might lose everything I've learned up to this point, if I can't make the effort to be dedicated enough to studying on my own, or if I'm wrong about feeling like I can do so effectively at this point. I don't want to slow down in my progression. But I also feel frustrated that, although a lot of building blocks have been put into place, and my comprehension is way up, I still can't make much use of it in everyday life, because my time to study on my own, and therefore acquire the vocabulary I need in everyday conversation, is extremely limited. Because I'm busy all the time.
Now, I know how to make sentences. But when I go to do it, I can't produce the words necessary to fill in the blanks. What I really need is a seriously kickass textbook. Anyone reading who has any suggestions, please please do leave them. I still have my course textbook to finish up, but I'm definitely way past the beginner level book I was working out of originally.
Okay. Enough of that boring stuff.
Just got off the phone with Smalltown. Sometimes it really feels like it's me and him against the world. Hours and hours of conversation have gone into me and him recounting various social interactions and trying our best to work through the oddities and cultural differences, sort out what is individual personality and what is cultural traits that we can identify and try to make sense out of.
He's one of the only other foreigners I know who really puts in the effort to get to know Koreans. As much as, essentially, human beings are human beings, there really can be a hell of a lot of social blundering through that goes on when you're trying to bridge the gaps. The good comes when you meet Koreans who are also interested in sorting out the differences, and there have been a wealth of fascinating conversations and exchanges that have resulted from this. And it's in those moments, particularly, where you all just become human beings -- step outside of your cultural identity and try to see everything from one central viewpoint. Some of the most valuable experiences of my lifetime. And I look forward to, someday, being able to have these conversations in both English and Korean, to further the leveling of the proverbial playing ground.