Uncertainty can be happiness

"Security is a false god," or running around the world as an FSO

Archive for the ‘Korean’ Category

Korean in HK

Posted by quirksalight on December 10, 2010

For me, a big part of traveling is absorbing cultural information and history, so I tend to hit the museums. Also, I really like museums; I think it may have had something to do with growing up with easy access to the Smithsonian.

Jen and I started the museums at the Hong Kong History museum, after a dim sum brunch. When we got there, we got the week-long, all-museum access pass (which is an AMAZING deal, $30 HK for 7 museums).

We get stamped in, and of course, the usual random chitchat with the ticket attendant about where we’re coming from, etc. Upon finding out that I was from Korea, she told me that my English was really good for a Korean, to which I answered that I was an American.

Finding out that I was bilingual in English and Korean, the ticket attendant asked if I could tell her how to say a couple phrases in Korean for the tourists that come by. She was pretty happy and excited that I could, and so I helped her with the translation and pronunciation in English for “Opens at 1 o’clock” and “How many tickets”.

Pretty neat. And later, when we needed to get back to an exhibit, she called the other museum guard to let us in. 🙂


Posted in adventure, ancedotes, history, Hong Kong, Korean, museums, travel, vacation | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

The Little things in life.

Posted by quirksalight on August 2, 2010

I’ve been at Embassy Seoul for little over a month now, and it’s been a rollercoaster. From running around, planning visits, to meeting contacts, managing (actually, more being managed BY) the LES, and mentoring interns, it’s been a trip. For the most part very good, some low points of frustration and wanting to hit my head against a wall as I scrabble up the “learning curve”. Though, at times, it definitely feels like a cliff. But I’m getting it. And the little things makes me smile.

Getting up at 3am, running around on adrenaline and realizing at the end of the day, EVERYTHING was OK.
Laughing with a new contact as an introductory interview becomes more of a conversation between new-found friends.
Realizing that I CAN conduct at least a part of a meeting in Korean – well, it was about food, eating, Iftar and Ramadan – but STILL… no translator needed for that, and it was official, with some technical words and stuff! 🙂
Amazon delivers in a week – no extra shipping charges. I ❤ APO.
Yongsan has an amazing library; with better hours than back home!!!

And realizing that my creative skills weren't rusty – I make damn good mango-banana bread, and assembled my own pillow-top bed.

Posted in adventure, amusing, ancedotes, Books, Embassy Seoul, geek, Humor, Korea, Korean, language, meeting, Seoul, work | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

FS Update: Apparently, I know how to speak Korean

Posted by quirksalight on August 11, 2009

Just found out that I passed the phone test for Korean, but they wouldn’t disclose the score. Passing is a 2/5 using the ILR scoring system. Now my score is a 5.7 (5.3 + 0.4 language bonus) which would put me a little higher on the register when I actually get on it. (think positive! 😛 )

So… back to waiting for security….

Posted in application, Korean, language | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

FS Update: Korean language test

Posted by quirksalight on August 5, 2009

Tuesday (Aug 4th) was also the Korean language test. Just speaking, over the phone. Passing with a 2/5 proficiency would give me an extra 0.4 on my ranking, which would allow me to get off the roster for training faster. (once I get ON the roster after all the clearances and the suitability review are finished)
The scale that the Foreign Service uses is here.

My language test was about 30 minutes long and run by two examiners; one speaking in English and the other in Korean. The English speaking examiner was the one giving the instructions and listening in to my conversation with the Korean speaking examiner. There were three separate sections. The first was free conversation. The second was a directed conversation about a given topic. And the third was an interview style, where I had to ask the Korean speaking examiner questions about a given topic, and then report back the results in English to the English speaking examiner. That’s it. Apparently I can call in to find out my results in about a week.

Posted in application, Korean, language | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Saber rattling from the north

Posted by quirksalight on January 30, 2009

North Korea tears up agreements

Great…. Slow deterioration of N-S Korean relations….no bilateral agreements, closing of South Korean industrial investment zones in the North… I’m not sure if it’s good that I’m leaving or if I should stick around to see it play out.

Posted in Korean, news, Politics | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

What I wore to the Inauguration…

Posted by quirksalight on January 20, 2009

…was PJs, a shawl, and an ace bandage.
Sitting in front of my computer, with a cup of tea and my knitting, I watched the live coverage in the early hours of January 21st in Korea.

Listening to the new POTUS, I am still filled with hope. Which is what we, as a nation, is gambling on, isn’t it? We voted to choose a relatively inexperienced man as the leader of our country because we needed someone who would help us believe in us again. To really live and be “Proud to be an American”… which was hard, in a world that had slowly come to shun our policies and in turn, Americans. Now, it has come full circle, and we, the Americans abroad, can stop having to defend who we are and instead, promote that makes the United States that place that we all call home.

Pride in the nation that I call mine is something I took for granted until I left it. It bothered me, when I applied for my visa status, to sign away my Koreaness. Even stranger to realize that I didn’t exist anymore on my family’s geneological rolls…after so many generations, it ends. I felt that I was giving up a part of myself. But, as I lived here longer and longer, I realized that in my mind, I am and have always been, an American. Who I am, the way I think, the path I have always followed, has always fit more at home than in Korea.

And living out of the US for the first time in a quarter century, I had to defend my country. Anti-American sentiment wasn’t virulent, but existed. As a bilingual, I had explain why our export policies were solid, why we weren’t brash and annoying people, why our government was doing the things they did, to both Koreans and other expats. I received a physical attack for being a foreigner, and had to wonder, what friends meant when they said, “Oh, you’re an American? Really? I didn’t think you were.” Why? What is an American that isn’t I?

Instead of being pulled more and more between the two cultures I live in, I feel that my identity has been more solidified with my time here. I am a Korean-American. I treasure my heritage, the richness of the culture I was born in, and the diversity of the culture I have sworn an oath to. But when push comes to shove, the nation that I will promote and defend is the United States of America.

Posted in 2008 Election, Asian-Americans, commentary, election, election 2008, family, Korea, Korean, Mental Stream, Politics, Social commentary | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

50 years later…

Posted by quirksalight on December 6, 2008

Children ‘executed’ in 1950 South Korean killings

And more comes to light.

Posted in history, Korea, Korean, military, People, Politics, US history | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

20-20 can be painfully clear

Posted by quirksalight on December 6, 2008

A couple months ago, I wrote about South Korea’s Truth and Reconciliation commission on the investigation into the wartime (and post Korean-war) atrocities by the US backed S. Korean government. (“Sometimes you just have to force yourself to read it“)

More news is continuously coming to light about the sheer scope of what happened, and the role that the US and S Korean governments played in it. Keeping in mind, that this was also the height of the “Red Scare” and McCarthyism in the US,

On my vacation to Jeju Island, I went to the Jeju 4.3 Peace Memorial. I had thought that I had a decent grasp of Korean history, especially for a “gyo-po” (Korean foreigner), but I had never heard of an event on 4.3 that would be significant enough to warrant a memorial.

It turns out, Jeju Island had a brutal military crackdown against members of the communist party of Korea in the 1950s. However, like a lot of the political crackdowns and killings on the Korea mainland, many of those who died were tainted by associated; the families and friends of those accused. Tens of thousands were killed or died due to exposure and starvation when they fled to the countryside.

The memorial was full of declassified documents from that era, and everyone knew, but ignored it.

I left the museum, a little sad, and just sat for a while, contemplating.

Posted in adventure, ancedotes, death, history, Korea, Korean, Nerdity, Politics, Social commentary, travel, US history, vacation, world news | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Duck and cover!!

Posted by quirksalight on October 15, 2008

I’m sitting at my desk, puttering around (b/c it’s exam week, and I finished my prep for my classes in the next 3 weeks), when I hear this loud whining noise that I haven’t heard before. First I thought it was a fire alarm, but just an odd one. But then it kept on going. So I asked two of the other teachers in the office what it was.
Turns out it was the “raid” siren. Yes, the one they are going to use in the likelyhood of an invasion by the DPRK. They were testing it out. Apparently it’s a regular thing, though they stopped doing it once and month and now it’s more 1-2 times a year. (Which makes sense that this is the first time I’ve heard it since I arrived here). Strange… makes it really clear that I’m living in a heavily fortified country.
Hmm? Ah… the siren is back on.

Posted in ancedotes, Buheung MS, Bupyeong, Incheon, Korea, Korean, Mental Stream, military, Social commentary, teaching english | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »


Posted by quirksalight on April 27, 2008

This past Friday, several friends and I went to see a modern dance performance at Songjo Theater in Seoul. Going home, we took the DongIncheon Rapid transit subway line on our way back to Incheon as it cuts our transit time by 20-30 minutes. On the subway, which was pretty packed, the four of us were talking about the evening and our respective experiences in school when a middle-aged Korean man, dressed in a suit, yelled at us, “Shut up!” in English. We all turned to look at the man, who was looking very angry. As we were laughing prior to this outburst, we thought we were too loud. So we quieted down, and spoke softer to each other. But he started yelling again, telling us to shut up, and in Korean, started telling us loudly that if we are coming to Korea then we should speak in Korean.
I turned to him, saying in Korean, “I’m sorry, but my friends only speak in English, so to converse, we have to speak in English.” He then starting yelling that we shouldn’t talk in the subway and we were too loud. I replied that we were talking just as other people in the subway car were talking. When he refused to actually do anything but yell at us, I just told him that I’m sorry he felt that way, and ended the conversation.

Turning back to my friends, we started talking quietly once again, when the guy reaches over several people and punches me in the head! The entire subway car (who had been watching this exchange) gasped at this. It’s considered wrong to hit random people in most societies, but it’s definitely taboo for a guy to hit a girl in Korea.
We were completely stunned at this turn of events, and my cry of pain when he hit me broadcast that he hurt me to everyone in the car. For a couple moments, I was at a loss at what to do, as I’ve never been assaulted by a complete stranger, and totally didn’t expect it in Korea. (I guess I know better now) But after, I just thought to myself, “screw it, I’ve already been hit. I’m going to continue my conversation with my friends,” and we started up our conversation once again. The assaulter didn’t say anything for 5-10 minutes, and we thought it may have blown over. But then he started yelling at us to shut up and not speak English again.

In a new turn of events, it was became quite apparent that he had pissed off the entire subway car. When the assaulter began ranting again, another Korean man spoke to him (in Korean), “Hey, why don’t you keep it down? We’re all starting to get bothered by your yelling.”
This just turned the assaulter’s attention to the second man, to whom he yelled, “why are you telling me to be quiet?! I’m not the one speaking in English. They should shut up!”
The second man, who spoke up for us, said “I don’t understand what you are yelling in English because I don’t understand it. I care that you are bothering the other passengers and are shaming us (Koreans). Why don’t you step off the train, so you don’t bother us?”

This just continued to escalate as the subway move on, with the two men exchanging more and more comments with increasing heat and vigor. We had planned to just continue on to Bupyeong Station, to not get forced off the train because of this guy, but it was getting apparent that we were a catalyst to a burgeoning conflict. So the four of us decided to step off the subway one stop before Bupyeong.

When we got off, two people, a male and female, got off and stopped by to talk to us. They wanted to apologize for the behavior of the assaulter, because they were embarrassed that a Korean would and can act in such boorish manner. The woman looked stricken when I told her my head was ok, and that the pain had gone away by this time, as she hadn’t realized that he had actually struck me. The guy, Tony, wanted to make sure that we were alright and wanted to reassure us that the assaulter was the exception, not the rule.

Being the focus of random violence is so disturbing, as the question of WTF??? reverberated in my head, and I admit being in a funk for the rest of Friday night. But what really helped was the random people who stood up for us, and the people who came to talk/apologize to us after. I’ll definitely put this behind me, but I am still warier now then I had been a couple days ago.

Posted in ancedotes, Asian-Americans, Bizarre, english, Korea, Korean, pain, People, Politics, Social commentary, stereotypes, teaching english, travel | Tagged: , , , , , , | 7 Comments »