Friday, January 28, 2011

Shopping with the Prez

Hey, no big deal... went with Emily to Dongdaemun to shop last night. And guess who just happened to be walking around taking pics and shaking hands???


Yep, that's definitely South Korean President Lee Myung-bak!

Things are definitely a lot more relaxed around here, sure there was secret service and all, but people were running up and taking pics with him.



Emily and I are SO mad at ourselves because we really had the perfect opportunity to take a pic with him. He walked RIGHT by us, made eye contact, and even shook Emily's hand. But we both got totally star-struck and the opportunity passed.

Oh well, here's the shot right AFTER he shook Emily's hand...


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Language Steps

I think Mark and I have hit a hit a big language milestone today. We had our one-on-one speaking interviews today. Rather than structuring it as a question and answer session, this semester it served as more of a counseling session.

It was probably one of the most useful talks I've had.

Basically our teacher told both of us that we're doing a good job learning the technical aspects of the language -- memorizing the new vocabulary and learning the new grammar points. However, now she'd like us to start trying to experience the language in everyday situations. Growing up the child of two teachers, I was shocked when my teacher told me to stop doing my homework and to start watching Korean dramas, listening to Korean radio, and talking to Korean people. She made a good point that I can do all the book learning on my own in the United States, but while I'm in Korea I need to take advantage of the environment... namely a country filled with people who natively speak the language I'm trying to learn.

Today's a great day because without even realizing it, I feel like we've finally reached the step I've wanted to be at since I first started studying the language.

I remember when Mark and I first came to Korea, we studied one month at a hagwon and basically learned the alphabet and to count. After that, we got a free Korean tutor through GOAL. It's embarrassing to remember what we said to the tutor... "We really don't have a lot of time to study vocabulary, so we'd just like you to speak to us and we'll just pick up what we can." Uh, we didn't know the words for come, go, look, chair, doctor, pencil.... how we thought we would just magically pick up the language from listening to her is the stupidest thing ever. That tutor was honestly a saint because how she managed to make it through those classes without punching one of us is a mystery. There was no way we could learn anything from her because we never bothered to try to learn the basics!

So now... after studying Korean for 25 weeks, we've finally reached the point where we've got the basics learnt (mostly) and we can start paying attention to real Korean in everyday life and we can learn from it. So now we embark on the next step... immersion and application. Wish us luck! :)

::Picture via Mango Languages blog::

Adoptee Culture Camps

I'm not sure if there are any adoptees I don't know reading this blog, but I wish I'd known about some of these opportunities to visit Korea back when I was in college.

For example, InKAS is offering a summer culture camp for adoptees aged 18-28 who've never visited Korea. You're responsible for the airfare, but the room, board and activities are all free. And it's a great opportunity to come to Korea, meet other adoptees, and learn about the culture.

Sounds pretty amazing. Coming to one of these definitely would've beat spending my summers waitressing. :)

Actually, just got an email from InKAS and it sounds even sweeter... turns out Korean Air is sponsoring it, so airfare is free too. Just an $150 registration fee and it includes a trip to Jeju. Wow!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Name meaning

Compliments of a Korean friend... the meaning behind my Chinese name. :)

漢한나라(mearning) 한(sound)
元으뜸(meaning) 원(sound)

한나라는 중국의 옛 나라 이름이에요.
"Han" is a name of the old Chinese dynasty.

으뜸은 최고라는 뜻이에요.
"Utdeum" means the best.

당신의 이름은 나라의 최고라는 뜻이에요.
Your name means the best of the country!!!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

How I'm Spending my Free Time...


Yep, I'm doing it! Applying for dual citizenship... if I can ever figure out these forms.

Filling out government in forms in Korean = waaaaay beyond my Korean level.

Luckily my amazing Korean friend, Ellen, helped me translate some of the boxes so I know what they're looking for. And she's offered to proofread my crap explanations of why I gave up my Korean citizenship and what my life was like abroad... so here goes nothing.

Oh and I must also give props to GOA'L. They've basically been responsible for this law change, and been so helpful with putting together the informational booklet, translating documents, and even having workshops to check over all our paperwork before we go to the immigration office.

Oh one bonus of filling out the paperwork... apparently every Korean's name is formed from Chinese characters and has some sort of meaning.

Here's mine (Korean on top, Chinese below)... meaning is still unknown... can anyone translate?


So cool, though tough to write. Had to ask Emily to write it for me. :)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

One Year (Later)... Lessons Learned

This time last year I wrote a post about the lessons I'd learned. Many of those lessons still hold true, and it's hard to write a new meaningful "lessons learned" post about year 2.

My first year in Korea was more "magical." I experienced so many firsts... seeing the country I was born in, getting to know my birth brother and father, being so far away from my family and friends. Nearly everything was done with such a sense of wonderment and awe... "I can't believe I'm here doing this!"

I can honestly say my second year here has been more "real." We've much more deeply immersed ourselves in the culture by learning the language and developed strong, life-long friendships with Koreans and foreigners studying the Korean language. Also, this time around, I've felt less like an "honored guest" and more like a member of my birth family. My birth father and SangKwun are more themselves around us, and less likely to tiptoe around us constantly trying to please us. This year has been more of a feeling of, "Yep, this is my life."

This year, there have been some huge moments... meeting my birth mother, my extended family, my half brother... Emily and SangKwun's Korean and Chinese weddings... studying Korean at Sogang and being able to communicate with my birth father for the first time.

I guess the major lessons I've learned this year are more related to how I'd like to live my life.

1) Take risks, don't be afraid to try a Plan B:
When we originally came to Korea, we promised ourselves after one year we'd return to the States. Then when the time came, I just didn't feel like I'd done what I needed to do here. So, we came up with Plan B: come back and study Korean. And I can honestly say it's one of the best decisions we've ever made.

Mark and I both agree that without a doubt, the second year has been a better experience than the first. While we enjoyed our first year, we really were kind of like year-long visitors to a foreign country. If I'd left for good last year, there would still be so many aspects of the culture I would probably never understand. And there would forever be a huge language barrier standing between my birth family and me. I'm glad I took this little extra time to bridge that gap.

2) Learning about other cultures is not just interesting, it's necessary.
This is really something I hadn't put much thought into back when I was living in St. Louis. Actually, I was pretty content in my daily life surrounded by people who tend to speak, dress, and think like me. Then I came to Korea and saw people around me who have such different lives and stories to tell. Particularly at Sogang, we've met people from Turkey, Sweden, the Netherlands, Taiwan, Japan, China, and it's made my life that much more rich.

One thing we've been astounded by is when we ask our classmates (particularly the Asians) why they are studying Korean, the answer is most often "because I'm interested in the culture." Can you imagine if in the more people in the United States had that attitude? A willingness to go to another country, live there, and learn the language just for the sake of learning the culture?!??! Mark and I have promised ourselves whenever we have children of our own, we're going to encourage and maybe even push them to go, explore, and learn about the world. Because it's so big and it's filled with so many interesting, kind, amazing people.

2010 has been an unforgettable year. I honestly have no clue what 2011 will have in store for us, but I'm excited for whatever comes our way. Happy New Year!