log – classes

A bit of drama during this week’s haircut. Mrs. Bak was, as they say, on one. She shot out the door to shout at a man on the street. When she returned she was using language that caused the barber to point out that a child was present. Apparently, this man was not one of her many boyfriends (too old for her – or so she claims) but a nemesis, who she fights every day on sight and without fail. She’s a cleaning lady and he is a local litterbug. They are natural enemies. I did learn the word for “trash.” The non-honorific version.

I’ve been learning a lot of words lately – vowels and consonants too. That’s to say, my Korean class is going well. It’s well taught, well put together, and I’ve seen immediate progress in my reading speed and comprehension. This class has allowed me to learn the name of one of my favorite Busan Seagulls, 이 데 호, and to better, if still slowly, read local signs and whatnot. We’re getting more into spoken words and phrases now and I’m taking what I’ve learned into the classroom out into the streets.

I feel like this step is pretty important. The fear of embarrassment is a hindrance to learning and speaking in a new language feels a lot like public speaking. It’s just fundamentally embarrassing. So forcing myself to use what I’m learning helps me get over that, cements the lesson, and shows me that it works, and I can, actually, in real life, be understood.

As for the embarrassing part, the first time I visited, I was telling people “no” when I should have been saying “Hello” or “goodbye” and, I think, I was saying “nosebleed” instead of “coffee” but I managed to survive these humiliations. Now I can find new ways to embarrass myself and, well, that seems to be one of the more amusing parts of life, so I’m okay with that.

Insofar as I have any complaints about the class, it’s about a highly disruptive element in the ZOOM portion. Some old white man who, displaying the worst instincts of his type, won’t ever just shut the fuck up. You can probably imagine.

He claims to be a linguist and, therefore, an even bigger expert on a language he does not speak and whose history and nature he is wholly ignorant of than the woman who is, not only a native speaking Korean, but a professor specializing in this very subject. He seems to think (if that’s what we can call the clattering noise that presumably fills his head at all hours of the day and night) that we should all be more interested in his story about getting one over on a local Korean man than in learning the language or doing our exercises. He is just so totally off-topic, ignorant, inconsiderate, and loud that it makes it difficult to learn. Even if we do manage to learn that he once owned a dog, a boxer, but had to have it put down. A fact that was only relayed because someone’s dog barked somewhere in the distance.

Is he drunk? I have to wonder. I hope he is. But I doubt it. Showing up drunk to class would, at least, explain his behavior, and considering my behavior in high-school, I would not like to throw stones on this particular subject. And drunks often have many redeeming features — not the least of which is a capacity to sober up. Far as I can, this man has no such features. He is a noisy waste of space.

One’s mind is constantly boggled by these people. Not so much to think that a man like this even somehow managed to learn to speak even his own language (how else could he hear the sound of his own voice, repeatedly announce his infantile wants to the world, and drown out the sound of anyone around him?) but to think that a person can apparently learn to speak without ever have developed an ability to listen. For a while, I thought we were getting “zoom-bombed” as the kids call it, but, really, we were just boomer-bombed.

I can sometimes, with great effort and at tremendous psychic cost, try to pretend to be the bigger man, but even hearing his voice makes me hope he falls off a cliff. I also hope it’s a big cliff. And that there’s spikes on the bottom. Crocodiles might also be helpful. Hungry ones. It can be difficult to learn under these conditions. Hard to hear over the voice in your head that is screaming “SHUT UP SHUT UP WHY DON’T YOU EVER JUST SHUT UP!”

Aside from this, the class has been great.

When it started, I had some concerns about learning the Busan dialect. We’re not learning that dialect (of course), we’re learning standard and polite Korean.


I asked my professor about this dialect. She is from Seoul but lived in Busan for a few years and said that she had some trouble understanding the local dialect at first. (I’ve heard other people from Seoul say this but just thought they were using this as an excuse to ignore their mother in laws, which, incidentally, is exactly what their mother in laws think too.) But she explained a difference to me and this explanation has been very helpful.

At the barbaer shop, we are typically greeted with what sounds like “Bonga-Bonga!” Apparently, in Busan, people tend to end things with “na.” So –and please excuse my typing here, trying to get used to using this keyboard in this way– this means that 반 갑 습 니 다! becomes 반 나 반 나! They both mean “nice to meet you “or “glad to see you again” and the barbershop version is probably a lot more of “bahn na bahn na” than a “bonga bonga” but it really sounds pretty close. So that greeting makes sense now.

Prof also said that in Busan, when people talk, they’re very aggressive and it sounds like they’re fighting but they’re really just talking. I had to point out that sometimes they really are just fighting and then told her about Mrs. Bak and the local litterbug.

I’m also half-convinced that Kim Jong-un gave up his plan to pamphleting The South not because of any sudden outbreak of common sense but because he was informed that Mrs. Bak had gotten word that he was going to be littering. He doesn’t want a piece of that.

Anyway, this is all good — I’m learning standard but will probably end up most comfy speaking Port City Fish Market, but what the fuck else is new?

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