How odd…

8 Jul

Most of the time we think we know ourselves pretty well, but the one day something happens and we end us amazing ourselves by doing something we didn’t know was possible.
Today, after 24 years, I discovered I am ambidextrous.
I always thought I was right handed so never really bothered to try but after acting on a hunch I realised I can not only write but use chopsticks!!! And I’m not just talking a little bit either – nearly as good as the right hand!!
How awesome!!! (^з^)-☆

Oh woe is me…

10 May

4:30am – The 3 gorgeous dachshunds I am looking after for the evening (at my friends house) start whining to be let out.

I get up.

I step in dog poo.

I curse then wash my feet – THOROUGHLY.

Half asleep I decide to clean up the rest with kitchen towel and then make the mistake of flushing it down the loo.

The toilet blocks up.

There is no plunger.

I panic.

The water level goes down and the toilet gurgles.

I think all is safe and well again.

I get into bed.

I look over to see one of the other little angels pooping IN THE SAME PLACE.

I clean it up with TOILET roll.

I try flush it down the loo.

The toilet is still blocked.

I panic again.

I try everything from dish soap to coat hanger to rubber glove. No joy.

5:29am – I turn around to see all 3 little darlings PTFO on my bed.

I throw in the towel. (No pun intended)

…..

FML

Feeling a little overwhelmed… by myself…

10 May

***

Most people, when faced by the thought of  times to come and challenges that they may have to face can’t help but feel a little lost and a little out of their depth…


However, sometimes these worries may well be self inflicted, and as such you may discover that actually YOU are your own worst enemy: ambition mixed in with a hearty dose of perfectionism can be a lethal cocktail that can lead to one’s own undoing.

Thus begs the question – Am I doing this right, or have I got it all horribly wrong?

***

So, I made my module choices on Sunday evening.

At first I was flummoxed as what to do – For the Autumn semester I had the choice of Japanese Contemporary Society or something like Chinese Social Progression. Then, in the Spring semester I had the choice of Chinese business and management, Japanese History or Chinese Contemporary Society…

I figured learning about business and China would be beneficial to my future.. But then again if I plan to enter a Japanese university in order to do my masters then studying about Japan would also be very good given that one of the entrance exams is on “Japan and the World”…

So in the end I figured that taking Japanese History and Japanese Contemporary Society would be the best choices – if not for the reason stated above then for the pure and simple facts that 1) I love Japan and 2) Japan is something familiar to me and, due to my existing knowledge on the subject, is something I can possibly do well in.

I also chose Japanese Contemporary Literature – purely for enjoyment, plus it will serve as practice in reading which will help me maintain (if not enhance) my Japanese language ability.

All in all I am happy with the choices I made as I feel it will help take me to my goal – to become a Korean AND Japanese specialist, even if my degree is only technically Korean Studies.

However, upon making this choice I couldn’t help but think about the next two years to come: about how important they will be in determining my future. This also brought on thoughts about how little time I have left here in Korea; how fast it all has gone; how must I still have not yet done here; how I feel I have not yet made the most of my time here. Thus I have been feeling a little on the low side as of late.

***

Time is such an odd thing: It passes by so fast and leaves you with barely anytime to breath. I feel like the past two years have gone so quickly and already I am planning ahead the years to come with zealous enthusiasm, in neglect of (if not oblivious to) the here and now.

I remember that before I came here I had so many grand plans (as I always do in the beginning) and yet most have not yet come to fruition, leaving me feeling slightly hollow and unfulfilled…

***

It has come to my attention recently that I have a problem with ambition – I always start out with such high (sometimes unrealistic) expectations of myself, and yet I can never seem to recognize the achievements I have made, however big or small they may be. I’m just always looking to the next thing.

I want to get a high 2.1 or a 1st in my current degree; I want to study in Japan at a top university; I want to become fluent in AT LEAST Chinese on top of Japanese and Korean (maybe at some point other languages too, but i’m taking things one step at a time); I want to become knowledgable about law, economics, business, psychology, philosophy and many other subjects; I want to work a respectful and highly enjoyable job; I want to live and work abroad; I want this; I want that; blah blah blah…. It never seems to end.

This is a personality flaw that, no doubt, will carry on well into old age: I can see myself as one of those over enthusiastic, delusional-type grandmas – the type that refuses the aid of a walking stick and insists that they could climb Mount Everest if they wanted to despite barely being able to walk 3 meters on a flat, relatively smooth and obstacle-free terrain….

***

Perhaps it is a good thing – after all, ambition isn’t exactly in abundant supply for the majority.

Maybe I should savor my enthusiasm and drive to succeed…

But then again, what is more important in life: Working your butt off to MAYBE get somewhere, or taking life as it comes and taking everything in one’s stride – much like someone lay back in a deck chair on some white sandy beach; smoking a fat reefer; watching the tide roll in and out; bemused by life’s little complexities.

***

All I know is that, at this moment and time, I have this hunger to get somewhere in life – not to give up and not to back down. Just to keep going and keep upping the standard every single time…

Of course, only time will tell if this method of living will succeed or not. I just hope that this greed for knowledge and lack of satisfaction in life won’t lead me to being a lonely spinster with a house full of cats… ;p

The strangeness of how we learn…

3 May

***

Have you ever taken a step outside of how you think usually, to assess how your own thought processes or behaviorisms work? What about how you learn? Don’t you find it strange how we don’t know something at first sight, then suddenly we just do? For example: Remembering the lyrics to a song – once learned all we have to do is open our mouth and it seems to just appear, as if magically, in our brains and just tumble from our mouths…

Or even, have you ever wondered how the brain comes to order the information it receives into a neat, recognizable format: as if it pieces million piece puzzles together for us in a split moment so that we can see concepts – final, structured and organized.

I wonder these things (and more) on a regular basis and so have come to realize that the human brain is truly an odd, yet most amazing, contraption indeed.

***

Recently I have been reading a book called “Musicophilia” by Oliver Sacks: a book about “the place music occupies in the brain and how it affects the human condition“.

In chapter 8  “Things Fall Apart: Amusia and Dysharmonia.“, Sacks writes the following passage:

“We take our senses for granted. We feel we are given the visual world, for example, complete with depth, color, movement, form, and meaning all perfectly matched and synchronous. Given this seeming unity, it may not occur to us that there are many different elements composing a single visual scene, and that all of these have to be separately analyzed and then put together. This composite nature of visual perception may be more apparent to an artist or a photographer; or it may become apparent when, due to some damage or failure of development, one element or another is defective or lost. The perception of color has its own neural basis, and so, too, have the perception of depth, motion, form, and so on. But even if all these preliminary perceptions are working, there may be difficulty synthesizing them into a visual scene or object with meaning.”

He then went on, in the latter half of the chapter, to talk about a woman who could not hear music as a whole – she could hear each different “voice” (instrument) as a wholly separate entity and so any music piece she listened to was fragmented and totally unlike how it should be. In a letter her physician sent to Sacks, he described her:

“agonizing experience of hearing all music as discrete, contrapuntal lines, being unable to hold on to the harmonic sense of chordal passages. Thus, where listening was linear, vertical and horizontal at the same time, now it was horizontal only.”

***

Now, you are probably wondering where on earth I am going with this all.

To be honest, i’m not at all sure myself – I just have an odd hunch.

***

Even though I certainly do not possess absolute pitch, I have pretty much always been comfortable with and confident in my ability to hear and to distinguish tone, tempo and pitch. However, I don’t just hear it – I feel it.

The same goes for language. I don’t just listen to how it is said, I feel how it is said, how it is formed in the mouth. I imagine the feeling of what the tongue must be doing, what the jaw is doing, what the throat is doing, what the vocal chords are doing – I replay these feelings in my mind over and over again, feeling what it would be like to actually mimic how it is done, before actually doing it.

I can also connect new sounds; to concepts; to writing – easily. Like with Japanese: the language on paper connects perfectly in my mind to the language I hear and the language I speak. It is all interwoven and fits together perfectly like a completed puzzle. As such I can hear a word I don’t know and repeat it straight off the bat to ask what it means; or I can mimic the tone of how an old person speaks – purely because I can feel how the language works.

I have become so used to this sense and figured that it was solid, unchangeable and reliable.

Until now.

***

I am currently supposed to be studying for my mid-terms in Korean. I have memorized the vocabulary and grammar assigned and can read to a good standard. In fact, I have noticed that I have an odd ability to feel the context of a piece of grammar within a sentence after just having seen a couple of examples. To explain: the books we use in level 4 contain no English translations so we have to rely on reading the Korean description of what the words mean – I personally don’t find this of much help and so just read the examples and somehow can pick out exactly the feeling of the grammar and how it differs from other similar pieces of grammar. For example:

The grammar structure “-면서” (-myeon-seo) is added to the end of an action verb stem before another action is described, and means “whilst doing- “. This is mind the following sentence “공부하면서 음악을 들었어요” (Kongbu ha-myeon-seo, umak ul tuleo-sseo-yo) could be translated as : “While studying I listened to music” OR “At the same time as studying, I listened to music”.

There is another piece of grammar that is almost exactly the same – “-어 가면서” (AVST+ka-myeon-seo).

Now “가다” (kada) is the verb for “to go“, thus the “가면서” (ka-myeaon-seo) bit seems to me like “whilst going“. To get to the point – for me this grammar had the sense of something in motion.

Sure enough the meaning is generally that as something is going/progressing (through a period of time) something else is also done (at intervals?). For example: Whilst cooking ramen, I taste-tested it (at intervals). So – during the duration of the action that was ramen cookage, I did another action that was related – taste testing.

Fun no?

Actually, I love being able to pick up on these small little nuances – most of the time there isn’t a better way to express the same thing in my native language and so it feels like in learning them, I am adding to my understanding of the world and how to express it (and myself) better through language.

***

SO yeh. That is something I –can– do.

But what I can’t seem to do with Korean (so far), that I usually can do with other things, is connect the dots. Unlike with Japanese, I cannot seem to make a strong connection between the spoken by others, the spoken by self and the written.

I can read and write reasonably well (with only a couple of mistakes in spelling mostly).

However, I cannot establish a strict pattern of intonation in the spoken – I cannot figure a general pattern from the beginning to end of a sentence or heard a distinct difference between a question or of a statement.

I also cannot figure out how the tempo of the spoken works either – it seems to speed up suddenly as random points in words or phrases to make a strange sort of complex rhythm.

It is as if I am partially deaf, and this is most frustrating.

My sense of feeling is rendered useless because I cannot maintain a strong enough grip on the words being said.

Furthermore, if I read passages while listening to their tracks on the accompanying CD, it feels like my brain sometimes struggles to understand that the written word read and the spoken word heard is the same thing. I can read what is on the page fine, but the spoken version just feels blurred and indistinct. It just doesn’t match.

This means that I find it extremely difficult to mimic how Korean is spoken – if I cannot have a strong grip on the words spoken, hear how they are formed, dissect each sound made and then re-piece them together in my head and feel what parts of the mouth and throat are being used, then I cannot reproduce them accurately enough.

This is turn means I am more likely to forget a word – I am the kind of person who has to have a complete image of a concept in my brain to be able to retain information. If there is only a partial image, my brain gives up and focuses on the things it CAN visualize in entirety. It’s a bit like having a corrupted file – there is no point in keeping it if you can’t restore it.

All in all, it feels like my perception of Korean is fragmented – a bit like how that lady in Sack’s book felt about music. It feels like the different parts of Korean, (Reading, Listening, Writing and Speaking) are completely separate from each other and it is difficult to weave them together to make a whole.

***

SO there we have it.

My random self-analysis of the day.

I suppose the only thing I can do is to keep going at it (Come on – Me?? Give up??? Pffftttt don’t be silly!).

It could be just that I am still in the “baby stage” of learning the language – the stage in which the brain has to gradually absorb information over a period of time before all the pieces come together and click. I did start Japanese technically when I was around 15 (but not properly till I was 18) and so my “Japanese” age is far more than my “Korean” age.

If you were to calculate these ages “from first contact” my Japanese age would be about 9 and my Korean age would be just shy of 2. But if you calculate it from “total submission” (aka. being thrown into an environment where only that language is spoken over a long period of time – like me living for a year in Japan and a year in Korea) then my Japanese age would only be just shy of 4, and my Korean age just shy of 2. Of course, this depends entirely on where you place the importance of language learning – on structured contact (which teaches you the language in its strictly structured form – how it is used officially), or complete submission (which teaches you the colloquial form of language – how it is actually used in its natural environment).

Either which way this would make sense – my brain is years ahead in absorbing and figuring out Japanese in comparison to Korean…. But it ain’t half frustrating!!!

***

Anyways, back to the grindstone~! (Gonna rip apart that exam tomorrow if it’s the last thing I do!!!)

Peace.

Embracing my Westernness…

30 Apr

***

Throwing yourself into another culture, another country, and even another way of thinking, doesn’t just allow you to learn new things and perhaps better ways of living – it can lead you to truly appreciate some of the things that you learned from your base culture, that when compared to alternatives, still seem to be the better option.

***

During dinner this evening I had an interesting conversation with my homestay family about listening to music while studying: I believe that it improved my concentration and allows me to focus on the task at hand whereas they think it is a bad habit that will only hinder my performance academically.

Ordinarily I would be inclined to have a go, but I have tried and tested this method since I was young and have always found it harder to study without music – it appears to be just how I work. Furthermore, I listen to classical music when I study – music with lyrics or heavy music DOES distract.

However, more importantly than any of that – listening to music while studying allows me to enjoy life.

To expand on this : If I have to study either way, I would much rather enjoy good music, relax and thus get more out of studying than sit in the quiet (which most of the time is never quiet anyway as sounds are being made all around us all the time.) and not enjoying anything.

I realized this thought process stems from my base culture – the idea that the enjoyment of life is paramount to all else. For example – We would much rather pick being poor yet happy over rich but with no time to enjoy life. Whereas here in Asia ‘success’ is first and foremost – enjoyment should not factor into the equation. Most people here would pick being rich and run off their feet than poor yet happy.

Thus, this is one of those times where I come to appreciate my base culture and what it has taught me in regards to life.

Don’t get me wrong – I want to be a success. However, to me, being a success is about more than just money and status. It is about looking back on life and knowing that I have lived it to the full and rarely having a regretful moment staining my past that I wish I could alter.

So I will listen to classical non-intrusive music while studying. I will chat with my friends when necessary to get things off my chest. I will have those nights out once in a while to let loose. I will balance my life between necessity and what is ‘just because I want to’.

If I get mediocre scores then so be it. But at least I can say that, if I died tomorrow, i’ve enjoyed my time so far, rather than looking back in misery at lost time.

THE CONVERSE BOOTS OF MY DREAMS~!

30 Apr

So I was looking at ebay – as you do – and I found these beauties:

$53.99 not including postage.

How could I say no??? – Exactly. I didn’t say no. I said a BIG FAT YES and purchased them.

Logical reasoning for this :

  1. Gonna need a new pair of shoes for next year anyway.
  2. They will serve as a “WELL DONE!” present to myself for when I get back to the UK (they will be shipped to my UK address ahead of me).
  3. They are exactly my size and my style and I haven’t found a single pair like them anywhere else.
  4. WANT!

So yeh.

XD <- f**kin epic ecstatic face.

I’m a fuck up and proud!

29 Apr

I  had an epiphany today that we should all be proud of, and even trumpet, our fuck ups. Because, lets face it – our fuck ups have shaped us, just as much as our achievements, into the people we are today. So, don’t shy away – celebrate the fact that you, just like everyone else, are a fuck up! XD