Everything counts in small amounts

Monday, May 31, 2004

Korean Homework

Lovin' the Loveage

I had to deliver a 5-minute speech in front of my Korean language class last week. The subject was wide-open. I wrote the below about the “love motel” I stayed in during my first trip to Korea. Jiyeoun was not happy when I asked her to proofread it. She does not like me calling the place a “love motel.” It’s just a motel to her. Plus, she has heard the story dozens of times. It has been four years and I am still talking about it. Nonetheless, the speech got a big laugh in class. Although the old Japanese guy who recommended I beat my wife if she does not drink with me was laughing the hardest. Maybe that should tell me something. (More on the old Japanese guy another time.)

If the below text looks like gibberish, you do not have the Korean language pack for Windows XP. Go here to download it.

제 첫번 한국여행

초등학교부터 한국친구들이 많고 그들의 집에서 한국음식을 먹었고 한국드라마를 봤고 한국음악을 들었습니다. 따라서 한국어를 들을 기회가 많았습니다. 그리고 제 한국친구들이 자주 한국에 대해서 말했었습니다. 저는 계속 한국에 대해서 관심을 갖게 되었습니다. 나의 아내를 만난 후에 저는 지금이 한국에 가기 좋은 때라고 생각했었습디다. 그 당시에 저는 학생 이어서 시간이 많았고 어릴 때부터 한국에 여행을 가고 싶었습니다.

그래서 한국에 가는 여행을 열심히 준비했었습니다. 학생이라서 돈이 없었습니다. 그래서 겨울방학 때 아르바이트를 했습니다. 저는 한국에 대한 책을 샀고 여권을 갱신했고 비행기 표를 예약했습니다. 여관을 예약하는 것을 빼고는 다했습니다. 저의 아내에게 싼 여관예약을 부탁했습니다. 그 이후 더 이상의 질문은 하지 않았습니다.

그래서 이천 년도에 저는 처음 한국에 왔습니다. 저의아내와 아내의 친구가 공항에 나왔습니다. 지연씨를 만나고 한국에 있다는 것이 정말 좋았습니다.우리는 차에서 이야기를 많이 했습니다.

우리가 여관에 도착했을 때 지연씨는 저에게 밖에서 기다리라고 말했습니다. 나중에 저에게 들어오라고 했습니다. 그 여관은 제가 미국에서 보아온 여관과는 아주 달랐습니다. 주차장에는 천막이 처 있었고 안은 어두웠습니다. 또한 야한 비디오들이 로비에 많았습니다. 엘리베이터에는 벌거벗은 두 사람이 서로 껴안고 있는 포스터가 있었고 사방이 거울로 둘러싸여 있었습니다. 지연씨는 여기가 러브모텔 이라고 했습니다.

저는 이 여관이 매우 좋았습니다. 왜냐하면 그곳은 깨끗했고 냉장고에는 음료수가 항상 있었고 비디오도 볼 수 있었습니다. 때때로 저는 사람들이 그곳을 불편해 한다고 생각했습니다. 그들은 그 여관 직원들에게 불친절 했고 들어오고 나가기에 바빴습니다. 그러나 저는 항상 그곳에 있는 것이 편했고 직원들에게 매일 아침인사를 했습니다. 그러나 무엇보다도 그곳이 쌌기 때문에 좋았습니다.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Slipper versus Sandal

Self-portrait in gray

In Korea, people distinguish a slipper and a sandal based on how it attaches to your foot. A slipper is secured the foot by a strap running over (or between) the toes or instep. Sandals fasten to the ankle. I was told slippers slip on your feet hence the name.

Before coming to Korea, I had never distinguished slippers and sandals in this way. To me, slippers are light, low-cut shoes worn in the house. Sandals are worn outdoors. How they fasten to the foot is inconsequential.

This seemingly meaningless distinction comes into play when you ask a Korean-educated English speaker, “Are you going to wear your sandals outside?” They might respond, “No, I’m going to wear my slippers.” He or she will have looked at the shoes in question, recognized they do not fasten at the ankle, and made a logical correction. For me this simply creates cognitive dissonance: “If you are wearing them outside, they are sandals.”

Still abnormal life

This distinction is so prevalent in Korea; I started to wonder if all fifth grade public school teachers throughout the country required their students to memorize the same dialogue on the false distinction between slippers and sandals in some shoddy standardized English textbook. The reaction among Koreas to the slipper/sandal mix-up was rote and uniform: “No, that’s not a sandal it’s a slipper.” “No that’s not a slipper, it’s a sandal.”

Only later, I wondered if the fastidious textbook designers had it right. There was a distinction between sandals and slippers based on how they fastened to the foot. I was just never taught it during my shoddy American public school education.

So I looked in the dictionary. Bartleby.com’s dictionary defines a slipper as “A low shoe that can be slipped on and off easily and usually worn indoors.” It contains the following definition for sandal:

1.A shoe consisting of a sole fastened to the foot by thongs or straps.
2.A low-cut shoe fastened to the foot by an ankle strap.
3.A rubber overshoe cut very low and covering little more than the sole of the shoe.
4.A strap or band for fastening a low shoe or slipper on the foot.

Okay, maybe there is something to this slipper/sandal distinction. Although, it’s highly ambiguous. The slipper definition says nothing about how the shoe fastens to the foot. But, slipping on and off probably precludes an ankle strap. However, the definition does say slippers are usually worn in the house. The first definition of sandals says nothing about how the shoe fastens to the foot. Presumably, it could consist of one strap over the instep and still qualify under the first definition of sandal. However, the second definition clearly states a sandal must fasten to the ankle. Let’s keep looking.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines slipper as “a light low-cut shoe that is easily slipped on the foot.” Again, nothing about how the slipper fits on the foot, although presumably not with an ankle strap if it can be slipped on. It does not mention where it is usually worn. Merriam-Webster contains the following four definitions for sandal:

1.A shoe consisting of a sole strapped to the foot
2.A low-cut shoe that fastens by an ankle strap
3.A strap to hold on a slipper or low shoe
4.A rubber overshoe cut very low

Again with the ankle strap.

Finally, Encyclopedia Britannica does not contain an entry for slipper. However, it defines a sandal as “a type of footwear consisting of a sole secured to the foot by straps over the instep, toes, or ankle.” Interesting. According to this definition sandals can fasten at any of three places on the foot. They do not necessarily have to fasten at the ankle.

Okay, so there is not definitive answer. I guess we’ll have to consult an etymologist. Is there a lesson here?

Slipper as post-modern angst

Friday, May 21, 2004

Monk-looking fellow

A Start

An opening? Something clever and memorable. It’s got to set a tone, encapsulate my character in 200 words or less. Or maybe it just has to be a start. Like any other. Nothing dramatic, interesting, or endearing. It is a beginning by definition: the first. No need to put a form to it. It will take one naturally.

The opening chapter of my favorite translation of the Tao Te Ching, the one by Stephen Mitchell, reads:

The Tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named
is not the eternal name.

The unnamable is the eternally real.
Naming is the origin
of all particular things.

In part, the second chapter reads:

Being and non-being create each other.
Difficult and easy support each other.
Long and short define each other.
High and low depend on each other.
Before and after follow each other.

So, there it is. A start.