I Dream of 한 국

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When a person gets consumed in something, it invades every part of their brain. Suddenly, you’re dreaming about spreadsheets, meetings, and the girl in the other department that you see in the lunchroom playing with her hair and talking about last night’s episode of Lost.

I do not dream about my temp job (though she is the prettiest girl in the office). What I do dream about is Korean. Specifically, I had my first dream last night about the Korean language.

When a person gets consumed in something, it invades every part of their brain. Suddenly, you’re dreaming about spreadsheets, meetings, and the girl in the other department that you see in the lunchroom playing with her hair and talking about last night’s episode of Lost.

I do not dream about my temp job (though she is the prettiest girl in the office). What I do dream about is Korean. Specifically, I had my first dream last night about the Korean language.

This is very exciting, because every part of my brain is beginning to want to successfully process the language. I am studying Korean now online at a site called KoreanClass101.com. It’s very good. The premium site offers not only audio lessons and their accompanying study guides, but also review questions, word banks, a dictionary, and more. I dropped $135 for a year’s access. Sure beats Rosetta Stone’s $550.

The dream itself was not very exciting. Mostly, it was just visions of pages of Korean characters and my attempts in the dream to remember which one is which. What was great is that I was getting characters correct. ㅅ has an “s” sound, for example. Couple that with a vowel, like “ㅣ” and get the word “ㅆㅣ”, pronounced “ssi,” which is the honorific for “Mr., Mrs., or Ms.” Use it for any of them. So, for example, I would be John ssi, or John ㅆㅣ. This is what I was dreaming about last night.

I was talking with Panda earlier on Skype and she asked me what is different between the preparations this time and the preparations before. I was unprepared. In 2005, I had very little life experience and really could not prepare all that much for things that were completely unknown to me — obviously not for South Korea, but also for living truly on my own. Alfred University was nothing compared to Central Asia.

I could have tried to learn Korean but I didn’t, not really. Everything was jumbled, everything was chaos. This time, things are moving at a much more leisurely pace. I have given people (and myself) time to absorb this idea of going to South Korea again. And I am actually working toward being as ready as possible (though you are never truly ready for any big change until you’re in the middle of it). The option to leave if I can’t hack it again is always available. I’m not going to prison. But, like my shifted perception when I put money into my savings account, I am not leaving the easy escape so easily available. The money is still mine but it’s not mine. It’s my savings account’s. Likewise, I can leave, but, really, do I want to do that again? Then what? What is waiting for me back here?

Someone who got offended when I made fun of SnapOn Tools hats (that’s a generalization) told me recently it was time for me to grow up, get a real job, sweat and suffer like the rest of us. For me, going back to South Korea and leaving too soon is not growing up. Going back, experiencing it, the comfortable and uneasy, and going there with a mental suitcase full of knowledge, is my kind of maturity.

안 영 (I think I spelled that right…).


(originally written Dec. 13, 2009)




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