mousy.net

Going to Taiwan

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I didn’t go anywhere during winter vacation, so now I’m going on two vacations! My Malaysia trip has come and gone, and tomorrow morning I’m headed off to Taiwan.

My Mandarin is really bad, but I’m going to try really hard!

KIIP Level 3

Registration opened at midnight on the 16th, and the KIIP website immediately slowed to a crawl. I saw that people were registering slightly before midnight, but I thought I’d wait until after, just to be sure. Occasionally, you see notes on classroom listings that threaten to kick out people who register too early. You’d think they’d build it into the system.

But anyway. I’ve registered! I’m going once a week for 8 hours, every Sunday, from September 04 to December 04. Three months! But it’s only once a week, which should be a cakewalk compared to last semester’s Sat/Sun, 8 hours a day classes.

Incheon Airport observations

Some funny things I’ve noticed at immigration clearance:

  1. Two screens playing only SM Entertainment music videos, one after the other.
  2. Another screen on the wall next to the immigration counters, mostly advertising … LG plasma screens.

Window mesh replacement

screen1

Thanks for nothing, Whiskey. Whiskey has a habit of scratching at the window screen, and I had patched those up with 500 won premade patches, but this was going beyond the beyonds. Off I went to Gmarket to buy replacement parts. Not bad, it only cost me around 15,000 won for the screen and various other tools for the job.

I ordered on Friday morning, and a long thin box, similar to a poster box, arrived on Saturday morning. I love Korea’s delivery speed.

To prepare, I skimmed through an instructional YouTube video.

 

screen2

Pushing the new gasket in, with the special tool. I had waffled about buying a special tool just for this, but I’m glad I did. It was only 1,400 won, anyway. I swear, sometimes I’m stingy about the silliest things.

 

screen3

All done, kind of. It took me another hour or so to cut off the extra screen with a stationery knife.

Leftover meat

Way too much 삼겹살 left over from the work barbecue. 60근 had been ordered, and 60근 x 0.6 kg = 36 kg! I was sent home with a 2.5 kg pack. I asked how I was supposed to eat it, and was told: slowly. So I oven-baked all of it yesterday, a hot summer day. It’s in the freezer now.

KIIP Level 2 pass

lvl2-results

Look at that! I passed Level 2.

The exam was out of 100 points, with 70 points for the written test (20 questions x 3.5 points), and 30 for the speaking test. The entire class was a bit stunned after the written test, because it was much, much harder than any of the practice tests we had taken. I came out of the test worried that it could easily go either way by a margin of a few points. I had even gotten to the point of randomly choosing between two possible answers on several questions. I remember one of them: I knew options 3 and 4 were wrong, but I didn’t even know the meaning of options 1 and 2.

I bombed my initial question on the speaking test – I was asked to provide instructions on how to make 떡볶이. Wut? We had totally studied it but my brain completely short-circuited. I muddled my way through it, horribly.

One of the two speaking test examiners was my course instructor, and they looped back to me after the others in the test, and asked a different question: what’s your hobby? Maybe because my course instructor knew I could do better? I don’t know. Anyway, it all worked out and I now have a very satisfying 94/100 points.

class-schedule

The entire course was 100 hours, with 8 or so hours of class per day, from 9 am to 5 pm. It was 5 Saturdays and 8 Sundays over the span of 7 weeks. After a while, I got really annoyed at never having a single day off, and less than my usual amount of sleep. It wasn’t that bad, it’s just 7 days a week of sitting at desks … it’s not like it’s manual labor. Regardless. I’ll have to think long and hard before I ever sign up for 9-5 job and classes, every day of the week.

Was it worth it? Yes, completely. Will I do the fast-track course again? Probably not.

Anyway, onwards and upwards.

KIIP 2단계, Day 1

I take back everything I said about wishing I was in 3단계. 2단계 is the right level for me. It’s just enough that I understand what’s going on, and has enough hard stuff to keep me very, very busy.

My class is the only accelerated class in the schedule. It goes from May 15 to July 03. Other classes started today or will start next week, and end in mid-August.

There are 12 people in my class. Nationalities are Vietnam, Mongolia, Ukraine, Russia, Bangladesh, Syria, Kyrgyzstan, China, and America.

The Ukrainian and Russian women are both married to Koreans. One of the students from Bangladesh was so amused at how my parents are of different Asian races, and that I’m classified as American on the class paperwork.

Everyone can speak better than I can, but I think (lol) I can read the best. Not that reading-out-loud skills matters, because I’m not going into academia or public speaking. I would rather have better conversational skills.

It rained when we got out of class, and we also had a problem unlocking the doors to get out of the place. Syria figured out how to unlock the back door (quite simple really… just reach up really high and flip the deadbolts, except everyone else was too short). Russia and I found out that we take the same bus back home, and we ran for it. We got drenched anyway.

I was shivering miserably in the cold at the longest street light ever, to cross the road over to my officetel. It’s 17 C right now which is really nothing, but it felt much colder with the wind and rain.

Hints: Bring 7,000 won in exact change for the book. Nearly everyone seemed to have 10,000 won bills, and the teacher wasn’t able to give change to three people. She will bring change next week. I brought mine in 7 x 1000 won, and didn’t have to fuss with getting change. Use the change machines in the subway stations!

Naver Dictionary appears to be the best online dictionary available. There’s free unsecured wifi for each floor, so the signal’s pretty strong. Sometimes, several floors will share one wifi point, and of course there’s going to be dead spots … none of that problem here!

How I got here

The five words I knew, going into Korea, in terms of familiarity. I only knew them orally – had no idea how to read or write Korean.

Typical stuff that you, too, might know:

  • 안녕하세요 – Hello.
  • 김치 – Kimchi… duh.
  • 불고기 – Bulgogi. I always forgot this word.

And the other two, from my university days in SoCal:

  • 야해 – Erotic/racy/vulgar.
  • 기린 – Giraffe. A tall friend’s nickname.

 

First step was to actually learn how to read Hangul. On the plane to Korea, I referred to the famous “learn to read Korean in 15 minutes” comic.

The first in-the-wild thing I read on my own was a sign I kept seeing on lots of windows in town: 임대  (for rent). In retrospect, it’s kind of funny.

On my phone, this is the only app that ever really helped me with Hangul, and I tried loads of them:

  • PopPopping Korean (Android only. There used to be an iPhone version, but it’s nowhere to be seen now)

When I had my computer all set up, this pronunciation chart helped me actually pronounce instead of just think out the sounds:

  • Learnhangul.com’s Korean alphabet app (dead link)

Edit: That website seems to be dead now. It was an interactive chart where you could click on things like 아 or 어 or 오 or 우 and hear an audio recording of it.

 

As for books, I went to Kyobo Bookstore and spent about an hour or so browsing through their learn-Korean-through-English books, trying to find the best match for my self-studying style. I thought I’d start with Sogang University and Ewha University’s books, because their Korean classes are so well-known. I quickly came to the conclusion that their books were a supplement to the teacher – you NEEDED a teacher, and self-studying would be tricky. I also looked at Hello Korean (with an idol narrating!), and passed over it – it was written in a good way for self-studying, but only went up to Book 2. I would need to find something after that.

The only university textbook series that suited my ‘style’ (if you can call it that) was Seoul National University’s books. Each level has a textbook and also a student workbook, and the workbook is totally worth it for the practice. I used to be the student that would zone out in class and then learn everything from the book (probably still am), and this one was the series for me.