Concentration

There is a compulsion after a long time away from the blog to apologize for inactivity. I’m not going to do that. But this time I have a reason for my inactivity. I was inspired by my friend Tharp, who wrote an excellent post grazing over the highlights (and, indeed, lowlights) of the past 10 years of his life. I decided to write one myself, but it got voluminous and obsessive and turned into a longwinded unfinished project. (I can’t seem to do anything with brevity.) I’m only up to the middle of 2007. I’m into the start of the really good stuff and I just can’t see how I can fill all of those remaining experiences into a small container.

Anyway, that’s the reason I haven’t posted lately. I kept expecting to finish it and pare it down to something digestible for this medium. I will finish it at some point. It’s been an illuminating exercise going through all the joys, heartbreaks, craziness and adventures of the aughts. But by the time I’m done it may be too late to be relevant for a blog. I don’t know. Maybe I’ll post it at some point, maybe I won’t.

In the meantime, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying my January.

November and December were jam-packed with activity and this month by contrast has been very relaxing. I finished an excellent book about The Beatles, I’ve been spending more time with friends, and playing some great live gigs. I’ve also been working on personal neglected projects. I completed something I hope to publish, I’m updating my sadly outdated personal website (not yet finished), and within a couple days I’ll start mixing a feature-length film.

I’m also spending more time trying to learn more Korean. I’m constantly under pressure from people to gain some interactive competency with this impenetrable language. My colleagues mention it, my mentor mentions it, some of my friends mention it. They can’t fathom how I’ve been here almost three years and still can’t cary on a conversation beyond the basics. Honestly I can’t either. But learning a language is fucking hard. Learning Korean is really fucking hard. It is one big exercise in that game “Concentration.” It feels like there are a few thousand tiny scraps of knowledge scattered in my brain. Speaking and comprehending are exercises in hunting down, lifting and organizing a dozen of them together into something communicative. Then there are the different forms of the language, and the strange Busan dialect, and the speed at which people speak.

I study, quite a bit actually. But I don’t practice. I recognize this as the problem. But the reality is that I don’t have to and therefore rarely find opportunities to. It’s not necessary to speak Korean beyond the essentials because every Korean that I know converses in English. Sometimes I want to give it up. In the time I’ve spent on it I probably could have been an expert guitar player had I chosen to spend time learning that instead.

But I’m still trying. My method is to saturate myself with Rosetta Stone, numerous iPod apps, handwritten flashcards, copious notes in my notebook, and private language exchange several times a week in coffee shops. My hope is that with all this saturation, something will break through eventually.

I was considering not taking a holiday this winter. I was in Japan in November, so I thought I might just mellow out at home during the break between semesters. But I decided to go ahead and book a two week trip to Thailand. I was last there a dozen years ago, my first ever trip abroad. I hear that a lot has changed in the country since then. I’ll spend five days with a friend in and around Bangkok, then meet up with others on an island somewhere for some sun and sand, then (probably) island hop to Cambodia and visit Angkor Wat. That’s a lot to do in two weeks, but it should work out.

And then it’s back to normal life, back to another semester with a fresh crop of minds to mold. This should be an interesting Spring. Around March or April, I should get a better sense of whether I’m staying in Korea beyond August or heading back to the U.S. Or Canada. Or… Australia.

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