Quickly getting up to speed, I was back in Chicago for a week in early July, saw friends and family but not much else. Got back and returned to school here at DLI. I started my third and final semester of Korean in August, and my projected graduation date is now getting rather close.
Korean becomes more and more difficult by the day. Not only due to the intesity of the course, but also the atmosphere of the school. It seems that everyone who comes here becomes more and more disillusioned as time goes by. This is partly due to the fact that the leadership here tends to be somewhat on the incompetant side and creates unneccesary stress for the prospective linguists. There are many factors involved, but of all of them, that is the one that raises my ire by a notch everyday. At least until I can get away for a while and forget this place ever existed.
Such as last weekend. I had the pleasant fortune of getting to drive 8 hours north to camp amongst the Redwoods of northern California, about an hour south of Oregon. For 3 days I camped out in a tent with friends and my girlfriend and forgot about relaxed. Although there were some things that were... unpleasant; Meth addicts who invaded our campsite, the irascible drunk friend of mine who thankfully sobered for the second day of the trip; in all I spent time enjoying the beauty of the surrounds and the company of friends. As one of my teachers is fond of saying 불행 중 다행이에.
Just previous to that last event, my class participated in 한글날, The celebration of the invention of the Korean Alphabet in fourteen hundred something by King Sejong. The school was having a competition of video and live skits, so we as a result of having a teacher who enjoyed making video skits chose the former. We quickly pieced together a skit we called 김정일의 공포의 뺑뺑이, or Kim Jongil's Wheel of Terror. Featuring Kim Jongil as North Korea's "Best and only game show," contestants were those who had caused a disruption in the harmony of North Korean existence in such ways as not smiling during a performance of one of North Korea's propaganda songs. The contestants would come on the show and face the "Wheel of Terror" on which several punishments were listed; Death by fan, a korean cultural myth still believed by some in which a turning a fan on in a room with the doors and windows closed would suffocate you, boxing a bear, getting sent to the Gulag. There was also a tiny strip on which you could win your freedom to South Korea, but the Vanna White character made sure that wheel wouldn't stop in that position.
We spent a week getting ready, writing a script, creating props and costumes and getting more and more excited before filming it one Friday afternoon over the last two hours of the day. It was a lot of fun to film and I leapt whole heartedly into my task, editing the sonofabitch into a movie. Little did I know I had signed on to a frustrating project that would consume 13 hours I did not have to spare over the week it took to put the thing together. Ultimately, it was increadibly rewarding as day by day the work would become more and more complete and my class made me play the unfinished cuts during every break period during the day. Finally last Wednesday, the whole school assembled to watch everyones efforts. There were 8 video skits and although most of them were conceptually bad, the few that were good simply could not compete in terms of production value. Of all the films shown ours was the only one in which everyone was continually laughing and enjoying all 7 minutes and 40 seconds. I was also extremely proud when we were given First Place and I was allowed to be among the three people who went on stage to recieve the award as recognition for my time contribution.
Prior to these events, my memory starts to get a little hazy, but what stands out very clearly is the Labor Day weekend over which my parents and sisters visited. It was very near to my birthday as well, so we celebrated that at the same time. We ate well at several restaurants in the area, visited Hearst Castle, and I finally managed to get the TV I'd been salivating over for months, A nice 16:9 26" HDTV from Samsung. However of all my memories, I think my favorite is our last night together. We were in the hotel trying to decide what to do, when my sisters suggested we play cards until we figured it out. We wanted to play poker, but having nothing to bet with, we decided to buy big bags of M&Ms and use those to wager. We all ended up playing Texas Hold'em for hours, M&Ms being won and lost and eaten, and as the amount of money on the table diminished, we all came away feeling sugared and happy. My sister finally won against me as we were playing high stakes, and on a rash move went all in on a decent hand, only to be trumped on the turn.
My final coherent memory, is about two weeks prior to those events. My girlfriend and I, after having discussed going for months, went kayaking. There isn't much to tell, because the experience was not particularly notable in a literary way. However, as an experience it ranks very highly and I recommend it to anyone who has the means. The kayak is very easy to control after only minor toying with using the paddle, and the feeling of sitting on the open water is far better than you can really get with a canoe or smiliar boat. We paddled through the tops of the kelp forests, saw a sea otter and were tailed by an inquisitive sea lion. The view of the shore was extrodinary and all in all was an exceptional experience.