Asian adventures

Whew. The past year has been a whirlwind of travel craziness, even moreso if you stretch it a bit further and count summer 2014. I’ve headed from the US to Norway, to England, Poland, and the Czech Republic, and back to Norway before flying back to the US, whereupon I took a detour to Puerto Rico over the winter, returned to Miami for spring break, and went to New York for the first time. Then, after moving three times since returning from Europe to the US and finishing my Bachelor’s in Computer Science in spring 2015 – along with meeting a whole lot of fun and interesting new people along the way – I sold or gave away most of my possessions, said “Bye” to the country I’ve lived in for ~22 years, and purchased a one-way ticket to Norway, but not before popping over to Colombia to see South America at least once before leaving the western hemisphere.

After spending only a week in Norway, I hopped over to the Netherlands where I had an absolute blast with old and new friends for about a month before going for my first time to Belgium. From Belgium, I bought a ticket to South Korea and commenced my teaching job here, learning a lot of Korean and about the country’s culture from one of its very own, small cities.

And now, in approximately one-and-a-half months, I’ll be on the move again. Where to this time? Well, first I will go around Korea to the places I haven’t seen yet but want to before I leave, such as Jeju Island, Daejeon, more of Seoul, the Demilitarized Zone (between North and South Korea), Gangwon province, Daegu, and more of Busan. After that, I will close out my apartment here in Gochang, say “See ya later!” to the friends I’ve made here, and head to…


And I can say I’m quite excited! The destination is not so much of a surprise if you’re somewhat familiar with Asia’s geography, but it will be the first time I’ve set foot in a place where so much of the media I’ve watched and played over the years originates from, and I have to say I’m pretty happy. Both to see Japan, and to leave Korea as Korea has been kind of a drag. More on that in another article, but to sum it up, the job and benefits are great, but the country, people, and largely the food do not suit me. But I’m satisfied: I’ve met plenty of great people here and learned a lot about myself. I’m just happy to be getting to the relative beauty and politeness of Japan, and see some friends that I’ve had there for awhile.

The rest of my plans thus far are pretty tentative, but the current plan goes somewhat like this: I’ll spend three or so months in Japan, going to at least Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo (if not more), then head to Taiwan, Hong Kong, maybe Vietnam (if I bother to get a visa for it, which is a somewhat annoying requirement), maybe Laos or Cambodia, but then definitely Thailand and down to Singapore.

After that, the current plan is to head back to the place where I’ve decided I want to get a residence permit and branch off from there in the future. I’ll espouse more on which country that is in another article! For now, I wonder: can you guess?

Japanese katakana

Here are some mnemonics to help with learning Japanese katakana – which is the second best place (after hiragana) to start learning written Japanese (Check out this katakana chart, this one, and this one, too!):

  • ア – a: Looks like an “A”xe. (pronounced “ah”)
  • イ – i: Looks like a lowercase “I” with a long dot. (pronounced “ee”)
  • ウ – u: Looks like the hiragana “U”!
  • エ – e: Looks like an “E”levator!
  • オ – o: Looks like a man tripping – “O” no!
  • カ – ka: Looks like the hiragana “KA”!
  • キ – ki: Looks like the top of the hiragana skeleton “KI”y!
  • ク – ku: Looks like the side of a “KU”p! (pronounced “koo”)
  • ケ – ke: Looks like a lopsided letter “KE”! (pronounced “keh”)
  • コ – ko: Has two “KO”rners!
  • サ – sa: Dancing the “SA”mba/”SA”lsa!
  • シ – shi: “SHI” always smiles at me.
  • Continue reading Japanese katakana

English agreement

In English, our way to agree with someone is very confusing.

If you’re asked a negative question such as “Don’t you like it?” and you say “No”, this most probably means you don’t like “it”. But because of how inherently confusing this structure is, we often go on to clarify our answer: instead of saying “No”, we often say “No, I don’t” just to make super sure the person understands which way we lean. If we were asked “Don’t you like it?” and we said “Yes”, that would most likely mean we did like whatever “it” is (but of course, to clarify, we’d probably instead say “Yes, I do”).

Most Asian languages are the complete opposite of this. In Korean, Japanese, and other Asian and even non-Asian languages, saying “Yes” means you agree with the sentiment of whatever was said, regardless of whether it was positively or negatively worded. If the person didn’t like “it”, then in response to “Don’t you like it?”, they would simply say “Yes.” The asker asked if she didn’t like it, and that’s what the answerer agrees with.

Let’s do one more example to make the difference even clearer. If I say “No class today?”, and there was no class, an English speaker’s response would probably be “No”, as in “No, there is no class today.” However, a non-English speaker would most likely respond to the question “No class today?” with “Yes.” In response to “No class today?”, saying “No” would mean “No, there actually is class today.”

Another point: when asking for confirmation, we take the negative tense of whatever our verb was. Let me show a few examples:
Continue reading English agreement