Archive for the ‘Korea’ Category

I’ve been called many names like perfectionist, difficult, and obsessive.  I think it takdes obsession, takes searching for the details for any artist to be good. ~Barbara Streisand

I turned SIXTY this past September.  That’s a big 6 and an 0.  Six DECADES of life.  And I still feel like I’m 17 with the whole world at my feet and eternity to explore it in.  As my birthday approached I became increasingly reflective, contemplating the past and what I have accomplished and musing about how much time I had left to accomplish anything,; whether I could accomplish anything that mattered,  and what I wanted that to be.  What kind of legacy did I want to leave behind?  How could I be the best me I could be?

These musings were very private and personal so they didn’t get written about.  At least not for public consumption. They consumed a great deal of time and energy and as a consequence this Blog and many other things were neglected.  It was a downright obsessive compulsive period that lasted much longer than I would have thought  but in many ways I am glad I took those long months off and engaged in more than a little self indulgent navel gazing.  It was good for me because I realized that I had been shambling  through life like a tumbleweed blown hither, thither, and yon at the whim of whatever breeze blew the hardest.  I need to focus.  I need to narrow down what I will give my precious little available head space  and physical energy to and set some goals.

I don’t usually make formal New Years Resolutions because when I do  I usually set such lofty goals for myself that I can’t possibly live up to them.  But then that leads to vague, unfocused rambling semi-goals  that are seldom really productive.  Every year I do choose a few  new to me things to learn.  Usually something difficult and something not so difficult and something easy. I really enjoy learning to do new things and I have learned a lot of things over my lifetime.  I’m proud of this ability and I’m proud of the many varied interests I have.  I think it keeps me young and my mind alert.  (I may be kidding myself about that part.)  Most of all it means that I am very rarely bored.

However, where I get into trouble is my expectations for myself.  For instance last year I vowed to learn to play bridge and I did learn the basics but bridge is a complicated game and there was so MUCH to learn that I became overwhelmed so I quit.  I wanted to be able to jump into a game with people who had been playing Bridge for years and be competitive.  I was not content to BE a beginner.  And that is my hubris.  I expect too much of myself.  I’m too competitive.

The same thing happened when I decided to learn to crochet before my daughter was born.  I didn’t just want to learn to crochet, I wanted to crochet her coming home from the  hospital outfit and when I was a couple of months along I chose a lovely and not too complicated  pattern. I managed to accomplish learning how to crochet and I did manage to make my daughter’s coming home outfit before she was born but I didn’t learn some things that were essential for crocheting a truly lovely garment.  And my disappointment in my effort led me to quit putting in any more effort to learn.   I couldn’t do it perfectly so I didn’t want to do it at all.  I realize now that it really was too hard to learn more than the basics  all by myself.  What’s more, I wasn’t willing to do the dull practice of crocheting simple scarves and hats that didn’t require complicated turns and counting stitches to get to the point that I could point with pride at what I had made. If I cannot produce a garment that looks as if it had been made by someone with 20 years of experience crocheting then I lose interest.  I want to be an expert in 3 easy lessons.

Of course that doesn’t  happen.  My expectations for myself were and always have been too high.  If I can’t be an instant expert, leftover tapes from my childhood begin to play in my head and I  abandon whatever didn’t come easy immediately.  So this year, late in life, I have decided to learn how to lower my expectations and learn something difficult one baby step at a time and not let my failure to be perfect at doing it right away get in my way. After all, over the years whenever I wanted a new scarf or a hat, I have picked up the yarn and needles and crocheted one and now people see my work and offer to pay me to crochet for them.  I have finally become an expert in scarves and hats. I’ve decided after all this time to learn to be a beginner. Not so difficult things usually comes pretty easy for me so I felt that the key to correcting this flaw in my character was to break something down into its simplest components, to begin at the beginning  and become an expert in one small piece at a time before I allowed myself to move on the the next small piece.

So these are my New Year’s resolutions.

1.  Find a teacher to teach me how to do something difficult the right way and quit expecting myself to be able to learn new things without help.

2. Accept that I cannot become an expert in something until I have finished the business of being a beginner.

3. Put my ability to be obsessive to good use and learn to deal with the boredom of the repetitive details of being a beginner until I have ceased to be a beginner at step one before I move on to step two.

4. Do allow my compulsive nature to jump ahead to what I consider  the “fun stuff”  ruin the process of learning.  Learn to accept “failure” and frustration as part of the process of learning.

5. Relax and enjoy being  the best me I can be.

These are the new things I want to learn this year:

Making good light fluffy cream Scones

The Korean alphabet

Understanding and using Linux terminal  command lines

Oh, and one more resolution:  BLOG about my experiences



Read Full Post »

If the English language made any sense, a catastrophe would be an apostrophe with fur.   
~Doug Larson

map of KoreaYesterday’s meeting with Jeong Sun/Alice was interesting and fun. I think we will fit well together but that is for her to decide at this point. My impression of her was that she is very intelligent, not really shy but somewhat reserved by American standards, soft-spoken, thoughtful, kind, and a very beautiful young woman.

It was not at all hard to get a conversation with her started which was good. She asked me questions too. In the past, I have had a hard time getting a conversation started with WESLI students. I chalked that up to a variety of reasons but primarily I think it probably was the fact that we were not a particularly good match because we could not find any mutual interests. I think I went through meeting four students before I met Mari, the Japanese woman who essentially became part of my family while she was here. I don’t think that will be a problem in this case.

She has a pretty good command of the English language, in my opinion. Pronunciation was off in a few cases—for instance she was trying to tell me her impression of the food at a local Korean restaurant and I didn’t understand what she meant until I realized she was trying to say the word salty as in the food was too salty.  She has good inflection and tone which is nice because sometimes people who have learned English in a foreign country sound really wooden when they speak. I didn’t notice any glaring mistakes at all.  But that’s exactly why she wants an English conversation partner—to correct minor errors in grammar and pronunciation.

I got a chance to ask all of my questions and then some so here are the answers:


Why did she choose the English name Alice? Does it have any special significance for her?


A friend chose this name for her. She wanted to use Roadie (I don’t know if I am spelling that right) because she thought it sounded funny. <grin> The girl has a sense of humor!

She was pleased that I was able to pronounce Jeong Sun properly. YAY me! I left the issue of whether to call her Alice or use her Korean name to another time.

She likes my name, Barbara, because the brushes she used to buy for painting in Korea were the brand name Barbara. She showed me how to write both of our names using the Korean alphabet and explained a little bit about the Korean alphabet to me.


Why did she come to the US and Wisconsin, in particular, to study English?


She wanted to travel and study so decided to learn English first. She came to Wisconsin because she heard that Wisconsin speakers have the best pronunciation with the least accent in the USA! She also heard that Madison was safest amongst the major cities with ESL schools. Finally, WESLI gave her a 10% discount on their tuition fees to entice her to come here.


How long has she been here? When will she go back to Korea?


She has been in the USA six months and this is the first time she has lived away from home. She’s not really homesick but she has had to learn how to take care of herself for the first time because her Mom did everything at home such as the cooking, cleaning and laundry. She thinks American children are much more independent than Korean children and was shocked when I told her that my daughter had gone to Germany when she was barely 18 and lived there for almost three years.

She is learning to cook Korean foods since her experience with the Korean restaurant was dis-satisfactory. I asked her about Kim chi and expressed an interest in trying it. She said that making Kim chi was something that required the skills of an older more experienced woman and she did not know how to make it. I told her that I had seen it in the stores here and would like to try it with her and she seemed pleased by that. She told me that Kim chi was like yogurt and had a lot of health benefits.

She has no plans to return to Korea and hopes to stay in the USA and pursue a new career. She was an Art Teacher in Korea but wants to go to some kind of technical school to learn new skills she can use here.


What does she like most and least about Madison?


She likes: Shopping at West Towne! State Street! The diversity of people she comes into contact with.

She said there wasn’t anything she really dislikes but said that it is very different from her home.


Does she have brothers and sisters? Are they older or younger than she is?


She has an older sister and a younger brother. Her father owns a small to medium sized factory that produces things like screws. He grew up in the country but relocated to Inchon as a young man. (I think that is what she said–I couldn’t quite understand this part because I don’t know how to pronounce Korean place names but she told me there was a big airport there and Inchon has an International Airport.  I asked her if it was near Seoul and she said yes.  Her eyes widened at that question but I’m not sure why.)  Her mother is a housewife.


Does she enjoy Korean Television Dramas and comedies?


Yes, but she thinks that they exaggerate emotions (I figured as much.  Those dramas really manipulate your emotions!) and she sometimes does not like the way they focus on “hot button” social issues because she thinks they make things seem worse than they really are. She thinks this is true for the news media as well and talked about how all the Korean news sites online seemed concerned about was traffic statistics on their site so they only told the bad news.  I told her that was true for America too and told her the old axiom of Newspapers “If it bleeds, it leads.” and tried to explain what that meant.  She seemed to get it just fine.

All in all I think we both enjoyed ourselves and we planned to meet again next Thursday at the same time and place.



Barbara Gavin-Lewellyn  

Read Full Post »

I’m excited because today I am meeting a Korean student from WESLI to see if we will be a fit as English conversation partners. Her Korean name is Jeong Sun (first and middle) but when she replied to my contact Email, me she told me her English name is Alice. She’s 27 years old.

I wonder if she chose an English name to make it easy for us Wisconsinites to talk to her or if she really prefers to use that name. If it is the former, I hope we can just drop it soon and use her Korean name because it is very pretty and I THINK I can pronounce it OK. I found the meaning of the name online. Jeong  means “virtuous and chaste.”  Sun means “goodness”

We’re meeting at the Fair Trade Coffee House on State Street which is a short walk from my house. I can’t remember the last time I went out for coffee so this will be a treat.

I’ve written up a list of questions I hope will be good conversation starters for this initial meeting. I’m curious about:

Why did she choose the English name Alice? Does it have any special significance for her?

Why did she come to the US and Wisconsin, in particular, to study English?

How long has she been here? When will she go back to Korea?

What does she like most and least about Madison?

Does she have brothers and sisters? Are they older or younger than she is?

Does she enjoy Korean Television Dramas and comedies? (This one is important because I am absolutely hooked on them and would like very much to find someone to watch them with me who understands the language and can explain the nuances that I think are there but don’t understand. They are subtitled so she doesn’t have to translate them for me. I just want her to explain the cultural things that are happening.)

My interest in Korean Dramas is what prompted me to contact WESLI and become a volunteer English conversation partner. I think they are wonderful morality tales and probably a reflection, albeit imperfect, of Korean culture just like American television is an imperfect reflection of American culture. On the other hand, the Korean television dramas are far better than anything I have seen lately on free American television. I don’t have cable so I may be missing some really good stuff on American TV but I doubt it if what is being talked about in the forums online is any indication.

So that’s my big event of the day. The week actually. Oh, and my daughter and son are both coming to see me this evening. We’re having a BLT salad and I am going to make them some of my spiced coffee. Sunday we’re having a family get together with everyone for my nephew, Greg’s birthday. He requested fried chicken and everyone in the family is super excited because we usually only fry chicken on the 4th of July because we’re all calorie and saturated fat conscious the rest of the year.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: