Sunday, July 5, 2009

Forming Views on Korea Part IV: Formal Education and of a Lifelong Love

Okay, I decided to write this after I got into a ridiculous discussion on Facebook and facing this long flight from LAX to Heathrow I wanted to address this ridiculous notion that if you don’t have a formal education you just picked up ideas from Wikipedia or are regurgitating articles. Moreover, without a formal education your ideas can only be taken so seriously; But, I do love Wikipedia, especially for Math, where I can easily grab formulas and derivations or history, where I can just get a glimpse of a "generally accepted" view that’s usually cited. And, newspapers and magazines as well. Of course, there are scholarly articles and textbooks, too.

I’m laughing out loud as I write this and the man sitting next to me keeps staring over – I’m still a few hours away from Heathrow. "Hahaha, excuse me, I just can’t stop laughing as I think about this. I have a brother that’s a year and a half (빨른 83) younger and, well, that was a huge age gap when we were children. I can’t remember exactly why, but I remember this one time when we were really young, my brother and I did something that made my mom want to reward us with a toy. She asked us what we wanted: I’m not sure what my brother, Lee (우리 둘다 외자입니다), wanted, but, I’m like really laughing out loud now; I know what I wanted.

You see, I’ve always had a thing for having the coolest thing (I just registered with twitter as well and i’m going to try blogging with my iPhone 3GS shortly as well). And, well, my feelings toward having the best things are no different … towards maps. Yes, maps…

You see, when the Soviet Union collapsed, the map of the world changed and old maps that had the Soviet Union still were just not applicable anymore. Also, Yugoslavia had already by that time seen a couple countries leave and declare independence. So, for our well earned toy, my brother and I "agreed" to ask for the National Geographic Atlas (~$80 to ~$100, or so). Haha, Lee, I’m sorry (형이 진짜 미안하다).

That atlas had it all (By the way, if you ask me where my love for Korea comes from, my mom is probably a prime influence. She cancelled the subscription to the National Geographic after the National Geographic Society refused to give equal consideration to the name East Sea as to that of the Sea of Japan when).

My mom did get him something else later (probably a doll) and plus I never got to go to Hawaii. By the way, 김영주, this is why and how I survived the final round in the Geography Bee in 5th grade my old friend – However, regarding the math contests, I think it was 'cause of something else ;) Considering the pressure your mother put on you, God, how were we friends back then? you must’ve hated me.

I remember back in high school or was it middle school? No, it had to be high school since by then we would "practice" driving our "borrowed" parent’s cars. My friend, Mr. Rhee, would sleep over every so often – going to class was always a secondary thing by then. I’m sorry 엄마(Mom).

(By the way, Mr. Rhee, I hope you are indeed free to pursue what you have always wanted to do in life and are more than just content in whatever endeavors you may find yourself in today. It’s been too long since I last saw you my friend. And, I can even still fondly recall how back in fifth grade, we would work so hard to write our own Choose Your Own Adventure Books).

There’s a huge gap between my childhood and after, but anyways, while the teenage years also included the days that we’d go joyriding oh so often (well, didn’t we all?), and also the days where the cops would harass us (justifiably so), my love and study of what is going in the world never went away. When Mr. Rhee and I were probably fifteen or so (1996?) we were just talking and smoking cigarettes in front of the local supermarket, Ralphs. The store used to be open 24.7 during those days and I think it was like two or three a.m. And, by the way, if you’re Korean-American and go to Korea try the word, "슈퍼" (Super) rather than "마켓" (Market) if Market isn’t understood.

Trust me. I had to learn by mistake.

Well, anyways, Mr. Rhee and I were just innocently talking and looking around inside the store Until, out of nowhere, we were surrounded by eight cops with their guns pointed. They apparently mistook us for two Mexican gangbangers (I blame you, Mr. Rhee. It wasn’t my head that was shaved). Well, they were sheriffs actually and they felt bad. They felt so bad actually that they even gave back our cigarettes and dropped us off at my house. We talked and smoked for a bit until we both passed out. Of course, to Mr. Rhee’s dismay, I turned on CNN Headline News right before we went to sleep as I would do every night. I always liked the news; I was fifteen.

This was also the time when the Internet was AOL and AOL was the Internet (I’m now thinking 1996-97). Well, during those days, I would follow news on Korea in a manner similar to how I use Google News now. I would go to the AOL Keyword: "News" and search for the keyword "Korea." Of course, this was AOL and the nineties, so there weren’t thousands of different articles for the same story. Anyways, almost all my knowledge of the Asian IMF Crisis as it pertains to South Korea and Japan comes from these days and I believe it’s more than just regurgitating the news. And, it was from reading the news back then that I came to the view that I now hold about former South Korean President Kim Dae Jung’s presidency during the IMF –amazing, albeit unfinished job of reforming the economy. I still hadn’t lived in Korea yet nor did I even have the slightest inkling that I eventually would one day. Of course, I hadn’t read any books on Korea either except of course for these articles; I was 16 (17 in Korean Age) in 1997.

When I did get to Korea, I took one quarter of Introductory Korean (일급, level 1) at Yonsei University’s Korean Language Institute. And, two days of Introductory Korean (이급) at Ewha Women’s University’s Korean Language Program (I needed to extend my visa and they had these night courses). But, studying Korean because I had to made it boring – quite the paradox I’d say. So, I went to Japan instead and visited a friend, who treated me with the best courtesy I have ever experienced. His parents made the best Japanese food I’ve ever eaten.

Oh, and if you want to buy a plane ticket to/from South Korea with Korean Airlines, then buy it in South Korea. Also, aside from visa purposes, the certificate of enrollment at a Korean language school is good for getting discounts. They give discounts to students (Confucianism again pokes its Korean head out here again with its reverence for students). As soon as you get there enroll in a mileage plan for this (where you receive a Skyteam Card Number that begins with a BK instead of a BA, everything will transfer over later if you move back to the States). They won’t do it if you buy it from the United States.

Well, so there; there you have it. That’s the entirety of my formal education of Korea (perhaps, for now) – almost half a year of study of the Korean language in my nearly thirty years of existence. So, if you can’t see what I’m trying to say because of the strength of my formal educational background, then that would be quite the shame.

But, on the other side, I swear London has some funny, funny looking streets. I wish I could bring over like a GMC Envoy or a Ford Excursion. We would have some fun here. And, can you imagine someone using this ...

Anyways no matter where you get the ideas, it’s basically the ability to connect different ideas and facts and observations and put them together into a single coherent observation or thought that makes for an idea that is original, and unique. Technically my last pre-Europe post, and I’m too tired to go on about this right now (by the way, there are a lot of people with some extensive formal education here. Met about 8 guys from Yale, some super rich Russians, and a lot from prestigious universities in India that I’ve just never heard of before)…

I always have and always will like learning for learning’s sake (provided it doesn’t feel I’m being forced to study). And, of course, I like to study and be around things (or people) that interest me, such as Korea.

No book or degree can give you that. Looking back through the Looking Glass, it really has been and continues to be a life long love. I feel it a duty to share what I learned though. Aside from the Decal and this blog, I also volunteer at the local YWCA, although I wish I could put in more time. The next semester will be the third semester I will be doing it. If you want to practice speaking English in private, then head over to the Young Women’s Christian Association in Berkeley, CA (no, you don’t have to be a woman or a Christian and while this may be Berkeley, a Communist – though, again, that being Berkeley you could be all of those, which would probably make for some interesting conversation). Wow, Berkeley seems a world away from the London School of Economics.

For more information, e-mail
Jane Abrahms (the program is very short on volunteers).

Also, we do live in the great state of California where you can pick up any new skills on the cheap at a local community college. You can probably find English as a Second Language courses for a fraction of the price English Institutions abroad charge. Or, maybe take a course in German before heading over to Germany.

Anyways, my postings from now on will incorporate more formal education. I am taking
EC321: Money and Banking beginning tomorrow afternoon (I feel Macroeconomics after the undergraduate level with the subjects deep connections with history is a good fit for me). By the way, I do like formal education. 우리 어머님깨, 감사합니다.

The earlier posts:

Forming Views on Korea, Part I, People

Forming Views on Korea, Part II, Reading, Korean

Forming Views on Korea, Part III, Life as an Illegal

No comments:

Post a Comment