Photo by Jaya Kim. 

Korean class is almost over. Tomorrow is our final exam, an overview of six weeks of Korean study. I’m not sure I’ve gotten any better at the language, to be perfectly honest, although this is by no means the fault of the teachers or the program. I’ve hit a bit of a wall. I simply can’t hold a conversation – I never have been able to. When it comes to reading and writing I’m fine, but listening and speaking sections of class leave me glassy-eyed and slack-jawed. When speaking, I use the same present-tense endings without bothering to consider whether I’m giving an opinion or talking about the future or should be honoring someone or anything else. When I have to pick my own brain for vocab, I tend to stutter and shut down. In a way, I think I know how my middle school students are going to feel if I speak too fast to them, something I did during the recent English camp. When listening to native speakers, I’ll pick out a familiar word and by the time I’ve processed it and what it implies for the context of the sentence (a cheap way to try and understand a sentence without actually understanding a sentence), the speaker has moved on and I’ve missed something else. It doesn’t matter that I’ve been watching Korean films for six years, or that I’ve taken three semesters of Korean language, or that I’ve now been in the country for over a month. There’s some mental obstruction that needs to crack. I remember a panelist during a workshop describing that cracking – something snapped and she suddenly got it. I’ve been trying to bend my brain every day, but it’s stubbornly refused to snap for me. Maybe in Daegu.

For reasons known only to Kim Jong-il and his secret cabal of ass-kissers, North Korea captured a South Korean fishing vessel a few days ago and just today decided to randomly shell the water near the maritime border with South Korea. Did I mention we’re all going to the DMZ this weekend? I can’t wait.