Korean night

I stayed up way too late last night, but sadly The Official Day of Sleeping In did not live up to its name. The always noisy Cambridge garbage men woke me up at 7:30. Well, it wasn’t the men so much as the truck, which ridiculously plays that annoying beep-beep-beep (the noise that trucks make when backing up) when it empties the containers of trash into the bins on the truck. Every. Beep-Beep-Beep. Single. Beep-Beep-Beep. Bin. Beep-Beep-Beep. That, combined with the cacophonous sound the glass in the recycling bins makes when dumped into the truck, put an end to my goal of sleeping past nine. (It’s good to aim high in your aspirations, no?)

So, I’m awake, it’s gray outside, and I’m trying to get motivated.

Last night turned into Korean Night in my apartment. I came home after a few drinks with co-workers and realized that due to the beer consumption, I wouldn’t be reading or writing, so I turned on the TV. NCAA basketball was on, and I watched for a while, but I wasn’t in the mood — sports are more fun to watch with other people, I think. So, I popped in a Korean movie that a friend sent me to help inspire and motivate me on the book. I didn’t know anything about the movie, so I didn�’t have a clue what to expect. Springtime turned out to be a cute film, kind of a light romantic comedy combined with the same sort of story line as School of Rock (without the spastic character of Jack Black, of course) and well, in Korean.

As I started getting into the movie, I realized I hadn’t eaten dinner, so in keeping with the theme I made my favorite kind of spicy Korean noodles with an egg thrown in for protein. I used to eat this dish a lot in Korea. So it was definitely Korean night.

I don’t necessarily get nostalgic for Korea. I mean, I spent one year there ten years ago and it wasn’t always a great time. Korea was a challenging and often frustrating place to live. Which isn’t to say that I hated it; I learned more about the world living in Korea than I ever would have in Japan or Europe or any other more comfortable place. But when I see Korean films I can’t help but feel an affectionate recognition of that faraway place and time. What does it for me is the language. I hear the cadences of Korean, the phrases I used to hear over and over again, and…How can I explain? I don’t speak Korean, that’s for sure. But I listened to it so much and I listened so hard, that I feel like I do, in a way. When I watch Korean movies I realize that I understand more Korean than I thought I did. It’s funny: There were times when I lived in Korea that I didn’t think I could stand to hear the language for another second. And now, here I am watching a movie and repeating Korean phrases out loud because I like the sound of them, because I remember the sound of them, and because I knew what they meant all along. (For a taste of Korean, check out this page.

A number of behaviors that I have written about recently came up in the film, too, so that was neat. It’s good to know that I am still remembering things somewhat accurately. There were also gestures I had forgotten that the film reminded me of: the way that Koreans put their left hand under their right arm when offering something to someone else, or that sometimes, when respect demands it, they use both hands (with head bowed) to pass something to someone else. Or the way that Korean men slurp their noodles (loudly!) or the way that Koreans often eat at low tables on the floor. (Well, I hadn’t forgotten that, but it was nice to see it. Recently I turned in a chapter to my workshop in which I was sitting on the floor with Korean friends to eat a meal and my classmates couldn’t understand why we were on the floor, which just made me realize how usual it seems to me, and how unusual it might seem to many Americans.) Anyway, it was good to be reminded of these things. I’m feeling inspired to rent more Korean movies. And, of course, to write more.

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