Monday, April 27, 2009

연등 축제

The Lantern Parade, the highlight of the Lotus Lantern Festival, was held on 26 Apr, Sunday. The parade took place along Jongno Road and terminated at the junction of Jongno 1-ga.

Before the parade, which was scheduled to start at 7pm, I was wandering around Jongno 1-ga and Jogyesa Temple. Jongno 1-ga was off-bound to traffic on Sunday. Many lanterns were set up at its mouth and many tents erected along it. Inside the tents, visitors were allowed to experience with Buddhist culture.

Some of the lanterns seen at the mouth of Jongno 1-ga.

"Baby one more time" and "I want nobody nobody but you".

Cultural experience - Making of paper lotus flower.

Colourful petals of lotus flowers made from Hanji (Korean paper).

At Jogyesa Temple, lotus lanterns almost shielded off the sky. There was a long queue formed up when I was there. Apparently, people were there to collect the lanterns. Apparently, anyone could just walk in, take the lanterns and participate in the street parade.

Just after I left the temple, it started to drizzle and then rain came. When it seemed like it was going to be a wet evening, the rain miraculously stopped just after the parade started.

Lotus lanterns at Jogyesa almost shielded off the sky.

Lanterns distributed in Jogyesa to anyone who is interested in taking part in the parade.

More lanterns at the mouth of Jongno 1-ga.

The Street Parade

The street parade lasted for about one and a half hour. The floats that participated in the parade were later parked along the street after Jongno 1-ga and that gave good photo-taking opportunity. An open-air concert started in front of Bosingak (Jonggak) after the parade ended.

One of the dragon floats parked at the roadside after the parade.

An open-air concert opened in front of Bosingak after the parade ended.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

생각보다 많다

My first encounter with the grammars ~(이)나 and ~거나 was in basic level Korean. I was taught that they both mean 'or'.

1. ~(이)나 is attached to the back of a noun in the form - Noun + (이)나. For example,

버스나 지하철을 탈 거예요. / 지하철이나 버스를 탈 거예요.
I will take either bus or subway.

2. ~거나 is attached to the back of an action verb in the form - Avst + 거나. For example,

시간이 있으면 책을 읽거나 음악을 들어요.
When I have time, I either read book or listen to music.

[To say that ~(이)나 and ~거나 has the meaning of 'or' is more like giving an approximate to their meaning. What I have come to realise is that they both convey a sense of "it doesn't really matter which is which". This sense is the strongest in words like 아무거나 and 아무때나. 아무거나 means it doesn't matter what is the thing. In other words, it means anything and everything. Similarly, 아무때나 means it doesn't matter what is the time and hence, it means any time and every time. 다 상관 없어요.

When you understand the full meaning of ~(이)나, the following sentence is easy to explain:

시간이 없의니까 빵이나 먹읍시다.
There is no time so let's eat bread.

Sentence explained: When (이)나 is attached to 빵, it means eating bread is fine with the speaker although it is not something he would have eaten if given a choice. To translate the sentence with the nuance included, it will be: There is no time so it doesn't matter what is the food available out there, let's just eat bread and I am fine with it.

If you just memorise the meaning of (이)나 to be 'or', it will be difficult explaining the above sentence sensibly.]

My next encounter with ~(이)나 was in intermediate level Korean. Then, I was taught that it can also mean "to that much" or "as much as". What on earth does that means (도대체 무슨 뜻)? I cannot make full sense of the following sentence. 소주를 한 병이나 마셨어요 (I drank as much as one bottle of soju). Actually, what I mean is I can understand the sentence but I can't grab the sense which ~(이)나 conveys in the sentence. Why emphasise one bottle when it is just only one bottle? I can understand if it is ten bottles but why use ~(이)나 when it is only one bottle of soju? At one time, I even thought that ~(이)나 is similar to 쯤 and 정도. But ~(이)나 is not at all similar to them. It is not an approximate. "소주를 한 병이나 마셨어요" means I drank one bottle of soju exactly and not about one bottle of soju.

The moment of enlightenment came this week when my teacher drew something like what is shown below on the white board.

Both sentences above mean exactly the same thing, which is, there is half a cup of water. However, if you notice the expression to the right, one smiley is sad and the other is happy. The sentences above don't even say that the cup of water is half emptied or half-filled but yet as a reader, I know instantaneously the feeling of the person depending on what he writes. If I may put in some emotion after translating the two sentences, it would be like,

물이 반밖에 없어요 - There is only half a cup of water and nothing else :(
물이 반이나 있어요 - Wow~ there is half a cup of water :)

We all have a ruler of different graduations in us which we use to measure the world we live in. What is too much for some is too little for others. As a result, more often than not, there is a difference between what we think or expect and the actual truth. The grammar ~(이)나 is thus used in a situation when the actual truth is more than what one expects.

Back to the "one bottle of soju" example. When a person say, "소주를 한 병이나 마셨어요", what he actually means is I didn't think that I could even drink a bottle of soju because I am a weak drinker. However, the truth is I did drink one bottle of soju and that is beyond my expectation. I am quite surprised by what I did.

It would be very difficult to understand what the person actually mean if I just translate the sentence to be "I drank one bottle of soju". It is not wrong though but the '느낌' (feeling or sense) is completely lost and there is no knowing about the feeling and thought of the person who said it. From another angle, if the person is to omit using ~(이)나 and says "소주를 한 병 마셨어요", he is not conveying any of his feeling but a fact. In some way, ~(이)나, when used, tells us more about a person himself rather that the fact he is trying to convey.

Just to prevent confusion, (이)나 only carries the nuance of 'more than one's expectation' when it is attached to a quantitative noun or noun that is measurable.

~(이)나 is not as easy as it seems because it is used to convey human thought and feeling which are complicated in the first place. If I am to describe ~(이)나 in one word, it is about '차이' (difference) - the difference between one's thought and the reality. Below are three advanced usage of ~(이)나 which conveys the sense of '차이'. ~(이)나, in this instance, is attached to the noun which is not the reality.

1. 그 분은 프로 선수나 되는 것처럼 골프를 잘 져요.
That person plays golf so well as if he is a professional golfer.
(Note: (이)나 is attached to 프로 선수. The truth is the person is not a 프로 선수.)

Sentence Explained: That person in reality is not a professional golfer. However, when I saw him played, his skill is much better than thought, if not, as good as a professional golfer. When I think he is as good as a pro, there exists a difference or '차이' between my thought and the reality and hence ~(이)나 can be used.

2. 그런 짓은 어린애나 한는 거예요.
That is thing which only kid will do. [this is a common expression to tell people to grow up and stop behaving like a kid]

Sentence Explained: The person being remarked on is actually an adult but the thing he does, makes him seems like a kid in another person's eyes. Since difference exists, ~(이)나 can be used to convey the message - "Hey, you are an adult not a kid. Those are things which only kids will do. Grow up!"

3. 사람이 양심도 없으면 짐승나 다름없어요.
If a person don't even have conscience, he is no different from a beast.

Sentence Explained: In reality, nobody is a beast. However, in a situation when a person forsakes his conscience and does something bad, we would think that he is no different from a beast. So there exists a difference between what is reality and what we think. Again, ~(이)나 is quite useful in conveying the difference between our thought and the reality.

If you can follow me until here, good, if not, it doesn't really matter because you can't learn Korean well using English anyway. Language has a lot to do with '느낌' rather than grammars or other technical aspects of the language. I learned ~(이)나 back home but I never got the '느낌' until I came Seoul. Instead of saying that I am studying Korean in Seoul, I would rather say that I am trying to find the '느낌' of the language here. I am glad to say that what I have gained here until now is more than what I have expected. Although I wish to, I cannot use ~(이)나 to form a sentence in this instance because the difference is between before and after thought and there is no reality involved.

Last night, I dreamed a Korean correcting my broken Korean. I cannot remember the exact words he said but it was something that I could tell is proper Korean. Perhaps, the '느낌' of the language has begun to sit in my mind.

연등 놀이

I am gonna hit the street later for the Lantern Parade - the highlight of the Lotus Lantern Festival. The parade is going to last from 7 to 9pm and will take place along Jongno street from Dongdaemum to Jogyesa (조계사, 曹溪寺).

I hope it won't rain later although the sky doesn't look promising. Rain or not, I am still going out. I am also going to put my test preparation aside for a while. Playing is as important as studying.

Lotus lanterns, in huge numbers, hanging at Jogyesa at Jongno 1-ga.

Lanterns at Bongeunsa (봉은사, 奉恩寺) near to COEX Mall.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

바빴던 일주일

I am "out of action" for one week because I have been quite busy with my study. Two essays and two presentations to research and work on, plus other homework like sentence making to submit. In addition, preparation time for next day lesson is getting longer because the passages in the textbook are getting longer and harder. However, one good news is I have finished and done with my special presentation this term. I can now breathe a breath of relief.

Yesterday, I made my presentation on the topic - "Making public the personal particulars of sexual criminal". But before I did my presentation, we had cake cutting and photo session. Friday was the last lesson day for our American classmate, so our teacher bought a cake especially for him only to find out that he was absent from class. Anyway, we went ahead to eat the cake in his absence.

Our teacher bought us a very nice chocolate cake from Tous Les Jours. Too bad our American classmate could not be with us on his last day of lesson. We are going to miss his prank and joke.

After we had our cake, I was the first to present. I was for the motion of making public the personal particulars of sexual criminal.

성범죄자의 신상공개

입장: 찬성

지금부터 성범죄자의 신상공개라는 주제에 대해 발표하겠습니다.

성범죄는 큰 죄 아니면 작은 죄인가요?

성매수, 강간, 강제추행, 매매춘 알선 등의 성범죄 행위를 하는 사람들이 사회 대중에게 어떤 영향을 줄 건가요?

무고한 사람에게 돌이킬 수 없는 피해를 주는 죄는 당연히 큰 죄라고 판단해야 돼지요. 피해자들이 오래 동안 아파 죽을 정도로 살고 있을 상황을 보면 성범죄자의 개인 인권을 어떻게 존경을 할 수 있는지 모르겠어요.

이 세상이 너무 넓어서 성범죄자가 될 가능성이 높은 사람들이 잘 구분하지 못해지요. 착해 보인 사람도 성범죄자로 발견된 경우가 있잖아요. 만약에 성범죄자의 잘 구분하는 방법을 시민에게 가르치지 못 하면 다음 좋은 성범죄를 예방하는 방법은 바로 성범죄자의 신상공개예요.

성범죄를 예방에 위해 성범죄자의 신상공개보다 더 좋은 방법이 없는 것 같아요. 물론 신상공개 제도을 도입하면 성범죄 문제를 근본적으로 해결하기에는 불가능하지만 성범죄의 발생률을 줄이기에 어느 정도 효과가 있을 거예요. 왜냐하면 성범죄자가 성범죄 하기전에 그 심각한 결과가 더 신경을 써야 되기 때문이에요.

성범죄자 신상공개는 범죄자 본인을 처벌할 뿐만 아니라 잠재적인 성범죄자에게 경고를 전달하는 역할도 있어요. 이 제도를 통해서 자기의 신상 공개하고 싶지 않는 사람들이 할 수 없이 자기의 행위를 제어해야 돼요.

누구나 안전한 환경과 사회에서 살 고 싶지요. 또 아이들을 가지는 부모님들도 자기 아이들의 육성을 위해 밝고 건강한 환경을 더 선호해요. 그래서 성범죄의 예방을 무적으로 성범죄자의 신상공개 제도를 시실하면 우리 사회 공동 이익 보호할 수 있어요. 개인 이익보다 사회 공동 이익이 훨씬 중요하지요.

이상으로 제 발표를 마치겠습니다. 지금까지 제 발표를 들어 주셔서 감사합니다.

After me, another classmate of mine, made her presentation on why she is against the motion. Once she finished her speech, our class was divided into two groups to further debate on the topic.

Above are the members of the opposition team. They are of the opinion that education is more effective in curbing sexual crime rather than making public the personal particulars of sexual criminal. We question how can education be effective when we don't even know who are the past and potential sexual criminals among us and how they look like. In reply, they say that parents can caution their children about not staying out in the street late at night and not talking to strangers. We rebut that walking in the street late at night without fear is our basic human rights and to teach children not to talk to stranger is to teach them to doubt humanity from young which may adversely affect their future inter-personal relationship..... and on and on it went.....

Our debate was done completely in Korean. There were a lot of thoughts sitting in my head during the debate but to put them into words was a rather 'agonising' experience. I have yet to reach the stage where Korean words come out naturally from my mouth. For now, I still speak broken Korea but at least I can be understood. So I guess, I did fairly alright for my presentation.

Next week is going to be another busy week because mid-term test is next Thursday. Time to stress myself again. No pain no gain. 아자 아자 화이팅!

한국에 와서 밥통이 됐어

Back at home, I don't really like eating rice. I prefer noodle to rice anytime. But strangely, in Korea, my eating habit suddenly takes a 180 deg turn. I am now eating a lot more rice than noodle. Perhaps, the rice tasted much better here or it is because of the pot which is used to serve the rice. Whatever, I like to eat rice so much here to the extent that I think I have become a 밥통.

I have also re-discovered the benefits of eating rice. First, I don't feel hungry easily. Second, my body is getting more healthy. Third, it is cheap although this is not the main reason for my habit change. Below are just 3 rice dishes which I have been eating.

알밥 or Fish Roes Rice (3,500won). I started eating this rice recently after reading my friend's blog. It tasted as good as what was written. When I was taking this photo, the ajumma of the eating house where I ate, came up to me and arranged the dishes for me and then gave me advice on how to take a good picture. A really cute ajumma. This picture is taken according to her advice.

돌솥 치즈밥 or Claypot Cheese Rice (4,500won). This dish is a fusion of Korean and Italian food. It feels like eating pizza with rice. But it is delicious, especially the burnt rice at the side of the pot.

갈비밥 or Pork Ribs Rice (5,000won). This is a dish which I eat frequently because it is delicious and the eating house that sells it, is along the way. The pork ribs are seasoned and cooked just right and when served with rice in a claypot, the dish just tastes perfect. Anyway, this pork ribs rice is the signature dish of the eating house.

강화도 - 마니산

On the second day of field trip, we had early morning breakfast at 7:30am at the hotel's cafeteria and by 9am, we were off to Mt Mani (마니산, 摩尼山).

Pink cherry blossoms in full bloom around the hotel compound.

It's time to leave the hotel and set off for Mt. Mani.

Our buses, parked in the carpark of the hotel, waiting for us.

Mt. Mani is 468m above sea level and located at the southern end of Ganghwa Island. Legend has it that Dangun (단군, 檀君), the founding father of Gojoseon Dynasty, prayed to the heaven, for the good fortune of his country, at the Chamseong Altar (참성단, 斬城檀) built on top Mt. Mani. As such, Mt. Mani is also considered a sacred mountain and whenever the National Sports Championship is held, the sacred torch is lighted up here.

Dangun is worshipped as a god and so where he had been, heaven is probably not far away. So one good reason to visit Mt. Mani is probably to be at the closest point to heaven on earth.

A quiet corner in Mt. Mani which overlooks a pond of water.

A pond of still water with a bridge across it. Reflection makes all the semi-arches look like full circles.

Although Mt. Mani is not a high mountain, climbing it was anything but easy. To get to the top of Mt. Mani where the Chamseong Altar is, we had a choice of either normal trekking trail or stairs. We chose the stairs as it was a shorter way to the top. However, it turned out that this route was quite tough because at certain section, the stairs gradient was as steep as 40 to 50 degrees.

Doesn't matter which route, all lead to Chamseong Altar. But no smoking please.

After more than 1 hour of climbing, I finally reached the top. To be more exact, I almost reached the top because the top was out-of-bound as renovation work was being carried out at the Chamseong Altar. There is only one word to describe it - 실망 (失望).

At the top, low rain clouds were gathering around and it did feel like I had reached heaven or somewhere near it. Before I got carried away by this heavenly feel, I had to make my way back to the bus because we were only given 2 hours. It was fortunate that rain only started to fall when I almost reached my bus.

Picture of Chamseong Altar which I didn't see with my own eyes.

Lunch was at a very nice restaurant. The main dish was beef with leek and straw mushroom. The dish was not bad but I was more interested in eating the apple salad side dish. The apple was really sweet and crunchy.

The pot of beef cooking in front of us. It seems like there is a lot in the pot. However, the opposite is true because the centre of the pot is raised to give the impression that there is a lot of food in the pot.

After a fulfilling lunch, it was home sweet home and the end of our 1박2일 to Ganghwa Island.