Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sounds Outside the Lines

I wonder when I began thinking in outlines. Probably years and years of note-taking are finally having an impact, and now my thoughts are neatly organized, compartmentalized, and all sorts of other-ized.

All that to say, I wanted to write about beautiful sounds today, and I couldn’t help but make an outline from which to expound.
Bus 70, pictured here, is not our friend. Despite being
identical to bus 7 and 71, this is the bus that does NOT go
the one place it needs to go, as I discovered today on my
way to soccer where only one person asked if I was a man.

Blessedly (for all of our sakes), I can’t do the 5-sentence paragraph anymore, if indeed I ever could. 
It hurts worse than homesickness. Actually (transition!!), I kind of like how homesick feels: it’s 
a happy kind of hurt. 

There are certain sounds from back home I miss 
more than anything: the ding of the oven (macaroni casserole, oatmeal raisin cookies: done), Gracie’s toenails against the hallway tile, the garage door opening when mom or dad returns from work, Hilary’s no-holds-barred laugh.

But that’s not what this post is about. This post is about beautiful sounds here in Korea:

       1.      Ship horns: Mornings, afternoons, evenings, I can hear the ship horns harooing their way into or out of the harbor. They are so much more majestic, so much calmer, bigger, deeper, than the blats of car horns. They feel like adventure and fresh air.

       2.      The right answer: Okay, class. So far you’ve failed to respond to “good morning!” and “how are you?” and “did you do the homework?” Next question is tougher: what part of speech is ‘quickly’? Silence. Silence. More silence. The silence of frustration. The silence of despair. Then deliverance. “Adverb!” Usually it’s Julie (group 6) or Ssing Moo (group 10), but sometimes Presia or Toto decides to speak up and when they do, it is the most blessed sound a hung-out-to-dry English teacher can hear.

         3.      Lee’s ukulele nearing my office: I know when a native English speaker is about to knock on my door because they’re louder and less giggly than Koreans. But it’s pretty cool to know it’s Lee by the sounds of the Arrested Development opening theme strumming closer and closer to 2203.

         4.      Korean praying: It is a thing to behold. Yesterday I saw two groups of students praying. Each consisted of four people, one of them strumming a guitar and all of them yelling—loudly, effusively, almost obnoxiously—their praises and prayers. I caught the occasional “Hananim[1],” but otherwise it was unintelligible to me. And it gave me goosebumps—in a good way, in the way that happens when God is really being praised.

      5.      A word I recognize: Because learning Korean is hard, I like to appreciate the baby steps. Words I recognize in the middle of long soliloquys or dialogues are all beautiful: anyeong (안영)! jinjja (진짜)? Gwiyeopta (귀엽다)! Mwo (뭐)? Juseyo (주세요)? Kamsahmnida (감사합니다)!

I tried to throw the outline out the window, but this blog post still seems so organized. Unfortunately, it’s so organized that I can’t help but analyze the similarities between all these sounds. The only thing they have in common (besides being sounds in Korea, of course), is in their randomness, their unpredictability during the day. And they are so much more beautiful that way.

[1] Mini second-coolest Korean lesson you will ever learn: “Hana” (하나) means “one” and “nim” ( )is a respectiful suffix. They add nim () to the end of teacher (선생) to make seonsaengnim (선생님), for instance. So 하나님 is like saying “Honored number one,” or, rather more pointedly, “God.”

No comments:

Post a Comment