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Archive for September, 2010

Visiting, vanishing Vakil

30 September 2010 Leave a comment

Habiba’s brother, Vakil, flew into Korea just over a week ago and stayed with us until he left first thing on Monday morning. His visit coincided with Chuseok, the Korean thanksgiving holiday when Koreans travel to their hometowns to spend time with family and pay their respects at the graves of their ancestors. We were lucky this year in that the three national holiday days fell on a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (if they’d been on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday, there would only have been one day off work). My employer gave everyone the Monday and Friday that week off, as well.

Habiba picked her brother up from the airport on Saturday afternoon, and, after having not been able to sleep on the flight, he unfortunately found himself unable to sleep that night, despite exhaustion. With nothing better to do, he went out in the early hours – and had an encounter with an old, drunk man who gave him makgeolli (rice wine) and ice cream at five in the morning. On the following nights he was generally able to sleep better, and he spent a few nights in a seedy but comfortable hotel next to our building (despite the fact that the hotel looked abandoned from the outside).

Over the following days, we endeavoured to show Vakil the sights, sounds and flavours of South Korea. We visited Insadong, Itaewon, Namsan Tower, Namsangol Folk Village, Deoksu Palace, Gyeongbok Palace, Bukchon and various places in and around Chungju. We ate Chicken galbi, beef galbi, spicy chicken soup (dalkdoritang), lots of gimbap, divers soups and stews, rice porridge (juk), savoury Korean pancake (pajeon) and a meal consisting of about a hundred side dishes. We pounded rice, saw a musical based on a traditional Korean tale, walked around an exhibition of with the theme of realism in Asian art, took part in an RPG session (sans Habiba), spent a couple of hours singing in a noraebang and spent a couple of days with Habiba’s friend Cybele in what is apparently the geographic centre of South Korea.

Last Monday, Vakil went into Habiba’s work with her to meet her students and see what she does for a living (Habiba’s very proud of her kids and she gets all her visitors to come in with her). I’d been there once before, but this time I was there on business. Zach had taken the Monday and Friday off in order to go to Tokyo and I filled in for him.

I taught his kindergarten class in the mornings and early afternoons and one of his elementary classes later in the afternoon after an hour and a half break. On the Monday I was nervous about following or not following the currculum at the correct times and asked Zach’s teaching assistant, Jasmine, for lots of help. I was more comfortable on the Friday. Both classes were down to about half because of people going away for the holiday, so it wasn’t too demanding in terms of crowd management.

The kids, by and large were very nice and accepted me and co-operated with me. One of the kindergarten activities involved making ‘Thanksgiving food’ out of clay, and one particularly small girl who looks like an old man who looks like a turtle made an extremely detailed sculpture of a table with mounds of rice cakes and a little chair and a person. On Friday, while doing a page from the elementary studetns’ science book on the subject of ‘What is Life?’ I had the opportunity to pose conundrums like, Are cars alive? What about viruses? And computer viruses? I’m sure the philosophical ramifications were somewhat over their heads, but they seemed to enjoy answering Yes! or No!

One of the most memorable parts of the week was going to Insadong on an extremely rainy Tuesday. The rainy season is usually more or less over by the start of September and fine weather is often assured for Chuseok. Not this year. We headed out early-ish and when we got there the rain was such that we decided to go to a café that also does fancy chocolates to wait it out. An hour or so later, still bucketing down outside, we decided on an early lunch and attempted to wait it out in the restaurant. An hour later there was still respite so we decided on travelling across town on the subway to go to COEX, a huge mall. After maybe a couple of hours there the heavens were still in full spate and we headed home.

I’ve never known such extensive and heavy rain and we felt like Vakil’s visit was doomed to be overshadowed by bad weather. The following day was grey and it spat occasionally, but it was mostly dry. From Thursday on, though the weather was exactly what one would have hoped for: sunny and not too hot.

Another downer was the fact that when we went for galbi for dinner on the Wednesday – the actual Chuseok day – they had no lettuce – an integral part of the meal – so we basically had to consume all that red meat with a bit of rice and jjigae.

After the urban jungle of Seoul it was extremely pleasant to get away this last weekend to visit Cybele in Chungju. Chungju is a small city, the limits of which are clearly demarcated by the main road encircling it: on one side of the road are high rise apartment buildings, on the other, apple orchards and tree-clothed mountains.

Cybele drove us to Jungangtap, a stone pagoda whose name means ‘central tower’. It is supposed to be the centre of the country and is set in a sculpture park some distance from the city and on the bank of a river. We saw lots of big black and yellow-orange spiders in the trees, some busily devouring unlucky dragonflies. We also went to the site of an old temple with a large buddha statue and to Seokjongsa, a large, exquistely decorated temple complex whose buildings were in mint condition – and some of them brand new. There were lots of dragonflies around, as well as plenty of praying mantises and scarily coloured spiders. We saw one big black spider (not tarantula-size, but big enough) spinning a web between two widely spaced trees.

Walking through the countryside near the old, ruined temple, we saw some Koreans doing something in a stream. They got back up on to the lane as we passed by and they stopped us and gave us freshly picked mushrooms and soju.

Cybele very kindly put us up in her new apartment, the ground floor of a house in the city (she used to live in the surrounding countryside) as well as being our chauffeuse. Over the weekend, Vakil started taking a deeper interest in the Korean alphabet, Hangul. By Sunday he was about as fluent as Habiba is after two years in the country.

I personally quite enjoyed the noraebang session. It’s not often that I get to do it, and especially with someone who shares my taste in songs. Vakil and I did a fair amount of Metallica together, as well as some Sex Pistols and Iron Maiden. Jessica even did ‘How You Remind Me’ with me – and here I thought all the trendy kids despised Nickleback.

After another sleepless night, Vakil left us at six o’clock on Monday morning. Habiba cried a little after he went and I held her for a while in the dawn light. She’s very close to her family and being away from them is hard for her. Most of the time she copes well enough, but moments like that, leavetakings, bring home how much she misses them.

Vakil’s visit, despite the best efforts of the dying rainy season, was a great success. Vakil is a very nice gentleman and I enjoyed getting to know him better; we both enjoyed tormenting Habiba with our sense of humour. Apart from that rain – and the fact that our original plans didn’t come to pass – there were no big problems. We spent lots of time together, did lots of fun activities, and all three of us got to see more of the Land of Morning Calm.

Goals, Motivation, Conflict and Tension

30 September 2010 Leave a comment

Kristen Lamb posted a link on her latest blog post to what she described as the ‘formula to great writing’. It’s from another blog about writing, this one called Adventures in Children’s Publishing.

It advises making charts of the goals, motivation, conflict and tension relating to your characters. It explains that good characters have conflicting goals – internal and external ones, for example. Characters should also have conflicting goals – this leads to the greatest level of tension, which is what keeps people reading.

Read the full article here.

Writing Diary

30 September 2010 Leave a comment

Last week I didn’t get much writing done. Well – I didn’t get any work done, really. My girlfriend’s brother came over to visit and we spent a very pleasant week sightseeing and travelling with him.

Yesterday, however, I finished the first draft of my story ‘Waking Up’; it’s around 9,000 words in total. I also submitted a critique to Critters. I have to choose another story and critique it before the end of Wednesday next week to keep my critiquing ratio at 100%. Then my own story, ‘The Green Marble’, will be up for review. I hope to have a good few critiques back by the following Wednesday.

antistrophe

28 September 2010 Leave a comment

an·tis·tro·phe /ænˈtɪstrəfi/

–noun
1. the part of an ancient Greek choral ode answering a previous strophe, sung by the chorus when returning from left to right.
2. the movement performed by the chorus while singing an antistrophe.
3. Prosody . the second of two metrically corresponding systems in a poem. Compare strophe ( def. 3 ) .

Origin:
1540–50; < Gk: a turning about. See anti-, strophe

—Related forms
an·ti·stroph·ic  /ˌæntəˈstrɒfɪk, -ˈstroʊfɪk/, an·tis·tro·phal, adjective
an·ti·stroph·i·cal·ly, adverb

Source: Dictionary.com.

It was already part of the story he heard and repeated, or that Berengar imagined, in his agitation and his remorse. Because there is, as antistrophe to Adelmo’s remorse, a remorse of Berengar’s: you heard it.

Source: The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco.

lemures

28 September 2010 Leave a comment

lem·u·res /ˈlɛmyəˌriz; Lat. ˈlɛmʊˌrɛs/

–plural noun Roman Religion .
the ghosts of the dead of a family, considered as troublesome unless exorcised or propitiated; larvae.

Origin:
1545–55; < L; see lemur

Source: Dictionary.com.

I realized I was having a vision and that there was a damned soul before me, one of the lemures.

Source: The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco.

balneary

28 September 2010 Leave a comment

Balneary \Bal”ne*a*ry\, n. [L. balnearium, fr. balneum bath.]
A bathing room. –Sir T. Browne.

Source: Die.net.

balneal or balneary (ˈbælnɪəl, ˈbælnɪərɪ)

— adj
rare of or relating to baths or bathing

[C17: from Latin balneum bath, from Greek balaneion ]

Source: Dictionary.com.

without difficulty we opened the door of the balneary, next to the infirmary.

Separated one from the other by thick curtains were some tubs, I don’t recall how many. The monks used them for their ablutions, on the days the Rule established, and Severinus used them for therapeutic reasons, because nothing can restore body and mind better than a bath. A fireplace in one corner allowed the water to be heated easily. We found it dirty with fresh ashes, and before it a great cauldron lay, overturned. The water could be drawn from a font in another corner.

Source: The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco.

versicle

28 September 2010 Leave a comment

ver·si·cle /ˈvɜrsɪkəl/

–noun
1. a little verse.
2. Ecclesiastical . a short verse, usually from the Psalms, said or sung by the officiant, after which the congregation recites a response. Compare response ( def. 3a ) .

Origin:
1350–1400; ME < L versiculus. See verse, -i-, -cle 1

Source: Dictionary.com.

But after the responsory, the hymn, and the versicle, as the chanting of the Gospel began, I glimpsed just above the altar, beyond the windows of the choir, a pale glow that was already making the panes shine in their various colors, subdued till then by the darkness.

Source: The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco.