Assa! I figured out how to type in 한글 (Hanguel) on my computer. This is pretty awesome. 안녕하세요! (Annyeong Haseyo--meaning "Hello!"). I knew all that tech geek stuff from Blair would come in handy one of these days.
This morning I went to my first Korean class at the downtown YMCA, just off the Banwoldong subway stop. The class goes for one semester each Saturday from today (9/15) until just before Christmas (12/22). Classes are two hours long with a 10 minute break. The class cost 80K won for the semester (about $80). I think this is pretty reasonable. Plus, Jane left me the workbook and text that she used, so the materials are essentially free for me.
There are three levels for classes--beginner, intermediate, and advanced. Since I've learned the characters already and some basic expressions, Gwen thought I should try the level above beginner so I don't have to spend six weeks practicing letter pronunciation and writing. Most of the people in the class are English teachers on their 2nd or 3rd contracts (meaning they've been here a few years), so I think my listening/speaking/vocabulary skills are the weakest in the class. One girl just started her fourth year here and another guy is on year seven! Wow! The organization is very laid back--students will probably add and drop throughout the semester. If the class gets over my head I can always switch out to beginner.
However, I felt like I was able to follow what we did in class this week (some expressions for basic introductions and past tense conjugations) and my reading/writing of hangul seems to be at about the mid-low level of the other students. I think I'll stick with it for a couple weeks. We're starting on the 1-A level textbook chapter 4, so I will try to work through the first three chapters in the book this week so that I will feel more caught up with everyone else.
The other foreigners in class were very friendly and seem like good people, so that's pretty cool. I figured going to a daytime class focused on language and culture would weed out some of the hardcore party people who couldn't be bothered to get over their hangover enough for an 11 am class and folks who are uninterested in learning about Korea while they are here, and that seems accurate to a certain extent. The teacher is very nice and funny (he started the class testing our reading by writing "Burger King" and "Starbucks" on the board in Konglish Hangul). The other students seemed impressed I was trying that class having been here only three weeks and invited me to lunch with them after class. I would have gone, but today was my make-up lesson at taekwondo for Sa Beom Nim's conference on Monday.
At my taekwondo lesson today, I met Sa Beom Nim's wife and two sons, who study English using the English names Justin and Eric. They are Korean age 7 and 9 years old, meaning around 5 and 7 in American years. The boys are very cute and were very shy at first, sneaking around to spy on the crazy foreigner studying with their dad. Eventually their mother forced them to say hello and then they played quietly while I finished my workout.
Sa Beom Nim's wife is very kind and beautiful. She teaches computers at an elementary school and speaks English very well. We spoke briefly after my lesson and she offered to take my picture for my parents in DC. I am drenched in gross sweat after my lesson and look like a huge goober, but if you want to see me in uniform, here you go:
When she e-mailed it to me, she said, "I will take picture more than pretty next time." How very sweet.
I take home my uniform on Fridays to clean it--boy does it need cleaning! Sa Beom Nim even made a comment about my sweating today, which was very pronounced from all the humidity and heat from this typhoon. Maybe I should bring a small towel with me, so I don't drip all over him when we practice breaking grips and sparring.
Now off to get ready for my evening on the town with Se Jin. It's raining again, but maybe I can get pictures anyhow.