Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Good, the Ugly and Google translate.

Some people just don't give up, do they?
Speaking no Korean, or at least pretending to speak no Korean in Korea can come handy at times. Take for instance the time I needed to find my way to a new lecture building to “Introduction to Public Administration” (I know..i know). Since I was just too damn lazy to find out where the hell the building was located, I decided to call out to a total stranger and give her my impressive “I-don’t-speak-korean, need-to-find-my-way-to-class, SOS” sign language stuff. POP, before I knew it, she was escorting me to the front of my class. It’s like a GPS automated navigation robot using where you punch in the code.

#include <mykoreanisshit.h>
Int main (void)
askf (“Find my class for me?”); //add smile.
return 0;

And off you arrive at your class. In my defense, we went for coffee later. Win-win.

But there are times, well, most of the time, when you wish your Korean was a little better than “anyonghaseyo.” I am perhaps guilty of not learning the language but when you have online translating software like Google Translate, why go through all that trouble? Right? Right?

Depends really, on what text you are translating. I had my entire assignment done through google translate at times but the quality, as you would expect, isn’t quite sparkling.  Sometimes they are accepted, sometimes they are used as emergency toilet paper backups.

More recently though, I was working on my “Writing in Science and Technology” [they should add “In Korean” rather than just suspend it like that. Can be very misleading I tell you] and I was finding myself going to translate page more often than I wanted. Even the TA sends in me replies in Korean when I write to him in English. It’s that bad.

So I needed to translate a text which was supposed to give me instructions for my next assignment and this is what I got:
Everyone has designated reader (2 per episode), and the general reader to read and reply to every form of peer review as the etl to dalahya. You specify more than 10 children, the general comment is that five months or more lines of criticism.
I like the part where everything seems to be ok..till the part where its in English and suddenly its…Swahili.
Etl to dalahya? Wtf. And then it gets even better. The 10 children part made me chock on my own spit.

I am not the only isolated prolific user though.
Last semester College Korean Prof Mrs…I forgot her name, lets call her park for the sake of argument,  Mrs. Park was telling the class about a student who spoke Korean with such swagger that it was hard for her to comprehend why his writing was so full of crap. As she later found, the student who I guess to be Kamasumba bro, was actually using google translate for his written assignments. The Prof claimed that she was highly “stressed” and she had “sleep disorder” while trying to figure out what the text actually meant.

Unfortunately though that’s the price you pay and make others pay for being lazy.
Now then, back to preparing my exams for tomorrow with my old pal, translate.
btw, he says hi.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Gay Korea III: Interview with Mr. X

Well, didn't have a picture for the topic
The following article was intended on being published on our university's English language journal, however, it never came quite close to being published. It has already been a year since. 

As I still had the transcript of the interview, I thought I might just as well publish it here. 
[Note: The interview was conducted without any recordings. Thus, the following text is straight out from my tiny brain. I have made sure that it is presented in such a way it stays true to what the interviewee had to say]

Interview with Mr.X*:
*name changed 
Interviewers take on Mr. X: Calm, composed, open and very comfortable about who he was.

Regarding his “coming out”:
I needed to drink a bit to actually admit to one of my closet friends that I was gay *laughs*. Surprisingly, he was completely fine with it. He accepted me for who I was and it gave me courage to open up to few more of my friends. That being said, I have not yet opened up to majority of my friends. I have to suppress a part of me when I hang around them.

Regarding the darker times:
There were periods when you had no one to talk to. I was into this one guy in high school but I was not sure whether if he was gay. When I did finally approach him, he said he wasn’t. So basically I was lonely, I had no one to talk to and I was depressed at that time. The only person I thought I could share something didn’t turn out to be gay.

Regarding his future:
I want to have a normal life. By normal I mean getting married, having a family and all those kinds of stuff. I do see a future in Korea, and although it will be challenging, I wish to live here. However, if things do get tricky, I will possibly reside abroad where gay community is more open.

Regarding South Korea and homosexuality:
Things are starting to change. Only yesterday there was this picture up on the internet showing this famous gay director kissing his fiancé. They plan on suing the legislative to change the definition of marriage and allow homosexuals to get married.

Since public figures are slowly coming out, I can definitely be hopeful of the future. It is a taboo subject to talk about and something that people tend to shun away from, but I am sure, with time and better understanding, the people will see gays for who they are.

Regarding QIS [the Queer club] in SNU:
I am not in the group so I cannot say much.

Regarding the mandatory 2 year army training:
It is definitely scary. Imagining being there with all the guys around is something that will be really hard. South Korean army has strict regulations against coming out gay during the army service, so keeping it in and leaving a part of you at home will be the key. If I did it all those years, I can definitely do it now.

Regarding his personal life now:
I feel very comfortable now. Although I had already accepted myself as who I was a long time ago, my boyfriend has been able to help me out understand homosexuality a lot better. It is great to have people around you whom you can share your problems, get advice and most importantly, be who I am. 

Regarding “coming out” in the family:
My sister knew that something was different about me some time back. She had even tried telling this to my mom who denied that such a thing existed. I will be coming out gay in my family very soon and it will be interesting to see what will happen. As I am not really close to them, I guess they will just take it in. My sister has no problem with me being gay, so for now it is good.

Regarding the bible thing:
I am not religious expert but I feel that bible is manmade, and anything that is manmade could have errors. For those of you who are adamant that existence of gay is not possible, I think you should change your perspective. The fact that I exist is telling. I feel values towards humanity come before religious values. 

You can read further articles on homosexuality in Korea here:
Dont Ask Dont Tell: Gay Korea [Here]
Gay Korea II: Defining Gay [Here]

Sleepless in Seoul

There are certain times when I look at other people with genuine envy. To be honest, it’s not because of their grades or money or success, but something rather simple, something rather trivial. I like to call these people the “Sleep Elites.”

I am not sure about your major, but here at the engineering part of the world, everyone has the ability to sleep anywhere. On the table, under the table, on the chair, suspended on two chairs, suspended on two moving chairs, on the stairs, on the way to the toilet, you name it. But I am not really interested with the ability to sleep anywhere, I am more amused at the pace at which some people, or rather the elites, seem to sleep. 
Let me introduce you to Binayak dai, the foreman of the elite squad, who could likely be fastest sleeper, ever. While we were working together in rural Kolkhop doing the hydro project, we were taking refuge at a nearby school. The class was our makeshift headquarters and although it wasn’t the best place to sleep in, juxtaposing it to other structures around, it was a five star hotel.  On the first night, we were all cramped into that space when we suddenly realized Binayak dai was fast asleep. Mere 30 seconds before, he was wide awake and laughing his trademark laugh. Now, he was orchestrating a very fine, loud tune.

He did so again the next day, and again the day after. We soon realized it was his habit. It’s a potent mixture given the fact that he is also an engineer.

The return of the Meow:

Its days like this that I wish I had been born into the elite squad of pacey sleepers. With the constant Meow and Murrrr of the overly friendly cat who just loves to hang around the window outside my poster bedroom, it’s hard to imagine the godmother of sleep aiding me up the stairs to dreamland. I would have supplemented the sleep in the class instead, but with assignments mounting the summits of Everest and with exams own meowing increasingly deafening, there is little room for midday nap.

It’s not that I haven’t tried to avert the cat from voicing her meows. I have done everything from throwing stuff I don’t need in my room to playing drums on my poor windowpane to even barking with varied degrees of success. When I voiced my concern to NJ and told her that making dog noises didn’t scare the cat away, she said that even cats knew that dogs in Seoul don’t bark. If there’s barking, it’s definitely human.

Sati Sabitri on the other hand, recommended that I use soju. What she was actually trying to say was that soju could help me join the elite drunk sleeping squad but my mind was already devising clever ways to get the cat drunk instead like saying “Here Kitikitkiti, who wants soju? Who wants soju huh?” or simply smashing the green bottle and showing some white-belt karate skills (I wouldn’t opt for Judo, nope. Even the cat would have got a little confused with the act) to the cat to shoo it away. My bad. I am bit visual, you see.

Unlike the last time though, I simply went on to youtube, put on a song that let me embrace godmother of dreamland with open arms.

“Let it be” heard the meow. “Let it meow.”

Thursday, April 17, 2014

What we think we do in the lab

I have been quite prolific in my writing for the past few posts, so here's a post where I let the pictures (and video) talk:
[Kind Note: Pictures are used without permission of the people involved. Any frustration in the very near future can be vented on the blog and not me. i repeat, not me.]

What Jae thinks he does in the lab:
(he actually does that a lot)

What Dong Ho thinks he does in the lab:

What the guys think they do in the lab:

What Ji thinks he does in the lab
(Showing off the lever mechanism
 behind opening a beer bottle with an umbrella. 
...some skill I have to say)

What we all actually do in the lab:


What my sisters think i do in the lab:
(too bad)

What my parents think I do in the lab:
(Pakka lab ma sutyo yo)

What my friends think I do in the lab:
(You didnt even pick up the phone!)

What I usually do in the lab:


Nahh..we work our butts off. that's what we think and do in the lab.
besides drinking.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A degree is just a piece of paper

If you haven’t noticed by now, classes are basically a big waste of time. Alright not all of them, but I would say most. As if taking classes in English wasn't challenging enough, think about taking courses in Korean. There are international students who really do work hard and squeeze the most out of them but is it really worth the effort they put in? I don’t know, but what I do know that I learn more interning in the lab rather than classes. That’s for sure.

Do I get a certificate for that? No, but I actually take the time and effort to learn the basics of tasks that have been tagged as “my responsibility.” And I learn that way. Of all the classes that are enlisted on my transcript, I can honestly say I found a handful of classes genuinely helpful. Most of the classes, I was either scrapping for my grades or was basically nonchalant about it. Motivation was really an issue.

Personally, I find it motivating if I know how should prepare for an upcoming exam. Similar to how you need to prepare the right ingredients with the right proportion for cooking up a masterclass chicken curry, you need to create the right recipe in cooking up the grade that you want in your transcript. I have absolutely no issue in taking courses that are difficult given the fact that I know how to prepare for those challenging exams.

Well that’s the issue isn’t it? We don’t. and we screw up.

The problem:
My juniors were taking a course this semester and I found out a close friend of mine was a TA for the class. This meant that he would set the questions and mark the paper. Awesome.

I approached him with prudence of course. I didn’t want him to get in trouble and I wanted my juniors to score better. Not exactly a win-win but something very close. After unsuccessful attempts at trying to pinpoint what chapter was important, I asked the million dollar question that wasn’t supposed to be the million dollar question. How should they prepare for the exams?

His answer was to read the book.

There is a reason for students, especially international students, who don’t have access to past papers, smart seniors and “source”, as you would like to call, to avoid classes they deem difficult but necessary. There were courses which I really wanted to take, however, with no available resources, I just had to take a class that I could score way better and put a glossy, polished look on my GPA. How the fuck am I supposed to learn with that anyways?  

On my final year, I am beginning to realize that degree is just a piece of paper. A glossy, polished paper.