Learning, In the Name of Love.

Weeks ago, our family began studying the Korean language.  Our studies began methodically, learning Hangul, the Korean alphabet.  Fortunately, King Sejong developed Hangul to be accessible to all, not only the wealthy and learned upper classes.  Indeed, with 14 basic consonants and 10 basic vowels, one can learn Hangul quickly with effort. 

We have been relying heavily on free online videos, including those from talktomeinkorean.com, koreanclass101.com, and sweetandtastytv.com.  [S] has taken to watching free clips from Dino Lingo, which she refers to “the monkeys and dinosaurs” video.  I would be more impressed with that content if she used the Korean word for monkeys, but it’s a start.  Regardless of the amount of quality free content, we’ve found it necessary to supplement our learning with workbooks and a useful phrases dictionary.  We also listen to Yonhap News streaming and try to read as much Korean as possible. 

Practicing reading Korean while shopping on-base. Yes, I can read it!

Our goal, at the beginning of this endeavor, was to be able to speak with our son.  I love you.  Mother, father, sister.  Are you hungry?  What hurts?  Further, we wanted to be able to communicate with our son’s foster mother, the adoption agency workers, and our court interpreter (yes, the irony).  But our quest for knowledge has turned into something else.  It’s become a deep rooted desire to learn a second language.  To be proficient.  To be able to understand and be understood.

Studies have demonstrated that learning a second language strengthens and develops the brain, just as push-ups strengthen and develop our muscles.  I’m not certain that’s the case.  Indeed, each morning, I sit with my cup of coffee and attempt to write the Korean alphabet.  Inevitably, I omit between one to three consonants.  Upon correction, I start again.  My learning method?  It’s simple and modeled after [S]’s.  Repetition.  Repetition.  Repetition.

Small Things

I remember the moment I first saw it as if it were yesterday.  Days after our arrival to Okinawa, I sat across from a woman processing our paperwork to purchase a vehicle.  The need arose for her to unstaple several documents.

After reaching for a pen-shaped tool, she began unstapling document after document.  Her actions were undertaken with ease and efficiency, words typically not associated with such an act. 

Having worked with legal documents requiring heavy-duty staples since I was in high school, I like to think I know a thing or two about both stapling and unstapling.  Neither act is as simple as one may think.  Indeed, while standard, heavy duty, and automatic staplers each have their purpose, they each also have many, many limitations. 

The easiest way to rid a thick document of a heavy-duty staple?  Slowly pull the document apart while holding onto one-half of the document in each hand.  Once the back half of the document has opened the staple, use a standard staple remover to remove the staple from the front of the document.  Done properly, one will not be able to discern the document was unfastened. 

Here, the staple remover had two enviable features:  (1) the metal part removing the staple was short and sturdy, allowing the remover to get under the staple with certainty; and, (2) upon a quick gesture, the staple is deposited into an enclosed space, to be discarded over a bin later.  Of course, it’s the second feature that impressed me as I watched her remove staple after staple without the need to discard the thin metal fasteners. 

My fascination with stationary, pens, and related gadgets, makes me at home with the large spaces dedicated to writing instruments, paper, pen holders, and desk accessories throughout Japan.  Regardless, I have spent the better part of two years scouring shops for this elusive tool, without success.  That was, until I popped into a large bookstore with a stationary section on the bottom floor.  That’s right–an entire bottom floor dedicated to pens, pencils, notebooks, paper, tape, stickers, cards, and other such items, designed to simplify one’s life while providing the user a quality aesthetic experience. 

As I rounded one corner, I stood before a wide selection of staple removers.  Short.  Long.  Fat.  Thin.  Colored.  Clear.  As I quickly cataloged my options, I locked onto the ever elusive staple remover I had seen so many months ago. 

It is, I dare say, perfectly designed.  It has removed staples from documents easily and with swift efficiency.  Days of fighting with stubborn staples are gone.  Also gone are piles of staples on my desk and errant staples on the floor.  Oddly, the once unpleasant task of staple removing has become a joy to undertake. 


Alpha Chi Omega, Embracing Sisterhood.

“Alpha Chi Omega exists to develop and empower strong women,” Alpha Chi Omega national president Angela Costley Harris wrote to the sorority’s members on February 17. “If we are to continue to live this important mission in today’s world, Alpha Chi Omega must be inclusive of all who live and identify as women, regardless of their gender assigned at birth.”

The statement on the sorority’s website reads that “women, including those who live and identify as women, regardless of the gender assigned to them at birth, are eligible for membership in Alpha Chi Omega based solely on five membership standards.”

U.S. Sorority Opens Its Doors to Trans Women Nationwide, Glamour (Mar. 14, 2017).

Live and let live.  It was was a phrase uttered regularly in our household by both my Mother and my Father.  Were I to criticize someone’s conduct that had no bearing on mine, “Live and let live.”  Were I to complain about someone’s actions that didn’t touch on my life, “Live and let live.”  I have no doubt that this simple four-word phrase shaped me into the libertarian I am today. 

As with most, my path to the present wasn’t straight and narrow.  To the contrary, it was anything but.  One memorable stop along the way included a dalliance with exploring the bonds of sisterhood as an Alpha Chi Omega pledge.  Although, ultimately, I parted ways with that sisterhood before graduation, I respected the sorority’s core values and leadership. 

And I continue to do so today.

The Virtues of Spring Cleaning

I appreciate readers’ notes asking where I’ve been and when I expected to return.  Truly, I wasn’t aware that I would be gone.  Once I was aware that I had been gone, I didn’t think my absence would be for any appreciable period.  But as tomorrows turned into a yesterdays, I realized I had little choice in the matter.  Life took over.

[S] and I shared a cold that refused to go away.  I resigned from working as a volunteer Legal Assistance Attorney.  We’ve begun preparing for another move.  We’ve undertaken an in-depth study of the Korean language.  We’ve planned our next mini-holiday.  And I have begun deep cleaning our home.  Indeed, files have been reviewed and thinned, toys have been assigned storage spaces when not in use, clothes have been examined and donated or thrown out, as appropriate, and unused items have been marked for sale. 

Such binge organizing and purging is necessary, of course.  But it is also cathartic.  It is a reminder that, ultimately, I’m in charge of how I choose to live my life, if not the life I am living.  I choose to do so with minimal chaos and little drama.  That necessitates reexamining everything, including things that once were deemed important–if not essential, reassessing my wants and needs, and being able to let go of that which does not bring me joy. 


Park Geun-hye, Impeached.

SEOUL, South Korea — A South Korean court ousted the president on Friday, a first in the nation’s history, rattling the delicate balance of relationships across Asia at a particularly tense time.

Her removal capped months of turmoil, as hundreds of thousands of South Koreans took to the streets, week after week, to protest a sprawling corruption scandal that shook the top echelons of business and government.

Park Geun-hye, the nation’s first female president and the daughter of the Cold War military dictator Park Chung-hee, had been an icon of the conservative establishment that joined Washington in pressing for a hard line against North Korea’s nuclear provocations.

Now, her downfall is expected to shift South Korean politics to the opposition, whose leaders want more engagement with North Korea and are wary of a major confrontation in the region. They say they will re-examine the country’s joint strategy on North Korea with the United States and defuse tensions with China, which has sounded alarms about the growing American military footprint in Asia.

—  South Korea Removes President Park Geun-hye, The New York Times (9 March 2016).