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Some milestones

January 28, 2010

We’re coming up on the Cat’s 12th year of suzerainty over our household, and my husband and I have been conferring on what to get him for his birthday. We have decided to turn down his request for a 50 mm Solothurn. We fear that he might menace low-flying C-17s, a crime that could place his endorsements in jeopardy. We are negotiating on his backup request for a Roomba.
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The Cat’s skyrocketing fame since his sensational appearances in the Baldwin movie have, surprisingly, had little impact on domestic tranquility. He’s the same Cat he has always been. He still sits outside the bathroom door while my husband is in the shower and yowls until it is his turn. When all is clear, he steps into the shower and sits down, watches the drips roll into the drain, and emerges wet-footed and ready for his day.

Our Cat’s concern for our well-being has always touched us very deeply. As our food taster, he has demonstrated unrelenting courage and fidelity. Not content to know that the filtered Tacoma tap water in his own bowl is the same water that we drink, he tests the water in our glasses as well, just to make sure. Sometimes we go through two or three rounds of clean water glasses in a sitting.
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Learning Korean is a trail with new milestones appearing every day. Last semester, I gave up trying to pronounce the names of my Korean classmates in our Early Church History class. They were gracious, ebulliently adopting American names. After Christmas break, I greeted them in Korean. They were more amazed to see that I could write their names by sounding them out. But that’s nothing compared to how much they amaze me with their determination to undertake a rigorous M. Div. degree program in English.

Maybe my interest in learning Korean was triggered in part because I felt that I hadn’t been a very good friend, not trying harder to pronounce my classmates’ names. But when we returned for the new semester, my friendship with them was notched up. I think learning a new language and making new friends necessarily go together.

I’m beginning to repeat whole sentences on the first take in my Rosetta Stone software course. I’m at the trailhead of the final unit of Level I, and Levels 2 and 3 are on their way. I hope I can say something by the time I complete the entire course.

I’m intimidated by the 1st grade Bible study primer one of my classmates brought me from Korea. I couldn’t read a word of it, but finally sounded out the words, “Jesus Nazareth Leadership,” transliterated into Hangul, in the title. Encouraged, I opened the book and dove in. In just under an hour, I managed to discover the meaning of the first entry of the Table of Contents. I even managed to figure out that it was a table of contents.

It still takes me a fair amount of effort to look up a word in my Korean dictionary. The Koreans have pioneered the art of ultra-faint micro-font, which makes a comprehensive 50,000-entry dictionary in a carry-along size possible. The font becomes perceptible under the battery-powered light of a 10x six-ounce magnifier. That is an ounce heavier than my cell phone, which I cannot begin to hold for an hour. After discerning the meaning of the one-line table of contents entry, my wrist and eyes were fried. Still, the effort was a milestone, serving both as a commemorative marker and as a cairn to assure me I was on the way.

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5 Comments
  1. Heidi permalink
    January 28, 2010 12:38 pm

    Lauren I remember so little Korean — the word ‘Meeselhawkwon’ (a place where we got in trouble over the finger paints) and a song with the words ‘bali bali ulsayul, insahasayul’ where we ran at each other and curtseyed in our little authentic Korean dress (small jacket, long silken sort of pleated sheathy thing, embroidered footwear — quite pretty). We were there with the Bible Presbyterian Church, and my dad, *I think*, helped to start a seminary in Seoul — so who knows if the world is small enough that these students have some sort of connection with people who may have been connected with my parents? In any case, the Korean culture, what memories I have and the mementos my mother was able to bring back, is so vivid — even the memories of unpleasant things are, like memories I have of Mexico, somehow more im-mediate and full to the senses than things often are in the states. It’s fascinating to hear you talk about learning the language and making friends.

    Happy Suzerainty to Coolidge :-)

  2. January 28, 2010 12:46 pm

    That is a potentially amazing proto-connection, Heidi! And my classmates came here to study in a more conservative seminary than they had back home. I think it’s also because they’d like to be here. I’m sure I’d rather study Korean here than need to learn it to be there.

    My e-mail flasher notified me of your comment just as my timer was going off to take a break from Rosetta Stone. The convergences never cease.

  3. Laura permalink
    January 28, 2010 8:57 pm

    Bravo, Lauren. I think you are right about learning someone’s language and befriending them as going together (the exception being, like, if you are learning insults in their language to sling at them). I need to make up flash cards for the alphabet and then the letters should stick. I could read the first phrase you wrote in the other post, because it is the one phrase I have learned to write!!

    Every time you write about Coolidge I laugh. And I watched the Must See video via the Puritanboard. It is hilarious how many times you caught him poking around those wires. Good thing he isn’t the type of cat to *chew* on wires.

  4. Janet permalink
    January 31, 2010 7:59 pm

    Lauren!

    The Baldwin movie is priceless. Has Vic finished with the organ already??!!

  5. February 1, 2010 8:08 am

    The organ is very playable, but all things are process, process, process…

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