Monday, November 29, 2010

Foreigners on Korean TV

I have been one of these foreigners, and I will be again. But I have a few things to say about the Korean practice of sticking foreigners on TV doing/enjoying Korean traditional things.

In the past Korea bought the whole idea of the West as superior (partially because of a belief that acceptance of Western culture, ideas and technology was a major reason why Japan was able to overpower Korea at the beginning of the 1900s). Koreans considered Western things advanced and superior (and the West agreed) and in an attempt to succeed (particularly after achieving independence) they swallowed the baby and the bathwater (to screw up a traditional saying) hook, line and sinker. In an effort to become economically advanced they also accepted Christianity, fell in love with Monet and decided to start sleeping in a bed. Not everyone, of course, but I guarantee you that use of beds (instead of sleeping on the floor) will be higher in Christian households. Seriously.

This also meant that Korean music was discounted in favor of “art music” (whoever came up with that term should be shot—shouldn’t all music be considered art?), the misconception that Korean 판소리 pansori would be better if staged like an opera or musical (창극), the assumption that Korean instruments should be adapted to use of a 7 note Western scale, etc. Parents discouraged their children from learning Korean traditional music, dance or drama and this only got worse as the years went on. (This is partially because making a living from Korean performance traditions has been difficult and actual economic success amongst those practicing traditional arts has been exceedingly rare, and partially because of the status (low) associated with performers in the traditional mindset). During the pro-Democracy movement the protestors utilized Korean performance traditions for two reasons 1) they could cloak themselves in Korean tradition, casting themselves as the true patriots 2) they could use performance to attract people with the cops helpless to stop them, then once they had a critical mass they could engage in political speech-making and so on until enough cops gathered to break up the gathering. However this brought a backlash, where some people thought of traditions (like 풍물 pungmul drumming) as something that was just for loud, aggressive protestors to use, not for enjoyment.

In the years since the pro-democracy movement associated surge, interest in Korean traditions has dropped off. Some performance forms have been more popular, some forms have even regenerated interest to some degree, but most have lapsed back into relative invisibility. Of course some people are really concerned about this and doing whatever they can to try to reverse this trend.

One tool that has been utilized to try to get people to look at Korean traditions again and perhaps become re-interested in them is to show (frequently) on TV or in other media how much foreigners love Korean traditions. Since I speak Korean and attend a lot of festivals and performances I have been interviewed countless times and been spotlighted on a lot of TV shows, too. In 2003 I’d had the same cell number for 6 years living in the same town. I got phone calls up the wazoo just from news reporters who wanted to make sure they could interview a foreigner at such-and-such event. Who knows how my contact info got around, but it was really out there. I was even asked to come to the inaugural “Talks with Beauties”(미녀들의 수다) (which I’m not, but neither are all the women on the show). I’m so glad I said no, that show is one of the most annoying and embarrassing things I’ve ever seen. This is a sort of mellow taste. I have seen clips from this show that make your hair stand up on end.

To get to the point, I’ve been used a lot by the Korean media to make traditions seem more attractive to Koreans. But since I actually believe Koreans should take another look at traditional arts and think about having their children learn 해금 haegeum instead of violin, or 공중무용 court dances instead of ballet, I figure they can use me, and I hope it works. They have their agenda, I have mine, but they are complimentary. However, as I’ve gotten older and wiser I’ve noticed how often they try to make foreigners on shows with a focus on traditions look like idiots. Or, to put it another way, I think they’re not comfortable with foreigners actually knowing too much about something Koreans might feel embarrassed to see a foreigner knowing more about than they know themselves. Temper the introduction of an aspect of Korean culture through the eyes of the enthusiastic foreigner with a little superiority (well, even I could do that! The viewer says as he watches the foreigner fumble his or her way through some task or another). But what the viewer might not know, and I certainly do, is how often these shows will spring something on you “You need to do this, it’ll be so interesting!”

Back in 2005 my friend Georgy and I were spotlighted on the same 10 minute slot in a TV program a couple of weeks apart from each other. She always made 김밥 kimbap and I always made 김치찌게 kimchi stew, but when she did her show they asked her to invite a Korean friend for lunch and make stew (she got the recipe from me) and when they came to my house (to film me making 김치 kimchi) they brought a bunch of kimbap makings from the market (like already cooked carrot strips) and insisted that I assemble the kimbap and take it to school to share with my friend. Even if I was going to make kimbap (which I almost never do), I would make it very differently, and with their ingredients I was making the most basic kimbap of all. It was SO FAKE. I didn’t even have a good kimbap rolling bamboo slat thing. But I hadn’t learned to be really assertive and direct with these TV people yet.

I have now learned my lesson, and I’m super direct. I will not be a performing monkey. I will not be made a fool of. I will not accept them filming something that’s not real, nor will I allow them to screw up my regular activities. I have to constantly re-assert these points, but it’s possible. I really believe it is.

There is just one thing that is holding me up this evening (and in recording the segment I started working on today): do I stay all academic and speak softly in my interview Q&A sections (which today meant I ended up getting all tangled up in the words I was using and really frustrated--I'd already had a day with over 5 hours of very careful use of Korean), or do I speak the way I normally speak Korean when I talk about protection of Korean traditional arts (directly, passionately and in a way that is kind of challenging in that it doesn’t mince words about how serious this situation is)?

Oh, and a last point in case you think being in the newspapers/magazines will make things easier—you get misquoted. Happens so often, I should seriously learn to keep my mouth shut. One time in 2005 or 2006 I found myself quoted as saying things that were back-ass wrong and offensive to a mask dance group I love. Jeez, that was hard to smooth over. I found this article by googling the search terms “mask dance” and “American” in Korean. It was the fifth result and you have to know that’s a pretty general search. My first time to see the article, and yes indeed, I am misquoted. It really pisses me off. I had a very sincere and important point, but they've basically taken my photo and put the words they want to make their point next to an image of me. I'm even quoted using a word I don't think I've ever spoken in my life.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Drumming with Songpa Sandae Noli

November 27th, 2010
송파산대놀이 Songpa Sandae Noli rehearsal starts at 3, I arrived a couple minutes early with a DVD of three recent performances to give them (not excerpts but the entire performances). The rehearsal was small, people are busy and Saturday is a hard time to meet, but also the rehearsal on Friday (I have to remember to ask for regular permission to attend that) was both well attended and resulted in various tension/arguments that may have made some people say “to heck with it” and skip rehearsal today. We practiced the basic motions then 함완식 Ham Wanshik had us all grab 장구 janggu and practice drumming for about twenty-five minutes. I found the style of teaching really hard, but mostly because I am the weakest drummer by far. Also I’ve never tried drumming with my hand hitting the drum head on the left instead of the stick (which is how it’s played for accompanying Songpa Sandae Noli). We practiced two different 장단 jangdan (rhythmic patterns) but when Ham told me to play on my own (and demonstrate that I’d learned it/knew what I was doing/how well I could do) I completely froze up. I was still trying to figure out how to coordinate two different types of hand motion I had never tried before (hitting and damping) with the stroke of the drum stick in my right hand on the other side of the drum. It really frustrated me, not that I was annoyed at Ham, I wasn’t, but just that I still can’t even do such a simple thing. No wonder the group is very picky about who drums and super sensitive about how people drum. I was obviously upset, but I really just needed to spend the whole 25 minutes practicing one jangdan while the others drummed louder drowning out any of my potential mistakes. Since Ham literally went around the circle of drummers after every two-three minutes of practice, most of the time was watching/listening to others drum by themselves and comparatively little was actually drumming ourselves.

After class ended 원석 Wonseok and 승현 Seunghyeon both came to me and told me some various tips, Seunghyeon assured me he could only drum well because when he was young he’d been ordered to practice, screwing up he’d been hit and cried and practiced and been wrong and been hit and cried.

After drumming Wonseok and Seunghyeon rehearsed Act 2 (옴중, 먹중 놀이) for probably the first time they’d ever done it (I also think it was unexpected that they’d be asked to do it) but before class had started Ham was talking to 김명하 Kim Myeongha about how he’d practiced and done the comparatively easy parts (like the 8먹중 who don’t have speak except for group lines) for only a few years and then the old gentlemen that he’d learned from had made him start trying the other roles, because it was hard (Ham emphasized that it already felt hard to him) to dance at the same level as one got older (Ham also listed off how old various now-deceased Songpa players had been when he first began to learn). We practiced the basic motions one more time for the day and then quit.

I wanted to talk to 김영숙 Kim Yeongsuk (the office manager) and 탄종원 Tahn Jongwon so I went to the office to wait for them to come back. Ham Wanshik and Kim Myeongha also went there and we discussed the North Korean hostilities (not a vocabulary set I know well in Korean) for a bit until Kim Yeongsuk and Tahn came back to the office. Then Kim Yeongsuk told me to leave but I said no, and stayed for a very frank discussion of group issues that I shall keep off this public record. Suffice to say I have to take down some (all? still not sure about that) of the video scenes I uploaded from Namwon. Some of the performances were not good enough (according to them) and the group is evaluating how to improve.

When the discussion ended and Ham and Kim Myeongha left, I kept talking with my friends (actually in Korean culture they’re older than me so we’re not really friends, but I like them just as much as I like my other friends who –are- the same age as me). After a bit we decided to go watch Social Network. It was better than I’d expected, even sort of suspenseful in parts.

Cell photo: leaves on the street as I walked to the bus stop

November 28th, 2010
Got up early and went hiking on 아차산 Achasan with 이경호 Yi Gyeongho and Aniko. I’ll post photos when I get around to it.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Presentation in Korean

November 24th, 2010
On Wednesday I worked so hard on my presentation for Friday that I forgot to meet 이연순 Yi Yeonsun and hope she’ll forgive me. In the evening I had dinner with Kimberley which was nice.

November 25th, 2010
Class with Professor Hilary Finchum-Sung. Today was a day when I didn’t know much of what she was introducing, since she was talking more about contemporary Korean music (What makes something Korean music? How has thinking about music evolved as Korea has modernized?) She introduced important innovators and composers. It was pretty darn cool. Afterwards I had lunch with her, we talked about preparing for publication, since she’s also working on editing some of her pieces for submission right now. Awesome to have someone more advanced in this academia-thing than me to talk with.

I went to Yonsei then the Ahyeon Market for 반찬 side-dishes. On the bus I got a phone call from a TV program that wants to make a segment about me learning 봉산탈춤 Bongsan Talchum. I would rather not have to deal with that sort of thing, but I feel a responsibility, too, towards all the arts I am involved with. So I explained I’m working on learning at four locations. They will call and ask for permission to film at each.

Back at home I worked on my presentation until it was time to go to 봉천놀이마당 Bongcheon Noli Madang. The class was even smaller, and we moved a little farther through our basic movement set, I’m starting to feel comfortable, I have chunks memorized. Unfortunately, I don’t remember all of it, certainly not as much as I’d want to remember in front of a TV camera. After class we had tea and bananas. All of the members, even 장미이 Jang Mi’i are quite adamant that they are not professionals, they all have other jobs and the Noli Madang is just their hobby.

November 26th, 2010
For some reason I had to give a presentation in a class I’m auditing. I chose (to keep it useful to me) to just present an analysis of the grandmother scene in the mask dance dramas, a paper I wrote for Professor Don Cosentino in the best class i ever had at UCLA, Myth Analysis. I stayed up until nearly 3 working on a video to accompany my presentation, so this morning wasn’t easy. I actually got to class 15 minutes late, my first time to be late since the first day. I gave the second presentation, talking for nearly an hour and twenty minutes. Fortunately 경진 Gyeongjin had edited the Korean on my slides, so I had confidence in what was on my PowerPoint and supplemented it as best I could, but the question and answer period was the hardest in terms of using academic Korean. The third (and last) presentation for the day was also very interesting, on changing attitudes towards sex, all delivered in a very dry manner, but with a twinkle in the presenter’s eye. Unfortunately class didn’t end until 12:40 (scheduled to end at 11:50).

After class I went to Severance Hospital and saw the ear specialist again who said I still have an infection, not much improved over two weeks earlier, and he insisted I take oral anti-biotics (as well as the ear drops), just a five-day course. I have an appointment to come back next Friday.

Cell photo: maybe your hospital will be better if you decorate it for the holidays

Karjam and I went out to dinner as a late Thanksgiving celebration, but the restaurant was so disappointing. (I found it by googling “best restaurant in Seoul,” someone who writes a foodie guide to Seoul claimed it’s by far the best Thai food… not).

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Are Class Observations Becoming Less Useful for my Research?

November 21st, 2010
I had the option of doing many traditional things for the day, but I was exhausted. Karjam and I went to 인사동 Insadong to pick up some things, that was it.

November 22nd, 2010
I managed a huge amount of productive editing in Starbucks. So worth the price of the coffee. After dinner I rushed to 붕산탈춤 Bongsan Talchum class. I wasn’t very energetic, few people were there (it was so cold outside), and we didn’t do anything out of the ordinary. My ear started bleeding this evening during class. Nice. As if the splitting pain (gone for days now), gunk from in the ear in shades of yellow and the reduced hearing wasn’t bad enough. I want to schedule a bunch more interviews but it’s embarrassing when I can’t properly hear the responses (don’t worry, I audio record).

November 23rd, 2010
I spent most of the morning working on videos, all of which I have now uploaded to YouTube and I’ve also linked them on my videos page (see above). They include the entire performance in 남원 Namwon. Did I mention that 송파산대놀이 Songpa Sandae Noli has my name printed in the programs when they perform? I love being a full member, not just someone who pays for classes.

I expected my classes to be useful for observations until at least the late spring, but I am already running out of things to say. I need exercise, and I need excuses to be part of conversations and to meet performers, but I may have to start observing other classes in other places in order to continue to get new observations. For example, 봉산탈춤 Bongsan Talchum has a class only for the regular performers that I could attend (but only as an observer), one of the 고성오광대 Goseong Ogwangdae performers teaches a class at an arts university and I could go observe that, probably. At any rate today was the second day in a row when I’ve felt there was not much to report from my class. I was one of four students at 상모 sangmo class today, I made no break-through in my ability, neither did anyone else. 이종휘 Yi Jonghui was absent, so we were taught by 변태원 Byeon Taewon.

Class consisted of: 30 minutes before official start of screwing around, sitting on the floor and talking about the violence from the North or spinning in a less than urgent manner. Then promptly at 8 we rotated (no spin) for 15 minutes (Jonghui would have kept us at it longer) then spun counter-clockwise for twenty-five, took a “five minute break” (ten? thirteen?) then spun counter-clockwise ten more minutes with stepping forward and back, then switched to clockwise, which two of us (me and another guy) can’t do more than a few of in a row, and a different student is still struggling with, we did that for thirty minutes (I managed 10 consecutive spins!) then switched to side-side-side-side where we spin 1.75 in one direction then switch directions. I managed to start out way too tight (trying to drum the 소고 sogo while spinning) but relaxed by the end of the thirty minutes. We quit a little early, but no one complained.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Songpa Sandae Noli Performance in Namwon

November 20th, 2010
I woke up and made it to the 서울놀이마당 Seoul Noli Madang by 9:00 when the bus was leaving for 남원. The group was somewhat smaller than I had expected, several key members were not available (many people work a half day on Saturday). The key drummer and all-around amazing musician and mask dancer 강차욱 Gang Cha-uk was missing, so was 김명하 Kim Myeongha. Most of the other people I normally talk to were there. Our bus was a “deluxe VIP” bus. At the back of the bus there were six seats facing each other (three on each side) with a table in the middle and the four seats at the (raised) back wall of the bus facing the table as well. There were TVs (flat screens of course) at the front and the back of the bus; the driver played the Guangzhou Asian Games all day long.

On the way to the performance for a good period of time the back of the bus was filled with the people who would be performing the parts of the 8 dark-faced monks. The group appeared to be slightly nervous about two things: that they were performing as special invited guests inside a hall on a stage and that some members had not practiced with them when they had tried to polish the choreography of the act. That needs some explanation. For as long as I’ve known Songpa Sandae Noli they have made very little effort to coordinate their movements, they simply know that they are going to dance using whichever series of Songpa’s movements they choose for a period of 4 장단 rhythmic patterns, or 6 or whatever. Recently there has been some effort amongst the younger (forties and fifties, there are only two active members who are not musicians who are younger than me, both of whom were missing) members who dance the parts of the 8 dark-faced monks amongst other roles to coordinate their motions. This becomes troublesome when you mix up the group, though, and that was just what was going to happen in Namwon. I could very clearly tell which members had worked hard to coordinate, who was apologetic for missing the most recent rehearsal and who didn’t seem to see what the big deal was (and wasn’t making much effort to memorize the new style as born out later in the performance). There were also other mini-rehearsals by seated mask dancers with desultory movements of their arms and various discussions of performance related issues. Many (most) of the older and established members sat in the forward section, mostly sleeping, but some who didn’t need to rehearse, like 이수환 Yi Suhwan, came back to enjoy repartee.

I had come armed with a bunch of polished interview questions (thank you for checking them Hoijung!) and I interviewed 서병무 Seo Byeongmu and then 탄종원 Tahn Jongwon. Both interviews were long and rich. I wanted to do more, but what with the rehearsals I didn’t get an opportunity. On the way back I interviewed 김영숙 Kim Yeongsuk but then the bus driver turned off the interior lights and most people were sleeping.

When we arrived in 남원 Namwon I was surprised to see giant banners and posters for the Songpa Sandae Noli performance. After an awesome lunch everyone changed and did a little stage-blocking and mic-checking rehearsal (I took photos). Then when the audience came in I shot video from the back of the hall. It was gorgeous to see them on the stage, but Songpa Sandae Noli is traditionally not a staged- art and the group is hardly ever invited to perform on stages, so it was a little awkward, too. They obviously wanted to interact with the audience, but it was tough to climb up and down off the stage, and sacrificed many potential laughs by not doing so. The performance video should be very good and I hope to upload it to YouTube but Karjam’s been so excited reading the new Tibetan dictionary he downloaded I haven’t been able to get on his computer since I got back. [Videos have all been uploaded, see the link on the videos page]

After the show we went to dinner with the director of the regional arts center, unfortunately this was only about 4 hours after our excellent lunch. Or maybe fortunately because it just wasn’t the sort of dinner I could enjoy. The bus ride home was uneventful; we pulled up to Seoul Noli Madang just after 9p.m.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

More than You Wanted to Know about Comprehensive Exams

Comprehensive Exam Advice (if you have four written exams and they're open-book take-home and simultaneous):

Preparing for your Exams:
1) Make your lists as early as you can. Then go over each with your professors at length. They will mention a few of the authors and works you've listed and may suggest other books. FOCUS ON THOSE. The questions will be based around the works your professor knows best and what they think is most important. Even if you disagree with the importance of those texts, expect that the question might refer to those texts or the ideas in them. Read the rest of it for yourself. Don't believe for a second that they will go find and read the books you think are the most important.
2) Add your bibliographic info from the exam lists into your word program or biblio software as early as possible. Wasting time on that during your exam period would be so silly.
3) If you're really worried what the professor will ask, make some questions based on your list and then go meet with the professor. "As I was preparing I thought it would be useful to think about what sort of questions I expect from this list, but I've never seen an exam question. Do these questions seem reasonable?" Listen carefully to their advice. Leave them a copy of your list and email it as an attachment, too. If you're lucky, you might get (potentially reworded) one of those questions. And thinking of the list in terms of a specific question will help you prepare. I ended up doing this for all my exams, because one professor asked me to do this as an exercise. It helped SO MUCH. This is really how to make sure reading your list will prepare you for the type of question that professor wants to give you. It's your insurance that the question won't be about Kuwait when you're studying Korea.
4) Sometimes a professor will practically assure you they will ask a question about X. Start pre-writing. What is an introduction for X? What are some main ideas about X that you will deal with in your research? Don't write a whole exam answer (unless you're really sure what the question is) but why not 5 pages? Those pages can be expanded during your exam period.
5) Talk to your chair about length of the answers, especially if one of your professors likes longer answers than you're prepared to write, the way to get around this is to have your chair specify to all professors that your answers should be approximately G number of pages. Your chair is important especially for dealing with professors from outside the department who might not know how your department does exams. There really is a big difference from one department to another.
6) If you have an exam on the topic of 'identity' then as you read make a file with awesome quotes about identity. Then when you write your exam, you can just copy and paste the quote into your exam without having to go back to the book and find that specific page again. I have a giant file with TONS of useful quotations at this point. It also defines some weird academic terms. I have them all in alphabetical order with all their reference info. I also have some files that sort of outline some key books and articles and their main points, but usually the key quotes can bring back the main point for me, anyway, so I find that writing mini-book reports is a waste of my time.
7) Stock your fridge and freezer. I ate SO much sorbet during my exams. And soy ice cream. I could eat anything I wanted during my exams, so long as I kept writing. I also allowed myself silly things I don't normally, like buying a packet of stew that you just dump into your pan and heat up. It's better than spending too much time cooking or not eating.
8) MOST IMPORTANT: Write your dissertation proposal. This proposal should include references to the ideas in all four exams, and use many of the key texts. The proposal can become the basis for some exam writing, most of all it can shake loose the ideas that are percolating in the back of your skull. You can edit the proposal after you write the exams, but if you don't know what your dissertation is about, your exam answers will be MUCH less useful for your dissertation. Don't spend a lot of time writing something you never want to think about again and won't be able to use at all in your future.

While Writing your Exams:
1) Remember that you have to get a lot down on all four. Don't polish what you've got, just move to the next one. In the last few days of the exam period you can edit what you wrote, but the last thing you want is one perfect exam and three lame rushed ones.
2) Get someone to read for coherency for each exam. I had my mom read one. I had an undergrad read one. No one knows what you want to say on this subject except you, but you need someone who can catch typos and tell you if you appear to be repeating yourself or if you're actually making sense. You don't want heavy editing. You do want a second set of eyes.
3) The exam tests your command of your resources. Resources include your peers. Of course you want to come up with your own answer, but it's not cheating to have a chat with someone about the ideas circulating in your head, especially if you're the sort of person who does better brainstorming out-loud. Some professors give you a question that seems a little like it came out of the blue, if you don't want to spend the next two days just trying to get at their meaning, you might want to talk with another student who works closely with that professor.
4) Length is different depending on your committee members, your chair, and your own ability to churn out pages. Don't get hung up on length. Don't try to force yourself to go for length just because you know someone else who wrote a couple of books worth during their exam.
5) Footnote/endnote/add the credits as your write. Your loose-end catching will deteriorate as you get more frazzled. Maybe you already do that (I mostly do, but if I'm too much in a thought stream to search for the biblio info, I leave a highlight in the text so I can catch that loose end later).
6) Cannibalize paragraphs from grant apps and papers you wrote before; if those papers are relevant to the exam question, they can be a great starting point. One paragraph in a grant app can turn into three pages in your exam in no time, because it's already stuff you've really thought about.
7) If the ideas are yours, the person typing was you, the reading you cite is reading you did, then it is certainly not cheating to paste in a paragraph from some paper you wrote last year. Why reinvent the wheel?
8) Don't make the answer that professor might want. Make the answer you want. You have a committee to make sure that you don't get failed just because one professor is piqued you didn't copy his/her stance. If you answer the way the professor wants you're wimping out and you may have an easier time now, but how will you ever become a citation-worthy academic?
9) Remember the professors want you to pass. They're on your committee because they think you're a winner, interesting, intelligent, capable of producing good work. That's why some students have such a hard time finding committee members. If someone can't find members or their committee member dropped out on them, part of the time it's because of a lack of confidence in that student. If you have a solid committee that supports you, they are all invested in you passing the exams. The last thing they want is to fail you.
10) Remember that this is an amazingly productive period of time and in the end you will have a BIG START on at least one of the chapters in your dissertation. Isn't that awesome? You're being forced to the limits of your physical and mental endurance for this ten day period, but when it's done and you've gotten some rest it's just fabulous to see how much you accomplished.
11) Make yourself exercise at least half the days, or you'll go nuts. I rode my bike almost everyday. I didn't do 4 hour rides. I did get on my bike and ride like there was no tomorrow for 45 minutes or an hour or a slightly more leisurely two hour ride.
12) I know a lot of friends who've made little altars or whatever to inspiration and all that. I prayed to Manjusri (Buddha of scholarship) and lit candles on my altar. Do whatever you need to feel like spiritual stuff is on your side.
13) In a worst case scenario you'll just be totally stuck for some reason. I think you'd better email that professor as soon as you can and explain what's going on. I actually had to do this for my exam, because I got my questions on that Tuesday morning and PANIC!!!! One professor had sent me questions that seemed like they belonged to another student. I emailed him/her and it turned out we'd had a mix-up.
14) Don't answer aggravating emails or phone calls, or let anyone screw with your cool and concentration. You can tell them later that you turned off everything during your all important exams.

Notes on Oral Exams:
1) For some reason professors have historically really freaked out their graduate students during oral exams. This means that some of your exam members may feel either that it is traditional to freak you out, or that it is the only way to do an exam, or they are still trying to slough off their horrible experience by subjecting you to something similar. You may have a committee where everyone keeps their kid gloves on. I hope you do. I did not. Although I have five lovely committee members, it was horrible. Just because they're nice to you every other day doesn't mean they will be in a room full of other professors (they may have as much to prove as you do, you never know...).
2) There are five (or four or more) really respect-worthy academics with more chops than you on the other side of a table and they are all staring at you. Right there that's pretty freaky. My chair said "this will be a great opportunity to get a bunch of great heads together and talk about your research, this should be one of the most useful conversations ever." I wish. It was intimidating (and I don't intimidate easily). Go into your exams hoping my chair was right, but don't be surprised if it's not the case. I've talked to people who've experienced what I did, and I've talked to others who felt it was a cake-walk. I actually was traumatized for a few days afterwards.
3) Expect unexpected questions. Expect them to be hung up on something that was just a side note to you. It's likely someone is going to be demonstrating that he/she really knows all about what you wrote about. A professorial amount. More than a doctoral student amount. Try to compliment them on their knowledge and not get hung up on how they're actually pretty much -wrong-. Otherwise you'll be stuck on that one point for far too long and they're never going to admit you know more than they do in a room of other professors.
4) Hope that your committee gets along. I have a committee where people either like each other or don't know each other, I'm lucky. I've heard horror stories from people who simply had to include professor A and B on the committee, but they wanted to disagree so badly with each other that the student was caught in the cross-fire.
5) Think about how you could explain everything you said in your dissertation proposal (mine was well over 40 pages long) in two minutes or less. I had to spend a fair amount of my three hour exam explaining stuff that is essentially background to my exam and my research proposal, not the meat of the matter. I had expected that they would have read my proposal (or at least the abstract, intro and conclusion) and be prepared to talk about it already. At least some of them had not. Those who had not seemed to need to be led through the entire thing before we could have a real discussion.
6) In the stress of the orals I had a hard time remembering names of authors, dates, terms, etc. This was worse because I was over caffeinated. I heard later from another grad student that they took some sort of relaxant drug (like half a sleeping pill) or something before their exam. That probably would have been a better choice. Certainly that much caffeine did not help me be articulate.
7) After I stepped out of the room so the committee could confer I was so keyed up I couldn't remember that the professors wanted me to pass my exams. I couldn't stop to think that in fact even if things hadn't gone as I'd wanted (hoped/expected) that still I'd managed to answer their questions and show I wasn't an idiot. At that point I would counsel any other student to NOT freak out. Just cause I was a ball of caffeinated nerves sure it was the end of my academic career doesn't mean you have to feel that way. Look at the big picture. Did you actually say something wrong? No. Then don't be me. Take a deep breath and wait until they call you back in.

Other random things:
Q: How long were your lists?

A: One of my lists was over 200 books and articles. That professor told me he didn’t care what was on my list, he cared that I used a large number of relevant materials in my answer. All of my lists were well over 50 items long. I usually had a ratio of two articles to each book. But my work is not very historical, so a lot of the most relevant scholarship is recent.

Q: How did you structure your exam topics?
A: A lot of people recommend that you have one related to your area, one related to methodology and two related to different theoretical questions/concerns. I don’t think it has to be that way at all. However, somehow, my exams ended up being on 1) Korean Performance 2) Ethnography/Participant-Observation (esp. related to research on Asian Performance) 3) Globalization and Transnational Cultural Flows (focused on Asia) 4) Heritage, Authenticity and Memory. People in majors like history must have one on modern Korea (if they do modern Korean history), one on traditional Korea, one on modern Japanese or Chinese history, etc. My department doesn't define more or less what exams have to be on, I'm lucky.

Q: Doesn’t it all flow together after more than a week of extreme lack of sleep?
A: Yes. I ended up with citations of a single text on all my exams (yes, it’s really key), and the ideas definitely bled into each other. The examples for the theoretical questions were the studies from the methodology exam, some of the studies from the methodology exam were my Korean performance related writings… trying to keep four exams completely distinct seems like a pipe dream to me. However I know some people who do it. I read several exam answers (a department where each professor requires two essays) for one good friend who almost didn’t repeat citations at all!

Q: Is it just an academic hoop to jump through?
A: In a way it is, it’s a really effing stressful hoop, but I honestly can tell you my dissertation will include large chunks from my exams. Yay!

Q: Did you read anything during your exams?
A: Sadly, I think it’s unavoidable. As I worked I suddenly got these great ideas and insights that needed me to open another book or article. So I did actually do some new reading during my exams, but I think that reading made my answers stronger. The one thing to avoid is going back to re-read your key texts that you’ve already read a couple times. They are super awesome, rich, and thought-provoking, but don’t let yourself get too influenced. Cite what you can remember and the quotes you’ve already harvested into your quotation file.

Q: So how many pages did you actually write?
A: I wrote over 150 pages including my biblios, but I know someone who wrote 50 pages for each of his exams, and knowing him they’re probably 200 pages of amazing depth and complexity. I actually went to the copy center and had them bound into double-sided books with all four exams (and a list of key Korean terms) together to facilitate the professors reading all four exams, not just the one for them. I don’t know if my plan worked, but I thought it was cool.

Q: Did you do anything else during your exams?
A: My exams started during the break, but I was enrolled in classes for the next term (I’m funny that way), and I went to the classes during the last week of my exam just like normal. I didn’t ask for special favors or stay home from school during week 1 of that term. It was nice to have an excuse to get out of the house, besides I rode my bike to school so I got exercise, too. Your life doesn't end just because you're taking your exams.

Q: What did you serve the professors?
A: As for the ever-present question of what to prepare for the professors for the exam, I scheduled morning exams and prepared coffee, tea, various pastries and fruit. I got the coffee and the pastries from one of the best places in LA (Amandine) but some professors have felt a bit uncomfortable with big meals and especially when students bring alcohol (champagne sort of seems like you're assuming you'll pass, doesn't it?). Coffee, pastries and fruit is available at a lot of morning meetings, it didn't put a weird burden on the group.

Photos: I documented my exam period:
Day 2:

Me with the most important book (during my MA period, too)



What I looked like on Day 10:

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Transmission of Performing Arts within the Family

November 19th, 2010
In the morning I went to the history class at SNU. Again, she put me to sleep. I think she’s super knowledgeable but a hot room, cold day, blinds drawn, lights low, slide show… added to Professor Bak’s really mellow voice, it just was not a good situation. I just have not been able to sleep much since early in the week.

After class I ran errands, came home and in the evening Karjam and I went to the second in a series of three nights of performances at the 중요무형문화재전수회관의 풍류극장 Intangible Cultural Asset Training Center’s Pungryu Theatre. The series was focusing on transmission within families. It was really amazing, but I wish we’d been able to see Thursday’s show. Friday was also quite special, with four acts. The first act was 신상철 Shin Sangcheol and his wife 선영숙 Seon Yeongsuk performing with (among others) their two sons 신현식 Shin Hyeonshik and 신현석 Shin Hyeonseok. They performed several pieces, the first was 가곡 gagok but I must admit that I find Hilary’s assistant 기쁨 Gibbeum’s gagok to be more appealing. The highlight was when the family (plus several others) played 시나위 shinawi. Since my research is on transmission, this was a wonderful example of transmission to see. The father was playing 단소 danso and 해금 haegeum, the mother played 가야금 gayageum and the two sons played 아쟁 ajaeng and haegeum.

The second act was not one I was looking forward to, because I am so sick of seeing 살풀이 salpuri (a dance rooted in shamanism) and 승무 seungmu (a dance rooted in Buddhism). They are performed too much, but I felt that the two performers, a mother and daughter 김복련 Kim Boknyeon and 신현숙 Shin Hyeonsuk, had a slightly new/different interpretation. In particular the daughter’s interpretation of seungmu felt fresh, usually we see two styles: the style perpetuated by 이매방 Yi Maebang (who actually performed on Thursday) and the style of 한영숙 Han Yeongsuk (now deceased), sometimes called the 경기 Gyeonggi style. Many dance historians insist that both dances were originally choreographed by 한성준 Han Seongjun, who as you might guess is the father of Han Yeongsuk. The two performers we saw are registered for the -regional- arts of salpuri and seungmu for the Gyeonggi region, so it's reasonable to guess that they are preserving the Han Yeongsuk-ryu, yet I've seen other performers of that ryu and the dance (particularly for seungmu) was somewhat different. The pamphlet information on their performance, although written by 이병옥 Yi Byeongok, one of my Songpa Sandae Noli performers, a dance historian professor, did not get into the extreme politics of ryu. (Extreme politics indeed, as regional performers will get a smaller stipend than nationally registered performers, less status, fewer paying students, fewer performance opportunities, and if indeed some can argue that their performance is the more 'authentic' one... well, you understand). [Advertisement for Korea featuring a seungmu dancer. It's just really cool looking, won't give you an idea of the dance, though.][Just a couple minutes of salpuri]

The reason I went to the show, though, was to see the third act, 박동매 Bak Dongmae. She had learned from her mother, the late 조공례 Jo Gongnae. I had a chance to meet Bak in 2008 and interview her, I was very impressed with her attitude and I love her singing voice. She is the National Human Treasure for 남도들노래 Namdo Deulnorae, a type of work (farming) song from the southern corner of Korea such as her home, Jindo Island. Bak’s performance was great, with three other women singing chorus verses and they acted out various tasks of carding and spinning as well as transplanting and weeding the rice seedlings as they sang.

The last act was another mother/daughter pair, 박경자 Bak Gyeongja and 김명이 Kim Myeongi. Their art (both of them are certified in the same art, which wasn’t the case in all of these families) is 삼설양굿 Samseolyanggut, a shamanic ceremony from 순천 Suncheon and registered for protection as a regional (South Jeolla Province) art, not for national protection. Karjam and I watched this show for nearly an hour as they performed the ceremony, (which was, like many gut, quite bizarre with knives and shoveling food into mouths, and sexual behavior, cross-dressing and well... the things that society usually sweeps under the rug) but as it grew closer to 11 and I became more concerned that we’d miss the last bus and have to take a subway home (and as I found the gut more and more repetitive) we finally left before they’d finished. We were already some of the longest remaining audience members. Packed at the beginning, apparently much of the audience had come for the first two acts, by the time the third act started nearly half the audience had left.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Guest Lecture about Korean Mask Dances

November 17th, 2010
Wednesday is my day off, but when scheduling a time to have a drumming lesson with 이연순 Yi Yeonsun it was the only day that worked. So in the afternoon I went to meet her at a community center where she’d just ended a class. The idea was that we could keep using the room. Unfortunately, someone else had scheduled use of the room and she didn’t find out until during her class when they came to set up. She called me but I was already on my way, so we agree to meet and talk. I ended up interviewing her for 2 hours. No exaggeration, more than 2 hours of conversation was recorded. It was an amazing interview, only something possible because I’ve proven my interest, knowledge and discretion. The contents of the interview would be much less interesting to you than to me, and much of it will need to be kept confidential, but most importantly she gave me a good foundation for other interviews and some real honest feedback on how performances are being protected for future generations.

In the evening Karjam and I went on a quick trip to a 국악사 traditional musical instrument shop where I picked up two more 한삼 hansam to use with my Thursday guest lecture. Then we romantically strolled by the lantern exhibit set up in 청계천 Cheonggae Stream.

Cell phone photo of a sangmo wearing sogo playing lantern-guy:

November 18th, 2010
This morning Professor Hilary Finchum-Sung’s class was on 풍물 pungmul for the first half, a subject I already know a lot about, obviously. I brought my 열두발 yeoldubal and 상모 sangmo and two 소고 sogo so the students could try them during the break time. Then I got to do a guest lecture on mask dance dramas for the second half of the class, which was a really awesome opportunity, I’m so grateful I had that chance (even just thinking about it while preparing was great for me, since I’ve never had a chance to do a short lecture on mask dances). I used a PowerPoint and the video on release through laughter in the mask dances dramas that I referred to making a couple days ago. After answering their questions (more than an average of two questions each) I handed out my hansam and taught them some motions. It went really well, except I wasn’t happy with how thin and nasal my voice sounded, and I answered some questions in an unnecessarily drawn out manner (if I’d only thought it through first…). Karjam came and filmed the entire thing.

After class Hilary bought us lunch, then Karjam and I went to the National Museum of Korea to see the special exhibition of Goryeo Dynasty Buddhist paintings. The paintings were really impressive, but the exhibit lights were too low and even on a Thursday afternoon it was much too crowded for my tastes. We rushed home and I left again ten minutes later to go to my new class.

My second class at 봉천놀이마당 Bongcheon Noli Madang went well. Up until about 2003 Yeonsun was a member, she’d been with the group for many years, and it turned out that the woman, 미경 Migyeong, who got Karjam and I free tickets to the dance performance a while back was there this evening, and the conversation with her uncovered the fact that the announcer that evening had been 지원 Jiwon, one of the key members and the drumming instructor for the group. 장미이 Jang Mi’i talks constantly as she teaches, explaining each motion, and its meaning, and then again and again as we repeat. She is either talking or counting out loud at all times. I find this a bit hard to take, and want to concentrate more on the motion and don’t need each fine detail of the motion explained to me, I’d rather do it three times instead of once with talking, at which point I would expect to be doing it properly based on watching carefully. Maybe it’s just because Korean isn’t my native language so paying attention to what is said may be more distracting for me than it is for most people. The others had learned a fair stretch of the choreographed basic motion set on Tuesday, I had to catch up and learn the new set of motions, but it was fun. Someday I may be good at 고성오광대 Goseong Ogwangdae. We had 8 participants (a much more manageable sized group) including Jang Mi’i, Jiwon who did our drumming and 김선우 Kim Seonu who is the go-to office, drummer, secondary dance instructor sort of person. I also found out that she’s only a year younger than me, which is surprising; she comes off as still in her 20s. After class ended we sat in a circle, evaluated class (while Seonu made notes) and had hot tea and cookies and other snacks.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sangmo and Sogo

November 16th, 2010
I stayed home working on video stuff most of the day, then went to 상모 sangmo class. I was really worried that as soon as I’d go outside I’d feel horrible like I did yesterday, but I felt fine (I was –super- bundled up though) and even had a great sangmo practice. We worked on steps, and to make it more “real” the five people who were doing drumming practice in the other major room at the 임실필봉농악서울전수관 Imshil Pilbong Nongak Seoul Training Center came to our room and played music while we had to spin and move forward, back and in circles while playing 소고 sogo. I admit I’ve been intentionally not taking my sogo to practice, as twirling my sangmo is still hard enough I just didn’t want to add the complexity of also manipulating the sogo and beating it at the appropriate time. However 이종휘 Yi Jonghui directed me to grab a sogo from the corner (some sort of dead sogo that I think have been abandoned in the training center) and I actually started to feel comfortable enough by the end of practice that I will definitely take mine with me next time. Both Yi Jonghui and the assistant 변태원 Byeon Taewon were there, but with my hearing still compromised on the left side (and my spot in the room is near the right wall so everyone is to my left), I kept being a few beats behind on directions and then Byeon Taewon decided I needed special help. I didn’t want to mention my ear as I feel so embarrassed that every single week my health is somehow compromised. I don’t want to be the weak old lady, I just want to keep up and get better!

The video I spent over five hours making is this one; it uses clips from more than 15 performances of 13 different mask dance groups!

Bongsan Talchum with an Ear Ache

November 15th, 2010
I felt mostly better during the day at home, so I decided I simply couldn’t have four days without active research (I was still trying to deal with photos and videos and the upcoming powerpoint and revise some interview questions despite the pain in my head, but I felt like I was having too much time off).

I headed out to 봉산탈춤 Bongsan Talchum class, and immediately started to feel intense pain in my head again. By the time I was halfway there I knew I wouldn’t be dancing (although I had my 한삼 hansam, 미투리 mituri slippers, loose pants and a t-shirt). It was intense. When I got to the office I just wanted to crawl into a dark hole and stay there. Instead I went to the practice room, sat next to 김은주 Kim Eunju and wrote notes about what I was seeing. I made notes about how individual students were doing, something I usually only see incidentally, some are so stiff, others are quite good. Kim Eunju spent quite a bit of time firming up the pronunciation and enunciation of the new monologues we learned while 장용일 Jang Yongil was running class. “If you don’t say it precisely, no one will hear you through the mask.” She pointed out (several times in different ways). During breaks Kim Eunju would talk and joke and make people who were late doing the basic exercises, unlike Jang who would mostly just sit and wait for everyone to take their break. Kim Eunju asked for more hansam movement during monk 4’s part, and worked with everyone on the final part where we all dance our own solos for 10 jangdan at the same time as the others dance something different, then do a collective dance at the end. She also reviewed the 사자춤 sajachum with us.

I felt horrible on the walk back to the subway, almost like I was caught in slow-motion where every moment was painful, but after I got home and warmed up I started to feel better. I went to bed happy because my ear has started to express large amounts of goop. I think that’s a sign of healing. I want to believe it is.

I finally made an excerpt video of Bongsan Talchum from the festival, it’s uploaded here: link.

Cell photos: Kim Eunju (pink shirt) demonstrates while the class watches, and the class practicing.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Weekend with Ear Infection

November 13th, 2010
Georgy came to Seoul to see us and do some other things. Karjam and I took a walk on 남산 Namsan. The three of us went to see a movie in the theatre. The rest of the day I worked on interview questions, revising a paper, my PPT for the presentation on the 18th and so on.

Photos: In fact the colors aren't always this good, Korea's weather this year made them turn out especially bright and bold.

I like these photos with the distortion and the crud on the mirrors.

Yes, I look goofy. For one thing that's my extra ear protection look (hat tightened down for no air leaks with a scarf). For another thing, I just naturally look goofy. But my husband is hot.

I know, I'm lucky.

November 14th, 2010
The three of us had pancakes for breakfast. Georgy and I went to 인사동 Insadong and later to 신촌 Shinchon. My ear infection made me feel like someone was sticking crochet needles in my ear and into my brain and grinding them around. It felt that way on Saturday about three to four hours, on and off, Sunday the feeling started around noon and got more intense, it comes and goes in waves and is still very much in my head at the moment. On a big PShop kick tonight, scroll down for photos. As always, if you click on a photo you can see it larger.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Beating the Ear Infection (a post only my mom will want to read)

November 12th, 2010 – Second Day of the G20 Meeting in Seoul
I went to Korean History class in the morning. It was as it generally is. Afterwards I went to Yonsei to meet a student who wanted to interview me. I was early, so since my hearing in my left ear was now at least 75% less than normal I went back to Severance and made an appointment for 2:30. I had coffee with the student, then finally got them to take me seriously enough to send me to an ear specialist (which involved walking through a maze). This doctor took my worries over blockage very seriously. I swear he used a vacuum in my ear, I even heard large gunky pieces get momentarily stuck in the hose. After a few moments my hearing was back, but it took about 15 minutes all told to vacuum completely, flush with water, then swab the inside of my ear with some “medicine.” He actually said the eardrops I already got are good to keep using (there is still an infection) but told me fewer drops and much less time in my ear.

Karjam had the first of two days of final Korean exams. He thought the listening was hard but the rest was okay.

Cell Photo: Professor 박현순 Bak Hyeonsun and Euis (from Indonesia)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Learning Goseong Ogwangdae in Seoul

November 10th, 2010
Wednesday is my day off. I didn’t do anything exciting or more research related than dealing with computer stuff.

Police were everywhere before the G20 summit- the line of buses is outside the Grand Hyatt Hotel (where some of the world leaders stayed). Karjam's song is on CD 5 in this set on sale for approx. 70 USD. Would have been nice if they'd PAID the artists more than the 99 cents they probably paid to download the file from itunes.

The yellow leaves are from the gingko trees. Gingko (female trees) have nuts which are edible and medicinal so they are collected by some people, including the woman in the white cap. Some people just think they're a pain when they drop their nuts as they smell fairly bad and burst open in squishiness on the sidewalks. Since it doesn't rain in the autumn (much) the smell and mess lingers.

November 11th, 2010 Day 1 of the G20 Meeting
I avoided G20 madness inside my house all day then headed to my new class. The class, located near Seoul National University, is run by 봉천놀이마당 Bongcheon Noli Madang, a group which operates a 풍물 pungmul group, a 공성오광대 Goseong Ogwangdae mask dance group and various other related things such as performing 설장구 seol janggu. They have performances (all or part of their members) fairly frequently and they have classes (different types) everyday of the week and multiple times on some days. People can become regular members (and probably pay a membership fee and less per class) or they can just do what I am doing, which is to pay for a month worth of classes. The advantage to having members is that they’ll pay even when they’re too busy to come to classes, and they’ll still show up for special events and come forward when needed, like for a performance. Of course, that is just based on my previous experience with such groups I didn’t determine any of that through discussing with them and will on future days.

The teacher, 장미이 Jang Mi’i seemed very competent. However our class today was only the very start (seemingly they started on Tuesday with a new group of people, so this was the second class) so everyone was learning very beginning motions. There were 12 people including me, and the practice space (there is also an office and a storage room, all in a basement that stinks of mildew) is too small for us all to practice without extended arms whacking each other (or in my case, being taller than the woman next to me, I kept getting unneeded brushes of my breast). The other members are, according to my estimates, one late 20s, one early 30s, two 40s and the rest 50s. And the teacher is late 30s. Because of the G20 related traffic I arrived later than I meant to and only had time for a brief introduction to their group (mostly just I got some fliers from them) and time to fill out the registration form before the start of class. We practiced three types of steps (two of which had a forwards and backwards version) and then learned a routine which goes for 12 beats, which might not sound like much but it’s pretty darn complicated. As Jang Mi’i taught us she didn’t correct us directly often, just the occasional comment or repetition of something obviously because someone was getting it wrong. There was however one pose that needed to be held perfectly and she walked around physically correction people. Except me, because I had already copied her successfully.

Then class ended and to my surprise one of the guys, 추주필 Chu Jupil had brought cake and oysters and sashimi in honor of the birthday of one of the other members. The sashimi was amazing, really high quality, and the oysters were great, too. As with most Korean baked goods, the cake was basically crap.

Cell photos: The wall decorations include a photo chart of group members and their roles, and a bunch of masks.

Party time! Sashimi and chocolate cake go well together.

The cake

I finished another video of excerpts from a mask dance, this time Tongyeong Ogwangdae, please check it out. The link is also accessible on the videos page.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Two Days of Classes with Ear Infection

November 8th 2010
Now beset by an ear infection blocking up my whole ear, I stayed home until it was time to go to 봉산탈춤 Bongsan Talchum. 장용일 Jang Yongil came to teach us, but said it would be a while before he’d be back again. He didn’t talk much today, but made us practice the dialogue for 5목중 the fifth dark-faced monk over and over, first repeating, then reciting together, then with movement. Thirteen people showed up, including the mother and the younger boy who doesn’t participate, but not including Jang. That’s our best turnout in over a month. I was, however, feeling very frustrated. The students in general can be much to lazy, although 김은주 Kim Eunju will often have us dance three times in a row without sitting down, during Jang’s tenure everyone seemed to adopt a habit of collapsing at the end of each segment. It’s true that Kim Eunju often ends the segments at the repetitive part, so if we do it three times it’s really like two-thirds, two-thirds and then one full time, however I was getting really frustrated.

Which is why it was sort of ironic that as I was transferring from the subway to the bus on the way home I got a phone call from some high-level fans/amateurs who have just started regular 고성오광대 Goseong Ogwangdae rehearsals here in Seoul. I had reached out at the festival to find out if there was any way for me to rehearse in Seoul (because Goseong Ogwangdae is my third mask dance drama and I need to get closer to them since I’ve known them the least time overall) and this was them getting back to me. Unfortunately they rehearse on Tuesday (sangmo class) and Thursday (Bongsan Talchum) but after a moment I told the man (not sure who) that I’d come on Thursday and see if I could clear my schedule in the future. I think only one day a week at Bongsan, if the Goseong practice seems good, might be just what I need to keep me from getting burned out. Besides, more people always come on Monday than Thursday.

November 9th, 2010
When I woke up my ear was worse, so I bussed to Severance Hospital again. The guy who does the check-in and deals with foreign insurance has now seen me so many times recently he greeted me by name. Ran errands. Came back when they had time, got medicated ear drops.

상모 Sangmo class had only four other students this week. Nothing exceptional, I kept working on coordinating fancy steps with spinning. After class I talked to 이종휘 Yi Jonghui about an idea I have.

Cell photo: Jonghui's case full of various implements of the trade.

Photos from my real camera-- fall colors in Seoul. See the gingko nuts with the leaves?

The playground by my house. A volunteer demonstrating Korean calligraphy. An advert on the back of a bus seat for beginning Korean and English classes.