Yes, I’m proud to be bilingual.

20 03 2012

Bilinguals generally tend to be smarter than monolinguals?

I always thought this may be true, but I’ve become more confident of this now.

Why Bilinguals Are Smarter

I am bilingual in Korean and English. I believe that being “bilingual” means you must be fluent in two languages. I was born and raised in Korea, but spending my secondary school, university, and professional work tenure in Hong Kong and the United States has granted me the ability to even think in English at will.

Being bilingual, I’ve had jump start to learning Japanese and Mongolian compared to my colleagues. I am fluent in neither language, but I’ve been able to tackle foreign languages from two different perspectives – Korean and English. Overall, my understanding was quicker and my pronunciation was relatively better. But, I was uncertain what other advantages I’d have being bilingual.

I think the attitude plays a critical role here. If you study two languages for the sole purpose of becoming bilingual, it won’t get you anywhere far in international encounters. Respecting the culture of the nation the language belongs to and mingling with different nationalities really present different dynamics of well-knowing a language.

According to the article, “individuals with a higher degree of bilingualism — measured through a comparative evaluation of proficiency in each language — were more resistant than others to the onset of dementia and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease: the higher the degree of bilingualism, the later the age of onset.”

It’s a very pleasing assurance that being bilingual helps in many areas beyond expectation.

Aung San Suu Kyi, maybe the most admirable female figure in today’s world

9 03 2012

Celebrating the woman’s day in Mongolia (3/8), coincidentally I came across the following article:
Can Aung San Suu Kyi, Now Free, Lead Burma to Democracy?

Powerful and moving figure, and a living legend, who deservedly won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, Aung San Suu Kyi’s life is like a movie. As if living and studying abroad in the previous generations wasn’t surprising enough, she married a British man who fully supported her ideals and her love for home country.  According to the article, her fight for democracy in Burma has earned her a place alongside Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi. Many battles and life-taking risks she has faced may make her deserve respect, but to me her great personal sacrifice puts her at the top.

I encountered Aung San Suu Kyi for the first time through a film, Beyond Rangoon (1995). Until now, I’ve heard about her time to time through the news, but I had no knowledge of  her personal life and the sacrifices she had to make in attempt to bring democracy to her motherland.

In this world full of superficiality and hypocrisy, Aung San Suu Kyi teaches us we must rightfully determine what values are important for the humanity and one must strive towards his or her set goals even at the cost of personal sacrifices. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t have the courage to choose my country’s uncertain direction for democracy over my beloved family. But, her far-fetched dream may begin to become a reality in Burma come the elections in April, 2012.

“Peace as a goal is an ideal which will not be contested by any government or nation, not even the most belligerent.” – Aung San Suu Kyi

Tsagaan Sar – The Mongolian Lunar New Year

26 02 2012

Translated in meaning as “White Moon”, Tsagaan Sar (Цагаан сар in Mongolian Cyrillic) is Mongolia’s most recognized national holiday. The school was on a 1-week break, and the celebration in Tsetserleg began on the night of Bituun, the day before Tsagaan Sar. On this eve, I walked up the town’s all-famous Bulgan Mountain to take the night view of Tsetserleg while others climbed to set up candles and make New Year wishes.

On the way to Bulgan Mountain, we stopped by the Monastery to do Mongolian rituals.

The night view of Tsetserleg from Bulgan Mountain looks like this, with the monastery in the middle.

It was windy and -20 degrees Celsius, so we hurried down. I took one more shot of the mountain for a good measure. Due to wicked wind, many candles were blown off, otherwise the mountain would have had an astounding display.

The next morning, I met up with my expatriate buddies in town to watch the ‘New Year’ sunrise. I had never been to this hill, which faces the Bulgan Mountain across the town, and the view was gorgeous. The killer wind didn’t let us endure very long, so  we ran down as soon as we greeted the sun.

During the Tsagaan Sar holidays, I was invited to a few houses of my counterparts. Tsagaan Sar food typically looks like this…

Frankly, I’m not a big fan of Mongolian cuisine, but I did enjoy the presentation. Many people engage in a Buuz tally to count who eats more Buuz. The outcome is usually a food coma and a wasted next day, but it’s all for the fun!

With my Peace Corps friends, I visited an English teacher’s home. My American buddies wore Dells, Mongolian traditional costumes, as a way of showing their love for the Mongolian culture. I guess I didn’t do a good job of expressing my respect. Better wear it next year!

(All pictures courtesy of my Korean blog

Celebrating the New Year in Mongolia

21 12 2011

Mongolians don’t regularly celebrate Christmas unless they are Christians. Especially in the countryside, people are less exposed to one of the most celebrated holidays in the world, unless they have foreign influence such as mine or Americans’. The New Year celebration is regarded differently. In my school, Humuun 1st School of Arkhangai aimag in Mongolia, teachers who are new to school this fall have been assigned to program the entire 4 hour New Year’s party. As part of the faculty members, but also being a foreign volunteer, it was difficult to find my role in this preparation at first. However, despite the communication wall, my jokes in Mongolian didn’t fail to amuse teachers. Thanks to my vastly improved relationship with the younger teachers, now I have several responsibilities for the New Year’s party.
First, I’ve been learning this Mongolian song, which my counterpart claims as the best song of 2009 in Mongolia. I have no clue what the majority of the lyrics means, but my pronunciation has been adequate for teachers to understand. They are already quite excited that I will be singing in their language. It’s only been about 6 months since I arrived in Mongolia, but singing an uneasy and famous Mongolian song may be one of many ways to show my love and passion for Mongolian culture. “Respect is the ultimate currency” right?
I will also be singing another traditional Mongolian song with the rest of the new teachers. We’ve had about 10 new staff members this past fall. For this song, I only have to sing one line by myself, and I can lip sync through the rest of the song.
They told me I have to dance, but I politely refused. They might ask again.
With a fellow KOICA volunteer, I may sing a K-Pop song.
Today, during my English class for teachers, I taught James Ingram’s all-time favorite song “Just Once” to the attendees. I printed out the lyrics for each teacher and also divided up parts for them to practice. I found out Mongolians generally love singing. They all enjoyed the music and were diligently practicing after listening a few times. Some of them copied the MP3 file to their phones, while others saved on their flash drives. I’m definitely satisfied with my song selection and exhilarated with coordinating the ensemble. 🙂
With all other tasks I have nearing the year’s end, I feel somewhat overburdened but quite accomplished. 2011’s year-end will be very special and worthwhile.

Love, Knowledge, Pity

4 12 2011

Three passions have governed my life:
The longings for love, the search for knowledge,
And unbearable pity for the suffering of [humankind].

Love brings ecstasy and relieves loneliness.
In the union of love I have seen
In a mystic miniature the prefiguring vision
Of the heavens that saints and poets have imagined.

With equal passion I have sought knowledge.
I have wished to understand the hearts of [people].
I have wished to know why the stars shine.

Love and knowledge led upwards to the heavens,
But always pity brought me back to earth;
Cries of pain reverberated in my heart
Of children in famine, of victims tortured
And of old people left helpless.
I long to alleviate the evil, but I cannot,
And I too suffer.

This has been my life; I found it worth living.

– Bertrand Russell

Complain about free service?

23 09 2011

I see a ton of people complaining about new features or changes on Facebook. Yes, the interface changes annoy me too sometimes. But, Facebook has been offered to us for free.

It’s quite startling to me that users complain, sometimes even with foul words. Users are supposed to ask for help, suggest improvements or just live with it. No user has been forced to pay a single cent to use Facebook.

Facebook is still the best Social Networking medium to date, and I like the Facebook team’s effort to keep investing in improvements. If you are frustrated and can’t bear with some of the features that are not good enough for your standards, it’s time for you to get on another SNS website. Just remember, that Facebook accumulates more hits than Google does.

I sound like I work for Zuckerberg. 😦