The first part of August was quiet, which gave me time to read proofs from the publisher for my book proposing that English Renaissance authors Thomas Nashe and Tomas Dekker were one and the same person. It’s put to bed now: no more changes. It also gave me time to keep working on the next book.
Our maid Aya returned from the Philippines just in time. She worked for Tom’s predecessor, and spent part of July and August back home visiting her son and daughter, who are in their 20s, and her mother, who unfortunately ended up going to the hospital. Two days after Aya’s return I hosted a book club, and a few days after that had some women over to dinner, and she did a wonderful job cooking for both events.
Books I’ve read that I can recommend: “The Devil in the White City” by Erik Larson, about the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exhibition, and a mass murderer who ensured that some of its attendees never returned home; and “Steve Jobs,” the new biography by Walter Isaacson, which portrays Jobs as both a genius and a jerk. Am now making my way through Isaacson’s biography of Albert Einstein.
While you folks were busy worrying about hurricane Isaac, we were worrying about tropical storm Bolaven. They closed schools in preparation, and most of its damage was caused by high winds. We lost part of a willow tree in our front yard, just as we’d lost part of a willow tree in our back yard in Virginia due to a wind storm before coming here. Two years ago a typhoon knocked out electricity on the US Embassy housing compound for a week (the lines are above ground). We lost power twice, and each time we were thinking, “Oh no, here goes,” but both times it was quickly restored.
We received the household effects we shipped by boat on a rainy day last Thursday. My first reaction was hooray!, and my second was x&%*@#!, because that meant I had to incorporate all the stuff into our house. There are always some glitches in every move, and this time a picture frame and glass arrived broken, and two boxes of clothes seemed to have been placed wet into the container on the US end. They did NOT smell good, but Aya, the washing machine, and Bounce fabric softener strips worked wonders, and we only lost a few things. A framer on base here was able to repair the frame and replace the glass.
I’ve begun a twice-a-week language class here on base, and tomorrow, for the first time since I began this moving-and-moving-again routine, someone besides me is going to hang up our pictures. US government workers provide the service free of charge! During the second part of August, I began a week of intensive language and culture training. Each day we studied Korean in the morning at the Embassy, and went on field trips in the afternoon. My favorite field trip was to the Korean folk museum. Outside it was a street of shops from the 1970s. They looked quaint compared to the modern stores of today’s Seoul. Over a loudspeaker played one of my favorite songs from my high school years, Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” It made me feel misty-eyed and ooold. The museum grounds also displays an amazing collection of stone statues.
Korean is another ridiculously difficult language, but learning it is easier after having studied Japanese because a few of the words and some of the grammar is the same. It’s also easier after learning Chinese for similar reasons. A classmate who’s fluent in Chinese and I went to Korea’s Chinatown in Incheon and boy, was she in her element, thrilled to be able to speak to shopkeepers who understood her. She found ingredients she needed to cook Chinese food, and I found nikuman, a Chinese breaded dumpling we used to love to eat in Japan. This classmate is actually half American, half Japanese, who grew up in Hilo, Hawaii. In her community she was discriminated against for not being FULL Japanese, so she rebelled and learned to speak Chinese instead of Japanese!