I am now in limits for conversation.

A curious fact about my gym: although there are never more than six people in attendance at any one time, there are over a hundred pairs of sneakers being stored there. I counted 83 in the entryway one day–I seem to remember there being a lone shoe or two–and 38 (including my own) in the women’s locker room. Who knows how many are in the men’s locker room.

My friend at the gym asked for my name the other day, after months of coinciding workouts. His name is Hong Tae, apparently. After giving me his name, he said, pointing to himself “eobba,” which means, as I know, older brother. I have this problem in Korean where I can’t express that I understand a word but not the person’s reason for saying that word. He is not my older brother, however this is one of those cultures where strangers can be given familial designations to express familiarity, *however* eobba is also what you call your boyfriend, which is just weird.

And today, an older guy said, as I stepped off one of the leg machines, “You are very strong.” Mhm. You sir, have been holding out on me. A complete sentence? About a state of being, no less? I’m sure there are more where that came from. However, in the case of that particular machine, I’m convinced I must be doing it wrong, perhaps not going deep enough into the motion, because I seem to be able to lift more than I think I ought to be able to.

And *then* the husband of the woman who I bought the membership from, who comes in the afternoon, tried to ask me some complex question in Korean, and by complex I mean very simple but beyond my vocabulary, that seemed to be something like “Aren’t the weights heavy?”

I used to scoff at people who thought that just by listening to Korean I would pick it up. Yeah, how about I just talk at my students for forty minutes every day and see if they pick it up? However, I answered that question with a word that I have learned only from hearing it in context and as soon as I did, I was a little worried. Was that right? What did I just say? But according to my cellphone, it means exactly what I thought it meant. Cool.

I also came to understand a word that I was told the meaning of, but that I’ve not been quite sure how to use, when I realized that sonsengnim always says “as I know” in English conversation as they use geureonikka in Korean. At least, I’m pretty sure that’s it. That word looks ugly in transliteration.


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