Thursday, 23 August 2012

(Day 33) Hwaseong Immigration Detention Center-day 20

Today is the day I'm supposed to be transferred to Seoul Nambu  Correctional Facility. It's now afternoon and no word from anybody if it's going to happen today or not. I suspect not, but TIK, so there is still time. New detainees usually arrive around 3 p.m. so if they're going to use that bus to ship me back to Seoul... it would be nice to have some warning though. Other than that, just another typical day behind bars. Typical breakfast and lunch. More reading and drawing and writing. I woke up in the middle of the night and wrote down the dream I had. It was intense, but I was forgetting the details as I was writing them, so story I wrote is not as intense as the dream.

I've been doing a lot of the same style of drawing lately and I was thinking they would look really good framed as part of a gallery show. As for the reading, I finished three out of five books in about two days. I need to pace myself by drawing and writing more or I'll run out of things to read. I may be able to get a subscription to a newspaper right away when I get to prison, though.

There is a Chinese detainee who is older than the others. He's been here since the beginning and every night before he goes to sleep he meditates and performs Tai Chi exercises. He is very good natured and for an older Asian man, quite polite and pleasant. Lately, he has taken it upon himself to learn English, so he has spent been spending his days copying the alphabet over and over again on any scrap of paper or cardboard he can find. He has done a pretty good job of learning all the letters and has now moved on to learning what sound each letter makes. The problem is the only other language and alphabet he knows, is Korean and Hangul, so I'm doing the best I can using my shitty Korean to explain how all the sounds work using Hangul as an example. The real problem is there are many letters in English that have no Korean equivalent and as a result it tends to butcher pronunciation. The other detainees have also been trying to help. Both the Nigerian and Pakistani speak better Korean than I can so they help me explain more difficult concepts such as vowel combinations. In Korean there are 14 separate symbols for all the different vowel sounds we make in English with five vowels, and there are only 11 consonants compared to English's 21, which makes it a real bitch to teach Z V F L and R. That's why jokes about Asians always point out the accent with L and R. The sound doesn't exist in Asian languages-- at least not with the distinction we attribute to it. The Vietnamese kid shares a common alphabet with English so he's been helping with the sounds of letters. About the only people not helping are the other Chinese. They make fun of him and it makes me wish I spoke a common language with them so I could bitch them out. At least the old guy is making the best of his confinement and trying something new. It's inspiring to see him still learning and learning a difficult language with a strange alphabet in an environment with few tools to learn from and to teach with. It's not like I can start him off reading with flash cards and children's books. I have adult novels that are challenging to many adults, a couple of pens and limited paper. Our only common language is a second language to us both and I suck at it. I hope when he gets done here he keeps studying when he has access to better learning aids.