Saturday, October 3, 2009

Around the World in 8 days

After a hectic schedule in which I logged about 30,000 miles in 8 days, am relaxing at our place in New Hampshire for a week. It's raining here and fall has definitely set in, with cooler temperatures and the beautiful landscape that this time of year brings. Friday night we went to a Sukkah party with people from the synagogue we attend here. TIme to reflect and enjoy the fall harvest.

I spent a few days in Korea before coming to New York and then up to New Hampshire. I realize that I have written nothing of Korea, even though I've spent a fair amount of time there. In part this is because I've not done much besides work there, and have had no time to explore the countryside or even Seoul. I enjoy the food--more than Chinese, actually, since it's very fresh and features a lot of vegetables and interesting spices, and is very healthy. I've picked up a little of the language--at times I do a doubletake because the inflections and body language of Koreans are so similar to Japanese that I think I should be understanding. I find that the little I've learned "sticks" better than Chinese--not necessarily because the sounds are similar to Japanese, but the grammar is almost the same and I must be using the same part of my brain that stores Japanese.

But Koreans are not like Japanese or Chinese--it is a unique culture. There are similarities all across Asia, of course, ranging from obvious things like squat toilets and rice-based cuisine to a group based cultures that value face saving and hierarchy over individualism. But beyond this there are significant differences. I haven't really figured out the thought process, as I was eventually able to do in Japan. In fact, the other day I had an email exchange with someone in our Japan operation, and found myself immediately able to read between the lines in a way that turned out to be completely accurate---it kind of surprised me that my instincts were still that sharp despite being away from the country for years. But Korea is a different story. Mostly I have to keep peeling back the onion in various interactions to try to get at what is really going on. I'll be spending more time there over the next few months, so let's see what progress I make.

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