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5 January 2005
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KLB - Stefan


John and I caught up over a pitcher of beer and anjou (different kinds of food you order with beer). He kept telling me not to worry about the subway train. "My friend left here at 12:30 last week and got home no problem." I left at a little after 11 and sure enough, when I got to Sindorim Station to transfer to line 1, I had missed the last train. Thanks, John!

As I was standing there on the platform scratching my head and cursing under my breath, a Korean guy, perhaps in his late 30s, told me in English, "The train is finished. No more train. We're out of luck." Then he asked me where I was going. It turns out he was also going to Songnae and that he even lives not too far from me.

This is one of the things I hate about having been raised in America. When this man suggested we'd get a cab together, my gut reaction was that he was either a homicidal maniac or a desperately lonely gay man yearning for tenderness, or both. Fortunately, after having lived in Korea for so long, I knew this was not entirely impossible but very unlikely. That he was wearing a suit and lugging a laptop helped too.

Knowing that taking a cab would be expensive, and that the last-train taxi vultures would swarm me as easy prey the second I walked outside, I agreed. Having a Korean man to negotiate would be helpful.

Well, the relentless vultures tried to swindle him too, saying that it would be 20,000 won (almost $20) for us both - a ripoff. As it turned out, the man (OK - later I found out his name was Stefan, so I can stop calling him "the man" now) was able to track down information about a bus that was still operating to our area. We got to the bus stop just in time to catch the last one, too. There was only one seat left and Stefan insisted I'd sit there.

Along the way to Songnae, I found out Stefan travels overseas often for his business. He studied Africanistics in Germany for two years (why? - I have no clue and even he himself didn't know for sure) and he can speak German. He listed off a bunch of countries he's visited and some memories of each one. My favorite was when he was in Greece and kept getting confused by yes and no head gestures which are the opposite of ours (shaking the head up and down means no in Greece) and he ended up in an argument with a waiter. I related the story of how I had to rewrite all the grduation awards yesterday because I wrote the kids names in red. Ho ho haha hee!

So, we finally arrived at Songnae Station and he hailed us a taxi for the rest of the trip. He had the driver drop me off at Walmart and refused to accept money before I departed. He gave me his business card, which has the name Stefan Park on it, Stefan being the name a friend of his gave him in Germany, and suggested we go out and get drunk soon.

This is one of the many things I like about living in Korea. Instead of fearing for my safety when approached by a stranger at night, (Americans usually don't trust anyone beyond small talk - and for good reason) I let down my guard and I made a friendl, interesting acquaintance. It's amazing how friendly and helpful Koreans can be at times. This man helped out a complete stranger for no other reason than to be kind and perhaps practice his English a bit. And he refused to take any money, of course - they never will let you pay, at least after a first meeting. All in all it was one of those very nice experiences that happen every once in awhile. Unfortunately, when I got out of the taxi, a different Korean guy was staggering drunk on the pavement ans hawking goobers.

Well, my hour online is up. I'm going outside to meet Julie at the bus stop. Last night I bought a copy of Supersize Me on DVD, the documentary about the guy who eats all his meals at McDonald's for 30 days. We'll probably watch that.

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