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4 May 2005
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KLB - Weird Wednesday

Yesterday, Ally suggested we should have class today after all, thinking most of the kids would be too tired after their "sports day" events to come and we'd have an easy day and also get paid. I agreed, since we already have two days off for Children's Day of all things.

Well, it turned out to be a weird day. It started on the train. I knew it was too good to be true to get a seat so easily. Some creepy Korean guy came over and stood in front of me and tried to speak English. Every once in awhile this happens, but usually the people are nice and it's not too bad. Mostly it's just embarrassing because everyone watches. With this guy, I couldn't understand what he was saying. He was obviously a little demented, drinking a cup of coffee and chattering to himself in Korean. His teeth were dark yellow, some rotting.

The train was quiet and everyone was staring at us. Hoping he'd leave me alone, I pulled out the only thing I had in my bag - a brand new copy of my book. I pretended to be deeply absorbed in my reading. The weird man bent down and stared at the cover.

"Ireand ubuh Panties? Is it English book?"

"Yes," I said, sinking in my seat.

"Oh, English book! Wow! Good! Fantastic! Mumble, mumble, mumble."

I smiled and returned to my book, reading the same line over and over again, hoping this guy would take the hint and leave me be."

"Can I read your book?" he asked, smiling.

"I guess so," I said, trying to avoid a scene. Reluctantly, I handed him the book. A big mistake. He fumbled around with it leaving the cover full of dirty finger prints, wrinkles and creases. There goes another copy, I frowned. He pretended to read, mumbling incoherently. The whole situation made me frustrated. I took the book from him and said, "Bang hae hajimaseyo," (please don't bother me). That didn't work either. He kept talking. I got up and walked away, down 4 cars of the train thinking that was the end of it. Out of sheer luck, an ajumma stood up to get off the train and I got another seat. A few minutes later the creep walked in, now in a rage. Nobody knew the situation so it must have appeared bizarre to see this Korean man suddenly yelling at me in incoherent English: "Why you angry? Why you angry? Why? Why? Why? I didn't mean you angry! I didn't want angry!" His face turned fiery red.

The train fell silent, everyone gaped in awe. I pretended the guy was off his rocker by looking around and shrugging. That didn't work. He started yelling in Korean about what I did, probably making me look like a jerk. One guy across from me started laughing. Yeah, I guess it was pretty funny.

Now the creep was back in my face, pointing his finger and yelling curses at me in Korean, how foreigners are all sons of bitches and worse. I wasn't sure what to do. Was this it? Do I have to flatten the guy (it wouldn't have taken much) and jump off the train at the next stop? What can I do? Fortunately, sitting next to me was a very strong looking ajushi. He told the creep to stop making a scene and go away. When that didn't work he took hold of his arm and pushed him down the aisle. Finally the creep got the message and kept going, leaving me sitting there amongst stares and quiet murmuring, completely red with embarrassment, pretending to read a beat-up copy of my book.

When I got off the train I bowed to the guy that saved me from a possible fight. I told him in Korean I was sorry, that I didn't know that strange man. He said he understood, smiled and bowed as I exited.

As I said, it was a weird day and it didn't end there. Bad as the situation was, once off the train I felt better. It occurred to me that far worse things could happen in one's own backyard in America. I'm lucky something like this is the worst I have to deal with.

While waiting for my coffee latte at a little cafe in Geongdeok station, I struck up a conversation with a foreigner ordering a fried-egg sandwich.

"So, where you from?" I asked after a bit.

"New York."

"Oh, yeah? Me, too. Syracuse."

"Get out of here," he said, shocked. "I'm from Liverpool."

"Are you kidding? I'm from Liverpool!" (In addition to being a city in England where the Beatles came from, Liverpool is also a small suburb of Syracuse, NY.)

"I live on Bear Road!"

"I live on Taft road!"

So, on a day I wasn't even supposed to work, after being accosted on the train by a weirdo, I meet a guy who lives almost next door to me on the other side of the planet. All the way here in the middle of some obscure subway station in Seoul, Korea. What are the chances! His name is Steve and, as it turns out, he graduated from Liverpool High School just two years before me.

I was so shocked by all this that I lost track of the time. Steve, too. He almost forgot to pay for his food. We quickly exchanged numbers and I ran off to work.

On the way I called Ally and asked her to start class. I expected only a few students to be there. I arrived a few minutes late to find 25 of my students, kids from A, B and C class, singing "Hickory Dickory Dock," in horrible chorus. Since all other extra curricular activities at the school were cancelled, all the kids wound up in my class, some of them staying for 3 hours. Fortunately for me, Ally had prepared an activity: singing nursery rhymes and making pretty cards for Parents' Day which falls on Sunday, so it wasn't all bad. Still, by the end of the day I couldn't wait to get away from the noise.

No hassles on the way home, luckily. I'll have to give that Steve guy a call. I can't get over that.


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