Here is part two from the Retro Post series about our first visit to South Korea. Bad writing kept intact for posterity! *smile*
Seoul, S. Korea: Days 3 & 4
Day 3: A man stopped me on the street and started shaking my hand. (This is the stinker I mentioned in Day 2.) He was squeezing so hard it made my joints ache and my ring cut into my fingers. I asked him four times to let go of my hand. He could speak English. He knew exactly what I wanted. Finally, he slowly released my hand, the whole while keeping the pressure on. He never stopped talking the whole time. The jerk was trying to take my ring. (Don’t worry, Mom, I was surrounded by people. I wasn’t in any real danger!)
Day 4: “The day I left it rained all night, the weather it was dry…” (Had no idea that this song was going to be so prophetic!) Went to the Korean Folk Village with some women I was fortunate enough to meet. The Korean Folk Village is Korea’s version of Williamsburg, PA. At least that is what the guy at the gate told me. It seems that people live in this reproduction of a 19th century Korean village. They tend to the crops and catch fish and do everything Koreans did back then. Except, of course, this time do it with an audience of gawking tourists.
I did have an interesting encounter with one of the villagers. Our group had scattered a bit and only Gina and I were left in a courtyard surrounded by Korean dwellings. On a deck sat a very elderly Korean villager. He glanced my way and I waved. He nodded and waved me over. Well kinda. He made oh, about nine different gestures, and none of them actually waved me over, but what he wanted was for me to come over. (You see, you don’t wave someone over here the way you do in the United States. If you wave someone over it’s considered an insult, like you are calling your dog.) When I finally figured out that he was waving me over without actually waving me over, the poor man must have been out of breath from all the arm swinging and head nodding I put him through. I had to cross a roped off area that visitors are not supposed to cross over, and I felt kinda funny about it but he kept not waving me over, so I kept going over. I get up to him and he shoots me a grin like he’s the happiest man on earth. He pats the wood next to him, beckoning me to sit down. (You can beckon here, just not wave over.) So far, not a word has been said. I sit next to the man and ask him if he knows English. “Yea,” he smiles. I notice that he only has one tooth. I ask him if we are sitting next to his house. “Yea,” he’s still smiling. I ask him if he likes living in the village. “Yea.”
All right, so I’m a little slow. It takes me this long to figure out that the guy has no idea what I’m saying. I smile at him and he gently pats me on the shoulder – still single-toothin’ it – like he’s still the happiest guy on the planet. I really didn’t know what to make of the situation or what to do, so I just settled in and turned towards the courtyard. What I saw must be what that man has seen every day for many years: people who don’t speak his language, oohhing and aahhing, staring, touching, laughing. In a way I felt sad because I don’t think that I would like to live this way. But I was also happy and honored that this man wanted me to share a moment with him. Even if it was only to sit quietly for a few minutes with his hand on my shoulder.
When I left, he followed me into the courtyard. The woman with me took a picture of us both. Yep, I crossed those ropes and became Miss Tourist again. I probably shouldn’t have taken the picture, but I don’t think the man minded. Because as soon as he saw the camera he put his arm around me and did that single-tooth grin.
That night Russell and I went to dinner with a Josh and Gina. Josh is with O1, the company that brought Russell out here. It only took us twenty minutes to find the restaurant even though we were only 200 yards away. It’s really hard to get along sometimes when you don’t know the language. I think we probably got directions from six or seven people along the way. But, the wild goose chase was worth it. 1 price = all the Korean barbecue you can eat and all the beer and liquor you can drink. Extremely good value, I think. After dinner we went to Hard Rock café. The band played American music as well as Korean. The people there went wild over Wonderful Tonight. Then it poured on us on the way home.
“The day I left it rained all night, the weather it was dry…”