On the Road to Fluency, But Apparently Not the One to Heaven.
Seoul, South Korea
Seeing as I have been here for a half of a year, I figured it was time to start extending my vocabulary beyond what I've learned so far. This lengthy list includes, "thank you, goodbye, hello, where is, how much, water, more water, please, coffee, bus terminal, subway station," and with that, I will add a complex ensemble of charades.
So, in Itaewon, the foreign district of seoul, I stumble upon an English bookstore. I bought a Lonely Planet book for my 5 weeks of travel through SE asia after my contract (cambodia, thailand, laos, and vietnam. Yeah - get ready for blogs from there). I also bought a Korean phrase book. I am finally learning my numbers, which is easier said than done. In Korean, there are two sets of numbers. THe Korean numbers, hana, tul, set, net, tasot... are used in counting, age, and telling the hour of the time. The Sino Korean Cardinal numbers (il, i, sam, sa, o...) are for floors of a building, dates, phone numbers, money, minutes of the time, etc. I find practice easy, as my elevator announces each floor as it opens the door. I just push each button of my 13 floor apartment building, and repeat after my elevator woman friend. 1-13 is gonna be down rock solid.
While continuing to study, i came across a page titled "at the bar." The phrases to learn are listed in the following order...
1. I don't drink alcohol.
2. I don't usually drink much.
3. This is hitting the spot.
4. I feel fantastic!
5. I'm feeling drunk.
6. I really really love you. (yes with two really's)
7. I think I've had one too many.
That's always how it goes, is it not?
I also had another wonderful experience when an asian woman, for god knows what reason, was running down the hallway on the ground floor of my school. She was actually the 7-11 lady, and I saw her locking the door, and was immediately pissed. This happens from time to time, i just find the store closed at 1pm. Clearly the person has stepped out, but still annoying. (And sidenote - 711's in korea are far from the trashy places they are at home. I can get healthy seaweed wraps and sandwiches here. Sadly, not slurpees).
Anyway, this anger quickly dissolved when she asked me in Korean, where is the bathroom?" Being knowledgeable in this phrase, I pointed where it was. Though I couldn't respond much farther than that, it was my first real exchange that I had not initiated. No applause please.
Of course, Korean is not always necessary for an impulsive, and come to find out, a reverent theological discussion. Important to know is that many english-studying koreans will stop you on the street for surveys for classes, etc. Well, when stopped today, I assumed the same was true, so I agreed to participate in a survey. I watched a 3 minute video on this girl's ipad, which informed me that God the Mother the one and only Saviour of all that is holy. Literally.
Afterwards, I had to fill out a survey. In response to the question, do you have a religion?... Which, I find an extremely constraining question, especially when the answers were yes and no. But I felt the simpler answer was just to say "no." Upon seeing this answer, she immediately gasped and asked, "You don't have religion?" And I said, "Well no." Her response to this was, "Don't you want to go to heaven?"
And I mean, okay, yes there's a language barrier here, but WHAT am i supposed to say to that? "I mean, no. I've considered it, but heaven's not for me." OR... "Wait, what? THAT'S HOW I GET THERE? Sign me UP." Break down crying, completely confused, begging for an answer?
Completely blindsided, and finding none of these responses appropriate, it ended with me pretending to look at the watch I didn't have on, mumbling that I had to meet a friend, and booking it down the subway entrance. I think I handled it well.