Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Good, The Bad, and The Invisible

When the new school year started about a month ago we all had our timetables changed around a bit. For me this meant I lost my favourite school and gained one that I'm still not really sure about. I teach at the new one on Monday afternoons, so I have to catch the bus there from my main school. This is fine except that I don't know which bus or where to get off. 

Proving that she's not completely useless, my co-teacher wrote two notes in Korean for me. She translated the first one to me as "please help this foreigner find the bus to Baeksan". Not "person", "foreigner". Korea is racist as shit sometimes, but more on that later. The other asked the bus driver to show me where to get off the bus. I've used notes like this before, and all though most Koreans seem to think that the most helpful response to a foreigner with a note written in Korean who obviously doesn't speak the language is to reel 
off as much Korean as as possible as fast as they possibly can, the notes do eventually get the job done.

I walked down to the bus stop after lunch and looked for someone to ask about the bus. I saw a middle aged woman sitting waiting for a bus who seemed as likely as anyone else to be able to help. I walked over to her, said "excuse me, can you help?" and pointed at the note. What happened next was one of the strangest things that's happened to me so far in Korea. She pretended I wasn't there. I was standing right next to her, she watched me approach her, she knew I was there and I was standing close. She just looked off into the distance like I wasn't there, like I wasn't even a person. I tried to point her to the Korean note that was written in Korean by a Korean person who speaks and writes fluent Korean, but it was no use. After about a minute of this she waved her hand dismissively at me, still without turning her head. What I said to her isn't fit for publication here, but suffice to say that if she understood it, she deserved it. 

Actually, scratch that. She deserved it anyway. She didn't have to help me, but I'm a god damn human being, at least look at me. I'd get my co-teacher to write her a note explaining my feelings if I thought she'd ever read it. 

Luckily the next person I found, an elderly woman, had not only a better attitude but also some amazing tattooed-on eyebrows. She wasn't going to Baeksan and didn't speak any English, but she went and asked a few people where the bus left from. She found a woman with one eye who was going my way and I waited with her. After about ten minutes hanging out at the bus stop with the old folks I started to get worried. I had only fifteen minutes till my next class, there was no sign of the bus and it was at least a fifteen minute ride to Baeksan. 

About this time a woman stopped her van in the middle of the street and started yelling at the old folks. Bad parking and unnecessary shouting are staples of Buan life so this didn't seem out of place. A couple of people got into the van, and then ol' one-eye motioned for me to get in too. I did, and I ended up getting a free ride all the way to my school, I think just because the woman with the van was a really nice person who saw a bunch of people waiting for the bus heading the same way she was. 

1 comment:

  1. The woman who ignored you may not have been able to read Korean at all. Kim and I have encountered that a few times from cab drivers.