Last entry, I mentioned that I did not experience any culture shock whatsoever. (Though I will write about my actual growing pains next time.)
As a foreigner now living in Korea, with no Korean language skills (this is actually not entirely true), I am a recipe for snafus.
snafu [sna-foo] -noun
A confused or chaotic state; a mess
Two of my major snafus:
1.) My first weekend in Korea, I realized I needed a hairdryer if I intended to look presentable at school. Luckily, there was a selection right at my local grocery store – in front of registers and by the DOOR no less! These hair dryers were shouting my name!
I looked through the selection and grabbed one – 25000 won (less than $25). Then this guy – I presumed a clerk – took it away from me. I kept motioning, confused, for him to give it back to me because I wanted to buy it. Then another clerk joined him in trying to tell me that I could not take it.
I got the hint [I thought], “Oh! The items in this section I must not be able to get until I am ready to check out.” So I waved my hand, “Okay” and proceeded to the rest of the store to get the other items on my list (e.g. Pepsiiii, water, etc.). I mainly thought this exchange had to do with the fact that I was carrying with me a huge backpack and that maybe they thought I was potentially trying to steal it.
But why were they smiling?
When I made it to the check out, I went to grab the hair dryer again (since I was at the check out line). Once again, the guy took it away from me. How am I supposed to pay for this! I thought.
Then I realized, after looking around (adding up similar displays and booths I saw at a Home Plus). This guy has his own booth inside of the grocery store. I pay him separately – not at the check out line! When this dawned on me, I practically slapped my forehead and motioned to him that I understood I had to pay him. So I paid for my groceries at the check out, and then paid him for the hair dryer. Snafu solved.
Though I should note, that everyone at that grocery store recognizes me when I come in. I don’t even have to talk for them to know that I am that foreigner girl. They just smile at me and correct me if I say no to something I do not mean to say no to (like a bag for all of my water and milk).
2.) My second major snafu, and less entertaining had to do when I decided to ride the bus home from downtown. I had walked all the way to a Home Plus even after forgetting my map of Jeonju at my apartment. I knew the general direction and I found it. However, I bought a decent amount of stuff (detergent, soap, sugar, some school supplies, and a normal sized backpack) along with a mattress pad (technically, it was not so much a pad to put on a mattress, but one of those pads that Koreans use for sleeping on the floor).
Needless to say, my plans for walking back home were fairly grim. Additionally, I took a slightly different route than the one I used to get to Home Plus (I thought this new one would be more direct). Nothing looked familiar to me. I tried hailing a taxi, but he did not have GPS and since I was kind of lost it was pointless.
But as I was walking, I saw a bus stop that had my bus number on it! The bus number I use to get to my school! It goes right by my apartment! YAY!
I got on.
20 minutes later, I started to get nervous.
You see, it is only a 10 minute walk for me to get to downtown. Maybe another 10 minutes to get to Homeplus.
40 minutes later, I became really nervous. At this point, I definitely realized that I had got on the bus on the wrong side of the road so I was heading in the opposite direction of my apartment. I just had no idea my bus went 45 minutes out to another city!
Finally, I was the only one left on the bus, and the bus driver asked where I was going (I presume). Then he realized I did not speak Korean.
See, my plan was just to stay on the bus until it whipped around back towards my apartment. Surefire plan. Except, I could not explain this to my bus driver who was convinced that this foreign girl on the bus had no idea where she was going and how.
I at least knew to say that my bus stop is on Seowon-ro. At the time, I did not know that the streets change names so many times within a kilometer that this probably meant nothing to the bus driver who has a route that he just drives.
While the bus was routinely filling up at the terminal, my bus driver tried talking to the other bus drivers and they all tried to figure out where I was going. (I had my camera, and it still had a picture I took of my address in its memory.)
One of the bus drivers gave me a balloon.
Though none could really figure out where it was – where I was going. I handed the bus driver the number for my co-teacher – I hoped that my co teacher could explain that I was actually on the right bus, etc.
I am still not sure what happened in that phone call.
I just know that my co teacher was waiting for me at my bus stop and he seemed extremely stressed out.
Later on, I think I pieced together that maybe he and the school thought I was trying to pull a midnight run of sorts (and he just stayed at the bus stop to ensure that I returned.) I am hoping that my theory is entirely theory.
Even though I have tried to explain to my co-teacher many times what happened, I am still not sure they understand. I at least think they know I was not trying to pull a midnight run.
I mean, why would I try to pull a midnight run when Korea creates such gems as this?
I have probably watched this video 20+ times. Gangnam Style is the current big hit in Korea (though I hear from CNN that this video has gone viral). I mean, I have so many favorite parts in this video that I might as well just say that this is a perfect music video. PSY wrote the song and choreographed everything. I have a mini-crush on him, I have to say. (Credit to Kelly Geaney for actually having me watch this video in its entirety).
This song has only been out for a little over two weeks.
PSY also just released the Cheer Song for Korea in the 2012 Olympics.
I am fairly sure a committee somewhere had to vote him in.
Think about that.
“The guy who wrote Gangnam Style? Yeah! He should write our Cheer Song!”