Turning tables.

Something terrible has happened at work.

Today I was sitting at lunch with a rare group of female teachers who don't speak much English at all, when I caught "Liz Sunsengnim" and tuned in. Korean book blank study blank. Hangul blank blank. [Hand motion for writing.] English blank blank blank speaking.

It's like a radio station that keeps tuning in and out from static. That's all I know to compare it to.

Three new sets of accusing eyes turn on me. In Korean: "You are studying Korean?"

I paused for a minute to process the question, translate in my head. Then, slowly, nodding.


Christ. They'd said something in Korean and I'd understood. Another one turns to me now, and much faster, in Korean: "Do you speak Korean?" or something close to that. Something about speaking Korean, anyway.

I shook my head.

The original transmitter of information shot me a look. In Korean: "A little."

Me, in Korean: "A little. Very little."

The rest of the afternoon, everything was in Korean.

The tables have finally turned, my friends. From here on out, I have a feeling it will be me stammering and stuttering, straining to understand, and asking everyone to repeat themselves.

Still, being spoken to in Korean is better than not being spoken to at all. And several teachers who have never even looked me in the eye before tried their hand at friendly conversation today. It's still really hard for me to catch exactly what's being said (even when I know they are slowing down and simplifying as much as they can), and even harder to come up with a response. But I think, ultimately, we're moving in the right direction. At least now I can be nervous, instead of absolutely everyone else.

It's lovely, though. I still use English greetings and goodbyes, most of the time. I'm perfectly capable of the usual in Korean, but I like saying "good morning" and "good night" instead. And now? Everyone else uses these, too, without any bashfulness whatsoever.

High school boy mob on the walk home soured the day only a little. Don't know why they have to be so aggressive. Too much testosterone at that age, and not a single clue what to do with it yet, I suppose.


Laura said...

Oy. Good luck with speaking Korean. I'd feel so in over my head if I was in that situation. Good for you, man.

I'm no Picasso said...

Hey man, I feel in over my head all the time. But you know, at some point you do look up and realize, it's not some top secret code you don't have access to, right? It's just another language. Taken me a while, but I'm getting there?

How was Mexico?


Laura said...

Mexico was sweet.

I think my favorite part was that they called things sexy that weren't remotely sexy. "Would you like some sexy pineapple?" I went into a snickerfit after that one.

That and the tequila.

And the margaritas.


Hell, Mexico rocked.

I'm no Picasso said...

Sounds fantastic.

We get "sexy" a lot here, too. But in a slightly more awkward way. Like, after midnight at a club, "Cindy Sexy Dance" will be performing. I don't know if that means Cindy will be doing a Sexy Dance, or if Cindy Sexy Dance is her name.

There was also a Valentine's Sexy Party in Hongdae. I didn't, myself, attend, but I have a feeling it probably wasn't nearly as debauched as one might assume.

Ah. I'd kill to be in Mexico right now. It's too cold here, and not a drop of tequila to be found. Granted, I haven't really been looking.