12.21.2010

On just trying to help.

You know, they're trying to help. Starting from this week, the teacher who normally drives me to school is away at teachers' training. That's fine. Walking to school is fine. I like a walk in the morning. I actually prefer to walk it, but sort of had this ride forced on me in the first place -- it's impossible to say no. So, yesterday I was walking. Another teacher who doesn't speak any English pulled over and picked me up. That was nice of her.

When we got out of the car, she told me in Korean that she would pick me up at the same place, same time tomorrow. I said, no that's okay. She said, no, she drives past that place every morning anyway. I agreed. I know resistance is futile. I also know, however, that arrangements like this when there is very little ability to communicate clearly are almost always a huge mistake. They don't -- this is usually the first time they've dealt with the language barrier. I've been through it probably thousands of times. I already know this is probably going to end up somehow being an inconvenience, if not to both parties, then at least to one.

Flash forward to this morning. Me standing there in the freezing cold being gawked at as every car that drives past slows down to get a good look at the foreigner. Fifteen minutes pass. I would've been at work by then, had I just walked. But I wasn't. I was standing there having to decide if she meant another place -- in front of my house, perhaps? If she was just running late. If she was waiting for me somewhere else and I was making her late. If she would be there in two minutes, and would sit and wait if I walked away, meaning I would make her late. And with absolutely no ability to reach her and find out what is going on.

Instead of just leaving my house and walking to work, fifteen quick moving minutes in the cold, I left my house, stood around freezing for fifteen minutes, then walked fifteen minutes in the cold to have to shuffle past the haksaengbu teachers with my head down at the fact that I was coming in at literally the last possible minute before I would techinically be late.

They're just trying to help. They're always just trying to help. But they don't understand the situation the same way that you do. Or the fact that insisting when you say it's alright makes you feel obligated to accept, even though it's actually kind of an inconvenience.

It's the same when coworkers hear that I'm planning to go somewhere and try to "help" me navigate public transportation, even though they drive everywhere blindly following their navis and rarely even actually live in Incheon. I know I'm a foreigner. Okay. But I've lived in this city, getting around completely on my own using public transport and on foot for two years now. There is nothing you know about the metro or bus system that I don't. And you're kind of wasting like thirty minutes of my time trying to first understand, and then explain something to me that you don't actually know anything about. In fact, I'm having to explain it to you and watch as you try to confirm what I'm saying, rather than just believing that I know what's going on, so instead it kind of feels like Foreigner Quiz Time.

They're just trying to help. They're just trying to help. Vacation is coming soon and I won't have to be a foreigner for like a minute and everything will feel better after that and they're just trying to help.

4 comments:

Kel said...

I feel ya. I had a ride forced on me last year. It got really awkward and somehow I got out of it for a legit reason but that teacher always gives me weird looks now and doesn't talk to me anymore.

Derek, Rachel and Cadence said...

We had the same trouble when my husband and I lived in Sokcho, Korea. The problem we found was when we pretty much knew what we were doing except for one little thing. That one little thing negated everything else when our co-workers (one in particular) and well meaning friends found out. At times it was really, really frustrating!!

aprilantipodal said...

When I first got to Korea and was still trying to get buses, etc, straight, I had to take a bus to my Monday-Tuesday school that only came every 45 minutes. I didn't know all the teachers at the school yet, so when a teacher stopped to pick me up I hopped in - and realized that she was taking me to the wrong school! Mass confusion and embarrassment, and I very nearly missed my bus.

3gyupsal said...

About 5 years ago, after a month or two of getting a ride to school, I just got a bike and told the lady who was driving me that I wanted to get in shape. No questions asked.