When you first start living in a foreign country you notice all the little differences in cultures. “They eat their food strange.” “They sit funny.” “They talk weird.” Life in a foreign country is about all the little triumphs.
The largest barrier is language. I desperately just want to be able to asking questions in Korean. Walk in to the store and tell them what I need and ask where to find it.
Though the barriers (especially language) cause the littlest of things to be triumphs. For example, washing your clothes. No really my LG Korean washing machine is a scary scary thing. Thanks to google and the people who put up a translation I can now semi wash my clothes. Another interesting triumph is my hot water controller. You laugh but wait till you see pictures. It is also my heater for the winter (floor heaters…YES!). Which only means that there are more wrong buttons to push than right.
Another interesting triumph comes when your automatic door lock stops locking. Your housing manager from the school teaches you how to lock it manually (no keys here). Then one day all of a sudden it just starts working again. Okay that isn’t really a triumph but it is still a nice thing to happen.
Because of the language it is very hard to do anything. Like putting money on a metro card. Luckily the new 7/11 guy speaks a little English. Though I remember the first time I walked into the store by myself. I also remember the feeling I felt when I walked out of the store victorious! Traveling is also difficult. At least by bus. The train has English which is crazy helpful but my train is kind of disconnected from a lot of things. So the bus is the way to go. Last Sunday I rode the bus home from church by myself. I even had to decide when to push the stop button for the write bus stop (it was nerve racking….I dont want to be that stupid foreigner who doesn’t understand how to do things).
There have also been some interesting happenings. For example tonight, my landlady knocked on my door (first time ever!). She was there with two workmen. They said a lot of Korean. I smiled. They said a lot of Korean. I smiled. The landlady locked at one of the workers…and even though I dont understand a lot of Korean I know she said…”She doesn’t understand…I must be talking too fast.” They both then began to laugh. I smiled. The land lady then pointed to the knew gas gauge that was put in while I was at work. Then the worker pointed to my circuit breakers and said something in Korean and one word I understood, “computer.” I said “OH dayyy.” Even though I had no idea what he said except computer. They left. I thought okay strange. Then they banged around in the other apartments. Came back to me and began to work. I figured out that they were telling me that they would be putting in the electric gauge and that they would be turning off my power. I am sure they said more than that but it made since to me. I felt bad because they would ask me questions like “do you have a vacuum or broom (dont know which one but I got the jest from clues)” but it took me a moment to understand. It made it go by slower. I also wanted to ask if I could hold the flashlight but didn’t know how to and didn’t want to get in the way. So I sat awkward in my chair, in the dark. Sigh
I am learning. I just wish I could wake up one day and Korean just make since to me. At least I am starting to be able to read things. So I can now read (slowly) but I dont understand the vocabulary yet. In time.
The amazing triumph is how helpful everyone is when I simply say “thank you” in Korean or say “no” when the store clerk asks me if I want bags. My Korean co-works were shocked to find out that it was my first time in Korea. So that in and of itself is a rather large triumph.