The Night She Walked Home Giggling…

1) Tonight I threw a student out of class for the first time. He was so resistant to leaving that I actually had to go out to the office, get our school manager, Kelly and ask her to come get him out of the room. She came in and he still would not move. After a few questions and requests to leave (in English), she said ONE word in Korean and he got right up to follow her. Needless to say, the rest of my students were exceptionally attentive for the remainder of the class.

Oh. This disruptive student’s name is Sam. Cute, charming and a complete and utter pain in the ass who needs to be thrown out of class. Again with the irony.

2) Making friends indeed. My fellow teacher Lisa, a Korean-Australian from Sydney, is fast becoming my first girlfriend in Seoul. Even though she is living with her mom and grandmother here, she is still fairly new to Seoul. I have someone to hang out with, commiserate with and someone who will help me buy a cell phone and laundry detergent!

3) On the way home, [here is where the actual giggling starts] there was a woman sitting on the street outside one of the darkened designer men’s wear boutiques on my street. Everything closes at about 10 in my neighborhood, I’m assuming, so the shoppers can get on with their boozing. So it is typical to see street vendors set up with their one cardboard box of wares. This woman had a whole spread of bras and panties.

Problem #1: I do not speak Korean.
Problem #2: I do not speak metric system.

I have no idea what an 85B is because my bra size is in inches, not centimeters. Let me just say that I have absolutely NO idea what possessed me to stop in the dark at a street vendor to look at bras. I had a momentary lapse in judgement, forgetting the language barrier, thinking I’d forge through and go home with a discount bra.

I flipped maniacally through my phrase book looking for ANYTHING about prices or measurements to no avail. (Dear Lonely Planet. Please explain to me how it’s possible to write an entire phrase book for the traveller with chapters on how to have a conversation about politics or religion, but excluding all words needed to buy undergarments.) All this time, the woman gabbered at me non-stop in Korean, showing me the different materials used, the different styles of bras. A full-on sales pitch with Sales Pitch Voice, like an announcer at a carnival. As if at any moment I would suddenly perk right up and come back with a response in perfect, fluent Korean.

I said thank you and went along my way. I giggled the whole way down the street.

4) With phrase book in hand, I stopped at the corner market near my apartment. It is both small all-you-need market and tailor/steam press. The owners are lovely and noticed I had been stopping by frequently for kim, yogurt, beer and Twix bars. The breakfast of champions. They have been friendly, curious and gracious with each visit. We had established last week that I teach English and live nearby. Tonight I wanted to bring my phrase book and see what we could talk about. To say it was great would be an understatement. It made me want to learn Korean more than at any other moment since I’ve been here. We talked about many things, even about altering my pants which are a little too long, and pressing my shirts which are a little too wrinkled. Then she called her daughter who arrived two minutes later from upstairs. She is twelve and speaks English better than some of my students. Her English name is Nancy. They asked me to come back often and practice my Korean, offered me something to drink and chatted with me for an hour. True, the whole conversation would have taken only 5 minutes without the language barrier, but it was worthwhile nonetheless.

In the end, when I was ready to purchase my green tea ice cream and chewing gum before leaving, the woman picked up the ice cream with both hands and said “I present you” and handed it to me with two hands.  I said, “How much?” and her daughter said “gift gift”. They charged me 50¢ for my chewing gum and I was grateful that I knew the one word I needed to say. THANK YOU! thank you thank you thank you.

Lots of bowing and smiling ensued.

More giggling…

5) Only a block from my apartment, I started the short walk home, thinking I was done with the giggling and encounters for the night. A truck came up the hill towards me and as I cleared out of the way, I could hear singing. As it came closer, I could see in the silouhette that the windows were open and the singing was coming from the driver. It was forceful, exuberant, impressive singing with so much joy in each exhale.

My giggling turned into outright laughter, as if in a room filled with my very best friends.

5 Responses to “The Night She Walked Home Giggling…”

  1. eshu says:

    this has been my favorite post of yours thus far Steph!

    dare i say it, i got a little knot in my throat with the store story… “i present you”

    there are some things that not even a language barrier can hold back, goodness in humanity. not only sweet but refreshing as well.

    i’m so proud of you!

  2. jandazza says:

    Well darlin’ two of your very best friends are sitting here, giggling right along with you. We miss you like hell. Thanks for keeping us posted.

    P.S. Terry Gross interviewed Patty Smith today! So cooooooool….

  3. emdot says:

    officially. little miss twig is my favorite blog!

  4. jodi says:

    fantastic story. you are making me very nostalgic for the year i spent teaching english in japan. hope korea is treating you well! =)

  5. Ann says:

    Hey!

    This is making me smile. Thanks. :) So much wonderful things.

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