Thursday, April 17, 2014

Things That Make Us Laugh in Korea

Sometimes I wonder if I'm getting smarter living in Korea.

Not because I devote the time I should to diligently learning Korean. Or because I've been taking some kind of challenging college course. But simply because we live in a country that is not our own. A place that is new. A place that is constantly teaching us.

And sometimes it's exhausting, but most of the time, it's fun. Here are some memorable moments from the past month: at school and everywhere else.

At school...

  • There was a time a few weeks ago, when each morning as I walked into the school building, they were playing Carley Rae Jepson's "Call Me Maybe" over the PA system. Well, that and "Let it Go" from Frozen. Why? I have no idea.
  • One morning as I walked to my classroom, I noticed a student walking directly beside me and staring. I looked down and said, "Hello." Without hesitating he said--in perfect English--"What's your mother's name?" Surprised and confused by this question, "Vickie. Why?" And then he walked away.
  • As a class warm-up I asked my kids, "What did you eat for breakfast?" and because "L"s and "R"s are often confused in Korean, one student said, "I ate lice."
  • I rarely teach 4th grade. But when I did last week, I walked into a new classroom that was not expecting me. One little guy in the front row, blurted: "Oh. My. God." with good long pauses in-between, and the other 26 students just stared. Awkwardly. Have I mentioned Korea is not quite used to foreigners yet?
  • My co-teacher said: "Heather, quick. The parents are coming. Did you know?" I explain that no, I didn't know and ask what I should do. "Bow," she says. "Just bow. Always bow. And smile. Smile and bow."                         
  • Last week, a 6th grade girl asked me I was pregnant. I said no. She looked me up and down again quite unconvinced and said, "Nuh uh!"
  • There's a little girl (no more than seven) who regularly finds me in the hallways with a big grin. She walks beside me chatting in Korean. I tell her (in Korean) "I don't speak Korean." She keeps talking in her sing-song voice. I say (in English) "I don't know what you're saying." She continues un-phased. I think we're friends. 
  • Jeremy's co-teacher recently told him she thought he was from England. When he asked, "Why?" She said, "Because I thought all Americans were fat."
  • Jeremy used a picture of Phil Dunphy (the dad from the TV show Modern Family) in one of his Powerpoints at school. And one of his students, probably not recognizing the character nor the show, pointed at the screen and said, "Jeremy teacher?"

And everywhere else...

  • When we greet people, we often try to bow our heads and say, "Ahnyoung haseyo!" but often some equally kind Korean will wave and say, "Hello!" So what ends up happening is this incredibly awkward exchange of head nodding, sudden recognition, switching gears to a too-late wave, and "Oh, ugh...hello."
  • The news anchors on TV bow at the beginning and end of broadcasts.
  • The advertisers on the side of the street wearing sandwich boards bow to the oncoming cars at intersections. No silly dancing here, folks!
  • With recent mayoral elections coming up, I witnessed a whole row of probably 12 men in suits holding signs and bowing to cars on their morning commute. So fascinating!
  • A Korean friend of mine recently told me she has been sick. She pointed at her nose, sniffled, and said, "I have a rainy nose."
  • The cherry blossoms have been blooming. Their beautiful and bright. They are also called "butt goat" in Korean which regularly makes us giggle.


Christoffer said...

What neat glimpses into your Korea life. People are fascinating.