Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The captain of the police gave me his phone number today. No big.

Image via Daum
I like Korean policemen.  They keep me safe.

I went to one of the small locally owned convenience stores today to pick up some prizes for students who won a speech contest.  This particular convenience store is usually very friendly and welcoming.  I usually don't feel like I'm a big deal there.

Well, I wasn't the only customer today.  The first man I saw had on a bright orange vest with "Police" written across the back.  He and the second customer seemed to be buddy buddy with the shop owner.  The three of them were bustling around preparing for Pepero Day*.  I felt a little in the way, so I waited till there was room for me to pick out the gum I needed for my kids.  I stood patiently by the counter till Policeman motioned me forward and Shop Owner stepped behind the counter.  Then the heretofore unlabeled fella asked me, "Where are you from?"
"Ah... Miguk saram eeyehoh..."
"Oh, okay.  Where in America?"
"Georgia?  Atlanta?"  (Of course I always ask in a question.  Who knows Georgia when there's New York, California, and Washington State to be familiar with?)
"Ah.  Okay okay.  You know policeman?"
"Uh, yes.  Otokeh malheyo?"  I asked how to say "policeman" in Korean thinking that we were just having a simple conversation.  Little did I know, this dude was after something.

"Have you been to police box?" he asked.
"Yes!  I went to the police box once.  I was lost, and they told me how to get to my school.  They were very nice."
"Ah.  So they helped you find your way?"
"Ah, okay.  I am police captain.  Do you think you can come in one time and talk about the Georgia police?  It would help me."

Well, gosh darn, what do I say next?   I would love to humor him, but I know that comparisons between the Geogian police force and the Irwon-dong police force wouldn't be of much help considering the covered areas and their people are extremely different.  Spread out suburban soccer families vs. squished together apartment tiger moms?  Even if I were to compare the more compact Atlanta to Irwon, there's a pretty significant difference wrapped up in this one word: GUNS.  America has them.  Korea doesn't.

You read that right, they don't have guns here.  As The Korean from AskAKorean.com has said, "In practice, only hunters own guns in Korea. (And hunters are not many in Korea.) By regulation, hunters cannot keep their guns all the time -- they must keep their guns at the police station during off-season. Handguns are pretty much nonexistent among civilians."

I was hanging out with one of my Korean friends who got his degree in Canada.  When I asked him why he chose to go to Canada over the States, after first mentioning the great tuition difference, he said he wouldn't feel safe in the USA.  "They have guns there."

This conversation occured when I had been here only a month and a half.  I had just learned about this firearm regulation, and I naturally found it strange.  I spent 12 years in The South where the boys go to school in their camo with their rifles waiting for them in the beds of their trucks.  My sister got a .22 for Christmas one year, and it was always a special treat when either of us could go hunting with Dad.

It was all I could do to not gawk at my friend in sheer amusement.  I may have actually snickered when I heard later about how all of Seoul was virtually shut down once so that they could find a gun that supposedly got through the airport's security check.

All that was a pretty big aside.  What I set out to say was this: I now have the Police Captain's number in me cell phone!  He has mine, too.

I never would have thought something like this would happen, not in America, not in Korea, not ever, but I think it's kind of cool.  I really appreciate when people put themselves out to help me make this Korean experience a personal one.  Like the street vendor who beckoned my foreign friends and I to his shop with eating motions.  If he hadn't been selling squid, I would have walked right up and bought  10,000 ₩ worth just because he treated us like normal people.


Pepero Day- November 11th.  Pepero is the name of long, skinny chocolate-cookie sticks.  They're tasty and make a fun snack.  The four ones of 11-11 look like Pepero sticks, you see, and the manufacturers got a brilliant idea and decided to claim this day as the day to buy, share, and scarf down the delicious cookie sticks.  Seriously. Marketing Genius.

Prepare yourself for pictures.  I'm bringing Pepero Day to you soon.

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