Sunday, September 23, 2012

One-on-one Korean Encounters

When I first arrived in Korea, I must have had an I-don't-know-what-I'm-doing-here face on most of the time.  My first week in Korea had locals stopping to ask if I needed help 4 times.  I've been here for 14 months now, but I still need help sometimes.  Just in the most crucial moments, individuals of  the Korean society have stepped up and taken care of me again.  This is a collection of my favorites of these moments and a tribute to the starring characters.
Thank you, Korea!

#1 The taxi driver who took my boyfriend and I to Myeongdong

I have a tendency to stress out when I'm running late, and this intensifies when there's someone counting on me to be responsible.  When Caleb was here visiting, we decided to go see the NANTA show in Myeongdong, but we were running late, and I was starting to freak out.  Myeongdong is about 45 minutes away, it's on the north side of the river, and I didn't think the subway would get us there fast enough.  I hailed a cab in hopes of getting to the theater quicker.

Five minutes into the cab ride, I realized that we were riding in a car at rush hour.  And, the streets crossing the river get the worst traffic.  I felt like a failure, and I felt like our evening was doomed.  Caleb, wonderful boyfriend that he is, was beautiful at remaining calm and at telling me there was no pressure.  That was good.  But even better, we had the luck to get one of the best taxi drivers in Seoul.

The driver took time during the less busy stretches of road to pull up pictures of his son's graduation and his family on the computer next to his steering wheel.  He chatted happily, all in Korean, about how proud he was.  When he ran out of things to talk about, he put on lively classical music like Carmen and some classical favorites.  I think he could tell that this was a special night for Caleb and I (I was dressed up all pretty with heels), and I really appreciated his thoughtfulness of the added class.  Also, this wonderful man, when we got closer to our destination, I had to fumble in Korean to ask him to take us exactly where we needed to go.  He stopped the taxi in the middle of the street to look up the address on his computer, made a U-turn, and pointed us in the perfect way for a 2 minute walk before arriving at the theater.

I wanted to give the driver a hug for helping us get to the show on time!  He was so cheery and helped me feel a little better about having to rush around.  Yep, best cab ride ever.

#2 The watermelon seller on the street who hailed a cab for me

I was making my way home from faraway Hongdae one night, when the subways stopped for the night way too soon for me to get home.  I was about 40 minutes from my house, and dun dun dun, I would have to call for a taxi.  As you can see in my last story, taxis aren't so bad, but at night and right around when the subways stop, everyone's clamoring for them all at once.  I've had to wait for a very long time before getting an overpriced night-time taxi before, and I was very disheartened while I climbed the stairs to get above ground and begin my hunt.

My first thought was to find a bus still running that could take me closer to home, but that didn't work out.  Then, I decided to get on the right side of the road so that it would be easier to convince a taxi to take me in the direction I needed to go.  There was a watermelon vendor near me, and I tried to ask him which direction my area was.  This sweet man pulled out his smartphone to look for a map.  The language barrier made things very difficult, and I don't think our messages got across, but when I motioned to tell him, "Ah, I'll just take a taxi, please don't bother yourself," he stepped out into the road and hailed a cab for me in 20 seconds!  I was so thankful and relived!  I really hate having to call for a taxi late at night, and this kind stranger was gracious enough to take care of it for me!  I got home safe and sound thanks to him.  Thank you, stranger watermelon vendor man!

#3 The elderly woman who moved to a different seat so I could sit on the subway

This story is very short, but very sweet.
On every subway car, there are about 12 red seats set aside for the elderly, pregnant, and disabled.  I got onto a full subway car a few weeks ago and noticed an older lady stand up from her regular seat and motion that I should sit down while she made her way to one of the free elderly seats.  That was so kind, and I wished I could have thanked her thoroughly, but I had to make do with the most polite "thank you" I know.


  1. Love these kind strangers :)

  2. Me, too! They were all just in the nick of time to make me feel really special.


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