Friday, January 19, 2007

Geulae geulae oneuleun anyeong

While walking down the street today I suddenly felt a couple of taps on my shoulder. Somewhat surprised, I turned my head to find a Korean high-school girl staring at me expressionless yet confidently. "Hello" she said, with a continued absence of expression, in a way that seemed to demand an answer. Shortly after I'd replied with my own hello, though I doubt I hid the surprise on my face, I got a follow-up question. "Who are you?".

By this time my wife and our friends, who we were walking with, had stopped talking about whatever they'd been discussing previously, and the silence which replaced it told its own story about the unusualness of this event. Nobody really knew what to do, but I was happy to go with the flow, replying before issuing my own 'who are you?' challenge in return.

Unfortunately amidst a crowded street it wasn't easy to catch the girl's name while dodging in and out of people coming the other way, and while I did eventually get it, we'd walked even further along our route with our unintended companion. With the name done with, and still without expression, she promptly stuck her hand out and waited for me to shake it, which I did. I threw in an 'Anyeong' which seemed to phase her slightly and I was relieved to finally think that I hadn't just met the girl from Kill Bill 2.

But the awkward silence and embarrassment of my friends, who had by this time decided there was something very odd about the girl themselves, was finally too much, and one of them stopped walking in front of her, blocking her progress, and as I was pulled away he told her that if she wanted to learn English she should find a private school. She didn't follow us any further.

When I came to Korea I thought I'd probably have many more experiences like this, but there have been surprisingly few, and none so strange as this one. And while, to be perfectly honest, I'm not sorry not to be approached by complete strangers on the street every day, I felt really bad about the way the girl had been so professionally bodyguarded away from me. So sorry, whoever you are.

No comments:

Post a Comment