If it were at all possible to be open-minded AND judgemental at the same time, I believe I will have mastered that fine (and possibly unattainable) art by the time I leave Korea. Everyday I am confronted with the mundane and the insane and sometimes my only response is to chuckle. Okay, sometimes I laugh out loud too.
See, I have a student named Kitty. Right off I want so desperately to tell her that her name only suits porn stars, but I refrain. She's smart, funny, cute and everyday day she says "I'm genius". I want to die laughing. I've tried telling her that the correct phrase MIGHT ACTUALLY BE "I'm A genius", but it hasn't quite sunk in. And so I chuckle.
And the walking. You know when yer on the sidewalk, having a leisurely stroll, and you look up to find someone walking toward you? This person may or may not be blocking yer path, but instinctively and inevitably you move to the correct side of the path to let them pass, right? Yeah, not here. Walking in Korea is a lesson in bobbing and weaving and dodging and dancing. No one is watching where they're going and the tricky part is that, even though Korean vehicle traffic defers to the right, Korean foot traffic defers to the left. Confusion and mayhem ensue. And I chuckle.
I even chuckle when Korean women try to talk to me. (Well not to their faces, of course.) This has happened more than once -- a Korean woman tries to strike up a conversation with me and I politely try to convey that I do not, in fact, speak a lick of Korean. They are undeterred, however. They keep speaking as if I might eventually get it. As if the sound of their voices will cause the heavens to open up and impart in me the knowledge of Korean. This has yet to happen. And so I chuckle.
Tonight, however, I laughed out loud. I was walking home, enjoying the light rain and trying to figure out if the woman with the umbrella was going to go left or right -- she went both -- when I saw a man come running up behind her. This man was the essence of Korea, I swear it. Keep in mind it's 9PM. And it's been raining buckets. Dude comes sprinting past in running shorts and shoes, he's talking on his cell phone and he's carrying an OPEN umbrella. And you know he can't see out from under the giant umbrella because it's, like, 10 feet wide. Immediately I start planning my next move. Which way will he go? Can he even see me? Does it matter? Unpredictability. Love it.
Don't get me wrong. I love Korea and am truly enjoying my experiences here, but sometimes life is so different and weird and strange and somehow INEFFICIENT that I can only laugh. And my laughing is in no way a result of my American superiority. Nope, got that sealed up with the beef imports, ya know?! Nope, it's just an idiosyncratic response to my Krazy Korean life.