A Sunday Drive –
Last weekend we got some new visitors in our church The younger of the two blond California men, who were fresh off the plane, had been newly hired to teach English at a local university while he works on his Ph.D. He came early to get settled in and then he’ll call for his wife and two younguns to come on over after a few days. His father tagged along to help him get settled in and to look around for a week. On Sunday Tom, Andy and I took them out to try to get them as “settled in” as you can do on a Sunday, which isn’t much. After having lunch in a Korean restaurant we hit the road (they are vegetarian so they will be limited in their Korean food offerings since most foods contain fish). We found out that they can’t get a cell phone without an alien registration card and a Korean credit card or a Korean citizen’s co-signature and their account. They can’t get a prepaid cell phone without a Korean alien registration card (which the university will later help him get). Thus, there was not much we could do without that dern alien registration card.
Next he wanted to see if he could find a house outside the city, no matter how dilapidated, because he didn’t want his kids growing up in the city in a small crowded apartment surrounded by small crowded streets. We told him that we are in a suburb already but even the rich here live in crowded conditions. He reminisced about his former home in Thailand, where he was a missionary for four years, with its huge rooms and large yard. The rent there was cheap but so was the salary. Tradeoffs, tradeoffs. We couldn’t help them in the housing area because the school was supposed to give him more help and information on Monday.
We went to a Wal-Mart-type store, HomePlus, to pick up some necessities. He needed some adaptors for his electricity converter. Not here. You have to go to the capital, Seoul to get those. A British guy heard us speaking English so he asked Tom if he knew where he could get an adaptor and a converter of British electricity. Not here. Go to Seoul, Yongsan electronic market. Later I heard a group of about 5 guys speaking Spanish. I asked them where they were from. They said they were from Mexico. They were engineers at the Samsung in Tijuana and were here for 2 weeks of extra training. I asked them how they liked it so far. They all said that the city was very nice and the tours were interesting but the food was “nada de buena” (not good at all). I mentioned that Koreans don’t have Mexican restaurants because they think it’s “mat obseio” (not good). Tradeoffs, tradeoffs. The two Americans with us were fluent in Spanish because they come from a long line of American missionaries to South America. Dale, the father, said to the Mexicans, “Bienvenidos a Corea”. I teased him and said, “Dale, they’ve been here longer than you have”.
I welcome the influx of more foreigners to Korea. Most Koreans don’t really like the changing demographics. Kind of like how Americans don’t really like the browning of America. A strong positive for me is that I don’t get stared at (as much) as when I first arrived 16 years ago. In those years I felt like a monkey at a zoo because people stared for entire minutes and they didn’t care how uncomfortable I felt. I keep telling an American friend that used to be here 14 years ago to return and keep me company. She’s afraid that she won’t fit in (with the foreigners) because she remembers that all the foreigners were young college grads back then. I said, “No, no, no. They come in all sizes, shapes and ages now”.
Well, this “Sunday Drive” day reminds me of a story (uh, oh). It goes like this: John, Bob, Ned, and Bart, all in their 70’s and a little hard-of-hearing, were out for a Sunday drive. They were on their way to visit a new-to-them seaside town, West Bay. John was at the wheel, Bob was reading the map in the passenger seat and Ned and Bart were in the back seat. As they approached a small town Ned asked, “Hey, Bob, is this West Bay?”
“No, this is Thursday”, replied Bob.
“Me too!” said Bart, “Let’s stop to get a drink!”