Tell you what, if I survive Korean elementary school the first thing I am going to do when I get home is teach illiterate adults how to read. I am serious. What a rough way to go through life. Luckily, I have been able to decipher the English language for as long as I can remember so I have never felt the frustration of illiteracy…until now.
The farther you get from Seoul, the further you get from English. Actually the moment you land in Korea, English is almost obsolete. Very few people in Gwangju speak, understand or read English. This certainly isn’t a shot at the people here, they still can speak more English than I can Korean. Yesterday a middle age cab driver figured out where we wanted to go with what little English he knew. All we could offer was a Korean “thank you.” But most signs, newspapers and people use Korean. So I have to say, on a small level I feel like I can empathize with illiterate and mute people.
Last weekend, we were smart enough to figure out what bus numbers make it to the bus station, but we were not quite sure how to get to downtown Gwangju. We tried to match up the Korean characters from our book to the ones on the map, but I don’t think “Downtown” is a bus stop here. Lindsay approached a young Korean for help, pointing to her map and simply stating “Downtown.” The gentleman looked cooly at Lindsay and asked in perfect English, “Well, where do you want to go?” See class, he was asking her to be more “specific” is what I would have told my 4th through 6th graders had they witnessed this scene.