Say what? Living the life of an illiterate

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.
Today, Lindsay and I decided we would dedicate our day to deciphering the bus routes in our fair city. It has been a wet weekend, so riding the bus all day didn’t seem like such a bad idea. We had somewhat of a plan. We wanted to see how to make it to a bike shop where we are planning to buy bikes next week, and how to get downtown where next weekend we will be starting Korean language lessons. Sounds simple doesn’t it? Not really.

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.
We made it downtown, found our building and walked around the many shops. Consumerism has not passed over Korea. You couldn’t swing a cat around by its tail without hitting a store that sold designer clothes. And between every retail store there are Korean restaurants.
After smelling the delectable aromas emitting from these establishments, we decided to try one close to our place for dinner. Last night, I went into this restaurant trying to secure take-out for Lindsay and me. After a Korean/English conversation and several hand gestures I gave up. But the laugh the proprietor and I shared made me realize I needed to go back. Tonight she set us up with a good table and tried to show us what we were suppose to do with all our food. And I do mean ALL our food. Lindsay and I stuffed ourselves silly with kimchi, rice, soup and other unidentifiable dishes. The best part about it was they just served the food, we didn’t even have to translate a menu. See for yourself in the video below.

One Comment

  1. Jessica says:

    From Mom … Linds – we see you still have that crack fingernail growing. Loved how proud you are to show us in your mapquest. Where’d you say the Dominos was? Do they deliver? Don’t think I’m going to be eating at the place 15 steps from your house.Dad won’t have much room for clothes – I’m bringing a whole suitcase of food!


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