If you can’t speak, act it out

I took the train today to meet my buddy Sam in Mokpo. Leaving Lindsay behind after lunch, I went to the train station nearby. As I sat waiting for the train a Korean man passed by me. He waved his arm at me. “Come there,” he said. Older Koreans often tell you what to do. Though it seems rude, I pass it off as them trying to help a foreigner.

The man and I continued to talk. He in his limited English, me in my very limited Korean. At some point the man switched completely over to Korean. I could understand a little, but not much. We boarded the train. He was sat down in car two, I was headed to three. He patted the seat across from him. Another order. I sat down. I wanted to read, but felt I must enjoy this rare opportunity. It is not everyday a Korean man wants to sit and chat, but it does happen, and long ago I stopped feeling awkward in these situations.

For an hour we sat, talked, acted things out, spoke with our hands. He told me the highest mountains in Korea from biggest to smallest. I tried to understand. He frantically searched for someone on his phone who could speak English. He called his daughter, friend’s son and a few others who weren’t home or refused to talk to me. No problem. We made a date to drink beer in a week or so. Better brush up on my Korean and charades.


  1. It's rare I get a chance to comment on our own blog, but I loved reading your story Whit!

    I'm happy to know you had a nice time on the train today. Can't wait to hear your stories in person Sunday evening!


  2. That's a great story. We spent a month in Korea, visiting the inlaws, and took a couple of side-trips to Mokpo to visit my wife's former co-workers at a school. Our kids couldn't turn around without someone handing them an ice-cream cone, and the school's chaplain squired us around handsomely, even paying our bus fare back to Gwangju.


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