Thursday, September 27, 2012

Toddling Around in Seongnam

Ever wonder what it was like being a baby: helpless, confused, lost and dependent on some caretaker?  Well, all you need to do is pack up your life in two suitcases and move to a country with a new language, culture and organizational system for a couple of years.  Boom.  Welcome to baby-land.

My first two months here have been quite similar to learning all the basic skills of survival in learned in childhood.  I'm learning how to say "hello", "goodbye", "yes", "no", and "I want/like/don't want/don't like..." and it is HARD!  I use sign language for much of my communication.  I walk around, mouth hanging open, eyes peering hard all around me, trying to make sense of the skyscrapers, never ending crowds, and multi-story buildings covered in Hangul (Korean alphabet).

The view from the top of my apartment building, the trail
and river that run by aforementioned building.
I endlessly stare, trying to visibly absorb cultural nuances, the slightly different ways of doing things like: talking in quiet voices; NOT talking on the subway and buses; taking and giving things with two hands as a sign of respect/etiquette; the lack of apology or even acknowledgement as people bump into each other and sometimes shove each other out of the way; but the extreme politeness shown towards elders by deep bows in greetings and farewells and the immediate seat that opens up for a gray-haired traveler.  My ears are busy too, listening intently for words I recognize from my studies, trying to make sense of the FIVE politeness degrees added to verbs and other words in the language, trying to sort out the speedily spit syllables in my mind.

I know I will always be stared at here, sometimes smiled at and occasionally the recipient of a snarl.  I'm an assimilator at heart, with no qualm about trying out a new way of life in order to better understand it.  I'm happy to bring my book on public transport, add -imnida and -yo to all my words in order to show the proper respect.  I'm already looking for places I can buy the fashionable and conservative dress worn by most people in my neighborhood.  But, I know there's a few things I just can't change.  I will be doing CrossFit workouts by the river and in the gym....panting, grunting and straining while people stare and wonder what the heck I'm doing while completing their sweatless movements on their machines.  I can't help but dance/lipsync/strut to the sound of my music, even in public.  I will wear Lulu while working out.  It's going to happen.  But, hey, what can you expect from a toddler in Korea?

Until next time, well.

1 comment: