Thursday, September 14, 2006

Getting picked up by the police

Today began like most of my other mornings since moving in to my apartment. I hit the snooze several times after only a few hours of sleep, forgot to turn on the hot water so I could take a shower, and I left the apartment a bit before 8am. My bus leaves at 8:05 and since I live only two minutes from the stop, I was fine.

This was my first time taking the bus in Korea--and I was a bit nervous. I have taken buses and/or subways in 11 cities--9 of those in other countries. This has to be the hardest place to navigate for a foreigner. Routes are usually marked with numbers, or for smaller towns or subways colors. Here, no. The bus merely says its starting location and ending location--in Korean. Well, I don't read Korean.

So, my co-teacher wrote down that name the end stop that she got from the students in Hangeul (Korean alphabet). So I matched up the letters with the name on the bus and got on. I paid the fare and took my seat. I was used to coworkers driving me on the highway directly to Seong Po. However, buses often take side routes to pickup and drop-off passengers. So, right away I was disorientated. Then, I found out that the 8:05 bus takes a route that is below the school directly along the coast. The school sits on a hill of sorts with most of Seong Po below it. So, the road that winds its way through Seong Po is completely unfamiliar to me. I did the best I could to look for the school on the hills above the town, but did not find it. I got off on the first stop where I heard "Seong Po."

I showed the words Seong Po Middle School spelt out in Hangeul to a passerby. He directed me further along the road (in the same direction the bus was going). It didn't feel right, but who was I to argue with a local? I walked for about a mile until I realized there was no way I was headed in the right direction. Luckily I saw a police station.

I bowed my head to the officer who was standing on the steps taking a smoke break. I showed him the words "Seong Po Middle School," hoping he could correct me. He did one better, he let the other office know he was going, and he drove me to the school! I road in the front seat, and had the biggest smile on my face. Not only was I incredibly relieved that I had a way to get to the school, but it was also my first time in a police car. Hopefully, next time I can get off on the right stop.

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