Sunday, August 17, 2008

Broken glass and crossroads

This weekend, I had a great visit with a friend who lives in Busan. He’s kinda a hero to me in the way he’s navigated his way through Korean culture.  He kept with his study of Korean and is really good at it.  His been here longer than I have and will be here long than I will be and married a great Korean woman.  After spending time with him and his wife, I came back to Geoje.

I missed the last ferry, so I took the bus.  The clouds were blocking some wavelengths of sunlight, making the greens of the trees and rice fields pop which reminded me of how beautiful Korea is.

I arrived in Gohyeon and started walking toward my home.  I came upon a domestic dispute at the corner convenience store right next to the bus terminal.  A husband was shouting at his wife and another man was holding back the husband.  The woman stood silent with her hands on her hips.

Then the husband pushed the man away and grabbed an empty soju bottle from the ground.  He raised it above his head like he was going to bring it down on his wife.  But instead of conking his wife on the head, he threw the bottle on the sidewalk and sent a spray of green glass everywhere.

I was standing probably six feet away, but still the glass came up and hit me on the chest and the arm.  I actually had a pretty big chunk hit my arm.  In that moment, anger welled up inside me.

The man had again restrained the husband and the wife stood there unmoved, her hands still on her hips.  Her face had an expression not of fear or anger but of disappointment.  I wanted so badly to get in the mans face and yell at him and maybe give him a good punch or push.

But I walked away, knowing that I would be putting my visa, and possibly my freedom in danger.  The double standard is clear:  drunk married men get a free pass, while foreigners do not.

I walked home stewing.  I was ready to leave Korea.  I had irrational thoughts that opened up the possibility of calling up my boss and telling him that Korea sucks and I’m going home.

I pushed aside the anger.  I had to take back the car that a friend had lent me for the summer.  So I drove it back to her house and hailed a cab to get home.  I told the taxi driver, “Gohyeon.”

He asked, “Where Gohyeon?”

I replied, “사거리 (Sageoli)” which literally means “four (sa, 사)  roads (geoli, 거리)” and figuratively means four-way intersection.

The cab driver chuckled and said, “In Gohyeon, many 사거리.”

I laughed with him and said, “Yeah.  Many many.”

It was nice to laugh with a Korean about the same thing.  Usually either I’m laughing at them or they are laughing at me.  He’s right, there are many four-way intersections in Gohyeon.  However, everyone knows when you say, “Gohyeon sageoli” you mean the intersection in Gohyeon with Mr. Pizza and Dunkin Donuts.

Just as quickly as I had been angered by the soju man and his broken bottle and fed up with life in Korea, that anger subsided and I shared a chuckle with a Korean cab driver.

1 comment:

  1. Hey friend... it's been forever. I've been keeping up with you via this, but figured I should say hello. Call me next time you are in the states. I will continue praying for you and the Korean people to be receptive to you. God bless you Josh!!!!


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