Wednesday, October 6, 2010

In Honor of Partial Understanding

"518 Park," I say to the taxi driver in Korean.  It's what I have to say to get back home.
"What?"  he says back in Korean.
"518 Park."
"Say what?"
"518 Park?"
"Yes!  Yes!"
"518 Park.  OK!"  he shouts as he speeds off to what I hope is the 518 Park.

The language barrier that exists for me can pose several problems.  Like when ten of us head to a bar and order pitchers of beer.  Then the server comes back with a single 12 oz bottle of OB Beer accompanied by two glasses.  "No, no, bigger!" we say as we enlarge the single bottle of beer through hand gestures that look like we are recreating an explosion.  The server eventually understands and comes back with two gallons of beer resulting in the satisfaction of all parties involved.

Partially understanding each other has become a daily occurrence between me and the majority of my encounters with the Koreans.  This has led to advancing my skills in pantomiming, gesturing, and the use of props.  Skills that will later be useful in America when there's a game of charades.  For example, I was looking for a lamp in a store that didn't require batteries, so I picked up a "batteries required" lamp and diplayed it to the clerk.  "Eh?" I expressed as I pointed to the lamp.  This got a "Yeah, whataboutit?" response.  But then I took my thumb and index finger and created an imaginary cord from the side of the lamp by looking like I was pulling out some string.  "Aaaahh?" I asked.  Then my imaginery cord eventually led to a real wall where I plugged it in through imagination.  "Huh?  Huh?" I asked.  The clerk responded with an understanding "Aaahh OK!"  Then the clerk used his pantomime skills buy creating an X with his arms as to say that this item is not in stock.  But we had fun!

The theme of partially understanding comes up a lot while traveling in a foreign land.  You're not always sure how things are done but you eventually get the hang of it.  You're not always sure what's going on around you but you generally know if it's good, fun, serious, or time to get the hell out of there.  I view it as part of the adventure.  It mixes things up and makes things just a little less ordinary.

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