1.3 Winter 2020

Desk Warming, Day 2

And here’s a funny thing about languages that don’t have subjects:

H texted me 아비게일 왜이렇게 웃겨요 ..? Which I took to mean “why is it so funny to you?” But actually she meant “why are you so funny?” [lit: Abigail why this way funny-be]

The stern-looking security guard and I crossed paths as I was leaving this afternoon. When he’s not smiling he looks like an officer and when he smiles he looks like a grandfather. He waved, approached, and said “I feel bad. You’re alone. Solo.” I replied. “Yes. So sad. :(“ he patted me comfortingly on the shoulder in a way that confirms he is definitely a grandfather.

Indeed, the office staff I am boarding with are not my people. I joined the five of them for lunch today and the young woman nervously spoke English to me, even though her English is just fine. She was so nervous that her mouth was shaking.

I switched to Korean to make her feel better but as I sat at the ladies table there was very little conversation and I assumed either to be polite and not exclude me they decided not to speak at all.

The young woman did ask me, “so when you listen to Korean how much do you understand? Eighty percent?” I couldn’t help but laugh immediately.

“Absolutely not. I am in level two of six right now. Listening is difficult.”

Does this mean the office staff has thought me to be rude when I don’t join their conversations?

I’ve made a handy graph to show this common conundrum.

You are either illiterate or fluent, there is no in between.

I had extra time to do so because I’ve never seen Koreans eat so fast: I was only a third of the way through my rice before they were paying the bill.

The pros are, of course, I get to eat for free. The cons are I have an hour for lunch but if I eat with them I only use about 30 minutes. I may join them again tomorrow for solidarity and then go my own way the rest of the week.

Because I had maybe at most five hundred calories between morning and evening I treated myself to pizza and beer at the shipping container mall by my apartment. There are more people there taking Instagram photos than actually shopping or eating at the establishment. Makes for excellent people watching.

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