above and beyond

South Korea Travel Blog

 › entry 8 of 50 › view all entries
Alright so I'm back at the coffee shop again playing on the computer. Not much going on today, I've had once cup of coffee and two espressos in the past 5 hours, and no I have not been here the whole time. I left for lunch for an hour and came back. I just wanted to dedicate this journal to all of the pleasant Koreans who have been so helpful, I just want to make sure when I look back on these entries I read this one because I never want to forget to amazingly outstanding kindness and generosity that I have received since my travels begun here. Most likely I will repeat some stories but for good reasons.

Before I get into all the different scenarios of acts of kindness, a few random events that are worth mentioning. Yesterday as I was walking around Youngtong after finishing a delicious bowl of Bukbap (steamy broth with beansprouts, rice, seaweed and an egg and of course some kinchi) I was struck my a familiar face. Where did I know this guy? It wasn't from Korea, and luckily it came to me quick before we passed eash other. Luis from the Korean consulate in Atlanta. Talk about a small town in a small country in an even smaller world. That was crazy seeing him. Don't really know him or anything, just thought it was cool running into an acquaintance from the states. Exchanged emails so we can grab some galbi later or something. Went on my way..

Ok so all of this typing on the computer is only possible because of Hojae, the guy from the cell phone store. I was asking them if they could point me in the direction of a store where I could purchase a power converter. Because my computer was dead and I forgot about getting one of these useful contraptions before departing. So here I am struggling with the girl at the counter pointing to phrases in my book about a "power change plug" because it does not have the word for adapter in it and this guy says to me "Can i help you sir." English, it is always a relieving sound. His English is by no means great, but he quickly understood what is was I wanted and why I needed it. Unfortunately he could not sell me one, duh. I am in a cell phone store...just want some directions. So instead of sending me on my way, instead of spatting off some Korean junk that I do not understand, instead of pretending he didn't speak any English, what did he do....he walked me to a electronic specialty store. The first one we went to did not sell a converter with three pongs (since it's my laptop, I need a third prong for the ground). Nor did the second and by now I have taken over 30 minutes of this gentleman's time. I tried to thank him and tell him not to worry I could figure something out. He insisted on continuing his non-reciprocated services. The third store did not have one. We were outside and he was making phone calls asking his friends if they could offer any advice and it began to rain, so I gave him my umbrella and told him just to head back to work. No no no, the Korean kindness did not end there. He stuck with it. We walked to another store and on the way we passed by a fellow American, I stopped the guy and asked him. He informed me that he has been here for over a year and the whole time his laptop has been plugged into a two prong converter he got at one of these stores for 500Won (maybe $0.30 or less). And I'm back online...gotta love the juice...

Okay another example, there was a time that I put a little money on my transit card after I got off the subway. The next day I tried to use it on the bus and it would not work. Dee had to spot me the buck for the ride to the station where my card proceeded to prove to be faulty. I went to the information counter, where luckily they always speak a little English. I informed the guy of my situation. His boss who spoke much better English came over and explained this is non uncommon and I was to go to the store next door and they could refund me the amount on money on the card. I went to the store and they said I needed a bank account, which I did not have at this point. I went back and told the boss man the deal, he wrote down his own bank information for me to give the lady behind the counter at the store. I told him just not to bother cause it was only 5,000Won (about $3) and I would just get a ticket the our destination. He asked me how long I had been in Korea, I told him it was my first week and I did not have my Alien Registration Card yet and that I would be teaching in Suwon. He thought to himself and repeated "only one week huh." He asked me how I liked it and all that goo stuff and we chatted briefly. He ended up taking out his wallet and giving me 5,000Won. Now I assume he will be reimbursed through the company or at the store, but damn...that was so kind of him. He certainly did not have to do that.

When I was in Jeonju sampling some of Korea's finest cuisine, I met a bilingual female who was able to write down in Hangul the name of some restaurants she recommended I try and gave me the directions to get there. Well a lot of those streets look the same to me and I could definitely not find what place she referred to, so I asked an old man on the street if he could show me - this was kinda funny cause I just pointed to the name of the restaurant in his native language and his eyes lit up and I think he was surprised by my knowledge of this place. He became very excited and grabbed me by the arm and drug me along this shady alley where I got a lot of those "how the hell is a white guy in this neighborhood" looks. He opened the door for me and showed me to an empty seat, said something to the waitress and waved to me, smiled and left. And the food was great (see capitol of deliciousness pictures "gukbap."

Just yesterday when I realized my washing machine was broke in my little dinky apartment, I went to the store outside my door and used their phone to call my recruiter to inform her of the crappy situation. She told me to hang tight and she would call this number back in five minutes. When we spoke she told me to go back to my place and wait because a maintenance guy from the school and an English teacher would be there shortly. Ten minutes later I am standing in my crowded apartment with the handy man and two English teachers. They all shared a good laugh on my behalf and my mediocre living arrangements (I hid my sleeping bag in the closet to make it appear a if I had no blankets at all) - I admit it does look pathetic with a single bed with a bare mattress and one tiny pillow. Anyway, they said they'd replace it tomorrow and my co teacher would take me shopping on Friday after our faculty meeting (still weird sounding). They were heading out when I thought to myself this is a good chance to catch a ride half way to town to shave off 15 minutes of walking. Well instead of just dropping me off on the street by the school, the driver said she would take me to the store and help me buy some groceries and detergent.

I'm sure Chaeyoung, this lovely Korean girl I met about an hour ago at this very seat will find her way into this blog at one point. She speaks English very well and is well traveled. She lives here in Youngtong and attends a University in Seoul. We decided that we should have "language exchanges" over dinner a few times per week. She is paying some guy to help tutor her and a friend keep up their English skills, but I was quick to recommend she not waste her money anymore, that I could provide services to her with no charge...well maybe we could take turns on the tab or something, plus he is from New Zealand so he has a funny accent. Oh and she loves spicy food and beer. hmmm

Well, I'll probably have to just add to this journal later cause I'm sure the hospitality that goes above and beyond will continue...

Sure enough, there have been some super people that I have met along the way...of course there is the often occurring help with directions for the confused looking foreigner. Well, today was no exception. I traveled to Gwanju on April 30. When I got off of the bus at the terminal, I was looking for a particular district in Gwangju called Nam-gu. I found it on the map, but that did not help me much cause it looked like a pretty decent hike to get there so I needed some public transportation and since my lovely couchsurfing host did not get off of work until 10pm, I had to figure out a way to kill about 2 hours. Not too big of a deal, I am a professional time killer. So I waited at the bus stop and was reading the hangul on the buses trying to determine which would take my to Nam-gu. A korean navy gentleman politely offered me his assistance when he saw the confused look on my face. He happened to be traveling to Nam-gu as well. So he showed me the neighborhood and I picked what looked like a good stop. And today in Gwangju as I was walking around trying to find my way back to my host's apartment, a gentlemen stopped me in the street..long story short (refer to the gwangju blog for full story) he ended up buying me dinner. After the dinner, I was back on my way to Natalie's apartment when I saw a hiking gear store and since I am going on a three day hike tomorrow, I figured I'd drop in and see if anything caught my eye. I didn't get anything for the hike, but I did get a waterproof cover for my 60L bag. I chatted with the guy for awhile in broken English/Korean/Konglish and before I left, he gave me 2 pairs of hiking socks. They usually run about 10,000won or $10 per. I love Korea!
highway_chile says:
Well I hope she enjoys it as much as I've enjoyed the actions that lead to it...I had a few more polite run-ins tonight - There was a mad rush for the last 10:45 bus and I was in the totally wrong area trying to ask the bus driver if he was headed to my neighborhood and some guy stood up and came up to the front to help me out and tell me that I was at the completely wrong bus stop and pointed me in the right direction and what bus to get to

Finally made it back...1st class in the morning!!
Posted on: Mar 01, 2009
bigbudd1 says:
Finally a blog I could actually read to your Grandmother (well I'd to leave out the reference to beer and that damn remark) but other than that she'd love this one..as did I..
Posted on: Mar 01, 2009
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