I’m wet and slippery

The rainy season is in full swing on this lovely June 26th, 2011.

Its been cloudy and raining on and off for a week or so. Then on on Friday the sky opened up and it hasn’t stopped since (its now noon on Sunday). I’m a little impressed in kinda the same way someone from the UK might be if they saw a snowfall in Ontario. It’s not the first time they’ve seen snow, and they’ve had plenty of bad snowfalls, but its still different from the kind of snow they get in their home country. I guess thats the best way for me to explain the rain we’ve had here, its just new and different…but still its just rain.

Humidity is building up too. Things like my laundry, or my hair, are taking longer to dry. I also need to be alot more careful about physical activity, because if I get a little sweaty I’m gonna have to live with it for a bit longer than usual. That being said I don’t want to start complaining about the heat and humidity yet because in a month or so I’ll look back at this post and feel like an idiot for thinking this paltry humidity is bad (it’s supposed to get alot worse). And I hate feeling like an idiot.

Speaking of feeling like an idiot, let me tell you a little about my shopping experience last week. I needed some new summer clothes. Those of you who know me will know I’m not a huge shopper. My sense of style is….let me think of one word to describe it……inchoate. Yeah, inchoate will do nicely. Anyway usually when I go shopping I take a girl (my sister or mom cause at any given time I’m more likely to be single than not) and let them pick out nice stuff. This time I did not have that luxury, so let me relate my shopping experience. First I came into the store from the subway entrance, which led into the basement of the building. Since there weren’t any windows and department stores are designed as mazes to keep poor shoppers wandering around buying things I was a little disoriented. I deduced that I was in the kids area, so I found an escalator and went up a level. I got off the escalator on the first floor, but it was a childrens section as well, so I wandered briefly then went up to the next level. Getting off the escalator I look around and think, “what the heck? More kids cl…. Wait a minute.”


It wasn’t kids sections at all. I’m in Korea. These are adult clothes. Although I did feel like an idiot it was pretty funny. The clothes on display are so much smaller than western stores (I worked briefly in a department store so I knew, or thought I knew, the difference between kids clothes and adult clothes) so it just kind of caught me off guard. Now, I’m not a big guy – I’m about five foot ten and a half inches (but who’s counting, right?) and weigh about 150lbs, so it’s not like I’m way bigger than everyone here (in fact I’m just slightly above average height and have maybe just a bit bigger build than most Korean men), but still the clothes seemed sooo small compared to what you see in western stores. Anyway I finally found a good section full of polo shirts, button up collared shirts and khaki pants.

I bought a couple of nice polo shirts (the medium size, which normally fits well, were comically small so I had to go up to large) and button up collared short sleeve shirts (again, all large). I also bought a pair of pants which took a bit of trial and error because the sizes are different here – and without that trusty 32/33 size printed on the tag I was about as lost as a…. well as a westerner in Korea. Anyway finally found some nice grey chinos that fit quite well.

I’m gonna shift gears now and talk about an interview I did with some students at my school. So here’s how it went down, I’m sitting at my desk and my co-teacher says, ‘Hey Tom, some students will come to interview you after lunch today, okay?”

 “Sure” says I.

I do the interview and then about a month later I get the school newsletter. Lo and behold, thats my name! Hey this is the interview I gave those students a while back. I read it over and can’t help but laugh. I guess some of what I said got lost in translation.

For example, when they asked me what my ‘dream’ was when I was young I told them I wanted to be a professional hockey player. Now, this isn’t exactly true. Although I loved hockey as a kid I never thought I’d be an NHL player, never even seriously imagined it like some kids do. Thinking about it now I realize I never really had a solid plan for what I was going to do when I grew up – in fact I still don’t. I went through phases, of course. For example I remember wanting to be a scientist for a while (until I realized science is damn hard), then I wanted to be a pilot (until I realized you need good eyesight –> thanks genetics) and a few other odd dreams as a kid. Unfortunately I couldn’t tell the students that I never really had a ‘dream’ as a kid for two reasons:

1) They just don’t speak enough English for me to communicate such a complex idea – I mean, I would have had to use the past tense for crying out loud.

2) Having a ‘dream’, I’m beginning to realize, is really important here. It’s drilled into the kids from a young age, they have to have a dream and work hard to realize it. I think this is a really really good thing, it’s good for a kid to have a dream and work towards it. In fact if the Canadian education system had something like this in their curriculum I might not be so messed up. Anyway because it’s important to have a dream, and because I’m supposed to be a quote ‘role model’ I couldn’t just say “Oh, I never really had a dream as a kid, that’s why I came halfway around the world to figure out what I want to do with my life.”

Let me get back on track. So I’ve told the kids I wanted to be a hockey player. By the way, when I said this (and when I answered an earlier question about my hobbies by mentioning rock climbing, and when I said I’d like to go camping with my Dad when I get back to Canada) they exclaimed “Oh dangerous!” The next question is “Why did you change your dream?” (note they don’t say ‘abandon’ like I, being a cynical realist a**hole, might have said). I’m not sure what I replied, but I think it was along the lines of hockey being very difficult and school and other sports becoming more important to me, but either way the answer that made it into the newsletter is “Because it’s dangerous.”

“Why did you stop wanting to be a hockey player, Tom?” “Oh, because it’s dangerous – forget that s**t.”

Here’s another awesome mis-translation: Their question, which I must say took me off guard,was: “Do you think you are smart?”

During the interview I tried to answer diplomatically. I wanted to convey that I have strengths and weaknesses, in some ways I’m smart and in others I’m not. I answered with an example, “I’m smart in English, but in Korean I’m not smart”. The translation they gave was a little different. Here’s how the printed newsletter reads:

Student: “Do you think you are smart?”

Tom: “Me? Smart? I’m smart in English, but in Korea, I’m not smart”

That’s right kids, your English teacher is an absolute dumbass, but only when he’s in Korea. The thing is, it’s one of those things that’s funny cause its true. I am a bumbling idiot about 75% of the time in my public life here – mainly because I can’t speak, read or write their language, and I only know maybe 25% of the cultural practices and nuances that they have learned from birth and take for granted as just the way people are supposed to behave.

My paranoid side says the mistranslation wasn’t accidental at all and the joke really is on me… but thats just the rejection phase talking.


As always check out my youtube channel for videos of various things/experiences I’ve had here. This weekend I’m posting a video of the neighborhood I live in, hopefully it’ll convey the sights and sounds (but luckily not the smells) of the areas I visit almost every day. Find it here: http://www.youtube.com/user/Tiddlywinkers88?feature=mhee


About bnbnower

A recent graduate of Carleton University, set adrift into the real world with no tangible goals or properly defined aspirations, I decided to set off for South Korea where I am teaching English as a second language. In my spare time I read, rock-climb, play frisbee and watch movies and television.
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One Response to I’m wet and slippery

  1. Tyler says:

    Haha evidently those Korean school children are smarter than you think. Loved seeing the contrast between day and night in that video, absolutely crazy – watching SC2 professionally has given me a love of Korean culture. I wonder how much it would cost for a round trip….

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