Usually whenever I go to Korea, I know by the time I leave why it was that I was there. You know how it goes; you meet folks, friendships are formed. Or maybe impact is made when lives collide. This last time though, no experience specifically stuck out. There just didn't seem to be a special defining moment when I realized my purpose for going there this particular time. So, I'll just tell one random little incident (out of many).
I was returning back to my apartment from the airport. I had just seen" Mr. Sunny" off and was hoping to get back in time for him to call me before boarding. This ended up not happening because I wanted to see how long the trip would take by subway system. Too long! Guess I should have taken the bus. Before I realized all that, and was still trying to hurry along, we all had to get off the train at the end of one line and transfer to another one in a different part of the station. I was just sort of following the crowd when they all started running. I know what that means-the next train is about to take off. I chased after them and sure enough, the next train was literally MOVING by the time I jumped in. The door closing almost caught my foot and I actually caught some serious air landing in a seat almost on some guys lap as the train sped off.
Usually I am overly cautious around crowds and fast moving objects. "So unlike me" I was thinking, when I heard a voice speaking to me. It was the guy who almost got me on his lap. I knew it was me he was addressing because he spoke in flawless English. Looking around I could see no one else that anyone would assume was illiterate in Korean.
"Now, do you even know where you are going?" He inquired kindly.
I didn't take a bit of offense. After all, they had all seen me risk my life jumping on a moving train. Anybody that dumb probably doesn't have a clue where she is going. So, I did another uncharacteristic thing. I told him where I was going and which transfers I'd be taking. I never do that because, having been followed, I am wary of letting strangers know my destination. But, he seemed sincere enough.
He nodded hiis approval and explained, "I thought I'd make sure since I'll be getting off in two stops."
Then he tried to help me practise a little Korean. Until he gave up on me. When we arrived at his station he nudged the fellow beside him and started to to stand up. Aforementioned fellow did not budge-gave no indication that he was even aware of his surroundings. Mr. Hospitality sighed and settled back in his seat resignedly.
"Why didn't you get out?" I demanded - a little too sharply considering he had no idea that I'd ever been stalked.
"I think I'd better stay with my friend here," he murmured quietly.
For the first time I took a good look at his traveling companion. The man looked pathetic. Pale faced with head in his hands. He appeared to have been crying.
"What's the matter with him?" I gasped. (Yeah, I am the epitome of tact.)
The story came out. It was marital trouble. It wasn't quite as bad as "after 25 good years together they had their first big fight", but she had been recently suckered in to one of these off-shoot religions where they want all your money. Since she had no job, she was handing in all of her husbands savings and there was nothing left for the children's inheritance.
We talked and tsked. Mind you, the guy with the problem wasn't doing any of the actual talking. But, he was engaged in the exchange. He lifted his red rimmed eyes and listened intently to my suggestions. I do believe I saw some actual hope on his face. This is one thing I like about being a bit older in Korea. Age and experience still count for something. Folks actually seek and value your advise and ideas. Not that mine were much good. What could I do? Invite them to come for counseling with the Pastor? As far as they could tell it was religion that caused this mess in the first place! But, maybe it comforted him to have an impartial observer taking his side in his troubles.
"Hey, this is your stop." They gripped my hands briefly in farewell, then called "Goodbye! Goodbye!" as I tripped out the door of the train in the nick of time just before it could slam shut on me.
I think of them sometimes. Wonder if it all worked out. Wonder what their impression was of the 'crazy American'.
Probably they sat there and said, "Think she'll ever make it back to her place in one piece?"
"Not a chance! Hey, that's pretty funny. I'm feeling more cheerful already."
"Me too. Wanna go have some beer together?"