A Foreign Slice of Life

I’m sitting in the Doosan We’ve Starbucks in Bucheon studying for the CPA exam.  There are two Korean girls in the other ‘good chairs’ across from me.  One of the girls is telling her friend in Korean about how she accidentally hooked up with 은영’s boyfriend Travis.  They are so noisy and boisterous that the one listening knocks her chair into my table, turns around and realizes that I’m sitting here listening to this story about the text messages Travis has been sending her.  ‘Oh, sorry.’  she says.  ‘No problem’, I reply, glancing up from my studies. As the story goes on it turns out that this girl and her friends party with a lot of foreign dudes, including one guy they call “유엔 오빠” who speaks Korean.  Turns out Travis is so fun that he’s practically irresistible, at least from this girl’s point of view.  As is TJ.

At another table, two Korean guys and a girl are having a casual, relaxed English lesson masquerading as “jes’ hangin’“.  ‘We say 까페모카 and you say cafe mocha, your pronunciation is so funny!’  I thank the good lord that I no longer allow myself to be party to such conversations.  The guy, who speaks in crisp, clear English like an announcer on EBS, explains the pros and cons of living in Bucheon in a diplomatic, analytical way that sounds like it came right out of a conversational English textbook.  Now he’s explaining how a juicy bar works (“You get a commission for each beer you sell”), for some unimaginable reason he thinks that this co-ed group of young college-age suburbanite Koreans would like to talk about this.  One of the guys tells a really stupid story about a pun that he told in English and the foreigner doesn’t get it.  His story ends with ‘I think I’m crazy!’ and everyone laughs warmly.  The Koreans attempt to explain what a ‘greenbelt’ is to the baffled foreigner.  The group is finally joined by another foreigner.  ‘This is James, James, this is Nicole.’  Awkwardness ensues, like when two gigolos find themselves wooing the same wealthy old woman.

I think back to the incredible influx of foreign, specifically American, influence in my life in the recent weeks.  My company has brought in a partner from Texas, and I have been spending a lot of time helping her get settled and translating for her.  It has reminded me that I am indeed a foreigner.  Since her arrival I have been lied to, left out of meetings that I would have been a part of otherwise, completely left alone and not assigned any work, and basically treated like more of a foreigner than I had since I got the job.

Speaking of foreigners, my little American baby is growing by leaps and bounds, and poor Miyoung is finally starting to feel the aches and pains from her stomach’s growing size, meaning the second trimester is officially over and the long hard slog to the finish line has begun.  For names, we’ve settled on Pauline if it’s a girl, but we’re coming up short on boy names.  Long time contender Mason was tossed out a few weeks ago, and we’re now warming to Warren.  Any suggestions are welcome.

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~ by Joe on November 15, 2008.

7 Responses to “A Foreign Slice of Life”

  1. Suggestion: Garrett. Seriously, if it wasn’t my own name I’d use it on my son.

  2. Tom is also nice.

  3. How about something classic, like Ichabod. Bet you haven’t met many people named Ichabod, have you.

  4. That’s funny…I thought I was the only foreigner at that English lesson, but I guess you saw someone that I didn’t notice. I don’t remember someone talking about the pros and cons of living in Bucheon, but I did miss the first 30 minutes. If it sounded like it came from a conversational English book, it probably did because that’s what we were reading from. I also don’t remember anyone talking about a “juicy bar,” but I do remember the Koreans thinking of how to use the word “commission” in a sentence. I’m also not sure what “really stupid story” you are talking about, but I do know that we all enjoyed our conversation. I think your comparison to “gigolos” was a bit unfair. I’m not really sure why you decided to listen in if you detest such discussions.

    If you want to eavesdrop and write about it, just get your facts straight next time. You might want to consider focusing a little more on studying for the CPA; I hear it’s a whopper of a test.

  5. Hey Shawn,

    Yeah, after I clicked ‘publish’ on this I realized that I had gotten some of my facts wrong, in particular that the person who joined you wasn’t another foreigner, but I couldn’t really muster the strength to correct myself.
    I don’t recall the details of the really stupid story, but I do remember the awkward sound of people not getting the punchline.

    Actually, my account of the day is infinitely kinder than that of the two girls sitting next to me. They both turned out to be very fluent in English, as when I returned from the bathroom and they saw me they suddenly started peppering their conversation with English that was basically native-speaker level. Anyway, my version of your English class (forgive me if I thought you thought you were jes’ hangin’) was very much ‘been-there, done that so so many times’. Incidentally, I hadn’t gotten any of the facts wrong on those two girls, as the rest of their conversation went into Travis, United Nations 오빠 and other guys in much greater detail. ‘It’s tough being young,’ was all I could think.

    Hope you didn’t take too much offense, especially as I’ve seen you at that Starbucks on Saturday morning before and I will no doubt see you there again. I might just join you next time, if the CPA study wears me down. Until then, keep up the good fight.

  6. Oooh….awkward

    Uh, a good boy name is…um, Sebastian.

  7. I just think it’s funny that I read about our meeting as I was checking my feed reader; I was really caught off guard.

    Seriously, best of luck on the CPA. I’m an accounting major so I realize the stress and difficulties associated with that test!

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