Just What I Needed

Lately I haven’t been feeling myself. This happens occasionally. I feel a bit down. This isn’t severe depression, or any other life-altering condition. It is best characterised as a mild slump that leaves me feeling slightly more cynical than usual.

These slumps are exacerbated by a feeling of profound loneliness due to the language barrier and the constant reminders of my status as an outsider in Korea. During these periods, I am extra sensitive to the negative interactions that are sometimes unavoidable here.

About an hour ago, I had to run to catch the subway downtown. I was able squeeze into a car seconds before it departed. As I waited for the doors to close, an ajumma (middle-aged Korean woman) on a motorized scooter showed up. Yelling “Excuse me! Watch out!”, she barrelled into the densely packed crowd of passengers. There was nowhere for me to go, so she ran into my legs, knocking me into a crowd of high school students.

I’ve had enough interactions with ajummas to know better than to say anything. I heard the ajumma saying something, but she spoke too fast for me to understand, so I just ignored it. Next, she started tugging on my backpack. That’s when I knew it was going to get ugly.

“Excuse me. I’m so sorry. Are you ok?” I had been mentally preparing to defend myself, so this took me by surprise. I managed to say, “yes, I’m ok.” She told me that it’s cute to hear a foreigner speak Korean, and that my pronunciation was good (not true, but nice to hear). We talked all the way to my stop. I learned that her daughter is studying English at a university in Daegu. The ajumma always wanted to learn English, but never had a chance to practice with foreigners. Though our conversation was limited by my Korean ability, it was a wonderful change of pace. I’m so accustomed to being stared at and avoided that I forgot how nice it was to feel human in public. She made me feel like something other than a zoo animal while riding on the subway.

I really needed that. Thanks scooter lady!

Until next time.


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