On Sunday night, we had our little intrepid hearts broken. But what happened?
Let us backtrack a bit…
Making friends in a rural backwater of Korea is not an easy task. We live far away from other expats in a particularly cliquey village, full of gossip and people are at best sceptical about foreigners. Of course, the language barrier is a huge problem being that a tiny handful of people here actually speak English. Add to that the extremely rigorous rules about who you can and can’t be friends in Korean society (we suspect that these rules are probably far more relaxed in the city, but it’s quite old fashioned and strict where we live) – in a nutshell, you have to be exactly the same age and someone’s peer to be friends. Seriously. They would never consider having a friend 5 or 10 years older or younger. Its one of the first questions someone will ask you to ascertain potential friendship…”What, you’re 30? Well, no I’m 27 so we can’t be friends…” haha. You do get the occasional person who doesn’t care and tries to make the effort anyway. Thank goodness.
So we have made friends with the family at the bakery though they don’t really speak English. The mum speaks a smattering of a few words here and there and the kids are at hagwons so know okay vocab but there’s certainly no interaction in sentences yet. We do a lot of miming and laughing but its okay. They have treated us wonderfully the whole time we have been in Deoksin and will remain in our hearts long after we leave.
There is Soo, who speaks pretty good English and who some of you may remember from our adventures at Duck.Com. However, we do try and limit contact with her in order to avoid (a) bankrupting ourselves on unplanned and expensive outings and (b) being repeatedly dropped in the middle of nowhere with directions to the nearest bus stop. But she’s always happy to see us and again, she’s been a really consistent and generous friend in our time here.
Another shout out to goes to our beloved expat friend, Joan. Joan, sadly, lives in Busan so we don’t get to see her as often as we would like. But she’s helped us on numerous occasions with practical things like helping us buy a duvet in our first week and knowing our rights when it comes to employment matters here.
H-J’s colleagues consisted up until a couple of weeks ago of one Korean woman who largely ignored her (preoccupied with her Smartphone and hand mirror at all times) and one other who was pretty chatty and who had even taken us on a couple of missions during our time here. Then, they both upped and quit with the chatty one promising that she “would call” us. Three weeks on and we’ve never heard from her again. Dan’s hagwon has just one colleague, his boss, who in between bouts of firing him is really just too busy and disinterested to be our friend. No worries.
We had a short lived friendship with a couple of Indian dudes who work at one of the big industries here as engineers. For the sake of anonymity, we shall dub them “P” and “N”. N started out great – he even once cooked for us and it was SO nice to eat something that wasn’t Korean that we didn’t have to cook ourselves! Haha. Alas, he is extremely busy and seems to have a lot of friends so we never really see him.
“P” was a pretty different story…started out lovely though with a slightly creepy vibe. He’s been single for waaaaay too long and has been in Korea for waaaay too long with no friends. After hanging out with him a couple of times, he rang H-J one day out of the blue to say that he was “missing us” and to ask if “Dan is looking after you okay cause you deserve to be looked after”. He was forever ringing/texting to ask us to go drinking with him. He even rang one night to say that he was standing outside our house and could see our light on so could he come hang out with us…
Things went from bad to worse after a night out drinking. The three of us had, we thought, an awesome time, a really fun night and said goodbye and thanks for the great night, ready to slink home and nurse our respective hangovers. However, this seemingly innocuous night out turned “P” into something resembling an angst ridden twelve year old girl with a phone…
In the week following our night out, the following texts were exchanged.
P: Send me Dan’s cell number.
H-J: U forgot to say “please” haha. His number is….
P: Coz am mad at u.
WTF?! What’s that about, we ponder…oh well. Let’s just see what happens.
He then texts Dan THREE WEEKS later saying hi, how are things going and asking if we’re still in the village. Dan replies “yes, but we thought you were mad at us so were giving you space”.
P then replies that it’s just H-J he’s mad at.
Dan and I scratch our heads in confusion. P still offers no explanation as to why he’s mad.
H-J then gets all pissy as she’s want to do when people are annoying. And she texts:
H-J: I don’t like game playing so when u said u were mad at me I though u should have said why, not make me ask why! If you’re mad about something from the night we went drinking, I find that strange seeing as we spoke to you the next day & things were fine! Have had other stuff to deal with so haven’t really concerned myself.
[The other stuff being that Dan had gone through his awesome period at school of being fired, rehired etc, you know, nothing major or anything!]
P: Did we speak the next day?
H-J: Yes. U told us u were throwing up but wanted to go to Ganjeoglot and we texted about Easter plans.
P: And am not playing games. I didn’t realize if u were joking or if u really meant.
H-J: Joking about what??!!! Your still not telling me what your problem IS!!! That’s game playing. So now IM annoyed.
P: I am embarrassed and so find it hard to say.
H-J: Fine. I don’t really care. I don’t remember details of any conversation and you’re not elaborating! THIS conversation is now over. Good night.
Needless to say, we haven’t heard from him again since.
We also had a friend called Mr Han for a couple of weeks. He was a 19 year old Chinese dude living in the village with his mum. He spoke no English and we know even less Chinese than we do Korean, haha. The three of us would run into each other most days and fumble our way through a conversation and generally have fun! But then he suddenly disappeared and we never saw him again after seeing him every day for weeks!
A young woman called Jeong made a brief appearance in our lives. After deciding to give her a second chance even after she bought around a 500 piece jigsaw puzzle for “something fun to do” on a Saturday night (?!!), we quickly came to our senses after a rather stalky set of phone calls and messages – nearly 50 in the course of one morning even when we’d already told her exactly when and where we would meet her – combined with her constantly turning up broke (she quit her job cause she didn’t like it) and expecting us to pay for everything. Alas, the second and third chances fast expired.
We recently made the acquaintance of the guy that works at our local convenience store. After wondering why he grinned so happily every time we went in to buy milk we figured out that he was the guy that had served us the night of our Duksin pub crawl and whom we had DEMANDED take photos with us.
Putting two and two together we thought perhaps he’d like to join in the fun and have a beer with us one night. On a rather stupid whim, H-J suggested at 3pm on a Sunday afternoon (when we had already started drinking) that we meet him when his shift finished at 11pm. Now of course the only way to fulfil a promise like that is to keep drinking all day so by the time we finally met up with him we were smashed. Determined though, we headed with him over the nearest chicken joint where he proceeded to buy gigantic jugs of beer – and where Dan proceeded to get pastier and pastier and then ran for the door…The date was over pretty quickly.
So, back then to where we started.
After our fairly disastrous beer with 25 Guy, we popped into his work the other night to see if he wanted to join us with his friend (who speaks English) to have a casual coffee sometime this week. He reached for a piece of paper he had obviously prepared in advance and read out the following:
“I would really, really like to but I have exams and it is important that I study.”
“That’s cool”, we chirped. “When are your exams finished? We could celebrate then!” “Um…” he stumbled and grabbed the calendar sitting on the desk. He flipped past July, and then August and then flipped again, turned the calendar and pointed at a date.
We took the hint and suggested he just ring us when he’s free and/or can stomach our presence! He looked excited at being provided with an ‘out’ and replied…”Okay, I’ll call you!!!”
Now that sounds familiar…!
Ps. Most of you will know by know that we’re pretty hardy creatures so while living in a small town where everyone is mean sometimes sucks, it has also caused us much mirth and merriment. We have each other, we have a wicked sense of humour, we love to travel around and see new things and life is generally pretty awesome. On which note, waterfallsandcaribous will be taking a short hiatus as we have a WHOLE WEEK OFF SCHOOL so we’re hitting the road to see what we can find…and maybe make a friend or two along the way 🙂
See you all again soon!
Some weird people you met in Korea haha 🙂
Totally! Weird people are our speciality, all round the world 😉
I didn’t know people stalked couples too. Interesting!
We are eminently stalk-able! Hehehe…
I give you both props for being open and try but I can see how it can result in meeting weird people. We come across the same problem of feeling a little isolated and language is a huge barrier as you say. On the bright side, you are getting to know their culture (good and bad) that is really cool!
Have fun in your mini-vacation!
A friend once described me as ‘fly paper to freaks’…I guess we shouldn’t be surprised! In all seriousness, its just part of the experience and makes for entertaining de-briefs at the end of each day 🙂
Nice; I’m going to have to start carrying around a calendar so I can have a viable “out” when I need an excuse to not hang out w/ someone 🙂
We actually snorted out loud when we read that! Oh, hold up…maybe THAT’S why we don’t have any friends!
Ha ha you guys meet the weirdest and funniest people. I guess being “lost in translation” has its moments lol. Props to you guys for being so patient and open with these people. Have fun on your vacation!
LOL your stories always brighten my day 🙂 I know firsthand the whole concept of Koreans being friends with people who are EXACTLY the same age… when I used to attend a Korean church, one of the first things people ask is, “what year you born?” Then proceed to point me to the group of 83ers to hang out with… ummmm… sure. Anyways, hope you’re having fun! Can’t wait to read of your adventures!
Its definitely an interesting concept, the whole age thing. I might start trying that out in New Zealand and see how it goes, hahaha.
can’t wait to hear what you come up with on your break!
There’s definitely some stories coming this way soon…! A couple more days of school free joy to go and then back to reality.
Good luck with the travel! I hope you make some friends, coz I totally understand how tough it can be to meet anyone in rural Japan… I am very thankful that there are no age-rules for making friends here…. otherwise I would have none.
You have inspired me though to make a list of my Japan-friends on my blog! 😀
“Dan proceeded to get pastier and pastier and then ran for the door…The date was over pretty quickly.” Uh-oh~ Does that mean that Dan is not stomaching the beer so well again..? 😦
Hehe its all part of the adventure of being on a new planet, oops a new country, right?!
Dan’s hives have not returned, thankfully – the pastyness followed by the door dash was the simple result of having drunk TOO much – an ‘illness’ that affects us all from time to time, hahahahahaha.
It’s so hard making new friends in a different country!!!! Especially with the language barrier! I’m moving to Canada + I’m going to be all about the stalking!!!! That’s crazy about the friend “age” rule in Korea! Who knew?!
Different countries sure have different ways of doing things, huh?! Do you feel like you’ll have trouble in Canada? Canadians, much like Kiwis, seem pretty laid back and friendly – hopefully they welcome you with open arms!
Canucks are really really nice, but a bit shy + more reserved. So, I’m going to have to use all my pushy Yankee talents to acquire some new friends! Thanks for the encouragement!