From the BK to the SK
So, I should probably be lesson planning right now, but seeing as my co-teachers and I can barely understand one another, I don't even know what they students have learned and need to learn.
Yesterday afternoon I decided to walk around my area and try to find civilization, see how far I live from a main part of my district. I found out it's about a 15 minute walk, and it's a pretty fun area because of Kyungpook University, so there's a lot of young people around (Korean obviously).
My plan was to go out, walk around, buy some things for my apartment and come back in time to get ready to go out; however, that plan changed entirely when I got locked out of my apartment last night.
There is no physical key to get into my apartment (not sure about other people's), and I have what's called an "intelligent lock". Well, for as intelligent as it's supposed to be, last night it decided not to accept my 4-digit entry code. I tried it a few times, maybe about five or six, before I started to slightly panic. I was hot, tired from the night before and carrying 8,000 pounds of different things I bought. I knocked on other people's doors, and after a while, I came to the conclusion that there is a very good chance that absolutely no one else lives in my building except for me.
Tears started streaming down my face. Here's the thing - we have no cell phones, though I do have my blackberry. But, I wasn't able to use it because I left my co-teacher's number somewhere on the floor in my apartment, buried underneath all of my clothes and shoes that I started to unpack only to realize that I had absolutely no drawers in which to put anything away.
I literally, for a solid five minutes, sat in front of my apartment door and just buried my head into my hands and cried. I didn't know what I was going to do. I very well could have taken a cab to my friends' apartments, that is if any of us had any idea on how to tell people where we live and if I had any money on me. I had 3,000 won in my wallet, which is about 2.50$ - doesn't get you very far.
I looked out the stairwell window of my building and saw a little, old lady in the alleyway down below. I ran out of my apartment, tears still streaming, and walked up to her. It's funny, too, because when I know someone doesn't speak English, I switch to italian, and my brain started going a mile a minute trying to put together exactly what I needed to tell her until she opened her mouth and started blurting out Korean at me. Oh, right, I don't think italian will get me very far in Korea.
I tried my best to tell her what was wrong, but instead I just motioned for her to follow me and led her to my apartment door. I was still crying, though the comfort of having this woman there with me did make me feel a little less hopeless, even if she didn't speak English and I didn't speak Korean. The one thing I've learned from living in China is that, generally speaking, Asians are probably the most giving and selfless and most kind-hearted people I've ever met. I knew this woman wouldn't leave me stranded.
This woman and I tried calling every single number we could find on any of the hall way walls in my building, but we were getting no where. Suddenly, I remembered that I had my journal with me, and on the inside of my journal I had the number of the high school english teacher that's attached to my school. She gave me a post it with her number on it before I left on Friday in case I ever needed help, and I definitelyyy needed help right then.
So, this woman let me use her phone to call Stella (the teacher), and I explained what was going on. They talked for a few minutes, and when she hung up the phone, the old lady grabbed my hand and led me downstairs and across the street, holding my hand the entire way. Conveniently, there's a store across the street that sells and installs intelligent locks. I really, really could not have had better luck.
The people who owned the store gave me a drink, tried to talk with me, but none of us could communicate. We walked back over to my building, and the locksmith got to work destroying my lock and installing a new one so I could get inside. Before he did that, though, he brushed off a step for me, wiped it down clean and motioned for me to sit while he did his work. He nor this old lady left my side, and they did everything they could possible to make me smile or laugh, and slowly but surely I felt so safe and like nothing had even happened.
Stella, the high school teacher, and her husband drove to my apartment to make sure I was OK and to talk with these people who were helping me. The old woman showed me her house in case I ever run into trouble again, and the locksmith said I could always come to their store if I need anything. I just felt so much better and much more secure to know that these people are willing to watch out for me and to help me if need be, and Stella and her husband went out of their way to turn my entire night around.
They asked to take me out to dinner - pasta, as per their suggestion - and if I'd be interested in going back to their house for coffee after. All the weight and stress that built up from the past few hours suddenly lifted, and I was so thankful for their efforts and thoughtfulness. And so, my entire night got a lot better.
I went to dinner with Stella and her daughter, and her husband went back to the house to prepare some coffee and snacks for after. They took me out to dinner, we walked around after, and she asked if there was anything I needed for my apartment, anything else I wanted to eat or drink. They really were doing everything in their power to make me feel welcome. The daughter (her youngest of 3) was too shy to really practice her english, but Stella and her husband both speak it well.
It was so weird to go back to their house after, not because it was awkward, but because of how still and kind of sacred everything felt. It was such an open, vast space, decorated with careful consideration and meaning. Everything in their house meant something, had some kind of story behind it or significance to it. I met the grandmother (father's mother), who was this tiny little Korean lady with such a powerful presence and vibe. It really just felt like she had all the answers to all of the questions in the world, and she just seemed so wise. There was so much history written in her smile - it seemed to cover her entire face with stories from her entire life. I sat with her, Stella and the daughter in her bedroom as she asked me so many questions about myself, complimented my green eyes and small face and my poor Korean skills (she was very kind and told me I make an excellent student). They invited me right in, without a worry in the world, and invited me to sit right on the bed there with them. 
Her bed was wooden, without a mattress, and right down the middle of it were blocks of preserved and hardened salt. They told me the salt was supposed to be good for the health and for the joints, and that they are heated in the winter. I could tell how practiced and accustomed they were to this, and how new it was for me, because as they sat there with such a comfortable poise, I could not stop fidgeting, and my leg was numb and had fallen asleep. It was just so crazy to have think that a few hours earlier, I felt so alone and so scared, and just a few hours later I felt like I was slowly becoming a part of this woman's family.  They invited me into their home, gave me whatever they felt would make me happy and take my mind off everything, complimented every single thing about me and really just opened their hearts for me. They did tell me, too, that they believe I was sent to them from God, and that we were all destined to meet and become friends, share one another's cultures and become a kind of family together.
It wasn't really weird when she said all of this to me, and to be completely honest I felt kind of honored. Here I am, this 23-year-old American girl that they just met (I literally spoke with Stella for maybe five minutes at lunch on Friday before this whole situation happened). They brought me to walk down along the water, told me all about different aspects of the city, told me all about Korean culture and even invited me back to have dinner and stay with them one night. The grandmother offered to cook for me herself.
It's funny how the day was such a crappy day, but that night was truly one of the most unique experiences I will ever remember. It just all felt kind of surreal, like I stepped through time and fast-forwarded my life to one of those moments you could never imagine happening.
Anyway, I hope I did this story justice. I am tired now and have to plan a lesson for class tomorrow, but it's just crazy how your entire day can turn on a dime just because of a few people who enormous hearts and spirits.

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