Thursday, January 21, 2010

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

For today, a little story that I keep remembering for some reason. It crawled out of my memory today, so I decided to write it down here.

One of the things I like best about South Korea is its mass transit system. I spend a lot of time during my visits riding the subway. It's a cheap form of entertainment, with many people to watch, and sometimes conversation -- usually with old men or women who proudly show off their English. I know that many Americans hate that, and if I ever actually live in Korea I may come to hate it too, but for now I enjoy it.

One afternoon in the summer of 2008 I rode from one end of the Blue line to the other, from Uijeongbu-bukbu to Incheon. It's about a two hours' trip, starting out aboveground, moving below ground, and emerging again into daylight as it leaves Seoul. A few stops from Incheon, I noticed a family that was having fun, mom and dad in their 30s and a boy (about 10) and girl (about 12). When their stop came, they stood waiting at the doors next to my seat, and I noticed they were speaking English. The father noticed my surprise and asked, “American?”


“Where from?” he said with a touch of a drawl.

“Indiana. You?”

“Texas. Visiting family.”

“Have fun,” I said as the train stopped.

“So far, so good,” he said a bit ruefully as the doors opened and they got off.

I’d been fooled partly because the father and son interacted with a lot of physical play, more like Koreans than Americans. I rarely see American children that age hanging happily onto their fathers the way Korean kids often do.

That's the story.