The joys (or mishaps) of miscommunication


Learning a new language isn't fun. But what's even more not fun is learning a language in a country where everyone expects and assumes you know the language. Although there's a Korean word for Korean-Americans (gyopos), it doesn't cause people to sympathize. In fact, it's quite the opposite. Saying you're a "gyopo" only gives older people a sense of utter responsibility to tell you how disappointed they are. Then, they shake their head as they walk away. Unless, of course, I'm being lectured by the taxi driver; then, I just get an earful until we've reached the destination. Sounds lovely, doesn't it? ;)

Now, I'm not complaining. I knew this was what I was getting myself into before I came here. (Sure, it can get annoying at times but it isn't so hard to just ignore). You see, since people assume I'm Korean and I'm tired of saying "I can't speak Korean very well," anything goes. Mark can tell you. Anytime I'm with him, everyone always directs their attention to me, not because I'm the better-looking one ;), but because I'm supposed to be his translator. This is how most situations go down:


Woman: Something, something, something

Me: (shakes head) Ah-nee-yo (which means "no")

Mark and I walk away, confused because we didn't get what we wanted

Mark: What did she say?

Me: I don't know...

Mark: (feeling defeated) Ok

5 minutes later...

Mark: You know, I think you should really learn Korean.

I've been learning but it's a slow process so in the meantime, I've just decided to go with it. Rather than saying "Hangul-mal chal moh-teh-yo" every 5 minutes, which means "I can't speak Korean very well," I just take a risk and either say yes or no. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. But each time is highly frustrating for Mark. Poor guy.

Another joy of miscommunication is the terrible English translations that people come up with here. I've posted this pic before, but just to remind you of how bad translations are, here it is again:


And if that wasn't bad enough, here's an ad for some fashion label gone terribly wrong:


Anyway, you get the picture. So because of these "translations," I can't always trust what I read out here. Take, for example, the day before yesterday when I was at the local grocery store E-Mart. I wanted to buy free range eggs, which was harder than I thought. They had every type of egg imaginable: garlic-fed chicken eggs, ginseng-fed chicken eggs, hormone-free eggs, etc. But what shocked me most was this:


I know people eat fertilized eggs, but I didn't know it was such a common thing...well, at least common enough to have shelves upon shelves of fertilized eggs with images of happy chicks smiling at you on the egg carton. Maybe I'm just being over sensitive since my family owns somewhere between 10 and 14 chickens (it seems to change every week). I admit, it had to take some getting used to to eat the eggs that I saw coming out of the hens' behinds, but the rich taste of fresh eggs was enough to get over that. But the thought of eating a fertilized egg is just beyond me.

Speaking of which, I went to a bake sale/fundraiser for Animal Rescue Korea at a cafe very far away because 1) my next piece is on Animal Rescue Korea and 2) one of the bloggers I follow was the main baker for the event. She's a vegan and she often recreates Korean dishes so that they're vegan. Anyway, the days leading up to the fundraiser, she'd post pictures of all the goodies she was baking for the fundraiser, which got me soooo excited (I'm not vegan or vegetarian but I am pretty health-conscious, so I tend to gravitate towards those types of food naturally). Although the event was a success in that I got in contact with the head of Animal Rescue, it was a total failure because all the goodies were gone by the time we got there :( womp womp.

Actually, I'm being dramatic. We ended up buying some brownies that the owner was saving for a special friend. But she felt so bad they ran out so quickly that she put them up for sale, which we snatched up right away! And they were delicious. I also got to meet the blogger in person in addition to many other nice people who love dogs just as much as I do :)




Most of the people who showed up were dog-lovers or vegans (or both!), so it was a very eclectic group of people that gathered at the cafe. Some of the conversations that took place had to do with different vegetables and herbs that can/cannot be found in Korea, the excitement of being a foster home for dogs in need, how vegan brownies come out so sticky despite not using butter, etc. One of the organizers of the event had a t-shirt of cute chickens, cows and pigs with the words "What do you eat again?"

I'd be lying if I told you I didn't feel a tinge of guilt when I was there. And although I've toyed with the idea of being a vegetarian more than once in my life, living a vegan life is beyond my understanding. It takes a level of commitment that I'd compare to religion. Every aspect of your life, including the people you spend time with, revolve around that decision.

Anyway, if any of you are vegetarians or vegans, tell me: why are you doing it? Is it hard? Do you find that your circle of friends are mostly vegetarians/vegans too?

1 comment :

Kaylenr said...

This was by far the funniest post you have done! Fertilized eggs? National people used enjoy? Amazingness. But Elysabeth, your observation that people that are vegetarian or vegan tend to start to hang out with others that choose that lifestyle is so true. I have many friends that do it and they get so very excited when they meet others that do as well. I simply could not imagine a Ratto gathering as a vegetarian or not having real ice cream. But, a fertilized egg might do the trick! Stay warm :)