That Foreigner

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June 13, 2013 by travelinggrits

I’m that foreigner sticking her head in the local clothing repair shop every so often to say hello to the homestay mother’s friend.

I’m that foreigner attending the wedding of a friend of a friend who has no clue what the names of the bride and groom are. 

I’m that foreigner lifting weights at the community gym, sometimes accidently singing aloud to both English and Korean pop music.

I’m that foreigner wandering the grocery aisles of the big department stores, ogling the strange varieties of food and slyly snabbing free samples.

 I’m that foreigner haggling for a refund even though it is past the return limit.

I’m that foreigner who bought a standing ticket and fell asleep in the open seat on the train so the real ticket holder has to wake her up to sit down.

I’m that foreigner who accidentally locks herself out of the online banking system so she comes to the bank to go through the tedious process of changing her pin number.

I’m that foreigner who comes the next day with a ginseng drink to thank the bank attendant for her trouble.

I’m that foreigner casually asking the cashier at the stationary store with a hoarse voice if she feels well and wishes her a speedy return to good health, all in Korean, to the amazement of the cashier. 

I’m that foreigner who comes back a week later and kindly inquires again about the cashier’s health, politely nagging to drink more water, amid chuckles from those standing nearby.

I’m that foreigner singing the hymns in church with ease — because they are phonetic based, not because she understands them.

I’m that foreigner responding in Korean when asked a question in English at the train ticket counter.

I’m that foreigner who rejects the offer of a fork and proceeds to demonstrate impressive mastery of chopsticks.

I’m that foreigner who doesn’t go out to bars too much because she doesn’t want to be that foreigner.

 I’m that foreigner taking pictures of mundane aspects of Korean life like rest stops and exercise equipment and T-shirts and school lunches because they are strange and wonderful. 

I’m that foreigner sitting alone on the park bench, gazing at the bright sky, a contented smile on her face.

I’m that foreigner giggling while walking to the bus stop arm in arm with a student.

I’m that foreigner shouting “geon bae!” (cheers!) and clinking glasses with a large group of Koreans, making the other restaurant patrons wonder how she came to be in that company.

I’m that foreigner strolling the streets, shopping, hopping on and off city buses and intently tapping away messages on her smart phone like this land is not foreign to her. 

I’m that foreigner who will always be that foreigner here. I’m that awkward, annoying, funny, curious, mysterious, surprising, familiar foreigner.


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