Surviving is not Living

An oldie from Xanga

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I used to blog at Xanga. I decided to go back to my old site and see if there was anything to pull out to add here. I’ve found a few things.

I really  should have known better than to listen to Paul and go with him that day.  When he acted like my host family’s apartment was so far, I really truly  should have known  he was confused and had no idea where I lived.  But  I didn’t listen to  my intuition.  Women!  ALWAYS listen to your intuition.  And men, find a female friend and ask her to share her intuition with you.  It could really change the world.

I had just walked to the church earlier.  It took MAYBE 10  or 15 minutes tops.  It was like 7 long big city Korean blocks and that was all.  It wasn’t far.  But after our orientation when  we were all leaving, Paul seemed concerned for  me and SWORE it was faster to take the subway.  I couldn’t imagine that was correct, but he was from that city and so I trusted him.  Of course he knew his way around the entire city of 5 million people.  Why not?

We left and began to walk to the subway.  Again, I should have known this was a problem when, by the time we reached the station, I  realized I would have been home by then, so I was pretty sure Paul was lost.  But hey what do I know, it was my 2nd day in a new city in a new country where I didn’t know the language.  Surely Paul knows better than I.  So I kept going.

He paid for my ticket and we got on the subway.  We rode two stops and he GOT OFF THE TRAIN.  It was his stop.  He told me to go one more stop and when I came out of the underground, my apartment should be easy to find from there.

Okay Paul.  I’m going to believe you.

So Paul steps off the train and suddenly I’m aware of the train full of korean eyes that are all fixed on me.  The only person other than myself who spoke english and I LET HIM GET OFF THE FREAKIN TRAIN!

I rode the one more stop and got off the subway, walked out of the underground and had NO FREAKING CLUE where I was.  I saw apartments, none of  which were mine, lots of lettering I didn’t understand, and a lot of korean people staring at me.

I thought I’d be smart.  All I had to do was get back on the train, ride it back 3 stops to where we boarded the train and then I could walk back to the church and back to my apartment.  Easy, right?

Oh, if only.

I go back down  into the station, pay for a ticket, get on the train…

Yup, going the wrong way.  I had  gone another stop in the direction I was going to begin with.  Damn.

I realized that after one stop so I got off the train, got on the other one, and rode back 4 stops.  I got off the train, walked up to the street from the underground and didn’t recognize a single thing.  I had no idea how to get back to the church.  I started walking in one direction.  Looked around,  and walked back.  I went a different direction.  I was scared to go  too far because what if I then  lost the subway station entrance?

WHY hadn’t I left crumbs or something to mark where I had come from?!

More staring.  More signs I couldn’t read.   More of people who DIDN’T SPEAK THE SAME LANGUAGE AS ME. It was also getting dark  and more chilly than it had been previously when Paul and I were walking to the station. And I had a heavy backpack that I was toting around.

I go back down into the station and luckily had my host sister’s phone number.  Now, has anybody ever tried to talk on a payphone?  It cuts you off after just a few minutes.  I couldn’t figure out how  much I was supposed to put in the machine so  I just start shoving coins into the machine until i got a dial tone. I dialed the number. Well, my host sister’s english was barely conversational and I was trying to explain to her that I was lost, and trying to tell her  where I was by reading signs I couldn’t understand so she could try and tell me how to get home.  Then the freaking payphone operator in freaking korean freaking mumbles something and the phone cuts me off.


I sat down, on the floor, in the corner, closed my eyes, and tried not to cry.  I didn’t want some well meaning person to see me and try to help when there was  no way we could communicate with each other.  WHY hadn’t I invested in a korean dictionary.  WHY?!

I  put my big girl panties on, got up and was determined to not have to sleep in the subway station tonight.  So I trudge over to the underground map and start reading.  Under the korean writing, it did have the  phonetic spelling of the different stops in american alphabet.  Suddenly, I see something I recognize.  WAHOO!!!  That’s the beach I live by!  That’s GOT to be close!  I counted the stops from where I  was, got back on the train and travelled to that stop.  I got out of the underground, convinced I was  going to see my apartment, and the beautiful beach, and the stuff that  I was familiar with as being near my apt.  I KNEW I’d be home shortly.


I didn’t see my apartment.   I didn’t see the shopping  center.  I didn’t see the mountains or the freaking beach.  All I saw were big buildings full of restaurants and businesses.  BUT I saw English.  In big bold letters came my salvation…


I nearly ran to  it.  Once I got inside this nice little korean man looked up  and smiled at me.

“English?”  I asked.

He said nothing but gave a gesture that said “just a  bit” but really meant “probably knows how to say hello and that’s all”

I showed him  the address I  had written on the piece of paper of where I lived and asked how far.

“very long way”


I held my hand up to  my ear like I was  holding a phone receiver, hoping that it wasn’t somehow translating into a korean gesture for something offensive, and said “telephone”.

He smiled nicely and handed me the phone.  I dialed renee again.  She answered and sounded  in a panic.  Yes I’m sure she was panic-ing.  Here she and her mother were supposed to be putting me up for the month and keeping me liking korea, and on day two i get lost.  I would be panicked too.  I asked her to speak to the man so he could tell her where I was and they could figure out how to get me home.  They spoke for awhile and then hung up.


So the nice korean man escorted me outside, hailed a taxi, put me in it, rambled something in korean (I translated it as probably something about the stupid american girl being lost and needing to  go home, so charge her double and give me half….or something like that) and away we went.

We pulled up to my apartment.  YAY!  I paid him and went upstairs.  The elevator doors opened to one of my host brothers standing there smiling.  Oh bless his heart.  I’ve never been  so happy to see a face I recognized, even if  he didn’t speak english, at least I knew I was HOME!  He walked me to the apartment and the whole family was home.  My host sister hugged me and then we had a great laugh about my getting lost.

I knew Paul would feel bad about it, so I didn’t want him  to find out, but I HAD to tell the rest of my team the story, so I sort of told them when he wasn’t around the next day.  However, we all went shopping for teaching supplies the next day at the shopping center next to my apartment and, not thinking about it, I pointed out my apartment and said that’s where I lived.

Paul stopped, looked confused and looked at me.

“Carrie….what do you mean you live there?………. THAT’S where you live?”…….  And then  it’s like he remembered yesterday…


I told him the story and we laughed about it.  I  teased him about it for several months after that.

I survived.  And now it’s a funny story to tell. A lot of times big things happen to us, and when we’re in the midst of them they seem huge, but all it takes is to just use your smarts to figure a way out. Most things, once out of the predicament, end up being something we can joke about later, that it taught us a lesson and made us a better person.


Written by No More Tomorrows

April 27, 2011 at 10:33 am

Posted in Fear, Stories

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