Expat Dribble

Andrea Avery Jackley: An expat with lots of dribble to write about.


After a fairly good night’s rest for sleeping in a foreign room resembling a hospital, I woke and decided to go for a walk about town. Boldly heading out into the unknown, the looks I received initially took me aback – some were downright astonishing. It seems the Koreans, for the most part, don’t consider staring impolite. Children found me particularly compelling. 

I wandered for awhile and eventually found my way to the Korean equivalent of Walmart: Home Plus. The faces I got there were even more pronounced than the ones on the street. I clumsily found my way to the grocery section, after spending a good ten minutes figuring out how to use a 100 Won coin to unlock the shopping carts. A greeter stands at the metal detector-clad entrance to the produce section (it crossed my mind that this must not do much for people trying to smuggle vegetables) and bows while chanting a forceful greeting that includes one of the only words I find intelligible so far: anyonghaseyo – “hello”. 

There were many fascinating new fruits and veggies, along with packaged concoctions, to rummage through. Korean women gawked at me while I fingered funky-looking fungus and stemmy greens, some of their concealed contempt not going unnoticed. Yes, this first shopping experience was one for the books.

For some reason, I expected more English subtitling on packages; boy was I wrong. By the time I completed my adventure and was checking-out, I was only confidently aware of what roughly 20 percent of my purchases actually were. 

That afternoon, James picked me up and brought me to the private language institute, otherwise known as a “Haegwon” (hog-won). Park Jeong Academy is on the sixth floor of a modest high-rise that also houses a women’s clinic, eye wear shop, and a 7-11. I was introduced to my colleagues Kurt and Erica – lumped together in this sentence because they are both (Korean-)Canadians, something I would find a lot more of in Korea, Julia, Yoo, Mr. Lim and Mr. Yang, the head teacher. Everyone was quite pleasant. 

As I was now officially the only white face in the building, I accumulated many more astonished looks from students passing in the halls, accompanied with the occasional gasp and “ooh” or “ahh”. I feel like a star.


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