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Monday, October 20, 2014

The Mystery of Ignorance

This is the first time in my life I have been in a place which is in every way unintelligible. The language is impossible to read, except for the occasional road sign in English. My sense of direction is non-existent and I have no idea how to communicate enough to even go into a store to buy something. It is very frustrating -- especially as there is so much exploring  I would love to be doing.

There is a great bakery called 'Paris Baguette' where I could get a coffee and pastry and probably manage to get what I want with sign language and pointing. And by taking out some money manage to pay -- but I don't think I could get home again even though home is but a short distance away.

I must admit I have a much greater appreciation of how over-whelming it must have been for Asian immigrants when they arrive for the first time in the West. I  have met several of Heejung's friends and relatives and have been very touched my how welcoming they have been -- even though perhaps no word of English is spoken. Yesterday, an old school friend of Heejung, who is the owner of a nearby Baskin Robbins franchise, gave me a large box of freshly packed ice cream -- with my choice of flavours! He didn't speak a word of English. We bowed to each other and when we shook hands he put his left hand on his arm -- which is a mark of respect when meeting someone who is older than you.

Tomorrow Heejung is going to walk me over to the bakery with Sam -- after that, there will be no stopping us!

In the meantime I have visited a Benedictine monastery and Buddhist temple complex. The monastery gift shop had the most bizarre crucifixes I have ever seen. Most bizarrely of all, is that the photographs I took of them were blank!  This has never happened before and all the pictures I have taken since, with the exception of the one which included a monk,were also blank ...

Tonight we are having Korean pancakes -- oh yum!

35 comments:

  1. Doesn't that make you wonder if they have a direct link with the Guy Upstairs that they can make cameras go wonky? Hope you continue to enjoy yourself, even if you get lost. It's exciting to hear about your adventure. :-)

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    1. It was really strange! I plan to go back and try again!

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  2. Oh, dear. Have your camera checked. Did you drop it or bump it hard?
    Sam will get you about very well, and I'm looking forward to your adventures.

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    1. No, I haven't dropped it. Several more pictures did not turn out -- but I think it may have had something to do with the flash being turned off -- not sure and it seems to be working again.

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  3. What an adventure, though frustrating as well...Brought back lots of memories for me.

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    1. Rosaria, I am really enjoying reading about some of your memories and highly recommend them!

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  4. Our village pub is run by a Chinese family. The meals they serve have a brilliant reputation. But I, like you thought how difficult it must be for foreign visitors to cope with our language and customs when they come over here. I would not know where to start to attempt a conversation in Chinese. Your Korean holiday sounds wonderful. That was really strange for your pictures at the monastery to come out blank. Hope your camera's working OK now.

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    1. I really am enjoying myself and there is much more to be looking forward to -- including an Asian fireworks competition next weekend and a day or two in Seoul just before I return.

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  5. Eerie that those photographs didn't come out. Somebody was censoring you. Hmmmnnnn....

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  6. That feeling of total incapability to make oneself through language is very powerful isn't it. You want people to know you are not completely stupid....but have no way of explaining it..... I too have wondered how frustrating it must be to arrive in the UK, or the US...or Australia, or somewhere where we all communication is in English.....and not even to understand the alphabet. It must happen to so many wonderfully talented and intelligent people.
    However it does sound as if smiling, and some pointing, is having a good effect. Your adventures sound fascinating....and as for the God control on your camera.... well...what can I say ? Looking forward to hearing more.

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    1. One thing about being western and a woman being surrounded by Asians -- everybody knows your predicament! They are very kind --- it also helps having my Asian daughter-in-law with me and my Asian looking grandson, who even though he remembers very little Korean, looks the part and understands just enough. I am now comfortable with the money (it's a like when Italy had the lira). If I go someplace more than one time I am remembered and often given little treats...

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  7. This sounds so interesting! But how weird is it that your photos didn't turn out? Those old monks didn't want you taking pictures of their temple!

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    1. Benedictines! However, I still plan to go back and try again!

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  8. A place I would love to visit

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    1. It is fascinating -- but often leaves me shaking my head i disbelief!

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  9. This is just wonderful, what a great experience for you. Once my husband did a favor for the son of a Korean friend. Later we were invited for a dinner. A dinner, so delicious, so lovingly prepared, so much of everything, a dinner I will never forget. I know you enjoyed the pancakes.

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    1. The Koreans have so much of what they call 'side food' that the western guest is often left bulging by the time the main course arrives!

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  10. You are certainly being made to feel very welcome. How does Sam feel to be back?
    How strange it must feel to understand so little of the spoken or written language, but respect, friendship, and being made welcome use the 'universal' language. We are travelling to Japan to stay with our son and have been warned that in rural , Southern Japan there will be little spoken and even less written English. I'll let you know how we get on!

    Enjoy what is left of your time. Strange about the pics...

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    1. We landed in Fukuoka for our final flight to Seoul. I was amazed by how beautiful the area looked -- lots of mountains. One of helpful aspects of Korea is that there are many signs written in western letters -- mostly English equivalents -- American influence after the Korean conflict. It is also interesting that many of what look like Korean words are in fact English translations using the Korean alphabet.

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  11. I can understand your frustration at not being able to communicate; very unsettling.... Did you put the SD card in your camera the wrong way round?

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    1. Fortunately my SD card cannot be inserted the wrong way round!

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  12. It is good that there is understanding and friendship despite the difficultly in the language. It must be frustrating as I know here sometimes I just do not know the right words and I cannot get across what I mean. How very odd about the camera and sad as well as we are not going to appreciate your trip. Enjoy what is left of the holiday, take care Diane

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    1. Camera is working fine now! As is my phone. Plenty of pictures yet to come...

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  13. Soon you'll be feeling like an old hand! How lovely to have people to help and be kind.

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    1. Korean people are very kind and very interested in 'occidentals'!

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  14. My travels in Asia were mostly in places that tried very hard to speak English - Tokyo and Hong Kong. I did go through a bit of what you describe in Thailand, though. Glad you're having (had?) such a wonderful time!

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    1. I am still having a wonderful time! But time is really flying by...

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  15. So much going on — frustration, a little fear perhaps, discovery. We can learn a lot about ourselves in foreign places, and I'm guessing that is happening for you. Enjoy your trip.

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    1. Absolutely right -- When I first went to England it felt foreign and now feels like home. I think it would take a lot more effort to feel at home in Asia, but it sure is interesting!

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  16. Dear Broad, I can understand your feeling somewhat in a daze because when I went to Greece twenty years ago for a three-week visit I had the same problems. And by the end of that time, I was so longing to hear English spoken in a conversation. But like you, I was so touched by the graciousness and generosity of the people i met there.

    I bet you are out today sight-seeing and that you are enjoying yourself more and more as the days pass. I so happy for you and for Sam too. Peace.

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    1. Indeed, I am enjoying myself more and more. In fact yesterday I was wishing I had more time for exploration.

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  17. I spent a week in Japan a few years ago and found the same thing - it was just incredibly disorienting. Enjoy your visit.

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    1. I suspect your week in Japan was too short -- it takes that long to get over jet lag! I have been fortunate to be able to spend four weeks here. And my son is very very interested in the history and culture of this country, so I am fortunate to have a good teacher to help.

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  18. I had a small taste of what you've been facing when I went to Prague, Broad. Even with our Western alphabet the words themselves were totally incomprehensible - no link at all with any language I know. I bet your head was reeling by the end of each day.

    When some Vietnamese 'boat people' arrived in our bit of Wales, DH was involved in arranging educational provision for the children and still remembers how confusing it was for them and yet how rapidly they adapted - far faster than their parents.

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