Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thankful Thursday: 11/21/13

[As a part of National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo), I'm posting here once a day during November.  Today is Day 21.]

[Thankful Thursday is a weekly segment that began 1/10/13 - read why here.  I invite you to join me in practicing gratitude!]

Tonight I met with my new Korean language exchange partner Woo-Seok for the second time. (I don't think I've written about this yet on the blog.  I was in the post office one day after school back in September and he said hello, obviously interested in the fact that I was a native English teacher.  We're rare in this small town.  He gave me his number, but I didn't get a phone until October.  It wasn't until two weeks ago - yes, in November - that I decided it would be good to finally start making Korean friends, so I texted.)

It was a dinner meet-up again, during which he said he had thought about the language exchange during the past week and thought it should have more structure. He thought that he should spend a half hour teaching me Korean, and I would spend a half hour teaching him English (well he already knows and speaks English. So it would be more like conversing). An hour a week I can do! I like structure. Then he said he actually had bought a book to use for teaching me Korean - a gift.

So after dinner we went to his business just down the road for the study hour. His employees (five) work until 7 p.m. every day, so they were still there getting ready to leave when we got there. He has never taught Korean before, so he doesn't exactly slow down when speaking or realize how many times I actually need to hear and repeat something (in Korean, not the English translation!) to know it.  But I'm sure we'll both learn over time how to best teach the other.  He wants me to bring a news article in English next week for his half hour.

I believe there is much good in the new exchange! I am thankful I now know a Korean other than teachers and students from school, and that this native Korean is helping me learn the language while inadvertently teaching me about Korean culture too.  I'm most thankful that Woo-Seok said hello to me in the post office my first week in the country way back in September!

We may not realize it, but Americans are fairly outgoing with strangers. We start conversations with people at bus stops or out in public, we smile at people when walking past on the sidewalks -- it's not a big deal that you've never met the person.  In Korea, this isn't the case.  Cultural/social norms are different here in the Eastern world, so that's why it's extra rare that a Korean would just start making conversation with a stranger in the middle of the afternoon.
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