Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Another Lesson Learned Here in South Korea

On Tuesday nights, I've been taking the bus from Suwon to Seoul for dinner and to work on maedeup with my Korean girlfriends. The bus is usually pretty empty and it's a quick trip to Seoul since we are going against rush hour traffic for the most part. I even managed to get the front seat all to myself which was directly across from the bus driver and nearest to the door. I called Curt (hubby) to tell him I was safely (or so I thought) on my way to Seoul.

We were approaching the toll gate out of Suwon when I detected (along with the rest of the passengers) the smell of smoke. As this was happening, the bus driver pulled over and looked at the back of the bus. Huge clouds of smoke were pouring out of the end of the bus and some of the smoke was seeping into the interior of the bus.

The bus driver looked at me and said, "Cell phone jew say yo." That meant "give me your cell phone." I dug the phone out of my purse and handed it to him. He made about three calls. He then got up and left the bus to look at the smoke. I looked at the back of the bus and it was starting to fill up with smoke. The bus driver returned to the bus and shouted something to everyone in Korean.

All of a sudden chaos ensued. Forget women and children first. Forget the captain (bus driver) is last to leave and goes down with the ship (so to speak). In South Korea, it's every man (women and children) for themselves. Remember, I had the seat nearest the door. Everyone was pushing and shoving trying to get off the bus. I just sat there, shocked at how the Koreans were acting. I was really afraid one of the children would stumble and be trampled. Did anyone care to see if the American knew what was happening? NO! Did anyone stop to direct the American to leave the bus? NO! I was the last one off the bus. I'm kicking myself I didn't take out the camera then to take a picture of the empty smoky bus. Oh well. Was I mad? You bet I was and I was also ashamed at how the Koreans acted. Nobody cared about anyone else but themselves.

Now, we are pulled over along a major highway with cars speeding by. What are these Koreans concerned about? They sure weren't concerned about becoming roadkill. They wanted to make sure they got on another bus. There wasn't any shoulder and a car could have whipped around the bus and taken them all out. I stood off the road on the sidewalk.

I decided to remove myself from the Koreans and stood about two bus lengths away from the bus. The 7770 buses run every 5-8 minutes so I knew one would be coming by soon. Sure enough, the bus decided to stop just past me. Was I the first one on the bus? Remember, we are in Korea. I found myself elbowed, pushed and shoved to almost end of the line. By now, I was ready to punch the next Korean that even looked at me the wrong way.

While we were waiting for the new bus, I called my Korean girlfriend to let her know what had happened. She at first thought I was playing a April's Fool joke on her (I forgot that it was April 1st) but she heard a quiver in my voice and she could tell I was really upset.

We all made it to Seoul and I had a wonderful dinner with my girlfriends. I asked them about the behavior of the Koreans and they told me that what I experienced was normal Korean behavior. They told me not to be offended. I also asked about the bus driver and how he didn't care if I or the other passengers got off the bus. They said that he assumed I understood Korean since I gave him my cell phone when he asked for it in Korean. As far as his concern for the passengers, there wasn't any. That's the Korean way. Every man for himself.


CreekHiker said...

Are your comments working??? I've had the hardest time commenting or emailing you... Glad you made it off that bus!

Becky said...

It's all working now. What a week.

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