standard conversation; strange question

Monday, July 6, 2009

Sometimes when I try to speak Korean, I am embarrassed by my pathetic language skills. Other times, like today, I feel like I'm not too bad.

I was at the playground with the boys, actually waiting for my friend to come down with her children. A woman sat down beside me on the bench after removing the baby boy strapped to her back with a podaegi.* She also had a little girl a bit older than Liam. She looked at Rowan in the stroller beside me and pronounced the usual expressions of cuteness. She was soon joined by two men (husband and brother-in-law would be my guess) with another little girl around the same age. The two little girls ran off to play and the men began conversing with the woman. The man I assumed to be her husband asked her if Rowan was a boy. I replied that he is, at which point she decided to start a conversation with me, since I obviously understand and speak a minimal level of Korean.

The following conversation took place almost completely in Korean, except she did say "teacher" and "January" in English, although I know those words in Korean.

KW: How old is he?
Me: 6 months. Your son?
KW: 7 months, born in December. Your son was born in January?
Me: No, December. December 30. Your son?
KW: December 13. Do you live in Buyoung? (That's the name of our apartment complex.)
Me: Yes. (gesturing vaguely at my building)
KW: You speak Korean very well.
Me: No, just a little. I don't speak well yet.
KW: Are you a teacher?
Me: Me? No. My husband is a teacher.
KW: Korean? American?
Me: My husband?
KW: Yes.
Me: American. (Amazingly, I said this without laughing.)

Now, maybe she hasn't seen many babies with mixed Korean and Caucasian parentage. I have. They're almost all absolutely gorgeous, and they have very definite Asian features. She had looked closely at Rowan before this. I'm pretty sure it would be genetically impossible for a child with a Korean parent to look like Rowan.

The conversation basically petered out after that. I was, however, proud of the fact that I did not once have to say, "I don't understand" or "I don't know," phrases which I find myself uttering all too often in Korean.

I'm still scratching my head over the question of whether my boys are half-Korean, though.

*The podaegi (also spelled podegi and pronounced po DEG ee with a long "o", a hard "g" similar to the "g" in "golf" or "go" and a long "e") is a Korean carrier with a medium to large rectangle of fabric hanging from a very long strap. Traditionally the rectangle is quilted for warmth and wraps around the mother's torso, while the straps are wrapped snug under the baby's bottom and tied around to the front to support and secure the baby on the mother's back. Western interest in the podaegi style has led to new wrapping methods which do go over the shoulders, and to narrower "blankets". (Definition courtesy of Wikipedia article: Baby sling.)


One response to “standard conversation; strange question”
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Way to go on your Korean skills!! Sounds like you do better than you give yourself credit for!
The half-Korean comment is a little strange yes, but there are some half Koreans that don't look it. I worked with a half-Korean guy and didn't know he was until he mentioned that his mom was Korean.
You'll find this story pretty interesting:
Give it a watch if you have a spare 25 minutes :)

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