Thursday, November 07, 2013

In the Wilds of Guatemala, A Korean Voice

On the second leg of the flight I passed out for about thirty minutes, which was mostly what I needed to get me from the airport to the hotel. Having mostly been experienced going through customs and immigration in either Asia or Europe, this was an entirely new experience for me. The immigration bit seemed pretty much the same, but after getting my lone bag (that I didn’t really have to check, but had checked just to make it easier to sprint as necessary to the gate), I ended up in a rather packed line.

I was surrounded on all sides by well-meaning Christian missionaries, who were all discussing their missions in Guatemala. I enjoyed listening to the missionaries and checking out the younger ones, wondering which one of them would grow up to turn into depraved, eccentric, empowered bisexual sexpots. Having had the pleasure of datingand still being madly in love withsuch a one, it seemed to me that the odds were good that at least one of these pretty bright face boys or girls of God might eventually go astray. The thought amused me.

The backup was caused by bag check. Unlike everywhere else I’ve traveled, it was not assumed that I had correctly taken my bag. Instead there was someone there to match the bag with the sticker I had been given in Chicago. It took me a second to realize that it was less a belief that I was too stupid to get my own bag and more likely a theft-prevention method. I was fine with that; however, it took forever when you were stacked up behind missionaries with five to ten suitcases apiece.

Eventually, though we broke through. I went out the gate and looked for a person holding a sign with my name.

I love the person-holding-a sign-with-my-name thing. And sure enough, after a few seconds of scoping out the crowd, I saw a hopeful ahujussi with my name, waved to him, nodded, and met him at the other end of the line. He grabbed my bag and said “Buenos tardes.” I smiled and nodded.

It sort of struck me then that I knew Spanish. I also knew he wasn’t an ahujussi, but a seƱor  but for some reason my mind could not make that connection. Then we walked silently to the car. I was able to follow along with him fairly well. I rehearsed all kinds of things to say to him in Spanish while we were in the car.

I sat there silently for the drive to the hotel.

When he dropped me off he said “Si, bueno?” to which I just stood there looking like a complete idiot. He smiled, shook his head, called me senorita and indicated I should follow him. I was stupefied as I tried to figure out if I should tip him, if I should say thank you, and tried to work out how good his Korean was.

He dropped me off at the reception line, smiled again, backed away slowly, and left me there. I figured I knew how to check into a hotel, so this would be no problem.

Buenos tardes, senorita,” the receptionist started and he went on. I just kind of stood there staring at him. I knew all those words, I knew what he was asking, having enough contextual awareness to know what was happening, and yet I was absolutely dumbfounded.

Nay, yes, si,” I managed to stutter out.

“Oh, you speak English.”

“Oh, thank the merry gods, yes, sorry, I just, I know what you're saying, I’ve just, I’ve been in Asia for twelve years and my brain is a little confused.”

“I see, I see, and where were you in Asia?” he politely asked as he continued to check me in.


“Oh, really? “Annyeonghaseyo!” The annyeonghaseyo broke a torrent in my brain and suddenly what flooded out of my mouth was a very good approximation of my frustration in pretty decent Korean.

“Uh, I studied Korean, but I don’t really know much more than that.”

“Right, yes, it’s okay.”

He was very nice about finishing the check-in, explaining in vague terms how things would work, and gave me the key to my room. I got in, put things down, and looked around, feeling very tired and very hungry all at the same time. I realized I had had nothing to eat since a piece of turkey on the flight, and that I was going to pass out from hunger. Figured it was time to find food and other kinds of trouble.

The downstairs buffet was passable and I ended up back in my room for a short nap, which turned into a three-hour nap. I woke up, had dinner, and went back to bed as that was about all I was good for after that much traveling.


linda said...

I love it! I also speak Spanish, but I said "nay" instead of "si" for like the first month I was living in Mexico last year, post-Korea.

Saradevil said...

Good to know it's not just me. Man.