I must learn how to say “thank you” in Korean.
While I have spent months preparing for this trip — memorizing the names of towns and athletes and schedules — it strikes me today that I never learned how to properly say “thank you” to the people whose country we are visiting.
Today has been incredibly busy. We have taken taxis, visited the coastline, eaten at a seafood restaurant where the food just kept coming. I shopped for laundry detergent — unsuccessfully, for the record. I couldn't figure it out. I will have to keep buying from the vending machine for now. We walked up and down the streets of a tiny village and visited with the curator of an astounding art exhibit (more on that later!).
At each stop, the kindness was overwhelming.
We stumbled through directions for our taxi driver … who refused to charge us when they turned out to be wrong, even though it took him 20 minutes out of his way. Actually … this happened twice.
We asked (begged) coffee shop owners to let us take pictures of them making coffee and serving customers. Even though we couldn't speak a lick of their language, we conversed in gestures, and they gave us the run of the place. They also made us three cups of the best coffee I’ve ever had.
At each security checkpoint, supermarket and restaurant, the people couldn't be nicer. My photographer and I fell all over ourselves trying to express our gratitude — bowing, clasping our hands and saying that awkward “thank you” that you do when you don’t know the language — you know, that weird made-up accent you invent, as though that will make your English less … English.