Wednesday, January 6, 2010

My birthday and roadside assistance

I'm in South Korea, living the good life as an English teacher in a small town called Yeongyang.  I was supposed to be teaching on my birthday but a freak snowstorm (Seoul had record-setting snow) postponed the English camp until next week.  Because I am planning a trip back to the States at the end of the month, I needed to get a re-entry stamp on my passport and the only day I can do that is on Wednesday when the guy from Immigration in Daegu (big city) comes to Andong which is the closest city to me.  Because camp was cancelled my friend R. and I decided to go and get the paperwork done.  R. has a car and agreed to drive.  Everything went well- we had fun in the city and I got to eat my first Korean hamburger (it was ok).

Anyway we needed to get back home because R. was supposed to meet his wife for dinner and it was getting dark and the roads were still a little snowpacked.  Some friends of mine had called me earlier and asked if I wanted to meet them for dinner so we decided to take a shortcut over a slightly more difficult road.  Everything was going great, we were ahead of schedule and then THE CAR DIED!!!!!  In the middle of friggin' nowhere.  And we learned that in Korea, nobody AND I MEAN NOBODY will ever stop to help you when your car breaks down because everyone has insurance and you just call the company and eventually someone comes and gets you. Well R. has limited Korean language ability and tried calling the company but all of the lines were busy (we think they were still digging people out in Seoul) so he called his wife (she is Korean) who called a friend who called another friend who runs the local wrecker service and he agreed to come and try and find us.  Did I forget to tell you that R's wife specifically told him not to take that road because it was more treacherous?  After about twenty minutes of waiting in the sub-zero weather Robert decided to try and start the car again and actually got it to turn over so we decided to limp along as far as we could in hopes of meeting the wrecker (we were actually about 15 miles from the town where we live).  We did meet the wrecker and he loaded up the car on the back of his truck and took us back to Yeongyang.  We arrived back home about 2 hours late and my friends (both Korean teachers) were still eating dinner and so they dragged me into this little cafe where they produced a tiny birthday cake and lots of soju (the local demon drink).

We huddled around a propane heater and I let them eat all of the shellfish which were cooking on the grate and I ate the cake, drank soju, and gossiped about the other teachers.  By the time I dragged myself to my apartment it was late and I was very cold but content.  To top it all off my son posted a message that he had been sworn in as a Peace Corps volunteer in Kenya that day and was ready to begin his assignment.  I have to say it was one of my most memorable birthdays ever!

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