One of my friends here is Korean and she is very friendly and nice and in this blog I will call her Mrs Kim. But her language skills are, by her own admission, absolutely hopeless. We met at the beginning of the year. I was finding that my new Russian lessons were opening up the language section of my brain, and my non-existent Korean (see bigseoulsister.blogspot.com for some clues about that) was absolutely flowing. I was positively lucid! So she took hope from the fact that she had met a westerner who could occasionally translate some of the words into Korean. A shame that she believed this, because the Korean is now firmly gone again and seems, since our recent visit to Thailand, to have been completely overwritten by my very patchy Thai. But that is her disappointment, not mine, since I am more likely to return to Thailand and it is very useful to have some Thai in Thailand. But I digress. This friend’s “Engrish” is terrible, her Russian is, I believe, even worse (although this is hard to imagine!), and after a long trip back to Korea she admitted defeat and hired a full time interpreter to go around with her. This is weird but works well as she can now communicate with everyone she needs to.
But my friend is a plucky and courageous woman who is not going to allow a total lack of communicative ability to prevent her from living in a normal life. When her son single handedly built a 10 metre long ice tunnel in their back garden (not an unimpressive feat given that he is only 7 years old, and my husband spent the best part of his Christmas holidays trying and failing to build an igloo in our garden), she decided to invite some friends over to see it and play in it.
This involved getting the interpreter to write a long and detailed invitation for the kids to come on a certain date and enjoy “fellowship”, snacks, playing in the yard with the igloo tunnel and a request to bring warm clothes etc. Then followed lengthy discussions about how the kids would arrive (we were dropping ours off), she offered the use of two drivers to pick up and collect the kids. It was really quite an intense amount of time and effort required to coordinate what would have taken between two native English speakers from the same country, approximately 1 minute.
But both husband and I were impressed at her guts and effort and really keen for our kids to go and enjoy themselves. The children were excited at the thought of being offered good Korean rice and Kim (dried seaweed) which they so loved eating while living in Seoul, and so they tottered off quite happily to play.
We are both knackered after a tough month of the baby being sick, mother in law staying for four weeks, moving house, organizing the Burns Night and I have also been diagnosed with bronchitis, so basically feeling a bit run down. And with both he big kids away playing in the Korean house on a Saturday morning, we decided to put the baby down for her nap and watch a DVD (in the day – exciting!).
But half an hour into our film (the outrageously certified 12 Batman film, the Dark Knight – someone must have taken a bung to make that a 12, we were both terrified) the phone rang, and it was Mr Kim.
“Who has had an accident?” asked husband on the phone. I could only hear one side of the conversation but it went something like this:
“Ah, Sasha has had an accident. Is she OK?”
“Oh, you are taking her to hospital? Is she OK?”
“What? What? Which hospital are you going to? Is she OK? Where is the hospital?” and he hung up.
We were not sure how serious her accident was, but we knew she was going to a local hospital up the road, so no time could be lost. husband jumped in the car, mobile phone in hand, trying to find out where they were. We had to wait for him to get there before we would know if she was about to lose an eye or something horrific.
Well, fortunately, it was not too serious. She had merely slipped and needed 7 stitches under her chin.
Husband said that he arrived in the local hospital and burst into the room where Sasha was being attended to, and into which he was not supposed to go according to hospital rules, calling out “Stop!” to the white gowned doctor who stood, poised with needle in hand above our bloody-faced five-year-old daughter who was lying out flat on an operating table.
The doctor took offence that husband preferred to remove our daughter and take her to a place where we could understand the diagnosis and treatment from a doctor who spoke our language (husband understood that much and tried to explain in Russian,
“Look mate, I’m sorry but I can’t speak Russian and neither can this bloke here, and I would just rather go and get this sorted out somewhere where I can understand what’s going on.”) but husband persisted and soon they were heading down the road, daughter sniveling in the passenger seat, on their way to the clinic.
The South African doctor greeted husband warmly – we are practically on first name terms these days, and also informed us that at a recent management meeting of the clinic, we had been mentioned by name as the month’s most profitable family!
Seven stitches later and Sasha was happy as Larry to have a genuine injury with antibiotic pills to take to school, we were greatly relieved not to have anything worse to deal with, and instead of Batman we all three watched Barbie and the Diamond Castle, which is a completely ridiculous film but Sasha loves it.
I am gutted for Mrs Kim. She put so much effort into a lovely day and her worst nightmare happened within half an hour of the start. I am going to ask one of my friends in Korea to translate a message into Korea for her to tell her to please not worry about Sasha’s accident which could have happened anywhere, that we in no way blame her for the accident happening, and that we are terribly sorry that the lovely day she had spent so much time and energy organizing had involved a trip to the local A&E.