This is not going to be in the same vein as my previous posts. As a general rule of thumb I try to avoid politics and interject humor into all of my stories. That is not the case today. A line has been crossed and I am not going to gloss over the details. I was angry. I was disgusted; and I was afraid.
It's been the running joke among my expat friends that if something weird is going to happen it's going to happen to me. It's true, I'm the queen of strange and awkward encounters. When it comes to hordes of tourists feeding me like a petting zoo animal and dudes dressed in drag I try to handle these situations with grace because it could be an amusing story later. I thought today would be no exception.
I had a very typical day. I worked; I walked to the bus stop. The old couple who run the ticket counter very sweet. I bought my ticket and went out to wait for the bus. As I walked out the door an older man sitting nearby said HELLO in a very loud voice and in English. This is a daily occurrence for me so I said hi and kept walking. I sit down in the waiting area for the bus across the way from two other older ladies. I'm texting my friends. I was asking for their opinion on a certain haircut I was considering.
I hear some yelling so I look up. The same old man was still waving at me from the other side of the parking lot. I realize at this point he's drunk but its still not an unusual situation. He see's me looking so he comes over to talk to me. This is slightly stranger than the usual drunken encounters but still not outside the realm of probability. After all this has happened before. At this point I'm watching him but not encouraging him. I just want him to go away. I'm annoyed but still slightly amused.
He comes closer and is standing over me. I can smell the soju. I'm no longer amused but highly irritated. He was telling me to call him Oppa (It means big brother but it's also used by women who are flirting.) I told him no. He told me I was beautiful. I said thank you. (It's polite here to say thank you when someone says you're pretty.) A conversation I have had before at least half a dozen times. He ducks down, wraps an arm around my shoulder and leans in for a kiss.
Now I'm alarmed. This had never happened before. I pushed him away and went to sit next to the other two ladies. They didn't even blink. The one lady patted the bench next to her as an invitation for me but that was it. This was still their normal. I was so confused. I look around for the bus. The man was still following me. He continued to loom over me. Still wanted me to call him Oppa but now he was asking me to go to Muju with him. I told him no way. The lady next to me told him him to go away and some other things I didn't understand. He said he was sorry and offered to shake her hand.
He grabbed her the wrist and hauled her to her feet. She was yelling that it hurt and swatted him on the chest. He just grinned and asked if it hurt before letting go. I was angry. I could feel my nails in my palms. He asks the other lady if she wants a handshake. She shakes her head no. He comes back to me. He wants to shake my hand. I looked him dead in the eye and said no way. (Sadly my language skills go from no way straight to F*** off. I didn't want to escalate to that.) We have a staring contest. He asks a question. I say no. We stare some more. I was scared.
No? He echoes. I tell him to get lost in English and make shooing motions. He looks shocked. The lady next to me jumps to her feet and shoves him in the chest. He starts stomping his feet and yelling. I see the bus coming down the road. A couple of other men near the ticket building across the parking lot yell something. (As they remain seated on their bench.) The bus pulls up. We jump on, leaving the man behind. The two ladies appear to continue on with their previous conversation. I'm shaking in my seat. I texted my friends.
From buying my bus ticket to getting on the bus took less than 10 minutes. In fact it took 6 minutes. That's the amount of time between messages to my friends. Some of you reading this are probably thinking well that wasn't so bad. It could have been so much worse. You're right it have been. For some people it was. 6 minutes. That was all it took to go from faintly amused to honestly scared.
My name is Arielle. (Not actually named after the mermaid, but a character from Thundar the Barbarian) I am an English teacher in South Korea.