From what I have gathered, there are three camps of people when it comes to meeting their ESL brethren in casual street encounters. There is the wave-the-guy-down-from-the-other-side-of-the-street guy, the casual-head-nod guy, and lastly, the don't-fucking-talk-to-me guy. I can roll with the punches and play all three. It's more the other guys toes I'm concerned about stepping on anyway. It's an instantaneous read that must be made. Chose right and it's smooth sailing. Choose incorrectly and you've floated into an awkward situation without a paddle. Much is made of how to act in these situations. Back home you wouldn't wave to every swingin' dick that crossed your path, so how does being in a foreign country change things? Sometimes you stop and talk to someone and realize that, yes you share the same native tongue, and yes, you both play for "team white guy" as I like to call it but are processing these two merits enough to build friendship on? It's the age old ex-pat question. One of these days I'm going to muster the marbles to cleave one of these uncomfortable stalemates with the "Big Gulps eh? Welp, see ya later!" line.
Last week after picking up some groceries from Lotte Mart, and after throwing two casual-head-nods to fellow ex-pats minutes previous (think when Edward Norton's character in fight club is sitting at the restaurant table and the waiter comes up all bruised and bandaged and gives him a slight head nod and a brief look. It's that exact same subtle acknowledgment), I encountered a fellow in the street by the name of Bobby. Bobby was a wave-the-guy-down kind of gent.
Bobby is from London and has been in South Korea for a couple weeks longer than me. He lives upstairs as a matter of fact, and aside from be wickedly funny, he is quite the entertaining story teller.
Bobby: "What have you in the bag mate?"
Me: "Oh, some stuff to make pesto. "
Bobby: "Is that right? You know what I like about you American's?"
Me: "Besides our world police mentality?"
Bobby: "Yeah, well everyone loves that. What I really like about you Americans is that you are always making something or doing something?"
Me: "(laughs) Really? I was under the assumption that the world thought of America as the place where ambition goes to die."
Bobby: "Oh, you have no idea. It's the damn English I tell you. We are so apathetic. We talk about doing and experiencing all these great things. I call it "two week Salsa." You've got this great idea that you are going to learn something. You know, learn something new like Salsa dancing so you pay some pounds and decide to take Salsa lessons. Two lessons in you quit and then it's back to doing nothing again. It's a vicious cycle really. But you Americans, you are always doing something. Even if it's building model airplanes or finding new and clever way to, I don't know, make better honey. You don't make honey do you?"
Me: "Nah, I don't make honey but if you interested I'm making some beer next weekend if you want to learn."
Bobby: "That's what I'm bloody talking about right there mate!"
Bobby was looking pretty rough and it was already early afternoon, and when I asked about the series of events that lead to his current condition, he regaled with a story about his crazy Saturday night in Busan. Him and his best mate cruised into Busan, and whilst completely pissed, his buddy decided he wanted to visit a whore house. While his buddy was inside the place of ill repute, Bobby waited outside like any good friend would do and saved his moral argument for another time. The police, while scanning the area, decided that he fit the description for a convenience store robbery that happened in the vicinity and stuffed him into the back of the police car. The So.Ko.Po took him to the scene of the crime, where it was then determined by the shop owner that he WASN'T the perpetrator. He was eventually let go and then he reunited a few hours later with his friend freshly minted friend. Anyways, he didn't get back to Masan until 8 a.m Sunday morning. Like I said, Bobby was looking pretty haggard.
"I'm sorry mate. I've been blathering rudely on about my past evening. What are you up to?" Bobby said to me. "Me? Um ... I'm looking for pine nuts to make pesto," I sheepishly replied.