Well, it's a lazy day here in Dongchun-dong. We're allowing ourselves to be a bit lowkey. But the weather is gorgeous - bright blue sky and mid-sixties, so we had to venture outside. The kids and I ended up spending much of the day just outside our apartment complex where the kids play. I thought I'd get some reading done, but I ended up enjoying watching Anna interact with the kids.
Alec was off playing with some of the kids from our school while Anna and I were playing a bit of badmitten. Pretty soon a bunch of Korean girls came walking toward us from a distance. "Anna!" they called. They know her from dragonfly catching days, I think. I thought it would be nice if they played badmitten with her, so I handed mine over. Pretty soon she ended up playing several volleys with four different girls. A few girls know a little bit of English. Pretty soon I hear one say, "Anna, do you want to play... (whisper in Korean to friend) dodgeball?" Anna agreed. The next thing I know, the group of girls are choosing sides and Anna's playing with them. Cool, I thought.
After a bit, the girls drift off to do something else. Some time passes. Anna and Alec end up hanging out with the group of expats from our school. By this time a colleague/friend who lives here has joined me. The kids are in a huge group talking about something. What? Craig comes over, "We're going to play Americans versus Koreans." Well, it never quite developed, but at least the kids were leaning in a slight way toward interacting with one another.
A bit of time passes. Pretty soon a young boy of 12 comes over to talk to me. I've met him before. He's a bit fascinated with Anna and works real hard to use his bit of English, more than most other Koreans do. "Anna?" he asks. "She went up to the apartment," I say. "Aparti." "Oh. She is going home?" "Yes. She is home. . . in the aparti," I say. He looks a bit disappointed. He has a friend with him, a young man probably 13 or 14. "She is going home?" he asks again. By this time I'm getting the notion he wants to go knock on the door and see if she'll come down, so I try to explain where she is. "She's in o-pek-gu dong, chun-o-pek-sam ho," I say slowly. At first he looks confused, trying to figure out what I said in English. Then he realizes I'm giving him directions in Korean. His face lights up. "Oh! Thank you!" he says. He and his friend head out.
A bit later I take leave of my friend to see if the kids made it up to the apartment and if they are still there. Sure enough. Two sets of strange shoes are in the entryway indicating our guests. Anna and Alec are showing them the apartment, or rather they are snooping around, a very Anna-ish thing to do. They are giggling and dial a friend on their phone. They have a cellphone with built-in video (like Skype). They're talking and giggling with their friend, taking pictures with Anna and Alec to prove they are in our apartment. I hear "waygukin" whiz by in conversation, one of my new vocabulary words - meaning foreigner. They stay a bit longer, then politely head out saying their good-byes.
Moments later, the door buzzer rings. It's the boys. Anna lets them in. Now they're with two girls about 13 - 14 years old. They're all giggling. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry," the younger boy says. It seems his older friend wanted the girls to see our place, too. They all take off their shoes again and follow Anna around giggling. The oldest girl comes to talk to me briefly in decent and fluent English. I ask her how she knows English and if she's ever been out of the country. She says she's learned her English at an English Academy close by. The kids head out again saying their thankyous.
I hope these are the beginnings of friendship. I know it's hard to move beyond the "sideshow entertainment" phase, especially with a language barrier. We'll see. But I have to give Anna credit; she's making more progress than the rest of us getting to know our Korean neighbors.
"And a little child shall lead them."