It's around noon on a Saturday. I'm hungover from the long night before. I met my girls for coffee (well I was too late for coffee but we met AT a coffee shop...). Frances brought me some sweatpants and a t-shirt, as I was still in my dress and tights from the night before. Basically, I'm trying to insinuate that I look rough.
I'm walking downtown with Lauren and hear, "Hello." Most children "try" to speak English with white people, but they only say 'Hello' or 'Where are you from?'
We generically say, "Hello," back but then I hear, "Heather Teacher?" Well, hello, Helen, my student... And let me add that I live a good 35 minute bus ride from the downtown area. My friends who live and work nearby frequently see their students. I do not.
I asked Helen what she was doing. She was downtown shopping with her friends. (She's probably 11 years old...) I asked if her parents were here or if they rode the bus. They rode the bus. By themselves. Four 11 year olds rode the bus by themselves on a busy day to go shopping and get ice cream. In the States that's unheard of. A child can't go a few blocks from their house without their parents fearful that they'll be abducted. In Korea it's not an issue!
My grandma especially is always worried about my safety. I've stopped telling her I walk places alone at night. Too many of those stories would give her a heart attack. The truth is, though, I've never once felt threatened since I've been here. I've walked in the sketchiest of sketch alleys during all hours of the day and night and would never worry about getting mugged or raped or murdered.
I remember my junior year in college. My roommates and I lived in an apartment above a comic book store basically in the ghetto. While we lived there a girl got her purse stolen and pistol whipped (smacked in the face with a gun). It was barely safe enough to walk through a parking lot to get to campus by yourself at night.
In conclusion, I'm very thankful to be living in such a safe place. South Korea would be a great place to raise children as far as safety goes. (But not for me...!)