A wonderful side effect of exam week at my school is that teachers are encouraged to ‘take a rest.’ After staring at my computer for three hours and a healthy, daily dose of kimchi and rice, I am free to spend my afternoon as I please.
One particular afternoon I decided to take my bicycle on a longer journey to the small, neighbouring town of Bongwha. The ride there was pleasant enough once I had ploughed through the outlying, industrial area of Yeongju. As usual, Korean friendliness accompanied my bicycle and I. As well as the steady flow of ‘hello,’ I also received an ice cream and cold water as I waited for a train to pass. Things could not be going any better.
I arrived in Bonghwa much quicker than I had expected and I proceeded to indulge in my second ice cream of the afternoon. It was hot so of course, I needed it.
The second ice cream may have tipped me over the edge. I looked at the time and realised that doing the return ride would interfere with my dinner. Bearing in mind, I have been known to become somewhat irritable without a meal every few hours, I did what all food lovers would have done and headed straight for the train station.
Negotiating taking my bicycle on the train comprised of a series of hand gestures and broken Korean, it took some time but ended in success. By now, I had completely forgotten about my bike ride but the people at the station had not. Word travelled fast and I was inundated with offers to carry my bicycle on and off the train, energy drinks and looks of awe. I started to forget the guilt I had been feeling for not cycling back and began to feel like a hero.
Since I have been in Korea I have spent at least 60% of my time feeling like a hero. The hero effect kicks in at school, around town and basically when I am doing any number of things. Koreans are not only generous with gifts, they are also liberal with praise. It is starting to grow on me. I will be in need of a major head deflation upon arrival in the UK. This should probably occur before I see any of my friends who will happily burst the bubble for me if I don’t do it myself.