My Level In Korean

On the way home tonight after hanging out with Lime, I took a taxi. It was far enough to warrant this, but the second I got into the cab I was a little scared. It was something about the driver’s body language that signalled to me immediately that there was something not quite right about him. Preparing to make a U-turn at the first available chance (I was getting into the cab going in the wrong direction), he asked me in all seriousness (I realized he was serious the second time he asked me) whether the flashing light to our right was a “police car”. At this point I asked him just as seriously whether he’d been drinking, and when he denied it vigorously, I decided he must be lying.

It was at the next intersection that I realized he wasn’t drunk… he was just slightly mentally retarded. He was pointing at something, I have no idea what, and laughing like a young child would do. And what clinched it was, I could understand every word he said to me. Whenever I understand every single word someone says to me in Korean, I’m speaking to a mentally retarded person. It’s the only time I ever completely understand a conversation and function as an equal autonomous agent in it.

Anyway, he managed to get me home in one piece; he also turned out to be the first cab driver ever to count my change out to me in English, after over two years of taking cabs in Korea. And he was even attentive enough to look over the backseat before driving away when he dropped me off.

And as for me, I am once again reminded of my level in Korean. I speak slightly less well than a mentally handicapped person, but I generally can understand the handicapped without any difficulty. This makes me think that it may turn out to be possible to do that volunteer work that Lime invited me to join her in doing… I thought I maybe wouldn’t be any use, if I couldn’t understand the mentally handicapped people I’d be volunteering to work with… but I think they’d be just on my level, language-wise.

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