We don’t speak the same language.

I still haven’t worked out whether it’s the language barrier or just a completely different style of communication, but I now have more misunderstandings in one day than I used to have in a month.

Even when you think you’ve been completely clear, and that there’s no way you’re taking the other person up wrong, there’s a misunderstanding. Even when you rephrase your question  half a dozen different ways, or double check that you understand what the other person is really asking you before you answer, there’s a misunderstanding. Even when you think that there’s absolutely no way a particular situation could be in the slightest bit complicated, there’s a misunderstanding.

Jennifer, there’s a subway station at Daejeon Train Station, isn’t there? I asked my boss this evening as I put on my coat in the school entrance hall. Yes, she nodded, pausing at the door with her keys in her hand. And it’s pronounced “Daejeon yawk”, right? I checked. She nodded again. It was one of our most uncomplicated and crystal clear exchanges to date. And to get there, the nearest subway station for me is at Lotte, isn’t it? She thought for a moment and then nodded again. Yes, you walk to Lotte, get subway to Daejeon Station. You know way to Lotte?

I paused, wondering whether I had the energy to complicate things, but decided that I might as well make the effort to endure another misunderstanding for the sake of not getting lost on the way to the subway station at Lotte. I think so… I said dubiously, but can you point me in the right direction?

I take you now, come! she said, ushering me towards her car. No, no, thank you, but I’m not going now, I replied hurriedly. And there it was. Somehow it was becoming a misunderstanding. She looked puzzled. Not now, later! I explained. Lay-ter. Meeting friend. Later. Not now. I always resort to very short sentences at this point, but I really don’t think it helps.

But hang on, what was this? She was nodding. Did she understand? Were we communicating sans errors? I hardly dared to hope so, but Jennifer was gesturing towards the car. I drive past there, she said. Ah! I said gratefully, you’ll show me where it is? She nodded and got into the car, and I followed happily.

I was slightly surprised when she didn’t head down the road that I knew to be the start of my journey to Lotte. I was even more surprised when she drove me in the direction of my apartment. Perhaps she was going to show me how to get to Lotte from my apartment, though, because she knows how clueless I am about directions? I decided that this must be the case. Which is why I was utterly baffled when she pulled up outside the apartment and said, Good evening, see you tomorrow! I got out in a daze and watched with feelings too difficult to express as she drove off (in the direction of Lotte).

I’m heading out to find the subway station now.


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