Where I live is very flat so there are very few inclines, never mind hills, that a bus driver needs to climb. Unfortunately, there is a lot of traffic and, in Korea, bus drivers and taxis have the right of way. For the most part this system works well until you you look up and realise that there is a traffic jam in front of you and to avoid it, the bus driver is creeping up on the path and looks to be heading straight at a lamppost!
As my town is quite busy, particularly in the evening, it always amuses me when we reach the roundabout and there are cars coming in every direction. As we start going around the roundabout you can see the opening that will allow us to proceed towards the terminus and disembark. Just when you are grabbing your stuff and preparing to stand up, you hear your bus driver shouting (what seems to be curses) and pressing firmly and consistently on the horn. Regardless of this rule that taxis and buses having the right of way, some idiot driver thought "Oh, I can make it" and has proceeded directly across the path of (my) oncoming bus. The bus driver will lay on that horn until a) the driver continues on his way or b) backs the hell up. As soon as the smallest gap appears, the bus driver will plough forward, still muttering and drop us off. I swear, sometimes we were soooo close to side-swiping a car!
For the most part, I've gotten used to all this and my screams are not quite so vocal....unfortunately that awful feeling the pit of my stomach has yet to disappear. The first time that I noticed how crazily the bus drivers drive here was when I spent a week with my brother when I first arrived. He brought me to visit his school and to get there the bus climbed several really windy roads. Going up wasn't so much a problem as coming home: The driver was speeding down these really windy hills that jutted out onto these huge drops. The only things that separated us from death was a tiny railing. I buckled myself in, held on to the seat in front of me and prayed that I would make it home in one piece. I couldn't even read my book my stomach was tossing so much. Every turn felt as we were going to go right through the railing and over the side. I was never more relieved to get out of a moving vehicle in my life! And....this journey reminded me why I am NOT a rollercoaster person.
This is one of the few things that frustrates (or rather scares the living daylights out of me!) here in Korea. I have lauded how much I like living in Korea and this is certainly true, but having been here for 4.5 months now means that some of the novelty has worn off and the rose-coloured glasses have lost some of their tint. Korea is still amazing but for anyone coming here it is best to be warned about some things:
When I first arrived, literally, on way from Incheon airport to our hostel in Seoul, my brother proceeded to give a lesson in Korean Etiquette. I have no problem with the bowing, serving others before yourself and even sharing the same cup to drink soju from when at teachers dinner. Giving up my seat to the elderly, injured, pregnant or disabled is respectful...and in my book, common courtesy. What I do have a problem with is being shushed whilst using a public transport system. After crazy bus drivers it is the only thing that gets my goat (well that and seeing young healthy teens sitting down while an old lady/man is standing).
I can understand if we are being really loud and obnoxious (a bunch of foreigners in any country can appear this way to the natives) but when you are having a quiet(ish) conversation on the subway surrounded by other people also talking in hushed tones it is extremely annoying to be told: "Shush, be quiet"! Most of the time (because I know I have a tendency to get loud when I am excited or involved in a conversation) I immediately adjust my tone and continue the conversation. However, sometimes it is unwarranted and that is when I get annoyed as it kills the otherwise happy conversation. Each time this has happened to me (without warrant) I was surrounded by a bunch of Koreans who were talking too. The person who shushed us said it only in English, rather pointedly marking us out.
So, you might think I'm mad to even get in the bus or talk on the subway, but I'm glad that I do - I'm learning how better to balance (literally) myself and how to talking really quietly and still have someone hear me. Plus my listening skills are improving on a daily basis...soon, I'll be able to hear a pin drop!
Finally, as a parting gift, I leave you with an Ode to Korean bus drivers:
The drivers on the bus like speeding, speeding, speeding.
The drivers on the bus like speeding all day long.
The drivers on the bus run red lights, run red lights, run red lights.
The drivers on the bus, run red lights all day long.
The foreigners on bus scream "OMG, OMG, OMG".
The foreigners on the bus scream "OMG" all day long.
The drivers on the bus are crazy, crazy, crazy.
PS this post was inspired by "The Wheels on the Bus". After all, the life of an English Teacher means this song (and it's tune) are a huge part of my life!
When I take the bus in Korea (from KikinitinKorea)
I think to myself…