My young male nail tech, at the little salon I go to, actually talked to me today. No, it’s not a stereotype, I’ve rarely spent more than two minutes in conversation with any of the wonderful staff there, they just don’t converse.
But today was different.
Eddy (possibly not his real name, but I am grateful for his consideration of my lack of Korean language skills), started chatting warmly in his halting, fractured English. He began to share his background in agriculture (a student of 6 years), his two years mandatory service in the Korean Army (every child has to serve for two years), and the six years he will have to work for the government when he returns home, to pay back his education: “everything is no money” he extolled “studies, food, even clothes are given you. Then after you graduate, you work 6 years for govt in retuwn.”
He told me one sister works in the salon and another in a salon in another town. They taught him to do nails six years ago. He mentioned LA and a trip he took while in school to tour California’s Agriculture. He will specialize in rice farming on his return to Korea “my country eats a lot of rice”, he shared.
By now, he had warmed up, and his English was becoming more clear…or I was tuning into korenglish. Either way, I was enjoying the exchange.
He spoke of going to Manhattan last week- tiny city, too many people. Then he said “in my country, Seoul is major city. 10 million people in Seoul. New York is little city to Seoul.” Indeed.
Did he see the sights in New York, I queried?
“no, i sign up for school, for engrish course”
You signed up in New York for English? Will you move there?
“oh no” he exclaimed with a smirk “I travel, not everyday, not long, maybe, um, two tree times”.
A month, I asked?
“no,no, a…um, I don’t know word…”
A week, I asked?
“yes, a week” he exclaimed and smiled.
I finally asked him when he came here. “Fo months ago” he grinned. He continued ” I come here to practice my engrish.” All the way from Korea to practice english? “oh, yes. In my country, engrish very, very important. Everyone study engrish, even from preschool.” he said “I like to talk to customer, but sometime does not because they cannot understand, my engrish not so good”.
I thought it was great.
“In my country” he said ” engrish teacher very special. Very important. They make lots of money.”
“I live here fo years, then I go back, work on farm, and teach engrish.”
Eddy is clearly a man with a plan.
This young boy, traveled over 6830 miles, through 13 time zones, to practice is engrish for fo years. It was that important.
And then my reality checked. When was the last time any of us have gone to such lengths, with such a simple but powerful vision, to reach something better than we had.
America. We are truly the land of opportunity. In Eddy’s honor, the man with the plan, I’ll be searching for my 6830 mile opportunity to be better than I am today.