Finally one of those Korean etiquette books accurately predicted idiosyncratic behavior. On a crowded bus, as I stood holding a bag, an older woman sitting down took the bag and held it on her lap until my stop. This is a a common thing to do (though nobody offered to hold the bed I carried on the bus a few weeks ago). It is still something of a surprise when someone tugs the bag out of your hands with a smile.

People here have been enormously gracious to Skye and the baby on all forms of public transportation, always offering up their seats. That is good not least since the bus drivers all give fresh meaning to "bat out of hell" and it would be close to impossible to stay on your feet as the driver alternately floors it and slams on the breaks, if not for the fact that you are wedged so tightly in with other people that you are kept standing. All the books advise you that Koreans have a totally different sense of personal space than do Americans. On saturday on the subway, on my way to the kayagaum lesson, I didn't want to be late so I took a deep breath and shoved my way into an insanely packed subway car. When it stopped, people disembarked with near Who-concert levels of force. It was quite amazing to feel. I held onto a bar for dear life, it felt like being in a riptide.


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